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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsLady Byron Vindicated - Part 3. Documents - Dr. Forbes Winslow's Letter To The London Times
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Lady Byron Vindicated - Part 3. Documents - Dr. Forbes Winslow's Letter To The London Times Post by :rlscott Category :Nonfictions Author :Harriet Beecher Stowe Date :May 2012 Read :2946

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Lady Byron Vindicated - Part 3. Documents - Dr. Forbes Winslow's Letter To The London Times

DR. FORBES WINSLOW'S LETTER TO THE LONDON TIMES

TO THE EDITOR.

SIR,--Your paper of the 4th of September, containing an able and deeply interesting 'Vindication of Lord Byron,' has followed me to this place. With the general details of the 'True Story' (as it is termed) of Lady Byron's separation from her husband, as recorded in 'Macmillan's Magazine,' I have no desire or intention to grapple. It is only with the hypothesis of insanity, as suggested by the clever writer of the 'Vindication' to account for Lady Byron's sad revelations to Mrs. Beecher Stowe, with which I propose to deal. I do not believe that the mooted theory of mental aberration can, in this case, be for a moment maintained. If Lady Byron's statement of facts to Mrs. B. Stowe is to be viewed as the creation of a distempered fancy, a delusion or hallucination of an insane mind, what part of the narrative are we to draw the boundary-line between fact and delusion, sanity and insanity? Where are we to fix the point d'appui of the lunacy? Again: is the alleged 'hallucination' to be considered as strictly confined to the idea that Lord Byron had committed the frightful sin of incest? or is the whole of the 'True Story' of her married life, as reproduced with such terrible minuteness by Mrs. Beecher Stowe, to be viewed as the delusion of a disordered fancy? If Lady Byron was the subject of an 'hallucination' with regard to her husband, I think it not unreasonable to conclude that the mental alienation existed on the day of her marriage. If this proposition be accepted, the natural inference will be, that the details of the conversation which Lady Byron represents to have occurred between herself and Lord Byron as soon as they entered the carriage never took place. Lord Byron is said to have remarked to Lady Byron, 'You might have prevented this (or words to this effect): you will now find that you have married a devil. Is this alleged conversation to be viewed as fact, or fiction? evidence of sanity, or insanity? Is the revelation which Lord Byron is said to have made to his wife of his 'incestuous passion' another delusion, having no foundation except in his wife's disordered imagination? Are his alleged attempts to justify to Lady Byron's mind the morale of the plea of 'Continental latitude--the good-humoured marriage, in which complaisant couples mutually agree to form the cloak for each other's infidelities,'--another morbid perversion of her imagination? Did this conversation ever take place? It will be difficult to separate one part of the 'True Story' from another, and maintain that this portion indicates insanity, and that portion represents sanity. If we accept the hypothesis of hallucination, we are bound to view the whole of Lady Byron's conversations with Mrs. B. Stowe, and the written statement laid before her, as the wild and incoherent representations of a lunatic. On the day when Lady Byron parted from her husband, did she enter his private room, and find him with the 'object of his guilty passion?' and did he say, as they parted, 'When shall we three meet again?' Is this to be considered as an actual occurrence, or as another form of hallucination? It is quite inconsistent with the theory of Lady Byron's insanity to imagine that her delusion was restricted to the idea of his having committed 'incest.' In common fairness, we are bound to view the aggregate mental phenomena which she exhibited from the day of the marriage to their final separation and her death. No person practically acquainted with the true characteristics of insanity would affirm, that, had this idea of 'incest' been an insane hallucination, Lady Byron could, from the lengthened period which intervened between her unhappy marriage and death, have refrained from exhibiting her mental alienation, not only to her legal advisers and trustees, but to others, exacting no pledge of secrecy from them as to her disordered impressions. Lunatics do for a time, and for some special purpose, most cunningly conceal their delusions; but they have not the capacity to struggle for thirty-six years with a frightful hallucination, similar to the one Lady Byron is alleged to have had, without the insane state of mind becoming obvious to those with whom they are daily associating. Neither is it consistent with experience to suppose that, if Lady Byron had been a monomaniac, her state of disordered understanding would have been restricted to one hallucination. Her diseased brain, affecting the normal action of thought, would, in all probability, have manifested other symptoms besides those referred to of aberration of intellect.

During the last thirty years, I have not met with a case of insanity (assuming the hypothesis of hallucination) at all parallel with that of Lady Byron's. In my experience, it is unique. I never saw a patient with such a delusion. If it should be established, by the statements of those who are the depositors of the secret (and they are now bound, in vindication of Lord Byron's memory, to deny, if they have the power of doing so, this most frightful accusation), that the idea of incest did unhappily cross Lady Byron's mind prior to her finally leaving him, it no doubt arose from a most inaccurate knowledge of facts and perfectly unjustifiable data, and was not, in the right psychological acceptation of the phrase, an insane hallucination.

Sir, I remain your obedient servant,

FORBES WINSLOW, M.D.

ZARINGERHOF, FREIBURG-EN-BREISGAU, Sept. 8, 1869.

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