LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Fifty Years’ Recollections, Literary and Personal

Vol. I Contents
‣ Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Vol. II Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Vol. III Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
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These desultory Memoirs are commenced on the west side of Hampstead Hill. Palatial Windsor is seen rising proudly in the distance. The spire of Harrow, like a burial obelisk, ascending in another direction, brings before the glass of memory eminent names with which it is associated, Parr, Sheridan, Byron, Peel, and others, no longer of the quick, but the dead. The hills of Surrey southward, blend their faint grey outline with the remoter heaven. The middle landscape slumbers in beauty; clouds roll heavily and sluggishly along, with here and there a break permitting the glory of the superior region to shine obliquely through, in strong contrast to the shadowy face of things beneath. It is one of those moments when the spirit, touched with melancholy, is inclined to fold its wings and look within, to regard the past rather than the present, to regret rather than hope. To some minds, there are charming days of our too brief summers, that carry
with their sunshine a sensation of sadness, just as the higher order of female beauty is touched with pensiveness.

My parents dwelt in an ancient borough of the West, little noted unless for the mode of choosing its parliamentary representatives. This task, difficult through diffidence of its own judgment, it deputed a peer to undertake. Deeply imbued with electoral holiness, principle was no longer troublesome; duty became a secondary motive; the primary was corruption, luminous as the decaying produce of its own waters. United to another town since the Reform Act, the patriotic electors grieve over the unprofitableness of compulsory virtue.

Nature remains the same, whatever be the changes in shape of the foolscap man may wear. The site of my birth-place is on the side of a well-wooded creek. There the climate permits the myrtle and japonica to luxuriate in the soft and balmy air; while, at no great distance, an orange-tree has blossomed in an open garden for many years unsheltered. A sweetly sequestered church, of ancient construction, its burial-ground overshadowed by venerable trees, stands hard by, on the verge of an arm of the sea, the whole exhibiting a scene of tranquil beauty, so sweet that the dead seem to invite the stranger from the tumult of a distempered existence to an unwonted serenity of repose.

The Cornubian Penryn stands on the slope of a hill. There is a manor-house, now used by the Customs, in the lower part of the town. On the opposite side of the vale, which gives its name to Falmouth—for this port should be read Valemouth—the grey tower of St. Gluvias Church peers above a mass of luxuriant foliage.
Of this living, the
Rev. Mr. Temple was incumbent. He wrote the Memoir of Gray, or rather the sketch, inserted in Mason’s account of that poet. I heard, when I was young, that he bore the character of a friendly and accomplished clergyman. He died before I had heard the name of Gray. In the churchyard, near the tower, stand a table-tomb and urn over some of my mother’s relatives. Her family, as well as that of my father, was from the midland counties; and, therefore, both, in that south-western land, were as pilgrims, who, sojourning there upon life’s journey, had found a resting-place by the roadside. Some of my fathers repose at Malvern. I have a record of the death of one there in 1666. I never saw a male relative of my own name, except my father; he and I were both second sons. The family originally consisted of two branches; one was said to belong to Kent; the other to Hereford, on the western verge of the Malvern ridge. I know nothing of their original stock, whether dignified as Norman bandits, or contemned as serfs, who had “crept through scoundrels ever since the flood,” until they obtained armorial bearings, prior, in all events, to the herald’s last visitation, because they are recorded in the registries. My mother’s family was from Hales Owen, near the Leasowes of Shenstone.

About a mile from my birth-place, lay the scene of one of the most terrible of tragedies, confirming the observation that fiction is often outdone by reality. I allude to the farm called Bothelland. The concatenation of circumstances in the tale, was no less improbable in conjecture than dreadful the reality. On what a fearful story did Lillo found his tragedy: what would
Shakespear have made of it? The last barn belonging to the ill-fated place was burned down within thirty years; but the tradition can never pass away. The country people speak of it with horror, and shudder when, after nightfall, they pass a spot so pregnant with horror; parents murdering and robbing their only son, unconscious of the relationship until the deed is accomplished!

The green things of early life interlace with the most delicate fibres of being; age cannot obliterate their vivid hues. My ears still inhale the linked sweetness, the silvery tone of the bell from the old granite tower, undulating along that peaceful valley, over tufted foliage, and the monuments of perished generations, whose memories are sinking deeper into the bottomless abyss of time. Where are those precious impressions, those gushes of youthful delight once experienced? Why can these be no more repeated? The loves of the era in life so joyous, the old companions, the faces so familiar—where have they vanished? Have they all passed into darkness and death, having had a momentary existence only to be trampled upon by the cattle of the valley? Yet how repugnant to our feelings is it to part with the joy of our grief.

I must change a strain which the unreflective call ‘morbid,’ not exactly the vogue. Man confined to overgrown cities, must bow to multitudinous sentiment, and abandon life’s poetry. We must not touch upon truth, lest it sadden thought; for we belong to a generation wearing features sharpened by cares about low things. Humanity no longer aspires, except when it assumes the shape of science, remote from public view. There
it exerts, in contemptuous silence, its mighty influences upon human destiny, and finds in itself alone its exceeding great reward.

What egotism is autobiography? Few dare to be as honest as Rousseau, while many may venture to be self-laudatory. The world will often give credit for well meaning, though the whole truth has not been told. The huge hypocrite bears with the expression of individual self-love if it be amusing, since it has no heart, and, therefore, need not dread its cremation in the Hall of Eblis. If, therefore, any thing here be deemed regardless of multitudinous opinion, as the present writer was never one of its worshippers, the lèse majesty must be tolerated.

The first years of life, from the helplessness of infancy to the commencement of instruction—from the nurse to the pedagogue—pass away nearly alike with all. I was dandled on the knee of Howard the philanthropist, and saw Lord North, but I have no recollection of either. Howard came to embark for the East, whence he never returned, Lord North to go, I believe, to Lisbon, for the sake of his health. But though I do not remember either of those distinguished men, I have a perfect recollection of John Wesley, when I was a mere child. He stood preaching upon a heap of Norway timber on the quay at Falmouth. A servant taking me out to walk, I saw him in a black gown, his long white hair over his shoulders, as in his portraits, at which I stared as at something wonderful. Children were clambering on timbers, close to where I stood. On a sudden, he stopped in his discourse, turned round towards them, and called out, in a clear,
loud tone, “Come down, you boys, or be quiet.” The crowd, not great, seemed to hear him with attention. There was another
remarkable personage whom I well remember coming from America to Falmouth. He was a divine, who had been chaplain to General Greene, during the war with the American colonies. He professed universalism, in those days deemed an atrocious creed. He came to England until some local act was passed to relieve him from penalties incurred for preaching the doctrine among the stiff New Englanders. He was a very remarkable man in America afterwards, to which he returned, and settled at Boston, where he was much esteemed till his death. He was an author; and his wife, a clever woman in those times, wrote ‘The Gleaner,’ in three volumes, and some dramatic pieces. The Americans called him ‘Salvation Murray,’ to distinguish him from another minister of the same name in the city, whom they christened ‘Damnation Murray.’ He was the friend both of Washington and Franklin, the latter, he observed, spoke in praise of his opinions. ‘It was more natural than otherwise, that God should ultimately reconcile a whole lapsed world to himself.’ This I remember seeing stated in a letter from him many years after his return home.

What a season of turbulence was my boyhood—war, and its accessaries, were continually around me. Our military disgraces, under the Duke of York, who, with his allies, were driven out of Holland, was a disaster on every tongue. Then there were Brest and the French fleet, and enemy’s frigates seizing pilots off the coast near us. It is true we were blockading Brest, but the French might slip out. My boy companions, of a year
or two older, were continually going to sea with the white collar, dirk at the side, changing school restraint for real danger. One of them, stationed in the tops, struck by a chain-shot, fell on the deck, in halves, on his first cruise. Provisions, too, were scarce at that time. I was not more than eight or nine years old, when the country became riotous in our neighbourhood. Standing at the window of our drawing-room, I saw thousands of determined men march past. My mother, a servant, and myself, were all of the family in the house at the moment, I hurried to that servant, who seemed petrified; and, leaving her, young as I was, I pushed home the outer doors, and bolted them. I mounted again to the drawing-room; the intruders were retreating. The 63rd Regiment, under the
Earl of Balcarras, who managed so badly in Jamaica afterwards, charged the rioters with the bayonet, and ultimately dispersed them. A second time, I witnessed a similar scene, when troops and a six-pounder, loaded with grape, were drawn up under the same window. The riot act was read. Six thousand men were demanding bread; they committed no acts of violence, but used threats. Refusing to retire, the gun was pointed into the midst of them, in a confined street. Match in hand, the artillery only waited for the word ‘fire.’ The magistrates and military commander, a militia colonel, would have discharged the gun into the mass of human beings before it, not a dozen yards distant from the muzzle, when the adjutant, an old captain in the line, interfered, “Lower the touch-hole, for God’s sake—they are all in our power.” The gun was fired. The shock struck me with fear. I thought of the mischief done. I could see but a little
way up the street. Prisoners were made, and the rioters dispersed; few were hurt, as the shot nearly all went over their heads, owing to the adjutant’s interference with those to whom he had read a lesson of humanity.

It was now discovered that the people were suffering in a painful manner from want. Then, as usual, in England, when the mischief is done, steps were taken to provide remedies, which, had they been taken at the time the most ordinary forecast dictated, would have prevented the outbreak, and an extended feeling of discontent with authorities, till then respected; but that would have been styled, in those days, yielding to popular clamour.

The mutiny at the Nore I remember alarming the country. The usual severe system had been more strictly enforced than before, and the mutiny broke out. When I was a boy at Plymouth, a seaman received five hundred lashes, sentenced to receive a thousand—the second five hundred were to come. Then marines were to be shot, sixteen shots were fired at three men, and one was not even wounded. A man went up to his unwounded comrade and fired one ball into his head, and another into his body. Terror was the only instrument of discipline then understood, and youth too often a witness of disgusting and useless brutalities, existing only because they were part of the “wisdom of our forefathers.”

The treatment of the seamen which had caused the Channel fleet mutiny, had been most neglectful. Torn from his family, the member of a profession that required seven years of apprenticeship, the seaman was allowed a Greenwich pension of only seven pounds per
annum, while the out-pension of the army was thirteen pounds for a man, whom three or four months turned into a soldier. Thus was the army pampered. The seamen’s wages had not been raised from the time of
Charles II., so that they could provide nothing for their families. Their provisions were weighed to them under the sixteen ounces to the pound, and of bad quality, and flour of no use was served. They had no vegetables allowed them in port. When sick, too, they demanded that they should have needful necessaries, that they might be allowed to go on shore, and that the wounded men should not have their pay stopped. These things, all reasonable, were conceded to them, and have since been greatly improved. The question is, why it was not done before—why the seaman was driven to mutiny in order to obtain what the vigilance of his superior should have anticipated. Though a mere boy, these things, from my being continually among such scenes, left a deep impression on my mind. We slept under continued alarms, Bonaparte was not the expected invader. He was winning his glorious laurels in Piedmont and Lombardy. Brest was our dread, and a species of military organization took place. We were to retire eastward, and waste the country. The clergy were enrolled as guides. According to the plan of our authorities, one half the country, or that which lay westward of the enemy’s landing place, must have been cut off, as the people there could only retreat into the sea. No provision of food had been made, so that those who retreated in the other direction, and were to waste the country, must have subsisted on air in their retreat over rocky heights and heathy commons.
Fortunately our gallant navy off Brest prevented the expected descent. I well remember springing from bed one night at the sound of the bugle to arms, and running to the cavalry barracks. It was blowing a fearful gale on those rugged shores. I had only the French in my mind, or I should have recollected there could he no invasion in such weather. The moon shone fitfully among dark hurrying clouds. I soon learned that it was a large ship on the rocks to the North; the cavalry were going to protect the property—they might have staid away. The name of that ship was never known; she was in countless pieces before the troops arrived at the spot. One man alone reached the shore speechless, only to expire. A Newfoundland dog survived; but he could not tell that vessel’s tale. For miles the shore—that terrible precipitous rocky shore—was strewed with the wreck, principally logwood, which the rustics collected and sold to the hatters and dyers, denominating it “a god-send.” I never shall forget that storm. The Atlantic, with its world of waters, seemed to rush against the iron-bound coast only to be discomfited and rally for fresh assaults, each striking the ears loud as a thousand thunders.

I know not how I learned to read: the art seemed to have been acquired almost without an effort. I was educated principally at home by my father, who was a good classical scholar. I had gone through Corderius in my eighth year, and began Greek and Phædrus. I was a short time at a writing school, and made some progress in drawing. A strong sense of indignation distinguished me at any act of injustice, even in my school days. When conscious I was wronged, my anger
rose to a great height; I remember one unmistaken token of my feelings. I was ordered with another boy to stay in the school for two hours over time, charged with a fault of which I had not been guilty. I proposed to my companion to brave all consequences and bolt out. He was afraid. The door of the school-room was not locked; the master imagined no boy would dare his anger. I determined to break away myself—I opened the door and fled. I was seen and pursued by three boarders in the master’s house; and they gained upon me. My way home led for some distance parallel with a river, up which the tide flowed little more than ancle deep at other times, but deep at high water. I felt I must be taken if the chase continued. One of my pursuers was a Norwegian, named Jorgen Traag, a tall powerful fellow, a native of Porsgrund, three or four years older than myself. I saw the tide was in, and that there was no other help for it. If I could wade or swim through, I should distance my pursuers—it was a flashing thought of the instant. I sprang in and was soon in the middle of the channel, where my pursuers would not venture. I then proceeded more deliberately, the water ran strong, but took me only up to the shoulders. Ascending the opposite bank, I gave the trio a cheer, got home, barricaded the door, none but domestics happening to be within, and changing my dress, stole out the back-way to the house of a comrade, where we both enjoyed the exploit. The next day I got six blows on the hands with an instrument kept for the purpose. Though the pain was severe, I bore it with firmness, defying any of my schoolfellows to say
they saw the least damp in my eyes, and their praise fully consoled me.

While learning Latin, I was requested to write a letter in that language to a clergyman, who engaged to solicit a holiday, if I would do so, for all the boys at the Grammar school. In my hurry, I overlooked a singular noun I had used to a plural verb. The holiday was obtained, but my epistle was sent back to me by him to whom it was addressed, with a mark under the noun, and which I construed into an affront, it being characterised as the ‘elegant’ Latin epistle—that word I took for a sneer. I never spoke again to the party of whom I had solicited the favour. I mention this to show how little things produce impressions on the youthful mind which are never removed, and thus govern future action. I translated Ovid’s story of Cephalus and Procris into tolerable English verse at thirteen, but I never exhibited it to any one. I wrote epigrams lame enough, but no one knew the author. At last, I published verses, and I felt a satisfaction not to be expressed on seeing them in type, and hearing opinions upon them, but I would not brave another sneer. The dread of censure was greater than the desire of distinction, though distinction this way was not difficult of attainment, where only one youth besides myself could make tolerable English verses. Several could manage Latin hexameters admirably. I might have come out—but the sneer was never forgotten.

Instructing youth, by command in everything, is not only ridiculous but mischievous. I have a full recollection of the evil of this. Children reason much
more than they get credit for doing, and sometimes put pertinent questions difficult to answer, without their perception of your evading the direct reply. When a child is told to believe in God, for example, he is often likely to ask ‘what is God?’ In place of such a command, he should be led by some kind of easy demonstration indirectly to the belief so desirable to inculcate, as by some casual remark on created things up to the cause. It was the old monkish fondness for supporting dogmatical credence, and obtaining a reliance upon the dicta of ecclesiastical authority regardless of reason, that introduced the despotism of man’s prejudices into instruction. “You are to obey us, not to think about any reason, that is our affair.”

The late Mr. Davis Giddy, (afterwards Gilbert), long years subsequently President of the Royal Society, I knew when I was a boy. He was whimsical, full of projects of which he would demonstrate the feasibility by algebra. He used to visit a dry-as-dust uncle of mine to confer upon mechanical subjects. Mr. Gilbert was for demonstrating the possibility of a steam rocket. My uncle had a tin tube made at once, rocket fashion, with a hole in the end, stopped by a plug. This was set in the fire of a blacksmith’s forge; the steam being soon up, the plug was pulled out, and away flew the tube, like an honest rocket, before Mr. Gilbert had cubed the possibility of the operation. Mr. Gilbert, ingenious as he was, never brought to pass anything of moment. He loved money, and fluxions, and in politics was one day a Royalist, and the next a Cromwellian—never fixed. There was Justice Giddy, a most excellent man and
magistrate, and
Mr. John Giddy with his sister Miss Polly, whom I knew when young. They were superior-minded individuals, all belonging to Mr. Gilbert’s connections.

Henry Martyn, the Oriental scholar, who died in Persia, was an old companion. He preceded me considerably in years. He was a meek, delicate, studious youth. I remember he attended drill with a real musket, presented to him by his father. Our muskets were only sham weapons—how we envied him. Martyn had two sisters, Laura and Sally. The elder married a clergyman, and has been dead many years. Of the last I am not aware of the demise. The elder Mr. Martyn was a gentlemanly man, fond of good Madeira. Dr. Batten, late principal of Aylesbury College, Captains Maculloch and Cardew, of the Engineers, were early companions. The Rev. Dr. Scobell, who now officiates in one of the Marylebone churches, is the only individual out of the few of that time living, whom I remember with his peculiar amiability of character and equanimity of temper. I do not recollect Sir Humphrey Davy while at school, I remember hearing of him when a youth, and he had gone to Dr. Beddoes as an assistant. The latter was a distant connection of my mother. Davy’s father was a carpenter at Penzance.

I recollect, on one occasion, getting into disgrace by caricaturing two sisters, who had long withered on the virgin thorn, and made themselves busy with my actions. They had a brother, a bachelor, whom we called Dr. Daisy. He had once paid amatory attention to a young lady, whose weak-minded mother observed
of her daughter that “she had culled many sweet flowers in her time, but now she had alighted upon a daisy.” The name stuck to him. He was often hoaxed and every body laughed at him, more on account of his tale-bearing sisters than his own demerits, for he was a harmless man. He had a brother a pompous solicitor, called “the Count,” who made money and of course rose in self-estimation. His wife was ignorant and conceited. I remember when she had determined to keep a footman, she selected one of several lubberly fellows on a farm of her husband’s. She instructed him carefully, in her fashion, as to his duties, and, “John you must tell me everything that happens at table, the minutest thing—mind that, John.”

“Yes ma’am, I’ll be zartain to mind.”

At a dinner party, John standing near his mistress’s chair, called out till the room rung again,

“Madam, Madam, there’s a pea upon your chitterling!” (ruffle).

“Oh, gentle John,” she responded, “gentle John—thank you!” in a tone that caused laughter on the part of the guests not to be repressed, the “Count “looking daggers. The servant carried ever after the name of “Gentle John.” He was generally coupled in ridiculing the pompous manners of the master—but I must pause with these stories of boyhood.

I was early in love. Can we truly love more than once? Do we not mistake esteem afterwards for that which the romance of youth can alone feel? What is called love afterwards is but desire masked with external respect.


I must proceed to a month or two after the news of the Battle of Trafalgar resounded from end to end of England. The boat with the despatches had landed the messenger not far from our residence. After a few hours had passed, to give him time to be well on his way, they told us of the great victory, and Nelson’s death—on which the victory was forgotten.

I had now seen a score of summers, and set out on a lingering route from the West to London. I had arrived in the city of Wells, and was looking at the cathedral front, admiring its fine imagery, when a girl with a child in her arms, said loud enough for me to hear.

“How some people will persist in gazing at signposts.” The observation was not ill intended. Turning to make, I hope, no ungallant reply, I perceived the coachman about to mount his box. I had lost my dinner by the gratification of my curiosity, and should have been left behind, but for the girl’s observation.

The night was intensely dark. At midnight, just before descending Entry Hill into Bath, the scene seemed to my young eyes one of enchantment. Glittering lights, crescent over crescent, tier above tier, in a degree of resplendency I had not before witnessed, struck me too powerfully for the impression to be weakened, even by the superiority of modern illumination. We stopped at the White Hart, where a short repast made up for a protracted fast. We had been from five in the morning, travelling eighty-four miles.

I explored the beautiful city, now I was fairly launched into life. Happy should I have been, had I possessed a tithe of my subsequent knowledge of life’s hazardous
navigation. How many shoals should I have avoided—how much less reserved and retiring and how much more yielding, would have been my temper—how much superior my position—how much deeper my self-humiliation! Hard is human destiny. When experience and reflection are become ours, the season to profit by them, as usual, has departed. Thus it is in the morning of life the whispers of reason are unheard, while contemplating the fairy pictures of hope. How could it be otherwise in the ardour of youth; flushed with exuberance of life and joy, endowed with a temper that took no heed of tomorrow, and thinking nothing impossible of achievement!

Bath at that time shone in full effulgence, the queen of provincial cities, aristocratically regulated, glittering with the fashion of the day now only heard of in old novels. The luxurious hot baths had not then been overlooked by the noble and gay, who solaced their real or imaginary maladies in those renowned waters. Larger and more populous at present, the city is become more plebeian and pretending, affording a poor idea of what it was in the height of the season in that day, crowded with visitants, and dissipated, amidst the warnings of mortality in palsied limbs, and jaundiced visages. Fashionable preachers, too, spoke in zephyrs of responsibilities beyond the grave, and denunciations of the pulpit Boanerges dispensed a pleasing excitement by their zeal, that lasted just one day in the week. My sojourn, necessarily not long, I felt would be taken up in formal civilities in place of being employed in observation, if I delivered all my introductions. Some were
addressed to antiquated ladies. These I scrupulously delivered without my own address, at times I believed it probable the ladies were not at home. Thus I evaded invitations of no meaning, uninteresting to myself. I had a relation there who, as
Anstey wrote in his “guide,”
Took fees for the good of the nation—
not under the attenuating process of law, but the mortal practice of physic. Anstey himself had been buried there only in the preceding August. I called upon this relative, a hospitable man, who insisted on showing me the lions of the place. He related to me how King Bladud and his pigs used to wallow in the hot mire of the springs to their great solace, and surprised me by the information, that our Royal Society of Antiquaries had sanctioned, under official formalities, an inscription to the memory of that antique sovereign and his renowned grunters. This staggered me. I had looked for all wisdom as coming from the East with the wise men, I who was from the West, dutifully feeling my own humility. My relative assured me he was correct, and exhibited the inscription. It was not until I had thus taken a lesson out of the volume of life, that I began to think with the fair lady in love that there was, indeed, very little in a name. It had been stipulated by my cicerone, that I should call upon him after his morning visits to his patients, in order that he might introduce me to places and people sometimes of little note. It was genuine kindness, I acknowledge. He died a few years ago despite julaps and catholicons, such as he had exhibited to others, and with which his successors will as vainly continue to combat human apprehension.


I well remember my youthful surprise at the representation of Jacob’s ladder carved on the west end of the beautiful abbey church. The angels with their well-feathered wings, seemed to have forgotten how to use them.

Quin’s description of the city, I heard then for the first time, as “the finest place in the world for an old cock to go to roost in.” I picked up “the Journey of Dr. Bongout and his lady, from London to Bath, published 1778;” written in rhyme, coarse, witless, low, not ‘obscurely’ lubricious like Anstey, but full of plain vulgar allusions. There is no doubt it was, in its day, largely circulated in fashionable society.

The pump room was too small for the throng of company among which I jostled. What strange fashions in dress were in vogue then, the caricatures of the time best exhibit. The weather cold, dry, and sun-shiny, filled the streets with idlers. Milsom Street was in its glory. The Circus delighted me, and I thought the beauty of the Crescents could not be surpassed; but was surprised at the number of hatchments the houses exhibited. People seemed to go there to die—it was the fashion. Pulteney Street, Sidney Gardens, Claverton, were visited, as well as the scenes rendered famous in the records of fashion, nor were the upper rooms neglected, in which the tedious minuet had given way much to the country-dance.

Among many distinguished individuals then in Bath, were William Pitt, and the overshadowed Lord Melville; the latter under the cloud of his impeachment. Pitt was rapidly sinking. The battle of Austerlitz, and defeat of his last coalition, pressed him to the earth. His desire
was to be like his
father, a great war minister, without appreciation of the difference of circumstances and times. His stamina was gone; Bath did him no good. Two or three bottles of wine a-day ceased to stimulate, and he had constant recourse to large doses of laudanum.

An official, in attendance at the House of Commons, used to be ready with a full beaker of port wine when Pitt arrived. This he quaffed off nearly to the quantity of a pint before he entered. He would repeat the draught in the course of the evening. I have at this time a friend who knew the official, proud of relating the circumstance. The reaction of such a custom was inevitable. The care of his own self-esteem did not keep him politically honest, though it had often kept others so. Did that consciousness lead him to wine, or was it pure love of the beverage? Perhaps it was neither—a stimulant had become necessary to a feeble stomach from habit. His father was fond of port wine, and took it despite the gout.

The sight of Pitt’s person was not calculated to strengthen his cause with his youthful advocate, for such I was then. His countenance, forbidding and arrogant, was repellant of affection and not made to be loved, full of disdain, of self will, and as a whole destitute of massiveness; his forehead alone was lofty and good. He walked with his nose elevated in the air; premature age was stamped upon his haggard features. It was said, he had no affection for the female sex, whence the joke, “He loved wine, but not a concubine.” As I recollect, he seemed nearly as tall as myself, in flesh—the merest scarecrow, which, perhaps, made him seem taller than
he really was, having, by the use of alcohol, attenuated the muscular fibre. Some years before, when quite a boy, I remembered a caricature of his leanness, and duel with
Tierney, near Abershaw’s gibbet, where that highwayman hung in chains on Wimbledon Common. Tierney, while levelling his pistol at Pitt, exclaimed, “D—— him, it is as well to fire at the devil’s darning needle.”

Pitt’s favourite locality had been Wimbledon; and he had the choice of the place. The joke ran, that it was chosen from sympathy; that Jerry Abershaw took purses with his pistols, and Pitt with his parliaments, the one instrument being not much better than the other. The legs of the minister were mere ramrods; just fit, as one of our comedians said of those of a friend, to clean out a German flute. He soon went back to town, leaving Lord Melville behind. Pitt’s figure is yet before my eyes, his legs cased in brown topped boots, at that time the fashion. The boots sustained by a strap behind from the kneeband of the greenish colored cloth breeches, which were secured by a buckle to the boot top, showing the white cotton stocking, conspicuous on walking behind the statesman, or any one dressed in the prevalent mode. He wore powder, and showed marks of feebleness. As he passed, all eyes were directed towards him, solitary, destitute of sympathy with his kind—with everything. This was not wonderful; his final hour was rapidly approaching. The aim of his ambitious spirit was frustrated; he might, even at that moment, have had a prescience of its approach, who shall say he had not, reserved as he was in disposition to all the world?


My father was a Foxite. Sons run counter to their sires in politics. I had been a Pittite, when a boy; of course, knowing little of political matters. I recollect my father saying to me, “That man, that General Bonaparte will beat you Austrians once more—what are the dull fellows about!” Just then came the news of the battle of Marengo. I was dumb for some time, but at last I argued that the French had fought unfairly. “Had they not got to the back of the Austrians by crossing the Alps?” Foolish as my argument was, I found it was used in the party papers of the time. Here it was an original idea of my own.

In Bath, I met Sir John Moore, who commanded the district, a fine, soldier-like man, of most agreeable manners. Little could I then guess that I should become the coadjutor of his old friend, Tom Campbell.

It was a cold night when I crossed Hounslow Heath, about midnight, after eighteen hours travelling. All the coaches had guards, and our’s prepared his pistols and blunderbuses, soon after we left Reading, a paradoxical mark that we were approaching the more civilized part of the kingdom. An officer had been shot at in his carriage by a highwayman while crossing the heath a few days before. I took up my quarters at Hatchett’s Hotel, Piccadilly. There was a rout in Arlington Street the same night, and the roll of the carriages kept me awake. I rose unrefreshed, put a letter or two of introduction into my pocket, and set out,
The world before me where to choose
My place of rest.

One introduction took me to the city. I made my
ascent of the Monument for the first and last time. Beneath was old London Bridge with its enormous sterlings, and strange water works, wheels revolving, pumps lifting, and the cataract under looking formidable to the wherrys; in one of which, I “shot it”—that was the term—the same day. Narrow Fish Street Hill was crammed with passengers, the scene a fixture of ages.

One letter of introduction was to Mr. afterwards, Alderman Wood, twice Lord Mayor. His residence was at Highbury. He received me with great urbanity.

I used to dine with him occasionally, having a general invitation, of which I sparingly availed myself. I had attractions more tempting in other directions. Mr. Wood I found a kind, hospitable, sensible man, not highly educated, but possessing that valuable attribute, the courage to think and act for himself.

I attended the funeral of Pitt in Westminster Abbey, being one of the only three hundred who were admitted. A gentleman whom I knew, a private friend of the Dean, received two tickets. He offered one to me as a stranger. He did not care about going himself, but stipulated, that if I took one ticket, I should take under my care, a lady to whom he should present the other.

We entered the Abbey at the Dean’s door, about 11 a.m. There were few but official persons within. We spent the superfluous time in examining the monuments. The procession came in at the great west entrance, having merely crossed the way from the painted chamber in the House of Lords. It passed between two lines of Foot Guards.

The spectators were arranged on a scaffolding
covered with black. Muffled drums, with fifes, announced the entrance of the procession, in which were a number of distinguished persons: princes of the blood, statesmen, and fellow ministers of the deceased.
Beilby Porteus, Bishop of London, read the service, standing by the side of the vault. The Princes were in their royal robes. When the service was over, many advanced to look into the vault. The Dukes of York and Cumberland were among the number, and Lord Hawkesbury, afterwards Liverpool, took a glance, standing on the opposite side to where I and my fair companion were similarly occupied.

The procession reformed, and took its leave; we stayed some time longer. The scene was novel. I could not help fixing my eyes, as long as I remained, upon the coffin of Lord Chatham, beneath whose monument we were standing. I thought of the share he had filled in a brilliant part of our history, and the mighty events he had influenced, for he was a great favourite in my youthful reading.

The son became lost in the recollection of the father, as I find from letters written home at the time. Lady Chatham and a daughter lay in the same vault, on the verge of which, at the funeral, sat, as the nearest relative to the deceased, Pitt’s brother, the late Earl of Chatham, as he was called, a nickname acquired from his going to his office when half the business of the day was over, his nights being devoted to play. He now lies in the same vault, memorable alone for his incapacity in the command of the unfortunate Walcheren expedition. Pitt was Colonel of the Cinque Port Volunteers, whence his military funeral. The crowd outside the
Abbey bandied jokes. They said he was buried in military array lest his remains should be insulted. Lord Chatham’s coffin, so it was reported, was found on its side when the vault was opened. This was attributed by some to the influx of the Thames, which had covered the vault with slime, but could hardly have overturned a heavy leaden coffin.

The funeral was on a Saturday, and on the Monday the debating societies opened of which Pitt had been much afraid. They could not be held for fear of informers, who were ready to swear to words that were certain to be construed into sedition, or topics connected with Jacobinical principles, the bugbears of the time. Such were Parliamentary Reform, to a society for promoting which, Pitt had himself belonged, and indeed the discussion of any political grievance whatever. The debate publicly announced, drew my attention as a novelty. I entered the Pantheon Theatre by a side door in Poland Street. I heard Gale Jones and other orators of his class, some of them spoke exceedingly well, but there was no violence, nothing to startle the rulers of any people conscious of rectitude, and endowed with a common share of moral courage. I was disappointed at the want of bolder argument. Had the six points of the chartists been started in those days, their advocates would have filled the Tower. The government is timorous that cannot resist the wordy attacks of the advocates of impracticable truths. I have lived to see some of the treasons of that time become the laws of the land.

I first heard Sheridan speak in Westminster, and well recollect a reply he made to Pitt, which I was told
not long after the minister’s funeral. Pitt had little or no humour, but his fluency and command of language were wonderful. He never recalled a word in speaking, all flowed equably from his tongue like the nestorian accents. He had neither the brilliancy nor the overwhelming power of his father.
Dr. Wolcot informed me that Governor Trelawney, who sat long in the Commons with the elder Pitt, told him he never could look Pitt in the face, for “when I attempted it, his eyes nailed me to the floor.” The son had no such eagle power of eye. There was a joke of Pitt (the son) I remember hearing current. It was that after the battle of the Nile, Dr. Rennell of Winchester, who was to preach before the House of Commons, anxious to please the donor of the loaves and fishes of the Church, asked the minister what text he should take. “And the Lord smote the Egyptians in the hinder parts,” replied Pitt, and the doctor actually preached from those words. His friends charged it to his simplicity of character; shrewder people to his eye on church promotion.

That same week General Picton was tried and found guilty of torturing a free mulatto girl, fourteen years of age, he being at the time Governor of Trinidad. The case made a great noise. Many years subsequently, a friend of mine met him in private society, the General brought the subject upon the carpet himself. People, he complained, called him “cruel,” he had only done what the Spaniards did before him, according to their law. This shews the true character of the man, not reflecting, nor feeling, nor very wise, though brave as a lion.

I removed from Hatchett’s Hotel to a lodging in
Devereux Court, now engulphed in the establishment of the Twinings, taking my repasts at the George Coffeehouse, the resort of the Templars. A friend soon afterwards induced me to join him in hiring a sitting-room and bed-rooms in Gough Square. While in Devereux Court, when wakeful, the lugubrious chimes of St. Clement’s came home sadly to my heart at night. They seemed to warn me that the past could no more return, that the associations with my boyhood, the relatives and friends I had left nearly three hundred miles away, the sight of many I loved, had gone for ever; never again could things be as they had been. Melancholy gushes came flooding the heart, saddened remembrances of past days, until I sank into healthy youthful slumber. I was not sorry to remove out of the sound of those bells. Morning and the bustle of London drove off forebodings, afterwards too literally realized. The pleasure of being my own master returned; imagination frolicked with the fallacies of hope, and the sadness of youthful retrospection vindicated the evanescence of its nature.

I often dined at the Mitre and the Cheshire Cheese, Johnson and his friends, I was informed, used to do the same, and I was told I should meet individuals who had met them there; this I found to be correct. The company then was more select than in later times. Johnson had been dead above twenty years, but there were Fleet Street tradesmen, who well remembered both Johnson and Goldsmith in those places. There was Tyers, a silk-merchant on Ludgate Hill, with Colonel Lawrence who carried the colours of the twentieth regiment at the battle of Minden, ever fond of repeating
that his regimental comrades bore the brunt on that celebrated day. The evening was the time we thus met, when the days’ business was over. Few then, comparatively, lived at a distance from their offices or shops, if they did, it was mostly in country residences, some way beyond the suburbs of town, to which they repaired on the Saturday, returning on the Monday morning. There was also a sprinkling of lawyers, old demi-soldes, and men of science. Among the latter, was a Mr. Adams, an optician of Fleet Street, from whom I obtained information about barometers, for I had been an early experimentalist.

The left-hand room on entering the “Cheshire,” and the table on the right on entering that room, having the window at the end, was the table occupied by Johnson and his friends almost uniformly. This table and the room are now as they were when I first saw them, having had the curiosity to visit them recently. They were and are, too, as Johnson and his friends left them in their time. Johnson’s seat was always in the window, and Goldsmith sat on his left hand.

Colonel Lawrence first shewed me Goldsmith’s tomb in the Temple church-yard. It was a table-tomb, in the north east corner, since ruthlessly removed altogether. A fire had occurred in a printing-office two or three years before, and the flagstone with the inscription had been cracked by the fall of some bricks, but the inscription was perfectly legible. The ground is now levelled. I have frequently visited the spot since, not to lose the recollection of the place.

Colonel Lawrence directed me to Green Arbour Court, to see Goldsmith’s old lodgings. He was never
tired of talking of his acquaintance with the poet, whom he knew when Goldsmith, as well as
Johnson, lived in Wine Office Court.

This old officer, in his latter years, thought he could continue the pictures in the Deserted Village, in other words, touch off some rural images which Goldsmith had not noticed. Accordingly, he published a volume, which I recollect seeing in the shops of “The Trade” in Fleet Street, of which I now regret I did not possess myself. The title has slipped my memory.

I listened with eagerness to what those men of other days told me. Tyers broke a leg, and was confined to his bed a long time, I believe, he never wholly recovered, and the rubicund cheeked colonel passed the way of all the earth, in a year or two after I first became acquainted with him. He used to speak of Goldsmith’s ordinary person, and told me the poet never broke in upon the conversation when Johnson was talking. The colonel was sparing of hair-powder compared to Tyers, who wore a large thick club, half way down his back, his coat powdered to the waist.

I was an interested listener to their tales of other times, but what they said I have forgotten. I was then rejoicing in the freshness and credulity of youth, they living in the indifference, and incredulity, and experience of age. I was luxuriating in anticipations never destined to be realized, they were feeding upon recollections that imbibed a portion of their attraction from their inaccessibility. To me the world was a broad disc of glory; to them the last pale outline of the waning crescent.


Often have I thought since, passing down Middle Temple Lane, how few who are older than I am, can designate the spot where Goldsmith lies, out of the two millions and a half now in London, there was but one million then. Fewer than ever, it is probable, care anything about the matter, compared to those who existed at the time the tomb stood intact. There is the consolation left still, that the memory of illustrious names, depends neither upon monuments, nor upon multitudinous affection. The sons of genius live in the recollections, continually renewed, of a few superior minds, whose example and praises cause a feigned admiration on the part of the world in general, the tribute of its self-love, which would fain preserve itself from the wound an acknowledged indifference might inflict upon its judgment. Even then, how much of renown is gained by accident—how much has perished equally worthy of preservation with what is extant. The best of us are apt to err in our views, where great truths interfere between our predilections, and the state of our humanity.

The brother of the Miss Porters, the novellists, Mr. R. K. Porter, exhibited at this time, a picture of the battle of Agincourt. It was the first work of such a size I had ever beheld, and it struck me as fine, though it might in reality not have possessed much merit. I, also, twice visited a collection of the works of George Morland, homely, full of nature and truth. The artist had not long been dead. Both exhibitions were in Fleet Street.

At St. Paul’s, I heard Dr. Porteous. Imagining “a saint in crape, twice a saint in lawn,” a bishop must
always, I thought, be something beyond a simple clergyman in merit, or how could he carry a mitre? I had heard many a better sermon from a country curate. This bishop was noted for a poem “
On Death,” which had attracted my attention in the country.

I never heard a sermon from a bishop worth anything. Cold, grammatical correctness, a careful, monotonous delivery, and a dread of touching the passions of his hearers, perhaps of being deemed too anti-cardinal and evangelical, as well as a fear of deviating into sound reasoning, make such discourses little better than skimmed milk. It is as if prelates adopted “the foolishness of preaching,” to exhibit an emasculated spirituality. How different was the old French episcopalian pulpit. As to Porteous, it is possible he had lost somewhat of “his original brightness,” being far advanced in years.

In my rounds to churches and chapels, among others, I went to that of Rowland Hill, and to hear a Magdalen Sermon in Blackfriars’ Road. Hill was, as is well known, an original, and eloquent, if fluency be a main characteristic of eloquence. He was in earnest, too, which is a great point. Much more talked of for his eccentricities, than his sterling virtues, he never troubled his head about orthodoxy, or heterodoxy. He had vaccinated two thousand persons with his own hands, and was much talked of on that account, vaccination being then a novelty.

The opposition to it by priest and layman was great. Children were to become of four-footed animal natures, and bear the mark of the beast. Even medical men
set their faces against it in too many instances. Poor people declared that the cries of the vaccinated child resembled the low of kine.
Hill was not a preacher to my taste. His droll comparisons being out of place. I heard him compare a sinner to an oyster, which opened its shell, all mouth, to take in the water—just so the sinner, with his mouth at full stretch, took in the tide of iniquity. It was reported among his other eccentricities, that he said in one of his sermons, that “people had become so delicate in their descriptions, that they no longer called the devil by his proper name. He was now a poor mistaken angel, stroking down his sooty back at the same time.” I heard, and it was barely possible, though I could hardly credit it; that once, being at a loss for a comparison in one of his sermons, he said, “that heavenly grace was like a rump of beef—cut and come again—no meagre fare, my dear brethren.”

I have mentioned Porteous not pleasing me as a preacher—he did not please me as a man. He publicly stated, that he thought the Prince of Wales (George IV) a model, calculated “to bow the hearts of the people of England as one man.” I could not understand, even in the heyday of a youth, not very nice or discriminating, this kind of adulation in a divine, the friend, too, of the staunch Hannah More. The life the Prince led, at that time, was notorious, and his acts of unblushing dissipation no secret. His course of life must have been known to this “good” bishop, for the prelate’s well meaning was not disputed.

The panegyric should be placed, perhaps, to the
doctrine current in and out of the church, incredible now to the extent it was carried in those days, that rank covers many sins, royalty all.

The successor of Porteous, the late Dr. Howley of London, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, was one of this order of believers. I remember upon the trial of Queen Caroline, on the admission of recrimination against a royal divorce, the bishop declared, that he always understood the king “could do no wrong.” Lord Liverpool and the temporal peers were not quite so orthodox in adulation; but all the world, from that moment, were certain how the See of Canterbury would be filled.

I did not slumber in bed, often rising at four o’clock, walking to Manchester Square, calling up a friend there, and then going into the country to an inn near Mrs. Siddons’ villa, a little on the town side of Kensal Green, but then far in the green fields. We breakfasted together. I returned to Gough Square, sometimes before my fellow lodger had left his bed, and generally before ten o’clock.

Thus I gained six hours on the day. Fatigue was out of the question. I was rarely or ever tired with foot exercise. At such times, I crossed Paddington Green, and the new part of the church-yard, since thickly encumbered with memorials of the dead—how many die that others may live! There were then only three or four tomb-stones to be seen in that part. One nearest the iron pallisades was placed by Lord Petre in memory of an excellent man and scholar, Dr. Geddes. He was the author of a new translation of some part of the Holy Scriptures. The Catholics, and High Church
Protestants, did not approve of his conduct, because in place of vindicating the authority of their churches in matters of religion, he supported the right of private judgment. His stone I saw in perfect preservation but a few years ago, in the same place as at first. It must have been designedly removed. Perhaps the epitaph displeased some strait-laced official. I will repeat it from memory, though I am not certain I am correct to a word. “Christian is my name, Catholic my surname. If I cannot greet thee as a disciple of Jesus, still I should love thee as my fellow man.”

Two men had been tried and condemned to die for the murder of one Steele, a lavender merchant, who was crossing Hounslow Heath. The conviction took place almost wholly upon the evidence of a villainous accomplice had up from the hulks. This wretch, loaded with crimes, thus thought to ameliorate his punishment. There was no other evidence worth notice. The conviction, on that account, made a great sensation. Criminal proceedings were slovenly things in those days, and prisoners were not allowed counsel to defend them. The night before the execution, my friend and myself happened to sit up late; he proposed that we should go and see the execution the next morning. We both slept soundly. He came into my room dressed, about ten minutes before eight o’clock, the fatal hour, wondering I was not dressed. I insisted it was too late to go, he was of the opposite opinion, and bidding him go alone, I turned round to lengthen my nap. He was not long absent, coming back with dismay on his features. Thirty-two persons had been trampled to death, and many wounded. The scene
beggared description, when we reached the place together, only a walk of a few minutes, the bodies had been cut down. A crowd still remained. Fragments of dresses strewed the ground; people were searching, anxious and half distracted, for friends or relatives, and the injured carrying to the hospitals. A pieman had let fall his basket just as the criminals were turned off. Those behind fell over it from the pressure of thirty of forty thousand persons. There they lay, heaps on heaps, many nearly naked, the undermost suffocated—pressed to death. The fighting for existence was horribly savage—that existence the executioner was taking away so formally a little distance off. One woman threw her infant to a man, who had barely time to fling it to another, and he to a third, when it was saved, but it never knew its mother—she perished. Cursing, imploring, groaning, the people lay and struggled and fought, utterly intractable. The attempt was long vain to make the outermost fall back, the only mode of relief. Fury and dismay never looked so hideously. Chance alone governed; all appeals were unheard. The reasonless mob is, after all, no better than a beast of prey.

I saw the obsequies of Fox, a walking funeral from the stable-yard St. James’s by Pall Mall and Charing Cross, lines of volunteers en haye, keeping the ground. I recollect the Whig club among the followers, and a large body of the electors of Westminster, with the cabinet council, but no royalty, for which some kind of excuse was made. Literally the tears of the crowd incensed the bier of Fox. The affection displayed by the people was extraordinary; I saw men crying like children.


There had been a certain disappointment, too, of the public expectation during his term of office, but no matter. He had only been in place a few months, and was then labouring under a mortal disease. I remember very little of him; for he was an invalid when in the House of Commons. Nelson, Pitt, and Fox, were all buried within the first nine months of the year; and I spent part of it in Berkshire, and had scarce an opportunity of any personal observation. He died in September. He had noble points of character; his amiability and charming simplicity were most attaching. The following extract of a letter from a friend to Herbert Croft, by one who was with him at Eton, is a true description of the most popular politician of his day. It came to me from Croft, long after Fox’s decease:

“You have recalled to my mind some of the most happy days of my life. I am aware that you want anecdotes from me. I have nothing now recurring to my memory, beyond confused and melancholy recollections of scenes so distant and regretted. I was with him (Fox) at Eton. I still, however, remember that Fox, not to speak of his progress in study, was remarkable for an extraordinary mildness of character. I believe it possible that he might himself have been aware of his own powers, but none of his comrades perceived that he was so. He was there, as in manhood, simple, true, and without the least pretension. None who were scholars with him, can relate the pleasure experienced from his society then, without feeling an emotion of kindness towards him. He has still preserved that sweetness of mind, unaltered, although he has encountered circumstances calculated to
sour the best disposition. He never lost a friend by any fault of his own, and few had men more worthy as friends, or possessed of more talent.”

I liked Fox’s boldness; he said, as a general principle, in one of his speeches in the House: “I mean the general principle of resistance; the right inherent in free men to resist arbitrary power, whatever shape it may resume, whether it be exerted by an individual, by a senate, or by a king, and parliament united. This I proclaim as my opinion; in support of this principle, I will live and die.” It was a sentiment worthy of an ancient Roman.

His purely natural character, I also heard, from other sources, was the charm that attached to Fox all who ever knew him. Burke alone treated his friendship with that destitution of feeling which was explained by place, or pension in perspective. Burke was greatly over-valued. His work on the French revolution, too, was much over-valued.

I seldom visited the Houses of Parliament; and the only clear recollection of any living member in the Commons, at that time, which I can recal at present, is the Marquis of Lansdowne, then Lord Henry Petty. His lordship spoke in favour of Fox’s resolution for the abolition of the traffic in slaves—the unflinching advocate of liberal principles. It is a high source of gratification to find that half a century has not changed his views, but confirmed him in their wisdom, while the world has only exhibited a slothful progression by occupying that space of time in replacing some few of its delusions with a few things a little better. How satisfactory in age to see that there is no mistake in prin-
ciples at the outset of life. There is true ground for legitimate pride in the reflection that no shuffling excuses are required to shield our self-love—no pleas for late convictions—no humiliations—no apologies for reversing reiterated assertions, too recently made, of the excellence of the garments cast off.

Single men lived a good part of their time in coffee-houses—men of all classes. London people went far less frequently into the country than they do now. The cockney talked of a jaunt to Margate as of an important event in his life, and the time consumed was of real importance, amounting to three or four days in going backwards and forwards. The sullen club-house, united with the rus in urbe dwelling, and the out-of-town life, not farther off than the suburbs, have diminished sociality, and changed the aspect of town intercourse, the streets then were more foggy than now, the summers hotter, and winters colder. The coffee-houses used to be crowded in the evenings; the conversation often general. I believe the air, in such places, to have been impure. Ventilation was little regarded. Many young men died early after their initiation into a London atmosphere, who had come from breathing the oxygen of the west of England, and that of the mountain country of Wales in particular, especially those who had a tendency to consumption, of which I remember several painful instances among my acquaintances and countymen. I believe a London life to be much more favourable to health now, than it was then; nor do I state my belief unreflectingly. Our improved mode of living has increased longevity; for, after all, our climate cannot be materially changed.