LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism
Moore’s Life of Lord Byron.
La Belle Assemblée  Vol. NS 11  (June 1830)  289-91.
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH


FOR JUNE, 1830.


All the world has heard of the “First Volume of Moore’s Life of Byron”—the greater part of the world has read it, for its subject demanded that attention—and all the world has heard of, read, and commented upon, the conduct of that glorious triumvirate, Moore, Campbell, and Lady Byron. Respecting Mr. Moore and his Memoir we have as little room as we have inclination to say much in this place. As is usually the case with the author of that splendid piece of biography, “The Life of Sheridan,” in which so much justice was rendered to the memory of one deceased friend, and so much loyalty and good feeling evinced towards the sovereign, Mr. Moore has made much ado about nothing. Some wag has been at the trouble of calculating the number of pages out of a quarto volume of 670, for which the public stand indebted to the ostensible author; and, if our memory fail us not, it is somewhere about 155; and, in this said quarto volume, the compiler has rendered about as much justice to his other deceased friend, Lord Byron, as he did to poor Brinsley. But, as we have intimated, the subject of the book, and the copious assemblage which it presents of Lord Byron’s letters, will ensure for it an extensive sale; and, moreover, with the full and fresh recollection of that precious eight years’ concoction, “The Epicurean,” we cannot do otherwise than congratulate Mr. Moore on the improvement
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here exhibited in his style. Of whatever description might be the contents of the auto-biographical
manuscript presented by Lord Byron to Mr. Moore, we have ever held, and ever shall hold, that, by the destruction of that manuscript, Mr. Moore was guilty of violating a most solemn compact with his friend. That there were passages in the manuscript calculated to wound the feelings of individuals, and altogether unfit for the public eye, we can easily imagine; but, in justice to Lord Byron, as well as from a feeling of self-respect, he ought to have examined it in the lifetime of the writer—he ought to have examined it with a scrutinising eye, before he consigned it to the hands of a bookseller for a pecuniary consideration; and if not satisfied as to the propriety of its publication in every sense, it was his duty as a man, as a gentleman, and as a friend, to return it to its author. By the sacrifice of the manuscript it was understood that Mr. Moore sustained a loss of 2000l.; but, admitting the fact, the merits of the case were not altered. It has been reported also, that, for his two volumes of Letters, Journals, Notices, Reminiscences, &c., he is to receive—probably has received in part—the sum of 6000l. or guineas. If so, his purse may well congratulate itself on the destruction of the original memoir.

But Mr. Moore, it appears, has given deep and deadly umbrage to Lady Byron by the publication of certain of his lordship’s letters, and also by promulgating “his own impressions of private events,” in which Lady Byron was most nearly concerned, “as if he possessed a competent knowledge of the subject;” which competent knowledge, it is assumed, he does not possess. Full of filial, but apparently with out a spark of conjugal feeling, Lady Byron rushes forth in arms to vindicate the kind and conciliatory conduct of her parents. That Mr. Moore had a moral right to publish many of the letters which he has published we utterly deny. We abominate the principle of dragging forth to the public gaze such letters of distinguished individuals, or of any individuals—such letters as were written in the confidence of private friendship, as ought never to come before the eye of any but of those to whom they were addressed. That Lord Byron proved a bad husband to Lady Byron, we are quite disposed to believe—that from constitution, temperament, and habit, he was incapable of becoming a good husband to any woman, and least of all to such a woman as Lady Byron appears to be, is our firmest conviction. But, uniting herself with a man as Lady Byron united herself with his lordship, what had she as a wife to expect? Let the reader consult Lord Byron’s letters, as published by Mr. Moore, upon this subject. It may be asked, What has the public to do with such affairs? Nothing—literally nothing; but if the public be indecently made parties in the business, they have a right to be placed in possession of the whole of the case. Lady Byron has not so placed them. She has, indeed, thrown out the darkest insinuations against the character and fame of her deceased husband; but, in so doing, she has not, in the faintest degree, enlightened the mind of the reader as to the causes of their separation. However, we dare not indulge in a vein of remarking upon Lady Byron’s remarks.

And then comes forward most heroically—though Heaven knows from what motive—Mr. Thomas Campbell, to championize, if we may be allowed to coin a word, the cause of Lady Byron. And what light does he throw upon the subject? Not a single ray! How should he, when, as we have been pretty confidently assured, Lord Byron himself was in ignorance? O, truly, truly, it is lamentable—it is humiliating to humanity—it shows us too painfully the stuff we are made of—that the author of that beautiful, that noble poem, “The Pleasures of Hope,” should, under some strange paroxysm, have given birth to such a paper as that which his evil genius led him to insert in the magazine of which he is the ostensible editor! We can imagine something like it in the spouting of a man muddled with ——; but, in pity, we will not proceed.

The whole of this distressing, this disgusting affair, is treated, as well in a bold, vigorous manner, as in that becoming the duties of society, in “The Monthly Magazine.” Lord Byron “had a right, as a husband,” exclaims the writer, “to be indignant at his wife’s leaving his house without his permission; and he had a right to taunt any woman with hypocrisy, as well as want of duty, who writes to him a letter full of fondling at the moment when she was determined on abandoning him for ever.”—“It is a bur-
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lesque to say, that nothing graver than ‘Dear Duck’ at the head of her final letter would have prevented Lord Byron from dashing his head against the wall.” However, as we have said, we dare not trust ourselves with detailed comment; and therefore we shall close with the closing sentences of the
paper in “The Monthly Magazine:”—

But, if married people will be liable to sudden quarrels and partings, where is the proof of any attempt to return on this woman’s part?—of any effort to soothe the temper whose irritability she knew before she married?—of any decent sorrow over his grave? Did even her carriage, or the carriage of her family, attend his funeral? Has she since given the most trivial instance of female fondness for the memory of a man with whom she was so closely united? What honours has she paid to the tomb of a great being, by whose fame alone she is at this hour distinguished from the mob of title? Nothing!—But we have her at the end of half-a-dozen years disturbing the honours of him whom her duty and feeling might have kept in his country to be its living ornament, instead of being cast away in a barbarous and remote tomb. And for whom is this disturbance made? To vindicate the civility and so forth of two such people as Sir Ralph Milbanke and his wife, about whom the world cares no more than about the giants in Guildhall.