LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Samuel Rogers and his Contemporaries
James Fenimore Cooper to Samuel Rogers, 19 January 1831

Vol. I Contents
Chapter I. 1803-1805.
Chapter II. 1805-1809.
Chapter III. 1810-1812.
Chapter IV. 1813-1814.
Chapter V. 1814-1815.
Chapter VI. 1815-1816.
Chapter VII. 1816-1818.
Chapter VIII. 1818-19.
Chapter IX. 1820-1821.
Chapter X. 1822-24.
Chapter XI. 1825-1827.
Vol. II Contents
Chapter I. 1828-1830.
Chapter II. 1831-34.
Chapter III. 1834-1837.
Chapter IV. 1838-41.
Chapter V. 1842-44.
Chapter VI. 1845-46.
Chapter VII. 1847-50.
Chapter VIII. 1850
Chapter IX. 1851.
Chapter X. 1852-55.
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‘Paris: January 19th, 1831.

‘My dear Sir,—So long a time has elapsed since we parted, that I am almost afraid to write you, though the object of my letter is a tardy but sincere expression of the grateful recollection of all your kindnesses when in London. I did write to you with the same in tent from Florence early in 1829, but some circumstances have led me to infer that by an oversight the letter was never
sent—an accident of by no means rare occurrence in my correspondence. Both
Mrs. Cooper and myself retain a pleasant remembrance of your good offices, and I ought to add, your good nature, while we were sojourners in the wilderness of your capital. I am willing to flatter myself with the impression that you still feel sufficient interest in our welfare not to shut your ears against an account of what we have been about during the last four years.

‘From London, as you may remember, possibly, we went to Holland, and, after a short delay in Paris, to Switzerland, where we passed the summer. In the autumn we crossed the Alps. Our stay in Italy extended to near two years, and we left it by the Tyrol for Germany. After the late revolution we came back here for the purpose of giving our girls, of whom there are four, the advantages of the masters. I regret to say that my nephew, whom you may remember, a tall stripling, and who grew into a handsome man, died of consumption in September last. Little Paul often speaks of the Pare St. Jacques, and Monsieur Rogers, and of an old woman who sold fresh milk in your neighbourhood. I do not know that you ought to be much flattered by the association, but you will at least admit that it is natural.

‘I continue, as George III. said to Johnson, to “scribble, scribble, scribble,” though with something less of advantage to mankind than was the case with the great moralist. In one sense, however, I am quite his equal, for I do as well as I can. Since I saw you I have published three tales, and am now hard at work at a fourth. The last was on a subject connected with Italy,
the scene being in Venice, and I frequently stimulated the imagination by reading your own images and tales of that part of Europe. I know nothing of its reception among you, though I fancy there will be a disposition to drive me back again into my own hemisphere. There is a good deal of Falstaff’s humour about me in the way of compulsion, and so I may prove hard-headed enough to try my hand again. Some one told me that I was accused of presumption for laying the scene of a story in a town rendered immortal by
Shakespeare and Byron. Luckily there is a sort of immunity that is peculiarly the right of insignificance, and I confess that the idea of invading the domains of your great poets never crossed my brain. I had a crotchet to be delivered of, and produced it must be, though it were stillborn. I am far from certain that it ought to be imputed as a crime to any man that he is not Shakespeare or Scott, so I shall go on with the confidence of innocence.

‘I heard through Mr. Wilkes that the picture which I wished you to accept as a feeble testimony of my recollection of your kindness was sent, and I hope it was not a bad specimen of the artist’s talent, which I take to be of a very high order. I hear he is doing wonders, and that he is attracting notice in Italy. He is studying the figure, they tell me, with signal success. I picked up a little picture the other day in the open streets that is generally much esteemed. It is a female portrait of the time of Louis XIV., of the Flemish school, we think, and certainly an original from the hand of some eminent painter. I do not remember a dozen better portraits, though it is something the worse for exposure and time.
It cost me just a guinea! The only account I can find of it is a sort of tradition in a family that owned it thirty years that it is a portrait, by
Teniers, of his own wife. The manner of Teniers is what may be termed silvery, and that of my portrait is rather in the style of Correggio. It is exquisitely drawn and coloured, but the face strikes everybody as being decidedly German, or at least Flemish. Could you help me to a hint, to a print, or to any book that would be likely to throw light on the matter.

‘Wonderful changes have occurred since I had the pleasure of seeing you, but I think greater still are in store. Is not the tendency of the present spirit obvious? and ought not your aristocracy to throw themselves into the stream and go with the current, rather than hope to stem a torrent that in its nature is irresistible? If your system of Government has had its advantages in its pliable character (and it certainly has avoided many great dangers by quietly assuming new shades of policy), it has also one great and menacing disadvantage, that I do not see how it can resist. The contradiction between theory and practice has left your controlling power exposed to the unwearied and all-powerful attacks of the press, for though treason can [not] be written against the king the aristocracy has no such protection. The idea of defending any limited body by the press against the assaults of the press seems a desperate experiment, for, right or wrong, there is but one means of keeping physical force and political power asunder, and that is the remedy of ignorance. To me at this distance it seems an inevitable consequence of your actual social condition that both
your church establishment and your peerage must give way. America might furnish a useful example to warn the English aristocracy if they would consent to study it. Our gentry put themselves in opposition to the mass, after the revolution, simply because, being in the habit of receiving their ideas from the most aristocratic nation of our time, they fancied there were irreconcilable interests to separate the rich man from the poor man, and that they had nothing to expect from the latter class should it get into the ascendant. They consequently supported theories adverse to the amalgamation, and as a matter of course, the instinct of the multitude warned them against trusting men opposed to their rights. The error has been discovered, and although individuals among those who were prominent in supporting exclusive doctrines are necessarily proscribed by opinion, the nation shows all proper deference to education and character; when these are united to money and discreetly used they are of necessity still more certain of notice.
Jefferson was the man to whom we owe the high lesson that the natural privileges of a social aristocracy are in truth no more than their natural privileges. With us, all questions of personal rights, except in the case of the poor slaves, are effectually settled, and yet every really valuable interest is as secure as it is anywhere else.

‘It is curious to note the effect of the present condition of England. When the prerogative was in the ascendant, Charles made six Dukes of his illegitimate sons (Monmouth included), and George IV. scarce dared his progeny. Even the first of the Hanoverian princes presumed to make a Duchess of his mistress,
but all that power disappeared before the increasing ascendancy of the nobles. Now the many and the few are in opposition, the King comes into the account, and we hear of lords and ladies among his offspring. A bold and able monarch would in such a crisis regain his authority, and we should again hear the phrase “Le roi y pensera.” The experiment would be delicate, but it might succeed by acting on the fears of the middle classes, the fundholders, and the timid. With the cast of character that has actually been made by Providence, I think, however, there is little probability that the drama will receive this dénouement.

‘Here we have just got out of the provisoire. The furor of moderation is likely enough, I think, to put us all back again. There is an unfortunate and material distinction between the interests of those who rule and those who are ruled to come in aid of the floundering measures of the ministry. The intentions of the “juste milieu” are obviously to make the revolution a mere change of dynasties, while the people have believed in a change of principles. Could the different sections of the Opposition unite, the present state of things would not endure a month. Neither the National Guard nor the Army is any security against a great movement, for they are more likely to go against the Government than with it. There have been some very serious steps taken in the courts here of late which look grave. The judges have exercised a right of sentencing prisoners that a jury had acquitted. There is probably some show of law for the measure, but it is a very grave and hazardous course. On the whole, I am of opinion that King Louis Philippe’s
Civil List may be worth some two or three years’ purchase. I would not give him three.

‘But I am boring you with politics, when apology for writing at all is the most material matter. Mrs. Cooper desires to be remembered to Miss Rogers and yourself, and I beg also to be mentioned to your sister. I should like exceedingly, did you not think it encroaching on your good nature, to be mentioned to Dr. and Mrs. Somerville.

‘I can tell you nothing of Parisian society, not having dined or passed an evening out of my own house in five months. Nobody comes to see me, and I go to see nobody, or next to nobody. I have a pleasant and happy fireside of my own, and am quite content. I should be very glad to see you among us. There was a report some time since that you were about to visit Paris, and I had hopes of meeting you here. Perhaps you did come, and I was ignorant of your presence, for I am so much out of the world that it might very well happen. Should you not have been, and should you in truth come, I trust you will take the trouble to send a card with your address to me, and I add my street and number not to miss the occasion of seeing you.

‘Believe me, dear Sir,
‘Very truly and faithfully yours,
J. Fenimore Cooper.
‘Rue St. Dominique St. Germain, No. 59.’