LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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[James Grahame]
Two more Letters: being the fourth and last.
 (Edinburgh:  John Fairbairn,  1817)
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In preparation, A Short Postscript to the Letters of Calvinus, which either will be subscribed by the Author’s name, or will otherwise announce it.



“Now we command you, brethren, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly;”—“for yourselves know how you ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly.” II. Thessal. iii. 7.



You may perhaps have heard of a French author who published a tract entitled “Reponse au Silence de M. La Motte.” I laugh at the title he chose; but I am going to follow his example: and in answer to your silence on this occasion, I beg leave to tell you that you ought to “speak because you believe.” I do not venture, you see, to set my opinion in opposition to yours, till I have given it a strength not its own, and clad it in armour borrowed from the Scripture. Thus armed I presume to say that you should before now, in the way of reproof or disclamation, have con-
veyed some explanation to the public respecting that gross scandal committed by a man who calls himself your literary partner and brother, and whose slander and blasphemy your name has contributed to spread. Some explanation has been expected from you, and the expectation is not unreasonable. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is not a rejoinder that will satisfactorily account for your silence. You are his keeper; and you must “in any wise rebuke thy brother, and not suffer sin upon him.”

You belong to and adorn a function of which the members are emphatically declared to be “the salt of the earth;”—an emblem than which none could express more strongly the exalted purity of ministerial character, and the tendency of such character to communicate its excellence, and keep others from corruption. Nobody, I am sure, knows better than you do, that the success of all those moral teachers, whether ministers or philosophers, who have laboured to improve the character and raise the value of mankind, has always depended much more on their conduct than their discourses, their example
than their precepts. The Romans were little purer for the voluptuous
Seneca’s sublime panegyrics on virtue—little more upright for the profligate venal Sallust’s stern denunciation of dishonesty—little braver for the runaway Horace’s lofty strains on the “dulce et decorum” of courage. If Socrates was a successful moralist, it was less because he was an able teacher, than because he was a wise and good man. Having mentioned him at present, I shall just break the thread of these reflections to remind you of the ruin that accompanied a blemish in the purity of his example. Following a multitude to do evil, he patronized by his presence the infamous ribaldry of the Athenian drama, and died by an attack on his character, that first emanated from the stage.

All the preaching in the world will be utterly unprofitable, unless the living clerical salt itself retain the savour which it endeavours to impart to discourse. If preaching without example could have done, the Pharisees, with their long prayers and broad phylacteries, might have reclaimed mankind; for the disciples were commanded by their
Master to respect the good precepts propounded by the Pharisees, “but not to do after their works, for they say and do not.” Precept that far outstrips the moral pace of mankind, when not confirmed by the living example of its authors, proves nothing so clearly as that distinction between precept and example, which all men make the excuse of wilful transgression.
St Paul disclaims the excellence of speech and the efficacy of human learning:—it is his sufferings, not his sermons, he appeals to. It is by the “light” of your “good deeds,” that men are to be induced to glorify your religion and its author. It is the duty of your order to exhort men to piety and virtue; but your higher duty to shew them what piety and virtue are,—how clearly and brightly you can reflect in your own persons the glorious image stamped in man at his creation, and how well you can cleanse it from the impurities of mortal life. In the paraphrase which Dryden has left us of Chaucer’s “Character of a good Parson,” the Priest is finely described as softening the harshness of precept by the sim-
plicity of his own example in which he shewed it embodied.

His preaching much, but more his practice wrought
(A living sermon of the truths he taught).
With eloquence innate his tongue was armed,
Though harsh the precept, yet the preacher charmed:
For, letting down the golden chain from high,
He drew his audience upward to the sky.”

Goldsmith describes the clergyman who was so justly “to all the country dear,” as a man that marched in front of his doctrine,—alluring to heaven, and leading the way,—consoling the maimed, and not abetting those who insulted them,—converting the scoffer in public, but not privately associated with him.

Neither the law of your example nor the law of your precept should be depressed to the level of common imperfection. In neither case can you be wiser than the authority which commands you, “Be ye therefore perfect,” &c. The laity will not in general reach your standard; but the higher it is placed, the higher will the zealous rise in aiming to reach it, and the more will all be salutarily humbled by a sense of imperfection and the disproportion between their duty and their deeds. Advance piety not only by your
practice, but by giving to your practice that consistency unbroken by a “shadow of turning,” which always commands the respect and imitation of mankind. “Watching for souls as they that must give account,” shew that your own soul is watched with superior vigilance, and your character winnowed with so rough a wind that not a grain of chaff can lurk unreproved to form a “mote in your eye.” If laxity and degeneracy spread abroad, and the breach in piety be wide, enlarge your virtue to fill it up,—“make up the hedge and stand in the gap, that indignation be not poured on the land.”

A clergyman is not more exempt than other men from self-deceit; and, in some respects, he is peculiarly exposed to it. He is apt, too easily, to think his own safety attained by that outward formal regularity annexed to his office, and which even secular motives compel him to observe; and to mistake his professional consideration of religion, and frequent reference to it in his vocation, for the fruit of true piety in himself. To what else can we ascribe the incautious strain in which that great and amiable man, Robert-
son, permitted himself to address
Gibbon, and to treat this writer’s assault on religion? Hayley, a layman and poet, reprobated the indecency and infidelity of Gibbon’s pen; while Robertson, a priest and historian, refused not to applaud and encourage Gibbon, and sneered at Hayley as “outrageously Christian.” St Paul himself lived in fear of a lapse from holiness and safety: he remembered the denunciation of the prophet against that priest who did not “speak to warn the wicked from his way to save his life,” that his blood would be required at the priest’s hands; he laboured to “persuade men,” he says, because he “knew the terror of the Lord;” and be professed himself pure from the blood of all men,” only in so far as he had” not scrupled to make known “unto you, all the counsel of God.”

It has been clearly propounded by the founders of your order, that a real disciple will always be animated by a spirit widely different from that which generally prevails in the world; that his exertions will be resisted not only by the enmity of the profligate, but by “vain deceit and oppositions of science false-
ly so called.” Choose then between the embraces of the worldly, and the favour of him whom the worldly rejected before you because he “testified that their works were evil.” You cannot serve both these masters: all the bread you have to distribute will be barely enough to feed the children to whom it properly belongs: if you throw a part of it to the dogs, you starve the one, and, without satisfying the others, only give them strength to devour you. “Give to the godly man, and help not a sinner: hold back thy bread and give it not unto him, lest he overmaster thee thereby.”

We all have heard and read, that “wrath is revealed, from heaven upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men that hold the truth in unrighteousness;” and it would be well for us all, that we considered the denunciation more frequently. It is the duty of your function never to lose sight of it for a moment, to grapple it to your souls with hooks of steel, and, as far as you can, to impress it indelibly on the minds of your fellow men. Abstracted as you are from the vulgar concerns of those who fret
and toil for ordinary subsistence; exempted from the coarse relationships of business, and the slavery of dependence, religious instruction is the main bond of intercourse between you and the rest of mankind. You are never obliged to see vice without reproving it; and if you ever so far consider your function a heavy yoke, as to cast off for a while its privilege of tuition and reproof, and venture to “stand in the way of sinners,” for any other purpose but that of admonishing them,—you defeat the efficacy of your own example and precept, and have reason to exclaim with one of the prophets, “Woe is me! for I am undone, because I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” I you suffer your light even to hover over a morass, you make it an ignis fatuus to delude the unwary, and you are liable for all that may be lost.
Bishop Burnet has recorded, that, in his conversations with Lord Rochester on his deathbed, the noble profligate “told me plainly, there was nothing that gave him and many others a more secret encouragement in their ill ways, than that those who pretended to believe, lived so that they could not be
thought to be in earnest when they said it; for he was sure that religion was either a mere contrivance, or the most important thing that could be, so that if he once believed, he would set himself in great earnest to live suitably to it.” After recounting some instances which his penitent adduced, of the apparent inconsistency between the lives and doctrines of the Clergy, the Bishop adds, “I publish this the more freely, to put all that pretend to religion, chiefly those that are dedicated to holy functions, in mind of the great obligation that lies on them to live suitably to their profession; since otherwise, a great deal of the irreligion and atheism that are among us, may too justly be charged on them.”

When thus “ye see your calling, brethren, and consider these things, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation,”—with what single-mindedness ought you to press on to your great object, turning neither to the right nor to the left from that strait and difficult path whence your highest vigilance will hardly keep your flock from straying? If you do not contribute to save your flock now, you must account for their loss, and either
testify against them, or have them testify against you hereafter. You are not made answerable for a loss which you cannot prevent, or for vagrancy which you cannot restrain. You are placed on an eminence, whence your censures, if in themselves they have any weight, will fall with a force that ensures their efficacy. Therefore see that you, “without partiality and without fear, rebuke them that sin, before all;” knowing that, “in doing this, thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee.”

Are you apprehensive of being considered harsh, severe, or obtrusively pious and puritanical on the present occasion, if you chastise the profanity to which I have so often called your attention? Remember that the only instance of severity exercised on earth by your Master, was inflicted on those who had profaned the temple, and prostituted things sacred to gross and vulgar uses. Surely you cannot think lightly of the guilt and danger of this profanity. In France, the destruction of religion began not with open argumentative attacks, but with satirical obscene tales and allegories like this performance. The
talent which it indicates is certainly of the very lowest order. Of wit, the author displays not a particle; the essence of his jest consisting in its being made at the expense of decency and morality. But even the most vulgar and contemptible power may, in its application, be productive of extensive and mischievous effects. A child with a farthing candle may blow up a magazine; a gnat may produce blindness by stinging in the eye; and the hand that cannot erect a hovel may demolish a temple.

Are you willing to throw even a corner of your mantle over the disgrace incurred by men whom you have unwittingly authorised to call you their associate? See that you defile not your mantle by the impurity you lend it to cloak. If you cover up, and do not openly cut off and cast from you the offending member, you may yourself be tainted with its offence. Remember St Paul, who “withstood to the face” even his friend and brother apostle when he conceived him wrong, and published his separation from him among all the brethren: And remember your own Reformed Church of Scotland, which so bold-
ly and honestly proclaimed and punished the scandal created by the incontinence of
Methven, one of its own earliest preachers and strongest pillars. You must surely be more anxious to have your hands really clean, than to have them supposed clean; and far above refusing to wash them, lest people might guess they had been accidentally dirty.

When I subscribe my name to this series of letters, you may perhaps (though I hope not) be surprised to find that you have been addressed by a man of whose highest regard and warmest esteem it is impossible you can entertain a doubt; and who must cease to think of human virtue as any thing much solider than a name, ere he can cease to respect and venerate you. If you suppose these letters the production of a man capable of entertaining a feeling of hostility towards you, you have not made the most remote approach to guessing who the author is. Whoever he is, he has preferred the risk of displeasing you by his undressed eager sincerity, to suppressing a spark of his honest, though perhaps over-vehement, zeal and concern for the efficacy of your virtues and the lustre of your reputa-
tion. Seeing, or supposing that I saw, a rare combination of piety and honour, entrusted by mistake to a rotten bark, and dreading that it may be immersed in impurity though but for a moment, shall I not put forth my hand to pluck it up even by the hair, though at the hazard of disordering a curl, or giving needless alarm? If in aught I have offended, bear with me in consideration of the honesty of my intention, and of the unfeigned regard and respect with which I am,


Your most obedient humble Servant,



“If they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out that they might be made manifest that they were not of us.” 1. Epist. John, ii. 19.


I shall take the liberty of reporting to you a piece of information that has just been very gravely conveyed to me by a certain credulous gentleman of my acquaintance—were it only that you may see what strange rumours your expressive silence hitherto has set afloat. He came open-mouthed to repeat, from what he conceived good authority, that Mr Thomson had determined to stand by the Magazine, to “pluck up its drowned honour by the locks,” and restore its detected base metal to currency, by stamping his own credit upon it. He added, what he seemed to
reckon a shrewd solution of the riddle, that he had no doubt the officious impertinence of
Calvinus had much weight in determining the conduct of Mr Thomson on this occasion; for that it was quite intolerable to so great a leader of others to be preached to himself, and to have his duty hammered into him by the unceremonious hands of Calvinus. At the hazard of disclosing my own relation to Calvinus, (but without much risk I think of discrediting my sagacity,) I ventured to express my utter disbelief of the text, and my unqualified contempt for the comment. “Can you really give a minute’s lodging in your head (said I) to a report charging this wise and good man with such perverseness, as to refuse to do his duty if even Satan bade him? Can you for a moment suspect him of desiring to monopolize expostulation, or of demurring to the application of texts of scripture as a plundering of his own armoury, and uncourteous conversion of his own cannon against himself?—like the priests in ancient story, who kept Diana’s dogs to try the continence of the laity, but at last (in consequence of
their having one night half worried one of the priests themselves) ordered them all to be hanged as having completely lost their original instinct.” I could scarcely get the honest gentleman for whose benefit this was meant, to listen to one half of it. He had, it seems, prophesied all along this effect of Calvinus’s Letters, contrasted with the civility of the
parodist; and, since the days of Jonah, no prophet can bear with patience the disappointment of his predictions. He went away fully convinced that you meant to grant absolution to the Magazine from its offences, and receive it into favour, without even stipulating for leave to re-baptize it, and give it a new name. All my arguments rebounded from him in my own face. When I contended that freedom of suggestion could not be offensive to you who had publicly suggested the radical defects (as you term them) of the Lord’s Prayer; he replied with great triumph, that the man who thought himself fit to school the author of that prayer, would never submit to be schooled by Calvinus. Now that he has left me, I shall add, for his edification, that he seems to me to have
judged his wiser neighbour by himself,—for he is richly gifted with that common but miserable magnanimity of a dunce, that makes him, on every occasion, persist in a mistake because it is his own, and erect his bristles against advisers, to shew that he is not a man to be led, and that they who attempt to put a ring through his nostrils mayhap have got the wrong sow by the ear.

This honest man certainly respects you, for he thinks you as wise as himself. And yet what is it that he expects to see you do? He expects to see you forsake your present elevation of sure and upright walking, and lend away so much of your force to a treacherous ally, who will never restore it, that you must be smitten hip and thigh in your very first battle with the British Critic or the Scotch Episcopalians. He expects to see you shave away your locks of strength, and for the sake of being hailed a Goliah among stunted pedants and broken-winded maudlin poets, give up the lofty cause and self-approving confidence that made David’s arm strong. He supposes you to feel complacency for the parodist because he has not lampooned you, but
rather acted towards you like “the enemy who speaketh sweetly with his lips.” I think so differently of you, that I believe you would far rather choose to dignified, like the good thief, by sharing the stroke aimed at the source of your glory, than to live unmolested without punishing and reproving the perpetrators of the blow, and those who wag their heads at the principal object of it.

There is no more distinction between continuing to write for the Magazine, and approving its actual and possible blasphemy, than there is between the man who would make the distinction and a Jesuit. I should hardly think that even the Editor could hope to prevail with you to go on from month to month, believing his protestations that this is the last time, and then, positively the last time, of blaspheming. The scorners have once deposited their spawn in these shallow waters; and though they may lie by for a time, they will find their way back when their season returns. Beware of their leaven, and let not yours be mixed with it. You cannot expect that they would ever permit you to make this a religious magazine. You might as well
attempt to wash the spots out of a leopard, or to perfume and powder a sow. Like the fox to the badger, they would let you dig a burrow with your literary talons, and then smoke you out of it with profanity. And when you, perceiving that you had “strengthened the hands of the wicked, that they should not depart from their way,” should fly from them at last, and cast back their pieces of silver at them, they would console your fruitless regret with “What is that to us? See thou to that.”

But excuse me for putting such a case. I need not ask your excuse for stating it half ludicrously; for I should be ashamed to argue gravely on a supposition so absurd. Credat Judaeus, that you will ever contract to bake the halfpenny worth of bread that is to he eaten with all the hogsheads of sour sack brewed for this Magazine,—that you will ever consent, like Smollet’s publishing minister, the Reverend Mr Jonathan Dustwich, to, write articles that are to be revised by a man prosecuted for impious slander, and to be called on at times to write the harder, because your fellow-labourer Ben Bullock has run off
to avoid a prosecution for blasphemy, or Dick Distich, another messmate, has been committed by his enemies to bedlam. Your publisher probably consoles himself in his present legal distress, with the hope of mitigating the only infliction he cares for, by the assistance of those whose trade it is to “justify the wicked for reward.” To many people, an Old Bailey acquittal is a towel that will wipe them as clean as they care to be. But you are incapable of enlisting yourself the drudge of a man whose highest honour it would be to receive the law of his conduct from your lips. You will not suffer him to continue fishing for readers by baiting the blasphemer’s hook with your name. You will “withdraw yourself, “ as you are commanded, from him that “supposes that gain is godliness;” and, whatever others may do, you will remember the precept so particularly addressed to yourself, “But thou, O man of God, flee those things.”

Leave him to his second-hand scribblers, and those tuneful dunces, his permanent poets. What a goodly company! Full of themselves, from having little else in them,
they practise a most amorous interchange of civilities from the opposite sides of their publisher’s counter. “Quote me and I’ll quote you,” seems to be the knot that ties one bunch of them together. Their mutual caresses put one in mind of Ben Bullock’s ode to Dick Distich, commemorated by
Smollet, and beginning with the words “Fair blooming youth!” &c. See how they press each other’s names into a service they have plainly so little to do with, that not a court in Christendom would refuse a habeas corpus to set them free, if applied for. Then see what plagiarism is theirs! It is like the compound crime of cow-stealing and cow-maiming. True genius, like the hand of Midas, gives a new character and a higher value to whatever it touches: but these literary gypsies make the children they steal as ill-favoured as themselves. They profess oddness, without originality, and attempt ridicule, without either pungency of sarcasm or “mellowness of sneer.” Let us leave them to prate about gentility, with no other claim to it than their coats; and to chatter about wit, with no other pretensions to it than their wishes. These are not the
men whom you will greet and hail with “Ye are my brethren.”

I have not spoken of them a whit more harshly than they merit. “’Tis certain,” said Sheridan, whose pure self-kindled wit scorned to borrow a spark from the collision of personal attack, “that unnecessarily to mortify the vanity of any writer, is a cruelty which mere dulness never can deserve; but where a base and personal malignity usurps the place of literary emulation, the agressor deserves neither quarter nor pity.” Seeing these creatures attempt to scratch as well as to caterwawl, I have dashed a bucket of water among them. Seeing one of my brethren suffer wrong at their hands, I have endeavoured to “avenge him that was struck, and smitten the Egyptian.”

Let any sober respectable man who is solicited to associate himself with this levy of gabblers, and lend them his cloak for a banner, consider for a moment the nature of the service, and the consolation of those who may get the whiskers of their reputation singed by engaging in it. Among such, awkward recruits, trying their “chapping sticks” like
young fencers, both on friend and foe, he runs a fair chance of getting an eye put out, by a weapon so frivolous, that it could never have reached or hurt him, if he had not wilfully stood near it. If he voluntarily put his ointment into the same box with a dead fly, it will infallibly be tainted even by this insignificant nuisance. Even “a little folly dishonoureth him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.” If he hold himself out to the public as Tilburina’s confidant, he will share, if not the real, at least the reputed fate of her intellects. When the principal goes mad in white sattin, the confidant will be supposed to be delirious in white linen. Finally, let such sober deliberator just interrogate his own conscience, if, in lending his shoulder to hinder public execration and contempt from crushing this Magazine, he is pursuing “any thing honest, any thing pure, any thing of good report.” Does he not apprehend that if a profligate writer “turn the grace of God to lasciviousness,” he who helps to cover his offence or propagate his blasphemy, will be held to bid him God speed; and that
he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”

To you, Sir, the suggestion of these considerations is unnecessary. I have chosen, however, through the respectable medium of an address to you, to convey them to others. You who preach so well, that “evil communications corrupt good manners,” and who charge others to “avoid, turn from, and not even pass by the way of evil men,” will never preserve amicable literary sodality with fools and scorners. You do not belong to that class of prophets to whom it was reproached, that when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again.”

That you may long continue, both by example and by precept, to animate the virtue of the good, to confirm the wavering, instruct the simple, and reclaim or at least abash the profligate, is the sincere wish of,


Your obedient humble Servant,