LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Lord Byron.
Monthly Review  Vol. NS 1  (February 1831)  217-37.
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Art. V.—Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, with Notices of his Life. By Thomas Moore. Volume II. 4to. pp. 823. London: Murray. 1831.

In the course of our Review* of the former volume of this work, we expressed our regret that Mr. Moore had not used his pruning knife more freely, with regard to the materials which he had before him; as we conceived that many passages were allowed to remain, which were by no means calculated to improve the public morals, or to exalt the character of Lord Byron. It is with great pain we observe, that still stronger grounds for complaint and remonstrance, in this respect, are presented in the volume recently published. We do not refer, altogether, to the almost indispensible introduction into a memoir of Lord Byron, of the name and the

* Monthly Review, vol. xiii. p. 218.
218Lord Byron.
errors of the
Countess Guiccioli, although we might justly remark that Mr. Moore has done every thing in his power to disguise those errors, in language of the most indulgent and palliating nature. Compassion and gallantry, whatever morality might do, would perhaps offer a plausible excuse, for all that he has said in favour of that lady, as well as for the quotation of several passages from her passionate journal. But whatever may be the verdict of the critics upon this point, they cannot hesitate, we apprehend, to condemn Mr. Moore in his capacity of editor, for giving to the world most of the letters which Lord Byron wrote from Venice, soon after his departure from England. They detail, in the most unblushing manner, vices of the most degrading nature; they exhibit a nobleman, yet young in years, bringing upon himself premature imbecility and age, by the variety and extent of the wickedness in which he indulged. He paints himself as a frequent adulterer, as keeping open house for the most profligate women of the most profligate town in Italy; and while he narrates his crimes, he openly exults in them as if they were virtues.

We confess that we were wholly ignorant of this part of Lord Byron’s career, and were it not for the evidence of his own letters, we never could have believed that he had, in fact, exceeded in profligacy his own Don Juan. Against the publication of the poem under that title, both Mr. Moore and Mr. Murray strongly protested, upon the grounds of its immorality; if they were sincere upon these occasions, we are wholly at a loss to conjecture the train of reasoning, by which they could have since reconciled it to themselves, to unite in laying before the world—not indeed the cantos of Don Juan, but the Venetian letters of Lord Byron, which, from their contents as well as their suppressions, are calculated to be infinitely more injurious to public morals, than any thing which Don Juan contains. In the latter, the effect of licentious thought is a good deal lessened by the atmosphere of poetry, through which it is refracted; whereas, in the epistles, vice is transparent, not only in the language, but in the asterisks beneath which, for very shame, Mr. Moore has been sometimes compelled to take momentary shelter. Does he, indeed, think that these asterisks are hieroglyphics, which cannot be decyphered? Does he flatter himself with the hope, that they will afford no occupation to prurient minds—no encouragement to depravity?

We are surprized, and—considering our regard for Mr. Moore’s character and talents—sincerely grieved, by the sophistry with which he has laboured to defend the disclosure of Lord Byron’s Italian transgressions. He says, that so long as he had to deal with his friend’s gallantries in England, he was obliged to throw as decent a veil over them as possible, out of respect to the public sentiment of the country; but that he no longer feels the same restraint, when the scene of crime is transferred to a foreign climate, where it is in harmony with every thing around it. If Mr.
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Moore, upon following his hero to a distant country, alien from his own in manners and in language, were to confine his narrative and illustrative letters to the language of that country, so long as they should be fitted exclusively for the perusal of its inhabitants, his argument, however indefensible in itself, would, at least, have the merit of consistency. But vice is vice in every part of the world, and there is quite as much of it in England as elsewhere; there can be no more harm in describing, in the English language, depravities perpetrated at Newstead or in London, than those which have taken place at Venice. The impression arising from both, or either, upon the public mind, is precisely the same in degree; with this difference, that crime is, like all other objects, softened by distance. Indignation comes to our aid, when we read of atrocities committed near our own doors, polluting our own hearths, and destroying the happiness of our friends and neighbours; but there is nothing, save the presence of virtue itself, to cause a reaction in the mind, upon hearing of iniquities that have taken place in a distant community, with which we have little intercourse.

It is impossible that Mr. Moore can have reflected upon the consequences, which may be drawn from his extraordinary argument. May it not be made use of by the Duncombes, the Carliles, and the Stockdales of the day? Does not the impure matter, which he has allowed to go forth in this second volume, strip the publisher of all legal copy-right in the work? We cannot imagine that an injunction would be granted, or maintained, by any Chancellor, against any person who might choose to pirate every word of these two volumes, seeing that there are many letters, in the second volume especially, which would put Mr. Murray at once out of court. We hope the question will not be tried, because we think that the number of copies already published, will be sufficiently mischievous; but if it be tried, we know not how it can be effectually resisted.

Mr. Moore, we really believe, intended to do no more than to present the world with a true portrait of Lord Byron’s character; a character which, it may be admitted, is more accurately delineated in his own journals and letters, than it could possibly be by any third person. But it is no justification of scandal, to say that it was promulgated for the sake of truth; truth itself is too expensive an acquisition, when purchased at so great a sacrifice. It would be much better for the living generations and posterity, not to know every feature of Lord Byron’s character, than, by attaining that knowledge, to become acquainted with all the seductions of his example. We cannot believe that the Venetian letters have been inserted, after deliberation, in order to give an impetus to the sale of the work; this would be a motive, which we cannot ascribe either to Mr. Moore or Mr. Murray. Indeed, we could not imagine the possibility of its existence, seeing that, independently of these letters (and we much wish that they were
220Lord Byron.
wholly left out), the work contains more interesting details than, perhaps, any other memoir in our language. We can only glance at a few of those, which we find in the volume before us, passing by such as are unfit to meet the eyes of those who usually read this journal.

Mr. Moore’s first volume closed with the departure of Lord Byron from England, a departure that took place under circumstances, at once distressing and humiliating. He had, ‘in the course of one short year, gone through every variety of domestic misery; had seen his hearth eight or nine times profaned by the visitations of the law, and been only saved from a prison by the privileges of his rank. He had alienated, as far as they had ever been his, the affections of his wife; and now, rejected by her, and condemned by the world, was betaking himself to an exile, which had not even the dignity of appearing voluntary, as the excommunicating voice of society seemed to leave him no other resource.’ It is remarked of him, however, that it was at a period when his domestic prospects were most clouded, he produced the “Siege of Corinth” and “Parisina,” thus justifying the criticism of Goethe, that Lord Byron was inspired by the Genius of Pain. It certainly does appear, that all his great efforts were made under circumstances, which would have depressed ordinary minds to a state that would altogether unfit them for the nobler flights of imagination; and there are passages in his writings, which show that he was not unconscious of the power, by which he was thus enabled to rise superior to every attack, that was directed against his personal or literary fortunes. On leaving his native shores for the last time, he proceeded, by Flanders and the Rhine, to Switzerland, a line of road which his biographer justly says, ‘he strewed over with all the riches of poesy.’ While staying in Switzerland, he lived at Diodati, near Geneva, and had frequent opportunities of seeing Madame de Stael at Copet. Here he finished the third canto of “Childe Harold,” so full of the beautiful scenery which he had just traversed. Accompanied by Mr. Hobhouse, he visited all that is worth seeing in Switzerland, and although the journal of this little tour, which he communicated to his sister, and which is inserted in the present volume, may be said to be quite an extempore composition, yet it gives a more lively picture of the mountain grandeur of that country, than most of the elaborate descriptions which we have seen. It is written in a half humorous, half poetical style, somewhat after the manner which he subsequently adopted in “Don Juan;” a style of which he appears, from a very early stage of his intellectual progress, to have been a complete master. The higher glacier of the Grindelwald he places at once before us, as ‘a frozen hurricane.’ ‘Starlight,’ he goes on, ‘beautiful, but a devil of a path! Never mind, got safe in: a little lightning, but the whole of the day as fine, in point of weather, as the day on which Paradise was made. Passed whole
Lord Byron.221
woods of withered pines, all withered; trunks stripped and barkless, branchless, lifeless,—done by a single winter. Their appearance reminded me of me and my family.’ This scene he afterwards made a fine use of in
Manfred. Indeed most of the impressions which he received among the Alps, he introduced into that extraordinary poem. A torrent in the Jungfrau, nine hundred feet in height, suggested to him an image as sublime as itself.
‘And fling its lines of foaming light along,
And to and fro, like the pale courser’s tail,
The giant steed, to be bestrode by Death,
As told in the Apocalypse.’

‘Standing on the Wengen Alp,’ says the journal, ‘we had in view, on one side, the Avalanches, which were falling nearly every five minutes; on the other, the clouds rose from the opposite valley, curling up perpendicular precipices, like the foam of the ocean of hell, during a spring tide—it was white and sulphury, and immeasurably deep in appearance.’ How infinitely improved does this scene appear in Manfred, after passing through the alembic of his potent imagination!

‘Ye avalanches, whom a breath draws down
In mountains overwhelming, come and crush me!
I hear ye momently above, beneath,
Crash with a frequent conflict.
* * * * * * * * *
‘The mists boil up around the glaciers; clouds
Rise curling fast beneath me, white and sulphury,
Like foam from the roused ocean of deep hell!’

One should have thought that objects which were capable of making such deep impressions upon the mind of Lord Byron, might have excluded from it, for a while, the recollection of his recent miseries:—miseries indeed, which, it was at the time pretty generally believed, he had already laughed at and forgotten. We find, however, from the conclusion of his journal of this little tour among the Alps, that he felt his desolate situation most intensely.

‘“In the weather for this tour (of thirteen days,) I have been very fortunate—fortunate in a companion (Mr. H.)—fortunate in our prospects, and exempt from even the little petty accidents and delays which often render journies in a less wild country disappointing. I was disposed to be pleased. I am a lover of nature, and an admirer of beauty. I can bear fatigue, and welcome privation, and have seen some of the noblest views in the world. But in all this—the recollection of bitterness, and more especially of recent and more home desolation, which must accompany me through life, have preyed upon me here; and neither the music of the shepherd, the crashing of the avalanche, nor the torrent, the mountain, the glacier, the forest, nor the cloud, have for one moment lightened the weight upon my heart, nor enabled me to lose my own wretched identity in the majesty, and the power, and the glory, around, above, and beneath me.”’—vol. ii. p. 22.

222 Lord Byron.

On his arrival at Geneva, Lord Byron, for the first time, became acquainted with Mr. Shelley—a circumstance which affords to his biographer, an opportunity for drawing an interesting and accurate comparison between the peculiar tendencies of the two poets, which, on many points, were as opposite as the poles. This difference, however, seemed to link them in a more intimate friendship, thus realizing the theory of St. Pierre, (of the truth of which there are many examples daily to be witnessed) that the ties of friendship, and even of love, if not originally formed, are generally made stronger by contrast of genius and disposition between the parties. Polidori—that vain literary empiric, who, under the title of physician, now constantly attended Lord Byron—the two poets, and Mrs. Shelley, were much together at this period. During a whole week of rain, they amused themselves with reading German ghost stories, and with inventing some of their own. It is to such exercises, we are told, that we are indebted to Polidori for that horrid story of the Vampire, which, upon its first appearance, was attributed to Lord Byron, and attracted for the first time, it is asserted, attention to his writings amongst our Gallic neighbours. The noble poet wrote, indeed, something of the kind less extravagant than Polidori’s tale, which has long since been forgotten. Mrs. Shelley’s German muse was more successful, in the production of Frankenstein, which leaves behind it an impression never to be forgotten. Shelley, though in other respects so different from Lord Byron, shared with him in all his fondness for boating. They made a tour round the Lake together, and with the “Heloise” before them, (which by the way Shelley then read for the first time), visited the well-known scenes round Meillerie and Clarens—scenes to which the genius of Rousseau has added so many ideal charms.

During one of Lord Byron’s visits to Copet, Madame de Stael, in her own frank and privileged style, gave him a lecture upon his matrimonial conduct, which had the effect of inducing him to enter upon a negociation, with the view of being reconciled to his lady. From reasons which are not explained, it wholly failed at the very commencement. This failure it was, Mr. Moore believes, which, after the violence he had done his own pride in the first overture, first infused any mixture of resentment or bitterness into the feelings hitherto entertained by him, throughout these painful differences. He had, indeed, since his arrival in Geneva, invariably spoken of his lady with kindness and regret, imputing the course she had taken, in leaving him, not to herself, but others, and assigning whatever little share of blame he would allow her to bear in the transaction, to the simple, and doubtless true cause—her not at all understanding him. “I have no doubt,” he would sometimes say, “that she really did believe me to be mad.” He had resolved, though his pecuniary means were at this time so limited, that he could not afford to keep a carriage, never to touch a farthing of his wife’s fortune; a resolution, however, which he had not the fortitude to keep.

Lord Byron. 223

Besides the Third Canto of Childe Harold, he now produced the Prisoner of Chillon, and his two poems “Darkness” and the “Dream,”’the latter of which,’ says Mr. Moore, ‘cost him many a tear in writing, being indeed, the most mournful, as well as picturesque “story of a wandering life,” that ever came from the pen and heart of man.’ Besides the Vampire fragment, he commenced another romance in prose, founded upon that of the Marriage of Belphegor, with the view of relating his own matrimonial misfortunes. This, however, he put into the fire, upon hearing from England that Lady Byron was ill. Mr. Moore gives two other poems, which were written at this period, and had not hitherto been published. The longer of these, addressed by Lord Byron to his sister, breathes the purest and most fervent fraternal affection, though written in an unpolished style. In the other, he seems to have shadowed out those unhappy notions concerning death, which afterwards became a fixed doctrine in his mind.

‘“What is this Death?—a quiet of the heart?
The whole of that of which we are a part?
For Life is but a vision—what I see
Of all which lives alone is life to me,
And being so—the absent are the dead,
Who haunt us from tranquillity and spread
A dreary shroud around us, and invest
With sad remembrancers our hours of rest.
‘”The absent are the dead—for they are cold,
And ne’er can be what once we did behold;
And they are changed, and cheerless,—or if yet
The unforgotten do not all forget,
Since thus divided—equal must it be
If the deep barrier be of earth, or sea;
It maybe both—but one day end it must
In the dark union of insensate dust.
‘”The under-earth inhabitants—are they
But mingled millions decomposed to clay?
The ashes of a thousand ages spread
Wherever man has trodden or shall tread?
Or do they in their silent cities dwell
Each in his incommunicative cell?
Or have they their own language? and a sense
Of breathless being?—darken’d and intense
As midnight in her solitude?—Oh earth!
Where are the past?—and wherefore had they birth?
The dead are thy inheritors—and we
But bubbles on thy surface; and the key
Of thy profundity is in the grave,
The ebon portal of thy peopled cave,
Where I would walk in spirit, and behold
Our elements resolved to things untold,
And fathom hidden wonders, and explore
The essence of great bosoms now no more.”’—vol. ii. p. 37.
224 Lord Byron.

Having “repeopled his mind with nature” as he expresses it, among the mountains and vallies of Switzerland, Lord Byron, accompanied by Mr. Hobhouse, proceeded to Italy. It may seem strange, that with all his fancy, he had no great relish for paintings. The Flemish school he could not tolerate. Nothing in this way had any attraction for him, that did not tell its own story in an irresistible manner. At Milan, he made the acquaintance of Monti, and heard an anecdote of Beccaria, which shews how widely, sometimes, philosophy may differ from practice. Every body has read his treatise against the punishment of death. Well, “as soon as his book was out, his servant (having read it I presume) stole his watch; and his master, while correcting the press of a second edition, did all he could to have him hanged by way of advertisement!” From Verona, Lord Byron writes to Mr. Moore, “I found on the Benacus the same tradition of a city still visible in calm weather below the waters, which you have preserved of Lough Neagh, ‘When the clear cold eve’s declining.’ I do not know that it is authorized by records; but they tell you such a story, and say, that the city was swallowed up by an earthquake.” Tradition is an invisible spirit, that has haunted every land, and like the games of boys, seems to have left every where similar traces of its presence. How delightful it would have been to read Lord Byron’s letters to Mr. Moore and his other literary friends in England, if they were conversant only, or chiefly, with such topics as these! But already they begin to present a formidable array of asterisks. In the epistle from Verona, we have three lines of these symbols of impurity; not to speak of allusions to the Theban dynasty, which it would have shown much better taste to have veiled under the same disguise.

We have already sufficiently referred to Lord Byron’s career in Venice, and shall now pass at once from it without apology, observing only that, in the midst of his dissipations, with that strange mixture of good and evil which his character frequently exhibits, he occasionally found leisure to repair to the Armenian monastery, where he received instructions from the monks in the Armenian language, his mind wanting, as he expresses it, “something craggy to break upon.” One of the friars was employed, at the time, upon an English and Armenian grammar, in which the poet gave him considerable assistance. When it was nearly ready for publication, he wrote a brief and admirable preface to it, with the view of introducing it to public attention in this country. We forget how the project ultimately terminated. Some unexplained, and much higher speculations, seem also at this period (the early part of 1817) to have occasionally floated through his brain. “If I live,” he writes to Mr. Moore, “ten years longer, you will see that it is not over with me—I don’t mean in literature, for that is nothing; and it may seem odd enough to say, I do not think it my vocation. But you will see that I shall do something or other—the times and fortune permitting—that, ‘like the cosmogony, or creation of the
Lord Byron.225
world, will puzzle the philosophers of all ages.’ But I doubt whether my constitution will hold out. I have at times exorcised it most devilishly.” We collect, from subsequent passages in his letters, that this something, which he hoped to achieve, was connected with South America, which was then engaged in the first stage of the revolution, that has since terminated in her independence. It is not at all improbable, that he entertained views of personal ambition with reference to the new states—views which he afterwards transferred to Greece.

As a trait of his personal habits, it may be mentioned that, in his letters to Mr. Murray, he frequently begs of him to send out parcels of tooth-powder and magnesia; which, by some odd fatality, Murray almost always forgot. “For the sake of my personal comfort,” he writes, “I pray you send me immediately, to Venice—mind Venice—viz. Waites’ tooth powder, red, a quantity; calcined magnesia, of the best quality, a quantity; and all this by safe, sure, and speedy means; and, by the Lord! do it.” This is often the burthen of his letters to Albemarle-street. Sometimes he enlarges his order in this way, “Tooth-powder, magnesia, tincture of myrrh, tooth-brushes, diachylon plaster, Peruvian bark, are my personal demands.”

It is not generally known, that, in consequence of a private and friendly criticism from Mr. Gifford, Lord Byron re-wrote the whole of the third act of Manfred. It is a striking proof of the natural superiority of his mind, that he saw at once, and acknowledged the faults, which that modern Aristarchus had pointed out in this act, which was written while he was yet recovering from a fever, by which he was attacked at Venice. He thus frankly and humorously speaks of it to his publisher:—

‘“The third act is certainly d——d bad, and like the Archbishop of Grenada’s homily (which savoured of the palsy), has the dregs of my fever, during which it was written. It must, on no account, be published in its present state. I will try and reform it, or re-write it altogether; but the impulse is gone, and I have no chance of making any thing of it. 1 would not have it published as it is on any account. The speech of Manfred to the Sun is the only part of this act I thought good myself; the rest is certainly as bad as bad can be, and I wonder what the devil possessed me.”’—p. 104.

Mr. Moore has preserved the act in its original form, thus enabling the poetical aspirant to compare it with the act which was substituted for it, and to trace some of the springs by which a fearless and fertile imagination may lift itself above the earth to which it may have fallen.

On sending over the third canto of Childe Harold, (1816,) Lord Byron left all matters of pecuniary arrangement connected with it, to Mr. Kinnaird, Mr. Shelley, and his respectable publisher. By this time (May, 1817), the spirit of money-getting, seems, however, to have taken possession of him. He had in the interval, no doubt,
226Lord Byron.
discovered in his straitened means, the value of pounds sterling, and under an assumed levity, he chaffers for his poetical wares, with the keenness of a Jew. Literary productions, it must be admitted, deserve to be paid for as well as any other commodity; nevertheless, we cannot read such passages as the two following ones, in Lord Byron’s letters to
Mr. Murray, without feeling that they indicate a propensity to avarice and meanness.

‘“The Lament of Tasso, which I sent from Florence, has, I trust, arrived; I look upon it, as ‘these be good rhymes,’ as Pope’s papa said to him when he was a boy. For the two—it and the drama (Manfred), you will disburse to me (via Kinnaird) six hundred guineas. You will perhaps be surprised that I set the same price upon this as upon the drama; but, besides that I look upon it as good, I won’t take less than three hundred guineas for any thing. The two together will make you a larger publication than the “Siege” and “Parisina,” so you may think yourself let off very easy; that is to say, if these poems are good for any thing, which I hope and believe.”’—p. 107.

‘“Now to business; ****** I say unto you, verily, it is not so; or, as the foreigner said to the waiter, after asking him to bring him a glass of water, to which the man answered, “I will, Sir.” “You will!—G—d d——n, I say you mush!” And I will submit this to the decision of any person or persons to be appointed by both, on a fair examination of the circumstances of this as compared with the preceding publications. So, there’s for you. There is always some row or other previously to all our publications; it should seem that, on approximating, we can never get quite over the natural antipathy of author and bookseller, and that more particularly the ferine nature of the latter must break forth.”’—p. 126.

We might cite several other passages of a similar tendency. While engaged upon the fourth canto of Childe Harold, it is curious to observe with what keenness of appetite he looked forward to its golden results. “I have done,” he writes on the 9th of July, 1817, “fifty-six (stanzas) of canto fourth; so down with your ducats;” and, in six days afterwards, he says, “I have finished (that is written—the file comes afterwards) ninety and eight stanzas of the fourth canto * *.—I look upon parts of it as very good * *,—rather a different style from the last—less metaphysical * *—so you may be thinking of its arrival towards autumn, whose winds will not be the only ones to be raised, if so be as how, that it is ready by that time.” After the completion of the canto in question, his proposal for the sale of it, borders closely upon the puffing of an auctioneer. After several letters upon the subject, he says, “You offer 1500 guineas for the new canto: I won’t take it. I ask 2500 guineas for it, which you will either give or not, as you think proper.” After magnifying its poetical merits as much as he could, he speaks, also, of the great value that would be added to it by Mr. Hobhouse’s notes, and of the tear and wear of mind and body which it cost him. This is all very unworthy of the noble poet, whose opinion of modern verse was, at the same time, not very exalted.

Lord Byron. 227

‘“With regard to poetry in general,” he writes to Mr. Murray, “I am convinced, the more I think of it, that he (Moore) and all of us,—Scott, Southey, Wordsworth, Campbell, I,—are all in the wrong, one as much as another; that we are upon a wrong revolutionary poetical system, or systems, not worth a damn in itself, and from which none but Rogers and Crabbe are free: and that the present and next generations will finally be of this opinion. I am the more confirmed in this, by having lately gone over some of our classics, particularly Pope, whom I tried in this way. I took Moore’s poems and my own, and some others, and went over them side by side with Pope’s, and I was really astonished (I ought not to have been so) and mortified at the ineffable distance, in point of sense, learning, effect, and even imagination, passion, and invention, between the little Queen Anne’s man, and us of the lower empire. Depend upon it, it is all Horace then and Claudian now, among us; and if I had to begin again, I would mould myself accordingly. Crabbe’s the man, but he has got a coarse and impracticable subject, and * * is retired upon half pay, and has done enough, unless he were to do as he did formerly.”’—p. 147.

It appears that on this paragraph, in the MS. copy of the letter from which it is taken, Mr. Gifford wrote the following note:—‘There is more good sense, and feeling, and judgment, in this passage, than in any other I ever read, or Lord Byron wrote.’ Mr. Moore, however, to whom it was (as Lord Byron permitted with respect to all his letters) shown by Murray, did not much relish it; and concluded a remonstrance to the noble poet, by comparing him to the Methodist preacher, who, sure of going to Heaven himself, told his congregation that they must not hope to get there by taking hold of his skirts, for that he would, upon that occasion, wear a spencer! Upon which Lord Byron returned to the charge.

‘“I don’t know what Murray may have been saying or quoting. I called Crabbe and Sam the fathers of present Poesy; and said, that I thought—except them—all of ‘us youth’ were on a wrong tack. But I never said that we did not sail well. Our fame will be hurt by admiration and imitation. When I say our, I mean all, (Lakers included,) except the postscript of the Augustans. The next generation (from the quantity and facility of imitation) will tumble and break their necks off our Pegasus, who runs way with us; but we keep the saddle, because we broke the rascal and can ride. But though easy to mount, he is the devil to guide; and the next fellows must go back to the riding school and the manege, and learn to ride the ‘great horse.’”—vol. ii. p. 160.

In writing Beppo, Lord Byron acknowledges that he had an eye to Berni, but that Whistlecraft (supposed to be Frere) was his immediate model. This was followed, as all the world too well knows, by Don Juan, which, he says, he intended ‘to be a little quietly facetious upon every thing.’ He had, or feigned that he had, an intention of following it up to the extent of fifty cantos! The letter in which he communicates this scheme to Mr. Murray, is full of amusing badinage.

‘“The Second Canto of Don Juan was sent, on Saturday last, by post, in four packets, two of four, and two of three sheets each, containing in
228Lord Byron.
all two hundred and seventeen stanzas, octave measure. But I will permit no curtailments, except those mentioned about
Castlereagh and ******. You sha’n’t make canticles of my cantos. The poem will please, if it is lively; if it is stupid, it will fail: but I will have none of your damned cutting and slashing. If you please, you may publish anonymously; it will perhaps be better; but I will battle my way against them all like a porcupine.

‘“So you and Mr. Foscolo, &c., want me to undertake what you call ‘a great work?’ an Epic Poem, I suppose, or some such pyramid. I’ll try no such thing; I hate tasks. And then ‘seven or eight years!’ God send us all well this day three months, let alone years. If one’s years can’t be better employed than in sweating poesy, a man had better be a ditcher. And works, too!—is Childe Harold nothing? You have so many divine poems, is it nothing to have written a human one? without any of your worn-out machinery. Why, man, I could have spun the thoughts of the Four Cantos of that poem into twenty, had I wanted to book-make, and its passion into as many modern tragedies. Since you want length, you shall have enough of Juan, for I’ll make Fifty Cantos.

‘“And Foscolo, too! Why does he not do something more than the Letters of Ortis, and a tragedy, and pamphlets? He has good fifteen years more at his command than I have: what has he done all that time?—proved his genius, doubtless, but not fixed its fame, nor done his utmost.

‘“Besides, I mean to write my best work in Italian, and it will take me nine years more thoroughly to master the language; and then if my fancy exists, and I exist too, I will try what I can do really. As to the estimation of the English which you talk of, let them calculate what it is worth, before they insult me with their insolent condescension.

‘“I have not written for their pleasure. If they are pleased, it is that they chose to be so; I have never flattered their opinions, nor their pride; nor will I. Neither will I make ‘Ladies’ books’ ‘al dilettar le femine e la plebe.’ I have written from the fulness of my mind, from passion, from impulse, from many motives, but not for their ‘sweet voices.’

‘“I know the precise worth of popular applause, for few scribblers have had more of it; and if I chose to swerve into their paths, I could retain it, or resume it. But I neither love ye, nor fear ye; and though I buy with ye and sell with ye, I will neither eat with ye, drink with ye, nor pray with ye. They made me, without my search, a species of popular idol; they, without reason or judgment, beyond the caprice of their good pleasure, threw down the image from its pedestal; it was not broken with the fall, and they would, it seems, again replace it,—but they shall not.

‘“You ask about my health: about the beginning of the year I was in a state of great exhaustion, attended by such debility of stomach that nothing remained upon it; and I was obliged to reform my ‘way of life,’ which was conducting me from the ‘yellow leaf’ to the ground, with all deliberate speed. I am better in health and morals, and very much yours, &c.

‘“P.S. I have read Hodgson’sFriends.’ * * * * He is right in defending Pope against the bastard pelicans of the poetical winter day, who add insult to their parricide, by sucking the blood of the parent of English real poetry—poetry without fault—and then spurning the bosom which fed them.’”—vol. ii. pp. 203—205.

Lord Byron. 229

The allusions, in the latter part of this letter, to the effects of the libertine course of life which he had led, are sufficiently marked. It was about this time that he exchanged it for one of somewhat less guilt, in the society of the Countess Guiccioli, whose story is already sufficiently notorious. It was also about the same time that Mr. Moore, during a hasty tour in Italy, had an opportunity of spending a few days with his noble friend. The reader will be interested in a few anecdotes, taken from this portion of the journal.

‘Having parted, at Milan, with Lord John Russell, whom I had accompanied from England, and whom I was to rejoin, after a short visit to Rome, at Genoa, I made purchase of a small and (as it soon proved) crazy travelling carriage, and proceeded alone on my way to Venice. My time being limited, I stopped no longer at the intervening places than was sufficient to hurry over their respective wonders, and, leaving Padua at noon on the 8th of October, I found myself, about two o’clock, at the door of my friend’s villa, at La Mira. He was but just up, and in his bath; but the servant having announced my arrival, he returned a message that, if I would wait till he was dressed, he would accompany me to Venice. The interval I employed in conversing with my old acquaintance, Fletcher, and in viewing, under his guidance, some of the apartments of the villa.

‘It was not long before Lord Byron himself made his appearance, and the delight I felt in meeting him once more, after a separation of so many years, was not a little heightened by observing that his pleasure was, to the full, as great, while it was rendered doubly touching by the evident rarity of such meetings to him of late, and the frank outbreak of cordiality and gaiety with which he gave way to his feelings. It would be impossible, indeed, to convey to those who have not, at some time or other, felt the charm of his manner, an idea of what it could be when under the influence of such pleasurable excitement, as it was most flatteringly evident he experienced at this moment.

‘I was a good deal struck, however, by the alteration that had taken place in his personal appearance. He had grown fatter both in person and face, and the latter had most suffered by the change,—having lost, by the enlargement of the features, some of that refined and spiritualized look that had, in other times, distinguished it. The addition of whiskers, too, which he had not long before been induced to adopt, from hearing that some one had said a “faccia di musico,” as well as the length to which his hair grew down on his neck, and the rather foreign air of his coat and cap,—all combined to produce that dissimilarity to his former self I had observed in him. He was still, however, eminently handsome; and, in exchange for whatever his features might have lost of their high, romantic character, they had become more fitted for the expression of that arch, waggish wisdom, that epicurean play of humour, which he had shewn to be equally inherent in his various and prodigally gifted nature; while, by the somewhat increased roundness of the contours, the resemblance of his finely formed mouth and chin to those of the Belvidere Apollo had become still more striking.

‘His breakfast, which I found he rarely took before three or four
230Lord Byron.
o’clock in the afternoon, was speedily despatched,—his habit being to eat it standing, and the meal in general consisting of one or two raw eggs, a cup of tea without either milk or sugar, and a bit of dry biscuit. Before we took our departure, he presented me to the
Countess Guiccioli, who was at this time, as my readers already know, living under the same roof with him at La Mira; and who, with a style of beauty singular in an Italian, as being fair complexion, and delicate, left an impression upon my mind, during this our first short interview, of intelligence and amiableness such as all that I have since known or heard of her has but served to confirm.’—vol. ii. pp. 247—249.

The two poets were as much together as possible, during the few days of Mr. Moore’s stay. The latter he prevailed upon to live in his deserted house at Venice, coming to dine with him every day, but returning in the evenings to La Mira. On one of these occasions, while dinner was in preparation at a neighbouring Tratteria, they were standing out in the balcony, when, says Mr. Moore,

‘Happening to remark, in looking up at the clouds, which were still bright in the west, that “what had struck me in Italian sun-sets was that peculiar rosy hue,——” I had hardly pronounced the word “rosy,” when Lord Byron, clapping his hand on my mouth, said, with a laugh, “Come d—n it, Tom, don’t be poetical.” Among the few gondolas passing at the time, there was one at some distance, in which sate two gentlemen, who had the appearance of being English; and, observing them to look our way, Lord Byron, putting his arms a-kimbo, said, with a sort of comic swagger, “Ah, if you John Bulls knew who the two fellows are, now standing up here, I think you would stare!” I risk mentioning these things, though aware how they may be turned against myself, for the sake of the otherwise indescribable traits of manner and character which they convey.’—vol. ii. p. 252.

It was but at the very moment of their separation, that Lord Byron presented to Mr. Moore the manuscript journals which, with certain necessary mutilations, form the basis of the present work. His account of this incident is as follows:

‘A short time before dinner he left the room, and in a minute or two returned, carrying in his hand a white leather bag. “Look here,” he said, holding it up,—“this would be worth something to Murray, though you, I dare say, would not give sixpence for it.” “What is it?” I asked.—“My Life and Adventures,” he answered. On hearing this, I raised my hands in a gesture of wonder. “It is not a thing,” he continued, “that can be published during my life-time, but you may have it, if you like——there, do whatever you please with it.” In taking the bag, and thanking him most warmly; I added, “This will make a nice legacy for my little Tom, who shall astonish the latter days of the nineteenth century with it.” He then added, “You may show it to any of our friends you think worthy of it:”—and this is, nearly word for word, the whole of what passed between us on the subject.’—vol. ii. p. 273.

Count Guiccioli having been prevailed upon by his friends, to put an end to the open scandal, to which his wife’s residence at La Mira necessarily gave rise, effected her removal to Ravenna.
Lord Byron.231
For awhile this circumstance seems to have disposed
Lord Byron to return to England, in order that he might no more place himself within the sphere of attractions, which he knew not how otherwise to resist. Upon the eve of his setting out, he, however, received unexpectedly an invitation, sanctioned by the Count himself, to Ravenna. He hesitated between passion and duty; a female friend of Madame Guiccioli, who witnessed the scene, has painted his irresolution, upon this occasion, in a characteristic manner, in a letter which she addressed to that lady. ‘He was ready dressed for the journey, his gloves and cap on, and even his little cane in his hand. Nothing was now waited for, but his coming down stairs, his boxes being already on board the gondola. At this moment, my lord, by way of pretext, declares that if it should strike one o’clock before every thing was in order, (his arms being the only thing not yet quite ready), he would not go on that day. The hour strikes, and he remains.’ She added, ‘he has not the heart to go,’ and she was quite right. He hastened to Ravenna, where he soon appeared in public, as the Countess’s regularly installed cicisbeo.

A translation of the “Morgante Maggiore,” of Pulci, and the composition of the “Prophecy of Dante,” gave him literary occupation for some time. At Ravenna, also, he wrote his pamphlet in defence of Pope, which every body remembers; and his “Marino Faliero,” which, we are afraid, every body has forgotten. Proceedings were taken by Madame Guiccioli for her separation—not from Lord Byron, as one would have expected, but from her husband—which terminated in a regular divorce. After this, she was removed to the house of her father, Count Gamba, about fifteen miles from Ravenna, where Lord Byron was permitted to visit her once or twice a month. The time not devoted to her society, he is said to have spent in perfect solitude. The political state of Italy at that period (1820) was a good deal agitated; a constitutional government having been established at Naples, Lord Byron made no secret of his sympathy in the cause of freedom, and frequently mentions, in his letters, that if an opportunity should offer, he would take a part in the struggle. He was, in fact, enrolled amongst the Carbonari, and drew up a magnificent address to the new Neapolitan government, which, however, was intercepted on the way. Although he had long been accustomed to decry England and “all that it inherits,” to use a phrase which he often introduces, yet he never ceased to feel a nervous anxiety as to what was said and thought of himself and his writings in that country. Galignani’s Messenger was sufficient for his politics; but with the English critical journals, and Scott’s novels, he could not dispense; and he often scolds Murray for not transmitting them to him regularly. “You need never trouble me,” he says, (October, 1820), “with any periodical publication, except the Edinburgh, Quarterly,
232Lord Byron.
and an occasional
Blackwood, or now and then a Monthly Review; for the rest I do not feel curiosity enough to look beyond their covers. * * * Books of travels are expensive, and I don’t want them, having travelled already; besides, they lie. Pray send me no more poetry but what is rare, and decidedly good. There is such trash of Keats, and the like, upon my tables, that I am ashamed to look at them. I say nothing against your parsons, your S**s, and your C**s—it is all very fine—but pray dispense me from the pleasure. Instead of poetry, if you will favour me with a few soda-powders, I shall be delighted. * * The Abbot has just arrived, many thanks; as also for the Monastery—when you send it.”

Mr. Moore has inserted extracts from a very curious pamphlet, which Lord Byron wrote in answer to an attack made in Blackwood, upon Don Juan, and his own matrimonial conduct, which, though put to press by Mr. Murray, has never been published. With respect to his domestic affairs it says nothing new. He complains that no specific charge was ever made against him, or at least communicated to him, on the part of Lady Byron’s friends; and he accounts for his departure from England, by imputing it to the true cause, that, in this country, he had become generally obnoxious on account of the reports,—he calls them slanders,—which were propagated against him by a large majority of the upper circles of society. The pamphlet is neatly and frankly written. It betrays a deeply wounded spirit, in reference to his personal situation; it contains, also, an amplification of his opinions upon the poetry of the age, and a renewal of his pledges of invariable allegiance to the school of Pope.

Before Lord Byron embarked in the abortive scheme of the “Liberal,” which he contributed for a while to support, it would appear that he had serious thoughts of coming to England, and of establishing, in partnership with Mr. Moore, a weekly newspaper. A portion of his letter on this subject is worth extracting.

‘“The project, then, is for you and me to set up jointly a newspaper—nothing more nor less—weekly, or so, with some improvement or modifications upon the plan of the present scoundrels, who degrade that department,—but a newspaper, which we will edite in due form, and, nevertheless, with attention.

‘“There must always be in it a piece of poesy from one or other of us two, leaving room, however, for such dilettanti rhymers as may be deemed worthy of appearing in the same column; but this must be a sine quá non; and also as much prose as we can compass. We will take an office—our names not announced, but suspected—and, by the blessings of Providence, give the age some new lights upon policy, poesy, biography, criticism, morality, theology, and all other ism, ality, and ology whatsoever.”’—vol. ii. p. 386.

We venture to say, that if the project had been put into execu-
Lord Byron.233
tion, it would have decidedly failed. It would have been a great deal too good a publication, for the general mass of readers of weekly periodicals. Nothing but trash and slander can succeed in that way; of the former
Moore could not have been guilty, and to the latter he would never have descended.

During Lord Byron’s residence at Ravenna, he occupied some of his leisure hours in writing a memoir of himself, which he transmitted to Mr. Moore, and which is inserted in this volume. It commences with the 4th of January, 1821, and reflects strongly the political agitation which then prevailed in that part of Italy, as well as his own desire for a universal republic. To this he thought the world was fast wending,—and “so it ought,” he emphatically adds. We shall give one or two extracts from this memoir, in order to let the reader see of what sort of materials it is composed.

‘“Weather fine. Received visit. Rode out into the forest—fired pistols. Returned home—dined—dipped into a volume of Mitford’s Greece—wrote part of a scene of ‘Sardanapalus.’ Went out—heard some music—heard some politics. More ministers from the other Italian powers gone to Congress. War seems certain—in that case, it will be a savage one. Talked over various important matters with one of the initiated. At ten and half returned home.

‘“I have just thought of something odd. In the year 1814, Moore (‘the poet,’ par excellence, and he deserves it) and I were going together, in the same carriage, to dine with Earl Grey, the Capo Politico of the remaining whigs. Murray, the magnificent, (the illustrious publisher of that name), had just sent me a Java gazette—I know not why, or wherefore. Pulling it out, by way of curiosity, we found it to contain a dispute (the said Java gazette) on Moore’s merits and mine. I think, if I had been there, that I could have saved them the trouble of disputing on the subject. But, there is fame for you at six and twenty! Alexander had conquered India at the same age; but I doubt if he was disputed about, or his conquests compared with those of Indian Bacchus, at Java.

‘“It was great fame to be named with Moore; greater to be compared with him; greatest—pleasure, at least—to be with him; and, surely, an odd coincidence, that we should be dining together while they were quarrelling about us beyond the equinoctial line.

‘“Well, the same evening, I met Lawrence, the painter, and heard one of Lord Grey’s daughters (a fine, tall, spirit-looking girl, with much of the patrician, thorough-bred look of her father, which I dote upon) play on the harp, so modestly and ingenuously, that she looked music. Well, I would rather have had my talk with Lawrence (who talked delightfully) and heard the girl, than have had all the fame of Moore and me put together.

‘“The only pleasure of fame is, that it paves the way to pleasure; and the more intellectual our pleasure, the better for the pleasure and for us too. It was, however, agreeable to have heard our fame before dinner, and a girl’s harp after.’”—vol. ii. pp. 409, 410.

The next extract shall be a political one.

234 Lord Byron.

‘“To-day (Feb. 18.) I have had no communication with my Carbonari cronies: but, in the mean time, my lower apartments are full of their bayonets, fusils, cartridges, and what not. I suppose that they consider me as a depôt, to be sacrificed, in case of accidents. It is no great matter, supposing that Italy could be liberated, who or what is sacrificed, it is a grand object—the very poetry of politics. Only think—a free Italy!!! Why, there has been nothing like it since the days of Augustus. I reckon the times of Cæsar (Julius) free; because the commotions left every body a side to take, and the parties were pretty equal at the set out. But, afterwards, it was all prætorian and legionary business—and since!—we shall see, or, at least, some will see, what card will turn up. It is best to hope, even of the hopeless. The Dutch did more than these fellows have to do, in the Seventy Years’ War.

‘“February 19th, 1821.

‘“Came home solus—very high wind—lightning—moonshine—solitary stragglers muffled in cloaks—women in masks—white houses—clouds hurrying over the sky, like spilt milk blown out of the pail—altogether very poetical. It is still blowing hard—the tiles flying, and the house rocking—rain splashing—lightning flashing—quite a fine Swiss Alpine evening, and the sea roaring in the distance.

‘“Visited—conversazione. All the women frightened by the squall: they won’t go to the masquerade, because it lightens—the pious reason!

‘“Still blowing away. A. has sent me some news to-day. The war approaches nearer and nearer. Oh, those scoundrel sovereigns! Let us but see them beaten—let the Neapolitans but have the pluck of the Dutch of old, or the Spaniards of now, or of the German protestants, the Scotch presbyterians, the Swiss under Tell, or the Greeks under Themistocles—all small and solitary nations(except the Spaniards and German Lutherans), and there is yet a resurrection for Italy, and a hope for the world.”’—vol. ii. pp. 429, 430.

It would appear from this journal, which, in truth, is a strange compound, that Lord Byron had latterly indulged in drinking ardent liquors occasionally, and that his poetical faculties were becoming low and tame, in comparison with what they had been. His spirits were generally bad, and the life he led seems to have been indeed miserable. The following picture of himself is distressing.

‘“February 2d, 1821.

‘“I have been considering what can be the reason why I always wake at a certain hour in the morning, and always in very bad spirits—I may say, in actual despair and despondency, in all respects, even of that which pleased me over night. In about an hour or two, this goes off, and I compose either to sleep again, or, at least, to quiet. In England, five years ago, I had the same kind of hypochondria, but accompanied with so violent a thirst, that I have drank as many as fifteen bottles of soda-water in one night, after going to bed, and been still thirsty; calculating, however, some lost from the bursting out and effervescence and overflowing of the soda-water, in drawing the corks, or striking off the necks of the bottles, from mere thirsty impatience. At present I have not the thirst, but the depression of spirits is no less violent.

Lord Byron. 235

‘“I read in Edgeworth’s Memoirs of something similar (except that his thirst expended itself on small beer) in the case of Sir F. B. Delaval;—but then he was, at least, twenty years older. What is it?—liver? In England, Le Man (the apothecary) cured me of the thirst in three days, and it had lasted as many years. I suppose that it is all hypochondria.

‘“What I feel most growing upon me are laziness, and a disrelish more powerful than indifference. If I rouse, it is into fury. I presume that I shall end (if not earlier by accident, or some such termination) like Swift—‘dying at top.’ I confess I do not contemplate this with so much horror as he apparently did for some years before it happened. But Swift had hardly begun life at the very period (thirty-three) when I feel quite an old sort of feel.

‘“Oh! there is an organ playing in the street—a waltz, too! I must leave off to listen. They are playing a waltz, which I have heard ten thousand times at the balls in London, between 1812 and 1815. Music is a strange thing.”’—vol. ii. pp. 424, 425.

We agree with Mr. Moore, in feeling that there is something peculiarly affecting ‘in this little incident of the music in the street, thus touching so suddenly upon the nerve of memory, and calling away his mind from its dark bodings, to a recollection of years and scenes the happiest, perhaps, of his whole life.’

The failure of the Carbonari, and the banishment of the Guiccioli family to Pisa, obliged the Countess to repair thither, as by the Papal decree of divorce, she was to reside either in her father’s house or a convent. Lord Byron, of course, followed, though he had already fixed his mind, as the game of liberty was up in Italy, to see what he could do for it in Greece. Sardanapalus and Cain were, in the mean time, written and published, with what slender success we need not state. Before leaving Ravenna for Pisa, he entertained a strong presentiment, that “the principle of life in him, did not tend to longevity,” and that although Moore was eight years older, he would nevertheless survive him. He moreover predicted, that his removal to Pisa, would be “the forerunner of a thousand evils.” In fact, he had not resided long there, when his unlucky quarrel with the Serjeant Major, and its consequences, rendered his sojourn in that city any thing but comfortable. This, followed up by his servant’s attempt upon the life of the young Count Gamba, brought the whole party under the immediate notice of the government, which ordered both the father and son to quit Tuscany. As the Countess was under the necessity of remaining under her father’s protection, Lord Byron now removed to Genoa, whither he was accompanied by the whole family.

Having already, on more than one occasion, noticed the connexion of Lord Byron with the “Liberal,” and the Hunts, as well as his voyage to Greece, and the premature termination, in that region, of his strange and passionate life, we shall only here attend to one or two curious particulars, connected with the latter part of his
236Lord Byron.
career, which
Mr. Moore’s resources have enabled him to add to the accounts already published.

‘For an insight into the true state of his mind at this crisis, the following observations of one, who watched him with eyes quickened by anxiety, will be found, perhaps, to afford the clearest and most certain clue. “At this time,” says the Contessa Guiccioli, “Lord Byron again turned his thoughts to Greece; and, excited on every side by a thousand combining circumstances, found himself, almost before he had time to form a decision, or well knew what he was doing, obliged to set out for that country. But, notwithstanding his affection for those regions—notwithstanding the consciousness of his own moral energies, which made him say always that ‘a man ought to do something more for society than write verses,’—notwithstanding the attraction which the object of this voyage must necessarily have for his noble mind, and that, moreover, he was resolved to return to Italy within a few months,—notwithstanding all this, every person who was near him at the time, can bear witness to the struggle which his mind underwent (however much he endeavoured to hide it), as the period fixed for his departure approached.”

‘In addition to the vagueness which this want of any defined object so unsatisfactorily threw round the enterprise before him, he had also a sort of ominous presentiment—natural, perhaps, to one of his temperament under such circumstances—that he was but fulfilling his own doom in this expedition, and should die in Greece. On the evening before the departure of his friends, Lord and Lady B**, from Genoa, he called upon them for the purpose of taking leave, and sate conversing for some time. He was evidently in low spirits, and, after expressing his regret that they should leave Genoa before his own time of sailing, proceeded to speak of his intended voyage in a tone full of despondence. “Here,” said he, “we are all now together—but when, and where, shall we meet again? I have a sort of boding that we see each other for the last time; as something tells me I shall never again return from Greece.” Having continued a little longer in this melancholy strain, he leaned his head upon the arm of the sofa on which they were seated, and, bursting into tears, wept for some minutes with uncontrollable feeling. Though he had been talking only with Lady B**, all who were present in the room observed, and were affected by his emotion, while he himself, apparently ashamed of his weakness, endeavoured to turn off attention from it by some ironical remark, spoken with a sort of hysterical laugh, upon the effects of “nervousness.”’—vol. ii. pp. 663—665.

It was the wish of Madame Guiccioli to attend Lord Byron to Greece, but that, of course, he could not think of permitting. Mr. Moore has been able to add very little to the details of Lord Byron’s death, which have been given by Count Gamba, Fletcher, Millingen, and others. With respect to the Memoranda, which Mr. Moore placed at the disposal of Lord Byron’s sister and executor, for the suppression of which he has been by some of our contemporaries much, and most unjustly censured, we perceive, what, indeed, we had already suspected and stated, that there was nothing in those papers worthy of being published, which has not
Lord Byron.237
been found in other journals, or in letters over which Mr. Moore has exercised his own discretion. Whether that discretion has been properly used, in all cases, the public will decide. We complain, that it has given more of the immoral features of Lord Byron’s character to the world, than there was any sort of necessity for. At the same time, we must do Mr. Moore the justice to say, that, in all other respects, he has acquitted himself of the task which his noble friend had, in some measure, imposed upon him, in a manner as creditable to his personal independence, as it is to his literary reputation.