Lord Byron and Lady Caroline Lamb
It was Lady Caroline who christened his poetic lordship "mad, bad and dangerous to know", yet she herself was a few violets short of a nosegay. The only daughter of the Earl of Bessborough, she showed an early flair for wit and mimicry. At 19, she married William Lamb, heir to the Viscount Melbourne, and had three children; but she lost two and, as he pursued a career in politics, the couple grew apart. In 1812, she met Lord Byron, three years her junior (at 24) and famous for writing Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. He was surrounded by adoring beauties; she was appalled by the way he lapped their attentions up - but fell for him all the same. The poet became obsessed with her and schemed to ruin her marriage. Since she was shameless about making their affair public, this wasn't hard. She once slashed her wrists in front of him at a ball. On another occasion, she sent him a letter containing clippings of her pubic hair. Their affair lasted only four months, but Lady Caroline's passion endured. When he cooled off, she fell into depression. The fact that he had an affair with her mother-in-law, Lady Melbourne, didn't help; nor did his later marriage to Lady Melbourne's niece. Caroline wrote a novel, Glenarvon, in which she spilled the beans about their affair. He decamped to the Continent, the object of general obloquy; she hit the bottle and went mad after seeing his funeral cortège. An amour fou if ever there was one.