LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism
[William Maginn?]
Lord Byron’s Letters.
The John Bull Magazine  Vol. 1  (August 1824)  41-42.
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH




Vol. I. AUGUST, 1824. No. 2.


Messrs. Charles Knight, of Pall Mall, East, and Henry Colburn, of Conduit-street, have announced for publication a portion of Lord Byron’s Letters, being his correspondence with Mr. R. C. Dallas. An injunction, however, as such of our readers as take any interest in such matters, of course know, has been obtained against their publication from the Vice-Chancellor; some hopes are entertained that Lord Eldon will reverse the proceedings of his Sub,
But poor Mr. Knight will look terribly white,
If the Chancery Court won’t dissolve the injunction,
As one of Knight’s poets—young
Mackworth Praed—sung on a different occasion in his own magazine.

The volume contained an immensity of the chaff of Dallas himself—for the poor animal, for whose opinions, or res gestæ, no living being cares the scrapings of a chamber-pan, deemed his letters of so much importance as to have thrown them in to swell the correspondence. It was, nevertheless, an unwise plan, for the reviews and the magazines would have infallibly extracted all Lord Byron’s letters, and thereby left the book a complete caput mortuum, containing nothing but the vapid residuum of the epistles of Dallas. His lordship, it is well known, had not the highest possible opinion of his correspondent’s powers, as is evident from the following epigram, which, though current enough in conversation, has never, we believe, got into print.

To a friend who observed that Mr. Dallas looked particularly sapient on a certain occasion—
Yes! wisdom shines in all his mien—
Which would so captivate, I ween,
Wisdom’s own goddess Pallas;
That she’d discard her favorite owl,
And take for pet its brother fowl,
Sagacious R. C. Dallas.

This same propensity to make free with his friends is said to be the occasion of the suppression of his letters; for, if we may believe the newspapers, Hobhouse’s interference arose from his alarm lest they should contain, as they happened to do, any remarks in no wise complimentary to himself. If this be the case, it does not speak much in praise of Hobhouse’s anxiety for the Liberty of the Press. Henceforward, if we hear him speaking in defence of that great principle, we must infallibly be tempted to exclaim, in the language of John Wilson Croker’s clever lines—
We scorn the poor attempt to fob us,
And laugh to find the hoaxer Hobhouse.

Hobbouse knows, to be sure, that he was in prose and verse, and, in common conversation, one of Lord Byron’s most constant butts.*

* Would any of our correspondents be able to favor us with Lord Byron’s Song on Hobhouse, written about 1819? We heard it sung somewhere about that time in Paris, by a gentleman who had a copy, and did every justice to his subject. We cannot trust a memory which is
42 Lord Byron’s Letters.

We advert to the subject merely because several letters of his lordship have been placed in our hands, with unlimited power of publication—but we refrain from so doing, through delicate motives, until it be legally ascertained, whether this new doctrine, so unexpectedly advanced by Mr. Hobhouse’s lawyers, be correct or not. In the mean time we may as well mention, for the benefit of those concerned, that some of them go back so far as 1816, when his lordship was in his seventeenth year, and continue till about 1815, the period of his marriage. There are some very strange domestic scenes narrated, and some still stranger adverted to, the nature of which we do not feel ourselves at liberty, for the present, to disclose. The critical reader may be pleased to know, that from them much light may be thrown upon some of his lordship’s poems—Manfred, for instance; one of the ablest of the critics of that powerful composition, complains that* “a sense of imperfection, incompleteness, and confusion, accompanies the mind throughout the perusal of the poem, owing either to some failure on the part of the poet, or to the inherent mystery of the subject;” and, of course, the admirers of Lord Byron’s genius would be quite pleased at having every effort made to remedy such defects.

Next month, it is probable—we shall not say certain—that we may speak more largely on this interesting subject.

unusually treacherous to give a correct copy of the words—but we have the melody still floating in our ears. It ran—something thus:
Of all the speakers on the floor.
Or lounging in the lobby O—
There’s none so great a standing bore
As little John Cam Hobby O.
Our famous Irish Bobby O,
Is more conspicuous in his way
Than little John Cam Hobby O!
We do not vouch for our specimen being correct, but we certainly shall be answerable for its likeness. If any of our correspondents, as we have already said, possess a copy, by forwarding it to us, he may be sure of its speedy appearance. In so saying, we disclaim any dislike to Hobbouse, who is a very fair public man indeed, and very deservedly respected by all who know him; but we have always had a great affection for preserving the little effusions of men of genius, which, nobis judicibus, tend to mark the author’s character even more than studied and formal compositions.