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Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton

1808–1877

Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton was born in London, England, on March 22, 1808. Her grandfather, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, was a distinguished dramatist, and her mother was a novelist. She attended boarding school in Surrey, and at age nineteen, she married George Chapple Norton, a barrister.

Unhappy in her marriage and in need of money, Norton began writing and publishing poetry. Her first book, The Sorrows of Rosalie: A Tale with Other Poems (John Ebors and Co., 1829), was published in 1829. This was followed by several other poetry collections, including The Lady of la Garaye (Macmillan, 1866), The Dream, and Other Poems (Henry Colburn, 1840), and A Voice From the Factories (John Murray, 1836). She also served as an editor of the magazine La Belle Assemblée.

While Norton is known for her poetry, she is also remembered for her involvement in a political scandal and her subsequent political influence. Accused by her husband of an adulterous affair with the Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, she fell in social status and lost custody of her children. As a result, she became involved in women’s rights and helped influence the 1839 Infant Custody Bill and the Marriage and Divorce Act of 1857.

George Norton died in 1875, and Caroline went on to marry Sir William Stirling-Maxwell. She died on June 15, 1877.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
The Lady of la Garaye (Macmillan, 1866)
The Child of the Islands (Chapman and Hall, 1846)
The Dream, and Other Poems (Henry Colburn, 1840)
A Voice From the Factories (John Murray, 1836)
The Undying One and Other Poems (Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, 1830)
The Sorrows of Rosalie: A Tale with Other Poems (John Ebors and Co., 1829)

Prose
Old Sir Douglas (Bernhard Tauchnitz, 1868)
Stuart of Dunleath: A Story of Modern Times (Colburn and Co., 1851)
Letters to the Mob (Thomas Bosworth, 1848)

By This Poet

4

Love Not

  Love not, love not! ye hapless sons of clay!  
Hope's gayest wreaths are made of earthly flowers—  
Things that are made to fade and fall away  
Ere they have blossom'd for a few short hours.  
        Love not!
  
Love not! the thing ye love may change:  
The rosy lip may cease to smile on you,  
The kindly-beaming eye grow cold and strange,  
The heart still warmly beat, yet not be true.  
        Love not!
  
Love not! the thing you love may die,  
May perish from the gay and gladsome earth;  
The silent stars, the blue and smiling sky,  
Beam o'er its grave, as once upon its birth.  
        Love not!
  
Love not! oh warning vainly said  
In present hours as in the years gone by;  
Love flings a halo round the dear ones' head,  
Faultless, immortal, till they change or die,  
        Love not!

We Have Been Friends Together

We have been friends together,  
  In sunshine and in shade;  
Since first beneath the chestnut-trees  
  In infancy we played.  
But coldness dwells within thy heart,
  A cloud is on thy brow;  
We have been friends together—  
  Shall a light word part us now?  
  
We have been gay together;  
  We have laugh'd at little jests;
For the fount of hope was gushing  
  Warm and joyous in our breasts.  
But laughter now hath fled thy lip,  
  And sullen glooms thy brow;  
We have been gay together—
  Shall a light word part us now?  
  
We have been sad together,  
  We have wept, with bitter tears,  
O'er the grass-grown graves, where slumber'd  
  The hopes of early years.
The voices which are silent there  
  Would bid thee clear thy brow;  
We have been sad together—  
  Oh! what shall part us now?

The Undying One, Canto I

CANTO I

Moonlight is o'er the dim and heaving sea,— 
    Moonlight is on the mountain's frowning brow, 
And by their silvery fountains merrily 
    The maids of Castaly are dancing now. 
Young hearts, bright eyes, and rosy lips are there, 
    And fairy steps, and light and laughing voices, 
Ringing like welcome music through the air— 
    A sound at which the untroubled heart rejoices. 
But there are hearts o'er which that dancing measure 
    Heavily falls! 
And there are ears to which the voice of pleasure 
    Still vainly calls ! 
There's not a scene on earth so full of lightness 
    That withering care 
Sleeps not beneath the flowers, and turns their brightness 
    To dark despair! 
Oh! Earth, dim Earth, thou canst not be our home; 
Or wherefore look we still for joys to come? 
The fairy steps are flown—the scene is still— 
Nought mingles with the murmuring of the rill. 
Nay, hush! it is a sound—a sigh—again! 
It is a human voice—the voice of pain. 
And beautiful is she, who sighs alone 
Now that her young and playful mates are gone: 
The dim moon, shining on her statue face, 
Gives it a mournful and unearthly grace; 
And she hath bent her gentle knee to earth; 
    And she hath raised her meek sad eyes to heaven— 
As if in such a breast sin could have birth, 
    She clasps her hands, and sues to be forgiven. 
Her prayer is over; but her anxious glance 
    Into the blue transparency of night 
Seems as it fain would read the book of chance, 
    And fix the future hours, dark or bright. 
A slow and heavy footstep strikes her ear— 
What ails the gentle maiden?—Is it fear? 
Lo! she hath lightly raised her from the ground, 
And turn'd her small and stag-like head around; 
Her pale cheek paler, and her lips apart, 
Her bosom heaving o'er her beating heart: 
And see, those thin white hands she raises now 
To press the throbbing fever from her brow— 
In vain—in vain! for never more shall rest 
Find place in that young, fair, but erring breast! 
He stands before her now—and who is he 
Into whose outspread arms confidingly 
She flings her fairy self?—Unlike the forms 
That woo and win a woman's love—the storms 
Of deep contending passions are not seen 
Darkening the features where they once have been, 
Nor the bright workings of a generous soul, 
Of feelings half conceal'd, explain the whole. 
But there is something words cannot express— 
A gloomy, deep, and quiet fixedness; 
A recklessness of all the blows of fate— 
A brow untouch'd by love, undimm'd by hate— 
As if, in all its stores of crime and care, 
Earth held no suffering now for him to bear. 
Yes—all is passionless—the hollow cheek 
    Those pale thin lips shall never wreathe with smiles; 
Ev'n now, 'mid joy, unmoved and sad they speak 
    In spite of all his Linda's winning wiles. 
Yet can we read, what all the rest denies, 
    That he hath feelings of a mortal birth, 
In the wild sorrow of those dark bright eyes, 
    Bent on that form—his one dear link to earth. 
He loves—and he is loved! then what avail 
    The scornful words which seek to brand with shame? 
Or bitterer still, the wild and fearful tale 
    Which couples guilt and horror with that name? 
What boots it that the few who know him shun 
To speak or eat with that unworthy one? 
Were all their words of scorn and malice proved, 
It matters not—he loves and he is loved!