December 10 1815: Augusta Ada Byron is Born

  

The next day, Sunday, December 10, [1815] at 1:00 p.m., Annabella gave birth to a girl, Augusta Ada, named for her godmother. She would be called Ada, however, a name her father claimed had entered the family in the reign of King John. On being shown his healthy infant daughter, Byron supposedly said, “Oh! What an implement of torture I have acquired in you!” The days just before Annabella’s confinement, Byron’s behavior, for the first time, called into question his sanity. Although he spoke constantly to Hobhouse and others of going abroad, in his own mind, the condition of his “Liberty” was getting rid of Annabella; either she and the child would live with her parents indefinitely, or they would divorce, or—he would destroy her. According to sworn testimony given by Ann Rood Fletcher, Annabella’s maid and the wife of Byron’s valet, just after the baby was born, Byron would “lock himself into Lady Byron’s room, scream and shout at her.” Mrs. Fletcher heard him “walk about the room violently as if a state of just anger,” she recalled in a telling phrase, after which “he remained in the room for an hour; leaving it in a great rage & slamming the door violently after him.” Then comes testimony by both Fletchers so horrific as to be shrouded—still—in shame and secrecy. Entering the room immediately after Byron left, Mrs. Fletcher found her mistress “in a very great state of alarm & agitation; saying that he had attempted to push …” Here the word “push” had been crossed out by another hand, and the phrase substituted “to persuade her to go to bed with him.” To continue with Ann Fletcher’s testimony, “This happened three times within a fortnight of Lady Byron’s confinement.” On the fourth occasion of Byron’s attempted rape of his wife, Mrs. Fletcher herself came upon them locked in physical struggle and called for help. From this point on, Mrs. Fletcher, “with the view of preventing Lord B from entering her Ladyship’s room by surprise … used to keep the doors, which led into her ladyship’s chamber locked.”

— Byron: Child of Passion, Fool of Fame by Benita Eisler

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