Towards the close of the year he made friends with Moore. Some lines in English Bards, &c. (ii. 466-467), taunting Moore with fighting a duel with Jeffrey with "leadless pistol" had led to a challenge, and it was not till Byron returned to England that explanations ensued, and that the challenge was withdrawn. As a poet Byron outgrew Moore, giving back more than he had received, but the friendship which sprang up between them still serves Byron in good stead. Moore's Life of Byron (1830) is no doubt a picture of the man at his best, but it is a genuine likeness. At the end of October Byron moved to London and took up his quarters at 8 St. James's Street. On the 27th of February 1812 he made his first speech in the House of Lords on a bill which made the wilful destruction of certain newly invented stocking-frames a capital offence, speaking in defence of the riotous "hands" who feared that their numbers would be diminished by improved machinery. It was a brilliant speech and won the praise of Burdett and Lord Holland. He made two other speeches during the same session, but thenceforth pride or laziness kept him silent. Childe Harold (4to) was published on Tuesday, the 10th of March 1812. "The effect," says Moore, "was . . . electric, his fame . . . seemed to spring, like the palace of a fairy king, in a night." A fifth edition (8vo) was issued on the 5th of December 1812. Just turned twenty-four he "found himself famous," a great poet, a rising statesman. Society, which in spite of his rank had neglected him, was now at his feet. But he could not keep what he had won. It was not only "villainous company," as he put it, which was to prove his "spoil," but the opportunity for intrigue. The excitement and absorption of one reigning passion after another destroyed his peace of mind and put him out of conceit with himself. His first affair of any moment was with Lady Caroline Lamb, the wife of William Lamb, better known as Lord Melbourne, a delicate, golden-haired sprite, who threw herself in his way, and afterwards, when she was shaken off, involved him in her own disgrace. To her succeeded Lady Oxford, who was double his own age, and Lady Frances Wedderburn Webster, the "Ginevra" of his sonnets, the "Medora" of The Corsair.
Jane Elizabeth Scott, Countess of Oxford
His "way of life" was inconsistent with an official career, but there was no slakening of his poetical energies. In February 1813 he published The Waltz (anonymously), he wrote and published The Giaour (pulished June 5, 1813) and The Bride of Abydos (published November 29, 1813), and he wrote The Corsair (published February 1, 1814). The Turkish Tales were even more popular than Childe Harold. Murray sold 10,000 copies of The Corsair on the day of publication. Byron was at pains to make his accessories correct. He prided himself on the acccuracy of his "costume." He was under no delusion as to the ethical or artistic value of these experiments on "public patience."
In the summer of 1813 a new and potent influence came into his life. Mrs Leigh, whose home was at Newmarket, came up to London on a visit. After a long interval the brother and sister met, and whether there is or is not any foundation for the dark story obscurely hinted at in Byron's lifetime, and afterwards made public property by Mrs Beecher Stowe (Macmillan's Magazine, 1869, pp. 377-396), there is no question as to the depth and sincerity of his love for his "one relative," - that her well-being was more to him than his own. Byron passed the "seasons" of 1813, 1814 in London. His manner of life we know from his journals. Socially he was on the crest of the wave. He was a welcome guest at the great Whig houses, at Lady Melbourne's, at Lady Jersey's, at Holland House. Sheridan and Moore, Rogers and Campbell, were his intimates and companions. He was a member of Alfred's, of Watier's, of the Cocoa Tree, and half a dozen clubs besides. After the publication of The Corsair he had promised an interval of silence, but the abdication of Napoleon evoked "An Ode," &c., in his dishonour (April 16); Lara, a Tale, an informal sequel to The Corsair, was published anonymously on August 6, 1814.
Newstead had been put up for sale, but pending completion of the contract was still in his possession. During his last visit but one, whilst his sister was his guest, he became engaged to Miss Anna Isabella Milbanke (b. May 17, 1792; d. May 16, 1860), the only daughter of Sir Ralph Milbanke, Bart., and the Hon. Judith (born Noel), daughter of Lord Wentworth. She was an heiress, and in succession to a peerage in her own right (becoming Baroness Wentworth in 1856). She was a pretty girl of "a perfect figure," highly educated, a mathematician, and, by courtesy, a poetess. She had rejected Byron's first offer, but, believing that her cruelty had broken his heart and that he was an altered man, she was now determined on marriage. High-principled, but self-willed and opinionated, she believed that she held her future in her own hands. On her side there was ambition touched with fancy - on his, a wish to be married and some hope of perhaps finding an escape from himself. The marriage took place at Seaham in Durham on the 2nd of January 1815. Bride and bridegroom spent three months in paying visits, and at the end of March settled at 13 Piccadilly Terrace, London.
Byron was a member of the committee of management of Drury Lane theatre, and devoted much of his time to his professional duties. He wrote but little poetry. Hebrew Melodies (published April 1815), begun at Seaham in October 1814, were finished and given to the musicalcomposer, Isaac Nathan, for publication. The Siege of Corinth and Parasina (published February 7, 1816) were got ready for the press. On the 10th of December Lady Byron gave birth to a daughter christened Augusta Ada. To judge from his letters, for the first weeks or months of his marriage things went smoothly. His wife's impression was that Byron "had avowedly begun his revenge from the first." It is certain that before the child was born his conduct was so harsh, so violent, and so eccentric, that she believed, or tried to persuade herself, that he was mad.
On the 15th of January 1816 Lady Byron left London for her father's house, claimed his protection, and after some hesitation and consultation with her legal advisers demanded a separation from her husband. It is a matter of common knowledge that in 1869 Mrs Beecher Stowe affirmed that Lady Byron expressly told her that Byron was guilty of incest with his half-sister, Mrs Leigh; also that in 1905 the second Lord Lovelace (Lord Byron's grandson) printed a work entitled Astarte which was designed to uphold and prove the truth of this charge. It is a fact that neither Lady Byron nor her advisers supported their demand by this or any other charge of misconduct, but it is also a fact that Lord Byron yielded to the demand reluctantly, under pressure and for large pecuniary