« FöregåendeFortsätt »
accepting payment; and stated that the Booty for "Childe Harold" and "The Corsair" had been given to himself. Ik sums due for the other two poems then published were still, it seems, in the publisher's hands. In the beginning of 1816 Byron declined to take the lax guineas for "Parisina" and the '"Si^ge of Corinth," and it was proposed to hand over the money to Godwin, Cccridge, and Maturin. ("Trie plan »is dropped at Murray1* objection, and the poet soon became less scrupulous.
These poems were written in the thick of totax distractions. Byron was tajtiliar at Hollandj Melbourne, and » Devonshire Houses. He knew Brummtj u4 was one of the dandies; he w»s a member of Watier's, then a "superb club," and appeared as a filoyer in a masquerade given by his fclkw-members in 1813; of the more iikrary and sober Alfred; of the Union, the Pugilistics, and the Owls or "Flyty-nights." He indulged in the pleas- 1 ura of his class, with intervals of selictntempt and foreboding. Scott and | Mine, de Stael (like Lady Byron) thought that a profound melancholy was in i£ajj&bjs. dominant mpod. He had reasons enough in his money embarrassments and in dangerous entanglements. Fashionable women adored the beautiful •*m£ poet and tried to soothe his Uightecf affections. Lady Morgan de=cnbts him as "cold, silent, and reserved," but doubtless not the less laminating. Dallas observed that his f'jyness speedily vanished, and found him in a brown study writing to some 5ne lady whose page was waiting in sarlet and a hussar jacket. /This may been Lady Carolines-Lamb, a »oman of some talent, but nighty and fxchable to the verge of insanity."1 She *as bom 23 Nov. 1785, the daughter ■ f the Earl of Bessborough, and, in June 1805 married William Lamb, afterwards Lord Melbourne. The women, as she says, "suffocated him" when she first saw him. On her own introduction by Lady Westmorland,
she turned on her heel and wrote in her diary that he was "mad, bad, and dangerous to know." The acquaintance was renewed at Lady Holland's, and for nine months he almost lived at Melbourne House, where he contrived :to "sweep away" the dancing, in which he could take no part. Lady Caroline did her best to make her passion notorious. "She "absolutely besieged him," says Rogers; told him in her first letter that all her jewels were at his service; waited at night for Rogers in his garden to ask him to reconcile her to Byron; and would return from parties in Byron's carriage or wait for him in the street if not invited. At last, in July 1813, it was rumoured in London that after a quarrel with Byron at a party Lady Caroline had tried to stab herself with a knife and then with fragments of a glass.1 Her mother now insisted upon her retirement to Ireland. After a farewell interview Byron wrote her a letter 2 which reads like an attempt to use the warmest phrases consistent with an acceptance of their separation, though ending with a statement of his readiness to fly with her. She corresponded with Byron from Ireland till on the eve of her return she received a brutal letter from, him,3 saying roundly that he was attached to another, and telling her to correct her vanity and leave him in peace. The letter, marked with Lady Oxford's coronet and initials, threw Lady Caroline into a fit, which involved leeching, bleeding, and bed for a week.
Lady Caroline's mother-in-law, Lady Melbourne, was sister of Sir R. Milbanke, who, by his wife, Judith Noel, daughter of Lord Wentworth, was father of an only daughter, Anne Isabella Milbanke, born 17 May 1792. Miss Milbanke was a woman of intellectual tastes; fond of theology and mathematics, and a writer of poems,
1 The party was on 5 July; Hayward, Eminent Statesmen, i. 350-3.
'Printed^ from the original manuscript in Jcaffreson, i. a6x.
a Printed in "Glcnarvon," and apparently acknowledged by Byron, Medwin, p. 274.
one or two of which are published in Byron's works.1 Byron described her to Mcdwin as having small and feminine, though not regular, features; the fairest skin imaginable; perfect figure and temper and modest manners. ' She was on friendly terms with Mrs: Siddons, Miss Baillie, Miss Edgeworth, and other literary persons who frequented her mother's house. A strong sense of duty, shown in a rather puritanical precision, led unsympathetic observers to regard her as prudish, pedantic, and frigid. Her only certain fortune was £10,000. Her father had injured a considerable estate by electioneering. Her mother's brother, Lord Wcntworth, was approaching seventy. His estate of some £7000 a year was at his own disposal, and she was held to be his favourite; but he had illegitimate children, and his sister, Lady Scarsdale, had sons and a daughter. Miss Milbanke was, therefore, an heiress with rather uncertain prospects. Byron, from whatever motives, made her an offer in 1812, which was refused, and afterwards opened a correspondence with her 2 which continued at intervals for two years. On 30 Nov. 1813 he notices the oddness of the situation in which there is "not a spark of love on either side." On 15 March 1813 he receives a letter from her and says that he will be in love again if he does not take care. Meanwhile he and his friends naturally held that a marriage might be his salvation. Lady Melbourne, whom on her death in 1818 he calls the "best, kindest, and ablest female" he ever knew, promoted a match with her niece, possibly because it would effecutally bar the intrigue with her daughter-in-law. In September 1814 he made an offer to Miss Milbanke in a letter, which, according to a story told by Moore, was the result of a momentary impulse. . Byron may be acquitted of simply mercenary motives.
1 Two arc given in Madame Belloc's Byron, p. 68.
• Campbell, New Monthly, xxviii. 374, contradicts, on Lady Byron's authority, Medwin's statement (p. 37). that she began the correspondence.
He never acted upon calculation, and had he wished, he might probably have turned his attractions to better account. The sense that he was drifting into dangerous embarrassments, which suggests hints of suicide, would no doubi recommend a match with unimpeachable propriety, as the lady's vanity waf ! equally flattered by the thought o I effecting such a conversion. Byror was pre-eminently a man who combine* strange infirmity of will with over powering gusts of passion. He driftti / indolently as long as drifting was pos 'sible, and then acted impetuously ii _ obedience to the uppermost influence. Byron's marriage took place 2 Jan 1815 at Seaham, Durham, the seat c Sir R. Milbanke. The honyemoon wa passed at Halnaby, another of his house in the same county. The pair returne to Seaham 21 Jan.; in March the visited Colonel and Mrs. Leigh at Si Mile Bottom, Newmarket, on their wa to London, where they settled 18 Marc 1815, at 13 Piccadilly Terrace for tr rest of their married life. Byron, i "The Dream," chose to declare th: on his wedding day his thoughts h: been with Miss Chaworth. He al told Medwin that on leaving the hou he found the lady's-maid placed betwehimself and his bride in the carriag Hobhouse, who had beenhis "best mar authoritatively contradicted this, and t statement of Mrs. Minns,1 who h been Lady Byron's maid at Halnal and previously, is that Lady Bvr arrived there in a state "buoyant a cheerful"; but that Byron's "irrej larity" began there and caused 1 misery, which she tried to conceal fn her mothcrV Lady Byron also wr to Hodgson'(15 Feb. 1816) that Byi had married her "with the deep determination of revenge, avowed the day of my marriage and execu ever since with systematic and inert ing cruelty." * The letters written
1 First published in NruvastU Chrtm J3 Sept. i860.
»Byron contradicts some report to this c to Mc-dwin, p. 30.
lie time, however, hardly support these saifments. Byron speaks of his haptsatss to Moore, though he is terribly bored by his "pious" father-in-law. lady Milbanke speaks of their happiness at Seaham. Mrs. Leigh tells Hodgson that Lady Byron's parents new pleased with their son-in-law, and reports favourably of the pair on their visit to Six Mile Bottom. In April Lord Wentworth died. The bulk of his property was settled upon Lady Milbanke (who, with her husband, now lock the name of Noel) and Lady Byron. On 29 July 1815 Byron executed the will proved after his death. He left all the property of which he could dispose in trust for Mrs. Leigh aid her children, his wife and any children he might have by her being now amply provided for. [ Lady Byron fully approved of this provision, and communicates it in an affectionate letter to Mrs. Leigh. J
Harness says that when the Byrons fat came to London no couple could be apparently more devoted; but troubles approached. Byron's expenses were increased. He had agreed to sell New9ead for £140,000 in September 1812; j'lt two years later the purchaser withdrew, forfeiting £25,000, which seems if have speedily vanished. In November 1815 Byron had to sell his library, though he still declined Murray's offers for his copyrights. Creditors (at whose raprese this questionable delicacy must nave been exercised) dunned the hustand of an heiress, and there were nine 'Witions in his house within the year. He found distractions abroad. He was a zealous plavgoer; Kean's performance of Sir Giles Overreach gave him a Hud of convulsive fit — a story which 'eralls his mother's at the Edinburgh 'Heatre, and of the similar effect afterwards, produced on himself by Alfieri's "Mirra". He became member of the committee of management of Drury Lane, and was brought into connections °f which Moore says that they gave no , realcause of offence, though the circunv")
-Unces were dangerous to the "steadi-;
ness of married life." We hear, too, of parties where all ended in "hiccup and happiness"; and it seems that Byron's dislike of seeing women eat led to a separation at the domestic board. The only harsh action to which he confessed was that Lady Byron once came upon him when he was musing over his embarrassments and asked "Am I in your way?" To which he replied, "Damnably."
On 10 Dec. 1815 Lady Byron gave birth to her only child, Augusta Ada. On 6 Jan. 1816 Byron gave directions to his wife "in writing" to leave London as soon as she was well enough. It was agreed, he told Medwin, that she should stay with her father till some arrangement had been made with the creditors. On 8 Jan. Lady Byron consulted Dr. Baillie, "with the concurrence of his family," that is, apparently, Mrs. Leigh and his cousin, George Byron, with whom she constantly communicated in the following period. Dr. Baillie, on her expressing doubts of Byron's sanity, advised her absence as an "experiment." He told her to correspond with him on "light and soothing" topics. She even believed that a sudden excitement might bring oh a "fatal crisis." She left London on 15 Jan. 1816, reaching her paTents at Kirkby Mallory on the 16th. She wrote affectionately to her husband on starting and arriving. The last letter, she says, was circulated to support the charge of desertion. It began, as Byron told Medwin, "Dear Duck," and w.n? signed by her pet name "Pippin." She writes to Mrs. Leigh on the same day that she has made "the most explicit statement " to her parents. They are anxious to do everything in their power for the "poor sufferer." He was to be invited at once to Kirkby Mallory, and her mother wrote accordingly on the 17th. He would probably drop a plan, already formed, for going abroad with Hobhouse on her parents' remonstrance. On 18 Jan. she tells Mrs. Leigh that she hopes that Byron will join her for a time and not leave her till there is a prosepct of an heir. Lady Noel has suggested that Mrs. Leigh might dilute a laudanum bottle with water without Byron's knowledge. She still writes as an affectionate wife, hoping that her husband may be cured of insanity. An apothecary, Le Mann, is to see the patient, and Lady Noel will go to London, consult Mrs. Leigh, and procure advice.
The medical advisers could find no proof of insanity, though a list of sixteen symptoms had been submitted to them. (The strongest, according to Moore, was the dashing to pieces of a "favourite old watch" in an excess of fury. A similar anecdote was told of his throwing a jar of ink out of window, and his excitement at the theatre is also suggested. £Lady Byron upon hearing the medical opinion immediately decided upon separation. Dr. Baillic and a lawyer, by Lady Noel's desire, "almost forced themselves upon Byron," Medwin, and confirmed Le Mann'3 report. On 25 Jan. 1816 Lady Byron tells Mrs. Leigh that she must resign the right to be her sister, but hopes that no difference will be made in their feelings. .From this time she consistently adheres to the view finally set forth in her statement in 1830. Her letters to Mrs. Leigh, to Hodgson, who had ventured to intervene, and her last letter to Byron (13 Feb. 1816), take the same ground. Byron had been guilty of conduct inexcusable if he weje an accountable agent, and therefore making separation a duty when his moral responsibility was proved. She tells Mrs. Leigh and Hodgson that he married her out of revenge; she tells Hodgson (15 Feb.) that her security depended on the "total abandonment of every moral and religious principle," and tells Byron himself that to her affectionate remonstrances and forewarnings of consequences he had replied by a "determination to be wicked though it should break my heart."
On 2 Feb. 1816 Sir R. Noel proposed an amicable separation to Byron, which he at first rejected. Lady Byron went to London and saw Dr. Lushington,
who, with Sir S. Romilly, had been co suited by Lady Noel, and had thi spoken of possible reconciliation. Lai Byron now informed him of fac "utterly unknown," he says, "I ha no doubt, to Sir R. and Lady Noel His opinion was "entirely changed He thought reconciliation impossibl and should it be proposed he cou take no part, "professionally or othe wise, towards effecting it." Mrs. Leij requested an interview soon after, whii Lady Byron declined "with the greate pain." Lushington had forbidden ai such interview, as they "might 1 called upon to answer for the mo private conversation." In a followii letter (neither dated) Lady Byron bq for the interview which she had refuse She cannot bear the thought of » meeting, and the "grounds of the ca! are in some degree changed." 1 Accon ing to Lady Byron's statements (in 183c Byron consented to the separation upc being told that the matter must othe wise come into court. • We may easi. believe that, as Mrs. Leigh tells M Horton, Byron would be happy 1
("escape the exposure," whatever i precise nature. He afterwards thre
"the responsibility for reticence on th other side. He gave a paper to M; Lewis, dated at La Mira in 1817, sa\ ing that Hobhouse had challenged th other side to come into court; that b only yielded because Lady Byron ha claimed a promise that he would conser to a separation if she really desired i He declares his ignorance of the chargt against him, and his desire to meet thei openly. This paper was apparenll shown only to a few friends. It wa first made public in the "Academy"' 9 Oct. 1869. Hobhouse 2 also said tha Byron was quite ready to go into couri and that Wilmot Horton on Lad Byron's part disclaimed all the curren scandals. It would seem, howevei Byron could have forced an open state ment had he really chosen to do sc
■ Addit. MS. 31037. ff. 33, 34
■ Sec Quarterly Review for October im January 1870, and July 1883.
Tats paper shows his consciousness that he ought to have done it if his case had 6rec producible. \ Lady Byron tells Hodgson at the time (15 Feb. 1816) he "dots know, too well, what he affects to inquire."
The question remains, what were the specific charges which decided Lady Byron and Lushington? A happy mar- , rage between persons so little congenial would have surprised his best friends. So far we might well accept the statement which Moore assigns to him: "My dear sir, the causes were too simple to be easily found out." But this will not explain Lady Byron's statements at the time, nor the impression made upon Lushington by her private avowal. Lady Byron only exchanged the hypothesis of insanity for that f dia-oiical pride. Byron's lifelong habit of "inverse hypocrisy" may account for something. Harness repotts that he used to send paragraphs to foreign papers injurious to his own character in order to amuse himself by mystiiving the English public. Some of Lady Byron's statements may strengthen the belief that she had taken some such fcnlish brags too seriously.
Other explanations have been offered. In 1856 Lady Byron told a story to Mrs. Beecher Stowe.' She thought' that by blasting his memory she might weaken the era influence of his writings, and shorten his expiation in another world. Lady Byron died in i860. After the publication of the Guiccioli memoirs in :868, Mrs. Stowe thought it her duty to publish the story in Macmillan's lfagnsV for Septemlier 1869 and the .•f&rnltc Monthly. Her case is fully set forth, with documents and some explanations, in "Lady Byron vindicated; a History of the Byron Controversy," 1S70. According to Mrs. Stowe, Lady Byron accused her husband to Lushington of an incestuous intrigue with Mrs. Leigh. \\n examination of all that is !tfio*n of Mrs. Leigh, of the previous relations between brother and sister, and especially of (Lady Byron's affectiwale relations to Mrs. Leigh at the
time, as revealed in letters since published,"; proves this hideous story to be absolutely incredible. Till 183P Mrs. Leigh continued to be on good terms with Lady Byron, and had conveyed messages between Byron and his wife during his life. The appointment of a trustee under Byron's marriage settlements in 1830 led to a disagreement. Lady Byron refused with considerable irritation a request made by Mrs. Leigh. All acquaintance dropped, till in 1851 Lady Byron consented to an interview. Mrs. Leigh was anxious to declare that she had not (as she supposed Lady Byron to believe that she had) encouraged Byron's bitterness of feeling towards his wife. Lady Byron replied simply, "Is that all?" No further communication followed, and Mrs. Leigh died 18 Oct. 1851. It can only be surmised that Lady Byron had become jealous of Byron's public and pointed expressions of love for his sister, contrasted so forcibly with his utterances about his wife, and in brooding over her wrongs had developed the hateful suspicion communicated to Mrs. Stowe, and, as it seems, to others. It appears too, from a passage in the Guiccioli memoirs, that at a time when Byron was accused of "every monstrous vice" his phrases about his pure fraternal affection suggested some such addition to the mass of calumny.1
Another suggestion made by Mr. Jeaffreson, that the cause was a connection formed by Byron about the time of the first separation with Jane Clairmont, daughter, by a previous marriage, of William Godwin's second wife, seems quite inadmissible. It entirely fails to explain Lady Byron's uniform assertions at the time and in 1830 2 that Byron had been guilty of conduct excusable only on the ground of insanity, and continued during their whole
1 Reminiscences of art Attache, by Hubert Jerningham (1886), contains a curious statement by Mme. Guiccioli as to Byron's strong affection for his sister.
a See ante, and letter to Lady Anne Barnard, published by Lord Lindsay in the Times in September i860.