LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Autobiography of William Jerdan
Sleepless Woman

Vol. I. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Introductory
Ch. 2: Childhood
Ch. 3: Boyhood
Ch. 4: London
Ch. 5: Companions
Ch. 6: The Cypher
Ch. 7: Edinburgh
Ch. 8: Edinburgh
Ch. 9: Excursion
Ch. 10: Naval Services
Ch. 11: Periodical Press
Ch. 12: Periodical Press
Ch. 13: Past Times
Ch. 14: Past Times
Ch. 15: Literary
Ch. 16: War & Jubilees
Ch. 17: The Criminal
Ch. 18: Mr. Perceval
Ch. 19: Poets
Ch. 20: The Sun
Ch. 21: Sun Anecdotes
Ch. 22: Paris in 1814
Ch. 23: Paris in 1814
Ch. 24: Byron
Vol. I. Appendices
Scott Anecdote
Burns Anecdote
Life of Thomson
John Stuart Jerdan
Scottish Lawyers
‣ Sleepless Woman
Canning Anecdote
Southey in The Sun
Hood’s Lamia
Murder of Perceval
Vol. II. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Literary
Ch. 2: Mr. Canning
Ch. 3: The Sun
Ch. 4: Amusements
Ch. 5: Misfortune
Ch. 6: Shreds & Patches
Ch. 7: A Character
Ch. 8: Varieties
Ch. 9: Ingratitude
Ch. 10: Robert Burns
Ch. 11: Canning
Ch. 12: Litigation
Ch. 13: The Sun
Ch. 14: Literary Gazette
Ch. 15: Literary Gazette
Ch. 16: John Trotter
Ch. 17: Contributors
Ch. 18: Poets
Ch 19: Peter Pindar
Ch 20: Lord Munster
Ch 21: My Writings
Vol. II. Appendices
The Satirist.
Authors and Artists.
The Treasury
Morning Chronicle
Chevalier Taylor
Foreign Journals
Vol. III. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Literary Pursuits
Ch. 2: Literary Labour
Ch. 3: Poetry
Ch. 4: Coleridge
Ch 5: Criticisms
Ch. 6: Wm Gifford
Ch. 7: W. H. Pyne
Ch. 8: Bernard Barton
Ch. 9: Insanity
Ch. 10: The R.S.L.
Ch. 11: The R.S.L.
Ch. 12: L.E.L.
Ch. 13: L.E.L.
Ch. 14: The Past
Ch. 15: Literati
Ch. 16: A. Conway
Ch. 17: Wellesleys
Ch. 18: Literary Gazette
Ch. 19: James Perry
Ch. 20: Personal Affairs
Vol. III. Appendices
Literary Poverty
Ismael Fitzadam
Mr. Tompkisson
Mrs. Hemans
A New Review
Debrett’s Peerage
Procter’s Poems
Poems by Others
Poems by Jerdan
Vol. IV. Front Matter
Ch. 1: Critical Glances
Ch. 2: Personal Notes
Ch. 3: Fresh Start
Ch. 4: Thomas Hunt
Ch. 5: On Life
Ch. 6: Periodical Press
Ch. 7: Quarterly Review
Ch. 8: My Own Life
Ch. 9: Mr. Canning
Ch. 10: Anecdotes
Ch. 11: Bulwer-Lytton
Ch. 12: G. P. R. James
Ch. 13: Finance
Ch. 14: Private Life
Ch. 15: Learned Societies
Ch. 16: British Association
Ch. 17: Literary Characters
Ch. 18: Literary List
Ch. 19: Club Law
Ch. 20: Conclusion
Vol. IV. Appendix
Gerald Griffin
W. H. Ainsworth
James Weddell
The Last Bottle
N. T. Carrington
The Literary Fund
Letter from L.E.L.
Geographical Society
Baby, a Memoir
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F, p. 111.

“Blessed be he that first invented sleep, for it covers a man all over like a mantle.”—Sancho Panza, passim.

Heavily set in massive brass, whose rich and ingenious carving was tarnished and dull, a ponderous lamp swung from a ceiling blackened by its smoke. Every thing in the room spoke of time, but of time that had known no change. Knights, whose armour was, at the latest, of two centuries back—ladies, in dresses from which their descendants started in dismay—looked out from the discoloured tapestry; and the floor, dark with age, added to the gloom. Beside the hearth, whose fire, from the rain beating down the huge chimney, burnt every moment dimmer, sat two old domestics. The man in a scarlet gown, and a belt, from which hung a heavy bunch of keys, was the seneschal; and opposite was his wife, in a brown silk dress, and a string of ebony beads, which she was busily employed in counting. Between them was a small antique old table, where a flask and two bell-mouthed glasses appeared temptations
which, it must be owned, somewhat interrupted the telling of the beads. In the centre of the chamber stood an immense hearse-like bed; the purple velvet curtains swept to the ground, and at each corner drooped a large plume of black ostrich-feathers. On this bed lay a little withered old man, apparently in the last extremity of age, and very close upon the border of death. His spare form was hidden in an ample black robe, fastened round the waist with a white girdle, on which were graved strange characters in red; and on his breast was a white square, covered with stars and signs wrought in gold. The old man’s face was ghastly pale, and rendered yet paler by the contrast of his black scull-cap, which was drawn down even to his gray and shagged eyebrows. But the features were restless; and the small keen eyes, though fast losing their brightness, were full of anxiety. The wind shook the tall narrow windows, and howled in the old trees of the avenue; at every fresh gust the Baron’s impatience seemed to increase—for what we are telling relates to the Baron de Launaye.

“’Tis a rough night,” muttered he; “but Adolphe is as rough a rider—and a dangerous road; but I am the first De Launaye who ever drew bridle for that. And then my summons—it was sure to reach him; ay, though alone, in the midnight bower of the mistress whose name and his suspicion had never coupled together even in a dream—even though consciousness were drowned in the crimson flowing of the wine—though sleeping as men sleep after battle, pillowed on the body of their deadliest enemy, or of their nearest and dearest friend—my summons would be borne on his inmost soul. But will he come, at the bidding of his dying uncle?—will Adolphe, he, the only human being whom I ever loved—will he or will he not come!”

The question was answered even at the moment it was breathed. The horn at the castle-gate was blown impatiently—the fall of the drawbridge was heard—a moment’s pause, and a light foot sprang up the oaken staircase with all the speed of haste and youth. The door opened, and in rushed a young cavalier. The white plumes of his cap were drenched with wet—the diamond clasp that fastened them was dim with damp—but his bright auburn hair glistened with the rain-drops. Hastily flinging his riding cloak, heavy with moisture, to the
ground, the stranger sprang to the bed-side. A gleam of human love, of human joy, passed over the old man’s face, as, tenderly and gently, his nephew asked of his tidings, and expressed such hopes as affection hopes when hope there is none.

“Child of my love,” murmured the dying Baron, “for whose sake only I have ever given one thought to the things of earth, bear yet a moment with the feeble wretch who but a brief while will stand between you and the title of your ancestors and wealth. Many a prince of your mother’s house would think his kingdom overpaid if purchased by its half. You are young—I never was—my heart, even in boyhood, was old with premature knowledge. You have that beauty, the want of which has made my life a curse—you have that strength of body, the want of which has paralysed my strength of mind. I have doubted if happiness dwells on this evil earth—I will not doubt, when I hope for yours. You will hear me called necromancer: out on the base fools who malign that which they understand not, and would bring down the lofty aim of science, the glorious dream of virtue, to their own low level! You will hear me called miser: Adolphe, have you ever found me so!”

“My father—my more than father!” passionately exclaimed the young man, hiding his face on the pillow, as if ashamed of the violence of mortal grief, in the presence of one so soon to be immortal.

“Adolphe,” continued his uncle, “you have heard, though not from me—for I sought not to weigh down your ardent mind with all that has pressed upon me with the burden of hopelessness, and long has the knowledge been mine—that the fetters of clay are too heavy for the spirit. Your young hand was fitter for the lance than the crucible; and the bridle-rein would have been ill exchanged for the lettered scroll. But something I know of that future, into which even the sage can look but dimly. Adolphe, the only question I asked was for thee! Alas! the vanity of such wisdom! It has told of danger that menaces, but not of the skill that avoids. My child evil came into the world with woman, and in her is bound up the evil of your destiny. Vain as the glance they throw on the polished steel of their mirror—false as the vow they make for the pleasure of breaking—inconstant as the wind, which changes from point to
point, and for whose change no philosophy hath ever discovered a cause: shun them, Adolphe, as you would disloyalty to your king, flight from your enemy, or falsehood to your friend.”

The old man’s voice became inaudible, and his head sank on Adolphe’s shoulder:—“Margarita, water—or, Jacques, give me the wine.” The youth tried to pour a few drops into the Baron’s mouth. The dying man motioned back the glass, and, looking in the cavalier’s face with a strong expression of affection and anxiety, muttered something of “woman” and “danger”—“bright,” “eyes,” “bright,” “beware”—these were his last broken words. He expired.

Contrary to the charitable expectations of his neighbours, the Baron de Launaye was buried with all the rights of the church; the holy water was sprinkled on the corse, and the holy psalm sung over the coffin. A marble tablet marked his grave; and there the moonlight slept as lovingly as ever it did on the sinless tomb of saint or martyr. The new Baron de Launaye lamented his uncle’s death in a very singular manner, for he was his heir—and the young and the rich have not much time for regret. But Adolphe (he was remarkable from a child for his memory) could not forget the kindness—and more than kindness—the love that his uncle had lavished on the little orphan, who noble and pennyless at the age of five years, was left dependent on his bounty. However, sorrow cannot—indeed nothing in this world can—last for ever. Adolphe’s grief became at first only sad; next, melancholy; thirdly, calm; and, fourthly, settled down into a respectful remembrance, and a resolve to bear his uncle’s last words in mind. Indeed, the muttered, vague, and uncertain prediction quite haunted him.

“I am sure,” said he, in one of his many pondering moods, “I am sure my past experience confirms his words. I never got into a scrape but a woman was the cause. I had been in my outset at court, page to the Duke Forté d’Imhault, and gone with him on that splendid embassy to Russia, had he not been displeased with my awkwardness in fastening the duchess’s sandal.”

And he laughed as he said this: who in the world can guess, why the loss of his appointment should make the young Baron laugh!


“And then who caused the duel between me and my Pylades, the Marquess de Lusignan, but that little jilt, Mdlle. Laure? However, my sword only grazed his arm: he wore an exquisite blue silk scarf, and we were better friends than ever. Oh, my uncle was right: women were born to be our torment.”

Still was this conviction impressed on his mind like a duty. Yet he could not help thinking that a few bright eyes would light up the old hall better than the huge brazen lamps which now served to make darkness visible. From thinking of the pleasantness of such an illumination, he began to think of its difficulties; and the difficulties of the project soon referred only to the place. One thought suggests another; and from thinking how many obstacles opposed the introduction of bright eyes and sweet smiles into the castle, he arrived at the conclusion, how easily they were to be obtained in other parts.

To say the truth, Paris became daily more familiar to his mind’s eye; and, as he justly observed, staying at the dull old castle could do his uncle no good, and he was quite sure it did himself none. Now, in spite of philanthropy, people are not so very fond of doing good gratuitously; but, to be sure, such doctrines were not so much discussed in those days as they are in ours, though the practice was about the same. Sometimes he argued with himself, “it is as well to be out of harm’s way;”—and the prediction and a cold shudder came together. But we are ready enough to dare the danger we do not know; and though a few years of Parisian life had placed the nephew’s early on a level with the uncle’s late experience, touching the evil inherent in womanhood, nevertheless Adolphe supposed their bad qualities might be borne, at all events, better than the dulness of the Château de Launaye.

One day riding with his bridle on his horse’s neck, meditating whether his next ride should not be direct to Paris, a most uncommon spectacle in that unfrequented part of the country attracted his attention. This was a large lumbering coach, drawn by six horses, whose rich harness and housings bore the crest in gold—a lynx rampant. A very natural curiosity (by-the-by all curiosity is natural enough), made him look in at the window. Was there ever a face half so beautiful as that of the girl who, like himself, actuated by natural curiosity,
looked out as he looked in? The black silk wimple was drawn over her bead, but allowed a very red upper lip—an exquisite Grecian nose—and a most brilliant pair of eyes, to be seen. Our young cavalier sat as if he had been stupified. This is a very common effect of love at first. It goes off, however—so it did with Adolphe. His first act on recovering his senses was to gallop after the coach. He spurred on, and caught a second glance of the most radiant orbs that ever revolved in light. Large, soft, clear, and hazel, as those of a robin—they were bright and piercing as those of a falcon. Certainly De Launaye had never seen such eyes before, or at least none that ever took such an effect upon him.

He ate no dinner that day—walked by moonlight on the terrace—and the only thing which excited his attention was the seneschal’s information, that the Marquise de Surville and her grand-daughter were come to stay for some months at their château.

“They could not have done that in the late Baron’s time—the Lord be good unto his soul!” And the old man forthwith commenced the history of some mysterious feud between the two families, in which the deceased Baron Godfred had finally remained victor.

To this tedious narrative of ancient enmities, Adolphe was little inclined to listen. “A name and an estate are all our ancestors have a right to leave behind them. The saints preserve us from a legacy of their foes! Nothing could be worse,—except their friends.”

The next morning the Baron arranged his suit of sables with unusual care, though it must be confessed he always took care enough.

“Pray Heaven the Marquise may be of my way of thinking respecting the quarrels of our forefathers! Some old ladies have terrible memories,” were Adolphe’s uppermost ideas as he rode over the draw-bridge at the Château de Surville, which had been promptly lowered to his summons;—their only neighbour, he had thought it but courteous to offer his personal respects. How much more cheerful did the saloon, with its hangings of sea-green silk, worked in gold, seem than his own hall, encumbered with the dusty trophies of his ancestors. To
be sure, the young Baron was not at that moment a very fair judge; for the first thing that met him on his entrance was a glance from the same pair of large bright eyes which had been haunting him for the last four and twenty hours.

The grandmother was as stern a looking old gentlewoman as ever had knights in armour for ancestors: still her eyes, also bright, clear, and piercing, somewhat resembled those of her grand-daughter. On the rest of her face time had wrought “strange disfeatures.” She was silent; and, after the first compliments, resumed the volume she had been reading on the Baron’s appearance. It was a small book, bound in black velvet, with gold clasps, richly wrought. Adolphe took it for granted it was her Breviary; and inwardly concluded how respectable is that piety in an old woman which leaves the young one under her charge quite at liberty! The visitor’s whole attention was soon devoted to the oriel window where sat the beautiful Clotilde de Surville. The Baron de Launaye piqued himself on fastidious taste in women and horses: he had had some experience in both. But Clotilde was faultless. There she leant, with the splendour of day full upon her face; it fell upon her pure complexion like joy upon the heart, and the sunbeams glittered amid the thick ringlets till every curl was edged with gold. Her dress alone seemed capable of improvement; but it is as well to leave something to the imagination, and there was ample food for Adolphe’s, in picturing the change that would be wrought upon Clotilde by a Parisian milliner. “This comes,” thought he, “of being brought up in an old German castle.”

For very shame he at last rose; when, with a grim change of countenance, meant for a smile, the Marquise asked him to stay dinner. It is a remark not the less true for being old (though now-a-days opinions are all on the change), that love-making is a thing “to hear, and not to tell.” We shall therefore leave the progress of the wooing, and come to the dénouement, which was the most proper possible, viz. marriage. Adolphe had been the most devoted of lovers, and Clotilde had given him a great deal of modest encouragement; that is, her bright eyes had often wandered in search of his, and the moment they had found them, had dropped to the ground; and whenever he
entered the room, a blush had come into her cheek, like the light into the pearl, filling it with the sweet hues of the rose. Never did love-affair proceed more prosperously. The old seneschal was the only person who grumbled. He begged leave to remind the young Baron, that it was not showing proper respect to his ancestors not to take up their quarrels.

“But things are altered since the days when lances were attached to every legacy,” returned Adolphe.

“We are altering every thing now-a-days,” replied the old man; “I don’t see, however, that we are a bit the better off.”

“I, at all events, expect happiness,” replied his master, “in this change of my condition.”

“Ay, ay, so we all do before we are married: what we find after, there is no use in saying, for two reasons; first, you would not believe me; secondly, my wife might hear what I’m telling.”

“Ah!” exclaimed the young Baron, “the caution that marriage teaches! If it were only for the prudence I should acquire, it would be worth my while to marry.”

“Alas! rashness never yet wanted a reason. My poor young master! the old Marquise and her dark-eyed grand-daughter have taken you in completely.”

“Taken me in!” ejaculated De Launaye angrily; “why, you old fool, were this a mere match of interest, I might thank my stars for such a lucky chance. Young, beautiful, high-born, and rich, Clotilde has but to appear at the court, and insure a much higher alliance than mine. What motive could they have?”

“I do not know; but when I don’t know people’s motives, I always suppose the worst,” replied the obstinate Dominique.

“Charitable,” laughed his master.

“And besides,” resumed the seneschal, “the old Marquise plagued her husband into the grave; and I dare say her granddaughter means to do as much for you.”

“A novel reason, at all events, for taking a husband,” said De Launaye, “in order that you may plague him to death afterwards.”

Well, the wedding-day arrived at last. De Launaye could have found some fault with his bride’s costume, but for her face.
There was a stiffness in the rigid white satin, and the ruff was at least two inches too high—indeed, he did not see any necessity for the ruff at all; they had been quite out, some years, at Paris. However, he said nothing, remembering that a former hint on the subject of dress had not been so successful as its merits deserved. He had insinuated, and that in a compliment too, a little lowering of the ruff before, as a mere act of justice to the ivory throat, when Clotilde had rejoined, answering in a tone which before marriage was gentle reproof, (a few months after it would have sounded like reproach,) that she hoped “the Baron de Launaye would prefer propriety in his wife to display.” The sense of the speech was forgotten in its sentiment; a very usual occurrence, by-the-by. However, the bride looked most beautiful; her clear, dark eyes swam in light—the liquid brilliancy of happiness—the brightness, but not the sadness, of tears. The ceremony was over, the priest and the Marquise had given their blessings; the latter also added some excellent advice, which was not listened to with all the attention it deserved. The young couple went to their own castle in a new and huge coach, every one of whose six horses wore white and silver favours. Neighbours they had none, but a grand feast was given to the domestics; and Dominique, at his master’s express orders, broached a pipe of Bourdeaux. “I can’t make my vassals,” said De Launaye, “as happy as myself; but I can make them drunk, and that is something towards it.”

The day darkened into night; and here, according to all regular precedents in romance, hero and heroine ought to be left to themselves; but there never yet was a rule without an exception. However, to infringe upon established custom as little as possible, we will enter into no details of how pretty the bride looked in her nightcap, but proceed forthwith to the Baron’s first sleep. He dreamt that the sun suddenly shone into his chamber. Dazzled by the glare, he awoke, and found the bright eyes of his bride gazing tenderly on his face. Weary as he was, still he remembered how uncourteous it would be to he sleeping while she was so wide awake, and he forthwith roused himself as well as he could. Many persons say they can’t sleep in a strange bed; perhaps this might be the case
with his bride: and in new situations people should have all possible allowance made for them.

They rose early the following morning, the Baroness bright-eyed and blooming as usual, the Baron pale and abattu. They wandered through the castle: De Launaye told of his uncle’s prediction.

“How careful I must be of you,” said the bride, smiling. “I shall be quite jealous.”

Night came, and again Adolphe was wakened from his first sleep by Clotilde’s bright eyes. The third night arrived and human nature could bear no more.

“Good God, my dearest!” exclaimed the husband, “do you never sleep?”

“Sleep!” replied Clotilde, opening her large bright eyes, till they were even twice their usual size and brightness. “Sleep!—one of my noble race, sleep? I never slept in my life.”

“She never sleeps!” ejaculated the Baron, sinking back on his pillow in horror and exhaustion.

It had been settled that the young couple should forthwith visit Paris—thither they at once proceeded. The beauty of the Baroness produced a most marvellous sensation, even in that city of sensations. Nothing was heard of for a week but the enchanting eyes of the Baroness de Launaye—a diamond necklace of a new pattern was invented in her honour, and called aux beaux yeux de Clotilde.

“Those eyes,” said a prince of the blood, whose taste in such matters had been cultivated by some years of continual practice, “those eyes of Mde. de Launaye will rob many of our young gallants of their rest.”

“Very true,” briefly replied her husband.

Well, the Baroness shone like a meteor in every scene, while the Baron accompanied her, the spectre of his former self. Sallow, emaciated, every body said he was going into a consumption. Still it was quite delightful to witness the devotedness of his wife—she could scarcely bear him a moment out of her sight.

At length they left Paris, accompanied by a gay party, for their château. But brilliant as were these guests, nothing
distracted the Baroness’s attention from her husband, whose declining health became every hour more alarming. One day, however, the young Chevalier de Ronsarde—he, the conqueror of a thousand hearts—the besieger of a thousand more—whose conversation was that happy mixture of flattery and scandal which is the beau ideal of dialogue,—engrossed Mde. de Launaye’s attention; and her husband took the opportunity of slipping away unobserved. He hastened into a gloomy avenue—the cedars, black with time and age, met like night, overhead, and far and dark did their shadows fall on the still and deep lake beside. Worn, haggard, with a timorous and hurried, yet light step, the young Baron might have been taken for one of his own ancestors, permitted for a brief period to revisit his home on earth, but invested with the ghastliness and the gloom of the grave.

“She never sleeps!” exclaimed the miserable Adolphe—“she never sleeps! day and night her large bright eyes eat like fire into my heart.” He paused, and rested for support against the trunk of one of the old cedars. “Oh, my uncle, why did not your prophecy, when it warned me against danger, tell me distinctly in what the danger consisted? To have a wife who never sleeps! Dark and quiet lake, how I envy the stillness of your depths—the shadows which rest upon your waves!”

At this moment a breath of wind blew a branch aside—a sunbeam fell upon the Baron’s face; he took it for the eyes of his wife. Alas! his remedy lay temptingly before him—the still, the profound, the shadowy lake. De Launaye took one plunge—it was into eternity. Two days he was missing—the third his lifeless body floated on the heavy waters. The Baron de Launaye had committed suicide, and the bright-eyed Baroness was left a disconsolate widow.

Such is the tale recorded in the annals of the house of De Launaye. Some believe it entirely, justly observing, there is nothing too extraordinary to happen. Others (for there always will be people who affect to be wiser than their neighbours) say that the story is an ingenious allegory—and that the real secret of the Sleepless Lady was jealousy. Now, if a jealous wife can’t drive a man out of his mind and into a lake, we do not know what can!