Speak Fully The One Awful Word...
A Dramatic Adaptation of Lady Byron Vindicated by Harriet Beecher Stowe
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- 2011, Harriet Beecher Stowe at 200 Conference, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME.(reading).
That “one awful word” was “incest,” and Harriet Beecher Stowe was referring to Lord Byron’s incestuous relations with his half-sister, as witnessed by Byron’s wife.
Late in her life, Stowe had befriended Annabella Byron, a woman with a lively interest in social justice, including abolition, who engaged in many philanthropic pursuits. During one of their visits, Lady Byron shared the story of her traumatic engagement, honeymoon, and brief marital co-habitation with the infamous poet. After Lady Byron’s death and the publication of a memoir by Byron’s last mistress, Stowe published a rebuttal to the slanderous attacks on her friend, as well as the details of Byron’s abuses. Stowe was as vilified for writing this book as she had been lionized for writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
By 1870, Lord Byron was a romantic and literary icon on two continents, and the myth of the frigid and puritanical wife who had abandoned this martyred genius was an essential part of the legend. Speak Fully the One Awful Word is a one-woman dramatic adaptation that captures the passion of Stowe in defending her friend, as well as her radical framing of incest as an oppression, and domestic violence as a human rights violation. She specifically repudiated the prevailing Christian ethos that encouraged wives to suffer in silence for the sake of protecting the family.
Stowe’s courage in confronting incest, and her willingness to sacrifice her own reputation to defend that of a dead friend, shine like beacons on a world that still invests in doctrines of “false memory syndrome.”
2 women, 1 man