LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism
[William Hazlitt]
On Jealousy and Spleen of Party.
The Plain Speaker  2 vols  (London:  Henry Colburn,  1826)  2:409-47.
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH


“It is michin-malico, and means mischief.”—Hamlet.

I was sorry to find the other day, on coming to Vevey, and looking into some English books at a library there, that Mr. Moore had taken an opportunity, in his “Rhymes on the Road,” of abusing Madame Warens, Rousseau, and men of genius in general. It’s an ill bird, as the proverb says. This appears to me, I confess, to be pick-thank work, as needless as it is ill-timed, and, considering from whom it comes, particularly, unpleasant. In conclusion, he thanks God with the Levite, that “he is not one of those,” and would rather be any thing, a worm, the meanest thing that crawls, than numbered among those who give light and law to the world by an excess of fancy and intellect*. Perhaps
* “Out on the craft—I’d rather be
One of those hinds that round me tread,
With just enough of sense to see
The noon-day sun that’s o’er my head,
Posterity may take him at his word, and no more trace be found of his “Rhymes” upon the onward tide of time than of
“the snow-falls in the river,
A moment white, then melts for ever!”
It might be some increasing consciousness of the frail tenure by which he holds his rank among the great heirs of Fame, that urged our Bard to pawn his reversion of immortality for an indulgent smile of patrician approbation, as he raised his puny arm against “the mighty dead,” to lower by a flourish of his pen the aristocracy of letters nearer to the level of the aristocracy of rank—two ideas that keep up a perpetual see-saw in Mr. Moore’s mind like buckets in a well, and to which he is always ready to lend a helping hand, according as he is likely to be hoisted up, or in danger of being let down with either of them. The mode in which our author proposes to correct the extravagance of public opinion, and qualify the interest taken in such persons as Rousseau and Madame de Warens, is singular enough, and savours of the late un-
Than thus with high-built genius curs’d,
That hath no heart for its foundation,
Be all at once that’s brightest—worst—
Sublimest—meanest in creation.
lucky bias of his mind:—it is by referring us to what the well-bred people in the neighbourhood thought of Rousseau and his pretensions a hundred years ago or thereabouts. “So shall their anticipation prevent our discovery!
“And doubtless ’mong the grave and good
And gentle of their neighbourhood,
If known at all, they were but known
As strange, low people, low and bad,
Madame herself to footmen prone,
And her young pauper, all but mad.”
This is one way of reversing the judgment of posterity, and setting aside the ex-post-facto evidence of taste and genius. So, after “all that’s come and gone yet,”—after the anxious doubts and misgivings of his mind as to his own destiny—after all the pains he took to form himself in solitude and obscurity—after the slow dawn of his faculties, and their final explosion, that like an eruption of another Vesuvius, dazzling all men with its light, and leaving the burning lava behind it, shook public opinion, and overturned a kingdom—after having been “the gaze and shew of the time”—after having been read by all classes, criticised, condemned, admired in every corner of Europe—after bequeathing a name that at the end of half a century is never repeated but with emotion as ano-
ther name for genius and misfortune—after having given us an interest in his feelings as in our own, and drawn the veil of lofty imagination or of pensive regret over all that relates to his own being, so that we go a pilgrimage to the places where he lived, and recall the names he loved with tender affection (worshipping at the shrines where his fires were first kindled, and where the purple light of love still lingers—“Elysian beauty, melancholy grace!”)—after all this, and more, instead of taking the opinion which one half of the world have formed of Rousseau with eager emulation, and the other have been forced to admit in spite of themselves, we are to be sent back by Mr. Moore’s eaves-dropping Muse to what the people in the neighbourhood thought of him (if ever they thought of him at all) before he had shewn any one proof of what he was, as the fairer test of truth and candour, and as coming nearer to the standard of greatness, that is, of something asked to dine out, existing in the author’s own mind.
“This, this is the unkindest cut of all.”
Mr. Moore takes the inference which he chuses to attribute to the neighbouring gentry concerning “the pauper lad,” namely, that “he was mad” because he was poor, and flings it to the
passengers out of a landau and four as the true version of his character by the fashionable and local authorities of the time. He need not have gone out of his way to Charmettes merely to drag the reputations of Jean Jacques and his mistress after him, chained to the car of aristocracy, as “people low and bad,” on the strength of his enervated sympathy with the genteel conjectures of the day as to what and who they were—we have better and more authentic evidence. What would he say if this method of neutralising the voice of the public were applied to himself, or to his friend
Mr. Chantry; if we were to deny that the one ever rode in an open carriage tête-à-tête with a lord, because his father stood behind a counter, or were to ask the sculptor’s customers when he drove a milk-cart what we are to think of his bust of Sir Walter? It will never do. It is the peculiar hardship of genius not to be recognized with the first breath it draws—often not to be admitted even during its life-time—to make its way slow and late, through good report and evil report, “through clouds of detraction, of envy and lies”—to have to contend with the injustice of fortune, with the prejudices of the world,
“Rash judgments and the sneers of selfish men”—
to be shamed by personal defects, to pine in obscurity, to be the butt of pride, the jest of fools, the bye-word of ignorance and malice;—to carry on a ceaseless warfare between the consciousness of inward worth and the slights and neglect of others, and to hope only for its reward in the grave and in the undying voice of fame:—and when, as in the present instance, that end has been marvellously attained and a final sentence has been passed, would any one but Mr. Moore wish to shrink from it, to revive the injustice of fortune and the world, and to abide by the idle conjectures of a fashionable cotêrie empannelled on the spot, who would come to the same shallow conclusion whether the individual in question were an idiot or a God? There is a degree of gratuitous impertinence and frivolous servility in all this not easily to be accounted for or forgiven.

There is something more particularly offensive in the cant about “people low and bad” applied to the intimacy between Rousseau and Madame Warens, inasmuch as the volume containing this nice strain of morality is dedicated to Lord Byron, who was at that very time living on the very same sentimental terms with an Italian lady of rank, and whose Memoirs Mr. Moore has since thought himself called
upon to suppress, out of regard to his Lordship’s character and to that of his friends, most of whom were not “low people.” Is it quality, not charity, that with Mr. Moore covers all sorts of slips?
“But ’tis the fall degrades her to a whore;
Let Greatness own her, and she’s mean no more!”
What also makes the dead-set at the heroine of the “
Confessions” seem the harder measure, is, that it is preceded by an effusion to Mary Magdalen in the devotional style of Madame Guyon, half amatory, half pious, but so tender and rapturous that it dissolves Canova’s marble in tears, and heaves a sigh from Guido’s canvas. The melting pathos that trickles down one page is frozen up into the most rigid morality, and hangs like an icicle upon the next. Here Thomas Little smiles and weeps in ecstacy; there Thomas Brown (not “the younger,” but the elder surely) frowns disapprobation, and meditates dislike. Why, it may be asked, does Mr. Moore’s insect-Muse always hover round this alluring subject, “now in glimmer and now in gloom”—now basking in the warmth, now writhing with the smart—now licking his lips at it, now making wry faces—but always fidgetting and fluttering about the same gaudy, luscious topic, either in flimsy raptures or trumpery horrors? I hate, for my own part, this alter-
nation of meretricious rhapsodies and methodistical cant, though the one generally ends in the other. One would imagine that the author of “
Rhymes on the Road” had lived too much in the world, and understood the tone of good society too well to link the phrases “people low and bad” together as synonymous. But the crossing the Alps has, I believe, given some of our fashionables a shivering-fit of morality, as the sight of Mont Blanc convinced our author of the Being of a God*—they are seized with an amiable horror and remorse for the vices of others (of course so much worse than their own,) so that several of our blue-stockings have got the blue-devils, and Mr. Moore, as the Squire of Dames, chimes in with the cue that is given him. The panic, however, is not universal. He must have heard of the romping, the languishing, the masquerading, the intriguing, and the Platonic attachments of English ladies of the highest quality and Italian Opera-singers. He must

* The poet himself, standing at the bottom of it, however diminutive in appearance, was a much greater proof of his own argument than a huge, shapeless lump of ice. But the immensity, the solitude, the barrenness, the immoveableness of the masses, so different from the whirl, the tinsel, the buzz and the ephemeral nature of the objects which occupy and dissipate his ordinary attention, gave Mr. Moore a turn for reflection, and brought before him the abstract idea of infinity and of the cause of all things.

know what Italian manners are—what they were a hundred years ago, at Florence or at Turin,* better than I can tell him. Not a word does he hint on the subject. No: the elevation and splendour of the examples dazzle him; the extent of the evil overpowers him; and he chooses to make Madame Warens the scape-goat of his little budget of querulous casuistry, as if her errors and irregularities were to be set down to the account of the genius of Rousseau and of modern philosophy, instead of being the result of the example of the privileged class to which she belonged, and of the licentiousness of the age and country in which she lived. She appears to have been a handsome, well-bred, fascinating, condescending demirep of that day, like any of the author’s fashionable acquaintances in the present, but the eloquence of her youthful protegè has embalmed her memory, and thrown the illusion of fancied perfections and of hallowed regrets over her frailties; and it is this that Mr. Moore cannot excuse, and that draws down upon her his pointed hostility of attack, and rouses all the venom of his moral indignation. Why does he not, in like manner, pick a quarrel with that celebrated

* Madame Warens resided for some time at Turin, and was pensioned by the Court.

monument in the Pere la Chaise, brought there
“From Paraclete’s white walls and silver springs;”
or why does he not leave a lampoon, instead of an elegy, on Laura’s tomb? The reason is, he dare not. The cant of morality is not here strong enough to stem the opposing current of the cant of sentiment, to which he by turns commits the success of his votive rhymes.

Not content with stripping off the false colours from the frail fair (one of whose crimes it is not to have been young) the poet makes a “swan-like end,” and falls foul of men of genius, fancy, and sentiment in general, as impostors and mountebanks, who feel the least themselves of what they describe and make others feel. I beg leave to enter my flat and peremptory protest against this view of the matter, as an impossibility. I am not absolutely blind to the weak sides of authors, poets, and philosophers (for “’tis my vice to spy into abuses”) but that they are not generally in earnest in what they write, that they are not the dupes of their own imaginations and feelings, before they turn the heads of the world at large, is what I must utterly deny. So far from the likelihood of any such antipathy between their sentiments and their professions, from their being
recreants to truth and nature, quite callous and insensible to what they make such a rout about, it is pretty certain that whatever they make others feel in any marked degree, they must themselves feel first; and further, they must have this feeling all their lives. It is not a fashion got up and put on for the occasion; it is the very condition and ground-work of their being. What the reader is and feels at the instant, that the author is and feels at all other times. It is stamped upon him at his birth; it only quits him when he dies. His existence is intellectual, ideal: it is hard to say he takes no interest in what he is. His passion is beauty; his pursuit is truth. On whomsoever else these may sit light, to whomever else they may appear indifferent, whoever else may play at fast-and-loose with them, may laugh at or despise them, may take them up or lay them down as it suits their convenience or pleasure, it is not so with him. He cannot shake them off, or play the hypocrite or renegado, if he would. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” They are become a habit, a second nature to him. He is totus in illis: he has no other alternative or resource, and cannot do without them. The man of fashion may resolve to study as a condescension, the man of business as a relaxation,
the idler to employ his time. But the poet is “married to immortal verse,” the philosopher to lasting truth. Whatever the reader thinks fine in books (and Mr. Moore acknowledges that fine and rare things are to be found there) assuredly existed before in the living volume of the author’s brain: that which is a passing and casual impression in the one case, a floating image, an empty sound, is in the other an heirloom of the mind, the very form into which it is warped and moulded, a deep and inward harmony that flows on for ever, as the springs of memory and imagination unlock their secret stores. “Thoughts that glow, and words that burn,” are his daily sustenance. He leads a spiritual life, and walks with God. The personal is, as much as may be, lost in the universal. He is Nature’s high-priest, and his mind is a temple where she treasures up her fairest and loftiest forms. These he broods over, till he becomes enamoured of them, inspired by them, and communicates some portion of his ethereal fires to others. For these he has given up every thing, wealth, pleasure, ease, health; and yet we are to be told he takes no interest in them, does not enter into the meaning of the words he uses, or feel the force of the ideas he imprints upon the brain of others. Let us give
the Devil his due. An author, I grant, may be deficient in dress or address, may neglect his person and his fortune—
“But his soul is fair,
Bright as the children of yon azure sheen:”
he may be full of inconsistencies elsewhere, but he is himself in his books: he may be ignorant of the world we live in, but that he is not at home and enchanted with that fairy-world which hangs upon his pen, that he does not reign and revel in the creations of his own fancy, or tread with awe and delight the stately domes and empyrean palaces of eternal truth, the portals of which he opens to us, is what I cannot take Mr. Moore’s word for. He does not “give us reason with his rhyme.” An author’s appearance or his actions may not square with his theories or his descriptions, but his mind is seen in his writings, as his face is in the glass. All the faults of the literary character, in short, arise out of the predominance of the professional mania of such persons, and their absorption in those ideal studies and pursuits, their affected regard to which the poet tells us is a mere mockery, and a bare-faced insult to people of plain, strait-forward, practical sense and unadorned pretensions, like himself. Once more, I cannot believe it. I think that
Milton did
not dictate “
Paradise Lostby rote (as a mouthing player repeats his part) that Shakespear worked himself up with a certain warmth to express the passion in Othello, that Sterne had some affection for My Uncle Toby, Rousseau a hankering after his dear Charmettes, that Sir Isaac Newton really forgot his dinner in his fondness for fluxions, and that Mr. Locke prosed in sober sadness about the malleability of gold. Farther, I have no doubt that Mr. Moore himself is not an exception to this theory—that he has infinite satisfaction in those tinkling rhymes and those glittering conceits with which the world are so taken, and that he had very much the same sense of mawkish sentiment and flimsy reasoning in inditing the stanzas in question that many of his admirers must have experienced in reading them!—In turning to the “Castle of Indolence” for the lines quoted a little way back, I chanced to light upon another passsage which I cannot help transcribing:
“I care not, Fortune, what you me deny:
You cannot rob me of free Nature’s grace;
You cannot shut the windows of the sky,
Through which Aurora shews her brightening face;
You cannot bar my constant feet to trace
The woods and lawns by living stream at eve:
Let health my nerves and finer fibres brace,
And I their toys to the great children leave:
Of fancy, reason, virtue nought can me bereave.”
Were the sentiments here so beautifully expressed mere affectation in
Thomson; or are we to make it a rule that as a writer imparts to us a sensation of disinterested delight, he himself has none of the feeling he excites in us? This is one way of shewing our gratitude, and being even with him. But perhaps Thomson’s works may not come under the intention of Mr. Moore’s strictures, as they were never (like Rousseau’s) excluded from the libraries of English Noblemen!
“Books, dreams are each a world, and books, we know,
Are a substantial world, both pure and good;
Round which, with tendrils strong as flesh and blood,
Our pastime and our happiness may grow.”
Let me then conjure the gentle reader, who has ever felt an attachment to books, not hastily to divorce them from their authors. Whatever love or reverence may be due to the one, is equally owing to the other. The volume we prize may be little, old, shabbily bound, an imperfect copy, does not step down from the shelf to give us a graceful welcome, nor can it extend a hand to serve us in extremity, and so far may be like the author: but whatever there is of truth or good or of proud consolation or of cheering hope in the one, all this existed in a greater degree in the imagination and the Heart and brain of the other. To cherish the work
and damn the author is as if the traveller who slakes his thirst at the running stream, should revile the spring-head from which it gushes. I do not speak of the degree of passion felt by Rousseau towards Madame Warens, nor of his treatment of her, nor her’s of him: but that he thought of her for years with the tenderest yearnings of affection and regret, and felt towards her all that he has made his readers feel, this I cannot for a moment doubt.* So far, then, he is no impostor or juggler. Still less could he have given a new and personal character to the literature of Europe, and changed the tone of sentiment and the face of society, if he had not felt the strongest interest in persons and things, or had been the heartless pretender he is sometimes held out to us.

The tone of politics and of public opinion has

* What the nature of his attachment was is probably best explained by his cry, “Ah! voila de la pervenche!” with which all Europe has rung; or by the beginning of the last of the “Reveries of a Solitary Walker,” “Aujourd’hui jour de Pâques fleuries, il y a précisément cinquante ans de ma premiere connaissance avec Madame de Warens.” But it is very possible our lively Anacreon does not understand these long-winded retrospects; and agrees with his friend Lord Byron, who professed never to feel any thing seriously for more than a day!

undergone a considerable and curious change, even in the few short years I can remember. In my time, that is, in the early part of it, the love of liberty (at least by all those whom I came near) was regarded as the dictate of common sense and common honesty. It was not a question of depth or learning, but an instinctive feeling, prompted by a certain generous warmth of blood in every one worthy the name of Briton. A man would as soon avow himself to be a pimp or a pickpocket as a tool or a pander to corruption. This was the natural and at the same time the national feeling. Patriotism was not at variance with philanthropy. To take an interest in humanity, it was only thought necessary to have the form of a man: to espouse its cause, nothing was wanting but to be able to articulate the name. It was not inquired what coat a man wore, where he was born or bred, what was his party or his profession, to qualify him to vote on this broad and vital question—to take his share in advancing it, was the undisputed birth-right of every free-man. No one was too high or too low, no one was too wise or too simple to join in the common cause. It would have been construed into lukewarmness and cowardice not to have done so. The voice as of one crying in the wilderness had gone
forth—“Peace on earth, and good-will towards men!” The dawn of a new era was at hand. Might was no longer to lord it over right, opinion to march hand in hand with falsehood. The heart swelled at the mention of a public as of a private wrong—the brain teemed with projects for the benefit of mankind. History, philosophy, all well-intentioned and well-informed men agreed in the same conclusion. If a good was to be done, let it—if a truth was to be told, let it! There could be no harm in that: it was only necessary to distinguish right from wrong, truth from lies, to know to which we should give the preference. A rose was then doubly sweet, the notes of a thrush went to the heart, there was “a witchery in the soft blue sky” because we could feel and enjoy such things by the privilege of our common nature, “not by the sufferance of supernal power,” and because the common feelings of our nature were not trampled upon and sacrificed in scorn to shew and external magnificence. Humanity was no longer to be crushed like a worm, as it had hitherto been—power was to be struck at, wherever it reared its serpent crest. It had already roamed too long unchecked. Kings and priests had played the game of violence and fraud for thousands of years into each other’s hands, on pre-
tences that were now seen through, and were no farther feasable. The despot’s crown appeared tarnished and blood-stained: the cowl of superstition fell off, that had been so often made a cloak for tyranny. The doctrine of the Jus Divinum “squeaked and gibbered in our streets,” ashamed to shew its head: Holy Oil had lost its efficacy, and was laughed at as an exploded mummery.
Mr. Locke had long ago (in his Treatise of Government, written at the express desire of King William) settled the question as it affected our own Revolution (and naturally every other) in favour of liberal principles as a part of the law of the land and as identified with the existing succession. Blackstone and De Lolme (the loudest panegyrists of the English Constitution) founded their praise on the greater alloy of Liberty implied in it. Tyranny was on the wane, at least in theory: public opinion might be said to rest on an inclined plane, tending more and more from the heights Of arbitrary power and individual pretension to the level of public good; and no man of common sense or reading would have had the face to object as a bar to the march of truth and freedom—
“The right divine of Kings to govern wrong!”
No one had then dared to answer the claim of a whole nation to the choice of a free government with the impudent taunt, “Your King is at hand!”
Mr. Burke had in vain sung his requiem over the “age of chivalry:” Mr. Pitt mouthed out his speeches on the existence of social order to no purpose: Mr. Malthus had not cut up Liberty by the roots by passing “the grinding law of necessity” over it, and entailing vice and misery on all future generations as their happiest lot: Mr. Ricardo had not pared down the schemes of visionary projectors and idle talkers into the form of Rent: Mr. Southey had not surmounted his cap of Liberty with the laurel wreath; nor Mr. Wordsworth proclaimed Carnage as “God’s Daughter;” nor Mr. Coleridge, to patch up a rotten cause, written the Friend. Every thing had not then been done (or had, “like a devilish engine, back recoiled upon itself”) to stop the progress of truth, to stifle the voice of humanity, to break in pieces and defeat opinion by sophistry, calumny, intimidation, by tampering with the interests of the proud and selfish, the prejudices of the ignorant, the fears of the timid, the scruples of the good, and by resorting to every subterfuge which art could devise to perpetuate the abuses of power. Freedom then stood erect, crowned with orient
light, “with looks commercing with the skies:”—since then, she has fallen by the sword and by slander, whose edge is sharper than the Sword; by her own headlong zeal or the watchful malice of her foes, and through that one unrelenting purpose in the hearts of Sovereigns to baffle, degrade, and destroy the People, whom they had hitherto considered as their property, and whom they now saw (oh! unheard-of presumption) setting up a claim to be free. This claim has been once more set aside, annulled, overthrown, trampled upon with every mark of insult and ignominy, in word or deed; and the consequence has been that all those who had stood forward to advocate it have been hurled into the air with it, scattered, stunned, and have never yet recovered from their confusion and dismay. The shock was great, as it was unexpected; the surprise extreme: Liberty became a sort of bye-word; and such was the violence of party-spirit and the desire to retaliate former indignities, that all those who had ever been attached to the fallen cause seemed to have suffered contamination and to labour under a stigma. The Party (both of Whigs and Reformers) were left completely in the lurch; and (what may appear extraordinary at first sight) instead of wishing to strengthen their cause, took every method to
thin their ranks and make the terms of admission to them more difficult. In proportion as they were scouted by the rest of the world, they grew more captious, irritable, and jealous of each other’s pretensions. The general obloquy was so great that every one was willing to escape from it in the crowd, or to curry favour with the victors by denouncing the excesses or picking holes in the conduct of his neighbours. While the victims of popular prejudice and ministerial persecution were eagerly sought for, no one was ready to own that he was one of the set. Unpopularity “doth part the flux of company.” Each claimed an exception for himself or party, was glad to have any loop-hole to hide himself from this “open and apparent shame,” and to shift the blame from his own shoulders, and would by no means be mixed up with Jacobins and Levellers—the terms with which their triumphant opponents qualified indiscriminately all those who differed with them in any degree. Where the cause was so disreputable, the company should be select. As the flood-gates of Billingsgate abuse and courtly malice were let loose, each coterie drew itself up in a narrower circle: the louder and more sweeping was the storm of Tory spite without, the finer were the distinctions, the more fastidious the precautions used with-
in. The Whigs, completely cowed by the Tories, threw all the odium on the Reformers; who in return with equal magnanimity vented their stock of spleen and vituperative rage on the Whigs. The common cause was forgot in each man’s anxiety for his own safety and character. If any one, bolder than the rest, wanted to ward off the blows that fell in showers, or to retaliate on the assailants, he was held back or turned out as one who longed to bring an old house about their ears. One object was to give as little offence as possible to “the powers that be”—to lie by, to trim, to shuffle, to wait for events, to be severe on our own errors, just to the merits of a prosperous adversary, and not to throw away the scabbard or make reconciliation hopeless. Just as all was hushed up, and the “chop-fallen” Whigs were about to be sent for to Court, a great cloutering blow from an incorrigible Jacobin might spoil all, and put off the least chance of anything being done “for the good of the country,” till another reign or the next century. But the great thing was to be genteel, and keep out the rabble. They that touch pitch are defiled. “No connection with the mob,” was labelled on the back of every friend of the People. Every pitiful retainer of Opposition took care to disclaim all affinity with
such fellows as
Hunt, Carlisle, or Cobbett.* As it was the continual drift of the Ministerial writers to confound the different grades of their antagonists, so the chief dread of the Minority was to be confounded with the populace, the Canaille, &c. They would be thought neither with the Government or of the People. They are an awkward mark to hit at. It is true they have no superfluous popularity to throw away upon others, and they may be so far right in being shy in the choice of their associates. They are critical in examining volunteers into the service. It is necessary to ask leave of a number of circumstances equally frivolous and vexatious, before you can enlist in their skeleton-regiment. Thus you must have a good coat to your back; for they have no uniform to give you. You must bring a character in your pocket; for they have no respectability to lose. If you have any scars to shew, you had best hide them, or procure a certificate for your pacific behaviour from the opposite side, with whom they wish to stand well, and not to be always wounding the feelings of distinguished individuals. You must have

* Mr. Pitt and Mr. Windham were not so nice. They were intimate enough with such a fellow as Cobbett, while he chose to stand by them.

vouchers that you were neither born, bred, nor reside within the Bills of Mortality, or Mr. Theodore Hook will cry “Cockney”! You must have studied at one or other of the English Universities, or Mr. Croker will prove every third word to be a Bull. If you are a patriot and a martyr to your principles, this is a painful consideration, and must act as a draw-back to your pretensions, which would have a more glossy and creditable appearance, if they had never been tried. If you are a lord or a dangler after lords, it is well: the glittering star hides the plebeian stains, the obedient smile and habitual cringe of approbation are always welcome. A courtier abuses courts, with a better grace: for one who has held a place to rail at place-men and pensioners shews candour and a disregard to self. There is nothing low, vulgar, or disreputable in it!—I doubt whether this martinet discipline and spruceness of demeanour is favourable to the popular side. The Tories are not so squeamish in their choice of tools. If a writer comes up to a certain standard of dulness, impudence, and want of principle, nothing more is expected. There is fat
M——, lean J——, black C——, flimsy H——, lame G——, and one-eyed M——: do they not form an impenetrable phalanx round the throne, and worthy of it!
Who ever thought of inquiring into the talents, qualifications, birth, or breeding of a Government-scribbler? If the workman is fitted to the work, they care not one straw what you or I say about him. This shews, a confidence in themselves, and is the way to assure others. The Whigs, who do not feel their ground so well, make up for their want of strength by a proportionable want of spirit. Their cause is ticklish, and they support it by the least hazardous means. Any violent or desperate measures on their part might recoil upon themselves.
“When they censure the age,
They are cautious and sage,
Lest the courtiers offended should be.”
Whilst they are pelted with the most scurrilous epithets and unsparing abuse, they insist on language the most classical and polished in return; and if any unfortunate devil lets an expression or allusion escape that stings, or jars the tone of good company, he is given up without remorse to the tender mercies of his foes for this infraction of good manners and breach of treaty. The envy or cowardice of these half-faced friends of liberty regularly sacrifices its warmest defenders to the hatred of its enemies—mock-patriotism and effeminate self-love ratifying the lists of proscription made out by ser-
vility and intolerance. This is base, and contrary to all the rules of political warfare. What! if the Tories give a man a bad name, must the Whigs hang him? If a writer annoys the first, must he alarm the last? Or when they find he has irritated his and their opponents beyond all forgiveness and endurance, instead of concluding from the abuse heaped upon him that he has “done the State some service,” must they set him aside as an improper person merely for the odium which he has incurred by his efforts in the common cause, which, had they been of no effect, would have left him still fit for their purposes of negative: success and harmless opposition? Their ambition seems to be to exist by sufferance; to be safe in a sort of conventional insignificance; and in their dread of exciting the notice or hostility of the lords of the earth, they are like the man in the storm who silenced the appeal of his companion to the Gods—“Call not so loud, or they will hear us!” One would think that in all ordinary cases honesty to feel for a losing cause, capacity to understand it, and courage to defend it, would be sufficient introduction and recommendation to fight the battles of a party, and serve at least in the ranks. But this of Whig Opposition is, it seems, a peculiar case. There
is more in it than meets the eye. The corps may one day be summoned to pass muster before Majesty, and in that case it will be expected that they should be of crack materials, without a stain and without a flaw. Nothing can be too elegant, too immaculate and refined for their imaginary return to office. They are in a pitiable dilemma—having to reconcile the hopeless reversion of court-favour with the most distant and delicate attempts at popularity. They are strangely puzzled in the choice and management of their associates. Some of them must undergo a thorough ventilation and perfuming, like poor Morgan, before Captain Whiffle would suffer him to come into his presence. Neither can any thing base and plebeian be supposed to “come betwixt the wind and their nobility.” As their designs are doubtful, their friends must not be suspected: as their principles are popular, their pretensions must be proportionably aristocratic. The reputation of Whiggism, like that of women, is a delicate thing, and will bear neither to be blown upon or handled. It has an ill odour, which requires the aid of fashionable essences and court-powders to carry it off. It labours under the frown of the Sovereign: and swoons at the shout and pressure of the People. Even in its present
forlorn and abject state, it relapses into convulsions if any low fellow offers to lend it a helping hand: those who would have their overtures of service accepted must be bedizened and sparkling all over with titles, wealth, place, connections, fashion (in lieu of zeal and talent), as a set-off to the imputation of low designs and radical origin; for there is nothing that the patrons of the People dread so much as being identified with them, and of all things the patriotic party abhor (even in their dreams) a misalliance with the rabble!

Why must I mention the instances, in order to make the foregoing statement intelligible or credible? I would not, but that I and others have suffered by the weakness here pointed out; and I think the cause must ultimately suffer by it, unless some antidote be applied by reason or ridicule. Let one example serve for all. At the time that Lord Byron thought proper to join with Mr. Leigh Hunt and Mr. Shelley in the publication called the Liberal, Blackwood’s Magazine overflowed, as might be expected, with tenfold gall and bitterness; the John Bull was outrageous; and Mr. Jerdan black in the face at this unheard-of and disgraceful union. But who would have supposed that Mr. Thomas Moore and Mr. Hobhouse,
those staunch friends and partisans of the people, should also be thrown into almost hysterical agonies of well-bred horror at the coalition between their noble and ignoble acquaintance, between the Patrician and “the Newspaper-Man?” Mr. Moore darted backwards and forwards from Cold-Bath-Fields’ Prison to the
Examiner-Officer, from Mr. Longman’s to Mr. Murray’s shop, in a state of ridiculous trepidation, to see what was to be done to prevent this degradation of the aristocracy of letters, this indecent encroachment of plebeian pretensions, this undue extension of patronage and compromise of privilege. The Tories were shocked that Lord Byron should grace the popular side by his direct countenance and assistance—the Whigs were shocked that he should share his confidence and counsels with any one who did not unite the double recommendations of birth and genius—but themselves! Mr. Moore had lived so long among the Great that he fancied himself one of them, and regarded the indignity as done to himself. Mr. Hobhouse had lately been black-balled by the Clubs, and must feel particularly sore and tenacious on the score of public opinion. Mr. Shelley’s father, however, was an older Baronet than Mr. Hobhouse’s—Mr. Leigh Hunt was “to the full as genteel a
man” as Mr. Moore in birth, appearance, and education—the pursuits of all four were the same, the Muse, the public favour, and the public good! Mr. Moore was himself invited to assist in the undertaking, but he professed an utter aversion to, and warned Lord Byron against having any concern with, joint-publications, as of a very neutralizing and levelling description. He might speak from experience. He had tried his hand in that Ulysses’ bow of critics and politicians, the
Edinburgh Review, though his secret had never transpired. Mr. Hobhouse too had written Illustrations of Childe Harold (a sort of partnership concern)—yet to quash the publication of the Liberal, he seriously proposed that his Noble Friend should write once a week in his own name in the Examiner—the Liberal scheme, he was afraid, might succeed: the Newspaper one, he knew, could not. I have been whispered that the Member for Westminster (for whom I once gave an ineffectual vote) has also conceived some distaste for me—I do not know why, except that I was at one time named as the writer of the famous Trecenti Juravimus Letter to Mr. Canning, which appeared in the Examiner and was afterwards suppressed. He might feel the disgrace of such a supposition: I con-
fess I did not feel the honour. The cabal, the bustle, the significant hints, the confidential rumours were at the height when, after Mr. Shelley’s death, I was invited to take part in this obnoxious publication (obnoxious alike to friend and foe)—and when the
Essay on the Spirit of Monarchy appeared, (which must indeed have operated like a bomb-shell thrown into the coteries that Mr. Moore frequented, as well as those that he had left,) this gentleman wrote off to Lord Byron, to say that “there was a taint in the Liberal, and that he should lose no time in getting out of it.” And this from Mr. Moore to Lord Byron—the last of whom had just involved the publication, against which he was cautioned as having a taint in it, in a prosecution for libel by his Vision of Judgment, and the first of whom had scarcely written any thing all his life that had not a taint in it. It is true, the Holland-House party might be somewhat staggered by a jeu-d’esprit that set their Blackstone and De Lolme theories at defiance, and that they could as little write as answer. But it was not that. Mr. Moore also complained that “I had spoken against Lalla Rookh,” though he had just before sent me his “Fudge Family.” Still it was not that. But at the time he sent me that
very delightful and spirited publication, my little bark was seen “hulling on the flood” in a kind of dubious twilight, and it was not known whether I might not prove a vessel of gallant trim.
Mr. Blackwood had not then directed his Grub-street battery against me: but as soon as this was the case, Mr. Moore was willing to “whistle me down the wind, and let me prey at fortune;” not that I “proved haggard,” but the contrary. It is sheer cowardice and want of heart. The sole object of the set is not to stem the tide of prejudice and falsehood, but to get out of the way themselves. The instant another is assailed (however unjustly), instead of standing manfully by him, they cut the connection as fast as possible, and sanction by their silence and reserve the accusations they ought to repel. Sauve qui peut—every one has enough to do to look after his own reputation or safety without rescuing a friend or propping up a falling cause. It is only by keeping in the back-ground on such occasions (like Gil Blas when his friend Ambrose Lamela was led by in triumph to the auto-da-fe) that they can escape the like honours and a summary punishment. A shower of mud, a flight of nick-names (glancing a little out of their original direction) might obscure the last glimpse of Royal favour,
or stop the last gasp of popularity. Nor could they answer it to their Noble friends and more elegant pursuits to be seen in such company, or to have their names coupled with similar outrages. Their sleek, glossy, aspiring pretensions should not be exposed to vulgar contamination, or to be trodden under foot of a swinish multitude. Their birth-day suits (unused) should not be dragged through the kennel, nor their “tricksy” laurel-wreaths stuck in the pillory. This would make them equally unfit to be taken into the palaces of princes or the carriages of peers. If excluded from both, what would become of them? The only way, therefore, to avoid being implicated in the abuse poured upon others is to pretend that it is just—the way not to be made the object of the hue and cry raised against a friend is to aid it by underhand whispers. It is pleasant neither to participate in disgrace nor to have honours divided. The more Lord Byron confined his intimacy and friendship to a few persons of middling rank, but of extraordinary merit, the more it must redound to his and their credit—the lines of
“To view with scornful, yet with jealous eyes,
And hate for arts which caused himself to rise,”—
might still find a copy in the breast of more than
one scribbler of politics and fashion. Mr. Moore might not think without a pang of the author of
Rimini sitting at his ease with the author of Childe Harold; Mr. Hobhouse might be averse to see my dogged prose bound up in the same volume with his Lordship’s splendid verse, and assuredly it would not facilitate his admission to the Clubs, that his friend Lord Byron had taken the Editor of the Examiner by the hand, and that their common friend Mr. Moore had taken no active steps to prevent it!

Those who have the least character to spare, can the least afford to part with their good word to others: a losing cause is always most divided against itself. If the Whigs are fastidious, the Reformers are sour. If the first are frightened at the least breath of scandal, the last are disgusted with the smallest approach to popularity. The one desert you, if all men do not speak well of you: the other never forgive your having shaken off the incognito which they assume so successfully, or your having escaped from the Grub into the Butterfly state. The one require that you should enjoy the public favour in its newest gloss: with the other set, the smallest elegance of pretension or accomplishment is fatal. The Whigs never stomached the account of the “Characters of Shakespear’s Plays” in
Quarterly: the Reformers never forgave me for writing them at all, or for being suspected of an inclination to the belles-lettres. “The Gods,” they feared, “had made me poetical;” and poetry with them is “not a true thing.” To please the one, you must be a dandy: not to incur the censure of the other, you must turn cynic. The one are on the alert to know what the world think or say of you: the others make it a condition that you shall fly in the face of all the world, to think and say exactly as they do. The first thing the Westminster Review did was to attack the Edinburgh. The fault of the one is too great a deference for established and prevailing opinions: that of the other is a natural antipathy to every thing with which any one else sympathises. They do not trim, but they are rivetted to their own sullen and violent prejudices. They think to attract by repulsion, to force others to yield to their opinion by never giving up an inch of ground, and to cram the truth down the throats of their starveling readers, as you cram turkeys with gravel and saw-dust. They would gain proselytes by proscribing all those who do not take their Shiboleth, and advance a cause by shutting out all that can adorn or strengthen it. They would exercise a monstrous ostracism on
every ornament of style or blandishment of sentiment; and unless they can allure by barrenness and deformity, and convince you against the grain, think they have done nothing. They abjure
Sir Walter’s novels and Mr. Moore’s poetry as light and frivolous: who but they! Nothing satisfies or gives them pleasure that does not give others pain: they scorn to win you by flattery and fair words; they set up their grim, bare idols, and expect you to fall down and worship them; and truth is with them a Sphinx, that in embracing pierces you to the heart. All this they think is the effect of philosophy; but it is temper, and a bad, sour, cold, malignant temper into the bargain. If the Whigs are too effeminate and susceptible of extraneous impressions, these underlings are too hard and tenacious of their own*. They are certainly the least amiable people in the world. Nor are they likely to reform others by

* One of them tried the other day to persuade people to give up the Classics and learn Chinese, because he has a place in the India House. To those who are connected with the tea-trade, this may be of immediate practical interest, but not therefore to all the world. These prosaical visionaries are a species by themselves. It is a matter of fact, that the natives of the South Sea Islands speak a language of their own, and if we were to go there, it might be of more use to us than Greek and Latin—but not till then!

their self-willed dogmatism and ungracious manner. If they had this object at heart, they would correct both (for true humanity and wisdom are the same), but they would rather lose the cause of human kind than not shock and offend while they would be thought only anxious to convince, as
Mr. Place lost Mr. Hobhouse his first election by a string of radical resolutions, which so far gained their end.—One is hard-bested in times like these, and between such opposite factions, when almost every one seems to pull his own way, and to make his principles a stalking-horse to some private end; when you offend some without conciliating others; when you incur most blame, where you expected most favour; when a universal outcry is raised against you on one side, which is answered by as dead a silence on the other; when none but those who have the worst designs appear to know their own meaning or to be held together by any mutual tie, and when the only assurance you can obtain that your intentions have been upright, or in any degree carried into effect, is that you are the object of their unremitting obloquy and ill-will. If you look for any other testimony to it, you will look in vain. The Tories know their enemies: the People do not know their friends. The frown and the
lightning glance of power is upon you, and points out the path of honour and of duty: but you can hope to receive no note of encouragement or approbation from the painted booths of Whig Aristocracy, or the sordid styes of Reform!