LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

In Whig Society 1775-1818
Lady Melbourne to Lord Byron, [October? 1812]

Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
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“You are too suspicious, after all I have said, it makes me half angry—in one of yr. last Letters you hinted tht. perhaps I left yr. Letter in the way on purpose. These are your ‘wounding flouts’ and shew what those persons are to expect ‘that lye within the mercy of your Wit.’ I can not bear her having got that Letter whether she opened it, or found it, ’tis all one, it will be long before I forgive it, if it was either on my Table or in my Drawer, she has added falsehood to her other iniquities, for in that case she could not think it was for her. I have not been in right good humour since I heard it. What high flown compliments you have paid me, for Heaven’s sake lower me to my proper level, or I shall be quite alarm’d when I see you again. I shall neither dare speak before you nor to you, & as to talking my usual nonsense that must be quite out of the question, or I shall soon drop from the Pinnacle where you have placed me. Do let me down easily, that I may not break my Bones by a sudden fall; What can you have in yr. Head? ‘Men of distinguish’d abilities’ ce sont des Hommes comme les autres, & I am a Woman comme les autres—superior in nothing. I happen fortunately to be gifted with a fund of good nature & chearfulness, & very great spirits—& have a little more tact than my neighbours, & people call me pleasant because I am always inclined in conversation to enter into the subjects that
seem most adapted to the taste of those with whom I happen to be—when they are not too high for aspiration (as Mr. Ward says) like some I have lately been with. You say ‘I admire you certainly as much as ever you were admired’ & a great deal more I assure you than ever I was admired in the same way. I may have been beloved—but Love is not admiration. Lovers admire of course without knowing why. Yours therefore is much more flattering as I sd. the other day—but you quite astonished me when I found your usual playfulness chang’d into such a formal tirade. I have hardly yet recover’d my surprise—now I have told you everything & have shown myself truly to you; I can not see why you should wish that you had not known me. It can not lead to any regrets and if circumstances should not stop it entirely our Friendship will be very pleasant to both as any sentiment must be where all is sunshine—and where love does not introduce itself, there can be no jealousys, torments & quarrels. And should this catastrophe take place, it will, at least to me, always be a pleasing recollection, that we should have been good friends (there is something in tht. expression I like very much) if imperious circumstances had not prevented it. Once you told me you did not understand Friendship. I told you I would teach it you, & so I will, if you do not allow
C. to take you quite away. Do you remember some verses of Voltaire’s where after lamenting tht. he was old, he says:
Du ciel alors daignant descendre
L’amitié vint à mon secours,
Elle étoit peut être aussi tendre
Mais moins vive que les amours.


“I admire you extremely for your resolutions respecting her but Dr. Ld. B. you deceive yourself—you never will be able to keep them. What! pass your time in endeavouring to put her into good humour, & to satisfy her, & disguise from her that you are unhappy. Fine Dreams indeed—the first is much beyond yr. power & finding how ill you succeed, must inevitably prevent you from persisting in the last. Do not however mistake me, I would not have you say a harsh sentence to her for the World, or anything that could be deem’d insulting. I had not the least intention of advising you to do it; there is no kindness that I would not have you shew her, but sacrificing yourself to her would only be romantic, & not kind—for supposing the sentiments you express to me are real, it would be quite the contrary, for it must lead to unhappiness & misery. If a little trifling expression of coldness at present would prevent this finale, how much more kind, to give a little present pain, & avoid her total ruin; however I do not mean to give any advice, you probably know much better than I do, how to act. You may depend upon my giving you the earliest intelligence in my power of their return. I hear no mention of it yet—& if they come back thro’ holland which was their intention, we shall hear of their leaving Ireland a long time before they arrive here. I must however add that I think you attach too much blame to yourself—she was no novice & tho’ I give her credit for being what one must believe every Heroine of a Romance to be (except Made. Cottin’s) yet she knew enough to be upon her guard, & cannot be look’d upon as the Victim of a designing Man. All the world are of a very
different opinion—she always told me you continually sd. that she had exposed herself so much before she was acquainted with you, tht. her character could not suffer, as it was already gone—I abused you at the time for giving it this turn tho what you sd. was perfectly true, & in my opinion exculpates you entirely.

“Poor Annabella, her innocent Eyes will have to contend with the Black & probably experienced ones of yr. Innamorata. Recollect in the meantime how much they will improve if she should be in love with you, the others are acquernis [sic] & will be no better. Eyes require that sort of inspiration. Many people have fine Eyes who do not know what to do with them, many have nothing behind them, then it is hopeless. Mon cher Neveu, vous êtes bien changéant, much like the man in the farce we saw together (the Weathercock) do you recollect it? I thought then it was a character not to be found in nature, however the wind that blows one way to[-day] may blow from the contrary point tomorrow [torn off] but where is all yr. boasted power of forgetting those you have liked? A sound brings those objects (I put them in the plural) back to yr. recollection & displays all the charms tht. had captivated you—& you fall in love anew, but not with them—with that sound—something like Vapid I think, & his Grandmother’s picture. Do you think you can manage both her & C[aroline]? Impossible. As a friend I say flirt as much as you please but do not get into a serious scrape before you are safe from the present one.

“As I was folding up this Letter, a servant arrived fm. town & brought me two Letters fm.
C[aroline]—if I know her, vous n’en êtes pas quite. Both the Letters are written the same day, one full of spirits, gaiete, Dinners Parties &c., &c., the other false written to deceive one, talking of her unhappiness & affecting to be perfectly quiet & resign’d. As this is not in her Nature, you will most likely know the contrary by this time, she is trying to act upon my feelings, & to make me tell her something about you. This I shall not do. She says you are angry, begs me to tell her why—entreats me to speak openly—& she will not betray me, perhaps I have shewn you her last Letter—if so she will forgive me—& so on.

“I am now inclined to think that if you could get her into a quiet state by any means, it would be the best chance. You might agree to see her quietly when she returns, provided she made none of the scenes she is so fond of; it might possibly go off in that way, but it never can while she is in this constant state of irritation, and whilst she thinks all about her wish to put an end to it. If she thought her friends cared less she would be more likely to take some other fancy—the result of all this seems to me that the best thing you can do is to marry, & that in fact you can get out of this scrape by no other means.”