March 9 1816: Terms of Separation

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“Saturday March 9th 1816: At two o’clock I went to Byron’s – found Wilmot there, and that he had been showing something to Lord Byron – [he] retired with me – he read then a paper stating that Lady Byron disavowed, for herself and those most nearly connected with her, having spread any rumours injurious to Lord Byron’s character – especially as regarded two specified [ incest and sodomy ] to her by Mr Wilmot – and that [she] stated that neither of these two specified charges made part of the allegations she should have thought herself obliged to make if she had gone into court. He then said to me, “Should you think such a disavowal satisfactory if signed by Lady Byron and witnessed by me?” – I said I should. – He then said, “It is signed by Lady Byron and witnessed by me” – which he showed me to be the case.

It was agreed that Mr Wilmot should keep the paper in his possession until the whole business was concluded, as a safeguard to Lady Byron in case his mediation should fail. He then showed me another paper entitled “Principle of Separation between Lord and Lady Byron,” and couched something in these terms: The parties agreed to appoint mutually two arbitrators (meaning two between them) who shall name a referee to arrange a separation and take into consideration the following points:

Lord Byron proposes to resign the whole of Lady Byron’s present fortune

Lady Byron is anxious to receive only £200 per annum in addition to her £300 per annum pin money.

Lord and Lady Byron are agreed that no arrangement shall at present take place as to the Kirkby property, but that Lord Byron shall stipulate in a legal form that when Lady Byron shall succeed to that property he will make an arrangement with respect to it, on fair terms of arbitration.

Wilmot asked me if I saw any objection to this principle. I said, none at all, provided always it was understood the disavowal had nothing to do with it in any way. We came into Lord Byron’s room – when I told him I saw no objection to the two papers and thought them satisfactory, he, as it appeared to me, assented. I copied the separation paper at Wilmot’s desire. S.B.Davies came into the room. Wilmot withdrew with him, and when the two came back S.B.D. said he thought the business also satisfactory. Wilmot read over the disavowal paper in my presence, and then put it in his pocket to keep it till the affair should be concluded. He took his leave in spirits. We all thought, at least I thought, the affair concluded. S.B.D. and I walked home [and] dressed. Lord Byron called in his carriage and took us to Drury Lane. In there, after some time, I heard my Prologue murdered by Mr Bartley184 who mis–rhymed, &c. It was applauded, however. Then we saw The Duke of Milan. Kean was wonderful in parts, but the play was to me rather heavy, though full of incidents,185 and δεουγδαχιςος,186 up to the last scene. Coming to Watier’s, we dined at ten o’clock – good dinner, and conversation light.

— John Cam Hobhouse writes in his diary for March 9 1816.

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