LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism
[Thomas Colley Grattan?]
Lord Byron and his Memoirs.
The Attic Miscellany  Vol. 1  (October 1824)  26-37.
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH



No. I. OCTOBER, 1824. Vol. I.



Including Facts and Opinions as detailed by himself in authentic and original Conversations with a Friend, upon the most interesting Circumstances of his Life, his Contemporaries, and the Literature of the present Day.

(Extracted from a Work now in the Press.*)

The death-knell of Lord Byron still rings in the public ear. Its vibrations have been unceasingly repeated in the wide extended circles of society, since, the hour when Missolounghi was startled by its tone. It has been echoed by every vehicle of news, every organ of opinion, and almost every individual that lives. The whole world has spoken deeply in lamentation of his death, and loudly in reprobation of his life. The great majority of mankind, in condemning his mortal career, has paid its homage to his undying genius, by proving that all-powerful, in awakening the sympathies which may be thought to own no alliance but with conduct which we approve. The interest and sorrow excited by his untimely fate was universal. Men of all persuasions and all parties felt that the mountain heights of genius were riven asunder, and that a wide blank was left gaping by the fall of one of their stupendous elevations. Years had passed over since any of the lights of the world had been quenched; and it will not be thought hyperbole to say that he was one. We will not risk the charge of exaggeration by comparing him with Napoleon, although many striking points of analogy existed in their character and career; and though an ingenious parallel might well be drawn between them. But looking back, as far as our memory can go, and round us, as widely as our observation extends, we know not on whom so soon as on him to fix the epithet which is applied, as if in mockery, to many of his cotemporaries—“a Spirit of the Age.”

Lord Byron and his Memoirs. 27

Few have of late years so filled the world with the reputation of their talents; and none excited such acute attention to their private life, such general acknowledgment of their powers, or so much grief for their occasional abuse. Passing over kings and heroes, commonly so called, as out of the scale of our comparison, Rousseau and Voltaire were the last of authors or orators who were so thoroughly identified with “the business and bosoms of men.” Schiller was certainly not, nor Alfieri, nor any in fact, Mirabeau perhaps excepted. Fox, Pitt, Sheridan, and their copartners in the splendid firm of political talent, agitated the sphere they moved in with magical power:—but the influence of politicians is necessarily confined to their own party; and their sufferings or success create no sensations beyond that, to entitle them to be considered as the property of the world. In literature it is different; for, though the politics of a mere statesman have power to chill the feelings of one half of mankind, and make them look on him as an alien to their sympathy, the works of a writer, if they deal with the passions common to all men, fix him at once, let his opinions be what they may, in the regard, if not in the affection of all.

Byron was peculiarly situated in the poetical literature of the age: the same in effect, though not in fact, as Grattan was in eloquence, and as Scott is in imaginative prose. Grattan stood alone, because he was the last of the orators. Scott stands singly, from the elevation of his talents. Byron remained aloof, in the solitude of his genius, which was incapable, even if he wished it, of merging its individuality in the common commerce of mankind. It is thus those three great men were destined for so marked a station in their different spheres of action. At Grattan's death, Eloquence, like a Hindoo widow, seemed to immolate herself upon his funeral pyre; and Poetry, now that Byron is gone, floats like an unembodied spirit across the earth. When Scott—but we are wandering beyond our limits, and into melancholy anticipations.

Lord Byron's death once ascertained, and the early burst of unbelief gone by—for the public shock at such a loss is always mixed with a feeling of scepticism, as if the thing could not be—the whole interest of society seemed centred in his memoirs. Curiosity swallowed up grief; and people becoming wearied by the comments of other writers on him who was no more, turned with unexampled anxiety to know what he had written upon himself. Whether or not the public had a right to these memoirs, is a question which it is not yet, perhaps, quite useless to discuss. It is, at any rate, our opinion that they had the right; and that the depository of the manuscript was no more than a trustee for the public, however his individual interest was concerned or consulted. Lord Byron bequeathed his memoirs to the world. The profits of their sale were alone meant for Mr. Moore. Lord Byron's family had no pretension whatever to the monopoly. And though the delicate consideration of the gentleman just named, prompted his offer of having the manuscript perused—and purified, if such be the proper word, by the nearest surviving relative of Lord Byron, we maintain that he was right, strictly right, in protesting against its unconditional destruction.

The history of the burning is fresh in the public recollection. We think that Mr. Moore's conduct is not clearly understood or appreciated. Some blame appears to have been attached to his share in the transaction, not only in this country, but on the continent, where the matter has
28Lord Byron and his Memoirs.
excited an interest quite as lively as with us. But it is our opinion, that up to this moment, not a shadow of reproach rests upon Mr. Moore. One duty, we think, remains for his performance; but one, and that most imperative: it is, to give to the world the genuine work of Lord Byron, if it be in his power to do so. The opinion is at all events widespread, if not well founded, that one copy at least of the original work is in existence. That opinion is afloat, and nothing will sink it. If the Life which Mr. Moore is supposed to be preparing, comes out as his own production, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to convince the public that it is not a compilation from the copy which we allude to, or from a memory powerfully tenacious of the original. If it be not avowed as such, its genuineness will be doubted, and a dozen spurious Lives will probably appear, professing to be that identical copy, of whose existence no one will consent to doubt. No reasoning, nothing, in fact, short of Mr. Moore's positive assertion to the contrary, will persuade people that he could, for years, have run the risk of leaving so interesting a manuscript uncopied, or that he could have entrusted it, without possessing a duplicate, into the hands of any one. And, at all events, it will be thought morally certain, that more than one of those to whom it was entrusted had curiosity enough to copy it; and very improbable that any one had honesty enough to confess it.

Besides these reasons for the publication of the real memoirs, supposing a copy to exist, there is one, of such paramount importance, that we are sure it must have struck every body, who has thought at all upon the subject. We mean the retrospective injury done to the character of the deceased, by the conjectures which are abroad, as to the nature of the memoirs he left behind. We do not pretend to be in the secret of their contents, but we are quite sure they can be in no way so reprehensible as the public imagination, and the enemies of Lord Byron, have figured them to be; and there is one notion concerning them, of a nature too delicate to touch upon, and for the removal of which no sacrifice of individual or family vanity would be a price too high. We have besides, as will presently be seen, good authority for believing that the memoirs might and ought to have been published, with perfect safety to public morals, and with very considerable gratification to public anxiety. Curiosity, which is so contemptible in individuals, assumes a very different aspect when it is shared by society at large; and a satisfaction, which may be in most instances wisely withheld from the one, ought very rarely to be refused to the other. Nothing has ever had such power of excitement upon the mass of mankind as private details of illustrious individuals, and most of all what may be called their confessions: and if those individuals choose to make their opinions as much the property of the world, after their death, as their conduct and their works had been before, we repeat that it is nothing short of a fraud upon the public, to snatch away the treasure of which they were the just inheritors. Nor must it be said that the property in question is of no intrinsic value. Every thing which ministers to the public indulgence is of worth proportioned to its rarity—and in this point of view Lord Byron's memoirs were beyond price. If they contain gross scandal, or indecent disclosures, let such parts be suppressed; and enough will remain amply to satisfy all readers. But we merely say this for the sake of supposition, and for the purpose of refuting an argument founded on an extreme
Lord Byron and his Memoirs.29
case; for we have great pleasure in believing, that the only pretence for such an imputation on the manuscript, was the selfish or squeamish act of their suppression.

We are confident that Mr. Moore will consider well the part he has to perform; that he is not insensible to the narrow scrutiny which the public puts into this affair, and which posterity will confirm; and that he will, on this occasion, uphold the character for integrity and frankness which is so pre-eminently his. We speak with certitude of his disinterested and upright feelings throughout; we only hope his delicacy towards others may not lead him too far towards the risk of his own popularity, or the sacrifice of, what we designate once more, the public property.

But during the interval which must elapse before the intense anxiety of the world can be gratified by the appearance of Mr. Moore's (or Lord Byron's) work, we are fortunate in having it in our power to present to those who will read us, some extracts from one, of minor interest certainly, but which puts forth scarcely inferior claims to attention. The fate which seemed to decree the suppression of every record of Lord Byron apart from his literary character:—which doomed the burning of the memoirs—the interdiction of the correspondence—and the loss at sea of the MSS. intrusted to Count Gamba—has happily spared the volume which we now allude to. For its authenticity, we should offer to vouch, were we not convinced that the perusal of one page will carry proof sufficient to the most sceptical. We shall not offer any anticipated criticism on a work which will so shortly be before the world. Such publications speak for themselves. The only point to ascertain, is their spuriousness or truth. The latter quality once established, their fortune with the public is made.

It is only then necessary for us to say, that the MS. in question was put into our hands, with the amplest liberty of selection for our present purpose. Sensible of the advantage thus offered to us, we did not abuse the confidence. We have taken but little from a large mass of matter, all equally interesting, and which treats largely of Lord Byron's opinions of many of his friends and acquaintance; many anecdotes regarding him hitherto unknown; some original verses; and many of his thoughts on politics, religion, and literature. Our chief object in taking enough to enrich our own work, was to give the public a specimen of the ample treat which they will so shortly be able to enjoy.

Leaving the author to speak, as he does explicitly and manfully, of his publication, and the motives which induced it, we proceed to lay before our readers extracts from ten of the conversations held by Lord Byron with his friend Capt. Medwin, on subjects of public and personal importance.


“I am sorry,” said he, “not to have a copy of my memoirs to shew you. I gave them to Moore, or rather Moore's little boy, at Venice. I remember saying, Here's 2000l. for you, my young friend! I made one observation in the gift, that they were not to be published till after my death. I have not the least abjection to their being circulated; in fact, they have been seen by some of my friends and several of Moore's. Among others, they were lent to Lady
30Lord Byron and his Memoirs.
Burghersh. On returning the MS. her Ladyship told Moore that she had transcribed the whole work. This was un peu fort, and he suggested the propriety of her destroying the copy. She did so, by putting it into the fire in his presence. Ever since this happened, Douglas Kinnaird has been recommending me to resume possession of the MS., thinking to frighten me by saying, that a spurious or real copy, surreptitiously obtained, may go forth to the world. I am quite indifferent about the world knowing all they contain. There are very few licentious adventures of my own, or scandalous adventures that will affect others, in the book. It is taken up from my earliest recollections, almost from childhood—very incoherent, written in a very loose and familiar style. The second part will prove a good lesson to young men, for it treats of the irregular life I led, and the fatal consequences of a life of dissipation. There are few parts that may not, and none that will not be read by women.” Another time he said, “A very full account of my marriage and separation is contained in my memoirs. After they were completed, I wrote to Lady Byron, proposing to send them for her inspection, that any mis-statement or inaccuracy (if any such existed, which I was not aware of) might be pointed out and corrected. In her answer she declined the offer, without assigning any reason, but desiring, if not on her own account, on that of her daughter, that they might never appear, and finishing with a threat. My reply was the severest thing I ever wrote, and contained two quotations, one from Shakspeare, the other from Dante.* I told her that she knew all she had written was incontrovertible truth, and that she did not wish to sanction the truth. I ended by saying, that she might depend on their being published. It was not till after this correspondence that I made Moore the depository of the MS.”


“The first time of my seeing Miss Milbanke was at Lady ——’s. It was a fatal day; and I remember that in going up stairs I stumbled, and remarked to Moore who accompanied me, that it was a bad omen, I ought to have taken the warning. On entering the room I observed a young laxly, more simply dressed than the rest, sitting alone upon a sofa. I took her for a humble companion, and asked Moore if I was right in my conjecture. ‘She is a great heiress,’ said he in a whisper, that became lower as he proceeded, ‘you had better marry her, and repair the old place at Newstead.’

There was something piquant, and what we term pretty in Miss Milbanke; her features were small and feminine, though not regular. She had the fairest skin imaginable. Her figure was perfect for her height, and there was a simplicity and retired modesty about her, which were very characteristic, and formed a striking contrast to the cold artificial formality and studied, stiffness of what is called fashion. She interested me exceedingly. It is unnecessary to detail the progress of our acquaintance: I became daily more attached to her, and it ended in my making her a proposal that was rejected. Her refusal was couched in terms that could not offend me. I was besides persuaded, that in declining my offer, she was governed by the influence of her mother, and was the more confirmed in this opinion, by her reviving the correspondence herself twelve months after. The tenour of the letter was, that although she could not love me, she desired my friendship. Friendship is a dangerous word for young ladies. It is love full fledged, and waiting for a fine day to fly.

It had been predicted by Mrs. Williams, that 27 was to be a dangerous age to me. The fortune-telling witch was right. It was destined to prove so. I shall never forget it. Lady Byron (Burn he pronounced it) was the only unconcerned person present. Lady Noel, her mother, cried. I trembled like

* I could not retain them.—Author's note.
Lord Byron and his Memoirs.31
a leaf—made the wrong responses, and after the ceremony called her Miss Milbank. There is a singular history attached to the ring. The very day the match was concluded, a ring of my mother's that had been lost, was dug up by the gardener at Newstead. I thought it had been sent on purpose for the wedding: but my mother's marriage had not been a fortunate one, and this ring was doomed to be the seal of an unhappier union still.

After the ordeal was over, we set off for a country seat of Sir Ralph's, and I was surprised at the arrangements for the journey; and somewhat out of humour to find a lady's maid stuck between me and my bride. It was rather too early to assume the husband, and I was forced to submit, but with a very bad grace. Put yourself in my situation, and tell me whether I had not some reason to be in the sulks. I have been accused, on getting into the carriage, of saying that I had married Lady B. out of spite, and because she had refused me twice. Though I was for a moment astonished at her prudery, or whatever you may choose to call it, if I had made so un-cavalier, not to say, brutal speech, I am convinced Lady B. would have immediately left the carriage to me, and the maid, (I mean the lady's). She had spirit enough to have done so, and would properly have resented the affront.”


“Our honey-moon was not all sunshine. It had its clouds; and Hobhouse has some letters which would serve to explain the rise and fall in the barometer; but it was never down at zero. You tell me the world says I married Miss Milbanke for her fortune, because she was a great heiress. All I have ever received, or am likely to receive, was 10,000l. My own income at this period was small, and somewhat bespoke. Newstead was a very unprofitable estate, and brought me in a bare 1500 a-year. The Lancashire property was hampered with a law suit, which has cost me 14,000l. and is not yet finished. We had a house in town, gave dinner parties, had separate carriages, and launched into every sort of extravagance. This could not last long. My wife's 10,000l. soon melted away. I was beset by duns, and at length an execution was levied, and the bailiffs put in possession of the very beds we had to sleep upon. This was no very agreeable state of affairs, no very pleasant scene for Lady Byron to witness; and it was agreed she should pay her father a visit till the storm had blown over, and some arrangements been made with my creditors. You may suppose on what terms we parted, from the style of a letter she wrote me on the road. You will think it begun ridiculously enough. ‘Dear Duck,’ &c. Imagine my astonishment to receive immediately on her arrival, a few lines from her father of a very unlike, and very unaffectionate nature, beginning, ‘Sir,’ and ending with saying, that his daughter should never see me again. In my reply, I disclaimed his authority as a parent over my wife; and told him, I was convinced the sentiments expressed were his, not hers. Another post, however, brought me a confirmation, under her own hand and seal, of her father's sentence. I afterwards learned from Fletcher, my valet, whose wife was at that time femme de chambre to Lady Byron, that after her definitive resolution was taken, and the fatal letter consigned to the post-office, she sent to withdraw it, and was in hysterics of joy that it was not too late. It seems, however, that they did not last long, or that she was afterwards over-persuaded to forward it. There can be no doubt that the influence of her enemies prevailed over her affection for me. You ask me if no cause was assigned for this sudden resolution; if I formed no conjecture about the cause. I will tell you, I have prejudices about women, I do not like to see them eat. Rousseau makes Julie un peu gourmande, but that is not at all according to my taste. I do not like to be interrupted when I am writing. Lady Byron did not attend to these whims of mine. The only harsh thing I ever remember saying to her, was one evening shortly before our parting. I was
32Lord Byron and his Memoirs.
standing before the fire, ruminating upon the embarrassments of my affairs and other annoyances, when Lady Byron came up to me and said, ‘Byron, am I in your way?’ to which I replied, ‘Damnably.’ I was afterwards sorry, and reproached myself for the expression, but it escaped me unconsciously, involuntarily; I hardly knew what I said.”


“I don't know from whom I inherited verse-making. Probably the wild scenery of Morven, Loch-na-gar, and the banks of the Dee, were the parents of my poetical vein, and the developers of my poetical boss. If it was so, it was dormant; at least, I never wrote any thing worth mentioning till after I was in love. Dante dates his passion for Beatrice at twelve. I was almost as young when I fell over head and ears in love. But I anticipate. I was sent to Harrow at twelve, and spent my vacation at Newstead. It was there that I first saw Mary C——. She was several years older than myself, but at my age, boys like something older than themselves, as they do younger, later in life. Our estates adjoined, but owing to the unhappy circumstance of the feud to which I before alluded, our families (as is generally the case with neighbours who happen to be relations) were never on terms of more than common civility, hardly those. I passed the summer vacation of this year among the Malvern hills—those were days of romance. She was the beau ideal of all that my fancy could paint of beautiful, and I have taken all my fables about the celestial nature of women from the perfection my imagination created in her. I say created, for I found her like the rest of her sex, any thing but angelic.

I returned to Harrow after my trip to Cheltenham, more deeply enamoured than ever, and passed the ensuing holidays at Newstead. I now began to fancy myself a man, and to make love in earnest. Our meetings were stolen ones, and my letters passed through the medium of a confidante. A gate leading from Mr. C.’s ground to those of my mother, was the place of our interviews. But the ardour was all on my side. I was serious—she was volatile: she liked me as a younger brother, and treated and laughed at me as a boy. She, however, gave me her picture, and that was something to make verses upon.* During the last years that I was at Harrow, all my thoughts were occupied with this love affair.

Had I married Miss C., perhaps the whole tenour of my life would have been different. She jilted me, however; but her marriage proved any thing but a happy one. She was at length separated from Mr. M., and proposed an interview with me, but by the advice of my sister, I declined it. I remember meeting her after my return from Greece, but pride had consumed my love, and yet it was not with perfect indifference I saw her. For a man to become a poet (witness Petrarch and Dante) he must be in love, or miserable. I was both when I wrote the Hours of Idleness. Some of these poems, in spite of what the reviewers say, are as good as any I ever produced.

For some years after the event that had so much influence on my fate, I tried to drown the remembrance of it and her in the most disgusting dissipation.”


“What do you think of Ada?” said he, looking earnestly at his daugh-

* “He had always a black ribbon round his neck, to which was attached a locket, containing hair and a picture. We had been playing at billiards one night till the balls appeared double; when all at once be searched hastily for something under his waistcoat, and said, in great alarm, “Good God, I have lost my ——,” but before he had finished the sentence he discovered the hidden treasure,”—Author's Note.
Lord Byron and his Memoirs.33
ter's miniature, that hung by the side of his writing table. “They tell me she is like me, but she has her mother's eyes. It is very odd that my mother was an only child, and Ada is an only child. It is a singular coincidence—the least that can be said of it. I can't help thinking it was destined to be so, and perhaps it is best. I was anxious for a son, for if I had one he would he a peer at once, but after our separation was glad to have had a daughter, for it would have distressed me too much to have taken him away from
Lady Byron, and I could not have trusted her with a son's education. I have no idea of boys being brought up by mothers. I suffered too much from that myself; and, then, wandering about the world as I do, I could not take proper care of a child, otherwise I should not have left Allegra,* poor little thing, at Ravenna. She has been a great resource to me, though I am not so fond of her as of Ada; and yet I mean to make their fortunes equal—there will be enough for them both. I have desired in my will that Allegra shall not marry an Englishman. The Irish and Scotch make better husbands than we do. You will think it was an odd fancy—but I was not in the best of humours with my countrymen at that moment. You know the reason. I am told that Ada is a little termagant; I hope not. I shall write to my sister to know if this is the case. Perhaps I am wrong in letting Lady Byron have entirely her own way in her education. I hear that my name is never mentioned in her presence, that a green curtain is always kept over my portrait, as something forbidden, and that she is not to know that she has a father till she comes of age. Of course she will be taught to hate me—she will be brought up to it. Lady Byron is conscious of all this, and is afraid that I shall some day carry off her daughter by stealth or force. I might claim her from the Chancellor, without having recourse to either one or the other; but I had rather be unhappy myself than make her mother so. Probably I shall never see her again!” Here he opened his writing desk, and shewed me some hair, which he told me was his child's. During our drive and ride this evening, he declined our usual amusement of pistol-firing, without assigning a cause. He hardly spoke a word during the first half hour, and it was evident that something weighed heavily on his mind. There was a sacredness in his melancholy that I dared not interrupt. At length he said, “This is Ada's birth-day, and might have been the happiest day of my life. As it is”—. He stopped, seemingly ashamed of having betrayed his feelings. He tried in vain to rally his spirits by turning the conversation, but he created a laugh in which he could not join, and soon relapsed into his former reverie.”


“When I first saw the review of ‘Hours of Idleness,’ I was furious—in such a rage as I have never been in since. I dined that day with Scrope Davies, and drank three bottles of claret to drown it, but it only boiled the more. That critique was a masterpiece of low wit—a tissue of scurrilous abuse. I remember there was a great deal of vulgar trash in it, that was meant for humour, about ‘people being thankful for what they could get,’ ‘looking a gift horse in the mouth,’ and other such stable expressions. The severity of the Quarterly killed poor Keats, and neglect, Kirke White. But I was made of different stuff,—of tougher materials. So far from bullying me, or deterring me from writing, I was bent on falsifying their raven predictions, and determined to shew them, croak as they would, that it was not the last, time they should hear from me. I set to work immediately and in good earnest, and produced in a year ‘The English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.’

34Lord Byron and his Memoirs.
For the first few days after it was announced, I was very anxious about its fate. Generally speaking, the first fortnight decides the public opinion of a new book. This made a prodigious impression, more perhaps than any of my works except ‘
The Corsair.’ * * * * * There were many things in that satire which I was afterwards very sorry for, and I wished to cancel it. If Galignani chose to reprint it, it was no fault of mine. I did my utmost to suppress the publication, not only in England but in Ireland. I will tell you my principal reason for doing so. I had good grounds to believe that Jeffrey (though perhaps really responsible for whatever appears in the Edinburgh, as Gifford is for the Quarterly, as editor,) was not the author of that article—was not guilty of it. He disowned it, and though he would not give up the aggressor, he said he would convince me, if I ever came to Scotland, who the person was. I have every reason to believe it was a certain lawyer, who hated me for something I once said of him.”


——“But there was another reason that influenced me, more even than my cool resentment against Jeffrey, to suppress English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. In the duel scene I had unconsciously made a part of the ridicule to fall on Moore. The fact was, that there was no imputation on the courage of either of the principals. One of the balls fell out in the carriage and was lost; and the seconds, not having a further supply, drew the remaining one. Shortly after this publication I went abroad, and Moore was so offended by the mention of the leadless pistols, that he addressed a letter to me, in the nature of a challenge, delivering it to the care of Mr. Hanson, but without acquainting him with the contents. This letter was mislaid; at least never forwarded to me. But on my return to England in 1812, an inquiry was made by Moore if I had received such a letter, adding that particular circumstances (meaning his marriage, or perhaps the suppression of my satire,) had now altered his situation, and that he wished to recall the letter, and to be known to me through Rogers. I was shy of this mode of arranging matters—one hand presenting a pistol, and another held out to shake; and felt awkward at the loss of a letter of such a nature, and the imputations it might have given rise to; but when, after a considerable search, it was at length found, I returned it to Moore, with the seal unbroken; and we have since been the best friends, in the world. I correspond with no one so regularly as with Moore.”


“It is remarkable,” said he, “that I should at this moment number among my most intimate friends and correspondents, those whom I most made the subject of satire in English Bards. I never retracted my opinions of their works; I never sought their acquaintance: but there are men who can forgive and forget. The Laureate is not one of that description; and exults over the anticipated death-bed repentance of the objects of his hatred. Finding that his denunciations or panegyrics are of little or no avail here, he indulges himself in a pleasant vision as to what will be their fate hereafter. The third heaven is hardly good enough for a king, and Dante's worst birth in the Inferno hardly bad enough for me. My kindness to his brother-in-law might have taught him to be more charitable. I said, in a note to the two Foscari, in answer to his vain boasting, that I had done more real good in one year than Mr. Southey in the whole course of his shifting and turn-coat existence, on which he seems to reflect with so much complacency. I did not mean to pride myself on the act to which I have just referred, and should not mention it to you, but that his self-sufficiency calls for the explanation. When Coleridge was in great distress, I borrowed 100l. to give him.”

Lord Byron and his Memoirs. 35

Some days after this discussion with Lord B., appeared Mr. Southey's reply to the note in question. I happened to see the Literary Gazette at Mr. Edgeworth's, and mentioned the general purport of the letter to Lord Byron during our evening ride. His anxiety to get a sight of it was so great, that he wrote me two notes in the course of the evening, entreating me to procure the paper. I at length succeeded, and took it to the Lanfranchi palace at eleven o'clock (after coming from the Opera), an hour at which I was frequently in the habit of calling on him en passant. He had left the Countess Guiccioli earlier than usual; and I found him waiting with some impatience. I never shall forget his countenance, as he glanced rapidly over the contents. He looked perfectly awful. His colour changed almost prismatically. His lips were as pale as death. He said not a word. He read the paper a second time, and with more attention than his rage at first permitted, commenting on some of the passages as he went on. When he had finished, he threw down the paper, and asked me if I thought there was any thing of a personal nature in the reply that demanded satisfaction, as if there was, he would instantly set off for England, and call Southey to an account; muttering something about whips, and branding irons, and gibbets, and wounding the heart of a woman—words of Mr. Southey's. I said, that, “as to personality, his own expressions of ‘cowardly ferocity, pitiful renegadoship,’ &c. were much stronger than any in the letter before me.” He paused a moment, and said, “Perhaps you are right; but I will consider of it. You have not seen my Vision of Judgment; I wish I had a copy to shew you; but the only one I have is in London. I had almost decided not to publish it; but it shall now go forth to the world. I will write to Douglas Kinnaird by to-morrow's post—to night—not to delay its appearance. The question is whom to get to print it. Murray will have nothing to say to it just now, while the prosecution of ‘Cain’ hangs over his head. It was offered to Longman; but he declined, it, on the plea of its injuring the sale of Southey's hexameters, of which he is the publisher.—Hunt shall have it.”


When I entered the room, Lord Byron was devouring, as he called it, a new novel of Walter Scott's. “How difficult it is,” said he, “to say any thing new! Who was that voluptuary of antiquity who offered a reward for a new pleasure? Perhaps all nature and art could not supply a new idea. This page, for instance, is a brilliant one. It is full of wit; but let us see how much of it is original. This passage, for instance, comes from Shakspeare; this bon mot from one of Sheridan's Comedies; this observation from another,” naming the author; “and yet the ideas are new modelled, and perhaps Scott was not aware of their being plagiarisms.—It is a bad thing to have too good a memory.”

“I should not like to have you for a critic,” I observed. “Set a thief to catch a thief,” was the reply.

“I never travel without Scott's Novels,” said he, “they are a perfect library in themselves; a perfect literary treasure. I could read them once a year with new pleasure.” I asked him if he was certain about the Novels being Sir Walter Scott's.

Scott as much as owned himself the author of Waverley to me at Murray's shop. I was talking to him about that novel, and lamented that its author had not carried back the story nearer to the time of the revolution. Scott, entirely off his guard, said ‘Aye, I ought to have done so, but’——there he stopped. It was in vain to attempt to correct himself; he looked confused, and relieved his embarrassment by a precipitate retreat. On another occasion I was to dine at Murray's, and, being in his parlour in the morning, he told me I should meet the author of Waverley at dinner. Murray had received several excuses, and the party was a small one, and
36Lord Byron and his Memoirs.
knowing all the people present, I was satisfied that the writer of that novel must have been, and could have been no other, than Walter Scott. He spoiled the fame of his poetry by his superior prose. He has such extent and versatility of powers in writing, that, should his novels ever tire the public, which is not likely, he will apply himself to something else, and succeed as well. His mottos from old plays prove that he at all events possesses the dramatic faculty which is denied me, and yet I am told that his
Halidon Hill did not justify expectation. I have never met with, but have seen extracts from it.”

“Do you think,” asked I, “that Sir Walter Scott's novels owe any part of their reputation to the concealment of the author's name?”

“No,” said he, “such works do not gain or lose by it. I am at a loss to know his reasons for keeping up the incognito, but that the reigning family could not have been very well pleased with Waverley.

“When Walter Scott began to write poetry, which was not at a very early age, Monk Lewis corrected his verses; he understood little then of the mechanical part of his art. The Fire King in the minstrelsy of the Scottish border was almost all Lewis's. One of the ballads in that work, and except some of Leyden's, perhaps one of the best, was made from a story picked up in a stage coach,—I mean that of Will Jones:
“They boiled Will Jones within the pot,
And not much fat had Will.”

“I hope Walter Scott did not write the review of ‘Christabel,’ for he in common with many of us is indebted to Coleridge. But for him perhaps the Lay of the Last Minstrel would never have been thought of. The line
“Jesu Maria, shield us well!”
is taken word for word from Coleridge's poem. Of all the writers of the day Walter Scott is the least jealous. He is too confident of his own fame to dread the rivalry of others. He does not think of good writing as the Tuscans do about fever, that there is only a certain quantity of it in the world.”

LADY ——.

“About this time I became what the French call un homme à bonnes fortunes, was engaged in a liaison, and I might add a serious one.

The lady had scarcely any personal attractions to recommend her. Her figure, though genteel, was too thin to be good, and wanted that roundness which elegance and grace would vainly supply. She was however young, and of the first connexions; au reste she possessed an infinite vivacity, and an imagination heated by novel-reading which made her fancy herself a heroine of romance, and led her into all sorts of eccentricities. She was married, but it was a match of convenience; and no couple could be more fashionably indifferent to or independent of one another. It was at this time that we happened to be thrown much together. She had never been in love, at least where the affections are concerned, and was perhaps made without a heart, as many of the sex are, but her head more than supplied the deficiency. I was soon congratulated by my friends on the conquest I had made, and did my utmost to shew that I was not insensible to the partiality I could not help perceiving. I made every effort to be in love, expressed as much ardour as 1 could muster, and kept feeding the flame with a constant supply of billet-doux and amatory verses. In short, I was in time duly and regularly installed into what the Italians call service, and soon became in every sense of the word a patito. It required no Œdipus to see where all this would end. I am easily governed by women, and she gained an ascendancy over me that I could not easily shake off.

Lord Byron and his Memoirs. 37

“I submitted to this thraldom long, for I hate scenes, and am of an indolent disposition; but I was forced to snap the knot rather rudely at last. Like all lovers, we had several quarrels before we came to a final rupture. One was made up in a very odd way, and without any verbal explanation. She will remember it. Even during our intimacy I was not at all constant to this fair one, and she suspected as much. In order to detect my intrigues she watched me, and earthed a lady into my lodgings, and came herself, terrier-like, in the disguise of a carman. My valet, who did not see through the masquerade, let her in, when, to the despair of Fletcher, she put off the man and assumed the woman. Imagine the scene; it was worthy of Faublas. Her conduct was unaccountable madness—a combination of spite and jealousy. It was perfectly agreed and understood that we were to meet as strangers. We were at a ball. She came up and asked me if she might waltz. I thought it perfectly indifferent whether she waltzed or not, or with whom, and I told her so, in different terms, but with much coolness. After she had finished, a comi-tragic scene occurred which was in the mouth of every one. She stabbed herself with a pair of scissars, and cut herself with a tumbler. Soon after this she promised young —— . . . . . . . if he would call me out. I suppose he did not think her worth fighting for. Yet can any one believe that she should be so infatuated after all this as to call at my apartments—certainly with no view of shooting herself. I was from home, but finding ‘Vathek’ on the table, she wrote in the first page ‘Remember me!’—Yes, I had cause to remember her, and in the irritability of the moment wrote, under the two words, these two stanzas:

Remember thee—remember thee!
Till Lethe quench life's burning stream;
Remorse and shame shall cling to thee,
And haunt thee like a feverish dream.
Remember thee!—aye, doubt it not—
Thy husband too shall think of thee:
By neither shalt thou be forgot—
Thou false to him—thou fiend to me!