Gothic writers, as the name implies, were a macabre bunch. These 19th-century Romantic authors combined raw emotionality with a (slightly horny) fascination with death and gloom. And out of all the clove-smoking proto-goths, it was Lord Byron who truly had a head for contemplating the fragility of mortality -- and for drinking wine out of.
Lord Byron, the sexy vampire of Gothic literati, spent every moment of his short life being eccentric. He was a prized poet, club-footed boxer, incestuous lothario, owner of a therapy bear, and an avid collector of pubic hair. But the latter wasn't the only human remains he tried to collect. One day, a gardener found an intact skull buried in grounds of the decommissioned abbey the Byrons called was their ancestral home. As such, Byron assumed it once belonged "to some jolly friar or monk" and, treating it with all solemnity and respect an English gentleman can muster, Lord Byron had the skull turned it into a goblet so he could drink claret from its silver-rimmed cranium like a Cambridge-educated Conan the Barbarian.
But once he had sipped from the skull, Byron became obsessed with his physical memento mori. At home, he crowned himself Abbot of the Skull and founded the Order of the Skull, a sort of gothic Friar's Club in that its black-robed members drank from an actual friar's skull but also hosted comedy roasts of the dead. Byron even wrote a poem dedicated to his precious skull cup (an honor most of his lovers never received) about how it's to be turned into a poet's sippy cup than wormfood.
But having a quasi-necrophiliac obsession with putting his lips to bleached bone did have downsides -- especially when his friends started dying. During the funeral of Percy Shelley, several attendees recalled that a twitchy Byron tried to convince the family to let him take Shelley's skull home as a souvenir. Upon remembering that Byron might turn his best bud's skull into another decanter, he was not so politely refused, and a dejected Abbot of the Skull returned home empty-handed. Unlike Marry Shelley, who kept her husband's heart in a desk drawer. I told you that these Gothics were a macabre bunch.
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Top Image: Wikimedia Commons / Richard Westall