LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Astarte: a Fragment of Truth
VI. Lady Byron’s Policy of Silence

I. Byron Characteristics
II. Three Stages of Lord Byron’s Life
III. Manfred
IV. Correspondence of Augusta Byron
V. Anne Isabella Byron
‣ VI. Lady Byron’s Policy of Silence
VII. Informers and Defamers
VIII. “When We Dead Awake”
IX. Lady Byron and Mrs. Leigh (I)
X. Lady Byron and Mrs. Leigh (II)
XI. Byron and Augusta
Notes by the Editor
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“I looked at the face of the crucifix, and . . . some sense of what the thing implied was carried home to my intelligence. The face looked down upon me with a painful and deadly contraction; but the rays of a glory encircled it, and reminded me that the sacrifice was voluntary. It stood there, crowning the rock, as it still stands on so many highway sides, vainly preaching to passers-by, an emblem of sad and noble truths: that pleasure is not an end, but an accident; that pain is the choice of the magnanimous; that it is best to suffer all things and do well.”—R. L. Stevenson, Olalla.

“Poets are not ideal beings; but have their prose-sides, like the commonest of the people. We often hear persons say, What they would have given to have seen Shakespeare! For my part, I would give a great deal not to have seen him; at least if he was at all like anybody else that I have ever seen. . . . It is always fortunate for ourselves and others, when we are prevented from exchanging admiration for knowledge. The splendid vision that in youth haunts our idea of the poetical character, fades, upon acquaintance, into the light of common day; as the azure tints that deck the mountains’ brow are lost on a nearer approach to them. It is well, according to the moral of one of the Lyrical Ballads,—‘To leave Yarrow unvisited.’”—Hazlitt, Lecture on Living Poets.

LORD BYRON’S life contained nothing of any interest except what ought not to have been told. His story was not his alone. Other fates had been engulfed in his—fates of which no account was owing to the public. The poignant drama of the separation: “so poetical in its circumstances, and the mystery in which it was involved—that if he had invented it, he could hardly have had a more fortunate subject for his genius”1

1 Goethe in conversation with George Ticknor, October 25th, 1816.

—could not be put into simple prose “sine ira et studio.” Those sad transactions had left a sting in every heart and memory, but a still stronger craving for silence and rest. He alone was constantly on the verge—sometimes more than on the verge—of facing the world with defiant avowals; of having a “Dies Irae” of his own, for the disclosure of secrets, and searching of hearts with fire; of forcing his public to become absolutely his confidants. That public of contemporaries recoiled affrighted from the spectres he called half out of vagueness. They washed their hands of comprehension.

Their avidity for the poetry, once so stimulating to them, passed away. He had defied what they revered, and was expelled from the country. He was already dead to the nation which sent him into exile. The waters of oblivion divided him from England as completely as the sea over which he never returned. His fame had risen in other lands, and spread far and wide, but the English had had enough of his alien and rebel spirit—his “fierce and unfathomable thoughts,” his “eternal wrath”:
“And where he gazed a gloom pervaded space.”
“Eternal wrath” had been his overthrow and extinction; it availed not to give him a fierce immortality of posthumous greatness, which he had not himself expected, or indeed desired, when he should be “where nothing can touch him further.” In England, at least, no more
Byron was wanted, not even a supposititious one.

No spontaneous revival ever came, nothing but simulated praise, and disguised announcements of Byron ware for hire or purchase. Such unreal and passing fashions would have been once for all extinguished by the truth about Lord Byron. It would have been well to stamp out free trade in falsehood and restore silence to his memory. He would not have desired the survival of that deception which began in spite of him; for it was he who first startled the world with “the night-mare of
his own delinquencies”1 in “
Manfred,”—his Apocalypse of defiance to the society which had renounced him, and he rather endured than consented to his avowals being explained away.

The alternate chaos and order of his mind did much to encourage the darkest suppositions of those who heard his conversation. He was in turn dominated by frenzy and master of his frenzy, able to direct it to a purpose. He had a fancy for some Oriental legends of pre-existence, and in his conversation and poetry took up the part of a fallen or exiled being, expelled from heaven, or sentenced to a new Avatar on earth for some crime, existing under a curse, predoomed to a fate really fixed by himself in his own mind, but which he seemed determined to fulfil. At times this dramatic imagination resembled a delusion; he would play at being mad, and gradually get more and more serious, as if he believed himself to be destined to wreck his own life and that of everyone near him. All this took a coherent literary form; there underlies his poems from the crude beginnings in “Hours of Idleness” to “Lara,” and from “The Siege of Corinth” to “Heaven and Earth,” the desire to terrify mankind and make them see
“a dusk and awful figure rise
Like an infernal god from out the earth,”2
but terror was in reality all-powerful with himself, though he added to the above: “But I do fear him not.”

The part of prophet of Antichrist,3 half in jest, half in madness, was assumed in his writings. The spirit of suffering and vengeance of the French Revolution was reflected in his formidable laughter and his mystery of lamentation. He was a sort of offspring of the revolu-

1 “I was half mad (in June and July, 1816) between metaphysics, mountains, lakes, love unextinguishable, thoughts unutterable, and the night-mare of my own delinquencies. I should, many a good day, have blown my brains out, but for the recollection that it would have given pleasure to my mother-in-law; and even then if I could have been certain to haunt her” (Written January 28th, 1817, v. Moore’s Quarto, ii. 72).

2Manfred,” Act III, Scene 4.

3 Lamartine addressed him as “Chantre d’enfer!”

tionary convulsions in France in the years immediately following his birth. The passions which led him from his birth till he returned to the East to die were an incarnation of the romance, gaiety, energy, and cruelty of the French Revolution,—
“tempting region that
For Zeal to enter and refresh herself,
Where passions had the privilege to work,
And never hear the sound of their own names.”
“A golden palace rose, or seemed to rise,
The appointed seat of equitable law
And mild paternal sway.”

Byron, however, was at no time “a patriot of the world” or of any other place, and never dreamt dreams that one day the triumph of humanity and liberty would be complete, nor to say the truth did he very much care. He knew as well as any one that “for this purpose several things were necessary which are impossible. It is a consummation which cannot happen till the nature of things is changed, . . . till romantic generosity shall be as common as gross selfishness, . . . till the love of power and of change shall no longer goad men on to restless action, till passion and will, hope and fear, love and hatred, and the objects proper to excite them, that is, alternate good and evil, shall no longer sway the bosoms and businesses of men.”1 Byron was more sensible to the stupendous poetry of the relentless empire of force and heroes which in his time had almost mastered the world.

Men of judgment and authority, Lord John Russell, Lord Lansdowne, Canning and Hobhouse2 were unanimous that there ought to be no biography—he had been too great a reprobate,3 that it was quite out of the question to enter into the details of Lord Byron’s life,4 that Lord Byron’s letters could not be published by those

1 Hazlitt on Mr. Wordsworth’s poem, “The Excursion.”

2 Moore’s Diary, v. 40, 41.

3 Ibid., v. 51.

4 Ibid., iv. 25.

to whom they were addressed confidentially.1 That there was no excuse for cramming not over-willing contemporaries with Byron biography was also implied in
Lord Holland’s strong protest against an assignment2 or pawning of the Byron Memoirs to a bookseller for ultimate publication. Lord Holland “seemed to think it was in cold blood depositing a sort of quiver of poisoned arrows for a future warfare on private character.” This was on November 4th, 1821, and implied censure on Byron himself for his intention to bequeath his own story to the world when he should be gone.3

If publication of a life is ever legitimate, it must be that of an autobiography designed expressly for that end. Nevertheless, it would seem that Lord Byron did listen to the strong remonstrances made, and withdraw the authority for immediate publication of his Memoirs in the event of his death. Their destruction he never contemplated, and assuredly he would far sooner have committed to the flames most of the intolerable volumes issued about him from that day to this, together with their compilers and publishers.4

1 Moore’s Diary, v. 154.

2 [Lord Byron had given his autograph memoirs to Thomas Moore, who had raised a loan of £2,000 on them from Mr. Murray.—Ed.]

3 Moore’s Diary, iii. 298.

4 “During our ride the conversation turned on our mutual friends and acquaintances in England. Talking of two of them, for one of whom he professed a great regard, he declared laughingly that they had saved him from suicide. Seeing me look grave, he added: ‘It is a fact, I assure you: I should positively have destroyed myself, but I guessed that ——— or ——— would write my life, and with this fear before my eyes, I have lived on. I know so well the sort of things they would write of me—the excuses, lame as myself, that they would offer for my delinquencies, while they were unnecessarily exposing them, and all this done with the avowed intention of justifying what, God help me I cannot be justified, my unpoetical reputation, with which the world can have nothing to do! One of my friends would dip his pen in clarified honey, and the other in vinegar, to describe my manifold transgressions, and as I do not wish my poor fame to be either preserved or pickled, I have lived on and written my Memoirs, where facts will speak for themselves, without the editorial candour of excuses, such as “we cannot excuse this unhappy error, or defend that impropriety”—the mode,’ continued Byron, ‘in which friends exalt their own prudence and virtue, by exhibiting the want of those qualities in the dear departed, and by marking their disapproval of his errors. I have written my Memoirs,’ said Byron, ‘to save the necessity of their being written by a friend or friends, and have only to hope they will not add notes’” (Lady Blessington’sJournal of Conversations with Lord Byron” p. 56).


The Memoirs were burnt with indecent haste on the third morning from the arrival of the news of Lord Byron’s death.

The pretended reason put forward was an allegation that the Memoirs were “of such a low, Pot-house description”1 that they never could be published by a Church and King bookseller. Such was the assertion of the “foremost of literary prostitutes”—“one of the meanest specimens of the workmanship of God”2—the informer Gifford.3 “Grown old in the service of corruption,”4 this “menial tool of noble families”4 commonly reserved his rancour for those low people of whom he had originally been one himself. Once no flattery of the “Noble Bard” had been too fulsome for Keats’s traducer.5

1 These were the very words attributed to Gifford by Murray, first in conversation with Captain Lord Byron (March 15th, 1828), and repeated in a letter from the same Murray to Sir Robert Wilmot Horton (March 25th, 1830).

2Adonais,” p. 5. Shelley had “dipped his pen in consuming fire” to write these indelible words (Shelley Society facsimile, p. 15).

3 “You are a little person, but a considerable cat’s paw; and so far worthy of notice. Your clandestine connexion with persons high in office constantly influences your opinions, and alone gives importance to them. You are the Government Critic—a character nicely differing from that of a government spy—the invisible link that connects literature with the police. It is your business to keep a strict eye over all writers who differ in opinion with his Majesty’s Ministers, and to measure their talents and attainments by the standard of their servility and meanness” (Hazlitt’s letter to William Gifford, Esq.).

4 Hazlitt’s letter to William Gifford, Esq.

5 “From the difficulty Gifford had in constructing a sentence of common grammar, and his frequent failures,” his ignominious defamation, like his venal good nature, was sometimes committed to a colleague, or even a comparatively respectable man, for execution. He was one of those persons who “cannot write a whole work themselves, but they take care that the whole is such as they might have written; it is to have the Editor’s mark, like the broad R on every page . . . nothing is to be differently conceived or better expressed than the Editor could have done it” (Sketches, etc., by Hazlitt, 1839, p. 353). It has been suggested that Editor Gifford employed Croker on the vile article about Keats, but it is not very material whether those turpitudes were partly Croker’s or wholly Gifford’s.

Lame G.,” as Hazlitt named this sinister figure, was “in no danger of exciting the jealousy of his patrons by a mortifying display of extraordinary talents.” “A happy combination of defects, natural and acquired,” “at once ensured the gratitude and contempt” of those who “presided over the impure expedients of the state.” Amongst other shameful functions, he was Commissioner in the Lottery Office. The one honest thing about him was his aversion to genius and beauty. “He damns a beautiful expression less out of spite than because he really does not understand it. Any novelty of thought or sentiment gives him a shock from which he cannot recover for some time, and

The “
Quarterly Review” of February, 1817, “wrote Byron down a beauty, borrowing the description of his charms from Glenarvon!!!” “This precious piece of impudence”1 was attributed to Walter Scott, “who, amiable, frank, friendly, manly in private life,”—“joined a gang of desperadoes to spread calumny, contempt, infamy, wherever they were merited by honesty or talent on a different side—who officiously undertook to decide public questions by private insinuations, to prop the throne by nicknames, and the altar by lies—who being (by common consent) the finest, the most humane and accomplished writer of his age, associated himself with and encouraged the lowest panders of a venal press.”2

The article was in no real sense Scott’s own, being entirely inspired by “Gifford, Murray and Co.”3

he naturally takes his revenge for the alarm and uneasiness occasioned him, without reference to venal or party motives” (“Spirit of the Age,” and letter to “William Gifford Esqe).

In an unpublished letter, J. C. Hobhouse wrote that Gifford began his career “as a voluntary reformer, self-sworn upon his own altar to make war upon the giant vices of the age, and be at the least himself an honest man”—and that he had concluded “as the pimp and pander of the Court.”

1 Robert John Wilmot to Lady Byron, February 20th, 1817.

2 Hazlitt’sSpirit of the Age,” pp. 154, 155.

“The beginning of the nineteenth century saw bands of literary ruffians marshalled in order for each of the two parties in politics, and prepared to shoot down, scatter and trample upon all who presumed to hold other views of politics or religion than their own. The Quarterly and Edinburgh Reviews, in the first decades of the century, were, to the authors of the period, very much what the scalping Indian tribes of Sioux or Choctaws were to the New England settlers” (Miss Frances Power Cobbe on Schadenfreude or έπιχαιρεκακία in the “Contemporary Review,” May, 1902).

According to Hazlitt—scalper of scalpers—the crimes of the “Edinburgh Review” were exclusively literary. It ridiculed the “Lyrical Ballads,” and denied their beauties, but did not “barb ridicule by some allusion (false or true) to private history.” Jeffrey was not “impervious alike to truth and candour,” and did not “traduce every opponent” (“Spirit of the Age,” pp. 306, etc.).

3 Robert John Wilmot to Lady Byron, February 20th, 1817.

The argument of the article attributed to Walter Scott was:

“That Lord Byron was not quite a Joseph, but that he was the soul of honour and generosity.

“That he never told even a white lie, nor made himself in any way whiter than he truly was. That he did think Lady Byron a little too good, and was in a passion, which frightened her, and her friends still worse—and then was rather too proud to beg pardon, which she was too much affronted to grant.

“That he showed a disregard of money which was foolish, to be sure, but


Gifford’s insinuation against the Byron Memoirs was no more trustworthy than his former adulation of the autobiographer. There was nothing at all gross in the first part of the Memoirs, ending in the summer of 1816. In the latter portion there were at most four or five indelicate pages, which could have perfectly been spared. Lord John Russell, Lady Holland and other readers of the Memoirs agree about this.

It is absolutely untrue that the Memoirs were burnt for Lady Byron’s sake or by her influence. She did not wish to destroy them, and had no motive whatever for their disappearance;—quite the reverse—had it depended on her. It was her interest to preserve and perpetuate all possible evidence.

One of the real reasons for the destruction of the MS. was a panic over possible revelations concerning another lady, whose feelings and interests were put forward as the paramount consideration by the parties to that deed. If its destruction was for anyone’s interest, it was for hers. It is uncertain how far she was compromised in it. Lord John Russell, who had read the Memoirs, stated in 1869 that she was not implicated, but Lady Holland, who had also read them, stated in 1843 that she was. Sir Walter Scott seems in 1825 to have heard something from Moore of a dark reason for the destruction of the Memoirs, for, after lamenting the decision, which he attributes to “the executors,” he remarks: “it was a pity,” adding, “but there was a reason,—premat nox

poets will be romantic sometimes. (N.B. No romance about money was attributed to Mr. Scott himself)” (Lady Byron to the Hon. Mrs. Villiers, March 6th, 1817).

There was a “defect of moral force in Scott’s character; invariable candour and moderation in judging men is generally accompanied by such a defect. Scott seems to be always disposed to approve of rectitude of conduct and to acquiesce in the general rules of morality, but without any instinctive or unconquerable aversion from vice,—witness his friendship for Byron” (Henry Taylor to Edward Villiers, October 15th, 1827).

In contrast to Scott, Wordsworth seemed to Ticknor to have no regard at all for Lord Byron. Though Wordsworth admired Byron’s talent, he had a deep-rooted abhorrence of his character, and besides seemed to feel a little bitterness against Childe Harold for taking something of Wordsworth’s own lakish manner, and what was worse, “borrowed some of his thoughts” (Ticknor’s “Journal”).

alta. However this may be, in 1824 all—and more particularly the lady herself—were very uneasy on this point. She wrote on Sunday, May 16th, 1824: “It is my very decided opinion that the Memoirs ought to be burnt, and I think the sooner the better.”1 Next morning they were burnt.

Lady Byron always suspected, but never knew positively that Mrs. Leigh was implicated in the Memoirs. Mrs. Leigh had expressed so great an anxiety to have them burnt for Lady Byron’s sake!2

The meanest part of the whole business was that some of those concerned endeavoured afterwards to shift the responsibility for their own betrayal of Lord Byron’s confidence on to his widow, who would never have consented to it had it depended upon her, was actually at a distance from the spot, totally ignorant of what was being done, and did not approve when she heard of it for the first time after the perpetration of the treachery. Proof of this will be found in Appendix A. Documents of 1820 will be found in Chapter V which show how little fear Lady Byron had of the Memoirs on her own account, though she rightly wished to shield her daughter’s youth from insulting public discussion of private family circumstances.

Any kind of publication about the domestic relations of Lord and Lady Byron was criminal, and it was treacherous to destroy the Memoirs. A third course was clear: simply to lock them up for a term of years, or lives, in safe hands, such, for example, as Hobhouse’s, or Colonel Francis Hastings Doyle’s. Lord Byron’s own words about his MS. were that he “gave it to the care” of the man3 who afterwards pawned it.

The pawner and his creditor, after pretending to burn the authentic Autobiography because it was shocking, joined fortunes to present to the public a contraband version of Lord Byron’s vices. The improper Venetian

1 The Hon. Mrs. Leigh to Robert John Wilmot Horton.

2 Lady Noel Byron to the Earl of Lovelace, August 3rd, 1843.

3 Moore.

women of the Byronic Venusberg were given the beau rôle of the poet’s nine Muses in this travesty of an apotheosis. But besides the scandals, which would have been found in the
Memoirs, others were dragged in or invented, which assuredly were not included in them. For example, Lord Byron’s officious traducers added endless false and sentimental garbage about his ignominious fan-carrying bondage to Guiccioli. The Memoirs had not been continued to those four years of forced and penal adultery—opprobrious end to the merry madness of his “nine w——s of Venice”1—as he called them.

If post mortem advertisements in rotten books could create a poet’s literary concubine out of an elderly nobleman’s divorcible wife, hard and dull in character, with an evil countenance and dumpy figure, Guiccioli’s claims to that sort of notoriety were trumpeted without much pretence of decency. Doubtless in a way she might be considered to hold Lord Byron by right of capture. She certainly showed great determination not to let him loose again. In the lassitude of reaction after his Venetian comédie rosse, he just endured his thraldom; but he loathed and detested it from the very first,—wrote of it with despair to his friends, with bitter taunts to
“her, whom of all earthly things
That lived, the only thing he seemed to love.”2
Augusta he reproached with having driven him into the trap. At the same time he promised her that if she would come out to him in Italy, she should never meet “any Italian acquaintances of his.” He took very good

1 Lord Byron’s conversation at Venice, as described to me from oral tradition, was very daring and bitter, with a note of forced jocularity, but there were many grossly exaggerated reports of his excesses. Trustworthy contemporary information from Venice, dating from the first half of the nineteenth century, disposes completely of the most repulsive abominations. There was no foundation for the crass and egregious suggestions of Shelley in a letter to Peacock, which became a favourite quotation for credulous ill-wishers. Shelley’s good faith was probably imposed upon by Jane Clairmont, who had been prowling about with him in the neighbourhood of Venice at the time, and like other spies was quite capable of passing off her own inventions as information picked up.

2 Manfred,” Act III, Scene 3.

care also that
Lady Blessington should not be exposed to the indignity of an encounter with Guiccioli.1 Guiccioli’s one attraction for Lord Byron was her ancient and noble birth. This was the bait that caught him. After the low company of the three previous years, he was not sorry to let his friends hear of a lady of high degree.

Sir H. Davy, who went to Ravenna early in 1820 to see Lord Byron, found him anxious to get off with Davy to Bologna, professedly to see Lady Davy, but really to give Guiccioli the slip.2 In pauses between struggles to escape from his keeper, Lord Byron relieved his oppression of spirits in letters to various people (including even Lady Byron), to whom he repeatedly wrote that Guiccioli knew he did not love her and charged him with it.

Byron had been seized in an impudent man-trap set by one bent on rupture even of such bonds of decency as were imposed at Ravenna; for dreary years he mouldered under a stifling incubus. Such was the dismal termination of delights which in one form or other so often lurks for the man of passion. It has been said that the hunt for enjoyment draws the pursuer far and farther away from it. With each fancied obstacle removed, happiness is still missing.3 The nature of the man of pleasure passes through successive stages of deformation; from romantic he declines into sensual, vicious, cold, callous, malignant.4 Byron, however, roused himself from final petrification, but only when he was fey.5 He shook off

1 It is strange that both Lady Blessington and Mrs. Leigh sunk by 1832 to the level of contact with Guiccioli, who had actually become a friend and correspondent of Lady Blessington’s, and was admitted to visit Mrs. Leigh in the summer of 1832, spent hours with her speaking of Lord Byron—not omitting Lady Byron’s sins against him (v. “Correspondence of Lady Blessington”).

2 Moore’s Diary, iii. 118.

3 Substance of some thoughts in a note-book of Lady Byron’s, 1817.

4 Substance of a maxim of Lady Byron’s written in 1851.

5 This ancient English word, probably of Scandinavian origin, seems to have only survived in Scotland, and is perhaps best known from a striking passage in “Guy Mannering”: “‘I think,’ said the old gardener to one of the maids, ‘the gauger’s fie’; by which word the common people express those violent spirits which they think a presage of death” (“Guy Mannering,” 1815, 1. 135).

his incubus, and went to the East to fulfil his destiny and die. His “madness of the heart” was over, and the remaining months of his life were spent on repeal of the Union of Greece with Turkey. He liked and respected Turks more highly than Greeks, but was the restless foe of prescriptive authority, whether national or alien, in all places and times.1 On his tomb might be written the last farewell of another great man whose heart was transfixed by indignation:
“Abi viator, et imitare, si poteris, strenuum pro virili libertatis vindicatorem.”

His death following closely on participation in a great and necessary rebellion, gave an instant’s shock to the country which had expelled him; but it could not revive his momentary fashion. He was inevitably superseded by voices fitter for a new era, and by more favoured lyrical artificers. The English had learnt to see in him little beyond dismal exaggeration. They followed their

The word originally meant “fated to die, marked for death,” not merely in those violent spirits. The Icelandic form is, frig-r, morti vicinus. The dictionaries quote the proverb: “rigi fry’s frigs vök—the water will not freeze for the fey.” Lord Byron was superstitious about his destiny. Often he fixed his gaze towards the East, saying: “There it is, I must return to the East to die.”

1 Lord Byron never displayed or felt much enthusiasm for the inhabitants of modern Greece. He was ready to sacrifice money, occupations and enjoyments on the altar of liberty, but there may have been in this as much love of power and celebrity as of the principle of freedom. He hated oppressors more than he loved the oppressed. Heroism of opinion was combined with the spirit of adventure and restlessness. His devotion was not to the cause of Greece, but to that of rebellion all over the world. He was just as willing to raise a regiment and go to fight in Spain, America, or Ireland. He was equally ready for revolt either here or there, everywhere or nowhere. At Genoa in 1823, when about to start on the nearest chivalrous or buccaneering enterprise in which he could emancipate himself from European law or social fetters, he constantly mentioned his calm conviction of the worthlessness of the people whom he proposed to emancipate and perhaps subject.

See Lady Blessington’sJournal of Conversations with Lord Byron,” p. 137, and also an able anonymous letter addressed to “The Times” somewhere about September 15th, 1869.

This letter to “The Times” began with pointing out, what was of course perfectly true, that the accusation of incest was no new unheard-of revelation, but an old report, familiar to the poet himself and all his friends, and referred to in his published correspondence. The writer also mentions Lord Byron’s cynical spirit of sneering at the Guiccioli’s shameless pursuit of himself and his bad luck in having her thrown on his protection.

lights and shook him off. They did well to choose more appropriate teachers; they would have done better consistently to banish his memory as well as himself. The pillage of his tomb should never have been encouraged or condoned. Beyond what he had addressed to mankind himself, nothing ought to have been told about him. A respectful silence about his first apparition, his sterile celebrity, vicissitudes, eclipse and final wracke, was what any friend with a spark of fidelity or feeling was bound to observe. Some excellent friends he had who did not betray him when he was gone, but, unfortunately, he had also suffered too many of a meaner sort to creep into familiarity with him. He had even treated them with confidence and corresponded with them. This infatuation was more dangerous to his fame than all his other errors, and was not one of the least pernicious in itself. His moral atmosphere was not the better or purer for the company of dealers and adventurers in literature attracted by interest. For example, his taste and feelings were perverted by his toleration of the blackguard depreciation of
Keats by some of these unworthy associates. When Keats was dead, Byron recanted his thoughtless assent to those infamies of criticism; nevertheless, when Byron was himself dead, all the coarse nonsense about Keats contained in private letters was exposed to the derision of the world. In mitigation of Lord Byron’s responsibility for writing senseless confidences it should be remembered that their publication was unauthorized, and was a greater injury to him than to the great poet he had so little comprehended. Upon his death, faithless and thankless informers turned to the letters they had of his, or their notes of his conversation, for the money that might be in them. A batch of books thus began to be shot into circulation, and to infect a certain public with morbid curiosity. The earliest in the field made little pretence of disinterestedness. Others lay low for a time, watching for some more or less decent pretext. The parasites on Lord Byron who brought out books worked upon imper-
fect information with little accuracy. Their insight was small; they were wanting in good faith. The “
Conversations with Lady Blessington ” was the only comparatively creditable book—but she was not a parasite.

The largest number of black marks are due to two quarto volumes1 (already referred to on p. 123), which were turned out by an Irish adventurer to the order of the Church and State bookseller, who was afflicted with the craze of possession (as “his birthright!”) of the biography of an outlaw against every one of his own sacred institutions.2

When the news of Lord Byron’s death burst upon England, on Friday, May 14th, 1824, Lady Byron’s interest would have been to preserve the Memoirs, together with all other papers of his or hers, as records and proofs of her own history, which for her daughter’s sake must, if possible, be suppressed—for a period—but also preserved. Discussion would be distracting to the child of Lord and Lady Byron as she grew up; but entire or partial destruction of the truth for Mrs. Leigh’s deification was no benefit to Augusta Ada Byron. Lady Byron might have paid heavily in money for surrender of Lord Byron’s manuscript into safe custody, but she could not have paid Mrs. Leigh’s hush money for getting rid of evidence. Without Lady Byron’s consent, knowledge, or even suspicion, Murray arranged with Mrs. Leigh the hangman’s work of burning the Memoirs—executed with precipitation on Monday, May 17th—when Murray recovered simultaneously the entire principal and interest of his disbursement. Moore paid back what he had raised on pawn, and remained with his unpaid vexation. Nothing was done for Lady Byron by either Murray or Moore, but a story became current that she had offered £2,000 reward for the perpetration of the crime, and afterwards broke faith and refused to

1 [See note 2, p. 15.]

2 Moore’s Diary, v. 77, May, 1826. “Murray . . . repeated, two or three times, that the ‘Life of Byron’ was his birthright.”

pay up.1 Moore was the only person with a plausible pecuniary grievance, not against her, but against those who rendered Lord Byron’s gift valueless. And yet both he and Murray appeared from this time malignant towards her.

The plot against her peace and honour would not have been agreeable to Lord Byron. He had not wished her to be exposed to other insolence than his own. He was apt to repel vulgarian assumptions of familiarity towards any woman connected with himself. Notwithstanding the separation, he would never have surrendered her character to a venal travesty. Moore’sLetters and Journals of Lord Byron etc.” were a vile misrepresentation of Lord Byron himself. The worst of his letters were included. There were juvenile letters, in which, having nothing to tell, he made up crude unrealities into idiotic nonsense for idiots to read. Subsequent notoriety could never convert trash written to Pigot into literature or biography. Lord Byron’s memory was vilely gibbeted to upon the refuse of his correspondence. Dissection of poets, poetry and works of art is delusive. Words displace realities; facts get shifted; theories are confused with what existed. The secret of life is never discovered by the posthumous spy. The secret of youth is not in the letters it writes; they mean nothing and explain nothing. The immature letter-writer is what Napoleon called an “idéologue—fonctionnant à vide.” He cannot write with that total and absolute sincerity on which literary beauty must be founded. He neither thinks nor knows what he says—unable alike to say what he thinks and what he does not think. Right speech is long and arduous of discovery—speech that shall be true

1 This fiction, accompanied by other misstatements concerning Lady Byron or Colonel Doyle, may be found in a letter printed with the signature “John Murray” in the “Academy” of October 9th, 1869. [If the author had seen the documents subsequently published by Mr. Murray, he would have withdrawn the word “fiction.” Apparently, two months after the burning of the Memoirs, Lady Byron expressed herself as willing to join with Mrs. Leigh in compensating Mr. Murray if he were the loser, but she saw no reason to compensate Moore.—Ed.]

both in form and substance—that just reaches and not over-reaches its intention.1

Lord Byron’s most interesting and important letters have been preserved in safety—unpublished—to this day, some by Lady Byron, and a very large number by his surviving executor, Hobhouse.2 These last have more sincerity, wit, power and beauty than the best hitherto published.

Lord Byron’s style was sometimes of the highest beauty, but it was greatly influenced by subject and by his associates, these last too often of the lowest order. Even the nobler literary forces were capable of injury to his poetry. Wordsworth said (October 27th, 1820, at Paris) “that the celebrated passage about Solitude in ‘Childe Harold,’ canto III., was taken from ‘Tintern Abbey,’ with this difference, that what is naturally expressed by Wordsworth, has been worked by Byron into a laboured and antithetical sort of declamation.” “The whole third canto of ‘Childe Harold’ was founded on Wordsworth’s style and sentiments. The feeling of natural objects which is there expressed, was not caught by Byron from nature, but from Wordsworth, and spoiled in the transmission.”3

Wordsworth’s faith in his own grandeur was strong; and it was brave in one who had so long been “the spoiled child of adversity.” With advancing years it rather declined into a foible. Byron’s somewhat angry and unwilling appreciation and more or less conscious or appropriate adoption of Wordsworth’s tone in a few places, is not a little curious when it is remembered that

1 “Tantôt la parole est trop faible pour rendre la pensée, tantôt elle la dépasse dans l’effort qu’elle fait pour l’atteindre” (M. Gaston Boissier in “Revue des deux mondes ,” 1er Octobre 1902). Renan had written: “Le succès oratoire et littéraire n’a jamais qu’une cause, l’absolue sincerité”—which M. Boissier would thus qualify: “Sans doute, qu’on parle ou qu’on écrive, il faut être sincère; on ne doit jamais dire que ce qu’on pense, mais le penser et le dire ne sont pas la même chose. L’expérience prouve, au contraire, qu’il est tres rare qu’on arrive du premier coup à exprimer exactement ce qu’on pense, comme on le pense et comme on le sent.”

2 [The letters left by Hobhouse (Lord Broughton) are still unpublished in 1921.—Ed.]

3 Moore, iii. 161.

“from the ‘
Lyrical Ballads,’ it does not appear that men eat or drink, marry or are given in marriage. . . . If the species were continued like trees (to borrow an expression of the great Sir Thomas Browne), Mr. Wordsworth’s poetry would be just as good as ever.”1 Byron was no scientific versifier; Wordsworth was better equipped, without perhaps ranking as a perfect poetical artificer; but when all has been said by the experts, there are a host of lines by either, where no metrical skill could improve essence or form. An outlaw’s passion glowed in one; the other, with firm philosophy, faced a world in convulsions.

Great deterioration of Lord Byron was produced by his intimacy with Moore, who had “converted the wild harp of Erin into a musical snuff-box,”2 and who imparted something of his mean, vapid varnish of conceit to everyone who suffered him to approach them. Followers of the opposite camp to Moore were at the same time crawling about Lord Byron, to his great discredit and damage. The most besetting enemies of Lord Byron’s genius were the band celebrated as “the impenetrable phalanx round the throne,” by whom, “if a writer came up to a certain standard of dulness, impudence and want of principle, nothing more was expected.”3 Their colleague Croker was a friend of Moore, who called him (behind his back) “a lickspittle,” but was himself the Croker of Whiggery. The company and communications of these men lowered Lord Byron incalculably as a man and as a writer to that extent that it has been said with partial—but only partial—truth, “that Lord Byron’s prose is bad; that is to say, heavy, laboured and coarse; he tries to knock someone down with the butt end of every line, which defeats his object.”4 The wonder is that any fragments of letters from a Noble Poet to his attendant servilities should have been over

1 Hazlitt’sLectures, On Burns,” etc.

2Spirit of the Age.”

3 Hazlitt on “Jealousy and Spleen of Party.”

4 Hazlitt’sPlain Speaker,” Essay I.

the level of the creeping things to which he wrote. The best of Lord Byron’s letters were not accessible and still remain unpublished. They laid hands on those to inferior correspondents, and the better portions of these were difficult to discover in a thicket of weeds, sometimes rank and disagreeable,—editors’ garbage and smug commentaries. Not all of Lord Byron’s [letters] have a good flavour. Before his social education began, about 1812, they were little more than the crude insincere imitations, the infantile fabrications of “puerorum aetas inprovida,” of no sort of significance either as to character or facts. Out of offal life cannot be reconstituted.

As the compilations multiplied and waxed fat, Lord Byron’s less uninteresting letters—nearly stationary in number—became more and more wasted under the vacant mass of incoherent refuse which gentlemen of the press were pleased to advertise as Lord Byron’s prose, with fat forecasts of fame and fortune.

His worst prose was put behind a mirage of hallucination and hysteria. Lord Byron was not a Byronese impostor; but he was made up into one by vulgar old augurs who stole his name, invented the pseudo-Byron religion, and finished in self-deception, somnambulism, epilepsy. They saw the unexistent, told the unknown, believed in the impossible. Most of them were afflicted with a childish aversion for Lady Byron that was quite unconnected with sympathy or respect for Lord Byron. In some the symptoms were morbid covetousness. Others were afflicted with argumentative hallucinations which would have wiped out of existence the separation as a tangible event—the consequence of antecedent causes. The real Byron world was to be fabled to nothing and nowhere—replaced by a crazy phantom standing in vacuity like the unthinkable universe of the Stoics:
“sed vanus stolidis haec [error somnia finxit]
amplexi quod habent perv[ersa rem ratione]
. . . . . . . .
nec quisquam locus est, quo corpora cum venerunt,
ponderis amissa vi possint stare in inani,
nec quod inane autem est ulli subsistere debet,
quin, sua quod natura petit, concedere pergat.”1

Nothing is too stupid for belief. Dreamers evolved from their consciousness that Lord Byron knew of no cause for the separation. Some vague but studied complaints (such as his sly attorney had suggested to him) that he had received no formal communication of charges, were interpreted into unconsciousness of what they could possibly be.

Other and bolder discoverers of the non-existent gave out that there were no records of any causes of separation between Lord and Lady Byron. Finally, it was decreed by some determined infallibles, that there never were any causes for that insignificant event, which is thus reduced to a negligeable quantity. The omniscience of the uninformed is everlasting.

Lord Byron was successively stripped of every real and living attribute. It is difficult to comprehend how a story so much expurgated, and with so many signs of being spurious, could excite any other feeling than disappointment at its insufficiency. When people are invited to the spectacle of a man of passion, they do not expect to be shown a sort of abortion. Otherwise they would not stay through the performance, but leave before the fifth act, like the lady at a play in which another hero had been deprived of his identity. She did not care to see any more, exclaimed: “Ce pauvre Abelard ne m’interesse plus!”, and put out for home.

Tangibilities are not to be blurred out and reduced to impotence by unnatural mutilations and denials. Not all the old women in England could neutralize Lord Byron into a domestic character.

In reality the papers concerning the marriage of Lord and Lady Byron have been carefully preserved.

1 Lucretius, i. 1068-9, 1077-80, with the missing words as supplied by Munro.

They are a complete record of all the causes of separation, and contain full information on every part of the subject.

It is true that papers of Mrs. Leigh’s may have been destroyed by her, or subsequently disappeared in one way or another. All the information her papers contained about every thing, existed in duplicate in Lord or Lady Byron’s documents, which are in perfect preservation; and this was well known to Mrs. Leigh herself, who had actually placed some important proofs in Lady Byron’s own hands. Nothing could be more futile than endeavours to make away with the evidence she possessed against herself.

The bulk of her papers cannot be traced. Some cautiously selected fragments were in 1869, and afterwards from time to time, published as Mrs. Leigh’s case for herself or against Lady Byron. Taken by themselves, the minute and insignificant fragments produced out of Mrs. Leigh’s huge correspondence with Lady Byron and others, proved nothing and explained nothing for good or evil about any one. An abundance of virulent rhetoric and unsupported assertions against Lady Byron supplied the place of a basis of evidence for the charges made at her.

Though no incriminating evidence against Mrs. Leigh has turned up out of her own documents, its annihilation would have been a very short-sighted proceeding, of stupid and ineffectual cunning, availing only to suppress what mattered not, except possibly for power of writing and larger justice to the persons involved.

However this may be, it must be repeated and should be distinctly understood that no misfortunes, blunders or malpractices have swept away Lady Byron’s papers or those belonging to the executors of Lord Byron. The essential records have not been got rid of. The facts which led to the separation are as distinct and comprehensible in existing documents as they were to Lord or Lady Byron and those in their confidence. All that passed between them was as well known to him as to
her, and the circumstances which forbade her return were even more present to his mind than hers. Her silence as to her motives was complained of, unreasonably—in the opinion of the present writer—for a complete specification of the grounds of her conduct must have had far-reaching consequences, and would have given him no information beyond what he already possessed much more fully. His memory was vivid for what concerned himself. With his peculiar personality, there might conceivably have been eclipses of memory for particular incidents in his fateful course towards the separation. When in a state of agitation he would drop some half-confidence without mention of names, and afterwards, being wholly absorbed in his recollections and projects, perhaps forget his own allusions, and that there was another being near him, a wife, who suffered and thought. When a woman is placed as she was, her mind works involuntarily, almost unconsciously, and conclusions force their way into it. She has not meant to think so and so, and she has thought it; the dreadful idea is repelled then, and to the last, with the whole force of her will, but when once conceived it cannot be banished. The distinctive features of a true hypothesis, when once in the mind, are a precise conformity to facts already known, and an adaptability to fresh developments, which allow us not to throw it aside at pleasure. Lady Byron’s agony of doubt could only end in the still greater agony of certainty, but this was no result of ingenuity or inquiry, as she sought not for information. Women are said to excel in piecing together scattered insignificant fragments of conversations and circumstances, and fitting them all into their right places amongst what they know already, and thus reconstruct a whole that is very close to the complete truth.1 But Lady Byron’s whole effort was to resist the light, or rather the darkness that would flow into her mind.

1 The latter part of this paragraph is largely indebted to a penetrating analysis of similar situations in “Une Idylle Tragique ” and “Le Fantome” by M. Bourget. Certain passages therein applied so closely to what had to be


After his death she aspired only to peaceful obscurity, exemption from discussions which must be agonizing to her growing daughter, soon to enter the world—oblivion of the dreadful things said of her by her husband, when
“His heart was swollen and turned aside
By deep interminable pride,”1
which had once conferred upon her an unnatural, dire celebrity. She was the one person involved in that tragic story who was innocent of wrong, true in word and deed, generous, resourceful, courageous amidst crushing difficulties, and so she consistently remained till the close of her life. The public were systematically deceived about her by distortions, suppressions, and inventions. An untrue piece of history has grown by degrees into a hideous popular delusion. The ancient maxim that “Delusion is strong and swift, wherefore it greatly outruns all else, and is first over the whole earth, perverting men,”2 was imposed upon some of us as youths to interpret as we could. Passage through the world construes it for every one.

During seventy years judicial blindness has overwhelmed a guiltless victim with infamy in place of the woman actually rescued by her from social and worldly ruin. “Tout se paie,” said Napoleon at Saint Helena—sooner or later most wrongs are expiated, but often by a vicarious sacrifice. Lady Byron has been compared to Gemma Donati,3 but the Beatrice whose “soft breast . . . unto his was bound by stronger ties than the church

stated that an adaptation of able words which might almost have been written of the Byron story is truer and better than reflections composed with inferior insight into the nature and acts of men and still more women.

1Siege of Corinth.”

ή δ΄ Ατη σθεναρή τε καί άρτίπος, ουνεκα πάσας
πολλόν ύπεκπροθέει, ϕθάνει δέ τε πασαν έπ΄αιαν
βλάπτους΄ άνθρώπους΄ άί δ΄έξακέονται όπίσσω.
Iliad, ix. 505-507.

The latter half of this last line refers to lines 502-504, quoted on p. 110, and to the healing power of Λιταί.

3 Moore’s Quarto, i. 656.

link’d withal,” had dreaded nothing so much as the poems addressed to herself, and had written to the supposed “Gemma Donati” (November 6th, 1816): “I heartily wish ye verses in the Red Sea.” This sort of Beatrice suppressed all she could, and did suppress the announcement that
“We were and are—I am, even as thou art—
Beings who ne’er each other can resign.”1
But in 1830, when she was certain that, do what she would (and she had just given striking proofs of ingratitude), “Gemma Donati” would never betray her while alive, she committed to publicity those remarkable suppressed stanzas, to be represented as “breathing all that is most natural and tender in the affections of this [world]”!

Lady Byron was not absolutely disarmed—far from it. She could easily have confounded her traducers, and more than rehabilitated herself by producing her correspondence, which contained crushing evidence that the phantom of Astarte in “Manfred,” of Azora in another poem,2 of the “dear sacred name, rest ever unrevealed,” had been no unreal apparition, but belonged to a living creature, who had confessed everything in September, 1816.

But there were weighty reasons for abstention. Lady Byron naturally shrank from a public appeal for her own justification; she considered first her daughter’s happiness; she was unwilling to ruin a whole family. In addition she “had promised Lord Byron unconditionally” to be always a friend to her who was implicated—“a promise of kindness sealed by death.” Lastly, Lady Byron thought “that the divulging of such a fact would be injurious to society, under circumstances like that of

1 Epistle to Augusta.

2 “Azora, dearest, thou whose thrilling name
My heart adores too deeply to proclaim.”
Opening lines to “Lara” (v. Appendix C).
the actual case.” Towards 1830, Lord Byron’s literary influence was a “light of other days”—distant moonshine, but he retained some of that demonic power of attraction mentioned by
Goethe.1 “So strong was the personal influence, that the moral epidemic to which it did give rise might have extended still further; that the holiness and beauty of that relationship should through my means be sullied by a breath of doubt, would have been most painful to me.”2

Unreserved truth has been thought unfit for a mixed public by more than one great man.3 Family and society live on beneficent illusions. Something in the universe drives them to work for ends they do not understand. If they saw clearly, they would shoot their tiresome debts and duties off into phantom land. A keen but balanced thinker once stated in jesting words the evergreen truth that: “The best security for people’s doing their duty is that they should not know anything else to do.”4 Human beings must not be led to discover that they are dupes to be virtuous; they must be left undisturbed in imperfectly realized theories, which by being believed produce conformity of practice. Men need not be forbidden to think that the love of sister for brother is infallibly pure and sexless; it is often wise and just not to search for undiscovered sins; but it is neither noble nor even expedient to fabricate false righteousness; and

1 To Eckermann, March 8th, 1831.

2 This is from a statement made some years later by Lady Byron. She had written on the same subject about 1819: “It is and above all appears strange that situations and feelings by no means enviable could allure to imitation, but youthful minds are indisposed to consider the consequences of any course of action when it is transfigured by a halo of sentimentality, and they are fascinated by the surrounding splendour. And admiration is not the only motive for imitation; there may also be the desire to become interesting in the eyes of others. Everything is passed as venial when seen through the induced colouring of romantic idealization.”

3 See Goethe’s Conversation of February 25th, 1824.

4 Bagehot’sLetters on the Aptitude of the French Character for National Freedom and Self-Government,” in January, 1852: “What we opprobriously call stupidity, though not an enlivening quality in common society, is nature’s favourite resource for preserving steadiness of conduct and consistency of opinion. I need not say that in real sound stupidity the English are unrivalled.”

still less if at the same time infamy is invented for some one else who is innocent. Illusions and even deceptions have been tolerated in silence by great and just men as lesser evils than bringing down some great ruin; but in actual speech, sincerity of opinion has been the practice of the wisest of the human race—and not least on the subject which underlies Astarte. When some one mentioned the theory that sisters only could love brothers with perfect and sexless purity,
Goethe made short work of the fallacy, saying: “I should have thought the love of sister for sister was still purer and less sexual! For otherwise we should have to ignore the countless instances, recorded or secret, where the most sensual attachment between sister and brother has prevailed.”1

Lady Byron endured all and did not stand at bay. She would not speak and deliver up to be devoured by the multitude, instead of herself, another victim, the one not innocent. Fanny Kemble once not long before her own death spoke to the narrator of “Lady Byron’s beautiful power of silence”; when others said what she did not approve, she could hold her peace and let the subject drop. In the whole of her life she never said what she did not think or what was not true, but she could be silent. However hard pressed about her own secrets, or those of others (which happened more than once), she certainly never was squeezed into falsehood, and her presence of mind was equal to baffling questioners, who seldom, if ever, seem to have fished successfully for information or admissions. Lord Byron wrote of her that she was
“Mute, that the world might belie,”

1 Goethe’s “Gesprache,” March 28th, 1827. It was in reference to a theory of Hinrichs’s, in connection with the “Antigone” of Sophocles: “Dasz die familienpietat am reinsten im weibe erscheine, und am allerreinsten in der schwester, und dasz die schwester nur den bruder ganz rein und geschlechtslos lieben könne.” “Ich dächte,” erwiderte Goethe, “dasz die liebe von schwester zur schwester noch remer und geschlechtsloser wäre! Wir müszten denn nicht wissen, dasz unzählige falle vorgekommen sind, wo zwischen schwester und bruder, bekannter- und unbekannterweise, die sinnlichste neigung stattgefunden.”

but he forgot to mention that she was herself the person belied.

The original of Astarte, through whom and for whom Lady Byron had suffered so much, died October 12th, 1851, and Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace, died November 27th, 1852. Under those changed circumstances Lady Byron wrote:

“As the chief reason for absolute silence has ceased with my daughter’s life, the question forces itself on my consideration whether there are not some facts engraven on my memory which ought to survive me.

“And now, after the lapse of forty years, I look back on the past as a calm spectator, and at last can speak of it. I see what was, what might have been, had there been one person less amongst the living when I married. Then I might have had duties, however steeped in sorrow, more congenial with my nature than those I was compelled to adopt. Then my life would not have been the concealment of a Truth, whilst my conduct was in harmony with it.

“Writing as I do towards the close of life, and after submitting to misconstruction for so many years, I trust that the spirit of self-vindication will neither be found in my pages nor imputed to me. I have no cause to complain of the world’s unkindness; on the contrary, I am grateful to it. In personal intercourse I have only to acknowledge the kindest and most generous treatment, and if I have sometimes been condemned by strangers without evidence, I have certainly been acquitted equally without proof by those on whom I had no claim, of the charges of listening to informers against Lord Byron, sanctioning treacherous practices, etc. Let me observe with reference to them, that there can be no media via as to such accusations, and the woman who could be guilty of any one of them could not be a trustworthy witness in matters relating to the husband she had injured and betrayed. Read then no further, you who hold this sheet in your hands, unless you can relin-
quish all prepossessions of that kind. Think of me as a Memory, not as a Person, for I desire not sympathy, but an impartial hearing.

“Yet when I look at the accumulation of difficulties in my way, I feel that the truths I may bring forward will but partially dispel those illusions, so long accepted as realities, and that even if not a fruitless, it is yet an ungrateful task to translate fascinating verse into bare fact. Apart, however, from any view to benefit the unknown Reader, who may have little disposition to attend to me, I naturally desire to leave a few counter statements for the information of my grandchildren, for I own that on that point the opinion formed of me does touch me.”

This is the substance, somewhat compressed, of a sketch for [the] Preface of an unfinished narrative composed by Lady Byron about 1854. She does not appear to have used any of her earlier papers in writing it, but it agrees substantially with other documents so far as it goes, and is of some interest in establishing her soundness of memory, and as absolutely confirming her good faith. There are only a few minor discrepancies. She consulted several friends, supposed to be trustworthy (and with one exception really so), about the plan of leaving for publication at the time of her death a final and conclusive statement to settle for ever any discussion that might then arise.

It is a pity that nothing was decided that might have had the effect of clearing away the falsehood, vulgarity and Philistinism that still lie so ponderously upon Lord Byron’s memory. Lady Byron left her papers to trustees, and as there were others in the hands of relations, there were too many persons concerned for perfect agreement on any particular mode of dealing with the trust. This has had unfortunate results. When once a league of misrepresentation has been formed, it lives and grows by the brute force of repetition, and gains unconscious adherents, who obediently repeat established fallacies. It takes an unusually sound
head to pick the way through a rotten old stock of materials.1

1 In the remarkable letter quoted above, where Bagehot contrasts the English with the French, will be found the following pointed description of the English obtuseness to new and true ideas: “What I call a proper stupidity . . . chains the gifted possessor mainly to his old ideas; it takes him seven weeks to comprehend an atom of a new one; it keeps him from being led away by new theories—for there is nothing which bores him so much. . . . Inconsistency puts him out—‘What I says is this here, as I was a saying yesterday,’ is his notion of historical eloquence and habitual discretion.”