LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoir of Francis Hodgson
Chapter IV. 1808.

Vol. 1 Contents
Chapter I.
Chapter II. 1794-1807.
Chapter III. 1807-1808.
‣ Chapter IV. 1808.
Chapter V. 1808-1809.
Chapter VI. 1810.
Chapter VII. 1811.
Chapter VIII. 1811.
Chapter IX. 1811.
Chapter X. 1811-12.
Chapter XI. 1812.
Chapter XII. 1812-13.
Chapter XIII. 1813-14.
Vol. 2 Contents
Chapter XIV. 1815-16.
Chapter XV. 1816-18.
Chapter XVI. 1815-22.
Chapter XVII. 1820.
Chapter XVIII. 1824-27.
Chapter XIX. 1827-1830
Chapter XX. 1830-36.
Chapter XXI. 1837-40.
Chapter XXII. 1840-47.
Chapter XXIII. 1840-52.
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The Reviews which challenged the satire to which reference is made in the last chapter were, as there mentioned, the ‘Edinburgh,’ the ‘British,’ and the ‘Eclectic.’ There were others which spoke of the translation in terms of the most enthusiastic praise, tempered only by fair criticism. The ‘Monthly,’ while echoing the ‘Edinburgh’s’ censure of the diffuseness of the notes, bore ample testimony to the vigour and the spirit of the translation and to the beauty of its poetry. The ‘Critical’ was still more eulogistic, and this Review was distinguished for discriminating taste. In a note in Moore’sLife of Byron’ allusion is made to its critique on the ‘Hours of Idleness,’ written in September 1807. This Review, in pronouncing upon the young author’s future career, showed itself
more prophet-like than the great oracle of the North. In noticing the
elegy on Newstead Abbey, the writer says: ‘We could not but hail with something of prophetic rapture the hope conveyed in the closing stanza—
Haply thy sun, emerging, yet may shine,
Thee to irradiate with meridian ray.

Of Hodgson’s Juvenal it writes in a similar strain. It begins by expressing satisfaction at the intellectual vigour of the age which had produced Hodgson’s Juvenal before Gifford’s was properly digested. By way of combating the assertion that another translation was unnecessary, it mentions the circumstance that Pope’s Homer appeared before Creech’s was fairly finished. The ‘Critical’ continues with a comparison of Hodgson and Gifford.

The lists have been cleared of all the combatants of inferior note, and are exclusively occupied by two distinguished cavaliers; one founded from experience and reputation in a long established fame; the other rejoicing in great though hitherto untried powers, vigorous in youth, and inflamed with the noble confidence of future glory. What must inspire every generous spectator with some degree of prejudice in favour of the young adven-
turer, and with the hope, at least, that he may not encounter an ignominious defeat, is the courtesy displayed by him towards his veteran adversary, whom he treats with uncommon respect and deference, and whom he loads with the most profuse and liberal praise.

After a detailed description of the style and method of the rival translators, the ‘Critical’ sums up its comparison by saying:—

Mr. Gifford has made a very intelligible and entertaining work; Mr. Hodgson has enriched the language of his native country by some of the noblest poetry to be found in it.

It then proceeds to particular criticisms.

In the terrible Sixth Satire Mr. Hodgson’s powers appear both original and splendid, even when contrasted with one or two most signal triumphs achieved by the genius of Dryden. Even the description of Messalina, the most finished and most spirited morceau that can perhaps be found in the whole translated works of that mighty master, appears to us to be rivalled by the same passage as it is represented in the volume before us. If our classical readers will compare these
wonderful bursts of poetic fire, we are persuaded that they will, at least, think it doubtful to which the preference ought to be justly awarded.

A quotation from the Sixth Satire follows, and the Review remarks upon it: ‘Can anything exceed the boldness, the spirit, the dramatic effect of this domestic scene?’ Another quotation from Satire xii. 101. elicits a just tribute to Hodgson’s talents for tender and interesting poetry, and picturesque description of natural objects.

This beautiful picture reminds one of all that is soft and fresh and brilliant in the loveliest sea-pieces of Claude, whose delicate and alluring style has been less frequently attempted by the strong hand of Juvenal than the coarser taste which suggested a copy of vulgar but striking objects to the faithful pencil of Teniers. The Third Satire proves Mr. Hodgson to possess much of the skill, humour, and correctness that distinguish the Flemish artists.1

The sea-piece, which suggested a comparison with Claude’s painting may certainly be considered more picturesque than its original; only those who have witnessed such a scene on the Italian coast can fully appreciate its simple grace and fidelity.

1 Sat. xii. 69-82.


The ‘Critical’ concludes by drawing attention to Hodgson’s extraordinary talent for satire, declaring its sense of the duty of giving honour to whom honour is due, not only in justice to the author himself, but to the public, whose judgment was in danger of being misdirected by that class of critics who made it their constant practice to pass indiscriminate censure upon young aspirants to literary fame, thereby too often suppressing further endeavours. Of Mr. Hodgson the Review thought it bare justice to declare that he had displayed all the essential qualities of a poet to be found in a translation, and added a hope that there might soon be an opportunity of appreciating his claims to the higher praise of invention and original composition. Having already stated that it thought him peculiarly gifted with poetical talents, the Review is satisfied that he cannot be at a loss for proper objects on which to employ them

while our Tartuffes are daily assuming a thousand disguises, and while cold-blooded metaphysicians pretend to regulate the public taste in regard to Poetry and the Belles Lettres.

This complimentary critique was soon afterwards endorsed by Lord Byron. In one of the last stanzas of ‘English Bards’ he apostrophises his Alma Mater—
whom he elsewhere terms a harsh beldam—in four forcible lines.
Oh, dark asylum of a Vandal race!
At once the boast of learning and disgrace!
So lost to Phœbus that not Hodgson’s verse
Can make thee better, nor poor Hewson’s worse.
And in his note on the words ‘
Hodgson’s verse,’ the noble poet writes:—

This gentleman’s name requires no praise: the man who in translation displays unquestionable genius, may be well expected to excel in original composition, of which, it is to be hoped, we shall soon see a splendid specimen.

Two letters from Gifford, one written before, and the other after, the publication of the rival translations, are interesting, not only from their intrinsic excellence and from the value which must naturally belong to any composition from the pen of so eminent a man, but from the insight which they give into the literary sentiments of the great writer and critic, and the evidence which they afford of his generous sympathy with the youthful competitor for fame in the same field of literature in which he himself had so long been engaged. The first of these letters is addressed to Mr. Henry Drury at Harrow in 1806.


My dear Sir,—I ought to have written long since, but I may say to you in confidence what the beggar said to Louis XIV.: ‘O sir, if you did but know how idle I am, you would pity me!’

I am delighted with your good opinion of Massinger.1 I take refuge in our old plays, from the execrable trash of the present stage; and should, in my plodding way, have no objection to revise the twin-writers of whom you speak, who abound in beauties of every description: but I am not rich enough to do it at my own expense, and the booksellers engage with reluctance in whatever does not promise an immediate sale. Peter Whalley, who edited Ben Jonson, amassed, before his last illness, a world of lumber preparatory to a second edition. In his hands it must have grown to fourteen volumes at least, for he had unfortunately discovered with what ease a book might be swelled out by parallel passages. This has been put into my hands. His collections, I find, have been plundered by Steevens and Malone, who wisely kept their secret—to me they are useless: yet I am not certain, if my sight does not totally fail me, but that I may be tempted to reprint the original with the additions of scenery, &c., some-

1 Gifford was then engaged in editing the dramas of Massinger.

what in the manner of
Massinger, to facilitate the understanding of him, which now requires more attention than the general reader can or will bestow.

Juvenal drags heavily. At one time, all Bulwer’s devils, arrant, passant, couchant, and rampant, are at my heels, roaring for copy; at another I cannot get sight of them; and if I make inquiries—why they are gone for twelve days to get drunk with the blameless Ethiopians. So we proceed. I take it for granted that Mr. Hodgson is not more fortunate. In this edition, I have added a little, and but a little, to the notes, and attempted here and there to squeeze the text a little together. I have no idea of improving it, unless, as Sir J. Cutler’s maid—absit invidia—improved his stockings. I want a poetical friend, for the gods have not made the Dr.1 poetical, and most of my other acquaintance are over ears in politicks (sic).

I have scarcely been out of doors since I wrote last. You would therefore have found me in my elbow chair, and I should have been truly proud and happy to have seen you. I am now meditating a south sea voyage to Newmarket for a fortnight or three weeks, as I have some reliance on a change

1 Dean Ireland.

‘Pray make me happy,’ as Scindiah says, ‘by your letters.’

Ever, my dear Sir, most sincerely yours,
Wm. Gifford.

The second letter, addressed to Hodgson himself, gives pleasing proof of the generosity and true nobility of mind of one of nature’s gentlemen.

James Street: Monday Night.

Though the Dr. and I had respectively ordered Juvenal to be sent to us the moment it appeared, yet your active kindness has, with me, anticipated the plodding industry of the bookseller. I accept your present with the sincerest pleasure and shall ever regard it among my choicest possessions.

I fell on it immediately, and, without removing my eye for an instant from the page, read, shall I say devoured? the six first satires—more I could not do—nor do I expect to be able to distinguish an ‘a’ from a ‘b’ for the next twenty-four hours.

In simplicity and truth I am delighted with you; for the haste and imperfection of which you speak, I see nothing but freedom, spirit, and vigour: your anxiety I place to the score of modesty; it is surely not necessary, but I do not
condemn it. Would you could impart a little of it, where it is really needed! ‘But fools rush in,’ you know. Expect to hear nothing of the Introduction and Notes, for I have not read a syllable of them yet.

I am amazed at the facility (to say nothing of the elegance) with which you compose; though Ireland, who regards you with great affection, had, in some measure, prepared me for it. Your morning’s amusement would occupy me seriously for a week—and Jove only knows what it would be after all. And have you the conscience, with all this ease and spirit and learning and extensive reading, to call upon me to improve your trial? pro pudor!

No, no; you must look upon me as an old post-horse: what with switching and spurring I might perhaps perform a short stage; but should be mighty stiff after it, and not in a travelling condition for some time. Do you recollect that I once said ‘mox in reluct:’ &c. I had then no bad idea, and, as I thought, not unproductive of useful fun. It was a work on the plan of ‘Le chef-d’œuvre d’un Inconnu,’ that genuine piece of French humour. I had written the life of my ‘Hero,’ containing, with great pomposity, not one accident that does not happen to every clown every day of his life; I
had also composed a poem—oh such a poem! I do not think ‘Jack Horner’ came within a league of it; and amassed a vast quantity of illustrations ‘after the manner’ of all sorts of people, to render every clear point incomprehensible; and many other pretty things. When I had done all this, ‘an exposition of idleness,’ as Bottom says—not your friend Flatbottom Urgius whose various reading is very good—but an ‘exposition of idleness’ came upon me, and before I recovered my activity, a storm or robbery, call it which you will, ‘shook down my mellow hangings.’ To secure my precious arcana I wisely put them within an old chessboard, taking care to secure them with a string that, like Styx, went nine times round it. ‘If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.’ In changing houses, this casket, to which that of
Alexander was but a tin canister, was conveyed out of the cart that bore the curta supellex. I consoled myself in my distress by reflecting on the disappointment of the miserable thief of a rascal when he opened his purchase. But why do I tell you this cock and bull story? Firstly, that you may take up my design—you have fifty times more talents for it than I had in my best days; and surely the harvest is richer than ever—et quando uberior?—O what
giggling might you have at the Germans! to say nothing of the home produce.

My valued friends in Gower Street told me of your removal to Cambridge: on this I felicitate you, and, let me add, the world, most sincerely; for you will certainly have more time at command. I thank you for your congratulations; presuming that you allude to the lottery. Nothing is yet settled, but I believe some good is en train. Down on your knees and be thankful that you see land at last. The watchman is now bellowing just two o’clock. With the sincerest esteem,

I remain your obliged and faithful friend,
Wm. Gifford.

The removal to Cambridge, to which allusion is made in this letter, refers to Hodgson’s appointment to a Resident Tutorship at King’s College of which he had already for five years been a fellow. Humphrey Sumner, the then Provost, had asked him to lecture upon Locke and Pearson. Hodgson replied in the following letter, in which he sketches in outline some of the views with which he entered upon his new sphere of work.

Eton: October 1, 1807.

Dear Sir,—I am greatly obliged by your keeping the tutorship open for me so long; and lament the
necessity of my absence from Cambridge till Christmas.

Concerning the subject of my lectures I am very glad to have the opportunity of some communication with you. The books you mention (Locke and Pearson) are as yet by no means among my intimate acquaintance; but I will take the liberty of offering my general ideas of their character to your consideration. Upon Butler, I believe, we are agreed, that his ‘Analogy’ is too profound a work for any but the severest student to comprehend. At the lectures by Mr. Lloyd which I attended at Cambridge, I gathered that there was much in Locke controverted by subsequent reasoners; but I did not perceive that anything had been added to the explanation and argument of Pearson for a succession of years. Of the effect which Mr. Lloyd’s lectures had upon his hearers, as all were at the same college with myself, I can form some opinion. It is an assured truth that not one pupil out of a dozen gained anything from the Locke lecture when I was at college. But Mr. Lloyd has made Locke the study of his life. If then, with his excellent understanding and long application, he could not render the lecture interesting or useful, how is another person to do it? It is
my belief that in the ‘
Essay on the Human Understanding’ Mr. Locke is often bewildered in the subtlety of his own reasoning. Nothing is so dark as metaphysical speculation, and nothing, therefore, requires so plain a light to be thrown upon it. That Mr. Locke’s manner is popular, or likely to catch the attention of young men, I cannot allow. It is very different with Pearson. His reasoning is clear, intelligible, and convincing. I do not, then, despair of being able ‘to tell the tale as ’tis told me,’ which is the chief thing required in a lecture extracted from Pearson; but I do despair of forcibly recommending the fine-spun lucubrations of Mr. Locke to the attention of my pupils.

I have written this letter very hastily, in the midst of uncongenial employment, and of hard additional labour at my publication. You will therefore, I trust, excuse any misstatement of opinion expressed upon the moment, though not formed without previous consideration. The fact is, that ever since your kind promise of appointing me to the tutorship, I have found my thoughts naturally engaged in my few leisure hours with the business of my future work. And I will request your permission to enter a little further into the result of my reflections. Young men are but three years at
King’s, and any very accurate knowledge of a philosophical work cannot be communicated to them by an hour’s explanation every day in the half terms. That the generality of young men will take much trouble to prepare themselves for lectures is not to be expected. A few will really examine their work beforehand; a few more will just run it over; but the greater part will not look at it till the moment. Still they may learn something, they may all learn something, if the subject is interesting, and if their instructor adapts his manner to their prejudices and their turn of thought. But I contend that a metaphysical subject is not generally interesting, although a religious subject is more so than any other; and, as to manner, the young are all impatient of delay. If a lecturer is slow, they conceive that he is stupid, and then the business is done. Now, I question whether any but the most superf1cial knowledge of
Locke could be imparted without a very cautious slowness of interpretation. . . .

Since I left college my reading has been very miscellaneous. It has chiefly been devoted to Greek and Latin authors, but has diverged a good deal into French and English literature. Lectures upon the Belles Lettres, in short, have been my principal
study. I do not pretend to any deep knowledge here; neither my age nor my other engagements can have allowed much proficiency. But, having read
Rollin and Blair when a boy, a third set of lectures upon the same subject was put into my hands some years since by a lecturer of the name of Barron. He has not, I think, supplied many of the deficiencies of his predecessors, although in his essay on Logic he has, I think, done more than they had attempted. What I fancied worth remembering in my own reading I always noted down, and when I was requested, not long since, to give a collected opinion of these writers, I interwove my own observations with extracts and opinions from their works. This employment, and the translation of Juvenal, have, with other occasional exertions of the same kind, filled my time since I left college; and I mention these circumstances to introduce a proposal which, had I not waited for some previous intimation from you upon the subject, I should have submitted to your consideration a month ago. Suppose a lecture upon Belles Lettres—a general account of the sages, historians, orators, and poets of Greece and Rome. For instance, Demosthenes; the character of his age, the state of Greece, and of Athens particularly, when he
flourished; the history and effect of his orations; a comparison between his style and that of other orators. Or, to make the lecture more general, it might embrace a connected account of all the principal Greek and Roman writers, the examination of their style, with extracts from their works; and a general comparison of ancient and modern literature might be made both pleasant and useful.
Quinctilian, Longinus, Diogenes Laertius, Macrobius, would open their stores to me, nor have I mentioned the treasure of treasures, Aristotle. Surely one could blend a spell from them all enough to attract the Old Court.

I request your indulgence for this imperfect exposition of a plan of lectures; but, as I look forward to Cambridge as my residence for many years, and enter upon that residence under your auspices (quod spiro et placeo, si placeo, tuum est), I think it right to make you as much acquainted as I am with my views and inclinations before entering upon my employment.

Whether so extraordinary a development of the customary curriculum at King’s was allowed is doubtful. But there can be no doubt that, in Hodgson’s hands, it would have been universally admitted to be
a most refreshing novelty. All changes in those days were looked upon with suspicion. The provost,
Humphrey Sumner, was a person of staid conservative principles. His naturally ponderous manner and disposition were still further retarded by deafness; an infirmity of which it is sad to reflect that Ben Drury, the Eton master, should ever have taken advantage, to the infinite amusement of those present, by making most uncomplimentary observations to him in the manner of a person conversing upon some ordinary topic—observations which were invariably received with the blandest courtesy.

Notwithstanding Hodgson’s diffidence in the matter of the Locke lecture, the Provost persisted in his request, and Hodgson, accordingly, at once applied himself to the study of metaphysics. Some of his written lectures which remain prove him to have thoroughly mastered his subject, and to have presented it to his pupils in so pleasant and attractive a form as must have met with ample appreciation from undergraduate understandings. But, not content with these masterly expositions, his poetical mind, as usual, had recourse to verses for a fuller expression of those deep imaginings which his metaphysical research had naturally suggested to it, and in the ‘Ballad on Metaphysics,’ written at this time, he
gives an epitome of the whole subject, inclusive of the systems of
Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, and Reid; contriving to invest even abstract reasoning with poetical harmony, and concluding with some lines of great power and beauty on the legitimate end and consummation of all human studies—the adoration of the Deity.

As in a measure appropriate to the subject of metaphysics, some letters by the Rev. John Ireland, then prebendary, afterwards the distinguished Dean of Westminster, may here be given. His early acquaintance with Hodgson has already been noticed, and the high opinion which he had formed of his character and abilities is plainly proved by the tone of these letters.

In a note to the Second Satire of Juvenal Hodgson had written with reference to the accusations sometimes brought against his original that he ridiculed the idea of a future state.

Did not Socrates in his dying hours use the common language of his countrymen with regard to the gods, and yet we cannot suppose him to have intended more than an example of conformity to established usage when he enjoined the sacrifice of a cock to Esculapius; although we know he believed in
an all-wise and all-powerful Creator and Supporter of the Universe.

Hodgson’s naturally reverent mind and early religious training here, no doubt, betrayed him into the use of an expression similar to those commonly current among Churchmen. He probably did not mean to say more than that Socrates believed in the Supreme Governor of the universe, which in its state of order owed Him alone its existence; and did not intend to enter at all into the question of ancient beliefs in pre-existent matter. With this point of view, as far as it goes, the Scriptural doctrine is not materially at variance, when it distinctly asserts that the Creator brought Cosmos out of Chaos.

But the erudite Dr. Ireland, the author of ‘Five Discourses containing certain Arguments for and against the Reception of Christianity by the ancient Jews and Greeks,’ of ‘Paganism and Christianity compared,’ and many other profound theological dissertations, was not likely to rest satisfied with any mode of expression in the annotation of a classical work which could possibly admit of misinterpretation on such a point. He accordingly wrote in the following strain, which if hypercritical must be considered to have been not the less complimentary to a man who was twenty years younger than himself:—

Croydon: January 11, 1808.

Dear Sir,—I have begun to read your Juvenal; and you will judge from what I am about to say, how strong is my remembrance of the esteem which I felt for you several years ago, when my intercourse with you and your family was nearer than it is at present.

In one of the notes to the Second Satire, it is said, in vindication of the character of Socrates, that he believed in an all-powerful Creator of the universe. I am persuaded, from the general complexion of the assertion, that you cannot have made a regular inquiry into this part of the Pagan theology. I am persuaded, too, that, if you had, your mind would have arrived at the same conviction which I feel. It has happened that, for a theological purpose, I have looked with some attention into this point; and of nothing am I more firmly convinced, than that in no Pagan school was ever taught the doctrine of a proper creation. It happens, too, that, at this very time, I am engaged in impressing this religious caution upon the King’s scholars at Westminster, to whom I read term lectures. It is highly probable that your translation may fall into the hands of such youths; and I should be extremely unwilling to hear that their
belief in an essential and peculiar doctrine of Revelation was likely to be unsettled by any contrary observation of yours. If when you did me the honour of calling here, I had been aware of this circumstance I should have taken the liberty of a friend, and requested that you would have placed the passage in question at my disposal. However, all this depends on the confidence which you might have in my research or my judgment. The best thing to be done is to look into this important point yourself before another edition of your book is called for. If I should be so fortunate as to meet with you before that time comes, perhaps I might be able to prove my assertion even by conversation.

I have troubled you with a long letter; but I believe that I know your heart, and that you will take what I have said as a private mark of friendship.

I beg you to believe me, dear Sir,
Yours very truly,
J. Ireland.
No. 1 Fludyer Street: March 28, 1808.

Dear Sir,—Your letter has found me here, being engaged in the duties of my residence, and re-
moved from the books which would have afforded me the evidence proper for the point between us. As it is, I have only the opportunity of saying that in the conclusion of your letter you have seized the word, under which lay the whole force of my observation. I had talked to you of the ignorance of the Pagan schools in the doctrine of a proper creation. By this I meant, that in all the ancient cosmology which has descended to us, the only doctrine taught is that of the form impressed upon bodies, or the extraction of bodies from pre-existing matter; and that the primary matter, or ύλή, is always supposed beforehand. The more you examine the ancient evidence with this view, the more persuaded you will be that all these passages, in which there is an appearance of creation, are to be popularly interpreted, and that as the early Church teaches us through
Eusebius, ‘It was peculiar to the Hebrew doctrines to consider the God over all, the one maker of all things, and of the substance which underlies bodies, which the Greeks denominate matter.’ I cannot refer to the place, for I have not my Eusebius with me, but am sure of the passage. I know that several of the fathers talked of a creation, as really inculcated by the Pagan writers; but I know that this
untenable notion was advanced by them with no other view than to win the later Greeks to the Gospel through an approximation of the former Grecian writings to the Scriptures. This was one of those injudicious accommodations of which the fathers were often guilty, upon motives of mere Christian zeal. And you may be persuaded of the futility of this doctrine, when you consider that the fathers have adduced numbers of their proofs from the poets and play-writers—
Sophocles, Menander, Philemon, &c. In short, I will only beg you to read a short, but perfectly convincing treatise on this subject. I mean that of Mosheim, ‘De Creatione Mundi ex nihilo;’ you will find it among his ‘opuscula,’ or in his edition of Cudworth’sIntellectual System,’ which indeed ought never to be read without it.

And now I must bid you farewell, for a thousand things press upon me. I have given your kind remembrance to Gifford, who is but just recovered from a fever which gave me, for a day or two, some uneasiness about him.

Hodgson’s Juvenal was dedicated to his father’s old friend and patron Lord Liverpool, whose gratifying acknowledgment of the dedication may fitly conclude the present chapter.

Hertford Street: Dec. 23, 1807

Dear Sir,—I received the evening before last the present you sent me of your translation of Juvenal. I have hitherto had time only to peruse the Preface: it is replete with good erudition, and with many sagacious remarks. I have no doubt that this work will do you great credit, and that I shall also derive some credit from your having done me the honour of dedicating it to me.

I am, with great truth,
Your faithful, humble servant,
F. Hodgson, Esq.