LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoir of Francis Hodgson
Chapter X. 1811-12.

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.
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A week after the last of the letters in the last chapter was written, Byron writes to Dallas: ‘I have brought you and my friend Juvenal Hodgson on my back, on the score of revelation. You are fervent, but he is quite glowing. I honour and thank you both but am convinced by neither,’ &c.; and four days later to Hodgson himself.

Newstead Abbey: September 25, 1811.

My dear Hodgson,—I fear that before the latest of October or the first of November, I shall hardly be able to make Cambridge. My everlasting agent puts off his coming like the accomplishment of a prophecy. However, finding me growing serious he hath promised to be here on Thursday, and
about Monday we shall remove to Rochdale. I have only to give discharges to the tenantry here (it seems the poor creatures must be raised, though I wish it was not necessary) and arrange the receipt of sums, and the liquidation of some debts, and I shall be ready to enter upon new subjects of vexation. I intend to visit you in Granta, and hope to prevail on you to accompany me here or there or anywhere.

My tortoises (all Athenians), my hedgehog, my mastiff, are all purely. The tortoises lay eggs, and I have hired a hen to hatch them. I am writing notes for my quarto1 (Murray would have it a quarto), and Hobhouse is writing text for his quarto; if you call on Murray or Cawthorn you will hear news of either. I have attacked De Pauw, Thornton, Lord Elgin, Spain, Portugal, the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ travellers, painters, antiquarians and others, so you see what a dish of sour crout controversy I shall prepare for myself. It would not answer for me to give way, now; as I was forced into bitterness at the beginning, I will go through to the last. ‘Væ Victis.’ If I fall, I shall fall gloriously, fighting against a host.

Felicissima Notte a Voss. Signoria.

1 Childe Harold.


Hodgson, deeply distressed at the tone of these last letters—a tone which he knew to be partly real and partly assumed, and earnestly desirous that his friend should share the happiness which his own kindly and contented disposition enabled him to enjoy—wrote some verses in a cheerful and joyous strain, exhorting Byron to look at the brighter side of life, and to banish care. Byron immediately responded in those eminently characteristic and now celebrated lines1 in which he alludes to his early disappointment in love as the source of all his subsequent sorrow. When in 1829 Hodgson sent these verses to Moore, for insertion in the ‘Life,’ which was then being compiled, he carefully drew his pen through the concluding lines, and wrote below them, ‘From hence to the end to be left out as agreed with Moore. F. H.’ This stipulation, however, Moore, as in many other cases, entirely disregarded. The lines marked for omission are these:—
But if, in some succeeding year,
When Britain’s ‘May is in the sere,’
Thou hear’st of one whose deepening crimes
Suit with the sablest of the times;
Of one, whom love nor pity sways,
Nor hope of fame, nor good men’s praise;

1 Epistle to a Friend.

One, who in stern ambition’s pride,
Perchance not blood shall turn aside;
One rank’d in some recording page
With the worst anarchs of the age;
Him wilt thou know, and, knowing, pause,
Nor with the effect forget the cause.
In the margin of the original copy Hodgson writes:—‘N.B. The poor dear soul meant nothing of this. F. H.’

This note speaks volumes; coming as it does from one who knew the poet so intimately, and who understood the strangely blended contrasts of his character perhaps better than any other one of his friends. It has often been remarked that Byron loved to identify himself with ‘the dark sublime he drew.’ There can be no stronger confirmation of the fact than these few words, which go far to dispel the many misunderstandings and illusions by which his great name has so long been surrounded.

Two days later he sent a long letter to Hodgson, published by Moore, in which he writes: ‘I don’t know that I shan’t end with insanity, for I want a method in arranging my thoughts that perplexes me strangely; but this looks more like silliness than madness, as Scrope Davies would facetiously remark in his consoling manner. I must try the hartshorn of your company.’ And again at the end: ‘Write and
send me your “Love Song”—but I want paulò majora from you. Make a dash before you are a deacon, and try a dry publisher. Yours always, B.’

The dry allusion is to Mr. Payne, of the firm of Payne & Mackinlay, who had published Hodgson’sJuvenal.’ Payne had lately committed suicide by drowning himself in the Paddington Canal.

It was at the end of this month (October) that Byron paid his promised visit to Cambridge, where many matters, religious and poetical, were doubtless discussed in detail by the friends. During this visit a letter from Moore (the first which Byron ever received from him) was forwarded from Newstead, calling his attention to a former letter written from Dublin on January 1, 1810, in which an explanation was required of certain expressions used by Byron in ‘English Bards,’ with reference to Moore’s ‘leadless’ and therefore bloodless duel with Jeffrey at Chalk Farm; and, failing such explanation, satisfaction was demanded.

This former letter, having been despatched soon after Lord Byron’s departure from England, was placed by the friend to whom Moore had entrusted it, in Hodgson’s hands. Having been made aware, by the manner of its delivery, of the nature of this letter, and feeling sure that his friend’s impetuous and fiery
disposition would at once lead him to consider that it constituted a direct challenge to fight a duel, Hodgson, on his own responsibility, determined to suppress it until the feeling of irritation which occasioned it should have been obliterated by time. But this second letter of Moore’s placed him in an apparently inextricable dilemma. For he had already, as in duty bound, reminded Byron in London on his return, that he had such a letter in his possession; of which Byron’s sudden summons to Newstead had enabled him still further to postpone the delivery. Now they were together again and Moore repeated his complaints, though in a somewhat modified form, and requested a further explanation of the delay which had occurred in the reply to his first letter. Still Hodgson somehow contrived to keep it back until continued correspondence with Moore turned enmity into friendship; its delivery became unnecessary; and it was returned in statu quo to the writer, at his own suggestion. Thus England was spared the spectacle of a duel between Moore and Byron. Thus a catastrophe was averted which might have resulted fatally to one or both of two of the greatest poets of their time; a disaster by which the world of literature would have been robbed of some of its most priceless treasures. It is impossible to overestimate the consummate tact
and firmness displayed by Hodgson in this most difficult and delicate episode of peacemaking diplomacy.

Moore’s letter was written on the 30th October. A fortnight later Byron wrote from London to Hodgson at Cambridge, laconically, but in a very large hand underlined, ‘Send a certain letter. B.’; and after two days, having received no answer, he wrote again:—

8 St. James’s Street: November 17, 1811.

Dear Hodgson,—I have been waiting for the letter, which was to be sent by you immediately, and must again jog your memory on the subject. I have heard from Hobhouse, who has at last sent more copy to Cawthorn for his ‘Travels.’ I franked an enormous cover for you yesterday, seemingly to convey at least twelve cantos on any given subject. I fear the aspect of it was too epic for the post. From this and other coincidences I augur a publication on your part, but what or when, or how much, you must disclose immediately.

I don’t know what to say about coming down to Cambridge at present, but live in hopes. I am so completely superannuated there, and besides feel it something brazen in me to wear my magisterial habit, after all my buffooneries, that I hardly think I shall venture again. And being now an
‘αριστον μεν ύδωρ’ disciple I won’t come within wine-shot of such determined topers as your collegiates. I have not yet subscribed to Bowen. I mean to cut Harrow ‘enim unquam’ as somebody classically said for a farewell sentence. I am superannuated there too, and, in short, as old at twenty-three as many men at seventy.

Do write and send this letter that hath been so long in your custody. It is of importance that M. should be certain I never received it, if it be his. Are you drowned that I have never heard from you, or are you fallen into a fit of perplexity? Cawthorn has declined, and the MS. is returned to him. This is all at present from yours in the faith,


The conclusion of the next letter proves that Hodgson’s considerate counsel on religious subjects had, at all events, greater influence with its recipient than he was at present prepared to admit. The words ‘I deny nothing’ point to an altered frame of mind; and universal doubt, however unsatisfactory, is a decided improvement upon absolute unbelief.

8 St. James’s Street: December 4, 1811.

My dear Hodgson,—I have seen Miller, who will see Bland, but I have no great hopes of his obtaining
translation1 from the crowd of candidates. Yesterday I wrote to Harness, who will probably tell you what I said on the subject. Hobhouse has sent me my Romaic MSS., and I shall require your aid in correcting the press, as your Greek eye is more correct than mine. But these will not come to type this month, I dare say. I have put some soft lines on ye Scotch in the ‘Curse of Minerva,’ take them:
Yet Caledonia claims some native worth, &c.
If you are not content now, I must say with the Irish drummer to the deserter who called out, ‘Flog high, flog low’—‘The de’il burn ye, there’s no pleasing you, flog where one will.’

I have read Watson to Gibbon. He proves nothing, so I am where I was, verging towards Spinoza; and yet it is a gloomy creed, and I want a better, but there is something pagan in me that I cannot shake off. In short, I deny nothing, but doubt everything. The post brings me to a conclusion. Bland has just been here.

Yours ever,

1 The translation of Charlemagne, an epic poem by Prince Lucien Bonaparte, afterwards undertaken by Francis Hodgson conjointly with Samuel Butler, Head-master of Shrewsbury, and subsequently Bishop of Lichfield.


In the next letter, dated London, December 8, 1811, and partly published by Moore, Byron writes:—

I sent you a sad ‘Tale of Three Friars’ the other day, and now take a dose in another style. I wrote it a day or two ago, on hearing a song of former days:—
Away, away, ye notes of woe, etc.

I have gotten a book by Sir W. Drummond (printed but not published) entitled ‘Œdipus Judaicus,’ in which he attempts to prove the greater part of the Old Testament an allegory, particularly Genesis and Joshua. He professes himself a theist in the preface, and handles the literal interpretation very roughly. I wish you could see it. Mr. Ward has lent it to me, and I confess to me it is worth fifty Watsons. You and Harness must fix on the time for your visit to Newstead. . . . Master William Harness and I have recommenced a most fiery correspondence; I like him as Euripides liked Agatho, or Darby admired Joan, as much for the past as the present.

In the postscript of the next letter he adds: ‘I only wait for your answer to fix our meeting.’ A few days later this meeting took place at Newstead, between Byron, Harness, and Hodgson. Moore, who
had also been invited, was unable to come. Harness left a most interesting sketch1 of his visit, in which the allusions to Hodgson are so pointed that they can hardly be omitted from a memoir of his life.

When Byron returned, with the MS. of the first two cantos of ‘Childe Harold’ in his portmanteau, I paid him a visit at Newstead.2 It was Winter—dark, dreary weather—the snow upon the ground; and a straggling, gloomy, depressive, partially-inhabited place the Abbey was. Those rooms, however, which had been fitted up for residence were so comfortably appointed, glowing with crimson hangings, and cheerful with capacious fires, that one soon lost the melancholy feeling of being domiciled in the wing of an extensive ruin. Many tales are related or fabled of the orgies which, in the poet’s early youth, had made clamorous these ancient halls of the Byrons. I can only say that nothing in the shape of riot or excess occurred when I was there. The only other visitor was Dr. Hodgson,3 the translator of ‘Juvenal,’ and

1 Quoted by Mr. L’Estrange in his Literary Life of the Rev. Wm. Harness.

2 It will be observed that this visit took place several months after Byron’s return.

3 This is a mistake. Hodgson, at this time, was not even ordained, and never took the Doctor’s degree, even when Provost of Eton.

nothing could be more quiet and regular than the course of our days.
Byron was retouching, as the sheets passed through the press, the stanzas of ‘Childe Harold.’ Hodgson was at work in getting out the ensuing number of the ‘Monthly Review,’ of which he was principal editor. I was reading for my degree. When we met, our general talk was of poets and poetry—of who could or who could not write; but it occasionally rose into very serious discussions on religion. Byron, from his early education in Scotland, had been taught to identify the principles of Christianity with the extreme dogmas of Calvinism. His mind had thus imbibed a most miserable prejudice, which appeared to be the only1 obstacle to his hearty acceptance of the Gospel. Of this error we were most anxious to disabuse him. The chief weight of the argument rested with Hodgson, who was older, a good deal, than myself. I cannot even now—at a distance of more than fifty years—recall those conversations without a deep feeling of admiration for the judicious zeal and affectionate earnestness (often speaking with tears in his eyes) which Dr. Hodgson evinced in his advocacy of the

1 It will be seen from the foregoing letters that this is hardly a complete statement of the case.

truth. The only difference, except perhaps in the subjects talked about, between our life at Newstead Abbey and that of the great families around us, was the hours we kept. It was, as I have said, winter, and the days were cold; and, as nothing tempted us to rise early, we got up late. This flung the routine of the day rather backward, and we did not go early to bed. My visit to Newstead lasted about three weeks, when I returned to Cambridge to take my degree.

About the middle of the next month, January 1812, Hodgson also returned to Cambridge, and Byron went to London to his old quarters in St. James’s Street. Several letters passed between them, but not upon subjects of public interest. Byron was again possessed by a feeling of the deepest melancholy, and seems to have recurred to his old sorrow, the early disappointment in love, which he appears to have attributed partly to that slight physical infirmity on which he often dwelt so painfully. He writes to Hodgson with reference to another object of affection: ‘I do not blame her, but my own vanity in fancying that such a thing as I am could ever be beloved.’ He also recurred to the numerous deaths of friends which had rendered his return to England
so melancholy, and especially that of
Eddlestone, and wrote: ‘There is one consolation in Death—where he sets his seal the impression can neither be melted nor broken, but endureth for ever. I almost rejoice when one I love dies young, for I could never bear to see them old or altered.’ He was, moreover, harassed with business and lawyers, whom he describes as being in a ‘pestilent hurry all about affidavits.’ Hodgson again endeavoured to cheer him, and to divert his thoughts into a different channel by inducing him to exert his powers in Parliament. This advice was not disregarded, an ambition of oratorical distinction was aroused, and efforts were made towards its attainment by careful preparation. The first intimation of the existence of this new interest occurs in a letter to Hodgson dated 8 St. James’s Street, February 1, 1812:—

I am rather unwell with a vile cold, caught in the House of Lords last night. Lord Sligo and myself, being tired, paired off, being of opposite sides, so that nothing was gained or lost by our votes. I did not speak; but I might as well, for nothing could have been inferior to (those who did). The Catholic Question comes on this month, and per-
haps I may then commence. I must ‘screw my courage to the sticking place, and we’ll not fail.’

Yours ever,

While the preparation for the great speech on the Frame-breaking Bill was going on, and with ‘Childe Harold’ in the press, Byron yet found time for the following humorous and good-natured appeal in behalf of a friend and aspiring author:—

London: February 21, 1812.

My dear Hodgson,—There is a book entituled ‘Galt, his Travels in ye Archipelago,’ daintily printed by Cadell and Davies, ye which I could desiderate might be criticised by you, inasmuch as ye author is a well-respected esquire of mine acquaintance, but I fear will meet with little mercy as a writer, unless a friend passeth judgment. Truth to say, ye boke is ye boke of a cock-brained man, and is full of devices crude and conceitede, but peradventure for my sake this grace may be vouchsafed unto him. Review him myself I can not, will not, and if you are likewize hard of heart, woe unto ye boke, ye which is a comely quarto.

Now then! I have no objection to review if it
Griffiths to send books, or rather you, for you know the sort of things I like to play with. You will find what I say very serious as to my intentions. I have every reason to induce me to return to Ionia. Believe me,

Yours always,

The earliest, and indeed the only original, account of his first and most famous speech, was sent to Hodgson, and is published by Moore, with the exception of this sentence, ‘I hire myself unto Griffiths, and my poesy comes out on Saturday.’ Griffiths was the editor of the ‘Monthly,’ but there is no record of any contribution to it from Byron, and he afterwards refused to review at all.

The poesy thus unostentatiously mentioned was the immortal ‘Childe Harold;’ and immediately after its publication, Byron, who, as he concisely puts it, ‘woke up one morning and found himself famous,’ now plunged into the vortex of London society, which at once paid him that unprecedented homage, amounting almost to idolatry, which was sustained for a time through the combined influences of his rank and genius, as well as by the irresistible charms of his manner and appearance. Hodgson remained
quietly at Cambridge, lecturing, reviewing, and maintaining a constant correspondence with his numerous friends. He occasionally went to London, and never without visiting and conversing with Lord Byron.