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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An incident occurred on seeing the sudden death of a lady in the newspapers, to which it may not be amiss to make allusion. Just three years before, I had been on the sea-coast, and walking out one morning, a beautiful child, a boy four or five years old, ran up to where I was cogitating on a steep bank. A few yards further led down to the water, into which he would have speedily plunged had I not caught him in my arms. While I held him, a well-dressed servant girl came up, and in breathless haste took the child, thanking me for what I had done; the little fellow having strayed away from her, while she thought he was close at hand. I mentioned that I had caught him at a critical moment. She again thanked me, and they went their way. Soon after, during my walk, I met them accompanied by a lady of considerable personal attractions. The girl had evidently told her mistress of my having saved the child from a ducking, at least, if not drowning. The mother, still somewhat excited, thanked me with emotion, evidently arising from maternal affection, the tears standing in her eyes.
There was an air of deep melancholy over her very handsome features, and an expression of sweet womanly softness. That lady left the coast in a day or two afterwards, and I thought no more of the incident. Spending a week there in the following season, I saw the same lady pass the strand in front of my lodgings. I met her again and bowed. Her child and a different servant were with her. She looked thinner, as if she had been ill, and there was a deeper cast of sadness over her features. I should have thought no more about her and her child, had I not mentioned the incident to the landlady where I was staying, a kind motherly woman. She at once replied, “Yes, poor soul, she once lodged here, and did nothing but cry. Her story is a sad one. She has been a lovely creature, and is yet in her prime, but she is broken-hearted. I do not know, for my part, of what some men are made. I had her story not from herself, but her servant, for she never spoke of herself to anybody, but only of her child. She had twelve hundred a-year in land, and a good deal of ready money. Her mother persuaded her to marry a sporting, fox-hunting gentleman, who had no affection for her, only her money. The child you saw is her son, born in the first year of their marriage. Even before the child was born, her husband began to treat her with great coldness. Horses and grooms occupied all his time. She dined alone five days out of six, three months after her marriage, and after she lay in of her son, her husband never returned to her bed, and that is between four and five years ago. ‘Yes,’ or ‘no,’ is all the conversation they have together, as husband and wife; or, perhaps, some trifling question after he has
taken wine. She has never given him cause of offence. She grieves so, that I know it will kill her in the end. She wanted to know if she could not live separate, but the lawyers told her she must apply for a restitution of conjugal rights, and she said she would die before do such a thing, and from one too who hated her. Then her child would be taken from her, and barbarity added to injustice, the thought of losing her child alone reconciled her to her miserable state—to bear in silence her wounded pride, and resign herself to the contempt with which she is treated, it is breaking her heart. She had the command of servants and of her son, and wanted nothing, but these were the fruit of her own money. That which, before all, a woman had a right to expect, the attention of him to whom she had given her liberty, property, all that was dear to her in the world, that was not hers. She used to sit here for hours together, her eyes full of tears, looking at her child, and then she would sigh till her heart, I thought, would give way. Was it not a cruel state to be in?”

“Was there no reason for her husband’s conduct?”

“He never made any complaint of her. Marriage was a novelty over in a month or two, and his mind on pleasure never ran above his stable, where it had always been before, I believe that is the sense of it. As to his wife, or any other woman, he cares nothing about them. Her servant said that one day she told her she would fly beyond the seas were it not for her child, that she should covet death before all things if her child could die too. In such a mood at times,” the good landlady said, “she feared her brain might urge her to self-destruction.”


A few weeks afterwards the decease of this poor lady was announced, with the “suddenly” attached to it, in the papers, a mode often adopted where there is a little influence, to conceal a voluntary death!

The husband may yet live, I believe he does live, his conscience unwounded, his debasing pleasures still pursued, taking his glass, or mounting his hunter upon the fortune attained by such a living sacrifice. There must be retributive justice somewhere. What mental torture could be more keen than that innocent, plundered lady sustained, dying by inches, a mind, worse than the grave-worm, preying on the living body, wasting into death in such a manner. Then the low, vulgar, mean, spirit that could unscathed, continue to riot on the property obtained by making a lovely woman miserable! When I see some cases reported in the papers, I think of Mrs. E——, sacrificed as I have related.

There was never an instance within my recollection, that a man who ill-treated a female was otherwise than a bully or poltroon. The habit of speaking slightingly of any woman too, if not of the most virtuous, provided she do not wear a bold front and place herself in the way of the public, which has, in such notorious cases, a perfect right to animadvert upon what is so unbecoming, is mean and cowardly, perhaps more so in proportion to the defenceless state of the abused. How disgraceful it is to hear men boast of the favours of women untruly, and as a French writer remarks of a countryman, valuing his boastings higher than the smiles of the lady themselves if he had ever obtained them. But the slander of virtuous women out of malice is a most detestable vice, when we reflect on the difficulty of healing the
purest reputation in the face of an ill-natured world. There are some men who make their wives distasteful by indifference, and then cannot speak too ill of them. I remember a man named Stephens, who behaved in this way. He gave himself up to the grossest vices, and was drowned crossing King Harry passage. He wrote on his deceased wife, just before his own death, the following lines:

“Woman thou worst of all church plagues—farewell!
Bad at the best, and at the worst a hell—
Thou apple-eating traitor that began
The wrath of heaven, the misery of man—
Thou truss of wormwood, bitter leaf of strife,
Farewell! church juggler that enslaved my life,
Bless’d be the hour that rid me of a wife:
If e’er a woman is again my guest,
All hell shall say amen, and Satan be the priest!”

The poor wife knew not of the insult. He thought he had written her epitaph, little foreseeing his own fate so soon afterwards; but he did live to receive from the hands of one of her female friends, the following rejoinder:

“Go to thy prince, thou vilest son of earth,
And ask what demon claim’d thee at thy birth,
Supplied thy cravings, nursed thee through his power,
And acts thy guardian to the present hour,
Taught thee to hate the sex thou should’st adore,
And blast the fame of her who is no more—
Whose life how good, how virtuous all can tell,
Though fortune link’d her to an imp of hell!”

Women haters always appear to me among castaway souls. I do not remember whereabout Quevedo places them in the lower regions, perhaps with the class
he makes one of the devils tell Pluto are so worthless, even in his infernal domains, that they do not pay for the trouble of burning them.

It is an error, as far as I have observed, to suppose woman fond of rakes and blusterers because they are such. She has a liking for suavity and softness, alternating with some violence of spirit, or rather fervency of feeling with sincerity. When rakes and swaggerers succeed, it is because women are deceived, mistaking falsified passion for that which is true. She loves an extreme sometimes, because she supposes an extreme will be returned in the one case as the other, and she expects it in affection, and that she shall have no difficulty in retaining it. Attention and undeviating politeness in company, and these more pointedly shown when alone, will succeed better than fervency before others, because not one man in a thousand knows how to treat a sensible woman with delicate warmth. When she is grossly flattered before others, the gaucherie attracts a ridicule seldom pardoned.

The Reform Act had emancipated Bath, a city of nearly forty thousand inhabitants; the members had been returned by thirty persons. There were in the city several newspapers, one high Tory in politics, another old Whig, a third anythingarian, and a fourth indescribable. It was sought to have one in the free trade or reform or radical interest, whichever people chose to call it; to be edited by a hand not having local predilections, and thus more likely to be independent. Messrs. Palmer and Roebuck were the members first returned, and they were still the choice of the electors. The people of all political opinions were courteous to each other, however
small their real stock of mutual affection. This amenity of manners was pleasant, as there was no coarseness on any side. I was prevailed upon to go and fight the battle, and throughout the city, much curiosity prevailed. I had scarcely sounded the tocsin before some of my opponents were curious to have a personal knowledge of me. In Bath, as in London, even resident inhabitants generally did not seem to know each other. “You will have a card to the mayor’s dinner,” whispered a friend; “and there are a number of our opponents who contemplate looking out for you there, perhaps to quiz, and I know not what.” I did not mind being alone amid the hosts of Phillistia, though the dinner card was personal, and not to an “editor.” I determined to go and to foil those who were so curious about knowing me. I dressed, and then drove so early to the Guildhall, that I knew the mayor and a few aldermen only would be waiting in the reception-room; and, my name being duly announced, a dozen officials, and no more, would hear it. I could then fall into the ranks among the company, during the other receptions, and be unnoticed. It happened, accordingly, only that, when I was not far from the Hall, I saw the bishop’s carriage coming; I, therefore, bade the driver set me down before the bishop. I entered—was announced; but had scarcely bowed to the mayor, before the bishop came and took up the attention of all the corporation, few persons having arrived; and thus my stratagem succeeded. The next day the curious people said they could not find me out among the two or three hundred who dined.

The war I waged was warm. On the day of publication, our opponents, who had no idea how independent
I should be of their notions, used to ask at libraries and news-rooms whether “the Reading sauce was yet to be had?” I found this beautiful city, so truly English in character, as to be divided into classes. Even tradesmen had their grades. A grocer sold aristocratical tea, there his brother, set at his ban, rejoiced in radical coffee, while a third proffered to his friends prime Tory treacle and sugar-candy. My diatribes were naturally stark heresies. I believe there were some thought me extremely presumptive when I wrote dialogues between the “Parsons and the jackdaws in the Abbey Tower,” and that I was bringing the church into contempt. It is true, people did expect something more from me than the milk and water in which the other papers had been baptized; but then some of my squibs were voted too bad, for they could not see that time will ring its changes. Then the clergy were by far the larger part of them of
Dr. Copplestone’s notion, that “received opinions” are not to be questioned. “Why could I not leave well alone?”

I found some officers and others here whom I had known at Plymouth during the last war, and we were happy to recognize each other. In the election, after the dissolution in 1834, the city was contested; but Palmer and Roebuck were returned. I was on the hustings in Sidney Gardens, talking to General Palmer, when their opponent appeared. Roebuck gave him the most flattering praise, as a man, that he could bestow, in order to make the dressing he gave him, as a politician, more effective. During his speech, General Palmer nudged me repeatedly. “I could not say that for the world; how hard he is upon the Colonel (Daubeny). That is a blow—I could not strike him so
hard for anything.” But the General had neither the eloquence nor boldness of Roebuck, though no favour from the court ever made Palmer give a vote against the popular side. The mistake of the Tory party was, that it applied the old practices of the former state of things to the new. It had no idea any thing should rule out of the mongrel state, called in England, “respectability,” which meant their own class, but, in sense, signified nothing. Captain Sabretash, on half pay, Dr. Mc’Squirt, and Mr. Latitat, were respectable props of the constitution, before the Reform Act, and must, therefore, remain so after. Colonel Daubeny and his friends came to the hustings in a long procession, two and two. He was an amiable man, and, as Lady Wallace once described a gentleman, “gilt, but not lettered.” Pretension was put in place of fact, and an ignorance of all political duties supplanted a development of principles. There was no bribery on any side. I remarked to General Palmer, who spoke of it in praise of the voters, that all was yet new to them, they were in a state of paradisaical innocence. The serpent had not yet given them a taste of the tree of knowledge. From what I have heard since, they are expelled their paradise, and are become “no better than the wicked;” they have had a taste of the forbidden fruit; and election “expences” follow there as well as elsewhere. Here then I stood where, nearly thirty years before I had entered in the heyday of youth, where I had seen
Pitt, Melville, and Sir John Moore, now historical shadows.

Mr. Roebuck had two pre-eminent virtues. I have a right to form some opinion on the subject, after twenty years observation of his character. These virtues
are sincerity and an inflexibility of temper, which last seems sometimes not to yield sufficiently to changes of circumstance. I do not believe a more sincere man breathes. His views were not, perhaps, in the time to which I allude, so much the deductions of experience, as at present. He had then, perhaps, too high an opinion of all the world. Time has imparted to him a degree of experience, which chastens his ideas, and tempers his asperities, without diminishing their effect. His ardour, unabated, is directed with more judgment—a natural effect, but one not always observable in strong-minded politicians. His undeviating integrity secures him that attention in the House of Commons which belongs to a union of that virtue with great moral power, and somewhat of impracticability. If he supported or opposed a ministerial measure, it was always conscientiously, and not from party or factious motives. He represented the nation—the whole people—not a section of agriculturists, or railway-jobbers, or city usurers. His vision ever looked over the whole field of action—over what he thought—for the advantage of all. The time was not long that I was among a constituency, that has since treated him with neglect; nor is it among the least pleasing of my reflections, that, in redeeming my promise, to combat obsolete prejudices, and support principles, I had more than once the grateful acknowledgments of the honorable gentleman.

The Rev. Mr. Liddiard, who had been chaplain to the Duke of Richmond, in Ireland, I met here, an old acquaintance, who has ceased to be of the living—a most liberal and excellent man. He introduced me to Mr. Oakley, of Tan-y-Bwlch and Festiniog, but my ac-
quaintance was short, for Mr. Oakley was cut off by cholera within a week afterwards. The Rev. Mr. Mangles, a clergyman of an excellent literary taste, who died recently at a very advanced age, was another acquaintance. I never knew his political creed—down upon him who makes his estimate of the man by his creed. He confined himself to the peaceful and heart-filling enjoyment which literature seldom fails to bring to independence of circumstances—would it were so to all those who meddle with it! The rest of the clergy were neutral, or in violent opposition—the case with the large majority, who, it might be imagined, would, as men of education, cling to reason and principle, in place of mental narrowness and doctrines adverse to civil freedom. There was a dissenting clergyman, whose conduct I cannot forget, being truly Christian and worthy of himself. The
Rev. Mr. Jay, a well-known name, had, for the first time in his life, introduced politics into a sermon. I did not hesitate to notice and reprove it—I hope not too violently. On the following Sunday, he apologized to his congregation for the remarks he had made, and cast blame upon himself in a mode so honest and truly Christian, that I almost felt sorry I had not let his comments pass; but then I should not have had his virtuous recantation. His discourses were marked by earnestness, simplicity, and perspicuity of style. He had nothing lofty; none of the scholastic finish of Robert Hall; but he was, perhaps, on that account more extensively useful in his day.

In a cathedral town we never expect to find the best preachers of the established clergy. There is always an atmosphere of ease hovering over the pinnacles of the
venerable towers, which speak of holy idleness in the temple, where oblations are offered more immediately under the ken of the high priest of the diocese. The most effective sermons must be sought in the clergy who sustain the credit of the church among the people, rather in the churches and chapels distant from the cathedral “altars.” The beautiful church of Bath, so light, so airy, such a contrast to the miserable modern Gothic, which, in many cases, deforms the streets of the metropolis, it used to be my delight to contemplate in the early mornings of summer. Often have I stood and looked upon it when the sun’s early rays illumined the interior through those lightly-traced windows, contrasted with the deep shadows near the angles, and throwing out the finer portions of the architecture; the air fresh and balmy, and the city silent in slumber as the Egyptians in the catacombs of Karnac. One morning in the week, I used to rise and go to see that all was right at the office, as early as four in the morning. The men worked all the night before publication. Even where there was not a necessity for watchfulness, there was anxiety. At such times, when all was breathing of new-born day, I have stood, like the last in a city of the dead, and looked upon the silly angels, who, with a pair of excellent wings each, were ascending and descending the ladder of Jacob—the descending with their heads downwards. Our fathers read their bibles too much for the duty of reading alone, not attending to anything more than the traditionary construction put upon their contents, else they would have remembered, that, in the days of Jacob, angels wore no wings, being no more than messengers. We are told this in Genesis; and
that they bore the aspect of young men. The Jews seem to have applied these appendages to messengers, after the captivity, or, at least, long after Jacob’s days. The corporation of the city had been clearing away in good taste most of the crowded buildings around the church. I noticed that, in some places, the pavement stones were laid with mortar, on a stratum of human bones—all that remained of the stranger, and the citizen that for ages had peopled the place. The church is of the style of
Henry VII.—the most beautiful of all the Gothic styles—the most airy, improved, and luxuriant, in the tracery. The reverence that fills the mind, before such a building in this more improved state, as to style, differs from the impression of the early Norman, and other heavy and gloomy erections. It is a proof of the bad taste of the present age, that the cheerful, light, pure taste of the times of Henry VII. is not more copied. Perhaps the modern tendency to the gloomiest things of the Roman faith, has some influence in the choice; and yet the modern Roman buildings are of a better kind. Oftentimes I reflected on the gay crowds that had thronged there to worship, and on the dissipated scenes that had occurred beneath those venerable towers, which I had read of in memoirs of fashionable individuals.

My avocation was but a weekly repetition of the same duty, diversified with trifles of local interest alone. There was a desire expressed by the printer to bring out a local almanac. If he waited to copy the calculations from one published in London, it would compete with the design in the local market. I told him I would do all I could for him. I made up from the nautical almanac all that related to the phenomena of the heavenly bodies,
except the times of the sun’s rising and setting, in hours, minutes, and seconds. I knew only one way of working these out. The task seemed formidable. I actually worked out the results, with the logarithms for every day in the year. It cost me more than twenty days of my leisure time, and, in the working, about seven hundred sums. I knew no shorter way of computation. I made the people a present of my labour, of the extent or value of which, I imagine, they had no idea. This almanac was the first that appeared in England, for 1835. I was pleased that I had acquired a practical knowledge of something new to myself in these calculations, although I might never turn them to account. I received a letter, while at Bath, from one
Ashe, who called himself ‘late a captain in the York Rangers.’ He had suddenly made his appearance there, an unprincipled forger of books, such as “Travels in America,” where he was charged with running away and carrying off a collection of mammoth bones, belonging to Dr. Goforth, a laborious collector. This book was no more than a compilation from different local guides. He had formerly published a fictitious work, regarding Queen Caroline, called “The Spirit of the Book,” affecting to be the substance of that book which Spencer Percival drew up, in behalf of the Queen, and afterwards sacrificed, with his client, to court interests. He wrote false memoirs of living people, to get paid for their suppression. One of these, I remember, was “Memoirs of the Countess of Berkeley;” another was called “The Claustral Palace.” It was unlucky for him that I knew his history, and that he was a notorious scoundrel, who had attempted, not long before, to victimise the Duke
Cumberland, and to extort money from him. He abused the Mayor of Bath, who was a kind, gentlemanly man, and then wrote a most pathetic letter, wanting to have inserted in the paper an appeal to the public on his behalf. I refused, letting him know I was too well acquainted with his career. Two days after, I heard of his sudden decease. Among a mass of editorial papers, relating to the “New Monthly,” I discovered a similar letter to that thus subsequently sent to me at Bath, dated from the Isle of Man, ten years before! I have these letters yet by me.

Thelwall, so long known to the public, from having been tried with Horne Tooke and Hardy, for high treason, came to Bath to lecture, while I was there, and was found dead in his bed. He was a consequential man, but had the merit of being politically consistent. He took pupils for the purpose of instructing them in elocution, with a view to qualify them for the senate, soon after I first came to London. Coleridge died at this period, the chief of the Lake school of verse, to my seeming, who sacrificed his eminent abilities to his love of conversation. His powers have not been overrated. He loved subtleties—a passion for which he seemed to have caught from the Germans, whose lives are spent in this kind of trifling. He found an analogy for everything started that was new to him, and into that speedily drew the novel topic, which then disappeared. What was clear to himself he could paint when he pleased, with great vividness. He was a dreamer, who found as much pleasure in the unsubstantial as in the real, but he wasted his powers. Of all the Lake School he was the least of an egotist; or not a hundredth part so magnificent
a professor as
Southey, or, above all, Wordsworth, who approached self-deification in that respect. His conversation was rich with ideas—soap-bubbles, brilliant with colour, and sparkling with light, which flashed upon the vision a moment and vanished. I remember his play of “Remorse” acted. It had fine passages; but its author was too descriptive for the drama, not identifying himself with his characters. He was master of the tender and profound; and in criticism was more given to censure than praise everything out of the line of his own notion of the fitness of things. He jilted his own fame. He suffered severely during his last illness, which he sustained with equanimity and resignation. He displayed more of the warmth of passion, as a poet, than all the rest of the school, in which and in energy, they were ever exceedingly deficient. In person he was a heavy and full.

A singular circumstance occurred while I was at Bath, which terminated oddly. I had, in former days, been fond of the vicinity of Claverdon, and asking if the owner, a fellow countryman, resided there, I was told that he did not, that the house was let furnished, keeping the game and land in the hands of an agent. The house was then inhabited by a gentleman of high respectability and property, from the north of England, or somewhere in Scotland, Mr. Borthwick, of Borthwick Castle, who was a great friend of old Sir Bethel Codrington. The rent was four hundred a year, for which Sir Bethel was security. The gentleman had been recently elected M.P. for Evesham, where he had been supported by Sir Bethel. I had been intimate with some of the anti-slavery society in London, and knew
from them, as well as others, the history of one Peter Borthwick. It never crossed my mind that the M.P., for Evesham, could be the same adventurer at Bath, for the time seemed short to be the history of the man. Of him I knew, the father was the porter at the Dalkeith paper mills; his elder brother, then living, a private soldier, had been the waggoner, and his sister the servant girl, two or three years before. The Benjamin, of the porter’s family, had received a tolerable education for his class; so that he knew a little Latin, and lived by travelling to farm-houses, instructing children at their homes. Nor was he without the feeling of life’s springtime, for he had made love to a domestic, considered his superior in life, and then forsaken her. All this time he and his family were humble members of the secession church, and it was said he aspired to be a minister at some future day, studying polemics for the purpose. At once, to the astonishment of the Dalkeith people, he opened a stationer’s shop in the town—took the waggoner from the mills—made him head of the firm of J. and P. Borthwick, and elevated the sister to the rank of his housekeeper. Nobody could tell where the capital for such a purpose came from—manifold were the conjectures. In no great while after—about a year or so, I believe, the bubble burst—the creditors seized what remained of the goods, for the firm was not worth sequestration, or what is called bankruptcy here. The head of the house of J. and P. Borthwick entered as a private soldier; and the brother betook himself to Edinburgh, pennyless. It was reported that the view of Borthwick, in this headlong scheme, was, that he might be deemed of consequence enough to marry a farmer’s
daughter, who had two hundred pounds to her fortune. His next hegira towards greatness was a journey to Cambridge, having determined to embrace Church of England doctrines. Somehow he contrived to reach the University, and it was presumed, went to take Church of England orders, in due course. He brought a letter to a solicitor there, who complimented him with an invitation to his house—of which he did not fail to make good use. He kept the first term at college, and contrived to run up a large account, which, on being presented, he met with an acceptance. This, as it appeared to have but a few days to run, was taken, and the money difference given him; but the bill was not paid. He next got into prison; he had put on the character of a holy man, and wrote a lecture or treatise on the millenium. His gift of speech on matters of faith was peculiarly glib; and he moved the feelings of some low church persons so, that he was assisted out of prison, and imagined to be full of gratitude and piety. He then set off for town. Peter, not long after, was followed by a clergyman, who had interested himself about him in Cambridge, but who, on going to his own accustomed lodgings, found Peter comfortably occupied in them, though he had no introduction. On asking what he was doing, he replied he was writing a play. The reverend gentlemen was astounded. “He must do something for his family.” The excuse did not avail. He was discarded by those who had so essentially served him. He then went to the managers of the Tottenham-court Theatre, and offered himself to “hold forth “on the boards. He was tried at a rehearsal; and was at once dismissed. Self-determined, he went next to the
manager of the Surrey Theatre, and offered his cheap acceptance for fifty pounds to be permitted to play “Othello.” As some gentlemen had whims of this kind, the manager consented. He blackened his face, and made the spectators delighted by one of the most taking tragi-comedies ever performed. The audience was convulsed with laughter; never was Othello so put to death before. A number of his interludes were related besides; but how he came to think of raising the wind by taking up the championship of the West India planters, did not appear. He became an itinerant orator on this subject, and there I first heard of him. He was remarkable principally for his pertinacity in meeting obvious facts, whenever it suited his purpose, by a plump denial of them. Some gentleman, on the side he advocated, stated that he had received, once or twice, a little assistance from the West India interest, but that it had ceased for some time. The last thing heard of him in town, about a year and a half before, as I remember, was, that he had left Liverpool—his letters, papers, trunk, and baby-clothes remaining for his lodgings. It was not likely I could imagine the Borthwick, thus a year or so before spoken of, was the M.P. for Evesham, paying four hundred a year for his residence. At the York-House Hotel his swagger, his “hasten horses for Mr. Borthwick,” whenever he moved a few miles from his sojourn, could be the Dalkeith stationer. A service of plate too was presented to Mr. Borthwick, of Borthwick Castle, with his arms emblazoned upon it, and engraved copies circulated. The plate was presented for orations on the high church and anti-reform side.


I had with me, among some newspapers out of date, a “Tyne Mercury,” in which the following paragraph met my eyes by accident: “Many people are asking who the member for Evesham is. There was a man named Borthwick, who was a secessionist minister, and who came out in Othello at the Victoria, though he was damned the first night—we wonder if it is the same person?” Thus the surprise was great in the north. The secession and low church, Cambridge, the theatre, the pro-slavery champion, and now high churchman, came into my mind, and led me to enquiries; I found Borthwick’s supposed patron, Sir Bethel Codrington before mentioned, not a very bright man, but long connected with the West Indies, and most respectable in family. I reasoned, that though Sir Bethel was continually seen with the inhabitant of Claverdon, he would hardly supply his extravagant expences. His election costs, alone, were eight hundred pounds. I found that the former member, a liberal, had retired, because he would not pit his private fortune against the resources of the Carlton Club the year before. The mystery was now in my mind unravelled. My eyes were open to the whole affair. Borthwick was making use of honourable men, seeing their weak side; for his supporters were gentlemen of integrity, honourable if undiscriminating conservatives endeavouring to strengthen their party. They could not, did not think so ill of human nature as to presume upon the truth of what was ascribed to their champion by political opponents. Their own singleness of purpose and private integrity thus aided the deception. In their view, the orations of Peter were marvellously clever, and they would show that their party could
exhibit a new
Demosthenes, and make the reformers own a master spirit in the House of Commons. I was at a loss about the individuality of the man, because the jump from penury to this affluence of expenditure was so extraordinary. He had told the electors at Evesham, that his exertions in the slavery affair had been made at his own cost, and that to a large amount. I was now convinced “this Mr. Jones must be that Mr. Jones.” I obtained information, that the intelligence from Evesham reaching the north, had drawn up a creditor who got his money. I was presented with a list of the debts of the house of I. and P. Borthwick in Dalkeith, the aggregate about five hundred pounds.

Not long afterwards a report was spread that Mr. Borthwick of Borthwick Castle intended to propose himself for Bath, in case of a new election. He had just before, as reported in a Worcester paper, denied to the assembled constituency at Evesham, that he had ever been in trade. It was true he had once helped some friends, persons nearly connected with him. If Sir Walter Scott was involved in difficulties, it was no disgrace if other “honourable men “were to be in the same situation. If, in such a case, he gave his money to pay the debts of persons in distress—was he to be blamed? He had paid all their debts, although not liable at all! He never was a bookseller, paperseller, or any seller at all. He gave his name to persons with whom he was connected. He and his wife had spent much of their property in an act of kindness. He then denied he had ever anything to do with the secession church, and pledged his “honour, as a gentleman,” that his statement was true.


On hearing that he was to contest Bath, were the rumour false or true, knowing what I did, I should have been blameable to remain silent. A paragraph I inserted, with two or three questions, drew some little attention. Suspicion seemed to be aroused among the party which had before supported him. He was forced to do something to justify himself, and he took an opportunity at a public meeting to boast that he would make the calumniator of his fair fame cry peccavi. His supporters insisted on his bringing an action to clear himself of the charge of false statements. He was now in a cleft stick. It required impudence ten times refined, to go on undauntedly to the last. “He treated with scorn,” he said, “all the offscouring of the press said against him.” The object of the “wretched creatures “was, “if possible, to be noticed in decent society,” with much more that met with rapturous and loud cheers, and thumpings of the tables on the occasion by his friends. Zealous party men had not so low an opinion of human nature as the specimen of it before them warranted them in entertaining. He mistook his man. I did little more than reiterate my former queries, very harmless they were in themselves. Peter’s friends now declared that he must purge his fair fame.

Mr. E——, a solicitor, called upon me to say that Borthwick would bring an action, and test the truth of what I had advanced, but hinted that an apology would be accepted as long as it vindicated his honour.

I happened to be already acquainted with the legal gentleman, and after telling him, I acted for others as well, whom I must consult, I said:


“In a week I will give you a decided answer, if that will not injure your case.”

“Not at all”

“I am going to run up to town where I can quickly learn all I want as a guide to my reply, and you shall hear instanter. I would make the most humble apology possible, if I had done your client the slightest wrong. I have only asked two or three simple questions. I know the use of the press, and also its abuse. No one can say I have written an ungentlemanly word about any political opponent here—I mean in relation to private character. There is a great public question involved in the present case. A representative in parliament ought to be known to his constituency.”

“So then let the matter rest for a week,” said Mr. E——, fully agreeing.

“Now let us have a word together without prejudice,” I added. “Remember, without prejudice.”

“Most assuredly.”

“Do you believe honestly, Mr. E——, that your client is a gentleman, I mean in the common acceptation of the term? That is, do you believe he is what he represents himself?”

“I do, I assure you most solemnly. He has again and again affirmed to me that he is the individual he has publicly stated, a man of fortune, and was never a shopkeeper, or read for the secession church. I am convinced he is a man of high respectability. He will bring an action.”

“He has no other choice, Mr. E——, if he is the character I mean—his supporters here are gentlemen,
differing in politics only. They must have the matter sifted.”

“So you think, Mr. Redding.”

“I am not without sources of information of which you are not aware. He has stated untruths openly before the country—it is a public duty on the part of his friends, for their own sakes, to discover whether they have been imposed upon or not.”

We wished each other courteously good morning. I believe Mr. E—— was as much imposed upon as anybody else. I went up to town, made the enquiries I desired, returned and told Mr. E—— no apology could be made. The action proceeded. The plaintiff got the trial put off when the next assizes opened, paying the expences of the adverse witnesses, many of whom came all the way from Scotland. This was six months more breathing time, and, no doubt, a fresh pull upon the Carlton Club purse. Yet he had the audacity to tell his constituents that the postponement was with the defendants.

He omitted no opportunity of pushing himself into the houses of conservative gentlemen in Somersetshire, and one day called on a very opulent and respectable M.P. near Bristol. He was shown into the library, and there met unexpectedly, in a state of domestic service, the sister of the girl he had treated so ill in the north. It was no more than a recognition on both sides. The visitor moved away, and never made a second call at the same mansion. This I heard sub rosa. The persistance of the man in denying his shopkeeping connection, and that with the secession church, and in
affirming he had injured his fortune in advocating for the West India planters, made his identification necessary. His Evesham supporters believed he was a man of fortune and character.
Lord Western, whom I knew, happened to be at Bath for his health. I met him, and told him of the infidelity of the Evesham electors, their disbelief even in letters from Scotland regarding him. His lordship drew up a form of petition to the House of Commons on the part of the electors of Evesham, adverse to the return, stating “that a trick had been practised upon them in the return of an individual who denied he was the person they took him to be, and praying the House to enquire into that fact, for which the courts of law could give them no redress. If the party so returned was not the person he represented himself, they humbly submitted that not a vote had been given to Mr. Borthwick, and that he was not elected by the free burgesses of Evesham.”

The electors in opposition to Borthwick were afraid of the expense, and the measure was not adopted in consequence. It happened, however, that a young man who knew him in Dalkeith, was in Bath, a book and pamphlet Scotch agent. A dinner took place at Evesham on the election. We sent that man over to dine and recognize the member. He was suspected, or the emissary had let out his purpose, and was in consequence refused a ticket to the dinner. He then stationed himself near the door of the dining place, with true Scotch pertinacity. It grew late. A vehicle in waiting had long exceeded the time the hero of the day announced, for his departure. The messenger kept to
his post. At length, his hat slouched down over his eyes, Borthwick came forth, turning his head aside—a friend on each side of him.

“That,” said the messenger, “is Peter Borthwick, late stationer of Dalkeith, I came here to identify him.”

The next morning, he went before the mayor of Evesham and made oath of the fact, and brought the affidavit to Bath.

I was not in Somersetshire, having left the county, when the trial came on at Wells. Witnesses, bankers and tradesmen from Scotland, professors from Cauir bridge, the jailer from the same place appeared, and Borthwick was shown in his true colours. There was a count given in his favour, all the rest were against him. It was one of importance, very easily proved by the reporter for any of the Worcester papers, namely, that of his denial of his identity “before” the libel charged. The proof of denial being tendered as “afterwards” an evident oversight The moral effect was the same, for that count they gave him damages. The other counts were sufficiently against him. Thus fell an orb of the first magnitude, whom the venerable baronet, it would appear, thought a second Cicero for the House of Commons. The “Morning Post,” I remember, gave a very amusing account of his debut. Even stolid Evesham left him to new adventures at its next election. He was a man of many words upon polemical topics, with a front of brass, he knew nothing else, but spoke fluently on the subject of religion. I have given this affair at greater length than the subject is worth, but I was censured by some for the part I took in it, whereas both conservatives and liberals ought to have felt obliged
to me. In so large a city as Bath, it is wonderful the man’s history was not detected before; his unscrupulousness and boasting sooner comprehended. It is true we are all credulous enough in serving the purposes of our own party. In the present case, it seemed like infatuation, that gentlemen in position, belonging to any party, should suffer themselves to be so deceived.
Sir Bethel Codrington, it is true, was not a strong minded man, and it is possible his party relied upon his representations. Evesham, too, should be an example to constituencies in selecting their candidates according to the sense of the constitution, by learning something about those whom they aid in representing the interests and protecting the fortunes of the people of England, even if they disregard themselves.