The year after the death of his first wife, John Byron, who seems to have had the fascinations of a Barry Lyndon, succeeded in entrapping a second. This was Miss Catherine Gordon of Gight, a lady with considerable estates in Aberdeenshire—which attracted the adventurer—and an overweening Highland pride in her descent from James I., the greatest of the Stuarts, through his daughter Annabella, and the second Earl of Huntly. This union suggested the ballad of an old rhymer, beginning—
O whare are ye gaen, bonny Miss Gordon,
O whare are ye gaen, sae bonny and braw?
Ye’ve married, ye’ve married wi’ Johnny Byron,
To squander the lands o’ Gight awa’.
The prophecy was soon fulfilled. The property of the Scotch heiress was squandered with impetuous rapidity by the English rake. In 1780 she left Scotland for France, and returned to England toward the close of the following year. On the 22nd of January, 1788, in Holles Street, London, Mrs. Byron gave birth to her only child, George Gordon, sixth Lord. Shortly after, being pressed by his creditors, the father abandoned both, and leaving them with a pittance of 150 l a year, fled to Valenciennes, where he died, in August, 1791.
EARLY YEARS AND SCHOOL LIFE.
Soon after the birth of her son, Mrs. Byron took him to Scotland. After spending some time with a relation, she, early in 1790, settled in a small house at Aberdeen. Ere long her husband, who had in the interval dissipated away his remaining means, rejoined her; and they lived together in humble lodgings, until their tempers, alike fiery and irritable, compelled a definite separation. They occupied apartments, for some time, at the opposite ends of the same street, and interchanged visits. Being accustomed to meet the boy and his nurse, the father expressed a wish that the former should be sent to live with him, at least for some days. “To this request,” Moore informs us, “Mrs. Byron was at first not very willing to accede; but, on the representation of the nurse that if he kept him over one night he would not do so another, she consented. On inquiring next morning after the child, she was told by Captain Byron that he had had quite enough of his young visitor.” After a short stay in the north, the Captain, extorting enough money from his wife to enable him to fly from his creditors, escaped to France. His absence must have been a relief; but his death is said to have so affected the unhappy lady, that her shrieks disturbed the neighbourhood. The circumstance recalls an anecdote of a similar outburst—attested by Sir W. Scott, who was present on the occasion—before her marriage. Being present at a representation, in Edinburgh, of the Fatal Marriage, when Mrs. Siddons was personating Isabella, Miss Gordon was seized with a fit, and carried out of the theatre, screaming out “O my Biron, my Biron.”