WITH HIS LETTERS AND JOURNALS.
BY THOMAS MOORE, ESQ.
IN SIX VOLUMES.—VOL. V.
LONDON: JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET. 1854.
CONTENTS OF VOL. V.
LETTERS AND JOURNALS OF LORD BYRON, WITH NOTICES OF HIS LIFE, from October, 1820, to November, 1822.
LIFE OF LORD BYRON.
LETTER 394. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, October 17. 1820.
"You owe me two letters—pay them. I want to know what you are about. The summer is over, and you will be back to Paris. Apropos of Paris, it was not Sophia Gail, but Sophia Gay—the English word Gay—who was my correspondent. Can you tell who she is, as you did of the defunct * *?
"Have you gone on with your Poem? I have received the French of mine. Only think of being traduced into a foreign language in such an abominable travesty! It is useless to rail, but one can't help it.
"Have you got my Memoir copied? I have begun a continuation. Shall I send it you, as far as it is gone?
"I can't say any thing to you about Italy, for the Government here look upon me with a suspicious eye, as I am well informed. Pretty fellows!—as if I, a solitary stranger, could do any mischief. It is because I am fond of rifle and pistol shooting, I believe; for they took the alarm at the quantity of cartridges I consumed,—the wiseacres!
"You don't deserve a long letter—nor a letter at all—for your silence. You have got a new Bourbon, it seems, whom they have christened 'Dieu-donne;'—perhaps the honour of the present may be disputed. Did you write the good lines on ——, the Laker? * *
"The Queen has made a pretty theme for the journals. Was there ever such evidence published? Why, it is worse than 'Little's Poems' or 'Don Juan.' If you don't write soon, I will 'make you a speech.' Yours," &c.
[Footnote 1: I had mistaken the name of the lady he enquired after, and reported her to him as dead. But, on the receipt of the above letter, I discovered that his correspondent was Madame Sophie Gay, mother of the celebrated poetess and beauty, Mademoiselle Delphine Gay.]
* * * * *
LETTER 395. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, 8bre 25 deg., 1820.
"Pray forward the enclosed to Lady Byron. It is on business.
"In thanking you for the Abbot, I made four grand mistakes, Sir John Gordon was not of Gight, but of Bogagicht, and a son of Huntley's. He suffered not for his loyalty, but in an insurrection. He had nothing to do with Loch Leven, having been dead some time at the period of the Queen's confinement: and, fourthly, I am not sure that he was the Queen's paramour or no, for Robertson does not allude to this, though Walter Scott does, in the list he gives of her admirers (as unfortunate) at the close of 'The Abbot.'
"I must have made all these mistakes in recollecting my mother's account of the matter, although she was more accurate than I am, being precise upon points of genealogy, like all the aristocratical Scotch. She had a long list of ancestors, like Sir Lucius O'Trigger's, most of whom are to be found in the old Scotch Chronicles, Spalding, &c. in arms and doing mischief. I remember well passing Loch Leven, as well as the Queen's Ferry: we were on our way to England in 1798.
"You had better not publish Blackwood and the Roberts' prose, except what regards Pope;—you have let the time slip by."
* * * * *
The Pamphlet in answer to Blackwood's Magazine, here mentioned, was occasioned by an article in that work, entitled "Remarks on Don Juan," and though put to press by Mr. Murray, was never published. The writer in the Magazine having, in reference to certain passages in Don Juan, taken occasion to pass some severe strictures on the author's matrimonial conduct, Lord Byron, in his reply, enters at some length into that painful subject; and the following extracts from his defence,—if defence it can be called, where there has never yet been any definite charge,—will be perused with strong interest:—
"My learned brother proceeds to observe, that 'it is in vain for Lord B. to attempt in any way to justify his own behaviour in that affair: and now that he has so openly and audaciously invited enquiry and reproach, we do not see any good reason why he should not be plainly told so by the voice of his countrymen.' How far the 'openness' of an anonymous poem, and the 'audacity' of an imaginary character, which the writer supposes to be meant for Lady B. may be deemed to merit this formidable denunciation from their 'most sweet voices,' I neither know nor care; but when he tells me that I cannot 'in any way justify my own behaviour in that affair,' I acquiesce, because no man can 'justify' himself until he knows of what he is accused; and I have never had—and, God knows, my whole desire has ever been to obtain it—any specific charge, in a tangible shape, submitted to me by the adversary, nor by others, unless the atrocities of public rumour and the mysterious silence of the lady's legal advisers may be deemed such. But is not the writer content with what has been already said and done? Has not 'the general voice of his countrymen' long ago pronounced upon the subject—sentence without trial, and condemnation without a charge? Have I not been exiled by ostracism, except that the shells which proscribed me were anonymous? Is the writer ignorant of the public opinion and the public conduct upon that occasion? If he is, I am not: the public will forget both long before I shall cease to remember either.
"The man who is exiled by a faction has the consolation of thinking that he is a martyr; he is upheld by hope and the dignity of his cause, real or imaginary: he who withdraws from the pressure of debt may indulge in the thought that time and prudence will retrieve his circumstances: he who is condemned by the law has a term to his banishment, or a dream of its abbreviation; or, it may be, the knowledge or the belief of some injustice of the law or of its administration in his own particular: but he who is outlawed by general opinion, without the intervention of hostile politics, illegal judgment, or embarrassed circumstances, whether he be innocent or guilty, must undergo all the bitterness of exile, without hope, without pride, without alleviation. This case was mine. Upon what grounds the public founded their opinion, I am not aware; but it was general, and it was decisive. Of me or of mine they knew little, except that I had written what is called poetry, was a nobleman, had married, became a father, and was involved in differences with my wife and her relatives, no one knew why, because the persons complaining refused to state their grievances. The fashionable world was divided into parties, mine consisting of a very small minority; the reasonable world was naturally on the stronger side, which happened to be the lady's, as was most proper and polite. The press was active and scurrilous; and such was the rage of the day, that the unfortunate publication of two copies of verses rather complimentary than otherwise to the subjects, of both, was tortured into a species of crime, or constructive petty treason. I was accused of every monstrous vice by public rumour and private rancour: my name, which had been a knightly or a noble one since my fathers helped to conquer the kingdom for William the Norman, was tainted. I felt that, if what was whispered, and muttered, and murmured, was true, I was unfit for England; if false, England was unfit for me. I withdrew: but this was not enough. In other countries, in Switzerland, in the shadow of the Alps, and by the blue depth of the lakes, I was pursued and breathed upon by the same blight. I crossed the mountains, but it was the same; so I went a little farther, and settled myself by the waves of the Adriatic, like the stag at bay, who betakes him to the waters.
"If I may judge by the statements of the few friends who gathered round me, the outcry of the period to which I allude was beyond all precedent, all parallel, even in those cases where political motives have sharpened slander and doubled enmity. I was advised not to go to the theatres, lest I should be hissed, nor to my duty in parliament, lest I should be insulted by the way; even on the day of my departure, my most intimate friend told me afterwards that he was under apprehensions of violence from the people who might be assembled at the door of the carriage. However, I was not deterred by these counsels from seeing Kean in his best characters, nor from voting according to my principles; and, with regard to the third and last apprehensions of my friends, I could not share in them, not being made acquainted with their extent till some time after I had crossed the Channel. Even if I had been so, I am not of a nature to be much affected by men's anger, though I may feel hurt by their aversion. Against all individual outrage, I could protect or redress myself; and against that of a crowd, I should probably have been enabled to defend myself, with the assistance of others, as has been done on similar occasions.
"I retired from the country, perceiving that I was the object of general obloquy; I did not indeed imagine, like Jean Jacques Rousseau, that all mankind was in a conspiracy against me, though I had perhaps as good grounds for such a chimera as ever he had; but I perceived that I had to a great extent become personally obnoxious in England, perhaps through my own fault, but the fact was indisputable; the public in general would hardly have been so much excited against a more popular character, without at least an accusation or a charge of some kind actually expressed or substantiated; for I can hardly conceive that the common and every-day occurrence of a separation between man and wife could in itself produce so great a ferment. I shall say nothing of the usual complaints of 'being prejudged,' 'condemned unheard,' 'unfairness,' 'partiality,' and so forth, the usual changes rung by parties who have had, or are to have, a trial; but I was a little surprised to find myself condemned without being favoured with the act of accusation, and to perceive in the absence of this portentous charge or charges, whatever it or they were to be, that every possible or impossible crime was rumoured to supply its place, and taken for granted. This could only occur in the case of a person very much disliked, and I knew no remedy, having already used to their extent whatever little powers I might possess of pleasing in society. I had no party in fashion, though I was afterwards told that there was one—but it was not of my formation, nor did I then know of its existence—none in literature; and in politics I had voted with the Whigs, with precisely that importance which a Whig vote possesses in these Tory days, and with such personal acquaintance with the leaders in both houses as the society in which I lived sanctioned, but without claim or expectation of anything like friendship from any one, except a few young men of my own age and standing, and a few others more advanced in life, which last it had been my fortune to serve in circumstances of difficulty. This was, in fact, to stand alone: and I recollect, some time after, Madame de Stael said to me in Switzerland, 'You should not have warred with the world—it will not do—it is too strong always for any individual: I myself once tried it in early life, but it will not do.' I perfectly acquiesce in the truth of this remark; but the world had done me the honour to begin the war; and, assuredly, if peace is only to be obtained by courting and paying tribute to it, I am not qualified to obtain its countenance. I thought, in the words of Campbell,
"'Then wed thee to an exil'd lot, And if the world hath loved thee not, Its absence may be borne.'
"I have heard of, and believe, that there are human beings so constituted as to be insensible to injuries; but I believe that the best mode to avoid taking vengeance is to get out of the way of temptation. I hope that I may never have the opportunity, for I am not quite sure that I could resist it, having derived from my mother something of the 'perfervidum ingenium Scotorum.' I have not sought, and shall not seek it, and perhaps it may never come in my path. I do not in this allude to the party, who might be right or wrong; but to many who made her cause the pretext of their own bitterness. She, indeed, must have long avenged me in her own feelings, for whatever her reasons may have been (and she never adduced them to me at least), she probably neither contemplated nor conceived to what she became the means of conducting the father of her child, and the husband of her choice.
"So much for 'the general voice of his countrymen:' I will now speak of some in particular.
"In the beginning of the year 1817, an article appeared in the Quarterly Review, written, I believe, by Walter Scott, doing great honour to him, and no disgrace to me, though both poetically and personally more than sufficiently favourable to the work and the author of whom it treated. It was written at a time when a selfish man would not, and a timid one dared not, have said a word in favour of either; it was written by one to whom temporary public opinion had elevated me to the rank of a rival—a proud distinction, and unmerited; but which has not prevented me from feeling as a friend, nor him from more than corresponding to that sentiment. The article in question was written upon the third Canto of Childe Harold, and after many observations, which it would as ill become me to repeat as to forget, concluded with 'a hope that I might yet return to England.' How this expression was received in England itself I am not acquainted, but it gave great offence at Rome to the respectable ten or twenty thousand English travellers then and there assembled. I did not visit Rome till some time after, so that I had no opportunity of knowing the fact; but I was informed, long afterwards, that the greatest indignation had been manifested in the enlightened Anglo-circle of that year, which happened to comprise within it—amidst a considerable leaven of Welbeck Street and Devonshire Place, broken loose upon their travels—several really well-born and well-bred families, who did not the less participate in the feeling of the hour. 'Why should he return to England?' was the general exclamation—I answer why? It is a question I have occasionally asked myself, and I never yet could give it a satisfactory reply. I had then no thoughts of returning, and if I have any now, they are of business, and not of pleasure. Amidst the ties that have been dashed to pieces, there are links yet entire, though the chain itself be broken. There are duties, and connections, which may one day require my presence—and I am a father. I have still some friends whom I wish to meet again, and, it may be, an enemy. These things, and those minuter details of business, which time accumulates during absence, in every man's affairs and property, may, and probably will, recall me to England; but I shall return with the same feelings with which I left it, in respect to itself, though altered with regard to individuals, as I have been more or less informed of their conduct since my departure; for it was only a considerable time after it that I was made acquainted with the real facts and full extent of some of their proceedings and language. My friends, like other friends, from conciliatory motives, withheld from me much that they could, and some things which they should have unfolded; however, that which is deferred is not lost—but it has been no fault of mine that it has been deferred at all.
"I have alluded to what is said to have passed at Rome merely to show that the sentiment which I have described was not confined to the English in England, and as forming part of my answer to the reproach cast upon what has been called my 'selfish exile,' and my 'voluntary exile.' 'Voluntary' it has been; for who would dwell among a people entertaining strong hostility against him? How far it has been 'selfish' has been already explained."
[Footnote 2: While these sheets are passing through the press, a printed statement has been transmitted to me by Lady Noel Byron, which the reader will find inserted in the Appendix to this volume. (First Edition.)]
* * * * *
The following passages from the same unpublished pamphlet will be found, in a literary point of view, not less curious.
"And here I wish to say a few words on the present state of English poetry. That this is the age of the decline of English poetry will be doubted by few who have calmly considered the subject. That there are men of genius among the present poets makes little against the fact, because it has been well said, that 'next to him who forms the taste of his country, the greatest genius is he who corrupts it.' No one has ever denied genius to Marino, who corrupted not merely the taste of Italy, but that of all Europe for nearly a century. The great cause of the present deplorable state of English poetry is to be attributed to that absurd and systematic depreciation of Pope, in which, for the last few years, there has been a kind of epidemical concurrence. Men of the most opposite opinions have united upon this topic. Warton and Churchill began it, having borrowed the hint probably from the heroes of the Dunciad, and their own internal conviction that their proper reputation can be as nothing till the most perfect and harmonious of poets—he who, having no fault, has had REASON made his reproach—was reduced to what they conceived to be his level; but even they dared not degrade him below Dryden. Goldsmith, and Rogers, and Campbell, his most successful disciples; and Hayley, who, however feeble, has left one poem 'that will not be willingly let die' (the Triumphs of Temper), kept up the reputation of that pure and perfect style; and Crabbe, the first of living poets, has almost equalled the master. Then came Darwin, who was put down by a single poem in the Antijacobin; and the Cruscans, from Merry to Jerningham, who were annihilated (if Nothing can be said to be annihilated) by Gifford, the last of the wholesome English satirists. * * *
"These three personages, S * *, W * *, and C * *, had all of them a very natural antipathy to Pope, and I respect them for it, as the only original feeling or principle which they have contrived to preserve. But they have been joined in it by those who have joined them in nothing else: by the Edinburgh Reviewers, by the whole heterogeneous mass of living English poets, excepting Crabbe, Rogers, Gifford, and Campbell, who, both by precept and practice, have proved their adherence; and by me, who have shamefully deviated in practice, but have ever loved and honoured Pope's poetry with my whole soul, and hope to do so till my dying day. I would rather see all I have ever written lining the same trunk in which I actually read the eleventh book of a modern Epic poem at Malta in 1811, (I opened it to take out a change after the paroxysm of a tertian, in the absence of my servant, and found it lined with the name of the maker, Eyre, Cockspur-street, and with the Epic poetry alluded to,) than sacrifice what I firmly believe in as the Christianity of English poetry, the poetry of Pope.
"Nevertheless, I will not go so far as * * in his postscript, who pretends that no great poet ever had immediate fame, which, being interpreted, means that * * is not quite so much read by his contemporaries as might be desirable. This assertion is as false as it is foolish. Homer's glory depended upon his present popularity: he recited,—and without the strongest impression of the moment, who would have gotten the Iliad by heart, and given it to tradition? Ennius, Terence, Plautus, Lucretius, Horace, Virgil, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Sappho, Anacreon, Theocritus, all the great poets of antiquity, were the delight of their contemporaries. The very existence of a poet, previous to the invention of printing, depended upon his present popularity; and how often has it impaired his future fame? Hardly ever. History informs us, that the best have come down to us. The reason is evident: the most popular found the greatest number of transcribers for their MSS.; and that the taste of their contemporaries was corrupt can hardly be avouched by the moderns, the mightiest of whom have but barely approached them. Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto, and Tasso, were all the darlings of the contemporary reader. Dante's poem was celebrated long before his death; and, not long after it, States negotiated for his ashes, and disputed for the sites of the composition of the Divina Commedia. Petrarch was crowned in the Capitol. Ariosto was permitted to pass free by the public robber who had read the Orlando Furioso. I would not recommend Mr. * * to try the same experiment with his Smugglers. Tasso, notwithstanding the criticisms of the Cruscanti, would have been crowned in the Capitol, but for his death.
"It is easy to prove the immediate popularity of the chief poets of the only modern nation in Europe that has a poetical language, the Italian. In our own, Shakspeare, Spenser, Jonson, Waller, Dryden, Congreve, Pope, Young, Shenstone, Thomson, Johnson, Goldsmith, Gray, were all as popular in their lives as since. Gray's Elegy pleased instantly, and eternally. His Odes did not, nor yet do they please like his Elegy. Milton's politics kept him down; but the Epigram of Dryden, and the very sale of his work, in proportion to the less reading time of its publication, prove him to have been honoured by his contemporaries. I will venture to assert, that the sale of the Paradise Lost was greater in the first four years after its publication than that of 'The Excursion,' in the same number, with the difference of nearly a century and a half between them of time, and of thousands in point of general readers.
"It may be asked, why, having this opinion of the present state of poetry in England, and having had it long, as my friends and others well know—possessing, or having possessed too, as a writer, the ear of the public for the time being—I have not adopted a different plan in my own compositions, and endeavoured to correct rather than encourage the taste of the day. To this I would answer, that it is easier to perceive the wrong than to pursue the right, and that I have never contemplated the prospect 'of filling (with Peter Bell, see its Preface,) permanently a station in the literature of the country.' Those who know me best, know this, and that I have been considerably astonished at the temporary success of my works, having flattered no person and no party, and expressed opinions which are not those of the general reader. Could I have anticipated the degree of attention which has been accorded, assuredly I would have studied more to deserve it. But I have lived in far countries abroad, or in the agitating world at home, which was not favourable to study or reflection; so that almost all I have written has been mere passion,—passion, it is true, of different kinds, but always passion: for in me (if it be not an Irishism to say so) my indifference was a kind of passion, the result of experience, and not the philosophy of nature. Writing grows a habit, like a woman's gallantry: there are women who have had no intrigue, but few who have had but one only; so there are millions of men who have never written a book, but few who have written only one. And thus, having written once, I wrote on; encouraged no doubt by the success of the moment, yet by no means anticipating its duration, and I will venture to say, scarcely even wishing it. But then I did other things besides write, which by no means contributed either to improve my writings or my prosperity.
"I have thus expressed publicly upon the poetry of the day the opinion I have long entertained and expressed of it to all who have asked it, and to some who would rather not have heard it; as I told Moore not very long ago, 'we are all wrong except Rogers, Crabbe, and Campbell.' Without being old in years, I am in days, and do not feel the adequate spirit within me to attempt a work which should show what I think right in poetry, and must content myself with having denounced what is wrong. There are, I trust, younger spirits rising up in England, who, escaping the contagion which has swept away poetry from our literature, will recall it to their country, such as it once was and may still be.
"In the mean time, the best sign of amendment will be repentance, and new and frequent editions of Pope and Dryden.
"There will be found as comfortable metaphysics and ten times more poetry in the 'Essay on Man,' than in the 'Excursion.' If you search for passion, where is it to be found stronger than in the epistle from Eloisa to Abelard, or in Palamon and Arcite? Do you wish for invention, imagination, sublimity, character? seek them in the Rape of the Lock, the Fables of Dryden, the Ode on Saint Cecilia's Day, and Absalom and Achitophel: you will discover in these two poets only, all for which you must ransack innumerable metres, and God only knows how many writers of the day, without finding a tittle of the same qualities,—with the addition, too, of wit, of which the latter have none. I have not, however, forgotten Thomas Brown the Younger, nor the Fudge Family, nor Whistlecraft; but that is not wit—it is humour. I will say nothing of the harmony of Pope and Dryden in comparison, for there is not a living poet (except Rogers, Gifford, Campbell, and Crabbe) who can write an heroic couplet. The fact is, that the exquisite beauty of their versification has withdrawn the public attention from their other excellences, as the vulgar eye will rest more upon the splendour of the uniform than the quality of the troops. It is this very harmony, particularly in Pope, which has raised the vulgar and atrocious cant against him:—because his versification is perfect, it is assumed that it is his only perfection; because his truths are so clear, it is asserted that he has no invention; and because he is always intelligible, it is taken for granted that he has no genius. We are sneeringly told that he is the 'Poet of Reason,' as if this was a reason for his being no poet. Taking passage for passage, I will undertake to cite more lines teeming with imagination from Pope than from any two living poets, be they who they may. To take an instance at random from a species of composition not very favourable to imagination—Satire: set down the character of Sporus, with all the wonderful play of fancy which is scattered over it, and place by its side an equal number of verses, from any two existing poets, of the same power and the same variety—where will you find them?
"I merely mention one instance of many in reply to the injustice done to the memory of him who harmonised our poetical language. The attorneys clerks, and other self-educated genii, found it easier to distort themselves to the new models than to toil after the symmetry of him who had enchanted their fathers. They were besides smitten by being told that the new school were to revive the language of Queen Elizabeth, the true English; as every body in the reign of Queen Anne wrote no better than French, by a species of literary treason.
"Blank verse, which, unless in the drama, no one except Milton ever wrote who could rhyme, became the order of the day,—or else such rhyme as looked still blanker than the verse without it. I am aware that Johnson has said, after some hesitation, that he could not 'prevail upon himself to wish that Milton had been a rhymer.' The opinions of that truly great man, whom it is also the present fashion to decry, will ever be received by me with that deference which time will restore to him from all; but, with all humility, I am not persuaded that the Paradise Lost would not have been more nobly conveyed to posterity, not perhaps in heroic couplets, although even they could sustain the subject if well balanced, but in the stanza of Spenser, or of Tasso, or in the terza rima of Dante, which the powers of Milton could easily have grafted on our language. The Seasons of Thomson would have been better in rhyme, although still inferior to his Castle of Indolence; and Mr. Southey's Joan of Arc no worse, although it might have taken up six months instead of weeks in the composition. I recommend also to the lovers of lyrics the perusal of the present laureate's odes by the side of Dryden's on Saint Cecilia, but let him be sure to read first those of Mr. Southey.
"To the heaven-born genii and inspired young scriveners of the day much of this will appear paradox; it will appear so even to the higher order of our critics; but it was a truism twenty years ago, and it will be a re-acknowledged truth in ten more. In the mean time, I will conclude with two quotations, both intended for some of my old classical friends who have still enough of Cambridge about them to think themselves honoured by having had John Dryden as a predecessor in their college, and to recollect that their earliest English poetical pleasures were drawn from the 'little nightingale' of Twickenham.
"The first is from the notes to a Poem of the 'Friends,' pages 181, 182.
"'It is only within the last twenty or thirty years that those notable discoveries in criticism have been made which have taught our recent versifiers to undervalue this energetic, melodious, and moral poet. The consequences of this want of due esteem for a writer whom the good sense of our predecessors had raised to his proper station have been NUMEROUS AND DEGRADING ENOUGH. This is not the place to enter into the subject, even as far as it affects our poetical numbers alone, and there is matter of more importance that requires present reflection.'
"The second is from the volume of a young person learning to write poetry, and beginning by teaching the art. Hear him:
"'But ye were dead To things ye knew not of—were closely wed To musty laws lined out with wretched rule And compass vile; so that ye taught a school Of dolts to smooth, inlay, and chip, and fit, Till, like the certain wands of Jacob's wit, Their verses tallied. Easy was the task: A thousand handicraftsmen wore the mask Of poesy. Ill-fated, impious race, That blasphemed the bright lyrist to his face, And did not know it; no, they went about Holding a poor decrepit standard out Mark'd with most flimsy mottos, and in large The name of one Boileau.'
"A little before the manner of Pope is termed
"'A scism, Nurtured by foppery and barbarism, Made great Apollo blush for this his land.'
"I thought 'foppery' was a consequence of refinement; but n'importe.
"The above will suffice to show the notions entertained by the new performers on the English lyre of him who made it most tunable, and the great improvements of their own variazioni.
"The writer of this is a tadpole of the Lakes, a young disciple of the six or seven new schools, in which he has learnt to write such lines and such sentiments as the above. He says, 'easy was the task' of imitating Pope, or it may be of equalling him, I presume. I recommend him to try before he is so positive on the subject, and then compare what he will have then written and what he has now written with the humblest and earliest compositions of Pope, produced in years still more youthful than those of Mr. K. when he invented his new 'Essay on Criticism,' entitled 'Sleep and Poetry' (an ominous title), from whence the above canons are taken. Pope's was written at nineteen, and published at twenty-two.
"Such are the triumphs of the new schools, and such their scholars. The disciples of Pope were Johnson, Goldsmith, Rogers, Campbell, Crabbe, Gifford, Matthias, Hayley, and the author of the Paradise of Coquettes; to whom may be added Richards, Heber, Wrangham, Bland, Hodgson, Merivale, and others who have not had their full fame, because 'the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,' and because there is a fortune in fame as in all other things. Now of all the new schools—I say all, for, 'like Legion, they are many'—has there appeared a single scholar who has not made his master ashamed of him? unless it be * *, who has imitated every body, and occasionally surpassed his models. Scott found peculiar favour and imitation among the fair sex: there was Miss Holford, and Miss Mitford, and Miss Francis; but with the greatest respect be it spoken, none of his imitators did much honour to the original except Hogg, the Ettrick shepherd, until the appearance of 'The Bridal of Triermain,' and 'Harold the Dauntless,' which in the opinion of some equalled if not surpassed him; and lo! after three or four years they turned out to be the Master's own compositions. Have Southey, or Coleridge, or Wordsworth, made a follower of renown? Wilson never did well till he set up for himself in the 'City of the Plague.' Has Moore, or any other living writer of reputation, had a tolerable imitator, or rather disciple? Now it is remarkable that almost all the followers of Pope, whom I have named, have produced beautiful and standard works, and it was not the number of his imitators who finally hurt his fame, but the despair of imitation, and the ease of not imitating him sufficiently. This, and the same reason which induced the Athenian burgher to vote for the banishment of Aristides, 'because he was tired of always hearing him called the Just,' have produced the temporary exile of Pope from the State of Literature. But the term of his ostracism will expire, and the sooner the better; not for him, but for those who banished him, and for the coming generation, who
"Will blush to find their fathers were his foes."
[Footnote 3: As far as regards the poets of ancient times, this assertion is, perhaps, right; though, if there be any truth in what AElian and Seneca have left on record, of the obscurity, during their lifetime, of such men as Socrates and Epicurus, it would seem to prove that, among the ancients, contemporary fame was a far more rare reward of literary or philosophical eminence than among us moderns. When the "Clouds" of Aristophanes was exhibited before the assembled deputies of the towns of Attica, these personages, as AElian tells us, were unanimously of opinion, that the character of an unknown person, called Socrates, was uninteresting upon the stage; and Seneca has given the substance of an authentic letter of Epicurus, in which that philosopher declares that nothing hurt him so much, in the midst of all his happiness, as to think that Greece,—"illa nobilis Graecia,"—so far from knowing him, had scarcely even heard of his existence.—Epist. 79.]
[Footnote 4: I certainly ventured to differ from the judgment of my noble friend, no less in his attempts to depreciate that peculiar walk of the art in which he himself so grandly trod, than in the inconsistency of which I thought him guilty, in condemning all those who stood up for particular "schools" of poetry, and yet, at the same time, maintaining so exclusive a theory of the art himself. How little, however, he attended to either the grounds or degrees of my dissent from him, will appear by the following wholesale report of my opinion, in his "Detached Thoughts:"
"One of my notions different from those of my contemporaries, is, that the present is not a high age of English poetry. There are more poets (soi-disant) than ever there were, and proportionally less poetry.
"This thesis I have maintained for some years, but, strange to say, it meeteth not with favour from my brethren of the shell. Even Moore shakes his head, and firmly believes that it is the grand age of British poesy."]
[Footnote 5: Written by Lord Byron's early friend, the Rev. Francis Hodgson.]
[Footnote 6: The strange verses that follow are from a poem by Keats.—In a manuscript note on this passage of the pamphlet, dated November 12. 1821, Lord Byron says, "Mr. Keats died at Rome about a year after this was written, of a decline produced by his having burst a blood-vessel on reading the article on his 'Endymion' in the Quarterly Review. I have read the article before and since; and, although it is bitter, I do not think that a man should permit himself to be killed by it. But a young man little dreams what he must inevitably encounter in the course of a life ambitious of public notice. My indignation at Mr. Keats's depreciation of Pope has hardly permitted me to do justice to his own genius, which, malgre all the fantastic fopperies of his style, was undoubtedly of great promise. His fragment of 'Hyperion' seems actually inspired by the Titans, and is as sublime as AEschylus. He is a loss to our literature; and the more so, as he himself, before his death, is said to have been persuaded that he had not taken the right line, and was reforming his style upon the more classical models of the language."]
[Footnote 7: "It was at least a grammar 'school.'"]
[Footnote 8: "So spelt by the author."]
* * * * *
LETTER 396. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, 9bre 4. 1820.
"I have received from Mr. Galignani the enclosed letters, duplicates and receipts, which will explain themselves. As the poems are your property by purchase, right, and justice, all matters of publication, &c. &c. are for you to decide upon. I know not how far my compliance with Mr. Galignani's request might be legal, and I doubt that it would not be honest. In case you choose to arrange with him, I enclose the permits to you, and in so doing I wash my hands of the business altogether. I sign them merely to enable you to exert the power you justly possess more properly. I will have nothing to do with it farther, except, in my answer to Mr. Galignani, to state that the letters, &c. &c. are sent to you, and the causes thereof.
"If you can check these foreign pirates, do; if not, put the permissive papers in the fire. I can have no view nor object whatever, but to secure to you your property.
"P.S. I have read part of the Quarterly just arrived: Mr. Bowles shall be answered:—he is not quite correct in his statement about English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. They support Pope, I see, in the Quarterly; let them continue to do so: it is a sin, and a shame, and a damnation to think that Pope!! should require it—but he does. Those miserable mountebanks of the day, the poets, disgrace themselves and deny God in running down Pope, the most faultless of poets, and almost of men."
[Footnote 9: Mr. Galignani had applied to Lord Byron with the view of procuring from him such legal right over those works of his Lordship of which he had hitherto been the sole publisher in France, as would enable him to prevent others, in future, from usurping the same privilege.]
* * * * *
LETTER 397. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, November 5. 1820.
"Thanks for your letter, which hath come somewhat costively; but better late than never. Of it anon. Mr. Galignani, of the Press, hath, it seems, been sup-planted and sub-pirated by another Parisian publisher, who has audaciously printed an edition of L.B.'s Works, at the ultra-liberal price of ten francs, and (as Galignani piteously observes) eight francs only for booksellers! 'horresco referens.' Think of a man's whole works producing so little!
"Galignani sends me, post haste, a permission for him, from me, to publish, &c. &c. which permit I have signed and sent to Mr. Murray of Albemarle Street. Will you explain to G. that I have no right to dispose of Murray's works without his leave? and therefore I must refer him to M. to get the permit out of his claws—no easy matter, I suspect. I have written to G. to say as much; but a word of mouth from a 'great brother author' would convince him that I could not honestly have complied with his wish, though I might legally. What I could do, I have done, viz. signed the warrant and sent it to Murray. Let the dogs divide the carcass, if it is killed to their liking.
"I am glad of your epigram. It is odd that we should both let our wits run away with our sentiments; for I am sure that we are both Queen's men at bottom. But there is no resisting a clinch—it is so clever! Apropos of that—we have a 'diphthong' also in this part of the world—not a Greek, but a Spanish one—do you understand me?—which is about to blow up the whole alphabet. It was first pronounced at Naples, and is spreading; but we are nearer the Barbarians; who are in great force on the Po, and will pass it, with the first legitimate pretext.
"There will be the devil to pay, and there is no saying who will or who will not be set down in his bill. If 'honour should come unlooked for' to any of your acquaintance, make a Melody of it, that his ghost, like poor Yorick's, may have the satisfaction of being plaintively pitied—or still more nobly commemorated, like 'Oh breathe not his name.' In case you should not think him worth it, here is a Chant for you instead—
"When a man hath no freedom to fight for at home, Let him combat for that of his neighbours; Let him think of the glories of Greece and of Rome, And get knock'd on the head for his labours.
"To do good to mankind is the chivalrous plan, And is always as nobly requited; Then battle for freedom wherever you can, And, if not shot or hang'd, you'll get knighted.
"So you have gotten the letter of 'Epigrams'—I am glad of it. You will not be so, for I shall send you more. Here is one I wrote for the endorsement of 'the Deed of Separation' in 1816; but the lawyers objected to it, as superfluous. It was written as we were getting up the signing and sealing. * * has the original.
"Endorsement to the Deed of Separation, in the April of 1816.
"A year ago you swore, fond she! 'To love, to honour, and so forth: Such was the vow you pledged to me, And here's exactly what 'tis worth.
"For the anniversary of January 2. 1821, I have a small grateful anticipation, which, in case of accident, I add—
"To Penelope, January 2. 1821.
"This day, of all our days, has done The worst for me and you:— 'Tis just six years since we were one, And five since we were two.
"Pray excuse all this nonsense; for I must talk nonsense just now, for fear of wandering to more serious topics, which, in the present state of things, is not safe by a foreign post.
"I told you in my last, that I had been going on with the 'Memoirs,' and have got as far as twelve more sheets. But I suspect they will be interrupted. In that case I will send them on by post, though I feel remorse at making a friend pay so much for postage, for we can't frank here beyond the frontier.
"I shall be glad to hear of the event of the Queen's concern. As to the ultimate effect, the most inevitable one to you and me (if they and we live so long) will be that the Miss Moores and Miss Byrons will present us with a great variety of grandchildren by different fathers.
"Pray, where did you get hold of Goethe's Florentine husband-killing story? Upon such matters, in general, I may say, with Beau Clincher, in reply to Errand's wife—
"'Oh the villain, he hath murdered my poor Timothy!'
"'Clincher. Damn your Timothy!—I tell you, woman, your husband has murdered me—he has carried away my fine jubilee clothes.'
"So Bowles has been telling a story, too ('tis in the Quarterly), about the woods of 'Madeira,' and so forth. I shall be at Bowles again, if he is not quiet. He mis-states, or mistakes, in a point or two. The paper is finished, and so is the letter.
* * * * *
LETTER 393. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, 9bre 9 deg., 1820.
"The talent you approve of is an amiable one, and might prove a 'national service,' but unfortunately I must be angry with a man before I draw his real portrait; and I can't deal in 'generals,' so that I trust never to have provocation enough to make a Gallery. If 'the parson' had not by many little dirty sneaking traits provoked it, I should have been silent, though I had observed him. Here follows an alteration: put—
Devil with such delight in damning, That if at the resurrection Unto him the free election Of his future could be given, 'Twould be rather Hell than Heaven;
that is to say, if these two new lines do not too much lengthen out and weaken the amiability of the original thought and expression. You have a discretionary power about showing. I should think that Croker would not disrelish a sight of these light little humorous things, and may be indulged now and then.
"Why, I do like one or two vices, to be sure; but I can back a horse and fire a pistol 'without thinking or blinking' like Major Sturgeon; I have fed at times for two months together on sheer biscuit and water (without metaphor); I can get over seventy or eighty miles a day riding post, and swim five at a stretch, as at Venice, in 1818, or at least I could do, and have done it ONCE.
"I know Henry Matthews: he is the image, to the very voice, of his brother Charles, only darker—his laugh his in particular. The first time I ever met him was in Scrope Davies's rooms after his brother's death, and I nearly dropped, thinking that it was his ghost. I have also dined with him in his rooms at King's College. Hobhouse once purposed a similar Memoir; but I am afraid that the letters of Charles's correspondence with me (which are at Whitton with my other papers) would hardly do for the public: for our lives were not over strict, and our letters somewhat lax upon most subjects.
"Last week I sent you a correspondence with Galignani, and some documents on your property. You have now, I think, an opportunity of checking, or at least limiting, those French republications. You may let all your authors publish what they please against me and mine. A publisher is not, and cannot be, responsible for all the works that issue from his printer's.
"The 'White Lady of Avenel' is not quite so good as a real well authenticated ('Donna Bianca') White Lady of Colalto, or spectre in the Marca Trivigiana, who has been repeatedly seen. There is a man (a huntsman) now alive who saw her also. Hoppner could tell you all about her, and so can Rose, perhaps. I myself have no doubt of the fact, historical and spectral. She always appeared on particular occasions, before the deaths of the family, &c. &c. I heard Madame Benzoni say, that she knew a gentleman who had seen her cross his room at Colalto Castle. Hoppner saw and spoke with the huntsman who met her at the chase, and never hunted afterwards. She was a girl attendant, who, one day dressing the hair of a Countess Colalto, was seen by her mistress to smile upon her husband in the glass. The Countess had her shut up in the wall of the castle, like Constance de Beverley. Ever after, she haunted them and all the Colaltos. She is described as very beautiful and fair. It is well authenticated."
[Footnote 10: Here follow some details respecting his friend Charles S. Matthews, which have already been given in the first volume of this work.]
[Footnote 11: The ghost-story, in which he here professes such serious belief, forms the subject of one of Mr. Rogers's beautiful Italian sketches.—See "Italy," p. 43. edit. 1830.]
* * * * *
LETTER 399. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, 9bre 18 deg., 1820.
"The death of Waite is a shock to the—teeth, as well as to the feelings of all who knew him. Good God, he and Blake both gone! I left them both in the most robust health, and little thought of the national loss in so short a time as five years. They were both as much superior to Wellington in rational greatness, as he who preserves the hair and the teeth is preferable to 'the bloody blustering warrior' who gains a name by breaking heads and knocking out grinders. Who succeeds him? Where is tooth-powder mild and yet efficacious—where is tincture—where are clearing roots and brushes now to be obtained? Pray obtain what information you can upon these 'Tusculan questions.' My jaws ache to think on't. Poor fellows! I anticipated seeing both again; and yet they are gone to that place where both teeth and hair last longer than they do in this life. I have seen a thousand graves opened, and always perceived, that whatever was gone, the teeth and hair remained with those who had died with them. Is not this odd? They go the very first things in youth, and yet last the longest in the dust, if people will but die to preserve them! It is a queer life, and a queer death, that of mortals.
"I knew that Waite had married, but little thought that the other decease was so soon to overtake him. Then he was such a delight, such a coxcomb, such a jewel of a man! There is a tailor at Bologna so like him! and also at the top of his profession. Do not neglect this commission. Who or what can replace him? What says the public?
"I remand you the Preface. Don't forget that the Italian extract from the Chronicle must be translated. With regard to what you say of retouching the Juans and the Hints, it is all very well; but I can't furbish. I am like the tiger (in poesy), if I miss the first spring, I go growling back to my jungle. There is no second; I can't correct; I can't, and I won't. Nobody ever succeeds in it, great or small. Tasso remade the whole of his Jerusalem; but who ever reads that version? all the world goes to the first. Pope added to 'The Rape of the Lock,' but did not reduce it. You must take my things as they happen to be. If they are not likely to suit, reduce their estimate accordingly. I would rather give them away than hack and hew them. I don't say that you are not right: I merely repeat that I cannot better them. I must 'either make a spoon, or spoil a horn;' and there's an end.
"P.S. Of the praises of that little * * * Keats. I shall observe as Johnson did when Sheridan the actor got a pension: 'What! has he got a pension? Then it is time that I should give up mine!' Nobody could be prouder of the praise of the Edinburgh than I was, or more alive to their censure, as I showed in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. At present all the men they have ever praised are degraded by that insane article. Why don't they review and praise 'Solomon's Guide to Health?' it is better sense and as much poetry as Johnny Keats.
"Bowles must be bowled down. 'Tis a sad match at cricket if he can get any notches at Pope's expense. If he once get into 'Lord's ground,' (to continue the pun, because it is foolish,) I think I could beat him in one innings. You did not know, perhaps, that I was once (not metaphorically, but really,) a good cricketer, particularly in batting, and I played in the Harrow match against the Etonians in 1805, gaining more notches (as one of our chosen eleven) than any, except Lord Ipswich and Brookman, on our side."
[Footnote 12: A celebrated hair-dresser.]
* * * * *
LETTER 400. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, 9bre 23 deg., 1820.
"The 'Hints,' Hobhouse says, will require a good deal of slashing to suit the times, which will be a work of time, for I don't feel at all laborious just now. Whatever effect they are to have would perhaps be greater in a separate form, and they also must have my name to them. Now, if you publish them in the same volume with Don Juan, they identify Don Juan as mine, which I don't think worth a Chancery suit about my daughter's guardianship, as in your present code a facetious poem is sufficient to take away a man's rights over his family.
"Of the state of things here it would be difficult and not very prudent to speak at large, the Huns opening all letters. I wonder if they can read them when they have opened them; if so, they may see, in my MOST LEGIBLE HAND, THAT I THINK THEM DAMNED SCOUNDRELS AND BARBARIANS, and THEIR EMPEROR a FOOL, and themselves more fools than he; all which they may send to Vienna for any thing I care. They have got themselves masters of the Papal police, and are bullying away; but some day or other they will pay for all: it may not be very soon, because these unhappy Italians have no consistency among themselves; but I suppose that Providence will get tired of them at last, * *
* * * * *
LETTER 401. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, Dec. 9. 1820.
"Besides this letter, you will receive three packets, containing, in all, 18 more sheets of Memoranda, which, I fear, will cost you more in postage than they will ever produce by being printed in the next century. Instead of waiting so long, if you could make any thing of them now in the way of reversion, (that is, after my death,) I should be very glad,—as, with all due regard to your progeny, I prefer you to your grandchildren. Would not Longman or Murray advance you a certain sum now, pledging themselves not to have them published till after my decease, think you?—and what say you?
"Over these latter sheets I would leave you a discretionary power; because they contain, perhaps, a thing or two which is too sincere for the public. If I consent to your disposing of their reversion now, where would be the harm? Tastes may change. I would, in your case, make my essay to dispose of them, not publish, now; and if you (as is most likely) survive me, add what you please from your own knowledge; and, above all, contradict any thing, if I have mis-stated; for my first object is the truth, even at my own expense.
"I have some knowledge of your countryman Muley Moloch, the lecturer. He wrote to me several letters upon Christianity, to convert me: and, if I had not been a Christian already, I should probably have been now, in consequence. I thought there was something of wild talent in him, mixed with a due leaven of absurdity,—as there must be in all talent, let loose upon the world, without a martingale.
"The ministers seem still to persecute the Queen * * * but they won't go out, the sons of b——es. Damn Reform—I want a place—what say you? You must applaud the honesty of the declaration, whatever you may think of the intention.
"I have quantities of paper in England, original and translated—tragedy, &c. &c. and am now copying out a fifth Canto of Don Juan, 149 stanzas. So that there will be near three thin Albemarle, or two thick volumes of all sorts of my Muses. I mean to plunge thick, too, into the contest upon Pope, and to lay about me like a dragon till I make manure of * * * for the top of Parnassus.
"These rogues are right—we do laugh at t'others—eh?—don't we? You shall see—you shall see what things I'll say, an' it pleases Providence to leave us leisure. But in these parts they are all going to war; and there is to be liberty, and a row, and a constitution—when they can get them. But I won't talk politics—it is low. Let us talk of the Queen, and her bath, and her bottle—that's the only motley nowadays.
"If there are any acquaintances of mine, salute them. The priests here are trying to persecute me,—but no matter. Yours," &c.
[Footnote 13: The power here meant is that of omitting passages that might be thought objectionable. He afterwards gave me this, as well as every other right, over the whole of the manuscript.]
[Footnote 14: He here alludes to a humorous article, of which I had told him, in Blackwood's Magazine, where the poets of the day were all grouped together in a variety of fantastic shapes, with "Lord Byron and little Moore laughing behind, as if they would split," at the rest of the fraternity.]
* * * * *
LETTER 402. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, Dec. 9. 1820.
"I open my letter to tell you a fact, which will show the state of this country better than I can. The commandant of the troops is now lying dead in my house. He was shot at a little past eight o'clock, about two hundred paces from my door. I was putting on my great-coat to visit Madame la Contessa G. when I heard the shot. On coming into the hall, I found all my servants on the balcony, exclaiming that a man was murdered. I immediately ran down, calling on Tita (the bravest of them) to follow me. The rest wanted to hinder us from going, as it is the custom for every body here, it seems, to run away from 'the stricken deer.'
"However, down we ran, and found him lying on his back, almost, if not quite, dead, with five wounds, one in the heart, two in the stomach, one in the finger, and the other in the arm. Some soldiers cocked their guns, and wanted to hinder me from passing. However, we passed, and I found Diego, the adjutant, crying over him like a child—a surgeon, who said nothing of his profession—a priest, sobbing a frightened prayer—and the commandant, all this time, on his back, on the hard, cold pavement, without light or assistance, or any thing around him but confusion and dismay.
"As nobody could, or would, do any thing but howl and pray, and as no one would stir a finger to move him, for fear of consequences, I lost my patience—made my servant and a couple of the mob take up the body—sent off two soldiers to the guard—despatched Diego to the Cardinal with the news, and had the commandant carried up stairs into my own quarter. But it was too late, he was gone—not at all disfigured—bled inwardly—not above an ounce or two came out.
"I had him partly stripped—made the surgeon examine him, and examined him myself. He had been shot by cut balls, or slugs. I felt one of the slugs, which had gone through him, all but the skin. Every body conjectures why he was killed, but no one knows how. The gun was found close by him—an old gun, half filed down.
"He only said, 'O Dio!' and 'Gesu!' two or three times, and appeared to have suffered little. Poor fellow! he was a brave officer, but had made himself much disliked by the people. I knew him personally, and had met him often at conversazioni and elsewhere. My house is full of soldiers, dragoons, doctors, priests, and all kinds of persons,—though I have now cleared it, and clapt sentinels at the doors. To-morrow the body is to be moved. The town is in the greatest confusion, as you may suppose.
"You are to know that, if I had not had the body moved, they would have left him there till morning in the street, for fear of consequences. I would not choose to let even a dog die in such a manner, without succour—and, as for consequences, I care for none in a duty. Yours, &c.
"P.S. The lieutenant on duty by the body is smoking his pipe with great composure.—A queer people this."
* * * * *
LETTER 403. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, Dec. 25. 1820.
"You will or ought to have received the packet and letters which I remitted to your address a fortnight ago (or it may be more days), and I shall be glad of an answer, as, in these times and places, packets per post are in some risk of not reaching their destination.
"I have been thinking of a project for you and me, in case we both get to London again, which (if a Neapolitan war don't suscitate) may be calculated as possible for one of us about the spring of 1821. I presume that you, too, will be back by that time, or never; but on that you will give me some index. The project, then, is for you and me to set up jointly a newspaper—nothing more nor less—weekly, or so, with some improvement or modifications upon the plan of the present scoundrels, who degrade that department,—but a newspaper, which we will edite in due form, and, nevertheless, with some attention.
"There must always be in it a piece of poesy from one or other of us two, leaving room, however, for such dilettanti rhymers as may be deemed worthy of appearing in the same column; but this must be a sine qua non; and also as much prose as we can compass. We will take an office—our names not announced, but suspected—and, by the blessing of Providence, give the age some new lights upon policy, poesy, biography, criticism, morality, theology, and all other ism, ality, and ology whatsoever.
"Why, man, if we were to take to this in good earnest, your debts would be paid off in a twelvemonth, and by dint of a little diligence and practice, I doubt not that we could distance the common-place blackguards, who have so long disgraced common sense and the common reader. They have no merit but practice and impudence, both of which we may acquire; and, as for talent and culture, the devil's in't if such proofs as we have given of both can't furnish out something better than the 'funeral baked meats' which have coldly set forth the breakfast table of all Great Britain for so many years. Now, what think you? Let me know; and recollect that, if we take to such an enterprise, we must do so in good earnest. Here is a hint,—do you make it a plan. We will modify it into as literary and classical a concern as you please, only let us put out our powers upon it, and it will most likely succeed. But you must live in London, and I also, to bring it to bear, and we must keep it a secret.
"As for the living in London, I would make that not difficult to you (if you would allow me), until we could see whether one means or other (the success of the plan, for instance) would not make it quite easy for you, as well as your family; and, in any case, we should have some fun, composing, correcting, supposing, inspecting, and supping together over our lucubrations. If you think this worth a thought, let me know, and I will begin to lay in a small literary capital of composition for the occasion.
"Yours ever affectionately,
"P.S. If you thought of a middle plan between a Spectator and a newspaper, why not?—only not on a Sunday. Not that Sunday is not an excellent day, but it is engaged already. We will call it the 'Tenda Rossa,' the name Tassoni gave an answer of his in a controversy, in allusion to the delicate hint of Timour the Lame, to his enemies, by a 'Tenda' of that colour, before he gave battle. Or we will call it 'Gli,' or 'I Carbonari,' if it so please you—or any other name full of 'pastime and prodigality,' which you may prefer. Let me have an answer. I conclude poetically, with the bellman, 'A merry Christmas to you!'"
* * * * *
The year 1820 was an era signalised, as will be remembered, by the many efforts of the revolutionary spirit which, at that time, broke forth, like ill-suppressed fire, throughout the greater part of the South of Europe. In Italy, Naples had already raised the Constitutional standard, and her example was fast operating through the whole of that country. Throughout Romagna, secret societies, under the name of Carbonari, had been organised, which waited but the word of their chiefs to break out into open insurrection. We have seen from Lord Byron's Journal in 1814, what intense interest he took in the last struggles of Revolutionary France under Napoleon; and his exclamations, "Oh for a Republic!—'Brutus, thou sleepest!'" show the lengths to which, in theory at least, his political zeal extended. Since then, he had but rarely turned his thoughts to politics; the tame, ordinary vicissitude of public affairs having but little in it to stimulate a mind like his, whose sympathies nothing short of a crisis seemed worthy to interest. This the present state of Italy gave every promise of affording him; and, in addition to the great national cause itself, in which there was every thing that a lover of liberty, warm from the pages of Petrarch and Dante, could desire, he had also private ties and regards to enlist him socially in the contest. The brother of Madame Guiccioli, Count Pietro Gamba, who had been passing some time at Rome and Naples, was now returned from his tour; and the friendly sentiments with which, notwithstanding a natural bias previously in the contrary direction, he at length learned to regard the noble lover of his sister, cannot better be described than in the words of his fair relative herself.
"At this time," says Madame Guiccioli, "my beloved brother, Pietro, returned to Ravenna from Rome and Naples. He had been prejudiced by some enemies of Lord Byron against his character, and my intimacy with him afflicted him greatly; nor had my letters succeeded in entirely destroying the evil impression which Lord Byron's detractors had produced. No sooner, however, had he seen and known him, than he became inspired with an interest in his favour, such as could not have been produced by mere exterior qualities, but was the result only of that union he saw in him of all that is most great and beautiful, as well in the heart as mind of man. From that moment every former prejudice vanished, and the conformity of their opinions and studies contributed to unite them in a friendship, which only ended with their lives."
The young Gamba, who was, at this time, but twenty years of age, with a heart full of all those dreams of the regeneration of Italy, which not only the example of Naples, but the spirit working beneath the surface all around him, inspired, had, together with his father, who was still in the prime of life, become enrolled in the secret bands now organising throughout Romagna, and Lord Byron was, by their intervention, admitted also among the brotherhood. The following heroic Address to the Neapolitan Government (written by the noble poet in Italian, and forwarded, it is thought, by himself to Naples, but intercepted on the way,) will show how deep, how earnest, and expansive was his zeal in that great, general cause of Political Freedom, for which he soon after laid down his life among the marshes of Missolonghi.
"An Englishman, a friend to liberty, having understood that the Neapolitans permit even foreigners to contribute to the good cause, is desirous that they should do him the honour of accepting a thousand louis, which he takes the liberty of offering. Having already, not long since, been an ocular witness of the despotism of the Barbarians in the States occupied by them in Italy, he sees, with the enthusiasm natural to a cultivated man, the generous determination of the Neapolitans to assert their well-won independence. As a member of the English House of Peers, he would be a traitor to the principles which placed the reigning family of England on the throne, if he were not grateful for the noble lesson so lately given both to people and to kings. The offer which he desires to make is small in itself, as must always be that presented from an individual to a nation; but he trusts that it will not be the last they will receive from his countrymen. His distance from the frontier, and the feeling of his personal incapacity to contribute efficaciously to the service of the nation, prevents him from proposing himself as worthy of the lowest commission, for which experience and talent might be requisite. But if, as a mere volunteer, his presence were not a burden to whomsoever he might serve under, he would repair to whatever place the Neapolitan Government might point out, there to obey the orders and participate in the dangers of his commanding officer, without any other motive than that of sharing the destiny of a brave nation, defending itself against the self-called Holy Alliance, which but combines the vice of hypocrisy with despotism."
It was during the agitation of this crisis, while surrounded by rumours and alarms, and expecting, every moment, to be summoned into the field, that Lord Byron commenced the Journal which I am now about to give; and which it is impossible to peruse, with the recollection of his former Diary of 1814 in our minds, without reflecting how wholly different, in all the circumstances connected with them, were the two periods at which these records of his passing thoughts were traced. The first he wrote at a time which may be considered, to use his own words, as "the most poetical part of his whole life,"—not certainly, in what regarded the powers of his genius, to which every succeeding year added new force and range, but in all that may be said to constitute the poetry of character,—those fresh, unworldly feelings of which, in spite of his early plunge into experience, he still retained the gloss, and that ennobling light of imagination, which, with all his professed scorn of mankind, still followed in the track of his affections, giving a lustre to every object on which they rested. There was, indeed, in his misanthropy, as in his sorrows, at that period, to the full as much of fancy as of reality; and even those gallantries and loves in which he at the same time entangled himself partook equally, as I have endeavoured to show, of the same imaginative character. Though brought early under the dominion of the senses, he had been also early rescued from this thraldom by, in the first place, the satiety such excesses never fail to produce, and, at no long interval after, by this series of half-fanciful attachments which, though in their moral consequences to society, perhaps, still more mischievous, had the varnish at least of refinement on the surface, and by the novelty and apparent difficulty that invested them served to keep alive that illusion of imagination from which such pursuits derive their sole redeeming charm.
With such a mixture, or rather predominance, of the ideal in his loves, his hates, and his sorrows, the state of his existence at that period, animated as it was, and kept buoyant, by such a flow of success, must be acknowledged, even with every deduction for the unpicturesque associations of a London life, to have been, in a high degree, poetical, and to have worn round it altogether a sort of halo of romance, which the events that followed were but too much calculated to dissipate. By his marriage, and its results, he was again brought back to some of those bitter realities of which his youth had had a foretaste. Pecuniary embarrassment—that ordeal, of all others, the most trying to delicacy and high-mindedness—now beset him with all the indignities that usually follow in its train; and he was thus rudely schooled into the advantages of possessing money, when he had hitherto thought but of the generous pleasure of dispensing it. No stronger proof, indeed, is wanting of the effect of such difficulties in tempering down even the most chivalrous pride, than the necessity to which he found himself reduced in 1816, not only of departing from his resolution never to profit by the sale of his works, but of accepting a sum of money, for copyright, from his publisher, which he had for some time persisted in refusing for himself, and, in the full sincerity of his generous heart, had destined for others.
The injustice and malice to which he soon after became a victim had an equally fatal effect in disenchanting the dream of his existence. Those imaginary, or, at least, retrospective sorrows, in which he had once loved to indulge, and whose tendency it was, through the medium of his fancy, to soften and refine his heart, were now exchanged for a host of actual, ignoble vexations, which it was even more humiliating than painful to encounter. His misanthropy, instead of being, as heretofore, a vague and abstract feeling, without any object to light upon, and losing therefore its acrimony in diffusion, was now, by the hostility he came in contact with, condensed into individual enmities, and narrowed into personal resentments; and from the lofty, and, as it appeared to himself, philosophical luxury of hating mankind in the gross, he was now brought down to the self-humbling necessity of despising them in detail.
By all these influences, so fatal to enthusiasm of character, and forming, most of them, indeed, a part of the ordinary process by which hearts become chilled and hardened in the world, it was impossible but that some material change must have been effected in a disposition at once so susceptible and tenacious of impressions. By compelling him to concentre himself in his own resources and energies, as the only stand now left against the world's injustice, his enemies but succeeded in giving to the principle of self-dependence within him a new force and spring which, however it added to the vigour of his character, could not fail, by bringing Self so much into action, to impair a little its amiableness. Among the changes in his disposition, attributable mainly to this source, may be mentioned that diminished deference to the opinions and feelings of others which, after this compulsory rally of all his powers of resistance, he exhibited. Some portion, no doubt, of this refractoriness may be accounted for by his absence from all those whose slightest word or look would have done more with him than whole volumes of correspondence; but by no cause less powerful and revulsive than the struggle in which he had been committed could a disposition naturally diffident as his was, and diffident even through all this excitement, have been driven into the assumption of a tone so universally defying, and so full, if not of pride in his own pre-eminent powers, of such a contempt for some of the ablest among his contemporaries, as almost implied it. It was, in fact, as has been more than once remarked in these pages, a similar stirring up of all the best and worst elements of his nature, to that which a like rebound against injustice had produced in his youth;—though with a difference in point of force and grandeur, between the two explosions, almost as great as between the outbreaks of a firework and a volcano.
Another consequence of the spirit of defiance now roused in him, and one that tended, perhaps, even more fatally than any yet mentioned, to sully and, for a time, bring down to earth the romance of his character, was the course of life to which, outrunning even the licence of his youth, he abandoned himself at Venice. From this, as from his earlier excesses, the timely warning of disgust soon rescued him; and the connection with Madame Guiccioli which followed, and which, however much to be reprehended, had in it all of marriage that his real marriage wanted, seemed to place, at length, within reach of his affectionate spirit that union and sympathy for which, through life, it had thirsted. But the treasure came too late;—the pure poetry of the feeling had vanished; and those tears he shed so passionately in the garden at Bologna flowed less, perhaps, from the love which he felt at that moment, than from the saddening consciousness how differently he could have felt formerly. It was, indeed, wholly beyond the power, even of an imagination like his, to go on investing with its own ideal glories a sentiment which,—more from daring and vanity than from any other impulse,—he had taken such pains to tarnish and debase in his own eyes. Accordingly, instead of being able, as once, to elevate and embellish all that interested him, to make an idol of every passing creature of his fancy, and mistake the form of love, which he so often conjured up, for its substance, he now degenerated into the wholly opposite and perverse error of depreciating and making light of what, intrinsically, he valued, and, as the reader has seen, throwing slight and mockery upon a tie in which it was evident some of the best feelings of his nature were wrapped up. That foe to all enthusiasm and romance, the habit of ridicule, had, in proportion as he exchanged the illusions for the realities of life, gained further empire over him; and how far it had, at this time, encroached upon the loftier and fairer regions of his mind may be seen in the pages of Don Juan,—that diversified arena, on which the two Genii, good and evil, that governed his thoughts, hold, with alternate triumph, their ever-powerful combat.
Even this, too, this vein of mockery,—in the excess to which, at last, he carried it,—was but another result of the shock his proud mind had received from those events that had cast him off, branded and heart-stricken, from country and from home. As he himself touchingly says,
"And if I laugh at any mortal thing, 'Tis that I may not weep."
This laughter,—which, in such temperaments, is the near neighbour of tears,—served as a diversion to him from more painful vents of bitterness; and the same philosophical calculation which made the poet of melancholy, Young, declare that "he preferred laughing at the world to being angry with it," led Lord Byron also to settle upon the same conclusion; and to feel, in the misanthropic views he was inclined to take of mankind, that mirth often saved him the pain of hate.
That, with so many drawbacks upon all generous effusions of sentiment, he should still have preserved so much of his native tenderness and ardour as is conspicuous, through all disguises, in his unquestionable love for Madame Guiccioli, and in the still more undoubted zeal with which he now entered, heart and soul, into the great cause of human freedom, wheresoever or by whomsoever asserted,—only shows how rich must have been the original stores of sensibility and enthusiasm which even a career such as his could so little chill or exhaust. Most consoling, too, is it to reflect that the few latter years of his life should have been thus visited with a return of that poetic lustre, which, though it never had ceased to surround the bard, had but too much faded away from the character of the man; and that while Love,—reprehensible as it was, but still Love,—had the credit of rescuing him from the only errors that disgraced his maturer years, for Liberty was reserved the proud but mournful triumph of calling the last stage of his glorious course her own, and lighting him, amidst the sympathies of the world, to his grave.
Having endeavoured, in this comparison between his present and former self, to account, by what I consider to be their true causes, for the new phenomena which his character, at this period, exhibited, I shall now lay before the reader the Journal by which these remarks were more immediately suggested, and from which I fear they will be thought to have too long detained him.
[Footnote 15: "In quest' epoca venne a Ravenna di ritorno da Roma e Napoli il mio diletto fratello Pietro. Egli era stato prevenuto da dei nemeci di Lord Byron contro il di lui carattere; molto lo affligeva la mia intimita con lui, e le mie lettere non avevano riuscito a bene distruggere la cattiva impressione ricevuta dei detrattori di Lord Byron. Ma appena lo vidde e lo conobbe egli pure ricevesse quella impressione che non puo essere prodotta da dei pregi esteriori, ma solamente dall unione di tuttocio che vi e di piu bello e di piu grande nel cuore e nella mente dell uomo. Svani ogni sua anteriore prevenzione contro di Lord Byron, e la conformita della loro idee e dei studii loro contribui a stringerli in quella amicizia che non doveva avere fine che colla loro vita."]
[Footnote 16: A draft of this Address, in his own handwriting, was found among his papers. He is supposed to have intrusted it to a professed agent of the Constitutional Government of Naples, who had waited upon him secretly at Ravenna, and, under the pretence of having been waylaid and robbed, induced his Lordship to supply him with money for his return. This man turned out afterwards to have been a spy, and the above paper, if confided to him, fell most probably into the hands of the Pontifical Government.]
[Footnote 17: "Un Inglese amico della liberta avendo sentito che i Napolitani permettono anche agli stranieri di contribuire alia buona causa, bramerebbe l'onore di vedere accettata la sua offerta di mille luigi, la quale egli azzarda di fare. Gia testimonio oculare non molto fa della tirannia dei Barbari negli stati da loro occupati nell' Italia, egli vede con tutto l'entusiasmo di un uomo ben nato la generosa determinazione dei Napolitani per confermare la loro bene acquistata indipendenza. Membro della Camera dei Pari della nazione Inglese egli sarebbe un traditore ai principii che hanno posto sul trono la famiglia regnante d'Inghilterra se non riconoscesse la bella lezione di bel nuovo data ai popoli ed ai Re. L'offerta che egli brama di presentare e poca in se stessa, come bisogna che sia sempre quella di un individuo ad una nazione, ma egli spera che non sara l'ultima dalla parte dei suoi compatriotti. La sua lontananza dalle frontiere, e il sentimento della sua poca capacita personale di contribuire efficacimente a servire la nazione gl' impedisce di proporsi come degno della piu piccola commissione che domanda dell' esperienza e del talento. Ma, se come semplice volontario la sua presenza non fosse un incomodo a quello che l'accetasse egli riparebbe a qualunque luogo indicato dal Governo Napolitano, per ubbidire agli ordini e participare ai pericoli del suo superiore, senza avere altri motivi che quello di dividere il destino di una brava nazione resistendo alla se dicente Santa Allianza la quale aggiunge l'ippocrisia al despotismo."]
[Footnote 18: Among his "Detached Thoughts" I find this general passion for liberty thus strikingly expressed. After saying, in reference to his own choice of Venice as a place of residence, "I remembered General Ludlow's domal inscription, 'Omne solum forti patria,' and sat down free in a country which had been one of slavery for centuries," he adds, "But there is no freedom, even for masters, in the midst of slaves. It makes my blood boil to see the thing. I sometimes wish that I was the owner of Africa, to do at once what Wilberforce will do in time, viz. sweep slavery from her deserts, and look on upon the first dance of their freedom.
"As to political slavery, so general, it is men's own fault: if they will be slaves, let them! Yet it is but 'a word and a blow.' See how England formerly, France, Spain, Portugal, America, Switzerland, freed themselves! There is no one instance of a long contest in which men did not triumph over systems. If Tyranny misses her first spring, she is cowardly as the tiger, and retires to be hunted."]
* * * * *
EXTRACTS FROM A DIARY OF LORD BYRON. 1821.
"Ravenna, January 4. 1821.
"'A sudden thought strikes me.' Let me begin a Journal once more. The last I kept was in Switzerland, in record of a tour made in the Bernese Alps, which I made to send to my sister in 1816, and I suppose that she has it still, for she wrote to me that she was pleased with it. Another, and longer, I kept in 1813-1814, which I gave to Thomas Moore in the same year.
"This morning I gat me up late, as usual—weather bad—bad as England—worse. The snow of last week melting to the sirocco of to-day, so that there were two d——d things at once. Could not even get to ride on horseback in the forest. Stayed at home all the morning—looked at the fire—wondered when the post would come. Post came at the Ave Maria, instead of half-past one o'clock, as it ought, Galignani's Messengers, six in number—a letter from Faenza, but none from England. Very sulky in consequence (for there ought to have been letters), and ate in consequence a copious dinner; for when I am vexed, it makes me swallow quicker—but drank very little.
"I was out of spirits—read the papers—thought what fame was, on reading, in a case of murder, that 'Mr. Wych, grocer, at Tunbridge, sold some bacon, flour, cheese, and, it is believed, some plums, to some gipsy woman accused. He had on his counter (I quote faithfully) a book, the Life of Pamela, which he was tearing for waste paper, &c. &c. In the cheese was found, &c. and a leaf of Pamela wrapt round the bacon.' What would Richardson, the vainest and luckiest of living authors (i.e. while alive)—he who, with Aaron Hill, used to prophesy and chuckle over the presumed fall of Fielding (the prose Homer of human nature) and of Pope (the most beautiful of poets)—what would he have said, could he have traced his pages from their place on the French prince's toilets (see Boswell's Johnson) to the grocer's counter and the gipsy-murderess's bacon!!!
"What would he have said? what can any body say, save what Solomon said long before us? After all, it is but passing from one counter to another, from the bookseller's to the other tradesman's—grocer or pastry-cook. For my part, I have met with most poetry upon trunks; so that I am apt to consider the trunk-maker as the sexton of authorship.
"Wrote five letters in about half an hour, short and savage, to all my rascally correspondents. Carriage came. Heard the news of three murders at Faenza and Forli—a carabinier, a smuggler, and an attorney—all last night. The two first in a quarrel, the latter by premeditation.
"Three weeks ago—almost a month—the 7th it was—I picked up the commandant, mortally wounded, out of the street; he died in my house; assassins unknown, but presumed political. His brethren wrote from Rome last night to thank me for having assisted him in his last moments. Poor fellow! it was a pity; he was a good soldier, but imprudent. It was eight in the evening when they killed him. We heard the shot; my servants and I ran out, and found him expiring, with five wounds, two whereof mortal—by slugs they seemed. I examined him, but did not go to the dissection next morning.
"Carriage at 8 or so—went to visit La Contessa G.—found her playing on the piano-forte—talked till ten, when the Count, her father, and the no less Count, her brother, came in from the theatre. Play, they said, Alfieri's Filippo—well received.
"Two days ago the King of Naples passed through Bologna on his way to congress. My servant Luigi brought the news. I had sent him to Bologna for a lamp. How will it end? Time will show.
"Came home at eleven, or rather before. If the road and weather are comfortable, mean to ride to-morrow. High time—almost a week at this work—snow, sirocco, one day—frost and snow the other—sad climate for Italy. But the two seasons, last and present, are extraordinary. Read a Life of Leonardo da Vinci by Rossi—ruminated—wrote this much, and will go to bed.
"January 5. 1821.
"Rose late—dull and drooping—the weather dripping and dense. Snow on the ground, and sirocco above in the sky, like yesterday. Roads up to the horse's belly, so that riding (at least for pleasure) is not very feasible. Added a postscript to my letter to Murray. Read the conclusion, for the fiftieth time (I have read all W. Scott's novels at least fifty times), of the third series of 'Tales of my Landlord,'—grand work—Scotch Fielding, as well as great English poet—wonderful man! I long to get drunk with him.
"Dined versus six o' the clock. Forgot that there was a plum-pudding, (I have added, lately, eating to my 'family of vices,') and had dined before I knew it. Drank half a bottle of some sort of spirits—probably spirits of wine; for what they call brandy, rum, &c. &c. here is nothing but spirits of wine, coloured accordingly. Did not eat two apples, which were placed by way of dessert. Fed the two cats, the hawk, and the tame (but not tamed) crow. Read Mitford's History of Greece—Xenophon's Retreat of the Ten Thousand. Up to this present moment writing, 6 minutes before eight o' the clock—French hours, not Italian.
"Hear the carriage—order pistols and great coat, as usual—necessary articles. Weather cold—carriage open, and inhabitants somewhat savage—rather treacherous and highly inflamed by politics. Fine fellows, though, good materials for a nation. Out of chaos God made a world, and out of high passions comes a people.
"Clock strikes—going out to make love. Somewhat perilous, but not disagreeable. Memorandum—a new screen put up to-day. It is rather antique, but will do with a little repair.
"Thaw continues—hopeful that riding may be practicable to-morrow. Sent the papers to Alli.—grand events coming.
"11 o' the clock and nine minutes. Visited La Contessa G. Nata G.G. Found her beginning my letter of answer to the thanks of Alessio del Pinto of Rome for assisting his brother the late Commandant in his last moments, as I had begged her to pen my reply for the purer Italian, I being an ultra-montane, little skilled in the set phrase of Tuscany. Cut short the letter—finish it another day. Talked of Italy, patriotism, Alfieri, Madame Albany, and other branches of learning. Also Sallust's Conspiracy of Catiline, and the War of Jugurtha. At 9 came in her brother, Il Conte Pietro—at 10, her father, Conte Ruggiero.