February 12 1816: Truth About Byron

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“Called on Byron saw Mrs Leigh and George Byron, and from them learnt what I fear is the real truth – that Byron has been guilty of very great tyranny – menaces – furies – neglects, and even real injuries, such as telling his wife he was living with another woman, and actually, in fact, turning her out of the house. George Byron suspected she would leave him and told him so a month before she went – but she had no intention of doing it when she went from London – – locking doors – showing pistols – frowning at her in bed – reproaches – everything – he seems, to believe them, to have been guilty of – and they acquit him – how? by saying that he is mad – certainly – and that Mr Le Mann says it is the consequence of a torpid liver, which has already affected his eyes – made one smaller than the other and made him squint. He has gone to the length of strutting about in his peer’s robes, and saying he was like Bonaparte, and the greatest man in the world, not excepting
Bonaparte.

Whilst I heard these things Mrs Leigh went out and brought word that her brother was crying bitterly in his bedroom – poor, poor fellow.

Lady Byron has written again to Mrs Leigh – Byron has proposed a meeting before witnesses, but has had no answer. The family have retained Lushington, and make no doubt of success – the great object certainly is to arrange things amicably – coute qui coute – the thing must not come before the public.

I found it difficult to account for his wishing to deceive me. Mrs Leigh and George Byron tell me he forgets what he did and said – it is part of his disease – Le Mann insists on calling a physician. I now thought it my duty to tell Byron I had changed my opinion, and to tell him so without compromising my informants – yesterday I had received a letter from Lady Byron telling me the determination was irrevocable, and declining my proposed visit in civil terms – left Byron’s to call again – went to hurry Davison – came back wrote two notes at Ridgeway’s – went to Byron’s – met Lady Melbourne who abused Lady Noel violently.

Byron was tranquil and jesting, but when I told him what I had heard in the streets that day he was astounded indeed, and after Lady Melbourne went questioned me – he had heard he was to be accused of cruelty, drunkenness, and infidelity – I got him to own much of what I had been told in the morning – he was dreadfully agitated – said he was ruined, and would blow out his brains – he is indignant, but yet terrified – sometimes says “And yet she loved me once,” and at other times that he is glad to be quit of such a woman – he said if I would go abroad he would separate at once – Hanson has got Ralph Noel to suspend proceedings. I took my leave of my poor friend – alas! what a ruin – I never knock at his door without expecting to hear some fatal intelligence – yet he flashes up sometimes in his fits and is the same man as before – could his wife but know she would surely relent. This night I was to have gone to the play with George Finch, but did not find him and did not go – instead I went to Ridgeway, got him to publish my book, of which I have cancelled eleven sheets!! and walked away to Davison with the intelligence. Tomorrow my copies are to be delivered to my friends, and I have been foolishly profuse of them to people I hardly know. Lord Kinnaird is come back – says my book is excellent, and he will review it – he was sent away by the Bourbons. I saw Douglas Kinnaird.

Rode home – ate boiled beef …

— Cam Hobhouse writes in his diary, February 12 1816.

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