The ‘Blackwood’ claimed a right to re-open the subject because it was not a private but a public matter. It claimed that Lord Byron’s unfortunate marriage might have changed not only his own destiny, but that of all England. It suggested, that, but for this, instead of wearing out his life in vice, and corrupting society by impure poetry, he might, at this day, have been leading the counsels of the State, and helping the onward movements of the world. Then it directly charged Lady Byron with meanly forsaking her husband in a time of worldly misfortune; with fabricating a destructive accusation of crime against him, and confirming this accusation by years of persistent silence more guilty than open assertion.
It has been alleged, that, even admitting that Lady Byron’s story were true, it never ought to have been told. Is it true, then, that a woman has not the same right to individual justice that a man has? If the cases were reversed, would it have been thought just that Lord Byron should go down in history loaded with accusations of crime because he could be only vindicated by exposing the crime of his wife?
It has been said that the crime charged on Lady Byron was comparatively unimportant, and the one against Lord Byron was deadly.
But the ‘Blackwood,’ in opening the controversy, called Lady Byron by the name of an unnatural female criminal, whose singular atrocities alone entitle her to infamous notoriety; and the crime charged upon her was sufficient to warrant the comparison.
Both crimes are foul, unnatural, horrible; and there is no middle ground between the admission of the one or the other.
You must either conclude that a woman, all whose other works, words, and deeds were generous, just, and gentle, committed this one monstrous exceptional crime, without a motive, and against all the analogies of her character, and all the analogies of her treatment of others; or you must suppose that a man known by all testimony to have been boundlessly licentious, who took the very course which, by every physiological law, would have led to unnatural results, did, at last, commit an unnatural crime.
The question, whether I did right, when Lady Byron was thus held up as an abandoned criminal by the ‘Blackwood,’ to interpose my knowledge of the real truth in her defence, is a serious one; but it is one for which I must account to God alone, and in which, without any contempt of the opinions of my fellow-creatures, I must say, that it is a small thing to be judged of man’s judgment.
I had in the case a responsibility very different from that of many others. I had been consulted in relation to the publication of this story by Lady Byron, at a time when she had it in her power to have exhibited it with all its proofs, and commanded an instant conviction. I have reason to think that my advice had some weight in suppressing that disclosure. I gave that advice under the impression that the Byron controversy was a thing for ever passed, and never likely to return.