LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Astarte: a Fragment of Truth
V. Anne Isabella Byron

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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“Perhaps not a pleasant spectacle,—said Glenalmond.—And yet, do you know, I think somehow a great one.”—Weir of Hermiston.

AFTER the letter of Easter Sunday, 1816, Lord Byron wrote only once more to Lady Byron for three years. On November 1st, 1816, he wrote to her from Milan; after that never again till August, 1819. The third letter he wrote to her from abroad was from Ravenna, December 31st, 1819. The only part of it that need be quoted here is his offer of an inspection of the first part of the Memoirs.

Augusta can tell you all about me & mine if you think either worth the enquiry;—But the object of my writing is to come———

“It is this.—I saw Moore three months ago and gave to his care—a long Memoir written up to the Summer of 1816, of my life—which I had been writing since I left England.—It will not be published till after my death—and in fact it is a ‘Memoir’ and not ‘confessions’ I have omitted the most important & decisive events and passions of my existence not to compromise otherss.—But it is not so with the part you occupy—which is long and minute—and I could wish you to see, read—and mark any part or parts that do not appear to coincide with the truth.—The truth I have always stated—but there are two ways of looking at it—and your way may be not mine.—I have never revised the paperss since they were written—You may read them—and mark what you
please—I wish you [to] know what I think and say of you & yourss.—You will find nothing to flatter you—nothing to lead you to the most remote suppossition that we could ever have been—or be happy together.—But I do not choosse to give to another generation statements which we cannot arise from the dust to prove or disprove—without letting you see fairly & fully what I look upon you to have been—and what I depict you as being.—If seeing this—you can detect what is false—or answer what is charged—do so—your mark—shall not be erased.———

“You will perhaps say why write my life?—Alas! I say so too—but they who have traduced it—& blasted it—and branded me—should know—that it is they—and not I—are the cause—It is no great pleasure to have lived—and less to live over again the details of existence—but the last becomes sometimes a necessity and even a duty.—

“If you choosse to see this you may—if you do not—you have at least had the option”1

[Finished] January 1st—[1820].

Lady Byron received this letter at Kirkby Mallory about or a little before January 21st, 1820. Her first impulse was to answer it, and she drew up the following draft:

“I have received your letter of January 1st offering to my perusal a Memoir of your life and informing me that the part which I occupy is ‘long and minute.’—

“I decline to inspect it because I consider the composition of such a Memoir for present or future circulation as wholly unjustifiable, and I would not, even indirectly, appear to sanction it.

1 The signature is a whirl of curves in the fashion of Mrs. Leigh’s signature, in her letter to Lord Byron of December 14th, 1814, a facsimile of which will be found at p. 38. [See also p. 286 for Byron’s signature.]

The frequent duplication of the letters is a characteristic of Lord Byron’s writing during the last five years of his life. There is not a trace of this orthographic peculiarity in his earlier manuscripts.


“If you truly state our domestic circumstances I can only express my astonishment that you should wish to expose them.—If as I have every reason to expect, your representation is partial, falsely coloured, and affectedly candid, the mode of refutation which you suggest would be very inadequate.—

“I have most earnestly desired, and especially on our daughter’s account, that our private concerns should no further be obtruded on the public—I would have submitted to some injustice from opinion, rather than have promoted or renewed the discussion of so painful a topic.—Of this I believe you were well aware—But there must be a limit to forbearance, and that limit is fixed, absolutely fixed, in my own mind.—

“Great as is the advantage which your talents give you, I feel confident that your duplicity, with the facts and feelings which it is employed to conceal, will ultimately be discovered—and that every addition which you make to the fabric of falsehood will accelerate its fall.—

“When I last addressed you I was still influenced by an attachment too deep to be rapidly subdued however unjustly and cruelly treated—I now most sincerely wish your welfare, and shall lament any proceedings on your part which may render it impossible for me to persevere in a passive conduct.”

Colonel Doyle thought this letter—which was never sent—a very good one, with the exception perhaps of the last paragraph but one. He thought it also questionable whether the last paragraph meant anything, and considered it would be better left out.

But Dr. Lushington thought it very objectionable for Lady Byron to enter into a direct correspondence on that subject with Lord Byron. He thought there was not a shadow of doubt—and in this all agreed—that she should decline any perusal of the manuscript or Memoir, but he thought the communication should be made through Mrs. Leigh.


Colonel Doyle wrote to Lady Byron (January 27th, 1820):

“[Dr. Lushington] conceives that if it were made to appear to Mrs. Leigh that the consequence of this sort of controversy, begun by the circulation of a Memoir, followed by an answer, and ending in publication on both sides would inevitably be at last the disclosure of everything which she was most desirous to conceal—that such a letter or communication from her to him would be sent as would be as likely to operate in deterring him from the commencement of this attack as any other means you could employ. This would depend upon her communicating to him pretty faithfully what you should write to her. Lushington seems to think there would be no doubt of this. . . .

“I think the great point to effect is that Lord Byron should be aware of the extent of the information you possess, and be made to believe that the consequence of commencing an attack which would lead necessarily from one thing to another, would be the ultimate disclosure of everything. If this could be done through Mrs. Leigh it perhaps would be the best course, and you can best judge of that. . . .

“If you think that you can make Mrs. Leigh the instrument of conveying that sort of intimidation to Lord Byron that may deter him from the course he is about to enter—I think you should not be prevented by any consideration for her immediate feelings on receiving a decided letter from you on the subject—as, to her as well as to all concerned—it is of so much more importance that things should be left undisturbed—than that present feelings only should be consulted.”

Dr. Lushington sketched an outline for a letter from Lady Byron to Mrs. Leigh. His first idea was to convey a sort of threat to make a full and unreserved disclosure to the world of all those circumstances which would at once establish Lady Byron’s justification, “and involve Lord Byron and others in infamy.”


Dr. Lushington suggested also the following words:

Lord Byron is probably by no means aware of the extent of the information of which I was possessed before our separation, nor of the additional proofs as well as new facts which have since come to my knowledge.”

However, after these and other suggestions, Dr. Lushington concluded thus in a letter to Colonel Doyle of January 25th, 1820:

“Indeed I doubt whether the safest and wisest course would not be, shortly to request Mrs. Leigh to communicate to Lord Byron Lady Byron’s refusal to inspect the Memoirs, and add as it were cursorily

“‘If they should come into circulation in my lifetime I should lament on account of others the disclosures which I should then be compelled to make in my own justification—for my daughter I should regret publicity: to myself it could not be injurious.’”

Lady Byron wrote to Colonel Doyle from Kirkby, January 29th, 1820:

“I defer to Dr. Lushington’s opinion with respect to the danger of entering into a direct correspondence with Lord Byron—I will state my objections to the measure which he proposes to substitute

“1st. I think it is highly desirable that I should be able to produce to any one a copy of my declaration to Lord B— on this subject—If that declaration were contained in a letter to Mrs Leigh, I must, in showing it, either explain fully how she and I are circumstanced, or else inferences contrary to the truth would be drawn from the fact of my treating her thus confidentially.—

2ndly Supposing that objection could be obviated—Mrs L— is herself sufficiently alarmed about the consequences of his measures, but I have no reason to think that she can influence him.—I foresee from the
transmission of such a letter in substance as
Dr L’s first (which I believe she would transmit, if urged to do so—with her own comments), this consequence:—that, an unreserved disclosure from her to him being necessitated, they would combine together against me—he being actuated by revenge—she by fear—whereas, from her never having dared to inform him that she has already admitted his guilt to me with her own, they have hitherto been prevented from acting in concert—The transmission of the cursory observation suggested in Dr L’s note, and the equivalent of what I have said to her, would not in my opinion have any effect. Lord B— is not intimidated by terms so general. The addition which you suggest of the paragraph—‘Lord B— is probably by no means aware of the extent of the information of which I was possessed before our separation, nor of the additional proofs, as well as new facts, which have since come to my knowledge’—would render the communication more pointed (bringing it perhaps into the same case with the first) but I perceive objections to the clause underlined. For, my information previous to my separation having been derived either directly from Lord B— or from my observations on that part of his conduct which he exposed to my view—the expression ‘he is probably not aware’ would seem a contradiction, at least unless guarded by something to this effect—‘As the infatuation of pride may have blinded him to the conclusions which must inevitably be established by a long series of circumstantial evidences’—The same clause also appears objectionable to me as coinciding with the story of my having used clandestine means to obtain information—An invention doubtless designed to invalidate the force, or impair the respectability of my probable statements—on the same principle as he contrived to cast on Lady C L1—the suspicion of a forgery in order to destroy the effect of her evidence against him.—These insidious endeavours render it in my opinion the more necessary for me to have made my

1 [Lady Caroline Lamb.]

protest,—in terms of greater decision than I have yet employed, and in such a form as to be recorded,—before an attack is made upon the credibility of my testimony.—And in one case, which it is painful to me to calculate upon, such a declaration would be almost the sole, though inadequate proof of my conscious integrity—viz—If I were to survive him—for it would then be impossible for me to vindicate myself by accusation from the posthumous charges which could not, probably, be otherwise disproved.—

* * *

“I have to ask—would not such a communication to Lord B— from my father—authorised by me—answer the desired ends without being liable to the same objections as a letter from myself—

“The chief points in that communication to be—

“The information of my declining to peruse the MS—A representation of the injurious consequences of its circulation to Ada—and a declaration that I shall consider the existence of such a Memoir (avowedly destined for future publication) especially if it be circulated in MS—at present, as releasing me from even the shadow of an engagement to suppress the facts of my own experience, or the corroborating proofs of Lord B’s character & conduct—that reluctant as I have ever been to bring my domestic concerns before the public, and anxious as I have felt to save from ruin a near connection of his, I shall feel myself compelled by duties of primary importance, if he perseveres in accumulating injuries upon me, to make a disclosure of the past in the most authentic form.—

“The last sentence requires very great caution—& I have only given the substance.—This allusion to Mrs L— is not so likely as that which she might convey, to necessitate her acknowledgment to him. At the same time it would have equal force.—I do not conceive that such a communication would absolutely bind me at this time to publish my case, if he should, (relying on the
advantage of an intervening sea,) return an answer of defiance.—”

Colonel Doyle answered, February 1st [?] 1820:

“I shall send your memorandum to Lushington & not answer it till I get his answer & have seen him. I will however say that it is my present impression that as you will not transmit your protest through Mrs L. for the very fair reason you assign—a letter from yourself short & to the point, without any unnecessary provocation—but intimating the determination not to yield beyond a certain point—as in yr first letter you have expressed, wd be better than through yr father—the threat of a third person may make it incumbent upon his pride to revolt—”

After much discussion, Dr. Lushington’s objection to Lady Byron writing herself for fear of its leading to correspondence was decided to be inapplicable to a proper letter, the terms of which were arranged, but only after considerable delay.

Lady Byron to Lord Byron.1
Kirkby Mallory
March 10th 1820

I received your letter of January 1st offering to my perusal a Memoir of part of your life. I decline to inspect it. I consider the publication or circulation of such a composition at any time as prejudicial to Ada’s future happiness. For my own sake I have no reason to shrink from publicity, but notwithstanding the injuries which I have suffered, I should lament some of the consequences.

A I: Byron.
To Lord Byron.

1 This and the following letter were printed in 1853 with Moore’s Diaries, without any kind of sanction from Lady Byron, but, though feeling that it was improper to publish them without her leave, she did not regret that her reason for avoiding public discussion, viz., her daughter’s happiness, should become known. In 1853 that reason no longer existed.

Lord Byron to Lady Byron.
The Lady Byron
to the care of Mr T. Moore
Inclosed in a wrapper by Thomas Moore and addressed
The Lady Byron
Kirkby Mallory (redirected 10, York Buildings, Hastings)
T. M.
Ravenna. April 3d 1820.

I received yesterday your answer dated March 10th. My offer was an honest one, and surely could be only construed as such even by the most malignant Casuistry—I could answer you—but it is too late, and it is not worth while—

To the mysterious menace of the last sentence—whatever its import may be—and I really cannot pretend to unriddle it—I could hardly be very sensible even if I understood it—before it could take place—I shall be where “nothing can touch him further.”—I advise you however to anticipate the period of your intention—for be assured no power of yourss can avail beyond the present,—and if it could I would answer with the Florentine
“Et io, che possto son con loro in croce
. . . . . . . . e certo
La fiera Moglie, piu ch’altro, mi nuoce.”

Lady Byron.

In the course of the same year, 1820, Lord Byron wrote several times to Lady Byron, constantly repeating the request originally made in the letter of Easter Sunday, 1816, for future kindness to Augusta. The inconsistency of alternate supplications and imprecations is one of the most extraordinary manifestations of Lord Byron’s complex or twofold character. After writing an entreaty
on October 8th, 1820, to one of the two A.’s,1 he wrote (about October 20th, 1820) to the other A.:

“—the Lady Byron I suppose retains her old starch obstinacy—with a deeper dash of Sternness—from the dint of time—and the effort it has cost her to be ‘magnanimous’ as they called her mischief-making.—. . .

“Time and Events will one or the other revenge her past conduct,—without any interference of mine.—”

His renewed appeals—half entreaty, half curse—were in the spirit of those supplications of old which, though lame, haggard and looking nowhere, were the children of the Eternal, and, when spurned and denied by the infatuation of men, sooner or later surely invoked final equity that the avenger may follow.

καί γάρ τε Λιταί είσι Διός κουραι μεγάλοιο.
χωλαί τε ρυσαί τε παραβλωπές τ΄ όϕθαλμώ,
αί ρά τε καί μετόπισθ΄ Ατης άλέγουσι κιουσαι.
. . . . . . . .
ος δε κ΄ άνήνηται καί τε στερεως άποείπη,
λίσσονται δ΄ αρα ταί γε Δία Κρονίωνα κιουσαι
τω Ατην αμ΄ επεσθαι, ίνα βλαϕθείς άποτίση.
Iliad,” IX., 502, etc

With all her inflexibility, Lady Byron was not insensible to pity for the destructive consequences of that passion which had broken up Lord Byron’s life. She felt that he was suffering from irremediable sorrow, which no power could remit. But after so many prayers from him on this one subject, she was moved to write once more to him for the very last time. Her note was very short, and is here given verbatim:

Lady Byron to Lord Byron.
Indorsed: “Copy to Lord B.
Decer 10th 1820

When you first expressed the wish respecting Mrs Leigh, which is repeated in your last letter of Octtr 8th I deter-

1 In 1814 Lord Byron used to talk to Lady Melbourne of her niece Anne Isabella Milbanke as “your A,” of Augusta Leigh as “my A”—and sometimes referred to “the two A’s.”

mined to act consistently with it. If the assurance of that intention would conduce,—(as you state in a former letter, & as appears from your reiterated requests)—to calm your mind, I will not withhold it. The past shall not prevent me from befriending Augusta Leigh & her Children in any future circumstances which may call for my assistance—I promise to do so.—She knows nothing of this——

Lord Byron to Lady Byron.
The Right Honble
Lady Byron.
(Sealed with the pansy seal—motto
“elle vous suit partout.”)
“Ravenna. [Thursday] 10bre 28th 1820.

I acknowledge your note which is on the whole satisfactory—the style a little harssh—but that was to be expected—it would have been too great a peace-offering after nearly five yearss—to have been gracious in the manner, as well as in the matter.—Yet you might have been sso—for communications between us—are like “Dialogues of the Dead”—or “letters between this world & the next.” You have alluded to the “past” and I to the future.—As to Augusta—she knowss as little of my request, as of your answer—Whatever She is or may have been—you have never had reason to complain of her—on the contrary—you are not aware of the obligations under which you have been to her.—Her life & mine—and yourss & mine—were two things perfectly distinct from each other—when one ceased the other began—and now both are clossed.

You must be aware of the reasons of my request in far of Augusta & her Childn which are the restrictions I am under by the Settlement, which death would make yourss—at least the available portion.

I wrote to you on the 8th or ninth inst, I think.—Things here are fast coming to a Crisis.———War may
be considered as nearly inevitable—though the
King of N is gone to Congress,1 that will scarcely hinder it—the people are so excited, you must not mind what the English fools say of Italy—they know nothing—they go gaping from Rome to Florence and so on—which is like seeing England—in Saint James’s Street.———

I live with the people and amongsst them—& know them—and you may rely upon my not deceiving you, though I may myself If you mean ever to extricate the Settlement from the funds now is the time to make the trustees act—while Stocks are yet up—and peace not actually broken. Pray attend to this—


P.S. Excuse haste—I have scribbled in great quickness,—and do not attribute it to ill-humour—but to matterss which are on hand—& which must be attended to—I am—really obliged by your attention to my request.——You could not have sent me any thing half so acceptable but I have burnt your note that you may be under no restraint but your internal feeling.—It is a comfort to me now—beyond all comforts; that A— & her children will be thought of—after I am nothing; but five yearss ago—it would have been something more? why did you then keep silence? I told you that I was going long—and going far (not so far as I intended—for I meant to have gone to Turkey and am not sure that I shall not finish with it—but longer than I meant to have made of existence—at least at that time—) and two words about her or herss would have been to me—like vengeance or freedom to an Italian—i.e. the ‘Ne plus ultra’ of gratifications—She and two otherss were the only things

1 The King of Naples escaped from his capital and “National Parliament” on December 13th, 1820, on board an English man-of-war, the “Vengeur,” was landed at Leghorn and went on to Laybach. After the Congress, an Austrian army marched to put an end to the Neapolitan constitution, and before the end of March, 1821, the constitutional army concluded a slight resistance with unqualified submission (Sir Spencer Walpole’sHistory of England,” chap. x.).

I ever really loved—I may say it now,—for we are young no longer.”1

It is evident from the allusions in Lord Byron’s letter of December 28th, 1820, that he had become thoroughly aware of the extent of Lady Byron’s information, and did not wish that she should be misled. He probably may have heard from Augusta herself that she had admitted her own guilt together with his to Lady Byron.

The breath of pagan and sensuous melancholy which vibrated in Byron has little or no significance to the present age, and indeed is almost unintelligible without interpretation. Such an interpreter was Goethe, whose comprehensive genius mastered most of what co-existed in the long epoch of his life. Headlong progress has carried Europe ever farther from classical paganism. Semitic and socialist hordes are far more deadly to ancient learning and beauty than even the Christians to pagan Rome. Modern materialism decoys mankind with ugly but effective spectres, the craving for absolute utility, the madness of final equality, so-called universal happiness. The state in its wisdom keeps schools for Christianity without God, literature without Latin, science without conscience. We are remote indeed from the despair of the humanists over the substitution of the barbarous Old Testament for the Alexandrian Library.2

At the ruin of paganism, joy and beauty vanished from life, together with the motley throng of the gods of old

1 There is a clever guess in the article in “Temple Bar” mentioned at pp. 143-4, note, and 161, about this last letter from Lady Byron to Lord Byron:

“She sent him a parting letter which he destroyed. It is known only from being mentioned in one which he wrote (17th November, 1821) but did not send to her.” “Her letter contained some voluntary pledge.” “One of two reasons, neither perhaps the true one, which he gave her, for having destroyed it, is that he wished to take her word without documents.” “He alleged as the other reason for the destruction of her letter that it was written in a style not very agreeable. It is probable she told him that it would be, as it was, the last letter he would receive from her.” “He would not dare preserve such a letter, which must needs allude to the cause of separation” (“Temple Bar”).

The writer, however, obviously made the mistake of assuming that Lady Byron’s letter of December 10th, 1820, had been written in 1816.

2 Gladstone gave his “Romanes lecture” “to combat Pattison’s statement that the extinction of the Pagan civilization by the Church was a great calamity” (“Talks with Mr. Gladstone, by the Hon. L. A. Tollemache,” p. 107).

and their rites and revels. Droning preachers vainly muttered their empty benedictions. Black fanaticism snatched human victims from life and love.
“saepius ilia
religio peperit scelerosa atque impia facta.”1

The dark transformation of the world is described in an exquisite poem of Goethe. In it a fair heathen bride is offered up to the dread alien Deity to whom her baptised and Christian parents have devoted her,
“tremibundaque ad aras
deductast, non ut solemni more sacrorum
perfecto posset claro comitari Hymenaeo
sed casta inceste nubendi tempore in ipso
hostia concideret mactatu maesta parentis
exitus ut classi felix faustusque daretur
tantum religio potuit suadere malorum.”2
But neither earth nor the exorcisms of priests can cool love. Her apparition, white as snow, but cold as ice, visits the lover to whom she had been promised while yet the bright temple of Venus was standing. He vows to warm and win her back to love and joy though she came from the grave itself. But she warns him she belongs not to joy, no heart beats in her breast. She must not stay with him, but he must follow her.

In her last adjuration, we could almost think we hear that final farewell which should be inscribed on the urn that ought to hold Byron’s ashes:

“Einen scheiterhaufen schichte du;
Oeffne meine bange kleine hütte,
Bring’ in flammen liebende zur ruh,’
Wenn der funke sprüht,
Wenn die asche glüht,
Eilen wir den alten göttern zu.”3

“Ainsi mourut cet homme qui fut sans doute un grand coupable, mais qui pourtant fut un homme.”4

1 Lucretius, I. 82.

2 Lucretius, I. 95-101.

3Die Braut von Corinth.”

4Monsieur de Camors.”