LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Astarte: a Fragment of Truth
Theresa Villiers to Lady Byron, 12 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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Produced by CATH
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.