I have been informed that the course I have taken would be contrary to the wishes of my friend. I think otherwise. I know her strong sense of justice, and her reverence for truth. Nothing ever moved her to speak to the public but an attack upon the honour of the dead. In her statement, she says of her parents, ’There is no other near relative to vindicate their memory from insult: I am therefore compelled to break the silence I had hoped always to have observed.’
If there was any near relative to vindicate Lady Byron’s memory, I had no evidence of the fact; and I considered the utter silence to be strong evidence to the contrary. In all the storm of obloquy and rebuke that has raged in consequence of my speaking, I have had two unspeakable sources of joy; first, that they could not touch her; and, second, that they could not blind the all-seeing God. It is worth being in darkness to see the stars.
It has been said that I have drawn on Lady Byron’s name greater obloquy than ever before. I deny the charge. Nothing fouler has been asserted of her than the charges in the ‘Blackwood,’ because nothing fouler could be asserted. No satyr’s hoof has ever crushed this pearl deeper in the mire than the hoof of the ‘Blackwood,’ but none of them have defiled it or trodden it so deep that God cannot find it in the day ’when he maketh up his jewels.’
I have another word, as an American, to say about the contempt shown to our great people in thus suffering the materials of history to be falsified to subserve the temporary purposes of family feeling in England.
Lord Byron belongs not properly either to the Byrons or the Wentworths. He is not one of their family jewels to be locked up in their cases. He belongs to the world for which he wrote, to which he appealed, and before which he dragged his reluctant, delicate wife to a publicity equal with his own: the world has, therefore, a right to judge him.
We Americans have been made accessories, after the fact, to every insult and injury that Lord Byron and the literary men of his day have heaped upon Lady Byron. We have been betrayed into injustice and a complicity with villainy. After Lady Byron had nobly lived down slanders in England, and died full of years and honours, the ‘Blackwood’ takes occasion to re-open the controversy by recommending a book full of slanders to a rising generation who knew nothing of the past. What was the consequence in America? My attention was first called to the result, not by reading the ‘Blackwood’ article, but by finding in a popular monthly magazine two long articles,—the one an enthusiastic recommendation of the Guiccioli book, and the other a lamentation over the burning of the Autobiography as a lost chapter in history.
Both articles represented Lady Byron as a cold, malignant, mean, persecuting woman, who had been her husband’s ruin. They were so full of falsehoods and misstatements as to astonish me. Not long after, a literary friend wrote to me, ’Will you, can you, reconcile it to your conscience to sit still and allow that mistress so to slander that wife,—you, perhaps, the only one knowing the real facts, and able to set them forth?’