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.
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH

Clever as Hook was in many things, there were none of his talents which he did not abuse. He died about this time. In his writings, he was lively and imaginative. His heroes and heroines were sometimes his butts, and he had much of a peculiar kind of humour, with great natural vivacity. He was the readiest man at a reply I ever knew, but his repartees were more often allied to puns than genuine wit, and he left no good sayings. His animal spirits were extraordinary, and during the latter half of his life sustained too frequently by the bottle. He continually played the buffoon, and that with a heavy as well as a light heart, a melancholy species of double-dealing, while in both cases there was the same apparent flow of spirits, the same self-possession, and the same effrontery. Principle he had none. His impromptu performances in verse and music were extraordinary, his practical jokes ever too ready, even in the earlier part of his career. With all his vivacity and readiness, his insults even to strangers, and his mockeries of Heaven itself, he was not courageous. Sir Robert Wilson
wrote him, that if his name appeared again in the “
John Bull” paper, he would flog him as long as he could hold a whip. His name appeared there no more. His talents were misused, and the conventional decencies of society continually outraged. Strange things he did in the earlier part of his life, when his spirits were overflowing to a degree of madness.

On his return from the Isle of France, a prisoner for defalcations in his accounts, he hit upon the establishment of a party newspaper, by which he hoped to propitiate the ruling powers, by making an idol of George IV. The “John Bull” newspaper, in those days, for it has long ceased to be obnoxious to such a charge, he made in everything be opposed to the advance of the age. Its columns were filled with lampoons upon defenceless women; it was coarse and licentious in language, and neither virtue nor religion were spared in its columns. It got into a large circulation, and returned Hook, as the price of his labour, several thousands a-year. He lived up to his receipts, and beyond them. There was a story, too, about a fine paid for the paper getting into Hook’s hands. He doubled his potations, he became the guest at men’s tables, where he was invited to make a show of himself, and degrade literary talent, while those whom he had diverted with his “quips and cranks,” and jests, and his easy morality, if, indeed, he can be said ever to have had any morality at all, chose to forget their obligations to him.

A more useful lesson to young and gifted men, than that furnished by the life of Hook, could not be depicted in fiction: talent misapplied, religion ridiculed,
honour set at nought, were painfully evident throughout his career. I never felt for him the smallest respect, but much pity.

A-propos of Hook, I remember he was once greatly pressed for five hundred pounds, and wanted it advanced to him. A bibliopolist I knew, refused unless he had some evidence that he should have his money’s worth, a portion first, at all events. Hook went home, sat up all night, wrote an introduction to a novel “on a new plan,” appended a hurried chapter, and showed it the next day, with the assertion that he had been offered most liberally for it elsewhere, and brought off the money in his pocket.

I met him at Captain Marryat’s one morning, and told him my mind, in consequence of his unmanly attacks on Mrs. Coutts.

She had given an entertainment, at Holly Lodge, to the theatrical people. Haydon, the artist, told me that he was there, and that the feasting and overmuch wine soon carried the company beyond reasonable control, but that it was an abuse of the hospitality of the lady hostess, for which she was not to blame. This served Hook as the basis for one of his disgraceful diatribes. When Mrs. Coutts became Duchess of St. Albans, it was said she paid ten thousand pounds to obtain an admission to court. The sum was said to have passed into elevated hands, which court, at the same time, Hook was bedaubing with praise. On whom, then, was the disgrace reflected, on the party who bought, or the party who sold the goods, if it was a disgrace? She was troubled, too, at the attacks made upon her by other papers, that lived by libels. There is a story that, at a
ball she gave, after she was duchess, she wore a bracelet with a motto twice repeated—“Keep up your spirits—keep up your spirits!” On being asked what the words meant, she replied that, one night she had gone to bed in low spirits, on account of the abuse dealt out to her by Hook and the “
Age,” and that she dreamed she saw Mr. Coutts, who said to her, “Keep up your spirits” twice, and she had had the bracelet made as a memento of the advice. This shows how it affected her feelings. I remember the duchess, when Miss Mellon, taking shelter from a shower of rain in a shop in Pall Mall, where I was standing in the same dilemma. I sent for a coach, and handed her into it. She was then a comely, and, apparently, a very good-natured and agreeable lady. With her vast fortune, the desire of a title was a vanity—a very common one. The abuse she received from Hook was mean and cowardly.

Horace Twiss, with his grave countenance, who should have been called single-speech, for he made but one good speech in Parliament, was a sober and attentive man of business—his solemnity sometimes passing for extra wisdom. One day, going to see a friend in the Temple, I met him on the ground floor. “Come with me,” said he, “Twiss is rehearsing; don’t make a noise.” Horace had to be down at the house that evening. We peeped through the key-hole, hearing him in practice, and saw him address the tongs, placed upright against the bars, as “Mr. Speaker;” but we could not hear all the oration. The hon. member preserved wondrous gravity, and the tongs, falling, said to himself, “Aye, now the speaker has left the chair.” Twiss had no genius, but was, as I should imagine, a
safe and trustworthy man of business, who might be securely relied upon. The penetration of the
Duke of Wellington discovered this, to which Twiss mainly owed a short official career, so unlucky for himself, through no fault of his own. Though often one in snug conversational dinner-parties, the larger part composed of the wits of the hour, he cut no more of a figure among them than myself. I believe, however, that his judgment was sounder than that of any of the circle to which I allude, and that he was an honest, upright man.

The worship of money, defined the “God of trade,” in past time, has lowered the character of trade itself, which may be too frequently defined the “art of overreaching.” I often received from those with whom I was connected, copies of certain works, which it was requested might go into the publication as editorial paragraphs, always sent down to the country by London agents. To these I generally refused insertion, often against the remonstrances of the proprietary, that could never understand why a thing paid for should not have its money’s worth. Among some were puffs and commendations of Lady Blessington.

Anything like rank on a book-cover made a work be read and admired among the classes which ape fashion, and imagine they obtain respect by talking about people of title. It is one of the most extraordinary marks of deficient intellect wherever we see this humiliation of mind; and, in the present case, the dealers determined to make the most of it. Lady Blessington, shrewd, clever, from long practice, not among the best of mankind, and tolerably hacknied in what were not
exactly the virtues of any age, began a speculation in a literary way, in order to turn her “fair” fame to account, near the end of her fortune’s feast. She invited herself, and deputed others to invite, literary men, from
Lord Brougham to penny-a-liners, who had naturally no objection to dine with a fine woman, if not quite en règle, and somewhat gone in years, who wished to play Aspasia, though history informs us the lapses of the Grecian lady were simple and uncompounded. A friend was deputed to ask me, but I declined, not that I censured any man for accepting the lady’s disinterested invitations, for men might do so and not injure caste; but I knew her gross early history, and disrelished her on that account. No lady, who regarded her own reputation, on the other hand, could possibly visit her; that was a very different affair.

The literary visitors could not be without some sensation allied to obligation in return, all which the lady speculated upon, and not without good grounds. She was a fine woman; she had understood too well how to captivate the other sex. She had won hearts, never having had a heart to return. No one could be more bland and polished, when she pleased. She understood from no short practice, when it was politic to be amiable, and yet no one could be less amiable, bland and polished when her temper was roused. Her language being then well-suited to the circumstances of the provocation, both in style and epithet. Mr. Manners Sutton forbade her his house, having been married to her sister. As to her writings, her facts were, I fear, often fictions, as in her account of conversations with Byron, of whom she saw but little in a passing way.
The noble poet was no more; she could not be contradicted. This was, no doubt, felt by one who had been schooled in every phase of indifferent society.
Campbell visited her once, but found it distasteful. He disliked her. The gentry of this country, of all political creeds, are frequently censured for their pride and exclusiveness; but they may sometimes be proud and exclusive to no ill end. The higher ranks have their exceptions, as well as others, of which Lord Blessington himself was an instance. The dissipation of Lord Blessington’s fortune, and the reception of Lady Blessington’s favourite, the handsome youth, D’Orsay, into Lord Blessington’s house, ran together, it has been said, before the finish of his education. Old Countess D’Orsay was scarcely able to do much for her son, owing to the narrowness of her income; but no family could be more respectable than hers. Lord Blessington was a weak-minded creature, and his after-dinner conversations, when the wine was in, became wretchedly maudlin. He then let out some odd sayings occasionally. But enough; the injudicious would do better to let such reputations die off.

I had called on a lady one morning, I remember, in St. James’s Place, and a few minutes afterwards Count d’Orsay’s card was sent up. The answer was, “Not at home.”

“Why, Lady ——,” I observed, “you cannot refuse the handsome dandy, the successor of Brummel in the world of fashion—how is this?”

“Oh! I cannot receive him. No lady can do so that respects herself. Remember, there must be a limit somewhere in society.”

On rising to go away, the footman again came into
the room with another card. It was from a duchess, one of our oldest.

“There,” said Lady ——, as I wished her good morning, “I should never have that card again, if I had received D’Orsay.”

Whatever charges Lord Brougham may bring against the aristocracy in his wholesale manner, they have still a respect, at least, some of the female part of it, for what is due to morality and religion, if it be not exhibited beyond external conduct. The virtuous ladies of the aristocracy are not to be classed as Lord Brougham classed them, although many of them may be, and no doubt are, conceited, ignorant, and arrogant enough. His lordship, I take it, was never an Adonis, in ladies’ eyes, and, perhaps, when he wrote, he was returning the compliment on this reflection. Beauty, grace, kindness, and agreeable manners, distinguish no few of these libelled fair ones, in social intercourse. To libel all for the sins of a part is not just.

Lord Dillon, whom I have already mentioned, died about the time I was in the West. He was a gentlemanly man, handsome, and a great talker. I first met him in Paddington, at dinner in the house of a friend, who gave old-fashioned repasts. He would sometimes get a person into a corner, and hold him in conversation until his hearer became fidgetty. It was impossible to show impatience at what so well-bred a man addressed to you. The misfortune was, that though he talked so well, he talked in such an unbroken chain of words, that you could not, as the Frenchman said, “get even the respite of a comma into his affluence of speech.” His lordship had lived much in Italy,
and knowing the country well, was entertaining in his remarks upon the country and people. He was also a complete master of Irish politics. He had a seat at Ditchly in Oxfordshire, to which I had many a kind invitation.

Captain Morris died at ninety years of age. Of whom, too, I knew a little in my earlier life. He was song inditer to the Prince of Wales, and the wits who were the Prince’s companions. Clever, and abounding in that species of talent which those who pushed social habits to excess, most valued, Morris set no bounds to the licentiousness of his productions. Writings of that class are nearly extinct. This, at least, is in favour of the present age, though it may be doubted whether such publications do as much harm as insidious stories, which treat principle as of no moment, and taint the mind by familiarizing it with base and low character, in apparent innocence of intention. Works, the character of which is open, and the offensiveness apparent, are thrown aside by the well-intentioned, and repudiated at once. It is not so with works, the slower poison of which is disguised with apparent decency, as apothecaries disguise nauseous medicines with sweets. I knew but little of Morris. There is a veil over modern profligacy; and it is not like the old, made a boast.

Scott, the great master of fiction, remarked that the works read in his childhood would not now be tolerated. I can assert the same of those in my youth. This was said in reference to language, the latent morality may be no better, but this is something gained. It is to be feared, however, that there is a falling off in the
old strait-lacedness as to the choice of society. We see persons tolerated in the social circle, among the middle classes now, who stigmatized by the law of the land, would have been formerly avoided. It is the practice to affect incredulity or ignorance regarding such persons. This comes of judging things by external appearance, by profession, and false pretences. All that looks well must be so. “Oh, mamma!” said the child, “if that goose had but the feathers of our peacock, how excellent the creature would be.” We labour to appear in peacock’s feathers, to be fine, and be taken for what we are not. Not loving the truth, we seek to conceal it. The politician stifles it, the lawyer scouts it, the churchman falsifies it, the patrician disowns it, and the plebeian’s prejudice scouts it.

I published a tale called “Velasco,” printing only a small number, in consequence of the unparalled depression of the bookselling trade at the time. I endeavoured, in that work, to revive the old practice of including something more than mere narrative in my design. I had observed that most works of fiction were without any acknowledged object, except to “amuse the galleries,” as a player would phrase it. In the delineations of character, there was a little, but a very little touch of caricature, in order to be more attractive. The reader is seldom entertained with a picture exact and in keeping. Exaggeration is everything. I did not write the work for the many-headed multitude, which comprehends no more than is connected with everyday life at home, already more faithfully pourtrayed than I could pretend to do it. I sought to please educated persons by two-fold allusions,
in a portraiture of things a century old. As to fidelity to the manners and customs of the Spaniards at the time to which the tale relates, I had the satisfaction of receiving the acknowledgments of several discerning natives of the South. My acquaintance with the people of that country, at home and on the continent, had not been inconsiderable, during the reign of
Ferdinand VII., who was king at the time I visited the north of the country. I was never in Madrid or Valencia, but I have been told that my account of the latter province is very correct, under such a circumstance, and a writer in “Frazer” stated my description to be marvellously so. I sought to please those who had read and thought. This is become a most important distinction in writing.

There were allusions which none but educated persons could comprehend. I was not solicitous that those “educated” in the present phrase, that is those who can only read and write legibly, should read my work at all. I used a few Spanish words to impart an appearance of greater reality, and for no other end. It can scarcely be denied that an author has a right to carry out his own views and objects, however deficient he may be in the execution. One critic, who had heard of “Gil Blas,” I say “heard” because he could not have read it, declared there was that similitude between the two works, which if he had read the last he would have found existed in his own mind alone. Another accused me of imitating Borrow. The work was written before Borrow appeared. In treating of the same people and manners, there must be some similitude in all such cases, if truth be honestly observed,
and the relation to manners and customs faithfully pourtrayed. The fact is, we have ten good authors for one mediocre critic, the reason being that modern critics too frequently have been shaped out of unsuccessful authors, to a far greater extent than in the days of
Dennis and Cibber.

I have mentioned Mr. Moir of Musselburg, the Delta of “Blackwood’s Magazine,” under Wilson’s editorship. When I heard of his death, I began to re-peruse his natural and beautiful verses. There is a fascination about some writers, which in spite of himself, holds the reader within a circle of enchantment, from which, if he extricate himself from their pages, laying them aside, the mind will not be so easily freed from their influence. Moir’s poetry was to me precisely of this class. His lines remained impressed on the sensorium, and were continually repeated amid busy scenes in crowded streets, and even in the social circle, as if they would claim a corner of the soul to themselves, come what might in the way to divert attention from them. Many are full of truth and unaffectedness. Moir had no mannerism, none of the verbiage of hackneyed versifiers, who make rhyme, and call it poetry. He was not one of the favourites of mystery, who treat poetry as an enigma, to be disclosed by the initiated only, while the majority of his avowed admirers applauded the obscurity their vision could not penetrate, valuing most that which they least comprehended. He was full of true feeling. Pleasure or pain, grandeur or beauty, were really felt by him, not simulated, and he showed great gentleness and tenderness of soul. It was impossible not
to enter into sympathy with such a writer. He sought not to amaze by startling trickery. Like
Shakspeare, nature was his guide, and he read men and things in her book. He cultivated the flowers that she presented, and like the judicious florist, sought in this to make them more agreeable, by adding the advantage of a better site and soil, rather than change that by efforts at improvement, which it was beyond the power of art to effect. Thus in an age when to adhere to nature, and to the chaste in poetry is too transcendant for the time, Moir’s poetry will still be treasured by the judicious few, and will be more admired when true taste in poetry returns to us. That such a writer should have fit audience, though few, is natural when Shakspeare and Milton are neglected. Moir was the last striking poet whom Scotland has produced. I regret not having preserved all his letters.

The death of this mild, meek man was worthy of his life and genius. He, too, is departed with that galaxy of names which for so many years were prized by cultivated minds. Moir’s merit has not been more acknowledged, because only the few have the power of comprehending similar works of genius. The many once lived upon the opinions of the qualified and discriminating few. Now, all are self-constituted judges in everything, from the kitchen to the attic. Taste is supposed to be everywhere, coming to man by nature, in place of proceeding from high intellectual cultivation, combined with natural gifts, hence the present multiplication of mediocrity, and the want of taste for the best things.

I had once an argument with Martin, the artist, after reciting some lines of Moir’s, in regard to the advantage
of silence and solitude for composition, in art as well as in letters. In regard to the latter, he thought it of less importance than in art. I showed him that the greatest works of intellect were produced in solitude, often amid the stillness of the night, so favourable for reflection. Some think best under the shady side of a summer wood, or on the lonely ocean shore, wherever meditation can reign uninterrupted.
Smart composed in solitary confinement, amid the lucid intervals of insanity, his noble Song to David, so often alluded to by different authors. Napoleon combined his ambitious plans in seclusion. The unfurnished mind preys upon its habitation when in solitude, whence proceeds the insanity of criminals sentenced to solitary confinement as a punishment. Well-stored minds, on the other hand, in such cases, fall back upon their own resources, combining, composing and recalling from the store-house of memory, for use or sustenance, the inexhaustible material reading and association have laid up.

Fashion is against this view, for to that the world is everything; but we are not better fitted for obedience to the laws of fashion, which dictate to vulgar minds of all classes, by the purification of the heart, the justness of the taste, or the soundness of the understanding. Some of the best principles inculcated by nature, and the more rational habits, must be changed, independence of soul bartered, and latent hearts employed to win praises from tongues cankered with envy, while bestowing fashionable adulation. It is generally this adulation, the most fleeting, that is most valued, because it is the most palpable. It is a waste of breath, for example, bestowed by the orator, unless he desire immediate
action, when its importance must be admitted, passion being all prevalent when that is the case. Some comprehend little, others more, but everywhere now the cry is, “Speak down to them; none of your rhetoric; use their own vernacular; they are the majority; they do not want to be taught a better tongue than they use.” Yet the majority of modern audiences are awake to the addresses of fashion, if unmoved by Demosthenian appeals. In the latter case, they are like the man, who, when the French orator, Beaugirard, was uttering the most interesting and sublime apostrophes, stood with his mouth open, his eyes intently fixed on the speaker, and then proved the nature of the effect upon himself, by exclaiming, aloud, “Comme il sue!

In conversation it is much the same thing, while conviction is not easily produced when there is a feeling of personal pride operating against it. Writing is the better and more permanent means of producing an effect on every well-informed mind. “On ne parle jamais,” says a French author, in another case, “avec autant de force que l’on peut écrire à un individu, auquel son rang et l’habitude font accorder de grands égards,” substituting “effect” for “force.” This is undoubtedly true of writing, where the reason is appealed to for conviction. For my own part, when I address a number of people extempore, I am too much borne along by my imagination. Cold men are the best and most conclusive speakers, yet the men of imagination impress their audiences more rapidly, led by some inspiring, unpremeditated impulse. As to the degree of attention in the hearer, it is proportioned to the power or the bitterness poured out by the speaker. Truth, reason, and justice, being
forgotten, in admiration of the delivery, or the ill-nature. Hence, we wonder the oration that electrified us reads so tamely in print.

As I grow older, I become more partial to the country. Lamb’s dislike to the country, born and bred in London as he was, seems rational, and equally so that he loved ale and tobacco, attachments worthy of those who dislike flowers, eschew a garden, and love any but particularly low company. Lamb felt himself at home there. He owned, too, that he had a delicacy for sheep-stealers. Were not the Edinburgh reviewers right—could such a man be a poet! His charming essays came from his own habitual feelings and the peculiarities of his social life, and were faithful pictures of certain realities allied with that feeling. Poetry is a different thing, at least that poetry which confers a lasting reputation. A poet born, bred, and educated in a town, with none but urban associations, is like a stall-bred ox, that never pastured.

The most perfect condition when we enjoy health, is not the town. It is to dwell in the midst of nature, to live in the open air as much as possible, in the garden or field, when the climate will admit of it. To take wholesome exercise under the canopy of heaven, and receive good or ill with composure and resignation. No matter for caste and fashion, these are for the high and low vulgar. With a habit of activity in the country, mingling the thoughts acquired from association with those generated by the diversity continually presented by nature on every hand—talk not of sameness—I speak of those occupied—there is more
in a town life, disguised somewhat by the bustle. In the country we mingle better among the groupings of the shadowy past, throw ourselves more uninterruptedly into the ages which have perished, converse better with the dead, and make more in the existing present of departed scenes. It is well in country or town to have recurrence to the deeds of other years. I wander, in fancy, to Palestine, ascend Mount Tabor, tread the valley of Jehoshaphat; or, at a later time, turn to
Godfrey of Bouillon, and to the Lion-hearted King, who fought for and took the Holy Sepulchre. To hear the words of power the combatants uttered, leading their armies to the onset; or to go further back to the time when the Israelitish king reared his temple within the walls of Jerusalem, directing the mind to the history of the four great extinct empires of the East; to ask where are their perished myriads, the differing manners, habits, races, that for so many ages bustled with their innumerable generations through their respective periods, and left no “wreck behind?” These things lead to meditation on the nature and destiny of man. Next, the subject shifts to less weighty things, to innocent pleasures, to anything but artificial life in great cities. I am neither sleepless with the cares of a contemplated overreaching of others in trafficking speculations, nor with unhappiness of soul, that my cash account is not yet as close as I promised myself it would be to the value of that of my next door neighbour. All was calmness and peace with me when living as I have, unhappily, but seldom been able to do, from the pressure of labour. Then, though, existing, as people say, from hand to mouth, in
the bosom of nature, unvexed by distempered passions, I have been as happy as a man can be, who is never idle, because no idle man can be happy.

In this way I contrived to enlarge the most confined local horizon, participating in and drinking those spiritualities, which depend upon the imagination as well as the reason. I have beguiled what might be tedious with active employment. I have kept hope unclouded, elevating the view, and endeavouring as much as possible worthily. Thus avoiding trifling with, or treating principles as a chimera, the sin of the present time, and escaping a degeneracy into that indifference or apathy so fatal, when one pursuit absorbs the whole of our time and labour. It is with the individual as with the mass, when fixed to one solitary pursuit; the mind degenerates as the desire of attainment becomes more intense; we cease to observe more than one confined scene, and fall into intellectual stagnation, as they do who give their souls to accumulation. One half of these search and do not find, and the other half, which does find, is ever discontented and unhappy. I lived contentedly in the country at one time, till forced back again where, to my seeming, the mighty intellect does not balance the inconveniences and self-denials, we must encounter to enjoy it.

I find books, every where, the great and enduring intellectual pleasure, when good society is scant. They are invaluable when right worthy. Marble and brass perish, for they are material; worthy books are the embodied mind, and from being continually renewed, like the youth of the eagle, they run a rival course with the great globe itself. As an emanation
of the loftier spirits among men, they are ever vernal, despite the rapid current of wintry years. I would rather sit and read
Montagne under a shady oak in summer, than partake in the luxury of palaces.

I had never, until M. Thiers published his last historical work, translated any publication for the press, except for my own amusement. I was solicited to undertake that narrative, because, by adding some observations in the shape of notes, it constituted a copyright edition. The remarks I made were principally, relative to the statements of M. Thiers regarding the navy and its movements, which were exceedingly partial and inaccurate. I completed no less than seven volumes—rather a heavy task. Whatever may be the merit of this author in his descriptions of land battles, he cannot be commended for those of his naval combats. Perhaps the familiarity of Englishmen with nautical matters may make them somewhat too critical with writers, who have not had the same opportunities of acquiring a knowledge of similar affairs. Thiers was much commended by the press, with the exception of his display of sundry Gallic predispositions. The critical charity of the day was wonderful a little time ago, especially where the proprietors of the works criticised advertised largely with the noticed publication. It would be hard to censure a virtue so exemplary, often, indeed, a species of repression of an indignant feeling, in presence of a vulgar interest. There is something magnanimous in overlooking the errors of our kind, where the diffusion of our charity may, as in a matter of criticism, be injurious to the public opinion of our judgment. It is
true the expense of our commendation is no extravagant outlay, and the semblance of magnanimity is flattering to our pride. There is a secret in the unmerited panegyric which looks us unblushingly in the face in the columns of a journal. Can the critic have read the work? Did he cut open more than the first half-a-dozen pages? If he did, how was it possible he remained so profoundly ignorant of its inanities? But these at the worst were peccadilloes through which, as
Colburn the bookseller used to say, a hundred pounds “discreetly” laid out in advertising would make any book go down, because the advertisements toned the criticism. The more pretending reviewers in those days, on the other hand, made an author only a peg upon which to suspend a political treatise. Southey, having recanted, tortured an unfortunate Whig or Radical in the “Quarterly,” full of inspiration from his later political creed. The “Edinburgh “returned the compliment, and poured the phial of its wrath on the head of Wilson Croker, or some scion of a noble house who had mistaken his vocation, and tried his hand at a dissertation upon a subject incomprehensible to his nature, in place of being at Melton or looking after the kennel in his homestead.

Such was reviewing, as it is styled, in the time past. It was first the child of party, next of venality. A vocation often too undertaken from lack of ability for authorship, or lack of generosity in common dealing. It was no matter, no part of the consideration, that the general reader should not be misinformed upon the merits of what he was tempted to purchase and read; no matter that the critic should tell the
truth to the best of his judgment, without favour or affection, without the bias of political animosity, or the unworthy motive of private pique. It would be highly serviceable that the young reader, just beginning to think, should know the difference between bombast and sterling merit, that the eye should learn to separate the chaste form of the antique vase from the shape of the common earthern pitcher turned out of hand by the village clown. There are men who have been honest critics, as there have been women virtuous from never having been placed in circumstances of temptation to be otherwise. Not long ago the temptations to this species of human frailty were so rarely wanting, that they overdid the part, and at length people ceased to purchase and read works because the well-known columns of this paper, or that review applauded them, or refrained from the purchase on account of their condemnation. The spirit of trade, encroaching upon, and thus ruling in literature, and pressing down literary men and honest truth, inflicted upon it irremediable injury, by subjecting it to all the arts of the counter. The essence of literature was, and is in direct opposition to such a spirit. Thus it is that the influence of gain prostrates, in the end, that which is sociably useful, corrupting or converting all to its advantage, until it works out its own ruin by its insatiate desires.

The influence of reviews was owing, in their best days, to there being always so many individuals out of those who read, who cannot think at all, do not think sufficiently, or will not take the trouble to think if they are able, being content that others should judge for them. This would not be so irrational, if the
reviewer were a recognized authority on the subject treated upon, but the reviewer behind his anonymous character, may really know little worth while on the subject upon which he is most magniloquent. Nothing can better explain our habitual servitude to custom, and our senselessness of action than this circumstance. Men are content to receive and adopt as their own opinions of which the want of attention disables them from examining the validity.

But there is generally something “providential,” as ignorant people say, which prevents every evil from not having in it the germs of some good. The system of rivalry in reviewing shook that censorious and exclusive exhibition of feeling, which influential individuals once showed towards men of merit. Milton was sneered at by one of these as the “old blind schoolmaster,” who had written a work, the only merit of which, if it was one, was its length. Cowper’sTask” was pronounced “good moral stuff.” Other examples might be quoted, but the rivalry of the critics at a later date, would have caused the merits of such authors to be canvassed, and more justice done them.

The discussions which take place in many of our publications, and in the reviews, as well upon the merit of the authors of the last as well as the present centuries, in regard to the worth of the works of the dead rather than the living, seem to show a reluctance to deliver living opinions upon living men, a thing not observable twenty years ago. It would seem as if some writers, afraid of committing themselves, took the course recorded by a French writer:—“On remarqua surtout que la plupart des ouvrages littéraires
du siècle present, ainsi que les conversations, roulent sur l’examen des chef-d’œuvres du dernier siècle. Notre mérite est de discuter leur mérite. Nous sommes comme des enfans desherités qui font le compte du bien de leurs pères.”

It is true that nine-tenths of the new works are works of fiction, and that original writing upon subjects of depth, or upon science, or metaphysics, or poetry, meets no encouragement, however ingenious. Those, therefore, who read for any object beyond amusement, must turn to authors of the preceding time to be gratified. Fortunately, there is no want of these. The decadence of our literature will probably be coincident with the exhaustion of subjects for fictitious novelties. The public will never turn from the non-instructive, to the more intellectual order of books as some suppose. The present course obliterates the relish which might else tempt a reference to works sufficiently agreeable to excite a desire for solid information in minds accustomed only to read what makes no call upon the thinking faculty. The effect of making the low things of life, low sentiments, and language predominant, by the selection of the hero of the tale from vicious and vulgar grades, has tended to direct thought and language in a remarkable manner, to analogous objects. They are not now the great efforts of science, the more worthy results of advanced and elevated usage, which become the themes of public conversation and applause, but the coarse and mean. This leads to the extinction of those aspirations which raise character, by making much of petty achievements, and carrying out crochetty littlenesses. In literature, at present, the attachment to
the best style and most meritorious works of the past is rarely among the more youthful of the community. “Read Jenkins, who reads
Milton now?” Shakespeare is no longer the great poet in his own country, foreign farce reconcocted, draws the multitude to the theatre.

In literature, the writers of antiquity are wholly banned. The effect is seen in society continually. The Eton boy, when he put on the man, used to carry in his heart’s core the recollection of passages of classical antiquity, and a knowledge of history and heroic character. Over his wine, among his friends, he recurred to those productions of the mind which have conquered time, interwoven as they were with the delightful period of his earlier years. Sometimes this might have been carried too far, but such an abuse was only that of great and noble things. Now such conversation seems shunned, even by those capable of supporting it, as if it were a forbidden topic, or the scholar was ashamed, and feared to contravene the fashion for low things. The doings of every day traffic were once laid aside in social hours, which thus became hours of relaxation from diurnal duties. At present, the latter supersede the former altogether at the hurried dinner-table, “the feast of reason and flow of soul” being almost unknown.

Such a state of affairs is symptomatic of anything but elevation of mind and sound mental advance. It may help the exchequer, but the nation that lives upon commercial tendencies alone is most rapid in its decadence after a short-lived duration at its maximum. Such seems to me to be marks of our present position, and its inclinations. We are a great and powerful
people, but as the boxer trained for the ring to the highest pitch of strength and activity, can retain the maximum of strength but a very short space of time, so it is with the might of nations, if their history in bygone days may be any criterion for judging of their destiny. The greatness of empires, as well as of individual men, is based upon continued aspirations, after what is better, and the admiration of things honest, enlarged, and elevated.

I was recently highly amused at seeing the outlay for books in a library in a city.—Novels and Romances, £180; Arts and Sciences, £1 10s. 6d.; Natural History, £4 10s.; Poetry, £2 9s. 6d.

At present no one concerned in any department of literature but lays claim to the character of a critic. The old writers deemed no one fit for the office that had not some acquaintance with the subject upon which he exhibited his judgment. Fortunately the better order of the craft was above the hypercritical character where the general merit was evident, especially in remarks upon works of real genius. Old Horace says:
“——————non ego paucis
Offender maculis, quas aut incuria fudit,
Aut humana parum cavit natura.”

The modern critic pays no attention to such “notions,” he looks in too many cases to the copyright interest. He is over-nice where the fault is not of moment, if praise or censure be an indifferent matter, showing that with little learning he is one who, without entering into the soul of an author, keeps a few general
rules like mechanical instruments, which he applies to the writer, and as he quadrates with him, pronounces the work defective or otherwise. I must allude to another branch of this subject, because I have seen so much of the ill treatment of persons whose talents were considerable, and whose works merited indulgence, by those who conducted critical publications, the proprietors of which were dealers in books, but who, in the cases to which I allude, had no money interest in the publications censured. The error of the hypercritic fades before the unmerited treatment from critics who are influenced, or moved by the indifference arising out of the want of interest in the pecuniary profit of the publication. To this indifference it becomes a scapegoat. The condemnation is made proof of independence in critical judgment. Thus one work becomes the victim of the false praises of other works in which the critics own proprietary has an interest. A treatise on the venality of criticism remains to be written. I wish some penitent soul who has been behind the scenes, during the last thirty or forty years, would undertake a task which would surprise, and not a little amuse the world. I have seen more of this influence than I can afford to consume space in relating, from its organization to the period when the public became so sensible of the abuse as no longer to suffer itself to be imposed upon as it was before. Common discretion was outraged by cupidity, and honest authorship brought into contempt. I can truly say that in the works of which I have had the superintendence, I never betrayed the interests of literature in this way. I regret it was but too seldom my power was absolute enough wholly to prevent it,
but I often did prevent it. It is the curse of literature that a writer’s thoughts are subjected to an enormous pecuniary burthen before they can make their appeal to the judgment of those competent to decide upon their merits, and are thus burthened in their issue. The monied interest corrupts our literature as well as our morals. Nothing can be more at variance than the true use of the press and the spirit of sordid lucre, to which the most enobling ideas must bend. To efforts of the same nature is to be ascribed the declension of poetry. There is a portion of its first principles to be traced in novels, as far as the departments of invention and imagination are concerned. Narrative, very like prose, was the earliest species of poetry, it being but a recitation of deeds having no expression of feeling. Poetry is not relished by “the general,” especially if it be of a superior character, and it was never a favourite with the trader in consequence. But in one or two classes of works of fiction, we have still the elements of poetry kept alive. I have said primarily poetry was the recitation of deeds, not the expression of feeling. It is probable that music supplied this expression at first, and next became capable of being separated from it, and standing an art by itself. The demand then commenced both upon the feeling and imagination. An obedience to mere external truth is the character of narrative, which thus became partially relinquished for the cultivation of another species of truth, that of feeling. The mind looked not alone at outward forms or facts, but as well at those inward feelings which are really true. Then art began to appear, because in mere poetical narration there was no individual character, it
consisted of living national recollections alone. It had no artists. Works of fiction, therefore, will keep a great constituent of genuine poetry alive, and tend to its resuscitation in the public regard. The undying strains of true poetry will be again awakened, and our greater poets be felt and understood. It cannot die out of men’s souls if little felt when capricious fashion rules. It has its germ in the human heart, in the spirits of generous youth, being inerasable from the tablet of our nature. Its simple and sober character may not harmonize with an age when mere novelty is the order of the time, the love of which has been nursed and cockered by every unworthy and pernicious art. Thus detrimental is the abandonment of good taste in an age that hunts out wonders, and seeks in its pursuits not reason, but idle resources for a remedy against weariness, not to enlarge the mind. “The public must have something spasmodic,” said a bibliopolist the other day. No doubt this is true, but the supply will fall short. American conjurers and
Tom Thumbs must be presented in succession to gratify an advanced age. The most fertile invention cannot long feed the appetite of those who crave for such food, and hence comes the hope of a change.

In regard, therefore, to profit from authorship, I found that it was more safe and advantageous to write for existing works, than to bring out works on my own account. In the one case, all was under my own control; on the other, nothing felt but onorous labour, vexation, and indirect dealing. The project of a really good work, that forty years ago would have been grasped at by the leading houses in London, would now have no
chance, the object being to make the public awake to a name, sell off an edition, and have done with it. The way of doing business among the old book-selling firms was rational and considerate. There was a friendship between the author and his publisher, which has disappeared, literary bargaining being as much of a huckstering affair as a purchase in Clare Market. The old houses of
Longman and Co., Murray, Whittaker, and others, on, my first coming to town, surprised me by their urbanity, and the opportunities given at set seasons for the facility of intercourse and business. Their heads have long ago disappeared. On such occasions, the authors of that time were certain to meet with friendliness, and the conversation was useful and improving. I do not now recognise a solitary individual left belonging to those times. They have disappeared from the scene, with some to whose attentions they were indebted for improving and harmonizing meetings and pleasant sociality—but enough.

Among the non-literary characters whom I know recently deceased, was Mr. William Holmes, a much-abused man by many, but, in truth, one most honourable for his consistency in politics. A Tory, he held his course consistently to the last, always kind and courteous, the best manager of the House of Commons before the Reform Bill, that the country ever saw. His first return for Sligo was by a mere accident. He made no flaming pretensions—he was no orator—but he soon found out how to manage the House for the advantage of his party. He was not long in discovering the tendencies of the members of a tolerably venal House of Commons, of which it suffices to say Lord Castlereagh
was the leader. Mr. Holmes seemed to know every collateral relationship in blood and politics of those he had to whip up. He had the spirit to resign the treasurership of the ordnance, though he was not bound to do so, and to quit place when the
Duke of Wellington vacated office, and yet he was not a man of fortune. I always found him, though differing in politics, a good-natured man, of talents peculiarly fitted for the office he undertook, and, I believe, that in every relation in life, without great abilities, he was strictly honourable.

I had thought of a history of the Duchy of Cornwall, beginning with its institution under Edward III., when Fowey, one of its towns, sent more ships to the king for the siege of Calais, than any other place in the kingdom. Down to the reign of Henry VIII., I found the duchy consisted of ten castles, nine parks, fifty-three manors, thirteen towns and large tracts of land. At the accession of the house of Hanover, it had been greatly diminished, principally from the Stuart family, converting the property to their own use. The Stannary Laws, the geological, mineralogical, commercial, and agricultural relations of the duchy, and all its statistics, would have been comprehensively treated. On making application to the proper authorities for leave to examine certain documents, the property of the trustees of the dukedom, I was informed that there were disputes pending in relation to certain properties, which it would be inconvenient just then to make known. Without information afforded from the documents, for which I applied, I could not proceed satisfactorily. The precise reasons were explained to me, and I fully admitted their justice. Unfortunately, though the objection was but temporary,
yet, being of uncertain duration, it necessarily caused the abandonment of the design.

In actively aiding my plan for the foregoing history, I cannot overlook the kindness of one of the most gentlemanly and amiable men I ever knew. I was indebted to him for an introduction to the duchy officers. During an intercourse of twenty years, I found in him ever the same urbanity, the same kind nature. I refer to Major General Anson, lately cut off so unexpectedly, at a critical moment, in India, when commander-in-chief of the army in that country, and moving down upon Delhi, to suppress the mutiny there. With great equanimity of temper, and gentle, manly feeling, upon all occasions, and a bearing which generated regard from every rank of persons, he possessed sound judgment, excellent qualifications for business, and a power in public speaking which would have well marked him in the House of Commons, had he duly cultivated his talents. 1 have heard him speak in public with a fluency and self-possession, a manly exposition of principles, and a discrimination that would have done honour to names distinguished for forensic ability. When clerk of the ordnance, he was most attentive to his official duties. He was a cool, courageous man, and brought a sound judgment to bear upon all questions. He was attacked by cholera at the moment when I am persuaded the exertion of his judgment and good sense would have rendered eminent services to his country. When a young man, for he was about sixty years old at the time of his decease, he was known in town as “le beau colonel,” and was a great favourite with the fair sex. As an individual connected with a family of distinction, and name in
British history, General Anson passed through life with the love of his kind of all degrees, but by none more deeply regarded than by the writer of this short mention of an intercourse which is deeply engraved in regretful characters upon his memory.

Another of those vacancies in the social circle of which we are destined to encounter so many as we advance in life, occurred in the circle of my friends, by the death of Sir George Magrath, at Plymouth, whom I have before mentioned, and an account of whose death reached me unexpectedly. He was at a very advanced age, as may be gathered from his having been the medical officer of Nelson, at the battle of Copenhagen. He was with the hero of the Nile also off Toulon, when the French fleet slipped out, and was followed by Nelson to the West Indies. On passing the Straits of Gibraltar, the fever raging there at the time, Nelson said, “Magrath, they seem not to know what they are about, they are panic-struck; go on shore, and take the naval hospital in hand, and clear it.” Magrath was left accordingly. The late Sir William Beatty being his locum tenens. Magrath had no opportunity of rejoining Nelson, and missed being in the battle of Trafalgar. Sir George was afterwards appointed chief medical officer to the prisoners of war at Plymouth. We lived near each other, and were both members of the beefsteak club. He had a pension for the loss of an eye, in the performance of his duties. After the peace of 1815, he commenced private practice. We had many conversations about Nelson, in all which, except this great man’s conduct in the Bay of Naples, he extolled him in the highest terms. Regarding Naples, Magrath would
say, “Let us not speak of that, he was not the first man infatuated by a petticoat, and will not be the last.” I remember I once asked him regarding Nelson’s self-possession, and he replied, in action, it was perfect, and even in sudden surprizes, but that, in moments of anxiety or uncertainty, he would beat his side with the stump of his severed arm, as if impatient. “Does old Brontè shake his stump this morning?” used to be a question from one officer to another, who had gone below. Off Toulon, Nelson, with three or four ships only, determined to look into Toulon, and bore up accordingly, without suspicion of what occurred. The rest of the fleet was hull down. To the hero’s astonishment, he found the whole French force with their sails loosened to come out. There was no choice but to get away as fast as possible. Unluckily, some of the ships with him were the worst sailers in the fleet. He ordered sail to be slackened in his own ship, that he might be the rearmost himself, and the others carry a press of canvass. Most anxiously he marked the speed of his own bad sailers increase their distance, and then turned to look at the enemy, who came out in succession, “old Brontè,” as his anxiety increased, shaking his stump furiously, and muttering, “They shan’t take us—they shan’t take us!” It was a most interesting moment to all. The French came on in pursuit, until nearly within gun shot, when they tacked, and stood back again, to the relief of all on board, as well as of Nelson’s mutilated limb. The French were probably deterred from attacking by the greatness of his name. Had they done so, they must have captured, or sank him, and the day of Trafalgar would never have occurred. At another time,
on the quarter-deck, chatting with his officers, a flame suddenly sprung up the hatchway, several feet above the deck. Many of the men, alarmed, ran into the chains, fearing the ship would blow up, and two or three jumped into the sea. Nelson calmly said, “
Hardy, go below and see what is the matter.” He then cast an angry look at the more timid men. Magrath quieted the alarm by stating that he had given a vessel of ether to one of the mates to decant. That he had cautioned him about suffering a candle near, and, no doubt, that caution had been neglected. So it proved, and the flame was soon extinguished with wet blankets. What was singular, the men who sprang overboard were ever after regarded by Nelson with great distaste. He rarely noticed them again, though he would often address others of the crew, when on duty near him; the truth was, he could not forgive the display they made of their apprehensions. It is probable Magrath was the last officer surviving, above the rank of midshipman, who sailed with Nelson. He was a very firm man; when any of the wounded prisoners would object to amputation, or to some severe operation, and declare they would rather die, he would give them an hour or two to consider, telling them he would call in the guard, and perform the operation by force, for it was his duty to save their lives, if he could. After they became convalescent, they used to exhibit to him the most unbounded gratitude. Horrible, I remember, were some of the exhibitions of human suffering shown at these times.

Admiring the beautiful view from the citadel flagstaff, at Plymouth, Magrath and myself used to contrast
it with Hyde Park, remarking on the want of similar scenes in London. Since then we have seen the Regent’s, Victoria, and Battersea Parks laid out. Before that, we could make little more boast than Paris and Berlin. Hyde Park is inferior to the Prater at Vienna, but Kensington Gardens outvie the Augarten at Vienna, and the Schlossgarten at Dresden. The Prater has the magnificent Danube rolling along its noble waters, neither stained with offensive mud, nor seeming as sluggish as the dirty Thames. Then the magnificent carriage promenade, under double rows of lofty trees, and the walks on the sward, and among clumps of fine oaks, render the Prater most attractive. There is more freedom in the irregularity of the English visitants to the parks in London. The promenaders at Vienna go at a fixed hour, as if they were commanded by the police to take their pleasure only at an appointed time from a higher authority. The truth is, that the heavy Austrian borrowed the custom from the Italians, among whom it arises from a want of variety in their pleasures, a dearth of resources. Thus, pleasure is made a sort of duty, and dissipation put upon the same footing as business. Time is expended with as much attention to method, when wasted, as when employed. The plodding Germans do not forget to have houses of refreshment on all sides whence music resounds; while dancers are seen executing their steps with great gravity, just as if they were balancing a score with conscience before a priest. All is sensation, not animation. The bourgeois go with their families to eat and feast. The return home in the evening is an agreeable sight, a quiet march of family upon family, all passing in one direction. The
distance from the Prater is but a mile and a half, from whence nothing of the city is seen but the crooked spire of St. Stephen. The long train plods on, for the bourgeois German never steps out, nor runs, he only plods, wending his way with none of the noisiness of the citizens of London and Paris. There is music on every side to supply his vacuity of thought. The royal family is levelled-with the populace, exercising its ceremonial rights only when fulfilling its duties—a humiliating contrast to the stiffness and formality in our country, which boasts of freedom and exhibits servility and gross ill manners, wherever royalty appears. I have observed the French, on such occasions, to be far more enjoying than the Germans or English. I ever had a pleasure in seeing that of my fellow citizens, but, I must confess, that, in England, it is almost always mixed with roughness, coarse manners, and even inebriation. In some of the old towns of France, the glacis of the abandoned works of defence is planted with trees; and, at the summer evening dances there, people of all ranks intermingle. The good-humour always prevalent, gave me a more pleasing impress of popular enjoyment than I ever felt in an English or German assemblage.

There was no great change in the mode of London pleasure-taking in my time, till the conveyance by steam. This mostly conveys the citizen to some former haunt. He flattens his nose, as before, on the window, and thinks idleness is pleasure-taking. The tea-garden of smaller proportion, and the Sunday drive into the country to a numerical extent, commensurate with the increase of the metropolitan population, are much as before. It is true, White Conduit-House, Vauxhall,
Hornsey, and places now forgotten, were the former haunts of the citizens, among whom, when I first knew London, ebriety was a much more besetting sin than at present. Vauxhall was then select as to company, and expensive in cost, if supper were taken; but its glories are gone, as well as its adornments by
Hogarth. Ranelagh was closed before I arrived in town. I remember hearing of a grand fête given there some years before. The rotunda was a hundred and fifty feet in diameter, and the company promenaded round an orchestra in the centre. At an entertainment called the knight’s gala, given there to two thousand persons, the cherries cost a guinea a pound, and the green peas fourteen shillings per quart. Seven thousand pounds were expended, and the company came in court dresses. At one of the fêtes at that place, given by a foreign ambassador, all the old Pantheon of gods and goddesses was introduced. At another to Queen Charlotte, Ranelagh represented a Spanish camp, with tents, and a boy in uniform placed at every tent entrance. A pavilion of white satin, gold-fringed, received the queen and princesses. Dancers exhibited with castanets; the female waiters were all dressed as shepherdesses, crowned with garlands. A hundred valets, in scarlet, the seams of their coats embroidered with gold lace, and with waistcoats of blue and gold, attended upon the company. A hundred footmen, in sky-blue coats and silver lace, and waistcoats of blue and silver, waited upon the valets. Such was the statement of one who was present at the entertainment, which would, as far as concerned its regulations and fashions, be thought very incongruous now. As I paced the old rotunda ground, in the heyday of youth, I
thought of the glories of the scenes that had occurred there, and envied those who had shared in them. The last time, some years ago, I looked for the old spot, and I could not trace it. We have certainly improved our taste in this species of pleasure.

I had been threatened with an action at law, but it, fortunately, came to nothing. I had affidavits to make, notwithstanding, which, I was told, were only a mere form. I had my doubts whether I dared to swear them, though perfectly regarded as in the due course of things. There was always something frightful to my mind in law-swearing. It is to be lamented that law and divinity love a little deviation from truth, as a sort of relish, I presume, for too much of truth in other parts of the profession. The two most important things to social comfort and happiness, are conspicuous for fictions so clumsy, or rather, so bare-faced, that no fifth-rate novelist could venture upon them in a fancy tale. Law fictions have been notoriously displayed by Bentham. If objected to, “O, it is only a form,” is the reply. Yet the law punishes perjury, but not its own perjuries, they are always right. The worst, I believe, is that they are paying perjuries. The moral perjuries, too, forced to be committed, are needless and voluminous. Take the church services, and compare the words and averments with its exactions—the facts with the falsehoods forced to be uttered. Take the marriage ceremony, so continually a legalized falsification. The averment of the love commanded between man and wife, as necessary to the service, and to lawful matrimony, and the bride led to the ceremony in tears by avaricious parents. Let the
inveigling matrimonial system be contrasted with the real thing. Surely, some simple form would be better even for those who credit the service as a holy sacrament, than to adopt falsehoods under the plea of custom, because many are reluctant to be married out of church, and those who bargain away their children, are not nice about words. I have known a girl forced to a marriage with disgraceful threatenings, and a son, to save the fortunes of his family, united to age and ugliness, both with the words: “Be ye well assured, that as many as are coupled together otherwise than as God’s word doth allow, are not joined together by God, neither is their matrimony lawful!” I have very heterodox notions about these things.

Southey’s death removed another name from our literature, familiar to my earlier years, but the last of his life was melancholy from a state of fatuity. In private life he was amiable, I take it with somewhat of coldness in temperament. As a poet, he can claim no high place. In literature, he was laborious, in “all work,” and an advocate of opposite principles at different times, now dreaming of republics in aboriginal forests, and writing in the extreme republican fashion, and then turning round to high church and state doctrines, and taking the laureateship from a regal in place of a republican ruler. Setting out in life, as the champion of peace and freedom, and closing his career, as long as he was master of his faculties, with defending absolutism, monopoly, wasteful wars, and religious bigotry. As the slave become master, changes to the severest of tyrants, the most loose in early political principle become the most relentless of persecutors. So
far did he carry his political animosity, that he became utterly insensible to ridicule. His “
Vision of Judgment,” was the most ridiculous effusion of a perverted taste ever written. Its greatest praise was that it gave rise to the best satire by Lord Byron, that had been written for a long time. As a second rate poet, his works may be read with the acknowledgment that some are agreeable and kindly. His prose works in style are good, but not always regardful of facts. His book of the church was a trumpet of bigotry. The “Quarterly Review” became a great receptable of his outpourings, and showed the bitterness of his spirit against all who differed from him in faith or politics.

As soon as he heard of Byron’s death, he wrote a letter which displayed the mind of an inquisitor, with the spirit that kindled Smithfield fires. He knew that the scourge applied to his back in the parody on his “Vision of Judgment,” his poem worthy of his laureateship, could not again be uplifted. He was in reality a weak-minded man. His leap from philanthropy to religious and political bitterness of soul, from sectarian doctrines, to high church creeds, from toleration to all but persecution, show that honest pride of principle never inhabited his breast. He who had declared his sympathy for Martin, the regicide, expressed a similar attachment for the mental hallucinations of George the Third.

There was no Christianity out of the English Church, and no perfection in rule, but it was to be found in the most arbitrary notion of the English constitution. I knew but little of him personally. I never liked him because he hated all who differed from him, whether in politics, faith, or anything else; and though he lived to see his
political predictions, and religious anathemas fifty-fold falsified, the evidence of his senses failed to make him soften a sentence, or retract an error. I read his poems as they appeared, and they afforded entertainment at an age when we do not much trouble ourselves about the writers or their works, not being critical, or overnice about the cook, if the dishes fit our taste. I did not like his physiognomy. There was something about it that seemed as if it covered much the observer would desire to see laid open, and yet his features were good. In the two or three times I met him, I had no opportunity of forming a judgment from anything he said. He had nothing striking about him. In some observations he made to
Murray, the bookseller, commenting on an article in the “Quarterly Journal of Science,” he said, that the arcana of magnetism was new to him, he had never been called upon to say anything about it. By this I imagined, I hardly knew why, that he made a chance selection of subjects for his pen, and then read for the information he required, without having previously even an elementary acquaintance with it. His industry was unflagging, and greatly superior to his ability.

I was introduced, by an old friend, to the well-known editor of the Dublin “Morning Post,” Mr. Conway, who died in that city at a very advanced age. He was a friendly man, and in his capacity as editor, the best in all Ireland. He rendered great aid to the cause of Catholic Emancipation; and he understood the Irish people well, together with their grievances. He was a man of varied knowledge, and was considered the only editor of an Irish paper at that time, who could off-hand freely discuss the questions of the currency, corn laws, and
political economy in general. He told me, to my astonishment, that he was the only private individual in Dublin who possessed anything worthy of being called a library.

His paper was once edited by John Magee, the younger, who used to have many a singular dialogue with John Scott, Lord Clonmell, when presiding as Chief Justice in Ireland. In defending himself, Magee would allude to some public character by a familiar designation, and the judge would reprove him. “Mr. Magee, no nick-names in this court.” Magee would reply, “Very well, John Scott!”

Jonah Barrington has related many anecdotes of the elder Magee in his diverting Memoirs. If Sir Jonah romanced occasionally, his romances were diverting. I met him several times in company, but he was by no means as entertaining with his tongue as with his pen, or else I found him in no happy humour. The last time I saw him, he was in company with a daughter, who, I believe, accompanied him to Paris. His pictures of Irish society, so amusing in themselves, do not say much for the state of morals in the island, at the period he describes. It was in vain to reason against the errors of such a view, because reason is unable to cope with deep-rooted follies, to which, all who treat common sense with contempt, have a wonderful attachment. The affection of many men for nonsense, is too natural to be overcome.

Wishing to produce a work that might be of use to the public service, in consequence of the smattering of naval affairs which I had acquired in my youth, and impelled by the consciousness that I could achieve an
object of considerable utility by the publication of a geographical work of reference for naval men, I took a short time to consider the subject, and determined to make the attempt. Mentioning my design to several who understood the subject, they highly approved of it. From a work somewhat similar, which went through two editions, about the year 1802, embellished with charts, I had thus ground to hope that in these days a work of the kind, superior to the miserable undertaking to which I allude, would not fail to find encouragement. In this I relied on the opinion of able judges, and nothing disproved it.

The work was large and expensive, one of those designed for all time, every edition being rendered more perfect by fresh discoveries and corrections. In fact, such a work, if it included sailing directions, which would quadruple its extent, would be invaluable in the navy. With the “directions” it would become a national work; it should be executed by the government. For nearly two years I pored over charts and voyages, collecting the materials for the North Atlantic. The work was a species of gazetteer of the ocean. It had reference to the ports, havens, creeks, rocks, shoals, currents, sands, vigiæ, harbours, roadsteads, capes, banks, and similar minutiae, classed under the several oceans or seas. The latitudes and longitudes, soundings in fathoms, lights, anchorages, bearings and the like to be alphabetically arranged. I had the best assistance from the Admiralty. The hydrographical office was made accessible to me, where, under the superintendence of Admiral Beaufort, one of the most able naval officers ever at the head of any department of the public ser-
vice, a mass of information was continually adding to the stores already accumulated, quite astounding in magnitude, but all necessary to the welfare of the navy, without which, silently and unostentatiously as the business proceeds, navigation itself would encounter difficulties and hazards beyond conception.

The labour, which was great, did not appal me. When the sheets were set up, they were submitted to the inspection of a highly qualified master in the navy, in order to guard against error as much as possible. About two hundred pages of the North Atlantic were beautifully printed by Harrison and Son of St. Martin’s Lane. Here the printing terminated, but a considerable portion of the manuscript was completed satisfactorily.

The booksellers, who now look only to printing an edition of an amusing work, and getting their money back as soon as possible, will no longer undertake works about which there was no difficulty as to the publication in times past, when the modern sources of information did not exist. The plea of utility will not do against a quick money return, and thus one of the most laborious and useful works rests in abeyance, in the period of a supposed advance in minds directed to research, and to those higher undertakings of a literary nature, which should belong to the present rather than to the past time. Then the spirit for acquiring such works did exist, but deficient of the information which is at present in our possession.

The tables are thus turned. It is sufficiently painful to find the waste of labour and money upon a work of great acknowledged utility, and still more so to
discover the cause in the neglect of the public towards high and useful literary undertakings. It is fortunate for the preservation of laborious and curious works, that they are now prevented from being lost by private societies which are formed for reprinting them. That the booksellers would do this there is little doubt, if it would pay them, and the lesson thus taught in the diminution of the numbers of those who read the best works of our departed authors is painful enough. We may soon expect that our
Johnsons and Beaumonts, our Miltons and Lockes will become reprints alone through private societies, and that Shakespeare will only escape a similar fate by the fashion that makes hundreds breathe his name, and buy his works, who have no comprehension of his excellencies.*

* The under valuation of the branches of the public service in the navy connected with science, is a part of the inheritance of a barbarous feudal ancestry engrafted on modern aristocracy. In 1848 the sum of £7,726,610 was voted for the Navy. The Hydrographical Office with all its vast and laborious returns, cost about twenty-eight thousand pounds out of so many millions. Yet upon this office depends the safety of all our vessels. The distinguished officer then at its head, Admiral Beaufort, had five hundred a-year, an individual whose name is deep in the minds of scientific men, in every civilized country. This zealous and highly-gifted officer on whom so much depended, had a salary no higher than our dockyard surgeons, storekeepers, and harbour-masters! It is a peculiarity in the public service of England alone, in all its departments, and it is painful to contemplate, that in proportion to the labour of mind, and the difficulty and rarity of high intellectual attainments, the remuneration for the service is estimated less than for those which are common-place. To this, perhaps, it is owing that the French and Spaniards build better sailing vessels than we do: they compensate proportionably to their value the sciences that can alone lead to perfect construction. Nothing is so easy as to rule a kingdom; can it be that those who rule us try mind by their own measure, and as they cannot comprehend the value of high intellect, they pay by their own judgment of its worth—ex nihilo, nihil fit.


I circulated privately, at that time, some remarks on the invasion mania, too often prevalent. The French were going to run across the Channel with fifty thousand men some dark night, in fifty steamers, and to eat us all up! On the French side there would be no movings down to the coast, no accumulations of stores, no declaration of war, but they were to come over without, and in the teeth of such a danger we were sending away troops. The same croaking of the papers took place when we sent troops to India. Our navy was put out of sight that had so often prevented an invasion, and now with steam so much better able to defend us. I copy my words in 1848:—

“Let us suppose the effective blockade of Cherbourg, Havre, or Brest, in place of being more practicable than ever, utterly neglected. I mention these ports because they are the only ports the French possess in the Channel from one of which such an expedition could sail. Suppose the point of attack to be somewhere between Portland Roads and Dungeness, say Brighton. We might have a few steamers in Portland Roads, more at Portsmouth, and a dozen in East or West Road, Dungeness. I put an imaginary case. The. enemy is in sight off Brighton. The electric telegraph, in five minutes, communicates the intelligence to the Admiralty; the Admiralty, in five minutes more, orders the squadron in Portland Roads to steam to the eastward; the Portsmouth to do the same; to which last force that of Portland would be a reserve. There would be no delay. In an hour both squadrons would be steaming up Channel; and the headmost off Brighton in three or four hours more, shaking the Frenchmen’s nerves before their troops were half landed. The eastern squadron, going west, would steam in sight at the same time round Beachy Head, and join the Portsmouth seawards. The soldiers still on board the French vessels would share a fate, which it is not difficult to predict. Suppose the attack more westwards, we have Falmouth and Plymouth to double upon Portland from the west; Portsmouth and Dungeness from the east, should the attack be on Portland. I put these cases merely to show how a system of steam defence may contribute to our insular security far beyond that which is confined to vessels dependent on the winds and waves, or on blockade; and yet the latter system alone sufficed to prevent a far more formidable foe from crossing the Channel, with larger means than centuries are likely to show the world again. So far then is steam from increasing the facility of invasion without vastly increasing the means of defence, that it does directly the reverse, under the most adverse aspect. But the French are too sagacious to
fling away troops and vessels in such a manner. The truth is, there is an itch in the profession for an increase of the Army, which must have full credit for its services; but as it never yet saved this country from the foot of a foe, it would be singular indeed if means of defence the most superior that could be devised, in addition to what we already possess—means actually innate—could by any but the most inveterate perversion of reason and fact, be tortured into a plea for a reverse conclusion, and for confiding our defence to a new arm. The army has ever been an aggressive force: the navy is defensive, and has again and again preserved this country from invasion, when the seaman’s movements were not, as they now are, dependant upon his own volition. So far from the strength of France being increased by the invention, it is the reverse. We have many times over her number of seamen, we have already many times her number of steamers, better and larger, we are better makers and managers of machinery, although the French build better sailing vessels than we do, our stock of iron and coal is inexhaustible, our division of labour enables us to work better and cheaper in complex machinery. It is, therefore, dementation in any to affirm we are in the slightest danger from France with common caution. When we began the war of 1793, France had excellent seamen and eighty ships of the line; Spain seventy-six. Our naval expenses did not average but about four and a half millions each year; yet by the close of the eighteenth century, France had lost all her prime seamen; the fleets of Trafalgar both French and Spanish were manned by few real seamen, and for the most part by landsmen, disciplined in harbour. France cannot send forty sail of the line to sea now, Spain not ten. We can send twice the number of the two naval states once so powerful. Indeed it seems rather worthy of inquiry why we keep up such a gigantic force of large ships at so great an expense as we do. It will take generations to make France and Spain what they once were at sea. They may build ships, England and America alone can man fleets; commerce is the sole creator of a war navy. We captured from France and Spain last war, a larger navy than our own, one hundred and fifty-six sail of the line, three hundred and eighty-two frigates, and six hundred and sixty-two smailer vessels,—can anything more be wanting to silence by fact the unreflecting creatures that thus alarm a community which never reasons except upon homespun affairs, and is content to take everything else for gospel, upon the first hearsay, or out of newspapers.”

I have thus repeated myself to a few, though not to the public. I observed that people did not look closely into facts. Too often, if a writer can make a sensation, well or ill founded, his end is answered. Never was there so little exercise of an individual’s own judgment upon public affairs by an attention to facts alone as at the present time. Men do not appear to have leisure for thinking beyond the rule of multiplication in money accounts.


When Wordsworth died there was a contest about his merits as a poet. I got into a contention on the subject. It cannot be denied that the projector of a new scheme for poetical writing, not to be challenged, merits especial notice, for with Wordsworth all was ex cathedra. His lyrical ballads I read on their first appearance, with a perfect ignorance of what end their author could have in view, except to strip poetry of all that is attractive, and send her a doggrel ballad singer en chemise through the world. Dogmatic, haughty, and self-sufficient, there was nothing of soul-kindliness in Wordsworth, and a poet without a heart is a nondescript creature. He had no relish for Shakspeare, and affected an abstractedness, which he imagined, or his friends for him, was a communing with the black or grey spirits of the Cumberland mountains. When the ‘Excursion’ appeared, a friend who admired the poem lent it to me. It was with difficulty I waded through it. That there were fine lines here and there is admitted, but it is too much to have to grope through a bushel of chaff to find a grain or two of wheat. Wordsworth was a man who, I hope, only affected a sort of ascetism in order to cultivate solitaryness, and obtain credit for profundity or rather obscurity. He would fain be oracular and austere as well, in order to be taken for a second, and no doubt in his own opinion an improved Milton. Yet so far from being worthy of the comparison, he endeavoured to frame a new poetical system which he notoriously violated in nearly all he wrote, but which some friends extolled in the face of his violations. All phrases and forms were to be rejected that were not included in the language of common life. He
would degrade all to the humblest language of the reality, that was his law. He would give nothing of the gratification which fancy proffers. He asserted, too, that the language of poetry should he that of prose, and that fact or imagination were the same. It must be confessed his language is sufficiently prosaic. Though convinced by his own example of the impracticability of his theory, he advocated it as strenuously as ever. All the poetry of England, with one or two reluctant exceptions, were beneath his lofty endurance. He affected an equal regard and interest for the meanest as for the grandest objects, an error self-evident. Vain and egotistical, destitute of genial feeling, intellectual in his own way, he moves no passion, raises no heart-warmth, excites no sympathy, works upon nature, and nature alone, but does not depict nature in her glories.
Talfourd, in our early acquaintance, extolled Wordsworth enthusiastically. “How wonderful—how sublime,” said he, “is that verse:
‘Along the line of limitless desires.’”

“I cannot see it,” I replied. “It is true the obscure is one of the sources of the sublime.”

“You can’t see it?”

“I can’t indeed.”

“Then you have not learned Wordsworth.”

“I am afraid I am but a dull scholar. Is it worth while learning a new language to comprehend a solitary beauty or two? He does not want able advocates.”

Talfourd would not forgive my heretical opinions about the poet of the Lakes, but I fancied that some years afterwards he became much less enthusiastic about him.


Wordsworth was not, in strictness, more than an illustrator of nature according to his own peculiar view. He drew from observation certain points which struck him, and he dressed them up in a garb accordant with his own arid language under peculiar tendencies. With him nature was treated the same in everything, in the face of her infinite variety of aspect, and in all her moods. He was the hero of his own solitude, discoursing with himself. He expected the thinking world to abandon its habits and predispositions, even the use of its visual organs, to see through his telescope, adopt his ideas, and be grateful for the boon he bestowed. It would not agree to this, and then Wordsworth was a disappointed man. The solitary discoursing with himself records nothing of the affections which belong to the great family of humanity, but bids us admire what affects himself, no matter how much out of the common course of our judgment. We must take that which he incontinently pours forth for the best of all possible things, because it is his—Wordsworth’s—and because so few poets rank before himself. Others must feel, not as nature dictates, not as Shakspeare exhibits nature in herself faithfully and truly, but as Wordsworth’s optics exhibit her. We must feel the force of his descriptions, and learn how, let the theme be low or lofty. He asks nothing, and affects to give nothing derived from external pomp, and that which the world calls ‘great;’ taking no bias from received opinions, which he rightly felt are as often false as true. He is proud of showing that in his own view the vulgarest things are really great and interesting; rendered vulgar by habit, but in reality equal to the highest
in merit which he is happy to draw out to the light of day, or to elevate by association. To repeat it once more—with him all past ideas in poetry are to be discarded—all inherited predilections, all learning, all the predispositions, and vested rights, and pomp and circumstance inherent in it through bygone days. The culture of his school is to commence anew from the root of the poetic art. A beaker must be swallowed of the water of Lethe in regard to all but his theory, and there must be a hecatomb of the poets of all ages, offered up by his disciples, out of the ashes of which is to rise the true verse—the enduring perfect edifice of plain Tuscan, made consentaneous with existing things. No graceful foliage is to decorate the capitals of his columns, not a fluting nor a volute; in other words, of the five orders, four are to be rejected for their refinement’s sake. He will have nothing but himself. All must flow from his own dictation; and when the subject is unworthy of his own genius, he will raise it to the common level; but this must be in his own mode alone. Thus any subject within the scope of observation may be rendered fit for the object intended. Thus the poor soil may be rendered fruitful, and the Saharan desert bear wholesome vegetation. But there is to be no aggrandisement, no accommodating the shows of things to elevated ideas. The roses of Pæstum are not to breathe more fragrance than the dog-rose, nor are the eyes of the lover’s mistress to be more bright and beaming in verse than in reality. The ‘line’ chosen by the poet is, of course, in his own taste, and would not be questioned, but that he would have it be the law for others. It was this spirit, generated by
dogmatical wounded pride, and the feeling—though he was sustained by more friends in the press, acting continually upon the public mind in his behalf, than any poet ever was before—that he was not where his ambition placed him: it was this spirit which probably carried him farther than he would otherwise have gone in upholding the rules he laid down for poetry. These rules were not assented to by his literary friends.
Coleridge left a record of his difference of opinion about them. Southey declared openly that they were erroneous. Those opponent opinions, and the failure of ‘The Excursion,’ seem to have made the poet fall back upon himself; cherish the solitary reveries that strengthened his value of the system, out of the idea that his views were undervalued in their merits; not considering the gigantic character of the change he was attempting to effect. He imagined, too, that the general heart beat responsive to his own, while in the existing artificial state of society the minds of men have become less responsive to new systems, and even to old truths. The wild rock, the rugged glen, the misty mountain, the aërial lark, the seasons, the shattered oak, the wild down, the ragged beggar, the storm and its ravage, down to the very weed which grows beneath the mouldering wall—all these, however interesting and valued by the poet, are disdained by the world of bustle and contention. It can see nothing in such objects—they are ‘foolishness to the Greek.’ It is among those alone who dwell in the bosom of nature, who live as Wordsworth lived, and think and feel as he thought and felt, that he can be duly estimated, let others pretend or affect to understand him as they may.
Wordsworth can never be a popular poet. He possesses none of the attraction upon which popularity is founded. He is too plain, tedious, and unexciting, or else too deep and philosophic. In the first case, he will fail to excite interest in his readers, and in the other he will be comprehended by a comparative few, who cannot relish that from which real lovers of nature, as she is treated by Shakspeare and almost all other poets, feel gratification. We have had an example of the fate of metaphysical poetry long ago, perhaps that of a self-lauded style with a heartless pen may not in the end be very dissimilar. It is essential to the poet to have a sympathy with something more in the world than stocks and stones, and till now it became poets to have a heart to animate affection, elevate the view, and show humility in their own regard. Wordsworth has had no poetical brotherhood.

What mistakes are made in theories like Wordsworth’s, and so too about that word wisdom, a vain thing, applied to rectifying commas, and wasting reams of paper to settle the question of a digamma. The depth of thought, the beauty, the main object of a writer are the last things noticed by men given to this laborious trifling. They who would carry out new theories continually deceive themselves. If such men ever deviate from their beaten track, it is only to inculcate some musty axiom as far from truth as reason. Such persons are Ephraim Jenkinsons. One of them, who has been reading folios of commentaries up to eighty years of age, says with great gravity, as a novelty, “the world is in its dotage, and the cosmogany has puzzled the learned of every age. What a medley of opinions
have they broached upon the creation of the world. Sanconiathon, Manetho, Berosus, and Ocellus Lucanus, all have attempted it in vain; but, sir, I think—” Now when a scholar begins in this way, I assure myself it is no other than
Goldsmith’s Ephraim Jenkinson, who wants to buy my horse, or sell me a pair of green spectacles. The learned of this class descend nearly to the level of those who make coin accumulation the summum bonum. With these too, the pursuit goes on to the last, and they view, with satisfaction, the stock of useless learning they have acquired. Fame, glory, virtue, shed no more consolation around their dying heads than the gold man finds around his, who expires with the query of the price of consols on his tongue. It is true that they do not outrage the decencies of life for self interest, that they are not hypocrites, and that they have no reason to suppose St. Peter will close the gates of Heaven against them if in other respect worthy, while the fate of a Dives is more clear against him than against those who have spent life in trifling, if it has been laborious.

The vanity of learning is as light as any other species, although it be innocent. Its assumption by those who are ignorant always betrays itself, as the Scotch woman betrayed her husband, when she told her companion that he had travelled over the whole world—had seen Babylon and the Garden of Eden where Paradise was.

“And what did he see there—the tree of life, I suppose, and the like of that?”

“Not a tree for a walking stick, all the garden was gone to ruin, no shrubs, nor flowers, not even a cabbage stump—nothing was left but a few gooseberry bushes.”


No doubt this was satisfactory to the enquirer. There is a pleasure in ignorance; where little is known, it requires so much less knowledge to be happy.

In Martin, the artist, I lost a friend of high genius. He was a member of the committee of the Literary Union, an unassuming man treated with a species of disdain by the Academy of Painters. He left behind him a renown well earned. His power of delineating the more vast and sublime objects of his imagination, applied to historic scenes or poetical fictions was wonderful, and in this he stood alone among English artists. He was feebly and ineffectually imitated by several artistical plagiarists. A master in perspective, he struck every reflective mind with the grandeur as well as originality of his pictorial conceptions. His works had a certain degree of hardness upon the canvas, but were still noble specimens of his skill. He was opposed openly and secretly by those of the brush who paint by line and rule. To such an extent was this spirit carried, that if he had not been able to engrave his own works, he would have been put down. In England his engravings had a prodigious run; and abroad his works are known from the Seine to the Neva.

He was a man of much simplicity of character, originally designed for an herald painter, as that fine artist, Stanfield, was for a scene painter, but then he had the support of royalty to introduce him into the Academy, or with all his talents, he would hardly have found an entrance within the circuit of the forty wise men. It is the proud attribute of genius to soar above the letter which would enchain its spirit and confine it to the beaten track, just as the true impress of religion in the heart soars about the pharasaical formality of lip worship.


Martin I used to meet in Allsop’s Place, where he displayed, in communicating his ideas, great imaginativeness and a rich fancy. Portrait painting tires, even the portraits of Reynolds, and those of Sir Thomas Lawrence, weary the observer who has no interest in the characters represented. I have often observed the difference between Reynolds and Lawrence. The portraits of the former appear well bred, those of the latter as if they were representations of individuals among the middle class, who were endeavouring to be taken for those above them. Hence the pleasure derived from fancy subjects is greater. Martin was distinguished by much mechanical ingenuity out of his art. The massiveness and grandeur of his principal works have composed his worthiest monument. His designs for Milton contrast admirably with the distortions of Fuseli, whose figures were shapes neither of heaven, nor earth, nor the water under the earth. Nothing is more marked, in the present day, than the coldness of the public towards such eminent men, a thing once not observable, because men felt, in truly estimating art, they honoured themselves, now their conceit makes them imagine they honour art by their notice of it.

The works of great artists are photographic copies of their modes of thinking or imagining, addressed immediately to the vision. In this they differ from the workings of great minds as conveyed in books. We hear spoken, we hear read, or see in books for ourselves, the aspirations of great souls. They address us through more than one sense, as the more imperishable of mundane things. It is fitting that what springs from an unfathomable depth or soars
to heaven, or dares the abyss which separates time and space, that which leaves no trace of its rising or setting, no foot track of its coming in or going out, should possess the principle of things most enduring, and most remote from decay. From books, embodied thought awakes to life in the human heart, generates there other thoughts and establishes yet nobler principles. There too, are set in motion, results which linking together moral and physical power, revolutionize mankind without bloodshed, change almost imperceptibly, and by degrees, the habits and opinions of men, neither alarming pride nor wounding vanity, until whole races become regenerated, and looking back upon those who have neglected to learn such a lesson, say “where we ever as ignorant and as blind as you?”

Happily, all the kings of the earth united, cannot eradicate from the nations one little symbol of undying thought, conveyed in a dried up liquid upon the most fragile of substances. The number of high-toned and profound thinkers is fewer than ever compared to those of the common and inferior classes. Hence it is that dealers in books prefer only those adapted for the largest number of readers, books being with them only mercantile ware, and the fabrication governed by that principle alone. Writers do not rule here as they did formerly. There can be no greater mistake than to suppose the extensive sale of a work the criterion of its intellectual merit. Such a sale is rather a proof that the publication descends so low in calibre as to come within the comprehension of a greater number of readers, or, in other words, of the less expanded minds, and in the next place, that the
goods are cheaper than those which are more profound. Thus the sale of novels is enormously large, and some argue that the age is advanced by it. This is not true, everybody comprehends such works, however narrow their intellectual faculties, and all find pleasure from what they can comprehend without looking farther. Such works generate an indisposition to read history and useful literature. This was the opinion of the first novel writer this country has produced,
Sir Walter Scott. The only hope he thought was that they might convey to youth, by true pictures of life, (that is when they are true pictures) some awakening of the better feelings and sympathies, through their display of fictitious woe and generous sentiment. Beyond this, Scott thought them mere luxuries for amusement, and not vehicles of instruction. Too true it is, that the prevalent love of literature fluctuates in taste like the fashions in dress. That there is so little increase in knowledge among the bulk of the people, although so much is made of it when supported by the argument, that the circulation of books is extensive, is not wonderful. It is not the number, but the nature of books which contributes to the stock of mental advancement. Hence it may be seen how necessary it is, that the novel should be constructed so as to effect that modicum of good which it is capable of imparting. There were never fewer original and profound works than at present. The majority of this class of books now produced are reprints.* Works of science scarcely repay the expense of printing. We are apt to say when

* In a particular and most exclusive manner that of Mr. H. Bohn of York Street.

we hear of fortune-tellers and conjurors playing off their tricks, “Who would think it in this age of popular information.” But spirit-rapping, mesmerism, phrenology, vegetarianism, allopathy, movement-cure, and an endless number of similar things, have not their footing among the humbler classes, but are proofs of the credulity of the classes that possess wealth, read novels, and move in the middle and upper walks of life. In this respect, these classes are not one degree above giving credit to the gipsy or the conjurer of the hamlet. That they are better patronized, and the crotchets of more respectable and better clothed practitioners is too true. Some of these silly things, as mesmerism, for example, our fathers examined and exposed four-score years ago. Let us neither call our improvement in social amenity, in political freedom, nor in scientific discoveries, the result of the popular acumen, these were worked out by unconscious agents, and originated in obscurity with insulated minds.
Stevenson dreaded the incredulity of statesmen as to his plans—plans capable of demonstration. He was indebted for success to the desire for a particular convenience, and to the lust of procuring gain by that means. We might as well ascribe Palmer’s acceleration of the mails to the popular advance of his day.

When a select committee of the House of Commons was formed to consider the onerous state of the wine duties, which on some wines reached to five or six hundred per cent, and were materially at war with every principle of free trade, I was ordered to attend and give evidence. I was examined at considerable length, as may be seen in the blue books of the House
of Commons. I was much struck with the opposition shewn to a measure, which was no more nor less than a necessary carrying out of the free trade system. No one but
Mr. Gladstone made the acknowledgment, that the time must come when these duties, as well as others of a similar character, will be reduced. The circumstances of the moment prevented the government from then considering the subject, the opening of the budget being near at hand. The reign of the Earl of Derby was short. I was one of the deputation that went up to his lordship in Downing Street upon that occasion.

Being the last that left the room, only a few yards down the passage, I ran, in the dim light of that moment, against some one hastening in. It was Mr. Disraeli, who had come, so it was said, to announce that the shattered ministry, to which he belonged, was no longer in existence. It is singular that since the death of Peel, the steps necessary for carrying out free trade, have ceased altogether, as if that measure, having been a cheval de bataille, for the purpose of opposition to one set of ministers, that object being gained, the details of the measure might remain as they did for all the succeeding governments cared about them. It is true the Russian war put an end to any great measure in favour of free trade for a time, and now India can be made the excuse, but I shrewdly suspect the free trade details would without these impediments have remained where they are.

Professions in candidates for office cost nothing, they are mere trifles, and no one makes a figure in politics who sticks at trifles. Whoever feels the promptings
of ambition, and is too honest to make empty professions, who will not practice claptraps in order to rise in public life, will succeed with difficulty. Occasionally those who achieve peculiar and worthy things, beyond the limit of the vulgar gaze, place having invested them with high honours, may become idols of an overweening worship, but such cases are rare, and the work of talent and long labour. Wariness and the manipulation of a hundred hypocrisies will bring a man much sooner into power and influence. I wish statesmen, the majority of whom I believe are the worst principled of mankind, would always act as if they were before the public. Actions temporily concealed, and revealed by time, damage the character of politicians of high talent. That which they had once concealed from fear of getting into disesteem, though at the time half ashamed of it, when the future displays the secret become spectacles of pity to angels and to men.

Thus in Lord Malmesbury’s Memoirs, in regard to Pitt, for example, if the account of the ignorance of that statesman of the world at large, had been related by any historian he would not have been credited. Pitt once answered a speech of Sheridan’s, speaking for an hour and half, and then asked Sheridan, what his speech was about; the fact being that he spoke as lawyers call it against time, without relevance to the topic, pretended to be answered, for he was ignorant of it. So Sheridan, when Fox quoted Greek in his speeches, after complimenting his honourable friend on his quotation, remarked that he should have added the remainder, and then himself gave a pretended quotation of the passage he said was omitted, a jargon
of his own composition and not Greek at all, being something like the well known Anglo-Greek passage of the school boys, which I will not repeat. The House took it with the utmost simplicity as the genuine thing. Such was the value of political scholarship in those days, and the imagined wisdom of an unreformed parliament. Pitt’s knowledge of life was very circumscribed. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer at twenty-three. He had read little but the classics before that time, and afterwards he had no leisure to read, but only to raise coalitions, and taxes to pay them, and some of his resources were laughably indefensible.

His fluency of speech was the most surprising of his talents—“he could speak off a king’s speech.” His coalitions against France were common bargains. He found the money, our allies took it, and got well beaten in return, and it broke his heart. Such was the history of this minister’s career, proud as he was, unyielding, and somewhat egotistical. By the by, the greatest egotists I remember were Cobbett and Southey. It is curious, too, that they were alike notorious political delinquents, having served two or three political purposes, no doubt, with the same sincerity. Both were clever writers, Southey was the greatest sophist. Both were exemplary in domestic life, Cobbett was vulgar and loved to shew the despot by keeping his household strictly subordinate to his will, his wife scarcely dared at any time to remonstrate with him; Southey was kind and hospitable in his family.

Rogers, too, I always found a kind man. He was exceedingly cautious of giving offence to any one, and it was difficult to obtain his real opinion of any literary
character. In speaking of him to a friend, and remarking Rogers’ expertness at an epigram, he said, he thought
Byron had observed the same thing.

Rogers,” said he, “has an epigrammatic mouth—a mouth characterized by a contractile quality, the power of a sort of pincer’s squeeze lurks about it. It was wonderful he did not come out as an English Martial, perhaps, I should rather say a Juvenal.”

Talking one day after dinner of the necessity of employing attorneys in doing everything, so that a man must keep in with them whether he wishes it or not. Rogers said, “not in doing everything, my dear sir, the bottle is in with you, we cannot drink by attorney.”

Campbell speaking of Rogers, remarked that he thought he liked people to be under an obligation to him, for if you borrowed money of him, after you repaid it, he never seemed half as much on terms with you as he was before.

When I told Rogers that Mr. —— had got a place under government, to which no salary was yet affixed, but he was proud of it. “Poor fellow,” said the poet, “the handsomest cage won’t feed the bird.”

It was melancholy to hear him when his memory failed, and also the unconnected questions he asked; I had not seen him for some years. I found myself near his grave at Hornsey in one of my long rambles, no great time after his funeral, nature in full bloom around, to eyes that could no more behold her beauty. His ashes “unwept,” left “to wither to the parching wind, without the meed of a melodious tear.”

I have said, that in seeking celebrated scenes, I
am partial to, such visitings, as churchyards where noted men lie, or battle-fields famous in history. I love to imagine the clash of the combatants and shoutings of the battle. I fancy all the manoeuvres if I have a clue to them in historical details. It is a raising of the spirits of the past in corporeal reality, deciding the fate of empires. Once at Naseby, I imagined
Cromwell’s wing of iron horsemen on the ground, and Ireton on the left. I saw the royal baggage waggons in the rear of the king’s army, and the long line of glittering and luxurious cavaliers, to be soon scattered before the ranks of the parliament. I observed the smoke of the artillery, and the advancing lines, here the main body, there the wings—all these things looked like the reality for a moment. It is true I saw only in fancy, I heard nothing. The eyes are the portals of our imaginings when we visit such spots, or like the field at Hastings, which I have said Campbell and myself visited together.

I was speaking of the personal beauty of Englishwomen while sojourning at Hastings. Campbell was a great admirer of English beauty. He admitted fully the wrong direction of the female mind, and a captivating of the other sex by show. The deficiency in personal beauty of women in France, I made him admit was often fully compensated by their superior carriage, and the charm of their address. I alleged that they had wit and vivacity, both which are too often wanting among English beauties. Their manners were engaging, they were unaffectedly cheerful, and they were never so destitute of ideas as not to bear their share in conversation. To this the poet agreed, and that his knowledge of them was slight. I remarked that a
Frenchwoman was more anxious to see than to be seen. She endeavoured to increase her stock of subjects for social converse, and was less solicitous about attracting general observation than the observation of the individual who might hold her affections, or who might be no more than the favourite of the moment, for a Frenchwoman, independently of any affair of the heart, is eminently an enjoyer of the social circle. It was always difficult to discover the source of the influence a woman of that country exercised over me, in the presence of others with much higher pretensions to personal charms. They certainly have a superior power of pleasing, much owing to their cheerfulness, their lively manners, and little attentions in common things, all tending to please, and nature as usual attaches us most to those things, animate or inanimate, which impart pleasure. I was once travelling by diligence to St. Omer, on my way to Calais, ten years after my first residence in the country. There were two pleasing young ladies and their mother, the only passengers besides myself. We entered into conversation, and once or twice got out of the vehicle and walked up the hills. I was not in good spirits, and one of the sisters told me she saw I was not. She hoped I had met with nothing of a distressing nature, that I certainly did not bear my usual character, which they assumed to be a cheerful one. At dinner they pressed me to eat by pointing out some delicate dishes, and in the kindest manner, with easy vivacity, rallied me upon the folly of nourishing my gloom, until they fairly got me out of it, and told me how happy they were at being successful. I parted from the three ladies with a regret I never felt under such circumstances
before. I left them at St. Omer. I have long made up my mind as to the nature of the power Frenchwomen exercise in company. It is the art of pleasing with vivacity and good-nature, in the simplest things. In the above instance, I might have travelled a thousand miles in England, and an exchange of monosyllables been all that took place. Frenchwomen are not in general handsome, there is a greater show of female beauty in England, but here many a beautiful young creature is but a piece of fine statuary. She has nothing to say, no vivacity, little or no conversation, the truth being that with an expensive education just completed, they go into society without having made use of the key they possess to cultivate that knowledge of things, which, if superficial, is the material of which the Gallic ladies make so masterly a use. In England, education is a superfluity beyond the faculty it confers of writing a letter, reading a novel, and, having taste or not, the art of strumming a tune on the piano. In France, the ladies know a little upon a variety of topics, and make the most of that knowledge, rendering attractive that which is not very profound, by the manner in which it is delivered in the conversational contributions of the social circle. The better female minds in England are found in their middle age, when the art of captivating has fallen into desuetude, giving their leisure to read and study more attentively than before.

The captivating character of the ladies of France is universally admitted, even in advanced life, where their influence with the other sex, is founded upon the consciousness of the pleasure enjoyed in their society. It is true, the French ladies sometimes change their
vivacity for volatility, and then a reaction ensues, but these are exceptional cases. There is a class of French ladies who are styled of the haut ton, who figure in gay life, and the world of fashion, with all its levities, I speak not of such, but rather of those of provincial towns, and of a class in the metropolis, naturally the abode of a medley of all orders and characters. As women of business and managers of affairs at home, I know none who excel them. The sciences of the counter, the ledger, and the general operations of trade seem to be inherited by the female sex in France.

“That is all very well,” Campbell observed, “but I prefer my own north country lasses to both, taking them generally. I imagine this impression is a youthful one imbibed from our first amatory feeling being directed towards those to whom we are earliest accustomed.”

I replied, “I could not argue in that, I was a cosmopolitan in affairs of the heart, and might perchance love a Creole in preference to one of his red haired Glasgow lasses.”

“Then you must be a traitor to your country,” said the poet, “hanging, drawing and quartering are too good for you.”

I expressed my opinion which time has confirmed, that the intellectual improvement of female society in England, advances much more rapidly than that of the other sex, men seem to retrograde. The poet would not agree with me.

They who know not the pleasures of imagination, know not half of those which life can import, even if they enjoy their other faculties in perfection, all is
plodding repetition. The square staid matter of fact, cold, individual, may be contented with his allotment. A minimum may serve him within his little circle, and as the capacity measured so may be the enjoyment. The caged bird may not miss the freedom of the skies because he has never known liberty, but the wing that expatiates at large feels the exhilarating influence of its free will range, inhales the brisk freshness of an atmosphere of greater levity in a loftier region, and receives a pleasure unknown to the captive. The boundless circuit of imagination teems with vivifying pleasure, and an imagination of great liveliness attaches naturally to the female character. There are new images and novel sensations continually presenting themselves which bring delight to the spirit, however insubstantial. It is no mean gratification to weave visions of good, to project schemes of benevolence for the benefit of others, to contemplate schemes beyond earth’s dim spot, and to lose ourselves in holy aspirations. It is from such imaginings that improvements open to elevate mankind, when they take a shape permitting realization. The language of poetry has proved prophetic, and a realization has been traced up to the source of the original idea in the poet’s dream, or the supposed incoherence of some prolific fancy.

Men who idealize from every day things, often give erroneous guesses as to the commonest actions, and form ill-judgments, sometimes too extravagant, and at others too stinted of the effects of what they observe, some of the sanguine will judge far beyond the ground they have to go upon, and others will only see the dark side of things. This is because they have been ac-
customed to live in a realm of their own, where the good predominates over the evil, and everything is accommodated to the desires of the mind. Hence
Shelley was not understood, in his day, and barring out his wayward natural disposition, Byron was esteemed an unaccountable by “the general.” The reasoning, as well as imaginative faculty, is an incomprehensible thing. As to the imagination, some of those who have possessed it in perfection, have shewn it most in youth. In Campbell it was greatly weakened, I take it, at an early age, that of Byron a little later, in Pope it began early, but in Dryden it was not visible till late, and continued unabated into age, with Waller to full eighty years, with Milton too, it was continued till late in life, and in Shakspeare certainly after middle life. It, therefore, must wholly depend upon constitution and temperament, how long the vigor of the imaginative faculty will flourish in fulness of bloom, for there is no rule to settle its duration.

I doubt if the vividness of Campbell’s imagination was not in a very considerable degree faded before thirty. Perhaps, a too early reputation deadened future effort. The object for which the man was “to scorn delight and live laborious days” was attained, or there might have been a consciousness of exhaustion, and a despairing idea that he could not surpass his first works.

Apropos of the last named poet—it was not for want of suggestions, nor even direct hints as to the subject that he wrote so little. He would sometimes say, “you are always asking me for something, but I cannot tell what to write about—think of a subject.”

I promised, and considering for a day or two, put half a dozen subjects on a slip of paper, but I do not
remember his adopting my suggestion but twice. The subject in one case was the camp-field already mentioned, suggested to him on the spot. It was on a day of beauty, I well remember, as we lounged on that lofty cliff—a day, to quote
Milton, when a poet might well listen at nature’s feast—

“To what unshorn Apollo sings
To the touch of golden wires, while Hebe brings
Immortal nectar to her kingly sire.”

We had scrambled that morning to the top of the East Cliff in company with a London bookseller of Herculean mould, whom Campbell had invited to dine with him. The day was warm, and before we were half way to the summit of the cliff, the bibliopolist was not only out of wind, but covered with a copious perspiration. Campbell active enough for a much more difficult task, gave me a look, which I comprehended immediately, that we should push upward at once, glancing his eyes mischievously on our bulky companion, who insisted he could go no further without he pulled off his coat. This he did as fast as his fatigue would permit, and then like another Sysiphus he went on toiling and panting upward again. Campbell’s amusement was expressed in a side glance to me now and then, as we proceeded. The toiling bibliopole, in the prime of existence as to years, evidently was no mean trencher-man, and looked like a Farnese Hercules out of breath after a ponderous foot-race. The summit being attained, we were obliged to halt there some minutes. This my companion called “breathing a bookseller.”

Then it was I suggested the cliff-camp as a subject
for the poet’s verse. We walked to Fairlight, and returning to St. Leonard’s to dinner, the bibliopolist dropped into a chair from which he moved with difficulty to the table, his appetite keen, his countenance still oleaginous. To mend matters he eat so voraciously, that I believe for a couple of hours he would have found some difficulty in moving from his seat, strong and muscular as he was. He reminded me of a boa-constrictor after having gorged an ox. At the hour of retiring, he moved off to the hotel, like one of the Christmas show pigs at an agricultural gathering. For some time after, the poet could not help alluding to the subject, as one to which he had never before seen any resemblance in the animal tendencies of his fellow bipeds. I myself never before witnessed such a picture of the effect of a good bodily self-indulgent constitution, overlaid with little exercise and hard eating.
Campbell never forgot the scene, and rejoiced at the hero of it being a bookseller, as it was a rare case that “an author ever got the weather gage from one of the trade.” We strolled to the libraries where the visitors came, fearfully put to it, to pass their time. The resources of some for this purpose were ludicrous.

“I will hold you a guinea that man standing on the verge of the sea is wishing the dinner hour was come.”

“Let us watch him from my window, we can talk there,” said Campbell.

The man alluded to, was a solitary, who “had come to enjoy himself, and for three good hours did ‘enjoy’ his move up and down within a square of twenty yards.”

“It is foolish for such people to come here—a ridiculous custom.”


“No, no,” said Campbell “do you not remember Hudibras:—
‘Should once the world resolve to abolish
All that’s ridiculous and foolish,
It would have nothing else to do,
To apply in jest or earnest to.’”

I believe the poet to have been a man of considerable personal courage, if put upon his metal, though, at times, nervous. The natives of the three kingdoms differ in exhibiting it. The English and Scotch are more calm than the Irish. I have seen men in moments of danger, and such is the time for trying, not merely their courage, but their character. When a boy, at a depot for prisoners of war, near Falmouth, I could not help regarding certain differences between the English and French character. They were letting a heavy ladder down into a well, and some of the prisoners were assisting. The ladder got too heavy for those who were holding it, and nearly drew them into the well with it. When the danger increased, and became imminent, the Frenchmen let go, and ran off, while the Englishmen clung closer to the ladder. Two or three fresh hands coming up, prevented the mischief, which seemed inevitable. So some travellers in Egypt said, that, when a storm occurred in Alexandria, the vessels of the Mediterranean ports were made as snug as possible at their anchors, and then their crews hurried on shore. While to the vessels from beyond the straits, English, French, or Dutch, the crews were observed hastening on board, in order, by their presence and experience, to obviate any mischief that might happen, which it was in their power to remedy. I remember being told by a naval officer
how characteristic the conduct of the natives of the three nations was when standing by their guns, cleared for action, and in pursuit. He noticed how differently the Irish conducted themselves from the English and Scotch, being restless and noisy.

During the siege of Sebastopol, when it was some way advanced, the mention made to me by a friend, several years before, in relation to a mode of throwing shot without heavy artillery, occurred as likely to be useful, especially where the approaches had been tolerably advanced. I instituted several experiments, upon a very small scale, with success, using pewter in place of iron, weighing the powder, and taking the distances and proportions as approximative to more important instruments and results. I had only the general idea with which to begin. I was so satisfied of the practicability of the means, as far as I had tried them, and that they might be used with effect in ricochet firing, at about point blank distance, that I wrote to the select committee of officers of artillery, at Woolwich, on the subject. My idea was to throw shot or shell, made in a mode adapted to the peculiar principle, with no more than a horizontal bed, like that of a mortar, from which to discharge the missile. The exposure of the men was greatly husbanded, the missile being brought to the battery ready loaded. With the general theory of gunnery, I was acquainted, having been much in garrisoned places in boyhood, and in 1814 I had been some time in Woolwich as an observer. To practical knowledge I could not, of course, lay claim. The statement to me, by my deceased friend, was barely sufficient to make me acquainted with the idea. The charging out of the
reach of an enemy’s fire was most important, as not a third of the number of men required to work a heavy gun needed to appear at all upon the battery. If the shot, thus projected, were dropped in over the enemy’s rampart, and did its work, en ricochet, although it might not answer for long distances, the advantage would be incalculable. Hollow, as well as solid, shot, of any diameter, might be thus projected. On explaining my ideas personally to the select Committee of the Board of Ordnance, they listened with the utmost attention, and told me that something of the same nature had been before proposed to them. I related how I had experimented, that it was new as regarded the missile, and that the conjuncture had prompted me to draw their attention to it. There was a difficulty started as to the mode of meeting the recoil, which must be considerable. This I had foreseen, and as far as thought needful, provided for by a solid carriage, or rather bed, by which the force of the recoil from the elevation likely to be most used would be met, the difficulty increasing towards the horizontal line. There would always be some degrees of elevation in the use, and only when below 20° or 25° would the recoil be considerable. I had not the plan of the carriage with me, but I sent it down afterwards. It somewhat resembled the slide of a ship carronade carriage, on a solid bed, working up an inclined plane.

The answer I received was fully as much to the purpose as I expected, namely, that it would be applicable to the service “at low velocities.” This was all I had intended. I was aware, except in a siege, and not at great distances, that the missile was not so likely to
be effective, my idea having been solely directed to batteries en ricochet, and to sparing labour and life.

Nothing could be more to the purpose, nor apparently more earnest and attentive to the subject placed before it, than this Board, overwhelmed as it was with scheming absurdities. In every respect, I found the members gentlemanly and considerate, where patience was a virtue imperiously required. I saw schemes and models there which bore evidence their projectors had never seen artillery missiles used in their lives. The fame of our artillery abroad is widely spread, and I do not believe it has retrograded in excellence. Indeed, the work now turned out at Woolwich with the same power, is three or four times more than it was last war, principally by improved machinery. Having been much there during that time, I was curious to inquire about the differences and changes which have taken place, and found it never was in higher perfection than at the present moment.