All this is not proof: it is mere assertion, and assertion made to produce prejudice. It is like raising a whirlwind of sand to blind the eyes that are looking for landmarks. It is quite probable Lady Byron told different stories about Lord Byron at various times. No woman could have a greater variety of stories to tell; and no woman ever was so persecuted and pursued and harassed, both by public literature and private friendship, to say something. She had plenty of causes for a separation, without the fatal and final one. In her conversations with Lady Anne Barnard, for example, she gives reasons enough for a separation, though none of them are the chief one. It is not different stories, but contradictory stories, that must be relied on to disprove the credibility of a witness. The ‘Quarterly’ has certainly told a great number of different stories,—stories which may prove as irreconcilable with each other as any attributed to Lady Byron; but its denial of all weight to her testimony is simply begging the whole question under consideration.
A man gives testimony about the causes of a railroad accident, being the only eye-witness.
The opposing counsel begs, whatever else you do, you will not admit that man’s testimony. You ask, ’Why? Has he ever been accused of want of veracity on other subjects?’—’No: he has stood high as a man of probity and honour for years.’—’Why, then, throw out his testimony?’
‘Because he lies in this instance,’ says the adversary: ’his testimony does not agree with this and that.’—’Pardon me, that is the very point in question,’ say you: ’we expect to prove that it does agree with this and that.’
Because certain letters of Lady Byron’s do not agree with the ‘Quarterly’s’ theory of the facts of the separation, it at once assumes that she is an untruthful witness, and proposes to throw out her evidence altogether.
We propose, on the contrary, to regard Lady Byron’s evidence with all the attention due to the statement of a high-minded conscientious person, never in any other case accused of violation of truth; we also propose to show it to be in strict agreement with all well-authenticated facts and documents; and we propose to treat Lord Byron’s evidence as that of a man of great subtlety, versed in mystification and delighting in it, and who, on many other subjects, not only deceived, but gloried in deception; and then we propose to show that it contradicts well-established facts and received documents.
One thing more we have to say concerning the laws of evidence in regard to documents presented in this investigation.
This is not a London West-End affair, but a grave historical inquiry, in which the whole English-speaking world are interested to know the truth.
As it is now too late to have the securities of a legal trial, certainly the rules of historical evidence should be strictly observed. All important documents should be presented in an entire state, with a plain and open account of their history,—who had them, where they were found, and how preserved.