LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to John Murray, 20 February 1818

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
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“Venice, Feb. 20th, 1818.

“I have to thank Mr. Croker for the arrival, and you for the contents, of the parcel which came last week, much quicker than any before, owing to Mr. Croker’s kind attention and the official exterior of the bags; and all safe, except much friction amongst the magnesia, of which only two bottles came entire; but it is all very well, and I am exceedingly obliged to you.

“The books I have read, or rather am reading. Pray, who may be the Sexagenarian, whose gossip is very amusing? Many of his sketches I recognise, particularly Gifford, Mackintosh, Drummond, Dutens, H. Walpole, Mrs. Inchbald, Opie, &c. with the Scotts, Loughborough, and most of the divines and lawyers, besides a few shorter hints of authors, and a few lines about a certain ‘noble author,’ characterised as malignant and sceptical, according to the good old story, ‘as it was in the beginning, is now, but not always shall be:’ do you know such a person, Master Murray? eh?—And pray, of the booksellers, which be you? the dry, the dirty, the honest, the opulent, the finical, the splendid, or the
A. D. 1818. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 163
coxcomb bookseller? Stap my vitals, but the author grows scurrilous in his grand climacteric!

“I remember to have seen Porson at Cambridge, in the hall of our college, and in private parties, but not frequently; and I never can recollect him except as drunk or brutal, and generally both: I mean in an evening, for in the hall, he dined at the Dean’s table, and I at the Vice-master’s, so that I was not near him; and he then and there appeared sober in his demeanour, nor did I ever hear of excess or outrage on his part in public,—commons, college, or chapel; but I have seen him in a private party of under-graduates, many of them freshmen and strangers, take up a poker to one of them, and heard him use language as blackguard as his action. I have seen Sheridan drunk, too, with all the world; but his intoxication was that of Bacchus, and Porson’s that of Silenus. Of all the disgusting brutes, sulky, abusive, and intolerable, Porson was the most bestial, as far as the few times that I saw him went, which were only at William Bankes’s (the Nubian discoverer’s) rooms. I saw him once go away in a rage, because nobody knew the name of the ‘Cobbler of Messina,’ insulting their ignorance with the most vulgar terms of reprobation. He was tolerated in this state amongst the young men for his talents, as the Turks think a madman inspired, and bear with him. He used to recite, or rather vomit pages of all languages, and could hiccup Greek like a Helot; and certainly Sparta never shocked her children with a grosser exhibition than this man’s intoxication.

“I perceive, in the book you sent me, a long account of him, which is very savage. I cannot judge, as I never saw him sober, except in hall or combination-room; and then I was never near enough to hear, and hardly to see him. Of his drunken deportment, I can be sure, because I saw it.

“With the Reviews, I have been much entertained. It requires to be as far from England as I am to relish a periodical paper properly: it is like soda-water in an Italian summer. But what cruel work you make with Lady * * * *! You should recollect that she is a woman; though, to be sure, they are now and then very provoking; still, as authoresses, they can do no great harm; and I think it a pity so much good invective should have been laid out upon her, when there is such a fine field of us,
164 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1818.
Jacobin gentlemen, for you to work upon. It is perhaps as bitter a critique as ever was written, and enough to make sad work for
Dr. * * * *, both as husband and apothecary;—unless she should say, as Pope did of some attack upon him, ‘That it is as good for her as a dose of hartshorn.’

“I heard from Moore lately, and was sorry to be made aware of his domestic loss. Thus it is—‘medio de fonte leporum’—in the acmé of his fame and his happiness comes a drawback as usual.

* * * * * *

Mr. Hoppner, whom I saw this morning, has been made the father of a very fine boy*.—Mother and child doing very well indeed. By this time Hobhouse should be with you, and also certain packets, letters, &c. of mine, sent since his departure.—I am not at all well in health within this last eight days. My remembrances to Gifford and all friends.

“Yours, &c.

“P.S. In the course of a month or two, Hanson will have probably to send off a clerk with conveyances to sign (Newstead being sold in November last for ninety-four thousand five hundred pounds), in which case I supplicate supplies of articles as usual, for which, desire Mr. Kinnaird to settle from funds in their bank, and deduct from my account with him.

“P.S. To-morrow night I am going to see ‘Otello,’ an opera from our ‘Othello,’ and one of Rossini’s best, it is said. It will be curious to see in Venice the Venetian story itself represented, besides to discover what they will make of Shakspeare in music.”