’Not merely from casual expressions, but from the whole tenor of Lord Byron’s feelings, I could not but conclude that he was a believer in the inspiration of the Bible, and had the gloomiest Calvinistic tenets. To that unhappy view of the relation of the creature to the Creator I have always ascribed the misery of his life.
’It is enough for me to know that he who thinks his transgression beyond forgiveness . . . has righteousness beyond that of the self- satisfied sinner. It is impossible for me to doubt, that, could he once have been assured of pardon, his living faith in moral duty, and love of virtue ("I love the virtues that I cannot claim"), would have conquered every temptation. Judge, then, how I must hate the creed that made him see God as an Avenger, and not as a Father! My own impressions were just the reverse, but could have but little weight; and it was in vain to seek to turn his thoughts from that fixed idea with which he connected his personal peculiarity as a stamp. Instead of being made happier by any apparent good, he felt convinced that every blessing would be turned into a curse to him . . . “The worst of it is, I do believe,” he said. I, like all connected with him, was broken against the rock of predestination. I may be pardoned for my frequent reference to the sentiment (expressed by him), that I was only sent to show him the happiness he was forbidden to enjoy.’
In this letter we have the heart, not of the wife, but of the mother,—the love that searches everywhere for extenuations of the guilt it is forced to confess.
That Lady Byron was not alone in ascribing such results to the doctrines of Calvinism, in certain cases, appears from the language of the Thirty-nine Articles, which says:—
’As the godly consideration of predestination, and our election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the workings of the spirit of Christ; . . . so, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God’s predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into recklessness of most unclean living,—no less perilous than desperation.’
Lord Byron’s life is an exact commentary on these words, which passed under the revision of Calvin himself.
The whole tone of this letter shows not only that Lady Byron never lost her deep interest in her husband, but that it was by this experience that all her religious ideas were modified. There is another of these letters in which she thus speaks of her husband’s writings and character:—
’The author of the article
on “Goethe” appears to me to have the mind
which could dispel the illusion about another poet, without
depreciating his claims . . . to the truest inspiration.