LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Astarte: a Fragment of Truth
II. Three Stages of Lord Byron’s Life

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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“—when one ceased the other began—and now both are closed—”1

Lord Byron to Lady Byron, 10bre 28th, 1820.

IN June, 1813, there was a crisis of insolvency at Mrs. Leigh’s home, Six Mile Bottom, and she came to Lord Byron in London for an indefinite absence from home. He then gave up an arrangement he had made to travel to Sicily with Lady Oxford and her family—otherwise called the “Harleian Miscellany.” Instead of this, he planned taking Augusta to Sicily, but this was relinquished in consequence of the remonstrances of Lady Melbourne, to whom he confided at that time most of the things he was engaged upon. Augusta had consented to go with him to Sicily, but Lady Melbourne dissuaded him from taking “this fatal step,” saying: “You are on the brink of a precipice, and if you do not retreat, you are lost for ever—it is a crime for which there is no salvation in this world, whatever there may be in the next.” She told him that, whatever he might affect, she knew how susceptible he was to opinion, and would he do that which must utterly destroy his character? She told him that, though destitute of principle, she believed him naturally generous and honourable, and remonstrated with him on the cruelty of depriving of all future peace or happiness a woman who had hitherto, whether deservedly or not, maintained a good reputation—and even if their distresses, after he had taken this fatal step, should arise from external causes, they would always reproach themselves for their reciprocal wretched-

1 See page 111.

ness. His comment on this advice of Lady Melbourne’s was: “She is a good woman after all, for there are things she will stop at.” He followed Lady Melbourne’s advice in part (as to Sicily), but not altogether. He once said: “Ah, I wish I had.”1

Lady Melbourne, in order to get him out of this “worse business,” encouraged him to start on a fresh intrigue, and gave him the most minute instructions about seducing another woman,2 almost in the style of the Marquise de Merteuil, in “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.”3

It is not wonderful that Lady Melbourne failed in keeping Byron and Augusta long apart.
“We repent, we abjure, we will break from the chain;
We must part, we must fly—to unite it again!”
It had been reunited for long months when he wrote those lines to
Augusta, which are here quoted from the original MS. afterwards given to Lady Byron.

Lord Byron did not limit his confidences to Lady Melbourne. He used to give himself an unfortunate latitude in conversations with people, who, having no interest in his welfare, or any desire to approfondir whether his strange paradoxes were advanced by way of amusement or from his real way of thinking, repeated and circulated his speeches as he made them.4 Early in 1814 he advanced at Holland House the most extraordinary theories about the relations of brothers and sisters.5 This was the origin of reports against Mrs. Leigh’s character, which were widely circulated at that time, without there having been any ill will to, or ill opinion of her.6 These reports must also be attributed to “The Bride of Abydos,” which rumour proclaimed to be a representation of Mrs. Leigh. Far and wide, people asked whether she had read it, and if she had recognized

1 Lady Byron’s Narrative F.

2 [See Notes by the Editor, p. 315.]

3 Lady Byron’s Narrative F.

4 The Hon. Mrs. Villiers to the Hon. Mrs. Leigh, April 25th, 1816.

5 The Hon. Mrs. Villiers to Lady Byron, May 18th, 1816.

6 The Hon. Mrs. Villiers to the Hon. Mrs. Leigh, April 23rd, 1816.

herself, what she had to say to its publication. In those days the poems of
Lord Byron used to be searched with avidity for mysteries and sensations by old and young down to Eton boys. Schoolfellows at Eton taunted and questioned a nephew of Mrs. Leigh’s about “The Bride of Abydos” and informed him of the stories in circulation. Lord Byron’s recklessness did not stop at paradox and poetry. He gave hints in letters to more than one woman, and in conversation gave various intimations of a criminal intercourse with Mrs. Leigh. He did not for some time speak of it in a manner which fixed it with certainty upon her. He would say: “Oh, I never knew what it was before. There is a woman I love so passionately—she is with child by me, and if a daughter, it shall be called Medora.” Gradually his avowals of this incestuous intercourse became bolder, he positively declared the crime and his delight in it:
“Too brief for our passion, too long for our peace,
Was that hour—Oh, when can its hope—can its memory cease?”

When it was objected, “I could believe it of you, but not of her,” his vanity appeared to be piqued to rage, and he exclaimed, “Would she not?” It would appear that he used to say the seduction had not given him much trouble, that it was soon accomplished, and she was very willing; that in their early days they had been separated by Lady Holderness on account of some apparent impropriety. He recollected also asking his mother why he should not marry Augusta, the question being suggested by an anecdote of some germana Jovis in Roman history.1

On one occasion at the Albany Lord Byron was stated to have taken a number of letters from Mrs. Leigh out of his portfolio and shown them to a lady who was visiting him. She said she remembered expressions in those letters that must refer to such a connection. The letters

1 The fourth Caesar publicly produced his own sister Drusilla as a lawful wife: in modum justae propalam habit. Their grandmother Antonia is mentioned by Suetonius as the Lady Holderness of the early days of Caius Caligula and Drusilla.

contained much foolish levity, but occasionally there appeared feelings of remorse, such as: “Oh, B——, if we loved one another as we did in childhood—then it was innocent.” But these feelings apparently became less frequent.
Lord Byron’s valet, Fletcher, appeared to be conscious of the crime.1

When Byron was about to be married, both he and Augusta meant to close the secret life of the last year and a half, and replace it by the purified adoration (almost as of another being) which he afterwards so beautifully expressed in the first two lines of “The Epistle”:
“My sister! my sweet sister! if a name
Dearer and purer were, it should be thine.”2

It was a difficult, an almost impossible resolution, but it seems probable that she did adhere to it. To Lady Melbourne he made every promise of amendment man could make on his engagement to her niece, but he was half-hearted in this perfectly sincere intention, and it was not persevered in. He was fond of quoting, “Returning were as tedious as go on,” and he soon felt it intolerable to renounce his forbidden influence over Augusta:
“And thine is that love which I would not forego,
Though that heart may be bought by Eternity’s woe.”3

It would seem that none of Augusta’s letters to Byron have been preserved, with one or two trifling exceptions. When he went abroad all her letters were left with other papers at Sir Benjamin Hobhouse’s.4 Some of these

1 The above account of Lord Byron’s conversations in 1813 and 1814 was given on March 27th, 1816, by a lady (not Lady Byron, of course) who had frequently been with him during those months. What has been quoted of her statements, from a memorandum made the same day, agrees with the things recorded elsewhere, which could hardly be the case unless her report of conversation were so far true; but it is only here given for what it is worth, as the lady in question was not in all respects trustworthy. But in this instance her information, being confirmed by that from other sources, is of sufficient interest for inclusion in an explanatory narrative.

2 Further on these stanzas relapse into purely pagan passion.

3 From the first draft of the fifth stanza of “I speak not, I trace not, I breathe not thy name,” in the MS. given to Lady Byron. [See Appendix B.]

4 The Hon. Mrs. Villiers to Lady Byron, September 20th, 1816.

were returned to her after Lord Byron’s death,1 but whether they were all ultimately destroyed, or what became of them, is not recorded in
Lady Byron’s papers. Lord Byron, however, who after his marriage constantly talked of Augusta’s letters with an air of mystery and a kind of fierce and exulting transport, gave one of these letters to Lady Byron.

Though trivial and childish, it is interesting in its babyish adoration and undemonstrative acquiescence in the approaching cutting of cakes and ringing of bells, which was to be in nineteen days. Whereupon Augusta just finds time for a word of smooth depreciation of her successor’s health, and a rapid but tender ending:

The Hon. Mrs. Leigh to Lord Byron.
Seal Cupid driving a chariot
Post Mark Newmarket Free 15 Dec 15 1814
The Lord Byron Albany London
Wednesday [December 14, 1814]
My dearest B

As usual I have but a short allowance of time to reply to your tendresses ✣ but a few lines I know will be better than none—at least I find them so ✣ It was very very good of you to think of me amidst all the visitors, ✣ &c. ✣ &c. I have scarcely recovered mine of yesterday—La Dame did talk so—oh my stars! but at least it saved me a world of trouble—oh! but she found out a likeness in your picture to Mignonne2 who is of course very good humoured in consequence

1 The Hon. Mrs. Leigh to Lady Noel Byron, April 26th, 1851.

2 Mignonne or Mignon was Byron and Augusta’s pet name for Medora, then a few months old. About the end of 1816 or beginning of 1817, the name of Medora was altogether disused, and her other name of Elizabeth or Libby solely employed. Libby’s godmothers were Lady Francis Osborne (Elizabeth) and Mrs. Wilmot (née Horton). Lord Byron was godfather. (Lady Byron to the Hon. Mrs. Villiers, March 6th, 1817.)

✣ I want to know dearest
B ✣ your plans—when you come ✣ when you go—umph! when the writings travel—when ye Cake is to be cut—when the Bells are to ring &c. &c. &c.—by the bye my visitors are acquainted with a & did praise her to the skies—They say her health has been hurt by studying, &c. &c. &c.

I have not a moment more my dearest ✣ except to say

ever thine [scrawl] 1

After his marriage, he generally spoke of Augusta as “a fool”—with equal contempt of her understanding and principles.2 He was, however, continually lamenting her absence, saying no one loved him as she did—no one understood how to make him happy but her.3

When he found that Augusta had escaped from his dominion and resisted his wishes, his anger was excessively violent against both his wife and his sister, whom he considered to have joined hands against him. His bitterness was greatest against his wife, whom he then wanted to cast off, and his temper became savagely cruel, partly from the effects of Kinnaird’s brandy, which brought him to the verge of madness, and at times more than to the verge. Out of revenge to both he took a maîtresse en titre, but this he seemed to think a greater injury to Augusta than to Lady Byron.

This is not the place for details of the time passed at Halnaby, Seaham, Six Mile Bottom, and 13, Piccadilly Terrace, or of Augusta’s long visits there, and Byron’s own short visit to Six Mile Bottom in the autumn.

1 The signature indicated was used in the correspondence of Byron and Augusta by both of them in writing to each other. Lord Byron often so signed in letters to Lady Melbourne and Lady Byron.

2 Compare certain passages in his later letters to Augusta, such as: “You see Goose—that there is no quiet in this world—so be a good woman—& repent of yr sins.—” “I am truly sorry for Blake—but as you observe with great truth and novelty ‘we are none of us immortal.’”—“I . . . shall probably place [Allegra] in a Convent—to become a good Catholic—& (it may be) a Nun being a character somewhat wanted in our family.”

3 Lady Byron’s Statement Q.

About three weeks after
Lady Byron’s confinement, the aversion he had already at times displayed towards her struck everyone in the house as more formidable than ever. Augusta, George Byron, and Mrs. Clermont were then all staying in the house, and were very uneasy at his unaccountable manner and talk. He assumed a more threatening aspect towards Lady Byron. There were paroxysms of frenzy, but a still stronger impression was created by the frequent hints he gave of some suppressed and bitter determination. He often spoke of his conduct and intentions about women of the theatre—particularly on January 3rd, 1816, when he came to Lady Byron’s room and talked on that subject with considerable violence. After that he did not go any more to see her or the child, but three days later sent her the following note:

January 6th, 1816.

When you are disposed to leave London, it would be convenient that a day should be fixed—and (if possible) not a very remote one for that purpose.—Of my opinion upon that subject you are sufficiently in possession, & of the circumstances which have led to it—as also to my plans—or rather—intentions—for the future———When in the country I will write to you more fully—as Lady Noel has asked you to Kirkby—there you can be for the present—unless you prefer Seaham—

As the dismissal of the present establishment is of importance to me—the sooner you can fix on the day the better—though of course your convenience & inclination shall be first consulted——

The Child will of course accompany you—there is a more easy & safer carriage than the chariot (unless you prefer it) which I mentioned before—on that you can do as you please—

The next day [Sunday, January 7th, 1816] Lady Byron replied in writing as follows: “I shall obey your wishes and fix the earliest day that circumstances will
admit for leaving London.” Consequently she quitted London on January 15th.

A day or two after her arrival at Kirkby her mother, Lady Noel, drew from her many of the circumstances of her misery, and Lady Byron’s own conviction that her life would be endangered by returning to his roof. She also communicated the impression of a certain degree of insanity which had been made on all those who had the nearest opportunities of observation; but Lady Byron also told her mother that the malady, if such there was, did not appear to become more decided, and that she believed him to be perfectly competent to transact matters of actual business, and, indeed, particularly acute about them. Lady Noel took up the cause of her daughter with the thoroughness of a tigress whose young are threatened, and, with Lady Byron’s somewhat half-hearted consent at first, her mother immediately went to London to prepare for measures to protect Lady Byron from intolerable misery. During her stay in London for about a week Lady Noel saw Mrs. Leigh and George Byron, who agreed with her that every endeavour should be made to induce Lord Byron to agree to a separation. Lady Noel also consulted Sir Samuel Romilly, Serjeant Heywood, Dr. Lushington the civilian, and Colonel Francis Hastings Doyle, an old friend of the Milbanke family and a shrewd man of the world. They all agreed that a separation was indispensable, but Colonel Doyle strongly urged that no pressure should be put on Lady Byron to induce her to go further than she would spontaneously do. He said he would much rather run the risk of a negotiation which might leave some possible chance of a future reconciliation under altered circumstances than deprive her of the status of a free agent. Dr. Lushington, on the other hand, said Lady Byron must allow her advisers entirely to dictate the measures to be taken, and that otherwise she would have no security. Nothing had been said at this time by Lady Byron of her suspicions about Augusta, except apparently a few incoherent words to Lady Noel, when telling her
that Lord Byron had threatened to take the child away from her and commit it to Augusta’s charge.

When in his sober senses he had no wish to take the child away from its mother, but when in a state of excitement he seemed to glory in bringing on himself the odium of the world. Moderation in anything was intolerable to his nature. In January, 1816, his mood appeared to be, “I cannot be positively good, but what prevents me being positively bad? Nothing—well—I’ll show the world I’m fit for great things.”

On Tuesday evening, January 23rd, Captain George Byron, in conversation with Lord Byron, openly arraigned his conduct towards his wife, and threatened him with her parents taking up her defence. Lord Byron interrupted George Byron with the most animated expression of exultation, and said, “Let them come forward, I’ll glory in it.”

He was very changeable. Sometimes he spoke of her with the greatest kindness—though never seeming to feel any desire that she should return—and the next hour saying, as he did to George Byron, that the sooner Lady Byron’s friends took measures for a separation the better. Besides “the usual nonsense about women at the theatre,” he talked about marrying Miss Mercer Elphinstone if he could get rid of his present connection.

During the uncertainty about the manner in which he would meet the attempt to negotiate for an amicable separation, Miss Selina Doyle, sister of Colonel Doyle, wrote to Lady Byron, January 26th, 1816:

“As a real wife you were contemned, but when you become again the beau idéal of his imagination, between the possession of which and him there is an insuperable barrier, you will be a second Thersa [Thyrza], perhaps supplant her totally. These are prophecies and may appear irrelevant, but as I think them now, I like to say them, they may possibly save you a pang hereafter when you hear of his love and misery at being deprived of you, which nothing can replace. No, nothing indeed, for were you to return the excitement pro-
duced by desire of you would cease, I am convinced, and his incapacity of rendering you happy, as you deserve in his opinion, would make him hate himself and you, and hélas, as long as he lives I fear that his mind will be in that disordered state without malady increases to a degree of imbecility, for I doubt not that that degree of insanity is his natural state, at least since the period his mind was first supposed to have been affected, and I have as little doubt that had he married Thersa, he would have been to Thersa what he has been to you. She could not better have ‘ministered to a mind diseased’ than you did when living with him, than you do in leaving him.”1

For the last two days of January Lord Byron talked in a very quiet way of proposing a separation himself, saying he could not live with his wife, and must be at liberty. The child he would leave with her, in order to show that he had no fault to find with her, but he should consider about it all. He constantly declared his dislike of being a married man.

Should the negotiation for an amicable separation fail, the step intended to be taken was to institute a suit in the Ecclesiastical Court to obtain a divorce of bed and board on the pleas of cruelty and adultery.2

On February 2nd Sir Ralph Noel wrote in harsh and decided terms, drawn up by his council of advisers, to require a separation. Thus addressed, Lord Byron shrank from that liberty for which he had so ardently longed, and positively refused to accept the separation. The whole affair then rapidly became of world-wide celebrity. The uproar against him at that time was really due to latent enmities, awaiting some chance

1 He had occasionally spoken of Thyrza to Lady Byron, at Seaham and afterwards in London, always with strong but contained emotion. He once showed his wife a beautiful tress of Thyrza’s hair, but never mentioned her real name.

2 As Lord Byron never presented himself to the Philistines as a pattern of matrimonial virtue, Moore, Murray and Co. must have evolved out of their own imagination the curious invention that during the time Lord and Lady Byron lived together there was not a single instance of infidelity! No such statement as that ever was or could have been made by himself, even for the gratification of Hannah More.

circumstance, such as the separation, to burst out. He had accumulated an overwhelming mass of resentment against himself by negation of time-honoured beliefs, opposition to established order, disregard of persons, rejection of law and restraint for himself. More than enough irreconcilable ill-wishers, powerful or obscure, were on the watch for his overthrow. Every kind of report was spread about him, and more especially the old report about
Augusta was revived, and gained ground on the numerous other conjectures as to probable or possible causes for the separation. The report did not arise, and could not possibly have arisen, in any way from Lady Byron or her connections. To them it occasioned entire surprise—she only was too well prepared for it1—and so was Augusta herself, who afterwards wrote2 (July 15th, 1816):

“I never thought the report came from you or yours—I know too well how to account for it—”

Lady Byron’s friends could never forget the kindness she experienced from Mrs. Leigh the latter part of the time she was in Piccadilly. Even for Lady Byron’s life they believed they might thank Mrs. Leigh, and however weakly the latter might have acted, they firmly believed her intentions to have been good during all that latter period.3 Mrs. Leigh always made the most of her good offices. On a later occasion she quoted a remarkable little speech of Sir John Hobhouse. His words were:

Lady Byron has every reason to be grateful to you, for you not only risked the loss of property, but what was much dearer to you, his affection.”4

When a suit in the Spiritual Court, presided over by Sir William Scott, appeared inevitable, Lady Byron came to her father in London, and arrived at Mivart’s Hotel on Thursday, February 22nd, 1816. The same evening she had a long private conversation with Dr.

1 Lady Byron to the Hon. Mrs. Leigh, July 11th, 1816.

2 To Lady Byron.

3 Mary Ann Clermont to the Hon. Lady Noel, March 9th, 1816.

4 Lady Noel Byron’s and the Rev. F. W. Robertson’s Memorandum of April 8th, 1851.

Lushington, and confided to him the whole of the circumstances, including those that could not be made public.

By the last week in February the reports prejudicial to Mrs. Leigh’s character were very formidable. On her friends “vehemently and indignantly resenting such a calumny,” they were met with the argument that Lady Byron’s “refusal to assign a reason for her separation confirmed the report,” and that no one but she could deny it with any effect. “Nothing to be sure could be more absurd than such an inference.” It was not she who had started or circulated the report, and she could not seriously be expected to divulge her motives or the means by which she was prepared to secure herself and her child in the event of failure of a difficult negotiation, while her hope was to avoid all exposure and litigation. The reports were not kept up by Lady Byron’s silence so much as by the indefinite prolongation of Mrs. Leigh’s stay in Piccadilly under such eccentric conditions. Under that roof she was in a focus of incessant observation and ever increasing curiosity. The surest course for those friends who had her worldly reputation at heart would have been to insist on her leaving Lord Byron’s house and London without further delay or subterfuge. But Mrs. Leigh could not then be induced to dare Lord Byron’s displeasure and go away, so application was made to Lady Byron on February 26th for some kind of certificate of character for Mrs. Leigh. This Lady Byron could not and did not give. In her answer to Mrs. Leigh’s friend (Mrs. Leigh being supposed to be ignorant of this correspondence), Lady Byron disclaimed participation in any reports, referred to her former grateful and affectionate acknowledgments of Mrs. Leigh’s good offices towards her personally, whilst regretting that the extreme perplexities of present circumstances forbade any specific confidences.1

Unsuccessful attempts were made through the mediation of Lord Holland, and afterwards of Lord Byron’s

1 The Hon. Mrs. Villiers to Lady Byron, February 26th, 1816, and Lady Byron’s answer of the same day.

first cousin,
Robert John Wilmot, to induce Lord Byron to accept a separation by agreement. Wilmot arrived in London on March 2nd. In the course of his mediation, which was undertaken about March 6th, he expressed great anxiety that Lady Byron should do that justice to Mrs. Leigh in the eyes of an ill-natured world which no one else could render, by making known sentiments of confidence, esteem, and affection, which he supposed to be still intact. He was very urgent that Lady Byron should see her, and the situation became distressing, as she could not indefinitely refuse to meet her as before without giving a sufficient reason, and Mrs. Leigh’s numerous connections might be expected to impute malice to Lady Byron.

Dr. Lushington thought it would be extremely improper to renew any intercourse with Mrs. Leigh until means had been taken to obviate any injurious effect on Lady Byron’s position. The only possible course was to communicate everything to Wilmot, and after this had taken place Dr. Lushington somewhat reluctantly withdrew opposition to a renewal of personal intercourse. His feeling was that any personal contact with Mrs. Leigh was a degradation to Lady Byron, and in after years the cessation of such intercourse was regarded by him with unmixed satisfaction.1 Together with Wilmot and Colonel (afterwards Sir) Francis Hastings Doyle, he then prepared a clear and conclusive statement of the existing circumstances, intended for production under the contingency of the fullest explanation of the motives and grounds of Lady Byron’s conduct becoming necessary. It was hoped and believed that nothing might ever occur to bring into discussion the motives and principles of Lady Byron’s conduct towards Mrs. Leigh. But the character with which Lady Byron was implicated demanded the greatest caution, and Colonel Doyle, in particular, recommended her to act towards Mrs. Leigh as if a time might possibly arise when it would be necessary to justify herself. He could not dismiss from

1 Stephen Lushington, D.C.L., M.P., to Lady Byron, December 14th, 1829.

his mind the very serious embarrassment he and her advisers were under from the effects of a too confiding disposition, and he impressed upon her and everyone else the importance of securing herself from eventual danger. Above all, he desired her to keep copies of all her letters, and destroy none of those she might receive from
Mrs. Leigh, as she had once imprudently done.1


In case of my death to be
given to Colonel Doyle
A. I. Byron 2
[Thursday March 14 1816]3

During the year that Lady Byron lived under the same roof with Lord B: certain circumstances occurred & some intimations were made which excited a suspicion in Lady B’s mind that an improper connection had at one time & might even still subsist between Lord B: and Mrs L: The causes however of this suspicion did not amount to proof & Lady Byron did not consider herself justified in acting upon these suspicions by immediately quitting Lord B’s house for the following reasons.—1st & principally because the causes of suspicion, tho’ they made a strong impression upon her mind, did not amount to positive proof, & Lady B: considered, that whilst a possibility of innocence existed, every principle of duty & humanity forbad her to act, as if Mrs L: was actually guilty, more especially as any intimation of so heinous crime even if not distinctly proved, must have seriously affected Mrs L’s character & happiness

2d. Lady B: had it not in her power to pursue a middle course; it was utterly impossible for her to remove Mrs L from the society & roof of Lord B: except by a direct accusation.

1 Colonel Doyle to Lady Byron, July 9th and July 18th, 1816.

2 The packet was sealed.

3 The writing that follows is in Dr. Lushington’s hand.


3rdly. Because Mrs L: had from her first acquaintance with Lady B: always manifested towards her the utmost kindness & attention endeavouring as far as laid in her power to mitigate the violence and cruelty of Lord B:

4th. Because Mrs L: at times exhibited signs of a deep remorse; at least so Lady B: interpreted them to be, tho’ She does not mean to aver that the feelings Mrs L: then shewed were signs of remorse for the commission of the crime alluded to or any other of so dark a description.

& lastly—Because Lady B: conceived it possible that the crime, if committed might not only be deeply repented of, but never have been perpetrated since her marriage with Lord B:

It was from these motives & strongly inclining to a charitable interpretation of all that passed that Lady B: never during her living with Lord B: intimated a suspicion of this nature.——

Since Lady B’s Separation from Lord B: the Report has become current in the World of such a connection having subsisted This report was not spread nor sanctioned by Lady B:—Mrs L’s character has however been to some extent affected thereby—Lady B: cannot divest her mind of the impressions before stated, but anxious to avoid all possibility of doing injury to Mrs L: & not by any conduct of her own to throw any suspicion upon Mrs L: & it being intimated that Mrs L:’s character can never be so effectually preserved as by a renewal of intercourse with Lady B: she does for the motives & reasons before mentioned consent to renew that intercourse—

Now this Statement is made in order to Justify Lady B: in the line of conduct she has now determined to adopt & in order to prevent all misconstruction of her motives in case Mrs L: should be proved hereafter to be guilty, and if any circumstances should compel or render it necessary for Lady B: to prefer the charge in order
that Lady B: may be at full liberty so to do without being prejudiced by her present conduct.

It is to be observed that this Paper does not contain nor pretend to contain any of the grounds which gave rise to the suspicion which has existed & still continues to exist in Lady B’s mind—

We whose names are hereunto subscribed are of opinion, that under all the circumstances above stated & also from our knowledge of what has passed respecting the conduct of all parties mentioned, that the line now adopted by Lady B: is strictly right and honourable, as well as just towards Mrs L: & Lady B: ought not whatever may hereafter occur be prejudiced thereby—.

Robt. John Wilmot
F. H. Doyle
Stephen Lushington
London—March 14. 1816 [Signed by each.]
[Written Addition by Lady Byron.]

The reasons above stated are the genuine reasons which actuated my conduct—

Anne Isabella Byron
[Attestations to Lady
Byron’s signature by
R. J. W. Mr Wilmot,
F. H. D. Col. Doyle and
S. L. Dr Lushington.]
March 14. 1816

Upon one contingency only, viz., the taking from Lady Byron of her child, and placing her under the care of Mrs. Leigh, would the disclosure have been made of Lady Byron’s grounds for suspecting Mrs. Leigh’s guilt.1

Meanwhile she “did everything for Augusta but give precisely such an authority” for specific denials as could possibly constitute a departure from veracity.2

It was not till Saturday, March 16th, that Mrs. Leigh

1 Sir Francis Hastings Doyle to Lady Noel Byron, February 9th, 1830.

2 Lady Byron to the Hon. Mrs. Villiers, April 27th, 1816.

moved from 13, Piccadilly Terrace, and then only to her own rooms at St. James’s Palace.

At the instance of his friend Hobhouse, Lord Byron ultimately agreed to the principle of a separation on equitable terms; but this measure was carried through in the teeth of opposition and obstruction from his adviser, John Hanson, an attorney of bad repute, but a very cool, calculating fellow, who had contrived to marry his daughter to the mad Lord Portsmouth—a marriage which was set aside afterwards on the ground of his lordship’s weakness of intellect and imbecility, and consequent incapacity to contract marriage.1

The signature of the separation was delayed on various pretexts till April 21st.

At a party given by Lady Jersey in the second week

1 Dr. Lushington’s statement to Mr. H. A. Bathurst, January 27th, 1870, in which I also find that “Lord Byron on the occasion of the marriage was present, gave the bride away, and whilst leading her to the altar reminded her of his seduction of her—Lord Byron told this to Lady Byron.” John Charles, 3rd Earl of Portsmouth, born 1767; married, first, an old Miss Norton, many years his senior, and probably warranted not to present an heir to the family. The family seem to have regarded her as a safe caretaker for a man of great eccentricity; but she died November 15th, 1813, and on March 10th, 1814, the lunatic married young Miss Hanson, who was not perhaps considered to be past child-bearing.

The brother, Newton Fellowes, then took charge of the person of the lunatic, and shut him up at Hurstbourne; Lady Portsmouth and all the Hansons being rigorously kept at a distance. A suit of nullity was brought against the marriage; but this lasted many years, partly owing to the opposition of Lord Eldon—who had been publicly ridiculed by Newton Fellowes—for they were personal and political enemies. Newton Fellowes was a racing man, and christened his horses by nicknames of Lord Eldon—“Old Bags,” “Upright Judge,” etc. Through Lord Eldon’s influence the Hansons obtained for Lady Portsmouth an order for an interview with Lord Portsmouth. Armed with this decree Lady Portsmouth and her family went down with a hired force from London to Hurstbourne, intending to use the interview to capture and carry off the lunatic. But Newton Fellowes suspected this, and was on the spot quite ready for them, with a still larger and better armed force. When Lady Portsmouth and the Hansons arrived at Hurstbourne, they were not admitted inside the house, but received in the entrance portico, whither the lunatic was brought out, surrounded by his body-guard, commanded by Newton Fellowes in person, who went up to old Hanson and seized him by the throat, pointed a loaded pistol at him, and said: “If there is any attempt at abduction, I shall shoot you first.” Under these circumstances Lady Portsmouth’s interview with Lord Portsmouth did not last long, and led to nothing. The Hanson expedition had failed and returned to town. All this was related to the late Earl of Lovelace by his solicitor, Henry Karslake, who also, I think, acted for Lord Lovelace’s aunt, Lady Catherine Fellowes and her husband Newton Fellowes (whose second wife was Lady Catherine Fortescue).

of April
Mrs. Leigh was cut by some people (Mrs. George Lamb was one), and Lord Byron, who also went, was shunned by a still greater number. It was stated by Moore that Miss Mercer Elphinstone, afterwards Madame de Flahaut and Baroness Keith, who was an enthusiastic admirer of Byron’s genius, was particularly gracious to him that evening, and there is also some legend that, on finding him there, she exclaimed: “Oh! Lord Byron, if you had married me all this would never have happened.”1

It was a little before that party, which proved such an unpleasant ordeal for Mrs. Leigh, that the Hon. Mrs. George Lamb wrote about her to Lady Byron:

“As to the other person, I do not wish to reveal her faults, for I could almost pity her, when I think how unhappy she must be, and I look upon her more as his victim than as his accomplice.”2

1Lord Byron used to tell a story of a little red-haired girl, who, when countesses and ladies of fashion were leaving the room where he was in crowds (to cut him after his quarrel with his wife) stopped short near a table against which he was leaning, gave him a familiar nod, and said, ‘You should have married me, and then this would not have happened to you.’” Hazlitt’sConversations of James Northcote,” No. 15. Miss Mercer Elphinstone was reported to have been desperately in love with the Duke of Devonshire. In 1817 she was married to Auguste Charles Joseph, Comte de Flahaut de la Billarderie, then an exile in England. He was born April 2lst, 1785. His mother (afterwards Marquise de Souza) had been married very young to the elder Flahaut, but they separated immediately. Before the Revolution, in which he perished, she was excessively intimate with Talleyrand.

Her son became general of brigade and aide-de-camp to Napoleon, rallied to Louis XVIII., whom he deserted again in the hundred days, and became one of the most desperate opponents of the second restoration. Talleyrand’s intervention saved him from figuring in the ordinance of July 24th, 1815, and prosecution, but he was expelled from France, and only returned to live at Paris in 1827. By his marriage there were only daughters, but the Duc de Morny was notoriously his son. (The chapter of maternity tacitly lay under an imperial interdict.)

2 In the Morrison Catalogue of Manuscripts is printed a letter from Lady Byron to the Hon. Mrs. George Lamb, evidently the answer to Mrs. Lamb’s letter quoted above. The following is an extract from Lady Byron’s note as printed by the catalogue compiler:

Strange that Mr. Alfred Morrison and his friends, however ignorant, could have failed to see that such words could only apply to Mrs. Leigh!


Lady Holland was at that time amongst Lord Byron’s enemies, but not on the ground of his relations with Lady Byron, which she regarded as mere peccadilloes compared with his behaviour in other matters, of which the most important seems to have been going to the Continent without paying the Duchess of Devonshire her rent.

A letter was written at this time by Lord Byron to Lady Byron, which is necessary for the comprehension of the very last letters that ever passed between them, nearly five years later. It has never before been accurately published, having been previously printed from a version inaccurate in every line.

The Lady Byron
Mivart’s Hotel
[Easter] Sunday April [14] 1816

“More last words”—not many—and such as you will attend to—answer I do not expect—nor does it import—but you will hear me.——I have just parted from Augusta—almost the last being you had left me to part with—& the only unshattered tie of my existence—wherever I may go—& I am going far—you & I can never meet again in this world—nor in the next—Let this content or atone.——If any accident occurs to me—be kind to her,—if she is then nothing—to her children;——

Some time ago—I informed you that with the knowledge that any child of ours was already provided for by other & better means—I had made my will in favor of her & her children—as prior to my marriage:—this was not done in prejudice (anger)1 to you for we had not then differed—& even this is useless during your life by the settlements—I say therefore—be kind to her & hers—for never has she acted or spoken otherwise towards you—she has ever been your friend—this may seem valueless to one who has now so many:——be kind to

1 [“Anger” is effaced.—Ed.]

her—however—& recollect that though it may be advantage to you to have lost your husband—it is sorrow to her to have the waters now—or the earth hereafter—between her & her brother.—

She is gone—I need hardly add that of this request she knows nothing—your late compliances have not been so extensive—as to render this an encroachment:—I repeat it—(for deep resentments have but half recollections) that you once did promise me thus much—do not forget it—nor deem it cancelled it was not a vow.———

Mr Wharton has sent me a letter with one question & two pieces of intelligence—to the question I answer that the carriage is yours—& as it has only carried us to Halnaby—& London—& you to Kirkby—I hope it will take you many a more propitious journey.—

The receipts can remain—unless troublesome, if so—they can be sent to Augusta—& through her I would also hear of my little daughter—my address will be left for Mrs Leigh.—The ring is of no lapidary value—but it contains the hair of a king and an ancestor—which I should wish to preserve to Miss Byron.—

To a subsequent letter of Mr Wharton’s I have to reply that it is the “law’s delay” not mine,—& that when he & Mr H have adjusted the tenor of the bond—I am ready to sign

Yrs Ever very truly

He was refused permission by the French Government to travel through France except on condition of keeping a prescribed route and avoiding Paris.1 According to Lady Holland, the ladies of Paris would have received him with open arms had he been allowed to go there.2

On April 23rd Lord Byron left the house where he had been almost uninterruptedly from March 28th, 1815,

1 His friend Hobhouse was also unable two months later to procure French passports in consequence of his book about the Hundred Days.

2 Dr. Lushington to Lady Byron, April 30th, 1816.

and stayed two nights at Dover, where the curiosity to see him was so great that many ladies accoutred themselves as chambermaids for the purpose of obtaining under that disguise a nearer inspection whilst he continued at the inn, and on going to embark he walked through a lane of spectators.2 On April 25th, 1816, he crossed to Ostend with the presentiment that his absence would be long.

1 Dr. Lushington to Lady Byron, May 6th, 1816.