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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to William Harness, 15 December 1811

Life of Byron: to 1806
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“8, St. James’s-Street, December l5, 1811.

“I wrote you an answer to your last, which, on reflection, pleases me as little as it probably has pleased yourself. I will not wait for your rejoinder; but proceed to tell you, that I had just then been greeted with an epistle of * *’s, full of his petty grievances, and this at the moment when (from circumstances it is not necessary to enter upon) I was bearing up against recollections to which his imaginary sufferings
A. D. 1811. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 321
are as a scratch to a cancer. These things combined, put me out of humour with him and all mankind. The latter part of my life has been a perpetual struggle against affections which imbittered the earliest portion; and though I flatter myself I have in a great measure conquered them, yet there are moments (and this was one) when I am as foolish as formerly. I never said so much before, nor had I said this now, if I did not suspect myself of having been rather savage in my letter, and wish to inform you thus much of the cause. You know I am not one of your dolorous gentlemen: so now let us laugh again.

“Yesterday I went with Moore to Sydenham to visit Campbell*. He was not visible, so we jogged homeward, merrily enough. Tomorrow I dine with Rogers, and am to hear Coleridge, who is a kind of rage at present. Last night I saw Kemble in Coriolanus;—he was glorious, and exerted himself wonderfully. By good luck, I got an excellent place in the best part of the house, which was more than overflowing, Clare and Delawarre, who were there on the same speculation, were less fortunate. I saw them by accident,—we were not together. I wished for you, to gratify your love of Shakspeare and of fine acting to its fullest extent. Last week I saw an exhibition of a different kind in a Mr. Coates, at the Haymarket, who performed Lothario in a damned and damnable manner.

“I told you of the fate of B. and H. in my last. So much for these sentimentalists, who console themselves in their stews for the loss—the never to be recovered loss—the despair of the refined attachment of a couple of drabs! You censure my life, Harness,—when I compare myself with these men, my elders and my betters, I really begin to conceive myself a monument of prudence—a walking statue—without feeling or failing; and yet the world in general hath given me a proud pre-eminence over them in profligacy. Yet I like the men, and, God

* On this occasion, another of the noble poet’s peculiarities was, somewhat startlingly, introduced to my notice. When we were on the point of setting out from his lodgings in St. James’s-street, it being then about mid-day, he said to the servant, who was shutting the door of the via-à-vis, “Have you put in the pistols?” and was answered in the affirmative. It was difficult,—more especially, taking into account the circumstances under which we had just become acquainted,—to keep from smiling at this singular noon-day precaution.

322 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1811.
knows, ought not to condemn their aberrations. But I own I feel provoked when they dignify all this by the name of love—romantic attachments for things marketable for a dollar!

“Dec. 16th.—I have just received your letter;—I feel your kindness very deeply. The foregoing part of my letter, written yesterday, will, I hope, account for the tone of the former, though it cannot excuse it. I do like to hear from you—more than like. Next to seeing you, I have no greater satisfaction. But you have other duties and greater pleasures, and I should regret to take a moment from either. H * * was to call to-day, but I have not seen him. The circumstances you mention at the close of your letter is another proof in favour of my opinion of mankind. Such you will always find them—selfish and distrustful. I except none. The cause of this is the state of society. In the world, every one is to stir for himself—it is useless, perhaps selfish, to expect any thing from his neighbour. But I do not think we are born of this disposition; for you find friendship, as a schoolboy, and love enough before twenty.

“I went to see * *; he keeps me in town, where I don’t wish to be at present. He is a good man, but totally without conduct. And now, my dearest William, I must wish you good morrow, and remain ever most sincerely and affectionately yours, &c.”