LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoir of Francis Hodgson
Chapter XII. 1812-13.

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 digression in the last chapter seemed to be justified, if not demanded, by the intimacy which long existed between Bland and Hodgson, and by the similarity of their literary tastes. It is now time to resume the thread of correspondence with other friends. The first of the following letters quaintly describes the exhibition of the predecessor of the great Madame Tussaud; the next (in verse), vividly depicts a public school examination at the commencement of the present century; the third has reference to a matter of national interest, the assassination of the Prime Minister in the House of Commons.

To Mr. Henry Drury.

My dear Harry,—You have doubtless greatly enjoyed your Devonshire visit, notwithstanding your seclusion and most natural dislike to reviewing. I feel the latter dislike as much as you can, but, as to retirement, I confess a few friends and a cottage would be my summum bonum, could I command such blessings in the environs of London. It is not solitude, but knowing that you cannot have society, which is unpleasant. I will deliver your message about a Fen Scheme to Hart when I return to King’s. Lonsdale is there at present, in very ill-health. . . . I write this from London, where I have come to meet my sister 1 from Kensington. I have been rambling about with her all the morning to see sights. Miss Linwood’s worsted pictures, in which I think she has worsted all our painters, if you canvass her merits ever so severely. Bullock’s Museum, a farrago of birds, beasts, snakes, shells, and butterflies; and Mrs. Salmon’s original and royal waxworks, where, in addition to the old curiosities (which I have not seen these twenty years, but well remember) there is the

1 Afterwards married to her cousin the Rev. Geo. Coke, of Lemore, in Herefordshire.

Duchess of Brunswick, lying in state in a room lighted with wax tapers, with two waxen bishops at her head, a waxen Princess of Wales weeping over her, a wax waiting-woman, and a wax emblem of Peace, strewing flowers at her feet. Two wax mutes stand at the door of the chamber. Perhaps you have forgotten the room upstairs. Werter and Charlotte and the pistol were being cleaned; so was Buonaparte, and the lady who bled to death from pricking her finger while working on a Sunday; these interesting groups, therefore, were lost to us. But we saw Alexander, and the Queen of Darius and her waiting-maid, and the nurse on her knees begging the life of the prince, a fine chubby child, beside her; Alexander looks about sixty years of age, but perhaps he has grown old apace since I last saw him; and Antony and Cleopatra certainly have lost some of their youthful charms. But Mrs. Siddons’s sister still begs as piteously as in life; and Mother Shipton (saving her leg, which is out of joint, and has ceased kicking) is as attractive as ever. Henderson in Macbeth must have been very grand. I took him at first for the beefeater that used to stand at the door. But, as Mr. Puff has it, ‘I would not have you too sure he is a beefeater.’ The lady abbess and her nuns, who
slit their noses and lips to disgust the marauding Danes, and so preserve their virgin vows, are in full perfection, only I observed that neither their noses nor lips were slit; and the Lady Margaret of Holland is lying in bed as usual, just having produced her 365th child, according to the prayer of the beggar-woman whom her ladyship offended. The nun, the priest, the waiting-woman, all wax sorrowful at her side. But perhaps you will say I am cereus in vitium, and so farewell for the present, and

Believe me, my dear Harry,
Ever yours affectionately,
Francis Hodgson.
To Mrs. Coke.
To Rugby, dear aunt, I set out to go down,
At five on the evening of Friday from Town;
From the Swan-with-two-Necks in Lad Lane I set out,
And a numerous party within and without.
I roof’d it myself, and it rain’d very hard,
But I laugh’d through the night at the jokes of the guard.
On my life, of all wits the completest and best
Is the guard of that coach for original jest;
For free illustration of easy remark,
And all that enlivens a drive in the dark.
By six in the morning to Dunchurch we came,
To the sign of ‘The Cow’ with the terrible name;
Here I hasten’d to bed, and slept soundly till four,
Seven hours of good rest, or perchance somewhat more.
Like the lark, or the nightingale rather, I rose,
And put on my best suit of examining clothes.
In my chariot and pair to the Doctor’s I rode,
And was kindly received at his courteous abode.
That my story’s detail may be thoroughly full,
I must tell you the name of the Doctor is Wooll.1
Mrs. Wooll and her sister, the Doctor and I,—
But to business of greater importance I fly.
Our sermon on Sunday from good Mr. Heath
Might have come from the lips of the Bishop of Meath;
But I thought it a custom exceedingly queer
That the boys in the church should cry out ‘We are here.’
For the muster-roll’s called, and I fancied, for one,
That it better had anywhere else have been done.
And the organ, though rightly to fiddles preferr’d,
Was the loudest and harshest I ever had heard.
But this I pass over—for, eager to praise,
I banish all satire and spleen from my lays.
Doctor Wooll and myself were in close tête-à-tête
How the Oxford Examiner could be so late,
When he came in his gig, just in time to prevent
My taking both places with perfect content.
On Monday at nine our proceedings began
(Mr. H., like myself, is a grave sort of man),

1 Dr. Wooll, a pedagogue of diminutive stature and pompous presence, was once showing an old gentleman over the school buildings, when he came upon the room where his pupils underwent the extreme penalty of the law. ‘This,’ exclaimed the doctor with great magnificence, ‘is my flogging-room.’ ‘Oh,’ replied the irreverent senior, ‘then I suppose that here there must be great cry and little Wooll.’

And till four the poor boys, with but small intermission,
Were compell’d to write verses with speed and precision.
On Tuesday again all the morning we sate,
Trustees and examiners deep in debate;
The latter in gowns, like inquisitors drest,
In boots and in riding apparel the rest.
The boys answer’d well every question we put,
Till their books and our own with like pleasure were shut.
Then we feasted on venison and capital fare,
Lord Ailsford, our president, sate in the chair,
And many of equal distinction were there.
(Lord Craven, for some proper cause, kept away),
Lord Wentworth, Grimes, Digby, and Holbeach, Esquires,
The last, Mr. Trevor’s old friend, and my sire’s;
Dr. Berkeley, and others—a company staunch
As ever sate down to a pasty and haunch.
For myself I was glad that our business was done,
And some moments allowed to good humour and fun;
But still better pleased, that the boys, by their knowledge,
Had three of them gained exhibitions at college;
And beginning their race with some marks of renown,
Might perchance to the goal with like honour go down.
From Mr. Merivale.

My dear Hodgson,—Thank you for being the first to break the inhuman silence of which you so justly complain. Ever since you wrote, I have been very uncomfortable at home in consequence of another illness of my wife. With this, and a good deal of
business at chambers, I have had as little time as spirits to write, though, on Tuesday, I should certainly have done so, in order to communicate the bloody business1 of the preceding evening, if I had not been interrupted by
Ben Drury’s arrival, and gone down with him to the House of Commons, where we were both highly gratified by the conduct of the whole House on this unexampled occasion. Whitbread did himself immortal honour by his manly and generous speech. Ponsonby’s totally unaffected feelings so overcame him as greatly to interrupt and cut short his rhetoric; but the effect was, of course, so much the more impressive. Even Lord Castlereagh, aye, the Castlereagh of Walcheren, the Castlereagh of Ireland, I adored at the moment. Canning was the only man that spoke who had sufficient command of himself to attempt turning a sentence prettily; and his speech, accordingly, was very pretty indeed. As for Burdett, poor miserable creature as he is, his silence now has, I think, sunk him lower than his noise heretofore. Suppose for a moment that Pitt had been assassinated like Perceval, and that the savage mob had mingled the cry of ‘Fox for ever’

1 The assassination of Perceval, then Prime Minister, by Bellingham, within the walls of the House.

with their brutal exultations, would he not have made all Westminster ring—
and more,
From Tothill Fields to Lambeth’s Surrey shore,
with the vehemence of his generous execrations of the deed? As for his pitiful successor, he is too mean-spirited for a decided villain; and accordingly I do not believe that he exulted, like his own miserable electors, in the deed. But that he did not rush forward at the instant to disavow it and declare his abhorrence of the wretches who could use his name on such an occasion, and his deep sorrow that in the discharge of his public duty he should ever have used expressions capable of such inflammatory interpretation, such horrible misconstruction; this, I think, is enough to rank him with
Philippe Egalité” himself.

And now that we are able to take breath, and ask ourselves, what will be the probable result of this ‘knavish piece of work,’ I am greatly afraid, for my own part, that there is little room for hope of ultimate good. ‘The Church was cemented by the blood of its martyrs,’ and, unfortunately, whether a cause is good or bad, these violent acts of revenge and desperation against its supporters
are, I believe, uniformly found rather to benefit than to injure it. If I am not mistaken, the universal feeling of pity and horror for the deed, and of apprehension for its consequences, will strengthen the hands of the present Government, notwithstanding the loss of its chief, even more than the most rigorous exertions of
Perceval, when alive, could have done it. I anticipate no speedy change, either of men or measures, as its consequence; and, if there is none, what have we to do but deplore, without any mixture of hope or satisfaction, the loss of a man, who, however erroneous his principles, was a man of business, of firmness, and integrity, far superior to any of those with whom he was associated in power?

I have not a moment’s time to write any further. You have heard of the birth of Drury’s son. When do you leave Cambridge? I wish to my soul that we could meet. Write directly if you can furnish me with any plan of your operations.

Yours ever affectionately,
J. H. Merivale.

In the election of the Duke of Gloucester in 1811 to the Chancellorship of the University of Cambridge Hodgson took an active part, as is proved by two
letters—one from that
Edward Dwyer, upon whom Byron elsewhere begs Drury to execute summary punishment ‘for frightening his horses with his flame-coloured whiskers,’ the other from the Duke’s private secretary.

My dear Hodgson,—Ten thousand thanks for your very kind letter, which I have transmitted to the Duke, who, I am sure, will consider himself under no small obligation, not only for the very handsome manner in which you support him, but also for the valuable intelligence of the state of parties which it conveys. I officiate to-morrow at Lincoln’s Inn, both morning and evening, but intend, if I have time, to see the Duke, and the moment I have anything to communicate I shall transmit it to you, whom we may regard as one of our main pillars. I saw our friend Drury on Thursday, and am chagrined to find that the report of his preferment is without foundation.

Yours ever,
Edward Dwyer.

Sir,—I am honoured with the commands of His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester to return to you his best thanks, with an assurance His
Royal Highness entertains of your attention to him in the election to the Chancellorship.

I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your very obedient and humble servant,
Edmund Currey.

The interest which Hodgson took in this election, like all other subjects which interested him, found an utterance in verses. In an irregular ode for the installation of the Duke of Gloucester, a sketch is given of all the most illustrious Cambridge students who had passed the lamp of genius on from one generation to another.

The youthful characteristics of a future Bishop of Lichfield of such eminence as Lonsdale, and his views on various subjects, are pro tanto instructive.

Harrow: March 12.

My dear Hodgson,—Requested or rather commanded by the great, I write to request your ‘vote and interest’ for the Duke of Rutland and Lord Palmerston. The latter I conceive you will oppose from principle. . . . . Lonsdale has just left me: he is a most excellent, clever, and affable fellow. I am highly delighted with him. You will see him
at Cambridge in a day or two; when, I hope, he will be able to arrange something with you touching the Easter holidays. My plans are not yet made up; but my wavering is in consequence of your delay in settling. Lonsdale is my agent to treat with you: he and I will meet you anywhere. In haste.

Most truly yours,
H. Drury.

Dear Hodgson,—I must allow the justice of the complaints of your third letter against me for not having sooner thanked you for the pleasure which I received from your two first, poetical as they were; and for so long omitting to acknowledge the receipt of the enclosed unpoetical scraps of paper, which by reunion to one another have been sometime restored to that consequence in the world of which their separation deprived them. But I hope that you will not suffer your anger to proceed so far against me as to forbid your muse to address any more of her effusions to me: still less am I disposed to think that, when you say that you ‘must not sing again at all,’ your declaration is any other than merely poetical.

Oh, never check thy flowing strain,
Nor say, ‘I must not sing again.’
Whate’er the tenour of thy lay,
Serenely sad, or wildly gay;
Whether ’tis Love that wakes to fire
The slumb’ring raptures of thy lyre;
Or Reason bids the moral song
In sober cadence roll along;
Believe me, still to Friendship’s ear
Thy strain is sweet, thy muse is dear.
Oh! better far one verse of thine,
One artless bold, impassion’d line,
Than all the frigid rant, that e’er
Fitzgerald bawls or Tories hear,
What time to Bigotry’s blest pow’r
They dedicate the festal hour
And raise their heads in triumph high
O’er baffled Liberality;
Who weeps the while at Fox’s tomb,
And thinks on happier days to come.

You see how I, albeit unused to the rhyming mood, have been infected by the contagion of your example. But ‘ohe jam satis est’—‘neque enim concludere versum Dixeris esse satis.’—You ask me what I am doing here. Truth compels me to answer next to nothing; for the fact is that I find that unless I am actually tied down to some employment it is impossible to prefer dry reading to social pleasure. When I return to town after the summer,
if I do return, I am determined to go immediately to a special pleader, by which I shall be put into a train of doing something, and fall into the habit of business, if anything can counteract the effects of the desultory manner in which everything is done at Eton and King’s. Since we parted I have been present at some Harrow speeches, which are far superior to those at Eton, even if the entertainment after them be not considered. I have also been spending a day or two with
B. Drury at Eton, who brought me back in his curricle by way of Richmond on Saturday. The day was fine, and consequently I cannot say how beautiful I thought that place. Eton looks all lovely, always excepting Carter’s chamber, which is more beastly than ever.

Believe me, dear Hodgson, very sincerely yours,

Jno. Lonsdale.

In the spring of this year, the Laureateship having fallen vacant by the death of poet Pye, Hodgson published a series of imitations of living poets, in the style of the ‘Rejected Addresses’ which had appeared in the previous autumn. They are entitled ‘Leaves of Laurel,’ or ‘New Probationary Odes for the vacant Laureateship,’ and are prefaced by the Miltonian
motto, ‘Yet once more, oh ye laurels,’ &c. The judge of the rival performances is supposed to be the celebrated clown
Grimaldi, whose successive criticisms are singularly appropriate. Campbell and Rogers commence the competition, and the ‘Pleasures of Hope’ are aptly contrasted with the ‘Pleasures of Memory.’ By a sudden transition Scott supplants the rivals, and full justice is done to the extreme beauty of his descriptive powers, while the rapidity of his execution is very cleverly parodied. Byron follows, and in a mournful monologue bewails the nothingness of all earthly existence, where ‘dust is all in all, and all in all is dust.’ His inordinate fondness for that poetical device which he used himself to term ‘alliteration’s apt and artful aid,’ and his habit of introducing obsolete words and phrases, were often the subjects of good-humoured banter among his friends, and are here amusingly ridiculed. Moore continues the contest with an eulogy of Dryden in the metre of ‘Love’s Young Dream,’ and is followed by Crabbe, whom the judge pronounces to be Nature itself, and by Wordsworth, whose simplicity is declared to exceed even that of Nature. After the introduction of several minor poets, the Resurrection Tragedy by Coleridge, and Southey’s ‘Blessings of a Sinecure’ conclude the series.


The ‘Leaves of Laurel’ were much discussed and admired in literary society at the time of their publication, and, as in the case of the ‘Rejected Addresses,’ the poets whose style they imitated were not the last to appreciate their spirit and humour.