LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Astarte: a Fragment of Truth

‣ Contents
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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CHAPTER I. Byron Characteristics
Byron’s levity, wit and constitutional melancholy. Voluptuous pessimism. Ferocity. Celtic descent. A man of the past, though destroyer of everything. No prophet of perfectibility. Of the family of another Celt:—René. Byron, with Voltaire, laughs away the religious terror. A labyrinth of contradictions. Byron considers himself an instance of Fichte’s theory of two states of existence, of an immutable self contemplating almost with wonder the transient and frantic self. Admiration for Napoleon’s superiority to human sympathy. Dramatic mobility. Lively interest in his own defects and “consequent slowness in amending them.” Goethe on Byron. “Eyes the open portals of the sun” but slightly dissimilar—the right eye rather smaller. Descriptions by Coleridge, Moore, Medwin, Sir Thomas Lawrence, and Chantrey. Terrifying “under look” like “ces regards qui traversent la tête” of Napoleon. Superstitious horror felt by some for Lord Byron. Southey mistrusts him like a tiger. He is shunned by the English abroad. Elizabeth Hervey’s consternation at his coming to Coppet. Chastity and sobriety thought ridiculous in Byron’s time. Signs of death in his skull and heart. Goethe on Byron’s exile. Goethe’s wonderful insight about Byron. Literary composition not natural to Byron—a true poet only on subjects identified with himself. Resemblance between his smile and Buonaparte’s. More sayings of Goethe’s about Byron’s unconscious beauties and everlasting negation. Byron’s poems felt to be confidential disclosures with special meaning to the initiated. He considers Lady Byron as a fated instrument for his destruction. Augusta Byron’s disposition, abominable marriage, life struggles, plausibility, equivocations, disasters and death.
CHAPTER II. Three Stages of Lord Byron’s
Augusta goes to Lord Byron in London, June, 1813. Their intended journey to Sicily (she in Lady Oxford’s place), relinquished by Lady Melbourne’s advice. Byron’s confidences about everything to Lady Melbourne and others. His reckless speeches in general society. Reports against Augusta’s character. Byron talks about her and shows her letters to other women. His promises of amendment when the marriage with Lady Melbourne’s niece was arranged. One existing babyish letter from Augusta to Byron, written nineteen days before his marriage. His anger after his marriage when he felt thwarted by his wife and sister. He sends Lady Byron away from his house. Lady Byron arrives at Kirkby and her mother goes to London for a week of consultations. Byron’s frantic mood. Demand made to him for a separation. Uproar and reports. Weakness and good intentions of Mrs. Leigh in 1815. Lady Byron goes to her father in London and sees Dr. Lushington. Prevailing reports about Mrs. Leigh, and guarded disclaimers by Lady Byron. Unsuccessful mediations of Lord Holland and Mr. Wilmot to settle terms of separation. Signed and attested statement by Dr. Lushington and others of the position between Lady Byron and Mrs. Leigh in March, 1816. Mrs. Leigh moves from Lord Byron’s house to St. James’s Palace on March 16. On March 17 Hobhouse obtains Byron’s consent to principle of separation. Delays and incidents. Byron’s farewell letter to his wife on Easter Sunday. He signs separation and leaves England for ever.
Desolation of Lady Byron’s life. Intolerable situation with Augusta of tacitly suspended communication. Lady Byron takes upon herself to write and announce to Augusta loss of confidence in character. Augusta in her letters of June, July, and August, 1816, attempts no denial and submits to Lady Byron’s changed opinion. Persistent reports. Desperation of Augusta. Lady Byron helps to rehabilitate Augusta in society when there were fears that Augusta would be driven to follow Byron abroad. Uselessness of Augusta’s rescue. Lady Byron meets Augusta in London in September and receives explicit oral confession of former circumstances. Augusta also admits her guilt to Mrs. Villiers. Augusta not allowed to be Ada’s godmother or to see much of the child. Under Lady Byron’s influence Augusta writes coldly to
CHAPTER III.—continued.
Byron. His resentment against every one and revenge in “Manfred.” Extracts from “Manfred.” Parallel passages from letters.
CHAPTER IV. Some Correspondence of Augusta Byron
Lord Byron’s letter of May 17, 1819, to Augusta. An open avowal of inextinguishable passion which he says will drive him to destruction. Augusta was the only object that cost him a tear. He will never quite forgive her for that precious piece of reformation and her new resolution, when, after his marriage with that infamous fiend who drove him from the country, Augusta refused to continue to love him as she had loved him. Augusta transmits Byron’s letter to Lady Byron for advice. The letter considered as proof of reformation as well as of the prior connection. Feeling of the Victim at being wholly in his power—aware of the precipice on which she stands. Correspondence on Byron’s threatened return in December, 1819. Lady Byron expresses anxiety to support and comfort Augusta “in the recovered path of virtue” but gives an emphatic warning that Augusta’s remorse could only be aggravated by meeting Byron again, and that such meeting would put an end to further intercourse between the sisters-in-law. Progress of estrangement between Mrs. Leigh and Lady Byron.
CHAPTER V. Some Correspondence of Anne Isabella Byron
Byron offers his memoirs for perusal by Lady Byron. She sketches a stern answer, about which she consults Colonel Doyle and Dr. Lushington. Lushington objects to direct communication from Lady Byron to Lord Byron. Disclosure of everything which Mrs. Leigh was most desirous to conceal, conceived by Lushington to be inevitable result of publication. Colonel Doyle wishes Lord Byron to be made aware of the extent of information possessed by Lady Byron. Very laconic answer of refusal to inspect memoir decided on, and close of subject. Lord Byron writes again to Lady Byron asking for future kindness to Augusta. Lady Byron’s very last letter to him answering that the past should not prevent her from befriending Augusta Leigh, and that if that assurance could tend to calm his mind, she would no longer withhold it. Lord Byron’s letter acknowledging Lady Byron’s
CHAPTER V.—continued.
harsh but not unfeeling communication. He declares that Augusta’s life and his was over when Lady Byron’s and his began: “when one ceased the other began—and now both are closed.” Byron’s life part of the vanished pagan world.
CHAPTER VI. Lady Byron’s Policy of
Lord Byron’s life of no public import, and should not have been told. Mysterious interest of the separation. Weariness and oblivion of the subject in England. Byron’s revolutionary and deicide attitude. Byron biographies condemned by Lord John Russell, the Marquis of Lansdowne, Canning, Hobhouse and Lord Byron himself. Had written his own memoirs on purpose to prevent others from writing about him. Precipitate and treacherous destruction of those memoirs. A Government Critic and Spy on the contents of the memoirs. Gifford described by Hazlitt, Shelley, etc. Scott’s moral laxity about Byron contrasted with Wordsworth’s abhorrence. Byron memoirs nowhere coarse but for a few pages in the second part, about adventures at Venice after 1816. Not burnt for or by Lady Byron. Conflict of evidence as to Mrs. Leigh’s implication in the memoirs. Mrs. Leigh’s approval of the destruction and Lady Byron’s ignorance. False charge against Lady Byron of complicity in the act. Fictitious importance given to Guiccioli. Nemesis of passion. Byron goes to the East to die, drawn by destiny rather than Greece: fata viam inveniunt. The English cared little and heard overmuch about Byron and his grave. Lord Byron’s unlucky familiarities and correspondences with parasites. Consequent posthumous traffic. Deteriorating influences on Lord Byron. Many of the worst and none of the best of his letters published. Fallacies and hallucinations that causes of Lady Byron’s separation had been unknown to Lord Byron, were unrecorded, intangible, non-existent. He was neutralized out of identity. Complete records of grounds of separation have been kept. He was already informed of all that his wife could have told him, and as thoroughly and ably advised as she, by lawyers and friends. Her wish to be forgotten after his death. She could have dispelled the hideous popular delusion about herself. But she had promised to befriend the person represented as Astarte. Other reasons for silence. The death of her daughter following that of Astarte makes a
CHAPTER VI.—continued.
great change. Age and infirmity having come, Lady Byron leaves her papers to be dealt with by trustees, who indefinitely postpone the work.
CHAPTER VII. Informers And Defamers
Guiccioli, “Temple Bar” and Mrs. Beecher Stowe in 1869. Abraham Hayward retained for “Quarterly Review” to divert suspicion from Mrs. Leigh by the blackest imputations against Lady Byron. False pretence of ugliness as a certificate of character. Mrs. Leigh really a delightful woman, whose pagan charm was masked under the “Chichester Gospel.” Startling intimations by Byron in verse of the truth about Astarte. Frequency of violations of the prohibited degree in his time. Vengeance of “Le Stryge” on the “purple-lined palace of sweet sin.” Byron’s last inaudible message to his wife. A Heliogabalus of the Old Bailey on “accomplished hypocrites.” Deadlock of Lady Byron’s trustees. Her directions about papers. Fidelity of her friends. Mrs. Barwell’s letter to Mrs. De Morgan; mention of “Saturday Review” articles. Relations between Lady Byron and Mrs. Leigh in 1815 and 1816. Gross misuse of letters from Lady Byron selected by Mrs. Leigh for her own exculpation. Lady Byron’s kind feelings and uncertain knowledge of Mrs. Leigh’s real circumstances in January, 1816, did not amount to evidence for or against any thing or any one. Obstacles to justice and long-continued misrepresentations. Incestuous charge preferred against Shelley and his sister Elizabeth by “Quarterly Review” itself (and without proof) as a fair argument against atheists, though strictly forbidden to discovery by a wife. Fall of Lord Byron’s fame brings heavier loads of Byronese refuse on the market and fails to stop damnatory language against Lady Byron. Lies cannot be endured for ever.
CHAPTER VIII. “When We Dead Awake
A resurrection of Byron ghosts. Sir Leslie Stephen’s frank recognition of truth, after being misled partly from natural antipathy to the whole subject. His outline of the real case. All material circumstances here included without reserve though limited compass. Points in Lady Byron’s character. Excessive renunciation of world. Descriptions by Ticknor, etc. Severe and Utopian ideals. [Note by H. de F. Montgomery.] Adoption of Pascal’s system: “Vous ne serez point dans les plaisirs empestés, dans la gloire, dans
CHAPTER VIII.—continued.
les délices.—J’aurais bientôt quitte les plaisirs, disent-ils, si j’avais la foi.—Et moi je vous dis: Vous auriez bientôt la foi si vous aviez quitte les plaisirs. Or, c’est à vous à commencer. Il est vrai qu’il y a de la peine en entrant dans la piété; mais cette peine ne vient pas du bien qui commence d’être en nous, mais du mal qui y est encore.” Intense pity for the wretched, sympathy with the calumniated, suffering and oppressed. Readiness to learn from experience. Sternness, fortitude, generosity, coolness of judgment, strength of affection.
CHAPTER IX. Additional Letters: From Anne Isabella Byron, Augusta Leigh and Therese Villiers
Explanation by Editor. May 6 to May 23, 1816: Correspondence between Lady Byron and Mrs. Villiers about Mrs. Leigh. June 3: Important letter of Lady Byron to Mrs. Leigh about future limitation of intercourse. June 6: Mrs. Leigh’s answer. June 4 to July 3: More letters between Lady Byron and Mrs. Villiers, and between Lady Byron and Mrs. Leigh.
CHAPTER X. Additional Letters: From Anne Isabella Byron, Augusta Leigh and Therese Villiers (continued)
July 8, 1816: Lady Byron communicates to Mrs. Villiers her “very great comfort and strong hopes” as to Mrs. Leigh’s repentance. July 9: Mrs. Villiers’ answer. July 11 to 17: Letters between Lady Byron and Mrs. Leigh. July 18: Long letter from Mrs. Villiers to Lady Byron describing Mrs. Leigh’s state of mind. July 20 to Aug. 17: More letters between Lady Byron and both the others. Aug. 31: Lady Byron comes to London. Her memorandum. Short notes between her and Mrs. Leigh subsequent to their interview. Sept. 14 and 15: Letters between Lady Byron and Mrs. Villiers. Sept. 17: Letter from Mrs. Leigh to Lady Byron, “My Guardian Angel!”
CHAPTER XI Additional Letters: Byron and Augusta
Nov. 29, 1813: Mrs. Leigh’s inscription on a lock of her hair sent to Lord Byron. Aug. 27 to Oct. 1, 1816: Lord Byron’s letters to Mrs. Leigh from Diodati. Oct. 15 to 28: Do. do. from Milan. Dec. 18, 1816, to Feb. 25, 1817: From
CHAPTER XI—continued.
Venice. May 10, 1817: From Rome. June 3, 1817: From Venice, with facsimile of signature. June 19, 1817, to July, 1819: From Venice. July 20, 1819: Lord Byron to Lady Byron from Ravenna. Sept. 10, 1819: Fragment of letter to Mrs. Leigh. Nov. 28 and Dec. 4, 1819: To Mrs. Leigh from Venice. Dec. 31, 1819: To Lady Byron from Ravenna. Aug. 19, 1820, to Dec. 21, 1820: To Mrs. Leigh from Ravenna. Jan. 11, 1821: To Lady Byron from Ravenna. June 22, Sept. 13 and Oct. 5, 1821: To Mrs. Leigh from Ravenna. March 4, 1822: Do. from Pisa. Oct. 12, 1822: From Genoa. Jan. 27 and June 23, 1823: From Genoa. Oct. 8, 1823: [From Cephalonia?].
I. Mr. Edgcumbe’s Theory
II. A Portrait Mis-named Lady Byron
III. Byron’s Hair
IV. Mary Anne Clermont
Extract from Colonel Francis Hastings Doyle’s letter to Robert John Wilmot Horton, May 18, 1825. Colonel Doyle’s evidence that the Byron Memoirs were burnt without Lady Byron’s participation or knowledge.
“I speak not—I trace not—I breathe not thy name”—from manuscript that belonged to Lady Byron.
Opening lines to Lara—to Azora—from manuscript that belonged to Lady Byron.
Stanzas to Augusta.
Extract from “Childe Harold,” Canto 3—Rhine Lines (with lilies of the valley).
Epistle to Augusta.
Stanzas to [Augusta]—from Miss Mercer Elphinstone’s copy.
Omitted. See Introduction, p. vi.
Extracts from the “Saturday Review,” September 4 to December 25, 1869.
Chronology of Persons and Events mentioned in this History.


Anne Isabella Milbanke when about 10 years old, after Hoppner
Augusta’s Seal from Letter to Byron of
December, 1814
Woodcut on title-page
Lord Byron, After a Painting given by him to Dr. Drury on leaving Harrow. Artist unknown
Augusta Leigh, from a Sketch by George Hayter, 1812
Lord Byron, aged about 20, from a Miniature belonging to his sister Augusta, bought after her death by Lady Noel Byron
Lord Byron, from a Miniature formerly belonging to his Sister Augusta, painted By J. Holmes In 1814
Anne Isabella Milbanke in her 20th year, after Miniature by George Hayter. (The first sitting for this likeness was on March 10, 1812, [Sir] G. Hayter being then only 19, though he had exhibited miniatures at the Academy as early as 1809)

Augusta Leigh, from Miniature by J. Holmes
Lord Byron in Albanian Dress: Posthumous Portrait by Thomas Phillips, R.A.


Letter of June 3rd, 1817 (with signature)
September 21st, 1818 (with no signature)

CAPTAIN JOHN BYRON, son of Admiral the Hon. John Byron, married first, 1779, Amelia, Baroness Conyers in her own right, divorced wife of the Marquis of Carmarthen. Of this marriage was born in January, 1784, Augusta Mary Byron, and her mother died in giving her birth. In 1785 Captain John Byron married secondly Catherine Gordon of Gight, who on 22 January, 1788, brought into the world George Gordon, afterwards sixth Lord Byron. Captain Byron died in 1791. The children of these two marriages were hardly at all companions in childhood. The girl was brought up by her maternal grandmother, Dowager Countess of Holdernesse. The boy was with his mother or at school. In 1807 Augusta Mary Byron married her cousin, Colonel George Leigh; and it was not till she had been some years a wife and mother that she and her half-brother saw each other with any frequency. For further details see chronological table, Appendix K.