Lady Byron’s experience had led her to apply the powers of her strong philosophical mind to the study of mental pathology: and she had become satisfied that the solution of the painful problem which first occurred to her as a young wife, was, after all, the true one; namely, that Lord Byron had been one of those unfortunately constituted persons in whom the balance of nature is so critically hung, that it is always in danger of dipping towards insanity; and that, in certain periods of his life, he was so far under the influence of mental disorder as not to be fully responsible for his actions.
She went over with a brief and clear analysis the history of his whole life as she had thought it out during the lonely musings of her widowhood. She dwelt on the ancestral causes that gave him a nature of exceptional and dangerous susceptibility. She went through the mismanagements of his childhood, the history of his school-days, the influence of the ordinary school-course of classical reading on such a mind as his. She sketched boldly and clearly the internal life of the young men of the time, as she, with her purer eyes, had looked through it; and showed how habits, which, with less susceptible fibre, and coarser strength of nature, were tolerable for his companions, were deadly to him, unhinging his nervous system, and intensifying the dangers of ancestral proclivities. Lady Byron expressed the feeling too, that the Calvinistic theology, as heard in Scotland, had proved in his case, as it often does in certain minds, a subtle poison. He never could either disbelieve or become reconciled to it; and the sore problems it proposes embittered his spirit against Christianity.
‘The worst of it is, I do believe,’ he would often say with violence, when he had been employing all his powers of reason, wit, and ridicule upon these subjects.
Through all this sorrowful history was to be seen, not the care of a slandered woman to make her story good, but the pathetic anxiety of a mother, who treasures every particle of hope, every intimation of good, in the son whom she cannot cease to love. With indescribable resignation, she dwelt on those last hours, those words addressed to her, never to be understood till repeated in eternity.
But all this she looked upon as for ever past; believing, that, with the dropping of the earthly life, these morbid impulses and influences ceased, and that higher nature which he often so beautifully expressed in his poems became the triumphant one.
While speaking on this subject, her pale ethereal face became luminous with a heavenly radiance; there was something so sublime in her belief in the victory of love over evil, that faith with her seemed to have become sight. She seemed so clearly to perceive the divine ideal of the man she had loved, and for whose salvation she had been called to suffer and labour and pray, that all memories of his past unworthiness fell away, and were lost.