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

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.








As I was now near Lord Byron, for he was at this time seldom absent from town, our personal communications were frequent; and, except a few queries addressed to him on the proofs, his work went smoothly on through the press during the months of January and February, without further solicitation on my part, till we came to the shorter Poems, when I urged him to omit the one entitled “Euthanasia,” which he was kind enough to consent to do; but which, I must add, he had not resolution enough to persist in suppressing, and it was inserted in the succeeding editions.


Lord Byron had excited in my heart a warm affection; I felt, too, some pride in the part I took in combating his errors, as well as in being instrumental to his reputation, and I anxiously wished to see a real change of mind effected in him. Though I could not flatter myself that I had made any successful invasion on his philosophical opinions, and was almost hopeless on the subject, I was still very desirous to keep as much as possible of his free-thinking in a latent state, being as solicitous that he should acquire the esteem and affection of men, as I was eager in my anticipation of the admiration and fame that awaited his genius. It was with this view I wished, and sometimes prevailed upon him, to suppress some passages in his compositions: and it was with this view that I often spoke to him of the superior and substantial fame, the way to which lay before him through the House of Lords, expressing my
hope of one day seeing him an active and eloquent statesman. He was alive to this ambition; and I looked accordingly for great enjoyment in the session of 1812, now approaching.

In spite of these prospects—in spite of genius—in spite of youth—Lord Byron often gave way to a depression of spirits, which was more the result of his peculiar position than of any gloomy tendency received from nature. The fact is, he was out of his sphere, and he felt it. By the death of his cousin William, who was killed at a siege in the Mediterranean, he unexpectedly became presumptive heir to his grand uncle, and not long after succeeded to the barony, at a very early period of his minority. His immediate predecessor had long given up society; and, after his fatal duel with Mr. Chaworth, had never appeared either at Court or in Parliament, but shut himself up in Newstead Abbey, the
monastic mansion of an estate bestowed upon one of his ancestors by
Henry VIII. at the suppression of the religious houses; or, if compelled to go to London on business, he travelled with the utmost privacy, taking the feigned name of Waters. From him, therefore, no connexion could spring. His brother, the Admiral, was a man very highly respected; but he too, after distinguishing his courage and ability, had been unfortunate in his professional career, and equally avoided society. The elder son of the admiral was an officer of the guards; who, after the death of his first wife, Lady Conyers, by whom he had only one daughter, married Miss Gordon, of Gight, a lady related to a noble family in Scotland, of whom Lord Byron was born, and whom his lordship took a pleasure in stating to be a descendant of King James II. of Scotland, through his daughter, the princess Jane Stuart, who married the Marquis
Huntley. But neither did she bring connexion. At the death of her husband, she found her finances in an impoverished state, and she consequently by no means associated in a manner suitable to the situation of a son who was one day to take a seat among the Peers of Great Britain. Captain George Anson Byron, whom I have mentioned in the first chapter, the brother of her husband, had, a little before she became a widow, obtained the command of a frigate stationed in the East Indies, where, while engaged in a particular service, he received a blow which caused a lingering disorder and his death*.

* I cannot resist the impulse I feel to introduce here the memorial of him, which was published in most of the public papers and journals at the time of his death.

George Anson Byron was a Captain in the British navy, and second son of the late Admiral, the Honourable John Byron, by whom he was introduced very early into the service; in which, having had several opportunities of exerting personal bravery and professional skill, he


This was the greatest loss Lord Byron, however unconscious of it, ever sustained. His uncle George not only stood high in his

attained a great degree of glory. In the war with France, previous to its revolution, he commanded the Proserpine, of 28 guns, in which he engaged the Sphinx, a French frigate, assisted by an armed ship; and some time after the Alcmene, another French frigate, both of which severally struck to his superior conduct and gallantry. In the course of the war he was appointed to the command of the Andromache, of 32 guns. He was present at Lord Howe’s relief of Gibraltar, and at Lord Rodney’s victory over Count de Grasse, to the action of which he was considerably instrumental; for, as it was publicly stated at the time, being stationed to cruise off the Diamond Rock, near Martinico, he kept the strictest watch upon the enemy, by sailing into the very mouth of their harbour, and gave the Admiral such immediate notice of their motions, that the British squadron, then lying off St. Lucia, were enabled to intercept and bring them to battle. In consequence of that important victory, he was selected by Lord Rodney to carry home Lord Cranstoun, with the account of it. In the despatches, Byron’s services were publicly and honourably noticed, and he had the gratification of being personally well received by his Majesty.

“Desirous of serving in the East Indies, and applying

profession, but was generally beloved, and personally well connected. Had he returned from India with health, he would

for a ship going to that quarter of the globe, he was appointed to the command of the Phœnix, of 36 guns, and sailed with a small squadron under the Hon. William Cornwallis, early in the year 1789. Ever active, he sought the first occasion of being serviceable in the war against Tippoo Saib, and at the very outset intercepted the Sultan’s transports, loaded with military stores. After this he distinguished himself by landing some of his cannon, and leaving a party of his men to assist in reducing one of the enemy’s fortresses on the coast of Malabar. Unfortunately he fell a victim to his alacrity in that war.

“When General Abercrombie was on his march towards Seringapatam, the ship which Byron commanded lay off the mouth of a river, on which his assistance was required to convey a part of the army, and it was necessary that he should have an interview with the General. At the time that the interview was to take place, it blew fresh, and there was a heavy sea on the bar of the river; but the service required expedition, and danger disappeared before his eagerness. A sea broke upon the boat, and overset it: in rising through the waves the gunwale struck him twice violently upon the breast, and when he was taken up, it was not supposed that he could survive the shock he had sustained. He was, however, for a time

have made amends for the failure resulting from the supineness or faults of other parts of the family; and his nephew would have grown up in society that would have given a different turn to his feelings. The
Earl of Carlisle and his family would have acted

restored to life, but he was no more to be restored to his country. The faculty did what could be done to preserve him, and then ordered him to England, rather hoping than believing that he could escape so far with life.

“In England he lived above twelve months; during which he suffered the misery of witnessing the dissolution of a beautiful, amiable, and beloved wife, who died at Bath, on the 26th of February, 1793, at the age of twenty-nine years; upon which he fled with his children to Dawlish, and there closed his eyes upon them, just three months and a fortnight after they had lost their mother.

“In his public character he was brave, active, and skilful; and by his death his Majesty lost an excellent and loyal officer. In his private character, he was devout without ostentation, fond of his family, constant in friendship, generous and humane. The memory of many who read this will bear testimony to the justice of the praise; the memory of him who writes it will, as long as that memory lasts, frequently recall his virtues, and dwell with pleasure on his friendship.”

a different part. They received his
sister kindly as a relation; and there could have been no reason why their arms should not have been open to him also, had he not been altogether unknown to them personally, or had not some suspicion of impropriety in the mode of his being brought up attached to him or his mother. Be this as it may, certain it is, his relations never thought of him nor cared for him; and he was left both at school and at college to the mercy of the stream into which circumstances had thrown him. Dissipation was the natural consequence; and imprudencies were followed by enmity which took pains to blacken his character. His Satire had in some degree repelled the attacks that had been made upon him, but he was still beheld with a surly awe by his detractors; and that poem, though many were extolled in it, brought him no friends. He felt himself Alone. The town was now full;
but in its concourse he had no intimates whom he esteemed, or wished to see. The Parliament was assembled, where he was far from being dead to the ambition of taking a distinguished part; there he was, if it may be said, still more alone.

In addition to this his affairs were involved, and he was in the hands of a lawyer,—a man of business. To these combined circumstances, more than either to nature, or sensibility on the loss of a mistress, I imputed the depressed state of mind in which I sometimes found him. At those times he expressed great antipathy to the world, and the strongest misanthropic feelings, particularly against women. He did not even see his sister, to whom he afterwards became so attached. He inveighed more particularly against England and Englishmen; talked of selling Newstead, and of going to reside at Naxos, in the Grecian Archipelago, to adopt the
eastern costume and customs, and to pass his time in studying the Oriental languages and literature. He had put himself upon a diet, which other men would have called starving, and to which some would have attributed his depression. It consisted of thin plain biscuits, not more than two, and often one, with a cup of tea, taken about one o’clock at noon, which he assured me was generally all the nourishment he took in the four-and-twenty hours. But he declared, that, far from sinking his spirits, he felt himself lighter and livelier for it; and that it had given him a greater command over himself in every other respect. This great abstemiousness is hardly credible, nor can I imagine it a literal fact, though doubtless much less food is required to keep the body in perfect health than is usually taken. He had a habit of perpetually chewing mastic, which probably assisted his determination to persevere in this mea-
gre regimen; but I have no doubt that his principal auxiliary was an utter abhorrence of corpulence, which he conceived to be equally unsightly and injurious to the intellect; and it was his opinion that great eaters were generally passionate and stupid.

As the printing of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage drew towards a conclusion, his doubt of its success and of its consequences was renewed; he was occasionally agitated at the thought, and more than once talked of suppressing it. But while this was passing in his mind, the poem had begun to work its way by report; and the critical junto were prepared, probably through Mr. Gifford, for something extraordinary. I now met more visitors, new faces, and some fashionable men at his lodgings; among others, Mr. Rogers, and even Lord Holland himself. Soon after the meeting of Parliament, a Bill was introduced into the House of Lords in consequence of Riots in Nottinghamshire,
for the prevention of those riots, in which the chief object of the rioters was the destruction of the manufacturing frames throughout the country, so as to compel a call for manual labour.
Lord Byron’s estate lying in that county, he felt it incumbent upon him to take a part in the debate upon the Bill, and he resolved to make it the occasion of his first speech in the House. But this Nottingham Frame-breaking Bill, as it was called, was also interesting to the Recorder of Nottingham, Lord Holland, who took the lead in opposing it. Lord Byron’s interest in the county, and his intention respecting the Bill were made known to Mr. Rogers, who, I understood, communicated it to Lord Holland, and soon after made them acquainted. In his Satire, Mr. Rogers ranked, among the eulogized, next to Gifford; and Lord Holland, among the lashed, was just not on a par with Jeffrey. The introduction took place at
Lord Byron’s lodgings, in St. James’s-street—I happened to be there at the time, and I thought it a curious event. Lord Byron evidently had an awkward feeling on the occasion, from a conscious recollection, which did not seem to be participated by his visitors. Lord Holland’s age, experience, and other acquired distinctions, certainly, in point of form, demanded that the visit should have been paid at his house. This I am confident Lord Byron at that time would not have done; though he was greatly pleased that the introduction took place, and afterwards waved all ceremony. It would be useless to seek a motive for Lord Holland’s condescension, unless it could be shown that it was to overcome evil with good. Whether that was in his mind or not, the new acquaintance improving into friendship, or something like it, had a great influence in deciding the fate of a new edition of English Bards and Scotch Re-
viewers, which the publisher,
Cawthorn, was now actively preparing, to accompany the publication of the Hints from Horace, that was still creeping on in the press.

Meanwhile, the Poem that was to be the foundation of Lord Byron’s fame, and of the events of his future days, retarded nearly a month longer than was proposed, was now promised to the public for the end of February. The debate on the Nottingham Frame-Breaking Bill was appointed for the 27th of the same month. It was an extraordinary crisis in his life. He had before him, the characters of a Poet and of an Orator to fix and to maintain. For the former, he depended still upon his Satires, more than upon Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, which he contemplated with considerable dread; and, for the latter, he not only meditated, but wrote an oration, being afraid to trust his feelings in the assembly he was to address, with an extemporaneous
effusion at first. He occasionally spoke parts of it when we were alone; but his delivery changed my opinion of his power as to eloquence, and checked my hope of his success in Parliament. He altered the natural tone of his voice, which was sweet and round, into a formal drawl, and he prepared his features for a part—it was a youth declaiming a task. This was the more perceptible, as in common conversation, he was remarkably easy and natural; it was a fault contracted in the studied delivery of speeches from memory, which has been lately so much attended to in the education of boys. It may wear off, and yield to the force of real knowledge and activity, but it does not promise well; and they who fall into it are seldom prominent characters in stations where eloquence is required. By the delay of the printer, Lord Byron’s maiden speech preceded the appearance of his poem. It produced a
considerable effect in the House of Lords, and he received many compliments from the Opposition Peers. When he left the great chamber, I went and met him in the passage; he was glowing with success, and much agitated. I had an umbrella in my right hand, not expecting that he would put out his hand to me—in my haste to take it when offered, I had advanced my left hand—“What,” said he, “give your friend your left hand upon such an occasion?” I showed the cause, and immediately changing the umbrella to the other hand, I gave him my right hand, which he shook and pressed warmly. He was greatly elated, and repeated some of the compliments which had been paid him, and mentioned one or two of the Peers who had desired to be introduced to him. He concluded with saying, that he had, by his speech, given me the best advertisement for Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.


A short time afterwards, he made me a present of the original manuscript of his speech which he had previously written,—and from that manuscript, I now insert it here as a literary curiosity, not devoid of interest.

My Lords,

“The subject now submitted to your Lordships, for the first time, though new to the House, is, by no means, new to the country. I believe it had occupied the serious thoughts of all descriptions of persons long before its introduction to the notice of that Legislature whose interference alone could be of real service. As a person in some degree connected with the suffering county, though a stranger, not only to this House in general, but to almost every individual whose attention I presume to solicit, I must claim some portion of your Lordships’ indulgence, whilst I offer a few observations on a question in which I confess myself deeply interested. To enter into any detail of these riots would be su-
perfluous; the House is already aware that every outrage short of actual bloodshed has been perpetrated, and that the proprietors of the frames obnoxious to the rioters, and all persons supposed to be connected with them, have been liable to insult and violence. During the short time I recently passed in Notts, not twelve hours elapsed without some fresh act of violence; and, on the day I left the county, I was informed that forty frames had been broken the preceding evening as usual, without resistance and without detection. Such was then the state of that county, and such I have reason to believe it to be at this moment. But whilst these outrages must be admitted to exist to an alarming extent, it cannot be denied that they have arisen from circumstances of the most unparalelled distress. The perseverance of these miserable men in their proceedings, tends to prove that nothing but absolute want could have driven a large and once honest and industrious body of the people into the commission of excesses so hazardous to themselves, their families, and the community. At the time to which I allude, the town and county
were burdened with large detachments of the military; the police was in motion, the magistrates assembled, yet all these movements, civil and military had led to—nothing. Not a single instance had occurred of the apprehension of any real delinquent actually taken in the fact, against whom there existed legal evidence sufficient for conviction. But the police, however useless, were by no means idle: several notorious delinquents had been detected; men liable to conviction, on the clearest evidence, of the capital crime of poverty; men, who had been nefariously guilty of lawfully begetting several children, whom, thanks to the times!—they were unable to maintain. Considerable injury has been done to the proprietors of the improved frames. These machines were to them an advantage, inasmuch as they superseded the necessity of employing a number of workmen, who were left in consequence to starve. By the adoption of one species of frame in particular, one man performed the work of many, and the superfluous labourers were thrown out of employment. Yet it is to be observed, that the work thus executed was in-
ferior in quality, not marketable at home, and merely hurried over with a view to exportation. It was called, in the cant of the trade, by the name of Spider-work. The rejected workmen, in the blindness of their ignorance, instead of rejoicing at these improvements in arts so beneficial to mankind, conceived themselves to be sacrificed to improvements in mechanism. In the foolishness of their hearts, they imagined that the maintenance and well doing of the industrious poor, were objects of greater consequence than the enrichment of a few individuals by any improvement in the implements of trade which threw the workmen out of employment, and rendered the labourer unworthy of his hire. And, it must be confessed, that although the adoption of the enlarged machinery, in that state of our commerce which the country once boasted, might have been beneficial to the master without being detrimental to the servant; yet, in the present situation of our manufactures, rotting in warehouses without a prospect of exportation, with the demand for work and workmen equally diminished, frames of this construction tend ma-
terially to aggravate the distresses and discontents of the disappointed sufferers. But the real cause of these distresses, and consequent disturbances, lies deeper. When we are told that these men are leagued together, not only for the destruction of their own comfort, but of their very means of subsistence, can we forget that it is the bitter policy, the destructive warfare, of the last eighteen years, which has destroyed their comfort, your comfort, all men’s comfort;—that policy which, originating with “great statesmen now no more,” has survived the dead to become a curse on the living unto the third and fourth generation! These men never destroyed their looms till they were become useless, worse than useless; till they were become actual impediments to their exertions in obtaining their daily bread. Can you then wonder, that in times like these, when bankruptcy, convicted fraud, and imputed felony, are found in a station not far beneath that of your Lordships, the lowest, though once most useful portion of the people, should forget their duty in their distresses, and become only less guilty than one of their representatives? But while the ex-
alted offender can find means to baffle the law, new capital punishments must be devised, new snares of death must be spread, for the wretched mechanic who is famished into guilt. These men were willing to dig, but the spade was in other hands; they were not ashamed to beg, but there was none to relieve them. Their own means of subsistence were cut off; all other employments pre-occupied; and their excesses, however to be deplored and condemned, can hardly be the subject of surprise. It has been stated, that the persons in the temporary possession of frames connive at their destruction; if this be proved upon inquiry, it were necessary that such material accessories to the crime should be principals in the punishment. But I did hope that any measure proposed by His Majesty’s Government for your Lordships’ decision, would have had conciliation for its basis; or, if that were hopeless, that some previous inquiry, some deliberation, would have been deemed requisite; not that we should have been called at once, without examination and without cause, to pass sentences by wholesale, and sign death-warrants
blindfold. But admitting that these men had no cause of complaint, that the grievances of them and their employers were alike groundless, that they deserved the worst; what inefficiency, what imbecility, has been evinced in the method chosen to reduce them! Why were the military called out to be made a mockery of—if they were to be called out at all? As far as the difference of seasons would permit, they have merely parodied the summer campaign of Major Sturgeon; and, indeed, the whole proceedings, civil and military, seem formed on the model of those of the Mayor and Corporation of Garrett. Such marchings and countermarchings! from Nottingham to Bulnell—from Bulnell to Bareford—from Bareford to Mansfield! and, when at length, the detachments arrived at their destination, in all ‘the pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war,’ they came just in time to witness the mischief which had been done, and ascertain the escape of the perpetrators;—to collect the spolia opima, in the fragments of broken frames, and return to their quarters amidst the derision of old women, and the hootings of children. Now, though in a
free country, it were to be wished that our military should never be too formidable, at least, to ourselves, I cannot see the policy of placing them in situations where they can only be made ridiculous. As the sword is the worst argument that can be used, so should it be the last: in this instance it has been the first, but, providentially as yet, only in the scabbard. The present measure will, indeed, pluck it from the sheath; yet had proper meetings been held in the earlier stages of these riots,—had the grievances of these men and their masters (for they also have had their grievances) been fairly weighed and justly examined, I do think that means might have been devised to restore these workmen to their avocations, and tranquillity to the country. At present the county suffers from the double infliction of an idle military and a starving population. In what state of apathy have we been plunged so long, that now, for the first time, the house has been officially apprised of these disturbances? All this has been transacting within one hundred and thirty miles of London, and yet we, ‘good easy men! have deemed full sure our greatness
was a ripening,’ and have sat down to enjoy our foreign triumphs in the midst of domestic calamity. But all the cities you have taken, all the armies which have retreated before your leaders, are but paltry subjects of self-congratulation, if your land divides against itself, and your dragoons and executioners must be let loose against your fellow-citizens. You call these men a mob, desperate, dangerous, and ignorant; and seem to think that the only way to quiet the ‘Bellua multorum capitum’ is to lop off a few of its superfluous heads. But even a mob may be better reduced to reason by a mixture of conciliation and firmness, than by additional irritation and redoubled penalties. Are we aware of our obligations to a mob! It is the mob that labour in your fields, and serve in your houses—that man your navy, and recruit your army—that have enabled you to defy all the world,—and can also defy you, when neglect and calamity have driven them to despair. You may call the people a mob, but do not forget that a mob too often speaks the sentiments of the people. And here I must remark with what alacrity you are accus-
tomed to fly to the succour of your distressed allies, leaving the distressed of your own country to the care of Providence or—the parish. When the Portuguese suffered under the retreat of the French, every arm was stretched out, every hand was opened,—from the rich man’s largess to the widow’s mite, all was bestowed to enable them to rebuild their villages and replenish their granaries. And at this moment, when thousands of misguided but most unfortunate fellow-countrymen are struggling with the extremes of hardship and hunger, as your charity began abroad, it should end at home. A much less sum—a tithe of the bounty bestowed on Portugal, even if these men (which I cannot admit without inquiry) could not have been restored to their employments, would have rendered unnecessary the tender mercies of the bayonet and the gibbet But doubtless our funds have too many foreign claims to admit a prospect of domestic relief,—though never did such objects demand it. I have traversed the seat of war in the peninsula; I have been in some of the most oppressed provinces of Turkey; but never, under the most des-
potic of infidel governments, did I behold such squalid wretchedness as I have seen since my return, in the very heart of a Christian country. And what are your remedies? After months of inaction, and months of action worse than inactivity, at length comes forth the grand specific, the never-failing nostrum of all state-physicians, from the days of Draco to the present time. After feeling the pulse and shaking the head over the patient, prescribing the usual course of warm water and bleeding—the warm water of your mawkish police, and the lancets of your military—these convulsions must terminate in death, the sure consummation of the prescriptions of all political Sangrados. Setting aside the palpable injustice and the certain inefficiency of the bill, are there not capital punishments sufficient on your statutes? Is there not blood enough upon your penal code! that more must be poured forth to ascend to heaven and testify against you? How will you carry this bill into effect? Can you commit a whole county to their own prisons? Will you erect a gibbet in every field, and hang up men like scarescrows? or will
you proceed (as you must to bring this measure into effect) by decimation; place the country under martial law; depopulate and lay waste all around you; and restore Sherwood Forest as an acceptable gift to the crown in its former condition of a royal chase, and an asylum for outlaws? Are these the remedies for a starving and desperate populace? Will the famished wretch who has braved your bayonets be appalled by your gibbets? When death is a relief, and the only relief it appears that you will afford him, will he be dragooned into tranquillity? Will that which could not be effected by your grenadiers, be accomplished by your executioners? If you proceed by the forms of law, where is your evidence? Those who have refused to impeach their accomplices when transportation only was the punishment, will hardly be tempted to witness against them when death is the penalty. With all due deference to the noble lords opposite, I think a little investigation, some previous inquiry, would induce even them to change their purpose. That most favourite state measure, so marvellously efficacious in many and recent instances,
temporizing, would not be without its advantage in this. When a proposal is made to emancipate or relieve, you hesitate, you deliberate for years, you temporize and tamper with the minds of men; but a death-bill must be passed off hand, without a thought of the consequences. Sure I am, from what I have heard and from what I have seen, that to pass the bill under all the existing circumstances, without inquiry, without deliberation, would only be to add injustice to irritation, and barbarity to neglect. The framers of such a bill must be content to inherit the honours of that Athenian lawgiver whose edicts were said to be written, not in ink, but in blood. But suppose it past,—suppose one of these men, as I have seen them meagre with famine, sullen with despair, careless of a life which your lordships are perhaps about to value at something less than the price of a stocking-frame; suppose this man surrounded by those children for whom he is unable to procure bread at the hazard of his existence, about to be torn for ever from a family which he lately supported in peaceful industry, and which it is not his fault than he can
no longer so support; suppose this man—and there are ten thousand such from whom you may select your victims,—dragged into court to be tried for this new offence, by this new law,—still there are two things wanting to convict and condemn him, and these are, in my opinion, twelve butchers for a jury, and a
Jefferies for a judge!”