LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Astarte: a Fragment of Truth
III. Manfred

I. Byron Characteristics
II. Three Stages of Lord Byron’s Life
‣ III. Manfred
IV. Correspondence of Augusta Byron
V. Anne Isabella Byron
VI. Lady Byron’s Policy of Silence
VII. Informers and Defamers
VIII. “When We Dead Awake”
IX. Lady Byron and Mrs. Leigh (I)
X. Lady Byron and Mrs. Leigh (II)
XI. Byron and Augusta
Notes by the Editor
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Pone me ut signaculum super cor tuum, ut signaculum super brachium tuum: quia fortis est ut mors dilectio, dura sicut infernus aemulatio: lampades eius lampades ignis atque flammarum.

“Aquae multae non potuerunt extinguere caritatem, nec flumina obruent illam: si dederit homo omnem substantiam domus suae, pro dilectione, quasi nihil despiciet eam.”

“Alas, I know not by what name to call thee!
Sister and wife are the two dearest names;
And I wou’d call thee both! and both are sin.
* * * * *
And I shou’d break thro’ Laws divine and humane,
And think them Cobwebs, spread for little Man,
Which all the bulky Herd of Nature breaks.
The vigorous young World was ignorant
Of these Restrictions, ’tis decrepit now;
Not more devout, but more decay’d, and cold.
All this is impious; therefore we must part:”

THE same day that Lord Byron crossed the water, “Lady Byron too went into the country to break her heart.” So said Rogers, and he was not so far wrong as Lushington, who reported the words, wished to believe.

1 At Halnaby, two or three days after the marriage, Lady Byron—who had been reading Dryden’s tragedy—thoughtlessly alluded to the subject: an incestuous union of brother and sister through ignorance of their parentage. He probably supposed the allusion designed, and made a strange and violent scene which first gave her an indefinite but most painful suspicion. Her first idea was that he might have had a connection with some girl, whom he afterwards discovered to be a natural sister. This was rendered more probable by his father’s libertine character.

After this scene she carefully avoided this subject, though he made it difficult by continual allusions to it as if for the purpose of ascertaining whether she had any suspicion or not. She was in constant fear of being supposed to be trying to find out his secrets, but knew not what subjects to avoid.

If happiness could be restored by exhortations to fortitude, she would have been well provided. She was admonished not to waste her health and spirits in unavailing lamentations over the past, or in regret for one who had sacrificed her happiness and forfeited his own by an entire dereliction of principle both in theory and practice. Her new state was declared eligible by comparison with the misery and degradation from which she had escaped.

Her real state of mind was described by herself many years later:

“I felt appalled at the desert which seemed spread before me. At first indeed I felt relief from breathing an atmosphere of innocence—but it was not for long. There was a burning world within which made the external one cold—I had given up all that was congenial with youth— The imagination of what might have been was all that remained——— In this state I had a singular degree of insensibility to the real—The touch of every hand seemed cold. I could look on tears without sympathy—and I returned kindness heartlessly & mechanically.—One principle was still active, tho’ unaccompanied by natural feelings—it was—to follow his example who ‘went about doing good’—But the little good I might have done was perhaps frustrated by the state of my own mind—The poor [were] rather indeed benefactors to me than I to them—they had a claim upon my thoughts which I could not set aside for visionary indulgences—they saved me from myself—Thus passed several months—”

It is not surprising that at this time Lady Milbanke (who had then resumed under Lord Wentworth’s Will her maiden name of Noel) was in much trouble of mind about her daughter. Lady Noel had written (Sunday, March 3rd, 1816) to Lady Byron:

“I neither do, or can expect that you should not feel and deeply feel—but I have sometimes thought (and that not only lately) that Your mind is too high wrought—too much so for this World—only the grander objects
engage your thoughts, Your Character is like Proof Spirits—not fit for common use—I could almost wish the Tone of it lowered nearer to the level of us every day people, and that You would endeavor to take some interest in every day concerns—believe me, by degrees, You will find the benefit of it—I have not slept on a Bed of Roses thro’ my life—I have had afflictions and serious ones, tho’ none so Severe as the present—Yet in my sixty-fifth Year, I have endeavored to rally, and shall rally, if You do so—

“Now my Love here is a Sundays Sermon for You—and here it shall end—”

Lady Byron’s health was changed for the worse; once she had never known such a thing as a sleepless night, but now her rest was much disturbed. She who had been a light-hearted young girl, living amongst all the prominent people of her time—both in the worlds of intelligence and fashion—fell among Methodists, Quaker philanthropists, Unitarians, educationalists, reformers, co-operators and other destructives of the pleasures of this world—a comprehensible reaction from Byronism, which was destruction of an unphilanthropic kind. The flesh is weak, and in a half-jesting way she sometimes had impulses of revolt from the dismal company of good works. She once wrote to her daughter (August 20th, 1836, while staying with her charming cousin, the Hon. Mrs. George Lamb):

“My dearest Ada—Here I am under the roof of her who is more my cousin than any cousin by blood except one.1 She gratifies my taste, and though I have not allowed it to be the director of my friendships I must own I am happier in the society of those who do not offend it. The objects in which I am engaged often make it necessary for me to sacrifice such considerations for not only are philanthropists in general ugly but often less refined than could be desired. Your memory will furnish the examples.”

1 Viscountess Tamworth was that other cousin by blood whom Lady Byron had loved from babyhood.


After the conclusion of the separation business, the extreme miseries and perplexities of Lady Byron’s position had lessened, but not vanished. One of her greatest difficulties was the attitude to be maintained towards Augusta, whom she had met under very trying circumstances three or four times in March, 1816. After one of those distressing interviews, Augusta had written to one of Lord Byron’s friends:

“I never can describe Lady Byron’s appearance to you—but by comparing it to what I should imagine that of a Being of another world. She is positively reduced to a Skeleton—pale as ashes—a deep hollow tone of voice & a calm in her manner quite supernatural—She received me kindly, but that really appeared the only surviving feeling—all else was death like calm—I can never forget it—never!”

On all these occasions, one subject—uppermost in the thoughts of both—had been virtually ignored, except that Augusta had had the audacity to name the reports about herself “with the pride of innocence!—as it is called.”1 Intercourse could not continue on that footing, for Augusta probably aimed at a positive guarantee of her innocence and at committing Lady Byron irretrievably to that.

At last Lady Byron could no longer bear the false position, and before leaving London she went to the Hon. Mrs. Villiers,2 a most intimate friend of Augusta’s, who

1 Lady Byron’s Statement G.

2 Theresa Parker, born September 22nd, 1775, daughter of John, 1st Lord Boringdon, by his wife Theresa, daughter of the 1st Lord Grantham, ambassador at Vienna in the time of Maria Theresa, whose name was given to his child. Lady Grantham was a great-granddaughter of Oliver Cromwell. The Hon. Theresa Parker was married, April 17th, 1798, to the Hon. George Villiers, third son of the 1st Earl of Clarendon, who was born November 23rd, 1759, and died March 21st, 1827. The Hon. Mrs. George Villiers died January 12th, 1856. Sir Henry Taylor, “Autobiography,” i. 115, well characterizes her as “a woman of a strong and ardent nature, but also a woman of the world.” Among her children were George, Earl of Clarendon, K.G., Viceroy of Ireland, diplomatist and Foreign Secretary; the Right Hon. Charles Pelham Villiers, and Lady Theresa Lewis. Theresa, Mrs. Earle, author of “Pot-Pourri from a Surrey Garden,” is her granddaughter, and, I believe, godchild. I only once saw Mrs. Villiers, less than two years before her death, when she was about eighty years old, but I have a vivid recollection of her animated and delightful

had pressed Lady Byron hard more than once to vouch for Augusta’s character, and whose indignation had been excited by the absence of such a certificate. All this changed when she had received full explanation of the indelible impression left on Lady Byron’s mind. Mrs. Villiers was also informed by
Wilmot, and jointly with him strongly urged Lady Byron to avow to Augusta the information of which they were in possession. Colonel Doyle and Dr. Lushington saw no necessity for this step, and would have preferred that all intercourse should then be dropped. But Lady Byron would have experienced pain in throwing off without explanation a person she had loved and from whom she conceived she had received kindness.1 So Lady Byron wrote on her own responsibility, in conformity with the urgent advice of Wilmot and Mrs. Villiers, and announced what she knew. Augusta did not attempt to deny it, and in fact admitted everything in her letters of June, July, and August, 1816.2 It is unnecessary to produce them here, as their contents are confirmed and made sufficiently clear by the correspondence of 1819 in another chapter.3 Colonel Doyle wrote to Lady Byron (July 9th, 1816):

“Your feelings I perfectly understand, I will even whisper to you I approve. . . . But you must remember that your position is very extraordinary, and though when we have sufficiently deliberated and decided, we should pursue our course without embarrassing ourselves with the consequences, yet we should not neglect the means of fully justifying ourselves if the necessity be ever imposed upon us. I see the possibility of a con-

conversation and manner, with something young about the still well-cut face, the light in her eyes and agreeable voice. She spelt her name Therese in all the signatures I have seen.

1 Colonel Doyle to Lady Byron, July 9th, 1816.

2 [See Chapters IX. and X.; also Introduction, p. ix.—Ed.]

3 Sir Leslie Stephen said it made him quite uncomfortable to read Mrs. Leigh’s letters of humiliation dated 1816. That she could have written as she did, considering all the circumstances of the whole miserable story seemed “to imply the sort of moral idiocy of which Lady Byron speaks. To print the letters would seem to be superfluous and any superfluous printing would, on my view, be a mistake.” (Letter to the Earl of Lovelace, April 1st, 1900.)

tingency under which the fullest explanation of the motives and grounds of your conduct may be necessary, I therefore implore of you to suffer no delicacy to interfere with your endeavouring to obtain the fullest admission of the fact. . . . If you obtain an acknowledgment of the facts and that your motives be, as you seem to think, properly appreciated, I think on the whole we shall have reason to rejoice that you have acted as you have done, but I shall be very anxious to have a more detailed knowledge of what has passed and particularly of the state in which you leave it.

“The step you have taken was attended with great risk, and I could not, contemplating the danger to which it might have exposed you, have originally advised it. If however your correspondence has produced an acknowledgment of the fact even previous to your marriage I shall be most happy that it has taken place.”

Colonel Doyle also wrote to Lady Byron (July 18th, 1816):

“I must recommend you to act as if a time might possibly arise when it would be necessary for you to justify yourself, though nothing short of an absolute necessity so imperative as to be irresistible could ever authorise your advertence to your present communications. Still I cannot dismiss from my mind the experience we have had nor so far forget the very serious embarrassment we were under from the effects of your too confiding disposition, as not to implore you to bear in mind the importance of securing yourself from eventual danger. This is my first object—and if that be attained—I shall approve and applaud all the kindness you can show.”

At this time the reports against Mrs. Leigh were very strong. It is not impossible that they were in Scott’s mind when he wrote “The Antiquary,” published about this time, the plot of which is based on a marriage between persons supposed to be “ower sib.” Byronic personages appeared sometimes in “Tales of my Landlord” after this time. George Staunton (or Robertson), in “The Heart of Mid Lothian,” is very much the
popular presentation of
Byron. The discovery, after his death by the hands of a son whom he was seeking and meant to acknowledge, that he had been secretly a Catholic and practised severe penance for the crimes of his youth, has a curious resemblance to Scott’s own prophecy that Byron would end as a Catholic.

Lord and Lady Darlington,1 while at Geneva in the summer of 1816, were told very seriously that Mrs. Leigh, disguised as a page, was there with Lord Byron, and their informer could not be persuaded that it was not so.2 Lady Granville had dropped Mrs. Leigh’s acquaintance, but called on her again in consequence of a letter from Lady Byron, appealing for a continuance of former kindness, and expressing confidence that Mrs. Leigh would in future deserve it.

For a long time Mrs. Leigh was in unceasing dread of social collapse, and thought she might have to disappear, in which case she said she wished neither Lady Byron nor Mrs. Villiers to make any further efforts to see her or take her part.

Desperation about her character in the world very nearly drove Augusta to follow Byron abroad. Her distraction and misery were most striking when she came to London on July 11th, 1816; but her letters also from Six Mile Bottom in May and June had been “dejected and melancholy to the greatest degree.” To Mrs. Villiers she wrote “in a tone of despair, saying that now her own happiness was at an end, and she could only look to that of her friends.” “Her letters to Lord Frederick Bentinck (who is as you know very much in her confidence) are he tells me more melancholy than ever, but I do not hear a word of any particular cause,”3 reports Mrs. Villiers.

1 William Henry, third Earl of Darlington, born July 27th, 1766, married firstly, September 19th, 1787, Lady Katharine Powlett, who died June 16th, 1807; he married secondly, July 27th, 1813, Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Russell, who died January 31st, 1861. He was created Duke of Cleveland, January 15th, 1833, and died January 2nd, 1842. See also note at page 26.

2 The Hon. Mrs. Leigh to Lady Byron, September 17th, 18i6.

3 The Hon. Mrs. Villiers to Lady Byron, June 8th, 1816; Robert John Wilmot to Lady Byron, June 12th, 1816.


To another correspondent Mrs. Leigh wrote, June 10th, 1816: “None can know how much I have suffered from this unhappy business—and, indeed, I have never known a moment’s peace, and begin to despair for the future.”1

On Wednesday, July 17th, 1816, she dined with the Villiers’s, stayed with them between four and five hours; “and I must say,” wrote Mrs. Villiers, “that in my life I never saw anything equal to her dejection, her absence, her whole mind evidently pre-occupied and engrossed, and apparently insensible of being in society. Mr. Villiers, who really exerted himself, and commanded himself much better than I expected, to show her as much kindness as before, tells me that while I was called out of the room to speak to a person, he could not extract an answer, even a monosyllable from her, except when he joked about the predicted destruction of the world to-day, and said (a propos to some arrangements which the boys wanted to make) ‘we need not give ourselves any trouble about it, for the world will be at an end tomorrow, and that will put an end to all our cares.’ She quite exclaimed before the boys, the servants, etc., ‘I don’t know what you may all be, but I am sure I’m not prepared for the next world, so I hope this will last.’” This seemed the only topic that roused her.2

A real reformation, according to Christian ideals, would not merely have driven Byron and Augusta apart from each other, but expelled them from the world of wickedness, consigned them for the rest of their lives to strict expiation and holiness. But this could never be; and, in the long run, her flight to an outcast life would have been a lesser evil than the consequences of preventing it. The fall of Mrs. Leigh would have been a

1 The Hon. Mrs. Leigh to the Rev. Francis Hodgson. The latter half of the passage quoted was omitted from the printed version produced in a memoir of the reverend gentleman, but was brought to light at the auction of the original letter in 1885. The suppressed words, apart from their own significance, are an average sample of every-day Byronese garbling.

2 The Hon. Mrs. Villiers to Lady Byron, July 18th, 1816. [See Chapter X.—Ed.]

definite catastrophe, affecting a small number of people for a time in a startling manner. The disaster would have been obvious, but partial, immediately over and ended. While at first causing acute pain to a very few, it must soon have relieved them from increasing difficulties and dangers which gradually undermined and ruined many lives and fortunes. She would have lived in open revolt against the Christian standard, not in secret disobedience and unrepentant hypocrisy. He would have avoided the acted profligacy in which he pursued a savage revenge for her desertion of him. Judged by the light of nature, a heroism and sincerity of united fates and doom would have seemed beyond all comparison purer and nobler than what they actually drifted into. By the social code, sin between man and woman can never be blotted out, as assuredly it is the most irreversible of facts. Nevertheless societies secretly respect, though they excommunicate, those rebel lovers who sacrifice everything else, but observe a law of their own, and make a religion out of sin itself by living it through with constancy.

Byron was ready to sacrifice everything for Augusta, and to defy the world with her. If this had not been prevented, he would have been a more poetical figure in history than as the author of “Manfred” and all the poems of despair and ennui born of a solitude amidst unmentionable women. Misery and inaction were what drove him to verse. He wrote, as a lark in a cage, “non canta d’amor ma di rabbia.” He might never have written a line of poetry if he could have done and lived the things that were natural to him. How he would have treated Augusta if once completely in his power, is hard to guess. Lady Melbourne had predicted that they would end by reproaching each other reciprocally for their inevitable unhappiness. Augusta may have had her own misgivings as to this, though at the height of her passion she was an utter fool about him, saw nothing except with his eyes, and thought only of merging her identity and existence in his, “Dearest, first and best of
human beings,” as she called him.1 She once said to
Lady Byron in December, 1815: “Ah—you don’t know what a fool I have been about him!”2 In her blindness she knew not that her secret was already betrayed even in detail and in writing to other women.

She certainly was not spared misery or degradation by being preserved from flagrant acts; for nothing could be more wretched than her subsequent existence; and, far from growing virtuous, she went farther down without end temporally and spiritually. Character regained was the consummation of Mrs. Leigh’s ruin. Her return to outward respectability was an unmixed misfortune to the third person through whose protection it was possible. For if Augusta fled to Byron in exile, was seen with him as et soror et conjux, the victory remained with Lady Byron, solid and final. This was the solution hoped for by Lady Byron’s friends, Lushington and Doyle, as well as Lady Noel; who all rightly wished to prevent or end false and intolerable relations.3 Their triumph and Lady Byron’s justification would have been complete, and great would have been their rejoicing. But with her the romance of self-sacrifice was all-powerful. She dreamed of miracles, of Augusta purified from sin. Then she thought of the disgrace and scandal, the distress of Augusta’s connections. Wilmot and Mrs. Villiers, too, were pressing her hard to be kind to Augusta, win her confidence, save her from losing her character in England and rushing off to destruction. They had both come to execrate Byron as wickedness personified, desired to thwart him and interfere with the triumph of his plans. Mrs. Villiers was still deeply attached to Augusta, and

1 “The day after my marriage he had a letter from her—it affected him strangely—and excited a kind of fierce and exulting transport. He read to me the expression, ‘Dearest, first and best of human beings,’ and then said with suspicious inquisitiveness, ‘There—what do you think of that?’” (Lady Byron’s Narrative, Q.)

2 Lady Byron’s Statement, G.

3 Lady Noel strongly and repeatedly warned Lady Byron against Mrs. Leigh; for example, on September 7th, 1816, she wrote: “Once more take care of ✣ (the symbol used by Byron and others for Augusta). If I know anything of human nature she does and must hate you.”

Wilmot, though very angry with his unfortunate cousin, naturally wished to stifle the talk about her. Thus was a false position perpetuated for generation after generation. A cloud of misunderstanding was allowed to darken the Byron history, and has hung thick and weary upon his race. His personality and genius have been effaced under laudatory fallacies which would otherwise have been impossible.

It was the fatality of events which drove Lady Byron to intervene and prevent things from taking their natural course. She cannot be blamed for the evils which followed, and to herself most of all. It was her interest that Augusta should join Byron abroad and never return, but it was impossible for her to desire or connive at such an event, and she thought it her duty strenuously to oppose it. To the last she preserved the illusion that it had been well to interfere, and that she had saved them both from additional guilt.

Byron had given his solemn word of honour to Augusta that he never had betrayed her either to Lady Byron or to anyone else, or said anything that could give rise to a report about her; and she declared just after parting from him in April, 1816, that “she must believe his word, could not, would not believe him dishonourable.” Her infatuation continued to increase in his absence—so much that Mrs. Villiers apprehended she would go abroad to him at the first opportunity, and said it was “of the utmost importance that her feelings towards him should be changed, and the sooner the better.” This could only be done by informing her how completely he had committed her, “even betrayed her in writing to two or three women.”1 Thus was Lady Byron induced to resume correspondence with Mrs. Leigh, and by degrees to detach her from Lord Byron. The discovery of what Byron had said and written of Augusta became a powerful motive for her to play the game of entire submission to Lady Byron’s guidance. On August 5th, Augusta wrote that she felt most

1 The Hon. Mrs. Villiers to Lady Byron, May [8th, 1816.

Byron had not been her friend, and that though there were difficulties in writing to him that she would never see him again, she was determined that nothing should induce her to see him again in the way she had done.1 Augusta’s so-called rescue was worked; and Lady Byron had sacrificed herself in vain.

Lady Byron came to London for a fortnight’s stay in lodgings on August 31st, and again saw Augusta, who was at St. James’s Palace; indeed, she saw her most days during that stay as well as Mrs. Villiers.2 Augusta then made full confession of the previous connection—any subsequent to Lady Byron’s marriage being stoutly denied. Lady Byron had sometimes been inclined to think that Mrs. Leigh might have feigned resistance to Lord Byron’s wishes before her and permitted them in private.

Lady Byron wrote (in 1817) of these meetings with Augusta:

“She acknowledged that the verses (‘I speak not, I trace not, I breathe not thy name’) of which I have the original, were addressed to her. She told me that she had never felt any suspicions of my suspicions except at the time in the summer of 1815 when I evidently wished she would leave us, but she had often told him he said such things before me as would have led any other woman to suspect. He reassured her when these doubts occurred, and she seems to have acted upon the principle that what could be concealed from me was no injury.

“She denied that during the business of the separation he had ever addressed any criminal proposals to her.

Augusta told me that she had never seen remorse for his guilt towards her in him but once—the night before they last parted, previous to his going abroad.”3

1 The Hon. Mrs. Leigh to Lady Byron, August 5th, 1816.

2 From July 11th to September 14th, 1816, Mrs. Leigh never left St. James’s Palace. She and Lady Byron were not inmates of the same house, either there or anywhere else, after the separation. A contemporary invention that Lady Byron went to live with Mrs. Leigh was embellished by a fabulist of 1869 into the statement that Lady Byron visited Mrs. Leigh near Newmarket in 1816; the fact being that Lady Byron was only once in her life at Six Mile Bottom, viz.: with Lord Byron from March 12th to March 28th, 1815.

3 Statements G and K.


Augusta also admitted her guilt—somewhat less fully and explicitly—to Mrs. Villiers at that time. Mrs. Villiers was sceptical of Augusta’s entire innocence after marriage, especially during the period after Lady Byron left, when Augusta permitted personal familiarities which astonished George Byron, and also seemed entirely to change her opinion respecting the rights of the separation. Mrs. Villiers thought Lord Byron would never have missed such an opportunity of securing the continuation of her submission.1

Mrs. Villiers wrote to Augusta that she “considered her the victim to the most infernal plot that had ever entered the heart of man to conceive . . . that her [Mrs. Villiers’] horror, detestation and execration of the person who had beguiled and betrayed Augusta exceeded all powers of expression.”2

Of this letter of Mrs. Villiers, Augusta wrote to Lady Byron from Six Mile Bottom (September 17th, 1816):

“I shall be glad that you see Mrs Villiers again— . . . She terms you my Guardian Angel & I am sure you are so—Towards another person—she is very violent in her expressions of resentment—& it is I daresay very natural but I think it better not to say a word in answer—tho’ in fact I am the one much the most to blame—& quite inexcusable—You know—I trust—that I am anxious to make every atonement—& will assist me—”

Lady Byron was not under a complete illusion about Augusta’s repentance and gratitude. She felt little doubt that Augusta would readily turn upon her as an enemy some day, as it was very difficult for one woman to forgive another such a humiliating position. For the time, however, Augusta submitted completely to guidance—showed all Lord Byron’s letters as she received them to Lady Byron, and answered him in the most guarded way.

Mrs. Leigh was to have been the child’s godmother.

1 Lady Byron to Mrs. Villiers, November 2nd, and Mrs. Villiers to Lady Byron, November 5th, 1816.

2 The Hon. Mrs. Villiers to Lady Byron, September 15th, 1816.

In those days the real christening often took place long after the baptismal registration, which in this case had taken place while
Lady Byron was still confined to her room. On November 1st, 1816, Ada was christened; Captain Byron being godfather, Lady Byron’s mother and Lady Tamworth the godmothers. The change was not announced to Mrs. Leigh, though she heard something about it, and wrote to inquire, apparently without receiving any answer, which was doubtless best, as, though Lady Byron was unwilling to allow Augusta more than a restricted intercourse with the little Augusta Ada, and had an insurmountable repugnance to the child’s being in her company, she could not bear to distance her for that reason in so many words, though she might have done so consistently with what she always told her on that subject.1

When he had gone abroad, Byron wrote to Augusta with passionate affection—love letters which were afterwards shown to Lady Byron, whose advice was asked how they could be stopped, when Augusta had put herself absolutely, though temporarily, into Lady Byron’s hands. On September 17th, Byron wrote to urge Augusta to join him abroad, and on or before October 13th she answered by Lady Byron’s direction that such a step would be equally ruinous to himself, her, and her children, and that she hoped he would feel that such views must now be relinquished. At the same time she wrote very coldly about meeting him again, or his returning to England. He at once suspected the letter to have been prompted by Lady Byron, and his exasperation against Augusta and Lady Bryon, for the one having fallen under the influence of the other, was extreme, and went on increasing till it culminated in “Manfred.” Under Augusta’s “absurd obscure hinting style of writing,”—“full of megrims and mysteries,” Byron read clearly two things: that Augusta threatened not to see him, if he returned, either at her own house or his, or except in the presence of other people. He compre-

1 Lady Byron to the Hon. Mrs. Villiers, November 11th, 1818.

hended secondly that Lady Byron forbade Augusta ever to meet him again.1

After Waterloo he had wished for Castlereagh’s head on a pike. Now his most sanguinary language was reserved for domestic enemies, amongst whom he included his nearest blood relations, as well as those of Lady Byron. He appealed to Heaven for a proscription by the side of which that of Collot d’Herbois should seem a mere idyll. To Lady Byron and her parents, George Byron, Robert Wilmot, he promised that “not a fibre of their hearts should remain unsearched by fire.” His bitterness was most undying against Lady Byron’s mother, about whom he wrote four years later:

“She [Lady Noel] is too troublesome an old woman ever to die while her death can do any good—but if she ever does march—it is to be presumed that she will take her ‘water divining rod’ with her—it may be a useful twig to her & the devil too—when she gets home again.”2

For Augusta he reserved in “Manfred” a special “guillotine axe to shear away her vainly whimpering head.”3 Just as “Manfred” was coming out, he wrote a few bitter reproaches to her for behaving so coldly when he was ready to have sacrificed everything for her. He said it was “on her account principally that he had given way at all and signed the separation, for he thought

1 See extracts from Lord Byron’s letters, page 79. [See also Chapter XI.]

2 Lady Noel was a water-finder. The detestation was thoroughly reciprocal. She wrote to Lady Byron (August 2nd, 1818):

Lady Calthorpe has a letter from her Daughter written at Venice, where she has seen Lord Byron. You may imagine in what terms she speaks of him—

“the only new particular is, that he has quarrelled with and dismissed the married lady, and supplied her place, by a Girl of sixteen

“I conclude you have heard that his black-haired Daughter is sent to him at Venice—

“but no more on such a polluted subject—I will begin with some other on a Virgin Page—”

But from her deathbed Lady Noel desired a message of “her forgiveness” to be sent to Lord Byron. It was not in her character to launch an insolence in the form of a dying forgiveness, but there is reason to fear that her words—perhaps uttered when she was almost severed from the power of expression—did not and could not soften Lord Byron.

3 Written in the “French Revolution,” Book I, Chapter iv, of the Comtesse du Barry “unfortunate female” yet “unmalignant, not unpitiable thing.”

they would endeavour to drag her into it, although they with that infernal fiend whose destruction he should yet see.”1

After this he wrote no more to Augusta for nearly nine months, and she expressed the opinion that she was now hated by him.

When Manfred was published, “nothing could have saved Augusta in the eyes of the whole world but want of faith in his veracity”—a very unfounded disbelief. “No avowal can be more complete,” wrote Mrs. Villiers. “It is too barefaced for her friends to attempt to deny the allusion. All that appeared to me practicable I have done with her own family, who have all spoke to me about it. I have said that I had long been aware that his whole object was to ruin others, and particularly those to whom he owed the most, and that I had long been convinced of his wish to confirm the reports of last year to Augusta’s prejudice.

“Did you see the newspaper called ‘The Day and New Times’ of the 23rd June? There is a long critique on ‘Manfred’ ably done, I think, but the allusions to Augusta dreadfully clear. Lady Chichester brought it to me!”2

The sacrifice of Lord Byron’s character for veracity was of course cordially made by Mrs. Leigh’s brothers and sisters, Lady Chichester, the Duke of Leeds,3 and Lord Francis Godolphin Osborne, who could not but be willing to be deceived. More strangely, the general

1 Lord Byron to the Hon. Mrs. Leigh, June 19th, 1817.

2 The Hon. Mrs. Villiers to Lady Byron, July 6th, 1817. No copy of this newspaper exists in the British Museum, and whether any copy of it still exists has not been ascertained. Dr. John Stoddart, Hazlitt’s brother-in-law, and once connected with “The Times,” quitted that paper in January, 1817, and edited “The Day,” which was from that time for some months entitled “The Day and New Times.” But before long the word “Day” was left out, and in 1818 Dr. Stoddart’s newspaper was called “The New Times” alone.

3 By Lady Blessington’s account, Lord Byron, who bore no malice, and in a short time often lost the very recollection of his own violences, thought it odd that the Duke of Leeds did not call on him at Genoa in 1823! But it was no wonder if Mrs. Leigh’s half-brother on the mother’s side never forgot or forgave Manfred.

public, with the stupidity of doves, helped by the caution of the more experienced serpents of the world and the Court, was determined to discover in Mrs. Leigh nothing more than a deserving “maid of honour”1 to
Queen Charlotte. Augusta herself expressed the opinion that she was now hated by the Manfred who descended to Hades to uncharnel the wraith of Astarte. His love certainly was as implacable as Nemesis. He was a master of dire enchantments to transfix hearts. Astarte was haunted and ridden by a spectral Astarte vivified for a flash of time out of the eternal silences to prophesy judgment by the infernal gods upon Manfred.

Lord Byron’s long silence lasted till March, 1818, when he again wrote to Augusta from Venice.

He attributed his long silence to her having plagued him with letters full of hints and grievances he could not understand! encomiums of Lady Byron—gossip about a flock of Idiots. He asked whether “Manfred” had not caused “a pucker.”

So at least Augusta described the letter to Lady Byron. Augusta said that this most unfeeling and almost insulting manner of remarking upon “Manfred” had given her the opportunity to reply:

“A propos of ‘puckers’ I thought there was unkindness which I did not expect in doing what was but too sure to cause one—& so—I said nothing—& perhaps should not but for yr questions”—

Augusta adds to Lady Byron about the letter from Venice:

“A more melancholy one I can’t well imagine—such anger & hatred & bitterness to all—only fit for ye fire—in short it’s plain to me he is angry with himself poor fellow! what a dreadful existence—the only acct of himself—& his proceedings is a dreadful one—& I suppose intended to vex & perplex me—as is very evidently the whole letter.”

1 So at least Lord Byron affected to call her. He wrote to Augusta during the last illness of her royal mistress: “If the Queen dies you are no more a Maid of Honour—is it not so? . . .”


After this he wrote to Augusta at short intervals, in the most varying moods.

Before proceeding to the important documents which will be recorded in Chapter IV, the substance of Lord Byron’s strange poetical manifesto of June, 1817, must be noticed.

The following extracts from “Manfred” contain a sort of transfiguration of terribly real feelings and circumstances into a haunting apparition.

Act III. Scene 3.
That was a night indeed! I do remember
’Twas twilight, as it may be now, and such
Another evening;—yon red cloud, which rests
On Eigher’s pinnacle, so rested then—
So like that it might be the same; the wind
Was faint and gusty, and the mountain snows
Began to glitter with the climbing moon;
Count Manfred was, as now, within his tower,—
How occupied, we knew not, but with him
The sole companion of his wanderings
And watchings—her, whom of all earthly things
That lived, the only thing he seem’d to love,—
As he, indeed, by blood was bound to do,
The lady Astarte, his—
Look—look—the tower—
The tower’s on fire.
Act I. Scene I.
Let him
Who is most powerful of ye, take such aspect
As unto him may seem most fitting—Come!
seventh spirit (appearing in the shape of a beautiful female figure).
Oh God! if it be thus, and thou
Art not a madness and a mockery,
I yet might be most happy. I will clasp thee,
And we again will be—[The figure vanishes]—My heart is crush’d! [Manfred falls senseless.
Act II. Scene I.
There’s blood upon the brim!
Will it then never—never sink in the earth?
* * *
I say ’tis blood—my blood! the pure warm stream
Which ran in the veins of my fathers, and in ours
When we were in our youth, and had one heart
And loved each other as we should not love,
And this was shed; but still it rises up,
Colouring the clouds, that shut me out from heaven,
Where thou art not—and I shall never be.
* * *
Oh! no, no, no!
My injuries came down on those who loved me—
On those whom I best loved; I never quell’d
An enemy, save in my just defence—
But my embrace was fatal.
Act II. Scene 2.
Though I wore the form,
I had no sympathy with breathing flesh,
Nor midst the creatures of clay that girded me
Was there but one who—but of her anon.
* * *
I have not named to thee
Father or mother, mistress, friend or being
With whom I wore a chain of human ties;
If I had such, they seem’d not such to me—
Yet there was one—
* * *
She was like me in lineaments—her eyes,
Her hair, her features, all, the very tone
Even of her voice, they said were like to mine;
But soften’d all, and temper’d into beauty;
She had the same lone thoughts and wanderings,
The quest of hidden knowledge, and a mind
To comprehend the universe; nor these
Alone, but with them gentler powers than mine
Pity, and smiles, and tears—which I had not
And tenderness—but that I had for her;
Humility—and that I never had.
Her faults were mine—her virtues were her own—
I lov’d her, and destroy’d her!
* * *
Not with my hand, but heart—which broke her heart—
It gazed on mine, and wither’d. I have shed
Blood, but not hers—and yet her blood was shed—
I saw—and could not stanch it.
* * *
Daughter of Air! I tell thee since that hour—
* * *
My solitude is solitude no more,
But peopled with the Furies.
* * *
If I had never lived, that which I love
Had still been living; had I never loved,
That which I love would still be beautiful—
Happy and giving happiness. What is she?
What is she now?—a sufferer for my sins—
A thing I dare not think upon—or nothing.
Act II. Scene 4.
Whom wouldst thou
One without a tomb—call up
Shadow! or Spirit!
Whatever thou art,
* * *
Who sent thee there requires thee here!
[The Phantom of Astarte rises and stands in the midst.
Can this be death? there’s bloom upon her cheek;
But now I see it is no living hue,
But a strange hectic—like the unnatural red
Which Autumn paints upon the perish’d leaf
It is the same! Oh, God! that I should dread
To look upon the same—Astarte!—No,
I cannot speak to her—but bid her speak—
Forgive me or condemn me.
By the power which hath broken
The grave which enthrall’d thee,
Speak to him who hath spoken,
Or those who have call’d thee!
She is silent,
And in that silence I am answer’d.
* * *
* *
She is not of our order, but belongs
To the other powers. Mortal! thy quest is vain,
And we are baffled also.
Hear me, hear me—
Astarte! my beloved! speak to me;
I have so much endured—so much endure—
Look on me! the grave hath not changed thee more
Than I am changed for thee. Thou lovedst me
Too much, as I loved thee; we were not made
To torture thus each other, though it were
The deadliest sin to love as we have loved.
Say that thou loath’st me not—that I do bear
This punishment for both—that thou wilt be
One of the blessed—and that I shall die;
For hitherto all hateful things conspire
To bind me in existence—in a life
Which makes me shrink from immortality—
A future like the past. I cannot rest.
I know not what I ask, nor what I seek:
I feel but what thou art—and what I am;
And I would hear yet once before I perish
The voice which was my music—Speak to me!
For I have call’d on thee in the still night,
Startled the slumbering birds from the hush’d boughs,
And woke the mountain wolves, and made the caves
Acquainted with thy vainly echoed name,
Which answer’d me—many things answer’d me—
Spirits and men—but thou wert silent all.
Yet speak to me! I have outwatch’d the stars,
And gazed o’er heaven in vain in search of thee.
Speak to me! I have wander’d o’er the earth,
And never found thy likeness—Speak to me!
Look on the fiends around—they feel for me!
I fear them not, and feel for thee alone—
Speak to me! though it be in wrath;—but say—
I reck not what—but let me hear thee once—
This once—once more!
Say on, say on—
I live but in the sound—it is thy voice!
Manfred! To-morrow ends thine earthly ills.
Yet one word more—am I forgiven?
Say, shall we meet again?
One word for mercy! Say, thou lovest me.
Manfred! [The Spirit of Astarte disappears.
She’s gone and will not be recall’d;
Her words will be fulfill’d. Return to earth.
Act III. Scene 4.
I see a dusk and awful figure rise,
Like an infernal god, from out the earth;
His face wrapt in a mantle, and his form
Robed as with angry clouds; he stands between
Thyself and me—but I do fear him not.
* * *
Why doth he gaze on thee, and thou on him?
Ah! he unveils his aspect; on his brow
The thunder-scars are graven; from his eye
Glares forth the immortality of Hell—
* * *
What art thou, unknown being? Answer!—speak!
The genius of this mortal.—Come! ’tis time.
* * *
I knew, and know my hour is come, but not
To render up my soul to such as thee;
Away! I’ll die as I have lived—alone.
* * *
My life is in it’s last hour—that I know
Nor would redeem a moment of that hour;
I do not combat against death, but thee
And thy surrounding angels.
* * *
But thy many crimes
Have made thee——
What are they to such as thee?
Must crimes be punish’d but by other crimes,
And greater criminals?—Back to thy hell!
* * *
What I have done is done; I bear within
A torture which could nothing gain from thine;
The mind which is immortal makes itself
Requital for its good or evil thoughts—
In its own origin of ill and end—
And its own place and time—its innate sense
When stripp’d of this mortality, derives
No colour from the fleeting things without;
But is absorb’d in sufferance or in joy,
Born from the knowledge of its own deserts
The hand of death is on me—but not yours!
[The Demons disappear.

Alas! how pale thou art—thy lips are white—
And thy breast heaves—and in thy gasping throat
The accents rattle—Give thy prayers to Heaven—
Pray—albeit but in thought—but die not thus.
’tis over—my dull eyes can fix thee not;
But all things swim around me, and the earth
Heaves as it were beneath me. Fare thee well.

The germ of this nightmare in blank verse was in the actual letters to the living Astarte, many of which she destroyed; but in the fragments which remain some of the ideas, and almost the very words, are still to be found which were developed into the incantations of Manfred.

Some passages taken at random will illustrate the affinity of the poem with the letters to her whom Byron addressed as “My Heart!” in the days

“when I was ‘gentle and juvenile—curly and gay,’ and was myself in love with a certain silly person—and who was she—can you guess?”

“Your confidential letter is safe—and all the others. This one has cut me to the heart because I have made you uneasy—Still I think all these apprehensions—very groundless—”

“do not be uneasy—and do not ‘hate yourself’—if you hate either let it be me—but do not—it would kill me;—we are the last persons in the world—who ought—or could cease to love one another—”

“Your having seen my daughter is to me a great satisfaction. It is as if I had seen her myself—Next to you dearest she is nearly all I have to look forward to with hope or pleasure in this world—perhaps she may also disappoint and distress me—”

“This Country is altogether the paradise of wilderness. I wish you were in it with me and everyone else out of it—love me—A.—ever thine.”


“I would return from any distance at any time to see you—and come to England for you—”

“What a fool I was to marry—and you not very wise—my dear—we might have lived so single and so happy—as old maids & batchelors;—I shall never find any one like you—nor you—(vain as it may seem) like me—we are just formed to pass our lives together,—and therefore—we—at least—I—am by a crowd of circumstances removed from the only being who could ever have loved me—or whom I can unmixedly feel attached to—”

“a thousand loves—to you from me—which is very generous for I only ask one in return.”

“I really do not & cannot understand all the mysteries & alarms in your letters—& more particularly in the last—all I know is—that—no human power—short of destruction—shall prevent me from seeing you when—where—& how—I may please—according to time and circumstance—that you are the only comfort (except the remote possibility of my daughter’s being so) left me in prospect in existence, and that I can bear the rest—so that you remain—but any thing which is to divide us would drive me quite out of my senses;—”

“You surely do not mean to say that if I come to England in Spring—that you & I shall not meet?—If so I will never return to it—”

“I know nothing of what you are in the doldrums about at present—I should think—all that could affect you—must have been over long ago—& as for me—leave me to take care of myself—”

“it would be much better at once to explain your mysteries—than to go on with this absurd obscure hinting style of writing—What do you mean?—what is there known? or can be known? which you & I do not know much better? & what concealment can you have from me? I never shrank—”


“You say nothing in favour of my return to England—Very well—I will stay where I am—and you will never see me more.”

“I always loved you better than any earthly existence, and I always shall unless I go mad”1

[1 The full text of the letters from which these passages are quoted will be found in Chapter XI.—Ed.]