LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Astarte: a Fragment of Truth
IX. Lady Byron and Mrs. Leigh (I)

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 after two months of uncertainty (January and February, 1816) the theory of Byron’s madness was finally abandoned by the doctors, the full meaning of certain words and acts of his, which had hitherto been ignored by Lady Byron as being based upon insane illusions, had to be faced. Among other consequences a change in her relations with Mrs. Leigh became inevitable. The full story of this period will be found in Chapter III., p. 60, and onwards. It is there told how Mrs. Leigh’s intimate friend, Mrs. Villiers,2 pressed Lady Byron to discredit publicly the rumours then widely current about the guilty connection between Byron and Augusta, and how Lady Byron was compelled to explain her position fully to Mrs. Villiers.

The forty letters or portions of letters here given begin almost immediately after this explanation had taken place. They are printed in full so far as they are relevant to “Astarte,” and the only omissions are passages of a purely domestic or temporary interest. They comprise the earlier portion (May to September, 1816) of a very long and voluminous correspondence. They show how beginning with a resolution to break off all intercourse with Mrs. Leigh except such as might have to be feigned in public—Lady Byron quickly yielded to feelings of pity and sympathy for one who was in fact her fellow victim; how she welcomed with thankfulness Mrs. Leigh’s asseverations that no actual guilt had taken place since

1 See Introduction, pp. viii and ix.

2 See p. 57, note a.

Byron’s marriage, and how finally she yielded to her longing to see and speak again with Augusta. The two women appear to have been irresistibly drawn to each other. They met in the early days of September, 1816, and the complete acknowledgment by Augusta of her guilt and Byron’s, made verbally, was at once communicated by Lady Byron to Mrs. Villiers. From allusions in Lady Byron’s memoranda to many things said by Augusta, it is evident that their conversations were long and detailed. It was an unburdening of hearts on both sides.

Augusta was made aware that Mrs. Villiers, hitherto the most determined champion of her supposed innocence, now knew all. A short period of embarrassment ensued between them. Mrs. Villiers’ letter of September 15 to Lady Byron, and Mrs. Leigh’s letter to Lady Byron on September 17 commenting on her words, show how this embarrassment was boldly ended by Mrs. Villiers, and how Augusta acquiesced in her knowledge of the truth.

It was at this meeting in September that Augusta entered into the compact with Lady Byron under which for years she sent her Byron’s letters to herself regularly as she received them, and undertook to act in all things regarding him by Lady Byron’s advice.

For the next few years the correspondence between the sisters-in-law consists mainly of comments on these letters of Byron’s, with anxious discussions of his possible return to England, and of the effect on the public of the more or less distinct allusions to Augusta in his published poems. A few phrases from some of the letters here printed were quoted by the author in Chapter III., and ten more letters of later date, with the passionate outburst from Byron (May 17, 1819) which occasioned them, will be found in Chapter IV.

Byron’s own letters to Augusta and three to Lady Byron will be found in Chapter XI.

The italics in all these letters are those of the writers themselves. The notes are throughout mine.—Ed.]

Lady Byron to the Hon. Mrs. Villiers.
Kirkby. May 6 1816.

My dear Mrs. Villiers, I have burnt your letter, which relieved me from some anxiety. I should have great consolation in thinking that A— was more deluded than deceiving in the opinions she now declares—for, to me, duplicity is the most unpardonable crime—the only one that could alienate my kindness from her. Your argument that the Physician should know the whole of the Malady, would lead me to regret that a natural horror of the subject, and a feeling for her, had kept me so long silent to you—and even when I did speak, the only effect I meant to produce was that of inclining you to forgive whilst you lamented this impression on my mind, without at all convincing you of its justice. Nor do I now assert that it is in my power to convince you, though my own opinion is unalterable—but you shall receive any information by which you can be enabled to do her good. My great object, next to the Security of my Child, is, therefore, the restoration of her mind to that state which is religiously desirable. I differ from you in regard to the effects of an unequivocal communication. It is easier for the injured than the guilty to pardon, & I doubt if any woman would forgive to another such an avowal. I have sometimes thought that a tacit understanding existed between her and me—particularly when she believed him acquitted by Insanity, and seemed herself sinking under the most dreadful remorse—but her tone has since changed from penitence to pride. It is scarcely possible she could on various occasions have supposed me unconscious, unless that tenderness towards her which encreased my grief & compassion, rendered her blind to impressions that anyone, situated as I was, must have received—and I do not conceive that the repetition of his words to me in private, could make a change in her feelings, if what passed in her presence did not.


In regard to the promise—if there were such a previous condition she would attribute to it any subsequent kindness on my part—which would therefore lose every beneficial or consolatory effect to her—but I hope to reconcile & surmount these obstacles by some means—Perhaps no human power can create the spirit of humility and repentance which I pray God to bestow upon her—If you would do her good, you judge most wisely in appearing wholly unsuspicious—Let us not be impatient with a “mind diseased”—but wait to assist the effects of Time—Absence—and I hope—Solitude—for it is not whilst reflection is excluded by the engagements of Society, that moral principle can be revived—Nor do I think it can be forced upon the mind by sudden or violent means—Whatever may be the intermediate circumstances, it will be in her power to reclaim my friendship whenever it can really serve her for more than worldly purposes—to speak seriously as I feel, I regard this as a Christian duty—

There are parts of my conduct I wish to explain to you—particularly how I came to express satisfaction in her remaining in London during my first visit here—1 though before I left it I had strongly advised her removal for her own sake. I had even told her what Dr Baillie said, upon the presumption of Insanity, that he ought not to be left with any2 young woman after my departure. My anxiety to prevent her continuing in the house was such, that I thought it my duty to confide to Mrs. Byron3 only, the horrible desires he had entertained and gave her permission to communicate them to A— if absolutely necessary to save her from imprudence about him. I afterwards wrote to Mrs B—from hence, saying that my apprehensions were relieved by Capt. B’s residence in the house—A’s letters to me here also weakened these impressions of existing danger,

1 Lady Byron had gone to Kirkby in April of the preceding year to see her uncle, Lord Wentworth, on his deathbed.

2 Underlined twice.

3 Mrs. Sophia Byron, “Aunt Sophy.”

which I was always struggling to repel. Still it was only when my enfeebled & distracted state of mind was worked upon by the representations of hazard to
Lord B— if left alone, that I uttered those expressions, which almost all her letters were calculated to extort—& before I left this place, I decidedly expressed to her my conviction that those fears which were the alledged causes of her stay were groundless.

I will observe about Col. Leigh—but I wrote to him such a letter the first time I came here, as must have answered the effect I then intended, of preventing his suspicions, which could only do harm—

Say you have received this—& if its contents can be of any use, I will not regret the pain which every discussion of this topic costs me—

Believe me—very truly & affectionately yours


P.S.—My late maid’s trunks, when opened in consequence of the execution, were found to contain divers stolen goods—so much for the respectable witness—!

The Hon. Mrs. Villiers to Lady Byron.
Thursday May 9th. [1816].
My dear Lady Byron

Your kind letter reached me very safely yesterday—and I sincerely thank you for it. Whatever steps you take towards the attainment of the objects you have in view will, I have no doubt, be right, & I can only again repeat that if I can in any degree contribute to either I shall at all times be most happy (&) ready to comply with your wishes—Nothing can be more amiable than all your feelings towards poor A. & I trust the time will come when she will fully appreciate them. Her fever has not yet subsided—and the wretched condition of her own affairs must and will for a time, prevent all retrospective recollections turning to good account. Her expressions of conscious innocence to me are certainly wonderful—but I think I can, under various pre-
tences, check intemperate language to all but myself, where it will do no harm. It is very good of you to enter into any details with me explanatory of your conduct—I feel I have no possible right to ask them—yet your confidence almost inclines me to risk being indiscreet. If I am so—send me no answer—but I feel so sure that you had a good reason for every action, that I wish if possible to be able to assign such to myself, as well as others, for one thing—namely—your having urged A. to come to town during your confinement.—This circumstance was mentioned to me by A. in consequence of her having heard both from the Wilmots and me that
Ld. Byron had allowed himself to advance opinions publickly wh. could not but create the reports that had been circulated—& she says “if Ly. B. had ever heard such reports or if she had not treated them with the contempt they deserved, would she have invited me to come?” I confess I constantly used this argument myself while she was in Piccadilly & this makes me perhaps doubly anxious to be set right in this particular. Nothing could be more natural than your wish for her to remain a few days after you left town under all the circumstances you mention—Dr. Baillie’s opinion was entirely suppressed to me—and so have many other things not unnaturally—tho’ alas all this confirms the recent impression I have received.

The anecdote of your maid is very satisfactory—I never thought much faith shd. be given to her evidence but this ought to be known. Always believe me very affectionately yours

T. V.
Lady Byron to the Hon. Mrs. Geo. Villiers.
Kirkby. May 12. 1816.

My dear Mrs Villiers—I consider it as a very kind proof of your wish to do me justice that you desire to know my reasons, which I shall have real satisfaction in submitting to you—
It must be remembered that my Conviction was progressively formed, and not till lately fixed—and though my suspicion had been awakened very early, it was not at the period you allude to, sufficiently corroborated to have been made a principle of conduct without risking a cruel injury to one who professed herself most affectionately & disinterestedly devoted to my welfare. There was no medium—I must either have treated her as guilty or innocent—My Instinct too strongly dictated the former, but the evidence then rested chiefly on his words & manners, & her otherwise unaccountable assent & submission to both. If you regret that I did not attach more weight to my own wretched doubts, you will not dislike the feeling which rejected them as long as possible. Besides at the time of her return to Piccadilly, I conceived there was no danger to her from him, as his inclinations were most averse from her, & absorbed in another direction—and believing that the residence of any human being in the house would be the means of saving myself and my child, I had but her to look to, and was almost compelled to banish the ideas that would have deprived me of this last resource. Nevertheless before I allowed her to come, for she had many times offered it, I seriously urged her to reflect on the consequences that might ensue to herself. During her last visit my suspicions as to previous circumstances were most strongly corroborated—above all by her confessions & admissions when in a state of despair & distraction. They were of the most unequivocal nature possible, unless she had expressly named the subject of her remorse and horror. I have answered them in as pointed a manner—and have urged to her that everything was expiable by repentance, when she repeatedly said she had forfeited all hope of salvation—I must have had a heart of iron could I then have cast her off—No—she was only dearer to me, and I felt more bound to be the support of one whom I thought broken-hearted. I honor you—and love you for being her determined friend—it is the best privilege of an unblemished reputa-
tion to be kind to victims like her. Do not trouble yourself about her unjust language concerning me. If it had been my principal object to gain worldly opinion, you must be sensible that I should have acted differently throughout. Perhaps she does not feel towards me the anger she may think it necessary to show. You observe her omissions. It has appeared to me that all she has or has not said, has had so studied a reference to one consideration as to prove that it constantly occupied her thoughts.—Guilt has often betrayed itself by the endeavour to make out a good case—and I will venture to assert that her letters, if all produced together, would strongly tend to such an effect, by providing against it—When I tell you that
Ld. B. made two, and I believe three of the worst women in London his confidantes on this subject, even in detail—and even on paper—you will not wonder at the report—I have been the means of silencing its principal sources. . . .

Ever yours affectly.
A. I. B

I have written to thank Col. L—— for a letter apprizing me of the event1 which you of course have heard.

The Hon. Mrs. Villiers to Lady Byron.
Saturday May 18th (1816).

You do me but justice, my dear Lady Byron, but you do it in the kindest manner, when you say that you believe it was from a wish to do you justice, & not from any motives of impertinent curiosity that I ventured to ask the question I did. Nothing I am sure can be more satisfactory to my mind than your answer—and if it were possible (which I hardly think) for you to stand higher in my estimation than you did before, it would be from the explanation you have so fully and kindly given me on the only point which still perplexed me. It

1 Birth of Mrs. Leigh’s son Frederick.

is a matter of great regret, (I will not say of reproach) to me to find how frequently I have been induced from
A’s partial statements, which I believed made with the most unreserved confidence, to give the very worst advice possible. She frequently wrote to me in the autumn stating your urgent requests to her to go to town, her alarm that things were not going on well, and that you thought she might be of use, Col. L’s humeur at her going & asking my advice—her offers of going, & your admonitions to her to reflect on the consequences were suppressed—& I unequivocally advised her going, telling her that after all the kindness she had experienced from you she should not hesitate to make the only return in her power. In short it is useless now to go over the numerous instances where I now find I have been made accessory to her doing the very things she ought most to have avoided—all this cannot be recalled—the object must be now to reduce her tone again from pride to penitence—& to produce a change in her feelings for her own sake as well as for that of others.

I fancy that I now understand & read her mind upon this subject—I may be wrong—but I will give you my reasons—She frequently asserted to me in her letters when she first left town that she knew the reports originated in M. House1 & were circulated by Ly. C. L.2 I told her in reply that tho’ what she said might be true, yet that Ld. B. had by his imprudent way of talking given ample grounds for such reports—She then expressed herself with great warmth—assuring me I had been misinformed, that whoever ventured to assert that he had so done spoke untruly, for that he had given her his solemn word of honor that he never had said anything that could give rise to any report of the kind, that she must believe his word, could not, would not believe him dishonourable, &c., &c. To all this I briefly replied that two years ago he had advanced at Holland House the most extraordinary theory upon such subjects, & that

1 Melbourne House.

2 Lady Caroline Lamb.

the person from whom I heard it was one whose veracity was undoubted—When she found I alluded to things said in general terms, & not any direct allusion to her, she softened—said it was a pity he wd. say such things that she had often remonstrated in vain—that he only said these things to surprise people & that his words did him more harm than his actions &c!—All this and many other things of the same sort lead me to believe that he did give his word of honor that he had never betrayed her to you or to anyone else, more than by such things as may have passed in her presence, which she may think do not after all amount to proof & might be set down to the score of his general cruelty to you—her submission & almost tacit acknowledgment at the moment I conceive to have arisen from her conviction of his insanity & consequent dread of his betraying her. Now I cannot but think that if she was told by some proper person, & perhaps no one could do this so properly as
Mr. Wilmot, how completely he had committed her to you: if she could be told certain facts which could only be known to you thro’ him & which perhaps she must feel to be true—if above all she could be made to believe the fact you mention in your letter of his having even betrayed her in writing to two or three women, surely nobody but Calantha1 could remain infatuated after that—With such knowledge absence would essentially save her. Without it I cannot but foresee a probable evil—that from the state of their circumstances he may propose to her to go abroad to him, she may think it a better alternative than starvation (believing the world ignorant) & Col. L. is quite capable of acquiescing in it. You say she would never forgive you for such an avowal of your knowledge—but who is to suffer for her unforgiveness—not you—but her—& this she has sense enough to see after the first entêtement is over—& her affection for her children will I think prevent her attempting to make any resistance that shd. produce an éclat which must terminate in her ruin and theirs. I really feel

1 Heroine of Lady Caroline Lamb’s novel of “Glenarvon.”

ashamed of the quantity I have written—nothing can excuse it but your extreme kindness & tenderness towards poor A. I do not believe she ever now alludes to her impression of your coldness to anyone but me, at least she tells me not—but I don’t believe it would signify the least now. The general impression, as far as I am a judge, is so perfectly now what it should be—a very judicious letter of yours1 which I have seen circulated respecting Ld. B.’s systematic cruelty has done much good, & even this most extraordinary production “
Glenarvon” tends to do you justice in the eyes of the world—for nobody doubts the correctness of Glenarvon’s character—Of course you have read it & did you ever read such a book?

A. never told me of your promise to her about Georgy nor do I know now what it is—Pray tell me—Whatever it is I cannot but consider it a most extraordinary act of kindness.

Believe me my dear Lady Byron I most willingly give credit to whatever expressions of kindness & regard you are good enough to bestow upon me for few things can be so gratifying to me as in any degree to possess your affection or good opinion—& I am too anxious to retain them not to rejoice at your unchanging disposition—it is perhaps but a poor return though a very true one to tell you how sincerely I am ever affectionately yrs

T. V.
Lady Byron to the Hon. Mrs. Villiers.
Kirkby. May 23. 1816.
My dear Mrs. Villiers

I will first state my objections to the plan of a full & immediate communication—then tell you what will I think effect all the desired ends without risk of any sort——

“The fever has not yet subsided”—it is perhaps the crisis—and would you submit to one in a state of delirium or “infatuation” a point of conduct on which

1 See postscript to Lady Byron’s letter of May 23.

all the future welfare of that individual must depend? From all I learn of her present temper, no result but that of precipitate desperation can be expected. She would defy accusation till she would force me to what I most deprecate—to countenance the report, and it could afford me no satisfaction that the effects of her imprudent resentment should recoil upon herself. A short absence has been said to increase passion—a long one to exhaust it—and I think this peculiarly true of dispositions like hers. Any compulsory attempt to divide, has, with every one, the effect of attaching the feelings more closely, but they may die away if not kept alive by the presence of their object. I am decidedly of opinion that he will not wish her to follow him—but were there such a probability, I would use every power to prevent it—Might she not be driven to this alternative by finding her reputation here even more precarious than she had imagined?—if she does not know how far he has betrayed her, which I partly doubt from her anticipations of the Report in a particular quarter, (as I could show you in a letter of hers to me previous to my father’s proposal of a separation) and from what I have heard him say to her—I believe you read her motives justly, and I fear that much of the despair, which I hoped to be the work of returning Conscience, arose from her dread of exposure.

The measure which I propose to take appears to me to unite the following advantages—that it will make herself acquainted with my real opinions & feelings, without binding me to avow them publicly, should she be desperate in the first impulse—that it will nevertheless suspend this terror over her, to be used as her future dispositions & conduct may render expedient—whilst it leaves her the power of profiting by my forbearance, without compelling the utterly degrading confession of her own guilt——

I intend then to write to her in substance as follows: [Lady Byron now gives a short résumé of her letter of June 3rd to Mrs. Leigh which follows this one.—Ed.]
I wish to recur once more to my former letters of which she told you to justify her second visit. As I wrote to her upon condition she should burn, I am anxious not to avail myself of that circumstance to deny anything she might otherwise have shown in her defence—My letters certainly expressed both confidence & affection. The only reason for her visit that I dwelt upon was the possibility of preventing mischief to him—& were she conscious of a cause why she could not have that power, the whole ground of my receiving her was taken away—& she could not to herself assign any other. He had threatened to bring a mistress into the house during my confinement—and to this moment I believe he would, had she not been there—So that between his actual cruelty—and her seeming kindness I can scarcely say I had an option. One of the most singular circumstances was this: After his visit for a week to Six M.—1 (Aug. 31) she wrote to me more than once saying she had things that might be very material to communicate to me—but would not trust them on paper. When she came, and I asked what they were—having been most anxious to see her for that reason as well as others, she made an embarrassed excuse, & had nothing to communicate.

As she had in the summer expressed anxiety about Georgiana’s welfare in case of her death, I promised to give every care in my power to the welfare of her Child, in such an event. I then wrote to her that though I foresaw a time and circumstances when her feelings would be estranged from me, this promise would not be affected thereby. My pecuniary powers are now diminished—my intention, as I told you is the same—With regard to all this I wish to recall to your mind what I believe I told you—that my reasons might not convince others as perfectly as they convince myself, because—I have seen & heard, whilst others must depend not only upon my veracity, but in part on my discernment—and on this account should you hereafter

1 Mrs. Leigh’s house, Six Mile Bottom, near Newmarket.

form an opinion different from mine, I should not think it any injustice to me, unless you were to condemn me for a conviction to myself irresistible—

Yours affectly.
A. I. B.

P.S.—I will trouble you to communicate my letter to Mr. Wilmot1—He will tell you how he became unavoidably acquainted with my opinion, though it could not be deposited with one who deserved more entire confidence.

I say nothing of your kindness—nor of the length of my letter—believing that you will understand what I suppress.

I do not know what letter of mine can have been shown about, as I never wrote any on the subject that I did not mean to be private, though I have no doubt it was circulated with the kindest intentions.

Lady Byron to the Honble Mrs. Leigh.
Monday June 3rd 1816.
My dear Augusta,

Before your Confinement I would not risk agitating you, but having the satisfaction of knowing you are recovered, I will no longer conceal from yourself that there are reasons founded on such circumstances in your conduct, as, (though thoroughly convinced they have existed) I am most anxious to bury in silence, which indispensably impose on me the duty of limiting my intercourse with you—

I should more deeply lament this necessary consequence of causes,—(on the supposition of which, whilst in any degree doubtful, it would have been unjust to act)—if your feelings towards me could give me the power of doing you any good,—but you have not disguised your resentment against those who have befriended me, and have countenanced the arts which have been employed to injure me—Can I then longer believe

1 Robert Wilmot Horton, Lord Byron’s cousin.

those professions of affection, and even of exclusive zeal for my welfare, which I have been most reluctant to mistrust?—And on this ground my conduct, if known, would be amply & obviously justified to the world. I shall still not regret having loved and trusted you so entirely—May the blessing of a merciful God be with you & those nearest you—I am truly interested in the welfare of your children, and should your present unhappy dispositions be seriously changed, you will not then be deceived in considering me as one who will afford every service and consolation of your most faithful friend——

A. I. Byron.
Kirkby June 3. 1816.

I attest this to be a true copy of a letter from Lady Byron to Mrs. Leigh, sent according to date—

Ralph Noel.
Kirkby Mallory
June 3rd. 1816.
Lady Byron to the Hon. Mrs. Geo. Villiers.
Endorsed:1 June 4th 1816.
My dear Mrs. Villiers

Our present unanimity of opinion is a great comfort to me—I entertain no doubt whatever as to the propriety of the measure which I have taken according to your wishes, but not till my own mind was convinced they were most judicious—My Sincerity must atone for this uncomplimentary speech—I would send you a copy of my letter to her, but I may wish to say that I have not given one—By avoiding all ambiguity of meaning I have precluded the occasion for further explanation—yet, though I have expressed myself thoroughly convinced, and that no doubt remains of the existence of these circumstances, I have said everything that could soften the blow—every thing that I truly feel—Notwithstanding

1 Apparently by Mrs. Villiers. Where necessary all Lady Byron’s letters to Mrs. Villiers were thus endorsed.

the hope of cure, I could not inflict this wound without a degree of pain, the dread of which had perhaps before swayed my reason against your arguments—I think her first feeling will be terror—her second pride—& under what influence she may reply I cannot conjecture—It is dreadful to remember that this disease of her mind has been increasing constantly since 1813—

I am going on Saturday to Lowestoffe in Suffolk, for sea-air, which is quite necessary to me, as I feel more weakness now than during my greater exertions—Sleepless nights, and head-achy days—I take my Child—It is stouter and stronger than any boy or girl of a year old that I ever saw, and so goodhumoured that it will be a very agreeable companion.

Will you think of Lowestoffe?—Besides the subject of our mutual interest I shall wish to hear of you—and above all to be remembered as

Yours very affectionately
A. I. B.
The Hon. Mrs. Geo. Villiers to Lady Byron.
Knightsbridge. Saturday [June 8th 1816].

I thank you exceedingly for communicating to me that you had taken the measure proposed—You will easily imagine my anxiety for the result—To-day I feel very sanguine—because I have had a letter from her which must have been written since she received yours, & in which she does not say one word of you or your letter—I am willing to hope & believe that this is conclusive as to her intention of taking it as she ought—quietly at least—& if quietly surely it must be gratefully—Her letters of late have been dejected & melancholy to the greatest degree, & that of to-day more so than ever—Her letters to Ld. F. Bentinck (who is, as you probably know, very much in her confidence & very kind to her) are, he tells me, more melancholy than ever—but I do
not hear a word of any particular cause. Pray have the kindness to write me a line whenever you hear from her, for it is a very nervous moment—if your letter has had the desired effect, by which I mean if it makes her feel convinced she has been betrayed—I am persuaded that every other feeling one wishes her to have will follow of course, & you will have been the means of saving her both here & hereafter—

The Hon. Mrs. Leigh to Lady Byron.
Six Mile Bottom. June 6th 1816.
My dear Annabella

As I always mistrust the first impulses of my feelings, & did not wish to write under the influence of such as your letter could not fail to produce, I would not answer it by return of post. I cannot say that I am wholly surprised at its contents. Your silence towards me during so long an interval and when all obvious necessity for it must have ceased formed so decided a contrast to your former kindness to me—and to what my Conscience tells me my conduct towards you deserved from you that it could not but require some explanation. I have often thought of—though not determined—to ask it—when my health strength & spirits wd allow me—if my feelings have been wounded by your silence, how much more deeply they must now be so by your expressions I need not—cannot say—To general accusations I must answer in general terms—and if I were on my death Bed I could affirm as I now do that I have uniformly considered you and consulted your happiness before and above any thing in this world. No sister ever could have the claims upon me that you had—I felt it—& acted up to the feeling to the best of my judgement. We are all perhaps too much inclined to magnify our trials, yet I think I may venture to pronounce my situation to have been & to be still one of extraordinary difficulty. I have been assured that the
tide of public opinion has been so turned against my
Brother that the least appearance of coolness on your part towards me would injure me most seriously—& I am therefore for the sake of my children compelled to accept from your compassion the “limited intercourse” which is all you can grant to one whom you pronounce no longer worthy of your esteem or affection! But the time may come when your present convictions and opinions will change—in the interim I feel how hopeless would be every attempt to defend myself. The only person whose testimony could avail me in proving how strictly and invariably I have done my duty by you—I have heard from yr own lips you consider unworthy of belief. On the particular points of accusation—1st. my “not having disguised my resentment to those who befriended you” I know of nothing but the change of manner to Miss Doyle, which was discussed between us ye last time I saw you—and, 2nd. “my having countenanced the acts which were employed to injure you”——!!! really you must have been cruelly misinformed and I cruelly injured I ask not however by whom—for I feel I scarcely could forgive them. Before you judge and condemn me on the first point—you ought to consider that I as well as you may have had provocation—that it was impossible hearing and seeing all I did I should not be under the influence of some degree of irritation—not against those who wd befriend you1 but whom I often thought condemned others1 too severely. I will not however say more at present than that you need not indeed regret having loved & trusted me so entirely—& the sincerity of my affection for you & exclusive zeal for your welfare all2 to whom I ever spoke of you—and who witnessed my conduct can fully prove. I would not dwell a moment on having done what was only my duty and inclination but in self-defence——

My “present unhappy dispositions”——! I have

1 Underlined twice.

2 Underlined three times.

indeed in outward causes sufficient to make any one wretched but inward peace which none can take away—It never occurred to me you could act but on the strictest sense of duty—therefore I’m convinced you do so now towards me.

God bless you—for every mark of kindness which you have bestowed on me & mine of which neither time or circumstances can efface the recollection.

Believe me gratefully & afly yrs
A. L.

Will you be so good as to acknowledge the receipt of the Bulletin1 to Ly Noel. I think it unnecessary to trouble her as I write to you—I am sorry to hear her acct of yr health——

Lady Byron to the Hon. Mrs. Geo. Villiers.
June 15. 1816.
My dear Mrs. Villiers

Having made a visit of two days on the road, I only arrived here yesterday, and found your letter—The material parts of the answer which I have received are that she acquiesces in the limited intercourse, and seeks no further explanation—of course she does not plead guilty, but her assertions are not exactly to the point, though it is evident she perfectly understands me—There is no offensive or irritating expression towards me, and notwithstanding the share which prudence may have had in preventing any such, I felt much more affected than I should have been by her indulgence of more angry feelings—In short it is perhaps the best letter she could have written—How bitter it is to correspond on altered terms with one whom we have not ceased to love——

Do you not consider it mutually advisable, since you have given me so much reason to consult you as my

1 The bulletin as to the health of the child, Ada Byron, sent by Lady Noel to Mrs. Leigh for transmission to Lord Byron.

friend likewise, that I should write to her occasionally without adverting further to this subject?—I do not expect that her affections will ever be detached from him, but I trust they will be purified by reflection and sorrow—I do not think it essential to penitence that we should hate those who have sinned with us—we may, without this equally deplore the transgression, and resolve against its renewal.

I was the object of some obtrusive curiosity on my journey, particularly at Ely and Peterborough—At Bury I was presented with the “Farewell to England”—I think it a feebler effusion of the same sentiments as in the Fare thee well—Habits of misrepresentation necessarily entail a degree of self-delusion—we say things to persuade others till we persuade ourselves—and I have always found this so true of Lord Byron, that I am inclined to think he now really believes himself the injured person. When the whole force of such an imagination is turned to deceive the conscience it is too easy to find “a flattering unction”—and it is perhaps one of the most melancholy & fatal misapplications of human powers.

I am writing in full view of the sea, & not many yards distant—The House adjoining mine will be inhabited by my friend the young Lady Gosford—one of those whom I value most and whose society is likely to be the more salutary to me, as she is wholly unconnected with the causes of my deeper feelings—I have not seen her for the last three years—My health will improve in this quiet life, & then I shall have more power to enjoy the blessings which remain, & of which I am most sensible—

Believe me
Yours very affectly.
A. I. B.

I find I have not time to write to Mr. Wilmot by this post—will you tell him he shall hear from me soon.

The Hon. Mrs. Geo. Villiers to Lady Byron.
Knightsbridge, June 19th [1816].
My dear Lady Byron

Your letter has been quite a relief to my mind, tho’ I in some degree anticipated its contents from the tone of all A’s late letters to me—but still it is a weight off my mind that she should decidedly have taken the tone she has—at first her letters to me were all gloom & despair—speaking of her misery—of always having some fresh calamity—of her exertions to support herself on account of her baby &c.—all which might apply to her fresh pecuniary difficulties & I was therefore not called upon to make any comment but what related to such distresses—a total silence with respect to you and every thing concerning you de part & d’autre for a whole week—I then thought that absolute silence on my part at such a moment was almost a tacit avowal of my knowledge of what was passing, & as it was for her sake desirable that this should not appear I mentioned having heard that you were ill & gone to Lowestoffe & that probably this prevented your writing. Three letters arrived but no reply to this—at last came one with this sentence at the fag end—“I have written in such hurries lately I have I believe forgot to tell you that the last bulletin from Kirkby brought me also a few lines from Ly. B. I fear she is in very bad health.” !!!!!! I expressed my surprise at her having forgot to tell me this & merely asked if the letter was kind—To this she has not replied tho’ I have had two letters from her since, & I don’t think it necessary to say any more.

I consider that what has pass’d must be conclusive with respect to your greatest object—the safety of your Child—the production of this correspondence should it ever become necessary, & her quiet acquiescence in your proposal must be sufficient for your purpose—as far therefore as this goes, & as far as being convinced she will not bring absolute & immediate ruin upon herself by an éclat, I feel perfectly satisfied—I agree with you as
a general principle “that it is not essential to penitence that we should hate those who have sinned with us”—but this I look upon as a singular case—& nothing but a change of feeling can in this instance prevent a recurrence of sin should the opportunity recur by his coming home. What has pass’d with you will effectually prevent her going to him even if he were to propose it—but that is all. Did you tell her of his having betrayed her to others or do you think it possible to do this? Could she once be brought to believe this fact, I should hope much from it—She tells me she has not heard from him for a great while & I hear elsewhere that he is living at Geneva in such bad company that no English there visit him & hardly any natives—I wish from my soul he may be so occupied with fresh pursuits as to neglect her entirely—that would be her best chance—

She is ordered to come to London for the Pss. Mary’s marriage which I am very sorry for—the tourbillon of that, & her present exertions to sell the Six mile will give her no time for reflection.

As you very kindly ask my opinion as to your occasionally writing to A. on indifferent subjects I must say that I think your doing so will be very kind & very useful to her—& she must acknowledge to herself that it is so—to you it will afford the gratification that the consciousness of performing an act of charity must give—I perfectly believe what you conjecture as to the probability of Ld. B. considering himself the aggrieved person—I have seen self delusion practised in that way to an almost incredible degree in more instances than one—

I am very sincerely anxious to hear that you derive benefit from sea air & change of scene & rejoice that you have a friend at Lowestoffe—total solitude feeds more than cures any deep affliction—

The first impression made by the “Fare thee well” is completely done away with—& I have repeatedly heard great surprise expressed lately at your extraordinary forbearance & endurance—& not a word of
your obduracy—
Murray told me the Farewell to England was not Lord B.’s—& it is not published by him—Augusta has been dreadfully annoyed by the publication of the lines to her “fearing as everything was misrepresented these might be perverted too.” I told her the only objectionable part was the —— instead of her name, as I saw no reason for mystery between them—that I thought it very unfair of Ld. B. to imply she controuled him considering what his actions were—“Still may thy spirit rest on mine,” &c. but that was all.1 . . . I sent your letter to Mr. Wilmot as his anxiety on the subject was as great as mine—but I have not seen him alone since to hear what he says—Adieu my dear Lady B.—I am ashamed to see the quantity I have been writing—I will not be such a bore again, but pray let me hear from you, for I can with truth say that no one can feel a greater interest in all that concerns you than I do & that I am in the fullest acceptation of the words

Most affectionately yrs
Therese Villiers.

[The letter to which the following is an answer has not been preserved.—Ed.]

The Hon. Mrs. Leigh to Lady Byron.
6 Mile Bottom. Saturday June 22 (1816).2
My dear Annabella

Your letter is very acceptable—& more like comfort than any thing in any shape I have had this long time—for one word of kindness from you is I assure you of more value than many from others—I rejoice to hear so good an acct of dear little A—— has she more than the 2 teeth of which I heard from Lady Noel? I wish you could tell me anything as favourable of your own health. [Here comes a long passage about her children’s health and her domestic troubles.—Ed.] Now my dear A— here is a sheet of paper as usual full of

1 See Appendix D.

2 All Mrs. Leigh’s letters are endorsed with full dates by Lady Byron.

myself—Of course you received my answer to yr last—since which I have written you 3 others—all unsent—& all my hope & wish is to see you once more—I fancied my last letter might perhaps appear written pettishly—& to you I could not bear the thought of this—so I intended to have dispatched one today if only to say that I was persuaded you thought you were acting right by me & that even considering what you must think of me I owe you gratitude—putting the present out of the question—yr past kindness can never be forgotten—perhaps—& I earnestly hope it—that as I have often told you you once thought too well of me, you may some day discover you now think too ill—God bless you my dear

Ever yr grateful & affte
A. L.

If I am not alone don’t allude to this subject as I wd not add such a grievance to those which already abound.

Lady Byron to the Hon. Mrs. Geo. Villiers.
Endorsed: June 28. 1816.
My dear Mrs. Villiers

I am sorry too on some accounts that A. is going to Town, but may you not do some good by seeing her, & contribute to dispel her delusions? Except at one period I have always found her much more collected & prepared to repel suspicion than he was—and I have always observed the remarkable difference, that his feelings—distinct from practice—were much more sensitive & correct on all moral questions than hers. She did not appear to think these transgressions of consequence. Her self-condemnation has seemed so exclusively attached to what preceded my marriage, that, in opposition to every other probability, it has led me to doubt a positive renewal subsequently—but it is not uncommon in such cases for a compromise to be made with conscience when mischief has not been intended—I had another letter
from her yesterday—and I shall give you an extract for the more you know, the better you will be enabled to judge—

[Lady Byron now gives a copy of the same extracts from Mrs. Leigh’s letter of June 22, very slightly abridged, as have been printed here.]

. . . It is the idea of his occasional derangement which I suppose still continues, that prevents the estranging effect his dishonourable disclosures would otherwise have upon her—It comes in too well to indulge her blindness, and palliate his offences. I am disposed to trouble you with a copy of my reply, and request you to return it as I have no other—I shall be very glad if you think it well-calculated for the purpose I shall not give up, whilst I have any hope of being as much her friend as I wish. I feel for you when you will next meet her.

In a Postscript she desires me not to write on the subject except when she is alone, as she does not wish this to be added to other “grievances”! What is to rouse a feeling which appears completely done away, of the nature & magnitude of the offence (to which, even as an imputation, she is strangely insensible) I know not—I have endeavoured to touch her by expressing my own sentiments more fully—and was anxious to avoid every appe-[arance]? of obtruding an obligation,—when I withdrew esteem———Believe me

Yours most affectly.
A. I. B.
Lowestoffe—June 28.
Lady Byron to the Hon. Mrs. Leigh.
Endorsed:1 Copy June 30th 1816.
My dear A——

I did not mention your former letter only because any allusion to that subject must be as painful to me as to you, unless I could with sincerity express a change of opinion on the material point. In respect to the effects

1 By Lady Byron.

produced by those recent parts of your conduct which were openly unfavourable to me, I am willing to believe you did not wish to injure me—and indeed I have made every allowance—Personal considerations have had no weight in this instance and so far I hope you are not mistaken in the charitable construction you put on my motives. I thought that expressions of kindness might be offensive with such a communication, & for that reason I forbore to say much of what was in my heart towards you—I must disclaim all acknowledgements for feelings I cannot resign—there is nothing to wound your pride in accepting them—and it will be some consolation to me if you really value them—& if they lead you to forgive the sincerity of my avowal.

Do not pain me by recurring to obligations. If I could think you owed me any, it would be only for the endurance of trials of which I endeavoured to keep you ignorant—though you were their cause——I was not the less anxious to spare your feelings—to hope and trust for the future even when I could not but have the strongest doubts of the past. Yet I rejected suspicion and threw myself on your generosity. You need not regret the want of other testimonies to the personal kindness & attention by which, notwithstanding the unhappy impression on my mind, you have alleviated my other misery—For this I am still grateful—and shall always express myself so.

You express a desire to see me——If I might think only of myself I would go to you this moment—but I may not sacrifice others—& it is due to the future welfare of my child, perhaps eventually to your own, that I should at present act on principles contrary to my inclinations. From these considerations our personal intercourse must be suspended—though I will never appear to avoid you—In time circumstances, & above all, your own conduct, may lessen or encrease the objections which now appear—and it will indeed be a moment of comfort to me, that you ever have real comfort in meeting me as your friend & sister.


You will remember that when I made you a promise respecting Georgiana,1 I told you that no future estrangement between us would make any difference in its fulfilment—for I then instinctively felt much of what has since been brought more fully to my conviction—I will now only assure you that Georgiana could never learn from me anything but affection for her Mother, if you would still trust her with me—

A. I. B.
Lowestoffe—June 30 1816.
The Hon. Mrs. Leigh to Lady Byron.
6 M. B.2
Wednesday Evg. July 3 (1816)

When I begin writing to you my dear Annabella one thought crowds so fast upon another that I become quite bewildered—and every attempt I make to express myself is perfectly unsatisfactory to myself—I fear must be so to you—I regret this the more as all I hear from you only serves to increase my sense of the obligations I owe you—I shall not however say much of them—in the first place because I am dumb always when I feel deeply—and in the next it might only add to the appearance of duplicity (which with yr present opinions) you must believe me guilty of—I only wish every past & present thought could be open to you—you would then think less ill of me than you do now—I declare—after the strictest examination of my own heart, there is not one act or thought towards yourself I would not wish you acquainted with—You say my dear A—— I have been the cause of your sufferings—if I have it has been innocently—this must be my only consolation—Had I even entertained the slightest suspicions of any “doubts” of yours—I never could or would have entered your house—perhaps I did wrong as it was to do so—but I was under delusion certainly—(I don’t mean mad). The little portion of peace now remaining is in the reflexion that

1 Georgiana Leigh, afterwards Mrs. Trevanion.

2 Six Mile Bottom.

I endeavoured to do right. I bless God daily who alone has enabled me to preserve that—& I fervently pray that He will also enable me to endure my present trials & all future ones it may seem fit to Him to inflict so as eventually to turn them into blessings. For your sake—and not to prolong a discussion (so) painful to you—so useless to me—I will try to be brief as possible—Dearest
A—— I have not wronged you. I have not abused your generosity—I accept with gratitude & shall ever value every kind feeling of yours among my greatest blessings—I should have the same comfort I have ever felt in meeting you “as my Friend & Sister” since intentionally I have never injured you. You would pity me did you know what I must ever feel either in your absence or presence for having been the cause of one moment’s unhappiness to you! but rely upon one thing. I will never seek to see you while it is your wish I should not—One ray of comfort & hope suggested itself in the thought that we may meet again—that my future conduct may conduce to it—Tell me—pray—of anything in that which could by possibility atone for the past—in pity—tell it me dearest A. that I may have one more chance of happiness—

(Thursday. 4th July.) In respect to the “recent parts of my conduct openly unfavourable to you”—will you at a convenient opportunity explain what they were? for I really cannot guess—& surely I had friends who wd have sincerely told me of such circumstances in my conduct. Dear A. surely you have been misinformed—supposing me actuated by no better motive—regard for myself should have deterred me from such acts. I certainly have never wished to injure you—nor do I think I could had I desired it—I have another thing to say on the subject of my transmitting accounts of little A. A. It was imposed upon me without consulting me—though I heard the intention mentioned in a vague manner like others—My head was not then equal to judge whether it wd be right or wrong—& indeed I never considered it a certainty, till too late to decline it.
Ever since the receipt of your first letter—I have wished to do so—& have only been deterred by the fear of exciting suspicions which I would not do for the world. As long as I thought myself secure of your approbation, affection and esteem I really would never, have never, even to spare myself, declined any thing for the comfort or good of either party—but—now1 I do owe it to myself & others to avoid every possibility however remote of incurring censure—I wish I knew how to manage this! I have hitherto made it a rule to avoid every subject which might create or renew irritation——

Your kind offer about Georgiana—There is no human Being to whom I would so soon entrust her as you—I cannot say more except that all1 your kindness will ever be gratefully felt & remembered—every act, & I am fully aware how more & more I owe you gratitude—God bless you, my dearest A——

All this is quite unsatisfactory to me—as perfectly inadequate to express my feelings to you—I am so sorry you are not better—it is a comfort that Ly Gosford is with you & that you have no uneasiness about little A. A.—How is your Mother? I conclude not at Lowestoffe—you talked of Tunbridge for her & I hope she has tried it—I expect George2 on Sunday—& as our letters are 2 days on the road I fear I can’t hear from you by that day—I believe I shall be obliged to go to Town—perhaps next week—I will let you know if I do—

I am interrupted & obliged to conclude in haste—

Ever yr most grateful & affe
A. L.

1 Underlined twice.

2 Colonel Leigh.