LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoir of Francis Hodgson
Chapter V. 1808-1809.

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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Early in 1808 Hodgson commenced his residence at Cambridge as a fellow and tutor of King’s College. This residence continued until his marriage in 1814, and, during this period, besides his duties and studies at the university itself, he went each year to Rugby as classical examiner, passed many of his vacations in London, and was continually engaged in literary pursuits; constantly contributing to the ‘Critical’ and ‘Monthly’ Reviews, of which last periodical he was for some time an editor, and publishing several volumes of poetry.


It was at this time that two young men of remarkable talent were added to the number of his intimate friends, to each of whom Hodgson felt himself to be placed more or less in the position of Mentor. One of them was John Lonsdale, afterwards a rival candidate for the provostship of Eton, and Bishop of Lichfield. The other was that brilliant, wayward young poet who was destined to add undying lustre to the literature of his country, and to achieve for himself an endless fame.

The intimacy with Lord Byron, now firmly cemented, had doubtless been formed previously during Hodgson’s visits to London and Cambridge and to the Drurys at Harrow. The tone of the first remaining letters denotes a degree of friendship which must evidently have existed for some time before they were written. But it is equally evident that the two could not have been much thrown together without becoming intimate. There were many points of resemblance in their characters, and enough of difference to produce harmony. An early familiarity with and earnest admiration for the inspired writings of the Bible, and especially of the Psalms, a love of history, of philosophy and, above all, of poetry, were common to both, and were enough in themselves to provide endless subjects of mutual interest for discus-
sion. Add to this that both were high-spirited and warm-hearted, genial and animated in society, but equally subject to periods of melancholy and depression when alone, and it is easy to understand the cordial affection and regard which they mutually entertained for one another throughout the period of their friendship; a friendship which continued unimpaired until Byron’s final departure from England caused the partial severance of every social tie. Even then they occasionally corresponded, and there was no diminution in their mutual feelings of regard up to the time of the premature death in 1824.

In March 1808 Byron came to Cambridge for the purpose of availing himself of his privilege as a nobleman and taking his M.A. degree, although he had only matriculated in 1805. From this time, until early in 1816, the friends constantly met, and, when absent, as constantly corresponded. On this occasion of meeting there was one especial circumstance which doubtless greatly contributed to mutual sympathy. Both had been recently subjected to the fiery ordeal of criticism in the ‘Edinburgh Review.’ Hodgson, as we have seen, had already answered his critics in a satire of no ordinary spirit and power. Byron’s still more caustic and comprehensive reply was now in process of concoction. Much must have passed
between them upon this subject, and manifold must have been the notes which were compared, many and various the living poets whose relative merits and demerits must have been discussed.

Their early tastes in poetry were, moreover, much alike. Both were zealous disciples of Dryden, both entertained the deepest reverence for the genius of Pope. Hodgson’s allegiance to the muse of Dryden was founded upon admiration for the intensity of its power and vigour, while Byron’s veneration for Pope’s style amounted almost to idolatry, and he strove to emulate with slavish exactness that correctness of form which distinguished the ‘Bard of the Thames.’ But in spite of what he conceived to be his better judgment, his native force and genius quickly carried him beyond the limits thus assigned, and, although in theory he ever remained loyal to his early faith, in practice he was more revolutionary than most of his predecessors and contemporaries, and soon created a style which was essentially his own.

Some fragmentary opinions which Byron jotted down as they occurred to him at this time, although wholly without method or connection, may be found interesting if inserted here.

In Ruffhead’s ‘Life of Pope,’ a book bearing the autograph inscription ‘Byron—Cambridge, A.D., 1808,’
which afterwards passed into
Hodgson’s possession, there are a few short pointed notes in Byron’s handwriting, the first of which, written hastily on a fly-leaf at the beginning, are evidently intended as criticisms, not less general than concise, of Pope’s style and character as a poet. They are as follows:—

Of Pope’s pithy conciseness of style Swift—no diffuse writer himself—has so emphatically said—
For Pope can in one couplet fix
More sense than I can do in six.

Imitators of Horace and Juvenal were Boileau and Pope—of one as well as of the other of whom it may be said—
Meme en imitant toujours original.

At the commencement of the biography Pope’s personal characteristics are summarily disposed of by a short quotation scrawled in the margin.

Mr. Rawlinson of Sarsden House was a friend and correspondent of Pope. Mr. R. said that Pope was a troublesome friend and an implacable enemy—who sometimes forgot favours, but never forgave injuries.

Again, as a foot-note to the preface, and à propos
of nothing in the text of the biography,
Byron writes:—

Pope’s Nymph of the Grot bears so striking a resemblance to the delicacy of thought expressed in the following lines that one is almost tempted to suspect him of plagiarism.
Ad imaginem Nymphæ dormientis.
Hujus nympha loci, sacri custodia fontis,
Dormio—dum blandæ sentio murmur aquas;
Parce meum, quisquis tangis cava marmora, Somnum
Rumpere, sive bibas sive lavere, tace.

This was formerly in the Villa Julia at Rome, and is copied from the ‘Variorum in Europâ itinerum deliciæ,’ edit. secund., 1599, by Nathan Chytiæus; the book is very scarce.

On Mr. Ruffhead’s favourable criticisms of the ‘Rape of the LockByron succinctly remarks:—

In the ‘Rape of the LockPope was indebted for his idea of the machinery to the ‘Comte de Gabalis’ of the Abbé Villars, and for the account of their various employments to Shakspeare’sTempest,’ and ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ The description of the ‘game of ombre’ is imitated from the ‘Scacchia’ of Victor. In other parts of the poem he has
introduced frequent parodies of
Homer, Virgil, and Milton. He has also judiciously employed the celebrated fiction of Ariosto—that all things lost on earth are treasured in the moon. In this receptacle of the lunar sphere, says Ariosto, are to be found
Le lachrime, e i sospiri de gli amanti, &c. &c.
Orlando Furioso, canto 34.

Further on in the biography Mr. Ruffhead writes:—

Our author having, by his translation of Homer and other works, placed himself in circumstances of affluence, he was now at liberty to follow the true bent of his genius. The independence of his fortune did not make him negligent of his fame, nor unmindful in the duty which he owed to society, in the application of those talents which nature had so bountifully bestowed upon him. His natural benevolence suggested to him that he could not better serve the interest of society, than, as himself expresses it, by writing a book to bring mankind to look upon this life with comfort and pleasure, and put morality in good humour.

In this passage Byron underlines the word mankind, and writes in the margin, ‘A malignant race
with Christianity in their mouths and Molochism in their hearts.’ An early evidence this of that gloomy misanthropy into which the ‘poet of pain,’ as he has been called, loved to chafe his troubled spirit, but which was as alien from the daily practice of his life as it was from his true nature.

But there was another subject of discussion which was still more interesting to the friends, and which excited greater differences of opinion. Byron’s acquaintance with Charles Skinner Matthews, a young man of consummate ability and of brilliant promise, whose sentiments on religious subjects were avowedly sceptical, had, in the previous year, ripened into intimacy, and had, doubtless, assisted considerably in confirming those doubts and difficulties respecting revealed religion which Byron entertained, and of which the seeds had been sown in early boyhood by the rigid doctrines of Calvinism. These doctrines had been instilled into his infant mind with uncompromising firmness, and as soon as his reasoning powers had full scope for their future development they revolted from the tyranny under which they had previously been held in check, and rejected as illogical so narrow-minded and bigoted a system. That the reaction had set in some years before is proved by the religious poems contained in the boyish
publication entitled ‘
Hours of Idleness.’ In the ‘Prayer of Nature,’ which breathes throughout a spirit of deep devotion to the Deity, all systems are equally repudiated. Temples cannot confine the Omnipotent within their precincts, therefore they demand no especial reverence; to no one sect or religious body are His mercies and His promises confined; it is therefore immaterial to which men belong. From such a vague denial of the responsibilities of revealed religion, the step to an actual rejection of such religion was not a long one. And in the case of Byron the progress in the direction of absolute disbelief was considerably accelerated by the fascinating friendship of that clever and witty companion to whom we have referred, and who made no secret of his profession of atheism.

Hodgson, as we have seen, had recently renewed his interest in the study of metaphysics; but so sound had been the religious training of his youth, so deep and sincere was his natural piety, that he was neither at this time nor at any other period of his life in any danger of making shipwreck of the faith. Not that his eyes were ever closed to the manifold difficulties which beset the most perfect creed of an imperfect race. But being fully persuaded in his own mind of the validity of the main and vital truths of revealed
religion, no vain imaginings, no shallow scepticisms or fascinating fallacies of knowledge, falsely so called, could shake his firm and unwavering faith in the authenticity of Bible doctrine; and with all the earnestness of long-cherished conviction he strove to bring back his young companion’s wandering footsteps into the paths of everlasting peace.

How different might have been the short sad story of Byron’s life if only the wise and affectionate counsel of his friend had received the attention and consideration which it deserved! That it had more weight than its recipient cared to admit is proved by the tone of some letters on religion which were written in 1811 in answer to Hodgson’s arguments in conversation and correspondence. Underneath the reckless statements which these letters contain there runs a current of deep religious conviction, and belief in the goodness and mercy of God, which at several subsequent periods came to the surface in acts of really Christian forbearance and charity, and which, towards the end of his life, found a vent in constant perusal of the Scriptures and, at the last, in submissive acquiescence in the Divine Will.

That Byron was his own worst enemy has often been noticed by his biographers. His extraordinary love of a bad reputation, of exhibiting himself in the
most unfavourable aspect, amounted almost to insanity, and was in nothing more conspicuous than in his determination to represent his religious opinions as far more sceptical than they really were. Many of his friends, and in particular
Hodgson and Scrope Berdmore Davies, a fellow of King’s at this time and mutual friend of Byron and Hodgson, used constantly to make fun of this idiosyncrasy. Byron, when absorbed in thought and indulging in reckless speculations, used often, as he expressed it, to suffer from ‘a confusion of ideas,’ and would sometimes exclaim in his most melodramatic manner, ‘I shall go mad.’ Scrope Davies, a true friend, and a charming vivacious companion, who had a quaint dry manner of speaking and an irresistible stammer, used quietly to remark in answer, ‘Much more like silliness than madness.’

In the autumn of 1808, Byron having partially repaired Newstead, was anxious to assemble his friends around him with as little delay as possible. With this intent he wrote many pressing invitations to Hodgson, which do not appear to have been accepted until some months later. In the meantime several letters passed between them, the first which remains from Byron being dated Newstead Abbey, Nov. 3, 1808.


My dear Hodgson,—I expected to have heard ere this the event of your interview with the mysterious Mr. Hayne, my volunteer correspondent; however, as I had no business to trouble you with the adjustment of my concerns with that illustrious stranger, I have no right to complain of your silence. Hobhouse and your humble are still here. Hobhouse hunts, &c., and I do nothing. We dined the other day with a neighbouring esquire (not Collet of Staines), and regretted your absence, as the banquet of Staines was scarcely to be compared to our last ‘feast of Reason.’ You know laughing is the sign of a rational animal, so says Dr. Smollett; I think so too, but unluckily my spirits don’t always keep pace with my opinions. I had not so much scope for risibility the other day as I could have wished, for I was seated near a woman, to whom, when a boy, I was as much attached as boys generally are, and more than a man should be. I knew this before I went, and was determined to be valiant, and converse with sang froid, but, instead, I forgot my valour and my nonchalance, and never opened my lips even to laugh, far less to speak, and the lady was almost as absurd as myself, which made both the objects of more observation than if we had conducted our-
selves with easy indifference. You will think all this great nonsense; if you had seen it you would have thought it still more ridiculous.

I have tried for Gifford’s Epistle to Pindar, and the bookseller says the copies were cut up for waste paper: if you can procure me a copy I shall be much obliged. Adieu!

Believe me yours ever sincerely,

It was about the middle of this month that the faithful favourite ‘Boatswain’ died, a dog whose name is almost as famous as his master’s. This sad event was at once announced to Hodgson in a characteristically tragic letter, of which Moore quotes the most important sentence.

Boatswain is dead! he expired in a state of madness on the 18th, after suffering much, yet retaining all the gentleness of his nature to the last, never attempting to do the least injury to anyone near him. I have now lost everything except old Murray.

The next letter begins in the same melancholy strain.

Newstead Abbey, Notts: Nov. 27, 1808.

My dear Sir,—Boatswain is to be buried in a vault waiting for myself. I have also written an epitaph, which I would send, were it not for two reasons: one is, that it is too long for a letter; and the other, that I hope you will some day read it on the spot where it will be engraved.

You discomfit me with the intelligence of the real orthodoxy of the ‘Arch-fiend’s’ name, but alas! it must stand with me at present; if ever I have an opportunity of correcting, I shall liken him to Geoffrey of Monmouth, a noted liar in his way, and perhaps a more correct prototype than the Carnifex of James II.

I do not think the composition of your poem ‘a sufficing reason’ for not keeping your promise of a Christmas visit. Why not come? I will never disturb you in your moments of inspiration; and if you wish to collect any materials for the scenery, Hardwicke (where Mary was confined for several years) is not eight miles distant, and, independent of the interest you must take in it as her vindicator,1 is a most beautiful and venerable object of curiosity. I shall take it very ill if you do not come;

1 Hodgson was writing a poem at this time on Mary Queen of Scots.

my mansion is improving in comfort, and, when you require solitude, I shall have an apartment devoted to the purpose of receiving your poetical reveries.

I have heard from our Drury; he says little of the Row, which I regret: indeed I would have sacrificed much to have contributed in any way (as a schoolboy) to its consummation; but Butler survives, and thirteen boys have been expelled in vain. Davies is not here, but Hobhouse hunts as usual, and your humble servant ‘drags at each remove a lengthened chain.’ I have heard from his Grace of Portland on the subject of my expedition: he talks of difficulties; by the gods! if he throws any in my way I will next session ring such a peal in his ears,
That he shall wish the fiery Dane
Had rather been his guest again.

You do not tell me if Gifford is really my commentator: it is too good to be true, for I know nothing would gratify my vanity so much as the reality; even the idea is too precious to part with.

I still expect you here; let me have no more excuses. Hobhouse desires his best remembrance. We are now lingering over our evening potations.
I have extended my letter further than I ought, and beg you will excuse it; on the opposite page I send you some stanzas I wrote off on being questioned by a former flame as to my motives for quitting this country. You are the first reader. Hobhouse hates everything of the kind, therefore I do not show them to him. Adieu!

Believe me yours very sincerely,

Moore gives extracts from other letters written about the same time as the preceding. In one of his answers Hodgson had remarked, jestingly, that some of the verses in ‘Hours of Idleness’ were calculated to make schoolboys rebellious. This suggested a comparison with Tyrtæus, and an allusion to that lameness of which the sensitive poet so often spoke with a sort of good-humoured sarcasm.

If my songs have produced the glorious effects you mention, I shall be a complete Tyrtæus; though I am sorry to say that I resemble that interesting harper more in his person than in his poesy.

Hodgson remembered an occasion, also mentioned by Moore, when, in a large and mixed company, a vulgar person asked Byron aloud, ‘Pray, my Lord,
how is that foot of yours?’ ‘Thank you, Sir,’ answered Lord Byron, with the utmost mildness, ‘much the same as usual.’

The next letter is written in so light and playful a strain, and is such a remarkable contrast to the melancholy style of those which precede it, that the fragmentary form in which it appears in Moore’s Life can only be accounted for by supposing that some of its allusions were considered likely to wound living sensibilities. However this may have been, there can be no possible reason for suppressing any of it, after the lapse of nearly seventy years.

Newstead Abbey, Notts: Dec. 17, 1808.

My dear Hodgson,—I have just received your letter, and one from B. Drury, which I would send, were it not too bulky to despatch within a sheet of paper; but I must impart the contents and consign the answer to your care. In the first place, I cannot address the answer to him, because the epistle is without date or direction; and in the next, the contents are so singular that I can scarce believe my optics, ‘which are made the fools of the other senses, or else worth all the rest.’

A few weeks ago, I wrote to our friend Harry Drury of facetious memory, to request he would
prevail on his brother at Eton to receive the son of a citizen of London well known unto me as a pupil; the family having been particularly polite during the short time I was with them, induced me to this application. ‘Now mark what follows,’ as somebody or
Southey sublimely saith: on this day, the 17th December, arrives an epistle signed B. Drury, containing, not the smallest reference to tuition or intuition, but a petition for Robert Gregson, of pugilistic notoriety, now in bondage for certain paltry pounds sterling, and liable to take up his everlasting abode in Banco Regis. Had this letter been from any of my lay acquaintance, or, in short, from any person but the gentleman whose signature it bears, I should have marvelled not. If Drury is serious I congratulate pugilism on the acquisition of such a patron, and shall be happy to advance any sum necessary for the liberation of the captive Gregson; but I certainly hope to be certified from you or some reputable housekeeper of the fact, before I write to Drury on the subject. When I say the fact I mean of the letter being written by Drury, not having any doubt as to the authenticity of the statement. The letter is now before me, and I keep it for your perusal. When I hear from you I shall address my answer to him, under your
care; for as it is now the vacation at Eton, and the letter is without time or place, I cannot venture to consign my sentiments on so momentous a concern to chance.

To you, my dear Hodgson, I have not much to say. If you can make it convenient or pleasant to trust yourself here, be assured it will be both to me.

Before this year (1808) came to an end Hodgson went to Newstead; but there is no record of this first visit, except a copy, which he took at the time when they were composed, of the celebrated lines inscribed by Byron on the cup formed from a skull, together with a rough sketch of the cup itself.

Early in the following year we find Hodgson in correspondence with Gifford on literary subjects, and actively engaged in writing for Reviews. On April 25, 1809, Gifford writes from James Street:—

My dear Sir,—Business and illness have conspired to prevent me from noticing your obliging note before. I have just been with Murray, and discovered that your conjecture is well founded. I therefore, with great pleasure, entrust the ‘Four Slaves1 to your

1 The ‘Four Slaves of Cythera,’ by the Rev. Robert Bland, editor of the celebrated ‘Anthology,’ and author of ‘Edwy and Elgiva,’ and other poems.

care. . . . I have read the poem with great satisfaction. Is the plan of it original, or formed on some legend? It is wild enough for an Arabian tale, but probability is not of much moment. There are many beautiful flights of genuine poetry of the good old English stamp. The light parts are very pleasant, but a passage here and there is too familiar. There are, besides, a few ungrammatical terms; things not improper to be noticed, especially when the general merit is so great. I hope that
Mr. Bland is by this time recovered. I puzzled him sorely the other day by sending him a letter destined for a grave divine; but it may be some consolation to him to know that I puzzled the said divine still more.

The translation of Hesiod, if you have leisure and inclination, is very much at your service. I have just looked into it. The poetry, I suppose, is well enough for the subject, which is neither very amusing nor very interesting. The notes are stuffed out with corrections of Cooke; about as wise a process, as if we had employed ourselves in the correction of Rhodes. There is also a vast deal taken from Jacob Bryant’sMythology,’ which, I thought, no one at present ever looked at without
a smile. The
Doctor1 is much pleased with your approbation of his book; it cost him much pains—whether they might have been better bestowed, this deponent sayeth not; but he has pleased the Westminsters. Autant de gagné!

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

P.S. You are right. I have no northern coadjutor but Scott;2 at least, at present.

From the same to the same.
James Street, Buckingham Gate: June 3, 1809.

My dear Sir,—I have been so busy in forwarding our 2nd No.3 that I have not been able to look to the right hand or the left. It is now out, and I am running away for a short time to the seaside to refresh my eyes and do nothing. I do not wonder that some objectionable passages are found in the first No. I see too many myself, but the allusion to the holy-water of the Mexican converts is an historical fact. But, in truth, there is vast room for

1 Dean Ireland. 2 Sir Walter.

3 The allusions to a Review in these two letters refer to the Quarterly, which had only just come into existence under Gifford’s auspices, and to the early numbers of which Hodgson contributed.

improvement; and for this I am very anxious. Such articles as appear in some of the smaller reviews might be got by loads, but we aim at, or at least wish for, something better. That we shall succeed is, indeed, problematical; but without it, it is quite certain that we might as well sit with our hands before us, and do nothing. It is not by common exertions that the ‘
Edinburgh Review’ can be met, and the others are not objects of contention. To write panegyrics and. satires is easy enough; but this is not criticism: and I have already been obliged to omit more than I have inserted. From you, my dear Sir, I look for valuable assistance: for this, it will be necessary to put friendship out of the question, and to judge from established principles of the art. What has sunk the British critic but a base dereliction of all independence? I know little of the other Reviews, but I suspect they do not flourish greatly—and from the same cause.

Lord Byron’s poem1 sales well I understand. I have an angry review of it, which I shall not use; for though it is well written, it is manifestly unjust. Unless works can be made to amuse or instruct the reader, it is loss of time to dwell long on them or

1English Bards.’

indeed to dwell on them at all. ‘
Hesiod,’ which is gone to your cousin,1 may afford a neat article, but seems scarcely worth a long one. However, you will judge. I think, indeed, that almost all our articles are too long.

If success be a proof of merit (which it certainly is not) we might be vain; for our second number is nearly out of print in the first three days. Yet we must look forward to something better.

Ever, my dear, Sir,
Your very faithful friend and servant,
Wm. Gifford.

P.S. I leave town this morning for Ryde, in the Isle of Wight, where I shall remain for about six weeks, and where, as well as in every other place, I shall be glad to hear from you.

In the autumn of this year (1809) the public oratorship at Cambridge fell vacant, and Hodgson unsuccessfully contested it. His residence at Cambridge had hardly been long enough to entitle him to success, and Mr. Tatham, of St. John’s, the successful candidate, had anticipated him in obtaining the votes of the most influential members of the Senate. Nevertheless, that Hodgson’s claims were fully recognised

1 John Hodgson. Esq., a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn.

is proved by the complimentary letters which he received from many men of eminent distinction.
Sir Vicary Gibbs, then Attorney-General, who had defeated Lord Palmerston in the preceding year in the representation of Cambridge, considered him eminently qualified for the office; Lord Palmerston himself wrote very courteously regretting that he had already promised to support Mr. Tatham, a member of his own college; Lords Euston, Clarendon, and Althorp, and H.R.H. The Duke of Gloucester wrote in a similar strain.

After this disappointment Hodgson again turned his thoughts to private tuition as an employment for his vacations. The following letter from Dr. Goodall, then head-master of Eton, is in answer to an application on this subject, and is written with the easy elegance which characterised that most dilettante of Dominies, who probably had slight suspicion that the young man whom he now addressed with such condescending kindliness, was destined to be his next successor in that provostship of Eton to which he himself was shortly to succeed.

Upper School, ex Cathedra: Nov. 14, 1809.

My dear Sir,—While half a hundred unwilling poets are labouring with all their might to draw off the
spirit of the 32nd chapter of Deuteronomy, which they will most of them do very effectually in one sense at least, I have full leisure to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, and to say that I have little doubt of having occasional opportunities of assisting your views, which I shall most gladly embrace, but must consider the parents of the boys who may be fortunate enough to be your pupils as the persons obliged. I have unwittingly transferred the description of my own live stock to the sons of Alma Mater: I should certainly have said the young men. Would that I could have added my congratulations! I am induced to think that only a nomination1 was wanting.

Many thanks for your kind greetings. My Brethren must fully share with me whatever praise accrues from the present order of things at Eton. Believe me to be with the truest regard,

My dear Sir,
Yours ever most faithfully,
J. Goodall.

Considering the state of stagnation then prevailing at Eton Dr. Goodall’s compliment to his colleagues must be regarded as of doubtful value.

1 This, of course, refers to the public oratorship.


Among Hodgson’s letters relating to this period there is one addressed to his father by an old friend, dated December 29, 1809, part of which is not without interest as throwing the light of contemporary opinion upon the state of public feeling on the war and its great instigator Bonaparte:—

I hope that this mild winter has been propitious to your health, as well as Mrs. Hodgson’s. In this part of the world we have hitherto had nothing that deserves the name of winter. I wish I could say that the political season was as mild as the natural; this, however, is by no means the case; the political almanack makers prognosticate great changes: I fear that some of the Cabinet will fall victims to the Walcheren typhus; but I am not yet convinced that it will kill the whole Cabinet: I presume there must be an inquiry, and perhaps the result of it may prove that our commanders adopted the most prudent, though not the most glorious, line of conduct. All sorts of changes are of course rumoured, but my opinion is that the Government will meet the question fairly. There is one difficulty, however (I think the principal one), which will unavoidably embarrass any administration, even a new one: the war has spun out into great length, and the expenses of it bear heavily on most
I had flattered myself that somehow or other matters would have jumbled into something like peace, but in this expectation I have indeed been disappointed. Bonaparte seems, however, disposed to enter on a more peaceable career, and, after having so long been the universal destroyer of mankind, to endeavour to make amends for the ravages of his sword by a life of matrimonial usefulness. Of course he is to do great things in thirty years, but I sincerely trust that, at any rate, he may be disappointed in his wishes to preserve the crown of France to the Corsican Dynasty, and that if he ever should have a son, it may be taken from him as he took away the unfortunate Duke d’Enghien. The sister of the Emperor of Russia, who has already refused him twice, is again the object of his choice.

In May of this year Byron invited his most intimate friends to Newstead for a last visit before his departure from England, of which visit Charles Skinner Matthews has given a graphic account; and in June he addressed a farewell letter to Hodgson from Falmouth with a spirited copy of verses quoted by Moore, some of which, however, might have been well omitted, as the vivacity and verve with which they are written hardly compensate for their coarse-
ness. This remark applies equally to several passages in letters which were carefully marked for omission by Hodgson, before being forwarded to Moore, who had previously promised scrupulously to regard Hodgson’s wishes in this matter, but who could not resist the temptation to insert everything which would, in his opinion, directly or indirectly contribute to the success of his work. It will be perceived that such a proceeding was equally unfair to the writer and to the recipient of these letters. Byron was very young, only twenty-one, when they were written, and was full of animal life and spirits. His innate love of mischief, of shocking people’s prejudices, and of representing himself as far more reckless and irreligious than he really was, doubtless contributed to suggest sentiments and modes of expression which his better judgment would have condemned, and which no one more deeply deplored than the person to whom they were addressed.

For the two years of Byron’s first absence from England he corresponded constantly with Hodgson; and some of this correspondence, hitherto unpublished, but full of interest, will be found in the following pages.

At the beginning of the present chapter reference was made to John Lonsdale, as being a contemporary
Byron’s at Cambridge, and as sharing with him Hodgson’s friendship at that time. How sincere that friendship was is attested by the following lines, written by Hodgson at night in the stage coach, on his way to the Bury election. Lonsdale, in his youth, wrote poetry, but had the generosity and good sense to admire and appreciate at its proper value the genius of his brilliant companion.

Multa fides Plectri Sociis, et cara Sorori
Multa Venus.
Let warlike chiefs with envious eye
Behold a brother’s fame;
Let close-leagued statesmen fairly vie
To win the noblest name.
But, Lonsdale! let not gentler minds
Renounce their native pride,
That chain of love which firmly binds
Our rival to our side.
Oh, thou hast loved the high-soul’d youth,
Whose song transcended thine,
Nor heaved one sigh, to wrong the Truth
That praised his glowing line.
Thy heart has beat, when friends around
Rehearsed his rapturous lays,
True echoes to the noble sound
That spoke thy rival’s praise.
Thus oft on David’s heav’nly lyre
Hung Saul’s enchanted son;
Thus kindled, as the thrilling wire
Their tuneful contest won.
Thus oft in Ovid’s wondering ear
Propertius’ music flow’d;
Thus o’er Tibullus’ youthful bier
Their mutual pity glow’d.
Thus Horace raised his Virgil’s fame;
Thus, different far in mind,
Far humbler bards, in heart the same,
Still love the tuneful kind.
The Muse with a magnetic force
Attracts her genuine sons,
And each upon his crowded course
With blameless ardour runs.
I dream not of the vulgar crew
Who damn’d to deathless fame,
Their native dirt on Dryden threw,
Or envied Pope his name.
Dumb scorn be theirs! The faintest ray
That Virtue darts within
Drives Envy’s gathering clouds away,
And banishes the sin.
How to his Gray’s exalted height
Did conscious Mason bend,
And, buried in that blaze of light,
Still feel the bard his friend.
Yes, Lonsdale, yes, the friendly glow
Is sweeter far than fame;
Not only tuneful breasts below
That generous feeling claim:
Oft have I seen the beauteous maid
Admire a sister’s grace,
And mark well-pleased the homage paid
To her triumphant face.
And thus, methought, in realms above
Rejoicing saints may see
Some tribute of angelic love
To brighter purity.
Such thoughts be thine, my manly friend!
Reject unworthy fear:
Some generous rival shall attend,
And urge thy own career.
But haste to Life! no glorious scope
Can in these walls be found; *
The grave of disappointed Hope
Ambition’s early bound.
Here Indolence with baneful frost
Shall nip the vernal bloom;
Here Shame shall mourn o’er glory lost,
And Vice await its doom.
Haste, haste to Life! Thy heart be zeal,
Discretion be thy tongue;
Grow old in honour quick, but feel
In friendship ever young.

Dear Lonsdale,—The jolting of the Bury coach must palliate the roughness of the above. Think of what I say. But do not only think—act! act!
Dum res, et astas, et Sororum
Fila trium patiuntur atra.

If I am not at home (but I intend to be so at present) by 9 o’clock to-morrow night, say there will be no lectures on Tuesday.

F. H.

1 King’s College.