April 14 1816: “More Last Words”

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On April 14 1816, Lord Byron writes his last letter to Lady Byron from England. It was also the day that he said good-bye to his half sister Augusta Leigh as he prepared to leave England. Earlier, he had written to his lawyer John Hanson asking him to bring the deed of separation to be signed.

It was also on this day that pirated copies of his poems ‘A Sketch from Private Life’ and ‘Fare Thee Well’ are published in The Champion. The poems are disaster in terms of Byron’s reputation. The general public thought it unseemly that he was willing to turn the tragedy of his broken marriage into poetry. John Gibson Lockhart would later write:“why, then, did you, who are both a gentleman and a nobleman, act upon this the most delicate occasion, in all probability, your life was ever to present, as if you had been neither a nobleman nor a gentleman, but some mere overweeningly conceited poet?”

“More last words”—not many—and such as you will attend to answer; I do not expect, nor does it import; but you will hear me.—I have just parted from Augusta, almost the last being you had left me to part with—and the only unshattered tie of my existence, wherever I may go—and I am going far.

You and I can never meet again in this world, nor in the next: let this content or atone. If any accident occurs to me, be kind to her: if she is then nothing, to her children. Some time ago I informed you that with the knowledge that any child of ours was already provided for by other and better means. I had made my will in favour of her and her children, as prior to my marriage. This was not done in prejudice to you, for we had not then differed; and even this is useless during your life by the settlements. I say therefore, be kind to her and hers—for never has she acted or spoken otherwise towards you. She has ever been your friend. This may seem valueless to one who has now so many. Be kind to her, however, and recollect that though it may be advantage to you to have lost your husband, it is sorrow to her to have the waters now, or the earth hereafter, between her and her brother. She is gone. I need hardly add that of this request she knows nothing. Your late compliances have not been so extensive as to render this an encroachment. I repeat it (for deep resentments have but half recollections), that you once did promise me thus much—do not forget it, nor deem it cancelled. It was not a vow. Mr. Wharton has sent me a letter with a question and two pieces of intelligence. To the question, I answer that the carriage is yours, and as it has only carried us to Halnaby and London, and you to Kirkby. I hope it will take youmany a more propitious journey. The receipts may remain, unless you find them troublesome. If so, they can be sent to Augusta, and through her I would also hear of my little daughter. My address will be left with Mrs. Leigh. The ring is of no lapidary value, but it contains the hair of a king and an ancestor, which I should wish to preserve to Miss Byron. With regard to a subsequent letter from Mr. Wharton, I have to reply that it is the “law’s delay”, not mine, and that when he and Mr. Hanson have adjusted the tenor of the bond, I am ready to sign,

Yours ever very truly BYRON.

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