Life of Lord Byron, Vol. II - With His Letters and Journals
by Thomas Moore
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"Some editor of some magazine has announced to Murray his intention of abusing the thing 'without reading it.' So much the better; if he redde it first, he would abuse it more.

"Allen (Lord Holland's Allen—the best informed and one of the ablest men I know—a perfect Magliabecchi—a devourer, a Helluo of books, and an observer of men,) has lent me a quantity of Burns's unpublished, and never-to-be published, Letters. They are full of oaths and obscene songs. What an antithetical mind!—tenderness, roughness—delicacy, coarseness—sentiment, sensuality—soaring and grovelling, dirt and deity—all mixed up in that one compound of inspired clay!

"It seems strange; a true voluptuary will never abandon his mind to the grossness of reality. It is by exalting the earthly, the material, the physique of our pleasures, by veiling these ideas, by forgetting them altogether, or, at least, never naming them hardly to one's self, that we alone can prevent them from disgusting.

"December 14, 15, 16.

"Much done, but nothing to record. It is quite enough to set down my thoughts,—my actions will rarely bear retrospection.

"December 17, 18.

"Lord Holland told me a curious piece of sentimentality in Sheridan.[100] The other night we were all delivering our respective and various opinions on him and other hommes marquans, and mine was this:—'Whatever Sheridan has done or chosen to do has been, par excellence, always the best of its kind. He has written the best comedy (School for Scandal), the best drama, (in my mind, far before that St. Giles's lampoon, the Beggar's Opera,) the best farce (the Critic—it is only too good for a farce), and the best Address (Monologue on Garrick), and, to crown all, delivered the very best Oration (the famous Begum Speech) ever conceived or heard in this country.' Somebody told S. this the next day, and on hearing it, he burst into tears!

"Poor Brinsley! if they were tears of pleasure, I would rather have said these few, but most sincere, words than have written the Iliad or made his own celebrated Philippic. Nay, his own comedy never gratified me more than to hear that he had derived a moment's gratification from any praise of mine, humble as it must appear to 'my elders and my betters.'

"Went to my box at Covent Garden to night; and my delicacy felt a little shocked at seeing S * * *'s mistress (who, to my certain knowledge, was actually educated, from her birth, for her profession) sitting with her mother, 'a three-piled b——d, b——d-Major to the army,' in a private box opposite. I felt rather indignant; but, casting my eyes round the house, in the next box to me, and the next, and the next, were the most distinguished old and young Babylonians of quality;—so I burst out a laughing. It was really odd; Lady * * divorced—Lady * * and her daughter, Lady * *, both divorceable—Mrs. * *[101], in the next, the like, and still nearer * * * * * *! What an assemblage to me, who know all their histories. It was as if the house had been divided between your public and your understood courtesans;—but the intriguantes much outnumbered the regular mercenaries. On the other side were only Pauline and her mother, and, next box to her, three of inferior note. Now, where lay the difference between her and mamma, and Lady * * and daughter? except that the two last may enter Carleton and any other house, and the two first are limited to the opera and b——house. How I do delight in observing life as it really is!—and myself, after all, the worst of any. But no matter—I must avoid egotism, which, just now, would be no vanity.

"I have lately written a wild, rambling, unfinished rhapsody, called 'The Devil's Drive[102],' the notion of which I took from Porson's 'Devil's Walk.'

"Redde some Italian, and wrote two Sonnets on * * *. I never wrote but one sonnet before, and that was not in earnest, and many years ago, as an exercise—and I will never write another. They are the most puling, petrifying, stupidly platonic compositions. I detest the Petrarch so much[104], that I would not be the man even to have obtained his Laura, which the metaphysical, whining dotard never could.

[Footnote 100: This passage of the Journal has already appeared in my Life of Sheridan.]

[Footnote 101: These names are all left blank in the original.]

[Footnote 102: Of this strange, wild poem, which extends to about two hundred and fifty lines, the only copy that Lord Byron, I believe, ever wrote, he presented to Lord Holland. Though with a good deal of vigour and imagination, it is, for the most part, rather clumsily executed, wanting the point and condensation of those clever verses of Mr. Coleridge[103], which Lord Byron, adopting a notion long prevalent, has attributed to Professor Person. There are, however, some of the stanzas of "The Devil's Drive" well worth preserving.


"The Devil return'd to hell by two, And he stay'd at home till five; When he dined on some homicides done in ragout, And a rebel or so in an Irish stew, And sausages made of a self-slain Jew, And bethought himself what next to do, 'And,' quoth he, 'I'll take a drive. I walk'd in the morning, I'll ride to-night; In darkness my children take most delight, And I'll see how my favourites thrive.'


"'And what shall I ride in?' quoth Lucifer, then— 'If I follow'd my taste, indeed, I should mount in a wagon of wounded men, And smile to see them bleed. But these will be furnish'd again and again, And at present my purpose is speed; To see my manor as much as I may, And watch that no souls shall be poach'd away.


"'I have a state coach at Carleton House, A chariot in Seymour Place; But they're lent to two friends, who make me amends By driving my favourite pace: And they handle their reins with such a grace, I have something for both at the end of the race.


"'So now for the earth to take my chance.' Then up to the earth sprung he; And making a jump from Moscow to France, He stepped across the sea, And rested his hoof on a turnpike road, No very great way from a bishop's abode.


"But first as he flew, I forgot to say, That he hover'd a moment upon his way To look upon Leipsic plain; And so sweet to his eye was its sulphury glare, And so soft to his ear was the cry of despair, That he perch'd on a mountain of slain; And he gazed with delight from its growing height; Not often on earth had he seen such a sight, Nor his work done half as well: For the field ran so red with the blood of the dead, That it blush'd like the waves of hell! Then loudly, and wildly, and long laugh'd he— 'Methinks they have here little need of me!' * * *


"But the softest note that sooth'd his ear Was the sound of a widow sighing, And the sweetest sight was the icy tear, Which Horror froze in the blue eye clear Of a maid by her lover lying— As round her fell her long fair hair; And she look'd to Heaven with that frenzied air Which seem'd to ask if a God were there! And, stretch'd by the wall of a ruin'd hut, With its hollow cheek, and eyes half shut, A child of famine dying: And the carnage begun, when resistance is done, And the fall of the vainly flying!


"But the Devil has reach'd our cliffs so white, And what did he there, I pray? If his eyes were good, he but saw by night What we see every day; But he made a tour, and kept a journal Of all the wondrous sights nocturnal, And he sold it in shares to the Men of the Row, Who bid pretty well—but they cheated him, though!


"The Devil first saw, as he thought, the Mail, Its coachman and his coat; So instead of a pistol, he cock'd his tail, And seized him by the throat: 'Aha,' quoth he, 'what have we here? 'Tis a new barouche, and an ancient peer!'


"So he sat him on his box again, And bade him have no fear, But be true to his club, and stanch to his rein, His brothel, and his beer; 'Next to seeing a lord at the council board. I would rather see him here.'


"The Devil gat next to Westminster, And he turn'd to 'the room' of the Commons; But he heard, as he purposed to enter in there, That 'the Lords' had received a summons; And he thought, as a 'quondam aristocrat,' He might peep at the peers, though to hear them were flat: And he walk'd up the house, so like one of our own, That they say that he stood pretty near the throne.


"He saw the Lord L——l seemingly wise, The Lord W——d certainly silly, And Johnny of Norfolk—a man of some size— And Chatham, so like his friend Billy; And he saw the tears in Lord E——n's eyes, Because the Catholics would not rise, In spite of his prayers and his prophecies; And he heard—which set Satan himself a staring— A certain Chief Justice say something like swearing. And the Devil was shock'd—and quoth he, 'I must go, For I find we have much better manners below. If thus he harangues when he passes my border, I shall hint to friend Moloch to call him to order.'" ]

[Footnote 103: Or Mr. Southey,—for the right of authorship in them seems still undecided.]

[Footnote 104: He learned to think more reverently of "the Petrarch" afterwards.]

"January 16. 1814.

"To-morrow I leave town for a few days. I saw Lewis to-day, who is just returned from Oatlands, where he has been squabbling with Mad. de Stael about himself, Clarissa Harlowe, Mackintosh, and me. My homage has never been paid in that quarter, or we would have agreed still worse. I don't talk—I can't flatter, and won't listen, except to a pretty or a foolish woman. She bored Lewis with praises of himself till he sickened—found out that Clarissa was perfection, and Mackintosh the first man in England. There I agree, at least one of the first—but Lewis did not. As to Clarissa, I leave to those who can read it to judge and dispute. I could not do the one, and am, consequently, not qualified for the other. She told Lewis wisely, he being my friend, that I was affected, in the first place; and that, in the next place, I committed the heinous offence of sitting at dinner with my eyes shut, or half shut. I wonder if I really have this trick. I must cure myself of it, if true. One insensibly acquires awkward habits, which should be broken in time. If this is one, I wish I had been told of it before. It would not so much signify if one was always to be checkmated by a plain woman, but one may as well see some of one's neighbours, as well as the plate upon the table.

"I should like, of all things, to have heard the Amabaean eclogue between her and Lewis—both obstinate, clever, odd, garrulous, and shrill. In fact, one could have heard nothing else. But they fell out, alas!—and now they will never quarrel again. Could not one reconcile them for the 'nonce?' Poor Corinne—she will find that some of her fine sayings won't suit our fine ladies and gentlemen.

"I am getting rather into admiration of * *, the youngest sister of * *. A wife would be my salvation. I am sure the wives of my acquaintances have hitherto done me little good. * * is beautiful, but very young, and, I think, a fool. But I have not seen enough to judge; besides, I hate an esprit in petticoats. That she won't love me is very probable, nor shall I love her. But, on my system, and the modern system in general, that don't signify. The business (if it came to business) would probably be arranged between papa and me. She would have her own way; I am good-humoured to women, and docile; and, if I did not fall in love with her, which I should try to prevent, we should be a very comfortable couple. As to conduct, that she must look to. But if I love, I shall be jealous;—and for that reason I will not be in love. Though, after all, I doubt my temper, and fear I should not be so patient as becomes the bienseance of a married man in my station. Divorce ruins the poor femme, and damages are a paltry compensation. I do fear my temper would lead me into some of our oriental tricks of vengeance, or, at any rate, into a summary appeal to the court of twelve paces. So 'I'll none on 't,' but e'en remain single and solitary;—though I should like to have somebody now and then to yawn with one.

"W. and, after him, * *, has stolen one of my buffooneries about Mde. de Stael's Metaphysics and the Fog, and passed it, by speech and letter, as their own. As Gibbet says, 'they are the most of a gentleman of any on the road.' W. is in sad enmity with the Whigs about this Review of Fox (if he did review him);—all the epigrammatists and essayists are at him. I hate odds, and wish he may beat them. As for me, by the blessing of indifference, I have simplified my politics into an utter detestation of all existing governments; and, as it is the shortest and most agreeable and summary feeling imaginable, the first moment of an universal republic would convert me into an advocate for single and uncontradicted despotism. The fact is, riches are power, and poverty is slavery all over the earth, and one sort of establishment is no better nor worse for a people than another. I shall adhere to my party, because it would not be honourable to act otherwise; but, as to opinions, I don't think politics worth an opinion. Conduct is another thing:—if you begin with a party, go on with them. I have no consistency, except in politics; and that probably arises from my indifference on the subject altogether."

* * * * *

I must here be permitted to interrupt, for a while, the progress of this Journal,—which extends through some months of the succeeding year,—for the purpose of noticing, without infringement of chronological order, such parts of the poet's literary history and correspondence as belong properly to the date of the year 1813.

At the beginning, as we have seen, of the month of December, The Bride of Abydos was published,—having been struck off, like its predecessor, The Giaour, in one of those paroxysms of passion and imagination, which adventures such as the poet was now engaged in were, in a temperament like his, calculated to excite. As the mathematician of old required but a spot to stand upon, to be able, as he boasted, to move the world, so a certain degree of foundation in fact seemed necessary to Byron, before that lever which he knew how to apply to the world of the passions could be wielded by him. So small, however, was, in many instances, the connection with reality which satisfied him, that to aim at tracing through his stories these links with his own fate and fortunes, which were, after all, perhaps, visible but to his own fancy, would be a task as uncertain as unsafe;—and this remark applies not only to The Bride of Abydos, but to The Corsair, Lara, and all the other beautiful fictions that followed, in which, though the emotions expressed by the poet may be, in general, regarded as vivid recollections of what had at different times agitated his own bosom, there are but little grounds,—however he might himself, occasionally, encourage such a supposition,—for connecting him personally with the groundwork or incidents of the stories.

While yet uncertain about the fate of his own new poem, the following observations on the work of an ingenious follower in the same track were written.


"Dec. 4. 1813.

"I have redde through your Persian Tales[105], and have taken the liberty of making some remarks on the blank pages. There are many beautiful passages, and an interesting story; and I cannot give you a stronger proof that such is my opinion, than by the date of the hourtwo o'clock, till which it has kept me awake without a yawn. The conclusion is not quite correct in costume; there is no Mussulman suicide on record—at least for love. But this matters not. The tale must have been written by some one who has been on the spot, and I wish him, and he deserves, success. Will you apologise to the author for the liberties I have taken with his MS.? Had I been less awake to, and interested in, his theme, I had been less obtrusive; but you know I always take this in good part, and I hope he will. It is difficult to say what will succeed, and still more to pronounce what will not. I am at this moment in that uncertainty (on our own score); and it is no small proof of the author's powers to be able to charm and fix a mind's attention on similar subjects and climates in such a predicament. That he may have the same effect upon all his readers is very sincerely the wish, and hardly the doubt, of yours truly, B."

[Footnote 105: Poems by Mr. Gally Knight, of which Mr. Murray had transmitted the MS. to Lord Byron, without, however, communicating the name of the author.]

* * * * *

To The Bride of Abydos he made additions, in the course of printing, amounting, altogether, to near two hundred lines; and, as usual, among the passages thus added, were some of the happiest and most brilliant in the whole poem. The opening lines,—"Know ye the land,' &c.—supposed to have been suggested to him by a song of Goethe's[106]—were among the number of these new insertions, as were also those fine verses,—"Who hath not proved how feebly words essay," &c. Of one of the most popular lines in this latter passage, it is not only curious, but instructive, to trace the progress to its present state of finish. Having at first written—

"Mind on her lip and music in her face,"

he afterwards altered it to—

"The mind of music breathing in her face."

But, this not satisfying him, the next step of correction brought the line to what it is at present—

"The mind, the music breathing from her face."[107]

But the longest, as well as most splendid, of those passages, with which the perusal of his own strains, during revision, inspired him, was that rich flow of eloquent feeling which follows the couplet,—"Thou, my Zuleika, share and bless my bark," &c.—a strain of poetry, which, for energy and tenderness of thought, for music of versification, and selectness of diction, has, throughout the greater portion of it, but few rivals in either ancient or modern song. All this passage was sent, in successive scraps, to the printer,—correction following correction, and thought reinforced by thought. We have here, too, another example of that retouching process by which some of his most exquisite effects were attained. Every reader remembers the four beautiful lines—

"Or, since that hope denied in worlds of strife, Be thou the rainbow to the storms of life! The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, And tints to-morrow with prophetic ray!"

In the first copy of this passage sent to the publisher, the last line was written thus—

{an airy} "And tints to-morrow with a { fancied } ray"—

the following note being annexed:—"Mr. Murray,—Choose which of the two epithets, 'fancied,' or 'airy,' may be the best; or, if neither will do, tell me, and I will dream another." The poet's dream was, it must be owned, lucky,—"prophetic" being the word, of all others, for his purpose.[108]

I shall select but one more example, from the additions to this poem, as a proof that his eagerness and facility in producing, was sometimes almost equalled by his anxious care in correcting. In the long passage just referred to, the six lines beginning "Blest as the Muezzin's strain," &c., having been despatched to the printer too late for insertion, were, by his desire, added in an errata page; the first couplet, in its original form, being as follows:—

"Soft as the Mecca-Muezzin's strains invite Him who hath journey'd far to join the rite."

In a few hours after, another scrap was sent off, containing the lines thus—

"Blest as the Muezzin's strain from Mecca's dome, Which welcomes Faith to view her Prophet's tomb"—

with the following note to Mr. Murray:—

"December 3. 1813.

"Look out in the Encyclopedia, article Mecca, whether it is there or at Medina the Prophet is entombed. If at Medina, the first lines of my alterration must run—

"Blest as the call which from Medina's dome Invites Devotion to her Prophet's tomb," &c.

If at Mecca, the lines may stand as before. Page 45. canto 2d, Bride of Abydos. Yours, B.

"You will find this out either by article Mecca, Medina, or Mohammed. I have no book of reference by me."

[Footnote 106: "Kennst du das Land wo die Citronen bluehn," &c.]

[Footnote 107: Among the imputed plagiarisms so industriously hunted out in his writings, this line has been, with somewhat more plausibility than is frequent in such charges, included,—the lyric poet Lovelace having, it seems, written,

"The melody and music of her face."

Sir Thomas Brown, too, in his Religio Medici, says—"There is music even in beauty," &c. The coincidence, no doubt, is worth observing, and the task of "tracking" thus a favourite writer "in the snow (as Dryden expresses it) of others" is sometimes not unamusing; but to those who found upon such resemblances a general charge of plagiarism, we may apply what Sir Walter Scott says, in that most agreeable work, his Lives of the Novelists:—"It is a favourite theme of laborious dulness to trace such coincidences, because they appear to reduce genius of the higher order to the usual standard of humanity, and of course to bring the author nearer to a level with his critics."]

[Footnote 108: It will be seen, however, from a subsequent letter to Mr. Murray, that he himself was at first unaware of the peculiar felicity of this epithet; and it is therefore, probable, that, after all, the merit of the choice may have belonged to Mr. Gifford.]

* * * * *

Immediately after succeeded another note:—

"Did you look out? Is it Medina or Mecca that contains the Holy Sepulchre? Don't make me blaspheme by your negligence. I have no book of reference, or I would save you the trouble. I blush, as a good Mussulman, to have confused the point.

"Yours, B."

* * * * *

Notwithstanding all these various changes, the couplet in question stands at present thus:—

"Blest as the Muezzin's strain from Mecca's wall To pilgrims pure and prostrate at his call."

In addition to his own watchfulness over the birth of his new poem, he also, as will be seen from the following letter, invoked the veteran taste of Mr. Gifford on the occasion:—


"November 12. 1813.

"My dear Sir,

"I hope you will consider, when I venture on any request, that it is the reverse of a certain Dedication, and is addressed, not to 'The Editor of the Quarterly Review,' but to Mr. Gifford. You will understand this, and on that point I need trouble you no farther.

"You have been good enough to look at a thing of mine in MS.—a Turkish story, and I should feel gratified if you would do it the same favour in its probationary state of printing. It was written, I cannot say for amusement, nor 'obliged by hunger and request of friends,' but in a state of mind from circumstances which occasionally occur to 'us youth,' that rendered it necessary for me to apply my mind to something, any thing but reality; and under this not very brilliant inspiration it was composed. Being done, and having at least diverted me from myself, I thought you would not perhaps be offended if Mr. Murray forwarded it to you. He has done so, and to apologise for his doing so a second time is the object of my present letter.

"I beg you will not send me any answer. I assure you very sincerely I know your time to be occupied, and it is enough, more than enough, if you read; you are not to be bored with the fatigue of answers.

"A word to Mr. Murray will be sufficient, and send it either to the flames or

"A hundred hawkers' load, On wings of wind to fly or fall abroad.

It deserves no better than the first, as the work of a week, and scribbled 'stans pede in uno' (by the by, the only foot I have to stand on); and I promise never to trouble you again under forty Cantos, and a voyage between each. Believe me ever

"Your obliged and affectionate servant,


* * * * *

The following letters and notes, addressed to Mr. Murray at this time, cannot fail, I think, to gratify all those to whom the history of the labours of genius is interesting:—


"Nov. 12. 1813.

"Two friends of mine (Mr. Rogers and Mr. Sharpe) have advised me not to risk at present any single publication separately, for various reasons. As they have not seen the one in question, they can have no bias for or against the merits (if it has any) or the faults of the present subject of our conversation. You say all the last of 'The Giaour' are gone—at least out of your hands. Now, if you think of publishing any new edition with the last additions which have not yet been before the reader (I mean distinct from the two-volume publication), we can add 'The Bride of Abydos,' which will thus steal quietly into the world: if liked, we can then throw off some copies for the purchasers of former 'Giaours;' and, if not, I can omit it in any future publication. What think you? I really am no judge of those things, and with all my natural partiality for one's own productions, I would rather follow any one's judgment than my own.

"P.S. Pray let me have the proofs I sent all to-night. I have some alterations that I have thought of that I wish to make speedily. I hope the proof will be on separate pages, and not all huddled together on a mile-long ballad-singing sheet, as those of The Giaour sometimes are; for then I can't read them distinctly."

* * * * *


"Nov. 13. 1813.

"Will you forward the letter to Mr. Gilford with the proof? There is an alteration I may make in Zuleika's speech, in second Canto (the only one of hers in that Canto). It is now thus:

"And curse, if I could curse, the day.

It must be—

"And mourn—I dare not curse—the day That saw my solitary birth, &c. &c.

"Ever yours, B.

"In the last MS. lines sent, instead of 'living heart,' convert to 'quivering heart.' It is in line ninth of the MS. passage.

"Ever yours again, B."

* * * * *


"Alteration of a line in Canto second.

"Instead of—

"And tints to-morrow with a fancied ray,


"And tints to-morrow with prophetic ray.

"The evening beam that smiles the clouds away And tints to-morrow with prophetic ray;


{gilds} "And { tints } the hope of morning with its ray;


"And gilds to-morrow's hope with heavenly ray.

"I wish you would ask Mr. Gifford which of them is best, or rather not worst. Ever, &c.

"You can send the request contained in this at the same time with the revise, after I have seen the said revise."

* * * * *


"Nov. 13. 1813.

"Certainly. Do you suppose that no one but the Galileans are acquainted with Adam, and Eve, and Cain[109], and Noah?—Surely, I might have had Solomon, and Abraham, and David, and even Moses. When you know that Zuleika is the Persian poetical name for Potiphar's wife, on whom and Joseph there is a long poem, in the Persian, this will not surprise you. If you want authority, look at Jones, D'Herbelot, Vathek, or the notes to the Arabian Nights; and, if you think it necessary, model this into a note.

"Alter, in the inscription, 'the most affectionate respect,' to 'with every sentiment of regard and respect.'"

[Footnote 109: Some doubt had been expressed by Mr. Murray as to the propriety of his putting the name of Cain into the mouth of a Mussulman.]

* * * * *


"Nov. 14. 1813.

"I send you a note for the ignorant, but I really wonder at finding you among them. I don't care one lump of sugar for my poetry; but for my costume and my correctness on those points (of which I think the funeral was a proof), I will combat lustily.

"Yours," &c.

* * * * *

"Nov. 14. 1813.

"Let the revise which I sent just now (and not the proof in Mr. Gifford's possession) be returned to the printer, as there are several additional corrections, and two new lines in it. Yours," &c.

* * * * *


"November 15. 1813.

"Mr. Hodgson has looked over and stopped, or rather pointed, this revise, which must be the one to print from. He has also made some suggestions, with most of which I have complied, as he has always, for these ten years, been a very sincere, and by no means (at times) flattering intimate of mine. He likes it (you will think fatteringly, in this instance) better than The Giaour, but doubts (and so do I) its being so popular; but, contrary to some others, advises a separate publication. On this we can easily decide. I confess I like the double form better. Hodgson says, it is better versified than any of the others; which is odd, if true, as it has cost me less time (though more hours at a time) than any attempt I ever made.

"P.S. Do attend to the punctuation: I can't, for I don't know a comma—at least where to place one.

"That Tory of a printer has omitted two lines of the opening, and perhaps more, which were in the MS. Will you, pray, give him a hint of accuracy? I have reinserted the two, but they were in the manuscript, I can swear."

* * * * *


"November 17. 1813.

"That you and I may distinctly understand each other on a subject, which, like 'the dreadful reckoning when men smile no more,' makes conversation not very pleasant, I think it as well to write a few lines on the topic.—Before I left town for Yorkshire, you said that you were ready and willing to give five hundred guineas for the copyright of 'The Giaour;' and my answer was—from which I do not mean to recede—that we would discuss the point at Christmas. The new story may or may not succeed; the probability, under present circumstances, seems to be, that it may at least pay its expenses—but even that remains to be proved, and till it is proved one way or another, we will say nothing about it. Thus then be it: I will postpone all arrangement about it, and The Giaour also, till Easter, 1814; and you shall then, according to your own notions of fairness, make your own offer for the two. At the same time, I do not rate the last in my own estimation at half The Giaour; and according to your own notions of its worth and its success within the time mentioned, be the addition or deduction to or from whatever sum may be your proposal for the first, which has already had its success.

"The pictures of Phillips I consider as mine, all three; and the one (not the Arnaout) of the two best is much at your service, if you will accept it as a present.

"P.S. The expense of engraving from the miniature send me in my account, as it was destroyed by my desire; and have the goodness to burn that detestable print from it immediately.

"To make you some amends for eternally pestering you with alterations, I send you Cobbett to confirm your orthodoxy.

"One more alteration of a into the in the MS.; it must be—'The heart whose softness,' &c.

"Remember—and in the inscription, 'To the Right Honourable Lord Holland,' without the previous names, Henry," &c.

* * * * *


"November 20. 1813.

"More work for the Row. I am doing my best to beat 'The Giaour'—no difficult task for any one but the author."

* * * * *


"November 22. 1813.

"I have no time to cross-investigate, but I believe and hope all is right. I care less than you will believe about its success, but I can't survive a single misprint: it chokes me to see words misused by the printers. Pray look over, in case of some eyesore escaping me.

"P.S. Send the earliest copies to Mr. Frere, Mr. Canning, Mr. Heber, Mr. Gifford, Lord Holland, Lord Melbourne (Whitehall), Lady Caroline Lamb, (Brocket), Mr. Hodgson (Cambridge), Mr. Merivale, Mr. Ward, from the author."

* * * * *


"November 23. 1813.

"You wanted some reflections, and I send you per Selim (see his speech in Canto 2d, page 46.), eighteen lines in decent couplets, of a pensive, if not an ethical tendency. One more revise—positively the last, if decently done—at any rate the penultimate. Mr. Canning's approbation (if he did approve) I need not say makes me proud.[110] As to printing, print as you will and how you will—by itself, if you like; but let me have a few copies in sheets.

"November 24. 1813.

"You must pardon me once more, as it is all for your good: it must be thus—

"He makes a solitude, and calls it peace.

'Makes' is closer to the passage of Tacitus, from which the line is taken, and is, besides, a stronger word than 'leaves'

"Mark where his carnage and his conquests cease— He makes a solitude, and calls it—peace."

[Footnote 110: Mr. Canning's note was as follows:—"I received the books, and, among them, The Bride of Abydos. It is very, very beautiful. Lord Byron (when I met him, one day, at dinner at Mr. Ward's) was so kind as to promise to give me a copy of it. I mention this, not to save my purchase, but because I should be really flattered by the present."]

* * * * *


"November 27. 1813.

"If you look over this carefully by the last proof with my corrections, it is probably right; this you can do as well or better;—I have not now time. The copies I mentioned to be sent to different friends last night, I should wish to be made up with the new Giaours, if it also is ready. If not, send The Giaour afterwards.

"The Morning Post says I am the author of Nourjahad!! This comes of lending the drawings for their dresses; but it is not worth a formal contradiction. Besides, the criticisms on the supposition will, some of them, be quite amusing and furious. The Orientalism—which I hear is very splendid—of the melodrame (whosever it is, and I am sure I don't know) is as good as an advertisement for your Eastern Stories, by filling their heads with glitter.

"P.S. You will of course say the truth, that I am not the melodramist—if any one charges me in your presence with the performance."

* * * * *


"November 28. 1813.

"Send another copy (if not too much of a request) to Lady Holland of the Journal[111], in my name, when you receive this; it is for Earl Grey—and I will relinquish my own. Also to Mr. Sharpe, and Lady Holland, and Lady Caroline Lamb, copies of 'The Bride' as soon as convenient.

"P.S. Mr. Ward and myself still continue our purpose; but I shall not trouble you on any arrangement on the score of The Giaour and The Bride till our return,—or, at any rate, before May, 1814,—that is, six months from hence: and before that time you will be able to ascertain how far your offer may be a losing one; if so, you can deduct proportionably; and if not, I shall not at any rate allow you to go higher than your present proposal, which is very handsome, and more than fair.[112]

"I have had—but this must be entre nous—a very kind note, on the subject of 'The Bride,' from Sir James Mackintosh, and an invitation to go there this evening, which it is now too late to accept."

[Footnote 111: Penrose's Journal, a book published by Mr. Murray at this time.]

[Footnote 112: Mr. Murray had offered him a thousand guineas for the two poems.]

* * * * *


"November 29. 1813. Sunday—Monday morning—three o'clock—in my doublet and hose,—swearing.

"I send you in time an errata page, containing an omission of mine, which must be thus added, as it is too late for insertion in the text. The passage is an imitation altogether from Medea in Ovid, and is incomplete without these two lines. Pray let this be done, and directly; it is necessary, will add one page to your book (making), and can do no harm, and is yet in time for the public. Answer me, thou oracle, in the affirmative. You can send the loose pages to those who have copies already, if they like; but certainly to all the critical copyholders.

"P.S. I have got out of my bed, (in which, however, I could not sleep, whether I had amended this or not,) and so good morning. I am trying whether De l'Allemagne will act as an opiate, but I doubt it."

* * * * *


"November 29. 1813.

"You have looked at it!' to much purpose, to allow so stupid a blunder to stand; it is not 'courage' but 'carnage;' and if you don't want me to cut my own throat, see it altered.

"I am very sorry to hear of the fall of Dresden."

* * * * *


"Nov. 29. 1813. Monday.

"You will act as you please upon that point; but whether I go or stay, I shall not say another word on the subject till May—nor then, unless quite convenient to yourself. I have many things I wish to leave to your care, principally papers. The vases need not be now sent, as Mr. Ward is gone to Scotland. You are right about the errata page; place it at the beginning. Mr. Perry is a little premature in his compliments: these may do harm by exciting expectation, and I think we ought to be above it—though I see the next paragraph is on the Journal[113], which makes me suspect you as the author of both.

"Would it not have been as well to have said 'in two Cantos' in the advertisement? they will else think of fragments, a species of composition very well for once, like one ruin in a view; but one would not build a town of them. The Bride, such as it is, is my first entire composition of any length (except the Satire, and be d——d to it), for The Giaour is but a string of passages, and Childe Harold is, and I rather think always will be, unconcluded. I return Mr. Hay's note, with thanks to him and you.

"There have been some epigrams on Mr. Ward: one I see to-day. The first I did not see, but heard yesterday. The second seems very bad. I only hope that Mr. Ward does not believe that I had any connection with either. I like and value him too well to allow my politics to contract into spleen, or to admire any thing intended to annoy him or his. You need not take the trouble to answer this, as I shall see you in the course of the afternoon.

"P.S. I have said this much about the epigrams, because I lived so much in the opposite camp, and, from my post as an engineer, might be suspected as the flinger of these hand-grenadoes; but with a worthy foe, I am all for open war, and not this bushfighting, and have not had, nor will have, any thing to do with it. I do not know the author."

[Footnote 113: Penrose's Journal.]

* * * * *


"Nov. 30. 1813.

"Print this at the end of all that is of 'The Bride of Abydos,' as an errata page. BN.

"Omitted, Canto 2d, page 47., after line 449.,

"So that those arms cling closer round my neck.


"Then if my lip once murmur, it must be No sigh for safety, but a prayer for thee."

* * * * *


"Tuesday evening, Nov. 30. 1813.

"For the sake of correctness, particularly in an errata page, the alteration of the couplet I have just sent (half an hour ago) must take place, in spite of delay or cancel; let me see the proof early to-morrow. I found out murmur to be a neuter verb, and have been obliged to alter the line so as to make it a substantive, thus—

"The deepest murmur of this lip shall be No sigh for safety, but a prayer for thee!

Don't send the copies to the country till this is all right."

* * * * *


"Dec. 2. 1813.

"When you can, let the couplet enclosed be inserted either in the page, or in the errata page. I trust it is in time for some of the copies. This alteration is in the same part—the page but one before the last correction sent.

"P.S. I am afraid, from all I hear, that people are rather inordinate in their expectations, which is very unlucky, but cannot now be helped. This comes of Mr. Perry and one's wise friends; but do not you wind your hopes of success to the same pitch, for fear of accidents, and I can assure you that my philosophy will stand the test very fairly; and I have done every thing to ensure you, at all events, from positive loss, which will be some satisfaction to both."

* * * * *


"Dec. 3. 1813.

"I send you a scratch or two, the which heal. The Christian Observer is very savage, but certainly well written—and quite uncomfortable at the naughtiness of book and author. I rather suspect you won't much like the present to be more moral, if it is to share also the usual fate of your virtuous volumes.

"Let me see a proof of the six before incorporation."

* * * * *


"Monday evening, Dec. 6. 1813.

"It is all very well, except that the lines are not numbered properly, and a diabolical mistake, page 67., which must be corrected with the pen, if no other way remains; it is the omission of 'not' before 'disagreeable,' in the note on the amber rosary. This is really horrible, and nearly as bad as the stumble of mine at the threshold—I mean the misnomer of Bride. Pray do not let a copy go without the 'not;' it is nonsense, and worse than nonsense as it now stands. I wish the printer was saddled with a vampire.

"P.S. It is still hath instead of have in page 20.; never was any one so misused as I am by your devils of printers.

"P.S. I hope and trust the 'not' was inserted in the first edition. We must have something—any thing—to set it right. It is enough to answer for one's own bulls, without other people's."

* * * * *


"December 27. 1813.

"Lord Holland is laid up with the gout, and would feel very much obliged if you could obtain, and send as soon as possible, Madame d'Arblay's (or even Miss Edgeworth's) new work. I know they are not out; but it is perhaps possible for your Majesty to command what we cannot with much suing purchase, as yet. I need not say that when you are able or willing to confer the same favour on me, I shall be obliged. I would almost fall sick myself to get at Madame d'Arblay's writings.

"P.S. You were talking to-day of the American edition of a certain unquenchable memorial of my younger days. As it can't be helped now, I own I have some curiosity to see a copy of trans-Atlantic typography. This you will perhaps obtain, and one for yourself; but I must beg that you will not import more, because, seriously, I do wish to have that thing forgotten as much as it has been forgiven.

"If you send to the Globe editor, say that I want neither excuse nor contradiction, but merely a discontinuance of a most ill-grounded charge. I never was consistent in any thing but my politics; and as my redemption depends on that solitary virtue, it is murder to carry away my last anchor."

* * * * *

Of these hasty and characteristic missives with which he despatched off his "still-breeding thoughts," there yet remain a few more that might be presented to the reader; but enough has here been given to show the fastidiousness of his self-criticism, as well as the restless and unsatisfied ardour with which he pressed on in pursuit of perfection,—still seeing, according to the usual doom of genius, much farther than he could reach.

An appeal was, about this time, made to his generosity, which the reputation of the person from whom it proceeded would, in the minds of most people, have justified him in treating with disregard, but which a more enlarged feeling of humanity led him to view in a very different light; for, when expostulated with by Mr. Murray on his generous intentions towards one "whom nobody else would give a single farthing to," he answered, "it is for that very reason I give it, because nobody else will." The person in question was Mr. Thomas Ashe, author of a certain notorious publication called "The Book," which, from the delicate mysteries discussed in its pages, attracted far more notice than its talent, or even mischief, deserved. In a fit, it is to be hoped, of sincere penitence, this man wrote to Lord Byron, alleging poverty as his excuse for the vile uses to which he had hitherto prostituted his pen, and soliciting his Lordship's aid towards enabling him to exist, in future, more reputably. To this application the following answer, marked, in the highest degree, by good sense, humanity, and honourable sentiment, was returned by Lord Byron:—


"4. Bennet Street, St. James's, Dec. 14. 1813.


"I leave town for a few days to-morrow; on my return, I will answer your letter more at length. Whatever may be your situation, I cannot but commend your resolution to abjure and abandon the publication and composition of works such as those to which you have alluded. Depend upon it they amuse few, disgrace both reader and writer, and benefit none. It will be my wish to assist you, as far as my limited means will admit, to break such a bondage. In your answer, inform me what sum you think would enable you to extricate yourself from the hands of your employers, and to regain, at least, temporary independence, and I shall be glad to contribute my mite towards it. At present, I must conclude. Your name is not unknown to me, and I regret, for your own sake, that you have ever lent it to the works you mention. In saying this, I merely repeat your own words in your letter to me, and have no wish whatever to say a single syllable that may appear to insult your misfortunes. If I have, excuse me; it is unintentional. Yours, &c.


* * * * *

In answer to this letter, Ashe mentioned, as the sum necessary to extricate him from his difficulties, 150l.—to be advanced at the rate of ten pounds per month; and, some short delay having occurred in the reply to this demand, the modest applicant, in renewing his suit, complained, it appears, of neglect: on which Lord Byron, with a good temper which few, in a similar case, could imitate, answered him as follows:—


"January 5. 1814.


"When you accuse a stranger of neglect, you forget that it is possible business or absence from London may have interfered to delay his answer, as has actually occurred in the present instance. But to the point. I am willing to do what I can to extricate you from your situation. Your first scheme[114] I was considering; but your own impatience appears to have rendered it abortive, if not irretrievable. I will deposit in Mr. Murray's hands (with his consent) the sum you mentioned, to be advanced for the time at ten pounds per month.

"P.S.—I write in the greatest hurry, which may make my letter a little abrupt; but, as I said before, I have no wish to distress your feelings."

[Footnote 114: His first intention had been to go out, as a settler, to Botany Bay.]

* * * * *

The service thus humanely proffered was no less punctually performed; and the following is one of the many acknowledgments of payment which I find in Ashe's letters to Mr. Murray:—"I have the honour to enclose you another memorandum for the sum of ten pounds, in compliance with the munificent instructions of Lord Byron."[115]

His friend, Mr. Merivale, one of the translators of those Selections from the Anthology which we have seen he regretted so much not having taken with him on his travels, published a poem about this time, which he thus honours with his praise.


"January, 1814.

"My dear Merivale,

"I have redde Roncesvaux with very great pleasure, and (if I were so disposed) see very little room for criticism. There is a choice of two lines in one of the last Cantos,—I think 'Live and protect' better, because 'Oh who?' implies a doubt of Roland's power or inclination. I would allow the—but that point you yourself must determine on—I mean the doubt as to where to place a part of the Poem, whether between the actions or no. Only if you wish to have all the success you deserve, never listen to friends, and—as I am not the least troublesome of the number, least of all to me.

"I hope you will be out soon. March, sir, March is the month for the trade, and they must be considered. You have written a very noble Poem, and nothing but the detestable taste of the day can do you harm,—but I think you will beat it. Your measure is uncommonly well chosen and wielded."[116]

[Footnote 115: When these monthly disbursements had amounted to 70l., Ashe wrote to beg that the whole remaining sum of 80l. might be advanced to him at one payment, in order to enable him, as he said, to avail himself of a passage to New South Wales, which had been again offered to him. The sum was accordingly, by Lord Byron's orders, paid into his hands.]

[Footnote 116: This letter is but a fragment,—the remainder being lost.]

* * * * *

In the extracts from his Journal, just given, there is a passage that cannot fail to have been remarked, where, in speaking of his admiration of some lady, whose name he has himself left blank, the noble writer says—"a wife would be the salvation of me." It was under this conviction, which not only himself but some of his friends entertained, of the prudence of his taking timely refuge in matrimony from those perplexities which form the sequel of all less regular ties, that he had been induced, about a year before, to turn his thoughts seriously to marriage,—at least, as seriously as his thoughts were ever capable of being so turned,—and chiefly, I believe, by the advice and intervention of his friend Lady Melbourne, to become a suitor for the hand of a relative of that lady, Miss Milbanke. Though his proposal was not then accepted, every assurance of friendship and regard accompanied the refusal; a wish was even expressed that they should continue to write to each other, and a correspondence, in consequence,—somewhat singular between two young persons of different sexes, inasmuch as love was not the subject of it,—ensued between them. We have seen how highly Lord Byron estimated as well the virtues as the accomplishments of the young lady; but it is evident that on neither side, at this period, was love either felt or professed.[117]

In the mean time, new entanglements, in which his heart was the willing dupe of his fancy and vanity, came to engross the young poet: and still, as the usual penalties of such pursuits followed, he again found himself sighing for the sober yoke of wedlock, as some security against their recurrence. There were, indeed, in the interval between Miss Milbanke's refusal and acceptance of him, two or three other young women of rank who, at different times, formed the subject of his matrimonial dreams. In the society of one of these, whose family had long honoured me with their friendship, he and I passed much of our time, during this and the preceding spring; and it will be found that, in a subsequent part of his correspondence, he represents me as having entertained an anxious wish that he should so far cultivate my fair friend's favour as to give a chance, at least, of matrimony being the result.

That I, more than once, expressed some such feeling is undoubtedly true. Fully concurring with the opinion, not only of himself, but of others of his friends, that in marriage lay his only chance of salvation from the sort of perplexing attachments into which he was now constantly tempted, I saw in none of those whom he admired with more legitimate views so many requisites for the difficult task of winning him into fidelity and happiness as in the lady in question. Combining beauty of the highest order with a mind intelligent and ingenuous,—having just learning enough to give refinement to her taste, and far too much taste to make pretensions to learning,—with a patrician spirit proud as his own, but showing it only in a delicate generosity of spirit, a feminine high-mindedness, which would have led her to tolerate his defects in consideration of his noble qualities and his glory, and even to sacrifice silently some of her own happiness rather than violate the responsibility in which she stood pledged to the world for his;—such was, from long experience, my impression of the character of this lady; and perceiving Lord Byron to be attracted by her more obvious claims to admiration, I felt a pleasure no less in rendering justice to the still rarer qualities which she possessed, than in endeavouring to raise my noble friend's mind to the contemplation of a higher model of female character than he had, unluckily for himself, been much in the habit of studying.

To this extent do I confess myself to have been influenced by the sort of feeling which he attributes to me. But in taking for granted (as it will appear he did from one of his letters) that I entertained any very decided or definite wishes on the subject, he gave me more credit for seriousness in my suggestions than I deserved. If even the lady herself, the unconscious object of these speculations, by whom he was regarded in no other light than that of a distinguished acquaintance, could have consented to undertake the perilous,—but still possible and glorious,—achievement of attaching Byron to virtue, I own that, sanguinely as, in theory, I might have looked to the result, I should have seen, not without trembling, the happiness of one whom I had known and valued from her childhood risked in the experiment.

I shall now proceed to resume the thread of the Journal, which I had broken off, and of which, it will be perceived, the noble author himself had, for some weeks, at this time, interrupted the progress.

[Footnote 117: The reader has already seen what Lord Byron himself says, in his Journal, on this subject:—"What an odd situation and friendship is ours!—without one spark of love on either side," &c. &c.]


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