CHAPTER XL

Birth of a Daughter to Lord Byron.Differences with his Lady*She quits his Residence.Causes of the Separation.The Lady's conduct approved. Strange procedure of his Lordship.The Editor of the Morning Chronicle's interference.Lord Byron's Verses to his Wife, and Satire upon her Governess.His Lordship leaves the kingdom.

OUR attention is now called from literary to personal history; and here also, by a fatality peculiarly unfortunate, we find more room for complaint and censure, than gratulation or praise, in the conduct of the noble person whose wayward course we are pursuing. Private memoirs are of so delicate a nature, that few circumstances can warrant the discussion of facts which, though made matter of public notoriety, involve the peace of families and the character of individuals. Still, however, there are some cases in BIRTH OF A DAUGHTER. 231

which, as it is impossible to be absolutely indifferent, so neither is it just to remain altogether silent. But in the present instance there can be little call for an apology, since, substantially, nothing" is left to be told, more than what has already been made known to the world either in the form of narrative or in the nature of explanatory appeal, by those who in prudence should have avoided that tribunal.

At the beginning of 1815 Lord Byron married, and towards the close of the same year his lady brought him a daughter; so that, as the union, to all appearance, was one of love, the fruits of it gave the promise of permanent felicity. That prospect, however, - was not realized^; and the harmony which the birth of a first child seemed most likely to promote, was within a few weeks after that event so completely broken, that an absolute separation took place. Various causes were assigned for this rupture, but all of them concurring in the suspicion of infidelity against the noble husband—of which, if some were strong, others were slight and equivocal. Yet it could not be said, nor indeed was it even pretended, that the charges alledged were totally void of foundation. Enough appeared,

232 IMPROPER CONNEXIONS.

upon investigation, to convince those who acted with a sincere regard to both parties, that there was but little chance of tranquillity, where jealousy on the one side and levity on the other continually created new sources of disquiet. The share which Lord Byron had been unfortunately led to take in the direction of the concerns of Drury-LaneTheatre, contributed very much to increase his domestic trouble; by bringing about him a set of persons with whom a lady of high sensibility could not willingly associate. The scruples of such a mind every man of feeling will be careful to respect, because he sees in them the best security of his own happiness. Here, on the contrary, the repugnance to join that sort of society which the husband selected was treated with stern contempt; and those connexions were openly continued, the propriety of which became as much a matter of public scandal as of private disagreement. It might have been expected, that in the situation of the lady some regard would have been paid to her mental repose, if not to the opinion of the world : but great genius is above the ordinary rules of life ; it scorns to be restricted in its pursuit of pleasure by the laws of decorum, and " at one slight bound it overleaps all bounds,"

IRREGULAR CONDUCT. 233

Considering how short a period had elapsed since the celebration of the nuptials, the age of the parties, and the amiable disposition of the lady, the very idea of giving her uneasiness was a disgraceful act of wanton barbarity, of which a virtuous mind would have been ashamed. Even to the capriciousness of temper a man of true generosity will be so far yielding as to sacrifice many things rather than occasion pain to others. If this be expedient in the common intercourse of mankind, how much more necessary is it in the state of matrimony, where blended interests require a reciprocal attention to each other's temper and inclination, for their mutual happiness ?

But when a husband finds in his wife that her prejudices, if they must be called by that name, are on the side of virtue, and that even her love for himself is subordinate to that higher principle ; his obligations to cherish her affections by the correctness of his own conduct, become stronger in proportion to the brightness of the example which he has continually in his view.

A blessing like this cannot be too highly estimated, especially in an age of relaxed moral discipline ; and £34 DOMESTIC UNEASINESS.

therefore the man who sports with the sensibility of such a mind, by obtruding into his domestic circle meretricious characters, and persevering to do so after detection and in spite of remonstrance, whatever credit he may assume, or be entitled to for splendour of talents and freedom of spirit, he has little to boast of in morality of thinking. After marriage, even the most dissipated characters commonly affect, for a short time at least, somewhat of chastened habits; or f they do still hanker after licentious pleasures, they generally take care to wander from home, thereby endeavouring to avoid as much as possible such an exposure as they know will bring a disquiet house. But that man must have worked up his mind to a high pitch of contemptuous superiority over the ordinary principles by which the social relations are maintained in harmony, who can presume to bring depravity under his roof, and introduce vice to his table.

What causes besides there might be for serious offence, can only be surmised; but associates of the above description, were certainly not of a nature to be pleasing either to a virtuous wife or her friends. The

« PreviousContinue »