LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism
[Leigh Hunt]
Lord Byron—Mr. Moore—and Mr. Leigh Hunt [Continued].
The Tatler  Vol. 2  No. 113  (13 January 1831)  449-51.
GO TO PART:   1   2   3   4   5 
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH

No. 113 Price





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


(Continued from our last.]

We forget the subject alluded to at the commencement of the ensuing letter, having lost the one that explained it; but Mr Moore and his correspondent used to send critical opinions to one another on their writings, and the latter recollects having elicited some pleasant reproaches from him for objecting to his too frequent use of the words “dews” and “flowers.” Mr Moore said, that he was in the act of writing some verses with those words in them, when he objection came in by the post; and that he had struck out one in consequence, but kept the other to spite his friend. Let the reader imagine the delightfulness of such a correspondent, if he had been but sincere. Whether the allusion was to any tirade against criticism arising out of this circumstance, or from some less friendly assault, we cannot say: for Mr Moore has not been slow to complain of the critics, nor to secure interest against them, though he will do nothing to assist you in turn. We do not believe that there is any mention in his writings of one single author, however acquainted he may have been with him in private, or however distinguished even the author may have been himself, unless he has been a man of influence in the circles. This it is to be a “diner-out!” He does not know on what tender toes of aristocracy he may tread, till his footing is secure.

On Mr Moore’s pleasure is being what he never was, and his pride
in letting the world know what he never did.
Mayfield Cottage, Monday Morning.

My Dear Hunt—I have had an unquiet conscience ever since I sent off my last letter to you—because in my flippant tirade against critics, I was led into a forgetfulness of two or three kind things you have said, which are of more value to me than a whole legion of Aristotles.—In the first-place, though you bid me not think any more of the little glimpse of future glorification you have opened upon me, you could not seriously expect that I should obey you—you may be very sure I shall treasure up the promise most proudly, and if you depend upon my bad memory for an escape from it, you have but a very poor chance indeed.—Next to my pleasure in being your friend, is the pride I should feel in letting the world know that I am so.

* * * * * *

[The rest of this letter is omitted. It alludes to another critic who had just then given the world intimation of a mind destined to have considerable influence on the times, and who afterwards became a friend of Mr Moore as well as Mr Leigh Hunt. A doubt as to whether it would be proper to publish the passage, withholds it; but it is proper to add, that the doubt has nothing in it which tells against Mr Moore. It was only some occasional sentences in the passage that went to corroborate the object if these articles.]

* * * * * *

I intended to have told you something about my poem, which, though often pulled down and rebuilt again, is now in a fair way of progress, but I have not left myself room in this sheet, and it is not worth beginning another; so good bye.

Ever your’s,
T. Moore.

In the letters of Lord Byron, published by Mr Moore, are various notices of a poem written by Mr Leigh Hunt, called the Story of Rimini. In his Lordship’s first mention of it in a letter to Mr Moore, he calls it “a real good, and very original poem;” says he thinks it will be “a great hit;” and adds, “you can have, no notion how very well it is written, nor should I, had I not redde* it.” In a letter of the same date to Mr Murray the bookseller, he describes it as a “very wonderful and beautiful performance, with just enough of fault to make its beauties more remarked and remarkable.” The Story of Rimini was published; the Quarterly Review damned a poem written by the Editor of the Examiner; and the damnation was the signal for a series of attacks and calumnies from all the quarters of Toryism, which conspiring with its ascendancy in those times, with the natural tendency of the mob of small writers to side against a losing cause, and with the Author’s culpable carelessness in neglecting his fortunes while he aggravated his opinions, ultimately succeeded in depriving him of all influence. The Bourbons had just been reinstated then; every insult and injury was meditated to the cause of mankind; and every one of is advocates was to be sacrificed at any price. Those were not the times of Lafayette and Philip of Orleans, of the good natured William the Fourth, of the sounds of the ice of tyranny breaking up in all quarters, of the heavenly summer of hope, and of all England calling out for that Reform, which in recommending them to call for, the Editor of the Examiner had lost “health, fame, and fortune.” The same signal which roused his enemies was the signal for the terrors and desertions of false friends. We shall not pain ourselves by dwelling upon graver instances, but not long afterwards the faults of Mr Leigh Hunt’s poem became uppermost in the mind of his noble eulogizer, his friendship with Mr Shelley (always beloved by his friends, and now so praised by those who have been taught to know him, as well as by those who are eager to reconcile themselves to the memory of a man of rank,) was a new offence to the Anti-liberals, and to those who fear them; and his admiration of the genius of another young poet, Mr Keats, besides aggravating the offence, completed the impatience of the noble bard, who never liked Mr Hunt’s homage to Mr Wordsworth as the first poet of the age. As to Mr Moore, to go counter to the circles at all, except under circumstances which extorted their respect, it happened to suit the immediate policy of the Whig part of them, was a committal of a man’s self, which, it seems, neutralized the merit of the exceptions, and not only precluded all public recognition of his friend, or even that hazardous assistance of a political squib or two, which his “gratitude” promised, and his expediency took such care not to perform, but enabled him to write in two sorts of style upon one subject, to two different friends; as the reader will see presently. Mr Moore cannot say his soul is his own, out of the pale of what is “received.” He has no notion even of a pathos which is not dressed, as he thinks, in a manner fit to go to court. His sphere is a round of dinners: his universal empyrean the roof of the Opera House. Yet the annals of fashion might have taught him, that tears are to be shed even there; and nature, in spite of mistake, still find a sympathy. Lord Byron spoke too partially, in the first instance, of the faults in the ‘Story of Rimini.’ We are very sincere in saying so; and any reader may believe us, when we add, that he confounded them too much with the poem afterwards. The truth is, that the critics were right when they objected to certain coinages, cant phrases, and other detects in the poem, generated, not as they thought by affectation, but by a mistaken notion of avoiding the cant of commonplace. These can be easily taken away. But the author has been allowed to persuade himself by other reasons than his own, that there is a heart beating underneath those trivialities of the poem, which might have saved Mr Moore the duplicity of speaking of it in one way to the author, and. another to his Noble Friend. To cite testimonies in favour of his own work, is a suing for opinions in formâ pauperis, which no decent author can be inclined to. The next generation is sure to do justice to the Poem one way or other; either by restoring it to perusal, or forgetting it altogether. Suffice it meanwhile to say, is observing the strange attempt of Mr Moore to throw ridicule one
day on what he has praised the day before, that in quarters fashionable as well as unfashionable, the pages of the ‘Story of Rimini’ have been embalmed in the most welcome of all criticisms,tears. Let this bit of superfluousness be pardoned in a writer who would fain have devoted his whole life to poetry, had not circumstances and the times compelled his conscience to serve truth in a less pleasing shape. In 1816, after the first outcry had been raised against the Story of Rimini, Lord Byron intimated to Mr Moore, who had then become a critic himself, that a favourable notice of it in the
Edinburgh Review would be useful, and “do it justice.” But Mr Moore, beside. discovering that Mr Hunt was no wholesale flatterer, had found out that the once potent editor of a newspaper, and critic of new operas, could be quizzed by a court dependant, and had thus become an object of ridicule to all who valued the gravity of their reception. In his first quarto, therefore, we find the following note on the above intimation of his lordship’s;

“My reply,” says Mr Moore, “to this part of his letter, was, I find, as follows: with respect to Hunt’s poem, though it is, I own, full of beauties, and though I like himself sincerely, I really could not undertake to praise it seriously. There is so much at the quizzible in all he writes, that I never can put on the proper pathetic face in reading him.”—Vol. i. p. 644.

Now mark the following letter, written a year before.

On the Story of Rimini.
Mayfield Cottage, March 7th, 1814.

My Dear Hunt,—I do forgive you for your long silence, though you have much less right to be careless about our non-intercourse than I have—if I knew as little about you and your existence as you know of me, I should not feel quite life patient under the privation—but I have the advantage of communing with you, for a very delightful hour, every Tuesday evening: of knowing your thoughts upon all that and of exclaiming “right!—bravo;—exactly!” to every sentiment you express—whereas, front the very few signs of life I give in the world, you can only take my existence for granted, as we do that of the
little woman under the hill,
Who, if she’s not gone, must live there still.
However, I do forgive you—and only wish I could pay you back a millesimal part of the pleasure which—in various ways—as poet, as politician, as partial friend, you have lately given me. Your
Rimini is beautiful, and its only faults such as you are aware of, and prepared to justify—there is that maiden charm of originality about it—that “integer, illibatusque succus,” which Columella tells as the bees extract—that freshness of the living fount, which we look in vain for in the bottled-up Heliconian of ordinary Bards—in short, it is poetry—and notwithstanding the quaintnesses, the coinages, and even affectations, with which here and there

I had just got so far, my dear Hunt, when I was interrupted by a prosing neighbour, who has put everything I meant to say out of my head—so, there I must leave you, impaled on the point of this broken sentence, and wishing you as little torture there as the nature of the case will allow. I have only time to say again, that your poem is beautiful, and that, if I do not exactly agree with some of your notions about versification and language, the general spirit of the work has more than satisfied my utmost expectations of you. If you go on thus, you will soon make some of Apollo’s guests sit “below the salt.” The additions to this latter Poem* are excellent, and the lines on Music at the end are full of beauty.

There are many of the lines of Rimini that “haunt me like a passion”—I don’t know whether I ought to own that these are among the number—I quote from memory:
The woe was short, was fugitive, is past!
The song that sweetens it may always last.
I am afraid you will set this down among your regular, sing-song couplets—to use it is all music.

Is it true that your friend Lord B. has taken to the beautifully “mammosa” Mrs. ——? Who, after this, will call him a “searcher of dark bosoms.” Not a word to him, however, about this last question of mine.

Ever, my dear Hunt, most faithfully your’s,
Thomas Moore.

I hope to deliver my mighty work into Longman’s hands in May, but, of course, it will not go to press till after the summer.

We leave the foregoing to the reader without further comment.

The next letter is dated four years afterwards, by which time Mr Moore had got a considerable access of dread respecting the progress of liberalism. He has a pretty alliteration somewhere in one of his quartos about “rank, riches, and religion.” We know not whether the alteration of times would have modified that particular passage, for we do not remember the context; but we are very firmly persuaded that if the second French Revolution had happened before the publication of Mr Moore’s prose works, the author would not have thought it necessary to express so much anxiety respecting the dangers of plain speaking; nor are we sure that the word religion would have been found in his writings. It was not to be expected perhaps under any circumstances, that Mr Moore would be found in the van of opinion. We do not believe that he has given up to a party what was “meant for mankind.” People are generally meant for what they do. But at all events, we beg the reader to compare the coy and devout publicities of Mr Moore, the words marked in capitals in the following letter. We need not add that the words are so marked by ourselves.

Sloperton Cottage. Devizes, January 21, 1818.

My Dear Hunt,—Having the opportunity of a frank, I must write you a line or two to thank you for your very kind notices of me, and still more, to express my regret that in my short and busy visit to town, I had not the happiness, to which I looked forward, of passing at least one day with you and your family. I am always so thrown “in medias res” when I go to London, that I have never a minute left for anything agreeable—but my next visit will, I hope, be one of pleasure, and then you are sure to be brought in among the ingredients. For the cordiality with which you have praised and defended me, I am, I assure you, most deeply grateful; and, though less alive, I am sorry to say, both to praise and blame, than I used to be, yet coming from a heart and a taste like your’s, they cannot fail to touch me very sensibly. You are quite right about the conceits that disfigure my poetry; but you (and others) are quite as wrong in supposing that I hunt after them—my greatest difficulty is to hunt them away. If you had ever been its the habit of hearing Curran converse—though I by no means intend to compare myself with him in the ready coin of wit—yet, from the tricks which his imagination played him while he talked, you might have some idea of the phantasmagoria that mine passes before me while I write—In short, St Anthony’s temptations were nothing to what an Irish fancy has to undergo from all its own brood of Will-o’-th’-wisps and hobgoblins.

I was sorry to find that Cobbett found such a sturdy defender in your correspondent of last week; indeed, I am grieved to the heart at many things I see among the friends of liberty, and begin to fear much more harm from the advocates of the cause than from its enemies. You, however, are always right in politics; and if you would but keep your theories of religion and morality a little more to yourself (the MANIA on these subjects being so universal and congenital, that he who thinks of curing it is as wild as his PATIENTS) you would gain influence over many minds that you unnecessarily shock and alienate. I would not say this of you in public (for I cannot review my friends) but I say it to you thus privately, with all the anxious sincerity of a well-wisher both to yourself and the cause you so spiritedly advocate. I intended to have written you a long letter, but the post-belle (an old woman whom I employ for that purpose) is ringing her alarum below, and I must finish.

My best regards to Mrs Hunt.

Your’s very faithfully.
Thomas Moore.

Sloperton Cottage, Devizes, Oct. 10th, 1818.

My Dear Hunt,—I intended that a letter from me should accompany your copy of the 7th number of my Melodies; but I rather think, from your paper of Sunday last, that Power has had the start of me; and I only write now to get a little credit from you for my intentions, which, in general indeed, are the best things about me, but which, unfortunately, the matter-of-fact people of the world are never satisfied with. As you have imagination, however, as well as heart, I shall leave you to fancy all the kind things I have felt towards you, during the long, long time I have passed in saying nothing whatever about them; and I am the more inclined just now to trust a good deal to your imaginative power, as I am disabled from writing much from a slight strain in my shoulder, which I received the night before last—when the world was near being a bad poet out of pocket by the upsetting of a carriage in which I was returning from Bowood.

Shall you be in London about the latter end of November? I hope to be there about that time, and we must meet; for I have much to say to you, much to give and receive sympathy about. I suppose that you have heard of the calamity that has befallen me through the defalcation of my deputy at Bermuda, who has made free with the proceeds of two or three ships and cargoes deposited in his hands, and I am likely to be made responsible for the amount. You will, it is most probable, have an opportunity of returning my prison visits; as, if it comes to the worst, the Rules must be my residence. However, (as I have just written to Lord Byron) Unity of Place it one of Aristotle’s Rules, and, as a poet, I must learn to conform to it. By the bye he has made many enquiries about you in his two last letters to me, and I should be glad to hear from you before I write to him again. I hope you will like my Irish Melodies better than you liked Lalla Rookh.

You were right about the verses to Sir H. Lowe,

Your’s, my dear Hunt, very truly,
Thomas Moore.

By the way, in turning over a bundle of letters we have met with another, the beginning of which, from the writer who could praise nothing seriously, is edifying. Mr Moore is thanking Mr Leigh Hunt for sending him a Mask, called the ‘Descent of Liberty,’ which, to say the truth, was not worth his praises; and he writes as follows:

‘You already know my opinion of it—it will, live in spite of the Congress and Buonaparte—and though the principal maskers have shifted dresses a good deal since, your poetry is independent of the politics—it has that kind of general and, fanciful character of Sir Joshua Reynolds’s portraits, which will make it long outlive the frail and foolish heads that sat for it.”

To return a moment to the “pathetic face,” we must relate a characteristic touch of the late Mr Hazlitt. When he read the note in Mr Moore’s book, containing those words about “putting on” the face, as aforesaid, he exclaimed, with one of his looks,”—“Damn his face! What has that to do with it? Does he always put on a face when he goes to read anything serious?”

The next and last letter is dated August 20, 1821, that is say, only a few months before Mr Moore wrote to Lord Byron to warn him against any connexion of authorship with Mr Leigh Hunt and Mr Shelley on accounts of its being a “bankrupt” “unequal” and “unholy” alliance. For the “unholy,” we refer the readers to Mr Moore’s opinion respecting the “mania” prevalent on the subject of religion and morality; for the “unequal” (keeping in mind that the work proposed to be set up was a periodical one), to all that he has said—in the previous letters respecting Mr Hunt as a periodical writer, and to the close of the first paragraph of the following letter, written, as we have just observed, but a few months before his admonitions to Lord Byron. For the “bankrupt” we refer to his “gratitude,” and perhaps we may add with a little better chance of the existence of such a thing, his shame. Such is the “gratitude” of a man of the world A losing cause is with him cause of offence, and a sufficient reason why he should warn one friend who never appears up to that period to have done him any service, against connexion with another to whom he had repeatedly expressed himself under obligation. But the reader shall have this matter sifted in our next.

We conclude with introducing to him the harbinger of Mr Moore’s good offices:—

Paris, August 20, 1821.

My Dear Hunt,—I take the opportunity of a frank to send you a hasty line of acknowledgment for your kind mention of me. I was indeed most happy to see the announcement of your recovery, for public us well us private reasons—for, though you have right good auxiliaries, there is but one Richmond in the field after all.

This is a very delightful place to live in, and if I was not obliged to stay in it, I should find the time pass happily enough; for were
“Ev’n Paradise itself my prison,
Still I should long to leap the crystal walls.”
Your friend
Mr Bowring and I were rather unlucky in our attempts to meet, but we did meet at last, and I liked him exceedingly.”

All the insincere will of course secretly love Mr Moore the better for these letters. His double-dealing will help to reconcile them to their own. But what will the sincere say to him? And they are a rising party now in the world! Perhaps he might have found it better for him in the end to stick to them!