The following letters of Lady Byron’s are reprinted from the Memoirs of H. C. Robinson. They are given that the reader may form some judgment of the strength and activity of her mind, and the elevated class of subjects upon which it habitually dwelt.
LADY BYRON TO H. C. R.
’DEC. 31, 1853.
’DEAR MR. CRABB ROBINSON,—I have an inclination, if I were not afraid of trespassing on your time (but you can put my letter by for any leisure moment), to enter upon the history of a character which I think less appreciated than it ought to be. Men, I observe, do not understand men in certain points, without a woman’s interpretation. Those points, of course, relate to feelings.
’Here is a man taken by most of those who come in his way either for Dry-as-Dust, Matter-of-fact, or for a “vain visionary.” There are, doubtless, some defective or excessive characteristics which give rise to those impressions.
’My acquaintance was made, oddly enough, with him twenty-seven years ago. A pauper said to me of him, “He’s the poor man’s doctor.” Such a recommendation seemed to me a good one: and I also knew that his organizing head had formed the first district society in England (for Mrs. Fry told me she could not have effected it without his aid); yet he has always ignored his own share of it. I felt in him at once the curious combination of the Christian and the cynic,—of reverence for man, and contempt of men. It was then an internal war, but one in which it was evident to me that the holier cause would be victorious, because there was deep belief, and, as far as I could learn, a blameless and benevolent life. He appeared only to want sunshine. It was a plant which could not be brought to perfection in darkness. He had begun life by the most painful conflict between filial duty and conscience,—a large provision in the church secured for him by his father; but he could not sign. There was discredit, as you know, attached to such scruples.
’He was also, when I first knew him, under other circumstances of a nature to depress him, and to make him feel that he was unjustly treated. The gradual removal of these called forth his better nature in thankfulness to God. Still the old misanthropic modes of expressing himself obtruded themselves at times. This passed in ’48 between him and Robertson. Robertson said to me, “I want to know something about ragged schools.” I replied, “You had better ask Dr. King: he knows more about them.”—“I?” said Dr. King. “I take care to know nothing of ragged schools, lest they should make me ragged.” Robertson did not see through it. Perhaps I had been taught to understand such suicidal speeches by my cousin, Lord Melbourne.
’The example of Christ, imperfectly as it may be understood by him, has been ever before his eyes: he woke to the thought of following it, and he went to rest consoled or rebuked by it. After nearly thirty years of intimacy, I may, without presumption, form that opinion. There is something pathetic to me in seeing any one so unknown. Even the other medical friends of Robertson, when I knew that Dr. King felt a woman’s tenderness, said on one occasion to him, “But we know that you, Dr. King, are above all feeling.”