LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoir of Francis Hodgson
Francis Hodgson to Humphrey Sumner, 1 October 1807

Vol. 1 Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II. 1794-1807.
Chapter III. 1807-1808.
Chapter IV. 1808.
Chapter V. 1808-1809.
Chapter VI. 1810.
Chapter VII. 1811.
Chapter VIII. 1811.
Chapter IX. 1811.
Chapter X. 1811-12.
Chapter XI. 1812.
Chapter XII. 1812-13.
Chapter XIII. 1813-14.
Vol. 2 Contents
Chapter XIV. 1815-16.
Chapter XV. 1816-18.
Chapter XVI. 1815-22.
Chapter XVII. 1820.
Chapter XVIII. 1824-27.
Chapter XIX. 1827-1830
Chapter XX. 1830-36.
Chapter XXI. 1837-40.
Chapter XXII. 1840-47.
Chapter XXIII. 1840-52.
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
Eton: October 1, 1807.

Dear Sir,—I am greatly obliged by your keeping the tutorship open for me so long; and lament the
necessity of my absence from Cambridge till Christmas.

Concerning the subject of my lectures I am very glad to have the opportunity of some communication with you. The books you mention (Locke and Pearson) are as yet by no means among my intimate acquaintance; but I will take the liberty of offering my general ideas of their character to your consideration. Upon Butler, I believe, we are agreed, that his ‘Analogy’ is too profound a work for any but the severest student to comprehend. At the lectures by Mr. Lloyd which I attended at Cambridge, I gathered that there was much in Locke controverted by subsequent reasoners; but I did not perceive that anything had been added to the explanation and argument of Pearson for a succession of years. Of the effect which Mr. Lloyd’s lectures had upon his hearers, as all were at the same college with myself, I can form some opinion. It is an assured truth that not one pupil out of a dozen gained anything from the Locke lecture when I was at college. But Mr. Lloyd has made Locke the study of his life. If then, with his excellent understanding and long application, he could not render the lecture interesting or useful, how is another person to do it? It is
my belief that in the ‘
Essay on the Human Understanding’ Mr. Locke is often bewildered in the subtlety of his own reasoning. Nothing is so dark as metaphysical speculation, and nothing, therefore, requires so plain a light to be thrown upon it. That Mr. Locke’s manner is popular, or likely to catch the attention of young men, I cannot allow. It is very different with Pearson. His reasoning is clear, intelligible, and convincing. I do not, then, despair of being able ‘to tell the tale as ’tis told me,’ which is the chief thing required in a lecture extracted from Pearson; but I do despair of forcibly recommending the fine-spun lucubrations of Mr. Locke to the attention of my pupils.

I have written this letter very hastily, in the midst of uncongenial employment, and of hard additional labour at my publication. You will therefore, I trust, excuse any misstatement of opinion expressed upon the moment, though not formed without previous consideration. The fact is, that ever since your kind promise of appointing me to the tutorship, I have found my thoughts naturally engaged in my few leisure hours with the business of my future work. And I will request your permission to enter a little further into the result of my reflections. Young men are but three years at
King’s, and any very accurate knowledge of a philosophical work cannot be communicated to them by an hour’s explanation every day in the half terms. That the generality of young men will take much trouble to prepare themselves for lectures is not to be expected. A few will really examine their work beforehand; a few more will just run it over; but the greater part will not look at it till the moment. Still they may learn something, they may all learn something, if the subject is interesting, and if their instructor adapts his manner to their prejudices and their turn of thought. But I contend that a metaphysical subject is not generally interesting, although a religious subject is more so than any other; and, as to manner, the young are all impatient of delay. If a lecturer is slow, they conceive that he is stupid, and then the business is done. Now, I question whether any but the most superf1cial knowledge of
Locke could be imparted without a very cautious slowness of interpretation. . . .

Since I left college my reading has been very miscellaneous. It has chiefly been devoted to Greek and Latin authors, but has diverged a good deal into French and English literature. Lectures upon the Belles Lettres, in short, have been my principal
study. I do not pretend to any deep knowledge here; neither my age nor my other engagements can have allowed much proficiency. But, having read
Rollin and Blair when a boy, a third set of lectures upon the same subject was put into my hands some years since by a lecturer of the name of Barron. He has not, I think, supplied many of the deficiencies of his predecessors, although in his essay on Logic he has, I think, done more than they had attempted. What I fancied worth remembering in my own reading I always noted down, and when I was requested, not long since, to give a collected opinion of these writers, I interwove my own observations with extracts and opinions from their works. This employment, and the translation of Juvenal, have, with other occasional exertions of the same kind, filled my time since I left college; and I mention these circumstances to introduce a proposal which, had I not waited for some previous intimation from you upon the subject, I should have submitted to your consideration a month ago. Suppose a lecture upon Belles Lettres—a general account of the sages, historians, orators, and poets of Greece and Rome. For instance, Demosthenes; the character of his age, the state of Greece, and of Athens particularly, when he
flourished; the history and effect of his orations; a comparison between his style and that of other orators. Or, to make the lecture more general, it might embrace a connected account of all the principal Greek and Roman writers, the examination of their style, with extracts from their works; and a general comparison of ancient and modern literature might be made both pleasant and useful.
Quinctilian, Longinus, Diogenes Laertius, Macrobius, would open their stores to me, nor have I mentioned the treasure of treasures, Aristotle. Surely one could blend a spell from them all enough to attract the Old Court.

I request your indulgence for this imperfect exposition of a plan of lectures; but, as I look forward to Cambridge as my residence for many years, and enter upon that residence under your auspices (quod spiro et placeo, si placeo, tuum est), I think it right to make you as much acquainted as I am with my views and inclinations before entering upon my employment.