On January 28, 1812, Lord Byron writes rather coldly to dismiss Susan Vaughan, his Welsh maid, from his estate of Newstead Abbey. Byron had been having an affair with Vaughan since December, 1811. Byron's page or servant, Robert Rushton, was also having an affair with Vaughan. Vaughan may have also have had other lovers.
As I note in my earlier posts, the events of January 28 were the result of what seemed to be a trivial dispute. Byron had accused Rushton of refusing to deliver one of his letters to Vaughan. Rushton denied the charge in a letter of January 23 with Byron responding on January 25. In that last letter, Byron strongly suggests that he already knows that Rushton is having an affair with Vaughan or at least that Rushton knows something that he is not telling him. Byron asks Rushton to tell him the truth.
It appears that Rushton's response was to provide to Byron a letter that Vaughan had sent to one of her lovers. It is not clear, but the letter could have been a letter from Vaughan to Rushton. (I will need to do some further investigation on this point). In any event on finding out about Vaughan's "infidelity", Byron responds coldly, self -pityingly and hypocritically and sends Vaughan away.
Promiscuity is one thing for a Lord but not for maids.
Further information about this affair was provided in a series of letters from Byron to his friend Reverend Francis Hodgson that were sold at Southeby's in 2009. The Catalogue Notes provides the following:
Byron was at Newstead Abbey in the autumn of 1811 "writing notes for my Quarto" [i.e. Childe Harold] and providing memorable praise of local pleasures:
"...I am plucking up my spirits, & have begun to gather my little sensual comforts together, Lucy is extracted from Warwickshire, some very bad faces have been warned off the premises, & more promising substituted in their stead, the partridges are plentiful, hares finishes, pheasants not quite so good, & the girls on the manor just coming into season..."
One of these "more promising" faces was Susan Vaughan, whom Byron soon took his lover. The affair did not last long, however, and in two largely unpublished letters that reveal the callous side of his character Byron provided Hodgson with a detailed account of its conclusion – another servant revealed a letter showing Vaughan's affection for another man and she was summarily dismissed – and its aftermath ("...she descended from her apartment 'fierce as ten furies' attacked R. till he was covered with blood, tried to throw herself into one of the filthy pieces of water in & about the premises, & when the letters came away, was still threatening perdition, 'thunder, horror guts & death'... I presume she will rave herself quiet...")
She may have lost her livelihood and reputation, but Byron nonetheless cast himself as the victim of the affair, sighing to Hodgson that "I can't blame the girl, but my own vanity in believing that 'such a thing as I am' could be loved."
Byron's letter of January 28, 1812 to Vaughan reads as follows:
Byron to Susan Vaughan,from 8 St James’s Street London,
January 28th. 1812
I write to bid you farewell, not to reproach you. – The enclosed papers, one in your own handwriting will explain every thing. – I will not deny that I have been attached to you, & I am now heartily ashamed of my weakness. – You may also enjoy the satisfaction of having deceived me most completely, & rendered me for the present sufficiently wretched. – From the first I told you that the continuance of our connection depended on your own conduct. – – All is over. – I have little to condemn on my own part, but credulity; you threw yourself in my way, I received you, loved you, till you have become worthless, & now I part from you with some regret, & without resentment. – I wish you well, do not forget that your own misconduct has bereaved you of a friend, of whom nothing else could have deprived you. – Do not attempt explanation, it is useless, I am determined, you cannot deny your handwriting; return to your relations, you shall be furnished with the means, but him, who now addresses you for the last time, you will never see again.
God bless you!