LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Astarte: a Fragment of Truth
Theresa Villiers to Lady Byron, 18 July 1816

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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July 18th 1816.
My dear Lady Byron

I almost fear you must have thought me ungrateful for all the kindness of all your letters by having been silent so long—but in truth my silence has proceeded from a wish to have it in my power to communicate anything to you respecting poor A.—which should be at all satisfactory. I cannot tell you much now—but your letter of yesterday just arrived determines me to write—She came sooner than she expected being ordered to come up for the Regent’s fete—She wrote to me the preceding day to prepare her dress for her, & therefore when we first met (an interview wh. I own I dreaded beyond measure) our whole conversation turned on Gauzes & Sattins—but I was foolishly dissatisfied—I thought her looking quite stout & well (wh. bye the bye she still does) & perfectly cool & easy, having apparently nothing on her mind but what there was abundance of ostensible cause for—this rather provoked me—the next day I had your letter to give her & I will own to you it made me so nervous I could not do it—indeed considering all that had passed on your subject before she left London it would have been quite unnatural for me to have given it without asking to see it, or questioning her as to its contents—I therefore left it in the Carriage, & at the end of my visit I told her I had it there & would send it in by the servant. She looked rather surprised but not alarmed—I sent it with its envelope to me—the next day I went there—but determined to ask no questions—at last—when the Child & maid were in the room she asked me if she shd. return me your note—I said “oh yes,” & then asked if yours to her was kind. She said “very much so”—“particularly so”—I
merely replied “I was sure it would be—remember I always told you how kind she was about you”—to this no reply—I ask’d about your health she said it was but indifferent—& then the subject dropped—& has never been renewed—Yesterday, for the first time, she dined here, & was here between 4 and 5 hours, & I must say that in my life I never saw any thing equal to her dejection—her absence—her whole mind evidently preoccupied & engrossed—& apparently insensible of being in society—
Mr. V., who really exerted himself & commanded himself much better than I expected to shew her as much kindness as before, tells me that while I was called out of the room to speak to a person, he could not extract an answer—even a monosyllable from her—except when he joked about the predicted destruction of the world to-day—& said (a propos to some arrangements which the boys wanted to make) “We need not give ourselves any trouble about it for the world will be at an end to-morrow & that will put an end to all our cares”—she quite exclaimed before the boys, the servants, &c., “I don’t know what you may all be but I’m sure I’m not prepared for the next world, so I hope this will last”—this seemed the only topic that roused her—This looks well for her mind—if this feeling is well kept up I hope every thing from it with time—but do not think me brutal or even unkind if I tell you the work is not done yet—I accidentally found yesterday by her question about foreign postage of letters that she was going to write to Ld. B. to-day—it is perhaps natural even necessary that she should write for the purpose of breaking off that correspondence—but till that1 is fairly & completely broken through—there will be but little good done depend upon it—& as nobody can do anything but you I mention this that you may enforce its necessity in any manner you think best—From my manner to her individually I am positive she cannot guess that I am better informed than when we last met—but what she may infer from my total silence on his subject I know

1 Underlined twice.

not—but I am sure she thinks I have a motive for she scarcely ever mentions him herself, & if she does, it is in a sort of way as if she was shy of his name which never was the case before—She told me she was sure my parcel had gone safe (a parcel I had entrusted to
Mr. Fletcher for a person at Lausanne) as they had passed a day at Lausanne—Another day she told me she had seen Messrs Hobhouse & Davies together & that they were going to Geneva directly—upon which I merely said “is Lord B. still there”—She said “yes—or near there” & then told me something of a boat in which he was going round the Lake & that Hobhouse said his crew would be drowned by his management, but that he wd. be safe by swimming. Then after the fête she told me Miss Mercer had come up & spoken to her there, had been very gracious & enquired very much about Geneva, & this I think in the whole week she has been in town are the only instances of her mentioning or rather alluding to him.

She has ceased to speak of Mr. Wilmot with any harshness, & in short I hope there is a very great amendment—but if the evil is not well eradicated, I feel convinced that he [Byron] will regain at pleasure his ascendancy over her mind—Mr. W. has as yet had no private conversation with her but he told me last night he meant to have some & to talk of you—your merits &c.—& to say that he knew there were people who considered you as cold hearted, unforgiving, &c & that he advised her (A) to put a stop to that sort of language whenever she heard it in any friends of hers, or it would be the worse for her—I see no objection to this—but he promises me to do it in a kind way. He tells me he is going abroad with Mr. Ward [Lord Dallas] for six weeks—A. will I believe stay till after the 12th August. Nothing can be worse than their affairs, pecuniarily—nothing can be more tiresome & impracticable than Colonel L. of which alas! she seems more than ever aware—What they are to do I cannot guess. The Duke of Leeds is to petition Lord Liverpool, but in these days of reduction he can
have no chance unless by an arrangement such as was proposed last year with
Warwick Lake—A’s child is a fine one & she goes on nursing successfully!!

Now I think I have told you all I know about her & tho’ it is dully & prosily told I know the subject will interest you—Depend upon it she will never open her heart to me—or indeed to anyone—but to me she could not—considering the part she has frequently made me take in her concerns upon a perfect persuasion of her innocence for the last three years. I daresay you are quite right in believing that she never transgressed during your residence in Piccadilly—I can perfectly imagine her having quieted her conscience by that salve—& it accounts (satisfactorily) for much of her conduct.

[I omit a passage dealing with the health of Lady Byron & Mr. Villiers, which follows here.—Ed.]

God bless you my dear Lady Byron—Do not hate me for this voluminous production—the next shall be more laconic—but in all ways & at all times you will find me most truly and

Affectionately yours,
T. V.