August 12 1812: Lady Caroline Lamb Disappears

On August 12,1812, Lady Caroline Lamb disappeared [1]. Her mother Lady Bessborough and mother-in-law Lady Melbourne - the Queen mothers as Caroline called them - searched desperately for her. They went to see Lord Byron since Caroline had threatened to go to him. Byron had not seen Caroline but promised to return her if he should find her. Byron wrote to Lady Melbourne that day, "As I am one of the principal performers in this unfortunate drama I should be glad to know what my part requires next?" In fact, Caroline had made it all the way to Kensington, selling jewelry to pay her way until she had hiden in a surgeon's house. There she had purchased a ticket for a stage coach to Portsmouth with the intention to sail from its port. She wrote a number of letters of farewell and sent a hackney coachman back to London to deliver them. One note was for Byron, who "followed the hackney coachman, threatening and bribing him to take him back to Caroline". Byron was able by persuasion, deception and force to bring her back. At the surgeon's home Byron had forced his way in claiming to be her brother. Caroline was probably secretly happy to return and more so that her little drama had again brought Byron to her side. At home, her husband William took her back. When plans were announced that they would go to Ireland, Caroline is supposed to have shouted out falsely that she could not go as she was pregnant. This was too much for Caroline's poor mother who collapsed, and began to cough up a great deal of blood. The next day she suffered a stroke.

Byron, having accomplished his gentlemanly duty, sat down to write a good bye letter to Caroline. The letter contains many heart felt sentiments. Byron the writer masterfully consoles Caroline while putting his own role in their affair in the most favourable light. Byron probably did love Caroline, as much as he was capable of love, but any passion he may have felt had ebbed and now he writes of Caroline as someone in his past. Byron's letter is reproduced below. 

My dearest Caroline - If tears which you saw & know I am not apt to shed, if the agitation which I parted from you, agitation which you must have perceived through the whole of this most nervous nervous affair, did not commence till the moment of leaving you approached, if all that I have said & done, & still but too ready to say & do, have not sufficiently proved what my real feelngs are & must be ever towards you, my love, I have no other proof to offer; God knows I wish you happy, & when I quit you, or rather when you from a sense of duty to your husband & mother quit me, you shall acknowledge the truth of what I again promise & vow, that no other in word or deed shall ever hold the place in my affection which is & shall be most sacred to you, till I am nothing I never knew till that moment, the madness of - my dearest & most beloved friend - I cannot express myself - this is no time for words - but I shall have a pride, a melancholy pleasure, in suffering what you yourself can hardly conceive - for you do not know me.- I am now about to go out with a heavy heart, because - my appearing this Evening will stop any absurd story which the events of today might give rise to - do you think now that I am cold & stern, & artful - will even others think so, will your mother even - that mother to whom we must indeed sacrifice much, more much more on my part, than she shall ever know or can imagine. - "Promises not to love you" ah Caroline it is past promising - but I shall attribute all concessions to the proper motive - & never cease to feel all that you have already witnessed - & more than can ever be known but to my own heart - perhaps to yours - May God protect forgive & bless you - ever & even more than ever

yr. most attached Byron

P.S. - The taunts that have driven you to this - my dearest Caroline - were it not for your mother & the kindness of all your connections, is there anything on earth or heaven would have made me happy as to have made you mine long ago? & not less now than then, but more than ever at this time - you know I would with pleasure give up all here & all beyond the grave for you - & in refraining from this - must my motives be misunderstood -? I care not who knows this - what use is made of it - it is to you & to you only that they owe yourself, I was am yours, freely & most entirely, to obey, to honour, - love & fly with you when, where, & how you yourself might & may determine.

The above posting and quotes are based on the information found in Fiona MacCarthy, Byron: Life and Legend (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002) at 176 to 181

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