Lady Byron Vindicated
by Harriet Beecher Stowe
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'BRIGHTON, April 8, 1855.

. . . . 'The book which has interested me most, lately, is that on "Mosaism," translated by Miss Goldsmid, and which I read, as you will believe, without any Christian (unchristian?) prejudice. The missionaries of the Unity were always, from my childhood, regarded by me as in that sense the people; and I believe they were true to that mission, though blind, intellectually, in demanding the crucifixion. The present aspect of Jewish opinions, as shown in that book, is all but Christian. The author is under the error of taking, as the representatives of Christianity, the Mystics, Ascetics, and Quietists; and therefore he does not know how near he is to the true spirit of the gospel. If you should happen to see Miss Goldsmid, pray tell her what a great service I think she has rendered to us soi-disant Christians in translating a book which must make us sensible of the little we have done, and the much we have to do, to justify our preference of the later to the earlier dispensation.' . . .

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BRIGHTON, April 11, 1855.

'You appear to have more definite information respecting "The Review" than I have obtained . . . It was also said that "The Review" would, in fact, be "The Prospective" amplified,—not satisfactory to me, because I have always thought that periodical too Unitarian, in the sense of separating itself from other Christian churches, if not by a high wall, at least by a wire-gauze fence. Now, separation is to me the [Greek text]. The revelation through Nature never separates: it is the revelation through the Book which separates. Whewell and Brewster would have been one, had they not, I think, equally dimmed their lamps of science when reading their Bibles. As long as we think a truth better for being shut up in a text, we are not of the wide-world religion, which is to include all in one fold: for that text will not be accepted by the followers of other books, or students of the same; and separation will ensue. The Christian Scripture should be dear to us, not as the charter of a few, but of mankind; and to fashion it into cages is to deny its ultimate objects. These thoughts hot, like the roll at breakfast, where your letter was so welcome an addition.'



Fare thee well! and if for ever, Still for ever fare thee well! Even though unforgiving, never 'Gainst thee shall my heart rebel.

Would that breast were bared before thee Where thy head so oft hath lain, While that placid sleep came o'er thee Which thou ne'er canst know again!

Would that breast, by thee glanced over, Every inmost thought could show! Then thou wouldst at last discover 'Twas not well to spurn it so.

Though the world for this commend thee, Though it smile upon the blow, Even its praises must offend thee, Founded on another's woe.

Though my many faults defaced me, Could no other arm be found, Than the one which once embraced me, To inflict a cureless wound?

Yet, oh! yet, thyself deceive not: Love may sink by slow decay; But, by sudden wrench, believe not Hearts can thus be torn away:

Still thine own its life retaineth; Still must mine, though bleeding, beat And the undying thought which paineth Is—that we no more may meet.

These are words of deeper sorrow Than the wail above the dead: Both shall live, but every morrow Wake us from a widowed bed.

And when thou wouldst solace gather, When our child's first accents flow, Wilt thou teach her to say 'Father,' Though his care she must forego?

When her little hand shall press thee, When her lip to thine is pressed, Think of him whose prayer shall bless thee; Think of him thy love had blessed.

Should her lineaments resemble Those thou never more mayst see, Then thy heart will softly tremble With a pulse yet true to me.

All my faults, perchance, thou knowest; All my madness none can know: All my hopes, where'er thou goest, Wither; yet with thee they go.

Every feeling hath been shaken: Pride, which not a world could bow, Bows to thee, by thee forsaken; Even my soul forsakes me now.

But 'tis done: all words are idle; Words from me are vainer still; But the thoughts we cannot bridle Force their way without the will.

Fare thee well!—thus disunited, Torn from every nearer tie, Seared in heart, and lone and blighted, More than this I scarce can die.


Born in the garret, in the kitchen bred; Promoted thence to deck her mistress' head; Next—for some gracious service unexpress'd, And from its wages only to be guessed— Raised from the toilette to the table, where Her wondering betters wait behind her chair, With eye unmoved, and forehead unabashed, She dines from off the plate she lately washed. Quick with the tale, and ready with the lie, The genial confidante and general spy, Who could, ye gods! her next employment guess?— An only infant's earliest governess! She taught the child to read, and taught so well, That she herself, by teaching, learned to spell. An adept next in penmanship she grows, As many a nameless slander deftly shows: What she had made the pupil of her art, None know; but that high soul secured the heart, And panted for the truth it could not hear, With longing breast and undeluded ear. Foiled was perversion by that youthful mind, Which flattery fooled not, baseness could not blind, Deceit infect not, near contagion soil, Indulgence weaken, nor example spoil, Nor mastered science tempt her to look down On humbler talents with a pitying frown, Nor genius swell, nor beauty render vain, Nor envy ruffle to retaliate pain, Nor fortune change, pride raise, nor passion bow, Nor virtue teach austerity, till now. Serenely purest of her sex that live; But wanting one sweet weakness,—to forgive; Too shocked at faults her soul can never know, She deems that all could be like her below: Foe to all vice, yet hardly Virtue's friend; For Virtue pardons those she would amend.

But to the theme, now laid aside too long,— The baleful burthen of this honest song. Though all her former functions are no more, She rules the circle which she served before. If mothers—none know why—before her quake; If daughters dread her for the mothers' sake; If early habits—those false links, which bind At times the loftiest to the meanest mind— Have given her power too deeply to instil The angry essence of her deadly will; If like a snake she steal within your walls Till the black slime betray her as she crawls; If like a viper to the heart she wind, And leave the venom there she did not find, What marvel that this hag of hatred works Eternal evil latent as she lurks, To make a Pandemonium where she dwells, And reign the Hecate of domestic hells? Skilled by a touch to deepen scandal's tints With all the kind mendacity of hints, While mingling truth with falsehood, sneers with smiles, A thread of candour with a web of wiles; A plain blunt show of briefly-spoken seeming, To hide her bloodless heart's soul-hardened scheming; A lip of lies; a face formed to conceal, And, without feeling, mock at all who feel; With a vile mask the Gorgon would disown; A cheek of parchment, and an eye of stone. Mark how the channels of her yellow blood Ooze to her skin, and stagnate there to mud! Cased like the centipede in saffron mail, Or darker greenness of the scorpion's scale, (For drawn from reptiles only may we trace Congenial colours in that soul or face,)— Look on her features! and behold her mind As in a mirror of itself defined. Look on the picture! deem it not o'ercharged; There is no trait which might not be enlarged: Yet true to 'Nature's journeymen,' who made This monster when their mistress left off trade, This female dog-star of her little sky, Where all beneath her influence droop or die.

O wretch without a tear, without a thought, Save joy above the ruin thou hast wrought! The time shall come, nor long remote, when thou Shalt feel far more than thou inflictest now,— Feel for thy vile self-loving self in vain, And turn thee howling in unpitied pain. May the strong curse of crushed affections light Back on thy bosom with reflected blight, And make thee, in thy leprosy of mind, As loathsome to thyself as to mankind, Till all thy self-thoughts curdle into hate Black as thy will for others would create: Till thy hard heart be calcined into dust, And thy soul welter in its hideous crust! Oh, may thy grave be sleepless as the bed, The widowed couch of fire, that thou hast spread! Then, when thou fain wouldst weary Heaven with prayer, Look on thine earthly victims, and despair! Down to the dust! and, as thou rott'st away, Even worms shall perish on thy poisonous clay. But for the love I bore, and still must bear, To her thy malice from all ties would tear, Thy name, thy human name, to every eye The climax of all scorn, should hang on high, Exalted o'er thy less abhorred compeers, And festering in the infamy of years.


And thou wert sad, yet I was not with thee! And thou wert sick, and yet I was not near! Methought that joy and health alone could be Where I was not, and pain and sorrow here. And is it thus? It is as I foretold, And shall be more so; for the mind recoils Upon itself, and the wrecked heart lies cold, While heaviness collects the shattered spoils. It is not in the storm nor in the strife We feel benumbed, and wish to be no more, But in the after-silence on the shore, When all is lost except a little life. I am too well avenged! But 'twas my right: Whate'er my sins might be, thou wert not sent To be the Nemesis who should requite; Nor did Heaven choose so near an instrument. Mercy is for the merciful!—if thou Hast been of such, 'twill be accorded now. Thy nights are banished from the realms of sleep! Yes! they may flatter thee; but thou shalt feel A hollow agony which will not heal; For thou art pillowed on a curse too deep: Thou hast sown in my sorrow, and must reap The bitter harvest in a woe as real! I have had many foes, but none like thee; For 'gainst the rest myself I could defend, And be avenged, or turn them into friend; But thou in safe implacability Hadst nought to dread, in thy own weakness shielded; And in my love, which hath but too much yielded, And spared, for thy sake, some I should not spare. And thus upon the world,—trust in thy truth, And the wild fame of my ungoverned youth, On things that were not and on things that are,— Even upon such a basis hast thou built A monument, whose cement hath been guilt; The moral Clytemnestra of thy lord, And hewed down, with an unsuspected sword, Fame, peace, and hope, and all the better life, Which, but for this cold treason of thy heart, Might still have risen from out the grave of strife, And found a nobler duty than to part. But of thy virtues didst thou make a vice, Trafficking with them in a purpose cold, For present anger and for future gold, And buying others' grief at any price. And thus, once entered into crooked ways, The early truth, which was thy proper praise, Did not still walk beside thee, but at times, And with a breast unknowing its own crimes, Deceit, averments incompatible, Equivocations, and the thoughts which dwell In Janus-spirits; the significant eye Which learns to lie with silence; the pretext Of prudence, with advantages annexed; The acquiescence in all things which tend, No matter how, to the desired end,— All found a place in thy philosophy. The means were worthy, and the end is won: I would not do by thee as thou hast done!


{7} The italics are mine.

{14} The italics are mine.

{16} In Lady Blessington's 'Memoirs' this name is given Charlemont; in the late 'Temple Bar' article on the character of Lady Byron it is given Clermont. I have followed the latter.

{17} The italics are mine.

{21} In Lady Blessington's conversations with Lord Byron, just before he went to Greece, she records that he gave her this poem in manuscript. It was published in her 'Journal.'

{22a} Vol. vi. p.22.

{22b} 'Byron's Miscellany,' vol. ii. p.358. London, 1853.

{23} The italics are mine.

{24} Lord Byron says, in his observations on an article in 'Blackwood:' 'I recollect being much hurt by Romilly's conduct: he (having a general retainer for me) went over to the adversary, alleging, on being reminded of his retainer, that he had forgotten it, as his clerk had so many. I observed that some of those who were now so eagerly laying the axe to my roof-tree might see their own shaken. His fell and crushed him.'

In the first edition of Moore's Life of Lord Byron there was printed a letter on Sir Samuel Romilly, so brutal that it was suppressed in the subsequent editions. (See Part III.)

{28a} Vol. iv. p.40

{28b} Ibid. p.46.

{31} The italics are mine.

{41} Vol. iv. p.143.

{43} Lord Byron took especial pains to point out to Murray the importance of these two letters. Vol. V. Letter 443, he says: 'You must also have from Mr. Moore the correspondence between me and Lady B., to whom I offered a sight of all that concerns herself in these papers. This is important. He has her letter and my answer.'

{44} 'And I, who with them on the cross am placed, . . . . truly My savage wife, more than aught else, doth harm me.' Inferno, Canto, XVI., Longfellow's translation.

{49} 'Conversations,' p.108.

{51} Murray's edition of 'Byron's Works,' vol. ii. p.189; date of dedication to Hobhouse, Jan. 2, 1818.

{61} Recently, Lord Lindsay has published another version of this story, which makes it appear that he has conversed with a lady who conversed with Hobhouse during his lifetime, in which this story is differently reported. In the last version, it is made to appear that Hobhouse got this declaration from Lady Byron herself.

{70a} The references are to the first volume of the first edition of Moore's 'Life,' originally published by itself.

{70b} 'The officious spies of his privacy,' p.65O.

{72} 'The deserted husband,' p.651.

{86} 'I (Campbell) had not time to ask Lady Byron's permission to print this private letter; but it seemed to me important, and I have published it meo periculo.'

{95a} 'Noctes,' July 1822.

{95b} 'Noctes,' September 1832.

{105} Miss Martineau's Biographical Sketches.

{113} The italics are mine.—H. B. S.

{119} In 'The Noctes' of November, 1824 Christopher North says, 'I don't call Medwin a liar. . . . Whether Byron bammed him, or he, by virtue of his own stupidity, was the sole and sufficient bammifier of himself, I know not.' A note says that Murray had been much shocked by Byron's misstatements to Medwin as to money-matters with him. The note goes on to say, 'Medwin could not have invented them, for they were mixed up with acknowledged facts; and the presumption is that Byron mystified his gallant acquaintance. He was fond of such tricks.'

{121} This one fact is, that Lord Byron might have had an open examination in court, if he had only persisted in refusing the deed of separation.

{126} In the history of 'Blackwood's Magazine,' prefaced to the American edition of 1854, Mackenzie says of the 'Noctes' papers, 'Great as was their popularity in England it was peculiarly in America that their high merit and undoubted originality received the heartiest recognition and appreciation. Nor is this wonderful when it is considered that for one reader of "Blackwood's Magazine" in the old country there cannot be less than fifty in the new.'

{139} The reader is here referred to Lady Byron's other letters, in Part III.; which also show the peculiarly active and philosophical character of her mind, and the class of subjects on which it habitually dwelt.

{147} See her character of Dr. King, Part III.

{148} Alluding to the financial crisis in the United States in 1857.

{149} 'The Minister's Wooing.'

{150} See her letter on spiritualistic phenomena, Part III.

{161} This novel of Godwin's is a remarkably powerful story. It is related in the first person by the supposed hero, Caleb Williams. He represents himself as private secretary to a gentleman of high family named Falkland. Caleb accidentally discovers that his patron has, in a moment of passion, committed a murder. Falkland confesses the crime to Caleb, and tells him that henceforth he shall always suspect him, and keep watch over him. Caleb finds this watchfulness insupportable, and tries to escape, but without success. He writes a touching letter to his patron, imploring him to let him go, and promising never to betray him. The scene where Falkland refuses this is the most highly wrought in the book. He says to him, "Do not imagine that I am afraid of you; I wear an armour against which all your weapons are impotent. I have dug a pit for you: and whichever way you move, backward or forward, to the right or the left, it is ready to swallow you. Be still! If once you fall, call as loud as you will, no man on earth shall hear your cries: prepare a tale however plausible or however true, the whole world shall execrate you for an impostor. Your innocence shall be of no service to you. I laugh at so feeble a defence. It is I that say it: you may believe what I tell you. Do you know, miserable wretch!" added he, stamping on the ground with fury, "that I have sworn to preserve my reputation, whatever be the expense; that I love it more than the whole world and its inhabitants taken together? and do you think that you shall wound it?" The rest of the book shows how this threat was executed.

{168} Alluding to Buchanan's election.

{178a} Shelton Mackenzie, in a note to the 'Noctes' of July 1822, gives the following saying of Maginn, one of the principal lights of the club: 'No man, however much he might tend to civilisation, was to be regarded as having absolutely reached its apex until he was drunk.' He also records it as a further joke of the club, that a man's having reached this apex was to be tested by his inability to pronounce the word 'civilisation,' which, he says, after ten o'clock at night ought to be abridged to civilation, 'by syncope, or vigorously speaking by hic-cup.'

{178b} Vol. v. pp.61, 75.

{181} These italics are ours.

{190a} This little incident shows the characteristic carefulness and accuracy of Lady Byron's habits. This statement was written fourteen years after the events spoken of; but Lady Byron carefully quotes a passage from her mother's letter written at that time. This shows that a copy of Lady Milbanke's letter had been preserved, and makes it appear probable that copies of the whole correspondence of that period were also kept. Great light could be thrown on the whole transaction, could these documents be consulted.

{190b} Here, again, Lady Byron's sealed papers might furnish light. The letters addressed to her at this time by those in constant intercourse with Lord Byron are doubtless preserved, and would show her ground of action.

{192} Probably Lady Milbanke's letters are among the sealed papers, and would more fully explain the situation.

{205a} Hunt's Byron, p.77. Philadelphia, 1828.

{205b} From the Temple Bar article, October 1869. 'Mrs. Leigh, Lord Byron's sister, had other thoughts of Mrs. Clermont, and wrote to her offering public testimony to her tenderness and forbearance under circumstances which must have been trying to any friend of Lady Byron.'—Campbell, in the New Monthly Magazine, 183O, p.38O.

{219} 'My Recollections,' p.238.

{225} Vol. vi. p.242.

{227} The reader is here referred to the remarks of 'Blackwood' on 'Don Juan' in Part III.

{258} The article in question is worth a careful reading. Its industry and accuracy in amassing evidence are worthy attention.

{320a} Probably 'The Christian Aspects of Faith and Duty.' Mr. Tayler has also written 'A Retrospect of the Religious Life of England.'

{320b} 'The National Review.'


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