LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Recollections of the Life of Lord Byron
Chapter XI

Table of Contents
Preliminary Statement
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
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1808 TO THE END OF 1814;




R. C. DALLAS, Esq.








I again enjoyed his friendship and his company, with a pleasure sweet to my memory, and not easily expressed. He was in the habit of reading his poems to me as he wrote them. In the spring of the year 1813, he read me the Giaour—he assured me that the verse containing the simile of the Scorpion was imagined in his sleep, except the last four lines. At this time, I thought him a good deal depressed in spirits, and I lamented that he had abandoned every idea of being a statesman. He talked of going abroad again, and requested me to
keep in mind, that he had a presentiment that he should never return. He now renewed a promise which he had made me, of concluding
Childe Harold and giving it to me, and requested me to print all his works after his death. I considered all this as the effects of depression—his genius had but begun the long and lofty flight it was about to take, and he was soon awakened to the charm of occasional augmentations of fame. It was some time before he determined on publishing the Giaour. I believe not till Mr. Gifford sent him a message, calling on him not to give up his time to slight compositions, as he had genius to send him to the latest posterity with Milton and Spenser. Meanwhile, he had written the Bride of Abydos. Towards the end of the year, his publisher wrote him a letter, offering a thousand guineas for these two poems, which he did not accept, but suffered him to publish them. He was so
pleased with the flattery he received from that quarter, that he forgot his dignity; and once he even said to me, that money levelled distinction.

The American government had this year sent a special embassy to the Court of Petersburgh. Mr. Gallatin was the Ambassador, and my nephew, George Mifflin Dallas, was his Secretary. When the business in Russia was finished, they came to England. My nephew had brought over with him an American Poem. American literature rated very low. The Edinburgh Review says, “the Americans have none—no native literature we mean. It is all imported. They had a Franklin indeed; and may afford to live half a century on his fame. There is, or was, a Mr. Dwight, who wrote some poems; and his baptismal name was Timothy. There is also a small account of Virginia, by Jefferson, and an Epic, by Joel Barlow—and some pieces of
pleasantry, by
Mr. Irving. But why should the Americans write books, when a six weeks passage brings them, in their own tongue, our sense, science, and genius, in bales and hogsheads?*” Much cannot be said for the liberality of this criticism. Some names, it is true, have been doomed by the spirit of ridicule to mockery; Lord Byron himself exclaims against both baptismal and surname—
Oh! Amos Cottle!—Phœbus! what a name
To fill the speaking-trump of future fame!
So when it suited his Satire, he split the southern smooth monosyllable of
Brougham into the rough northern dissyllable of Brough-am:
Beware, lest blundering Brough-am spoil the sale,
Turn beef to bannocks, cauliflowers to kail—
Yet we know, that very unsonorous names have, by greatness of mind, by talents and

* Edinburgh Review—No. 60, p. 144, Dec. 1818.

by virtues, been exalted to the highest pitch of admiration.
Pitt, and Fox, and Petty, owe their grandeur to the men who have borne them. Tom Spratt, and Tom Tickell, were English poets and celebrated characters. President Dwight was no writer of poetry, but had he written the Seasons, he would have been a far-famed poet in spite of his name being Timothy; and the theological works which he has written, and of which the Edinburgh Reviewer seems to be totally ignorant, will immortalize his name though it were ever so cacaphonic. The reasoning is equally unintelligible, when the Reviewer decides it to be sufficient for the Americans to import sense, science, and genius, in bales and hogsheads. Might not the Americans as reasonably ask why the lawyers of Edinburgh should write Reviews, when three days bring them, in the tongue they write in, all the criticism of England, in brown-paper packages? Poetical genius is
a heavenly spark, with which it pleases the Almighty to gift some men. It has shone forth in the other quarters of the globe—if it be bestowed on an American, the ability of importing English and Scotch poems is no good reason why it should be smothered. The poem which my nephew brought to England was one of those pieces of pleasantry by an
American gentleman*. It was a burlesque of a fine poem of one of our most celebrated poets, and as a specimen of a promising nature, it was reprinted in London. With this motive, only the ingenuity of the writer was considered. It could not be thought more injurious to the real Bard, than Cotton’s burlesque to Virgil; nor could the American hostility to a gallant British

* The gentleman to whom it was attributed has since distinguished himself in the literary world, and is now said not to be the author of it. It was not denied at the time: the Americans in London ascribed it to him.

commander be suspected of giving a moment’s pain—at least I did not think so.

I believe that the nature of this American poem was known to the proprietor of the Quarterly Review. So far as it was a burlesque on the Lay of the Last Minstrel, I know it was; yet was he, as a publisher, so anxious to get it, that he engaged Lord Byron to use his utmost influence with me to obtain it for him, and his Lordship wrote me a most pressing letter upon the occasion. He asked me to let Mr. Murray (who was in despair about it) have the publication of this poem, as the greatest possible favour.

The following was my answer, dated Worton-House, December 19th, 1813:—

“I would not hesitate a moment to lay aside the kind of resentment I feel against Mr. Murray, for the pleasure of complying with the desire you so strongly express, if
it were in my power;—but judge of the impracticability, when I assure you that a considerable portion of the poem is in the
printer’s hands, and that the publication will soon make its appearance. It has indeed been morally impossible for me to do it for some time. I think I need not protest very eagerly to be believed, when I say that I should be happy to do what you could esteem a favour. I wish for no triumph over Murray.—The post of this morning brought me a letter from him.—I shall probably answer it at my leisure some way or other.—I wish you a good night, and ever am,

“My dear Lord,” &c.

In less than a fortnight, the current of satisfaction which had run thus high and thus strong in favour of his publisher, ebbed with equal rapidity; and became so low, that in addition to the loss of
this coveted American poem, the publication of his Lordship’s future works had nearly gone into a different channel. On the 28th of December, I called in the morning on
Lord Byron, whom I found composing “The Corsair.” He had been working upon it but a few days, and he read me the portion he had written. After some observations, he said, “I have a great mind—I will.” He then added, that he should finish it soon, and asked me to accept of the copyright. I was much surprised. He had, before he was aware of the value of his works, declared he never would take money for them; and that I should have the whole advantage of all he wrote. This declaration became morally void, when the question was about thousands instead of a few hundreds; and I perfectly agree with the admired and admirable author of Waverly, that “the wise and good accept not gifts which are made
in heat of blood, and which may be after repented of*.” I felt this on the sale of
Childe Harold, and observed it to him. The copyright of the Giaour and the Bride of Abydos remained undisposed of, though the poems were selling rapidly; nor had I the slightest notion that he would ever again give me a copyright. But as he continued in the resolution of not appropriating the sale of his works to his own use, I did not scruple to accept that of the Corsair; and I thanked him. He asked me to call and hear the portions read as he wrote them. I went every morning, and was astonished at the rapidity of his composition. He gave me the poem complete on New Year’s Day, 1814, saying, that my acceptance of it gave him great pleasure; and that I was fully at liberty to publish it with any bookseller I pleased. Independent of the profit, I was highly delighted with

* Monastery, vol. iii. c. 7.

this confidential renewal of kindness and he seemed pleased that I felt it so. I must, however, own, that I found kindness to me was not the sole motive of the gift. I asked him if he wished me to publish it through his publisher.—“Not at all,” said he, “do exactly as you please; he has had the assurance to give me his advice as to writing, and to tell me that I should outwrite myself. I would rather you would publish it by some other bookseller.”

The circumstance, however, lowered the pride of wealth; a submissive letter was written, containing some flattery, and, in spite of an awkward apology, Lord Byron was appeased. He requested me to let the publisher of the former poems have the copyright, to which I of course agreed.

While the Corsair was in the press Lord Byron dedicated it to Mr. Moore, and at the end of the poem he added, “Stanzas
on a Lady weeping.” These were printed without my knowledge. They no sooner appeared, acknowledged by his name in the title page, than he was violently assailed in the leading newspapers, in verse and in prose: his life, his sentiments, his works. The suppressed Satire, with the names of his new friends at length, was re-printed, in great portions, in the Courier, Post, and other papers. Among other things, an attempt was made to mortify him, by assertions of his receiving large sums of money for his writings. He was extremely galled—and indeed the daily-continued attempts to overwhelm him were enough to gall him. There was no cessation of the fire opened upon him. I was exceedingly hurt, but he had brought it upon himself, after having by his genius conquered all his enemies. He did not relish the ecraser system, when it was turned upon himself; and he derived no aid from those who had got him into the
scrape. In the goading it occasioned he wrote to me.

His feelings upon this subject were clearly manifested, but he expressed himself in the kindest manner towards me; and though Mr. Murray was going to contradict the statement made in the Courier and other papers, he desired that my name should not be mentioned. Immediately on receiving Lord Byron’s letter, I sat down to write one to be published in the morning-papers, and while I was writing it, I received another note from him. It had been determined that Mr. Murray should say nothing upon the subject, and Lord Byron determined to take no notice of it himself. He therefore wished me not to involve myself in the squabble by any public statement.

In the first of these letters it was very evident that Lord Byron wished me to interfere, though he was too delicate to ask it; and in the second letter, nothing can
be clearer than that he was hurt at the determination which had been taken, that his publisher should say nothing. I therefore resolved to publish the letter I had written, but, at the same time, to have his concurrence; in consequence I took it to town and read it to him. He was greatly pleased, but urged me to do nothing disagreeable to my feelings. I assured him that it was, on the contrary, extremely agreeable to them, and I immediately carried it to the proprietor of the Morning Post, with whom I was acquainted. I sent copies to the
Morning Chronicle and other papers, and I had the satisfaction of finding the persecution discontinued. The following is the letter:—


I have seen the paragraph in an evening paper, in which Lord Byron is accused of “re-
ceiving and pocketing” large sums for his works. I believe no one who knows him has the slightest suspicion of this kind, but the assertion being public, I think it a justice I owe to Lord Byron to contradict it publicly. I address this letter to you for that purpose, and I am happy that it gives me an opportunity, at this moment, to make some observations which I have for several days been anxious to do publicly, but from which I have been restrained by an apprehension that I should be suspected of being prompted by his Lordship.

I take upon me to affirm that Lord Byron never received a shilling for any of his works. To my certain knowledge the profits of the Satire were left entirely to the publisher of it. The gift of the copyright of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage I have already publicly acknowledged, in the Dedication of the new edition of my novels; and I now add my acknowledgment for that of the Corsair, not only for the profitable part of it, but for the delicate and delightful manner of bestowing it, while yet unpublished. With respect to his two other poems, the Giaour and the Bride of Abydos, Mr. Murray, the publisher of them, can truly attest
that no part of the sale of those has ever touched his hands, or been disposed of for his use. Having said thus much as to facts, I cannot but express my surprise, that it should ever be deemed a matter of reproach that he should appropriate the pecuniary returns of his works. Neither rank nor fortune seems to me to place any man above this; for what difference does it make in honour and noble feelings, whether a copyright be bestowed, or its value employed in beneficent purposes. I differ with my Lord Byron on this subject as well as some others; and he has constantly, both by word and action, shown his aversion to receiving money for his productions.

The pen in my hand, and affection and grateful feelings in my heart, I cannot refrain from touching upon a subject of a painful nature, delicate as it is, and fearful as I am that I shall be unable to manage it with a propriety of which it is susceptible, but of which the execution is not easy. One reflection encourages me, for if magnanimity be the attendant of rank, (and all that I have published proves such a prepossession in my mind,) then have I the less to fear from the most illustrious,
in undertaking to throw, into its proper point of view, a circumstance which has been completely misrepresented or misunderstood.

I do not purpose to defend the publication of the two stanzas at the end of the Corsair, which has given rise to such a torrent of abuse, and of the insertion of which I was not aware till the Poem was published; but most surely they have been placed in a light which never entered the mind of the author, and in which men of dispassionate minds cannot see them. It is absurd to talk seriously of their ever being meant to disunite the parent and the child, or to libel the sovereign. It is very easy to descant upon such assumed enormities; but the assumption of them, if not a loyal error, is an atrocious crime. Lord Byron never contemplated the horrors that have been attributed to him. The lines alluded to were an impromptu, upon a single well-known fact; I mean the failure in the endeavour to form an administration in the year 1812, according to the wishes of the author’s friends; on which it was reported that tears were shed by an illustrious female. The very words in the context show the verses to be confined
to that one circumstance, for they are in the singular number, disgrace, fault. What disgrace?—What fault? Those (says the verse) of not saving a sinking realm (and let the date be remembered, March, 1812), by taking the writer’s friends to support it. Never was there a more simple political sentiment expressed in rhyme. If this be libel, if this be the undermining of filial affection, where shall we find a term for the language often heard in both houses of Parliament?

While I hope that I have said enough to show the hasty misrepresentation of the lines in question, I must take care not to be misunderstood myself. The little part I take in conversing on politics is well known, among my friends, to differ completely from the political sentiments which dictated these verses; but knowing their author better than most who pretend to judge of him, and with motives of affection, veneration, and admiration, I am shocked to think that the hasty collecting of a few scattered poems, to be placed at the end of a volume, should have raised such a clamour.—I am, Sir, your obedient Servant,

R. C. Dallas.

I was delighted, and Lord Byron was pleased with the effect of my public letter. I passed a very pleasant morning with him a day or two after it appeared, and he read me several letters he had received upon it.

The Corsair had an immediate and rapid sale. As soon as it was printed, the publisher sent it to a gentleman of fortune and of talent, who supported his Review; informing him, at the same time, that he had sold several thousand copies of the Poem on the first day.

In the original manuscript of the Corsair, the chief female character was called Francesca, in whose person he meant to delineate one of his acquaintance; but, before the Poem went to the press, he changed the name to Medora.

Through the winter, and during the spring of 1814, he maintained an open and friendly intercourse with me. I saw him very frequently.


In May he began his Poem of Lara; on the 19th I called upon him, when he read the beginning of it to me. I immediately said that it was a continuation of the Corsair.

He was now so frank and kind that I again ventured to talk to him of Newtead Abbey, which brought to his mind his promise of the pledge; and, on June 10, 1814, after reading the continuation of Lara, he renewed the resolution of never parting with the Abbey. In confirmation of this he gave me all the letters he had written to his mother, from the time of his forming the resolution to go abroad till his return to England in July, 1811. The one he originally meant as a pledge for the preservation of Newstead, is that of the 6th March, 1809. In giving them to me, he said, they might one day be looked upon as curiosities, and that they were mine to do as I pleased with.


I remained of opinion that Lara was the Corsair disguised, or, rather, that Conrad was Lara returned, after having embraced the life of a Corsair in consequence of his crime. He had not determined the catastrophe when I left him—I wrote and urged it. This was my letter on the subject:—

“The beauties of your new Poem equal, some of them perhaps excel, what we have enjoyed in your preceding tales. With respect to the narrative, the interest, as far as you have read, is completely sustained. Yet, to render Lara ultimately as interesting as Conrad, he ought, I think, to be developed of his mystery in the conclusion of the Poem. Sequels to tales have seldom been favourites, and I see you are disposed to avoid one in Lara, but such a sequel as you would make, with what you have begun, could not fail of success. Slay him in your proposed battle, and let Calad’s
lamentation over his body discover in him the Corsair, and in his page the wretched Gulnare. For all this gloom pray give us after this a happy tale.”

He chose to leave it to the reader’s determination; but, I think, it is easy to be traced in the scene under the line where Lara, mortally wounded, is attended by Kaled:—

“His dying tones are in that other tongue,
To which some strange remembrance wildly clung.
They spoke of other scenes, but what—is known
To Kaled, whom their meaning reached alone;
And, he replied, though faintly, to their sound,
While gazed the rest in dumb amazement round :
They seemed e’n then—that twain—unto the last
To half forget the present in the past;
To share between themselves some separate fate,
Whose darkness none beside should penetrate.”
Canto II. Stanz. 18

In the next stanza, also, he speaks of remembered scenes. In the 21st stanza the sex of Kaled is revealed.—In the 22d the reader is led to conclude that Kaled was Gulnare—though
“—that wild tale she brook’d not to unfold.”
Lara was finished on the 24th of June, 1814. He read it over to me, and while I was with him that day he made me a present of four proof prints taken from Westall’s picture of him. He also gave me the small engraving which was taken from the portrait painted by Phillips. These portraits combine all that depends upon the pencil to transmit of personal resemblance, and all of mind that it can catch for posterity or the stranger. The effect of utterance, and the living grace of motion, must still be left to the imagination of those who have not had opportunities of observing them;
but the power with which no pencil is endowed is displayed by the pen of
Byron himself, and to this must these pictures be indebted for the completion of their effect. I have seen him again and again in both the views given by the artists. That of Mr. Phillips is simply the portrait of a gentleman—it is very like; but the sentiment which appears to me to predominate in it is haughtiness. If I judge aright, I am not the less of opinion, that there is no error attributable to the pencil by which the sentiment was marked. I have seen Lord Byron assume it on some occasions, and I have no doubt that the feeling which produced it was a fluctuation from his natural, easy, flexible look, to one ofntended dignity. Whether there be more of dignity or of haughtiness in the countenance, as there expressed, I mean not to contend—it strikes me as I have mentioned. But it is Westall’s picture that I contemplate at times with
calm delight, and at times with rapture. It is the picture of emanating genius, of Byron’s genius—it needs not utterance, it possesses the living grace of thought, of intellect, of spirit, and is like a sun beaming its powerful rays to warm and vivify the imaginations and the hearts of mankind. From the free and unlimited egress he permitted me to his apartments, I saw him in every point of view. I have been with him when he was composing. Some of the additional stanzas of
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, and many lines of the Corsair, and of Lara, were composed in my presence. At his chambers in the Albany, there was a long table covered with books standing before the fire-place: at the one end of it stood his own easy chair, and a small round table at his hand; at the other end of the table was another easy chair, on which I have sat for hours reading, or contemplating him; and I have seen him in the very position represented
in Mr. Westall’s picture. I have already said that he gave me four of the earliest impressions of the print taken from it. It brings him completely to my mind. I have been in the habit of contemplating it with great affection, though sometimes mixed with a sorrow for those opinions on which I found it impossible to accord with him, and for those acts which incurred the disapprobation of the good and the wise; but never did I look upon it with such sorrow as on the day I heard that he was no more.

I have little to add. Peace with France being concluded in the year 1814, I resolved on going to Paris, and thence to the South; but as I did not immediately leave England, and Lord Byron returning to town, I had an opportunity of seeing him again. I sat some time with him on the 4th of October, and then took my leave of
him; and here I think our intercourse may be said to terminate. While I was at Bordeaux, his marriage took place.
Napoleon’s successful entry into Paris hurried me back to England; and on my arrival in London I saw both Lord and Lady Byron at their house in Piccadilly.

I think that for some years I possessed more of his affection than those who, after the establishment of his fame, were proud to call him friend. This opinion is formed, not only from the recollected pleasure I enjoyed, but from his own opinions in conversation, long after he had entered the vortex of gaiety and of flattery; and from what he read to me from a book in which he was in the habit of drawing characters;—a book that was not to be published till the living generation had passed away. That book suggested to me these pages: nor did I keep my intention a secret from him. In
the year 1819, I informed him that my posthumous volume was made up; and I said:—

“I look into it occasionally with much pleasure, and I enjoy the thought of being in company with your spirit, when it is opened on earth towards the end of the nineteenth century, and of finding you pleased, even in the high sphere you may then, if you would but will it now, occupy—which it is possible you might not be, were you to see it opened by the world in your present sphere. I do not know whether you are able to say as much for your book; for if you do live hereafter, and I have not the slightest doubt but you will, I suspect that you will have company about you at the opening of it which may rather afford occasion of remorse than of pleasure, however gracious and forgiving you may find immortal spirits. Of you I have written
precisely as I think, and as I have found you; and though I have inserted some things which I could not give to the present generation, the whole as it stands is a just portrait of you during the time you honoured me with your intimacy and friendship, (for I drop the pencil where the curtain dropped between us,) and the picture is to me an engaging one.”

If his affection, his confidence, nay I will boldly say his preference, on difficult occasions, were but flattery or an illusion lasting for years, the remembrance of it is too agreeable to be parted with at the closing period of my life, especially as that remembrance is “accompanied with a recollection of my anxiety, and of my efforts to exalt him as high in wisdom as nature and education had raised him on the standard of genius. But it was no illusion; and at the very moment of his quit-
ting his country for ever, I received one more proof of his remembrance and of his confidence. I had returned to the Continent. Whatever was the cause of the breach between him and his lady, it appears to have been irreparable, and it attracted public notice and animadversion. All the odium fell on him, and his old enemies were glad of another opportunity of assailing him. Tale succeeded tale, and he was painted hideously in prose and verse, and tittle-tattle. Publicly and privately he was annoyed and goaded in such a manner, that he resolved to go abroad. On taking this resolution, he sent a note to my
son, who was then in London, requesting to see him. He immediately waited upon him. Lord Byron said to him, he was afraid that I thought he had slighted me; told him of his intention to go to Switzerland and Italy, and invited him to accompany him. This invitation doubly pleased
me: it showed that I still possessed a place in his memory and regard; and I saw in it advantages for my son in travelling which he might not otherwise enjoy; but, upon reflection, I was not sorry he did not avail himself of the opportunity, and that the proposal fell to the ground.

Lord Byron left England in the year 1816, and I trace him personally no farther. I continued to read his new poems with great pleasure, as they appeared, till he published the two first cantos of Don Juan, which I read with a sorrow that admiration could not compensate. His muse, his British muse, had disdained licentiousness and the pruriency of petty wits; but with petty wits he had now begun to amalgamate his pure and lofty genius. Yet he did not long continue to alloy his golden ore with the filthy dross of impure metal: whatever errors he fell into, whatever sins lie at his door, he occasionally burst through
his impurities, as he proceeded in that wonderful and extraordinary medley, in which we at once feel the poet and see the man: no eulogy will reach his towering height in the former character; no eulogy dictated by friendship and merited for claims which truth can avow, will, I fear, cover the—I have no word, I will use none—that has been fastened upon him in the latter. The fact is, that he was like most men, a mixed character; and that, on either side, mediocrity was out of his nature. If his pen were sometimes virulent and impious, his heart was always benevolent, and his sentiments sometimes apparently pious. Nay, he would have been pious,—he would have been a Christian, had he not fallen into the hands of atheists and scoffers.

* * * * * *
* * * * * *

There was something of a pride in him which carried him beyond the common
sphere of thought and feeling. And the excess of this characteristic pride bore away, like a whirlwind, even the justest feelings of our nature; but it could not root them entirely from his heart. In vain did he defy his country and hold his countrymen in scorn; the choice he made of the motto for
Childe Harold evinces that patriotism had taken root in his mind. The visions of an Utopia in his untravelled fancy deprived reality of its charm; but when he awakened to the state of the world, what said he? “I have seen the most celebrated countries in the world, and have learned to prefer and to love my own.” In vain too was he led into the defiance of the sacred writings; there are passages in his letters and in his works which show that religion might have been in his soul. Could he cite the following lines and resist the force of them? It is true that he marks them for the beauty of
the verse, but no less for the sublimity of the conceptions; and I cannot but hope that had he lived he would have proved another instance of genius bowing to the power of truth:
Dim as the borrow’d beams of moon and stars,
To lonely, wandering, weary travellers,
Is reason to the soul.—And as on high
Those rolling fires discover but the sky,
Not light us here; so reason’s glimmering ray
Was lent, not to assure our doubtful way,
But guide us upward to a better day.
And as those nightly tapers disappear,
When day’s bright lord ascends our hemisphere;
So pale grows reason at religion’s sight,
So dies,—and so dissolves—in supernatural light.
Dryden—quoted in the Liberal.

When I planned this book, it was my intention to conclude it with remarks on the genius and writings of Lord Byron. Alas! I have suffered time to make a progress unfriendly to the subject to which I had attached so great an interest. Had
Providence vouchsafed me the happiness of recording of him, from my own knowledge, the renovation of his mind and character, which has been an unvaried object of my prayers, my delight would have supplied me with energy and with spirits to continue my narrative and my observations. His genius and his writings have already been widely and multifariously examined and acknowledged, but they will no doubt be treated of in a concentered manner by an abler pen than mine; and I therefore the more willingly relinquish this task. Of his course of life subsequent to his leaving England, I will not write upon hearsay. However he may have spent some portion of the time, the last part of it cannot but redound to his honour and his fame as a man; and he seemed to me building in Greece a magnificent road for his return to his own country. Had he lived and succeeded, one single word of contrition
would have wiped away all offences; and the hearts and the arms of his countrymen would have opened to receive him on his arrival. They would have drawn him in a triumphal car from the coast to the metropolis.