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Title: Lady Byron Vindicated - A History of The Byron Controversy
Author: Stowe, Harriet Beecher, 1811-1896
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  A History




  (_All rights reserved._)




The subject of this volume is of such painful notoriety that any
apology from the Publishers may seem unnecessary upon issuing the
Author's reply to the counter statements which her narrative in
_Macmillan's Magazine_ has called forth. Nevertheless they consider it
right to state that their strong regard for the Author, respect for her
motives, and assurance of her truthfulness, would, even in the absence
of all other considerations, be sufficient to induce them to place
their imprint on the title-page.

The publication has been undertaken by them at the Author's request,
'as her friends,' and as the publishers of her former works, and from
a feeling that whatever difference of opinion may be entertained
respecting the Author's judiciousness in publishing 'The True Story,'
she is entitled to defend it, having been treated with grave injustice,
and often with much maliciousness, by her critics and opponents, and
been charged with motives from which no person living is more free.
An intense love of justice and hatred of oppression, with an utter
disregard of her own interests, characterise Mrs. STOWE'S
conduct and writings, as all who know her well will testify; and the
Publishers can unhesitatingly affirm their belief that neither fear
for loss of her literary fame, nor hope of gain, has for one moment
influenced her in the course she has taken.

 LONDON: _January 1870_.



  CHAPTER I.                                                   PAGE

  INTRODUCTION                                                    1


  THE ATTACK ON LADY BYRON                                        6


  RÉSUMÉ OF THE CONSPIRACY                                       50


  RESULTS AFTER LORD BYRON'S DEATH                               57


  THE ATTACK ON LADY BYRON'S GRAVE                              102



  LADY BYRON AS I KNEW HER                                      132


  LADY BYRON'S STORY AS TOLD ME                                 153


  CHRONOLOGICAL SUMMARY OF EVENTS                               171




  THE DIRECT ARGUMENT TO PROVE THE CRIME                        217


  PHYSIOLOGICAL ARGUMENT                                        247


  HOW COULD SHE LOVE HIM?                                       262


  CONCLUSION                                                    269



  IN 'THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY')                                    274




  EXTRACTS FROM 'BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE'                          315

  LETTERS OF LADY BYRON TO H. C. ROBINSON                       318

  DOMESTIC POEMS BY LORD BYRON                                  323




The interval since my publication of 'The True Story of Lady Byron's
Life' has been one of stormy discussion and of much invective.

I have not thought it necessary to disturb my spirit and confuse my
sense of right by even an attempt at reading the many abusive articles
that both here and in England have followed that disclosure. Friends
have undertaken the task for me, giving me from time to time the
substance of anything really worthy of attention which came to view in
the tumult.

It appeared to me essential that this first excitement should in a
measure spend itself before there would be a possibility of speaking
to any purpose. Now, when all would seem to have spoken who can speak,
and, it is to be hoped, have said the utmost they can say, there seems
a propriety in listening calmly, if that be possible, to what I have to
say in reply.

And, first, why have I made this disclosure at all?

_To this I answer briefly, Because I considered it my duty to make it._

I made it in defence of a beloved, revered friend, whose memory stood
forth in the eyes of the civilised world charged with most repulsive
crimes, of which I _certainly_ knew her innocent.

I claim, and shall prove, that Lady Byron's reputation has been the
victim of a concerted attack, begun by her husband during her lifetime,
and coming to its climax over her grave. I claim, and shall prove, that
it was not I who stirred up this controversy in this year 1869. I shall
show _who did do it_, and who is responsible for bringing on me that
hard duty of making these disclosures, which it appears to me ought to
have been made by others.

I claim that these facts were given to me unguarded by any promise or
seal of secrecy, expressed or implied; that they were lodged with me
as one sister rests her story with another for sympathy, for counsel,
for defence. _Never_ did I suppose the day would come that I should
be subjected to so cruel an anguish as this use of them has been to
me. Never did I suppose that,--when those kind hands, that had shed
nothing but blessings, were lying in the helplessness of death,--when
that gentle heart, so sorely tried and to the last so full of love, was
lying cold in the tomb,--a countryman in England could be found to cast
the foulest slanders on her grave, and not one in all England to raise
an effective voice in her defence.

I admit the feebleness of my plea, in point of execution. It was
written in a state of exhausted health, when no labour of the kind was
safe for me,--when my hand had not strength to hold the pen, and I was
forced to dictate to another.

I have been told that I have no reason to congratulate myself on it as
a literary effort. O my brothers and sisters! is there then nothing in
the world to think of but literary efforts? I ask any man with a heart
in his bosom, if he had been obliged to tell a story so cruel, because
his mother's grave gave no rest from slander,--I ask any woman who had
been forced to such a disclosure to free a dead sister's name from
grossest insults, whether she would have thought of making this work of
bitterness a literary success?

Are the cries of the oppressed, the gasps of the dying, the last
prayers of mothers,--are _any_ words wrung like drops of blood from the
human heart to be judged as literary efforts?

My fellow-countrymen of America, men of the press, I have done you one
act of justice,--of all your bitter articles, I have read not one.
I shall never be troubled in the future time by the remembrance of
any unkind word you have said of me, for at this moment I recollect
not one. I had such faith in you, such pride in my countrymen, as
men with whom, above all others, the cause of woman was safe and
sacred, that I was at first astonished and incredulous at what I
heard of the course of the American press, and was silent, not merely
from the impossibility of being heard, but from grief and shame. But
reflection convinces me that you were, in many cases, acting from a
misunderstanding of facts and through misguided honourable feeling;
and I still feel courage, therefore, to ask from you a fair hearing.
Now, as I have done you this justice, will you also do me the justice
to hear me seriously and candidly?

What interest have you or I, my brother and my sister, in this short
life of ours, to utter anything but the truth? Is not truth between man
and man and between man and woman the foundation on which all things
rest? Have you not, every individual of you, who must hereafter give
an account yourself alone to God, an interest to know the exact truth
in this matter, and a duty to perform as respects that truth? Hear me,
then, while I tell you the position in which I stood, and what was my
course in relation to it.

A shameless attack on my friend's memory had appeared in the
'Blackwood' of July 1869, branding Lady Byron as the vilest of
criminals, and recommending the Guiccioli book to a Christian public
as interesting from the very fact that it was the avowed production
of Lord Byron's mistress. No efficient protest was made against
this outrage in England, and Littell's 'Living Age' reprinted the
'Blackwood' article, and the Harpers, the largest publishing house in
America, perhaps in the world, re-published the book.

Its statements--with those of the 'Blackwood,' 'Pall Mall Gazette,' and
other English periodicals--were being propagated through all the young
reading and writing world of America. I was meeting them advertised
in dailies, and made up into articles in magazines, and thus the
generation of to-day, who had no means of judging Lady Byron but by
these fables of her slanderers, were being foully deceived. The friends
who knew her personally were a small select circle in England, whom
death is every day reducing. They were few in number compared with the
great world, and were _silent_. I saw these foul slanders crystallising
into history uncontradicted by friends who knew her personally, who,
firm in their own knowledge of her virtues and limited in view as
aristocratic circles generally are, had no idea of the width of the
world they were living in, and the exigency of the crisis. When time
passed on and no voice was raised, I spoke. I gave at first a simple
story, for I knew instinctively that whoever put the first steel point
of truth into this dark cloud of slander must wait for the storm to
spend itself. I must say the storm exceeded my expectations, and has
raged loud and long. But now that there is a comparative stillness I
shall proceed, first, to prove what I have just been asserting, and,
second, to add to my true story such facts and incidents as I did not
think proper at first to state.



In proving what I asserted in the first chapter, I make four points:
1st. A concerted attack upon Lady Byron's reputation, begun by Lord
Byron in self-defence. 2nd. That he transmitted his story to friends to
be continued after his death. 3rd. That they did so continue it. 4th.
That the accusations reached their climax over Lady Byron's grave in
'Blackwood' of 1869, and the Guiccioli book, and that this re-opening
of the controversy was my reason for speaking.

And first I shall adduce my proofs that Lady Byron's reputation
was, during the whole course of her husband's life, the subject of
a concentrated, artfully planned attack, commencing at the time of
the separation and continuing during his life. By various documents
carefully prepared, and used publicly or secretly as suited the case,
he made converts of many honest men, some of whom were writers and men
of letters, who put their talents at his service during his lifetime in
exciting sympathy for him, and who, by his own request, felt bound to
continue their defence of him after he was dead.

In order to consider the force and significance of the documents I
shall cite, we are to bring to our view just the issues Lord Byron had
to meet, both at the time of the separation and for a long time after.

In Byron's 'Memoirs,' Vol. IV. Letter 350, under date December 10,
1819, nearly four years after the separation, he writes to Murray in
a state of great excitement on account of an article in 'Blackwood,'
in which his conduct towards his wife had been sternly and justly
commented on, and which he supposed to have been written by Wilson, of
the 'Noctes Ambrosianæ.' He says in this letter: 'I like and admire
W----n, and he should not have indulged himself in such outrageous
license.... When he talks of Lady Byron's business he talks of what he
knows nothing about; and you may tell him _no man can desire a public
investigation of that affair more than I do_.'[1]

[Footnote 1: The italics are mine.]

He shortly after wrote and sent to Murray a pamphlet for publication,
which was printed, but not generally circulated till some time
afterwards. Though more than three years had elapsed since the
separation, the current against him at this time was so strong in
England that his friends thought it best, at first, to use this article
of Lord Byron's discreetly with influential persons rather than to give
it to the public.

The writer in 'Blackwood' and the indignation of the English public,
of which that writer was the voice, were now particularly stirred up
by the appearance of the first two cantos of 'Don Juan,' in which the
indecent caricature of Lady Byron was placed in vicinity with other
indecencies, the publication of which was justly considered an insult
to a Christian community.

It must here be mentioned, for the honour of Old England, that at
first she did her duty quite respectably in regard to 'Don Juan.' One
can still read, in Murray's standard edition of the poems, how every
respectable press thundered reprobations, which it would be well enough
to print and circulate as tracts for our days.

Byron, it seems, had thought of returning to England, but he says, in
the letter we have quoted, that he has changed his mind, and shall not
go back, adding: 'I have finished the Third Canto of "Don Juan," but
the things I have heard and read discourage all future publication.
You may try the copy question, but you'll lose it; the cry is up, and
the cant is up. I should have no objection to return the price of the
copyright, and have written to Mr. Kinnaird on this subject.'

One sentence quoted by Lord Byron from the 'Blackwood' article will
show the modern readers what the respectable world of that day were
thinking and saying of him:--

 'It appears, in short, as if this miserable man, having exhausted
 _every species_ of sensual gratification--having drained the cup of
 sin even to its bitterest dregs--were resolved to show us that he is
 no longer a human being even in his frailties, but a cool, unconcerned
 fiend, laughing with detestable glee over the whole of the better and
 worse elements of which human life is composed.'

The defence which Lord Byron makes, in his reply to that paper, is of a
man cornered and fighting for his life. He speaks thus of the state of
feeling at the time of his separation from his wife:--

 'I was accused of every monstrous vice by public rumour and private
 rancour; my name, which had been a knightly or a noble one since my
 fathers helped to conquer the kingdom for William the Norman, was
 tainted. I felt that, if what was whispered and muttered and murmured
 was true, I was unfit for England; if false, England was unfit for
 me. I withdrew; but this was not enough. In other countries--in
 Switzerland, in the shadow of the Alps, and by the blue depth of the
 lakes--I was pursued and breathed upon by the same blight. I crossed
 the mountains, but it was the same; so I went a little farther, and
 settled myself by the waves of the Adriatic, like the stag at bay, who
 betakes him to the waters.

 'If I may judge by the statements of the few friends who gathered
 round me, the outcry of the period to which I allude was beyond all
 precedent, all parallel, even in those cases where political motives
 have sharpened slander and doubled enmity. I was advised not to go to
 the theatres lest I should be hissed, nor to my duty in parliament
 lest I should be insulted by the way; even on the day of my departure
 my most intimate friend told me afterwards that he was under the
 apprehension of violence from the people who might be assembled at the
 door of the carriage.'

Now Lord Byron's charge against his wife was that SHE was
directly responsible for getting up and keeping up this persecution,
which drove him from England,--that she did it in a deceitful,
treacherous manner, which left him no chance of defending himself.

He charged against her that, taking advantage of a time when his
affairs were in confusion, and an execution in the house, she left him
suddenly, with treacherous professions of kindness, which were repeated
by letters on the road, and that soon after her arrival at her home
her parents sent him word that she would never return to him, and she
confirmed the message; that when he asked the reason why, she refused
to state any; and that when this step gave rise to a host of slanders
against him she silently encouraged and confirmed the slanders. His
claim was that he was denied from that time forth even the justice of
any tangible accusation against himself which he might meet and refute.

He observes, in the same article from which we have quoted:--

 'When one tells me that I cannot "in any way _justify_ my own
 behaviour in that affair," I acquiesce, because no man can "_justify_"
 himself until he knows of what he is accused; and I have never
 had--and, God knows, my whole desire has ever been to obtain it--any
 specific charge, in a tangible shape, submitted to me by the
 adversary, nor by others, unless the atrocities of public rumour and
 the mysterious silence of the lady's legal advisers may be deemed

Lord Byron, his publishers, friends, and biographers, thus agree
in representing his wife as the secret author and abettor of that
persecution, which it is claimed broke up his life, and was the source
of all his subsequent crimes and excesses.

Lord Byron wrote a poem in September 1816, in Switzerland, just after
the separation, in which he stated, in so many words, these accusations
against his wife. Shortly after the poet's death Murray published
this poem, together with the 'Fare thee well,' and the lines to his
sister, under the title of 'Domestic Pieces,' in his standard edition
of Byron's poetry. It is to be remarked, then, that this was for some
time a private document, shown to confidential friends, and made use of
judiciously, as readers or listeners to his story were able to bear it.
Lady Byron then had a strong party in England. Sir Samuel Romilly and
Dr. Lushington were her counsel. Lady Byron's parents were living, and
the appearance in the public prints of such a piece as this would have
brought down an aggravated storm of public indignation.

For the general public such documents as the 'Fare thee well' were
circulating in England, and he frankly confessed his wife's virtues and
his own sins to Madame de Staël and others in Switzerland, declaring
himself in the wrong, sensible of his errors, and longing to cast
himself at the feet of that serene perfection,

  'Which wanted one sweet weakness--to forgive.'

But a little later he drew for his private partisans this bitter
poetical indictment against her, which, as we have said, was used
discreetly during his life, and published after his death.

Before we proceed to lay that poem before the reader we will refresh
his memory with some particulars of the tragedy of Æschylus, which
Lord Byron selected as the exact parallel and proper illustration of
his wife's treatment of himself. In his letters and journals he often
alludes to her as Clytemnestra, and the allusion has run the round of
a thousand American papers lately, and been read by a thousand good
honest people, who had no very clear idea who Clytemnestra was, and
what she did which was like the proceedings of Lady Byron. According
to the tragedy, Clytemnestra secretly hates her husband Agamemnon,
whom she professes to love, and wishes to put him out of the way that
she may marry her lover, Ægistheus. When her husband returns from the
Trojan war she receives him with pretended kindness, and officiously
offers to serve him at the bath. Inducing him to put on a garment, of
which she had adroitly sewed up the sleeves and neck so as to hamper
the use of his arms, she gives the signal to a concealed band of
assassins, who rush upon him and stab him. Clytemnestra is represented
by Æschylus as grimly triumphing in her success, which leaves her free
to marry an adulterous paramour.

  'I did it, too, in such a cunning wise,
  That he could neither 'scape nor ward off doom.
  I staked around his steps an endless net,
  As for the fishes.'

In the piece entitled 'Lines on hearing Lady Byron is ill,' Lord Byron
charges on his wife a similar treachery and cruelty. The whole poem
is in Murray's English edition, Vol. IV. p. 207. Of it we quote the
following. The reader will bear in mind that it is addressed to Lady
Byron on a sick-bed:--

  'I am too well avenged, but 'twas my right;
  Whate'er my sins might be, _thou_ wert not sent
  To be the Nemesis that should requite,
  Nor did Heaven choose so near an instrument.
  Mercy is for the merciful! If thou
  Hast been of such, 't will be accorded now.
  Thy nights are banished from the realms of sleep,
  For thou art pillowed on a curse too deep;
  Yes! they may flatter thee, but thou shalt feel
  A hollow agony that will not heal.
  Thou hast sown in my sorrow, and must reap
  The bitter harvest in a woe as real.
  _I have had many foes, but none like thee_;
  For 'gainst the rest myself I could defend,
  And be avenged, or turn them into friend;
  But thou, in safe implacability,
  Hast naught to dread,--in thy own weakness shielded,
  And in my love, which hath but too much yielded,
  And spared, for thy sake, some I should not spare.
  And thus upon the world, trust in thy truth,
  And the wild fame of my ungoverned youth,--
  On things that were not and on things that are,--
  Even upon such a basis thou hast built
  A monument whose cement hath been guilt!
  The moral Clytemnestra of thy lord,
  And hewed down with an unsuspected sword
  Fame, peace, and hope, and all that better life
  Which, but for this cold treason of thy heart,
  Might yet have risen from the grave of strife
  And found a nobler duty than to part.
  But of thy virtues thou didst make a vice,
  Trafficking in them with a purpose cold,
  And buying others' woes at any price,
  For present anger and for future gold;
  And thus, once entered into crooked ways,
  The early truth, that was thy proper praise,
  Did not still walk beside thee, but at times,
  And with a breast unknowing its own crimes,
  Deceits, averments incompatible,
  Equivocations, and the thoughts that dwell
  _In Janus spirits, the significant eye
  That learns to lie with silence_,[2] the pretext
  Of prudence with advantages annexed,
  The acquiescence in all things that tend,
  No matter how, to the desired end,--
  All found a place in thy philosophy.
  The means were worthy and the end is won.
  I would not do to thee as thou hast done.'

[Footnote 2: The italics are mine.]

Now, if this language means anything, it means, in plain terms, that,
whereas, in her early days, Lady Byron was peculiarly characterised by
truthfulness, she has in her recent dealings with him acted the part
of a liar,--that she is not only a liar, but that she lies for cruel
means and malignant purposes,--that she is a moral assassin, and her
treatment of her husband has been like that of the most detestable
murderess and adulteress of ancient history,--that she has learned to
lie skilfully and artfully, that she equivocates, says incompatible
things, and crosses her own tracks,--that she is double-faced, and
has the art to lie even by silence, and that she has become wholly
unscrupulous, and acquiesces in _any_thing, no matter what, that tends
to the desired end, and that end the destruction of her husband. This
is a brief summary of the story that Byron made it his life's business
to spread through society, to propagate and make converts to during
his life, and which has been in substance reasserted by 'Blackwood' in
a recent article this year.

Now, the reader will please to notice that this poem is dated in
September 1816, and that on the 29th of March of that same year, he
had thought proper to tell quite another story. At that time the deed
of separation was not signed, and negotiations between Lady Byron,
acting by legal counsel, and himself were still pending. At that time,
therefore, he was standing in a community who knew all he had said
in former days of his wife's character, who were in an aroused and
excited state by the fact that so lovely and good and patient a woman
had actually been forced for some unexplained cause to leave him. His
policy at that time was to make large general confessions of sin,
and to praise and compliment her, with a view of enlisting sympathy.
Everybody feels for a handsome sinner, weeping on his knees, asking
pardon for his offences against his wife in the public newspapers.

The celebrated 'Fare thee well', as we are told, was written on the
17th of March, and accidentally found its way into the newspapers at
this time 'through the imprudence of a friend whom he allowed to take a
copy.' These 'imprudent friends' have all along been such a marvellous
convenience to Lord Byron.

But the question met him on all sides, What is the matter? This wife
you have declared the brightest, sweetest, most amiable of beings, and
against whose behaviour as a wife you actually never had nor can have
a complaint to make,--why is she _now_ all of a sudden so inflexibly
set against you?

This question required an answer, and he answered by writing another
poem, which also _accidentally_ found its way into the public prints.
It is in his 'Domestic Pieces,' which the reader may refer to at the
end of this volume, and is called 'A Sketch.'

There was a most excellent, respectable, well-behaved Englishwoman, a
Mrs. Clermont,[3] who had been Lady Byron's governess in her youth,
and was still, in mature life, revered as her confidential friend. It
appears that this person had been with Lady Byron during a part of her
married life, especially the bitter hours of her lonely child-bed, when
a young wife so much needs a sympathetic friend. This Mrs. Clermont was
the person selected by Lord Byron at this time to be the scapegoat to
bear away the difficulties of the case into the wilderness.

[Footnote 3: In Lady Blessington's 'Memoirs' this name is given
Charlemont; in the late 'Temple Bar' article on the character of Lady
Byron it is given Clermont. I have followed the latter.]

We are informed in Moore's Life what a noble pride of rank Lord Byron
possessed, and how when the headmaster of a school, against whom he had
a pique, invited him to dinner, he declined, saying, 'To tell you the
truth, Doctor, if you should come to Newstead, I shouldn't think of
inviting _you_ to dine with _me_, and so I don't care to dine with you
here.' Different countries, it appears, have different standards as to
good taste; Moore gives this as an amusing instance of a young lord's

Accordingly, his first attack against this 'lady,' as we Americans
should call her, consists in gross statements concerning her having
been born poor and in an inferior rank. He begins by stating that she

  'Born in the garret, in the kitchen bred,
  Promoted thence to deck her mistress' head;
  Next--for some gracious service unexpressed
  And from its wages only to be guessed--
  Raised from the toilet to the table, where
  Her wondering betters wait behind her chair.
  With eye unmoved and forehead unabashed.
  She dines from off the plate she lately washed;
  Quick with the tale, and ready with the lie,
  The genial confidante and general spy,--
  Who could, ye gods! her next employment guess,--
  An _only infant's earliest governess_!
  What had she made the pupil of her art
  None knows; _but that high soul secured the heart,
  And panted for the truth it could not hear
  With longing soul and undeluded ear_!'[4]

[Footnote 4: The italics are mine.]

The poet here recognises as a singular trait in Lady Byron her peculiar
love of truth,--a trait which must have struck everyone that had any
knowledge of her through life. He goes on now to give what he certainly
knew to be the real character of Lady Byron:--

  'Foiled was perversion by that youthful mind,
  Which flattery fooled not, baseness could not blind,
  _Deceit infect_ not, nor contagion soil,
  Indulgence weaken, or example spoil,
  Nor mastered science tempt her to look down
  On humbler talent with a pitying frown,
  Nor genius swell, nor beauty render vain,
  Nor envy ruffle to retaliate pain.

We are now informed that Mrs. Clermont, whom he afterwards says in his
letters was a spy of Lady Byron's mother, set herself to make mischief
between them. He says:--

  'If early habits,--those strong links that bind
  At times the loftiest to the meanest mind,
  Have given her power too deeply to instil
  The angry essence of her deadly will;
  If like a snake she steal within your walls,
  Till the black slime betray her as she crawls;
  If like a viper to the heart she wind,
  And leaves the venom there she did not find,--
  What marvel that this hag of hatred works
  Eternal evil latent as she lurks.'

The noble lord then proceeds to abuse this woman of inferior rank in
the language of the upper circles. He thus describes her person and

  'Skilled by a touch to deepen scandal's tints
  With all the kind mendacity of hints,
  While mingling truth with falsehood, sneers with smiles,
  A thread of candour with a web of wiles;
  A plain blunt show of briefly-spoken seeming,
  To hide her bloodless heart's soul-harden'd scheming;
  A lip of lies; a face formed to conceal,
  And without feeling mock at all who feel;
  With a vile mask the Gorgon would disown,--
  A cheek of parchment and an eye of stone.
  Mark how the channels of her yellow blood
  Ooze to her skin and stagnate there to mud,
  Cased like the centipede in saffron mail,
  Or darker greenness of the scorpion's scale,--
  (For drawn from reptiles only may we trace
  Congenial colours in that soul or face,)
  Look on her features! and behold her mind
  As in a mirror of itself defined:
  Look on the picture! deem it not o'ercharged
  There is no trait which might not be enlarged.'

The poem thus ends:--

  'May the strong curse of crushed affections light
  Back on thy bosom with reflected blight,
  And make thee in thy leprosy of mind
  As loathsome to thyself as to mankind!
  Till all thy self-thoughts curdle into hate,
  Black--as thy will for others would create;
  Till thy hard heart be calcined into dust,
  And thy soul welter in its hideous crust.
  O, may thy grave be sleepless as the bed,
  The widowed couch of fire, that thou hast spread
  Then when thou fain wouldst weary Heaven with prayer,
  Look on thy earthly victims--and despair!
  Down to the dust! and as thou rott'st away,
  Even worms shall perish on thy poisonous clay.
  _But for the love I bore and still must bear_
  To her thy malice from all ties would tear,
  Thy name,--thy human name,--to every eye
  The climax of all scorn, should hang on high,
  Exalted o'er thy less abhorred compeers,
  And festering in the infamy of years.'

  March 16, 1816.

Now, on the 29th of March 1816, this was Lord Byron's story. He states
that his wife had a truthfulness even from early girlhood that the most
artful and unscrupulous governess could not pollute,--that she always
_panted_ for truth,--that flattery could not fool nor baseness blind
her,--that though she was a genius and master of science, she was yet
gentle and tolerant, and one whom no envy could ruffle to retaliate

In September of the same year she is a monster of unscrupulous deceit
and vindictive cruelty. Now, what had happened in the five months
between the dates of these poems to produce such a change of opinion?
Simply this:--

1st. The negotiation between him and his wife's lawyers had ended in
his signing a deed of separation in preference to standing a suit for

2nd. Madame de Staël, moved by his tears of anguish and professions of
repentance, had offered to negotiate with Lady Byron on his behalf, and
had failed.

The failure of this application is the only apology given by Moore and
Murray for this poem, which gentle Thomas Moore admits was not in quite
as generous a strain as the 'Fare thee well'.

But Lord Byron knew perfectly well, when he suffered that application
to be made, that Lady Byron had been entirely convinced that her
marriage relations with him could never be renewed, and that duty both
to man and God required her to separate from him. The allowing the
negotiation was, therefore, an artifice to place his wife before the
public in the attitude of a hard-hearted, inflexible woman; her refusal
was what he knew beforehand must inevitably be the result, and merely
gave him capital in the sympathy of his friends, by which they should
be brought to tolerate and accept the bitter accusations of this poem.

We have recently heard it asserted that this last-named piece of poetry
was the sudden offspring of a fit of ill-temper, and was never intended
to be published at all. There were certainly excellent reasons why
his friends should have advised him not to publish it _at that time_.
But that it was read with sympathy by the circle of his intimate
friends, and believed by them, is evident from the frequency with which
allusions to it occur in his confidential letters to them.[5]

[Footnote 5: In Lady Blessington's conversations with Lord Byron, just
before he went to Greece, she records that he gave her this poem in
manuscript. It was published in her 'Journal.']

About three months after, under date March 10, 1817, he writes to
Moore: 'I suppose now I shall never be able to shake off my sables in
public imagination, more particularly since my moral ---- clove down my
fame.' Again to Murray in 1819, three years after, he says: 'I never
hear anything of Ada, the little Electra of Mycenæ.'

Electra was the daughter of Clytemnestra, in the Greek poem, who lived
to condemn her wicked mother, and to call on her brother to avenge the
father. There was in this mention of Electra more than meets the ear.
Many passages in Lord Byron's poetry show that he intended to make this
daughter a future partisan against her mother, and explain the awful
words he is stated in Lady Anne Barnard's diary to have used when
first he looked on his little girl,--'What an instrument of torture I
have gained in you!'

In a letter to Lord Blessington, April 6, 1823, he says, speaking of
Dr. Parr:[6]--

 'He did me the honour once to be a patron of mine, though a great
 friend of the _other branch of the house of Atreus_, and the Greek
 teacher, I believe, of my _moral_ Clytemnestra. I say _moral_ because
 it is true, and is so useful to the virtuous, that it enables them to
 do anything without the aid of an Ægistheus.'

[Footnote 6: Vol. vi. p. 22.]

If Lord Byron wrote this poem merely in a momentary fit of spleen, why
were there so many persons evidently quite familiar with his allusions
to it? and why was it preserved in Murray's hands? and why published
after his death? That Byron was in the habit of reposing documents in
the hands of Murray, to be used as occasion offered, is evident from
a part of a note written by him to Murray respecting some verses so
intrusted: 'Pray let not these _versiculi_ go forth with my name except
_to the initiated_.'[7]

[Footnote 7: 'Byron's Miscellany', vol. ii. p. 358. London, 1853.]

Murray, in publishing this attack on his wife after Lord Byron's death,
showed that he believed in it, and, so believing, deemed Lady Byron a
woman whose widowed state deserved neither sympathy nor delicacy of
treatment. At a time when every sentiment in the heart of the most
deeply wronged woman would forbid her appearing to justify herself from
such cruel slander of a dead husband, an honest, kind-hearted, worthy
Englishman actually thought it right and proper to give these lines
to her eyes and the eyes of all the reading world. Nothing can show
more plainly what this poem was written for, and how thoroughly it did
its work! Considering Byron as a wronged man, Murray thought he was
contributing his mite towards doing him justice. His editor prefaced
the whole set of 'Domestic Pieces' with the following statements:--

 'They all refer to the unhappy separation, of which the precise causes
 are still a mystery, and which he declared to the last were never
 disclosed to himself. He admitted that pecuniary embarrassments,
 disordered health, and dislike to family restraints had aggravated his
 naturally violent temper, and driven him to excesses. He suspected
 that his mother-in-law had fomented the discord,--which Lady Byron
 denies,--and that more was due to the malignant offices of a female
 dependant, who is the subject of the bitterly satirical sketch.

        *       *       *       *       *

 'To these general statements can only be added the still vaguer
 allegations of Lady Byron, that she conceived his conduct to be the
 result of insanity,--that, the physician pronouncing him responsible
 for his actions, she could submit to them no longer, and that
 Dr. Lushington, her legal adviser, agreed that a reconciliation
 was neither proper nor possible. _No weight can be attached to
 the opinions of an opposing counsel upon accusations made by one
 party behind the back of the other, who urgently demanded and was
 pertinaciously refused the least opportunity of denial or defence._ He
 rejected the proposal for an amicable separation, but _consented when
 threatened with a suit in Doctors' Commons_.'[8]

[Footnote 8: The italics are mine.]

Neither John Murray nor any of Byron's partisans seem to have pondered
the admission in these last words.

Here, as appears, was a woman, driven to the last despair, standing
with her child in her arms, asking from English laws protection for
herself and child against her husband.

She had appealed to the first counsel in England, and was acting under
their direction.

Two of the greatest lawyers in England have pronounced that there
has been such a cause of offence on his part that a return to him is
neither proper nor possible, and that no alternative remains to her but
separation or divorce.

He asks her to state her charges against him. She, making answer
under advice of her counsel, says, 'That if he _insists_ on the
specifications, he must receive them in open court in a suit for

What, now, ought to have been the conduct of any brave, honest man,
who believed that his wife was taking advantage of her reputation for
virtue to turn every one against him, who saw that she had turned on
her side even the lawyer he sought to retain on his;[9] that she was
an unscrupulous woman, who acquiesced in every and any thing to gain
her ends, while he stood before the public, as he says, 'accused of
every monstrous vice, by public rumour or private rancour'? When she,
under advice of her lawyers, made the alternative legal _separation_ or
open investigation in court for divorce, what did he do?

[Footnote 9: Lord Byron says, in his observations on an article in
'Blackwood': 'I recollect being much hurt by Romilly's conduct:
he (having a general retainer for me) went over to the adversary,
alleging, on being reminded of his retainer, that he had forgotten it,
as his clerk had so many. I observed that some of those who were now so
eagerly laying the axe to my roof-tree might see their own shaken. His
fell and crushed him.'

In the first edition of Moore's Life of Lord Byron there was printed a
letter on Sir Samuel Romilly, so brutal that it was suppressed in the
subsequent editions. (See Part III.)]


Now, let any man who knows the legal mind of England,--let any lawyer
who knows the character of Sir Samuel Romilly and Dr. Lushington, ask
whether _they_ were the men to take a case into court for a woman that
had no _evidence_ but her own statements and impressions? Were _they_
men to go to trial without proofs? Did they not know that there were
artful, hysterical women in the world, and would _they_, of all people,
be the men to take a woman's story on her own side, and advise her in
the last issue to bring it into open court, without legal proof of
the strongest kind? Now, as long as Sir Samuel Romilly lived, this
statement of Byron's--that he was condemned unheard, and had no chance
of knowing whereof he _was accused--never appeared in public_.

It, however, was most actively circulated _in private_. That Byron was
in the habit of intrusting to different confidants articles of various
kinds to be shown to different circles as they could bear them, we have
already shown. We have recently come upon another instance of this
kind. In the late eagerness to exculpate Byron, a new document has
turned up, of which Mr. Murray, it appears, had never heard when, after
Byron's death, he published in the preface to his 'Domestic Pieces'
the sentence: '_He rejected the proposal for an amicable separation,
but consented when threatened with a suit in Doctors' Commons_.' It
appears that, up to 1853, neither John Murray senior, nor the son who
now fills his place, had taken any notice of this newly found document,
which we are now informed 'was drawn up by Lord Byron in August 1817,
while Mr. Hobhouse was staying with him at La Mira, near Venice,
given to Mr. Matthew Gregory Lewis, _for circulation among friends in
England_, found in Mr. Lewis's papers after his death, and _now_ in the
possession of Mr. Murray.' Here it is:--

 'It has been intimated to me that the persons understood to be the
 legal advisers of Lady Byron have declared "their lips to be sealed
 up" on the cause of the separation between her and myself. If their
 lips are sealed up, they are not sealed up by me, and the greatest
 favour _they_ can confer upon me will be to open them. From the first
 hour in which I was apprised of the intentions of the Noel family to
 the last communication between Lady Byron and myself in the character
 of wife and husband (a period of some months), I called repeatedly and
 in vain for a statement of their or her charges, and it was chiefly
 in consequence of Lady Byron's claiming (in a letter still existing)
 a promise on my part to consent to a separation, if such was _really_
 her wish, that I consented at all; this claim, and the exasperating
 and inexpiable manner in which their object was pursued, which
 rendered it next to an impossibility that two persons so divided could
 ever be reunited, induced me reluctantly then, and repentantly still,
 to sign the deed, which I shall be happy--most happy--to cancel, and
 go before any tribunal which may discuss the business in the most
 public manner.

 'Mr. Hobhouse made this proposition on my part, viz. to abrogate
 all prior intentions--and go into court--the very day before the
 separation was signed, and it was declined by the other party, as
 also the publication of the correspondence during the previous
 discussion. Those propositions I beg here to repeat, and to call
 upon her and hers to say their worst, pledging myself to meet their
 allegations,--whatever they may be,--and only too happy to be informed
 at last of their real nature.


  'August 9, 1817.

 'P.S.--I have been, and am now, utterly ignorant of what description
 her allegations, charges, or whatever name they may have assumed,
 are; and am as little aware for what purpose they have been kept
 back,--unless it was to sanction the most infamous calumnies by


  'LA MIRA, near VENICE.'

It appears the circulation of this document must have been _very
private_, since Moore, not _over_-delicate towards Lady Byron, did not
think fit to print it; since John Murray neglected it, and since it has
come out at this late hour for the first time.

If Lord Byron really desired Lady Byron and her legal counsel to
understand the facts herein stated, and was willing at all hazards to
bring on an open examination, why was this _privately_ circulated?
Why not issued as a card in the London papers? Is it likely that
Mr. Matthew Gregory Lewis, and a chosen band of friends acting as a
committee, requested an audience with Lady Byron, Sir Samuel Romilly,
and Dr. Lushington, and formally presented this cartel of defiance?

We incline to think not. We incline to think that this small serpent,
in company with many others of like kind, crawled secretly and
privately around, and when it found a good chance, bit an honest
Briton, whose blood was thenceforth poisoned by an undetected falsehood.

The reader now may turn to the letters that Mr. Moore has thought fit
to give us of this stay at La Mira, beginning with Letter 286, dated
July 1, 1817,[10] where he says: 'I have been working up my impressions
into a _Fourth_ Canto of Childe Harold,' and also 'Mr. Lewis is in
Venice. I am going up to stay a week with him there.'

[Footnote 10: Vol. iv. p. 40.]

Next, under date La Mira, Venice, July 10,[11] he says, 'Monk Lewis is
here; how pleasant!'

[Footnote 11: Ibid. p. 46.]

Next, under date July 20, 1817, to Mr. Murray: 'I write to give you
notice that I have _completed the fourth and ultimate canto of Childe
Harold_.... It is yet to be copied and polished, and the notes are to

Under date of La Mira, August 7, 1817, he records that the new canto is
one hundred and thirty stanzas in length, and talks about the price for
it. He is now ready to launch it on the world; and, as now appears, on
August 9, 1817, _two days after_, he wrote the document above cited,
and put it into the hands of Mr. Lewis, as we are informed, 'for
circulation among friends in England.'

The reason of this may now be evident. Having prepared a suitable
number of those whom he calls in his notes to Murray 'the initiated,'
by private documents and statements, he is now prepared to publish his
accusations against his wife, and the story of his wrongs, in a great
immortal poem, which shall have a band of initiated interpreters, shall
be read through the civilised world, and stand to accuse her after his

In the Fourth Canto of 'Childe Harold,' with all his own overwhelming
power of language, he sets forth his cause as against the silent woman
who all this time had been making no party, and telling no story,
and whom the world would therefore conclude to be silent because she
had no answer to make. I remember well the time when this poetry, so
resounding in its music, so mournful, so apparently generous, filled
my heart with a vague anguish of sorrow for the sufferer, and of
indignation at the cold insensibility that had maddened him. Thousands
have felt the power of this great poem, which stands, and must stand to
all time, a monument of what sacred and solemn powers God gave to this
wicked man, and how vilely he abused this power as a weapon to slay the

It is among the ruins of ancient Rome that his voice breaks forth in
solemn imprecation:--

  'O Time, thou beautifier of the dead,
  Adorner of the ruin, comforter,
  And only healer when the heart hath bled!--
  Time, the corrector when our judgments err,
  The test of truth, love,--sole philosopher,
  For all besides are sophists,--from thy shrift
  That never loses, though it doth defer!--
  Time, the avenger! unto thee I lift
  My hands and heart and eyes, and claim of thee a gift.

         *       *       *       *       *

  'If thou hast ever seen me too elate,
  Hear me not; but if calmly I have borne
  Good, and reserved my pride against the hate
  Which shall not whelm me, _let me not have worn
  This iron in my soul in vain,--shall THEY not mourn?_
  And thou who never yet of human wrong
  Left the unbalanced scale, great Nemesis,
  Here where the ancients paid their worship long,
  Thou who didst call the Furies from the abyss,
  And round Orestes bid them howl and hiss
  _For that unnatural retribution,--just
  Had it but come from hands less near_,--in this
  Thy former realm I call thee from the dust.
  Dost thou not hear, my heart? awake thou shalt and must!
  It is not that I may not have incurred
  For my ancestral faults and mine, the wound
  Wherewith I bleed withal, and had it been conferred
  With a just weapon it had flowed unbound,
  But now my blood shall not sink in the ground.

         *       *       *       *       *

  'But in this page a record will I seek;
  Not in the air shall these my words disperse,
  Though I be ashes,--a far hour shall wreak
  The deep prophetic fulness of this verse,
  And pile on human heads the mountain of my curse.
  That curse shall be forgiveness. Have I not,--
  Hear me, my Mother Earth! behold it, Heaven,--
  Have I not had to wrestle with my lot?
  Have I not suffered things to be forgiven?
  Have I not had my brain seared, my heart riven,
  Hopes sapped, name blighted, life's life lied away,
  And only not to desperation driven,
  Because not altogether of such clay
  As rots into the soul of those whom I survey?

         *       *       *       *       *

  'From mighty wrongs to petty perfidy,
  Have I not seen what human things could do,--
  From the loud roar of foaming calumny,
  To the small whispers of the paltry few,
  And subtler venom of the reptile crew,
  _The Janus glance of whose significant eye,
  Learning to lie with silence, would seem true,
  And without utterance, save the shrug or sigh,
  Deal round to happy fools its speechless obloquy_?'[12]

[Footnote 12: The italics are mine.]

The reader will please notice that the lines in italics are almost,
word for word, a repetition of the lines in italics in the former poem
on his wife, where he speaks of a _significant eye_ that has _learned
to lie in silence_, and were evidently meant to apply to Lady Byron and
her small circle of confidential friends.

Before this, in the Third Canto of 'Childe Harold,' he had claimed the
sympathy of the world, as a loving father, deprived by a severe fate of
the solace and society of his only child:--

  'My daughter,--with this name my song began,--
  My daughter,--with this name my song shall end,--
  I see thee not and hear thee not, but none
  Can be so wrapped in thee; thou art the friend
  To whom the shadows of far years extend.

         *       *       *       *       *

  'To aid thy mind's developments, to watch
  The dawn of little joys, to sit and see
  Almost thy very growth, to view thee catch
  Knowledge of objects,--wonders yet to thee,--
  And print on thy soft cheek a parent's kiss,--
  This it should seem was not reserved for me.
  Yet this was in my nature,--as it is,
  I know not what there is, yet something like to this.

         *       *       *       *       *

  '_Yet though dull hate as duty should be taught_,
  I know that thou wilt love me; though my name
  Should be shut out from thee as spell still fraught
  With desolation and a broken claim,
  Though the grave close between us,--'t were the same,
  I know that thou wilt love me, though to drain
  My blood from out thy being were an aim
  And an attainment,--all will be in vain.'

To all these charges against her, sent all over the world in verses
as eloquent as the English language is capable of, the wife replied

  'Assailed by slander and the tongue of strife,
  Her only answer was,--a blameless life.'

She had a few friends, a very few, with whom she sought solace and
sympathy. One letter from her, written at this time, preserved by
accident, is the only authentic record of how the matter stood with her.

We regret to say that the publication of this document was not brought
forth to clear Lady Byron's name from her husband's slanders, but to
shield him from the worst accusation against him, by showing that this
crime was not included in the few private confidential revelations that
friendship wrung from the young wife at this period.

Lady Anne Barnard, authoress of 'Auld Robin Grey', a friend whose
age and experience made her a proper confidante, sent for the
broken-hearted, perplexed wife, and offered her a woman's sympathy.

To her Lady Byron wrote many letters, under seal of confidence, and
Lady Anne says: 'I will give you a few paragraphs transcribed from
one of Lady Byron's own letters to me. It is sorrowful to think that
in a very little time this young and amiable creature, wise, patient,
and feeling, will have her character mistaken by every one who reads
Byron's works. To rescue her from this I preserved her letters, and
when she afterwards expressed a fear that anything of her writing
should ever fall into hands to injure him (I suppose she meant by
publication), I safely assured her that it never should. But here this
letter shall be placed, a sacred record in her favour, unknown to

 'I am a very incompetent judge of the impression which the last Canto
 of "Childe Harold" may produce on the minds of indifferent readers.

 'It contains the usual trace of a conscience restlessly awake, though
 his object has been too long to aggravate its burden, as if it could
 thus be oppressed into eternal stupor. I will hope, as you do, that it
 survives for his ultimate good.

 'It was the acuteness of his remorse, impenitent in its character,
 which so long seemed to demand from my compassion to spare every
 semblance of reproach, every look of grief, which might have said to
 his conscience, "You have made me wretched."

 'I am decidedly of opinion that he is responsible. He has wished to
 be thought partially deranged, or on the brink of it, to perplex
 observers and _prevent them from tracing effects to their real causes_
 through all the intricacies of his conduct. I was, as I told you, at
 one time the dupe of his acted insanity, and clung to the former
 delusions in regard to the motives that concerned me personally, till
 the whole system was laid bare.

 'He is the absolute monarch of words, and uses them, as Bonaparte did
 lives, for conquest, without more regard to their intrinsic value,
 considering them only as ciphers, which must derive all their import
 from the situation in which he places them, and the ends to which he
 adapts them, with such consummate skill.

 'Why, then, you will say, does he not employ them to give a better
 colour to his own character? Because he is too good an actor to
 over-act, or to assume a moral garb, which it would be easy to strip

 'In regard to his poetry, egotism is the vital principle of his
 imagination, which it is difficult for him to kindle on any subject
 with which his own character and interests are not identified; but by
 the introduction of fictitious incidents, by change of scene or time,
 _he has enveloped his poetical disclosures in a system impenetrable
 except to a very few_; and his constant desire of creating a sensation
 makes him not averse to be the object of wonder and curiosity, even
 though accompanied _by some dark and vague suspicions_.

 'Nothing has contributed more to the misunderstanding of his real
 character than the lonely grandeur in which he shrouds it, and his
 affectation of being above mankind, when he exists almost in their
 voice. The romance of his sentiments is another feature of this mask
 of state. I know no one more habitually destitute of that enthusiasm
 he so beautifully expresses, and to which he can work up his fancy
 chiefly by contagion.

 '_I had heard he was the best of brothers, the most generous of
 friends, and I thought such feelings only required to be warmed and
 cherished into more diffusive benevolence. Though these opinions are
 eradicated, and could never return but with the decay of my memory_,
 you will not wonder if there are still moments when the association of
 feelings which arose from them soften and sadden my thoughts.

 'But I have not thanked you, dearest Lady Anne, for your kindness in
 regard to a principal object,--that of rectifying false impressions.
 I trust you understand my wishes, which never were to injure Lord
 Byron in any way; for, _though he would not suffer me to remain his
 wife, he cannot prevent me from continuing his friend; and it was from
 considering myself as such that I silenced the accusations by which my
 own conduct might have been more fully justified_.

 'It is not necessary to speak ill of his heart in general; it is
 sufficient that to me it was hard and impenetrable,--that my own must
 have been broken before his could have been touched. I would rather
 represent this as _my_ misfortune than as _his_ guilt; but, surely,
 that misfortune is not to be made my crime! Such are my feelings; you
 will judge how to act.

 'His allusions to me in "Childe Harold" are cruel and cold, but
 with such a semblance as to make _me_ appear so, and to attract all
 sympathy to himself. It is said in this poem that hatred of him will
 be taught as a lesson to his child. I might appeal to all who have
 ever heard me speak of him, and still more to my own heart, to witness
 that there has been no moment when I have remembered injury otherwise
 than affectionately and sorrowfully.

 'It is not my duty to give way to hopeless and wholly unrequited
 affection; but, so long as I live, my chief struggle will probably
 be not to remember him too kindly. I do not seek the sympathy of the
 world, but I wish to be known by those whose opinion is valuable and
 whose kindness is dear to me. Among such, my dear Lady Anne, you will
 ever be remembered by your truly affectionate

  'A. BYRON.'

On this letter I observe Lord Lindsay remarks that it shows a noble
but rather severe character, and a recent author has remarked that it
seemed to be written rather in a 'cold spirit of criticism.' It seems
to strike these gentlemen as singular that Lady Byron did not enjoy the
poem! But there are two remarkable sentences in this letter which have
escaped the critics hitherto. Lord Byron, in this, the Third Canto
of 'Childe Harold,' expresses in most affecting words an enthusiasm
of love for his sister. So long as he lived he was her faithful
correspondent; he sent her his journals; and, dying, he left her and
her children everything he had in the world. This certainly seems like
an affectionate brother; but in what words does Lady Byron speak of
this affection?

'I _had heard he was the best of brothers_, the most generous of
friends. I thought these feelings only required to be warmed and
cherished into more diffusive benevolence. THESE OPINIONS ARE
Let me ask those who give this letter as a proof that at this time no
idea such as I have stated was in Lady Byron's mind, to account for
these words. Let them please answer these questions: Why had Lady Byron
ceased to think him a good brother? Why does she use so strong a word
as that the opinion was eradicated, torn up by the roots, and could
never grow again in her except by decay of memory?

And yet this is a document Lord Lindsay vouches for as authentic, and
which he brings forward _in defence_ of Lord Byron.

Again she says,'Though he _would not suffer me to remain his wife_, he
cannot prevent me from continuing his friend.' Do these words not say
that in some past time, in some decided manner, Lord Byron had declared
to her his rejection of her as a wife? I shall yet have occasion to
explain these words.

Again she says, 'I silenced accusations by which my conduct might have
been more fully justified.'

The people in England who are so very busy in searching out evidence
against my true story have searched out and given to the world an
important confirmation of this assertion of Lady Byron's.

It seems that the confidential waiting-maid who went with Lady Byron
on her wedding journey has been sought out and interrogated, and, as
appears by description, is a venerable, respectable old person, quite
in possession of all her senses in general, and of that sixth sense of
propriety in particular, which appears not to be a common virtue in our

As her testimony is important, we insert it just here, with a
description of her person in full. The ardent investigators thus

 'Having gained admission, we were shown into a small but neatly
 furnished and scrupulously clean apartment, where sat the object
 of our visit. Mrs. Mimms is a venerable-looking old lady, of short
 stature, slight and active appearance, with a singularly bright and
 intelligent countenance. Although midway between eighty and ninety
 years of age, she is in full possession of her faculties, discourses
 freely and cheerfully, hears apparently as well as ever she did,
 and her sight is so good that, aided by a pair of spectacles, she
 reads the Chronicle every day with ease. Some idea of her competency
 to contribute valuable evidence to the subject which now so much
 engages public attention on three continents may be found from her
 own narrative of her personal relations with Lady Byron. Mrs. Mimms
 was born in the neighbourhood of Seaham, and knew Lady Byron from
 childhood. During the long period of ten years she was Miss Milbanke's
 lady's-maid, and in that capacity became the close confidante of her
 mistress. There were circumstances which rendered their relationship
 peculiarly intimate. Miss Milbanke had no sister or female friend
 to whom she was bound by the ties of more than a common affection;
 and her mother, whatever other excellent qualities she may have
 possessed, was too high-spirited and too hasty in temper to attract
 the sympathies of the young. Some months before Miss Milbanke was
 married to Lord Byron, Mrs. Mimms had quitted her service on the
 occasion of her own marriage with Mr. Mimms; but she continued to
 reside in the neighbourhood of Seaham, and remained on the most
 friendly terms with her former mistress. As the courtship proceeded,
 Miss Milbanke concealed nothing from her faithful attendant; and
 when the wedding-day was fixed, she begged Mrs. Mimms to return and
 fulfil the duties of lady's-maid, at least during the honeymoon. Mrs.
 Mimms at the time was nursing her first child, and it was no small
 sacrifice to quit her own home at such a moment, but she could not
 refuse her old mistress's request. Accordingly, she returned to Seaham
 Hall some days before the wedding, was present at the ceremony, and
 then preceded Lord and Lady Byron to Halnaby Hall, near Croft, in the
 North Riding of Yorkshire, one of Sir Ralph Milbanke's seats, where
 the newly married couple were to spend the honeymoon. Mrs. Mimms
 remained with Lord and Lady Byron during the three weeks they spent at
 Halnaby Hall, and then accompanied them to Seaham, where they spent
 the next six weeks. It was during the latter period that she finally
 quitted Lady Byron's service; but she remained in the most friendly
 communication with her ladyship till the death of the latter, and for
 some time was living in the neighbourhood of Lady Byron's residence
 in Leicestershire, where she had frequent opportunities of seeing her
 former mistress. It may be added that Lady Byron was not unmindful of
 the faithful services of her friend and attendant in the instructions
 to her executors contained in her will. Such was the position of Mrs.
 Mimms towards Lady Byron; and we think no one will question that
 it was of a nature to entitle all that Mrs. Mimms may say on the
 subject of the relations of Lord and Lady Byron to the most respectful
 consideration and credit.'

Such is the chronicler's account of the faithful creature whom nothing
but intense indignation and disgust at Mrs. Beecher Stowe would lead
to speak on her mistress's affairs; but Mrs. Beecher Stowe feels none
the less sincere respect for her, and is none the less obliged to her
for having spoken. Much of Mrs. Mimms's testimony will be referred to
in another place; we only extract one passage, to show that while Lord
Byron spent his time in setting afloat slanders against his wife, she
spent hers in sealing the mouths of witnesses against him.

Of the period of the honeymoon Mrs. Mimms says:--

 'The happiness of Lady Byron, however, was of brief duration; even
 during the short three weeks they spent at Halnaby, the irregularities
 of Lord Byron occasioned her the greatest distress, and she even
 contemplated returning to her father. Mrs. Mimms was her constant
 companion and confidante through this painful period, and she does not
 believe that her ladyship concealed a thought from her. _With laudable
 reticence, the old lady absolutely refuses to disclose the particulars
 of Lord Byron's misconduct at this time; she gave Lady Byron a solemn
 promise not to do so._

        *       *       *       *       *

 'So serious did Mrs. Mimms consider the conduct of Lord Byron, that
 she recommended her mistress to confide all the circumstances to her
 father, Sir Ralph Milbanke, a calm, kind, and most excellent parent,
 and take his advice as to her future course. At one time Mrs. Mimms
 thinks Lady Byron had resolved to follow her counsel and impart her
 wrongs to Sir Ralph; but on arriving at Seaham Hall her ladyship
 strictly enjoined Mrs. Mimms to preserve absolute silence on the
 subject--a course which she followed herself;--so that when, six weeks
 later, she and Lord Byron left Seaham for London, not a word had
 escaped her to disturb her parents' tranquility as to their daughter's
 domestic happiness. As might be expected, Mrs. Mimms bears the
 warmest testimony to the noble and lovable qualities of her departed
 mistress. She also declares that Lady Byron was by no means of a cold
 temperament, but that the affectionate impulses of her nature were
 checked by the unkind treatment she experienced from her husband.'

We have already shown that Lord Byron had been, ever since his
separation, engaged in a systematic attempt to reverse the judgment of
the world against himself, by making converts of all his friends to a
most odious view of his wife's character, and inspiring them with the
zeal of propagandists to spread these views through society. We have
seen how he prepared partisans to interpret the Fourth Canto of 'Childe

This plan of solemn and heroic accusation was the first public attack
on his wife. Next we see him commencing a scurrilous attempt to turn
her to ridicule in the First Canto of 'Don Juan.'

It is to our point now to show how carefully and cautiously this Don
Juan campaign was planned.

Vol. IV. p. 138, we find Letter 325 to Mr. Murray:--

  'VENICE: January 25, 1819.

 'You will do me the favour to _print privately, for private
 distribution, fifty copies of "Don Juan."_ The list of the men to whom
 I wish it presented I will send hereafter.'

The poem, as will be remembered, begins with the meanest and foulest
attack on his wife that ever ribald wrote, and puts it in close
neighbourhood with scenes which every pure man or woman must feel
to be the beastly utterances of a man who had lost all sense of
decency. Such a potion was too strong to be administered even in a
time when great license was allowed, and men were not over-nice. But
Byron chooses fifty armour-bearers of that class of men who would
find indecent ribaldry about a wife a good joke, and talk about the
'artistic merits' of things which we hope would make an honest boy

At this time he acknowledges that his vices had brought him to a state
of great exhaustion, attended by such debility of the stomach that
nothing remained on it; and adds, 'I was obliged to reform my way of
life, which was conducting me from the yellow leaf to the ground with
all deliberate speed.'[13] But as his health is a little better he
employs it in making the way to death and hell elegantly easy for other
young men, by breaking down the remaining scruples of a society not

[Footnote 13: Vol. iv. p 143.]

Society revolted, however, and fought stoutly against the nauseous
dose. His sister wrote to him that she heard such things said of it
that _she_ never would read it; and the outcry against it on the part
of all women of his acquaintance was such that for a time he was quite
overborne; and the Countess Guiccioli finally extorted a promise from
him to cease writing it. Nevertheless, there came a time when England
accepted 'Don Juan,'--when Wilson, in the 'Noctes Ambrosianæ,' praised
it as a classic, and took every opportunity to reprobate Lady Byron's
conduct. When first it appeared the 'Blackwood' came out with that
indignant denunciation of which we have spoken, and to which Byron
replied in the extracts we have already quoted. He did something more
than reply. He marked out Wilson as one of the strongest literary men
of the day, and set his 'initiated' with their documents to work upon

One of these documents to which he requested Wilson's attention was the
private autobiography, written expressly to give his own story of all
the facts of the marriage and separation.

In the indignant letter he writes Murray on the 'Blackwood' article,
Vol. IV., Letter 350--under date December 10, 1819--he says:--

 'I sent home for Moore, and for Moore only (who has my journal also),
 my memoir written up to 1816, and I gave him leave to show it to
 whom he pleased, _but not to publish_ on any account. _You_ may read
 it, and you may let Wilson read it if he likes--not for his public
 opinion, but his private, for I like the man, and care very little
 about the magazine. And I could wish Lady Byron herself to read
 it, that she may have it in her power to mark anything mistaken or
 misstated. As it will never appear till after my extinction, it would
 be but fair she should see it; that is to say, herself willing. Your
 "Blackwood" accuses me of treating women harshly; but I have been
 their martyr; my whole life has been sacrificed to them and by them.'

It was a part of Byron's policy to place Lady Byron in positions before
the world where she _could_ not speak, and where her silence would be
set down to her as haughty, stony indifference and obstinacy. Such was
the pretended negotiation through Madame de Staël, and such now this
apparently fair and generous offer to let Lady Byron see and mark this

The little Ada is now in her fifth year--a child of singular
sensibility and remarkable mental powers--one of those exceptional
children who are so perilous a charge for a mother.

Her husband proposes this artful snare to her,--that she shall mark
what is false in a statement which is all built on a damning lie, that
she cannot refute over that daughter's head,--and which would perhaps
be her ruin to discuss.

Hence came an addition of two more documents, to be used 'privately
among friends,'[14] and which 'Blackwood' uses after Lady Byron is
safely out of the world to cast ignominy on her grave--the wife's
letter, that of a mother standing at bay for her daughter, knowing that
she is dealing with a desperate, powerful, unscrupulous enemy.

  'KIRKBY MALLORY: March 10, 1820.

 [Footnote 14: Lord Byron took especial pains to point out to Murray
 the importance of these two letters. Vol. V. Letter 443, he says: 'You
 must also have from Mr. Moore the correspondence between me and Lady
 B., to whom I offered a sight of all that concerns herself in these
 papers. This is important. He has _her_ letter and my answer.']

 'I received your letter of January 1, offering to my perusal a
 Memoir of part of your life. I decline to inspect it. I consider
 the publication or circulation of such a composition at any time as
 prejudicial to Ada's future happiness. For my own sake, I have no
 reason to shrink from publication; but, notwithstanding the injuries
 which I have suffered, I should lament some of the _consequences_.

  'A. BYRON.

  'To Lord Byron.'

Lord Byron, writing for the public, as is his custom, makes reply:--

  'RAVENNA: April 3, 1820.

 'I received yesterday your answer, dated March 10. My offer was an
 honest one, and surely could only be construed as such even by the
 most malignant casuistry. I could answer you, but it is too late, and
 it is not worth while. To the mysterious menace of the last sentence,
 whatever its import may be--and I cannot pretend to unriddle it--I
 could hardly be very sensible even if I understood it, as, before it
 can take place, I shall be where "nothing can touch him further".... I
 advise you, however, to anticipate the period of your intention, for,
 be assured, no power of figures can avail beyond the present; and if
 it could, I would answer with the Florentine:--

  '"Ed io, che posto son con loro in croce
                            ... e certo
  La fiera moglie, più ch' altro, mi nuoce."[15]


  'To Lady Byron.'

[Footnote 15:

  'And I, who with them on the cross am placed,
                                    ... truly
  My savage wife, more than aught else, doth harm me.'

  _Inferno_, Canto, XVI., Longfellow's translation.

Two things are very evident in this correspondence: Lady Byron
intimates that, if he publishes his story, some _consequences_ must
follow which she shall regret.

Lord Byron receives this as a threat, and says he doesn't understand
it. But directly after he says, 'Before IT can take place, I shall be,'

The intimation is quite clear. He _does_ understand what the
consequences alluded to are. They are evidently that Lady Byron will
speak out and tell her story. He says she cannot do this till _after
he is dead_, and then he shall not care. In allusion to her accuracy
as to dates and figures, he says: 'Be assured no power of figures can
avail beyond the present' (life); and then ironically _advises_ her to
_anticipate the period_,--i.e. to speak out while he is alive.

In Vol. VI. Letter 518, which Lord Byron wrote to Lady Byron, but did
not send, he says: 'I burned your last note for two reasons,--firstly,
because it was written in a style not very agreeable; and, secondly,
because I wished to take your word without documents, which are the
resources of worldly and suspicious people.'

It would appear from this that there _was_ a last letter of Lady Byron
to her husband, which he did not think proper to keep on hand, or show
to the 'initiated' with his usual unreserve; that this letter contained
some kind of _pledge_ for which he preferred to take her word, _without

Each reader can imagine for himself what that _pledge_ might have been;
but from the tenor of the three letters we should infer that it was a
promise of silence for his lifetime, on _certain conditions_, and that
the publication of the autobiography would violate those conditions,
and make it her duty to speak out.

This celebrated autobiography forms so conspicuous a figure in the
whole history, that the reader must have a full idea of it, as given by
Byron himself, in Vol. IV. Letter 344, to Murray:--

 'I gave to Moore, who is gone to Rome, my life in MS.,--in
 seventy-eight folio sheets, brought down to 1816 ... also a journal
 kept in 1814. Neither are for publication during my life, but when I
 am cold you may do what you please. In the mean time, if you like to
 read them you may, and show them to anybody you like. I care not....'

He tells him also:--

 'You will find in it a detailed account of my marriage and its
 consequences, as true as a party concerned can make such an account.'

Of the extent to which this autobiography was circulated we have the
following testimony of Shelton Mackenzie, in notes to 'The Noctes' of
June 1824.

In 'The Noctes' Odoherty says:--

 'The fact is, the work had been copied for the private reading of a
 great lady in Florence.'

The note says:--

 'The great lady in Florence, for whose private reading Byron's
 autobiography was copied, was the Countess of Westmoreland.... Lady
 Blessington had the autobiography in her possession for weeks, and
 confessed to having copied every line of it. Moore remonstrated, and
 she committed her copy to the flames, but did not tell him that her
 sister, Mrs. Home Purvis, now Viscountess of Canterbury, had also made
 a copy!... From the quantity of copy I have seen,--and others were
 more in the way of falling in with it than myself,--I surmise that at
 least half a dozen copies were made, and of these _five_ are now in
 existence. Some particular parts, such as the marriage and separation,
 were copied separately; but I think there cannot be less than five
 full copies yet to be found.'

This was written _after the original autobiography was burned_.

We may see the zeal and enthusiasm of the Byron party,--copying
seventy-eight folio sheets, as of old Christians copied the Gospels.
How widely, fully, and thoroughly, thus, by this secret process, was
society saturated with Byron's own versions of the story that related
to himself and wife! Against her there was only the complaint of an
absolute silence. She put forth no statements, no documents; had no
party, sealed the lips of her counsel, and even of her servants; yet
she could not but have known, from time to time, how thoroughly and
strongly this web of mingled truth and lies was being meshed around her

From the time that Byron first saw the importance of securing Wilson on
his side, and wrote to have his partisans attend to him, we may date
an entire revolution in the 'Blackwood.' It became Byron's warmest
supporter,--is to this day the bitterest accuser of his wife.

Why was this wonderful silence? It appears by Dr. Lushington's
statements, that, when Lady Byron did speak, she had a story to tell
that powerfully affected both him and Romilly,--a story supported by
evidence on which they were willing to have gone to public trial.
Supposing, now, she had imitated Lord Byron's example, and, avoiding
public trial, had put her story into private circulation; as he sent
'Don Juan' to fifty confidential friends, suppose she had sent a
written statement of her story to fifty judges as intelligent as the
two that had heard it; or suppose she had confronted his autobiography
with her own,--what would have been the result?

The first result might have been Mrs. Leigh's utter ruin. The world may
finally forgive the man of genius anything; but for a woman there is no
mercy and no redemption.

This ruin Lady Byron prevented by her utter silence and great
self-command. Mrs. Leigh never lost position. Lady Byron never so
varied in her manner towards her as to excite the suspicions even of
her confidential old servant.

To protect Mrs. Leigh effectually, it must have been necessary to
continue to exclude even her own mother from the secret, as we are
assured she did at first; for, had she told Lady Milbanke, it is
not possible that so high-spirited a woman could have restrained
herself from such outward expressions as would at least have awakened
suspicion. There was no resource but this absolute silence.

Lady Blessington, in her last conversation with Lord Byron, thus
describes the life Lady Byron was leading. She speaks of her as
'wearing away her youth in almost monastic seclusion, questioned by
some, appreciated by few, seeking consolation alone in the discharge of
her duties, and avoiding all external demonstrations of a grief that
her pale cheek and solitary existence alone were vouchers for.'[16]

[Footnote 16: 'Conversations,' p. 108.]

The main object of all this silence may be imagined, if we remember
that if Lord Byron had not died,--had he truly and deeply repented,
and become a thoroughly good man, and returned to England to pursue a
course worthy of his powers, there was on record neither word nor deed
from his wife to stand in his way.

HIS PLACE WAS KEPT IN SOCIETY, ready for him to return to
whenever he came clothed and in his right mind. He might have had the
heart and confidence of his daughter unshadowed by a suspicion. He
might have won the reverence of the great and good in his own lands and
all lands. That hope, which was the strong support, the prayer of the
silent wife, it did not please God to fulfil.

Lord Byron died a worn-out man at thirty-six. But the bitter seeds he
had sown came up, after his death, in a harvest of thorns over his
grave; and there were not wanting hands to use them as instruments of
torture on the heart of his widow.



We have traced the conspiracy of Lord Byron against his wife up to its
latest device. That the reader's mind may be clear on the points of the
process, we shall now briefly recapitulate the documents in the order
of time.

I. March 17, 1816.--While negotiations for separation were
pending,--'_Fare thee well, and if for ever_.'

While writing these pages, we have received from England the testimony
of one who has seen the original draught of that 'Fare thee well.' This
original copy had evidently been subjected to the most careful and
acute revision. Scarcely two lines that were not interlined, scarcely
an adjective that was not exchanged for a better; showing that the
noble lord was not so far overcome by grief as to have forgotten his
reputation. (Found its way to the public prints through the imprudence
of _a friend_.)

II. March 29, 1816.--An attack on Lady Byron's old governess for having
been born poor, for being homely, and for having unduly influenced his
wife against him; promising that her grave should be a fiery bed,
&c.; also praising his wife's perfect and remarkable truthfulness and
discernment, that made it impossible for flattery to fool, or baseness
blind her; but ascribing all his woes to her being fooled and blinded
by this same governess. (Found its way to the prints by the imprudence
of _a friend_.)

III. September 1816.--Lines on hearing that Lady Byron is ill. Calls
her a Clytemnestra, who has secretly set assassins on her lord; says
she is a mean, treacherous, deceitful liar, and has entirely departed
from her early truth, and become the most unscrupulous and unprincipled
of women. (Never printed till after Lord Byron's death, but circulated
_privately_ among the '_initiated_.')

IV. Aug. 9, 1817.--Gives to M. G. Lewis a paper for circulation
among friends in England, stating that what he most wants is _public
investigation_, which has always been denied him; and daring Lady Byron
and her counsel to come out publicly. (Found in M. G. Lewis's portfolio
after his death; never heard of before, except among the 'initiated.')

Having given M. G. Lewis's document time to work,--

January 1818.--Gives the Fourth Canto of 'Childe Harold'[17] to the

[Footnote 17: Murray's edition of 'Byron's Works,' Vol. ii. p. 189;
date of dedication to Hobhouse, Jan. 2, 1818.]

Jan. 25, 1819.--Sends to Murray to print for private circulation among
the 'initiated' the First Canto of 'Don Juan.'

Is nobly and severely rebuked for this insult to his wife by the
'Blackwood,' August 1819.

October 1819.--Gives Moore the manuscript 'Autobiography,' with leave
to show it to whom he pleases, and print it after his death.

Oct. 29, 1819, Vol. IV. Letter 344.--Writes to Murray, that he may read
all this 'Autobiography,' and show it to anybody he likes.

Dec. 10, 1819.--Writes to Murray on this article in 'Blackwood'
against 'Don Juan' and himself, which he supposes written by Wilson;
sends a complimentary message to Wilson, and asks him to read his
'Autobiography' sent by Moore. (Letter 350.)

March 15, 1820.--Writes and dedicates to I. Disraeli, Esq., a
vindication of himself in reply to the 'Blackwood' on 'Don Juan,'
containing an indignant defence of his own conduct in relation to his
wife, and maintaining that he never yet has had an opportunity of
knowing whereof he has been accused; accusing Sir S. Romilly of taking
his retainer, and then going over to the adverse party, &c. (Printed
for _private circulation_; to be found in the standard English edition
of Murray, vol. ix. p. 57.)

To this condensed account of Byron's strategy we must add the crowning
stroke of policy which transmitted this warfare to his friends, to be
continued after his death.

During the last visit Moore made him in Italy, and just before Byron
presented to him his 'Autobiography,' the following scene occurred, as
narrated by Moore (vol. iv. p. 221):--

 'The chief subject of conversation, when alone, was his marriage, and
 the load of obloquy which it had brought upon him. He was most anxious
 to know _the worst_ that had been alleged of his conduct; and, as this
 was our first opportunity of speaking together on the subject, I did
 not hesitate to put his candour most searchingly to the proof, not
 only by enumerating the various charges I had heard brought against
 him by others, but by specifying such portions of these charges as I
 had been inclined to think not incredible myself.

 'To all this he listened with patience, and answered with the most
 unhesitating frankness; laughing to scorn the tales of unmanly outrage
 related of him, but at the same time acknowledging that there had
 been in his conduct but too much to blame and regret, and stating one
 or two occasions during his domestic life when he had been irritated
 into letting the "breath of bitter words" escape him, ... which he now
 evidently remembered with a degree of remorse and pain which might
 well have entitled them to be forgotten by others.

 'It was, at the same time, manifest, that, whatever admissions he
 might be inclined to make respecting his own delinquencies, _the
 inordinate measure of the punishment dealt out to him had sunk deeply
 into his mind, and, with the usual effect of such injustice, drove him
 also to be unjust himself; so much so, indeed, as to impute to the
 quarter to which he now traced all his ill fate a feeling of fixed
 hostility to himself, which would not rest, he thought, even at his
 grave, but continue to persecute his memory as it was now embittering
 his life_. So strong was this impression upon him, that, during one of
 our few intervals of seriousness, he conjured me by our friendship,
 if, as he both felt and hoped, I should survive him, not to let
 unmerited censure settle upon his name.'

In this same account, page 218, Moore testifies that

 'Lord Byron disliked his countrymen, but only because he knew that his
 morals were held in contempt by them. The English, themselves rigid
 observers of family duties, could not pardon him the neglect of his,
 nor his trampling on principles; therefore, neither did he like being
 presented to them, nor did they, especially when they had wives with
 them, like to cultivate his acquaintance. Still there was a strong
 desire in all of them to see him; and the women in particular, who did
 not dare to look at him but by stealth, said in an under-voice, "What
 a pity it is!" If, however, any of his compatriots of exalted rank and
 high reputation came forward to treat him with courtesy, he showed
 himself obviously flattered by it. It seemed that, to the wound which
 remained open in his ulcerated heart, such soothing attentions were as
 drops of healing balm, which comforted him.'

When in society, we are further informed by a lady quoted by Mr.
Moore, he was in the habit of speaking of his wife with much respect
and affection, as an illustrious lady, distinguished for her qualities
of heart and understanding; saying that all the fault of their
cruel separation lay with himself. Mr. Moore seems at times to be
somewhat puzzled by these contradictory statements of his idol, and
speculates not a little on what could be Lord Byron's object in using
such language in public; mentally comparing it, we suppose, with
the free handling which he gave to the same subject in his private

The innocence with which Moore gives himself up to be manipulated by
Lord Byron, the _naïveté_ with which he shows all the process, let
us a little into the secret of the marvellous powers of charming and
blinding which this great actor possessed.

Lord Byron had the beauty, the wit, the genius, the dramatic talent,
which have constituted the strength of some wonderfully fascinating

There have been women able to lead their leashes of blinded adorers; to
make them swear that black was white, or white black, at their word;
to smile away their senses, or weep away their reason. No matter what
these sirens may say, no matter what they may do, though caught in a
thousand transparent lies, and doing a thousand deeds which would have
ruined others, still men madly rave after them in life, and tear their
hair over their graves. Such an enchanter in man's shape was Lord Byron.

He led captive Moore and Murray by being beautiful, a genius, and a
lord; calling them 'Dear Tom' and 'Dear Murray,' while they were only
commoners. He first insulted Sir Walter Scott, and then witched his
heart out of him by ingenuous confessions and poetical compliments; he
took Wilson's heart by flattering messages and a beautifully-written
letter; he corresponded familiarly with Hogg; and, before his death,
had made fast friends, in one way or another, of the whole 'Noctes
Ambrosianæ' Club.

We thus have given the historical _résumé_ of Lord Byron's attacks
on his wife's reputation: we shall add, that they were based on
philosophic principles, showing a deep knowledge of mankind. An
analysis will show that they can be philosophically classified:--

1st. Those which addressed the sympathetic nature of man, representing
her as cold, methodical, severe, strict, unforgiving.

2nd. Those addressed to the faculty of association, connecting her with
ludicrous and licentious images; taking from her the usual protection
of womanly delicacy and sacredness.

3rd. Those addressed to the moral faculties, accusing her as artful,
treacherous, untruthful, malignant.

All these various devices he held in his hand, shuffling and dealing
them as a careful gamester his pack of cards according to the
exigencies of the game. He played adroitly, skilfully, with blinding
flatteries and seductive wiles, that made his victims willing dupes.

Nothing can more clearly show the power and perfectness of his
enchantments than the masterly way in which he turned back the moral
force of the whole English nation, which had risen at first in its
strength against him. The victory was complete.



At the time of Lord Byron's death, the English public had been so
skilfully manipulated by the Byron propaganda, that the sympathy of
the whole world was with him. A tide of emotion was now aroused in
England by his early death--dying in the cause of Greece and liberty.
There arose a general wail for him, as for a lost pleiad, not only
in England, but over the whole world; a great rush of enthusiasm for
his memory, to which the greatest literary men of England freely gave
voice. By general consent, Lady Byron seems to have been looked upon as
the only cold-hearted unsympathetic person in this general mourning.

From that time the literary world of England apparently regarded Lady
Byron as a woman to whom none of the decorums, nor courtesies of
ordinary womanhood, nor even the consideration belonging to common
humanity, were due.

'She that is a widow indeed, and desolate,' has been regarded in all
Christian countries as an object made sacred by the touch of God's
afflicting hand, sacred in her very helplessness; and the old Hebrew
Scriptures give to the Supreme Father no dearer title than 'the widow's
God.' But, on Lord Byron's death, men not devoid of tenderness, men
otherwise generous and of fine feeling, acquiesced in insults to his
widow with an obtuseness that seems, on review, quite incredible.

Lady Byron was not only a widow, but an orphan. She had no sister for
confidante; no father and mother to whom to go in her sorrows--sorrows
so much deeper and darker to her than they could be to any other human
being. She had neither son nor brother to uphold and protect her. On
all hands it was acknowledged that, so far, there was no fault to be
found in her but her utter silence. Her life was confessed to be pure,
useful, charitable; and yet, in this time of her sorrow, the writers
of England issued article upon article not only devoid of delicacy,
but apparently injurious and insulting towards her, with a blind
unconsciousness which seems astonishing.

One of the greatest literary powers of that time was the 'Blackwood:'
the reigning monarch on that literary throne was Wilson, the
lion-hearted, the brave, generous, tender poet, and, with some sad
exceptions, the noble man. But Wilson had believed the story of Byron,
and, by his very generosity and tenderness and pity, was betrayed into

In 'The Noctes' of November 1824 there is a conversation of the Noctes
Club, in which North says, 'Byron and I knew each other pretty well;
and I suppose there's no harm in adding, that we appreciated each
other pretty tolerably. Did you ever see his letter to me?'

The footnote to this says, '_This letter, which was PRINTED in Byron's
lifetime, was not published till_ 1830, when it appeared in Moore's
"Life of Byron." It is one of the most vigorous prose compositions in
the language. Byron had the highest opinion of Wilson's genius and
noble spirit.'

In the first place, with our present ideas of propriety and good taste,
we should reckon it an indecorum to make the private affairs of a
pure and good woman, whose circumstances under any point of view were
trying, and who evidently shunned publicity, the subject of public
discussion in magazines which were read all over the world.

Lady Byron, as they all knew, had on her hands a most delicate and
onerous task, in bringing up an only daughter, necessarily inheriting
peculiarities of genius and great sensitiveness; and the many
mortifications and embarrassments which such intermeddling with her
private matters must have given, certainly should have been considered
by men with any pretensions to refinement or good feeling.

But the literati of England allowed her no consideration, no rest, no

In 'The Noctes' of November 1825 there is the record of a free
conversation upon Lord and Lady Byron's affairs, interlarded with
exhortations to push the bottle, and remarks on whisky-toddy. Medwin's
'Conversations with Lord Byron' is discussed, which, we are told in a
note, appeared a few months after the _noble_ poet's death.

There is a rather bold and free discussion of Lord Byron's
character--his fondness for gin and water, on which stimulus he wrote
'Don Juan;' and James Hogg says pleasantly to Mullion, 'O Mullion! it's
a pity you and Byron could na ha' been acquaint. There would ha' been
brave sparring to see who could say the wildest and the dreadfullest
things; for he had neither fear of man or woman, and would ha' his joke
or jeer, cost what it might.' And then follows a specimen of one of
his jokes with an actress, that, in indecency, certainly justifies the
assertion. From the other stories which follow, and the parenthesis
that occurs frequently ('Mind your glass, James, a little more!'), it
seems evident that the party are progressing in their peculiar kind of

It is in this same circle and paper that Lady Byron's private affairs
come up for discussion. The discussion is thus elegantly introduced:--

 _Hogg._--'Reach me the black bottle. I say, Christopher, what, after
 all, is your opinion o' Lord and Leddy Byron's quarrel? Do you
 yoursel' take part with him, or with her? I wad like to hear your real

 _North._--'Oh, dear! Well, Hogg, since you will have it, I think
 Douglas Kinnard and Hobhouse are bound to tell us whether there be any
 truth, and how much, in this story about the _declaration_, signed by
 Sir Ralph' [Milbanke].

The note here tells us that this refers to a statement that appeared
in 'Blackwood' immediately after Byron's death, to the effect that,
previous to the formal separation from his wife, Byron required and
obtained from Sir Ralph Milbanke, Lady Byron's father, a statement to
the effect that Lady Byron had no charge of moral delinquency to bring
against him.[18]

[Footnote 18: Recently, Lord Lindsay has published another version of
this story, which makes it appear that he has conversed with a lady who
conversed with Hobhouse during his lifetime, in which this story is
differently reported. In the last version, it is made to appear that
Hobhouse had this declaration from Lady Byron herself.]

North continues:--

 'And I think Lady Byron's letter--the "Dearest Duck" one I
 mean--should really be forthcoming, if her ladyship's friends wish to
 stand fair before the public. At present we have nothing but loose
 talk of society to go upon; and certainly, _if the things that are
 said be true, there must be thorough explanation from some quarter,
 or the tide will continue, as it has assuredly begun, to flow in a
 direction very opposite to what we were for years accustomed_. Sir,
 they must _explain this business of the letter_. You have, of course,
 heard about the invitation it contained, the warm, affectionate
 invitation, to Kirkby Mallory'----

Hogg interposes,--

 'I dinna like to be interruptin' ye, Mr. North; but I must inquire, Is
 the _jug_ to stand still while ye're going on at that rate?'

 _North._--'There, Porker! These things are part and parcel of
 the chatter of every bookseller's shop; _à fortiori_, of every
 drawing-room in May Fair. _Can_ the matter stop here? Can a great
 man's memory be permitted to incur damnation while these saving
 clauses are afloat anywhere uncontradicted?'

And from this the conversation branches off into strong, emphatic
praise of Byron's conduct in Greece during the last part of his life.

The silent widow is thus delicately and considerately reminded in the
'Blackwood' that she is the talk, not only over the whisky-jug of the
Noctes, but in every drawing-room in London; and that she _must_ speak
out and explain matters, or the whole world will set against her.

But she does not speak yet. The public persecution, therefore,
proceeds. Medwin's book being insufficient, another biographer is to
be selected. Now, the person in the Noctes Club who was held to have
the most complete information of the Byron affairs, and was, on that
account, first thought of by Murray to execute this very delicate task
of writing a memoir which should include the most sacred domestic
affairs of a noble lady and her orphan daughter, was _Maginn_. Maginn,
the author of the pleasant joke, that 'man never reaches the apex of
civilisation till he is too drunk to pronounce the word,' was the first
person in whose hands the 'Autobiography,' Memoirs, and Journals of
Lord Byron were placed with this view.

The following note from Shelton Mackenzie, in the June number of 'The
Noctes,' 1824, says,--

 'At that time, had he been so minded, Maginn (Odoherty) could have got
 up a popular Life of Byron as well as most men in England. Immediately
 on the account of Byron's death being received in London, John Murray
 proposed that Maginn should bring out Memoirs, Journals, and Letters
 of Lord Byron, and, with this intent, placed in his hand every line
 that he (Murray) possessed in Byron's handwriting.... The strong
 desire of _Byron's family and executors_ that the "Autobiography"
 should be burned, to which desire Murray foolishly yielded, made such
 an hiatus in the materials, that Murray and Maginn agreed it would not
 answer to bring out the work then. Eventually Moore executed it.'

The character of the times in which this work was to be undertaken will
appear from the following note of Mackenzie's to 'The Noctes' of August
1824, which we copy, with the _author's own Italics_:--

 'In the "Blackwood" of July 1824 was a poetical epistle by the
 renowned Timothy Tickler to the editor of the "John Bull" magazine,
 on an article in his first number. This article ... _professed_ to
 be a portion of the veritable "Autobiography" of Byron which was
 burned, and was called "My Wedding Night." It appeared to relate
 in detail _everything_ that occurred in the twenty-four hours
 immediately succeeding that in which Byron was married. It had plenty
 of coarseness, and some to spare. It went into particulars such as
 hitherto had been given only by Faublas; and it had, notwithstanding,
 many phrases and some facts which evidently did not belong to a mere
 fabricator. Some years after, I compared this "Wedding Night" with
 what I had all assurance of having been transcribed from the actual
 manuscripts of Byron, and was persuaded that the magazine-writer must
 have had the _actual_ statement before him, or have had a perusal of
 it. The writer in "Blackwood" declared his conviction that it really
 was Byron's own writing.'

The reader must remember that Lord Byron died April 1824; so that,
according to this, his 'Autobiography' was made the means of this gross
insult to his widow three months after his death.

If some powerful cause had not paralysed all feelings of gentlemanly
honour, and of womanly delicacy, and of common humanity, towards Lady
Byron, throughout the whole British nation, no editor would have dared
to open a periodical with such an article; or, if he had, he would have
been overwhelmed with a storm of popular indignation, which, like the
fire upon Sodom, would have made a pillar of salt of him for a warning
to all future generations.

'Blackwood' reproves the 'John Bull' in a poetical epistle, recognising
the article as coming from Byron, and says to the _author_,--

  'But that _you_, sir, a wit and a scholar like you,
  Should not blush to produce what he blushed not to do,--
  Take your compliment, youngster; this doubles, almost,
  The sorrow that rose when his honour was lost.'

We may not wonder that the 'Autobiography' was burned, as Murray says
in a recent account, by a committee of Byron's _friends_, including
Hobhouse, his sister, and Murray himself.

Now, the 'Blackwood' of July 1824 thus declares its conviction that
this outrage on every sentiment of human decency came from Lord Byron,
and that his honour was lost. Maginn does not undertake the memoir. No
memoir at all is undertaken; till finally Moore is selected, as, like
Demetrius of old, a well-skilled gilder and 'maker of silver shrines,'
though _not_ for Diana. To Moore is committed the task of doing his
best for this battered image, in which even the worshippers recognise
foul sulphurous cracks, but which they none the less stand ready to
worship as a genuine article that 'fell down from Jupiter.'

Moore was a man of no particular nicety as to moralities, but in that
matter seems not very much below what this record shows his average
associates to be. He is so far superior to Maginn, that his vice is
rose-coloured and refined. He does not burst out with such heroic
stanzas as Maginn's frank invitation to Jeremy Bentham:--

  'Jeremy, throw your pen aside,
    And come get drunk with me;
  And we'll go where Bacchus sits astride,
    Perched high on barrels three.'

Moore's vice is cautious, soft, seductive, slippery, and covered at
times with a thin, tremulous veil of religious sentimentalism.

In regard to Byron, he was an unscrupulous, committed partisan: he was
as much bewitched by him as ever man has been by woman; and therefore
to him, at last, the task of editing Byron's 'Memoirs' was given.

This Byron, whom they all knew to be obscene beyond what even their
most drunken tolerance could at first endure; this man, whose foul
license _spoke out_ what most men conceal from mere respect to the
decent instincts of humanity; whose 'honour was lost,'--was submitted
to this careful manipulator, to be turned out a perfected idol for a
world longing for an idol, as the Israelites longed for the calf in

The image was to be invested with deceitful glories and shifting
haloes,--admitted faults spoken of as peculiarities of sacred
origin,--and the world given to understand that no common rule or
measure could apply to such an undoubtedly divine production; and so
the hearts of men were to be wrung with pity for his sorrows as the
yearning pain of a god, and with anger at his injuries as sacrilege on
the sacredness of genius, till they were ready to cast themselves at
his feet, and adore.

Then he was to be set up on a pedestal, like Nebuchadnezzar's image on
the plains of Dura; and what time the world heard the sound of cornet,
sackbut, and dulcimer, in his enchanting verse, they were to fall down
and worship.

For Lady Byron, Moore had simply the respect that a commoner has for
a lady of rank, and a good deal of the feeling that seems to underlie
all English literature,--that it is no matter what becomes of the woman
when the man's story is to be told. But, with all his faults, Moore was
not a cruel man; and we cannot conceive such outrageous cruelty and
ungentlemanly indelicacy towards an unoffending woman, as he shows in
these 'Memoirs,' without referring them to Lord Byron's own influence
in making him an unscrupulous, committed partisan on his side.

So little pity, so little sympathy, did he suppose Lady Byron to be
worthy of, that he laid before her, in the sight of all the world,
selections from her husband's letters and journals, in which the
privacies of her courtship and married life were jested upon with a
vulgar levity; letters filled, from the time of the act of separation,
with a constant succession of sarcasms, stabs, stings, epigrams, and
vindictive allusions to herself, bringing her into direct and insulting
comparison with his various mistresses, and implying their superiority
over her. There, too, were gross attacks on her father and mother, as
having been the instigators of the separation; and poor Lady Milbanke,
in particular, is sometimes mentioned with epithets so offensive, that
the editor prudently covers the terms with stars, as intending language
too gross to be printed.

The last mistress of Lord Byron is uniformly brought forward in
terms of such respect and consideration, that one would suppose that
the usual moral laws that regulate English family life had been
specially repealed in his favour. Moore quotes with approval letters
from Shelley, stating that Lord Byron's connection with La Guiccioli
has been of inestimable benefit to him; and that he is now becoming
what he should be, 'a virtuous man.' Moore goes on to speak of the
connection as one, though somewhat reprehensible, yet as having all
those advantages of marriage and settled domestic ties that Byron's
affectionate spirit had long sighed for, but never before found; and in
his last _résumé_ of the poet's character, at the end of the volume, he
brings the mistress into direct comparison with the wife in a single
sentence: 'The woman to whom he gave the love of his maturer years
idolises his name; and, _with a single unhappy exception_, scarce an
instance is to be found of one brought ... into relations of amity with
him who did not retain a kind regard for him in life, and a fondness
for his memory.'

Literature has never yet seen the instance of a person, of Lady Byron's
rank in life, placed before the world in a position more humiliating to
womanly dignity, or wounding to womanly delicacy.

The direct implication is, that she has no feelings to be hurt, no
heart to be broken, and is not worthy even of the consideration which
in ordinary life is to be accorded to a widow who has received those
awful tidings which generally must awaken many emotions, and call for
some consideration, even in the most callous hearts.

The woman who we are told walked the room, vainly striving to control
the sobs that shook her frame, while she sought to draw from the
servant that last message of her husband which she was never to hear,
was not thought worthy even of the rights of common humanity.

The first volume of the 'Memoir' came out in 1830. Then for the first
time came one flash of lightning from the silent cloud; and she who
had never spoken before spoke out. The libels on the memory of her
dead parents drew from her what her own wrongs never did. During all
this time, while her husband had been keeping her effigy dangling
before the public as a mark for solemn curses, and filthy lampoons,
and _secretly_-circulated disclosures, that spared no sacredness
and violated every decorum, she had not uttered a word. She had
been subjected to nameless insults, discussed in the assemblies of
drunkards, and challenged to speak for herself. Like the chaste lady
in 'Comus,' whom the vile wizard had bound in the enchanted seat to
be 'grinned at and chattered at' by all the filthy rabble of his
dehumanised rout, she had remained pure, lofty, and undefiled; and the
stains of mud and mire thrown upon her had fallen from her spotless

Now that she is dead, a recent writer in 'The London Quarterly' dares
give voice to an insinuation which even Byron gave only a _suggestion_
of when he called his wife Clytemnestra; and hints that she tried the
power of youth and beauty to win to her the young solicitor Lushington,
and a handsome young officer of high rank.

At this time, _such_ insinuations had not been thought of; and the only
and chief allegation against Lady Byron had been a cruel severity of

At all events, when Lady Byron spoke, the world listened with respect,
and believed what she said.

Here let us, too, read her statement, and give it the careful attention
she solicits (Moore's 'Life of Byron,' vol. vi. p. 275):--

 'I have disregarded various publications in which facts within my
 own knowledge have been grossly misrepresented; but I am called upon
 to notice some of the erroneous statements proceeding from one who
 claims to be considered as Lord Byron's confidential and authorised
 friend. Domestic details ought not to be intruded on the public
 attention: if, however, they _are_ so intruded, the persons affected
 by them have a right to refute injurious charges. Mr. Moore has
 promulgated his own impressions of private events in which I was most
 nearly concerned, as if he possessed a competent knowledge of the
 subject. Having survived Lord Byron, I feel increased reluctance to
 advert to any circumstances connected with the period of my marriage;
 nor is it now my intention to disclose them further than may be
 indispensably requisite for the end I have in view. Self-vindication
 is not the motive which actuates me to make this appeal, and the
 spirit of accusation is unmingled with it; but when the conduct of
 my parents is brought forward in a disgraceful light by the passages
 selected from Lord Byron's letters, and by the remarks of his
 biographer, I feel bound to justify their characters from imputations
 which I _know_ to be false. The passages from Lord Byron's letters, to
 which I refer, are,--the aspersion on my mother's character (p. 648,
 l. 4):[19] "My child is very well and flourishing, I hear; but I must
 see also. I feel no disposition to resign it to the _contagion of its
 grandmother's society_." The assertion of her dishonourable conduct
 in employing a spy (p. 645, l. 7, &c.): "A Mrs. C. (now a kind of
 housekeeper and _spy of Lady N.'s_), who, in her better days, was a
 washerwoman, is supposed to be--by the learned--very much the occult
 cause of our domestic discrepancies." The seeming exculpation of
 myself in the extract (p. 646), with the words immediately following
 it, "Her nearest relations are a----;" where the blank clearly implies
 something too offensive for publication. These passages tend to throw
 suspicion on my parents, and give reason to ascribe the separation
 either to their direct agency, or to that of "officious spies"
 employed by them.[20] From the following part of the narrative (p.
 642), it must also be inferred that an undue influence was exercised
 by them for the accomplishment of this purpose: "It was in a few
 weeks after the latter communication between us (Lord Byron and Mr.
 Moore) that Lady Byron adopted the determination of parting from him.
 She had left London at the latter end of January, on a visit to her
 father's house in Leicestershire; and Lord Byron was in a short time
 to follow her. They had parted in the utmost kindness,--she wrote
 him a letter, full of playfulness and affection, on the road; and,
 immediately on her arrival at Kirkby Mallory, her father wrote to
 acquaint Lord Byron that she would return to him no more."

 [Footnote 19: The references are to the first volume of the first
 edition of Moore's Life', originally published by itself.]

 [Footnote 20: 'The officious spies of his privacy,' p. 650.]

 'In my observations upon this statement, I shall, as far as possible,
 avoid touching on any matters relating personally to Lord Byron
 and myself. The facts are,--I left London for Kirkby Mallory, the
 residence of my father and mother, on the 15th of January, 1816.
 Lord Byron had signified to me in writing (Jan. 6) his absolute
 desire that I should leave London on the earliest day that I could
 conveniently fix. It was not safe for me to undertake the fatigue of a
 journey sooner than the 15th. Previously to my departure, it had been
 strongly impressed on my mind that Lord Byron was under the influence
 of insanity. This opinion was derived in a great measure from the
 communications made to me by his nearest relatives and personal
 attendant, who had more opportunities than myself of observing him
 during the latter part of my stay in town. It was even represented to
 me that he was in danger of destroying himself. _With the concurrence
 of his family_, I had consulted Dr. Baillie, as a friend (Jan. 8),
 respecting this supposed malady. On acquainting him with the state of
 the case, and with Lord Byron's desire that I should leave London, Dr.
 Baillie thought that my absence might be advisable as an experiment,
 _assuming_ the fact of mental derangement; for Dr. Baillie, not
 having had access to Lord Byron, could not pronounce a positive
 opinion on that point. He enjoined that, in correspondence with Lord
 Byron, I should avoid all but light and soothing topics. Under these
 impressions I left London, determined to follow the advice given by
 Dr. Baillie. Whatever might have been the nature of Lord Byron's
 conduct towards me from the time of my marriage, yet, supposing him
 to be in a state of mental alienation, it was not for _me_, nor for
 any person of common humanity, to manifest at that moment a sense
 of injury. On the day of my departure, and again on my arrival at
 Kirkby (Jan. 16), I wrote to Lord Byron in a kind and cheerful tone,
 according to those medical directions.

 'The last letter was circulated, and employed as a pretext for the
 charge of my having been subsequently _influenced_ to "desert"[21] my
 husband. It has been argued that I parted from Lord Byron in perfect
 harmony; that feelings incompatible with any deep sense of injury had
 dictated the letter which I addressed to him; and that my sentiments
 must have been changed by persuasion and interference when I was
 under the roof of my parents. These assertions and inferences are
 wholly destitute of foundation. When I arrived at Kirkby Mallory, my
 parents were unacquainted with the existence of any causes likely to
 destroy my prospects of happiness; and, when I communicated to them
 the opinion which had been formed concerning Lord Byron's state of
 mind, they were most anxious to promote his restoration by every means
 in their power. They assured those relations who were with him in
 London, that "they would devote their whole care and attention to the
 alleviation of his malady;" and hoped to make the best arrangements
 for his comfort if he could be induced to visit them.

 [Footnote 21: 'The deserted husband,' p. 651.]

 'With these intentions, my mother wrote on the 17th to Lord Byron,
 inviting him to Kirkby Mallory. She had always treated him with an
 affectionate consideration and indulgence, which extended to every
 little peculiarity of his feelings. Never did an irritating word
 escape her lips in her whole intercourse with him. The accounts given
 me after I left Lord Byron, by the persons in constant intercourse
 with him, added to those doubts which had before transiently occurred
 to my mind as to the reality of the alleged disease; and the reports
 of his medical attendant were far from establishing the existence of
 anything like lunacy. Under this uncertainty, I deemed it right to
 communicate to my parents, that, if I were to consider Lord Byron's
 past conduct as that of a person of sound mind, nothing could induce
 me to return to him. It therefore appeared expedient, both to them and
 myself, to consult the ablest advisers. For that object, and also
 to obtain still further information respecting the appearances which
 seemed to indicate mental derangement, my mother determined to go to
 London. She was empowered by me to take legal opinions on a written
 statement of mine, though I had then reasons for reserving a part
 of the case from the knowledge even of my father and mother. Being
 convinced by the result of these inquiries, and by the tenor of Lord
 Byron's proceedings, that the notion of insanity was an illusion, I no
 longer hesitated to authorise such measures as were necessary in order
 to secure me from being ever again placed in his power. Conformably
 with this resolution, my father wrote to him on the 2nd of February
 to propose an amicable separation. Lord Byron at first rejected this
 proposal; but when it was distinctly notified to him that, if he
 persisted in his refusal, recourse must be had to legal measures, he
 agreed to sign a deed of separation. Upon applying to Dr. Lushington,
 who was intimately acquainted with all the circumstances, to state in
 writing what he recollected upon this subject, I received from him the
 following letter, by which it will be manifest that my mother cannot
 have been actuated by any hostile or ungenerous motives towards Lord

 '"MY DEAR LADY BYRON,--I can rely upon the accuracy of
 my memory for the following statement. I was originally consulted
 by Lady Noel, on your behalf, whilst you were in the country. The
 circumstances detailed by her were such as justified a separation;
 but they were not of that aggravated description as to render such
 a measure indispensable. On Lady Noel's representation, I deemed a
 reconciliation with Lord Byron practicable, and felt most sincerely
 a wish to aid in effecting it. There was not on Lady Noel's part
 any exaggeration of the facts; nor, so far as I could perceive, any
 determination to prevent a return to Lord Byron: certainly none was
 expressed when I spoke of a reconciliation. When you came to town,
 in about a fortnight, or perhaps more, after my first interview with
 Lady Noel, I was for the first time informed by you of facts utterly
 unknown, as I have no doubt, to Sir Ralph and Lady Noel. On receiving
 this additional information, my opinion was entirely changed: I
 considered a reconciliation impossible. I declared my opinion, and
 added, that, if such an idea should be entertained, I could not,
 either professionally or otherwise, take any part towards effecting it.

  '"Believe me, very faithfully yours,


  '"Great George Street, Jan. 31, 1830."

 'I have only to observe, that, if the statements on which my legal
 advisers (the late Sir Samuel Romilly and Dr. Lushington) formed
 their opinions were false, the responsibility and the odium should
 rest with _me only_. I trust that the facts which I have here briefly
 recapitulated will absolve my father and mother from all accusations
 with regard to the part they took in the separation between Lord Byron
 and myself.

 'They neither originated, instigated, nor advised that separation;
 and they cannot be condemned for having afforded to their daughter
 the assistance and protection which she claimed. There is no other
 near relative to vindicate their memory from insult. I am therefore
 compelled to break the silence which I had hoped always to observe,
 and to solicit from the readers of Lord Byron's "Life" an impartial
 consideration of the testimony extorted from me.


  'Hanger Hill, Feb. 19, 1830.'

The effect of this statement on the literary world may be best judged
by the discussion of it by Christopher North (Wilson) in the succeeding
May number of 'The Noctes,' where the bravest and most generous of
literary men that then were--himself the husband of a gentle wife--thus
gives sentence: the conversation is between North and the Shepherd:--

 _North._--'God forbid I should wound the feelings of Lady Byron, of
 whose character, known to me but by the high estimation in which
 it is held by all who have enjoyed her friendship, I have always
 spoken with respect!... But may I, without harshness or indelicacy,
 say, here among ourselves, James, that, by marrying Byron, she took
 upon herself, with eyes wide open and conscience clearly convinced,
 duties very different from those of which, even in common cases, the
 presaging foresight shadows ... the light of the first nuptial moon?'

 _Shepherd._--'She did that, sir; by my troth, she did that.'

 _North._--'Miss Milbanke knew that he was reckoned a rake and a
 _roué_; and although his genius wiped off, by impassioned eloquence
 in love-letters that were felt to be irresistible, or hid the worst
 stain of, that reproach, still Miss Milbanke must have believed it a
 perilous thing to be the wife of Lord Byron.... But still, by joining
 her life to his in marriage, she pledged her troth and her faith and
 her love, under probabilities of severe, disturbing, perhaps fearful
 trials, in the future....

 'But I think Lady Byron ought not to have printed that Narrative.
 Death abrogates not the rights of a husband to his wife's silence
 when speech is fatal ... to his character as a man. Has she not
 flung suspicion over his bones interred, that they are the bones of
 a--monster?... If Byron's sins or crimes--for we are driven to use
 terrible terms--were unendurable and unforgivable as if against the
 Holy Ghost, ought the wheel, the rack, or the stake to have extorted
 that confession from his widow's breast.... But there was no such
 pain here, James: the declaration was voluntary, and it was calm.
 Self-collected, and gathering up all her faculties and feelings
 into unshrinking strength, she denounced before all the world--and
 throughout all space and all time--her husband, as excommunicated by
 his vices from woman's bosom.

        *       *       *       *       *

 ''Twas to vindicate the character of her parents that Lady Byron
 wrote,--a holy purpose and devout, nor do I doubt sincere. But filial
 affection and reverence, sacred as they are, may be blamelessly, nay,
 righteously, subordinate to conjugal duties, which die not with the
 dead, are extinguished not even by the sins of the dead, were they as
 foul as the grave's corruption.'

Here is what John Stuart Mill calls the literature of slavery for
woman, in length and breadth; and, that all women may understand the
doctrine, the Shepherd now takes up his parable, and expounds the true
position of the wife. We render his Scotch into English:--

 'Not a few such widows do I know, whom brutal, profligate, and savage
 husbands have brought to the brink of the grave,--as good, as bright,
 as innocent as, and far more forgiving than, Lady Byron. There
 they sit in their obscure, rarely-visited dwellings; for sympathy
 instructed by suffering knows well that the deepest and most hopeless
 misery is least given to complaint.'

Then follows a pathetic picture of one such widow, trembling and
fainting for hunger, obliged, on her way to the well for a can of
water, her only drink, to sit down on a '_knowe_' and say a prayer.

 'Yet she's decently, yea, tidily dressed, poor creature! in sair worn
 widow's clothes, a single suit for Saturday and Sunday; her hair,
 untimely gray, is neatly braided under her crape cap; and sometimes,
 when all is still and solitary in the fields, and all labour has
 disappeared into the house, you may see her stealing by herself, or
 leading one wee orphan by the hand, with another at her breast, to the
 kirkyard, where the love of her youth and the husband of her prime is

 'Yet,' says the Shepherd, 'he was a brute, a ruffian, a monster. When
 drunk, how he raged and cursed and swore! Often did she dread that, in
 his fits of inhuman passion, he would have murdered the baby at her
 breast; for she had seen him dash their only little boy, a child of
 eight years old, on the floor, till the blood gushed from his ears;
 and then the madman threw himself down on the body, and howled for
 the gallows. Limmers haunted his door, and he theirs; and it was hers
 to lie, not sleep, in a cold, forsaken bed, once the bed of peace,
 affection, and perfect happiness. Often he struck her; and once when
 she was pregnant with that very orphan now smiling on her breast,
 reaching out his wee fingers to touch the flowers on his father's

 'But she tries to smile among the neighbours, and speaks of her boy's
 likeness to its father; nor, when the conversation turns on bygone
 times, does she fear to let his name escape her white lips, "My
 Robert; the bairn's not ill-favoured, but he will never look like his
 father,"--and such sayings, uttered in a calm, sweet voice. Nay, I
 remember once how her pale countenance reddened with a sudden flush
 of pride, when a gossiping crone alluded to their wedding; and the
 widow's eye brightened through her tears to hear how the bridegroom,
 sitting that sabbath in his front seat beside his bonny bride, had
 not his equal for strength, stature, and all that is beauty in man,
 in all the congregation. That, I say, sir, whether right or wrong,

Here is a specimen of how even generous men had been so perverted by
the enchantment of Lord Byron's genius, as to turn all the pathos and
power of the strongest literature of that day against the persecuted,
pure woman, and for the strong, wicked man. These 'Blackwood' writers
knew, by Byron's own filthy, ghastly writings, which had gone sorely
against their own moral stomachs, that he was foul to the bone. They
could see, in Moore's 'Memoirs' right before them, how he had caught an
innocent girl's heart by sending a love-letter, and offer of marriage,
at the end of a long friendly correspondence,--a letter that had been
written to _show_ to his libertine set, and sent on the toss-up of a
copper, because he cared nothing for it one way or the other.

They admit that, having won this poor girl, he had been savage, brutal,
drunken, cruel. They had read the filthy taunts in 'Don Juan,' and the
nameless abominations in the 'Autobiography.' They had admitted among
themselves that his honour was lost; but still this abused, desecrated
woman must _reverence_ her brutal master's memory, and not speak, even
to defend the grave of her own kind father and mother.

That there was _no_ lover of her youth, that the marriage-vow had been
a hideous, shameless cheat, is on the face of Moore's account; yet
the 'Blackwood' does not see it nor feel it, and brings up against
Lady Byron this touching story of a poor widow, who really had had a
true lover once,--a lover maddened, imbruted, lost, through that very
drunkenness in which the Noctes Club were always glorying.

It is because of such transgressors as Byron, such supporters as
Moore and the Noctes Club, that there are so many helpless, cowering,
broken-hearted, abject women, given over to the animal love which they
share alike with the poor dog,--the dog, who, beaten, kicked, starved,
and cuffed, still lies by his drunken master with great anxious eyes
of love and sorrow, and with sweet, brute forgiveness nestles upon his
bosom, as he lies in his filth in the snowy ditch, to keep the warmth
of life in him. Great is the mystery of this fidelity in the poor,
loving brute,--most mournful and most sacred!

But, oh that a noble man should have no higher ideal of the love of a
high-souled, heroic woman! Oh that men should teach women that they
owe no higher duties, and are capable of no higher tenderness, than
this loving, unquestioning animal fidelity! The dog is ever-loving,
ever-forgiving, because God has given him no high range of moral
faculties, no sense of justice, no consequent horror at impurity and

Much of the beautiful patience and forgiveness of women is made
possible to them by that utter _deadness to the sense of justice_ which
the laws, literature, and misunderstood religion of England have sought
to induce in woman as a special grace and virtue.

The lesson to woman in this pathetic piece of special pleading is,
that man may sink himself below the brute, may wallow in filth like
the swine, may turn his home into a hell, beat and torture his
children, forsake the marriage-bed for foul rivals; yet all this does
not dissolve the marriage-vow on her part, nor free his bounden serf
from her obligation to honour his memory,--nay, to sacrifice to it
the honour due to a kind father and mother, slandered in their silent

Such was the sympathy, and such the advice, that the best literature
of England could give to a young widow, a peeress of England, whose
husband, as they verily believed and admitted, might have done
_worse_ than all this; whose crimes might have been 'foul, monstrous,
unforgivable as the sin against the Holy Ghost.' If these things be
done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry? If the peeress
_as a wife_ has no rights, what is the state of the cotter's wife?

But, in the same paper, North again blames Lady Byron for not
having come out with the whole story before the world at the time
she separated from her husband. He says of the time when she first
consulted counsel through her mother, keeping back one item,--

 'How weak, and worse than weak, at such a juncture, on which hung her
 whole fate, to ask legal advice on an imperfect document! Give the
 delicacy of a virtuous woman its due; but at such a crisis, when the
 question was whether her conscience was to be free from the oath of
 oaths, delicacy should have died, and nature was privileged to show
 unashamed--if such there were--the records of uttermost pollution.'

 _Shepherd._--'And what think ye, sir, that a' this pollution could hae
 been, that sae electrified Dr. Lushington?'

 _North._--'Bad--bad--bad, James. Nameless, it is horrible; named,
 it might leave Byron's memory yet within the range of pity and
 forgiveness; and, where they are, their sister affections will not be
 far; though, like weeping seraphs, standing aloof, and veiling their

 _Shepherd._--'She should indeed hae been silent--till the grave had
 closed on her sorrows as on his sins.'

 _North._--'_Even now she should speak_,--or some one else for her,--
 ... and a few words will suffice. _Worse_ the condition of the dead
 man's name cannot be--far, far better it might--I believe it would
 be--were _all_ the truth somehow or other declared; and declared it
 must be, not for Byron's sake only, but for the sake of humanity
 itself; and then a mitigated sentence, or eternal silence.'

We have another discussion of Lady Byron's duties in a further number
of 'Blackwood.'

The 'Memoir' being out, it was proposed that there should be a complete
annotation of Byron's works gotten up, and adorned, for the further
glorification of his memory, with portraits of the various women whom
he had delighted to honour.

Murray applied to Lady Byron for her portrait, and was met with a cold,
decided negative. After reading all the particulars of Byron's harem of
mistresses, and Moore's comparisons between herself and La Guiccioli,
one might _imagine_ reasons why a lady, with proper self-respect,
should object to appearing in this manner. One would suppose there
might have been gentlemen who could well appreciate the _motive_ of
that refusal; but it was only considered a new evidence that she was
indifferent to her conjugal duties, and wanting in that _respect_ which
Christopher North had told her she owed a husband's memory, though his
crimes were foul as the rottenness of the grave.

Never, since Queen Vashti refused to come at the command of a drunken
husband to show herself to his drunken lords, was there a clearer case
of disrespect to the marital dignity on the part of a wife. It was a
plain act of insubordination, rebellion against law and order; and
how shocking in Lady Byron, who ought to feel herself but too much
flattered to be exhibited to the public as the head wife of a man of

Means were at once adopted to subdue her contumacy, of which one may
read in a note to the 'Blackwood' (Noctes), September 1832. An artist
was sent down to Ealing to take her picture by stealth as she sat in
church. Two sittings were thus obtained without her knowledge. In the
third one, the artist placed himself boldly before her, and sketched,
so that she could not but observe him. We shall give the rest in
Mackenzie's own words, as a remarkable specimen of the obtuseness,
not to say indelicacy of feeling, which seemed to pervade the literary
circles of England at the time:--

 'After prayers, Wright and his friend (the artist) were visited by
 an ambassador from her ladyship to inquire the meaning of what she
 had seen. The reply was, that Mr. Murray _must_ have her portrait,
 and was compelled to take what she refused to give. The result was,
 Wright was requested to visit her, which he did; taking with him,
 not _the_ sketch, which was very good, but another, in which there
 was a strong touch of caricature. Rather than allow _that_ to appear
 as her likeness (a very natural and womanly feeling by the way), she
 consented to sit for the portrait to W. J. Newton, which was engraved,
 and is here alluded to.'

The artless barbarism of this note is too good to be lost; but it
is quite borne out by the conversation in the Noctes Club, which it

It would appear from this conversation that these Byron beauties
appeared successively in pamphlet form; and the picture of Lady Byron
is thus discussed:--

 _Mullion._--'I don't know if you have seen the last brochure. It has a
 charming head of Lady Byron, who, it seems, sat on purpose: and that's
 very agreeable to hear of; for it shows her ladyship has got over any
 little soreness that Moore's "Life" occasioned, and is now willing
 to contribute anything in her power to the real monument of Byron's

 _North._--'I am delighted to hear of this: 'tis really very noble in
 the unfortunate lady. I never saw her. Is the face a striking one?'

 _Mullion._--'Eminently so,--a most calm, pensive, melancholy style of
 native beauty,--and a most touching contrast to the maids of Athens,
 Annesley, and all the rest of them. I'm sure you'll have the proof
 Finden has sent you framed for the Boudoir at the Lodge.'

 _North._--'By all means. I mean to do that for all the Byron Beauties.'

But it may be asked, Was there not a man in all England with delicacy
enough to feel for Lady Byron, and chivalry enough to speak a bold word
for her? Yes: there was one. Thomas Campbell the poet, when he read
Lady Byron's statement, believed it, as did Christopher North; but it
affected him differently. It appears he did not believe it a wife's
duty to burn herself on her husband's funeral-pile, as did Christopher
North; and held the singular idea, that a wife had _some_ rights as a
human being as well as a husband.

Lady Byron's own statement appeared in pamphlet form in 1830: at
least, such is the date at the foot of the document. Thomas Campbell,
in 'The New Monthly Magazine,' shortly after, printed a spirited,
gentlemanly defence of Lady Byron, and administered a pointed rebuke to
Moore for the rudeness and indelicacy he had shown in selecting from
Byron's letters the coarsest against herself, her parents, and her
old governess Mrs. Clermont, and by the indecent comparisons he had
instituted between Lady Byron and Lord Byron's last mistress.

It is refreshing to hear, at last, from somebody who is not altogether
on his knees at the feet of the popular idol, and who has some chivalry
for woman, and some idea of common humanity. He says,--

 'I found my right to speak on this painful subject on its now
 _irrevocable publicity_, brought up afresh as it has been by Mr.
 Moore, to be the theme of discourse to millions, and, if I err not
 much, the cause of misconception to innumerable minds. I claim to
 speak of Lady Byron in the right of a man, and of a friend to the
 rights of woman, and to liberty, and to natural religion. I claim a
 right, more especially, as one of the many friends of Lady Byron,
 who, one and all, feel aggrieved by this production. It has virtually
 dragged her forward from the shade of retirement, where she had hid
 her sorrows, and compelled her to defend the heads of her friends and
 her parents from being crushed under the tombstone of Byron. Nay, in a
 general view, it has forced her to defend _herself_; though, with her
 true sense and her pure taste, she stands above all special pleading.
 To plenary explanation she _ought_ not--she never _shall_ be driven.
 Mr. Moore is too much a gentleman not to shudder at the thought of
 that; but if other Byronists, of a far different stamp, were to force
 the savage ordeal, it is her enemies, and not she, that would have to
 dread the burning plough-shares.

 'We, her friends, have no wish to prolong the discussion: but a few
 words we _must_ add, even to her admirable statement; for hers is a
 cause not only dear to her friends, but having become, from Mr. Moore
 and her misfortunes, a publicly-agitated cause, it concerns morality,
 and the most sacred rights of the sex, that she should (and that,
 too, without more special explanations) be acquitted out and out, and
 honourably acquitted, in this business, of all share in the blame,
 which is one and indivisible. Mr. Moore, on further reflection, may
 see this; and his return to candour will surprise us less than his
 momentary deviation from its path.

 'For the tact of Mr. Moore's conduct in this affair, I have not to
 answer; but, if indelicacy be charged upon me, I scorn the charge.
 Neither will I submit to be called Lord Byron's accuser; because a
 word against him I wish not to say beyond what is painfully wrung
 from me by the necessity of owning or illustrating Lady Byron's
 unblamableness, and of repelling certain misconceptions respecting
 her, which are now walking the fashionable world, and which have been
 fostered (though Heaven knows where they were born) most delicately
 and warily by the Christian godfathership of Mr. Moore.

 'I write not at Lady Byron's bidding. I have never humiliated either
 her or myself by asking _if_ I should write, or _what_ I should write;
 that is to say, I never applied to her for information against Lord
 Byron, though I was justified, as one intending to criticise Mr.
 Moore, in inquiring into the truth of some of his statements. Neither
 will I suffer myself to be called her champion, if by that word be
 meant the advocate of her mere legal innocence; for that, I take it,
 nobody questions.

 'Still less is it from the sorry impulse of pity that I speak of
 this noble woman; for I look with wonder and even envy at the proud
 purity of her sense and conscience, that have carried her exquisite
 sensibilities in triumph through such poignant tribulations. But
 I am proud to be called her friend, the humble illustrator of her
 cause, and the advocate of those principles which make it to me more
 interesting than Lord Byron's. Lady Byron (if the subject must be
 discussed) belongs to sentiment and morality (at least as much as Lord
 Byron); nor is she to be suffered, when compelled to speak, to raise
 her voice as in a desert, with no friendly voice to respond to her.
 Lady Byron could not have outlived her sufferings if she had not wound
 up her fortitude to the high point of trusting mainly for consolation,
 not to the opinion of the world, but to her own inward peace; and,
 having said what ought to convince the world, I verily believe that
 she has less care about the fashionable opinion respecting her than
 any of her friends can have. But we, her friends, mix with the world;
 and we hear offensive absurdities about her, which we have a right to
 put down.

        *       *       *       *       *

 'I proceed to deal more generally with Mr. Moore's book. You speak,
 Mr. Moore, against Lord Byron's censurers in a tone of indignation
 which is perfectly lawful towards calumnious traducers, but which will
 not terrify me, or any other man of courage who is no calumniator,
 from uttering his mind freely with regard to this part of your hero's
 conduct. I question your philosophy in assuming that all that is
 noble in Byron's poetry was inconsistent with the possibility of his
 being devoted to a pure and good woman; and I repudiate your morality
 for canting too complacently about "the lava of his imagination,"
 and the unsettled fever of his passions, being any excuses for his
 planting the _tic douloureux_ of domestic suffering in a meek woman's

 'These are hard words, Mr. Moore; but you have brought them on
 yourself by your voluntary ignorance of facts known to me; for you
 might and ought to have known both sides of the question; and, if the
 subject was too delicate for you to consult Lady Byron's confidential
 friends, you ought to have had nothing to do with the subject. But you
 cannot have submitted your book even to Lord Byron's sister, otherwise
 she would have set you right about the imaginary spy, Mrs. Clermont.'

Campbell now goes on to print, at his own peril, he says, and without
time to ask leave, the following note from Lady Byron in reply to an
application he made to her, when he was about to review Moore's book,
for an 'estimate as to the correctness of Moore's statements.'

The following is Lady Byron's reply:--

 'DEAR MR. CAMPBELL,--In taking up my pen to point out
 for your private information[22] those passages in Mr. Moore's
 representation of my part of the story which were open to
 contradiction, I find them of still greater extent than I had
 supposed; and to deny an assertion _here and there_ would virtually
 admit the truth of the rest. If, on the contrary, I were to enter into
 a full exposure of the falsehood of the views taken by Mr. Moore, I
 must detail various matters, which, consistently with my principles
 and feelings, I cannot under the existing circumstances disclose. I
 may, perhaps, convince you better of the difficulty of the case by
 an example: It is not true that pecuniary embarrassments were the
 cause of the disturbed state of Lord Byron's mind, or formed the
 chief reason for the arrangements made by him at that time. But is it
 reasonable for me to expect that you or any one else should believe
 this, unless I show you what were the causes in question? and this I
 cannot do. 'I am, &c.,


[Footnote 22: 'I (Campbell) had not time to ask Lady Byron's permission
to print this private letter; but it seemed to me important, and I have
published it _meo periculo_.']

Campbell then goes on to reprove Moore for his injustice to Mrs.
Clermont, whom Lord Byron had denounced as a spy, but whose
respectability and innocence were vouched for by Lord Byron's own
family; and then he pointedly rebukes one false statement of great
indelicacy and cruelty concerning Lady Byron's courtship, as follows:--

 'It is a further mistake on Mr. Moore's part, and I can prove it to be
 so, if proof be necessary, to represent Lady Byron, in the course of
 their courtship, as one inviting her future husband to correspondence
 by letters after she had at first refused him. She never proposed a
 correspondence. On the contrary, he sent her a message after that
 first refusal, stating that he meant to go abroad, and to travel for
 some years in the East; that he should depart with a heart aching,
 but not angry; and that he only begged a verbal assurance that she
 had still some interest in his happiness. Could Miss Milbanke, as a
 well-bred woman, refuse a courteous answer to such a message? She sent
 him a verbal answer, which was merely kind and becoming, but which
 signified no encouragement that he should renew his offer of marriage.

 'After that message, he wrote to her a most interesting letter about
 himself,--about his views, personal, moral, and religious,--to which
 it would have been uncharitable not to have replied. The result was
 an insensibly increasing correspondence, which ended in her being
 devotedly attached to him. About that time, I occasionally saw Lord
 Byron; and though I knew less of him than Mr. Moore, yet I suspect I
 knew as much of him as Miss Milbanke then knew. At that time, he was
 so pleasing, that, if I had had a daughter with ample fortune and
 beauty, I should have trusted her in marriage with Lord Byron.

 'Mr. Moore at that period evidently understood Lord Byron better than
 either his future bride or myself; but this speaks more for Moore's
 shrewdness than for Byron's ingenuousness of character.

 'It is more for Lord Byron's sake than for his widow's that I resort
 not to a more special examination of Mr. Moore's misconceptions. The
 subject would lead me insensibly into hateful disclosures against poor
 Lord Byron, who is more unfortunate in his rash defenders than in
 his reluctant accusers. Happily, his own candour turns our hostility
 from himself against his defenders. It was only in wayward and bitter
 remarks that he misrepresented Lady Byron. He would have defended
 himself irresistibly if Mr. Moore had left only his acknowledging
 passages. But Mr. Moore has produced a "Life" of him which reflects
 blame on Lady Byron so dexterously, that "more is meant than meets
 the ear." The almost universal impression produced by his book is,
 that Lady Byron must be a precise and a wan, unwarming spirit, a
 blue-stocking of chilblained learning, a piece of insensitive goodness.

 'Who that knows Lady Byron will not pronounce her to be everything the
 reverse? Will it be believed that this person, so unsuitably matched
 to her moody lord, has written verses that would do no discredit to
 Byron himself; that her sensitiveness is surpassed and bounded only by
 her good sense; and that she is

  '"Blest with a temper, whose unclouded ray
  Can make to-morrow cheerful as to-day"?

 'She brought to Lord Byron beauty, manners, fortune, meekness,
 romantic affection, and everything that ought to have made her to
 the most transcendent man of genius--_had he been what he should
 have been_--his pride and his idol. I speak not of Lady Byron in the
 commonplace manner of attesting character: I appeal to the gifted Mrs.
 Siddons and Joanna Baillie, to Lady Charlemont, and to other ornaments
 of their sex, whether I am exaggerating in the least when I say, that,
 in their whole lives, they have seen few beings so intellectual and
 well-tempered as Lady Byron.

 'I wish to be as ingenuous as possible in speaking of her. Her manner,
 I have no hesitation to say, is cool at the first interview, but is
 modestly, and not insolently, cool: she contracted it, I believe, from
 being exposed by her beauty and large fortune, in youth, to numbers
 of suitors, whom she could not have otherwise kept at a distance.
 But this manner could have had no influence with Lord Byron; for
 it vanishes on nearer acquaintance, and has no origin in coldness.
 All her friends like her frankness the better for being preceded by
 this reserve. This manner, however, though not the slightest apology
 for Lord Byron, has been inimical to Lady Byron in her misfortunes.
 It endears her to her friends; but it piques the indifferent. Most
 odiously unjust, therefore, is Mr. Moore's assertion, that she has had
 the advantage of Lord Byron in public opinion. She is, comparatively
 speaking, unknown to the world; for though she has many friends, that
 is, a friend in everyone who knows her, yet her pride and purity and
 misfortunes naturally contract the circle of her acquaintance.

 'There is something exquisitely unjust in Mr. Moore comparing her
 chance of popularity with Lord Byron's, the poet who can command
 men of talents,--putting even Mr. Moore into the livery of his
 service,--and who has suborned the favour of almost all women by the
 beauty of his person and the voluptuousness of his verses. Lady Byron
 has nothing to oppose to these fascinations but the truth and justice
 of her cause.

 'You said, Mr. Moore, that Lady Byron was unsuitable to her lord: the
 word is cunningly insidious, and may mean as much or as little as may
 suit your convenience. But, if she was unsuitable, I remark that it
 tells all the worse against Lord Byron. I have not read it in your
 book (for I hate to wade through it); but they tell me that you have
 not only warily depreciated Lady Byron, but that you have described a
 lady that would have suited him. If this be true, "it is the unkindest
 cut of all,"--to hold up a florid description of a woman suitable to
 Lord Byron, as if in mockery over the forlorn flower of virtue that
 was drooping in the solitude of sorrow.

 'But I trust there is no such passage in your book. Surely you must be
 conscious of your woman, with her "_virtue loose about her, who would
 have suited Lord Byron_," to be as imaginary a being as the woman
 without a head. A woman to suit Lord Byron! Poo, poo! I could paint to
 you the woman that could have _matched_ him, if I had not bargained to
 say as little as possible against him.

 'If Lady Byron was not suitable to Lord Byron, so much the worse
 for his lordship; for let me tell you, Mr. Moore, that neither your
 poetry, nor Lord Byron's, nor all our poetry put together, ever
 delineated a more interesting being than the woman whom you have so
 coldly treated. This was not kicking the dead lion, but wounding
 the living lamb, who was already bleeding and shorn, even unto the
 quick. I know, that, collectively speaking, the world is in Lady
 Byron's favour; but it is coldly favourable, and you have not warmed
 its breath. Time, however, cures everything; and even your book,
 Mr. Moore, may be the means of Lady Byron's character being better


Here is what seems to be a gentlemanly, high-spirited, chivalric man,
throwing down his glove in the lists for a pure woman.

What was the consequence? Campbell was crowded back, thrust down,
overwhelmed, his eyes filled with dust, his mouth with ashes.

There was a general confusion and outcry, which reacted both on him
and on Lady Byron. Her friends were angry with him for having caused
this re-action upon her; and he found himself at once attacked by
Lady Byron's enemies, and deserted by her friends. All the literary
authorities of his day took up against him with energy. Christopher
North, professor of moral philosophy in the Edinburgh University,
in a fatherly talk in 'The Noctes,' condemns Campbell, and justifies
Moore, and heartily recommends his 'Biography,' as containing nothing
materially objectionable on the score either of manners or morals. Thus
we have it in 'The Noctes' of May 1830:--

 'Mr. Moore's biographical book I admired; and I said so to my little
 world, in two somewhat lengthy articles, which many approved, and
 some, I am sorry to know, condemned.'

On the point in question between Moore and Campbell, North goes on
to justify Moore altogether, only admitting that 'it would have been
better had he not printed any coarse expression of Byron's about the
old people;' and, finally, he closes by saying,--

 'I do not think that, under the circumstances, Mr. Campbell himself,
 had he written Byron's "Life," could have spoken, with the sentiments
 he then held, in a better, more manly, and more gentlemanly spirit, in
 so far as regards Lady Byron, than Mr. Moore did: and I am sorry he
 has been deterred from "swimming" through Mr. Moore's work by the fear
 of "wading;" for the waters are clear and deep; nor is there any mud,
 either at the bottom or round the margin.'

Of the conduct of Lady Byron's so-called friends on this occasion it is
more difficult to speak.

There has always been in England, as John Stuart Mill says, a class
of women who glory in the utter self-abnegation of the wife to the
husband, as the special crown of womanhood. Their patron saint is
the Griselda of Chaucer, who, when her husband humiliates her, and
treats her as a brute, still accepts all with meek, unquestioning,
uncomplaining devotion. He tears her from her children; he treats her
with personal abuse; he repudiates her,--sends her out to nakedness
and poverty; he installs another mistress in his house, and sends for
the first to be her handmaid and his own: and all this the meek saint
accepts in the words of Milton,--

                  'My guide and head,
  What thou hast said is just and right.'

Accordingly, Miss Martineau tells us that when Campbell's defence came
out, coupled with a note from Lady Byron,--

 'The first obvious remark was, that there was no real disclosure; and
 the whole affair had the appearance of a desire, on the part of Lady
 Byron, to exculpate herself, while yet no adequate information was
 given. Many, who had regarded her with favour till then, gave her up
 so far as to believe that feminine weakness had prevailed at last.'

The saint had fallen from her pedestal! She had shown a human frailty!
Quite evidently she is not a Griselda, but possessed with a shocking
desire to exculpate herself and her friends.

Is it, then, only to slandered _men_ that the privilege belongs of
desiring to exculpate themselves and their families and their friends
from unjust censure?

Lord Byron had made it a life-long object to vilify and defame his
wife. He had used for that one particular purpose every talent that
he possessed. He had left it as a last charge to Moore to pursue
the warfare after death, which Moore had done to some purpose; and
Christopher North had informed Lady Byron that her private affairs
were discussed, not only with the whisky-toddy of the Noctes Club,
but in every drawing-room in May Fair; and declared that the 'Dear
Duck' letter, and various other matters, must be explained, and urged
somebody to speak; and then, when Campbell does speak with all the
energy of a real gentleman, a general outcry and an indiscriminate
_mêlée_ is the result.

The world, with its usual injustice, insisted on attributing Campbell's
defence to Lady Byron.

The reasons for this seemed to be, first, that Campbell states that he
did _not_ ask Lady Byron's leave, and that she did _not_ authorise him
to defend her; and, second, that, having asked some explanations from
her, he prints a note in which she declines to give any.

We know not how a lady could more gently yet firmly decline to make
a gentleman her confidant than in this published note of Lady Byron;
and yet, to this day, Campbell is spoken of by the world as having
been Lady Byron's confidant at this time. This simply shows how very
trustworthy are the general assertions about Lady Byron's confidants.

The final result of the matter, so far as Campbell was concerned, is
given in Miss Martineau's sketch, in the following paragraph:--

 'The whole transaction was one of poor Campbell's freaks. He excused
 himself by saying it was a mistake of his; that he did not know what
 he was about when he published the paper.'

It is the saddest of all sad things to see a man, who has spoken from
moral convictions, in advance of his day, and who has taken a stand for
which he ought to honour himself, thus forced down and humiliated, made
to doubt his own better nature and his own honourable feelings, by the
voice of a wicked world.

Campbell had no steadiness to stand by the truth he saw. His whole
story is told incidentally in a note to 'The Noctes,' in which it is
stated, that in an article in 'Blackwood,' January 1825, on Scotch
poets, the palm was given to Hogg over Campbell; 'one ground being,
that _he_ could drink "eight and twenty tumblers of punch, while
Campbell is hazy upon seven."'

There is evidence in 'The Noctes,' that in due time Campbell was
reconciled to Moore, and was always suitably ashamed of having tried to
be any more generous or just than the men of his generation.

And so it was settled as a law to Jacob, and an ordinance in Israel,
that the Byron worship should proceed, and that all the earth should
keep silence before him. 'Don Juan,' that, years before, had been
printed by stealth, without Murray's name on the title-page, that had
been denounced as a book which no woman should read, and had been given
up as a desperate enterprise, now came forth in triumph, with banners
flying and drums beating. Every great periodical in England that had
fired moral volleys of artillery against it in its early days, now
humbly marched in the glorious procession of admirers to salute this
edifying work of genius.

'Blackwood,' which in the beginning had been the most indignantly
virtuous of the whole, now grovelled and ate dust as the serpent in
the very abjectness of submission. Odoherty (Maginn) declares that he
would rather have written a page of 'Don Juan' than a ton of 'Childe
Harold.'[23] Timothy Tickler informs Christopher North that he means
to tender Murray, as Emperor of the North, an interleaved copy[24] of
'Don Juan,' with illustrations, as the _only_ work of Byron's he cares
much about; and Christopher North, professor of _moral_ philosophy in
Edinburgh, smiles approval! We are not, after this, surprised to see
the assertion, by a recent much-aggrieved writer in 'The London Era,'
that 'Lord Byron has been, more than any other man of the age, the
_teacher_ of the _youth_ of England;' and that he has 'seen his works
on the bookshelves of _bishops'_ palaces, no less than on the tables of
university undergraduates.'

[Footnote 23: 'Noctes,' July 1822.]

[Footnote 24: 'Noctes,' September 1832.]

A note to 'The Noctes' of July 1822 informs us of another instance of
Lord Byron's triumph over English morals:--

 'The mention of this' (Byron's going to Greece) reminds me, by the by,
 of what the Guiccioli said in her visit to London, where she was so
 lionised as having been the lady-love of Byron. She was rather fond
 of speaking on the subject, designating herself by some Venetian pet
 phrase, which she interpreted as meaning "Love-Wife."'

What was Lady Byron to do in such a world? She retired to the
deepest privacy, and devoted herself to works of charity, and the
education of her only child,--that brilliant daughter, to whose eager,
opening mind the whole course of current literature must bring so
many trying questions in regard to the position of her father and
mother,--questions that the mother might not answer. That the cruel
inconsiderateness of the literary world added thorns to the intricacies
of the path trodden by every mother who seeks to guide, restrain, and
educate a strong, acute, and precociously intelligent child, must
easily be seen.

What remains to be said of Lady Byron's life shall be said in the words
of Miss Martineau, published in 'The Atlantic Monthly:'--

 'Her life, thenceforth, was one of unremitting bounty to society
 administered with as much skill and prudence as benevolence. She lived
 in retirement, changing her abode frequently; partly for the benefit
 of her child's education and the promotion of her benevolent schemes,
 and partly from a restlessness which was one of the few signs of
 injury received from the spoiling of associations with _home_.

 'She felt a satisfaction which her friends rejoiced in when her
 daughter married Lord King, at present the Earl of Lovelace, in 1835
 and when grief upon grief followed, in the appearance of mortal
 disease in her only child, her quiet patience stood her in good stead
 as before. She even found strength to appropriate the blessings of the
 occasion, and took comfort, as did her dying daughter, in the intimate
 friendship, which grew closer as the time of parting drew nigh.

 'Lady Lovelace died in 1852; and, for her few remaining years, Lady
 Byron was devoted to her grandchildren. But nearer calls never
 lessened her interest in remoter objects. Her mind was of the large
 and clear quality which could comprehend remote interests in their
 true proportions, and achieve each aim as perfectly as if it were the
 only one. Her agents used to say that it was impossible to mistake her
 directions; and thus her business was usually well done. There was no
 room, in her case, for the ordinary doubts, censures, and sneers about
 the misapplication of bounty.

 'Her taste did not lie in the "Charity-Ball" direction; her funds
 were not lavished in encouraging hypocrisy and improvidence among
 the idle and worthless; and the quality of her charity was, in fact,
 as admirable as its quantity. Her chief aim was the extension and
 improvement of popular education; but there was no kind of misery that
 she heard of that she did not palliate to the utmost, and no kind of
 solace that her quick imagination and sympathy could devise that she
 did not administer.

 'In her methods, she united consideration and frankness with singular
 success. For one instance among a thousand: A lady with whom she had
 had friendly relations some time before, and who became impoverished
 in a quiet way by hopeless sickness, preferred poverty with an easy
 conscience to a competency attended by some uncertainty about the
 perfect rectitude of the resource. Lady Byron wrote to an intermediate
 person exactly what she thought of the case. Whether the judgment
 of the sufferer was right or mistaken was nobody's business but her
 own: this was the first point. Next, a voluntary poverty could never
 be pitied by anybody: that was the second. But it was painful to
 others to think of the mortification to benevolent feelings which
 attends poverty; and there could be no objection to arresting that
 pain. Therefore she, Lady Byron, had lodged in a neighbouring bank
 the sum of one hundred pounds, to be used for benevolent purposes;
 and, in order to preclude all outside speculation, she had made the
 money payable to the order of the intermediate person, so that the
 sufferer's name need not appear at all.

 'Five and thirty years of unremitting secret bounty like this must
 make up a great amount of human happiness; but this was only one of
 a wide variety of methods of doing good. It was the unconcealable
 magnitude of her beneficence, and its wise quality, which made her a
 second time the theme of English conversation in all honest households
 within the four seas. Years ago, it was said far and wide that Lady
 Byron was doing more good than anybody else in England; and it was
 difficult to imagine how anybody could do more.

 'Lord Byron spent every shilling that the law allowed him out of
 her property while he lived, and left away from her every shilling
 that he could deprive her of by his will; yet she had, eventually, a
 large income at her command. In the management of it, she showed the
 same wise consideration that marked all her practical decisions. She
 resolved to spend her whole income, seeing how much the world needed
 help at the moment. Her care was for the existing generation, rather
 than for a future one, which would have its own friends. She usually
 declined trammelling herself with annual subscriptions to charities;
 preferring to keep her freedom from year to year, and to achieve
 definite objects by liberal bounty, rather than to extend partial help
 over a large surface which she could not herself superintend.

 'It was her first industrial school that awakened the admiration of
 the public, which had never ceased to take an interest in her, while
 sorely misjudging her character. We hear much now--and everybody hears
 it with pleasure--of the spread of education in "common things;" but
 long before Miss Coutts inherited her wealth, long before a name was
 found for such a method of training, Lady Byron had instituted the
 thing, and put it in the way of making its own name.

 'She was living at Ealing, in Middlesex, in 1834; and there she
 opened one of the first industrial schools in England, if not the
 very first. She sent out a master to Switzerland, to be instructed
 in De Fellenburgh's method. She took, on lease, five acres of land,
 and spent several hundred pounds in rendering the buildings upon it
 fit for the purposes of the school. A liberal education was afforded
 to the children of artisans and labourers during the half of the day
 when they were not employed in the field or garden. The allotments
 were rented by the boys, who raised and sold produce, which afforded
 them a considerable yearly profit if they were good workmen. Those who
 worked in the field earned wages; their labour being paid by the hour,
 according to the capability of the young labourer. They kept their
 accounts of expenditure and receipts, and acquired good habits of
 business while learning the occupation of their lives. Some mechanical
 trades were taught, as well as the arts of agriculture.

 'Part of the wisdom of the management lay in making the pupils pay.
 Of one hundred pupils, half were boarders. They paid little more than
 half the expenses of their maintenance, and the day-scholars paid
 threepence per week. Of course, a large part of the expense was borne
 by Lady Byron, besides the payments she made for children who could
 not otherwise have entered the school. The establishment flourished
 steadily till 1852, when the owner of the land required it back for
 building purposes. During the eighteen years that the Ealing schools
 were in action, they did a world of good in the way of incitement
 and example. The poor-law commissioners pointed out their merits.
 Land-owners and other wealthy persons visited them, and went home and
 set up similar establishments. During those years, too, Lady Byron had
 herself been at work in various directions to the same purpose.

 'A more extensive industrial scheme was instituted on her
 Leicestershire property, and not far off she opened a girls' school
 and an infant school; and when a season of distress came, as such
 seasons are apt to befall the poor Leicestershire stocking-weavers,
 Lady Byron fed the children for months together, till they could
 resume their payments. These schools were opened in 1840. The next
 year, she built a schoolhouse on her Warwickshire property; and, five
 years later, she set up an iron schoolhouse on another Leicestershire

 'By this time, her educational efforts were costing her several
 hundred pounds a year in the mere maintenance of existing
 establishments; but this is the smallest consideration in the case.
 She has sent out tribes of boys and girls into life fit to do their
 part there with skill and credit and comfort. Perhaps it is a still
 more important consideration, that scores of teachers and trainers
 have been led into their vocation, and duly prepared for it, by what
 they saw and learned in her schools. As for the best and the worst of
 the Ealing boys, the best have, in a few cases, been received into the
 Battersea Training School, whence they could enter on their career as
 teachers to the greatest advantage; and the worst found their school
 a true reformatory, before reformatory schools were heard of. At
 Bristol, she bought a house for a reformatory for girls; and there her
 friend, Miss Carpenter, faithfully and energetically carries out her
 own and Lady Byron's aims, which were one and the same.

 'There would be no end if I were to catalogue the schemes of which
 these are a specimen. It is of more consequence to observe that her
 mind was never narrowed by her own acts, as the minds of benevolent
 people are so apt to be. To the last, her interest in great political
 movements, at home and abroad, was as vivid as ever. She watched every
 step won in philosophy, every discovery in science, every token of
 social change and progress in every shape. Her mind was as liberal
 as her heart and hand. No diversity of opinion troubled her: she
 was respectful to every sort of individuality, and indulgent to all
 constitutional peculiarities. It must have puzzled those who kept up
 the notion of her being "strait-laced" to see how indulgent she was
 even to Epicurean tendencies,--the remotest of all from her own.

 'But I must stop; for I do not wish my honest memorial to degenerate
 into panegyric. Among her latest known acts were her gifts to the
 Sicilian cause, and her manifestations on behalf of the antislavery
 cause in the United States. Her kindness to William and Ellen Craft
 must be well known there; and it is also related in the newspapers,
 that she bequeathed a legacy to a young American to assist him under
 any disadvantages he might suffer as an abolitionist.

 'All these deeds were done under a heavy burden of ill health. Before
 she had passed middle life, her lungs were believed to be irreparably
 injured by partial ossification. She was subject to attacks so
 serious, that each one, for many years, was expected to be the last.
 She arranged her affairs in correspondence with her liabilities: so
 that the same order would have been found, whether she died suddenly
 or after long warning.

 'She was to receive one more accession of outward greatness before she
 departed. She became Baroness Wentworth in November, 1856. This is one
 of the facts of her history; but it is the least interesting to us, as
 probably to her. We care more to know that her last days were bright
 in honour, and cheered by the attachment of old friends worthy to pay
 the duty she deserved. Above all, it is consoling to know that she who
 so long outlived her only child was blessed with the unremitting and
 tender care of her grand-daughter. She died on the 16th of May, 1860.

 'The portrait of Lady Byron as she was at the time of her marriage
 is probably remembered by some of my readers. It is very engaging.
 Her countenance afterwards became much worn; but its expression of
 thoughtfulness and composure was very interesting. Her handwriting
 accorded well with the character of her mind. It was clear, elegant,
 and womanly. Her manners differed with circumstances. Her shrinking
 sensitiveness might embarrass one visitor; while another would be
 charmed with her easy, significant, and vivacious conversation. It
 depended much on whom she talked with. The abiding certainty was, that
 she had strength for the hardest of human trials, and the composure
 which belongs to strength. For the rest, it is enough to point to her
 deeds, and to the mourning of her friends round the chasm which her
 departure has made in their life, and in the society in which it is
 spent. All that could be done in the way of personal love and honour
 was done while she lived: it only remains now to see that her name and
 fame are permitted to shine forth at last in their proper light.'

We have simply to ask the reader whether a life like this was not the
best, the noblest answer that a woman could make to a doubting world.



We have now brought the review of the antagonism against Lady Byron
down to the period of her death. During all this time, let the candid
reader ask himself which of these two parties seems to be plotting
against the other.

_Which_ has been active, aggressive, unscrupulous? which has been
silent, quiet, unoffending? Which of the two has laboured to make a
party, and to make that party active, watchful, enthusiastic?

Have we not proved that Lady Byron remained perfectly silent during
Lord Byron's life, patiently looking out from her retirement to see
the waves of popular sympathy, that once bore her up, day by day
retreating, while his accusations against her were resounding in his
poems over the whole earth? And after Lord Byron's death, when all
the world with one consent began to give their memorials of him, and
made it appear, by their various 'recollections of conversations,' how
incessantly he had obtruded his own version of the separation upon
every listener, did she manifest any similar eagerness?

Lady Byron had seen the 'Blackwood' coming forward, on the first
appearance of 'Don Juan,' to rebuke the cowardly lampoon in words
eloquent with all the unperverted vigour of an honest Englishman. Under
the power of the great conspirator, she had seen _that_ 'Blackwood'
become the very eager recipient and chief reporter of the stories
against her, and the blind admirer of her adversary.

All this time, she lost sympathy daily by being silent. The world
will embrace those who court it; it will patronise those who seek its
favour; it will make parties for those who seek to make parties: but
for the often accused who do not speak, who make no confidants and no
parties, the world soon loses sympathy.

When at last she spoke, Christopher North says '_she astonished
the world_.' Calm, clear, courageous, exact as to time, date, and
circumstance, was that first testimony, backed by the equally clear
testimony of Dr. Lushington.

It showed that her secret had been kept even from her parents. In words
precise, firm, and fearless, she says, 'If these statements on which
Dr. Lushington and Sir Samuel Romilly formed their opinion were false,
the responsibility and the odium should rest with me only.' Christopher
North did not pretend to disbelieve this statement. He breathed not a
doubt of Lady Byron's word. He spoke of the crime indicated, as one
which might have been foul as the grave's corruption, unforgivable as
the sin against the Holy Ghost. He rebuked the wife for bearing this
testimony, even to save the memory of her dead father and mother, and,
in the same breath, declared that she ought now to go farther, and
speak fully the one awful word, and then--'a mitigated sentence, or
eternal silence!'

But Lady Byron took no counsel with the world, nor with the literary
men of her age. One knight, with some small remnant of England's old
chivalry, set lance in rest for her: she saw him beaten back unhorsed,
rolled in the dust, and ingloriously vanquished, and perceived that
henceforth nothing but injury could come to any one who attempted to
speak for her.

She turned from the judgments of man and the fond and natural hopes of
human nature, to lose herself in sacred ministries to the downcast and
suffering. What nobler record for woman could there be than that which
Miss Martineau has given?

Particularly to be noted in Lady Byron was her peculiar interest in
reclaiming fallen women. Among her letters to Mrs. Prof. Follen, of
Cambridge, was one addressed to a society of ladies who had undertaken
this difficult work. It was full of heavenly wisdom and of a large and
tolerant charity. Fénelon truly says, it is only perfection that can
tolerate imperfection; and the very purity of Lady Byron's nature made
her most forbearing and most tender towards the weak and the guilty.
This letter, with all the rest of Lady Byron's, was returned to the
hands of her executors after her death. Its publication would greatly
assist the world in understanding the peculiarities of its writer's

Lady Byron passed to a higher life in 1860.[25] After her death, I
looked for the publication of her Memoir and Letters as the event that
should give her the same opportunity of being known and judged by her
life and writings that had been so freely accorded to Lord Byron.

[Footnote 25: Miss Martineau's Biographical Sketches.]

She was, in her husband's estimation, a woman of genius. She was
the friend of many of the first men and women of her times, and
corresponded with them on topics of literature, morals, religion,
and, above all, on the benevolent and philanthropic movements of the
day, whose principles she had studied with acute observation, and in
connection with which she had acquired a large experience.

The knowledge of her, necessarily diffused by such a series of letters,
would have created in America a comprehension of her character, of
itself sufficient to wither a thousand slanders.

Such a Memoir was contemplated. Lady Byron's letters to Mrs. Follen
were asked for from Boston; and I was applied to by a person in
England, who I have recently learned is one of the existing trustees
of Lady Byron's papers, to furnish copies of her letters to me for the
purpose of a Memoir. Before I had time to have copies made, another
letter came, stating that the trustees had concluded that it was best
not to publish any Memoir of Lady Byron at all.

This left the character of Lady Byron in our American world precisely
where the slanders of her husband, the literature of the Noctes Club,
and the unanimous verdict of May Fair as recorded by 'Blackwood,' had
placed it.

True, Lady Byron had nobly and quietly lived down these slanders in
England by deeds that made her name revered as a saint among all those
who valued saintliness.

But in France and Italy, and in these United States, I have had
abundant opportunity to know that Lady Byron stood judged and condemned
on the testimony of her brilliant husband, and that the feeling against
her had a vivacity and intensity not to be overcome by mere allusions
to a virtuous life in distant England.

This is strikingly shown by one fact. In the American edition of
Moore's 'Life of Byron,' by Claxton, Remsen, and Haffelfinger,
Philadelphia, 1869, which I have been consulting, Lady Byron's
statement, which is found in the Appendix of Murray's standard edition,
_is entirely omitted_. Every other paper is carefully preserved. This
one incident showed how the tide of sympathy was setting in this New
World. Of course, there is no stronger power than a virtuous life; but,
for a virtuous life to bear testimony to the world, its details must be
_told_, so that the world may know them.

Suppose the memoirs of Clarkson and Wilberforce had been suppressed
after their death, how soon might the coming tide have wiped out the
record of their bravery and philanthropy! Suppose the lives of Francis
Xavier and Henry Martyn had never been written, and we had lost the
remembrance of what holy men could do and dare in the divine enthusiasm
of Christian faith! Suppose we had no Fénelon, no Book of Martyrs!

Would there not be an outcry through all the literary and artistic
world if a perfect statue were allowed to remain buried for ever
because some painful individual history was connected with its burial
and its recovery? But is not a noble life a greater treasure to mankind
than any work of art?

We have heard much mourning over the burned Autobiography of Lord
Byron, and seen it treated of in a magazine as 'the lost chapter in
history.' The lost chapter in history is _Lady_ Byron's Autobiography
in her life and letters; and the suppression of them is the root of
this whole mischief.

We do not in this intend to censure the parties who came to this

The descendants of Lady Byron revere her memory, as they have every
reason to do. That it was _their_ desire to have a Memoir of her
published, I have been informed by an individual of the highest
character in England, who obtained the information directly from Lady
Byron's grandchildren.

But the trustees in whose care the papers were placed drew back on
examination of them, and declared, that, as Lady Byron's papers could
not be fully published, they should regret anything that should call
public attention once more to the discussion of her history.

Reviewing this long history of the way in which the literary world
had treated Lady Byron, we cannot wonder that her friends should have
doubted whether there was left on earth any justice, or sense that
anything is due to woman as a human being with human rights. Evidently
this lesson had taken from them all faith in the moral sense of the
world. Rather than re-awaken the discussion, so unsparing, so painful,
and so indelicate, which had been carried on so many years around
that loved form, now sanctified by death, they sacrificed the dear
pleasure of the memorials, and the interests of mankind, who have an
indefeasible right to all the help that can be got from the truth of
history as to the living power of virtue, and the reality of that great
victory that overcometh the world.

There are thousands of poor victims suffering in sadness,
discouragement, and poverty; heart-broken wives of brutal, drunken
husbands; women enduring nameless wrongs and horrors which the delicacy
of their sex forbids them to utter,--to whom the lovely letters lying
hidden away under those seals might bring courage and hope from springs
not of this world.

But though the friends of Lady Byron, perhaps from despair of their
kind, from weariness of the utter injustice done her, wished to cherish
her name in silence, and to confine the story of her virtues to that
circle who knew her too well to ask a proof, or utter a doubt, the
partisans of Lord Byron were embarrassed with no such scruple.

Lord Byron had artfully contrived during his life to place his wife in
such an antagonistic position with regard to himself, that his intimate
friends were forced to believe that one of the two had deliberately
and wantonly injured the other. The published statement of Lady Byron
contradicted boldly and point-blank all the statement of her husband
concerning the separation; so that, unless _she_ was convicted as a
false witness, _he_ certainly was.

The best evidence of this is Christopher North's own shocked,
astonished statement, and the words of the Noctes Club.

The noble life that Lady Byron lived after this hushed every voice,
and silenced even the most desperate calumny, _while she was in the
world_. In the face of Lady Byron as the world saw her, of what use was
the talk of Clytemnestra, and the assertion that she had been a mean,
deceitful conspirator against her husband's honour in life, and stabbed
his memory after death?

But when she was in her grave, when her voice and presence and good
deeds no more spoke for her, and a new generation was growing up that
knew her not, _then_ was the time selected to revive the assault on her
memory, and to say over her grave what none would ever have dared to
say of her while living.

During these last two years, I have been gradually awakening to the
evidence of a new crusade against the memory of Lady Byron, which
respected no sanctity,--not even that last and most awful one of death.

Nine years after her death, when it was fully understood that no
story on her side or that of her friends was to be forthcoming, then
her calumniators raked out from the ashes of her husband's sepulchre
all his bitter charges, to state them over in even stronger and more
indecent forms.

There seems to be reason to think that the materials supplied by Lord
Byron for such a campaign yet exist in society.

To 'The Noctes' of November 1824, there is the following note _apropos_
to a discussion of the Byron question:--

 'Byron's Memoirs, given by him to Moore, were burned, as everybody
 knows. But, before this, Moore had lent them to several persons. Mrs.
 Home Purvis, afterwards Viscountess of Canterbury, is _known_ to have
 sat up all one night, in which, aided by her daughter, she had a
 copy made. I have the strongest reason for believing that one other
 person made a copy; for the description of the first twenty-four hours
 after the marriage ceremonial has been in my hands. _Not until after
 the death of Lady Byron, and Hobhouse_, who was the poet's literary
 executor, can the poet's Autobiography see the light; _but I am
 certain it will be published_.'

Thus speaks Mackenzie in a note to a volume of 'The Noctes,' published
in America in 1854. Lady Byron died in 1860.

Nine years after Lady Byron's death, when it was ascertained that her
story was not to see the light, when there were no means of judging
her character by her own writings, commenced a well-planned set of
operations to turn the public attention once more to Lord Byron, and
to represent him as an injured man, whose testimony had been unjustly

It was quite possible, supposing copies of the Autobiography to exist,
that this might occasion a call from the generation of to-day, in
answer to which the suppressed work might appear. This was a rather
delicate operation to commence; but the instrument was not wanting.
It was necessary that the subject should be first opened by some
irresponsible party, whom more powerful parties might, as by accident,
recognise and patronise, and on whose weakness they might build
something stronger.

Just such an instrument was to be found in Paris. The mistress of Lord
Byron could easily be stirred up and flattered to come before the world
with a book which should re-open the whole controversy; and she proved
a facile tool. At first, the work appeared prudently in French, and was
called 'Lord Byron jugé par les Témoins de sa Vie,' and was rather a
failure. Then it was translated into English, and published by Bentley.

The book was inartistic, and helplessly, childishly stupid as to any
literary merits,--a mere mass of gossip and twaddle; but after all,
when one remembers the taste of the thousands of circulating-library
readers, it must not be considered the less likely to be widely read
on that account. It is only once in a century that a writer of real
genius has the art to tell his story so as to take both the cultivated
few and the average many. De Foe and John Bunyan are almost the only
examples. But there is a certain class of reading that sells and
spreads, and exerts a vast influence, which the upper circles of
literature despise too much ever to fairly estimate its power.

However, the Guiccioli book did not want for patrons in the high places
of literature. The 'Blackwood'--the old classic magazine of England;
the defender of conservatism and aristocracy; the paper of Lockhart,
Wilson, Hogg, Walter Scott, and a host of departed grandeurs--was
deputed to usher into the world this book, and to recommend it and its
author to the Christian public of the nineteenth century.

The following is the manner in which 'Blackwood' calls attention to

 'One of the most beautiful of the songs of Béranger is that addressed
 to his Lisette, in which he pictures her, in old age, narrating to a
 younger generation the loves of their youth; decking his portrait with
 flowers at each returning spring, and reciting the verses that had
 been inspired by her vanished charms:--

  'Lorsque les yeux chercheront sous vos rides
  Les traits charmants qui m'auront inspiré,
  Des doux récits les jeunes gens avides,
  Diront: Quel fut cet ami tant pleuré?
  De mon amour peignez, s'il est possible,
  L'ardeur, l'ivresse, et même les soupçons,
  Et benne vieille, au coin d'un feu paisible
  De votre ami répétez les chansons.

  "On vous dira: Savait-il être aimable?
  Et sans rougir vous direz: Je l'aimais.
  D'un trait méchant se montra-t-il capable?
  Avec orgueil vous répondrez: Jamais!"'

 'This charming picture,' 'Blackwood' goes on to say, 'has been
 realised in the case of a poet greater than Béranger, and by a
 mistress more famous than Lisette. The Countess Guiccioli has at
 length given to the world her "Recollections of Lord Byron." The
 book first appeared in France under the title of "Lord Byron jugé
 par les Témoins de sa Vie," without the name of the countess. A
 more unfortunate designation could hardly have been selected. The
 "witnesses of his life" told us nothing but what had been told before
 over and over again; and the uniform and exaggerated tone of eulogy
 which pervaded the whole book was fatal to any claim on the part of
 the writer to be considered an impartial judge of the wonderfully
 mixed character of Byron.

 '_When, however, the book is regarded as the avowed production of
 the Countess Guiccioli, it derives value and interest from its very
 faults._[26] There is something inexpressibly touching in the picture
 of the old lady calling up the phantoms of half a century ago; not
 faded and stricken by the hand of time, but brilliant and gorgeous as
 they were when Byron, in his manly prime of genius and beauty, first
 flashed upon her enraptured sight, and she gave her whole soul up to
 an absorbing passion, the embers of which still glow in her heart.

 [Footnote 26: The italics are mine.--H. B. S.]

 'To her there has been no change, no decay. The god whom she
 worshipped with all the ardour of her Italian nature at seventeen is
 still the "Pythian of the age" to her at seventy. To try such a book
 by the ordinary canons of criticism would be as absurd as to arraign
 the authoress before a jury of British matrons, or to prefer a bill of
 indictment against the Sultan for bigamy to a Middlesex grand jury.'

This, then, is the introduction which one of the oldest and most
classical periodicals of Great Britain gives to a very stupid book,
simply because it was written by Lord Byron's mistress. _That fact_, we
are assured, lends grace even to its faults.

Having brought the authoress upon the stage, the review now goes on to
define her position, and assure the Christian world that

 'The Countess Guiccioli was the daughter of an impoverished noble. At
 the age of sixteen, she was taken from a convent, and sold as third
 wife to the Count Guiccioli, who was old, rich, and profligate. A
 fouler prostitution never profaned the name of marriage. A short time
 afterwards, she accidentally met Lord Byron. Outraged and rebellious
 nature vindicated itself in the deep and devoted passion with which
 he inspired her. With the full assent of husband, father, and
 brother, and in compliance with the usages of Italian society, he was
 shortly afterwards installed in the office, and invested with all the
 privileges, of her "Cavalier Servente."'

It has been asserted that the Marquis de Boissy, the late husband of
this Guiccioli lady, was in the habit of introducing her in fashionable
circles as 'the Marquise de Boissy, my wife, formerly mistress to Lord
Byron'! We do not give the story as a verity; yet, in the review of
this whole history, we may be pardoned for thinking it quite possible.

The mistress, being thus vouched for and presented as worthy of
sympathy and attention by one of the oldest and most classic organs
of English literature, may now proceed in her work of glorifying the
popular idol, and casting abuse on the grave of the dead wife.

Her attacks on Lady Byron are, to be sure, less skilful and adroit
than those of Lord Byron. They want his literary polish and tact; but
what of that? 'Blackwood' assures us that even the faults of manner
derive a peculiar grace from the fact that the narrator is Lord Byron's
mistress; and so we suppose the literary world must find grace in
things like this:--

 'She has been called, after his words, the moral Clytemnestra of
 her husband. Such a surname is severe: but the repugnance we feel
 to condemning a woman cannot prevent our listening to the voice of
 justice, which tells us that the comparison is still in favour of
 the guilty one of antiquity; for _she_, driven to crime by fierce
 passion overpowering reason, at least only deprived her husband of
 physical life, and, in committing the deed, exposed herself to all its
 consequences; while Lady Byron left her husband at the very moment
 that she saw him struggling amid a thousand shoals in the stormy sea
 of embarrassments created by his marriage, and precisely when he more
 than ever required a friendly, tender, and indulgent hand to save him.

 'Besides, she shut herself up in silence a thousand times more cruel
 than Clytemnestra's poniard: _that_ only killed the body; whereas
 Lady Byron's silence was destined to kill the soul,--and such a
 soul!--leaving the door open to calumny, and making it to be supposed
 that her silence was magnanimity destined to cover over frightful
 wrongs, perhaps even depravity. In vain did he, feeling his conscience
 at ease, implore some inquiry and examination. She refused; and the
 only favour she granted was to send him, one fine day, two persons to
 see whether he were not mad.

 'And, why, then, had she believed him mad? Because she, a methodical,
 inflexible woman, with that unbendingness which a profound moralist
 calls the worship rendered to pride by a feelingless soul,--because
 she could not understand the possibility of tastes and habits
 different to those of ordinary routine, or of her own starched life.
 Not to be hungry when she was; not to sleep at night, but to write
 while she was sleeping, and to sleep when she was up; in short, to
 gratify the requirements of material and intellectual life at hours
 different to hers,--all that was not merely annoying for her, but it
 must be _madness_; or, if not, it betokened depravity that she could
 neither submit to nor tolerate without perilling her own morality.

 'Such was the grand secret of the cruel silence which exposed Lord
 Byron to the most malignant interpretations, to all the calumny and
 revenge of his enemies.

 'She was, perhaps, the only woman in the world so strangely
 organised,--the only one, perhaps, capable of not feeling happy and
 proud at belonging to a man superior to the rest of humanity; and
 fatally was it decreed that this woman _alone_ of her species should
 be Lord Byron's wife!'

In a note is added,--

 'If an imaginary fear, and even an unreasonable jealousy, may be her
 excuse (just as one excuses a monomania), can one equally forgive her
 silence? Such a silence is morally what are physically the poisons
 which kill at once, and defy all remedies; thus insuring the culprit's
 safety. This silence it is which will ever be her crime; for by it she
 poisoned the life of her husband.'

The book has several chapters devoted to Lord Byron's peculiar virtues;
and under the one devoted to magnanimity and heroism, his _forgiving_
disposition receives special attention. The climax of all is stated to
be that he forgave Lady Byron. All the world knew that, since he had
declared this fact in a very noisy and impassioned manner in the fourth
canto of 'Childe Harold,' together with a statement of the wrongs which
he forgave; but the Guiccioli thinks his virtue, at this period, has
not been enough appreciated. In her view, it rose to the sublime. She
says of Lady Byron,--

 'An absolute moral monstrosity, an anomaly in the history of types
 of female hideousness, had succeeded in showing itself in the light
 of magnanimity. But false as was this high quality in Lady Byron, so
 did it shine out in him true and admirable. The position in which
 Lady Byron had placed him, and where she continued to keep him by
 her harshness, silence, and strange refusals, was one of those which
 cause such suffering, that the highest degree of self-control seldom
 suffices to quiet the promptings of human weakness, and to cause
 persons of even slight sensibility to preserve moderation. Yet, with
 his sensibility and the knowledge of his worth, how did he act? what
 did he say? I will not speak of his "farewell;" of the care he took
 to shield her from blame by throwing it on others, by taking much too
 large a share to himself.'

With like vivacity and earnestness does the narrator now proceed to
make an incarnate angel of her subject by the simple process of denying
everything that he himself ever confessed,--everything that has ever
been confessed in regard to him by his best friends. He has been in
the world as an angel unawares from his cradle. His guardian did not
properly appreciate him, and is consequently mentioned as that _wicked_
Lord Carlisle. Thomas Moore is never to be sufficiently condemned
for the facts told in his biography. Byron's own frank and lawless
admissions of evil are set down to a peculiar inability he had for
speaking the truth about himself,--sometimes about his near relations;
all which does not in the least discourage the authoress from giving a
separate chapter on 'Lord Byron's Love of Truth.'

In the matter of his relations with women, she complacently repeats
(what sounds rather oddly as coming from her) Lord Byron's own
assurance, that he _never_ seduced a woman; and also the equally
convincing statement, that he had told _her_ (the Guiccioli) that his
married fidelity to his wife was perfect. She discusses Moore's account
of the mistress in boy's clothes who used to share Byron's apartments
in college, and ride with him to races, and whom he presented to
_ladies_ as his brother.

She has her own view of this matter. The disguised boy was a lady
of rank and fashion, who sought Lord Byron's chambers, as, we are
informed, noble ladies everywhere, both in Italy and England, were
constantly in the habit of doing; throwing themselves at his feet, and
imploring permission to become his handmaids.

In the authoress's own words, 'Feminine overtures still continued
to be made to Lord Byron; but the fumes of incense never hid from
his sight his IDEAL.' We are told that in the case of
these poor ladies, generally 'disenchantment took place on his side
without a corresponding result on the other: THENCE many
heart-breakings.' Nevertheless, we are informed that there followed the
indiscretions of these ladies 'none of those proceedings that the world
readily forgives, but which his feelings as a man of honour would have

As to drunkenness, and all that, we are informed he was an anchorite.
Pages are given to an account of the biscuits and soda-water that on
this and that occasion were found to be the sole means of sustenance to
this ethereal creature.

As to the story of using his wife's money, the lady gives, directly in
the face of his own Letters and Journal, the same account given before
by Medwin, and which caused such merriment when talked over in the
Noctes Club,--that he had with her only a marriage portion of £10,000;
and that, on the separation, he not only paid it back, but doubled

[Footnote 27: In 'The Noctes' of November, 1824 Christopher North says,
'I don't call Medwin a liar.... Whether Byron bammed him, or he, by
virtue of his own stupidity, was the sole and sufficient bammifier of
himself, I know not.' A note says that Murray had been much shocked by
Byron's misstatements to Medwin as to money-matters with him. The note
goes on to say, 'Medwin could not have invented them, for they were
mixed up with acknowledged facts; and the presumption is that Byron
mystified his gallant acquaintance. He was fond of such tricks.']

So on the authoress goes, sowing right and left the most transparent
absurdities and misstatements with what Carlyle well calls 'a composed
stupidity, and a cheerful infinitude of ignorance.' Who _should_ know,
if not she, to be sure? Had not Byron told her all about it? and was
not his family motto _Crede Byron_?

The 'Blackwood,' having a dim suspicion that this confused style of
attack and defence in reference to the two parties under consideration
may not have great weight, itself proceeds to make the book an occasion
for re-opening the controversy of Lord Byron with his wife.

The rest of the review is devoted to a powerful attack on Lady Byron's
character,--the most fearful attack on the memory of a dead woman we
have ever seen made by living man. The author proceeds, like a lawyer,
to gather up, arrange, and restate, in a most workmanlike manner, the
confused accusations of the book.

Anticipating the objection, that such a re-opening of the inquiry was
a violation of the privacy due to womanhood and to the feelings of a
surviving family, he says, that though marriage usually is a private
matter which the world has no right to intermeddle with or discuss,

 'Lord Byron's was an exceptional case. It is not too much to say,
 that, had his marriage been a happy one, the course of events of the
 present century might have been materially changed; that the genius
 which poured itself forth in "Don Juan" and "Cain" might have flowed
 in far different channels; that the ardent love of freedom which sent
 him to perish at six and thirty at Missolonghi might have inspired
 a long career at home; and that we might at this moment have been
 appealing to the counsels of his experience and wisdom at an age
 not exceeding that which was attained by Wellington, Lyndhurst, and

 'Whether the world would have been a gainer or a loser by the exchange
 is a question which every man must answer for himself, according to
 his own tastes and opinions; but the possibility of such a change in
 the course of events warrants us in treating what would otherwise be a
 strictly private matter as one of public interest.

 'More than half a century has elapsed, the actors have departed from
 the stage, the curtain has fallen; and whether it will ever again be
 raised so as to reveal the real facts of the drama, may, as we have
 already observed, be well doubted. But the time has arrived when we
 may fairly gather up the fragments of evidence, clear them as far as
 possible from the incrustations of passion, prejudice, and malice, and
 place them in such order, as, if possible, to enable us to arrive
 at some probable conjecture as to what the skeleton of the drama
 originally was.'

Here the writer proceeds to put together all the facts of Lady Byron's
case, just as an adverse lawyer would put them as against her, and
for her husband. The plea is made vigorously and ably, and with an
air of indignant severity, as of an honest advocate who is thoroughly
convinced that he is pleading the cause of a wronged man who has been
ruined in name, ship-wrecked in life, and driven to an early grave, by
the arts of a bad woman,--a woman all the more horrible that her malice
was disguised under the cloak of religion.

Having made an able statement of facts, adroitly leaving out
ONE,[28] of which he could not have been ignorant had he
studied the case carefully enough to know all the others, he proceeds
to sum up against the criminal thus:--

[Footnote 28: This one fact is, that Lord Byron might have had an open
examination in court, if he had only persisted in refusing the deed of

 'We would deal tenderly with the memory of Lady Byron. Few women have
 been juster objects of compassion. It would seem as if Nature and
 Fortune had vied with each other which should be most lavish of her
 gifts, and yet that some malignant power had rendered all their bounty
 of no effect. Rank, beauty, wealth, and mental powers of no common
 order, were hers; yet they were of no avail to secure her happiness.
 The spoilt child of seclusion, restraint, and parental idolatry,
 a fate (alike evil for both) cast her into the arms of the spoilt
 child of genius, passion, and the world. What real or fancied wrongs
 she suffered, we may never know; but those which she inflicted are
 sufficiently apparent.

 'It is said that there are some poisons so subtle that they will
 destroy life, and yet leave no trace of their action. The murderer
 who uses them may escape the vengeance of the law; but he is not the
 less guilty. So the slanderer who makes no charge; who deals in hints
 and insinuations: who knows melancholy facts he would not willingly
 divulge,--things too painful to state; who forbears, expresses pity,
 sometimes even affection, for his victim, shrugs his shoulders, looks

        "The significant eye,
  Which learns to lie with silence,--"

 is far more guilty than he who tells the bold falsehood which may be
 met and answered, and who braves the punishment which must follow upon

 'Lady Byron has been called

  "The moral Clytemnestra of her lord."

 The "moral Brinvilliers" would have been a truer designation.

 'The conclusion at which we arrive is, that there is no proof whatever
 that Lord Byron was guilty of any act that need have caused a
 separation, or prevented a re-union, and that the imputations upon him
 rest on the vaguest conjecture; that whatever real or fancied wrongs
 Lady Byron may have endured are shrouded in an impenetrable mist of
 her own creation,--a poisonous miasma in which she enveloped the
 character of her husband, raised by her breath, and which her breath
 only could have dispersed.

  "She dies and makes no sign. O God! forgive her."'

As we have been obliged to review accusations on Lady Byron founded
on old Greek tragedy, so now we are forced to abridge a passage from
a modern conversations-lexicon, that we may understand what sort of
comparisons are deemed in good taste in a conservative English review,
when speaking of ladies of rank in their graves.

Under the article 'Brinvilliers,' we find as follows:--

 singular atrocity of this woman gives her a sort of infamous claim to
 notice. She was horn in Paris in 1651; being daughter of D'Aubrai,
 lieutenant-civil of Paris, who married her to the Marquis of
 Brinvilliers. Although possessed of attractions to captivate lovers,
 she was for some time much attached to her husband, but at length
 became madly in love with a Gascon officer. Her father imprisoned
 the officer in the Bastille; and, while there, he learned the art of
 compounding subtle and most mortal poisons; and, when he was released,
 he taught it to the lady, who exercised it with such success, that,
 in one year, her father, sister, and two brothers became her victims.
 She professed the utmost tenderness for her victims, and nursed them
 assiduously. On her father she is said to have made eight attempts
 before she succeeded. She was _very religious_, and devoted to works
 of charity; and visited the hospitals a great deal, where it is said
 she tried her poisons on the sick.'

People have made loud outcries lately, both in America and England,
about violating the repose of the dead. We should like to know what
they call this. Is this, then, what they mean by _respecting_ the dead?

Let any man imagine a leading review coming out with language equally
brutal about his own mother, or any dear and revered friend.

Men of America, men of England, what do you think of this?

When Lady Byron was publicly branded with the names of the foulest
ancient and foulest modern assassins, and Lord Byron's mistress was
publicly taken by the hand, and encouraged to go on and prosper in her
slanders, by one of the oldest and most influential British reviews,
what was said and what was done in England?

That is a question we should be glad to have answered. Nothing was done
that ever reached us across the water.

And why was nothing done? Is this language of a kind to be passed over
in silence?

Was it no offence to the house of Wentworth to attack the pure
character of its late venerable head, and to brand her in her sacred
grave with the name of one of the vilest of criminals?

Might there not properly have been an indignant protest of family
solicitors against this insult to the person and character of the
Baroness Wentworth?

If virtue went for nothing, benevolence for nothing, a long life of
service to humanity for nothing, one would at least have thought, that,
in aristocratic countries, rank might have had its rights to decent
consideration, and its guardians to rebuke the violation of those

We Americans understand little of the advantages of rank; but we did
understand that it secured certain decorums to people, both while
living and when in their graves. From Lady Byron's whole history, in
life and in death, it would appear that we were mistaken.

What a life was hers! Was ever a woman more evidently desirous of
the delicate and secluded privileges of womanhood, of the sacredness
of individual privacy? Was ever a woman so rudely dragged forth,
and exposed to the hardened, vulgar, and unfeeling gaze of mere
curiosity?--her maiden secrets of love thrown open to be handled by
_roués_; the sanctities of her marriage-chamber desecrated by leering
satyrs; her parents and best friends traduced and slandered, till one
indignant public protest was extorted from her, as by the rack,--a
protest which seems yet to quiver in every word with the indignation of
outraged womanly delicacy!

Then followed coarse blame and coarser comment,--blame for speaking
at all, and blame for not speaking more. One manly voice, raised for
her in honourable protest, was silenced and overborne by the universal
roar of ridicule and reprobation; and henceforth what refuge? Only this
remained: 'Let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the
keeping of their souls to him as to a faithful Creator.'

Lady Byron turned to this refuge in silence, and filled up her life
with a noble record of charities and humanities. So pure was she, so
childlike, so artless, so loving, that those who knew her best, feel,
to this day, that a memorial of her is like the relic of a saint. And
could not all this preserve her grave from insult? O England, England!

I speak in sorrow of heart to those who must have known, loved, and
revered Lady Byron, and ask them, Of what were you thinking when you
allowed a paper of so established literary rank as the 'Blackwood,' to
present and earnestly recommend to our New World such a compendium of
lies as the Guiccioli book?

Is the great English-speaking community, whose waves toss from Maine
to California, and whose literature is yet to come back in a thousand
voices to you, a thing to be so despised?

If, as the solicitors of the Wentworth family observe, you might be
entitled to treat with silent contempt the slanders of a mistress
against a wife, was it safe to treat with equal contempt the
indorsement and recommendation of those slanders by one of your oldest
and most powerful literary authorities?

No European magazine has ever had the weight and circulation in America
that the 'Blackwood' has held. In the days of my youth, when New
England was a comparatively secluded section of the earth, the wit
and genius of the 'Noctes Ambrosianæ' were in the mouths of men and
maidens, even in our most quiet mountain-towns. There, years ago, we
saw all Lady Byron's private affairs discussed, and felt the weight of
Christopher North's decisions against her. Shelton Mackenzie, in his
American edition, speaks of the American circulation of 'Blackwood'
being greater than that in England.[29] It was and is now reprinted
monthly; and, besides that, 'Littell's Magazine' reproduces all its
striking articles, and they come with the weight of long established
position. From the very fact that it has long been considered the Tory
organ, and the supporter of aristocratic orders, all its admissions
against the character of individuals in the privileged classes have a
double force.

[Footnote 29: In the history of 'Blackwood's Magazine,' prefaced to
the American edition of 1854, Mackenzie says of the 'Noctes' papers,
'Great as was their popularity in England it was peculiarly in
America that their high merit and undoubted originality received the
heartiest recognition and appreciation. Nor is this wonderful when it
is considered that for one reader of "Blackwood's Magazine" in the old
country there cannot be less than fifty in the new.']

When 'Blackwood,' therefore, boldly denounces a lady of high rank as a
modern Brinvilliers, and no sensation is produced, and no remonstrance
follows, what can people in the New World suppose, but that Lady
Byron's character was a point entirely given up; that her depravity was
so well established and so fully conceded, that nothing was to be said,
and that even the defenders of aristocracy were forced to admit it?

I have been blamed for speaking on this subject without consulting Lady
Byron's friends, trustees, and family. More than ten years had elapsed
since I had had any intercourse with England, and I knew none of them.
How was I to know that any of them were living? I was astonished to
learn, for the first time, by the solicitors' letters, that there were
trustees, who held in their hands all Lady Byron's carefully prepared
proofs and documents, by which this falsehood might immediately have
been refuted.

If they had spoken, they might have saved all this confusion. Even
if bound by restrictions for a certain period of time, they still
might have called on a Christian public to frown down such a cruel
and indecent attack on the character of a noble lady who had been a
benefactress to so many in England. They might have stated that the
means of wholly refuting the slanders of the 'Blackwood' were in their
hands, and only delayed in coming forth from regard to the feelings
of some in this generation. Then might they not have announced her
Life and Letters, that the public might have the same opportunity as
themselves for knowing and judging Lady Byron by her own writings?

Had this been done, I had been most happy to have remained silent. I
have been astonished that any one should have supposed this speaking
on my part to be anything less than it is,--the severest act of
self-sacrifice that one friend can perform for another, and the most
solemn and difficult tribute to justice that a human being can be
called upon to render.

I have been informed that the course I have taken would be contrary to
the wishes of my friend. I think otherwise. I know her strong sense
of justice, and her reverence for truth. Nothing ever moved her to
speak to the public but an attack upon the honour of the dead. In her
statement, she says of her parents, 'There is no other near relative to
vindicate their memory from insult: I am therefore compelled to break
the silence I had hoped always to have observed.'

If there was any near relative to vindicate Lady Byron's memory, I
had no evidence of the fact; and I considered the utter silence to
be strong evidence to the contrary. In all the storm of obloquy and
rebuke that has raged in consequence of my speaking, I have had two
unspeakable sources of joy; first, that they could not touch _her_;
and, second, that they could not blind the all-seeing God. It is worth
being in darkness to see the stars.

It has been said that _I_ have drawn on Lady Byron's name greater
obloquy than ever before. I deny the charge. Nothing fouler has been
asserted of her than the charges in the 'Blackwood,' because nothing
fouler _could_ be asserted. No satyr's hoof has ever crushed this pearl
deeper in the mire than the hoof of the 'Blackwood,' but none of them
have defiled it or trodden it so deep that God cannot find it in the
day 'when he maketh up his jewels.'

I have another word, as an American, to say about the contempt shown
to our great people in thus suffering the materials of history to be
falsified to subserve the temporary purposes of family feeling in

Lord Byron belongs not properly either to the Byrons or the Wentworths.
He is not one of their family jewels to be locked up in their cases.
He belongs to the world for which he wrote, to which he appealed, and
before which he dragged his reluctant, delicate wife to a publicity
equal with his own: the world has, therefore, a right to judge him.

We Americans have been made accessories, after the fact, to every
insult and injury that Lord Byron and the literary men of his day have
heaped upon Lady Byron. We have been betrayed into injustice and a
complicity with villany. After Lady Byron had nobly lived down slanders
in England, and died full of years and honours, the 'Blackwood' takes
occasion to re-open the controversy by recommending a book full of
slanders to a rising generation who knew nothing of the past. What
was the consequence in America? My attention was first called to the
result, not by reading the 'Blackwood' article, but by finding in a
popular monthly magazine two long articles,--the one an enthusiastic
recommendation of the Guiccioli book, and the other a lamentation over
the burning of the Autobiography as a lost chapter in history.

Both articles represented Lady Byron as a cold, malignant, mean,
persecuting woman, who had been her husband's ruin. They were so full
of falsehoods and misstatements as to astonish me. Not long after, a
literary friend wrote to me, '_Will_ you, _can_ you, reconcile it to
your conscience to sit still and allow that mistress so to slander that
wife,--you, perhaps, the only one knowing the real facts, and able to
set them forth?'

Upon this, I immediately began collecting and reading the various
articles and the book, and perceived that the public of this generation
were in a way of having false history created, uncontradicted, under
their own eyes.

I claim for my country, men and women, our right to _true_ history.
For years, the popular literature has held up publicly before our eyes
the facts as to this man and this woman, and called on us to praise or
condemn. Let us have _truth_ when we are called on to judge. It is our

There is no conceivable obligation on a human being greater than
that of _absolute justice_. It is the deepest personal injury to an
honourable mind to be made, through misrepresentation, an accomplice
in injustice. When a noble name is accused, any person who possesses
truth which might clear it, and withholds that truth, is guilty of a
sin against human nature and the inalienable rights of justice. I claim
that I have not only a right, but an obligation, to bring in my solemn
testimony upon this subject.

For years and years, the silence-policy has been tried; and what has it
brought forth? As neither word nor deed could be proved against Lady
Byron, her silence has been spoken of as a monstrous, unnatural crime,
'a poisonous miasma,' in which she enveloped the name of her husband.

Very well; since silence is the crime, I thought I would tell the world
that Lady Byron had spoken.

Christopher North, years ago, when he condemned her for speaking, said
that she should speak further,--

'She should speak, or some one for her. One word would suffice.'

That one word has been spoken.




An editorial in 'The London Times' of Sept. 18 says:--

 'The perplexing feature in this "True Story" is, that it is impossible
 to distinguish what part in it is the editress's, and what Lady
 Byron's own. We are given the _impression_ made on Mrs. Stowe's mind
 by Lady Byron's statements; but it would have been more satisfactory
 if the statement itself had been reproduced as bare as possible, and
 been left to make its own impression on the public.'

In reply to this, I will say, that in my article I gave a brief
synopsis of the subject-matter of Lady Byron's communications;
and I think it must be quite evident to the world that the _main
fact_ on which the story turns was one which could not possibly be
misunderstood, and the remembrance of which no lapse of time could ever

Lady Byron's communications were made to me in language clear, precise,
terrible; and many of her phrases and sentences I could repeat at this
day, word for word. But if I had reproduced them at first, as 'The
Times' suggests, word for word, the public horror and incredulity would
have been doubled. It was necessary that the brutality of the story
should, in some degree, be veiled and softened.

The publication, by Lord Lindsay, of Lady Anne Barnard's communication,
makes it now possible to tell fully, and in Lady Byron's own words,
certain incidents that yet remain untold. To me, who know the whole
history, the revelations in Lady Anne's account, and the story related
by Lady Byron, are like fragments of a dissected map: they fit
together, piece by piece, and form one connected whole.

In confirmation of the general facts of this interview, I have the
testimony of a sister who accompanied me on this visit, and to whom,
immediately after it, I recounted the story.

Her testimony on the subject is as follows:--

 'MY DEAR SISTER,--I have a perfect recollection of going
 with you to visit Lady Byron at the time spoken of in your published
 article. We arrived at her house in the morning; and, after lunch,
 Lady Byron and yourself spent the whole time till evening alone

 'After we retired to our apartment that night, you related to me
 the story given in your published account, though with many more
 particulars than you have yet thought fit to give to the public.

 'You stated to me that Lady Byron was strongly impressed with the idea
 that it might be her duty to publish a statement during her lifetime,
 and also the reasons which induced her to think so. You appeared at
 that time quite disposed to think that justice required this step, and
 asked my opinion. We passed most of the night in conversation on the
 subject,--a conversation often resumed, from time to time, during
 several weeks in which you were considering what opinion to give.

 'I was strongly of opinion that justice required the publication of
 the truth, but felt exceedingly averse to its being done by Lady Byron
 herself during her own lifetime, when she personally would be subject
 to the comments and misconceptions of motives which would certainly
 follow such a communication.

  'Your sister,

  'M. F. PERKINS.'

I am now about to complete the account of my conversation with Lady
Byron; but as the credibility of a history depends greatly on the
character of its narrator, and as especial pains have been taken
to destroy the belief in this story by representing it to be the
wanderings of a broken-down mind in a state of dotage and mental
hallucination, I shall preface the narrative with some account of
Lady Byron as she was during the time of our mutual acquaintance and

This account may, perhaps, be deemed superfluous in England, where so
many knew her; but in America, where, from Maine to California, her
character has been discussed and traduced, it is of importance to give
interested thousands an opportunity of learning what kind of a woman
Lady Byron was.

Her character as given by Lord Byron in his Journal, after her first
refusal of him, is this:--

 'She is a very superior woman, and very little spoiled; which is
 strange in an heiress, a girl of twenty, a peeress that is to be in
 her own right, an only child, and a savante, who has always had her
 own way. She is a poetess, a mathematician, a metaphysician; yet,
 withal, very kind, generous, and gentle, with very little pretension.
 Any other head would be turned with half her acquisitions and a tenth
 of her advantages.'

Such was Lady Byron at twenty. I formed her acquaintance in the year
1853, during my first visit in England. I met her at a lunch-party in
the house of one of her friends.

The party had many notables; but, among them all, my attention was
fixed principally on Lady Byron. She was at this time sixty-one years
of age, but still had, to a remarkable degree, that personal attraction
which is commonly considered to belong only to youth and beauty.

Her form was slight, giving an impression of fragility; her motions
were both graceful and decided; her eyes bright, and full of interest
and quick observation. Her silvery-white hair seemed to lend a grace
to the transparent purity of her complexion, and her small hands
had a pearly whiteness. I recollect she wore a plain widow's cap of
a transparent material; and was dressed in some delicate shade of
lavender, which harmonised well with her complexion.

When I was introduced to her, I felt in a moment the words of her

  'There was awe in the homage that she drew;
  Her spirit seemed as seated on a throne.'

Calm, self-poised, and thoughtful, she seemed to me rather to resemble
an interested spectator of the world's affairs, than an actor involved
in its trials; yet the sweetness of her smile, and a certain very
delicate sense of humour in her remarks, made the way of acquaintance

Her first remarks were a little playful; but in a few moments we were
speaking on what every one in those days was talking to me about,--the
slavery question in America.

It need not be remarked, that, when any one subject especially occupies
the public mind, those known to be interested in it are compelled to
listen to many weary platitudes. Lady Byron's remarks, however, caught
my ear and arrested my attention by their peculiar incisive quality,
their originality, and the evidence they gave that she was as well
informed on all our matters as the best American statesman could be.
I had no wearisome course to go over with her as to the difference
between the General Government and State Governments, nor explanations
of the United States Constitution; for she had the whole before her
mind with a perfect clearness. Her morality upon the slavery question,
too, impressed me as something far higher and deeper than the common
sentimentalism of the day. Many of her words surprised me greatly, and
gave me new material for thought.

I found I was in company with a commanding mind, and hastened to
gain instruction from her on another point where my interest had
been aroused. I had recently been much excited by Kingsley's novels,
'Alton Locke' and 'Yeast,' on the position of religious thought in
England. From these works I had gathered, that under the apparent
placid uniformity of the Established Church of England, and of 'good
society' as founded on it, there was moving a secret current of
speculative enquiry, doubt, and dissent; but I had met, as yet, with
no person among my various acquaintances in England who seemed either
aware of this fact, or able to guide my mind respecting it. The moment
I mentioned the subject to Lady Byron, I received an answer which
showed me that the whole ground was familiar to her, and that she was
capable of giving me full information. She had studied with careful
thoughtfulness all the social and religious tendencies of England
during her generation. One of her remarks has often since occurred to
me. Speaking of the Oxford movement, she said the time had come when
the English Church could no longer remain as it was. It must either
_restore the past, or create a future_. The Oxford movement attempted
the former; and of the future she was beginning to speak, when our
conversation was interrupted by the presentation of other parties.

Subsequently, in reply to a note from her on some benevolent business,
I alluded to that conversation, and expressed a wish that she would
finish giving me her views of the religious state of England. A portion
of the letter that she wrote me in reply I insert, as being very
characteristic in many respects:--

 'Various causes have been assigned for the decaying state of the
 English Church; which seems the more strange, because the clergy have
 improved, morally and intellectually, in the last twenty years. Then
 why should their influence be diminished? I think it is owing to the
 diffusion of a spirit of free enquiry.

 'Doubts have arisen in the minds of many who are unhappily bound by
 subscription _not_ to doubt; and, in consequence, they are habitually
 _pretending_ either to believe or to disbelieve. The state of Denmark
 cannot but be rotten, when _to seem_ is the first object of the
 witnesses of truth.

 'They may lead better lives, and bring forward abler arguments; but
 their efforts are paralysed by that unsoundness. I see the High
 Churchman professing to believe in the existence of a church, when the
 most palpable facts must show him that no _such_ church exists; the
 "Low" Churchman professing to believe in exceptional interpositions
 which his philosophy secretly questions; the "Broad" Churchman
 professing as absolute an attachment to the Established Church as the
 narrowest could feel, while he is preaching such principles as will at
 last pull it down.

 'I ask you, my friend, whether there would not be more faith, as
 well as earnestness, if _all_ would speak out. There would be more
 unanimity too, because they would all agree in a certain basis. Would
 not a wider love supersede the _creed-bound_ charity of sects?

 'I am aware that I have touched on a point of difference between
 us, and I will not regret it; for I think the differences of mind
 are analogous to those differences of nature, which, in the most
 comprehensive survey, are the very elements of harmony.

 'I am not at all prone to put forth my own opinions; but the tone in
 which you have written to me claims an unusual degree of openness
 on my part. I look upon creeds of all kinds as chains,--far worse
 chains than those you would break,--as the causes of much hypocrisy
 and infidelity. I hold it to be a sin to _make_ a child say, "_I
 believe_." Lead it to utter that belief spontaneously. I also consider
 the institution of an exclusive priesthood, though having been of
 service in some respects, as retarding the progress of Christianity at
 present. I desire to see a _lay_ ministry.

 'I will not give you more of my heterodoxy at present: perhaps I need
 your pardon, connected as you are with the Church, for having said so

 'There are causes of decay known to be at work in my frame, which lead
 me to believe I may not have time to grow wiser; and I must therefore
 leave it to others to correct the conclusions I have now formed from
 my life's experience. I should feel happy to discuss them personally
 with you; for it would be _soul to soul_. In that confidence I am
 yours most truly,


It is not necessary to prove to the reader that this letter is not in
the style of a broken-down old woman subject to mental hallucinations.
It shows Lady Byron's habits of clear, searching analysis, her
thoughtfulness, and, above all, that peculiar reverence for _truth_ and
sincerity which was a leading characteristic of her moral nature.[30]
It also shows her views of the probable shortness of her stay on earth,
derived from the opinion of physicians about her disease, which was a
gradual ossification of the lungs. It has been asserted that pulmonary
diseases, while they slowly and surely sap the physical life, often
appear to give added vigour to the play of the moral and intellectual

[Footnote 30: The reader is here referred to Lady Byron's other
letters, in Part III.; which also show the peculiarly active and
philosophical character of her mind, and the class of subjects on which
it habitually dwelt.]

I parted from Lady Byron, feeling richer in that I had found one more
pearl of great price on the shore of life.

Three years after this, I visited England to obtain a copyright for the
issue of my novel of 'Dred.'

The hope of once more seeing Lady Byron was one of the brightest
anticipations held out to me in this journey. I found London quite
deserted; but, hearing that Lady Byron was still in town, I sent to
her, saying in my note, that, in case she was not well enough to call,
I would visit her. Her reply I give:--

 'MY DEAR FRIEND,--I _will_ be indebted to you for our
 meeting, as I am barely able to leave my room. It is not a time for
 small personalities, if they could ever exist with _you_; and, dressed
 or undressed, I shall hope to see you after two o'clock.

  'Yours very truly,

I found Lady Byron in her sick-room,--that place which she made so
different from the chamber of ordinary invalids. Her sick-room seemed
only a telegraphic station whence her vivid mind was flashing out all
over the world.

By her bedside stood a table covered with books, pamphlets, and files
of letters, all arranged with exquisite order, and each expressing some
of her varied interests. From that sick-bed she still directed, with
systematic care, her various works of benevolence, and watched with
intelligent attention the course of science, literature, and religion;
and the versatility and activity of her mind, the flow of brilliant
and penetrating thought on all the topics of the day, gave to the
conversations of her retired room a peculiar charm. You forgot that
she was an invalid; for she rarely had a word of her own personalities,
and the charm of her conversation carried you invariably from herself
to the subjects of which she was thinking. All the new books, the
literature of the hour, were lighted up by her keen, searching, yet
always kindly criticism; and it was charming to get her fresh, genuine,
clear-cut modes of expression, so different from the world-worn phrases
of what is called good society. Her opinions were always perfectly
clear and positive, and given with the freedom of one who has long
stood in a position to judge the world and its ways from her own
standpoint. But it was not merely in general literature and science
that her heart lay; it was following always with eager interest the
progress of humanity over the whole world.

This was the period of the great battle for liberty in Kansas. The
English papers were daily filled with the thrilling particulars of that
desperate struggle, and Lady Byron entered with heart and soul into it.

Her first letter to me, at this time, is on this subject. It was while
'Dred' was going through the press.


 'MY DEAR MRS. STOWE,--Messrs. Chambers liked the proposal to
 publish the Kansas Letters. The more the public know of these matters,
 the better prepared they will be for your book. The moment for its
 publication seems well chosen. There is always in England a floating
 fund of sympathy for what is above the everyday sordid cares of life;
 and these better feelings, so nobly invested for the last two years in
 Florence Nightingale's career, are just set free. To what will they
 next be attached? If you can lay hold of them, they may bring about
 a deeper abolition than any legislative one,--the abolition of the
 heart-heresy that man's worth comes, not from God, but from man.

 'I have been obliged to give up exertion again, but hope soon to be
 able to call and make the acquaintance of your daughters. In case you
 wish to consult H. Martineau's pamphlets, I send more copies. Do not
 think of answering: I have occupied too much of your time in reading.

  'Yours affectionately,


As soon as a copy of 'Dred' was through the press, I sent it to
her, saying that I had been reproved by some excellent people for
representing too faithfully the profane language of some of the wicked
characters. To this she sent the following reply:--

 'Your book, dear Mrs. Stowe, is of the little leaven kind, and must
 prove a great moral force; perhaps not manifestly so much as secretly.
 And yet I can hardly conceive so much power without immediate and
 sensible effects: only there will be a strong disposition to resist
 on the part of all hollow-hearted professors of religion, whose
 heathenisms you so unsparingly expose. They have a class feeling like

 'To the young, and to those who do not reflect much on what is offered
 to their belief, you will do great good by showing how spiritual food
 is often adulterated. The bread from heaven is in the same case as
 bakers' bread.

 'If there is truth in what I heard Lord Byron say, that works of
 fiction live only by the amount _of truth_ which they contain, your
 story is sure of a long life. Of the few critiques I have seen, the
 best is in "The Examiner." I find an obtuseness as to the spirit and
 aim of the book, as if you had designed to make the best novel of the
 season, or to keep up the reputation of one. You are reproached, as
 Walter Scott was, with too much scriptural quotation; not, that I
 have heard, with phrases of an opposite character.

 'The effects of such reading till a late hour one evening appeared to
 influence me very singularly in a dream. The most horrible spectres
 presented themselves, and I woke in an agony of fear; but a faith
 still stronger arose, and I became courageous from trust in God, and
 felt calm. Did you do this? It is very insignificant among the many
 things you certainly will do unknown to yourself. I know more than
 ever before how to value communion with you. I have sent Robertson's
 Sermons for you; and, with kind regards to your family, am

  'Yours affectionately,


I was struck in this note with the mention of Lord Byron, and, the next
time I saw her, alluded to it, and remarked upon the peculiar qualities
of his mind as shown in some of his more serious conversations with Dr.

She seemed pleased to continue the subject, and went on to say many
things of his singular character and genius, more penetrating and more
appreciative than is often met with among critics.

I told her that I had been from childhood powerfully influenced by
him; and began to tell her how much, as a child, I had been affected
by the news of his death,--giving up all my plays, and going off to
a lonely hillside, where I spent the afternoon thinking of him. She
interrupted me before I had quite finished, with a quick, impulsive
movement. 'I know all that,' she said: 'I heard it all from Mrs. ----;
and it was one of the things that made me wish to _know_ you. I think
_you_ could understand him.' We talked for some time of him then; she,
with her pale face slightly flushed, speaking, as any other great
man's widow might, only of what was purest and best in his works, and
what were his undeniable virtues and good traits, especially in early
life. She told me many pleasant little speeches made by him to herself;
and, though there was running through all this a shade of melancholy,
one could never have conjectured that there were under all any deeper
recollections than the circumstances of an ordinary separation might

Not many days after, with the unselfishness which was so marked a
trait with her, she chose a day when she could be out of her room,
and invited our family party, consisting of my husband, sister, and
children, to lunch with her.

What showed itself especially in this interview was her tenderness
for all young people. She had often enquired after mine; asked about
their characters, habits, and tastes; and on this occasion she found an
opportunity to talk with each one separately, and to make them all feel
at ease, so that they were able to talk with her. She seemed interested
to point out to them what they should see and study in London; and
the charm of her conversation left on their minds an impression that
subsequent years have never effaced. I record this incident, because it
shows how little Lady Byron assumed the privileges or had the character
of an invalid absorbed in herself, and likely to brood over her own
woes and wrongs.

Here was a family of strangers stranded in a dull season in London, and
there was no manner of obligation upon her to exert herself to show
them attention. Her state of health would have been an all-sufficient
reason why she should not do it; and her doing it was simply a specimen
of that unselfish care for others, even down to the least detail, of
which her life was full.

A little while after, at her request, I went, with my husband and son,
to pass an evening at her house.

There were a few persons present whom she thought I should be
interested to know,--a Miss Goldsmid, daughter of Baron Goldsmid, and
Lord Ockham, her grandson, eldest son and heir of the Earl of Lovelace,
to whom she introduced my son.

I had heard much of the eccentricities of this young nobleman, and
was exceedingly struck with his personal appearance. His bodily frame
was of the order of the Farnese Hercules,--a wonderful development of
physical and muscular strength. His hands were those of a blacksmith.
He was broadly and squarely made, with a finely-shaped head, and dark
eyes of surpassing brilliancy. I have seldom seen a more interesting
combination than his whole appearance presented.

When all were engaged in talking, Lady Byron came and sat down by
me, and glancing across to Lord Ockham and my son, who were talking
together, she looked at me, and smiled. I immediately expressed my
admiration of his fine eyes and the intellectual expression of his
countenance, and my wonder at the uncommon muscular development of his

She said that _that_ of itself would account for many of Ockham's
eccentricities. He had a body that required a more vigorous animal life
than his station gave scope for, and this had often led him to seek
it in what the world calls low society; that he had been to sea as a
sailor, and was now working as a mechanic on the iron work of 'The
Great Eastern.' He had laid aside his title, and went in daily with the
other workmen, requesting them to call him simply Ockham.

I said that there was something to my mind very fine about this, even
though it might show some want of proper balance.

She said he had noble traits, and that she felt assured he would
yet accomplish something worthy of himself. 'The great difficulty
with our nobility is apt to be, that they do not _understand_ the
working-classes, so as to feel for them properly; and Ockham is now
going through an experience which may yet fit him to do great good when
he comes to the peerage. I am trying to influence him to do good among
the workmen, and to interest himself in schools for their children. I
think,' she added, 'I have great influence over Ockham,--the greater,
perhaps, that I never make any claim to authority.'

This conversation is very characteristic of Lady Byron as showing her
benevolent analysis of character, and the peculiar hopefulness she
always had in regard to the future of every one brought in connection
with her. Her moral hopefulness was something very singular; and in
this respect she was so different from the rest of the world, that it
would be difficult to make her understood. Her tolerance of wrong-doing
would have seemed to many quite latitudinarian, and impressed them
as if she had lost all just horror of what was morally wrong in
transgression; but it seemed her fixed habit to see faults only as
diseases and immaturities, and to expect them to fall away with time.

She saw the germs of good in what others regarded as only evil. She
expected valuable results to come from what the world looked on only
as eccentricities;[31] and she incessantly devoted herself to the task
of guarding those whom the world condemned, and guiding them to those
higher results of which she often thought that even their faults were

[Footnote 31: See her character of Dr. King, Part III.]

Before I quit this sketch of Lady Byron as I knew her, I will give one
more of her letters. My return from that visit in Europe was met by the
sudden death of the son mentioned in the foregoing account. At the time
of this sorrow, Lady Byron was too unwell to write to me. The letter
given alludes to this event, and speaks also of two coloured persons
of remarkable talent, in whose career in England she had taken a deep
interest. One of them is the 'friend' she speaks of.

  'LONDON, Feb. 6, 1859.

 'DEAR MRS. STOWE,--I seem to feel our friend as a bridge,
 over which our broken _outward_ communication can be renewed without
 effort. Why broken? The words I would have uttered _at one time_ were
 like drops of blood from my heart. Now I sympathise with the calmness
 you have gained, and can speak of your loss as I do of my own. Loss
 and restoration are more and more linked in my mind, but "to the
 _present_ live." As long as _they_ are in God's world they are in
 ours. I ask no other consolation.

 'Mrs. W----'s recovery has astonished me, and her husband's prospects
 give me great satisfaction. They have achieved a benefit to their
 coloured people. She had a mission which her burning soul has worked
 out, almost in defiance of death. But who is "called" without being
 "crucified," man or woman? I know of none.

 'I fear that H. Martineau was too sanguine in her persuasion that the
 slave power had received a serious check from the ruin of so many of
 your Mammon-worshippers. With the return of commercial facilities,
 _that_ article of commerce will again find purchasers enough to raise
 its value. Not that way is the iniquity to be overthrown. A deeper
 moral earthquake is needed.[32] We English had ours in India; and
 though the cases are far from being alike, yet a consciousness of what
 we ought to have been and ought to be toward the natives could not
 have been awakened by less than the reddened waters of the Ganges. So
 I fear you will have to look on a day of judgment worse than has been

 [Footnote 32: Alluding to the financial crisis in the United States in

 'As to all the frauds and impositions which have been disclosed by
 the failures, what a want of the sense of personal responsibility
 they show. It seems to be thought that "association" will "cover a
 multitude of sins;" as if "and Co." could enter heaven. A firm may be
 described as a partnership for lowering the standard of morals. Even
 ecclesiastical bodies are not free from the "and Co.;" very different
 from "the goodly fellowship of the apostles."

 'The better class of young gentlemen in England are seized with
 a mediæval mania, to which Ruskin has contributed much. The
 chief reason for regretting it is that taste is made to supersede
 benevolence. The money that would save thousands from perishing or
 suffering must be applied to raise the Gothic edifice where their last
 prayer may be uttered. Charity may be dead, while Art has glorified
 her. This is worse than Catholicism, which cultivates heart and eye
 together. The first cathedral was Truth, at the beginning of the
 fourth century, just as Christianity was exchanging a heavenly for an
 earthly crown. True religion may have to cast away the symbol for the
 spirit before "the kingdom" can come.

 'While I am speculating to little purpose, perhaps you are
 _doing_--what? Might not a biography from your pen bring forth again
 some great, half-obscured soul to act on the world? Even Sir Philip
 Sidney ought to be superseded by a still nobler type.

 'This must go immediately, to be in time for the bearer, of whose
 meeting with you I shall think as the friend of both. May it be happy!

  'Your affectionate
  A. I. N. B.'

One letter more from Lady Byron I give,--the last I received from her:--

  LONDON, May 3, 1859.

 'DEAR FRIEND,--I have found, particularly as to yourself,
 that, if I did not answer from the first impulse, all had evaporated.
 Your letter came by 'The Niagara' which brought Fanny Kemble to learn
 the loss of her best friend, the Miss F---- whom you saw at my house.

 'Her death, after an illness in which she was to the last a minister
 of good to others, is a soul-loss to me also; and your remarks are
 most appropriate to my feelings. I have been taught, however, to
 accept survivorship; even to feel it, in some cases, Heaven's best

 'I have an intense interest in your new novel.[33] More power in
 these few numbers than in any of your former writings, relating, at
 least, to my own mind. It would amuse you to hear my grand-daughter
 and myself attempting to foresee the future of the love-story; being,
 for the moment, quite persuaded that James is at sea, and the minister
 about to ruin himself. We think that Mary will labour to be in love
 with the self-devoted man, under her mother's influence, and from that
 hyper-conscientiousness so common with good girls; but we don't wish
 her to succeed. Then what is to become of her older lover? Time will

 [Footnote 33: 'The Minister's Wooing.']

 'The lady you desired to introduce to me will be welcomed as of you.
 She has been misled with respect to my having any house in Yorkshire
 (New Leeds). I am in London now to be of a little use to A----; not
 ostensibly, for I can neither go out, nor give parties: but I am the
 confidential friend to whom she likes to bring her social gatherings,
 as she can see something of the world with others. Age and infirmity
 seem to be overlooked in what she calls the harmony between us,--not
 perfect agreement of opinion (which I should regret, with almost fifty
 years of difference), but the spirit-union: can you say what it is?

 'I am interrupted by a note from Mrs. K----. She says that she cannot
 write of our lost friend yet, though she is less sad than she will
 be. Mrs. F---- may like to hear of her arrival, should you be in
 communication with our friend. She is the type of youth in age.

 'I often converse with Miss S----, a judicious friend of the W----s,
 about what is likely to await them. She would not succeed here as well
 as where she was a novelty. The character of our climate this year has
 been injurious to the respiratory organs; but I hope still to serve

 'I have just missed Dale Owen, with whom I wished to have conversed on
 spiritualism.[34] Harris is lecturing here on religion. I do not hear
 him praised.

 [Footnote 34: See her letter on spiritualistic phenomena, Part III.]

 'People are looking for helps to believe, everywhere but in life,--in
 music, in architecture, in antiquity, in ceremony; and upon all
 these is written, "Thou shalt _not_ believe." At least, if this be
 faith, happier the unbeliever. I am willing to see _through_ that
 materialism; but, if I am to rest there, I would rend the veil.

        *       *       *       *       *

  'June 1.

 'The day of the packet's sailing. I shall hope to be visited by you
 here. The best flowers sent me have been placed in your little vases,
 giving life to the remembrance of you, though not, like them, to pass

  'Ever yours,

Shortly after, I was in England again, and had one more opportunity of
resuming our personal intercourse. The first time that I called on Lady
Byron, I saw her in one of those periods of utter physical exhaustion
to which she was subject on account of the constant pressure of cares
beyond her strength. All who knew her will testify, that, in a state of
health which would lead most persons to become helpless absorbents of
service from others, she was assuming burdens, and making outlays of
her vital powers in acts of love and service, with a generosity that
often reduced her to utter exhaustion. But none who knew or loved her
ever misinterpreted the coldness of those seasons of exhaustion. We
knew that it was _not_ the spirit that was chilled, but only the frail
mortal tabernacle. When I called on her at this time, she could not see
me at first; and when, at last, she came, it was evident that she was
in a state of utter prostration. Her hands were like ice; her face was
deadly pale; and she conversed with a restraint and difficulty which
showed what exertion it was for her to keep up at all. I left as soon
as possible, with an appointment for another interview. That interview
was my last on earth with her, and is still beautiful in memory. It was
a long, still summer afternoon, spent alone with her in a garden, where
we walked together. She was enjoying one of those bright intervals
of freedom from pain and languor, in which her spirits always rose
so buoyant and youthful; and her eye brightened, and her step became

One last little incident is cherished as most expressive of her. When
it became time for me to leave, she took me in her carriage to the
station. As we were almost there, I missed my gloves, and said, 'I must
have left them; but there is not time to go back.'

With one of those quick, impulsive motions which were so natural to her
in doing a kindness, she drew off her own and said, 'Take mine if they
will serve you.'

I hesitated a moment; and then the thought, that I might never see
her again, came over me, and I said, 'Oh, yes! thanks.' That was the
last earthly word of love between us. But, thank God, those who love
worthily never meet for the _last_ time: there is always a future.



I now come to the particulars of that most painful interview which has
been the cause of all this controversy. My sister and myself were going
from London to Eversley to visit the Rev. C. Kingsley. On our way, we
stopped, by Lady Byron's invitation, to lunch with her at her summer
residence on Ham Common, near Richmond; and it was then arranged, that
on our return, we should make her a short visit, as she said she had a
subject of importance on which she wished to converse with me alone.

On our return from Eversley, we arrived at her house in the morning.

It appeared to be one of Lady Byron's _well_ days. She was up and
dressed, and moved about her house with her usual air of quiet
simplicity; as full of little acts of consideration for all about her
as if they were the habitual invalids, and she the well person.

There were with her two ladies of her most intimate friends, by whom
she seemed to be regarded with a sort of worship. When she left the
room for a moment, they looked after her with a singular expression of
respect and affection, and expressed freely their admiration of her
character, and their fears that her unselfishness might be leading her
to over-exertion.

After lunch, I retired with Lady Byron; and my sister remained with
her friends. I should here remark, that the chief subject of the
conversation which ensued was not entirely new to me. In the interval
between my first and second visits to England, a lady who for many
years had enjoyed Lady Byron's friendship and confidence, had, with her
consent, stated the case generally to me, giving some of the incidents:
so that I was in a manner prepared for what followed.

Those who accuse Lady Byron of being a person fond of talking upon this
subject, and apt to make unconsidered confidences, can have known very
little of her, of her reserve, and of the apparent difficulty she had
in speaking on subjects nearest her heart.

Her habitual calmness and composure of manner, her collected dignity
on all occasions, are often mentioned by her husband, sometimes with
bitterness, sometimes with admiration. He says, 'Though I accuse Lady
Byron of an excess of self-respect, I must in candour admit that, if
ever a person had excuse for an extraordinary portion of it, she has;
as, in all her thoughts, words, and deeds, she is the most decorous
woman that ever existed, and must appear, what few I fancy could, a
perfectly refined gentlewoman, even to her _femme de chambre_.

This calmness and dignity were never more manifested than in this
interview. In recalling the conversation at this distance of time, I
cannot remember all the language used. Some particular words and forms
of expression I do remember, and those I give; and in other cases I
give my recollection of the substance of what was said.

There was something awful to me in the intensity of repressed emotion
which she showed as she proceeded. The great fact upon which all turned
was stated in words that were unmistakable:--

'He was guilty of incest with his sister!'

She here became so deathly pale, that I feared she would faint; and
hastened to say, 'My dear friend, I have heard that.' She asked
quickly, 'From whom? and I answered, 'From Mrs. ----;' when she
replied, 'Oh, yes!' as if recollecting herself.

I then asked her some questions; in reply to which she said, 'I will
tell you.'

She then spoke of her first acquaintance with Lord Byron; from which I
gathered that she, an only child, brought up in retirement, and living
much within herself, had been, as deep natures often were, intensely
stirred by his poetry; and had felt a deep interest in him personally,
as one that had the germs of all that is glorious and noble.

When she was introduced to him, and perceived his admiration of
herself, and at last received his offer, although deeply moved, she
doubted her own power to be to him all that a wife should be. She
declined his offer, therefore, but desired to retain his friendship.
After this, as she said, a correspondence ensued, mostly on moral and
literary subjects; and, by this correspondence, her interest in him was
constantly increased.

At last, she said, he sent her a very beautiful letter, offering
himself again. 'I thought,' she added, 'that it was sincere, and that I
might now show him all I felt. I wrote just what was in my heart.

'Afterwards,' she said, 'I found in one of his journals this notice of
my letter: "A letter from Bell,--never rains but it pours."'

There was through her habitual calm a shade of womanly indignation as
she spoke these words; but it was gone in a moment. I said, 'And did he
not love you, then?' She answered, 'No, my dear: he did not love me.'

'Why, then, did he wish to marry you?' She laid her hand on mine, and
said in a low voice, 'You will see.'

She then told me, that, shortly after the declared engagement, he came
to her father's house to visit her as an accepted suitor. The visit was
to her full of disappointment. His appearance was so strange, moody,
and unaccountable, and his treatment of her so peculiar, that she came
to the conclusion that he did not love her, and sought an opportunity
to converse with him alone.

She told him that she saw from his manner that their engagement did not
give him pleasure; that she should never blame him if he wished to
dissolve it; that his nature was exceptional; and if, on a nearer view
of the situation, he shrank from it, she would release him, and remain
no less than ever his friend.

Upon this, she said, he fainted entirely away.

She stopped a moment, and then, as if speaking with great effort,
added, '_Then_ I was _sure_ he must love me.'

'And did he not?' said I. 'What other cause could have led to this

She looked at me very sadly, and said, '_Fear of detection_.'

'What!' said I, 'did _that cause_ then exist?'

'Yes,' she said, 'it did.' And she explained that she _now_ attributed
Lord Byron's great agitation to fear, that, in some way, suspicion of
the crime had been aroused in her mind, and that on this account she
was seeking to break the engagement. She said, that, from that moment,
her sympathies were aroused for him, to soothe the remorse and anguish
which seemed preying on his mind, and which she then regarded as the
sensibility of an unusually exacting moral nature, which judged itself
by higher standards, and condemned itself unsparingly for what most
young men of his times regarded as venial faults. She had every hope
for his future, and all the enthusiasm of belief that so many men and
women of those times and ours have had in his intrinsic nobleness. She
said the gloom, however, seemed to be even deeper when he came to the
marriage; but she looked at it as the suffering of a peculiar being,
to whom she was called to minister. I said to her, that, even in the
days of my childhood, I had heard of something very painful that had
passed as they were in the carriage, immediately after marriage. She
then said that it was so; that almost his first words, when they were
alone, were, that she _might_ once have saved him; that, if she had
accepted him when he first offered, she might have made him anything
she pleased; but that, as it was, she would find she had married a

The conversation, as recorded in Lady Anne Barnard's Diary, seems only
a continuation of the foregoing, and just what might have followed upon

I then asked how she became certain of the true cause.

She said, that, from the outset of their married life, his conduct
towards her was strange and unaccountable, even during the first
weeks after the wedding, while they were visiting her friends, and
outwardly on good terms. He seemed resolved to shake and combat both
her religious principles and her views of the family state. He tried
to undermine her faith in Christianity as a rule of life by argument
and by ridicule. He set before her the Continental idea of the liberty
of marriage; it being a simple partnership of friendship and property,
the parties to which were allowed by one another to pursue their own
separate individual tastes. He told her, that, as he could not be
expected to confine himself to her, neither should he expect or wish
that she should confine herself to him; that she was young and pretty,
and could have her lovers, and he should never object; and that she
must allow him the same freedom.

She said that she did not comprehend to what this was tending till
after they came to London, and his sister came to stay with them.

At what precise time the idea of an improper connection between her
husband and his sister was first forced upon her, she did not say;
but she told me _how_ it was done. She said that one night, in her
presence, he treated his sister with a liberty which both shocked and
astonished her. Seeing her amazement and alarm, he came up to her, and
said, in a sneering tone, 'I suppose you perceive _you_ are not wanted
here. Go to your own room, and leave us alone. We can amuse ourselves
better without you.'

She said, 'I went to my room, trembling. I fell down on my knees, and
prayed to my heavenly Father to have mercy on them. I thought, "What
shall I do?"'

I remember, after this, a pause in the conversation, during which she
seemed struggling with thoughts and emotions; and, for my part, I was
unable to utter a word, or ask a question.

She did not tell me what followed immediately upon this, nor how soon
after she spoke on the subject with either of the parties. She first
began to speak of conversations afterwards held with Lord Byron, in
which he boldly avowed the connection as having existed in time past,
and as one that was to continue in time to come; and implied that she
must submit to it. She put it to his conscience as concerning his
sister's soul, and he said that it was no sin; that it was the way
the world was first peopled: the Scriptures taught that all the world
descended from one pair; and how could that be unless brothers married
their sisters? that, if not a sin then, it could not be a sin now.

I immediately said, 'Why, Lady Byron, those are the very arguments
given in the drama of "Cain."'

'The very same,' was her reply. 'He could reason very speciously on
this subject.' She went on to say, that, when she pressed him hard with
the universal sentiment of mankind as to the horror and the crime, he
took another turn, and said that the horror and crime were the very
attraction; that he had worn out all _ordinary_ forms of sin, and that
he '_longed for the stimulus of a new kind of vice_.' She set before
him the dread of detection; and then he became furious. _She_ should
never be the means of his detection, he said. She should leave him;
_that_ he was resolved upon: but she should always bear all the blame
of the separation. In the sneering tone which was common with him,
he said, 'The world will believe me, and it will _not_ believe you.
The world has made up its mind that "By" is a glorious boy; and the
world will go for "By," right or wrong. Besides, I shall make it my
life's object to discredit you: I shall use all my powers. Read "Caleb
Williams,"[35] and you will see that I shall do by you just as Falkland
did by Caleb.'

[Footnote 35: This novel of Godwin's is a remarkably powerful story. It
is related in the first person by the supposed hero, Caleb Williams. He
represents himself as private secretary to a gentleman of high family
named Falkland. Caleb accidentally discovers that his patron has, in a
moment of passion, committed a murder. Falkland confesses the crime to
Caleb, and tells him that henceforth he shall always suspect him, and
keep watch over him. Caleb finds this watchfulness insupportable, and
tries to escape, but without success. He writes a touching letter to
his patron, imploring him to let him go, and promising never to betray
him. The scene where Falkland refuses this is the most highly wrought
in the book. He says to him, "Do not imagine that I am afraid of you;
I wear an armour against which all your weapons are impotent. I have
dug a pit for you: and whichever way you move, backward or forward, to
the right or the left, it is ready to swallow you. Be still! If once
you fall, call as loud as you will, no man on earth shall hear your
cries: prepare a tale however plausible or however true, the whole
world shall execrate you for an impostor. Your innocence shall be of no
service to you. I laugh at so feeble a defence. It is I that say it:
you may believe what I tell you. Do you know, miserable wretch!" added
he, stamping on the ground with fury, "that I have sworn to preserve
my reputation, whatever be the expense; that I love it more than the
whole world and its inhabitants taken together? and do you think that
you shall wound it?" The rest of the book shows how this threat was

I said that all this seemed to me like insanity. She said that she was
for a time led to think that it was insanity, and excused and pitied
him; that his treatment of her expressed such hatred and malignity,
that she knew not what else to think of it: that he seemed resolved to
drive her out of the house at all hazards, and threatened her, if she
should remain, in a way to alarm the heart of any woman: yet, thinking
him insane, she left him at last with the sorrow with which anyone
might leave a dear friend whose reason was wholly overthrown, and to
whom in this desolation she was no longer permitted to minister.

I inquired in one of the pauses of the conversation whether Mrs. Leigh
was a peculiarly beautiful or attractive woman.

'No, my dear: she was plain.'

'Was she, then, distinguished for genius or talent of any kind?'

'Oh, no! Poor woman! she was weak, relatively to him, and wholly under
his control.'

'And what became of her?' I said.

'She afterwards repented, and became a truly good woman.' I think it
was here she mentioned that she had frequently seen and conversed with
Mrs. Leigh in the latter part of her life; and she seemed to derive
comfort from the recollection.

I asked, 'Was there a child?' I had been told by Mrs. ---- that there
was a daughter, who had lived some years.

She said there was one, a daughter, who made her friends much trouble,
being of a very difficult nature to manage. I had understood that at
one time this daughter escaped from her friends to the Continent, and
that Lady Byron assisted in efforts to recover her. Of Lady Byron's
kindness both to Mrs. Leigh and the child, I had before heard from Mrs.
----, who gave me my first information.

It is also strongly impressed on my mind, that Lady Byron, in answer
to some question of mine as to whether there was ever any meeting
between Lord Byron and his sister after he left England, answered,
that she had insisted upon it, or made it a condition, that Mrs. Leigh
should not go abroad to him.

When the conversation as to events was over, as I stood musing, I said,
'Have you no evidence that he repented?' and alluded to the mystery of
his death, and the message he endeavoured to utter.

She answered quickly, and with great decision, that whatever might have
been his meaning at that hour, she felt sure he had finally repented;
and added with great earnestness, 'I do not believe that _any_ child of
the heavenly Father is ever left to eternal sin.'

I said that such a hope was most delightful to my feelings, but that I
had always regarded the indulgence of it as a dangerous one.

Her look, voice, and manner, at that moment, are indelibly fixed in my
mind. She looked at me so sadly, so firmly, and said,--

'Danger, Mrs. Stowe! What danger can come from indulging that hope,
like the danger that comes from not having it?'

I said in my turn, 'What danger comes from not having it?'

'The danger of losing all faith in God,' she said, 'all hope for
others, all strength to try and save them. I once knew a lady,' she
added, 'who was in a state of scepticism and despair from belief in
that doctrine. I think I saved her by giving her my faith.'

I was silent; and she continued: 'Lord Byron believed in eternal
punishment fully: for though he reasoned against Christianity as it is
commonly received, he could not reason himself out of it; and I think
it made him desperate. He used to say, "The worst of it is I _do_
believe." Had he seen God as I see him, I am sure his heart would have

She went on to say, that his sins, great as they were, admitted of
much palliation and excuse; that he was the child of singular and
ill-matched parents; that he had an organisation originally fine, but
one capable equally of great good or great evil; that in his childhood
he had only the worst and most fatal influences; that he grew up into
manhood with no guide; that there was everything in the classical
course of the schools to develop an unhealthy growth of passion, and no
moral influence of any kind to restrain it; that the manners of his day
were corrupt; that what were now considered vices in society were then
spoken of as matters of course among young noblemen; that drinking,
gaming, and licentiousness everywhere abounded: and that, up to a
certain time, he was no worse than multitudes of other young men of his
day,--only that the vices of his day were worse for him. The excesses
of passion, the disregard of physical laws in eating, drinking, and
living, wrought effects on him that they did not on less sensitively
organised frames, and prepared him for the evil hour when he fell
into the sin which shaded his whole life. All the rest was a struggle
with its consequences,--sinning more and more to conceal the sin of
the past. But she believed he never outlived remorse; that he always
suffered; and that this showed that God had not utterly forsaken him.
Remorse, she said, always showed moral sensibility, and, while _that_
remained, there was always hope.

She now began to speak of her grounds for thinking it might be her duty
fully to publish this story before she left the world.

First she said that, through the whole course of her life, she had
felt the eternal value of truth, and seen how dreadful a thing was
falsehood, and how fearful it was to be an accomplice in it, even by
silence. Lord Byron had demoralised the moral sense of England, and he
had done it in a great degree by the sympathy excited by falsehood.
This had been pleaded in extenuation of all his crimes and vices, and
led to a lowering of the standard of morals in the literary world. Now
it was proposed to print cheap editions of his works, and sell them
among the common people, and interest them in him by the circulation of
this same story.

She then said in effect, that she believed in retribution and suffering
in the future life, and that the consequences of sins _here_ follow us
_there_; and it was strongly impressed upon her mind that Lord Byron
must suffer in looking on the evil consequences of what he had done in
this life, and in seeing the further extension of that evil.

'It has sometimes strongly appeared to me,' she said, 'that he cannot
be at peace until this injustice has been righted. Such is the strong
feeling that I have when I think of going where he is.'

These things, she said, had led her to inquire whether it might not be
her duty to make a full and clear disclosure before she left the world.

Of course, I did not listen to this story as one who was investigating
its worth. I received it as truth. And the purpose for which it was
communicated was not to enable me to prove it to the world, but to ask
my opinion whether _she_ should show it to the world before leaving
it. The whole consultation was upon the assumption that she had at her
command such proofs as could not be questioned.

Concerning what they were I did not minutely inquire: only, in answer
to a general question, she said that she had letters and documents
in proof of her story. Knowing Lady Byron's strength of mind, her
clear-headedness, her accurate habits, and her perfect knowledge of the
matter, I considered her judgment on this point decisive.

I told her that I would take the subject into consideration, and give
my opinion in a few days. That night, after my sister and myself had
retired to our own apartment, I related to her the whole history, and
we spent the night in talking of it. I was powerfully impressed with
the justice and propriety of an immediate disclosure; while she, on the
contrary, represented the painful consequences that would probably come
upon Lady Byron from taking such a step.

Before we parted the next day, I requested Lady Byron to give me some
memoranda of such dates and outlines of the general story as would
enable me better to keep it in its connection; which she did.

On giving me the paper, Lady Byron requested me to return it to her
when it had ceased to be of use to me for the purpose indicated.

Accordingly, a day or two after, I enclosed it to her in a hasty note,
as I was then leaving London for Paris, and had not yet had time fully
to consider the subject.

On reviewing my note, I can recall that then the whole history appeared
to me like one of those singular cases where unnatural impulses to
vice are the result of a taint of constitutional insanity. This has
always seemed to me the only way of accounting for instances of
utterly motiveless and abnormal wickedness and cruelty. These my first
impressions were expressed in the hasty note written at the time:--

  'LONDON, Nov. 5, 1856.

 'DEAREST FRIEND,--I return these. They have held mine eyes
 waking! How strange! how unaccountable! Have you ever subjected the
 facts to the judgment of a medical man learned in nervous pathology?

 '_Is_ it not insanity?

  "Great wits to madness nearly are allied,
  And thin partitions do their bounds divide."

 'But my purpose to-night is not to write you fully what I think of
 this matter. I am going to write to you from Paris more at leisure.'

The rest of the letter was taken up in the final details of a
charity in which Lady Byron had been engaged with me in assisting an
unfortunate artist. It concludes thus:--

 'I write now in all haste, _en route_ for Paris. As to America, all
 is not lost yet.[36] Farewell! I love you, my dear friend, as never
 before, with an intense feeling I cannot easily express. God bless you!

  'H. B. S.'

The next letter is as follows:--

  'PARIS, Dec. 17, 1856.

 [Footnote 36: Alluding to Buchanan's election.]

 'DEAR LADY BYRON,--The Kansas Committee have written me a
 letter desiring me to express to Miss ---- their gratitude for the
 five pounds she sent them. I am not personally acquainted with her,
 and must return these acknowledgments through you.

 'I wrote you a day or two since, enclosing the reply of the Kansas
 Committee to you.

 'On _that subject_ on which you spoke to me the last time we were
 together, I have thought often and deeply.

 'I have changed my mind somewhat. Considering the peculiar
 circumstances of the case, I could wish that the sacred veil of
 silence, so bravely thrown over the past, should never be withdrawn
 during the time that you remain with us.

 'I would say, then, Leave all with some discreet friends, who, after
 _both_ have passed from earth, shall say what was due to _justice_.

 'I am led to think this by seeing how low, how unjust, how unworthy,
 the judgments of this world are; and I would not that what I so much
 respect, love, and revere should be placed within reach of its harpy
 claw, which pollutes what it touches.

 'The day will yet come which will bring to light every hidden thing.
 "There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, neither hid that
 shall not be known;" and so _justice will not fail_.

 'Such, my dear friend, are my thoughts; different from what they were
 since first I heard that strange, sad history. Meanwhile, _I love you
 ever_, whether we meet again on earth or not.

  'Affectionately yours,

  'H. B. S.'

The following letter will here be inserted as confirming a part of Lady
Byron's story:--


 'SIR,--I trust that you will hold me excused from any desire
 to be troublesome, or to rush into print. Both these things are far
 from my wish. But the publication of a book having for its object the
 vindication of Lord Byron's character, and the subsequent appearance
 in your magazine of Mrs. Stowe's article in defence of Lady Byron,
 having led to so much controversy in the various newspapers of the
 day, I feel constrained to put in a few words among the rest.

 'My father was intimately acquainted with Lady Byron's family for many
 years, both before and after her marriage; being, in fact, steward to
 Sir Ralph Milbanke at Seaham, where the marriage took place; and, from
 all my recollections of what he told me of the affair (and he used
 often to talk of it, up to the time of his death, eight years ago), I
 fully agree with Mrs. Stowe's view of the case, and desire to add my
 humble testimony to the truth of what she has stated.

 'Whilst Byron was staying at Seaham, previous to his marriage, he
 spent most of his time pistol-shooting in the plantations adjoining
 the hall, often making use of his glove as a mark; his servant being
 with him to load for him.

 'When all was in readiness for the wedding-ceremony (which took place
 in the drawing-room of the hall), Byron had to be sought for in the
 grounds, where he was walking in his usual surly mood.

 'After the marriage, they posted to Halnaby Lodge in Yorkshire, a
 distance of about forty miles; to which place my father accompanied
 them, and he always spoke strongly of Lady Byron's apparent distress
 during and at the end of the journey.

 'The insulting words mentioned by Mrs. Stowe were spoken by Byron
 before leaving the park at Seaham; after which he appeared to sit
 in moody silence, reading a book, for the rest of the journey. At
 Halnaby, a number of persons, tenants and others, were met to cheer
 them on their arrival. Of these he took not the slightest notice, but
 jumped out of the carriage, and walked away, leaving his bride to
 alight by herself. She shook hands with my father, and begged that he
 would see that some refreshment was supplied to those who had thus
 come to welcome them.

 'I have in my possession several letters (which I should be glad to
 show to anyone interested in the matter) both from Lady Byron, and her
 mother, Lady Milbanke, to my father, all showing the deep and kind
 interest which they took in the welfare of all connected with them,
 and directing the distribution of various charities, &c. Pensions were
 allowed both to the old servants of the Milbankes and to several poor
 persons in the village and neighbourhood for the rest of their lives;
 and Lady Byron never ceased to take a lively interest in all that
 concerned them.

 'I desire to tender my humble thanks to Mrs. Stowe for having
 come forward in defence of one whose character has been much
 misrepresented; and to you, sir, for having published the same in your

  'I have the honour to be, sir, yours obediently,

  'G. H. AIRD.




I have now fulfilled as conscientiously as possible the requests of
those who feel that they have a right to know exactly what was said in
this interview.

It has been my object, in doing this, to place myself just where I
should stand were I giving evidence under oath before a legal tribunal.
In my first published account, there were given some smaller details of
the story, of no particular value to the main purpose of it, which I
received _not_ from Lady Byron, but from her confidential friend. One
of these was the account of her seeing Lord Byron's favourite spaniel
lying at his door, and the other was the scene of the parting.

The first was communicated to me before I ever saw Lady Byron, and
under these circumstances:--I was invited to meet her, and had
expressed my desire to do so, because Lord Byron had been all my life
an object of great interest to me. I inquired what sort of a person
Lady Byron was. My friend spoke of her with enthusiasm. I then said,
'but of course she never _loved_ Lord Byron, or she would not have left
him.' The lady answered, 'I can show you with what feelings she left
him by relating this story;' and then followed the anecdote.

Subsequently, she also related to me the other story of the
parting-scene between Lord and Lady Byron. In regard to these two
incidents, my recollection is clear.

It will be observed by the reader that Lady Byron's conversation with
me was simply for consultation _on one point_, and that point whether
_she herself_ should publish the story before her death. It was not,
therefore, a complete history of all the events in their order, but
specimens of a few incidents and facts. Her object was, not to prove
her story to me, nor to put me in possession of it with a view to _my_
proving it, but simply and briefly to show me _what it was_, that I
might judge as to the probable results of its publication at that time.

It therefore comprised primarily these points:--

1. An exact statement, in so many words, of the crime.

2. A statement of the manner in which it was first forced on her
attention by Lord Byron's words and actions, including: his admissions
and defences of it.

3. The admission of a period when she had ascribed his whole conduct to

4. A reference to later positive evidences of guilt,--the existence of
a child, and Mrs. Leigh's subsequent repentance.

And here I have a word to say in reference to the alleged inaccuracies
of my true story.

The dates that Lady Byron gave me on the memoranda did not relate
either to the time of the first disclosure, or the period when her
doubts became certainties; nor did her conversation touch either of
these points: and, on a careful review of the latter, I see clearly
that it omitted dwelling upon anything which I might be supposed to
have learned from her already published statement.

I re-enclosed that paper to her from London, and have never seen it

In writing my account, which I designed to do in the most general
terms, I took for my guide Miss Martineau's published Memoir of Lady
Byron, which has long stood uncontradicted before the public, of which
Macmillan's London edition is now before me. The reader is referred to
page 316, which reads thus:--

'She was born 1792; married in January 1814; returned to her father's
house in 1816; died on May 16, 1860.' This makes her married life two
years; but we need not say that the date is inaccurate, as Lady Byron
was married in 1815.

Supposing Lady Byron's married life to have covered two years, I
could only reconcile its continuance for that length of time to her
uncertainty as to his sanity; to deceptions practised on her, making
her doubt at one time, and believe at another; and his keeping her in a
general state of turmoil and confusion, till at last he took the step
of banishing her.

Various other points taken from Miss Martineau have also been attacked
as inaccuracies; for example, the number of executions in the house:
but these points, though of no importance, are substantially borne out
by Moore's statements.

This controversy, unfortunately, cannot be managed with the accuracy of
a legal trial. Its course, hitherto, has rather resembled the course of
a drawing-room scandal, where everyone freely throws in an assertion,
with or without proof. In making out my narrative, however, I shall use
only certain authentic sources, some of which have for a long time been
before the public, and some of which have floated up from the waves of
the recent controversy. I consider as authentic sources,--

Moore's Life of Byron;

Lady Byron's own account of the separation, published in 1830;

Lady Byron's statements to me in 1856;

Lord Lindsay's communication, giving an extract from Lady Anne
Barnard's diary, and a copy of a letter from Lady Byron dated 1818,
about three years after her marriage;

Mrs. Mimms' testimony, as given in a daily paper published at
Newcastle, England;

And Lady Byron's letters, as given recently in the late 'London

All which documents appear to arrange themselves into a connected

From these, then, let us construct the story.

According to Mrs. Mimms' account, which is likely to be accurate, the
time spent by Lord and Lady Byron in bridal-visiting was three weeks at
Halnaby Hall, and six weeks at Seaham, when Mrs. Mimms quitted their

During this first period of three weeks, Lord Byron's treatment of his
wife, as testified to by the servant, was such that she advised her
young mistress to return to her parents; and, at one time, Lady Byron
had almost resolved to do so.

What the particulars of his conduct were, the servant refuses to state;
being bound by a promise of silence to her mistress. She, however,
testifies to a warm friendship existing between Lady Byron and Mrs.
Leigh, in a manner which would lead us to feel that Lady Byron received
and was received by Lord Byron's sister with the greatest affection.
Lady Byron herself says to Lady Anne Barnard, 'I had heard that he was
the best of brothers;' and the inference is, that she, at an early
period of her married life, felt the greatest confidence in his sister,
and wished to have her with them as much as possible. In Lady Anne's
account, this wish to have the sister with her was increased by Lady
Byron's distress at her husband's attempts to corrupt her principles
with regard to religion and marriage.

In Moore's Life, vol. iii., letter 217, Lord Byron writes from Seaham
to Moore, under date of March 8, sending a copy of his verses in Lady
Byron's handwriting, and saying, 'We shall leave this place to-morrow,
and shall stop on our way to town, in the interval of taking a house
there, at Colonel Leigh's, near Newmarket, where any epistle of yours
will find its welcome way. I have been very comfortable here, listening
to that d----d monologue which elderly gentlemen call conversation, in
which my pious father-in-law repeats himself every evening, save one,
when he played upon the fiddle. However, they have been vastly kind and
hospitable, and I like them and the place vastly; and I hope they will
live many happy months. Bell is in health and unvaried good-humour and
behaviour; but we are in all the agonies of packing and parting.'

Nine days after this, under date of March 17, Lord Byron says, 'We
mean to metropolize to-morrow, and you will address your next to
Piccadilly.' The inference is, that the days intermediate were spent
at Colonel Leigh's. The next letters, and all subsequent ones for six
months, are dated from Piccadilly.

As we have shown, there is every reason to believe that a warm
friendship had thus arisen between Mrs. Leigh and Lady Byron, and that,
during all this time, Lady Byron desired as much of the society of her
sister-in-law as possible. She was a married woman and a mother, her
husband's nearest relative; and Lady Byron could with more propriety
ask, from her, counsel or aid in respect to his peculiarities than she
could from her own parents. If we consider the character of Lady Byron
as given by Mrs. Mimms,--that of a young person of warm but repressed
feeling, without sister or brother, longing for human sympathy,
and having so far found no relief but in talking with a faithful
dependant,--we may easily see that the acquisition of a sister through
Lord Byron might have been all in all to her, and that the feelings
which he checked and rejected for himself might have flowed out towards
his sister with enthusiasm. The date of Mrs. Leigh's visit does not

The first domestic indication in Lord Byron's letters from London is
the announcement of the death of Lady Byron's uncle, Lord Wentworth,
from whom came large expectations of property. Lord Byron had mentioned
him before in his letters as so kind to Bell and himself that he
could not find it in his heart to wish him in heaven if he preferred
staying here. In his letter of April 23, he mentions going to the play
immediately after hearing this news, 'although,' as he says, 'he ought
to have stayed at home in sackcloth for "unc."'

On June 12, he writes that Lady Byron is more than three months
advanced in her progress towards maternity; and that they have been out
very little, as he wishes to keep her quiet. We are informed by Moore
that Lord Byron was at this time a member of the Drury-Lane Theatre
Committee; and that, in this unlucky connection, one of the fatalities
of the first year of trial as a husband lay. From the strain of Byron's
letters, as given in Moore, it is apparent, that, while he thinks it
best for his wife to remain at home, he does not propose to share the
retirement, but prefers running his own separate career with such
persons as thronged the greenroom of the theatre in those days.

In commenting on Lord Byron's course, we must not by any means be
supposed to indicate that he was doing any more or worse than most gay
young men of his time. The licence of the day as to getting drunk at
dinner-parties, and leading, generally, what would, in these days, be
called a disorderly life, was great. We should infer that none of the
literary men of Byron's time would have been ashamed of being drunk
occasionally. The Noctes Ambrosianæ Club of 'Blackwood' is full of
songs glorying, in the broadest terms, in out-and-out drunkenness, and
inviting to it as the highest condition of a civilised being.[37]

[Footnote 37: Shelton Mackenzie, in a note to the 'Noctes' of July
1822, gives the following saying of Maginn, one of the principal lights
of the club: 'No man, however much he might tend to civilisation,
was to be regarded as having absolutely reached its apex until he
was drunk.' He also records it as a further joke of the club, that a
man's having reached this apex was to be tested by his inability to
pronounce the word 'civilisation,' which, he says, after ten o'clock at
night ought to be abridged to _civilation_, 'by syncope, or vigorously
speaking by hic-cup.']

But drunkenness upon Lord Byron had a peculiar and specific effect,
which he notices afterwards, in his Journal, at Venice: 'The effect
of all wines and spirits upon me is, however, strange. It settles,
but makes me gloomy--gloomy at the very moment of their effect: it
composes, however, though _sullenly_.'[38] And, again, in another
place, he says, 'Wine and spirits make me sullen, and savage to

[Footnote 38: Vol. v. pp. 61, 75.]

It is well known that the effects of alcoholic excitement are various
as the natures of the subjects. But by far the worst effects, and the
most destructive to domestic peace, are those that occur in cases where
spirits, instead of acting on the nerves of motion, and depriving
the subject of power in that direction, stimulate the brain so as to
produce there the ferocity, the steadiness, the utter deadness to
compassion or conscience, which characterise a madman. How fearful
to a sensitive young mother in the period of pregnancy might be the
return of such a madman to the domestic roof! Nor can we account for
those scenes described in Lady Anne Barnard's letters, where Lord Byron
returned from his evening parties to try torturing experiments on his
wife, otherwise than by his own statement, that spirits, while they
_steadied_ him, made him 'gloomy, and savage to ferocity.'

Take for example this:--

 'One night, coming home from one of his lawless parties, he saw me
 (Lady B.) so indignantly collected, and bearing all with such a
 determined calmness, that a rush of remorse seemed to come over him.
 He called himself a monster, and, though his sister was present, threw
 himself in agony at my feet. "I could not, no, I could not, forgive
 him such injuries! He had lost me for ever!" Astonished at this return
 to virtue, my tears, I believe, flowed over his face; and I said,
 "Byron, all is forgotten; _never_, never shall you hear of it more."

 'He started up, and folding his arms while he looked at me, burst
 out into laughter. "What do you mean?" said I. "Only a philosophical
 experiment; that's all," said he. "I wished to ascertain the value of
 your resolutions."'

To ascribe such deliberate cruelty as this to the effect of drink upon
Lord Byron, is the most charitable construction that can be put upon
his conduct.

Yet the manners of the period were such, that Lord Byron must have
often come to this condition while only doing what many of his
acquaintances did freely, and without fear of consequences.

Mr. Moore, with his usual artlessness, gives us an idea of a private
supper between himself and Lord Byron. We give it, with our own
italics, as a specimen of many others:--

 'Having taken upon me to order the repast, and knowing that Lord Byron
 for the last two days had done nothing towards sustenance beyond
 eating a few biscuits and (to appease appetite) chewing mastic, I
 desired that we should have a good supply of at least two kinds of
 fish. My companion, however, confined himself to lobsters; and of
 these finished two or three, to his own share, interposing, sometimes,
 a small liqueur-glass of strong white brandy, sometimes a tumbler of
 very hot water, and then pure brandy again, to the amount of near half
 a dozen small glasses of the latter, without which, alternately with
 the hot water, he appeared to think the lobster could not be digested.
 After this, we had claret, of which, having despatched two bottles
 between us, at about four o'clock in the morning we parted.

 'As Pope has thought his "delicious lobster-nights" worth
 commemorating, these particulars of one in which Lord Byron was
 concerned may also have some interest.

 'Among _other nights of the same description which I had the happiness
 of passing with him_, I remember once, in returning home from some
 assembly at rather a late hour, we saw lights in the windows of his
 old haunt, Stevens's in Bond Street, and agreed to stop there and
 sup. On entering, we found an old friend of his, Sir G---- W----, who
 joined our party; and, the _lobsters and brandy and water being put
 in requisition, it was (as usual on such occasions) broad daylight
 before we separated_.'--Vol. iii. p. 83.

During the latter part of Lady Byron's pregnancy, it appears from Moore
that Byron was, night after night, engaged out at dinner parties,
in which getting drunk was considered as of course the _finale_, as
appears from the following letters:--

(LETTER 228.)


  TERRACE, PICCADILLY, Oct. 31, 1815.

 'I have not been able to ascertain precisely the time of duration of
 the stock-market; but I believe it is a good time for selling out, and
 I hope so. First, because I shall see you; and, next, because I shall
 receive certain moneys on behalf of Lady B., the which will materially
 conduce to my comfort; I wanting (as the duns say) "to make up a sum."

 'Yesterday I dined out with a large-ish party, where were Sheridan
 and Colman, Harry Harris, of C. G., and his brother, Sir Gilbert
 Heathcote, Ds. Kinnaird, and others of note and notoriety. _Like
 other parties of the kind, it was first silent, then talky, then
 argumentative, then disputatious, then unintelligible,[39] then
 altogethery, then inarticulate, and then drunk._ When we had reached
 the last step of this glorious ladder, it was difficult to get down
 again without stumbling; and, to crown all, Kinnaird and I had
 to conduct Sheridan down a d----d corkscrew staircase, which had
 certainly been constructed before the discovery of fermented liquors,
 and to which no legs, however crooked, could possibly accommodate
 themselves. We deposited him safe at home, where his man, _evidently
 used to the business_,[40] waited to receive him in the hall.

 [Footnote 39: These italics are ours.]

 [Footnote 40: These italics are ours.]

 'Both he and Colman were, as usual, very good; but I carried away much
 wine, and the wine had previously carried away my memory: so that
 all was hiccough and happiness for the last hour or so, and I am
 not impregnated with any of the conversation. Perhaps you heard of a
 late answer of Sheridan to the watchman who found him bereft of that
 "divine particle of air" called reason.... He (the watchman) found
 Sherry in the street fuddled and bewildered, and almost insensible.
 "Who are _you_, sir?"--No answer. "What's your name?"--A hiccough.
 "What's your name?"--Answer, in a slow, deliberate, and impassive
 tone, "Wilberforce!" Is not that Sherry all over?--and, to my mind,
 excellent. Poor fellow, _his_ very dregs are better than the "first
 sprightly runnings" of others.

 'My paper is full, and I have a grievous headache.

 'P.S.--Lady B. is in full progress. Next month will bring to light
 (with the aid of "Juno Lucina, _fer opem_," or rather _opes_, for the
 last are most wanted) the tenth wonder of the world; Gil Blas being
 the eighth, and he (my son's father) the ninth.'

Here we have a picture of the whole story,--Lady Byron within a month
of her confinement; her money being used to settle debts; her husband
out at a dinner-party, going through the _usual course_ of such
parties, able to keep his legs and help Sheridan downstairs, and going
home 'gloomy, and savage to ferocity,' to his wife.

Four days after this (letter 229), we find that this dinner-party is
not an exceptional one, but one of a series: for he says, 'To-day I
dine with Kinnaird,--we are to have Sheridan and Colman again; and
to-morrow, once more, at Sir Gilbert Heathcote's.'

Afterward, in Venice, he reviews the state of his health, at this
period in London; and his account shows that his excesses in the
vices of his times had wrought effects on his sensitive, nervous
organisation, very different from what they might on the more
phlegmatic constitutions of ordinary Englishmen. In his journal, dated
Venice, Feb. 2, 1821, he says,--

 'I have been considering what can be the reason why I always wake at
 a certain hour in the morning, and always in very bad spirits,--I may
 say, in actual despair and despondency, in all respects, even of that
 which pleased me over night. In about an hour or two this goes off,
 and I compose either to sleep again, or at least to quiet. In England,
 five years ago, I had the same kind of hypochondria, but accompanied
 with so violent a thirst, that I have drunk as many as fifteen bottles
 of soda-water in one night, after going to bed, and been still
 thirsty,--calculating, however, some lost from the bursting-out and
 effervescence and overflowing of the soda-water in drawing the corks,
 or striking off the necks of the bottles from mere thirsty impatience.
 At present, I have _not_ the thirst; but the depression of spirits is
 no less violent.'--Vol. v. p. 96.

These extracts go to show what _must_ have been the condition of the
man whom Lady Byron was called to receive at the intervals when he
came back from his various social excitements and pleasures. That his
nerves were exacerbated by violent extremes of abstinence and reckless
indulgence; that he was often day after day drunk, and that drunkenness
made him savage and ferocious,--such are the facts clearly shown by Mr.
Moore's narrative. Of the natural peculiarities of Lord Byron's temper,
he thus speaks to the Countess of Blessington:--

 'I often think that I inherit my violence and bad temper from my poor
 mother,--not that my father, from all I could ever learn, had a much
 better; so that it is no wonder I have such a very bad one. As long
 as I can remember anything, I recollect being subject to violent
 paroxysms of rage, so disproportioned to the cause as to surprise me
 when they were over; and this still continues. I cannot coolly view
 any thing which excites my feelings; and, once the lurking devil in
 me is roused, I lose all command of myself. I do not recover a good
 fit of rage for days after. Mind, I do not by this mean that the
 ill humour continues, as, on the contrary, that quickly subsides,
 exhausted by its own violence; but it shakes me terribly, and leaves
 me low and nervous after.'--_Lady Blessington's Conversations_, p. 142.

That during this time also his irritation and ill temper were increased
by the mortification of duns, debts, and executions, is on the face of
Moore's story. Moore himself relates one incident, which gives some
idea of the many which may have occurred at these times, in a note
on p. 215, vol. iv., where he speaks of Lord Byron's destroying a
favourite old watch that had been his companion from boyhood, and gone
with him to Greece. 'In a fit of vexation and rage, brought upon him by
some of these humiliating embarrassments, to which he was now almost
daily a prey, he furiously dashed this watch on the hearth, and ground
it to pieces with the poker among the ashes.'

It is no wonder, that, with a man of this kind to manage, Lady Byron
should have clung to the only female companionship she could dare to
trust in the case, and earnestly desired to retain with her the sister,
who seemed, more than herself, to have influence over him.

The first letter given by 'The Quarterly,' from Lady Byron to Mrs.
Leigh, without a date, evidently belongs to this period, when the
sister's society presented itself as a refuge in her approaching
confinement. Mrs. Leigh speaks of leaving. The young wife conscious
that the house presents no attractions, and that soon she herself shall
be laid by, cannot urge Mrs. Leigh's stay as likely to give her any
pleasure, but only as a comfort to herself.

 'You will think me very foolish; but I have tried two or three times,
 and cannot _talk_ to you of your departure with a decent visage: so
 let me say one word in this way to spare my philosophy. With the
 expectations which I have, I never will nor can ask you to stay one
 moment longer than you are inclined to do. It would [be] the worst
 return for all I ever received from you. But in this at least I _am_
 "truth itself," when I say, that whatever the situation may be, there
 is no one whose society is dearer to me, or can contribute more to my
 happiness. These feelings will not change under any circumstances,
 and I should be grieved if you did not understand them. Should you
 hereafter condemn me, I shall not love you less. I will say no more.
 Judge for yourself about going or staying. I wish you to consider
 _yourself_, if you could be wise enough to do that, for the first time
 in your life.


  'A. I. B.'

  Addressed on the cover, 'To The Hon. Mrs. Leigh.'

This letter not being dated, we have no clue but what we obtain from
its own internal evidence. It certainly is not written in Lady Byron's
usual clear and elegant style; and is, in this respect, in striking
contrast to all her letters that I have ever seen.

But the notes written by a young woman under such peculiar and
distressing circumstances must not be judged by the standard of calmer

Subsequently to this letter, and during that stormy, irrational period
when Lord Byron's conduct became daily more and more unaccountable, may
have come that startling scene in which Lord Byron took every pains to
convince his wife of improper relations subsisting between himself and
his sister.

What an _utter_ desolation this must have been to the wife, tearing
from her the last hold of friendship, and the last refuge to which she
had clung in her sorrows, may easily be conceived.

In this crisis, it appears that the _sister_ convinced Lady Byron that
the whole was to be attributed to insanity. It would be a conviction
gladly accepted, and bringing infinite relief, although still
surrounding her path with fearful difficulties.

That such was the case is plainly asserted by Lady Byron in her
statement published in 1830. Speaking of her separation, Lady Byron

 'The facts are, I left London for Kirkby Mallory, the residence of
 my father and mother, on the 15th of January, 1816. Lord Byron had
 signified to me in writing, Jan. 6, his _absolute desire_ that I
 should leave London on the earliest day that I could conveniently fix.
 It was not safe for me to encounter the fatigues of a journey sooner
 than the 15th. _Previously to my departure, it had been strongly
 impressed on my mind that Lord Byron was under the influence of

 'This opinion was in a great measure derived from the communications
 made to me by his _nearest relatives_ and personal attendant.'

Now there was no nearer relative than Mrs. Leigh; and the personal
attendant was Fletcher. It was therefore presumably Mrs. Leigh who
convinced Lady Byron of her husband's insanity.

Lady Byron says, 'It was even represented to me that he was in danger
of destroying himself.

'_With the concurrence_ of his family, I had consulted with Dr.
Baillie, as a friend, on Jan. 8, as to his supposed malady.' Now, Lord
Byron's written order for her to leave came on Jan. 6. It appears,
then, that Lady Byron, acting in concurrence with Mrs. Leigh and
others of her husband's family, consulted Dr. Baillie, on Jan. 8, as
to what she should do; the symptoms presented to Dr. Baillie being,
evidently, insane hatred of his wife on the part of Lord Byron, and a
determination to get her out of the house. Lady Byron goes on:--

 'On acquainting him with the state of the case, and with Lord
 Byron's desire that I should leave London, Dr. Baillie thought my
 absence might be advisable as an experiment, _assuming_ the fact of
 mental derangement; for Dr. Baillie, not having had access to Lord
 Byron, could not pronounce an opinion on that point. He enjoined,
 that, in correspondence with Lord Byron, I should avoid all but
 light and soothing topics. Under these impressions, I left London,
 determined to follow the advice given me by Dr. Baillie. Whatever
 might have been the nature of Lord Byron's treatment of me from the
 time of my marriage, yet, supposing him to have been in a state of
 mental alienation, it was not for _me_, nor for any person of common
 humanity, to manifest at that moment a sense of injury.'

It appears, then, that the domestic situation in Byron's house at the
time of his wife's expulsion was one so grave as to call for family
counsel; for Lady Byron, generally accurate, speaks in the plural
number. 'His _nearest_ relatives' certainly includes Mrs. Leigh. 'His
family' includes more. That some of Lord Byron's own relatives were
cognisant of facts at this time, and that they took Lady Byron's side,
is shown by one of his own chance admissions. In vol. vi. p. 394, in a
letter on Bowles, he says, speaking of this time, '_All my relations_,
save one, fell from me like leaves from a tree in autumn.' And in
Medwin's Conversations he says, 'Even my cousin George Byron, who had
been brought up with me, and whom I loved as a brother, took my wife's
part.' The conduct must have been marked in the extreme that led to
this result.

We cannot help stopping here to say that Lady Byron's situation at
this time has been discussed in our days with a want of ordinary human
feeling that is surprising. Let any father and mother, reading this,
look on their own daughter, and try to make the case their own.

After a few short months of married life,--months full of patient
endurance of the strangest and most unaccountable treatment,--she comes
to them, expelled from her husband's house, an object of hatred and
aversion to him, and having to settle for herself the awful question,
whether he is a dangerous madman or a determined villain.

Such was this young wife's situation.

With a heart at times wrung with compassion for her husband as a
helpless maniac, and fearful that all may end in suicide, yet compelled
to leave him, she writes on the road the much-quoted letter, beginning
'Dear Duck.' This is an exaggerated and unnatural letter, it is
true, but of precisely the character that might be expected from an
inexperienced young wife when dealing with a husband supposed to be

The next day, she addressed to Augusta this letter:--

 'MY DEAREST A.,--It is my great comfort that _you_ are still
 in Piccadilly.'

And again, on the 23rd:--

 'DEAREST A.,--I know you feel for me, as 1 do for you; and
 perhaps I am better understood than I think. You have been, ever since
 I knew you, my best comforter; and will so remain, unless you grow
 tired of the office,--which may well be.'

We can see here how self-denying and heroic appears to Lady Byron the
conduct of the sister, who patiently remains to soothe and guide and
restrain the moody madman, whose madness takes a form, at times, so
repulsive to every womanly feeling. She intimates that she should not
wonder should Augusta grow weary of the office.

Lady Byron continues her statement thus:--

 'When I arrived at Kirkby Mallory, my parents were unacquainted
 with the existence of any causes likely to destroy my prospects of
 happiness; and, when I communicated to them the opinion that had been
 formed concerning Lord Byron's state of mind, they were most anxious
 to promote his restoration by every means in their power. They assured
 those relations that were with him in London that "they would devote
 their whole care and attention to the alleviation of his malady."'

Here we have a _quotation_[41] from a letter written by Lady Milbanke
to the anxious 'relations' who are taking counsel about Lord Byron in
town. Lady Byron also adds, in justification of her mother from Lord
Byron's slanders, 'She had always treated him with an affectionate
consideration and indulgence, which extended to every little
peculiarity of his feelings. Never did an irritating word escape her
lips in her whole intercourse with him.'

[Footnote 41: This little incident shows the characteristic carefulness
and accuracy of Lady Byron's habits. This statement was written
_fourteen_ years after the events spoken of; but Lady Byron carefully
quotes a passage from her mother's letter written at that time. This
shows that a copy of Lady Milbanke's letter had been preserved, and
makes it appear probable that copies of the whole correspondence of
that period were also kept. Great light could be thrown on the whole
transaction, could these documents be consulted.]

Now comes a remarkable part of Lady Byron's statement:--

 'The accounts given me after I left Lord Byron, by those in constant
 intercourse with him,[42] _added_ to those doubts which had before
 transiently occurred to my mind as to the reality of the alleged
 disease; and the reports of his medical attendants were far from
 establishing anything like lunacy.'

[Footnote 42: Here, again, Lady Byron's sealed papers might furnish
light. The letters addressed to her at this time by those in constant
intercourse with Lord Byron are doubtless preserved, and would show her
ground of action.]

When these doubts arose in her mind, it is not natural to suppose
that they should, at first, involve Mrs. Leigh. She still appears to
Lady Byron as the devoted, believing sister, fully convinced of her
brother's insanity, and endeavouring to restrain and control him.

But if Lord Byron were sane, if the purposes he had avowed to his wife
were real, he must have lied about his sister in the past, and perhaps
have the worst intentions for the future.

The horrors of that state of vacillation between the conviction of
insanity and the commencing conviction of something worse can scarcely
be told.

At all events, the wife's doubts extend so far that she speaks out to
her parents. 'UNDER THIS UNCERTAINTY,' says the statement,
'I deemed it right to communicate to my parents, that, if I were to
consider Lord Byron's past conduct as that of a person of sound mind,
_nothing could induce me to return to him_. It therefore appeared
expedient, both to them and to myself, to consult the ablest advisers.
For that object, and also to obtain still further information
respecting appearances which indicated mental derangement, my mother
determined to go to London. She was empowered by me to take legal
opinion on a written statement of mine; though I then had reasons for
reserving a _part of the case from the knowledge even of my father and

It is during this time of uncertainty that the next letter to Mrs.
Leigh may be placed. It seems to be rather a fragment of a letter
than a whole one: perhaps it is an extract; in which case it would be
desirable, if possible, to view it in connection with the remaining

  'Jan. 25, 1816.

 'MY DEAREST AUGUSTA,--Shall I still be your sister? I must
 resign my right to be so considered; but I don't think that will make
 any difference in the kindness I have so uniformly experienced from

This fragment is not signed, nor finished in any way, but indicates
that the writer is about to take a decisive step.

On the 17th, as we have seen, Lady Milbanke had written, inviting
Lord Byron. Subsequently she went to London to make more particular
inquiries into his state. This fragment seems part of a letter from
Lady Byron, called forth in view of some evidence resulting from her
mother's observations.[43]

[Footnote 43: Probably Lady Milbanke's letters are among the sealed
papers, and would more fully explain the situation.]

Lady Byron now adds:--

 'Being convinced by the result of these inquiries, and by the tenour
 of Lord Byron's proceedings, that the notion of insanity was an
 illusion, I no longer hesitated to authorize such measures as were
 necessary in order to secure me from ever being again placed in his

 'Conformably with this resolution, my father wrote to him, on the 2nd
 of February, to request an amicable separation.'

The following letter to Mrs. Leigh is dated the day after this
application, and is in many respects a noticeable one:--

  'KIRKBY MALLORY, Feb. 3, 1816.

 'MY DEAREST AUGUSTA,--You are desired by your brother to ask
 if my father has acted with my concurrence in proposing a separation.
 He has. It cannot be supposed, that, in my present distressing
 situation, I am capable of stating in a detailed manner the reasons
 which will not only justify this measure, but compel me to take it;
 and it never can be my wish to remember _unnecessarily_ [_sic_]
 those injuries for which, however deep, I feel no resentment. I will
 now only recall to Lord Byron's mind his avowed and insurmountable
 aversion to the married state, and the desire and determination
 he has expressed ever since its commencement to free himself from
 that bondage, as finding it quite insupportable, though candidly
 acknowledging that no effort of duty or affection has been wanting on
 my part. He has too painfully convinced me that all these attempts
 to contribute towards his happiness were wholly useless, and most
 unwelcome to him. I enclose this letter to my father, wishing it to
 receive his sanction.

  'Ever yours most affectionately,

  'A. I. BYRON.'

We observe in this letter that it is written to _be shown_ to Lady
Byron's father, and receive his sanction; and, as that father was
in ignorance of all the deeper causes of trouble in the case, it
will be seen that the letter must necessarily be a reserved one.
This sufficiently accounts for the guarded character of the language
when speaking of the causes of separation. One part of the letter
incidentally overthrows Lord Byron's statement, which he always
repeated during his life, and which is repeated for him now; namely,
that his wife _forsook_ him, instead of being, as she claims,
_expelled_ by him.

She recalls to Lord Byron's mind the 'desire and _determination_ he has
expressed ever since his marriage to free himself from its bondage.'

This is in perfect keeping with the '_absolute_ desire,' signified
by writing, that she should leave his house on the earliest day
possible; and she places the cause of the separation on his having 'too
painfully' convinced her that he does not want her--as a wife.

It appears that Augusta hesitates to show this note to her brother. It
is bringing on a crisis which she, above all others, would most wish to

In the meantime, Lady Byron receives a letter from Lord Byron, which
makes her feel it more than ever essential to make the decision final.
I have reason to believe that this letter is preserved in Lady Byron's

  'Feb. 4, 1816.

 'I hope, my dear A., that you would on no account withhold from your
 brother the letter which I sent yesterday in answer to yours written
 by his desire, particularly as one which I have received from himself
 to-day renders it still more important that he should know the
 contents of that addressed to you, I am, in haste and not very well,

  'Yours most affectionately,

  'A. I. BYRON.'

The last of this series of letters is less like the style of Lady Byron
than any of them. We cannot judge whether it is a whole consecutive
letter, or fragments from a letter, selected and united. There is a
great want of that clearness and precision which usually characterised
Lady Byron's style. It shows, however, that the decision is made,--a
decision which she regrets on account of the sister who has tried so
long to prevent it.

  'KIRKBY MALLORY, Feb. 14, 1816.

 'The present sufferings of all may yet be repaid in blessings. Do
 not despair absolutely, dearest; and leave me but enough of your
 interest to afford you any consolation by partaking of that sorrow
 which I am most unhappy to cause thus unintentionally. _You will_ be
 of my opinion hereafter; and at present your bitterest reproach would
 be forgiven, though Heaven knows you have considered me more than a
 thousand would have done,--more than anything but my affection for
 B., one most dear to you, could deserve. I must not remember these
 feelings. Farewell! God bless you from the bottom of my heart!

  'A. I. B.'

We are here to consider that Mrs. Leigh has stood to Lady Byron in
all this long agony as her only confidante and friend; that she has
denied the charges her brother has made, and referred them to insanity,
admitting insane _attempts_ upon herself which she has been obliged to
watch over and control.

Lady Byron has come to the conclusion that Augusta is mistaken as to
insanity; that there is a real wicked _purpose_ and desire on the part
of the brother, not as yet believed in by the sister. She regards the
sister as one, who, though deceived and blinded, is still worthy of
confidence and consideration; and so says to her, '_You will be of my
opinion hereafter_.'

She says, 'You have considered me more than a thousand would have
done.' Mrs. Leigh is, in Lady Byron's eyes, a most abused and innocent
woman, who, to spare her sister in her delicate situation, has taken on
herself the whole charge of a maniacal brother, although suffering from
him language and actions of the most injurious kind. That Mrs. Leigh
did not flee the house at once under such circumstances, and wholly
decline the management of the case, seems to Lady Byron consideration
and self-sacrifice greater than she can acknowledge.

The knowledge of the _whole extent of the truth_ came to Lady Byron's
mind at a later period.

We now take up the history from Lushington's letter to Lady Byron,
published at the close of her statement.

The application to Lord Byron for an act of separation was positively
refused at first; it being an important part of his policy that all the
responsibility and insistance should come from his wife, and that he
should appear forced into it contrary to his will.

Dr. Lushington, however, says to Lady Byron,--

 'I was originally consulted by Lady Noel on your behalf while you
 were in the country. The circumstances detailed by her were such
 as justified a separation; but they were not of that aggravated
 description as to render such a measure indispensable. On Lady
 Noel's representations, I deemed a reconciliation with Lord Byron
 practicable, and felt most sincerely a wish to aid in effecting it.
 There was not, on Lady Noel's part, any exaggeration of the facts,
 nor, so far as I could perceive, any determination to prevent a
 return to Lord Byron: certainly none was expressed when I spoke of a

In this crisis, with Lord Byron refusing the separation, with
Lushington expressing a wish to aid in a reconciliation, and Lady Noel
not expressing any aversion to it, the whole strain of the dreadful
responsibility comes upon the wife.

She resolves to ask counsel of her lawyer, in view of a statement of
the _whole_ case.

Lady Byron is spoken of by Lord Byron (letter 233) as being in town
with her father on the 29th of February; viz., fifteen days after the
date of the last letter to Mrs. Leigh. It must have been about this
time, then, that she laid her whole case before Lushington; and he gave
it a thorough examination.

The result was, that Lushington expressed in the most decided terms his
conviction that reconciliation was impossible. The language he uses is
very striking:--

 'When you came to town in about a fortnight, or perhaps more, after my
 first interview with Lady Noel, I was, for the first time, informed
 by you of facts utterly unknown, as I have no doubt, to Sir Ralph and
 Lady Noel. On receiving this additional information, my opinion was
 entirely changed. I considered a reconciliation impossible. I declared
 my opinion, and added, that, if such an idea should be entertained, I
 could not, either professionally or otherwise, take any part towards
 effecting it.'

It does not appear in this note what effect the lawyer's examination
of the case had on Lady Byron's mind. By the expressions he uses, we
should infer that she may still have been hesitating as to whether a
reconciliation might not be her duty.

This hesitancy he does away with most decisively, saying, 'A
reconciliation is impossible;' and, supposing Lady Byron or her
friends desirous of one, he declares positively that he cannot, either
professionally as a lawyer or privately as a friend, have anything to
do with effecting it.

The lawyer, it appears, has drawn, from the facts of the case,
inferences deeper and stronger than those which presented themselves to
the mind of the young woman; and he instructs her in the most absolute

Fourteen years after, in 1830, for the first time the world was
astonished by this declaration from Dr. Lushington, in language so
pronounced and positive that there could be no mistake.

Lady Byron had stood all these fourteen years slandered by her husband,
and misunderstood by his friends, when, had she so chosen, this opinion
of Dr. Lushington's could have been at once made public, which fully
justified her conduct.

If, as the 'Blackwood' of July insinuates, the story told to Lushington
was a malignant slander, meant to injure Lord Byron, why did she
suppress the judgment of her counsel at a time when all the world
was on her side, and this decision would have been the decisive blow
against her husband? Why, by sealing the lips of counsel, and of all
whom she could influence, did she deprive herself finally of the very
advantage for which it has been assumed she fabricated the story?



It will be observed, that, in this controversy, we are confronting two
opposing stories,--one of Lord and the other of Lady Byron; and the
statements from each are in point-blank contradiction.

Lord Byron states that his wife deserted him. Lady Byron states that he
expelled her, and reminds him, in her letter to Augusta Leigh, that the
expulsion was a deliberate one, and that he had purposed it from the
beginning of their marriage.

Lord Byron always stated that he was ignorant why his wife left him,
and was desirous of her return. Lady Byron states that he told her that
he would force her to leave him, and to leave him in such a way that
the whole blame of the separation should always rest on her, and not on

To say nothing of any deeper or darker accusations on either side,
here, in the very outworks of the story, the two meet point-blank.

In considering two opposing stories, we always, as a matter of fact,
take into account the character of the witnesses.

If a person be literal and exact in his usual modes of speech,
reserved, careful, conscientious, and in the habit of observing
minutely the minor details of time, place, and circumstances, we give
weight to his testimony from these considerations. But if a person
be proved to have singular and exceptional principles with regard to
truth; if he be universally held by society to be so in the habit of
mystification, that large allowances must be made for his statements;
if his assertions at one time contradict those made at another; and if
his statements, also, sometimes come in collision with those of his
best friends, so that, when his language is reported, difficulties
follow, and explanations are made necessary,--all this certainly
disqualifies him from being considered a trustworthy witness.

All these disqualifications belong in a remarkable degree to Lord
Byron, on the oft-repeated testimony of his best friends.

We shall first cite the following testimony, given in an article from
'Under the Crown,' which is written by an early friend and ardent
admirer of Lord Byron:--

 'Byron had one pre-eminent fault,--a fault which must be considered as
 deeply criminal by everyone who does not, as I do, believe it to have
 resulted from monomania. He had a morbid love of a bad reputation.
 There was hardly an offence of which he would not, with perfect
 indifference, accuse himself. An old schoolfellow who met him on the
 Continent told me that he would continually write paragraphs against
 himself in the foreign journals, and delight in their republication
 by the English newspapers as in the success of a practical joke.
 Whenever anybody has related anything discreditable of Byron, assuring
 me that it must be true, for he heard it from himself, I always felt
 that he could not have spoken upon worse authority; and that, in all
 probability, the tale was a pure invention. If I could remember,
 and were willing to repeat, the various misdoings which I have from
 time to time heard him attribute to himself, I could fill a volume.
 But I never believed them. I very soon became aware of this strange
 idiosyncrasy: it puzzled me to account for it; but there it was, a
 sort of diseased and distorted vanity. The same eccentric spirit
 would induce him to report things which were false with regard to his
 family, which anybody else would have concealed, though true. He told
 me more than once that his father was insane, and killed himself. I
 shall never forget the manner in which he first told me this. While
 washing his hands, and singing a gay Neapolitan air, he stopped,
 looked round at me, and said, "There always was madness in the
 family." Then, after continuing his washing and his song, he added, as
 if speaking of a matter of the slightest indifference, "My father cut
 his throat." The contrast between the tenour of the subject and the
 levity of the expression was fearfully painful: it was like a stanza
 of "Don Juan." In this instance, I had no doubt that the fact was as
 he related it; but in speaking of it, only a few years since, to an
 old lady in whom I had perfect confidence, she assured me that it was
 not so. Mr. Byron, who was her cousin, had been extremely wild, but
 was quite sane, and had died very quietly in his bed. What Byron's
 reason could have been for thus calumniating not only himself but
 the blood which was flowing in his veins, who can divine? But, for
 some reason or other, it seemed to be his determined purpose to keep
 himself unknown to the great body of his fellow-creatures; to present
 himself to their view in moral masquerade.'

Certainly the character of Lord Byron here given by his friend is
not the kind to make him a trustworthy witness in any case: on the
contrary, it seems to show either a subtle delight in falsehood for
falsehood's sake, or else the wary artifices of a man who, having a
deadly secret to conceal, employs many turnings and windings to throw
the world off the scent. What intriguer, having a crime to cover, could
devise a more artful course than to send half a dozen absurd stories to
the press, which should, after a while, be traced back to himself, till
the public should gradually look on all it heard from him as the result
of this eccentric humour?

The easy, trifling air with which Lord Byron made to this friend a
false statement in regard to his father would lead naturally to the
inquiry, on what _other_ subjects, equally important to the good name
of others, he might give false testimony with equal indifference.

When Medwin's 'Conversations with Lord Byron' were first published,
they contained a number of declarations of the noble lord affecting the
honour and honesty of his friend and publisher Murray. These appear
to have been made in the same way as those about his father, and with
equal indifference. So serious were the charges, that Mr. Murray's
friends felt that he ought, in justice to himself, to come forward and
confront them with the facts as stated in Byron's letters to himself;
and in vol. x., p. 143, of Murray's standard edition, accordingly
these false statements are confronted with the letters of Lord Byron.
The statements, as reported, are of a most material and vital nature,
relating to Murray's financial honour and honesty, and to his general
truthfulness and sincerity. In reply, Murray opposes to them the
accounts of sums paid for different works, and letters from Byron
exactly contradicting his own statements as to Murray's character.

The subject, as we have seen, was discussed in 'The Noctes.' No doubt
appears to be entertained that Byron made the statements to Medwin; and
the theory of accounting for them is, that 'Byron was "bamming" him.'

It seems never to have occurred to any of these credulous gentlemen,
who laughed at others for being 'bammed,' that Byron might be doing the
very same thing by themselves. How many of his so-called packages sent
to Lady Byron were _real_ packages, and how many were mystifications?
We find, in two places at least in his Memoir, letters to Lady Byron,
written and shown to others, which, he says, were never sent by him.
He told Lady Blessington that he was in the habit of writing to her
_constantly_. Was this 'bamming'? Was he 'bamming,' also, when he told
the world that Lady Byron suddenly deserted him, quite to his surprise,
and that he never, to his dying day, could find out why?

Lady Blessington relates, that, in one of his conversations with her,
he entertained her by repeating epigrams and lampoons, in which many
of his friends were treated with severity. She inquired of him, in
case he should die, and such proofs of his friendship come before the
public, what would be the feelings of these friends, who had supposed
themselves to stand so high in his good graces. She says,

 '"That," said Byron, "is precisely one of the ideas that most amuses
 me. I often fancy the rage and humiliation of my quondam friends in
 hearing the truth, at least from me, for the first time, and when I
 am beyond the reach of their malice.... What grief," continued Byron,
 laughing, "could resist the charges of ugliness, dulness, or any of
 the thousand nameless defects, personal or mental, 'that flesh is heir
 to,' when reprisal or recantation was impossible?... People are in
 such daily habits of commenting on the defects of friends, that they
 are unconscious of the unkindness of it.... Now, I write down as well
 as speak my sentiments of those who think they have gulled me; and I
 only wish, in case I die before them, that I might return to witness
 the effects my posthumous opinions of them are likely to produce in
 their minds. What good fun this would be!... You don't seem to value
 this as you ought," said Byron with one of his sardonic smiles, seeing
 I looked, as I really felt, surprised at his avowed insincerity. I
 feel the same pleasure in anticipating the rage and mortification of
 my _soi-disant_ friends at the discovery of my real sentiments of
 them, that a miser may be supposed to feel while making a will that
 will disappoint all the expectants that have been toadying him for
 years. Then how amusing it will be to compare my posthumous with my
 previously given opinions, the one throwing ridicule on the other!"'

It is asserted, in a note to 'The Noctes,' that Byron, besides his
Autobiography, prepared a voluminous dictionary of all his friends and
acquaintances, in which brief notes of their persons and character
were given, with his opinion of them. It was not considered that the
publication of this would add to the noble lord's popularity; and it
has never appeared.

In Hunt's Life of Byron, there is similar testimony. Speaking of
Byron's carelessness in exposing his friends' secrets, and showing or
giving away their letters, he says:--

 'If his five hundred confidants, by a reticence as remarkable as his
 laxity, had not kept his secrets better than he did himself, the
 very devil might have been played with I don't know how many people.
 But there was always this saving reflection to be made, that the man
 who could be guilty of such extravagances for the sake of making
 an impression might be guilty of exaggeration, or inventing what
 astonished you; and indeed, though he was a speaker of the truth on
 ordinary occasions,--that is to say, he did not tell you he had seen
 a dozen horses when he had seen only two,--yet, as he professed not
 to value the truth when in the way of his advantage (and there was
 nothing he thought more to his advantage than making you stare at
 him), the persons who were liable to suffer from his inconsistency had
 all the right in the world to the benefit of this consideration.'[44]

[Footnote 44: Hunt's Byron, p. 77. Philadelphia, 1828.]

With a person of such mental and moral habits as to truth, the inquiry
always must be, _Where_ does mystification end, and truth begin?

If a man is careless about his father's reputation for sanity, and
reports him a crazy suicide; if he gaily accuses his publisher and
good friend of double-dealing, shuffling, and dishonesty; if he tells
stories about Mrs. Clermont,[45] to which his sister offers a public
refutation,--is it to be supposed that he will always tell the truth
about his wife, when the world is pressing him hard, and every instinct
of self-defence is on the alert?

[Footnote 45: From the Temple Bar article, October 1869. 'Mrs. Leigh,
Lord Byron's sister, had other thoughts of Mrs. Clermont, and wrote
to her offering public testimony to her tenderness and forbearance
under circumstances which must have been trying to any friend of Lady
Byron.'--_Campbell, in the New Monthly Magazine_, 1830, p. 380.]

And then the ingenuity that could write and publish false documents
about himself, that they might re-appear in London papers,--to what
other accounts might it not be turned? Might it not create documents,
invent statements, about his wife as well as himself?

The document so ostentatiously given to M. G. Lewis 'for circulation
among friends in England' was a specimen of what the Noctes Club would
call 'bamming.'

If Byron wanted a legal investigation, why did he not take it in the
first place, instead of signing the separation? If he wanted to cancel
it, as he said in this document, why did he not go to London, and enter
a suit for the restitution of conjugal rights, or a suit in chancery to
get possession of his daughter? That this was in his mind, passages in
Medwin's 'Conversations' show. He told Lady Blessington also that he
might claim his daughter in chancery at any time.

Why did he not do it? Either of these two steps would have brought on
that public investigation he so longed for. Can it be possible that all
the friends who passed this private document from hand to hand never
suspected that they were being 'bammed' by it?

But it has been universally assumed, that, though Byron was thus
remarkably given to mystification, yet _all_ his statements in regard
to this story are to be accepted, simply because he makes them. _Why_
must we accept them, any more than his statements as to Murray or his
own father?

So we constantly find Lord Byron's incidental statements coming in
collision with those of others: for example, in his account of his
marriage, he tells Medwin that Lady Byron's maid was put between his
bride and himself, on the same seat, in the wedding-journey. The lady's
maid herself, Mrs. Mimms, says she was sent before them to Halnaby, and
was there to receive them when they alighted.

He said of Lady Byron's mother, 'She always detested me, and had not
the decency to conceal it in her own house. Dining with her one day, I
broke a tooth, and was in great pain; which I could not help showing.
"It will do you good," said Lady Noel; "I am glad of it!"'

Lady Byron says, speaking of her mother, 'She always treated him with
an affectionate consideration and indulgence, which extended to every
little peculiarity of his feelings. Never did an irritating word escape

Lord Byron states that the correspondence between him and Lady Byron,
after his refusal, was first opened by her. Lady Byron's friends deny
the statement, and assert that the direct contrary is the fact.

Thus we see that Lord Byron's statements are directly opposed to
those of his family in relation to his father; directly against
Murray's accounts, and his own admission to Murray; directly against
the statement of the lady's maid as to her position in the journey;
directly against Mrs. Leigh's as to Mrs. Clermont, and against Lady
Byron as to her mother.

We can see, also, that these misstatements were so fully perceived by
the men of his times, that Medwin's 'Conversations' were simply laughed
at as an amusing instance of how far a man might be made the victim of
a mystification. Christopher North thus sentences the book:--

 'I don't mean to call Medwin a liar.... The captain _lies_, sir, but
 it is under a thousand mistakes. Whether Byron bammed him, or he, by
 virtue of his own egregious stupidity, was the sole and sufficient
 bammifier of himself, I know not; neither greatly do I care. This much
 is certain, ... that the book throughout is full of things that were
 not, and most resplendently deficient _quoad_ the things that were.'

Yet it is on Medwin's 'Conversations' alone that many of the magazine
assertions in regard to Lady Byron are founded.

It is on that authority that Lady Byron is accused of breaking open
her husband's writing-desk in his absence, and sending the letters
she found there to the husband of a lady compromised by them; and
likewise that Lord Byron is declared to have paid back his wife's
ten-thousand-pound wedding portion, and doubled it. Moore makes no such
statements; and his remarks about Lord Byron's use of his wife's money
are unmistakable evidence to the contrary. Moore, although Byron's
ardent partisan, was too well informed to make assertions with regard
to him, which, at that time, it would have been perfectly easy to

All these facts go to show that Lord Byron's character for accuracy
or veracity was not such as to entitle him to ordinary confidence as a
witness, especially in a case where he had the strongest motives for

And if we consider that the celebrated Autobiography was the finished,
careful work of such a practised 'mystifier,' who can wonder that it
presented a web of such intermingled truth and lies that there was no
such thing as disentangling it, and pointing out where falsehood ended
and truth began?

But in regard to Lady Byron, what has been the universal impression
of the world? It has been alleged against her that she was a precise,
straight-forward woman, so accustomed to plain, literal dealings, that
she could not understand the various mystifications of her husband; and
from that cause arose her unhappiness. Byron speaks, in 'The Sketch,'
of her _peculiar_ truthfulness; and even in the 'Clytemnestra' poem,
when accusing her of lying, he speaks of her as departing from

  'The _early_ truth that was her proper praise.'

Lady Byron's careful accuracy as to dates, to time, place, and
circumstances, will probably be vouched for by all the very large
number of persons whom the management of her extended property and
her works of benevolence brought to act as co-operators or agents
with her. She was not a person in the habit of making exaggerated or
ill-considered statements. Her published statement of 1830 is clear,
exact, accurate, and perfectly intelligible. The dates are carefully
ascertained and stated, the expressions are moderate, and all the
assertions firm and perfectly definite.

It therefore seems remarkable that the whole reasoning on this Byron
matter has generally been conducted by assuming all Lord Byron's
statements to be true, and requiring all Lady Byron's statements to be
sustained by other evidence.

If Lord Byron asserts that his wife deserted him, the assertion is
accepted without proof; but, if Lady Byron asserts that he ordered
her to leave, that requires proof. Lady Byron asserts that she
took counsel, on this order of Lord Byron, with his family friends
and physician, under the idea that it originated in insanity. The
'Blackwood' asks, '_What_ family friends?' says it doesn't know of any;
and asks proof.

If Lord Byron asserts that he always longed for a public investigation
of the charges against him, the 'Quarterly' and 'Blackwood' quote
the saying with ingenuous confidence. They are obliged to admit
that he refused to stand that public test; that he signed the deed
of separation rather than meet it. They know, also, that he could
have at any time instituted suits against Lady Byron that would have
brought the whole matter into court, and that he did not? Why did he
not? The 'Quarterly' simply intimates that such suits would have been
unpleasant. Why? On account of personal delicacy? The man that wrote
'Don Juan', and furnished the details of his wedding-night, held
back from clearing his name by delicacy! It is astonishing to what
extent this controversy has consisted in simply repeating Lord Byron's
assertions over and over again, and calling the result proof.

Now, we propose a different course. As Lady Byron is not stated by
her warm admirers to have had _any_ monomania for speaking untruths
on any subject, we rank her value as a witness at a higher rate than
Lord Byron's. She never accused her parents of madness or suicide,
merely to make a sensation; never 'bammed' an acquaintance by false
statements concerning the commercial honour of anyone with whom she
was in business relations; never wrote and sent to the press as a
clever jest false statements about herself; and never, in any other
ingenious way, tampered with truth. We therefore hold it to be a mere
dictate of reason and common sense, that, in all cases where her
statements conflict with her husband's, hers are to be taken as the
more trustworthy.

The 'London Quarterly,' in a late article, distinctly repudiates Lady
Byron's statements as sources of evidence, and throughout quotes
statements of Lord Byron as if they had the force of self-evident
propositions. We consider such a course contrary to common sense as
well as common good manners.

The state of the case is just this: If Lord Byron did not make false
statements on this subject it was certainly an exception to his usual
course. He certainly did make such on a great variety of other
subjects. By his own showing, he had a peculiar pleasure in falsifying
language, and in misleading and betraying even his friends.

But, if Lady Byron gave false witness upon this subject, it was an
exception to the whole course of her life.

The habits of her mind, the government of her conduct, her life-long
reputation, all were those of a literal, exact truthfulness.

The accusation of her being untruthful was first brought forward by
her husband in the 'Clytemnestra' poem, in the autumn of 1816; but it
never was publicly circulated till after his death, and it was first
formally made the basis of a published attack on Lady Byron in the
July 'Blackwood' of 1869. Up to that time, we look in vain through
current literature for any indications that the world regarded Lady
Byron otherwise than as a cold, careful, prudent woman, who made no
assertions, and had no confidants. When she spoke in 1830, it is
perfectly evident that Christopher North and his circle believed what
she said, though reproving her for saying it at all.

The 'Quarterly' goes on to heap up a number of vague assertions,--that
Lady Byron, about the time of her separation, made a confidant of a
young officer; that she told the clergyman of Ham of some trials with
Lord Ockham; and that she told stories of different things at different

All this is not proof: it is mere assertion, and assertion made to
produce prejudice. It is like raising a whirlwind of sand to blind
the eyes that are looking for landmarks. It is quite probable Lady
Byron told different stories about Lord Byron at various times. No
woman could have a greater variety of stories to tell; and no woman
ever was so persecuted and pursued and harassed, both by public
literature and private friendship, to say _something_. She had plenty
of causes for a separation, without the fatal and final one. In her
conversations with Lady Anne Barnard, for example, she gives reasons
enough for a separation, though none of them are the chief one. It is
not _different_ stories, but _contradictory_ stories, that must be
relied on to disprove the credibility of a witness. The 'Quarterly'
has certainly told a great number of different stories,--stories which
may prove as irreconcilable with each other as any attributed to Lady
Byron; but its denial of all weight to her testimony is simply begging
the whole question under consideration.

A man gives testimony about the causes of a railroad accident, being
the only eye-witness.

The opposing counsel begs, whatever else you do, you will not admit
that man's testimony. You ask, 'Why? Has he ever been accused of want
of veracity on other subjects?'--'No: he has stood high as a man of
probity and honour for years.'--'Why, then, throw out his testimony?'

'Because he lies in this instance,' says the adversary: 'his testimony
does not agree with this and that.'--'Pardon me, that is the very point
in question,' say you: 'we expect to prove that it does agree with this
and that.'

Because certain letters of Lady Byron's do not agree with the
'Quarterly's' theory of the facts of the separation, it at once assumes
that she is an untruthful witness, and proposes to throw out her
evidence altogether.

We propose, on the contrary, to regard Lady Byron's evidence with all
the attention due to the statement of a high-minded conscientious
person, never in any other case accused of violation of truth;
we also propose to show it to be in strict agreement with all
well-authenticated facts and documents; and we propose to treat
Lord Byron's evidence as that of a man of great subtlety, versed in
mystification and delighting in it, and who, on many other subjects,
not only deceived, but gloried in deception; and then we propose to
show that it contradicts well-established facts and received documents.

One thing more we have to say concerning the laws of evidence in regard
to documents presented in this investigation.

This is not a London West-End affair, but a grave historical inquiry,
in which the whole English-speaking world are interested to know the

As it is now too late to have the securities of a legal trial,
certainly the rules of historical evidence should be strictly
observed. All important documents should be presented in an entire
state, with a plain and open account of their history,--who had them,
where they were found, and how preserved.

There have been most excellent, credible, and authentic documents
produced in this case; and, as a specimen of them, we shall mention
Lord Lindsay's letter, and the journal and letter it authenticates.
Lord Lindsay at once comes forward, gives his name boldly, gives the
history of the papers he produces, shows how they came to be in his
hands, why never produced before, and why now. We feel confidence at

But in regard to the important series of letters presented as Lady
Byron's, this obviously proper course has not been pursued. Though
assumed to be of the most critical importance, no such distinct history
of them was given in the first instance. The want of such evidence
being noticed by other papers, the 'Quarterly' appears hurt that the
high character of the magazine has not been a sufficient guarantee;
and still deals in vague statements that the letters have been freely
circulated, and that two noblemen of the highest character would vouch
for them if necessary.

In our view, _it is necessary_. These noblemen should imitate Lord
Lindsay's example,--give a fair account of these letters, under
their own names; and then, we would add, it is needful for complete
satisfaction to have the letters _entire_, and not in fragments.

The 'Quarterly' gave these letters with the evident implication that
they are entirely destructive to Lady Byron's character as a witness.
Now, has that magazine much reason to be hurt at even an insinuation on
its own character when making such deadly assaults on that of another?
The individuals who bring forth documents that they suppose to be
deadly to the character of a noble person, always in her generation
held to be eminent for virtue, certainly should not murmur at being
called upon to substantiate these documents in the manner usually
expected in historical investigations.

We have shown that these letters do not contradict, but that they
perfectly confirm the facts, and agree with the dates in Lady Byron's
published statements of 1830; and this is our reason for deeming them

These considerations with regard to the manner of conducting the
inquiry seem so obviously proper, that we cannot but believe that they
will command a serious attention.



We shall now proceed to state the argument against Lord Byron.

1st, There is direct evidence that Lord Byron was guilty of some
unusual immorality.

The evidence is not, as the 'Blackwood' says, that Lushington yielded
assent to the _ex parte_ statement of a client; nor, as the 'Quarterly'
intimates, that he was affected by the charms of an attractive young

The first evidence of it is the fact that Lushington and Romilly
_offered to take the case into court, and make there a public
exhibition of the proofs_ on which their convictions were founded.

2nd, It is very strong evidence of this fact, that Lord Byron, while
loudly declaring that he wished to know with what he was charged,
_declined_ this open investigation, and, rather than meet it, signed a
paper which he had before refused to sign.

3rd, It is also strong evidence of this fact, that although secretly
declaring to all his intimate friends that he still wished open
investigation in a court of justice, and affirming his belief that his
character was being ruined for want of it, he never afterwards took
the means to get it. Instead of writing a private handbill, he might
have come to England and entered a suit; and he did not do it.

That Lord Byron was conscious of a great crime is further made probable
by the peculiar malice he seemed to bear to his wife's legal counsel.

If there had been nothing to fear in that legal investigation wherewith
they threatened him, why did he not only flee from it, but regard
with a peculiar bitterness those who advised and proposed it? To an
innocent man falsely accused, the certainties of law are a blessing
and a refuge. Female charms cannot mislead in a court of justice; and
the atrocities of rumour are there sifted, and deprived of power. A
trial is not a threat to an innocent man: it is an invitation, an
opportunity. Why, then, did he hate Sir Samuel Romilly, so that he
exulted like a fiend over his tragical death? The letter in which he
pours forth this malignity was so brutal, that Moore was obliged, by
the general outcry of society, to suppress it. Is this the language of
an innocent man who has been offered a fair trial under his country's
laws? or of a guilty man, to whom the very idea of public trial means
public exposure?

4th, It is probable that the crime was the one now alleged, because
that was the most important crime charged against him by rumour at the
period. This appears by the following extract of a letter from Shelley,
furnished by the 'Quarterly,' dated Bath, Sept. 29, 1816:--

 'I saw Kinnaird, and had a long talk with him. He informed me that
 Lady Byron was now in perfect health; that she was living with your
 sister. I felt much pleasure from this intelligence. I consider the
 latter part of it as affording a decisive contradiction to the only
 important calumny that ever was advanced against you. On this ground,
 at least, it will become the world hereafter to be silent.'

It appears evident here that the charge of improper intimacy with his
sister was, in the mind of Shelley, the only important one that had yet
been made against Lord Byron.

It is fairly inferable, from Lord Byron's own statements, that his
family friends believed this charge. Lady Byron speaks, in her
statement, of 'nearest relatives' and family friends who were cognizant
of Lord Byron's strange conduct at the time of the separation; and
Lord Byron, in the letter to Bowles, before quoted, says that every
one of his relations, except his sister, fell from him in this crisis
like leaves from a tree in autumn. There was, therefore, not only
this report, but such appearances in support of it as convinced those
nearest to the scene, and best apprised of the facts; so that they
fell from him entirely, notwithstanding the strong influence of family
feeling. The Guiccioli book also mentions this same allegation as
having arisen from peculiarities in Lord Byron's manner of treating his

 'This deep, fraternal affection assumed at times, under the influence
 of his powerful genius, and under exceptional circumstances, an
 almost too passionate expression, which opened a fresh field to his

[Footnote 46: 'My Recollections,' p. 238.]

It appears, then, that there was nothing in the character of Lord
Byron and of his sister, as they appeared before their generation,
that prevented such a report from arising: on the contrary, there was
something in their relations that made it seem probable. And it appears
that his own family friends were so affected by it, that they, with
one accord, deserted him. The 'Quarterly' presents the fact that Lady
Byron went to visit Mrs. Leigh at this time, as triumphant proof that
_she_ did not then believe it. Can the 'Quarterly' show just what Lady
Byron's state of mind was, or what her motives were, in making that

The 'Quarterly' seems to assume, that no woman, without gross
hypocrisy, can stand by a sister proven to have been guilty. We can
appeal on this subject to all women. We fearlessly ask any wife,
'Supposing your husband and sister were involved together in an
infamous crime, and that you were the mother of a young daughter whose
life would be tainted by a knowledge of that crime, what would be
your wish? Would you wish to proclaim it forthwith? or would you wish
quietly to separate from your husband, and to cover the crime from the
eye of man?'

It has been proved that Lady Byron did not reveal this even to her
nearest relatives. It is proved that she sealed the mouths of her
counsel, and even of servants, so effectually, that they remain sealed
even to this day. This is evidence that she did not wish the thing
known. It is proved also, that, in spite of her secrecy with her
parents and friends, the rumour got out, and was spoken of by Shelley
as the _only_ important one.

Now, let us see how this note, cited by the 'Quarterly,' confirms one
of Lady Byron's own statements. She says to Lady Anne Barnard,--

 'I trust you understand my wishes, which never were to injure Lord
 Byron in any way; for, _though he would not suffer me to remain his
 wife, he cannot prevent me from continuing his friend; and it was from
 considering myself as such that I silenced the accusations by which my
 own conduct might have been more fully justified_.'

How did Lady Byron _silence accusations_? First, by keeping silence
to her nearest relatives; second, by shutting the mouths of servants;
third, by imposing silence on her friends,--as Lady Anne Barnard;
fourth, by silencing her legal counsel; fifth, and most entirely, by
treating Mrs. Leigh, before the world, with unaltered kindness. In the
midst of the rumours, Lady Byron went to visit her; and Shelley says
that the movement was effectual. Can the 'Quarterly' prove that, at
this time, Mrs. Leigh had not confessed all, and thrown herself on Lady
Byron's mercy?

It is not necessary to suppose great horror and indignation on the
part of Lady Byron. She may have regarded her sister as the victim
of a most singularly powerful tempter. Lord Byron, as she knew, had
tried to corrupt her own morals and faith. He had obtained a power
over some women, even in the highest circles in England, which had
led them to forego the usual decorums of their sex, and had given rise
to great scandals. He was a being of wonderful personal attractions.
He had not only strong poetical, but also strong logical power. He was
daring in speculation, and vigorous in sophistical argument; beautiful,
dazzling, and possessed of magnetic power of fascination. His sister
had been kind and considerate to Lady Byron when Lord Byron was brutal
and cruel. She had been overcome by him, as a weaker nature sometimes
sinks under the force of a stronger one; and Lady Byron may really have
considered her to be more sinned against than sinning.

Lord Byron, if we look at it rightly, did not corrupt Mrs. Leigh
any more than he did the whole British public. They rebelled at the
immorality of his conduct and the obscenity of his writings; and he
resolved that they should accept both. And he made them do it. At
first, they execrated 'Don Juan.' Murray was afraid to publish it.
Women were determined not to read it. In 1819, Dr. William Maginn of
the Noctes wrote a song against it in the following virtuous strain:

  'Be "Juan," then, unseen, unknown;
    It must, or we shall rue it.
  We may have virtue of our own:
    Ah! why should we undo it?
  The treasured faith of days long past
    We still would prize o'er any,
  And grieve to hear the ribald jeer
    Of scamps like Don Giovanni.'

Lord Byron determined to conquer the virtuous scruples of the Noctes
Club; and so we find this same Dr. William Maginn, who in 1819 wrote
so valiantly, in 1822 declaring that he would rather have written a
page of 'Don Juan' than a ton of 'Childe Harold.' All English morals
were, in like manner, formally surrendered to Lord Byron. Moore details
his adulteries in Venice with unabashed particularity: artists send
for pictures of his principal mistresses; the literary world call for
biographical sketches of their points; Moore compares his wife and his
last mistress in a neatly-turned sentence; and yet the professor of
morals in Edinburgh University recommends the biography as _pure_, and
having no mud in it. The mistress is lionized in London, and in 1869 is
introduced to the world of letters by 'Blackwood,' and bid, 'without a
blush, to say she loved'--

This much being done to all England, it is quite possible that a woman
like Lady Byron, standing silently aside and surveying the course of
things, may have thought that Mrs. Leigh was no more seduced than all
the rest of the world, and have said as we feel disposed to say of that
generation, and of a good many in this, 'Let him that is without sin
among you cast the first stone.'

The peculiar bitterness of remorse expressed in his works by Lord
Byron is a further evidence that he had committed an unusual crime.
We are aware that evidence cannot be drawn in this manner from an
author's works merely, if unsupported by any external probability.
For example, the subject most frequently and powerfully treated by
Hawthorne is the influence of a secret, unconfessed crime on the soul:
nevertheless, as Hawthorne is well known to have always lived a pure
and regular life, nobody has ever suspected him of any greater sin
than a vigorous imagination. But here is a man believed guilty of an
uncommon immorality by the two best lawyers in England, and threatened
with an open exposure, which he does not dare to meet. The crime is
named in society; his own relations fall away from him on account of
it; it is only set at rest by the heroic conduct of his wife. Now, this
man is stated by many of his friends to have had all the appearance of
a man secretly labouring under the consciousness of crime. Moore speaks
of this propensity in the following language:--

 'I have known him more than once, as we sat together after dinner,
 and he was a little under the influence of wine, to fall seriously
 into this dark, self-accusing mood, and throw out hints of his past
 life with an air of gloom and mystery designed evidently to awaken
 curiosity and interest.'

Moore says that it was his own custom to dispel these appearances by
ridicule, to which his friend was keenly alive. And he goes on to say,--

 'It has sometimes occurred to me, that the occult causes of his lady's
 separation from him, round which herself and her legal advisers have
 thrown such formidable mystery, may have been nothing more than some
 imposture of this kind, some dimly-hinted confession of undefined
 horror, which, though intended by the relater to mystify and surprise,
 the hearer so little understood as to take in sober seriousness.'[47]

[Footnote 47: Vol. vi. p. 212.]

All we have to say is, that Lord Byron's conduct in this respect
is exactly what might have been expected if he had a crime on his

The energy of remorse and despair expressed in 'Manfred' were so
appalling and so vividly _personal_, that the belief was universal on
the Continent that the experience was wrought out of some actual crime.
Goethe expressed this idea, and had heard a murder imputed to Byron as
the cause.

The allusion to the crime and consequences of incest is so plain in
'Manfred,' that it is astonishing that any one can pretend, as Galt
does, that it had any other application.

The hero speaks of the love between himself and the imaginary being
whose spirit haunts him as having been the _deadliest sin_, and one
that has, perhaps, caused her eternal destruction.

  'What is she now? A sufferer for my sins;
  A thing I dare not think upon.'

He speaks of her blood as haunting him, and as being

            '_My_ blood,--the pure, warm stream
  That ran in the veins of _my_ fathers, and in _ours_
  When we were in our youth, and had one heart,
  And loved each other as we should not love.'

This work was conceived in the commotion of mind immediately following
his separation. The scenery of it was sketched in a journal sent to his
sister at the time.

In letter 377, defending the originality of the conception, and showing
that it did not arise from reading 'Faust,' he says,--

 'It was the Steinbach and the Jungfrau, and something else, more than
 Faustus, that made me write "Manfred."'

In letter 288, speaking of the various accounts given by critics of the
origin of the story, he says,--

 'The conjecturer is out, and knows nothing of the matter. I had a
 better origin than he could devise or divine for the soul of him.'

In letter 299, he says:--

 'As to the germs of "Manfred," they may be found in the journal I sent
 to Mrs. Leigh, part of which you saw.'

It may be said, plausibly, that Lord Byron, if conscious of this crime,
would not have expressed it in his poetry. But his nature was such
that he could not help it. Whatever he wrote that had any real power
was generally wrought out of self; and, when in a tumult of emotion,
he could not help giving glimpses of the cause. It appears that he
did know that he had been accused of incest, and that Shelley thought
_that_ accusation the only really important one; and yet, sensitive as
he was to blame and reprobation, he ran upon this very subject most
likely to re-awaken scandal.

But Lord Byron's strategy was always of the bold kind. It was the
plan of the fugitive, who, instead of running away, stations himself
so near to danger, that nobody would ever think of looking for him
there. He published passionate verses to his sister on this principle.
He imitated the security of an innocent man in every thing but the
unconscious energy of the agony which seized him when he gave vent to
his nature in poetry. The boldness of his strategy is evident through
all his life. He began by charging his wife with the very cruelty and
deception which he was himself practising. He had spread a net for her
feet, and he accused her of spreading a net for his. He had placed
her in a position where she could not speak, and then leisurely shot
arrows at her; and he represented her as having done the same by him.
When he attacked her in 'Don Juan,' and strove to take from her the
very protection[48] of womanly sacredness by putting her name into the
mouth of every ribald, he did a bold thing, and he knew it. He meant to
do a bold thing. There was a general outcry against it; and he fought
it down, and gained his point. By sheer boldness and perseverance,
he turned the public _from_ his wife, and _to_ himself, in the face
of their very groans and protests. His 'Manfred' and his 'Cain' were
parts of the same game. But the involuntary cry of remorse and despair
pierced even through his own artifices, in a manner that produced a
conviction of reality.

[Footnote 48: The reader is here referred to the remarks of 'Blackwood'
on 'Don Juan' in Part III.]

His evident fear and hatred of his wife were other symptoms of crime.
There was no apparent occasion for him to hate her. He admitted that
she had been bright, amiable, good, agreeable; that her marriage had
been a very uncomfortable one; and he said to Madame de Staël, that
he did not doubt she thought him deranged. Why, then, did he hate her
for wanting to live peaceably by herself? Why did he so fear her, that
not one year of his life passed without his concocting and circulating
some public or private accusation against her? She, by his own showing,
published none against him. It is remarkable, that, in all his zeal to
represent himself injured, he nowhere quotes a single remark from Lady
Byron, nor a story coming either directly or indirectly from her or her
family. He is in a fever in Venice, not from what she has spoken, but
because she has sealed the lips of her counsel, and because she and her
family do not speak: so that he professes himself utterly ignorant what
form her allegations against him may take. He had heard from Shelley
that his wife silenced the most important calumny by going to make Mrs.
Leigh a visit; and yet he is afraid of her,--so afraid, that he tells
Moore he expects she will attack him after death, and charges him to
defend his grave.

Now, if Lord Byron knew that his wife had a deadly secret that she
could tell, all this conduct is explicable: it is in the ordinary
course of human nature. Men always distrust those who hold facts
by which they can be ruined. They fear them; they are antagonistic
to them; they cannot trust them. The feeling of Falkland to Caleb
Williams, as portrayed in Godwin's masterly sketch, is perfectly
natural, and it is exactly illustrative of what Byron felt for his
wife. He hated her for having his secret; and, so far as a human being
could do it, he tried to destroy her character before the world, that
she might not have the power to testify against him. If we admit this
solution, Byron's conduct is at least that of a man who is acting as
men ordinarily would act under such circumstances: if we do not, he
is acting like a fiend. Let us look at admitted facts. He married his
wife without love, in a gloomy, melancholy, morose state of mind. The
servants testify to strange, unaccountable treatment of her immediately
after marriage; such that her confidential maid advises her return to
her parents. In Lady Byron's letter to Mrs. Leigh, she reminds Lord
Byron that he always expressed a desire and determination to free
himself from the marriage. Lord Byron himself admits to Madame de
Staël that his behaviour was such, that his wife must have thought him
insane. Now we are asked to believe, that simply because, under these
circumstances, Lady Byron wished to live separate from her husband, he
hated and feared her so that he could never let her alone afterwards;
that he charged her with malice, slander, deceit, and deadly intentions
against himself, merely out of spite, because she preferred not to live
with him. This last view of the case certainly makes Lord Byron more
unaccountably wicked than the other.

The first supposition shows him to us as a man in an agony of
self-preservation; the second as a fiend, delighting in gratuitous
deceit and cruelty.

Again: a presumption of this crime appears in Lord Byron's admission,
in a letter to Moore, that he had an illegitimate child born before he
left England, and still living at the time.

In letter 307, to Mr. Moore, under date Venice, Feb. 2, 1818, Byron
says, speaking of Moore's loss of a child,--

 'I know how to feel with you, because I am quite wrapped up in my own
 children. Besides my little legitimate, I have made unto myself an
 illegitimate since [since Ada's birth] _to say nothing of one before_;
 and I look forward to one of these as the pillar of my old age,
 supposing that I ever reach, as I hope I never shall, that desolating

The illegitimate child that he had made to himself since Ada's birth
was Allegra, born about nine or ten months after the separation. The
other illegitimate alluded to was born before, and, as the reader sees,
was spoken of as still living.

Moore appears to be puzzled to know who this child can be, and
conjectures that it may possibly be the child referred to in an early
poem, written, while a schoolboy of nineteen, at Harrow.

On turning back to the note referred to, we find two things: first,
that the child there mentioned was not claimed by Lord Byron as his
own, but that he asked his mother to care for it as belonging to a
schoolmate now dead; second, that the infant died shortly after, and,
consequently, could not be the child mentioned in this letter.

Now, besides this fact, that Lord Byron admitted a living illegitimate
child born before Ada, we place this other fact, that there was a
child in England which was believed to be his by those who had every
opportunity of knowing.

On this subject we shall cite a passage from a letter recently received
by us from England, and written by a person who appears well informed
on the subject of his letter:--

 'The fact is, the incest was first committed, and the child of it born
 _before_, shortly before, the Byron marriage. The child (a daughter)
 must not be confounded with the natural daughter of Lord Byron, born
 about a year after his separation.

 'The history, more or less, of that child of incest, is known to many;
 for in Lady Byron's attempts to watch over her, and rescue her from
 ruin, she was compelled to employ various agents at different times.'

This letter contains a full recognition, by an intelligent person in
England, of a child corresponding well with Lord Byron's declaration of
an illegitimate, born before he left England.

Up to this point, we have, then, the circumstantial evidence against
Lord Byron as follows:--

A good and amiable woman, who had married him from love, determined to
separate from him.

Two of the greatest lawyers of England confirmed her in this decision,
and threatened Lord Byron, that, unless he consented to this, they
would expose the evidence against him in a suit for divorce. He fled
from this exposure, and never afterwards sought public investigation.

He was angry with and malicious towards the counsel who supported his
wife; he was angry at and afraid of a wife who did nothing to injure
him, and he made it a special object to defame and degrade her. He gave
such evidence of remorse and fear in his writings as to lead eminent
literary men to believe he had committed a great crime. The public
rumour of his day specified what the crime was. His relations, by his
own showing, joined against him. The report was silenced by his wife's
efforts only. Lord Byron subsequently declares the existence of an
illegitimate child, born before he left England. Corresponding to this,
there is the history, known in England, of a child believed to be his,
in whom his wife took an interest.

All these presumptions exist independently of any direct testimony from
Lady Byron. They are to be admitted as true, whether she says a word
one way or the other.

From this background of proof, I come forward, and testify to an
interview with Lady Byron, in which she gave me specific information
of the facts in the case. That I report the facts just as I received
them from her, not altered or misremembered, is shown by the testimony
of my sister, to whom I related them at the time. It cannot, then, be
denied that I had this interview, and that this communication was made.
I therefore testify that Lady Byron, for a proper purpose, and at a
proper time, stated to me the following things:--

1. That the crime which separated her from Lord Byron was incest. 2.
That she first discovered it by improper actions towards his sister,
which, he _meant_ to make her understand, indicated the guilty
relation. 3. That he admitted it, reasoned on it, defended it, tried to
make her an accomplice, and, failing in that, hated her and expelled
her. 4. That he threatened her that he would make it his life's object
to destroy her character. 5. That for a period she was led to regard
this conduct as insanity, and to consider him only as a diseased
person. 6. That she had subsequent proof that the facts were really as
she suspected; that there had been a child born of the crime, whose
history she knew; that Mrs. Leigh had repented.

The purpose for which this was stated to me was to ask, Was it her duty
to make the truth fully known during her lifetime?

Here, then, is a man believed guilty of an unusual crime by two
lawyers, the best in England, who have seen the evidence,--a man who
dares not meet legal investigation. The crime is named in society, and
deemed so far probable to the men of his generation as to be spoken
of by Shelley as the only important allegation against him. He acts
through life exactly like a man struggling with remorse, and afraid
of detection; he has all the restlessness and hatred and fear that a
man has who feels that there is evidence which might destroy him. He
admits an illegitimate child besides Allegra. A child believed to have
been his is known to many in England. Added to all this, his widow,
now advanced in years, and standing on the borders of eternity, being,
as appears by her writings and conversation, of perfectly sound mind
at the time, testifies to me the facts before named, which exactly
correspond to probabilities.

I publish the statement; and the solicitors who hold Lady Byron's
private papers do not deny the truth of the story. They try to cast
discredit on me for speaking; but they do not say that I have spoken
falsely, or that the story is not true. The lawyer who knew Lady
Byron's story in 1816 does not now deny that this is the true one.
Several persons in England testify that, at various times, and for
various purposes, the same story has been told to them. Moreover, it
appears from my last letter addressed to Lady Byron on this subject,
that I recommended her to leave _all necessary papers_ in the hands
of some discreet persons, who, after _both_ had passed away, should
see that justice was done. The solicitors admit that Lady Byron _has_
left sealed papers of great importance in the hands of trustees, with
discretionary power. I have been informed very directly that the nature
of these documents was such as to lead to the suppression of Lady
Byron's life and writings. This is all exactly as it would be, if the
story related by Lady Byron were the true one.

The evidence under this point of view is so strong, that a great effort
has been made to throw out Lady Byron's testimony.

This attempt has been made on two grounds. 1st, That she was under a
mental hallucination. This theory has been most ably refuted by the
very first authority in England upon the subject. He says,--

 'No person practically acquainted with the true characteristics of
 insanity would affirm, that, had this idea of "incest" been an insane
 hallucination, Lady Byron could, from the lengthened period which
 intervened between her unhappy marriage and death, have refrained
 from exhibiting it, not only to legal advisers and trustees (assuming
 that she revealed to them the fact), but to others, exacting no
 pledge of secrecy from them as to her mental impressions. Lunatics
 do for a time, and for some special purpose, most cunningly conceal
 their delusions; but they have not the capacity to struggle for
 thirty-six years, as Lady Byron must have done, with so frightful an
 hallucination, without the insane state of mind becoming obvious to
 those with whom they are daily associating. Neither is it consistent
 with experience to suppose, that, if Lady Byron had been a monomaniac,
 her state of disordered understanding would have been restricted to
 one hallucination. Her diseased brain, affecting the normal action of
 thought, would, in all probability, have manifested other symptoms
 besides those referred to of aberration of intellect.

 'During the last thirty years, I have not met with a case of insanity
 (assuming the hypothesis of hallucination) at all parallel with that
 of Lady Byron. In my experience, it is unique. I never saw a patient
 with such a delusion.'

We refer our readers to a careful study of Dr. Forbes Winslow's
consideration of this subject given in Part III. Anyone who has been
familiar with the delicacy and acuteness of Dr. Winslow, as shown in
his work on obscure diseases of the brain and nerves, must feel that
his positive assertion on this ground is the best possible evidence.
We here gratefully acknowledge our obligations to Dr. Winslow for
the corrected proof of his valuable letter, which he has done us the
honour to send for this work. We shall consider that his argument,
in connection with what the reader may observe of Lady Byron's own
writings, closes that issue of the case completely.

The other alternative is, that Lady Byron deliberately committed false
witness. This was the ground assumed by the 'Blackwood,' when in July,
1869, it took upon itself the responsibility of re-opening the Byron
controversy. It is also the ground assumed by 'The London Quarterly' of

Both say, in so many words, that no crime was imputed to Lord Byron;
that the representations made to Lushington in the beginning were false
ones; and that the story told to Lady Byron's confidential friends in
later days was also false.

Let us examine this theory. In the first place, it requires us to
believe in the existence of a moral monster of whom Madame Brinvilliers
is cited as the type. The 'Blackwood,' let it be remembered, opens
the controversy with the statement that Lady Byron was a Madame
Brinvilliers. The 'Quarterly' does not shrink from the same assumption.

Let us consider the probability of this question.

If Lady Byron were such a woman, and wished to ruin her husband's
reputation in order to save her own, and, being perfectly unscrupulous,
had circulated against him a story of unnatural crime which had no
proofs, how came two of the first lawyers of England to assume the
responsibility of offering to present her case in open court? How
came her husband, if he knew himself guiltless, to shrink from that
public investigation which must have demonstrated his innocence? Most
astonishing of all, when he fled from trial, and the report got abroad
against him in England, and was believed even by his own relations,
why did not his wife avail herself of the moment to complete her
victory? If at that moment she had publicly broken with Mrs. Leigh,
she might have confirmed every rumour. Did she do it? and why not?
According to the 'Blackwood,' we have here a woman who has made up a
frightful story to ruin her husband's reputation, yet who takes every
pains afterwards to prevent its being ruined. She fails to do the very
thing she undertakes; and for years after, rather than injure him, she
loses public sympathy, and, by sealing the lips of her legal counsel,
deprives herself of the advantage of their testimony.

Moreover, if a desire for revenge could have been excited in her,
it would have been provoked by the first publication of the fourth
canto of 'Childe Harold,' when she felt that Byron was attacking her
before the world. Yet we have Lady Anne Barnard's testimony, that,
at this time, she was so far from wishing to injure him, that all her
communications were guarded by cautious secrecy. At this time, also,
she had a strong party in England, to whom she could have appealed.
Again: when 'Don Juan' was first printed, it excited a violent
re-action against Lord Byron. Had his wife chosen _then_ to accuse
him, and display the evidence she had shown to her counsel, there is
little doubt that all the world would have stood with her; but she did
not. After his death, when she spoke at last, there seems little doubt
from the strength of Dr. Lushington's language, that Lady Byron had a
very strong case, and that, had she been willing, her counsel could
have told much more than he did. She might _then_ have told her whole
story, and been believed. Her word was believed by Christopher North,
and accepted as proof that Byron had been a great criminal. Had revenge
been her motive, she could have spoken the ONE WORD more that
North called for.

The 'Quarterly' asks why she waited till everybody concerned was dead.
There is an obvious answer. Because, while there was anybody living
to whom the testimony would have been utterly destructive, there were
the best reasons for withholding it. When all were gone from earth,
and she herself was in constant expectation of passing away, there
_was_ a reason, and a proper one, why she should speak. By nature and
principle truthful, she had had the opportunity of silently watching
the operation of a permitted lie upon a whole generation. She had been
placed in a position in which it was necessary, by silence, to allow
the spread and propagation through society of a radical falsehood. Lord
Byron's life, fame, and genius had all struck their roots into this
lie, been nourished by it, and had derived thence a poisonous power.

In reading this history, it will be remarked that he pleaded his
personal misfortunes in his marriage as excuses for every offence
against morality, and that the literary world of England accepted
the plea, and tolerated and justified the crimes. Never before, in
England, had adultery been spoken of in so respectful a manner, and
an adulteress openly praised and _fêted_, and obscene language and
licentious images publicly tolerated; and all on the plea of a man's
private misfortunes.

There was, therefore, great force in the suggestion made to Lady
Byron, that she owed a testimony in this case to truth and justice,
irrespective of any personal considerations. There is no more real
reason for allowing the spread of a hurtful falsehood that affects
ourselves than for allowing one that affects our neighbour. This
falsehood had corrupted the literature and morals of both England and
America, and led to the public toleration, by respectable authorities,
of forms of vice at first indignantly rejected. The question was,
Was this falsehood to go on corrupting literature as long as history
lasted? Had the world no right to true history? Had she who possessed
the truth no responsibility to the world? Was not a final silence a
confirmation of a lie with all its consequences?

This testimony of Lady Byron, so far from being thrown out altogether,
as the 'Quarterly' proposes, has a peculiar and specific value from the
great forbearance and reticence which characterised the greater part of
her life.

The testimony of a person who has shown in every action perfect
friendliness to another comes with the more weight on that account.
Testimony extorted by conscience from a parent against a child, or a
wife against a husband, where all the other actions of the life prove
the existence of kind feeling, is held to be the strongest form of

The fact that Lady Byron, under the severest temptations and the
bitterest insults and injuries, withheld every word by which Lord
Byron could be criminated, so long as he and his sister were living,
is strong evidence, that, when she did speak, it was not under the
influence of ill-will, but of pure conscientious convictions; and the
fullest weight ought, therefore, to be given to her testimony.

We are asked now why she ever spoke at all. The fact that her story
is known to several persons in England is brought up as if it were a
crime. To this we answer, Lady Byron had an undoubted moral right to
have exposed the whole story in a public court in 1816, and thus cut
herself loose from her husband by a divorce. For the sake of saving
her husband and sister from destruction, she waived this right to
self-justification, and stood for years a silent sufferer under calumny
and misrepresentation. She desired nothing but to retire from the
whole subject; to be permitted to enjoy with her child the peace and
seclusion that belong to her sex. Her husband made her, through his
life and after his death, a subject of such constant discussion, that
she must either abandon the current literature of her day, or run the
risk of reading more or less about herself in almost every magazine
of her time. Conversations with Lord Byron, notes of interviews with
Lord Byron, journals of time spent with Lord Byron, were constantly
spread before the public. Leigh Hunt, Galt, Medwin, Trelawney, Lady
Blessington, Dr. Kennedy, and Thomas Moore, all poured forth their
memorials; and in all she figured prominently. All these had their
tribes of reviewers and critics, who also discussed her. The profound
mystery of her silence seemed constantly to provoke inquiry. People
could not forgive her for not speaking. Her privacy, retirement,
and silence were set down as coldness, haughtiness, and contempt
of human sympathy. She was constantly challenged to say something:
as, for example, in the 'Noctes' of November 1825, six months after
Byron's death, Christopher North says, speaking of the burning of the

 'I think, since the Memoir was burned by these people, these people
 are bound to put us in possession of the best evidence they still
 have the power of producing, in order that we may come to a just
 conclusion as to a subject upon which, by their act, at least, as much
 as by any other people's act, we are compelled to consider it our duty
 to make up our deliberate opinion,--deliberate and decisive. Woe be
 to those who provoke this curiosity, and will not allay it! Woe be to
 them! say I. Woe to them! says the world.'

When Lady Byron published her statement, which certainly seemed called
for by this language, Christopher North blamed her for doing it, and
then again said that she ought to go on and tell the whole story. If
she was thus adjured to speak, blamed for speaking, and adjured to
speak further, all in one breath, by public prints, there is reason to
think that there could not have come less solicitation from private
sources,--from friends who had access to her at all hours, whom she
loved, by whom she was beloved, and to whom her refusal to explain
might seem a breach of friendship. Yet there is no evidence on record,
that we have seen, that she ever had other confidant than her legal
counsel, till after all the actors in the events were in their graves,
and the daughter, for whose sake largely the secret was guarded, had
followed them.

Now, does anyone claim, that, because a woman has sacrificed for twenty
years all cravings for human sympathy, and all possibility of perfectly
free and unconstrained intercourse with her friends, that she is
obliged to go on bearing this same lonely burden to the end of her days?

Let anyone imagine the frightful constraint and solitude implied in
this sentence. Let anyone, too, think of its painful complications in
life. The roots of a falsehood are far-reaching. Conduct that can only
be explained by criminating another must often seem unreasonable and
unaccountable; and the most truthful person, who feels bound to keep
silence regarding a radical lie of another, must often be placed in
positions most trying to conscientiousness. The great merit of 'Caleb
Williams' as a novel consists in its philosophical analysis of the
utter helplessness of an innocent person who agrees to keep the secret
of a guilty one. One sees there how that necessity of silence produces
all the effect of falsehood on his part, and deprives him of the
confidence and sympathy of those with whom he would take refuge.

For years, this unnatural life was forced on Lady Byron, involving her
as in a network, even in her dearest family relations.

That, when all the parties were dead, Lady Byron should allow herself
the sympathy of a circle of intimate friends, is something so perfectly
proper and natural, that we cannot but wonder that her conduct in this
respect has ever been called in question. If it was her right to have
had a public _exposé_ in 1816, it was certainly her right to show to
her own intimate circle the secret of her life when all the principal
actors were passed from earth.

The 'Quarterly' speaks as if, by thus waiting, she deprived Lord Byron
of the testimony of living witnesses. But there were as many witnesses
and partisans dead on her side as on his. Lady Milbanke and Sir Ralph,
Sir Samuel Romilly and Lady Anne Barnard were as much dead as Hobhouse,
Moore, and others of Byron's partisans.

The 'Quarterly' speaks of Lady Byron as 'running round, and repeating
her story to people mostly below her own rank in life.'

To those who know the personal dignity of Lady Byron's manners,
represented and dwelt on by her husband in his conversations with Lady
Blessington, this coarse and vulgar attack only proves the poverty of a
cause which can defend itself by no better weapons.

Lord Byron speaks of his wife as 'highly cultivated;' as having 'a
degree of self-control I never saw equalled.'

 'I am certain,' he says, 'that Lady Byron's first idea is what is due
 to herself: I mean that it is the undeviating rule of her conduct....
 Now, my besetting sin is a want of that self-respect which she
 has in excess.... But, though I accuse Lady Byron of an excess of
 self-respect, I must, in candour, admit, that, if any person ever had
 excuse for an extraordinary portion of it, she has; as, in all her
 thoughts, words, and actions, she is the most decorous woman that ever

This is the kind of woman who has lately been accused in the public
prints as a babbler of secrets and a gossip in regard to her private
difficulties with children, grandchildren, and servants. It is a fair
specimen of the justice that has generally been meted out to Lady Byron.

In 1836, she was accused of having made a confidant of Campbell, on
the strength of having written him a note _declining_ to give him any
information, or answer any questions. In July, 1869, she was denounced
by 'Blackwood' as a Madame Brinvilliers for keeping such perfect
silence on the matter of her husband's character; and in the last
'Quarterly' she is spoken of as a gossip 'running round, and repeating
her story to people below her in rank.'

While we are upon this subject, we have a suggestion to make. John
Stuart Mill says that utter self-abnegation has been preached to women
as a peculiarly feminine virtue. It is true; but there is a moral limit
to the value of self-abnegation.

It is a fair question for the moralist, whether it is right and proper
wholly to ignore one's personal claims to justice. The teachings of
the Saviour give us warrant for submitting to personal injuries; but
both the Saviour and St. Paul manifested bravery in denying false
accusations, and asserting innocence.

Lady Byron was falsely accused of having ruined _the_ man of his
generation, and caused all his vices and crimes, and all their evil
effects on society. She submitted to the accusation for a certain
number of years for reasons which commended themselves to her
conscience; but when all the personal considerations were removed, and
she was about passing from life, it was right, it was just, it was
strictly in accordance with the philosophical and ethical character
of her mind, and with her habit of considering all things in their
widest relations to the good of mankind, that she should give serious
attention and consideration to the last duty which she might owe to
abstract truth and justice in her generation.

In her letter on the religious state of England, we find her advocating
an absolute frankness in all religious parties. She would have all
openly confess those doubts, which, from the best of motives, are
usually suppressed; and believed, that, as a result of such perfect
truthfulness, a wider love would prevail among Christians. This shows
the strength of her conviction of the power and the importance of
absolute truth; and shows, therefore, that her doubts and conscientious
inquiries respecting her duty on this subject are exactly what might
have been expected from a person of her character and principles.

Having thus shown that Lady Byron's testimony is the testimony of a
woman of strong and sound mind, that it was not given from malice nor
ill-will, that it was given at a proper time and in a proper manner,
and for a purpose in accordance with the most elevated moral views, and
that it is coincident with all the established facts of this history,
and furnishes a perfect solution of every mystery of the case, we think
we shall carry the reader with us in saying that it is to be received
as absolute truth.

This conviction we arrive at while as yet we are deprived of the
statement prepared by Lady Byron, and the proof by which she expected
to sustain it; both which, as we understand, are now in the hands of
her trustees.



The credibility of the accusation of the unnatural crime charged to
Lord Byron is greater than if charged to most men. He was born of
parents both of whom were remarkable for perfectly ungoverned passions.
There appears to be historical evidence that he was speaking literal
truth when he says to Medwin of his father,--

 'He would have made a bad hero for Hannah More. He ran out three
 fortunes, and married or ran away with three women.... He seemed born
 for his own ruin and that of the other sex. He began by seducing
 Lady Carmarthen, and spent her four thousand pounds; and, not
 content with one adventure of this kind, afterwards eloped with Miss
 Gordon.'--_Medwin's Conversations_, p. 31.

Lady Carmarthen here spoken of was the mother of Mrs. Leigh. Miss
Gordon became Lord Byron's mother.

By his own account, and that of Moore, she was a passionate,
ungoverned, though affectionate woman. Lord Byron says to Medwin,--

 'I lost my father when I was only six years of age. My mother, when
 she was in a passion with me (and I gave her cause enough), used to
 say, "O you little dog! you are a Byron all over, you are as bad as
 your father!"'--_Ibid._, p. 31.

By all the accounts of his childhood and early youth, it is made
apparent that ancestral causes had sent him into the world with a most
perilous and exceptional sensitiveness of brain and nervous system,
which it would have required the most judicious course of education to
direct safely and happily.

Lord Byron often speaks as if he deemed himself subject to tendencies
which might terminate in insanity. The idea is so often mentioned
and dwelt upon in his letters, journals, and conversations, that we
cannot but ascribe it to some very peculiar experience, and not to mere

But, in the history of his early childhood and youth, we see no
evidence of any original malformation of nature. We see only evidence
of one of those organisations, full of hope and full of peril,
which adverse influences might easily drive to insanity, but wise
physiological training and judicious moral culture might have guided
to the most splendid results. But of these he had neither. He was
alternately the pet and victim of his mother's tumultuous nature,
and equally injured both by her love and her anger. A Scotch maid of
religious character gave him early serious impressions of religion, and
thus added the element of an awakened conscience to the conflicting
ones of his character.

Education, in the proper sense of the word, did not exist in England in
those days. Physiological considerations of the influence of the body
on the soul, of the power of brain and nerve over moral development,
had then not even entered the general thought of society. The school
and college education literally taught him nothing but the ancient
classics, of whose power in exciting and developing the animal passions
Byron often speaks.

The morality of the times is strikingly exemplified even in its
literary criticism.

For example: One of Byron's poems, written while a schoolboy at Harrow,
is addressed to 'My Son.' Mr. Moore, and the annotator of the standard
edition of Byron's poems, gravely give the public their speculations on
the point, whether Lord Byron first became a father while a schoolboy
at Harrow; and go into particulars in relation to a certain infant, the
claim to which lay between Lord Byron and another schoolfellow. It is
not the nature of the event itself, so much as the cool, unembarrassed
manner in which it is discussed, that gives the impression of the
state of public morals. There is no intimation of anything unusual, or
discreditable to the school, in the event, and no apparent suspicion
that it will be regarded as a serious imputation on Lord Byron's

Modern physiological developments would lead any person versed in
the study of the reciprocal influence of physical and moral laws to
anticipate the most serious danger to such an organisation as Lord
Byron's, from a precocious development of the passions. Alcoholic and
narcotic stimulants, in the case of such a person, would be regarded as
little less than suicidal, and an early course of combined drinking
and licentiousness as tending directly to establish those unsound
conditions which lead towards moral insanity. Yet not only Lord Byron's
testimony, but every probability from the licence of society, goes to
show that this was exactly what did take place.

Neither restrained by education, nor warned by any correct
physiological knowledge, nor held in check by any public sentiment, he
drifted directly upon the fatal rock.

Here we give Mr. Moore full credit for all his abatements in regard
to Lord Byron's excesses in his early days. Moore makes the point
very strongly that he was not, _de facto_, even so bad as many of his
associates; and we agree with him. Byron's physical organisation was
originally as fine and sensitive as that of the most delicate woman.
He possessed the faculty of moral ideality in a high degree; and
he had not, in the earlier part of his life, an attraction towards
mere brutal vice. His physical sensitiveness was so remarkable that
he says of himself, 'A dose of salts has the effect of a temporary
inebriation, like light champagne, upon me.' Yet this exceptionally
delicately-organised boy and youth was in a circle where not to conform
to the coarse drinking-customs of his day was to incur censure and
ridicule. That he early acquired the power of bearing large quantities
of liquor is manifested by the record in his Journal, that, on the day
when he read the severe 'Edinburgh' article upon his schoolboy poems,
he drank three bottles of claret at a sitting.

Yet Byron was so far superior to his times, that some vague impulses to
physiological prudence seem to have suggested themselves to him, and
been acted upon with great vigour. He never could have lived so long
as he did, under the exhaustive process of every kind of excess, if he
had not re-enforced his physical nature by an assiduous care of his
muscular system. He took boxing-lessons, and distinguished himself in
all athletic exercises.

He also had periods in which he seemed to try vaguely to retrieve
himself from dissipation, and to acquire self-mastery by what he called

But, ignorant and excessive in all his movements, his very efforts
at temperance were intemperate. From violent excesses in eating
and drinking, he would pass to no less unnatural periods of utter
abstinence. Thus the very conservative power which Nature has of
adapting herself to any _settled_ course was lost. The extreme
sensitiveness produced by long periods of utter abstinence made the
succeeding debauch more maddening and fatal. He was like a fine musical
instrument, whose strings were every day alternating between extreme
tension and perfect laxity. We have in his Journal many passages, of
which the following is a specimen:--

 'I have dined regularly to-day, for the first time since Sunday last;
 this being Sabbath too,--all the rest, tea and dry biscuits, six _per
 diem_. I wish to God I had not dined, now! It kills me with heaviness,
 stupor, and horrible dreams; and yet it was but a pint of bucellas,
 and fish. Meat I never touch, nor much vegetable diet. I wish I were
 in the country, to take exercise, instead of being obliged to _cool_
 by abstinence, in lieu of it. I should not so much mind a little
 accession of flesh: my bones can well bear it. But the worst is, the
 Devil always came with it, till I starved him out; and I will _not_
 be the slave of _any_ appetite. If I do err, it shall be my heart, at
 least, that heralds the way. O my head! how it aches! The horrors of
 digestion! I wonder how Bonaparte's dinner agrees with him.'--_Moore's
 Life_, vol. ii. p. 264.

From all the contemporary history and literature of the times,
therefore, we have reason to believe that Lord Byron spoke the exact
truth when he said to Medwin,--

 'My own master at an age when I most required a guide, left to the
 dominion of my passions when they were the strongest, with a fortune
 anticipated before I came into possession of it, and a constitution
 impaired by early excesses, I commenced my travels, in 1809,
 with a joyless indifference to the world and all that was before
 me.'--_Medwin's Conversations_, p. 42.

Utter prostration of the whole physical man from intemperate excess,
the deadness to temptation which comes from utter exhaustion, was his
condition, according to himself and Moore, when he first left England,
at twenty-one years of age.

In considering his subsequent history, we are to take into account
that it was upon the brain and nerve-power, thus exhausted by early
excess, that the draughts of sudden and rapid literary composition
began to be made. There was something unnatural and unhealthy in the
rapidity, clearness, and vigour with which his various works followed
each other. Subsequently to the first two cantos of 'Childe Harold,'
'The Bride of Abydos,' 'The Corsair,' 'The Giaour,' 'Lara,' 'Parisina,'
and 'The Siege of Corinth,' all followed close upon each other, in a
space of less than three years, and those the three most critical years
of his life. 'The Bride of Abydos' came out in the autumn of 1813,
and was written in a week; and 'The Corsair' was composed in thirteen
days. A few months more than a year before his marriage, and the brief
space of his married life, was the period in which all this literary
labour was performed, while yet he was running the wild career of
intrigue and fashionable folly. He speaks of 'Lara' as being tossed
off in the intervals between masquerades and balls, &c. It is with the
physical results of such unnatural efforts that we have now chiefly
to do. Every physiologist would say that the demands of such poems on
a healthy brain, in that given space, must have been exhausting; but
when we consider that they were cheques drawn on a bank broken by early
extravagance, and that the subject was prodigally spending vital forces
in every other direction at the same time, one can scarcely estimate
the physiological madness of such a course as Lord Byron's.

It is evident from his Journal, and Moore's account, that any amount
of physical force which was for the time restored by his first foreign
travel was recklessly spent in this period, when he threw himself with
a mad recklessness into London society in the time just preceding
his marriage. The revelations made in Moore's Memoir of this period
are sad enough: those to Medwin are so appalling as to the state of
contemporary society in England, as to require, at least, the benefit
of the doubt for which Lord Byron's habitual carelessness of truth gave
scope. His adventures with ladies of the highest rank in England are
there paraded with a freedom of detail that respect for womanhood must
lead every woman to question. The only thing that is unquestionable
is, that Lord Byron made these assertions to Medwin, not as remorseful
confessions, but as relations of his _bonnes fortunes_, and that Medwin
published them in the very face of the society to which they related.

When Lord Byron says, 'I have seen a great deal of Italian society, and
swum in a gondola; but nothing could equal the profligacy of high life
in England ... when I knew it,' he makes certainly strong assertions,
if we remember what Mr. Moore reveals of the harem kept in Venice.

But when Lord Byron intimates that three married women in his own
rank in life, who had once held illicit relations with him, made
wedding-visits to his wife at one time, we must hope that he drew on
his active imagination, as he often did, in his statements in regard to

When he relates at large his amour with Lord Melbourne's wife, and
represents her as pursuing him with an insane passion, to which he with
difficulty responded; and when he says that she tracked a rival lady
to his lodgings, and came into them herself, disguised as a carman--one
_hopes_ that he exaggerates. And what are we to make of passages like

 'There was a lady at that time, double my own age, the mother of
 several children who were perfect angels, with whom I formed a
 _liaison_ that continued without interruption for eight months. She
 told me she was never in love till she was thirty, and I thought
 myself so with her when she was forty. I never felt a stronger
 passion, which she returned with equal ardour....

 'Strange as it may seem, she gained, as all women do, an influence
 over me so strong that I had great difficulty in breaking with her.'

Unfortunately, these statements, though probably exaggerated, are, for
substance, borne out in the history of the times. With every possible
abatement for exaggeration in these statements, there remains still
undoubted evidence from other sources that Lord Byron exercised a most
peculiar and fatal power over the moral sense of the women with whom he
was brought in relation; and that love for him, in many women, became
a sort of insanity, depriving them of the just use of their faculties.
All this makes his fatal history both possible and probable.

Even the article in 'Blackwood,' written in 1825 for the express
purpose of vindicating his character, admits that his name had been
coupled with those of three, four, or more women of rank, whom it
speaks of as 'licentious, unprincipled, characterless women.'

That such a course, in connection with alternate extremes of excess
and abstinence in eating and drinking, and the immense draughts on
the brain-power of rapid and brilliant composition, should have ended
in that abnormal state in which cravings for unnatural vice give
indications of approaching brain-disease, seems only too probable.

This symptom of exhausted vitality becomes often a frequent type in
periods of very corrupt society. The dregs of the old Greek and Roman
civilisation were foul with it; and the apostle speaks of the turning
of the use of the natural into that which is against nature, as the
last step in abandonment.

The very literature of such periods marks their want of physical and
moral soundness. Having lost all sense of what is simple and natural
and pure, the mind delights to dwell on horrible ideas, which give a
shuddering sense of guilt and crime. All the writings of this fatal
period of Lord Byron's life are more or less intense histories of
unrepentant guilt and remorse or of unnatural crime. A recent writer
in 'Temple Bar' brings to light the fact, that 'The Bride of Abydos,'
the first of the brilliant and rapid series of poems which began in
the period immediately preceding his marriage, was, in its first
composition, an intense story of love between a brother and sister in
a Turkish harem; that Lord Byron declared, in a letter to Galt, that
it was drawn from _real life_; that, in compliance with the prejudices
of the age, he altered the relationship to that of cousins before

This same writer goes on to show, by a series of extracts from Lord
Byron's published letters and journals, that his mind about this
time was in a fearfully unnatural state, and suffering singular and
inexplicable agonies of remorse; that, though he was accustomed
fearlessly to confide to his friends immoralities which would be looked
upon as damning, there was now a secret to which he could not help
alluding in his letters, but which he told Moore he could not tell now,
but 'some day or other when we are _veterans_.' He speaks of his heart
as eating itself out; of a mysterious _person_, whom he says, 'God
knows I love too well, and the Devil probably too.' He wrote a song,
and sent it to Moore, addressed to a partner in some awful guilt, whose
very name he dares not mention, because

 'There is grief in the sound, there is guilt in the fame.'

He speaks of struggles of remorse, of efforts at repentance, and
returns to guilt, with a sort of horror very different from the
well-pleased air with which he relates to Medwin his common intrigues
and adulteries. He speaks of himself generally as oppressed by a
frightful, unnatural gloom and horror, and, when occasionally happy,
'not in a way that _can_ or _ought_ to last.'

'The Giaour,' 'The Corsair,' 'Lara,' 'Parisina,' 'The Siege of
Corinth,' and 'Manfred,' all written or conceived about this period
of his life, give one picture of a desperate, despairing, unrepentant
soul, whom suffering maddens, but cannot reclaim.

In all these he paints only the one woman, of concentrated,
unconsidering passion, ready to sacrifice heaven and defy hell for a
guilty man, beloved in spite of religion or reason. In this unnatural
literature, the stimulus of crime is represented as intensifying love.
Medora, Gulnare, the Page in 'Lara,' Parisina, and the lost sister
of Manfred, love the more intensely because the object of the love
is a criminal, out-lawed by God and man. The next step beyond this

The work of Dr. Forbes Winslow on 'Obscure Diseases of the Brain and
Nerves'[49] contains a passage so very descriptive of the case of
Lord Byron, that it might seem to have been written for it. The sixth
chapter of his work, on 'Anomalous and Masked Affections of the Mind,'
contains, in our view, the only clue that can unravel the sad tragedy
of Byron's life. He says, p. 87:--

[Footnote 49: The article in question is worth a careful reading. Its
industry and accuracy in amassing evidence are worthy attention.]

 'These forms of unrecognised mental disorder are not always
 accompanied by any well-marked disturbance of the bodily health
 requiring medical attention, or any obvious departure from a normal
 state of thought and conduct such as to justify legal interference;
 neither do these affections always incapacitate the party from
 engaging in the ordinary business of life.... The change may have
 progressed insidiously and stealthily, having slowly and almost
 imperceptibly induced important molecular modifications in the
 delicate vesicular neurine of the brain, ultimately resulting in some
 aberration of the ideas, alteration of the affections, or perversion
 of the propensities or instincts....

 'Mental disorder of a dangerous character has been known for years
 to be stealthily advancing, without exciting the slightest notion of
 its presence, until some sad and terrible catastrophe, homicide, or
 suicide, has painfully awakened attention to its existence. Persons
 suffering from latent insanity often affect singularity of dress,
 gait, conversation, and phraseology. The most trifling circumstances
 stimulate their excitability. They are martyrs to ungovernable
 paroxysms of passion, are inflamed to a state of demoniacal fury
 by the most insignificant of causes, and occasionally lose all
 sense of delicacy of feeling, sentiment, refinement of manners and
 conversation. Such manifestations of undetected mental disorder may be
 seen associated with intellectual and moral qualities of the highest

In another place, Dr. Winslow again adverts to this latter symptom,
which was strikingly marked in the case of Lord Byron:--

 'All delicacy and decency of thought are occasionally banished from
 the mind, so effectually does the principle of thought in these
 attacks succumb to the animal instincts and passions....

 'Such cases will commonly be found associated with organic
 predisposition to insanity or cerebral disease.... Modifications of
 the malady are seen allied with genius. The biographies of Cowper,
 Burns, Byron, Johnson, Pope, and Haydon establish that the most
 exalted intellectual conditions do not escape unscathed.

 'In early childhood, this form of mental disturbance may, in many
 cases, be detected. To its existence is often to be traced the
 _motiveless_ crimes of the young.'

No one can compare this passage of Dr. Forbes Winslow with the
incidents we have already cited as occurring in that fatal period
before the separation of Lord and Lady Byron, and not feel that the
hapless young wife was indeed struggling with those inflexible natural
laws, which, at some stages of retribution, involve in their awful
sweep the guilty with the innocent. She longed to save; but he was gone
past redemption. Alcoholic stimulants and licentious excesses, without
doubt, had produced those unseen changes in the brain, of which Dr.
Forbes Winslow speaks; and the results were terrible in proportion to
the peculiar fineness and delicacy of the organism deranged.

Alas! the history of Lady Byron is the history of too many women in
every rank of life who are called, in agonies of perplexity and fear,
to watch that gradual process by which physical excesses change the
organism of the brain, till slow, creeping, moral insanity comes on.
The woman who is the helpless victim of cruelties which only unnatural
states of the brain could invent, who is heart-sick to-day and dreads
to-morrow,--looks in hopeless horror on the fatal process by which a
lover and a protector changes under her eyes, from day to day, to a
brute and a fiend.

Lady Byron's married life--alas! it is lived over in many a cottage and
tenement-house, with no understanding on either side of the cause of
the woful misery.

Dr. Winslow truly says, 'The science of these brain-affections is yet
in its infancy in England.' At that time, it had not even begun to be.
Madness was a fixed point; and the inquiries into it had no nicety.
Its treatment, if established, had no redeeming power. Insanity simply
locked a man up as a dangerous being; and the very suggestion of it,
therefore, was resented as an injury.

A most peculiar and affecting feature of that form of brain disease
which hurries its victim, as by an overpowering mania, into crime, is,
that often the moral faculties and the affections remain to a degree
unimpaired, and protest with all their strength against the outrage.
Hence come conflicts and agonies of remorse proportioned to the
strength of the moral nature. Byron, more than any other one writer,
may be called the poet of remorse. His passionate pictures of this
feeling seem to give new power to the English language:--

  'There is a war, a chaos of the mind,
  When all its elements convulsed--combined,
  Lie dark and jarring with perturbèd force,
  And gnashing with impenitent remorse,
  That juggling fiend, who never spake before,
  But cries, "I warned thee!" when the deed is o'er.'

It was this remorse that formed the only redeeming feature of the case.
Its eloquence, its agonies, won from all hearts the interest that we
give to a powerful nature in a state of danger and ruin; and it may
be hoped that this feeling, which tempers the stern justice of human
judgments, may prove only a faint image of the wider charity of Him
whose thoughts are as far above ours as the heaven is above the earth.



It has seemed, to some, wholly inconsistent, that Lady Byron, if this
story were true, could retain any kindly feeling for Lord Byron, or
any tenderness for his memory; that the profession implied a certain
hypocrisy: but, in this sad review, we may see how the woman who once
had loved him, might, in spite of every wrong he had heaped upon her,
still have looked on this awful wreck and ruin chiefly with pity. While
she stood afar, and refused to justify or join in the polluted idolatry
which defended his vices, there is evidence in her writings that her
mind often went back mournfully, as a mother's would, to the early days
when he might have been saved.

One of her letters in Robinson's Memoirs, in regard to his religious
opinions, shows with what intense earnestness she dwelt upon the
unhappy influences of his childhood and youth, and those early
theologies which led him to regard himself as one of the reprobate. She

 'Not merely from casual expressions, but from the whole tenor of Lord
 Byron's feelings, I could not but conclude that he was a believer
 in the inspiration of the Bible, and had the gloomiest Calvinistic
 tenets. To that unhappy view of the relation of the creature to the
 Creator I have always ascribed the misery of his life.

 'It is enough for me to know that he who thinks his transgression
 beyond forgiveness ... has righteousness beyond that of the
 self-satisfied sinner. It is impossible for me to doubt, that, could
 he once have been assured of pardon, his living faith in moral duty,
 and love of virtue ("I love the virtues that I cannot claim"), would
 have conquered every temptation. Judge, then, how I must hate the
 creed that made him see God as an Avenger, and not as a Father! My own
 impressions were just the reverse, but could have but little weight;
 and it was in vain to seek to turn his thoughts from that fixed idea
 with which he connected his personal peculiarity as a stamp. Instead
 of being made happier by any apparent good, he felt convinced that
 every blessing would be turned into a curse to him.... "The worst of
 it is, I do believe," he said. _I_, like all connected with him, was
 broken against the rock of predestination. I may be pardoned for my
 frequent reference to the sentiment (expressed by him), that I was
 only sent to show him the happiness he was forbidden to enjoy.'

In this letter we have the heart, not of the wife, but of the
mother,--the love that searches everywhere for extenuations of the
guilt it is forced to confess.

That Lady Byron was not alone in ascribing such results to the
doctrines of Calvinism, in certain cases, appears from the language of
the Thirty-nine Articles, which says:--

 'As the godly consideration of predestination, and our election in
 Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly
 persons, and such as feel in themselves the workings of the spirit of
 Christ; ... so, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the spirit of
 Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's
 predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth
 thrust them either into desperation, or into recklessness of most
 unclean living,--no less perilous than desperation.'

Lord Byron's life is an exact commentary on these words, which passed
under the revision of Calvin himself.

The whole tone of this letter shows not only that Lady Byron never lost
her deep interest in her husband, but that it was by this experience
that all her religious ideas were modified. There is another of
these letters in which she thus speaks of her husband's writings and

 'The author of the article on "Goethe" appears to me to have the
 mind which could dispel the illusion about _another_ poet, without
 depreciating his claims ... to the truest inspiration.

 'Who has sought to distinguish between the holy and the unholy in that
 spirit? to prove, by the very degradation of the one, how high the
 other was. A character is never done justice to by extenuating its
 faults: so I do not agree to _nisi bonum_. It is kinder to read the
 blotted page.'

These letters show that Lady Byron's idea was that, even were the
whole mournful truth about Lord Byron fully told, there was still a
foundation left for pity and mercy. She seems to have remembered,
that if his sins were peculiar, so also were his temptations; and to
have schooled herself for years to gather up, and set in order in her
memory, all that yet remained precious in this great ruin. Probably no
English writer that ever has made the attempt could have done this more
perfectly. Though Lady Byron was not a poet _par excellence_, yet she
belonged to an order of souls fully equal to Lord Byron. Hers was more
the analytical mind of the philosopher than the creative mind of the
poet; and it was, for that reason, the one mind in our day capable of
estimating him fully both with justice and mercy. No person in England
had a more intense sensibility to genius, in its loftier acceptation,
than Lady Byron; and none more completely sympathised with what was
pure and exalted in her husband's writings.

There is this peculiarity in Lord Byron, that the pure and the impure
in his poetry often run side by side without mixing,--as one may see
at Geneva the muddy stream of the Arve and the blue waters of the
Rhone flowing together unmingled. What, for example, can be nobler,
and in a higher and tenderer moral strain than his lines on the dying
gladiator, in 'Childe Harold'? What is more like the vigour of the old
Hebrew Scriptures than his thunderstorm in the Alps? What can more
perfectly express moral ideality of the highest kind than the exquisite
descriptions of Aurora Raby,--pure and high in thought and language,
occurring, as they do, in a work full of the most utter vileness?

Lady Byron's hopes for her husband fastened themselves on all the noble
fragments yet remaining in that shattered temple of his mind which lay
blackened and thunder-riven; and she looked forward to a sphere beyond
this earth, where infinite mercy should bring all again to symmetry and
order. If the strict theologian must regret this as an undue latitude
of charity, let it at least he remembered that it was a charity which
sprang from a Christian virtue, and which she extended to every human
being, however lost, however low. In her view, the mercy which took
_him_ was mercy that could restore all.

In my recollections of the interview with Lady Byron, when this whole
history was presented, I can remember that it was with a softened and
saddened feeling that I contemplated the story, as one looks on some
awful, inexplicable ruin.

The last letter which I addressed to Lady Byron upon this subject will
show that such was the impression of the whole interview. It was in
reply to the one written on the death of my son:--

  'Jan. 30, 1858.

 'MY DEAR FRIEND,--I _did_ long to hear from you at a time
 when few knew how to speak, because I knew that _you_ had known
 everything that sorrow can teach,--you, whose whole life has been a
 crucifixion, a long ordeal.

 'But I believe that the Lamb, who stands for ever "in the midst of the
 throne, as it had been slain," has everywhere His followers,--those
 who seem sent into the world, as He was, to suffer for the redemption
 of others; and, like Him, they must look to the joy set before
 them,--of redeeming others.

 'I often think that God called you to this beautiful and terrible
 ministry when He suffered you to link your destiny with one so
 strangely gifted and so fearfully tempted. Perhaps the reward that is
 to meet you when you enter within the veil where you must so soon pass
 will be to see _that_ spirit, once chained and defiled, set free and
 purified; and to know that to you it has been given, by your life of
 love and faith, to accomplish this glorious change.

 'I think increasingly on the subject on which you conversed with me
 once,--the future state of retribution. It is evident to me that the
 spirit of Christianity has produced in the human spirit a tenderness
 of love which wholly revolts from the old doctrine on this subject;
 and I observe, that, the more Christ-like anyone becomes, the more
 difficult it seems for them to accept it as hitherto presented. And
 yet, on the contrary, it was _Christ_ who said, "Fear Him that is
 able to destroy both soul and body in hell;" and the most appalling
 language is that of Christ himself.

 'Certain ideas, once prevalent, certainly must be thrown off. An
 endless _infliction_ for past sins was once the doctrine: _that_ we
 now generally reject. The doctrine now generally taught is, that an
 eternal persistence in evil necessitates everlasting suffering, since
 evil induces misery by the eternal nature of things; and this, I fear,
 is inferable from the analogies of Nature, and confirmed by the whole
 implication of the Bible.

 'What attention have you given to this subject? and is there any fair
 way of disposing of the current of assertion, and the still deeper
 _under_-current of implication, on this subject, without admitting
 one which loosens all faith in revelation, and throws us on pure
 naturalism? But of one thing I always feel sure: probation does not
 end with this present life; and the number of the saved may therefore
 be infinitely greater than the world's history leads us to suppose.

 'I think the Bible implies a great crisis, a struggle, an agony, in
 which God and Christ and all the good are engaged in redeeming from
 sin; and we are not to suppose that the little portion that is done
 for souls as they pass between the two doors of birth and death is all.

 'The Bible is certainly silent there. The primitive Church believed in
 the mercies of an intermediate state; and it was only the abuse of it
 by Romanism that drove the Church into its present position, which,
 I think, is wholly indefensible, and wholly irreconcilable with the
 spirit of Christ. For if it were the case, that probation in all cases
 begins and ends here, God's example would surely be one that could not
 be followed, and He would seem to be far less persevering than even
 human beings in efforts to save.

 'Nothing is plainer than that it would be wrong to give up any mind to
 eternal sin till every possible thing had been done for its recovery;
 and that is so clearly _not_ the case here, that I can see that, with
 thoughtful minds, this belief would cut the very roots of religious
 faith in God: for there is a difference between facts that we do not
 understand, and facts which we _do_ understand, and perceive to be
 wholly irreconcilable with a certain character professed by God.

 'If God says He is love, and certain ways of explaining Scripture
 make Him _less_ loving and patient than man, then we make Scripture
 contradict itself. Now, as no passage of Scripture limits probation to
 this life, and as one passage in Peter certainly unequivocally asserts
 that Christ preached to the spirits in prison while His body lay in
 the grave, I am clear upon this point.

 'But it is also clear, that if there be those who persist in refusing
 God's love, who choose to dash themselves for ever against the
 inflexible laws of the universe, such souls must for ever suffer.

 'There may be souls who hate purity because it reveals their vileness;
 who refuse God's love, and prefer eternal conflict with it. For such
 there can be no peace. Even in this life, we see those whom the purest
 self-devoting love only inflames to madness; and we have only to
 suppose an eternal persistence in this to suppose eternal misery.

 'But on this subject we can only leave all reverently in the hands
 of that Being whose almighty power is "declared chiefly in showing



In leaving this subject, I have an appeal to make to the men, and more
especially to the women, who have been my readers.

In justice to Lady Byron, it must be remembered that this publication
of her story is not her act, but mine. I trust you have already
conceded, that, in so severe and peculiar a trial, she had a right to
be understood fully by her immediate circle of friends, and to seek
of them counsel in view of the moral questions to which such very
exceptional circumstances must have given rise. Her communication to me
was not an address to the public: it was a statement of the case for
advice. True, by leaving the whole, unguarded by pledge or promise, it
left discretionary power with me to use it if needful.

You, my sisters, are to judge whether the accusation laid against Lady
Byron by the 'Blackwood,' in 1869, was not of so barbarous a nature as
to justify my producing the truth I held in my hands in reply.

The 'Blackwood' claimed a right to re-open the subject because it was
_not_ a private but a public matter. It claimed that Lord Byron's
unfortunate marriage might have changed not only his own destiny, but
that of all England. It suggested, that, but for this, instead of
wearing out his life in vice, and corrupting society by impure poetry,
he might, at this day, have been leading the counsels of the State, and
helping the onward movements of the world. Then it directly charged
Lady Byron with meanly forsaking her husband in a time of worldly
misfortune; with fabricating a destructive accusation of crime against
him, and confirming this accusation by years of persistent silence more
guilty than open assertion.

It has been alleged, that, even admitting that Lady Byron's story were
true, it never ought to have been told.

Is it true, then, that a woman has not the same right to individual
justice that a man has? If the cases were reversed, would it have been
thought just that Lord Byron should go down in history loaded with
accusations of crime because he could be only vindicated by exposing
the crime of his wife?

It has been said that the crime charged on Lady Byron was comparatively
unimportant, and the one against Lord Byron was deadly.

But the 'Blackwood,' in opening the controversy, called Lady Byron by
the name of an unnatural female criminal, whose singular atrocities
alone entitle her to infamous notoriety; and the crime charged upon her
was sufficient to warrant the comparison.

Both crimes are foul, unnatural, horrible; and there is no middle
ground between the admission of the one or the other.

You must either conclude that a woman, all whose other works, words,
and deeds were generous, just, and gentle, committed this one monstrous
exceptional crime, without a motive, and against all the analogies of
her character, and all the analogies of her treatment of others; or you
must suppose that a man known by all testimony to have been boundlessly
licentious, who took the very course which, by every physiological law,
would have led to unnatural results, did, at last, commit an unnatural

The question, whether I did right, when Lady Byron was thus held up as
an abandoned criminal by the 'Blackwood,' to interpose my knowledge
of the real truth in her defence, is a serious one; but it is one for
which I must account to God alone, and in which, without any contempt
of the opinions of my fellow-creatures, I must say, that it is a small
thing to be judged of man's judgment.

I had in the case a responsibility very different from that of many
others. I had been consulted in relation to the publication of this
story by Lady Byron, at a time when she had it in her power to have
exhibited it with all its proofs, and commanded an instant conviction.
I have reason to think that my advice had some weight in suppressing
that disclosure. I gave that advice under the impression that the Byron
controversy was a thing for ever passed, and never likely to return.

It had never occurred to me, that, nine years after Lady Byron's death,
a standard English periodical would declare itself free to re-open this
controversy, when all the generation who were her witnesses had passed
from earth; and that it would re-open it in the most savage form of
accusation, and with the indorsement and commendation of a hook of the
vilest slanders, edited by Lord Byron's mistress.

Let the reader mark the retributions of justice. The accusations of the
'Blackwood,' in 1869, were simply an intensified form of those first
concocted by Lord Byron in his 'Clytemnestra' poem of 1816. He forged
that weapon, and bequeathed it to his party. The 'Blackwood' took it
up, gave it a sharper edge, and drove it to the heart of Lady Byron's
fame. The result has been the disclosure of this history. It is,
then, Lord Byron himself, who, by his network of wiles, his ceaseless
persecutions of his wife, his efforts to extend his partisanship beyond
the grave, has brought on this tumultuous exposure. He, and he alone,
is the cause of this revelation.

And now I have one word to say to those in England who, with all the
facts and documents in their hands which could at once have cleared
Lady Byron's fame, allowed the barbarous assault of the 'Blackwood'
to go over the civilised world without a reply. I speak to those who,
knowing that I am speaking the truth, stand silent; to those who have
now the ability to produce the facts and documents by which this cause
might be instantly settled, and who do not produce them.

I do not judge them; but I remind them that a day is coming when they
and I must stand side by side at the great judgment-seat,--I to give an
account for my speaking, they for their silence.

In that day, all earthly considerations will have vanished like morning
mists, and truth or falsehood, justice or injustice, will be the only

In that day, God, who will judge the secrets of all men, will judge
between this man and this woman. Then, if never before, the full truth
shall be told both of the depraved and dissolute man who made it his
life's object to defame the innocent, and the silent, the self-denying
woman who made it her life's object to give space for repentance to the





The reading world of America has lately been presented with a book
which is said to sell rapidly, and which appears to meet with universal

The subject of the book may be thus briefly stated: The mistress of
Lord Byron comes before the world for the sake of vindicating his fame
from slanders and aspersions cast on him by his wife. The story of the
mistress _versus_ wife may be summed up as follows:--

Lord Byron, the hero of the story, is represented as a human being
endowed with every natural charm, gift, and grace, who, by the one
false step of an unsuitable marriage, wrecked his whole life. A
narrow-minded, cold-hearted precisian, without sufficient intellect to
comprehend his genius, or heart to feel for his temptations, formed
with him one of those mere worldly marriages common in high life; and,
finding that she could not reduce him to the mathematical proprieties
and conventional rules of her own mode of life, suddenly, and without
warning, abandoned him in the most cruel and inexplicable manner.

It is alleged that she parted from him in apparent affection and
good-humour, wrote him a playful, confiding letter upon the way, but,
after reaching her father's house, suddenly, and without explanation,
announced to him that she would never see him again; that this sudden
abandonment drew down upon him a perfect storm of scandalous stories,
which his wife never contradicted; that she never in any way or shape
stated what the exact reasons for her departure had been, and thus
silently gave scope to all the malice of thousands of enemies. The
sensitive victim was actually driven from England, his home broken up,
and be doomed to be a lonely wanderer on foreign shores.

In Italy, under bluer skies, and among a gentler people, with more
tolerant modes of judgment, the authoress intimates that he found
peace and consolation. A lovely young Italian countess falls in love
with him, and, breaking her family ties for his sake, devotes herself
to him; and, in blissful retirement with her, he finds at last that
domestic life for which he was so fitted.

Soothed, calmed, and refreshed, he writes 'Don Juan,' which the world
is at this late hour informed was a poem with a high moral purpose,
designed to be a practical illustration of the doctrine of total
depravity among young gentlemen in high life.

Under the elevating influence of love, he rises at last to higher
realms of moral excellence, and resolves to devote the rest of his life
to some noble and heroic purpose; becomes the saviour of Greece; and
dies untimely, leaving a nation to mourn his loss.

The authoress dwells with a peculiar bitterness on Lady Byron's entire
_silence_ during all these years, as the most aggravated form of
persecution and injury. She informs the world that Lord Byron wrote his
Autobiography with the purpose of giving a fair statement of the exact
truth in the whole matter; and that Lady Byron bought up the manuscript
of the publisher, and insisted on its being destroyed, unread; thus
inflexibly depriving her husband of his last chance of a hearing before
the tribunal of the public.

As a result of this silent persistent cruelty on the part of a cold,
correct, narrow-minded woman, the character of Lord Byron has been
misunderstood, and his name transmitted to after-ages clouded with
aspersions and accusations which it is the object of this book to

       *       *       *       *       *

Such is the story of Lord Byron's mistress,--a story which is going
the length of this American continent, and rousing up new sympathy
with the poet, and doing its best to bring the youth of America once
more under the power of that brilliant, seductive genius, from which
it was hoped they had escaped. Already we are seeing it revamped in
magazine-articles, which take up the slanders of the paramour and
enlarge on them, and wax eloquent in denunciation of the marble-hearted
insensible wife.

All this while, it does not appear to occur to the thousands of
unreflecting readers that they are listening merely to the story of
Lord Byron's mistress, and of Lord Byron; and that, even by their own
showing, their heaviest accusation against Lady Byron is that _she has
not spoken at all_. Her story has never been told.

For many years after the rupture between Lord Byron and his wife, that
poet's personality, fate, and happiness had an interest for the whole
civilized world, which, we will venture to say, was unparalleled. It
is within the writer's recollection, how, in the obscure mountain-town
where she spent her early days, Lord Byron's separation from his wife
was, for a season, the all-engrossing topic.

She remembers hearing her father recount at the breakfast-table the
facts as they were given in the public papers, together with his own
suppositions and theories of the causes.

Lord Byron's 'Fare thee well,' addressed to Lady Byron, was set to
music, and sung with tears by young school-girls, even in this distant

Madame de Staël said of this appeal, that she was sure it would have
drawn her at once to his heart and his arms; _she_ could have forgiven
everything: and so said all the young ladies all over the world, not
only in England but in France and Germany, wherever Byron's poetry
appeared in translation.

Lady Byron's obdurate cold-heartedness in refusing even to listen to
his prayers, or to have any intercourse with him which might lead to
reconciliation, was the one point conceded on all sides.

The stricter moralists defended her; but gentler hearts throughout all
the world regarded her as a marble-hearted monster of correctness and
morality, a personification of the law unmitigated by the gospel.

Literature in its highest walks busied itself with Lady Byron. Hogg,
in the character of the Ettrick Shepherd, devotes several eloquent
passages to expatiating on the conjugal fidelity of a poor Highland
shepherd's wife, who, by patience and prayer and forgiveness, succeeds
in reclaiming her drunken husband, and making a good man of him; and
then points his moral by contrasting with this touching picture the
cold-hearted pharisaical correctness of Lady Byron.

Moore, in his 'Life of Lord Byron,' when beginning the recital of the
series of disgraceful amours which formed the staple of his life in
Venice, has this passage:--

'Highly censurable in point of morality and decorum as was his course
of life while under the roof of Madame ----, it was (with pain I am
forced to confess) venial in comparison with the strange, headlong
career of licence to which, when weaned from that connection, he so
unrestrainedly, and, it may be added, defyingly abandoned himself. Of
the state of his mind on leaving England, I have already endeavoured
to convey some idea; and among the feelings that went to make up that
self-centred spirit of resistance which he then opposed to his fate was
an indignant scorn for his own countrymen for the wrongs he thought
they had done him. For a time, _the kindly sentiments which he still
harboured toward Lady Byron, and a sort of vague hope, perhaps, that
all would yet come right again_, kept his mind in a mood somewhat
more softened and docile, as well as sufficiently under the influence
of English opinions to prevent his breaking out into open rebellion
against it, as he unluckily did afterward.

'_By the failure of the attempted mediation with Lady Byron_, his
last link with home was severed: while, notwithstanding the quiet and
unobtrusive life which he led at Geneva, there was as yet, he found,
no cessation of the slanderous warfare against his character; the same
busy and misrepresenting spirit which had tracked his every step at
home, having, with no less malicious watchfulness, dogged him into

We should like to know what the misrepresentations and slanders
must have been, when this sort of thing is admitted in Mr. Moore's
_justification_. It seems to us rather wonderful how anybody, unless it
were a person like the Countess Guiccioli, could misrepresent a life
such as even Byron's friend admits he was leading.

During all these years, when he was setting at defiance every principle
of morality and decorum, the interest of the female mind all over
Europe in the conversion of this brilliant prodigal son was unceasing,
and reflects the greatest credit upon the faith of the sex.

Madame de Staël commenced the first effort at evangelization
immediately after he left England, and found her catechumen in a most
edifying state of humility. He was, metaphorically, on his knees in
penitence, and confessed himself a miserable sinner in the loveliest
manner possible. Such sweetness and humility took all hearts. His
conversations with Madame de Staël were printed, and circulated all
over the world; making it to appear that only the inflexibility of Lady
Byron stood in the way of his entire conversion.

Lady Blessington, among many others, took him in hand five or six years
afterwards, and was greatly delighted with his docility, and edified by
his frank and free confessions of his miserable offences. Nothing now
seemed wanting to bring the wanderer home to the fold but a kind word
from Lady Byron. But, when the fair countess offered to mediate, the
poet only shook his head in tragic despair; 'he had so many times tried
in vain; Lady Byron's course had been from the first that of obdurate

Any one who would wish to see a specimen of the skill of the
honourable poet in mystification will do well to read a letter to Lady
Byron, which Lord Byron, on parting from Lady Blessington, enclosed for
her to read just before he went to Greece. He says,--

'The letter which I enclose _I was prevented from sending by my despair
of its doing any good_. I was perfectly sincere when I wrote it, and
am so still. But it is difficult for me to withstand the thousand
provocations on that subject which both friends and foes have for seven
years been throwing in the way of a man whose feelings were once quick,
and whose temper was never patient.'


  'PISA, _Nov._ 17, 1821.

 'I have to acknowledge the receipt of "Ada's hair," which is very
 soft and pretty, and nearly as dark already as mine was at twelve
 years old, if I may judge from what I recollect of some in Augusta's
 possession, taken at that age. But it didn't curl--perhaps from its
 being let grow.

 'I also thank you for the inscription of the date and name; and I will
 tell you why: I believe that they are the only two or three words
 of your handwriting in my possession. For your letters I returned;
 and except the two words, or rather the one word, "Household,"
 written twice in an old account book, I have no other. I burnt your
 last note, for two reasons: firstly, it was written in a style not
 very agreeable; and, secondly, I wished to take your word without
 documents, which are the worldly resources of suspicious people.

 'I suppose that this note will reach you somewhere about Ada's
 birthday--the 10th of December, I believe. She will then be six:
 so that, in about twelve more, I shall have some chance of meeting
 her; perhaps sooner, if I am obliged to go to England by business
 or otherwise. Recollect, however, one thing, either in distance or
 nearness--every day which keeps us asunder should, after so long a
 period, rather soften our mutual feelings; which must always have one
 rallying point as long as our child exists, which, I presume, we both
 hope will be long after either of her parents.

 'The time which has elapsed since the separation has been considerably
 more than the whole brief period of our union, and the not much longer
 one of our prior acquaintance. We both made a bitter mistake; but
 now it is over, and irrevocably so. For at thirty-three on my part,
 and few years less on yours, though it is no very extended period of
 life, still it is one when the habits and thought are generally so
 formed as to admit of no modification; and, as we could not agree when
 younger, we should with difficulty do so now.

 'I say all this, because I own to you, that notwithstanding
 everything, I considered our reunion as not impossible for more than
 a year after the separation; but then I gave up the hope entirely
 and for ever. But this very impossibility of reunion seems to me
 at least a reason why, on all the few points of discussion which
 can arise between us, we should preserve the courtesies of life,
 and as much of its kindness as people who are never to meet may
 preserve,--perhaps more easily than nearer connections. For my own
 part, I am violent, but not malignant; for only fresh provocations can
 awaken my resentments. To you, who are colder and more concentrated,
 I would just hint, that you may sometimes mistake the depth of a cold
 anger for dignity, and a worse feeling for duty. I assure you that
 I bear you _now_ (whatever I may have done) no resentment whatever.
 Remember, that, _if you have injured me_ in aught, this forgiveness
 is something; and that, if I have _injured you_, it is something more
 still, if it be true, as the moralists say, that the most offending
 are the least forgiving.

 'Whether the offence has been solely on my side, or reciprocal, or on
 yours chiefly, I have ceased to reflect upon any but two things; viz.,
 that you are the mother of my child, and that we shall never meet
 again. I think, if you also consider the two corresponding points with
 reference to myself, it will be better for all three.

  'Yours ever,


The artless Thomas Moore introduces this letter in the 'Life,' with the

'There are few, I should think, of my readers, who will not agree with
me in pronouncing, that, if the author of the following letter had not
_right_ on his side, he had at least most of those good feelings which
are found in general to accompany it.'

The reader is requested to take notice of the important admission, that
_the letter was never sent to Lady Byron at all_. It was, in fact,
never _intended_ for her, but was a nice little dramatic performance,
composed simply with the view of acting on the sympathies of Lady
Blessington and Byron's numerous female admirers; and the reader will
agree with us, we think, that, in this point of view, it was very
neatly done, and deserves immortality as a work of high art. For six
years he had been plunged into every kind of vice and excess, pleading
his shattered domestic joys, and his wife's obdurate heart, as the
apology and the impelling cause; filling the air with his shrieks
and complaints concerning the slander which pursued him, while he
filled letters to his confidential correspondents with records of new
mistresses. During all these years, the silence of Lady Byron was
unbroken; though Lord Byron not only drew in private on the sympathies
of his female admirers, but employed his talents and position as an
author in holding her up to contempt and ridicule before thousands
of readers. We shall quote at length his side of the story, which he
published in the First Canto of 'Don Juan,' that the reader may see
how much reason he had for assuming the injured tone which he did in
the letter to Lady Byron quoted above. That letter never was sent to
her; and the unmanly and indecent caricature of her, and the indelicate
exposure of the whole story on his own side, which we are about to
quote, were the only communications that could have reached her

In the following verses, Lady Byron is represented as Donna Inez, and
Lord Byron as Don José; but the incidents and allusions were so very
pointed, that nobody for a moment doubted whose history the poet was

  'His mother was a learned lady, famed
    For every branch of every science known
  In every Christian language ever named,
    With virtues equalled by her wit alone:
  She made the cleverest people quite ashamed;
    And even the good with inward envy groaned,
  Finding themselves so very much exceeded
  In their own way by all the things that she did.

         *       *       *       *       *

  Save that her duty both to man and God
  Required this conduct; which seemed very odd.

  She kept a journal where his faults were noted,
    And opened certain trunks of books and letters,
  (All which might, if occasion served, be quoted);
    And then she had all Seville for abettors,
  Besides her good old grandmother (who doted):
    The hearers of her case become repeaters,
  Then advocates, inquisitors, and judges,--
  Some for amusement, others for old grudges.

  And then this best and meekest woman bore
    With such serenity her husband's woes!
  Just as the Spartan ladies did of yore,
    Who saw their spouses killed, and nobly chose
  Never to say a word about them more.
    Calmly she heard each calumny that rose,
  And saw _his_ agonies with such sublimity,
  That all the world exclaimed, "What magnanimity!"'

This is the longest and most elaborate version of his own story
that Byron ever published; but he busied himself with many others,
projecting at one time a Spanish romance, in which the same story is
related in the same transparent manner: but this he was dissuaded
from printing. The booksellers, however, made a good speculation in
publishing what they called his domestic poems; that is, poems bearing
more or less relation to this subject.

Every person with whom he became acquainted with any degree of intimacy
was made familiar with his side of the story. Moore's Biography is
from first to last, in its representations, founded upon Byron's
communicativeness, and Lady Byron's silence; and the world at last
settled down to believing that the account so often repeated, and never
contradicted, must be substantially a true one.

The true history of Lord and Lady Byron has long been perfectly
understood in many circles in England; but the facts were of a nature
that could not be made public. While there was a young daughter living
whose future might be prejudiced by its recital, and while there were
other persons on whom the disclosure of the real truth would have been
crushing as an avalanche, Lady Byron's only course was the perfect
silence in which she took refuge, and those sublime works of charity
and mercy to which she consecrated her blighted early life.

But the time is now come when the truth may be told. All the actors
in the scene have disappeared from the stage of mortal existence, and
passed, let us have faith to hope, into a world where they would desire
to expiate their faults by a late publication of the truth.

No person in England, we think, would as yet take the responsibility of
relating the true history which is to clear Lady Byron's memory; but,
by a singular concurrence of circumstances, all the facts of the case,
in the most undeniable and authentic form, were at one time placed in
the hands of the writer of this sketch, with authority to make such
use of them as she should judge best. Had this melancholy history been
allowed to sleep, no public use would have been made of them; but the
appearance of a popular attack on the character of Lady Byron calls for
a vindication, and the true story of her married life will therefore
now be related.

Lord Byron has described in one of his letters the impression left
upon his mind by a young person whom he met one evening in society,
and who attracted his attention by the simplicity of her dress, and a
certain air of singular purity and calmness with which she surveyed the
scene around her.

On inquiry, he was told that this young person was Miss Milbanke, an
only child, and one of the largest heiresses in England.

Lord Byron was fond of idealising his experiences in poetry; and the
friends of Lady Byron had no difficulty in recognising the portrait of
Lady Byron, as she appeared at this time of her life, in his exquisite
description of Aurora Raby:--

                                    'There was
  Indeed a certain fair and fairy one,
    Of the best class, and better than her class,--
  Aurora Raby, a young star who shone
    O'er life, too sweet an image for such glass;
  A lovely being scarcely formed or moulded;
  A rose with all its sweetest leaves yet folded.

         *       *       *       *       *

  Early in years, and yet more infantine
    In figure, she had something of sublime
  In eyes which sadly shone as seraphs' shine;
    All youth, but with an aspect beyond time;
  Radiant and grave, as pitying man's decline;
    Mournful, but mournful of another's crime,
  She looked as if she sat by Eden's door,
  And grieved for those who could return no more.

         *       *       *       *       *

  She gazed upon a world she scarcely knew,
    As seeking not to know it; silent, lone,
  As grows a flower, thus quietly she grew,
    And kept her heart serene within its zone.
  There was awe in the homage which she drew;
    Her spirit seemed as seated on a throne,
  Apart from the surrounding world, and strong
  In its own strength,--most strange in one so young!'

Some idea of the course which their acquaintance took, and of the
manner in which he was piqued into thinking of her, is given in a
stanza or two:--

  'The dashing and proud air of Adeline
    Imposed not upon her: she saw her blaze
  Much as she would have seen a glowworm shine;
    Then turned unto the stars for loftier rays.
  Juan was something she could not divine,
    Being no sibyl in the new world's ways;
  Yet she was nothing dazzled by the meteor,
  Because she did not pin her faith on feature.

  His fame too (for he had that kind of fame
    Which sometimes plays the deuce with womankind,--
  A heterogeneous mass of glorious blame,
    Half virtues and whole vices being combined;
  Faults which attract because they are not tame;
    Follies tricked out so brightly that they blind),--
  These seals upon her wax made no impression,
  Such was her coldness or her self-possession.

  Aurora sat with that indifference
    Which piques a _preux_ chevalier,--as it ought.
  Of all offences, that's the worst offence
    Which seems to hint you are not worth a thought.

         *       *       *       *       *

  To his gay nothings, nothing was replied,
    Or something which was nothing, as urbanity
  Required. Aurora scarcely looked aside,
    Nor even smiled enough for any vanity.
  The Devil was in the girl! Could it be pride,
    Or modesty, or absence, or inanity?

         *       *       *       *       *

  Juan was drawn thus into some attentions,
    Slight but select, and just enough to express,
  To females of perspicuous comprehensions,
    That he would rather make them more than less.
  Aurora at the last (so history mentions,
    Though probably much less a fact than guess)
  So far relaxed her thoughts from their sweet prison
  As once or twice to smile, if not to listen.

         *       *       *       *       *

  But Juan had a sort of winning way,
    A proud humility, if such there be,
  Which showed such deference to what females say,
    As if each charming word were a decree.
  His tact, too, tempered him from grave to gay,
    And taught him when to be reserved or free.
  He had the art of drawing people out,
  Without their seeing what he was about.

  Aurora, who in her indifference,
    Confounded him in common with the crowd
  Of flatterers, though she deemed he had more sense
    Than whispering foplings or than witlings loud,
  Commenced (from such slight things will great commence)
    To feel that flattery which attracts the proud,
  Rather by deference than compliment,
  And wins even by a delicate dissent.

  And then he had good looks: that point was carried
    _Nem. con._ amongst the women.

         *       *       *       *       *

    Now, though we know of old that looks deceive,
  And always have done, somehow these good looks,
  Make more impression than the best of books.

  Aurora, who looked more on books than faces,
    Was very young, although so very sage:
  Admiring more Minerva than the Graces,
    Especially upon a printed page.
  But Virtue's self, with all her tightest laces,
    Has not the natural stays of strict old age;
  And Socrates, that model of all duty,
  Owned to a penchant, though discreet for beauty.'

The presence of this high-minded, thoughtful, unworldly woman is
described through two cantos of the wild, rattling 'Don Juan,' in a
manner that shows how deeply the poet was capable of being affected by
such an appeal to his higher nature.

For instance, when Don Juan sits silent and thoughtful amid a circle of
persons who are talking scandal, the poet says,--

  ''Tis true, he saw Aurora look as though
    She approved his silence: she perhaps mistook
  Its motive for that charity we owe,
    But seldom pay, the absent.

         *       *       *       *       *

  He gained esteem where it was worth the most;
    And certainly Aurora had renewed
  In him some feelings he had lately lost
    Or hardened,--feelings which, perhaps ideal,
  Are so divine that I must deem them real:--

  The love of higher things and better days;
    The unbounded hope and heavenly ignorance
  Of what is called the world and the world's ways;
    The moments when we gather from a glance

  More joy than from all future pride or praise,
    Which kindled manhood, but can ne'er entrance
  The heart in an existence of its own
    Of which another's bosom is the zone.

  And full of sentiments sublime as billows
    Heaving between this world and worlds beyond,
  Don Juan, when the midnight hour of pillows
    Arrived, retired to his.'...

In all these descriptions of a spiritual unworldly nature acting on
the spiritual and unworldly part of his own nature, every one who ever
knew Lady Byron intimately must have recognised the model from which
he drew, and the experience from which he spoke, even though nothing
was further from his mind than to pay this tribute to the woman he had
injured, and though before these lines, which showed how truly he knew
her real character, had come one stanza of ribald, vulgar caricature,
designed as a slight to her:--

  'There was Miss Millpond, smooth as summer's sea
    That usual paragon, an only daughter,
  Who seemed the cream of equanimity
    'Till skimmed; and then there was some milk and water;
  With a slight shade of blue, too, it might be,
    Beneath the surface: but what did it matter?
  Love's riotous; but marriage should have quiet,
  And, being consumptive, live on a milk diet.'

The result of Byron's intimacy with Miss Milbanke and the enkindling
of his nobler feelings was an offer of marriage, which she, though
at the time deeply interested in him, declined with many expressions
of friendship and interest. In fact, she already loved him, but had
that doubt of her power to be to him all that a wife should be which
would be likely to arise in a mind so sensitively constituted and so
unworldly. They, however, continued a correspondence as friends; on her
part, the interest continually increased; on his, the transient rise of
better feelings was choked and overgrown by the thorns of base unworthy

From the height at which he might have been happy as the husband of a
noble woman, he fell into the depths of a secret adulterous intrigue
with a blood relation, so near in consanguinity, that discovery must
have been utter ruin and expulsion from civilised society.

From henceforth, this damning guilty secret became the ruling force in
his life; holding him with a morbid fascination, yet filling him with
remorse and anguish, and insane dread of detection. Two years after his
refusal by Miss Milbanke, his various friends, seeing that for some
cause he was wretched, pressed marriage upon him.

Marriage has often been represented as the proper goal and terminus
of a wild and dissipated career; and it has been supposed to be the
appointed mission of good women to receive wandering prodigals, with
all the rags and disgraces of their old life upon them, and put rings
on their hands, and shoes on their feet, and introduce them, clothed
and in their right minds, to an honourable career in society.

Marriage was, therefore, universally recommended to Lord Byron by his
numerous friends and well-wishers; and so he determined to marry, and,
in an hour of reckless desperation, sat down and wrote proposals to two
ladies. One was declined: the other, which was accepted, was to Miss
Milbanke. The world knows well that he had the gift of expression, and
will not be surprised that he wrote a very beautiful letter, and that
the woman who had already learned to love him fell at once into the

Her answer was a frank, outspoken avowal of her love for him, giving
herself to him heart and hand. The good in Lord Byron was not so
utterly obliterated that he could receive such a letter without
emotion, or practise such unfairness on a loving, trusting heart
without pangs of remorse. He had sent the letter in mere recklessness;
he had not seriously expected to be accepted; and the discovery of the
treasure of affection which he had secured was like a vision of lost
heaven to a soul in hell.

But, nevertheless, in his letters written about the engagement,
there are sufficient evidences that his self-love was flattered at
the preference accorded him by so superior a woman, and one who had
been so much sought. He mentions with an air of complacency that
she has employed the last two years in refusing five or six of his
acquaintance; that he had no idea she loved him, admitting that it was
an old attachment on his part. He dwells on her virtues with a sort
of pride of ownership. There is a sort of childish levity about the
frankness of these letters, very characteristic of the man who skimmed
over the deepest abysses with the lightest jests. Before the world, and
to his intimates, he was acting the part of the successful _fiancé_,
conscious all the while of the deadly secret that lay cold at the
bottom of his heart.

When he went to visit Miss Milbanke's parents as her accepted lover
she was struck with his manner and appearance: she saw him moody and
gloomy, evidently wrestling with dark and desperate thoughts, and
anything but what a happy and accepted lover should be. She sought an
interview with him alone, and told him that she had observed that he
was not happy in the engagement; and magnanimously added, that, if on
review, he found he had been mistaken in the nature of his feelings,
she would immediately release him, and they should remain only friends.

Overcome with the conflict of his feelings, Lord Byron fainted away.
Miss Milbanke was convinced that his heart must really be deeply
involved in an attachment with reference to which he showed such
strength of emotion, and she spoke no more of a dissolution of the

There is no reason to doubt that Byron was, as he relates in his
'Dream,' profoundly agonized and agitated when he stood before God's
altar with the trusting young creature whom he was leading to a fate so
awfully tragic; yet it was not the memory of Mary Chaworth, but another
guiltier and more damning memory, that overshadowed that hour.

The moment the carriage-doors were shut upon the bridegroom and the
bride, the paroxysm of remorse and despair--unrepentant remorse and
angry despair--broke forth upon her gentle head:--

'You might have saved me from this, madam! You had all in your own
power when I offered myself to you first. Then you might have made
me what you pleased; but now you will find that you have married a

In Miss Martineau's Sketches, recently published, is an account of the
termination of this wedding-journey, which brought them to one of Lady
Byron's ancestral country seats, where they were to spend the honeymoon.

Miss Martineau says,--

'At the altar she did not know that she was a sacrifice; but before
sunset of that winter day she knew it, if a judgment may be formed from
her face, and attitude of despair, when she alighted from the carriage
on the afternoon of her marriage-day. It was not the traces of tears
which won the sympathy of the old butler who stood at the open door.
The bridegroom jumped out of the carriage and walked away. The bride
alighted, and came up the steps alone, with a countenance and frame
agonized and listless with evident horror and despair. The old servant
longed to offer his arm to the young, lonely creature, as an assurance
of sympathy and protection. From this shock she certainly rallied,
and soon. The pecuniary difficulties of her new home were exactly
what a devoted spirit like hers was fitted to encounter. Her husband
bore testimony, after the catastrophe, that a brighter being, a more
sympathising and agreeable companion, never blessed any man's home.
When he afterwards called her cold and mathematical, and over-pious,
and so forth, it was when public opinion had gone against him, and
when he had discovered that her fidelity and mercy, her silence and
magnanimity, might be relied on, so that he was at full liberty to make
his part good, as far as she was concerned.

'Silent she was even to her own parents, whose feelings she
magnanimously spared. She did not act rashly in leaving him, though she
had been most rash in marrying him.'

Not all at once did the full knowledge of the dreadful reality into
which she had entered come upon the young wife. She knew vaguely, from
the wild avowals of the first hours of their marriage, that there was
a dreadful secret of guilt; that Byron's soul was torn with agonies of
remorse, and that he had no love to give to her in return for a love
which was ready to do and dare all for him. Yet bravely she addressed
herself to the task of soothing and pleasing and calming the man whom
she had taken 'for better or for worse.'

Young and gifted; with a peculiar air of refined and spiritual beauty;
graceful in every movement; possessed of exquisite taste; a perfect
companion to his mind in all the higher walks of literary culture; and
with that infinite pliability to all his varying, capricious moods
which true love alone can give; bearing in her hand a princely fortune,
which, with a woman's uncalculating generosity, was thrown at his
feet,--there is no wonder that she might feel for a while as if she
could enter the lists with the very Devil himself, and fight with a
woman's weapons for the heart of her husband.

There are indications scattered through the letters of Lord Byron,
which, though brief indeed, showed that his young wife was making every
effort to accommodate herself to him, and to give him a cheerful home.
One of the poems that he sends to his publisher about this time, he
speaks of as being copied by her. He had always the highest regard for
her literary judgments and opinions; and this little incident shows
that she was already associating herself in a wifely fashion with his
aims as an author.

The poem copied by her, however, has a sad meaning, which she
afterwards learned to understand only too well:--

  'There's not a joy the world can give like that it takes away
  When the glow of early thought declines in feeling's dull decay:
  'Tis not on youth's smooth cheek the blush alone that fades so fast;
  But the tender bloom of heart is gone e'er youth itself be past.
  Then the few whose spirits float above the wreck of happiness
  Are driven o'er the shoals of guilt, or ocean of excess:
  The magnet of their course is gone, or only points in vain
  The shore to which their shivered sail shall never stretch again.'

Only a few days before she left him for ever, Lord Byron sent Murray
manuscripts, in Lady Byron's handwriting, of the 'Siege of Corinth,'
and 'Parisina,' and wrote,--

'I am very glad that the handwriting was a favourable omen of the
_morale_ of the piece: but you must not trust to that; for my copyist
would write out anything I desired, in all the ignorance of innocence.'

There were lucid intervals in which Lord Byron felt the charm of his
wife's mind, and the strength of her powers. 'Bell, you could be a poet
too, if you only thought so,' he would say. There were summer-hours in
her stormy life, the memory of which never left her, when Byron was as
gentle and tender as he was beautiful; when he seemed to be possessed
by a good angel: and then for a little time all the ideal possibilities
of his nature stood revealed.

The most dreadful men to live with are those who thus alternate between
angel and devil. The buds of hope and love called out by a day or two
of sunshine are frozen again and again, till the tree is killed.

But there came an hour of revelation,--an hour when, in a manner
which left no kind of room for doubt, Lady Byron saw the full depth
of the abyss of infamy which her marriage was expected to cover, and
understood that she was expected to be the cloak and the accomplice of
this infamy.

Many women would have been utterly crushed by such a disclosure; some
would have fled from him immediately, and exposed and denounced the
crime. Lady Byron did neither. When all the hope of womanhood died out
of her heart, there arose within her, stronger, purer, and brighter,
that immortal kind of love such as God feels for the sinner,--the love
of which Jesus spoke, and which holds the one wanderer of more account
than the ninety and nine that went not astray. She would neither leave
her husband nor betray him, nor yet would she for one moment justify
his sin; and hence came two years of convulsive struggle, in which
sometimes, for a while, the good angel seemed to gain ground, and then
the evil one returned with sevenfold vehemence.

Lord Byron argued his case with himself and with her with all the
sophistries of his powerful mind. He repudiated Christianity as
authority; asserted the right of every human being to follow out what
he called 'the impulses of nature.' Subsequently he introduced into one
of his dramas the reasoning by which he justified himself in incest.

In the drama of 'Cain,' Adah, the sister and the wife of Cain, thus
addresses him:--

                        'Cain, walk not with this spirit.
  Bear with what we have borne, and love me: I
  Love thee.

  _Lucifer._ More than thy mother and thy sire?

  _Adah._ I do. Is that a sin, too?

  _Lucifer._                       No, not yet:
  It one day will be in your children.

  _Adah._                               What!
  Must not my daughter love her brother Enoch?

  _Lucifer._ Not as thou lovest Cain.

  _Adah._                            O my God!
  Shall they not love, and bring forth things that love
  Out of their love? Have they not drawn their milk
  Out of this bosom? Was not he, their father,
  Born of the same sole womb, in the same hour
  With me? Did we not love each other, and,
  In multiplying our being, multiply
  Things which will love each other as we love
  Them? And as I love thee, my Cain, go not
  Forth with this spirit: he is not of ours.

  _Lucifer._ The sin I speak of is not of my making
  And cannot be a sin in you, whate'er
  It seems in those who will replace ye in

  _Adah._ What is the sin which is not
  Sin in itself? Can circumstance make sin
  Of virtue? If it doth, we are the slaves

Lady Byron, though slight and almost infantine in her bodily presence,
had the soul, not only of an angelic woman, but of a strong reasoning
man. It was the writer's lot to know her at a period when she formed
the personal acquaintance of many of the very first minds of England;
but, among all with whom this experience brought her in connection,
there was none who impressed her so strongly as Lady Byron. There was
an almost supernatural power of moral divination, a grasp of the very
highest and most comprehensive things, that made her lightest opinions
singularly impressive. No doubt, this result was wrought out in a great
degree from the anguish and conflict of these two years, when, with no
one to help or counsel her but Almighty God, she wrestled and struggled
with fiends of darkness for the redemption of her husband's soul.

She followed him through all his sophistical reasonings with a keener
reason. She besought and implored, in the name of his better nature,
and by all the glorious things that he was capable of being and doing;
and she had just power enough to convulse and shake and agonise, but
not power enough to subdue.

One of the first of living writers, in the novel of 'Romola,' has
given, in her masterly sketch of the character of Tito, the whole
history of the conflict of a woman like Lady Byron with a nature like
that of her husband. She has described a being full of fascinations
and sweetnesses, full of generosities and of good-natured impulses; a
nature that could not bear to give pain, or to see it in others, but
entirely destitute of any firm moral principle; she shows how such a
being, merely by yielding step by step to the impulses of passion,
and disregarding the claims of truth and right, becomes involved in a
fatality of evil, in which deceit, crime, and cruelty are a necessity,
forcing him to persist in the basest ingratitude to the father who has
done all for him, and hard-hearted treachery to the high-minded wife
who has given herself to him wholly.

There are few scenes in literature more fearfully tragic than the one
between Romola and Tito, when he finally discovers that she knows him
fully, and can be deceived by him no more. Some such hour always must
come for strong decided natures irrevocably pledged--one to the service
of good, and the other to the slavery of evil. The demoniac cried out,
'What have I to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to
torment me before the time?' The presence of all-pitying purity and
love was a torture to the soul possessed by the demon of evil.

These two years in which Lady Byron was with all her soul struggling to
bring her husband back to his better self were a series of passionate

During this time, such was the disordered and desperate state of his
worldly affairs, that there were ten executions for debt levied on
their family establishment; and it was Lady Byron's fortune each time
which settled the account.

Toward the last, she and her husband saw less and less of each other;
and he came more and more decidedly under evil influences, and seemed
to acquire a sort of hatred of her.

Lady Byron once said significantly to a friend who spoke of some
causeless dislike in another, 'My dear, I have known people to be hated
for no other reason than because they impersonated conscience.'

The biographers of Lord Byron, and all his apologists, are careful to
narrate how sweet and amiable and obliging he was to everybody who
approached him; and the saying of Fletcher, his man-servant, that
'_anybody_ could do anything with my Lord, except my Lady,' has often
been quoted.

The reason of all this will now be evident. 'My Lady' was the only one,
fully understanding the deep and dreadful secrets of his life, who had
the courage resolutely and persistently and inflexibly to plant herself
in his way, and insist upon it, that, if he went to destruction, it
should be in spite of her best efforts.

He had tried his strength with her fully. The first attempt had been
to make her an accomplice by sophistry; by destroying her faith in
Christianity, and confusing her sense of right and wrong, to bring her
into the ranks of those convenient women who regard the marriage-tie
only as a friendly alliance to cover licence on both sides.

When her husband described to her the Continental latitude (the
good-humoured marriage, in which complaisant couples mutually agreed
to form the cloak for each other's infidelities), and gave her to
understand that in this way alone she could have a peaceful and
friendly life with him, she answered him simply, 'I am too truly your
friend to do this.'

When Lord Byron found that he had to do with one who would not yield,
who knew him fully, who could not be blinded and could not be deceived,
he determined to rid himself of her altogether.

It was when the state of affairs between herself and her husband seemed
darkest and most hopeless, that the only child of this union was
born. Lord Byron's treatment of his wife during the sensitive period
that preceded the birth of this child, and during her confinement,
was marked by paroxysms of unmanly brutality, for which the only
possible charity on her part was the supposition of insanity. Moore
sheds a significant light on this period, by telling us that, about
this time, Byron was often drunk, day after day, with Sheridan. There
had been insanity in the family; and this was the plea which Lady
Byron's love put in for him. She regarded him as, if not insane, at
least so nearly approaching the boundaries of insanity as to be a
subject of forbearance and tender pity; and she loved him with that
love resembling a mother's, which good wives often feel when they have
lost all faith in their husband's principles, and all hopes of their
affections. Still, she was in heart and soul his best friend; true to
him with a truth which he himself could not shake.

In the verses addressed to his daughter, Lord Byron speaks of her as

  'The child of love, though born in bitterness,
  And nurtured in convulsion.'

A day or two after the birth of this child, Lord Byron came suddenly
into Lady Byron's room, and told her that her mother was dead. It was
an utter falsehood; but it was only one of the many nameless injuries
and cruelties by which he expressed his hatred of her. A short time
after her confinement, she was informed by him, in a note, that, as
soon as she was able to travel, she must go; that he could not and
would not longer have her about him; and, when her child was only five
weeks old, he carried this threat of expulsion into effect.

Here we will insert briefly Lady Byron's own account (the only one she
ever gave to the public) of this separation. The circumstances under
which this brief story was written are affecting.

Lord Byron was dead. The whole account between him and her was closed
for ever in this world. Moore's life had been prepared, containing
simply and solely Lord Byron's own version of their story. Moore
sent this version to Lady Byron, and requested to know if she had
any remarks to make upon it. In reply, she sent a brief statement to
him,--the first and only one that had come from her during all the
years of the separation, and which appears to have mainly for its
object the exculpation of her father and mother from the charge, made
by the poet, of being the instigators of the separation.

In this letter, she says, with regard to their separation,--

'The facts are, I left London for Kirkby Mallory, the residence of my
father and mother, on the 15th of January, 1816. LORD BYRON HAD
was not safe for me to undertake the fatigue of a journey sooner than
the 15th. Previously to my departure, it had been strongly impressed
upon my mind that Lord Byron was under the influence of insanity.
This opinion was derived, in a great measure, from the communications
made me by his nearest relatives and personal attendant, who had more
opportunity than myself for observing him during the latter part of my
stay in town. It was even represented to me that he was in danger of
destroying himself.

'_With the concurrence of his family_, I had consulted Dr. Baillie as a
friend (Jan. 8) respecting the supposed malady. On acquainting him with
the state of the case, and with Lord Byron's desire that I should leave
London, Dr. Baillie thought that my absence might be advisable as an
experiment, assuming the fact of mental derangement; for Dr. Baillie,
not having had access to Lord Byron, could not pronounce a positive
opinion on that point. He enjoined that, in correspondence with Lord
Byron, I should avoid all but light and soothing topics. Under these
impressions, I left London, determined to follow the advice given by
Dr. Baillie. Whatever might have been the conduct of Lord Byron toward
me from the time of my marriage, yet, supposing him to be in a state of
mental alienation, it was not for _me_, nor for any person of common
humanity, to manifest at that moment a sense of injury.'

Nothing more than this letter from Lady Byron is necessary to
substantiate the fact, that she did not _leave_ her husband, but _was
driven_ from him,--driven from him that he might give himself up to
the guilty infatuation that was consuming him, without being tortured
by her imploring face, and by the silent power of her presence and her

For a long time before this, she had seen little of him. On the day
of her departure, she passed by the door of his room, and stopped to
caress his favourite spaniel, which was lying there; and she confessed
to a friend the weakness of feeling a willingness even to be something
as humble as that poor little creature, might she only be allowed to
remain and watch over him. She went into the room where he and the
partner of his sins were sitting together, and said, 'Byron, I come to
say good-bye,' offering, at the same time, her hand.

Lord Byron put his hands behind him, retreated to the mantel-piece,
and, looking on the two that stood there, with a sarcastic smile said,
'When shall we three meet again?' Lady Byron answered, 'In heaven, I
trust.' And those were her last words to him on earth.

Now, if the reader wishes to understand the real talents of Lord Byron
for deception and dissimulation, let him read, with this story in his
mind, the 'Fare thee well,' which he addressed to Lady Byron through
the printer:--

  'Fare thee well; and if for ever,
    Still for ever fare thee well!
  Even though unforgiving, never
    'Gainst thee shall my heart rebel.

  Would that breast were bared before thee
    Where thy head so oft hath lain,
  While that placid sleep came o'er thee
    Thou canst never know again!

  Though my many faults defaced me,
    Could no other arm be found
  Than the one which once embraced me
    To inflict a careless wound?'

The re-action of society against him at the time of the separation from
his wife was something which he had not expected, and for which, it
appears, he was entirely unprepared. It broke up the guilty intrigue
and drove him from England. He had not courage to meet or endure it.
The world, to be sure, was very far from suspecting what the truth was:
but the tide was setting against him with such vehemence as to make
him tremble every hour lest the whole should be known; and henceforth,
it became a warfare of desperation to make his story good, no matter at
whose expense.

He had tact enough to perceive at first that the assumption of the
pathetic and the magnanimous, and general confessions of faults,
accompanied with admissions of his wife's goodness, would be the best
policy in his case. In this mood, he thus writes to Moore:--

'The fault was not in my choice (unless in choosing at all); for I do
not believe (and I must say it in the very dregs of all this bitter
business) that there ever was a better, or even a brighter, a kinder,
or a more amiable, agreeable being than Lady Byron. I never had, nor
can have, any reproach to make her while with me. Where there is blame,
it belongs to myself.'

As there must be somewhere a scapegoat to bear the sin of the affair,
Lord Byron wrote a poem called 'A Sketch,' in which he lays the blame
of stirring up strife on a friend and former governess of Lady Byron's;
but in this sketch he introduces the following just eulogy on Lady

    'Foiled was perversion by that youthful mind
  Which flattery fooled not, baseness could not blind,
  Deceit infect not, near contagion soil,
  Indulgence weaken, nor example spoil,
  Nor mastered science tempt her to look down
  On humbler talents with a pitying frown,
  Nor genius swell, nor beauty render vain,
  Nor envy ruffle to retaliate pain,
  Nor fortune change, pride raise, nor passion bow,
  Nor virtue teach austerity,--till now;
  Serenely purest of her sex that live,
  But wanting one sweet weakness,--to forgive;
  Too shocked at faults her soul can never know,
  She deemed that all could be like her below:
  Foe to all vice, yet hardly Virtue's friend;
  For Virtue pardons those she would amend.'

In leaving England, Lord Byron first went to Switzerland, where he
conceived and in part wrote out the tragedy of 'Manfred.' Moore speaks
of his domestic misfortunes, and the sufferings which he underwent at
this time, as having influence in stimulating his genius, so that he
was enabled to write with a greater power.

Anybody who reads the tragedy of 'Manfred' with this story in his mind
will see that it is true.

The hero is represented as a gloomy misanthrope, dwelling with
impenitent remorse on the memory of an incestuous passion which has
been the destruction of his sister for this life and the life to come,
but which, to the very last gasp, he despairingly refuses to repent of,
even while he sees the fiends of darkness rising to take possession
of his departing soul. That Byron knew his own guilt well, and judged
himself severely, may be gathered from passages in this poem, which are
as powerful as human language can be made; for instance this part of
the 'incantation,' which Moore says was written at this time:--

  'Though thy slumber may be deep,
  Yet thy spirit shall not sleep:
  There are shades which will not vanish;
  There are thoughts thou canst not banish.
  By a power to thee unknown,
  Thou canst never be alone:
  Thou art wrapt as with a shroud;
  Thou art gathered in a cloud;
  And for ever shalt thou dwell
  In the spirit of this spell.

         *       *       *       *       *

  From thy false tears I did distil
  An essence which had strength to kill;
  From thy own heart I then did wring
  The black blood in its blackest spring;
  From thy own smile I snatched the snake,
  For there it coiled as in a brake;
  From thy own lips I drew the charm
  Which gave all these their chiefest harm
  In proving every poison known,
  I found the strongest was thine own.

  By thy cold breast and serpent smile,
  By thy unfathomed gulfs of guile,
  By that most seeming virtuous eye,
  By thy shut soul's hypocrisy,
  By the perfection of thine art
  Which passed for human thine own heart,
  By thy delight in other's pain,
  And by thy brotherhood of Cain,
  I call upon thee, and compel
  Thyself to be thy proper hell!'

Again: he represents Manfred as saying to the old abbot, who seeks to
bring him to repentance,--

  Old man, there is no power in holy men,
  Nor charm in prayer, nor purifying form
  Of penitence, nor outward look, nor fast,
  Nor agony, nor greater than all these,
  The innate tortures of that deep despair,
  Which is remorse without the fear of hell,
  But, all in all sufficient to itself,
  Would make a hell of heaven, can exorcise
  From out the unbounded spirit the quick sense
  Of its own sins, wrongs, sufferance, and revenge
  Upon itself: there is no future pang
  Can deal that justice on the self-condemned
  He deals on his own soul.'

And when the abbot tells him,

                             'All this is well;
  For this will pass away, and be succeeded
  By an auspicious hope, which shall look up
  With calm assurance to that blessed place
  Which all who seek may win, whatever be
  Their earthly errors,'

He answers,

  'It is too late.'

Then the old abbot soliloquises:--

  'This should have been a noble creature: he
  Hath all the energy which would have made
  A goodly frame of glorious elements,
  Had they been wisely mingled; as it is,
  It is an awful chaos,--light and darkness,
  And mind and dust, and passions and pure thoughts,
  Mixed, and contending without end or order.'

The world can easily see, in Moore's Biography, what, after this, was
the course of Lord Byron's life; how he went from shame to shame, and
dishonour to dishonour, and used the fortune which his wife brought him
in the manner described in those private letters which his biographer
was left to print. Moore, indeed, says Byron had made the resolution
not to touch his lady's fortune; but adds, that it required more
self-command than he possessed to carry out so honourable a purpose.

Lady Byron made but one condition with him. She had him in her power;
and she exacted that the unhappy partner of his sins should not follow
him out of England, and that the ruinous intrigue should be given
up. Her inflexibility on this point kept up that enmity which was
constantly expressing itself in some publication or other, and which
drew her and her private relations with him before the public.

The story of what Lady Byron did with the portion of her fortune which
was reserved to her is a record of noble and skilfully administered
charities. Pitiful and wise and strong, there was no form of human
suffering or sorrow that did not find with her refuge and help. She
gave not only systematically, but also impulsively.

Miss Martineau claims for her the honour of having first invented
practical schools, in which the children of the poor were turned
into agriculturists, artizans, seamstresses, and good wives for poor
men. While she managed with admirable skill and economy permanent
institutions of this sort, she was always ready to relieve suffering
in any form. The fugitive slaves William and Ellen Crafts, escaping to
England, were fostered by her protecting care.

In many cases where there was distress or anxiety from poverty among
those too self-respecting to make their sufferings known, the delicate
hand of Lady Byron ministered to the want with a consideration which
spared the most refined feelings.

As a mother, her course was embarrassed by peculiar trials. The
daughter inherited from the father not only brilliant talents, but a
restlessness and morbid sensibility which might be too surely traced
to the storms and agitations of the period in which she was born. It
was necessary to bring her up in ignorance of the true history of
her mother's life; and the consequence was that she could not fully
understand that mother.

During her early girlhood, her career was a source of more anxiety than
of comfort. She married a man of fashion, ran a brilliant course as a
gay woman of fashion, and died early of a lingering and painful disease.

In the silence and shaded retirement of the sick-room, the daughter
came wholly back to her mother's arms and heart; and it was on that
mother's bosom that she leaned as she went down into the dark valley.
It was that mother who placed her weak and dying hand in that of her
Almighty Saviour.

To the children left by her daughter, she ministered with the
faithfulness of a guardian angel; and it is owing to her influence that
those who yet remain are among the best and noblest of mankind.

The person whose relations with Byron had been so disastrous, also, in
the latter years of her life, felt Lady Byron's loving and ennobling
influences, and, in her last sickness and dying hours, looked to her
for consolation and help.

There was an unfortunate child of sin, born with the curse upon
her, over whose wayward nature Lady Byron watched with a mother's
tenderness. She was the one who could have patience when the patience
of every one else failed; and though her task was a difficult one, from
the strange abnormal propensities to evil in the object of her cares,
yet Lady Byron never faltered, and never gave over, till death took
the responsibility from her hands.

During all this trial, strange to say, her belief that the good in Lord
Byron would finally conquer was unshaken.

To a friend who said to her, 'Oh! how could you love him?' she answered
briefly, 'My dear, there was the angel in him.' It is in us all.

It was in this angel that she had faith. It was for the deliverance
of this angel from degradation and shame and sin that she unceasingly
prayed. She read every work that Byron wrote--read it with a deeper
knowledge than any human being but herself could possess. The ribaldry
and the obscenity and the insults with which he strove to make her
ridiculous in the world fell at her pitying feet unheeded.

When he broke away from all this unworthy life to devote himself to a
manly enterprise for the redemption of Greece, she thought that she saw
the beginning of an answer to her prayers. Even although one of his
latest acts concerning her was to repeat to Lady Blessington the false
accusation which made Lady Byron the author of all his errors, she
still had hopes from the one step taken in the right direction.

In the midst of these hopes came the news of his sudden death. On his
death-bed, it is well-known that he called his confidential English
servant to him, and said to him, 'Go to my sister; tell her--Go to Lady
Byron,--you will see her,--and say'--

Here followed twenty minutes of indistinct mutterings, in which the
names of his wife, daughter, and sister, frequently occurred. He then
said, 'Now I have told you all.'

'My lord,' replied Fletcher, 'I have not understood a word your
lordship has been saying.'

'Not understand me!' exclaimed Lord Byron with a look of the utmost
distress: 'what a pity! Then it is too late,--all is over!' He
afterwards, says Moore, tried to utter a few words, of which none were
intelligible except 'My sister--my child.'

When Fletcher returned to London, Lady Byron sent for him, and walked
the room in convulsive struggles to repress her tears and sobs, while
she over and over again strove to elicit something from him which
should enlighten her upon what that last message had been; but in vain:
the gates of eternity were shut in her face, and not a word had passed
to tell her if he had repented.

For all that, Lady Byron never doubted his salvation. Ever before her,
during the few remaining years of her widowhood, was the image of her
husband, purified and ennobled, with the shadows of earth for ever
dissipated, the stains of sin for ever removed; 'the angel in him,' as
she expressed it, 'made perfect, according to its divine ideal.'

Never has more divine strength of faith and love existed in woman.
Out of the depths of her own loving and merciful nature, she gained
such views of the divine love and mercy as made all hopes possible.
There was no soul of whose future Lady Byron despaired,--such was her
boundless faith in the redeeming power of love.

After Byron's death, the life of this delicate creature--so frail in
body that she seemed always hovering on the brink of the eternal world,
yet so strong in spirit, and so unceasing in her various ministries of
mercy--was a miracle of mingled weakness and strength.

To talk with her seemed to the writer of this sketch the nearest
possible approach to talking with one of the spirits of the just made

She was gentle, artless; approachable as a little child; with ready,
outflowing sympathy for the cares and sorrows and interests of all who
approached her; with a _naïve_ and gentle playfulness, that adorned,
without hiding, the breadth and strength of her mind; and, above all,
with a clear, divining, moral discrimination; never mistaking wrong
for right in the slightest shade, yet with a mercifulness that made
allowance for every weakness, and pitied every sin.

There was so much of Christ in her, that to have seen her seemed to be
to have drawn near to heaven. She was one of those few whom absence
cannot estrange from friends; whose mere presence in this world seems
always a help to every generous thought, a strength to every good
purpose, a comfort in every sorrow.

Living so near the confines of the spiritual world, she seemed already
to see into it: hence the words of comfort which she addressed to a
friend who had lost a son:--

'Dear friend, remember, as long as our loved ones are in _God's_ world,
they are in _ours_.'

       *       *       *       *       *

It has been thought by some friends who have read the proof-sheets
of the foregoing that the author should give more specifically her
authority for these statements.

The circumstances which led the writer to England at a certain time
originated a friendship and correspondence with Lady Byron, which was
always regarded as one of the greatest acquisitions of that visit.

On the occasion of a second visit to England, in 1856, the writer
received a note from Lady Byron, indicating that she wished to have
some private, confidential conversation upon important subjects,
and inviting her, for that purpose, to spend a day with her at her
country-seat near London.

The writer went and spent a day with Lady Byron alone; and the object
of the invitation was explained to her. Lady Byron was in such a state
of health, that her physicians had warned her that she had very little
time to live. She was engaged in those duties and retrospections which
every thoughtful person finds necessary, when coming deliberately, and
with open eyes, to the boundaries of this mortal life.

At that time, there was a cheap edition of Byron's works in
contemplation, intended to bring his writings into circulation among
the masses; and the pathos arising from the story of his domestic
misfortunes was one great means relied on for giving it currency.

Under these circumstances, some of Lady Byron's friends had proposed
the question to her, _whether she had not a responsibility to society
for the truth_; whether _she did right_ to allow these writings to gain
influence over the popular mind by giving a silent consent to what she
knew to be utter falsehoods.

Lady Byron's whole life had been passed in the most heroic
self-abnegation and self-sacrifice: and she had now to consider whether
one more act of self-denial was not required of her before leaving this
world; namely, to declare the absolute truth, no matter at what expense
to her own feelings.

For this reason, it was her desire to recount the whole history to a
person of another country, and entirely out of the sphere of personal
and local feelings which might be supposed to influence those in the
country and station in life where the events really happened, in order
that she might be helped by such a person's views in making up an
opinion as to her own duty.

The interview had almost the solemnity of a death-bed avowal. Lady
Byron stated the facts which have been embodied in this article, and
gave to the writer a paper containing a brief memorandum of the whole,
with the dates affixed.

We have already spoken of that singular sense of the reality of the
spiritual world which seemed to encompass Lady Byron during the last
part of her life, and which made her words and actions seem more like
those of a blessed being detached from earth than of an ordinary
mortal. All her modes of looking at things, all her motives of action,
all her involuntary exhibitions of emotion, were so high above any
common level, and so entirely regulated by the most unworldly causes,
that it would seem difficult to make the ordinary world understand
exactly how the thing seemed to lie before her mind. What impressed
the writer more strongly than anything else was Lady Byron's perfect
conviction that her husband was now a redeemed spirit; that he looked
back with pain and shame and regret on all that was unworthy in his
past life; and that, if he could speak or could act in the case, he
would desire to prevent the further circulation of base falsehoods,
and of seductive poetry, which had been made the vehicle of morbid and
unworthy passions.

Lady Byron's experience had led her to apply the powers of her strong
philosophical mind to the study of mental pathology: and she had become
satisfied that the solution of the painful problem which first occurred
to her as a young wife, was, after all, the true one; namely, that
Lord Byron had been one of those unfortunately constituted persons in
whom the balance of nature is so critically hung, that it is always in
danger of dipping towards insanity; and that, in certain periods of his
life, he was so far under the influence of mental disorder as not to be
fully responsible for his actions.

She went over with a brief and clear analysis the history of his
whole life as she had thought it out during the lonely musings of her
widowhood. She dwelt on the ancestral causes that gave him a nature
of exceptional and dangerous susceptibility. She went through the
mismanagements of his childhood, the history of his school-days, the
influence of the ordinary school-course of classical reading on such
a mind as his. She sketched boldly and clearly the internal life of
the young men of the time, as she, with her purer eyes, had looked
through it; and showed how habits, which, with less susceptible fibre,
and coarser strength of nature, were tolerable for his companions,
were deadly to him, unhinging his nervous system, and intensifying the
dangers of ancestral proclivities. Lady Byron expressed the feeling
too, that the Calvinistic theology, as heard in Scotland, had proved
in his case, as it often does in certain minds, a subtle poison. He
never could either disbelieve or become reconciled to it; and the sore
problems it proposes embittered his spirit against Christianity.

'The worst of it is, I _do believe_,' he would often say with violence,
when he had been employing all his powers of reason, wit, and ridicule
upon these subjects.

Through all this sorrowful history was to be seen, not the care of a
slandered woman to make her story good, but the pathetic anxiety of
a mother, who treasures every particle of hope, every intimation of
good, in the son whom she cannot cease to love. With indescribable
resignation, she dwelt on those last hours, those words addressed to
her, never to be understood till repeated in eternity.

But all this she looked upon as for ever past; believing, that, with
the dropping of the earthly life, these morbid impulses and influences
ceased, and that higher nature which he often so beautifully expressed
in his poems became the triumphant one.

While speaking on this subject, her pale ethereal face became luminous
with a heavenly radiance; there was something so sublime in her belief
in the victory of love over evil, that faith with her seemed to have
become sight. She seemed so clearly to perceive the divine ideal of
the man she had loved, and for whose salvation she had been called to
suffer and labour and pray, that all memories of his past unworthiness
fell away, and were lost.

Her love was never the doting fondness of weak women; it was the
appreciative and discriminating love by which a higher nature
recognised god-like capabilities under all the dust and defilement
of misuse and passion: and she never doubted that the love which in
her was so strong, that no injury or insult could shake it, was yet
stronger in the God who made her capable of such a devotion, and that
in him it was accompanied by power to subdue all things to itself.

The writer was so impressed and excited by the whole scene and recital,
that she begged for two or three days to deliberate before forming any
opinion. She took the memorandum with her, returned to London, and gave
a day or two to the consideration of the subject. The decision which
she made was chiefly influenced by her reverence and affection for Lady
Byron. She seemed so frail, she had suffered so much, she stood at
such a height above the comprehension of the coarse and common world,
that the author had a feeling that it would almost be like violating a
shrine to ask her to come forth from the sanctuary of a silence where
she had so long abode, and plead her cause. She wrote to Lady Byron,
that while this act of justice did seem to be called for, and to be in
some respects most desirable, yet, as it would involve so much that was
painful to her, the writer considered that Lady Byron would be entirely
justifiable in leaving the truth to be disclosed after her death; and
recommended that all the facts necessary should be put in the hands of
some person, to be so published.

Years passed on. Lady Byron lingered four years after this interview to
the wonder of her physicians and all her friends.

After Lady Byron's death, the writer looked anxiously, hoping to see a
Memoir of the person whom she considered the most remarkable woman that
England has produced in the century. No such Memoir has appeared on the
part of her friends; and the mistress of Lord Byron has the ear of the
public, and is sowing far and wide unworthy slanders, which are eagerly
gathered up and read by an undiscriminating community.

There may be family reasons in England which prevent Lady Byron's
friends from speaking. But Lady Byron has an American name and an
American existence; and reverence for pure womanhood is, we think, a
national characteristic of the American; and, so far as this country
is concerned, we feel that the public should have this refutation of
the slanders of the Countess Guiccioli's book.



Sir,--I have waited in expectation of a categorical denial of the
horrible charge brought by Mrs. Beecher Stowe against Lord Byron and
his sister on the alleged authority of the late Lady Byron. Such denial
has been only indirectly given by the letter of Messrs. Wharton and
Fords in your impression of yesterday. That letter is sufficient to
prove that Lady Byron never contemplated the use made of her name, and
that her descendants and representatives disclaim any countenance of
Mrs. B. Stowe's article; but it does not specifically meet Mrs. Stowe's
allegation, that Lady Byron, in conversing with her thirteen years ago,
affirmed the charge now before us. It remains open, therefore, to a
scandal-loving world, to credit the calumny through the advantage of
this flaw, involuntary, I believe, in the answer produced against it.
My object in addressing you is to supply that deficiency by proving
that what is now stated on Lady Byron's supposed authority is at
variance, in all respects, with what she stated immediately after the
separation, when everything was fresh in her memory in relation to
the time during which, according to Mrs. B. Stowe, she believed that
Byron and his sister were living together in guilt. I publish this
evidence with reluctance, but in obedience to that higher obligation
of justice to the voiceless and defenceless dead which bids me break
through a reserve that otherwise I should have held sacred. The Lady
Byron of 1818 would, I am certain, have sanctioned my doing so, had
she foreseen the present unparalleled occasion, and the bar that the
conditions of her will present (as I infer from Messrs. Wharton and
Fords' letter) against any fuller communication. Calumnies such as the
present sink deep and with rapidity into the public mind, and are not
easily eradicated. The fame of one of our greatest poets, and that
of the kindest and truest and most constant friend that Byron ever
had, is at stake; and it will not do to wait for revelations from the
fountain-head, which are not promised, and possibly may never reach us.

The late Lady Anne Barnard, who died in 1825, a contemporary and friend
of Burke, Windham, Dundas, and a host of the wise and good of that
generation, and remembered in letters as the authoress of 'Auld Robin
Gray,' had known the late Lady Byron from infancy, and took a warm
interest in her; holding Lord Byron in corresponding repugnance, not
to say prejudice, in consequence of what she believed to be his harsh
and cruel treatment of her young friend. I transcribe the following
passages, and a letter from Lady Byron herself (written in 1818) from
_ricordi_, or private family memoirs, in Lady Anne's autograph, now
before me. I include the letter, because, although treating only in
general terms of the matter and causes of the separation, it affords
collateral evidence bearing strictly upon the point of the credibility
of the charge now in question:--

       *       *       *       *       *

'The separation of Lord and Lady Byron astonished the world, which
believed him a reformed man as to his habits, and a becalmed man as to
his remorses. He had written nothing that appeared after his marriage
till the famous "Fare thee well," which had the power of compelling
those to pity the writer who were not well aware that he was not the
unhappy person he affected to be. Lady Byron's misery was whispered
soon after her marriage and his ill usage, but no word transpired,
no sign escaped, from her. She gave birth, shortly, to a daughter;
and when she went, as soon as she was recovered, on a visit to her
father's, taking her little Ada with her, no one knew that it was to
return to her lord no more. At that period, a severe fit of illness had
confined me to bed for two months. I heard of Lady Byron's distress;
of the pains he took to give a harsh impression of her character
to the world. I wrote to her, and entreated her to come and let me
see and hear her, if she conceived my sympathy or counsel could be
any comfort to her. She came; but what a tale was unfolded by this
interesting young creature, who had so fondly hoped to have made a
young man of genius and romance (as she supposed) happy! They had not
been an hour in the carriage which conveyed them from the church, when,
breaking into a malignant sneer, "Oh! what a dupe you have been to your
imagination! How is it possible a woman of your sense could form the
wild hope of reforming _me_? Many are the tears you will have to shed
ere that plan is accomplished. It is enough for me that you are my wife
for me to hate you! If you were the wife of any other man, I own you
might have charms," &c. I who listened was astonished. "How could you
go on after this," said I, "my dear? Why did you not return to your
father's?" "Because I had not a conception he was in earnest; because I
reckoned it a bad jest, and told him so,--that my opinions of him were
very different from his of himself, otherwise he would not find me by
his side. He laughed it over when he saw me appear hurt: and I forgot
what had passed, till forced to remember it. I believe he was pleased
with me, too, for a little while. I suppose it had escaped his memory
that I was his wife." But she described the happiness they enjoyed to
have been unequal and perturbed. Her situation, in a short time, might
have entitled her to some tenderness; but she made no claim on him for
any. He sometimes reproached her for the motives that had induced her
to marry him: all was "vanity, the vanity of Miss Milbanke carrying the
point of reforming Lord Byron! He always knew _her_ inducements; her
pride shut her eyes to _his_: _he_ wished to build up his character
and his fortunes; both were somewhat deranged: she had a high name,
and would have a fortune worth his attention,--let her look to that
for his motives!"--"O Byron, Byron!" she said, "how you desolate me!"
He would then accuse himself of being mad, and throw himself on the
ground in a frenzy, which she believed was affected to conceal the
coldness and malignity of his heart,--an affectation which at that
time never failed to meet with the tenderest commiseration. I could
find by some implications, not followed up by me, lest she might have
condemned herself afterwards for her involuntary disclosures, that he
soon attempted to corrupt her principles, both with respect to her own
conduct and her latitude for his. She saw the precipice on which she
stood, and kept his sister with her as much as possible. He returned
in the evenings from the haunts of vice, where he made her understand
he had been, with manners so profligate! "O the wretch!" said I. "And
had he no moments of remorse?" "Sometimes he appeared to have them.
One night, coming home from one of his lawless parties, he saw me so
indignantly collected, and bearing all with such a determined calmness,
that a rush of remorse seemed to come over him. He called himself a
monster, though his sister was present, and threw himself in agony at
my feet. I could not--no--I could not forgive him such injuries. He
had lost me for ever! Astonished at the return of virtue, my tears, I
believe, flowed over his face, and I said, 'Byron, all is forgotten:
never, never shall you hear of it more!' He started up, and, folding
his arms while he looked at me, burst into laughter. 'What do you
mean?' said I. 'Only a philosophical experiment; that's all,' said
he. 'I wished to ascertain the value of your resolutions.'" I need
not say more of this prince of duplicity, except that varied were his
methods of rendering her wretched, even to the last. When her lovely
little child was born, and it was laid beside its mother on the bed,
and he was informed he might see his daughter, after gazing at it with
an exulting smile, this was the ejaculation that broke from him: "Oh,
what an implement of torture have I acquired in you!" Such he rendered
it by his eyes and manner, keeping her in a perpetual alarm for its
safety when in his presence. All this reads madder than I believe he
was: but she had not then made up her mind to disbelieve his pretended
insanity, and conceived it best to intrust her secret with the
excellent Dr. Baillie; telling him all that seemed to regard the state
of her husband's mind, and letting his advice regulate her conduct.
Baillie doubted of his derangement; but, as he did not reckon his own
opinion infallible, he wished her to take precautions as if her husband
were so. He recommended her going to the country, but to give him no
suspicion of her intentions of remaining there, and, for a short time,
to show no coldness in her letters, till she could better ascertain his
state. She went, regretting, as she told me, to wear any semblance but
the truth. A short time disclosed the story to the world. He acted the
part of a man driven to despair by her inflexible resentment and by the
arts of a governess (once a servant in the family) who hated him. "I
will give you," proceeds Lady Anne, "a few paragraphs transcribed from
one of Lady Byron's own letters to me. It is sorrowful to think, that,
in a very little time, this young and amiable creature, wise, patient,
and feeling, will have her character mistaken by every one who reads
Byron's works. To rescue her from this, I preserved her letters; and,
when she afterwards expressed a fear that any thing of her writings
should ever fall into hands to injure him (I suppose she meant by
publication), I safely assured her that it never should. But here this
letter shall be placed, a sacred record in her favour, unknown to

 '"I am a very incompetent judge of the impression which the last canto
 of 'Childe Harold' may produce on the minds of indifferent readers.
 It contains the usual trace of a conscience restlessly awake; though
 his object has been too long to aggravate its burden, as if it could
 thus be oppressed into eternal stupor. I will hope, as you do, that it
 survives for his ultimate good. It was the acuteness of his remorse,
 impenitent in its character, which so long seemed to demand from my
 compassion to spare every resemblance of reproach, every look of
 grief, which might have said to his conscience, 'You have made me
 wretched.' I am decidedly of opinion that he is responsible. He has
 wished to be thought partially deranged, or on the brink of it, to
 perplex observers, and prevent them from tracing effects to their
 real causes through all the intricacies of his conduct. I was, as
 I told you, at one time the dupe of his acted insanity, and clung
 to the former delusions in regard to the motives that concerned me
 personally, till the whole system was laid bare. He is the absolute
 monarch of words, and uses them, as Bonaparte did lives, for conquest,
 without more regard to their intrinsic value; considering them only
 as ciphers, which must derive all their import from the situation in
 which he places them, and the ends to which he adapts them with such
 consummate skill. Why, then, you will say, does he not employ them to
 give a better colour to his own character? Because he is too good an
 actor to over-act, or to assume a moral garb which it would be easy
 to strip off. In regard to his poetry, egotism is the vital principle
 of his imagination, which it is difficult for him to kindle on any
 subject with which his own character and interests are not identified:
 but by the introduction of fictitious incidents, by change of scene
 or time, he has enveloped his poetical disclosures in a system
 impenetrable except to a very few; and his constant desire of creating
 a sensation makes him not averse to be the object of wonder and
 curiosity, even though accompanied by some dark and vague suspicions.
 Nothing has contributed more to the misunderstanding of his real
 character than the lonely grandeur in which he shrouds it, and his
 affectation of being above mankind, when he exists almost in their
 voice. The romance of his sentiments is another feature of this mask
 of state. I know no one more habitually destitute of that enthusiasm
 he so beautifully expresses, and to which he can work up his fancy
 chiefly by contagion. I had heard he was the best of brothers, the
 most generous of friends; and I thought such feelings only required to
 be warmed and cherished into more diffusive benevolence. Though these
 opinions are eradicated, and could never return but with the decay
 of my memory, you will not wonder if there are still moments when
 the association of feelings which arose from them soften and sadden
 my thoughts. But I have not thanked you, dearest Lady Anne, for your
 kindness in regard to a principal object,--that of rectifying false
 impressions. I trust you understand my wishes, which never were to
 injure Lord Byron in any way: for, though he would not suffer me to
 remain his wife, he cannot prevent me from continuing his friend; and
 it was from considering myself as such that I silenced the accusations
 by which my own conduct might have been more fully justified. It is
 not necessary to speak ill of his heart in general: it is sufficient
 that to me it was hard and impenetrable; that my own must have been
 broken before his could have been touched. I would rather represent
 this as _my_ misfortune than as _his_ guilt; but surely that
 misfortune is not to be made my crime! Such are my feelings: you will
 judge how to act. His allusions to me in 'Childe Harold' are cruel
 and cold, but with such a semblance as to make _me_ appear so, and to
 attract all sympathy to himself. It is said in this poem that hatred
 of him will be taught as a lesson to his child. I might appeal to all
 who have ever heard me speak of him, and still more to my own heart,
 to witness that there has been no moment when I have remembered injury
 otherwise than affectionately and sorrowfully. It is not my duty to
 give way to hopeless and wholly unrequited affection; but, so long
 as I live, my chief struggle will probably be not to remember him
 too kindly. I do not seek the sympathy of the world; but I wish to be
 known by those whoso opinion is valuable, and whose kindness is dear
 to me. Among such, my dear Lady Anne, you will ever be remembered by
 your truly affectionate,

  '"A. BYRON."'

It is the province of your readers, and of the world at large, to
judge between the two testimonies now before them,--Lady Byron's in
1816 and 1818, and that put forward in 1869 by Mrs. B. Stowe, as
communicated by Lady Byron thirteen years ago. In the face of the
evidence now given, positive, negative, and circumstantial, there
can be but two alternatives in the case: either Mrs. B. Stowe must
have entirely misunderstood Lady Byron, and been thus led into error
and misstatement, or we must conclude that, under the pressure of a
lifelong and secret sorrow, Lady Byron's mind had become clouded with
an hallucination in respect of the particular point in question.

Tho reader will admire the noble but severe character displayed
in Lady Byron's letter; but those who keep in view what her first
impressions were, as above recorded, may probably place a more lenient
interpretation than hers upon some of the incidents alleged to Byron's
discredit. I shall conclude with some remarks upon his character,
written shortly after his death by a wise, virtuous, and charitable
judge, the late Sir Walter Scott, likewise in a letter to Lady Anne

'Fletcher's account of poor Byron is extremely interesting. I
had always a strong attachment to that unfortunate though most
richly-gifted man, because I thought I saw that his virtues (and he had
many) were his own; and his eccentricities the result of an irritable
temperament, which sometimes approached nearly to mental disease. Those
who are gifted with strong nerves, a regular temper, and habitual
self-command, are not, perhaps, aware how much of what they may think
virtue they owe to constitution; and such are but too severe judges of
men like Byron, whose mind, like a day of alternate storm and sunshine,
is all dark shades and stray gleams of light, instead of the twilight
gray which illuminates happier though less distinguished mortals. I
always thought, that, when a moral proposition was placed plainly
before Lord Byron, his mind yielded a pleased and willing assent to
it; but, if there was any side view given in the way of raillery or
otherwise, he was willing enough to evade conviction.... It augurs
ill for the cause of Greece that this master-spirit should have been
withdrawn from their assistance just as he was obtaining a complete
ascendency over their counsels. I have seen several letters from the
Ionian Islands, all of which unite in speaking in the highest praise of
the wisdom and temperance of his counsels, and the ascendency he was
obtaining over the turbulent and ferocious chiefs of the insurgents. I
have some verses written by him on his last birthday: they breathe a
spirit of affection towards his wife, and a desire of dying in battle,
which seems like an anticipation of his approaching fate.'

  I remain, sir, your obedient servant,


  DUNECHT, Sept. 3.



SIR,--Your paper of the 4th of September, containing an able
and deeply interesting 'Vindication of Lord Byron,' has followed me
to this place. With the general details of the 'True Story' (as it is
termed) of Lady Byron's separation from her husband, as recorded in
'Macmillan's Magazine,' I have no desire or intention to grapple. It
is only with the hypothesis of insanity, as suggested by the clever
writer of the 'Vindication' to account for Lady Byron's sad revelations
to Mrs. Beecher Stowe, with which I propose to deal. I do not believe
that the mooted theory of mental aberration can, in this case, be for a
moment maintained. If Lady Byron's statement of facts to Mrs. B. Stowe
is to be viewed as the creation of a distempered fancy, a delusion or
hallucination of an insane mind, what part of the narrative are we to
draw the boundary-line between fact and delusion, sanity and insanity?
Where are we to fix the _point d'appui_ of the lunacy? Again: is the
alleged 'hallucination' to be considered as strictly confined to the
idea that Lord Byron had committed the frightful sin of incest? or is
the whole of the 'True Story' of her married life, as reproduced with
such terrible minuteness by Mrs. Beecher Stowe, to be viewed as the
delusion of a disordered fancy? If Lady Byron was the subject of an
'hallucination' with regard to her husband, I think it not unreasonable
to conclude that the mental alienation existed on the day of her
marriage. If this proposition be accepted, the natural inference will
be, that the details of the conversation which Lady Byron represents to
have occurred between herself and Lord Byron as soon as they entered
the carriage never took place. Lord Byron is said to have remarked
to Lady Byron, 'You might have prevented this (or words to this
effect): you will now find that you have married a devil.' Is this
alleged conversation to be viewed as _fact_, or _fiction_? evidence of
_sanity_, or _insanity_? Is the revelation which Lord Byron is said to
have made to his wife of his 'incestuous passion' another delusion,
having no foundation except in his wife's disordered imagination? Are
his alleged attempts to justify to Lady Byron's mind the _morale_ of
the plea of 'Continental latitude--the good-humoured marriage, in which
complaisant couples mutually agree to form the cloak for each other's
infidelities,'--another morbid perversion of her imagination? Did this
conversation ever take place? It will be difficult to separate one
part of the 'True Story' from another, and maintain that this portion
indicates insanity, and that portion represents sanity. If we accept
the hypothesis of hallucination, we are bound to view the whole of Lady
Byron's conversations with Mrs. B. Stowe, and the written statement
laid before her, as the wild and incoherent representations of a
lunatic. On the day when Lady Byron parted from her husband, did she
enter his private room, and find him with the 'object of his guilty
passion?' and did he say, as they parted, 'When shall we three meet
again?' Is this to be considered as an actual occurrence, or as another
form of hallucination? It is quite inconsistent with the theory of Lady
Byron's insanity to imagine that her delusion was restricted to the
idea of his having committed 'incest.' In common fairness, we are bound
to view the aggregate mental phenomena which she exhibited from the
day of the marriage to their final separation and her death. No person
practically acquainted with the true characteristics of insanity would
affirm, that, had this idea of 'incest' been an insane hallucination,
Lady Byron could, from the lengthened period which intervened between
her unhappy marriage and death, have refrained from exhibiting her
mental alienation, not only to her legal advisers and trustees, but to
others, exacting no pledge of secrecy from them as to her disordered
impressions. Lunatics do for a time, and for some special purpose, most
cunningly conceal their delusions; but they have not the capacity to
struggle for thirty-six years with a frightful hallucination, similar
to the one Lady Byron is alleged to have had, without the insane state
of mind becoming obvious to those with whom they are daily associating.
Neither is it consistent with experience to suppose that, if Lady Byron
had been a monomaniac, her state of disordered understanding would have
been restricted to one hallucination. Her diseased brain, affecting the
normal action of thought, would, in all probability, have manifested
other symptoms besides those referred to of aberration of intellect.

During the last thirty years, I have not met with a case of insanity
(assuming the hypothesis of hallucination) at all parallel with that
of Lady Byron's. In my experience, it is unique. I never saw a patient
with such a delusion. If it should be established, by the statements of
those who are the depositors of the secret (and they are now bound, in
vindication of Lord Byron's memory, to deny, if they have the power of
doing so, this most frightful accusation), that the idea of incest did
unhappily cross Lady Byron's mind prior to her finally leaving him, it
no doubt arose from a most inaccurate knowledge of facts and perfectly
unjustifiable data, and was not, in the right psychological acceptation
of the phrase, an insane hallucination.

  Sir, I remain your obedient servant,





  'BOLOGNA, June 7, 1819.

... 'Before I left Venice, I had returned to you your late, and Mr.
Hobhouse's sheets of "Juan." Don't wait for further answers from
me, but address yours to Venice as usual. I know nothing of my own
movements. I may return there in a few days, or not for some time:
all this depends on circumstances. I left Mr. Hoppner very well. My
daughter Allegra is well too, and is growing pretty: her hair is
growing darker, and her eyes are blue. Her temper and her ways, Mr.
Hoppner says, are like mine, as well as her features: she will make, in
that case, a manageable young lady.

'I have never seen anything of Ada, the little Electra of my Mycenæ....
But there will come a day of reckoning, even if I should not live
to see it. I have at least seen ---- shivered, who was one of my
assassins. When that man was doing his worst to uproot my whole
family,--tree, branch, and blossoms; when, after taking my retainer,
he went over to them; when he was bringing desolation on my hearth,
and destruction on my household gods,--did he think that, in less
than three years, a natural event, a severe domestic, but an expected
and common calamity, would lay his carcass in a cross-road, or stamp
his name in a verdict of lunacy? Did he (who in his sexagenary ...)
reflect or consider what my feelings must have been when wife and child
and sister, and name and fame and country, were to be my sacrifice on
his legal altar?--and this at a moment when my health was declining,
my fortune embarrassed, and my mind had been shaken by many kinds of
disappointment? while I was yet young, and might have reformed what
might be wrong in my conduct, and retrieved what was perplexing in
my affairs? But he is in his grave, and--What a long letter I have

       *       *       *       *       *

In order that the reader may measure the change of moral tone with
regard to Lord Byron, wrought by the constant efforts of himself and
his party, we give the two following extracts from 'Blackwood.'

The first is 'Blackwood' in 1819, just after the publication of 'Don
Juan': the second is 'Blackwood' in 1825.

'In the composition of this work, there is, unquestionably, a more
thorough and intense infusion of genius and vice, power and profligacy,
than in any poem which had ever before been written in the English,
or, indeed, in any other modern language. Had the wickedness been less
inextricably mingled with the beauty and the grace and the strength of
a most inimitable and incomprehensible Muse, our task would have been
easy. 'Don Juan' is by far the most admirable specimen of the mixture
of ease, strength, gaiety, and seriousness, extant in the whole body
of English poetry: the author has devoted his powers to the worst of
purposes and passions; and it increases his guilt and our sorrow that
he has devoted them entire.

'The moral strain of the whole poem is pitched in the lowest key. Love,
honour, patriotism, religion, are mentioned only to be scoffed at, as
if their sole resting-place were, or ought to be, in the bosoms of
fools. It appears, in short, as if this miserable man, having exhausted
every species of sensual gratification, having drained the cup of sin
even to its bitterest dregs, were resolved to show us that he is no
longer a human being, even in his frailties, but a cool, unconcerned
fiend, laughing with a detestable glee over the whole of the better and
worse elements of which human life is composed; treating well-nigh with
equal derision the most pure of virtues, and the most odious of vices;
dead alike to the beauty of the one, and the deformity of the other;
a mere heartless despiser of that frail but noble humanity, whose
type was never exhibited in a shape of more deplorable degradation
than in his own contemptuously distinct delineation of himself. To
confess to his Maker, and weep over in secret agonies the wildest and
most fantastic transgressions of heart and mind, is the part of a
conscious sinner, in whom sin has not become the sole principle of life
and action; but to lay bare to the eye of man and of _woman_ all the
hidden convulsions of a wicked spirit, and to do all this without one
symptom of contrition, remorse, or hesitation, with a calm, careless
ferociousness of contented and satisfied depravity,--this was an insult
which no man of genius had ever before dared to put upon his Creator
or his species. Impiously railing against his God, madly and meanly
disloyal to his sovereign and his country, and brutally outraging all
the best feelings of female honor, affection, and confidence, how small
a part of chivalry is that which remains to the descendant of the
Byrons!--a gloomy visor and a deadly weapon!

'Those who are acquainted (as who is not?) with the main incidents in
the private life of Lord Byron, and who have not seen this production,
will scarcely believe that malignity should have carried him so far as
to make him commence a filthy and impious poem with an elaborate satire
on the character and manners of his wife, from whom, even by his own
confession, he has been separated only in consequence of his own cruel
and heartless misconduct. It is in vain for Lord Byron to attempt in
any way to justify his own behaviour in that affair; and, now that he
has so openly and audaciously invited inquiry and reproach, we do not
see any good reason why he should not be plainly told so by the general
voice of his countrymen. It would not be an easy matter to persuade
any man who has any knowledge of the nature of woman, that a female
such as Lord Byron has himself described his wife to be would rashly or
hastily or lightly separate herself from the love with which she had
once been inspired for such a man as he is or was. Had he not heaped
insult upon insult, and scorn upon scorn, had he not forced the iron
of his contempt into her very soul, there is no woman of delicacy and
virtue, as he _admitted_ Lady Byron to be, who would not have hoped all
things, and suffered all things, from one, her love of whom must have
been inwoven with so many exalting elements of delicious pride, and
more delicious humility. To offend the love of such a woman was wrong,
but it might be forgiven; to desert her was unmanly, but he might have
returned, and wiped for ever from her eyes the tears of her desertion:
but to injure and to desert, and then to turn back and wound her
widowed privacy with unhallowed strains of cold-blooded mockery, was
brutally, fiendishly, inexpiably mean. For impurities there might be
some possibility of pardon, were they supposed to spring only from the
reckless buoyancy of young blood and fiery passions; for impiety there
might at least be pity, were it visible that the misery of the impious
soul equalled its darkness: but for offences such as this, which cannot
proceed either from the madness of sudden impulse or the bewildered
agonies of doubt, but which speak the wilful and determined spite of
an unrepenting, unsoftened, smiling, sarcastic, joyous sinner, there
can be neither pity nor pardon. Our knowledge that it is committed
by one of the most powerful intellects our island ever has produced
lends intensity a thousand-fold to the bitterness of our indignation.
Every high thought that was ever kindled in our breasts by the Muse of
Byron, every pure and lofty feeling that ever responded from within
us to the sweep of his majestic inspirations, every remembered moment
of admiration and enthusiasm, is up in arms against him. We look back
with a mixture of wrath and scorn to the delight with which we suffered
ourselves to be filled by one, who, all the while he was furnishing
us with delight, must, we cannot doubt it, have been mocking us with
a cruel mockery; less cruel only, because less peculiar, than that
with which he has now turned him from the lurking-place of his selfish
and polluted exile to pour the pitiful chalice of his contumely on
the surrendered devotion of a virgin bosom, and the holy hopes of the
mother of his child. It is indeed a sad and a humiliating thing to
know, that in the same year, there proceeded from the same pen two
productions in all things so different as the fourth canto of "Childe
Harold" and his loathsome "Don Juan."

'We have mentioned one, and, all will admit, the worst instance of the
private malignity which has been embodied in so many passages of "Don
Juan;" and we are quite sure the lofty-minded and virtuous _men_ whom
Lord Byron has debased himself by insulting will close the volume which
contains their own injuries, with no feelings save those of pity for
him that has inflicted them, and for her who partakes so largely in the
same injuries.'--_August, 1819._


'We shall, like all others who say anything about Lord Byron, begin,
_sans apologie_, with his personal character. This is the great object
of attack, the constant theme of open vituperation to one set, and the
established mark for all the petty but deadly artillery of sneers,
shrugs, groans, to another. Two widely different matters, however,
are generally, we might say universally, mixed up here,--the personal
character of the man, as proved by his course of life; and his personal
character, as revealed in or guessed from his books. Nothing can be
more unfair than the style in which this mixture is made use of. Is
there a noble sentiment, a lofty thought, a sublime conception, in
the book? "Ah, yes!" is the answer, "But what of that? It is only
the _roué_ Byron that speaks!" Is a kind, a generous action of the
man mentioned? "Yes, yes!" comments the sage; "but only remember the
atrocities of 'Don Juan:' depend on it, this, if it be true, must have
been a mere freak of caprice, or perhaps a bit of vile hypocrisy."
Salvation is thus shut out at either entrance: the poet damns the man,
and the man the poet.

'Nobody will suspect us of being so absurd as to suppose that it is
possible for people to draw no inferences as to the character of an
author from his book, or to shut entirely out of view, in judging of
a book, that which they may happen to _know_ about the man who writes
it. The cant of the day supposes such things to be practicable; but
they are not. But what we complain of and scorn is the extent to which
they are carried in the case of this particular individual, as compared
with others; the impudence with which things are at once assumed to be
facts in regard to _his_ private history; and the absolute unfairness
of never arguing from _his_ writings to _him, but for evil_.

'Take the man, in the first place, as unconnected, in so far as we
can thus consider him, with his works; and ask, What, after all, are
the bad things we know of him? Was he dishonest or dishonourable?
had he ever _done_ anything to forfeit, or even endanger, his rank
as a gentleman? Most assuredly, no such accusations have ever been
maintained against Lord Byron the private nobleman, although something
of the sort may have been insinuated against the author. "But he was
such a profligate in his morals, that his name cannot be mentioned with
anything like tolerance." Was he so, indeed? We should like extremely
to have the catechising of the individual _man_ who says so. That
he indulged in sensual vices, to some extent, is certain, and to be
regretted and condemned. But was he worse, as to such matters, than
the enormous majority of those who join in the cry of horror upon this
occasion? We most assuredly believe exactly the reverse; and we rest
our belief upon very plain and intelligible grounds. First, we hold it
impossible that the majority of mankind, or that anything beyond a very
small minority, are or can be entitled to talk of sensual profligacy as
having formed a part of the life and character of the man, who, dying
at six and thirty, bequeathed a collection of works such as Byron's to
the world. Secondly, we hold it impossible, that laying the extent of
his intellectual labours out of the question, and looking only to the
nature of the intellect which generated, and delighted in generating,
such beautiful and noble conceptions as are to be found in almost all
Lord Byron's works,--we hold it impossible that very many men can be
at once capable of comprehending these conceptions, and entitled to
consider sensual profligacy as having formed the principal, or even
a principal, trait in Lord Byron's character. Thirdly, and lastly,
we have never been able to hear any one fact established which could
prove Lord Byron to deserve anything like the degree or even kind
of odium which has, in regard to matters of this class, been heaped
upon his name. We have no story of base unmanly seduction, or false
and villainous intrigue, against him,--none whatever. It seems to us
quite clear, that, if he had been at all what is called in society
an unprincipled sensualist, there must have been many such stories,
authentic and authenticated. But there are none such,--absolutely none.
His name has been coupled with the names of three, four, or more women
of some rank: but what kind of women? Every one of them, in the first
place, about as old as himself in years, and therefore a great deal
older in character; every one of them utterly battered in reputation
long before he came into contact with them,--licentious, unprincipled,
characterless women. What father has ever reproached him with the ruin
of his daughter? What husband has denounced him as the destroyer of his

'Let us not be mistaken. We are not defending the offences of which
Lord Byron unquestionably was guilty; neither are we finding fault
with those, who, after looking honestly within and around themselves,
condemn those offences, no matter how severely: but we are speaking
of society in general as it now exists; and we say that there is vile
hypocrisy in the tone in which Lord Byron is talked of _there_. We
say, that, although all offences against purity of life are miserable
things, and condemnable things, the degrees of guilt attached to
different offences of this class are as widely different as are the
degrees of guilt between an assault and a murder; and we confess our
belief, that no man of Byron's station or age could have run much risk
in gaining a very bad name in society, had a course of life similar
(in so far as we know any thing of that) to Lord Byron's been the only
thing chargeable against him.

'The last poem he wrote was produced upon his birthday, not many weeks
before he died. We consider it as one of the finest and most touching
effusions of his noble genius. We think he who reads it, and can ever
after bring himself to regard even the worst transgressions that have
been charged against Lord Byron with any feelings but those of humble
sorrow and manly pity, is not deserving of the name of man. The deep
and passionate struggles with the inferior elements of his nature (and
ours) which it records; the lofty thirsting after purity; the heroic
devotion of a soul half weary of life, because unable to believe in
its own powers to live up to what it so intensely felt to be, and so
reverentially honoured as, the right; the whole picture of this mighty
spirit, often darkened, but never sunk,--often erring, but never
ceasing to see and to worship the beauty of virtue; the repentance of
it; the anguish; the aspiration, almost stilled in despair,--the whole
of this is such a whole, that we are sure no man can read these solemn
verses too often; and we recommend them for repetition, as the best and
most conclusive of all possible answers whenever the name of Byron is
insulted by those who permit themselves to forget nothing, either in
his life or in his writings, but the good.'--[1825.]

       *       *       *       *       *

The following letters of Lady Byron's are reprinted from the Memoirs of
H. C. Robinson. They are given that the reader may form some judgment
of the strength and activity of her mind, and the elevated class of
subjects upon which it habitually dwelt.


  'DEC. 31, 1853.

'DEAR MR. CRABB ROBINSON,--I have an inclination, if I were
not afraid of trespassing on your time (but you can put my letter by
for any leisure moment), to enter upon the history of a character which
I think less appreciated than it ought to be. Men, I observe, do not
understand men in certain points, without a woman's interpretation.
Those points, of course, relate to feelings.

'Here is a man taken by most of those who come in his way either for
Dry-as-Dust, Matter-of-fact, or for a "vain visionary." There are,
doubtless, some defective or excessive characteristics which give rise
to those impressions.

'My acquaintance was made, oddly enough, with him twenty-seven years
ago. A pauper said to me of him, "He's the _poor man's_ doctor." Such
a recommendation seemed to me a good one: and I also knew that his
organizing head had formed the first district society in England (for
Mrs. Fry told me she could not have effected it without his aid); yet
he has always ignored his own share of it. I felt in him at once the
curious combination of the Christian and the cynic,--of reverence for
_man_, and contempt of _men_. It was then an internal war, but one in
which it was evident to me that the holier cause would be victorious,
because there was deep belief, and, as far as I could learn, a
blameless and benevolent life. He appeared only to want sunshine. It
was a plant which could not be brought to perfection in darkness. He
had begun life by the most painful conflict between filial duty and
conscience,--a large provision in the church secured for him by his
father; but he could not _sign_. There was discredit, as you know,
attached to such scruples.

'He was also, when I first knew him, under other circumstances of
a nature to depress him, and to make him feel that he was unjustly
treated. The gradual removal of these called forth his better nature
in thankfulness to God. Still the old misanthropic modes of expressing
himself obtruded themselves at times. This passed in '48 between him
and Robertson. Robertson said to me, "I want to know something about
ragged schools." I replied, "You had better ask Dr. King: he knows
more about them."--"I?" said Dr. King. "I take care to know nothing of
ragged schools, lest they should make _me_ ragged." Robertson did not
see through it. Perhaps I had been taught to understand such suicidal
speeches by my cousin, Lord Melbourne.

'The example of Christ, imperfectly as it may be understood by him, has
been ever before his eyes: he woke to the thought of following it, and
he went to rest consoled or rebuked by it. After nearly thirty years
of intimacy, I may, without presumption, form that opinion. There is
something pathetic to me in seeing any one _so_ unknown. Even the other
medical friends of Robertson, when I knew that Dr. King felt a woman's
tenderness, said on one occasion to him, "But we know that you, Dr.
King, are _above all feeling_."

'If I have made the character more consistent to you by putting in
these bits of mosaic, my pen will not have been ill employed, nor
unpleasingly to you.

  'Yours truly,


  'BRIGHTON, Nov. 15, 1854.

'The thoughts of all this public and private suffering have taken
the life out of my pen when I tried to write on matters which would
otherwise have been most interesting to me: _these_ seemed the shadows,
_that_ the stern reality. It is good, however, to be drawn out of
scenes in which one is absorbed most unprofitably, and to have one's
natural interests revived by such a letter as I have to thank you for,
as well as its predecessor. You touch upon the very points which do
interest me the most, habitually. The change of form, and enlargement
of design, in "The Prospective" _had_ led me to express to one of the
promoters of that object my desire to contribute. The religious crisis
is instant; but the man for it? The next best thing, if, as I believe,
he is not to be found _in England_, is an association of such men as
are to edit the new periodical. An address delivered by Freeman Clarke
at Boston, last May, makes me think him better fitted for a leader than
any other of the religious "Free-thinkers." I wish I could send you
my one copy; but you do not _need_, it, and others do. His object is
the same as that of the "Alliance Universelle:" only he is still more
free from "partialism" (his own word) in his aspirations and practical
suggestions with respect to an ultimate "Christian synthesis." He
so far adopts Comte's theory as to speak of religion itself under
three successive aspects, historically,--1. Thesis; 2. Antithesis;
3. Synthesis. I made his acquaintance in England; and he inspired
confidence at once by his brave independence (_incomptis capillis_) and
self-_un_consciousness. J. J. Tayler's address of last month follows in
the same path,--all in favour of the "irenics," instead of polemics.

'The answer which you gave me so fully and distinctly to the questions
I proposed for your consideration was of value in turning to my view
certain aspects of the case which I had not before observed. I had
begun a second attack on your patience, when all was forgotten in the
news of the day.'

Lady Byron to H. C. R.

  'BRIGHTON, Dec. 25, 1854.

'With J. J. Tayler, though almost a stranger to him, I have a peculiar
reason for sympathising. A book of his was a treasure to my daughter on
her death-bed.[50]

[Footnote 50: Probably 'The Christian Aspects of Faith and Duty.'
Mr. Tayler has also written 'A Retrospect of the Religious Life of

'I must confess to intolerance of opinion as to these two
points,--_eternal_ evil in any form, and (involved in it) _eternal_
suffering. To believe in these would take away my God, who is
all-loving. With a God with whom omnipotence and omniscience were all,
evil might be eternal; but why do I say to you what has been better
said elsewhere?'


  'BRIGHTON, Jan. 31, 1855.

... 'The great difficulty in respect to "The Review"[51] seems to be
to settle a basis, inclusive and exclusive; in short, a _boundary
question_. From what you said, I think you agreed with me, that
a latitudinarian Christianity ought to be the character of the
periodical; but the depth of the roots should correspond with the width
of the branches of that tree of knowledge. Of some of those minds one
might say, "They have no root;" and then, the richer the foliage, the
more danger that the trunk will fall. "Grounded in Christ" has to me
a most practical significance and value. I, too, have anxiety about
a friend (Miss Carpenter) whose life is of public importance: she,
more than any of the English reformers, unless Nash and Wright, has
found the art of drawing out the good of human nature, and proving its
existence. She makes these discoveries by the light of love. I hope
she may recover, from to-day's report. The object of a Reformatory
in Leicester has just been secured at a county meeting.... Now the
desideratum is well-qualified masters and mistresses. If you hear
of such by chance, pray let me know. The regular schoolmaster is an
extinguisher. Heart, and familiarity with the class to be educated,
are all important. At home and abroad, the evidence is conclusive on
that point; for I have for many years attended to such experiments
in various parts of Europe. "The Irish Quarterly" has taken up the
subject with rather more zeal than judgment. I had hoped that a sound
and temperate exposition of the facts might form an article in the
"Might-have-been Review."'

[Footnote 51: 'The National Review.']


  'BRIGHTON, Feb. 12, 1855.

'I have at last earned the pleasure of writing to you by having settled
troublesome matters of little moment, except locally; and I gladly take
a wider range by sympathizing in your interests. There is, besides, no
responsibility--for me at least--in canvassing the merits of Russell
or Palmerston, but much in deciding whether the "village politician"
Jackson or Thompson shall be leader in the school or public-house.

'Has not the nation been brought to a conviction that the _system_
should be broken up? and is Lord Palmerston, who has used it so long
and so cleverly, likely to promote that object?

'But, whatever obstacles there may be in state affairs, that general
persuasion must modify other departments of action and knowledge.
"Unroasted coffee" will no longer be accepted under the official
seal,--another reason for a new literary combination for distinct
special objects, a review in which every separate article should be
_convergent_. If, instead of the problem to make a circle pass through
three given points, it were required to find the centre from which to
describe a circle through any three articles in the "Edinburgh" or
"Westminster Review," who would accomplish it? Much force is lost for
want of this one-mindedness amongst the contributors. It would not
exclude variety or freedom in the unlimited discussion of means towards
the ends unequivocally recognized. If St. Paul had edited a review, he
might have admitted Peter as well as Luke or Barnabas....

'Ross gave us an excellent sermon, yesterday, on "Hallowing the Name."
Though far from commonplace, it might have been delivered in any church.

'We have had Fanny Kemble here last week. I only heard her "Romeo
and Juliet,"--not less instructive, as her readings always are, than
exciting; for in her glass Shakspeare is a philosopher. I know her, and
honour her, for her truthfulness amidst all trials.'


  'BRIGHTON, March 5, 1855.

'I recollect only those passages of Dr. Kennedy's book which bear
upon the opinions of Lord Byron. Strange as it may seem, Dr. Kennedy
is most faithful where you doubt his being so. Not merely from casual
expressions, but from the whole tenor of Lord Byron's feelings, I could
not but conclude he was a believer in the inspiration of the Bible,
and had the gloomiest Calvinistic tenets. To that unhappy view of the
relation of the creature to the Creator, I have always ascribed the
misery of his life.... It is enough for me to remember, that he who
thinks his transgressions beyond _forgiveness_ (and such was his own
deepest feeling) _has_ righteousness beyond that of the self-satisfied
sinner, or, perhaps, of the half-awakened. It was impossible for me to
doubt, that, could he have been at once assured of pardon, his living
faith in a moral duty, and love of virtue ("I love the virtues which
I cannot claim"), would have conquered every temptation. Judge, then,
how I must hate the creed which made him see God as an Avenger, not a
Father! My own impressions were just the reverse, but could have little
weight; and it was in vain to seek to turn his thoughts for long from
that _idée fixe_ with which he connected his physical peculiarity as
a stamp. Instead of being made happier by any apparent good, he felt
convinced that every blessing would be "turned into a curse" to him.
Who, possessed by such ideas, could lead a life of love and service to
God or man? They must, in a measure, realize themselves. "The worst
of it is, I _do_ believe," he said. I, like all connected with him,
was broken against the rock of predestination. I may be pardoned for
referring to his frequent expression of the sentiment that I was only
sent to show him the happiness he was forbidden to enjoy. You will now
better understand why "The Deformed Transformed" is too painful to me
for discussion. Since writing the above, I have read Dr. Granville's
letter on the Emperor of Russia, some passages of which seem applicable
to the prepossession I have described. I will not mix up less serious
matters with these, which forty years have not made less than present
still to me.'


  '_Brighton_, April 8, 1855.

... 'The book which has interested me most, lately, is that on
"Mosaism," translated by Miss Goldsmid, and which I read, as you
will believe, without any Christian (unchristian?) prejudice. The
missionaries of the Unity were always, from my childhood, regarded by
me as in that sense _the_ people; and I believe they were true to that
mission, though blind, intellectually, in demanding the crucifixion.
The present aspect of Jewish opinions, as shown in that book, is
all but Christian. The author is under the error of taking, as the
representatives of Christianity, the Mystics, Ascetics, and Quietists;
and therefore he does not know how near he is to the true spirit of the
gospel. If you should happen to see Miss Goldsmid, pray tell her what
a great service I think she has rendered to us _soi-disant_ Christians
in translating a book which must make us sensible of the little we have
done, and the much we have to do, to justify our preference of the
later to the earlier dispensation.'...


  'BRIGHTON, April 11, 1855.

'You appear to have more definite information respecting "The Review"
than I have obtained.... It was also said that "The Review" would, in
fact, be "The Prospective" amplified,--not satisfactory to me, because
I have always thought that periodical too Unitarian, in the sense of
separating itself from other Christian churches, if not by a high wall,
at least by a wire-gauze fence. Now, separation is to me _the_
[Greek: ha/iresis]. The revelation through Nature never separates: it
is the revelation through the Book which separates. Whewell and Brewster
would have been one, had they not, I think, equally dimmed their lamps
of science when reading their Bibles. As long as we think a truth
_better_ for being shut up in a text, we are not of the wide-world
religion, which is to include all in one fold: for that text will not
be accepted by the followers of other books, or students of the same;
and separation will ensue. The Christian Scripture should be dear to
us, not as the charter of a few, but of mankind; and to fashion it into
cages is to deny its ultimate objects. These thoughts hot, like the
roll at breakfast, where your letter was so welcome an addition.'

       *       *       *       *       *



  Fare thee well! and if for ever,
    Still for ever fare thee well!
  Even though unforgiving, never
    'Gainst thee shall my heart rebel.

  Would that breast were bared before thee
    Where thy head so oft hath lain,
  While that placid sleep came o'er thee
    Which thou ne'er canst know again!

  Would that breast, by thee glanced over,
    Every inmost thought could show!
  Then thou wouldst at last discover
    'Twas not well to spurn it so.

  Though the world for this commend thee,
    Though it smile upon the blow,
  Even its praises must offend thee,
    Founded on another's woe.

  Though my many faults defaced me,
    Could no other arm be found,
  Than the one which once embraced me,
    To inflict a cureless wound?

  Yet, oh! yet, thyself deceive not
    Love may sink by slow decay;
  But, by sudden wrench, believe not
    Hearts can thus be torn away:

  Still thine own its life retaineth;
    Still must mine, though bleeding, beat
  And the undying thought which paineth
    Is--that we no more may meet.

  These are words of deeper sorrow
    Than the wail above the dead:
  Both shall live, but every morrow
    Wake us from a widowed bed.

  And when thou wouldst solace gather,
    When our child's first accents flow,
  Wilt thou teach her to say 'Father,'
    Though his care she must forego?

  When her little hand shall press thee,
    When her lip to thine is pressed,
  Think of him whose prayer shall bless thee
    Think of him thy love had blessed.

  Should her lineaments resemble
    Those thou never more mayst see,
  Then thy heart will softly tremble
    With a pulse yet true to me.

  All my faults, perchance, thou knowest;
    All my madness none can know:
  All my hopes, where'er thou goest,
    Wither; yet with thee they go.

  Every feeling hath been shaken:
    Pride, which not a world could bow,
  Bows to thee, by thee forsaken;
    Even my soul forsakes me now.

  But 'tis done: all words are idle;
    Words from me are vainer still;
  But the thoughts we cannot bridle
    Force their way without the will.

  Fare thee well!--thus disunited,
    Torn from every nearer tie,
  Seared in heart, and lone and blighted,
    More than this I scarce can die.


  Born in the garret, in the kitchen bred;
  Promoted thence to deck her mistress' head;
  Next--for some gracious service unexpress'd,
  And from its wages only to be guessed--
  Raised from the toilette to the table, where
  Her wondering betters wait behind her chair,
  With eye unmoved, and forehead unabashed,
  She dines from off the plate she lately washed.
  Quick with the tale, and ready with the lie,
  The genial confidante and general spy,
  Who could, ye gods! her next employment guess?--
  An only infant's earliest governess!
  She taught the child to read, and taught so well,
  That she herself, by teaching, learned to spell.
  An adept next in penmanship she grows,
  As many a nameless slander deftly shows:
  What she had made the pupil of her art,
  None know; but that high soul secured the heart,
  And panted for the truth it could not hear,
  With longing breast and undeluded ear.
  Foiled was perversion by that youthful mind,
  Which flattery fooled not, baseness could not blind,
  Deceit infect not, near contagion soil,
  Indulgence weaken, nor example spoil,
  Nor mastered science tempt her to look down
  On humbler talents with a pitying frown,
  Nor genius swell, nor beauty render vain,
  Nor envy ruffle to retaliate pain,
  Nor fortune change, pride raise, nor passion bow,
  Nor virtue teach austerity, till now.
  Serenely purest of her sex that live;
  But wanting one sweet weakness,--to forgive;
  Too shocked at faults her soul can never know,
  She deems that all could be like her below:
  Foe to all vice, yet hardly Virtue's friend;
  For Virtue pardons those she would amend.
    But to the theme, now laid aside too long,--
  The baleful burthen of this honest song.
  Though all her former functions are no more,
  She rules the circle which she served before.
  If mothers--none know why--before her quake;
  If daughters dread her for the mothers' sake;
  If early habits--those false links, which bind
  At times the loftiest to the meanest mind--
  Have given her power too deeply to instil
  The angry essence of her deadly will;
  If like a snake she steal within your walls
  Till the black slime betray her as she crawls;
  If like a viper to the heart she wind,
  And leave the venom there she did not find,--
  What marvel that this hag of hatred works
  Eternal evil latent as she lurks,
  To make a Pandemonium where she dwells,
  And reign the Hecate of domestic hells?
  Skilled by a touch to deepen scandal's tints
  With all the kind mendacity of hints,
  While mingling truth with falsehood, sneers with smiles,
  A thread of candour with a web of wiles;
  A plain blunt show of briefly-spoken seeming.
  To hide her bloodless heart's soul-hardened scheming
  A lip of lies; a face formed to conceal,
  And, without feeling, mock at all who feel;
  With a vile mask the Gorgon would disown;
  A cheek of parchment, and an eye of stone.
  Mark how the channels of her yellow blood
  Ooze to her skin, and stagnate there to mud!
  Cased like the centipede in saffron mail,
  Or darker greenness of the scorpion's scale,
  (For drawn from reptiles only may we trace
  Congenial colours in that soul or face,)--
  Look on her features! and behold her mind
  As in a mirror of itself defined.
  Look on the picture! deem it not o'ercharged;
  There is no trait which might not be enlarged:
  Yet true to 'Nature's journeymen,' who made
  This monster when their mistress left off trade,
  This female dog-star of her little sky,
  Where all beneath her influence droop or die.

    O wretch without a tear, without a thought,
  Save joy above the ruin thou hast wrought!
  The time shall come, nor long remote, when thou
  Shalt feel far more than thou inflictest now,--
  Feel for thy vile self-loving self in vain,
  And turn thee howling in unpitied pain.
  May the strong curse of crushed affections light
  Back on thy bosom with reflected blight,
  And make thee, in thy leprosy of mind,
  As loathsome to thyself as to mankind,
  Till all thy self-thoughts curdle into hate
  Black as thy will for others would create;
  Till thy hard heart be calcined into dust,
  And thy soul welter in its hideous crust!
  Oh, may thy grave be sleepless as the bed,
  The widowed couch of fire, that thou hast spread
  Then, when thou fain wouldst weary Heaven with prayer,
  Look on thine earthly victims, and despair!
  Down to the dust! and, as thou rott'st away,
  Even worms shall perish on thy poisonous clay.
  But for the love I bore, and still must bear,
  To her thy malice from all ties would tear,
  Thy name, thy human name, to every eye
  The climax of all scorn, should hang on high,
  Exalted o'er thy less abhorred compeers,
  And festering in the infamy of years.



  And thou wert sad, yet I was not with thee!
    And thou wert sick, and yet I was not near!
  Methought that joy and health alone could be
    Where I was _not_, and pain and sorrow here.
  And is it thus? It is as I foretold,
    And shall be more so; for the mind recoils
  Upon itself, and the wrecked heart lies cold,
    While heaviness collects the shattered spoils.
  It is not in the storm nor in the strife
    We feel benumbed, and wish to be no more,
    But in the after-silence on the shore,
  When all is lost except a little life.
  I am too well avenged! But 'twas my right:
    Whate'er my sins might be, _thou_ wert not sent
  To be the Nemesis who should requite;
    Nor did Heaven choose so near an instrument.
  Mercy is for the merciful!--if thou
  Hast been of such, 'twill be accorded now.
  Thy nights are banished from the realms of sleep!
    Yes! they may flatter thee; but thou shalt feel
    A hollow agony which will not heal;
  For thou art pillowed on a curse too deep:
  Thou hast sown in my sorrow, and must reap
    The bitter harvest in a woe as real!
  I have had many foes, but none like thee;
    For 'gainst the rest myself I could defend,
    And be avenged, or turn them into friend;
  But thou in safe implacability
  Hadst nought to dread, in thy own weakness shielded
  And in my love, which hath but too much yielded,
    And spared, for thy sake, some I should not spare.
  And thus upon the world,--trust in thy truth,
  And the wild fame of my ungoverned youth,
    On things that were not and on things that are,--
  Even upon such a basis hast thou built
  A monument, whose cement hath been guilt;
  The moral Clytemnestra of thy lord,
  And hewed down, with an unsuspected sword,
  Fame, peace, and hope, and all the better life,
    Which, but for this cold treason of thy heart,
  Might still have risen from out the grave of strife,
    And found a nobler duty than to part.
  But of thy virtues didst thou make a vice,
    Trafficking with them in a purpose cold,
    For present anger and for future gold,
  And buying others' grief at any price.
  And thus, once entered into crooked ways,
  The early truth, which was thy proper praise,
  Did not still walk beside thee, but at times,
  And with a breast unknowing its own crimes,
  Deceit, averments incompatible,
  Equivocations, and the thoughts which dwell
    In Janus-spirits; the significant eye
  Which learns to lie with silence; the pretext
  Of prudence, with advantages annexed;
  The acquiescence in all things which tend,
  No matter how, to the desired end,--
    All found a place in thy philosophy.
  The means were worthy, and the end is won
  I would not do by thee as thou hast done.

_Spottiswoode & Co., Printers, New-street Square, London._

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