LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Life of Byron: 1808

Life of Byron: to 1806
Life of Byron: 1806
Life of Byron: 1807
‣ Life of Byron: 1808
Life of Byron: 1809
Life of Byron: 1810
Life of Byron: 1811
Life of Byron: 1812
Life of Byron: 1813
Life of Byron: 1814
Life of Byron: 1815
Life of Byron: 1816 (I)
Life of Byron: 1816 (II)
Life of Byron: 1817
Life of Byron: 1818
Life of Byron: 1819
Life of Byron: 1820
Life of Byron: 1821
Life of Byron: 1822
Life of Byron: 1823
Life of Byron: 1824
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH

It was at the beginning of the following year that an acquaintance commenced between Lord Byron and a gentleman, related to his family by marriage, Mr. Dallas,—the author of some novels, popular, I believe, in their day, and also of a sort of Memoir of the noble Poet published soon after his death, which, from being founded chiefly on original correspondence, is the most authentic and trust-worthy of any that have yet appeared. In the letters addressed by Lord Byron to this gentleman, among many details, curious in a literary point of view, we find, what is much more important for our present purpose, some particulars illustrative of the opinions which he had formed, at this time of his life, on the two subjects most connected with the early formation of character—morals and religion.

It is but rarely that infidelity or scepticism finds an entrance into youthful minds. That readiness to take the future upon trust, which is the charm of this period of life, would naturally, indeed, make it the season of belief as well as of hope. There are also then, still fresh in the mind, the impressions of early religious culture, which, even in those who begin soonest to question their faith, give way but slowly to the encroachments of doubt, and, in the mean time, extend the benefit of their moral restraint over a portion of life when it is acknowledged such restraints are most necessary. If exemption from the checks of religion be, as infidels themselves allow*, a state of freedom from responsibility dangerous

* “Look out for a people entirely destitute of religion: if you find them at all, be assured that they are but few degrees removed from brutes.”—Hume.

The reader will find this avowal of Hume turned eloquently to the advantage of religion

A. D. 1808. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 123
at all times, it must be peculiarly so in that season of temptation, youth, when the passions are sufficiently disposed to usurp a latitude for themselves, without taking a licence also from infidelity to enlarge their range. It is, therefore, fortunate that, for the causes just stated, the inroads of scepticism and disbelief should be seldom felt in the mind till a period of life, when the character, already formed, is out of the reach of their disturbing influence,—when, being the result, however erroneous, of thought and reasoning, they are likely to partake of the sobriety of the process by which they were acquired, and, being considered but as matters of pure speculation, to have as little share in determining the mind towards evil as, too often, the most orthodox creed has, at the same age, in influencing it towards good.

While, in this manner, the moral qualities of the unbeliever himself are guarded from some of the mischiefs that might, at an earlier age, attend such doctrines, the danger also of his communicating the infection to others is, for reasons of a similar nature, considerably diminished. The same vanity or daring which may have prompted the youthful sceptic’s opinions, will lead him likewise, it is probable, rashly and irreverently to avow them, without regard either to the effect of his example on those around him, or to the odium which, by such an avowal, he entails irreparably on himself. But, at a riper age, these consequences are, in general, more cautiously weighed. The infidel, if at all considerate of the happiness of others, will naturally pause before he chases from their hearts a hope of which his own feels the want so desolately. If regardful only of himself, he will no less naturally shrink from the promulgation of opinions which, in no age, have men uttered with impunity. In either case there is a tolerably good security for his silence;—for, should benevolence not restrain him from making converts of others, prudence may, at least, prevent him from making a martyr of himself.

Unfortunately, Lord Byron was an exception to the usual course of such lapses. With him, the canker showed itself “in the morn and dew of youth,” when the effect of such “blastments” is, for every

in a Collection of Sermons, entitled, “The Connextion of Christianity with human Happiness,” written by one of Lord Byron’s earliest end most valued friends, the Rev. William Harness.

124 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1808.
reason, most fatal,—and, in addition to the real misfortune of being an unbeliever at any age, he exhibited the rare and melancholy spectacle of an unbelieving schoolboy. The same prematurity of developement which brought his passions and genius so early into action, enabled him also to anticipate this worst, dreariest result of reason; and at the very time of life when a spirit and temperament like his most required control, those checks, which religious prepossessions best supply, were almost wholly wanting.

We have seen, in those two Addresses to the Deity which I have selected from among his unpublished Poems, and still more strongly in a passage of the Catalogue of his studies, at what a boyish age the authority of all systems and sects was avowedly shaken off by his inquiring spirit. Yet, even in these, there is a fervour of adoration mingled with his defiance of creeds, through which the piety implanted in his nature (as it is deeply in all poetic natures) unequivocally shows itself; and had he then fallen within the reach of such guidance and example as would have seconded and fostered these natural dispositions, the licence of opinion, into which he afterwards broke loose, might have been averted. His scepticism, if not wholly removed, might have been softened down into that humble doubt, which, so far from being inconsistent with a religious spirit, is, perhaps, its best guard against presumption and uncharitableness; and; at all events, even if his own views of religion had not been brightened or elevated, he would have learned not wantonly to cloud or disturb those of others. But there was no such monitor near him. After his departure from Southwell, he had not a single friend or relative to whom he could look up with respect; but was thrown alone on the world, with his passions and his pride, to revel in the fatal discovery which he imagined himself to have made of the nothingness of the future, and the all-paramount claims of the present. By singular ill-fortune, too, the individual who, among all his college friends, had taken the strongest hold on his admiration and affection, and whose loss he afterwards lamented with brotherly tenderness, was to the same extent as himself, if not more strongly, a sceptic. Of this remarkable young man, Matthews, who was so early snatched away, and whose career in after-life, had it been at all answerable to the extraordinary
A. D. 1808. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 125
promise of his youth, must have placed him upon a level with the first men of his day, a Memoir was, at one time, intended to be published by his relatives; and to Lord Byron among others of his college friends, application, for assistance in the task, was addressed. The letter which this circumstance drew forth from the noble poet, besides containing many amusing traits of his friend, affords such an insight into his own habits of life at this period, that, though infringing upon the chronological order of his correspondence, I shall insert it here.

“Ravenna, 9bre 12, 1820.

“What you said of the late Charles Skinner Matthews has set me to my recollections; but I have not been able to turn up any thing which would do for the purposed Memoir of his brother,—even if he had previously done enough during his life to sanction the introduction of anecdotes so merely personal. He was, however, a very extraordinary man, and would have been a great one: No one ever succeeded in a more surpassing degree than he did, as far as he went. He was indolent too; but whenever he stripped, he overthrew all antagonists. His conquests will be found registered at Cambridge, particularly his Downing one, which was hotly and highly contested and yet easily won. Hobhouse was his most intimate friend, and can tell you more of him than any man. William Bankes also a great deal. I myself recollect more of his oddities than of his academical qualities, for we lived most together at a very idle period of my life. When I went up to Trinity in 1805, at the age of seventeen and a half, I was miserable and untoward to a degree. I was wretched at leaving Harrow, to which I had become attached during the two last years of my stay there; wretched at going to Cambridge instead of Oxford (there were no rooms vacant at Christ-church), wretched from some private domestic circumstances of different kinds, and consequently about as unsocial as a wolf taken from the troop. So that, although I knew Matthews, and met him often then at Bankes’s (who was my collegiate pastor, and master, and patron), and at Rhode’s,
126 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1808.
Milnes’s, Price’s, Dick’s, Macnamara’s, Farrell’s, Galley Knight’s, and others of that set of cotemporaries, yet I was neither intimate with him nor with any one else, except my old schoolfellow Edward Long (with whom I used to pass the day in riding and swimming), and William Bankes, who was good-naturedly tolerant of my ferocities.

“It was not till 1807, after I had been upwards of a year away from Cambridge, to which I had returned again to reside for my degree, that I became one of Matthews’s familiars, by means of H * *, who, after hating me for two years, because I ‘wore a white hat and a gray coat and rode a gray horse’ (as he says himself), took me into his good graces because I had written some poetry. I had always lived a good deal, and got drunk occasionally, in their company—but now we became really friends in a morning. Matthews, however, was not at this period resident in College. I met him chiefly in London, and at uncertain periods at Cambridge. H * *, in the mean time, did great things: he founded the Cambridge ‘Whig Club’ (which he seems to have forgotten), and the ‘Amicable Society,’ which was dissolved in consequence of the members constantly quarrelling, and made himself very popular with ‘us youth,’ and no less formidable to all tutors, professors, and heads of Colleges. William B * * was gone; while he staid, he ruled the roast—or rather the roasting—and was father of all mischiefs.

Matthews and I, meeting in London, and elsewhere, became great cronies. He was not good-tempered—nor am I—but with a little tact his temper was manageable, and I thought him so superior a man, that I was willing to sacrifice something to his humours, which were often, at the same time, amusing and provoking. What became of his papers (and he certainly had many), at the time of his death, was never known. I mention this by the way, fearing to skip it over, and as he wrote remarkably well, both in Latin and English. We went down to Newstead together, where I had got a famous cellar, and Monks’ dresses from a masquerade warehouse. We were a company of some seven or eight, with an occasional neighbour or so for visitors, and used to sit up late in our Friars’ dresses, drinking burgundy, claret, champagne, and what not, out of the skull-cup, and all sorts of glasses, and buffooning all round the house, in our conventual garments. Matthews always denominated me
A. D. 1808. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 127
‘the Abbot,’ and never called me by any other name in his good humours, to the day of his death. The harmony of these our symposia was somewhat interrupted, a few days after our assembling, by Matthews’s threatening to throw ‘bold
W * *’ (as he was called, from winning a foot-match, and a horse-match, the first from Ipswich to London, and the second from Brighthelmstone) by threatening to throw ‘bold W * * ’ out of a window, in consequence of I know not what commerce of jokes ending in this epigram. W * * came to me and said, that ‘his respect and regard for me as host would not permit him to call out any of my guests, and that he should go to town next morning.’ He did. It was in vain that I represented to him that the window was not high, and that the turf under it was particularly soft. Away he went.

Matthews and myself had travelled down from London together, talking all the way incessantly upon one single topic. When we got to Loughborough, I know not what chasm had made us diverge for a moment to some other subject, at which he was indignant. ‘Come,’ said he, ‘don’t let us break through—let us go on as we began, to our journey’s end;’ and so he continued, and was entertaining as ever to the very end. He had previously occupied, during my year’s absence from Cambridge, my rooms in Trinity, with the furniture; and Jones the tutor, in his odd way, had said on putting him in, ‘Mr. Matthews, I recommend to your attention not to damage any of the moveables, for Lord Byron, sir, is a young man of tumultuous passions.’ Matthews was delighted with this; and whenever any body came to visit him, begged them to handle the very door with caution; and used to repeat Jones’s admonition, in his tone and manner. There was a large mirror in the room, on which he remarked, ‘that he thought his friends were grown uncommonly assiduous in coming to see him, but he soon discovered that they only came to see themselves.’ Jones’s phrase of ‘tumultuous passions,’ and the whole scene, had put him into such good humour, that I verily believe, that I owed to it a portion of his good graces.

“When at Newstead, somebody by accident rubbed against one of his white silk stockings, one day before dinner; of course the gentleman apologized. ‘Sir,’ answered Matthews, ‘it may be all very well for you, who have a great many silk stockings, to dirty other people’s; but to me,
128 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1808.
who have only this one pair, which I have put on in honour of the Abbot here, no apology can compensate for such carelessness; besides the expense of washing.’ He had the same sort of droll sardonic way about every thing. A wild Irishman, named F * * , one evening beginning to say something at a large supper at Cambridge, Matthews roared out ‘Silence!’ and then, pointing to F * *, cried out, in the words of the oracle, ‘Orson is endowed with reason.’ You may easily suppose that Orson lost what reason he had acquired, on hearing this compliment. When
H * * published his volume of Poems, the Miscellany (which Matthews would call the ‘Miss-sellany’), all that could be drawn from him was, that the preface was ‘extremely like Walsh.’ H * * thought this at first a compliment; but we never could make out what it was, for all we know of Walsh is his Ode to King William, and Pope’s epithet of ‘knowing Walsh.’ When the Newstead party broke up for London, H * * and Matthews, who were the greatest friends possible, agreed, for a whim, to walk together to town. They quarrelled by the way, and actually walked the latter half of their journey, occasionally passing and repassing, without speaking. When Matthews had got to Highgate, he had spent all his money but threepence halfpenny, and determined to spend that also in a pint of beer, which I believe he was drinking before a public-house, as H * * passed him (still without speaking) for the last time on their route. They were reconciled in London again.

“One of Matthews’s passions was ‘the Fancy;’ and he sparred uncommonly well. But he always got beaten in rows, or combats with the bare fist. In swimming too, he swam well; but with effort and labour, and too high out of the water; so that Scrope Davies and myself, of whom he was therein somewhat emulous, always told him that he would be drowned if ever he came to a difficult pass in the water. He was so; but surely Scrope and myself would have been most heartily glad that
‘the Dean had lived,
And our prediction proved a lie.’

His head was uncommonly handsome, very like what Pope’s was in his youth.

“His voice, and laugh, and features, are strongly resembled by his
A. D. 1808. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 129
brother Henry’s, if
Henry be he of King’s College. His passion for boxing was so great, that he actually wanted me to match him with Dogherty (whom I had backed and made the match for against Tom Belcher), and I saw them spar together at my own lodgings with the gloves on. As he was bent upon it, I would have backed Dogherty to please him, but the match went off. It was of course to have been a private fight in a private room.

“On one occasion, being too late to go home and dress, he was equipped by a friend (Mr. Bailey, I believe), in a magnificently fashionable and somewhat exaggerated shirt and neckcloth. He proceeded to the Opera, and took his station in Fop’s Alley. During the interval between the opera and the ballet, an acquaintance took his station by him, and saluted him: ‘Come round,’ said Matthews, ‘come round.’ ‘Why should I come round?’ said the other; ‘you have only to turn your head—I am close by you.’ ‘That is exactly what I cannot do,’ answered Matthews: ‘don’t you see the state I am in?’ pointing to his buckram shirt collar, and inflexible cravat,—and there he stood with his head always in the same perpendicular position during the whole spectacle.

“One evening, after dining together, as we were going to the Opera, I happened to have a spare Opera ticket (as subscriber to a box), and presented it to Matthews. ‘Now, sir,’ said he to Hobhouse afterwards, ‘this I call courteous in the Abbot—another man would never have thought that I might do better with half a guinea than throw it to a door-keeper;—but here is a man not only asks me to dinner, but gives me a ticket for the theatre.’ These were only his oddities, for no man was more liberal, or more honourable in all his doings and dealings than Matthews. He gave Hobhouse and me, before we set out for Constantinople, a most splendid entertainment, to which we did ample justice. One of his fancies was dining at all sorts of out of the way places. Somebody popped upon him, in I know not what coffee-house in the Strand—and what do you think was the attraction? Why, that he paid a shilling (I think) to dine with his hat on. This he called his ‘hat house,’ and used to boast of the comfort of being covered at mealtimes.

“When Sir Henry Smith was expelled from Cambridge for a row
130 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1808.
with a tradesman named ‘Hiron,’
Matthews solaced himself with shouting under Hiron’s windows every evening,
‘Ah me! What perils do environ
The man who meddles with hot Hiron.

“He was also of that band of profane scoffers, who, under the auspices of * *, used to rouse Lort Mansel (late Bishop of Bristol) from his slumbers in the lodge of Trinity, and when he appeared at the window foaming with wrath, and crying out ‘I know you, gentlemen, I know you!’ were wont to reply, ‘We beseech thee to hear us, good Lort—Good Lort, deliver us!’ (Lort was his christian name.) As he was very free in his speculations upon all kinds of subjects, although by no means either dissolute or intemperate in his conduct, and as I was no less independent, our conversation and correspondence used to alarm our friend Hobhouse to a considerable degree.

* * * *

“You must be almost tired of my packets, which will have cost a mint of postage.

“Salute Gifford and all my friends.
“Yours, &c.”

As already, before his acquaintance with Mr. Matthews commenced, Lord Byron had begun to bewilder himself in the mazes of scepticism, it would be unjust to impute to this gentleman any further share in the formation of his noble friend’s opinions than what arose from the natural influence of example and sympathy;—an influence which, as it was felt perhaps equally on both sides, rendered the contagion of their doctrines, in a great measure, reciprocal. In addition, too, to this community of sentiment on such subjects, they were both, in no ordinary degree, possessed by that dangerous spirit of ridicule, whose impulses even the pious cannot always restrain, and which draws the mind on, by a sort of irresistible fascination, to disport itself most wantonly on the brink of all that is most solemn and awful. It is not wonderful, therefore, that, in such society, the opinions of the noble poet should have been,
A. D. 1808. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 131
at least, accelerated in that direction to which their bias already leaned; and though he cannot be said to have become thus confirmed in these doctrines—as neither now, nor at any time of his life, was he a confirmed unbeliever,—he had undoubtedly learned to feel less uneasy under his scepticism, and even to mingle somewhat of boast and of levity with his expression of it. At the very first onset of his correspondence with Mr. Dallas, we find him proclaiming his sentiments on all such subjects with a flippancy and confidence, far different from the tone in which he had first ventured on his doubts,—from that fervid sadness, as of a heart loth to part with its illusions, which breathes through every line of those prayers, that, but a year before, his pen had traced.

Here again, however, we should recollect, there must be a considerable share of allowance for his usual tendency to make the most and the worst of his own obliquities. There occurs, indeed, in his first letter to Mr. Dallas an instance of this strange ambition,—the very reverse, it must be allowed, of hypocrisy,—which led him to court, rather than avoid, the reputation of profligacy, and to put, at all times, the worst face on his own character and conduct. His new correspondent having, in introducing himself to his acquaintance, passed some compliments on the tone of moral and charitable feeling which breathed through one of his poems, had added, that “it brought to his mind another noble author, who was not only a fine poet, orator, and historian, but one of the closest reasoners we have on the truth of that religion of which forgiveness is a prominent principle,—the great and the good Lord Lyttleton, whose fame will never die. His son,” adds Mr. Dallas, “to whom he had transmitted genius, but not virtue, sparkled for a moment and went out like a star,—and with him the title became extinct.” To this Lord Byron answers in the following letter.

132 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1808.
“Dorant’s Hotel, Albemarle-street, Jan. 20th, 1808.

“Your letter was not received till this morning, I presume from being addressed to me in Notts., where I have not resided since last June, and as the date is the 6th, you will excuse the delay of my answer.

“If the little volume you mention has given pleasure to the author of Percival and Aubrey, I am sufficiently repaid by his praise. Though our periodical censors have been uncommonly lenient, I confess a tribute from a man of acknowledged genius is still more flattering. But I am afraid I should forfeit all claim to candour, if I did not decline such praise as I do not deserve; and this is, I am sorry to say, the case in the present instance.

“My compositions speak for themselves, and must stand or fall by their own worth or demerit: thus far I feel highly gratified by your favourable opinion. But my pretensions to virtue are unluckily so few, that though I should be happy to merit, I cannot accept, your applause in that respect. One passage in your letter struck me forcibly: you mention the two Lords Lyttleton in a manner they respectively deserve, and will be surprised to hear the person who is now addressing you has been frequently compared to the latter. I know I am injuring myself in your esteem by this avowal, but the circumstance was so remarkable from your observation, that I cannot help relating the fact. The events of my short life have been of so singular a nature, that, though the pride commonly called honour has, and I trust ever will, prevent me from disgracing my name by a mean or cowardly action, I have been already held up as the votary of licentiousness, and, the disciple of infidelity. How far justice may have dictated this accusation I cannot pretend to say, but, like the gentleman to whom my religious friends, in the warmth of their charity, have already devoted me, I am made worse than I really am. However, to quit myself (the worst theme I could pitch upon) and
A. D. 1808. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 133
return to my Poems, I cannot sufficiently express my thanks, and I hope I shall some day have an opportunity of rendering them in person. A second edition is now in the press, with some additions and considerable omissions; you will allow me to present you with a copy. The
Critical, Monthly, and Anti-Jacobin Reviews have been very indulgent; but the Eclectic has pronounced a furious Philippic, not against the book but the author, where you will find all I have mentioned asserted by a reverend divine who wrote the critique.

“Your name and connexion with our family have been long known to me, and I hope your person will be not less so; you will find me an excellent compound of a ‘Brainless’ and a ‘Stanhope*.’ I am afraid you will hardly be able to read this, for my hand is almost as bad as my character, but you will find me, as legibly as possible,

“Your obliged and obedient servant,

There is here, evidently, a degree of pride in being thought to resemble the wicked Lord Lyttleton; and, lest his known irregularities should not bear him out in the pretension, he refers mysteriously, as was his habit, to certain untold events of his life, to warrant the parallel†. Mr. Dallas, who seems to have been but little prepared for such a reception of his compliments, escapes out of the difficulty by transferring to the young lord’s “candour” the praise he had so thanklessly bestowed on his morals in general; adding, that from the design Lord Byron had expressed in his preface of resigning the service of the Muses for a different vocation, he had “conceived him bent on pursuits which lead to the character of a legislator and statesman;—had imagined him at one of the universities, training himself to habits of reasoning and eloquence, and storing up a large fund of history and law.” It is in reply to this letter that the exposition of the noble poet’s opinions to which I have above alluded is contained.

* Characters in the novel called Percival.

† This appeal to the imagination of his correspondent was not altogether without effect.—“I considered,” says Mr Dallas, “these letters, though evidently grounded on some occurrences in the still earlier part of his life, rather as jeux d’esprit than as a true portrait.”

134 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1808.
“Dorant’s, January 21st, 1808.

“Whenever leisure and inclination permit me the pleasure of a visit, I shall feel truly gratified in a personal acquaintance with one whose mind has been long known to me in his writings.

“You are so far correct in your conjecture, that I am a member of the University of Cambridge, where I shall take my degree of A. M. this term; but were reasoning, eloquence, or virtue, the objects of my search, Granta is not their metropolis, nor is the place of her situation an ‘El Dorado,’ far less an Utopia. The intellects of her children are as stagnant as her Cam, and their pursuits limited to the church—not of Christ, but of the nearest benefice.

“As to my reading, I believe I may aver, without hyperbole, it has been tolerably extensive in the historical; so that few nations exist, or have existed, with whose records I am not in some degree acquainted, from Herodotus down to Gibbon. Of the classics, I know about as much as most schoolboys after a discipline of thirteen years; of the law of the land as much as enables me to keep ‘within the statute’—to use the poacher’s vocabulary. I did study the ‘Spirit of Laws’ and the Law of Nations; but when I saw the latter violated every month, I gave up my attempts at so useless an accomplishment;—of geography, I have seen more land on maps than I should wish to traverse on foot;—of mathematics, enough to give me the headache without clearing the part affected;—of philosophy, astronomy, and metaphysics, more than I can comprehend*; and of common sense so little, that I mean to leave a Byronian prize at each of our ‘Almæ Matres’ for the first discovery,—though I rather fear that of the Longitude will precede it.

“I once thought myself a philosopher, and talked nonsense with

* He appears to have had in his memory Voltaire’s lively account of Zadig’s learning:— “Il savait de La métaphysique ce qu’on en a su dans tous les âges,—c’est à dire, fort peu de chose,” &c.

A. D. 1807. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 135
great decorum: I defied pain, and preached up equanimity. For some time this did very well, for no one was in pain for me but my friends, and none lost their patience but my hearers. At last, a fall from my horse convinced me bodily suffering was an evil; and the worst of an argument overset my maxims and my temper at the same moment, so I quitted
Zeno for Aristippus, and conceive that pleasure constitutes the το καλον. In morality, I prefer Confucius to the Ten Commandments, and Socrates to St. Paul, though the two latter agree in their opinion of marriage. In religion, I favour the Catholic emancipation, but do not acknowledge the Pope; and I have refused to take the Sacrament, because I do not think eating bread or drinking wine from the hand of an earthly vicar will make me an inheritor of heaven. I hold virtue in general, or the virtues severally, to be only in the disposition, each a feeling, not a principle*. I believe truth the prime attribute of the Deity; and death an eternal sleep, at least of the body. You have here a brief compendium of the sentiments of the wicked George Lord Byron; and, till I get a new suit, you will perceive I am badly clothed. I remain,’ &c.

Though such was, doubtless, the general cast of his opinions at this time, it must be recollected, before we attach any particular importance to the details of his creed, that, in addition to the temptation, never easily resisted by him, of displaying his wit at the expense of his character, he was here addressing a person who, though, no doubt, well-meaning, was evidently one of those officious, self-satisfied advisers, whom it was the delight of Lord Byron at all times to astonish and mystify. The tricks which, when a boy, he played upon the Nottingham quack, Lavender, were but the first of a long series with which, through life, he amused himself, at the expense of all the numerous quacks. whom his celebrity and sociability drew around him.

The terms in which he speaks of the university in this letter agree in spirit with many passages both in the “Hours of Idleness,” and his early Satire, and prove that, while Harrow was remembered by him with

* The doctrine of Hume, who resolves all virtue into sentiment.—See his “Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals.”

136 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1808.
more affection, perhaps, than respect, Cambridge had not been able to inspire him with either. This feeling of distaste to his “nursing mother” he entertained in common with some of the most illustrious names of English literature. So great was
Milton’s hatred to Cambridge, that he had even conceived, says Warton, a dislike to the face of the country,—to the fields in its neighbourhood. The poet Gray thus speaks of the same university:—“Surely, it was of this place, now Cambridge, but formerly known by the name of Babylon, that the prophet spoke when he said, ‘the wild beasts of the desert shall dwell there, and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures, and owls shall build there, and satyrs shall dance there,’” &c. &c. The bitter recollections which Gibbon retained of Oxford, his own pen has recorded; and the cool contempt by which Locke avenged himself on the bigotry of the same seat of learning is even still more memorable*.

In poets, such distasteful recollections of their collegiate life may well be thought to have their origin in that antipathy to the trammels of discipline, which is not unusually observable among the characteristics of genius, and which might be regarded, indeed, as a sort of instinct, implanted in it for its own preservation, if there be any truth in the opinion that a course of learned education is hurtful to the freshness and elasticity of the imaginative faculty. A right reverend writer†, but little to be suspected of any desire to depreciate academical studies, not only puts the question, “whether the usual forms of learning be not rather injurious to the true poet, than really assisting to him?” but appears strongly disposed to answer it in the affirmative,—giving, as an instance, in favour of this conclusion, the classic Addison, who, “as appears,” he says, “from some original efforts in the sublime, allegorical way, had no want of natural talents for the greater poetry,—which yet were so restrained and disabled by his constant and superstitious study of the old classics, that he was, in fact, but a very ordinary poet.”

It was, no doubt, under some such impression of the malign influ-

* See his Letter to Anthony Collins, 1703-4, where he speaks of “those sharp heads, which were for damning his book, because of its discouraging the staple commodity of the place, which in his time was called hogs’ shearing.”

Hurd, “Discourses on Poetical Imitation.”

A. D. 1808. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 137
ence of a collegiate atmosphere upon genius that
Milton, in speaking of Cambridge, gave vent to the exclamation, that it was “a place quite incompatible with the votaries of Phœbus,” and that Lord Byron, versifying a thought of his own, in the letter to Mr. Dallas just given, declares,
“Her Helicon is duller than her Cam.”

The poet Dryden, too, who, like Milton, had incurred some mark of disgrace at Cambridge, seems to have entertained but little more veneration for his Alma Mater; and the verses in which he has praised Oxford at the expense of his own university* were, it is probable, dictated much less by admiration of the one than by a desire to spite and depreciate the other.

Nor is it Genius only that thus rebels against the discipline of the schools. Even the tamer quality of Taste, which it is the professed object of classical studies to cultivate, is sometimes found to turn restive under the pedantic manège to which it is subjected. It was not till released from the duty of reading Virgil as a task, that Gray could feel himself capable of enjoying the beauties of that poet; and Lord Byron was, to the last, unable to vanquish a similar prepossession, with which the same sort of school association had inoculated him, against Horace.

—“Though Time hath taught
My mind to meditate what then it learn’d,
Yet such the fix’d inveteracy wrought
By the impatience of my early thought,
That, with the freshness wearing out before
My mind could relish what it might have sought,
If free to choose, I cannot now restore
Its health; but what it then detested, still abhor.
Then farewell, Horace; whom I hated so,
Not for thy faults, but mine; it is a curse
To understand, not feel thy lyric flow,
To comprehend, but never love thy verse.”

* Prologue to the university of Oxford.

138 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1808.

To the list of eminent poets, who have thus left on record their dislike and disapproval of the English system of education, are to be added, the distinguished names of Cowley, Addison, and Cowper; while, among the cases which, like those of Milton and Dryden, practically demonstrate the sort of inverse ratio that may exist between college honours and genius, must not be forgotten those of Swift, Goldsmith, and Churchill, to every one of whom some mark of incompetency was affixed by the respective universities, whose annals they adorn. When, in addition, too, to this rather ample catalogue of poets, whom the universities have sent forth either disloyal or dishonoured, we come to number over such names as those of Shakspeare and of Pope, followed by Gay, Thomson, Burns, Chatterton, &c., all of whom have attained their respective stations of eminence, without instruction or sanction from any college whatever, it forms altogether, it must be owned, a large portion of the poetical world, that must be subducted from the sphere of that nursing influence which the universities are supposed to exercise over the genius of the country.

The following letters, written at this time, contain some particulars which will not be found uninteresting.

“Dorant’s Hotel, January 13th, 1808.

“Though the stupidity of my servants, or the porter of the house, in not showing you up stairs (where I should have joined you directly) prevented me the pleasure of seeing you yesterday, I hoped to meet you at some public place in the evening. However, my stars decreed otherwise, as they generally do, when I have any favour to request of them. I think you would have been surprised at my figure, for, since our last meeting, I am reduced four stone in weight. I then weighed fourteen stone seven pound, and now only ten stone and a half. I have disposed of my superfluities by means of hard exercise and abstinence. * * *

“Should your Harrow engagements allow you to visit town between
A. D. 1808. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 139
this and February, I shall be most happy to see you in Albemarle-street. If I am not so fortunate, I shall endeavour to join you for an afternoon at Harrow, though, I fear, your cellar will by no means contribute to my cure. As for my worthy preceptor,
Dr. B., our encounter would by no means prevent the mutual endearments he and I were wont to lavish on each other. We have only spoken once since my departure from Harrow in 1805, and then he politely told Tatersall I was not a proper associate for his pupils. This was long before my strictures in verse: but, in plain prose, had I been some years older, I should have held my tongue on his perfections. But, being laid on my back, when that schoolboy thing was written—or rather dictated—expecting to rise no more, my physician having taken his sixteenth fee, and I his prescription, I could not quit this earth without leaving a memento of my constant attachment to Butler in gratitude for his manifold good offices.

“I meant to have been down in July; but thinking my appearance, immediately after the publication, would be construed into an insult, I directed my steps elsewhere. Besides, I heard that some of the boys had got hold of my Libellus, contrary to my wishes certainly, for I never transmitted a single copy till October, when I gave one to a boy, since gone, after repeated importunities. You will, I trust, pardon this egotism. As you had touched on the subject, I thought some explanation necessary. Defence I shall not attempt, ‘Hic murus aheneus esto, nil conscire sibi’—and ‘so on’ (as Lord Baltimore said on his trial for a rape)—I have been so long at Trinity as to forget the conclusion of the line; but, though I cannot finish my quotation, I will my letter, and entreat you to believe me, gratefully and affectionately, &c.

“P.S. I will not lay a tax on your time by requiring an answer, lest you say, as Butler said to Tatersall (when I had written his reverence an impudent epistle on the expression before mentioned), viz.—‘that I wanted to draw him into a correspondence.’”

140 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1808.
“Dorant’s Hotel, Albemarle-street, Feb. 11th, 1808.

“As I had no opportunity of returning my verbal thanks, I trust you will accept my written acknowledgments for the compliment you were pleased to pay some production of my unlucky muse last November—I am induced to do this not less from the pleasure I feel in the praise of an old schoolfellow, than from justice to you, for I had heard the story with some slight variations. Indeed, when we met this morning, Wingfield had not undeceived me, but he will tell you that I displayed no resentment in mentioning what I had heard, though I was not sorry to discover the truth. Perhaps you hardly recollect some years ago a short, though, for the time, a warm friendship between us? Why it was not of longer duration, I know not. I have still a gift of yours in my possession, that must always prevent me from forgetting it. I also remember being favoured with the perusal of many of your compositions and several other circumstances very pleasant in their day, which I will not force upon your memory, but entreat you to believe me, with much regret at their short continuance, and a hope they are not irrevocable. yours very sincerely, &c.


I have already mentioned the early friendship that subsisted between this gentleman and Lord Byron, as well as the coolness that succeeded it. The following extract from a letter with which Mr. Harness favoured me, in placing at my disposal those of his noble correspondent, will explain the circumstances that led, at this time, to their reconcilement: and the candid tribute, in the concluding sentences, to Lord Byron, will be found not less honourable to the reverend writer himself than to his friend.

“A coolness afterwards arose which Byron alludes to in the first of the accompanying letters, and we never spoke during the last year of his remaining at school, nor till after the publication of his ‘Hours of
A. D. 1808. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 141
.’ Lord Byron was then at Cambridge; I, in one of the upper forms at Harrow. In an English theme I happened to quote from the volume, and mention it with praise. It was reported to Byron that I had, on the contrary, spoken slightingly of his work and of himself, for the purpose of conciliating the favour of Dr. Butler, the master, who had been severely satirized in one of the poems. Wingfield, who was afterwards Lord Powerscourt, a mutual friend of Byron and myself, disabused him of the error into which he had been led, and this was the occasion of the first letter of the collection. Our conversation was renewed and continued from that time till his going abroad. Whatever faults Lord Byron might have had towards others, to myself he was always uniformly affectionate. I have many slights and neglects towards him to reproach myself with; but I cannot call to mind a single instance of caprice or unkindness, in the whole course of our intimacy, to allege against him.”

In the spring of this year (1808) appeared the memorable critique upon the “Hours of Idleness” in the Edinburgh Review. That he had some notice of what was to be expected from that quarter appears by the following letter to his friend, Mr. Becher,

“Dorants Hotel, Feb. 26, 1808.

“ * * * * * Now for Apollo. I am happy that you still retain your predilection, and that the public allow me some share of praise. I am of so much importance that a most violent attack is preparing for me in the next number of the Edinburgh Review. This I had from the authority of a friend who has seen the proof and manuscript of the critique. You know the system of the Edinburgh gentlemen is universal attack. They praise none; and neither the public nor the author expects praise from them. It is, however, something to be noticed, as they profess to pass judgment only on works requiring the public attention. You will see this, when it comes out;—it is, I understand, of
142 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1808.
the most unmerciful description; but I am aware of it, and hope you will not be hurt by its severity.

“Tell Mrs. Byron not to be out of humour with them, and to prepare her mind for the greatest hostility on their part. It will do no injury whatever, and I trust her mind will not be ruffled. They defeat their object by indiscriminate abuse, and they never praise except the partizans of Lord Holland and Co. It is nothing to be abused when Southey, Moore, Lauderdale, Strangford, and Payne Knight, share the same fate.

“I am sorry—but ‘Childish Recollections’ must be suppressed during this edition. I have altered, at your suggestion, the obnoxious allusions in the sixth stanza of my last ode.

“And now, my dear Becher, I must return my best acknowledgments for the interest you have taken in me and my poetical bantlings, and I shall ever be proud to show how much I esteem the advice and the adviser. Believe me most truly,” &c.

Soon after this letter appeared the dreaded article,—an article which, if not “witty in itself,” deserves eminently the credit of causing “wit in others.” Seldom, indeed, has it fallen to the lot of the justest criticism to attain celebrity such as injustice has procured for this; nor as long as the short, but glorious race of Byron’s genius is remembered, can the critic, whoever he may be, that so unintentionally ministered to its first start, be forgotten.

It is but justice, however, to remark,—without at the same time intending any excuse for the contemptuous tone of criticism assumed by the reviewer,—that the early verses of Lord Byron, however distinguished by tenderness and grace, give but little promise of those dazzling miracles of poesy, with which he afterwards astonished and enchanted the world; and that, if his youthful verses now have a peculiar charm in our eyes, it is because we read them, as it were, by the light of his subsequent glory.

There is, indeed, one point of view, in which these productions are deeply and intrinsically interesting. As faithful reflections of his character at that period of life, they enable us to judge of what he was in his yet
A. D. 1808. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 143
unadulterated state,—before disappointment had begun to embitter his ardent spirit, or the stirring up of the energies of his nature had brought into activity also its defects. Tracing him thus through these natural effusions of his young genius, we find him pictured exactly such, in all the features of his character, as every anecdote of his boyish days proves him really to have been,—proud, daring, and passionate,—resentful of slight or injustice, but still more so in the cause of others than in his own; and yet, with all this vehemence, docile and placable, at the least touch of a hand authorized by love to guide him. The affectionateness, indeed, of his disposition, traceable as it is through every page of this volume, is yet but faintly done justice to, even by himself;—his whole youth being, from earliest childhood, a series of the most passionate attachments,—of those overflowings of the soul, both in friendship and love, which are still more rarely responded to than felt, and which, when checked or sent back upon the heart, are sure to turn into bitterness.

We have seen also, in some of his early unpublished poems, how apparent, even through the doubts that already clouded them, are those feelings of piety which a soul like his could not but possess, and which, when afterwards diverted out of their legitimate channel, found a vent in the poetical worship of nature, and in that shadowy substitute for religion which superstition offers. When, in addition, too, to these traits of early character, we find scattered through his youthful poems such anticipations of the glory that awaited him—such, alternately, proud and saddened glimpses into the future, as if he already felt the elements of something great within him, but doubted whether his destiny would allow him to bring it forth,—it is not wonderful that, with the whole of his career present to our imaginations, we should see a lustre round these first puerile attempts, not really their own, but shed back upon them from the bright eminence which he afterwards attained; and that, in our indignation against the fastidious blindness of the critic, we should forget that he had not then the aid of this reflected charm, with which the subsequent achievements of the poet now irradiate all that bears his name.

The effect this criticism produced upon him can only be conceived by those, who, besides having an adequate notion of what most
144 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1808.
poets would feel under such an attack, can understand all that there was in the temper and disposition of Lord Byron to make him feel it with tenfold more acuteness than others. We have seen with what feverish anxiety he awaited the verdicts of all the minor Reviews, and, from his sensibility to the praise of the meanest of these censors, may guess how painfully he must have writhed under the sneers of the highest. A friend, who found him in the first moments of excitement after reading the article, inquired anxiously, whether he had just received a challenge?—not knowing how else to account for the fierce defiance of his looks. It would, indeed, be difficult for sculptor or painter to imagine a subject of more fearful beauty, than the fine countenance of the young poet must have exhibited in the collected energy of that crisis. His pride had been wounded to the quick, and his ambition humbled:—but this feeling of humiliation lasted but for a moment. The very reaction of his spirit against aggression roused him to a full consciousness of his own powers;* and the pain and the shame of the injury were forgotten, in the proud certainty of revenge.

Among the less sentimental effects of this Review upon his mind, he used to mention that, on the day he read it, he drank three bottles of claret, to his own share, after dinner;—that nothing, however, relieved him, till he had given vent to his indignation in rhyme, and that “after the first twenty lines, he felt himself considerably better.” His chief care, indeed, afterwards, was amiably devoted,—as we have seen it was, in like manner, before the criticism,—to allaying, as far as he could, the sensitiveness of his mother; who, not having the same motive or power to summon up a spirit of resistance, was, of course, more helplessly alive to this attack upon his fame, and felt it far more than, after the first burst of indignation, he did himself. But the state of his mind upon the subject will be best understood from the following letter.

* “’Tis a quality very observable in human nature, that any opposition which does not entirely discourage and intimidate us has rather a contrary effect, and inspires us with a more than ordinary grandeur and magnanimity. In collecting our force to overcome the opposition, we invigorate the soul, and give it an elevation with which otherwise it would never have been acquainted.”—Hume, Treatise of Human Nature.

A. D. 1808. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 145
“Dorant’s, March 28th, 1808.

“I have lately received a copy of the new edition from Ridge, and it is high time for me to return my best thanks to you for the trouble you have taken in the superintendence. This I do most sincerely, and only regret that Ridge has not seconded you as I could wish,—at least, in the bindings, paper, &c. of the copy he sent to me. Perhaps those for the public may be more respectable in such articles.

“You have seen the Edinburgh Review, of course. I regret that Mrs. Byron is so much annoyed. For my own part, these ‘paper bullets of the brain’ have only taught me to stand fire; and, as I have been lucky enough upon the whole, my repose and appetite are not discomposed. Pratt, the gleaner, author, poet, &c. &c. addressed a long rhyming epistle to me on the subject, by way of consolation; but it was not well done, so I do not send it, though the name of the man might make it go down. The E. Rs. have not performed their task well;—at least, the literati tell me this, and I think I could write a more sarcastic critique on myself than any yet published. For instance, instead of the remark,—ill-natured enough, but not keen,—about Macpherson, I (quoad reviewers) could have said, ‘Alas, this imitation only proves the assertion of Doctor Johnson, that many men, women, and children, could write such poetry as Ossian’s.’

“I am thin and in exercise. During the spring or summer I trust we shall meet. I hear Lord Ruthyn leaves Newstead in April. * * * As soon as he quits it for ever, I wish much you would take a ride over, survey the mansion, and give me your candid opinion on the most advisable mode of proceeding with regard to the house. Entre nous, I am cursedly dipped; my debts, every thing inclusive, will be nine or ten thousand before I am twenty-one. But I have reason to think my property will turn out better than general expectation may conceive. Of Newstead I have little hope or care; but Hanson, my agent, intimated
146 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1808.
my Lancashire property was worth three Newsteads. I believe we have it hollow; though the defendants are protracting the surrender, if possible, till after my majority, for the purpose of forming some arrangement with me, thinking I shall probably prefer a sum in hand to a reversion. Newstead I may sell;—perhaps I will not,—though of that more anon. I will come down in May or June. * * * *

“Yours most truly, &c.”

The sort of life which he led at this period, between the dissipations of London and of Cambridge, without a home to welcome, or even the roof of a single relative to receive him, was but little calculated to render him satisfied either with himself or the world. Unrestricted as he was by deference to any will but his own*, even the pleasures to which he was naturally most inclined prematurely palled upon him, for want of those best zests of all enjoyment, rarity and restraint. I have already quoted, from one of his note-books, a passage descriptive of his feelings on first going to Cambridge, in which he says that “one of the deadliest and heaviest feelings of his life was to feel that he was no longer a boy.”—“From that moment (he adds) I began to grow old in my own esteem, and in my esteem age is not estimable. I took my gradations in the vices with great promptitude, but they were not to my taste; for my early passions, though violent in the extreme, were concentrated, and hated division or spreading abroad. I could have left or lost the whole world with, or for, that which I loved; but, though my temperament was naturally burning, I could not share in the common-place libertinism of the place and time without disgust. And yet this very disgust, and my heart thrown back upon itself, threw me into excesses perhaps more fatal than those from which I shrunk, as fixing upon one (at a time) the passions which spread amongst many would have hurt only myself.”

Though, from the causes here alleged, the irregularities he, at this period, gave way to, were of a nature far less gross and miscellaneous than those, perhaps, of any of his associates, yet, partly from the vehe-

* “The colour of our whole life is generally such as the three or four first years in which we are our own masters make it.”—Cowper.

A. D. 1808. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 147
mence which this concentration caused, and, still more, from that strange pride in his own errors, which led him always to bring them forth in the most conspicuous light, it so happened that one single indiscretion, in his hands, was made to go farther, if I may so express it, than a thousand in those of others. An instance of this, that occurred about the time of which we are speaking, was, I am inclined to think, the sole foundation of the mysterious allusions just cited. An amour (if it may be dignified with such a name) of that sort of casual description which less attachable natures would have forgotten, and more prudent ones at least concealed, was by him converted, at this period, and with circumstances of most unnecessary display, into a connexion of some continuance,—the object of it not only becoming domesticated with him in lodgings at Brompton, but accompanying him afterwards, disguised in boy’s clothes, to Brighton. He introduced this young person, who used to ride about with him in her male attire, as his younger brother; and the late
Lady P * *, who was at Brighton at the time, and had some suspicion of the real nature of the relationship, said one day to the poet’s companion, “What a pretty horse that is you are riding!”—“Yes,” answered the pretended cavalier, “it was gave me by my brother!”

Beattie tells us, of his ideal poet,—
“The exploits of strength, dexterity, or speed,
To him nor vanity nor joy could bring.”

But far different were the tastes of the real poet, Byron;—and, among the least romantic, perhaps, of the exercises in which he took delight was that of boxing, or sparring. This taste it was that, at a very early period, brought him acquainted with the distinguished professor of that art, Mr. Jackson, for whom he continued through life to entertain the sincerest regard,—one of his latest works containing a most cordial tribute not only to the professional, but social qualities of this sole prop and ornament of pugilism*. During his stay at Brighton this year,

* “I infer to my old friend and corporeal pastor and master, John Jackson, Esq. Professor of Pugilism, who I trust still retains the strength and symmetry of his model of a form, together with his good-humour and athletic, as well as mental, accomplishments.”—Note on Don Juan, Canto II.

148 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1808.
Jackson was one of his most constant visitors,—the expense of the professor’s chaise thither and back being always defrayed by his noble patron. He also honoured with his notice, at this time,
D’Egville, the ballet-master, and Grimaldi, to the latter of whom he sent, as I understand, on one of his benefit-nights, a present of five guineas.

Having been favoured by Mr. Jackson with copies of the few notes and letters, which he has preserved out of the many addressed to him by Lord Byron, I shall here lay before the reader one or two, which bear the date of the present year, and which, though referring to matters of no interest in themselves, give, perhaps, a better notion of the actual life and habits of the young poet, at this time, than could be afforded by the most elaborate and, in other respects, important correspondence. They will show, at least, how very little akin to romance were the early pursuits and associates of the author of Childe Harold, and, combined with what we know of the still less romantic youth of Shakspeare, prove how unhurt the vital principle of genius can preserve itself even in atmospheres apparently the most ungenial and noxious to it.

“N. A. Notts. September 18, 1808.

“I wish you would inform me what has been done by Jekyll, at No. 40, Sloane-square concerning the pony I returned as unsound.

“I have also to request you will call on Louch at Brompton, and inquire what the devil he meant by sending such an insolent letter to me at Brighton; and at the same time tell him I by no means can comply with the charge he has made for things pretended to be damaged.

“Ambrose behaved most scandalously about the pony. You may tell Jekyll if he does not refund the money, I shall put the affair into my lawyer’s hands. Five and twenty guineas is a sound price for a pony, and by —, if it costs me five hundred pounds, I will make an example of Mr. Jekyll, and that immediately, unless the cash is returned.

“Believe me, dear Jack, &c.”
A. D. 1808. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 149
“N. A. Notts. October 4, 1808.

“You will make as good a bargain as possible with this Master Jekyll, if he is not a gentleman. If he is a gentleman, inform me, for I shall take very different steps. If he is not, you must get what you can of the money, for I have too much business on hand at present to commence an action. Besides, Ambrose is the man who ought to refund, but I have done with him. You can settle with L. out of the balance, and dispose of the bidets, &c. as you best can.

“I should be very glad to see you here; but the house is filled with workmen and undergoing a thorough repair. I hope, however, to be more fortunate before many months have elapsed.

“If you see Bold Webster, remember me to him, and tell him I have to regret Sydney, who has perished, I fear, in my rabbit warren, for we have seen nothing of him for the last fortnight.

“Adieu.—Believe me, &c.”
“N. A. Notts. December 12, 1808.

You will get the greyhound from the owner at any price, and as many more of the same breed (male or female) as you can collect.

Tell D’Egville his dress shall be returned—I am obliged to him for the pattern. I am sorry you should have so much trouble, but I was not aware of the difficulty of procuring the animals in question. I shall have finished part of my mansion in a few weeks, and, if you can pay me a visit at Christmas, I shall be very glad to see you.

“Believe me, &c.”

The dress alluded to here was, no doubt, wanted for a private play,
150 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1808.
which he, at this time, got up at Newstead, and of which there are some further particulars in the annexed letter to
Mr. Becher.

“Newstead Abbey, Notts, Sept. 14th, 1808.

“I am much obliged to you for your inquiries, and shall profit by them accordingly. I am going to get up a play here: the hall will constitute a most admirable theatre. I have settled the dram. pers., and can do without ladies, as I have some young friends who will make tolerable substitutes for females, and we only want three male characters, beside Mr. Hobhouse and myself, for the play we have fixed on, which will be the Revenge. Pray direct Nicholson the carpenter to come over to me immediately, and inform me what day you will dine and pass the night here.

“Believe me, &c.”

It was in the autumn of this year, as the letters I have just given indicate, that he, for the first time, took up his residence at Newstead Abbey. Having received the place in a most ruinous condition from the hands of its last occupant, Lord Grey de Ruthyn, he proceeded immediately to repair and fit up some of the apartments, so as to render them—more with a view to his mother’s accommodation than his own—comfortably, habitable. In one of his letters to Mrs. Byron, published by Mr. Dallas, he thus explains his views and intentions on this subject.

“Newstead Abbey, Notts, October 7th, 1808.

“I have no beds for the H * * s, or any body else at present. The H * * s sleep at Mansfield. I do not know that I resemble Jean Jacques

* Thus addressed always by Lord Byron, but without any right to the distinction.

A. D. 1808. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 151
Rousseau. I have no ambition to be like so illustrious a madman—but this I know, that I shall live in my own manner, and as much alone as possible. When my rooms are ready I shall be glad to see you; at present it would be improper, and uncomfortable to both parties. You can hardly object to my rendering my mansion habitable, notwithstanding my departure for Persia in March (or May at farthest), since you will be tenant till my return; and in case of any accident (for I have already arranged my will to be drawn up the moment I am twenty-one), I have taken care you shall have the house and manor for life, besides a sufficient income. So you see my improvements are not entirely selfish. As I have a friend here, we will go to the Infirmary Ball on the 12th; we will drink tea with Mrs. Byron at eight o’clock, and expect to see you at the ball. If that lady will allow us a couple rooms to dress in, we shall be highly obliged:—if we are at the ball by ten or eleven it will be time enough, and we shall return to Newstead about three or four.

“Adieu. Believe me,
“Yours very truly,

The idea, entertained by Mrs. Byron, of a resemblance between her son and Rousseau was founded chiefly, we may suppose, on those habits of solitariness, in which he had even already shown a disposition to follow that self-contemplative philosopher, and which, manifesting themselves thus early, gained strength as he advanced in life. In one of his Journals, to which I frequently have occasion to refer*, he thus, in questioning the justice of this comparison between himself and Rousseau, gives,—as usual, vividly,—some touches of his own disposition and habitudes:—

“My mother, before I was twenty, would have it that I was like Rousseau, and Madame de Staël used to say so too in 1813, and the Edinburgh Review has something of the sort in its critique on the fourth Canto of Childe Harold. I can’t see any point of resemblance:—

* The Journal, entitled by himself, “Detached Thoughts.”

152 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1808.
he wrote prose; I verse: he was of the people; I of the aristocracy*: he was a philosopher; I am none: he published his first work at forty; I mine at eighteen: his first essay brought him universal applause; mine the contrary: he married his housekeeper; I could not keep house with my wife: he thought all the world in a plot against him; my little world seems to think me in a plot against it, if I may judge by their abuse in print and coterie: he liked botany; I like flowers, herbs, and trees, but know nothing of their pedigrees: he wrote music; I limit my knowledge of it to what I catch by ear—I never could learn any thing by study, not even a language—it was all by rote, and ear, and memory: he had a bad memory; I had, at least, an excellent one (ask
Hodgson, the poet—a good judge, for he has an astonishing one): he wrote with hesitation and care; I with rapidity, and rarely with pains: he could never ride, nor swim, nor ‘was cunning of fence;’ I am an excellent swimmer, a decent, though not at all a dashing rider (having staved in a rib at eighteen in the course of scampering), and was sufficient of fence, particularly of the Highland broadsword,—not a bad boxer, when I could keep my temper, which was difficult, but which I strove to do ever since I knocked down Mr. Purling, and put his knee-pan out (with the gloves on), in Angelo’s and Jackson’s rooms, in 1806, during the sparring,—and I was besides a very fair cricketer—one of the Harrow eleven, when we played against Eton in 1805. Besides, Rousseau’s way of life, his country, his manners, his whole character, were so very different, that I am at a loss to conceive how such a comparison could have arisen, as it has done three several times, and all in rather a remarkable manner. I forgot to say that he was also short-sighted, and that hitherto my eyes have been the contrary, to such a degree that in the largest theatre of Bologna I distinguished and read some busts and inscriptions painted near the stage from a box so distant and so darkly lighted, that none of the company (composed of young and very bright-eyed people, some of them in the same box) could make out a letter,

* Few philosophers, however, have been so indulgent to the pride of birth as Rousseau.—“S’il est un orgueil pardonnable (he says) après celui qui e tire du mérite personnel, c’est celui qui se tire de la naissance.”—Confess.

A. D. 1808. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 153
and thought it was a trick, though I had never been in that theatre before.

“Altogether, I think myself justified in thinking the comparison not well founded. I don’t say this out of pique, for Rousseau was a great man, and the thing, if true, were flattering enough;—but I have no idea of being pleased with the chimera.”

In another letter to his mother, dated some weeks after the preceding one, he explains further his plans both with respect to Newstead and his projected travels:—

“Newstead Abbey, November 2d, 1808.

“If you please, we will forget the things you mention. I have no desire to remember them. When my rooms are finished, I shall be happy to see you; as I tell but the truth, you will not suspect me of evasion. I am furnishing the house more for you than myself, and I shall establish you in it before I sail for India, which I expect to do in March, if nothing particularly obstructive occurs. I am now fitting up the green drawing-room; the red for a bed-room, and the rooms over as sleeping-rooms. They will be soon completed;—at least, I hope so.

“I wish you would inquire of Major Watson (who is an old Indian) what things will be necessary to provide for my voyage. I have already procured a friend write to the Arabic Professor at Cambridge for some information I am anxious to procure. I can easily get letters from government to the ambassadors, consuls, &c., and also to the governors at Calcutta and Madras. I shall place my property and my will in the hands of trustees till my return, and I mean to appoint you one. From H * * I have heard nothing—when I do, you shall have the particulars.

“After all, you must own my project is not a bad one. If I do not travel now, I never shall, and all men should one day or other. I have at present no connexions to keep me at home; no wife, or unprovided sisters, brothers, &c. I shall take care of you, and when I return I may
154 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1808.
possibly become a politician. A few years’ knowledge of other countries than our own will not incapacitate me for that part. If we see no nation but our own, we do not give mankind a fair chance—it is from experience, not books, we ought to judge of them. There is nothing like inspection, and trusting to our own senses. Yours, &c.”

In the November of this year he lost his favourite dog, Boatswain,—the poor animal having been seized with a fit of madness, at the commencement of which so little aware was Lord Byron of the nature of the malady, that he, more than once, with his bare hand, wiped away the slaver from the dog’s lips during the paroxysms. In a letter to his friend, Mr. Hodgson*, he thus announces this event: “Boatswain is dead!—he expired in a state of madness on the 18th, after suffering much, yet retaining all the gentleness of his nature to the last, never attempting to do the-least injury to any one near him. I have now lost every thing except old Murray.”

The monument raised by him to this dog,—the most memorable tribute of the kind, since the Dog’s Grave, of old, at Salamis,—is still a conspicuous ornament of the gardens of Newstead. The misanthropic verses engraved upon it may be found among his poems, and the following is the inscription by which they are introduced:—

“Near this spot
Are deposited the Remains of one
Who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
And all the Virtues of Man without his Vices.
This Praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
If inscribed over human ashes,
Is but a just tribute to the Memory of
Boatswain, a Dog,
Who was born at Newfoundland, May, 1803,
And died at Newstead Abbey, Nov. 18, 1808.”

* The Reverend Francis Hodgson, author of a spirited translation of Juvenal, and of other works of distinguished merit. To this gentleman, who was long in correspondence with

A. D. 1808. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 155

The poet, Pope, when about the same age as the writer of this inscription, passed a similar eulogy on his dog* at the expense of human nature, adding, that “Histories are more full of examples of the fidelity of dogs than of friends.” In a still sadder and bitterer spirit, Lord Byron writes of his favourite,
“To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one, and here he lies†,”

Melancholy, indeed, seems to have been gaining fast upon his mind at this period. In another letter to Mr. Hodgson he says,—“You know laughing is the sign of a rational animal—so says Dr. Smollet. I think so too, but unluckily my spirits don’t always keep pace with my opinions.”

Old Murray, the servant, whom he mentions in a preceding extract, as the only faithful follower now remaining to him, had long been in the service of the former lord, and was regarded by the young poet with a fondness of affection which it has seldom been the lot of age and

Lord Byron, I am indebted for some interesting letters of his noble friend, which shall be given in the course of the following pages.

* He had also, at one time, as appears from an anecdote preserved by Spence, some thoughts of burying this dog in his garden, and placing a monument over him, with the inscription, “Oh rare Bounce!”

In speaking of the members of Rousseau’s domestic establishment, Hume says, “She (Therése) governs him as absolutely as a nurse does a child. In her absence, his dog has acquired that ascendant. His affection for that creature is beyond all expression or conception.”—Private Correspondence. See an instance which he gives of this dog’s influence over the philosopher, p. 143.

In Burns’s elegy on the death of his favourite Mailie, we find the friendship even of a sheep set on a level with that of man:—

“Wi’ kindly bleat, when she did spy him,
She ran wi’ speed:
A friend mair faithful ne’er came nigh him,
Than Mailie dead.”

In speaking of the favourite dogs of great poets, we must not forget Cowper’s little spaniel “Beau;” nor will posterity fail to add to the list the name of Sir Walter Scott’s “Maida.”

† In the epitaph, as first printed in his friend’s Miscellany, this line runs thus:—

“I knew but one unchanged—and here he lies.”

156 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1808.
dependence to inspire. “I have more than once,” says a gentleman who was, at this time, a constant visitor at Newstead, “seen Lord Byron at the dinner-table fill out a tumbler of madeira, and hand it over his shoulder to Joe Murray, who stood behind his chair, saying, with a cordiality that brightened his whole countenance, ‘Here, my old fellow.’”

The unconcern with which he could sometimes allude to the defect in his foot is manifest from another passage in one of these letters to Mr. Hodgson. That gentleman having said jestingly that some of the verses in the “Hours of Idleness” were calculated to make schoolboys rebellious, Lord Byron answers—“If my songs have produced the glorious effects you mention, I shall be a complete Tyrtæus;—though I am sorry to say I resemble that interesting harper more in his person than in his poesy.” Sometimes, too, even an allusion to this infirmity by others, when he could perceive that it was not offensively intended, was borne by him with the most perfect good-humour. “I was once present” says the friend I have just mentioned, “in a large and mixed company, when a vulgar person asked him aloud—‘Pray, my lord, how is that foot of yours?’—‘Thank you, sir,’ answered Lord Byron, with the utmost mildness,—‘much the same as usual.’”

The following extract, relating to a reverend friend of his lordship, is from another of his letters to Mr. Hodgson, this year:—

“A few weeks ago I wrote to * * *, to request he would receive the son of a citizen of London, well known to me, as a pupil; the family having been particularly polite during the short time I was with them induced me to this application. Now, mark what follows,—as somebody sublimely saith. On this day arrives an epistle signed * * *, containing not the smallest reference to tuition, or intuition, but a petition for Robert Gregson, of pugilistic notoriety, now in bondage for certain paltry pounds sterling, and liable to take up his everlasting abode in Banco Regis. Had the letter been from any of my lay acquaintance, or, in short, from any person but the gentleman whose signature it bears, I should have marvelled not. If * * * is serious, I congratulate pugilism on the acquisition of such a patron, and shall be most happy to advance any sum necessary for the liberation of the captive Gregson. But I certainly hope to he certified from you, or some respectable housekeeper,
A. D. 1808. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 157
of the fact, before I write to * * * on the subject. When I say the fact, I mean of the letter being written by * * *, not having any doubt as to the authenticity of the statement. The letter is now before me and I keep it for your perusal.”

His time at Newstead during this autumn was principally occupied in enlarging and preparing his Satire for the press; and with the view, perhaps, of mellowing his own judgment of its merits, by keeping it some time before his eyes in a printed form*, he had proofs taken off from the manuscript by his former publisher at Newark. It is somewhat remarkable, that, excited as he was by the attack of the Reviewers, and possessing, at all times, such rapid powers of composition, he should have allowed so long an interval to elapse between the aggression and the revenge. But the importance of his next move in literature seems to have been fully appreciated by him. He saw that his chances of future eminence now depended upon the effort he was about to make, and therefore deliberately collected all his energies for the spring. Among the preparatives by which he disciplined his talent to the task was a deep study of the writings of Pope; and I have no doubt that from this period may be dated the enthusiastic admiration which he ever after cherished for this great poet,—an admiration which at last extinguished in him, after one or two trials, all hope of pre-eminence in the same track, and drove him thenceforth to seek renown in fields more open to competition.

The misanthropic mood of mind into which he had fallen at this time, from disappointed affections and thwarted hopes, made the office of satirist but too congenial and welcome to his spirit. Yet it is evident that this bitterness existed far more in his fancy than his heart; and that the sort of relief he now found in making war upon the world arose much less from the indiscriminate wounds he dealt around, than from the new sense of power he became conscious of in dealing them, and by which he more than recovered his former station in his own esteem.

* We are told that Wieland used to have his works printed thus for the purpose of correction, and said that he found great advantage in it. The practice is, it appears, not unusual in Germany.

158 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1809.
In truth, the versatility and ease with which, as shall presently be shown, he could, on the briefest consideration, shift from praise to censure, and sometimes, almost as rapidly, from censure to praise, shows how fanciful and transient were the impressions under which he, in many instances, pronounced his judgments and, though it may in some degree deduct from the weight of his eulogy, absolves him also from any great depth of malice in his satire.