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Life of Lord Byron, Vol. I. (of VI.) - With his Letters and Journals.
by Thomas Moore
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"What, though thy sire lament his failing line,"

seems calculated to give an idea of the youth's station in life, wholly different from that which the whole tenour of the original epitaph warrants. The other poem, too, which I have mentioned, addressed evidently to the same boy, and speaking in similar terms, of the "lowness" of his "lot," is, in the "Hours of Idleness," altogether omitted. That he grew more conscious of his high station, as he approached to manhood, is not improbable; and this wish to sink his early friendship with the young cottager may have been a result of that feeling.

As his visits to Southwell were, after this period, but few and transient, I shall take the present opportunity of mentioning such miscellaneous particulars respecting his habits and mode of life, while there, as I have been able to collect.

Though so remarkably shy, when he first went to Southwell, this reserve, as he grew more acquainted with the young people of the place, wore off; till, at length, he became a frequenter of their assemblies and dinner-parties, and even felt mortified if he heard of a rout to which he was not invited. His horror, however, at new faces still continued; and if, while at Mrs. Pigot's, he saw strangers approaching the house, he would instantly jump out of the window to avoid them. This natural shyness concurred with no small degree of pride to keep him aloof from the acquaintance of the gentlemen in the neighbourhood, whose visits, in more than one instance, he left unreturned;—some under the plea that their ladies had not visited his mother; others, because they had neglected to pay him this compliment sooner. The true reason, however, of the haughty distance, at which, both now and afterwards, he stood apart from his more opulent neighbours, is to be found in his mortifying consciousness of the inadequacy of his own means to his rank, and the proud dread of being made to feel this inferiority by persons to whom, in every other respect, he knew himself superior. His friend, Mr. Becher, frequently expostulated with him on this unsociableness; and to his remonstrances, on one occasion, Lord Byron returned a poetical answer, so remarkably prefiguring the splendid burst, with which his own volcanic genius opened upon the world, that as the volume containing the verses is in very few hands, I cannot resist the temptation of giving a few extracts here:—

"Dear Becher, you tell me to mix with mankind,— I cannot deny such a precept is wise; But retirement accords with the tone of my mind, And I will not descend to a world I despise.

"Did the Senate or Camp my exertions require, Ambition might prompt me at once to go forth; And, when infancy's years of probation expire, Perchance, I may strive to distinguish my birth.

_"The fire, in the cavern of AEtna concealed, Still mantles unseen, in its secret recess;— At length, in a volume terrific revealed, No torrent can quench it, no bounds can repress.

"Oh thus, the desire in my bosom for fame Bids me live but to hope for Posterity's praise; Could I soar, with the Phoenix, on pinions of flame, With him I would wish to expire in the blaze._

"For the life of a Fox, of a Chatham the death, What censure, what danger, what woe would I brave? Their lives did not end when they yielded their breath,— Their glory illumines the gloom of the grave!"

In his hours of rising and retiring to rest he was, like his mother, always very late; and this habit he never altered during the remainder of his life. The night, too, was at this period, as it continued afterwards, his favourite time for composition; and his first visit in the morning was generally paid to the fair friend who acted as his amanuensis, and to whom he then gave whatever new products of his brain the preceding night might have inspired. His next visit was usually to his friend Mr. Becher's, and from thence to one or two other houses on the Green, after which the rest of the day was devoted to his favourite exercises. The evenings he usually passed with the same family, among whom he began his morning, either in conversation, or in hearing Miss Pigot play upon the piano-forte, and singing over with her a certain set of songs which he admired,[59]—among which the "Maid of Lodi," (with the words, "My heart with love is beating,") and "When Time who steals our years away," were, it seems, his particular favourites. He appears, indeed, to have, even thus early, shown a decided taste for that sort of regular routine of life,—bringing round the same occupations at the stated periods,—which formed so much the system of his existence during the greater part of his residence abroad.

Those exercises, to which he flew for distraction in less happy days, formed his enjoyment now; and between swimming, sparring, firing at a mark, and riding,[60] the greater part of his time was passed. In the last of these accomplishments he was by no means very expert. As an instance of his little knowledge of horses, it is told, that, seeing a pair one day pass his window, he exclaimed, "What beautiful horses! I should like to buy them."—"Why, they are your own, my Lord," said his servant. Those who knew him, indeed, at that period, were rather surprised, in after-life, to hear so much of his riding;—and the truth is, I am inclined to think, that he was at no time a very adroit horse-man.

In swimming and diving we have already seen, by his own accounts, he excelled; and a lady in Southwell, among other precious relics of him, possesses a thimble which he borrowed of her one morning, when on his way to bathe in the Greet, and which, as was testified by her brother, who accompanied him, he brought up three times successively from the bottom of the river. His practice of firing at a mark was the occasion, once, of some alarm to a very beautiful young person, Miss H.,—one of that numerous list of fair ones by whom his imagination was dazzled while at Southwell. A poem relating to this occurrence, which may be found in his unpublished volume, is thus introduced:—"As the author was discharging his pistols in a garden, two ladies, passing near the spot, were alarmed by the sound of a bullet hissing near them, to one of whom the following stanzas were addressed the next morning."

Such a passion, indeed, had he for arms of every description, that there generally lay a small sword by the side of his bed, with which he used to amuse himself, as he lay awake in the morning, by thrusting it through his bed-hangings. The person who purchased this bed at the sale of Mrs. Byron's furniture, on her removal to Newstead, gave out—with the view of attaching a stronger interest to the holes in the curtains—that they were pierced by the same sword with which the old lord had killed Mr. Chaworth, and which his descendant always kept as a memorial by his bedside. Such is the ready process by which fiction is often engrafted upon fact;—the sword in question being a most innocent and bloodless weapon, which Lord Byron, during his visits at Southwell, used to borrow of one of his neighbours.

His fondness for dogs—another fancy which accompanied him through life—may be judged from the anecdotes already given, in the account of his expedition to Harrowgate. Of his favourite dog Boatswain, whom he has immortalised in verse, and by whose side it was once his solemn purpose to be buried, some traits are told, indicative, not only of intelligence, but of a generosity of spirit, which might well win for him the affections of such a master as Byron. One of these I shall endeavour to relate as nearly as possible as it was told to me. Mrs. Byron had a fox-terrier, called Gilpin, with whom her son's dog, Boatswain, was perpetually at war,[61] taking every opportunity of attacking and worrying him so violently, that it was very much apprehended he would kill the animal. Mrs. Byron therefore sent off her terrier to a tenant at Newstead; and on the departure of Lord Byron for Cambridge, his "friend" Boatswain, with two other dogs, was intrusted to the care of a servant till his return. One morning the servant was much alarmed by the disappearance of Boatswain, and throughout the whole of the day he could hear no tidings of him. At last, towards evening, the stray dog arrived, accompanied by Gilpin, whom he led immediately to the kitchen fire, licking him and lavishing upon him every possible demonstration of joy. The fact was, he had been all the way to Newstead to fetch him; and having now established his former foe under the roof once more, agreed so perfectly well with him ever after, that he even protected him against the insults of other dogs (a task which the quarrelsomeness of the little terrier rendered no sinecure), and, if he but heard Gilpin's voice in distress, would fly instantly to his rescue.

In addition to the natural tendency to superstition, which is usually found connected with the poetical temperament, Lord Byron had also the example and influence of his mother, acting upon him from infancy, to give his mind this tinge. Her implicit belief in the wonders of second sight, and the strange tales she told of this mysterious faculty, used to astonish not a little her sober English friends; and it will be seen, that, at so late a period as the death of his friend Shelley, the idea of fetches and forewarnings impressed upon him by his mother had not wholly lost possession of the poet's mind. As an instance of a more playful sort of superstition I may be allowed to mention a slight circumstance told me of him by one of his Southwell friends. This lady had a large agate bead with a wire through it, which had been taken out of a barrow, and lay always in her work-box. Lord Byron asking one day what it was, she told him that it had been given her as an amulet, and the charm was, that as long as she had this bead in her possession, she should never be in love. "Then give it to me," he cried, eagerly, "for that's just the thing I want." The young lady refused;—but it was not long before the bead disappeared. She taxed him with the theft, and he owned it; but said, she never should see her amulet again.

Of his charity and kind-heartedness he left behind him at Southwell—as, indeed, at every place, throughout life, where he resided any time—the most cordial recollections. "He never," says a person, who knew him intimately at this period, "met with objects of distress without affording them succour." Among many little traits of this nature, which his friends delight to tell, I select the following,—less as a proof of his generosity, than from the interest which the simple incident itself, as connected with the name of Byron, presents. While yet a school-boy, he happened to be in a bookseller's shop at Southwell, when a poor woman came in to purchase a Bible. The price, she was told by the shopman, was eight shillings. "Ah, dear sir," she exclaimed, "I cannot pay such a price; I did not think it would cost half the money." The woman was then, with a look of disappointment, going away,—when young Byron called her back, and made her a present of the Bible.

In his attention to his person and dress, to the becoming arrangement of his hair, and to whatever might best show off the beauty with which nature had gifted him, he manifested, even thus early, his anxiety to make himself pleasing to that sex who were, from first to last, the ruling stars of his destiny. The fear of becoming, what he was naturally inclined to be, enormously fat, had induced him, from his first entrance at Cambridge, to adopt, for the purpose of reducing himself, a system of violent exercise and abstinence, together with the frequent use of warm baths. But the embittering circumstance of his life,—that, which haunted him like a curse, amidst the buoyancy of youth, and the anticipations of fame and pleasure, was, strange to say, the trifling deformity of his foot. By that one slight blemish (as in his moments of melancholy he persuaded himself) all the blessings that nature had showered upon him were counterbalanced. His reverend friend, Mr. Becher, finding him one day unusually dejected, endeavoured to cheer and rouse him, by representing, in their brightest colours, all the various advantages with which Providence had endowed him,—and, among the greatest, that of "a mind which placed him above the rest of mankind."—"Ah, my dear friend," said Byron, mournfully,—"if this (laying his hand on his forehead) places me above the rest of mankind, that (pointing to his foot) places me far, far below them."

It sometimes, indeed, seemed as if his sensitiveness on this point led him to fancy that he was the only person in the world afflicted with such an infirmity. When that accomplished scholar and traveller, Mr. D. Baillie, who was at the same school with him at Aberdeen, met him afterwards at Cambridge, the young peer had then grown so fat that, though accosted by him familiarly as his school-fellow, it was not till he mentioned his name that Mr. Baillie could recognise him. "It is odd enough, too, that you shouldn't know me," said Byron—"I thought nature had set such a mark upon me, that I could never be forgot."

But, while this defect was such a source of mortification to his spirit, it was also, and in an equal degree, perhaps, a stimulus:—and more especially in whatever depended upon personal prowess or attractiveness, he seemed to feel himself piqued by this stigma, which nature, as he thought, had set upon him, to distinguish himself above those whom she had endowed with her more "fair proportion." In pursuits of gallantry he was, I have no doubt, a good deal actuated by this incentive; and the hope of astonishing the world, at some future period, as a chieftain and hero, mingled little less with his young dreams than the prospect of a poet's glory. "I will, some day or other," he used to say, when a boy, "raise a troop,—the men of which shall be dressed in black, and ride on black horses. They shall be called 'Byron's Blacks,' and you will hear of their performing prodigies of valour."

I have already adverted to the exceeding eagerness with which, while at Harrow, he devoured all sorts of learning,—excepting only that which, by the regimen of the school, was prescribed for him. The same rapid and multifarious course of study he pursued during the holidays; and, in order to deduct as little as possible from his hours of exercise, he had given himself the habit, while at home, of reading all dinner-time.[62] In a mind so versatile as his, every novelty, whether serious or light, whether lofty or ludicrous, found a welcome and an echo; and I can easily conceive the glee—as a friend of his once described it to me—with which he brought to her, one evening, a copy of Mother Goose's Tales, which he had bought from a hawker that morning, and read, for the first time, while he dined.

I shall now give, from a memorandum-book begun by him this year, the account, as I find it hastily and promiscuously scribbled out, of all the books in various departments of knowledge, which he had already perused at a period of life when few of his school-fellows had yet travelled beyond their longs and shorts. The list is, unquestionably, a remarkable one;—and when we recollect that the reader of all these volumes was, at the same time, the possessor of a most retentive memory, it may be doubted whether, among what are called the regularly educated, the contenders for scholastic honours and prizes, there could be found a single one who, at the same age, has possessed any thing like the same stock of useful knowledge.

"LIST OF HISTORICAL WRITERS WHOSE WORKS I HAVE PERUSED IN DIFFERENT LANGUAGES."

"History of England.—Hume, Rapin, Henry, Smollet, Tindal, Belsham, Bisset, Adolphus, Holinshed, Froissart's Chronicles (belonging properly to France).

"Scotland.—Buchanan, Hector Boethius, both in the Latin.

"Ireland.—Gordon.

"Rome.—Hooke, Decline and Fall by Gibbon, Ancient History by Rollin (including an account of the Carthaginians, &c.), besides Livy, Tacitus, Eutropius, Cornelius Nepos, Julius Caesar, Arrian. Sallust.

"Greece.—Mitford's Greece, Leland's Philip, Plutarch, Potter's Antiquities, Xenophon, Thucydides, Herodotus.

"France.—Mezeray, Voltaire.

"Spain.—I chiefly derived my knowledge of old Spanish History from a book called the Atlas, now obsolete. The modern history, from the intrigues of Alberoni down to the Prince of Peace, I learned from its connection with European politics.

"Portugal.—From Vertot; as also his account of the Siege of Rhodes,—though the last is his own invention, the real facts being totally different.—So much for his Knights of Malta.

"Turkey.—I have read Knolles, Sir Paul Rycaut, and Prince Cantemir, besides a more modern history, anonymous. Of the Ottoman History I know every event, from Tangralopi, and afterwards Othman I., to the peace of Passarowitz, in 1718,—the battle of Cutzka, in 1739, and the treaty between Russia and Turkey in 1790.

"Russia.—Tooke's Life of Catherine II., Voltaire's Czar Peter.

"Sweden.—Voltaire's Charles XII., also Norberg's Charles XII.—in my opinion the best of the two.—A translation of Schiller's Thirty Years' War, which contains the exploits of Gustavus Adolphus, besides Harte's Life of the same Prince. I have somewhere, too, read an account of Gustavus Vasa, the deliverer of Sweden, but do not remember the author's name.

"Prussia.—I have seen, at least, twenty Lives of Frederick II., the only prince worth recording in Prussian annals. Gillies, his own Works, and Thiebault,—none very amusing. The last is paltry, but circumstantial.

"Denmark—I know little of. Of Norway I understand the natural history, but not the chronological.

"Germany.—I have read long histories of the house of Suabia, Wenceslaus, and, at length, Rodolph of Hapsburgh and his thick-lipped Austrian descendants.

"Switzerland.—Ah! William Tell, and the battle of Morgarten, where Burgundy was slain.

"Italy.—Davila, Guicciardini, the Guelphs and Ghibellines, the battle of Pavia, Massaniello, the revolutions of Naples, &c. &c.

"Hindostan—Orme and Cambridge.

"America.—Robertson, Andrews' American War.

"Africa—merely from travels, as Mungo Park, Bruce.

"BIOGRAPHY.

"Robertson's Charles V.—Caesar, Sallust (Catiline and Jugurtha), Lives of Marlborough and Eugene, Tekeli, Bonnard, Buonaparte, all the British Poets, both by Johnson and Anderson, Rousseau's Confessions, Life of Cromwell, British Plutarch, British Nepos, Campbell's Lives of the Admirals, Charles XII., Czar Peter, Catherine II., Henry Lord Kaimes, Marmontel, Teignmouth's Sir William Jones, Life of Newton, Belisaire, with thousands not to be detailed.

"LAW.

"Blackstone, Montesquieu.

"PHILOSOPHY.

"Paley, Locke, Bacon, Hume, Berkeley, Drummond, Beattie, and Bolingbroke. Hobbes I detest.

"GEOGRAPHY.

"Strabo, Cellarius, Adams, Pinkerton, and Guthrie.

"POETRY.

"All the British Classics as before detailed, with most of the living poets, Scott, Southey, &c.—Some French, in the original, of which the Cid is my favourite.—Little Italian.—Greek and Latin without number;—these last I shall give up in future.—I have translated a good deal from both languages, verse as well as prose.

"ELOQUENCE.

"Demosthenes, Cicero, Quintilian, Sheridan, Austin's Chironomia, and Parliamentary Debates from the Revolution to the year 1742.

"DIVINITY.

"Blair, Porteus, Tillotson, Hooker,—all very tiresome. I abhor books of religion, though I reverence and love my God, without the blasphemous notions of sectaries, or belief in their absurd and damnable heresies, mysteries, and Thirty-nine Articles.

"MISCELLANIES.

"Spectator, Rambler, World, &c. &c.—Novels by the thousand.

"All the books here enumerated I have taken down from memory. I recollect reading them, and can quote passages from any mentioned. I have, of course, omitted several in my catalogue; but the greater part of the above I perused before the age of fifteen. Since I left Harrow, I have become idle and conceited, from scribbling rhyme and making love to women. B.—Nov. 30. 1807.

"I have also read (to my regret at present) above four thousand novels, including the works of Cervantes, Fielding, Smollet, Richardson, Mackenzie, Sterne, Rabelais, and Rousseau, &c. &c. The book, in my opinion, most useful to a man who wishes to acquire the reputation of being well read, with the least trouble, is "Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy," the most amusing and instructive medley of quotations and classical anecdotes I ever perused. But a superficial reader must take care, or his intricacies will bewilder him. If, however, he has patience to go through his volumes, he will be more improved for literary conversation than by the perusal of any twenty other works with which I am acquainted,—at least, in the English language."

To this early and extensive study of English writers may be attributed that mastery over the resources of his own language with which Lord Byron came furnished into the field of literature, and which enabled him, as fast as his youthful fancies sprung up, to clothe them with a diction worthy of their strength and beauty. In general, the difficulty of young writers, at their commencement, lies far less in any lack of thoughts or images, than in that want of a fitting organ to give those conceptions vent, to which their unacquaintance with the great instrument of the man of genius, his native language, dooms them. It will be found, indeed, that the three most remarkable examples of early authorship, which, in their respective lines, the history of literature affords—Pope, Congreve, and Chatterton—were all of them persons self-educated,[63] according to their own intellectual wants and tastes, and left, undistracted by the worse than useless pedantries of the schools, to seek, in the pure "well of English undefiled," those treasures of which they accordingly so very early and intimately possessed themselves.[64] To these three instances may now be added, virtually, that of Lord Byron, who, though a disciple of the schools, was, intellectually speaking, in them, not of them, and who, while his comrades were prying curiously into the graves of dead languages, betook himself to the fresh, living sources of his own,[65] and from thence drew those rich, varied stores of diction, which have placed his works, from the age of two-and-twenty upwards, among the most precious depositories of the strength and sweetness of the English language that our whole literature supplies.

In the same book that contains the above record of his studies, he has written out, also from memory, a "List of the different poets, dramatic or otherwise, who have distinguished their respective languages by their productions." After enumerating the various poets, both ancient and modern, of Europe, he thus proceeds with his catalogue through other quarters of the world:—

"Arabia.—Mahomet, whose Koran contains most sublime poetical passages, far surpassing European poetry.

"Persia.—Ferdousi, author of the Shah Nameh, the Persian Iliad—Sadi, and Hafiz, the immortal Hafiz, the oriental Anacreon. The last is reverenced beyond any bard of ancient or modern times by the Persians, who resort to his tomb near Shiraz, to celebrate his memory. A splendid copy of his works is chained to his monument.

"America.—An epic poet has already appeared in that hemisphere, Barlow, author of the Columbiad,—not to be compared with the works of more polished nations.

"Iceland, Denmark, Norway, were famous for their Skalds. Among these Lodburgh was one of the most distinguished. His Death Song breathes ferocious sentiments, but a glorious and impassioned strain of poetry.

"Hindostan is undistinguished by any great bard,—at least the Sanscrit is so imperfectly known to Europeans, we know not what poetical relics may exist.

"The Birman Empire.—Here the natives are passionately fond of poetry, but their bards are unknown.

"China.—I never heard of any Chinese poet but the Emperor Kien Long, and his ode to Tea. What a pity their philosopher Confucius did not write poetry, with his precepts of morality!

"Africa.—In Africa some of the native melodies are plaintive, and the words simple and affecting; but whether their rude strains of nature can be classed with poetry, as the songs of the bards, the Skalds of Europe, &c. &c., I know not.

"This brief list of poets I have written down from memory, without any book of reference; consequently some errors may occur, but I think, if any, very trivial. The works of the European, and some of the Asiatic, I have perused, either in the original or translations. In my list of English, I have merely mentioned the greatest;—to enumerate the minor poets would be useless, as well as tedious. Perhaps Gray, Goldsmith, and Collins, might have been added, as worthy of mention, in a cosmopolite account. But as for the others, from Chaucer down to Churchill, they are 'voces et praeterea nihil;'—sometimes spoken of, rarely read, and never with advantage. Chaucer, notwithstanding the praises bestowed on him, I think obscene and contemptible:—he owes his celebrity merely to his antiquity, which he does not deserve so well as Pierce Plowman, or Thomas of Ercildoune. English living poets I have avoided mentioning;—we have none who will not survive their productions. Taste is over with us; and another century will sweep our empire, our literature, and our name, from all but a place in the annals of mankind.

"November 30. 1807.

BYRON."

Among the papers of his in my possession are several detached poems (in all nearly six hundred lines), which he wrote about this period, but never printed—having produced most of them after the publication of his "Hours of Idleness." The greater number of these have little, besides his name, to recommend them; but there are a few that, from the feelings and circumstances that gave rise to them, will, I have no doubt, be interesting to the reader. When he first went to Newstead, on his arrival from Aberdeen, he planted, it seems, a young oak in some part of the grounds, and had an idea that as it flourished so should he. Some six or seven years after, on revisiting the spot, he found his oak choked up by weeds, and almost destroyed. In this circumstance, which happened soon after Lord Grey de Ruthen left Newstead, originated one of these poems, which consists of five stanzas, but of which the few opening lines will be a sufficient specimen:—

"Young Oak, when I planted thee deep in the ground, I hoped that thy days would be longer than mine; That thy dark-waving branches would flourish around, And ivy thy trunk with its mantle entwine.

"Such, such was my hope, when, in infancy's years, On the land of my fathers I rear'd thee with pride; They are past, and I water thy stem with my tears,— Thy decay, not the weeds that surround thee can hide.

"I left thee, my Oak, and, since that fatal hour, A stranger has dwelt in the hall of my sire," &c. &c.

The subject of the verses that follow is sufficiently explained by the notice which he has prefixed to them; and, as illustrative of the romantic and almost lovelike feeling which he threw into his school friendships, they appeared to me, though rather quaint and elaborate, to be worth preserving.

"Some years ago, when at H——, a friend of the author engraved on a particular spot the names of both, with a few additional words as a memorial. Afterwards, on receiving some real or imagined injury, the author destroyed the frail record before he left H——. On revisiting the place in 1807, he wrote under it the following stanzas:—

"Here once engaged the stranger's view Young Friendship's record simply traced; Few were her words,—but yet though few, Resentment's hand the line defaced.

"Deeply she cut—but, not erased, The characters were still so plain, That Friendship once return'd, and gazed,— Till Memory hail'd the words again.

"Repentance placed them as before; Forgiveness join'd her gentle name; So fair the inscription seem'd once more That Friendship thought it still the same.

"Thus might the record now have been; But, ah, in spite of Hope's endeavour, Or Friendship's tears, Pride rush'd between, And blotted out the line for ever!"

The same romantic feeling of friendship breathes throughout another of these poems, in which he has taken for the subject the ingenious thought "L'Amitie est l'Amour sans ailes," and concludes every stanza with the words, "Friendship is Love without his wings." Of the nine stanzas of which this poem consists, the three following appear the most worthy of selection:—

"Why should my anxious breast repine, Because my youth is fled? Days of delight may still be mine, Affection is not dead. In tracing back the years of youth, One firm record, one lasting truth Celestial consolation brings; Bear it, ye breezes, to the seat, Where first my heart responsive beat,— 'Friendship is Love without his wings!'

"Seat of my youth! thy distant spire Recalls each scene of joy; My bosom glows with former fire,— In mind again a boy. Thy grove of elms, thy verdant hill, Thy every path delights me still, Each flower a double fragrance flings; Again, as once, in converse gay, Each dear associate seems to say, 'Friendship is Love without his wings!'

"My Lycus! wherefore dost thou weep? Thy falling tears restrain; Affection for a time may sleep, But, oh, 'twill wake again. Think, think, my friend, when next we meet, Our long-wish'd intercourse, how sweet! From this my hope of rapture springs, While youthful hearts thus fondly swell, Absence, my friend, can only tell, 'Friendship is Love without his wings!'"

Whether the verses I am now about to give are, in any degree, founded on fact, I have no accurate means of determining. Fond as he was of recording every particular of his youth, such an event, or rather era, as is here commemorated, would have been, of all others, the least likely to pass unmentioned by him;—and yet neither in conversation nor in any of his writings do I remember even an allusion to it.[66] On the other hand, so entirely was all that he wrote,—making allowance for the embellishments of fancy,—the transcript of his actual life and feelings, that it is not easy to suppose a poem, so full of natural tenderness, to have been indebted for its origin to imagination alone.

"TO MY SON!

"Those flaxen locks, those eyes of blue, Bright as thy mother's in their hue; Those rosy lips, whose dimples play And smile to steal the heart away, Recall a scene of former joy, And touch thy Father's heart, my Boy!

"And thou canst lisp a father's name— Ah, William, were thine own the same, No self-reproach—but, let me cease— My care for thee shall purchase peace; Thy mother's shade shall smile in joy, And pardon all the past, my Boy!

"Her lowly grave the turf has prest, And thou hast known a stranger's breast. Derision sneers upon thy birth, And yields thee scarce a name on earth; Yet shall not these one hope destroy,— A Father's heart is thine, my Boy!

"Why, let the world unfeeling frown, Must I fond Nature's claim disown? Ah, no—though moralists reprove, I hail thee, dearest child of love, Fair cherub, pledge of youth and joy— A Father guards thy birth, my Boy!

"Oh, 'twill be sweet in thee to trace, Ere age has wrinkled o'er my face, Ere half my glass of life is run, At once a brother and a son; And all my wane of years employ In justice done to thee, my Boy!

"Although so young thy heedless sire, Youth will not damp parental fire; And, wert thou still less dear to me, While Helen's form revives in thee, The breast, which beat to former joy, Will ne'er desert its pledge, my Boy!

"B——, 1807."[67]

But the most remarkable of these poems is one of a date prior to any I have given, being written in December, 1806, when he was not yet nineteen years old. It contains, as will be seen, his religious creed at that period, and shows how early the struggle between natural piety and doubt began in his mind.

"THE PRAYER OF NATURE.

"Father of Light! great God of Heaven! Hear'st thou the accents of despair? Can guilt like man's be e'er forgiven? Can vice atone for crimes by prayer? Father of Light, on thee I call! Thou see'st my soul is dark within; Thou who canst mark the sparrow's fall, Avert from me the death of sin. No shrine I seek, to sects unknown, Oh point to me the path of truth! Thy dread omnipotence I own, Spare, yet amend, the faults of youth. Let bigots rear a gloomy fane, Let superstition hail the pile, Let priests, to spread their sable reign, With tales of mystic rites beguile. Shall man confine his Maker's sway To Gothic domes of mouldering stone? Thy temple is the face of day; Earth, ocean, heaven, thy boundless throne. Shall man condemn his race to hell Unless they bend in pompous form; Tell us that all, for one who fell, Must perish in the mingling storm? Shall each pretend to reach the skies, Yet doom his brother to expire, Whose soul a different hope supplies, Or doctrines less severe inspire? Shall these, by creeds they can't expound, Prepare a fancied bliss or woe? Shall reptiles, grovelling on the ground, Their great Creator's purpose know? Shall those who live for self alone, Whose years float on in daily crime— Shall they by Faith for guilt atone, And live beyond the bounds of Time? Father! no prophet's laws I seek,— Thy laws in Nature's works appear;— I own myself corrupt and weak, Yet will I pray, for thou wilt hear! Thou, who canst guide the wandering star Through trackless realms of AEther's space; Who calm'st the elemental war, Whose hand from pole to pole I trace: Thou, who in wisdom placed me here, Who, when thou wilt, can take me hence, Ah! whilst I tread this earthly sphere, Extend to me thy wide defence. To Thee, my God, to Thee I call! Whatever weal or woe betide, By thy command I rise or fall, In thy protection I confide. If, when this dust to dust restored, My soul shall float on airy wing, How shall thy glorious name adored, Inspire her feeble voice to sing! But, if this fleeting spirit share With clay the grave's eternal bed, While life yet throbs, I raise my prayer, Though doom'd no more to quit the dead. To Thee I breathe my humble strain, Grateful for all thy mercies past, And hope, my God, to thee again This erring life may fly at last.

"29th Dec. 1806.

BYRON."

In another of these poems, which extends to about a hundred lines, and which he wrote under the melancholy impression that he should soon die, we find him concluding with a prayer in somewhat the same spirit. After bidding adieu to all the favourite scenes of his youth,[68] he thus continues,—

"Forget this world, my restless sprite, Turn, turn thy thoughts to Heav'n: There must thou soon direct thy night, If errors are forgiven. To bigots and to sects unknown. Bow down beneath the Almighty's throne;— To him address thy trembling prayer; He, who is merciful and just, Will not reject a child of dust, Although his meanest care. Father of Light, to thee I call, My soul is dark within; Thou, who canst mark the sparrow fall, Avert the death of sin. Thou, who canst guide the wandering star, Who calm'st the elemental war, Whose mantle is yon boundless sky, My thoughts, my words, my crimes forgive; And, since I soon must cease to live, Instruct me how to die.

1807."

We have seen, by a former letter, that the law proceedings for the recovery of his Rochdale property had been attended with success in some trial of the case at Lancaster. The following note to one of his Southwell friends, announcing a second triumph of the cause, shows how sanguinely and, as it turned out, erroneously, he calculated on the results.

"Feb. 9. 1807.

Dear ——,

"I have the pleasure to inform you we have gained the Rochdale cause a second time, by which I am, L60,000 plus. Yours ever,

"BYRON."

In the month of April we find him still at Southwell, and addressing to his friend, Dr. Pigot, who was at Edinburgh, the following note[69]:—

"Southwell, April, 1807.

"My dear Pigot,

"Allow me to congratulate you on the success of your first examination—'Courage, mon ami.' The title of Doctor will do wonders with the damsels. I shall most probably be in Essex or London when you arrive at this d——d place, where I am detained by the publication of my rhymes.

"Adieu.—Believe me yours very truly,

"BYRON.

"P.S. Since we met, I have reduced myself by violent exercise, much physic, and hot bathing, from 14 stone 6 lb. to 12 stone 7 lb. In all I have lost 27 pounds. Bravo!—what say you?"

His movements and occupations for the remainder of this year will be best collected from a series of his own letters, which I am enabled, by the kindness of the lady to whom they were addressed, to give. Though these letters are boyishly[70] written, and a good deal of their pleasantry is of that conventional kind which depends more upon phrase than thought, they will yet, I think, be found curious and interesting, not only as enabling us to track him through this period of his life, but as throwing light upon various little traits of character, and laying open to us the first working of his hopes and fears while waiting, in suspense, the opinions that were to decide, as he thought, his future fame. The first of the series, which is without date, appears to have been written before he had left Southwell. The other letters, it will be seen, are dated from Cambridge and from London.

LETTER 12.

TO MISS ——.

"June 11. 1807.

"Dear Queen Bess,

"Savage ought to be immortal:—though not a thorough-bred bull-dog, he is the finest puppy I ever saw, and will answer much better; in his great and manifold kindness he has already bitten my fingers, and disturbed the gravity of old Boatswain, who is grievously discomposed. I wish to be informed what he costs, his expenses, &c. &c., that I may indemnify Mr. G——. My thanks are all I can give for the trouble he has taken, make a long speech, and conclude it with 1 2 3 4 5 6 7.[71] I am out of practice, so deputize you as legate,—ambassador would not do in a matter concerning the Pope, which I presume this must, as the whole turns upon a Bull.

"Yours,

"BYRON.

"P.S. I write in bed."

LETTER 13.

TO MISS ——.

"Cambridge, June 30. 1807.

"'Better late than never, Pal,'" is a saying of which you know the origin, and as it is applicable on the present occasion, you will excuse its conspicuous place in the front of my epistle. I am almost superannuated here. My old friends (with the exception of a very few) all departed, and I am preparing to follow them, but remain till Monday to be present at three Oratorios, two Concerts, a Fair, and a Ball. I find I am not only thinner but taller by an inch since my last visit. I was obliged to tell every body my name, nobody having the least recollection of my visage, or person. Even the hero of my Cornelian (who is now sitting vis-a-vis, reading a volume of my Poetics) passed me in Trinity walks without recognising me in the least, and was thunderstruck at the alteration which had taken place in my countenance, &c. &c. Some say I look better, others worse, but all agree I am thinner—more I do not require. I have lost two pounds in my weight since I left your cursed, detestable, and abhorred abode of scandal,[72] where, excepting yourself and John Becher, I care not if the whole race were consigned to the Pit of Acheron, which I would visit in person rather than contaminate my sandals with the polluted dust of Southwell. Seriously, unless obliged by the emptiness of my purse to revisit Mrs. B., you will see me no more.

"On Monday I depart for London. I quit Cambridge with little regret, because our set are vanished, and my musical protege before mentioned has left the choir, and is stationed in a mercantile house of considerable eminence in the metropolis. You may have heard me observe he is exactly to an hour two years younger than myself. I found him grown considerably, and, as you will suppose, very glad to see his former Patron. He is nearly my height, very thin, very fair complexion, dark eyes, and light locks. My opinion of his mind you already know;—I hope I shall never have occasion to change it. Every body here conceives me to be an invalid. The University at present is very gay from the fetes of divers kinds. I supped out last night, but eat (or ate) nothing, sipped a bottle of claret, went to bed at two, and rose at eight. I have commenced early rising, and find it agrees with me. The Masters and the Fellows all very polite, but look a little askance—don't much admire lampoons—truth always disagreeable.

"Write, and tell me how the inhabitants of your Menagerie go on, and if my publication goes off well: do the quadrupeds growl? Apropos, my bull-dog is deceased—'Flesh both of cur and man is grass.' Address your answer to Cambridge. If I am gone, it will be forwarded. Sad news just arrived—Russians beat—a bad set, eat nothing but oil, consequently must melt before a hard fire. I get awkward in my academic habiliments for want of practice. Got up in a window to hear the oratorio at St. Mary's, popped down in the middle of the Messiah, tore a woeful rent in the back of my best black silk gown, and damaged an egregious pair of breeches. Mem.—never tumbled from a church window during service. Adieu, dear ——! do not remember me to any body:—to forget and be forgotten by the people of Southwell is all I aspire to."

LETTER 14.

TO MISS ——.

"Trin. Coll. Camb. July 5. 1807.

"Since my last letter I have determined to reside another year at Granta, as my rooms, &c. &c. are finished in great style, several old friends come up again, and many new acquaintances made; consequently my inclination leads me forward, and I shall return to college in October if still alive. My life here has been one continued routine of dissipation—out at different places every day, engaged to more dinners, &c. &c. than my stay would permit me to fulfil. At this moment I write with a bottle of claret in my head and tears in my eyes; for I have just parted with my 'Cornelian,' who spent the evening with me. As it was our last interview, I postponed my engagement to devote the hours of the Sabbath to friendship:—Edleston and I have separated for the present, and my mind is a chaos of hope and sorrow. To-morrow I set out for London: you will address your answer to 'Gordon's Hotel, Albemarle Street,' where I sojourn during my visit to the metropolis.

"I rejoice to hear you are interested in my protege; he has been my almost constant associate since October, 1805, when I entered Trinity College. His voice first attracted my attention, his countenance fixed it, and his manners attached me to him for ever. He departs for a mercantile house in town in October, and we shall probably not meet till the expiration of my minority, when I shall leave to his decision either entering as a partner through my interest, or residing with me altogether. Of course he would in his present frame of mind prefer the latter, but he may alter his opinion previous to that period;—however, he shall have his choice. I certainly love him more than any human being, and neither time nor distance have had the least effect on my (in general) changeable disposition. In short, we shall put Lady E. Butler and Miss Ponsonby to the blush, Pylades and Orestes out of countenance, and want nothing but a catastrophe like Nisus and Euryalus, to give Jonathan and David the 'go by.' He certainly is perhaps more attached to me than even I am in return. During the whole of my residence at Cambridge we met every day, summer and winter, without passing one tiresome moment, and separated each time with increasing reluctance. I hope you will one day see us together, he is the only being I esteem, though I like many.[73]

"The Marquis of Tavistock was down the other day; I supped with him at his tutor's—entirely a Whig party. The opposition muster strong here now, and Lord Hartington, the Duke of Leinster, &c. &c. are to join us in October, so every thing will be splendid. The music is all over at present. Met with another 'accidency'—upset a butter-boat in the lap of a lady—look'd very bluespectators grinned—'curse 'em!' Apropos, sorry to say, been drunk every day, and not quite sober yet—however, touch no meat, nothing but fish, soup, and vegetables, consequently it does me no harm—sad dogs all the Cantabs. Mem.—we mean to reform next January. This place is a monotony of endless variety—like it—hate Southwell. Has Ridge sold well? or do the ancients demur? What ladies have bought?

"Saw a girl at St. Mary's the image of Anne ——, thought it was her—all in the wrong—the lady stared, so did I—I blushed, so did not the lady,—sad thing—wish women had more modesty. Talking of women, puts me in mind of my terrier Fanny—how is she? Got a headache, must go to bed, up early in the morning to travel. My protege breakfasts with me; parting spoils my appetite—excepting from Southwell. Mem. I hate Southwell.

Yours, &c."

LETTER 15.

TO MISS ——.

"Gordon's Hotel, July 13, 1807.

"You write most excellent epistles—a fig for other correspondents, with their nonsensical apologies for 'knowing nought about it,'—you send me a delightful budget. I am here in a perpetual vortex of dissipation (very pleasant for all that), and, strange to tell, I get thinner, being now below eleven stone considerably. Stay in town a month, perhaps six weeks, trip into Essex, and then, as a favour, irradiate Southwell for three days with the light of my countenance; but nothing shall ever make me reside there again. I positively return to Cambridge in October; we are to be uncommonly gay, or in truth I should cut the University. An extraordinary circumstance occurred to me at Cambridge; a girl so very like —— made her appearance, that nothing but the most minute inspection could have undeceived me. I wish I had asked if she had ever been at H——.

"What the devil would Ridge have? is not fifty in a fortnight, before the advertisements, a sufficient sale? I hear many of the London booksellers have them, and Crosby has sent copies to the principal watering places. Are they liked or not in Southwell?... I wish Boatswain had swallowed Damon! How is Bran? by the immortal gods, Bran ought to be a Count of the Holy Roman Empire.

"The intelligence of London cannot be interesting to you, who have rusticated all your life—the annals of routs, riots, balls and boxing-matches, cards and crim. cons., parliamentary discussion, political details, masquerades, mechanics, Argyle Street Institution and aquatic races, love and lotteries, Brookes's and Buonaparte, opera-singers and oratorios, wine, women, wax-work, and weather-cocks, can't accord with your insulated ideas of decorum and other silly expressions not inserted in our vocabulary.

"Oh! Southwell, Southwell, how I rejoice to have left thee, and how I curse the heavy hours I dragged along, for so many months, among the Mohawks who inhabit your kraals!—However, one thing I do not regret, which is having pared off a sufficient quantity of flesh to enable me to slip into 'an eel skin,' and vie with the slim beaux of modern times; though I am sorry to say, it seems to be the mode amongst gentlemen to grow fat, and I am told I am at least fourteen pound below the fashion. However, I decrease instead of enlarging, which is extraordinary, as violent exercise in London is impracticable; but I attribute the phenomenon to our evening squeezes at public and private parties. I heard from Ridge this morning (the 14th, my letter was begun yesterday): he says the poems go on as well as can be wished; the seventy-five sent to town are circulated, and a demand for fifty more complied with, the day he dated his epistle, though the advertisements are not yet half published. Adieu.

"P.S. Lord Carlisle, on receiving my poems, sent, before he opened the book, a tolerably handsome letter:—I have not heard from him since. His opinions I neither know nor care about: if he is the least insolent, I shall enrol him with Butler[74] and the other worthies. He is in Yorkshire, poor man! and very ill! He said he had not had time to read the contents, but thought it necessary to acknowledge the receipt of the volume immediately. Perhaps the Earl 'bears no brother near the throne,'—if so, I will make his sceptre totter in his hands.—Adieu!"

LETTER 16.

TO MISS ——.

"August 2. 1807.

"London begins to disgorge its contents—town is empty—consequently I can scribble at leisure, as occupations are less numerous. In a fortnight I shall depart to fulfil a country engagement; but expect two epistles from you previous to that period. Ridge does not proceed rapidly in Notts—very possible. In town things wear a more promising aspect, and a man whose works are praised by reviewers, admired by duchesses, and sold by every bookseller of the metropolis, does not dedicate much consideration to rustic readers. I have now a review before me, entitled 'Literary Recreations,' where my hardship is applauded far beyond my deserts. I know nothing of the critic, but think him a very discerning gentleman, and myself a devilish clever fellow. His critique pleases me particularly, because it is of great length, and a proper quantum of censure is administered, just to give an agreeable relish to the praise. You know I hate insipid, unqualified, common-place compliment. If you would wish to see it, order the 13th Number of 'Literary Recreations' for the last month. I assure you I have not the most distant idea of the writer of the article—it is printed in a periodical publication—and though I have written a paper (a review of Wordsworth),[75] which appears in the same work, I am ignorant of every other person concerned in it—even the editor, whose name I have not heard. My cousin, Lord Alexander Gordon, who resided in the same hotel, told me his mother, her Grace of Gordon, requested he would introduce my Poetical Lordship to her Highness, as she had bought my volume, admired it exceedingly, in common with the rest of the fashionable world, and wished to claim her relationship with the author. I was unluckily engaged on an excursion for some days afterwards, and as the Duchess was on the eve of departing for Scotland, I have postponed my introduction till the winter, when I shall favour the lady, whose taste I shall not dispute, with my most sublime and edifying conversation. She is now in the Highlands, and Alexander took his departure, a few days ago, for the same blessed seat of 'dark rolling winds.'

"Crosby, my London publisher, has disposed of his second importation, and has sent to Ridge for a third—at least so he says. In every bookseller's window I see my own name, and say nothing, but enjoy my fame in secret. My last reviewer kindly requests me to alter my determination of writing no more; and 'A Friend to the Cause of Literature' begs I will gratify the public with some new work 'at no very distant period.' Who would not be a bard?—that is to say, if all critics would be so polite. However, the others will pay me off, I doubt not, for this gentle encouragement. If so, have at 'em? By the by, I have written at my intervals of leisure, after two in the morning, 380 lines in blank verse, of Bosworth Field. I have luckily got Hutton's account. I shall extend the poem to eight or ten books, and shall have finished it in a year. Whether it will be published or not must depend on circumstances. So much for egotism! My laurels have turned my brain, but the cooling acids of forthcoming criticisms will probably restore me to modesty.

"Southwell is a damned place—I have done with it—at least in all probability: excepting yourself, I esteem no one within its precincts. You were my only rational companion; and in plain truth, I had more respect for you than the whole bevy, with whose foibles I amused myself in compliance with their prevailing propensities. You gave yourself more trouble with me and my manuscripts than a thousand dolls would have done. Believe me, I have not forgotten your good nature in this circle of sin, and one day I trust I shall be able to evince my gratitude. Adieu,

yours, &c.

"P.S. Remember me to Dr. P."

LETTER 17.

TO MISS ——.

"London, August 11, 1807.

"On Sunday next I set off for the Highlands.[76] A friend of mine accompanies me in my carriage to Edinburgh. There we shall leave it, and proceed in a tandem (a species of open carriage) through the western passes to Inverary, where we shall purchase shelties, to enable us to view places inaccessible to vehicular conveyances. On the coast we shall hire a vessel, and visit the most remarkable of the Hebrides; and, if we have time and favourable weather, mean to sail as far as Iceland, only 300 miles from the northern extremity of Caledonia, to peep at Hecla. This last intention you will keep a secret, as my nice mamma would imagine I was on a Voyage of Discovery, and raise the accustomed maternal warwhoop.

"Last week I swam in the Thames from Lambeth through the two bridges, Westminster and Blackfriars, a distance, including the different turns and tacks made on the way, of three miles! You see I am in excellent training in case of a squall at sea. I mean to collect all the Erse traditions, poems, &c. &c., and translate, or expand the subject to fill a volume, which may appear next spring under the denomination of 'The Highland Harp,' or some title equally picturesque. Of Bosworth Field, one book is finished, another just began. It will be a work of three or four years, and most probably never conclude. What would you say to some stanzas on Mount Hecla? they would be written at least with fire. How is the immortal Bran? and the Phoenix of canine quadrupeds, Boatswain? I have lately purchased a thorough-bred bull-dog, worthy to be the coadjutor of the aforesaid celestials—his name is Smut!—'Bear it, ye breezes, on your balmy wings.'

"Write to me before I set off, I conjure you, by the fifth rib of your grandfather. Ridge goes on well with the books—I thought that worthy had not done much in the country. In town they have been very successful; Carpenter (Moore's publisher) told me a few days ago they sold all theirs immediately, and had several enquiries made since, which, from the books being gone, they could not supply. The Duke of York, the Marchioness of Headfort, the Duchess of Gordon, &c. &c., were among the purchasers; and Crosby says, the circulation will be still more extensive in the winter, the summer season being very bad for a sale, as most people are absent from London. However, they have gone off extremely well altogether. I shall pass very near you on my journey through Newark, but cannot approach. Don't tell this to Mrs. B., who supposes I travel a different road. If you have a letter, order it to be left at Ridge's shop, where I shall call, or the post-office, Newark, about six or eight in the evening. If your brother would ride over, I should be devilish glad to see him—he can return the same night, or sup with us and go home the next morning—the Kingston Arms is my inn.

"Adieu, yours ever,

"BYRON."

LETTER 18.

TO MISS ——.

"Trinity College, Cambridge, October 26. 1807.

"My dear Elizabeth,

"Fatigued with sitting up till four in the morning for the last two days at hazard,[77] I take up my pen to enquire how your highness and the rest of my female acquaintance at the seat of archiepiscopal grandeur go on. I know I deserve a scolding for my negligence in not writing more frequently; but racing up and down the country for these last three months, how was it possible to fulfil the duties of a correspondent? Fixed at last for six weeks, I write, as thin as ever (not having gained an ounce since my reduction), and rather in better humour;—but, after all, Southwell was a detestable residence. Thank St. Dominica, I have done with it: I have been twice within eight miles of it, but could not prevail on myself to suffocate in its heavy atmosphere. This place is wretched enough—a villanous chaos of din and drunkenness, nothing but hazard and burgundy, hunting, mathematics, and Newmarket, riot and racing. Yet it is a paradise compared with the eternal dulness of Southwell. Oh! the misery of doing nothing but make love, enemies, and verses.

"Next January, (but this is entre nous only, and pray let it be so, or my maternal persecutor will be throwing her tomahawk at any of my curious projects,) I am going to sea for four or five months, with my cousin Capt. Bettesworth, who commands the Tartar, the finest frigate in the navy. I have seen most scenes, and wish to look at a naval life. We are going probably to the Mediterranean, or to the West Indies, or—to the d——l; and if there is a possibility of taking me to the latter, Bettesworth will do it; for he has received four and twenty wounds in different places, and at this moment possesses a letter from the late Lord Nelson, stating Bettesworth as the only officer in the navy who had more wounds than himself.

"I have got a new friend, the finest in the world, a tame bear. When I brought him here, they asked me what I meant to do with him, and my reply was, 'he should sit for a fellowship.' Sherard will explain the meaning of the sentence, if it is ambiguous. This answer delighted them not. We have several parties here, and this evening a large assortment of jockeys, gamblers, boxers, authors, parsons, and poets, sup with me,—a precious mixture, but they go on well together; and for me, I am a spice of every thing except a jockey; by the by, I was dismounted again the other day.

Thank your brother in my name for his treatise. I have written 214 pages of a novel,—one poem of 380 lines,[78] to be published (without my name) in a few weeks, with notes,—560 lines of Bosworth Field, and 250 lines of another poem in rhyme, besides half a dozen smaller pieces. The poem to be published is a Satire. Apropos, I have been praised to the skies in the Critical Review,[79] and abused greatly in another publication.[80] So much the better, they tell me, for the sale of the book: it keeps up controversy, and prevents it being forgotten. Besides, the first men of all ages have had their share, nor do the humblest escape;—so I bear it like a philosopher. It is odd two opposite critiques came out on the same day, and out of five pages of abuse, my censor only quotes two lines from different poems, in support of his opinion. Now, the proper way to cut up, is to quote long passages, and make them appear absurd, because simple allegation is no proof. On the other hand, there are seven pages of praise, and more than my modesty will allow, said on the subject. Adieu.

"P.S. Write, write, write!!!"

It was at the beginning of the following year that an acquaintance commenced between Lord Byron and a gentleman, related to his family by marriage, Mr. Dallas,—the author of some novels, popular, I believe, in their day, and also of a sort of Memoir of the noble Poet, published soon after his death, which, from being founded chiefly on original correspondence, is the most authentic and trust-worthy of any that have yet appeared. In the letters addressed by Lord Byron to this gentleman, among many details, curious in a literary point of view, we find, what is much more important for our present purpose, some particulars illustrative of the opinions which he had formed, at this time of his life, on the two subjects most connected with the early formation of character—morals and religion.

It is but rarely that infidelity or scepticism finds an entrance into youthful minds. That readiness to take the future upon trust, which is the charm of this period of life, would naturally, indeed, make it the season of belief as well as of hope. There are also then, still fresh in the mind, the impressions of early religious culture, which, even in those who begin soonest to question their faith, give way but slowly to the encroachments of doubt, and, in the mean time, extend the benefit of their moral restraint over a portion of life when it is acknowledged such restraints are most necessary. If exemption from the checks of religion be, as infidels themselves allow,[81] a state of freedom from responsibility dangerous at all times, it must be peculiarly so in that season of temptation, youth, when the passions are sufficiently disposed to usurp a latitude for themselves, without taking a licence also from infidelity to enlarge their range. It is, therefore, fortunate that, for the causes just stated, the inroads of scepticism and disbelief should be seldom felt in the mind till a period of life when the character, already formed, is out of the reach of their disturbing influence,—when, being the result, however erroneous, of thought and reasoning, they are likely to partake of the sobriety of the process by which they were acquired, and, being considered but as matters of pure speculation, to have as little share in determining the mind towards evil as, too often, the most orthodox creed has, at the same age, in influencing it towards good.

While, in this manner, the moral qualities of the unbeliever himself are guarded from some of the mischiefs that might, at an earlier age, attend such doctrines, the danger also of his communicating the infection to others is, for reasons of a similar nature, considerably diminished. The same vanity or daring which may have prompted the youthful sceptic's opinions, will lead him likewise, it is probable, rashly and irreverently to avow them, without regard either to the effect of his example on those around him, or to the odium which, by such an avowal, he entails irreparably on himself. But, at a riper age, these consequences are, in general, more cautiously weighed. The infidel, if at all considerate of the happiness of others, will naturally pause before he chases from their hearts a hope of which his own feels the want so desolately. If regardful only of himself, he will no less naturally shrink from the promulgation of opinions which, in no age, have men uttered with impunity. In either case there is a tolerably good security for his silence;—for, should benevolence not restrain him from making converts of others, prudence may, at least, prevent him from making a martyr of himself.

Unfortunately, Lord Byron was an exception to the usual course of such lapses. With him, the canker showed itself "in the morn and dew of youth," when the effect of such "blastments" is, for every reason, most fatal,—and, in addition to the real misfortune of being an unbeliever at any age, he exhibited the rare and melancholy spectacle of an unbelieving schoolboy. The same prematurity of developement which brought his passions and genius so early into action, enabled him also to anticipate this worst, dreariest result of reason; and at the very time of life when a spirit and temperament like his most required control, those checks, which religious pre-possessions best supply, were almost wholly wanting.

We have seen, in those two Addresses to the Deity which I have selected from among his unpublished poems, and still more strongly in a passage of the Catalogue of his studies, at what a boyish age the authority of all systems and sects was avowedly shaken off by his enquiring spirit. Yet, even in these, there is a fervour of adoration mingled with his defiance of creeds, through which the piety implanted in his nature (as it is deeply in all poetic natures) unequivocally shows itself; and had he then fallen within the reach of such guidance and example as would have seconded and fostered these natural dispositions, the licence of opinion into which he afterwards broke loose might have been averted. His scepticism, if not wholly removed, might have been softened down into that humble doubt, which, so far from being inconsistent with a religious spirit, is, perhaps, its best guard against presumption and uncharitableness; and, at all events, even if his own views of religion had not been brightened or elevated, he would have learned not wantonly to cloud or disturb those of others. But there was no such monitor near him. After his departure from Southwell, he had not a single friend or relative to whom he could look up with respect; but was thrown alone on the world, with his passions and his pride, to revel in the fatal discovery which he imagined himself to have made of the nothingness of the future, and the all-paramount claims of the present. By singular ill fortune, too, the individual who, among all his college friends, had taken the strongest hold on his admiration and affection, and whose loss he afterwards lamented with brotherly tenderness, was, to the same extent as himself, if not more strongly, a sceptic. Of this remarkable young man, Matthews, who was so early snatched away, and whose career in after-life, had it been at all answerable to the extraordinary promise of his youth, must have placed him upon a level with the first men of his day, a Memoir was, at one time, intended to be published by his relatives; and to Lord Byron, among others of his college friends, application, for assistance in the task, was addressed. The letter which this circumstance drew forth from the noble poet, besides containing many amusing traits of his friend, affords such an insight into his own habits of life at this period, that, though infringing upon the chronological order of his correspondence, I shall insert it here.

LETTER 19.

TO MR. MURRAY.

"Ravenna, 9bre 12. 1820.

"What you said of the late Charles Skinner Matthews has set me to my recollections; but I have not been able to turn up any thing which would do for the purposed Memoir of his brother,—even if he had previously done enough during his life to sanction the introduction of anecdotes so merely personal. He was, however, a very extraordinary man, and would have been a great one. No one ever succeeded in a more surpassing degree than he did, as far as he went. He was indolent, too; but whenever he stripped, he overthrew all antagonists. His conquests will be found registered at Cambridge, particularly his Downing one, which was hotly and highly contested, and yet easily won. Hobhouse was his most intimate friend, and can tell you more of him than any man. William Bankes also a great deal. I myself recollect more of his oddities than of his academical qualities, for we lived most together at a very idle period of my life. When I went up to Trinity, in 1805, at the age of seventeen and a half, I was miserable and untoward to a degree. I was wretched at leaving Harrow, to which I had become attached during the two last years of my stay there; wretched at going to Cambridge instead of Oxford (there were no rooms Vacant at Christ-church); wretched from some private domestic circumstances of different kinds, and consequently about as unsocial as a wolf taken from the troop. So that, although I knew Matthews, and met him often then at Bankes's, (who was my collegiate pastor, and master, and patron,) and at Rhode's, Milnes's, Price's, Dick's, Macnamara's, Farrell's, Galley Knight's, and others of that set of contemporaries, yet I was neither intimate with him nor with any one else, except my old schoolfellow Edward Long (with whom I used to pass the day in riding and swimming), and William Bankes, who was good-naturedly tolerant of my ferocities.

"It was not till 1807, after I had been upwards of a year away from Cambridge, to which I had returned again to reside for my degree, that I became one of Matthews's familiars, by means of H——, who, after hating me for two years, because I wore a white hat, and a grey coat, and rode a grey horse (as he says himself), took me into his good graces because I had written some poetry. I had always lived a good deal, and got drunk occasionally, in their company—but now we became really friends in a morning. Matthews, however, was not at this period resident in College. I met him chiefly in London, and at uncertain periods at Cambridge. H——, in the mean time, did great things: he founded the Cambridge 'Whig Club' (which he seems to have forgotten), and the 'Amicable Society,' which was dissolved in consequence of the members constantly quarrelling, and made himself very popular with 'us youth,' and no less formidable to all tutors, professors, and beads of Colleges. William B—— was gone; while he stayed, he ruled the roast—or rather the roasting—and was father of all mischiefs.

"Matthews and I, meeting in London, and elsewhere, became great cronies. He was not good tempered—nor am I—but with a little tact his temper was manageable, and I thought him so superior a man, that I was willing to sacrifice something to his humours, which were often, at the same time, amusing and provoking. What became of his papers (and he certainly had many), at the time of his death, was never known. I mention this by the way, fearing to skip it over, and as he wrote remarkably well, both in Latin and English. We went down to Newstead together, where I had got a famous cellar, and Monks' dresses from a masquerade warehouse. We were a company of some seven or eight, with an occasional neighbour or so for visiters, and used to sit up late in our friars' dresses, drinking burgundy, claret, champagne, and what not, out of the skull-cup, and all sorts of glasses, and buffooning all round the house, in our conventual garments. Matthews always denominated me 'the Abbot,' and never called me by any other name in his good humours, to the day of his death. The harmony of these our symposia was somewhat interrupted, a few days after our assembling, by Matthews's threatening to throw —— out of a window, in consequence of I know not what commerce of jokes ending in this epigram. —— came to me and said, that 'his respect and regard for me as host would not permit him to call out any of my guests, and that he should go to town next morning.' He did. It was in vain that I represented to him that the window was not high, and that the turf under it was particularly soft. Away he went.

"Matthews and myself had travelled down from London together, talking all the way incessantly upon one single topic. When we got to Loughborough, I know not what chasm had made us diverge for a moment to some other subject, at which he was indignant. 'Come,' said he, 'don't let us break through—let us go on as we began, to our journey's end;' and so he continued, and was as entertaining as ever to the very end. He had previously occupied, during my year's absence from Cambridge, my rooms in Trinity, with the furniture; and Jones, the tutor, in his odd way, had said, on putting him in, 'Mr. Matthews, I recommend to your attention not to damage any of the movables, for Lord Byron, Sir, is a young man of tumultuous passions.' Matthews was delighted with this; and whenever anybody came to visit him, begged them to handle the very door with caution; and used to repeat Jones's admonition in his tone and manner. There was a large mirror in the room, on which he remarked, 'that he thought his friends were grown uncommonly assiduous in coming to see him, but he soon discovered that they only came to see themselves.' Jones's phrase of 'tumultuous passions,' and the whole scene, had put him into such good humour, that I verily believe that I owed to it a portion of his good graces.

"When at Newstead, somebody by accident rubbed against one of his white silk stockings, one day before dinner; of course the gentleman apologised. 'Sir,' answered Matthews, 'it may be all very well for you, who have a great many silk stockings, to dirty other people's; but to me, who have only this one pair, which I have put on in honour of the Abbot here, no apology can compensate for such carelessness; besides, the expense of washing.' He had the same sort of droll sardonic way about every thing. A wild Irishman, named F——, one evening beginning to say something at a large supper at Cambridge, Matthews roared out 'Silence!' and then, pointing to F——, cried out, in the words of the oracle, 'Orson is endowed with reason.' You may easily suppose that Orson lost what reason he had acquired, on hearing this compliment. When H—— published his volume of poems, the Miscellany (which Matthews would call the 'Miss-sell-any'), all that could be drawn from him was, that the preface was 'extremely like Walsh.' H—— thought this at first a compliment; but we never could make out what it was,[82] for all we know of Walsh is his Ode to King William, and Pope's epithet of 'knowing Walsh.' When the Newstead party broke up for London, H—— and Matthews, who were the greatest friends possible, agreed, for a whim, to walk together to town. They quarrelled by the way, and actually walked the latter half of their journey, occasionally passing and repassing, without speaking. When Matthews had got to Highgate, he had spent all his money but three-pence halfpenny, and determined to spend that also in a pint of beer, which I believe he was drinking before a public-house, as H—— passed him (still without speaking) for the last time on their route. They were reconciled in London again.

"One of Matthews's passions was 'the Fancy;' and he sparred uncommonly well. But he always got beaten in rows, or combats with the bare fist. In swimming, too, he swam well; but with effort and labour, and too high out of the water; so that Scrope Davies and myself, of whom he was therein somewhat emulous, always told him that he would be drowned if ever he came to a difficult pass in the water. He was so; but surely Scrope and myself would have been most heartily glad that

"'the Dean had lived, And our prediction proved a lie.'

"His head was uncommonly handsome, very like what Pope's was in his youth.

"His voice, and laugh, and features, are strongly resembled by his brother Henry's, if Henry be he of King's College. His passion for boxing was so great, that he actually wanted me to match him with Dogherty (whom I had backed and made the match for against Tom Belcher), and I saw them spar together at my own lodgings with the gloves on. As he was bent upon it, I would have backed Dogherty to please him, but the match went off. It was of course to have been a private fight, in a private room.

"On one occasion, being too late to go home and dress, he was equipped by a friend (Mr. Baillie, I believe,) in a magnificently fashionable and somewhat exaggerated shirt and neckcloth. He proceeded to the Opera, and took his station in Fops' Alley. During the interval between the opera and the ballet, an acquaintance took his station by him and saluted him: 'Come round,' said Matthews, 'come round.'—'Why should I come round?' said the other; 'you have only to turn your head—I am close by you.'—'That is exactly what I cannot do,' said Matthews; 'don't you see the state I am in?' pointing to his buckram shirt collar and inflexible cravat,—and there he stood with his head always in the same perpendicular position during the whole spectacle.

"One evening, after dining together, as we were going to the Opera, I happened to have a spare Opera ticket (as subscriber to a box), and presented it to Matthews. 'Now, sir,' said he to Hobhouse afterwards, 'this I call courteous in the Abbot—another man would never have thought that I might do better with half a guinea than throw it to a door-keeper;—but here is a man not only asks me to dinner, but gives me a ticket for the theatre.' These were only his oddities, for no man was more liberal, or more honourable in all his doings and dealings, than Matthews. He gave Hobhouse and me, before we set out for Constantinople, a most splendid entertainment, to which we did ample justice. One of his fancies was dining at all sorts of out-of-the-way places. Somebody popped upon him in I know not what coffee-house in the Strand—and what do you think was the attraction? Why, that he paid a shilling (I think) to dine with his hat on. This he called his 'hat house,' and used to boast of the comfort of being covered at meal-times.

"When Sir Henry Smith was expelled from Cambridge for a row with a tradesman named 'Hiron,' Matthews solaced himself with shouting under Hiron's windows every evening,

"'Ah me! what perils do environ The man who meddles with hot Hiron.'

"He was also of that band of profane scoffers who, under the auspices of ——, used to rouse Lort Mansel (late Bishop of Bristol) from his slumbers in the lodge of Trinity; and when he appeared at the window foaming with wrath, and crying out, 'I know you, gentlemen, I know you!' were wont to reply, 'We beseech thee to hear us, good Lort'—'Good Lort deliver us!' (Lort was his Christian name.) As he was very free in his speculations upon all kinds of subjects, although by no means either dissolute or intemperate in his conduct, and as I was no less independent, our conversation and correspondence used to alarm our friend Hobhouse to a considerable degree.

"You must be almost tired of my packets, which will have cost a mint of postage.

"Salute Gifford and all my friends.

"Yours, &c."

As already, before his acquaintance with Mr. Matthews commenced, Lord Byron had begun to bewilder himself in the mazes of scepticism, it would be unjust to impute to this gentleman any further share in the formation of his noble friend's opinions than what arose from the natural influence of example and sympathy;—an influence which, as it was felt perhaps equally on both sides, rendered the contagion of their doctrines, in a great measure, reciprocal. In addition, too, to this community of sentiment on such subjects, they were both, in no ordinary degree, possessed by that dangerous spirit of ridicule, whose impulses even the pious cannot always restrain, and which draws the mind on, by a sort of irresistible fascination, to disport itself most wantonly on the brink of all that is most solemn and awful. It is not wonderful, therefore, that, in such society, the opinions of the noble poet should have been, at least, accelerated in that direction to which their bias already leaned; and though he cannot be said to have become thus confirmed in these doctrines,—as neither now, nor at any time of his life, was he a confirmed unbeliever,—he had undoubtedly learned to feel less uneasy under his scepticism, and even to mingle somewhat of boast and of levity with his expression of it. At the very first onset of his correspondence with Mr. Dallas, we find him proclaiming his sentiments on all such subjects with a flippancy and confidence far different from the tone in which he had first ventured on his doubts,—from that fervid sadness, as of a heart loth to part with its illusions, which breathes through every line of those prayers, that, but a year before, his pen had traced.

Here again, however, we should recollect, there must be a considerable share of allowance for his usual tendency to make the most and the worst of his own obliquities. There occurs, indeed, in his first letter to Mr. Dallas, an instance of this strange ambition,—the very reverse, it must be allowed, of hypocrisy,—which led him to court, rather than avoid, the reputation of profligacy, and to put, at all times, the worst face on his own character and conduct. His new correspondent having, in introducing himself to his acquaintance, passed some compliments on the tone of moral and charitable feeling which breathed through one of his poems, had added, that it "brought to his mind another noble author, who was not only a fine poet, orator, and historian, but one of the closest reasoners we have on the truth of that religion of which forgiveness is a prominent principle, the great and good Lord Lyttleton, whose fame will never die. His son," adds Mr. Dallas, "to whom he had transmitted genius, but not virtue, sparkled for a moment and went out like a star,—and with him the title became extinct." To this Lord Byron answers in the following letter:—

LETTER 20.

TO MR. DALLAS.

"Dorant's Hotel, Albemarle Street, Jan. 20. 1808.

"Sir,

"Your letter was not received till this morning, I presume from being addressed to me in Notts., where I have not resided since last June, and as the date is the 6th, you will excuse the delay of my answer.

"If the little volume you mention has given pleasure to the author of Percival and Aubrey, I am sufficiently repaid by his praise. Though our periodical censors have been uncommonly lenient, I confess a tribute from a man of acknowledged genius is still more flattering. But I am afraid I should forfeit all claim to candour, if I did not decline such praise as I do not deserve; and this is, I am sorry to say, the case in the present instance.

"My compositions speak for themselves, and must stand or fall by their own worth or demerit: thus far I feel highly gratified by your favourable opinion. But my pretensions to virtue are unluckily so few, that though I should be happy to merit, I cannot accept, your applause in that respect. One passage in your letter struck me forcibly: you mention the two Lords Lyttleton in a manner they respectively deserve, and will be surprised to hear the person who is now addressing you has been frequently compared to the latter. I know I am injuring myself in your esteem by this avowal, but the circumstance was so remarkable from your observation, that I cannot help relating the fact. The events of my short life have been of so singular a nature, that, though the pride commonly called honour has, and I trust ever will, prevent me from disgracing my name by a mean or cowardly action, I have been already held up as the votary of licentiousness, and the disciple of infidelity. How far justice may have dictated this accusation, I cannot pretend to say; but, like the gentleman to whom my religious friends, in the warmth of their charity, have already devoted me, I am made worse than I really am. However, to quit myself (the worst theme I could pitch upon), and return to my poems, I cannot sufficiently express my thanks, and I hope I shall some day have an opportunity of rendering them in person. A second edition is now in the press, with some additions and considerable omissions; you will allow me to present you with a copy. The Critical, Monthly, and Anti-Jacobin Reviews have been very indulgent; but the Eclectic has pronounced a furious Philippic, not against the book but the author, where you will find all I have mentioned asserted by a reverend divine who wrote the critique.

Your name and connection with our family have been long known to me, and I hope your person will be not less so: you will find me an excellent compound of a 'Brainless' and a 'Stanhope.'[83] I am afraid you will hardly be able to read this, for my hand is almost as bad as my character; but you will find me, as legibly as possible,

"Your obliged and obedient servant,

"BYRON."

There is here, evidently, a degree of pride in being thought to resemble the wicked Lord Lyttleton; and, lest his known irregularities should not bear him out in the pretension, he refers mysteriously, as was his habit, to certain untold events of his life, to warrant the parallel.[84] Mr. Dallas, who seems to have been but little prepared for such a reception of his compliments, escapes out of the difficulty by transferring to the young lord's "candour" the praise he had so thanklessly bestowed on his morals in general; adding, that from the design Lord Byron had expressed in his preface of resigning the service of the Muses for a different vocation, he had "conceived him bent on pursuits which lead to the character of a legislator and statesman;—had imagined him at one of the universities, training himself to habits of reasoning and eloquence, and storing up a large fund of history and law." It is in reply to this letter that the exposition of the noble poet's opinions, to which I have above alluded, is contained.

LETTER 21.

TO MR. DALLAS.

"Dorant's, January 21. 1808.

"Sir,

"Whenever leisure and inclination permit me the pleasure of a visit, I shall feel truly gratified in a personal acquaintance with one whose mind has been long known to me in his writings.

"You are so far correct in your conjecture, that I am a member of the University of Cambridge, where I shall take my degree of A. M. this term; but were reasoning, eloquence, or virtue, the objects of my search, Granta is not their metropolis, nor is the place of her situation an 'El Dorado,' far less an Utopia. The intellects of her children are as stagnant as her Cam, and their pursuits limited to the church—not of Christ, but of the nearest benefice.

"As to my reading, I believe I may aver, without hyperbole, it has been tolerably extensive in the historical; so that few nations exist, or have existed, with whose records I am not in some degree acquainted, from Herodotus down to Gibbon. Of the classics, I know about as much as most schoolboys after a discipline of thirteen years; of the law of the land as much as enables me to keep 'within the statute'—to use the poacher's vocabulary. I did study the 'Spirit of Laws' and the Law of Nations; but when I saw the latter violated every month, I gave up my attempts at so useless an accomplishment;—of geography, I have seen more land on maps than I should wish to traverse on foot;—of mathematics, enough to give me the headache without clearing the part affected;—of philosophy, astronomy, and metaphysics, more than I can comprehend;[85] and of common sense so little, that I mean to leave a Byronian prize at each of our 'Almae Matres' for the first discovery,—though I rather fear that of the longitude will precede it.

"I once thought myself a philosopher, and talked nonsense with great decorum: I defied pain, and preached up equanimity. For some time this did very well, for no one was in pain for me but my friends, and none lost their patience but my hearers. At last, a fall from my horse convinced me bodily suffering was an evil; and the worst of an argument overset my maxims and my temper at the same moment: so I quitted Zeno for Aristippus, and conceive that pleasure constitutes the το χαλον. I hold virtue, in general, or the virtues severally, to be only in the disposition, each a feeling, not a principle.[86] I believe truth the prime attribute of the Deity, and death an eternal sleep, at least of the body. You have here a brief compendium of the sentiments of the wicked George Lord Byron; and, till I get a new suit, you will perceive I am badly clothed.

I remain," &c.

Though such was, doubtless, the general cast of his opinions at this time, it must be recollected, before we attach any particular importance to the details of his creed, that, in addition to the temptation, never easily resisted by him, of displaying his wit at the expense of his character, he was here addressing a person who, though, no doubt, well meaning, was evidently one of those officious, self-satisfied advisers, whom it was the delight of Lord Byron at all times to astonish and mystify. The tricks which, when a boy, he played upon the Nottingham quack, Lavender, were but the first of a long series with which, through life, he amused himself, at the expense of all the numerous quacks whom his celebrity and sociability drew around him.

The terms in which he speaks of the university in this letter agree in spirit with many passages both in the "Hours of Idleness," and his early Satire, and prove that, while Harrow was remembered by him with more affection, perhaps, than respect, Cambridge had not been able to inspire him with either. This feeling of distaste to his "nursing mother" he entertained in common with some of the most illustrious names of English literature. So great was Milton's hatred to Cambridge, that he had even conceived, says Warton, a dislike to the face of the country,—to the fields in its neighbourhood. The poet Gray thus speaks of the same university:—"Surely, it was of this place, now Cambridge, but formerly known by the name of Babylon, that the prophet spoke when he said, 'The wild beasts of the deserts shall dwell there, and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures, and owls shall build there, and satyrs shall dance there,'" &c. &c. The bitter recollections which Gibbon retained of Oxford, his own pen has recorded; and the cool contempt by which Locke avenged himself on the bigotry of the same seat of learning is even still more memorable.[87]

In poets, such distasteful recollections of their collegiate life may well be thought to have their origin in that antipathy to the trammels of discipline, which is not unusually observable among the characteristics of genius, and which might be regarded, indeed, as a sort of instinct, implanted in it for its own preservation, if there be any truth in the opinion that a course of learned education is hurtful to the freshness and elasticity of the imaginative faculty. A right reverend writer,[88] but little to be suspected of any desire to depreciate academical studies, not only puts the question, "Whether the usual forms of learning be not rather injurious to the true poet, than really assisting to him?" but appears strongly disposed to answer it in the affirmative,—giving, as an instance, in favour of this conclusion, the classic Addison, who, "as appears," he says, "from some original efforts in the sublime, allegorical way, had no want of natural talents for the greater poetry,—which yet were so restrained and disabled by his constant and superstitious study of the old classics, that he was, in fact, but a very ordinary poet."

It was, no doubt, under some such impression of the malign influence of a collegiate atmosphere upon genius, that Milton, in speaking of Cambridge, gave vent to the exclamation, that it was "a place quite incompatible with the votaries of Phoebus," and that Lord Byron, versifying a thought of his own, in the letter to Mr. Dallas just given, declares,

"Her Helicon is duller than her Cam."

The poet Dryden, too, who, like Milton, had incurred some mark of disgrace at Cambridge, seems to have entertained but little more veneration for his Alma Mater; and the verses in which he has praised Oxford at the expense of his own university[89] were, it is probable, dictated much less by admiration of the one than by a desire to spite and depreciate the other.

Nor is it genius only that thus rebels against the discipline of the schools. Even the tamer quality of Taste, which it is the professed object of classical studies to cultivate, is sometimes found to turn restive under the pedantic manege to which it is subjected. It was not till released from the duty of reading Virgil as a task, that Gray could feel himself capable of enjoying the beauties of that poet; and Lord Byron was, to the last, unable to vanquish a similar prepossession, with which the same sort of school association had inoculated him, against Horace.

—"Though Time hath taught My mind to meditate what then it learn'd, Yet such the fix'd inveteracy wrought By the impatience of my early thought, That, with the freshness wearing out before My mind could relish what it might have sought, If free to choose, I cannot now restore Its health; but what it then detested, still abhor.

"Then farewell, Horace; whom I hated so, Not for thy faults, but mine; it is a curse To understand, not feel thy lyric flow, To comprehend, but never love thy verse."

CHILDE HAROLD, CANTO IV

To the list of eminent poets, who have thus left on record their dislike and disapproval of the English system of education, are to be added, the distinguished names of Cowley, Addison, and Cowper; while, among the cases which, like those of Milton and Dryden, practically demonstrate the sort of inverse ratio that may exist between college honours and genius, must not be forgotten those of Swift, Goldsmith, and Churchill, to every one of whom some mark of incompetency was affixed by the respective universities, whose annals they adorn. When, in addition, too, to this rather ample catalogue of poets, whom the universities have sent forth either disloyal or dishonoured, we come to number over such names as those of Shakspeare and of Pope, followed by Gay, Thomson, Burns, Chatterton, &c., all of whom have attained their respective stations of eminence, without instruction or sanction from any college whatever, it forms altogether, it must be owned, a large portion of the poetical world, that must be subducted from the sphere of that nursing influence which the universities are supposed to exercise over the genius of the country.

The following letters, written at this time, contain some particulars which will not be found uninteresting.

LETTER 22.

TO MR. HENRY DRURY.

"Dorant's Hotel, Jan. 13. 1808.

"My dear Sir,

"Though the stupidity of my servants, or the porter of the house, in not showing you up stairs (where I should have joined you directly), prevented me the pleasure of seeing you yesterday, I hoped to meet you at some public place in the evening. However, my stars decreed otherwise, as they generally do, when I have any favour to request of them. I think you would have been surprised at my figure, for, since our last meeting, I am reduced four stone in weight. I then weighed fourteen stone seven pound, and now only ten stone and a half. I have disposed of my superfluities by means of hard exercise and abstinence.

"Should your Harrow engagements allow you to visit town between this and February, I shall be most happy to see you in Albemarle Street. If I am not so fortunate, I shall endeavour to join you for an afternoon at Harrow, though, I fear, your cellar will by no means contribute to my cure. As for my worthy preceptor, Dr. B., our encounter would by no means prevent the mutual endearments he and I were wont to lavish on each other. We have only spoken once since my departure from Harrow in 1805, and then he politely told Tatersall I was not a proper associate for his pupils. This was long before my strictures in verse; but, in plain prose, had I been some years older, I should have held my tongue on his perfections. But, being laid on my back, when that schoolboy thing was written—or rather dictated—expecting to rise no more, my physician having taken his sixteenth fee, and I his prescription, I could not quit this earth without leaving a memento of my constant attachment to Butler in gratitude for his manifold good offices.

"I meant to have been down in July; but thinking my appearance, immediately after the publication, would be construed into an insult, I directed my steps elsewhere. Besides, I heard that some of the boys had got hold of my Libellus, contrary to my wishes certainly, for I never transmitted a single copy till October, when I gave one to a boy, since gone, after repeated importunities. You will, I trust, pardon this egotism. As you had touched on the subject I thought some explanation necessary. Defence I shall not attempt, 'Hic murus aheneus esto, nil conscire sibi'—and 'so on' (as Lord Baltimore said on his trial for a rape)—I have been so long at Trinity as to forget the conclusion of the line; but though I cannot finish my quotation, I will my letter, and entreat you to believe me,

gratefully and affectionately, &c.

"P.S. I will not lay a tax on your time by requiring an answer, lest you say, as Butler said to Tatersall (when I had written his reverence an impudent epistle on the expression before mentioned), viz. 'that I wanted to draw him into a correspondence.'"

LETTER 23.

TO MR. HARNESS.

"Dorant's Hotel, Albemarle Street, Feb. 11. 1808.

"My dear Harness,

"As I had no opportunity of returning my verbal thanks, I trust you will accept my written acknowledgments for the compliment you were pleased to pay some production of my unlucky muse last November,—I am induced to do this not less from the pleasure I feel in the praise of an old schoolfellow, than from justice to you, for I had heard the story with some slight variations. Indeed, when we met this morning, Wingfield had not undeceived me, but he will tell you that I displayed no resentment in mentioning what I had heard, though I was not sorry to discover the truth. Perhaps you hardly recollect, some years ago, a short, though, for the time, a warm friendship between us? Why it was not of longer duration, I know not. I have still a gift of yours in my possession, that must always prevent me from forgetting it. I also remember being favoured with the perusal of many of your compositions, and several other circumstances very pleasant in their day, which I will not force upon your memory, but entreat you to believe me, with much regret at their short continuance, and a hope they are not irrevocable,

yours very sincerely, &c.

"BYRON."

I have already mentioned the early friendship that subsisted between this gentleman and Lord Byron, as well as the coolness that succeeded it. The following extract from a letter with which Mr. Harness favoured me, in placing at my disposal those of his noble correspondent, will explain the circumstances that led, at this time, to their reconcilement; and the candid tribute, in the concluding sentences, to Lord Byron, will be found not less honourable to the reverend writer himself than to his friend.

"A coolness afterwards arose, which Byron alludes to in the first of the accompanying letters, and we never spoke during the last year of his remaining at school, nor till after the publication of his 'Hours of Idleness.' Lord Byron was then at Cambridge; I, in one of the upper forms, at Harrow. In an English theme I happened to quote from the volume, and mention it with praise. It was reported to Byron that I had, on the contrary, spoken slightingly of his work and of himself, for the purpose of conciliating the favour of Dr. Butler, the master, who had been severely satirised in one of the poems. Wingfield, who was afterwards Lord Powerscourt, a mutual friend of Byron and myself, disabused him of the error into which he had been led, and this was the occasion of the first letter of the collection. Our conversation was renewed and continued from that time till his going abroad. Whatever faults Lord Byron might have had towards others, to myself he was always uniformly affectionate. I have many slights and neglects towards him to reproach myself with; but I cannot call to mind a single instance of caprice or unkindness, in the whole course of our intimacy, to allege against him."

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