LETTERS AND JOURNALS OF LORD BYRON, WITH NOTICES OF HIS LIFE, from
October, 1820, to November, 1822.Pg 1
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.
"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-donné;'—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.
LETTER 395. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, 8bre 25°, 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 confinePg 3ment: 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 yetPg 4 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 withPg 5out 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;Pg 6 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 violencePg 7 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,' 'parPg 8tiality,' 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 Staël 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, ifPg 9 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,
"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 personallyPg 10 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 busiPg 11ness, 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."
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,Pg 13 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 contempoPg 14raries 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 mightiestPg 15 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 thePg 16 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 moPg 17ment, 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 whatPg 18 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 thePg 19 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, becamePg 20 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 hadPg 21 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:
"A little before the manner of Pope is termed
"I thought 'foppery' was a consequence of refinement; but n'importe.
"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 peculiarPg 24 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
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,Pg 26 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."
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 toPg 27 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—
"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.
"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.
"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.
Pg 29"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°, 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 beenPg 30 silent, though I had observed him. Here follows an alteration: put—
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 withPg 31 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, wasPg 32 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."
LETTER 399. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, 9bre 18°, 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 diedPg 33 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 thePg 34 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."
LETTER 400. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, 9bre 23°, 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 aPg 35 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 themPg 36selves 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.
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 deadPg 38 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.
Pg 39"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 aPg 40 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 quâ 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-Pg 41place 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 betweenPg 42 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, ordinaryPg 43 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 theirPg 44 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 himselfPg 45 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 merePg 46 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 theirPg 48 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 inPg 49 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 newPg 50 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 hisPg 51 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 ofPg 52 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,
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 morePg 53 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 ofPg 54 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.
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 letterPg 55 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, shortPg 56 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 thePg 57 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—Pg 58carriage 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.
"Talked of various modes of warfare—of the Hungarian and Highland modes of broad-sword exercise, in both whereof I was once a moderate 'master of fence.' Settled that the R. will break out on the 7th or 8th of March, in which appointment I should trust, had it not been settled that it was toPg 59 have broken out in October, 1820. But those Bolognese shirked the Romagnuoles.
"'It is all one to Ranger.' One must not be particular, but take rebellion when it lies in the way. Come home—read the 'Ten Thousand' again, and will go to bed.
"Mem.—Ordered Fletcher (at four o'clock this afternoon) to copy out seven or eight apophthegms of Bacon, in which I have detected such blunders as a school-boy might detect rather than commit. Such are the sages! What must they be, when such as I can stumble on their mistakes or misstatements? I will go to bed, for I find that I grow cynical.
"January 6. 1821.
"Mist—thaw—slop—rain. No stirring out on horseback. Read Spence's Anecdotes. Pope a fine fellow—always thought him so. Corrected blunders in nine apophthegms of Bacon—all historical—and read Mitford's Greece. Wrote an epigram. Turned to a passage in Guinguené—ditto in Lord Holland's Lope de Vega. Wrote a note on Don Juan.
"At eight went out to visit. Heard a little music—like music. Talked with Count Pietro G. of the Italian comedian Vestris, who is now at Rome—have seen him often act in Venice—a good actor—very. Somewhat of a mannerist; but excellent in broad comedy, as well as in the sentimental pathetic. He has made me frequently laugh and cry, neither of which is now a very easy matter—at least, for a player to produce in me.
"Thought of the state of women under the ancientPg 60 Greeks—convenient enough. Present state a remnant of the barbarism of the chivalry and feudal ages—artificial and unnatural. They ought to mind home—and be well fed and clothed—but not mixed in society. Well educated, too, in religion—but to read neither poetry nor politics—nothing but books of piety and cookery. Music—drawing—dancing—also a little gardening and ploughing now and then. I have seen them mending the roads in Epirus with good success. Why not, as well as hay-making and milking?
"Came home, and read Mitford again, and played with my mastiff—gave him his supper. Made another reading to the epigram, but the turn the same. To-night at the theatre, there being a prince on his throne in the last scene of the comedy,—the audience laughed, and asked him for a Constitution. This shows the state of the public mind here, as well as the assassinations. It won't do. There must be an universal republic,—and there ought to be.
"The crow is lame of a leg—wonder how it happened—some fool trod upon his toe, I suppose. The falcon pretty brisk—the cats large and noisy—the monkeys I have not looked to since the cold weather, as they suffer by being brought up. Horses must be gay—get a ride as soon as weather serves. Deuced muggy still—an Italian winter is a sad thing, but all the other seasons are charming.
"What is the reason that I have been, all my lifetime, more or less ennuyé? and that, if any thing, I am rather less so now than I was at twenty, as far as my recollection serves? I do not know how toPg 61 answer this, but presume that it is constitutional,—as well as the waking in low spirits, which I have invariably done for many years. Temperance and exercise, which I have practised at times, and for a long time together vigorously and violently, made little or no difference. Violent passions did;—when under their immediate influence—it is odd, but—I was in agitated, but not in depressed, spirits.
"A dose of salts has the effect of a temporary inebriation, like light champagne, upon me. But wine and spirits make me sullen and savage to ferocity—silent, however, and retiring, and not quarrelsome, if not spoken to. Swimming also raises my spirits,—but in general they are low, and get daily lower. That is hopeless; for I do not think I am so much ennuyé as I was at nineteen. The proof is, that then I must game, or drink, or be in motion of some kind, or I was miserable. At present, I can mope in quietness; and like being alone better than any company—except the lady's whom I serve. But I feel a something, which makes me think that, if I ever reach near to old age, like Swift, 'I shall die at top' first. Only I do not dread idiotism or madness so much as he did. On the contrary, I think some quieter stages of both must be preferable to much of what men think the possession of their senses.
"January 7. 1821, Sunday.
"Still rain—mist—snow—drizzle—and all the incalculable combinations of a climate where heat and cold struggle for mastery. Head Spence, and turned over Roscoe, to find a passage I have notPg 62 found. Read the fourth vol. of W. Scott's second series of 'Tales of my Landlord.' Dined. Read the Lugano Gazette. Read—I forget what. At eight went to conversazione. Found there the Countess Geltrude, Betti V. and her husband, and others. Pretty black-eyed woman that—only nineteen—same age as Teresa, who is prettier, though.
"The Count Pietro G. took me aside to say that the Patriots have had notice from Forli (twenty miles off) that to-night the government and its party mean to strike a stroke—that the Cardinal here has had orders to make several arrests immediately, and that, in consequence, the Liberals are arming, and have posted patroles in the streets, to sound the alarm and give notice to fight for it.
"He asked me 'what should be done?' I answered, 'Fight for it, rather than be taken in detail;' and offered, if any of them are in immediate apprehension of arrest, to receive them in my house (which is defensible), and to defend them, with my servants and themselves (we have arms and ammunition), as long as we can,—or to try to get them away under cloud of night. On going home, I offered him the pistols which I had about me—but he refused, but said he would come off to me in case of accidents.
"It wants half an hour of midnight, and rains;—as Gibbet says, 'a fine night for their enterprise—dark as hell, and blows like the devil.' If the row don't happen now, it must soon. I thought that their system of shooting people would soon produce a re-action—and now it seems coming. I will doPg 63 what I can in the way of combat, though a little out of exercise. The cause is a good one.
"Turned over and over half a score of books for the passage in question, and can't find it. Expect to hear the drum and the musquetry momently (for they swear to resist, and are right,)—but I hear nothing, as yet, save the plash of the rain and the gusts of the wind at intervals. Don't like to go to bed, because I hate to be waked, and would rather sit up for the row, if there is to be one.
"Mended the fire—have got the arms—and a book or two, which I shall turn over. I know little of their numbers, but think the Carbonari strong enough to beat the troops, even here. With twenty men this house might be defended for twenty-four hours against any force to be brought against it, now in this place, for the same time; and, in such a time, the country would have notice, and would rise,—if ever they will rise, of which there is some doubt. In the mean time, I may as well read as do any thing else, being alone.
"January 8. 1821, Monday.
"Rose, and found Count P.G. in my apartments. Sent away the servant. Told me that, according to the best information, the Government had not issued orders for the arrests apprehended; that the attack in Forli had not taken place (as expected) by the Sanfedisti—the opponents of the Carbonari or Liberals—and that, as yet, they are still in apprehension only. Asked me for some arms of a better sort, which I gave him. Settled that, in case of a row,Pg 64 the Liberals were to assemble here (with me), and that he had given the word to Vincenzo G. and others of the Chiefs for that purpose. He himself and father are going to the chase in the forest; but V.G. is to come to me, and an express to be sent off to him, P.G., if any thing occurs. Concerted operations. They are to seize—but no matter.
"I advised them to attack in detail, and in different parties, in different places (though at the same time), so as to divide the attention of the troops, who, though few, yet being disciplined, would beat any body of people (not trained) in a regular fight—unless dispersed in small parties, and distracted with different assaults. Offered to let them assemble here, if they choose. It is a strongish post—narrow street, commanded from within—and tenable walls.
"Dined. Tried on a new coat. Letter to Murray, with corrections of Bacon's Apophthegms and an epigram—the latter not for publication. At eight went to Teresa, Countess G. At nine and a half came in Il Conte P. and Count P.G. Talked of a certain proclamation lately issued. Count R.G. had been with * * (the * *), to sound him about the arrests. He, * *, is a trimmer, and deals, at present, his cards with both hands. If he don't mind, they'll be full. * * pretends (I doubt him—they don't,—we shall see) that there is no such order, and seems staggered by the immense exertions of the Neapolitans, and the fierce spirit of the Liberals here. The truth is, that * * cares for little but his place (which is a good one), and wishes to playPg 65 pretty with both parties. He has changed his mind thirty times these last three moons, to my knowledge, for he corresponds with me. But he is not a bloody fellow—only an avaricious one.
"It seems that, just at this moment (as Lydia Languish says), there will be no elopement after all. I wish that I had known as much last night—or, rather, this morning—I should have gone to bed two hours earlier. And yet I ought not to complain; for, though it is a sirocco, and heavy rain, I have not yawned for these two days.
"Came home—read History of Greece—before dinner had read Walter Scott's Rob Roy. Wrote address to the letter in answer to Alessio del Pinto, who has thanked me for helping his brother (the late Commandant, murdered here last month) in his last moments. Have told him I only did a duty of humanity—as is true. The brother lives at Rome.
"Mended the fire with some 'sgobole' (a Romagnuole word), and gave the falcon some water. Drank some Seltzer-water. Mem.—received to-day a print, or etching, of the story of Ugolino, by an Italian painter—different, of course, from Sir Joshua Reynolds's, and I think (as far as recollection goes) no worse, for Reynolds's is not good in history. Tore a button in my new coat.
"I wonder what figure these Italians will make in a regular row. I sometimes think that, like the Irishman's gun (somebody had sold him a crooked one), they will only do for 'shooting round a corner;' at least, this sort of shooting has been the late tenor of their exploits. And yet, there are materialsPg 66 in this people, and a noble energy, if well directed. But who is to direct them? No matter. Out of such times heroes spring. Difficulties are the hotbeds of high spirits, and Freedom the mother of the few virtues incident to human nature.
"Tuesday, January 9. 1821.
"Rose—the day fine. Ordered the horses; but Lega (my secretary, an Italianism for steward or chief servant) coming to tell me that the painter had finished the work in fresco, for the room he has been employed on lately, I went to see it before I set out. The painter has not copied badly the prints from Titian, &c. considering all things.
"Dined. Read Johnson's 'Vanity of Human Wishes,'—all the examples and mode of giving them sublime, as well as the latter part, with the exception of an occasional couplet. I do not so much admire the opening. I remember an observation of Sharpe's, (the Conversationist, as he was called in London, and a very clever man,) that the first line of this poem was superfluous, and that Pope (the best of poets, I think) would have begun at once, only changing the punctuation—
The former line, 'Let observation,' &c. is certainly heavy and useless. But 'tis a grand poem—and so true!—true as the 10th of Juvenal himself. The lapse of ages changes all things—time—language—the earth—the bounds of the sea—the stars of the sky, and every thing 'about, around, and underPg 67neath' man, except man himself, who has always been, and always will be, an unlucky rascal. The infinite variety of lives conduct but to death, and the infinity of wishes lead but to disappointment. All the discoveries which have yet been made have multiplied little but existence. An extirpated disease is succeeded by some new pestilence; and a discovered world has brought little to the old one, except the p—— first and freedom afterwards—the latter a fine thing, particularly as they gave it to Europe in exchange for slavery. But it is doubtful whether 'the Sovereigns' would not think the first the best present of the two to their subjects.
"At eight went out—heard some news. They say the King of Naples has declared, by couriers from Florence, to the Powers (as they call now those wretches with crowns) that his Constitution was compulsive, &c. &c. and that the Austrian barbarians are placed again on war pay, and will march. Let them—'they come like sacrifices in their trim,' the hounds of hell! Let it still be a hope to see their bones piled like those of the human dogs at Morat, in Switzerland, which I have seen.
"Heard some music. At nine the usual visiters—news, war, or rumours of war. Consulted with P.G. &c. &c. They mean to insurrect here, and are to honour me with a call thereupon. I shall not fall back; though I don't think them in force or heart sufficient to make much of it. But, onward!—it is now the time to act, and what signifies self, if a single spark of that which would be worthy of the past can be bequeathed unquenchedly to the future?Pg 68 It is not one man, nor a million, but the spirit of liberty which must be spread. The waves which dash upon the shore are, one by one, broken, but yet the ocean conquers, nevertheless. It overwhelms the Armada, it wears the rock, and, if the Neptunians are to be believed, it has not only destroyed, but made a world. In like manner, whatever the sacrifice of individuals, the great cause will gather strength, sweep down what is rugged, and fertilise (for sea-weed is manure) what is cultivable. And so, the mere selfish calculation ought never to be made on such occasions; and, at present, it shall not be computed by me. I was never a good arithmetician of chances, and shall not commence now.
"January 10. 1821.
"Day fine—rained only in the morning. Looked over accounts. Read Campbell's Poets—marked errors of Tom (the author) for correction. Dined—went out—music—Tyrolese air, with variations. Sustained the cause of the original simple air against the variations of the Italian school.
"Politics somewhat tempestuous, and cloudier daily. To-morrow being foreign post-day, probably something more will be known.
"Came home—read. Corrected Tom Campbell's slips of the pen. A good work, though—style affected—but his defence of Pope is glorious. To be sure, it is his own cause too,—but no matter, it is very good, and does him great credit.
"I have been turning over different Lives of the Poets. I rarely read their works, unless an occasional flight over the classical ones, Pope, Dryden, Johnson, Gray, and those who approach them nearest (I leave the rant of the rest to the cant of the day), and—I had made several reflections, but I feel sleepy, and may as well go to bed.
"January 11. 1821.
"Read the letters. Corrected the tragedy and the 'Hints from Horace.' Dined, and got into better spirits. Went out—returned—finished letters, five in number. Read Poets, and an anecdote in Spence.
"Alli. writes to me that the Pope, and Duke of Tuscany, and King of Sardinia, have also been called to Congress; but the Pope will only deal there by proxy. So the interests of millions are in the hands of about twenty coxcombs, at a place called Leibach!
"I should almost regret that my own affairs went well, when those of nations are in peril. If the interests of mankind could be essentially bettered (particularly of these oppressed Italians), I should not so much mind my own 'suma peculiar.' God grant us all better times, or more philosophy!
"In reading, I have just chanced upon an expression of Tom Campbell's;—speaking of Collins, he says that no reader cares any more about the characteristic manners of his Eclogues than about the authenticity of the tale of Troy.' 'Tis false—wePg 70 do care about the authenticity of the tale of Troy. I have stood upon that plain daily, for more than a month in 1810; and if any thing diminished my pleasure, it was that the blackguard Bryant had impugned its veracity. It is true I read 'Homer Travestied' (the first twelve books), because Hobhouse and others bored me with their learned localities, and I love quizzing. But I still venerated the grand original as the truth of history (in the material facts) and of place. Otherwise, it would have given me no delight. Who will persuade me, when I reclined upon a mighty tomb, that it did not contain a hero?—its very magnitude proved this. Men do not labour over the ignoble and petty dead—and why should not the dead be Homer's dead? The secret of Tom Campbell's defence of inaccuracy in costume and description is, that his Gertrude, &c. has no more locality in common with Pennsylvania than with Penmanmaur. It is notoriously full of grossly false scenery, as all Americans declare, though they praise parts of the poem. It is thus that self-love for ever creeps out, like a snake, to sting any thing which happens, even accidentally, to stumble upon it.
"January 12. 1821.
"The weather still so humid and impracticable, that London, in its most oppressive fogs, were a summer-bower to this mist and sirocco, which has now lasted (but with one day's interval), chequered with snow or heavy rain only, since the 30th of December, 1820. It is so far lucky that I have aPg 71 literary turn;—but it is very tiresome not to be able to stir out, in comfort, on any horse but Pegasus, for so many days. The roads are even worse than the weather, by the long splashing, and the heavy soil, and the growth of the waters.
"Read the Poets—English, that is to say—out of Campbell's edition. There is a good deal of taffeta in some of Tom's prefatory phrases, but his work is good as a whole. I like him best, though, in his own poetry.
"Murray writes that they want to act the Tragedy of Marino Faliero—more fools they, it was written for the closet. I have protested against this piece of usurpation, (which, it seems, is legal for managers over any printed work, against the author's will,) and I hope they will not attempt it. Why don't they bring out some of the numberless aspirants for theatrical celebrity, now encumbering their shelves, instead of lugging me out of the library? I have written a fierce protest against any such attempt, but I still would hope that it will not be necessary, and that they will see, at once, that it is not intended for the stage. It is too regular—the time, twenty-four hours—the change of place not frequent—nothing melodramatic—no surprises, no starts, nor trap-doors, nor opportunities 'for tossing their heads and kicking their heels'—and no love—the grand ingredient of a modern play.
"I have found out the seal cut on Murray's letter. It is meant for Walter Scott—or Sir Walter—he is the first poet knighted since Sir Richard Blackmore. But it does not do him justice. Scott's—Pg 72particularly when he recites—is a very intelligent countenance, and this seal says nothing.
"Scott is certainly the most wonderful writer of the day. His novels are a new literature in themselves, and his poetry as good as any—if not better (only on an erroneous system)—and only ceased to be so popular, because the vulgar learned were tired of hearing 'Aristides called the Just,' and Scott the Best, and ostracised him.
"I like him, too, for his manliness of character, for the extreme pleasantness of his conversation, and his good-nature towards myself, personally. May he prosper!—for he deserves it. I know no reading to which I fall with such alacrity as a work of W. Scott's. I shall give the seal, with his bust on it, to Madame la Contesse G. this evening, who will be curious to have the effigies of a man so celebrated.
"How strange are our thoughts, &c. &c. &c.
"Read the Italian translation by Guido Sorelli of the German Grillparzer—a devil of a name, to be sure, for posterity; but they must learn to pronounce it. With all the allowance for a translation, and above all, an Italian translation (they are the very worst of translators, except from the Classics—Annibale Caro, for instance—and there, the bastardy of their language helps them, as, by way of looking legitimate, they ape their father's tongue);—but withPg 73 every allowance for such a disadvantage, the tragedy of Sappho is superb and sublime! There is no denying it. The man has done a great thing in writing that play. And who is he? I know him not; but ages will. 'Tis a high intellect.
"I must premise, however, that I have read nothing of Adolph Müllner's (the author of 'Guilt'), and much less of Goethe, and Schiller, and Wieland, than I could wish. I only know them through the medium of English, French, and Italian translations. Of the real language I know absolutely nothing,—except oaths learnt from postilions and officers in a squabble. I can swear in German potently, when I like—'Sacrament—Verfluchter—Hundsfott'—and so forth; but I have little of their less energetic conversation.
"I like, however, their women, (I was once so desperately in love with a German woman, Constance,) and all that I have read, translated, of their writings, and all that I have seen on the Rhine of their country and people—all, except the Austrians, whom I abhor, loathe, and—I cannot find words for my hate of them, and should be sorry to find deeds correspondent to my hate; for I abhor cruelty more than I abhor the Austrians—except on an impulse, and then I am savage—but not deliberately so.
"Grillparzer is grand—antique—not so simple as the ancients, but very simple for a modern—too Madame de Staëlish, now and then—but altogether a great and goodly writer.
"January 13. 1821, Saturday.
"Sketched the outline and Drams. Pers. of an intended tragedy of Sardanapalus, which I have for some time meditated. Took the names from Diodorus Siculus, (I know the history of Sardanapalus, and have known it since I was twelve years old,) and read over a passage in the ninth vol. octavo, of Mitford's Greece, where he rather vindicates the memory of this last of the Assyrians.
"Dined—news come—the Powers mean to war with the peoples. The intelligence seems positive—let it be so—they will be beaten in the end. The king-times are fast finishing. There will be blood shed like water, and tears like mist; but the peoples will conquer in the end. I shall not live to see it, but I foresee it.
"I carried Teresa the Italian translation of Grillparzer's Sappho, which she promises to read. She quarrelled with me, because I said that love was not the loftiest theme for true tragedy; and, having the advantage of her native language, and natural female eloquence, she overcame my fewer arguments. I believe she was right. I must put more love into 'Sardanapalus' than I intended. I speak, of course, if the times will allow me leisure. That if will hardly be a peace-maker.
"January 14. 1821.
"Turned over Seneca's tragedies. Wrote the opening lines of the intended tragedy of Sardanapalus. Rode out some miles into the forest. MistyPg 75 and rainy. Returned—dined—wrote some more of my tragedy.
"Read Diodorus Siculus—turned over Seneca, and some other books. Wrote some more of the tragedy. Took a glass of grog. After having ridden hard in rainy weather, and scribbled, and scribbled again, the spirits (at least mine) need a little exhilaration, and I don't like laudanum now as I used to do. So I have mixed a glass of strong waters and single waters, which I shall now proceed to empty. Therefore and thereunto I conclude this day's diary.
"The effect of all wines and spirits upon me is, however, strange. It settles, but it makes me gloomy—gloomy at the very moment of their effect, and not gay hardly ever. But it composes for a time, though sullenly.
"January 15. 1821.
"Weather fine. Received visit. Rode out into the forest—fired pistols. Returned home—dined—dipped into a volume of Mitford's Greece—wrote part of a scene of 'Sardanapalus.' Went out—heard some music—heard some politics. More ministers from the other Italian powers gone to Congress. War seems certain—in that case, it will be a savage one. Talked over various important matters with one of the initiated. At ten and half returned home.
"I have just thought of something odd. In the year 1814, Moore ('the poet,' par excellence, and he deserves it) and I were going together, in the same carriage, to dine with Earl Grey, the Capo PoliticoPg 76 of the remaining Whigs. Murray, the magnificent (the illustrious publisher of that name), had just sent me a Java gazette—I know not why, or wherefore. Pulling it out, by way of curiosity, we found it to contain a dispute (the said Java gazette) on Moore's merits and mine. I think, if I had been there, that I could have saved them the trouble of disputing on the subject. But, there is fame for you at six and twenty! Alexander had conquered India at the same age; but I doubt if he was disputed about, or his conquests compared with those of Indian Bacchus, at Java.
"It was a great fame to be named with Moore; greater to be compared with him; greatest—pleasure, at least—to be with him; and, surely, an odd coincidence, that we should be dining together while they were quarrelling about us beyond the equinoctial line.
"Well, the same evening, I met Lawrence the painter, and heard one of Lord Grey's daughters (a fine, tall, spirit-looking girl, with much of the patrician, thorough-bred look of her father, which I dote upon) play on the harp, so modestly and ingenuously, that she looked music. Well, I would rather have had my talk with Lawrence (who talked delightfully) and heard the girl, than have had all the fame of Moore and me put together.
"The only pleasure of fame is that it paves the way to pleasure; and the more intellectual our pleasure, the better for the pleasure and for us too. It was, however, agreeable to have heard our fame before dinner, and a girl's harp after.
"January 16. 1821.
"Read—rode—fired pistols—returned—dined—wrote—visited—heard music—talked nonsense—and went home.
"Wrote part of a Tragedy—advanced in Act 1st with 'all deliberate speed.' Bought a blanket. The weather is still muggy as a London May—mist, mizzle, the air replete with Scotticisms, which, though fine in the descriptions of Ossian, are somewhat tiresome in real, prosaic perspective. Politics still mysterious.
"January 17. 1821.
"Rode i' the forest—fired pistols—dined. Arrived a packet of books from England and Lombardy—English, Italian, French, and Latin. Read till eight—went out.
"January 18. 1821.
"To-day, the post arriving late, did not ride. Read letters—only two gazettes instead of twelve now due. Made Lega write to that negligent Galignani, and added a postscript. Dined.
"At eight proposed to go out. Lega came in with a letter about a bill unpaid at Venice, which I thought paid months ago. I flew into a paroxysm of rage, which almost made me faint. I have not been well ever since. I deserve it for being such a fool—but it was provoking—a set of scoundrels! It is, however, but five and twenty pounds.
"January 19. 1821.
"Rode. Winter's wind somewhat more unkind than ingratitude itself, though Shakspeare says otherwise. At least, I am so much more accustomed toPg 78 meet with ingratitude than the north wind, that I thought the latter the sharper of the two. I had met with both in the course of the twenty-four hours, so could judge.
"Thought of a plan of education for my daughter Allegra, who ought to begin soon with her studies. Wrote a letter—afterwards a postscript. Rather in low spirits—certainly hippish—liver touched—will take a dose of salts.
"I have been reading the Life, by himself and daughter, of Mr. R.L. Edgeworth, the father of the Miss Edgeworth. It is altogether a great name. In 1813, I recollect to have met them in the fashionable world of London (of which I then formed an item, a fraction, the segment of a circle, the unit of a million, the nothing of something) in the assemblies of the hour, and at a breakfast of Sir Humphry and Lady Davy's, to which I was invited for the nonce. I had been the lion of 1812; Miss Edgeworth and Madame de Staël, with 'the Cossack,' towards the end of 1813, were the exhibitions of the succeeding year.
"I thought Edgeworth a fine old fellow, of a clarety, elderly, red complexion, but active, brisk, and endless. He was seventy, but did not look fifty—no, nor forty-eight even. I had seen poor Fitzpatrick not very long before—a man of pleasure, wit, eloquence, all things. He tottered—but still talked like a gentleman, though feebly. Edgeworth bounced about, and talked loud and long; but he seemed neither weakly nor decrepit, and hardly old.
Pg 79"He began by telling 'that he had given Dr. Parr a dressing, who had taken him for an Irish bog-trotter,' &c. &c. Now I, who know Dr. Parr, and who know (not by experience—for I never should have presumed so far as to contend with him—but by hearing him with others, and of others) that it is not so easy a matter to 'dress him,' thought Mr. Edgeworth an assertor of what was not true. He could not have stood before Parr an instant. For the rest, he seemed intelligent, vehement, vivacious, and full of life. He bids fair for a hundred years.
"He was not much admired in London, and I remember a 'ryghte merrie' and conceited jest which was rife among the gallants of the day,—viz. a paper had been presented for the recall of Mrs. Siddons to the stage, (she having lately taken leave, to the loss of ages,—for nothing ever was, or can be, like her,) to which all men had been called to subscribe. Whereupon, Thomas Moore, of profane and poetical memory, did propose that a similar paper should be subscribed and circumscribed 'for the recall of Mr. Edgeworth to Ireland.'
"The fact was—every body cared more about her. She was a nice little unassuming 'Jeanie Deans'-looking body,' as we Scotch say—and, if not handsome, certainly not ill-looking. Her conversation was as quiet as herself. One would neverPg 80 have guessed she could write her name; whereas her father talked, not as if he could write nothing else, but as if nothing else was worth writing.
"As for Mrs. Edgeworth, I forget—except that I think she was the youngest of the party. Altogether, they were an excellent cage of the kind; and succeeded for two months, till the landing of Madame de Staël.
"To turn from them to their works, I admire them; but they excite no feeling, and they leave no love—except for some Irish steward or postilion. However, the impression of intellect and prudence is profound—and may be useful.
"January 20. 1821.
"Rode—fired pistols. Read from Grimm's Correspondence. Dined—went out—heard music—returned—wrote a letter to the Lord Chamberlain to request him to prevent the theatres from representing the Doge, which the Italian papers say that they are going to act. This is pretty work—what! without asking my consent, and even in opposition to it!
January 21. 1821.
"Fine, clear frosty day—that is to say, an Italian frost, for their winters hardly get beyond snow; for which reason nobody knows how to skate (or skait)—a Dutch and English accomplishment. Rode out, as usual, and fired pistols. Good shooting—broke four common, and rather small, bottles, in four shots, at fourteen paces, with a common pair of pistols and indifferent powder. Almost as good wafering or shooting—considering the difference of powder andPg 81 pistols—as when, in 1809, 1810, 1811, 1812, 1813, 1814, it was my luck to split walking-sticks, wafers, half-crowns, shillings, and even the eye of a walking-stick, at twelve paces, with a single bullet—and all by eye and calculation; for my hand is not steady, and apt to change with the very weather. To the prowess which I here note, Joe Manton and others can bear testimony! for the former taught, and the latter has seen me do, these feats.
"Dined—visited—came home—read. Remarked on an anecdote in Grimm's Correspondence, which says that 'Regnard et la plûpart des poëtes comiques étaient gens bilieux et mélancoliques; et que M. de Voltaire, qui est très gai, n'a jamais fait que des tragedies—et que la comedie gaie est le seul genre où il n'ait point réussi. C'est que celui qui rit et celui qui fait rire sont deux hommes fort différens.'—Vol. VI.
"At this moment I feel as bilious as the best comic writer of them all, (even as Regnard himself, the next to Molière, who has written some of the best comedies in any language, and who is supposed to have committed suicide,) and am not in spirits to continue my proposed tragedy of Sardanapalus, which I have, for some days, ceased to compose.
"To-morrow is my birth-day—that is to say, at twelve o' the clock, midnight, i.e. in twelve minutes, I shall have completed thirty and three years of age!!!—and I go to my bed with a heaviness of heart at having lived so long, and to so little purpose.
"It is three minutes past twelve.—'Tis thePg 82 middle of night by the castle clock,' and I am now thirty-three!
but I don't regret them so much for what I have done, as for what I might have done.
"January 22. 1821.
"January 23. 1821.
"Fine day. Read—rode—fired pistols, and returned. Dined—read. Went out at eight—made the usual visit. Heard of nothing but war,—'the cry is still, They come.' The Cari. seem to have no plan—nothing fixed among themselves, how, when, or what to do. In that case, they will make nothing of this project, so often postponed, and never put in action.
"Came home, and gave some necessary orders, in case of circumstances requiring a change of place. I shall act according to what may seem proper, when I hear decidedly what the Barbarians mean to do. At present, they are building a bridge of boats over the Po, which looks very warlike. A few days will probably show. I think of retiring towards Ancona, nearer the northern frontier; that is to say, if Teresa and her father are obliged to retire, which is most likely, as all the family are Liberals. If not, I shall stay. But my movements will depend upon the lady's wishes—for myself, it is much the same.
"I am somewhat puzzled what to do with my little daughter, and my effects, which are of some quantity and value,—and neither of them do in the seat of war, where I think of going. But there is an elderly lady who will take charge of her, and T. says that the Marchese C. will undertake to hold the chattels in safe keeping. Half the city are getting their affairs in marching trim. A pretty Carnival! The blackguards might as well have waited till Lent.
"January 24. 1821.
"Returned—met some masques in the Corso—'Vive la bagatelle!'—the Germans are on the Po, the Barbarians at the gate, and their masters in council at Leybach (or whatever the eructation of the sound may syllable into a human pronunciation), and lo! they dance and sing and make merry, 'for to-morrow they may die.' Who can say that the Arlequins are not right? Like the Lady Baussiere, and my old friend Burton—I 'rode on.'
"Dined—(damn this pen!)—beef tough—there is no beef in Italy worth a curse; unless a man could eat an old ox with the hide on, singed in the sun.
"The principal persons in the events which may occur in a few days are gone out on a shooting party. If it were like a 'highland hunting,' a pretext of the chase for a grand re-union of counsellors and chiefs, it would be all very well. But it is nothing more or less than a real snivelling, popping, small-shot, water-hen waste of powder, ammunition, and shot, for their own special amusement: a rare set of fellows for 'a man to risk his neck with,' as 'Marishall Wells' says in the Black Dwarf.
"If they gather,—'whilk is to be doubted,'—they will not muster a thousand men. The reason of this is, that the populace are not interested,—only the higher and middle orders. I wish that the peasantry were: they are a fine savage race of two-legged leopards. But the Bolognese won't—the Romagnuoles can't without them. Or, if they try—Pg 85what then? They will try, and man can do no more—and, if he would but try his utmost, much might be done. The Dutch, for instance, against the Spaniards—then the tyrants of Europe, since, the slaves, and, lately, the freedmen.
"The year 1820 was not a fortunate one for the individual me, whatever it may be for the nations. I lost a lawsuit, after two decisions in my favour. The project of lending money on an Irish mortgage was finally rejected by my wife's trustee after a year's hope and trouble. The Rochdale lawsuit had endured fifteen years, and always prospered till I married; since which, every thing has gone wrong—with me at least.
"In the same year, 1820, the Countess T.G. nata Ga. Gi. in despite of all I said and did to prevent it, would separate from her husband, Il Cavalier Commendatore Gi. &c. &c. &c. and all on the account of 'P.P. clerk of this parish.' The other little petty vexations of the year—overturns in carriages—the murder of people before one's door, and dying in one's beds—the cramp in swimming—colics—indigestions and bilious attacks, &c. &c. &c.—
"January 25. 1821.
"Received a letter from Lord S.O. state secretary of the Seven Islands—a fine fellow—clever—dished in England five years ago, and came abroad to retrench and to renew. He wrote fromPg 86 Ancona, in his way back to Corfu, on some matters of our own. He is son of the late Duke of L. by a second marriage. He wants me to go to Corfu. Why not?—perhaps I may, next spring.
"Answered Murray's letter—read—lounged. Scrawled this additional page of life's log-book. One day more is over of it and of me:—but 'which is best, life or death, the gods only know,' as Socrates said to his judges, on the breaking up of the tribunal. Two thousand years since that sage's declaration of ignorance have not enlightened us more upon this important point; for, according to the Christian dispensation, no one can know whether he is sure of salvation—even the most righteous—since a single slip of faith may throw him on his back, like a skaiter, while gliding smoothly to his paradise. Now, therefore, whatever the certainty of faith in the facts may be, the certainty of the individual as to his happiness or misery is no greater than it was under Jupiter.
"It has been said that the immortality of the soul is a 'grand peut-être'—but still it is a grand one. Every body clings to it—the stupidest, and dullest, and wickedest of human bipeds is still persuaded that he is immortal.
"January 26. 1821.
"Fine day—a few mares' tails portending change, but the sky clear, upon the whole. Rode—fired pistols—good shooting. Coming back, met an old man. Charity—purchased a shilling's worth of salvation. If that was to be bought, I have given more to my fellow-creatures in this life—sometimesPg 87 for vice, but, if not more often, at least more considerably, for virtue—than I now possess. I never in my life gave a mistress so much as I have sometimes given a poor man in honest distress; but no matter. The scoundrels who have all along persecuted me (with the help of * * who has crowned their efforts) will triumph;—and, when justice is done to me, it will be when this hand that writes is as cold as the hearts which have stung me.
"Returning, on the bridge near the mill, met an old woman. I asked her age—she said 'Trecroci.' I asked my groom (though myself a decent Italian) what the devil her three crosses meant. He said, ninety years, and that she had five years more to boot!! I repeated the same three times, not to mistake—ninety-five years!!!—and she was yet rather active—heard my question, for she answered it—saw me, for she advanced towards me; and did not appear at all decrepit, though certainly touched with years. Told her to come to-morrow, and will examine her myself. I love phenomena. If she is ninety-five years old, she must recollect the Cardinal Alberoni, who was legate here.
"On dismounting, found Lieutenant E. just arrived from Faenza. Invited him to dine with me to-morrow. Did not invite him for to-day, because there was a small turbot, (Friday, fast regularly and religiously,) which I wanted to eat all myself. Ate it.
"Went out—found T. as usual—music. The gentlemen, who make revolutions and are gone on a shooting, are not yet returned. They don't returnPg 88 till Sunday—that is to say, they have been out for five days, buffooning, while the interests of a whole country are at stake, and even they themselves compromised.
"It is a difficult part to play amongst such a set of assassins and blockheads—but, when the scum is skimmed off, or has boiled over, good may come of it. If this country could but be freed, what would be too great for the accomplishment of that desire? for the extinction of that Sigh of Ages? Let us hope. They have hoped these thousand years. The very revolvement of the chances may bring it—it is upon the dice.
"If the Neapolitans have but a single Massaniello amongst them, they will beat the bloody butchers of the crown and sabre. Holland, in worse circumstances, beat the Spains and Philips; America beat the English; Greece beat Xerxes; and France beat Europe, till she took a tyrant; South America beats her old vultures out of their nest; and, if these men are but firm in themselves, there is nothing to shake them from without.
"January 28. 1821.
"Lugano Gazette did not come. Letters from Venice. It appears that the Austrian brutes have seized my three or four pounds of English powder. The scoundrels!—I hope to pay them in ball for that powder. Rode out till twilight.
"Pondered the subjects of four tragedies to be written (life and circumstances permitting), to wit, Sardanapalus, already begun; Cain, a metaphysicalPg 89 subject, something in the style of Manfred, but in five acts, perhaps, with the chorus; Francesca of Rimini, in five acts; and I am not sure that I would not try Tiberius. I think that I could extract a something, of my tragic, at least, out of the gloomy sequestration and old age of the tyrant—and even out of his sojourn at Caprea—by softening the details, and exhibiting the despair which must have led to those very vicious pleasures. For none but a powerful and gloomy mind overthrown would have had recourse to such solitary horrors,—being also, at the same time, old, and the master of the world.
"What is Poetry?—The feeling of a Former world and Future.
"Why, at the very height of desire and human pleasure,—worldly, social,
amorous, ambitious, or even avaricious,—does there mingle a certain
sense of doubt and sorrow—a fear of what is to come—a doubt of what
is—a retrospect to the past, leading to a prognostication of the
future? (The best of Prophets of the future is the Past.) Why is this?
or these?—I know not, except that on a pinnacle we are most susceptible
of giddiness, and that we never fear falling except from a
precipice—the higher, the more awful, and the more sublime; and,
therefore, I am not sure that Fear is not a pleasurable sensation; at
least, Hope is; and what Hope is therePg 90 without a deep leaven of
Fear? and what sensation is so delightful as Hope? and, if it were not
for Hope, where would the Future be?—in hell. It is useless to say
where the Present is, for most of us know; and as for the Past, what
predominates in memory?—Hope baffled. Ergo, in all human affairs, it
is Hope—Hope—Hope. I allow sixteen minutes, though I never counted
them, to any given or supposed possession. From whatever place we
commence, we know where it all must end. And yet, what good is there in
knowing it? It does not make men better or wiser. During the greatest
horrors of the greatest plagues, (Athens and Florence, for example—see
Thucydides and Machiavelli,) men were more cruel and profligate than
ever. It is all a mystery. I feel most things, but I know nothing,
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
"Thought for a speech of Lucifer, in the tragedy of Cain:—
"Past Midnight. One o' the clock.
"I have been reading W.F.S * * (brother to the other of the name) till now, and I can make out nothing. He evidently shows a great power ofPg 91 words, but there is nothing to be taken hold of. He is like Hazlitt, in English, who talks pimples—a red and white corruption rising up (in little imitation of mountains upon maps), but containing nothing, and discharging nothing, except their own humours.
"I dislike him the worse, (that is, S * *,) because he always seems upon the verge of meaning; and, lo, he goes down like sunset, or melts like a rainbow, leaving a rather rich confusion,—to which, however, the above comparisons do too much honour.
"Continuing to read Mr. F. S * *. He is not such a fool as I took him for, that is to say, when he speaks of the North. But still he speaks of things all over the world with a kind of authority that a philosopher would disdain, and a man of common sense, feeling, and knowledge of his own ignorance, would be ashamed of. The man is evidently wanting to make an impression, like his brother,—or like George in the Vicar of Wakefield, who found out that all the good things had been said already on the right side, and therefore 'dressed up some paradoxes' upon the wrong side—ingenious, but false, as he himself says—to which 'the learned world said nothing, nothing at all, sir.' The 'learned world,' however, has said something to the brothers S * *.
"It is high time to think of something else. What they say of the antiquities of the North is best.
"January 29. 1821.
"Yesterday, the woman of ninety-five years of age was with me. She said her eldest son (if now alive)Pg 92 would have been seventy. She is thin—short, but active—hears, and sees, and talks incessantly. Several teeth left—all in the lower jaw, and single front teeth. She is very deeply wrinkled, and has a sort of scattered grey beard over her chin, at least as long as my mustachios. Her head, in fact, resembles the drawing in crayons of Pope the poet's mother, which is in some editions of his works.
"I forgot to ask her if she remembered Alberoni (legate here), but will ask her next time. Gave her a louis—ordered her a new suit of clothes, and put her upon a weekly pension. Till now, she had worked at gathering wood and pine-nuts in the forest,—pretty work at ninety-five years old! She had a dozen children, of whom some are alive. Her name is Maria Montanari.
"Met a company of the sect (a kind of Liberal Club) called the 'Americani' in the forest, all armed, and singing, with all their might, in Romagnuole—'Sem tutti soldat' per la liberta' ('we are all soldiers for liberty'). They cheered me as I passed—I returned their salute, and rode on. This may show the spirit of Italy at present.
"My to-day's journal consists of what I omitted yesterday. To-day was much as usual. Have rather a better opinion of the writings of the Schlegels than I had four-and-twenty hours ago; and will amend it still further, if possible.
"They say that the Piedmontese have at length risen—ça ira!
"Read S * *. Of Dante he says, 'that at no time has the greatest and most national of allPg 93 Italian poets ever been much the favourite of his countrymen.' 'Tis false! There have been more editors and commentators (and imitators, ultimately) of Dante than of all their poets put together. Not a favourite! Why, they talk Dante—write Dante—and think and dream Dante at this moment (1821) to an excess, which would be ridiculous, but that he deserves it.
"In the same style this German talks of gondolas on the Arno—a precious fellow to dare to speak of Italy!
"He says also that Dante's chief defect is a want, in a word, of gentle feelings. Of gentle feelings!—and Francesca of Rimini—and the father's feelings in Ugolino—and Beatrice—and 'La Pia!' Why, there is gentleness in Dante beyond all gentleness, when he is tender. It is true that, treating of the Christian Hades, or Hell, there is not much scope or site for gentleness—but who but Dante could have introduced any 'gentleness' at all into Hell? Is there any in Milton's? No—and Dante's Heaven is all love, and glory, and majesty.
"I have found out, however, where the German is right—it is about the Vicar of Wakefield. 'Of all romances in miniature (and, perhaps, this is the best shape in which romance can appear) the Vicar of Wakefield is, I think, the most exquisite.' He thinks!—he might be sure. But it is very well for a S * *. I feel sleepy, and may as well get me to bed. To-morrow there will be fine weather.
"January 30. 1821.
"The Count P.G. this evening (by commission from the Ci.) transmitted to me the new words for the next six months. * * * and * * *. The new sacred word is * * *—the reply * * *—the rejoinder * * *. The former word (now changed) was * * *—there is also * * *—* * *. Things seem fast coming to a crisis—ça ira!
"We talked over various matters of moment and movement. These I omit;—if they come to any thing, they will speak for themselves. After these, we spoke of Kosciusko. Count R.G. told me that he has seen the Polish officers in the Italian war burst into tears on hearing his name.
"Something must be up in Piedmont—all the letters and papers are stopped. Nobody knows any thing, and the Germans are concentrating near Mantua. Of the decision of Leybach nothing is known. This state of things cannot last long. The ferment in men's minds at present cannot be conceived without seeing it.
"January, 31. 1821.
"For several days I have not written any thing except a few answers to letters. In momentary expectation of an explosion of some kind, it is not easy to settle down to the desk for the higher kinds of composition. I could do it, to be sure, for, last summer, I wrote my drama in the very bustle of Madame la Contesse G.'s divorce, and all its processPg 95 of accompaniments. At the same time, I also had the news of the loss of an important lawsuit in England. But these were only private and personal business; the present is of a different nature.
"I suppose it is this, but have some suspicion that it may be laziness, which prevents me from writing; especially as Rochefoucalt says that 'laziness often masters them all'—speaking of the passions. If this were true, it could hardly be said that 'idleness is the root of all evil,' since this is supposed to spring from the passions only: ergo, that which masters all the passions (laziness, to wit) would in so much be a good. Who knows?
"I have been reading Grimm's Correspondence. He repeats frequently, in speaking of a poet, or a man of genius in any department, even in music, (Gretry, for instance,) that he must have 'une ame qui se tourmente, un esprit violent.' How far this may be true, I know not; but if it were, I should be a poet 'per eccellenza;' for I have always had 'une ame,' which not only tormented itself but every body else in contact with it; and an 'esprit violent,' which has almost left me without any 'esprit' at all. As to defining what a poet should be, it is not worth while, for what are they worth? what have they done?
"Grimm, however, is an excellent critic and literary historian. His Correspondence form the annals of the literary part of that age of France, with much of her politics; and, still more, of herPg 96 'way of life.' He is as valuable, and far more entertaining than Muratori or Tiraboschi—I had almost said, than Ginguené—but there we should pause. However, 'tis a great man in its line.
"Monsieur St. Lambert has
This is, word for word, Thomson's
without the smallest acknowledgment from the Lorrainer of a poet. M. St. Lambert is dead as a man, and (for any thing I know to the contrary) damned, as a poet, by this time. However, his Seasons have good things, and, it may be, some of his own.
"February 2. 1821
"I have been considering what can be the reason why I always wake, at a certain hour in the morning, and always in very bad spirits—I may say, in actual despair and despondency, in all respects—even of that which pleased me over night. In about an hour or two, this goes off, and I compose either to sleep again, or, at least, to quiet. In England, five years ago, I had the same kind of hypochondria, but accompanied with so violent a thirst that I have drank as many as fifteen bottles of soda-water in one night, after going to bed, and been still thirsty—calculating, however, some lost from the bursting out and effervescence and over-flowing of the soda-water, in drawing the corks, orPg 97 striking off the necks of the bottles from mere thirsty impatience. At present, I have not the thirst; but the depression of spirits is no less violent.
"I read in Edgeworth's Memoirs of something similar (except that his thirst expended itself on small beer) in the case of Sir F.B. Delaval;—but then he was, at least, twenty years older. What is it?—liver? In England, Le Man (the apothecary) cured me of the thirst in three days, and it had lasted as many years. I suppose that it is all hypochondria.
"What I feel most growing upon me are laziness, and a disrelish more powerful than indifference. It I rouse, it is into fury. I presume that I shall end (if not earlier by accident, or some such termination) like Swift—'dying at top.' I confess I do not contemplate this with so much horror as he apparently did for some years before it happened. But Swift had hardly begun life at the very period (thirty-three) when I feel quite an old sort of feel.
"Oh! there is an organ playing in the street—a waltz, too! I must leave off to listen. They are playing a waltz which I have heard ten thousand times at the balls in London, between 1812 and 1815. Music is a strange thing.
"February 5. 1821.
"At last, 'the kiln's in a low.' The Germans are ordered to march, and Italy is, for the ten thousandth time, to become a field of battle. Last night the news came.
"This afternoon—Count P.G. came to me to consult upon divers matters. We rode out together. They have sent off to the C. for orders. To-morrow the decision ought to arrive, and then something will be done. Returned—dined—read—went out—talked over matters. Made a purchase of some arms for the new enrolled Americani, who are all on tiptoe to march. Gave order for some harness and portmanteaus necessary for the horses.
"Read some of Bowles's dispute about Pope, with all the replies and rejoinders. Perceive that my name has been lugged into the controversy, but have not time to state what I know of the subject. On some 'piping day of peace' it is probable that I may resume it.
"February 9. 1821.
"Before dinner wrote a little; also, before I rode out, Count P.G. called upon me, to let me know the result of the meeting of the Ci at F. and at B. * * returned late last night. Every thing was combined under the idea that the Barbarians would pass the Po on the 15th inst. Instead of this, from some previous information or otherwise, they have hastened their march and actually passed two days ago; so that all that can be done at present in Romagna is, to stand on the alert and wait for the advance of the Neapolitans. Every thing was ready, and the NeaPg 99politans had sent on their own instructions and intentions, all calculated for the tenth and eleventh, on which days a general rising was to take place, under the supposition that the Barbarians could not advance before the 15th.
"As it is, they have but fifty or sixty thousand troops, a number with which they might as well attempt to conquer the world as secure Italy in its present state. The artillery marches last, and alone, and there is an idea of an attempt to cut part of them off. All this will much depend upon the first steps of the Neapolitans. Here, the public spirit is excellent, provided it be kept up. This will be seen by the event.
"It is probable that Italy will be delivered from the Barbarians if the Neapolitans will but stand firm, and are united among themselves. Here they appear so.
"February 10. 1821.
"Day passed as usual—nothing new. Barbarians still in march—not well equipped, and, of course, not well received on their route. There is some talk of a commotion at Paris.
"Rode out between four and six—finished my letter to Murray on Bowles's pamphlets—added postscript. Passed the evening as usual—out till eleven—and subsequently at home.
"February 11. 1821.
"Wrote—had a copy taken of an extract from Petrarch's Letters, with reference to the conspiracy of the Doge, M. Faliero, containing the poet's opinionPg 100 of the matter. Heard a heavy firing of cannon towards Comacchio—the Barbarians rejoicing for their principal pig's birthday, which is to-morrow—or Saint day—I forget which. Received a ticket for the first ball to-morrow. Shall not go to the first, but intend going to the second, as also to the Veglioni.
"February 13. 1821.
"To-day read a little in Louis B.'s Hollande, but have written nothing since the completion of the letter on the Pope controversy. Politics are quite misty for the present. The Barbarians still upon their march. It is not easy to divine what the Italians will now do.
"Was elected yesterday 'Socio' of the Carnival ball society. This is the fifth carnival that I have passed. In the four former, I racketed a good deal. In the present, I have been as sober as Lady Grace herself.
"February 14. 1821
"Much as usual. Wrote, before riding out, part of a scene of 'Sardanapalus.' The first act nearly finished. The rest of the day and evening as before—partly without, in conversazione—partly at home.
"Heard the particulars of the late fray at Russi, a town not far from this. It is exactly the fact of Romēo and Giulietta—not Romĕo, as the Barbarian writes it. Two families of Contadini (peasants) are at feud. At a ball, the younger part of the familiesPg 101 forget their quarrel, and dance together. An old man of one of them enters, and reproves the young men for dancing with the females of the opposite family. The male relatives of the latter resent this. Both parties rush home and arm themselves. They meet directly, by moonlight, in the public way, and fight it out. Three are killed on the spot, and six wounded, most of them dangerously,—pretty well for two families, methinks—and all fact, of the last week. Another assassination has taken place at Cesenna,—in all about forty in Romagna within the last three months. These people retain much of the middle ages.
"February 15. 1821.
"Last night finished the first act of Sardanapalus. To-night, or to-morrow, I ought to answer letters.
"February 16. 1821.
"Last night Il Conte P.G. sent a man with a bag full of bayonets, some muskets, and some hundreds of cartridges to my house, without apprizing me, though I had seen him not half an hour before. About ten days ago, when there was to be a rising here, the Liberals and my brethren Ci. asked me to purchase some arms for a certain few of our ragamuffins. I did so immediately, and ordered ammunition, &c. and they were armed accordingly. Well—the rising is prevented by the Barbarians marching a week sooner than appointed; and an order is issued, and in force, by the Government, 'that allPg 102 persons having arms concealed, &c. &c. shall be liable to,' &c. &c.—and what do my friends, the patriots, do two days afterwards? Why, they throw back upon my hands, and into my house, these very arms (without a word of warning previously) with which I had furnished them at their own request, and at my own peril and expense.
"It was lucky that Lega was at home to receive them. If any of the servants had (except Tita and F. and Lega) they would have betrayed it immediately. In the mean time, if they are denounced or discovered, I shall be in a scrape.
"At nine went out—at eleven returned. Beat the crow for stealing the falcon's victuals. Read 'Tales of my Landlord'—wrote a letter—and mixed a moderate beaker of water with other ingredients.
"February 18. 1821.
"The news are that the Neapolitans have broken a bridge, and slain four pontifical carabiniers, whilk carabiniers wished to oppose. Besides the disrespect to neutrality, it is a pity that the first blood shed in this German quarrel should be Italian. However, the war seems begun in good earnest: for, if the Neapolitans kill the Pope's carabiniers, they will not be more delicate towards the Barbarians. If it be even so, in a short time 'there will be news o' thae craws,' as Mrs. Alison Wilson says of Jenny Blane's 'unco cockernony' in the 'Tales of my Landlord.'
"In turning over Grimm's Correspondence to-day,Pg 103 I found a thought of Tom Moore's in a song of Maupertuis to a female Laplander.
This is Moore's,
But I am sure that Moore never saw it; for this was published in Grimm's Correspondence in 1813, and I knew Moore's by heart in 1812. There is also another, but an antithetical coincidence—
This is the thought reversed, of the last stanza of the ballad on Charlotte Lynes, given in Miss Seward's Memoirs of Darwin, which is pretty—I quote from memory of these last fifteen years.
"To-day I have had no communication with my Carbonari cronies; but, in the mean time, my lower apartments are full of their bayonets, fusils, cartPg 104ridges, and what not. I suppose that they consider me as a depôt, to be sacrificed, in case of accidents. It is no great matter, supposing that Italy could be liberated, who or what is sacrificed. It is a grand object—the very poetry of politics. Only think—a free Italy!!! Why, there has been nothing like it since the days of Augustus. I reckon the times of Cæsar (Julius) free; because the commotions left every body a side to take, and the parties were pretty equal at the set out. But, afterwards, it was all praetorian and legionary business—and since!—we shall see, or, at least, some will see, what card will turn up. It is best to hope, even of the hopeless. The Dutch did more than these fellows have to do, in the Seventy Years' War.
"February 19. 1821.
"Came home solus—very high wind—lightning—moonshine—solitary stragglers muffled in cloaks—women in mask—white houses—clouds hurrying over the sky, like spilt milk blown out of the pail—altogether very poetical. It is still blowing hard—the tiles flying, and the house rocking—rain splashing—lightning flashing—quite a fine Swiss Alpine evening, and the sea roaring in the distance.
"Visited—conversazione. All the women frightened by the squall: they won't go to the masquerade because it lightens—the pious reason!
"Still blowing away. A. has sent me some news to-day. The war approaches nearer and nearer. Oh those scoundrel sovereigns! Let us but seePg 105 them beaten—let the Neapolitans but have the pluck of the Dutch of old, or the Spaniards of now, or of the German Protestants, the Scotch Presbyterians, the Swiss under Tell, or the Greeks under Themistocles—all small and solitary nations (except the Spaniards and German Lutherans), and there is yet a resurrection for Italy, and a hope for the world.
"February 20. 1821.
"The news of the day are, that the Neapolitans are full of energy. The public spirit here is certainly well kept up. The 'Americani' (a patriotic society here, an under branch of the 'Carbonari') give a dinner in the Forest in a few days, and have invited me, as one of the Ci. It is to be in the Forest of Boccacio's and Dryden's 'Huntsman's Ghost;' and, even if I had not the same political feelings, (to say nothing of my old convivial turn, which every now and then revives,) I would go as a poet, or, at least, as a lover of poetry. I shall expect to see the spectre of 'Ostasio degli Onesti' (Dryden has turned him into Guido Cavalcanti—an essentially different person, as may be found in Dante) come 'thundering for his prey' in the midst of the festival. At any rate, whether he does or no. I will get as tipsy and patriotic as possible.
"Within these few days I have read, but not written.
"February 21, 1821.
"As usual, rode—visited, &c. Business begins to thicken. The Pope has printed a declaration against the patriots, who, he says, meditate a rising. The consequence of all this will be, that, in a fortnight, the whole country will be up. The proclamation is not yet published, but printed, ready for distribution. * * sent me a copy privately—a sign that he does not know what to think. When he wants to be well with the patriots, he sends to me some civil message or other.
"For my own part, it seems to me, that nothing but the most decided success of the Barbarians can prevent a general and immediate rise of the whole nation.
"February 23, 1821.
"Almost ditto with yesterday—rode, &c.—visited—wrote nothing—read Roman History.
"Had a curious letter from a fellow, who informs me that the Barbarians are ill-disposed towards me. He is probably a spy, or an impostor. But be it so, even as he says. They cannot bestow their hostility on one who loathes and execrates them more than I do, or who will oppose their views with more zeal, when the opportunity offers.
"February 24, 1821.
"Rode, &c. as usual. The secret intelligence arrived this morning from the frontier to the Ci. is as bad as possible. The plan has missed—the Chiefs are betrayed, military, as well as civil—and the Neapolitans not only have not moved, but havePg 107 declared to the P. government, and to the Barbarians, that they know nothing of the matter!!!
"Thus the world goes; and thus the Italians are always lost for lack of union among themselves. What is to be done here, between the two fires, and cut off from the Northern frontier, is not decided. My opinion was,—better to rise than be taken in detail; but how it will be settled now, I cannot tell. Messengers are despatched to the delegates of the other cities to learn their resolutions.
"I always had an idea that it would be bungled; but was willing to hope, and am so still. Whatever I can do by money, means, or person, I will venture freely for their freedom; and have so repeated to them (some of the Chiefs here) half an hour ago. I have two thousand five hundred scudi, better than five hundred pounds, in the house, which I offered to begin with.
"February 25. 1821.
"Came home—my head aches—plenty of news, but too tiresome to set down. I have neither read nor written, nor thought, but led a purely animal life all day. I mean to try to write a page or two before I go to bed. But, as Squire Sullen says, 'My head aches consumedly: Scrub, bring me a dram!' Drank some Imola wine, and some punch.
"February 27. 1821.
"I have been a day without continuing the log, because I could not find a blank book. At length I recollected this.
"Rode, &c.—dined—wrote down an additional stanza for the 5th canto of D.J. which I had composed in bed this morning. Visited l'Amica. We are invited, on the night of the Veglione (next Domenica) with the Marchesa Clelia Cavalli and the Countess Spinelli Rusponi. I promised to go. Last night there was a row at the ball, of which I am a 'socio.' The Vice-legate had the imprudent insolence to introduce three of his servants in masque—without tickets, too! and in spite of remonstrances. The consequence was, that the young men of the ball took it up, and were near throwing the Vice-legate out of the window. His servants, seeing the scene, withdrew, and he after them. His reverence Monsignore ought to know, that these are not times for the predominance of priests over decorum. Two minutes more, two steps farther, and the whole city would have been in arms, and the government driven out of it.
"Such is the spirit of the day, and these fellows appear not to perceive it. As far as the simple fact went, the young men were right, servants being prohibited always at these festivals.
"Yesterday wrote two notes on the 'Bowles and Pope' controversy, and sent them off to Murray by the post. The old woman whom I relieved in the forest (she is ninety-four years of age) brought me two bunches of violets. 'Nam vita gaudet mortua floribus,' I was much pleased with the present. An English woman would have presented a pair of worsted stockings, at least, in the month of February. Both excellent things; but the former are morePg 109 elegant. The present, at this season, reminds one of Gray's stanza, omitted from his elegy:—
As fine a stanza as any in his elegy. I wonder that he could have the heart to omit it.
"Last night I suffered horribly—from an indigestion, I believe. I never sup—that is, never at home. But, last night, I was prevailed upon by the Countess Gamba's persuasion, and the strenuous example of her brother, to swallow, at supper, a quantity of boiled cockles, and to dilute them, not reluctantly, with some Imola wine. When I came home, apprehensive of the consequences, I swallowed three or four glasses of spirits, which men (the venders) call brandy, rum, or hollands, but which Gods would entitle spirits of wine, coloured or sugared. All was pretty well till I got to bed, when I became somewhat swollen, and considerably vertiginous. I got out, and mixing some soda-powders, drank them off. This brought on temporary relief. I returned to bed; but grew sick and sorry once and again. Took more soda-water. At last I fell into a dreary sleep. Woke, and was ill all day, till I had galloped a few miles. Query—was it the cockles, or what I took to correct them, that caused the commotion? I think both. I remarked in my illness the complete inertion, inaction, and destruction of my chief mental faculties. I triedPg 110 to rouse them, and yet could not—and this is the Soul!!! I should believe that it was married to the body, if they did not sympathise so much with each other. If the one rose, when the other fell, it would be a sign that they longed for the natural state of divorce. But as it is, they seem to draw together like post-horses.
"Let us hope the best—it is the grand possession."
During the two months comprised in this Journal, some of the Letters of the following series were written. The reader must, therefore, be prepared to find in them occasional notices of the same train of events.
LETTER 404. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, January 2. 1821.
"Your entering into my project for the Memoir is pleasant to me. But I doubt (contrary to my dear Made Mac F * *, whom I always loved, and always shall—not only because I really did feel attached to her personally, but because she and about a dozen others of that sex were all who stuck by me in the grand conflict of 1815)—but I doubt, I say, whether the Memoir could appear in my lifetime;—and, indeed, I had rather it did not; for a man always looks dead after his Life has appeared, and I should certes not survive the appearance of mine. The first part I cannot consent to alter, even although Made. de S.'s opinion of B.C. and myPg 111 remarks upon Lady C.'s beauty (which is surely great, and I suppose that I have said so—at least, I ought) should go down to our grandchildren in unsophisticated nakedness.
"As to Madame de S * *, I am by no means bound to be her beadsman—she was always more civil to me in person than during my absence. Our dear defunct friend, M * * L * *, who wasPg 112 too great a bore ever to lie, assured me upon his tiresome word of honour, that, at Florence, the said Madame de S * * was open-mouthed against me; and when asked, in Switzerland, why she had changed her opinion, replied, with laudable sincerity, that I had named her in a sonnet with Voltaire, Rousseau, &c. &c. and that she could not help it through decency. Now, I have not forgotten this, but I have been generous,—as mine acquaintance, the late Captain Whitby, of the navy, used to say to his seamen (when 'married to the gunner's daughter')—'two dozen, and let you off easy.' The 'two dozen' were with the cat-o'-nine tails;—the 'let you off easy' was rather his own opinion than that of the patient.
"My acquaintance with these terms and practices arises from my having been much conversant with ships of war and naval heroes in the year of my voyages in the Mediterranean. Whitby was in the gallant action off Lissa in 1811. He was brave, but a disciplinarian. When he left his frigate, he left a parrot, which was taught by the crew the following sounds—(it must be remarked that Captain Whitby was the image of Fawcett the actor, in voice, face, and figure, and that he squinted).
"'Whitby! Whitby! funny eye! funny eye! two dozen, and let you off easy. Oh you ——!'
"Now, if Madame de B. has a parrot, it had better be taught a French parody of the same sounds.
"With regard to our purposed Journal, I will call it what you please, but it should be a newspaper, to make it pay. We can call it 'The Harp,' if you like—or any thing.
"I feel exactly as you do about our 'art,'but it comes over me in a kind of rage every now and then, like * * * *, and then, if I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad. As to that regular, uninterrupted love of writing, which you describe in your friend, I do not understand it. I feel it as a torture, which I must get rid of, but never as a pleasure. On the contrary, I think composition a great pain.
"I wish you to think seriously of the Journal scheme—for I am as serious as one can be, in this world, about any thing. As to matters here, they are high and mighty—but not for paper. It is much about the state of things betwixt Cain and Abel. There is, in fact, no law or government at all; and it is wonderful how well things go on without them. Excepting a few occasional murders, (every body killing whomsoever he pleases, and being killed, in turn, by a friend, or relative, of the defunct,) there is as quiet a society and as merry a Carnival as can be met with in a tour through Europe. There is nothing like habit in these things.
"I shall remain here till May or June, and, unless 'honour comes unlocked for,' we may perhaps meet, in France or England, within the year.
"Of course, I cannot explain to you existing circumstances, as they open all letters.
"Will you set me right about your curst 'Champs Elysées?'—are they 'és' or 'ées' for the adjective? I know nothing of French, being all Italian. Though I can read and understand French, I never attempt to speak it; for I hate it. From the second part of the Memoirs cut what you please."
LETTER 405. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, January 4. 1821.
"I just see, by the papers of Galignani, that there is a new tragedy of great expectation, by BarryPg 115 Cornwall. Of what I have read of his works Hiked the Dramatic Sketches, but thought his Sicilian Story and Marcian Colonna, in rhyme, quite spoilt, by I know not what affectation of Wordsworth, and Moore, and myself, all mixed up into a kind of chaos. I think him very likely to produce a good tragedy, if he keep to a natural style, and not play tricks to form harlequinades for an audience. As he (Barry Cornwall is not his true name) was a schoolfellow of mine, I take more than common interest in his success, and shall be glad to hear of it speedily. If I had been aware that he was in that line, I should have spoken of him in the preface to Marino Faliero. He will do a world's wonder if he produce a great tragedy. I am, however, persuaded, that this is not to be done by following the old dramatists,—who are full of gross faults, pardoned only for the beauty of their language,—but by writing naturally and regularly, and producing regular tragedies, like the Greeks; but not in imitation,—merely the outline of their conduct, adapted to our own times and circumstances, and of course no chorus.
"You will laugh, and say, 'Why don't you do so?' I have, you see, tried a sketch in Marino Faliero; but many people think my talent 'essentially undramatic,' and I am not at all clear that they are not right. If Marino Faliero don't fall—in the perusal—I shall, perhaps, try again (but not for the stage); and, as I think that love is not the principal passion for tragedy (and yet most of ours turn upon it), you will not find me a popular writer. Unless it is love, furious, criminal, and hapless, it ought notPg 116 to make a tragic subject. When it is melting and maudlin, it does, but it ought not to do; it is then for the gallery and second-price boxes.
"If you want to have a notion of what I am trying, take up a translation of any of the Greek tragedians. If I said the original, it would be an impudent presumption of mine; but the translations are so inferior to the originals, that I think I may risk it Then judge of the 'simplicity of plot,' &c. and do not judge me by your old mad dramatists, which is like drinking usquebaugh and then proving a fountain. Yet after all, I suppose that you do not mean that spirits is a nobler element than a clear spring bubbling in the sun? and this I take to be the difference between the Greeks and those turbid mountebanks—always excepting Ben Jonson, who was a scholar and a classic. Or, take up a translation of Alfieri, and try the interest, &c. of these my new attempts in the old line, by him in English; and then tell me fairly your opinion. But don't measure me by YOUR OWN old or new tailors' yards. Nothing so easy as intricate confusion of plot and rant. Mrs. Centlivre, in comedy, has ten times the bustle of Congreve; but are they to be compared? and yet she drove Congreve from the theatre."
LETTER 406. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, January 19. 1821.
"Yours of the 29th ultimo hath arrived. I must, really and seriously request that you will beg of Messrs. Harris or Elliston to let the Doge alone: itPg 117 is not an acting play; it will not serve their purpose; it will destroy yours (the sale); and it will distress me. It is not courteous, it is hardly even gentlemanly, to persist in this appropriation of a man's writings to their mountebanks.
"I have already sent you by last post a short protest to the public (against this proceeding); in case that they persist, which I trust that they will not, you must then publish it in the newspapers. I shall not let them off with that only, if they go on; but make a longer appeal on that subject, and state what I think the injustice of their mode of behaviour. It is hard that I should have all the buffoons in Britain to deal with—pirates who will publish, and players who will act—when there are thousands of worthy men who can get neither bookseller nor manager for love nor money.
"You never answered me a word about Galignani. If you mean to use the two documents, do; if not, burn them. I do not choose to leave them in any one's possession: suppose some one found themPg 118 without the letters, what would they think? why, that I had been doing the opposite of what I have done, to wit, referred the whole thing to you—an act of civility at least, which required saying, 'I have received your letter.' I thought that you might have some hold upon those publications by this means; to me it can be no interest one way or the other.
"The third canto of Don Juan is 'dull,' but you must really put up with it: if the two first and the two following are tolerable, what do you expect? particularly as I neither dispute with you on it as a matter of criticism, nor as a matter of business.
"Besides, what am I to understand? you and Douglas Kinnaird, and others, write to me, that the two first published cantos are among the best that I ever wrote, and are reckoned so; Augusta writes that they are thought 'execrable' (bitter word that for an author—eh, Murray?) as a composition even, and that she had heard so much against them that she would never read them, and never has. Be that as it may, I can't alter; that is not my forte. If you publish the three new ones without ostentation, they may perhaps succeed.
"Pray publish the Dante and the Pulci (the Prophecy of Dante, I mean). I look upon the Pulci as my grand performance. The remainder of thePg 119 'Hints,' where be they? Now, bring them all out about the same time, otherwise 'the variety' you wot of will be less obvious.
"I am in bad humour: some obstructions in business with those plaguy trustees, who object to an advantageous loan which I was to furnish to a nobleman on mortgage, because his property is in Ireland, have shown me how a man is treated in his absence. Oh, if I do come back, I will make some of those who little dream of it spin—or they or I shall go down."
LETTER 407. TO MR. MURRAY.
"January 20. 1821.
"I did not think to have troubled you with the plague and postage of a double letter this time, but I have just read in an Italian paper, 'That Lord Byron has a tragedy coming out,' &c. &c. &c. and that the Courier and Morning Chronicle, &c. &c. are pulling one another to pieces about it and him, &c.
"Now I do reiterate and desire, that every thingPg 120 may be done to prevent it from coming out on any theatre, for which it never was designed, and on which (in the present state of the stage of London) it could never succeed. I have sent you my appeal by last post, which you must publish in case of need; and I require you even in your own name (if my honour is dear to you) to declare that such representation would be contrary to my wish and to my judgment. If you do not wish to drive me mad altogether, you will hit upon some way to prevent this.
"P.S. I cannot conceive how Harris or Elliston should be so insane as to think of acting Marino Faliero; they might as well act the Prometheus of Aeschylus. I speak of course humbly, and with the greatest sense of the distance of time and merit between the two performances; but merely to show the absurdity of the attempt.
"The Italian paper speaks of a 'party against it;' to be sure there would be a party. Can you imagine, that after having never flattered man, nor beast, nor opinion, nor politics, there would not be a party against a man, who is also a popular writer—at least a successful? Why, all parties would be a party against."
LETTER 408. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, January 20. 1821.
"If Harris or Elliston persist, after the remonstrance which I desired you and Mr. Kinnaird toPg 121 make on my behalf, and which I hope will be sufficient—but if, I say, they do persist, then I pray you to present in person the enclosed letter to the Lord Chamberlain: I have said in person, because otherwise I shall have neither answer nor knowledge that it has reached its address, owing to 'the insolence of office.'
"I wish you would speak to Lord Holland, and to all my friends and yours, to interest themselves in preventing this cursed attempt at representation.
"God help me! at this distance, I am treated like a corpse or a fool by the few people that I thought I could rely upon; and I was a fool to think any better of them than of the rest of mankind.
"Pray write. Yours, &c.
"P.S. I have nothing more at heart (that is, in literature) than to prevent this drama from going upon the stage: in short, rather than permit it, it must be suppressed altogether, and only forty copies struck off privately for presents to my friends. What curst fools those speculating buffoons must be not to see that it is unfit for their fair—or their booth!"
LETTER 409. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, January 22. 1821.
"Pray get well. I do not like your complaint. So, let me have a line to say you are up and doing again. To-day I am thirty-three years of age.
"Through life's road, &c. &c.
"Have you heard that the 'Braziers' Company have, or mean to present an address at Brandenburgh House, 'in armour,' and with all possible variety and splendour of brazen apparel?
There's an Ode for you, is it not?—worthy
"Mestri and Fusina are the 'trajects, or common ferries,' to Venice; but it was from Fusina that you and I embarked, though 'the wicked necessity of rhyming' has made me press Mestri into the voyage.
"So, you have had a book dedicated to you? I am glad of it, and shall be very happy to see the volume.
"I am in a peck of troubles about a tragedy of mine, which is fit only for the (* * * * *) closet, and which it seems that the managers, assuming a right over published poetry, are determined to enact, whether I will or no, with their own alterations by Mr. Dibdin, I presume. I have written to Murray, to the Lord Chamberlain, and to others, to interfere and preserve me from such an exhibition. I want neither the impertinence of their hisses, nor the insolence of their applause. I write only for the reader, and care for nothing but the silent approbaPg 123tion of those who close one's book with good humour and quiet contentment.
"Now, if you would also write to our friend Perry, to beg of him to mediate with Harris and Elliston to forbear this intent, you will greatly oblige me. The play is quite unfit for the stage, as a single glance will show them, and, I hope, has shown them; and, if it were ever so fit, I will never have any thing to do willingly with the theatres.
"Yours ever, in haste," &c.
LETTER 410. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, January 27. 1821.
"I differ from you about the Dante, which I think should be published with the tragedy. But do as you please: you must be the best judge of your own craft. I agree with you about the title. The play may be good or bad, but I flatter myself that it is original as a picture of that kind of passion, which to my mind is so natural, that I am convinced that I should have done precisely what the Doge did on those provocations.
"I am glad of Foscolo's approbation.
"Excuse haste. I believe I mentioned to you that—I forget what it was; but no matter.
"Thanks for your compliments of the year. I hope that it will be pleasanter than the last. I speak with reference to England only, as far as regards myself, where I had every kind of disappointment—lost an important law-suit—and the trustees of Lady Byron refusing to allow of an adPg 124vantageous loan to be made from my property to Lord Blessington, &c. &c. by way of closing the four seasons. These, and a hundred other such things, made a year of bitter business for me in England. Luckily, things were a little pleasanter for me here, else I should have taken the liberty of Hannibal's ring.
"Pray thank Gifford for all his goodnesses. The winter is as cold here as Parry's polarities. I must now take a canter in the forest; my horses are waiting.
"Yours ever and truly."
LETTER 411. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, February 2. 1821.
"Your letter of excuses has arrived. I receive the letter, but do not admit the excuses, except in courtesy; as when a man treads on your toes and begs your pardon, the pardon is granted, but the joint aches, especially if there be a corn upon it. However, I shall scold you presently.
"In the last speech of the Doge, there occurs (I think, from memory) the phrase
change this to
that is to say, if the verse runs equally well, and Mr. Gifford thinks the expression improved. Pray have the bounty to attend to this. You are grownPg 125 quite a minister of state. Mind if some of these days you are not thrown out. * * will not be always a Tory, though Johnson says the first Whig was the devil.
"You have learnt one secret from Mr. Galignani's (somewhat tardily acknowledged) correspondence: this is, that an English author may dispose of his exclusive copyright in France—a fact of some consequence (in time of peace), in the case of a popular writer. Now I will tell you what you shall do, and take no advantage of you, though you were scurvy enough never to acknowledge my letter for three months. Offer Galignani the refusal of the copyright in France; if he refuses, appoint any bookseller in France you please, and I will sign any assignment you please, and it shall never cost you a sou on my account.
"Recollect that I will have nothing to do with it, except as far as it may secure the copyright to yourself. I will have no bargain but with the English booksellers, and I desire no interest out of that country.
"Now, that's fair and open, and a little handsomer than your dodging silence, to see what would come of it. You are an excellent fellow, mio caro Moray, but there is still a little leaven of Fleet Street about you now and then—a crum of the old loaf. You have no right to act suspiciously with me, for I have given you no reason. I shall always be frank with you; as, for instance, whenever you talk with the votaries of Apollo arithmetically, it should be inPg 126 guineas, not pounds—to poets, as well as physicians, and bidders at auctions.
"I shall say no more at this present, save that I am,
"P.S. If you venture, as you say, to Ravenna this year, I will exercise the rites of hospitality while you live, and bury you handsomely (though not in holy ground), if you get 'shot or slashed in a creagh or splore,' which are rather frequent here of late among the native parties. But perhaps your visit may be anticipated; I may probably come to your country; in which case write to her Ladyship the duplicate of the epistle the King of France wrote to Prince John."
LETTER 412. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, February 16, 1821.
"In the month of March will arrive from Barcelona Signor Curioni, engaged for the Opera. He is an acquaintance of mine, and a gentlemanly young man, high in his profession. I must request your personal kindness and patronage in his favour. Pray introduce him to such of the theatrical people, editors of papers, and others, as may be useful to him in his profession, publicly and privately.
"The fifth is so far from being the last of Don Juan, that it is hardly the beginning. I meant to take him the tour of Europe, with a proper mixture of siege, battle, and adventure, and to make him finish as Anacharsis Cloots, in the French Revolution.Pg 127 To how many cantos this may extend, I know not, nor whether (even if I live) I shall complete it: but this was my notion. I meant to have made him a cavalier servente in Italy, and a cause for a divorce in England, and a sentimental 'Werter-faced man' in Germany, so as to show the different ridicules of the society in each of those countries, and to have displayed him gradually gâté and blasé as he grew older, as is natural. But I had not quite fixed whether to make him end in hell, or in an unhappy marriage, not knowing which would be the severest: the Spanish tradition says hell: but it is probably only an allegory of the other state. You are now in possession of my notions on the subject.
"You say the Doge will not be popular: did I ever write for popularity? I defy you to show a work of mine (except a tale or two) of a popular style or complexion. It appears to me that there is room for a different style of the drama; neither a servile following of the old drama, which is a grossly erroneous one, nor yet too French, like those who succeded the older writers. It appears to me, that good English, and a severer approach to the rules, might combine something not dishonourable to our literature. I have also attempted to make a play without love; and there are neither rings, nor mistakes, nor starts, nor outrageous ranting villains, nor melodrame in it. All this will prevent its popularity, but does not persuade me that it is therefore faulty. Whatever faults it has will arise from deficiency in the conduct, rather than in the conception, which is simple and severe.
Pg 128"So you epigrammatise upon my epigram? I will pay you for that, mind if I don't, some day. I never let any one off in the long run (who first begins). Remember * * *, and see if I don't do you as good a turn. You unnatural publisher! what! quiz your own authors? you are a paper cannibal!
"In the Letter on Bowles (which I sent by Tuesday's post) after the words 'attempts had been made' (alluding to the republication of 'English Bards'), add the words, 'in Ireland;' for I believe that English pirates did not begin their attempts till after I had left England the second time. Pray attend to this. Let me know what you and your synod think on Bowles.
"I did not think the second seal so bad; surely it is far better than the Saracen's head with which you have sealed your last letter; the larger, in profile, was surely much better than that.
"So Foscolo says he will get you a seal cut better in Italy? he means a throat—that is the only thing they do dexterously. The Arts—all but Canova's, and Morghen's, and Ovid's (I don't mean poetry),—are as low as need be: look at the seal which I gave to William Bankes, and own it. How came George Bankes to quote 'English Bards' in the House of Commons? All the world keep flinging that poem in my face.
"Belzoni is a grand traveller, and his English is very prettily broken.
"'Letters opened?—to be sure they are, and that's the reason why I always put in my opinion of the German Austrian scoundrels. There is not an Italian who loathes them more than I do; and whatever I could do to scour Italy and the earth of their infamous oppression would be done con amore.
LETTER 413. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, February 21. 1821.
"In the forty-fourth page, volume first, of Turner's Travels (which you lately sent me), it is stated that 'Lord Byron, when he expressed such confidence of its practicability, seems to have forgotten that Leander swam both ways, with and against the tide; whereas he (Lord Byron) only performed the easiest part of the task by swimming with it from Europe to Asia.' I certainly could not have forgotten, what is known to every schoolboy, that Leander crossed in the night and returned towards the morning. My object was, to ascertain that the Hellespont could be crossed at all by swimming, and in this Mr. Ekenhead and myself both succeeded, the one in an hour and ten minutes, and the other in one hour and five minutes. The tide was not in our favour; on the contrary, the great difficulty was to bear up against the current, which, so far from helping us into the Asiatic side, set us down right towards the Archipelago. Neither Mr. Ekenhead,Pg 130 myself, nor, I will venture to add, any person on board the frigate, from Captain Bathurst downwards, had any notion of a difference of the current on the Asiatic side, of which Mr. Turner speaks. I never heard of it till this moment, or I would have taken the other course. Lieutenant Ekenhead's sole motive, and mine also, for setting out from the European side was, that the little cape above Sestos was a more prominent starting place, and the frigate, which lay below, close under the Asiatic castle, formed a better point of view for us to swim towards; and, in fact, we landed immediately below it.
"Mr. Turner says, 'Whatever is thrown into the stream on this part of the European bank must arrive at the Asiatic shore.' This is so far from being the case, that it must arrive in the Archipelago, if left to the current, although a strong wind in the Asiatic direction might have such an effect occasionally.
"Mr. Turner attempted the passage from the Asiatic side, and failed: 'After five-and-twenty minutes, in which he did not advance a hundred yards, he gave it up from complete exhaustion.' This is very possible, and might have occurred to him just as readily on the European side. He should have set out a couple of miles higher, and could then have come out below the European castle. I particularly stated, and Mr. Hobhouse has done so also, that we were obliged to make the real passage of one mile extend to between three and four, owing to the force of the stream. I canPg 131 assure Mr. Turner, that his success would have given me great pleasure, as it would have added one more instance to the proofs of the probability. It is not quite fair in him to infer, that because he failed, Leander could not succeed. There are still four instances on record: a Neapolitan, a young Jew, Mr. Ekenhead, and myself; the two last done in the presence of hundreds of English witnesses.
"With regard to the difference of the current, I perceived none; it is favourable to the swimmer on neither side, but may be stemmed by plunging into the sea, a considerable way above the opposite point of the coast which the swimmer wishes to make, but still bearing up against it; it is strong, but if you calculate well, you may reach land. My own experience and that of others bids me pronounce the passage of Leander perfectly practicable. Any young man, in good and tolerable skill in swimming, might succeed in it from either side. I was three hours in swimming across the Tagus, which is much more hazardous, being two hours longer than the Hellespont. Of what may be done in swimming, I will mention one more instance. In 1818, the Chevalier Mengaldo (a gentleman of Bassano), a good swimmer, wished to swim with my friend Mr. Alexander Scott and myself. As he seemed particularly anxious on the subject, we indulged him. We all three started from the island of the Lido and swam to Venice. At the entrance of the Grand Canal, Scott and I were a good way ahead, and we saw no more of our foreign friend, which, however, was of no consequence, as there was a gondola toPg 132 hold his clothes and pick him up. Scott swam on till past the Rialto, where he got out, less from fatigue than from chill, having been four hours in the water, without rest or stay, except what is to be obtained by floating on one's back—this being the condition of our performance. I continued my course on to Santa Chiara, comprising the whole of the Grand Canal (besides the distance from the Lido), and got out where the Laguna once more opens to Fusina. I had been in the water, by my watch, without help or rest, and never touching ground or boat, four hours and twenty minutes. To this match, and during the greater part of its performance, Mr. Hoppner, the Consul-general, was witness, and it is well known to many others. Mr. Turner can easily verify the fact, if he thinks it worth while, by referring to Mr. Hoppner. The distance we could not accurately ascertain; it was of course considerable.
"I crossed the Hellespont in one hour and ten minutes only. I am now ten years older in time, and twenty in constitution, than I was when I passed the Dardanelles, and yet two years ago I was capable of swimming four hours and twenty minutes; and I am sure that I could have continued two hours longer, though I had on a pair of trowsers, an accoutrement which by no means assists the performance. My two companions were also four hours in the water. Mengaldo might be about thirty years of age; Scott about six-and-twenty.
"With this experience in swimming at different periods of life, not only upon the SPOT, but elsewhere, of various persons, what is there to make me doubtPg 133 that Leander's exploit was perfectly practicable? If three individuals did more than the passage of the Hellespont, why should he have done less? But Mr. Turner failed, and, naturally seeking a plausible reason for his failure, lays the blame on the Asiatic side of the strait. He tried to swim directly across, instead of going higher up to take the vantage: he might as well have tried to fly over Mount Athos.
"That a young Greek of the heroic times, in love, and with his limbs in full vigour, might have succeeded in such an attempt is neither wonderful nor doubtful. Whether he attempted it or not is another question, because he might have had a small boat to save him the trouble.
"I am yours very truly,
"P.S. Mr. Turner says that the swimming from Europe to Asia was 'the easiest part of the task.' I doubt whether Leander found it so, as it was the return; however, he had several hours between the intervals. The argument of Mr. Turner, 'that higher up or lower down, the strait widens so considerably that he would save little labour by his starting,' is only good for indifferent swimmers; a man of any practice or skill will always consider the distance less than the strength of the stream. If Ekenhead and myself had thought of crossing at the narrowest point, instead of going up to the Cape above it, we should have been swept down to Tenedos. The strait, however, is not so extremely wide, even where it broadens above and below the forts. As the frigate was stationed some time inPg 134 the Dardanelles waiting for the firman, I bathed often in the strait subsequently to our traject, and generally on the Asiatic side, without perceiving the greater strength of the opposite stream by which the diplomatic traveller palliates his own failure. Our amusement in the small bay which opens immediately below the Asiatic fort was to dive for the LAND tortoises, which we flung in on purpose, as they amphibiously crawled along the bottom. This does not argue any greater violence of current than on the European shore. With regard to the modest insinuation that we chose the European side as 'easier,' I appeal to Mr. Hobhouse and Captain Bathurst if it be true or no (poor Ekenhead being since dead). Had we been aware of any such difference of current as is asserted, we would at least have proved it, and were not likely to have given it up in the twenty-five minutes of Mr. Turner's own experiment. The secret of all this is, that Mr. Turner failed, and that we succeeded; and he is consequently disappointed, and seems not unwilling to overshadow whatever little merit there might be in our success. Why did he not try the European side? If he had succeeded there, after failing on the Asiatic, his plea would have been more graceful and gracious. Mr. Turner may find what fault he pleases with my poetry, or my politics; but I recommend him to leave aquatic reflections till he is able to swim 'five-and-twenty minutes' without being 'exhausted,' though I believe he is the first modern Tory who ever swam 'against the stream for half the time."
LETTER 414. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, February 22. 1821.
"As I wish the soul of the late Antoine Galignani to rest in peace, (you will have read his death, published by himself, in his own newspaper,) you are requested particularly to inform his children and heirs, that of their 'Literary Gazette,' to which I subscribed more than two months ago, I have only received one number, notwithstanding I have written to them repeatedly. If they have no regard for me, a subscriber, they ought to have some for their deceased parent, who is undoubtedly no better off in his present residence for this total want of attention. If not, let me have my francs. They were paid by Missiaglia, the Wenetian bookseller. You may also hint to them that when a gentleman writes a letter, it is usual to send an answer. If not, I shall make them 'a speech,' which will comprise an eulogy on the deceased.
"We are here full of war, and within two days of the seat of it, expecting intelligence momently. We shall now see if our Italian friends are good for any thing but 'shooting round a corner,' like the Irishman's gun. Excuse haste,—I write with my spurs putting on. My horses are at the door, and an Italian Count waiting to accompany me in my ride.
"P.S. Pray, amongst my letters, did you get one detailing the death of the commandant here? He was killed near my door, and died in my house.
"BOWLES AND CAMPBELL.
"To the air of 'How now, Madame Flirt,' in the Beggars' Opera.
LETTER 415. TO MR. MURRAY.
"March 2. 1821.
"This was the beginning of a letter which I meant for Perry, but stopped short, hoping you would be able to prevent the theatres. Of course you need not send it; but it explains to you my feelings on the subject. You say that 'there is nothing to fear, let them do what they please;' that is to say, that you would see me damned with great tranquillity. You are a fine fellow."
TO MR. PERRY.
"Ravenna, January 22. 1821.
"I have received a strange piece of news, which cannot be more disagreeable to your public than it is to me. Letters and the gazettes do mePg 137 the honour to say that it is the intention of some of the London managers to bring forward on their stage the poem of 'Marino Faliero,' &c. which was never intended for such an exhibition, and I trust will never undergo it. It is certainly unfit for it. I have never written but for the solitary reader, and require no experiments for applause beyond his silent approbation. Since such an attempt to drag me forth as a gladiator in the theatrical arena is a violation of all the courtesies of literature, I trust that the impartial part of the press will step between me and this pollution. I say pollution, because every violation of a right is such, and I claim my right as an author to prevent what I have written from being turned into a stage-play. I have too much respect for the public to permit this of my own free will. Had I sought their favour, it would have been by a pantomime.
"I have said that I write only for the reader. Beyond this I cannot consent to any publication, or to the abuse of any publication of mine to the purposes of histrionism. The applauses of an audience would give me no pleasure; their disapprobation might, however, give me pain. The wager is therefore not equal. You may, perhaps, say, 'How can this be? if their disapprobation gives pain, their praise might afford pleasure?' By no means: the kick of an ass or the sting of a wasp may be painful to those who would find nothing agreeable in the braying of the one or the buzzing of the other.
"This may not seem a courteous comparison, but I have no other ready; and it occurs naturally."
LETTER 416. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, Marzo, 1821.
"In my packet of the 12th instant, in the last sheet (not the half sheet), last page, omit the sentence which (defining, or attempting to define, what and who are gentlemen) begins, 'I should say at least in life that most military men have it, and few naval; that several men of rank have it, and few lawyers,' &c. &c. I say, omit the whole of that sentence, because, like the 'cosmogony, or creation of the world,' in the 'Vicar of Wakefield,' it is not much to the purpose.
"In the sentence above, too, almost at the top of the same page, after the words 'that there ever was, or can be, an aristocracy of poets,' add and insert these words—'I do not mean that they should write in the style of the song by a person of quality, or parle euphuism; but there is a nobility of thought and expression to be found no less in Shakspeare, Pope, and Burns, than in Dante, Alfieri,' &c. &c. and so on. Or, if you please, perhaps you had better omit the whole of the latter digression on the vulgar poets, and insert only as far as the end of the sentence on Pope's Homer, where I prefer it to Cowper's, and quote Dr. Clarke in favour of its accuracy.
"Upon all these points, take an opinion; take the sense (or nonsense) of your learned visitants, and act thereby. I am very tractable—in PROSE.
"Whether I have made out the case for Pope, I know not; but I am very sure that I have beenPg 139 zealous in the attempt. If it comes to the proofs we shall beat the blackguards. I will show more imagery in twenty lines of Pope than in any equal length of quotation in English poesy, and that in places where they least expect it. For instance, in his lines on Sporus,—now, do just read them over—the subject is of no consequence (whether it be satire or epic)—we are talking of poetry and imagery from nature and art. Now, mark the images separately and arithmetically:—
"'1. The thing of silk.
2. Curd of ass's milk.
3. The butterfly.
4. The wheel.
5. Bug with gilded wings.
6. Painted child of dirt.
7. Whose buzz.
8. Well-bred spaniels.
9. Shallow streams run dimpling.
10. Florid impotence.
11. Prompter. Puppet squeaks.
12. The ear of Eve.
13. Familiar toad.
14. Half froth, half venom, splits himself abroad.
15. Fop at the toilet.
16. Flatterer at the board.
17. Amphibious thing.
18. Now trips a lady.
19. Now struts a lord.
20. A cherub's face.
21. A reptile all the rest.
22. The Rabbins.
23. Pride that licks the dust.
"Now, is there a line of all the passage without the most forcible imagery (for his purpose)? Look at the variety—at the poetry of the passage—at the imagination: there is hardly a line from which a painting might not be made, and is. But this is nothing in comparison with his higher passages in the Essay on Man, and many of his other poems, serious and comic. There never was such an unjust outcry in this world as that which these fellows are trying against Pope.
"Ask Mr. Gifford if, in the fifth act of 'The Doge,' you could not contrive (where the sentence of the Veil is passed) to insert the following lines in Marino Faliero's answer?
"Yours, truly, &c.
"P.S. Upon public matters here I say little: you will all hear soon enough of a general row throughout Italy. There never was a more foolish step than the expedition to Naples by these fellows.
"I wish to propose to Holmes, the miniature painter, to come out to me this spring. I will pay his expenses, and any sum in reason. I wish him to take my daughter's picture (who is in a convent)Pg 141 and the Countess G.'s, and the head of a peasant girl, which latter would make a study for Raphael. It is a complete peasant face, but an Italian peasant's, and quite in the Raphael Fornarina style. Her figure is tall, but rather large, and not at all comparable to her face, which is really superb. She is not seventeen, and I am anxious to have her face while it lasts. Madame G. is also very handsome, but it is quite in a different style—completely blonde and fair—very uncommon in Italy; yet not an English fairness, but more like a Swede or a Norwegian. Her figure, too, particularly the bust, is uncommonly good. It must be Holmes; I like him because he takes such inveterate likenesses. There is a war here; but a solitary traveller, with little baggage, and nothing to do with politics, has nothing to fear. Pack him up in the Diligence. Don't forget."
LETTER 417. TO MR. HOPPNER.
"Ravenna, April 3. 1821;
"Thanks for the translation. I have sent you some books, which I do not know whether you have read or no—you need not return them, in any case. I enclose you also a letter from Pisa. I have neither spared trouble nor expense in the care of the child; and as she was now four years old complete, and quite above the control of the servants—and as a man living without any woman at the head of his house cannot much attend to a nursery—I had no resource but to place her for a time (at a high pension too) in the convent of Bagna-Cavalli (twelvePg 142 miles off), where the air is good, and where she will, at least, have her learning advanced, and her morals and religion inculcated. I had also another reason;—things were and are in such a state here, that I had no reason to look upon my own personal safety as particularly insurable; and I thought the infant best out of harm's way, for the present.
"It is also fit that I should add that I by no means intended, nor intend, to give a natural child an English education, because with the disadvantages of her birth, her after settlement would be doubly difficult. Abroad, with a fair foreign education and a portion of five or six thousand pounds, she might and may marry very respectably. In England such a dowry would be a pittance, while elsewhere it is a fortune. It is, besides, my wish that she should be a Roman Catholic, which I look upon as the best religion, as it is assuredly the oldest of the various branches of Christianity. I have now explained my notions as to the place where she now is—it is the best I could find for the present; but I have no prejudices in its favour.
"Yours ever and truly.
"P.S. There is a report here of a change in France; but with what truth is not yet known.
"P.S. My respects to Mrs. H. I have the 'best opinion' of her countrywomen; and at my time of life, (three and thirty, 22d January, 1821,) that is to say, after the life I have led, a good opinion is the only rational one which a man should entertain of the whole sex—up to thirty, the worst possible opinion a man can have of them in general, the better for himself. Afterwards, it is a matter of no importance to them, nor to him either, what opinion he entertains—his day is over, or, at least, should be.
"You see how sober I am become."
LETTER 418. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, April 21. 1821.
"I enclose you another letter on Bowles. But I premise that it is not like the former, and that I am not at all sure how much, if any, of it should be published. Upon this point you can consult with Mr. Gifford, and think twice before you publish it at all.
"P.S. You may make my subscription for Mr. Scott's widow, &c. thirty instead of the proposed ten pounds; but do not put down my name; put down N.N. only. The reason is, that, as I have mentioned him in the enclosed pamphlet, it would look indelicate. I would give more, but my disappointPg 144ments last year about Rochdale and the transfer from the funds render me more economical for the present."
LETTER 419. TO MR. SHELLEY.
"Ravenna, April 26. 1821.
"The child continues doing well, and the accounts are regular and favourable. It is gratifying to me that you and Mrs. Shelley do not disapprove of the step which I have taken, which is merely temporary.
"I am very sorry to hear what you say of Keats—is it actually true? I did not think criticism had been so killing. Though I differ from you essentially in your estimate of his performances, I so much abhor all unnecessary pain, that I would rather he had been seated on the highest peak of Parnassus than have perished in such a manner. Poor fellow! though with such inordinate self-love he would probably have not been very happy. I read the review of 'Endymion' in the Quarterly. It was severe,—but surely not so severe as many reviews in that and other journals upon others.
"I recollect the effect on me of the Edinburgh on my first poem; it was rage, and resistance, and redress—but not despondency nor despair. I grant that those are not amiable feelings; but, in this world of bustle and broil, and especially in the career of writing, a man should calculate upon his powers of resistance before he goes into the arena.
"You know my opinion of that second-hand school of poetry. You also know my high opinion of your own poetry,—because it is of no school. I read Cenci—but, besides that I think the subject essentially undramatic, I am not an admirer of our old dramatists, as models. I deny that the English have hitherto had a drama at all. Your Cenci, however, was a work of power, and poetry. As to my drama, pray revenge yourself upon it, by being as free as I have been with yours.
"I have not yet got your Prometheus, which I long to see. I have heard nothing of mine, and do not know that it is yet published. I have published a pamphlet on the Pope controversy, which you will not like. Had I known that Keats was dead—or that he was alive and so sensitive—I should have omitted some remarks upon his poetry, to which I was provoked by his attack upon Pope, and my disapprobation of his own style of writing.
"You want me to undertake a great poem—I have not the inclination nor the power. As I grow older, the indifference—not to life, for we love it by instinct—but to the stimuli of life, increases. Besides, this late failure of the Italians has latterly disappointed me for many reasons,—some public, some personal. My respects to Mrs. S.
"P.S. Could not you and I contrive to meet this summer? Could not you take a run here alone?"
LETTER 420. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, April 26. 1821.
"I sent you by last postis a large packet, which will not do for publication (I suspect), being, as the apprentices say, 'damned low.' I put off also for a week or two sending the Italian scrawl which will form a note to it. The reason is that, letters being opened, I wish to 'bide a wee.'
"Well, have you published the Tragedy? and does the Letter take?
"Is it true, what Shelley writes me, that poor John Keats died at Rome of the Quarterly Review? I am very sorry for it, though I think he took the wrong line as a poet, and was spoilt by Cockneyfying, and suburbing, and versifying Tooke's Pantheon and Lempriere's Dictionary. I know, by experience, that a savage review is hemlock to a sucking author; and the one on me (which produced the English Bards, &c.) knocked me down—but I got up again. Instead of bursting a blood-vessel, I drank three bottles of claret, and began an answer, finding that there was nothing in the article for which I could lawfully knock Jeffrey on the head, in an honourable way. However, I would not be the person who wrote the homicidal article for all the honour and glory in the world, though I by no means approve of that school of scribbling which it treats upon.
"You see the Italians have made a sad business of it,—all owing to treachery and disunion amongst themselves. It has given me great vexation. The execrations heaped upon the Neapolitans by thePg 147 other Italians are quite in unison with those of the rest of Europe.
"P.S. Your latest packet of books is on its way here, but not arrived. Kenilworth excellent. Thanks for the pocket-books, of which I have made presents to those ladies who like cuts, and landscapes, and all that. I have got an Italian book or two which I should like to send you if I had an opportunity.
"I am not at present in the very highest health,—spring probably; so I have lowered my diet and taken to Epsom salts.
"As you say my prose is good, why don't you treat with Moore for the reversion of the Memoirs?—conditionally, recollect; not to be published before decease. He has the permission to dispose of them, and I advised him to do so."
LETTER 421. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, April 28. 1821.
"You cannot have been more disappointed than myself, nor so much deceived. I have been so at some personal risk also, which is not yet done away with. However, no time nor circumstances shall alter my tone nor my feelings of indignation against tyranny triumphant. The present business has been as much a work of treachery as of cowardice,—though both may have done their part. If ever you and I meet again, I will have a talk with you upon the subject. At present, for obvious reasons, I ran write but little, as all letters are opened. In minePg 148 they shall always find my sentiments, but nothing that can lead to the oppression of others.
"You will please to recollect that the Neapolitans are nowhere now more execrated than in Italy, and not blame a whole people for the vices of a province. That would be like condemning Great Britain because they plunder wrecks in Cornwall.
"And now let us be literary;—a sad falling off, but it is always a consolation. If 'Othello's occupation be gone,' let us take to the next best; and, if we cannot contribute to make mankind more free and wise, we may amuse ourselves and those who like it. What are you writing? I have been scribbling at intervals, and Murray will be publishing about now.
"Lady Noel has, as you say, been dangerously ill; but it may console you to learn that she is dangerously well again.
"I have written a sheet or two more of Memoranda for you; and I kept a little Journal for about a month or two, till I had filled the paper-book. I then left it off, as things grew busy, and, afterwards, too gloomy to set down without a painful feeling. This I should be glad to send you, if I had an opportunity; but a volume, however small, don't go well by such posts as exist in this Inquisition of a country.
"I have no news. As a very pretty woman said to me a few nights ago, with the tears in her eyes, as she sat at the harpsichord, 'Alas! the Italians must now return to making operas.' I fear that and maccaroni are their forte, and 'motley their onlyPg 149 wear.' However, there are some high spirits among them still. Pray write. And believe me," &c.
LETTER 422. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, May 3. 1821.
"Though I wrote to you on the 28th ultimo, I must acknowledge yours of this day, with the lines. They are sublime, as well as beautiful, and in your very best mood and manner. They are also but too true. However, do not confound the scoundrels at the heel of the boot with their betters at the top of it. I assure you that there are some loftier spirits.
"Nothing, however, can be better than your poem, or more deserved by the Lazzaroni. They are now abhorred and disclaimed nowhere more than here. We will talk over these things (if we meet) some day, and I will recount my own adventures, some of which have been a little hazardous, perhaps.
"So, you have got the Letter on Bowles? I do not recollect to have said any thing of you that could offend,—certainly, nothing intentionally. As for * *, I meant him a compliment. I wrote the whole off-hand, without copy or correction, and expecting then every day to be called into the field. What have I said of you? I am sure I forget. It mustPg 150 be something of regret for your approbation of Bowles. And did you not approve, as he says? Would I had known that before! I would have given him some more gruel. My intention was to make fun of all these fellows; but how I succeeded, I don't know.
"As to Pope, I have always regarded him as the greatest name in our poetry. Depend upon it, the rest are barbarians. He is a Greek Temple, with a Gothic Cathedral on one hand, and a Turkish Mosque and all sorts of fantastic pagodas and conventicles about him. You may call Shakspeare and Milton pyramids, if you please, but I prefer the Temple of Theseus or the Parthenon to a mountain of burnt brick-work.
"The Murray has written to me but once, the day of its publication, when it seemed prosperous. But I have heard of late from England but rarely. OfPg 151 Murray's other publications (of mine), I know nothing,—nor whether he has published. He was to have done so a month ago. I wish you would do something,—or that we were together.
"Ever yours and affectionately,
It was at this time that he began, under the title of "Detached Thoughts," that Book of Notices or Memorandums, from which, in the course of these pages, I have extracted so many curious illustrations of his life and opinions, and of which the opening article is as follows:—
"Amongst various Journals, Memoranda, Diaries, &c. which I have kept in the course of my living, I began one about three months ago, and carried it on till I had filled one paper-book (thinnish), and two sheets or so of another. I then left off, partly because I thought we should have some business here, and I had furbished up my arms and got my apparatus ready for taking a turn with the patriots, having my drawers full of their proclamations, oaths, and resolutions, and my lower rooms of their hidden weapons, of most calibres,—and partly because I had filled my paper-book.
"But the Neapolitans have betrayed themselves and all the world; and those who would have given their blood for Italy can now only give her their tears.
"Some day or other, if dust holds together, I have been enough in the secret (at least in this part of the country) to cast perhaps some little light upon the atrocious treachery which has replunged ItalyPg 152 into barbarism: at present, I have neither the time nor the temper. However the real Italians are not to blame; merely the scoundrels at the heel of the boot, which the Hun now wears, and will trample them to ashes with for their servility. I have risked myself with the others here, and how far I may or may not be compromised is a problem at this moment. Some of them, like Craigengelt, would 'tell all, and more than all, to save themselves.' But, come what may, the cause was a glorious one, though it reads at present as if the Greeks had run away from Xerxes. Happy the few who have only to reproach themselves with believing that these rascals were less 'rascaille' than they proved!—Here in Romagna, the efforts were necessarily limited to preparations and good intentions, until the Germans were fairly engaged in equal warfare—as we are upon their very frontiers, without a single fort or hill nearer than San Marino. Whether 'hell will be paved with' those 'good intentions,' I know not; but there will probably be good store of Neapolitans to walk upon the pavement, whatever may be its composition. Slabs of lava from their mountain, with the bodies of their own damned souls for cement, would be the fittest causeway for Satan's 'Corso.'"
LETTER 423. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, May 10. 1821.
"I have just got your packet. I am obliged to Mr. Bowles, and Mr. Bowles is obliged to me, for having restored him to good-humour. He is toPg 153 write, and you to publish, what you please,—motto and subject. I desire nothing but fair play for all parties. Of course, after the new tone of Mr. Bowles, you will not publish my defence of Gilchrist: it would be brutal to do so after his urbanity, for it is rather too rough, like his own attack upon Gilchrist. You may tell him what I say there of his Missionary (it is praised, as it deserves). However, and if there are any passages not personal to Bowles, and yet bearing upon the question, you may add them to the reprint (if it is reprinted) of my first Letter to you. Upon this consult Gifford; and, above all, don't let any thing be added which can personally affect Mr. Bowles.
"In the enclosed notes, of course what I say of the democracy of poetry cannot apply to Mr. Bowles, but to the Cockney and water washing-tub schools.
"I hope and trust that Elliston won't be permitted to act the drama. Surely he might have the grace to wait for Kean's return before he attempted it; though, even then, I should be as much against the attempt as ever.
"I have got a small packet of books, but neither Waldegrave, Oxford, nor Scott's novels among them. Why don't you republish Hodgson's Childe Harold's Monitor and Latino-mastix? They are excellent. Think of this—they are all for Pope.
The controversy, in which Lord Byron, with so much grace and good-humour, thus allowed himself to be disarmed by the courtesy of his antagonist, itPg 154 is not my intention to run the risk of reviving by any enquiry into its origin or merits. In all such discussions on matters of mere taste and opinion, where, on one side, it is the aim of the disputants to elevate the object of the contest, and on the other, to depreciate it, Truth will usually be found, like Shakspeare's gatherer of samphire on the cliff, "halfway down." Whatever judgment, however, may be formed respecting the controversy itself, of the urbanity and gentle feeling on both sides, which (notwithstanding some slight trials of this good understanding afterwards) led ultimately to the result anticipated in the foregoing letter, there can be but one opinion; and it is only to be wished that such honourable forbearance were as sure of imitators as it is, deservedly, of eulogists. In the lively pages thus suppressed, when ready fledged for flight, with a power of self-command rarely exercised by wit, there are some passages, of a general nature, too curious to be lost, which I shall accordingly proceed to extract for the reader.
"Pope himself 'sleeps well—nothing can touch him further;' but those who love the honour of their country, the perfection of her literature, the glory of her language, are not to be expected to permit an atom of his dust to be stirred in his tomb, or a leaf to be stripped from the laurel which grows over it. * * *
"To me it appears of no very great consequence whether Martha Blount was or was not Pope's mistress, though I could have wished him a better.Pg 155 She appears to have been a cold-hearted, interested, ignorant, disagreeable woman, upon whom the tenderness of Pope's heart in the desolation of his latter days was cast away, not knowing whither to turn, as he drew towards his premature old age, childless and lonely,—like the needle which, approaching within a certain distance of the pole, becomes helpless and useless, and ceasing to tremble, rusts. She seems to have been so totally unworthy of tenderness, that it is an additional proof of the kindness of Pope's heart to have been able to love such a being. But we must love something. I agree with Mr. B. that she 'could at no time have regarded Pope personally with attachment,' because she was incapable of attachment; but I deny that Pope could not be regarded with personal attachment by a worthier woman. It is not probable, indeed, that a woman would have fallen in love with him as he walked along the Mall, or in a box at the opera, nor from a balcony, nor in a ball-room: but in society he seems to have been as amiable as unassuming, and, with the greatest disadvantages of figure, his head and face were remarkably handsome, especially his eyes. He was adored by his friends—friends of the most opposite dispositions, ages, and talents—by the old and wayward Wycherley, by the cynical Swift, the rough Atterbury, the gentle Spence, the stern attorney-bishop Warburton, the virtuous Berkeley, and the 'cankered Bolingbroke.' Bolingbroke wept over him like a child; and Spence's description of his last moments is at least as edifying as the more ostentatious account of the deathbed of Addison.Pg 156 The soldier Peterborough and the poet Gay, the witty Congreve and the laughing Rowe, the eccentric Cromwell and the steady Bathurst, were all his intimates. The man who could conciliate so many men of the most opposite description, not one of whom but was a remarkable or a celebrated character, might well have pretended to all the attachment which a reasonable man would desire of an amiable woman.
"Pope, in fact, wherever he got it, appears to have understood the sex well. Bolingbroke, 'a judge of the subject,' says Warton, thought his 'Epistle on the Characters of Women' his 'masterpiece.' And even with respect to the grosser passion, which takes occasionally the name of 'romantic,' accordingly as the degree of sentiment elevates it above the definition of love by Buffon, it may be remarked, that it does not always depend upon personal appearance, even in a woman. Madame Cottin was a plain woman, and might have been virtuous, it may be presumed, without much interruption. Virtuous she was, and the consequences of this inveterate virtue were that two different admirers (one an elderly gentleman) killed themselves in despair (see Lady Morgan's 'France'). I would not, however, recommend this rigour to plain women in general, in the hope of securing the glory of two suicides apiece. I believe that there are few men who, in the course of their observations on life, may not have perceived that it is not the greatest female beauty who forms the longest and the strongest passions.
"But, apropos of Pope.—Voltaire tells us that the Marechal Luxembourg (who had precisely Pope's figure) was not only somewhat too amatory for a great man, but fortunate in his attachments. La Valière, the passion of Louis XIV. had an unsightly defect. The Princess of Eboli, the mistress of Philip the Second of Spain, and Maugiron, the minion of Henry the Third of France, had each of them lost an eye; and the famous Latin epigram was written upon them, which has, I believe, been either translated or imitated by Goldsmith:
"Wilkes, with his ugliness, used to say that 'he was but a quarter of an hour behind the handsomest man in England;' and this vaunt of his is said not to have been disproved by circumstances. Swift, when neither young, nor handsome, nor rich, nor even amiable, inspired the two most extraordinary passions upon record, Vanessa's and Stella's.
He requited them bitterly; for he seems to have broken the heart of the one, and worn out that of the other; and he had his reward, for he died a solitary idiot in the hands of servants.
"For my own part, I am of the opinion of Pausanias, that success in love depends upon Fortune.Pg 158 'They particularly renounce Celestial Venus, into whose temple, &c. &c. &c. I remember, too, to have seen a building in Ægina in which there is a statue of Fortune, holding a horn of Amalthea; and near here there is a winged Love. The meaning of this is, that the success of men in love affairs depends more on the assistance of Fortune than the charms of beauty. I am persuaded, too, with Pindar (to whose opinion I submit in other particulars), that Fortune is one of the Fates, and that in a certain respect she is more powerful than her sisters.'—See Pausanias, Achaics, book vii. chap. 26 page 246. 'Taylor's Translation.'
"Grimm has a remark of the same kind on the different destinies of the younger Crebillon and Rousseau. The former writes a licentious novel, and a young English girl of some fortune and family (a Miss Strafford) runs away, and crosses the sea to marry him; while Rousseau, the most tender and passionate of lovers, is obliged to espouse his chambermaid. If I recollect rightly, this remark was also repeated in the Edinburgh Review of Grimm's Correspondence, seven or eight years ago.
"In regard 'to the strange mixture of indecent, and sometimes profane levity, which his conduct and language often exhibited,' and which so much shocks the tone of Pope, than the tone of the time. With the exception of the correspondence of Pope and his friends, not many private letters of the periodPg 159 have come down to us; but those, such as they are—a few scattered scraps from Farquhar and others—are more indecent and coarse than any thing in Pope's letters. The comedies of Congreve, Vanbrugh, Farquhar, Gibber, &c. which naturally attempted to represent the manners and conversation of private life, are decisive upon this point; as are also some of Steele's papers, and even Addison's. We all know what the conversation of Sir R. Walpole, for seventeen years the prime-minister of the country, was at his own table, and his excuse for his licentious language, viz. 'that every body understood that, but few could talk rationally upon less common topics.' The refinement of latter days,—which is perhaps the consequence of vice, which wishes to mask and soften itself, as much as of virtuous civilisation,—had not yet made sufficient progress. Even Johnson, in his 'London,' has two or three passages which cannot be read aloud, and Addison's 'Drummer' some indelicate allusions."
To the extract that follows I beg to call the particular attention of the reader. Those who at all remember the peculiar bitterness and violence with which the gentleman here commemorated assailed Lord Byron, at a crisis when both his heart and fame were most vulnerable, will, if I am not mistaken, feel a thrill of pleasurable admiration in reading these sentences, such as alone can convey any adequate notion of the proud, generous pleasure that must have been felt in writing them.
"Poor Scott is now no more. In the exercise of his vocation, he contrived at last to make himself the subject of a coroner's inquest. But he died like a brave man, and he lived an able one. I knew him personally, though slightly. Although several years my senior, we had been schoolfellows together at the 'grammar-schule' (or, as the Aberdonians pronounce it, 'squeel') of New Aberdeen. He did not behave to me quite handsomely in his capacity of editor a few years ago, but he was under no obligation to behave otherwise. The moment was too tempting for many friends and for all enemies. At a time when all my relations (save one) fell from me like leaves from the tree in autumn winds, and my few friends became still fewer—when the whole periodical press (I mean the daily and weekly, not the literary press) was let loose against me in every shape of reproach, with the two strange exceptions (from their usual opposition) of 'The Courier' and 'The Examiner,'—the paper of which Scott had the direction, was neither the last, nor the least vituperative. Two years ago I met him at Venice, when he was bowed in griefs by the loss of his son, and had known, by experience, the bitterness of domestic privation. He was then earnest with me to return to England; and on my telling him, with a smile, that he was once of a different opinion, he replied to me,'that he and others had been greatly misled; and that some pains, and rather extraordinary means, had been taken to excite them. Scott is no more, but there are more than one living who were present at this dialogue. He was a manPg 161 of very considerable talents, and of great acquirements. He had made his way, as a literary character, with high success, and in a few years. Poor fellow! I recollect his joy at some appointment which he had obtained, or was to obtain, through Sir James Mackintosh, and which prevented the further extension (unless by a rapid run to Rome) of his travels in Italy. I little thought to what it would conduct him. Peace be with him! and may all such other faults as are inevitable to humanity be as readily forgiven him, as the little injury which he had done to one who respected his talents and regrets his loss."
In reference to some complaints made by Mr. Bowles, in his Pamphlet, of a charge of "hypochondriacism" which he supposed to have been brought against him by his assailant, Mr. Gilchrist, the noble writer thus proceeds:—
"I cannot conceive a man in perfect health being much affected by such a charge, because his complexion and conduct must amply refute it. But were it true, to what does it amount?—to an impeachment of a liver complaint. 'I will tell it to the world,' exclaimed the learned Smelfungus: 'you had better (said I) tell it to your physician. 'There is nothing dishonourable in such a disorder, which is more peculiarly the malady of students. It has been the complaint of the good and the wise and the witty, and even of the gay. Regnard, the author of the last French comedy after Molière, was atrabilarious,Pg 162 and Molière himself saturnine. Dr. Johnson, Gray, and Burns, were all more or less affected by it occasionally. It was the prelude to the more awful malady of Collins, Cowper, Swift, and Smart; but it by no means follows that a partial affliction of this disorder is to terminate like theirs. But even were it so,
"Mendelsohn and Bayle were at times so overcome with this depression as to be obliged to recur to seeing 'puppet-shows,' and 'counting tiles upon the opposite houses,' to divert themselves. Dr. Johnson, at times, 'would have given a limb to recover his spirits.'
"In page 14. we have a large assertion, that 'the Eloisa alone is sufficient to convict him (Pope) of gross licentiousness.' Thus, out it comes at last—Mr. B. does accuse Pope of 'gross licentiousness,' and grounds the charge upon a poem. The licentiousness is a 'grand peut-être,' according to the turn of the times being:—the grossness I deny. On the contrary, I do believe that such a subject never was, nor ever could be, treated by any poet with so much delicacy mingled with, at the same time, such true and intense passion. Is the 'Atys' of Catullus licentious? No, nor even gross; and yet Catullus is often a coarse writer. The subject is nearly the same, except that Atys was the suicide of his manhood, and Abelard the victim.
"The 'licentiousness' of the story was not Pope's,—it was a fact. All that it had of gross he has softened; all that it had of indelicate he has puriPg 163fied; all that it had of passionate he has beautified; all that it had of holy he has hallowed. Mr. Campbell has admirably marked this in a few words (I quote from memory), in drawing the distinction between Pope and Dryden, and pointing out where Dryden was wanting. 'I fear,' says he, 'that had the subject of 'Eloisa' fallen into his (Dryden's) hands, that he would have given us but a coarse draft of her passion.' Never was the delicacy of Pope so much shown as in this poem. With the facts and the letters of 'Eloisa' he has done what no other mind but that of the best and purest of poets could have accomplished with such materials. Ovid, Sappho (in the Ode called hers)—all that we have of ancient, all that we have of modern poetry, sinks into nothing compared with him in this production.
"Let us hear no more of this trash about 'licentiousness.' Is not 'Anacreon' taught in our schools?—translated, praised, and edited? and are the English schools or the English women the more corrupt for all this? When you have thrown the ancients into the fire, it will be time to denounce the moderns. 'Licentiousness!'—there is more real mischief and sapping licentiousness in a single French prose novel, in a Moravian hymn, or a German comedy, than in all the actual poetry that ever was penned or poured forth since the rhapsodies of Orpheus. The sentimental anatomy of Rousseau and Mad. de S. are far more formidable than any quantity of verse. They are so, because they sap the principles by reasoning upon the passions; wherePg 164as poetry is in itself passion, and does not systematise. It assails, but does not argue; it may be wrong, but it does not assume pretensions to optimism."
Mr. Bowles having, in his pamphlet, complained of some anonymous communication which he had received, Lord Byron thus comments on the circumstance.
"I agree with Mr. B. that the intention was to annoy him; but I fear that this was answered by his notice of the reception of the criticism. An anonymous writer has but one means of knowing the effect of his attack. In this he has the superiority over the viper; he knows that his poison has taken effect when he hears the victim cry;—the adder is deaf. The best reply to an anonymous intimation is to take no notice directly nor indirectly. I wish Mr. B. could see only one or two of the thousand which I have received in the course of a literary life, which, though begun early, has not yet extended to a third part of his existence as an author. I speak of literary life only;—were I to add personal, I might double the amount of anonymous letters. If he could but see the violence, the threats, the absurdity of the whole thing, he would laugh, and so should I, and thus be both gainers.
"To keep up the farce, within the last month of this present writing (1821), I have had my life threatened in the same way which menaced Mr. B.'s fame, excepting that the anonymous denunciation was addressed to the Cardinal Legate of Romagna, instead of to * * * *. I append the menace in all its barbaric but literal Italian, that Mr. B. may bePg 165 convinced; and as this is the only 'promise to pay' which the Italians ever keep, so my person has been at least as much exposed to 'a shot in the gloaming' from 'John Heatherblutter' (see Waverley), as ever Mr. B.'s glory was from an editor. I am, nevertheless, on horseback and lonely for some hours (one of them twilight) in the forest daily; and this, because it was my 'custom in the afternoon,' and that I believe if the tyrant cannot escape amidst his guards (should it be so written), so the humbler individual would find precautions useless."
The following just tribute to my Reverend Friend's merits as a poet I have peculiar pleasure in extracting:—
"Mr. Bowles has no reason to 'succumb' but to Mr. Bowles. As a poet, the author of 'The Missionary' may compete with the foremost of his contemporaries. Let it be recollected, that all my previous opinions of Mr. Bowles s poetry were written long before the publication of his last and best poem; and that a poet's last poem should be his best, is his highest praise. But, however, he may duly and honorably rank with his living rivals," &c. &c. &c.
Among various Addenda for this pamphlet, sent at different times to Mr. Murray, I find the following curious passages:—
"It is worthy of remark that, after all this outcry about 'in-door nature' and 'artificial images,' Pope was the principal inventor of that boast of the English, Modern Gardening. He divides this honour with Milton. Hear Warton:—'It hence appearsPg 166 that this enchanting art of modern gardening, in which this kingdom claims a preference over every nation in Europe, chiefly owes its origin and its improvements to two great poets, Milton and Pope.'
"Walpole (no friend to Pope) asserts that Pope formed Kent's taste, and that Kent was the artist to whom the English are chiefly indebted for diffusing 'a taste in laying out grounds.' The design of the Prince of Wales's garden was copied from Pope's at Twickenham. Warton applauds 'his singular effort of art and taste, in impressing so much variety and scenery on a spot of five acres.' Pope was the first who ridiculed the 'formal, French, Dutch, false and unnatural taste in gardening,' both in prose and verse. (See, for the former, 'The Guardian.')
"'Pope has given not only some of our first but best rules and observations on Architecture and Gardening.' (See Warton's Essay, vol. ii. p. 237, &c.&c.)
"Now, is it not a shame, after this, to hear our Lakers in 'Kendal green,' and our Bucolical Cockneys, crying out (the latter in a wilderness of bricks and mortar) about 'Nature,' and Pope's 'artificial in-door habits?' Pope had seen all of nature that England alone can supply. He was bred in Windsor Forest, and amidst the beautiful scenery of Eton; he lived familiarly and frequently at the country seats of Bathurst, Cobham, Burlington, Peterborough, Digby, and Bolingbroke; amongst whose seats was to be numbered Stowe. He made his own little five acres' a model to Princes, and to the first of our artists who imitated nature. Warton thinks 'that the most engaging of Kent's works was alsoPg 167 planned on the model of Pope's,—at least in the opening and retiring shades of Venus's Vale.'
"It is true that Pope was infirm and deformed; but he could walk, and he could ride (he rode to Oxford from London at a stretch), and he was famous for an exquisite eye. On a tree at Lord Bathurst's is carved, 'Here Pope sang,'—he composed beneath it. Bolingbroke, in one of his letters, represents them both writing in a hayfield. No poet ever admired Nature more, or used her better, than Pope has done, as I will undertake to prove from his works, prose and verse, if not anticipated in so easy and agreeable a labour. I remember a passage in Walpole, somewhere, of a gentleman who wished to give directions about some willows to a man who had long served Pope in his grounds: 'I understand, sir,' he replied: 'you would have them hang down, sir, somewhat poetical.' Now if nothing existed but this little anecdote, it would suffice to prove Pope's taste for Nature, and the impression which he had made on a common-minded man. But I have already quoted Warton and Walpole (both his enemies), and, were it necessary, I could amply quote Pope himself for such tributes to Nature as no poet of the present day has even approached.
"His various excellence is really wonderful: architecture, painting, gardening, all are alike subject to his genius. Be it remembered, that English gardening is the purposed perfectioning of niggard Nature, and that without it England is but a hedge-and-ditch, double-post-and-rail, Hounslow-heath and Clapham-common sort of a country, since the prinPg 168cipal forests have been felled. It is, in general, far from a picturesque country. The case is different with Scotland, Wales, and Ireland; and I except also the lake counties and Derbyshire, together with Eton, Windsor, and my own dear Harrow on the Hill, and some spots near the coast. In the present rank fertility of 'great poets of the age,' and 'schools of poetry'—a word which, like 'schools of eloquence' and of 'philosophy,' is never introduced till the decay of the art has increased with the number of its professors—in the present day, then, there have sprung up two sorts of Naturals;—the Lakers, who whine about Nature because they live in Cumberland; and their under-sect (which some one has maliciously called the 'Cockney School'), who are enthusiastical for the country because they live in London. It is to be observed, that the rustical founders are rather anxious to disclaim any connection with their metropolitan followers, whom they ungraciously review, and call cockneys, atheists, foolish fellows, bad writers, and other hard names, not less ungrateful than unjust. I can understand the pretensions of the aquatic gentlemen of Windermere to what Mr. B * * terms 'entusumusy' for lakes, and mountains, and daffodils, and buttercups; but I should be glad to be apprised of the foundation of the London propensities of their imitative brethren to the same' high argument.' Southey, Wordsworth, and Coleridge have rambled over half Europe, and seen Nature in most of her varieties (although I think that they have occasionally not used her very well); but what on earth—of earth, and sea, andPg 169 Nature—have the others seen? Not a half, nor a tenth part so much as Pope. While they sneer at his Windsor Forest, have they ever seen any thing of Windsor except its brick?
"When they have really seen life—when they have felt it—when they have travelled beyond the far distant boundaries of the wilds of Middlesex—when they have overpassed the Alps of Highgate, and traced to its sources the Nile of the New River—then, and not till then, can it properly be permitted to them to despise Pope; who had, if not in Wales, been near it, when he described so beautifully the 'artificial' works of the Benefactor of Nature and mankind, the 'Man of Ross,' whose picture, still suspended in the parlour of the inn, I have so often contemplated with reverence for his memory, and admiration of the poet, without whom even his own still existing good works could hardly have preserved his honest renown.
"If they had said nothing of Pope, they might have remained 'alone with their glory' for aught I should have said or thought about them or their nonsense. But if they interfere with the little 'Nightingale' of Twickenham, they may find others who will bear it—I won't. Neither time, nor distance, nor grief, nor age, can ever diminish my veneration for him, who is the great moral poet of all times, of all climes, of all feelings, and of all stages of existence. The delight of my boyhood, the study of my manhood, perhaps (if allowed to me to attain it) he may be the consolation of my age. His poetry is the Book of Life. Without canting, and yet withoutPg 170 neglecting, religion, he has assembled all that a good and great man can gather together of moral wisdom clothed in consummate beauty. Sir William Temple observes, 'That of all the members of mankind that live within the compass of a thousand years, for one man that is born capable of making a great poet there may be a thousand born capable of making as great generals and ministers of state as any in story.' Here is a statesman's opinion of poetry: it is honourable to him and to the art. Such a 'poet of a thousand years' was Pope. A thousand years will roll away before such another can be hoped for in our literature. But it can want them—he himself is a literature.
"One word upon his so brutally abused translation of Homer. 'Dr. Clarke, whose critical exactness is well known, has not been able to point out above three or four mistakes in the sense through the whole Iliad. The real faults of the translation are of a different kind.' So says Warton, himself a scholar. It appears by this, then, that he avoided the chief fault of a translator. As to its other faults, they consist in his having made a beautiful English poem of a sublime Greek one. It will always hold. Cowper and all the rest of the blank pretenders may do their best and their worst; they will never wrench Pope from the hands of a single reader of sense and feeling.
"The grand distinction of the under forms of the new school of poets is their vulgarity. By this I do not mean that they are coarse, but 'shabby-genteel,' as it is termed. A man may be coarse and yetPg 171 not vulgar, and the reverse. Burns is often coarse, but never vulgar. Chatterton is never vulgar, nor Wordsworth, nor the higher of the Lake school, though they treat of low life in all its branches. It is in their finery that the new under school are most vulgar, and they may be known by this at once; as what we called at Harrow 'a Sunday blood' might be easily distinguished from a gentleman, although his clothes might be better cut, and his boots the best blackened, of the two;—probably because he made the one or cleaned the other with his own hands.
"In the present case, I speak of writing, not of persons. Of the latter, I know nothing; of the former, I judge as it is found. * * They may be honourable and gentlemanly men, for what I know, but the latter quality is studiously excluded from their publications. They remind me of Mr. Smith and the Miss Broughtons at the Hampstead Assembly, in 'Evelina.' In these things (in private life, at least) I pretend to some small experience: because, in the course of my youth, I have seen a little of all sorts of society, from the Christian prince and the Mussulman sultan and pacha, and the higher ranks of their countries, down to the London boxer, the 'flash and the swell,' the Spanish muleteer, the wandering Turkish dervise, the Scotch Highlander, and the Albanian robber;—to say nothing of the curious varieties of Italian social life. Far be it from me to presume that there are now, or can be, such a thing as an aristocracy of poets; but there is a nobility of thought and of style, open to allPg 172 stations, and derived partly from talent, and partly from education,—which is to be found in Shakspeare, and Pope, and Burns, no less than in Dante and Alfieri, but which is nowhere to be perceived in the mock birds and bards of Mr. Hunt's little chorus. If I were asked to define what this gentlemanliness is, I should say that it is only to be defined by examples—of those who have it, and those who have it not. In life, I should say that most military men have it, and few naval; that several men of rank have it, and few lawyers; that it is more frequent among authors than divines (when they are not pedants); that fencing-masters have more of it than dancing-masters, and singers than players; and that (if it be not an Irishism to say so) it is far more generally diffused among women than among men. In poetry, as well as writing in general, it will never make entirely a poet or a poem; but neither poet nor poem will ever be good for any thing without it. It is the salt of society, and the seasoning of composition. Vulgarity is far worse than downright black-guardism; for the latter comprehends wit, humour, and strong sense at times; while the former is a sad abortive attempt at all things, 'signifying nothing.' It does not depend upon low themes, or even low-language, for Fielding revels in both;—but is he ever vulgar? No. You see the man of education, the gentleman, and the scholar, sporting with his subject,—its master, not its slave. Your vulgar writer is always most vulgar the higher his subject; as the man who showed the menagerie at Pidcock's was wont to say, 'This, gentlemen, is the Eagle ofPg 173 the Sun, from Archangel in Russia: the otterer it is, the igherer he flies.'"
In a note on a passage relative to Pope's lines upon Lady Mary W. Montague, he says—
"I think that I could show, if necessary, that Lady Mary W. Montague was also greatly to blame in that quarrel, not for having rejected, but for having encouraged him; but I would rather decline the task—though she should have remembered her own line, 'He comes too near, that comes to be denied.' I admire her so much—her beauty, her talents—that I should do this reluctantly. I, besides, am so attached to the very name of Mary, that as Johnson once said, 'If you called a dog Harvey, I should love him;' so, if you were to call a female of the same species 'Mary,' I should love it better than others (biped or quadruped) of the same sex with a different appellation. She was an extraordinary woman: she could translate Epictetus, and yet write a song worthy of Aristippus. The lines,
There, Mr. Bowles!—what say you to such a supper with such a woman? and her own description too? Is not her 'champaigne and chicken' worth a forest or two? Is it not poetry? It appears to me that thisPg 174 stanza contains the 'purée' of the whole philosophy of Epicurus:—I mean the practical philosophy of his school, not the precepts of the master; for I have been too long at the university not to know that the philosopher was himself a moderate man. But after all, would not some of us have been as great fools as Pope? For my part, I wonder that, with his quick feelings, her coquetry, and his disappointment, he did no more,—instead of writing some lines, which are to be condemned if false, and regretted if true."
LETTER 424. TO MR. HOPPNER.
"Ravenna, May 11. 1821.
"If I had but known your notion about Switzerland before, I should have adopted it at once. As it is, I shall let the child remain in her convent, where she seems healthy and happy, for the present; but I shall feel much obliged if you will enquire, when you are in the cantons, about the usual and better modes of education there for females, and let me know the result of your opinions. It is some consolation that both Mr. and Mrs. Shelley have written to approve entirely my placing the child with the nuns for the present. I can refer to my whole conduct, as having neither spared care, kindness, nor expense, since the child was sent to me. The people may say what they please, I must content myself with not deserving (in this instance) that they should speak ill.
"The place is a country town in a good air, where there is a large establishment for education, andPg 175 many children, some of considerable rank, placed in it. As a country town, it is less liable to objections of every kind. It has always appeared to me, that the moral defect in Italy does not proceed from a conventual education,—because, to my certain knowledge, they come out of their convents innocent even to ignorance of moral evil,—but to the state of society into which they are directly plunged on coming out of it. It is like educating an infant on a mountain-top, and then taking him to the sea and throwing him into it and desiring him to swim. The evil, however, though still too general, is partly wearing away, as the women are more permitted to marry from attachment: this is, I believe, the case also in France. And after all, what is the higher society of England? According to my own experience, and to all that I have seen and heard (and I have lived there in the very highest and what is called the best), no way of life can be more corrupt. In Italy, however, it is, or rather was, more systematised; but now, they themselves are ashamed of regular Serventism. In England, the only homage which they pay to virtue is hypocrisy. I speak of course of the tone of high life,—the middle ranks may be very virtuous.
"I have not got any copy (nor have yet had) of the letter on Bowles; of course I should be delighted to send it to you. How is Mrs. H.? well again, I hope. Let me know when you set out. I regret that I cannot meet you in the Bernese Alps this summer, as I once hoped and intended. With my best respects to madam, I am ever, &c.
"P.S. I gave to a musicianer a letter for you some time ago—has he presented himself? Perhaps you could introduce him to the Ingrains and other dilettanti. He is simple and unassuming—two strange things in his profession—and he fiddles like Orpheus himself or Amphion: 'tis a pity that he can't make Venice dance away from the brutal tyrant who tramples upon it."
LETTER 425. TO MR. MURRAY.
"May 14. 1821.
"A Milan paper states that the play has been represented and universally condemned. As remonstrance has been vain, complaint would be useless. I presume, however, for your own sake (if not for mine), that you and my other friends will have at least published my different protests against its being brought upon the stage at all; and have shown that Elliston (in spite of the writer) forced it upon the theatre. It would be nonsense to say that this has not vexed me a good deal, but I am not dejected, and I shall not take the usual resource of blaming the public (which was in the right), or my friends for not preventing—what they could not help, nor I neither—a forced representation by a speculating manager. It is a pity that you did not show them its unfitness for the stage before the play was published, and exact a promise from the managers not to act it. In case of their refusal, we would not have published it at all. But this is too late.
"P.S. I enclose Mr. Bowles's letters: thank him in my name for their candour and kindness.—Also a letter for Hodgson, which pray forward. The Milan paper states that I 'brought forward the play!!!' This is pleasanter still. But don't let yourself be worried about it; and if (as is likely) the folly of Elliston checks the sale, I am ready to make any deduction, or the entire cancel of your agreement.
"You will of course not publish my defence of Gilchrist, as, after Bowles's good humour upon the subject, it would be too savage.
"Let me hear from you the particulars; for, as yet, I have only the simple fact.
"If you knew what I have had to go through here, on account of the failure of these rascally Neapolitans, you would be amused; but it is now apparently over. They seemed disposed to throw the whole project and plans of these parts upon me chiefly."
LETTER 426. TO MR. MOORE.
"May 14. 1821.
"If any part of the letter to Bowles has (unintentionally, as far as I remember the contents) vexed you, you are fully avenged; for I see by an Italian paper that, notwithstanding all my remonstrances through all my friends (and yourself among the rest), the managers persisted in attempting the tragedy, and that it has been 'unanimously hissed!!' This is the consolatory phrase of the Milan paper, (whichPg 178 detests me cordially, and abuses me, on all occasions, as a Liberal,) with the addition that I 'brought the play out' of my own good will.
"All this is vexatious enough, and seems a sort of dramatic Calvinism—predestined damnation, without a sinner's own fault. I took all the pains poor mortal could to prevent this inevitable catastrophe—partly by appeals of all kinds up to the Lord Chamberlain, and partly to the fellows themselves. But, as remonstrance was vain, complaint is useless. I do not understand it—for Murray's letter of the 24th, and all his preceding ones, gave me the strongest hopes that there would be no representation. As yet, I know nothing but the fact, which I presume to be true, as the date is Paris, and the 30th. They must have been in a hell of a hurry for this damnation, since I did not even know that it was published; and, without its being first published, the histrions could not have got hold of it. Any one might have seen, at a glance, that it was utterly impracticable for the stage; and this little accident will by no means enhance its merit in the closet.
"Well, patience is a virtue, and, I suppose, practice will make it perfect. Since last year (spring, that is) I have lost a lawsuit, of great importance, on Rochdale collieries—have occasioned a divorce—have had my poesy disparaged by Murray and the critics—my fortune refused to be placed on an advantageous settlement (in Ireland) by the trustees—my life threatened last month (they put about a paper here to excite an attempt at my assassination,Pg 179 on account of politics, and a notion which the priests disseminated that I was in a league against the Germans,)—and, finally, my mother-in-law recovered last fortnight, and my play was damned last week! These are like 'the eight-and-twenty misfortunes of Harlequin.' But they must be borne. If I give in, it shall be after keeping up a spirit at least. I should not have cared so much about it, if our southern neighbours had not bungled us all out of freedom for these five hundred years to come.
"Did you know John Keats? They say that he was killed by a review of him in the Quarterly—if he be dead, which I really don't know. I don't understand that yielding sensitiveness. What I feel (as at this present) is an immense rage for eight-and-forty hours, and then, as usual—unless this time it should last longer. I must get on horseback to quiet me. Yours, &c.
"Francis I. wrote, after the battle of Pavia, 'All is lost except our honour.' A hissed author may reverse it—'Nothing is lost, except our honour.' But the horses are waiting, and the paper full. I wrote last week to you."
LETTER 427. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, May 19. 1821.
"By the papers of Thursday, and two letters of Mr. Kinnaird, I perceive that the Italian gazette had lied most Italically, and that the drama had not been hissed, and that my friends had interfered to preventPg 180 the representation. So it seems they continue to act it, in spite of us all: for this we must 'trouble them at 'size.' Let it by all means be brought to a plea: I am determined to try the right, and will meet the expenses. The reason of the Lombard lie was that the Austrians—who keep up an Inquisition throughout Italy, and a list of names of all who think or speak of any thing but in favour of their despotism—have for five years past abused me in every form in the Gazette of Milan, &c. I wrote to you a week ago on the subject.
"Now I should be glad to know what compensation Mr. Elliston would make me, not only for dragging my writings on the stage in five days, but for being the cause that I was kept for four days (from Sunday to Thursday morning, the only post-days) in the belief that the tragedy had been acted and 'unanimously hissed;' and this with the addition that I 'had brought it upon the stage,' and consequently that none of my friends had attended to my request to the contrary. Suppose that I had burst a blood-vessel, like John Keats, or blown my brains out in a fit of rage,—neither of which would have been unlikely a few years ago. At present I am, luckily, calmer than I used to be, and yet I would not pass those four days over again for—I know not what.
"I wrote to you to keep up your spirits, for reproach is useless always, and irritating—but myPg 182 feelings were very much hurt, to be dragged like a gladiator to the fate of a gladiator by that 'retiarius,' Mr. Elliston. As to his defence and offers of compensation, what is all this to the purpose? It is like Louis the Fourteenth, who insisted upon buying at any price Algernon Sydney's horse, and, on his refusal, on taking it by force, Sydney shot his horse. I could not shoot my tragedy, but I would have flung it into the fire rather than have had it represented.
"I have now written nearly three acts of another (intending to complete it in five), and am more anxious than ever to be preserved from such a breach of all literary courtesy and gentlemanly consideration.
"If we succeed, well: if not, previous to any future publication, we will request a promise not to be acted, which I would even pay for (as money isPg 183 their object), or I will not publish—which, however, you will probably not much regret.
"The Chancellor has behaved nobly. You have also conducted yourself in the most satisfactory manner; and I have no fault to find with any body but the stage-players and their proprietor. I was always so civil to Elliston personally, that he ought to have been the last to attempt to injure me.
"There is a most rattling thunder-storm pelting away at this present writing; so that I write neither by day, nor by candle, nor torchlight, but by lightning light: the flashes are as brilliant as the most gaseous glow of the gas-light company. My chimney-board has just been thrown down by a gust of wind: I thought that it was the 'Bold Thunder' and 'Brisk Lightning' in person.—Three of us would be too many. There it goes—flash again! but
as I have done by and upon Mr. Elliston.
"Why do you not write? You should at least send me a line of particulars: I know nothing yet but by Galignani and the Honourable Douglas.
"Well, and how does our Pope controversy go on? and the pamphlet? It is impossible to write any news: the Austrian scoundrels rummage all letters.
"P.S. I could have sent you a good deal of gossip and some real information, were it not that all letters pass through the Barbarians' inspection,Pg 184 and I have no wish to inform them of any thing but my utter abhorrence of them and theirs. They have only conquered by treachery, however."
LETTER 428. TO ME. MOORE.
"Ravenna, May 20. 1821.
"Since I wrote to you last week I have received English letters and papers, by which I perceive that what I took for an Italian truth is, after all, a French lie of the Gazette de France. It contains two ultra-falsehoods in as many lines. In the first place, Lord B. did not bring forward his play, but opposed the same; and, secondly, it was not condemned, but is continued to be acted, in despite of publisher, author, Lord Chancellor, and (for aught I know to the contrary) of audience, up to the first of May, at least—the latest date of my letters. You will oblige me, then, by causing Mr. Gazette of France to contradict himself, which, I suppose, he is used to. I never answer a foreign criticism; but this is a mere matter of fact, and not of opinions. I presume that you have English and French interest enough to do this for me—though, to be sure, as it is nothing but the truth which we wish to state, the insertion may be more difficult.
"As I have written to you often lately at some length, I won't bore you further now, than by begging you to comply with my request; and I presume the 'esprit du corps' (is it 'du' or 'de?' for this is more than I know) will sufficiently urge you, asPg 185 one of 'ours,' to set this affair in its real aspect. Believe me always yours ever and most affectionately,
LETTER 429. TO MR. HOPPNER.
"Ravenna, May 25. 1821.
"I am very much pleased with what you say of Switzerland, and will ponder upon it. I would rather she married there than here for that matter. For fortune, I shall make all that I can spare (if I live and she is correct in her conduct); and if I die before she is settled, I have left her by will five thousand pounds, which is a fair provision out of England for a natural child. I shall increase it all I can, if circumstances permit me; but, of course (like all other human things), this is very uncertain.
"You will oblige me very much by interfering to have the FACTS of the play-acting stated, as these scoundrels appear to be organising a system of abuse against me, because I am in their 'list.' I care nothing for their criticism, but the matter of fact. I have written four acts of another tragedy, so you see they can't bully me.
"You know, I suppose, that they actually keep a list of all individuals in Italy who dislike them—it must be numerous. Their suspicions and actual alarms, about my conduct and presumed intentions in the late row, were truly ludicrous—though, not to bore you, I touched upon them lightly. They believed, and still believe here, or affect to believePg 186 it, that the whole plan and project of rising was settled by me, and the means furnished, &c. &c. All this was more fomented by the barbarian agents, who are numerous here (one of them was stabbed yesterday, by the way, but not dangerously):—and although when the Commandant was shot here before my door in December, I took him into my house, where he had every assistance, till he died on Fletcher's bed; and although not one of them dared to receive him into their houses but myself, they leaving him to perish in the night in the streets, they put up a paper about three months ago, denouncing me as the Chief of the Liberals, and stirring up persons to assassinate me. But this shall never silence nor bully my opinions. All this came from the German Barbarians."
LETTER 430. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, May 25. 1821.
"Since I wrote the enclosed a week ago, and for some weeks before, I have not had a line from you: now, I should be glad to know upon what principle of common or uncommon feeling, you leave me without any information but what I derive from garbled gazettes in English, and abusive ones in Italian (the Germans hating me as a coal-heaver), while all this kick-up has been going on about the play? You SHABBY fellow!!! Were it not for two letters from Douglas Kinnaird, I should have been as ignorant as you are negligent.
"Since I wrote the enclosed packet, I have completed (but not copied out) four acts of a new tragedy. When I have finished the fifth, I will copy it out. It is on the subject of 'Sardanapalus,' the last king of the Assyrians. The words Queen and Pavilion occur, but it is not an allusion to his Britannic Majesty, as you may tremulously imagine. This you will one day see (if I finish it), as I have made Sardanapalus brave, (though voluptuous, as history represents him,) and also as amiable as my poor powers could render him:—so that it could neither be truth nor satire on any living monarch. I have strictly preserved all the unities hitherto, and mean to continue them in the fifth, if possible; but not for the stage. Yours, in haste and hatred, you shabby correspondent! N."
LETTER 431. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, May 28. 1821.
"Since my last of the 26th or 25th, I have dashed off my fifth act of the tragedy called 'Sardanapalus.' But now comes the copying over, which may prove heavy work—heavy to the writer as to the reader. I have written to you at least six times sans answer, which proves you to be a—bookseller. I pray you to send me a copy of Mr. Wrangham's reformation of 'Langhorne's Plutarch.' I have the Greek, which is somewhat small of print, and the Italian, which is too heavy in style, and asPg 188 false as a Neapolitan patriot proclamation. I pray you also to send me a Life, published some years ago, of the Magician Apollonius of Tyana. It is in English, and I think edited or written by what Martin Marprelate calls 'a bouncing priest.' I shall trouble you no farther with this sheet than with the postage. Yours, &c. N.
"P.S. Since I wrote this, I determined to enclose it (as a half sheet) to Mr. Kinnaird, who will have the goodness to forward it. Besides, it saves sealing-wax."
LETTER 432. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, May 30. 1821.
"You say you have written often: I have only received yours of the eleventh, which is very short. By this post, five packets, I send you the tragedy of Sardanapalus, which is written in a rough hand: perhaps Mrs. Leigh can help you to decipher it. You will please to acknowledge it by return of post. You will remark that the unities are all strictly observed. The scene passes in the same hall always: the time, a summer's night, about nine hours, or less, though it begins before sunset and ends after sun-rise. In the third act, when Sardanapalus calls for a mirror to look at himself in his armour, recollect to quote the Latin passage from Juvenal upon Otho (a similar character, who did the same thing): Gifford will help you to it. The trait is perhaps too familiar, but it is historical, (of Otho, at least,) and natural in an effeminate character."
LETTER 433. TO MR. HOPPNER.
"Ravenna, May 31. 1821.
"I enclose you another letter, which will only confirm what I have said to you.
"About Allegra'—I will take some decisive step in the course of the year; at present, she is so happy where she is, that perhaps she had better have her alphabet imparted in her convent.
"What you say of the Dante is the first I have heard of it—all seeming to be merged in the row about the tragedy. Continue it!—Alas! what could Dante himself now prophesy about Italy? I am glad you like it, however, but doubt that you will be singular in your opinion. My new tragedy is completed.
"The B * * is right,—I ought to have mentioned her humour and amiability, but I thought at her sixty, beauty would be most agreeable or least likely. However, it shall be rectified in a new edition; and if any of the parties have either looks or qualities which they wish to be noticed, let me have a minute of them. I have no private nor personal dislike to Venice, rather the contrary, but I merely speak of what is the subject of all remarks and all writers upon her present state. Let me hear from you before you start.
"Believe me, ever, &c.
"P.S. Did you receive two letters of Douglas Kinnaird's in an endorse from me? Remember me to Mengaldo, Soranzo, and all who care that I should remember them. The letter alluded to in the enPg 190closed, 'to the Cardinal,' was in answer to some queries of the government, about a poor devil of a Neapolitan, arrested at Sinigaglia on suspicion, who came to beg of me here; being without breeches, and consequently without pockets for halfpence, I relieved and forwarded him to his country, and they arrested him at Pesaro on suspicion, and have since interrogated me (civilly and politely, however,) about him. I sent them the poor man's petition, and such information as I had about him, which I trust will get him out again, that is to say, if they give him a fair hearing.
"I am content with the article. Pray, did you receive, some posts ago, Moore's lines which I enclosed to you, written at Paris?"
LETTER 434. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, June 4. 1821.
"You have not written lately, as is the usual custom with literary gentlemen, to console their friends with their observations in cases of magnitude. I do not know whether I sent you my 'Elegy on the recovery of Lady * *:'—
"The papers (and perhaps your letters) will have put you in possession of Muster Elliston's dramatic behaviour. It is to be presumed that the play was fitted for the stage by Mr. Dibdin, who is the tailor upon such occasions, and will have taken measurePg 191 with his usual accuracy. I hear that it is still continued to be performed—a piece of obstinacy for which it is some consolation to think that the discourteous histrio will be out of pocket.
"You will be surprised to hear that I have finished another tragedy in five acts, observing all the unities strictly. It is called 'Sardanapalus,' and was sent by last post to England. It is not for the stage, any more than the other was intended for it—and I shall take better care this time that they don't get hold on't.
"I have also sent, two months ago, a further letter on Bowles, &c.; but he seems to be so taken up with my 'respect' (as he calls it) towards him in the former case, that I am not sure that it will be published, being somewhat too full of' pastime and prodigality.' I learn from some private letters of Bowles's, that you were 'the gentleman in asterisks.' Who would have dreamed it? you see what mischief that clergyman has done by printing notes without names. How the deuce was I to suppose that the first four asterisks meant 'Campbell' and not 'Pope,' and that the blank signature meant Thomas Moore? You see what comes of beingPg 192 familiar with parsons. His answers have not yet reached me, but I understand from Hobhouse, thatPg 193 he (H.) is attacked in them. If that be the case, Bowles has broken the truce, (which he himself proclaimed, by the way,) and I must have at him again.
"Did you receive my letters with the two or three concluding sheets of Memoranda?
"There are no news here to interest much. A German spy (boasting himself such) was stabbed last week, but not mortally. The moment I heard that he went about bullying and boasting, it was easy for me, or any one else, to foretell what would occur to him, which I did, and it came to pass in two days after. He has got off, however, for a slight incision.
"A row the other night, about a lady of the place, between her various lovers, occasioned a midnight discharge of pistols, but nobody wounded. Great scandal, however—planted by her lover—to be thrashed by her husband, for inconstancy to her regular Servente, who is coming home post about it, and she herself retired in confusion into the country, although it is the acme of the opera season. All the women furious against her (she herself having been censorious) for being found out. She is a pretty woman—a Countess * * * *—a fine old Visigoth name, or Ostrogoth.
"The Greeks! what think you? They are my old acquaintances—but what to think I know not. Let us hope howsomever.
LETTER 435. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, June 22. 1821.
"Your dwarf of a letter came yesterday. That is right;—keep to your 'magnum opus '—magnoperate away. Now, if we were but together a little to combine our 'Journal of Trevoux!' But it is useless to sigh, and yet very natural,—for I think you and I draw better together, in the social line, than any two other living authors.
"I forgot to ask you, if you had seen your own panegyric in the correspondence of Mrs. Waterhouse and Colonel Berkeley? To be sure their moral is not quite exact; but your passion is fully effective; and all poetry of the Asiatic kind—I mean Asiatic, as the Romans called Asiatic oratory,' and not because the scenery is Oriental—must be tried by that test only. I am not quite sure that I shall allow the Miss Byrons (legitimate or illegitimate) to read Lalla Rookh—in the first place, on account of this said passion; and, in the second, that they mayn't discover that there was a better poet than papa.
"You say nothing of politics—but, alas! what can be said?
"How do you call your new project? I have sent Murray a new tragedy, ycleped 'Sardanapalus,' writ according to Aristotle—all, save the chorus—could not reconcile me to that. I have begun another, and am in the second act;—so you see I saunter on as usual.
"Bowles's answers have reached me; but I can't go on disputing for ever,—particularly in a polite manner. I suppose he will take being silent for silenced. He has been so civil that I can't find it in my liver to be facetious with him,—else I had a savage joke or two at his service. * * *
"I can't send you the little journal, because it is in boards, and I can't trust it per post. Don't suppose it is any thing particular; but it will show the intentions of the natives at that time—and one or two other things, chiefly personal, like the former one.
"So, Longman don't bite.—It was my wish to have made that work of use. Could you not raise a sum upon it (however small), reserving the power of redeeming it, on repayment?
"Are you in Paris, or a villaging? If you are in the city, you will never resist the Anglo-invasion you speak of. I do not see an Englishman in half a year, and, when I do, I turn my horse's head the other way. The fact, which you will find in the last note to the Doge, has given me a good excuse for quite dropping the least connection with travellers.
"I do not recollect the speech you speak of, but suspect it is not the Doge's, but one of Israel Bertuccio to Calendaro. I hope you think that Elliston behaved shamefully—it is my only consolation. I made the Milanese fellows contradict their lie, which they did with the grace of people used to it.
LETTER 436. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, July 5. 1821.
"How could you suppose that I ever would allow any thing that could be said on your account to weigh with me? I only regret that Bowles had not said that you were the writer of that note, until afterwards, when out he comes with it, in a private letter to Murray, which Murray sends to me. D——n the controversy!
"I have had a friend of your Mr. Irving's—a very pretty lad—a Mr. Coolidge, of Boston—only somewhat too full of poesy and 'entusymusy.' I was very civil to him during his few hours' stay, and talked with him much of Irving, whose writings are my delight. But I suspect that he did not take quite so much to me, from his having expected to meet a misanthropical gentleman, in wolf-skin breeches, and answering in fierce monosyllables,Pg 197 instead of a man of this world. I can never get people to understand that poetry is the expression of excited passion, and that there is no such thing as a life of passion any more than a continuous earthquake, or an eternal fever. Besides, who would ever shave themselves in such a state?
"I have had a curious letter to-day from a girl in England (I never saw her), who says she is given over of a decline, but could not go out of the world without thanking me for the delight which my poesy for several years, &c. &c. &c. It is signed simply N.N. A. and has not a word of 'cant' or preachment in it upon any opinions. She merely says that she is dying, and that as I had contributed so highly to her existing pleasure, she thought that she might say so, begging me to burn her letter—which, by the way, I can not do, as I look upon such a letter in such circumstances as better than a diploma from Gottingen. I once had a letter from Drontheim, in Norway (but not from a dying woman), in verse, on the same score of gratulation. These are the things which make one at times believe one's self a poet. But if I must believe that * * * * * and such fellows, are poets also, it is better to be out of the corps.
"I am now in the fifth act of 'Foscari,' being the third tragedy in twelve months, besides proses; so you perceive that I am not at all idle. And are you, too, busy? I doubt that your life at Paris draws too much upon your time, which is a pity. Can't you divide your day, so as to combine both? I have had plenty of all sorts of worldly business onPg 198 my hands last year, and yet it is not so difficult to give a few hours to the Muses. This sentence is so like * * * * that ——
"If we were together, I should publish both my plays (periodically) in our joint journal. It should be our plan to publish all our best things in that way."
In the Journal entitled "Detached Thoughts," I find the tribute to his genius which he here mentions, as well as some others, thus interestingly dwelt upon.
"As far as fame goes (that is to say, living fame) I have had my share, perhaps—indeed, certainly—more than my deserts.
"Some odd instances have occurred to my own experience, of the wild and strange places to which a name may penetrate, and where it may impress. Two years ago (almost three, being in August or July, 1819,) I received at Ravenna a letter, in English verse, from Drontheim in Norway, written by a Norwegian, and full of the usual compliments, &c. &c. It is still somewhere amongst my papers. In the same month I received an invitation into Holstein from a Mr. Jacobsen (I think) of Hamburgh: also, by the same medium, a translation of Medora's song in The Corsair by a Westphalian baroness (not 'Thunderton-Tronck'), with some original verses of hers (very pretty and Klopstock-ish), and a prose translation annexed to them, on the subject of my wife:—as they concerned her more than me. I sentPg 199 them to her, together with Mr. Jacobsen's letter. It was odd enough to receive an invitation to pass the summer in Holstein while in Italy, from people I never knew. The letter was addressed to Venice. Mr. Jacobsen talked to me of the 'wild roses growing in the Holstein summer.' Why then did the Cimbri and Teutones emigrate?
"What a strange thing is life and man! Were I to present myself at the door of the house where my daughter now is, the door would be shut in my face—unless (as is not impossible) I knocked down the porter; and if I had gone in that year (and perhaps now) to Drontheim (the furthest town in Norway), or into Holstein, I should have been received with open arms into the mansion of strangers and foreigners, attached to me by no tie but that of mind and rumour.
"As far as fame goes, I have had my share: it has indeed been leavened by other human contingencies, and this in a greater degree than has occurred to most literary men of a decent rank in life; but, on the whole, I take it that such equipoise is the condition of humanity."
Of the visit, too, of the American gentleman, he thus speaks in the same Journal.
"A young American, named Coolidge, called on me not many months ago. He was intelligent, very handsome, and not more than twenty years old, according to appearances; a little romantic, but that sits well upon youth, and mighty fond of poesy, as may be suspected from his approaching me in my cavern. He brought me a message from an oldPg 200 servant of my family (Joe Murray), and told me that he (Mr. Coolidge) had obtained a copy of my bust from Thorwaldsen at Rome, to send to America. I confess I was more flattered by this young enthusiasm of a solitary trans-Atlantic traveller, than if they had decreed me a statue in the Paris Pantheon (I have seen emperors and demagogues cast down from their pedestals even in my own time, and Grattan's name rased from the street called after him in Dublin); I say that I was more flattered by it, because it was single, unpolitical, and was without motive or ostentation,—the pure and warm feeling of a boy for the poet he admired. It must have been expensive, though;—I would not pay the price of a Thorwaldsen bust for any human head and shoulders, except Napoleon's, or my children's, or some 'absurd womankind's,' as Monkbarns calls them,—or my sister's. If asked why, then, I sat for my own?—Answer, that it was at the particular request of J.C. Hobhouse, Esq. and for no one else. A picture is a different matter;—every body sits for their picture;—but a bust looks like putting up pretensions to permanency, and smacks something of a hankering for public fame rather than private remembrance.
"Whenever an American requests to see me (which is not unfrequently), I comply, firstly, because I respect a people who acquired their freedom by their firmness without excess; and, secondly, because these trans-Atlantic visits, 'few and far between,' make me feel as if talking with posterity from the other side of the Styx. In a century orPg 201 two the new English and Spanish Atlantides will be masters of the old countries, in all probability, as Greece and Europe overcame their mother Asia in the older or earlier ages, as they are called."
LETTER 437. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, July 6. 1821.
"In agreement with a wish expressed by Mr. Hobhouse, it is my determination to omit the stanza upon the horse of Semiramis in the fifth Canto of Don Juan. I mention this in case you are, or intend to be, the publisher of the remaining Cantos.
"At the particular request of the Contessa G. I have promised not to continue Don Juan. You will therefore look upon these three Cantos as the last of the poem. She had read the two first in the French translation, and never ceased beseeching me to write no more of it. The reason of this is not at first obvious to a superficial observer of FOREIGN manners; but it arises from the wish of all women to exalt the sentiment of the passions, and to keep up the illusion which is their empire. Now Don Juan strips off this illusion, and laughs at that and most other things. I never knew a woman who did not protect Rousseau, nor one who did not dislike De Grammont, Gil Bias, and all the comedy of the passions, when brought out naturally. But 'king's blood must keep word,' as Serjeant Bothwell says."
LETTER, 438. TO MR. MURRAY.
"July 14. 1821.
"I trust that Sardanapalus will not be mistaken for a political play, which was so far from my intention, that I thought of nothing but Asiatic history. The Venetian play, too, is rigidly historical. My object has been to dramatise, like the Greeks (a modest phrase), striking passages of history, as they did of history and mythology. You will find all this very unlike Shakspeare; and so much the better in one sense, for I look upon him to be the worst of models, though the most extraordinary of writers. It has been my object to be as simple and severe as Alfieri, and I have broken down the poetry as nearly as I could to common language. The hardship is, that in these times one can neither speak of kings nor queens without suspicion of politics or personalities. I intended neither.
"I am not very well, and I write in the midst of unpleasant scenes here: they have, without trial or process, banished several of the first inhabitants ofPg 203 the cities—here and all around the Roman states—amongst them many of my personal friends, so that every thing is in confusion and grief: it is a kind of thing which cannot be described without an equal pain as in beholding it.
"You are very niggardly in your letters.
LETTER 439. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, July 22. 1821.
"The printer has done wonders;—he has read what I cannot—my own handwriting.
"I oppose the 'delay till winter:' I am particularly anxious to print while the winter theatres are closed, to gain time, in case they try their former piece of politeness. Any loss shall be considered in our contract, whether occasioned by the season or other causes; but print away, and publish.
"I think they must own that I have more styles than one. 'Sardanapalus' is, however, almost a comic character: but, for that matter, so is Richard the Third. Mind the unities, which are my great object of research. I am glad that Gifford likes it: as for 'the million,' you see I have carefully consulted any thing but the taste of the day for extravagant 'coups de théâtre.' Any probable loss, as I said before, will be allowed for in our accompts. The reviews (except one or two—Blackwood's, for instance) are cold enough; but never mind those fellows: I shall send them to the right about, if I take it into my head. I always found the EnglishPg 204 baser in some things than any other nation. You stare, but it's true as to gratitude,—perhaps because they are prouder, and proud people hate obligations.
"The tyranny of the Government here is breaking out. They have exiled about a thousand people of the best families all over the Roman states. As many of my friends are amongst them, I think of moving too, but not till I have had your answers. Continue your address to me here, as usual, and quickly. What you will not be sorry to hear is, that the poor of the place, hearing that I meant to go, got together a petition to the Cardinal to request that he would request me to remain. I only heard of it a day or two ago, and it is no dishonour to them nor to me; but it will have displeased the higher powers, who look upon me as a Chief of the Coalheavers. They arrested a servant of mine for a street quarrel with an officer (they drew upon one another knives and pistols), but as the officer was out of uniform, and in the wrong besides, on my protesting stoutly, he was released. I was not present at the affray, which happened by night near my stables. My man (an Italian), a very stout and not over-patient personage, would have taken a fatal revenge afterwards, if I had not prevented him. As it was, he drew his stiletto, and, but for passengers, would have carbonadoed the captain, who, I understand, made but a poor figure in the quarrel, except by beginning it. He applied to me, and I offered him any satisfaction, either by turning away the man, or otherwise, because he had drawn a knife. He answered that aPg 205 reproof would be sufficient. I reproved him; and yet, after this, the shabby dog complained to the Government,—after being quite satisfied, as he said. This roused me, and I gave them a remonstrance which had some effect. The captain has been reprimanded, the servant released, and the business at present rests there."
Among the victims of the "black sentence and proscription" by which the rulers of Italy were now, as appears from the above letters, avenging their late alarm upon all who had even in the remotest degree contributed to it, the two Gambas were, of course, as suspected Chiefs of the Carbonari of Romagna, included. About the middle of July, Madame Guiccioli, in a state of despair, wrote to inform Lord Byron that her father, in whose palazzo she was at that time residing, had just been ordered to quit Ravenna within twenty-four hours, and that it was the intention of her brother to depart the following morning. The young Count, however, was not permitted to remain even so long, being arrested that very night, and conveyed by soldiers to the frontier; and the Contessa herself, in but a few days after, found that she also must join the crowd of exiles. The prospect of being again separated from her noble friend seems to have rendered banishment little less fearful, in her eyes, than death. "This alone," she says in a letter to him, "was wanting to fill up the measure of my despair. Help me, my dear Byron, for I am in a situation most terrible; and without you, I can resolve upon nothing. * * has just been withPg 206 me, having been sent by * * to tell me that I must depart from Ravenna before next Tuesday, as my husband has had recourse to Rome, for the purpose of either forcing me to return to him, or else putting me in a convent; and the answer from thence is expected in a few days. I must not speak of this to any one,—I roust escape by night; for, if my project should be discovered, it will be impeded, and my passport (which the goodness of Heaven has permitted me, I know not how, to obtain) will be taken from me. Byron! I am in despair!—If I must leave you here without knowing when I shall see you again, if it is your will that I should suffer so cruelly, I am resolved to remain. They may put me in a convent; I shall die,—but—but then you cannot aid me, and I cannot reproach you. I know not what they tell me, for my agitation overwhelms me;—and why? Not because I fear my present danger, but solely, I call Heaven to witness, solely because I must leave you."
Towards the latter end of July, the writer of this tender and truly feminine letter found herself forced to leave Ravenna,—the home of her youth, as it was, now, of her heart,—uncertain whither to go, or where she should again meet Lord Byron. After lingering for a short time at Bologna, under a faint expectation that the Court of Rome might yet, through some friendly mediation, be induced toPg 207 rescind its order against her relatives, she at length gave up all hope, and joined her father and brother at Florence.
It has been already seen, from Lord Byron's letters, that he had himself become an object of strong suspicion to the Government, and it was, indeed, chiefly in their desire to rid themselves of his presence, that the steps taken against the Gamba family had originated;—the constant benevolence which he exercised towards the poor of Ravenna being likely, it was feared, to render him dangerously popular among a people unused to charity on so enlarged a scale. "One of the principal causes," says Madame Guiccioli, "of the exile of my relatives, was in reality the idea that Lord Byron would share the banishment of his friends. Already the Government were averse to Lord Byron's residence at Ravenna; knowing his opinions, fearing his influence, and also exaggerating the extent of his means for giving effect to them. They fancied that he provided money for the purchase of arms, &c. and that he contributed pecuniarily to the wants of the Society. The truth is, that, when called upon to exercise his beneficence, he made no enquiries as to the political and religious opinions of those who required his aid. Every unPg 208happy and needy object had an equal share in his benevolence. The Anti-Liberals, however, insisted upon believing that he was the principal support of Liberalism in Romagna, and were desirous of his departure; but, not daring to exact it by any direct measure, they were in hopes of being able indirectly to force him into this step."
After stating the particulars of her own hasty departure, the lady proceeds:—"Lord Byron, in the mean time, remained at Ravenna, in a town convulsed by party spirit, where he had certainly, on account of his opinions, many fanatical and perfidious enemies; and my imagination always painted him surrounded by a thousand dangers. It may be conceived, therefore, what that journey must have been to me, and what I suffered at such a distance from him. His letters would have given me comPg 209fort; but two days always elapsed between his writing and my receiving them; and this idea embittered all the solace they would otherwise have afforded me, so that my heart was torn by the most cruel fears. Yet it was necessary for his own sake that he should remain some time longer at Ravenna, in order that it might not be said that he also was banished. Besides, he had conceived a very great affection for the place itself; and was desirous, before he left it, of exhausting every means and hope of procuring the recall of my relations from banishment."
LETTER 440. TO MR. HOPPNER.
"Ravenna, July 23. 1821.
"This country being in a state of proscription, and all my friends exiled or arrested—the whole familyPg 210 of Gamba obliged to go to Florence for the present—the father and son for politics—(and the Guiccioli, because menaced with a convent, as her father is not here,) I have determined to remove to Switzerland, and they also. Indeed, my life here is not supposed to be particularly safe—but that has been the case for this twelvemonth past, and is therefore not the primary consideration.
"I have written by this post to Mr. Hentsch, junior, the banker of Geneva, to provide (if possible) a house for me, and another for Gamba's family, (the father, son, and daughter,) on the Jura side of the lake of Geneva, furnished, and with stabling (for me at least) for eight horses. I shall bring Allegra with me. Could you assist me or Hentsch in his researches? The Gambas are at Florence, but have authorised me to treat for them. You know, or do not know, that they are great patriots—and both—but the son in particular—very fine fellows. This I know, for I have seen them lately in very awkward situations—not pecuniary, but personal—and they behaved like heroes, neither yielding nor retracting.
"You have no idea what a state of oppression this country is in—they arrested above a thousand of high and low throughout Romagna—banished some and confined others, without trial, process, or even accusation!! Every body says they would have done the same by me if they dared proceed openly. My motive, however, for remaining, is because every one of my acquaintance, to the amount of hundreds almost, have been exiled.
"Will you do what you can in looking out for a couple of houses furnished, and conferring with Hentsch for us? We care nothing about society, and are only anxious for a temporary and tranquil asylum and individual freedom.
"Believe me, &c.
"P.S. Can you give me an idea of the comparative expenses of Switzerland and Italy? which I have forgotten. I speak merely of those of decent living, horses, &c. and not of luxuries or high living. Do not, however, decide any thing positively till I have your answer, as I can then know how to think upon these topics of transmigration, &c. &c. &c."
LETTER 441. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, July 30. 1821.
"Enclosed is the best account of the Doge Faliero, which was only sent to me from an old MS. the other day. Get it translated, and append it as a note to the next edition. You will perhaps be pleased to see that my conceptions of his character were correct, though I regret not having met with this extract before. You will perceive that he himself said exactly what he is made to say about the Bishop of Treviso. You will see also that' he spoke very little, and those only words of rage and disdain,' after his arrest, which is the case in the play, except when he breaks out at the close of Act Fifth. But his speech to the conspirators is better in the MS. than in the play. I wish that I had metPg 212 with it in time. Do not forget this note, with a translation.
"In a former note to the Juans, speaking of Voltaire, I have quoted his famous 'Zaire, tu pleures,' which is an error; it should be 'Zaire, vous pleures.' Recollect this.
"I am so busy here about those poor proscribed exiles, who are scattered about, and with trying to get some of them recalled, that I have hardly time or patience to write a short preface, which will be proper for the two plays. However, I will make it out on receiving the next proofs.
"Yours ever, &c.
"P.S. Please to append the letter about the Hellespont as a note to your next opportunity of the verses on Leander, &c. &c. &c. in Childe Harold. Don't forget it amidst your multitudinous avocations, which I think of celebrating in a Dithyrambic Ode to Albemarle Street.
"Are you aware that Shelley has written an Elegy on Keats, and accuses the Quarterly of killing him?
"You know very well that I did not approve of Keats's poetry, or principles of poetry, or of hisPg 213 abuse of Pope; but, as he is dead, omit all that is said about him in any MSS. of mine, or publication. His Hyperion is a fine monument, and will keep his name. I do not envy the man who wrote the article;—you Review people have no more right to kill than any other footpads. However, he who would die of an article in a Review would probably have died of something else equally trivial. The same thing nearly happened to Kirke White, who died afterwards of a consumption."
LETTER 442. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, August 2. 1821.
"I had certainly answered your last letter, though but briefly, to the part to which you refer, merely saying, 'damn the controversy;' and quoting some verses of George Colman's, not as allusive to you, but to the disputants. Did you receive this letter? It imports me to know that our letters are not intercepted or mislaid.
"Your Berlin drama  is an honour, unknown since the days of Elkanah Settle, whose 'Emperor of Morocco' was represented by the Court ladies, which was, as Johnson says, 'the last blast of inflammation' to poor Dryden, who could not bear it, and fell foul of Settle without mercy or moderation,Pg 214 on account of that and a frontispiece, which he dared to put before his play.
"Was not your showing the Memoranda to * * somewhat perilous? Is there not a facetious allusion or two which might as well be reserved for posterity?
"I know S * * well—that is to say, I have met him occasionally at Copet. Is he not also touched lightly in the Memoranda? In a review of Childe Harold, Canto 4th, three years ago, in Blackwood's Magazine, they quote some stanzas of an elegy of S * *'s on Rome, from which they say that I might have taken some ideas. I give you my honour that I never saw it except in that criticism, which gives, I think, three or four stanzas, sent them (they say) for the nonce by a correspondent—perhaps himself. The fact is easily proved; for I don't understand German, and there was, I believe, no translation—at least, it was the first time that I ever heard of, or saw, either translation or original.
"I remember having some talk with S * * about Alfieri, whose merit he denies. He was also wroth about the Edinburgh Review of Goethe, which was sharp enough, to be sure. He went about saying, too, of the French—'I meditate a terrible vengeance against the French—I will prove that Molière is no poet.'
"I don't see why you should talk of 'declining.'Pg 215 When I saw you, you looked thinner, and yet younger, than you did when we parted several years before. You may rely upon this as fact. If it were not, I should say nothing, for I would rather not say unpleasant personal things to anyone—but, as it was the pleasant truth, I tell it you. If you had led my life, indeed, changing climates and connections—thinning yourself with fasting and purgatives—besides the wear and tear of the vulture passions, and a very bad temper besides, you might talk in this way—but you! I know no man who looks so well for his years, or who deserves to look better and to be better, in all respects. You are a * * *, and, what is perhaps better for your friends, a good fellow. So, don't talk of decay, but put in for eighty, as you well may.
"I am, at present, occupied principally about these unhappy proscriptions and exiles, which have taken place here on account of politics. It has been a miserable sight to see the general desolation in families. I am doing what I can for them, high and low, by such interest and means as I possess or can bring to bear. There have been thousands of these proscriptions within the last month in the Exarchate, or (to speak modernly) the Legations. Yesterday, too, a man got his back broken, in extricating a dog of mine from under a mill-wheel. The dog was killed, and the man is in the greatest danger. I was not present—it happened before I was up, owing to a stupid boy taking the dog to bathe in a dangerous spot. I must, of course, provide for the poor fellow while he lives, and his family, if he dies.Pg 216 I would gladly have given a much greater sum than that will come to that he had never been hurt. Pray, let me hear from you, and excuse haste and hot weather.
"You may have probably seen all sorts of attacks upon me in some gazettes in England some months ago. I only saw them, by Murray's bounty, the other day. They call me 'Plagiary,' and what not. I think I now, in my time, have been accused of every thing.
"I have not given you details of little events here; but they have been trying to make me out to be the chief of a conspiracy, and nothing but their want of proofs for an English investigation has stopped them. Had it been a poor native, the suspicion were enough, as it has been for hundreds.
"Why don't you write on Napoleon? I have no spirits, nor 'estro' to do so. His overthrow, from the beginning, was a blow on the head to me. Since that period, we have been the slaves of fools. Excuse this long letter. Ecco a translation literal of a French epigram.
"I am going to ride, having been warned not to ride in a particular part of the forest, on account of the ultra-politicians.
"Is there no chance of your return to England, and of our Journal? I would have published the two plays in it—two or three scenes per number—Pg 217and, indeed, all of mine in it. If you went to England, I would do so still."
About this time Mr. Shelley, who had now fixed his residence at Pisa, received a letter from Lord Byron, earnestly requesting to see him, in consequence of which he immediately set out for Ravenna; and the following extracts from letters, written during his stay with his noble friend, will be read with that double feeling of interest which is always sure to be excited in hearing one man of genius express his opinions of another.
"Ravenna, August 7. 1821.
"I arrived last night at ten o'clock, and sat up talking with Lord Byron until five this morning: I then went to sleep, and now awake at eleven; and having despatched my breakfast as quick as possible, mean to devote the interval until twelve, when the post departs, to you.
"Lord Byron is very well, and was delighted, to see me. He has in fact completely recovered his health, and lives a life totally the reverse of that which he led at Venice. He has a permanent sort of liaison with the Contessa Guiccioli, who is now at Florence, and seems from her letters to be a very amiable woman. She is waiting there until something shall be decided as to their emigration to Switzerland or stay in Italy, which is yet undetermined on either side. She was compelled to escape from the Papal territory in great haste, as measures had already been taken to place her in a convent, where she would have been unrelentingly confinedPg 218 for life. The oppression of the marriage contract as existing in the laws and opinions of Italy, though less frequently exercised, is far severer than that of England.
"Lord Byron had almost destroyed himself at Venice. His state of debility was such that he was unable to digest any food: he was consumed by hectic fever, and would speedily have perished but for this attachment, which reclaimed him from the excesses into which he threw himself, from carelessness and pride, rather than taste. Poor fellow I he is now quite well, and immersed in politics and literature. He has given me a number of the most interesting details on the former subject; but we will not speak of them in a letter. Fletcher is here, and—as if, like a shadow, he waxed and waned with the substance of his master—has also revived his good looks, and from amidst the unseasonable grey hairs, a fresh harvest of flaxen locks has put forth.
"We talked a great deal of poetry and such matters last night; and, as usual, differed—and I think more than ever. He affects to patronise a system of criticism fit only for the production of mediocrity; and, although all his finer poems and passages have been produced in defiance of this system, yet I recognise the pernicious effects of it in the Doge of Venice; and it will cramp and limit his future efforts, however great they may be, unless he gets rid of it. I have read only parts of it, or rather he himself read them to me, and gave me the plan of the whole.
"Ravenna, August 15. 1821.
"We ride out in the evening through the pine forests which divide the city from the sea. Our way of life is this, and I have accommodated myself to it without much difficulty:—Lord Byron gets up at two—breakfasts—we talk, read, &c. until six—then we ride at eight, and after dinner sit talking until four or five in the morning. I get up at twelve, and am now devoting the interval between my rising and his to you.
"Lord Byron is greatly improved in every respect—in genius, in temper, in moral views, in health and happiness. His connection with La Guiccioli has been an inestimable benefit to him. He lives in considerable splendour, but within his income, which is now about four thousand a year, one thousand of which he devotes to purposes of charity. He has had mischievous passions, but these he seems to have subdued; and he is becoming, what he should be, a virtuous man. The interest which he took in the politics of Italy, and the actions he performed in consequence of it, are subjects not fit to be written, but are such as will delight and surprise you.
"He is not yet decided to go to Switzerland, a place, indeed, little fitted for him: the gossip and the cabals of those Anglicised coteries would torment him as they did before, and might exasperate him into a relapse of libertinism, which, he says, he plunged into not from taste, but from despair. La Guiccioli and her brother (who is Lord Byron's friend and confidant, and acquiesces perfectly in her connection with him) wish to go to Switzerland, asPg 220 Lord Byron says, merely from the novelty and pleasure of travelling. Lord Byron prefers Tuscany or Lucca, and is trying to persuade them to adopt his views. He has made me write a long letter to her to engage her to remain. An odd thing enough for an utter stranger to write on subjects of the utmost delicacy to his friend's mistress—but it seems destined that I am always to have some active part in every body's affairs whom I approach. I have set down, in tame Italian, the strongest reasons I can think of against the Swiss emigration. To tell you the truth, I should be very glad to accept as my fee his establishment in Tuscany. Ravenna is a miserable place: the people are barbarous and wild, and their language the most infernal patois that you can imagine. He would be in every respect better among the Tuscans.
"He has read to me one of the unpublished cantos of Don Juan, which is astonishingly fine. It sets him not only above, but far above all the poets of the day. Every word has the stamp of immortality. This canto is in a style (but totally free from indelicacy, and sustained with incredible ease and power) like the end of the second canto: there is not a word which the most rigid assertor of the dignity of human nature could desire to be cancelled: it fulfils, in a certain degree, what I have long preached,—of producing something wholly new, and relative to the age, and yet surpassingly beautiful. It may be vanity, but I think I see the trace of my earnest exhortations to him, to create something wholly new. * * * *
"I am sure, if I asked, it would not be refused; yet there is something in me that makes it impossible. Lord Byron and I are excellent friends; and were I reduced to poverty, or were I a writer who had no claim to a higher station than I possess, or did I possess a higher than I deserve, we should appear in all things as such, and I would freely ask him any favour. Such is not now the case: the demon of mistrust and of pride lurks between two persons in our situation, poisoning the freedom of our intercourse. This is a tax, and a heavy one, which we must pay for being human. I think the fault is not on my side; nor is it likely,—I being the weaker. I hope that in the next world these things will be better managed. What is passing in the heart of another rarely escapes the observation of one who is a strict anatomist of his own. * * *
"Lord Byron here has splendid apartments in the palace of Count Guiccioli, who is one of the richest men in Italy. She is divorced, with an allowance of twelve thousand crowns a year;—a miserable pittance from a man who has a hundred and twenty thousand a year. There are two monkeys, five cats, eight dogs, and ten horses, all of whom (except the horses) walk about the house like the masters of it. Tita, the Venetian, is here, and operates as my valet—a fine fellow, with a prodigious black beard, who has stabbed two or three people, and is the most good-natured-looking fellow I ever saw.
"I told you I had written, by Lord Byron's desire,Pg 222 to La Guiccioli, to dissuade her and her family from Switzerland. Her answer is this moment arrived, and my representation seems to have reconciled them to the unfitness of the step. At the conclusion of a letter, full of all the fine things she says she has heard of me, is this request, which I transcribe:—'Signore, la vostra bontà mi fa ardita di chiedervi un favore, me lo accorderete voi? Non partite da Ravenna senza Milord.' Of course, being now, by all the laws of knighthood, captive to a lady's request, I shall only be at liberty on my parole until Lord Byron is settled at Pisa. I shall reply, of course, that the boon is granted, and that if Lord Byron is reluctant to quit Ravenna after I have made arrangements for receiving him at Pisa, I am bound to place myself in the same situation as now, to assail him with importunities to rejoin her. Of this there is fortunately no need; and I need not tell you that there is no fear that this chivalric submission of mine to the great general laws of antique courtesy, against which I never rebel, and which is my religion, should interfere with my soon returning, and long remaining with you, dear girl. * *
"We ride out every evening as usual, and practise pistol-shooting at a pumpkin, and I am not sorry to observe that I approach towards my noble friend's exactness of aim. I have the greatest trouble to get away, and Lord Byron, as a reason for my stay, has urged, that without either me or the Guiccioli, he will certainly fall into his old habits. I then talk, and he listens to reason; and I earnestly hope that he is too well aware of the terrible and degradingPg 223 consequences of his former mode of life, to be in danger from the short interval of temptation that will be left him."
LETTER 443. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, August 10. 1821.
"Your conduct to Mr. Moore is certainly very handsome; and I would not say so if I could help it, for you are not at present by any means in my good graces.
"With regard to additions, &c. there is a Journal which I kept in 1814 which you may ask him for; also a Journal which you must get from Mrs. Leigh, of my journey in the Alps, which contains all the germs of Manfred. I have also kept a small Diary here for a few months last winter, which I would send you, and any continuation. You would find easy access to all my papers and letters, and do not neglect this (in case of accidents) on account of the mass of confusion in which they are; for out of that chaos of papers you will find some curious ones of mine and others, if not lost or destroyed. If circumstances, however (which is almost impossible), made me ever consent to a publication in my lifetime, you would in that case, I suppose, make Moore some advance, in proportion to the likelihood or non-likelihood of success. You are both sure to survive me, however.
"You must also have from Mr. Moore the correspondence between me and Lady B. to whom I offered the sight of all which regards herself in these papers. This is important. He has herPg 224 letter, and a copy of my answer. I would rather Moore edited me than another.
"I sent you Valpy's letter to decide for yourself, and Stockdale's to amuse you. I am always loyal with you, as I was in Galignani's affair, and you with me—now and then.
"I return you Moore's letter, which is very creditable to him, and you, and me.
LETTER 444. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, August 16. 1821.
"I regret that Holmes can't or won't come: it is rather shabby, as I was always very civil and punctual with him. But he is but one * * more. One meets with none else among the English.
"I wait the proofs of the MSS. with proper impatience.
"So you have published, or mean to publish, the new Juans? Ar'n't you afraid of the Constitutional Assassination of Bridge Street? When first I saw the name of Murray, I thought it had been yours; but was solaced by seeing that your synonyme is an attorneo, and that you are not one of that atrocious crew.
"I am in a great discomfort about the probable war, and with my trustees not getting me out of the funds. If the funds break, it is my intention to go upon the highway. All the other English professions are at present so ungentlemanly by the conduct of those who follow them, that open robbing isPg 225 the only fair resource left to a man of any principles; it is even honest, in comparison, by being undisguised.
"I wrote to you by last post, to say that you had done the handsome thing by Moore and the Memoranda. You are very good as times go, and would probably be still better but for the 'march of events' (as Napoleon called it), which won't permit any body to be better than they should be.
"Love to Gifford. Believe me, &c.
"P.S. I restore Smith's letter, whom thank for his good opinion. Is the bust by Thorwaldsen arrived?"
LETTER 445. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, August 23. 1821.
"Enclosed are the two acts corrected. With regard to the charges about the shipwreck, I think that I told both you and Mr. Hobhouse, years ago, that there was not a single circumstance of it not taken from fact; not, indeed, from any single shipwreck, but all from actual facts of different wrecks.Pg 226 Almost all Don Juan is real life, either my own, or from people I knew. By the way, much of the description of the furniture, in Canto third, is taken from Tully's Tripoli (pray note this), and thePg 227 rest from my own observation. Remember, I never meant to conceal this at all, and have only not stated it, because Don Juan had no preface nor name to it. If you think it worth while to make this statement, do so in your own way. I laugh at such charges, convinced that no writer ever borrowed less, or made his materials more his own. Much is coincidence: for instance, Lady Morgan (in a really excellent book, I assure you, on Italy) calls Venice an ocean Rome: I have the very same expression in Foscari, and yet you know that the play was written months ago, and sent to England: the 'Italy' I received only on the 16th instant.
"Your friend, like the public, is not aware, that my dramatic simplicity is studiously Greek, and must continue so: no reform ever succeeded at first. I admire the old English dramatists; but this is quite another field, and has nothing to do with theirs. I want to make a regular English drama, no matter whether for the stage or not, which is not my object,—but a mental theatre.
"P.S. Can't accept your courteous offer.
"These matters must be arranged with Mr. Douglas Kinnaird. He is my trustee, and a man of honour. To him you can state all your mercantile reasons, which you might not like to state to me personally, such as 'heavy season'—'flat public'—'don't go off'—'Lordship writes too much'—won't take advice'—'declining popularity'—deduction for the trade'—'make very little'—'generally lose by him'—'pirated edition'—'foreign edition'—'severe criticisms,' &c. with other hints and howls for an oration, which I leave Douglas, who is an orator, to answer.
"You can also state them more freely to a third person, as between you and me they could only produce some smart postscripts, which would not adorn our mutual archives.
"I am sorry for the Queen, and that's more than you are."
LETTER 446. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, August 24. 1821.
"Yours of the 5th only yesterday, while I had letters of the 8th from London. Doth the post dabble into our letters? Whatever agreement you make with Murray, if satisfactory to you, must be so to me. There need be no scruple, because, though I used sometimes to buffoon to myself, loving a quibble as well as the barbarian himself (Shakspeare, to wit)—'that, like a Spartan, I would sell my life as dearly as possible'—it never was my intention to turn it to personal, pecuniary account, but to bequeath it to a friend—yourself—in the event of survivorship. I anticipated that period, because we happened to meet, and I urged you to make what was possible now by it, for reasons which are obvious. It has been no possible privation to me, and therefore does not require the acknowledgments you mention. So, for God's sake, don't consider it like * * *
"By the way, when you write to Lady Morgan, will you thank her for her handsome speeches in her book about my books? I do not know her address. Her work is fearless and excellent on the subject of Italy—pray tell her so—and I know the country. I wish she had fallen in with me, I could have told her a thing or two that would have confirmed her positions.
"The argument of the above is, that he wanted to 'stint me of my sizings,' as Lear says,—that is to say, not to propose an extravagant price for an extravagant poem, as is becoming. Pray take his guineas, by all means—I taught him that. He made me a filthy offer of pounds once, but I told him that, like physicians, poets must be dealt with in guineas, as being the only advantage poets could have in the association with them, as votaries of Apollo. I write to you in hurry and bustle, which I will expound in my next.
"Yours ever, &c.
"P.S. You mention something of an attorney on his way to me on legal business. I have had no warning of such an apparition. What can the fellow want? I have some lawsuits and business, but have not heard of any thing to put me to the expense of a travelling lawyer. They do enough, in that way, at home.
"Ah, poor Queen I but perhaps it is for the best, if Herodotus's anecdote is to be believed.
"Remember me to any friendly Angles of our mutual acquaintance. What are you doing? Here I have had my hands full with tyrants and their victims. There never was such oppression, even in Ireland, scarcely!"
LETTER 447. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, August 31. 1821.
"I have received the Juans, which are printed so carelessly, especially the fifth Canto, as to be disgraceful to me, and not creditable to you. It really must be gone over again with the manuscript, the errors are so gross;—words added—changed—so as to make cacophony and nonsense. You have been careless of this poem because some of your squad don't approve of it; but I tell you that it will be long before you see any thing half so good as poetry or writing. Upon what principle have you omitted the note on Bacon and Voltaire? and one of the concluding stanzas sent as an addition? because it ended, I suppose, with—
"Now, I must say, once for all, that I will not permit any human being to take such liberties with my writings because I am absent. I desire the omissions to be replaced (except the stanza on Semiramis)—particularly the stanza upon the Turkish marriages; and I request that the whole be carefully gone over with the MS.
"I never saw such stuff as is printed:—Gulleyaz instead of Gulbeyaz, &c. Are you aware that Gulbeyaz is a real name, and the other nonsense? I copied the Cantos out carefully, so that there is no excuse, as the printer read, or at least prints, the MS. of the plays without error.
"If you have no feeling for your own reputation, pray have some little for mine. I have read over the poem carefully, and I tell you, it is poetry. Your little envious knot of parson-poets may say what they please: time will show that I am not in this instance mistaken.
"Desire my friend Hobhouse to correct the press, especially of the last Canto, from the manuscript as it is. It is enough to drive one out of one's reason to see the infernal torture of words from the original. For instance the line—
Also 'precarious' for 'precocious;' and this line, stanza 133.
Now do turn to the manuscript and see if I ever wrote such a line: it is not verse.
"No wonder the poem should fail (which, however, it won't, you will see) with such things allowed to creep about it. Replace what is omitted, and correct what is so shamefully misprinted, and let the poem have fair play; and I fear nothing.
"I see in the last two numbers of the Quarterly a strong itching to assail me (see the review of 'The Etonian'); let it, and see if they sha'n't have enough of it. I do not allude to Gifford, who has always been my friend, and whom I do not consider as responsible for the articles written by others.
"P.S. I presume that you have not lost the stanza to which I allude? It was sent afterwards: look over my letters and find it."
LETTER 448. TO MR. MURRAY.
"The enclosed letter is written in bad humour, but not without provocation. However, let it (that is, the bad humour) go for little; but I must request your serious attention to the abuses of the printer, which ought never to have been permitted. You forget that all the fools in London (the chief purchasers of your publications) will condemn in me the stupidity of your printer. For instance, in the notes to Canto fifth, 'the Adriatic shore of the Bosphorus' instead of the Asiatic!! All this may seem little to you, so fine a gentleman with your ministerial connections, but it is serious to me, who am thousands of miles off, and have no opportunity of not proving myself the fool your printer makes me, except your pleasure and leisure, forsooth.
"The gods prosper you, and forgive you, for I can't."
LETTER 449. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, September 3. 1821.
"By Mr. Mawman (a paymaster in the corps, in which you and I are privates) I yesterday expeditedPg 234 to your address, under cover one, two paper books, containing the Giaour-nal, and a thing or two. It won't all do—even for the posthumous public—but extracts from it may. It is a brief and faithful chronicle of a month or so—parts of it not very discreet, but sufficiently sincere. Mr. Mawman saith that he will, in person or per friend, have it delivered to you in your Elysian fields.
"If you have got the new Juans, recollect that there are some very gross printer's blunders, particularly in the fifth Canto,—such as 'praise' for 'pair'—'precarious' for 'precocious'—'Adriatic' for 'Asiatic'—'case' for 'chase'—besides gifts of additional words and syllables, which make but a cacophonous rhythmus. Put the pen through the said, as I would mine through * *'s ears, if I were alongside him. As it is, I have sent him a rattling letter, as abusive as possible. Though he is publisher to the 'Board of Longitude,' he is in no danger of discovering it.
"I am packing for Pisa—but direct your letters here, till further notice. Yours ever," &c.
One of the "paper-books" mentioned in this letter as intrusted to Mr. Mawman for me, contained a portion, to the amount of nearly a hundred pages, of a prose story, relating the adventures of a young Andalusian nobleman, which had been begun by him, at Venice, in 1817. The following passage is all I shall extract from this amusing Fragment:—
"A few hours afterwards we were very good friends, and a few daysPg 235 after she set out for Arragon, with my son, on a visit to her father and mother. I did not accompany her immediately, having been in Arragon before, but was to join the family in their Moorish château within a few weeks.
"During her journey I received a very affectionate letter from Donna Josepha, apprising me of the welfare of herself and my son. On her arrival at the château, I received another still more affectionate, pressing me, in very fond, and rather foolish, terms, to join her immediately. As I was preparing to set out from Seville, I received a third—this was from her father, Don Jose di Cardozo, who requested me, in the politest manner, to dissolve my marriage. I answered him with equal politeness, that I would do no such thing. A fourth letter arrived—it was from Donna Josepha, in which she informed me that her father's letter was written by her particular desire. I requested the reason by return of post—she replied, by express, that as reason had nothing to do with the matter, it was unnecessary to give any—but that she was an injured and excellent woman. I then enquired why she had written to me the two preceding affectionate letters, requesting me to come to Arragon. She answered, that was because she believed me out of my senses—that, being unfit to take care of myself, I had only to set out on this journey alone, and making my way without difficulty to Don Jose di Cardozo's, I should there have found the tenderest of wives and—a strait waistcoat.
"I had nothing to reply to this piece of affection but a reiteration of my request for some lights uponPg 236 the subject. I was answered that they would only be related to the Inquisition. In the mean time, our domestic discrepancy had become a public topic of discussion: and the world, which always decides justly, not only in Arragon but in Andalusia, determined that I was not only to blame, but that all Spain could produce nobody so blamable. My case was supposed to comprise all the crimes which could, and several which could not, be committed, and little less than an auto-da-fé was anticipated as the result. But let no man say that we are abandoned by our friends in adversity—it was just the reverse. Mine thronged around me to condemn, advise, and console me with their disapprobation.—They told me all that was, would, or could be said on the subject. They shook their heads—they exhorted me—deplored me, with tears in their eyes, and—went to dinner."
LETTER 450. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, September 4. 1821.
"By Saturday's post, I sent you a fierce and furibund letter upon the subject of the printer's blunders in Don Juan. I must solicit your attention to the topic, though my wrath hath subsided into sullenness.
"Yesterday I received Mr. ——, a friend of yours, and because he is a friend of yours; and that's more than I would do in an English case, except for those whom I honour. I was as civil as I could be among packages even to the very chairs and tables, for I am going to Pisa in a few weeks, and have sent and amPg 237 sending off my chattels. It regretted me that, my books and every thing being packed, I could not send you a few things I meant for you; but they were all sealed and baggaged, so as to have made it a month's work to get at them again. I gave him an envelope, with the Italian scrap in it, alluded to in my Gilchrist defence. Hobhouse will make it out for you, and it will make you laugh, and him too, the spelling particularly. The 'Mericani,' of whom they call me the 'Capo' (or Chief), mean 'Americans,' which is the name given in Romagna to a part of the Carbonari; that is to say, to the popular part, the troops of the Carbonari. They are originally a society of hunters in the forest, who took the name of Americans, but at present comprise some thousands, &c.; but I shan't let you further into the secret, which may be participated with the postmasters. Why they thought me their Chief, I know not: their Chiefs are like 'Legion, being many. However, it is a post of more honour than profit, for, now that they are persecuted, it is fit that I should aid them; and so I have done, as far as my means would permit. They will rise again some day, forPg 238 these fools of the government are blundering: they actually seem to know nothing; for they have arrested and banished many of their own party, and let others escape who are not their friends.
"What think'st thou of Greece?
"Address to me here as usual, till you hear further from me.
"By Mawman I have sent a Journal to Moore; but it won't do for the public,—at least a great deal of it won't;—parts may.
"I read over the Juans, which are excellent. Your squad are quite wrong; and so you will find by and by. I regret that I do not go on with it, for I had all the plan for several cantos, and different countries and climes. You say nothing of the note I enclosed to you, which will explain why I agreed to discontinue it (at Madame G——'s request); butPg 239 you are so grand, and sublime, and occupied, that one would think, instead of publishing for 'the Board of Longitude,' that you were trying to discover it.
"Let me hear that Gifford is better. He can't be spared either by you or me."
LETTER 451. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, September 12. 1821.
"By Tuesday's post, I forwarded, in three packets, the drama of Cain in three acts, of which I request the acknowledgment when arrived. To the last speech of Eve, in the last act (i.e. where she curses Cain), add these three lines to the concluding one—
"There's as pretty a piece of imprecation for you, when joined to the lines already sent, as you may wish to meet with in the course of your business. But don't forget the addition of the above three lines, which are clinchers to Eve's speech.
"Let me know what Gifford thinks (if the play arrives in safety); for I have a good opinion of the piece, as poetry; it is in my gay metaphysical style, and in the Manfred line.
"You must at least commend my facility and variety, when you consider what I have done within the last fifteen months, with my head, too, full of other and of mundane matters. But no doubt youPg 240 will avoid saying any good of it, for fear I should raise the price upon you: that's right: stick to business. Let me know what your other ragamuffins are writing, for I suppose you don't like starting too many of your vagabonds at once. You may give them the start, for any thing I care.
"Why don't you publish my Pulci—the best thing I ever wrote,—with the Italian to it? I wish I was alongside of you; nothing is ever done in a man's absence; every body runs counter, because they can. If ever I do return to England, (which I sha'n't, though,) I will write a poem to which 'English Bards,' &c. shall be new milk, in comparison. Your present literary world of mountebanks stands in need of such an Avatar. But I am not yet quite bilious enough: a season or two more, and a provocation or two, will wind me up to the point, and then have at the whole set!
"I have no patience with the sort of trash you send me out by way of books; except Scott's novels, and three or four other things, I never saw such work, or works. Campbell is lecturing—Moore idling—S * * twaddling—W * * drivelling—C * * muddling—* * piddling—B * * quibbling, squabbling, and snivelling. * * will do, if he don't cant too much, nor imitate Southey; the fellow has poesy in him; but he is envious, and unhappy, as all the envious are. Still he is among the best of the day. B * * C * * will do better by-and-by, I dare say, if he don't get spoiled by green tea, and the praises of Pentonville and Paradise Row. The pity of these men is, that they never lived in high life, nor in solitude: there is no medium for the knowledge of the busy or thePg 241 still world. If admitted into high life for a season, it is merely as spectators—they form no part of the mechanism thereof. Now Moore and I, the one by circumstances, and the other by birth, happened to be free of the corporation, and to have entered into its pulses and passions, quarum partes fuimus. Both of us have learnt by this much which nothing else could have taught us.
"P.S. I saw one of your brethren, another of the allied sovereigns of Grub Street, the other day, Mawman the Great, by whom I sent due homage to your imperial self. To-morrow's post may perhaps bring a letter from you, but you are the most ungrateful and ungracious of correspondents. But there is some excuse for you, with your perpetual levee of politicians, parsons, scribblers, and loungers. Some day I will give you a poetical catalogue of them."
LETTER 452. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, September 17. 1821.
"The enclosed lines, as you will directly perceive, are written by the Rev. W.L.B * *. Of course it is for him to deny them if they are not.
"Believe me yours ever and most affectionately,
"P.S. Can you forgive this? It is only a reply to your lines against my Italians. Of course I will stand by my lines against all men; but it is heart-breaking to see such things in a people as the reception of that unredeemed * * * * * * in an oppressed country. Your apotheosis is now reduced to a level with his welcome, and their gratitude to Grattan is cancelled by their atrocious adulation of this, &c. &c. &c."
LETTER 453. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, September 19, 1821.
"I am in all the sweat, dust, and blasphemy of an universal packing of all my things, furniture, &c. for Pisa, whither I go for the winter. The cause has been the exile of all my fellow Carbonics, and, amongst them, of the whole family of Madame G.; who, you know, was divorced from her husband last week, 'on account of P.P. clerk of this parish,' and who is obliged to join her father and relatives, now in exile there, to avoid being shut up in a monastery, because the Pope's decree of separation required her to reside in casa paterna, or else, for decorum's sake, in a convent. As I could not say with Hamlet, 'Get thee to a nunnery,' I am preparing to follow them.
"It is awful work, this love, and prevents all a man's projects of good or glory. I wanted to go to Greece lately (as every thing seems up here) with her brother, who is a very fine, brave fellow (I have seen him put to the proof), and wild about liberty.Pg 243 But the tears of a woman who has left her husband for a man, and the weakness of one's own heart, are paramount to these projects, and I can hardly indulge them.
"We were divided in choice between Switzerland and Tuscany, and I gave my vote for Pisa, as nearer the Mediterranean, which I love for the sake of the shores which it washes, and for my young recollections of 1809. Switzerland is a curst selfish, swinish country of brutes, placed in the most romantic region of the world. I never could bear the inhabitants, and still less their English visiters; for which reason, after writing for some information about houses, upon hearing that there was a colony of English all over the cantons of Geneva, &c. I immediately gave up the thought, and persuaded the Gambas to do the same.
"By the last post I sent you 'The Irish Avatar,'—what think you? The last line—'a name never spoke but with curses or jeers'—must run either 'a name only uttered with curses or jeers,' or, 'a wretch never named but with curses or jeers.' Becase as how, 'spoke' is not grammar, except in the House of Commons; and I doubt whether we can say 'a name spoken,' for mentioned. I have some doubts, too, about 'repay,'—'and for murder repay with a shout and a smile.' Should it not be, 'and for murder repay him with shouts and a smile, 'or 'reward him with shouts and a smile?'
"So, pray put your poetical pen through the MS. and take the least bad of the emendations. Also, if there be any further breaking of Priscian's head, willPg 244 you apply a plaster? I wrote in the greatest hurry and fury, and sent it to you the day after; so, doubtless, there will be some awful constructions, and a rather lawless conscription of rhythmus.
"With respect to what Anna Seward calls 'the liberty of transcript,'—when complaining of Miss Matilda Muggleton, the accomplished daughter of a choral vicar of Worcester Cathedral, who had abused the said 'liberty of transcript,' by inserting in the Malvern Mercury Miss Seward's 'Elegy on the South Pole,' as her own production, with her own signature, two years after having taken a copy, by permission of the authoress—with regard, I say, to the 'liberty of transcript,' I by no means oppose an occasional copy to the benevolent few, provided it does not degenerate into such licentiousness of Verb and Noun as may tend to 'disparage my parts of speech' by the carelessness of the transcribblers.
"I do not think that there is much danger of the 'King's Press being abused' upon the occasion, if the publishers of journals have any regard for their remaining liberty of person. It is as pretty a piece of invective as ever put publisher in the way to 'Botany.' Therefore, if they meddle with it, it is at their peril. As for myself, I will answer any jontleman—though I by no means recognise a 'right of search' into an unpublished production and unavowed poem. The same applies to things published sans consent. I hope you like, at least, the concluding lines of the Pome?
"What are you doing, and where are you? in England? Nail Murray—nail him to his ownPg 245 counter, till he shells out the thirteens. Since I wrote to you, I have sent him another tragedy—'Cain' by name—making three in MS. now in his hands, or in the printer's. It is in the Manfred, metaphysical style, and full of some Titanic declamation;—Lucifer being one of the dram. pers. who takes Cain a voyage among the stars, and afterwards to 'Hades,' where he shows him the phantoms of a former world, and its inhabitants. I have gone upon the notion of Cuvier, that the world has been destroyed three or four times, and was inhabited by mammoths, behemoths, and what not; but not by man till the Mosaic period, as, indeed, is proved by the strata of bones found;—those of all unknown animals, and known, being dug out, but none of mankind. I have, therefore, supposed Cain to be shown, in the rational Preadamites, beings endowed with a higher intelligence than man, but totally unlike him in form, and with much greater strength of mind and person. You may suppose the small talk which takes place between him and Lucifer upon these matters is not quite canonical.
"The consequence is, that Cain comes back and kills Abel in a fit of dissatisfaction, partly with the politics of Paradise, which had driven them all out of it, and partly because (as it is written in Genesis) Abel's sacrifice was the more acceptable to the Deity. I trust that the Rhapsody has arrived—it is in three acts, and entitled 'A Mystery,' according to the former Christian custom, and in honour of what it probably will remain to the reader.
LETTER 454. TO MR. MOORE.
"September 20. 1821.
"After the stanza on Grattan, concluding with 'His soul o'er the freedom implored and denied,' will it please you to cause insert the following 'Addenda,' which I dreamed of during to-day's Siesta:
I will tell you what to do. Get me twenty copies of the whole carefully and privately printed off, as your lines were on the Naples affair. Send me six, and distribute the rest according to your own pleasure.
"I am in a fine vein, 'so full of pastime and prodigality!'—So here's to your health in a glass of grog. Pray write, that I may know by return of post—address to me at Pisa. The gods give you joy!
"Where are you? in Paris? Let us hear. You will take care that there be no printer's name, nor author's, as in the Naples stanza, at least for the present."
LETTER 455 TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, September 20. 1821.
"You need not send 'The Blues,' which is a mere buffoonery, never meant for publication.
"The papers to which I allude, in case of survivorship, are collections of letters, &c. since I was sixteen years old, contained in the trunks in the care of Mr. Hobhouse. This collection is at least doubled by those I have now here, all received since my last ostracism. To these I should wish the editor to have access, not for the purpose of abusing confidences, nor of hurting the feelings of correspondents living, nor the memories of the dead; but there are things which would do neither, that I have left unnoticed or unexplained, and which (like all such things) time only can permit to be noticed or explained, though some are to my credit. The task will, of course, require delicacy; but that will not be wanting, if Moore and Hobhouse survive me, and, I may add, yourself; and that you may all three do so, is, I assure you, my very sincere wish. I am not sure that long life is desirable for one of my temper and constitutional depression of spirits, which of course I suppress in society; but which breaks out when alone, and in my writings, in spite of myself. It has been deepened, perhaps, by some long-past events (I do not allude to my marriage, &c.—on the contrary, that raised them by the persecution giving a fillip to my spirits); but I call it constitutional, as I have reason to think it. You know, or you do not know, that my maternal grandfather (a very clever man, and amiable, I am told) was strongly suspected of suicide (he was found drowned in the Avon at Bath), and that another very near relative of the same branch took poison, and was merely saved by antidotes. For the first of these events there was noPg 248 apparent cause, as he was rich, respected, and of considerable intellectual resources, hardly forty years of age, and not at all addicted to any unhinging vice. It was, however, but a strong suspicion, owing to the manner of his death and his melancholy temper. The second had a cause, but it does not become me to touch upon it: it happened when I was far too young to be aware of it, and I never heard of it till after the death of that relative, many years afterwards. I think, then, that I may call this dejection constitutional. I had always been told that I resembled more my maternal grandfather than any of my father's family—that is, in the gloomier part of his temper, for he was what you call a good-natured man, and I am not.
"The Journal here I sent to Moore the other day; but as it is a mere diary, only parts of it would ever do for publication. The other Journal, of the Tour in 1816, I should think Augusta might let you have a copy of.
"I am much mortified that Gifford don't take to my new dramas. To be sure, they are as opposite to the English drama as one thing can be to another; but I have a notion that, if understood, they will in time find favour (though not on the stage) with the reader. The simplicity of plot is intentional, and the avoidance of rant also, as also the compression of the speeches in the more severe situations. What I seek to show in 'The Foscaris' is the suppressed passions, rather than the rant of the present day. For that matter—
would not be difficult, as I think I have shown in my younger productions—not dramatic ones, to be sure. But, as I said before, I am mortified that Gifford don't like them; but I see no remedy, our notions on that subject being so different. How is he?—well, I hope? let me know. I regret his demur the more that he has been always my grand patron, and I know no praise which would compensate me in my own mind for his censure. I do not mind Reviews, as I can work them at their own weapons.
"Address to me at Pisa, whither I am going. The reason is, that all my Italian friends here have been exiled, and are met there for the present, and I go to join them, as agreed upon, for the winter."
LETTER 456. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, September 24. 1821.
"I have been thinking over our late correspondence, and wish to propose to you the following articles for our future:—
"1stly. That you shall write to me of yourself, of the health, wealth, and welfare of all friends; but of me (quoad me) little or nothing.
"2dly. That you shall send me soda-powders, tooth-powder, tooth-brushes, or any such anti-odontalgic or chemical articles, as heretofore,'ad libitum,' upon being reimbursed for the same.
"3dly. That you shall not send me any modern, or (as they are called) new publications, in English whatsoever, save and excepting any writing, prose or verse, of (or reasonably presumed to be of) Walter Scott, Crabbe, Moore, Campbell, Rogers, Gifford, Joanna Baillie, Irving (the American), Hogg, Wilson (Isle of Palms man), or any especial single work of fancy which is thought to be of considerable merit; Voyages and Travels, provided that they are neither in Greece, Spain, Asia Minor, Albania, nor Italy, will be welcome. Having travelled the countries mentioned, I know that what is said of them can convey nothing farther which I desire to know about them.—No other English works whatsoever.
"4thly. That you send me no periodical works whatsoever—no Edinburgh, Quarterly, Monthly, nor any review, magazine, or newspaper, English or foreign, of any description.
"5thly. That you send me no opinions whatsoever, either good, bad, or indifferent, of yourself, or your friends, or others, concerning any work, or works, of mine, past, present, or to come.
"6thly. That all negotiations in matters of business between you and me pass through the medium of the Hon. Douglas Kinnaird, my friend and trustee, or Mr. Hobhouse, as 'alter ego,' and tantamount to myself during my absence—or presence.
"Some of these propositions may at first seem strange, but they are founded. The quantity of trash I have received as books is incalculable, and neither amused nor instructed. Reviews and magazines are at the best but ephemeral and superficialPg 251 reading: who thinks of the grand article of last year in any given Review? In the next place, if they regard myself, they tend to increase egotism. If favourable, I do not deny that the praise elates, and if unfavourable, that the abuse irritates. The latter may conduct me to inflict a species of satire which would neither do good to you nor to your friends: they may smile now, and so may you; but if I took you all in hand, it would not be difficult to cut you up like gourds. I did as much by as powerful people at nineteen years old, and I know little as yet, in three-and-thirty, which should prevent me from making all your ribs gridirons for your hearts, if such were my propensity: but it is not; therefore let me hear none of your provocations. If any thing occurs so very gross as to require my notice, I shall hear of it from my legal friends. For the rest, I merely request to be left in ignorance.
"The same applies to opinions, good, bad, or indifferent, of persons in conversation or correspondence. These do not interrupt, but they soil the current of my mind. I am sensitive enough, but not till I am troubled; and here I am beyond the touch of the short arms of literary England, except the few feelers of the polypus that crawl over the channels in the way of extract.
"All these precautions in England would be useless; the libeller or the flatterer would there reach me in spite of all; but in Italy we know little of literary England, and think less, except what reaches us through some garbled and brief extract in some miserable gazette. For two years (excepting two orPg 252 three articles cut out and sent to you by the post) I never read a newspaper which was not forced upon me by some accident, and know, upon the whole, as little of England as you do of Italy, and God knows that is little enough, with all your travels, &c. &c. &c. The English travellers know Italy as you know Guernsey: how much is that?
"If any thing occurs so violently gross or personal as requires notice, Mr. Douglas Kinnaird will let me know; but of praise I desire to hear nothing.
"You will say, 'to what tends all this?' I will answer that;—to keep my mind free and unbiassed by all paltry and personal irritabilities of praise or censure—to let my genius take its natural direction, while my feelings are like the dead, who know nothing and feel nothing of all or aught that is said or done in their regard.
"If you can observe these conditions, you will spare yourself and others some pain: let me not be worked upon to rise up; for if I do, it will not be for a little. If you cannot observe these conditions, we shall cease to be correspondents,—but not friends, for I shall always be yours ever and truly,
"P.S. I have taken these resolutions not from any irritation against you or yours, but simply upon reflection that all reading, either praise or censure, of myself has done me harm. When I was in Switzerland and Greece, I was out of the way of hearing either, and how I wrote there!—In Italy I am out of the way of it too; but latterly, partly through my fault, and partly through your kindness in wishingPg 253 to send me the newest and most periodical publications, I have had a crowd of Reviews, &c. thrust upon me, which have bored me with their jargon, of one kind or another, and taken off my attention from greater objects. You have also sent me a parcel of trash of poetry, for no reason that I can conceive, unless to provoke me to write a new 'English Bards.' Now this I wish to avoid; for if ever I do, it will be a strong production; and I desire peace as long as the fools will keep their nonsense out of my way."
LETTER 457. TO MR. MOORE.
"September 27. 1821.
"It was not Murray's fault. I did not send the MS. overture, but I send it now, and it may bePg 254 restored;—or, at any rate, you may keep the original, and give any copies you please. I send it, as written, and as I read it to you—I have no other copy.
"By last week's two posts, in two packets, I sent to your address, at Paris, a longish poem upon the late Irishism of your countrymen in their reception of * * *. Pray, have you received it? It is in 'the high Roman fashion,' and full of ferocious phantasy. As you could not well take up the matter with Paddy (being of the same nest), I have;—but I hope still that I have done justice to his great men and his good heart. As for * * *, you will find it laid on with a trowel. I delight in your 'fact historical'—is it a fact?
"P.S. You have not answered me about Schlegel—why not? Address to me at Pisa, whither I am going, to join the exiles—a pretty numerous body at present. Let me hear how you are, and what you mean to do. Is there no chance of your recrossing the Alps? If the G. Rex marries again, let him not want an Epithalamium—suppose a joint concern of you and me, like Sternhold and Hopkins!"
LETTER 458. TO MR. MURRAY.
"September 28. 1821.
"I add another cover to request you to ask Moore to obtain (if possible) my letters to the late Lady Melbourne from Lady Cowper. They are very numerous, and ought to have been restored long ago,Pg 255 as I was ready to give back Lady Melbourne's in exchange. These latter are in Mr. Hobhouse's custody with my other papers, and shall be punctually restored if required. I did not choose before to apply to Lady Cowper, as her mother's death naturally kept me from intruding upon her feelings at the time of its occurrence. Some years have now elapsed, and it is essential that I should have my own epistles. They are essential as confirming that part of the 'Memoranda' which refers to the two periods (1812 and 1814) when my marriage with her niece was in contemplation, and will tend to show what my real views and feelings were upon that subject.
"You need not be alarmed; the 'fourteen years' will hardly elapse without some mortality amongst us; it is a long lease of life to speculate upon. So your calculation will not be in so much peril, as the 'argosie' will sink before that time, and 'the pound of flesh' be withered previously to your being so long out of a return.
"I also wish to give you a hint or two (as you have really behaved very handsomely to Moore in the business, and are a fine fellow in your line) for your advantage. If by your own management you can extract any of my epistles from Lady ——, (* * * * * * *), they might be of use in yourPg 256 collection (sinking of course the names and all such circumstances as might hurt living feelings, or those of survivors); they treat of more topics than love occasionally.
"I will tell you who may happen to have some letters of mine in their possession: Lord Powerscourt, some to his late brother; Mr. Long of—(I forget his place)—but the father of Edward Long of the Guards, who was drowned in going to Lisbon early in 1809; Miss Elizabeth Pigot, of Southwell, Notts (she may be Mistress by this time, for she had a year or two more than I): they were not love-letters, so that you might have them without scruple. There are, or might be, some to the late Rev. J.C. Tattersall, in the hands of his brother (half-brother) Mr. Wheatley, who resides near Canterbury, I think. There are some of Charles Gordon, now of Dulwich; and some few to Mrs. Chaworth; but these latter are probably destroyed or inaccessible.
"I mention these people and particulars merely as chances. Most of them have probably destroyed the letters, which in fact are of little import, many of them written when very young, and several at school and college.
"Peel (the second brother of the Secretary) was a correspondent of mine, and also Porter, the son of the Bishop of Clogher; Lord Clare a very voluminous one; William Harness (a friend of Milman's) another; Charles Drummond (son of the banker); William Bankes (the voyager), your friend: R.C. Dallas, Esq.; Hodgson; Henry Drury; Hobhouse you were already aware of.
"I have gone through this long list of
because I know that, like 'the curious in fish-sauce,' you are a researcher of such things.
"Besides these, there are other occasional ones to literary men and so forth, complimentary, &c. &c. &c. not worth much more than the rest. There are some hundreds, too, of Italian notes of mine, scribbled with a noble contempt of the grammar and dictionary, in very English Etruscan; for I speak ItalianPg 258 very fluently, but write it carelessly and incorrectly to a degree."
LETTER 459. TO MR. MOORE.
"September 29. 1821.
"I send you two rough things, prose and verse, not much in themselves, but which will show, one of them, the state of the country, and the other, of your friend's mind, when they were written. Neither of them were sent to the person concerned, but you will see, by the style of them, that they were sincere, as I am in signing myself
"Yours ever and truly,
Of the two enclosures, mentioned in the foregoing note, one was a letter intended to be sent to Lady Byron relative to his money invested in the funds, of which the following are extracts:—
"Ravenna, Marza 1mo, 1821.
"I have received your message, through my sister's letter, about English security, &c. &c. It is considerate, (and true, even,) that such is to be found—but not that I shall find it. Mr. * *, for his own views and purposes, will thwart all such attempts till he has accomplished his own, viz. to make me lend my fortune to some client of his choosing.
"At this distance—after this absence, and with my utter ignorance of affairs and business—with my temper and impatience, I have neither the means nor the mind to resist. Thinking of the funds as I do, and wishing to secure a reversion to myPg 259 sister and her children, I should jump at most expedients.
"What I told you is come to pass—the Neapolitan war is declared. Your funds will fall, and I shall be in consequence ruined. That's nothing—but my blood relations will be so. You and your child are provided for. Live and prosper—I wish so much to both. Live and prosper—you have the means. I think but of my real kin and kindred, who may be the victims of this accursed bubble.
"You neither know nor dream of the consequences of this war. It is a war of men with monarchs, and will spread like a spark on the dry, rank grass of the vegetable desert. What it is with you and your English, you do not know, for ye sleep. What it is with us here, I know, for it is before, and around, and within us.
"Judge of my detestation of England and of all that it inherits, when I avoid returning to your country at a time when not only my pecuniary interests, but, it may be, even my personal security, require it. I can say no more, for all letters are opened. A short time will decide upon what is to be done here, and then you will learn it without being more troubled with me or my correspondence. Whatever happens, an individual is little, so the cause is forwarded.
"I have no more to say to you on the score of affairs, or on any other subject."
The second enclosure in the note consisted of some verses, written by him, December 10th, 1820,Pg 260 on seeing the following paragraph in a newspaper:—"Lady Byron is this year the lady patroness at the annual Charity Ball given at the Town Hall at Hinckley, Leicestershire, and Sir G. Crewe, Bart, the principal steward." These verses are full of strong and indignant feeling,—every stanza concluding pointedly with the words "Charity Ball,"—and the thought that predominates through the whole may be collected from a few of the opening lines:—
LETTER 460. TO MR. MOORE.
"September—no—October 1. 1821.
"I have written to you lately, both in prose and verse, at great length, to Paris and London. I presume that Mrs. Moore, or whoever is your Paris deputy, will forward my packets to you in London.
"I am setting off for Pisa, if a slight incipient intermittent fever do not prevent me. I fear it is not strong enough to give Murray much chance of realising his thirteens again. I hardly should regret it, I think, provided you raised your price upon him—as what Lady Holderness (my sister's grandPg 261mother, a Dutchwoman) used to call Augusta, her Residee Legatoo—so as to provide for us all: my bones with a splendid and larmoyante edition, and you with double what is extractable during my lifetime.
"I have a strong presentiment that (bating some out of the way accident) you will survive me. The difference of eight years, or whatever it is, between our ages, is nothing. I do not feel (nor am, indeed, anxious to feel) the principle of life in me tend to longevity. My father and mother died, the one at thirty-five or six, and the other at forty-five; and Dr. Rush, or somebody else, says that nobody lives long, without having one parent, at least, an old stager.
"I should, to be sure, like to see out my eternal mother-in-law, not so much for her heritage, but from my natural antipathy. But the indulgence of this natural desire is too much to expect from the Providence who presides over old women. I bore you with all this about lives, because it has been put in my way by a calculation of insurances which Murray has sent me. I really think you should have more, if I evaporate within a reasonable time.
"I wonder if my 'Cain' has got safe to England. I have written since about sixty stanzas of a poem, in octave stanzas, (in the Pulci style, which the fools in England think was invented by Whistlecraft—it is as old as the hills in Italy,) called 'The Vision of of Judgment, by Quevedo Redivivus,' with this motto—
"In this it is my intent to put the said George's Apotheosis in a Whig point of view, not forgetting the Poet Laureate for his preface and his other demerits.
"I am just got to the pass where Saint Peter, hearing that the royal defunct had opposed Catholic Emancipation, rises up, and, interrupting Satan's oration, declares he will change places with Cerberus sooner than let him into heaven, while he has the keys thereof.
"I must go and ride, though rather feverish and chilly. It is the ague season; but the agues do me rather good than harm. The feel after the fit is as if one had got rid of one's body for good and all.
"The gods go with you!—Address to Pisa.
"P.S. Since I came back I feel better, though I stayed out too late for this malaria season, under the thin crescent of a very young moon, and got off my horse to walk in an avenue with a Signora for an hour. I thought of you and
But it was not in a romantic mood, as I should have been once; and yet it was a new woman, (that is, new to me,) and, of course, expected to be made love to. But I merely made a few common-place speeches. I feel, as your poor friend Curran said, before his death, 'a mountain of lead upon myPg 263 heart,' which I believe to be constitutional, and that nothing will remove it but the same remedy."
LETTER 461. TO MR. MOORE.
"October 6. 1821.
"By this post I have sent my nightmare to balance the incubus of * * *'s impudent anticipation of the Apotheosis of George the Third. I should like you to take a look over it, as I think there are two or three things in it which might please 'our puir hill folk.'
"By the last two or three posts I have written to you at length. My ague bows to me every two or three days, but we are not as yet upon intimate speaking terms. I have an intermittent generally every two years, when the climate is favourable (as it is here), but it does me no harm. What I find worse, and cannot get rid of, is the growing depression of my spirits, without sufficient cause. I ride—I am not intemperate in eating or drinking—and my general health is as usual, except a slight ague, which rather does good than not. It must be constitutional; for I know nothing more than usual to depress me to that degree.
"How do you manage? I think you told me, at Venice, that your spirits did not keep up without a little claret. I can drink, and bear a good deal of wine (as you may recollect in England); but it don't exhilarate—it makes me savage and suspicious, and even quarrelsome. Laudanum has a similar effect; but I can take much of it without any effectPg 264 at all. The thing that gives me the highest spirits (it seems absurd, but true) is a close of salts—I mean in the afternoon, after their effect. But one can't take them like champagne.
"Excuse this old woman's letter; but my lemancholy don't depend upon health, for it is just the same, well or ill, or here or there.
LETTER 462. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Ravenna, October 9. 1821.
"You will please to present or convey the enclosed poem to Mr. Moore. I sent him another copy to Paris, but he has probably left that city.
"Don't forget to send me my first act of 'Werner' (if Hobhouse can find it amongst my papers)—send it by the post (to Pisa); and also cut out Harriet Lee's 'German's Tale' from the 'Canterbury Tales,' and send it in a letter also. I began that tragedy in 1815.
"By the way, you have a good deal of my prose tracts in MS.? Let me have proofs of them all again—I mean the controversial ones, including the last two or three years of time. Another question!—The Epistle of St. Paul, which I translated from the Armenian, for what reason have you kept it back, though you published that stuff which gave rise to the 'Vampire?' Is it because you are afraid to print any thing in opposition to the cant of the Quarterly about Manicheism? Let me have a proof of that Epistle directly. I am a better Christian than those parsons of yours, though not paid for being so.
"Send—Faber's Treatise on the Cabiri.
"Sainte Croix's Mystères du Paganisme (scarce, perhaps, but to be found, as Mitford refers to his work frequently).
"A common Bible, of a good legible print (bound in russia). I have one; but as it was the last gift of my sister (whom I shall probably never see again), I can only use it carefully, and less frequently, because I like to keep it in good order. Don't forget this, for I am a great reader and admirer of those books, and had read them through and through before I was eight years old,—that is to say, the Old Testament, for the New struck me as a task, but the other as a pleasure. I speak as a boy, from the recollected impression of that period at Aberdeen in 1796.
"Any novels of Scott, or poetry of the same. Ditto of Crabbe, Moore, and the Elect; but none of your curst common-place trash,—unless somethingPg 266 starts up of actual merit, which may very well be, for 'tis time it should."
LETTER 463. TO MR. MURRAY.
"October 20. 1821.
"If the errors are in the MS. write me down an ass: they are not, and I am content to undergo any penalty if they be. Besides, the omitted stanza (last but one or two), sent afterwards, was that in the MS. too?
"As to 'honour,' I will trust no man's honour in affairs of barter. I will tell you why: a state of bargain is Hobbes's 'state of nature—a state of war.' It is so with all men. If I come to a friend, and say, 'Friend, lend me five hundred pounds,'—he either does it, or says that he can't or won't; but if I come to Ditto, and say, 'Ditto, I have an excellent house, or horse, or carriage, or MSS., or books, or pictures, or, &c. &c. &c. &c. &c. honestly worth a thousand pounds, you shall have them for five hundred,' what does Ditto say? why, he looks at them, he hums, he ha's,—he humbugs, if he can, to get a bargain as cheaply as he can, because it is a bargain. This is in the blood and bone of mankind; and the same man who would lend another a thousand pounds without interest, would not buy a horse of him for half its value if he could help it. It is so: there's no denying it; and therefore I will have as much as I can, and you will give as little; and there's an end. All men are intrinsical rascals,Pg 267 and I am only sorry that, not being a dog, I can't bite them.
"I am filling another book for you with little anecdotes, to my own knowledge, or well authenticated, of Sheridan, Curran, &c. and such other public men as I recollect to have been acquainted with, for I knew most of them more or less. I will do what I can to prevent your losing by my obsequies.
LETTER 464. TO MR. ROGERS.
"Ravenna, October 21. 1821.
"I shall be (the gods willing) in Bologna on Saturday next. This is a curious answer to your letter; but I have taken a house in Pisa for the winter, to which all my chattels, furniture, horses, carriages, and live stock are already removed, and I am preparing to follow.
"The cause of this removal is, shortly, the exile or proscription of all my friends' relations and connections here into Tuscany, on account of our late politics; and where they go, I accompany them. I merely remained till now to settle some arrangements about my daughter, and to give time for my furniture, &c. to precede me. I have not here a seat or a bed hardly, except some jury chairs, and tables, and a mattress for the week to come.
"If you will go on with me to Pisa, I can lodge you for as long as you like; (they write that the house, the Palazzo Lanfranchi, is spacious: it is on the Arno;) and I have four carriages, and as manyPg 268 saddle-horses (such as they are in these parts), with all other conveniences, at your command, as also their owner. If you could do this, we may, at least, cross the Apennines together; or if you are going by another road, we shall meet at Bologna, I hope. I address this to the post-office (as you desire), and you will probably find me at the Albergo di San Marco. If you arrive first, wait till I come up, which will be (barring accidents) on Saturday or Sunday at farthest.
"I presume you are alone in your voyages. Moore is in London incog. according to my latest advices from those climes.
"It is better than a lustre (five years and six months and some days, more or less) since we met; and, like the man from Tadcaster in the farce ('Love laughs at Locksmiths'), whose acquaintances, including the cat and the terrier, who 'caught a halfpenny in his mouth,' were all 'gone dead,' but too many of our acquaintances have taken the same path. Lady Melbourne, Grattan, Sheridan, Curran, &c. &c. almost every body of much name of the old school. But 'so am not I, said the foolish fat scullion,' therefore let us make the most of our remainder.
"Let me find two lines from you at 'the hostel or inn.'
"Yours ever, &c.
LETTER 465. TO MR. MOORE.
"Ravenna, Oct. 28. 1821.
"''Tis the middle of night by the castle clock,' and in three hours more I have to set out on my way to Pisa—sitting up all night to be sure of rising. I have just made them take off my bed-clothes—blankets inclusive—in case of temptation from the apparel of sheets to my eyelids.
"Samuel Rogers is—or is to be—at Bologna, as he writes from Venice.
"I thought our Magnifico would 'pound you,' if possible. He is trying to 'pound' me, too; but I'll specie the rogue—or, at least, I'll have the odd shillings out of him in keen iambics.
"Your approbation of 'Sardanapalus' is agreeable, for more reasons than one. Hobhouse is pleased to think as you do of it, and so do some others—but the 'Arimaspian,' whom, like 'a Gryphon in the wilderness,' I will 'follow for his gold' (as I exhorted you to do before), did or doth disparage it—'stinting me in my sizings.' His notable opinions on the 'Foscari' and 'Cain' he hath not as yet forwarded; or, at least, I have not yet received them, nor the proofs thereof, though promised by last post.
"I see the way that he and his Quarterly people are tending—they want a row with me, and they shall have it. I only regret that I am not in England for the nonce; as, here, it is hardly fair ground for me, isolated and out of the way of prompt rejoinder and information as I am. But, though backed by allPg 270 the corruption, and infamy, and patronage of their master rogues and slave renegadoes, if they do once rouse me up,
"I have that for two or three of them, which they had better not move me to put in motion;—and yet, after all, what a fool I am to disquiet myself about such fellows! It was all very well ten or twelve years ago, when I was a 'curled darling,' and minded such things. At present, I rate them at their true value; but, from natural temper and bile, am not able to keep quiet.
"Let me hear from you on your return from Ireland, which ought to be ashamed to see you, after her Brunswick blarney. I am of Longman's opinion, that you should allow your friends to liquidate the Bermuda claim. Why should you throw away the two thousand pounds (of the non-guinea Murray) upon that cursed piece of treacherous inveiglement? I think you carry the matter a little too far and scrupulously. When we see patriots begging publicly, and know that Grattan received a fortune from his country, I really do not see why a man, in no whit inferior to any or all of them, should shrink from accepting that assistance from his private friends which every tradesman receives from his connections upon much less occasions. For, after all, it was not your debt—it was a piece of swindling against you. As to * * * *, and the 'what noble creatures!Pg 271 &c. &c.' it is all very fine and very well, but, till you can persuade me that there is no credit, and no self-applause to be obtained by being of use to a celebrated man, I must retain the same opinion of the human species, which I do of our friend Ms. Specie."
In the month of August, Madame Guiccioli had joined her father at Pisa, and was now superintending the preparations at the Casa Lanfranchi,—one of the most ancient and spacious palaces of that city,—for the reception of her noble friend. "He left Ravenna," says this lady, "with great regret, and with a presentiment that his departure would be the forerunner of a thousand evils to us. In every letter he then wrote to me, he expressed his displeasure at this step. 'If your father should be recalled,' he said, 'I immediately return to Ravenna; and if he is recalled previous to my departure, I remain.' In this hope he delayed his journey for several months; but, at last, no longer having any expectation of our immediate return, he wrote to me, saying—'I set out most unwillingly, foreseeing the most evil results for all of you, and principally for yourself. I say no more, but you will see.' And in another letter he says, 'I leave Ravenna so unwillingly, and with such a persuasion on my mind that my departure will lead from one misery toPg 272 another, each greater than the former, that I have not the heart to utter another word on the subject.' He always wrote to me at that time in Italian, and I transcribe his exact words. How entirely were these presentiments verified by the event!"
After describing his mode of life while at Ravenna, the lady thus proceeds:—
"This sort of simple life he led until the fatal day of his departure for Greece, and the few variations he made from it may be said to have arisen solely from the greater or smaller number of occasions which were offered him of doing good, and from the generous actions he was continually performing. Many families (in Ravenna principally) owed to him the few prosperous days they ever enjoyed. His arrival in that town was spoken of as a piece ofPg 273 public good fortune, and his departure as a public calamity; and this is the life which many attempted to asperse as that of a libertine. But the world must at last learn how, with so good and generous a heart, Lord Byron, susceptible, it is true, of the most energetic passions, yet, at the same time, of the sublimest and most pure, and rendering homage in his acts to every virtue—how he, I say, could afford such scope to malice and to calumny. Circumstances, and also, probably, an eccentricity of disposition, (which, nevertheless, had its origin in a virtuous feeling, an excessive abhorrence for hypocrisy and affectation,) contributed, perhaps, to cloud the splendour of his exalted nature in the opinion of many. But you will well know how to analyse these contradictions in a manner worthy of your noble friend and of yourself, and you will prove that the goodness of his heart was not inferior to the grandeur of his genius."
At Bologna, according to the appointment made between them, Lord Byron and Mr. Rogers met; and the record which this latter gentleman has, in his Poem on Italy, preserved of their meeting, conveys so vivid a picture of the poet at this period, with, at the same time, so just and feeling a tribute to his memory, that, narrowed as my limits are now becoming, I cannot refrain from giving the sketch entire.
On the road to Bologna he had met with his early and dearest friend, Lord Clare, and the following description of their short interview is given in his "Detached Thoughts."
"Pisa, November 5. 1821.
"'There is a strange coincidence sometimes in the little things of this world, Sancho,' says Sterne in a letter (if I mistake not), and so I have often found it.
"Page 128. article 91. of this collection, I had alluded to my friend Lord Clare in terms such as my feelings suggested. About a week or two afterPg 278wards I met him on the road between Imola and Bologna, after not having met for seven or eight years. He was abroad in 1814, and came home just as I set out in 1816.
"This meeting annihilated for a moment all the years between the present time and the days of Harrow. It was a new and inexplicable feeling, like rising from the grave, to me. Clare, too, was much agitated—more in appearance than was myself; for I could feel his heart beat to his fingers' ends, unless, indeed, it was the pulse of my own which made me think so. He told me that I should find a note from him left at Bologna. I did. We were obliged to part for our different journeys, he for Rome, I for Pisa, but with the promise to meet again in spring. We were but five minutes together, and on the public road; but I hardly recollect an hour of my existence which could be weighed against them. He had heard that I was coming on, and had left his letter for me at Bologna, because the people with whom he was travelling could not wait longer.
"Of all I have ever known, he has always been the least altered in every thing from the excellent qualities and kind affections which attached me to him so strongly at school. I should hardly have thought it possible for society (or the world, as it is called) to leave a being with so little of the leaven of bad passions.
"I do not speak from personal experience only, but from all I have ever heard of him from others, during absence and distance."
After remaining a day at Bologna, Lord Byron crossed the Apennines with Mr. Rogers; and I find the following note of their visit together to the Gallery at Florence:—
"I revisited the Florence Gallery, &c. My former impressions were confirmed; but there were too many visiters there to allow one to feel any thing properly. When we were (about thirty or forty) all stuffed into the cabinet of gems and knick-knackeries, in a corner of one of the galleries, I told Rogers that it 'felt like being in the watchhouse.' I left him to make his obeisances to some of his acquaintances, and strolled on alone—the only four minutes I could snatch of any feeling for the works around me. I do not mean to apply this to a tête-à-tête scrutiny with Rogers, who has an excellent taste, and deep feeling for the arts, (indeed much more of both than I can possess, for of the former I have not much,) but to the crowd of jostling starers and travelling talkers around me.
"I heard one bold Briton declare to the woman on his arm, looking at the Venus of Titian, 'Well, now, this is really very fine indeed,'—an observation which, like that of the landlord in Joseph Andrews on 'the certainty of death,' was (as the landlord's wife observed) 'extremely true.'
"In the Pitti Palace, I did not omit Goldsmith's prescription for a connoisseur, viz. 'that the pictures would have been better if the painter had taken more pains, and to praise the works of Pietro Perugino.'"
LETTER 466. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Pisa, November 3. 1821.
"The two passages cannot be altered without making Lucifer talk like the Bishop of Lincoln, which would not be in the character of the former. The notion is from Cuvier (that of the old worlds), as I have explained in an additional note to the preface. The other passage is also in character: if nonsense, so much the better, because then it can do no harm, and the sillier Satan is made, the safer for every body. As to 'alarms,' &c. do you really think such things ever led any body astray? Are these people more impious than Milton's Satan? or the Prometheus of Æschylus? or even than the Sadducees of * *, the 'Fall of Jerusalem' * *? Are not Adam, Eve, Adah, and Abel, as pious as the catechism?
"Gifford is too wise a man to think that such things can have any serious effect: who was ever altered by a poem? I beg leave to observe, that there is no creed nor personal hypothesis of mine in all this; but I was obliged to make Cain and Lucifer talk consistently, and surely this has always been permitted to poesy. Cain is a proud man: if Lucifer promised him kingdom, &c. it would elate him: the object of the Demon is to depress him still further in his own estimation than he was before, by showing him infinite things and his own abasement, till he falls into the frame of mind that leads to the catastrophe, from mere internal irritation, not premeditation, or envy of Abel (which would have made him contemptible), but from the rage and furyPg 281 against the inadequacy of his state to his conceptions, and which discharges itself rather against life, and the Author of life, than the mere living.
"His subsequent remorse is the natural effect of looking on his sudden deed. Had the deed been premeditated, his repentance would have been tardier.
"Either dedicate it to Walter Scott, or, if you think he would like the dedication of 'The Foscaris' better, put the dedication to 'The Foscaris.' Ask him which.
"Your first note was queer enough; but your two other letters, with Moore's and Gifford's opinions, set all right again. I told you before that I can never recast any thing. I am like the tiger: if I miss the first spring, I go grumbling back to my jungle again; but if I do hit, it is crushing. * * * You disparaged the last three cantos to me, and kept them back above a year; but I have heard from England that (notwithstanding the errors of the press) they are well thought of; for instance, by American Irving, which last is a feather in my (fool's) cap.
"You have received my letter (open) through Mr. Kinnaird, and so, pray, send me no more reviews of any kind. I will read no more of evil or good in that line. Walter Scott has not read a review of himself for thirteen years.
"The bust is not my property, but Hobhouse's. I addressed it to you as an Admiralty man, great at the Custom-house. Pray deduct the expenses of the same, and all others.
LETTER 467. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Pisa, Nov. 9. 1821.
"I never read the Memoirs at all, not even since they were written; and I never will: the pain of writing them was enough; you may spare me that of a perusal. Mr. Moore has (or may have) a discretionary power to omit any repetition, or expressions which do not seem good to him, who is a better judge than you or I.
"Enclosed is a lyrical drama, (entitled 'A Mystery,' from its subject,) which, perhaps may arrive in time for the volume. You will find it pious enough, I trust,—at least some of the Chorus might have been written by Sternhold and Hopkins themselves for that, and perhaps for melody. As it is longer, and more lyrical and Greek, than I intended at first, I have not divided it into acts, but called what I have sent Part First, as there is a suspension of the action, which may either close there without impropriety, or be continued in a way that I have in view. I wish the first part to be published before the second, because, if it don't succeed, it is better to stop there than to go on in a fruitless experiment.
"I desire you to acknowledge the arrival of this packet by return of post, if you can conveniently, with a proof.
"Your obedient, &c.
"P.S. My wish is to have it published at the same time, and, if possible, in the same volume, with the others, because, whatever the merits or demerits of these pieces may be, it will perhaps bePg 283 allowed that each is of a different kind, and in a different style; so that, including the prose and the Don Juans, &c. I have at least sent you variety during the last year or two."
LETTER 468. TO MR. MOORE.
"Pisa, November 16. 1821.
"There is here Mr. * *, an Irish genius, with whom we are acquainted. He hath written a really excellent Commentary on Dante, full of new and true information, and much ingenuity. But his verse is such as it hath pleased God to endue him withal. Nevertheless, he is so firmly persuaded of its equal excellence, that he won't divorce the Commentary from the traduction, as I ventured delicately to hint,—not having the fear of Ireland before my eyes, and upon the presumption of having shotten very well in his presence (with common pistols too, not with my Manton's) the day before.
"But he is eager to publish all, and must be gratified, though the Reviewers will make him suffer more tortures than there are in his original. Indeed, the Notes are well worth publication; but he insists upon the translation for company, so that they will come out together, like Lady C * *t chaperoning Miss * *. I read a letter of yours to him yesterday, and he begs me to write to you about his Poeshie. He is really a good fellow, apparently, and I dare say that his verse is very good Irish.
"Now, what shall we do for him? He says that he will risk part of the expense with the publisher.Pg 284 He will never rest till he is published and abused—for he has a high opinion of himself—and I see nothing left but to gratify him, so as to have him abused as little as possible; for I think it would kill him. You must write, then, to Jeffrey to beg him not to review him, and I will do the same to Gifford, through Murray. Perhaps they might notice the Comment without touching the text. But I doubt the dogs—the text is too tempting. * *
"I have to thank you again, as I believe I did before, for your opinion of 'Cain,' &c.
"You are right to allow —— to settle the claim; but I do not see why you should repay him out of your legacy—at least, not yet. If you feel about it (as you are ticklish on such points) pay him the interest now, and the principal when you are strong in cash; or pay him by instalments; or pay him as I do my creditors—that is, not till they make me.
"I address this to you at Paris, as you desire. Reply soon, and believe me ever, &c.
"P.S. What I wrote to you about low spirits is, however, very true. At present, owing to the climate, &c. (I can walk down into my garden, andPg 285 pluck my own oranges,—and, by the way, have got a diarrhœa in consequence of indulging in this meridian luxury of proprietorship,) my spirits are much better. You seem to think that I could not have written the 'Vision,' &c. under the influence of low spirits; but I think there you err. A man's poetry is a distinct faculty, or Soul, and has no more to do with the every-day individual than the Inspiration with the Pythoness when removed from her tripod."
The correspondence which I am now about to insert, though long since published by the gentleman with whom it originated, will, I have no doubt, even by those already acquainted with all the circumstances, be reperused with pleasure; as, among the many strange and affecting incidents with which these pages abound, there is not one, perhaps, so touching and singular as that to which the following letters refer.
Pg 286TO LORD BYRON.
"Frome, Somerset, November 21. 1821.
"More than two years since, a lovely and beloved wife was taken from me, by lingering disease, after a very short union. She possessed unvarying gentleness and fortitude, and a piety so retiring as rarely to disclose itself in words, but so influential as to produce uniform benevolence of conduct. In the last hour of life, after a farewell look on a lately born and only infant, for whom she had evinced inexpressible affection, her last whispers were 'God's happiness! God's happiness!' Since the second anniversary of her decease, I have read some papers which no one had seen during her life, and which contain her most secret thoughts. I am induced to communicate to your Lordship a passage from these papers, which, there is no doubt, refers to yourself; as I have more than once heard the writer mention your agility on the rocks at Hastings.
"'Oh, my God, I take encouragement from the assurance of thy word, to pray to Thee in behalf of one for whom I have lately been much interested. May the person to whom I allude (and who is now, we fear, as much distinguished for his neglect of Thee as for the transcendant talents thou hast bestowed on him) be awakened to a sense of his own danger, and led to seek that peace of mind in a proper sense of religion, which he has found this world's enjoyments unable to procure! Do Thou grant that his future example may be productive of far morePg 287 extensive benefit than his past conduct and writings have been of evil; and may the Sun of righteousness, which, we trust, will, at some future period, arise on him, be bright in proportion to the darkness of those clouds which guilt has raised around him, and the balm which it bestows, healing and soothing in proportion to the keenness of that agony which the punishment of his vices has inflicted on him! May the hope that the sincerity of my own efforts for the attainment of holiness, and the approval of my own love to the great Author of religion, will render this prayer, and every other for the welfare of mankind, more efficacious!—Cheer me in the path of duty;—but, let me not forget, that, while we are permitted to animate ourselves to exertion by every innocent motive, these are but the lesser streams which may serve to increase the current, but which, deprived of the grand fountain of good, (a deep conviction of inborn sin, and firm belief in the efficacy of Christ's death for the salvation of those who trust in him, and really wish to serve him,) would soon dry up, and leave us barren of every virtue as before.
"'July 31. 1814—Hastings.'
"There is nothing, my Lord, in this extract which, in a literary sense, can at all interest you; but it may, perhaps, appear to you worthy of reflection how deep and expansive a concern for the happiness of others the Christian faith can awaken in the midst of youth and prosperity. Here is nothing poetical and splendid, as in the expostulatory homage of M. Delamartine; but here is the sublime, my Lord;Pg 288 for this intercession was offered, on your account, to the supreme Source of happiness. It sprang from a faith more confirmed than that of the French poet: and from a charity which, in combination with faith, showed its power unimpaired amidst the languors and pains of approaching dissolution. I will hope that a prayer, which, I am sure, was deeply sincere, may not be always unavailing.
"It would add nothing, my Lord, to the fame with which your genius has surrounded you, for an unknown and obscure individual to express his admiration of it. I had rather be numbered with those who wish and pray, that 'wisdom from above,' and 'peace,' and 'joy,' may enter such a mind.
However romantic, in the eyes of the cold and worldly, the piety of this young person may appear, it were to be wished that the truly Christian feeling which dictated her prayer were more common among all who profess the same creed; and that those indications of a better nature, so visible even through the clouds of his character, which induced this innocent young woman to pray for Byron, while living, could have the effect of inspiring others with more charity towards his memory, now that he is dead.
The following is Lord Byron's answer to this affecting communication.
LETTER 469. TO MR. SHEPPARD.
"Pisa, December 8. 1821.
"I have received your letter. I need not say, that the extract which it contains has affected me, because it would imply a want of all feeling to have read it with indifference. Though I am not quite sure that it was intended by the writer for me, yet the date, the place where it was written, with some other circumstances that you mention, render the allusion probable. But for whomever it was meant, I have read it with all the pleasure which can arise from so melancholy a topic. I say pleasure—because your brief and simple picture of the life and demeanour of the excellent person whom I trust you will again meet, cannot be contemplated without the admiration due to her virtues, and her pure and unpretending piety. Her last moments were particularly striking; and I do not know that, in the course of reading the story of mankind, and still less in my observations upon the existing portion, I ever met with any thing so unostentatiously beautiful. Indisputably, the firm believers in the Gospel have a great advantage over all others,—for this simple reason, that, if true, they will have their reward hereafter; and if there be no hereafter, they can be but with the infidel in his eternal sleep, having had the assistance of an exalted hope, through life, without subsequent disappointment, since (at the worst for them) 'out of nothing, nothing can arise, not even sorrow. But a man's creed does not dePg 290pend upon himself: who can say, I will believe this, that, or the other? and least of all, that which he least can comprehend. I have, however, observed, that those who have begun life with extreme faith, have in the end greatly narrowed it, as Chillingworth, Clarke (who ended as an Arian), Bayle, and Gibbon (once a Catholic), and some others; while, on the other hand, nothing is more common than for the early sceptic to end in a firm belief, like Maupertuis, and Henry Kirke White.
"But my business is to acknowledge your letter, and not to make a dissertation. I am obliged to you for your good wishes, and more than obliged by the extract from the papers of the beloved object whose qualities you have so well described in a few words. I can assure you that all the fame which ever cheated humanity into higher notions of its own importance would never weigh in my mind against the pure and pious interest which a virtuous being may be pleased to take in my welfare. In this point of view, I would not exchange the prayer of the deceased in my behalf for the united glory of Homer, Cæsar, and Napoleon, could such be accumulated upon a living head. Do me at least the justice to suppose, that
however the 'deteriora sequor' may have been applied to my conduct.
"I have the honour to be
"Your obliged and obedient servant,
"P.S. I do not know that I am addressing a clergyman; but I presume that you will not be affronted by the mistake (if it is one) on the address of this letter. One who has so well explained, and deeply felt, the doctrines of religion, will excuse the error which led me to believe him its minister."
LETTER 470. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Pisa, December 4. 1821.
"By extracts in the English papers,—in your holy ally, Galignani's 'Messenger,'—I perceive that 'the two greatest examples of human vanity in the present age' are, firstly, 'the ex-Emperor Napoleon,' and, secondly, 'his Lordship, &c. the noble poet,'meaning your humble servant, 'poor guiltless I.'
"Poor Napoleon! he little dreamed to what vile comparisons the turn of the wheel would reduce him!
"I have got here into a famous old feudal palazzo, on the Arno, large enough for a garrison, with dungeons below and cells in the walls, and so full of ghosts, that the learned Fletcher (my valet) has begged leave to change his room, and then refused to occupy his new room, because there were more ghosts there than in the other. It is quite true that there are most extraordinary noises (as in all old buildings), which have terrified the servants so as to incommode me extremely. There is one place where people were evidently walled up; for there is but one possible passage, broken through the wall, and thenPg 292 meant to be closed again upon the inmate. The house belonged to the Lanfranchi family, (the same mentioned by Ugolino in his dream, as his persecutor with Sismondi,) and has had a fierce owner or two in its time. The staircase, &c. is said to have been built by Michel Agnolo. It is not yet cold enough for a fire. What a climate!
"I am, however, bothered about these spectres, (as they say the last occupants were, too,) of whom I have as yet seen nothing, nor, indeed, heard (myself); but all the other ears have been regaled by all kinds of supernatural sounds. The first night I thought I heard an odd noise, but it has not been repeated. I have now been here more than a month.
LETTER 471. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Pisa, December 10. 1821.
"This day and this hour, (one, on the clock,) my daughter is six years old. I wonder when I shall see her again, or if ever I shall see her at all.
"I have remarked a curious coincidence, which almost looks like a fatality.
"My mother, my wife, my daughter, my half-sister, my sisters mother, my natural daughter (as far at least as I am concerned), and myself, are all only children.
"My father, by his first marriage with Lady Conyers (an only child), had only my sister; and by his second marriage with an only child, an onlyPg 293 child again. Lady Byron, as you know, was one also, and so is my daughter, &c.
"Is not this rather odd—such a complication of only children? By the way, send me my daughter Ada's miniature. I have only the print, which gives little or no idea of her complexion.
"Yours, &c. B."
LETTER 472. TO MR. MOORE.
"Pisa, December 12. 1821.
"What you say about Galignani's two biographies is very amusing; and, if I were not lazy, I would certainly do what you desire. But I doubt my present stock of facetiousness—that is, of good serious humour, so as not to let the cat out of the bag. I wish you would undertake it. I will forgive and indulge you (like a Pope) beforehand, for any thing ludicrous, that might keep those fools in their own dear belief that a man is a loup garou.
"I suppose I told you that the Giaour story had actually some foundation on facts; or, if I did not,Pg 294 you will one day find it in a letter of Lord Sligo's, written to me after the publication of the poem. I should not like marvels to rest upon any account of my own, and shall say nothing about it. However, the real incident is still remote enough from the poetical one, being just such as, happening to a man of any imagination, might suggest such a composition. The worst of any real adventures is that they involve living people—else Mrs. ——'s, ——'s, &c. are as 'german to the matter' as Mr. Maturin could desire for his novels. * * * *
"The consummation you mentioned for poor * * was near taking place yesterday. Riding pretty sharply after Mr. Medwin and myself, in turning the corner of a lane between Pisa and the hills, he was spilt,—and, besides losing some claret on the spot, bruised himself a good deal, but is in no danger. He was bled, and keeps his room. As I was a-head of him some hundred yards, I did not see the accident; but my servant, who was behind, did, and says the horse did not fall—the usual excuse of floored equestrians. As * * piques himself upon his horsemanship, and his horse is really a pretty horse enough, I long for his personal narrative,—as I never yet met the man who would fairly claim a tumble as his own property.
"Could not you send me a printed copy of the 'Irish Avatar?'—I do not know what has become of Rogers since we parted at Florence.
"Ever and truly, &c.
"P.S. December 13.
"I enclose you some lines written not long ago, which you may do what you like with, as they are very harmless. Only, if copied, or printed, or set, I could wish it more correctly than in the usual way, in which one's 'nothings are monstered,' as Coriolanus says.
"You must really get * * published—he never will rest till he is so. He is just gone with his broken head to Lucca, at my desire, to try to save a man from being burnt. The Spanish * * *, that has her petticoats over Lucca, had actually condemned a poor devil to the stake, for stealing the wafer box out of a church. Shelley and I, of course, were up in arms against this piece of piety, and have been disturbing every body to get the sentence changed. * * is gone to see what can be done.
LETTER 473. TO MR. SHELLEY.
"December 12. 1821.
"My dear Shelley,
"Enclosed is a note for you from ——. His reasons are all very true, I dare say, and it might and may be of personal inconvenience to us. But that does not appear to me to be a reason to allow a being to be burnt without trying to save him. To save him by any means but remonstrance is of course out of the question; but I do not see why a temperate remonstrance should hurt any one. Lord Guilford is the man, if he would undertake it. He knows the Grand Duke personally, and might, perhaps, prevail upon him to interfere. But, as he goes to-morrow, you must be quick, or it will be useless. Make any use of my name that you please.
"Yours ever," &c
LETTER 474. TO MR. MOORE.
"I send you the two notes, which will tell you the story I allude to of the Auto da Fè. Shelley's allusion to his 'fellow-serpent' is a buffoonery of mine. Goethe's Mephistofilus calls the serpent who tempted Eve 'my aunt, the renowned snake;' and I always insist that Shelley is nothing but one of her nephews, walking about on the tip of his tail."
TO LORD BYRON.
"Two o'clock, Tuesday Morning.
"My dear Lord,
"Although strongly persuaded that the story must be either an entire fabrication, or so gross an exaggeration as to be nearly so; yet, in order to be able to discover the truth beyond all doubt, and to set your mind quite at rest, I have taken the determination to go myself to Lucca this morning. Should it prove less false than I am convinced it is, I shall not fail to exert myself in every way that I can imagine may have any success. Be assured of this.
"Your Lordship's most truly,
"P.S. To prevent bavardage, I prefer going in person to sending my servant with a letter. It is better for you to mention nothing (except, of course, to Shelley) of my excursion. The person I visit there is one on whom I can have every dependence in every way, both as to authority and truth."
TO LORD BYRON.
"My dear Lord Byron,
"I hear this morning that the design, which certainly had been in contemplation, of burning my fellow-serpent, has been abandoned, and that he has been condemned to the galleys. Lord Guilford is at Leghorn; and as your courier applied to me to know whether he ought to leave your letter for him or not, I have thought it best since this information to tell him to take it back.
"Ever faithfully yours,
LETTER 475. TO SIR WALTER SCOTT, BART.
"Pisa, January 12. 1822.
"My dear Sir Walter,
"I need not say how grateful I am for your letter, but I must own my ingratitude in not having written to you again long ago. Since I left England (and it is not for all the usual term of transportation) I have scribbled to five hundred blockheads on business, &c. without difficulty, though with no great pleasure; and yet, with the notion of addressing you a hundred times in my head, and always in my heart, I have not done what I ought to have done. I can only account for it on the same principle of tremulous anxiety with which one sometimes makes love to a beautiful woman of our own degree, with whom one is enamoured in good earnest; whereas, wePg 299 attack a fresh-coloured housemaid without (I speak, of course, of earlier times) any sentimental remorse or mitigation of our virtuous purpose.
"I owe to you far more than the usual obligation for the courtesies of literature and common friendship; for you went out of your way in 1817 to do me a service, when it required not merely kindness, but courage to do so: to have been recorded by you in such a manner, would have been a proud memorial at any time, but at such a time when 'all the world and his wife,' as the proverb goes, were trying to trample upon me, was something still higher to my self-esteem,—I allude to the Quarterly Review of the Third Canto of Childe Harold, which Murray told me was written by you,—and, indeed, I should have known it without his information, as there could not be two who could and would have done this at the time. Had it been a common criticism, however eloquent or panegyrical, I should have felt pleased, undoubtedly, and grateful, but not to the extent which the extraordinary good-heartedness of the whole proceeding must induce in any mind capable of such sensations. The very tardiness of this acknowledgment will, at least, show that I have not forgotten the obligation; and I can assure you that my sense of it has been out at compound interest during the delay. I shall only add one word upon the subject, which is, that I think that you, and Jeffrey, and Leigh Hunt were the only literary men, of numbers whom I know (and some of whom I had served), who dared venture even an anonymous word in my favour just then: and that, of those three, IPg 300 had never seen one at all—of the second much less than I desired—and that the third was under no kind of obligation to me, whatever; while the other two had been actually attacked by me on a former occasion; one, indeed, with some provocation, but the other wantonly enough. So you see you have been heaping 'coals of fire, &c.' in the true gospel manner, and I can assure you that they have burnt down to my very heart.
"I am glad that you accepted the Inscription. I meant to have inscribed 'The Foscarini' to you instead; but first, I heard that 'Cain' was thought the least bad of the two as a composition; and, 2dly, I have abused S * * like a pickpocket, in a note to the Foscarini, and I recollected that he is a friend of yours (though not of mine), and that it would not be the handsome thing to dedicate to one friend any thing containing such matters about another. However, I'll work the Laureate before I have done with him, as soon as I can muster Billingsgate therefor. I like a row, and always did from a boy, in the course of which propensity, I must needs say, that I have found it the most easy of all to be gratified, personally and poetically. You disclaim 'jealousies;' but I would ask, as Boswell did of Johnson, 'of whom could you be jealous?'—of none of the living certainly, and (taking all and all into consideration) of which of the dead? I don't like to bore you about the Scotch novels, (as they call them, though two of them are wholly English, and the rest half so,) but nothing can or could ever persuade me, since I was the first ten minutes inPg 301 your company, that you are not the man. To me those novels have so much of 'Auld lang syne' (I was bred a canny Scot till ten years old) that I never move without them; and when I removed from Ravenna to Pisa the other day, and sent on my library before, they were the only books that I kept by me, although I already have them by heart.
"January 27. 1822.
"I delayed till now concluding, in the hope that I should have got 'The Pirate,' who is under way for me, but has not yet hove in sight. I hear that your daughter is married, and I suppose by this time you are half a grandfather—a young one, by the way. I have heard great things of Mrs. Lockhart's personal and mental charms, and much good of her lord: that you may live to see as many novel Scotts as there are Scots' novels, is the very bad pun, but sincere wish of
"Yours ever most affectionately, &c.
"P.S. Why don't you take a turn in Italy? You would find yourself as well known and as welcome as in the Highlands among the natives. As for the English, you would be with them as in London; and I need not add, that I should be delighted to see you again, which is far more than I shall ever feel or say for England, or (with a few exceptions 'of kith, kin, and allies') any thing that it contains. But my 'heart warms to the tartan,' or to any thing of Scotland, which reminds me of Aberdeen and other parts, not so far from the Highlands as that town, about Invercauld and Braemar, where I was sent to drinkPg 302 goat's fey in 1795-6, in consequence of a threatened decline after the scarlet fever. But I am gossiping, so, good night—and the gods be with your dreams!
"Pray, present my respects to Lady Scott, who may, perhaps, recollect having seen me in town in 1815.
"I see that one of your supporters (for like Sir Hildebrand, I am fond of Guillin) is a mermaid; it is my crest too, and with precisely the same curl of tail. There's concatenation for you:—I am building a little cutter at Genoa, to go a cruising in the summer. I know you like the sea too."
LETTER 476. TO ——.
"Pisa, February 6. 1822.
"'Try back the deep lane,' till we find a publisher for the 'Vision;' and if none such is to be found, print fifty copies at my expense, distribute them amongst my acquaintance, and you will soon see that the booksellers will publish them, even if we opposed them. That they are now afraid is natural, but I do not see that I ought to give way on that account. I know nothing of Rivington's 'Remonstrance' by the 'eminent Churchman;' but I suppose he wants a living. I once heard of a preacher at Kentish Town against 'Cain.' The same outcry was raised against Priestley, Hume, Gibbon, VolPg 303taire, and all the men who dared to put tithes to the question.
"I have got S——'s pretended reply, to which I am surprised that you do not allude. What remains to be done is to call him out. The question is, would he come? for, if he would not, the whole thing would appear ridiculous, if I were to take a long and expensive journey to no purpose.
"You must be my second, and, as such, I wish to consult you.
"I apply to you, as one well versed in the duello, or monomachie. Of course I shall come to England as privately as possible, and leave it (supposing that I was the survivor) in the same manner; having no other object which could bring me to that country except to settle quarrels accumulated during my absence.
"By the last post I transmitted to you a letter upon some Rochdale toll business, from which there are moneys in prospect. My agent says two thousand pounds, but supposing it to be only one, or even one hundred, still they may be moneys; and I have lived long enough to have an exceeding respect for the smallest current coin of any realm, or the least sum, which, although I may not want it myself, may do something for others who may need it more than I.
"They say that 'Knowledge is Power:'—I used to think so; but I now know that they meant 'money:' and when Socrates declared, 'that all he knew was, that he knew nothing,' he merely intended to declare, that he had not a drachm in the Athenian world.
"The circulars are arrived, and circulating like the vortices (or vortexes) of Descartes. Still I have a due care of the needful, and keep a look out ahead, as my notions upon the score of moneys coincide with yours, and with all men's who have lived to see that every guinea is a philosopher's stone, or at least his touch-stone. You will doubt me the less, when I pronounce my firm belief, that Cash is Virtue.
"I cannot reproach myself with much expenditure: my only extra expense (and it is more than I have spent upon myself) being a loan of two hundred and fifty pounds to ——; and fifty pounds worth of furniture, which I have bought for him; and a boat which I am building for myself at Genoa, which will cost about a hundred pounds more.
"But to return. I am determined to have all the moneys I can, whether by my own funds, or succession, or lawsuit, or MSS. or any lawful means whatever.
"I will pay (though with the sincerest reluctance) my remaining creditors, and every man of law, by instalments from the award of the arbitrators.
"I recommend to you the notice in Mr. Hanson's letter, on the demands of moneys for the Rochdale tolls.
"Above all, I recommend my interests to your honourable worship.
"Recollect, too, that I expect some moneys for the various MSS. (no matter what); and, in short, 'Rem quocunque modo, Rem!'—the noble feeling of cupidity grows upon us with our years.
"Yours ever," &c.
LETTER 477. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Pisa, February 8. 1822.
"Attacks upon me were to be expected, but I perceive one upon you in the papers, which I confess that I did not expect. How, or in what manner, you can be considered responsible for what I publish, I am at a loss to conceive.
"If 'Cain' be 'blasphemous,' Paradise Lost is blasphemous; and the very words of the Oxford gentleman, 'Evil, be thou my good,' are from that very poem, from the mouth of Satan, and is there any thing more in that of Lucifer in the Mystery? Cain is nothing more than a drama, not a piece of argument. If Lucifer and Cain speak as the first murderer and the first rebel may be supposed to speak, surely all the rest of the personages talk also according to their characters—and the stronger passions have ever been permitted to the drama.
"I have even avoided introducing the Deity as in Scripture, (though Milton does, and not very wisely either,) but have adopted his angel as sent to Cain instead, on purpose to avoid shocking any feelings on the subject by falling short of what all uninspired men must fall short in, viz. giving an adequate notion of the effect of the presence of Jehovah. The old Mysteries introduced him liberally enough, and all this is avoided in the new one.
"The attempt to bully you, because they think it won't succeed with me, seems to me as atrocious an attempt as ever disgraced the times. What! when Gibbon's, Hume's, Priestley's, and Drummond'sPg 306 publishers have been allowed to rest in peace for seventy years, are you to be singled out for a work of fiction, not of history or argument? There must be something at the bottom of this—some private enemy of your own: it is otherwise incredible.
"I can only say, 'Me, me; en adsum qui feci;'—that any proceedings directed against you, I beg, may be transferred to me, who am willing, and ought, to endure them all;—that if you have lost money by the publication, I will refund any or all of the copyright;—that I desire you will say that both you and Mr. Gifford remonstrated against the publication, as also Mr. Hobhouse;—that I alone occasioned it, and I alone am the person who, either legally or otherwise, should bear the burden. If they prosecute, I will come to England—that is, if, by meeting it in my own person, I can save yours. Let me know. You sha'n't suffer for me, if I can help it. Make any use of this letter you please.
"Yours ever, &c.
"P.S. I write to you about all this row of bad passions and absurdities with the summer moon (for here our winter is clearer than your dog-days) lighting the winding Arno, with all her buildings and bridges,—so quiet and still!—What nothings are we before the least of these stars!"
LETTER 478. TO MR. MOORE.
"Pisa, February 19. 1822.
"I am rather surprised not to have had an answer to my letter and packets. Lady Noel is dead, andPg 307 it is not impossible that I may have to go to England to settle the division of the Wentworth property, and what portion Lady B. is to have out of it; all which was left undecided by the articles of separation. But I hope not, if it can be done without,—and I have written to Sir Francis Burdett to be my referee, as he knows the property.
"Continue to address here, as I shall not go if I can avoid it—at least, not on that account. But I may on another; for I wrote to Douglas Kinnaird to convey a message of invitation to Mr. Southey to meet me, either in England, or (as less liable to interruption) on the coast of France. This was about a fortnight ago, and I have not yet had time to have the answer. However, you shall have due notice; therefore continue to address to Pisa.
"My agents and trustees have written to me to desire that I would take the name directly, so that I am yours very truly and affectionately,
"P.S. I have had no news from England, except on business; and merely know, from some abuse in that faithful ex and de-tractor Galignani, that the clergy are up against 'Cain.' There is (if I am not mistaken) some good church preferment on the Wentworth estates; and I will show them what a good Christian I am, by patronising and preferring the most pious of their order, should opportunity occur.
"M. and I are but little in correspondence, and I know nothing of literary matters at present. I have been writing on business only lately. What are youPg 308 about? Be assured that there is no such coalition as you apprehend."
LETTER 479. TO MR. MOORE.
"Pisa, February 20. 1822.
"Your letter arrived since I wrote the enclosed. It is not likely, as I have appointed agents and arbitrators for the Noel estates, that I should proceed to England on that account,—though I may upon another, within stated. At any rate, continue you to address here till you hear further from me. I could wish you still to arrange for me, either with a London or Paris publisher, for the things, &c. I shall not quarrel with any arrangement you may please to make.
"I have appointed Sir Francis Burdett my arbitrator to decide on Lady Byron's allowance out of the Noel estates, which are estimated at seven thousand a year, and rents very well paid,—a rare thing at this time. It is, however, owing to their consisting chiefly in pasture lands, and therefore less affected by corn bills, &c. than properties in tillage.
"Believe me yours ever most affectionately,
"Between my own property in the funds, and my wife's in land, I do not know which side to cry out on in politics.
"There is nothing against the immortality of the soul in 'Cain' that I recollect. I hold no such opinions;—but, in a drama, the first rebel and thePg 309 first murderer must be made to talk according to their characters. However, the parsons are all preaching at it, from Kentish Town and Oxford to Pisa;—the scoundrels of priests, who do more harm to religion than all the infidels that ever forgot their catechisms!
"I have not seen Lady Noel's death announced in Galignani.—How is that?"
LETTER 480. TO MR. MOORE.
"Pisa, February 28. 1822.
"I begin to think that the packet (a heavy one) of five acts of 'Werner,' &c. can hardly have reached you, for your letter of last week (which I answered) did not allude to it, and yet I insured it at the post-office here.
"I have no direct news from England, except on the Noel business, which is proceeding quietly, as I have appointed a gentleman (Sir F. Burdett) for my arbitrator. They, too, have said that they will recall the lawyer whom they had chosen, and will name a gentleman too. This is better, as the arrangement of the estates and of Lady B.'s allowance will thus be settled without quibbling. My lawyers are taking out a licence for the name and arms, which it seems I am to endue.
"By another, and indirect, quarter, I hear that 'Cain' has been pirated, and that the Chancellor has refused to give Murray any redress. Also, that G.R. (your friend 'Ben') has expressed great personal indignation at the said poem. All this isPg 310 curious enough, I think,—after allowing Priestley, Hume, and Gibbon, and Bolingbroke, and Voltaire to be published, without depriving the booksellers of their rights. I heard from Rome a day or two ago, and, with what truth I know not, that * * *.
LETTER 481. TO MR. MOORE.
"Pisa, March 1. 1822.
"As I still have no news of my 'Werner,' &c. packet, sent to you on the 29th of January, I continue to bore you (for the fifth time, I believe) to know whether it has not miscarried. As it was fairly copied out, it will be vexatious if it be lost. Indeed, I insured it at the post-office to make them take more care, and directed it regularly to you at Paris.
"In the impartial Galignani I perceive an extract from Blackwood's Magazine, in which it is said that there are people who have discovered that you and I are no poets. With regard to one of us, I know that this north-west passage to my magnetic pole had been long discovered by some sages, and I leave them the full benefit of their penetration. I think, as Gibbon says of his History, 'that, perhaps, a hundred years hence it may still continue to be abused.' However, I am far from pretending to compete or compare with that illustrious literary character.
"But, with regard to you, I thought that you had always been allowed to be a poet, even by the stupid as well as the envious—a bad one, to be sure—immoral, florid, Asiatic, and diabolically popular,—Pg 311but still always a poet, nem. con. This discovery therefore, has to me all the grace of novelty, as well as of consolation (according to Rochefoucault), to find myself no-poetised in such good company. I am content to 'err with Plato;' and can assure you very sincerely, that I would rather be received a non-poet with you, than be crowned with all the bays of (the yet-uncrowned) Lakers in their society. I believe you think better of those worthies than I do. I know them * * * * * * *.
"As for Southey, the answer to my proposition of a meeting is not yet come. I sent the message, with a short note, to him through Douglas Kinnaird, and Douglas's response is not arrived. If he accepts, I shall have to go to England; but if not, I do not think the Noel affairs will take me there, as the arbitrators can settle them without my presence, and there do not seem to be any difficulties. The licence for the new name and armorial bearings will be taken out by the regular application, in such cases, to the Crown, and sent to me.
"Is there a hope of seeing you in Italy again ever? What are you doing?—bored by me, I know; but I have explained why before. I have no correspondence now with London, except through relations and lawyers and one or two friends. My greatest friend, Lord Clare, is at Rome: we met on the road, and our meeting was quite sentimental—really pathetic on both sides. I have always loved him better than any male thing in the world."
The preceding was enclosed in that which follows.
LETTER 482. TO MR. MOORE.
"Pisa, March 4. 1822.
"Since I wrote the enclosed, I have waited another post, and now have your answer acknowledging the arrival of the packet—a troublesome one, I fear, to you in more ways than one, both from weight external and internal.
"The unpublished things in your hands, in Douglas K.'s, and Mr. John Murray's, are, 'Heaven and Earth, a lyrical kind of Drama upon the Deluge, &c.;'—'Werner,' now with you;—a translation of the First Canto of the Morgante Maggiore;—ditto of an Episode in Dante;—some stanzas to the Po, June 1st, 1819;—Hints from Horace, written in 1811, but a good deal, since, to be omitted;—several prose things, which may, perhaps, as well remain unpublished;—'The Vision, &c. of Quevedo Redivivus' in verse.
"Here you see is 'more matter for a May morning;' but how much of this can be published is for consideration. The Quevedo (one of my best in that line) has appalled the Row already, and must take its chance at Paris, if at all. The new Mystery is less speculative than 'Cain,' and very pious; besides, it is chiefly lyrical. The Morgante is the best translation that ever was or will be made; and the rest are—whatever you please to think them.
"I am sorry you think Werner even approaching to any fitness for the stage, which, with my notions upon it, is very far from my present object. With regard to the publication, I have already explainedPg 313 that I have no exorbitant expectations of either fame or profit in the present instances; but wish them published because they are written, which is the common feeling of all scribblers.
"With respect to 'Religion,' can I never convince you that I have no such opinions as the characters in that drama, which seems to have frightened every body? Yet they are nothing to the expressions in Goethe's Faust (which are ten times hardier), and not a whit more bold than those of Milton's Satan. My ideas of a character may run away with me: like all imaginative men, I, of course, embody myself with the character while I draw it, but not a moment after the pen is from off the paper.
"I am no enemy to religion, but the contrary. As a proof, I am educating my natural daughter a strict Catholic in a convent of Romagna; for I think people can never have enough of religion, if they are to have any. I incline, myself, very much to the Catholic doctrines; but if I am to write a drama, I must make my characters speak as I conceive them likely to argue.
"As to poor Shelley, who is another bugbear to you and the world, he is, to my knowledge, the least selfish and the mildest of men—a man who has made more sacrifices of his fortune and feelings for others than any I ever heard of. With his speculative opinions I have nothing in common, nor desire to have.
"The truth is, my dear Moore, you live near the stove of society, where you are unavoidably influenced by its heat and its vapours. I did so once—Pg 314and too much—and enough to give a colour to my whole future existence. As my success in society was not inconsiderable, I am surely not a prejudiced judge upon the subject, unless in its favour; but I think it, as now constituted, fatal to all great original undertakings of every kind. I never courted it then, when I was young and high in blood, and one of its 'curled darlings;' and do you think I would do so now, when I am living in a clearer atmosphere? One thing only might lead me back to it, and that is, to try once more if I could do any good in politics; but not in the petty politics I see now preying upon our miserable country.
"Do not let me be misunderstood, however. If you speak your own opinions, they ever had, and will have, the greatest weight with me. But if you merely echo the 'monde,' (and it is difficult not to do so, being in its favour and its ferment,) I can only regret that you should ever repeat any thing to which I cannot pay attention.
"But I am prosing. The gods go with you, and as much immortality of all kinds as may suit your present and all other existence.
LETTER 483. TO MR. MOORE.
"Pisa, March 6. 1822.
"The enclosed letter from Murray hath melted me; though I think it is against his own interest to wish that I should continue his connection. You may, therefore, send him the packet of Werner,Pg 315 which will save you all further trouble. And pray, can you forgive me for the bore and expense I have already put upon you? At least, say so—for I feel ashamed of having given you so much for such nonsense.
"The fact is, I cannot keep my resentments, though violent enough in their onset. Besides, now that all the world are at Murray on my account, I neither can nor ought to leave him; unless, as I really thought, it were better for him that I should.
"I have had no other news from England, except a letter from Barry Cornwall, the bard, and my old school-fellow. Though I have sickened you with letters lately, believe me
"P.S. In your last letter you say, speaking of Shelley, that you would almost prefer the 'damning bigot' to the 'annihilating infidel.' Shelley believes in immortality, however—but this by the way. Do you remember Frederick the Great's answer to the remonstrance of the villagers whose curate preached against the eternity of hell's torments? It was thus:—'If my faithful subjects of Schrausenhaussen prefer being eternally damned, let them.'
"Of the two, I should think the long sleep better than the agonised vigil. But men, miserable as they are, cling so to any thing like life, that they probably would prefer damnation to quiet. Besides,Pg 316 they think themselves so important in the creation, that nothing less can satisfy their pride—the insects!"
It is Dr. Clarke, I think, who gives, in his Travels, rather a striking account of a Tartar whom he once saw exercising a young, fiery horse, upon a spot of ground almost surrounded by a steep precipice, and describes the wantonness of courage with which the rider, as if delighting in his own peril, would, at times, dash, with loose rein, towards the giddy verge. Something of the same breathless apprehension with which the traveller viewed that scene, did the unchecked daring of Byron's genius inspire in all who watched its course,—causing them, at the same moment, to admire and tremble, and, in those more especially who loved him, awakening a sort of instinctive impulse to rush forward and save him from his own headlong strength. But, however natural it was in friends to give way to this feeling, a little reflection upon his now altered character might have forewarned them that such interference would prove as little useful to him as safe for themselves; and it is not without some surprise I look back upon my own temerity and presumption in supposing that, let loose as he was now, in the full pride and consciousness of strength, with the wide regions of thought outstretching before him, any representations that even friendship could make would have the power—or ought to have—of checking him. As the motives, however, by which I was actuated in my remonstrances to him may be left to speak for themselves, I shall, without dwelling anyPg 317 further upon the subject, content myself with laying before the reader a few such extracts from my own letters at this period as may serve to explain some allusions in those just given.
In writing to me under the date January 24th, it will be recollected that he says—"be assured that there is no such coalition as you apprehend." The following extracts from my previous communication to him will explain what this means:—"I heard some days ago that Leigh Hunt was on his way to you with all his family; and the idea seems to be, that you and Shelley and he are to conspire together in the Examiner. I cannot believe this,—and deprecate such a plan with all my might. Alone you may do any thing; but partnerships in fame, like those in trade, make the strongest party answerable for the deficiencies or delinquencies of the rest, and I tremble even for you with such a bankrupt Co.—* * *. They are both clever fellows, and Shelley I look upon as a man of real genius; but I must again say, that you could not give your enemies (the * * *'s, 'et hoc genus omne') a greater triumph than by forming such an unequal and unholy alliance. You are, single-handed, a match for the world,—which is saying a good deal, the world being, like Briareus, a very many-handed gentleman,—but, to be so, you must stand alone. Recollect that thePg 318 scurvy buildings about St. Peter's almost seem to overtop itself."
The notices of Cain, in my letters to him, were, according to their respective dates, as follow:—
"September 30. 1821.
"Since writing the above, I have read Foscari and Cain. The former does not please me so highly as Sardanapalus. It has the fault of all those violent Venetian stories, being unnatural and improbable, and therefore, in spite of all your fine management of them, appealing but remotely to one's sympathies. But Cain is wonderful—terrible—never to be forgotten. If I am not mistaken, it will sink deep into the world's heart; and while many will shudder at its blasphemy, all must fall prostrate before its grandeur. Talk of Æschylus and his Prometheus!—here is the true spirit both of the Poet—and the Devil."
"February 9. 1822.
"Do not take it into your head, my dear B. that the tide is at all turning against you in England. Till I see some symptoms of people forgetting you a little, I will not believe that you lose ground. As it is, 'te veniente die, te, decedente,'—nothing is hardly talked of but you; and though good people sometimes bless themselves when they mention you, it is plain that even they think much more about you than, for the good of their souls, they ought. Cain, to be sure, has made a sensation; and, grand as it is, I regret, for many reasons, you ever wrote it. * * For myself, I would not give up the poetry of reliPg 319gion for all the wisest results that philosophy will ever arrive at. Particular sects and creeds are fair game enough for those who are anxious enough about their neighbours to meddle with them; but our faith in the Future is a treasure not so lightly to be parted with; and the dream of immortality (if philosophers will have it a dream) is one that, let us hope, we shall carry into our last sleep with us."
"February 19. 1822.
"I have written to the Longmans to try the ground, for I do not think Galignani the man for you. The only thing he can do is what we can do, ourselves, without him,—and that is, employ an English bookseller. Paris, indeed, might be convenient for such refugee works as are set down in the Index Expurgatorius of London; and if you have any political catamarans to explode, this is your place. But, pray, let them be only political ones. Boldness, and even licence, in politics, does good,—actual, present good; but, in religion, it profits neither here nor hereafter; and, for myself, such a horror have I of both extremes on this subject, that I know not which I hate most, the bold, damning bigot, or the bold, annihilating infidel. 'Furiosa res est in tenebris impetus;'—and much as we are in the dark, even the wisest of us, upon these matters, a little modesty, in unbelief as well as belief, best becomes us. You will easily guess that, in all this, I am thinking not so much of you, as of a friend and, at present, comPg 320panion of yours, whose influence over your mind (knowing you as I do, and knowing what Lady B. ought to have found out, that you are a person the most tractable to those who live with you that, perhaps, ever existed) I own I dread and deprecate most earnestly."
"March 16. 1822.
"With respect to our Religious Polemics, I must try to set you right upon one or two points. In the first place, I do not identify you with the blasphemies of Cain no more than I do myself with the impieties of my Mokanna,—all I wish and implore is that you, who are such a powerful manufacturer of these thunderbolts, would not choose subjects that make it necessary to launch them. In the next place, were you even a decided atheist, I could not (except, perhaps, for the decision which is always unwise) blame you. I could only pity,—knowing from experience how dreary are the doubts with which even the bright, poetic view I am myself inclined to take of mankind and their destiny is now and then clouded. I look upon Cuvier's book to be a most desolating one in the conclusions to which it may lead some minds. But the young, the simple,—all those whose hearts one would like to keep unwithered, trouble their heads but little about Cuvier. You, however, have embodied him in poetry which every one reads; and, like the wind, blowing 'where you list,' carry this deadly chill, mixed up with yourPg 322 own fragrance, into hearts that should be visited only by the latter. This is what I regret, and what with all my influence I would deprecate a repetition of. Now, do you understand me?
"As to your solemn peroration, 'the truth is, my dear Moore, &c. &c.' meaning neither more nor less than that I give into the cant of the world, it only proves, alas! the melancholy fact, that you and I are hundreds of miles asunder. Could you hear me speak my opinions instead of coldly reading them, I flatter myself there is still enough of honesty and fun in this face to remind you that your friend Tom Moore—whatever else he may be,—is no Canter."
LETTER 484. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Pisa, March 6. 1822.
"You will long ago have received a letter from me (or should), declaring my opinion of the treatment you have met with about the recent publication. I think it disgraceful to those who have persecuted you. I make peace with you, though our war was for other reasons than this same controversy. I have written to Moore by this post to forward to you the tragedy of' Werner.' I shall not make or propose any present bargain about it or the new Mystery till we see if they succeed. If they don't sell (which is not unlikely), you sha'n't pay; and I suppose this is fair play, if you choose to risk it.
"Bartolini, the celebrated sculptor, wrote to me to desire to take my bust: I consented, on condition that he also took that of the Countess Guiccioli.Pg 323 He has taken both, and I think it will be allowed that hers is beautiful. I shall make you a present of them both, to show that I don't bear malice, and as a compensation for the trouble and squabble you had about Thorwaldsen's. Of my own I can hardly speak, except that it is thought very like what I now am, which is different from what I was, of course, since you saw me. The sculptor is a famous one; and as it was done by his own particular request, will be done well, probably.
"What is to be done about * * and his Commentary? He will die if he is not published; he will be damned, if he is; but that he don't mind. We must publish him.
"All the row about me has no otherwise affected me than by the attack upon yourself, which is ungenerous in Church and State: but as all violence must in time have its proportionate re-action, you will do better by and by. Yours very truly,
LETTER 485. TO MR. MOORE.
"Pisa, March 8. 1822.
"You will have had enough of my letters by this time—yet one word in answer to your present missive. You are quite wrong in thinking that your 'advice' had offended me; but I have already replied (if not answered) on that point.
"With regard to Murray, as I really am the meekest and mildest of men since Moses (though the public and mine 'excellent wife' cannot find itPg 324 out), I had already pacified myself and subsided back to Albemarle Street, as my yesterday's yepistle will have informed you. But I thought that I had explained my causes of bile—at least to you. Some instances of vacillation, occasional neglect, and troublesome sincerity, real or imagined, are sufficient to put your truly great author and man into a passion. But reflection, with some aid from hellebore, hath already cured me 'pro tempore;' and, if it had not, a request from you and Hobhouse would have come upon me like two out of the 'tribus Anticyris,'—with which, however, Horace despairs of purging a poet. I really feel ashamed of having bored you so frequently and fully of late. But what could I do? You are a friend—an absent one, alas!—and as I trust no one more, I trouble you in proportion.
"This war of 'Church and State' has astonished me more than it disturbs; for I really thought 'Cain' a speculative and hardy, but still a harmless, production. As I said before, I am really a great admirer of tangible religion; and am breeding one of my daughters a Catholic, that she may have her hands full. It is by far the most elegant worship, hardly excepting the Greek mythology. What with incense, pictures, statues, altars, shrines, relics, and the real presence, confession, absolution,—there is something sensible to grasp at. Besides, it leaves no possibility of doubt; for those who swallow their Deity, really and truly, in transubstantiation, can hardly find any thing else otherwise than easy of digestion.
"I am afraid that this sounds flippant, but I don'tPg 325 mean it to be so; only my turn of mind is so given to taking things in the absurd point of view, that it breaks out in spite of me every now and then. Still, I do assure you that I am a very good Christian. Whether you will believe me in this, I do not know; but I trust you will take my word for being
"Very truly and affectionately yours, &c.
"P.S. Do tell Murray that one of the conditions of peace is, that he publisheth (or obtaineth a publisher for) * * *'s Commentary on Dante, against which there appears in the trade an unaccountable repugnance. It will make the man so exuberantly happy. He dines with me and half-a-dozen English to-day; and I have not the heart to tell him how the bibliopolar world shrink from his Commentary;—and yet it is full of the most orthodox religion and morality. In short, I make it a point that he shall be in print. He is such a good-natured, heavy-* * Christian, that we must give him a shove through the press. He naturally thirsts to be an author, and has been the happiest of men for these two months, printing, correcting, collating, dating, anticipating, and adding to his treasures of learning. Besides, he has had another fall from his horse into a ditch the other day, while riding out with me into the country."
LETTER 486. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Pisa, March 15. 1822.
"As to 'a Poem in the old way,' I shall attempt of that kind nothing further. I follow the bias of my own mind, without considering whether women or men are or are not to be pleased; but this is nothing to my publisher, who must judge and act according to popularity.
"Therefore let the things take their chance: if they pay, you will pay me in proportion; and if they don't, I must.
"The Noel affairs, I hope, will not take me to England. I have no desire to revisit that country, unless it be to keep you out of a prison (if this can be effected by my taking your place), or perhaps to get myself into one, by exacting satisfaction from one or two persons who take advantage of my absence to abuse me. Further than this, I have no business nor connection with England, nor desire to have, out of my own family and friends, to whom I wish all prosperity. Indeed, I have lived upon the whole so little in England (about five years since I was one-and-twenty), that my habits are too continental, and your climate would please me as little as the society.
"I saw the Chancellor's Report in a French paper. Pray, why don't they prosecute the translation of Lucretius? or the original with its
"You must really get something done for Mr. * *'s Commentary: what can I say to him?
LETTER 487. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Pisa, April 13. 1822.
"Mr. Kinnaird writes that there has been an 'excellent Defence' of 'Cain,' against 'Oxoniensis;' you have sent me nothing but a not very excellent of-fence of the same poem. If there be such a 'Defender of the Faith,' you may send me his thirty-nine articles, as a counterbalance to some of your late communications.
"Are you to publish, or not, what Moore and Mr. Kinnaird have in hand, and the 'Vision of Judgment?' If you publish the latter in a very cheap edition, so as to baffle the pirates by a low price, you will find that it will do. The 'Mystery' I look upon as good, and 'Werner' too, and I expect that you will publish them speedily. You need not put your name to Quevedo, but publish it as a foreign edition, and let it make its way. Douglas Kinnaird has it still, with the preface, I believe.
"I refer you to him for documents on the late row here. I sent them a week ago.
LETTER 488. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Pisa, April 18. 1822.
"I have received the Defence of 'Cain.' Who is my Warburton?—for he has done for me whatPg 328 the bishop did for the poet against Crousaz. His reply seems to me conclusive; and if you understood your own interest, you would print it together with the poem.
"It is very odd that I do not hear from you. I have forwarded to Mr. Douglas Kinnaird the documents on a squabble here, which occurred about a month ago. The affair is still going on; but they make nothing of it hitherto. I think, what with home and abroad, there has been hot water enough for one while. Mr. Dawkins, the English minister, has behaved in the handsomest and most gentlemanly manner throughout the whole business.
"Yours ever, &c.
"P.S. I have got Lord Glenbervie's book, which is very amusing and able upon the topics which he touches upon, and part of the preface pathetic. Write soon."
LETTER 489. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Pisa, April 22. 1822.
"You will regret to hear that I have received intelligence of the death of my daughter Allegra of a fever in the convent of Bagna Cavallo, where she was placed for the last year, to commence her education. It is a heavy blow for many reasons, but must be borne, with time.
"It is my present intention to send her remains to England for sepulture in Harrow church (where I once hoped to have laid my own), and this is my reason for troubling you with this notice. I wishPg 329 the funeral to be very private. The body is embalmed, and in lead. It will be embarked from Leghorn. Would you have any objection to give the proper directions on its arrival?
"I am yours, &c. N.B.
"P.S. You are aware that Protestants are not allowed holy ground in Catholic countries."
LETTER 490. TO MR. SHELLEY.
"April 23. 1822.
"The blow was stunning and unexpected; for I thought the danger over, by the long interval between her stated amelioration and the arrival of the express. But I have borne up against it as I best can, and so far successfully, that I can go about the usual business of life with the same appearance of composure, and even greater. There is nothing to prevent your coming to-morrow; but, perhaps, to-day, and yester-evening, it was better not to have met. I do not know that I have any thing to reproach in my conduct, and certainly nothing in my feelings and intentions towards the dead. But it is a moment when we are apt to think that, if this or that had been done, such event might have been prevented,—though every day and hour shows us that they are the most natural and inevitable. I suppose that Time will do his usual work—Death has done his.
"Yours ever, N.B."
LETTER 491. TO SIR WALTER SCOTT.
"Pisa, May 4. 1822.
"My dear Sir Walter,
"Your account of your family is very pleasing: would that I 'could answer this comfort with the like!' but I have just lost my natural daughter, Allegra, by a fever. The only consolation, save time, is the reflection, that she is either at rest or happy; for her few years (only five) prevented her from having incurred any sin, except what we inherit from Adam.
"'Whom the gods love, die young.'"
"I need not say that your letters are particularly welcome, when they do not tax your time and patience; and now that our correspondence is resumed, I trust it will continue.
"I have lately had some anxiety, rather than trouble, about an awkward affair here, which you may perhaps have heard of; but our minister has behaved very handsomely, and the Tuscan Government as well as it is possible for such a government to behave, which is not saying much for the latter. Some other English, and Scots, and myself, had a brawl with a dragoon, who insulted one of the party, and whom we mistook for an officer, as he was medalled and well mounted, &c. but he turned out to be a sergeant-major. He called out the guard at the gates to arrest us (we being unarmed); upon which I and another (an Italian) rode through the said guard; but they succeeded in detaining others ofPg 331 the party. I rode to my house and sent my secretary to give an account of the attempted and illegal arrest to the authorities, and then, without dismounting, rode back towards the gates, which are near my present mansion. Half-way I met my man vapouring away and threatening to draw upon me (who had a cane in my hand, and no other arms). I, still believing him an officer, demanded his name and address, and gave him my hand and glove thereupon. A servant of mine thrust in between us (totally without orders), but let him go on my command. He then rode off at full speed; but about forty paces further was stabbed, and very dangerously (so as to be in peril), by some Callum Beg or other of my people (for I have some rough-handed folks about me), I need hardly say without my direction or approval. The said dragoon had been sabring our unarmed countrymen, however, at the gate, after they were in arrest, and held by the guards, and wounded one, Captain Hay, very severely. However, he got his paiks—having acted like an assassin, and being treated like one. Who wounded him, though it was done before thousands of people, they have never been able to ascertain, or prove, nor even the weapon; some said a pistol, an air-gun, a stiletto, a sword, a lance, a pitchfork, and what not. They have arrested and examined servants and people of all descriptions, but can make out nothing. Mr. Dawkins, our minister, assures me, that no suspicion is entertained of the man who wounded him having been instigated by me, or any of the party. I enclose you copies of the depositions of those with us, and Dr. Craufurd,Pg 332 a canny Scot (not an acquaintance), who saw the latter part of the affair. They are in Italian.
"These are the only literary matters in which I have been engaged since the publication and row about 'Cain;'—but Mr. Murray has several things of mine in his obstetrical hands. Another Mystery—a Vision—a Drama—and the like. But you won't tell me what you are doing—however, I shall find you out, write what you will. You say that I should like your son-in-law—it would be very difficult for me to dislike any one connected with you; but I have no doubt that his own qualities are all that you describe.
"I am sorry you don't like Lord Orford's new work. My aristocracy, which is very fierce, makes him a favourite of mine. Recollect that those 'little factions' comprised Lord Chatham and Fox, the father, and that we live in gigantic and exaggerated times, which make all under Gog and Magog appear pigmean. After having seen Napoleon begin like Tamerlane and end like Bajazet in our own time, we have not the same interest in what would otherwise have appeared important history. But I must conclude.
"Believe me ever and most truly yours,
LETTER 492. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Pisa, May 17. 1822.
"I hear that the Edinburgh has attacked the three dramas, which is a bad business for you; and I don'tPg 333 wonder that it discourages you. However, that volume may be trusted to time,—depend upon it. I read it over with some attention since it was published, and I think the time will come when it will be preferred to my other writings, though not immediately. I say this without irritation against the critics or criticism, whatever they may be (for I have not seen them); and nothing that has or may appear in Jeffrey's Review can make me forget that he stood by me for ten good years without any motive to do so but his own good-will.
"I hear Moore is in town; remember me to him, and believe me
"Yours truly, N.B.
"P.S. If you think it necessary, you may send me the Edinburgh. Should there be any thing that requires an answer, I will reply, but temperately and technically; that is to say, merely with respect to the principles of the criticism, and not personally or offensively as to its literary merits."
LETTER 493. TO MR. MOORE.
"Pisa, May 17. 1822.
"I hear you are in London. You will have heard from Douglas Kinnaird (who tells me you have dined with him) as much as you desire to know of my affairs at home and abroad. I have lately lost my little girl Allegra by a fever, which has been a serious blow to me.
"You will have seen the statement of a squabble, &c.&c. What are you about? Let me hear from you at your leisure, and believe me ever yours,
LETTER 494. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Montenero, May 26. 1822.
"The body is embarked, in what ship I know not, neither could I enter into the details; but the Countess G.G. has had the goodness to give the necessary orders to Mr. Dunn, who superintends the embarkation, and will write to you. I wish it to be buried in Harrow church.
"There is a spot in the churchyard, near the footpath, on the brow of the hill looking towards Windsor, and a tomb under a large tree, (bearing the name of Peachie, or Peachey,) where I used to sit for hours and hours when a boy. This was my favourite spot; but, as I wish to erect a tablet to her memory, the body had better be deposited in the church. Near the door, on the left hand as you enter, there is a monument with a tablet containing these words:—
I recollect them (after seventeen years), not from any thing remarkable in them, but because from my seat in the gallery I had generally my eyes turned towards that monument. As near it as convenient I could wish Allegra to be buried, and on the wall a marble tablet placed, with these words:—
In Memory of
Daughter of G.G. Lord Byron,
who died at Bagna Cavallo,
in Italy, April 20th, 1822,
aged five years and three months.
'I shall go to her, but she shall not return to me.'
2d Samuel, xii. 23.
"The funeral I wish to be as private as is consistent with decency; and I could hope that Henry Drury will, perhaps, read the service over her. If he should decline it, it can be done by the usual minister for the time being. I do not know that I need add more just now.
"Since I came here, I have been invited by the Americans on board their squadron, where I was received with all the kindness which I could wish, and with more ceremony than I am fond of. I found them finer ships than your own of the same class, well manned and officered. A number of American gentlemen also were on board at the time, and some ladies. As I was taking leave, an AmericanPg 336 lady asked me for a rose which I wore, for the purpose, she said, of sending to America something which I had about me, as a memorial. I need not add that I felt the compliment properly. Captain Chauncey showed me an American and very pretty edition of my poems, and offered me a passage to the United States, if I would go there. Commodore Jones was also not less kind and attentive. I have since received the enclosed letter, desiring me to sit for my picture for some Americans. It is singular that, in the same year that Lady Noel leaves by will an interdiction for my daughter to see her father's portrait for many years, the individuals of a nation, not remarkable for their liking to the English in particular, nor for flattering men in general, request me to sit for my 'pourtraicture,' as Baron Bradwardine calls it. I am also told of considerable literary honours in Germany. Goethe, I am told, is my professed patron and protector. At Leipsic, this year, the highest prize was proposed for a translation of two cantos of Childe Harold. I am not sure that this was at Leipsic, but Mr. Rowcroft was my authority—a good German scholar (a young American), and an acquaintance of Goethe's.
"Goethe and the Germans are particularly fond of Don Juan, which they judge of as a work of art. I had heard something of this before through Baron Lutzerode. The translations have been very frequent of several of the works, and Goethe made a comparison between Faust and Manfred.
"I forgot to mention a little anecdote of a different kind. I went over the Constitution (the Commodore's flag-ship), and saw, among other things worthy of remark, a little boy born on board of her by a sailor's wife. They had christened him 'Constitution Jones.' I, of course, approved the name; and the woman added, 'Ah, sir, if he turns out but half as good as his name!'
"Yours ever," &c.
LETTER. 495. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Montenero, near Leghorn, May 29. 1822.
"I return you the proofs revised. Your printer has made one odd mistake:—'poor as a mouse,' instead of 'poor as a miser.' The expression may seem strange, but it is only a translation of 'semper avarus eget.' You will add the Mystery, and publish as soon as you can. I care nothing for your 'season,' nor the blue approbations or disapprobations. All that is to be considered by you on the subject is as a matter of business; and if I square that to your notions (even to the running the risk entirely myself), you may permit me to choose my own time and mode of publication. With regard to the late volume, the present run against it or me may impede it for a time, but it has the vital principle of permanency within it, as you may perhaps one day discover. I wrote to you on another subject a few days ago.
"P.S. Please to send me the Dedication of Sardanapalus to Goethe. I shall prefix it to Werner, unless you prefer my putting another, stating that the former had been omitted by the publisher.
"On the title-page of the present volume, put 'Published for the Author by J.M.'"
LETTER 496. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Montenero, Leghorn, June 6. 1822.
"I return you the revise of Werner, and expect the rest. With regard to the Lines to the Po, perhaps you had better put them quietly in a second edition (if you reach one, that is to say) than in the first; because, though they have been reckoned fine, and I wish them to be preserved, I do not wish them to attract IMMEDIATE observation, on account of the relationship of the lady to whom they are addressed with the first families in Romagna and the Marches.
"The defender of 'Cain' may or may not be, as you term him, 'a tyro in literature:' however I think both you and I are under great obligation to him. I have read the Edinburgh review in Galignani's Magazine, and have not yet decided whether to answer them or not; for, if I do, it will be difficult for me not 'to make sport for the Philistines' by pulling down a house or two; since, when I once take pen in hand, I must say what comes uppermost, or fling it away. I have not the hypocrisy to pretend impartiality, nor the temper (as it is called) to keep always from saying what may not be pleasingPg 339 to the hearer or reader. What do they mean by 'elaborate?' Why, you know that they were written as fast as I could put pen to paper, and printed from the original MSS., and never revised but in the proofs: look at the dates and the MSS. themselves. Whatever faults they have must spring from carelessness, and not from labour. They said the same of 'Lara,' which I wrote while undressing after coming home from balls and masquerades, in the year of revelry 1814. Yours."
"June 8. 1822.
"You give me no explanation of your intention as to the 'Vision of Quevedo Redivivus,' one of my best things: indeed, you are altogether so abstruse and undecided lately, that I suppose you mean me to write 'John Murray, Esq., a Mystery,'—a composition which would not displease the clergy nor the trade. I by no means wish you to do what you don't like, but merely to say what you will do. The Vision must be published by some one. As to 'clamours,' the die is cast: and 'come one, come all,' we will fight it out—at least one of us."
LETTER 497. TO MR. MOORE.
"Montenero, Villa Dupoy, near Leghorn, June 8. 1822.
"I have written to you twice through the medium of Murray, and on one subject, trite enough,—the loss of poor little Allegra by a fever; on which topic I shall say no more—there is nothing but time.
"A few days ago, my earliest and dearest friend, Lord Clare, came over from Geneva on purpose to see me before he returned to England. As I have always loved him (since I was thirteen, at Harrow,) better than any (male) thing in the world, I need hardly say what a melancholy pleasure it was to see him for a day only; for he was obliged to resume his journey immediately. * * * Do you recollect, in the year of revelry 1814, the pleasantest parties and balls all over London? and not the least so at * *'s. Do you recollect your singing duets with Lady * *, and my flirtation with Lady * *, and all the other fooleries of the time? while * * was sighing, and Lady * * ogling him with her clear hazel eyes. But eight years have passed, and, since that time, * * has * * * * * *;—has run away with * * * * *; and mysen (as my Nottinghamshire friends call themselves) might as well have thrown myself out of the window while you were singing, as intermarried where I did. You and * * * * have come off the best of us. I speak merely of my marriage, and its consequences, distresses, and calumnies; for I have been much more happy, on the whole, since, than I ever could have been with * *.
"I have read the recent article of Jeffrey in a faithful transcription of the impartial Galignani. I suppose the long and short of it is, that he wishes to provoke me to reply. But I won't, for I owe him a good turn still for his kindness by-gone. Indeed, I presume that the present opportunity of attacking me again was irresistible; and I can't blame him, knowPg 341ing what human nature is. I shall make but one remark:—what does he mean by elaborate? The whole volume was written with the greatest rapidity, in the midst of evolutions, and revolutions, and persecutions, and proscriptions of all who interested me in Italy. They said the same of 'Lara,' which, you know, was written amidst balls and fooleries, and after coming home from masquerades and routs, in the summer of the sovereigns. Of all I have ever written, they are perhaps the most carelessly composed; and their faults, whatever they may be, are those of negligence, and not of labour. I do not think this a merit, but it is a fact.
"Yours ever and truly, N.B.
"P.S. You see the great advantage of my new signature;—it may either stand for 'Nota Bene' or 'Noel Byron,' and, as such, will save much repetition, in writing either books or letters. Since I came here, I have been invited on board of the American squadron, and treated with all possible honour and ceremony. They have asked me to sit for my picture; and, as I was going away, an American lady took a rose from me (which had been given to me by a very pretty Italian lady that very morning), because, she said, 'She was determined to send or take something which I had about me to America.' There is a kind of Lalla Rookh incident for you! However, all these American honours arise, perhaps, not so much from their enthusiasm for my 'Poeshie,' as their belief in my dislike to the English,—in which I have the satisfaction to coincide with them. I would rather, however, havePg 342 a nod from an American, than a snuff-box from an emperor."
LETTER 498. TO MR. ELLICE.
"Montenero, Leghorn, June 12. 1822.
"My dear Ellice,
"It is a long time since I have written to you, but I have not forgotten your kindness, and I am now going to tax it—I hope not too highly—but don't be alarmed, it is not a loan, but information which I am about to solicit. By your extensive connections, no one can have better opportunities of hearing the real state of South America—I mean Bolivar's country. I have many years had transatlantic projects of settlement, and what I could wish from you would be some information of the best course to pursue, and some letters of recommendation in case I should sail for Angostura. I am told that land is very cheap there; but though I have no great disposable funds to vest in such purchases, yet my income, such as it is, would be sufficient in any country (except England) for all the comforts of life, and for most of its luxuries. The war there is now over, and as I do not go there to speculate, but to settle, without any views but those of independence and the enjoyment of the common civil rights, I should presume such an arrival would not be unwelcome.
"All I request of you is, not to discourage nor encourage, but to give me such a statement as you think prudent and proper. I do not address myPg 343 other friends upon this subject, who would only throw obstacles in my way, and bore me to return to England; which I never will do, unless compelled by some insuperable cause. I have a quantity of furniture, books, &c. &c. &c. which I could easily ship from Leghorn; but I wish to 'look before I leap' over the Atlantic. Is it true that for a few thousand dollars a large tract of land may be obtained? I speak of South America, recollect. I have read some publications on the subject, but they seemed violent and vulgar party productions. Please to address your answer to me at this place, and believe me ever and truly yours," &c.
About this time he sat for his picture to Mr. West, an American artist, who has himself given, in one of our periodical publications, the following account of his noble sitter:—
"On the day appointed, I arrived at two o'clock, and began the picture. I found him a bad sitter. He talked all the time, and asked a multitude ofPg 344 questions about America—how I liked Italy, what I thought of the Italians, &c. When he was silent, he was a better sitter than before; for he assumed a countenance that did not belong to him, as though he were thinking of a frontispiece for Childe Harold. In about an hour our first sitting terminated, and I returned to Leghorn, scarcely able to persuade myself that this was the haughty misanthrope whose character had always appeared so enveloped in gloom and mystery; for I do not remember ever to have met with manners more gentle and attractive.
"The next day I returned and had another sitting of an hour, during which he seemed anxious to know what I should make of my undertaking. Whilst I was painting, the window from which I received my light became suddenly darkened, and I heard a voice exclaim 'è troppo bello!' I turned, and discovered a beautiful female stooping down to look in, the ground on the outside being on a level with the bottom of the window. Her long golden hair hung down about her face and shoulders, her complexion was exquisite, and her smile completed one of the most romantic-looking heads, set off as it was by the bright sun behind it, which I had ever beheld. Lord Byron invited her to come in, and introduced her to me as the Countess Guiccioli. He seemed very fond of her, and I was glad of her presence, for the playful manner which he assumed towards her made him a much better sitter.
"The next day, I was pleased to find that the progress which I had made in his likeness had givenPg 345 satisfaction, for, when we were alone, he said that he had a particular favour to request of me—would I grant it? I said I should be happy to oblige him; and he enjoined me to the flattering task of painting the Countess Guiccioli's portrait for him. On the following morning I began it, and, after, they sat alternately. He gave me the whole history of his connection with her, and said that he hoped it would last for ever; at any rate, it should not be his fault if it did not. His other attachments had been broken off by no fault of his.
"I was by this time sufficiently intimate with him to answer his question as to what I thought of him before I had seen him. He laughed much at the idea which I had formed of him, and said, 'Well, you find me like other people, do you not?' He often afterwards repeated, 'And so you thought me a finer fellow, did you?' I remember once telling him, that notwithstanding his vivacity, I thought myself correct in at least one estimate which I had made of him, for I still conceived that he was not a happy man. He enquired earnestly what reason I had for thinking so, and I asked him if he had never observed in little children, after a paroxysm of grief, that they had at intervals a convulsive or tremulous manner of drawing in a long breath. Wherever I had observed this, in persons of whatever age, I had always found that it came from sorrow. He said the thought was new to him, and that he would make use of it.
"Lord Byron, and all the party, left Villa Rossa (the name of their house) in a few days, to pack upPg 346 their things in their house at Pisa. He told me that he should remain a few days there, and desired me, if I could do any thing more to the pictures, to come and stay with him. He seemed at a loss where to go, and was, I thought, on the point of embarking for America. I was with him at Pisa for a few days; but he was so annoyed by the police, and the weather was so hot, that I thought it doubtful whether I could improve the pictures, and, taking my departure one morning before he was up, I wrote him an excuse from Leghorn. Upon the whole, I left him with an impression that he possessed an excellent heart, which had been misconstrued on all hands from little else than a reckless levity of manners, which he took a whimsical pride in opposing to those of other people."
LETTER 499. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Pisa, July 6. 1822.
"I return you the revise. I have softened the part to which Gifford objected, and changed the name of Michael to Raphael, who was an angel of gentler sympathies. By the way, recollect to alter Michael to Raphael in the scene itself throughout, for I have only had time to do so in the list of the dramatis personæ, and scratch out all the pencil-marks, to avoid puzzling the printers. I have given the 'Vision of Quevedo Redivivus' to John Hunt, which will relieve you from a dilemma. He must publish it at his own risk, as it is at his own desire. GivePg 347 him the corrected copy which Mr. Kinnaird had, as it is mitigated partly, and also the preface.
LETTER 500. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Pisa, July 8. 1822.
"Last week I returned you the packet of proofs. You had, perhaps, better not publish in the same volume the Po and Rimini translation.
"I have consigned a letter to Mr. John Hunt for the 'Vision of Judgment,' which you will hand over to him. Also the 'Pulci,' original and Italian, and any prose tracts of mine; for Mr. Leigh Hunt is arrived here, and thinks of commencing a periodical work, to which I shall contribute. I do not propose to you to be the publisher, because I know that you are unfriends; but all things in your care, except the volume now in the press, and the manuscript purchased of Mr. Moore, can be given for this purpose, according as they are wanted.
"With regard to what you say about your 'want of memory,' I can only remark, that you inserted the note to Marino Faliero against my positive revocation, and that you omitted the Dedication of Sardanapalus to Goethe (place it before the volume now in the press), both of which were things not very agreeable to me, and which I could wish to be avoided in future, as they might be with a very little care, or a simple memorandum in your pocket-book.
"It is not impossible that I may have three or four cantos of Don Juan ready by autumn, or a little later, as I obtained a permission from my dictatress to continue it,—provided always it was to be more guarded and decorous and sentimental in the continuation than in the commencement. How far these conditions have been fulfilled may be seen, perhaps, by-and-by; but the embargo was only taken off upon these stipulations. You can answer at your leisure. Yours," &c.
LETTER 501. TO MR. MOORE.
"Pisa, July 12. 1822.
"I have written to you lately, but not in answer to your last letter of about a fortnight ago. I wish to know (and request an answer to that point) what became of the stanzas to Wellington (intended to open a canto of Don Juan with), which I sent you several months ago. If they have fallen into Murray's hands, he and the Tories will suppress them, as those lines rate that hero at his real value. Pray be explicit on this, as I have no other copy, having sent you the original; and if you have them, let me have that again, or a copy correct.
"I subscribed at Leghorn two hundred Tuscan crowns to your Irishism committee; it is about a thousand francs, more or less. As Sir C.S., who receives thirteen thousand a year of the public money, could not afford more than a thousand livres out of his enormous salary, it would have appeared ostentatious in a private individual to pretend toPg 349 surpass him; and therefore I have sent but the above sum, as you will see by the enclosed receipt.
"Leigh Hunt is here, after a voyage of eight months, during which he has, I presume, made the Periplus of Hanno the Carthaginian, and with much the same speed. He is setting up a Journal, to which I have promised to contribute; and in the first number the 'Vision of Judgment, by Quevedo Redivivus,' will probably appear, with other articles.
"Can you give us any thing? He seems sanguine about the matter, but (entre nous) I am not. I do not, however, like to put him out of spirits by saying so; for he is bilious and unwell. Do, pray, answer this letter immediately.
"Do send Hunt any thing in prose or verse, of yours, to start him handsomely—any lyrical, irical, or what you please.
"Has not your Potatoe Committee been blundering? Your advertisement says, that Mr. L. Callaghan (a queer name for a banker) hath been disposing of money in Ireland 'sans authority of the Committee.' I suppose it will end in Callaghan's calling out the Committee, the chairman of which carries pistols in his pocket, of course.
"When you can spare time from duetting, coquetting, and claretting with your Hibernians of bothPg 350 sexes, let me have a line from you. I doubt whether Paris is a good place for the composition of your new poesy."
LETTER 502. TO MR. MOORE.
"Pisa, August 8. 1822.
"You will have heard by this time that Shelley and another gentleman (Captain Williams) were drowned about a month ago (a month yesterday), in a squall off the Gulf of Spezia. There is thus another man gone, about whom the world was ill-naturedly, and ignorantly, and brutally mistaken. It will, perhaps, do him justice now, when he can be no better for it.
"I have not seen the thing you mention, and only heard of it casually, nor have I any desire. The price is, as I saw in some advertisements, fourteen shillings, which is too much to pay for a libel on oneself. Some one said in a letter, that it was a Doctor Watkins, who deals in the life and libel line. It must have diminished your naturalPg 351 pleasure, as a friend (vide Rochefoucault), to see yourself in it.
"With regard to the Blackwood fellows, I never published any thing against them; nor, indeed, have seen their magazine (except in Galignani's extracts) for these three years past. I once wrote, a good while ago, some remarks on their review of Don Juan, but saying very little about themselves, and these were not published. If you think that I ought to follow your example(and I like to be in your company when I can) in contradicting their impudence, you may shape this declaration of mine into a similar paragraph for me. It is possible that you may have seen the little I did write (and never published) at Murray's;—it contained much more about Southey than about the Blacks.
"If you think that I ought to do any thing about Watkins's book, I should not care much about publishing my Memoir now, should it be necessary to counteract the fellow. But, in that case, I should like to look over the press myself. Let me know what you think, or whether I had better not;—at least, not the second part, which touches on the actual confines of still existing matters.
"I have written three more Cantos of Don Juan, and am hovering on the brink of another (the ninth).Pg 352 The reason I want the stanzas again which I sent you is, that as these cantos contain a full detail (like the storm in Canto Second) of the siege and assault of Ismael, with much of sarcasm on those butchers in large business, your mercenary soldiery, it is a good opportunity of gracing the poem with * * *. With these things and these fellows, it is necessary, in the present clash of philosophy and tyranny, to throw away the scabbard. I know it is against fearful odds; but the battle must be fought; and it will be eventually for the good of mankind, whatever it may be for the individual who risks himself.
"What do you think of your Irish bishop? Do you remember Swift's line, 'Let me have a barrack—a fig for the clergy?' This seems to have been his reverence's motto. * * *
LETTER 503. TO MR. MOORE.
"Pisa, August 27. 1822.
"It is boring to trouble you with 'such small gear;' but it must be owned that I should be glad if you would enquire whether my Irish subscription ever reached the committee in Paris from Leghorn. My reasons, like Vellum's, 'are threefold:'—First, I doubt the accuracy of all almoners, or remitters of benevolent cash; second, I do suspect that the said Committee, having in part served its time to time-serving, may have kept back the acknowledgment of an obnoxious politician's name in their lists; and third, I feel pretty sure that I shall one day bePg 353 twitted by the government scribes for having been a professor of love for Ireland, and not coming forward with the others in her distresses.
"It is not, as you may opine, that I am ambitious of having my name in the papers, as I can have that any day in the week gratis. All I want is to know if the Reverend Thomas Hall did or did not remit my subscription (200 scudi of Tuscany, or about a thousand francs, more or less,) to the Committee at Paris.
"The other day at Viareggio, I thought proper to swim off to my schooner (the Bolivar) in the offing, and thence to shore again—about three miles, or better, in all. As it was at mid-day, under a broiling sun, the consequence has been a feverish attack, and my whole skin's coming off, after going through the process of one large continuous blister, raised by the sun and sea together. I have suffered much pain; not being able to lie on my back, or even side; for my shoulders and arms were equally St. Bartholomewed. But it is over,—and I have got a new skin, and am as glossy as a snake in its new suit.
"We have been burning the bodies of Shelley and Williams on the sea-shore, to render them fit for removal and regular interment. You can have no idea what an extraordinary effect such a funeral pile has, on a desolate shore, with mountains in the background and the sea before, and the singular appearance the salt and frankincense gave to the flame. All of Shelley was consumed, except his heart, whichPg 354 would not take the flame, and is now preserved in spirits of wine.
"Your old acquaintance Londonderry has quietly died at North Cray! and the virtuous De Witt was torn in pieces by the populace! What a lucky * * the Irishman has been in his life and end. In him your Irish Franklin est mort!
"Leigh Hunt is sweating articles for his new Journal; and both he and I think it somewhat shabby in you not to contribute. Will you become one of the properrioters? 'Do, and we go snacks.' I recommend you to think twice before you respond in the negative.
"I have nearly (quite three) four new cantos of Don Juan ready. I obtained permission from the female Censor Morum of my morals to continue it, provided it were immaculate; so I have been as decent as need be. There is a deal of war—a siege, and all that, in the style, graphical and technical, of the shipwreck in Canto Second, which 'took,' as they say, in the Row.
"P.S. That * * * Galignani has about ten lies in one paragraph. It was not a Bible that was found in Shelley's pocket, but John Keats's poems. However, it would not have been strange, for he was a great admirer of Scripture as a composition. I did not send my bust to the academy of New York; but I sat for my picture to young West,Pg 355 an American artist, at the request of some members of that Academy to him that he would take my portrait,—for the Academy, I believe.
"I had, and still have, thoughts of South America, but am fluctuating between it and Greece. I should have gone, long ago, to one of them, but for my liaison with the Countess Gi.; for love, in these days, is little compatible with glory. She would be delighted to go too; but I do not choose to expose her to a long voyage, and a residence in an unsettled country, where I shall probably take a part of some sort."
Soon after the above letters were written, Lord Byron removed to Genoa, having taken a house, called the Villa Saluzzo, at Albaro, one of the suburbs of that city. From the time of the unlucky squabble with the serjeant-major at Pisa, his tranquillity had been considerably broken in upon, as well by the judicial enquiries consequent upon that event, as by the many sinister rumours and suspicions to which it gave rise. Though the wounded man had recovered, his friends all vowed vengeance with the dagger: and the sensation which the affair and its various consequences had produced was,—to Madame Guiccioli more particularly, from thePg 356 situation in which her family stood, in regard to politics,—distressing and alarming. While the impression, too, of this event was still recent, another circumstance occurred which, though comparatively unimportant, had the unlucky effect of again drawing the attention of the Tuscans to their new visitors. During Lord Byron's short visit to Leghorn, a Swiss servant in his employ having quarrelled, on some occasion, with the brother of Madame Guiccioli, drew his knife upon the young Count, and wounded him slightly on the cheek. This affray, happening so soon after the other, was productive also of so much notice and conversation, that the Tuscan government, in its horror of every thing like disturbance, thought itself called upon to interfere; and orders were accordingly issued, that, within four days, the two Counts Gamba, father and son, should depart from Tuscany. To Lord Byron this decision was, in the highest degree, provoking and disconcerting; it being one of the conditions of the Guiccioli's separation from her husband, that she should thenceforward reside under the same roof with her father. After balancing in his mind between various projects,—sometimes thinking of Geneva, and sometimes, as we have seen, of South America,—he at length decided, for the present, to transfer his residence to Genoa.
His habits of life, while at Pisa, had but very little differed, except in the new line of society into which his introduction to Shelley's friends led him,—from the usual monotonous routine in which, so singularly for one of his desultory disposition, the daily coursePg 357 of his existence had now, for some years, flowed. At two he usually breakfasted, and at three, or, as the year advanced, four o'clock, those persons who were in the habit of accompanying him in his rides, called upon him. After, occasionally, a game of billiards, he proceeded,—and, in order to avoid starers, in his carriage,—as far as the gates of the town, where his horses met him. At first the route he chose for these rides was in the direction of the Cascine and of the pine-forest that reaches towards the sea; but having found a spot more convenient for his pistol exercise on the road leading from the Porta alla Spiaggia to the east of the city, he took daily this course during the remainder of his stay. When arrived at the Podere or farm, in the garden of which they were allowed to erect their target, his friends and he dismounted, and, after devoting about half an hour to a trial of skill at the pistol, returned, a little before sunset, into the city.
"Lord Byron," says a friend who was sometimes present at their practising, "was the best marksman. Shelley, and Williams, and Trelawney, often made as good shots as he—but they were not so certain; and he, though his hand trembled violently, never missed, for he calculated on this vibration, and depended entirely on his eye. Once after demolishing his mark, he set up a slender cane, whose colour, nearly the same as the gravel in which it was fixed, might well have deceived him, and at twenty paces he divided it with his bullet. His joy at a good shot, and his vexation at a failure, was great—andPg 358 when we met him on his return, his cold salutation, or joyous laugh, told the tale of the day's success."
For the first time since his arrival in Italy, he now found himself tempted to give dinner parties; his guests being, besides Count Gamba and Shelley, Mr. Williams, Captain Medwin, Mr. Taafe, and Mr. Trelawney;—and "never," as his friend Shelley used to say, "did he display himself to more advantage than on these occasions; being at once polite and cordial, full of social hilarity and the most perfect good humour; never diverging into ungraceful merriment, and yet keeping up the spirit of liveliness throughout the evening." About midnight his guests generally left him, with the exception of Captain Medwin, who used to remain, as I understand, talking and drinking with his noble host till far into the morning; and to the careless, half mystifying confidences of these nocturnal sittings, implicitly listened to and confusedly recollected, we owe the volume with which Captain Medwin, soon after the death of the noble poet, favoured the world.
On the subject of this and other such intimacies formed by Lord Byron, not only at the period of which we are speaking, but throughout his whole life, it would be difficult to advance any thing more judicious, or more demonstrative of a true knowledge of his character, than is to be found in the following remarks of one who had studied him with her whole heart,—who had learned to regard him with the eyes of good sense, as well as of affection, and whose strong love, in short, was founded upon a basis the most crePg 359ditable both to him and herself,—the being able to understand him.
"We continued in Pisa even more rigorously to absent ourselves from society. However, as there were a good many English in Pisa, he could not avoid becoming acquainted with various friends of Shelley, among which number was Mr. Medwin. They followed him in his rides, dined with him, and felt themselves happy, of course, in the apparent intimacy in which they lived with so renowned a man; but not one of them was admitted to any part of his friendship, which, indeed, he did not easily accord. He had a great affection for Shelley, and a great esteem for his character and talents; but he was not his friend in the most extensive sense of that word. Sometimes, when speaking of his friends and of friendship, as also of love, and of every other noble emotion of the soul, his expressions might inspire doubts concerning his sentiments and the goodness of his heart. The feeling of the moment regulated his speech, and, besides, he liked to play the part of singularity,—and sometimes worse,—more especially with those whom he suspected of endeavouring to make discoveries as to his real character; but it was only mean minds and superficial observers that could be deceived in him. It was necessary toPg 360 consider his actions to perceive the contradiction they bore to his words: it was necessary to be witness of certain moments, during which unforeseen and involuntary emotion forced him to give himself entirely up to his feelings; and whoever beheld him then, became aware of the stores of sensibility and goodness of which his noble heart was full.
"Among the many occasions I had of seeing him thus overpowered, I shall mention one relative to his feelings of friendship. A few days before leaving Pisa, we were one evening seated in the garden of the Palazzo Lanfranchi. A soft melancholy was spread over his countenance; he recalled to mind the events of his life; compared them with his present situation, and with that which it might have been if his affection for me had not caused him to remain in Italy, saying things which would have made earth a paradise for me, but that even then a presentiment that I should lose all this happiness tormented me. At this moment a servant announced Mr. Hobhouse. The slight shade of melancholy diffused over Lord Byron's face gave instant place to the liveliest joy; but it was so great, that it almost deprived him of strength. A fearful paleness came over his cheeks, and his eyes were filled with tears as he embraced his friend. His emotion was so great that he was forced to sit down.
"Lord Clare's visit also occasioned him extreme delight. He had a great affection for Lord Clare, and was very happy during the short visit that he paid him at Leghorn. The day on which they separated was a melancholy one for Lord Byron.Pg 361 'I have a presentiment that I shall never see him more,' he said, and his eyes filled with tears. The same melancholy came over him during the first weeks that succeeded to Lord Clare's departure, whenever his conversation happened to fall upon this friend."
Of his feelings on the death of his daughter Allegra, this lady gives the following account:—"On the occasion also of the death of his natural daughter, I saw in his grief the excess of paternal kindness. His conduct towards this child was always that of a fond father; but no one would have guessed from his expressions that he felt this affection for her. He was dreadfully agitated by the first intelligence of her illness; and when afterwards that of her death arrived, I was obliged to fulfil the melanPg 363choly task of communicating it to him. The memory of that frightful moment is stamped indelibly on my mind. For several evenings he had not left his house, I therefore went to him. His first question was relative to the courier he had despatched for tidings of his daughter, and whose delay disquieted him. After a short interval of suspense, with every caution which my own sorrow suggested, I deprived him of all hope of the child's recovery. 'I understand,' said he,—'it is enough, say no more.' A mortal paleness spread itself over his face, his strength failed him, and he sunk into a seat. His look was fixed, and the expression such that I began to fear for his reason; he did not shed a tear, and his countenance manifested so hopeless, so profound, so sublime a sorrow, that at the moment he appeared a being of a nature superior to humanity. He remained immovable in the same attitude for an hour, and no consolation which I endeavoured to afford him seemed to reach his ears, far less his heart. But enough of this sad episode, on which I cannot linger, even after the lapse of so many years, without renewing in my own heart the awful wretchedness of that day. He desired to be left alone, and I was obliged to leave him. I found him on the following morning tranquillised, and with an expression of religious resignation on his features. 'She is more fortunate than we are,' he said; 'besides, her position in the world would scarcely have allowed her to be happy. It is God's will—let us mention it no more.' And from that day he would never pronounce her name; but became more anxious whenPg 364 he spoke of Ada,—so much so as to disquiet himself when the usual accounts sent him were for a post or two delayed."
The melancholy death of poor Shelley, which happened, as we have seen, also during this period, seems to have affected Lord Byron's mind, less with grief for the actual loss of his friend, than with bitter indignation against those who had, through life, so grossly misrepresented him; and never certainly was there an instance where the supposed absence of all religion in an individual was assumed so eagerly as an excuse for the absence of all charity in judging him. Though never personally acquainted with Mr. Shelley, I can join freely with those who most loved him in admiring the various excellences of his heart and genius, and lamenting the too early doom that robbed us of the mature fruits of both. His short life had been, like his poetry, a sort of bright erroneous dream,—false in the general principles on which it proceeded, though beautiful and attaching in most of the details. Had full time been allowed for the "over-light" of his imagination to have been tempered down by the judgment which, in him, was still in reserve, the world at large would have been taught to pay that high homage to his genius which those only who saw what he was capable of can now be expected to accord to it.
It was about this time that Mr. Cowell, paying a visit to Lord Byron at Genoa, was told by him that some friends of Mr. Shelley, sitting together one evening, had seen that gentleman, distinctly, as they thought, walk into a little wood at Lerici, when at the same moment, as they afterwards discovered, he was far away in quite a different direction. "This,"Pg 366 added Lord Byron, in a low, awe-struck tone of voice, "was but ten days before poor Shelley died."
LETTER 504. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Genoa, October 9. 1822.
"I have received your letter, and as you explain it, I have no objection, on your account, to omit those passages in the new Mystery (which were marked in the half-sheet sent the other day to Pisa), or the passage in Cain;—but why not be open and say so at first? You should be more straight-forward on every account.
"I have been very unwell—four days confined to my bed in 'the worst inn's worst room,' at Lerici, with a violent rheumatic and bilious attack, constipation, and the devil knows what: no physician, except a young fellow, who, however, was kind and cautious, and that's enough.
"At last I seized Thompson's book of prescriptions (a donation of yours), and physicked myself with the first dose I found in it; and after undergoing the ravages of all kinds of decoctions, sallied from bed on the fifth day to cross the Gulf to Sestri. The sea revived me instantly; and I ate the sailor's cold fish, and drank a gallon of country wine, and got to Genoa the same night after landing at Sestri, and have ever since been keeping well, but thinner, and with an occasional cough towards evening.
"I am afraid the Journal is a bad business, and won't do; but in it I am sacrificing myself for others—Pg 367I can have no advantage in it. I believe the brothers Hunts to be honest men; I am sure that they are poor ones; they have not a nap. They pressed me to engage in this work, and in an evil hour I consented. Still I shall not repent, if I can do them the least service. I have done all I can for Leigh Hunt since he came here; but it is almost useless:—his wife is ill, his six children not very tractable, and in the affairs of this world he himself is a child. The death of Shelley left them totally aground; and I could not see them in such a state without using the common feelings of humanity, and what means were in my power, to set them afloat again.
"So Douglas Kinnaird is out of the way? He was so the last time I sent him a parcel, and he gives no previous notice. When is he expected again?
"P.S. Will you say at once—do you publish Werner and the Mystery or not? You never once allude to them.
"That curst advertisement of Mr. J. Hunt is out of the limits. I did not lend him my name to be hawked about in this way.
"However, I believe—at least, hope—that after all you may be a good fellow at bottom, and it is on this presumption that I now write to you on the subject of a poor woman of the name of Yossy, who is, or was, an author of yours, as she says, and published a book on Switzerland in 1816, patronised by the 'Court and Colonel M'Mahon.' But it seems that neither the Court nor the Colonel could get over the portentous price of three pounds, thirteen, andPg 368 sixpence,' which alarmed the too susceptible public; and, in short, 'the book died away,' and, what is worse, the poor soul's husband died too, and she writes with the man a corpse before her; but instead of addressing the bishop or Mr. Wilberforce, she hath recourse to that proscribed, atheistical, syllogistical, phlogistical person, mysen, as they say in Notts. It is strange enough, but the rascaille English who calumniate me in every direction and on every score, whenever they are in great distress recur to me for assistance. If I have had one example of this, I have had letters from a thousand, and as far as is in my power have tried to repay good for evil, and purchase a shilling's worth of salvation as long as my pocket can hold out.
"Now, I am willing to do what I can for this unfortunate person; but her situation and her wishes (not unreasonable, however,) require more than can be advanced by one individual like myself; for I have many claims of the same kind just at present, and also some remnants of debt to pay in England—God, he knows, the latter how reluctantly! Can the Literary Fund do nothing for her? By your interest, which is great among the pious, I dare say that something might be collected. Can you get any of her books published? Suppose you took her as author in my place, now vacant among your ragamuffins; she is a moral and pious person, and will shine upon your shelves. But seriously, do what you can for her."
LETTER 505. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Genoa, 9bre 23. 1822.
"I have to thank you for a parcel of books, which are very welcome, especially Sir Walter's gift of 'Halidon Hill.' You have sent me a copy of 'Werner,' but without the preface. If you have published it without, you will have plunged me into a very disagreeable dilemma, because I shall be accused of plagiarism from Miss Lee's German's Tale, whereas I have fully and freely acknowledged that the drama is entirely taken from the story.
"I return you the Quarterly Review, uncut and unopened, not from disrespect or disregard or pique, but it is a kind of reading which I have some time disused, as I think the periodical style of writing hurtful to the habits of the mind, by presenting the superfices of too many things at once. I do not know that it contains any thing disagreeable to me—it may or it may not; nor do I return it on account that there may be an article which you hinted at in one of your late letters, but because I have left off reading these kind of works, and should equally have returned you any other number.
"I am obliged to take in one or two abroad, because solicited to do so. The Edinburgh came before me by mere chance in Galignani's picnic sort of gazette, where he had inserted a part of it.
"You will have received various letters from me lately, in a style which I used with reluctance; but you left me no other choice by your absolute refusal to communicate with a man you did not like uponPg 370 the mere simple matter of transfer of a few papers of little consequence (except to their author), and which could be of no moment to yourself.
"I hope that Mr. Kinnaird is better. It is strange that you never alluded to his accident, if it be true, as stated in the papers. I am yours, &c. &c.
"I hope that you have a milder winter than we have had here. We have had inundations worthy of the Trent or Po, and the conductor (Franklin's) of my house was struck (or supposed to be stricken) by a thunderbolt. I was so near the window that I was dazzled and my eyes hurt for several minutes, and everybody in the house felt an electric shock at the moment. Madame Guiccioli was frightened, as you may suppose.
"I have thought since that your bigots would have 'saddled me with a judgment' (as Thwackum did Square when he bit his tongue in talking metaphysics), if any thing had happened of consequence. These fellows always forget Christ in their Christianity, and what he said when 'the tower of Siloam fell.'
"To-day is the 9th, and the 10th is my surviving daughter's birth-day. I have ordered, as a regale, a mutton chop and a bottle of ale. She is seven years old, I believe. Did I ever tell you that the day I came of age I dined on eggs and bacon and a bottle of ale? For once in a way they are my favourite dish and drinkable, but as neither of them agree with me, I never use them but on great jubilees—once in four or five years or so.
"I see somebody represents the Hunts and Mrs.Pg 371 Shelley as living in my house: it is a falsehood. They reside at some distance, and I do not see them twice in a month. I have not met Mr. Hunt a dozen times since I came to Genoa, or near it.
"Yours ever," &c.
LETTER 506. TO MR. MURRAY.
"Genoa, 10bre 25°. 1822.
"I had sent you back the Quarterly, without perusal, having resolved to read no more reviews, good, bad, or indifferent; but 'who can control his fate?' Galignani, to whom my English studies are confined, has forwarded a copy of at least one half of it in his indefatigable catch-penny weekly compilation; and as, 'like honour, it came unlooked for,' I have looked through it. I must say that, upon the whole, that is, the whole of the half which I have read (for the other half is to be the segment of Galignani's next week's circular), it is extremely handsome, and any thing but unkind or unfair. As I take the good in good part, I must not, nor will not, quarrel with the bad. What the writer says of Don Juan is harsh, but it is inevitable. He must follow, or at least not directly oppose, the opinion of a prevailing, and yet not very firmly seated, party. A Review may and will direct and 'turn awry' the currents of opinion, but it must not directly oppose them. Don Juan will be known by and by, for what it is intended,—a Satire on abuses of the present states of society, and not an eulogy of vice. It may be now and then voluptuous: I can't help that.Pg 372 Ariosto is worse; Smollett (see Lord Strutwell in vol. 2d of Roderick Random) ten times worse; and Fielding no better. No girl will ever be seduced by reading Don Juan:—no, no; she will go to Little's poems and Rousseau's romans for that, or even to the immaculate De Staël. They will encourage her, and not the Don, who laughs at that, and—and—most other things. But never mind—ça irà!
"Now, do you see what you and your friends do by your injudicious rudeness?—actually cement a sort of connection which you strove to prevent, and which, had the Hunts prospered, would not in all probability have continued. As it is, I will not quit them in their adversity, though it should cost me character, fame, money, and the usual et cetera.
"My original motives I already explained (in the letter which you thought proper to show): they are the true ones, and I abide by them, as I tell you, and I told Leigh Hunt when he questioned me on the subject of that letter. He was violently hurt, and never will forgive me at bottom; but I can't help that. I never meant to make a parade of it; but if he chose to question me, I could only answer the plain truth: and I confess I did not see any thing in the letter to hurt him, unless I said he was 'a bore,' which I don't remember. Had their Journal gone on well, and I could have aided to make it better for them, I should then have left them, after my safe pilotage off a lee shore, to make a prosperous voyage by themselves. As it is, I can't, and would not, if I could, leave them among the breakers.
"As to any community of feeling, thought, orPg 373 opinion, between Leigh Hunt and me, there is little or none. We meet rarely, hardly ever; but I think him a good-principled and able man, and must do as I would be done by. I do not know what world he has lived in, but I have lived in three or four; but none of them like his Keats and kangaroo terra incognita. Alas! poor Shelley! how we would have laughed had he lived, and how we used to laugh now and then, at various things which are grave in the suburbs!
"You are all mistaken about Shelley. You do not know how mild, how tolerant, how good he was in society; and as perfect a gentleman as ever crossed a drawing-room, when he liked, and where liked.
"I have some thoughts of taking a run down to Naples (solus, or, at most, cum sola) this spring, and writing, when I have studied the country, a Fifth and Sixth Canto of Childe Harold: but this is merely an idea for the present, and I have other excursions and voyages in my mind. The busts are finished: are you worthy of them?
"Yours, &c. N.B.
"P.S. Mrs. Shelley is residing with the Hunts at some distance from me. I see them very seldom, and generally on account of their business.Pg 374 Mrs. Shelley, I believe, will go to England in the spring.
"Count Gamba's family, the father and mother and daughter, are residing with me by Mr. Hill (the minister's) recommendation, as a safer asylum from the political persecutions than they could have in another residence; but they occupy one part of a large house, and I the other, and our establishments are quite separate.
"Since I have read the Quarterly, I shall erase two or three passages in the latter six or seven cantos, in which I had lightly stroked over two or three of your authors; but I will not return evil for good. I liked what I read of the article much.
"Mr. J. Hunt is most likely the publisher of the new Cantos; with what prospects of success I know not, nor does it very much matter, as far as I am concerned; but I hope that it may be of use to him; he is a stiff, sturdy, conscientious man, and I like him; he is such a one as Prynne or Pym might be. I bear you no ill-will for declining the Don Juans.
"Have you aided Madame de Yossy, as I requested? I sent her three hundred francs. Recommend her, will you, to the Literary Fund, or to some benevolence within your circles."
LETTER 507. TO LADY ——.
"Albaro, November 10. 1822.
"The Chevalier persisted in declaring himself an ill-used gentleman, and describing you as a kind of cold Calypso, who lead astray people of an amatoryPg 375 disposition without giving them any sort of compensation, contenting yourself, it seems, with only making one fool instead of two, which is the more approved method of proceeding on such occasions. For my part, I think you are quite right; and be assured from me that a woman (as society is constituted in England) who gives any advantage to a man may expect a lover, but will sooner or later find a tyrant; and this is not the man's fault either, perhaps, but is the necessary and natural result of the circumstances of society, which, in fact, tyrannise over the man equally with the woman; that is to say, if either of them have any feeling or honour.
"You can write to me at your leisure and inclination. I have always laid it down as a maxim, and found it justified by experience, that a man and a woman make far better friendships than can exist between two of the same sex; but these with this condition, that they never have made, or are to make, love with each other. Lovers may, and, indeed, generally are enemies, but they never can be friends; because there must always be a spice of jealousy and a something of self in all their speculations.
"Indeed, I rather look upon love altogether as a sort of hostile transaction, very necessary to make or to break matches, and keep the world going, but by no means a sinecure to the parties concerned.
"Now, as my love perils are, I believe, pretty well over, and yours, by all accounts, are never to begin, we shall be the best friends imaginable, as far as both are concerned, and with this advantage, thatPg 376 we may both fall to loving right and left through all our acquaintance, without either sullenness or sorrow from that amiable passion which are its inseparable attendants.
"Believe me," &c.
 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.
 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.)
 As far as regards the poets of ancient times, this assertion is, perhaps, right; though, if there be any truth in what Ælian 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 Ælian 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 Græcia,"—so far from knowing him, had scarcely even heard of his existence.—Epist. 79.
 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."
 Written by Lord Byron's early friend, the Rev. Francis Hodgson.
 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, malgrè 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 Æschylus. 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."
 "It was at least a grammar 'school.'"
 "So spelt by the author."
 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.
 Here follow some details respecting his friend Charles S. Matthews, which have already been given in the first volume of this work.
 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.
 A celebrated hair-dresser.
 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.
 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.
 "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 intimità 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 può essere prodotta da dei pregi esteriori, ma solamente dall unione di tuttociò che vi è di più bello e di più grande nel cuore e nella mente dell uomo. Svani ogni sua anteriore prevenzione contro di Lord Byron, e la conformità della loro idee e dei studii loro contribuì a stringerli in quella amicizia che non doveva avere fine che colla loro vita."
 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.
 "Un Inglese amico della libertà 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. Già 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 è poca in se stessa, come bisogna che sia sempre quella di un individuo ad una nazione, ma egli spera che non sarà l'ultima dalla parte dei suoi compatriotti. La sua lontananza dalle frontiere, e il sentimento della sua poca capacità personale di contribuire efficacimente a servire la nazione gl' impedisce di proporsi come degno della più 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."
 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."
 Here follows a long passage, already extracted, relative to his early friend, Edward Noel Long.
 In this, I rather think he was misinformed; whatever merit there may be in the jest, I have not, as far as I can recollect, the slightest claim to it.
 Thus marked, with impatient strokes of the pen, by himself in the original.
 In the original MS. these watch-words are blotted over so as to be illegible.
 In this little incident of the music in the streets thus touching so suddenly upon the nerve of memory, and calling away his mind from its dark bodings to a recollection of years and scenes the happiest, perhaps, of his whole life, there is something that appears to me peculiarly affecting.
 In Boccacio, the name is, I think, Nastagio.
 In another paper-book.
 Of this gentleman, the following notice occurs in the "Detached Thoughts:"—"L * * was a good man, a clever man, but a bore. My only revenge or consolation used to be setting him by the ears with some vivacious person who hated bores especially,—Madame de S—— or H——, for example. But I liked L * *; he was a jewel of a man, had he been better set;—I don't mean personally, but less tiresome, for he was tedious, as well as contradictory to every thing and every body. Being short-sighted, when we used to ride out together near the Brenta in the twilight in summer, he made me go before, to pilot him; I am absent at times, especially towards evening; and the consequence of this pilotage was some narrow escapes to the M * * on horseback. Once I led him into a ditch over which I had passed as usual, forgetting to warn my convoy; once I led him nearly into the river, instead of on the moveable bridge which incommodes passengers; and twice did we both run against the Diligence, which, being heavy and slow, did communicate less damage than it received in its leaders, who were terrafied by the charge; thrice did I lose him in the grey of the gloaming, and was obliged to bring-to to his distant signals of distance and distress;—all the time he went on talking without intermission, for he was a man of many words. Poor fellow! he died a martyr to his new riches—of a second visit to Jamaica.
 The following passage from the letter of mine, to which the above was an answer, will best explain what follows:—With respect to the newspaper, it is odd enough that Lord * * * * and myself had been (about a week or two before I received your letter) speculating upon your assistance in a plan somewhat similar, but more literary and less regularly-periodical in its appearance. Lord * *, as you will see by his volume of Essays, if it reaches you, has a very sly, dry, and pithy way of putting sound truths, upon politics and manners, and whatever scheme we adopt, he will be a very useful and active ally in it, as he has a pleasure in writing quite inconceivable to a poor hack scribe like me, who always feel, about my art, as the French husband did when he found a man making love to his (the Frenchman's) wife:—' Comment, Monsieur,—sans y être obligé!' When I say this, however, I mean it only of the executive part of writing; for the imagining, the shadowing out of the future work is, I own, a delicious fool's paradise."
 To the letter which enclosed this protest, and which has been omitted to avoid repetitions, he had subjoined a passage from Spence's Anecdotes (p. 197. of Singer's edition), where Pope says, speaking of himself, "I had taken such strong resolutions against any thing of that kind, from seeing how much every body that did write for the stage was obliged to subject themselves to the players and the town."—Spence's Anecdotes, p. 22.
In the same paragraph, Pope is made to say, "After I had got acquainted with the town, I resolved never to write any thing for the stage, though solicited by many of my friends to do so, and particularly Betterton."
 No further step was ever taken in this affair; and the documents, which were of no use whatever, are, I believe, still in Mr. Murray's possession.
 The self-will of Lord Byron was in no point more conspicuous than in the determination with which he thus persisted in giving the preference to one or two works of his own which, in the eyes of all other persons, were most decided failures. Of this class was the translation from Pulci, so frequently mentioned by him, which appeared afterwards in the Liberal, and which, though thus rescued from the fate of remaining unpublished, roust for ever, I fear, submit to the doom of being unread.
 Already given in his Journal.
 To the above letter, which was published at the time, Mr. Turner wrote a reply, but, for reasons stated by himself, did not print it. At his request, I give insertion to his paper in the Appendix.
 These lines—perhaps from some difficulty in introducing them—were never inserted in the Tragedy.
 With such anxiety did he look to this essential part of his daughter's education, that notwithstanding the many advantages she was sure to derive from the kind and feminine superintendence of Mrs. Shelley, his apprehensions, lest her feeling upon religious subjects might be disturbed by the conversation of Shelley himself, prevented him from allowing her to remain under his friend's roof.
 "Aye, down to the dust with them, slaves as they are," &c. &c.
 I had not, when I wrote, seen this pamphlet, as he supposes, but had merely heard from some friends, that his pen had "run a-muck" in it, and that I myself had not escaped a slight graze in its career.
 It may be sufficient to say of the use to which both Lord Byron and Mr. Bowles thought it worth their while to apply my name in this controversy, that, as far as my own knowledge of the subject extended, I was disposed to agree with neither of the extreme opinions into which, as it appeared to me, my distinguished friends had diverged;—neither with Lord Byron in that spirit of partisanship which led him to place Pope above Shakspeare and Milton, nor with Mr. Bowles in such an application of the "principles" of poetry as could tend to sink Pope, on the scale of his art, to any rank below the very first. Such being the middle state of my opinion on the question, it will not be difficult to understand how one of my controversial friends should be as mistaken in supposing me to differ altogether from his views, as the other was in taking for granted that I had ranged myself wholly on his side.
 The account given, by Madame Guiccioli, of his anxiety on this occasion, fully corroborates his own:—"His quiet was, in spite of himself, often disturbed by public events, and by the attacks which, principally in his character of author, the journals levelled at him. In vain did he protest that he was indifferent to those attacks. The impression was, it is true, but momentary, and he, from a feeling of noble pride, but too much disdained to reply to his detractors. But, however brief his annoyance was, it was sufficiently acute to occasion him much pain, and to afflict those who loved him. Every occurrence relative to the bringing Marino Faliero on the stage caused him excessive inquietude. On, the occasion of an article in the Milan Gazette, in which mention was made of this affair, he wrote to me in the following manner:—'You will see here confirmation of what I told you the other day! I am sacrificed in every way, without knowing the why or the wherefore. The tragedy in question is not (nor ever was) written for, or adapted to, the stage; nevertheless, the plan is not romantic; it is rather regular than otherwise;—in point of unity of time, indeed, perfectly regular, and failing but slightly in unity of place. You well know whether it was ever my intention to have it acted, since it was written at your side, and at a period assuredly rather more tragical to me as a man than as an author; for you were in affliction and peril. In the mean time, I learn from your Gazette that a cabal and party has been formed, while I myself have never taken the slightest step in the business. It is said that the author read it aloud!!!—here, probably, at Ravenna?—and to whom? perhaps to Fletcher!!!—that illustrious literary character,'" &c. &c.—"Ma però la sua tranquillità era suo malgrado sovente alterata dalle publiche vicende, e dagli attachi che spesso si direggevano a lui nei giornali come ad autore principalmente. Era invano che egli protestava indifferenza per codesti attachi. L'impressione non era é vero che momentanea, e purtroppo per una nobile fierezza sdegnava sempre di rispondere ai suoi dettratori. Ma per quanto fosse breve quella impressione era però assai forte per farlo molto soffrire e per affliggere quelli che lo amavano. Tuttociò che ebbe luogo per la rappresentazione del suo Marino Faliero lo inquictò pure moltissimo e dietro ad un articolo di una Gazetta di Milano in cui si parlava di quell' affare egli mi scrisse così—'Ecco la verità di ciò che io vi dissi pochi giorni fa, come vengo sacrificato in tutte le maniere seza sapere il perché e il come. La tragedia di cui si parla non è (e non era mai) nè scritta nè adattata al teatro; ma non è però romantico il disegno, è piuttosto regolare—regolarissimo per l' unità del tempo, c mancando poco a quella del sito. Voi sapete bene se io aveva intenzione di farla rappresentare, poichè era scritta al vostro fianco e nei momenti per certo più tragici per me come uomo che come autore,—perchè voi eravate in affanno ed in pericolo. Intanto sento dalla vostra Gazetta che sia nata una cabala, un partito, e senza ch' io vi abbia presa la minima parte. Si dice che l'autore ne fece la letlura!!!—quì forse? a Ravenna?—ed a chi? forse a Fletcher!!!—quel illustre litterato,'" &c. &c.
 In their eagerness, like true controversialists, to avail themselves of every passing advantage, and convert even straws into weapons on an emergency, my two friends, during their short warfare, contrived to place me in that sort of embarrassing position, the most provoking feature of which is, that it excites more amusement than sympathy. On the one side, Mr. Bowles chose to cite, as a support to his argument, a short fragment of a note, addressed to him, as be stated, by "a gentleman of the highest literary," &c. &c., and saying, in reference to Mr. Bowles's former pamphlet, "You have hit the right nail on the head, and * * * * too." This short scrap was signed with four asterisks; and when, on the appearance of Mr. Bowles's Letter, I met with it in his pages, not the slightest suspicion ever crossed my mind that I had been myself the writer of it;—my communications with my reverend friend and neighbour having been (for years, I am proud to say) sufficiently frequent to allow of such a hasty compliment to his disputative powers passing from my memory. When Lord Byron took the field against Mr. Bowles's Letter, this unlucky scrap, so authoritatively brought forward, was, of course, too tempting a mark for his facetiousness to be resisted; more especially as the person mentioned in it, as having suffered from the reverend critic's vigour, appeared, from the number of asterisks employed in designating him, to have been Pope himself, though, in reality, the name was that of Mr. Bowles's former antagonist, Mr. Campbell. The noble assailant, it is needless to say, made the most of this vulnerable point; and few readers could have been more diverted than I was with his happy ridicule of "the gentleman in asterisks," little thinking that I was myself, all the while, this veiled victim,—nor was it till about the time of the receipt of the above letter, that, by some communication on the subject from a friend in England, I was startled into the recollection of my own share in the transaction.
While by one friend I was thus unconsciously, if not innocently, drawn into the scrape, the other was not slow in rendering me the same friendly service;—for, on the appearance of Lord Byron's answer to Mr. Bowles, I had the mortification of finding that, with a far less pardonable want of reserve, he had all but named me as his authority for an anecdote of his reverend opponent's early days, which I had, in the course of an after-dinner conversation, told him at Venice, and which,—pleasant in itself, and, whether true or false, harmless,—derived its sole sting from the manner in which the noble disputant triumphantly applied it. Such are the consequences of one's near and dear friends taking to controversy.
 In venturing this judgment upon Shakspeare, Lord Byron but followed in the footsteps of his great idol Pope. "It was mighty simple in Rowe," says this poet, "to write a play now professedly in Shakspeare's style, that is, professedly in the style of a bad age."—Spence, sect. 4. 1734-36. Of Milton, too, Pope seems to have held pretty nearly the same opinion as that professed by Lord Byron in some of these letters. See, in Spence, sect. 5 1737-39, a passage on which his editor remarks—"Perhaps Pope did not relish Shakspeare more than he seems to have done Milton."
 Among the persons applied to by Lord Byron for their interest on this occasion was the late Duchess of Devonshire, whose answer, dated from Spa, I found among his papers. With the utmost readiness her Grace undertakes to write to Rome on the subject, and adds, "Believe me also, my Lord, that there is a character of justice, goodness, and benevolence, in the present Government of Rome, which, if they are convinced of the just claims of the Conte de Gamba and his son, will make them grant their request."
 "Una delle principali ragioni per cui si erano esigliati i miei parenti era la speranza che Lord Byron pure lascierebbe la Romagna quando i suoi amici fossero partiti. Già da qualche tempo la permanenza di Lord Byron in Ravenna era mal gradita dal Governo conoscendosile sue opinione e temendosila sua influenza, ed essaggiandosi anche i suoi mezzi per esercitarìa. Si credeva che egli somministrasse danaro per provvedere armi, e che provvedesse ai bisogni della Società. La verità era che nello spargere le sue beneficenze egli non s'informava delle opinioni politiche e religiose di quello che aveva bisogno del suo soccorso; ogni misero ed ogni infelice aveva un eguale diviso alia sua generosità. Ma in ogni modo gli Anti-Liberali lo credevano il principale sostegno del Liberalismo della Romagna, e desideravano la sua partenza; ma non osando provocarla in nessun modo diretto speravano di ottenerla indirettamente."
 "Lord Byron restava frattanto a Ravenna in un paese sconvolso dai partiti, e dove aveva certamente dei nemici di opinioni fanatici e perfidi, e la mia immaginazione me lo dipingeva circondato sempre da mille pericoli. Si può dunque pensare cosa dovesse essere qual viaggio per me e cosa io dovessi soffrire nella sua lontananza. Le sue lettere avrebbero potuto essermi di conforto; ma quando io le riceveva era già trascorso lo spazio di due giorni dal momenta in cui furono scritte, e questo pensiero distruggeva tutto il bene che esse potevano farmi, e la mia anima era lacerata dai più crudeli timori. Frattanto era necessario per la di lui convenienza che egli restasse ancora qualche tempo in Ravenna affinchè non avesse a dirsi che egli pure ne era esigliato; ed oltreciò egli si era sominamente affezionato a quel soggiorno e voleva innanzi di partire vedere esausiti tutti i tentativi e tutte le speranze del ritorno dei miei parenti."
 There had been, a short time before, performed at the Court of Berlin a spectacle founded on the Poem of Lalla Rookh, in which the present Emperor of Russia personated Feramorz, and the Empress, Lalla Rookh.
 This threat has been since acted upon;—the critic in question having, to the great horror of the French literati, pronounced Molière to be a "farceur."
 One of the charges of plagiarism brought against him by some scribblers of the day was founded (as I have already observed in the first volume of this work) on his having sought in the authentic records of real shipwrecks those materials out of which he has worked his own powerful description in the second Canto of Don Juan. With as much justice might the Italian author, (Galeani, if I recollect right,) who wrote a Discourse on the Military Science displayed by Tasso in his battles, have reproached that poet with the sources from which he drew his knowledge:—with as much justice might Puysegur and Segrais, who have pointed out the same merit in Homer and Virgil, have withheld their praise because the science on which this merit was founded must have been derived by the skill and industry of these poets from others.
So little was Tasso ashamed of those casual imitations of other poets which are so often branded as plagiarisms, that, in his Commentary on his Rime, he takes pains to point out and avow whatever coincidences of this kind occur in his own verses.
While on this subject, I may be allowed to mention one single instance, where a thought that had lain perhaps indistinctly in Byron's memory since his youth, comes out so improved and brightened as to be, by every right of genius, his own. In the Two Noble Kinsmen of Beaumont and Fletcher (a play to which the picture of passionate friendship, delineated in the characters of Palamon and Arcite, would be sure to draw the attention of Byron in his boyhood,) we find the following passage:—
Out of this somewhat forced simile, by a judicious transposition of the comparison, and by the substitution of the more definite word "waves" for "seas" the clear, noble thought in one of the Cantos of Childe Harold has been produced:—
 "No man ever rose (says Pope) to any degree of perfection in writing but through obstinacy and an inveterate resolution against the stream of mankind."
 Written in the envelope of the preceding Letter.
 It will be observed, from this and a few other instances, that notwithstanding the wonderful purity of English he was able to preserve in his writings, while living constantly with persons speaking a different language, he had already begun so far to feel the influence of this habit as to fall occasionally into Italianisms in his familiar letters.—"I am in the case to know"—"I have caused write"—"It regrets me," &c.
 An anonymous letter which he had received, threatening him with assassination.
 In this note, so highly honourable to the fair writer, she says, "Remember, my Byron, the promise you have made me. Never shall I be able to tell you the satisfaction I feel from it, so great are the sentiments of pleasure and confidence with which the sacrifice you have made has inspired me." In a postscript to the note she adds, "I am only sorry that Don Juan was not left in the infernal regions."—"Ricordati, mio Byron, della promessa che mi hai fatta. Non potrei mai dirti la satisfazione ch' io ne provo!—sono tanti i sentimenti di piacere e di confidenza che il tuo sacrificio m'inspira."—"Mi reveresce solo che Don Giovanni non resti all' Inferno."
In enclosing the lady's note to Mr. Murray, July 4th, Lord B. says, "This is the note of acknowledgment for the promise not to continue Don Juan. She says, in the postscript, that she is only sorry that D.J. does not remain in Hell (or go there)".
 "The Irish Avatar." In this copy the following sentence (taken from a letter of Curran, in the able Life of that true Irishman, by his son) is prefixed as a motto to the Poem,—"And Ireland, like a bastinadoed elephant, kneeling to receive the paltry rider."—Letter of Curran, Life, vol. ii. p. 336. At the end of the verses are these words:—"(Signed) W.L. B * *, M.A., and written with a view to a Bishoprick."
 This short satire, which is wholly unworthy of his pen, appeared afterwards in the Liberal.
 It would be difficult to describe more strongly or more convincingly than Lord Byron has done in this letter the sort of petty, but thwarting obstructions and distractions which are at present thrown across the path of men of real talent by that swarm of minor critics and pretenders with whom the want of a vent in other professions has crowded all the walks of literature. Nor is it only the writers of the day that suffer from this multifarious rush into the mart;—the readers also, from having (as Lord Byron expresses it in another letter) "the superficies of too many things presented to them at once," come to lose by degrees their powers of discrimination; and, in the same manner as the palate becomes confused in trying various wines, so the public taste declines in proportion as the impressions to which it is exposed multiply.
 The lines "Oh Wellington," which I had missed in their original place at the opening of the third Canto, and took for granted that they had been suppressed by his publisher.
 He here adverts to a passing remark, in one of Mr. Murray's letters, that, as his Lordship's "Memoranda" were not to be published in his lifetime, the sum now paid for the work, 2100l. would most probably, upon a reasonable calculation of survivorship, amount ultimately to no less than 8000l.
 To all the persons upon this list who were accessible, application has, of course, been made,—with what success it is in the reader's power to judge from the communications that have been laid before him. Among the companions of the poet's boyhood there are (as I have already had occasion to mention and regret) but few traces of his youthful correspondence to be found; and of all those who knew him at that period, his fair Southwell correspondent alone seems to have been sufficiently endowed with the gift of second-sight to anticipate the Byron of a future day, and foresee the compound interest that Time and Fame would accumulate on every precious scrap of the young bard which she hoarded. On the whole, however, it is not unsatisfactory to be able to state that, with the exception of a very small minority (only one of whom is possessed of any papers of much importance), every distinguished associate and intimate of the noble poet, from the very outset to the close of his extraordinary career, have come forward cordially to communicate whatever memorials they possessed of him,—trusting, as I am willing to flatter myself, that they confided these treasures to one, who, if not able to do full justice to the memory of their common friend, would, at least, not willingly suffer it to be dishonoured in his hands.
 It was, no doubt, from a similar experience of its effects that Dryden always took physic when about to write any thing of importance. His caricature, Bayes, is accordingly made to say, "When I have a grand design, I ever take physic and let blood; for, when you would have pure swiftness of thought and fiery flights of fancy, you must have a care of the pensive part;—in short," &c. &c.
On this subject of the effects of medicine upon the mind and spirits, some curious facts and illustrations have been, with his usual research, collected by Mr. D'Israeli, in his amusing "Curiosities of Literature."
 I had mentioned to him, with all the praise and gratitude such friendship deserved, some generous offers of aid which, from more than one quarter, I had received at this period, and which, though declined, have been not the less warmly treasured in my recollection.
 "Egli era partito con molto riverescimento da Ravenna, e col pressentimento che la sua partenza da Ravenna ci sarebbe cagione di molti mali. In ogni lettera che egli mi scriveva allora egli mi esprimeva il suo dispiacere di lasciare Ravenna. 'Se papà è richiamato (mi scriveva egli) io torno in quel istante a Ravenna, e se è richiamato prima della mia partenza, io non parto.' In questa speranza egli differi varii mesi a partire. Ma, finalmente, non potendo più sperare il nostro ritorno prossimo, egli mi scriveva—'Io parto molto mal volontieri prevedendo dei mali assai grandi per voi altri e massime per voi; altro non dico,—lo vedrete.' E in un altra lettera, 'Io lascio Ravenna così mal volontieri, e così persuaso che la mia partenza non può che condurre da un male ad un altro più grande che non ho cuore di scrivere altro in questo punto.' Egli mi scriveva allora sempre in Italiano e trascrivo le sue precise parole—ma come quei suoi pressentimenti si verificarono poi in appresso!
 The leaf that contains the original of this extract I have unluckily mislaid.
 "See the Cries of Bologna, as drawn by Aunibal Caracci. He was of very humble origin; and, to correct his brother's vanity, once sent him a portrait of their father, the tailor, threading his needle."
 "The principal gondolier, il fante di poppa, was almost always in the confidence of his master, and employed on occasions that required judgment and address."
 "Adrianum mare.—CICERO."
 "See the Prophecy of Dante."
 "See the tale as told by Boccaccio and Dryden."
 "They wait for the traveller's carriage at the foot of every hill."
 Having discovered that, while I was abroad, a kind friend had, without any communication with myself, placed at the disposal of the person who acted for me a large sum for the discharge of this claim, I thought it right to allow the money, thus generously destined, to be employed as was intended, and then immediately repaid my friend out of the sum given by Mr. Murray for the manuscript.
It may seem obtrusive, I fear, to enter into this sort of personal details; but, without some few words of explanation, such passages as the above would be unintelligible.
 My remark had been hasty and inconsiderate, and Lord Byron's is the view borne out by all experience. Almost all the tragic and gloomy writers have been, in social life, mirthful persons. The author of the Night Thoughts was a "fellow of infinite jest;" and of the pathetic Rowe, Pope says—"He would laugh all day long—he would do nothing else but laugh."
 See "Thoughts on Private Devotion," by Mr. Sheppard.
 Mr. Galignani having expressed a wish to be furnished with a short Memoir of Lord Byron, for the purpose of prefixing it to the French edition of his works, I had said jestingly in a preceding letter to his Lordship, that it would he but a fair satire on the disposition of the world to "bemonster his features," if he would write for the public, English as well as French, a sort of mock-heroic account of himself, outdoing, in horrors and wonders, all that had been yet related or believed of him, and leaving even Goethe's story of the double murder in Florence far behind.
 The following are the lines enclosed in this letter. In one of his Journals, where they are also given, he has subjoined to them the following note:—"I composed these stanzas (except the fourth, added now) a few days ago, on the road from Florence to Pisa.
 This letter has been already published, with a few others, in a periodical work, and is known to have been addressed to the late Mr. Douglas Kinnaird.
 The preceding letter came enclosed in this.
 It will be seen from the extract I shall give presently of the passage to which he refers, that he wholly mistook my meaning.
 It should have been mentioned before, that to the courtesy of Lord Byron's executor, Mr. Hobhouse, who had the kindness to restore to me such letters of mine as came into his hands, I am indebted for the power of producing these and other extracts.
 It is to this sentence Lord Byron refers at the conclusion of his letter, March 4.
 This passage having been shown by Lord Byron to Mr. Shelley, the latter wrote, in consequence, a letter to a gentleman with whom I was then in habits of intimacy, of which the following is an extract. The zeal and openness with which Shelley always professed his unbelief render any scruple that might otherwise be felt in giving publicity to such avowals unnecessary; besides which, the testimony of so near and clear an observer to the state of Lord Byron's mind upon religious subjects is of far too much importance to my object to be, from any over-fastidiousness, suppressed. We have here, too strikingly exemplified,—and in strong contrast, I must say, to the line taken by Mr. Hunt in similar circumstances,—the good breeding, gentle temper, and modesty for which Shelley was so remarkable, and of the latter of which Dualities in particular the undeserved compliment to myself affords a strong illustration, as showing how little this true poet had yet learned to know his own place.
"Lord Byron has read me one or two letters of Moore to him, in which Moore speaks with great kindness of me; and of course I cannot but feel flattered by the approbation of a man, my inferiority to whom I am proud to acknowledge. Amongst other things, however, Moore, after giving Lord B, much good advice about public opinion, &c. seems to deprecate my influence on his mind on the subject of religion, and to attribute the tone assumed in Cain to my suggestions. Moore cautions him against any influence on this particular with the most friendly zeal, and it is plain that his motive springs from a desire of benefiting Lord B. without degrading me. I think you know Moore. Pray assure him that I have not the smallest influence over Lord Byron in this particular; if I had, I certainly should employ it to eradicate from his great mind the delusions of Christianity, which, in spite of his reason, seem perpetually to recur, and to lay in ambush for the hours of sickness and distress. Cain was conceived many years ago, and begun before I saw him last year at Ravenna. How happy should I not be to attribute to myself, however indirectly, any participation in that immortal work!"
 Here follows a repetition of the details given on this subject to Sir Walter Scott and others.
 A hill, three or four miles from Leghorn, much resorted to, as a place of residence during the summer months.
 The answer which Mr. Ellice returned was, as might be expected, strongly dissuasive of this design. The wholly disorganised state of the country and its institutions, which it would take ages, perhaps, to restore even to the degree of industry and prosperity which it had enjoyed under the Spaniards, rendered Columbia, in his opinion, one of the last places in the world to which a man desirous of peace and quiet, or of security for his person and property, should resort to as an asylum. As long as Bolivar lived and maintained his authority, every reliance, Mr. Ellice added, might be placed on his integrity and firmness; but with his death a new æra of struggle and confusion would be sure to arise.
 "Received from Mr. Henry Dunn the sum of two hundred Tuscan crowns (for account of the Right Honourable Lord Noel Byron), for the purpose of assisting the Irish poor.
"Leghorn, 9th July, 1822. Tuscan crowns, 200."
 In a letter to Mr. Murray, of an earlier date, which has been omitted to avoid repetitions, he says on the same subject, "You were all mistaken about Shelley, who was, without exception, the best and least selfish man I ever knew." There is also another passage in the same letter which, for its perfect truth, I must quote:—"I have received your scrap, with Henry Drury's letter enclosed. It is just like him—always kind and ready to oblige his old friends."
 A book which had just appeared, entitled "Memoirs of the Right Hon. Lord Byron."
 The remarkable pamphlet from which extracts have been already given in this work.
 It had been asserted in a late Number of Blackwood, that both Lord Byron and myself were employed in writing satires against that Magazine.
 The particulars of this event had, it is evident, not yet readied him.
 This portrait, though destined for America, was, it appears, never sent thither. A few copies of it have since been painted by Mr. West, but the original picture was purchased by Mr. Joy, of Hartham Park, Wilts; who is also the possessor of the original portrait of Madame Guiccioli, by the same artist.
 My poor Zimmerman, who now will understand thee?"—such was the touching speech addressed to Zimmerman by his wife, on her death-bed; and there is implied in these few words all that a man of morbid sensibility must be dependant for upon the tender and self-forgetting tolerance of the woman with whom he is united.
 "In Pisa abbiamo continuato anche più rigorosaraente a vivere lontano dalla società. Essendosi però in Pisa molti Inglesi egli non potè escusarsi dal fare la conoscenza di varii amici di Shelley, fra i quali uno fu Mr. Medwin. Essi lo seguitavano al passeggio, pranzavono con lui e certamente si tenevano felici della apparente intimità che loro accordava un uomo così superiore. Ma nessuno di loro fu ammesso mai a porta della sua amicizia, che egli non era facile a accordare. Per Shelley egli aveva dell' affezione, e molta stima pel suo carattere e pel suo talento, ma non era suo amico nel estensione del senso che si deva dare alla parola amicizia. Talvolta parlando egli de' suoi amici, e dell' amicizia, come pure dell' amore, e di ogni altro nobile sentimento dell' anima, potevano i suoi discorsi far nascere dei dubbii sui veri suoi sentimenti, e sulla bontà del suo core. Una impressione momentanea regolava i suoi discorsi; e di più egli amava anche a rappresentare un personaggio bizzarro, e qualche volta anche peggio,—specialmente con quelli che egli pensava volessero studiare e fare delle scoperte sul suo carattere. Ma nell' inganno non poteva cadere che una piccola mente, e un osservatore superficiale. Bisognava esaminare le sue azioni per sentire tutta le contraddizione che era fra di esse e i suoi discorsi; bisognava vederlo in certi momenti in cui per una emozione improvisa e più forte della sua volontà la sua anima si abbandonava interamente a se stessa;—bisognava vederlo allora per scoprire i tesori di sensibilità e di bontà che erano ìn quella nobile anima.
"Fra le tante volte che io l'ho veduto in simili circostanze ne ricorderò una che risguarda i suoi sentimenti di amicizia. Pochi giorni prima di lasciare Pisa eravamo verso sera insieme seduti nel giardino del Palazzo Lanfranchi. Una dolce malinconia era sparsa sul suo viso. Egli riandava col pensiero gli avvenimenti della sua vita e faceva il confronto colle attuale sue situazione e quella che avrebbe potuta essere se la sua affezione per me non lo avesse fatto restare in Italia; e diceva cose che avrebbero resa per me la terra un paradiso, se già sino d'allora il pressentimento di perdere tanta felicità non mi avesse tormentata. In questo mentre un domestico annunciò Mr. Hobhouse. La leggiera tinta di malinconia sparsa sul viso di Byron fece, luogo subitamente alia più viva gioia; ma essa fu così forte che gli tolse quasi le forze. Un pallore commovente ricoperse il suo volto, e nell' abbracciare il suo amico i suoi occhi erano pieni di lacrime di contento. E l'emozione fu così forte che egli fu obbligato di sedersi, sentendosi mancare le forze.
"La venuta pure di Lord Clare fu per lui un epoca di grande felicità. Egli amava sommamente Lord Clare—egli era così felice in quel breve tempo che passò presso di lui a Livorno, e il giorno in cui si separarono fu un giorno di grande tristezza per Lord Byron. 'Io ho il pressentimento che non lo vedrò piu,' diceva egli; e i suoi occhi si riempirano di lacrime; e in questo stato l'ho veduto per varii settimanie dopo la partenza di Lord Clare, ogni qual volta il discorso cadeva sopra di codesto il suo amico."
 "Nell' occasione pure della morire della sua figlia naturale io ho veduto nel suo dolore tuttociò che vi è di più profondo nella tenerezza paterna. La sua condotta verso di codesta fanciulla era stata sempre quella del padre il più amoroso; ma dalle di lui parole non si sarebbe giudicato che avesse tanta affezione per lei. Alia prima notizia della di lei malattia egli fu sommamente agitato; giunse poi la notizia della morte, ed io dovessi esercitare il tristo uficio di participarla a Lord Byron. Quel sensibile momenta sarà indelebile nella mia memoria. Egli non usciva da varii giorni la sera: io andai dunque da lui. La prima domauda che egli mi fece fu relativa al Corriere che egli aveva spedito per avere notizie della sua figlia, e di cui il retardo lo inquietava. Dopo qualche momento di sospensione con tutta l'arte che sapeva suggerirmi il mio proprio dotore gli tolsi ogni speranza della guarizione della fanciulla. 'Ho inteso,' disse egli—'basta così—non dite di più'—e un pallore mortale si sparse sul suo volto; le forze gli mancarono, e cadde sopra una sedia d'appoggio. Il suo sguardo era fisso e tale che mi fece temere per la sua ragione. Egli rimase in quello stato d'immobilità un' ora; e nessuna parola dì consolazione che io potessi indirezzargli pareva penetrare le sue orecchie non che il suo core. Ma basta così di questa trista detenzione nella quale non posso fermarmi dopo tanti anni senza risvegliare dì nuovo nel mio animo le terribile sofferenze di quel giorno. La mattinà lo trovai tranquillo, e con una espressione di religiosa rassegnazione nel suo volto. 'Ella è più felice di noi,' diss' egli—'d'altronde la sua situazione nel mondo non le avrebbe data forse felicità. Dio ha voluto così—non ne parliamo più.' E da quel giorno in poi non ha più voluto proferire il nome di quella fanciulla. Ma è divenuto più pensieroso parlando di Adda, al punto di tormentarsi quando gli ritardavano di qualche ordinario le di lei notizie."
 Of the bust of himself by Bartollini he says, in one of the omitted letters to Mr. Murray:—"The bust does not turn out a good one,—though it may be like for aught I know, as it exactly resembles a superannuated Jesuit." Again: "I assure you Bartollini's is dreadful, though my mind misgives me that it is hideously like. If it is, I cannot be long for this world, for it overlooks seventy."