LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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John Cam Hobhouse
Galt’s Life of Lord Byron.
New Monthly Magazine  Vol. 29  (November 1830)  502-03.
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH


New Monthly Magazine.

November 1, 1830.


To the Editor of the New Monthly Magazine.

Sir;—In your October Magazine, I observe a letter, addressed to you, signed “John Galt,” written, so it is said, “out of personal consideration” for me, although the author is not in the habit, as he likewise tells you, of “publicly noticing either favourable, ignorant, or malicious criticism.” Now, notwithstanding this singular compliment convinces me that it is not unusual for Mr. Galt to mean one thing and say another, yet there are parts of his letter, to which, although they are of equally doubtful import, I cannot attach so innocent an interpretation, and which compel me, however unwillingly, to offer an explanatory comment on that very strange epistle.

A short time previously to the publication of his Life of Lord Byron, Mr. John Galt wrote to me, requesting me to enable him to contradict rumours which had reached him prejudicial to Lord Byron. I did so: and Mr. Galt not only published a part of my answer without my leave, but by introducing the story in question into his narrative, and stating that “he had no reason to doubt the authenticity of his information,” not only did more injury to the character of Lord Byron than if he had repeated the scandal without any contradiction, but placed me in the not very creditable position of an incompetent and inconclusive defender of my illustrious friend. I scarcely need state that, if Mr. Galt did not think my denial of the truth of his rumour satisfactory, he had but one course to pursue; namely, not to notice it at all, at least not without that special permission, which I should most certainly have withheld from him, having no ambition to appear as a witness in any cause of which Mr. Galt can pretend to be the judge.

This conduct, and the general tenour of his Life of Lord Byron, ought to have deterred me from any farther communication with Mr. Galt, who, by some strange misconception of his privileges at an author, seems to think, that the feelings of the living, no less than the fame of the dead, ought to be at the mercy of any one engaged in the noble art of book-making. Nevertheless I did venture, when his volume appeared, to remonstrate with him, by letter, for having, amongst other agreeable things, said of me, that I probably was the critic who condemned Childe Harold previously to its publication. Mr. Galt replied, “I will correct [as the shortest and most general mode of effecting it] in the New Monthly Magazine, the mistake you mention;” and with this promise, repeated, after some correspondence, in his last letter, I was obliged to be satisfied. But I now find, on reading his letter to you, that instead of “correcting his mistake,” he has only noticed that I had complained of it, and has made just so much use of my private correspondence, as may divert your attention from his own published error, to what he wishes to pass for an inaccurate statement contained in one of my letters to him. He has, moreover, been pleased to declare, that his conjecture was founded on his belief of “an entire confidence” subsisting between Lord Byron and myself, and thus leaves your readers to draw an inference as to that confidence, which I shall not certainly discuss with Mr. Galt. I am therefore compelled, however unwillingly, and, I believe, unaccustomed to obtrude any little personal grievance upon public notice, to assure your readers,
Galt’s Life of Lord Byron.503
that I assured Mr. Galt, that there is not the slightest foundation for the conjecture that I dissuaded Lord Byron from publishing Childe Harold. Had I done so, indeed, it is not very likely that he would have dedicated that noble poem to myself. I may also add, that the story told of his hesitation in publishing it, is at complete variance with all he repeatedly mentioned to me on the subject. As to the precise time at which Lord Byron finished the two first cantos of Childe Harold, it is true, that a note in his hand-writing, and recorded at the time, mentions that he concluded them at Smyrna; but any one, who reads these cantos with more attention than Mr. Galt, will perceive that several stanzas were added after that time; so that Mr. Galt’s attempt to refute a private statement of mine, by a public reference to my friend’s autograph memorandum, will, I trust, hardly change the opinion which may be entertained as to our respective authority on matters connected with Lord Byron.

I now come to the note appended to Mr. Galt’s letter, in which he states that some one has suggested that he was not “the first to do me the injustice to suppose I had condemned Childe Harold.” An associate in sorrow has often been thought an advantage; but it is reserved for Mr. Galt to console himself by discovering a predecessor in misconduct. Mr. Galt has, however, abstained from informing your readers who that predecessor was, and I am forced to conclude that his name would not add to his authority; nor has Mr. Galt affirmed that he saw the injurious supposition in any published work. Surely he cannot have quoted the charge from a pamphlet written by a person called Medwin, which he himself tells us was “judiciously suppressed.” If he has, I regret much that he should condescend to employ so much dexterity merely to evade a promise, the simple performance of which would have saved me the trouble of writing this letter, and your readers the consideration of a subject, in which, I am well aware, they can have no concern, and must feel very little interest.

I beg to remain your obedient humble servant,
J. C. Hobhouse.
October, 1830.