LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century
Chapter II

Contents Vol. I
Prelude 1
Prelude 2
Chapter I
‣ Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Contents Vol. II
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Note to Chapter XV
Contents Vol. III
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Note to Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Note to Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Note to Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Index of Persons
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH

THE first number of the “Windsor and Eton Express” lies before me. It looks to my mind like some relic of a past era of journalism, in which I have no especial interest, any more than I have in a fac-simile of a “Times” of the days of Nelson which has been recently published. I am told that some of the middle-aged inhabitants of my native town preserve this first newspaper ever issued there, as a curiosity of the time of their fathers—a piece of dim antiquity like a guinea of George III. I look anxiously at my “Political Inquirer,” and I do not blush at my earliest attempts in the vocation of “best public instructor.”

Why do I not blush at some of these crude efforts of inexperience? Because, although the things which I then wrote may be something different from my maturer convictions, they were written under a strong sense of the serious nature of the vocation of a public writer. I dare say that, in my want of knowledge of the world, I wore my
“Foolscap uniform turn’d up with ink”
somewhat too grandly. “Anxious” I was, if not “fine and jealous.” But this sense of my moral responsibility has saved me from a feeling of shame, as I now look back upon the feeble utterances of the
time thus brought before me, something like a dream. These utterances were those of an impulsive young man; but of one who felt the duty of controlling his inclination to express himself passionately. I wrote with a motto from
Locke always at the head of my political essay,—“This is a question only of inquirers, not disputers, who neither affirm, nor deny, but examine.” This motto often held my hand. I had a notion that rapid composition was a test of ability. I used to task myself to write a leading article in a given time. The habit has been of value to me in after life; it is of infinite importance to the journalist. But it is of more importance that what he writes should not at some future day rise up in judgment against him, “trumpet-tongued,” and convict him—not of the suppressio veri, for that is incidental to his profession, as it is to the barrister’s—but of the assertion of opinions which were the exact contrary of his own convictions. Let me not, however, be held to imply that what is called political consistency is a virtue in the man of advanced age—that the rash judgments of his youth are to be preserved in his maturity. The mind that is not open to the teachings of time, and that chooses to stand upon its own “ancient way,” and not look around to see “which is the right and true way,” is worth little as a guide for the formation of opinion.

Amongst the startling contrasts that are presented between the England of 1812 and the England of half a century later, there is perhaps no contrast more remarkable than that which offers itself to my mind in the difficulties of setting on foot a newspaper at Windsor, such as I had projected as an easy and profitable employment for my literary
ambition. These rush upon my memory as I look upon my old “folio of four pages,” and think of this my first venture upon a dangerous sea.

The newspaper stamp was then fourpence. The advertisement duty was three shillings, subsequently raised to three shillings and sixpence. The blank paper was to be stamped at Somerset House, the payment being in cash, with a discount. It will be seen at once how these taxes pressed upon the capital to be devoted to such an undertaking. No article of consumption, with the exception of salt, was so highly taxed as the Newspaper. The circulation of a country journal was not a simple operation like that of a London journal, which was, and is, a wholesale transaction between the newspaper proprietor and the newsmen. The established custom was this: the country proprietor had agencies in the larger towns, who had their own retail customers; but the greater number of the papers were delivered, by newsmen specially employed, to the subscribers, whether in the place of publication or in scattered country districts. These had quarterly accounts, which often grew into half-yearly or yearly settlements. Thus the return of the capital was very slow.

The demand for the newspaper, and the number of advertisers, being thus narrowed by the high price consequent upon the tax, the cost of production was to be met by a comparatively small number of supporters. A cheap newspaper was an impossibility. But there were expenses at that time which have altogether vanished under a different state of social organization. The Windsor paper was to be published on a Saturday evening, in time to be despatched by post to the more distant places. It was
essential that it should contain the latest news from the metropolis. The “
London Gazette” was then published on a Saturday afternoon. How was the “Gazette” to be obtained, and also the late editions of the evening papers? For this object the long-established “Salisbury Journal” had an express direct from London to that city. By an arrangement with the London agent of that journal, its express was to bring our despatch to Staines, from which place we should have a branch express to Windsor. It would arrive about three quarters of an hour before our post departed. Then there was to ensue a scurry of editor, compositors, pressmen, to complete enough papers to fill two bags, which we were allowed to send to the receiving post-offices at Staines and Maidenhead by the mail-carts from our town. All this could not be accomplished without the most strenuous exertions and the most perfect division of labour. It was to be calculated that in the beginning of the undertaking the machinery would be often out of gear.

This laborious and costly organization was the only method of fighting with space and time before the days of railway conveyance and the electric telegraph. The London daily papers, which furnished the staple of news, had the same difficulties, though much greater in degree, to contend against. The more considerable, especially the “Times,” had not only their special expresses from the outports, but occasionally had a private packet-boat to pick up news from homeward-bound ships before they came into port. The sudden arrival of foreign intelligence, and the lateness of the sittings of Parliament, occasioned the morning papers sometimes to
be delayed in publication till almost noon. If this occurred on a Saturday, the “Times,” or the “
Post,” or the “Chronicle,” or the “British Press,” not reaching Windsor till six in the evening, another leader would then have to be written. Sometimes the “Times,” upon which most reliance could be placed for the latest news, did not come at all. During the excitement of the great war-time the demand outran the supply, for it was not till the end of 1814 that the “Times” was printed by steam machinery.

Our journal being once safely at press, there would come the arrangements for its distribution through the rural districts, in addition to the small number which had been sent off by post. The hamlets and scattered farm-houses and gentlemen’s seats could not be reached by the post, at a time when not one village in twenty had a post-office—when letters and newspapers remained with the postmaster of the market-town till they were called for by the inhabitants of the surrounding district. Many a populous parish was thus left to chance for the receipt of its private or its public intelligence. Our new paper would have to meet this difficulty by our own express-carts, which were to travel long distances, and by pedestrians, who would have many a weary mile to trudge over unfrequented roads. These deliverers would seldom receive payment from the subscribers. The debts would accumulate, requiring to be collected at periodical visits. Remittances in many cases could not easily be made; in some cases they would be impossible, for the system of postal money-orders was a quarter of a century later.

The price of a country newspaper was, in almost
every case, sevenpence. The wages of mechanical labour were high, keeping pace with the price of wheat, which in 1812 was 150s. a quarter. Paper was extremely dear, the duty being threepence a pound, and the cheapening by the paper machine, now so efficient, being then one of the visions of the projector. In the absence, besides, of all the modern appliances of civilization such as I have recited—which have so lessened the cost of a provincial journal, and have increased the demand in a far greater ratio than the doubling of the population—the number of country newspapers was comparatively small. Throughout England there were less than a hundred. There were not a great many of them which ventured upon original writing; but the leading article had become a feature with those of the higher class, such as the “
Leeds Mercury,” after the beginning of the century. To express strong opinions upon gross abuses was, however, a service of danger which most editors avoided in the days of ex officio informations.

It was a perilous time for the newspaper press, for the people were discontented, and the authorities were sensitive. They were especially sensitive in this war-time as to any strictures which were supposed to have a tendency to weaken the allegiance of the army, or render soldiers less satisfied under the severe discipline by which alone obedience was held to be capable of enforcement. Military flogging was one of the forbidden subjects for editorial comment. In the year 1812, William Cobbett was in Newgate, having been sentenced in 1810 to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of a thousand pounds for a virulent effusion upon a punishment which had taken
place in the local militia of Ely. In the “
Stamford News,” a paper most ably conducted by Mr. John Scott (afterwards editor of the “Champion”), an article appeared at the same period, in which flogging was described as “a species of torture at least as exquisite as any that was ever devised by the infernal ingenuity of the Inquisition.” This article was copied into the “Examiner,” and Sir Vicary Gibbs, the Attorney-General, filed informations against both papers. The trial of John and Leigh Hunt came on the first, before Lord Ellenborough, who laboured hard for a conviction. They were defended by Mr. Brougham, and the Middlesex jury acquitted them. The subsequent trial of Mr. Drakard, the proprietor of the “Stamford News,” resulted in his conviction, although the same advocate defended him. He was sentenced to eighteen months’ imprisonment. Such a notable example of the uncertainty of trial by jury in matters of political libel could give a public writer no great confidence that incautious words, without evil intentions, might not be visited with punishment, such as is earned by atrocious crimes. There was another subject upon which the law-officers of the Crown were equally determined to war against public opinion. In proportion as the Prince Regent was becoming unpopular, the Attorney-General resented any reflections upon his coxcombry and his frivolous tastes. Moore ran great risks when he dubbed the Prince “the Mæcenas of Tailors.” But it was “most tolerable and not to be endured” by the Dogberries who guarded the honour of Carlton House, when a newspaper writer, who was not a pet of fashion, dared to say of his Royal Highness—in ridicule of a fulsome article in the “Morning Post” in
which he was called “an Adonis in loveliness”—that this Adonis was “a corpulent gentleman of fifty.” The ex-officio information against
John and Leigh Hunt, for a libel in the “Examiner“ of March 24th, 1812, resulted in a fine of a thousand pounds and the imprisonment of each for two years in separate prisons. Mr. Brougham had again defended the brothers, and had the satisfaction to be told by Lord Ellenborough that he had imbibed the spirit of his client, and seemed to have inoculated himself with all the poison and mischief which this libel was calculated to effect. It was undoubtedly strong language for the “Examiner” to designate the Prince as “a violator of his word, a libertine over head and ears in debt and disgrace, a despiser of domestic ties, the companion of gamblers and demireps, a man who has just closed half a century without one single claim on the gratitude of his country or the respect of posterity.” Posterity has not given such an answer as would put to shame this daring appeal to its judgment. But the dispassionate lookers-on of that period could not think it seemly that such harsh truths should be told of him who stood in the place of a king—who, as chief magistrate, ought to claim from the people all respect and reverence.

But it was not only the dread of indictment for political libel that hung over the head of the newspaper proprietor in 1812. Any statement of fact, or any comment upon occurrences that might be supposed to affect private character, were constantly made the subject of actions, got up by rapacious attorneys, speculating upon that love of litigation which was then especially characteristic of the English. It was
not till thirty years after 1812 that
Lord Campbell’s Act gave to the journalist the power to plead, in any action for libel, “that such libel was inserted in such newspaper without actual malice, and without gross negligence; and that before the commencement of the action, or at the earliest opportunity afterwards, he inserted in such newspaper a full apology for such libel.” Imagine, at the present day, the Lord Chief Justice of the Court of Queens Bench trying an action for libel,—with two leaders, such as Mr. Denman for the prosecution, and Mr. Scarlett for the defence,—the alleged libel being the report in a country newspaper of a flagrant case of cruelty which was a notorious subject of local indignation. The libel consisted in terming that “a brutal assault,” upon which the assailants were held to bail. Imagine that the persons whose characters were thus defamed were a pig-keeper and his wife, who let lodgings to poor people; and having a dispute with a family of which the mother had only been confined a week, threatened to pull the bed from under her, and turn her into the street. Imagine a London jury finding a verdict for the plaintiff, with 50l. damages. Imagine a second action for the same libel being brought by the wife. Imagine ten several actions against ten London papers, for reporting the trial in the King’s Bench with a few words of just comment upon the scandal of such litigation, when there was no “private malice” or “gross negligence.” Imagine a hungry attorney, prowling for prey, at the bottom of all these actions, who had no object to attain but the heavy costs which he pocketed. These verdicts cost me 500l. in 1825. Is not the newspaper press in a better condition than it was in, forty years ago?


The perils of the Libel Law did not much affect my confident belief in 1812 that I could navigate my little bark in safety. But I did feel, perhaps too acutely, the difficulties of my position as a journalist under the shadow of the Castle at Windsor. It was a time in which the patriotism which had upheld the nation through the fierce struggle of twenty years required, at this great crisis of our history, when the fate of England was trembling in the balance, the prop of a sincere and spontaneous loyalty. I deeply felt, as one about to become a public writer, that upon the head of the Government I could only bestow
“mouth-honour, breath
“Which, the poor heart would fain deny but dare not.”
I look back upon the public feeling of the first twenty years of my working life, and compare it with the quarter of a century which was blessed with a female Sovereign. Oh, could the generation which, during the reign of
Victoria, has entered upon the duties of mature age, know the full value of their privilege in being able to cherish the loyalty of the subject, not as an abstract principle, but as a holy sentiment, often rising into the warmest devotion, they would pity the youth of a less happy time, who had a struggle to maintain even his love of country amidst the “curses not loud but deep” which attended its sensual and frivolous ruler! We should have been perhaps plunged into a profounder abyss of royal degradation, had not the long-established habit of decency still kept the public Court circle free from ladies whose “misfortune” (as Lord Ellenborough termed the fashionable sin upon the
trial of the Hunts) met with no pity in the eyes of the rigid
Queen Charlotte.

The political atmosphere was not very bright on the 1st of August, 1812, when the Windsor newspaper struggled into life. The 29th of July was a day of gloom, for the intelligence arrived that the United States of America had declared war against Great Britain. Wellington had advanced into Spain in June. His position was a very difficult one. The English army and the French army were on opposite banks of the Douro in the early part of July. Marmont was expecting a large accession of strength in the junction of King Joseph’s army from Madrid. Wellington was disappointed of the arrival of reinforcements under Lord William Bentinck. There was a wide-spread conviction that the Government at home was feebly supporting the one great captain whose genius appeared likely to retrieve the disasters of a long series of “warriors” not “for the working-day.” Parliament was prorogued on the 29th of July. The speech of the Prince Regent was in no degree a jubilant prophecy of a glorious future. It tamely expressed a trust that the independence of the Peninsula would be secured; and hoped that Parliament would duly appreciate the importance of the struggle in which the Emperor of Russia had been compelled to engage.

Little at that doubtful period did I foresee that for the next two years the war would assume such gigantic proportions that the chief difficulty of a journalist, not insensible to the honour and safety of his country, would be to calm down his feelings. His duty would lie in the endeavour not to surrender himself wholly and absolutely to the wondrous excite-
ment of the hour; amidst the elevation of spirit which invested the technical details of an Extraordinary Gazette with no little of the splendour of an epic poem, not to forget that there was a battle to be fought at home—social wrongs to be inquired into, popular ignorance to be combated, rude assaults of democratic violence to be resisted, antiquated fallacies in political economy to be exposed. No one who belongs to a later generation can properly estimate the national feeling of half a century ago, when the war was for life or death, for liberty or slavery. But, with all this enthusiasm, the grandeur of the crisis through which we were passing could not then be fully understood. The journalist might present the multifarious details of this mighty war with fidelity. He might lose no opportunity of keeping alive that spirit which had sustained the country through twenty years of unprecedented danger. But for a philosophic comprehension of events amidst which the finger of Providence might be dimly descried pointing to a better future, he must watch and wait, till his vision should be enlarged by the lapse of time into something like a historical perception of these aspects of Mutability.

It was Sunday night the 16th of August. The evening promenade in the Long Walk, which had succeeded to the regal promenade on the Terrace, had been interrupted by the sudden withdrawal of the band of the 29th Regiment, who were summoned to their barracks. The sun had gone down behind the hills of the forest, as I sat lonely in a cottage belonging to my father, which then stood apart from any other houses, fronting the Long Walk. I was meditating upon the unofficial news, which had
arrived on the Saturday night, of a victory in Spain—shaping my thoughts into exulting verse as the death-song of a Guerilla who lay bleeding on that battle-field. Suddenly, from the not distant barracks, rose the burst of “God save the King,” and the cheers of a multitude. I rushed to the town. The 29th Regiment was marching out of Park Street along the Frogmore Road to the inspiriting tune which revolutionary Frenchmen called “çà ira,” but which loyal Englishmen translated into “The Downfall of Paris.” The Extraordinary Gazette, containing
Wellington’s despatches relating to the great victory of Salamanca, had been published on that Sunday morning, and had arrived at Windsor, to demand from the enthusiasm of the moment this hasty nightmarch. I followed the measured tramp of the soldiery, in common with the great mass of our population, unknowing what was to be done, and yet filled with the passionate desire of the hundreds around me to give expression to the belief that the tide had turned—that England might shout for a mighty victory by land, as she had shouted for the Nile and for Trafalgar. The joyous troops marched into a field adjoining Frogmore Gardens, and there, formed into line, fired three volleys, and gave three cheers. Such was the British war-cry which they had given three years before, when they met the French at Talavera, and contributed their part to the great battle which, says the strategist Jomini, “recovered the glory of the successors of Marlborough, which for a century had declined, and showed that the English infantry could contend with the best in Europe.” If Talavera was the hardest-fought battle of modern times, as Sir Arthur Wellesley described
it, Salamanca was the most fruitful in its results. This victory of Wellington over Marmont gave confidence to Russia, and awakened the hopes of Germany that a new era was approaching. My “Dying Guerilla” was not a false prophet when he exclaimed—
“I see embattled Europe’s wrath, sublime
Rush to the field and blacken all the clime;
Insulted nations spurn their blood-stain’d lord,
And Vengeance draw the soul-redeeming sword.” *

The first duty of a Provincial Journalist is to present always a faithful, and if possible a full, account of the occurrences of his district. But how little of all this is worth a more permanent record! I was unfortunate in having few noteable things to relate beyond the ordinary routine of the life of the Castle, and the monotonous proceedings of vestries and borough magistrates. Quarter-Sessions offered little of abiding interest. Assizes sometimes furnished something characteristic of the age, which looked like materials for the Annual Chronicler. But the most exciting of such matters are apt to become as motes in the historical sunbeam. I glance over my old newspapers, and almost wonder how many local trifles came to be printed. And yet the work of the “penny-a-liner” is the most attractive, whether in town or country, for its little day. Shall I relate a ghost-story which greatly excited the people of Windsor, even amidst the stir of a general election, in 1812? On the Terrace, sentinels were stationed at various points during the twenty-four hours. Most persons have heard the apocryphal tale of the sentinel who was found at midnight asleep, as it was

* Windsor Express, August 22, 1812.

supposed, on his post, and who proved his fidelity by maintaining that he had heard St. Paul’s clock strike thirteen, which it was ascertained to have done, according to the legend. As a boy, I have listened to stories of a black dog walking on the Terrace, wearing a large chain which he fearfully clanked. After the King’s seclusion in the apartments looking upon the North Terrace, such stories became more common. On the night of the 29th of September, the corporal’s relief-guard found beneath the window of a private room under Queen Elizabeth’s Gallery, a brave fellow of the 29th Regiment, who had been wounded twice at Talavera, prostrate with his musket, his bayonet and his cap by his side. Taken to the guard-room, he related how he had seen a figure in black approaching him; how he had challenged it, but was unanswered; how having brought his musket to the charge, and advanced towards it, the figure disappeared; and how after an interval of more than an hour, the figure again appearing, he cried out, “I’m lost—I’m lost.” Even when a mischievous artist was, shortly after, compelled to leave his pleasant apartments, carrying his phantasmagorian devices with him, it was difficult for many to comprehend, in our somewhat benighted town, that optical deceptions were not difficult to manage.

The staple of my newspaper was Politics. I am not about to offer any narrative of the great events of the greatest era of modern history, but I cannot wholly pass them over. When I look back upon the autumn and winter of 1812, and call to mind the ever-varied excitement attending the wars in Spain, in Russia, in America, I feel that such a concentration of points of immense public interest scarcely ever
before demanded the vigilant and faithful attention of the journalist. The victory of Salamanca was followed by the entrance of
Wellington into Madrid, and then came the unwelcome intelligence of the raising of the siege of Burgos, and the retreat of the British army. I was the echo of the loud voice of public complaint, that in the barracks and arsenals of Great Britain should have slumbered that force which, two months before, would have put the Peninsular war beyond the reverses of fortune. I denounced the policy which still regarded the contest as a war of experiment—the policy of a weak government, ready again for the course of repairing errors by an expenditure of means which far outran the limits of their original necessity. “Demosthenes,” I said, “reproached the Athenians that they were like rustics in a fencing-school, who, after a blow, guard the part that was hit, and not before.” Yet the gloom produced by the retreat to Portugal, after the triumph of Salamanca, was scarcely so intense, because it was unmixed with a feeling of national disgrace, as when in that autumn three British ships, in three distinct engagements, struck the once invincible flag to the American stars and stripes. In October it was known that the French were in Moscow, and that the Emperor was lodged in the Kremlin. The fluctuating fortunes of those times might well teach the public writer the great duty contained in the sermon of six words—“in adversity hope, in prosperity consider.” Even whilst the French, after a perilous occupation of the great city, marched forth from the burning ruins of Moscow, there was hope, but not certainty, that the European struggle was coming to an end. But on Christmas Day, the French papers, announcing
the return of
Bonaparte to Paris, and containing the famous twenty-ninth bulletin which could not conceal the almost total annihilation of the French army, rendered that joyous festival one of unusual solemnity. However great might be the national gladness at our apparent deliverance, it was not in the spirit of Christianity that we should read with unmixed exultation the frightful narrative of the extermination of half a million of men. It was a solemn judgment upon “the vanity of human wishes,” when those who a few months before were conquering invaders, were finally to perish in a hasty retreat through a dreary and desolated region—the stronger, who fell beneath the unsparing sabre of a pursuing enemy, happier than the weaker who died by the wayside under the inflictions of Heaven which their leader had hoped to evade—the biting frost, the arrowy sleet, and the blinding snow-storm.

I never could quite relish the humour of Southey’s song of “The March to Moscow.” I knew how much of horror was involved in the forced confessions of Napoleon: “The enemy, who saw upon the roads traces of the frightful calamity which had overtaken the French army, endeavoured to take advantage of it. He surrounded all the columns with his Cossacks, who carried off, like the Arabs in the deserts, the trains and carriages which separated. This contemptible cavalry, which only makes a noise, and is not capable of penetrating through a company of Voltigeurs, rendered themselves formidable by favour of circumstances.” The grim fun of the Laureate’s song seems now to be the voice of revelry in a charnel-house:—
“And worse and worse the weather grew,
The fields were so white and the sky so blue.
Sacrebleu! Ventrebleu!
“What a terrible journey from Moscow!”
It is a grotesque tragedy which describes how
“Platoff he played them off,
And Markoff he marked them off,
And Touchekoff he touched them off,
And Kutusoff he cut them off,
And Woronzoff he worried them off,
And Doctoroff he doctored them off,
And Rodinoff he flogged them off.”
Half a century makes a difference in the intensity of national hatreds. And thus, we apprehend, few would now join in heartfelt admiration of the pious imitation of
Dante which winds up Southey’s popular and prophetic song of thanksgiving:—
“’Twas as much too cold upon the road
As it was too hot at Moscow,
But there is a place which he must go to,
Where the fire is red and the brimstone blue,
Morbleu! Parbleu!
He’ll find it much hotter than Moscow.”

And yet this was the tone that, from the beginning of the century, faithfully represented the popular feeling of the middle classes of Englishmen. When the ambitious despot was finally struck down—when the Prometheus, who had long dazzled the world with the fire that he boasted to have drawn from Heaven, was bound to a solitary rock in the Atlantic—we began to feel some pity for the fallen. Gradually we came to acknowledge the splendour of his military genius; to believe that he was not altogether alien to humanity; to confess, with some contrition, that
the “place which he must go to” was to be determined by a purer and higher wisdom than the passions of his enemies, however just might have been their original hostility. I have seen this bitterness subside with some into a maudlin feeling of admiration—a prostration before Power, enslaving the mind even more effectually than a blind patriotism.

The spring of 1813 brought with it a lull in the hurricane of foreign politics. Windsor was excited by a grand royal funeral—that of the Duchess of Brunswick, on the 31st of March. But there was a stronger excitement in some mysterious circumstances which followed that funeral. It was known that, previous to the interment, while workmen were employed in making a subterraneous passage from the middle of the choir of St. George’s Chapel to the new Royal Mausoleum under the building called Wolsey’s Tomb-House, they had accidentally broken away a part of the vault of Henry the Eighth, but which was not then opened. On the morning after the funeral the Prince Regent was seen to enter the Chapel, attended by Sir Henry Halford. A master-mason and a master-plumber had been previously sent for, who were to do some work with their own hands which could not be entrusted to common mechanics, and about which they were to preserve the most profound secresy. The Chapel was again closed; the Prince Regent returned to the Castle; the mason and plumber, burdened with some tremendous mystery, were afraid to speak to their curious neighbours; and yet the mystery did ooze out. Solemn whisperings went from the Castle to the town; from the town to the villages; and wild rumours soon found their way to London. The most
various and contradictory narratives now had their due place in the daily papers. For myself, I deemed it prudent to remain silent, rather than become a propagator of erroneous details and absurd fictions. I was enabled at last to present an authentic account of the investigations which took place in the vault of Henry the Eighth. This differed very slightly from the narrative published a fortnight afterwards by Sir Henry Halford. The intimation of
Clarendon, that after the Restoration the body of Charles the First could not be found after the most diligent search, was disproved by the discovery of the 1st of April, 1813. When the plumber had cut open the upper part of the leaden coffin, and the cerecloth in which the body had been wrapped was removed, there was the long oval face with the pointed beard, which reminded those present of the portraits of Vandyke. The head was loose, although it had been carefully adjusted to the shoulders, and it was taken up without difficulty, and held to view. The narrative of the court physician has no false delicacy in attempting to conceal the results of this remarkable examination. Perhaps the epigram of an uncourtly poet may present to posterity a more vivid picture of the scene as regarded its living accessories:—
“Famed for contemptuous breach of sacred ties,
By headless Charles see heartless Henry lies.
Between them stands another sceptred thing—
It moves, it reigns—in all but name a king.
Charles to his people, Henry to his wife,
In him the double tyrant starts to life.
Justice and death have mix’d their dust in vain;
Each royal vampire wakes to life again.
Ah, what can tombs avail! since these disgorge
The blood and dust of both—to mould a George.”


I know not how these “Windsor Poetics,” as they are entitled in the complete edition of Byron’s works, came to my knowledge some half century ago, and were fixed in my memory, with several variations. Possibly they lived some time as an oral tradition, which was eagerly transmitted amongst the great majority who had no love for the Regent. Thus it was that party hatreds fell with all their bitterness on the head of the Prince of Wales, as national hatreds blackened the character of Napoleon. The lapse of fifty years has produced the same results in either case. We do not speak of the Regent with the bitterness of some of his contemporaries. We smile at his frivolities; we have some pity even for his errors; we do not believe that he meant to be a “Charles to his people;” and if he had something of the bearing of “Henry to his wife,” we must admit that he was not “the double tyrant” of these farouche lines, and simply desired to be left unmolested, to live for himself alone, not overmuch caring for “sacred ties,” public or domestic. When the Regent was “the first gentleman in Europe,” in aristocratic phrase, we did not know that he wanted the prime quality of a gentleman, that of speaking the truth. When Scott recorded the king’s condescending kindness, relying upon “Windsor” for the advancement of his son, we scarcely took into account that Scott, by nature and education, was an idolator of those born in the purple, living or dead. When Thackeray, having imbibed the democratic spirit of another generation in spite of himself, heaps odium upon the Fourth George, we accept the bitter phrases without much inquiry into evidence. There was a time when this nominal or actual sovereign had enthusiastic
partizans. But when he was an ingrate to the Whigs, and deceived the Tories about Catholic Emancipation, he became, to most men, a mere Sybarite, unworthy of a throne. Will dispassionate History be more tender?

My business and my inclination often led me now to the capital. There I was enabled to gather some flavour for my insipid dish of Windsor ideas, in the full flow of London talk. There I got away from the Court atmosphere, and the College atmosphere, and the Corporation atmosphere, to think boldly and speak freely with friends who were fighting their way amidst a crowd of aspirants in Law, in Literature, and in the Arts. Politics, however, were the absorbing topics of every society. The people of Germany had risen as one man to do battle against the conqueror, humbled but not overthrown, at whose feet the sovereigns had crouched. The adherents of the Bourbons in London were full of revived and long-suspended energies. I was introduced to one who had played an important part before the meeting of the States-General—the Marquis of Chambonas. I passed some pleasant and instructive evenings with the former lord of a great château near Montpelier, in—the Fleet Prison. Here, for some mysterious reason, he had lived, securely and contentedly, with his niece, for some years; never going beyond the walls, untouched by the squalid misery of the place, having no companionship with other prisoners, but holding audience in a large and well-furnished apartment, where men of note, even such men as George Canning, would come to visit him. His ostensible occupation was that of a teacher of the French language. On certain nights of the week he held a
soirée, at which he would read a French author, interspersing a running commentary of spirited and tasteful criticism. I regretted that before his return to France at the peace of 1814, I had not availed myself of his proposition that I should correspond with him for my improvement in a French style. There was something more than met the eye in that proposal. I came to learn that the old Marquis had been so long secluded from the outer world, that he might be a safe and unsuspected recipient of the secrets of the Royalists on the other side of the channel. It was not to obtain a correct accent, to hear
Racine and Moliere read with unaccustomed elegance, that writers and statesmen went to that second floor of the Fleet Prison, where the Marquis sat through all the changes of seasons, not deficient in any of the means of procuring abundant comforts and luxuries. His lively niece had her piano; she was always ready to mix with the select acquaintance who found their way to her strange abode; and the monotony of her life was often relieved by an afternoon walk with a friend or two—but always with a female friend—to the Hampstead or Highgate Hills, care being necessarily taken that she should return to the Fleet before the “lock-up.”

Never were the ordinary politicians, whose opinions were unceasingly fluctuating amidst the shifting scenes of the great drama that was being played out, more baffled and disturbed than in the early summer of this year. The sanguinary battles of Lutzen and Bautzen had been fought; and when the exhausted combatants on either side had agreed to an armistice, it was believed that there was an end of the German insurrection, and that there would be another patch-
ing-up of hostilities as in the days of Tilsit. In the middle of May
Wellington was within his lines in Portugal. There was a class of people then, as there always will be, who are best described by the poet who best knew human nature:
“Success or loss, what is or is not, serves
As stuff for these men to make paradoxes.”
The paradox now was, that Wellington was deficient in boldness because he bided his time. Yet in one short month he marched from the frontier of Portugal to the opposite frontier of Spain, and on the 21st of June he won the crowning victory of Vittoria. The consequences of this signal triumph were so manifest, that people throughout the kingdom gave themselves up to one tumult of joy, and abandoned for ever their doubts of the great general who was now regarded as the hope of Europe. We quickly passed, too, into a more confident feeling that the naval supremacy of England was not utterly destroyed. In the same pages in which I had to comment on the great victory by land, I had to record that wonderful sea-fight of a quarter of an hour between the Shannon and the Chesapeake, which lifted our flag as effectually out of the disgrace of 1812 as if a whole American squadron had been carried into Halifax. In August, arrived the news of the battles of the Pyrenees and the fall of St. Sebastian. The armistice in Germany had come to an end. In the same month the battle of Dresden had been fought, and
Moreau was killed. Some journals still doubted the ultimate result of the mighty continental struggle.

The believers in Moore’s Almanack—and they comprised nearly all the rural population and very
many of the dwellers in towns—would turn this year with deep anxiety to the wondrous hieroglyphic which was to exhibit the destiny of the nations. When “Master Moore,” as the good folks called him, uttered his mystical sentences under the awful heading of “Vox Cœlorum, Vox Dei, the Voice of the Heavens is the Voice of God,” how small sounded the mundane reasonings of the newspaper writers. If the great astrologer prophesied disaster, few would be the believers in success. There was scarcely a house in Southern England in which this two shilling’s worth of imposture was not to be found. There was scarcely a farmer who would cut his grass if the Almanack predicted rain. No cattle-doctor would give a drench to a cow unless he consulted the table in the Almanack showing what sign the moon is in, and what part of the body it governs. When, on the 3rd of November, the guns were fired for the intelligence of the mighty victory of Leipzig, few would believe that the war would have a favourable termination till they had read “the Signs of Heaven” in the mysterious picture which might haply foreshadow the fall of the Beast in the Revelations. It was more than probable, in the rapid march of events in that great time, that the Almanack of
Francis Moore, Physician, which, from the large number printed, went to press in June, might prescribe something very unsuited to the diagnostics of the body politic at the time of its publication in November. But as the “skimble-skamble stuff” would suit any turn of fortune, if rightly interpreted, it would be easy to believe that the prophet had foretold the passage of the Rhine by the Allied Armies on the last day of the year.