LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Samuel Rogers and his Contemporaries

‣ Preface
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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I cannot send out to the world the volumes which complete my Life of Samuel Rogers without offering my very cordial thanks for the high appreciation expressed by so many organs of literary opinion of the first part. ‘The Early Life of Samuel Rogers’ necessarily dealt with that portion of his unexampled career in which he was establishing his position as a popular poet, a patron of literature and art, and a man of taste. I had to show from what origin he sprang, and to trace the two characteristic lines of English middle-class life—the Tory churchmen, manufacturers and squires, with a dash of French blood, from whom he inherited his family name; and the Whig Nonconformists, proud of their descent from the Rev. Philip Henry, yet themselves diverging from the orthodoxy of their parents, who, through his mother, gave him his chief intellectual characteristics, and his political and religious opinions. I had to show him leaving the business career in which he had been brought up, turning his back with hesitation on his quiet suburban life, and plunging into the
great stream of London Society. These new volumes begin just at the point at which he took the step which led him from literary to social distinction. I have shown in ‘The Early Life’ the remarkable and growing popularity his poem, ‘
The Pleasures of Memory,’ was enjoying at the time when he settled in St. James’s Place, and made his small and unostentatious house the most tastefully furnished dwelling in London. It was the eve of a great literary development; and Rogers’s love of cultivated society soon made his home a favourite meeting-place of the chief poets, writers, and artists of his time. The social success followed, and for fifty years Rogers was a prominent—for a long time the most prominent—figure in London life. He was the one man, and his house was the one house, that every stranger from the Continent, or from the United States, or from the English shires, desired to see. He was surrounded, too, by such a group of poets and wits and artists and literary men and men of great conversational powers, as the world had never seen before and has not witnessed since. As the ‘Oracle of Holland House,’ to use Macaulay’s words, he became the intimate associate of most of the great statesmen of his time. His time, moreover, was two whole generations. It included the Gordon riots and the repeal of the Corn Laws, the French Revolution and the Great Exhibition. It linked together Fox and Sheridan and Windham and Lord Grenville with Sir Robert Peel and Earl Russell and Mr. Gladstone. Among his poetical contemporaries
Cowper and Tennyson, with the Byron episode and the whole Lake School coming between them; and among his friends were the authors of ‘Zeluco’ and ‘The Man of Feeling,’ and the writers of ‘Vanity Fair’ and ‘Master Humphrey’s Clock.’

The story of fifty years passed in such society as Rogers lived in may be told in two ways. It may be worked up into a brilliant narrative, or it may be left for the actors in it to describe in their own diaries and letters. I have chosen the latter course. I have tried to show what was the kind of society of which Rogers was the centre, and what was the impression he made on his friends and acquaintances. He has been so slightingly spoken of since his death, that it will surprise many of my readers to find how highly he was esteemed—indeed, with what remarkable admiration he was regarded—during his life by many of the best, the truest, and the greatest of his contemporaries. Meanwhile many appreciative notices of him have been published, such as Mr. Hayward’s article in ‘The Edinburgh Review,’ that of Dr. Carruthers in the eighth edition of ‘The Encyclopedia Britannica’; and in later years the excellent account of him in the ninth edition of that Encyclopedia by my friend Professor Minto, and the ‘Reminiscences’ in ‘The Quarterly Review’ for last October, which, I regret, must remain anonymous. Mr. Hayward, however, included in his article some rather scornful references to him by two ladies who, as will he seen in the second volume of this work, were among his
most devoted friends when he was alive. These, with
Lady Morgan’s fables, and Mr. Dyce’s Table Talk, did lasting injury to his memory. Now, at length, the world will see, from the remarkable series of letters in these volumes, what Rogers really was, and the impression he made on the men whose friendship and esteem form one of the foundations of his enduring fame.

The dislike which Coleridge felt for Rogers on first meeting him at Wordsworth’s house (p. 9, vol. i.), contrasts in a very striking way not only with Coleridge’s own subsequent regard for him, but also with the affection which Wordsworth entertained towards him. The world now learns for the first time how much Rogers and Wordsworth were to one another. It learns something too of the great Lake poet himself. The letters from Wordsworth which are spread all through these volumes give a closer view of him as a man, and in his domestic relations, than is to be found in any book I know. It is not the Wordsworth of his nephew’s stilted biography, but the Wordsworth of every-day life. The bishop tried to show only the great man—his sublime head, like Horace’s, striking the stars—in these letters he is a man among men, with the wants and the weaknesses, the small interests and the fretting cares of common life. I have seen no such picture of Wordsworth as these letters and other references to him in these volumes give. Next to Wordsworth, Tom Moore is the most prominent of Rogers’s contemporaries in my pages. He is here, however, rather as a diarist than as a correspondent. I
have had to point out some defects in his biographies. His
Life of Byron contained a good many letters from Byron to Rogers. He had the originals in his hands, and I find on them the pencil marks which directed the copyist what to omit. He printed the letters without any sign of these omissions, and in reproducing them I have restored most of the missing passages. I have also pointed out, in correction of Medwin’s vulgar misrepresentations, how Byron’s rhymed attack on Rogers is really to be taken.

In writing his ‘Life of SheridanMoore had all Rogers’s papers before him; but overlooked one, which he probably thought was nothing but the inventory of a sale. I have shown, however, that it solves a mystery as to Sheridan’s income which has puzzled all who have written about him.

The letters which passed between Rogers and Richard Sharp during the great political crisis in 1834 present a most lively picture of the personal movements and views of the chief actors in the drama. The message from Lord Grenville conveyed by Rogers’s letter to Lord Lansdowne seven years before this, his correspondence with Lord Grey, and the remarkable series of letters on public affairs addressed to him by Lord Brougham after Rogers was laid aside, are striking evidences of his interest in political affairs. His own letters to his sister give glimpses of English country life in two generations.

I have to acknowledge my indebtedness to Lord John Russell’sMemoirs, Journal, and Correspondence
of Thomas Moore’; to
Dr. Sadler’s admirably edited ‘Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence of Henry Crabb Robinson’; and to Mrs. Kemble’sRecords of Later Years.’

The materials for Rogers’s biography were placed in my hands by the relatives to whom he left them. His executors were his nephews, the late Mr. Samuel Sharpe and the late Mr. William Sharpe, and most of the letters from various eminent persons, and the diaries, in these volumes and in the earlier volume, were entrusted to me by Miss Sharpe and Miss Matilda Sharpe, of 32 Highbury Place, and Mrs. Sharpe, of 1 Highbury Terrace. Miss Blanche Rogers and Miss Meta Rogers, great-granddaughters of Rogers’s oldest brother, Daniel Rogers, have supplied me with much additional material, chiefly with Rogers’s own letters to his brother Henry and his sister Sarah, and have given me valuable assistance in other ways. Mrs. Sharpe, of the Grove, Hampstead, gave me the recollections of his uncle’s conversation put down by her husband, the late Mr. Henry Sharpe. To Mrs. Drummond, of Fredley and Hyde Park Gardens, I am indebted for the use of the important and valuable letters of Richard Sharp. My authority for the statement that Rogers once made an offer of marriage to Lavinia Banks, afterwards Mrs. Forster, is her granddaughter Miss Poynter.

My grateful thanks are also due to those who have so readily responded to my request for permission to print letters. First of all to her most gracious Majesty the Queen, for leave to publish the letter in which Prince
Albert, in her name, offered Rogers the Laureateship on the death of Wordsworth; and next to the Duke of Wellington and the Duke of Sutherland, the Marquis of Pufferin and Ava, the Earl of Lytton, Lord Grantley, Lord Monteagle, Lord Knutsford, Sir Robert Peel, Captain Sir George Beaumont, Mr. S. E. Bouverie-Pusey, Mr. Ernest Coleridge, and Dr. Charles Mackay, for similar permission, cordially given. To the late Lord Brougham I am indebted, not only for granting leave to print his brother’s letters, but for reading them all before they were sent to the press. At the request of the Dowager Lady Lilford, Sir Charles Newton kindly gave me similar help with the letters of Lord and Lady Holland. With respect to the letter on page 309, vol. i., Sir Charles Newton tells me that in the Gem room of the British Museum is to be seen the snuff-box given by Napoleon to Lady Holland, his writing which accompanied the gift, and General Fox’s memorandum written on a separate card. I am indebted to Earl Grey, not only for permission to publish the letters of his illustrious father, his mother, and his brother, but for the explanation I have been able to give of his own letter on page 284, vol. ii., and to Lord Ashburnham who kindly read his grandfather’s letters and supplied me with one or two annotations on them.

I have further to acknowledge my indebtedness to the Countess Russell for leave to publish her own and Lord John Russell’s letters, and to Lady Agatha Russell for kind assistance in editing them; to the Dowager
Marchioness of Ely, the
Baroness Burdett-Coutts, and Mrs. Gladstone; to the Honourable Justice Denman for Rogers’s lines addressed to him; to Mrs. Maxwell Scott for leave to print the letters of Sir Walter Scott; to Miss Mackenzie of Edinburgh for copies of Rogers’s letters to her grandfather, ‘The Man of Feeling,’ and permission to use his letters both in these volumes and in ‘The Early Life’; to Mr. T. Price, executor of Lady Price, for sanctioning the use of the valuable and interesting letters of his uncle Sir Uvedale Price; to Sir John Farnaby Lennard, of Wickham Court, for leave to include those of Henry Hallam; to Lady Eastlake for similar leave and some valuable hints; to Mrs. Arthur Severn for looking over Mr. Ruskin’s letters during his illness, and to Mr. Ruskin himself for letting them appear. For the inclusion in the volumes of Dickens’s most characteristic and amusing letters I am indebted to Miss Georgina Hogarth; while Mrs. Forster and Mrs. Kemble, with the greatest readiness, responded to my request. Mr. George Ticknor Curtis, of New York, and Messrs. G. Putnam’s Sons, of the same city, cordially sanctioned the printing of letters by Washington Irving and Daniel Webster.

In giving me leave to use the letters of his grandfather, Mr. William Wordsworth writes: ‘I had the pleasure in my schoolboy days of breakfasting on two or three occasions with Mr. Rogers in the last years of his life, and I have a lively and grateful recollection of the great amiability and courtesy which he extended to all the members of my family whenever we visited him’;
and the
Rev. Charles Cuthbert Southey, in sanctioning the use of his father’s letters, says, ‘I have a vivid recollection of Mr. Rogers, though very young when I had opportunities of being in his society. I well remember being at a remarkable breakfast at his house when Sydney Smith, Tom Moore, my father and, I think, Wordsworth, were among the guests. There were giants in those days.’ There are a few letters from people eminent in their time who left no near relatives behind them and whose heirs I have failed to trace. In such cases I have thought it better to print the letters than to omit them; but I have only done so where the interest was entirely of a public character and no private matters were involved.


13 Tavistock Square, London:
March 1889.
Lord Byron to Samuel Rogers.

Absent or present, still to thee,
My friend, what magic spells belong!
As all can tell who share like me
In turn thy converse and thy song.
But when the dreaded hour shall come,
By Friendship ever deem’d too nigh—
And ‘Memory’ o’er her Druid’s tomb
Shall weep that aught of thee can die—
How fondly will she then repay
Thy homage offer’d at her shrine,
And blend, while ages roll away,
Her name immortally with thine.

April 19, 1812.