"Believe me," &c.
* * * * *
TO MR. MURRAY.
"February 20. 1813.
"In 'Horace in London' I perceive some stanzas on Lord Elgin in which (waving the kind compliment to myself) I heartily concur. I wish I had the pleasure of Mr. Smith's acquaintance, as I could communicate the curious anecdote you read in Mr. T.'s letter. If he would like it, he can have the substance for his second edition; if not, I shall add it to our next, though I think we already have enough of Lord Elgin.
"What I have read of this work seems admirably done. My praise, however, is not much worth the author's having; but you may thank him in my name for his. The idea is new—we have excellent imitations of the Satires, &c. by Pope; but I remember but one imitative Ode in his works, and none any where else. I can hardly suppose that they have lost any fame by the fate of the farce; but even should this be the case, the present publication will again place them on their pinnacle.
[Footnote 60: In the Ode entitled "The Parthenon," Minerva thus speaks:—
"All who behold my mutilated pile Shall brand its ravager with classic rage; And soon a titled bard from Britain's isle Thy country's praise and suffrage shall engage, And fire with Athens' wrongs an angry age!" HORACE IN LONDON. ]
* * * * *
It has already been stated that the pecuniary supplies, which he found it necessary to raise on arriving at majority, were procured for him on ruinously usurious terms. To some transactions connected with this subject, the following characteristic letter refers.
TO MR. ROGERS.
"March 25, 1813.
"I enclose you a draft for the usurious interest due to Lord * *'s protege;—I also could wish you would state thus much for me to his Lordship. Though the transaction speaks plainly in itself for the borrower's folly and the lender's usury, it never was my intention to quash the demand, as I legally might, nor to withhold payment of principal, or, perhaps, even unlawful interest. You know what my situation has been, and what it is. I have parted with an estate (which has been in my family for nearly three hundred years, and was never disgraced by being in possession of a lawyer, a churchman, or a woman, during that period,) to liquidate this and similar demands; and the payment of the purchase is still withheld, and may be, perhaps, for years. If, therefore, I am under the necessity of making those persons wait for their money, (which, considering the terms, they can afford to suffer,) it is my misfortune.
"When I arrived at majority in 1809, I offered my own security on legal interest, and it was refused. Now, I will not accede to this. This man I may have seen, but I have no recollection of the names of any parties but the agents and the securities. The moment I can it is assuredly my intention to pay my debts. This person's case may be a hard one; but, under all circumstances, what is mine? I could not foresee that the purchaser of my estate was to demur in paying for it.
"I am glad it happens to be in my power so far to accommodate my Israelite, and only wish I could do as much for the rest of the Twelve Tribes.
"Ever yours, dear R., BN."
"Tis said that persons living on annuities Are longer lived than others,—God knows why, Unless to plague the grantors,—yet so true it is, That some, I really think, do never die. Of any creditors, the worst a Jew it is; And that's their mode of furnishing supply: In my young days they lent me cash that way, Which I found very troublesome to pay." DON JUAN, Canto II ]
* * * * *
At the beginning of this year, Mr. Murray having it in contemplation to publish an edition of the two Cantos of Childe Harold with engravings, the noble author entered with much zeal into his plan; and, in a note on the subject to Mr. Murray, says,—"Westall has, I believe, agreed to illustrate your book, and I fancy one of the engravings will be from the pretty little girl you saw the other day, though without her name, and merely as a model for some sketch connected with the subject. I would also have the portrait (which you saw to-day) of the friend who is mentioned in the text at the close of Canto 1st, and in the notes,—which are subjects sufficient to authorise that addition."
Early in the spring he brought out, anonymously, his poem on Waltzing, which, though full of very lively satire, fell so far short of what was now expected from him by the public, that the disavowal of it, which, as we see by the following letter, he thought right to put forth, found ready credence:—
LETTER 120. TO MR. MURRAY.
"April 21. 1813.
"I shall be in town by Sunday next, and will call and have some conversation on the subject of Westall's designs. I am to sit to him for a picture at the request of a friend of mine, and as Sanders's is not a good one, you will probably prefer the other. I wish you to have Sanders's taken down and sent to my lodgings immediately—before my arrival. I hear that a certain malicious publication on Waltzing is attributed to me. This report, I suppose, you will take care to contradict, as the author, I am sure, will not like that I should wear his cap and bells. Mr. Hobhouse's quarto will be out immediately; pray send to the author for an early copy, which I wish to take abroad with me.
"P.S.—I see the Examiner threatens some observations upon you next week. What can you have done to share the wrath which has heretofore been principally expended upon the Prince? I presume all your Scribleri will be drawn up in battle array in defence of the modern Tonson—Mr. Bucke, for instance.
"Send in my account to Bennet Street, as I wish to settle it before sailing."
[Footnote 62: Lady Charlotte Harley, to whom, under the name of Ianthe, the introductory lines to Childe Harold were afterwards addressed.]
* * * * *
In the month of May appeared his wild and beautiful "Fragment," The Giaour;—and though, in its first flight from his hands, some of the fairest feathers of its wing were yet wanting, the public hailed this new offspring of his genius with wonder and delight. The idea of writing a poem in fragments had been suggested to him by the Columbus of Mr. Rogers; and, whatever objections may lie against such a plan in general, it must be allowed to have been well suited to the impatient temperament of Byron, as enabling him to overleap those mechanical difficulties, which, in a regular narrative, embarrass, if not chill, the poet,—leaving it to the imagination of his readers to fill up the intervals between those abrupt bursts of passion in which his chief power lay. The story, too, of the poem possessed that stimulating charm for him, almost indispensable to his fancy, of being in some degree connected with himself,—an event in which he had been personally concerned, while on his travels, having supplied the groundwork on which the fiction was founded. After the appearance of The Giaour, some incorrect statement of this romantic incident having got into circulation, the noble author requested of his friend, the Marquis of Sligo, who had visited Athens soon after it happened, to furnish him with his recollections on the subject; and the following is the answer which Lord Sligo returned:—
"Albany, Monday, August 31. 1813.
"My dear Byron,
"You have requested me to tell you all that I heard at Athens about the affair of that girl who was so near being put an end to while you were there; you have asked me to mention every circumstance, in the remotest degree relating to it, which I heard. In compliance with your wishes, I write to you all I heard, and I cannot imagine it to be very far from the fact, as the circumstance happened only a day or two before I arrived at Athens, and, consequently, was a matter of common conversation at the time.
"The new governor, unaccustomed to have the same intercourse with the Christians as his predecessor, had of course the barbarous Turkish ideas with regard to women. In consequence, and in compliance with the strict letter of the Mahommedan law, he ordered this girl to be sewed up in a sack, and thrown into the sea,—as is, indeed, quite customary at Constantinople. As you were returning from bathing in the Piraeus, you met the procession going down to execute the sentence of the Waywode on this unfortunate girl. Report continues to say, that on finding out what the object of their journey was, and who was the miserable sufferer, you immediately interfered; and on some delay in obeying your orders, you were obliged to inform the leader of the escort, that force should make him comply;—that, on farther hesitation, you drew a pistol, and told him, that if he did not immediately obey your orders, and come back with you to the Aga's house, you would shoot him dead. On this, the man turned about and went with you to the governor's house; here you succeeded, partly by personal threats, and partly by bribery and entreaty, to procure her pardon on condition of her leaving Athens. I was told that you then conveyed her in safety to the convent, and despatched her off at night to Thebes, where she found a safe asylum. Such is the story I heard, as nearly as I can recollect it at present. Should you wish to ask me any further questions about it, I shall be very ready and willing to answer them. I remain, my dear Byron,
"Yours, very sincerely,
"I am afraid you will hardly be able to read this scrawl; but I am so hurried with the preparations for my journey, that you must excuse it."
* * * * *
Of the prodigal flow of his fancy, when its sources were once opened on any subject, The Giaour affords one of the most remarkable instances,—this poem having accumulated under his hand, both in printing and through successive editions, till from four hundred lines, of which it consisted in his first copy, it at present amounts to nearly fourteen hundred. The plan, indeed, which he had adopted, of a series of fragments,—a set of "orient pearls at random strung,"—left him free to introduce, without reference to more than the general complexion of his story, whatever sentiments or images his fancy, in its excursions, could collect; and how little fettered he was by any regard to connection in these additions, appears from a note which accompanied his own copy of the paragraph commencing "Fair clime, where every season smiles,"—in which he says, "I have not yet fixed the place of insertion for the following lines, but will, when I see you—as I have no copy."
Even into this new passage, rich as it was at first, his fancy afterwards poured a fresh infusion,—the whole of its most picturesque portion, from the line "For there, the Rose o'er crag or vale," down to "And turn to groans his roundelay," having been suggested to him during revision. In order to show, however, that though so rapid in the first heat of composition, he formed no exception to that law which imposes labour as the price of perfection, I shall here extract a few verses from his original draft of this paragraph, by comparing which with the form they wear at present we may learn to appreciate the value of these after-touches of the master.
"Fair clime! where ceaseless summer smiles Benignant o'er those blessed isles, Which, seen from far Colonna's height, Make glad the heart that hails the sight, And give to loneliness delight. There shine the bright abodes ye seek, Like dimples upon Ocean's cheek,— So smiling round the waters lave These Edens of the eastern wave. Or if, at times, the transient breeze Break the smooth crystal of the seas, Or brush one blossom from the trees, How grateful is the gentle air That wakes and wafts the fragrance there."
Among the other passages added to this edition (which was either the third or fourth, and between which and the first there intervened but about six weeks) was that most beautiful and melancholy illustration of the lifeless aspect of Greece, beginning "He who hath bent him o'er the dead,"—of which the most gifted critic of our day has justly pronounced, that "it contains an image more true, more mournful, and more exquisitely finished, than any we can recollect in the whole compass of poetry." To the same edition also were added, among other accessions of wealth, those lines, "The cygnet proudly walks the water," and the impassioned verses, "My memory now is but the tomb."
On my rejoining him in town this spring, I found the enthusiasm about his writings and himself, which I left so prevalent, both in the world of literature and in society, grown, if any thing, still more general and intense. In the immediate circle, perhaps, around him, familiarity of intercourse might have begun to produce its usual disenchanting effects. His own liveliness and unreserve, on a more intimate acquaintance, would not be long in dispelling that charm of poetic sadness, which to the eyes of distant observers hung about him; while the romantic notions, connected by some of his fair readers with those past and nameless loves alluded to in his poems, ran some risk of abatement from too near an acquaintance with the supposed objects of his fancy and fondness at present. A poet's mistress should remain, if possible, as imaginary a being to others, as, in most of the attributes he clothes her with, she has been to himself;—the reality, however fair, being always sure to fall short of the picture which a too lavish fancy has drawn of it. Could we call up in array before us all the beauties whom the love of poets has immortalised, from the high-born dame to the plebeian damsel,—from the Lauras and Sacharissas down to the Cloes and Jeannies,—we should, it is to be feared, sadly unpeople our imaginations of many a bright tenant that poesy has lodged there, and find, in more than one instance, our admiration of the faith and fancy of the worshipper increased by our discovery of the worthlessness of the idol.
But, whatever of its first romantic impression the personal character of the poet may, from such causes, have lost in the circle he most frequented, this disappointment of the imagination was far more than compensated by the frank, social, and engaging qualities, both of disposition and manner, which, on a nearer intercourse, he disclosed, as well as by that entire absence of any literary assumption or pedantry, which entitled him fully to the praise bestowed by Sprat upon Cowley, that few could "ever discover he was a great poet by his discourse." While thus, by his intimates, and those who had got, as it were, behind the scenes of his fame, he was seen in his true colours, as well of weakness as of amiableness, on strangers and such as were out of this immediate circle, the spell of his poetical character still continued to operate; and the fierce gloom and sternness of his imaginary personages were, by the greater number of them, supposed to belong, not only as regarded mind, but manners, to himself. So prevalent and persevering has been this notion, that, in some disquisitions on his character published since his death, and containing otherwise many just and striking views, we find, in the professed portrait drawn of him, such features as the following:—"Lord Byron had a stern, direct, severe mind: a sarcastic, disdainful, gloomy temper. He had no light sympathy with heartless cheerfulness;—upon the surface was sourness, discontent, displeasure, ill will. Beneath all this weight of clouds and darkness," &c. &c.
Of the sort of double aspect which he thus presented, as viewed by the world and by his friends, he was himself fully aware; and it not only amused him, but, as a proof of the versatility of his powers, flattered his pride. He was, indeed, as I have already remarked, by no means insensible or inattentive to the effect he produced personally on society; and though the brilliant station he had attained, since the commencement of my acquaintance with him, made not the slightest alteration in the unaffectedness of his private intercourse, I could perceive, I thought, with reference to the external world, some slight changes in his conduct, which seemed indicative of the effects of his celebrity upon him. Among other circumstances, I observed that, whether from shyness of the general gaze, or from a notion, like Livy's, that men of eminence should not too much familiarise the public to their persons, he avoided showing himself in the mornings, and in crowded places, much more than was his custom when we first became acquainted. The preceding year, before his name had grown "so rife and celebrated," we had gone together to the exhibition at Somerset House, and other such places; and the true reason, no doubt, of his present reserve, in abstaining from all such miscellaneous haunts, was the sensitiveness, so often referred to, on the subject of his lameness,—a feeling which the curiosity of the public eye, now attracted to this infirmity by his fame, could not fail, he knew, to put rather painfully to the proof.
Among the many gay hours we passed together this spring, I remember particularly the wild flow of his spirits one evening, when we had accompanied Mr. Rogers home from some early assembly, and when Lord Byron, who, according to his frequent custom, had not dined for the last two days, found his hunger no longer governable, and called aloud for "something to eat." Our repast,—of his own choosing,—was simple bread and cheese; and seldom have I partaken of so joyous a supper. It happened that our host had just received a presentation copy of a volume of poems, written professedly in imitation of the old English writers, and containing, like many of these models, a good deal that was striking and beautiful, mixed up with much that was trifling, fantastic, and absurd. In our mood, at the moment, it was only with these latter qualities that either Lord Byron or I felt disposed to indulge ourselves; and, in turning over the pages, we found, it must be owned, abundant matter for mirth. In vain did Mr. Rogers, in justice to the author, endeavour to direct our attention to some of the beauties of the work:—it suited better our purpose (as is too often the case with more deliberate critics) to pounce only on such passages as ministered to the laughing humour that possessed us. In this sort of hunt through the volume, we at length lighted on the discovery that our host, in addition to his sincere approbation of some of its contents, had also the motive of gratitude for standing by its author, as one of the poems was a warm and, I need not add, well-deserved panegyric on himself. We were, however, too far gone in nonsense for even this eulogy, in which we both so heartily agreed, to stop us. The opening line of the poem was, as well as I can recollect, "When Rogers o'er this labour bent;" and Lord Byron undertook to read it aloud;—but he found it impossible to get beyond the first two words. Our laughter had now increased to such a pitch that nothing could restrain it. Two or three times he began; but no sooner had the words "When Rogers" passed his lips, than our fit burst forth afresh,—till even Mr. Rogers himself, with all his feeling of our injustice, found it impossible not to join us; and we were, at last, all three, in such a state of inextinguishable laughter, that, had the author himself been of the party, I question much whether he could have resisted the infection.
A day or two after, Lord Byron sent me the following:—
"My dear Moore,
"'When Rogers' must not see the enclosed, which I send for your perusal. I am ready to fix any day you like for our visit. Was not Sheridan good upon the whole? The 'Poulterer' was the first and best.
"Ever yours," &c.
"When T * * this damn'd nonsense sent, (I hope I am not violent), Nor men nor gods knew what he meant.
"And since not ev'n our Rogers' praise To common sense his thoughts could raise— Why would they let him print his lays?
* * * *
* * * *
"To me, divine Apollo, grant—O! Hermilda's first and second canto, I'm fitting up a new portmanteau;
"And thus to furnish decent lining, My own and others' bays I'm twining— So gentle T * *, throw me thine in."
[Footnote 63: The following are the lines in their present shape, and it will be seen that there is not a single alteration in which the music of the verse has not been improved as well as the thought:—
"Fair clime! where every season smiles Benignant o'er those blessed isles, Which, seen from far Colonna's height, Make glad the heart that hails the sight, And lend to loneliness delight. There, mildly dimpling, Ocean's cheek Reflects the tints of many a peak Caught by the laughing tides that lave These Edens of the eastern wave: And if at times a transient breeze Break the blue crystal of the seas, Or sweep one blossom from the trees, How welcome is each gentle air That wakes and wafts the odours there!" ]
[Footnote 64: Mr. Jeffrey.]
[Footnote 65: In Dallaway's Constantinople, a book which Lord Byron is not unlikely to have consulted, I find a passage quoted from Gillies's History of Greece, which contains, perhaps, the first seed of the thought thus expanded into full perfection by genius:—"The present state of Greece compared to the ancient is the silent obscurity of the grave contrasted with the vivid lustre of active life."]
[Footnote 66: Among the recorded instances of such happy after-thoughts in poetry may be mentioned, as one of the most memorable, Denham's four lines, "Oh could I flow like thee," &c., which were added in the second edition of his poem.]
[Footnote 67: Letters on the Character and Poetical Genius of Lord Byron, by Sir Egerton Brydges, Bart.]
[Footnote 68: "Continuus aspectus minus verendos magnos homines facit."]
[Footnote 69: The only peculiarity that struck me on those occasions was the uneasy restlessness which he seemed to feel in wearing a hat,—an article of dress which, from his constant use of a carriage while in England, he was almost wholly unaccustomed to, and which, after that year, I do not remember to have ever seen upon him again. Abroad, he always wore a kind of foraging cap.]
[Footnote 70: He here alludes to a dinner at Mr. Rogers's, of which I have elsewhere given the following account:—
"The company consisted but of Mr. Rogers himself, Lord Byron, Mr. Sheridan, and the writer of this Memoir. Sheridan knew the admiration his audience felt for him; the presence of the young poet, in particular, seemed to bring back his own youth and wit; and the details he gave of his early life were not less interesting and animating to himself than delightful to us. It was in the course of this evening that, describing to us the poem which Mr. Whitbread had written, and sent in, among the other addresses for the opening of Drury Lane theatre, and which, like the rest, turned chiefly on allusions to the Phoenix, he said—'But Whitbread made more of this bird than any of them:—he entered into particulars, and described its wings, beak, tail, &c.;—in short, it was a poulterer's description of a Phoenix."—Life of Sheridan.]
* * * * *
On the same day I received from him the following additional scraps. The lines in italics are from the eulogy that provoked his waggish comments.
"'I lay my branch of laurel down.'
"Thou 'lay thy branch of laurel down!" Why, what thou'st stole is not enow; And, were it lawfully thine own, Does Rogers want it most, or thou? Keep to thyself thy wither'd bough, Or send it back to Dr. Donne— Were justice done to both, I trow, He'd have but little, and thou—none.
"'Then thus to form Apollo's crown.
"A crown! why, twist it how you will, Thy chaplet must be foolscap still. When next you visit Delphi's town, Enquire amongst your fellow-lodgers, They'll tell you Phoebus gave his crown, Some years before your birth, to Rogers.
"'Let every other bring his own.'
"When coals to Newcastle are carried, And owls sent to Athens as wonders, From his spouse when the * *'s unmarried, Or Liverpool weeps o'er his blunders; When Tories and Whigs cease to quarrel, When C * *'s wife has an heir, Then Rogers shall ask us for laurel, And thou shalt have plenty to spare."
The mention which he makes of Sheridan in the note just cited affords a fit opportunity of producing, from one of his Journals, some particulars which he has noted down respecting this extraordinary man, for whose talents he entertained the most unbounded admiration,—rating him, in natural powers, far above all his great political contemporaries.
"In society I have met Sheridan frequently: he was superb! He had a sort of liking for me, and never attacked me, at least to my face, and he did every body else—high names, and wits, and orators, some of them poets also. I have seen him cut up Whitbread, quiz Madame de Stael, annihilate Colman, and do little less by some others (whose names, as friends, I set not down) of good fame and ability.
"The last time I met him was, I think, at Sir Gilbert Heathcote's, where he was as quick as ever—no, it was not the last time; the last time was at Douglas Kinnaird's.
"I have met him in all places and parties,—at Whitehall with the Melbournes, at the Marquis of Tavistock's, at Robins's the auctioneer's, at Sir Humphrey Davy's, at Sam Rogers's,—in short, in most kinds of company, and always found him very convivial and delightful.
"I have seen Sheridan weep two or three times. It may be that he was maudlin; but this only renders it more impressive, for who would see
"From Marlborough's eyes the tears of dotage flow, And Swift expire a driveller and a show?
Once I saw him cry at Robins's the auctioneer's, after a splendid dinner, full of great names and high spirits. I had the honour of sitting next to Sheridan. The occasion of his tears was some observation or other upon the subject of the sturdiness of the Whigs in resisting office and keeping to their principles: Sheridan turned round:—'Sir, it is easy for my Lord G. or Earl G. or Marquis B. or Lord H. with thousands upon thousands a year, some of it either presently derived, or inherited in sinecure or acquisitions from the public money, to boast of their patriotism and keep aloof from temptation; but they do not know from what temptation those have kept aloof who had equal pride, at least equal talents, and not unequal passions, and nevertheless knew not in the course of their lives what it was to have a shilling of their own.' And in saying this he wept.
"I have more than once heard him say, 'that he never had a shilling of his own.' To be sure, he contrived to extract a good many of other people's.
"In 1815, I had occasion to visit my lawyer in Chancery Lane, he was with Sheridan. After mutual greetings, &c., Sheridan retired first. Before recurring to my own business, I could not help enquiring that of Sheridan. 'Oh,' replied the attorney, 'the usual thing! to stave off an action from his wine-merchant, my client.'—'Well,' said I, 'and what do you mean to do?'—'Nothing at all for the present,' said he: 'would you have us proceed against old Sherry? what would be the use of it?' and here he began laughing, and going over Sheridan's good gifts of conversation.
"Now, from personal experience, I can vouch that my attorney is by no means the tenderest of men, or particularly accessible to any kind of impression out of the statute or record; and yet Sheridan, in half an hour, had found the way to soften and seduce him in such a manner, that I almost think he would have thrown his client (an honest man, with all the laws, and some justice, on his side) out of the window, had he come in at the moment.
"Such was Sheridan! he could soften an attorney! There has been nothing like it since the days of Orpheus.
"One day I saw him take up his own 'Monody on Garrick.' He lighted upon the Dedication to the Dowager Lady * *. On seeing it, he flew into a rage, and exclaimed, 'that it must be a forgery, that he had never dedicated any thing of his to such a d——d canting,' &c. &c. &c—and so went on for half an hour abusing his own dedication, or at least the object of it. If all writers were equally sincere, it would be ludicrous.
"He told me that, on the night of the grand success of his School for Scandal, he was knocked down and put into the watch-house for making a row in the street, and being found intoxicated by the watchmen.
"When dying, he was requested to undergo 'an operation.' He replied, that he had already submitted to two, which were enough for one man's lifetime. Being asked what they were, he answered, 'having his hair cut, and sitting for his picture.'
"I have met George Colman occasionally, and thought him extremely pleasant and convivial. Sheridan's humour, or rather wit, was always saturnine, and sometimes savage; he never laughed, (at least that I saw, and I watched him,) but Colman did. If I had to choose, and could not have both at a time, I should say, 'Let me begin the evening with Sheridan, and finish it with Colman.' Sheridan for dinner, Colman for supper; Sheridan for claret or port, but Colman for every thing, from the madeira and champagne at dinner, the claret with a layer of port between the glasses, up to the punch of the night, and down to the grog, or gin and water, of daybreak;—all these I have threaded with both the same. Sheridan was a grenadier company of life-guards, but Colman a whole regiment—of light infantry, to be sure, but still a regiment."
It was at this time that Lord Byron became acquainted (and, I regret to have to add, partly through my means) with Mr. Leigh Hunt, the editor of a well-known weekly journal, the Examiner. This gentleman I had myself formed an acquaintance with in the year 1811, and, in common with a large portion of the public, entertained a sincere admiration of his talents and courage as a journalist. The interest I took in him personally had been recently much increased by the manly spirit, which he had displayed throughout a prosecution instituted against himself and his brother, for a libel that had appeared in their paper on the Prince Regent, and in consequence of which they were both sentenced to imprisonment for two years. It will be recollected that there existed among the Whig party, at this period, a strong feeling of indignation at the late defection from themselves and their principles of the illustrious personage who had been so long looked up to as the friend and patron of both. Being myself, at the time, warmly—perhaps intemperately—under the influence of this feeling, I regarded the fate of Mr. Hunt with more than common interest, and, immediately on my arrival in town, paid him a visit in his prison. On mentioning the circumstance, soon after, to Lord Byron, and describing my surprise at the sort of luxurious comforts with which I had found the "wit in the dungeon" surrounded,—his trellised flower-garden without, and his books, busts, pictures, and piano-forte within,—the noble poet, whose political view of the case coincided entirely with my own, expressed a strong wish to pay a similar tribute of respect to Mr. Hunt, and accordingly, a day or two after, we proceeded for that purpose to the prison. The introduction which then took place was soon followed by a request from Mr. Hunt that we would dine with him; and the noble poet having good-naturedly accepted the invitation, Horsemonger Lane gaol had, in the month of June, 1813, the honour of receiving Lord Byron, as a guest, within its walls.
On the morning of our first visit to the journalist, I received from Lord Byron the following lines written, it will be perceived, the night before:—
"May 19. 1813.
"Oh you, who in all names can tickle the town, Anacreon, Tom Little, Tom Moore, or Tom Brown,— For hang me if I know of which you may most brag, Your Quarto two-pounds, or your Twopenny Post Bag; * * * * But now to my letter—to yours 'tis an answer— To-morrow be with me, as soon as you can, sir, All ready and dress'd for proceeding to spunge on (According to compact) the wit in the dungeon— Pray Phoebus at length our political malice May not get us lodgings within the same palace! I suppose that to-night you're engaged with some codgers, And for Sotheby's Blues have deserted Sam Rogers; And I, though with cold I have nearly my death got, Must put on my breeches, and wait on the Heathcote. But to-morrow at four, we will both play the Scurra, And you'll be Catullus, the R——t Mamurra.
"Dear M.—having got thus far, I am interrupted by * * * *. 10 o'clock.
"Half-past 11. * * * * is gone. I must dress for Lady Heathcote's.—Addio."
* * * * *
Our day in the prison was, if not agreeable, at least novel and odd. I had, for Lord Byron's sake, stipulated with our host beforehand, that the party should be, as much as possible, confined to ourselves; and, as far as regarded dinner, my wishes had been attended to;—there being present, besides a member or two of Mr. Hunt's own family, no other stranger, that I can recollect, but Mr. Mitchell, the ingenious translator of Aristophanes. Soon after dinner, however, there dropped in some of our host's literary friends, who, being utter strangers to Lord Byron and myself, rather disturbed the ease into which we were all settling. Among these, I remember, was Mr. John Scott,—the writer, afterwards, of some severe attacks on Lord Byron; and it is painful to think that, among the persons then assembled round the poet, there should have been one so soon to step forth the assailant of his living fame, while another, less manful, was to reserve the cool venom for his grave.
On the 2d of June, in presenting a petition to the House of Lords, he made his third and last appearance as an orator, in that assembly. In his way home from the House that day, he called, I remember, at my lodgings, and found me dressing in a very great hurry for dinner. He was, I recollect, in a state of most humorous exaltation after his display, and, while I hastily went on with my task in the dressing-room, continued to walk up and down the adjoining chamber, spouting forth for me, in a sort of mock heroic voice, detached sentences of the speech he had just been delivering. "I told them," he said, "that it was a most flagrant violation of the Constitution—that, if such things were permitted, there was an end of English freedom, and that ——"—"But what was this dreadful grievance?" I asked, interrupting him in his eloquence.—"The grievance?" he repeated, pausing as if to consider—"Oh, that I forget." It is impossible, of course, to convey an idea of the dramatic humour with which he gave effect to these words; but his look and manner on such occasions were irresistibly comic; and it was, indeed, rather in such turns of fun and oddity, than in any more elaborate exhibition of wit, that the pleasantry of his conversation consisted.
Though it is evident that, after the brilliant success of Childe Harold, he had ceased to think of Parliament as an arena of ambition, yet, as a field for observation, we may take for granted it was not unstudied by him. To a mind of such quick and various views, every place and pursuit presented some aspect of interest; and whether in the ball-room, the boxing-school, or the senate, all must have been, by genius like his, turned to profit. The following are a few of the recollections and impressions which I find recorded by himself of his short parliamentary career:—
"I have never heard any one who fulfilled my ideal of an orator. Grattan would have been near it, but for his harlequin delivery. Pitt I never heard. Fox but once, and then he struck me as a debater, which to me seems as different from an orator as an improvisatore, or a versifier, from a poet. Grey is great, but it is not oratory. Canning is sometimes very like one. Windham I did not admire, though all the world did; it seemed sad sophistry. Whitbread was the Demosthenes of bad taste and vulgar vehemence, but strong, and English. Holland is impressive from sense and sincerity. Lord Lansdowne good, but still a debater only. Grenville I like vastly, if he would prune his speeches down to an hour's delivery. Burdett is sweet and silvery as Belial himself, and I think the greatest favourite in Pandemonium; at least I always heard the country gentlemen and the ministerial devilry praise his speeches up stairs, and run down from Bellamy's when he was upon his legs. I heard Bob Milnes make his second speech; it made no impression. I like Ward—studied, but keen, and sometimes eloquent. Peel, my school and form fellow (we sat within two of each other), strange to say, I have never heard, though I often wished to do so; but from what I remember of him at Harrow, he is, or should be, among the best of them. Now I do not admire Mr. Wilberforce's speaking; it is nothing but a flow of words—'words, words, alone.'
"I doubt greatly if the English have any eloquence, properly so called; and am inclined to think that the Irish had a great deal, and that the French will have, and have had in Mirabeau. Lord Chatham and Burke are the nearest approaches to orators in England. I don't know what Erskine may have been at the bar, but in the House I wish him at the bar once more. Lauderdale is shrill, and Scotch, and acute.
"But amongst all these, good, bad, and indifferent, I never heard the speech which was not too long for the auditors, and not very intelligible, except here and there. The whole thing is a grand deception, and as tedious and tiresome as may be to those who must be often present. I heard Sheridan only once, and that briefly, but I liked his voice, his manner, and his wit: and he is the only one of them I ever wished to hear at greater length.
"The impression of Parliament upon me was, that its members are not formidable as speakers, but very much so as an audience; because in so numerous a body there may be little eloquence, (after all, there were but two thorough orators in all antiquity, and I suspect still fewer in modern times,) but there must be a leaven of thought and good sense sufficient to make them know what is right, though they can't express it nobly.
"Horne Tooke and Roscoe both are said to have declared that they left Parliament with a higher opinion of its aggregate integrity and abilities than that with which they entered it. The general amount of both in most Parliaments is probably about the same, as also the number of speakers and their talent. I except orators, of course, because they are things of ages, and not of septennial or triennial re-unions. Neither House ever struck me with more awe or respect than the same number of Turks in a divan, or of Methodists in a barn, would have done. Whatever diffidence or nervousness I felt (and I felt both, in a great degree) arose from the number rather than the quality of the assemblage, and the thought rather of the public without than the persons within,—knowing (as all know) that Cicero himself, and probably the Messiah, could never have altered the vote of a single lord of the bedchamber, or bishop. I thought our House dull, but the other animating enough upon great days.
"I have heard that when Grattan made his first speech in the English Commons, it was for some minutes doubtful whether to laugh at or cheer him. The debut of his predecessor, Flood, had been a complete failure, under nearly similar circumstances. But when the ministerial part of our senators had watched Pitt (their thermometer) for the cue, and saw him nod repeatedly his stately nod of approbation, they took the hint from their huntsman, and broke out into the most rapturous cheers. Grattan's speech, indeed, deserved them; it was a chef-d'oeuvre. I did not hear that speech of his (being then at Harrow), but heard most of his others on the same question—also that on the war of 1815. I differed from his opinions on the latter question, but coincided in the general admiration of his eloquence.
"When I met old Courtenay, the orator, at Rogers's, the poet's, in 1811-12, I was much taken with the portly remains of his fine figure, and the still acute quickness of his conversation. It was he who silenced Flood in the English House by a crushing reply to a hasty debut of the rival of Grattan in Ireland. I asked Courtenay (for I like to trace motives) if he had not some personal provocation; for the acrimony of his answer seemed to me, as I had read it, to involve it. Courtenay said 'he had; that, when in Ireland (being an Irishman), at the bar of the Irish House of Commons, Flood had made a personal and unfair attack upon himself, who, not being a member of that House, could not defend himself, and that some years afterwards the opportunity of retort offering in the English Parliament, he could not resist it.' He certainly repaid Flood with interest, for Flood never made any figure, and only a speech or two afterwards, in the English House of Commons. I must except, however, his speech on Reform in 1790, which Fox called 'the best he ever heard upon that subject.'"
For some time he had entertained thoughts of going again abroad; and it appeared, indeed, to be a sort of relief to him, whenever he felt melancholy or harassed, to turn to the freedom and solitude of a life of travel as his resource. During the depression of spirits which he laboured under, while printing Childe Harold, "he would frequently," says Mr. Dallas, "talk of selling Newstead, and of going to reside at Naxos, in the Grecian Archipelago,—to adopt the eastern costume and customs, and to pass his time in studying the Oriental languages and literature." The excitement of the triumph that soon after ensued, and the success which, in other pursuits besides those of literature, attended him, again diverted his thoughts from these migratory projects. But the roving fit soon returned; and we have seen, from one of his letters to Mr. William Bankes, that he looked forward to finding himself, in the course of this spring, among the mountains of his beloved Greece once more. For a time, this plan was exchanged for the more social project of accompanying his friends, the family of Lord Oxford, to Sicily; and it was while engaged in his preparatives for this expedition that the annexed letters were written.
[Footnote 71: His speech was on presenting a petition from Major Cartwright.]
* * * * *
LETTER 121. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Maidenhead, June 13. 1813.
"* * * I have read the 'Strictures,' which are just enough, and not grossly abusive, in very fair couplets. There is a note against Massinger near the end, and one cannot quarrel with one's company, at any rate. The author detects some incongruous figures in a passage of English Bards, page 23., but which edition I do not know. In the sole copy in your possession—I mean the fifth edition—you may make these alterations, that I may profit (though a little too late) by his remarks:—For 'hellish instinct,' substitute 'brutal instinct;' 'harpies' alter to 'felons;' and for 'blood-hounds' write 'hell-hounds.' These be 'very bitter words, by my troth,' and the alterations not much sweeter; but as I shall not publish the thing, they can do no harm, but are a satisfaction to me in the way of amendment. The passage is only twelve lines.
"You do not answer me about H.'s book; I want to write to him, and not to say any thing unpleasing. If you direct to Post Office, Portsmouth, till called for, I will send and receive your letter. You never told me of the forthcoming critique on Columbus, which is not too fair; and I do not think justice quite done to the 'Pleasures,' which surely entitle the author to a higher rank than that assigned him in the Quarterly. But I must not cavil at the decisions of the invisible infallibles; and the article is very well written. The general horror of 'fragments' makes me tremulous for 'The Giaour;' but you would publish it—I presume, by this time, to your repentance. But as I consented, whatever be its fate, I won't now quarrel with you, even though I detect it in my pastry; but I shall not open a pie without apprehension for some weeks.
"The books which may be marked G.O. I will carry out. Do you know Clarke's Naufragia? I am told that he asserts the first volume of Robinson Crusoe was written by the first Lord Oxford, when in the Tower, and given by him to Defoe; if true, it is a curious anecdote. Have you got back Lord Brooke's MS.? and what does Heber say of it? Write to me at Portsmouth. Ever yours, &c.
[Footnote 72: In an article on this Satire (written for Cumberland's Review, but never printed) by that most amiable man and excellent poet, the late Rev. William Crowe, the incongruity of these metaphors is thus noticed:—"Within the space of three or four couplets, he transforms a man into as many different animals. Allow him but the compass of three lines, and he will metamorphose him from a wolf into a harpy, and in three more he will make him a blood-hound."
There are also in this MS. critique some curious instances of oversight or ignorance adduced from the Satire; such as "Fish from Helicon"—"Attic flowers Aonian odours breathe," &c. &c.]
* * * * *
TO MR. MURRAY.
"June 18. 1813.
"Will you forward the enclosed answer to the kindest letter I ever received in my life, my sense of which I can neither express to Mr. Gifford himself nor to any one else? Ever yours,
* * * * *
LETTER 122. TO W. GIFFORD, ESQ.
"June 18. 1813.
"My dear Sir,
"I feel greatly at a loss how to write to you at all—still more to thank you as I ought. If you knew the veneration with which I have ever regarded you, long before I had the most distant prospect of becoming your acquaintance, literary or personal, my embarrassment would not surprise you.
"Any suggestion of yours, even were it conveyed in the less tender shape of the text of the Baviad, or a Monk Mason note in Massinger, would have been obeyed; I should have endeavoured to improve myself by your censure: judge then if I should be less willing to profit by your kindness. It is not for me to bandy compliments with my elders and my betters: I receive your approbation with gratitude, and will not return my brass for your gold by expressing more fully those sentiments of admiration, which, however sincere, would, I know, be unwelcome.
"To your advice on religious topics, I shall equally attend. Perhaps the best way will be by avoiding them altogether. The already published objectionable passages have been much commented upon, but certainly have been rather strongly interpreted. I am no bigot to infidelity, and did not expect that, because I doubted the immortality of man, I should be charged with denying the existence of a God. It was the comparative insignificance of ourselves and our world, when placed in comparison with the mighty whole, of which it is an atom, that first led me to imagine that our pretensions to eternity might be over-rated.
"This, and being early disgusted with a Calvinistic Scotch school, where I was cudgelled to church for the first ten years of my life, afflicted me with this malady; for, after all, it is, I believe, a disease of the mind as much as other kinds of hypochondria."
[Footnote 73: The remainder of this letter, it appears, has been lost.]
* * * * *
LETTER 123. TO MR. MOORE.
"June 22. 1813.
"Yesterday I dined in company with '* *, the Epicene,' whose politics are sadly changed. She is for the Lord of Israel and the Lord of Liverpool—a vile antithesis of a Methodist and a Tory—talks of nothing but devotion and the ministry, and, I presume, expects that God and the government will help her to a pension.
"Murray, the [Greek: anax] of publishers, the Anac of stationers, has a design upon you in the paper line. He wants you to become the staple and stipendiary editor of a periodical work. What say you? Will you be bound, like 'Kit Smart, to write for ninety-nine years in the Universal Visiter?' Seriously he talks of hundreds a year, and—though I hate prating of the beggarly elements—his proposal may be to your honour and profit, and, I am very sure, will be to our pleasure.
"I don't know what to say about 'friendship.' I never was in friendship but once, in my nineteenth year, and then it gave me as much trouble as love. I am afraid, as Whitbread's sire said to the king, when he wanted to knight him, that I am 'too old:' but, nevertheless, no one wishes you more friends, fame, and felicity, than Yours," &c.
* * * * *
Having relinquished his design of accompanying the Oxfords to Sicily, he again thought of the East, as will be seen by the following letters, and proceeded so far in his preparations for the voyage as to purchase of Love, the jeweller, of Old Bond Street, about a dozen snuff-boxes, as presents for some of his old Turkish acquaintances.
LETTER 124. TO MR. MOORE.
"4. Benedictine Street, St. James's, July 8. 1813.
"I presume by your silence that I have blundered into something noxious in my reply to your letter, for the which I beg leave to send beforehand a sweeping apology, which you may apply to any, or all, parts of that unfortunate epistle. If I err in my conjecture, I expect the like from you, in putting our correspondence so long in quarantine. God he knows what I have said; but he also knows (if he is not as indifferent to mortals as the nonchalant deities of Lucretius), that you are the last person I want to offend. So, if I have,—why the devil don't you say it at once, and expectorate your spleen?
"Rogers is out of town with Madame de Stael, who hath published an Essay against Suicide, which, I presume, will make somebody shoot himself;—as a sermon by Blinkensop, in proof of Christianity, sent a hitherto most orthodox acquaintance of mine out of a chapel of ease a perfect atheist. Have you found or founded a residence yet? and have you begun or finished a poem? If you won't tell me what I have done, pray say what you have done, or left undone, yourself. I am still in equipment for voyaging, and anxious to hear from, or of, you before I go, which anxiety you should remove more readily, as you think I sha'n't cogitate about you afterwards. I shall give the lie to that calumny by fifty foreign letters, particularly from any place where the plague is rife,—without a drop of vinegar or a whiff of sulphur to save you from infection.
"The Oxfords have sailed almost a fortnight, and my sister is in town, which is a great comfort—for, never having been much together, we are naturally more attached to each other. I presume the illuminations have conflagrated to Derby (or wherever you are) by this time. We are just recovering from tumult and train oil, and transparent fripperies, and all the noise and nonsense of victory. Drury Lane had a large M.W., which some thought was Marshal Wellington; others, that it might be translated into Manager Whitbread; while the ladies of the vicinity of the saloon conceived the last letter to be complimentary to themselves. I leave this to the commentators to illustrate. If you don't answer this, I sha'n't say what you deserve, but I think I deserve a reply. Do you conceive there is no Post-Bag but the Twopenny? Sunburn me, if you are not too bad."
* * * * *
LETTER 125. TO MR. MOORE.
"July 13. 1813.
"Your letter set me at ease; for I really thought (as I hear of your susceptibility) that I had said—I know not what—but something I should have been very sorry for, had it, or I, offended you;—though I don't see how a man with a beautiful wife—his own children,—quiet—fame—competency and friends, (I will vouch for a thousand, which is more than I will for a unit in my own behalf,) can be offended with any thing.
"Do you know, Moore, I am amazingly inclined—remember I say but inclined—to be seriously enamoured with Lady A.F.—but this * * has ruined all my prospects. However, you know her; is she clever, or sensible, or good-tempered? either would do—I scratch out the will. I don't ask as to her beauty—that I see; but my circumstances are mending, and were not my other prospects blackening, I would take a wife, and that should be the woman, had I a chance. I do not yet know her much, but better than I did.
"I want to get away, but find difficulty in compassing a passage in a ship of war. They had better let me go; if I cannot, patriotism is the word—'nay, an' they'll mouth, I'll rant as well as they.' Now, what are you doing?—writing, we all hope, for our own sakes. Remember you must edite my posthumous works, with a Life of the Author, for which I will send you Confessions, dated, 'Lazaretto,' Smyrna, Malta, or Palermo—one can die any where.
"There is to be a thing on Tuesday ycleped a national fete. The Regent and * * * are to be there, and every body else, who has shillings enough for what was once a guinea. Vauxhall is the scene—there are six tickets issued for the modest women, and it is supposed there will be three to spare. The passports for the lax are beyond my arithmetic.
"P.S.—The Stael last night attacked me most furiously—said that I had 'no right to make love—that I had used * * barbarously—that I had no feeling, and was totally insensible to la belle passion, and had been all my life.' I am very glad to hear it, but did not know it before. Let me hear from you anon."
* * * * *
LETTER 126. TO MR. MOORE.
"July 25. 1813.
"I am not well versed enough in the ways of single woman to make much matrimonial progress.
"I have been dining like the dragon of Wantley for this last week. My head aches with the vintage of various cellars, and my brains are muddled as their dregs. I met your friends the D * * s:—she sung one of your best songs so well, that, but for the appearance of affectation, I could have cried; he reminds me of Hunt, but handsomer, and more musical in soul, perhaps. I wish to God he may conquer his horrible anomalous complaint. The upper part of her face is beautiful, and she seems much attached to her husband. He is right, nevertheless, in leaving this nauseous town. The first winter would infallibly destroy her complexion,—and the second, very probably, every thing else.
"I must tell you a story. M * * (of indifferent memory) was dining out the other day, and complaining of the P——e's coldness to his old wassailers. D * * (a learned Jew) bored him with questions—why this? and why that? 'Why did the P——e act thus?'—'Why, sir, on account of Lord * *, who ought to be ashamed of himself.'—'And why ought Lord * * to be ashamed of himself?'—'Because the P——e, sir, * * * * * * * *.'—'And why, sir, did the P——e cut you?'—' Because, G——d d——mme, sir, I stuck to my principles.'—'And why did you stick to your principles?'
"Is not this last question the best that was ever put, when you consider to whom? It nearly killed M * *. Perhaps you may think it stupid, but, as Goldsmith said about the peas, it was a very good joke when I heard it—as I did from an ear-witness—and is only spoilt in my narration.
"The season has closed with a dandy ball;—but I have dinners with the Harrowbys, Rogers, and Frere and Mackintosh, where I shall drink your health in a silent bumper, and regret your absence till 'too much canaries' wash away my memory, or render it superfluous by a vision of you at the opposite side of the table. Canning has disbanded his party by a speech from his * * * *—the true throne of a Tory. Conceive his turning them off in a formal harangue, and bidding them think for themselves. 'I have led my ragamuffins where they are well peppered. There are but three of the 150 left alive, and they are for the Towns-end (query, might not Falstaff mean the Bow Street officer? I dare say Malone's posthumous edition will have it so) for life.'
"Since I wrote last, I have been into the country. I journeyed by night—no incident, or accident, but an alarm on the part of my valet on the outside, who, in crossing Epping Forest, actually, I believe, flung down his purse before a mile-stone, with a glow-worm in the second figure of number XIX—mistaking it for a footpad and dark lantern. I can only attribute his fears to a pair of new pistols wherewith I had armed him; and he thought it necessary to display his vigilance by calling out to me whenever we passed any thing—no matter whether moving or stationary. Conceive ten miles, with a tremor every furlong. I have scribbled you a fearfully long letter. This sheet must be blank, and is merely a wrapper, to preclude the tabellarians of the post from peeping. You once complained of my not writing;—I will 'heap coals of fire upon your head' by not complaining of your not reading. Ever, my dear Moore, your'n (isn't that the Staffordshire termination?)
* * * * *
LETTER 127. TO MR. MOORE.
"July 27. 1813.
"When you next imitate the style of 'Tacitus,' pray add, 'de moribus Germanorum;'—this last was a piece of barbarous silence, and could only be taken from the Woods, and, as such, I attribute it entirely to your sylvan sequestration at Mayfield Cottage. You will find, on casting up accounts, that you are my debtor by several sheets and one epistle. I shall bring my action;—if you don't discharge, expect to hear from my attorney. I have forwarded your letter to Ruggiero; but don't make a postman of me again, for fear I should be tempted to violate your sanctity of wax or wafer.
"Believe me ever yours indignantly,
* * * * *
LETTER 128. TO MR. MOORE.
"July 28. 1813.
"Can't you be satisfied with the pangs of my jealousy of Rogers, without actually making me the pander of your epistolary intrigue? This is the second letter you have enclosed to my address, notwithstanding a miraculous long answer, and a subsequent short one or two of your own. If you do so again, I can't tell to what pitch my fury may soar. I shall send you verse or arsenic, as likely as any thing,—four thousand couplets on sheets beyond the privilege of franking; that privilege, sir, of which you take an undue advantage over a too susceptible senator, by forwarding your lucubrations to every one but himself. I won't frank from you, or for you, or to you—may I be curst if I do, unless you mend your manners. I disown you—I disclaim you—and by all the powers of Eulogy, I will write a panegyric upon you—or dedicate a quarto—if you don't make me ample amends.
"P.S.—I am in training to dine with Sheridan and Rogers this evening. I have a little spite against R., and will shed his 'Clary wines pottle-deep.' This is nearly my ultimate or penultimate letter; for I am quite equipped, and only wait a passage. Perhaps I may wait a few weeks for Sligo, but not if I can help it."
* * * * *
He had, with the intention of going to Greece, applied to Mr. Croker, the Secretary of the Admiralty, to procure him a passage on board a king's ship to the Mediterranean; and, at the request of this gentleman, Captain Carlton, of the Boyne, who was just then ordered to reinforce Sir Edward Pellew, consented to receive Lord Byron into his cabin for the voyage. To the letter announcing this offer, the following is the reply.
LETTER 129. TO MR. CROKER.
"Bt. Str., August 2. 1813.
"I was honoured with your unexpected and very obliging letter, when on the point of leaving London, which prevented me from acknowledging my obligation as quickly as I felt it sincerely. I am endeavouring all in my power to be ready before Saturday—and even if I should not succeed, I can only blame my own tardiness, which will not the less enhance the benefit I have lost. I have only to add my hope of forgiveness for all my trespasses on your time and patience, and with my best wishes for your public and private welfare, I have the honour to be, most truly, your obliged and most obedient servant,
[Footnote 74: He calls the letter of Mr. Croker "unexpected," because, in their previous correspondence and interviews on the subject, that gentleman had not been able to hold out so early a prospect of a passage, nor one which was likely to be so agreeable in point of society.]
* * * * *
So early as the autumn of this year, a fifth edition of The Giaour was required; and again his fancy teemed with fresh materials for its pages. The verses commencing "The browsing camels' bells are tinkling," and the four pages that follow the line, "Yes, love indeed is light from heaven," were all added at this time. Nor had the overflowings of his mind even yet ceased, as I find in the poem, as it exists at present, still further additions,—and, among them, those four brilliant lines,—
"She was a form of life and light, That, seen, became a part of sight, And rose, where'er I turn'd mine eye, The Morning-star of memory!"
The following notes and letters to Mr. Murray, during these outpourings, will show how irresistible was the impulse under which he vented his thoughts.
"If you send more proofs, I shall never finish this infernal story—'Ecce signum'—thirty-three more lines enclosed! to the utter discomfiture of the printer, and, I fear, not to your advantage.
* * * * *
"Half-past two in the morning, Aug. 10. 1813.
"Pray suspend the proofs, for I am bitten again, and have quantities for other parts of the bravura.
"Yours ever, B.
"P.S.—You shall have them in the course of the day."
* * * * *
LETTER 130. TO MR. MURRAY.
"August 26. 1813.
"I have looked over and corrected one proof, but not so carefully (God knows if you can read it through, but I can't) as to preclude your eye from discovering some omission of mine or commission of your printer. If you have patience, look it over. Do you know any body who can stop—I mean point—commas, and so forth? for I am, I hear, a sad hand at your punctuation. I have, but with some difficulty, not added any more to this snake of a poem, which has been lengthening its rattles every month. It is now fearfully long, being more than a Canto and a half of Childe Harold, which contains but 882 lines per book, with all late additions inclusive.
"The last lines Hodgson likes. It is not often he does, and when he don't he tells me with great energy, and I fret and alter. I have thrown them in to soften the ferocity of our Infidel, and, for a dying man, have given him a good deal to say for himself.
"I was quite sorry to hear you say you stayed in town on my account, and I hope sincerely you did not mean so superfluous a piece of politeness.
"Our six critiques!—they would have made half a Quarterly by themselves; but this is the age of criticism."
* * * * *
The following refer apparently to a still later edition.
LETTER 131. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Stilton, Oct. 3. 1813.
"I have just recollected an alteration you may make in the proof to be sent to Aston.—Among the lines on Hassan's Serai, not far from the beginning, is this—
"Unmeet for Solitude to share.
Now to share implies more than one, and Solitude is a single gentleman; it must be thus—
"For many a gilded chamber's there, Which Solitude might well forbear;
and so on.—My address is Aston Hall, Rotherham.
"Will you adopt this correction? and pray accept a Stilton cheese from me for your trouble. Ever yours, B.
"If the old line stands let the other run thus—
"Nor there will weary traveller halt, To bless the sacred bread and salt.
"Note.—To partake of food—to break bread and taste salt with your host, ensures the safety of the guest; even though an enemy, his person from that moment becomes sacred.
"There is another additional note sent yesterday—on the Priest in the Confessional.
"P.S.—I leave this to your discretion; if any body thinks the old line a good one or the cheese a bad one, don't accept either. But, in that case, the word share is repeated soon after in the line—
"To share the master's bread and salt;
and must be altered to—
"To break the master's bread and salt.
This is not so well, though—confound it!"
[Footnote 75: This is written on a separate slip of paper enclosed.]
* * * * *
LETTER 132. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Oct. 12. 1813.
"You must look The Giaour again over carefully; there are a few lapses, particularly in the last page.—'I know 'twas false; she could not die;' it was, and ought to be—'I knew.' Pray observe this and similar mistakes.
"I have received and read the British Review. I really think the writer in most points very right. The only mortifying thing is the accusation of imitation. Crabbe's passage I never saw; and Scott I no further meant to follow than in his lyric measure, which is Gray's, Milton's, and any one's who likes it. The Giaour is certainly a bad character, but not dangerous; and I think his fate and his feelings will meet with few proselytes. I shall be very glad to hear from or of you, when you please; but don't put yourself out of your way on my account."
[Footnote 76: The passage referred to by the Reviewers is in the poem entitled "Resentment;" and the following is, I take for granted, the part which Lord Byron is accused by them of having imitated:—
"Those are like wax—apply them to the fire, Melting, they take th' impressions you desire; Easy to mould, and fashion as you please, And again moulded with an equal ease: Like smelted iron these the forms retain; But, once impress'd, will never melt again." ]
* * * * *
LETTER 133. TO MR. MOORE.
"Bennet Street, August 22. 1813.
"As our late—I might say, deceased—correspondence had too much of the town-life leaven in it, we will now, 'paulo majora,' prattle a little of literature in all its branches; and first of the first—criticism. The Prince is at Brighton, and Jackson, the boxer, gone to Margate, having, I believe, decoyed Yarmouth to see a milling in that polite neighbourhood. Made. de Stael Holstein has lost one of her young barons, who has been carbonadoed by a vile Teutonic adjutant,—kilt and killed in a coffee-house at Scrawsenhawsen. Corinne is, of course, what all mothers must be,—but will, I venture to prophesy, do what few mothers could—write an Essay upon it. She cannot exist without a grievance—and somebody to see, or read, how much grief becomes her. I have not seen her since the event; but merely judge (not very charitably) from prior observation.
"In a 'mail-coach copy' of the Edinburgh, I perceive The Giaour is second article. The numbers are still in the Leith smack—pray, which way is the wind? The said article is so very mild and sentimental, that it must be written by Jeffrey in love;—you know he is gone to America to marry some fair one, of whom he has been, for several quarters, eperdument amoureux. Seriously—as Winifred Jenkins says of Lismahago—Mr. Jeffrey (or his deputy) 'has done the handsome thing by me,' and I say nothing. But this I will say, if you and I had knocked one another on the head in this quarrel, how he would have laughed, and what a mighty bad figure we should have cut in our posthumous works. By the by, I was called in the other day to mediate between two gentlemen bent upon carnage, and,—after a long struggle between the natural desire of destroying one's fellow-creatures, and the dislike of seeing men play the fool for nothing,—I got one to make an apology, and the other to take it, and left them to live happy ever after. One was a peer, the other a friend untitled, and both fond of high play;—and one, I can swear for, though very mild, 'not fearful,' and so dead a shot, that, though the other is the thinnest of men, he would have split him like a cane. They both conducted themselves very well, and I put them out of pain as soon as I could.
"There is an American Life of G.F. Cooke, Scurra deceased, lately published. Such a book!—I believe, since Drunken Barnaby's Journal, nothing like it has drenched the press. All green-room and tap-room—drams and the drama—brandy, whisky-punch, and, latterly, toddy, overflow every page. Two things are rather marvellous,—first, that a man should live so long drunk, and, next, that he should have found a sober biographer. There are some very laughable things in it, nevertheless;—but the pints he swallowed, and the parts he performed, are too regularly registered.
"All this time you wonder I am not gone; so do I; but the accounts of the plague are very perplexing—not so much for the thing itself as the quarantine established in all ports, and from all places, even from England. It is true, the forty or sixty days would, in all probability, be as foolishly spent on shore as in the ship; but one like's to have one's choice, nevertheless. Town is awfully empty; but not the worse for that. I am really puzzled with my perfect ignorance of what I mean to do;—not stay, if I can help it, but where to go? Sligo is for the North;—a pleasant place, Petersburgh, in September, with one's ears and nose in a muff, or else tumbling into one's neckcloth or pocket-handkerchief! If the winter treated Buonaparte with so little ceremony, what would it inflict upon your solitary traveller?—Give me a sun, I care not how hot, and sherbet, I care not how cool, and my Heaven is as easily made as your Persian's. The Giaour is now a thousand and odd lines. 'Lord Fanny spins a thousand such a day,' eh, Moore?—thou wilt needs be a wag, but I forgive it. Yours ever,
"P.S. I perceive I have written a flippant and rather cold-hearted letter! let it go, however. I have said nothing, either, of the brilliant sex; but the fact is, I am at this moment in a far more serious, and entirely new, scrape than any of the last twelve months,—and that is saying a good deal. It is unlucky we can neither live with nor without these women.
"I am now thinking of regretting that, just as I have left Newstead, you reside near it. Did you ever see it? do—but don't tell me that you like it. If I had known of such intellectual neighbourhood, I don't think I should have quitted it. You could have come over so often, as a bachelor,—for it was a thorough bachelor's mansion—plenty of wine and such sordid sensualities—with books enough, room enough, and an air of antiquity about all (except the lasses) that would have suited you, when pensive, and served you to laugh at when in glee. I had built myself a bath and a vault—and now I sha'n't even be buried in it. It is odd that we can't even be certain of a grave, at least a particular one. I remember, when about fifteen, reading your poems there, which I can repeat almost now,—and asking all kinds of questions about the author, when I heard that he was not dead according to the preface; wondering if I should ever see him—and though, at that time, without the smallest poetical propensity myself, very much taken, as you may imagine, with that volume. Adieu—I commit you to the care of the gods—Hindoo, Scandinavian, and Hellenic!
"P.S. 2d. There is an excellent review of Grimm's Correspondence and Made. de Stael in this No. of the E.R. Jeffrey, himself, was my critic last year; but this is, I believe, by another hand. I hope you are going on with your grand coup—pray do—or that damned Lucien Buonaparte will beat us all. I have seen much of his poem in MS., and he really surpasses every thing beneath Tasso. Hodgson is translating him against another bard. You and (I believe, Rogers,) Scott, Gifford, and myself, are to be referred to as judges between the twain,—that is, if you accept the office. Conceive our different opinions! I think we, most of us (I am talking very impudently, you will think—us, indeed!) have a way of our own,—at least, you and Scott certainly have."
[Footnote 77: One of his travelling projects appears to have been a visit to Abyssinia:—at least, I have found, among his papers, a letter founded on that supposition, in which the writer entreats of him to procure information concerning "a kingdom of Jews mentioned by Bruce as residing on the mountain of Samen in that country. I have had the honour," he adds, "of some correspondence with the Rev. Dr. Buchanan and the reverend and learned G.S. Faber, on the subject of the existence of this kingdom of Jews, which, if it prove to be a fact, will more clearly elucidate many of the Scripture prophecies; ... and, if Providence favours your Lordship's mission to Abyssinia, an intercourse might be established between England and that country, and the English ships, according to the Rev. Mr. Faber, might be the principal means of transporting the kingdom of Jews, now in Abyssinia, to Egypt, in the way to their own country, Palestine."]
"A Persian's Heav'n is easily made— 'Tis but black eyes and lemonade." ]
* * * * *
LETTER 134. TO MR. MOORE.
"August 28. 1813.
"Ay, my dear Moore, 'there was a time'—I have heard of your tricks, when 'you was campaigning at the King of Bohemy.' I am much mistaken if, some fine London spring, about the year 1815, that time does not come again. After all, we must end in marriage; and I can conceive nothing more delightful than such a state in the country, reading the county newspaper, &c., and kissing one's wife's maid. Seriously, I would incorporate with any woman of decent demeanour to-morrow—that is, I would a month ago, but, at present, * * *
"Why don't you 'parody that Ode?'—Do you think I should be tetchy? or have you done it, and won't tell me?—You are quite right about Giamschid, and I have reduced it to a dissyllable within this half hour. I am glad to hear you talk of Richardson, because it tells me what you won't—that you are going to beat Lucien. At least tell me how far you have proceeded. Do you think me less interested about your works, or less sincere than our friend Ruggiero? I am not—and never was. In that thing of mine, the 'English Bards,' at the time when I was angry with all the world, I never 'disparaged your parts,' although I did not know you personally;—and have always regretted that you don't give us an entire work, and not sprinkle yourself in detached pieces—beautiful, I allow, and quite alone in our language, but still giving us a right to expect a Shah Nameh (is that the name?) as well as gazels. Stick to the East;—the oracle, Stael, told me it was the only poetical policy. The North, South, and West, have all been exhausted; but from the East, we have nothing but S * *'s unsaleables,—and these he has contrived to spoil, by adopting only their most outrageous fictions. His personages don't interest us, and yours will. You will have no competitor; and, if you had, you ought to be glad of it. The little I have done in that way is merely a 'voice in the wilderness' for you; and if it has had any success, that also will prove that the public are orientalising, and pave the path for you.
"I have been thinking of a story, grafted on the amours of a Peri and a mortal—something like, only more philanthropical than, Cazotte's Diable Amoureux. It would require a good deal of poesy, and tenderness is not my forte. For that, and other reasons, I have given up the idea, and merely suggest it to you, because, in intervals of your greater work, I think it a subject you might make much of. If you want any more books, there is 'Castellan's Moeurs des Ottomans,' the best compendium of the kind I ever met with, in six small tomes. I am really taking a liberty by talking in this style to my 'elders and my betters;'—pardon it, and don't Rochefoucault my motives."
[Footnote 79: The Ode of Horace,
"Natis in usum laetitiae," &c.;
some passages of which I told him might be parodied, in allusion to some of his late adventures:
"Quanta laboras in Charybdi! Digne puer meliore flamma!" ]
[Footnote 80: In his first edition of The Giaour he had used this word as a trisyllable,—"Bright as the gem of Giamschid,"—but on my remarking to him, upon the authority of Richardson's Persian Dictionary, that this was incorrect, he altered it to "Bright as the ruby of Giamschid." On seeing this, however, I wrote to him, "that, as the comparison of his heroine's eye to a 'ruby' might unluckily call up the idea of its being blood-shot, he had better change the line to "Bright as the jewel of Giamschid;"—which he accordingly did in the following edition.]
[Footnote 81: Having already endeavoured to obviate the charge of vanity, to which I am aware I expose myself by being thus accessory to the publication of eulogies, so warm and so little merited, on myself, I shall here only add, that it will abundantly console me under such a charge, if, in whatever degree the judgment of my noble friend may be called in question for these praises, he shall, in the same proportion, receive credit for the good-nature and warm-heartedness by which they were dictated.]
[Footnote 82: I had already, singularly enough, anticipated this suggestion, by making the daughter of a Peri the heroine of one of my stories, and detailing the love adventures of her aerial parent in an episode. In acquainting Lord Byron with this circumstance, in my answer to the above letter, I added, "All I ask of your friendship is—not that you will abstain from Peris on my account, for that is too much to ask of human (or, at least, author's) nature—but that, whenever you mean to pay your addresses to any of these aerial ladies, you will, at once, tell me so, frankly and instantly, and let me, at least, have my choice whether I shall be desperate enough to go on, with such a rival, or at once surrender the whole race into your hands, and take, for the future, to Antediluvians with Mr. Montgomery."]
* * * * *
LETTER 135. TO MR. MOORE.
"August—September, I mean—1. 1813.
"I send you, begging your acceptance, Castellan, and three vols. on Turkish Literature, not yet looked into. The last I will thank you to read, extract what you want, and return in a week, as they are lent to me by that brightest of Northern constellations, Mackintosh,—amongst many other kind things into which India has warmed him, for I am sure your home Scotsman is of a less genial description.
"Your Peri, my dear M., is sacred and inviolable; I have no idea of touching the hem of her petticoat. Your affectation of a dislike to encounter me is so flattering, that I begin to think myself a very fine fellow. But you are laughing at me—'Stap my vitals, Tarn! thou art a very impudent person;' and, if you are not laughing at me, you deserve to be laughed at. Seriously, what on earth can you, or have you, to dread from any poetical flesh breathing? It really puts me out of humour to hear you talk thus.
"'The Giaour' I have added to a good deal; but still in foolish fragments. It contains about 1200 lines, or rather more—now printing. You will allow me to send you a copy. You delight me much by telling me that I am in your good graces, and more particularly as to temper; for, unluckily, I have the reputation of a very bad one. But they say the devil is amusing when pleased, and I must have been more venomous than the old serpent, to have hissed or stung in your company. It may be, and would appear to a third person, an incredible thing, but I know you will believe me when I say, that I am as anxious for your success as one human being can be for another's,—as much as if I had never scribbled a line. Surely the field of fame is wide enough for all; and if it were not, I would not willingly rob my neighbour of a rood of it. Now you have a pretty property of some thousand acres there, and when you have passed your present Inclosure Bill, your income will be doubled, (there's a metaphor, worthy of a Templar, namely, pert and low,) while my wild common is too remote to incommode you, and quite incapable of such fertility. I send you (which return per post, as the printer would say) a curious letter from a friend of mine, which will let you into the origin of 'The Giaour.' Write soon. Ever, dear Moore, yours most entirely, &c.
"P.S.—This letter was written to me on account of a different story circulated by some gentlewomen of our acquaintance, a little too close to the text. The part erased contained merely some Turkish names, and circumstantial evidence of the girl's detection, not very important or decorous."
[Footnote 83: The letter of Lord Sligo, already given.]
* * * * *
LETTER 136. TO MR. MOORE.
"Sept. 5. 1813.
"You need not tie yourself down to a day with Toderini, but send him at your leisure, having anatomised him into such annotations as you want; I do not believe that he has ever undergone that process before, which is the best reason for not sparing him now.
"* * has returned to town, but not yet recovered of the Quarterly. What fellows these reviewers are! 'these bugs do fear us all.' They made you fight, and me (the milkiest of men) a satirist, and will end by making * * madder than Ajax. I have been reading Memory again, the other day, and Hope together, and retain all my preference of the former. His elegance is really wonderful—there is no such thing as a vulgar line in his book.
"What say you to Buonaparte? Remember, I back him against the field, barring Catalepsy and the Elements. Nay, I almost wish him success against all countries but this,—were it only to choke the Morning Post, and his undutiful father-in-law, with that rebellious bastard of Scandinavian adoption, Bernadotte. Rogers wants me to go with him on a crusade to the Lakes, and to besiege you on our way. This last is a great temptation, but I fear it will not be in my power, unless you would go on with one of us somewhere—no matter where. It is too late for Matlock, but we might hit upon some scheme, high life or low,—the last would be much the best for amusement. I am so sick of the other, that I quite sigh for a cider-cellar, or a cruise in a smuggler's sloop.
"You cannot wish more than I do that the Fates were a little more accommodating to our parallel lines, which prolong ad infinitum without coming a jot nearer. I almost wish I were married, too—which is saying much. All my friends, seniors and juniors, are in for it, and ask me to be godfather,—the only species of parentage which, I believe, will ever come to my share in a lawful way; and, in an unlawful one, by the blessing of Lucina, we can never be certain,—though the parish may. I suppose I shall hear from you to-morrow. If not, this goes as it is; but I leave room for a P.S., in case any thing requires an answer. Ever, &c.