LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century
Chapter I

Contents Vol. I
Prelude 1
Prelude 2
‣ Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Contents Vol. II
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Note to Chapter XV
Contents Vol. III
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Note to Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Note to Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Note to Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Index of Persons
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The first Epoch.


OCCASIONAL glimpses of London had been allowed to me in my boyish days. In February, 1812, I was to be a resident therein for some weeks; to hear the pulsations of the mighty heart; to be face to face with great public things. My father’s friend, Mr. George Lane, was the editor of a morning paper, the “British Press,” and of an evening paper, the “Globe.” The office of these papers was in the Strand, on the premises where the “Globe” is still published. Under his general guidance I was to have a brief apprenticeship as an honorary member of the staff of reporters belonging to his establishment. I might make myself useful if I could; but I was under no serious responsibility. I had, however, so much eagerness to behold the novel and exciting matters which such a position offered to me—if possible to render them an important part of my education—that my willingness to work soon obtained me work to do. I was placed under the care of my friend’s stepson, upon whom devolved the duty of arranging the division of labour amongst the reporters, but taking no share himself in their actual work. He was a kind-hearted Irishman, some-
what duller than most of his literary countrymen; not very zealous in the enforcement of discipline amongst the troop of which he was the lieutenant; more frequently to be found in the neighbouring coffee-houses than in the Gallery; but, nevertheless, useful in picking up the on dits of the Lobby. I walked with him to the House on the second day of my new town-life.

To gratify the curiosity of the youth from the country, we go through Westminster Hall. The little shops of the seventeenth century and much later have been cleared away. Soane’s ugly and inconvenient Courts between the buttresses have not yet been built. Within the hall, near the entrance in Palace Yard, are two trumpery wooden buildings, the Court of Common Pleas, and the Court of Exchequer. At the upper end of the hall are two similar erections, the Court of King’s Bench, and the Court of Chancery. We pass below these through a small door in the corner, and are quickly in the Exchequer Coffee-house. There, apart from other company, are half a dozen gentlemen very merry over their wine. I am introduced to one or two of these gentlemen, and am invited to take a glass with them. Though somewhat prodigal amongst themselves of what we now call “chaff,” they spared the shy stripling who suddenly found himself in the midst of men of talent, who, whether attached to the “Chronicle,” the “Post,” or the “Times,” appeared to regard all political questions with the sublimest indifference. One I especially remember as looking upon the laughing side of human affairs, and never unmindful of the enjoyment of the passing hour, even amidst the monotonous performance of his duty in
the reporter’s function. Age could not wither, nor custom stale, the infinite sociality of
William Jerdan, as I knew him in years when the third and fourth Georges had passed away. I saw that, in this pleasant party, he was not alone in his conviction that when one of the orators who could quickly empty the House was up, he might linger awhile before he took his turn, and pick up something of what the bore had said from those who had had the misfortune to note his platitudes.

We are at last in the lobby of the House of Commons—not a grand vestibule, but a shabby room with a low ceiling. We enter by a swing door—members and strangers indiscriminately—and move to the left side of the gangway by which members pass to the sacred door of the house. We stand by the fireplace. My companion has some information to obtain from an Irish member of his acquaintance—perhaps he has only to ask for a frank—and he waits his opportunity. I am somewhat tired of this delay, and long to be looking upon the stirring scene within. For ever and anon, as the door opens, I hear a loud voice, and catch a peep of a member gesticulating amidst cheers and laughter, and the Speaker crying “Order! order!” At length we ascend the narrow stairs to the Strangers’ Gallery. I am allowed to pass as a reporter. It is the sole privilege accorded to those without whom Parliament would become a voice shut up in a cavern. The gallery is crowded with members’ constituents, who have come with orders, much to the annoyance of the guardian of the toll-bar on the stairs. He would rather see his customary half-crown, which others have paid. We put our heads in; and I observe on the back bench—which by its elevation commands a view of the body
of the House—half-a-dozen reporters busily employed with their note-books. This back bench is theirs by custom, but not by right. If the gallery should be cleared for a division, the staff of the Journals will take care to keep as close to the door as possible, that they may regain their places after the division. It was later, if I remember rightly, that they had a separate door of admission to this especial seat. It was fourteen years later that a Reporters’ Room was assigned them at one extremity of the gallery passage.

It is enough for me, on this my first night, to look upon the general aspect of the House. In a week or two, by persevering attendance, I become familiar with the personal appearance of the leaders on either side. To the right of the Speaker, on the ministerial bench there sit, Spencer Perceval, Chancellor of the Exchequer; Vicary Gibbs, Attorney-General; Ryder, Home Secretary; George Rose; Palmerston; Croker. Castlereagh is sitting high up above the Treasury bench. Canning is on the cross bench below. To the left of the Speaker are Ponsonby, Brougham, Burdett, Grattan, Horner, Romilly, Sheridan, Tierney, Whitbread. All of these are gone but two, to whom it has been permitted to vindicate the belief that it is the privilege of genius never to grow old. I practise myself in reporting for my own amusement and instruction. In not writing short-hand, I have no inferiority to the experienced men around me; for I observe that very few have acquired, or at any rate employ, that useful art. The debates of 1812 were not expected to be reported so fully as in more recent times. Often members complained that their sayings were misrepresented. Such complaints were generally met by a disposition on the part of the House
to punish the offender. It was very daring in Mr. Brougham to hint, on such an occasion in 1812, that “Gentlemen should consider the disadvantages under which reports of their debates were taken.” With a mock solemnity the Speaker called “Order!” and the cry of “Order!” echoed through the House. To recognise the presence at its debates of the obscure strangers who sat on the back bench of the gallery would have been to compromise the privileges of Parliament. This hypocrisy was a queer relic of those times when the repression of public opinion was held to be the security of the State.

Thursday, the 27th of February, is to be a great field-day in the Commons. I must be there at noon, to secure a seat in the gallery. There I sit, looking upon the empty House till the Speaker comes in. The prayers are read, and some uninteresting orders of the day are disposed of. Strangers are crowding in, and we hold our places as well as we can against the rush. There are apparently two or three seats vacant on the front bench. A wicked gentleman of the press suggests to a despairing provincial that there he may be accommodated. He strides and pushes to the desired haven, amidst a suppressed titter, and is horror-struck to find that there he can neither see nor hear. The back of the great clock is his obstructing enemy. This is the standing joke nightly repeated. It was as successful in producing a titter as the Timeo Danaos below, when it was the fashion for young and even old members to air their musty Latin in bald quotations, as some lady novelists interlard their feeble English with boarding-school French. The routine business is over. The battle is about to begin. Sir Thomas Turton is to bring
on a motion on the state of the nation. He was a true professor of the Whig creed—that the contest against the French Emperor was hopeless—that the Spanish war would last as long as the Peloponnesian, with little probability of success. He touched upon the Orders in Council; but was told by the clever ministerial supporter,
Mr. Robinson, that such discussion had better be reserved for the forthcoming debate, upon the motion of which notice had been given “by a learned gentleman of great talents and extensive information.” In two years from the time when he had made his maiden speech, Mr. Brougham had thus become an authority in the House. The debate of the 27th of February was spirited. It appeared likely to close at an early hour, for the gallery was being cleared for a division. But Mr. Whitbread rose, and called upon Lord Castlereagh to give some explanation of his views, especially upon the Catholic question, now that he was likely to become a member of the Administration. The Marquis Wellesley had resigned the seals of the Foreign Office a week before. The most important declarations of the session were thus called forth. Mr. Perceval and Lord Castlereagh declared that they and the Ministry were unanimous against granting the Catholic claims now. The debate was dragging on till two o’clock. The reporters had expected that, after the speech of the Prime Minister, the House would divide. I was left by the staff of the “British Press” to make a short note if anything should occur. Up rose Mr. Canning. Somewhat alarmed I began to write. I gained confidence. His graceful sentences had no involved construction to render them difficult to follow. His impressive elocution fixed his words
in my memory. Some matters I necessarily passed over; but the great point of his speech, that he was for speedily granting the Catholic claims with due safeguards, was an important one for the journal which I was suddenly called upon to represent, and I caught the spirit, if not the full words, of the declaration in which he stood opposed to the Minister, and to his own ancient rival. I ran to the office (for young legs were faster than hackney-coaches), wrote my report, to the astonishment of the regular staff of reporters, and went happy to bed at five o’clock. I doubt whether any literary success of my after-life gave me as much pleasure as this feat.

The accomplished wife of my friend the editor held a sort of levée every morning in her drawing-room. Whilst he was labouring upon his evening papers, Mrs. Lane was picking up the gossip of the town from members of Parliament who dropped in—from authors, players, and artists. On the morning of the 28th, Lord Byron was the great theme in his capacity of politician, when we were anxiously expecting a poem whose excellence was bruited abroad. The night before, h« had delivered his maiden speech in the House of Lords, against the Bill for making the destruction or injury of stocking or lace frames a capital offence. It was a set speech—declamatory rather than reasoning. He believed that it was a great speech, and had a right so to believe from the compliments that were paid him in the House. A week after this appeared “Childe Harold.” He says in one of his journals, “Nobody ever thought of my prose afterwards, nor indeed did I.” It was then that he awoke one morning and found himself
famous. It is difficult, after the lapse of half a century, to describe, without the appearance of exaggeration, the effect which Lord Byron’s poetry produced, year after year, upon the younger minds of that time. Its tone was in harmony with the great vicissitudes of the world. Its passionate exhibition of deep and often morbid feelings was akin with the emotions that were engendered by the tremendous struggle in which England was engaged—its alternations of rapture and depression, its courage and its despair. What we now call “sensation” dramas and “sensation” novels are the lineal descendants of the verse romances in which, under every variety of clime and costume, Byron was pouring forth his own feelings—indifferent to the possible injury to others of that contempt for the conventionalities of society which made him parade his misanthropy and his scepticism, his loves and his hatreds, before all mankind. The corruption thus engendered was more the corruption of taste than of morals. Our Castalian spring became insipid without a dash of alcohol.
Scott paled in this strong light. The Lake poets underwent an eclipse. This could not have been accomplished without high genius; but it may be doubted whether the sensual egotism of Byron would have ever allowed him to take a higher place than he now takes amongst the English immortals.

My life during these two months in London was a round of excitement. The theatre was open to me—the one theatre, Covent Garden, where I could see John Kemble and Charles Young, and the best comic actors—where once, and once only, I saw Mrs. Siddons, before she left the stage in June of that year.
Drury Lane was being rebuilt. There was no other theatre in London, except “the little theatre in the Haymarket” for summer performances. The theatrical monopoly was vigorously contended for by what was deemed the liberal party in Parliament. A Bill had been brought in for establishing a new theatre for dramatic entertainments within the cities of London and Westminster. It was opposed, because, said some Liberals who had become shareholders in Drury Lane, it went to supersede the royal prerogative for granting licences for dramatic exhibition. It was in vain urged that the monopolists had built playhouses in which a great many could see and no one could hear, and thus we had dogs, elephants, and horses introduced on the stage.
Mr. Whitbread, who had taken an active part in the rebuilding of Drury Lane upon the same principle of sacrificing sense to show, contended that the taste of the people must be followed as well as guided. With these notions, Mr. Whitbread was to become a caterer for the public taste, as one of the committee of management for the theatre upon whose portico Shakspere was set to shiver outside, little regarded till the greatest of modern actors should bring him once more into fashion.

Of the many intellectual excitements—not without accompanying temptations to which I was exposed,—the most attractive was the Club of the Eccentrics. Mr. Peter Cunningham, in his admirable “Hand-book of London,” tells us that in Mays Buildings, St. Martin’s Lane, the Sutherland Arms “was the favourite place of meeting of ‘the Eccentrics,’ a club of privileged wits so called.” The wits had certainly not here any exclusive possession of the
privileges of such a club; for without a considerable infusion of dulness they would have missed many an opportunity for the exercise of their time-honoured art,—“to cut blocks with a razor.” On ordinary nights the company at the Sutherland Arms had as little pretensions to the character of wits as the members of
Goldsmith’s “Muzzy Club.” They ate their kidneys; they smoked their pipes; they read the newspaper; and they made profound reflections upon the war and the ministry. But upon Saturday nights the calm is invaded by a rush of reporters. On such a night I am admitted, upon payment of the fee of half-a-crown; am duly harangued by the chairman chosen for the occasion, who descants upon the glories of a society which numbered the greatest of the age; sign my name in the big book, which really contains some records of the illustrious, and am glad to have made my reply, and have gone to a table to eat my supper. Then it is moved that the chair should be taken by Mr. Jones, to hear “a charge.” For three hours I listen to gleams of wit and flashes of eloquence—intermingled with the occasional ventures of a rash ambition which provoke laughter, and with small attempts at fun which call forth groans—so that midnight arrives and I have no disposition for rest. A name or two of those to whom I have rapturously listened have not altogether perished out of the ken of a new generation. Richard Lalor Sheil belongs to history. Once or twice I was witness to the profound admiration, entertained by men who were not incompetent judges, of the wondrous eloquence of a reporter named Brownley. Some of the elders of the company told me that he came nearer to the excellences of
Burke than any living man. He was not a Burke; for the orgies of the night clouded the intellect of the morning. Undoubtedly his powers were very wonderful. He poured forth a torrent of words; but far more regulated by a correct taste than the flowery metaphors of Sheil. Brownley had a lofty figure and a grand massive head. Sheil presented a singular contrast to him in person and in his rapid utterance and violent gestures. Sheil was then little known; and when he had finished his oration, Mr. Quin, the editor of a daily paper, rushed forward with, “Sir, I honour ye—dine with me to-morrow.” Less aspiring in his declamation than Brownley was William Mudford, the editor of the “Courier,” but singularly neat in his logical precision and his mild sarcasm. J. P. Davis (Pope Davis, as he was called, from a great picture which he painted at Rome—the Presentation of Lord Shrewsbury’s Family to the Pope) did not belong to the Reporting tribe. We have missed him lately, in a green old age, doing violence to the natural kindness of his heart by an intense hatred of the Royal Academy, in which he persevered to the last, and in which he was ever associated with his friend Haydon. In that dingy room of the Sutherland Arms rival editors suspended their daily controversies. They battled there for victory, but their blows left no scars. Rival artists were not there jealous. The newspaper critic of literature and art was then a very innocuous being. Journals took little notice of books, and their art-criticism was something ludicrous. The Weekly Literary Journal was not then called into existence. When Mr. Colburn evoked in 1817 “The Literary Gazette,” to be a valuable adjunct to his
power of “preparing the public mind,”
Mr. Jerdan, his editor and co-proprietor, was the honey-bee who gave to most authors his sweets without inspiring the dread of the sting. It mattered little, therefore, if books were reviewed without being read. The same process of reviewing without reading survives amongst us, but with a diversity.

The Easter Recess sets the reporters free for ten days. I avail myself of the holiday to look about London, of which I know no spots out of the range of the commonest thoroughfares. I have a friend who, although long familiar with the town, is always as desirous to seek new objects of observation as to find enjoyment either in action or repose. Stedman Whitwell was an architect who would probably have made a fortune in the days that were at hand, but for the terrible catastrophe of the fall of the Brunswick Theatre, which he built. The destruction was occasioned by the obstinacy of those who hung weights upon the roof, contrary to his express warning. Most of those who could appreciate his talent, as did Sir Francis Chantrey and Sir William Cubitt, are now passed away. He was ever on the look out for professional objects on which to exercise his critical faculty; and he had made large collections of hints and sketches for a book to be called “Architectural Absurdities.” Let me note down a few remembrances of my walks with this companion, to furnish some notion of the London of half a century ago.

We set out from my lodging in the neighbourhood of Covent Garden, to call on Mr. Chantrey, who occupies a small house in Pimlico. We make our way to Charing Cross, deviating a little from the usual route, that I may see how some of the worthy
electors of Westminster are lodged and fed. We are in the alleys known in the time of
Ben Jonson as the Bermudas, but since called the Caribbee Islands, “corrupted,” as Gifford says, “by a happy allusion to the arts cultivated there into the Cribbee Islands.” Close at hand is Porridge Island, then famous for cook-shops, as in the middle of the previous century, when the fine gentleman who went in a chair every evening to a rout dined there off a pewter plate.* We are out of the labyrinth, and are in a neglected open space, on the north of which stands the King’s Mews. Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery have swept away these relics of the pride of the Crown and the low estate of the people. We enter St. James’s Park. There is the Mall on the north, and the Bird-cage Walk on the south, with the rows of elms and limes—some of which may have endured from the days when Charles II. planted them—and there is the canal which he formed. But a more desolate place than the green borders of the canal can scarcely be conceived; unenclosed; the grass grazed by cows and trampled down by troops of vagabond children; not a shrub planted; not a single water-fowl to give life to the slimy ditch. At the west end of this garden of delights is the fine old brick building, Buckingham House, which Nash patched up into an ugly palace for George IV., which he never inhabited. The Park is a privileged place for those who ride; the pedestrian bag-wigs and ruffles had long before given it up to nursemaids and mechanics out of work; but the right to enter the Park with the carriage, the fat coachman, and

* “The World,” Nov. 29, 1753 (quoted in Cunningham’sHand-Book”).

the two footmen, is an object of supreme ambition. “Mr. ——, one of our supporters,” said a minister to
George III., “anxiously desires the entree of the Park.” “What! what! Cant be! Cant allow that! I’ll make him an Irish peer if you like.” Onward we walk to the house of the rising sculptor. Nollekens, six years before, had generously proclaimed his merits as a maker of busts; but he has heterodox views of art which interfere with his employment upon statues. He thinks that Englishmen ought not to be represented as wearing the Roman toga and sandals. He will clothe them in surtouts and shoes. This resolve is in harmony with the manly simplicity of his character. We gossip with him as he is touching up the drapery of the clay figure before him. He talks with earnestness about his art; speaks without the affectation of humility of his former life; feels confident that he shall work his way, for he has warm patrons, but the Turnerellis, who make statues to one established fashion, carry all before them. In his talk there are slight indications of the want of a higher education than the Sheffield milk-boy could command; but the strong sense, the instinctive taste, and the genuine modesty, teach me to feel that the showy qualities which force their way in the world are not essential characteristics of genius.

There are several roads, clean or miry, by which we can quit the solitudes of Pimlico for the busy life of Piccadilly. We may take that of the Five Fields, which leads to the bottom of Grosvenor Place, then more remarkable for its Lock Hospital than for its mansions. On the east of the Five Fields are two blocks of middle-class tenements which bear the
name of Belgrave Place. The palaces of the modern Belgravia were not then even châteaux en Espagne. Mud-banks are the boundaries of the Five Fields, which are dangerous to pass at night. There, as in the time of the “
Tatler,” “robbers lie in wait.” We prefer to go, by Sloane Square, up Sloane Street. On one side only of this street are there houses. All the vast space between Sloane Street and Grosvenor Place is garden or is waste. In the same condition is all the space between the Five Fields and Knightsbridge. Fashion was then located in a somewhat limited space between Piccadilly and Oxford Street. Tyburnia did not exist. The extensive waste which it now covers was occupied by the most wretched huts, filled by squatters of the lowest of the community, whose habitual amusement on a Sunday morning was that of dog-fights. Paddington had then an evil reputation. To walk in the fields there through which the canal flowed was not very pleasant, and certainly not safe. We move eastward from Hyde Park Corner. No Regent Street then crossed Piccadilly, intended to form a communication from Carlton House to the Regent’s Park. That street, which was the first departure from the contemptible house architecture of the reign of George III., was commenced a year or two after. I pursue my way northward with difficulty, through the sheds and squalid shops of St. James’s Market, crossed by lanes and alleys whose place is no longer known, and emerge at length into the handsome and fashionable Portland Place. The Regent’s Park was then beginning to be planned out; but its trees were not then planted; its terraces were in embryo. From the top of Portland Place we might walk into Marylebone
Park, and away, by such a forgotten hostelry as the Queen’s Head and Artichoke, over fields and byroads to Hampstead; or by equally obsolete landmarks, such as the Jew’s Harp and Welling’s Farm, to fields where sportsmen shot snipes, to the east and north of the Edgware Road—a district now equal to many a city, and known by the generic name of St. John’s Wood.

My explorations did not lead me into such wide unpopulated districts as those which then lay between the end of Tottenham Court Road and the New River Head at Islington. There were, nevertheless, famous places there, where the citizens resorted for country air, such as Bagnigge Wells and Merlin’s Cave—the locale a few years later of the dreaded insurrection of Spa Fields. Coming southward, I have looked upon the statue of the Duke of Bedford in Russell Square, and upon the statue of Charles Fox in Bloomsbury Square. But the capabilities of the important town property of the House of Russell were not then developed. It was long after this that the great “Rookery” of St. Giles’s was cleared away to open a free passage from the termination of Oxford Street at Tottenham Court Road. All the horrors of the Alsatia of the sixteenth century had to be encountered by the daring pedestrian who ventured into these filthy regions. The passage into the Strand from these quarters was through the renowned Monmouth Street, no longer resplendent with tarnished laced coats and red-heeled shoes, but dingy with patched breeches and cobbled boots. We might diverge into the heart of Seven Dials; but woe to the stranger who incautiously rushed into this labyrinth, where the gin-shops had not become
gin-palaces but were dens of filthy abomination. When in the Strand, if I desired to go into Southward I must proceed to either of three existent bridges, London, Blackfriars, and Westminster. The first stone of the intended Strand Bridge, since called Waterloo, was laid six months before my temporary abode in London.

I would notice some of the out-door aspects of society which then forced themselves upon my view, were it not that the chief characteristics of that time are rather to be found in the absence of many of our present forms of civilisation than in social phenomena different from those we now behold. There was no police. Bow Street “runners” there were, whose function was not to repress crime, but to prosecute offenders when they were ripe for a capital conviction, which would confer upon the officer the reward of Blood-Money. In January, the Secretary of State moved for a committee to examine into the state of the nightly watch of the metropolis. London was then in a frenzy of terror. There had been murders, unparalleled in atrocity, committed in December, of which Sir Samuel Romilly said, “he never remembered to have heard of whole families destroyed by the hand of the murderer in any country but this.” There had been talk, he added, “of the nightly watch, but where was the daily watch, to provide a remedy against the daring highway robberies committed in the open day?” Sir Francis Burdett was for reviving the law of Edward I., by which every householder was compelled in his turn to watch for the protection of others. And so the old system went on, under which every night and every day witnessed atrocious crimes and mob lawlessness.
Night robberies prevailed in the by-streets where a feeble oil lamp or two glimmered at long intervals. Even the great thoroughfares, such as the Strand, Oxford Street, Cheapside, were dark and dreary; for it was only Pall Mall that was lighted with gas, where the enterprising man lived who formed the first gas company, and was ruined by the enterprise. There were no means of conveyance through the streets of London but the slow, rickety, dirty hackney-coaches. To the suburbs on the north, there were a few stages. From Paddington, half a dozen years before this, there was one stage to the City. Of water conveyance there were wherries in abundance, but the demands of the watermen were so extortionate that few ventured to go up and down the river. To pass London Bridge was impossible without danger, from the fall produced by the narrow arches. Below bridge there were the Gravesend passage-boats and the Margate hoys. The first steamboat did not appear till 1816. How the commerce of the Thames was carried on with only the London Dock and the East India Docks would be for the merchant of the present day a hard problem to solve; and these had been made only a few years previously.

It is time to close these rambling Reminiscences of the London of 1812. I went back to Windsor with some enlargement of my intellectual vision. The realities of life had cured me of many day-dreams. In the House of Commons I had looked night after night upon the grand spectacle of an assembly that, without any of the outward semblances of power, filled the world with a mysterious influence which kept alive the sacred fire of liberty amongst the nations.
It was an assembly imbued with party spirit, but that spirit was raised into virtue by the common love of country. Not in that House—nor in that other seat of legislation, in which the principle of honour was mainly derived from long lines of ancestry—would any one who “spake the tongue which
Shakspere spake,” ever think of succumbing to the gigantic ambition which was threatening to sweep away all thrones and dominations. One land should never “lie at the proud foot of a conqueror.” There, was my patriotism stimulated, even whilst political rivalries appeared to forbid that union which alone could save. But what courtesy did I behold tempering the strongest denunciations and the bitterest sarcasm! What self-command—what restraints upon passion— what bursts of generosity—what candour amidst the most obstinate prejudices—marked these Commoners of the realm as essentially the gentlemen of England! From this example, the humblest aspirant to the character of public instructor might learn to be tolerant of all honest opinions—to be moderate in the expression of his own. In looking upon the great political gladiators he would perceive what talent and knowledge were required to raise a man to eminence, but especially he would learn that honesty alone could keep the high place which ability and unremitting industry might win. This lesson was for the lowly as well as for the exalted. I saw this grand Parliament of England at a grand time. Hope was beginning to spring up out of a long season of misfortune and mismanagement. I had heard it said in the House of Commons on the 27th February, with a mixed tone of reproach and despondency, “Badajoz, Gerona, Tortosa, Valencia, and almost
every place of strength, in Spain are in the hands of the French.” On the 23rd of April the horns were blowing in every thoroughfare, and men were bawling “News—News—Great News!”
Wellington had taken Badajoz. The crisis of the European conflict appeared to be at hand. Napoleon was evidently preparing for an offensive war against Alexander of Russia. If my cherished project of a newspaper could now be carried out, the mighty events of the time would give it an interest which would compensate for my editorial inexperience. I might do some good, socially and intellectually, with such an instrument, humble as it might be by comparison with the power of the London press. This was a very moderate ambition; but I was then contented with it.

I was heartily disposed to go about the work that was before me in a sanguine spirit—in a spirit which perhaps too little regarded the chances of commercial success. The field was altogether too narrow. To one who was to stand by my side through the battle of life I wrote at this transition period of its course:—“It shall go hard if I do not reform many things in this neighbourhood, and give the inhabitants a character that they never possessed. If fair argument can do it, they shall think liberally. I will set out as the temperate advocate of everything that thinking men will support—Toleration, Education of the Poor, Diffusion of Religious Knowledge, Public Economy. I shall adopt the opinions of no set of men in Church or State; but think for myself on all points. I belong to no party, for I would uphold the Roman Catholics’ moderate claims as the first step to public safety, and continue the war in Spain as
the last resource of national honour. This country is full of bigotry. Some are afraid to educate the poor, some are afraid of distributing Bibles, and the greater part are afraid of Popery. I hear many people who call themselves reasoners talk of the Protestant massacres in France as arguments that all Catholics are blood-thirsty. The fire-brand of religion will soon be burnt out. The very miseries of the present generation will become the means of establishing the happiness of the next.” In transcribing this from a mirror of the past which lies before me, I cannot avoid what must appear as a parade of the conceit of imperfect education. But it may be a satisfaction to some other solitary and obscure young man to know, that self-instruction is not always the worst preparation for arriving at a due sense of the serious moral responsibility of a literary career which, even in its humblest attempts, must be an instrument for good or for evil. And thus—with a considerable amount of multifarious reading, with slight knowledge of the world, with aspirations very much out of proportion to any chance of their being realised—the 1st of August, 1812, saw me established as proprietor with my father in the “
Windsor and Eton Express,” and entrusted with its responsible editorship. That day, having passed my twenty-first year a few months before, saw me bound upon that wheel of periodical writing and publishing which was to revolve with me for fifty years. It was not to be the torturing wheel of Ixion, but one whose revolutions, wearisome as they sometimes might be, were often to become sources of pleasurable excitement. The old freedom of my early days would, indeed, be gone when I entered upon
this course. I must work regularly and monotonously. The years would no longer flow on like a gentle stream: they would be broken up by the recurrence of publication days—weekly, monthly, quarterly. Travel would be impossible. I should never see the Alps—perhaps not even look upon Snowdon or Ben Lomond. Well! the face of Nature around me would be ever fresh and young. No routine of labour could deprive me of a holiday-walk in my forest or river haunts. No narrowness of journalism could shut me out from the universality of literature. I had to do the task appointed for me to do with earnestness and gladness. I might cherish a higher ambition; but the goal was not to be attained by leaps. The slow steps onward of work, and always work, might enable me “to climb the hill.”