LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Passages of a Working Life during Half a Century
Chapter III

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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I FIND from old letters that at the end of 1813 I occupied my leisure in writing a play, which was intended to have some parallel with the uprising of the German population. My subject was the deliverance of the German nation from the Roman yoke by Arminius. It is one of the usual mistakes of young writers to believe that some temporary outburst of popular enthusiasm would ensure success to a poem, and especially to a drama, which, in the very nature of its subject, must be little more than a vehicle for rhetorical display. This is easier than to deal with the great elements of terror and pity, which must largely enter into the composition of a tragedy as a real work of art. My play was sent to Drury Lane, then managed by a Committee, of which Mr. Whitbread was a leading member. My attempt was treated with all respect; it had a fair consideration, and its rejection was accompanied with a note sufficiently complimentary:—“There is much spirited and easy writing in this tragedy. Its greatest fault appears to be a want of incident and contrivance; it is too declamatory; and I apprehend the want of interest and situation would not be compensated by the neatness and fire of the dialogue.” I had sense enough to know that the objections thus stated were perfectly just; but I had not then learnt the lesson
which a critical acquaintance with
Shakspere, and with other great dramatists, afterwards impressed upon me,—that a play unfit for the stage is incapable of imparting true poetical pleasure in the closet. In such a drama the unity of object is wanting. The action halts. The descriptive passages are elaborated till the realities of character vanish. I printed my “Arminius.” The book had some success, and caused me to be enrolled amongst the poets of England in a Catalogue of Living Authors, and more permanently in Watt’sBibliotheca Britannica.” But what is the value of such fame? One living rival of Magliabecchi,—whose knowledge of books is as universal as profound, whilst, unlike Magliabecchi, he is able profitably to use his knowledge,—tells me that there is not a copy of my play in the British Museum. My vanity is soothed a little by remembering that one of the scenes is to be found in a school-book of elocution, side by side with extracts from Addison’sCato,” and Brooke’sGustavus Vasa.” It is not a great fame.

The third week of the new year witnessed that most unusual occurrence—the stoppage of communication on some of the most frequented roads of England and Scotland. There never had been such a fall of snow in the memory of man, and there has certainly been nothing like it since. Had railways been in existence, the obstacles to all travelling and all commercial transit would have been precisely the same. It is under such unusual circumstances of interruption to the business of a busy people that we best understand the value of roads, and of all the concurrent means of communication which have grown up during a long period of civilized society. I well
remember the consternation and difficulty, when, on a certain Thursday, our morning coaches set out for London and were obliged to return; when we learnt that the only mails which had reached the General Post Office on the Friday were three from Brighton, Rye, and Portsmouth; when we knew, from the report of horsemen and pedestrians, who had contrived to struggle up from Bath, that the West of England was completely impassable for carriages; that the shops in Exeter were shut up, and the doors and windows of private houses barricaded, by the drifts of snow. At Oxford no letters or papers arrived for four days, and there was a blockade far more effectual than when
Cromwell’s army was hemming it around. I made my way on horseback to the Bath road, and proceeded well enough from Slough to a mile or so beyond Salthill, through a lane cut through the snow, which rose on either side like the outer walls of a mediæval castle. This narrow passage had been accomplished by the exertions of many labourers, and the same process was going forward throughout the northern and western roads. On the 21st of January a notice was issued from the General Post Office to all post masters, directing them to apply to the overseers of parishes to employ all the means in their power to get the country cleared for the passage of the mails. A more stringent command was issued from the Home Office to the Lords-Lieutenants of counties, for restoring the accustomed means of communication between London and the interior. The fall of snow was succeeded by an intense frost. Between Blackfriars Bridge and London Bridge there was a sort of fair on the ice, which has been best preserved from oblivion in one of the designs
George Cruikshank, in Hone’sEvery Day Book.”

The milder days of February gave us back again the ordinary means of communication from Cornwall to Lanarkshire. From out of a “House of Glass” Rumour now came flying all abroad, and the land was alive with the anticipation of great events. The Allies marched on from the Rhine. Then came the fruitless struggle which manifested the military genius of Napoleon as much as any one of his great victories. From one point to another he rushed to meet his enemies wherever they appeared; sometimes victorious, sometimes defeated, but always contriving to make the great issue still doubtful. Aberdeen the peaceful was for making terms with him; other statesmen, English and foreign, were for pushing him to extremities. The risings of Bordeaux, the second city of the Empire, in favour of the Bourbons, appeared to indicate that the popular feeling of France was changing, as regarded him who had done everything for its glory and nothing for its happiness. The negociations for peace were broken off whilst Wellington was fighting his final battle with Soult on the 10th of April, Paris had capitulated, and the Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia had entered the capital which had appropriated the spoils of a hundred cities. On the 4th of April, Napoleon had abdicated, and soon after was on his road to Elba. For three nights London was in a tumult of exultation, amidst illuminations of unprecedented brilliancy. On the 3rd of May, Louis the Eighteenth was in the Tuileries. In England the beauty of the spring weather was such as had scarcely ever been
remembered. Poets seized upon it as an omen of future happiness.
Leigh Hunt—who had endured enough to render him cold to a cause which was that of the ruling powers at home and of royalty in general—looked at this crisis as somewhat like a final triumph over war and oppression, and in his new-born zeal wrote a Mask, “The Descent of Liberty,” to which the glories of the spring lent their most poetical associations. We had our especial turn of patriotic excitement at Windsor. The great festivities in London when the Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia arrived; when they were invested with the Order of the Garter at Carlton House; when the Prince Regent and the two sovereigns dined with the Corporation of London at the Mansion House;—these were of little importance to us compared with that of the visit to Windsor of the Emperor of Russia with his famous Platoff, and of the King of Prussia with his no less famous Blücher. In the “Poetical Remains” of William Sidney Walker, with whom I was associated in after life, there is a letter from him when a boy at Eton, dated the 6th of July, 1814, in which he says, “I have shaken hands with the King of Prussia and Platoff, and have touched the flap of Blücher’s coat. I shall have it engraven on my tombstone.” I cannot desire so solemn a record, that, having arrived early at the Ascot Race-ground, I saw the King of Prussia—who had ridden thither before the rest of the royal party—buying a penny roll and a slice of cheese at one of the common booths, and marching up and down, cutting his humble luncheon with a pocketknife which I supposed he had carried through many a troublous campaign. Nor shall I claim any special
distinction for having looked at Frogmore upon the hard leather camp-bed upon which the Emperor of Russia slept, preferring it to the state-bed of down which had been provided for him. The sublime personages went their way, to settle the affairs of Europe as they best could according to their peculiar desires. After the great realities of a quarter of a century, the people of London were to be delighted with a sea-fight of little boats on the Serpentine; with Chinese lanterns and Congreve rockets in St. James’s Park; with a Temple of Concord, which was a superb enlargement of a device on a Twelfth Cake; and with somewhat of an approach to an attractive sight in the conflagration of a temporary bridge over the then muddy canal in the Park, by which accident a few lives were lost. I saw as much as I could see of the whole affair, and I must say that even then I thought it very considerably like child’s play. Of coarse I took a more exalted view of the historical grandeur of this season of rejoicing and felicitation when the Duke of Wellington was to arrive at Windsor, for the purpose of reviewing his regiment of the Horse Guards Blue, and I was requested by the Corporation to write an Address to be presented to his Grace by the Town Clerk. I very much fear that its stilted paragraphs were a humble imitation of that Address of the Speaker of the House of Commons, when he said, “This nation well knows that it is largely your debtor.” The Duke, on the 6th of August, received the Corporation in the hall of the Castle Inn, somewhat weary, I suppose, of the manner in which, as he said, “he had been received in different parts of the kingdom.” I crept into that narrow hall, between the red gowns and the blue
gowns, some of whom stood in the street; and I was not very proud of my fine paragraphs when I looked upon that impassive face, and thinking of what welded iron that conqueror of Bonaparte was made, fancied how little the men of action appreciated the sounding periods of the men of words. I did not then know with what success this great soldier would vindicate his own claim to be ranked amongst the best writers.

For three months England had been putting on her brightest holiday face. It was one long gala-day. Those who had won the victory, and those who had thrown up their caps for it, were equally ready to exclaim—
“Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings;
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.”
A month had passed since the
Duke of Wellington had banqueted with the officers of his fine regiment; and then the Blues went forth to a mimic war, of which I was a gratified spectator.

On the 21st of August an official notice was published, that several attempts had been made to kill the king’s deer in the walks of Windsor Forest, under an apprehension that the Forest Inclosure Act sanctioned such proceedings. The clause of that Act which applied to this question of deer-killing was then set forth, to the effect, that all the lands within the Parishes and Liberties of the Forest—save and except such parts thereof as are now vested, or shall become vested, in his Majesty—shall be and are, from and after the 1st of July, 1814, disafforested, and no persons thenceforth shall be questioned or liable to
punishment for hunting, taking, or destroying deer within the same. The inclosure of Windsor Forest was perhaps one of the largest inclosures ever effected under the powers of one Act. The Forest, whose circuit, two centuries previous, was nearly eighteen miles, though considerably reduced in later years, comprised at the time of the inclosure the whole of eleven parishes and parts of six other parishes. The inclosed property of the Crown within the Forest then amounted to about five thousand acres; that of individual proprietors to about thirty thousand acres; and the open Forest land to about twenty-five thousand acres. Of this uninclosed portion more than one-fourth was allotted to the King, as Lord of the Forest and as proprietor of various manors. After the disafforestation, therefore, large tracts of land beyond the boundaries of Windsor Great Park were “the wild forest” and “the holts,” or wooded hills, as described by
Lord Surrey in the reign of Henry the Eighth. Few now read Pope’sWindsor-Forest,” but he had an eye of true observation for the characteristics of the scenery amidst which he lived; its lawns and open glades, its russet plains, its bluish hills, its wild heaths with their purple dyes, its fruitful fields amidst the desert. In these intermingled scenes of wood and pasturage, and over the wide heaths covered with gorse and fern, small herds of deer wandered at will, not dreading the shot of any “Herne the Hunter,” as they sought their evening lair, and keeping far away from the villages and farms.

In the parish of Bray there was a land-proprietor occupying that middle rank between the farmer and the gentleman, which was more common at a time when gentility was not thought worth many sacrifices
of comfort and independence, by the older race of cultivators and tradesmen. He was a man of infinite annoyance to all persons in authority, arguing at vestries and manor-courts with a bold and quaint humour, whose oddity was heightened by a peculiar snuffle in his voice. He was especially at feud with the steward of the royal manor in which he lived, who was also the solicitor for the affairs of the Forest. After the 1st of July this shrewd and eccentric yeoman became the Robin Hood of the district. He had lieutenants as daring as Will Scarlet and Little John, with a band of marauders, swift of foot and with the sure aim of experienced poachers, who chased the deer from parish to parish, whilst justice of peace and constable looked on with helpless dismay. It was impossible to distinguish the uninclosed parts allotted to the Crown, although distinctly specified in the awards of the inclosure, from those parts which were disafforested. It was in vain to proclaim that if any person killed red or fallow deer in such specified allotments, they would be liable to the penalties of the Acts to prevent the stealing of deer. Other powers than those of the law must be resorted to.

In the second week of September strong detachments of the Horse Guards and of the Fifth Infantry were employed for two days in driving the deer to safe coverts and fenced inclosures where the marauders could not come. I looked upon this extraordinary scene from the high ground near Cranbourn, which at this time was the residence of the Princess Charlotte. Well do I remember her sunny face, as she almost daily drove a pair of ponies up the steep hill of Windsor, to dine with the Queen, and then returned to the sequestered mansion in one of the most beau-
tiful spots of the Forest. From its windows she might have looked over Winkfield Plain, where this extraordinary hunting was going forward. Southern England never saw such a hunting as this of Cranbourn Woods. The plain below was a field where vast armies might manœuvre, and there I gazed upon a body of cavalry, stretching from one side of the plain to the other in the form of a crescent moon, gradually narrowing the circle in which the frightened deer were driven before them. Occasionally, a buck would make a bold dash from the rest of the herd, and then a shout would go forth from the unmilitary horsemen, and there would be an exciting chase till he was driven back, or escaped, or was killed. Amongst the red-coats and the blue, there was no Douglas ready to do battle with the Percy, so that this was not a “woful hunting.” Most of the deer were, after two days, driven to the pens of the Great Park, or were caught in toils hung up on the trees that skirted the avenues of the forest. The modern imitators of the outlaws of Sherwood returned to their hovels, to feast upon less dainty fare than venison; and the leaders would long tell the stories of their adventurous feats, and rejoice in that strength which had required no less a power than two regiments of the Crown to subdue it.

My newspaper of the 3rd of December contained a paragraph which I had copied from “The Times” of November the 29th, 1814, not interesting, perhaps, to the majority of my provincial readers, but which strongly excited my wonder and curiosity, and led me into obscure speculations of what might be the probable consequences of what “The Times” described as “the greatest improvement connected with print-
ing since the discovery of the art itself.” Well knowing the great bodily exertion which up to that time was required of two men working at the common press, to produce two hundred and fifty impressions of one side of a newspaper in an hour, I might well be surprised when I read as follows:—“The reader of this paragraph now holds in his hand one of the many thousand impressions of ‘The Times’ newspaper which were taken off last night, by a mechanical apparatus. A system of machinery almost organic has been devised and arranged, which, while it relieves the human frame of its most laborious efforts in printing, far exceeds all human powers in rapidity and dispatch.” The process is then briefly described; and it is added, “the whole of these complicated acts is performed with such a velocity and simultaneousness of movement, that no less than eleven hundred sheets are impressed in one hour.” The invention is termed in this announcement “The Printing Machine.” The inventor’s name was

For ten years Mr. Walter, the proprietor of “The Times,” had been vainly endeavouring, at a heavy cost, to perfect some machinery by which he could send forth a greater number than the four thousand copies of his journal which he was able to produce by the utmost exertion of manual labour. The machine of Koenig was, however, a most complicated affair; expensive, liable to derangement, and not capable, therefore, of being applied to the general purposes of printing. In 1823 I read in Scott’s novel of “Quentin Durward” the prophetic words of Martivalle, “Can I look forward without wonder and astonishment to the lot of a succeeding generation, on whom knowledge shall descend like the first and
second rain, uninterrupted, unabated, unbounded.” The Printing Press had produced the first rain; the Printing Machine was the “little cloud no bigger than a man’s hand” which promised the second rain. There was now some chance that the steam-engine would accomplish for printing what it was accomplishing for navigation. In June, 1824, I attended a trial in the Common Pleas, in which the
Duke of Northumberland was plaintiff, and my friend, Mr. Clowes, the defendant. The printer, who carried on his business in Northumberland Court, had erected a steam-press in his cellar, the wall of which abutted on the Duke’s princely mansion at Charing Cross. Ludicrous it was to hear the extravagant terms in which the counsel for the plaintiff and his witnesses described the alleged nuisance—the noise made by this engine, quite horrid, sometimes resembling thunder, at other times like a threshing-machine, and then again like the rumbling of carts and waggons. With surpassing ability was the cause of the defendant conducted by the Attorney-General (Copley). The course of the trial is beside my present purpose. Mr. Donkin, the celebrated engineer, deposed that there were not less than twenty engines erected for printing in London. Simplifications of the original invention had rendered the Printing Machine applicable to the production of books as well as newspapers. The second rain was beginning to descend. In 1814 I was very far from a conception of the extent in which the invention of the Printing Machine would affect a future stage in my working life. But in the boundless fertility of that second rain I anticipated a wider scope for my professional labours. I had incurred new responsibilities,
and had gained new motives for exertion, in marrying. The Christmas of that year saw my once solitary home lighted up with love and cheerfulness.

In February, 1815, a Bill was hurried through Parliament which absolutely closed the ports against the introduction of foreign corn till the price of wheat should rise to eighty shillings a quarter. I rejoice to see that I was fearless of the indignation which the Windsor paper, circulating chiefly in an agricultural district, would produce, when I wrote—“It is hardly fair that the landowner and cultivator should enter Parliament with such a formidable power as the united voice of the people will scarcely be able to put down, and there demand that the price of wheat should now be fixed at the average rate of a time of war. There are many noble lords and right honourable gentlemen who have doubled their rentals since the year 1794, and there are many very thrifty agriculturists who have purchased the estates which their fathers only tilled, and have adjourned, with unsoiled hands, from the oak-chair in the chimney-corner to the velvet sofa in the drawing-room. Doubtless all this is very agreeable to the parties themselves, and worldly wisdom will blame no man for preferring 20,000l. to 10,000l., or a hunter and madeira to a market-cart and ale. But then it is rather galling to be told that all this is essentially necessary to our existence and prosperity, and to hear it very gravely asserted that we shall be all the happier and better for being shortly allowed to get two loaves with the money for which we now purchase three.”

The “hunter and madeira” as contrasted with the “market-cart and ale” of the old times, was not ungenerously applied to the generation of Southern
farmers, who had sprung up in the days of protection and paper currency. From no class of men was the old simplicity of manners so utterly departed. They were ignorant, to an extent which is now difficult to conceive, of the improved modes in which agriculture could be made to repay a judicious advance of capital. It is impossible to measure the contempt with which they regarded what they called “book-farming.” They applied all their small industry and less knowledge to the growth of wheat, and when wheat was low in the market they raved about “agricultural distress.” The tenant-farmer appeared to consider, as much as the Irish cottier considers, that it was a deadly wrong if a landlord raised his rent, or sought a better tenant when he beheld his land exhausted, or the growing corn struggling with the rampant weeds. Their general ignorance of the commonest affairs of the non-agricultural life was unbounded. There was an elderly man supposed to have made a fortune in dear times, who had given up his profitable farm when the landlord thought he ought to have some increased portion of the great benefit that the dear loaf had given to the wheat-grower. He took the chair at the farmer’s dinner on every market-day at Windsor; his two sons were always out with the stag-hounds; the pony-chaise of his wife might often be seen at the draper’s door. The good man was homely enough himself, but his family was “genteel” and expensive. Their “dolce far niente” went on for five years. One morning the unhappy head of the family opened his bureau, and giving his wife a ten-pound note, exclaimed, “That is the last on ’em.” A subscription was raised to help him in his destitution; his sons and daughters went to service;
and he became a road-surveyor before the days of Macadam, when scientific road-making was as little understood as scientific farming.

The Corn-Bill was passed amidst the temperate opposition of a few enlightened statesmen and the violence of an irritated mob. It was to produce its full measure of evil in the misery and disaffection of the people in 1816 and 1817. All discussion upon a vital subject of political economy was suddenly interrupted by an event as unexpected as it was alarming—the landing of Bonaparte in the Gulf of St. Juan, on the 1st of March, 1815. On the 5th of March—such was the want of means of communication in the days before the Electric Telegraph—it was not known in Paris that the ex-Emperor had escaped from Elba. On the 20th, after midnight, Louis the Eighteenth had fled from the Tuileries, and on the 21st Napoleon was borne up its grand staircase by an enthusiastic crowd. There were three months of such excitement in England as the greatest events of the late war had failed to produce. There were alternations of hope and of fear, of distrust and of confidence, in the Allied Powers. But, whatever had been our experience in the Peninsular campaigns, there was no very general belief that the military arm of England would be the most potent in stopping the march to the Rhine of the great enemy. The kingdom of the Netherlands broken up, Prussia humiliated, we might look to another period of French domination over Europe. We had our peculiar excitements at Windsor. The Blues, that a few months before we had seen chasing the red deer in Windsor Forest, were now called to sterner duties in the forests and plains of Belgium. The regiment marched from Windsor
on the 30th of April; on the 18th of June it was doing its part on the field of Waterloo. It is not for me here to follow the wonderful course of historical events which ended in the abdication of Napoleon and the second restoration of the Bourbons. The great Captive had scarcely sailed from Plymouth to his rock in the Atlantic, when thoughtful men began to feel that the millennium of universal peace and love was not quite close at hand. France could only be kept quiet by foreign occupation; Spain was trodden down under the feet of a drivelling idiot called a king; Poland was manacled to Russia; the dream of Italian independence was at an end when Austria was to rule over four millions of the Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom. Promises made in the hour of danger had been violated when Peoples had won safety for Crowns. Twenty years of war appeared to have produced little real and imperishable good. Such were my thoughts at that crisis, and they were those of many who would willingly have given themselves up to the general exultation at the prospect that peace had at last been securely won. Great Britain alone stood in an attitude of unselfishness at the Congress. She was content only to demand from France the abolition of the Slave-Trade. The settlement of Europe was effected by the Princes who at the faro-table of Vienna shuffled and cut for the destinies of the world. The sharers in the spoil might say with Trinculo, “We steal by line and level.”

Proud as I was, in common with the majority of the nation, of the great triumphs of my countrymen, especially in the crowning glory of Waterloo, I was not free from the apprehension that the ancient constitutional doctrine that the military should be kept
in complete subserviency to the civil power, might be less strictly maintained at a period when the soldier had done so much for his country, and when the ruling head of the State had displayed a very marked tendency for the pomp and parade of war, if not for its reality. On the 4th of April, Lord Milton complained in the House of Commons, that in going through Piccadilly in an open carriage, in which street there were not ten carnages, he was prevented from passing into one of the side streets, where guards were placed “in the novel manner that had lately been adopted on court-days.” The soldier who had interrupted his progress struck his horse, and said he would strike him too if he persisted in passing. The next day the
Earl of Essex made a similar complaint in the House of Lords, adding, that the soldiers threatened that if he attempted to proceed, they would not only cut his horse down, but would cut him down too. Lord Grenville maintained that the practice of employing the military on court-days was of very modern date; and asserted that if the Earl of Essex, on being threatened with being cut down, had put the soldier to death, it must have been pronounced by the law of the land to have been justifiable homicide; and if, on the contrary, the soldier had used the sword, he would have been answerable for the blow, even to death itself. Lord Sidmouth declared that, as Secretary of State, he had no concern in calling out the soldiery; pledging himself that orders should be issued that no soldier should for the future act in the preservation of the peace without the guidance and control of the civil officer. There were circumstances in the aspect of those times which led us to dread that the separation of the
soldier from the citizen was a shadowy hope of some would-be imitators of Continental despotism.

The marriage of the Princess Charlotte with Prince Leopold, on the 2nd of May, 1816, was an event in which I took exceeding interest. It set me poetizing; for I was somewhat too apt to be moved into writing verse on passing subjects, forgetting that poetry ought to be almost exclusively conversant with the permanent and universal. My Mask, “The Bridal of the Isles,” whatever might have been its defects, was not written in the spirit of a courtier; for in the Second Canto, in which I called up the shades of the great British rulers of old, I put these lines in the mouth of Alfred addressing the Genius of England:—
“O, I have watch’d thy inonarchs as they pass’d,—
Now leaping upward to my tempting throne,
Now toppling down in hateful civil strife,
Or sliding to the slumbers of the tomb;
But never saw I one who fill’d that seat
In rightful ministration, who might say,
‘This is my couch of ease, my chair of joy,
This sceptre is a pleasure-charming rod
To call up all fresh luxuries around me.’
The lofty soul, with reverend eye and meek,
“Would look upon the trappings of its state
As emblems of a fearful trust, that ask’d
The smile of Heaven on self-denying virtue.
Yes! I will hover round those youthful hearts,
Unblighted yet by power—and with a voice
Borne on the ear by every morning breeze,
Cry—‘Live not for yourselves.’”

I had a very pleasant, because a very characteristic, letter from Leigh Hunt about this Mask. He complimented me by saying, “It is very crisp and luxuriant, and shows that you possess in a great degree my favourite part of the poetical spirit—that
of enjoyment.” Yes. It was that spirit of enjoyment which gave Hunt his perennial youth, amidst worldly troubles as great as most men have endured; which, earned somewhat to excess, made him almost indifferent to adversity in its stern realities. “But,” he continued, “I would rather talk with you about these matters than write about them; for when I get upon poetry I feel my wings on, and do not like to wait the zig-zag travelling of the pen.” Happy nature! I did not cultivate his acquaintance as I ought to have done in this fresh time of hope. I knew him in later years when I was sobered; but when I had not lost the power of enjoyment in his delightful conversation, so charming—especially to one who was also battling with the world—in its constant looking at the sunny side of human affairs.

The transition from joy at the auspicious marriage of the Princess Charlotte, to the universal mourning for her death, was not sudden in point of time, but it nevertheless came upon the nation as an unexpected blow, suspending all lesser interests of domestic politics. The interval between May, 1816, and November, 1817, was one of very serious aspects. The Government and the People were not in accord; suffering and sedition went hand in hand; demagogues flourished; spies were more than tolerated. Of this unhappy period I shall have to speak in another chapter. Let me at present advert to some personal experiences at the funeral of the Princess Charlotte, on Wednesday evening, the 19th of November, which I thus related in a Supplementary Number of “The Windsor Express,” published on the following morning. In this narrative I laid aside the usual editorial style, and signed my name
as to facts which I was prepared individually to substantiate:—

“On the morning of Tuesday I received from one of the Canons of the College of Windsor a ticket of admission to the organ-loft of St. George’s Chapel, to witness the ceremonial of the late Princess Charlotte’s interment. This, I was given to understand, was presented to me by the particular direction of the Dean and Chapter, to allow me to make a faithful report of the solemnities, and as a compliment to the office of chief magistrate which my father holds in the borough. At seven o’clock this evening I claimed an entrance at the outer gate of the lower ward of the Castle, which was kept by two subalterns of the Foot Guards, and a numerous body of rank and file. Constables of the borough were also posted here, but they were evidently considered as intruders upon these unconstitutional guardians of the peace. I was roughly thrust back against the wheels of the carriages which were passing behind me, and told, in common with many others who, like myself, had tickets, that no more would be admitted. For an hour I was buffeted about, with my unfortunate companions, who comprised some of the most respectable inhabitants of Windsor; sometimes collared by the soldiers, sometimes jammed against the castle wall, and at all times insulted by dogmatical assertions or sneering indifference. We at last retired in despair, having risked our lives till danger was no longer endurable. Ten minutes before the procession entered the gate, I procured access to one of the officers, under the escort of a sentinel; and having represented the peculiar circumstances under which I had obtained my ticket, and the duty which I
owed to the public to enforce my claim for admission, requested that the order of exclusion might be withdrawn. I was haughtily repulsed. At this instant, two military men, not on duty, with four ladies, were passed through the gate without any other authority than the dictum of the officer I was addressing. I complained of the unjust partiality in a respectful manner. For that presumption I was instantly handed over to the next corporal, with orders ‘to take back that man.’ Collared like a felon, I was forced along the line of foot-guards, and on reaching the last soldier was thrust against a carriage like an intrusive hound.”

Never shall I forget the feelings of that evening. After my long detention in the vain endeavour to assert my right of passing the outer gate, I waited to look upon the street procession. When I came back to my home, exhausted, boiling over with indignation, I found my wife in a situation of extreme danger. For some days she had been seriously ill. The funeral procession had passed under our windows. The lurid glare of the torches; the roll of carriages; the tramp of horses, amidst the universal silence of the crowd;—these, almost unendurable for any invalid, who could hear all but who could not look out upon a scene so solemn and so exciting, produced the most alarming effects upon one who was at the extreme point of weakness. By God’s Providence, our medical friend, a surgeon of the first eminence in Windsor, returned with me to my house, having been himself subjected to the outrages of the military. He was thus the means of bestowing such immediate attentions upon his patient as probably saved her in the dangerous crisis of that melan-
choly November night. The one great and enduring happiness of my life was to be preserved to me.

At this Royal Funeral, when a whole nation was present in heart and mind, these military outrages were not the sole disorders and indecencies. The undertaker’s men were unmistakeably drunk, as they reeled up the steep Castle street. Within St. George’s Chapel there were struggles and murmurs, as in an overcrowded pit at the theatre; for three or four hundred rank and file of the Guards were placed from the western entrance to the extremity of the nave, so as to prevent nine-tenths of the assemblage—admitted by tickets—from seeing more of the solemnity than they could have seen had the outer walls of the Chapel been the barrier to their desires. Just before the procession arrived, there was a noisy conflict at the door of the Choir, which had ulterior consequences. One of the Canons refused to admit a confidential page of the Regent, who had been commanded to notice and report to his royal master how the ceremony was conducted. “It is our freehold,” said the Church Dignitary. “It is the Chapel of the Order of the Garter,” replied the offended Ruler; “and until the clerical ministers of the Order can behave better, they shall come down from their accustomed seats in the stalls of the Knights.”

In my newspaper of the Saturday which followed the Supplement of the 20th of November, I wrote an article entitled “Excessive Employment of Soldiery in a Religious Solemnity, and Abuses in Military Power.” My animadversion on “Abuses in Military Power” was bitter enough in its general invective; but there was nothing that the epauletted puppies
who talked of horsewhipping the newspaper-fellow could have produced in a court of justice as a justification of a new outrage. I have detailed this occurrence at somewhat greater length than it probably deserved; but it presents a striking contrast not only to the altered temper of the military in these happier times, but to the manner in which the conductors of the Press are now respected in the discharge of their useful functions as the accredited representatives of the people. No military man, however brutal and ignorant—if ignorance and brutality have not altogether vanished from the soldier’s character—would dare to comport himself as the officer in command at the Castle-gate behaved to me. The Horse Guards in the streets displayed the most exemplary forbearance amidst the crowd. The Foot Guards, who were posted within the limits of the Castle, where the civil power was inoperative and the military power was uncontrollable, however brave some might have been in the day of battle, displayed, as I intimated, the very reverse of the character of the “
Happy Warrior”—
——“placable because occasions rise
So often that demand such sacrifice;
More skilful in self-knowledge, e’en more pure
As tempted more; more able to endure,
As more exposed to suffering and distress;
Thence also more alive to tenderness.”

It was folly thus to quote Wordsworth for the possibility of raising a blush upon the cheeks of those who, “graced with a sword but worthier of a fan,” were the merest loungers in country quarters, despising, as was the fashion of the mess-room of that time, every book but the “Racing Calendar” and
Tom and Jerry.” Many of the best and bravest of the English army had fallen at Waterloo. Their places were supplied by youths from school and college, who looked to a military life in times of peace as one of idleness and luxury. To despise the civilian was a part of their training. To maintain such a discipline as would teach the soldier the duty of obedience to the civil power and of respect for the citizen—he himself being a citizen—was not the prevailing doctrine of the barrack in the latter days of the Regency. The military were too often a nuisance in the towns where they were quartered. I have a curious correspondence before me between the Under-Secretary of State and my father, the Mayor of Windsor, in March, 1818. Lord Sidmouth, as was his wont, had sniffed a plot from afar, and Mr. Hobhouse thus called upon the chief magistrate of Windsor to be vigilant:—

“I am directed by Lord Sidmouth to inform you that his Lordship has heard of an intention to create a mob at Windsor on Monday next, under colour of a wish to ascertain the life of his Majesty. His Lordship has not at present any decisive proof of this intention, and perhaps may not receive any; but he deems it to be right to apprise you of the circumstance as it has come to his knowledge, and will afford you all further information which may reach this office. Lord Sidmouth relies with confidence on your discretion in quelling any disturbance which may be attempted; and if any intelligence should be received by you which you may deem fit to communicate, he will be ready to give it his best attention.”

The Mayor’s reply to the Under-Secretary of State was as follows:—


“In answer to your letter, which I had the honour to receive by a messenger this day, respecting an intended mob, I beg to assure you, for the information of Lord Sidmouth, that I do not entertain the most distant apprehension of any such circumstance originating in this neighbourhood. It is said that a bull is to be baited on Monday next, in a piece of ground adjoining this town; a brutal amusement, which has too frequently occurred at this place, which I would gladly suppress were I possessed of sufficient authority. Whenever a bull-bait has taken place here, a very large portion of the military have joined in the amusement. Lord Sidmouth will judge of the expediency of interdicting the soldiery joining, under the apprehended occurrence. Lord Sidmouth may rely on my utmost precaution to prevent, as well as my exertion to quell, any disturbance, should such unfortunately happen.”

The correspondence which I have thus given is probably preserved in the State Paper Office. According to the sensible regulations under which those valuable materials for history are to be consulted, it will not be open to the public view till a time when the researches of the antiquarian will not prematurely disclose the secrets of the statesman. Will posterity conclude, from the mysterious phrase of the Home Office, “under colour of a wish to ascertain the life of his Majesty,” that there was a popular notion that George III. was dead? I may venture to say that “the mob,” ignorant as it was for the most part, never entertained such an absurd belief. The letter of the Mayor of Windsor will fix that date of our uncivilization when bull-baiting was a national institution. Windham defended it at the
beginning of the century as tending to keep up the martial spirit of the people. Few of the present generation remember this. The inhabitants of Windsor in the days of
Queen Victoria would indeed be surprised to see “the surly bull,” decorated with ribbons, led in pomp to their Bachelors’ Acre—perhaps would be as much alarmed, under a show of courage, as when in the days of Queen Elizabeth Master Slender asked Anne Page, “Why do your dogs bark so? Be there bears in the town?” Most people indeed think—probably even those of Birmingham, who daily look upon their Bull-Ring—that bull-baiting was peculiar to the Middle Ages. Travelling from Ryde to Ventnor in the spring of 1863, a bull-ring at Brading was pointed out to a young man on the coach. He exclaimed, “What! has there been any bull-baiting in England within the last hundred years?” “Aye, sir,” I told him, “and cock-fighting, too.” The spirit of gambling prevented both amusements from dying out. The butcher and the costermonger backed each his dog for pinning the bull. The Staffordshire collier pitted his cock against that of the sporting farmer. The Wednesbury Cocking had as much attraction as the Derby of the present day. “The Cockpit,” which Hogarth immortalized in the days of George the Second, was succeeded by “the Westminster Pit” of the Regency, when Members of Parliament stepped across the way to see the Dog Billy kill a hundred rats in five minutes. “Varmint” was an attraction that competed in interest with the Prize-Fight. Magistrates then took very little trouble to hunt the Gullys and Tom Springs from Surrey into Berkshire, and from Berkshire into
Buckinghamshire. They somewhat too frequently had their rendezvous within a dozen miles of Windsor. The only exhibition of pugilism I ever saw was perfectly unmolested by justice or constable. It was on Maidenhead Thicket, where the renowned
Pierce Egan, with a considerate regard for a brother of the Press, got me a good place, out of which I escaped as fast as I could, when I saw Young Dutch Sam fall across the ropes with a broken arm. Those were the palmy days when the Ring was a national institution, equally patronized by peer and pickpocket. But in getting rid of bull-baiting and cock-fighting, and, to a great extent, of pugilism, have we not, in these days of diffused intelligence, exhibitions of barbarism quite as revolting? Female Blondins are killed now; and the shows go on as tranquilly as if a monkey had fallen from the top of a pole.