"No letter—n'importe. R. thinks the Quarterly will be at me this time: if so, it shall be a war of extermination—no quarter. From the youngest devil down to the oldest woman of that review, all shall perish by one fatal lampoon. The ties of nature shall be torn asunder, for I will not even spare my bookseller; nay, if one were to include readers also, all the better."
* * * * *
LETTER 137. TO MR. MOORE.
"September 8. 1813.
"I am sorry to see Tod. again so soon, for fear your scrupulous conscience should have prevented you from fully availing yourself of his spoils. By this coach I send you a copy of that awful pamphlet 'The Giaour,' which has never procured me half so high a compliment as your modest alarm. You will (if inclined in an evening) perceive that I have added much in quantity,—a circumstance which may truly diminish your modesty upon the subject.
"You stand certainly in great need of a 'lift' with Mackintosh. My dear Moore, you strangely under-rate yourself. I should conceive it an affectation in any other; but I think I know you well enough to believe that you don't know your own value. However, 'tis a fault that generally mends; and, in your case, it really ought. I have heard him speak of you as highly as your wife could wish; and enough to give all your friends the jaundice.
"Yesterday I had a letter from Ali Pacha! brought by Dr. Holland, who is just returned from Albania. It is in Latin, and begins 'Excellentissime nec non Carissime,' and ends about a gun he wants made for him;—it is signed 'Ali Vizir.' What do you think he has been about? H. tells me that, last spring, he took a hostile town, where, forty-two years ago, his mother and sisters were treated as Miss Cunigunde was by the Bulgarian cavalry. He takes the town, selects all the survivors of this exploit—children, grandchildren, &c. to the tune of six hundred, and has them shot before his face. Recollect, he spared the rest of the city, and confined himself to the Tarquin pedigree,—which is more than I would. So much for 'dearest friend.'"
* * * * *
LETTER 138. TO MR. MOORE.
"Sept. 9. 1813.
"I write to you from Mr. Murray's, and I may say, from Murray, who, if you are not predisposed in favour of any other publisher, would be happy to treat with you, at a fitting time, for your work. I can safely recommend him as fair, liberal, and attentive, and certainly, in point of reputation, he stands among the first of 'the trade.' I am sure he would do you justice. I have written to you so much lately, that you will be glad to see so little now.
"Ever," &c. &c.
* * * * *
LETTER 139. TO MR. MOORE.
"September 27. 1813.
"(Thou wilt never be called 'true Thomas,' like he of Ercildoune,) why don't you write to me?—as you won't, I must. I was near you at Aston the other day, and hope I soon shall be again. If so, you must and shall meet me, and go to Matlock and elsewhere, and take what, in flash dialect, is poetically termed 'a lark,' with Rogers and me for accomplices. Yesterday, at Holland House, I was introduced to Southey—the best looking bard I have seen for some time. To have that poet's head and shoulders, I would almost have written his Sapphics. He is certainly a prepossessing person to look on, and a man of talent, and all that, and—there is his eulogy.
"* * read me part of a letter from you. By the foot of Pharaoh, I believe there was abuse, for he stopped short, so he did, after a fine saying about our correspondence, and looked—I wish I could revenge myself by attacking you, or by telling you that I have had to defend you—an agreeable way which one's friends have of recommending themselves by saying—'Ay, ay, I gave it Mr. Such-a-one for what he said about your being a plagiary, and a rake, and so on.' But do you know that you are one of the very few whom I never have the satisfaction of hearing abused, but the reverse;—and do you suppose I will forgive that?
"I have been in the country, and ran away from the Doncaster races. It is odd,—I was a visiter in the same house which came to my sire as a residence with Lady Carmarthen, (with whom he adulterated before his majority—by the by, remember, she was not my mamma,)—and they thrust me into an old room, with a nauseous picture over the chimney, which I should suppose my papa regarded with due respect, and which, inheriting the family taste, I looked upon with great satisfaction. I stayed a week with the family, and behaved very well—though the lady of the house is young, and religious, and pretty, and the master is my particular friend. I felt no wish for any thing but a poodle dog, which they kindly gave me. Now, for a man of my courses not even to have coveted, is a sign of great amendment. Pray pardon all this nonsense, and don't 'snub me when I'm in spirits.'
"Ever, yours, BN.
"Here's an impromptu for you by a 'person of quality,' written last week, on being reproached for low spirits.
"When from the heart where Sorrow sits, Her dusky shadow mounts too high, And o'er the changing aspect flits, And clouds the brow, or fills the eye: Heed not that gloom, which soon shall sink; My Thoughts their dungeon know too well— Back to my breast the wanderers shrink, And bleed within their silent cell."
[Footnote 84: Now printed in his Works.]
* * * * *
LETTER 140. TO MR. MOORE.
"October 2. 1813.
"You have not answered some six letters of mine. This, therefore, is my penultimate. I will write to you once more, but, after that—I swear by all the saints—I am silent and supercilious. I have met Curran at Holland House—he beats every body;—his imagination is beyond human, and his humour (it is difficult to define what is wit) perfect. Then he has fifty faces, and twice as many voices, when he mimics—I never met his equal. Now, were I a woman, and eke a virgin, that is the man I should make my Scamander. He is quite fascinating. Remember, I have met him but once; and you, who have known him long, may probably deduct from my panegyric. I almost fear to meet him again, lest the impression should be lowered. He talked a great deal about you—a theme never tiresome to me, nor any body else that I know. What a variety of expression he conjures into that naturally not very fine countenance of his! He absolutely changes it entirely. I have done—for I can't describe him, and you know him. On Sunday I return to * *, where I shall not be far from you. Perhaps I shall hear from you in the mean time. Good night.
"Saturday morn—Your letter has cancelled all my anxieties. I did not suspect you in earnest. Modest again! Because I don't do a very shabby thing, it seems, I 'don't fear your competition.' If it were reduced to an alternative of preference, I should dread you, as much as Satan does Michael. But is there not room enough in our respective regions? Go on—it will soon be my turn to forgive. To-day I dine with Mackintosh and Mrs. Stale—as John Bull may be pleased to denominate Corinne—whom I saw last night, at Covent Garden, yawning over the humour of Falstaff.
"The reputation of 'gloom,' if one's friends are not included in the reputants, is of great service; as it saves one from a legion of impertinents, in the shape of common-place acquaintance. But thou know'st I can be a right merry and conceited fellow, and rarely 'larmoyant.' Murray shall reinstate your line forthwith. I believe the blunder in the motto was mine:—and yet I have, in general, a memory for you, and am sure it was rightly printed at first.
"I do 'blush' very often, if I may believe Ladies H. and M.;—but luckily, at present, no one sees me. Adieu."
[Footnote 85: The motto to The Giaour, which is taken from one of the Irish Melodies, had been quoted by him incorrectly in the first editions of the poem. He made afterwards a similar mistake in the lines from Burns prefixed to the Bride of Abydos.]
* * * * *
LETTER 141. TO MR. MOORE.
"November 30. 1813.
"Since I last wrote to you, much has occurred, good, bad, and indifferent,—not to make me forget you, but to prevent me from reminding you of one who, nevertheless, has often thought of you, and to whom your thoughts, in many a measure, have frequently been a consolation. We were once very near neighbours this autumn; and a good and bad neighbourhood it has proved to me. Suffice it to say, that your French quotation was confoundedly to the purpose,—though very unexpectedly pertinent, as you may imagine by what I said before, and my silence since. However, 'Richard's himself again,' and except all night and some part of the morning, I don't think very much about the matter.
"All convulsions end with me in rhyme; and to solace my midnights, I have scribbled another Turkish story—not a Fragment—which you will receive soon after this. It does not trench upon your kingdom in the least, and if it did, you would soon reduce me to my proper boundaries. You will think, and justly, that I run some risk of losing the little I have gained in fame, by this further experiment on public patience; but I have really ceased to care on that head. I have written this, and published it, for the sake of the employment,—to wring my thoughts from reality, and take refuge in 'imaginings,' however 'horrible;' and, as to success! those who succeed will console me for a failure—excepting yourself and one or two more, whom luckily I love too well to wish one leaf of their laurels a tint yellower. This is the work of a week, and will be the reading of an hour to you, or even less,—and so, let it go * * * *.
"P.S. Ward and I talk of going to Holland. I want to see how a Dutch canal looks after the Bosphorus. Pray respond."
[Footnote 86: The Bride of Abydos.]
* * * * *
LETTER 142. TO MR. MOORE.
"December 8. 1813.
"Your letter, like all the best, and even kindest things in this world, is both painful and pleasing. But, first, to what sits nearest. Do you know I was actually about to dedicate to you,—not in a formal inscription, as to one's elders,—but through a short prefatory letter, in which I boasted myself your intimate, and held forth the prospect of your poem; when, lo! the recollection of your strict injunctions of secrecy as to the said poem, more than once repeated by word and letter, flashed upon me, and marred my intents. I could have no motive for repressing my own desire of alluding to you (and not a day passes that I do not think and talk of you), but an idea that you might, yourself, dislike it. You cannot doubt my sincere admiration, waving personal friendship for the present, which, by the by, is not less sincere and deep rooted. I have you by rote and by heart; of which 'ecce signum!' When I was at * *, on my first visit, I have a habit, in passing my time a good deal alone, of—I won't call it singing, for that I never attempt except to myself—but of uttering, to what I think tunes, your 'Oh breathe not,' 'When the last glimpse,' and 'When he who adores thee,' with others of the same minstrel;—they are my matins and vespers. I assuredly did not intend them to be overheard, but, one morning, in comes, not La Donna, but Il Marito, with a very grave face, saying, 'Byron, I must request you won't sing any more, at least of those songs.' I stared, and said, 'Certainly, but why?'—'To tell you the truth,' quoth he, 'they make my wife cry, and so melancholy, that I wish her to hear no more of them.'
"Now, my dear M., the effect must have been from your words, and certainly not my music. I merely mention this foolish story to show you how much I am indebted to you for even your pastimes. A man may praise and praise, but no one recollects but that which pleases—at least, in composition. Though I think no one equal to you in that department, or in satire,—and surely no one was ever so popular in both,—I certainly am of opinion that you have not yet done all you can do, though more than enough for any one else. I want, and the world expects, a longer work from you; and I see in you what I never saw in poet before, a strange diffidence of your own powers, which I cannot account for, and which must be unaccountable, when a Cossac like me can appal a cuirassier. Your story I did not, could not, know,—I thought only of a Peri. I wish you had confided in me, not for your sake, but mine, and to prevent the world from losing a much better poem than my own, but which, I yet hope, this clashing will not even now deprive them of. Mine is the work of a week, written, why I have partly told you, and partly I cannot tell you by letter—some day I will.
"Go on—I shall really be very unhappy if I at all interfere with you. The success of mine is yet problematical; though the public will probably purchase a certain quantity, on the presumption of their own propensity for 'The Giaour' and such 'horrid mysteries.' The only advantage I have is being on the spot; and that merely amounts to saving me the trouble of turning over books which I had better read again. If your chamber was furnished in the same way, you have no need to go there to describe—I mean only as to accuracy—because I drew it from recollection.
"This last thing of mine may have the same fate, and I assure you I have great doubts about it. But, even if not, its little day will be over before you are ready and willing. Come out—'screw your courage to the sticking-place.' Except the Post Bag (and surely you cannot complain of a want of success there), you have not been regularly out for some years. No man stands higher,—whatever you may think on a rainy day, in your provincial retreat. 'Aucun homme, dans aucune langue, n'a ete, peut-etre, plus completement le poete du coeur et le poete des femmes. Les critiques lui reprochent de n'avoir represente le monde ni tel qu'il est, ni tel qu'il doit etre; mais les femmes repondent qu'il l'a represente tel qu'elles le desirent.'—I should have thought Sismondi had written this for you instead of Metastasio.
"Write to me, and tell me of yourself. Do you remember what Rousseau said to some one—'Have we quarrelled? you have talked to me often, and never once mentioned yourself.'
"P.S.—The last sentence is an indirect apology for my own egotism,—but I believe in letters it is allowed. I wish it was mutual. I have met with an odd reflection in Grimm; it shall not—at least the bad part—be applied to you or me, though one of us has certainly an indifferent name—but this it is:—'Many people have the reputation of being wicked, with whom we should be too happy to pass our lives.' I need not add it is a woman's saying—a Mademoiselle de Sommery's."
[Footnote 87: Among the stories intended to be introduced into Lalla Rookh, which I had begun, but, from various causes, never finished, there was one which I had made some progress in, at the time of the appearance of "The Bride," and which, on reading that poem, I found to contain such singular coincidences with it, not only in locality and costume, but in plot and characters, that I immediately gave up my story altogether, and began another on an entirely new subject, the Fire-worshippers. To this circumstance, which I immediately communicated to him, Lord Byron alludes in this letter. In my hero (to whom I had even given the name of "Zelim," and who was a descendant of Ali, outlawed, with all his followers, by the reigning Caliph) it was my intention to shadow out, as I did afterwards in another form, the national cause of Ireland. To quote the words of my letter to Lord Byron on the subject:—"I chose this story because one writes best about what one feels most, and I thought the parallel with Ireland would enable me to infuse some vigour into my hero's character. But to aim at vigour and strong feeling after you is hopeless;—that region 'was made for Caesar.'"]
* * * * *
At this time Lord Byron commenced a Journal, or Diary, from the pages of which I have already selected a few extracts, and of which I shall now lay as much more as is producible before the reader. Employed chiefly,—as such a record, from its nature, must be,—about persons still living, and occurrences still recent, it would be impossible, of course, to submit it to the public eye, without the omission of some portion of its contents, and unluckily, too, of that very portion which, from its reference to the secret pursuits and feelings of the writer, would the most livelily pique and gratify the curiosity of the reader. Enough, however, will, I trust, still remain, even after all this necessary winnowing, to enlarge still further the view we have here opened into the interior of the poet's life and habits, and to indulge harmlessly that taste, as general as it is natural, which leads us to contemplate with pleasure a great mind in its undress, and to rejoice in the discovery, so consoling to human pride, that even the mightiest, in their moments of ease and weakness, resemble ourselves.
[Footnote 88: "C'est surtout aux hommes qui sont hors de toute comparaison par le genie qu'on aime a ressembler au moins par les foiblesses."—GINGUENE.]
"JOURNAL, BEGUN NOVEMBER 14. 1813.
"If this had been begun ten years ago, and faithfully kept!!!—heigho! there are too many things I wish never to have remembered, as it is. Well,—have had my share of what are called the pleasures of this life, and have seen more of the European and Asiatic world than I have made a good use of. They say 'Virtue is its own reward,'—it certainly should be paid well for its trouble. At five-and-twenty, when the better part of life is over, one should be something;—and what am I? nothing but five-and-twenty—and the odd months. What have I seen? the same man all over the world,—ay, and woman too. Give me a Mussulman who never asks questions, and a she of the same race who saves one the trouble of putting them. But for this same plague—yellow fever—and Newstead delay, I should have been by this time a second time close to the Euxine. If I can overcome the last, I don't so much mind your pestilence; and, at any rate, the spring shall see me there,—provided I neither marry myself, nor unmarry any one else in the interval. I wish one was—I don't know what I wish. It is odd I never set myself seriously to wishing without attaining it—and repenting. I begin to believe with the good old Magi, that one should only pray for the nation, and not for the individual;—but, on my principle, this would not be very patriotic.
"No more reflections—Let me see—last night I finished 'Zuleika,' my second Turkish Tale. I believe the composition of it kept me alive—for it was written to drive my thoughts from the recollection of—
'Dear sacred name, rest ever unreveal'd.'
At least, even here, my hand would tremble to write it. This afternoon I have burnt the scenes of my commenced comedy. I have some idea of expectorating a romance, or rather a tale in prose;—but what romance could equal the events—
'quaeque ipse ...vidi, Et quorum pars magna fui.'
"To-day Henry Byron called on me with my little cousin Eliza. She will grow up a beauty and a plague; but, in the mean time, it is the prettiest child! dark eyes and eyelashes, black and long as the wing of a raven. I think she is prettier even than my niece, Georgina,—yet I don't like to think so neither; and though older, she is not so clever.
"Dallas called before I was up, so we did not meet. Lewis, too,—who seems out of humour with every thing. What can be the matter? he is not married—has he lost his own mistress, or any other person's wife? Hodgson, too, came. He is going to be married, and he is the kind of man who will be the happier. He has talent, cheerfulness, every thing that can make him a pleasing companion; and his intended is handsome and young, and all that. But I never see any one much improved by matrimony. All my coupled contemporaries are bald and discontented. W. and S. have both lost their hair and good humour; and the last of the two had a good deal to lose. But it don't much signify what falls off a man's temples in that state.
"Mem. I must get a toy to-morrow, for Eliza, and send the device for the seals of myself and * * * * * Mem. too, to call on the Stael and Lady Holland to-morrow, and on * *, who has advised me (without seeing it, by the by) not to publish 'Zuleika;' I believe he is right, but experience might have taught him that not to print is physically impossible. No one has seen it but Hodgson and Mr. Gifford. I never in my life read a composition, save to Hodgson, as he pays me in kind. It is a horrible thing to do too frequently;—better print, and they who like may read, and if they don't like, you have the satisfaction of knowing that they have, at least, purchased the right of saying so.
"I have declined presenting the Debtors' Petition, being sick of parliamentary mummeries. I have spoken thrice; but I doubt my ever becoming an orator. My first was liked; the second and third—I don't know whether they succeeded or not. I have never yet set to it con amore;—one must have some excuse to one's self for laziness, or inability, or both, and this is mine. 'Company, villanous company, hath been the spoil of me;'—and then, I have 'drunk medicines,' not to make me love others, but certainly enough to hate myself.
"Two nights ago I saw the tigers sup at Exeter 'Change. Except Veli Pacha's lion in the Morea,—who followed the Arab keeper like a dog,—the fondness of the hyaena for her keeper amused me most. Such a conversazione!—There was a 'hippopotamus,' like Lord L——l in the face; and the 'Ursine Sloth' hath the very voice and manner of my valet—but the tiger talked too much. The elephant took and gave me my money again—took off my hat—opened a door—trunked a whip—and behaved so well, that I wish he was my butler. The handsomest animal on earth is one of the panthers; but the poor antelopes were dead. I should hate to see one here:—the sight of the camel made me pine again for Asia Minor. 'Oh quando te aspiciam?'
"Went last night with Lewis to see the first of Antony and Cleopatra. It was admirably got up, and well acted—a salad of Shakspeare and Dryden, Cleopatra strikes me as the epitome of her sex—fond, lively, sad, tender, teasing, humble, haughty, beautiful, the devil!—coquettish to the last, as well with the 'asp' as with Antony. After doing all she can to persuade him that—but why do they abuse him for cutting off that poltroon Cicero's head? Did not Tully tell Brutus it was a pity to have spared Antony? and did he not speak the Philippics? and are not 'words things?' and such 'words' very pestilent 'things' too? If he had had a hundred heads, they deserved (from Antony) a rostrum (his was stuck up there) apiece—though, after all, he might as well have pardoned him, for the credit of the thing. But to resume—Cleopatra, after securing him, says, 'yet go—it is your interest,' &c.—how like the sex! and the questions about Octavia—it is woman all over.
"To-day received Lord Jersey's invitation to Middleton—to travel sixty miles to meet Madame * *! I once travelled three thousand to get among silent people; and this same lady writes octavos, and talks folios. I have read her books—like most of them, and delight in the last; so I won't hear it, as well as read.
"Read Burns to-day. What would he have been, if a patrician? We should have had more polish—less force—just as much verse, but no immortality—a divorce and a duel or two, the which had he survived, as his potations must have been less spirituous, he might have lived as long as Sheridan, and outlived as much as poor Brinsley. What a wreck is that man! and all from bad pilotage; for no one had ever better gales, though now and then a little too squally. Poor dear Sherry! I shall never forget the day he and Rogers and Moore and I passed together; when he talked, and we listened, without one yawn, from six till one in the morning.
"Got my seals * * * * * * Have again forgot a plaything for ma petite cousine Eliza; but I must send for it to-morrow. I hope Harry will bring her to me. I sent Lord Holland the proofs of the last 'Giaour,' and 'The Bride of Abydos.' He won't like the latter, and I don't think that I shall long. It was written in four nights to distract my dreams from * *. Were it not thus, it had never been composed; and had I not done something at that time, I must have gone mad, by eating my own heart,—bitter diet!—Hodgson likes it better than 'The Giaour,' but nobody else will,—and he never liked the Fragment. I am sure, had it not been for Murray, that would never have been published, though the circumstances which are the groundwork make it * * * heigh-ho!
"To-night I saw both the sisters of * *; my God! the youngest so like! I thought I should have sprung across the house, and am so glad no one was with me in Lady H.'s box. I hate those likenesses—the mock-bird, but not the nightingale—so like as to remind, so different as to be painful. One quarrels equally with the points of resemblance and of distinction.
"Earth holds no other like to thee, Or, if it doth, in vain for me: For worlds I dare not view the dame Resembling thee, yet not the same." THE GIAOUR. ]
"No letter from * *; but I must not complain. The respectable Job says, 'Why should a living man complain?' I really don't know, except it be that a dead man can't; and he, the said patriarch, did complain, nevertheless, till his friends were tired and his wife recommended that pious prologue, 'Curse—and die;' the only time, I suppose, when but little relief is to be found in swearing. I have had a most kind letter from Lord Holland on 'The Bride of Abydos,' which he likes, and so does Lady H. This is very good-natured in both, from whom I don't deserve any quarter. Yet I did think, at the time, that my cause of enmity proceeded from Holland House, and am glad I was wrong, and wish I had not been in such a hurry with that confounded satire, of which I would suppress even the memory;—but people, now they can't get it, make a fuss, I verily believe, out of contradiction.
"George Ellis and Murray have been talking something about Scott and me, George pro Scoto,—and very right too. If they want to depose him, I only wish they would not set me up as a competitor. Even if I had my choice, I would rather be the Earl of Warwick than all the kings he ever made! Jeffrey and Gifford I take to be the monarch-makers in poetry and prose. The British Critic, in their Rokeby Review, have presupposed a comparison, which I am sure my friends never thought of, and W. Scott's subjects are injudicious in descending to. I like the man—and admire his works to what Mr. Braham calls Entusymusy. All such stuff can only vex him, and do me no good. Many hate his politics—(I hate all politics); and, here, a man's politics are like the Greek soul—an [Greek: eidolon], besides God knows what other soul; but their estimate of the two generally go together.
"Harry has not brought ma petite cousine. I want us to go to the play together;—she has been but once. Another short note from Jersey, inviting Rogers and me on the 23d. I must see my agent to-night. I wonder when that Newstead business will be finished. It cost me more than words to part with it—and to have parted with it! What matters it what I do? or what becomes of me?—but let me remember Job's saying, and console myself with being 'a living man.'
"I wish I could settle to reading again,—my life is monotonous, and yet desultory. I take up books, and fling them down again. I began a comedy, and burnt it because the scene ran into reality;—a novel, for the same reason. In rhyme, I can keep more away from facts; but the thought always runs through, through ... yes, yes, through. I have had a letter from Lady Melbourne—the best friend I ever had in my life, and the cleverest of women.
"Not a word from * *. Have they set out from * *? or has my last precious epistle fallen into the lion's jaws? If so—and this silence looks suspicious, I must clap on my 'musty morion' and 'hold out my iron.' I am out of practice—but I won't begin again at Manton's now. Besides, I would not return his shot. I was once a famous wafer-splitter; but then the bullies of society made it necessary. Ever since I began to feel that I had a bad cause to support, I have left off the exercise.
"What strange tidings from that Anakim of anarchy—Buonaparte! Ever since I defended my bust of him at Harrow against the rascally time-servers, when the war broke out in 1803, he has been a 'Heros de Roman' of mine—on the Continent; I don't want him here. But I don't like those same flights—leaving of armies, &c. &c. I am sure when I fought for his bust at school, I did not think he would run away from himself. But I should not wonder if he banged them yet. To be beat by men would be something; but by three stupid, legitimate-old-dynasty boobies of regular-bred sovereigns—O-hone-a-rie!—O-hone-a-rie! It must be, as Cobbett says, his marriage with the thick-lipped and thick-headed Autrichienne brood. He had better have kept to her who was kept by Barras. I never knew any good come of your young wife, and legal espousals, to any but your 'sober-blooded boy' who 'eats fish' and drinketh 'no sack.' Had he not the whole opera? all Paris? all France? But a mistress is just as perplexing—that is, one—two or more are manageable by division.
"I have begun, or had begun, a song, and flung it into the fire. It was in remembrance of Mary Duff, my first of flames, before most people begin to burn. I wonder what the devil is the matter with me! I can do nothing, and—fortunately there is nothing to do. It has lately been in my power to make two persons (and their connections) comfortable, pro tempore, and one happy, ex tempore,—I rejoice in the last particularly, as it is an excellent man. I wish there had been more inconvenience and less gratification to my self-love in it, for then there had been more merit. We are all selfish—and I believe, ye gods of Epicurus! I believe in Rochefoucault about men, and in Lucretius (not Busby's translation) about yourselves. Your bard has made you very nonchalant and blest; but as he has excused us from damnation, I don't envy you your blessedness much—a little, to be sure. I remember, last year, * * said to me, at * *, 'Have we not passed our last month like the gods of Lucretius?' And so we had. She is an adept in the text of the original (which I like too); and when that booby Bus. sent his translating prospectus, she subscribed. But, the devil prompting him to add a specimen, she transmitted him a subsequent answer, saying, that 'after perusing it, her conscience would not permit her to allow her name to remain on the list of subscribblers.' Last night, at Lord H.'s—Mackintosh, the Ossulstones, Puysegur, &c. there—I was trying to recollect a quotation (as I think) of Stael's, from some Teutonic sophist about architecture. 'Architecture,' says this Macoronico Tedescho, 'reminds me of frozen music.' It is somewhere—but where?—the demon of perplexity must know and won't tell. I asked M., and he said it was not in her: but P——r said it must be hers, it was so like. H. laughed, as he does at all 'De l'Allemagne,'—in which, however, I think he goes a little too far. B., I hear, condemns it too. But there are fine passages;—and, after all, what is a work—any—or every work—but a desert with fountains, and, perhaps, a grove or two, every day's journey? To be sure, in Madame, what we often mistake, and 'pant for,' as the 'cooling stream,' turns out to be the 'mirage' (critice verbiage); but we do, at last, get to something like the temple of Jove Ammon, and then the waste we have passed is only remembered to gladden the contrast.
"Called on C * *, to explain * * *. She is very beautiful, to my taste, at least; for on coming home from abroad, I recollect being unable to look at any woman but her—they were so fair, and unmeaning, and blonde. The darkness and regularity of her features reminded me of my 'Jannat al Aden.' But this impression wore off; and now I can look at a fair woman, without longing for a Houri. She was very good-tempered, and every thing was explained.
"To-day, great news—'the Dutch have taken Holland,'—which, I suppose, will be succeeded by the actual explosion of the Thames. Five provinces have declared for young Stadt, and there will be inundation, conflagration, constupration, consternation, and every sort of nation and nations, fighting away, up to their knees, in the damnable quags of this will-o'-the-wisp abode of Boors. It is said Bernadotte is amongst them, too; and, as Orange will be there soon, they will have (Crown) Prince Stork and King Log in their Loggery at the same time. Two to one on the new dynasty!
"Mr. Murray has offered me one thousand guineas for 'The Giaour' and 'The Bride of Abydos.' I won't—it is too much, though I am strongly tempted, merely for the say of it. No bad price for a fortnight's (a week each) what?—the gods know—it was intended to be called poetry.
"I have dined regularly to-day, for the first time since Sunday last—this being Sabbath, too. All the rest, tea and dry biscuits—six per diem, I wish to God I had not dined now!—It kills me with heaviness, stupor, and horrible dreams;—and yet it was but a pint of bucellas, and fish. Meat I never touch,—nor much vegetable diet. I wish I were in the country, to take exercise,—instead of being obliged to cool by abstinence, in lieu of it. I should not so much mind a little accession of flesh,—my bones can well bear it. But the worst is, the devil always came with it,—till I starved him out,—and I will not be the slave of any appetite. If I do err, it shall be my heart, at least, that heralds the way. Oh, my head—how it aches?—the horrors of digestion! I wonder how Buonaparte's dinner agrees with him?
"Mem. I must write to-morrow to 'Master Shallow, who owes me a thousand pounds,' and seems, in his letter, afraid I should ask him for it;—as if I would!—I don't want it (just now, at least,) to begin with; and though I have often wanted that sum, I never asked for the repayment of 10l. in my life—from a friend. His bond is not due this year, and I told him when it was, I should not enforce it. How often must he make me say the same thing?
"I am wrong—I did once ask * * *  to repay me. But it was under circumstances that excused me to him, and would to any one. I took no interest, nor required security. He paid me soon,—at least, his padre. My head! I believe it was given me to ache with. Good even.
[Footnote 90: Evidently, Mr. Hodgson.]
[Footnote 91: He had this year so far departed from his strict plan of diet as to eat fish occasionally.]
[Footnote 92: We have here another instance, in addition to the munificent aid afforded to Mr. Hodgson, of the generous readiness of the poet, notwithstanding his own limited means, to make the resources he possessed available for the assistance of his friends.]
[Footnote 93: Left blank thus in the original.]
"Nov. 22. 1813.
"'Orange Boven!' So the bees have expelled the bear that broke open their hive. Well,—if we are to have new De Witts and De Ruyters, God speed the little republic! I should like to see the Hague and the village of Brock, where they have such primitive habits. Yet, I don't know,—their canals would cut a poor figure by the memory of the Bosphorus; and the Zuyder Zee look awkwardly after 'Ak-Denizi.' No matter,—the bluff burghers, puffing freedom out of their short tobacco-pipes, might be worth seeing; though I prefer a cigar or a hooka, with the rose-leaf mixed with the milder herb of the Levant. I don't know what liberty means,—never having seen it,—but wealth is power all over the world; and as a shilling performs the duty of a pound (besides sun and sky and beauty for nothing) in the East,—that is the country. How I envy Herodes Atticus!—more than Pomponius. And yet a little tumult, now and then, is an agreeable quickener of sensation; such as a revolution, a battle, or an aventure of any lively description. I think I rather would have been Bonneval, Ripperda, Alberoni, Hayreddin, or Horuc Barbarossa, or even Wortley Montague, than Mahomet himself.
"Rogers will be in town soon?—the 23d is fixed for our Middleton visit. Shall I go? umph!—In this island, where one can't ride out without overtaking the sea, it don't much matter where one goes.
"I remember the effect of the first Edinburgh Review on me. I heard of it six weeks before,—read it the day of its denunciation,—dined and drank three bottles of claret, (with S.B. Davies, I think,) neither ate nor slept the less, but, nevertheless, was not easy till I had vented my wrath and my rhyme, in the same pages, against every thing and every body. Like George, in the Vicar of Wakefield, 'the fate of my paradoxes' would allow me to perceive no merit in another. I remembered only the maxim of my boxing-master, which, in my youth, was found useful in all general riots,—'Whoever is not for you is against you—mill away right and left,' and so I did;—like Ishmael, my hand was against all men, and all men's anent me. I did wonder, to be sure, at my own success—
"'And marvels so much wit is all his own,'
as Hobhouse sarcastically says of somebody (not unlikely myself, as we are old friends);—but were it to come over again, I would not. I have since redde the cause of my couplets, and it is not adequate to the effect. C * * told me that it was believed I alluded to poor Lord Carlisle's nervous disorder in one of the lines. I thank Heaven I did not know it—and would not, could not, if I had. I must naturally be the last person to be pointed on defects or maladies.
"Rogers is silent,—and, it is said, severe. When he does talk, he talks well; and, on all subjects of taste, his delicacy of expression is pure as his poetry. If you enter his house—his drawing-room—his library—you of yourself say, this is not the dwelling of a common mind. There is not a gem, a coin, a book thrown aside on his chimney-piece, his sofa, his table, that does not bespeak an almost fastidious elegance in the possessor. But this very delicacy must be the misery of his existence. Oh the jarrings his disposition must have encountered through life!
"Southey, I have not seen much of. His appearance is Epic; and he is the only existing entire man of letters. All the others have some pursuit annexed to their authorship. His manners are mild, but not those of a man of the world, and his talents of the first order. His prose is perfect. Of his poetry there are various opinions: there is, perhaps, too much of it for the present generation;—posterity will probably select. He has passages equal to any thing. At present, he has a party, but no public—except for his prose writings. The life of Nelson is beautiful.
"* * is a Litterateur, the Oracle of the Coteries, of the * * s, L * W * (Sydney Smith's 'Tory Virgin'), Mrs. Wilmot, (she, at least, is a swan, and might frequent a purer stream,) Lady B * *, and all the Blues, with Lady C * * at their head—but I say nothing of her—'look in her face and you forget them all,' and every thing else. Oh that face!—by 'te, Diva potens Cypri,' I would, to be beloved by that woman, build and burn another Troy.
"M * * e has a peculiarity of talent, or rather talents,—poetry, music, voice, all his own; and an expression in each, which never was, nor will be, possessed by another. But he is capable of still higher flights in poetry. By the by, what humour, what—every thing, in the 'Post-Bag!' There is nothing M * * e may not do, if he will but seriously set about it. In society, he is gentlemanly, gentle, and, altogether, more pleasing than any individual with whom I am acquainted. For his honour, principle, and independence, his conduct to * * * * speaks 'trumpet-tongued.' He has but one fault—and that one I daily regret—he is not here.
[Footnote 94: It was thus that he, in general, spelled this word.]
"Ward—I like Ward. By Mahomet! I begin to think I like every body;—a disposition not to be encouraged;—a sort of social gluttony that swallows every thing set before it. But I like Ward. He is piquant; and, in my opinion, will stand very high in the House, and every where else, if he applies regularly. By the by, I dine with him to-morrow, which may have some influence on my opinion. It is as well not to trust one's gratitude after dinner. I have heard many a host libelled by his guests, with his burgundy yet reeking on their rascally lips.
"I have taken Lord Salisbury's box at Covent Garden for the season; and now I must go and prepare to join Lady Holland and party, in theirs, at Drury Lane, questa sera.
"Holland doesn't think the man is Junius; but that the yet unpublished journal throws great light on the obscurities of that part of George the Second's reign—What is this to George the Third's? I don't know what to think. Why should Junius be yet dead? If suddenly apoplexed, would he rest in his grave without sending his [Greek: eidolon] to shout in the ears of posterity, 'Junius was X.Y.Z., Esq., buried in the parish of * * *. Repair his monument, ye churchwardens! Print a new edition of his Letters, ye booksellers!' Impossible,—the man must be alive, and will never die without the disclosure. I like him;—he was a good hater.
"Came home unwell and went to bed,—not so sleepy as might be desirable.
[Footnote 95: The present Lord Dudley.]
"I awoke from a dream!—well! and have not others dreamed?—Such a dream!—but she did not overtake me. I wish the dead would rest, however. Ugh! how my blood chilled—and I could not wake —and—and—heigho!
"'Shadows to-night Have struck more terror to the soul of Richard, Than could the substance of ten thousand * * s, Arm'd all in proof, and led by shallow * *.'
I do not like this dream,—I hate its 'foregone conclusion.' And am I to be shaken by shadows? Ay, when they remind us of—no matter—but, if I dream thus again, I will try whether all sleep has the like visions. Since I rose, I've been in considerable bodily pain also; but it is gone, and now, like Lord Ogleby, I am wound up for the day.
"A note from Mountnorris—I dine with Ward;—Canning is to be there, Frere and Sharpe,—perhaps Gifford. I am to be one of 'the five' (or rather six), as Lady * * said a little sneeringly yesterday. They are all good to meet, particularly Canning, and—Ward, when he likes. I wish I may be well enough to listen to these intellectuals.
"No letters to-day;—so much the better,—there are no answers. I must not dream again;—it spoils even reality. I will go out of doors, and see what the fog will do for me. Jackson has been here: the boxing world much as usual;—but the club increases. I shall dine at Crib's to-morrow. I like energy—even animal energy—of all kinds; and I have need of both mental and corporeal. I have not dined out, nor, indeed, at all, lately; have heard no music—have seen nobody. Now for a plunge—high life and low life. 'Amant alterna Camoenae!'
"I have burnt my Roman—as I did the first scenes and sketch of my comedy—and, for aught I see, the pleasure of burning is quite as great as that of printing. These two last would not have done. I ran into realities more than ever; and some would have been recognised and others guessed at.
"Redde the Ruminator—a collection of Essays, by a strange, but able, old man (Sir E.B.), and a half-wild young one, author of a poem on the Highlands, called 'Childe Alarique.' The word 'sensibility' (always my aversion) occurs a thousand times in these Essays; and, it seems, is to be an excuse for all kinds of discontent. This young man can know nothing of life; and, if he cherishes the disposition which runs through his papers, will become useless, and, perhaps, not even a poet, after all, which he seems determined to be. God help him! no one should be a rhymer who could be any thing better. And this is what annoys one, to see Scott and Moore, and Campbell and Rogers, who might have all been agents and leaders, now mere spectators. For, though they may have other ostensible avocations, these last are reduced to a secondary consideration. * *, too, frittering away his time among dowagers and unmarried girls. If it advanced any serious affair, it were some excuse; but, with the unmarried, that is a hazardous speculation, and tiresome enough, too; and, with the veterans, it is not much worth trying, unless, perhaps, one in a thousand.
"If I had any views in this country, they would probably be parliamentary. But I have no ambition; at least, if any, it would be 'aut Caesar aut nihil.' My hopes are limited to the arrangement of my affairs, and settling either in Italy or the East (rather the last), and drinking deep of the languages and literature of both. Past events have unnerved me; and all I can now do is to make life an amusement, and look on while others play. After all, even the highest game of crowns and sceptres, what is it? Vide Napoleon's last twelve-month. It has completely upset my system of fatalism. I thought, if crushed, he would have fallen, when 'fractus illabitur orbis,' and not have been pared away to gradual insignificance; that all this was not a mere jeu of the gods, but a prelude to greater changes and mightier events. But men never advance beyond a certain point; and here we are, retrograding to the dull, stupid old system,—balance of Europe—poising straws upon kings' noses, instead of wringing them off! Give me a republic, or a despotism of one, rather than the mixed government of one, two, three. A republic!—look in the history of the Earth—Rome, Greece, Venice, France, Holland, America, our short (eheu!) Commonwealth, and compare it with what they did under masters. The Asiatics are not qualified to be republicans, but they have the liberty of demolishing despots, which is the next thing to it. To be the first man—not the Dictator—not the Sylla, but the Washington or the Aristides—the leader in talent and truth—is next to the Divinity! Franklin, Penn, and, next to these, either Brutus or Cassius—even Mirabeau—or St. Just. I shall never be any thing, or rather always be nothing. The most I can hope is, that some will say, 'He might, perhaps, if he would.'
"Here are two confounded proofs from the printer. I have looked at the one, but for the soul of me, I can't look over that 'Giaour' again,—at least, just now, and at this hour—and yet there is no moon.
"Ward talks of going to Holland, and we have partly discussed an ensemble expedition. It must be in ten days, if at all, if we wish to be in at the Revolution. And why not? * * is distant, and will be at * *, still more distant, till spring. No one else, except Augusta, cares for me; no ties—no trammels—andiamo dunque—se torniamo, bene—se non, ch' importa? Old William of Orange talked of dying in 'the last ditch' of his dingy country. It is lucky I can swim, or I suppose I should not well weather the first. But let us see. I have heard hyaenas and jackalls in the ruins of Asia; and bull-frogs in the marshes; besides wolves and angry Mussulmans. Now, I should like to listen to the shout of a free Dutchman.
"Alla! Viva! For ever! Hourra! Huzza!—which is the most rational or musical of these cries? 'Orange Boven,' according to the Morning Post.
"No dreams last night of the dead nor the living, so—I am 'firm as the marble, founded as the rock,' till the next earthquake.
"Ward's dinner went off well. There was not a disagreeable person there—unless I offended any body, which I am sure I could not by contradiction, for I said little, and opposed nothing. Sharpe (a man of elegant mind, and who has lived much with the best—Fox, Horne Tooke, Windham, Fitzpatrick, and all the agitators of other times and tongues,) told us the particulars of his last interview with Windham, a few days before the fatal operation which sent 'that gallant spirit to aspire the skies.' Windham,—the first in one department of oratory and talent, whose only fault was his refinement beyond the intellect of half his hearers,—Windham, half his life an active participator in the events of the earth, and one of those who governed nations,—he regretted, and dwelt much on that regret, that 'he had not entirely devoted himself to literature and science!!!' His mind certainly would have carried him to eminence there, as elsewhere;—but I cannot comprehend what debility of that mind could suggest such a wish. I, who have heard him, cannot regret any thing but that I shall never hear him again. What! would he have been a plodder? a metaphysician?—perhaps a rhymer? a scribbler? Such an exchange must have been suggested by illness. But he is gone, and Time 'shall not look upon his like again.'
"I am tremendously in arrear with my letters,—except to * *, and to her my thoughts overpower me:—my words never compass them. To Lady Melbourne I write with most pleasure—and her answers, so sensible, so tactique—I never met with half her talent. If she had been a few years younger, what a fool she would have made of me, had she thought it worth her while,—and I should have lost a valuable and most agreeable friend. Mem. a mistress never is nor can be a friend. While you agree, you are lovers; and, when it is over, any thing but friends.
"I have not answered W. Scott's last letter,—but I will. I regret to hear from others that he has lately been unfortunate in pecuniary involvements. He is undoubtedly the Monarch of Parnassus, and the most English of bards. I should place Rogers next in the living list (I value him more as the last of the best school)—Moore and Campbell both third—Southey and Wordsworth and Coleridge—the rest, [Greek: hoi polloi]—thus:—
W. SCOTT / / / / / ROGERS. /————— / / / / MOORE.—CAMPBELL. /—————————— / / / / / / / SOUTHEY.—WORDSWORTH.—COLERIDGE. /—————————————————— / / THE MANY. / /——————————————————————
There is a triangular 'Gradus ad Parnassum!'—the names are too numerous for the base of the triangle. Poor Thurlow has gone wild about the poetry of Queen Bess's reign—c'est dommage. I have ranked the names upon my triangle more upon what I believe popular opinion, than any decided opinion of my own. For, to me, some of M * * e's last Erin sparks—'As a beam o'er the face of the waters'—'When he who adores thee'—'Oh blame not'—and 'Oh breathe not his name'—are worth all the Epics that ever were composed.
"* * thinks the Quarterly will attack me next. Let them. I have been 'peppered so highly' in my time, both ways, that it must be cayenne or aloes to make me taste. I can sincerely say that I am not very much alive now to criticism. But—in tracing this—I rather believe, that it proceeds from my not attaching that importance to authorship which many do, and which, when young, I did also. 'One gets tired of every thing, my angel,' says Valmont. The 'angels' are the only things of which I am not a little sick—but I do think the preference of writers to agents—the mighty stir made about scribbling and scribes, by themselves and others—a sign of effeminacy, degeneracy, and weakness. Who would write, who had any thing better to do? 'Action—action—action'—said Demosthenes: 'Actions—actions,' I say, and not writing,—least of all, rhyme. Look at the querulous and monotonous lives of the 'genus;'—except Cervantes, Tasso, Dante, Ariosto, Kleist (who were brave and active citizens), Aeschylus, Sophocles, and some other of the antiques also—what a worthless, idle brood it is!
"12, Mezza notte.
"Just returned from dinner with Jackson (the Emperor of Pugilism) and another of the select, at Crib's the champion's. I drank more than I like, and have brought away some three bottles of very fair claret—for I have no headach. We had Tom * * up after dinner;—very facetious, though somewhat prolix. He don't like his situation—wants to fight again—pray Pollux (or Castor, if he was the miller) he may! Tom has been a sailor—a coal heaver—and some other genteel profession, before he took to the cestus. Tom has been in action at sea, and is now only three-and-thirty. A great man! has a wife and a mistress, and conversations well—bating some sad omissions and misapplications of the aspirate. Tom is an old friend of mine; I have seen some of his best battles in my nonage. He is now a publican, and, I fear, a sinner;—for Mrs. * * is on alimony, and * *'s daughter lives with the champion. This * * told me,—Tom, having an opinion of my morals, passed her off as a legal spouse. Talking of her, he said, 'she was the truest of women'—from which I immediately inferred she could not be his wife, and so it turned out.
"These panegyrics don't belong to matrimony;—for, if 'true,' a man don't think it necessary to say so; and if not, the less he says the better. * * * * is the only man, except * * * *, I ever heard harangue upon his wife's virtue; and I listened to both with great credence and patience, and stuffed my handkerchief into my mouth, when I found yawning irresistible.—By the by, I am yawning now—so, good night to thee.—[Greek: Nohairon].
"Thursday, November 26.
"Awoke a little feverish, but no headach—no dreams neither, thanks to stupor! Two letters; one from * * * *'s, the other from Lady Melbourne—both excellent in their respective styles. * * * *'s contained also a very pretty lyric on 'concealed griefs;' if not her own, yet very like her. Why did she not say that the stanzas were, or were not, of her composition? I do not know whether to wish them hers or not. I have no great esteem for poetical persons, particularly women; they have so much of the 'ideal' in practics, as well as ethics.
"I have been thinking lately a good deal of Mary Duff, &c. &c. &c. &c.
"Lord Holland invited me to dinner to-day; but three days' dining would destroy me. So, without eating at all since yesterday, I went to my box at Covent Garden.
"Saw * * * * looking very pretty, though quite a different style of beauty from the other two. She has the finest eyes in the world, out of which she pretends not to see, and the longest eyelashes I ever saw, since Leila's and Phannio's Moslem curtains of the light. She has much beauty,—just enough,—but is, I think, mechante.
"I have been pondering on the miseries of separation, that—oh how seldom we see those we love! yet we live ages in moments, when met. The only thing that consoles me during absence is the reflection that no mental or personal estrangement, from ennui or disagreement, can take place; and when people meet hereafter, even though many changes may have taken place in the mean time, still, unless they are tired of each other, they are ready to reunite, and do not blame each other for the circumstances that severed them.
[Footnote 96: This passage has been already extracted.]
"Saturday 27. (I believe—or rather am in doubt, which is the ne plus ultra of mortal faith.)
"I have missed a day; and, as the Irishman said, or Joe Miller says for him, 'have gained a loss,' or by the loss. Every thing is settled for Holland, and nothing but a cough, or a caprice of my fellow-traveller's, can stop us. Carriage ordered, funds prepared, and, probably, a gale of wind into the bargain. N'importe—I believe, with Clym o' the Clow, or Robin Hood, 'By our Mary, (dear name!) that art both Mother and May, I think it never was a man's lot to die before this day.' Heigh for Helvoetsluys, and so forth!
"To-night I went with young Henry Fox to see 'Nourjahad,' a drama, which the Morning Post hath laid to my charge, but of which I cannot even guess the author. I wonder what they will next inflict upon me. They cannot well sink below a melodrama; but that is better than a Satire, (at least, a personal one,) with which I stand truly arraigned, and in atonement of which I am resolved to bear silently all criticisms, abuses, and even praises, for bad pantomimes never composed by me, without even a contradictory aspect. I suppose the root of this report is my loan to the manager of my Turkish drawings for his dresses, to which he was more welcome than to my name. I suppose the real author will soon own it, as it has succeeded; if not, Job be my model, and Lethe my beverage!
"* * * * has received the portrait safe; and, in answer, the only remark she makes upon it is, 'indeed it is like'—and again, 'indeed it is like.' With her the likeness 'covered a multitude of sins;' for I happen to know that this portrait was not a flatterer, but dark and stern,—even black as the mood in which my mind was scorching last July, when I sat for it. All the others of me, like most portraits whatsoever, are, of course, more agreeable than nature.
"Redde the Ed. Review of Rogers. He is ranked highly; but where he should be. There is a summary view of us all—Moore and me among the rest; and both (the first justly) praised—though, by implication (justly again) placed beneath our memorable friend. Mackintosh is the writer, and also of the critique on the Stael. His grand essay on Burke, I hear, is for the next number. But I know nothing of the Edinburgh, or of any other Review, but from rumour; and I have long ceased—indeed, I could not, in justice, complain of any, even though I were to rate poetry, in general, and my rhymes in particular, more highly than I really do. To withdraw myself from myself (oh that cursed selfishness!) has ever been my sole, my entire, my sincere motive in scribbling at all; and publishing is also the continuance of the same object, by the action it affords to the mind, which else recoils upon itself. If I valued fame, I should flatter received opinions, which have gathered strength by time, and will yet wear longer than any living works to the contrary. But, for the soul of me, I cannot and will not give the lie to my own thoughts and doubts, come what may. If I am a fool, it is, at least, a doubting one; and I envy no one the certainty of his self-approved wisdom.
"All are inclined to believe what they covet, from a lottery-ticket up to a passport to Paradise,—in which, from the description, I see nothing very tempting. My restlessness tells me I have something within that 'passeth show.' It is for Him, who made it, to prolong that spark of celestial fire which illuminates, yet burns, this frail tenement; but I see no such horror in a 'dreamless sleep,' and I have no conception of any existence which duration would not render tiresome. How else 'fell the angels,' even according to your creed? They were immortal, heavenly, and happy as their apostate Abdiel is now by his treachery. Time must decide; and eternity won't be the less agreeable or more horrible because one did not expect it. In the mean time, I am grateful for some good, and tolerably patient under certain evils—grace a Dieu et mon bon temperament.
"Two days missed in my log-book;—hiatus haud deflendus. They were as little worth recollection as the rest; and, luckily, laziness or society prevented me from notching them.
"Sunday, I dined with the Lord Holland in St. James's Square. Large party—among them Sir S. Romilly and Lady Ry.—General Sir Somebody Bentham, a man of science and talent, I am told—Horner—the Horner, an Edinburgh Reviewer, an excellent speaker in the 'Honourable House,' very pleasing, too, and gentlemanly in company, as far as I have seen—Sharpe—Phillips of Lancashire—Lord John Russell, and others, 'good men and true.' Holland's society is very good; you always see some one or other in it worth knowing. Stuffed myself with sturgeon, and exceeded in champagne and wine in general, but not to confusion of head. When I do dine, I gorge like an Arab or a Boa snake, on fish and vegetables, but no meat. I am always better, however, on my tea and biscuit than any other regimen, and even that sparingly.
"Why does Lady H. always have that damned screen between the whole room and the fire? I, who bear cold no better than an antelope, and never yet found a sun quite done to my taste, was absolutely petrified, and could not even shiver. All the rest, too, looked as if they were just unpacked, like salmon from an ice-basket, and set down to table for that day only. When she retired, I watched their looks as I dismissed the screen, and every cheek thawed, and every nose reddened with the anticipated glow.
"Saturday, I went with Harry Fox to Nourjahad; and, I believe, convinced him, by incessant yawning, that it was not mine. I wish the precious author would own it, and release me from his fame. The dresses are pretty, but not in costume;—Mrs. Horn's, all but the turban, and the want of a small dagger (if she is a sultana), perfect. I never saw a Turkish woman with a turban in my life—nor did any one else. The sultanas have a small poniard at the waist. The dialogue is drowsy—the action heavy—the scenery fine—the actors tolerable. I can't say much for their seraglio—Teresa, Phannio, or * * * *, were worth them all.
"Sunday, a very handsome note from Mackintosh, who is a rare instance of the union of very transcendent talent and great good nature. To-day (Tuesday) a very pretty billet from M. la Baronne de Stael Holstein. She is pleased to be much pleased with my mention of her and her last work in my notes. I spoke as I thought. Her works are my delight, and so is she herself, for—half an hour. I don't like her politics—at least, her having changed them; had she been qualis ab incepto, it were nothing. But she is a woman by herself, and has done more than all the rest of them together, intellectually;—she ought to have been a man. She flatters me very prettily in her note;—but I know it. The reason that adulation is not displeasing is, that, though untrue, it shows one to be of consequence enough, in one way or other, to induce people to lie, to make us their friend:—that is their concern.
"* * is, I hear, thriving on the repute of a pun which was mine (at Mackintosh's dinner some time back), on Ward, who was asking 'how much it would take to re-whig him?' I answered that, probably, 'he must first, before he was re-whigged, be re-warded.' This foolish quibble, before the Stael and Mackintosh, and a number of conversationers, has been mouthed about, and at last settled on the head of * *, where long may it remain!
"George is returned from afloat to get a new ship. He looks thin, but better than I expected. I like George much more than most people like their heirs. He is a fine fellow, and every inch a sailor. I would do any thing, but apostatise, to get him on in his profession.
"Lewis called. It is a good and good-humoured man, but pestilently prolix and paradoxical and personal. If he would but talk half, and reduce his visits to an hour, he would add to his popularity. As an author he is very good, and his vanity is ouverte, like Erskine's, and yet not offending.
"Yesterday, a very pretty letter from Annabella, which I answered. What an odd situation and friendship is ours!—without one spark of love on either side, and produced by circumstances which in general lead to coldness on one side, and aversion on the other. She is a very superior woman, and very little spoiled, which is strange in an heiress—girl of twenty—a peeress that is to be, in her own right—an only child, and a savante, who has always had her own way. She is a poetess—a mathematician—a metaphysician, and yet, withal, very kind, generous, and gentle, with very little pretension. Any other head would be turned with half her acquisitions, and a tenth of her advantages.
[Footnote 97: His cousin, the present Lord Byron.]
[Footnote 98: Miss Milbanke, afterwards Lady Byron.]
"Wednesday, December 1. 1813.
"To-day responded to La Baronne de Stael Holstein, and sent to Leigh Hunt (an acquisition to my acquaintance—through Moore—of last summer) a copy of the two Turkish tales. Hunt is an extraordinary character, and not exactly of the present age. He reminds me more of the Pym and Hampden times—much talent, great independence of spirit, and an austere, yet not repulsive, aspect. If he goes on qualis ab incepto, I know few men who will deserve more praise or obtain it. I must go and see him again;—the rapid succession of adventure, since last summer, added to some serious uneasiness and business, have interrupted our acquaintance; but he is a man worth knowing; and though, for his own sake, I wish him out of prison, I like to study character in such situations. He has been unshaken, and will continue so. I don't think him deeply versed in life;—he is the bigot of virtue (not religion), and enamoured of the beauty of that 'empty name,' as the last breath of Brutus pronounced, and every day proves it. He is, perhaps, a little opiniated, as all men who are the centre of circles, wide or narrow—the Sir Oracles, in whose name two or three are gathered together—must be, and as even Johnson was; but, withal, a valuable man, and less vain than success and even the consciousness of preferring 'the right to the expedient' might excuse.
"To-morrow there is a party of purple at the 'blue' Miss * * *'s. Shall I go? um!—I don't much affect your blue-bottles;—but one ought to be civil. There will be, 'I guess now' (as the Americans say), the Staels and Mackintoshes—good—the * * * s and * * * s—not so good—the * * * s, &c. &c.—good for nothing. Perhaps that blue-winged Kashmirian butterfly of book-learning, Lady * * * *, will be there. I hope so; it is a pleasure to look upon that most beautiful of faces.
"Wrote to H.:—he has been telling that I ——. I am sure, at least, I did not mention it, and I wish he had not. He is a good fellow, and I obliged myself ten times more by being of use than I did him,—and there's an end on 't.
"Baldwin is boring me to present their King's Bench petition. I presented Cartwright's last year; and Stanhope and I stood against the whole House, and mouthed it valiantly—and had some fun and a little abuse for our opposition. But 'I am not i' th' vein' for this business. Now, had * * been here, she would have made me do it. There is a woman, who, amid all her fascination, always urged a man to usefulness or glory. Had she remained, she had been my tutelar genius.
"Baldwin is very importunate—but, poor fellow, 'I can't get out, I can't get out—said the starling.' Ah, I am as bad as that dog Sterne, who preferred whining over 'a dead ass to relieving a living mother'—villain—hypocrite—slave—sycophant! but I am no better. Here I cannot stimulate myself to a speech for the sake of these unfortunates, and three words and half a smile of * * had she been here to urge it, (and urge it she infallibly would—at least she always pressed me on senatorial duties, and particularly in the cause of weakness,) would have made me an advocate, if not an orator. Curse on Rochefoucault for being always right! In him a lie were virtue,—or, at least, a comfort to his readers.
"George Byron has not called to-day; I hope he will be an admiral, and, perhaps, Lord Byron into the bargain. If he would but marry, I would engage never to marry myself, or cut him out of the heirship. He would be happier, and I should like nephews better than sons.
"I shall soon be six-and-twenty (January 22d, 1814). Is there any thing in the future that can possibly console us for not being always twenty-five?
"Oh Gioventu! Oh Primavera! gioventu dell' anno. Oh Gioventu! primavera della vita.
[Footnote 99: Two or three words are here scratched out in the manuscript, but the import of the sentence evidently is that Mr. Hodgson (to whom the passage refers) had been revealing to some friends the secret of Lord Byron's kindness to him.]
"Sunday, December 5.
"Dallas's nephew (son to the American Attorney-general) is arrived in this country, and tells Dallas that my rhymes are very popular in the United States. These are the first tidings that have ever sounded like Fame to my ears—to be redde on the banks of the Ohio! The greatest pleasure I ever derived, of this kind, was from an extract, in Cooke the actor's life, from his Journal, stating that in the reading-room at Albany, near Washington, he perused English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. To be popular in a rising and far country has a kind of posthumous feel, very different from the ephemeral eclat and fete-ing, buzzing and party-ing compliments of the well-dressed multitude. I can safely say that, during my reign in the spring of 1812, I regretted nothing but its duration of six weeks instead of a fortnight, and was heartily glad to resign.
"Last night I supped with Lewis;—and, as usual, though I neither exceeded in solids nor fluids, have been half dead ever since. My stomach is entirely destroyed by long abstinence, and the rest will probably follow. Let it—I only wish the pain over. The 'leap in the dark' is the least to be dreaded.
"The Duke of * * called. I have told them forty times that, except to half-a-dozen old and specified acquaintances, I am invisible. His Grace is a good, noble, ducal person; but I am content to think so at a distance, and so—I was not at home.
"Galt called.—Mem.—to ask some one to speak to Raymond in favour of his play. We are old fellow-travellers, and, with all his eccentricities, he has much strong sense, experience of the world, and is, as far as I have seen, a good-natured philosophical fellow. I showed him Sligo's letter on the reports of the Turkish girl's aventure at Athens soon after it happened. He and Lord Holland, Lewis, and Moore, and Rogers, and Lady Melbourne have seen it. Murray has a copy. I thought it had been unknown, and wish it were; but Sligo arrived only some days after, and the rumours are the subject of his letter. That I shall preserve,—it is as well. Lewis and Galt were both horrified; and L. wondered I did not introduce the situation into 'The Giaour.' He may wonder;—he might wonder more at that production's being written at all. But to describe the feelings of that situation were impossible—it is icy even to recollect them.
"The Bride of Abydos was published on Thursday the second of December; but how it is liked or disliked, I know not. Whether it succeeds or not is no fault of the public, against whom I can have no complaint. But I am much more indebted to the tale than I can ever be to the most partial reader; as it wrung my thoughts from reality to imagination—from selfish regrets to vivid recollections—and recalled me to a country replete with the brightest and darkest, but always most lively colours of my memory. Sharpe called, but was not let in—which I regret.
"Saw * * yesterday. I have not kept my appointment at Middleton, which has not pleased him, perhaps; and my projected voyage with * * will, perhaps, please him less. But I wish to keep well with both. They are instruments that don't do, in concert; but, surely, their separate tones are very musical, and I won't give up either.
"It is well if I don't jar between these great discords. At present I stand tolerably well with all, but I cannot adopt their dislikes;—so many sets. Holland's is the first;—every thing distingue is welcome there, and certainly the ton of his society is the best. Then there is Mde. de Stael's—there I never go, though I might, had I courted it. It is composed of the * *'s and the * * family, with a strange sprinkling,—orators, dandies, and all kinds of Blue, from the regular Grub Street uniform, down to the azure jacket of the Litterateur. To see * * and * * sitting together, at dinner, always reminds me of the grave, where all distinctions of friend and foe are levelled; and they—the Reviewer and Reviewee—the Rhinoceros and Elephant—the Mammoth and Megalonyx—all will lie quietly together. They now sit together, as silent, but not so quiet, as if they were already immured.
"I did not go to the Berrys' the other night. The elder is a woman of much talent, and both are handsome, and must have been beautiful. To-night asked to Lord H.'s—shall I go? um!—perhaps.
"Morning, two o'clock.
"Went to Lord H.'s—party numerous—milady in perfect good humour, and consequently perfect. No one more agreeable, or perhaps so much so, when she will. Asked for Wednesday to dine and meet the Stael—asked particularly, I believe, out of mischief, to see the first interview after the note, with which Corinne professes herself to be so much taken. I don't much like it; she always talks of myself or herself, and I am not (except in soliloquy, as now,) much enamoured of either subject—especially one's works. What the devil shall I say about 'De l'Allemagne?' I like it prodigiously; but unless I can twist my admiration into some fantastical expression, she won't believe me; and I know, by experience, I shall be overwhelmed with fine things about rhyme, &c. &c. The lover, Mr. * *, was there to-night, and C * * said 'it was the only proof he had seen of her good taste.' Monsieur L'Amant is remarkably handsome; but I don't think more so than her book.
"C * * looks well,—seems pleased, and dressed to sprucery. A blue coat becomes him,—so does his new wig. He really looked as if Apollo had sent him a birthday suit, or a wedding-garment, and was witty and lively. He abused Corinne's book, which I regret; because, firstly, he understands German, and is consequently a fair judge; and, secondly, he is first-rate, and, consequently, the best of judges. I reverence and admire him; but I won't give up my opinion—why should I? I read her again and again, and there can be no affectation in this. I cannot be mistaken (except in taste) in a book I read and lay down, and take up again; and no book can be totally bad which finds one, even one reader, who can say as much sincerely.
"C. talks of lecturing next spring; his last lectures were eminently successful. Moore thought of it, but gave it up,—I don't know why. * * had been prating dignity to him, and such stuff; as if a man disgraced himself by instructing and pleasing at the same time.
"Introduced to Marquis Buckingham—saw Lord Gower—he is going to Holland; Sir J. and Lady Mackintosh and Homer, G. Lamb, with I know not how many (R. Wellesley, one—a clever man) grouped about the room. Little Henry Fox, a very fine boy, and very promising in mind and manner,—he went away to bed, before I had time to talk to him. I am sure I had rather hear him than all the savans.
"Monday, Dec. 6.
"Murray tells me that C——r asked him why the thing was called the Bride of Abydos? It is a cursed awkward question, being unanswerable. She is not a bride, only about to be one; but for, &c. &c. &c.
"I don't wonder at his finding out the Bull; but the detection * * * is too late to do any good. I was a great fool to make it, and am ashamed of not being an Irishman.
"C——l last night seemed a little nettled at something or other—I know not what. We were standing in the ante-saloon, when Lord H. brought out of the other room a vessel of some composition similar to that which is used in Catholic churches, and, seeing us, he exclaimed, 'Here is some incense for you.' C——l answered—'Carry it to Lord Byron, he is used to it.'
"Now, this comes of 'bearing no brother near the throne.' I, who have no throne, nor wish to have one now, whatever I may have done, am at perfect peace with all the poetical fraternity: or, at least, if I dislike any, it is not poetically, but personally. Surely the field of thought is infinite; what does it signify who is before or behind in a race where there is no goal? The temple of fame is like that of the Persians, the universe; our altar, the tops of mountains. I should be equally content with Mount Caucasus, or Mount Anything; and those who like it, may have Mount Blanc or Chimborazo, without my envy of their elevation.
"I think I may now speak thus; for I have just published a poem, and am quite ignorant whether it is likely to be liked or not. I have hitherto heard little in its commendation, and no one can downright abuse it to one's face, except in print. It can't be good, or I should not have stumbled over the threshold, and blundered in my very title. But I began it with my heart full of * * *, and my head of orientalities (I can't call them isms), and wrote on rapidly.
"This journal is a relief. When I am tired—as I generally am—out comes this, and down goes every thing. But I can't read it over; and God knows what contradictions it may contain. If I am sincere with myself (but I fear one lies more to one's self than to any one else), every page should confute, refute, and utterly abjure its predecessor.
"Another scribble from Martin Baldwin the petitioner; I have neither head nor nerves to present it. That confounded supper at Lewis's has spoiled my digestion and my philanthropy. I have no more charity than a cruet of vinegar. Would I were an ostrich, and dieted on fire-irons,—or any thing that my gizzard could get the better of.
"To-day saw W. His uncle is dying, and W. don't much affect our Dutch determinations. I dine with him on Thursday, provided l'oncle is not dined upon, or peremptorily bespoke by the posthumous epicures before that day. I wish he may recover—not for our dinner's sake, but to disappoint the undertaker, and the rascally reptiles that may well wait, since they will dine at last.
"Gell called—he of Troy—after I was out. Mem.—to return his visit. But my Mems. are the very land-marks of forgetfulness;—something like a light-house, with a ship wrecked under the nose of its lantern. I never look at a Mem. without seeing that I have remembered to forget. Mem.—I have forgotten to pay Pitt's taxes, and suppose I shall be surcharged. 'An I do not turn rebel when thou art king'—oons! I believe my very biscuit is leavened with that impostor's imposts.
"Ly. Me. returns from Jersey's to-morrow;—I must call. A Mr. Thomson has sent a song, which I must applaud. I hate annoying them with censure or silence;—and yet I hate lettering.
"Saw Lord Glenbervie and his Prospectus, at Murray's, of a new Treatise on Timber. Now here is a man more useful than all the historians and rhymers ever planted. For, by preserving our woods and forests, he furnishes materials for all the history of Britain worth reading, and all the odes worth nothing.
"Redde a good deal, but desultorily. My head is crammed with the most useless lumber. It is odd that when I do read, I can only bear the chicken broth of—any thing but Novels. It is many a year since I looked into one, (though they are sometimes ordered, by way of experiment, but never taken,) till I looked yesterday at the worst parts of the Monk. These descriptions ought to have been written by Tiberius at Caprea—they are forced—the philtred ideas of a jaded voluptuary. It is to me inconceivable how they could have been composed by a man of only twenty—his age when he wrote them. They have no nature—all the sour cream of cantharides. I should have suspected Buffon of writing them on the death-bed of his detestable dotage. I had never redde this edition, and merely looked at them from curiosity and recollection of the noise they made, and the name they have left to Lewis. But they could do no harm, except * * * *.
"Called this evening on my agent—my business as usual. Our strange adventures are the only inheritances of our family that have not diminished.
"I shall now smoke two cigars, and get me to bed. The cigars don't keep well here. They get as old as a donna di quaranti anni in the sun of Africa. The Havannah are the best;—but neither are so pleasant as a hooka or chibouque. The Turkish tobacco is mild, and their horses entire—two things as they should be. I am so far obliged to this Journal, that it preserves me from verse,—at least from keeping it. I have just thrown a poem into the fire (which it has relighted to my great comfort), and have smoked out of my head the plan of another. I wish I could as easily get rid of thinking, or, at least, the confusion of thought.
"Tuesday, December 7.
"Went to bed, and slept dreamlessly, but not refreshingly. Awoke, and up an hour before being called; but dawdled three hours in dressing. When one subtracts from life infancy (which is vegetation),—sleep, eating, and swilling—buttoning and unbuttoning—how much remains of downright existence? The summer of a dormouse.
"Redde the papers and tea-ed and soda-watered, and found out that the fire was badly lighted. Ld. Glenbervie wants me to go to Brighton—um!
"This morning, a very pretty billet from the Stael about meeting her at Ld. H.'s to-morrow. She has written, I dare say, twenty such this morning to different people, all equally flattering to each. So much the better for her and those who believe all she wishes them, or they wish to believe. She has been pleased to be pleased with my slight eulogy in the note annexed to 'The Bride.' This is to be accounted for in several ways,—firstly, all women like all, or any, praise; secondly, this was unexpected, because I have never courted her; and, thirdly, as Scrub says, those who have been all their lives regularly praised, by regular critics, like a little variety, and are glad when any one goes out of his way to say a civil thing; and, fourthly, she is a very good-natured creature, which is the best reason, after all, and, perhaps, the only one.
"A knock—knocks single and double. Bland called. He says Dutch society (he has been in Holland) is second-hand French; but the women are like women every where else. This is a bore; I should like to see them a little unlike; but that can't be expected.
"Went out—came home—this, that, and the other—and 'all is vanity, saith the preacher,' and so say I, as part of his congregation. Talking of vanity, whose praise do I prefer? Why, Mrs. Inchbald's, and that of the Americans. The first, because her 'Simple Story' and 'Nature and Art' are, to me, true to their titles; and, consequently, her short note to Rogers about 'The Giaour' delighted me more than any thing, except the Edinburgh Review. I like the Americans, because I happened to be in Asia, while the English Bards and Scotch Reviewers were redde in America. If I could have had a speech against the Slave Trade, in Africa, and an epitaph on a dog in Europe (i.e. in the Morning Post), my vertex sublimis would certainly have displaced stars enough to overthrow the Newtonian system.
"Friday, December 10. 1813.
"I am ennuye beyond my usual tense of that yawning verb, which I am always conjugating; and I don't find that society much mends the matter. I am too lazy to shoot myself—and it would annoy Augusta, and perhaps * *; but it would be a good thing for George, on the other side, and no bad one for me; but I won't be tempted.
"I have had the kindest letter from M * * e. I do think that man is the best-hearted, the only hearted being I ever encountered; and, then, his talents are equal to his feelings.
"Dined on Wednesday at Lord H.'s—the Staffords, Staels, Cowpers, Ossulstones, Melbournes, Mackintoshes, &c. &c.—and was introduced to the Marquis and Marchioness of Stafford,—an unexpected event. My quarrel with Lord Carlisle (their or his brother-in-law) having rendered it improper, I suppose, brought it about. But, if it was to happen at all, I wonder it did not occur before. She is handsome, and must have been beautiful—and her manners are princessly.
"The Stael was at the other end of the table, and less loquacious than heretofore. We are now very good friends; though she asked Lady Melbourne whether I had really any bonhommie. She might as well have asked that question before she told C.L. 'c'est un demon." True enough, but rather premature, for she could not have found it out, and so—she wants me to dine there next Sunday.
"Murray prospers, as far as circulation. For my part, I adhere (in liking) to my Fragment. It is no wonder that I wrote one—my mind is a fragment.
"Saw Lord Gower, Tierney, &c. in the square. Took leave of Lord Gr. who is going to Holland and Germany. He tells me that he carries with him a parcel of 'Harolds' and 'Giaours,' &c. for the readers of Berlin, who, it seems, read English, and have taken a caprice for mine. Um!—have I been German all this time, when I thought myself Oriental?
"Lent Tierney my box for to-morrow; and received a new comedy sent by Lady C.A.—but not hers. I must read it, and endeavour not to displease the author. I hate annoying them with cavil; but a comedy I take to be the most difficult of compositions, more so than tragedy.
"G——t says there is a coincidence between the first part of 'The Bride' and some story of his—whether published or not, I know not, never having seen it. He is almost the last person on whom any one would commit literary larceny, and I am not conscious of any witting thefts on any of the genus. As to originality, all pretensions are ludicrous,—'there is nothing new under the sun.'
"Went last night to the play. Invited out to a party, but did not go;—right. Refused to go to Lady * *'s on Monday;—right again. If I must fritter away my life, I would rather do it alone. I was much tempted;—C * * looked so Turkish with her red Turban, and her regular, dark, and clear features. Not that she and I ever were, or could be, any thing; but I love any aspect that reminds me of the 'children of the sun.'
"To dine to-day with Rogers and Sharpe, for which I have some appetite, not having tasted food for the preceding forty-eight hours. I wish I could leave off eating altogether.
"Saturday, December 11. "Sunday, December 12.
"By G——t's answer, I find it is some story in real life, and not any work with which my late composition coincides. It is still more singular, for mine is drawn from existence also.
"I have sent an excuse to M. de Stael. I do not feel sociable enough for dinner to-day;—and I will not go to Sheridan's on Wednesday. Not that I do not admire and prefer his unequalled conversation; but—that 'but' must only be intelligible to thoughts I cannot write. Sheridan was in good talk at Rogers's the other night, but I only stayed till nine. All the world are to be at the Stael's to-night, and I am not sorry to escape any part of it. I only go out to get me a fresh appetite for being alone. Went out—did not go to the Stael's but to Ld. Holland's. Party numerous—conversation general. Stayed late—made a blunder—got over it—came home and went to bed, not having eaten. Rather empty, but fresco, which is the great point with me.
"Monday, December 13. 1813.
"Called at three places—read, and got ready to leave town to-morrow. Murray has had a letter from his brother bibliopole of Edinburgh, who says, 'he is lucky in having such a poet'—something as if one was a pack-horse, or 'ass, or any thing that is his:' or, like Mrs. Packwood, who replied to some enquiry after the Odes on Razors,—'Laws, sir, we keeps a poet.' The same illustrious Edinburgh bookseller once sent an order for books, poesy, and cookery, with this agreeable postscript—'The Harold and Cookery are much wanted.' Such is fame, and, after all, quite as good as any other 'life in other's breath.' 'Tis much the same to divide purchasers with Hannah Glasse or Hannah More.