One child was born to this ill-assorted pair–a boy who was destined to write his name large on history’s page. But such a pedigree! No wonder the youth once wrote to Augusta, his half-sister, expressing a covetous appreciation of her parentage, even with its bar sinister. In passing, it is well to note the sunshine of this love of brother and sister, which continued during life–confidential, earnest, tender, frank. In their best moods they were both lofty souls, and their mutuality was cemented in a contempt for the man who was their sire. This fine brotherly and sisterly affection comes close to us when we remember that it was our own Harriet Beecher Stowe, with sympathies worn to the quick through much brooding over the wrongs of a race in bondage, who rushed into print with a scandalous accusation concerning this same sweet affection of brother for sister. The charge was brought on no better foundation than some old-woman gossip held over the hyson when it was red, and moved itself aright–all vouchsafed to Mrs. Stowe by the widow of Byron in Eighteen Hundred Fifty-six. If a woman as good at heart as Harriet Beecher Stowe was deceived, why should we blame humanity for biting at a hook that is not baited?
No sane dentist will administer an anesthetic to a woman, without a witness: not that women as a class are dangerous, but because some women can not be trusted to distinguish between their dreams and the facts. Every practising lawyer of insight also knows that a wronged woman’s reasons are plentiful as blackberries, and must always be taken with large pinches of the Syracuse product.
Mad Jack followed his regiment here and there, dodging his creditors, and finally in Seventeen Hundred Ninety-one induced his wife to borrow a hundred pounds for him, with which he started to Paris intent on retrieving fortune with pasteboard.
He died on the way, and the money was used to bury him. The lame boy was then three years old, but a few dark memories, no doubt retouched by hearsay, were retained by him of Mad Jack, who in his most sober moments never guessed that he would be known to the ages as the father of the greatest poet of his time.
Mad Jack was neither literary nor psychic.
The widowed mother remained at Aberdeen with her boy, living on the hundred and fifty pounds a year that had been settled on her in a way that she could not squander the principal–all the rest had gone.
The child was shy, sensitive, proud and headstrong.
The mother used to reprove him by throwing things at him, and by chasing him with the tongs. At other times she diverted herself by imitating his limp. And yet again she would smother him with caresses, beseech his pardon for abusing him, and praise the beauty of his matchless eyes.
Children are usually better judges of grown-ups than grown-ups are of children. This boy at five years of age had estimated his mother’s character correctly. He knew that she was not his steadfast friend, and that she was unworthy of his confidence and whole heart’s love. He grew moody, secretive, wilful. Once, being wrongly accused and punished, he seized a knife from the table and was about to apply it to his throat when he was disarmed. The child longed for tenderness and love, and being denied these, was already taking on that proud and haughty temper which was to serve as a mask to hide the tenderness of his nature.
We are told that seven brothers Byron fought at Edgehill, but when we get down to the time of Mad Jack there was danger of the name being snuffed out entirely. Nature is not anxious to perpetuate the idle and dissipated.
When little George Gordon was ten years old, his mother one day ran to him, seized him in her arms, wept and laughed, then laughed and wept, kissing him violently, addressing him as “My Lord!”