LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoir of Francis Hodgson
Robert Bland to John Herman Merivale, 6 June 1810

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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Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
Amsterdam: June 6, 1810.

Any other man, my dear Merivale, but myself would have been in England many weeks ago. No passport has arrived from Paris, and friends by the dozen are lost in wonder that I should wish to trust myself in the heart of our enemies when I can so easily return to my own country. . . . I have a natural antipathy to Trade—to what is trading, has been trading, or shall or will be trading. And so, having said that the country of Batavia—
Hollow-land, Holland—is a land very extraordinary—that to see a people give birth to their country, instead of a country giving birth to the people, is very odd and very creditable to the above people—that the cities of Amsterdam, Hague, Rotterdam, with many others, are the most this, that, and t’other—that their inhabitants are respectable fair-dealing men, etc.—most gladly would I bid them adieu for ever, go to some bastardly spot of Provence, and vintage-think at my ease among these modern Babylonians—for such, no doubt, the whole French nation are—look at Faber else, and the Prophecies which are literally fulfilling before our faces. This being the case, as it really is, I shall follow the advice of a French gentleman, who has been my friend in everything, and through whom I have refrained from trusting myself as far as Brussels without my viaticum—by remaining here about ten days longer, in the almost certainty of getting my passport; or, should it fail, with the resolution to return among you—a resolution not of my dictation, but that of necessity.

You have often scoffed and jeered and otherwise maltreated me for my love of harmony—witness that celestial poem, the ‘Four Slaves’ which I hold to be pure music; that is, English
music. Well, sir, this unfortunate love, with a predilection for everything sunny and sweet, has prevented me from learning one word of German; so that, although one half of the superior commonalty here are Germans, I have not even had the curiosity to go once to their theatre.

. . . . The Germans are, doubtless, personally speaking, what the French call faits à peindre. Their regiments are really beautiful, and the young men of that nation, who are to be found everywhere, are of an exterior superior to any I have ever seen. They are generally accomplished in some two or three living languages, which they speak equally well with the natives. They are all musicians—they ride with a grace and agility which surprises—they are travellers—liberal in the highest degree; but are cursed with a jargon which, when they speak it, does away with all their excellencies. They are extremely loquacious and lively. How comes it that the French, who literally take no pains with themselves, are so completely their superiors? Sense, my friend; plain, natural, common understanding, unfettered by schools and metaphysical jargon, and the balderdash of Gottingen and other places, where such severe trials are made on weak human brains. The
next superiority is that honest and lively prepossession for their country which the former are too liberal to entertain. A German with whom I am here very intimate has been coaxing me to learn the language, under the promise of surprisingly beautiful thoughts in their poetry. May be so; they resemble a surprisingly beautiful female clad in bear-skin. Besides having made a vow to read nothing but what is new, I have, in consequence, determined to read no poetry but my own. Now this is but natural; and then, to say the truth, I hate poetry (always excepting my own) to such a point that I shall manage to take a course of French literature without the nausea of
Corneille and Racine. No: little Historical pieces, with which they abound; Memoirs, in which they excel all other nations for two reasons: first, because the life of a French child is more chequered with oddities than that of an English adventurer; and secondly, because what is wanted to make Truth interesting is supplied to the life from a quarter opposite to Truth. These reasons, I say, make their biography delicious.

Do not talk about translations for the stage. I write no more, except in my own calling as a clergyman; and, when I return, my whole aim will
be to gain something like an establishment in the Church. My appointment here has done for me great and unexpected things. The sinecure of £100 per annum,
Merivale, is great for a Bland, or the son of a Bland. Besides, I have once been taken by the hand by Mr. Henry Hope, and led by him to a Bishop. Now had I taken Mr. H. H., or the said Bishop, by the hand and done him some service, I should have nothing to expect from them, because, as Sterne says, we get on in the world by receiving, not by doing, favours. You plant a tree, and, because you planted it, you water it. Thus, you see, I live in the frequent hope of being watered by a Bishop and by the greatest merchant in the world. In short, I shall state to the Bishop that a chapel in London (the word ‘chapel’ read in any sense you will) would be highly acceptable; that I am utterly disengaged; that I have all the wills in the world, and can get a character from my last place. Thus, between ourselves, Merry, I shall not be again the outcast that I have been. No; no more writing. Our ‘Anthology,’ our dear ‘Anthology,’ shall receive our united efforts. If you apply to William Harness (Berkeley Street) you may get dozens of my new pieces; Yatman has one or two; Mrs.
Burnley has a great number; my sister a few;
Denman (to whom I wrote two months ago a very long letter) a few; Dr. Drury (to whom I wrote an almost endless letter) has one or two. Have you read my ‘Origin of Snoring’? No, no more reviewing for me, my friend. In short, no more scribbling of any kind except in the way of a clergyman, and conjointly with you a finish to the ‘Anthology,’ and by myself a thorough revisal of my last romance, and the lopping the buffooneries as much as possible, expunging harsh words, and substituting softer sounds, cutting off the accursed s from every word when it is possible without great damage to the sense; nay, getting rid of it at all events, and writing a long and learned preface on tale-writing. No; on no consideration will I write or translate. The drama is detestable, and, after the French company, I shall despise our stage more and more. No, they can do nothing. The French are born actors. Who said that Farce is unknown to the French? I beg leave to state that from genteel comedy (which, with us, meant that jackdaw, old Palmer, by way of gentleman, and that rushlight, Miss Farren, by way of a lady), that from genteel comedy in all its shades to the broadest farce, I can institute not a moment’s
comparison between the best of our actors and the second best of theirs. Name me one single woman who enjoys the combined advantages of youth, beauty, exact proportions, grace, a sweet voice, various expression, naïveté, and aptness of falling into her several characters, on the whole English stage. Name me one single man (except
Dowton) who can make you laugh without an effort either at grimacing with his voice or his face. What was that pompous, strutting, motherly woman, Mrs. Siddons, out of Lady Macbeth? Was she not always Lady Macbeth? Mrs. Jordan was a model of English elocution. Barring her singing (which, to my ear, was execrable), the organs of her voice were formerly the purest I ever heard, and, were she now young, I should consider her as the perfection of English utterance. Her acting should be my school so far as regarded sound. But, then, how totally deficient in grace, in all sovereign grace! True, she acted the country-girl—and so does Mdlle. d’Angeville at this place. Mercy! what a difference between the Hoyden rusticity of the one and the Air de Paysanne of the other! In everything the stage should present ornament. A drunken man may stagger, but grace should accompany him, even to the last
extremity. The rags of a beggar should not be revolting. A deshabille—an everything—should be raised in its value, and is raised by the French to consequence by a certain style and tournure, of which our actors and their chubby dumplings of spouses are wholly unconscious. The French possess another advantage—in face. Persons who accidentally see a poor set of old abbés living in contempt and exile in the alleys of London, fancy them to be representatives of the French. You have, in London, no conception of youth, when attached to the word ‘French.’ On the Continent they are now in high feather—well-dressed, with good linen, and respected in every place. The impressions here are, therefore, diametrically opposite to those in London. Their face and figure are completely theatrical, and adapt themselves with ease to their several parts.