LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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[John Mitford]
Lady Blessington's Conversations [concluded].
The Gentleman’s Magazine  Vol. NS 1  (June 1834)  583-93.
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(Continued from page 358.)

Lady Blessington confesses herself to be at fault as to the real character of her Hero. He mystified her Ladyship, and talked alternately sentiment, sarcasm, and scandal, and seemed sometimes so very repentant, and at others so afraid of cant and morality, that she could not catch the ‘Mutantem Protea formam.’ We will go on with the Portraits;

“Of course, he said, you know Luttrell. He is a most agreeable member of society, the best sayer of good things, and the most epigrammatic conversationist I ever met with. There is a terseness and wit mingled with fancy, in his observations, that no one else possesses, and no one so peculiarly understands the apropos. His advice to Julia, is pointed, witty, and full of character, showing in every line a knowledge of society, and a tact rarely met with. Then, unlike all or most wits, Luttrell is never obtrusive, even the choicest bon mots are only brought forth when perfectly applicable, and then are given in a tone of good breeding which enhances their value.”

Moore is very sparkling in a choice or chosen society (said Byron). With Lord and Lady listeners, he shines like a diamond; and like that precious stone, his brilliancy should be reserved, pour le beau monde. Moore has a happy disposition, his temper good, and he has a sort of fire-fly imagination, always in movement, and in every evolution displaying new brilliancy. He has not done justice to himself in living
584Lady Blessington's Conversations of Lord Byron.
so much in society. Much of his talents are (is) frittered away in display, to support the character of a man of wit about town, and Moore was meant for something better. Society and genius are incompatible, and the latter can rarely, if ever, be in close and constant contact with the former, without degenerating. It is otherwise with wit and talent, which are excited and brought into play by the friction of society, which polishes and sharpens both. I judge from personal experience; and as some portion of genius has been attributed to me, I suppose I may without extraordinary vanity quote my ideas on this subject.”

And then my Lord proceeds to say, that he has always found his genius fade away like snow in the sun, when living much in the world: and that his ideas became vague, (we wonder how Shakspeare, and Milton, and Spenser, and Dryden, and Pope preserved their ideas in society!) and that he was another being, and so on.—Then comes a declaration against the truth of which we must raise our voice to its highest compass.

“Who would willingly possess genius? None I am persuaded who knew the misery it entails; its temperament producing continual irritation, destructive alike to health and happiness. And what are its advantages? To be envied, hated, and persecuted in life, and libelled in death? Wealth may be pardoned, beauty may be forgiven, talent may meet with toleration, but genius can hope for no mercy.”

This is anew doctrine! that the highest gifts of Heaven are of necessity the greatest curses; that genius and wealth and beauty and talent are all a source of misery to the possessor. But the question is—Do we set out from an acknowledged truth? are these postulates granted? does experience verify the deduction? Lord Byron was wretched;—granted. Was he wretched by reason of his poetical genius? Was his selfishness, his vanity, his sensuality, his ill temper, his moodiness, his worldly-mindedness, part of his poetry? Will Lord Byron compare his genius to that of Chaucer, of Spenser, or Shakspeare? Who ever heard of their misery? on the other hand, were they not examples of joyous and ardent feelings, and happy tempers, and delighted minds? Was not Milton an example of a ‘wise man patient;’ eating his bread in peace and privacy? But, to come to his own time.—Did Scott's great and acknowledged genius make him moody and irascible, and suspicious and envious, and evil-hearted, and a libertine and voluptuary? What say we to him of Rydal Mount, the gentle enthusiast of nature, the quiet contemplative spirit, the Poet of the Mountain and the Lake? or to him, who by his beloved shores of Keswick, has so long been linked to all that is lovely and duteous, and honourable and of good report? Is such a feeling known to Mr. Rogers, the benevolent, the enlightened, the amiable, the sociable? To Mr. Bowles, the pure and virtuous child of Apollo, if any such ever existed? To Mr. Campbell, the frank, the open, the ingenuous son of nature? These men are the equals of Lord Byron at least in genius, and we find from them no Heaven-directed complaint, that the fires which illumine their hearts are the fires of punishment and woe: that to the ‘radiant angel’ of their spirits, is linked a devil that ‘preys on garbage,’ and that the Poet must of necessity be a self-tormentor, and a pest to the moral society of the world. This is all very romantic of Lord Byron no doubt to assert, and very innocent and engaging of Lady Blessington to believe; but it was never heard of till this new Wertero-Satanic school came into fashion. We often have wondered what one of our old Poets, Ben Jonson, for instance, would have thought of such a strange, queer, buckram sort of person, as the hero of modern Poems, so sentimental, so sarcastic, and so superb! of a character out of nature, in its conception, and devoid of all those rich varieties of light and shade, of all those light salient touches, and those graceful bendings and returns that are the
Lady Blessington's Conversations of Lord Byron.585
delight of the true Poet, and are characteristic of the mind of man. We trust that this gentleman (whether passing by the name of Childe Harold, or Lara, or Manfred, or Cain, or quocunque nomine gaudet) in whatever metamorphosis he may chuse to assume, has had his day, and is dismissed; for after all it is a grotesque original. It is the Satan of Milton grafted on a Bond-street exquisite, and originally came to us from the Woods of Saxony.

Byron often talked of the Authors of the Rejected Addresses, and always in terms of unqualified praise. He says that the imitations, unlike all other imitations, are full of genius, and that the ‘Cui bono’ has some lines that he should have wished to have written. “Parodies,” he said, always gave a bad impression of the original, but in the “Rejected Addresses,” the reverse was the fact; and he quoted the 2d and 3d stanzas in imitation of himself, as admirable and just, and what he could have wished to write on a similar subject.

Byron is a great admirer of the poetry of Barry Cornwall, which he says—

is full of imagination and beauty, possessing a refinement and delicacy, that whilst they add all the charms of a woman's mind, take off none of the force of a man's. He expressed his hope that Barry Cornwall would devote himself to tragedy, saying that he was sure he would become one of the first writers of the day.”

“The truest picture of the misery unhallowed liaisons produce, said Byron, is in the ‘Adolphe’ of B. Constant. I told Mad. de Staël that there was more morale in that book, than in all she ever wrote, and that it ought always to be given to every young woman who had read Corinne, as an antidote. Poor de Staël, she came down upon me like an avalanche whenever I told her any of my amiable truths, sweeping everything before her with that eloquence that always overwhelmed, but never convinced. She however, good soul, believed she had convinced, whenever she silenced an opponent, an effect she generally produced, as she (to use an Irish phrase,) succeeded in bothering, and producing a confusion of ideas that left one little able or willing to continue an argument with her. I liked her daughter very much, said Byron, I wonder will she turn out literary? At all events, though she may not write, she possesses the power of judging the writings of others, is highly educated and clever, but I thought a little given to systems, which is not in general the fault of young women, and above all gay young Frenchwomen.”

Lord Byron was not by any means a person of finished conversational talents; for which, the reasons may easily be alleged. He said he disliked every-day topics of literature, he thought it a waste of time. But that if he met with a person with whom he could think aloud, and give utterance to his thoughts on abstract subjects, he was sure it would excite the energies of his mind.

“I like,” he said, “to go home with a new idea. It sets my mind to think. I enlarge it; and it often gives birth to many others. This one can only do in a tête-à-tête. I felt the advantage of this in my rides with Hoppner at Venice. He was a good listener, and his remarks were acute and original; he is besides a thorough good man, and I know he was in earnest when he gave me his opinions. But conversation such as we find in society, and above all in English society, is as uninteresting as it is artificial, and few can leave the best, with the consolation of carrying away with him a new thought, or of leaving behind him an old friend.”

Talking of Mr. Ward, Lord Byron said,—

Ward is one of the best-informed men I know, and in a tête-à-tête is one of the most agreeable companions. He has great originality, and being très distrait, it adds to the piquancy of his observations, which are sometimes trop naïve, though always amusing. This naïveté of his, is the more piquant from his being really a good natured man, who unconsciously thinks aloud. Interest Ward on a subject, and I know no one who can talk better. His expressions are concise without being poor,
586Lady Blessington's Conversations of Lord Byron.
and terse and epigrammatic without being affected. He can compress as much into as few words as any one I know, and if he gave more of his attention to his associates, and less to himself, he would be one of the few whom one could praise without being compelled to use the conjunctive but. Ward has bad health, and like all valetudinarians, it occupies his attention too much, which will probably bring on a worse state, that of confirmed egoism, a malady that, though not to be found in the catalogue of ailments to which man is subject, yet perhaps is more to be dreaded than all that are. He is not properly appreciated in England. The English can better understand and enjoy the bon mots of a bon vivant, who can at all times set the table in a roar, than the neat repliques of Ward, which, exciting reflection, are more likely to silence the rabble riot of intemperance. They like better the person who makes them laugh, than he who forces them to think,—so that poor Ward,* finding himself undervalued, sinks into self: and this at the long run is dangerous. There are many men in England (continued
Byron), of superior ability, who are lost from the habits and inferiority of their associates. Such men finding that they cannot raise their companions to their level, are but too apt to let themselves down to that of the persons they live with, and hence many a man is condemned to be a wit and man of pleasure, who was born for better things. Poor Sheridan often played this character in society, but he maintained his superiority over the herd, by having established a literary and political reputation: and as I have heard him more than once say, when his jokes have drawn down plaudits from companies, to whom, of an evening at least, sobriety and sadness are alike unknown,—‘It is some consolation, that if I set the table in a roar, I can at pleasure set the senate in a roar;’ and this was remarked while under the influence of wine, and as if for apologizing to his own mind for the profanation he felt he had offered it at the moment.† Lord Alvanley is a delightful companion, brilliant, witty, and playful; he can be irresistibly comic when he pleases, but what would he not be if he pleased? for he has talents to be anything. I lose patience when I see such a man throw himself away; for there are plenty of men who could be witty, brilliant, and sincere, and who could be nothing else, while he is all these, but could be much more. How many men have made a figure in public life without half of his abilities; but indolence and the love of pleasure will be the bane of Alvanley, as it has been of many a man of talent before.

Byron was fond of talking of Napoleon

“When Metternich was depreciating the genius of Napoleon in a circle at Vienna where his word was a Law, and his nod a decree, he appealed to Mr. William Ward if Bonaparte had not been greatly overrated? Ward's answer was as courageous as admirable. He replied—‘that Napoleon had rendered past glory doubtful, and future fame impossible.’ This was expressed in French, and such pure French, that all present were struck with admiration no less with the thought, than with the mode of expressing it. I told Byron that this reminded me of a reply made by Mr. Ward to a lady at Vienna, who somewhat rudely remarked to him, that it was strange that all the best society at Vienna spoke French as well as German, while the English scarcely spoke French at all, or spoke it ill. Ward answered, ‘that the English must be excused from their want of practice, as the French army had not been twice to London to teach them, as they had been at Vienna.’ The coolness of Ward's manner (said Byron) must have lent force to such a reply; I have heard him say many things worth remembering; and the neatness of expression was as remarkable as the justness of the thought.”

* The writer of this article remembers Mr. Ward telling him of his being asked as a lion to a great lioness, the Countess of J——; but his wit did not take, and the invitation was never repeated. Mr. Ward's wit was rather caustic; often a little learned, and not much to the taste of the Ladies. In Lord Byron's eulogy on Lord Dudley, we cordially join.
Lady Blessington's Conversations of Lord Byron. 587

Lord John Russell comes in for a moderate share of praise. The commendation passed on Mr. Hallam is only the just tribute paid by genius to a person of very superior erudition, and very comprehensive mind:

“Do you know Hallam? Of course, I need not ask you if you have read his Middle Ages? It is an admirable work, full of research, and does Hallam honour. I know no one capable of having written it, except him; for admitting that a writer could be found, who could bring to the task his knowledge and talents, it would be difficult to find one who united to these his research, patience, and perspicuity of style. The reflections of Hallam are at once just and profound, his language well chosen and impressive. I remember being struck with a passage, where touching on the Venetians, he says, ‘Too blind to avert danger, too cowardly to withstand it, the most ancient government of Europe made not an instant's resistance. The peasants of Underwald died upon their mountains; the nobles of Venice clung only to their lives.’ This is the style in which history ought to be written, if it is wished to impress it on the memory.”

Of Sir James Mackintosh, Lord Byron says,

“His is a mind of a powerful calibre. Mad. de Staël used to extol him to the skies, and was perfectly sincere in her admiration of him, which was not the case with all whom she praised. Mackintosh also praised her; but his is a mind that, as Moore writes, rather leans to praise than blame; for, with a judgment so comprehensive, a knowledge so general, and a critical acumen rarely to be met with, his sentences are never severe. He is a powerful writer and speaker. There is an earnestness and vigour in his style, and a force and purity in his language, equally free from inflation and loquacity.”

Lord Erskine is or was, for I suppose age has not improved him more than it generally does people, the most brilliant person imaginable,—quick, vivacious, and sparkling; he spoke so well, that I never felt tired of listening to him, even when he abandoned himself to that subject, of which all his other friends and acquaintances expressed themselves so fatigued,—self. His egotism was remarkable, but there was a bonhommie about it, that showed he had a better opinion of mankind than they deserved; for it implied a belief that his listeners could be interested in what concerned him whom they professed to like. Erskine had been a great man, and he knew it; and in talking so continually of self, imagined that he was but the echo of Fame. All his talents, wit, and brilliancy were insufficient to excuse this weakness in the opinion of his friends; and I have seen bores, acknowledged bores, turn from this clever man with every symptom of ennui, when he has been reciting an interesting anecdote, merely because he was the principal actor in it.”

From the ex-Chancellor we must pass on to a Poet, whose Parnassus is made up of a kind of papier maché, adorned with silver tissue, whose Helicon glitters with gold and silver fishes, and whose Muses and Graces are dressed after the most approved fashion of Almack's.

“Did you know William Spencer, the poet of society, as they used to call him? His was what really your countrymen call an elegant mind, polished, graceful, and sentimental, with just enough gaiety to prevent his being lachrymose, and enough sentiment to prevent his being too Anacreontic. There was a great deal of genuine fun in Spencer's conversation, as well as a great deal of refined sentiment in his verses. I liked both, for both were perfectly aristocratic in their way; neither the one nor the other was calculated to please the canaille, which made me like them all the better.”

Byron always talks in terms of high admiration of Mr. Canning; says “he is a man of superior abilities, brilliant fancy, cultivated mind, and most effective eloquence; and adds, that Canning only wanted to be born to a good estate, to have made a great statesman. Fortune would have saved him from tergiversation, the bare suspicion of which is destructive to the confidence a statesman ought to inspire. As it is,” said he, “Canning
588Lady Blessington's Conversations of Lord Byron.
is brilliant, but not great, with all the elements in him that constitute greatness.”

Byron continually reverts to Sir Walter Scott, and always in terms of admiration for his genius, and affection for his good qualities. He says he never got up from a perusal of one of his works, without finding himself in a better disposition, and that he generally read his novels three times.

“I find such a just mode of thinking, that I could fill volumes with detached thoughts of Scott, all and each full of truth and beauty. Then how good are his definitions. Do you remember in the ‘Peveril of the Peak,’ where he says, ‘Presence of mind is courage. Real valour consists not in being insensible to danger, but in being prompt to confront and disarm it.’ How true is this, and what an admirable distinction between moral and physical courage! How applicable to Scott's works is the observation made by Mad. de Deffand on Richardson's Novels, in one of her letters to Voltaire, ‘La morale y est en action, et n'a jamais été traité d'une maniere plus interessante.’ ‘On meurt d'envie d'être parfait apres cette lecture, et l'on croit que rien n'est si aisé.’ I think (continued Byron after a pause) that Scott is the only very successful genius that could be cited as being generally beloved as a man, as he is admired as an author; and I must add he deserves it; for he is so thoroughly good-natured, sincere, and honest, that he disarms the envy and jealousy his extraordinary genius must excite.”

This praise is well and discriminately given. From the Enchanter of the North, his Lordship passes to the shores of Baiæ, and the grottos of Tarento.

“When you go to Naples, you must make acquaintance with Sir W. Drummond, for he is certainly one of the most erudite men and admirable philosophers now living. He has all the wit of Voltaire, with a propriety that seldom appertains to wit, and writes so forcibly, and with such elegance and purity of style, that his works possess a peculiar charm. Have you read his Academical Questions?”

What a question to a Philosopher in petticoats!

“If not, get them directly, and I think you will agree with me, that the preface to that work alone would prove Sir W. Drummond an admirable writer. He concludes it by the following sentence, which I think one of the best in our language; ‘Prejudice may be trusted to guard our hearts for a short space of time, while reason slumbers in the citadel; but if the latter sink into a lethargy, the former will quickly erect a standard for herself. Philosophy, wisdom, and liberty support each other. He who will not reason is a bigot, he who cannot is a fool, he who does not is a slave.’ Is not the passage admirable? how few could have written it.”

Yet, with all due submission to such high authority, we think that it is a passage more fit for an oration, than a work on metaphysics; that such figurative and declamatory language is ill suited to philosophical treatises, and that we should look in vain for such, in the works of Mackintosh, or Stewart, or D'Alembert: we fear that Lady Blessington is the only person who now employs herself in solving these “Academical Questions,” and that Lord Byron's assertion, “that they are too good to be popular,” will not be received as satisfactory by all. But to return.

“His Odin is really a fine poem, and has some passages that are beautiful, but it is so little read, that it may be said to have dropped still-born from the press, a mortifying proof of the bad taste of the age. His Translation of Persius is not only very literal, but preserves much of the spirit of the original; a merit that, let me tell you, is very rare at present.”

We are sorry to differ from the noble Lord so much, as to conclude that this was another instance of his mystifying her Ladyship. Sir Wm. Drummond's Translation is a work of ability; but, so far from being a literal
Lady Blessington's Conversations of Lord Byron.589
translation, it is the least literal of any we know
. He fails, as has been well said, from his attempts to grind the fruges Cleantheas into vers de société. And Sir William himself owns that “his object was rather to express his author's meaning clearly, than to translate his words, or to copy his manner servilely.” “I have generally followed the outline, but seldom ventured to employ the colouring of Persius.” The merit of the work is to be found in its colouring, its spirit, its poetic feeling, and “a polish that,” Gifford says, “was seldom attained.” His information to her Ladyship also, that Mr. Pope's Homer has more of the spirit of Homer than all the other translations put together, is scarcely less fortunate; nor do we very well know what he means by the other translations, unless he alludes to Chapman and Cowper, who both of them were better scholars than Pope, and have given better examples of the Homeric style and feeling.

“Of the wits about town, I think that George Colman was one of the most agreeable. He was toujours prét, and after two or three glasses of Champagne, the quicksilver of his wit mounted to beau fixe. Colman has a good deal of tact; he feels that convivial hours were meant for enjoyment, and understands society so well, that he never obtrudes any private feeling except hilarity into it; his jokes are all good, and readable, and flow without effort, like the champagne which gives them birth, sparkle after sparkle, and brilliant to the last. Then one is sure of Colman, which is a great comfort; for, to be made to cry, when one had made up one's mind to laugh, is a triste affair. I remember that this was the great drawback on Sheridan; a little wine made him melancholy; and his melancholy was contagious; for who could bear to see the wizard who could at will command smiles and tears, yield to the latter, without sharing them, though one wished that the exhibition had been less public. Poor Sherry! what a noble mind was in him, overthrown by poverty; and to see the men with whom he had passed his life, the dark souls whom his genius illumined, rolling in wealth,the Sybarites whose slumbers a crushed rose-leaf would have disturbed, leaving him to die on the pallet of poverty, his last moments disturbed by the myrmidons of the law. I have seen poor Sheridan weep, and good cause had he, placed by his transcendant talents in an elevated sphere, without the means of supporting the necessary appearance; to how many humiliations must his fine mind have submitted, ere he had arrived at the state in which I knew him,—of reckless jokes to pacify creditors of a morning, and alternate smiles and tears of an evening, round the boards where ostentatious dullness called in his aid, to give a zest to the wine that often maddened him, but could not thaw the frozen current of their blood. Moore's Monody on Sheridan was a fine burst of generous indignation, and is one of the most powerful of his compositions.”

We have now our old friend Mr. Galt once more on the tapis: Lord Blessington had got acquainted with him, in one of his mercantile speculations, (perhaps Mr. G. offered him a share in the Elgin marbles) and told Lord Byron much good of him.

“I am pleased at finding him as amiable a man as his recent works prove him to be a clever and intelligent author. When I knew Galt years ago, I was not in a frame of mind to form an impartial opinion of him; his mildness and equanimity struck me even then; but to say the truth, his manner had not deference enough for my aristocratic taste, and, finding I could not awe him into respect sufficiently profound for my sublime self, either as a peer or an author, I felt a little grudge towards him that has never worn off. There is a quaint humour and observance of character in his novels that interest me very much; and when he chooses to be pathetic he fools one to his bent, for I assure you ‘The Entail’ beguiled me of some portion of watery humours, yclept tears, albeit unused to the melting mood. What I particularly admire in Galt's works is, that with a perfect knowledge of human nature, and its frailties and legerdemain tricks, he shews a tenderness of heart which convinces one that his is in the right place, and he has a sly caustic humour that is very amusing. All that Lord Blessington has been telling me of Galt has made me reflect on the striking difference
590Lady Blessington's Conversations of Lord Byron.
between his nature and yours. I had an excellent opportunity of judging of Galt, being shut up on board ship with him for some days, and though I saw he was mild, equal, and sensible, I took no pains to cultivate his acquaintance, further than I should with any common-place person, which he was not; and Lord Blessington in London, with a numerous acquaintance, and all appliances to boot for choosing and selecting, has found so much to like in Galt, malgre the difference of their politics, that this liking has grown into friendship.”

“I never spent, he said, an hour with Moore, without being ready to apply to him the expression attributed to Aristophanes: ‘You have spoken roses.’ His thoughts and expressions have all the beauty of those flowers, but the piquancy of his wit, and the readiness of his repartee prevent one's ear being cloyed by too much sweets, and one cannot ‘die of a rose in aromatic pain!’ Though he does speak roses, there is such an endless variety in his conversation. Moore is the only poet I know whose conversation equals his writings. He comes into society with a mind as fresh and fragrant as if he had not expended such a multiplicity of thoughts upon paper, and leaves behind him an impression that he possesses an inexhaustible mine, equally brilliant as the specimens he has given us. No one writes songs like Moore. Sentiment and imagination are joined to the most harmonious versification, and I know no greater treat than to hear him sing his own compositions. The powerful expression he gives to them, and the pathos of the tones of his voice, tend to produce an effect on my feelings that no other songs or singer ever could.”

To part of this eulogy we cordially agree; and it is only with sorrow and reluctance that we withhold our general assent to the praises which (like a mantle) should cover and adorn Mr. Moore's whole character, as a poet and a citizen; but when we consider the whole tenour of his writings, the spirit in which they are executed, and the ends to which they lead, we are naturally obliged to subscribe to the melancholy truths that are pronounced, in the words of a writer whose talent and principles we honour, though we are ignorant of his name. “He is one who, with talents which opened to him every field of honourable ambition, every source of literary fame and profit, found it most congenial to his taste, or thought it most conducive to his interest, to dabble in impurity and mischief. To prompt or palliate voluptuous passions, to fan the discontent of a people at all times difficult to govern, has been his chief occupation in story and in song. Loose or turbulent characters supplied the matter which he loved to picture forth; and the biography of Sheridan, of Byron, and of Fitzgerald, shews the grounds of his selection, and, moreover, the advantage of obtaining it. Of the latter, if report says true, the family rue the hour in which they trusted to Mr. Moore the records relating to one of whom the well-judging friends must have wished the political history at least to perish with him.*”

My Lord, like Master Stephen, is again talking of his gentlemanlike melancholies.

“One of the few persons in London whose society served to correct my misanthropy was Lord Holland. There is more benignity, and a greater share of the milk of human kindness in his nature, than in that of any man whom I know. Then there is such a charm in his manner, his mind is so highly cultivated, his conversation is agreeable, and his temper so equal and bland, that he never fails to send away his guests content with themselves, and delighted with him. I never heard a difference of opinion about Lord Holland, and I am sure no one could know him without liking him. Lord Erskine, in talking to me of Lord Holland, observed that it was his extreme good nature that alone prevented him taking as high a political position as his talents entitled him to fill.”

Every one, who is not himself unknown, is acquainted with Lord Byron's

* See Review of the Life and Character of Lord Byron in the British Critic, April 1831, P. Pref. of the Editor, p. 5.
Lady Blessington's Conversations of Lord Byron.591
antipathy to our honoured
Laureate of the Lakes; and of the not very justifiable means which he ever and anon took to show it.

“There are some,” he tells Lady Blessington, “that I dislike so cordially, that I am aware of my incompetency to give an impartial opinion of their writings. Southey, par exemple, is one of these. When travelling in Italy, he was reported to me to have circulated some reports so much to my disadvantage, and still more to two ladies of my acquaintance, all of which were brought to my ears, that I have vowed eternal vengeance against him, and all who uphold him, which vengeance has been poured forth in vials of wrath in the shape of epigrams and lampoons, some of which you shall see. At Pisa, a friend told me that Walter Savage Landor had declared he either would not, or could not read my works. I asked my officious friend if he was sure which it was that Landor said, as the would not was offensive, and the could not was highly so. After some reflection, he of course, en amie, chose the most disagreeable signification, and I marked down Landor in the tablet of memory as a person to whom a coup de pat must be given in my forthcoming work, though he is a man whose brilliant talents and profound erudition I cannot help admiring, as much as I respect his character—various proofs of the generosity, manliness, and independence of which has reached me. So you see I can render justice to a man who says he could not read my works.”

We must pass over much interesting chat between the pair in their morning equitations; about the Patronesses of Almack, and the ladies admitted and excluded, and those who had lost their caste, and those still protected from disgrace by their husband's good nature, or blindness, and of Lord Byron's assuring my Lady that it is his respect for morals that makes him so indignant against its vile substitute, cant, and many delicate allusions to errors and passions, and guilty imprudences; while my Lady makes many wise observations, like Minerva to the youthful Telemachus, and now and then favours him with an off-hand epigram, (Lord Blessington, it appears, riding behind, out of hearing distance); and we pull up, as we approach his observations on his literary friends.

Byron says he never got into conversation with them, as they wanted more praise than he was willing to give.

“Now Scott, though a giant in literature, is unlike literary men; he neither expects compliments, nor pays them in conversation. There is a sincerity and simplicity in his character and manner that stamp any commendation of his as truth, and any praise one might offer him would fall short of his deserts, so that there is no géne in his society. There is nothing in him that gives the impression I have so often formed of others, who seemed to say, ‘I praise you, that you may do the same by me.’

Moore is a delightful companion; gay without being boisterous, witty without effort, concise without coarseness, and sentimental without being lacrymose. He reminds one of the fairy, who, whenever she spoke, let diamonds fall from her lips. My tête-à-tête suppers with Moore are among the most agreeable impressions I retain of the hours passed in London. They are the redeeming lights in the gloomy picture, that seem
‘Like angel visits, few and far between.’*
For the great defect in my friend Tom is a sort of fidgetty unsettledness, that prevents his giving himself up, con amore, to any one friend, because he is apt to think he might be more happy with another. He has the organ of locomotiveness largely developed, as a phrenologist would say, and would like to be in three places instead of one. He must be delightful in a lonely house, at a safe distance from any other, where one could have him really to one's self, and enjoy his conversation without the perpetual fear that he is expected at Lady This or Lady That's, or the being reminded that he promised to look in at Lansdowne House or Grosvenor Square. The wonder is not that he is recherché, but that he wastes himself on those who can so little appreciate him, though they value the éclat his reputation gives to their stupid soirées. I have known a club man live on a bon mot of Moore's for a week; and I even offered

* This line so often quoted from Campbell's Pleasures of Memory, was adopted by him from that beautiful poem, ‘Blair's Grave.
592Lady Blessington's Conversations of Lord Byron.
a wager of a considerable sum that the reciter was guiltless of understanding its point, but could get no one to accept my bet!

Byron talked of Campbell the Poet, and said that he was a warmhearted and honest man, praised his works, and quoted some passages from the Pleasures of Hope, which he said was a poem full of beauty.

“I differ however (said Byron) with my friend Campbell on some points. Do yon remember the passage,
But mark the wretch, whose wanderings never knew
The world's regard, that soothes, though half untrue,
His erring heart the lash of sorrow bore,
But found not pity when it erred no more.

This (he said) was so far a true picture, those who once erred being supposed to err always,—a charitable but foolish supposition that the English are prone to act upon. Campbell's Lochiel, and Mariners of England, are admirable spirit-stirring productions; his Gertrude of Wyoming is beautiful, and some of the Episodes in the Pleasures of Hope, pleased me so much, that I know them by heart. The ‘Pleasures of Memory’ is a very beautiful poem, harmonious, finished, and chaste; it contains not a single meretricious ornament. If Rogers has not fixed himself in the higher fields of Parnassus, he, at least, cultivated a very pretty flower garden as its base. Having compared Rogers's poem to a flower garden, continued Byron, to what shall I compare Moore's? to the Valley of Diamonds, where all is brilliant and attractive; but where one is so dazzled by the sparkling on every side, that one knows not where to fix each gem, beautiful in itself, but overpowering to the eye from their quantity; or to descend to a mere homely comparison, though really so brilliant a subject hardly admits of any thing homely, Moore's poems, with the exception of the Melodies, resemble the fields in Italy, covered by such myriads of fire-flies shining on glittering sand, that if one attempts to seize one, another still more brilliant attracts, and one is bewildered from too much brightness. I remember reading somewhere a concetto, of designating different living poets, by the cups Apollo gives them to drink out of. Wordsworth is made to drink from a wooden bowl, and my melancholy self from a skull chased with gold. Now I would add the following cups. To Moore, imagine a cup formed like the Lotus flower, and set in brilliants. To Crabbe a scooped pumpkin. To Rogers an antique vase, formed of agate. To Colman, a Champagne glass:—as descriptive of their different styles. I dare say none of them would be satisfied with the appropriation; but who ever is satisfied with anything in the shape of criticism? and least of all, Poets.”

We are very near drawing to a conclusion of our illustrious Poet's and Peeress's interesting equestrian dialogues, consisting of criticism, and egotism, and sentimentalism on his side; of truism and blueism on hers. Byron told her, that Montaigne was one of the French writers that amused him the most, as, independently of the quaintness with which he made his observations, a perusal of his works were like a repetition at school; they rubbed up the reader's classical knowledge. He added, that Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy was also excellent, from the quantity of desultory information it contained, and was a mine of knowledge that, though much worked, was inexhaustible. I told him that he seemed to think more highly of Montaigne than did some of his own countrymen; for when Card. de Perron called les Essais de Montaigne la brevière des honnêtes gens, that the Bishop of Avranches “les disait celui des honnêtes paresseux, et des ignorans qui veulent s'informer de quelque teinture des lettres.” Byron said that the critique was severe but just, for that Montaigne was the greatest plagiarist that ever existed, and certainly had turned his reading to the most account.* Lord Byron then goes on to speak of Dr. Richardson's travels in the Mediterranean (he went with Lord

* If the reader would wish to see a critical opinion of Montaigne's writings, a little more philosophical and profound than that in the text above, let him refer to Professor Stewart's immortal dissertation prefixed to the Edinburgh Encyclopnedia.
Lady Blessington's Conversations of Lord Byron.593
Belmore), in much higher terms than we think they can lay claim to: and he then laments that there are so few clever men like Dr. Richardson, of Rathbone Place, either in the Church or Physic. The medical men who fell in his Lordship's way were so deficient in ability, that had the science been eighty times more simplified than it is, they had not intelligence to comprehend it: and that there are very few divines who had talent to keep the soul in good health. As they fail, Lord Byron takes it under his own care, and knowing that solitude and retirement have always been considered as most beneficial to the wounded spirit, and likely to promote reflection and repentance, he recommends it; ‘but then,’ says his Lordship, ‘I do not mean the solitude of a country neighbourhood, where people pass their time à dire, à redire, à medire. No! I mean a regular retirement—with a woman one loves!!!” We have seen the habitations of many such persons in the neighbourhood of London, distinguished by the white muslin curtains, and double coach doors, and have occasionally beheld the Aspasias at the windows; but we did not before know that they were the abodes of Philosophers in search of wisdom and virtue.

The rides, and dialogues, and remarks are now fast on their wane; most of the noble author's friends have passed in review and been dismissed, and all he has now to inform her Ladyship is, that he, while in London, was so overpowered by the dulness of the haut ton, that he used to take shelter in the enjoyments of the Cider Cellar; and that he dined at Tom Cribb's, which he infinitely preferred to Holland House and my Lady. Madame de Staël, he says, was the only person he ever knew who was not overcome by London society; but this was owing to her state of excitement, and self complacency; and the mystifications of the dandies, and exaggerated compliments paid to her; and her being constantly occupied by herself.* They then get back again to the old and favourite subject of erring ladies, and the unkindness of society to them. Lord Byron hopes that Don Juan will do a great deal of good in England, by correcting false notions, and destroying cant. Lady Blessington says, that he thought very deeply on religion; and as they now begin to quote Scripture, and make applications, we think it would be as well to leave them; for Lord Blessington is riding up abreast, and the little Hunts are calling out for their dinner, and the Guiccioli is getting a little jealous, and brother Gamba is looking moody, fierce, and sanguinary; and the lady is off to New Burlington-street to sell the result of her Conversations to Mr. Colburn for Three Hundred Pounds!

* M. de Staël had a party to dine with her one day in London, when Sir James and Lady —— entered the drawing-room, the lady dressed in a green gown, a shawl of the same hue, and a red turban. M. de Staël marched up in her eager manner and exclaimed—“Ah! mon Dieu! Miladi, comme vous ressemblez à un perroquet.” The poor lady looked confounded. The company tried in vain to repress their smiles, but all felt that the soubriquet betrayed a total want of tact in the “Corinne.”