LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Astarte: a Fragment of Truth
Lady Byron to Theresa Villiers, 6 May 1816

I. Byron Characteristics
II. Three Stages of Lord Byron’s Life
III. Manfred
IV. Correspondence of Augusta Byron
V. Anne Isabella Byron
VI. Lady Byron’s Policy of Silence
VII. Informers and Defamers
VIII. “When We Dead Awake”
IX. Lady Byron and Mrs. Leigh (I)
X. Lady Byron and Mrs. Leigh (II)
XI. Byron and Augusta
Notes by the Editor
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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—!