LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoir of Francis Hodgson
Chapter XV. 1816-18.

Vol. 1 Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II. 1794-1807.
Chapter III. 1807-1808.
Chapter IV. 1808.
Chapter V. 1808-1809.
Chapter VI. 1810.
Chapter VII. 1811.
Chapter VIII. 1811.
Chapter IX. 1811.
Chapter X. 1811-12.
Chapter XI. 1812.
Chapter XII. 1812-13.
Chapter XIII. 1813-14.
Vol. 2 Contents
Chapter XIV. 1815-16.
‣ Chapter XV. 1816-18.
Chapter XVI. 1815-22.
Chapter XVII. 1820.
Chapter XVIII. 1824-27.
Chapter XIX. 1827-1830
Chapter XX. 1830-36.
Chapter XXI. 1837-40.
Chapter XXII. 1840-47.
Chapter XXIII. 1840-52.
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Soon after the separation had actually taken place, and Byron had left his native land for ever, his faithful friend and devoted sister resumed their correspondence on the same sad subject.

Six Mile Bottom: June 10.

Dear Mr. Hodgson,—Your kind letter found me here, and was most acceptable, for I began to marvel at your silence. But don’t suppose this to be a reproach, for I know how numerous must be the claims and calls upon your time, and I feel how kind you are to devote any part of it to me. I don’t know why I should intrude on you so soon again, except that you desire I will write, or that I can tell you of B.’s safe arrival at Geneva. I have not had any letter since that from Coblentz, dated 11th May, which I believe I mentioned in my last
to you. But
Mr. Hobhouse has heard twice since that, and always communicates to me when he does so of his health and safety. Of myself I can tell you little that will give you satisfaction, except that I am pretty well, only weak and nervous, and no wonder, for none can know how much I have suffered from this unhappy business.

I have written to Mr. Hobhouse to know what this new publication1 means, and to hope it is nothing that can revive the dying embers. Would that I could talk to you! I think it might calm my mind; it is impossible by letter to give you any idea of the proceedings and confusion after you left Town. I suppose you have heard of Lady C. L.’s extraordinary production—‘Glenarvon,’ a novel. The hero and heroine you may guess; the former painted in the most atrocious colours. If you have not, pray read it. You foretold mischief in that quarter, and much has occurred, if only that I hear this horrid book is supposed and believed a true delineation of his character; and the letters true copies of originals, etc., etc., etc.! I can’t think of her with Christian charity, so I won’t dwell upon the subject, but pray read it. I had a letter from

1 The ‘Farewell,’ the ‘Sketch,’ and the ‘Dream.’

Lady B. the other day. She is at Kirkby, and I fear her health is very indifferent. The bulletins of the poor child’s health, by B.’s desire, pass through me, and I’m very sorry for it, and that I ever had any concern in this most wretched business. I can’t, however, explain all my reasons at this distance, and must console myself by the consciousness of having done my duty, and, to the best of my judgment, all I could for the happiness of both. Have you by chance, dear Mr. H., some letters I wrote you in answer to some of yours, and in favour of Lady B. and her family? If you have, may I request you not yet to destroy them, and to tell me fairly when you next write if you ever heard me say one word that could detract from her merits, or make you think me partial to his side of the question? Whatever ideas these questions may suggest pray at present keep to yourself. I will, when I have an opportunity, say what you wish to her in your own words. Many thanks for your kind enquiries. My children, five, are all well. Col. L. is in Sussex, and, perhaps, may stay a short time. He is in dreadfully low spirits in consequence of difficulties of our own, and altogether you would wonder at my being alive. But strength is given to us in proportion to our trials. Whenever you have
a moment to spare, pray let me hear. You shall of dearest B. when I do; and with best regards to
Mrs. H.,

Believe me, ever truly yours,
A. L.
Chair Court, St. James’s Palace: August 12, 1816.

Dear Mr. H.,—I have a frank, and no time to write. What a trial of temper, particularly to a Byronic one! I must say, however, how very glad I was to receive the intelligence of your piece of good fortune, which followed me here, and I wished to say so immediately, but my time is very little at my own disposal in this land of confusion. I cannot tell you half my joy at this (your living),1 and I have lost no time in sending it to dear B., who is still near Geneva. Direct à Milord B., Poste Restante, à Genève en Suisse. I heard from him (date 29 July) well—at least he says nothing to the contrary—complains of the weather—has been visiting Madame de Staël, and so on. I’ve not a moment now to write comfortably, so will only beg you and Mrs. H. to accept my best congratulations, and good wishes and thanks for wishing to see me and mine in your new abode. I should be delighted

1 Hodgson had lately been presented to the living of Bakewell.

to visit you anywhere. Your visit to the dear Abbey interested me. I hear poor
Murray is in a very declining state.

Adieu, dear Mr. H. I came here a month ago for my Court duties, and shall perhaps remain in Town a week or two longer. Can I do anything for you or Mrs. H.? Pray command me if I can.

Ever very truly your obliged,
Aug. Leigh.
Six Mile Bottom: Tuesday evening, October 29.

Dear Mr. H.,—I have many a time resolved and intended to write to you, since my last promise to do so again, but I have doubted how I ought to direct till the other day I heard from the Dowager Duchess of Rutland that you were settled at Bakewell. I took the opportunity of saying how much you had been pleased and benefited by the D. of R.’s kindness, which I thought was what you would wish me to do; and I had the great pleasure of hearing all the good (no not all) that I think of you repeated, and how much her grandson liked being with you, etc., etc., etc. My husband has just asked me to whom I am writing, and desires me to say that the Duke of R. has spoken very kindly and highly of you to him, and hopes to make your acquaintance
very soon. And now, dear Mr. H., for our old subject, dear
B. I wonder whether you have heard from him. My last intelligence was of him through Mr. Murray, who had a letter dated Martigny, 9th October, on his road to Milan. The last to me was on the 2nd October from Geneva, and sending me a short but most interesting journal of an excursion to the Bernese Alps. He speaks of his health as very good, but, alas! his spirits appear wofully the contrary. I believe, however, that he does not write in that strain to others. Sometimes I venture to indulge a hope that what I wish most earnestly for him may be working its way in his mind. Heaven grant it!

Mr. Davies,1 perhaps you have heard, has come home. He was with B. at Geneva, and gives very good accounts of his health and spirits, though he confesses he found him gloomy. Mr. Hobhouse is still with him. He has not mixed much in society; report says from necessity, his friends from choice. You may have heard also that another Canto of ‘Childe Harold’ is about to appear. From the little I know of it I wish it may not contain allusions to his own domestic concerns, which had better have been omitted; and I fear he indulges

1 Scrope Davies.

in that bitter strain which must be so galling to the feelings of the friends of poor
Lady B. I believe I have not written to you since I had the pleasure of seeing her and the dear little girl in London. She was looking a little better, but I am sorry to say her health is very indifferent still, and I cannot but feel great uneasiness about her. The little girl is a very fine child, but with more resemblance to mother than father; still there is a look. I never saw a more healthy little thing. It was a melancholy pleasure to see it, and a very great comfort to see dear Lady B., for I had suffered great uneasiness, of which I think I gave you hints, and this has been entirely removed.


I will finish my letter in hopes of a frank, and have to add that this day’s post has brought me one from B. of the 15th Oct., telling me of his having passed the Simplon safely, and arrived at Milan. He appears delighted with the beauty of the scenery on his road, and was seeing all worth seeing at Milan. He writes cheerfully. Now adieu, dear Mr. H.

With best regards to Mrs. H.,

Believe me ever yours sincerely,
A. L.

Dear Mr. Hodgson,—I am so glad of an excuse to write to you, that I avail myself of that of our last letters having crossed, and there being many points in yours upon which mine would not satisfy you. To begin with dear B. The last tidings of him were from Milan, the 13th October, having just arrived there without disasters, or encounter of robbers on the Simplon. The style struck me as being more cheerful than former letters. I told you something, and indeed I daresay all I know, of the Canto, etc. I see they make their appearance on the 23rd. The story of their being sent to Lady B. I think I may safely say is untrue. She was, as well as me, on the eve of leaving Town when Murray received them, and he paid her the compliment of showing them. I think he had scarcely time to look them over. This may by some means have been twisted into the tale you have heard; but perhaps you had better keep my information to yourself. I am afraid to open my lips, though all I say to you I know is secure from misinterpretation. On the opinions expressed by Mr. M. I am not surprised. I have seen letters written to him which could not but give rise to such, or confirm them. If I may give you mine, it is that in his own mind there were and are recollections, fatal to
his peace, and which would have prevented his being happy with any woman whose excellence equalled or approached that of Lady B., from the consciousness of being unworthy of it. Nothing could or can remedy this fatal cause but the consolations to be derived from religion, of which, alas! dear Mr. H., our beloved B. is, I fear, destitute. My anxious prayer for him, is for that first and only certain good, and I should be wretched indeed bereaved of hope on that subject. His friends (who for the most part are more or less deceived about him) argue thus: ‘Oh! had he married a woman of the world, she would have let him have his way, and have had hers—and they would have done very well;’ and this is worldly reasoning. I happen to know that dear Lady B. would have sacrificed all her own tastes and pursuits, everything but her duty, to make him happy; but all was in vain: it is indeed a heart-breaking thought! And worse than all, not all my affection or anxiety can be either of use or comfort to him. I shall pain you as much as I feel it myself, but it is a relief to talk of him to one who loves him and feels so rationally at the same time all there is to hope and fear for him. I’m sure it is very useless to try to express my feelings towards him—I never could. Pray read
over the 17th, 18th, and 19th stanzas of ‘
Lara;’ they are quite wonderfully resemblant. Sometimes it strikes me he must have two minds! Such a mixture of blindness and perception! I don’t know whether you can understand me. Pray always say anything that you wish and think about him.

Nov. 14.

I am obliged to finish this letter, which was begun some days ago, rather in haste, for a frank and the post. I hope you will give me the pleasure of hearing from you when you can. B. desires me to direct to him ‘à Genève, Poste Restante.’ His banker there forwards his letters. I quite dread the Poems. So afraid of their renewing unpleasant recollections in the public mind, and containing bitterness towards her who has already suffered too much. Mind, whatever you hear pray tell me. B. has once or twice said he thought of returning to England in the spring; but I don’t indulge much hope on the subject, nor do I know that it would be desirable. You have probably heard by this time all that is known about the dreadful fire at B. Castle:1 I felt so sorry for it, as knowing the duke and duchess, and the

1 Belvoir.

latter being so attached to it. I should indeed delight in paying you and
Mrs. H. a visit, but with five children to nurse and educate you will feel that I cannot make any long or distant absence from home. Our plans are, however, in great uncertainty, as our place is for sale, and if we could get a purchaser we must go somewhere. If ever I go north, it shall not be without at least a call at Bakewell. I hope Mrs. H.’s health will not suffer from the cold climate. I passed seven years of my life, from six years old to thirteen, about seven miles from Chesterfield, at a village called Eckington, and well remember the coal pits! My children are all well, thank God! Col. L. desires his best compliments.

Ever very truly yours,
A. L.

Pray write to B. I have much more to say, but cannot say it now.

Six Mile Bottom: Tuesday evening, March 4, 1817.

Dear Mr. H.,—Thank you many thousand times for your very kind and most welcome letter, which followed me to Town, where I went on the 6th and remained till the 24th of February, on Court duty.
I am sure if I had followed my inclination it would not have remained even thus long unanswered, for indeed I feel all the friendship and kindness which prompts you to bestow any portion of your precious time upon me. As the only return, except my thanks, which I am able to make you is giving you all the information I receive about our dear
B., I will begin by that subject of our mutual interest. From him I have not heard for nearly five weeks, and his letter was dated the 13th January. Of him I have heard a little later accounts. Mr. Murray showed me a letter to him dated the 24th of January, and I believe Mr. Moore has heard since that. I am daily hoping to do so, for any unusual silence puts me into a fidget. His last letters have been uncomfortable. In one of them, after giving me the history of a new attachment, he says, ‘and tell Hodgson his prediction is fulfilled; you know he foretold I should fall in love with an Italian, and so I have.’ I should prefer giving you a more agreeable message, dear Mr. H., but I don’t like to withhold any of his words to you. As for the circumstance it alludes to, it is only one among a million of melancholy anticipations of mine, for the evils always arise fast and soon enough, it is not always easy to wait for
their arrival; at least I don’t find it so. He has not lately to me recurred to the intention of returning to England, but I hear it is circulated by his friends—or soi-disant tels—for which, however, I suspect motives, and still doubt on the subject. Upon the whole, my opinion is that greater evils are to be apprehended from his immediate return than his continued absence, but God knows! I may be wrong. You, who know how ardently I wish him every good, will enter into all my anxieties. He has lately given himself and others much needless worry on the subject of the poor dear
little girl. Somebody wrote—I believe merely as a piece of gossiping news—that Lady B. intended to pass this winter abroad, which occasioned a letter addressed to me by B. to be despatched with all speed, insisting upon a promise that the child should never leave England. Of course I transmitted the message. The answer was, Lady B. had never had any intention of quitting England. This did not satisfy, and several others have followed. At last, thank Heaven, the business is transacted through Mr. Hanson, and Lady B. has declined answering through me; much to my satisfaction, as I cannot do any good in it.

It appears that the child is a ward in Chancery,
which I must own I consider fortunate as things are at present. I did not know it till I went to Town, where I most unexpectedly met poor
Lady B., who had come there on this business. You will be glad to hear that she looked much better and, I hope, is really stronger, and gradually improving in health, though still quite unequal to hurry and agitation of any kind. I told her of your request that I would inform you of her health, and she desired me to say she felt much gratified by the kind interest you express for her. The little girl was left at Kirkby, as she came but for a few days, but is quite well, and, I hear, a very fine child. It makes me wretched to think of her, and I’m sure of your sympathy in such a feeling. We can, indeed, only pray and trust Heaven for our dear B. If I hear soon from him you shall know what he says.

I am glad you were rather agreeably surprised in the Poems. I own I was so; but the different opinions, and impressions, and reflections of different people are enough to drive one mad. Your approbation of the lines on poor Major Howard (our very particular friend) delighted me very much. They were what I was most anxious should be approved. Of course you know to whom the
Dream1 alludes, Mrs. C———. I am very much of your opinion on all the points of your observation. Have you seen the Reviews? The ‘Quarterly’ has given great offence to all those who call themselves Lady B.’s friends and party. It only appears to me that such discussions would be better omitted, and that the ‘Edinburgh’ has most wisely done. B. never mentions Newstead; I dare not ask for fear of hearing it is gone. I, too, have an atom of your ‘indefinite hope,’ but I never venture to express it except to you. It makes me unhappy to think of what you feel about dear B.’s silence; but I am sure, in spite of this, your friendship is valued as much as ever.

We are not likely to remove till May or June, so pray direct as usual whenever you have a moment to spare, and, believe me that I am always most delighted to receive a letter from you. My children are well; Georgey is really a very dear little girl. You will easily believe that my hands are quite full, with five to teach and nurse. But it is fortunate I have such an imperious demand upon my time and attention. I do not know what

1 Mrs. Leigh here must either mean Miss Chaworth, afterwards Mrs. Musters, or must have written the ‘Dream’ for the ‘Sketch,’ and have meant Mrs. Clermont, Lady Byron’s confidential maid.

otherwise would have become of me with the source of wretchedness about poor dear B.
Col. Leigh desires me most particularly to present his best regards to you, and Georgey desires her love.

Ever yours most sincerely,
A. L.
26 Great Quebec Street, Montague Square:
April 21, 1818.

Dear Mr. Hodgson,—Your kind letter, which travelled a little in pursuit of me, began with the very sentence I have been thinking of writing you for an age at least! It appeared to me very long since I had heard of or from you, so I was for ever intending and wishing to write, but I had so little to say on what is most interesting to you, poor B.’s subject. He was nine long months silent to me, and you know that in spite of all one’s reason one must feel such a silence very much. However, he has written at last, making many lame excuses for not doing so during that period. I could wish not to be selfish on this subject, and I have long been too sure that I can neither do or say anything for his comfort. Indeed, dear Mr. H., I don’t know who can in his very unhappy state of feeling and perverted way of
thinking. His letters to me being unreserved on such points, give me more pain than pleasure. He is still at Venice. I believe he meets
Mr. Hanson at Geneva to sign and seal away poor dear Newstead. Alas! A Major Wildman has bought it for £90,000 or guineas, I forget which. Sixty thousand pound was secured by his marriage settlements, the interest of which he receives for life, and which ought to make him very comfortable. There was a mortgage, as I’ve heard, of £20,000 on the estate, and the remainder will pay off debts; so that, looking to his immediate comfort, we may consider the sale as a fortunate circumstance. But I am sure, dear Mr. H., you will enter into the feelings of all who regret that beloved Abbey for its own sake.

Beppois his, at least; though he has never said so, one may infer it from a thousand things. The 4th Canto is forthcoming, and I rather dread it for fear of more bitterness on the old subject. Lady B. is at Kirkby Mallory, in Leicestershire, but writes me word she intends being at Seaham during the summer months. She was some time ago in very bad health, but I am happy to hear now better than for some time past. The little girl is always well, and represented as the finest and most intelli-
gent child it is possible to meet with. I hear different reports as to her beauty; some people say there is a strong resemblance to her father. I am glad to find you are about to appear in the shape of the ‘
Friends.’ Pray let me hear from you whenever you can spare a moment. I am always anxious to receive good accounts of your and Mrs. H.’s health and welldoing, and am sincerely grateful to you both for your kind thoughts of me. I have this house merely as a temporary habitation, and am hoping for a more fixed residence. You shall hear if I have any good to relate. My husband has been in the country some weeks on hunting excursions, but I am sure will join with me in all that is kind to you and yours, and Georgiana desires to do so. Adieu! my dear Mr. H. Pray excuse the hurry in which I end this, having been interrupted. I forgot or omitted to say, for our comforts, that Major Wildman has, I hear, soul enough to value the dear Abbey and its ruinous perfections: so much so that he would not remove a stone, and wishes to restore it as far as he can. I hope this report is true. He was aide-de-camp to the Marquis of Anglesea at the Battle of Waterloo, and this is the extent of my savoir on this subject.


Pray give my best remembrances to Mrs. H., and believe me

Most truly yours,
A. L.
St. James’s Palace: December 30, 1818.

Dear Mr. Hodgson,—I have very long been reproaching myself for my silence towards you, and your kind letter really fills me with remorse. I well recollect my promise of writing should I have good to relate, and, having been eight months established in apartments of my own here, contrary to my most sanguine expectations and hopes, it appears to me downright ingratitude to have omitted telling one who would have rejoiced so sincerely in my good fortune. I can only confess my fault and beg forgiveness. A hundred times at least have I resolved upon despatching an epistle to Bakewell, and always something or other has interfered with my resolve. But I won’t trouble you with excuses, but proceed to thank you a thousand times for your kind indulgence and interest. It would give me the greatest pleasure, dear Mr. H., to make you a visit according to your kind invitation, and Col. L. will, I am sure, feel as grateful as I do. He is now at Belvoir Castle. If I could find myself there during
some of your holidays I surely should be tempted to extend my trip to your vicarage. But, alas! at present I am so beset with bairns of one age or other, it is difficult to leave or take them about. However, let us hope, and I do, that you and
Mrs. H. will never come south without remembering I am to be found here, and should be so happy to see you. Of our poor dear B. I have received two letters within this last year—the last dated September. This is all I can tell you from him: that he wrote (as usual to me) on the old subject very uncomfortably, and on his present pursuits, which are what one could but dread and expect of him. I hear he looks very well, but fat, immensely large, and his hair long. Mr. Hanson has lately returned from Venice, having been there to sign and seal away our dear lamented Abbey. He left him well on the 19th November, but with no intention of a return to England. I have not seen Mr. H., he wrote this to me; but no letter from B. So you see I must have patience as well as you. I have heard from a friend of B. that it is the intention of Mr. Kinnaird and Mr. Hobhouse to take the affairs out of Hanson’s hands. If all that is said is true so much the better. I hear, too, that Fletcher is coming home, that B. writes in good
spirits, but that he is sure to do to those correspondents. There are some poems forthcoming—God knows what—but I will write to you again soon. I am vexed at your hint from the Midland County; and, do you know, I never allow myself to believe such things except from you, or one as candid and well acquainted with both sides of the question. Is the initial of the name D. or M. or C.? I have three guesses. God bless you, dear Mr. H. With kindest remembrances and wishes for your welfare and happiness,

I remain,
Yours most truly,
A. L.

The preceding letters have been given consecutively, without more comment than was absolutely required for immediate illustration, in order that the narrative which they so graphically relate might not be interrupted, and that the fresh light which they throw upon the much vexed question of Lord and Lady Byron’s separation might not for a moment be obscured by the clouds of unnecessary observation. But a collective consideration of their general import, no less than of the significance of certain particular sentences, will probably suggest to the minds of most
readers reflections of a similar nature; while, on the one main subject of discussion, which for upwards of half a century has provoked so many differences of opinion, and given rise to such a multitude of surmises, all more or less preposterous—some positively grotesque in their monstrosity—on the doubt which has hitherto existed whether the cause of the separation was one great crime or a concurrence of conflicting circumstances, these letters afford plain and unanswerable evidence. The truth of Lord Byron’s own oft-quoted statement that ‘the causes were too simple to be easily found out’ is amply attested by these letters; and the idea of some secret enormity, too horrible for Lady Byron to mention, must henceforth and for ever be abandoned by all unprejudiced persons.

What, then, were the incompatibilities, magnified by Lady Byron’s persistent silence into one unutterable criminality, which destroyed the domestic happiness of these two highly-gifted beings? Among the chief causes of disagreement it appears that it will not be wrong (however material such a consideration may seem) to place the condition of the noble poet’s health, both at the commencement, and, with short intervals, during the continuance, of his married life. The melancholy and dejection which were more
plainly visible at this than at any other period of his existence, were, doubtless, to a very great degree, the result of his eccentric mode of living, his long fasts followed by excessive feasts, his ‘sleeping by day and waking at nights,’ to which his sister alludes with such tender solicitude. The state of nervous depression, which was the necessary result of these irregular habits, increased the natural irritability of his temperament to such an extent as to render him more than ever liable to those violent outbursts of passion which may fairly be termed hereditary, inasmuch as they appear to have been extraordinarily akin to those which were so painfully characteristic of the only parent whom he ever knew. This was remarkably true of the effect produced upon him by
Kean’s acting, his mother having been affected in a similar manner by Mrs. Siddons; of the passionate destruction of an old and favourite watch, by dashing it into the fire-place; of his throwing a jar of ink out of his window at Hastings—a circumstance well remembered by Hodgson, who was staying in a neighbouring house.1

Such frantic paroxysms of passion, occasioned by

1 This jar alighted upon a figure of a muse in the garden beneath the poet’s window, and for some time afterwards traces of this poetical outburst were visible.

the most trivial circumstances, could be ascribed to physical derangement alone, even if we were not aware that his health was, about the time of their occurrence, in a most disordered state. Those who really knew him well, and understood the peculiarities of his marvellous organisation, were wont to treat these ebullitions with the ridicule which they deserved, and which was their surest preventive.
Scrope Davies’ sensible remark on such behaviour, that it was more like silliness than madness, was received by Byron with the candour and kindliness with which it was made.

But Lady Byron had not so read her husband’s character. Accustomed to draw her conclusions with mathematical accuracy from the premisses placed before her, she was incapable of making allowance for the slightest deviation from the precise code of morals which she had adopted as her infallible standard of propriety. Thus she mistook her husband’s genuine candour for hypocrisy, and regarded the character which he so foolishly assumed as really belonging to him. She was quite young, only twenty-four, at the time of the separation, but she was, like her husband, an only child, and while he, partly through his love of mystery and the strange fondness for representing himself as far worse than
he really was, had gained as unenviable a notoriety for his private character as his public reputation as a poet was brilliant, she had been accustomed from childhood to the homage of a circle of admiring friends, who looked up to her as a personification of unerring virtue and exemplary rectitude. Her interest in metaphysical speculations had also apparently been fostered by a natural propensity for investigating individual motives, and sifting the sources of human conduct. In these researches, moreover, she appears to have been guided by certain fixed rules, and to have adhered to the convictions thus engendered with invincible obstinacy. This was undeniably true on other occasions, and not only in one instance was her apparent caprice most unjustifiable.
William Howitt has placed on record the story of a schoolmaster, whom she appointed at Kirkby Mallory and subsequently dismissed without notice, and without assigning the slightest reason for her sudden determination. Another story bears striking testimony to the fact of her inability to appreciate beauty beyond the ordinary channels of her own conceptions. A lady was talking to a gardener who was engaged in reducing a wild and straggling garden to order, and who had formerly been employed in Lady Byron’s service. On seeing a beautiful flower in full
bloom on a neglected pathway he observed, with a shrewd perception of character which was most remarkable, ‘Lady Byron would have called that a weed.’ On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that her ideas of moral excellence were so pure and lofty as to occasion her inexpressible horror at anything approaching to a violation of the most rigid decorum, and she must have shrunk with instinctive delicacy from many expressions which to her husband’s enlarged experience were comparatively innocent.

Another source of disputation was the subject of religion, on which she appears to have been as intolerant as he was culpably compliant. He doubted everything; she would countenance nothing which was beyond the pale of her individual prejudices. He was still, perhaps unconsciously, influenced by that gloomy Calvinism which veiled the brightness of his boyhood; she was inclined to Socinianism. He considered his salvation hopeless; she knew that she was saved.

Nor must we lose sight of those pecuniary difficulties which, entirely in consequence of mismanagement, caused him at this trying time such unceasing annoyance, and involved the sale of that ancestral home to which he was so ardently attached. Nor,
again, is it possible for an impartial observer to doubt that the spirit which prompted so mighty a genius to condescend to the scathing satire of the ‘
Sketch,’ was not a spirit of unreasoning malevolence. By those who take an unbiassed view of all the circumstances of the case the conclusion cannot be reasonably avoided that Mrs. Clermont, the confidential attendant of both Lady Milbanke and her daughter, whether by means of insinuations and innuendoes or by a more direct retaliation for the undisguised dislike which Lord Byron manifested towards her, was largely instrumental in effecting that fatal breach, destined for ever to divide two noble natures which, after a few short years of mutual forbearance, might have been united in perfect harmony to the happiness and improvement of each other.

With regard to her parents, it is easy enough to understand, and impossible not to admire, Lady Byron’s anxiety, doubtless perfectly sincere, to shield them from the imputation of having in any way interfered in the matter; but it is not so easy to believe that Byron, who was not at all naturally inclined to take strong dislikes to men or women, should have been deceived into the belief that they were interested in the separation, unless they were indeed in some way concerned in it. Certain it is
that it was only by a sustained effort that he could accommodate himself to the prosaic mode of existence which they had adopted by preference, to their dislike for all that was poetical, to the unbending regularity of their habits, to the monotony of egotism in which his father-in-law daily indulged, to the solitary walks which his wife recommended, and the dull games of cards which, with the best intentions, were prescribed for the occupation of his evenings.

But when every due allowance has been made for the tedium of his visits to Seaham, and for the want of genial sympathy and cordial appreciation of his character in all its strength and weakness displayed constantly by his wife, it is still, of course, impossible to palliate the culpable folly which induced him to threaten her with acts of violence, and to give the reins to his wanton love of mischief, when he must have seen that his ill-chosen jests were entirely misunderstood. But, on the whole, it is difficult to understand by what chain of reasoning Lady Byron contrived to reconcile her sense of duty with the Apostolic injunction, ‘Let not the wife depart from her husband.’ No one was more ready than Byron himself to admit his excessive irritability, and the criminal extravagances into which his fondness for mystifying and startling others too often betrayed him.
Hodgson, in his letter to Lady Byron, was evidently authorised to express his friend’s deep sorrow for ‘the occurrences which had so deeply wounded her,’ the most generous acknowledgment of his admiration of her goodness, and the warmest affection. It was only when her cold and immovable self-will had resolutely resisted all attempts at reconciliation, and she had sanctioned by her silence the most infamous calumnies, that the bitterness of his soul found a vent in satire against her whose memory, in his heart of hearts, he cherished with tender regret until the day of his death.

With every attribute of moral excellence, enhanced by education and restrained by the most absolute self-control, Lady Byron’s otherwise perfect womanhood was marred and defaced by the want of that one ‘sweet weakness,’ the divine power of forgiveness. Her Christianity, otherwise complete, was rendered imperfect by the conspicuous absence of two most essential qualities: the one humility, the other charity. It is impossible to imagine that she ever entertained for her husband any feeling worthy of the sacred name of love, any sentiment deeper than regard and interest. She herself states that she married him with the settled determination to endure everything, and this is further corroborated by Mrs.
Leigh’s remark that ‘she (Lady Byron) seemed to set about making him happy in the right way.’ But what grounds had she for trusting so confidently to her own powers, what right had she to stand before God’s altar and solemnly declare that she would love, honour, and obey the man whom she had resolved merely to reform?

That Lady Byron did at first contemplate a reunion as within the bounds of eventual possibility is proved by the concluding sentence of those letters to Hodgson, which, though enigmatical enough in parts, have yet sufficient clearness to prove the vindictive spirit of wounded pride which prompted her to complete the massacre of her lord’s moral nature by deliberately dissecting it, and which rendered all attempts at reconciliation wholly ineffectual. But of such a reunion, if early effected, what might not have been the results? Lady Byron might have been a happy wife and mother, the honoured companion of the greatest genius of his age and country; while he might have achieved a nobler fame as an orator, a statesman, and a philanthropist, even than that imperishable glory which his own and all succeeding generations have accorded to him as a poet. And what was the miserable alternative? To her a weary widowhood, during which she continually
brooded over the subject of the separation until the wild conjectures of others mingled with the strange hallucinations of her own troubled fancy combined to produce a condition of mental delusion which her most intimate acquaintances regarded as a species of monomania; to him the despair of that better life for which his marriage had reawakened the desire, the severance of all home affections, perpetual exile, utter desolation of spirit, a premature and lonely death in a strange land.

From the part played in this terrible tragedy by his loving sister and by the truest and most loyal of friends it is manifest that if anything could have averted the impending disaster it would have been the judicious zeal of their united efforts in the cause of affection and of friendship.