When, on 10 December 1815, his daughter Ada was born, Lord Byron was really happy, though he had expected his child to be a “glorious boy” and had wished the death of his creature, if female.
She was named Augusta, after Byron’s half-sister, and Ada because, according to her father, “it is short, ancient, vocalic”.
Only five weeks after her birth, her parents separated and Lady Byron went to her parents’ estate at Kirkby Mallory, with little Ada-
In April, a reluctant Lord Byron had to sign the deed of separation, and leave England for good: he was not to see that daughter again.
Yet, he always kept her in his mind and his heart, and a portrait of her on his desk.
His last words before dying in Greece in 1824 were for her, when, on his deathbed, he said to his valet: “Oh, my poor dear child! — my dear Ada! My God, could I have seen her! Give her my blessing.”
He mentioned her in his poetry, for example in the Third Canto of “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”, which begins with these lines:
Is thy face like thy mother’s, my fair child!
ADA! sole daughter of my house and heart?
When last I saw thy young blue eyes they smiled,
And then we parted … (1)
Lord Byron had already written about her in the poem “Fare Thee Well” to his wife after their separation:
And when thou would’st solace gather—
When our child’s first accents flow—
Wilt thou teach her to say “Father!”
Though his care she must forego?
When her little hands shall press thee—
When her lip to thine is pressed—
Think of him whose prayer shall bless thee—
Think of him thy love had blessed!
Should her lineaments resemble
Those thou never more may’st see,
Then thy heart will softly tremble
With a pulse yet true to me. (2)
(1) Il tuo volto è come quello di tua madre, o mia bella bambina!
ADA! unica figlia della mia casa e del mio cuore?
Quando vidi per ultima volta i tuoi giovani occhi blu, essi sorrisero,
e poi ci separammo –
(2) E quando tu vorrai consolarti con lei
quando sgorgheranno le prime parole
le insegnerai a dire “Padre!”
sebbene lei debba rinunciare alle sue le carezze?
Quando le sue manine ti stringeranno –
quando le sue labbra saranno premute sulle tue –
pensa a colui che con la preghiera ti benedirà sempre.
pensa a colui che il tuo amore aveva benedetto!
E se i suoi lineamenti dovessero assomigliare
a quelli che tu non rivedrai più
allora il tuo cuore tremerà dolcemente
con un palpito ancora a me fedele.
Image: Ada Byron aged four, from a miniature in a locket sent to Lord Byron by his sister.