LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Recollections of the Life of Lord Byron
Chapter II

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.








The work which Lord Byron thus put into my hands consisted of a number of loose printed sheets in quarto, and was entitled The British Bards, A Satire. It contained the original groundwork of his well-known poem, such as he had written it at Newstead, where he had caused it to be printed at a country press; and various corrections and annotations appeared upon the margin in his own hand. Some of these are exceedingly curious, as tending to throw a light upon the workings of his mind at that early period of his career. To the poem, as it then stood, he added a hundred and ten
lines in its first progress through the press; and made several alterations, some upon my suggestion, and others upon his own. I wrote to him the following letter, dated January 24, 1809, immediately upon reading it over:—

My Dear Lord Byron ,

“I have read your Satire with infinite pleasure, and were you sufficiently acquainted with my mind to be certain that it cannot stoop to flattery, I would tell you that it rivals the Baviad and Mæviad; but, till my praise is of that value, I will not be profuse of it.

I think in general with you of the literary merit of the writers introduced. I am particularly pleased with your distinction in Scott’s character; a man of genius adopting subjects which men of genius will hardly read twice, if they can go through them
once. But, in allowing Mr. Scott to be a man of genius, and agreeing as you must, after the compliments you have paid to
Campbell and M’Neil, that he is not the only one Scotland has produced, it will be necessary to sacrifice, or modify, your note relative to the introduction of the kilted goddess, who, after all, in having to kiss such a son as you picture Jeffrey, can be but a spurious germ of divinity.

As you have given me the flattering office of looking over your poem with more than a common reader’s eye, I shall scrutinize, and suggest any change I may think advantageous. And, in the first place, I propose to you an alteration of the title. ‘The British Bards’ immediately brings to the imagination those who were slain by the first Edward. If you prefer it to the one I am going to offer, at least let the definite article be left out. I would fain, however, have you call the Satire, ‘The
Parish Poor of Parnassus;’ which will afford an opportunity for a note of this nature:—‘Booksellers have been called the midwives of literature; with how much more propriety may they now be termed overseers of the poor of Parnassus, and keepers of the workhouse of that desolated spot.’

I enclose a few other alterations of passages, straws on the surface, which you would make yourself were you to correct the press.

I will also take the liberty of sending you some two dozen lines, which, if they neither offend your ear nor your judgment, I wish you would adopt, on account of the occasion which has prompted them*. I am acquainted with * * *, and, though not on terms of very close intimacy, I know him

* In his answer to this letter Lord Byron declined adopting these lines because they were not his own, quoting at the same time what Lady Wortley Montague said to Pope, “No touching,—for the good will be given to you, and the bad attributed to me.”

sufficiently to esteem him as a man. He has but a slender income, out of which he manages to support two of his relations. His literary standard is by no means contemptible, and his objects have invariably been good ones. Now, for any author to step out of the common track of criticism to make a victim of such a man by the means of a particular book, made up of unfair ridicule and caricature, for the venal purpose of collecting a few guineas, is not only unworthy of a scholar, but betrays the malignity of a demon. If you think my lines feeble, let your own breast inspire your pen on the occasion, and send me some.

I shall delay the printing as little as possible; but I have some apprehension as to the readiness of my publishers to undertake the sale, for they have a large portion of the work of the Poor of Parnassus to dispose of. I will see them without delay,
and persuade them to it if I can; if not, I will employ some other.
Southey is a great favourite of theirs; and I must be ingenuous enough to tell you, that though I have ever disapproved of the absurd attempt to alter, or rather destroy, the harmony of our verse, and found Joan of Arc and Madoc tedious, I think the power of imagination, though of the marvellous, displayed in Thalaba,
‘Arabia’s monstrous, wild, and wondrous son.’
evinces genius.

I see your Muse has given a couplet to your noble relation;—I doubt whether it will not be read as the two severest lines in the Satire, and so, what I could wish avoided for the present, betray the author: which will render abortive a thought that has entered my mind of having the Satire most favourably reviewed in the Satirist, which, on its being known afterwards to be
yours, would raise a laugh against your enemies in that quarter. Consider, and tell me, whether the lines shall stand. I agree that there is only one among the peers on whom Apollo deigns to smile; but, believe me, that peer is no relation of yours.

I am sorry you have not found a place among the genuine Sons of Apollo for Crabbe, who, in spite of something bordering on servility in his dedication, may surely rank with some you have admitted to his temple. And now, before I lay down my pen, I will tell you the passage which gave me the greatest pleasure—that on Little. I am no preacher, but it is very pleasing to read such a confirmation of the opinion I had formed of you; to find you an advocate for keeping a veil over the despotism of the senses. Such poems are far more dangerous to society than Rochester’s. In your concluding line on Little, I would,
though in a quotation, substitute, line, or lay, for life:
‘She bids thee mend thy line and sin no more*.’
Pray answer as soon as you conveniently can, and believe me ever,” &c. &c.

The couplet to which I referred as having been given by his Muse to his noble relation, was one of panegyric upon Lord Carlisle, at which I was not a little surprised, after what I had so lately heard him say of that nobleman; but the fact is, that the lines were composed before he had written to his Lordship, as mentioned at the end of the last chapter, and he had given me the Satire before he had made any of his meditated alterations. It is, however, curious that this couplet must have been composed in the short interval between his printing the poem at Newstead and his arrival in town, per-

* In the original the words were “mend thy life.” He however adopted the word line.

haps under the same feelings which induced him to write to Lord Carlisle, and at the same time. The lines do not appear in the print, but are inserted afterwards in
Lord Byron’s hand-writing. They are these:—
On one alone Apollo deigns to smile,
And crowns a new Roscommon in Carlisle.
Immediately upon receiving my letter he forwarded four lines to substitute for this couplet.
Roscommon! Sheffield! with your spirits fled,
No future laurels deck a noble head;
Nor e’en a hackney’d Muse will deign to smile
On minor Byron, or mature Carlisle.
He said that this alteration would answer the purposes of concealment; but it was other feelings than the desire of concealment which induced him afterwards to alter the two last lines into
No more will cheer with renovating smile
The paralytic puling of Carlisle;
—and to indulge the malice of his Muse adding these—
The puny school-boy, and his early lay,
We pardon, if his follies pass away.
Who, who forgives the senior’s ceaseless verse,
Whose hairs grow hoary as his rhymes grow worse.
What heterogeneous honours deck the peer,
Lord, rhymester, petit-maitre, pamphleteer.
So dull in youth, so drivelling in his age,
His scenes alone might damn our sinking stage;
But managers, for once, cried hold, enough!
Nor drugged their audience with the tragic stuff.
Yet at the {fiat | judgment | nausea*} let his lordship laugh,
And case his volumes in congenial calf.
Yes! doff that covering where morocco shines,
“And hang a calf skin on those recreant” lines.
This passage, together with the two notes which accompanied it in the publication of the Poem, and in which Lord Byron endeavoured, as much as possible, to envenom his ridicule, he sent to me, in

* I have here given the exact copy of the original manuscript which is before me.

the course of the printing, for insertion, as being necessary, according to him, to complete the poetical character of Lord Carlisle. Six lines upon the same subject, which he also sent me to be inserted, he afterwards consented to relinquish at my earnest entreaty, which, however, was unavailing to procure the sacrifice of any other lines relating to this point. Under present circumstances they are become curious, and there can hardly be any objection to my inserting them here. They were intended to follow the first four lines upon the subject, and the whole passage would have stood thus—
Lords too are bards, such things at times befall,
And ’tis some praise in peers to write at all;
Yet did not taste or reason sway the times,
Ah, who would take their titles with their rhymes.
In these, our times, with daily wonders big,
A lettered peer is like a lettered pig;
Both know their alphabet, but who, from thence,
Infers that peers or pigs have manly sense,
Still less that such should woo the graceful nine;
Parnassus was not made for lords and swine.
Besides the alteration of the panegyrical couplet upon Lord Carlisle, he readily acquiesced in my suggestions of placing
Crabbe amongst the genuine sons of Apollo, and sent me these lines:
There be who say, in these enlightened days,
That splendid lies are all the poet’s praise,
That strained invention ever on the wing
Alone impels the modern bard to sing.
’Tis true that all who rhyme, nay all who write,
Shrink from the fatal word to genius—trite;
Yet Truth sometimes will lend her noblest fires
And decorate the verse herself inspires:
This fact in Virtue’s name let Crabbe attest,
Though Nature’s sternest painter, yet the best.
As to the title of the Poem, Lord Byron agreed with me in rejecting his own, but also rejected that I had proposed, and substituted the one with which it was published, “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers


Upon taking the Satire to my publishers, Messrs. Longman and Co., they declined publishing it in consequence of its asperity, a circumstance to which he afterwards adverted in very strong language, making it the only condition with which he accompanied his gift to me of the copyright of Childe Harolds Pilgrimage, that it should not be published by that house. I then gave it to Mr. Cawthorn, who undertook the publication.

In reading Lord Byron’s Satire, and in tracing the progress of the alterations which he made in it as it proceeded, it is impossible not to perceive that his feelings rather than his judgment guided his pen; and sometimes he seems indifferent whether it should convey praise or blame. The influence of his altered feelings towards his noble relation has been already shown; and an instance likewise occurred where he, on the contrary, substituted approbation for cen-
sure, though not of so strong a nature as in the former case. Towards the end of the Poem, where he, inconsiderately enough, compares the poetical talent of the two Universities, in the first printed copy that he brought from Newstead the passage stood thus:
Shall hoary Granta call her sable sons,
Expert in science, more expert in puns?
Shall these approach the Muse? ah, no! she flies
And even spurns the great Seatonian prize:
Though printers condescend the press to soil,
With odes by Smythe, and epic songs by Hoyle.
Hoyle, whose learn’d page, if still upheld by whist,
Required no sacred theme to bid us list.—
Ye who in Granta’s honours would surpass,
Must mount her Pegasus, a full-grown ass;
A foal well worthy of her ancient dam,
Whose Helicon is duller than her Cam.
Yet hold—as when by Heaven’s supreme behest,
If found, ten righteous had preserved the rest
In Sodom’s fated town, for Granta’s name
Let Hodgson’s genius plead, and save her fame.
But where fair Isis rolls her purer wave,
The partial muse delighted loves to lave;
On her green banks a greener wreath is wove,
To crown the bards that haunt her classic grove,
Where Richards wakes a genuine poet’s fires,
And modern Britons justly praise their sires.
Previously, however, to giving the copy to me, he had altered the fifth line with his pen, making the couplet to stand thus:
Though printers condescend the press to soil,
With rhyme by Hoare, and epic blank by Hoyle!
and then he had drawn his pen through the four lines, beginning
Yet hold, as when by Heaven’s supreme behest,
and had written the following in their place.
Oh dark asylum of a Vandal race!
At once the boast of learning and disgrace,
So sunk in dulness and so lost in shame,
That Smythe and Hodgson scarce redeem thy fame.
I confess I was surprised to find the name of
Smythe uncoupled from its press-soiling companion, to be so suddenly ranked with
that of
Hodgson in such high praise. When, however, the fifth edition, which was suppressed, was afterwards preparing for publication, he again altered the two last lines to—
So lost to Phœbus that not Hodgson’s verse
Can make thee better, or poor Hewson’s worse.
In another instance, his feeling towards me induced him carefully to cover over with a paper eight lines, in which he had severely satirized a gentleman with whom he knew that I was in habits of intimacy, and to erase a note which belonged to them.

J. C. Hobhouse, in Review of Dallas

It is not difficult to observe the working of Lord Byron’s mind in another alteration which he made. In the part where he speaks of Bowles, he makes a reference to Pope’s deformity of person. The passage was originally printed in the country, thus.—
Bowles! in thy memory let this precept dwell,
Stick to thy sonnets, man! at least they’ll sell;
Or take the only path that open lies
For modern worthies who would hope to rise:—
Fix on some well-known name, and bit by bit,
Pare off the merits of his worth and wit;
On each alike employ the critic’s knife,
And where a comment fails prefix a life;
Hint certain failings, faults before unknown,
Revive forgotten lies, and add your own;
Let no disease, let no misfortune ’scape,
And print, if luckily deformed, his shape.
Thus shall the world, quite undeceived at last,
Cleave to their present wits, and quit the past;
Bards once revered no more with favour view,
But give these modern sonnetteers their due:
Thus with the dead may living merit cope,
Thus Bowles may triumph o’er the shade of Pope!
He afterwards altered the whole of this passage except the two first lines, and in its place appeared the following:—
Bowles! in thy memory let this precept dwell,
Stick to thy sonnets, man! at least they sell.
But if some new-born whim, or larger bribe,
Prompt thy crude brain, and claim thee for a scribe;
If chance some bard, though once by dunces feared,
Now prone in dust can only be revered;
If Pope, whose fame and genius from the first
Have foiled the best of critics, needs the worst,
Do thou essay,—each fault, each failing scan;
The first of poets was, alas! but man.
Bake from each ancient dunghill every pearl,
Consult Lord Fanny, and confide in Curll;
Let all the scandals of a former age
Perch on thy pen and flutter o’er thy page;
Affect a candour which thou cans’t not feel,
Clothe envy in the garb of honest zeal,
Write as if St. John’s soul could still inspire,
And do from hate, what Mallet did for hire.
Oh! hadst thou lived in that congenial time,
To rave with Dennis, and with Ralph to rhyme,
Thronged with the rest around his living head,
Not raised thy hoof against the lion dead,
A meet reward had crowned thy glorious gains,
And linked thee to the Dunciad for thy pains.
I have very little doubt that the alteration of the whole of this passage was occasioned by the reference to Pope’s personal deformity which Lord Byron had made in it. It is well known that he himself had an evident defect in one of his legs, which was shorter than the other, and ended in a club foot. On this subject he generally
appeared very susceptible, and sometimes when he was first introduced to any one, he betrayed an uncomfortable consciousness of his defect by an uneasy change of position; and yet at other times he seemed quite devoid of any feeling of the kind, and once I remember that, in conversation, he mentioned a similar lameness of another person of considerable talents, observing, that people born lame are generally clever.
This temporary cessation of a very acute susceptibility, is a phenomenon of the human mind for which it is difficult to account; unless perhaps it be that the thoughts are sometimes carried into a train, where, though they cross these tender cords, the mind is so occupied as not to leave room for the jealous feeling which they would otherwise excite. Thus, Lord Byron, in the ardour of composition, had not time to admit the ideas, which, in a less excited moment, would rapidly have risen in connexion with the
thought of Pope’s deformity of person; and the greater vanity of talent superseded the lesser vanity of person, and produced the same effect of deadening his susceptibility in the conversation to which I allude.

In Lord Byron’s original Satire, the first lines of his attack upon Jeffrey, were these—
Who has not heard in this enlightened age,
When all can criticise th’ historic age;
Who has not heard in James’s bigot reign,
Of Jefferies! monarch of the scourge and chain?
These he erased and began,
Health to immortal Jeffrey! once, in name,
England could boast a judge almost the same!
With this exception, and an omission about
Mr. Lambe towards the end, the whole passage was published as it was first composed; indeed, as this seems to have been the inspiring object of the Satire, so these lines were most fluently written, and re-
quired least correction afterwards. Respecting the propriety of the note which is placed at the end of this passage, I had much discussion with Lord Byron. I was anxious that it should not be inserted, and I find the reason of my anxiety stated in a letter written to him after our conversation on the subject.—I here insert the letter, dated February 6, 1809:—

My dear Lord,

“I have received your lines*, which shall be inserted in the proper place. May I say that I question whether own and disown be an allowable rhyme?
Translation’s servile work at length disown,
And quit Achaia’s muse to court your own.
You see I cannot let any thing pass; but this only proves to you how much I feel interested.

* Those complimenting the translators of the Anthology.


I have inserted the note on the kilted goddess; still I would fain have it omitted. My first objection was, that it was a fiction in prose, too wide of fact, and not reconcileable with your own praises of Caledonian genius. Another objection now occurs to me, of no little importance. There seems at present a disposition in Scotland to withdraw support from the Edinburgh Reviewers: that disposition will favour the circulation of your Satire in the north: this note of yours will damp all ardour for it beyond the Tweed. You have yet time; tell me to suppress it when I next have the pleasure of seeing you, which will be when I receive the first proof. I did hope to be able to bring the proof this morning, but the printer could not prepare the paper, &c. for the press till to-day. I am promised one by the day after to-morrow.

I trust you will approve of what I have done with the bookseller. He is to be at
all the expense and risk, and to account for half the profits*, for which he is to have one edition of a thousand copies. It would not have answered to him to have printed only five hundred on these terms. I have also promised him that he shall have the publishing of future editions, if the author chooses to continue it; but I told him that I could not dispose of the copyright.

I have no doubt of the Poem being read in every quarter of the United Kingdom, provided, however, you do not affront Caledonia.”

Lord Byron, in accordance with this letter, sent me a choice of couplets to supersede the one to the rhyme of which I had objected,
Though sweet the sound, disdain a borrowed tone,
Resign Achaia’s lyre, and strike your own;

* The whole of the profits were left to the publisher without purchase.

Though soft the echo, scorn a borrow’d tone,
Resign Achaia’s lyre, and strike your own.
But he protested against giving up his note of notes, as he called it, his solitary pun. I answered him as follows, in a letter dated February 7, 1809:—

“On another perusal of the objectionable note, I find that the omission of two lines only would render it inoffensive—but, as you please.

I observed to you that in the opening of the Poem there appears to be a sudden stop with Dryden. I still feel the gap there; and wish you would add a couple of lines for the purpose of connecting the sense, saying that Otway and Congreve had wove mimic scenes, and Waller tuned his lyre to love. If you do, “But why these names, &c.” would follow well—and it
is perhaps the more requisite as you lash our present Dramatists*.
Half Tweed combin’d his waves to form a tear,
will perhaps strike you, on reconsidering the line, to want alteration. You may make the river-god act without cutting him in two: you may make him ruffle half his stream to yield a tear†.

Hoyle, whose learned page, &c.’ The pronoun is an identification of the antecedent Hoyle, which is not your meaning—say, Not he whose learned page, &c.
Earth’s chief dictatress, Ocean’s lonely queen”—
The primary and obvious sense of lonely is solitary, which does not preclude the idea

* He inserted the following couplet—
Then Congreve’s scenes could cheer, or Otway’s melt,
For nature then an English audience felt.

† The line was printed thus—
Tweed ruffled half his waves to form a tear.

of the ocean having other queens. You may have some authority for the use of the word in the acceptation you here give it, but, like the custom in Denmark, I should think it more honoured in the breach than the observance. Only offers its service; or why not change the epithet altogether*?

I mention these little points to you now, because there is time to do as you please. I hope to call on you to-morrow; if I do not, it will be because I am disappointed of the proof.”

During the printing of the Satire, my intercourse with Lord Byron was not only carried on personally, but also by constant notes which he sent me, as different subjects arose in his mind, or different suggestions occurred. It was interesting to see how much his thoughts were bent upon his

* He changed it to “mighty.”

Poem, and how that one object gave a colour to all others that passed before him at the time, from which in turn he drew forth subjects for his Satire. After having been at the Opera one night, he wrote those couplets, beginning,
Then let Ausonia, skill’d in every art,
To soften manners, but corrupt the heart, &c.
and he sent them to me early on the following morning, with a request to have them inserted after the lines concerning
Naldi and Catalani: so also other parts of the Satire arose out of other circumstances as they passed, and were written upon the spur of the moment.

To the Poem, as I originally received it, he added a hundred and ten lines, including those to Mr. Gifford, on the Opera, Kirke White, Crabbe, the Translators of the Anthology, and Lord Carlisle; and most of the address to Mr. Scott towards the con-
clusion. He once intended to prefix an Argument to the Satire, and wrote one. I have it, among many other manuscripts of his; and, as it becomes a curiosity, I insert it.


The poet considereth times past and their poesy—maketh a sudden transition to times present—is incensed against book-makers—revileth W. Scott for cupidity and ballad-mongering, with notable remarks on Master Southey—complaineth that Master Southey hath inflicted three poems, epic and otherwise, on the public—inveigheth against Wm. Wordsworth, but laudeth Mr. Coleridge and his elegy on a young ass—is disposed to vituperate Mr. Lewis—and greatly rebuketh Thomas Little (the late) and the Lord Strangford—recommendeth Mr. Hayley to turn his attention to prose—and exhorteth the Moravians to glorify Mr. Grahame—sympathizeth with the Rev. Bowles—and deploreth the melancholy fate of Montgomery—breaketh out into invective against the Edinburgh Reviewers—calleth them hard names, harpies, and the like—apostrophiseth Jeffrey and prophesieth—Episode of Jeffrey and Moore, their jeopardy and deliverance; portents on the morn of the combat; the Tweed, Tolbooth, Frith of Forth severally shocked; descent of a goddess to save Jeffrey; incorporation of the bullets
with his sinciput and occiput—Edinburgh Reviews en masse—
Lord Aberdeen, Herbert, Scott, Hallam, Pillans, Lambe, Sydney Smith, Brougham, &c.—The Lord Holland applauded for dinners and translations—The Drama; Skeffington, Hook, Reynolds, Kenney, Cherry, &c.—Sheridan, Colman, and Cumberland called upon to write—Return to poesy—scribblers of all sorts—Lords sometimes rhyme; much better not—Hafiz, Rosa Matilda, and X. Y. Z.—Rogers, Campbell, Gifford, &c., true poets—Translators of the Greek AnthologyCrabbeDarwin’s style—Cambridge—Seatonian Prize—Smythe—Hodgson—Oxford—Richards—Poeta loquitur—Conclusion.