LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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[Horace Smith]
A Graybeard’s Gossip. No. XIII.
New Monthly Magazine  Vol. 82  (March 1848)  329-41.
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Forsan et hæc olim meminisse juvabit.

M. G. Lewis—Noble Trait of Filial Affection—Romance of the “Monk”—Outcry it excited—His Dramatic Writings—The “Castle Spectre”—His Premature, and Unnoticed Death.—William Stewart Rose, Translator of “Amadis de Gaul,” “Partenopex of Blois,” &c.—Characteristic Anecdotes—Joseph Pecchio, Author of “Osservazioni sull’ Inghilterra”—Sir Charles and Lady Morgan—Miss Hawkins—Her strange Design for a Scriptural Novel—Thomas Hood—William Godwin—Summary and Conclusion of the “Graybeard’s Gossip.”

Matthew Gregory Lewis.—Of this gentleman I knew but little, not having encountered him half a dozen times after my introduction to him at the house of Nat. Middleton, the banker. With a short, thickset figure, unintellectual features, and a disagreeable habit of peering, being very short-sighted, his aspect was by no means prepossessing; but as he had “that within which passeth show,” he recovered the ground lost at starting as rapidly as Wilkes could have done. As the author of “The Monk” still labours under some degree of stigma for that irreverent publication, and as numerous good actions in his private capacity are much less known than his two or three published peccadilloes, I shall begin with the former. When he entered Parliament, his father, who held a high situation in the War Office, allowed him 800l. a year, which he immediately divided with his mother, from whom her husband had separated himself, assigning her a very inadequate stipend for her support.

“If my son can live upon 400l. a year,” said the father, “I shall reduce his income to that sum,” which he did accordingly. At the risk of a second reduction, and even of being disinherited by his obdurate father, the son again divided his fortune with his mother, continuing to visit her, and to pay her all the attentions that affection and duty could dictate.

At a later period, when he came into possession of his patrimony, a portion of which consisted of a sugar estate, he made a voyage to the West Indies, with a view, among other objects, of making arrangements for improving the condition of his negroes, and of satisfying the qualms of his own conscience by rendering their slavery rather nominal than real. Having accomplished this benevolent purpose, he left the island, and being attacked by a slight illness on the homeward voyage, administered to himself an over-dose of James’s powders, which speedily occasioned his death. His censurers would have done well to remember these amiable traits, to which many others might be added, when they condemned him so severely for a juvenile escapade.

A short time before he left England, I met him at the office of James Smith, his solicitor, whom he named one of the executors in his will. He was then anticipating the mode of life he should adopt after his return from the West Indies. He was to engage handsome chambers in Albany, and to have a dinner party of ten or twelve once a week, inviting none but wits, literati, and pleasant fellows. Kind-hearted Matthew Gregory! The Muses should have guarded thee, for they loved thee well, and blind indeed must have been “the Fury with the abhorred shears” who prema-
330A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance.
turely cut short a life which, if longer spared, would have diffused so much social happiness around it.

Although the romance of “The Monk,” written for the author’s amusement when travelling, and published soon after his twenty-first birth-day, appeared so far back as the year 1795, well do I recollect the hubbub it occasioned—an outcry aggravated by the insertion of the author’s name in the title-page, with the initials that showed him to be a member of Parliament; and not even mitigated by the incontestible genius it displayed, and the exquisite beauty of the poetry. To readers of the present day, who have revelled, or rather wallowed in some of the French romances, the objections made to a single scene in “The Monk,” certainly too warmly coloured, will appear prudish and puritanical. Some there were who objected to the very groundwork of the story, forgetting that, with the exception of the diablerie, it was manifestly founded on the tale of the Santon Barsisa, in a work so decorous and moral as “The Adventurer” The author’s religious offences, however, were those which excited the most clamorous indignation, though these also were limited to a single startling and offensively-worded passage. His heroine is described as reading an expurgated Bible, her mother, while she admired the beauties of the sacred writings, being convinced that many of the narratives are improper for the perusal of a young woman, not only from their general tendency, but from the indecency of their expressions. This charge was much too broadly adduced, while its phraseology was coarse and intemperate; but when the author of “The Pursuits of Literature,” in his usual style of dogmatic vituperation, says, “The falsehood of this passage is not more gross than its impiety,”* he establishes nothing but his own want of argument and of courtesy. Previous modifications of the Scriptures might have forewarned him that the language current among an unrefined and comparatively barbarous people of a very remote age, is not always adapted to the delicate, perhaps the fastidious conventionalities of modern civilisation. It may be urged, that to the pure all things are pure, and that the moon can shine upon a dunghill without being contaminated; but may it not be as well, if we can, to spare the former the contemplation of subjects which must give pain even where they do not pollute; and to withdraw from the rays of Diana such objects as she can have no pleasure in illuminating? The author of “The Pursuits,” in the spirit of the man and of the times, calls aloud for prosecution, pains, penalties, imprisonment, and the utmost rigour of the law. Mr. Lewis made quick amends, as far as he could, for his indiscretion, by omitting all these justly censurable passages in a second edition; and the demure public immediately bought up all the remaining copies of the first at twice the original cost!

In variety of metre, and facility of versification, the poems of this writer have rarely been surpassed; but he was more popularly known as a successful dramatist. “The Castle Spectre,” of which I witnessed the first representation, in 1798, when it was in imminent risk of condemnation, had subsequently a prodigious run, and few of my theatrical readers will be unfamiliar with Sheridan’s joke on this subject. Towards the end of the season he had some dispute in the green-room with the author, when the latter, in confirmation of his argument, offered to bet all the money “The Castle Spectre” had brought, that he was right. “No,” said

* “Pursuits of Literature.” Part. IV., p. 4.
A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance.331
Sheridan; “I never wager more than a trifle; but I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll bet you all it is worth.”

Though M. G. Lewis was a very popular writer, and his society was much sought by an extensive circle of acquaintance, his premature death excited little notice at the time of its occurrence, and his memory has since been suffered to remain “without the meed of one melodious tear.”

William Stewart Rose.—The unenviable immortality which Pope inflicted upon the heroes of the “Dunciad,” Cervantes conferred upon the doughty “Amadis de Gaul,” who would long since have fallen into comparative oblivion, had he not been embalmed in our memories as the prototype of the renowned “Don Quixote de la Mancha.” After having been thus made “sacred to ridicule,” by a burlesque representative, for a couple of ages, he had the good fortune, about the commencement of the present century, to enjoy a double resurrection in propriâ personâ, Mr. Southey having then published an English prose version of the knight’s exploits, from the Spanish of Garciordinez de Montalvo; while Mr. Rose gave to the world “Amadis de Gaul,” a poem, in three books, freely translated from the French version of Nicolas de Herberay. To the young scholar who has been dosed with the classics at school and college, there is an irresistible charm and freshness in the romantic literature of the middle ages, and I have not yet forgotten the delight with which I devoured the last-mentioned poem, for I eschewed the prose version as hardly consistent with the wild imaginativeness of romance; nor was I less gratified by Mr. Rose’s beautifully decorated quarto of “Partenopex of Blois,” which appeared a few years later. The old romances of “Arthur,” “Lancelot,” “Roland,” “Oliver,” “Charlemagne,” and their compeers, must have been as dear to the feudal barons, in the piping times of peace, as are the remains of “Ossian” to every genuine Caledonian of the present day. Nor need the questionable authenticity of “Fingal, an ancient Epic Poem,” diminish its influence north of the Tweed, if there be any truth in Dr. Johnson’s averment that the Scotchman who would not prefer his country to truth, must be a sturdy moralist indeed! “The old knights and barons depending upon their minstrels for amusement, when their swords rested in their scabbards, seem to have been not less emboldened by their martial songs in time of war, than were the ancient Lacedemonians by the similar strains of Tyrtaeus. As it is well known that William the Conqueror, in his attack upon King Harold, was preceded by the minstrel Taillefer, singing the famous song of Roland, the chivalrous peer of Charlemagne, in which the whole army joined, it is not impossible that he may have won, by this exciting chant, the same kingdom which James II. was said to have subsequently lost by the famous song of “Lilliburlero.” So trivial are the causes which sometimes decide the fate of mighty empires.

Every one knows that Partenopex de Blois was beloved by the fairy Melior, who, in spite of her name, was no better than she should be; and nobody doubts that he was conveyed by invisible elves to her castle, in the hall whereof a goodly banquet was displayed, to which he was about to pay his respects, when the viands, anticipating his wishes, came to him of their own accord; a golden goblet filled itself with delicious wine, which, in spite of his frequent quaffings, never sank below the brim; an unseen songstress accompanied herself on the harp while he was thus regaling; and, finally, a party of self-moving wax candles ushered him into a bower, where stood a bed, over which was flung
332A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance.
A rare wrought coverlet of phœnix-plumes,
Which breathed, as warm with life, its rich perfumes.
Here the quaint elves the wond’ring child undrest.
And on the snow-white ermine laid to rest.
And there will we leave him to his repose, having good authority for believing that fairy favours “are lost when not concealed.”

At a subsequent period, Mr. Rose published his “Letters from the North of Italy,” which, in their amusing details and graphic power, were only inferior to the description of the same localities and social habits by Walter Savage Landor. Little did I dream, while perusing these poems and letters, that, at a later period, I should become a near neighbour of the writer, in the provincial town to which he had retired, and enjoy a close intimacy with him up to the time of his decease. Some years previously to our acquaintance, Mr. Rose, then travelling in Italy, had been attacked by paralysis, which left him sadly and permanently crippled in his limbs, while it had rendered him very deaf, and had partially affected his speech. His faculties, however, remained perfect, enabling him to continue, with undiminished talent, his translation of “Ariosto;” and though his spirits were occasionally depressed, his general cheer of mind was buoyant and vivacious, giving him at all times a keen enjoyment of society, especially where the conversation assumed a bantering and jocose strain. Pleasant was it to witness the triumph of mind over matter, when the victim of so many corporeal ailments could not only relish the jests of others, but make large contributions of the same sort from his own ample treasury of wit. His infirmities, indeed, sometimes supplied him with food for laughter, and I remember his setting the table in a roar, by describing the risk he ran on an inauspicious fifth of November, when, as he was riding on a donkey, the only quadruped that he could safely bestride, his crippled figure, battered hat, and crutch-headed stick, occasioned some mischievous urchins to set up a cry of “Guy Fawkes,” and to pursue him with a shower of pebbles—a sport to them which might have been death to him, had the animal taken fright, in which case he must inevitably have been precipitated to the ground.

On another occasion, when chatting with our mutual friend and fellow-townsman Pecchio, Mr. Rose questioned the necessity of Southey’s apology for not translating the proper names in “Amadis de Gaul,” since we habitually adopt Barbarossa, not Red-beard; Boccanegra, not Black-muzzle; St. Peter, not Stone, the Apostle. There were names, he added, where the baptismal and patronymic terms translated each other, as in the case of the Rev. Blanco White; and titles which were contradictory, as in the instance of the Spanish count, Florida Blanca; while there were others of which the etymology was lost in the lapse of ages.

“How few people are aware,” he continued, very gravely, “that Apollonius Rhodius was so named because he was the first who introduced the practice of planting apple-trees along the high roads!”

This may be thought mere foolery, and for such, indeed, it was meant; but he improved upon it next day in a letter which, after accusing me of not having laughed sufficiently at his bad joke, thus concludes—“I forgive you, though I could not have done so twenty years ago.

Lenit albescens animos capillus
Litium et rixos cupidos protervæ.
Non ego hoc ferrem callidus juventa
Console Planco.
A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance. 333
I, prone to stir and strife, forbear,
Admonish’d by my whitening hair,
Yet ill, forsooth, should I have borne
Such peremptory slight and scorn,
When Wood was mayor.

Mr. Rose occasionally collected a few pleasant friends at his dinner-table, when he would feast them on a Milanese Risotto, Polenta and cheese, and other Italian condiments, cooked by his factotum, a German, who had lived with him for many years, and who, after preparing the viands, waited at table in his culinary badges of white cap and apron. When it was hinted by a friend that this functionary abused the confidence reposed in him, his master replied—“Very likely; I dare say the fellow is feathering his nest at my expense, but I make a point of winking at little irregularities in his accounts, well knowing that no man can go comfortably through the world who will not submit to be moderately cheated. Besides, sir, the fellow is a character, and has collected a library of his own. Moreover, there is something classical about him, for when I was travelling in the Troad he fell into the Scamander, and would infallibly have been drowned, had there been water enough in that celebrated but shallow stream. If I were to discharge him, where should I get another man who had been dragged out of the Scamander?” Bacchanalian indulgences, however, which not even classical authority could warrant, eventually compelled his dismissal, when it was found that he had purloined money and valuable volumes to an extent much beyond “moderate cheating.” His good-natured master, even upon this occasion, could not forego an extenuating joke, saying to a friend—“Well, if the man is proved to have been a bad accountant, you must confess that he is a good book-keeper.”

Mr. Rose delighted to relate, and our patriotic friend Pecchio was not less gratified to hear, the particulars of a hoax which he had successfully played off upon the Austrian authorities in Italy. A Milanese exile had published in London a pamphlet stigmatising, in no very measured terms, the usurpers of his native land, and urging his countrymen to seize every chance for shaking off so barbarous a yoke. This work Mr. Rose was anxious to transmit to a friend then residing in Italy, an object which could only be accomplished by a ruse de guerre, its admission being expressly and strictly prohibited. Removing, therefore, the original title-page, he had a new one printed for the occasion, containing the following words in the German language—“An Essay on Sour-Crout, showing its wholesome and nutritious qualities, and detailing the various modes of preparing it for table.” This he forwarded in a parcel, which was opened as he had anticipated; but the Tudescan inquisitor, probably smacking his lips as he read the title, seems to have pryed no further, for it reached its destination in due time, mystifying the party to whom it was addressed as completely as it had cajoled the literary censor who unwittingly gave it his passport.

Mr. Rose’s last production was a diminutive volume, printed in 1837, for distribution among his friends, under the title of “Rhymes,” with the Horatian motto of Stans pede in uno, in playful allusion to the unpremeditated manner of their composition, and to his own lameness. In a letter to his friend Mr. Frere, then at Malta, he describes his lonesome rides upon the downs in pastoral strains not unworthy of Theocritus

Over this tumbled bed of thyme and turf,
I lounge and listen to the rumbling surf,
334 A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance.
Or idly mark the shadows as they fly,
While green earth maps the changes of the sky,
When, at the passing of the summer cloud,
The frighted wheatear runs in haste, to shroud
Its body in some sheltering hole, and there,
(Poor fool!) is prison’d in the fowler’s snare.
Here, when the sun is low, and air is still,
And silence broods upon the sea and hill,
Well-pleased I mark the rampant lambs unite
To race, or match themselves in mimic fight,
Or, thro’ the prickly furze adventurous roam,
Till, by the milky mothers, summon’d home,
They quit their game, and ply their nimble feet,
In quick obedience to the peevish bleat.

“The Dean of Badajos,” a pleasant tale from the Spanish, is inscribed to his friend Samuel Rogers, while, with a malicious pleasantry, he dedicates to his medical adviser the very significant story of “The Talisman,” setting forth how a genie of Tifflis, in reward of some good service, gave his benefactor a talisman—

Which, as its only wonder, show’d the ghost
Of any one that any one had killed;
The spirit watching at his door by whom
The body had been hurried to the tomb.

The possessor of this magic necroscope, happening to fall ill, hastened with it to the most fashionable doctor, when lo! a ghastly, ghostly troop of men, women, and children instantly thronged around “their murderer’s den.” The doors of other practitioners were similarly haunted, though in diminished numbers, until the sick man, pursuing his quest, reached a portal at which only a single spirit mounted guard. Inspired with confidence at this cheering sight, he boldly entered the house, when, upon cross-questioning its occupant, a young Esculapian, he found that he had never had more than a single patient!

Alas! the faculty of England have no more power than their brethren of Tifflis to ward off the dart of Death when he has once taken aim at his victim. Mr. Rose’s infirmities gradually increased, until this gifted and kind-hearted man, completely losing both health and spirits, found a not unwelcome refuge in the grave.

With Count Pecchio, to whom I have made passing allusion, I had the happiness to enjoy a close intimacy, which continued up to the time of his decease. Previously to his condemnation to death by the Austrian government, for his participation in the Piedmontese insurrection, a sentence which he happily avoided by flight, he had published a valuable work on the “Finances of the Kingdom of Italy.” In the year 1824, he put forth “A Letter to Henry Brougham, Esq.,” exposing the oppressive nature of the Austrian domination in that unhappy country. In 1831, appeared “Osservazioni sull’ Inghilterra,” and at a subsequent period he wrote the life of his friend Ugo Foscolo. Far from sharing the opinion of the Austrian emperor who told the Hungarian deputies, in very imperial Latin, that in seeking free constitutions “totus mundus stultizzat,” Pecchio had taken a prominent part in endeavouring to emancipate his native land and expel its invaders. The treachery of some of the princes and leaders who were pledged to support the insurrection, and the unfortunate dissensions among the Liberals themselves, not only disgusted him at the time, but quite destroyed his confidence in the success of any future struggle for Italian freedom. When Belgium separated from Holland, and popular movements simultaneously occurred in other places, I asked
A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance.335
him whether these demonstrations would not have a sympathetic effect in his own country. “Ah, yes, certainly, a great effect,” was his reply. “I had made up my mind that it would require 2000 years to shake off the Austrians, but I now think we may do it in 1500!”

Having made a very advantageous marriage in Yorkshire, Pecchio was enabled to mix freely in society, to the pleasure of which he largely contributed by his abundant stores of information and his ever cheerful manners. A sparkling effervescence will seem to impart flavour even to a vapid beverage, while a stronger and more valuable one, wanting that frothiness, will sometimes fall flat on the palate; just as the animation of a foreigner’s manner gives a certain raciness to the most frivolous sallies; while the more solid discourse of an Englishman loses a portion of its effect from his phlegmatic undemonstrative manner, for an unexcited speaker will rarely interest his hearer. That the subject of this notice was a man of sense and information his works abundantly testify; but even his lightest chit-chat rivetted your attention by the sprightliness and corporeal energy that it conjured up in himself. Dryden says of Achitophel that his fiery soul
Fretted the pigmy body to decay,
And o’er-informed the tenement of clay,
but it seemed as if the lively body of Pecchio vivified his mind, enabling him by his elaborate workmanship to enhance the most common-place materials. This amiable and intelligent man had brought with him from Italy the seeds of a complaint which carried him off in his forty-ninth year, and I saw his remains deposited in the rural churchyard of Hove, where a handsome monument records in a Latin inscription his noble Milanese birth, and his death in the year 1835.

If writers themselves may be reckoned among the “Curiosities of Literature,” the lady to whom I am about to devote a very brief notice, may certainly be entitled to a niche in Mr. D’Israeli’s next edition of that work. Such of my readers as are well-stricken in years and possess good memories may recall a certain Miss Hawkins, the authoress, if my own foiling recollection serves me truly, of “Gertrude and the Countess,” “Rosanna; or, a Father’s Labour Lost,” “Heraline,” and other novels, which found special favour with serious people many years ago. The lady in question had been perusing a romance written by myself, founded on some incidents recorded in the scripture history of the Jews, in consequence of which she addressed to me the following letter, from the publication of which I am not withheld by its encomiastic nature, since I have already declared that I would not suffer any false modesty to interfere with the frankness that may well be privileged in a “Graybeard’s Gossip.”

Surprised as I was at receiving so flattering a letter, and so urgent an invitation from a lady whom I had only once seen, still more was I astonished when she stated that the purpose for which she had been so very anxious to obtain an interview was to consult me respecting a religious novel in which she had made considerable progress, the principal personage whereof was Jesus Christ! Not only as I learnt had all the incidents of the Saviour’s life been introduced, but wherever his actual expressions were recorded in the Scripture narrative they were given verbatim, and where this authority was wanting the authoress had not scrupled to assign to him such language as she deemed the most appropriate for the occasion. A third volume was still wanting, and my colloquist, after expressing her fears that she had broken down under a task too mighty for her powers, asked me to read over the manuscript, and favour her with my opinion as to the propriety and most fitting means of completing the book. Had I not known that the venerable lady was profoundly pious; had I not seen by her excited manner that she watched with an intense earnestness for my reply, I could hardly have supposed that she had been really employed in an undertaking so totally unmanageable and so repugnant to all proper feelings of devotional respect. It is hardly necessary to state that I declined the perusal of the manuscript, and earnestly recommended its discontinuance, assuring her that however reverent and religious might have been her intention, all persons of good taste would deem it an unwarrantable profanation if so sacred a subject were made subservient to a work of fiction. My advice was taken, though not, I believe, until it had been confirmed by another literary friend. Miss Hawkins died not very long after our interview.

Bereavement of associates is one of the ordeals through which old age must inevitably pass, and I have already expressed my opinion that we should rather be thankful that they were given to us at all, and spared to us so long, than vainly repine at their removal: yet must I confess that neither this consideration, nor the lapse of time, nor the callousness which the frequency of such privations is apt to engender in a Graybeard’s heart, have reconciled me to the loss of my dear and invaluable friend, Sir Charles Morgan. Well may the readers of this periodical sympathise in my regret, for he was one of the oldest and ablest contributors to the New Monthly Magazine. Blessed as I still am with literary acquaintance, I fear that I might seek among them in vain for that perfect congeniality of feeling and opinion which existed between myself and Sir Charles Morgan. Easy were it and pleasant to my heart to enlarge upon the merits pf this good and gifted man; but as I have already paid a tribute to his memory,* I must leave that testimony, however inadequate, to express my cordial regard for the deceased, while this passing notice may certify my undiminished sorrow for his loss.

* vol. lxix. p. 420.
A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance. 337

That I am still rich in surviving acquaintance among the sons and daughters of genius has already been gratefully acknowledged, and in spite of the restraint which delicacy imposes upon me in referring to them, the present apt occasion, and an old man’s pride, must plead my excuse when I honour myself by stating that I still possess the friendship of the Corinne, the De Stael, the De Sevigné, of London. Readers may differ as to which is the most appropriate of these appellations, but every one will know that the only individual to whom, from her varied talents, each or all may be fittingly applied, is Lady Morgan. Let me, however, put a restraint upon my feelings and upon my pen, for it is difficult to speak of her ladyship in language which shall at once be strictly true, and yet not wear the semblance of studied panegyric.

To Thomas Hood, whose friendship I long enjoyed, and who is specially entitled to a niche in this Magazine, since he was its editor during several years, I must devote a brief notice, were it only to record my respect for his memory, and my regret that he should have been snatched away from us in the prime of life. His father, a bookseller in London, had intended him for an engraver, a drudgery which was soon abandoned for the more pleasant occupation of illustrating his own “Whims and Oddities,” “Comic Annuals,” and similar productions, the popularity of which seemed fully to justify the choice he had made, though his permanent reputation will, probably, be based on the much superior merit of his serious poems, most of which are truly admirable. Unprepossessing in appearance, sickly, shy, and deaf, poor Hood was not much calculated to win favour from those who prefer social brilliance to the sterling qualities of the head and heart; but none could know him intimately without respecting his virtues and admiring his talents. Not hearing all that was said in conversation, he pounced upon the sounds that did reach his ear, and endeavoured to turn them to comic account. Hence his incurable addiction to punning and word-catching, a colloquial propensity which extended itself to his writings. In illustration of this habit, I may mention that after we had been walking together for some time, he suddenly stopped where some workmen were building a house, and asked,

“What are those men about?”

“They are carpenters laying down the floor of the drawing-room.”

“Sad waste of time and labour!” exclaimed Hood, shaking his head. “From the flimsy way in which you build houses here, you have only to wait for a high wind, and they will floor themselves.”

He then walked unsmilingly forward, nor spoke again until he was provided with a new jest or quibble, each deriving additional poignancy from the grave dryness of his look and manner.

I give the following unpublished production of his muse, written in a young lady’s Album at my request, because it exemplifies at once his readiness to oblige, and the great elaboration that he was ready to bestow upon the lightest trifle.

A pretty task, Miss ——, to ask
A Benedictine pen,
That cannot quite at freedom write
Like those of other men.
No lover’s plaint my Muse must paint
To fill this page’s span,
But be correct, and recollect
I’m not a single man.
338 A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance.
Pray only think for pen and ink
How hard to get along,
That may not turn on words that burn
Or Love, the life of song!
Nine Muses, if I chooses, I
May woo all in a clan,
But one Miss S—— I daren’t address,
I’m not a single man.
Scribblers unwed, with little head
May eke it out with heart,
And in their lays it often plays
A rare first-fiddle part.
They make a kiss to rhyme with bliss,
But if I so began,
I have my fears about my ears
I’m not a single man.
Upon your cheek I may not speak,
Nor on your lip be warm,
I must be wise about your eyes,
And formal with your form.
Of all that sort of thing in short,
On T. H. Bayley’s plan,
I must not twine one single line
I’m not a single man.
A watchman’s part compels my heart
To keep you off its beat,
And I might dare as soon to swear
At you as at your feet.
I can’t expire in passion’s fire
As other poets can—
My life (she’s by) won’t let me die
I’m not a single man.
Shut out from love, denied a dove,
Forbidden bow and dart,
Without a groan to call my own
With neither hand nor heart;
To Hymen vow’d, and not allow’d
To flirt e’en with your fan,
Here end as just a friend I must,
I’m not a single man!

This name is to be added to the long list of authors who, after living in strict economy, and sending forth works that the world has received with acclamation, have helped to enrich their publishers without benefiting themselves. Mr. Hood left his family in such destitute circumstances that a subscription was raised for their immediate relief. His widow has since been placed on the pension-list for a trifling annuity.

That I should disregard chronological sequence in these notices has already been announced; no apology do I, therefore, make for indulging in a Parthian glance at my old acquaintance, William Godwin, the author of “Political Justice,” whose name, though it no longer arrests public attention with the tenacity of former years, must ever occupy a high position in the annals of English literature. It was in the years of his second marriage, and in his later life, that I first had the honour of becoming known to him. A rather short and solid figure, a large bald head, in which a phrenologist would have seen manifest proofs of intellectual development, a benevolent resigned look, expressive of calm submission to the scorns and contumelies “that patient merit of the unworthy takes,”
A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance.339
combined with a gentle voice and manner, gave him rather the semblance of some ancient philosopher—of
Socrates after his unjust condemnation, or of Aristides, after his iniquitous ostracism—than of a modern and not undistinguished author, keeping, as he then did, an inferior shop for stationery and children’s books in Skinner-street, not far from Holborn-hill. He was then writing elementary school-books, under the assumed name of Mylius, for his own would have been fatal to their success. Nay, so bitter was the ban and proscription of bigotry in those days, that he did not inscribe his own name over his own shop-door, substituting the figure of a hunchback, under which was written, in black-letter characters, to puzzle the ignorant, the word ÆSOP. Here have I sometimes shared his frugal early dinner, which, nevertheless, was luxurious enough for one who had rather partake of filberts with a philosopher than of venison with a fool. Sooth to say, however, he spoke but little, seemed averse from discussion, and was somewhat prone to somnolency, unsocial habits, partly attributable to his age, partly, perhaps, to the state of his affairs; for my visits had generally reference to his pecuniary embarrassments, which were of constant recurrence, spite of the frequent and munificent assistance he had received from his son-in-law, Shelley. His total ignorance of the tradesman’s art must have occasioned these difficulties, for he lived in an almost primitive simplicity, and had no expensive habits. Though we rarely met except upon such unpleasant occasions, I never left him without feeling a deep regret at his uncongenial and painful position, and a sincere admiration of his talents and his virtues; which impressions may, perhaps, plead my excuse for republishing the following honourable testimonial from a contemporary who knew him well, and who was not likely to pronounce an eulogium upon any man unless it was fully merited.

“All observation on the personal character of a writer, when that conduct is not of a public nature, is of dangerous example; and, when it leads to blame, is severely reprehensible. But it is but common justice to say, that there are few instances of more respectable conduct among writers, than is apparent in the subsequent works of Mr. Godwin. He calmly corrected what appeared to him to be his own mistakes; and he proved the perfect disinterestedness of his corrections, by adhering to opinions as obnoxious to the powerful as those which he relinquished. Untempted by the success of his scholars in paying their court to the dispensers of favour, he adhered to the old and rational principles of liberty, violently shaken as these venerable principles had been, by the tempest which had beaten down the neighbouring erections of anarchy. He continued to seek independence and reputation, with that various success to which the fashions of literature subject professed writers; and to struggle with the difficulties incident to other modes of industry, for which his previous habits had not prepared him. He has thus, in our humble opinion, deserved the respect of all those, whatever may be their opinions, who still wish that some men in England may think for themselves, even at the risk of thinking wrong; but more especially of the friends of liberty, to whose cause he has courageously adhered.”—Ed. Review, vol. xxv., p. 489.

It was my purpose to devote a brief notice to Mr. Maurice the author of “Indian Antiquities,” to William Hazlitt, to Sir Robert Ker Porter, and his two gifted sisters, to Haydon, the artist and author, to Miss Landon, to Thomas Haynes Bayley, to Charles Lamb, to the Dibdin brothers, to Laman Blanchard, and other deceased literary persons with
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whom, at different periods of my life, it has been my privilege to be acquainted; but I know not that I could furnish any information with reference to these parties that would be either new or interesting. I feel that I have already occupied sufficient space in a miscellany which requires variety of subject as well as of contributors, and I must guard against the garrulity of old age. With this number, therefore, the Graybeard will close his gossip. Before I do so, however, let me gratify myself, and perform an act of justice to my literary contemporaries, by declaring that my own lengthened experience, instead of confirming, completely repudiates the charge of their being an irritable race.
Horace, their original accuser, may have found them so in the days of Augustus; but my observation, including the reigns of four English sovereigns, gives not the smallest warrant to the stigma, as applicable to modern times. To me the professors of literature have been a friendly brotherhood, ever ready to perform good offices, ever affording me courteous, urbane, instructive, and delightful society. Even against the reviewers who have noticed my humble attempts, I have no complaints to make. When they were severe, which happened but rarely, I endeavoured to benefit by censures which I generally felt to be just; when they noticed me with favour, their praises were not unwelcome; but I am not naturally sensitive, and I soon became indifferent to criticism when I found that it exercised little or no influence upon the opinion of the public.

A fragment of Simonides recommends us not to call to mind the dead, if we think of them at all, more than for a single day. This advice I have not adopted, and notwithstanding the obituary character which must inevitably pervade a Graybeard’s reminiscences, I have found nothing melancholy in my retrospective gossip. Mine has rather been the feeling of Seneca, who found a solemn delight in recalling his departed friends, not looking upon them as lost—“Mihi amicorum defunctorum cogitatio dulcis ac blandis est; habui enim illos, tanquam amissurus; amissi tanquam habeam.”

One duty yet remains to me, and it is rather of a painful nature; for I purpose giving a summary of the results of authorship, so far as they have been brought within my own personal observation. Alas! how abundantly will they confirm Sir Walter Scott’s dictum that literature may be a good walking-stick, but that it can never be depended on for a crutch! How wofully will they confirm the still more ominous warnings of other writers. “Sons of Parnassus!” exclaim the authors of the “Rejected Addresses,”
Condemn’d to tread the bard’s time-sanction’d track,
Ye all shall join the bailiff-haunted throng,
And reproduce, in rags, the rags ye blot in song.
Wordsworth pathetically ejaculates—
We poets in our youth begin in gladness,
But thereof comes in the end despondency and sadness!
Burns chants the same strain—“There is not in all the martyrologies that ever were penned, so rueful a narrative as that of the lives of poets.”

Shelley thus echoes back the doleful statement—
———————Most wretched men
Are cradled into poetry from wrong,
They learn in suffering what they teach in song.
And mark in what a prophetic spirit poor
Chatterton denounces the syrens
A Graybeard’s Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance.341
who lured him to his ruin. “D—n the muses! I abominate them and their works: they are the nurses of poverty and insanity;”—a prediction which has been verified by scores of “mighty poets in their misery dead.”

“I am not sure,” says Sir Egerton Brydges, “that the life of an author is a happy life; but yet if the seeds of authorship be in him, he will not be happy except in the indulgence of this occupation. Without the culture and free air which these seeds require, they will wither and turn to poison.” Enviable alternative for a scribbler, to dedicate himself to an unhappy calling, or to see his mind wither and turn to poison!

If to the list of deceased writers commemorated in these pages, I add the names of R. B. Peake, the dramatist, and J. T. Hewlett, for both of whose destitute families subscriptions have latterly been made, I find that four are known to have committed suicide; five are known to have died in a state of mental derangement; two passed many years, and one breathed his last sigh, in the rules of the King’s Bench prison; ten, after a long struggle with poverty, escaped from life, some of them leaving families in such necessitous circumstances that subscriptions were made for their temporary relief; a few have obtained a moderate subsistence where their literary labours have been incessant; a few have derived from their occasional writings a trifling addition to the means they previously possessed; one single individual, Sir Walter Scott, realised, although he did not retain, a large fortune by his pen, accomplishing this unprecedented miracle not so much by his stupendous genius and unparalleled industry, as by his refusing to submit to that system of spoliation which monopolises the lion’s share of the spoil for the rich publisher, and tosses the orts and offal to the poor scribbling jackal.

In the long term of years over which this melancholy recapitulation extends, I can only recall the bankruptcy of one eminent publishing firm—that of James Ballantyne and Co., of Edinburgh, occasioned by peculiar circumstances, with which the public are well acquainted. In the same course of time it were easy to mention the names of many publishers, who after splashing the tramping authors as they dashed past them in their carriages—after enjoying a life of luxury, of mental ease, and of perfect freedom from every intellectual exertion, have died not simply in independent circumstances, but in the possession of great and absolute wealth.

Oh, my dear brother scribblers! Oh, youthful candidates for an author’s martrydom! “Look on this picture and on this”—the genuine presentment of two classes. If ye would despair of realising the independence of Simonides, who said that he had rather leave money to his enemies after his death than borrow it of his friends when living; if ye would avoid the frightful chances of suicide, madness, imprisonment, wretchedness, living toil, and dying destitution, devote not yourselves to literature as your sole profession. Verily, however, ye may still find your reward, for though the world would probably refuse ye a maintenance, perchance it may grant ye a monument. Ye ask for bread, and it will give ye a stone!

So fares the follower in the Muses’ train;
He toils to starve, and only lives in death;
We slight him till our patronage is vain,
Then round his skeleton a garland wreathe,
And o’er his bones an empty requiem breathe.