Prone to podginess, Lord Byron engaged in periodic diets. Like certain celebrities of the present day, these tended to be ostentatious in their eccentricity. The wealthy banker and minor poet William Rogers (1763-1855) described the dismaying consequence when he asked Byron to join a literary soirée at his house.
‘When we sat down to dinner, I asked Byron if he would take soup? No, he never took soup. Would he take fish? No, he never took fish. Presently I asked if he would take some mutton? No, he never ate mutton. I then asked if he would take a glass of wine? No, he never tasted wine.
‘It was now necessary to inquire what he did eat and drink and the answer was nothing but hard biscuits and soda water. Unfortunately, neither hard biscuits nor soda water were at hand, and he dined upon potatoes bruised down on his plate and drenched with vinegar…
‘I did not know then what I now know to be a fact – that Byron, after leaving my house, had gone to a club in St James’s Street and eaten a hearty meat supper.’
We know the importance that Byron placed on food from a celebrated passage in Don Juan:
‘All human history attests
That happiness for man, – the hungry sinner! –
Since Eve ate apples, much depends on dinner.’