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Lord Byron and PrincessCharlotte of Wales

 

 


The Poet and the Princess
“The fair- haird’d Daughter of the Isles”

 

Byron fell into inappropriate love with someone in the summer of 1813.  He called it a “perverse passion” and implied that if it were revealed to the world he would be cut off from society and from close friends.

There were not many women who would not be socially acceptable as Lord Byron’s lover.   There were those few virgins who were fearful of his reputation, such as his sister’s friend, Charlotte Leveson-Gower; there were those who were still little girls, like Charlotte Harley, Lady Oxford’s eleven year old daughter, and the one lady with a higher social status, the Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, heiress Presumptive to the Throne.  Charlotte was required by law to marry no less than a Prince. 

The letters that Princess Charlotte’s sent to her closest friend and confidante, Margaret Mercer Elphinstone, reveal much about her interests, activities and character: pages of girl talk about books, social events and friends, but, as well, about politics and the problems of Charlotte’s dysfunctional family.  The Prince Regent, Charlotte’s father, far from a model parent, had separated from her mother, Princess Caroline, soon after Charlotte’s birth.  He exerted a tyrannical, but distant control over his only child.  The Prince considered Miss Mercer a negative influence upon the Princess as she encouraged her to support the beliefs and actions of the Whig party.  Princess Charlotte favoured Irish Catholic freedoms, democracy and social reforms.

 On February 1, 1814, Charlotte wrote to Miss Mercer:

 Lord Byron’s new and best poem, as he says, was out yesterday, & I had the first that was issued & devour’d it twice in the course of the day.  I think, it quite charming & equal for description to his others.  I send it to you by the post as I cannot resist being the first from whom you will recieve (sic.) it & read it.  I have taken particular care not to mark it, as I intended to send it you, & it was no longer my book, but I am quite sure you will say there are passages that would admit of being written in gold[i] 

How did she know that “he says it’s the best” as, in all his writings, Byron never mentions having met her? 

The poem she had read was the “Corsair” which was published with “Lines to a Lady Weeping”, the poem of  1812, about Charlotte, that Byron had previously published anonymously.

Weep, daughter of a Royal line’

            A sire’s disgrace, a realm’s decay;

Ah ! Happy if each tear of thine

            Could wash a father’s fault away !

Weep – for thy tears are Virtue’s tears _

            Auspicious to these suffering isles;

And be each drop in future years

            Repaid thee by thy people’s smiles !

 

Byron was insistent that these lines be included with that work.  He wrote to his publisher, John Murray, who was always nervous about political disturbances: The lines “to a Lady weeping” must go with the Corsair - I care nothing for consequences on this point’[ii].

The response to the publication of the “lines” was immediate and vituperative.  There was even a move to have Byron impeached in the House of Lords.

On February 11th he reported to Lady Melbourne:

such a clash of paragraphs and a conflict of Newspapers - lampoons of all descriptions - some good and all hearty - the Regent (as reported) wroth - Ld. Carlisle in a fury - the Morning Post in hysterics and the Courier in convulsions of criticism and contention. ... You tell me not to be “violent” & not to “answer” - I have not & shall not answer - and although the consequences may be... exclusion from society. .. the Government Gazettes can devote half their attention... to 8 lines written two years ago - & now re-published only - (by an individual) & suggest them for the consideration of Parliament probably about the same period with the treaty of Peace. [iii]  

He assured Thomas Moore: 

You may be assured that the only prickles that sting from the Royal hedgehog are those which possess a torpedo property, and may benumb some of my friends.  I am quite silent... The frequency of the assaults has weakened their effects. [iv]

On April 24, 1814, Byron went ‘to the Prinss of Ws [Princess of Wales] to dine and dawdle away the evening”

 He was not, apparently, excluded from all society as a result of the publication of the “Lines”.

On April 29th, he reported to Lady Melbourne that he had

delivered “Mamma’s message” with anatomical precision - the knee was the  refractory limb - was it not?  injured I presume at prayers - for I cannot conjecture by what  other possible attitude a female knee could be

 Princess Charlotte suffered from a very painful chronic condition in her knee that interfered with her ability to exercise.

He had reported that the “Bride of Abydos” and “The Giaour” had been written ‘as I was... in a very larmoyant way - and at those moments I generally take refuge in rhyme’[v], he said the “Corsair” had been written ‘con amore and much from existence’.[vi]

These poems all feature fair maidens who escape confinement in towers.  Leila in “The Giaour”, and Gulnare in “The Corsair” escape from a harem, the “Bride” slips out to make a forbidden visit to the palace gardens before dawn.

In 1813, after she had made too many friends and had too many escapades in the social whirl of London, the Prince Regent had had Charlotte confined to the Lower Lodge at Windsor Castle.  She was forbidden to see her mother, or any of her raffish court – one of whom was Lord Byron.

In early 1814, the Prince Regent decided to marry Charlotte to the Hereditary Prince of Orange, in the Netherlands. At first she agreed, as she was then allowed to return to live at Warwick House in London and resume a limited social life.  She was philosophical but unenthusiastic about the match.

I thing(sic) we shall be very good friends always, but as to love that can never have any share in it. Looking at it in a coarse point of view, I believe it will keep me out of a thousand scrapes and desagrements... I think you will be surprised to hear several things I can tell you of, that will make you think me perhaps wise in marrying, at least the one I wished to have married, the Prince never would consent to.[vii]

When she discovered that her future husband meant her to live in Holland, not in England, after they were married, though, she rebelled.  She broke off the engagement on the 16th of June, 1814 and her relationship with her father became even more unpleasant.  She received warning that her ladies were to be dismissed and she was to be returned to confinement at Windsor. 

She wrote anxiously in secret to Margaret Mercer Elphinstone on July 11, 1814.

 I know not if Ly. J[erseyl may be successful in finding & sending you down here. If not I shall be excessively disturbed, but I have nothing for it but writing, & anxiously praying of you to come early as possible to me tomorrow. .. The plan is to be a sudden one, when once there to keep me & not to allow my return. ...You little know what my feelings or my heart are at this trying moment when I feel myself likely to be parted, cruelly torn away from you.  No letters perhaps will reach but opened first.  We may not be permitted to meet.  If we do always with a witness; & will you not with this fate worse than death hanging over me, come when you can & console and talk over this if possible?  I dread everything & know not why I fancy horrors in every one & thing around me[viii]

Byron had written to Francis Hodgson on July 8: ‘ Will you take a house for me at Hastings - by the week will be best as my stay will be short’[ix] On July 8th he then wrote to Thomas Moore, ‘l am going to the sea, and then to Scotland; and I have been doing nothing, - that is no good.[x]

On July 11, he accepted a months rent of ‘the retired house... that is Hastings House...let the..servitors sleep out.. I should hope next week... to be there.’[xi]

Late at night on July 12,1814, the Princess ran out of her house in London and down the road alone.  She hailed a cab and “eloped” to her mother’s house. 

Once there, after eating a joyful supper and relishing a few moments of freedom,  the advisors to her mother, the Princess of Wales, argued that her situation was treasonous.  Anyone assisting her could be arrested and executed, they convinced her that she must return to  her father.  She arrived at her father’s home, Carlton House, at two in the morning on July 13th, after which,  she was bustled off back to Windsor with a new suite of Ladies in Waiting and forbidden  to see or write to anyone.  

Byron went to Hastings with his half-sister Augusta and her children and stayed until the second week of August.  

The Princess had, however, one last hope for escape.  Her doctors were convinced that sea bathing was the best cure for her painful knee. 

July 6, 1814 from Drs. Baillie, Cline and Keate - medical opinion 

Her R.H. the Princess Charlotte being still not altogether free from the complaint in her right knee, and her R. Highness’s general health being considerably impaired, we recommend a residence on the sea-coast for two or three months this autumn, as the means most likely to restore her general health, and to cure what still remains of the local infection [xii]

 July, 1814 The Princess Charlotte to the Prince Regent (extract) 

The effect of the distresses I have experienced has been most detrimental to my health.  This is no vain pretence, as my spirits sink with my health, and I entreat you to consider the opinion Dr. Baillie, Mr. Cline and Mr. Keate have given me on paper, that the only possible means of restoring my general health and removing the complaint in my knee is a residence at the seaside for some time.  Indeed this is very important to me for the recovery of my health; added to which, quiet at this moment is my great object.  I have ventured this request, as I know by experience my health always suffers at Windsor, and I could not there expect to derive the benefit I am taught to expext [sic] from the sea. [xiii]

But two months passed before she received permission to go to Weymouth on September 9th.  By then, Byron was at Newstead, and on that very day, at Augusta’s urging as ‘the only chance of redemption for two persons “[xiv] very tentatively proposed marriage to Annabella Milbanke.  

On September 10th, Charlotte stopped at the Star Inn at Salisbury on her way to the sea-shore and was overwhelmed by the crowds of people who had come to see and cheer her.  She was deeply touched, and made very aware of her responsibilities and future role.  That evening she wrote to Margaret Mercer Elphinstone in great distress.

 All your kind persuasion & consolation will be required to relieve my mind & forboding spirits of their present weight.  Think only of my misery & horror at the little turquoise heart dropping out of the setting.  You know what a treasure it is to me, what an inestimable value I set on it.  Thank God the ring is safe on my finger, but. .. the stone is, I fear, lost. ... What I am to do I don’t know if I do not find it for I cannot possibly take it off or part with it to have it put in. ... you must answer me whether you think it is unlucky & promises any ill luck or will bring any[xv]

 How would a Princess come to cherish so simple and plain a keepsake?  Charlotte’s biographer has surmised that the turquoise ring was from Prince Frederick of Prussia whom she had met in the summer.  It’s unlikely that a Prince would give a Princess a ring with a semi-precious stone.  It seems, on the other hand, very likely that a romantic man who cherished a heart shaped cornelian given to him with affection by someone of lower station might duplicate the gesture.  According to Doris Langley Moore, Byron had bought a turquoise ring in July of 18l3.[xvi]

But, Byron never mentioned knowing the Princess. 

So, Byron married Annabella Milbanke and Charlotte married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg.  

Two years later, on a “Friday night”, probably April 19, 1816, Charlotte wrote to Margaret Mercer Elphinstone: 

Have you got Lord Byron’s lines to her, as a farewell?  If not let me send them ... I cried like a fool over them.  I could not help it they are beautiful[xvii]

  And then she wrote four very strange, illogical sentences: 

You do not know what I feel for & about him considering he is a stranger to me. He has been sitting for his bust.  I hear it is excellent.  When there are casts, will you allow me to send you one?[xviii] 

 Someone she has known for several years and has feelings for is a “stranger”, yet she knows he is sitting for a bust and will have access to the casts!

But then, Lord Byron never mentioned knowing the Princess Charlotte.

More in the next edition of   Byronmania

 

References:

 

Aspinall, A.  Letters of the Princess Charlotte; 1811 – 1817, London: Home and Van Thal. 1949

Marchand, L.A. Byron’s Letters and Journals Vol. 4 London:Murray 1975

Moore, D.L. Lord Byron: Accounts Rendered London:Murray 1974

 

 

 

 

 Byronic Calendars

 

 

January, February

and

March

1814

 

 

January 1814

 

Sun

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

 

 

 Where he is

Who he loves

What he is writing

What he is doing

Where he plans to go

How he feels

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

4 Bennett Street

?

The Corsair

Adding mottoes from Dante

to Tom Moore: “I dedicate to you the last production with which I shall trespass on public patience”

2

4 Bennett Street

?

The Corsiar

additional lines and notes

 

 

3

4 Bennett Street

?

 

 

4

4 Bennett Street

?

To Thomas Ashe: I am willing to do what I can to extricate you from your situation

 

5

4 Bennett Street

?

 

6

4 Bennett Street

?

To Tom Moore: in the interregnum of my autumn and strange summer adventure, which I don’t like to think of . . . of course you will keep my secret and don’t even talk in your sleep of it

 

7

4 Bennett Street

?

The Corsair:

the name is again altered to “Medora”

to Tom Moore: two dedications

 

8

4 Bennett Street

?

To Ldy. Melbourne: C is quite out – in ye first place she was not under the same roof – but first with my old friends the H’s in Bly Square – and afterwards at her friends the V’s nearer me – the separation and the express are utterly false and without even a shadow of foundation . . . her spies are ill paid or badly informed . . .my old love of all loves has written to me twice

 

9

4 Bennett Street

?

 

10

4 Bennett Street

?

To Ldy. Melbourne: I cannot conceive why the D---l should should angle with so many baits for one whom all the world will tell you belonged to him probably before he was born

11

4 Bennett Street

?/ Mary Chaworth Musters

To Ldy. Melbourne: we shall perhaps not correspond much longer

 

 

12

4 Bennett Street

?

Be . . .ready to accompany me to Newstead – which you should see & I will endeavour to make it as comfortable as I can for both our sakes

 

13

4 Bennett Street

?/ Frances Webster

To Ldy. Melbourne: we sat up all night scribbling to each other – once she offered one as I was leading her to dinner at N-all the servants before and W and sister close behind

 

14

4 Bennett Street

?/ Frances Webster

 

15

4 Bennett Street

?/Frances Webster

To Ldy. Melbourne: I had an odd dialogue lately with her sister – “the morning before we all left Newstead I had been walking with Ph in the cloisters where I left her to go to my room – when I got to the hall door . . . you were perfectly convulsed-

 

16

to Newstead Abbey

?/ Frances Webster

To Ldy. Melbourne: by writing she [Frances] commits herself & that is seldom done unless in earnest

I do believe that to marry would be my wisest step – but whom? . . .what I want is a companion – a friend

 

17

Newstead Abbey

?

Snowed in

 

18

Newstead Abbey

?

 

 

19

Newstead Abbey

?

 

 

 

20

Newstead Abbey

?

 

21

Newstead Abbey

?

 

22

Newstead Abbey

?

To Murray: the lines beginning “Remember him” &c. must not appear with the Corsair

To Murray: six and twenty complete this day-a very pretty age if it would last

23

Newstead Abbey

?

 

24

Newstead Abbey

?

 

 

25

Newstead Abbey

?

 

 

26

Newstead Abbey

?

 

 

27

Newstead Abbey

?

 

 

28

Newstead Abbey

?

 

 

29

Newstead Abbey

?/ Mary Chaworth Musters

 

 

30

Newstead Abbey

?

 

 

 31

Newstead Abbey

?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 1814

 

Sun

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

 

 

1

Newstead

?

An answer to the Courier on “Lines to a Lady Weeping”

2

Newstead

?

 

3

Newstead

?

 

4

Newark

 

 

5

on the road

 

 

6

Newark

?/Mary Chaworth Musters/Annabella Milbanke

To Ldy. Melbourne:  the Princess of Parallellograms

 

7

on the road

?

8

Wandsford

?

 

9

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

to Leigh Hunt : “lampoons and other merry conceits  . . . occasioned by ye. Republication of two stanzas inserted in 1812 in Perry’s paper”

 

10

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

to Tom Moore: I am in what the learned call a dilemma, and the vulgar a scrape

11

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

to Ldy. Melbourne: you tell me not to be “violent” & not to “answer” . . . although the consequences may be . . . exclusion from society  . . . I really begin to think myself an important personage

12

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Annabella

 

To Annabella Milbanke; the world is all before me . . . ever yours

 

13

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

14

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

 

15

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

to Annabella Milbanke: of the Scriptures . . .  I have ever been a reader & admirer

to Ld Holland: it is . . .  two years since I suppressed the publication [English Bards and Scotch Reviewers]. . . in consequence of a conversation with Mr Rogers

16

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

to Tom Moore; the only prickles that sting from the Royal hedgehog are those which posess a torpedo property

to Samuel Rogers: nothing but the necessity of adhering to regimen prevents me from dining with you tomorrow

17

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

to Robert Charles Dallas: Mr My offered a thousand for the Gr & Be which I said was too much – but neither then or at any other period have I ever availed myself or shall avail myself of the profits on my own account

18

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

 

19

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

 

 

20

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

to James Wedderburn Webster: there’s a new actor named Kean come out – he is a womder -

21

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

?

To Ldy Melbourne: twined as she is round my heart in every possible manner – dearest & deepest in my hope & my memory – still I am not easy  - it is this – if anything – my own – in short I cannot write about it . . . it is the misery of my situation to see it as you see it and feel it as I feel it  - on her account

22

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

 

23

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

24

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

 

 

 

25

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

 

 

26

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

to Tom Moore: the lines . . . any one . . . may interpret them as they please.  I have and shall adhere to my taciturnity, unless somgthing very particular occurs to render this impossible.  Do not you say a word.  If anyone is to speak it is the person principally concerned.

27

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

to Samuel Rogers: I do not feel well enough to go there [Madame de Stael] this evening

28

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

March 1814

 

Sun

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

 

 

 1

to Harrow

2

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

to Murray: Are you fond of Cyder and Perry? – I have a hogshead of each in Worcestershire that I know not what to do with

to Murray

3

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

to Tom Moore: there is nothing on the spot either to love or hate – but I certainly have subjects for both at no very great distance . . . I have long regretted that I ever gave way to what is called a town life . . I have lately begun to think my things have been strangely overrated . . . the Bride in four and the Corsair in ten days

 

4

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

writing to Zachary Macaulay editor of the Christian Observer thanking him for a “just criticsm” of The Giaour

 

5

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

6

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

6

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

to Thomas Phillips?: the nose of the smaller portrait is too much turned up – if you recollect I thought so too

8

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

9

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

’”

10

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

11

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

 

 

12

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

to Tom Moore: Guess darkly and you will seldom err.

13

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

14

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

15

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

to Annabella Milbanke about the “Anti-Byron”

16

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

17

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

 

18

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

19

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

 

20

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

21

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

to Wedderburn Webster advice against money lenders

22

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

23

 

 

 

24

Albany

 

To James Hogg: I have been out of town[?]

25

Albany

26

Albany

 

To Scrope Davies; I have sent the draft on Hoares for the whole sum to your bankers

 

27

Albany

28

Albany

29

Albany

30

Albany

31

Albany

 

 

 


 

 


Lord Byron in the lobby of Drury Lane Theatre

by Anne Ridsdale Mott from a cartoon by Cruikshank 1815


Scotch Reviewers:

Who was Henry Brougham anyway?

Henry Brougham was an influential and ambitious lawyer.  He had been born in 1778 in Edinburgh and was therefore, ten years older than Lord Byron.  He was one of the original writers for the Edinburgh Review when it was established in 1802.

It reveals the growing influence and power of journalism that this literary review, that was started by a group of lawyers in Scotland, would come to have a major influence in the lives of English poets, playwrights and politicians of the Regency period.

At the time, a newly leisured middle class wanted to be told what to read and what to think about what they had read.  The busy social lives of ladies and gentlemen of “quality” with little to do but spend money was a fertile ground for the growth of literary snobbery.  The poets and novelists of the day were popular stars whose success depended on mass distribution. Unfortunately, however, advertising or “puffery” was antithetical to their pretensions.  The reviews were recognized by authors and publishers as sources of inexpensive and socially acceptable advertisements for their newest works.  The latest poems, pamphlets and books were topics of the greatest interest at the gatherings of the social season.  And soon, the poets, novelists – and reviewers – became social darlings, feted and smothered in invitations to dinners, dances and teas. On the other hand, a negative review, such as Brougham’s anonymous slashing of Byron’s youthful poetry, could ruin a writer’s reputation.  In Byron’s case, before it had got started.

In addition to his assumed position as literary arbiter, Brougham was an active courtroom lawyer.  He defended the accused in the Frame-Breaker or Luddite trials but he was not very successful, presenting a very weak defense, and some were hanged and others transported to Australia.

He became a Member of Parliament from 1810, and joined Wilberforce’s fights against the slave trade and the import duties on grain that contributed to the spreading hunger of the poor.

He lost his seat in Parliament in 1812 (his sponsor, the Duke of Bedford, sold the riding) but was re-elected in 1815.

Byron probably met Brougham socially in 1813 as he had been Leigh Hunt’s lawyer (again, unsuccessfully) and Hunt wanted them to meet. 

Brougham was an advisor to Princess Caroline, the estranged wife of the Prince Regent.  He was part of her “little cabinet”. He also advised her daughter, Princess Charlotte.

Brougham was the lover of the other Caroline Lamb, “Caro George”.  Caroline St. Jules was the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Devonshire by his “house guest” and wife’s best friend, Elizabeth Foster, who supposedly had “adopted” her in Europe.  Caroline married George Lamb who was, himself, rumoured to be illegitimate – the son of the Prince Regent by Lady Melbourne.  As there were two sisters-in-law named Caroline they were distinguished as Caro George and Caro William.  Brougham was involved in all the Lamb family gossip and was influenced by Caro George’s friendship for Annabella, Lady Byron.

Brougham was involved in Byron’s separation from Annabella giving her the legal opinion that Byron had a right to claim his daughter, Ada, after the separation, as she was his only heir.  This made the rumours that Byron and Augusta had committed incest useful to Annabella as they would compromise their eligibility to bring up the child.

Brougham was a leader of the men who “cut” Byron at Lady Jersey’s party just before he left for Europe in 1816.

Brougham interfered with attempts made by Madame de Stael to reconcile Byron and Annabella while Byron was living in Switzerland.

Byron promised that he would challenge Brougham to a duel as soon as he returned to England, which of course, he never did.  He was never explicit as to why this defense of his honour was necessary.

In 1820 Brougham gained great fame as the successful defender of Caroline, Princess of Wales against the Prince of Wales’ accusations of immorality.

Brougham became liberal leader in the House of Commons and as Lord Chancellor reformed Parliament.

He was made 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux much later in life, which would have annoyed Byron a great deal if he had lived to see it.

Brougham did not write poetry but believed himself qualified to criticize it.

 

 

 

References

 

Aspinall, A.  Letters of the Princess Charlotte; 1811 – 1817, London: Home and Van Thal. 1949

Ford, T. H. Henry Brougham and his world : a biography Chichester: B. Rose.1995.

Marchand, L.A. Byron’s Letters and Journals Vol. 4 London:Murray 1975

Moore, D.L. Lord Byron: Accounts Rendered London:Murray 1974

 

 

©  Anne Ridsdale Mott

December 10, 1998

 

 

 

Byronmania welcomes submissions

 

Published January 22, April 19 and December 10

Subscriptions to the e-mailed editions are $5 each

or $15 for the year

 

 

 

Anne Ridsdale Mott, B Ed., M Ed.

Douglas College, New Westminster, B.C. Canada

 

Questions? Comments?  byronmania [at] shaw [dot] ca

 

 


 

Endnotes to “The Poet and the Princess”



[i] Aspinall 108

[ii] BLJ. Vol 4 37

[iii] Ibid. 53

[iv] Ibid. 62

[v] Ibid. 168

[vi] Ibid 243

[vii] Aspinall. 96

[viii] Ibid. 125

[ix] BLJ. Vol. 4. 137

[x] Ibid. 138

[xi] Ibid. 139

[xii] Aspinall. 123 n3

[xiii] Ibid. 124-125

[xiv] BLJ. Vol 4. 191

[xv] Aspinall. 150

[xvi] Moore. 197

[xvii] Aspinall. 241

[xviii] Loc cit.