LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Astarte: a Fragment of Truth
Lady Byron to Theresa Villiers, 23 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 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.