February 15 1816: Blighting Calumnies of Every Kind

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On February 15 1816, Lord Byron writes to Lady Byron another letter that is by turns desperate, peevish and full of expressions of love, but ends threateningly by referring to their daughter Ada in an impersonal manner by asking for “its welfare” and asking for “some occasional news of its well-being.” Annabella would have been frightened at the possibility that Byron would assert his rights and seek custody of Ada. Byron’s fears are more directed to the “general rumours” that are beginning to spread rumours that contain the “the most black and blighting calumnies of every kind.”

I know not what to say, every step taken appears to bear you farther from me, and to widen “the great  gulf between thee and me”. If it cannot be crossed I will perish in its depth.

Two letters have been written by me to you, but I have not sent them, and I know not well why I write this, or whether I shall send it or no. How far your conduct is reconcilable to your duties and affections as a wife and a mother, must be a question for your own reflection. The trial has not been very long—a year, I grant you—of distress, distemper, and misfortune; but these fell chiefly on me, and bitter as the recollection is to me of what I have felt, it is much more, so to have made you a partner of my desolation. On the charges to be preferred against me I have twice been refused any information by your father and his advisers. It is now a fortnight, which has been passed in suspense, in humiliation, in obloquy, exposed to the most black and blighting calumnies of every kind, without even the power of contradicting conjecture and vulgar assertion as to the accusations, because I am denied the knowledge of all, or any, particulars from the only quarter that can afford them. In the meantime I hope your ears are gratified by the general rumours.

I have invited your return; it has been refused. I have requested to know with what I am charged; it is refused. Is this mercy or justice? We shall see.

And now, Bell, dearest Bell, whatever may be the event of this calamitous difference, whether you are returned to or torn from me, I can only say in the truth of affliction, and without hope, motive, or end in again saying what I have lately but vainly repeated, that I love you, bad or good, mad or rational, miserable or content, I love you, and shall do, to the dregs of my memory and existence. If I can feel thus for you now under every possible aggravation and exasperating circumstance that can corrode. the heart and inflame the brain, perhaps you may one day know, or think at least, that I was not all you have persuaded yourself to believe me; but that nothing, nothing can touch me farther.

I have hitherto avoided naming my child, but this was a feeling you never doubted in me. I must ask of its welfare. I have heard of its beauty and playfulness, and I request, not from you, but through any other channel—Augusta, if you please—some occasional news of its well-being.

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