LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Conversations on Religion, with Lord Byron

‣ Preface
First Conversation
Kennedy on Scripture
Second Conversation
Third Conversation
Fourth Conversation
Fifth Conversation
Memoir of Byron
Byron’s Character
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As a natural introduction of the following pages to the general reader, it may be necessary to prefix some short sketch of the life and character of the lamented individual, who, by a coincidence of circumstances, was thrown into contact with Lord Byron during his lordship’s residence in Cephalonia, preparatory to his proceeding to Greece, where he terminated his life.

Dr. Kennedy received his education in Edinburgh. His views were originally directed towards the bar, in preparation for which he gave himself up to habits of close study and application, which accompanied him through life. At the same time, however, that he was prosecuting a course of reading which would have fitted him for the law, his thirst for general knowledge led him to attend also the medical classes of the University; so that when the earnest advice of his friends, in
consideration of a constitution not adapted to a sedentary life, induced him at length to abandon his original purpose, he had already laid a foundation for the profession which he ultimately adopted. Talents of no common order enabled him advantageously to follow up his medical studies; and it may with truth be said, that he rose to a high standing in his profession, and was eminently successful in its exercise; whilst the gentleness of his manners, and the genuine kindness of his heart, qualifications so essential to a physician, conciliated the esteem and confidence of those to whom his medical services were rendered.

For several years after his obtaining an appointment in his Majesty’s service, he was stationed in different parts of the United Kingdom, until he was ordered to the Mediterranean, where he passed between six and seven years. Of these, the first three were spent in the island of Malta, where his judgment and conduct were often shewn under circumstances of difficulty. In November, 1822, he was called to Corfu, and passed the remainder of this period among the Ionian Islands, being stationed succes-
sively at Paxò, Santa Maura, Cephalonia, and Ithaca, and, on an occasion of duty, he visited the island of Zantè. It was during his residence in Cephalonia, in the year 1823, and under circumstances which will appear in the body of the present work, that he became acquainted with Lord Byron, and that the following conversations and discussions took place.

In all the places where he was stationed, Dr. Kennedy took a lively interest in the condition of the native inhabitants, and was active, both in his official and private capacities, in endeavours, by all the means in his power, to raise and improve it. He zealously co-operated in the circulation of the Scriptures, the establishment of schools, and other useful and benevolent undertakings; and by a very simple method, too seldom resorted to by Englishmen, namely, that of associating with them on a friendly footing, he succeeded, to a remarkable degree, in acquiring the esteem and confidence of the Greeks of the Ionian Islands. The Greeks have been sometimes accused of being insensible to kindness, and deficient in gratitude, an accusation which
may probably, with equal justice, be made against any other nation as against them. Dr. Kennedy at least could not complain of this; and he received many pleasing proofs, and at seasons when no interested motives could have operated, of the affection and respect with which his character and benevolent exertions had inspired the inhabitants of these islands, and of the sincere regret they felt at his departure.

Shortly after his return to England, in February, 1826, Dr. Kennedy was ordered to Ireland, where, however, he did not long remain; as in December of the same year, he was sent to the West Indies, from whence it was the will of Providence that he should never return. The summer of 1827 was peculiarly fatal to the troops in Jamaica, and numbers were swept off by the yellow fever, to which disease Dr. K. himself, after most faithfully discharging his trying duties among the sick committed to his charge, fell a victim. He died on the 18th of September, 1827, at Up Park Camp, near Kingston, after an illness of only three days. Some extracts of his correspondence, during the above-men-
tioned period, illustrative of his mind and feelings, under very painful circumstances, will be subjoined in the Appendix, and will, it is hoped, not be perused without interest, when the reader has become better acquainted with his valuable character, as displayed in the present work.

“His death,” says a brother officer of the Medical Department in a letter from Kingston, “caused a general feeling of sorrow. He was highly esteemed, and sincerely regretted by officers who had known him but a short time; they were astonished at the degree in which this feeling was excited, and they acknowledged that their regard was not measured by the time they had known him, but by his superior worth.”

On this latter topic, deeply as it may be felt, it might not be becoming to dilate; nor is it necessary, since the general nature both of his talents and sentiments will, in the most natural manner, be developed in the succeeding pages. Let it only be said, that as the temper of his mind was ever candid and manly, so from the time when serious views of the truth and importance of religion took
possession of it, he openly professed them before the world, and by a consistent life so adorned his profession, that even those who Mere unable justly to appreciate the principles on which he acted, could not help respecting his conduct. Firmly settled in a conviction of the truth of Christianity by evidence which brought it home to his own understanding and heart, and intimately persuaded that it was the best boon of God to man, he was ever ready, when called upon so to do, “to give a reason of the hope that was in him;” whilst no man more deeply felt that all religion was vain, which was not evidenced by the influence it exercises over all the daily actions and relative duties of life. And it may be here mentioned, as a circumstance honourable both to
Lord Byron and Dr. Kennedy, that his lordship was frequently heard to say, that he never felt so high an esteem for any man as he did for Dr. Kennedy. In him, Lord Byron thought he perceived a man acting up to the principles he professed; and whatever effect Dr. Kennedy’s endeavours might have had upon his lordship’s religious sentiments and character, which it is
much to be feared was not all that could have been desired, he manifestly honoured the manliness, sincerity, and disinterestedness evinced by Dr. K. in his communications with him on the subject of religion, and of the union which appeared in his character of the Christian, the gentleman, and the man of letters. The following pages will, indeed, shew the warm sympathy and concern felt by Dr. Kennedy for Lord Byron, and his death affected him much. He was not deceived as to the degree of impression produced upon Lord Byron’s mind by these conversations; but it was at least a subject for self-satisfaction that he had so strictly discharged his duty in pressing on him the truths of Christianity, and the awful realities of an eternal world.

It now only remains, that something should be added respecting the present work, in venturing to bring which before the public, she, upon whom this painful task has devolved, has the great consolation of knowing, that she is only carrying into effect the matured purpose of her departed husband. During the progress of the Conversations here recorded,
in which
Dr. Kennedy felt the deepest interest, he regularly took notes, for his own satiation, of all that passed; but it was not till after Lord Byron’s death, that he conceived the idea of giving them to the world; and so little had the thought crossed his mind before, that he kept no copies, either of some dissertations, which at his lordship’s desire he had written on certain religious points discussed between them in the course of the Conversations, or of his own letters to Lord Byron after his arrival at Missolunghi. As the recovery of these papers seemed necessary to the satisfactory completion of his object, he addressed a letter, dated May 26th, 1824, to the Honourable Douglas Kinnaird, whom he conceived, though erroneously, to be one of his lordship’s executors, in which he took the opportunity, whilst making the request that these documents might be returned to him, of explaining the nature and object of his proposed publication. In reply to a letter written by Mr. J. C. Hobhouse, Dr. Kennedy entered so fully into the circumstances which gave rise to these Conversations, the nature of the Conversations themselves, and his own
motives in intending to bring them before the public, that little more will be required than to give this letter as it stands.

Mr. Hobhouse has, however, taken no notice of the application which was then, and has since been made.

Ithaca, November 11th, 1824.

‘I received your letter a few days ago, and thank you for your politeness and candour. It cannot be supposed that I imagined that I was about to do any thing prejudicial to the character or fame of Lord Byron, when, in my letter to Mr. Kinnaird, whom I addressed by mistake as an executor, I stated that my reasons for resolving to publish an account of the Conversations with his lordship on religion were, that I believe such an account would be interesting in itself; would tend to remove much of that obloquy which many Christians attach to his lordship; and would not be injurious nor offensive to any one, whilst it might possibly be useful to many.


‘My objects are still the same; but as you are entitled from your long friendship with his lordship, as well as from your office, to inquire into every thing that may affect his character, I shall more fully explain the nature of my intended publication, by which means you can judge whether my design be praiseworthy or not, and whether you can approve or condemn it. I shall certainly hesitate before I publish any thing derived from a private or confidential intercourse with Lord Byron, at least such an intercourse as implied no right to publish what took place, which can in any way appear to you or his friends calculated to injure his reputation.

‘A few days after his lordship’s arrival in Cephalonia, I became acquainted with him in consequence of his having expressed a desire to be present at a meeting of some of my acquaintances, who wished to hear me explain, in a logical and demonstrative manner, the evidences and doctrines of Christianity. He attended the first meeting, but was not present at several others which were held, partly because he was busy in the country, and partly because he was not expressly invited. He took, however, an interest in the discussions carried on, and
repeatedly expressed his wish through the medium of a friend, that I would go out and converse with him on these subjects. I therefore visited him several times, and had very long conversations with him. The conversation was chiefly on religion, but it turned occasionally on literature, authors, books, the character of living individuals, and sometimes on his own views and plans, works, and private concerns. On religion his lordship was in general a hearer, proposing his difficulties and objections with more fairness than could have been expected from one under similar circumstances, and with so much candour that they often seemed to be proposed more for the purpose of procuring information or satisfactory answers, than from any other motive. These difficulties and objections were neither original nor new, and proved that his lordship, though tolerably well acquainted with the historical and poetical parts of Scripture, had no understanding of them as the means of salvation. On other topics, I was for the most part a hearer, and heard from him many anecdotes and opinions which, though interesting and expressed in his characteristic manner, I never intended to publish, not only from a consideration of the circum-
stances under which they were communicated, but from their having no immediate relation with the object of my work. Opinions, however, on authors who have been long dead, and on their writings, may or may not, I imagine, be mentioned, according as they may fall within my plan.

‘I intend, in the first division of the work, to give an account of the conversations with my friends; and as I was the principal speaker, this part will contain my arguments in favour of religion, while the objections and difficulties that were started, will be stated and examined, without ascribing this to this, or that to that individual. As all these friends are alive, delicacy requires that I should be general and brief in all that relates to them, not from an idea that any shame will accrue to them for wishing to hear and understand religion, but from deference to the repugnance which every one has to appearing before the public unnecessarily. The second division will attempt to convey a view of the chief external evidences, but, above all, of the internal evidences of Christianity, drawn entirely from the Scriptures themselves, and divested of all theological theories and technicalities, in the most simple and per-
spicuous manner of which I am capable; and if my execution of this part of the subject could equal, which I know it will not, my design, I think that a scheme of religion so pure, perfect, and complete, accounting for the state of man, solving the difficulties of moral and physical evil, suiting the actual condition and circumstances of mankind and pointing out the only road to happiness here and hereafter, could be presented, that the most exalted reason, if fairly exercised, would be compelled to recognise the impress of divinity in the Christian revelation. The third division will contain an account of my conversations with
Lord Byron, written with the same precautions which I use in the first division, except that I mention his name on the ground that these conversations do more credit to his lordship with respect to religious opinion, than can be inferred from many of his writings. The last part of the work will contain an examination of the extent to which real Christian principles appear to pervade and influence the different ranks of society; of the causes which have hitherto retarded the spread of Christianity, and the means calculated to promote its progress in future.


‘Of the delicacy and difficulty of my undertaking I am aware; yet, if written a with spirit of truth and integrity, it may, though imperfect in its execution, be useful to many. I shall leave this question to be decided by my friends. There will be less difficulty in touching on Lord Byron’s views of religion than you imagine, because I shall not form a creed for him, which I fear he had not taken time to do for himself, but I shall simply relate facts which, when contrasted with many of his writings, render his character more amiable; and I shall consult both delicacy and justice in excluding most of his opinions and anecdotes relating to living individuals both public and private.

‘The chief difficulty which presents itself to me is, whether I am justified in availing myself of these conversations with so celebrated a man, in order to give additional interest to a work, the object of which I profess to be utility. If my doing so would injure his character or fame in the slightest degree, there could not be a moment’s hesitation in deciding on the baseness of the measure. But as far as I can judge, a true statement of what occurred will place his
lordship’s character in a fairer light than he has himself done in many of his writings, or than can, perhaps, be done by a friendly biographer. The brightest parts of his life were those which he spent in Cephalonia and Missolunghi, and the fact of his wishing to hear Christianity explained by one, merely because he believed him sincere; confessing that he derived no happiness from his unsettled notions on religion; expressing a desire to be convinced; and his carrying with him religious books, and promising to give the subject a more attentive study than he had ever done, will throw a certain lustre over the darker shade of his fame, and a mixture of hope and sympathy over his character and memory, in the minds of all Christians. It will, moreover, take him from the ranks of such men as
Hume, Gibbon, and Voltaire, in which too many will be disposed to place him, and deprive deists of the right of quoting him as a cool, deliberate rejector of Christianity.

‘I shall submit this difficulty to my friends in England, and be guided by their opinion; and should they judge that the reasons for using his lordship’s name are fair, I shall
then, if you wish it, submit to you, or any of his friends, every part of the work which relates to him, and attend to every reasonable objection or suggestion—I except, however, any opinions I may give on his character and writings, derived from sources open to all: though, even on these points, you may not find much to which to object; for I shall neither praise nor blame his lordship so much as some of his friends on the one hand, or some of his enemies on the other, might probably desire. My opinions shall be free and impartial, given with that moderation which truth requires, and with that delicacy which is due to the memory of a man whose hospitality and kindness I have shared.

‘I have two or three letters only in my possession from his lordship, which relate to a young Turkish girl whom he intended to place ultimately with his daughter, but whom, for a while, he wished to be with me. I intended to publish them as a proof of his romantic generosity and benevolence; but if you have the least objection, they shall be suppressed.

‘I am satisfied with the fairness of the motives which influence me; but as I may
possibly deceive myself, I shall remain open to conviction, and be obliged to any one who shall point put my error; for I would rather alter the work by omitting everything which relates to Lord Byron, or suppress it altogether, than violate any principle of honest dealing, or of Christian duty.

‘The rather tedious explanation which I have now given will, I hope, appear to you satisfactory, and I have only to add, that you will oblige me if you will have the goodness to give me your opinion on the subject as soon as you can, making, at the same time, such objections or suggestions as you consider necessary.

‘I am, Sir,
‘Your humble,
‘Obedient servant,
‘(Signed)  J. Kennedy.’
John Cam Hobhouse, Esq.

It will be observed from this letter, that the original plan of Dr. Kennedy’s work comprised four divisions. Of these, the first and third, comprehending his Conversations with his friends and with Lord Byron, were found
at his death, in a state which, it is hoped, justify their publication, although it is to be lamented, that his premature decease did not allow them to receive the last corrections from his own hand, by which they would, without doubt, have been rendered much more perfect, and worthy of the public eye. Of the two other divisions, a part of the second, treating of the external evidences of Christianity, was in forwardness, and some scattered materials were found of the remainder; but these, as being incomplete, although containing much valuable matter, it has been judged better entirely to omit. The portion of the work, however, which now appears, is, doubtless, that which would have proved most generally interesting from its connexion with a name so celebrated as that of Lord Byron; and under this view, forms a whole in itself; and it is now presented to the world, as found in the papers of the author, no liberty having been taken with it, but that of partially arranging the latter division of the work, which was not left in so finished a state as the former, and of making some few omissions and verbal alterations.


Some extracts from Dr. Kennedy’s letters to an intimate and valued friend now also deceased, chiefly referring to his communication with Lord Byron and his intended publication, together with other extracts, will be found in the Appendix.


Page  Line
227 — 10    insert seen.
244 —  9    for Καθίσιτε read Καθίσιτε.
256 — 20    for as read a.
272 — 18    for sad read said.
272 — 26    for gentelman read gentleman.
318 — 19    for certan read certain.
338 — 12    for excued read excused.

The Plate of the Fac-simile to face page 420.