March 11 1816: Fair Construction


On March 11 1816, Lord Byron writes to Lady Byron. After agreeing to the separation terms, he is now backing away. The main issue in dispute concerns the Noel or Wentworth property that Lady Byron was to inherit and which was valued at about  £6,500. Byron, as the husband, would have had the benefit of this inheritance. Byron now took the position that she should trust him, and that he would make “fair & liberal arrangements” for her in the future. Lady Byron and her advisers where not prepared to trust Byron. Byron’s letter demonstrates his capriciousness, and an unpleasant and cruel attempt to get his way, and put his wife in her place. 

There is one point on which it is proper you should be set right—however my motive may be misconstrued—as almost every thing I have said has lately been.—You told Mrs. Leigh that “I had menaced you with legal measures as if you were to be intimidated by these” this is a misapprehension on your part—or a misstatement on hers.—The words “legal measures” were first used by your father in a letter to me (ready for production when necessary) and all that has ever been said or done by me since that threat amounted & amounts only to my determination to resist such proceedings by such lawful defences as truth & justice permit & prescribe to the accused as well as the accuser.—These measures have not been of my seeking—& whatever the results may be—I am not aware of any impropriety in declaring that I shall defend myself from attacks which strike at the root of every tie—& connection—of hope—& character—of my child’s welfare—& it may be—even of your own.——I am prepared on such points—& being so should not have alluded to them—had I not conceived that you have either misconceived—or been too [ready] to misconceive me—by attributing to me “legal menaces” which I merely resolved to resist.—

—As a negociation has partly commenced —I will state to you that as far as our present circumstances & fortunes are concerned—I have no objection to proceed.—But the Wentworth property is no part of present consideration—it may never be the subject of consideration at all: you may survive me (I hope you will) Lady Noel may survive you—or both—if I survive you—it ceases to me:—when the time comes—if it does come—I will do what is right—you have no reason—at least no just one—to doubt me on such points—when I married you I settled all I could & about all I had upon you—& though strongly advised & justified in demanding a settlement of yr. father’s dispensable property—I would not & did not —solely from delicacy to you—& to your family.—If however you doubt me—in the event of the succession to the W[entworth] Estates —you will then have the means of redress should I seem to you reluctant in making proper arrangements:— but in the present case—whatever your success might be in the probable cause which may ensue— possessions & not reversions are under the cognizance of the Courts.——At all events—I shall not submit to such measures as may lead to further misconstructions of my conduct:—& if your real object & that of your friends is a fair & equal separation—with no ultimate view of another nature—you will be satisfied with arrangements proportioned to the present relative circumstances of the parties.——If the W[entworth] property ever falls in—I will make what shall be fully allowed to be fair & liberal arrangements—but I will not be menaced —nor forced into any present stipulations:—nor deprived of the pleasure of acting of my own accord towards yourself—at least as liberally as the law would [decree] for you—supposing (for it is but a supposition) that you carried all before you. yrs ever B

P.S.—As I do not write with a lawyer at my elbow—I must request a fair construction of what I have written.

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