LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The “Pope” of Holland House
Chapter VI: 1818

Chapter I: 1813
Chapter II: 1814
Chapter III: 1815
Chapter IV: 1816
Chapter V: 1817
‣ Chapter VI: 1818
Chapter VII: 1819
Chapter VIII: 1820
Chapter IX: 1821
Chapter X: 1822
Chapter XI: 1824-33
Chapter XII: 1833-35
Chapter XIII: 1806-40
Chapter XIV: Appendix
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“Rob Roy”—New books—Travels—Mr. Ritchie, the African traveller—Politics—“Beppo”—Romilly and the Westminster election—The “Saints”—Politics.
From Mr. Whishaw to Mr. Smith.
Jan. 22, 1818.

I HAVE read “Rob Roy,” but with no great attention. It seems to be quite worthy of its distinguished author, but inferior in point of interest and general merit to its predecessors. Generally speaking, I think it has not been very successful, but there are great authorities the other way, particularly Mackintosh and Smyth.

I forget whether I told you that Mackintosh is appointed Law Professor to the East India College. It will be a great advantage, I trust, to that establishment.

I have not yet read any part of Mill’s book,1 but Mallet and I are going to look into him this evening. I am afraid that, although perhaps a useful library

1 James Mill’sHistory of India.”

New Books
book, it is far from being a good history. It seems to be wholly deficient in the tone, temper, and dignity which belong to historical composition.

We have been much pleased with a little book called “Notes on a Journey in America” by Morris Birkbeck. It contains in a small compass a very interesting and instructive account of the United States.

Franklin’s memoirs are just published, but I have not seen them; and Captain Hall’s account of the Lewchew Islands will appear in a few days. New “Tales of my Landlord” are talked of in Scotland. What a crowd of entertaining publications, and how much better than battles of Austerlitz and Jena, or even Leipsic or Waterloo!

Jan. 27, 1818.

Did I mention that the Prince has announced his design that the Ministers and others attending his Court shall wear fine uniforms or liveries, according to prescribed regulations like those lately established at Hanover? The Ministers, though prepared to submit if necessary, are very averse to such follies, but his Royal Highness is said to be inexorable.

I hope that the differences among the Opposition are not very serious. I hear of no one decidedly unreasonable except Elliot,1 the old follower and pupil of Burke. Lord Milton is said to be very well disposed, as are Lord and Lady Spencer. There are many reports of county gentlemen who are seceding from the ministerial side, or who at least decline

1 Right Hon. W. Elliot, of Wells, known as “The Castle Spectre.”

voting, and it would be in this way that a general discontent would at first appear; but recollecting what took place after the Walcheren expedition, when such reports were still more current, I have no great expectations; and I should certainly tremble for our friends if they were to come into office in times resembling the present. With the Court adverse and the people not favourable, they would be endangered by every great measure, and would hardly retain their places for six months.

Jan. 22, 1818.

I am afraid you will hardly see Warburton at present. He has been for the best part of a week with Sir John Sebright in Hertfordshire, the second visit he has paid within the last six weeks. If there were handsome daughters one might have some conjectures, but I have not the least suspicion in this case. Miss Sebright, though mathematical and mechanical and geological, has no great personal attractions, and some considerable singularities. Sitting next her one day, I asked whether she had seen some new publications then much talked of. “Oh dear no!” she replied; “it’s a poem I believe you mean, and I never read poetry.”

I will just mention that I have become acquainted a little with Madame Fodor, the prima donna of the opera. She sings with great taste, and is a pleasing and amiable woman, married to a well-behaved, unaffected Frenchman.

Feb. 21, 1818.

Lord Sidmouth is supposed to be tottering on his ministerial throne. In case of his retirement he will
be succeeded by
Peel, who made the famous anti-Catholic speech last year, and is the great favourite of the Court party. His original principles were those of a Manchester Church and King Tory, which his Oxford education has not improved. He is considered as treading in the steps of Perceval, and I am afraid is certainly destined to be the Minister of this country.

Leonard Horner has been in London, and I have had a great deal of conversation with him respecting his brother’s papers, which are certainly very interesting. The family are so kind as to leave everything to my determination; and I think something must be attempted. But my official engagements are still unremitted, and I have no time to sit down seriously to such an undertaking.

Since I finished my letter I have accidentally seen at Murray’s Mr. Ritchie,1 who is going to attempt a new passage into the interior of Africa by way of Tripoli. He said he had the greatest desire to see me, and desired to call on me to-morrow. His appearance is striking and prepossessing; you shall hear further of him.

March 7, 1818.

Since I last wrote I have had several conferences with Mr. Ritchie, the young African traveller, whom

1 Ritchie was the son of a surgeon, and followed his father’s profession. He went to Paris in 1817, and saw Humboldt, who recommended him to undertake the expedition to the Nigerian Soudan. He was a friend of Keats, and wrote a “Farewell to England” in Spencerean stanza. Ritchie died in 1819 at Murzuk. His travels were published by his companion, Captain Lyon, in 1821.

Ritchie’s Travels
I mentioned. He is the son of a farmer near Ottley, in Yorkshire, and was brought up as a surgeon at York, after which he attended the hospitals there. He has since been private secretary to
Sir Charles Stuart, at Paris, where he was well acquainted with Humboldt and other scientific people. He quits this advantageous situation without regret, having been possessed from his childhood with an ardent desire for travelling. He goes out as an agent for Government to Tripoli and Fezzan, with a determination to penetrate, if possible, to Bornou, for the purpose chiefly of exploring the river Zad, and of ascertaining whether it has any connection with the Niger. The Pacha of Tripoli, now closely connected with the British Government, with whom a communication has been had upon this subject, has promised a safe conduct to Fezzan, and is confident there will be no difficulty in reaching Bornou. The young traveller is confident and sanguine, but at the same time natural and pleasing. He asked my opinion on various points of African geography, and on several of the late books of travels. I could not give him much information; but he pressed me strongly to furnish him with some hints and suggestions in writing, which I hope to do, chiefly with a view to enforcing great care and circumspection.

He set out a few days ago for Paris, where he proposes to remain two months on his way to Africa, in order to improve himself in Arabic and in the art of taking astronomical observations. He talks of being absent about fifteen months. The parting was
“Childe Harold“
very melancholy, as I could hardly expect to see him again.

A curious poem in the burlesque style has been published by Lord Byron, called “Beppo,” written in a very original vein of humour, and forming a great addition to his poetical reputation. It contains, unfortunately, a furious attack upon his former friend poor Sotheby, who has offended him by his criticisms, and a malignant allusion to his wife, as one who studies mathematics. The fourth canto of “Childe Harold” is sent back to Venice, in order that some passages deemed objectionable (probably attacks on the Regent) might be revised and corrected.

March, 1818.

I ought to have mentioned Mr. and Mrs. Henry Hobhouse as having been of the party at Ricardo’s. You have perhaps heard that J. Hobhouse is about to publish separate remarks on Italy (besides the notes on Lord Byron), which are to appear on the same day with the fourth canto of “Childe Harold.” I am afraid he will damage his cause by violence and exaggeration.

Gifford, the Quarterly reviewer, who has seen the MSS. of the fourth canto, says that it is decidedly the best of Lord Byron’s works.

London, July 10, 1818.

It is time to say something of what has been passing in our own country, which has been a scene of great interest ever since you left us.1 The season

1 Mr. and Mrs. Smith were travelling on the Continent.

Romilly and Westminster
closed with great éclat on the part of the Opposition.
Romilly in particular distinguished himself, and pronounced a memorable and most appropriate funeral oration over the expiring Parliament. This circumstance probably suggested the fortunate thought of starting him as a candidate in the Whig interest for Westminster—a project rather hazardous at the time, but fully justified by the event, and a great triumph has been gained, on the part of rational liberty, over the Court of Rabble, the parties of St. James and St. Giles. Such, one may say, is the fanaticism of the latter party, that Bentham, who has been intimately connected with Romilly near forty years, refused to support him and gave no vote. Mill voted singly for Burdett; and Ricardo at first hesitated, but at length voted for Romilly, and gave him a cordial support. Douglas Kinnaird was a competitor with Hobhouse for the honour of being proposed by the Westminster committee as Burdett’s colleague, and fortunately for Hobhouse succeeded in his object.
“By merit raised
To that bad eminence.”

After three days, at which Burdett was constantly losing at the poll, the committee found it necessary to throw Kinnaird overboard, and were obliged to resort to what they term the art of corruption, and to spend money and use every effort on behalf of Burdett, whom they were not able to place at the head of the poll. Kinnaird vented his spleen in a very discreditable manner, by a series of petulant
The Elections
speeches on the hustings against the Whigs. The election of three Opposition candidates for the City, and of
Sir Robert Wilson for the Borough, the defeat of the veteran Curtis, and Barclay the great brewer, are prodigious triumphs for the popular cause, and were wholly unexpected by Government. The return of Lord Ebrington for Devonshire, and Mr. Phillips, of Garendon Park, for Leicestershire, counties hitherto devoted to the Tory interest, must also be enumerated amongst the “signs of the times”; and it must be observed in general that the contested elections in which Tories have succeeded have been carried by great exertions and expense.

It is highly gratifying to think that this series of ministerial failures is mainly to be attributed to the opinions entertained by the great body of the electors to the suspension of the Habeas Corpus and the other strong measures of the late Parliament. I hope that the Opposition will conduct themselves prudently, and make a rational and proper use of the important advantages they have gained. Changes of Ministry in consequence of votes of Parliament are now out of the question; but the Court has received a useful lesson, and may perhaps be taught by experience the impolicy of harsh proceedings and the solid advantages of a mild system of government.

It may be worth mentioning that the Saints have suffered greatly in the last elections. Three or four of their strenuous adherents have been thrown out, none of whom is at all to be lamented, except Babington. The rest of the party are the devoted supporters of Lord Castlereagh.