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Algernon Hampden Flint
The Verses of the Death of Sir J. Moore.
Morning Post  No. 16,807  (2 November 1824)
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No. 16,807. TUESDAY, November 2, 1824. Price 7d.

The VERSES on the Death of Sir J. MOORE.


T. Medwin, Conversations of Lord Byron
J. S. Taylor, Lord Byron and Charles Wolfe

Sir—The attempt made by Captain Medwin to affiliate the above verses on Lord Byron, under the dignified designation of an “Ode,” has occasioned some discussion in the literary world respecting their real author. Among the several claims et up for that honour, or perhaps responsibility, only one I take upon me to assure you is well founded—namely, that on behalf of “the Rev. Charles Wolfe,” a poor young Irish Curate, who, as his grave-stone (if he have one) records, departed this life it seems about two years ago, in the North of Ireland. Of this at least I am positive, that the “Ode” was neither written by Lord Byron, Mr. Deacon, nor any other of the persona mentioned in the Public Papers, except it be Mr. Wolfe, for I know it to be the production of a young man that in 1816 was a student of Trinity College, Dublin; although not having been “one of my earliest and dearest friends,” I do not now clearly recollect his name. A Gentleman however from Garden-court, in the Temple, who has spun out a long letter for a Morning Paper upon the subject, and declares himself to have stood in the foregoing relation to the inditer of these verses, asserts the student’s cognomen to have been Wolfe, and so let it pass. Still I confess my mind is not satisfied on that point. The Gentleman from Garden-court says the Poet’s frame was “naturally vigorous and robust,” while I who saw him in 1816 or 1817, did not then consider him to have any such appearance; but, on the contrary, to be a slender, rather tall, and studious-looking young man. A person’s size or strength, I grant, is poor evidence of his genius, though some of his identity, and even for the latter an uncertain criterion. Mr. Wolfe’s panegyrist and myself may not, for aught I know, have borne the same proportion in stature to the fabricator of the “Ode,” and therefore perhaps we pronounce differently as to his height and weight of muscle.

Having premised so much towards settling the main question, I beg leave to correct a few errors into which the letter-writer from the Temple has fallen with regard to the verses on the death of Sir John Moore, and the “would-have-been one of the ornaments of the age,” their author.—In the first place, Mr. Wolfe’s “earliest and dearest friend” admits the “Ode” to be the only bit of poetry which he ever composed, or, to use his own words, “the one solitary laurel which ornaments his urn.” Now supposing those lines to be all that Lord Byron is represented to have thought them, and supposing them also to have emanated solely from the Author’s own imagination, would both together prove him a kindred genius to the Noble Lord, and “one of the would-have-been decorations of the age?” I think not. But what conclusion will suggest itself if I show that even this title Mr. Wolfe had not for “the one solitary laurel.” I deny, first, that the lines deserve the praise bestowed on them by Lord Byron. The Gentleman from Garden Court informs us, that the last verse was composed before the second or any of the succeeding (a mere national peculiarity, it is to be presumed, of Trinity College, Dublin), and in what order the rest were hammered out we are not told. For my part, I think it will appear on a careful continuous perusal of the whole, that they exhibit a manifest confusion, if not of thought at least of time—Insomuch that one might imagine Mr. Wolfe put each into a hat as it was written, and having shaken them well, numbered the stanzas afterwards according as they were drawn out.—First, for example, Sir John Moore is “buried,” and the “sods turned over him by the soldiers’ bayonets”—then they “gazed on the face that was dead”—(what transparent sods!)—thenhollowed” his “narrow bed,” id est, made a new grave for him—next, “when half of the heavy task was done,”—(Quere, turning over the sods? gazing? or, digging the new grave?) “the clock told the hour for retiring;” (over which, as precise as ghosts at midnight, the soldiers vanished), and afterwards, they “slowly and sadly laid him down!”—Now, if this be not confusion worse confounded, nothing of the kind ever existed. So much for a few of the intrinsic merits of “the one solitary laurel” of “the would-have-been one of the ornaments of the age.” But further, who. ever troubles himself to read the account of Sir J. Moore’s death, at the close of his Memoirs, published by that gallant Officer’s brother, will find that in the “Ode” Mr. W. has merely versified the affecting description there given of Gen. Moore’s burial. How the Gentleman from Garden Court, who has such a “tenacious memory,” happened to forget this fact relative to “the one solitary laurel of his earliest and dearest friend,” it is not for me to surmise—nor how he recollected that “the thought was inspired by an account of the death of the Marcellus of Corunna in some periodical work.”—Doubtless, he can solve the difficulty more satisfactorily to himself, than he can now persuade the public, that because a man strings half a dozen stanzas together, upon a pathetic and popular occasion, he is therefore, and therefore only, a great genius.—As to the various romantic anecdotes—“the inveterate perusal of Abelard and Eloise, &c.” which prevented Mr. Wolfe from becoming Sir Isaac Newton the second—or even the gold medal which he obtained for oratory in the Historical Society of Trinity College—let them pass for evidence of his transcendant merits as a poet with those who require no better. I flatter myself I could, if necessary, convince even the Gentleman from Garden Court that there are several sentimental young men still surviving, who, though like the author of the “Ode,” they may have been addicted to “moon-light walks,” and received the honours of the Spouting Institution which he so piously bewails, neither are, nor, should they live to be as old as Methusalem, ever will be “ornaments of the age.”

One error more in the letter alluded to I shall state, and then have done. We are told that “a copy of the verses without Wolfe’s participation, first got into an Irish newspaper, whence they were copied into a magazine, &c.” Whether Mr. Wolfe was particeps criminis of getting the “Ode” into it newspaper, I do not pretend to decide; but I know that previous to their appearance in the “Poet’s Corner” of the Dublin Morning Post, they were with the consent, if not at the desire of the author, offered for insertion in a Dublin Magazine, and rejected as inferior to the poetical standard of that publication! Subsequently, indeed, they had a very general circulation through all the Journals and Periodicals of the three Kingdoms, and by that means the errors which the writer, from the Temple, very accurately corrects, I presume, crept into some of the stanzas.

In conclusion, allow me to observe, that from all that has transpired of Lord Byron’s character and habits, his opinions in company upon any subject ought not to have much weight. His Lordship appears to me to have been among his own guests and associates, an outrageous quiz—to have eternally endeavoured to discover, in vulgar parlance, what they were made of—and for that purpose to have said or done any thing that came into his head. Upon this hypothesis it is easy to explain the terms in which he is represented to have spoken of the above “Ode;” but upon any other, his judgment as a critic is sacrificed, though neither that nor aught else can obscure his glory as a Poet.

I am, Sir, your obedient Servant,
No. 2, Cross-passage. Lincoln’s Inn.