The interval since my publication of ’The True Story of Lady Byron’s Life’ has been one of stormy discussion and of much invective.
I have not thought it necessary to disturb my spirit and confuse my sense of right by even an attempt at reading the many abusive articles that both here and in England have followed that disclosure. Friends have undertaken the task for me, giving me from time to time the substance of anything really worthy of attention which came to view in the tumult.
It appeared to me essential that this first excitement should in a measure spend itself before there would be a possibility of speaking to any purpose. Now, when all would seem to have spoken who can speak, and, it is to be hoped, have said the utmost they can say, there seems a propriety in listening calmly, if that be possible, to what I have to say in reply.
And, first, why have I made this disclosure at all?
To this I answer briefly, Because I considered it my duty to make it.
I made it in defence of a beloved, revered friend, whose memory stood forth in the eyes of the civilised world charged with most repulsive crimes, of which I certainly knew her innocent.
I claim, and shall prove, that Lady Byron’s reputation has been the victim of a concerted attack, begun by her husband during her lifetime, and coming to its climax over her grave. I claim, and shall prove, that it was not I who stirred up this controversy in this year 1869. I shall show who did do it, and who is responsible for bringing on me that hard duty of making these disclosures, which it appears to me ought to have been made by others.
I claim that these facts were given to me unguarded by any promise or seal of secrecy, expressed or implied; that they were lodged with me as one sister rests her story with another for sympathy, for counsel, for defence. Never did I suppose the day would come that I should be subjected to so cruel an anguish as this use of them has been to me. Never did I suppose that,—when those kind hands, that had shed nothing but blessings, were lying in the helplessness of death, when that gentle heart, so sorely tried and to the last so full of love, was lying cold in the tomb,—a countryman in England could be found to cast the foulest slanders on her grave, and not one in all England to raise an effective voice in her defence.
I admit the feebleness of my plea, in point of execution. It was written in a state of exhausted health, when no labour of the kind was safe for me,—when my hand had not strength to hold the pen, and I was forced to dictate to another.
I have been told that I have no reason to congratulate myself on it as a literary effort. O my brothers and sisters! is there then nothing in the world to think of but literary efforts? I ask any man with a heart in his bosom, if he had been obliged to tell a story so cruel, because his mother’s grave gave no rest from slander,—I ask any woman who had been forced to such a disclosure to free a dead sister’s name from grossest insults, whether she would have thought of making this work of bitterness a literary success?