Byron, “Of His Mother’s Treatment of Him”

I thought, my dear Augusta, that your opinion of my meek mama would coincide with mine; her temper is so variable, and, when inflamed, so furious, that I dread our meeting; not but I dare say that I am troublesome enough, but I always endeavor to be as dutiful as possible. She is very strenuous, and so tormenting in her entreaties and commands, with regard to my reconciliation with that detestable Lord G. that I suppose she has a penchant for his Lordship; but I am confident that he does not return it, for he rather dislikes her than otherwise, at least as far as I can judge. But she has an excellent opinion of her personal attractions, sinks her age a good six years, avers that when I was born she was only eighteen, when you, my dear sister, know as well as I know that she was of age when she married my father, and that I was not born for three years afterward. But vanity is the weakness of your sex—and these are mere foibles that I have related to you, and, provided she never molested me I should look upon them as foibles very excusable in a woman. But I am now coming to what must shock you as well as it does me. When she has occasion to lecture me (not very seldom you will think no doubt) she does not do it in a manner that commands respect or in an impressive style. No! did she do that I should amend my faults with pleasure, and dread to offend a kind tho just mother. But she flies into a fit of frenzy, upbraids me as if I was the most undutiful wretch in existence, rakes up the ashes of my father, abuses him, says I shall be a true Byrrone, which is the worst epithet she could invent.

Am I to call this woman mother? Because by nature’s law she has authority over me, am I to be trampled upon in this manner? Am I to be goaded with insult, loaded with obloquy, and suffer my feelings to be outraged on the most trivial occasions? I owe her respect as a son, but I renounce her as a friend. What an example does she show me. I hope in God I shall never follow it. I have not told you all, nor can I; I respect you as a female, nor altho I ought to confide in you as a sister, will I shock you with the repetition of the scenes which you may judge of by the sample I have given you, and which to all but you are buried in oblivion. Would they were so in my mind! I am afraid they never will. And can I, my dear sister, look up to this mother, with that respect, that affection I ought? Am I to be eternally subject to her caprice? I hope not—indeed, a few short years will emancipate me from the shackles I now wear, and then perhaps she will govern her passion better than at present.

You mistake me if you think I dislike Lord Carlisle. I respect him and might like him did I know him better. For him too my mother has an antipathy, why I know not. I am afraid he will be of little use to me in separating me from her, which she would oppose with all her might. But I dare say he will assist me if he would, so I take the will for the deed, and am obliged to him in exactly the same manner as if he succeeded in his efforts. I am in great hopes that at Christmas I will be with Mr. Hanson during the vacation. I shall do all I can to avoid a visit to my mother wherever she is. It is the first duty of a parent to impress precepts of obedience in their children, but her method is so violent, so capricious, that the patience of Job, the versatility of a member of the House of Commons would not support it. I revere Dr. Drury much more than I do her, yet he is never violent, never outrageous: I dread offending him, not however through fear, but the respect I bear him makes me unhappy when I am under his displeasure. My mother’s precepts never convey instruction, never fix upon my mind; to be sure they are calculated to inculcate obedience, so are chains and tortures, but tho they may restrain for a time the mind revolts from such treatment.

Not that Mrs. Byron ever injures my sacred person. I am rather too old for that, but her words are of that rough texture which offend more than personal ill usage. “A talkative woman is like an adder’s tongue,” so says one of the prophets, but which I can’t tell, and very likely you don’t wish to know, but he was a true one whoever he was.

The postage of your letters, my dear Augusta, don’t fall upon me; but if they did it would make no difference, for I am generally in cash and should think the trifle I paid for your epistles the best laid out I ever spent in my life. Write soon. Remember me to Lord Carlisle, and believe me, I am ever

Your affectionate brother and friend,

Byrone.[30]