A Blighted Life/Supplemental Notes/Section 2

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
A Blighted Life by Rosina Bulwer Lytton
Section 2 supplemental notes

We have said Lady Lytton's capture, and the circumstances connected with it, have caused a great degree of excitement among the inhabitants of this town, and if any proof of this were called for, or any evidence of the opinion generally entertained required, we could hardly give more indubitable testimony than is contained in the following resolutions, which were adopted at a meeting of inhabitants called by a gentleman who, though a perfect stranger to Lady Lytton, felt that a monstrous injustice had been inflicted upon her, and determined to use the very considerable influence he possessed to obtain her freedom if really not insane, or at least to force on such an inquiry into her mental condition as to satisfy the public that she is not in a fit state to be at liberty. The gentleman in question arrived in this town only a day or two before the case came to his knowledge, and immediately upon becoming acquainted with it he proceeded into the street, called together such of the more influential inhabitants as he met, and within an hour the meeting took place. After discussion of the subject, the resolutions were thrown into the following form:--

"At a meeting of certain inhabitants of Taunton and the neighbourhood, held at Clarke's Hotel on the 6th of July, 1858. Mr. Hitchcock the chair, it was resolved:--

"On the motion of Capt. Jones, seconded by R. Easton, Esq.

"1. That the removal of Lady Bulwer Lytton to a Lunatic Asylum, or other places of confinement, and the circumstances under which she was incarcerated therein, call for a public expression of alarm for the rights and liberties of the subject, and particularly of distrust of the treatment to which her ladyship is said to have been subjected.

"2. That a Committee be now appointed to watch the result of the extraordinary measures reported to have been adopted in Lady Lytton's case, to the end that the public mind may be satisfied, through their report, that in her ladyship's case justice may be done.--W. R. Hitchcock.

"The meeting was then adjounred for a week,"

Here we will leave this miserable tale, but we are anxious, before closing our remakrs, to avow that in taking it upon ourselves to set it before the public, we are actuated only b a sense of duty and justice. For the truth of the narrative, we can refer to the lady who accompanied Lady Lytton to London; the details are given as they are furnished to us--without exaggeration or distortion. If her ladyship's mind is in such a state that she is a fit subject for a lunatic asylum, and an asylum is the only suitable place for her, no harm can come from the publicity we give to her case; if not, then much good must inevitably arise from its publicity, to her chiefly and in an immeasureable degree, but also to society in no unimportant measure. The whole question is, of course--Is Lady Lytton actually insane? We have said, from what we have seen and heard of her, she is not; and this view is entertained by all we have heard express any opinion on the subject. It is a question of deep importance whether it is not utterly wrong, and most dangerous to the liberties of individuals, that upon the word of two medical men persons may be taken to a madhouse, when if not already insane, they are undoubtedly paced in circumstances in every way calculated, by their horrible and frightful character, to destroy reason and produce insanity. We say nothing of their continued confinement, but of their being consigned to such a place even for a moment. On every account a power of such awful magnitude should be destroyed, and confinement in a lunatic asylum be possible only after a public enquiry, similar to that which must preced the committal of a person accuesed of felony to the common gaol. Society in general demands this; helpless women require it; and if there are any individuals for the sake of whose character and reputation before the world the change should be made, they are those who occupy such a position as Sir Edward Lytton now holds in her Majesty's Government. As Secretary of State, he, as is well known, exercises great authority in such cases; and men so highly stationed can always find ready tools for any work, however nefarious. It is right that suspicion against them should be rendered impossible, that no reasonable person should have ground for the supposition that they have committed or connived at an atrocity at which the body shudders and the mind is appalled. It is true that investigation into cases Like that of Lady Lytotn is compelled when demanded by the friends of the incarcerated person; but the system is altogether contrary to the general equity of British laws and customs. To send to a madhouse a person suspected of lunacy, and afterwards institute an enquiry whether he is mad or not, is a mode of procedure very unworthy of a civilised nation, and which the people of this country ought no longer to endure. Lady Lytton's case will no doubt have the effect of drawing general attention to this great anomaly, and probably it will tend in a great measure to the accomplishment of the desired change. Heaven grant it may be so!

The Case of Lady Lytton.
To the Editor of the Daily Telegraph.[edit]

Sir,--Can you inform me wheter Mr. B. W. Procter, an intimate friend of Sir Bulwer Lytton, is a Commissioner of Lunacy? Can you also state whether Mr. John Forster, also an intimate friend of Sir Edward, si Secretary to the Lunacy Commission?--Your obedient servent, Doubtful. [Our correspondent is correct in assuming that Mr. Proctor is a Lunacy Commissioner, and that the Secretary to the Commission is Mr. John Forster.]

Note by the Editor.--This John Forster was afterwards rewarded for his guilty complicity in this most horrible transaction by being made a Commissioner of Lunacy himself with a salary of £2000 a year. He died very rich, no one knowing how his wealth was got. He was on the most social terms with three wicked men--Dickens, Lytton, and Cockburn.

Daily Telegraph, July 15th, 1858.[edit]

Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton has succeeded in hushing up the scandal of his wife's arrest and conveyance to a madhouse at Brentford. The matters in dispute, so say the persons interested, will be arranged to the satisfaction of all concerned. For the sake of the lady herself the public will rejoice that such a compromise has been extorted fromt he Secretary of State; if the victim be content no one has a right to complain, but it must be remembered that Sir Bulwer Lytton alone has gained by suppression of the enquiry. We are now told that he will seal a treaty of perpetual trace with the woman who was, apparently under his instruction, draggged by policemen into a carriage, hurried to a lunatic asylum, and there compelled to sign a compact of forbearance towards the individual by whom, according to her statement, she had been grossly and flagitiously wronged. It is with pleasure we record that this ignominious family war has been terminated, and the accusation of insanity has been abandoned; that Lady Lytton is confessedly qualified to treat with her husband upon terms of equality. Justice may boast of triumph, for though it would have been more satisfactory to have forced the entire transaction before an authentic tribunal, it may suffice to know that popular opinion has driven Lord Derby's choice and brilliant colleague into a virtual surrender. IT matters little whether Sir Bulwer Lytton, under Cabinet influence, has found it necessary to save the reputation of the government as well as his own, but it is not to be forgotten that he employed attorneys, nurses and policement to capture his wife; that she was forcibly consigned to a lunatic asylum--that medical certificates were obtained to prove her insanity, and that now, an explosion of national feeling have taken place, she is to be released and allowed to live in personal independence.

All that now remains for investigation is who and what the professional gentlemen were who handed over this lady to the keepes of a madhouse; whether she was sane at the time of her capture, and whether she was not kidnapped by the myrmidons of her flattered and successful husband. Individually she may benefit by the compromise, though it may be that a salutary exposure has been stifled. On one point the public are agreed; the power at present exercised under the lunacy law of England is dangerous to social liberty. Anyone, by obtaining the certificate of two medical men, may imprison wife, child, or other relative, for years, perhaps for life, in a madhouse. The Lunacy Commissioners, we are reminded, may interfere with its machinery of visitors' inspections and reports, but what is the result? Men might be named who open establishments of this character, accumulate fortunes, and live in affluence, and are pointed at by their neighbours as the creatures of conspiracy. Their residences are nobly furnished, their grounds rival those of the nobility, and when official visitors, afer sumptuous luncheons, pass their patiens in review, and an exasperated captive pours forth his vehement denunciations, "they write him down mad," and the wretch is left for another year, to be goaded by a sense of wrong, wrought upon by the contagious presence of insantiy, and at length made all that his officious friends desire him to be. Without casting a general slur upon a body of men, many of whom are highly respectable, we may state it as the conviction of those who stand above all prejudice in their profession, that the lunatic asylums of this country are frequently applied to the same uses as the Bastille, where the Man in the Iron Mask was immured for life and buried in secrecy because his pretensions were considered dangerous by claimants to estates and titles, or perpetrators of unsearched crimes.

But a social question of far more universal importance is connected with the deplorable disclosure in the case of Sir Bulwer Lytton. The baronet's wife may be released from the terrible captivity to which, by the practical confession of her persecutors, she never ought to have been for a moment consigned and from which we have made no unsuccessful effort to deliver her; but what of humbler persons? What of the domestic victims in whose name no publicity is invoked? We hear of jealous and bitter tongued women, of outcast wives, who go down to bury their humiliation in the shade of equivocal watering-places, of ladies whose "fashionable" manners shock the propriety of German spas; but when these scandals are the popular table-talk, in the name of justice let the woman be considered. The lord and the lady, the baronet and his wife, the parents of children, do they stand in the eyes of the world upon a level? We hear of a man who has been compelled to part with the mother of his children, and we know that while she goes into retirement with her happiness blasted in he declining years, his car of triumph rolls on, he is still the ornament and delight of society. But when the forsaken woman glides in the shadow of suspicion, who cares to remind us that a cluster of children call her mother; that twenty years of married life should have made her sacred; that even her failings should have been holy to her husband; that bitterness itself is pardonable when it rises from the fountains of love, that what by the triumphing "Lord of Creation" is termed "incompatability" may be nothing more than the satiety of selfish reflection? If manliness, if chivalry, if the noble principles of honour dominate more supremely than they do in the circles of our English life, would these published separations so continually feed the mass of scandal to the detriment of names once invoked in confidence and affection at the altar? Let cynicism utter what it will, let irony do its worst, let men affect to despise the heart-born passions, the chief happiness of every human being is at home; neither Church nor State, nor military glory, nor political conflict, can destroy the supremacy of that instinct which makes joy itself a virtue--the pride of an honest man in his family. How implacable then must the antipathy be that breaks these consecrated bonds; how utterly exhausted and callous must be the affection that permits this last repudiation of a moral tie, linking children with children, and teaching those children to reverence their parents.

As may be imagined the most desperate efforts were at this time made by Forster, Dickens, and others of the "Press-gang," to stifle enquiry, or discussion on this Case. The Times remained silent; but its impression for July 14th, 1585, contains the following:--"Lady Bulwer Lytton.--We are requeted to state, upon the best authority, that all matter sin reference to this Lady, abot whom certain statements have appeared in some of the public journals, are in process of being amicably settled by family arrangements, to the satisfaction of all parties concerned."

SKETCH OF LORD LYTTON.[edit]

A friend of ours, who met Lord Lytton at dinner, favours us with an extract from his Diary, June 25, 1864, in which there is a lifelike sketch. We think it well to preserve it here. "Dined to-night with the Chief Justice, Lord Houghton, and Sir Bulwer Lytton, and other senators and ladies. B. L. is the most perfect of snobs. He was shabbily dressed and sidled into the room with a slimy, slouching air and gait, and held his hat in his hand, as if he were about to drop it on the floor, and looked as if he did not know what to do with his legs, and gaped with lacklustre eye, and said nothing, but seemed bewildered like an idiot in fine company, so that it is almost impossible to believe that he ever wrote the works which pass under his name, or, that if he did, hi sbrain is now softening, and that he is only the wretched shadow of a man. He has a great nose like Fitzball or Bardolph, only that it is not so red as the latter's; his skin is coarse and dirty; he has cut off his great beard and the hairs now look scanty and scrubby down his long, lank, lantern, Don Quixote jaws; his hair is wild and like tow; his voice is harsh and slimy, and slobbering; he presents an appearance foul and horrid, like that of James I. when hanging on that odious "Steenie," and kissing his painted cheeks with swollen licking tongue. I do not know that I ever saw so odious a wretch, and I would not sit near or talk to him for a thousand pounds, poor as I am. I cannot describe his putrid corpse-like loathsomeness; I expected a fine gentleman, perhaps a fop, like his own Devereux, of like Bolingbroke, and I saw a dirty, stupid, fish-eyed crapulous catamite--if ever human creature bore the impress of that feaful monomania. He took a lady (Mrs. R.) down to dinner, but he never spoke a word to her during the whole entertainment; he remained silent or jabbering to himsel flike an old orangoutang for more than an hour; and then when he had drank more champagne than he should, he spoke the most utter rot about Denmark that ever oozed out of Avernus itself. I think Cockburn was ashamed of him, and although he asked me specially to meet him, he did not venture t osolicit my opinion of this dirty creature; but I told him mine, and related the anecdote of Sam Warren, whom, Pearson having one day beaten in a long legal argument before the Chief Baron, he in the exuberance of his joy bawled out to Serjeant Murphy, 'There's a b_____ man of genius for you.' I told this to C.J., and made him laugh--but he was ashamed of his dirty guest, as he could hardly fail to be. And this is the nasty animal that Lady Blessington and her set used to call 'Shakespere.'--God help us--I don't wonder his wife loathed him. I am so sensitive that I believe if he touched me with his cold gorilla paw, I should feel a pang through my heart almost like that of Death itself. He got at last so maudlin that he felt he could not go upstairs, and he took his leave of the C.J. at the foot of them."

Daily Telegraph, July 15th, 1858.[edit]

In the daily business of life it is difficult and painful to sever long-contracted bonds; even partners in commerce bear and forbear beyond the ordinary rules of patience, rather than break from old connections, but how immeasurably more binding is the compact between man and wife, how bitter is the gracelessness of the one who rends that sacred tie, and issuing from the cloud to the enjoyment of all the world has to give, dismisses the other to sneers, misrepresentations, and ignominy. Not but that in the instances present to public memory the blame of this bitter rancour may have been divided. It is but too true that domestic errors are wantonly magnified into crimes, that feminine sympathies appeal sometimes to an unnatural code, but what is the position of a woman in a civilised country compared with that of a man? What is the wife when appealing against the husband? It may be that at an earlier period, as in Lady Lytton's case, she has been his benefactor, his patron, and that through long years she has been more to him than he to her; but all this is forgotten when the opportunity for legal separation arrives, when children are to be parted by an attorney's document from their mother; when malicious friends are to condole with the injured husband, or when obtrusive advisers, who have been unfortunate themselves, rejoice to drag down to their own level the individual who has previously galled them by the superiourity of his personal reputiation. In almost every instance the woman is the sacrifice; to her the public insinuations point; upon her contemptuous pity is lavished; her name is set up as a mark for jibes and insults; she bears the miserable burden, and her husband continues to shine as th accomplished writer, the favoured magistarate, or the statesman expecting a peerage.

It may be beating the air to dwell on this anomaly of our social code. While selfishness is supreme, while masculine strength prevails over helpless right, while, in fact, the sins of men are popularly condoned, and the mortal distempers of women ranked as mortal sins, the scandal of separation will always attach to a wife as a perpetual and malignat curse, re-echoed by every class of society; but it may seem an object of justice to suggest that while scandals of twenty years' duration have been revived, while honour is recalling a thousand anecdotes of domestic differences and compromises, it has not been by men that the most unpardonable injuries have been suffered. This w say without any direct reference to the case of Lady Lytton. Against her, as far as we know, a calumny has never been hinted, in spite of her ill-conceived diatribes against her husband; but the tendency of public opinion, we are sorrty to acknowledge, runs in the direction of malevolence when the characters of separated wives are in question. It will argue a marked development of the national morality when, while these transactions are under notice, some consideration is bestowed upon the possibility that when a woman has been expelled from her husband, cut off from her family interests, buried in social tomb, and stigmatised by her husband's reputation, the real wrong may have been endured by herself, and the cruelty practised by another.

After this came the letter of Mr. Robert Lytton, our present Viceroy in India, which we publish; and which speaks for itself, even if his mother did not. How Mr. Edwin James came into the transaction we are not told; but the value of Mr. Forbes Winslow's certificate is well known in the profession. No one explains how it was that this lady, who was locked up as being insane, early in July, all of a sudden, recovered the perfect use of her senses. Dr. Connolly has got a splendid and lucrative place since he wrote his strange certificate, and we congratulate him upon it.

To the Editor of the "Daily Telegraph."[edit]

Sir,--As the son of Lady Bulwer Lytton, with the best right to speak on her behalf, and so obviously with the best means of information as to warrant the hope that my simple assertion will be at once believed in the matter to which I am compelled to refer, I beg to say that the statements which have appeared in some of the public journals are exaggerated and distorted, and that they are calculated to convey to the public mind impressions the most erroneous and unjust. As was natural, I put myself into constant communications with my mother, and with the gentleman in whose family, in his private house, she was placed (for I beg distinctly to state she was never for a moment taken to a lunatic asylum), and I carried out the arrangement which my affection could suggest, and enjoined me to avail myself of the advice of Lord Shaftesbury in whatever was judge best and kindest for Lady Lytton.

My mother is now with me, free from all restraint, and about, of her own wish, to travel for a short time, in company with myself and a female friend and relation, of her own selection.

From the moment my father felt compelled to authorise those steps which have been made the subject of so much misrepresentation, the anxiety was to obtain the most experienced and able physician, in order than my mother should not be subject to restraint for one moment longer than was strictly justifiable. Such was his charge to me.

The certificates given by Dr. Forbes Winslow and Dr. Connolly are subjoined, and I ought to add that Dr. Commelly was the physician whom my father had requested to see Lady Lytton; that Dr. Forbes Winslow was consulted by my mother's legal advisers, and I felt anxious to obtain the additional authority of th eopinion of the latter gentleman, and requested my friend, Mr. Edward James, to place himself in communication with him. I trust that such journals as have given publicity to partial and inaccurate statements will do me the justice to publish this communication, to which I need add no more than to say that this painful matter has been arranged, as it ought to be, by the members of the family whom it exclusively regards.--I have the honour to be, sir, your most obedient servant,

Robert B. Lytton     

1, Park Lane, July 17th, 1858.

[Copy No. 1.]     
To James Edwin, Esq, Q.C.[edit]

Having at your request examined Lady B. Lytton this day as to her state of mind, I beg to report to you that in my opinion it is such as to justify her liberation from restraint.

I think it but an act of justice to Sir Edward B. Lytton to state that upon the facts which I have ascertained were submitted to him, and upon the certificates of the medical men * whom he has advised to consult, the course which he has pursued throughout these painful proceedings cannot be considered harsh or unjustifiable.--I remain, sir, your obedient servent,

Forbes Winslow, M.D., D.C.L.     

* The "medical men" here referred to are Mr. Ross, an apothecary, of Farringdon street, City, and Mr. Hale Thompson, of Clarges-street, formerly connected with the Westminster Hospital.