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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 8.djvu/30

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4
[CHAP. I.
CHILDHOOD AND SCHOOL,

Carmarthen, wife of Francis, afterwards fifth Duke of Leeds, nee Lady Amelia d'Arcy, only child and heiress of the last Earl of Holderness, and Baroness Conyers in her own right.

Captain Byron and his wife lived in Paris, where were born to them a son and a daughter, both of whom died in infancy, and Augusta, born 1783, the poet's half-sister, who subsequently married her first cousin, Colonel George Leigh. In 1784 Lady Conyers died, and Captain Byron returned to England, a widower, over head and ears in debt, and in search of an heiress.

It was a rhyme in Aberdeenshire—

"When the heron leaves the tree,
The laird of Gight shall landless be."

Tradition has it that, at the marriage of Catherine Gordon with "mad Jack Byron," the heronry at Gight passed over to Kelly or Haddo, the property of the Earl of Aberdeen. "The land itself will not be long in following," said his

lordship, and so it proved. For a few months Mrs. Byron Gordon—for her husband assumed the name, and by this title her Scottish friends always addressed her—lived at Gight. But the ready money, the outlying lands, the rights of fishery, the timber, failed to liquidate Captain Byron's debts, and in 1786 Gight itself was sold to Lord Aberdeen for £17,850. Mrs. Byron Gordon found herself, at the end of eighteen months, stripped of her property, and reduced to the income derived from £4200 subject to an annuity payable to her grandmother. She bore the reverse with a composure which shows her to have been a woman of no ordinary courage. Her letters on the subject are sensible, not ill-expressed, and, considering the circumstances in which they were 'written, give a favourable impression of her character.