LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to R. C. Dallas, 21 January 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
“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.