February 29 1816: “I Am At War”


On February 29 1816, Lord Byron writes to his friend Thomas Moore.

Feb. 29th, 1816.
“I have not answered your letter for a time; and, at present, the reply to part of it might extend to such a length, that I shall delay it ill it can be made in person, and then I will shorten it as much as I can.

“In the mean time, I am at war ‘with all the world and his wife;’ or rather, ‘all the world and my wife’ are at war with me, and have not yet crushed me,—whatever they may do. I don’t know that in the course of a hair-breadth existence I was ever, at home or abroad, in a situation so completely uprooting of present pleasure, or rational hope for the future, as this same. I say this, because I think so, and feel it. But I shall not sink under it the more for that mode of considering the question.—I have made up my mind.

“By the way, however, you must not believe all you hear on the subject; and don’t attempt to defend me. If you succeeded in that, it would be a mortal, or an immortal, offence—who can bear refutation? I have but a very short answer for those whom it concerns; and all the activity of myself and some vigorous friends have not yet fixed on any tangible ground or personage, on which or with whom I can discuss matters, in a summary way, with a fair pretext;—though I nearly had nailed one yesterday, but he evaded by—what was judged by others—a satisfactory explanation. I speak of circulators—against whom I have no enmity, though I must act according to the common code of usage, when I hit upon those of the serious order.

“Now for other matters—Poesy, for instance. Leigh Hunt’s poem is a devilish good one—quaint, here and there, but with the substratum of originality, and with poetry about it, that will stand the test. I do not say this because he has inscribed it to me, which I am sorry for, as I should otherwise have begged you to review it in the Edinburgh*. It is really deserving of much praise, and a favourable critique in the E. R. would but do it justice, and set it up before the public eye where it ought to be.

“How are you? and where? I have not the most distant idea what I am going to do myself, or with myself—or where—or what. I had, a few weeks ago, some things to say, that would have made you laugh; but they tell me now that I must not laugh, and so I have been very serious—and am.

“I have not been very well—with a liver complaint—but am much better within the last fortnight, though still under Iatrical advice. I have latterly seen a little of * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * .

“I must go and dress to dine. My little girl is in the country, and, they tell me, is a very fine child, and now nearly three months old. Lady Noel (my mother-in-law, or, rather, at law) is at present overlooking it. Her daughter (Miss Milbanke that was) is, I believe, in London with her father. A Mrs. C. (now a kind of housekeeper and spy of Lady N.’s) who, in her better days, was a washerwoman, is supposed to be—by the learned—very much the occult cause of our late domestic discrepancies.

“In all this business, I am the sorriest for Sir Ralph. He and I are equally punished, though magis pares quem similes in our affliction. Yet it is hard for both to suffer for the fault of one, and so it is—I shall be separated from my wife; he will retain his.
“Ever, &c.”

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