Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Miscellaneous Documents


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 favour.

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 he 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 remove.

* * * * *

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 America.

Madame de Stael 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

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

'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 exile.'

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 Stael 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 Stael 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 don'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 Jose; 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

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

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

'The dashing and proud air of Adeline
Imposed not upon her: she saw her blaze
Much as she would have seen a glow-worm 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 snare.

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 fiance, 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 engagement.

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 devil!'

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

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

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
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 prayers.

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 goodbye,'
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

'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

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 Byron:--

'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

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 perfect.

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 naive 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

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," etc. 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 whose opinion is valuable,
and whose kindness is clear 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.

The 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 Barnard:--

'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 ascendancy 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 ascendancy 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

'I have never seen anything of Ada, the little Electra of my Mycenae . .
. . 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 scribbled!' . . .

* * * * *

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
honour, 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 (and 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 roue 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 peace?

'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 stifled 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-unconsciousness. J. J. Tayler's address of last month
follows in the same path,--all in favour of the "irenics," instead of

'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.'

* * * * *


'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. {320a}

'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" {320b} 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."'

* * * * *


'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 idee
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
text]. 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.'

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Sorry, no summary available yet.