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

Chapter 4


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The note here tells us that this refers to a statement that appeared in
'Blackwood' immediately after Byron's death, to the effect that, previous
to the formal separation from his wife, Byron required and obtained from
Sir Ralph Milbanke, Lady Byron's father, a statement to the effect that
Lady Byron had no charge of moral delinquency to bring against him. {61}

North continues:--

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

Hogg interposes,--

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'I have disregarded various publications in which facts within my own
knowledge have been grossly misrepresented; but I am called upon to
notice some of the erroneous statements proceeding from one who claims
to be considered as Lord Byron's confidential and authorised friend.
Domestic details ought not to be intruded on the public attention: if,
however, they are so intruded, the persons affected by them have a
right to refute injurious charges. Mr. Moore has promulgated his own
impressions of private events in which I was most nearly concerned, as
if he possessed a competent knowledge of the subject. Having survived
Lord Byron, I feel increased reluctance to advert to any circumstances
connected with the period of my marriage; nor is it now my intention
to disclose them further than may be indispensably requisite for the
end I have in view. Self-vindication is not the motive which actuates
me to make this appeal, and the spirit of accusation is unmingled with
it; but when the conduct of my parents is brought forward in a
disgraceful light by the passages selected from Lord Byron's letters,
and by the remarks of his biographer, I feel bound to justify their
characters from imputations which I know to be false. The passages
from Lord Byron's letters, to which I refer, are,--the aspersion on my
mother's character (p.648, l.4): {70a} "My child is very well and
flourishing, I hear; but I must see also. I feel no disposition to
resign it to the contagion of its grandmother's society." The
assertion of her dishonourable conduct in employing a spy (p.645, l.7,
etc.): "A Mrs. C. (now a kind of housekeeper and spy of Lady N's),
who, in her better days, was a washerwoman, is supposed to be--by the
learned--very much the occult cause of our domestic discrepancies."
The seeming exculpation of myself in the extract (p.646), with the
words immediately following it, "Her nearest relations are a---;"
where the blank clearly implies something too offensive for
publication. These passages tend to throw suspicion on my parents,
and give reason to ascribe the separation either to their direct
agency, or to that of "officious spies" employed by them. {70b} From
the following part of the narrative (p.642), it must also be inferred
that an undue influence was exercised by them for the accomplishment
of this purpose: "It was in a few weeks after the latter communication
between us (Lord Byron and Mr. Moore) that Lady Byron adopted the
determination of parting from him. She had left London at the latter
end of January, on a visit to her father's house in Leicestershire;
and Lord Byron was in a short time to follow her. They had parted in
the utmost kindness, she wrote him a letter, full of playfulness and
affection, on the road; and, immediately on her arrival at Kirkby
Mallory, her father wrote to acquaint Lord Byron that she would return
to him no more."

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

'The last letter was circulated, and employed as a pretext for the
charge of my having been subsequently influenced to "desert" {72} my
husband. It has been argued that I parted from Lord Byron in perfect
harmony; that feelings incompatible with any deep sense of injury had
dictated the letter which I addressed to him; and that my sentiments
must have been changed by persuasion and interference when I was under
the roof of my parents. These assertions and inferences are wholly
destitute of foundation. When I arrived at Kirkby Mallory, my parents
were unacquainted with the existence of any causes likely to destroy
my prospects of happiness; and, when I communicated to them the
opinion which had been formed concerning Lord Byron's state of mind,
they were most anxious to promote his restoration by every means in
their power. They assured those relations who were with him in
London, that "they would devote their whole care and attention to the
alleviation of his malady;" and hoped to make the best arrangements
for his comfort if he could be induced to visit them.

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

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

'"Believe me, very faithfully yours,


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

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

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


'Hanger Hill, Feb. 19, 1830.'

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That there was no lover of her youth, that the marriage-vow had been a
hideous, shameless cheat, is on the face of Moore's account; yet the
'Blackwood' does not see it nor feel it, and brings up against Lady Byron
this touching story of a poor widow, who really had had a true lover
once,--a lover maddened, imbruted, lost, through that very drunkenness in
which the Noctes Club were always glorying.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . .

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

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

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

The following is Lady Byron's reply:--

'DEAR MR. CAMPBELL,--In taking up my pen to point out for your private
information {86} those passages in Mr. Moore's representation of my
part of the story which were open to contradiction, I find them of
still greater extent than I had supposed; and to deny an assertion
here and there would virtually admit the truth of the rest. If, on
the contrary, I were to enter into a full exposure of the falsehood of
the views taken by Mr. Moore, I must detail various matters, which,
consistently with my principles and feelings, I cannot under the
existing circumstances disclose. I may, perhaps, convince you better
of the difficulty of the case by an example: It is not true that
pecuniary embarrassments were the cause of the disturbed state of Lord
Byron's mind, or formed the chief reason for the arrangements made by
him at that time. But is it reasonable for me to expect that you or
any one else should believe this, unless I show you what were the
causes in question? and this I cannot do.

'I am, etc.,


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The reasons for this seemed to be, first, that Campbell states that he
did not ask Lady Byron's leave, and that she did not authorise him to
defend her; and, second, that, having asked some explanations from her,
he prints a note in which she declines to give any.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Blackwood,' which in the beginning had been the most indignantly
virtuous of the whole, now grovelled and ate dust as the serpent in the
very abjectness of submission. Odoherty (Maginn) declares that he would
rather have written a page of 'Don Juan' than a ton of 'Childe Harold.'
{95a} Timothy Tickler informs Christopher North that he means to tender
Murray, as Emperor of the North, an interleaved copy {95b} of 'Don Juan,'
with illustrations, as the only work of Byron's he cares much about; and
Christopher North, professor of moral philosophy in Edinburgh, smiles
approval! We are not, after this, surprised to see the assertion, by a
recent much-aggrieved writer in 'The London Era,' that 'Lord Byron has
been, more than any other man of the age, the teacher of the youth of
England;' and that he has 'seen his works on the bookshelves of bishops'
palaces, no less than on the tables of university undergraduates.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Sorry, no summary available yet.