LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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John Galt
Pot versus Kettle.
Fraser’s Magazine  Vol. 2  No. 11  (December 1830)  543-42.
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No. XI. DECEMBER, 1830. Vol. II.

pot versus kettle.


Dear Yorke;—I cannot yet say, like Lord Byron, that “I awoke one morning and found myself famous,” but I have found myself at the same time attacked by Cobbett; Professor Wilson, alias Christopher North, (of Edinburgh); and “a letter signed” J. C. Hobhouse, in the last number of the New Monthly Magazine. Of the two former, “Goblins damn’d,” I shall say nothing at present, my business is with the least Member of Parliament for Westminster; but before proceeding to the marrow of the matter, I must explain to those friends who may be surprised that I should have kept copies of my letters, that an instinctive apprehension of some characters makes me occasionally take odd precautions. The coarse and vulgar vituperations of Mr. Hobhouse were no doubt indulged in, by supposing I should not have the fortitude to publish them. He will see that the craftiest—in his own conceit—may sometimes be mistaken.

One day I had occasion to call for a “gentleman at the House of Commons, and while waiting in the lobby, Mr. Hobhouse came in. I spoke to him of the Life of Byron, which I was then writing, and mentioned I would probably call on him in the course of a few days. Among other things, I expressed my surprise that he had not written a Life of his friend. This I said in perfect sincerity; for my task had but little reference to those daily habits which constitute the peculiarities of modern biography. Accordingly, some time after, I did call at his house; and as he was from home, I sent, in the course of the day, a note to the following effect:—

“28th July, 1830.

Dear Mr. Hobhouse;—After looking at all the pros and cons of Lord B.’s separation, I have resolved not to touch it, otherwise than incidentally. But, it is said, that he left the Countess G—— in destitute circumstances, after having promised to leave 2,000l. for her use, till he should send for her. I wish you to enable me to contradict this.

“Conceiving your time to be much engaged at present, I write in the hope you may be able to send me a note in reply.

Respectfully yours,
John Galt.
J. C. Hobhouse, Esq., M. P.

There may have been some verbal differences in the note sent, from the foregoing. Mr. Hobhouse’s answer was—

July 28, 1830.
“21, Charles Street.

“My Dear Sir;—I happen to know that Lord Byron offered to give the Guiccioli a sum of money outright, or to leave it to her by his will. I also happen to know, that the lady would not hear of any such present or provision; for I have a letter in which Lord B. extols her disinterestedness; and mentions, that he had met with a similar refusal from another female. As to the G. being in destitute circumstances, I cannot believe it; for Count Gamba, her brother, whom I knew very well after Lord B.’s death, never made any complaint or mention of such a fact—add to which, that I knew a maintenance was provided for her by her husband, in consequence of a law process before the death of Lord Byron.

“I am, as you say, rather in a bustle at this moment, being the Chairman of Mr. Hume’s Committee, and having the prospect of a little work of my own for Saturday next in Covent Garden—but I do not intend a second time to sit for the portrait drawn by the worthy author of the Ayrshire Legatees.

Very truly yours,
J. C. Hobhouse.
John Galt, Esq.

This letter was clear enough; but the friend from whom I received my information of the matter alluded to, still persisted in his story.—As the great object of my Life of Byron was to shew the features of his Lordship’s character, could this be done without exhibiting his conduct in a transaction so important as to be only inferior to the separation from his lady? My note to Mr. Hobhouse was, obviously, for a public purpose; and his explicit reply was so couched, as plainly to indicate that he was aware of that;—no injury has arisen to himself, and certainly none to Lord B., from the publication of his statement. However, I explained the dilemma I was placed in by these words
Pot versus Kettle,
in the preface:—“It will be seen by a note relative to a circumstance which took place in
Lord Byron’s conduct towards the Countess Guiccioli, that Mr. Hobhouse has enabled me to give two versions of an affair not regarded by some of that lady’s relations as having been marked by generosity; but I could not expunge what I had stated, having no reason to doubt the authenticity of my information. The reader is enabled to form his own opinion on the subject.”

In correcting for a second edition, finding that Mr. Hobhouse tenderly felt himself injured by the publication of his note, it was omitted, and a fuller account of the transaction inserted; but as a new edition was sooner wanted than I expected, it was necessary to supply the demand before I was ready with my revision; and I was not apprised of the second edition being printed, till I received the proof of the preface marked for the third. Whether, after a sale of many thousand copies, it was worth while to make any change, seems doubtful. But without subtracting from the evidence in my possession a very strong illustration of the truth of the opinion that Lord Byron was precarious in his attachments or (what was quite of as much importance) seeming to doubt the integrity of my own friend, I could do no less than I did.

As to my letter to the editor of the New Monthly Magazine, permit me to say, that, in deviating from a rule constantly adhered to, namely, not to answer the observations of the Reviewers on my works, I have been only the more convinced of its propriety. When Mr. Hobhouse complained that I did him injustice, I at once, with the readiness due to a man who conceived himself injured, not only expressed my regret for the error, but, besides correcting, of course, the work, I even, out of consideration for the deference due to his notorious station, determined to acknowledge that error publicly before a new edition was likely to be required. Our correspondence will show both the feeling in which I received his strictures, and my surprise, that he should have deemed my sketch of Lord Byron drawn in a disparaging spirit.

Eastbourn, Sept. 2, 1830.

Dear Sir;—Amongst the agreeable things which you say of me in your life of Lord Byron, you conjecture that I ‘condemned’ Childe Harold previously to its publication. There is not the slightest foundation for this supposition—nor is it true as you state, ‘that I was the only person who had seen the poem in manuscript, as I was with Lord Byron whilst he was writing it.’ I had left Lord Byron before he had finished the two cantos, and, excepting a few fragments, I had never seen them until they were printed. My own persuasion is, that the story told in Dallas’s Recollections of some person, name unknown, having dissuaded Lord Byron from publishing Childe Harold, is a mere fabrication, for it is at complete variance with all Lord Byron himself told me on the subject. At any rate, I was not that person; if I had been, it is not very likely that the poem which I had endeavoured to stifle in its birth, should, in its complete, or, as Lord Byron says, in its ‘concluded state,’ be dedicated to me. I must, therefore, request you will take the earliest opportunity of relieving me from this imputation, which, so far as a man can be written down by any other author than himself, cannot fail to produce a very prejudicial effect, and to give me more uneasiness than I think it can be your wish to inflict on any man who has never given you provocation or excuse for injustice.

“You have fallen into many other errors both as to facts and inference, chiefly as it appears to me from relying too implicitly on the catch-penny compilations of your predecessors, some of whom you know to be very good-for-nothing fellows. Lord Byron had his faults—many faults certainly—but he was not the mean, tricky creature you have represented him to have been, nor can those foibles which yon remarked in him when a boy, and have thought fit to expose, be fairly regarded as a constituent part of that nature and character by which alone any man ought in common candour to be judged.

I am glad to find my college stories administered relief to your nerves, when we were together in the Malta packet some one and twenty years ago; and I am not sorry that my wearing a red coat at Cagliari, and cutting my finger in the quarries of Pentelicus, should have furnished materials for your present volume; but to repay me for having supplied these timely episodes, as well as for your copious extracts from my travels in Albania, and also for inserting my note about Madame Guiccioli without my leave, you must positively cancel the passage respecting Childe Harold in page 161 of your little volume. If you had written in quarto I should not be so desirous to inform you of your error, and to ask for a correction of it; but as the
or Hobhouse versus Galt.535
slander is portable, I have a right to entreat that you will lose no time in complying with my request.

“I remain, truly yours,
John C. Hobhouse.
John Galt, Esq.

I make no other comment on this, than it will perhaps strike the reader that the use of the word “slander “ in the last sentence, might have justified a sharper reply than the following:—

“29, Half Moon Street, 3d Sept. 1830.

Dear Sir;—Your letter of yesterday reached me just as I was preparing to go out of town, and I hasten to acknowledge the receipt, lest you should suppose, by the necessary delay, that I did not pay it sufficient attention.

“It so happens that I have not a copy of Byron’s Life, but I will get one. Of this I am certain, that I said nothing of you, or of him, but what I meant at least should be kindly considered. We form different estimates of the same thing; but it does not follow that we are actuated by unworthy motives, and I do not imagine that you suspect me of that. This much I do know, that the recollection of our voyages has always been agreeable; and, in condemning Byron for his conduct to Hunt, I did so upon his own shewing, for I had not then seen Hunt’s work.

“I will correct—as the shortest and most general mode of effecting it—in the New Monthly Magazine the mistake you mention; and if you will point out any other, I will, at the same time, make a clean breast* of all imputable errors, or defend them. I believe I have written a fair, though not a full account of Byron; and I should greatly repine at the idea, of being in any way aiding to the propagation of any thing to his disadvantage. Do, pray, let me know in what I have erred any time before the 20th. Though I laugh sometimes at the foibles of my friends, and those whom I respect, in all such things we are reciprocal. I think, in fairness, you cannot say I have represented your friend as tricky; for, on the contrary, I always said he was much more a thing of impulses, than guided by any conclusion of his understanding.—Believe me, dear sir,

“Truly yours,
John Galt.
J. C. Hobhouse, Esq., M. P., &c. &c.

I think there was a note subjoined, suggesting that Mr. Hobhouse should write a life of Lord Byron.

The reply to this letter obliged me to assume a resolution not to be offended:—

Eastbourn, Sept. 8, 1830.

“Dear Sir;—The correction of your mistake in the New Monthly Magazine seems to me but a poor expedient. If, however, it is too late to cancel the page in the present edition, I must suffer you to do as you propose. Indeed, a more attentive perusal of your book convinces me, that nothing which it contains is likely to affect me or anybody else permanently. You may, for aught I know, have written your Life of Byron with the good intentions professed in your letter to me; but I am sure that any one would suspect from the work, that you care not what you say; and your letter confesses, that you know not what you say.

“‘It is from carelessness of truth, rather than from deliberate lying, that the world is so full of falsehood.’ So said Dr. Johnson, and so I believe. I wonder that even common policy did not induce you to be more cautious in making statements which might be so easily disproved, and which have, indeed, been already incontrovertibly refuted. The very conversation, which you have judiciously selected from Medwin, as one of those parts of his trumpery book to the truth of which you can speak, I know to be a lie; for I never went the tour of the lake of Geneva with Lord Byron.

“Still more surprised am I, that you should think it possible that your mode of treating your subject should be ‘kindly considered,’ and regarded as a proof of a pleasing recollection of former intercourse, either by myself, or by any real friend of Lord Byron.

You tell me that your wish has been to give only an outline of his intellectual character. I am at a loss to understand how your gossip about him and me, and the silly anecdotes you have copied from very discreditable authorities, can be said to be fairly comprised in such an outline. But your plan ought certainly to have compelled you to make yourself thoroughly acquainted with his poetry, and to quote him just as he wrote. Nevertheless, you have misrepresented him at least nine times in the ten stanzas of that poem which you call the last, and which was not the last, he ever wrote. Oh, for shame! stick to your acknowledged fictions—there you are safe—you may deal with Leddy Grippy and Laurie Todd as you please, but not with those who have really lived, or who are still alive.

“As you have discussed me publicly, you must submit to this lecture, which is one of the disagreeable consequences of trading in the biography of those who are not dead. The task which you so humourously assign me of mending your perform-
* A phrase used by Sir Walter Scott in one of his admirable novels.—Ed.
536Pot versus Kettle,
ance any time between this date and the 20th of October, would, I fear, leave it much in the same state at Sir John Cutler’s stockings. It would not be a labour of love, and I cannot undertake it. But should we happen to meet, I should have no objection to mention to you two or three of your grosser blunders; for, in spite of your ill usage, I would wish to part in peace.

“Yours, truly,
J. C. Hobhouse.
John Galt, Esq.

To those who are unacquainted with Mr. Hobhouse, this letter may justly excite surprise, but as he was so evidently offended, and had not been appeased by what I had explained of my intention, and the regret I had felt for having given him (as he intimated) a just cause of vexation, I returned the following answer

“29, Half-Moon Street, 9th Sept. 1830.

Dear Sir;—I must confess myself surprised at your note. All I can say is, that you attribute to me feelings I have not felt, and which nobody but yourself has discerned. You must have been aware that I could have no control over the first edition of Byron’s life, having the book in your own hands; and you have evidently seen that all my statements are founded on the works and reports of others, except when I speak from my own knowledge. There was a list printed of all the books used in compiling the Life of Byron, and it was, by the publisher’s wish, cancelled. It may be true, that my esteem for Byron and yourself, was not an adoration so great for either as you could have wished; but still it is ‘good respect,’ and the book does justice to both, for it reflects my opinion. But you say it is ill-usage. If you really think so, I must regret it, but it was not so intended. You must know that I cannot be responsible for the nine printer’s errors in the stanzas which, report says, were Byron’s last, and you cannot imagine me to have been so absurd as to make them intentionally. But are you aware that you are in print refuted* in upwards of fifty statements made in a publication of which you are supposed to be the author, on the conversations of your friend.

“I am not sure that I ought to take some of your arguments quite so civilly, but I believe you to be incapable of intentional offence, and I see you write under false impressions. I have looked into the book, not over it all, for I have not had time, and I still think you make more ado about it than you ought; and I am sure you did not intend to be so rude as you seem.

“I have only to repeat, that I believe what I have said of Byron, and I am sure I have attributed the best feeling he had in his motives. Moreover, I have said nothing that hat not been deliberately considered.

“I am obliged by your criticism on my works; but it is not original. You have one imitator in the Literary Gazette.

“I have never said of the living or of the dead one word that I ought to repent, nor made a statement that I would retract but on better authority than that on which the statement was made. What I proposed to do I thought fair. I can have no desire but to make my corrections effectual; and in saying this, you must be sensible that I am anxious to oblige you, and to evince my respect for truth; in which feeling, believe me, always,

“Faithfully yours,
John Galt.
J. C. Hobhouse, Esq., M. P.

I thought the correspondence now ended, for I did not expect, as he was evidently not in the best of tempers, that he would acknowledge himself satisfied with such mingled contrition and sarcasm; but I was disappointed by the following reply:

Eastbourn, Sept. 10, 1830.

Dear Sir;—I should not think it necessary to reply to your last letter, did you not ask me whether I am aware that I have, ‘in print, been refuted in upwards of fifty statements made in a publication, of which I am supposed to be the author, on the conversations of my friend.’ The publication to which you allude, I presume to be that article in the Westminster Review, which, contrary to all literary usage, you have, in your Life of Byron, declared to be mine; at the same time that you quote the impostor whom it exposes as being entitled to your belief, and confirmed by your testimony. Such a decision against me, upon facts, where I spoke from my own knowledge, was, of course, sufficiently offensive; but you now make it still more agreeable, if, as I suppose to be the case, you refer to a pamphlet written and printed by this Medwin, but suppressed by Mr. Colburn, in which pamphlet you tell me ‘I am refuted in upwards of fifty statements.’ In answer then to your question, I say that I could not be aware of the contents of what you knew. I had never seen, and I also add, that not one of all the statements contained in the article in the Westminster Review is capable of refutation. Contradicted they may be, for the man who utters one falsehood has, of course, another at hand to support it. If
* The word should have been “rebutted.”
or Hobhouse versus Galt.537
you had really believed that I had made upwards of fifty statements, which even such a person as Medwin could refute, in one short essay, as to matters of fact connected with Lord Byron, is it very likely that you would have applied to me to assist your undertaking in the first instance, or that, in your letter the other day, you would have exhorted me to write a memoir of Lord Byron, and told me that the world expected it of me? No, no, you do not think I have been refuted; and, had I been you, I would not have said so.

“You must not be allowed to ride off on the poor printer an excuse for the many misquotations of the author whom you profess to criticise. It is not the printer, it is you who are responsible for those errors; and although it is, as you say, very true, that I do not imagine you to be ‘so absurd as to make them intentionally;’ yet I repeat, that an author admitting such gross inaccuracies into his books cannot fairly pretend to have given the intellectual character of the subject of his enquiries. As to the stanzas on his birthday, which you allege, report says, were his last, you might have seen in Colonel Stanhope’s book, which you are so merry withal; that these verses were not the last written by Lord Byron. The mistake is unimportant, but it is a mistake.

“You justify what you say of me in your book in a manner that convinces me all remonstrance must be thrown away upon you. What ground, what possible pretext can you have for the assertion, that I wished for adoration for Lord Byron or myself? This is but a poor recrimination in reply to the charge of absolute misstatements respecting both. In fact, it is one misrepresentation more, and shews the spirit in which your book was written. But the drollest part of your justification is that in which you say, ‘my book does justice to both of you, for it reflects my opinion.’ There may have been before your time many men with the same happy confidence in their own infallibility, but those who have been unwary enough to proclaim it, have generally been laughed at for their pains. Who was the modest man who said:—
“The image in that glass is fair,
For it reflects my face.”

“Since, however, you admit of no other appeal from your opinion, except to your opinion, I am but wasting your time as well as my own, in continuing a correspondence which will not improve your character nor my temper. I feel a just resentment at the manner in which my name has been introduced in your Life of Lord Byron. It was not your unfavourable opinions to which I objected. In some instances, praise is no less impertinent than blame. It was uncalled for, and, therefore, discourteous to make my comparison between Lord Byron and myself, such as you first saw us in extreme youth. Still more wanton was it to represent him as being less cordial to me at one time than another; and, as you facetiously call it, ‘playing the captain grand.’ A man who writes these things, and seriously thinks that he is fulfilling the useful and honourable duties of biography by so trifling with the fame of the dead and the feelings of the living, is past all cure or correction; and as for being rude to such a person, which you seem to think it possible I might mean to be to you, that is quite out of the question. At any rate, after what you have said of me, you would never be able, justly, to complain of any thing I said to you. If you had let me alone, I never should have interfered with your honest calling.

“I remain yours truly,
J. C. Hobhouse.
John Galt, Esq.

It appeared by this note, that the tables were turned, and that Mr. Hobhouse, from being the aggrieved party, was becoming the offender. But still, as he conceived I had injured him, in deference to his afflicted feelings, I returned the following answer. I could not, however, entirely suppress my own. Whether I ought to have felt at all, may be a question; but the letter is evidence that I did feel, and I frankly acknowledge that I am so much of an egoist as to conceive myself to have been quite enough justified in the manner of it.

“29, Half Moon Street,
“11 Sept. 1830.

Dear Sir;—I regret to have offended you to so great a degree, that my assurances have not hod their proper effect; and that, whatever others think, you seem resolved to attribute to me motives I do not feel; nor you, after what has been said, have reason to adhere to.

“I shall be obliged by every communication you favour me with, until the 20th instant, when the facts you may possibly make out will be duly admitted and those you ascribe, but do not, will be answered.

“I have not committed any indecorum in ascribing to you the article in the Westminster Review. It has been long publicly spoken of as yours; and, moreover, as your name was on the pamphlet, I could not but notice it.

“In what way could I determine, not having the MS., about errors in the printed versions of Byron’s poems. I copied from
538Pot versus Kettle,
a printed copy. Which printed copy is the right one?

“Of Capt. Medwin I know nothing. Except in some things, (only several of his) do I admit his authority, and these with a qualification—see p. 211.

“As to ‘adoration,’ I used it because I felt no anger, and to give our correspondence the appearance of less asperity than might be ascribed to it.

“I can only repeat that, being desirous to stand well with you, and every body who has any claim upon me—and I have at once admitted yours—I can have but one wish,—to make any corrections necessary, effectual. But it would be better to close our personal correspondence, as there is on the one side an evidence of more feeling than the other thinks the case requires. Yet I would be happy to subscribe myself at all times,

“Faithfully yours,
John Galt.
J. C. Hobhouse, Esq., M.P.

It is probable that my letter to the Editor of the New Monthly Magazine was a little more severe in its style than it would have been, but for the two last letters of Mr. Hobhouse. At all events, I should not, but for them, have been in it so anxious to show that I was not the only person who considered it probable that he was the “good critic,” who condemned Childe Harold. Whether the grounds which led me to offer a conjecture rendered important by the merits of the poem, were or were not such as to justify the probability I expressed, the reader can determine for himself, but it was natural, where so much grievance was felt, that I should endeavour to show that my fault was not very heinous.

To the Editor of the New Monthly Magazine.

Sir;—It has been a rule with me not to notice publicly either favourable, ignorant, or malicious criticism, but only when error has been pointed out, to make the necessary corrections. On the present occasion I am induced to deviate from this rule, out of personal consideration for Mr. Hobhouse, the Member for Westminster, and the friend of Lord Byron, and accordingly I request a place in your journal for the following remarks:—Mr. Hobhouse has informed me that I have done him wrong, in conjecturing that he was probably the critic who opposed the first publication of Childe Harold. (See Life, p. 161.) The conjecture was founded in believing him to have been in the entire confidence of his Lordship. Lord Byron told me himself, at Athens, that he had not then shown the manuscript to any person. Mr. Hobhouse says that he had left Lord Byron before be had finished the two cantos, and, excepting a few fragments, he had never seen them until they were printed. An inscription on the manuscript has been preserved, and in his Lordship’s handwriting, viz.—‘Byron, Joannina, in Albania, begun October 31, 1809, concluded Canto II., Smyrna, March 28, 1810. Byron.’ Mr. Hobhouse was with his Lordship long after the latter date.

“At page 212, I have quoted from Medwin, that Mr. Hobhouse was with Lord Byron and Shelly in a boat, &c. It seems Mr. Hobhouse was not there; his name, therefore, should have been omitted by Captain Medwin. At page 211, I have stated what I think of Captain Medwin’s work, and, in my preface, have alluded to a suppressed pamphlet which was not seen by me until after my opinion had been printed.

Mr. Hobhouse says, that the verses which have always been considered as the last Lord Byron ever wrote, were not so, and that my version of them is not correct in nine different words. To this I can only answer, that they were copied from a printed copy, having no other, (I believe the Parisian edition of Byron’s works,) and that I still cannot say what corrections should be made. If Mr. Hobhouse be engaged on any illustration of Byron, he will of course mention what edition should be preferred.

“I take leave on the present occasion to say, that, having long considered Lord Byron as a public man, in writing his life, it seemed to me that I should confine myself to what had been already given to the world concerning him, authenticated with so much of what I knew myself to be correct, as would enable me to furnish the grounds on which I formed my notion of his Lordship’s character. By adhering to this principle, nothing improper could be done to his memory.

“A public character, like public events, can never be justly described by contemporaries. The only course that contemporaries can fairly pursue, and I have endeavoured to do so, is to add their personal knowledge to that of others. From the materials thus accumulated, posterity alone can be able to construct the proper work. It was no part of my plan to controvert the statement of others, but only to take such of them as were either generally admitted, or were not satisfactorily disproved.

“I am, &c.
John Galt.
September 22, 1830.”
or Hobhouse versus Galt. 539

“N.B. Since the foregoing was sent to the printers, it has been suggested to me, that I am not the only one who has done Mr. Hobhouse the injustice to suppose that he was the critic who condemned Childe Harold, and the following words have been laid before me as old as 1826:—‘Critics,’ says Lord Byron, ‘are all ready made, and how early Mr. Hobhouse was qualified for the trade, will appear from his having advised Lord Byron not to publish Childe Harold.’”

This did not please Mr. Hobhouse; and, in consequence, he troubled the Editor with a letter, which has been published in the last Number of the New Monthly, and of which I will give a copy:

To the Editor of the New Monthly Magazine.

“1. Sir;—In your October Magazine I observe a letter, addressed to you, signed ‘John Galt,’ written—so it is said—out of personal consideration for me, although the author is not in the habit, as he likewise tells you, of publicly noticing either favourable, ignorant, or malicious criticism. Now, notwithstanding this singular compliment convinces me that it is not unusual for Mr. Galt to mean one thing and say another, yet there are parts of his letter to which, although they are of equally doubtful import, I cannot attach so innocent an interpretation; and which compel me, however unwillingly, to offer an explanatory comment on that very strange epistle.

“2. A short time previously to the publication of his Life of Lord Byron, Mr. John Galt wrote to me, requesting me to enable him to contradict rumours which had reached him prejudicial to Lord Byron. I did so; and Mr. Galt not only published a part of my answer without my leave, but, by introducing the story in question into his narrative, and stating that he had no reason to doubt the authenticity of his information, not only did more injury to the character of Lord Byron than if he had repeated the scandal without any contradiction, but placed me in the not very creditable position, of an incompetent and inconclusive defender of my illustrious friend.

“3. I scarcely need state, that if Mr. Galt did not think my denial of the truth of his rumour satisfactory, he had but one course to pursue; namely, not to notice it at all—at least not without that special permission which I should most certainly have withheld from him, having no ambition to appear as a witness in any cause of which Mr. Galt can pretend to be the judge.

“4. This conduct, and the general tenor of his Life of Lord Byron, ought to have deterred me from any farther communication with Mr. Galt, who, by some strange misconception of his privileges at an author, seems to think, that the feelings of the living, no less than the fame of the dead, ought to be at the mercy of any one engaged in the noble art of bookmaking. Nevertheless I did venture, when his volume appeared, to remonstrate with him, by letter, for having, amongst other agreeable things, said of me, that I probably was the critic who condemned Childe Harold previously to its publication. Mr. Galt replied, ‘I will correct [as the shortest and most general mode of effecting it] in the New Monthly Magazine, the mistake you mention;’ and with this promise, repeated, after some correspondence, in his last letter, I was obliged to be satisfied. But I now find, on reading his letter to you, that, instead of correcting his mistake, he has only noticed that I had complained of it, and has made just so much use of my private correspondence as may divert your attention from his own published error, to what he wishes to pass for an inaccurate statement contained in one of my letters to him. He has, moreover, been pleased to declare, that his conjecture was founded on his belief of ‘an entire confidence’ subsisting between Lord Byron and myself; and thus leaves your readers to draw an inference as to that confidence, which I shall not certainly discuss with Mr. Galt. I am therefore compelled, however unwillingly, and, I believe, unaccustomed, to obtrude any little personal grievance upon public notice, to assure your readers, that I assured Mr. Galt, that there is not the slightest foundation for the conjecture, that I dissuaded Lord Byron from publishing Childe Harold. Had I done so, indeed, it is not very likely that he would have dedicated that noble poem to myself. I may also add, that the story told of his hesitation in publishing it, is at complete variance with all he repeatedly mentioned to me on the subject. As to the precise time at which Lord Byron finished the two first cantos of Childe Harold, it is true that a note in his handwriting, and recorded at the time, mentions that he concluded them at Smyrna; but any one who reads these cantos with more attention than Mr. Galt, will perceive that several stanzas were added after that time; so that Mr. Galt’s attempt to refute a private statement of mine by a public reference to my friend’s autograph memorandum, will, I trust, hardly change the opinion which may be entertained as to our respective authority on matters connected with Lord Byron.

“5. I now come to the note appended to Mr. Galt’s letter, in which he states, that some one has suggested that he was not the first to do me the injustice to suppose I had condemned Childe Harold. An associate in sorrow has often been thought an advantage; but it is reserved for Mr. Galt to console himself by discovering a predecessor in misconduct. Mr. Galt has, however, abstained from informing your readers who that predecessor was, and I am
540Pot versus Kettle,
forced to conclude that his name would not add to his authority, nor has Mr. Galt affirmed that he saw the injurious supposition in any published work. Surely, he cannot have quoted the charge from a pamphlet written by a person called
Medwin, which he himself tells us was judiciously suppressed. If he has, I regret much that he should condescend to employ so much dexterity merely to evade a promise, the simple performance of which would have saved me the trouble of writing this letter, and your readers the consideration of a subject in which, I am well aware, they can have no concern, and must feel very little interest.

“I beg to remain your obedient, humble servant,
J. C. Hobhouse.
October, 1830.”

I think it will readily be conceded that this epistle calls for some remark.

I certainly did, “out of personal consideration” for Mr. Hobhouse, deviate from a rule constantly adhered to, by publishing the letter in the New Monthly Magazine. The chief cause was this, I was charged with having ill-used him. Upon his complaint, I became anxious to repair the evil; and, not expecting a second edition of my work would be the speediest means of evincing my regret, I chose the magazine. Mr. Hobhouse is certainly at liberty to consider the step as a “singular compliment,” or not. But I do now regret that I ever considered his complaint as deserving so much consideration. I should better have consulted what was due to myself, had I been less anxious to mollify him.

The third paragraph of Mr. Hobhouse’s letter has been noticed already, in speaking of his first note. The reader has, in the actual transaction, a specimen of the candour which distinguishes that gentleman. It was obviously to avoid being “a judge” in the matter, that I quoted his letter; and it is in my power now to say, without imputing to Mr. Hobhouse any intentional suppression of a fact, that, instead of two cases, there are three in that business, for, after the death of Lord Byron, the Countess Guiccioli was, I am informed, in destitute circumstances, and obliged to return to her old husband, from whom she subsequently obtained, by the mediation of the Pope, an addition to double the amount of the allowance she had during Lord Byron’s lifetime.

The fourth paragraph, in which these words are included, “Mr. Galt seems to think that the feelings of the living, no less than the fame of the dead,” &c. This charge I throw back upon the author:

1st. Because it ought not to have been, in any circumstances, made by one who had assisted in composing English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. It is true that the lines of Mr. Hobhouse were in the second edition of that satire, expunged by Lord Byron, but not in consequence of any penitence on his part.—2d. Because he libelled the assembled gentlemen of England in the House of Commons, for which he was ignominiously punished; 3d, because there was a mysterious rumour concerning him, owing to something detractive to the character of the late Mr. Canning; 4th, because the part he has assumed in being a member of parliament, is professedly to disregard the feelings of gentlemen engaged in the service of their country; and 5th, because his attempts to translate some of the classics might justly be considered as evincing no respect for “the fame of the dead;” but he may plead that he did his best in that outrage.

Then, as to his seeking still cause of offence in the manner of my apprising the public, by the New Monthly Magazine, of the wrong done to him. I cannot condescend to enter into farther explanation; but as light things indicate the currents of the air, the motive by which I was actuated will appear, by the simple fact, that, while I acknowledged I had, as he said, done him wrong, I went no farther than what was requisite to lighten the enormity of my own vast offence for the passage quoted in extenuation was, “‘Critics,’ says Lord Byron, ‘are all ready made;’ and how early Mr. Hobhouse was qualified for the trade, will appear from his having advised Lord Byron not to publish Childe Harold, and endeavoured to persuade him that it had no merit, he no talent or poetry.” I omitted the words in italics, because they would be offensive to Mr. Hobhouse, and made nothing for me. This shews the spirit by which I was actuated; even after his correspon-
or Hobhouse versus Galt.541
dence; but I must now change my tone.

R. C. Dallas, Recollections of Lord Byron

I have, since the appearance of the letter in the New Monthly Magazine, re-examined the grounds on which I threw out the conjecture that Mr. Hobhouse was “the good critic,” and I solicit the attention of the reader to what follows.—On the day after Lord Byron’s arrival from Greece in London, Mr. Dallas breakfasted with him, when he received the manuscript of Childe Harold. Mr. Moore quotes from Mr. Dallas. “He took it from a small trunk, with a number of verses. He said they had been read but by one person, who had found very little to commend, and much to condemn: that he himself was of that opinion, and he was sure I should be so too.”—Vol. i. p. 260. Further, Mr. Moore says, from Dallas, “Attentive as he had hitherto been to my opinions and suggestions, and natural as it was that he should be swayed by such decided praise, I was surprised to find that (I did) not at first obtain credit with him for my judgment on Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. It was any thing but poetry—it had been condemned by a good critic—had I not myself seen the sentences on the margins of the manuscript?”—Vol. i. p. 261.

Now observe, Mr. Moore does not conjecture who “the good critic” was, but as the circumstance is interesting, I attempted to do so, and said it was “probably Mr. Hobhouse.” This is my offence, and I stated the grounds on which I did so, namely, in believing that an entire confidence subsisted between him and Lord Byron. When Mr. Hobhouse informed me that I had done him wrong in the conjecture, I rectified the error, as already stated; but, had I thought he was capable of writing such a letter as he has done to the editor of the New Monthly, undoubtedly I should have hesitated—for either Lord Byron spoke too lightly to Mr. Dallas, or Mr. Dallas has published an untruth, or Mr. Hobhouse has wandered from the fact; for Mr. Dallas, as quoted by Mr. Moore, says, that the poems given to him with the manuscript of Childe Harold, “had been read but by one person,” and Mr. Hobhouse acknowledges in his letter of 2d of September, that he had seen the poem. But the whole question is one that may yet be susceptible of proof. Lord Byron in giving the MS. to Mr. Dallas, directed his attention to the marginal notes. These “sentences” were, as the statement implies, in the writing of the “good critic.” If, therefore, the MS. has been preserved, the question as to who was the “good critic” may easily be determined by referring to the writing of the marginal notes. Mr. Hobhouse must excuse me for saying, that, until this be done, his declaration will not be satisfactory to the public; nor can the circumstance of the dedication of the poem to him in its concluded state, be regarded as any proof that he was not the “good critic.” Lord Byron himself, on the authority of Mr. Dallas, quoted by Mr. Moore, thought the poem “was any thing but poetry.” If, by its success, he was led afterwards to think differently, and as a mark of his regard for Mr. Hobhouse, inscribed it to him, that would prove nothing; for from the nature of his Lordship, it was the very thing he was most likely to do, in revenge for his companion having condemned it. And if his Lordship still retained his original opinion, that it was “any thing but poetry,” he might, in the caprice of playful malice, probably regard Mr. Hobhouse as the fittest person to be so distinguished by a work which had humbugged the age; but, jocularity apart, this is not my sincere opinion, and therefore let me not be misunderstood. Mr. Hobhouse has denied the charge, and that is enough.

With respect to the fifth paragraph of Mr. Hobhouse’s letter, there is evidence of the natural confusion of his mind, and the agitation arising from passion. I did not form my opinion, as is quite evident, from the facts adduced from the pamphlet, which Mr. Hobhouse supposes, because I had not seen that pamphlet till after the work was completed. My conjecture was founded on what Mr. Moore has stated in his vol. i. pp. 260 and 361; and this Mr. Hobhouse should have known while he was writing.

Of the acrimony with which he speaks of Medwin, I have nothing to do. He knows best the cause; but I have said of that gentleman in my
542Pot versus Kettle,
xxxii chapter, what I really thought, and have as yet seen nothing to change one word of what is there stated.

But, to end this Pot and Kettle jostle, I will state my opinion of Captain Medwin’s Conversations in another form. I believe much of what he states, to have been actually said to him by Lord Byron; but his Lordship took such pleasure in mystification, that it is probable he intentionally distorted and magnified many of the things he related, apprehending they were likely to be made public.

To conclude.—In the foregoing narrative, with the illustrative documents, it must be clear to the reader,

First—That I readily made reparation for an unintentional wrong.

Second—That the inflicted arrogance changed my regret into resentment.

Third—That Mr. Hobhouse’s letter to the New Monthly is calculated, by its misstatements, to mislead the public both with respect to me and my dispositions.

Fourth—That there are circumstances in the facts stated, which may affect Mr. Hobhouse’s denial of being the “good critic,” even though I put entire faith in it.

Fifth—That the Life of Byron being before the public, the reader is the only judge whether it has been written in a detractive spirit towards his Lordship or others. For myself, I still say, that although it is not a full narrative of Lord Byron’s private life, it is fair in all that I have said was dictated under that varying feeling which no one can write of his Lordship without experiencing; and that I have neither seen nor heard of any remark made on the work which induces me to fear that I have received from himself, an erroneous impression of his character. John Galt.