LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism
Leicester Stanhope
Last Days of Lord Byron.
The Examiner  No. 948  (2 April 1826)  212-13.
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No. 948. SUNDAY, April 2, 1826.


London, May 14, 1825.

Sir.—I this morning read your historical work, entitled The Last Days of Lord Byron. From the fictious libels it contains, you should have called this romance Parry’s Slanders. Now for the proof of my assertion.

“The warrior Chiefs who have liberated Greece, you call robbers; and the Christian people fighting for their altars, heretics. (1) Mavrocordato, who is a well-meaning and clever man, you extol up to the skies. He is with you the guardian angel of the Greeks, or rather the protecting goddess, for you represent him, in page 161, ‘as an old gentlewoman.’ Perhaps by calling Mavrocodato ‘an old gentlewoman,’ you mean to do him honour; just as the Hindoos do, who fancy that their fond mistress, the East India Company, is also ‘an old woman.’ Lord Byron you consider your companion and pupil: (2) You tell a story of his Lordship’s melting into tears at a tale of woe, and at the same time instructing his interpreter to recruit for your seraglio. (3) As you was a sort of Caleb Quotum about Lord Byron, in your medical capacity, you prescribed brandy to him on several occasions, and especially after an
* This man was a caulker in the dock-yards, and is—(not to repeat the worst of him)—a slanderer, a sot, a bully, and a poltroon. Who wrote the book to which he has prefixed his name, we cannot exactly say; but he himself cannot write ten words of English.—Examiner.
epileptic fit. You remonstrated against bleeding (4) Lord Byron, though the doctors thought that early bleeding would have saved his valuable life. You seem to be sore at having, in consequence of my representation, been recalled and dismissed by the Greek Committee. To be revenged, you represent me as the enemy of Lord Byron. The reverse is the fact. Such was my respect for Lord Byron, that I solicited the Greek Committee (though in vain) to be allowed to act under his Lordship. You are right in stating that I occasionally differed with Lord Byron; but upon this fact you engraft a heap of mis-statements. I shall explain: Lord Byron was a friend to the Freedom of the Press, but he feared its dangerous influence in Greece. I too had my fears: I condemned all interference for the present with foreign politics, and all violent personal philippics against soldiers and statesmen in power. I rebuked the worthy
Editor of the Greek Chronicle for his attack on Austria and on Collocotroni. He told me, that Mavrocordato encouraged his animadversions on the latter. I was, however, far more alarmed at the early efforts made to shackle the press. I had the experience in British India, of the safety and usefulness of free discussion in checking the licentiousness of the people and their Government; in destroying a superstition the growth of ages; and in removing by degrees those evils which produce discontent, military mutinies, civil rebellions, and foreign wars. To recur to Lord Byron: I am bound in justice to his memory to state, that he was the friend of a Free Press. It is true, that I occasionally differed with Lord Byron on this and other matters, and that violent discussions ensued. I never indeed saw anything equal to his starts of passion. The flash of his eyes, the thunder of his voice, the convulsion of his frame, were like a frightful hurricane; but soon after the storm subsided, and sunshine followed. These altercations never affected the private friendship or public esteem I entertained for Lord Byron. To prove that this sentiment was mutual, I venture to refer to Count Gamba’s narrative, (5) where speaking of a discussion in which I called Lord Byron a Turk, he says—‘The more Lord B. laughed, the more serious Stanhope became; and the discussion seldom ended without a strong reproof, which irritated his Lordship for the moment; but so far from leaving any unfavourable impression, increased his regard for an antagonist of so much truth and sincerity. When parting from him one evening, after a discussion of this nature, Lord B. went up to Stanhope, and exclaimed, ‘Give me that honest right hand.’

“Your whole book is full of accusations against me. You certainly had a good opportunity of judging my conduct, from having long lived in my room and at my table. Your intimacy indeed was so great, that you even broke open one of my letters addressed to Mr. Hodges! I presume you trusted to my sentiments in favour of publicity. With respect however to your philippics, it happens rather awkward, that toward the end of your book, speaking of my services in Greece, you contradict all you have said against me. Mark the passage: it is as follows:—‘I now, Honourable Sir, cannot suppose in what way I have acted improperly. And with respect to yourself, Honourable Sir, I ever have considered your private and public character to be held in the highest esteem and veneration.’ (6)

“Now my defence against your slanders rests in your panegyrics—‘For the strongest of all authorities (says Plato) is, if a man can allege the authority of his adversary against himself.’—I am, your humble servant,

(1) Vide Parry, p. 66. (2) P. 38. (3) P. 165. (4) P. 43, 116, 124. (5) P. 140. (6) P. 348.