LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Astarte: a Fragment of Truth
VII. Informers and Defamers

I. Byron Characteristics
II. Three Stages of Lord Byron’s Life
III. Manfred
IV. Correspondence of Augusta Byron
V. Anne Isabella Byron
VI. Lady Byron’s Policy of Silence
‣ VII. Informers and Defamers
VIII. “When We Dead Awake”
IX. Lady Byron and Mrs. Leigh (I)
X. Lady Byron and Mrs. Leigh (II)
XI. Byron and Augusta
Notes by the Editor
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“The sun comes forth, and many reptiles spawn;
He sets, and each ephemeral insect then
Is gathered into death without a dawn.”—Adonais.

AS Lady Byron had foreseen, there did not fail after her death to be outbursts against her of “the rant of false feeling and false morality.” These words were used by the Hon. Mrs. Norton in reviewing a specially despicable book about Lord Byron, in which “Lady Byron is maligned with a persistent rancour so excessive that astonishment almost supersedes indignation as we read.”1

Mrs. Norton (who wrote anonymously) was almost Lady Byron’s only friend in the press,2 for it is impossible

1The Times,” February 13th, 1869. In “Lord Byron jugé par les témoins de sa vie,” the ex-Guiccioli, ex-incubus to Lord Byron, ex-travelling companion to Lord Malmesbury, etc., etc., etc., had exclaimed: “Ere this, God has judged her [Lady Byron] above, but here below can those possessing hearts have any indulgence for her?”—“a sentence,” remarks Mrs. Norton, “which, when we consider of whom and by whom it was written, is certainly as startling a piece of blasphemy as ever was fulminated against the dead.”

It was on the same afternoon, of February 13th, 1869, when the review had appeared in “The Times,” that Lord Houghton mentioned it in the Peers’ gallery of the House of Commons, stated it to have been written by Mrs. Norton, and commended it highly. Mrs. Norton had to deny a later review in “The Times” of Mrs. Beecher Stowe, which was attributed to her by the uninformed on the strength of her former article.

2 There was another anonymous article in favour of Lady Byron in “Temple Bar” for June, 1869. It was of some ability; but the writer was not so well informed as Mrs. Norton. His argument was that a similar fact must have existed to one which had prevailed with the House of Lords when Lord Thurlow “induced them to give, what had never been allowed before, the right of marrying again to a woman seeking divorce for the cause of her husband’s adultery.” In the particular instance before the House of Lords the husband had been guilty with his wife’s sister. The wife could not, without guilt, return to him, and therefore she was permitted to marry again” (“Lord Byron’s Married Life”).

Whoever the writer in “Temple Bar” may have been, his articles (afterwards

so to describe the person to whom she had “given a partial confidence which was shamefully betrayed.” It was quite manifest that “
Mrs. Beecher Stowe’s publication was not expressly or impliedly sanctioned by Lady Noel Byron.” So Dr. Lushington said, on reading that to a large extent spurious production; for, as Dr. Lushington then declared, “a great deal of it was untrue, and could not have been stated by Lady Noel Byron.”1

The article in “The Atlantic Monthly2 stated (not untruly) that the mystery of Astarte in “Manfred” was founded on fact, and (erroneously) that those circumstances had continued and been the direct cause of the separation.

Recollections of interviews are not evidence against a person reported, except by consent and with other reserves. Those who quote confidential matter without leave may discredit themselves, but really commit no. one else. The most uncertain of hearsays are conversations long afterwards imputed posthumously, as was done by Mrs. Beecher Stowe nine years after Lady Byron’s death. And yet every error of fact that was either found or imagined in the apocryphal version of Lady Byron’s story was attributed to her contrary to truth and probability. Failure of memory was far more likely in Mrs. Stowe than in Lady Byron. No doubt it

in book form entitled “A Vindication of Lady Byron,” Bentley, 1871) were a serviceable digest of the information then open to the public. His industry must have been considerable, his arguments were legitimate, and he was conspicuously honest. His work was not otherwise than creditable to him; and it drew upon him some elderly comminations from overfed sentimentalists stuffed with Lord Byron and “his sweet sister.” Early Victorian stage villains were invariably attorneys; so it was assumed by the romance-mongers that “Temple Bar” must have been written by an attorney—it was too wicked to have any other author. And behind the hand of the attorney loomed of course a vast and nefarious, but somewhat vague conspiracy, like those which haunted Rousseau. Old-gentlemanly hallucinations could go no further. [See Appendix I and J, p. 338, note 2.]

1 Miss Frances Carr to the Earl of Lovelace, in a letter dictated in September, 1869, by Dr. Lushington, who was recovering from illness, but still unable to write.

2 The True Story of Lady Byron’s Life, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, published simultaneously in the “Atlantic Monthly” and in “Macmillan’s Magazine,” September, 1869. See Introduction, pp. vii-viii.

was proper to credit Mrs. Stowe with as much good faith as was consistent with her undeniable treachery, but under such conditions her accuracy was at least doubtful, whilst Lady Byron’s veracity never was doubted by careful and unprejudiced minds.
Lord Byron himself averred that she was “truth itself.” It was a misplaced delicacy towards Mrs. Beecher Stowe to pass over her untrustworthiness so lightly, and beg the whole question by pretending that the rancour of misfortune had falsified Lady Byron’s memory.1

Lady Byron was unquestionably entitled to be silent or speak as she thought fit about her history. She was free of all obligations, whether moral or material, to any other human being, but could not evade having to decide what should ultimately become of the records. She was perfectly justified in making confidences to any friend whose opinion or sympathy she valued. Nor was it in the least discreditable in her to treat an American as an intimate friend. She had had many American friends who fully deserved her liking and esteem. It was singularly unfair, long after the event, to blame her for having trusted the eloquent American philanthropist whose obvious good intentions were not altogether unassociated with real moral worth. Mrs. Beecher Stowe’s character and genius had received universal recognition, which was almost deserved. She only wanted two or three of the more unobtrusive virtues: accuracy, fidelity, good taste and tact, for lack of which she uncon-

1 This incorrect supposition is to be found in a letter of a charming writer, rather too often influenced by his likes and dislikes: “Ah! que c’est vilain à madame Beecher-Stowe! Les amis de Lady Byron pensent en effet qu’à la fin de sa vie elle n’avait pas l’exacte possession de ses souvenirs. Le chagrin avait brouillé sa memoire. On devrait très-peu se mêler de débrouiller des mystères de famille quand on est d’un tout autre pays, d’une autre société, d’une autre civilisation. J’ai eu l’honneur de voir à Paris madame Beecher-Stowe, avec sa jolie figure et son air de douceur et de bonne éducation. Je ne l’aurais pas crue capable de jeter avec tant de témérité un pavé a la tête du Giaour, de la Fiancée d’Abydos, de Childe-Harold. Quand on a écrit le charmant roman de la Fiancée du ministre, comment est-on capable de si vilains procédés envers un homme de génie? Je suis fâché que ce fonds de barbaric reste aux compatriotes de Franklin, de Washington, de Lincoln, de Longfellow, de Prescott, de Ticknor” (X. Doudan to Mademoiselle Gavard, 20 Septembre, 1869).

sciously turned traitor like the other publicists who busied themselves about
Lord Byron. Her miserable puff of Lady Byron was no madder or baser than countless advertisements of Lord Byron which provoked no uproar. But as soon as Lady Byron’s narrative had been robbed, perverted, and sold to her enemies, great was the cawing in the rookery. More especially was the bookselling caucus alarmed and enraged when “a sensitive journalist declared that a black mark had been set for all time against Byron’s most perfect poems, and almost feels he shall never open his works again.”1. . .

The proprietor of the “Quarterly Review” contrived to raise a contribution of materials suitable for his purpose from the residuary legatee of the person whose character was under discussion, that is to say Lord Byron’s half-sister Augusta (the Hon. Mrs. Leigh). She had left behind her, all ready and arranged, a small collection of carefully selected documents calculated to rebut the charge that had been expected and prepared for all through her life. With suicidal blindness to ultimate consequences, the Leighs joined in the plan for the ruin of Lady Byron’s character. Fortunately for immediate success in this object, the story had been so stupidly and inaccurately told [by Mrs. Stowe] as to facilitate a telling retort by a crafty advocate of few scruples.

The choice of Abraham Hayward2 as counsel meant much, for his utility in a bad cause was never impaired by any tendency to straightforward fairness; but he was perhaps seldom quite trusted by his employers.3 In the Byron discussions he surpassed himself in the

1Quarterly Review,” October, 1869. It was “The Times” in a review of Mrs. Beecher Stowe’s “True Story of Lady Byron ” which had written of the black mark against Byron’s most perfect poems, and never opening his works again.

2 Lord Beaconsfield, whom of course he hated, called him “a literary louse.” Even his friend, the Countess of Cork, wrote of him (“Memories and Thoughts,” 1886):
“Not choice in witticisms, nor in anecdotes refined,
And sometimes e’en betraying that too freely he had dined,
In brief, though contradictory, and garrulous and wayward,
Methinks we ‘could have better spared a better man than’ Hayward.”

3 [I think this is a mistake.—Ed.].

licence with which he manipulated all the information he could acquire. His office was like that of an Old Bailey lawyer, who receives no confessions and may be very imperfectly acquainted with the facts, but avers his client’s innocence as a matter of course. He acted just as might be expected from a specialist of his description, when engaged in making the most of selected extracts from an immense correspondence to invalidate a particular fact, which those same papers would completely prove, if fairly and frankly produced. He was presented to the public with unusual ostentation as
Lady Byron’s exterminator. His employers freely abdicated all responsibility, loaded it on to him and retired from the scene. It was a virtual assumption by Hayward of other liabilities than his own; and, like all such transfers of credit, to a large extent misleading. Hayward could not have been the real inventor of all that was put in or left out of the articles. He took what was given to him. The vast suppression of material can only very partially have been his doing. And many things that were included—highly questionable suppositions, suggestions and assertions, may also not have been his own.

In the “Quarterly Review” articles he was most himself as Mrs. Leigh’s advocate, but his mode of representing her cause was sinister. He founded his defence of her moral character on brutal physical depreciation. Ugliness proved chastity; the surest evidence of vice being beauty. Hayward’s study of dead roués for knowledge on the eternal subject of women had left him with the notion that no woman is virtuous if she can help it. With logical simplicity he set to work, and exculpated Mrs. Leigh from the charge of incest by robbing her of identity, almost of sex, and competence for any sort of love passion. Like the deformities invented by Professor Wilson’s friends to deface Hazlitt,1 Mrs. Leigh’s supposed unloveliness was purely imaginary.

It is not true that Augusta Leigh was corporeally ill-favoured. She was in reality a charming woman, who

1 VideWilliam Hazlitt,” by Augustine Birrell, pp. 19 and 155.

exercised great fascination over all sorts of people in the brilliant society to which she belonged. Good looks are matter of taste and fashion. No two persons or generations think exactly alike. The “jolie laide” of one generation would have been the perfect beauty of another. Augusta’s portrait by
Holmes shows a very attractive woman,—not a regular beauty,—but well equipped with love powder, which she knew thoroughly how to handle. Her hair was very dark brown verging on black, fine and silky, not unlike that of her niece, Augusta Ada Byron,1 when in about her thirtieth year.

If Mrs. Leigh had been ill-favoured in her generation, some reference to this misfortune might be expected in the long letters written about her by Lady Melbourne, Lady Caroline Lamb, Mrs. George Villiers, and others. By them she was fully and frankly discussed; but nowhere do any of them imply that her charms and looks were of indifferent repute. Lord Byron himself, in the original manuscript of “Childe Harold’s Good Night to his Native Shore,” wrote:
“I had a sister once I ween
Whose tears perhaps will flow;
But her fair face I have not seen
For three long years and moe.”
In the pseudo-Byron forge, however, an ugly old figure was cast to represent her. Her youth was nullified under a shapeless blanket of equivocal motherliness. False maternalism at its best is a barren fallacy. It is also a road to sentiments and relations that are not maternal. A “motherly elder sister’s” fleece is one of the disguises of ravenous passions. How often has some very much older woman than was Augusta in 1813 approached some very young man with an ambiguous air of maternity and the formula “mon cher enfant”!

Augusta’s imaginary part of motherly good old woman in the Byron story rested on her suppositious physical deficiencies. The proof was clinched by her having once

1 [Ada, Countess of Lovelace, mother of the author.—Ed.]

given him a Bible, and also by her twenty-nine years in 1813 (he being then only twenty-five). It is true that she was seasoned in the religious practices of her half-sister
Lady Chichester, but services and readings of “the Chichester Gospel”1 were mingled with her life without any very appreciable effect on it. She “made a regular compromise between religion and morality, between faith and good works.” She had inflammable passions, and equal facility in yielding a platonic homage to virtue. “Her heart continued right towards God”—“uncontaminated by any trifling peccadillo in point of conduct.” Her actions counted for so little!—not being officially known in this world;—and before Heaven it was enough to be “pure in the last recesses of the mind.”2 She propitiated God with a reverential etiquette suited to appease an oriental despot, by compliments and prostrations, by complacent professions that “humility was the only means of internal peace, and was a blessing not purchased too dearly by the experience of our weakness.” Such were her very words. Divine peace and the sweets of sin, sacred and profane love, comfortably dwelt together in her heart—were almost identical. She could actually write in such a strain as that, or as the following: “I have sometimes thought that but for what is known to you my affections might have been wholly devoted to this world—as they are but too much still—but at least it is my endeavour to detach them—. . . it is not that I endeavour to excuse myself—but to improve to the best advantage what is left—”3 A spurious state of feeling prevailed, in which professions and actions were at variance. There are few more suicidal facts or arguments for unthinking bibliolatry than Augusta’s Bible and prayerbook gifts. As to her four years’ advance upon Byron, young women of twenty-nine are not by nature exempt from temptation; on the contrary, it is then rather than

1 Lady Byron on one occasion thus summed up Mrs. Leigh’s religion.

2 See Hazlitt on the causes of Methodism in “The Round Table.”

3 The Hon. Mrs. Leigh to Lady Byron, February 1st, 1817.

earlier that they are approaching the age of adventure. They are drawn to possess their youth in full and enjoy it in freedom before it is gone. They go forth to overcome the flaming ramparts of forbidden knowledge:
“et extra
processit longe flammantia moenia mundi,”1
and explore the abyss of voluptuous romance. With a light heart they follow the enchantment—infinitely young and gay, as the tide of passion flows. To those who saw Byron and Augusta together, her adoration of him, which was very marked, displayed childish fondness and levity. She was always ready to laugh, even at what would have shocked the serious.

Except for a few descendants whose lives have been darkened by the after-effects of those accidents of passion, laughter, bitterness and despair, the actual Byron drama has never been visible or tangible, and now irrevocable progress has absolutely swept away those generations and their casualties from the consciousness of the monster humanity of to-day:
“quando ea saecla hominum, quorum haec eventa fuerunt,
inrevocabilis abstulerit iam praeterita aetas.”2

If the life of humanity and the march of the universe (res gestae) are the accidents of matter in space (eventa corporis atque loci), and time itself is but an accident of accidents,3 as was taught of old, it was also taught that the whole nature of things was ruled by one infinite and insatiable power without whom nothing could be born to light joy and love. The ancients personified in Helen at Troy the eternal power of fair women and fell desire. Had beauty which burns to the heart and love

1 Lucretius, i. 72-73.

2 Lucretius, i. 467-468.

3 σύμτωμα συμπτωμάτων. Munro’s notes to Lucretius, i. 459 foll.:
“tempus item per se non est, sed rebus ab ipsis
consequitur sensus, transactum quid sit in aevo,
tum quae res instet, quid porro deinde sequatur,
nec per se quemquam tempus sentire fatendumst
semotum ab rerum motu placidaque quiete.”

that takes lives never been given form and place in pagan myth; yet still would the race of Tyndaris endure and rule and ever replant unconsumed fire in Phrygian breasts, to swell and blaze in many a fierce and famous contest,1 or determine some equally redoubtable obscure overthrow.

Augusta Leigh was as fateful an instrument of conflagration in her “little world in the great world of all” as a Greek Love or Nemesis;2 but she had many lovable and some good qualities, and even the crime of her earlier years was not entirely wanting in mitigating circumstances. The destructive passion she inspired and shared is more endurable to read about than most of Lord Byron’s other adventures, in which he neither breathed nor inspired any of that poetic emotion he could so beautifully express. It was not merely a case of warming an insensible heart in sensations he could not share. She charmed him from all else whether good or evil:
“in gremium qui saepe tuum se
reicit aeterno devictus vulnere amoris.”3

The real bond between them was so little concealed and so unequivocally proclaimed in verse at intervals from 1813 to 1822, that the wilful closure of eyes to patent facts has always seemed inexplicable. The truth bursts from Byron’s lines on first reading them. It was from them that it flashed as an entire surprise upon two generations of his descendants with no previous knowledge of family secrets or hints from any one. First his daughter, and twenty or thirty years later the present

1 Lucretius, i. 471-475:
“denique materies si rerum nulla fuisset
nec locus ac spatium, res in quo quaeque geruntur,
numquam Tyndaridis formae conflatus amore
ignis, Alexandri Phrygio sub pectore gliscens,
dara accendisset saevi certamina belli.”

2 Pliny the Naturalist (xxxvi. 4) related that a beautiful Venus by Agoracritus went with the name of Nemesis to Rhamnus. There was a legend that Helen (thence entitled Rhamnusis) had sprung from an egg laid by Nemesis at Rhamnus.

3 Lucretius, i. 33.

writer, some two years after
Lady Byron’s death, were startled by Lord Byron’s own revelations, which were long afterwards confirmed by acquaintance with private letters. Of all the strange attitudes of aliens towards the Byron literature, the oddest was their determination to treat as false Lord Byron’s own striking intimations of a sin far less repulsive than some exaggerations and inventions about him which human imbecility and infatuation forged out of infinitely little knowledge.

Why should not a young man, in whose maternal family (as the fanciers of “les vidanges” were good enough to scent out and expose) insanity is found to have prevailed, who grows up, after a ruinous education, destitute of right-minded friends, have lost himself in the abysses of a forbidden paradise? After years of separation he meets again, almost as a stranger, but under circumstances of the closest intimacy, a charming half-sister a little older than himself, and of vastly more social experience and sense. In the careless time of George III, the code for the sexes of the same blood was less inviolate than in the Victorian epoch of vociferous propriety. Lord Bolingbroke in 1789 had run away with his half-sister, Miss Beauclerk, daughter of their common mother, Lady Diana Beauclerk,1 who had been divorced from his father to marry Topham BeauclerkDr. Johnson’s friend.

There were strange reports, possibly not unfounded, about Napoleon and all his sisters; and also about an English princess (the one who died blind at a considerable age) and one of her brothers.

Thus Byron and Augusta were allured by formidable and insidious temptation. It may have begun in uncon-

1 Though perhaps not generally known, this elopement is referred to unmistakably in a letter from Horace Walpole to the Countess of Ossory, July 22nd, 1789. He had been to see “the mother” of “the wretched pair” at Twickenham, and found that “most unfortunate of all mothers” looking nearly killed by the blow. The fact is stated in an unpublished letter of Mary Noel, a great-aunt of Lady Byron’s:

Ld Bulingbroke I suppose you have heard is gone off with his sister Miss Beauclerke who it is said is with Child a merry World my Masters” (Mary Noel to the Hon. Mrs. Milbanke, July 3rd, 1789).

sciousness, and been realized when it was too late. It was followed by long separation, vain regrets for lost happiness, and frantic desperation; vengeance of the carnal image,—“Le Stryge”—hewn in stone on Notre Dame:
“Insatiable vampire l’éternelle Luxure
Sur la Grande Cité convoite sa pature.”1
Headlong passion is followed by inexorable atonement, which prevents nothing and remedies nothing. Lovers may be sundered, but what has never yet been quelled is the impetuous nature of “undiseased mankind”2—the “violenta viri vis atque inpensa libido.”3
“nam si abest quod ames, praesto simulacra tamen sunt
illius et nomen dulce obversatur ad auris.”4

Primaeval force or intangible phantom, the mutual influence of the sexes is the one thing stable amidst the ephemeral purposes of humanity. Everything sacred or profane is outlived by the mother and queen of the pagan world, Latin Venus—hominum divomque voluptas—against which saintly hopes and promises of reformers are in vain. Memory and desire of felicity is stronger than sermons. It may be doubted whether all the homilies against that “purple-lined palace of sweet sin”5 have not done more to allure than to repel prey for the insatiable vampire of libertinism. Lord Byron more than expiated his subjection to the vampire; “how he

1 Lines etched by Meryon on the first state of his “Stryge .”


“The idol
Of early nature, and the vigorous race
Of undiseased mankind, the giant sons
Of the embrace of angels, with a sex
More beautiful than they, which did draw down
The erring spirits who can ne’er return.”


“et Venus in silvis iungebat corpora amantum;
conciliabat enim vel mutua quamque cupido
vel violenta viri vis atque inpensa libido
vel pretium, glandes atque arbita vel pira lecta.”
Lucretius, v. 962-965.

4 Lucretius, iv. 1061-1062. For ames, Lachmann reads aves (“cravest”), and Munro suggests that it might be amas, but could not be ames.

5Lamia,” Part II, line 31.

communed with his own heart before he died, he would have told but could not,” when he said to
Fletcher: “Go to Lady Byron and tell her—” what, as Mrs. Norton wrote, “is known only to a pardoning heaven.” Platitudes are unending, but none are more vain than those of the third and fourth generation. With what Goethe names “the indomitable spirit of Manfred,” Byron would have repelled the moralists of all generations with the words:
“The hand of death is on me, but not yours!”
His defiance of those who taunt him with his many crimes was:
“What are they to such as thee?
Must crimes be punished but by other crimes
And greater criminals? Back to thy hell!”

The tragedy of Astarte might well interpose a barrier between Lord Byron’s works and popularity. After all that has passed, upright judges should, perhaps, hesitate before pronouncing a completely black mark upon the Augusta series of stanzas, but it is a prostitution of literature to set them up as inspirations of pure and sacred love. The pagan glow of those exquisite verses is that of profane and material love—“offered from my heart to thine”—whose “gentle hand to clasp in” his is the one thing he desires:
“Could thy dear eyes in following mine
Still sweeten more these banks of Rhine!”
In 1816, on their first appearance, the public found equal difficulty in believing they could possibly be addressed to a sister, or that there was any other love at that time which could account for them.1

Great indulgence would be due to Mrs. Leigh’s own descendants if they had spoken out in her exculpation, however bitterly and unfairly. In their position, perfect and absolute good faith and good temper could

1 Mary Godfrey to Thomas Moore. December 24th, 1816. See Appendix E for the Rhine lines.

hardly be expected from them. But the manufacture of infamy for
Lady Byron was not properly speaking their act. They were not people to disregard all decencies of conduct and language about her. They sought to fortify their own discretion by consulting their cousin, the [third] Earl of Chichester1—as kind and honourable an adviser as could be desired. He was of course liable to be deceived about the character of his aunt, Mrs. Leigh; nor was it wonderful that the truth should have been repugnant to him, and that he would not understand and could not like perfect justice towards Lady Byron. He had not, however, forgotten what had been feelingly expressed by his mother, Mrs. Leigh’s half-sister—that some gratitude and respect were due to Lady Byron from the Leighs. The Dowager Countess of Chichester had written (May 25th, 1856) to Lady Noel Byron herself:2 “I am on the verge of 80, but should it please God to spare me another Winter . . . I shall be much gratified if we could meet once more in this world, that I might have an opportunity of assuring you of ye grateful sense I have ever entertained of your kindness to my late Sister and to several Members of her unfortunate family.”

The plan of campaign against Lady Byron’s character was neither devised nor managed by any of the Byrons or their representatives, kindred or connections. It was no cry of anguish from wounded affection, but tactics or temper of a more mercantile character, which must be traced back to the commercial dislikes of the parties guilty of destroying Lord Byron’s memoirs.

The apocryphal anecdotes of the “Quarterly Review” in ridicule of Lady Byron, and its pretended revelations of her misdeeds, were accepted with glee by the baser elements of public opinion and also by some who ought to have felt more generosity. There was a general welcome to pretexts for devoting her to the infernal gods.

1 [In the first edition of “Astarte” he is erroneously called “Second.”—Ed.]

2 [Lady Byron had assumed the name of Noel in 1822 on inheriting the Noel estates in Leicestershire from her mother.—Ed.]

Why were they all so determined to dislike her without really knowing anything about her? There was perhaps the prejudice of ignorance against something strange and unknown, but that was not all. She was single and honest—hateful therefore to worldliness and vulgarity—unloved by the sheep of fashion—that unthinking aggregate which bleats with the wolves in pious repetition of slander.

Admirers of calumnies against Lady Byron (and they were many) addressed their congratulations to Hayward, on whom everything was fathered. To do him justice, he was as ready for blows as for brag, and would have “fought like wild cats”—a willing substitute for a reluctant fighter. He was a sort of literary incarnation of the fighting editor in Tennessee, retained to guard the office of his chief and answer “That’s me!” to any rival pugilistic expert who calls to inquire: “Have I the honour to speak to the poltroon who edits this mangy sheet?”1 Hayward’s functions turned out to be light. The prize-fighting classes were with him, and it was mostly ignored how vulnerable he was. A more perfectly informed few were forbidden to make use of their knowledge. Instead of just punishment he received flowery compliments. One friend of his own sort wrote to him expressing the opinion that Lady Byron had “an ill-conditioned mind preying on itself till morbid delusion was the result; or that she was an accomplished hypocrite, regardless of truth, and to whose statements no credit whatever ought to be attached.”2

Thus was pleased to write Sir Alexander Cockburn—a pharisee in the carcase of a libertine, grown old in debauchery and the philosophy of the Old Bailey, not esteemed as a lawyer, but much liked by his boon companions. He was a capital speaker in a bad cause.3 His parliamentary reputation was founded on a single

1 See Mark Twain’sJournalism in Tennessee.”

2 Lord Chief Justice Cockburn to Abraham Hayward, November 7th, 1869.

3 Cf. Greville Memoirs, November 19th and 23rd, 1856. The Hon. Lionel Tollemache’sTalks with Mr. Gladstone,” p. 55.

speech in defence of some of
Lord Palmerston’s worst acts. His manner was vulpine, voice beautiful, and countenance more than saturnine, satanic as that of Lord Lyndhurst. A long course of studies on the everlasting subject of women had led him to the conclusion that the best of them is worthless. A long series of successes in hanging more or less guilty persons raised him to redoubtable pre-eminence amongst experts of the gallows. He was a singular and formidable figure of vice sitting in judgment on crime: but when vice goes on to preach the gospel of truth against ill-conditioned minds, morbid delusions, hypocrisy and false witness, the tragic mask falls off and leaves bare the grimace of Heliogabalus.

The determined provider for the scaffold who thus pronounced sentence against Lady Byron did so without trustworthy evidence that the falsehood if any was contained in her own authenticated words. But that is not all. There is reason to believe that at the very date of his unjust language about Lady Byron the old fox had privately seen letters of 1813 and 1814 which proved the fact of incest, and indeed that he had himself been the first to discover the overwhelming effect of the evidence therein contained. He may have been bound in honour not to disclose what he had read and advised about confidentially, but assuredly he was equally bound in honour not to aver what he had ascertained to be false—the innocence of Lord Byron and Mrs. Leigh. After such knowledge of their guilt, it was not far removed from perjury to join Hayward and find perjury in Lady Byron.

The charges against her would instantly have collapsed if all her papers had then been accessible and available; and on the whole it would have been better if her responsible trustees had been in a position to interpose their authority and settle once for all and justly her status in history. A painful business would then have been over and done with. But there were great obstacles, material and moral. Amongst other objections, all of
them felt a repugnance to corroborating any part of a tale so wickedly sprung on the world. Then there was a want of union between half-a-dozen different persons. The various executors, trustees, descendants or friends (including the present writer) who were acquainted with the essential facts (and had proofs of them) were neither able nor willing to produce them on their own sole responsibility. To some of her trustees it would have been a great relief if truth and justice could have prevailed without separate action on their part. But from the best and kindest motives and long habit of silence,
Dr. Lushington’s influence, which was inevitably great over the others, was exerted to prevent or at least postpone revelation. The date 1880 had been originally mentioned by Lady Byron herself as the earliest possible one for a discretionary disclosure. In 1849 Lady Noel Byron had consigned to Miss Frances Carr at Ockham Park a box containing a large number of the most important Byron papers, and wrote the following directions as to their ultimate destination and use. Firstly, Lady Byron refers to their inclosure in a metal box with secure lock. Then she desires:

“2. That Miss Frances Carr shall keep the said Box unopened (leaving access to its contents to me only if desired) for Thirty Years.

“3. That she shall by her Will or other arrangements secure the transfer of the said Box at her decease to the care of one of the following persons—the others being also responsible for the Trust.

Sir Francis Hastings Doyle Bt . “William Lushington Esqre (son of Dr Lushington) “Henry Bathurst Esqre of Doctors Commons.

“4. That the Box, which contains Byron documents and letters, shall be opened at the expiration of Thirty Years, namely in 1880, by the then surviving Trustees or Trustee abovenamed, and the contents thereof shall be disposed of according to their best judgement, for the interests of Truth & Justice, and with due regard to the
feelings of whoever may then be the Representative of my Family.

Anne Isabella Noel Byron.”

The paper was thus signed on February 18th, 1850. The provisions of Lady Byron’s will in 1860 as to her remaining papers were very similar, and absolutely confirm the above-quoted document, which remains now the principal authority by which any and every custodian of Lady Byron’s papers must be governed.

Dr. Lushington was deeply grieved at the scurrility of the libels on Lady Byron of 1870, and he repeated emphatically to the trustees that at the time Lady Byron was driven to the decision of parting from Lord Byron she had cogent reasons on account of cruelty and adultery, that there was nothing else at that time, for she was still determined to repel from her mind all belief in incest, a supposition that might well perplex her, being almost equally difficult altogether to reject or actually to accept. But Dr. Lushington added that Mrs. Leigh subsequently confessed the crime.

Lady Byron’s truth was not doubted by those who had been in her confidence, though they had no other material evidence than her own word; they were faithful and steady in disbelieving the revilers with all their garbled evidence. Whatever impostors and lunatics might pretend, not one of Lady Byron’s real intimates ever wavered, though of course it was impossible for them to depart from silent fidelity. The attitude of her friends is well explained in a letter of one of them, an able and good old woman, though a philanthropist—Mrs. Barwell, author of children’s books.1

1 Her philanthropy was not what has been well described as “the counterfeit coin of charity.”—“Congrès de Vérone ,” xiv., where Chateaubriand refers to the commercial hunger concealed behind the Slave Trade agitation: “Le marquis de Londonderry et le duc de Wellington, ennemis des franchises de leur pays, M. Canning, élève de William Pitt et opposé à la réforme parlementaire, tous ces torys ad verses pendant trente ans à la motion de Wilberforce, étaient devenus passionés pour la liberté des nègres, tout en maudissant la liberté des blancs. . . . Le secret de ces contradictions est dans les interêts prives et le génie mercantile de l’Angleterre; e’est ce qu’il faut comprendre

Louisa Mary Barwell to Sophia De Morgan.1
[Monday] Jany 10th [1870]
Dear Mrs de M

You must pardon all abruptness—as I have a feeble hand and write with difficulty—

You ask my “views” on this most painful subject—Mrs Stowe has committed the grave error (whatever her motive) of going to the Public with insufficient evidence—arrogantly expecting her name to command universal belief—She has committed a flagrant breach of confidence, and without even the justification of producing a history, upon such evidence that no doubt could be fastened upon it—Now because Mrs S— has done this, I see no reason why Lady B’s friends should follow her example—they can produce no evidence stronger than their own convictions of her truthfulness—all that they know they heard from her or her dearest & most trusted friends—I do not feel that because Mrs S— has betrayed a confidence I am thereby released from the trust reposed in me—and I think this applies to all her friends—the family alone excepted—Should they now, or at any future time, hold in their hands, a complete chain of evidence, furnished from other sources than Lady B’s own authority or testimony, then they would be justified in giving it to [the world] nothing short of a case so perfect, that the lawyer can see no flaw will now be of any avail to stay the flood of calumny & obloquy wh Mrs Stowe has been the means of letting loose upon the character of one of the noblest of human beings——

She kept silence though goaded and calumniated—& that is the example, we, her friends must follow—Why did not Mrs Stowe consult the Grandchildren? What must be the vanity which supposed Mrs Stowe could settle a question for the present world and for future history—which the life of Lady B had not been able to

afin de n’être pas dupe d’une philanthropic si ardente et pourtant venue si tard: la philanthropic est la fausse monnaie de la charité.”

1 Sophia Frend, wife of Professor Augustus De Morgan.

set to rest—And the friends who still remain must not assume to themselves any power to convince, simply by their own declarations of their convictions of her truth—every tittle of evidence rests upon her statements only—how can it be otherwise?——

The links are missing—whatever they may be—wh would explain those letters—but depend upon it they will not be found amongst any but the associates of earlier days, or amongst Written records—out of reach—Every line, short of unimpeachable evidence that has been, or will be written, has damaged & will damage—still further her reputation——

I see no generosity in Mrs Stowe—I only see great defects of judgment & a great desire for a place in public estimation as the proclaimer of a Secret—& the power to boast of the confidence placed in her by such a woman as Lady B—How else could she blind herself upon the subject—; she has drawn upon herself universal condemnation—not a single pen has attempted to justify her—She alone could not or would not estimate the Evil she has done——

The Article in the Saturday Review of the 25th Decr is powerful, and fair if considered from the Writers point of view—& he admits the truth of the Story.—Although reluctantly——

You will quite feel that in holding the opinions I have expressed, I can not supply any information—I hope I may have succeeded in leading you to adopt my views——

The Articles in the Temple Bar was the only reply needed to Guiccioli’s Book & the best justification of Lady Bunless direct evidence other than her own had been forthcoming——

I hope you will not be too much troubled to decypher this—Rheumatism has enfeebled my right hand—but except this, my health is as good as I can expect at my age——

I hope you & Mr de Morgan are well——
believe me,
yours very truly,
Louisa M. Barwell.

This letter states the actual question clearly and accurately. It defines what was too much forgotten by everybody:—that the issue of fact about Lord Byron and Mrs. Leigh depended on “a complete chain of evidence furnished from other sources than Lady B.’s own authority or testimony.” Mrs. Barwell was right in considering that the “written records” which at that time were detained “out of reach” must contain the “missing links” which would explain and justify all Lady Byron had done or written. Mrs. Barwell thoroughly understood that the really decisive evidence against Mrs. Leigh was not and could not be Lady Byron’s, who (as Lord Byron said) was truth itself, but could prove no more than came within her own knowledge. She could testify to her own impressions: how from the first she held fast to belief in Mrs. Leigh’s purity and resisted unfavourable interpretations of what occurred as long as was possible and longer than other wives in her place would have done. Statements written by Lady Byron in 1816 and 1817 describe her extreme miseries and perplexities, how her opinion fluctuated between agonising suspicion and comforting error, how, under the delusive influence of hope, or rather reaction from despair, she had endeavoured to feel and express confidence and affection. There had been moments when she could have wished to see a dagger plunged into that heart whose treachery seemed revealed, but Mrs. Leigh’s voice of kindness and evident wish to protect her from Lord Byron’s fits of rage would again resolve the impulse into tears. With a broken heart and imprudent generosity she had written to Mrs. Leigh letters afterwards basely used to blacken the helpless inexperience of the writer. Her narratives related how continued trust in Mrs. Leigh gradually became more difficult, and finally impossible, and how ultimately Mrs. Leigh confessed her crime. All these statements and narratives of Lady Byron’s were only secondary evidence as to the conduct of the half-sister. On the other hand, Mrs. Leigh’s own correspondence during and after the period
of her confession, and certain other documents and memoranda, existed which constituted primary evidence. Lady Byron’s own written testimony corroborated and completed that part of her case as to which it was not of itself decisive.

The impressions of Mrs. Leigh’s guilt had been forced into Lady Byron’s mind chiefly by incidents and conversations which occurred while they were all under one roof. Lord Byron never then long abstained from allusions that could not be otherwise interpreted, and Mrs. Leigh was unaccountably passive under his hardly-veiled hints. But as soon as Mrs. Leigh was out of the way, and there was sensible relief from the frenzy excited in Lord Byron by her presence, Lady Byron began to reproach herself for her involuntary suspicions, and resolved to quell and repudiate them. These suspicions flowed and ebbed with the feelings that burst from Lord Byron and Mrs. Leigh’s manner. It was in the earlier half of 1815 that his inclination towards her was most violent, and there were moments when Lady Byron felt nearly certain of the past and had even a strong apprehension of a renewal. At that time Mrs. Leigh comfortably ignored all the strange appearances called forth by her presence in Piccadilly. She was preternaturally cool and collected, seemingly unaware that she could be an object of suspicion or anxiety. She slipped out of explanation and shifted the point with an obtuseness hardly natural, though it seemed unaffected at the time. She almost overdid it; but only on reflection would the thought occur: “Très polie! mais pas moyen de s’expliquer avec elle!” She could not and would not comprehend; answered what had not been said with something else that was perfectly trivial. This went on with all sorts of vicissitudes till the close of her first visit to Piccadilly a little before the end of June, 1815. Lady Byron was then really anxious to get rid of her, made her fix a time to go, and held her to it. After her departure Lord Byron was rather quieter on that subject, and during the twenty weeks of her absence (at Six Mile
Bottom) Lady Byron could persuade herself that it was all a hideous dream.

When Mrs. Leigh came back on November 15th before Lady Byron’s confinement, he seemed much alienated from Mrs. Leigh and entirely occupied with women at the theatre. During the confinement he resumed familiar talk with her, and she used to sit up with him till late in the night to keep him quiet. After Lady Byron’s recovery, he now and then dropped references to past intercourse in very crude terms—and before Mrs. Leigh, who passed over such speeches with well-acted indifference; but he seemed to have no inclination for a renewal. In December and January he appeared hardly responsible for what he said and did. Mrs. Leigh was the most eager of those in the house with him to adopt the hypothesis of his insanity. She was in constant terror of what he might say next. She occasionally uttered vague sentiments of remorse, and repeatedly said she had forfeited all hope of salvation; but she was more afraid of discovery in this world than of consequences in the next. In her desperation she seemed ready to anticipate his disclosures by confession, though on the whole she preferred to discredit him as a madman. Lady Byron was now greatly perplexed by his mad fits, and attributed much of what he said to insane delusions. She went through extreme alternations of opinion and plans, but left London on January 15th determined to think Mrs. Leigh her truest friend, and reject the suspicions, vivid as they were. In one respect she owed deep gratitude to Mrs. Leigh, who, with Mrs. Clermont, had faithfully striven for Lady Byron’s protection and preservation when ill and in need.

Mrs. Leigh’s letters from Piccadilly in the last fortnight of January were devoted to Lord Byron’s alarming state of mind and conduct. She represented her presence as necessary to prevent suicide. She strongly deprecated any announcement of measures of separation as likely to drive him to desperation. There was much obvious art in this, which could not but attract Lady Byron’s
attention and revive mistrust about everything. Mrs. Leigh was not insincere in her fears about Lord Byron and her belief that the scandal of a suit in the ecclesiastical court would be a great evil for everyone, but above all she was frightened of reports and disclosures concerning herself.

Lady Byron’s letters from Kirkby in January were inspired by the resolve to trust Mrs. Leigh, to reject the hypothesis of her crime, and to acknowledge both the affectionate devotion to herself and the solicitude for Lord Byron’s preservation. It was a point of honour and duty to give entire confidence—not to reserve the possibility that Mrs. Leigh might after all be a liar and worse. She did full justice to what was in fact true, that she had received kindness. Nothing in her letters was false. She kept silence on the main question. She could not and did not say that she knew Mrs. Leigh was innocent. Nowhere and never did she go further than to omit reference to what was then beyond positive knowledge. Mrs. Leigh’s very real merits and services were well within Lady Byron’s knowledge.

There is inevitably something ridiculous in being too generous, in giving a large measure of confidence to persons who do not quite deserve it. It is more prudent to treat everyone as a potential traitor or enemy, to store up every possible suspicion intact for future use. Lady Byron did not write with the caution of an attorney. She was but a very young woman, agitated and desperate, and penned incoherent and confidential letters, instead of composing carefully and “without prejudice” documents calculated to form a serviceable case if produced by themselves without other context than the malignant commentaries of prejudiced enemies. For about a fortnight she wrote unwarily. But gradually her eyes were opened in every respect. Former impressions returned with increased force and fixed themselves into the conviction, which never again could be shaken, that after all Mrs. Leigh must be guilty pretty nearly of everything that Lord Byron had intimated. At the same time Lady
Byron became aware that she had been putting weapons into the hands of an unscrupulous and desperate woman, and that her letters might be used unfairly—strained into meaning what they did not contain. After January, 1816, she wrote in a more guarded manner and at longer intervals, till after her first interview with
Dr. Lushington the correspondence became infinitesimal and was ultimately suspended.

It would have been better, as Colonel Doyle afterwards explained to Lady Byron, not to have written at all to one who was engaged in a hard struggle for self-preservation, and well knew how to use and misuse everything that came within her reach.

But, above all, such letters ought never to have been published isolated from genuine complete information, and unsanctioned by Lady Byron’s executors and trustees. They were written in the strictest secrecy, from which no release was ever given. They were intrinsically unimportant—told virtually nothing and explained less. Very much more was read into them than the words would bear. They were mere answers to able and ingenious letters from Mrs. Leigh, whose statements and suggestions, under an attitude of unstudied frankness, were admirably calculated to fortify Mrs. Leigh’s own weak points and to bewilder and confuse Lady Byron into very mistaken ideas. The only knowledge to be gained out of Lady Byron’s incautious letters is the old but rarely learnt lesson of the extreme danger of communications with those who say what they do not mean and mean what they do not say. Let those who have never been duped by hypocrites throw the first stone at Lady Byron. But if anyone had to be stoned because letters of a dupe were dragged into publicity without her consent, and against either moral or legal right, it was remarkable that the brutalities of the press should have been lavished on the dupe alone. The illicit production of documents flourished with impunity. Lady Byron was made the scapegoat for the contraband trade in her own letters! It unfortunately
escaped the attention of her legal representatives that they had power to stop publication; for it would have been well to inforce their power as an act of justice, especially as they were not yet prepared to publish an authentic statement of the real case. Partial truth commonly means total falsehood.

Of course Mrs. Leigh was not wholly an impostor and a hypocrite. Lady Byron’s generous acknowledgements of personal care and kindness were in some measure applicable, but the letters she wrote under an illusory feeling in Mrs. Leigh’s favour did not go to the heart of the greater question. Lady Byron had no personal evidence to give that would have been decisive. She knew not for certain what to believe. If she could not prove guilt, still less could Mrs. Leigh’s innocence be proved by any amount of hope or doubt in Lady Byron. Lady Byron’s letters amount to nothing in this respect. She could not abolish by wishing the irrevocable past of her sister-in-law. It would not, indeed, have been in her power to annihilate the evidence of that past. If all Lady Byron’s papers were non-existent, other independent records would remain to prove that Mrs. Leigh was what she was, and that the fundamental event of her life was over before she and Lady Byron ever met. The course of time was reversed when Mrs. Leigh was regarded as re-endowed with virgin purity by glib imputations of perjury against Lady Byron; as if the innocence of the one could be recovered through posterior crime attributed to the other! And when it came to proofs of Lady Byron’s crime, of course none were forthcoming—nothing but re-affirmation of Mrs. Leigh’s holiness. Neither hypothesis was borne out by facts; neither was relevant to the other, chronologically or by any of the essential conditions. But each of these crazy and unrelated phantoms was alternately produced by way of floating the other one about, and being itself in turn floated round in vacuous repetition.

One result of discrediting Lady Byron’s word would have been to cancel many of the kind and just things
she said in
Mrs. Leigh’s favour, without affecting the darker parts of the history, which were fully established by more direct testimony. Lady Byron’s detractors were most detrimental as allies.

In 1869-70, besides other obstacles which had nothing to do with the merits of the case, though they caused great inconvenience, the term of thirty years fixed by Lady Byron in 1850 stood in the way of reparation to her for ten years more. “Procrastinator’s argument, ‘wait a little, this is not the time,’”1 still reigned for another decade before it could be displaced, though every remaining reason for silence might drop away. And as circumstances change in one way, the guardians of truth change in another. They grow old and cautious about facing trouble and odium, and repeat with more obstinacy than ever: “The time has not yet come!” And it never does come if they can keep it off. Blind silence becomes an end in itself—identified with their very being.

So the years slipped away; 1880 passed by, and Lady Byron’s friends let the lies be. The seeming inertia of time, stealthy and secret, accumulated its latent surprises,2 its reserve of forces and occasions for a clean sweep of darkness and impurity; but meanwhile truth lay low.

It has been said that “lies always first in every thing;”3 and attract the imbecile by the law of universal vulgarity.4 The blind see the unknown, the incredulous believe the false. “Few are they who look to the inside of things. . . . They are usually very different from what they seem. . . . Truth comes in the last, and very

1 Sydney Smith on Bentham’sBook of Fallacies.”

2 “J’ai toujours remarqué que le temps faisait ses affaires sournoisement. Pendant des mois, il fait un travail souterrain qui se révèle tout à coup. Je conviens aussi qu’il y a d’autres mois oû il se croise très réellement les bras comme s’il ne savait que faire” (X. Doudan to M. Verdet, 9 Octobre, 1861).

3 Sir M. E. Grant Duff’s abstract of Balthasar Gracian’s maxims in “Miscellanies,” etc., 1878.

4 As Doudan once wrote: “La vulgarité est une forme de la sympathie avec le grand nombre.”

late, limping along on the arm of Time.”1 History is evolved by spontaneous generation. Biography grows out of pamphlets having their origin in corporate rancour or pursuit of profit.

Misrepresentations were much more ephemeral before the invention of trimestrial reviews about a hundred years ago. Through those secret organisms the spirit of the nineteenth century was let loose in countless notorious articles against whoever was obnoxious to one of the trade brotherhoods of the age.
“And ever at thy season be thou free
To spill the venom when thy fangs o’erflow.”
Ignoble travesties were exhibited to the public of
Keats, the Byrons, O’Connell, Harriet Martineau, Sir Robert Peel, Chateaubriand,2 Carlyle, Shelley, some of which finally prevailed with the foolish public. Some of the victims turned upon their revilers. As Peel put it: “Personal good-will could not coexist with the spirit in which those articles were written, or with the feelings they must naturally have excited.” He was repelling the explanation of a Quarterly Reviewer who, after public and avowed vituperation of extreme virulence, wrote privately to profess lively personal good wishes for the friend whom he had just been rending. This impudent communication received the stern answer just quoted, the conclusion of which was that Sir Robert Peel “trusted there was nothing inconsistent with perfect civility in the expression of an earnest wish that the same principle which suggested the propriety of closing a written correspondence of seven and thirty

1 Balthasar Gracian. The belated, limping Truth is similar to the Λιταί in the Iliad (see p. 110). Supplications are the daughters of heaven—lame, wrinkled, sidelong gazer and outrun by Judicial Blindness. But it is they who heal hereafter, and if men reject and refuse them, they appeal to the eternal spirit of equity and Nemesis.

2 The ignominy of the base articles against Chateaubriand does not of course belong to the English press, and had at least the redeeming features both of some masterly appreciation and of being signed by the deadly hater who wrote them.

years might be extended to every other species of intercourse.”1

A remarkable attempt was made quite late in the nineteenth century to brand Shelley with domestic infamy which cannot be left unnoticed in this place on account of the quarter from which it came, and because it was a strange counterpart to other maledictions by the same prophet. It was discovered in 1887 that Shelley had an incestuous passion for his sister Elizabeth. This amazing hypothesis was announced to the world “as a protest against the theory that moral conduct is uninfluenced by speculative opinions,” and in order “to test the soundness of Shelley’s moral principles by a reference to his relations with Elizabeth in 1811.”2 A more or less genuine letter of Shelley’s, dated July 4th, 1811, was quoted as proof of the charge, but the authenticity and text of the letter are uncertain. Even about its sense there has been a conflict of interpretations. The luminary who thus brought forward an incestuous accusation against Shelley in connection with a whole sister was the editor of the “Quarterly Review,” who in 1869-70 raised an accusation of deliberate wickedness against Lady Byron3 for stating confidentially to a friend, then believed to be trustworthy, that part of her misery had originated in the guilt of a half sister! The infallible oracle of Church and State, who would not allow that “Manfred” could have any connection with Lord Byron’s own theories and practice, considered that his own imputations against Shelley were confirmed by “Laon and Cythna” and “Rosalind and Helen.” His later article was the condemnation of his former ones, and reciprocally. The best comment on all the sermons and statements for which he was responsible is the levity

1 The Right Hon. Sir Robert Peel to the Right Hon. John Wilson Croker, January 15th, 1847.

2Quarterly Review,” vol. clxiv., No. 328, for April, 1887, pp. 290-293.

3 Sir William Smith (1813-1893), editor of the above-mentioned from 1867 to 1893. He was told at the time by the “Saturday Review” that he had “raised an accusation of deliberate wickedness against Lady Byron which no person of common sense—laying the matter of good feeling aside—can for a moment entertain.”

with which, after cursing the very mention of incest by the person whom it deeply affected, he appropriated the subject for his own use in the damnatory personalities which he called arguments against Shelley. It is not wonderful if
Keats’s avenger was an abomination to reviewers, who, he thought, “with some rare exceptions, are a most stupid and malignant race,” turned critics “as a bankrupt thief turns thief-taker in despair.”1 More especially had the writer of “Adonais” exposed the founders of the “Quarterly Review” “in their venal good nature” and inexhaustible ruffianism. In vain did bullies prosper and “wantonly deface the noblest specimens of the workmanship of God.” Shelley had risen, “dipped his pen in consuming fire for” the tribe of obscene birds, and not much was left of them besides the memory of his burning words.

By a striking coincidence Shelley’s eloquence is strangely applicable to the rage and hate preached much later against Lady Byron by the idolaters of the “faux maternel stoned like that of some indescribable ruffian because she had been upright, pure and noble, he could not have uttered a more direly fulfilled prophecy than can be found in his celebrated passage: “Against what woman taken in adultery dares the foremost of these literary prostitutes to cast his opprobrious stone? Miserable man! you, one of the meanest, have wantonly defaced one of the noblest specimens of the workmanship of God.” Lady Byron was, of course, in no public sense distinguished; her very name ought never to have become known to the many; but relatively to her own little world her life was as heroic as many a larger existence in the great world of all. And as for her detractors, it is perfectly fair to hold that amongst them were to be found some of the meanest specimens of God’s creatures.’

Lady Byron’s trust remained unexecuted, but there

1 Shelley Society, “Adonais,” 1886, p. 19.

was no rest from the hideous things written against her. The fall of
Lord Byron’s works into disrepute by no means silenced defamation of her—on the contrary. It was not for his sake that a bad character had been given to her after his death. She was most maligned by those who cared nothing about him personally. His greatest detractors extended their aversion to her. For many years the public have been in a condition of stolid indifference to both. There has been no demand for any kind of book about Lord Byron; but this has lowered the quality rather than diminished the quantity of the literature which obscures those memories. In all sorts of places vast accumulations of the least precious materials had been amassed—which were expected to grow into value, but destined to be unloaded upon an unresponsive market by impatient holders. Thus the fair was encumbered with voluminous mounds of books, which, if they contained anything at all, could only consist of what Lord Byron’s own people would refuse to touch. The inheritance of the Byrons was in every way the prey of strangers, and it has been more and more ignored that Lord Byron’s own descendants have some feelings or even rights in connection with the affairs of their own family. They cannot regard their concerns as a provision or a playground for press and public, publicists and publishers. There is an extreme point for personalities and misrepresentations, whether laudatory, damnatory or predatory. The time comes at last when some measure of truth preservation is forced upon the victims. The representatives of Lord and Lady Byron would have infinitely preferred the official action of trustees to their own personal agency, which is a work of pain, though of honour and duty.

Unfortunately the last of the trustees, Mr. Henry Allen Bathurst, died a few years ago. His fidelity and affection for Lady Byron never waned, but difficulties stood in the way till the very last years of his life, when his health and energy were running out. When he was gone, the pressure of responsibility descended with all its weight
on the present writer, whose most earnest wish was not to be driven personally soon to break silence on the fatal and unlucky subject of
Lord Byron’s private adventures. The public were more than willing to hear no more of them, and it seemed that poachers might consider Byron ground hardly worth their visits. Truth could then still for a time sleep in the shade, and the Byrons wait without hurry for that fuller peace which cannot stand secure on impenitent falsehood and persistent injustice.

Careful, scrupulous, and not unduly deferred execution of Lady Byron’s trust was imperative on her representatives. An interval of quiet expectation and reflection was reasonable, and it would have been well if for so long there could have been a general holiday from Byronese shows, hysteria and farce. It should have been plain to the most vulgar intelligence that the low comedy of Byronese attitudes in Victorian costume was played out. Lord Byron was not a mendicant, and would have loathed and spurned Byronification by puffs, advertisements and mendicity.

Manoeuvres and hostilities were not as was hoped abandoned. Strange invaders reappeared, intent upon campaigns—futile and unprovoked, but sufficient to splash “a noteless blot on a remembered name.” Statements and personalities of an unusual description were circulated, which the Byrons must absolutely repudiate and condemn, and that in the most and indeed only effectual manner—by plain truth and tangible evidence—practical exposure of pseudo-Byronese manipulations and fables. Outlaws from all the accepted courtesies and usages even of press manners and customs, like Lady Byron and her family, have no assent to give to final and absolute decrees of falsehood. The unpopularity of disestablishing favourite delusions has no terrors for those who are already misrepresented.

Full and final truth about the past and the dead is unattainable and inconceivable except by “a mind in a state of consciousness in which all phenomena are simul-
taneously instead of successively presented”;1 but “the first of all gospels is that a lie cannot endure for ever.”2 “Lies exist only to be extinguished”2 by those oppressed. There is no reason to-day for endurance of the lies about the Byrons that would not equally be a reason on every other day for all time. All
Lady Byron’s original motives for silence have long ceased to affect any one. Lord Byron and his loves and hates are phantoms that haunt not the twentieth century. No one will catch any moral epidemic from him. The holiness of family ties can no longer be sullied by the witchcraft of Manfred and Astarte.

1 Mansel, “Letters, Lectures and Reviews,” p. 119. Gladstone once said to the Hon. L. Tollemache: “I will give you something to think over—Have time and space any existence outside the human intelligence?” (“Talks with Mr. Gladstone,” p. 82).

2 Carlyle, “French Revolution.”