LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism
[Leigh Hunt]
Lord Byron—Mr. Moore—and Mr. Leigh Hunt.
The Tatler  Vol. 2  No. 111  (11 January 1831)  441-43.
GO TO PART:  1   2   3   4   5 
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH

No. 111 Price





Letters and Journals of Lord Byron: with Notices of his Life, by
Thomas Moore
. Two vols. 4to. Murray.


We do not pretend to give a notice of this book after the usual fashion. We shall comment on it, as it may happen; but our great object is to shew that the author is an insincere man of the world, and that neither he nor his hero have a right to scatter charges of vulgarity and unworthiness. Had Mr Moore’s second volume contained no more offence than the first, we should have passed it over, content to let him enjoy the airs he gives himself, and his harmless Irish metaphor of “venom on a grave.” Nor do we now pay attention to the work, out of any regard for his opinion, as far as he is concerned; but we have resolved, for certain weighty reasons, self-love apart, never to let another attack on us pass without notice. It is a plan we determined, on pursuing when we set up The Tatler and we have already found the benefit of it. Our wish, as we said before, is to attack nobody in person, but to lead quiet tattling lives, if we are allowed to do so; but if not, we shall do our best, and for more sakes than our own, to make the blow recoil on the assailant. We have suffered enough upon all points; we have conceded enough in the case of Lord Byron. We shall concede no more. Our business will now be to give specimens of the blows we have withheld. As to Mr Moore’s opinion of us or our writings the reader will see why we have long ceased to cure for it; and we will here briefly tell him the reason, before we give him the proofs. We shall not deny him justice; but justice will be amply sufficient for our purpose.

Mr Moore is a songster and a man of wit. He is nothing more, nor ever will be, should he try for it till he burst. To be a man of wit; however, and a genuine one, as we allow him to be, is much; and to be a wit and a genuine songster too, has contented the ambition of the French patriot, Beranger, who has got fame by it, and admiration, and love. But then Beranger has been prepared to suffer, and to go to prison nay, he has been even content (when time was) to wear a poor coat (mention it not in the Squares!); and he has laughed at intimacies with the great, and shown that he laughed sincerely. In one word, he has had faith in disinterestedness, and practised it. Now Mr Moore has no faith except in a joke, and a lord, and a good dinner; and yet he must needs try to win a serious reputation. For this purpose he has written volumes of bad prose, full of insincerity, and poems which are “three-piled hyperboles,” of sugar-plums. He is one of those who must
paint the lily
And throw a perfume on the violet.
He paints and plasters, because he has no faith in his materials. He cannot give us the soul of what he describes; he despairs of being able to make us love it in its simplicity; so he brings a heap of gaudy colours and gilding to stick upon it, that we may partake of the benefits of his obtuseness. Even in his songs, he can rarely get beyond a stanza with any real gravity. His table-songs are inimitable: his lampoons have been the just dread of dowagers and Whig-rats, But with the exception of it few lyrics upon recollections connected with Ireland, and probably with the best part of his childhood, which are affecting and beautiful, he cannot get a good serious thought in the first verse of song, but he must spoil it in the next with some conceit or pedantry. He set about spoiling his prose, in the same manner, with classical names lugged in to bear company with modern, like a schoolboy’s theme, with degrading prettinesses, and remote, half-witted metaphors; such as when he talks of
Burkeperching himself on the remotest branch from popular contact;” as if Burke, and the thick of politics, had anything to do with a linnet in a bush. The ridicule of the critics made him doubt this style; so in his new work he has done his best to alter it, though it was evidently a hard task; and not knowing how to be in earnest, he has taken to as ludicrous a formality; talks of “the poet Dryden” and “the poet Ariosto,” as if there were Drydens and Ariostos who were potters; and puts on so many strange, bridling, cosy, motherly, moral airs, betwixt love for his naughty young master, and zeal for the chaplain, that we almost fancy him with a mob-cap on, and a cup of “the creature” by his side. In short, Mr. Moore is no real biographer, no prose-writer, no thinker; there is not one original reflection in all his remarks, nor one that has not been made in a better manner before him by writers of his own time; and his poetry is just as good as wit and festivity can make it, and nothing else. His world is the little world of fashion; his notions of liberty those of a Whig-Aristocrat, without the excuse; and the whole secret of his deification of Lord Byron is, that their intercourse was one of flattery and convenience, and that in trumpeting his great craft down the stream, he hopes his “little sail”
Will join the triumph and partake the gale.

He is mistaken. His huge book will go down to posterity like many others, for anybody to dig out of the book-shelves who chooses; but it will assuredly be left there, with a great deal even of what Lord Byron has supplied, like the letters of Rochester and others, which nobody now cares about. Extracts will do very well for the collections of those days, but none of Mr Moore’s heavy common-places will accompany them; nor will Lord Byron, though a far greater genius than he, be regarded with anything like his biographer’s wholesale astonishment. Does he think that the mighty mind of posterity will busy itself with his bustling details, unless it be as we do with Mr Pepys; or look upon a lord with his little eyes? Even now, Lord Byron is not regarded by thousands, in any point of view, as he supposes, or would have us think he supposes. The bad opinion of the Noble Lard that was entertained years ago by multitudes, even among the aristocracy, is changed—for the worse. The grounds of this deterioration remain undisproved. The very lapse of a few short months has made a difference as to the impression which Mr Moore might have expected from his book; and to us, the difference has been an enormous one. The second French Revolution has drawn its golden line between the past and the future. Humanity and its rights have emerged into the sunshine: we have beheld the marvellous spectacle (Mr. Moore called the impulse that produced it an “awful” one, and doubtless must have felt it so) of unworldly power taking its seat on the throne of worldly: and everything in future is not to be construed in favour of the great, and disfavour of those they differ with upon the strength of the old slavish misbelief.

Observe. Two years ago, if you had been a suffering Reformer, if you had persevered in one long work or endeavour for human good, or what you believed to be such, and in the belief that a time would come after you were dead and gone, when the dream should be realized,—if you had sacrificed “health, fame, and fortune” in the endeavour; if you had encountered every species of opposition and calumny; if your cheeks had sunk; if your heart had been torn to pieces for your children; and if with a weakened frame, and no resources but of your tired thoughts, not even with a sixpence in the world before you, you had been compelled to begin life again, at an age when others begin to look forward to some repose; and if during this time, you had been deceived by false patrons, and forsaken by false friends, and at the close of it had been worked up by a combination of circumstances and of pangs infinite, to utter a syllable of complaint which might have been less excusable in happier hours, and which you yourself should regret,—that one offence would be turned against you as if you had committed a thousand crimes, all that you had ever said, done, or endured in behalf of generous sentiments would be forgotten; and nobody be so loud in your condemnation, as the men whose desertion had helped to sting you into the impulse.

Now mark on the other hand. If, instead of the enduring Reformer, thus beset with misfortunes, you had been a Lord,—rich, noted, and
spoiled,—with every humour upon earth to indulge, and with the power to indulge it; if you had had no object in life, even when you seemed to have a better one, but to make a show and be talked of;—and if this Lord, so spoiled and perverted, partly by the flatteries of the very men who forsake the unfortunate, had been thought to commit almost every crime under the sun; was known to have been guilty of a thousand painful ebullitions of will and selfishness; to have disgusted the class that would have been proud of him, and the reformers with whom he pretended to sympathize; to have calumniated his friends; betrayed his guests to derision; hastened the ruin of the fortunes he pretended to raise, by giving them up to their enemies; and spared neither age nor sex in his resentment;—yet being a Lord, and having a table, and possessing other worldly advantages as well as genius enough to make his opinions and his favour of consequence; what excuse should not be found for him? How would not the doctrines of charity, which the other man had preached till he was hoarse, be brought up, solely in his favour? How would not some of his offences be denied with indignation, others contrasted with his good qualities, others secreted, others philosophized upon and excused, and all recommended to the consideration of our modesty, as the errors of a man of genius, without which, perhaps, he would not have been so great as he was? How many generous sentiments would not be expressed in pity to the men of excessive sensibility, who wounded everybody’s feelings? How would not fond servility have trembled at his displeasure, and been glad to take his blows? How would not all his claims, however ostentatious, have been admitted? How his satires and private libels have been treasured up? How his friends resolved not to forsake him, in spite of the insults he dealt to them all round? Nay, how would not his very confessions of offence have been received with fond deprecating smiles as whims of his Lordship’s not to be thought of,—mystifications of dull rogues, merely at the expence of a few women,—singular, jocose humours, in which it pleased his Lordship to be tragic,—and generous instances of that desire to be thought ill of, which marked his hatred of hypocrisy, and the extreme simplicity and goodness of heart, which was so natural to him.

Times are changed. They are changed, not because the case itself is altered, but because the assumptions of privileges and worldliness have received a blow such as was thought impossible, and men’s hearts have expanded before their new hopes, and will not suffer those who believed in truth and public virtue, to be any longer at the mercy of their calumniators.

Mr Moore, in his second volume, has ventured to speak of the “unworthy alliance” which Lord Byron made, with Mr Leigh Hunt when he set up The Liberal, of the “dross” of which that work was compounded, and of the “taint” with which his Lordship’s purities were to be infected by being mixed up in the same “pot-au-feu.” These images of the pot and sauce-pan are natural to Mr Moore, though in his show-shops he takes care to put his fillagree in the window. It is furthermore to be gathered from Lord Byron’s correspondence, that Mr Moore represented the faculties of Mr Leigh Hunt for periodical writing as “dead weight;” and wherever the name of that person is mentioned, Mr Moore does it with infinite airs and assumptions. We have observed, that we do not care for Mr Moore’s opinion with regard to our writings. We should value it if we thought it sincere, upon a song or a squib. But whatever it may be in our power to do in other matters, we have a poor opinion of his knowledge of what ought to be done. We shall bring additional reasons for it before we have finished these notices. Our immediate object is to show the inconsistency between the opinion which Mr Moore gave of Mr Leigh Hunt to Lord Byron after his former friend had fallen into adversity, and lost his public influence, and the one which he expressed to Mr Leigh Hunt himself when lords came to visit him, and when Mr Moore thought his good word of consequence. We again request the reader to keep in mind what we have stated respecting the object of these articles. We do not wish to “Sir,” or to bandy charges of this and that with Mr Moore, as the ladies “Madam” each other in the Beggar’s Opera, when Macheath is found our between them. We concede with hearty good-will his hero to Mr Moore, and the honours of what we suppose we are to call a “worthy” alliance. But we do not choose to risk any detriment possible to this new “dead-weight” of ours, The Tatler,—a germ, however poor, of precious promise of shelter to many heads; and in order to take away the last remaining chance of an ill-effect of Mr Moore’s opinions upon those of the public, we shall shew how little they are to be depended upon. His first volume may be forgotten by this time, and even in that volume, though there is the wish to think ill and to ridicule, Mr Moore has been compelled to be inconsistent by certain politic retrospections. He knew what his own conduct had argued in the first instance: he was aware that Lord Byron possessed letters; though, perhaps, he had forgotten those in the possession of Mr Leigh Hunt; at all events he has hampered his reputation for sincerity beyond retrieval. The reader will see, by the letters we are about to lay before him, that he who talked to Lord Byron about “dross,” and “taint,” and “dead-weight,” must, either to his Lordship or Mr Leigh Hunt, have been grossly insincere. Yet even this light is nothing to what he must appear in, when the reader sees his expressions of gratitude contrasted with the warnings he afterwards gave the noble lord against a connection with his former friend, on account of his being at a disadvantage with the world.

The letters commence in the year 1810, when Mr Leigh Hunt was Editor of The Examiner, and wrote the dramatic criticisms in that paper. The signature of the first was cut out to give away.

On receiving a letter and some books.

On Mr Moore’s Opera of M. P., or Blue Stocking—Mr Leigh Hunt’s Feast of the Poets. &c.
[Post-mark, 1811.]

My Dear Sir,—It was my intention upon receiving the last letter with which you favoured me, to answer it by a visit, and that immediately; but I was hurried off to the country by the sickness of a friend; and since my return, I have been occupied in a way that makes me very unfit, society for you—namely, so writing bad jokes for the galleries of the Lyceum. To make the galleries laugh, is in itself sufficiently degrading but to try to make them laugh and fail (which I fear will be my destiny) is deplorable indeed. The secret of it however is, that, upon my last return from Ireland, in one of those moments of weakness to which poets and their purses are too liable, I agreed to give Arnold a piece for the summer, and you may perceive by the lateness of my appearance, with what reluctance I have performed my engagement.

It will no doubt occur to you, upon reading the first page of this note, that the whole purport of it is to ask for mercy; but the kind terms in which you have spoken of some things I have written, make me too much interested in your sincerity to ask for, or wish, the slightest breach of it. I have no doubt that, in this instance you will, treat me with severity, and I am just as sure that, if you do, I shall have deserved it. Only say that you expected something better from me, and I shall he satisfied.

I must (though late) thank you for your last Reflector—the poem to which you were good enough to direct my attentions, interested me extremely; there is nothing so delightful as those alternate sinkings and risings, both of feeling and style, which you have exhibited in those verses, and you cannot think how gracefully it becomes the high philosophy of your mind to saunter now and then among the flowers of poetry. Do indulge her with a few more walks, I beseech you.

I am afraid you look upon me as a bad politician, or you would likewise have bid me read the fine article, entitled (if I recollect right) “A Retrospect of Public Affairs.”—It is most ably done—but you write too well for a politician—and it is really a pity to go to the expence of fulminating gold, when common gunpowder serves the purpose just as well.

I shall not call upon you now till I have passed the ordeal—but till then, and ever, believe me, my Dear Sir,

Your’s with much esteem,
Thomas Moore.
Bury Street, Saturday.

The fragment which Carpenter told you I had for the Reflector was wickedly political—Some of the allusions have now lost their hold, but you shall see it, and perhaps something may, with your assistance, be yet made of it.

On M. P. or the Blue Stocking.

My Dear Sir,—I have not the least fear that you will make any ungenerous use of the anxiety which I express with respect to your good opinion of me. I dare say you have read in the Times of yesterday the very well-written, and (I confess), but too just account which they give of the shooting of my fool’s-bolt on Monday. The only misrepresentation I can accuse them of (and that I feel very sensibly) is the charge of Royalism and courtiership which they have founded upon my foolish clap-trap with respect to the Regent;—this has astonished me the more, as the Opera underwent a very severe cutting from the Licenser for a very opposite quality to courtier-ship, and it is merely lest you should be led into a mistake (from the little consideration you can afford to give to such nonsense) that I trouble you with this note.

If the child’s plea;—“I’ll never do so again,” could soften criticism, I may be depended upon from this moment, for a most hearty abjuration of the stage, and all its heresies of pun, equivoque, and clap-trap:-however humble I may be in other departments of literature, I am quite conscious of being contemptible in this.

Your’s, my Dear Sir, very truly,
Thomas Moore.
27 Bury street, Wednesday,

Did you receive a note I sent you about a week ago?

On the Feast of the Poets—Lord Moira, &c.
[Post-mark, August 1812.]

My Dear Sir,—I am sorry to find by your Examiner of last Sunday that you are ill, and I sincerely hope, both for the sake of
* The Italics in all the following letters are the writer’s own.
yourself and the world, that it is not an indisposition of any serious nature.—I have very often since I left town had thoughts of writing to you; not that I had anything to say, but merely to keep myself alive in your recollection, till some lucky jostle in our life’s journey throws us closer together than we have hitherto been. It is not true, however, that I have had nothing to say, to you, for I have to thank you for your
poem in the Reflector, which I would praise for its beauty, if my praises could be thought disinterested enough to please you—but it has won my heart rather too much to leave my judgment fair play; and the pleasure of being praised by you, makes me incapable of returning the compliment:—all that I can tell you is, that your good opinion of me in general is paid back with interest ten-fold, and that my thoughts about you are so well known to those I live with, that I have the pleasure of finding you acknowledged among them by no other title than “Moore’s Friend.” I suppose you have heard that I suddenly burst upon my acquaintances last spring, in the new characters of husband and father, and I hope you will believe me, when I say that (though my little intercourse with you might have made such a confidence impertinent on my side,) I often wished to make you one of the very few friends, who knew the secret of my happiness, and witnessed my enjoyment of it. I rather think too, that if you were acquainted with the story of my marriage, it would not tend to lower me from that place, which I am proud to believe, I hold in your esteem. I have got a small house and large garden here in the neighbourhood of Lord Moira’s fine library, and, feel happy in the consciousness that I have indeed “mended my potions of pleasure,” and that I am likely, after all, to be what men like you approve. Mrs Moore and I have been for these ten days past on a visit to our noble neighbour, at length preparing. for an old age of independence, by a manly and summary system of retrenchment. He has dismissed nearly all his servants, and is retiring to a small house in Sussex, leaving his park and fine library here to solitude and me. How I have mourned over his late negotiation! A sword looks crooked in water, and the weak medium of Carlton House has given an appearance of obliquity even to Lord Moira—but both the sword and he way be depended on still—at least I think so.

I was very much flattered by your taking some doggrel of mine out of the Morning Chronicle some month since, called “The insurrection of the Papers.” I don’t know whether you saw “The Plumassier” about the same time. It was mine also, but not so good. I hope next year, when I have got over a work I am about, to help you with a few shafts of ridicule in the noble warfare you are engaged in, since I find that you have thought some of them not unworthy your notice.

With best regards to Mrs Hunt and your little child for whom I could supply a companion picture; I am, my Dear Sir,

Most truly your’s,
Thomas Moore.

I shall take the liberty of paying the postage of this, lest it might not be received at the Office.

[To be continued to-morrow, with further remarks.]