"The circumstance to which you allude, as to his declamatory powers, was as follows. The upper part of the school composed declamations, which, after a revisal by the tutors, were submitted to the master: to him the authors repeated them, that they might be improved in manner and action, before their public delivery. I certainly was much pleased with Lord Byron's attitude, gesture, and delivery, as well as with his composition. All who spoke on that day adhered, as usual, to the letter of their composition, as, in the earlier part of his delivery, did Lord Byron. But to my surprise he suddenly diverged from the written composition, with a boldness and rapidity sufficient to alarm me, lest he should fail in memory as to the conclusion. There was no failure:—he came round to the close of his composition without discovering any impediment and irregularity on the whole. I questioned him, why he had altered his declamation? He declared he had made no alteration, and did not know, in speaking, that he had deviated from it one letter. I believed him; and from a knowledge of his temperament am convinced, that, fully impressed with the sense and substance of the subject, he was hurried on to expressions and colourings more striking than what his pen had expressed."
In communicating to me these recollections of his illustrious pupil, Dr. Drury has added a circumstance which shows how strongly, even in all the pride of his fame, that awe with which he had once regarded the opinions of his old master still hung around the poet's sensitive mind:—
"After my retreat from Harrow, I received from him two very affectionate letters. In my occasional visits subsequently to London, when he had fascinated the public with his productions, I demanded of him; why, as in duty bound, he had sent none to me? 'Because,' said he, 'you are the only man I never wish to read them:'—but, in a few moments, he added—'What do you think of the Corsair?'"
I shall now lay before the reader such notices of his school-life as I find scattered through the various note-books he has left behind. Coming, as they do, from his own pen, it is needless to add, that they afford the liveliest and best records of this period that can be furnished.
"Till I was eighteen years old (odd as it may seem) I had never read a review. But while at Harrow, my general information was so great on modern topics as to induce a suspicion that I could only collect so much information from Reviews, because I was never seen reading, but always idle, and in mischief, or at play. The truth is, that I read eating, read in bed, read when no one else read, and had read all sorts of reading since I was five years old, and yet never met with a Review, which is the only reason I know of why I should not have read them. But it is true; for I remember when Hunter and Curzon, in 1804, told me this opinion at Harrow, I made them laugh by my ludicrous astonishment in asking them 'What is a Review?' To be sure, they were then less common. In three years more, I was better acquainted with that same; but the first I ever read was in 1806-7.
"At school I was (as I have said) remarked for the extent and readiness of my general information; but in all other respects idle, capable of great sudden exertions, (such as thirty or forty Greek hexa-meters, of course with such prosody as it pleased God,) but of few continuous drudgeries. My qualities were much more oratorical and martial than poetical, and Dr. Drury, my grand patron, (our head master,) had a great notion that I should turn out an orator, from my fluency, my turbulence, my voice, my copiousness of declamation, and my action. I remember that my first declamation astonished him into some unwonted (for he was economical of such) and sudden compliments, before the declaimers at our first rehearsal. My first Harrow verses, (that is, English, as exercises,) a translation of a chorus from the Prometheus of AEschylus, were received by him but coolly. No one had the least notion that I should subside into poesy.
"Peel, the orator and statesman, ('that was, or is, or is to be,') was my form-fellow, and we were both at the top of our remove (a public-school phrase). We were on good terms, but his brother was my intimate friend. There were always great hopes of Peel, amongst us all, masters and scholars—and he has not disappointed them. As a scholar he was greatly my superior; as a declaimer and actor, I was reckoned at least his equal; as a schoolboy, out of school, I was always in scrapes, and he never; and in school, he always knew his lesson, and I rarely,—but when I knew it, I knew it nearly as well. In general information, history, &c. &c., I think I was his superior, as well as of most boys of my standing.
"The prodigy of our school-days was George Sinclair (son of Sir John); he made exercises for half the school, (literally) verses at will, and themes without it.... He was a friend of mine, and in the same remove, and used at times to beg me to let him do my exercise,—a request always most readily accorded upon a pinch, or when I wanted to do something else, which was usually once an hour. On the other hand, he was pacific and I savage; so I fought for him, or thrashed others for him, or thrashed himself to make him thrash others when it was necessary, as a point of honour and stature, that he should so chastise;—or we talked politics, for he was a great politician, and were very good friends. I have some of his letters, written to me from school, still.
"Clayton was another school-monster of learning, and talent, and hope; but what has become of him I do not know. He was certainly a genius.
"My school-friendships were with me passions, (for I was always violent,) but I do not know that there is one which has endured (to be sure some have been cut short by death) till now. That with Lord Clare begun one of the earliest, and lasted longest—being only interrupted by distance—that I know of. I never hear the word 'Clare' without a beating of the heart even now, and I write it with the feelings of 1803-4-5, ad infinitum."
The following extract is from another of his manuscript journals:—
"At Harrow I fought my way very fairly. I think I lost but one battle out of seven; and that was to H——;—and the rascal did not win it, but by the unfair treatment of his own boarding-house, where we boxed—I had not even a second. I never forgave him, and I should be sorry to meet him now, as I am sure we should quarrel. My most memorable combats were with Morgan, Rice, Rainsford, and Lord Jocelyn,—but we were always friendly afterwards. I was a most unpopular boy, but led latterly, and have retained many of my school friendships, and all my dislikes—except to Dr. Butler, whom I treated rebelliously, and have been sorry ever since. Dr. Drury, whom I plagued sufficiently too, was the best, the kindest (and yet strict, too,) friend I ever had—and I look upon him still as a father.
"P. Hunter, Curzon, Long, and Tatersall, were my principal friends. Clare, Dorset, C^s. Gordon, De Bath, Claridge, and J^no. Wingfield, were my juniors and favourites, whom I spoilt by indulgence. Of all human beings, I was, perhaps, at one time, the most attached to poor Wingfield, who died at Coimbra, 1811, before I returned to England."
One of the most striking results of the English system of education is, that while in no country are there so many instances of manly friendships early formed and steadily maintained, so in no other country, perhaps, are the feelings towards the parental home so early estranged, or, at the best, feebly cherished. Transplanted as boys are from the domestic circle, at a time of life when the affections are most disposed to cling, it is but natural that they should seek a substitute for the ties of home in those boyish friendships which they form at school, and which, connected as they are with the scenes and events over which youth threw its charm, retain ever after the strongest hold upon their hearts. In Ireland, and I believe also in France, where the system of education is more domestic, a different result is accordingly observable:—the paternal home comes in for its due and natural share of affection, and the growth of friendships, out of this domestic circle, is proportionably diminished.
To a youth like Byron, abounding with the most passionate feelings, and finding sympathy with only the ruder parts of his nature at home, the little world of school afforded a vent for his affections, which was sure to call them forth in their most ardent form. Accordingly, the friendships which he contracted, both at school and college, were little less than what he himself describes them, "passions." The want he felt at home of those kindred dispositions, which greeted him among "Ida's social band," is thus strongly described in one of his early poems:—
"Is there no cause beyond the common claim, Endear'd to all in childhood's very name? Ah! sure some stronger impulse vibrates here, Which whispers, Friendship will be doubly dear To one who thus for kindred hearts must roam, And seek abroad the love denied at home: Those hearts, dear Ida, have I found in thee, A home, a world, a paradise to me."
This early volume, indeed, abounds with the most affectionate tributes to his school-fellows. Even his expostulations to one of them, who had given him some cause for complaint, are thus tenderly conveyed:—
"You knew that my soul, that my heart, my existence, If danger demanded, were wholly your own; You know me unaltered by years or by distance, Devoted to love and to friendship alone.
"You knew—but away with the vain retrospection, The bond of affection no longer endures. Too late you may droop o'er the fond recollection, And sigh for the friend who was formerly yours."
The following description of what he felt after leaving Harrow, when he encountered in the world any of his old school-fellows, falls far short of the scene which actually occurred but a few years before his death in Italy,—when, on meeting with his friend, Lord Clare, after a long separation, he was affected almost to tears by the recollections which rushed on him.
"If chance some well remember'd face, Some old companion of my early race, Advance to claim his friend with honest joy, My eyes, my heart proclaim'd me yet a boy; The glittering scene, the fluttering groups around, Were all forgotten when my friend was found."
It will be seen, by the extracts from his memorandum-book, which I have given, that Mr. Peel was one of his contemporaries at Harrow; and the following interesting anecdote of an occurrence in which both were concerned, has been related to me by a friend of the latter gentleman, in whose words I shall endeavour as nearly as possible to give it.
While Lord Byron and Mr. Peel were at Harrow together, a tyrant, some few years older, whose name was ——, claimed a right to fag little Peel, which claim (whether rightly or wrongly I know not) Peel resisted. His resistance, however, was in vain:— —— not only subdued him, but determined also to punish the refractory slave; and proceeded forthwith to put this determination in practice, by inflicting a kind of bastinado on the inner fleshy side of the boy's arm, which, during the operation, was twisted round with some degree of technical skill, to render the pain more acute. While the stripes were succeeding each other, and poor Peel writhing under them, Byron saw and felt for the misery of his friend; and although he knew that he was not strong enough to fight —— with any hope of success, and that it was dangerous even to approach him, he advanced to the scene of action, and with a blush of rage, tears in his eyes, and a voice trembling between terror and indignation, asked very humbly if —— would be pleased to tell him "how many stripes he meant to inflict?" —"Why," returned the executioner, "you little rascal, what is that to you?"—"Because, if you please," said Byron, holding out his arm, "I would take half!"
There is a mixture of simplicity and magnanimity in this little trait which is truly heroic; and however we may smile at the friendships of boys, it is but rarely that the friendship of manhood is capable of any thing half so generous.
Among his school favourites a great number, it may be observed, were nobles or of noble family—Lords Clare and Delaware, the Duke of Dorset and young Wingfield—and that their rank may have had some share in first attracting his regard to them, might appear from a circumstance mentioned to me by one of his school-fellows, who, being monitor one day, had put Lord Delaware on his list for punishment. Byron, hearing of this, came up to him, and said, "Wildman, I find you've got Delaware on your list—pray don't lick him."—"Why not?"—"Why, I don't know—except that he is a brother peer. But pray don't." It is almost needless to add, that his interference, on such grounds, was anything but successful. One of the few merits, indeed, of public schools is, that they level, in some degree, these artificial distinctions, and that, however the peer may have his revenge in the world afterwards, the young plebeian is, for once, at least, on something like an equality with him.
It is true that Lord Byron's high notions of rank were, in his boyish days, so little disguised or softened down, as to draw upon him, at times, the ridicule of his companions; and it was at Dulwich, I think, that from his frequent boast of the superiority of an old English barony over all the later creations of the peerage, he got the nickname, among the boys, of "the Old English Baron." But it is a mistake to suppose that, either at school or afterwards, he was at all guided in the selection of his friends by aristocratic sympathies. On the contrary, like most very proud persons, he chose his intimates in general from a rank beneath his own, and those boys whom he ranked as friends at school were mostly of this description; while the chief charm that recommended to him his younger favourites was their inferiority to himself in age and strength, which enabled him to indulge his generous pride by taking upon himself, when necessary, the office of their protector.
Among those whom he attached to himself by this latter tie, one of the earliest (though he has omitted to mention his name) was William Harness, who at the time of his entering Harrow was ten years of age, while Byron was fourteen. Young Harness, still lame from an accident of his childhood, and but just recovered from a severe illness, was ill fitted to struggle with the difficulties of a public school; and Byron, one day, seeing him bullied by a boy much older and stronger than himself, interfered and took his part. The next day, as the little fellow was standing alone, Byron came to him and said, "Harness, if any one bullies you, tell me, and I'll thrash him, if I can." The young champion kept his word, and they were from this time, notwithstanding the difference of their ages, inseparable friends. A coolness, however, subsequently arose between them, to which, and to the juvenile friendship it interrupted, Lord Byron, in a letter addressed to Harness six years afterwards, alludes with so much kindly feeling, so much delicacy and frankness, that I am tempted to anticipate the date of the letter, and give an extract from it here.
"We both seem perfectly to recollect, with a mixture of pleasure and regret, the hours we once passed together, and I assure you, most sincerely, they are numbered among the happiest of my brief chronicle of enjoyment. I am now getting into years, that is to say, I was twenty a month ago, and another year will send me into the world to run my career of folly with the rest. I was then just fourteen,—you were almost the first of my Harrow friends, certainly the first in my esteem, if not in date; but an absence from Harrow for some time, shortly after, and new connections on your side, and the difference in our conduct (an advantage decidedly in your favour) from that turbulent and riotous disposition of mine, which impelled me into every species of mischief,—all these circumstances combined to destroy an intimacy, which affection urged me to continue, and memory compels me to regret. But there is not a circumstance attending that period, hardly a sentence we exchanged, which is not impressed on my mind at this moment. I need not say more,—this assurance alone must convince you, had I considered them as trivial, they would have been less indelible. How well I recollect the perusal of your 'first flights!' There is another circumstance you do not know;—the first lines I ever attempted at Harrow were addressed to you. You were to have seen them; but Sinclair had the copy in his possession when we went home;—and, on our return, we were strangers. They were destroyed, and certainly no great loss; but you will perceive from this circumstance my opinions at an age when we cannot be hypocrites.
"I have dwelt longer on this theme than I intended, and I shall now conclude with what I ought to have begun. We were once friends,—nay, we have always been so, for our separation was the effect of chance, not of dissension. I do not know how far our destinations in life may throw us together, but if opportunity and inclination allow you to waste a thought on such a hare-brained being as myself, you will find me at least sincere, and not so bigoted to my faults as to involve others in the consequences. Will you sometimes write to me? I do not ask it often; and, if we meet, let us be what we should be, and what we were."
Of the tenaciousness with which, as we see in this letter, he clung to all the impressions of his youth, there can be no stronger proof than the very interesting fact, that, while so little of his own boyish correspondence has been preserved, there were found among his papers almost all the notes and letters which his principal school favourites, even the youngest, had ever addressed to him; and, in some cases, where the youthful writers had omitted to date their scrawls, his faithful memory had, at an interval of years after, supplied the deficiency. Among these memorials, so fondly treasured by him, there is one which it would be unjust not to cite, as well on account of the manly spirit that dawns through its own childish language, as for the sake of the tender and amiable feeling which, it will be seen, the re-perusal of it, in other days, awakened in Byron:—
"TO THE LORD BYRON, &c. &c.
"Harrow on the Hill, July 28. 1805.
"Since you have been so unusually unkind to me, in calling me names whenever you meet me, of late, I must beg an explanation, wishing to know whether you choose to be as good friends with me as ever. I must own that, for this last month, you have entirely cut me,—for, I suppose, your new cronies. But think not that I will (because you choose to take into your head some whim or other) be always going up to you, nor do, as I observe certain other fellows doing, to regain your friendship; nor think that I am your friend either through interest, or because you are bigger and older than I am. No,—it never was so, nor ever shall be so. I was only your friend, and am so still,—unless you go on in this way, calling me names whenever you see me. I am sure you may easily perceive I do not like it; therefore, why should you do it, unless you wish that I should no longer be your friend? And why should I be so, if you treat me unkindly? I have no interest in being so. Though you do not let the boys bully me, yet if you treat me unkindly, that is to me a great deal worse.
"I am no hypocrite, Byron, nor will I, for your pleasure, ever suffer you to call me names, if you wish me to be your friend. If not, I cannot help it. I am sure no one can say that I will cringe to regain a friendship that you have rejected. Why should I do so? Am I not your equal? Therefore, what interest can I have in doing so? When we meet again in the world, (that is, if you choose it,) you cannot advance or promote me, nor I you. Therefore I beg and entreat of you, if you value my friendship,—which, by your conduct, I am sure I cannot think you do,—not to call me the names you do, nor abuse me. Till that time, it will be out of my power to call you friend. I shall be obliged for an answer as soon as it is convenient; till then
I remain yours,
"I cannot say your friend."
Endorsed on this letter, in the handwriting of Lord Byron, is the following:—
"This and another letter were written at Harrow, by my then, and I hope ever, beloved friend, Lord ——, when we were both school-boys, and sent to my study in consequence of some childish misunderstanding,—the only one which ever arose between us. It was of short duration, and I retain this note solely for the purpose of submitting it to his perusal, that we may smile over the recollection of the insignificance of our first and last quarrel.
In a letter, dated two years afterwards, from the same boy, there occurs the following characteristic trait:—"I think, by your last letter, that you are very much piqued with most of your friends; and, if I am not much mistaken, you are a little piqued with me. In one part you say, 'There is little or no doubt a few years, or months, will render us as politely indifferent to each other as if we had never passed a portion of our time together.' Indeed, Byron, you wrong me, and I have no doubt—at least, I hope—you wrong yourself."
As that propensity to self-delineation, which so strongly pervades his maturer works is, to the full, as predominant in his early productions, there needs no better record of his mode of life, as a school-boy, than what these fondly circumstantial effusions supply. Thus the sports he delighted and excelled in are enumerated:—
"Yet when confinement's lingering hour was done, Our sports, our studies, and our souls were one: Together we impell'd the flying ball,
* * * * *
Together join'd in cricket's manly toil, Or shared the produce of the river's spoil; Or, plunging from the green, declining shore, Our pliant limbs the buoyant waters bore; In every element, unchanged, the same, All, all that brothers should be, but the name."
The danger which he incurred in a fight with some of the neighbouring farmers—an event well remembered by some of his school-fellows—is thus commemorated.—
"Still I remember, in the factious strife, The rustic's musket aim'd against my life; High poised in air the massy weapon hung, A cry of horror burst from every tongue: Whilst I, in combat with another foe, Fought on, unconscious of the impending blow. Your arm, brave boy, arrested his career— Forward you sprung, insensible to fear; Disarm'd and baffled by your conquering hand, The grovelling savage roll'd upon the sand."
Some feud, it appears, had arisen on the subject of the cricket-ground, between these "clods" (as in school-language they are called) and the boys, and one or two skirmishes had previously taken place. But the engagement here recorded was accidentally brought on by the breaking up of school and the dismissal of the volunteers from drill, both happening, on that occasion, at the same hour. This circumstance accounts for the use of the musket, the butt-end of which was aimed at Byron's head, and would have felled him to the ground, but for the interposition of his friend Tatersall, a lively, high-spirited boy, whom he addresses here under the name of Davus.
Notwithstanding these general habits of play and idleness, which might seem to indicate a certain absence of reflection and feeling, there were moments when the youthful poet would retire thoughtfully within himself, and give way to moods of musing uncongenial with the usual cheerfulness of his age. They show a tomb in the churchyard at Harrow, commanding a view over Windsor, which was so well known to be his favourite resting-place, that the boys called it "Byron's tomb;" and here, they say, he used to sit for hours, wrapt up in thought,—brooding lonelily over the first stirrings of passion and genius in his soul, and occasionally, perhaps, indulging in those bright forethoughts of fame, under the influence of which, when little more than fifteen years of age, he wrote these remarkable lines:—
"My epitaph shall be my name alone; If that with honour fail to crown my clay, Oh may no other fame my deeds repay; That, only that, shall single out the spot, By that remember'd, or with that forgot."
In the autumn of 1802, he passed a short time with his mother at Bath, and entered, rather prematurely, into some of the gaieties of the place. At a masquerade given by Lady Riddel, he appeared in the character of a Turkish boy,—a sort of anticipation, both in beauty and costume, of his own young Selim, in "The Bride." On his entering into the house, some person in the crowd attempted to snatch the diamond crescent from his turban, but was prevented by the prompt interposition of one of the party. The lady who mentioned to me this circumstance, and who was well acquainted with Mrs. Byron at that period, adds the following remark in the communication with which she has favoured me:—"At Bath I saw a good deal of Lord Byron,—his mother frequently sent for me to take tea with her. He was always very pleasant and droll, and, when conversing about absent friends, showed a slight turn for satire, which after-years, as is well known, gave a finer edge to."
We come now to an event in his life which, according to his own deliberate persuasion, exercised a lasting and paramount influence over the whole of his subsequent character and career.
It was in the year 1803 that his heart, already twice, as we have seen, possessed with the childish notion that it loved, conceived an attachment which—young as he was, even then, for such a feeling—sunk so deep into his mind as to give a colour to all his future life. That unsuccessful loves are generally the most lasting, is a truth, however sad, which unluckily did not require this instance to confirm it. To the same cause, I fear, must be traced the perfect innocence and romance which distinguish this very early attachment to Miss Chaworth from the many others that succeeded, without effacing it in his heart;—making it the only one whose details can be entered into with safety, or whose results, however darkening their influence on himself, can be dwelt upon with pleasurable interest by others.
On leaving Bath, Mrs. Byron took up her abode, in lodgings, at Nottingham,—Newstead Abbey being at that time let to Lord Grey de Ruthen,—and during the Harrow vacations of this year, she was joined there by her son. So attached was he to Newstead, that even to be in its neighbourhood was a delight to him; and before he became acquainted with Lord Grey, he used sometimes to sleep, for a night, at the small house near the gate which is still known by the name of "The Hut." An intimacy, however, soon sprang up between him and his noble tenant, and an apartment in the abbey was from thenceforth always at his service. To the family of Miss Chaworth, who resided at Annesley, in the immediate neighbourhood of Newstead, he had been made known, some time before, in London, and now renewed his acquaintance with them. The young heiress herself combined with the many worldly advantages that encircled her, much personal beauty, and a disposition the most amiable and attaching. Though already fully alive to her charms, it was at the period of which we are speaking that the young poet, who was then in his sixteenth year, while the object of his admiration was about two years older, seems to have drunk deepest of that fascination whose effects were to be so lasting;—six short summer weeks which he now passed in her company being sufficient to lay the foundation of a feeling for all life.
He used, at first, though offered a bed at Annesley, to return every night to Newstead, to sleep; alleging as a reason that he was afraid of the family pictures of the Chaworths,—that he fancied "they had taken a grudge to him on account of the duel, and would come down from their frames at night to haunt him." At length, one evening, he said gravely to Miss Chaworth and her cousin, "In going home last night I saw a bogle;"—which Scotch term being wholly unintelligible to the young ladies, he explained that he had seen a ghost, and would not therefore return to Newstead that evening. From this time he always slept at Annesley during the remainder of his visit, which was interrupted only by a short excursion to Matlock and Castleton, in which he had the happiness of accompanying Miss Chaworth and her party, and of which the following interesting notice appears in one of his memorandum-books:—
"When I was fifteen years of age, it happened that, in a cavern in Derbyshire, I had to cross in a boat (in which two people only could lie down) a stream which flows under a rock, with the rock so close upon the water as to admit the boat only to be pushed on by a ferryman (a sort of Charon) who wades at the stern, stooping all the time. The companion of my transit was M.A.C., with whom I had been long in love, and never told it, though she had discovered it without. I recollect my sensations, but cannot describe them, and it is as well. We were a party, a Mr. W., two Miss W.s, Mr. and Mrs. Cl—ke, Miss R. and my M.A.C. Alas! why do I say MY? Our union would have healed feuds in which blood had been shed by our fathers,—it would have joined lands broad and rich, it would have joined at least one heart, and two persons not ill matched in years (she is two years my elder), and—and—and—what has been the result?"
In the dances of the evening at Matlock, Miss Chaworth, of course, joined, while her lover sat looking on, solitary and mortified. It is not impossible, indeed, that the dislike which he always expressed for this amusement may have originated in some bitter pang, felt in his youth, on seeing "the lady of his love" led out by others to the gay dance from which he was himself excluded. On the present occasion, the young heiress of Annesley having had for her partner (as often happens at Matlock) some person with whom she was wholly unacquainted, on her resuming her seat, Byron said to her pettishly, "I hope you like your friend?" The words were scarce out of his lips when he was accosted by an ungainly-looking Scotch lady, who rather boisterously claimed him as "cousin," and was putting his pride to the torture with her vulgarity, when he heard the voice of his fair companion retorting archly in his ear, "I hope you like your friend?"
His time at Annesley was mostly passed in riding with Miss Chaworth and her cousin, sitting in idle reverie, as was his custom, pulling at his handkerchief, or in firing at a door which opens upon the terrace, and which still, I believe, bears the marks of his shots. But his chief delight was in sitting to hear Miss Chaworth play; and the pretty Welsh air, "Mary Anne," was (partly, of course, on account of the name) his especial favourite. During all this time he had the pain of knowing that the heart of her he loved was occupied by another;—that, as he himself expresses it,
"Her sighs were not for him; to her he was Even as a brother—but no more."
Neither is it, indeed, probable, had even her affections been disengaged, that Lord Byron would, at this time, have been selected as the object of them. A seniority of two years gives to a girl, "on the eve of womanhood," an advance into life with which the boy keeps no proportionate pace. Miss Chaworth looked upon Byron as a mere school-boy. He was in his manners, too, at that period, rough and odd, and (as I have heard from more than one quarter) by no means popular among girls of his own age. If, at any moment, however, he had flattered himself with the hope of being loved by her, a circumstance mentioned in his "Memoranda," as one of the most painful of those humiliations to which the defect in his foot had exposed him, must have let the truth in, with dreadful certainty, upon his heart. He either was told of, or overheard, Miss Chaworth saying to her maid, "Do you think I could care any thing for that lame boy?" This speech, as he himself described it, was like a shot through his heart. Though late at night when he heard it, he instantly darted out of the house, and scarcely knowing whither he ran, never stopped till he found himself at Newstead.
The picture which he has drawn of his youthful love, in one of the most interesting of his poems, "The Dream," shows how genius and feeling can elevate the realities of this life, and give to the commonest events and objects an undying lustre. The old hall at Annesley, under the name of "the antique oratory," will long call up to fancy the "maiden and the youth" who once stood in it: while the image of the "lover's steed," though suggested by the unromantic race-ground of Nottingham, will not the less conduce to the general charm of the scene, and share a portion of that light which only genius could shed over it.
He appears already, at this boyish age, to have been so far a proficient in gallantry as to know the use that may be made of the trophies of former triumphs in achieving new ones; for he used to boast, with much pride, to Miss Chaworth, of a locket which some fair favourite had given him, and which probably may have been a present from that pretty cousin, of whom he speaks with such warmth in one of the notices already quoted. He was also, it appears, not a little aware of his own beauty, which, notwithstanding the tendency to corpulence derived from his mother, gave promise, at this time, of that peculiar expression into which his features refined and kindled afterwards.
With the summer holidays ended this dream of his youth. He saw Miss Chaworth once more in the succeeding year, and took his last farewell of her (as he himself used to relate) on that hill near Annesley which, in his poem of "The Dream," he describes so happily as "crowned with a peculiar diadem." No one, he declared, could have told how much he felt—for his countenance was calm, and his feelings restrained. "The next time I see you," said he in parting with her, "I suppose you will be Mrs. Chaworth,"—and her answer was, "I hope so." It was before this interview that he wrote, with a pencil, in a volume of Madame de Maintenon's letters, belonging to her, the following verses, which have never, I believe, before been published:—
"Oh Memory, torture me no more, The present's all o'ercast; My hopes of future bliss are o'er, In mercy veil the past. Why bring those images to view I henceforth must resign? Ah! why those happy hours renew, That never can be mine? Past pleasure doubles present pain, To sorrow adds regret, Regret and hope are both in vain, I ask but to—forget."
In the following year, 1805, Miss Chaworth was married to his successful rival, Mr. John Musters; and a person who was present when the first intelligence of the event was communicated to him, thus describes the manner in which he received it.—"I was present when he first heard of the marriage. His mother said, 'Byron, I have some news for you.'—'Well, what is it?'—'Take out your handkerchief first, for you will want it.'—'Nonsense!'—Take out your handkerchief, I say.' He did so, to humour her. 'Miss Chaworth is married.' An expression very peculiar, impossible to describe, passed over his pale face, and he hurried his handkerchief into his pocket, saying, with an affected air of coldness and nonchalance, 'Is that all?'—'Why, I expected you would have been plunged in grief!'—He made no reply, and soon began to talk about something else."
His pursuits at Harrow continued to be of the same truant description during the whole of his stay there;—"always," as he says himself, "cricketing, rebelling, rowing, and in all manner of mischiefs." The "rebelling," of which he here speaks, (though it never, I believe, proceeded to any act of violence,) took place on the retirement of Dr. Drury from his situation as head master, when three candidates for the vacant chair presented themselves,—Mark Drury, Evans, and Butler. On the first movement to which this contest gave rise in the school, young Wildman was at the head of the party for Mark Drury, while Byron at first held himself aloof from any. Anxious, however, to have him as an ally, one of the Drury faction said to Wildman—"Byron, I know, will not join, because he doesn't choose to act second to any one, but, by giving up the leadership to him, you may at once secure him." This Wildman accordingly did, and Byron took the command of the party.
The violence with which he opposed the election of Dr. Butler on this occasion (chiefly from the warm affection which he had felt towards the last master) continued to embitter his relations with that gentleman during the remainder of his stay at Harrow. Unhappily their opportunities of collision were the more frequent from Byron's being a resident in Dr. Butler's house. One day the young rebel, in a fit of defiance, tore down all the gratings from the window in the hall; and when called upon by his host to say why he had committed this violence, answered, with stern coolness, "Because they darkened the hall." On another occasion he explicitly, and so far manfully, avowed to this gentleman's face the pique he entertained against him. It has long been customary, at the end of a term, for the master to invite the upper boys to dine with him; and these invitations are generally considered as, like royal ones, a sort of command. Lord Byron, however, when asked, sent back a refusal, which rather surprising Dr. Butler, he, on the first opportunity that occurred, enquired of him, in the presence of the other boys, his motive for this step:—"Have you any other engagement?"—"No, sir."—"But you must have some reason, Lord Byron."—"I have."—"What is it?"—"Why, Dr. Butler," replied the young peer, with proud composure, "if you should happen to come into my neighbourhood when I was staying at Newstead, I certainly should not ask you to dine with me, and therefore feel that I ought not to dine with you."
The general character which he bore among the masters at Harrow was that of an idle boy, who would never learn anything; and, as far as regarded his tasks in school, this reputation was, by his own avowal, not ill-founded. It is impossible, indeed, to look through the books which he had then in use, and which are scribbled over with clumsy interlined translations, without being struck with the narrow extent of his classical attainments. The most ordinary Greek words have their English signification scrawled under them, showing too plainly that he was not sufficiently familiarised with their meaning to trust himself without this aid. Thus, in his Xenophon we find νεοι, young—σωμασιν, bodies—ανθρωποις τοις αγαθοις, good men, &c. &c.—and even in the volumes of Greek plays which he presented to the library on his departure, we observe, among other instances, the common word χρυσος provided with its English representative in the margin.
But, notwithstanding his backwardness in the mere verbal scholarship, on which so large and precious a portion of life is wasted, in all that general and miscellaneous knowledge which is alone useful in the world, he was making rapid and even wonderful progress. With a mind too inquisitive and excursive to be imprisoned within statutable limits, he flew to subjects that interested his already manly tastes, with a zest which it is in vain to expect that the mere pedantries of school could inspire; and the irregular, but ardent, snatches of study which he caught in this way, gave to a mind like his an impulse forwards, which left more disciplined and plodding competitors far behind. The list, indeed, which he has left on record of the works, in all departments of literature, which he thus hastily and greedily devoured before he was fifteen years of age, is such as almost to startle belief,—comprising, as it does, a range and variety of study, which might make much older "helluones librorum" hide their heads.
Not to argue, however, from the powers and movements of a mind like Byron's, which might well be allowed to take a privileged direction of its own, there is little doubt, that to any youth of talent and ambition, the plan of instruction pursued in the great schools and universities of England, wholly inadequate as it is to the intellectual wants of the age, presents an alternative of evils not a little embarrassing. Difficult, nay, utterly impossible, as he will find it, to combine a competent acquisition of useful knowledge with that round of antiquated studies which a pursuit of scholastic honours requires, he must either, by devoting the whole of his attention and ambition to the latter object, remain ignorant on most of those subjects upon which mind grapples with mind in life, or by adopting, as Lord Byron and other distinguished persons have done, the contrary system, consent to pass for a dunce or idler in the schools, in order to afford himself even a chance of attaining eminence in the world.
From the memorandums scribbled by the young poet in his school-books, we might almost fancy that, even at so early an age, he had a sort of vague presentiment that everything relating to him would one day be an object of curiosity and interest. The date of his entrance at Harrow, the names of the boys who were, at that time, monitors, the list of his fellow pupils under Doctor Drury,—all are noted down with a fond minuteness, as if to form points of retrospect in his after-life; and that he sometimes referred to them with this feeling will appear from one touching instance. On the first leaf of his "Scriptores Graeci," we find, in his schoolboy hand, the following memorial:—"George Gordon Byron, Wednesday, June 26th, A. D. 1805, 3 quarters of an hour past 3 o'clock in the afternoon, 3d school,—Calvert, monitor; Tom Wildman on my left hand and Long on my right. Harrow on the Hill." On the same leaf, written five years after, appears this comment:—
"Eheu fugaces, Posthume! Posthume! Labuntur anni."
"B. January 9th, 1809.—Of the four persons whose names are here mentioned, one is dead, another in a distant climate, all separated, and not five years have elapsed since they sat together in school, and none are yet twenty-one years of age."
The vacation of 1804 he passed with his mother at Southwell, to which place she had removed from Nottingham, in the summer of this year, having taken the house on the Green called Burgage Manor. There is a Southwell play-bill extant, dated August 8th, 1804, in which the play is announced as bespoke "by Mrs. and Lord Byron." The gentleman, from whom the house where they resided was rented, possesses a library of some extent, which the young poet, he says, ransacked with much eagerness on his first coming to Southwell; and one of the books that most particularly engaged and interested him was, as may be easily believed, the life of Lord Herbert of Cherbury.
In the month of October, 1805, he was removed to Trinity College, Cambridge, and his feelings on the change from his beloved Ida to this new scene of life are thus described by himself:—
"When I first went up to college, it was a new and a heavy-hearted scene for me: firstly, I so much disliked leaving Harrow, that though it was time (I being seventeen), it broke my very rest for the last quarter with counting the days that remained. I always hated Harrow till the last year and a half, but then I liked it. Secondly, I wished to go to Oxford, and not to Cambridge. Thirdly, I was so completely alone in this new world, that it half broke my spirits. My companions were not unsocial, but the contrary—lively, hospitable, of rank and fortune, and gay far beyond my gaiety. I mingled with, and dined, and supped, &c., with them; but, I know not how, it was one of the deadliest and heaviest feelings of my life to feel that I was no longer a boy."
But though, for a time, he may have felt this sort of estrangement at Cambridge, to remain long without attaching himself was not in his nature; and the friendship which he now formed with a youth named Eddleston, who was two years younger than himself, even exceeded in warmth and romance all his schoolboy attachments. This boy, whose musical talents first drew them together, was, at the commencement of their acquaintance, one of the choir at Cambridge, though he afterwards, it appears, entered into a mercantile line of life; and this disparity in their stations was by no means without its charm for Byron, as gratifying at once both his pride and good-nature, and founding the tie between them on the mutually dependent relations of protection on the one side, and gratitude and devotion on the other;—the only relations, according to Lord Bacon, in which the little friendship that still remains in the world is to be found. It was upon a gift presented to him by Eddleston, that he wrote those verses entitled "The Cornelian," which were printed in his first, unpublished volume, and of which the following is a stanza:—
"Some, who can sneer at friendship's ties, Have for my weakness oft reproved me; Yet still the simple gift I prize, For I am sure the giver loved me."
Another friendship, of a less unequal kind, which had been begun at Harrow, and which he continued to cultivate during his first year at Cambridge, is thus interestingly dwelt upon in one of his journals:—
"How strange are my thoughts!—The reading of the song of Milton, Sabrina fair,' has brought back upon me—I know not how or why—the happiest, perhaps, days of my life (always excepting, here and there, a Harrow holiday in the two latter summers of my stay there) when living at Cambridge with Edward Noel Long, afterwards of the Guards,—who, after having served honourably in the expedition to Copenhagen (of which two or three thousand scoundrels yet survive in plight and pay), was drowned early in 1809, on his passage to Lisbon with his regiment in the St. George transport, which was run foul of in the night by another transport. We were rival swimmers—fond of riding—reading—and of conviviality. We had been at Harrow together; but—there, at least—his was a less boisterous spirit than mine. I was always cricketing—rebelling—fighting—rowing (from row, not boat-rowing, a different practice), and in all manner of mischiefs; while he was more sedate and polished. At Cambridge—both of Trinity—my spirit rather softened, or his roughened, for we became very great friends. The description of Sabrina's seat reminds me of our rival feats in diving. Though Cam's is not a very translucent wave, it was fourteen feet deep, where we used to dive for, and pick up—having thrown them in on purpose—plates, eggs, and even shillings. I remember, in particular, there was the stump of a tree (at least ten or twelve feet deep) in the bed of the river, in a spot where we bathed most commonly, round which I used to cling, and 'wonder how the devil I came there.'
"Our evenings we passed in music (he was musical, and played on more than one instrument, flute and violoncello), in which I was audience; and I think that our chief beverage was soda-water. In the day we rode, bathed, and lounged, reading occasionally. I remember our buying, with vast alacrity, Moore's new quarto (in 1806), and reading it together in the evenings.
"We only passed the summer together;—Long had gone into the Guards during the year I passed in Notts, away from college. His friendship, and a violent, though pure, love and passion—which held me at the same period—were the then romance of the most romantic period of my life.
* * * * *
"I remember that, in the spring of 1809, H—— laughed at my being distressed at Long's death, and amused himself with making epigrams upon his name, which was susceptible of a pun—Long, short, &c. But three years after, he had ample leisure to repent it, when our mutual friend and his, H——'s, particular friend, Charles Matthews, was drowned also, and he himself was as much affected by a similar calamity. But I did not pay him back in puns and epigrams, for I valued Matthews too much myself to do so; and, even if I had not, I should have respected his griefs.
"Long's father wrote to me to write his son's epitaph. I promised—but I had not the heart to complete it. He was such a good amiable being as rarely remains long in this world; with talent and accomplishments, too, to make him the more regretted. Yet, although a cheerful companion, he had strange melancholy thoughts sometimes. I remember once that we were going to his uncle's, I think—I went to accompany him to the door merely, in some Upper or Lower Grosvenor or Brook Street, I forget which, but it was in a street leading out of some square,—he told me that, the night before, he 'had taken up a pistol—not knowing or examining whether it was loaded or no—and had snapped it at his head, leaving it to chance whether it might or might not be charged.' The letter, too, which he wrote me, on leaving college to join the Guards, was as melancholy in its tenour as it could well be on such an occasion. But he showed nothing of this in his deportment, being mild and gentle;—and yet with much turn for the ludicrous in his disposition. We were both much attached to Harrow, and sometimes made excursions there together from London to revive our schoolboy recollections."
These affecting remembrances are contained in a Journal which he kept during his residence at Ravenna, in 1821, and they are rendered still more touching and remarkable by the circumstances under which they were noted down. Domesticated in a foreign land, and even connected with foreign conspirators, whose arms, at the moment he was writing, were in his house, he could yet thus wholly disengage himself from the scene around him, and, borne away by the current of memory into other times, live over the lost friendships of his boyhood again. An English gentleman (Mr. Wathen) who called upon him, at one of his residences in Italy, having happened to mention in conversation that he had been acquainted with Long, from that moment Lord Byron treated him with the most marked kindness, and talked with him of Long, and of his amiable qualities, till (as this gentleman says) the tears could not be concealed in his eyes.
In the summer of this year (1806) he, as usual, joined his mother at Southwell,—among the small, but select, society of which place he had, during his visits, formed some intimacies and friendships, the memory of which is still cherished there fondly and proudly. With the exception, indeed, of the brief and bewildering interval which he passed, as we have seen, in the company of Miss Chaworth, it was at Southwell alone that an opportunity was ever afforded him of profiting by the bland influence of female society, or of seeing what woman is in the true sphere of her virtues, home. The amiable and intelligent family of the Pigots received him within their circle as one of themselves: and in the Rev. John Becher the youthful poet found not only an acute and judicious critic, but a sincere friend. There were also one or two other families—as the Leacrofts, the Housons—among whom his talents and vivacity made him always welcome; and the proud shyness with which, through the whole of his minority, he kept aloof from all intercourse with the neighbouring gentlemen seems to have been entirely familiarised away by the small, cheerful society of Southwell. One of the most intimate and valued of his friends, at this period, has given me the following account of her first acquaintance with him:—"The first time I was introduced to him was at a party at his mother's, when he was so shy that she was forced to send for him three times before she could persuade him to come into the drawing-room, to play with the young people at a round game. He was then a fat bashful boy, with his hair combed straight over his forehead, and extremely like a miniature picture that his mother had painted by M. de Chambruland. The next morning Mrs. Byron brought him to call at our house, when he still continued shy and formal in his manner. The conversation turned upon Cheltenham, where we had been staying, the amusements there, the plays, &c.; and I mentioned that I had seen the character of Gabriel Lackbrain very well performed. His mother getting up to go, he accompanied her, making a formal bow, and I, in allusion to the play, said, "Good by, Gaby." His countenance lighted up, his handsome mouth displayed a broad grin, all his shyness vanished, never to return, and, upon his mother's saying 'Come, Byron, are you ready?'—no, she might go by herself, he would stay and talk a little longer; and from that moment he used to come in and go out at all hours, as it pleased him, and in our house considered himself perfectly at home."
To this lady was addressed the earliest letter from his pen that has fallen into my hands. He corresponded with many of his Harrow friends,—with Lord Clare, Lord Powerscourt, Mr. William Peel, Mr. William Bankes, and others. But it was then little foreseen what general interest would one day attach to these school-boy letters; and accordingly, as I have already had occasion to lament, there are but few of them now in existence. The letter, of which I have spoken, to his Southwell friend, though containing nothing remarkable, is perhaps for that very reason worth insertion, as serving to show, on comparing it with most of its successors, how rapidly his mind acquired confidence in its powers. There is, indeed, one charm for the eye of curiosity in his juvenile manuscripts, which they necessarily want in their printed form; and that is the strong evidence of an irregular education which they exhibit,—the unformed and childish handwriting, and, now and then, even defective spelling of him who, in a very few years after, was to start up one of the giants of English literature.
TO MISS ——.
Burgage Manor, August 29. 1804.
"I received the arms, my dear Miss ——, and am very much obliged to you for the trouble you have taken. It is impossible I should have any fault to find with them. The sight of the drawings gives me great pleasure for a double reason,—in the first place, they will ornament my books, in the next, they convince me that you have not entirely forgot me. I am, however, sorry you do not return sooner—you have already been gone an age. I perhaps may have taken my departure for London before you come back; but, however, I will hope not. Do not overlook my watch-riband and purse, as I wish to carry them with me. Your note was given me by Harry, at the play, whither I attended Miss L—— and Dr. S. ——; and now I have set down to answer it before I go to bed. If I am at Southwell when you return,—and I sincerely hope you will soon, for I very much regret your absence,—I shall be happy to hear you sing my favourite, 'The Maid of Lodi.' My mother, together with myself, desires to be affectionately remembered to Mrs. Pigot, and, believe me, my dear Miss ——,
I remain your affectionate friend,
"P.S. If you think proper to send me any answer to this, I shall be extremely happy to receive it. Adieu.
"P.S. 2d. As you say you are a novice in the art of knitting, I hope it don't give you too much trouble. Go on slowly, but surely. Once more, adieu."
We shall often have occasion to remark the fidelity to early habits and tastes by which Lord Byron, though in other respects so versatile, was distinguished. In the juvenile letter, just cited, there are two characteristics of this kind which he preserved unaltered during the remainder of his life;—namely, his punctuality in immediately answering letters, and his love of the simplest ballad music. Among the chief favourites to which this latter taste led him at this time were the songs of the Duenna, which he had the good taste to delight in; and some of his Harrow contemporaries still remember the joyousness with which, when dining with his friends at the memorable mother Barnard's, he used to roar out, "This bottle's the sun of our table."
His visit to Southwell this summer was interrupted, about the beginning of August, by one of those explosions of temper on the part of Mrs. Byron, to which, from his earliest childhood, he had been but too well accustomed, and in producing which his own rebel spirit was not always, it may be supposed, entirely blameless. In all his portraits of himself, so dark is the pencil which he employs, that the following account of his own temper, from one of his journals, must be taken with a due portion of that allowance for exaggeration, which his style of self-portraiture, "overshadowing even the shade," requires.
"In all other respects," (he says, after mentioning his infant passion for Mary Duff,) "I differed not at all from other children, being neither tall nor short, dull nor witty, of my age, but rather lively—except in my sullen moods, and then I was always a Devil. They once (in one of my silent rages) wrenched a knife from me, which I had snatched from table at Mrs. B.'s dinner (I always dined earlier), and applied to my breast;—but this was three or four years after, just before the late Lord B.'s decease.
"My ostensible temper has certainly improved in later years; but I shudder, and must, to my latest hour, regret the consequence of it and my passions combined. One event—but no matter—there are others not much better to think of also—and to them I give the preference....
"But I hate dwelling upon incidents. My temper is now under management—rarely loud, and when loud, never deadly. It is when silent, and I feel my forehead and my cheek paling, that I cannot control it; and then.... but unless there is a woman (and not any or every woman) in the way, I have sunk into tolerable apathy."
Between a temper at all resembling this, and the loud hurricane bursts of Mrs. Byron, the collision, it may be supposed, was not a little formidable; and the age at which the young poet was now arrived; when—as most parents feel—the impatience of youth begins to champ the bit, would but render the occasions for such shocks more frequent. It is told, as a curious proof of their opinion of each other's violence, that, after parting one evening in a tempest of this kind, they were known each to go privately that night to the apothecary's, enquiring anxiously whether the other had been to purchase poison, and cautioning the vender of drugs not to attend to such an application, if made.
It was but rarely, however, that the young lord allowed himself to be provoked into more than a passive share in these scenes. To the boisterousness of his mother he would oppose a civil and, no doubt, provoking silence,—bowing to her but the more profoundly the higher her voice rose in the scale. In general, however, when he perceived that a storm was at hand, in flight lay his only safe resource. To this summary expedient he was driven at the period of which we are speaking; but not till after a scene had taken place between him and Mrs. Byron, in which the violence of her temper had proceeded to lengths, that, however outrageous they may be deemed, were not, it appears, unusual with her. The poet, Young, in describing a temper of this sort, says—
"The cups and saucers, in a whirlwind sent, Just intimate the lady's discontent."
But poker and tongs were, it seems, the missiles which Mrs. Byron preferred, and which she, more than once, sent resounding after her fugitive son. In the present instance, he was but just in time to avoid a blow aimed at him with the former of these weapons, and to make a hasty escape to the house of a friend in the neighbourhood; where, concerting the best means of baffling pursuit, he decided upon an instant flight to London. The letters, which I am about to give, were written, immediately on his arrival in town, to some friends at Southwell, from whose kind interference in his behalf, it may fairly be concluded that the blame of the quarrel, whatever it may have been, did not rest with him. The first is to Mr. Pigot, a young gentleman about the same age as himself, who had just returned, for the vacation, from Edinburgh, where he was, at that time, pursuing his medical studies.
TO MR. PIGOT.
"16. Piccadilly, August 9. 1806.
"My dear Pigot,
"Many thanks for your amusing narrative of the last proceedings of ——, who now begins to feel the effects of her folly. I have just received a penitential epistle, to which, apprehensive of pursuit, I have despatched a moderate answer, with a kind of promise to return in a fortnight;—this, however (entre nous), I never mean to fulfil. Seriously, your mother has laid me under great obligations, and you, with the rest of your family, merit my warmest thanks for your kind connivance at my escape.
"How did S.B. receive the intelligence? How many puns did he utter on so facetious an event? In your next inform me on this point, and what excuse you made to A. You are probably, by this time, tired of deciphering this hieroglyphical letter;—like Tony Lumpkin, you will pronounce mine to be a d——d up and down hand. All Southwell, without doubt, is involved in amazement. Apropos, how does my blue-eyed nun, the fair ——? is she 'robed in sable garb of woe?'
"Here I remain at least a week or ten days; previous to my departure you shall receive my address, but what it will be I have not determined. My lodgings must be kept secret from Mrs. B. You may present my compliments to her, and say any attempt to pursue me will fail, as I have taken measures to retreat immediately to Portsmouth, on the first intimation of her removal from Southwell. You may add, I have now proceeded to a friend's house in the country, there to remain a fortnight.
"I have now blotted (I must not say written) a complete double letter, and in return shall expect a monstrous budget. Without doubt, the dames of Southwell reprobate the pernicious example I have shown, and tremble lest their babes should disobey their mandates, and quit, in dudgeon, their mammas on any grievance. Adieu. When you begin your next, drop the 'lordship,' and put 'Byron' in its place.
Believe me yours, &c.
From the succeeding letters, it will be seen that Mrs. Byron was not behind hand, in energy and decision, with his young Lordship, but immediately on discovering his flight, set off after him.
TO MISS ——.
"London, August 10. 1806.
"My dear Bridget,
"As I have already troubled your brother with more than he will find pleasure in deciphering, you are the next to whom I shall assign the employment of perusing this second epistle. You will perceive from my first, that no idea of Mrs. B.'s arrival had disturbed me at the time it was written; not so the present, since the appearance of a note from the illustrious cause of my sudden decampment has driven the 'natural ruby from my cheeks,' and completely blanched my woe-begone countenance. This gun-powder intimation of her arrival breathes less of terror and dismay than you will probably imagine, and concludes with the comfortable assurance of all present motion being prevented by the fatigue of her journey, for which my blessings are due to the rough roads and restive quadrupeds of his Majesty's highways. As I have not the smallest inclination to be chased round the country, I shall e'en make a merit of necessity; and since, like Macbeth, 'they've tied me to the stake, I cannot fly,' I shall imitate that valorous tyrant, and 'bear-like fight the course,' all escape being precluded. I can now engage with less disadvantage, having drawn the enemy from her intrenchments, though, like the prototype to whom I have compared myself, with an excellent chance of being knocked on the head. However, 'lay on, Macduff, and d——d be he who first cries, Hold, enough.'
"I shall remain in town for, at least, a week, and expect to hear from you before its expiration. I presume the printer has brought you the offspring of my poetic mania. Remember in the first line to 'loud the winds whistle,' instead of 'round,' which that blockhead Ridge has inserted by mistake, and makes nonsense of the whole stanza. Addio!—Now to encounter my Hydra.
TO MR. PIGOT.
"London, Sunday, midnight, August 10. 1806.
"This astonishing packet will, doubtless, amaze you; but having an idle hour this evening, I wrote the enclosed stanzas, which I request you will deliver to Ridge, to be printed separate from my other compositions, as you will perceive them to be improper for the perusal of ladies; of course, none of the females of your family must see them. I offer 1000 apologies for the trouble I have given you in this and other instances.
TO MR. PIGOT.
"Piccadilly, August 16. 1806.
"I cannot exactly say with Caesar, 'Veni, vidi, vici:' however, the most important part of his laconic account of success applies to my present situation; for, though Mrs. Byron took the trouble of 'coming,' and 'seeing,' yet your humble servant proved the victor. After an obstinate engagement of some hours, in which we suffered considerable damage, from the quickness of the enemy's fire, they at length retired in confusion, leaving behind the artillery, field equipage, and some prisoners: their defeat is decisive for the present campaign. To speak more intelligibly, Mrs. B. returns immediately, but I proceed, with all my laurels, to Worthing, on the Sussex coast; to which place you will address (to be left at the post office) your next epistle. By the enclosure of a second gingle of rhyme, you will probably conceive my muse to be vastly prolific; her inserted production was brought forth a few years ago, and found by accident on Thursday among some old papers. I have recopied it, and, adding the proper date, request it may be printed with the rest of the family. I thought your sentiments on the last bantling would coincide with mine, but it was impossible to give it any other garb, being founded on facts. My stay at Worthing will not exceed three weeks, and you may possibly behold me again at Southwell the middle of September.
* * * * *
"Will you desire Ridge to suspend the printing of my poems till he hears further from me, as I have determined to give them a new form entirely. This prohibition does not extend to the two last pieces I have sent with my letters to you. You will excuse the dull vanity of this epistle, as my brain is a chaos of absurd images, and full of business, preparations, and projects.
"I shall expect an answer with impatience;—believe me, there is nothing at this moment could give me greater delight than your letter."
TO MR. PIGOT.
"London, August 18. 1806.
"I am just on the point of setting off for Worthing, and write merely to request you will send that idle scoundrel Charles with my horses immediately; tell him I am excessively provoked he has not made his appearance before, or written to inform me of the cause of his delay, particularly as I supplied him with money for his journey. On no pretext is he to postpone his march one day longer; and if, in obedience to Mrs. B., he thinks proper to disregard my positive orders, I shall not, in future, consider him as my servant. He must bring the surgeon's bill with him, which I will discharge immediately on receiving it. Nor can I conceive the reason of his not acquainting Frank with the state of my unfortunate quadrupeds. Dear Pigot, forgive this petulant effusion, and attribute it to the idle conduct of that precious rascal, who, instead of obeying my injunctions, is sauntering through the streets of that political Pandemonium, Nottingham. Present my remembrances to your family and the Leacrofts, and believe me, &c.
"P.S. I delegate to you the unpleasant task of despatching him on his journey—Mrs. B.'s orders to the contrary are not to be attended to: he is to proceed first to London, and then to Worthing, without delay. Every thing I have left must be sent to London. My Poetics you will pack up for the same place, and not even reserve a copy for yourself and sister, as I am about to give them an entire new form: when they are complete, you shall have the first fruits. Mrs. B. on no account is to see or touch them. Adieu."
TO MR. PIGOT.
"Little Hampton, August 26. 1806.
"I this morning received your epistle, which I was obliged to send for to Worthing, whence I have removed to this place, on the same coast, about eight miles distant from the former. You will probably not be displeased with this letter, when it informs you that I am 30,000l. richer than I was at our parting, having just received intelligence from my lawyer that a cause has been gained at Lancaster assizes, which will be worth that sum by the time I come of age. Mrs. B. is, doubtless, acquainted of this acquisition, though not apprised of its exact value, of which she had better be ignorant. You may give my compliments to her, and say that her detaining my servant's things shall only lengthen my absence; for unless they are immediately despatched to 16. Piccadilly, together with those which have been so long delayed, belonging to myself, she shall never again behold my radiant countenance illuminating her gloomy mansion. If they are sent, I may probably appear in less than two years from the date of my present epistle.
"Metrical compliment is an ample reward for my strains; you are one of the few votaries of Apollo who unite the sciences over which that deity presides. I wish you to send my poems to my lodgings in London immediately, as I have several alterations and some additions to make; every copy must be sent, as I am about to amend them, and you shall soon behold them in all their glory. Entre nous,—you may expect to see me soon. Adieu.
From these letters it will be perceived that Lord Byron was already engaged in preparing a collection of his poems for the press. The idea of printing them first occurred to him in the parlour of that cottage which, during his visits to Southwell, had become his adopted home. Miss Pigot, who was not before aware of his turn for versifying, had been reading aloud the poems of Burns, when young Byron said that "he, too, was a poet sometimes, and would write down for her some verses of his own which he remembered." He then, with a pencil, wrote those lines, beginning "In thee I fondly hoped to clasp," which were printed in his first unpublished volume, but are not contained in the editions that followed. He also repeated to her the verses I have already referred to, "When in the hall my father's voice," so remarkable for the anticipations of his future fame that glimmer through them.
From this moment the desire of appearing in print took entire possession of him;—though, for the present, his ambition did not extend its views beyond a small volume for private circulation. The person to whom fell the honour of receiving his first manuscripts was Ridge, the bookseller, at Newark; and while the work was printing, the young author continued to pour fresh materials into his hands, with the same eagerness and rapidity that marked the progress of all his maturer works.
His return to Southwell, which he announced in the last letter we have given was but for a very short time. In a week or two after he again left that place, and, accompanied by his young friend Mr. Pigot, set out for Harrowgate. The following extracts are from a letter written by the latter gentleman, at the time to his sister.
"Harrowgate is still extremely full; Wednesday (to-day) is our ball-night, and I meditate going into the room for an hour, although I am by no means fond of strange faces. Lord B., you know, is even more shy than myself; but for an hour this evening I will shake it off.... How do our theatricals proceed? Lord Byron can say all his part, and I most of mine. He certainly acts it inimitably. Lord B. is now poetising, and, since he has been here, has written some very pretty verses. He is very good in trying to amuse me as much as possible, but it is not in my nature to be happy without either female society or study.... There are many pleasant rides about here, which I have taken in company with Bo'swain, who, with Brighton, is universally admired. You must read this to Mrs. B., as it is a little Tony Lumpkinish. Lord B. desires some space left: therefore, with respect to all the comedians elect, believe me to be," &c. &c.
To this letter the following note from Lord Byron was appended:—
"My dear Bridget,
"I have only just dismounted from my Pegasus, which has prevented me from descending to plain prose in an epistle of greater length to your fair self. You regretted, in a former letter, that my poems were not more extensive; I now for your satisfaction announce that I have nearly doubled them, partly by the discovery of some I conceived to be lost, and partly by some new productions. We shall meet on Wednesday next; till then believe me yours affectionately,
"P.S.—Your brother John is seized with a poetic mania, and is now rhyming away at the rate of three lines per hour—so much for inspiration! Adieu!"
By the gentleman, who was thus early the companion and intimate of Lord Byron, and who is now pursuing his profession with the success which his eminent talents deserve, I have been favoured with some further recollections of their visit together to Harrowgate, which I shall take the liberty of giving in his own words:—
"You ask me to recall some anecdotes of the time we spent together at Harrowgate in the summer of 1806, on our return from college, he from Cambridge, and I from Edinburgh; but so many years have elapsed since then, that I really feel myself as if recalling a distant dream. We, I remember, went in Lord Byron's own carriage, with post-horses; and he sent his groom with two saddle-horses, and a beautifully formed, very ferocious, bull-mastiff, called Nelson, to meet us there. Boatswain went by the side of his valet Frank on the box, with us.
"The bull-dog, Nelson, always wore a muzzle, and was occasionally sent for into our private room, when the muzzle was taken off, much to my annoyance, and he and his master amused themselves with throwing the room into disorder. There was always a jealous feud between this Nelson and Boatswain; and whenever the latter came into the room while the former was there, they instantly seized each other: and then, Byron, myself, Frank, and all the waiters that could be found, were vigorously engaged in parting them,—which was in general only effected by thrusting poker and tongs into the mouths of each. But, one day, Nelson unfortunately escaped out of the room without his muzzle, and going into the stable-yard fastened upon the throat of a horse, from which he could not be disengaged. The stable-boys ran in alarm to find Frank, who taking one of his Lord's Wogdon's pistols, always kept loaded in his room, shot poor Nelson through the head, to the great regret of Byron.
"We were at the Crown Inn, at Low Harrowgate. We always dined in the public room, but retired very soon after dinner to our private one; for Byron was no more a friend to drinking than myself. We lived retired, and made few acquaintance; for he was naturally shy, very shy, which people who did not know him mistook for pride. While at Harrowgate he accidentally met with Professor Hailstone from Cambridge, and appeared much delighted to see him. The professor was at Upper Harrowgate: we called upon him one evening to take him to the theatre, I think,—and Lord Byron sent his carriage for him, another time, to a ball at the Granby. This desire to show attention to one of the professors of his college is a proof that, though he might choose to satirise the mode of education in the university, and to abuse the antiquated regulations and restrictions to which under-graduates are subjected, he had yet a due discrimination in his respect for the individuals who belonged to it. I have always, indeed, heard him speak in high terms of praise of Hailstone, as well as of his master, Bishop Mansel, of Trinity College, and of others whose names I have now forgotten.
"Few people understood Byron; but I know that he had naturally a kind and feeling heart, and that there was not a single spark of malice in his composition."
The private theatricals alluded to in the letters from Harrowgate were, both in prospect and performance, a source of infinite delight to him, and took place soon after his return to Southwell. How anxiously he was expected back by all parties, may be judged from the following fragment of a letter which was received by his companion during their absence from home:—
"Tell Lord Byron that, if any accident should retard his return, his mother desires he will write to her, as she shall be miserable if he does not arrive the day he fixes. Mr. W. B. has written a card to Mrs. H. to offer for the character of 'Henry Woodville,'—Mr. and Mrs. —— not approving of their son's taking a part in the play: but I believe he will persist in it. Mr. G. W. says, that sooner than the party should be disappointed, he will take any part,—sing—dance—in short, do any thing to oblige. Till Lord Byron returns, nothing can be done; and positively he must not be later than Tuesday or Wednesday."
We have already seen that, at Harrow, his talent for declamation was the only one by which Lord Byron was particularly distinguished; and in one of his note-books he adverts, with evident satisfaction, both to his school displays and to the share which he took in these representations at Southwell:—
"When I was a youth, I was reckoned a good actor. Besides Harrow speeches (in which I shone), I enacted Penruddock in the Wheel of Fortune, and Tristram Fickle in Allingham's farce of the Weathercock, for three nights (the duration of our compact), in some private theatricals at Southwell, in 1806, with great applause. The occasional prologue for our volunteer play was also of my composition. The other performers were young ladies and gentlemen of the neighbourhood, and the whole went off with great effect upon our good-natured audience."
It may, perhaps, not be altogether trifling to observe, that, in thus personating with such success two heroes so different, the young poet displayed both that love and power of versatility by which he was afterwards impelled, on a grander scale, to present himself under such opposite aspects to the world;—the gloom of Penruddock, and the whim of Tristram, being types, as it were, of the two extremes, between which his own character, in after-life, so singularly vibrated.
These representations, which form a memorable era at Southwell, took place about the latter end of September, in the house of Mr. Leacroft, whose drawing-room was converted into a neat theatre on the occasion, and whose family contributed some of the fair ornaments of its boards. The prologue which Lord Byron furnished, and which may be seen in his "Hours of Idleness," was written by him between stages, on his way from Harrowgate. On getting into the carriage at Chesterfield, he said to his companion, "Now, Pigot, I'll spin a prologue for our play;" and before they reached Mansfield, he had completed his task,—interrupting, only once, his rhyming reverie, to ask the proper pronunciation of the French word debut, and, on being told it, exclaiming, in the true spirit of Byshe, "Ay, that will do for rhyme to new."
The epilogue on the occasion was from the pen of Mr. Becher; and for the purpose of affording to Lord Byron, who was to speak it, an opportunity of displaying his powers of mimicry, consisted of good-humoured portraits of all the persons concerned in the representation. Some intimation of this design having got among the actors, an alarm was felt instantly at the ridicule thus in store for them; and to quiet their apprehensions, the author was obliged to assure them that if, after having heard his epilogue at rehearsal, they did not, of themselves, pronounce it harmless, and even request that it should be preserved, he would most willingly withdraw it. In the mean time, it was concerted between this gentleman and Lord Byron that the latter should, on the morning of rehearsal, deliver the verses in a tone as innocent and as free from all point as possible,—reserving his mimicry, in which the whole sting of the pleasantry lay, for the evening of representation. The desired effect was produced;—all the personages of the green-room were satisfied, and even wondered how a suspicion of waggery could have attached itself to so well-bred a production. Their wonder, however, was of a different nature a night or two after, when, on hearing the audience convulsed with laughter at this same composition, they discovered, at last, the trick which the unsuspected mimic had played on them, and had no other resource than that of joining in the laugh which his playful imitation of the whole dramatis personae excited.
The small volume of poems, which he had now for some time been preparing, was, in the month of November, ready for delivery to the select few among whom it was intended to circulate; and to Mr. Becher the first copy of the work was presented. The influence which this gentleman had, by his love of poetry, his sociability and good sense, acquired at this period over the mind of Lord Byron, was frequently employed by him in guiding the taste of his young friend, no less in matters of conduct than of literature; and the ductility with which this influence was yielded to, in an instance I shall have to mention, will show how far from untractable was the natural disposition of Byron, had he more frequently been lucky enough to fall into hands that "knew the stops" of the instrument, and could draw out its sweetness as well as its strength.
In the wild range which his taste was now allowed to take through the light and miscellaneous literature of the day, it was but natural that he should settle with most pleasure on those works from which the feelings of his age and temperament could extract their most congenial food; and, accordingly, Lord Strangford's Camoens and Little's Poems are said to have been, at this period, his favourite study. To the indulgence of such a taste his reverend friend very laudably opposed himself,—representing with truth, (as far, at least, as the latter author is concerned,) how much more worthy models, both in style and thought, he might find among the established names of English literature. Instead of wasting his time on the ephemeral productions of his contemporaries, he should devote himself, his adviser said, to the pages of Milton and of Shakspeare, and, above all, seek to elevate his fancy and taste by the contemplation of the sublimer beauties of the Bible. In the latter study, this gentleman acknowledges that his advice had been, to a great extent, anticipated, and that with the poetical parts of the Scripture he found Lord Byron deeply conversant:—a circumstance which corroborates the account given by his early master, Dr. Glennie, of his great proficiency in scriptural knowledge while yet but a child under his care.
To Mr. Becher, as I have said, the first copy of his little work was presented; and this gentleman, in looking over its pages, among many things to commend and admire, as well as some almost too boyish to criticise, found one poem in which, as it appeared to him, the imagination of the young bard had indulged itself in a luxuriousness of colouring beyond what even youth could excuse. Immediately, as the most gentle mode of conveying his opinion, he sat down and addressed to Lord Byron some expostulatory verses on the subject, to which an answer, also in verse, was returned by the noble poet as promptly, with, at the same time, a note in plain prose, to say that he felt fully the justice of his reverend friend's censure, and that, rather than allow the poem in question to be circulated, he would instantly recall all the copies that had been sent out, and cancel the whole impression. On the very same evening this prompt sacrifice was carried into effect;—Mr. Becher saw every copy of the edition burned, with the exception of that which he retained in his own possession, and another which had been despatched to Edinburgh, and could not be recalled.
This trait of the young poet speaks sufficiently for itself;—the sensibility, the temper, the ingenuous pliableness which it exhibits, show a disposition capable, by nature, of every thing we most respect and love.
Of a no less amiable character were the feelings that, about this time, dictated the following letter;—a letter which it is impossible to peruse without acknowledging the noble candour and conscientiousness of the writer:—
TO THE EARL OF CLARE.
"Southwell, Notts, February 6. 1807.
"My dearest Clare,
"Were I to make all the apologies necessary to atone for my late negligence, you would justly say you had received a petition instead of a letter, as it would be filled with prayers for forgiveness; but instead of this, I will acknowledge my sins at once, and I trust to your friendship and generosity rather than to my own excuses. Though my health is not perfectly re-established, I am out of all danger, and have recovered every thing but my spirits, which are subject to depression. You will be astonished to hear I have lately written to Delawarre, for the purpose of explaining (as far as possible without involving some old friends of mine in the business) the cause of my behaviour to him during my last residence at Harrow (nearly two years ago), which you will recollect was rather 'en cavalier.' Since that period, I have discovered he was treated with injustice both by those who misrepresented his conduct, and by me in consequence of their suggestions. I have therefore made all the reparation in my power, by apologising for my mistake, though with very faint hopes of success; indeed I never expected any answer, but desired one for form's sake; that has not yet arrived, and most probably never will. However, I have eased my own conscience by the atonement, which is humiliating enough to one of my disposition; yet I could not have slept satisfied with the reflection of having, even unintentionally, injured any individual. I have done all that could be done to repair the injury, and there the affair must end. Whether we renew our intimacy or not is of very trivial consequence.
"My time has lately been much occupied with very different pursuits. I have been transporting a servant, who cheated me,—rather a disagreeable event;—performing in private theatricals;—publishing a volume of poems (at the request of my friends, for their perusal);—making love,—and taking physic. The two last amusements have not had the best effect in the world; for my attentions have been divided amongst so many fair damsels, and the drugs I swallow are of such variety in their composition, that between Venus and Aesculapius I am harassed to death. However, I have still leisure to devote some hours to the recollections of past, regretted friendships, and in the interval to take the advantage of the moment, to assure you how much I am, and ever will be, my dearest Clare,
"Your truly attached and sincere
Considering himself bound to replace the copies of his work which he had withdrawn, as well as to rescue the general character of the volume from the stigma this one offender might bring upon it, he set instantly about preparing a second edition for the press, and, during the ensuing six weeks, continued busily occupied with his task. In the beginning of January we find him forwarding a copy to his friend, Dr. Pigot, in Edinburgh:—
TO MR. PIGOT.
"Southwell, Jan. 13. 1807.
"I ought to begin with sundry apologies, for my own negligence, but the variety of my avocations in prose and verse must plead my excuse. With this epistle you will receive a volume of all my Juvenilia, published since your departure: it is of considerably greater size than the copy in your possession, which I beg you will destroy, as the present is much more complete. That unlucky poem to my poor Mary has been the cause of some animadversion from ladies in years. I have not printed it in this collection, in consequence of my being pronounced a most profligate sinner, in short, a 'young Moore,' by ——, your —— friend. I believe, in general, they have been favourably received, and surely the age of their author will preclude severe criticism. The adventures of my life from sixteen to nineteen, and the dissipation into which I have been thrown in London, have given a voluptuous tint to my ideas; but the occasions which called forth my muse could hardly admit any other colouring. This volume is vastly correct and miraculously chaste. Apropos, talking of love,...
"If you can find leisure to answer this farrago of unconnected nonsense, you need not doubt what gratification will accrue from your reply to yours ever," &c.
To his young friend, Mr. William Bankes, who had met casually with a copy of the work, and wrote him a letter conveying his opinion of it, he returned the following answer:—
TO MR. WILLIAM BANKES.
"Southwell, March 6. 1807.
"Your critique is valuable for many reasons: in the first place, it is the only one in which flattery has borne so slight a part; in the next, I am cloyed with insipid compliments. I have a better opinion of your judgment and ability than your feelings. Accept my most sincere thanks for your kind decision, not less welcome, because totally unexpected. With regard to a more exact estimate, I need not remind you how few of the best poems, in our language, will stand the test of minute or verbal criticism: it can, therefore, hardly be expected the effusions of a boy (and most of these pieces have been produced at an early period) can derive much merit either from the subject or composition. Many of them were written under great depression of spirits, and during severe indisposition:—hence the gloomy turn of the ideas. We coincide in opinion that the 'poesies erotiques' are the most exceptionable; they were, however, grateful to the deities, on whose altars they were offered—more I seek not.
"The portrait of Pomposus was drawn at Harrow, after a long sitting; this accounts for the resemblance, or rather the caricatura. He is your friend, he never was mine—for both our sakes I shall be silent on this head. The collegiate rhymes are not personal—one of the notes may appear so, but could not be omitted. I have little doubt they will be deservedly abused—a just punishment for my unfilial treatment of so excellent an Alma Mater. I sent you no copy, lest we should be placed in the situation of Gil Blas and the Archbishop of Grenada; though running some hazard from the experiment, I wished your verdict to be unbiassed. Had my 'Libellus' been presented previous to your letter, it would have appeared a species of bribe to purchase compliment. I feel no hesitation in saying, I was more anxious to hear your critique, however severe, than the praises of the million. On the same day I was honoured with the encomiums of Mackenzie, the celebrated author of the 'Man of Feeling.' Whether his approbation or yours elated me most, I cannot decide.
"You will receive my Juvenilia,—at least all yet published. I have a large volume in manuscript, which may in part appear hereafter; at present I have neither time nor inclination to prepare it for the press. In the spring I shall return to Trinity, to dismantle my rooms, and bid you a final adieu. The Cam will not be much increased by my tears on the occasion. Your further remarks, however caustic or bitter, to a palate vitiated with the sweets of adulation, will be of service. Johnson has shown us that no poetry is perfect; but to correct mine would be an Herculean labour. In fact I never looked beyond the moment of composition, and published merely at the request of my friends. Notwithstanding so much has been said concerning the 'Genus irritabile vatum,' we shall never quarrel on the subject—poetic fame is by no means the 'acme' of my wishes. Adieu.
This letter was followed by another, on the same subject, to Mr. Bankes, of which, unluckily, only the annexed fragment remains:—
* * * * *
"For my own part, I have suffered severely in the decease of my two greatest friends, the only beings I ever loved (females excepted); I am therefore a solitary animal, miserable enough, and so perfectly a citizen of the world, that whether I pass my days in Great Britain or Kamschatka, is to me a matter of perfect indifference. I cannot evince greater respect for your alteration than by immediately adopting it—this shall be done in the next edition. I am sorry your remarks are not more frequent, as I am certain they would be equally beneficial. Since my last, I have received two critical opinions from Edinburgh, both too flattering for me to detail. One is from Lord Woodhouselee, at the head of the Scotch literati, and a most voluminous writer (his last work is a life of Lord Kaimes); the other from Mackenzie, who sent his decision a second time, more at length. I am not personally acquainted with either of these gentlemen, nor ever requested their sentiments on the subject: their praise is voluntary, and transmitted through the medium of a friend, at whose house they read the productions.
"Contrary to my former intention, I am now preparing a volume for the public at large: my amatory pieces will be exchanged, and others substituted in their place. The whole will be considerably enlarged, and appear the latter end of May. This is a hazardous experiment; but want of better employment, the encouragement I have met with, and my own vanity, induce me to stand the test, though not without sundry palpitations. The book will circulate fast enough in this country, from mere curiosity, what I prin—"
* * * * *
The following modest letter accompanied a copy which he presented to Mr. Falkner, his mother's landlord:—
TO MR. FALKNER.
"The volume of little pieces which accompanies this, would have been presented before, had I not been apprehensive that Miss Falkner's indisposition might render such trifles unwelcome. There are some errors of the printer which I have not had time to correct in the collection: you have it thus, with 'all its imperfections on its head,' a heavy weight, when joined with the faults of its author. Such 'Juvenilia,' as they can claim no great degree of approbation, I may venture to hope, will also escape the severity of uncalled for, though perhaps not undeserved, criticism.
"They were written on many and various occasions, and are now published merely for the perusal of a friendly circle. Believe me, sir, if they afford the slightest amusement to yourself and the rest of my social readers, I shall have gathered all the bays I ever wish to adorn the head of yours,
"P.S.—I hope Miss F. is in a state of recovery."
Notwithstanding this unambitious declaration of the young author, he had that within which would not suffer him to rest so easily; and the fame he had now reaped within a limited circle made him but more eager to try his chance on a wider field. The hundred copies of which this edition consisted were hardly out of his hands, when with fresh activity he went to press again,—and his first published volume, "The Hours of Idleness," made its appearance. Some new pieces which he had written in the interim were added, and no less than twenty of those contained in the former volume omitted;—for what reason does not very clearly appear, as they are, most of them, equal, if not superior, to those retained.
In one of the pieces, reprinted in the "Hours of Idleness," there are some alterations and additions, which, as far as they may be supposed to spring from the known feelings of the poet respecting birth, are curious. This poem, which is entitled "Epitaph on a Friend," appears, from the lines I am about to give, to have been, in its original state, intended to commemorate the death of the same lowly born youth, to whom some affectionate verses, cited in a preceding page, were addressed:—
"Though low thy lot, since in a cottage born, No titles did thy humble name adorn; To me, far dearer was thy artless love Than all the joys wealth, fame, and friends could prove."
But, in the altered form of the epitaph, not only this passage, but every other containing an allusion to the low rank of his young companion, is omitted; while, in the added parts, the introduction of such language as