LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoir of Francis Hodgson
Chapter XI. 1812.

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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TheAnthology,’ to which Hodgson made considerable contributions, was republished in a revised form in the year 1812. This celebrated work first appeared in 1806, Bland and Merivale being its principal editors, and was soon greeted with the admiration which it so fully deserved. Byron, in one of his letters to Hodgson, says that he ‘always bewailed its absence’ during his Grecian travels, and in his Satire “he thus apostrophises its authors:—
And you associate bards! who snatch’d to light
Those gems too long withheld from modern sight;
Whose mingling taste combined to cull the wreath,
Where Attic flowers Aonian odours breathe,
And all their renovated fragrance flung
To grace the beauties of your native tongue.
Some years after Bland’s death a proposal was made
by some of his friends to write a memoir of his life, and Merivale then gave the following account of the origin of their joint work:—

I can hardly say that my acquaintance with Bland commenced so early as during our residence at college, but I was accidentally thrown into his company two or three times in the course of that period; once, in particular, I well remember, in a walking party to Wimpole, the seat of Lord Hardwicke, consisting, besides himself and myself, of Harry Drury, Twiss (now Dr. Twiss), the present Lord Chancellor (then Charles Pepys), and I forget who else. I remember little respecting it except that we were all very light-hearted and merry, and poor Bland conspicuous for that peculiar species of whim and extravaganza which procured for him in after times, among the dramatis personæ of a proposed burletta by our friend (now Archdeacon) Hodgson on the model of Fielding’s Covent Garden tragedy, the appropriate designation of ‘Don Hyperbole.’ But our intimacy must be referred for its commencement to the time when, after leaving college, he became settled as an assistant-master at Harrow, where I was a frequent visitor, and when (principally under Harry Drury’s
auspices) a social club, or circle, was early formed, of which, besides us three,
Denman (now Lord Chief Justice), Hodgson (now Archdeacon of Derby), Walford (solicitor to the Customs), Paley (son of Archdeacon Paley, and a brother collegian of Bland at Pembroke—long since, alas! taken from us), Pepys, and Shadwell1, and a few more, less closely united with us in youthful sport and frolic, may be enumerated as members. In the compass of a very few years marriage and the consequent accession of domestic and professional cares and pursuits, in a great degree operated as the dissolution of our society, but not of our mutual regard and friendship. Several bonds of union still subsisted among us, and, with regard to some at least of our fraternity, a similarity of taste in literature and poetry constituted by no means the weakest of them.

It so happened that both Bland and myself, while at college, though then unknown to each other, had committed divers sins of the poetical sort in attempted translations from the Greek minor poets and epigrammatists. When our friendship commenced at Harrow, we soon compared notes—thence proceeded to mutual exten-

1 Launcelot Shadwell, Vice-Chancellor.

sion of our collections—and finally decided to launch on the perilous undertaking of joint authorship, under the liberal patronage of that great Mæcenas of literature,
Richard Phillips (now Sir Richard), publisher of the ‘Monthly Magazine.’ It was, accordingly, in that very respectable miscellany that we started on our career as ‘brother bards,’ on the 1st of March, 1805, in a paper headed with the title ‘Epigrams, Fragments, and Fugitive Pieces from the Greek,’ to which was subjoined the signature ‘Narva,’ an appellative borrowed (as I well remember) from a poem of Chatterton’s, which, euphoniæ gratiâ, for I think it possessed no other merit, was just then constantly in the mouth of our friend Hodgson, who graciously permitted the name to be transferred to ourselves. This first and the three or four succeeding numbers comprised the greater part of the materials from which Bland composed the preface to our subsequent volume, published in 1806, entitled ‘Translations, chiefly from the Greek Anthology, with Tales and Miscellaneous Poems’; and it was not long before our youthful senses were regaled with the tribute of praise from unknown writers.

About this time Denman wrote to Hodgson à propos of the ‘Anthology’: —


I am infinitely too much flattered by your request to hesitate a moment about complying with it, though I sincerely think the compositions will add no value to your publication, and would do no credit to their author, if he was known. I will beg, therefore, that you will not mention his name to any but those who already know it. The trouble of revising will, I fear, be greater than you seem to anticipate; but most especially I desire that if your opinion of them should change on a subsequent perusal, you will not think it necessary to print them, in consequence of your present application. Most sincerely do I hope that you will keep your promise of being with us more frequently when you are in town.

Two of the poems thus modestly referred to by their author were two translations of the Ode on the Athenian Patriots, Harmodius and Aristogiton, by Callistratus (Scol. 7, I, 155). The version beginning with the words ‘In myrtle my sword will I wreathe,’ is mentioned by Byron in a note1 to ‘Childe Harold,’ as the best English translation.

Two very beautiful fragments by Hodgson, on a pipe in the Temple of Venus, and on a laurel beside

1 Canto iii. stanza 20.

a fountain, are translated into Latin elegiacs by
Dr. Kennedy in the ‘Sabrinæ Corolla.’

It is strange that so exquisite a collection of classical gems as the ‘Anthology’ should have been so long allowed to remain out of print.

Of its talented but eccentric editor, Robert Bland, the surviving notices are scanty. He was appointed to a chaplaincy at Amsterdam, whence he returned to his native land in 1811, after having travelled in disguise through a considerable part of the Continent, during the most perilous period of the French supremacy. On his return he obtained, through the influence of his friends, a desirable curacy at Kenilworth, where he eked out a slender income by the precarious occupation of taking pupils, and died from breaking a blood-vessel in 1825, at the early age of 45. Besides the ‘Anthology’ he published several original poems, the best of which were ‘Edwy and Elgiva,’ and the ‘Four Slaves of Cythera.’

Some extracts from his correspondence are not without interest, both from the date at which they were written, and for the humorous extravagances with which they abound. They are addressed to Merivale, and the first is dated August 9, 1805, St. Alban’s Street,1 Wednesday, midnight.

1 The residence of his father, Dr. Bland, the eminent physician.


Many and the most sincere thanks for your very kind letter. I really am obliged to you for being so happy as you mention, although I think you might have been so without endeavouring to make me envious. And so you wish me to follow your example.1 If any person would accommodate me with the trifling sum of a cool £10,000, I would really do so. But if you only reflect on the treasures contained in my table drawer, you might find 1,000 pounds worth of reasons for remaining as I am—stupid, flat, dull and solitary. . . . You will excuse the gloom of this letter, when you consider the solemn hour at which I write, and the more so as you know that I seldom, if ever, write to entertain others, but only when I am a burthen to myself, and wish to lay part of the load on some one else. But, what is the best excuse of all, I have this evening returned to London from ———, where I have been leading the life of a god for these five days. On Friday ———’s birthday, concert, fire and water works, ball, supper; so that Friday was certainly not so bad; though, to my mind, all the squibs and crackers and rockets and what-d’ye-call-’ems, produced by gunpowder, together with set concerts, suppers, balls, and nicknackeries, are not worth this

1 Merivale had lately married.

pinch of snuff. No, sir. It was Saturday, passed on the lawn, with a soft, sick, languid, and amiable headache, charmed away by a late breakfast and vocal music (particularly by hearing myself sing),1 dance on the green, dinner, music, dance again, singing again till two in the morning, and all in a private family party—it was this, continued for three or four days, that did the business, and made me what I am—gloomy, and discontented. Mrs. ——— recited several beautiful scraps of poems; I retaliated with your ‘Clarissa,’ your ‘O’er the Smooth Main,’ and
Hodgson’s ‘Moderate Wishes.’ The sensation was so great, that, drunk as I was with pleasure at hearing my friends applauded, I was on the verge of reciting something of my own and should have done so—but (luckily) I forgot everything, and so was saved the disgrace of being hissed off the stage. The lines of my own which I was near venturing, were the description of the wood, and hags that haunted it, in ‘Edwy and Elgiva,’ which are the best lines I have written. Very luckily I forgot the second verse, and consequently could not begin the first with any propriety. There is a charm, my dear Merry, in that house, which sets a man at ease in a moment. No vul-

1 All his contemporaries agreed in admiring his singing.

garity, no quizzing, but the most elegant persons with the most elegant manners—music the most celestial, and, as one cannot get higher than celestial, manners the most engaging. Had the whole business of their lives been to please, and they had studied their profession from their births, they could not have succeeded better. And here I must not omit mentioning that flattery is one source of pleasure. None of your stiff, awkward compliments that break the teeth of the speaker, and make the hearer look like a fool; but kind, good-natured hints of approbation, that encourage people to talk, to amuse and be amused. I really cannot fix my eye upon any five days that have been so varied with all manner of delights. I would change the subject which, however interesting to myself, can have no great share of interest to you, only, as you talked of nothing but yourself (and I like you for it), do let me talk of ———. Then we dined in a wood—pretty thought!—‘our seat the turf, our canopy the sky.’ All the oreads, dryads, and naiads were delighted with our music. ‘Satyrs and sylvan boys were seen, peeping from out their alleys green.’ The evening passed in reading, recitation, music, supping (pro formâ—that is to say, as an excuse for assembling round a table, rather than
for the sake of gross eating and drinking). After singing and all the etceteras, we went to our repose, each highly satisfied with the day, and with the quota of entertainment that each had contributed. The poet sought his pillow, delighted and perfectly satisfied with his own bad verses; the rebus, riddle, and conundrum-makers with their subtleties; the explainers of the same with their acuteness; the vocal performers with their voices; the instrumental with their fingers; and, most of all, ——— by the applauses (loud and frequent) which remunerated him for making faces and playing the buffoon. At breakfast this morning, a flash or two, a recitation, and a remark or two, and the charm was to be dissolved, was to be exchanged for—London.

Amsterdam: June 6, 1810.

Any other man, my dear Merivale, but myself would have been in England many weeks ago. No passport has arrived from Paris, and friends by the dozen are lost in wonder that I should wish to trust myself in the heart of our enemies when I can so easily return to my own country. . . . I have a natural antipathy to Trade—to what is trading, has been trading, or shall or will be trading. And so, having said that the country of Batavia—
Hollow-land, Holland—is a land very extraordinary—that to see a people give birth to their country, instead of a country giving birth to the people, is very odd and very creditable to the above people—that the cities of Amsterdam, Hague, Rotterdam, with many others, are the most this, that, and t’other—that their inhabitants are respectable fair-dealing men, etc.—most gladly would I bid them adieu for ever, go to some bastardly spot of Provence, and vintage-think at my ease among these modern Babylonians—for such, no doubt, the whole French nation are—look at Faber else, and the Prophecies which are literally fulfilling before our faces. This being the case, as it really is, I shall follow the advice of a French gentleman, who has been my friend in everything, and through whom I have refrained from trusting myself as far as Brussels without my viaticum—by remaining here about ten days longer, in the almost certainty of getting my passport; or, should it fail, with the resolution to return among you—a resolution not of my dictation, but that of necessity.

You have often scoffed and jeered and otherwise maltreated me for my love of harmony—witness that celestial poem, the ‘Four Slaves’ which I hold to be pure music; that is, English
music. Well, sir, this unfortunate love, with a predilection for everything sunny and sweet, has prevented me from learning one word of German; so that, although one half of the superior commonalty here are Germans, I have not even had the curiosity to go once to their theatre.

. . . . The Germans are, doubtless, personally speaking, what the French call faits à peindre. Their regiments are really beautiful, and the young men of that nation, who are to be found everywhere, are of an exterior superior to any I have ever seen. They are generally accomplished in some two or three living languages, which they speak equally well with the natives. They are all musicians—they ride with a grace and agility which surprises—they are travellers—liberal in the highest degree; but are cursed with a jargon which, when they speak it, does away with all their excellencies. They are extremely loquacious and lively. How comes it that the French, who literally take no pains with themselves, are so completely their superiors? Sense, my friend; plain, natural, common understanding, unfettered by schools and metaphysical jargon, and the balderdash of Gottingen and other places, where such severe trials are made on weak human brains. The
next superiority is that honest and lively prepossession for their country which the former are too liberal to entertain. A German with whom I am here very intimate has been coaxing me to learn the language, under the promise of surprisingly beautiful thoughts in their poetry. May be so; they resemble a surprisingly beautiful female clad in bear-skin. Besides having made a vow to read nothing but what is new, I have, in consequence, determined to read no poetry but my own. Now this is but natural; and then, to say the truth, I hate poetry (always excepting my own) to such a point that I shall manage to take a course of French literature without the nausea of
Corneille and Racine. No: little Historical pieces, with which they abound; Memoirs, in which they excel all other nations for two reasons: first, because the life of a French child is more chequered with oddities than that of an English adventurer; and secondly, because what is wanted to make Truth interesting is supplied to the life from a quarter opposite to Truth. These reasons, I say, make their biography delicious.

Do not talk about translations for the stage. I write no more, except in my own calling as a clergyman; and, when I return, my whole aim will
be to gain something like an establishment in the Church. My appointment here has done for me great and unexpected things. The sinecure of £100 per annum,
Merivale, is great for a Bland, or the son of a Bland. Besides, I have once been taken by the hand by Mr. Henry Hope, and led by him to a Bishop. Now had I taken Mr. H. H., or the said Bishop, by the hand and done him some service, I should have nothing to expect from them, because, as Sterne says, we get on in the world by receiving, not by doing, favours. You plant a tree, and, because you planted it, you water it. Thus, you see, I live in the frequent hope of being watered by a Bishop and by the greatest merchant in the world. In short, I shall state to the Bishop that a chapel in London (the word ‘chapel’ read in any sense you will) would be highly acceptable; that I am utterly disengaged; that I have all the wills in the world, and can get a character from my last place. Thus, between ourselves, Merry, I shall not be again the outcast that I have been. No; no more writing. Our ‘Anthology,’ our dear ‘Anthology,’ shall receive our united efforts. If you apply to William Harness (Berkeley Street) you may get dozens of my new pieces; Yatman has one or two; Mrs.
Burnley has a great number; my sister a few;
Denman (to whom I wrote two months ago a very long letter) a few; Dr. Drury (to whom I wrote an almost endless letter) has one or two. Have you read my ‘Origin of Snoring’? No, no more reviewing for me, my friend. In short, no more scribbling of any kind except in the way of a clergyman, and conjointly with you a finish to the ‘Anthology,’ and by myself a thorough revisal of my last romance, and the lopping the buffooneries as much as possible, expunging harsh words, and substituting softer sounds, cutting off the accursed s from every word when it is possible without great damage to the sense; nay, getting rid of it at all events, and writing a long and learned preface on tale-writing. No; on no consideration will I write or translate. The drama is detestable, and, after the French company, I shall despise our stage more and more. No, they can do nothing. The French are born actors. Who said that Farce is unknown to the French? I beg leave to state that from genteel comedy (which, with us, meant that jackdaw, old Palmer, by way of gentleman, and that rushlight, Miss Farren, by way of a lady), that from genteel comedy in all its shades to the broadest farce, I can institute not a moment’s
comparison between the best of our actors and the second best of theirs. Name me one single woman who enjoys the combined advantages of youth, beauty, exact proportions, grace, a sweet voice, various expression, naïveté, and aptness of falling into her several characters, on the whole English stage. Name me one single man (except
Dowton) who can make you laugh without an effort either at grimacing with his voice or his face. What was that pompous, strutting, motherly woman, Mrs. Siddons, out of Lady Macbeth? Was she not always Lady Macbeth? Mrs. Jordan was a model of English elocution. Barring her singing (which, to my ear, was execrable), the organs of her voice were formerly the purest I ever heard, and, were she now young, I should consider her as the perfection of English utterance. Her acting should be my school so far as regarded sound. But, then, how totally deficient in grace, in all sovereign grace! True, she acted the country-girl—and so does Mdlle. d’Angeville at this place. Mercy! what a difference between the Hoyden rusticity of the one and the Air de Paysanne of the other! In everything the stage should present ornament. A drunken man may stagger, but grace should accompany him, even to the last
extremity. The rags of a beggar should not be revolting. A deshabille—an everything—should be raised in its value, and is raised by the French to consequence by a certain style and tournure, of which our actors and their chubby dumplings of spouses are wholly unconscious. The French possess another advantage—in face. Persons who accidentally see a poor set of old abbés living in contempt and exile in the alleys of London, fancy them to be representatives of the French. You have, in London, no conception of youth, when attached to the word ‘French.’ On the Continent they are now in high feather—well-dressed, with good linen, and respected in every place. The impressions here are, therefore, diametrically opposite to those in London. Their face and figure are completely theatrical, and adapt themselves with ease to their several parts.

The next letter is written from London, after his return, in the language of the country to which he was so devotedly attached, and through which he had recently been making so perilous a tour. It contains some witty references to a recent review of his own writings, and those of Hodgson and Merivale, the latter of whom had just published
third canto in continuation of Beattie’sMinstrel.’1 The review considered that Merivale had improved upon Beattie, and expressed a warm appreciation of Hodgson’s powers as a poet. The remaining extracts, which are from letters written at Kenilworth between the years 1816 and 1820, contain the writer’s sentiments on country life in general and his own in particular, together with fragmentary references to literary subjects of mutual interest.

Here (he writes) we have a famous garden, shady lanes and walks in all their intricacies, and abounding in little surprises of views, a very fair (it is even reckoned capital) neighbourhood, i.e. in a circle whose radius is five miles. Castles entire and in ruins, good modern dwellings, fertility, Dr. Parr, Denman’s fame in all its odour at the Warwick Assizes, Leamington the salubrious, Coventry the manufacturing, disgusting, dishonest, Warwick the gallant, etc., etc., etc. All which being the case, I will come and settle myself in Baker Street, Portman Square, with the first puff of wind that blows me £15,000. And yet, for country, this is really very good. Its only harm, or rather vice, is that it is country.

1 Longmans, 1808.


I have seldom left a house with such regret as I did yours. At the mercy of respectable country society whenever I sally from my own home (which is rarely, and against my wish), I leave it to you to judge how new, how surprising, how entertaining, improving, nay, how impossible the resources seem to me of a London party; the anecdote, wit, good taste, right feeling, politeness, good faith, confidence, that form the elements of London societies, and, to complete the panegyric, the total absence of all respectability, are really my astonishment. I touched, and only touched, on your coming to see me. I have no prospect of any other mode of meeting. Stay. Kenilworth, and indeed the tract from Coventry to the Vale of Evesham, is so pretty that it just touches on the beautiful without attaining it. My house—would it were mine!—is, with its present improvements, a very comfortable and convenient sort of mansion. Add to this, I have been gradually amassing from five to six hundred volumes, my only, and my absolutely necessary expense. I have much delight in contemplating my shelves, and the utility of them I daily feel. The walks around are good enough, the people exorbitantly rich and poor to the most degrading excess. Among the former, several good-doing
busy-bodies, the heroes of vestries, givers of Bibles, occasionally of soup, and tolerable be-praisers of their own munificence. Among the latter, that complete adscriptio glebæ, that utter dependence and want of all pride and possession, which are totally incompatible with moral feeling. The great say: ‘Give them Bibles, and more Bibles.’ I say: ‘Give each man the absolute proprietorship of his home, and a couple of acres of land, and his pride and its concomitant virtues will return.’ In short, will you come and see me at Easter?

Ever and sincerely yours,
R. Bland.
Kenilworth: April 2, 1819.

. . . . The danger of our situation is in the necessity of keeping a good house and equipment at all times, and of living, when finances are low, in one equable train, and with a household mounted to correspond with far larger receipts. As for the occupation itself—ille ego quem nôsti—with all my inequalities, have managed to forge as few disagreeables to myself as any, the most cautious. The uncertainty of a sequence of éléves is our bitterest anxiety. If a man must live in the country with a London soul, why he might even as
well sit at home and talk of the darknesses of Greek, as do anything else. But of country-people—the very poor—I do say, ‘My soul, turn from them!’

By the way, has Lord Byron published since ‘Beppo’? Do desire the Murray, if you see him, to send me his next work on its first coming out. Thank you for talking of ‘the ten,’ and of magazines and other puerilities, but non eadem est ætas, non mens. I have said my say to my uttermost idea, and lo! it is as if it were unsaid. I have so all-to-be-Greeked myself, that I am yet more stupid than of old—an inconvenience somehow attached to the study of the finest language in the world, and from which none, without exception, who know anything about it, can possibly escape. . . . I was egregiously mistaken in believing that I could lounge about London and Harrow, in the absence of my wife and family. The truth is, persons whose existence are so monotonous, and arduous, and so dreadfully precarious as ours, should not separate. I felt this last year—I felt it again this—but, somehow, forgot to put it into the form of a new observation. Here then, ‘what oft was thought’ is at length expressed for the benefit of the Universe. In a word, I will never leave home
‘to go a pleasuring,’ as the servants say, without my wife, until I get so rich that these sicknesses of the soul shall have subsided.

In 1820, Merivale published a burlesque entitled ‘Richardetto,’1 and suggested by Hookham Frere’s whimsical production ‘Whistlecraft.’ Of this poetical trifle Hodgson writes with appreciative warmth.

Richardetto’ I have received and read; laughed with and wondered at; sighed over, and laid down with mingled pleasure and vexation. This is the exact truth, but I shall not at present venture to interpret it. In this age of minute criticism, all the little natural touches (as they are called) cannot fail to be observed and extolled. Seriously, I think you much funnier than Whistlecraft. Bland is equally eulogistic.

Kenilworth: May 20, 1820.

My very dear Merivale,—Call me ‘ungrateful, reprobate, degraded, spiritless outcast,’ but never say I am forgetful—for the fact is, I have done, and still do, all in my power not to write to you or any one; and now, if I could be certain of sleeping if I left

1 From an original poem of Nicolo Fortiguerra.

off, I would not add a word more. My opinion of the state of things is this: you—et vos semblables, if, per hasard, there exists a semblance in the world—have too firmly convinced yourselves of the excellence of
Will Whistlecraft’s performance, which has a strong smack of that Italian cask, always so palatable and pleasurable to yourself. That is, you are a man of good present and future fortunes. I, on the contrary, have much less than no fortune at present, and see a further remove from her favours in futurity. You are immersed in the world, its gaieties, varieties, conversations, contradictions, and acquaintances; whereas, I never clash with, or meet, any world at all, except myself at toilette, and even that fascination begins to tire. Again, Nature may have possibly instilled into your ——. No, no; that she has not, nor into any one’s veins, more milk of gentleness than into mine. And so we will even keep to the difference of fortunes, mixing in the world, admiration (even to gloating) of Italian, and strong prepossession for Will Whistlecraft; and these said circumstances and feelings procreated, and otherwise engendered, a better thing than Will’s—most probably a better thing than Fortiguerra’s—but not so good a thing as your own brains had reel’d, spun, and
woven, had your own brains really been consulted; the language plain, easy, and of most accessible construction—the stanza playful, and done evidently while you were whistling—in a word, facile to excess. Much fun; but I vow you could, without a particle more pains, do a better thing. I mean you might invent a more amusing story; and then all would be as it should be. Have I wounded my brother? Say no; for Heaven knows I have so few brothers in this world, that to me it is all a wilderness—even to this late day of my existence.

A few months before poor Bland’s death, Hodgson wrote to Merivale about him with characteristic tenderness.

His weakness is extreme, and a return of his attack would too probably be fatal. Who can guarantee him against it while his mind is the prey and sport of the most unhappy feelings? Would to Heaven we could, any or all of us, devise some scheme to aid his retreating to a softer and more congenial air, with any prospect of employment and support!

The kind intention was too late to be of use, but
a fund was raised for the bereaved family, by contributing to which (some of them far beyond their means) his friends paid a touching tribute to his talents and to the kindly gentleness of his impulsive nature.