LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The “Pope” of Holland House
Chapter IX: 1821

Chapter I: 1813
Chapter II: 1814
Chapter III: 1815
Chapter IV: 1816
Chapter V: 1817
Chapter VI: 1818
Chapter VII: 1819
Chapter VIII: 1820
‣ Chapter IX: 1821
Chapter X: 1822
Chapter XI: 1824-33
Chapter XII: 1833-35
Chapter XIII: 1806-40
Chapter XIV: Appendix
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Wilberforce—Fox—Poem by Southey—Grampound Bill—Politics—Cambridge—Tierney—The Catholic Disabilities Bill—Mr. Coutts’s will—“Marino Falieri”—Death of Napoleon—The Coronation—Epigrams of Lord Byron—Death of the Queen—“The Pirate.”
From Mr. Whishaw to Mr. Smith.
Jan. 20, 1821.

I HAVE only time to thank you for your letter, and to express to you how much I was pleased to hear of your having an opportunity of meeting Mr. Wilberforce, who, besides being one of the extraordinary men of the age, is very cheerful and pleasant, and gifted with extraordinary liveliness and great powers of conversation. He seems not to have been naturally intended for a “Saint”; his character inclines much more naturally to the courtier or man of the world. I apprehend you overrate his goodwill to the Whigs, to whom he has never been really favourable. Mr. Fox’s quotation that you speak of was very happy. It was made an occasion of a very indignant attack
Lines by Southey
Perceval. But you do not mention the two best lines—
“Lenit albescens animos capillus litium et rixæ cupidos protervæ;
Non ego hoc ferrem,” &c.1

The county meetings have been remarkably successful; but I still think that the Ministers will maintain their ground. I remember telling you some years ago, when you expected a change favourable to the Whigs, that I should almost as soon look for a Revolution; and my opinion is not much altered since that time.

I send you a good-natured recommendation of an Alpine guide, by Southey, which will amuse you if you have not seen it:—

“By troth this John Roth
Is an excellent guide,
A joker, a smoker,
And a savant beside.
A geologician,
A metaphysician,
Who searches how causes proceed;
A system inventor,
An experimenter,
Who raises potatoes from seed.

1 On April 23, 1804, when Spencer Perceval was Attorney-General in the Addington Administration, Mr. Fox brought forward a motion on the defence of the country, which was supported by Pitt and his friends. In the debate Perceval made a severe attack on the union of these two statesmen, which Fox warmly resented. In the course of his observations he applied to Perceval the expression of Dr. Johnson—“Pray, sir, consider what your praise is before you apply it so liberally.”

“The Grampound Bill”
Each forest and fell
He knoweth full well,
The chalets and dwellers therein;
The mountains and fountains,
The ices, the prices,
Every town, every village and inn.
Take him for your guide,
He has often been tried,
And will always be useful when needed,
In fair or foul weather
You’ll be merry together,
And shake hands at parting as we did.”
Feb. 13, 1821.

I am going the latter end of this week to Cambridge for two days, partly to see John Romilly (the second son), and partly to fix Ralph Abercromby1 at Peter House. I hope that Mr. Kennedy will accompany me; we are to call on Malthus on our way.

Feb. 13, 1821.

Lord J. Russell carried his Grampound2 Bill in

1 Afterwards second Lord Dunfermline.

2 A corrupt borough which was disfranchised. This borough, with its handful of sixty electors, became notorious after the General Election of 1818. Wholesale corruption had prevailed through the bribery exercised by Sir Manasseh Lopez, one of the leading boroughmongers in the West of England. He was convicted of bribery in both Cornwall and Devon, and sentenced to a heavy fine as well as to imprisonment at Exeter. Lord John Russell brought the circumstances before the House of Commons on May 11, 1819, and the affairs of the borough came in that Parliament (1818-20) and in its successor of 1820-26 frequently before the members of both Houses of Parliament. Ultimately the borough was disfranchised, and its two members transferred, after 1826, to the county of York. Down to 1832 “Grampound alone, of all the English boroughs, could boast that it had been disfranchised” (W. P. Courtney, “Parliamentary Representation of Cornwall to 1832,” pp. 183-205).

The Opposition
favour of Leeds last night in the House of Commons; but it will assuredly be thrown out by the Lords.
Ward spoke very well on this question, and was, rather unexpectedly, on the side of Reform. The number of good speeches has been considerable this Session, and they have all been on the side of the Opposition. Such, however, is the state of Parliament that Canning is no longer wanted by Ministers. Even Lord Castlereagh might be spared, and the House of Commons might be led by Bragge1 and Vansittart.

Cambridge, Feb. 19, 1821.

The place is crowded with students, and altogether much improved. Downing College and the Fitz-

1 This person is the same Bragge of whom Canning wrote in his “Ode to the Doctor.” In 1803 Addington had promoted his brother, Hiley Addington, and his brother-in-law, Mr. Charles Bragge, to the rank of Privy Councillors. He had named one Paymaster of the Forces and the other Treasurer of the Navy; on the other hand, they were expected to strain their lungs in his defence. Canning’s ode contained these lines:—

“When the faltering periods lag,
Or his yawning audience flag;
When his speeches hobble vilely,
Or the House receives them drily,
Cheer, oh, cheer him, brother Bragge!
Cheer, oh, cheer him, brother Hiley!
Each a gentleman at large,
Lodged and fed at public charge,
Paying with a grace to charm ye,
This the fleet, and that the army.
Brother Bragge and brother Hiley,
Cheer him when he speaks so vilely;
Cheer him when his audience flag,
Brother Hiley, brother Bragge.”
(Stanhope’sLife of Pitt,” vol. iv. p. 59.)
william collection of pictures and engravings are a very great addition.

The Cambridge Whigs (those few that remain) partake with you in your disappointment on the late Parliamentary divisions. They expected, not indeed that the Ministers would be outvoted, but that the minorities would be strong and formidable. The late motions have shown that, when the safety of an Administration is concerned, the influence of public opinion is still less over the Commons than the Lords. The minorities could not number more than ten persons on any of the late questions who were not regular voters with the Opposition; and Wilberforce’s speech, on Mr. J. Smith’s motion, does not appear to have influenced a single vote.1 These events have opened the eyes of many persons to the necessity of Parliamentary Reform who were before very incredulous as to the abject and servile state of the House of Commons; and the Whigs, for the present, seem to be cordially united with the people.

It is some consolation that the Whigs have distinguished themselves so greatly on the present occasion. Never were speeches or arguments more triumphant. Mackintosh, in particular, has been most successful, and has shown powers of regular debate which he was not supposed to possess. He is expected to make a great display on Wednesday upon the important question of Naples.

Tierney has spoken very well, but is declining in

1 Mr. John Smith, M.P. for Midhurst, brought forward a motion for restoring the Queen’s name to the Liturgy. It was rejected by 298 votes to 178.

vigour. His health is quite unequal to these late nights. What will be the final result it is impossible to say; but many events must take place before there can be any change of Ministry. At present we seem to be much nearer a censorship of the Press than a reform of Parliament. The affair of the
Queen may perhaps subside; the new discontents must be expected to arise, and the country will continue to be in an irritable and dangerous state till some material change takes place.

March 2nd.

The Session of Parliament promises to be more interesting than was expected. The country gentlemen are plucking up courage, and have shown themselves in great force upon the salt tax and the Lords of the Admiralty. They are so much delighted with this display of their strength that they will probably attempt greater things. But their movements, which in former times would have overthrown any Administration, will have no effect on the present state of things. The Ministry will quietly give up their two Lords of the Admiralty, and perhaps a portion of the salt tax, and will afterwards go on as before, making any other sacrifices that may be required, except their places. Mr. Coutts’s will is very extraordinary; but there is a surmise that the children by his first wife are illegitimate, being born before marriage—a fact which would have come into question in settling the amount of tax on their legacies. Some persons also say there is a doubt respecting the validity of Burdett’s marriage, having been by licence, Lady Burdett being under age, and there being no consent
Lord Byron
of a legitimate father or guardian. Of this I can say nothing certain. The case would be a very unfortunate one, and very disgraceful to our laws. Yet an Act for putting an end to grievances of this description was rejected a year or two ago through the influence of
Sir Walter Scott.

April 14th.

The Catholic Bill will most probably be thrown out by a majority of about twenty, consisting, it may be hoped, entirely of bishops. The Grampound Bill will probably pass (with modifications), as it is likely to be supported by Lord Liverpool, though the Chancellor is entirely against it.

April 16th.

I have not yet seen “Rome in the Nineteenth Century,” but hear a good account of the book from several good judges. I believe it is written by a Scotch lady, Miss Mackenzie, a daughter of the late Lord Seaforth, who was talked of as being likely to marry the sculptor Thorwaldsen. You must probably have seen or heard of her, as she was rather a conspicuous character at Rome.

Lord Byron’s letter to Bowles is a very singular performance; but I hear that Bowles kisses the rod, and has written to Murray, requesting him to present his kind compliments, with many thanks, for what has been said of his manners, of which he acknowledges that his lordship has spoken “with more urbanity than he (Bowles) has been accustomed to.” With regard to those particulars that form the main subject of the letter, he seems to give way in several points, and to admit that Lord B. is right. I suppose that
Death of Napoleon
we shall have much of this servility of spirit, for Bowles intends to publish an answer.1

The tragedy of “Marino Falieri” is to appear in a few days. Those who have read it (among whom are Lord and Lady Holland) speak of the work very highly. They think it, however, quite unfit for the stage. Lord Byron says that he publishes it to convince his friends of their error in supposing that he is capable of writing a good tragedy.

April 28th.

The King has shown every kind of marked attention to Lord Lansdowne at Brighton, having made parties for them, and confined his conversation exclusively to him. Such are the artifices of Courts!

July 17, 1820.

Buonaparte’s death is a great historical event. Notwithstanding what is said of the soundness of the liver, I have considerable doubts of the fact, and am afraid it will be said that he died of confinement and of the climate of St. Helena.

We have had cold, rainy weather for the greater part of the week. The influence of St. Swithin is not unlikely to be felt at the time of the Coronation. The preparations in the Abbey are in a very forward state.

1 W. L. Bowles, divine, poet, and antiquary, issued in ten volumes his edition and sketch of the life of Pope. It was written in a hostile spirit, with many severe strictures on his character and poetry. These errors drew upon the biographer stinging assaults from Byron, both in verse and prose, and gave rise to a long controversy, in which much bitterness was displayed. (See “Dictionary of National Biography.”)

The Coronation
I went to see them this morning with
Mrs. Abercromby and Ralph, and obtained a complete idea of the nature of the ceremonial. I never saw the Abbey appear to so much advantage.

July 28, 1821.

The Coronation went off very well, so far as related to the highest classes, but was very coldly received by the public at large; and it was found impossible to get up a general illumination. The King showed marked favour to the Opposition, and is in a state of constant quarrelling with his Ministers. But I do not see how any material change can take place. His Majesty has been formally reconciled to Lady Jersey, who was received with the most marked distinction at the Drawing-room.

I send you two extempore epigrams of Lord Byron, though it is more probable than not that you have already seen them.

On Mr. Hobhouse’s election:—
“Would you enter the House by the true gate,
More quickly than ever Whig Charlie went?
Let Parliament send you to Newgate,
And Newgate will send you to Parliament.”

On the failure of his tragedy and the recovery of his mother-in-law from a dangerous illness:—
“Alas! how miserable is my lot;
My play is damned, and Lady Noel not.”

Aug., 1821.

The poor Queen has closed a wretched, uncomfortable life with great fortitude and resignation.
Death of the Queen
Notwithstanding the courage with which she faced her enemies, she had for a long time been very unhappy, and seems to have been altogether indifferent to existence. She was, however, very cheerful throughout her last illness, as well as kind and attentive towards those domestics and friends by whom she was surrounded.
Dr. Holland, who was with her, says that her character never appeared to so much advantage, and that he never witnessed so much feeling and gentleness united with so much courage upon any similar occasion. She certainly possessed several good qualities, and the seeds of some great ones. Had she been properly treated she might have adorned her station. As it was, she owed her principal claim to the public support to her misfortunes and the persecution which she experienced.

Her death is a political event, and will probably open a new field for intrigues. The King will immediately think of marrying, and the Court will be completely occupied by schemes for procuring him a young and handsome Queen, which, according to the usual good fortune of the Tories, will probably turn to the advantage of the Ministers and enable them to recover their lost favour.

The intense loyalty, or rather servility, of the Irish nation, might furnish a good pretext and opportunity for establishing a new Government, on the principle of completely emancipating Ireland. But the firmness necessary for such a change is altogether wanting. His Majesty’s present servants will not again commit the error of resigning, but will compromise differences, and yield to nothing short of actual dismission.

“The Pirate”
Aug. 28, 1821.

London is a perfect solitude; not a single family of my acquaintance is left. The Carrs, who were the last lingerers, went a few days ago to Cromer, in Norfolk. You may have heard of Miss Carr’s marriage to Dr. Lushington,1 the day after the Queen’s death. She is of the party of Brunswick, and is called the “Mourning Bride.” It is singular that Dr. Lushington was never before on the Continent, though of an active turn, and a great lover of fine scenery. I have strongly advised them to return through Holland.

Bowood, Dec. 26th.

We have received Scott’s new novel of “The Pirate,” which we have begun to read in the family circle (Lord Lansdowne and I) with very good success. Lord Byron’s tragedies had been attempted, but they did not get beyond the first act of “Cain.”

Dec. 28th.

We are engaged in reading “The Pirate” in the evenings, and have got through the first volume with great success. We are much pleased with everything except an old Sybil, who is a mere copy of Meg Merrilies, and much less natural and probable.

I have an odd request on the part of Macdonnell2

1 Stephen Lushington (1782-1873) was in Parliament for many years and an ardent Reformer. Was one of the counsel for Queen Caroline. He married Sarah, eldest daughter of William Carr, of Frognal. The Carrs were friends of Sir Walter Scott and Mrs. Barbauld. Mrs. Lushington was “her peculiar favourite.” (“Life of Mrs. Barbauld, by A. L. le Breton.”)

2 Alexander Macdonnell, of Christ Church, gained the Oxford prize for the best English essay, the subject of which was “The

and myself, which must be addressed to
Mrs. Smith. It is, that you will keep your hospitality till the arrival of the Abercrombys within reasonable limits, and give us as little as possible for dinner, reserving your energies for breakfast and tea. We have been too long among the “fleshpots of Egypt,” and wish for some repose.

Influence of the Drama.” He won the Chancellor’s Latin verse prize in 1815, and the Newdigate verse prize in 1816, on the heroes of Lysippus; was the son of James Macdonnell, of Belfast. Was called to the Bar in 1824, and became Resident Commissioner of Education in Ireland in 1839 till 1871. Was made Privy Councillor for Ireland in 1846, and created Baronet 1872. He died in Dublin, 1875.