Lord Byron (1788 – 1824) was one of England’s most notorious womanizers. A world-famous poet by the age of 24, he had a brief but extremely passionate affair with Lady Caroline Lamb. Pressured by Caroline’s mother (who herself may have harbored affections for Byron), he used the opportunity to put an end to the relationship. In this letter, he explains his reasoning.
My dearest Caroline,
If tears, which you saw & know I am not apt to shed, if the agitation in 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, & am still but too ready to say & do, have not sufficiently proved what my real feelings 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 don 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 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
P.S. — These taunts which 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 so 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 you & to you only that they owe yourself, I was and am yours, freely & most entirely, to obey, to honour, love –& fly with you when, where, & how you yourself might & may determine.
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