LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism
[John Mitford]
Lady Blessington's Conversations of Lord Byron.
The Gentleman’s Magazine  Vol. NS 1  (April 1834)  347-58.
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Enough, we think, and more than enough, has been said and written on two subjects connected with Lord Byron, his Poetry and his Life. With regard to the latter, great and indisputable as were its errors, still they are not to pass without censure, who have made those errors public, and given a willing notoriety to his follies and crimes, in order to feed the cravings of their own vanity, or to satisfy feelings still more sordid and despicable. In the present day, if the public will but pay the biographer his price, he will show them not only into the parlour and the study, but into the inmost recesses—the domestic sanctuary—and amid the affrighted and blushing Penates of the household. That, at one time of his life, Lord Byron avowed his libertinage, and rebellion against the decorum of moral life; his contempt of the opinions of his fellows, his disdain of their judgments; and that be carried these his melancholy and mistaken sentiments into practise, all must reluctantly own; his friends and admirers deeply grieved at his aberrations, and Society frowned as it witnessed the degradation of rank and genius; but still we must say, that all did not follow the golden rule of morality that even the Christian might admire and practise, “Hate the sin, but pity the sinner.” Goodness, and religion, and morality forbid that we should wish to throw a veil of excuse over those indecencies which so long agitated the minds and alienated the affections of those who would have paid a glad homage to his exalted genius; but let the voice of justice add, that at least the Biographer and the Associate, who were privileged to enter into the secrets of the Symposium and the Harem, have to answer to the public for having admitted them voluntarily to a sight of the loathsome and revolting orgies; and has not the Public to blame itself, for having suffered a prurient and unhallowed curiosity to disrobe what was surely owing to its own dignity and sense of moral purity to conceal? We can only answer for ourselves, and honestly say, that we should not have been acquainted with the impurities and indiscretions of Lord Byron's Life, had it not been for the communicative pages of Mr. Moore. We heard indeed rumours and unhappy reports; and sad mementos reached us, that another “star of the morning” had fallen; that another child of genius had perished; that the highest intellect had been dragged down by the fleshly and the sensual; that the distempered mind and debased spirit had gone astray; and we believed that we soon read in his Poetry proofs that confirmed us in our opinion that, as the heart is debased, the mind, and soul, and spirit sink with it. But still the nauseating details were spared us. We cared not to know how “the mighty fell”: we wished not to analyse the motives, to watch the debasing progress, to dissect the decomposing mind, or to behold the fallen Samson in the lap of the harlot Dalilah. It was more than the old and unhappy history of Burns over again. Lord Byron left England; left it never to return. He did not afterwards violate the
348Lady Blessington's Conversations of Lord Byron.
sanctity of its domestic morals; he did not, after he left it, do as some he left behind did, “hold up a torch to show his shame the more.” Whatever his life was,—wretched, debased, and miserable as we grant it to be, and as he found it—for we said from the first, what we believe some passage, either of his own letters, or some inference of one of his biographers, advances, that he sought the shores of Greece partly to free himself from the ties now grown wearisome to him, that held him in this debasing thraldom on the enervating shores of Italy—yet the deeds of darkness, if such they were, were hidden from English eyes; they were shrouded in the forests of Ravenna, or they were concealed in the marshes of Venice. When he said that he wished to forget England and the English,—the English had nothing more to do with him; he was to them as a stranger and an alien. If, therefore, the example of this ill-fated and highly-gifted son of genius should act not as a warning beacon, but as a false and flattering light, that appears only to mislead and to betray; we must say that the friends and biographers of the Poet must be content deeply to share the blame, and to take their portion of the guilt. Perhaps they may say that, they had contending difficulties through which they were to find their way; that the irregularities of the Poet's life were so mixed up with the “fiery outbreaks” of his genius, that, had they concealed or passed over the one, they must of necessity have dimmed or extinguished the other. It may be so: his letters may be cited as proofs: but surely it was their duty to make the better choice; to reject the corn, if they could only take it together with the poisonous weed; and rather to leave curiosity ungratified, than to risk a contamination of the moral and virtuous mind. We say this in no excuse for Lord Byron, for we know that he meant to have indulged the public with his full, candid, and authentic
memoirs; but the memoirs fortunately did not appear, and are buried, we hope for ever, in the chaste bosom of Lady Burghersh: but the biography did, and we much fear that though the rank voluptuousness of its scenes, and the bold, licentious amours depicted in it, may have disgusted many persons of morals not over strict, and even alarmed the timid with the open account of their licentiousness, yet it is impossible to say how far the voice of the Syren has not reached the hearts of the young, the sensitive, and the impassioned; how many, without his genius, have been willing to conceal themselves under its shadow; and what impure and destructive associations may not descend from generation to generation, of the tender and susceptible, when they read the account of the shameless and unhallowed amours, which might make the waters of the Adriatic blush, and have evoked an indignant groan, from the pure and severe Spirit that lay entombed in the forest of Ravenna. We wish not to be mistaken: we neither desire to palliate errors, nor to point the finger of scorn at them. Ours is the voice of sorrow and lament—of deep sorrow and heart-springing lament—to feel that so much genius, such high intellect, such rich endowments, were bestowed in vain; for in vain are all the costliest gifts of Heaven bestowed, if they answer not the purpose which Heaven intended. More deeply we sorrow to think that the soul, ever more precious than the intellect, came not forth purged and pure out of the furnace of earthly passions. Yet God will judge; it is for man to feel and to fear. Something even Lord Byron may say: he may allege the fiery temper of his nature—his early wayward passions unchecked, his mind undisciplined, his imperfect education—his fond but failing parent—his lack of discipline, his uncontrolled youth—the ardent temperament of poetic genius—the fascinations of rank
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and fashion, and the allurements of a flattering and admiring world—the temptations of titled beauty, the voice of the syren;—then the disappointment of blasted hopes—the unequal struggle of duty and evil habits—the consequences of long and headstrong imprudence—the scorn and triumph of the malignant, the envious, and the weak—the alienation of the good—the sorrow and despondence of the affectionate and attached—the daring defiance to society—the defeat—the flight—the rancour and the revenge. Of the poetry of Lord Byron, it is quite enough to say, if the inspiration of his Muse be ever held in question, that it retains the hold it originally made on the public mind. Lord Byron lived among great Poets, and he remains as one of them. If it should be asserted that his popularity will be transient, and his name early forgotten, so it may be predicated equally of any other poet of the present day. But we think he rather rises than falls, at least we can perceive no visible symptoms of decay whatever; so imperfect are judgments, so mixed are human opinions, so fickle are tastes, so strong are rivalries, and jealousies, and conflicting interests, that time can alone impartially decide upon what is truly excellent. One would think that in an age of cultivated taste, having examples of excellence before them, it would be an easy task to sift the good from the evil, and at once set the seal of approbation on the productions of genius. But we must consider how few are the real judges, and that the judges of Parnassus, unlike their brethren of the King's Bench, are not sworn to impartiality in their great office. It has been said, we do not know how truly, that the
Edinburgh Review kept Wordsworth poor for years. It has been said, we cannot avouch for the truth of the tale, that the Reviewer of that eminent Poet, while he ridiculed and degraded him in writing, praised, read, and enjoyed his poetry in private. We know how all the Lake School, indiscriminately, was laughed at and condemned; but we know too, how, like the Cygnet of its own waters, it rose triumphant overall attacks, and saw its enemies joining, though late, in its triumph. We know learned Oxford Professors, and those now Bishops, who absolutely despised and sneered at Wordsworth's poetry. The Bishop of Down and Connor* wrote some foolish verses against it. Coleridge's Christabel was as a “fool's bauble” for any child to play with. What a difference in those rash judgments have a few years made! Why?—Because the impetus and effect of party feeling has ceased, and left the unbiased judgment to declare its conviction. Scott was pronounced the greatest living poet of Britain:—Where is he now? and what comparison bear his spirited and picturesque melodrames, to the depth, the power, and the poetic wisdom of some of his cotemporaries? Darwin was once a poet exceedingly popular and admired; and now seldom heard of, and never read. The causes of his popularity, and its decline as rapid as its growth, it would not be difficult to assign, but it is beyond our present view. All, therefore, we mean to allege is, that we believe Lord Byron's poetry to be as much in the favour of men as it ever was, barring that froth and foamy curl which rise with the first breath of public applause, and are soon blown away; and we can say no more of any other contemporary poet. What he excels in is, a bold delineation of character, a powerful description of passion—a vivid, graphic expression—strong lights and shadows—rich veins of nature, and often the noble and inspired inventions (if such they may be

* Let the matter be fairly judged: read Wordsworth's Ecclesiastical Sonnets, and those of the Bishop, and judge! A fairer trial between the accuser and the accused could not be: the Bishop descended from his tribunal as a critic, to enter the arena as a poet.
350Lady Blessington's Conversations of Lord Byron.
called) of genius. His main fault is his perpetual strain and effort for effect; his unwillingness to fall back into repose, and await fresh opportunities of exertion. All is too laboured, and wrought up, and impassioned. There is no poetical perspective in his mind. Every thing is either exaggerated, or is brought to the very brink of the extreme. Nature is abandoned for ideal models. His poems, like the pictures of the great Mantuan artist, are a conflict of gigantic passions. He has much of the fertility of
Ovid's genius, and much of its lavish incorrectness. His poems are fine in parts, in passages, but always defective in the whole; because all is sacrificed to particular effect. There is also an occasional carelessness, a ruggedness, and want of harmony in his versification, which is very displeasing: this arises from the same cause. If a word was emphatic, or an expression was bold and decisive, the flow and measure of the verse, and perhaps even the construction of the sentence, was sacrificed to preserve it. Such appear to us to have been his faults:—but of his poetic genius, though often distorted and misapplied, no candid or enlightened lover of poetry can for a moment doubt.

But we have too long strayed away from the immediate subject of our consideration, which was to give our readers some account of the conversational talents and opinions of Lord Byron, as exhibited by Lady Blessington.

Of course, like all other ladies, she commences with a description of the person of her hero. His teeth are white, his hair brown, and possessing the true chivalric curl, and his mouth has a most engaging smile; while his foot is really very well, if he would but think so: she thinks him very gentlemanly, notwithstanding that his clothes are so badly made. But what most surprises her Ladyship is, not to find him, the superb, sarcastic, lofty, melancholy, Werter-faced hero, that she had anticipated, and that he had so often described. She had filled her brain with anticipations of meeting Lara, and Manfred, and Childe Harold, and, for what we know, “Cain” himself, in propria persona, and great was her disappointment in seeing only Lord Byron. To it the friends sat, and the first morning they pinioned and dissected a considerable number of their friends and acquaintance. After a preliminary attack on a Mr. ——, the first grand immolation is that of Lady H—ll—d. Good souls! they felt for his Lordship's domestic thraldom, with sensations somewhat akin to contempt; and then Miladi, how admirably she has managed in an age of cant, and “when virtue is the order of the day, without any resemblance of it,” to get herself into society. And then she passes for being very clever, but this the noble Lord never could discover; and at last, she is dismissed in a most uncourteous manner; while Lady Blessington, in the innocence of her heart, expresses her surprise at the Poet's talking of his ci-devant friends as he did; but he begs her not to think the worse of him: and so the interview, which consisted of two hours, ended; and about a dozen slaughtered reputations were left on the field of battle.

Lady B. found Lord Byron's flippancy wore off in a tête-à-tête, and he became sententious, affected a Johnsonian tone, thought aloud, and, like ancient Pistol, spoke moralities and maxims. Of Mad. de Staël he thus gave his opinion.

Mad. de Staël was the cleverest, though not the most agreeable woman he had ever known. ‘She declaimed to you, instead of conversing with you,’ said he, ‘never pausing except to take breath; and, if during that interval, a rejoinder was put in, it was evident that she did not attend to it, as she resumed the thread of her discourse as if she thought it had not been interrupted.’ This observation, her Ladyship re-
Lady Blessington's Conversations of Lord Byron.351
marks, from Lord Byron was amusing enough, as we had all made the same observation on him. ‘M. de Staël,’ he continued, ‘was very eloquent when her imagination warmed, and a very little excited it. Her powers of imagination were much stronger than her reasoning ones, perhaps owing to their being more frequently exercised. Her language was recondite but redundant; and, though always flowery and often brilliant, there was an obscurity that left the impression that she did not perfectly understand what she endeavoured to render intelligible to others. She was always losing herself in philosophical disquisitions; and when once she got entangled in the mazes of the labyrinth of metaphysics, she had no clue by which she could guide her path; the imagination that led her into difficulties, could not get her out of them. The want of a mathematical education, which might have served as a ballast to steady and help her into the port of reason, was always visible; and, though she had great tact in concealing her defeat, and covering a retreat, a tolerable logician must always have discovered the scrapes she got into. Poor dear Mad. de Staël! I shall never forget seeing her one day at table, with a large party, when the busk of her corset forced its way through the top of the corset, and would not descend, though pushed by all the force of both hands of the wearer, who became crimson from the operation. After fruitless efforts, she turned in despair to the valet de chambre behind her chair, and requested him to draw it out, which could only be done by his passing his hand from behind over her shoulder, and across her chest, when with a desperate effort he unsheathed the busk. Had you seen the faces of some of the English ladies of the party, you would have been, like me, almost convulsed; while Madame remained perfectly unconscious that she had committed any solecism on la decence Anglaise. Poor Mad. de Staël verified the truth of these lines:
Qui de son sexe n'a pas l'esprit,
De son sexe a tout le malheur.
She thought like a man, but alas! she felt like a woman; as witness the episode in her life with
Monsieur Rocca, which she dared not avow (I mean her marriage with him), because she was more jealous of her reputation as a writer than a woman, and then the foiblesse de cœur, this alliance proved she had not courage to affiche,” &c.

The following account of his moral lecture to this accomplished and virtuous lady is amusing:

“He once told Mad. de Staël that her novels of Delphine and Corinne were very dangerous productions to be put into the heads of young women. I asked him how she received this piece of candour. ‘Oh! just as all such candid avowals are received; she never forgave me for it. She endeavoured to prove to me ‘au contraire,’ the tendencies of both her novels were supereminently moral. I begged that we might not enter on Delphine, as that was ‘hors de question’ (she was furious at this); but that all the moral world thought that her representing all the virtuous characters in Corinne as being dull, commonplace, and tedious, was a most insidious blow aimed at virtue, and calculated to throw it into the shade. She was so excited and impatient to attempt a refutation, that it was only by my volubility that I could keep her silent. She interrupted me every moment by gesticulating, exclaiming ‘Quel idée! Mon Dieu! Ecoutez done! Vous m'impatientez’; but I continued, saying how dangerous it was to inculcate the belief that talent, genius, acquirements, and accomplishments, such as Corinne was represented to possess, could nut preserve a woman from becoming a victim to an unrequited passion; and that reason, absence, and female friends were unavailing. I told her that Corinne would be considered, if not cited, as an excuse for violent passions by all young ladies with imaginations exalté, and that she had much to answer for. Had you seen her! I now wonder how I had courage to go on: but I was in one of my humours, and had heard of her commenting on me one day, so I determined to pay her off. She told me that I, above all people, was the last person that ought to talk of morals, as nobody had done more to deteriorate them. I looked innocent; and added I was willing to plead guilty of having sometimes represented vice under alluring forms, but so it was generally in the world; therefore it was necessary to paint it so: but that I never represented virtue under the sombre and disgusting stupor of dullness, severity, and ennui; and that I always took care to represent the votaries of vice themselves as unhappy, and entailing unhappiness on those that loved them: so that my moral was unexceptionable. She was perfectly outrageous, and the more so, as I appeared calm and in earnest, though I assure you it required an effort, as I was ready to laugh outright at the idea that I, who at that period was considered as the most mauvais sujet of the day, should give Mad. de Staël a lecture on morals: and I know that this added to her rage. I also know that she never dared
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to avow that I had taken such a liberty. She was, notwithstanding her little defects, a fine creature, with great talents and many noble qualities, and had a simplicity quite extraordinary, which led her to believe every thing people told her, and consequently to be continually hoaxed, of which I saw such proofs in London.”

As their acquaintance ripens, Lord Byron's character becomes more developed to her Ladyship's mental optics. She finds him very superstitious, and believing in the appearance of poor Shelley's ghost. He takes up also “the gentlemanly vice of avarice,” and calls money wisdom, power, and knowledge; and he despises works of art, and all connoisseurship, and taste, and vertù; music he did not understand, but perfumes made him sentimental. He talks about his wife, and expects sympathy; but Lady Blessington discovers at last, that he never could have been a brilliant person in society, that he has none of the small change that passes current, and that all his gold is in ingots.

We next meet with an account of Lady —— (who, we suppose, is Lady Jersey) and her beautiful cream-coloured complexion and raven hair.

“She once complained to me of the fatigue of literary occupations, and I, in terror, expected her ladyship to propose reading me an epic poem, or tragedy, or at least a novel of her composition, when lo! she displayed to me a very richly bound album, half filled with printed extracts out of the newspapers and magazines; and I, happy at being let off so easily, sincerely agreed with her that literature was very tiresome. I understand that she has now advanced with the march of intellect, and got an album filled with MS. poetry, to which all of us of the craft have contributed. I was the first; Moore wrote something, which was like all that he writes, very sparkling and terse; but he got dissatisfied with the faint praise it met with from Milord before Miladi saw the verses, and destroyed the effusion.”

With regard to English society, after a few remarks on “les dames à-la-mode,” the “rô1e of fashion par préférence,” and “les usages du monde,” and “les bienseances,” and a great deal more of “brusquerie and lègeretè,” and “espeiglerie et politesse,” Milord continues:

M. de Staël was forcibly struck by the factitious tone of the best society in London, and wished very much to have an opportunity of judging of that of the second class. In England the raw material is generally good, it is the over-dressing that injures it; and as the class she wished to study are well educated, and have all the refinement of civilization, without its corruption, she would have carried away a favourable impression.

Lord Grey and his family were the personification of his beau ideal of perfection, as I must say they are of mine; and might serve as the finest specimens of the pure English patrician breed, of which so few remain. His uncompromising and uncompromised dignity, founded on self-respect, and accompanied by that certain proof of superiority, simplicity of manner, and freedom from affectation; with her mild and matron graces, her whole life offering a model to wives and mothers:—really they are people to be proud of, and a few such would reconcile one to one's species.

This is capital: It is the portrait of Anaxagoras traced by Pericles.

Of the equestrian costume of Lord Byron, the following account is given.

“His horse was literally covered with various trappings, in the way of cavasons, martingales, and Heaven knows how many other unknown inventions! The saddle was à la hussard, with holsters, in which he always carried pistols. His dress consisted of a nankeen jacket and trowsers, which appeared to have shrunk from washing; the jacket embroidered of the same colour, and with three rows of buttons; the waist very short, the back very narrow, and the sleeves set in as they used to be ten or fifteen years before; a black stock, very narrow, a dark blue velvet cap, with a shade, and a very rich gold band, and a large gold tassell at the crown; nankeen gaiters, and a pair of blue spectacles, completed his costume, which was any thing but becoming. He did not ride well, which surprised us, as from the frequent allusions to horsemanship in his works, we expected to find him almost a Nimrod. When his horse made a false step he seemed discomposed, and when we came to any bad part of the road, he immediately checked his course, and walked his horse very slowly, though
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there was nothing even to make a lady nervous; and during our ride the conversation turned on our mutual friends and acquaintances in England. Talking of two of them [quære
T. Moore, and Hobhouse?] for one of whom he professed a great regard, he declared, laughingly, that they had saved him from suicide. Seeing me look grave, he added, ‘It is a fact, I assure you. I should certainly have destroyed myself, but I guessed that —— and —— would write my life, and with this fear before my eyes, I have lived on. I know so well the sort of things they would write of me—the excuses, lame as myself, they would offer for my delinquencies, while they were unnecessarily exposing them; and all this done with the avowed intention of justifying what, God help me! cannot be justified, my unpoetical reputation, with which the world can have nothing to do. One of my friends would dip his pen in clarified honey and the other in vinegar, to describe my manifold transgressions; and, as I do not wish my poor fame to be either preserved or pickled, I have lived on, and written my memoirs, where facts will speak for themselves, without the editorial candour of excuses,—such as—We cannot excuse this unhappy error, or defend that impropriety. I have written my memoirs,’ he said, ‘to save the necessity of their being written by my friends, and only have to hope that they will not add notes.’ I [says Lady B. who seems to have pretty well understood her new acquaintance] remarked, with a smile, that at all events he anticipated his friends, by saying beforehand as many ill-natured things of them as they could possibly write of him. He laughed, and said, ‘Depend on it we are equal! Poets have no friends. On the old principle that union gives force, we sometimes agree to have a violent friendship for each other. We dedicate, we bepraise, we write pretty letters; but we do not deceive each other. In short, we resemble you pretty ladies, when some half-dozen of the fairest of you profess to love each other mightily, correspond so sweetly, call each other by such pretty epithets, and laugh in your hearts at those who are taken in by such appearances.’”

Lord Byron now was petted, and grew familiar, and ran about the house, and talked of Sir Walter Scott, and of the Countess Guiccioli, and lauded the delicacy and disinterestedness of that Lady and her relatives; and said she had sacrificed every thing to him, and that he felt the highest esteem for her; and that she did not like his Don Juan, and was very moral; and so impressed was Lady B. with the account of the lady, and the noble sentiments of her cavalier, that she was persuaded this was his last and permanent attachment: at the same time, Lady B. owns that it was rather difficult to tell when the noble Lord was mystifying his audience. However, they all grew excessively romantic and sentimental after dinner, and went out into the balcony; where Lord Byron made the following moonlight apostrophe, which we think we must have read often before in some of the productions that came from the Minerva Press, and noted for its originality and feeling.

“‘Look,’ he cried, ‘at that forest of masts now before us! From what remote parts of the world do they come? Over how many waves have they not passed, and how many tempests have they not borne, and what dangers have they not been exposed to? How many hearts and tender thoughts follow them? Mothers, wives, sisters, and sweethearts, who perhaps at this hour are offering up prayers for their safety.”

Good, my Lord! this is very moving, especially as it was uttered with a melancholy moonlight smile.

It must be apparent, we think, that Lord Byron could talk with delight only of himself; that his conversation was not such as would be long very interesting; that his poetry and his person, and his amours, and his indiscretions, and his loves, and his hatreds, and his Manfreds and Juans, occupied all his mind. We do not know how the fair sex will approve what he says of poets’ marriages, “That it is as though the creatures of another sphere, not subject to the lot of mortality, formed a factitious alliance with the creations of the earth; and being exempt from its sufferings,
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turned their thoughts to brighter regions, leaving the partners of their earthly existence to suffer alone.” And so we will drop any further personal history, and give his lordship's opinions and characters of his literary friends.

“He spoke in high terms of commendation of Hope's Anastasius; said that he wept bitterly over many pages of it, and for two reasons,—first that he had not written it, and that Hope had; for that it was necessary to like a man extremely to pardon his writing such a book. A book, as he said, excelling all recent productions, as much in wit and talent as in true pathos. He added, that he would have given his two most approved poems to have been the author of Anastatius. From Anastatius he wandered to the works of Mr. Galt, praised the ‘Annals of the Parish’ very highly, as also ‘The Entail,’ which we had lent him, and some scenes of which he said had affected him very much. ‘The characters in Mr. Galt’s novels have an identity,’ added Byron, ‘that reminds me of Wilkie’s pictures.’ As a woman I felt proud of the homage he paid to the genius of Mrs. Hemans; and as a passionate admirer of her poetry, I felt flattered at finding that Lord Byron fully sympathized with my admiration. He has, or at least expresses, a strong dislike to the Lake School of Poets, never mentioning them except in ridicule, and he and I nearly quarrelled to-day because I defended poor Keats.”

We have little to remark on the above passage. In the high praise of Anastasius we most cheerfully join, and we think there is only one fault belonging to the work, that is, that the mind is fatigued by the incessant and varied demands on it. We feel as when pleasure approaches the verge of pain. There is no tranquillity, no cessation from an endless and ever-moving circle of wit and humour, and sagacity and sarcasm, and adventure; of fraud, and oppression and insult, and perfidy, luxury and misery, all embodied to the life, and enriched and diversified with all the peculiarities of individual character. We remember, the effect to us was like being whirled about the globe in a post-chaise and four, as fast as the horses could go, never stopping to change, or getting out to stretch one's legs. We would have given the world for an hour's repose. Of Mrs. Hemans we are sorry to say we know but little, but gallantry commands us to subscribe to the dictum of the noble Bard. That poor Keats was a man of truly poetic mind, every intelligent and impartial person must surely own. Let St. Agnes Eve and Hyperion speak for him. As for Lord Byron's sweeping censure of the Lake School of Poetry, it reflects deeply either on his temper or his taste. We leave his admirers to choose which is to blame. The Lake School (as it is absurdly called) consists of Coleridge, whom Lord Byron has lauded to the skies; of Wordsworth, whom he admired; and Southey, whom he personally detested, and whom he persecuted with the dullest and most detestable ribaldry. To the Lake School, so vilified, we owe Christabel and Genevieve, and the Auncient Mariner; from the same school we have Thalaba, “that wild and wonderous song,” and Madoc, and the Curse of Kehama; and to the Lake School we owe the Excursion, the verse of which, the Laureate says, exceeds even the verse of Milton; and the White Doe, the beauties of which Mackintosh stepped aside in his History of England to praise; and Sonnets that have no peer or rival in the English language, except when Milton himself blew the trump. Such is the Lake School, which the author of Don Juan despised; but which, had he approached it with a spirit of candour and truth, would have afforded him much instruction that he stood sorely in need of.

Of Shelley, in the following account of his noble friend and sacrificator, there is much that is true.

“‘You should have known Shelley,’ said Byron, ‘to feel how much I must regret him. He was the most gentle, most amiable, and best informed person I ever
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met; full of delicacy, disinterested beyond all other men, and possessing a degree of genius, joined to a simplicity as rare as it is admirable. He had formed to himself a beau ideal of all that is fine, high-minded, and noble, and he acted up to this ideal, even to the letter. He had a most brilliant imagination, but a total want of worldly wisdom. I have seen nothing like him, and never shall again, I am certain I never can forget the night when his poor
wife rushed into my room at Pisa, with a face pale as marble, and terror impressed on her brow, demanding, with all the tragic impetuosity of grief and alarm, where was her husband? Vain were all our efforts to calm her; a desperate sort of courage seemed to give her energy to confront the horrible truth* that awaited her; it was the courage of despair. I have seen nothing in tragedy on the stage so powerful, so affecting, as her appearance, and it often presents itself to my memory. I knew nothing of the catastrophe, but the vividness of her terror communicated itself to me, and I feared the worst, which fears were, alas! too vividly realised.’”

Of Byron's attachment to Mr. Leigh Hunt, Lady Blessington does not seem to have formed any very exalted notion. “I can perceive,” she says, “that he wishes Mr. Hunt and his family away;” in fact, he owned to her, that “they were more formed to be friends at a distance than near.” Mr. Hunt has since this time duly revenged the slight, and given the cheeks of the dead lion the impression of his hoof. “He talked in terms of high commendation of the talents and acquirements of Mr. Hobhouse; but a latent sentiment of pique was visible in his manner, from the idea he appeared to entertain that Mr. Hobhouse had undervalued him. All that he has told me of the frankness and unbending honesty of Mr. Hobhouse's character, has given me a most favourable impression of that gentleman.”

As confidence increased, and as Lady Blessington's rides with the Poet became more frequent, (where was Lord Blessington all this time?) he at length gave her some verses he had written on hearing of his lady's illness, in which he had the audacity (for after Dr. Lushington's letter it could be nothing else) to call her:
The moral Clytemnestra of thy Lord:
Who hewed down with an unsuspected sword
Fame, peace, and hope, and all the better life.
Which, but for this cold treason of thy heart,
Might still have risen from out the grave of strife,
And found a nobler duty than to part.
But of thy virtues didst thou make a vice,
Trafficking with them in a purpose cold
For present anger and for future gold,
And buying others’ grief at any price.
And thus once entered into crooked ways, &c.

We really think the unblushing impudent effrontery of these verses to be without parallel. No wonder Lady Blessington reasoned with him: she admitted that sorrow drove him into degrading liaisons (a new effect, by the bye, of sorrow). She referred not to his attachment to the Countess Guiccioli, because at least it was of a pure nature; (excellent!) but she said (and truly) that Lady Byron was more to be pitied than he!

“He talked to-day of Sir Francis Burdett, of whose public and private character he entertains the most exalted opinion. He said, it was gratifying to behold in him

* The writer of the present article well remembers the fatal storm that swallowed op that fatal and perfidious bark to which poor Shelley trusted. He was at the time travelling between Ferrara and Padua; and to this moment the gloom and blackness of the heavens to the west, the awful peals of thunder, and the coruscations of lightning which broke from the surrounding darkness, are fresh in his memory. He took refuge in the house of Petrarch at Arcqua; and in that storm, on that very afternoon, all that was mortal of Shelley ceased to be, “the Sea nymphs having rung his knell.” When he was found, he had a volume of poor Keats's poetry in his pocket.
356Lady Blessington's Conversations of Lord Byron.
the rare union of a heart and head that left nothing to be desired, and dwelt with evident pride and pleasure, on the mental courage displayed by Sir Francis, in befriending and supporting him when so many of his professed friends stood aloof.”

In this eulogy we most cordially join. If intelligence, great natural abilities, and various accomplishments and knowledge, united to a charming simplicity of manners, and singleness and benevolence of heart, with an ardent love for his country, can endear a man to his fellow-citizens, and inspire them with respect, certainly Sir Francis Burdett is authorised to claim it. “It is a pity, though,” as Mr. Stephens says, “that he is so indolent that he won't give a dinner,” and so indiscreet, as we say, as to be immured in the Tower.”

Of Alfieri the Poet he frequently talked, and always with enthusiastic admiration.

“He remarked on the similarity of their tastes and pursuits; their domesticating themselves with women of rank, their fondness for animals, and above all, for horses. Their liking to be surrounded by birds and pets of various descriptions, their passionate love of liberty, habitual gloom, &c.; in short, he produces so many points of resemblance, that it leads one to suspect that he is a copy of an original he has long studied. He said, that when Alfieri was travelling in Italy, a very romantic, and as he called her, téte montée Italian principessa, or duchessa, who had long been an enthusiastic admirer of his works, having heard that he was to pass within fifty miles of her residence, set off to encounter him, and having arrived at the inn where he sojourned, was shown into a room where she was told Alfieri was writing—she enters agitated and fatigued, sees a very good-looking man seated at a table, whom she concludes must be Alfieri, throws herself into his arms, and in broken words declares her admiration, and the distance she has come to declare it. In the midst of the lady's impassioned speeches, Alfieri enters the room, casts a glance of surprise and hauteur at the pair, and lets fall some expression that discloses to the humbled principessa the shocking mistake she has made. The poor secretary (for such he was) is standing by the lady, while he declares his innocence, finding himself, he says, in the embrace of a lady, who never allowed him even a moment to interrupt her, by the simple question of what she meant. Alfieri retired in offended dignity, shocked that any one could be mistaken for him, while the principessa had to retrace her steps, her enthusiasm somewhat cooled by the mistake and its consequences.”

We must now draw to a conclusion of our present remarks, with laying before our readers a singularly interesting letter, addressed to Byron, which with much apparent emotion he showed to Lady Blessington, though of the soundness and sincerity of his religious faith we have not much hope, inasmuch as we find him informing his fair listener that a fine day, or a moonlight night, or any other fine object in the phenomena of Nature, excites strong feelings of religion. Now, as in Italy the days are uniformly serene, the moonlight ever beautiful and brilliant, and the phenomena of nature very remarkable, we must conclude that his Lordship received the full benefits of these “Sermons in trees, tongues in the running brooks,” and profited accordingly. But to return to the letter.

“My Lord,
Frome, Somerset, Nov. 21, 1821.

“More than two years since a lovely and beloved wife was taken from me, by lingering disease, after a very short union. She possessed unvarying gentleness and fortitude, and a piety so retiring as rarely to disclose itself in words, but so influential as to produce uniform benevolence of conduct. In the last hour of life, after a farewell look on a lately born and only infant, for whom she had evinced inexpressible affection, her last whispers were, ‘God's happiness, God's happiness.’ Since the second anniversary of her decease, I have read some papers, which no one had seen during her life, and which contain her most secret thoughts. I am induced to communicate to your Lordship a passage from these papers, which there is no doubt refers to yourself, as I have more than once heard the writer mention your agility on the rocks at Hastings.

Lady Blessington's Conversations of Lord Byron. 357

“Oh! my God, I take encouragement from the assurances of Thy Word, to pray to Thee in behalf of one for whom I have lately been much interested. May the person to whom I allude, (and who is now, I fear, as much distinguished for his neglect of Thee as for the transcendent talents Thou hast bestowed on him,) be awakened to a sense of his own danger, and led to seek that peace of mind in a proper sense of religion, which he has found this world's enjoyment unable to procure. Do Thou grant that his future example may be productive of far more extensive benefit than his past conduct and writings have been of evil; and may the Sun of Righteousness, which we trust will at some future period rise on him, be light in proportion to the darkness of those clouds which guilt has raised around him; and the balm which it bestows, healing and soothing in proportion to the keenness of that agony which the punishment of his vices has inflicted on him. May we hope that the sincerity of my own efforts for the attainment of holiness, and the approval of my own love to the great Author of Religion, will render this prayer, and any other for the welfare of mankind, more efficacious. Cheer me in the path of duty, but let me not forget, that while we are permitted to animate ourselves to exertion by every innocent motive, these are but the lesser streams, which may serve to increase the current; but which, deprived of the grand fountain of good, (a deep conviction of inborn sin and firm belief in the efficacy of Christ's death for the salvation of those who trust in him, and really wish to serve him,) would soon dry up, and leave us barren of every virtue as before.”

Hastings, July 1814.

“There is nothing, my Lord, in this extract, which in a literary sense can at all interest you; but it may perhaps appear to you worthy of reflection, how deep and expansive a concern for the happiness of others, the Christian faith can awaken in the midst of youth and prosperity. Here is nothing poetical and splendid, as in the expostulatory language of Mr. De la Montine; but here is the sublime, my Lord; for this intercession was offered on your account to the Supreme Source of Happiness. It sprang from a faith more confirmed than that of the French poet, and from a charity which in combination with faith showed its power unimpaired amidst the langour and pains of an approaching dissolution. I will hope that a prayer, which I am sure was deeply sincere, may not always be unavailing.

“It would add nothing, my Lord, to the fame with which your genius has surrounded you, for an unknown and obscure individual to express his admiration of it. I had rather be numbered with those, who wish and pray that wisdom from above, and peace and joy, may calm such a mind.

John Shepperd.

We were in hopes, at first, from Lady Blessington's description of the emotion with which the unhappy Poet showed her this letter, that he had taken it into serious keeping; and in truth he did utter many a goodly sentiment, and wished all religious people were like Mrs. Shepperd, and that there would be fewer sceptics: but then he soon wanders away, and wishes for her portrait, and wonders whether she was very beautiful, as her husband calls her lovely, and says that beauty and goodness were always associated in his mind, (what is to become of Mrs. H. More and Mrs. Fry?) and an expression that looks out of the soul through the eyes; and then both he and my Lady forget poor good Mrs. Shepperd, and wander off in their paradisaical dialogue about women's faces being like April days, susceptible to change and variety, (what face is not?) and clouds, and showers, and sunshine. And then they discuss the beautiful Lady C—— (Charlemont?) and the handsome Lady A. F——, and then Lord Byron said he once had thoughts of her as a wife, and that Moore recommended her, and that he could not be worse off than he was; and so on; and the letter from Frome was folded up and deposited safely in the drawer from which it was taken, and his Lordship and my Lady take their morning drive.——All this while, gentle and innocent reader, the Countess Guiccioli is occupying one wing of Lord Byron's house, (the Casa Saluzzo,) and Mr. and Mrs. Hunt, and all the dear little Hunts, the other; and Lord Blessington is probably kneeling in the Church of the Annunziata, or paying his adorations at the shrine of St. Francisco di Paolo, or riding—out of hearing-distance—contentedly, in the rear of the two noble interlocutors.

(To be continued.)