Read CHAPTER 4.  RESULTS AFTER LORD BYRON’S DEATH. of Lady Byron Vindicated, free online book, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, on

At the time of Lord Byron’s death, the English public had been so skilfully manipulated by the Byron propaganda, that the sympathy of the whole world was with him.  A tide of emotion was now aroused in England by his early death ­dying in the cause of Greece and liberty.  There arose a general wail for him, as for a lost pleiad, not only in England, but over the whole world; a great rush of enthusiasm for his memory, to which the greatest literary men of England freely gave voice.  By general consent, Lady Byron seems to have been looked upon as the only cold-hearted unsympathetic person in this general mourning.

From that time the literary world of England apparently regarded Lady Byron as a woman to whom none of the decorums, nor courtesies of ordinary womanhood, nor even the consideration belonging to common humanity, were due.

‘She that is a widow indeed, and desolate,’ has been regarded in all Christian countries as an object made sacred by the touch of God’s afflicting hand, sacred in her very helplessness; and the old Hebrew Scriptures give to the Supreme Father no dearer title than ’the widow’s God.’  But, on Lord Byron’s death, men not devoid of tenderness, men otherwise generous and of fine feeling, acquiesced in insults to his widow with an obtuseness that seems, on review, quite incredible.

Lady Byron was not only a widow, but an orphan.  She had no sister for confidante; no father and mother to whom to go in her sorrows ­sorrows so much deeper and darker to her than they could be to any other human being.  She had neither son nor brother to uphold and protect her.  On all hands it was acknowledged that, so far, there was no fault to be found in her but her utter silence.  Her life was confessed to be pure, useful, charitable; and yet, in this time of her sorrow, the writers of England issued article upon article not only devoid of delicacy, but apparently injurious and insulting towards her, with a blind unconsciousness which seems astonishing.

One of the greatest literary powers of that time was the ‘Blackwood:’  the reigning monarch on that literary throne was Wilson, the lion-hearted, the brave, generous, tender poet, and, with some sad exceptions, the noble man.  But Wilson had believed the story of Byron, and, by his very generosity and tenderness and pity, was betrayed into injustice.

In ‘The Noctes’ of November 1824 there is a conversation of the Noctes Club, in which North says, ’Byron and I knew each other pretty well; and I suppose there’s no harm in adding, that we appreciated each other pretty tolerably.  Did you ever see his letter to me?’

The footnote to this says, ’This letter, which was PRINTED in Byron’s lifetime, was not published till 1830, when it appeared in Moore’s “Life of Byron.”  It is one of the most vigorous prose compositions in the language.  Byron had the highest opinion of Wilson’s genius and noble spirit.’

In the first place, with our present ideas of propriety and good taste, we should reckon it an indecorum to make the private affairs of a pure and good woman, whose circumstances under any point of view were trying, and who evidently shunned publicity, the subject of public discussion in magazines which were read all over the world.

Lady Byron, as they all knew, had on her hands a most delicate and onerous task, in bringing up an only daughter, necessarily inheriting peculiarities of genius and great sensitiveness; and the many mortifications and embarrassments which such intermeddling with her private matters must have given, certainly should have been considered by men with any pretensions to refinement or good feeling.

But the literati of England allowed her no consideration, no rest, no privacy.

In ‘The Noctes’ of November 1825 there is the record of a free conversation upon Lord and Lady Byron’s affairs, interlarded with exhortations to push the bottle, and remarks on whisky-toddy.  Medwin’s ‘Conversations with Lord Byron’ is discussed, which, we are told in a note, appeared a few months after the noble poet’s death.

There is a rather bold and free discussion of Lord Byron’s character ­his fondness for gin and water, on which stimulus he wrote ‘Don Juan;’ and James Hogg says pleasantly to Mullion, ’O Mullion! it’s a pity you and Byron could na ha’ been acquaint.  There would ha’ been brave sparring to see who could say the wildest and the dreadfullest things; for he had neither fear of man or woman, and would ha’ his joke or jeer, cost what it might.’  And then follows a specimen of one of his jokes with an actress, that, in indecency, certainly justifies the assertion.  From the other stories which follow, and the parenthesis that occurs frequently (’Mind your glass, James, a little more!’), it seems evident that the party are progressing in their peculiar kind of civilisation.

It is in this same circle and paper that Lady Byron’s private affairs come up for discussion.  The discussion is thus elegantly introduced: ­

Hogg. ­’Reach me the black bottle.  I say, Christopher, what, after all, is your opinion o’ Lord and Leddy Byron’s quarrel?  Do you yoursel’ take part with him, or with her?  I wad like to hear your real opinion.’

North. ­’Oh, dear!  Well, Hogg, since you will have it, I think Douglas Kinnard and Hobhouse are bound to tell us whether there be any truth, and how much, in this story about the declaration, signed by Sir Ralph’ [Milbanke].

The note here tells us that this refers to a statement that appeared in ‘Blackwood’ immediately after Byron’s death, to the effect that, previous to the formal separation from his wife, Byron required and obtained from Sir Ralph Milbanke, Lady Byron’s father, a statement to the effect that Lady Byron had no charge of moral delinquency to bring against him.

North continues: ­

’And I think Lady Byron’s letter ­the “Dearest Duck” one I mean ­should really be forthcoming, if her ladyship’s friends wish to stand fair before the public.  At present we have nothing but loose talk of society to go upon; and certainly, if the things that are said be true, there must be thorough explanation from some quarter, or the tide will continue, as it has assuredly begun, to flow in a direction very opposite to what we were for years accustomed.  Sir, they must explain this business of the letter.  You have, of course, heard about the invitation it contained, the warm, affectionate invitation, to Kirkby Mallory’ ­

Hogg interposes, ­

   ‘I dinna like to be interruptin’ ye, Mr. North; but I must inquire, Is
   the jug to stand still while ye’re going on at that rate?’

North ­’There, Porker!  These things are part and parcel of the chatter of every bookseller’s shop; a fortiori, of every drawing-room in May Fair.  Can the matter stop here?  Can a great man’s memory be permitted to incur damnation while these saving clauses are afloat anywhere uncontradicted?’

And from this the conversation branches off into strong, emphatic praise of Byron’s conduct in Greece during the last part of his life.

The silent widow is thus delicately and considerately reminded in the ‘Blackwood’ that she is the talk, not only over the whisky jug of the Noctes, but in every drawing-room in London; and that she must speak out and explain matters, or the whole world will set against her.

But she does not speak yet.  The public persecution, therefore, proceeds.  Medwin’s book being insufficient, another biographer is to be selected.  Now, the person in the Noctes Club who was held to have the most complete information of the Byron affairs, and was, on that account, first thought of by Murray to execute this very delicate task of writing a memoir which should include the most sacred domestic affairs of a noble lady and her orphan daughter, was Maginn.  Maginn, the author of the pleasant joke, that ’man never reaches the apex of civilisation till he is too drunk to pronounce the word,’ was the first person in whose hands the ‘Autobiography,’ Memoirs, and Journals of Lord Byron were placed with this view.

The following note from Shelton Mackenzie, in the June number of ’The Noctes,’ 1824, says, ­

’At that time, had he been so minded, Maginn (Odoherty) could have got up a popular Life of Byron as well as most men in England.  Immediately on the account of Byron’s death being received in London, John Murray proposed that Maginn should bring out Memoirs, Journals, and Letters of Lord Byron, and, with this intent, placed in his hand every line that he (Murray) possessed in Byron’s handwriting. . . . .  The strong desire of Byron’s family and executors that the “Autobiography” should be burned, to which desire Murray foolishly yielded, made such an hiatus in the materials, that Murray and Maginn agreed it would not answer to bring out the work then.  Eventually Moore executed it.’

The character of the times in which this work was to be undertaken will appear from the following note of Mackenzie’s to ‘The Noctes’ of August 1824, which we copy, with the author’s own Italics: ­

’In the “Blackwood” of July 1824 was a poetical epistle by the renowned Timothy Tickler to the editor of the “John Bull” magazine, on an article in his first number.  This article. . . professed to be a portion of the veritable “Autobiography” of Byron which was burned, and was called “My Wedding Night.”  It appeared to relate in detail everything that occurred in the twenty-four hours immediately succeeding that in which Byron was married.  It had plenty of coarseness, and some to spare.  It went into particulars such as hitherto had been given only by Faublas; and it had, notwithstanding, many phrases and some facts which evidently did not belong to a mere fabricator.  Some years after, I compared this “Wedding Night” with what I had all assurance of having been transcribed from the actual manuscripts of Byron, and was persuaded that the magazine-writer must have had the actual statement before him, or have had a perusal of it.  The writer in “Blackwood” declared his conviction that it really was Byron’s own writing.’

The reader must remember that Lord Byron died April 1824; so that, according to this, his ‘Autobiography’ was made the means of this gross insult to his widow three months after his death.

If some powerful cause had not paralysed all feelings of gentlemanly honour, and of womanly delicacy, and of common humanity, towards Lady Byron, throughout the whole British nation, no editor would have dared to open a periodical with such an article; or, if he had, he would have been overwhelmed with a storm of popular indignation, which, like the fire upon Sodom, would have made a pillar of salt of him for a warning to all future generations.

‘Blackwood’ reproves the ‘John Bull’ in a poetical epistle, recognising the article as coming from Byron, and says to the author, ­

   ’But that you, sir, a wit and a scholar like you,
   Should not blush to produce what he blushed not to do, ­
   Take your compliment, youngster; this doubles, almost,
   The sorrow that rose when his honour was lost.’

We may not wonder that the ‘Autobiography’ was burned, as Murray says in a recent account, by a committee of Byron’s friends, including Hobhouse, his sister, and Murray himself.

Now, the ‘Blackwood’ of July 1824 thus declares its conviction that this outrage on every sentiment of human decency came from Lord Byron, and that his honour was lost.  Maginn does not undertake the memoir.  No memoir at all is undertaken; till finally Moore is selected, as, like Demetrius of old, a well-skilled gilder and ‘maker of silver shrines,’ though not for Diana.  To Moore is committed the task of doing his best for this battered image, in which even the worshippers recognise foul sulphurous cracks, but which they none the less stand ready to worship as a genuine article that ‘fell down from Jupiter.’

Moore was a man of no particular nicety as to moralities, but in that matter seems not very much below what this record shows his average associates to be.  He is so far superior to Maginn, that his vice is rose-coloured and refined.  He does not burst out with such heroic stanzas as Maginn’s frank invitation to Jeremy Bentham: ­

   ’Jeremy, throw your pen aside,
      And come get drunk with me;
   And we’ll go where Bacchus sits astride,
      Perched high on barrels three.’

Moore’s vice is cautious, soft, seductive, slippery, and covered at times with a thin, tremulous veil of religious sentimentalism.

In regard to Byron, he was an unscrupulous, committed partisan:  he was as much bewitched by him as ever man has been by woman; and therefore to him, at last, the task of editing Byron’s ‘Memoirs’ was given.

This Byron, whom they all knew to be obscene beyond what even their most drunken tolerance could at first endure; this man, whose foul license spoke out what most men conceal from mere respect to the decent instincts of humanity; whose ’honour was lost,’ ­was submitted to this careful manipulator, to be turned out a perfected idol for a world longing for an idol, as the Israelites longed for the calf in Horeb.

The image was to be invested with deceitful glories and shifting haloes, ­admitted faults spoken of as peculiarities of sacred origin, ­and the world given to understand that no common rule or measure could apply to such an undoubtedly divine production; and so the hearts of men were to be wrung with pity for his sorrows as the yearning pain of a god, and with anger at his injuries as sacrilege on the sacredness of genius, till they were ready to cast themselves at his feet, and adore.

Then he was to be set up on a pedestal, like Nebuchadnezzar’s image on the plains of Dura; and what time the world heard the sound of cornet, sackbut, and dulcimer, in his enchanting verse, they were to fall down and worship.

For Lady Byron, Moore had simply the respect that a commoner has for a lady of rank, and a good deal of the feeling that seems to underlie all English literature, ­that it is no matter what becomes of the woman when the man’s story is to be told.  But, with all his faults, Moore was not a cruel man; and we cannot conceive such outrageous cruelty and ungentlemanly indelicacy towards an unoffending woman, as he shows in these ‘Memoirs,’ without referring them to Lord Byron’s own influence in making him an unscrupulous, committed partisan on his side.

So little pity, so little sympathy, did he suppose Lady Byron to be worthy of, that he laid before her, in the sight of all the world, selections from her husband’s letters and journals, in which the privacies of her courtship and married life were jested upon with a vulgar levity; letters filled, from the time of the act of separation, with a constant succession of sarcasms, stabs, stings, epigrams, and vindictive allusions to herself, bringing her into direct and insulting comparison with his various mistresses, and implying their superiority over her.  There, too, were gross attacks on her father and mother, as having been the instigators of the separation; and poor Lady Milbanke, in particular, is sometimes mentioned with epithets so offensive, that the editor prudently covers the terms with stars, as intending language too gross to be printed.

The last mistress of Lord Byron is uniformly brought forward in terms of such respect and consideration, that one would suppose that the usual moral laws that regulate English family life had been specially repealed in his favour.  Moore quotes with approval letters from Shelley, stating that Lord Byron’s connection with La Guiccioli has been of inestimable benefit to him; and that he is now becoming what he should be, ’a virtuous man.’  Moore goes on to speak of the connection as one, though somewhat reprehensible, yet as having all those advantages of marriage and settled domestic ties that Byron’s affectionate spirit had long sighed for, but never before found; and in his last resume of the poet’s character, at the end of the volume, he brings the mistress into direct comparison with the wife in a single sentence:  ’The woman to whom he gave the love of his maturer years idolises his name; and, with a single unhappy exception, scarce an instance is to be found of one brought. . . into relations of amity with him who did not retain a kind regard for him in life, and a fondness for his memory.’

Literature has never yet seen the instance of a person, of Lady Byron’s rank in life, placed before the world in a position more humiliating to womanly dignity, or wounding to womanly delicacy.

The direct implication is, that she has no feelings to be hurt, no heart to be broken, and is not worthy even of the consideration which in ordinary life is to be accorded to a widow who has received those awful tidings which generally must awaken many emotions, and call for some consideration, even in the most callous hearts.

The woman who we are told walked the room, vainly striving to control the sobs that shook her frame, while she sought to draw from the servant that last message of her husband which she was never to hear, was not thought worthy even of the rights of common humanity.

The first volume of the ‘Memoir’ came out in 1830.  Then for the first time came one flash of lightning from the silent cloud; and she who had never spoken before spoke out.  The libels on the memory of her dead parents drew from her what her own wrongs never did.  During all this time, while her husband had been keeping her effigy dangling before the public as a mark for solemn curses, and filthy lampoons, and secretly-circulated disclosures, that spared no sacredness and violated every decorum, she had not uttered a word.  She had been subjected to nameless insults, discussed in the assemblies of drunkards, and challenged to speak for herself.  Like the chaste lady in ‘Comus,’ whom the vile wizard had bound in the enchanted seat to be ‘grinned at and chattered at’ by all the filthy rabble of his dehumanised rout, she had remained pure, lofty, and undefiled; and the stains of mud and mire thrown upon her had fallen from her spotless garments.

Now that she is dead, a recent writer in ‘The London Quarterly’ dares give voice to an insinuation which even Byron gave only a suggestion of when he called his wife Clytemnestra; and hints that she tried the power of youth and beauty to win to her the young solicitor Lushington, and a handsome young officer of high rank.

At this time, such insinuations had not been thought of; and the only and chief allegation against Lady Byron had been a cruel severity of virtue.

At all events, when Lady Byron spoke, the world listened with respect, and believed what she said.

Here let us, too, read her statement, and give it the careful attention she solicits (Moore’s ‘Life of Byron,’ vol. vi. : ­

’I have disregarded various publications in which facts within my own knowledge have been grossly misrepresented; but I am called upon to notice some of the erroneous statements proceeding from one who claims to be considered as Lord Byron’s confidential and authorised friend.  Domestic details ought not to be intruded on the public attention:  if, however, they are so intruded, the persons affected by them have a right to refute injurious charges.  Mr. Moore has promulgated his own impressions of private events in which I was most nearly concerned, as if he possessed a competent knowledge of the subject.  Having survived Lord Byron, I feel increased reluctance to advert to any circumstances connected with the period of my marriage; nor is it now my intention to disclose them further than may be indispensably requisite for the end I have in view.  Self-vindication is not the motive which actuates me to make this appeal, and the spirit of accusation is unmingled with it; but when the conduct of my parents is brought forward in a disgraceful light by the passages selected from Lord Byron’s letters, and by the remarks of his biographer, I feel bound to justify their characters from imputations which I know to be false.  The passages from Lord Byron’s letters, to which I refer, are, ­the aspersion on my mother’s character , :  “My child is very well and flourishing, I hear; but I must see also.  I feel no disposition to resign it to the contagion of its grandmother’s society.”  The assertion of her dishonourable conduct in employing a spy , , etc.):  “A Mrs. C. (now a kind of housekeeper and spy of Lady N’s), who, in her better days, was a washerwoman, is supposed to be ­by the learned ­very much the occult cause of our domestic discrepancies.”  The seeming exculpation of myself in the extract , with the words immediately following it, “Her nearest relations are a –­;” where the blank clearly implies something too offensive for publication.  These passages tend to throw suspicion on my parents, and give reason to ascribe the separation either to their direct agency, or to that of “officious spies” employed by them. From the following part of the narrative , it must also be inferred that an undue influence was exercised by them for the accomplishment of this purpose:  “It was in a few weeks after the latter communication between us (Lord Byron and Mr. Moore) that Lady Byron adopted the determination of parting from him.  She had left London at the latter end of January, on a visit to her father’s house in Leicestershire; and Lord Byron was in a short time to follow her.  They had parted in the utmost kindness, she wrote him a letter, full of playfulness and affection, on the road; and, immediately on her arrival at Kirkby Mallory, her father wrote to acquaint Lord Byron that she would return to him no more.”

’In my observations upon this statement, I shall, as far as possible, avoid touching on any matters relating personally to Lord Byron and myself.  The facts are, ­I left London for Kirkby Mallory, the residence of my father and mother, on the 15th of January, 1816.  Lord Byron had signified to me in writing (Ja his absolute desire that I should leave London on the earliest day that I could conveniently fix.  It was not safe for me to undertake the fatigue of a journey sooner than the 15th.  Previously to my departure, it had been strongly impressed on my mind that Lord Byron was under the influence of insanity.  This opinion was derived in a great measure from the communications made to me by his nearest relatives and personal attendant, who had more opportunities than myself of observing him during the latter part of my stay in town.  It was even represented to me that he was in danger of destroying himself.  With the concurrence of his family, I had consulted Dr. Baillie, as a friend (Ja, respecting this supposed malady.  On acquainting him with the state of the case, and with Lord Byron’s desire that I should leave London, Dr. Baillie thought that my absence might be advisable as an experiment, assuming the fact of mental derangement; for Dr. Baillie, not having had access to Lord Byron, could not pronounce a positive opinion on that point.  He enjoined that, in correspondence with Lord Byron, I should avoid all but light and soothing topics.  Under these impressions I left London, determined to follow the advice given by Dr. Baillie.  Whatever might have been the nature of Lord Byron’s conduct towards me from the time of my marriage, yet, supposing him to be in a state of mental alienation, it was not for me, nor for any person of common humanity, to manifest at that moment a sense of injury.  On the day of my departure, and again on my arrival at Kirkby (Ja, I wrote to Lord Byron in a kind and cheerful tone, according to those medical directions.

’The last letter was circulated, and employed as a pretext for the charge of my having been subsequently influenced to “desert” my husband.  It has been argued that I parted from Lord Byron in perfect harmony; that feelings incompatible with any deep sense of injury had dictated the letter which I addressed to him; and that my sentiments must have been changed by persuasion and interference when I was under the roof of my parents.  These assertions and inferences are wholly destitute of foundation.  When I arrived at Kirkby Mallory, my parents were unacquainted with the existence of any causes likely to destroy my prospects of happiness; and, when I communicated to them the opinion which had been formed concerning Lord Byron’s state of mind, they were most anxious to promote his restoration by every means in their power.  They assured those relations who were with him in London, that “they would devote their whole care and attention to the alleviation of his malady;” and hoped to make the best arrangements for his comfort if he could be induced to visit them.

’With these intentions, my mother wrote on the 17th to Lord Byron, inviting him to Kirkby Mallory.  She had always treated him with an affectionate consideration and indulgence, which extended to every little peculiarity of his feelings.  Never did an irritating word escape her lips in her whole intercourse with him.  The accounts given me after I left Lord Byron, by the persons in constant intercourse with him, added to those doubts which had before transiently occurred to my mind as to the reality of the alleged disease; and the reports of his medical attendant were far from establishing the existence of anything like lunacy.  Under this uncertainty, I deemed it right to communicate to my parents, that, if I were to consider Lord Byron’s past conduct as that of a person of sound mind, nothing could induce me to return to him.  It therefore appeared expedient, both to them and myself, to consult the ablest advisers.  For that object, and also to obtain still further information respecting the appearances which seemed to indicate mental derangement, my mother determined to go to London.  She was empowered by me to take legal opinions on a written statement of mine, though I had then reasons for reserving a part of the case from the knowledge even of my father and mother.  Being convinced by the result of these inquiries, and by the tenor of Lord Byron’s proceedings, that the notion of insanity was an illusion, I no longer hesitated to authorise such measures as were necessary in order to secure me from being ever again placed in his power.  Conformably with this resolution, my father wrote to him on the 2nd of February to propose an amicable separation.  Lord Byron at first rejected this proposal; but when it was distinctly notified to him that, if he persisted in his refusal, recourse must be had to legal measures, he agreed to sign a deed of separation.  Upon applying to Dr. Lushington, who was intimately acquainted with all the circumstances, to state in writing what he recollected upon this subject, I received from him the following letter, by which it will be manifest that my mother cannot have been actuated by any hostile or ungenerous motives towards Lord Byron: ­

’"MY DEAR LADY BYRON, ­I can rely upon the accuracy of my memory for the following statement.  I was originally consulted by Lady Noel, on your behalf, whilst you were in the country.  The circumstances detailed by her were such as justified a separation; but they were not of that aggravated description as to render such a measure indispensable.  On Lady Noel’s representation, I deemed a reconciliation with Lord Byron practicable, and felt most sincerely a wish to aid in effecting it.  There was not on Lady Noel’s part any exaggeration of the facts; nor, so far as I could perceive, any determination to prevent a return to Lord Byron:  certainly none was expressed when I spoke of a reconciliation.  When you came to town, in about a fortnight, or perhaps more, after my first interview with Lady Noel, I was for the first time informed by you of facts utterly unknown, as I have no doubt, to Sir Ralph and Lady Noel.  On receiving this additional information, my opinion was entirely changed:  I considered a reconciliation impossible.  I declared my opinion, and added, that, if such an idea should be entertained, I could not, either professionally or otherwise, take any part towards effecting it.

’"Believe me, very faithfully yours,


   ’"Great George Street, Ja, 1830.”

’I have only to observe, that, if the statements on which my legal advisers (the late Sir Samuel Romilly and Dr. Lushington) formed their opinions were false, the responsibility and the odium should rest with me only.  I trust that the facts which I have here briefly recapitulated will absolve my father and mother from all accusations with regard to the part they took in the separation between Lord Byron and myself.

’They neither originated, instigated, nor advised that separation; and they cannot be condemned for having afforded to their daughter the assistance and protection which she claimed.  There is no other near relative to vindicate their memory from insult.  I am therefore compelled to break the silence which I had hoped always to observe, and to solicit from the readers of Lord Byron’s “Life” an impartial consideration of the testimony extorted from me.


   ‘Hanger Hill, Fe, 1830.’

The effect of this statement on the literary world may be best judged by the discussion of it by Christopher North (Wilson) in the succeeding May number of ‘The Noctes,’ where the bravest and most generous of literary men that then were ­himself the husband of a gentle wife ­thus gives sentence:  the conversation is between North and the Shepherd: ­

North. ­’God forbid I should wound the feelings of Lady Byron, of whose character, known to me but by the high estimation in which it is held by all who have enjoyed her friendship, I have always spoken with respect! . . .  But may I, without harshness or indelicacy, say, here among ourselves, James, that, by marrying Byron, she took upon herself, with eyes wide open and conscience clearly convinced, duties very different from those of which, even in common cases, the presaging foresight shadows. . . the light of the first nuptial moon?’

Shepherd. ­’She did that, sir; by my troth, she did that.’

. . . .

North. ­’Miss Milbanke knew that he was reckoned a rake and a roue; and although his genius wiped off, by impassioned eloquence in love- letters that were felt to be irresistible, or hid the worst stain of, that reproach, still Miss Milbanke must have believed it a perilous thing to be the wife of Lord Byron. . . .  But still, by joining her life to his in marriage, she pledged her troth and her faith and her love, under probabilities of severe, disturbing, perhaps fearful trials, in the future. . . .

’But I think Lady Byron ought not to have printed that Narrative.  Death abrogates not the rights of a husband to his wife’s silence when speech is fatal. . . to his character as a man.  Has she not flung suspicion over his bones interred, that they are the bones of a ­monster? . . .  If Byron’s sins or crimes ­for we are driven to use terrible terms ­were unendurable and unforgivable as if against the Holy Ghost, ought the wheel, the rack, or the stake to have extorted that confession from his widow’s breast? . . .  But there was no such pain here, James:  the declaration was voluntary, and it was calm.  Self- collected, and gathering up all her faculties and feelings into unshrinking strength, she denounced before all the world ­and throughout all space and all time ­her husband, as excommunicated by his vices from woman’s bosom.

. . . .

’’Twas to vindicate the character of her parents that Lady Byron wrote, ­a holy purpose and devout, nor do I doubt sincere.  But filial affection and reverence, sacred as they are, may be blamelessly, nay, righteously, subordinate to conjugal duties, which die not with the dead, are extinguished not even by the sins of the dead, were they as foul as the grave’s corruption.’

Here is what John Stuart Mill calls the literature of slavery for woman, in length and breadth; and, that all women may understand the doctrine, the Shepherd now takes up his parable, and expounds the true position of the wife.  We render his Scotch into English: ­

’Not a few such widows do I know, whom brutal, profligate, and savage husbands have brought to the brink of the grave, ­as good, as bright, as innocent as, and far more forgiving than, Lady Byron.  There they sit in their obscure, rarely-visited dwellings; for sympathy instructed by suffering knows well that the deepest and most hopeless misery is least given to complaint.’

Then follows a pathetic picture of one such widow, trembling and fainting for hunger, obliged, on her way to the well for a can of water, her only drink, to sit down on a ‘knowe’ and say a prayer.

’Yet she’s decently, yea, tidily dressed, poor creature! in sair worn widow’s clothes, a single suit for Saturday and Sunday; her hair, untimely gray, is neatly braided under her crape cap; and sometimes, when all is still and solitary in the fields, and all labour has disappeared into the house, you may see her stealing by herself, or leading one wee orphan by the hand, with another at her breast, to the kirkyard, where the love of her youth and the husband of her prime is buried.

‘Yet,’ says the Shepherd, ’he was a brute, a ruffian, a monster.  When drunk, how he raged and cursed and swore!  Often did she dread that, in his fits of inhuman passion, he would have murdered the baby at her breast; for she had seen him dash their only little boy, a child of eight years old, on the floor, till the blood gushed from his ears; and then the madman threw himself down on the body, and howled for the gallows.  Limmers haunted his door, and he theirs; and it was hers to lie, not sleep, in a cold, forsaken bed, once the bed of peace, affection, and perfect happiness.  Often he struck her; and once when she was pregnant with that very orphan now smiling on her breast, reaching out his wee fingers to touch the flowers on his father’s grave. . . .

’But she tries to smile among the neighbours, and speaks of her boy’s likeness to its father; nor, when the conversation turns on bygone times, does she fear to let his name escape her white lips, “My Robert; the bairn’s not ill-favoured, but he will never look like his father,” ­and such sayings, uttered in a calm, sweet voice.  Nay, I remember once how her pale countenance reddened with a sudden flush of pride, when a gossiping crone alluded to their wedding; and the widow’s eye brightened through her tears to hear how the bridegroom, sitting that sabbath in his front seat beside his bonny bride, had not his equal for strength, stature, and all that is beauty in man, in all the congregation.  That, I say, sir, whether right or wrong, was ­forgiveness.

Here is a specimen of how even generous men had been so perverted by the enchantment of Lord Byron’s genius, as to turn all the pathos and power of the strongest literature of that day against the persecuted, pure woman, and for the strong, wicked man.  These ‘Blackwood’ writers knew, by Byron’s own filthy, ghastly writings, which had gone sorely against their own moral stomachs, that he was foul to the bone.  They could see, in Moore’s ‘Memoirs’ right before them, how he had caught an innocent girl’s heart by sending a love-letter, and offer of marriage, at the end of a long friendly correspondence, ­a letter that had been written to show to his libertine set, and sent on the toss-up of a copper, because he cared nothing for it one way or the other.

They admit that, having won this poor girl, he had been savage, brutal, drunken, cruel.  They had read the filthy taunts in ‘Don Juan,’ and the nameless abominations in the ‘Autobiography.’  They had admitted among themselves that his honour was lost; but still this abused, desecrated woman must reverence her brutal master’s memory, and not speak, even to defend the grave of her own kind father and mother.

That there was no lover of her youth, that the marriage-vow had been a hideous, shameless cheat, is on the face of Moore’s account; yet the ‘Blackwood’ does not see it nor feel it, and brings up against Lady Byron this touching story of a poor widow, who really had had a true lover once, ­a lover maddened, imbruted, lost, through that very drunkenness in which the Noctes Club were always glorying.

It is because of such transgressors as Byron, such supporters as Moore and the Noctes Club, that there are so many helpless, cowering, broken-hearted, abject women, given over to the animal love which they share alike with the poor dog, ­the dog, who, beaten, kicked, starved, and cuffed, still lies by his drunken master with great anxious eyes of love and sorrow, and with sweet, brute forgiveness nestles upon his bosom, as he lies in his filth in the snowy ditch, to keep the warmth of life in him.  Great is the mystery of this fidelity in the poor, loving brute, ­most mournful and most sacred

But, oh that a noble man should have no higher ideal of the love of a high-souled, heroic woman!  Oh that men should teach women that they owe no higher duties, and are capable of no higher tenderness, than this loving, unquestioning animal fidelity!  The dog is ever-loving, ever-forgiving, because God has given him no high range of moral faculties, no sense of justice, no consequent horror at impurity and vileness.

Much of the beautiful patience and forgiveness of women is made possible to them by that utter deadness to the sense of justice which the laws, literature, and misunderstood religion of England have sought to induce in woman as a special grace and virtue.

The lesson to woman in this pathetic piece of special pleading is, that man may sink himself below the brute, may wallow in filth like the swine, may turn his home into a hell, beat and torture his children, forsake the marriage-bed for foul rivals; yet all this does not dissolve the marriage-vow on her part, nor free his bounden serf from her obligation to honour his memory, ­nay, to sacrifice to it the honour due to a kind father and mother, slandered in their silent graves.

Such was the sympathy, and such the advice, that the best literature of England could give to a young widow, a peeress of England, whose husband, as they verily believed and admitted, might have done worse than all this; whose crimes might have been ’foul, monstrous, unforgivable as the sin against the Holy Ghost.’  If these things be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?  If the peeress as a wife has no rights, what is the state of the cotter’s wife?

But, in the same paper, North again blames Lady Byron for not having come out with the whole story before the world at the time she separated from her husband.  He says of the time when she first consulted counsel through her mother, keeping back one item, ­

’How weak, and worse than weak, at such a juncture, on which hung her whole fate, to ask legal advice on an imperfect document!  Give the delicacy of a virtuous woman its due; but at such a crisis, when the question was whether her conscience was to be free from the oath of oaths, delicacy should have died, and nature was privileged to show unashamed ­if such there were ­the records of uttermost pollution.’

   Shepherd. ­’And what think ye, sir, that a’ this pollution could hae
   been, that sae electrified Dr. Lushington?’

North. ­’Bad ­bad ­bad, James.  Nameless, it is horrible; named, it might leave Byron’s memory yet within the range of pity and forgiveness; and, where they are, their sister affections will not be far; though, like weeping seraphs, standing aloof, and veiling their wings.’

   Shepherd. ­’She should indeed hae been silent ­till the grave had
   closed on her sorrows as on his sins.’

North. ­’Even now she should speak, ­or some one else for her, ­ . . . and a few words will suffice.  Worse the condition of the dead man’s name cannot be ­far, far better it might ­I believe it would be ­were all the truth somehow or other declared; and declared it must be, not for Byron’s sake only, but for the sake of humanity itself; and then a mitigated sentence, or eternal silence.’

We have another discussion of Lady Byron’s duties in a further number of ‘Blackwood.’

The ‘Memoir’ being out, it was proposed that there should be a complete annotation of Byron’s works gotten up, and adorned, for the further glorification of his memory, with portraits of the various women whom he had delighted to honour.

Murray applied to Lady Byron for her portrait, and was met with a cold, decided negative.  After reading all the particulars of Byron’s harem of mistresses, and Moore’s comparisons between herself and La Guiccioli, one might imagine reasons why a lady, with proper self-respect, should object to appearing in this manner.  One would suppose there might have been gentlemen who could well appreciate the motive of that refusal; but it was only considered a new evidence that she was indifferent to her conjugal duties, and wanting in that respect which Christopher North had told her she owed a husband’s memory, though his crimes were foul as the rottenness of the grave.

Never, since Queen Vashti refused to come at the command of a drunken husband to show herself to his drunken lords, was there a clearer case of disrespect to the marital dignity on the part of a wife.  It was a plain act of insubordination, rebellion against law and order; and how shocking in Lady Byron, who ought to feel herself but too much flattered to be exhibited to the public as the head wife of a man of genius!

Means were at once adopted to subdue her contumacy, of which one may read in a note to the ‘Blackwood’ (Noctes), September 1832.  An artist was sent down to Ealing to take her picture by stealth as she sat in church.  Two sittings were thus obtained without her knowledge.  In the third one, the artist placed himself boldly before her, and sketched, so that she could not but observe him.  We shall give the rest in Mackenzie’s own words, as a remarkable specimen of the obtuseness, not to say indelicacy of feeling, which seemed to pervade the literary circles of England at the time: ­

’After prayers, Wright and his friend (the artist) were visited by an ambassador from her ladyship to inquire the meaning of what she had seen.  The reply was, that Mr. Murray must have her portrait, and was compelled to take what she refused to give.  The result was, Wright was requested to visit her, which he did; taking with him, not the sketch, which was very good, but another, in which there was a strong touch of caricature.  Rather than allow that to appear as her likeness (a very natural and womanly feeling by the way), she consented to sit for the portrait to W. J. Newton, which was engraved, and is here alluded to.’

The artless barbarism of this note is too good to be lost; but it is quite borne out by the conversation in the Noctes Club, which it illustrates.

It would appear from this conversation that these Byron beauties appeared successively in pamphlet form; and the picture of Lady Byron is thus discussed: ­

Mullion. ­’I don’t know if you have seen the last brochure.  It has a charming head of Lady Byron, who, it seems, sat on purpose:  and that’s very agreeable to hear of; for it shows her ladyship has got over any little soreness that Moore’s “Life” occasioned, and is now willing to contribute anything in her power to the real monument of Byron’s genius.’

   North. ­’I am delighted to hear of this:  ’tis really very noble in the
   unfortunate lady.  I never saw her.  Is the face a striking one?’

Mullion. ­’Eminently so, ­a most calm, pensive, melancholy style of native beauty, ­and a most touching contrast to the maids of Athens, Annesley, and all the rest of them.  I’m sure you’ll have the proof Finden has sent you framed for the Boudoir at the Lodge.’

   North. ­’By all means.  I mean to do that for all the Byron Beauties.’

But it may be asked, Was there not a man in all England with delicacy enough to feel for Lady Byron, and chivalry enough to speak a bold word for her?  Yes:  there was one.  Thomas Campbell the poet, when he read Lady Byron’s statement, believed it, as did Christopher North; but it affected him differently.  It appears he did not believe it a wife’s duty to burn herself on her husband’s funeral-pile, as did Christopher North; and held the singular idea, that a wife had some rights as a human being as well as a husband.

Lady Byron’s own statement appeared in pamphlet form in 1830:  at least, such is the date at the foot of the document.  Thomas Campbell, in ’The New Monthly Magazine,’ shortly after, printed a spirited, gentlemanly defence of Lady Byron, and administered a pointed rebuke to Moore for the rudeness and indelicacy he had shown in selecting from Byron’s letters the coarsest against herself, her parents, and her old governess Mrs. Clermont, and by the indecent comparisons he had instituted between Lady Byron and Lord Byron’s last mistress.

It is refreshing to hear, at last, from somebody who is not altogether on his knees at the feet of the popular idol, and who has some chivalry for woman, and some idea of common humanity.  He says, ­

’I found my right to speak on this painful subject on its now irrevocable publicity, brought up afresh as it has been by Mr. Moore, to be the theme of discourse to millions, and, if I err not much, the cause of misconception to innumerable minds.  I claim to speak of Lady Byron in the right of a man, and of a friend to the rights of woman, and to liberty, and to natural religion.  I claim a right, more especially, as one of the many friends of Lady Byron, who, one and all, feel aggrieved by this production.  It has virtually dragged her forward from the shade of retirement, where she had hid her sorrows, and compelled her to defend the heads of her friends and her parents from being crushed under the tombstone of Byron.  Nay, in a general view, it has forced her to defend herself; though, with her true sense and her pure taste, she stands above all special pleading.  To plenary explanation she ought not ­she never shall be driven.  Mr. Moore is too much a gentleman not to shudder at the thought of that; but if other Byronists, of a far different stamp, were to force the savage ordeal, it is her enemies, and not she, that would have to dread the burning ploughshares.

’We, her friends, have no wish to prolong the discussion:  but a few words we must add, even to her admirable statement; for hers is a cause not only dear to her friends, but having become, from Mr. Moore and her misfortunes, a publicly-agitated cause, it concerns morality, and the most sacred rights of the sex, that she should (and that, too, without more special explanations) be acquitted out and out, and honourably acquitted, in this business, of all share in the blame, which is one and indivisible.  Mr. Moore, on further reflection, may see this; and his return to candour will surprise us less than his momentary deviation from its path.

’For the tact of Mr. Moore’s conduct in this affair, I have not to answer; but, if indelicacy be charged upon me, I scorn the charge.  Neither will I submit to be called Lord Byron’s accuser; because a word against him I wish not to say beyond what is painfully wrung from me by the necessity of owning or illustrating Lady Byron’s unblamableness, and of repelling certain misconceptions respecting her, which are now walking the fashionable world, and which have been fostered (though Heaven knows where they were born) most delicately and warily by the Christian godfathership of Mr. Moore.

’I write not at Lady Byron’s bidding.  I have never humiliated either her or myself by asking if I should write, or what I should write; that is to say, I never applied to her for information against Lord Byron, though I was justified, as one intending to criticise Mr. Moore, in inquiring into the truth of some of his statements.  Neither will I suffer myself to be called her champion, if by that word be meant the advocate of her mere legal innocence; for that, I take it, nobody questions.

’Still less is it from the sorry impulse of pity that I speak of this noble woman; for I look with wonder and even envy at the proud purity of her sense and conscience, that have carried her exquisite sensibilities in triumph through such poignant tribulations.  But I am proud to be called her friend, the humble illustrator of her cause, and the advocate of those principles which make it to me more interesting than Lord Byron’s.  Lady Byron (if the subject must be discussed) belongs to sentiment and morality (at least as much as Lord Byron); nor is she to be suffered, when compelled to speak, to raise her voice as in a desert, with no friendly voice to respond to her.  Lady Byron could not have outlived her sufferings if she had not wound up her fortitude to the high point of trusting mainly for consolation, not to the opinion of the world, but to her own inward peace; and, having said what ought to convince the world, I verily believe that she has less care about the fashionable opinion respecting her than any of her friends can have.  But we, her friends, mix with the world; and we hear offensive absurdities about her, which we have a right to put down.

. . . .

’I proceed to deal more generally with Mr. Moore’s book.  You speak, Mr. Moore, against Lord Byron’s censurers in a tone of indignation which is perfectly lawful towards calumnious traducers, but which will not terrify me, or any other man of courage who is no calumniator, from uttering his mind freely with regard to this part of your hero’s conduct.  I question your philosophy in assuming that all that is noble in Byron’s poetry was inconsistent with the possibility of his being devoted to a pure and good woman; and I repudiate your morality for canting too complacently about “the lava of his imagination,” and the unsettled fever of his passions, being any excuses for his planting the tic douloureux of domestic suffering in a meek woman’s bosom.

’These are hard words, Mr. Moore; but you have brought them on yourself by your voluntary ignorance of facts known to me; for you might and ought to have known both sides of the question; and, if the subject was too delicate for you to consult Lady Byron’s confidential friends, you ought to have had nothing to do with the subject.  But you cannot have submitted your book even to Lord Byron’s sister, otherwise she would have set you right about the imaginary spy, Mrs. Clermont.’

Campbell now goes on to print, at his own peril, he says, and without time to ask leave, the following note from Lady Byron in reply to an application he made to her, when he was about to review Moore’s book, for an ‘estimate as to the correctness of Moore’s statements.’

The following is Lady Byron’s reply: ­

’DEAR MR. CAMPBELL, ­In taking up my pen to point out for your private information those passages in Mr. Moore’s representation of my part of the story which were open to contradiction, I find them of still greater extent than I had supposed; and to deny an assertion here and there would virtually admit the truth of the rest.  If, on the contrary, I were to enter into a full exposure of the falsehood of the views taken by Mr. Moore, I must detail various matters, which, consistently with my principles and feelings, I cannot under the existing circumstances disclose.  I may, perhaps, convince you better of the difficulty of the case by an example:  It is not true that pecuniary embarrassments were the cause of the disturbed state of Lord Byron’s mind, or formed the chief reason for the arrangements made by him at that time.  But is it reasonable for me to expect that you or any one else should believe this, unless I show you what were the causes in question? and this I cannot do.

’I am, etc.,


Campbell then goes on to reprove Moore for his injustice to Mrs. Clermont, whom Lord Byron had denounced as a spy, but whose respectability and innocence were vouched for by Lord Byron’s own family; and then he pointedly rebukes one false statement of great indelicacy and cruelty concerning Lady Byron’s courtship, as follows: ­

’It is a further mistake on Mr. Moore’s part, and I can prove it to be so, if proof be necessary, to represent Lady Byron, in the course of their courtship, as one inviting her future husband to correspondence by letters after she had at first refused him.  She never proposed a correspondence.  On the contrary, he sent her a message after that first refusal, stating that he meant to go abroad, and to travel for some years in the East; that he should depart with a heart aching, but not angry; and that he only begged a verbal assurance that she had still some interest in his happiness.  Could Miss Milbanke, as a well- bred woman, refuse a courteous answer to such a message?  She sent him a verbal answer, which was merely kind and becoming, but which signified no encouragement that he should renew his offer of marriage.

’After that message, he wrote to her a most interesting letter about himself, ­about his views, personal, moral, and religious, ­to which it would have been uncharitable not to have replied.  The result was an insensibly increasing correspondence, which ended in her being devotedly attached to him.  About that time, I occasionally saw Lord Byron; and though I knew less of him than Mr. Moore, yet I suspect I knew as much of him as Miss Milbanke then knew.  At that time, he was so pleasing, that, if I had had a daughter with ample fortune and beauty, I should have trusted her in marriage with Lord Byron.

   ’Mr. Moore at that period evidently understood Lord Byron better than
   either his future bride or myself; but this speaks more for Moore’s
   shrewdness than for Byron’s ingenuousness of character.

’It is more for Lord Byron’s sake than for his widow’s that I resort not to a more special examination of Mr. Moore’s misconceptions.  The subject would lead me insensibly into hateful disclosures against poor Lord Byron, who is more unfortunate in his rash defenders than in his reluctant accusers.  Happily, his own candour turns our hostility from himself against his defenders.  It was only in wayward and bitter remarks that he misrepresented Lady Byron.  He would have defended himself irresistibly if Mr. Moore had left only his acknowledging passages.  But Mr. Moore has produced a “Life” of him which reflects blame on Lady Byron so dexterously, that “more is meant than meets the ear.”  The almost universal impression produced by his book is, that Lady Byron must be a precise and a wan, unwarming spirit, a blue-stocking of chilblained learning, a piece of insensitive goodness.

’Who that knows Lady Byron will not pronounce her to be everything the reverse?  Will it be believed that this person, so unsuitably matched to her moody lord, has written verses that would do no discredit to Byron himself; that her sensitiveness is surpassed and bounded only by her good sense; and that she is

   ’"Blest with a temper, whose unclouded ray
   Can make to-morrow cheerful as to-day”?

’She brought to Lord Byron beauty, manners, fortune, meekness, romantic affection, and everything that ought to have made her to the most transcendent man of genius ­had he been what he should have been ­his pride and his idol.  I speak not of Lady Byron in the commonplace manner of attesting character:  I appeal to the gifted Mrs. Siddons and Joanna Baillie, to Lady Charlemont, and to other ornaments of their sex, whether I am exaggerating in the least when I say, that, in their whole lives, they have seen few beings so intellectual and well-tempered as Lady Byron.

’I wish to be as ingenuous as possible in speaking of her.  Her manner, I have no hesitation to say, is cool at the first interview, but is modestly, and not insolently, cool:  she contracted it, I believe, from being exposed by her beauty and large fortune, in youth, to numbers of suitors, whom she could not have otherwise kept at a distance.  But this manner could have had no influence with Lord Byron; for it vanishes on nearer acquaintance, and has no origin in coldness.  All her friends like her frankness the better for being preceded by this reserve.  This manner, however, though not the slightest apology for Lord Byron, has been inimical to Lady Byron in her misfortunes.  It endears her to her friends; but it piqués the indifferent.  Most odiously unjust, therefore, is Mr. Moore’s assertion, that she has had the advantage of Lord Byron in public opinion.  She is, comparatively speaking, unknown to the world; for though she has many friends, that is, a friend in everyone who knows her, yet her pride and purity and misfortunes naturally contract the circle of her acquaintance.

’There is something exquisitely unjust in Mr. Moore comparing her chance of popularity with Lord Byron’s, the poet who can command men of talents, ­putting even Mr. Moore into the livery of his service, ­and who has suborned the favour of almost all women by the beauty of his person and the voluptuousness of his verses.  Lady Byron has nothing to oppose to these fascinations but the truth and justice of her cause.

’You said, Mr. Moore, that Lady Byron was unsuitable to her lord:  the word is cunningly insidious, and may mean as much or as little as may suit your convenience.  But, if she was unsuitable, I remark that it tells all the worse against Lord Byron.  I have not read it in your book (for I hate to wade through it); but they tell me that you have not only warily depreciated Lady Byron, but that you have described a lady that would have suited him.  If this be true, “it is the unkindest cut of all,” ­to hold up a florid description of a woman suitable to Lord Byron, as if in mockery over the forlorn flower of virtue that was drooping in the solitude of sorrow.

’But I trust there is no such passage in your book.  Surely you must be conscious of your woman, with her ’virtue loose about her, who would have suited Lord Byron,” to be as imaginary a being as the woman without a head.  A woman to suit Lord Byron!  Poo, poo!  I could paint to you the woman that could have matched him, if I had not bargained to say as little as possible against him.

’If Lady Byron was not suitable to Lord Byron, so much the worse for his lordship; for let me tell you, Mr. Moore, that neither your poetry, nor Lord Byron’s, nor all our poetry put together, ever delineated a more interesting being than the woman whom you have so coldly treated.  This was not kicking the dead lion, but wounding the living lamb, who was already bleeding and shorn, even unto the quick.  I know, that, collectively speaking, the world is in Lady Byron’s favour; but it is coldly favourable, and you have not warmed its breath.  Time, however, cures everything; and even your book, Mr. Moore, may be the means of Lady Byron’s character being better appreciated.


Here is what seems to be a gentlemanly, high-spirited, chivalric man, throwing down his glove in the lists for a pure woman.

What was the consequence?  Campbell was crowded back, thrust down, overwhelmed, his eyes filled with dust, his mouth with ashes.

There was a general confusion and outcry, which reacted both on him and on Lady Byron.  Her friends were angry with him for having caused this re-action upon her; and he found himself at once attacked by Lady Byron’s enemies, and deserted by her friends.  All the literary authorities of his day took up against him with energy.  Christopher North, professor of moral philosophy in the Edinburgh University, in a fatherly talk in ’The Noctes,’ condemns Campbell, and justifies Moore, and heartily recommends his ‘Biography,’ as containing nothing materially objectionable on the score either of manners or morals.  Thus we have it in ‘The Noctes’ of May 1830: ­

   ’Mr. Moore’s biographical book I admired; and I said so to my little
   world, in two somewhat lengthy articles, which many approved, and
   some, I am sorry to know, condemned.’

On the point in question between Moore and Campbell, North goes on to justify Moore altogether, only admitting that ’it would have been better had he not printed any coarse expression of Byron’s about the old people;’ and, finally, he closes by saying, ­

’I do not think that, under the circumstances, Mr. Campbell himself, had he written Byron’s “Life,” could have spoken, with the sentiments he then held, in a better, more manly, and more gentlemanly spirit, in so far as regards Lady Byron, than Mr. Moore did:  and I am sorry he has been deterred from “swimming” through Mr. Moore’s work by the fear of “wading;” for the waters are clear and deep; nor is there any mud, either at the bottom or round the margin.’

Of the conduct of Lady Byron’s so-called friends on this occasion it is more difficult to speak.

There has always been in England, as John Stuart Mill says, a class of women who glory in the utter self-abnegation of the wife to the husband, as the special crown of womanhood.  Their patron saint is the Griselda of Chaucer, who, when her husband humiliates her, and treats her as a brute, still accepts all with meek, unquestioning, uncomplaining devotion.  He tears her from her children; he treats her with personal abuse; he repudiates her, ­sends her out to nakedness and poverty; he installs another mistress in his house, and sends for the first to be her handmaid and his own:  and all this the meek saint accepts in the words of Milton, ­

      ’My guide and head,
   What thou hast said is just and right.’

Accordingly, Miss Martineau tells us that when Campbell’s defence came out, coupled with a note from Lady Byron, ­

’The first obvious remark was, that there was no real disclosure; and the whole affair had the appearance of a desire, on the part of Lady Byron, to exculpate herself, while yet no adequate information was given.  Many, who had regarded her with favour till then, gave her up so far as to believe that feminine weakness had prevailed at last.’

The saint had fallen from her pedestal!  She had shown a human frailty!  Quite evidently she is not a Griselda, but possessed with a shocking desire to exculpate herself and her friends.

Is it, then, only to slandered men that the privilege belongs of desiring to exculpate themselves and their families and their friends from unjust censure?

Lord Byron had made it a life-long object to vilify and defame his wife.  He had used for that one particular purpose every talent that he possessed.  He had left it as a last charge to Moore to pursue the warfare after death, which Moore had done to some purpose; and Christopher North had informed Lady Byron that her private affairs were discussed, not only with the whisky-toddy of the Noctes Club, but in every drawing-room in May Fair; and declared that the ‘Dear Duck’ letter, and various other matters, must be explained, and urged somebody to speak; and then, when Campbell does speak with all the energy of a real gentleman, a general outcry and an indiscriminate melee is the result.

The world, with its usual injustice, insisted on attributing Campbell’s defence to Lady Byron.

The reasons for this seemed to be, first, that Campbell states that he did not ask Lady Byron’s leave, and that she did not authorise him to defend her; and, second, that, having asked some explanations from her, he prints a note in which she declines to give any.

We know not how a lady could more gently yet firmly decline to make a gentleman her confidant than in this published note of Lady Byron; and yet, to this day, Campbell is spoken of by the world as having been Lady Byron’s confidant at this time.  This simply shows how very trustworthy are the general assertions about Lady Byron’s confidants.

The final result of the matter, so far as Campbell was concerned, is given in Miss Martineau’s sketch, in the following paragraph: ­

   ’The whole transaction was one of poor Campbell’s freaks.  He excused
   himself by saying it was a mistake of his; that he did not know what
   he was about when he published the paper.’

It is the saddest of all sad things to see a man, who has spoken from moral convictions, in advance of his day, and who has taken a stand for which he ought to honour himself, thus forced down and humiliated, made to doubt his own better nature and his own honourable feelings, by the voice of a wicked world.

Campbell had no steadiness to stand by the truth he saw.  His whole story is told incidentally in a note to ‘The Noctes,’ in which it is stated, that in an article in ‘Blackwood,’ January 1825, on Scotch poets, the palm was given to Hogg over Campbell; ’one ground being, that he could drink “eight and twenty tumblers of punch, while Campbell is hazy upon seven."’

There is evidence in ‘The Noctes,’ that in due time Campbell was reconciled to Moore, and was always suitably ashamed of having tried to be any more generous or just than the men of his generation.

And so it was settled as a law to Jacob, and an ordinance in Israel, that the Byron worship should proceed, and that all the earth should keep silence before him.  ‘Don Juan,’ that, years before, had been printed by stealth, without Murray’s name on the title-page, that had been denounced as a book which no woman should read, and had been given up as a desperate enterprise, now came forth in triumph, with banners flying and drums beating.  Every great periodical in England that had fired moral volleys of artillery against it in its early days, now humbly marched in the glorious procession of admirers to salute this edifying work of genius.

‘Blackwood,’ which in the beginning had been the most indignantly virtuous of the whole, now grovelled and ate dust as the serpent in the very abjectness of submission.  Odoherty (Maginn) declares that he would rather have written a page of ‘Don Juan’ than a ton of ‘Childe Harold.’ Timothy Tickler informs Christopher North that he means to tender Murray, as Emperor of the North, an interleaved copy of ‘Don Juan,’ with illustrations, as the only work of Byron’s he cares much about; and Christopher North, professor of moral philosophy in Edinburgh, smiles approval!  We are not, after this, surprised to see the assertion, by a recent much-aggrieved writer in ‘The London Era,’ that ’Lord Byron has been, more than any other man of the age, the teacher of the youth of England;’ and that he has ‘seen his works on the bookshelves of bishops’ palaces, no less than on the tables of university undergraduates.’

A note to ‘The Noctes’ of July 1822 informs us of another instance of Lord Byron’s triumph over English morals: ­

‘The mention of this’ (Byron’s going to Greece) ’reminds me, by the by, of what the Guiccioli said in her visit to London, where she was so lionised as having been the lady-love of Byron.  She was rather fond of speaking on the subject, designating herself by some Venetian pet phrase, which she interpreted as meaning “Love-Wife."’

What was Lady Byron to do in such a world?  She retired to the deepest privacy, and devoted herself to works of charity, and the education of her only child, that brilliant daughter, to whose eager, opening mind the whole course of current literature must bring so many trying questions in regard to the position of her father and mother, ­questions that the mother might not answer.  That the cruel inconsiderateness of the literary world added thorns to the intricacies of the path trodden by every mother who seeks to guide, restrain, and educate a strong, acute, and precociously intelligent child, must easily be seen.

What remains to be said of Lady Byron’s life shall be said in the words of Miss Martineau, published in ’The Atlantic Monthly:’ ­

’Her life, thenceforth, was one of unremitting bounty to society administered with as much skill and prudence as benevolence.  She lived in retirement, changing her abode frequently; partly for the benefit of her child’s education and the promotion of her benevolent schemes, and partly from a restlessness which was one of the few signs of injury received from the spoiling of associations with home.

’She felt a satisfaction which her friends rejoiced in when her daughter married Lord King, at present the Earl of Lovelace, in 1835; and when grief upon grief followed, in the appearance of mortal disease in her only child, her quiet patience stood her in good stead as before.  She even found strength to appropriate the blessings of the occasion, and took comfort, as did her dying daughter, in the intimate friendship, which grew closer as the time of parting drew nigh.

’Lady Lovelace died in 1852; and, for her few remaining years, Lady Byron was devoted to her grandchildren.  But nearer calls never lessened her interest in remoter objects.  Her mind was of the large and clear quality which could comprehend remote interests in their true proportions, and achieve each aim as perfectly as if it were the only one.  Her agents used to say that it was impossible to mistake her directions; and thus her business was usually well done.  There was no room, in her case, for the ordinary doubts, censures, and sneers about the misapplication of bounty.

’Her taste did not lie in the “Charity-Ball” direction; her funds were not lavished in encouraging hypocrisy and improvidence among the idle and worthless; and the quality of her charity was, in fact, as admirable as its quantity.  Her chief aim was the extension and improvement of popular education; but there was no kind of misery that she heard of that she did not palliate to the utmost, and no kind of solace that her quick imagination and sympathy could devise that she did not administer.

’In her methods, she united consideration and frankness with singular success.  For one instance among a thousand:  A lady with whom she had had friendly relations some time before, and who became impoverished in a quiet way by hopeless sickness, preferred poverty with an easy conscience to a competency attended by some uncertainty about the perfect rectitude of the resource.  Lady Byron wrote to an intermediate person exactly what she thought of the case.  Whether the judgment of the sufferer was right or mistaken was nobody’s business but her own:  this was the first point.  Next, a voluntary poverty could never be pitied by anybody:  that was the second.  But it was painful to others to think of the mortification to benevolent feelings which attends poverty; and there could be no objection to arresting that pain.  Therefore she, Lady Byron, had lodged in a neighbouring bank the sum of one hundred pounds, to be used for benevolent purposes; and, in order to preclude all outside speculation, she had made the money payable to the order of the intermediate person, so that the sufferer’s name need not appear at all.

’Five and thirty years of unremitting secret bounty like this must make up a great amount of human happiness; but this was only one of a wide variety of methods of doing good.  It was the unconcealable magnitude of her beneficence, and its wise quality, which made her a second time the theme of English conversation in all honest households within the four seas.  Years ago, it was said far and wide that Lady Byron was doing more good than anybody else in England; and it was difficult to imagine how anybody could do more.

’Lord Byron spent every shilling that the law allowed him out of her property while he lived, and left away from her every shilling that he could deprive her of by his will; yet she had, eventually, a large income at her command.  In the management of it, she showed the same wise consideration that marked all her practical decisions.  She resolved to spend her whole income, seeing how much the world needed help at the moment.  Her care was for the existing generation, rather than for a future one, which would have its own friends.  She usually declined trammelling herself with annual subscriptions to charities; preferring to keep her freedom from year to year, and to achieve definite objects by liberal bounty, rather than to extend partial help over a large surface which she could not herself superintend.

’It was her first industrial school that awakened the admiration of the public, which had never ceased to take an interest in her, while sorely misjudging her character.  We hear much now ­and everybody hears it with pleasure ­of the spread of education in “common things;” but long before Miss Coutts inherited her wealth, long before a name was found for such a method of training, Lady Byron had instituted the thing, and put it in the way of making its own name.

’She was living at Ealing, in Middlesex, in 1834; and there she opened one of the first industrial schools in England, if not the very first.  She sent out a master to Switzerland, to be instructed in De Fellenburgh’s method.  She took, on lease, five acres of land, and spent several hundred pounds in rendering the buildings upon it fit for the purposes of the school.  A liberal education was afforded to the children of artisans and labourers during the half of the day when they were not employed in the field or garden.  The allotments were rented by the boys, who raised and sold produce, which afforded them a considerable yearly profit if they were good workmen.  Those who worked in the field earned wages; their labour being paid by the hour, according to the capability of the young labourer.  They kept their accounts of expenditure and receipts, and acquired good habits of business while learning the occupation of their lives.  Some mechanical trades were taught, as well as the arts of agriculture.

’Part of the wisdom of the management lay in making the pupils pay.  Of one hundred pupils, half were boarders.  They paid little more than half the expenses of their maintenance, and the day-scholars paid threepence per week.  Of course, a large part of the expense was borne by Lady Byron, besides the payments she made for children who could not otherwise have entered the school.  The establishment flourished steadily till 1852, when the owner of the land required it back for building purposes.  During the eighteen years that the Ealing schools were in action, they did a world of good in the way of incitement and example.  The poor-law commissioners pointed out their merits.  Land- owners and other wealthy persons visited them, and went home and set up similar establishments.  During those years, too, Lady Byron had herself been at work in various directions to the same purpose.

’A more extensive industrial scheme was instituted on her Leicestershire property, and not far off she opened a girls’ school and an infant school; and when a season of distress came, as such seasons are apt to befall the poor Leicestershire stocking-weavers, Lady Byron fed the children for months together, till they could resume their payments.  These schools were opened in 1840.  The next year, she built a schoolhouse on her Warwickshire property; and, five years later, she set up an iron schoolhouse on another Leicestershire estate.

’By this time, her educational efforts were costing her several hundred pounds a year in the mere maintenance of existing establishments; but this is the smallest consideration in the case.  She has sent out tribes of boys and girls into life fit to do their part there with skill and credit and comfort.  Perhaps it is a still more important consideration, that scores of teachers and trainers have been led into their vocation, and duly prepared for it, by what they saw and learned in her schools.  As for the best and the worst of the Ealing boys, the best have, in a few cases, been received into the Battersea Training School, whence they could enter on their career as teachers to the greatest advantage; and the worst found their school a true reformatory, before reformatory schools were heard of.  At Bristol, she bought a house for a reformatory for girls; and there her friend, Miss Carpenter, faithfully and energetically carries out her own and Lady Byron’s aims, which were one and the same.

’There would be no end if I were to catalogue the schemes of which these are a specimen.  It is of more consequence to observe that her mind was never narrowed by her own acts, as the minds of benevolent people are so apt to be.  To the last, her interest in great political movements, at home and abroad, was as vivid as ever.  She watched every step won in philosophy, every discovery in science, every token of social change and progress in every shape.  Her mind was as liberal as her heart and hand.  No diversity of opinion troubled her:  she was respectful to every sort of individuality, and indulgent to all constitutional peculiarities.  It must have puzzled those who kept up the notion of her being “strait-laced” to see how indulgent she was even to Epicurean tendencies, ­the remotest of all from her own.

’But I must stop; for I do not wish my honest memorial to degenerate into panegyric.  Among her latest known acts were her gifts to the Sicilian cause, and her manifestations on behalf of the antislavery cause in the United States.  Her kindness to William and Ellen Craft must be well known there; and it is also related in the newspapers, that she bequeathed a legacy to a young American to assist him under any disadvantages he might suffer as an abolitionist.

’All these deeds were done under a heavy burden of ill health.  Before she had passed middle life, her lungs were believed to be irreparably injured by partial ossification.  She was subject to attacks so serious, that each one, for many years, was expected to be the last.  She arranged her affairs in correspondence with her liabilities:  so that the same order would have been found, whether she died suddenly or after long warning.

’She was to receive one more accession of outward greatness before she departed.  She became Baroness Wentworth in November, 1856.  This is one of the facts of her history; but it is the least interesting to us, as probably to her.  We care more to know that her last days were bright in honour, and cheered by the attachment of old friends worthy to pay the duty she deserved.  Above all, it is consoling to know that she who so long outlived her only child was blessed with the unremitting and tender care of her grand-daughter.  She died on the 16th of May, 1860.

’The portrait of Lady Byron as she was at the time of her marriage is probably remembered by some of my readers.  It is very engaging.  Her countenance afterwards became much worn; but its expression of thoughtfulness and composure was very interesting.  Her handwriting accorded well with the character of her mind.  It was clear, elegant, and womanly.  Her manners differed with circumstances.  Her shrinking sensitiveness might embarrass one visitor; while another would be charmed with her easy, significant, and vivacious conversation.  It depended much on whom she talked with.  The abiding certainty was, that she had strength for the hardest of human trials, and the composure which belongs to strength.  For the rest, it is enough to point to her deeds, and to the mourning of her friends round the chasm which her departure has made in their life, and in the society in which it is spent.  All that could be done in the way of personal love and honour was done while she lived:  it only remains now to see that her name and fame are permitted to shine forth at last in their proper light.’

We have simply to ask the reader whether a life like this was not the best, the noblest answer that a woman could make to a doubting world.