LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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[Leigh Hunt]
Lord Byron—Mr. Moore—and Mr. Leigh Hunt [Continued].
The Tatler  Vol. 2  No. 112  (12 January 1831)  445-46.
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No. 112 Price





Letters and Journals of Lord Byron: with Notices of his Life, by
Thomas Moore
. Two vols. 4to. Murray.


[Continued from our last.]

In the year 1812 the then Editor of the Examiner had been provoked by the Prince Regent’s tergiversation towards Ireland, and the adulation of the Morning Post, into jesting about a large “Adonis of fifty,” and saying, that his Royal Highness had lived half a century without doing anything for the good of the people or the respect of posterity. For these words (or something like them) he and his brother, the joint proprietors of the Examiner, were sent to prison, and fined a thousand pounds. The sentence might have been escaped, the fine might have been escaped, had they consented to promise that they would say no more about the Prince. They refused. The fine was offered to be collected for them among friends,—among the people. They with gratitude declined. Some years after, Lord Byron, who thought himself obliged to Mr Leigh Hunt for his sticking by him in adversity, offered, through Mr Shelley, to lend him five hundred pounds to bring hint over to Italy, that he might endeavour to repair his broken health and fortunes. He thanked his Lordship, but as he could not go to Italy, he of course could not avail himself of the offer. We speak of these money matters in a lump, to let the reader see, that when Mr Leigh Hunt thought himself bound at last to apply to his friends, and his adherence to the Good Cause helped to keep him poor notwithstanding, the necessity did not imply a habit of mind which the generous would have met with ill-construction, whatever occasion might have been taken of his diminished influence, for the mean to insult him and the selfish to forsake.

The next of Mr Moore’s letters was written soon after his going to prison, in February 1813. At that time, everything from Mr Moore’s pen, whether he praised or objected, had in his correspondent’s eyes a hue of “favour and of prettiness;” nor did Mr Hunt ever afterwards say one word against him, or think it, till he found him insincere. What he now sees in some passages of his letters, he leaves the reader to guess. The one upon his patron Lord Moira in the following will surely be held a curiosity by those who think of the different positions of Mr Hunt as Editor of the Examiner and visitor of Lord Byron. The reader has been already told that the Italics in these letters are of the writers own marking, not ours.

On Mr Hunt’s Imprisonment; Lord Moira, &c.
Kegworth Leicestershire, Thursday.

My Dear Sir,—I was well aware that, on the first novelty of your imprisonment, you would be overwhelmed with all sorts of congratulations and condolences, and therefore resolved to reserve my tribute both of approbation and sympathy till the gloss of your chains was a little gone off, and both friends and starers had got somewhat accustomed to them. If I were now to tell you half of what I have thought and felt in your favor during this period, I fear is would be more than you know enough of me to give me credit for; and I shall therefore only say in true Irish phrase and spirit, that my heart takes you by the hand most cordially, and that I only wish heaven had given me a brother, whom I could think so well of and feel so warmly about. I hope to be in London in about four or five weeks, when one of my first visits shall be to Horsemonger-lane, and I trust I shall find your restrictions so far relaxed as to allow of my not merely looking at you through the bars, but passing an hour or two with you in your room.

I have long observed, and (I must confess) wondered at your retenue about Lord Moira, and have sometimes flattered myself (forgive me for being so vain, and so little just, perhaps, to your sense of duty) that a little regard for me was at the bottom of your forbearance, for you have always struck me as one whom nature never destined “accusotoriam vitam vivere,” and who, if you were to live much among us Lilliputians of this world, would soon find your giant limbs entangled with a multitude of almost invisible heart-strings; but be this as it may, I must acknowledge (with a candour which is wrung from me) that Lord Moira’s conduct no longer deserves your approbation, and when I say this, I trust I need not add, that it no longer has mine. His kindnesses to me of course I can never forget, but they are remembered as one remembers the kindnesses of a faithless mistress, and that esteem, that reverence, which was the soul of all, is fled. His thoughtfulness about me, indeed, remained to the last, and in the interview which I had with him immediately on his coming down here after his appointment, he said that, though he had nothing sufficiently good in his Indian patronage to warrant my taking such an expensive voyage, yet is was in his power, by exchange of patronage with Ministers, to serve me at home, and that he meant to provide for me in this way; to which I answered, with many acknowledgements for his friendship, that “I begged he would not take the trouble of making an such application, as I would infinitely rather struggle on as I am, than accept of anything under such a system.” I must add (because it is creditable to him) that this refusal, though so significantly conveyed, and still more strongly afterwards by letter, not offend him, and that he continued the most cordial attentions to us during the remainder of his stay. I know you will forgive this egotism, and would perhaps trouble you with a little more of it, if the unrelenting post time were not very nearly at hand.

* * * * * *
* * * * * *
From your’s ever,
Thomas Moore.

In Mr Moore’s first volume is an amount of his coming with Lord Byron to dine in the prison, and a copy of verses from his lordship to his friend, in which the Editor of the Examiner is designated as “the wit in the dungeon.” How comes it by the way, that Mr. Moore never showed Mr Hunt any of these flattering phrases from the Noble Poet? And what is the probable reason why they are now produced, after Mr H. has known Lord Byron, and suffered from the advice given him by Mr Moore? Mr M. says, in this account of the dinner, that Lord Byron “good naturedly” accepted Mr Hunt’s invitation, and that the “wishes” of his lordship’s introducer were “attended to,” as far as the visitors at table were concerned; though it is intimated that a sad breach of politeness was manifested, when other visitors dropped in during the evening; Mr M. implying, that he had expressed “wishes” to the contrary. Our quondam friend must excuse us, if we think that a sincere man is likely to have a better memory than an insincere one, and that Mr Moore is mistaken in thinking that he expressed any such wish;—that is to say, meaning by the word “wish” a direction understood and received by the entertainer of the Noble Lord. We ask the reader whether the patronising style of this passage in Mr Moore’s, “reminiscences,” accords with the letters his host received from him at that period. As to “good-nature,” the host thought is good-natured enough certainly in Lord Byron to come to see him; and he had higher notions of lords then than he has learnt to have since. But he might have had fifty lords for his visitors, it he chose. Lords are never wanting: though patriots who can dispense with them are a little scarce, except in Paris. And with regard to friends dropping in, during this visitation by which the host was bound to die of honour and his monopoly, how was a man who has been such a student in truth as never to deny himself to a visitor in his life, to begin by not being at home in prison? Or how was he to excuse himself to friends who had come from a distance to see him, by telling them that he had a lord with him, and the invisible dignity of Mr Moore?

But all this is harmless, and we are sorry to waste the reader’s time upon it. The letter containing the following passage was written a month or two after this visit. Lord Byron’s other visits have been mentioned elsewhere; nor is it necessary to recur to them. Mr Leigh Hunt forgets how many letters, he received at various times from Mr Moore, having lost or mislaid several; but such as he can find that have anything to do with the object of these articles, are here continued.

“Mayfield Cottage, Monday Evening.
[Post Mark, August, 1813.]
My Dear Hunt,
* * * * * *
* * * * * *

“I hope you see my friend Lord Byron often; one of the very few London pleasures I envy him is the visit to Horsemonger-lane now and then.

“Faithfully yours,
Thomas Moore.”

[We have been compelled to cut short the article of to-day. Amends will be made for it in our next.]