WITH HIS LETTERS AND JOURNALS.
BY THOMAS MOORE, ESQ.
IN SIX VOLUMES.—VOL. IV.
LONDON: JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET. 1854.
CONTENTS OF VOL. IV
LETTERS AND JOURNALS OF LORD BYRON, WITH NOTICES OF HIS LIFE, from April, 1817, to October, 1820.
LIFE OF LORD BYRON.
LETTER 272. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Venice, April 9. 1817.
"Your letters of the 18th and 20th are arrived. In my own I have given you the rise, progress, decline, and fall, of my recent malady. It is gone to the devil: I won't pay him so bad a compliment as to say it came from him;—he is too much of a gentleman. It was nothing but a slow fever, which quickened its pace towards the end of its journey. I had been bored with it some weeks—with nocturnal burnings and morning perspirations; but I am quite well again, which I attribute to having had neither medicine nor doctor thereof.
"In a few days I set off for Rome: such is my purpose. I shall change it very often before Monday next, but do you continue to direct and address to Venice, as heretofore. If I go, letters will be forwarded: I say 'if,' because I never know what I shall do till it is done; and as I mean most firmly to set out for Rome, it is not unlikely I may find myself at St. Petersburg.
"You tell me to 'take care of myself;'—faith, and I will. I won't be posthumous yet, if I can help it. Notwithstanding, only think what a 'Life and Adventures,' while I am in full scandal, would be worth, together with the 'membra' of my writing-desk, the sixteen beginnings of poems never to be finished! Do you think I would not have shot myself last year, had I not luckily recollected that Mrs. C * * and Lady N * *, and all the old women in England would have been delighted;—besides the agreeable 'Lunacy,' of the 'Crowner's Quest,' and the regrets of two or three or half a dozen? Be assured that I would live for two reasons, or more;—there are one or two people whom I have to put out of the world, and as many into it, before I can 'depart in peace;' if I do so before, I have not fulfilled my mission. Besides, when I turn thirty, I will turn devout; I feel a great vocation that way in Catholic churches, and when I hear the organ.
"So * * is writing again! Is there no Bedlam in Scotland? nor thumb-screw? nor gag? nor hand-cuff? I went upon my knees to him almost, some years ago, to prevent him from publishing a political pamphlet, which would have given him a livelier idea of 'Habeas Corpus' than the world will derive from his present production upon that suspended subject, which will doubtless be followed by the suspension of other of his Majesty's subjects.
"I condole with Drury Lane and rejoice with * *,—that is, in a modest way,—on the tragical end of the new tragedy.
"You and Leigh Hunt have quarrelled then, it seems? I introduce him and his poem to you, in the hope that (malgre politics) the union would be beneficial to both, and the end is eternal enmity; and yet I did this with the best intentions: I introduce * * *, and * * * runs away with your money: my friend Hobhouse quarrels, too, with the Quarterly: and (except the last) I am the innocent Istmhus (damn the word! I can't spell it, though I have crossed that of Corinth a dozen times) of these enmities.
"I will tell you something about Chillon.—A Mr. De Luc, ninety years old, a Swiss, had it read to him, and is pleased with it,—so my sister writes. He said that he was with Rousseau at Chillon, and that the description is perfectly correct. But this is not all: I recollected something of the name, and find the following passage in 'The Confessions,' vol. iii. page 247. liv. viii.:—
"'De tous ces amusemens celui qui me plut davantage fut une promenade autour du Lac, que je fis en bateau avec De Luc pere, sa bru, ses deux fils, et ma Therese. Nous mimes sept jours a cette tournee par le plus beau temps du monde. J'en gardai le vif souvenir des sites qui m'avoient frappe a l'autre extremite du Lac, et dont je fis la description, quelques annees apres, dans la Nouvelle Heloise'
"This nonagenarian, De Luc, must be one of the 'deux fils.' He is in England—infirm, but still in faculty. It is odd that he should have lived so long, and not wanting in oddness that he should have made this voyage with Jean Jacques, and afterwards, at such an interval, read a poem by an Englishman (who had made precisely the same circumnavigation) upon the same scenery.
"As for 'Manfred,' it is of no use sending proofs; nothing of that kind comes. I sent the whole at different times. The two first Acts are the best; the third so so; but I was blown with the first and second heats. You must call it 'a Poem,' for it is no Drama, and I do not choose to have it called by so * * a name—a 'Poem in dialogue,' or—Pantomime, if you will; any thing but a green-room synonyme; and this is your motto—
"'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'
"Yours ever, &c.
"My love and thanks to Mr. Gifford."
* * * * *
LETTER 273. TO MR. MOORE.
"Venice, April 11. 1817.
"I shall continue to write to you while the fit is on me, by way of penance upon you for your former complaints of long silence. I dare say you would blush, if you could, for not answering. Next week I set out for Rome. Having seen Constantinople, I should like to look at t'other fellow. Besides, I want to see the Pope, and shall take care to tell him that I vote for the Catholics and no Veto.
"I sha'n't go to Naples. It is but the second best sea-view, and I have seen the first and third, viz. Constantinople and Lisbon, (by the way, the last is but a river-view; however, they reckon it after Stamboul and Naples, and before Genoa,) and Vesuvius is silent, and I have passed by AEtna. So I shall e'en return to Venice in July; and if you write, I pray you to address to Venice, which is my head, or rather my heart, quarters.
"My late physician, Dr. Polidori, is here on his way to England, with the present Lord G * * and the widow of the late earl. Dr. Polidori has, just now, no more patients, because his patients are no more. He had lately three, who are now all dead—one embalmed. Horner and a child of Thomas Hope's are interred at Pisa and Rome. Lord G * * died of an inflammation of the bowels: so they took them out, and sent them (on account of their discrepancies), separately from the carcass, to England. Conceive a man going one way, and his intestines another, and his immortal soul a third!—was there ever such a distribution? One certainly has a soul; but how it came to allow itself to be enclosed in a body is more than I can imagine. I only know if once mine gets out, I'll have a bit of a tussle before I let it get in again to that or any other.
"And so poor dear Mr. Maturin's second tragedy has been neglected by the discerning public! * * will be d——d glad of this, and d——d without being glad, if ever his own plays come upon 'any stage.'
"I wrote to Rogers the other day, with a message for you. I hope that he flourishes. He is the Tithonus of poetry—immortal already. You and I must wait for it.
"I hear nothing—know nothing. You may easily suppose that the English don't seek me, and I avoid them. To be sure, there are but few or none here, save passengers. Florence and Naples are their Margate and Ramsgate, and much the same sort of company too, by all accounts, which hurts us among the Italians.
"I want to hear of Lalla Rookh—are you out? Death and fiends! why don't you tell me where you are, what you are, and how you are? I shall go to Bologna by Ferrara, instead of Mantua: because I would rather see the cell where they caged Tasso, and where he became mad and * *, than his own MSS. at Modena, or the Mantuan birthplace of that harmonious plagiary and miserable flatterer, whose cursed hexameters were drilled into me at Harrow. I saw Verona and Vicenza on my way here—Padua too.
"I go alone,—but alone, because I mean to return here. I only want to see Rome. I have not the least curiosity about Florence, though I must see it for the sake of the Venus, &c. &c.; and I wish also to see the Fall of Terni. I think to return to Venice by Ravenna and Rimini, of both of which I mean to take notes for Leigh Hunt, who will be glad to hear of the scenery of his Poem. There was a devil of a review of him in the Quarterly, a year ago, which he answered. All answers are imprudent: but, to be sure, poetical flesh and blood must have the last word—that's certain. I thought, and think, very highly of his Poem; but I warned him of the row his favourite antique phraseology would bring him into.
"You have taken a house at Hornsey: I had much rather you had taken one in the Apennines. If you think of coming out for a summer, or so, tell me, that I may be upon the hover for you.
* * * * *
LETTER 274. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Venice, April 14. 1817.
"By the favour of Dr. Polidori, who is here on his way to England with the present Lord G * *, (the late earl having gone to England by another road, accompanied by his bowels in a separate coffer,) I remit to you, to deliver to Mrs. Leigh, two miniatures; previously you will have the goodness to desire Mr. Love (as a peace-offering between him and me) to set them in plain gold, with my arms complete, and 'Painted by Prepiani—Venice, 1817,' on the back. I wish also that you would desire Holmes to make a copy of each—that is, both—for myself, and that you will retain the said copies till my return. One was done while I was very unwell; the other in my health, which may account for their dissimilitude. I trust that they will reach their destination in safety.
"I recommend the Doctor to your good offices with your government friends; and if you can be of any use to him in a literary point of view, pray be so.
"To-day, or rather yesterday, for it is past midnight, I have been up to the battlements of the highest tower in Venice, and seen it and its view, in all the glory of a clear Italian sky. I also went over the Manfrini Palace, famous for its pictures. Amongst them, there is a portrait of Ariosto by Titian, surpassing all my anticipation of the power of painting or human expression: it is the poetry of portrait, and the portrait of poetry. There was also one of some learned lady, centuries old, whose name I forget, but whose features must always be remembered. I never saw greater beauty, or sweetness, or wisdom:—it is the kind of face to go mad for, because it cannot walk out of its frame. There is also a famous dead Christ and live Apostles, for which Buonaparte offered in vain five thousand louis; and of which, though it is a capo d'opera of Titian, as I am no connoisseur, I say little, and thought less, except of one figure in it. There are ten thousand others, and some very fine Giorgiones amongst them, &c. &c. There is an original Laura and Petrarch, very hideous both. Petrarch has not only the dress, but the features and air of an old woman, and Laura looks by no means like a young one, or a pretty one. What struck me most in the general collection was the extreme resemblance of the style of the female faces in the mass of pictures, so many centuries or generations old, to those you see and meet every day among the existing Italians. The queen of Cyprus and Giorgione's wife, particularly the latter, are Venetians as it were of yesterday; the same eyes and expression, and, to my mind, there is none finer.
"You must recollect, however, that I know nothing of painting; and that I detest it, unless it reminds me of something I have seen, or think it possible to see, for which reason I spit upon and abhor all the Saints and subjects of one half the impostures I see in the churches and palaces; and when in Flanders, I never was so disgusted in my life, as with Rubens and his eternal wives and infernal glare of colours, as they appeared to me; and in Spain I did not think much of Murillo and Velasquez. Depend upon it, of all the arts, it is the most artificial and unnatural, and that by which the nonsense of mankind is most imposed upon. I never yet saw the picture or the statue which came a league within my conception or expectation; but I have seen many mountains, and seas, and rivers, and views, and two or three women, who went as far beyond it,—besides some horses; and a lion (at Veli Pacha's) in the Morea; and a tiger at supper in Exeter Change.
"When you write, continue to address to me at Venice. Where do you suppose the books you sent to me are? At Turin! This comes of 'the Foreign Office' which is foreign enough, God knows, for any good it can be of to me, or any one else, and be d——d to it, to its last clerk and first charlatan, Castlereagh.
"This makes my hundredth letter at least.
* * * * *
TO MR. MURRAY.
"Venice, April 14. 1817.
"The present proofs (of the whole) begin only at the 17th page; but as I had corrected and sent back the first Act, it does not signify.
"The third Act is certainly d——d bad, and, like the Archbishop of Grenada's homily (which savoured of the palsy), has the dregs of my fever, during which it was written. It must on no account be published in its present state. I will try and reform it, or rewrite it altogether; but the impulse is gone, and I have no chance of making any thing out of it. I would not have it published as it is on any account. The speech of Manfred to the Sun is the only part of this act I thought good myself; the rest is certainly as bad as bad can be, and I wonder what the devil possessed me.
"I am very glad indeed that you sent me Mr. Gifford's opinion without deduction. Do you suppose me such a booby as not to be very much obliged to him? or that in fact I was not, and am not, convinced and convicted in my conscience of this same overt act of nonsense?
"I shall try at it again: in the mean time, lay it upon the shelf (the whole Drama, I mean): but pray correct your copies of the first and second Acts from the original MS.
"I am not coming to England; but going to Rome in a few days. I return to Venice in June; so, pray, address all letters, &c. to me here, as usual, that is, to Venice. Dr. Polidori this day left this city with Lord G * * for England. He is charged with some books to your care (from me), and two miniatures also to the same address, both for my sister.
"Recollect not to publish, upon pain of I know not what, until I have tried again at the third Act. I am not sure that I shall try, and still less that I shall succeed, if I do; but I am very sure, that (as it is) it is unfit for publication or perusal; and unless I can make it out to my own satisfaction, I won't have any part published.
"I write in haste, and after having lately written very often. Yours," &c.
* * * * *
LETTER 276. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Foligno, April 26. 1817.
"I wrote to you the other day from Florence, inclosing a MS. entitled 'The Lament of Tasso.' It was written in consequence of my having been lately at Ferrara. In the last section of this MS. but one (that is, the penultimate), I think that I have omitted a line in the copy sent to you from Florence, viz. after the line—
"And woo compassion to a blighted name,
"Sealing the sentence which my foes proclaim.
The context will show you the sense, which is not clear in this quotation. Remember, I write this in the supposition that you have received my Florentine packet.
"At Florence I remained but a day, having a hurry for Rome, to which I am thus far advanced. However, I went to the two galleries, from which one returns drunk with beauty. The Venus is more for admiration than love; but there are sculpture and painting, which for the first time at all gave me an idea of what people mean by their cant, and what Mr. Braham calls 'entusimusy' (i.e. enthusiasm) about those two most artificial of the arts. What struck me most were, the mistress of Raphael, a portrait; the mistress of Titian, a portrait; a Venus of Titian in the Medici gallery—the Venus; Canova's Venus also in the other gallery: Titian's mistress is also in the other gallery (that is, in the Pitti Palace gallery): the Parcae of Michael Angelo, a picture: and the Antinous, the Alexander, and one or two not very decent groups in marble; the Genius of Death, a sleeping figure, &c. &c.
"I also went to the Medici chapel—fine frippery in great slabs of various expensive stones, to commemorate fifty rotten and forgotten carcasses. It is unfinished, and will remain so.
"The church of 'Santa Croce' contains much illustrious nothing. The tombs of Machiavelli, Michael Angelo, Galileo Galilei, and Alfieri, make it the Westminster Abbey of Italy. I did not admire any of these tombs—beyond their contents. That of Alfieri is heavy, and all of them seem to me overloaded. What is necessary but a bust and name? and perhaps a date? the last for the unchronological, of whom I am one. But all your allegory and eulogy is infernal, and worse than the long wigs of English numskulls upon Roman bodies in the statuary of the reigns of Charles II., William, and Anne.
"When you write, write to Venice, as usual; I mean to return there in a fortnight. I shall not be in England for a long time. This afternoon I met Lord and Lady Jersey, and saw them for some time: all well; children grown and healthy; she very pretty, but sunburnt; he very sick of travelling; bound for Paris. There are not many English on the move, and those who are, mostly homewards. I shall not return till business makes me, being much better where I am in health, &c. &c.
"For the sake of my personal comfort, I pray you send me immediately to Venice—mind, Venice—viz. Waites' tooth-powder, red, a quantity; calcined magnesia, of the best quality, a quantity; and all this by safe, sure, and speedy means; and, by the Lord! do it.
"I have done nothing at Manfred's third Act. You must wait; I'll have at it in a week or two, or so. Yours ever," &c.
* * * * *
LETTER 277. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Rome, May 5. 1817.
"By this post, (or next at farthest) I send you in two other covers, the new third Act of 'Manfred.' I have re-written the greater part, and returned what is not altered in the proof you sent me. The Abbot is become a good man, and the Spirits are brought in at the death. You will find I think, some good poetry in this new act, here and there; and if so, print it, without sending me farther proofs, under Mr. Gifford's correction, if he will have the goodness to overlook it. Address all answers to Venice, as usual; I mean to return there in ten days.
"'The Lament of Tasso,' which I sent from Florence, has, I trust, arrived: I look upon it as a 'these be good rhymes,' as Pope's papa said to him when he was a boy. For the two—it and the Drama—you will disburse to me (via Kinnaird) six hundred guineas. You will perhaps be surprised that I set the same price upon this as upon the Drama; but, besides that I look upon it as good, I won't take less than three hundred guineas for any thing. The two together will make you a larger publication than the 'Siege' and 'Parisina;' so you may think yourself let off very easy: that is to say, if these poems are good for any thing, which I hope and believe.
"I have been some days in Rome the Wonderful. I am seeing sights, and have done nothing else, except the new third Act for you. I have this morning seen a live pope and a dead cardinal: Pius VII. has been burying Cardinal Bracchi, whose body I saw in state at the Chiesa Nuova. Rome has delighted me beyond every thing, since Athens and Constantinople. But I shall not remain long this visit. Address to Venice.
"P.S. I have got my saddle-horses here, and have ridden, and am riding, all about the country."
* * * * *
From the foregoing letters to Mr. Murray, we may collect some curious particulars respecting one of the most original and sublime of the noble poet's productions, the Drama of Manfred. His failure (and to an extent of which the reader shall be enabled presently to judge), in the completion of a design which he had, through two Acts, so magnificently carried on,—the impatience with which, though conscious of this failure, he as usual hurried to the press, without deigning to woo, or wait for, a happier moment of inspiration,—his frank docility in, at once, surrendering up his third Act to reprobation, without urging one parental word in its behalf,—the doubt he evidently felt, whether, from his habit of striking off these creations at a heat, he should be able to rekindle his imagination on the subject,—and then, lastly, the complete success with which, when his mind did make the spring, he at once cleared the whole space by which he before fell short of perfection,—all these circumstances, connected with the production of this grand poem, lay open to us features, both of his disposition and genius, in the highest degree interesting, and such as there is a pleasure, second only to that of perusing the poem itself, in contemplating.
As a literary curiosity, and, still more, as a lesson to genius, never to rest satisfied with imperfection or mediocrity, but to labour on till even failures are converted into triumphs, I shall here transcribe the third Act, in its original shape, as first sent to the publisher:—
ACT III.—SCENE I.
A Hall in the Castle of Manfred.
MANFRED and HERMAN.
Man. What is the hour?
Her. It wants but one till sunset, And promises a lovely twilight.
Man. Say, Are all things so disposed of in the tower As I directed?
Her. All, my lord, are ready: Here is the key and casket.
Man. It is well: Thou may'st retire. [Exit HERMAN.
Man. (alone.) There is a calm upon me— Inexplicable stillness! which till now Did not belong to what I knew of life. If that I did not know philosophy To be of all our vanities the motliest, The merest word that ever fool'd the ear From out the schoolman's jargon, I should deem The golden secret, the sought 'Kalon,' found, And seated in my soul. It will not last, But it is well to have known it, though but once: It hath enlarged my thoughts with a new sense, And I within my tablets would note down That there is such a feeling. Who is there?
Her. My lord, the Abbot of St. Maurice craves To greet your presence.
Enter the ABBOT OF ST. MAURICE.
Abbot. Peace be with Count Manfred!
Man. Thanks, holy father! welcome to these walls; Thy presence honours them, and blesseth those Who dwell within them.
Abbot. Would it were so, Count! But I would fain confer with thee alone.
Man. Herman, retire. What would my reverend guest?
Abbot. Thus, without prelude:—Age and zeal, my office, And good intent, must plead my privilege; Our near, though not acquainted neighbourhood, May also be my herald. Rumours strange, And of unholy nature, are abroad, And busy with thy name—a noble name For centuries; may he who bears it now Transmit it unimpair'd.
Man. Proceed,—I listen.
Abbot. 'Tis said thou boldest converse with the things Which are forbidden to the search of man; That with the dwellers of the dark abodes, The many evil and unheavenly spirits Which walk the valley of the shade of death, Thou communest. I know that with mankind, Thy fellows in creation, thou dost rarely Exchange thy thoughts, and that thy solitude Is as an anchorite's, were it but holy.
Man. And what are they who do avouch these things?
Abbot. My pious brethren—the scared peasantry— Even thy own vassals—who do look on thee With most unquiet eyes. Thy life's in peril.
Man. Take it.
Abbot. I come to save, and not destroy— I would not pry into thy secret soul; But if these things be sooth, there still is time For penitence and pity: reconcile thee With the true church, and through the church to heaven.
Man. I hear thee. This is my reply; Whate'er I may have been, or am, doth rest between Heaven and myself.—I shall not choose a mortal To be my mediator. Have I sinn'd Against your ordinances? prove and punish!
Abbot. Then, hear and tremble! For the headstrong wretch Who in the mail of innate hardihood Would shield himself, and battle for his sins, There is the stake on earth, and beyond earth eternal—
Man. Charity, most reverend father, Becomes thy lips so much more than this menace, That I would call thee back to it; but say, What wouldst thou with me?
Abbot. It may be there are Things that would shake thee—but I keep them back, And give thee till to-morrow to repent. Then if thou dost not all devote thyself To penance, and with gift of all thy lands To the monastery—
Man. I understand thee,—well!
Abbot. Expect no mercy; I have warned thee.
Man. (opening the casket.) Stop— There is a gift for thee within this casket.
[MANFRED opens the casket, strikes a light, and burns some incense.
The DEMON ASHTAROTH appears, singing as follows:—
The raven sits On the raven-stone, And his black wing flits O'er the milk-white bone; To and fro, as the night-winds blow, The carcass of the assassin swings; And there alone, on the raven-stone, The raven flaps his dusky wings.
The fetters creak—and his ebon beak Croaks to the close of the hollow sound; And this is the tune by the light of the moon To which the witches dance their round— Merrily, merrily, cheerily, cheerily, Merrily, speeds the ball: The dead in their shrouds, and the demons in clouds, Flock to the witches' carnival.
Abbot. I fear thee not—hence—hence— Avaunt thee, evil one!—help, ho! without there!
Man. Convey this man to the Shreckhorn—to its peak— To its extremest peak—watch with him there From now till sunrise; let him gaze, and know He ne'er again will be so near to heaven. But harm him not; and, when the morrow breaks, Set him down safe in his cell—away with him!
Ash. Had I not better bring his brethren too, Convent and all, to bear him company?
Man. No, this will serve for the present. Take him up.
Ash. Come, friar! now an exorcism or two, And we shall fly the lighter.
ASHTAROTH disappears with the ABBOT, singing as follows:—
A prodigal son and a maid undone, And a widow re-wedded within the year; And a worldly monk and a pregnant nun, Are things which every day appear.
Man. Why would this fool break in on me, and force My art to pranks fantastical?—no matter, It was not of my seeking. My heart sickens, And weighs a fix'd foreboding on my soul; But it is calm—calm as a sullen sea After the hurricane; the winds are still, But the cold waves swell high and heavily, And there is danger in them. Such a rest Is no repose. My life hath been a combat. And every thought a wound, till I am scarr'd In the immortal part of me—What now?
Her. My lord, you bade me wait on you at sunset: He sinks behind the mountain.
Man. Doth he so? I will look on him.
[MANFRED advances to the window of the hall.
Glorious orb! the idol Of early nature, and the vigorous race Of undiseased mankind, the giant sons Of the embrace of angels, with a sex More beautiful than they, which did draw down The erring spirits who can ne'er return.— Most glorious orb! that wert a worship, ere The mystery of thy making was reveal'd! Thou earliest minister of the Almighty, Which gladden'd, on their mountain tops, the hearts Of the Chaldean shepherds, till they pour'd Themselves in orisons! Thou material God! And representative of the Unknown— Who chose thee for his shadow! Thou chief star! Centre of many stars! which mak'st our earth Endurable, and temperest the hues And hearts of all who walk within thy rays! Sire of the seasons! Monarch of the climes, And those who dwell in them! for, near or far, Our inborn spirits have a tint of thee, Even as our outward aspects;—thou dost rise, And shine, and set in glory. Fare thee well! I ne'er shall see thee more. As my first glance Of love and wonder was for thee, then take My latest look: thou wilt not beam on one To whom the gifts of life and warmth have been Of a more fatal nature. He is gone: I follow. [Exit MANFRED.
The Mountains—The Castle of Manfred at some distance—A Terrace before a Tower—Time, Twilight.
HERMAN, MANUEL, and other dependants of MANFRED.
Her. 'Tis strange enough; night after night, for years, He hath pursued long vigils in this tower, Without a witness. I have been within it,— So have we all been oft-times; but from it, Or its contents, it were impossible To draw conclusions absolute of aught His studies tend to. To be sure, there is One chamber where none enter; I would give The fee of what I have to come these three years, To pore upon its mysteries.
Manuel. 'Twere dangerous; Content thyself with what thou know'st already.
Her. Ah! Manuel! thou art elderly and wise, And couldst say much; thou hast dwelt within the castle— How many years is't?
Manuel. Ere Count Manfred's birth, I served his father, whom he nought resembles.
Her. There be more sons in like predicament. But wherein do they differ?
Manuel. I speak not Of features or of form, but mind and habits: Count Sigismund was proud,—but gay and free,— A warrior and a reveller; he dwelt not With books and solitude, nor made the night A gloomy vigil, but a festal time, Merrier than day; he did not walk the rocks And forests like a wolf, nor turn aside From men and their delights.
Her. Beshrew the hour, But those were jocund times! I would that such Would visit the old walls again; they look As if they had forgotten them.
Manuel. These walls Must change their chieftain first. Oh! I have seen Some strange things in these few years.
Her. Come, be friendly; Relate me some, to while away our watch: I've heard thee darkly speak of an event Which happened hereabouts, by this same tower.
Manuel. That was a night indeed! I do remember 'Twas twilight, as it may be now, and such Another evening;—yon red cloud, which rests On Eigher's pinnacle, so rested then,— So like that it might be the same; the wind Was faint and gusty, and the mountain snows Began to glitter with the climbing moon; Count Manfred was, as now, within his tower,— How occupied, we knew not, but with him The sole companion of his wanderings And watchings—her, whom of all earthly things That lived, the only thing he seemed to love,— As he, indeed, by blood was bound to do, The lady Astarte, his—
Her. Look—look—the tower— The tower's on fire. Oh, heavens and earth! what sound, What dreadful sound is that? [A crash like thunder.
Manuel. Help, help, there!—to the rescue of the Count,— The Count's in danger,—what ho! there! approach!
The Servants, Vassals, and Peasantry approach, stupified with terror.
If there be any of you who have heart And love of human kind, and will to aid Those in distress—pause not—but follow me— The portal's open, follow. [MANUEL goes in.
Her. Come—who follows? What, none of ye?—ye recreants! shiver then Without. I will not see old Manuel risk His few remaining years unaided. [HERMAN goes in.
Vassal. Hark!— No—all is silent—not a breath—the flame Which shot forth such a blaze is also gone; What may this mean? Let's enter!
Peasant. Faith, not I,— Not that, if one, or two, or more, will join, I then will stay behind; but, for my part, I do not see precisely to what end.
Vassal. Cease your vain prating—come.
Manuel. (speaking within.) 'Tis all in vain— He's dead.
Her. (within.) Not so—even now methought he moved; But it is dark—so bear him gently out— Softly—how cold he is! take care of his temples In winding down the staircase.
Re-enter MANUEL and HERMAN, bearing MANFRED in their arms.
Manuel. Hie to the castle, some of ye, and bring What aid you can. Saddle the barb, and speed For the leech to the city—quick! some water there!
Her. His cheek is black—but there is a faint beat Still lingering about the heart. Some water.
[They sprinkle MANFRED with water; after a pause, he gives some signs of life.
Manuel. He seems to strive to speak—come—cheerly, Count! He moves his lips—canst hear him? I am old, And cannot catch faint sounds.
[HERMAN inclining his head and listening.
Her. I hear a word Or two—but indistinctly—what is next? What's to be done? let's bear him to the castle.
[MANFRED motions with his hand not to remove him.
Manuel. He disapproves—and 'twere of no avail— He changes rapidly.
Her. 'Twill soon be over.
Manuel. Oh! what a death is this! that I should live To shake my gray hairs over the last chief Of the house of Sigismund.—And such a death! Alone—we know not how—unshrived—untended— With strange accompaniments and fearful signs— I shudder at the sight—but must not leave him.
Manfred. (speaking faintly and slowly.) Old man! 'tis not so difficult to die. [MANFRED having said this expires.
Her. His eyes are fixed and lifeless.—He is gone.—
Manuel. Close them.—My old hand quivers.—He departs— Whither? I dread to think—but he is gone!
[Footnote 1: It will be perceived that, as far as this, the original matter of the third Act has been retained.]
[Footnote 2: "Raven-stone (Rabenstein), a translation of the German word for the gibbet, which in Germany and Switzerland is permanent, and made of stone."]
[Footnote 3: This fine soliloquy, and a great part of the subsequent scene, have, it is hardly necessary to remark been retained in the present form of the Drama.]
[Footnote 4: Altered in the present form, to "some strange things in them, Herman."]
* * * * *
LETTER 278. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Rome, May 9. 1817.
"Address all answers to Venice; for there I shall return in fifteen days, God willing.
"I sent you from Florence 'The Lament of Tasso,' and from Rome the third Act of Manfred, both of which, I trust, will duly arrive. The terms of these two I mentioned in my last, and will repeat in this, it is three hundred for each, or six hundred guineas for the two—that is, if you like, and they are good for any thing.
"At last one of the parcels is arrived. In the notes to Childe Harold there is a blunder of yours or mine: you talk of arrival at St. Gingo, and, immediately after, add—'on the height is the Chateau of Clarens.' This is sad work: Clarens is on the other side of the Lake, and it is quite impossible that I should have so bungled. Look at the MS.; and at any rate rectify it.
"The 'Tales of my Landlord' I have read with great pleasure, and perfectly understand now why my sister and aunt are so very positive in the very erroneous persuasion that they must have been written by me. If you knew me as well as they do, you would have fallen, perhaps, into the same mistake. Some day or other, I will explain to you why—when I have time; at present, it does not much matter; but you must have thought this blunder of theirs very odd, and so did I, till I had read the book. Croker's letter to you is a very great compliment; I shall return it to you in my next.
"I perceive you are publishing a Life of Raffael d'Urbino: it may perhaps interest you to hear that a set of German artists here allow their hair to grow, and trim it into his fashion, thereby drinking the cummin of the disciples of the old philosopher; if they would cut their hair, convert it into brushes, and paint like him, it would be more 'German to the matter.'
"I'll tell you a story: the other day, a man here—an English—mistaking the statues of Charlemagne and Constantine, which are equestrian, for those of Peter and Paul, asked another which was Paul of these same horsemen?—to which the reply was,—'I thought, sir, that St. Paul had never got on horseback since his accident?'
"I'll tell you another: Henry Fox, writing to some one from Naples the other day, after an illness, adds—'and I am so changed, that my oldest creditors would hardly know me.'
"I am delighted with Rome—as I would be with a bandbox, that is, it is a fine thing to see, finer than Greece; but I have not been here long enough to affect it as a residence, and I must go back to Lombardy, because I am wretched at being away from Marianna. I have been riding my saddle-horses every day, and been to Albano, its Lakes, and to the top of the Alban Mount, and to Frescati, Aricia, &c. &c. with an &c. &c. &c. about the city, and in the city: for all which—vide Guide-book. As a whole, ancient and modern, it beats Greece, Constantinople, every thing—at least that I have ever seen. But I can't describe, because my first impressions are always strong and confused, and my memory selects and reduces them to order, like distance in the landscape, and blends them better, although they may be less distinct. There must be a sense or two more than we have, us mortals; for * * * * * where there is much to be grasped we are always at a loss, and yet feel that we ought to have a higher and more extended comprehension.
"I have had a letter from Moore, who is in some alarm about his poem. I don't see why.
"I have had another from my poor dear Augusta, who is in a sad fuss about my late illness; do, pray, tell her (the truth) that I am better than ever, and in importunate health, growing (if not grown) large and ruddy, and congratulated by impertinent persons on my robustious appearance, when I ought to be pale and interesting.
"You tell me that George Byron has got a son, and Augusta says, a daughter; which is it?—it is no great matter: the father is a good man, an excellent officer, and has married a very nice little woman, who will bring him more babes than income; howbeit she had a handsome dowry, and is a very charming girl;—but he may as well get a ship.
"I have no thoughts of coming amongst you yet awhile, so that I can fight off business. If I could but make a tolerable sale of Newstead, there would be no occasion for my return; and I can assure you very sincerely, that I am much happier (or, at least, have been so) out of your island than in it.
"P.S. There are few English here, but several of my acquaintance; amongst others, the Marquis of Lansdowne, with whom I dine to-morrow. I met the Jerseys on the road at Foligno—all well.
"Oh—I forgot—the Italians have printed Chillon, &c. a piracy,—a pretty little edition, prettier than yours—and published, as I found to my great astonishment on arriving here; and what is odd, is, that the English is quite correctly printed. Why they did it, or who did it, I know not; but so it is;—I suppose, for the English people. I will send you a copy."
* * * * *
LETTER 279. TO MR. MOORE.
"Rome, May 12. 1817.
"I have received your letter here, where I have taken a cruise lately; but I shall return back to Venice in a few days, so that if you write again, address there, as usual. I am not for returning to England so soon as you imagine; and by no means at all as a residence. If you cross the Alps in your projected expedition, you will find me somewhere in Lombardy, and very glad to see you. Only give me a word or two beforehand, for I would readily diverge some leagues to meet you.
"Of Rome I say nothing; it is quite indescribable, and the Guide-book is as good as any other. I dined yesterday with Lord Lansdowne, who is on his return. But there are few English here at present; the winter is their time. I have been on horseback most of the day, all days since my arrival, and have taken it as I did Constantinople. But Rome is the elder sister, and the finer. I went some days ago to the top of the Alban Mount, which is superb. As for the Coliseum, Pantheon, St. Peter's, the Vatican, Palatine, &c. &c.—as I said, vide Guide-book. They are quite inconceivable, and must be seen. The Apollo Belvidere is the image of Lady Adelaide Forbes—I think I never saw such a likeness.
"I have seen the Pope alive, and a cardinal dead,—both of whom looked very well indeed. The latter was in state in the Chiesa Nuova, previous to his interment.
"Your poetical alarms are groundless; go on and prosper. Here is Hobhouse just come in, and my horses at the door, so that I must mount and take the field in the Campus Martius, which, by the way, is all built over by modern Rome.
"Yours very and ever, &c.
"P.S. Hobhouse presents his remembrances, and is eager, with all the world, for your new poem."
* * * * *
LETTER 280. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Venice, May 30. 1817.
"I returned from Rome two days ago, and have received your letter; but no sign nor tidings of the parcel sent through Sir C. Stuart, which you mention. After an interval of months, a packet of 'Tales,' &c. found me at Rome; but this is all, and may be all that ever will find me. The post seems to be the only sure conveyance; and that only for letters. From Florence I sent you a poem on Tasso, and from Rome the new third Act of 'Manfred,' and by Dr. Polidori two portraits for my sister. I left Rome and made a rapid journey home. You will continue to direct here as usual. Mr. Hobhouse is gone to Naples: I should have run down there too for a week, but for the quantity of English whom I heard of there. I prefer hating them at a distance; unless an earthquake, or a good real irruption of Vesuvius, were ensured to reconcile me to their vicinity.
"The day before I left Rome I saw three robbers guillotined. The ceremony—including the masqued priests; the half-naked executioners; the bandaged criminals; the black Christ and his banner; the scaffold; the soldiery; the slow procession, and the quick rattle and heavy fall of the axe; the splash of the blood, and the ghastliness of the exposed heads—is altogether more impressive than the vulgar and ungentlemanly dirty 'new drop,' and dog-like agony of infliction upon the sufferers of the English sentence. Two of these men behaved calmly enough, but the first of the three died with great terror and reluctance. What was very horrible, he would not lie down; then his neck was too large for the aperture, and the priest was obliged to drown his exclamations by still louder exhortations. The head was off before the eye could trace the blow; but from an attempt to draw back the head, notwithstanding it was held forward by the hair, the first head was cut off close to the ears: the other two were taken off more cleanly. It is better than the oriental way, and (I should think) than the axe of our ancestors. The pain seems little, and yet the effect to the spectator, and the preparation to the criminal, is very striking and chilling. The first turned me quite hot and thirsty, and made me shake so that I could hardly hold the opera-glass (I was close, but was determined to see, as one should see every thing, once, with attention); the second and third (which shows how dreadfully soon things grow indifferent), I am ashamed to say, had no effect on me as a horror, though I would have saved them if I could. Yours," &c.
* * * * *
LETTER 281. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Venice, June 4. 1817.
"I have received the proofs of the 'Lament of Tasso,' which makes me hope that you have also received the reformed third Act of Manfred, from Rome, which I sent soon after my arrival there. My date will apprise you of my return home within these few days. For me, I have received none of your packets, except, after long delay, the 'Tales of my Landlord,' which I before acknowledged. I do not at all understand the why nots, but so it is; no Manuel, no letters, no tooth-powder, no extract from Moore's Italy concerning Marino Faliero, no NOTHING—as a man hallooed out at one of Burdett's elections, after a long ululatus of 'No Bastille! No governor-ities! No—'God knows who or what;—but his ne plus ultra was, 'No nothing!'—and my receipts of your packages amount to about his meaning. I want the extract from Moore's Italy very much, and the tooth-powder, and the magnesia; I don't care so much about the poetry, or the letters, or Mr. Maturin's by-Jasus tragedy. Most of the things sent by the post have come—I mean proofs and letters; therefore send me Marino Faliero by the post, in a letter.
"I was delighted with Rome, and was on horseback all round it many hours daily, besides in it the rest of my time, bothering over its marvels. I excursed and skirred the country round to Alba, Tivoli, Frescati, Licenza, &c. &c.; besides, I visited twice the Fall of Terni, which beats every thing. On my way back, close to the temple by its banks, I got some famous trout out of the river Clitumnus—the prettiest little stream in all poesy, near the first post from Foligno and Spoletto.—I did not stay at Florence, being anxious to get home to Venice, and having already seen the galleries and other sights. I left my commendatory letters the evening before I went, so I saw nobody.
"To-day, Pindemonte, the celebrated poet of Verona, called on me; he is a little thin man, with acute and pleasing features; his address good and gentle; his appearance altogether very philosophical; his age about sixty, or more. He is one of their best going. I gave him Forsyth, as he speaks, or reads rather, a little English, and will find there a favourable account of himself. He enquired after his old Cruscan friends, Parsons, Greathead, Mrs. Piozzi, and Merry, all of whom he had known in his youth. I gave him as bad an account of them as I could, answering, as the false 'Solomon Lob' does to 'Totterton' in the farce, 'all gone dead,' and damned by a satire more than twenty years ago; that the name of their extinguisher was Gifford; that they were but a sad set of scribes after all, and no great things in any other way. He seemed, as was natural, very much pleased with this account of his old acquaintances, and went away greatly gratified with that and Mr. Forsyth's sententious paragraph of applause in his own (Pindemonte's) favour. After having been a little libertine in his youth, he is grown devout, and takes prayers, and talks to himself, to keep off the devil; but for all that, he is a very nice little old gentleman.
"I forgot to tell you that at Bologna (which is celebrated for producing popes, painters, and sausages) I saw an anatomical gallery, where there is a deal of waxwork, in which * *.
"I am sorry to hear of your row with Hunt; but suppose him to be exasperated by the Quarterly and your refusal to deal; and when one is angry and edites a paper, I should think the temptation too strong for literary nature, which is not always human. I can't conceive in what, and for what, he abuses you: what have you done? you are not an author, nor a politician, nor a public character; I know no scrape you have tumbled into. I am the more sorry for this because I introduced you to Hunt, and because I believe him to be a good man; but till I know the particulars, I can give no opinion.
"Let me know about Lalla Rookh, which must be out by this time.
"I restore the proofs, but the punctuation should be corrected. I feel too lazy to have at it myself; so beg and pray Mr. Gifford for me.—Address to Venice. In a few days I go to my villeggiatura, in a cassino near the Brenta, a few miles only on the main land. I have determined on another year, and many years of residence if I can compass them. Marianna is with me, hardly recovered of the fever, which has been attacking all Italy last winter. I am afraid she is a little hectic; but I hope the best.
"P.S. Torwaltzen has done a bust of me at Rome for Mr. Hobhouse, which is reckoned very good. He is their best after Canova, and by some preferred to him.
"I have had a letter from Mr. Hodgson. He is very happy, has got a living, but not a child: if he had stuck to a curacy, babes would have come of course, because he could not have maintained them.
"Remember me to all friends, &c. &c.
"An Austrian officer, the other day, being in love with a Venetian, was ordered, with his regiment, into Hungary. Distracted between love and duty, he purchased a deadly drug, which dividing with his mistress, both swallowed. The ensuing pains were terrific, but the pills were purgative, and not poisonous, by the contrivance of the unsentimental apothecary; so that so much suicide was all thrown away. You may conceive the previous confusion and the final laughter; but the intention was good on all sides."
* * * * *
LETTER 282. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Venice, June 8. 1817.
"The present letter will be delivered to you by two Armenian friars, on their way, by England, to Madras. They will also convey some copies of the grammar, which I think you agreed to take. If you can be of any use to them, either amongst your naval or East Indian acquaintances, I hope you will so far oblige me, as they and their order have been remarkably attentive and friendly towards me since my arrival at Venice. Their names are Father Sukias Somalian and Father Sarkis Theodorosian. They speak Italian, and probably French, or a little English. Repeating earnestly my recommendatory request, believe me, very truly, yours,
"Perhaps you can help them to their passage, or give or get them letters for India."
* * * * *
LETTER 283. TO MR. MURRAY.
"La Mira, near Venice, June 14. 1817.
"I write to you from the banks of the Brenta, a few miles from Venice, where I have colonised for six months to come. Address, as usual, to Venice.
"Three months after date (17th March),—like the unnegotiable bill despondingly received by the reluctant tailor,—your despatch has arrived, containing the extract from Moore's Italy and Mr. Maturin's bankrupt tragedy. It is the absurd work of a clever man. I think it might have done upon the stage, if he had made Manuel (by some trickery, in a masque or vizor) fight his own battle, instead of employing Molineux as his champion; and, after the defeat of Torismond, have made him spare the son of his enemy, by some revulsion of feeling, not incompatible with a character of extravagant and distempered emotions. But as it is, what with the Justiza, and the ridiculous conduct of the whole dram. pers. (for they are all as mad as Manuel, who surely must have had more interest with a corrupt bench than a distant relation and heir presumptive, somewhat suspect of homicide,) I do not wonder at its failure. As a play, it is impracticable; as a poem, no great things. Who was the 'Greek that grappled with glory naked?' the Olympic wrestlers? or Alexander the Great, when he ran stark round the tomb of t'other fellow? or the Spartan who was fined by the Ephori for fighting without his armour? or who? And as to 'flaying off life like a garment,' helas! that's in Tom Thumb—see king Arthur's soliloquy:
"'Life's a mere rag, not worth a prince's wearing; I'll cast it off.'
And the stage-directions—'Staggers among the bodies;'—the slain are too numerous, as well as the blackamoor knights-penitent being one too many: and De Zelos is such a shabby Monmouth Street villain, without any redeeming quality—Stap my vitals! Maturin seems to be declining into Nat. Lee. But let him try again; he has talent, but not much taste. I 'gin to fear, or to hope, that Sotheby, after all, is to be the Eschylus of the age, unless Mr. Shiel be really worthy his success. The more I see of the stage, the less I would wish to have any thing to do with it; as a proof of which, I hope you have received the third Act of Manfred, which will at least prove that I wish to steer very clear of the possibility of being put into scenery. I sent it from Rome.
"I returned the proof of Tasso. By the way, have you never received a translation of St. Paul which I sent you, not for publication, before I went to Rome?
"I am at present on the Brenta. Opposite is a Spanish marquis, ninety years old; next his casino is a Frenchman's,—besides the natives; so that, as somebody said the other day, we are exactly one of Goldoni's comedies (La Vedova Scaltra), where a Spaniard, English, and Frenchman are introduced: but we are all very good neighbours, Venetians, &c. &c. &c.
"I am just getting on horseback for my evening ride, and a visit to a physician, who has an agreeable family, of a wife and four unmarried daughters, all under eighteen, who are friends of Signora S * *, and enemies to nobody. There are, and are to be, besides, conversaziones and I know not what, a Countess Labbia's and I know not whom. The weather is mild; the thermometer 110 in the sun this day, and 80 odd in the shade. Yours, &c.
* * * * *
LETTER 284. TO MR. MURRAY.
"La Mira, near Venice, June 17. 1817.
"It gives me great pleasure to hear of Moore's success, and the more so that I never doubted that it would be complete. Whatever good you can tell me of him and his poem will be most acceptable: I feel very anxious indeed to receive it. I hope that he is as happy in his fame and reward as I wish him to be; for I know no one who deserves both more—if any so much.
"Now to business; * * * * * * I say unto you, verily, it is not so; or, as the foreigner said to the waiter, after asking him to bring a glass of water, to which the man answered, 'I will, sir,'—'You will!—G——d d——n,—I say, you mush!' And I will submit this to the decision of any person or persons to be appointed by both, on a fair examination of the circumstances of this as compared with the preceding publications. So there's for you. There is always some row or other previously to all our publications: it should seem that, on approximating, we can never quite get over the natural antipathy of author and bookseller, and that more particularly the ferine nature of the latter must break forth.
"You are out about the third Canto: I have not done, nor designed, a line of continuation to that poem. I was too short a time at Rome for it, and have no thought of recommencing.
"I cannot well explain to you by letter what I conceive to be the origin of Mrs. Leigh's notion about 'Tales of my Landlord;' but it is some points of the characters of Sir E. Manley and Burley, as well as one or two of the jocular portions, on which it is founded, probably.
"If you have received Dr. Polidori as well as a parcel of books, and you can be of use to him, be so. I never was much more disgusted with any human production than with the eternal nonsense, and tracasseries, and emptiness, and ill humour, and vanity of that young person; but he has some talent, and is a man of honour, and has dispositions of amendment, in which he has been aided by a little subsequent experience, and may turn out well. Therefore, use your government interest for him, for he is improved and improvable.
* * * * *
LETTER 285. TO MR. MURRAY.
"La Mira, near Venice, June 18. 1817.
"Enclosed is a letter to Dr. Holland from Pindemonte. Not knowing the Doctor's address, I am desired to enquire, and, perhaps, being a literary man, you will know or discover his haunt near some populous churchyard. I have written to you a scolding letter—I believe, upon a misapprehended passage in your letter—but never mind: it will do for next time, and you will surely deserve it. Talking of doctors reminds me once more to recommend to you one who will not recommend himself,—the Doctor Polidori. If you can help him to a publisher, do; or, if you have any sick relation, I would advise his advice: all the patients he had in Italy are dead—Mr. * *'s son, Mr. Horner, and Lord G * *, whom he embowelled with great success at Pisa.
"Remember me to Moore, whom I congratulate. How is Rogers? and what is become of Campbell and all t'other fellows of the Druid order? I got Maturin's Bedlam at last, but no other parcel; I am in fits for the tooth-powder, and the magnesia. I want some of Burkitt's soda-powders. Will you tell Mr. Kinnaird that I have written him two letters on pressing business, (about Newstead, &c.) to which I humbly solicit his attendance. I am just returned from a gallop along the banks of the Brenta—time, sunset. Yours,
* * * * *
LETTER 286. TO MR. MURRAY.
"La Mira, near Venice, July 1. 1817.
"Since my former letter, I have been working up my impressions into a fourth Canto of Childe Harold, of which I have roughened off about rather better than thirty stanzas, and mean to go on; and probably to make this 'Fytte' the concluding one of the poem, so that you may propose against the autumn to draw out the conscription for 1818. You must provide moneys, as this new resumption bodes you certain disbursements. Somewhere about the end of September or October, I propose to be under way (i.e. in the press); but I have no idea yet of the probable length or calibre of the Canto, or what it will be good for; but I mean to be as mercenary as possible, an example (I do not mean of any individual in particular, and least of all, any person or persons of our mutual acquaintance) which I should have followed in my youth, and I might still have been a prosperous gentleman.
"No tooth-powder, no letters, no recent tidings of you.
"Mr. Lewis is at Venice, and I am going up to stay a week with him there—as it is one of his enthusiasms also to like the city.
"I stood in Venice on the 'Bridge of Sighs,' &c. &c.
"The 'Bridge of Sighs' (i.e. Ponte de'i Sospiri) is that which divides, or rather joins, the palace of the Doge to the prison of the state. It has two passages: the criminal went by the one to judgment, and returned by the other to death, being strangled in a chamber adjoining, where there was a mechanical process for the purpose.
"This is the first stanza of our new Canto; and now for a line of the second:—
"In Venice, Tasso's echoes are no more, And silent rows the songless gondolier, Her palaces, &c. &c.
"You know that formerly the gondoliers sung always, and Tasso's Gierusalemme was their ballad. Venice is built on seventy-two islands.
"There! there's a brick of your new Babel! and now, sirrah! what say you to the sample?
"P.S. I shall write again by and by."
* * * * *
LETTER 287. TO MR. MURRAY.
"La Mira, near Venice, July 8. 1817
"If you can convey the enclosed letter to its address, or discover the person to whom it is directed, you will confer a favour upon the Venetian creditor of a deceased Englishman. This epistle is a dun to his executor, for house-rent. The name of the insolvent defunct is, or was, Porter Valter, according to the account of the plaintiff, which I rather suspect ought to be Walter Porter, according to our mode of collocation. If you are acquainted with any dead man of the like name a good deal in debt, pray dig him up, and tell him that 'a pound of his fair flesh' or the ducats are required, and that 'if you deny them, fie upon your law!'
"I hear nothing more from you about Moore's poem, Rogers, or other literary phenomena; but to-morrow, being post-day, will bring perhaps some tidings. I write to you with people talking Venetian all about, so that you must not expect this letter to be all English.
"The other day, I had a squabble on the highway, as follows: I was riding pretty quickly from Dolo home about eight in the evening, when I passed a party of people in a hired carriage, one of whom, poking his head out of the window, began bawling to me in an inarticulate but insolent manner. I wheeled my horse round, and overtaking, stopped the coach, and said, 'Signor, have you any commands for me?' He replied, impudently as to manner, 'No.' I then asked him what he meant by that unseemly noise, to the discomfiture of the passers-by. He replied by some piece of impertinence, to which I answered by giving him a violent slap in the face. I then dismounted, (for this passed at the window, I being on horseback still,) and opening the door desired him to walk out, or I would give him another. But the first had settled him except as to words, of which he poured forth a profusion in blasphemies, swearing that he would go to the police and avouch a battery sans provocation. I said he lied, and was a * *, and if he did not hold his tongue, should be dragged out and beaten anew. He then held his tongue. I of course told him my name and residence, and defied him to the death, if he were a gentleman, or not a gentleman, and had the inclination to be genteel in the way of combat. He went to the police, but there having been bystanders in the road,—particularly a soldier, who had seen the business,—as well as my servant, notwithstanding the oaths of the coachman and five insides besides the plaintiff, and a good deal of paying on all sides, his complaint was dismissed, he having been the aggressor;—and I was subsequently informed that, had I not given him a blow, he might have been had into durance.
"So set down this,—'that in Aleppo once' I 'beat a Venetian;' but I assure you that he deserved it, for I am a quiet man, like Candide, though with somewhat of his fortune in being forced to forego my natural meekness every now and then.
"Yours, &c. B."
* * * * *
LETTER 288. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Venice, July 9, 1817.
"I have got the sketch and extracts from Lalla Rookh. The plan, as well as the extracts, I have seen, please me very much indeed, and I feel impatient for the whole.
"With regard to the critique on 'Manfred,' you have been in such a devil of a hurry, that you have only sent me the half: it breaks off at page 294. Send me the rest; and also page 270., where there is 'an account of the supposed origin of this dreadful story,'—in which, by the way, whatever it may be, the conjecturer is out, and knows nothing of the matter. I had a better origin than he can devise or divine, for the soul of him.
"You say nothing of Manfred's luck in the world; and I care not. He is one of the best of my misbegotten, say what they will.
"I got at last an extract, but no parcels. They will come, I suppose, some time or other. I am come up to Venice for a day or two to bathe, and am just going to take a swim in the Adriatic; so, good evening—the post waits. Yours, &c.
"P.S. Pray, was Manfred's speech to the Sun still retained in Act third? I hope so: it was one of the best in the thing, and better than the Colosseum. I have done fifty-six of Canto fourth, Childe Harold; so down with your ducats."
* * * * *
LETTER 289. TO MR. MOORE.
"La Mira, Venice, July 10. 1817.
"Murray, the Mokanna of booksellers, has contrived to send me extracts from Lalla Rookh by the post. They are taken from some magazine, and contain a short outline and quotations from the two first Poems. I am very much delighted with what is before me, and very thirsty for the rest. You have caught the colours as if you had been in the rainbow, and the tone of the East is perfectly preserved. I am glad you have changed the title from 'Persian Tale.'
"I suspect you have written a devilish fine composition, and I rejoice in it from my heart; because 'the Douglas and the Percy both together are confident against a world in arms.' I hope you won't be affronted at my looking on us as 'birds of a feather;' though on whatever subject you had written, I should have been very happy in your success.
"There is a simile of an orange-tree's 'flowers and fruits,' which I should have liked better if I did not believe it to be a reflection on * * *.
"Do you remember Thurlow's poem to Sam—'When Rogers;' and that d——d supper of Rancliffe's that ought to have been a dinner? 'Ah, Master Shallow, we have heard the chimes at midnight.' But
"My boat is on the shore, And my bark is on the sea; But, before I go, Tom Moore, Here's a double health to thee!
"Here's a sigh to those who love me, And a smile to those who hate; And whatever sky's above me, Here's a heart for every fate.
"Though the ocean roar around me, Yet it still shall bear me on; Though a desert should surround me, It hath springs that may be won.
"Were't the last drop in the well, As I gasp'd upon the brink, Ere my fainting spirit fell, 'Tis to thee that I would drink.
"With that water, as this wine, The libation I would pour, Should be—peace with thine and mine, And a health to thee, Tom Moore.
"This should have been written fifteen moons ago—the first stanza was. I am just come out from an hour's swim in the Adriatic; and I write to you with a black-eyed Venetian girl before me, reading Boccacio.
"Last week I had a row on the road (I came up to Venice from my casino, a few miles on the Paduan road, this blessed day, to bathe) with a fellow in a carriage, who was impudent to my horse. I gave him a swingeing box on the ear, which sent him to the police, who dismissed his complaint. Witnesses had seen the transaction. He first shouted, in an unseemly way, to frighten my palfry. I wheeled round, rode up to the window, and asked him what he meant. He grinned, and said some foolery, which produced him an immediate slap in the face, to his utter discomfiture. Much blasphemy ensued, and some menace, which I stopped by dismounting and opening the carriage door, and intimating an intention of mending the road with his immediate remains, if he did not hold his tongue. He held it.
"Monk Lewis is here—'how pleasant!' He is a very good fellow, and very much yours. So is Sam—so is every body—and amongst the number,
"P.S. What think you of Manfred?"
[Footnote 5: An allusion (such as often occurs in these letters) to an anecdote with which he had been amused.]
* * * * *
LETTER 290. TO MR. MURRAY.
"La Mira, near Venice, July 15. 1817.
"I have finished (that is, written—the file comes afterwards) ninety and eight stanzas of the fourth Canto, which I mean to be the concluding one. It will probably be about the same length as the third, being already of the dimensions of the first or second Cantos. I look upon parts of it as very good, that is, if the three former are good, but this we shall see; and at any rate, good or not, it is rather a different style from the last—less metaphysical—which, at any rate, will be a variety. I sent you the shaft of the column as a specimen the other day, i.e. the first stanza. So you may be thinking of its arrival towards autumn, whose winds will not be the only ones to be raised, if so be as how that it is ready by that time.
"I lent Lewis, who is at Venice, (in or on the Canalaccio, the Grand Canal,) your extracts from Lalla Rookh and Manuel, and, out of contradiction, it may be, he likes the last, and is not much taken with the first, of these performances. Of Manuel, I think, with the exception of a few capers, it is as heavy a nightmare as was ever bestrode by indigestion.
"Of the extracts I can but judge as extracts, and I prefer the 'Peri' to the 'Silver Veil.' He seems not so much at home in his versification of the 'Silver Veil,' and a little embarrassed with his horrors; but the conception of the character of the impostor is fine, and the plan of great scope for his genius,—and I doubt not that, as a whole, it will be very Arabesque and beautiful.
"Your late epistle is not the most abundant in information, and has not yet been succeeded by any other; so that I know nothing of your own concerns, or of any concerns, and as I never hear from any body but yourself who does not tell me something as disagreeable as possible, I should not be sorry to hear from you: and as it is not very probable,—if I can, by any device or possible arrangement with regard to my personal affairs, so arrange it,—that I shall return soon, or reside ever in England, all that you tell me will be all I shall know or enquire after, as to our beloved realm of Grub Street, and the black brethren and blue sisterhood of that extensive suburb of Babylon. Have you had no new babe of literature sprung up to replace the dead, the distant, the tired, and the retired? no prose, no verse, no nothing?"
[Footnote 6: A tragedy, by the Rev. Mr. Maturin.]
* * * * *
LETTER 291. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Venice, July 20. 1817.
"I write to give you notice that I have completed the fourth and ultimate Canto of Childe Harold. It consists of 126 stanzas, and is consequently the longest of the four. It is yet to be copied and polished; and the notes are to come, of which it will require more than the third Canto, as it necessarily treats more of works of art than of nature. It shall be sent towards autumn;—and now for our barter. What do you bid? eh? you shall have samples, an' it so please you: but I wish to know what I am to expect (as the saying is) in these hard times, when poetry does not let for half its value. If you are disposed to do what Mrs. Winifred Jenkins calls 'the handsome thing,' I may perhaps throw you some odd matters to the lot,—translations, or slight originals; there is no saying what may be on the anvil between this and the booking season. Recollect that it is the last Canto, and completes the work; whether as good as the others, I cannot judge, in course—least of all as yet,—but it shall be as little worse as I can help. I may, perhaps, give some little gossip in the notes as to the present state of Italian literati and literature, being acquainted with some of their capi—men as well as books;—but this depends upon my humour at the time. So, now, pronounce: I say nothing.
"When you have got the whole four Cantos, I think you might venture on an edition of the whole poem in quarto, with spare copies of the two last for the purchasers of the old edition of the first two. There is a hint for you, worthy of the Row; and now, perpend—pronounce.
"I have not received a word from you of the fate of 'Manfred' or 'Tasso,' which seems to me odd, whether they have failed or succeeded.
"As this is a scrawl of business, and I have lately written at length and often on other subjects, I will only add that I am," &c.
* * * * *
LETTER 292. TO MR. MURRAY.
"La Mira, near Venice, August 7, 1817
"Your letter of the 18th, and, what will please you, as it did me, the parcel sent by the good-natured aid and abetment of Mr. Croker, are arrived.—Messrs. Lewis and Hobhouse are here: the former in the same house, the latter a few hundred yards distant.
"You say nothing of Manfred, from which its failure may be inferred; but I think it odd you should not say so at once. I know nothing, and hear absolutely nothing, of any body or any thing in England; and there are no English papers, so that all you say will be news—of any person, or thing, or things. I am at present very anxious about Newstead, and sorry that Kinnaird is leaving England at this minute, though I do not tell him so, and would rather he should have his pleasure, although it may not in this instance tend to my profit.
"If I understand rightly, you have paid into Morland's 1500 pounds: as the agreement in the paper is two thousand guineas, there will remain therefore six hundred pounds, and not five hundred, the odd hundred being the extra to make up the specie. Six hundred and thirty pounds will bring it to the like for Manfred and Tasso, making a total of twelve hundred and thirty, I believe, for I am not a good calculator. I do not wish to press you, but I tell you fairly that it will be a convenience to me to have it paid as soon as it can be made convenient to yourself.
"The new and last Canto is 130 stanzas in length; and may be made more or less. I have fixed no price, even in idea, and have no notion of what it may be good for. There are no metaphysics in it; at least, I think not. Mr. Hobhouse has promised me a copy of Tasso's Will, for notes; and I have some curious things to say about Ferrara, and Parisina's story, and perhaps a farthing candle's worth of light upon the present state of Italian literature. I shall hardly be ready by October; but that don't matter. I have all to copy and correct, and the notes to write.
"I do not know whether Scott will like it; but I have called him the 'Ariosto of the North' in my text. If he should not, say so in time.
"An Italian translation of 'Glenarvon' came lately to be printed at Venice. The censor (Sr. Petrotini) refused to sanction the publication till he had seen me on the subject. I told him that I did not recognise the slightest relation between that book and myself; but that, whatever opinions might be upon that subject, I would never prevent or oppose the publication of any book, in any language, on my own private account; and desired him (against his inclination) to permit the poor translator to publish his labours. It is going forwards in consequence. You may say this, with my compliments, to the author.
* * * * *
LETTER 293. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Venice, August 12. 1817.
"I have been very sorry to hear of the death of Madame de Stael, not only because she had been very kind to me at Copet, but because now I can never requite her. In a general point of view, she will leave a great gap in society and literature.
"With regard to death, I doubt that we have any right to pity the dead for their own sakes.
"The copies of Manfred and Tasso are arrived, thanks to Mr. Croker's cover. You have destroyed the whole effect and moral of the poem by omitting the last line of Manfred's speaking; and why this was done, I know not. Why you persist in saying nothing of the thing itself, I am equally at a loss to conjecture. If it is for fear of telling me something disagreeable, you are wrong; because sooner or later I must know it, and I am not so new, nor so raw, nor so inexperienced, as not to be able to bear, not the mere paltry, petty disappointments of authorship, but things more serious,—at least I hope so, and that what you may think irritability is merely mechanical, and only acts like galvanism on a dead body, or the muscular motion which survives sensation.
"If it is that you are out of humour, because I wrote to you a sharp letter, recollect that it was partly from a misconception of your letter, and partly because you did a thing you had no right to do without consulting me.
"I have, however, heard good of Manfred from two other quarters, and from men who would not be scrupulous in saying what they thought, or what was said; and so 'good morrow to you, good Master Lieutenant.'
"I wrote to you twice about the fourth Canto, which you will answer at your pleasure. Mr. Hobhouse and I have come up for a day to the city; Mr. Lewis is gone to England; and I am
* * * * *
LETTER 294. TO MR. MURRAY.
"La Mira, near Venice, August 21. 1817.
"I take you at your word about Mr. Hanson, and will feel obliged if you will go to him, and request Mr. Davies also to visit him by my desire, and repeat that I trust that neither Mr. Kinnaird's absence nor mine will prevent his taking all proper steps to accelerate and promote the sale of Newstead and Rochdale, upon which the whole of my future personal comfort depends. It is impossible for me to express how much any delays upon these points would inconvenience me; and I do not know a greater obligation that can be conferred upon me than the pressing these things upon Hanson, and making him act according to my wishes. I wish you would speak out, at least to me, and tell me what you allude to by your cold way of mentioning him. All mysteries at such a distance are not merely tormenting but mischievous, and may be prejudicial to my interests; so, pray expound, that I may consult with Mr. Kinnaird when he arrives; and remember that I prefer the most disagreeable certainties to hints and innuendoes. The devil take every body: I never can get any person to be explicit about any thing or any body, and my whole life is passed in conjectures of what people mean: you all talk in the style of C * * L * *'s novels.
"It is not Mr. St. John, but Mr. St. Aubyn, son of Sir John St. Aubyn. Polidori knows him, and introduced him to me. He is of Oxford, and has got my parcel. The Doctor will ferret him out, or ought. The parcel contains many letters, some of Madame de Stael's, and other people's, besides MSS., &c. By ——, if I find the gentleman, and he don't find the parcel, I will say something he won't like to hear.
"You want a 'civil and delicate declension' for the medical tragedy? Take it—
"Dear Doctor, I have read your play, Which is a good one in its way,— Purges the eyes and moves the bowels, And drenches handkerchiefs like towels With tears, that, in a flux of grief, Afford hysterical relief To shatter'd nerves and quicken'd pulses, Which your catastrophe convulses. "I like your moral and machinery; Your plot, too, has such scope for scenery! Your dialogue is apt and smart; The play's concoction full of art; Your hero raves, your heroine cries, All stab, and every body dies. In short, your tragedy would be The very thing to hear and see: And for a piece of publication, If I decline on this occasion, It is not that I am not sensible To merits in themselves ostensible, But—and I grieve to speak it—plays Are drugs, mere drugs, sir—now-a-days. I had a heavy loss by 'Manuel,'— Too lucky if it prove not annual,— And S * *, with his 'Orestes,' (Which, by the by, the author's best is,) Has lain so very long on hand That I despair of all demand. I've advertised, but see my books, Or only watch my shopman's looks;— Still Ivan, Ina, and such lumber, My back-shop glut, my shelves encumber. "There's Byron too, who once did better, Has sent me, folded in a letter, A sort of—it's no more a drama Than Darnley, Ivan, or Kehama; So alter'd since last year his pen is, I think he's lost his wits at Venice. In short, sir, what with one and t'other, I dare not venture on another. I write in haste; excuse each blunder; The coaches through the street so thunder! My room's so full—we've Gifford here Reading MS., with Hookham Frere, Pronouncing on the nouns and particles Of some of our forthcoming Articles. "The Quarterly—Ah, sir, if you Had but the genius to review!— A smart critique upon St. Helena, Or if you only would but tell in a Short compass what—but, to resume: As I was saying, sir, the room— The room's so full of wits and bards, Crabbes, Campbells, Crokers, Freres, and Wards, And others, neither bards nor wits:— My humble tenement admits All persons in the dress of gent., From Mr. Hammond to Dog Dent. "A party dines with me to-day, All clever men, who make their way; They're at this moment in discussion On poor De Stael's late dissolution. Her book, they say, was in advance— Pray Heaven, she tell the truth of France! "Thus run our time and tongues away.— But, to return, sir, to your play: Sorry, sir, but I cannot deal, Unless 'twere acted by O'Neill. My hands so full, my head so busy, I'm almost dead, and always dizzy; And so, with endless truth and hurry, Dear Doctor, I am yours,
"P.S. I've done the fourth and last Canto, which amounts to 133 stanzas. I desire you to name a price; if you don't, I will; so I advise you in time.
"There will be a good many notes."
* * * * *
Among those minor misrepresentations of which it was Lord Byron's fate to be the victim, advantage was, at this time, taken of his professed distaste to the English, to accuse him of acts of inhospitality, and even rudeness, towards some of his fellow-countrymen. How far different was his treatment of all who ever visited him, many grateful testimonies might be collected to prove; but I shall here content myself with selecting a few extracts from an account given me by Mr. Henry Joy of a visit which, in company with another English gentleman, he paid to the noble poet this summer, at his villa on the banks of the Brenta. After mentioning the various civilities they had experienced from Lord Byron; and, among others, his having requested them to name their own day for dining with him,—"We availed ourselves," says Mr. Joy, "of this considerate courtesy by naming the day fixed for our return to Padua, when our route would lead us to his door; and we were welcomed with all the cordiality which was to be expected from so friendly a bidding. Such traits of kindness in such a man deserve to be recorded on account of the numerous slanders thrown upon him by some of the tribes of tourists, who resented, as a personal affront, his resolution to avoid their impertinent inroads upon his retirement. So far from any appearance of indiscriminate aversion to his countrymen, his enquiries about his friends in England (quorum pars magna fuisti) were most anxious and particular.
"He expressed some opinions," continues my informant, "on matters of taste, which cannot fail to interest his biographer. He contended that Sculpture, as an art, was vastly superior to Painting;—a preference which is strikingly illustrated by the fact that, in the fourth Canto of Childe Harold, he gives the most elaborate and splendid account of several statues, and none of any pictures; although Italy is, emphatically, the land of painting, and her best statues are derived from Greece. By the way, he told us that there were more objects of interest in Rome alone than in all Greece from one extremity to the other. After regaling us with an excellent dinner, (in which, by the by, a very English joint of roast beef showed that he did not extend his antipathies to all John-Bullisms,) he took me in his carriage some miles of our route towards Padua, after apologising to my fellow-traveller for the separation, on the score of his anxiety to hear all he could of his friends in England; and I quitted him with a confirmed impression of the strong ardour and sincerity of his attachment to those by whom he did not fancy himself slighted or ill treated."
* * * * *
LETTER 295. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Sept. 4. 1817.
"Your letter of the 15th has conveyed with its contents the impression of a seal, to which the 'Saracen's Head' is a seraph, and the 'Bull and Mouth' a delicate device. I knew that calumny had sufficiently blackened me of later days, but not that it had given the features as well as complexion of a negro. Poor Augusta is not less, but rather more, shocked than myself, and says 'people seem to have lost their recollection strangely' when they engraved such a 'blackamoor.' Pray don't seal (at least to me) with such a caricature of the human numskull altogether; and if you don't break the seal-cutter's head, at least crack his libel (or likeness, if it should be a likeness) of mine.
"Mr. Kinnaird is not yet arrived, but expected. He has lost by the way all the tooth-powder, as a letter from Spa informs me.
"By Mr. Rose I received safely, though tardily, magnesia and tooth-powder, and * * * *. Why do you send me such trash—worse than trash, the Sublime of Mediocrity? Thanks for Lalla, however, which is good; and thanks for the Edinburgh and Quarterly, both very amusing and well-written. Paris in 1815, &c.—good. Modern Greece—good for nothing; written by some one who has never been there, and not being able to manage the Spenser stanza, has invented a thing of his own, consisting of two elegiac stanzas, an heroic line, and an Alexandrine, twisted on a string. Besides, why 'modern?' You may say modern Greeks, but surely Greece itself is rather more ancient than ever it was. Now for business.
"You offer 1500 guineas for the new Canto: I won't take it. I ask two thousand five hundred guineas for it, which you will either give or not, as you think proper. It concludes the poem, and consists of 144 stanzas. The notes are numerous, and chiefly written by Mr. Hobhouse, whose researches have been indefatigable; and who, I will venture to say, has more real knowledge of Rome and its environs than any Englishman who has been there since Gibbon. By the way, to prevent any mistakes, I think it necessary to state the fact that he, Mr. Hobhouse, has no interest whatever in the price or profit to be derived from the copyright of either poem or notes directly or indirectly; so that you are not to suppose that it is by, for, or through him, that I require more for this Canto than the preceding.—No: but if Mr. Eustace was to have had two thousand for a poem on Education; if Mr. Moore is to have three thousand for Lalla, &c.; if Mr. Campbell is to have three thousand for his prose on poetry—I don't mean to disparage these gentlemen in their labours—but I ask the aforesaid price for mine. You will tell me that their productions are considerably longer: very true, and when they shorten them, I will lengthen mine, and ask less. You shall submit the MS. to Mr. Gifford, and any other two gentlemen to be named by you, (Mr. Frere, or Mr. Croker, or whomever you please, except such fellows as your * *s and * *s,) and if they pronounce this Canto to be inferior as a whole to the preceding, I will not appeal from their award, but burn the manuscript, and leave things as they are.
"Yours very truly.
"P.S. In answer to a former letter, I sent you a short statement of what I thought the state of our present copyright account, viz. six hundred pounds still (or lately) due on Childe Harold, and six hundred guineas, Manfred and Tasso, making a total of twelve hundred and thirty pounds. If we agree about the new poem, I shall take the liberty to reserve the choice of the manner in which it should be published, viz. a quarto, certes."
* * * * *
LETTER 296. TO MR. HOPPNER.
"La Mira, Sept. 12. 1817.
"I set out yesterday morning with the intention of paying my respects, and availing myself of your permission to walk over the premises. On arriving at Padua, I found that the march of the Austrian troops had engrossed so many horses, that those I could procure were hardly able to crawl; and their weakness, together with the prospect of finding none at all at the post-house of Monselice, and consequently either not arriving that day at Este, or so late as to be unable to return home the same evening, induced me to turn aside in a second visit to Arqua, instead of proceeding onwards; and even thus I hardly got back in time.