LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Lord Byron and Some of his Contemporaries
Mr. Moore.

Lord Byron.
Mr. Moore.
Mr. Shelley. With a Criticism on his Genius.
Mr. Keats. With a Criticism on his Writings.
Mr. Dubois. Mr. Campbell. Mr. Theodore Hook. Mr. Mathews. Messrs. James & Horace Smith.
Mr. Fuseli. Mr. Bonnycastle. Mr. Kinnaird.
Mr. Charles Lamb.
Mr. Coleridge.
Recollections of the Author’s Life.
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“It is for slaves to lie, and for freemen to speak truth.

“In the examples, which I here bring in, of what I have heard, read, done, or said, I have forbid myself to dare to alter even the most light and indifferent circumstances. My conscience does not falsify one tittle. What my ignorance may do, I cannot say.”       Montaigne.



I thought Thomas Moore, when I first knew him, as delightful a person as one could imagine. He could not help being an interesting one; and his sort of talent has this advantage in it, that being of a description intelligible to all, the possessor is equally sure of present and future fame. I never received a visit from him, but I felt as if I had been talking with Prior or Sir Charles Sedley. His acquaintance with Lord Byron began by talking of a duel. With me it commenced in as gallant a way, though of a different sort. I had cut up an opera of his, (the Blue Stocking,) as unworthy of so great a wit. He came to see me, saying I was very much in the right; and an intercourse took place, which I might have enjoyed to this day, had he valued his real fame as much as I did. I mean to assume nothing in saying this, either as a dispenser of reputation, or as a man of undisputed reputation
myself. I live too much out of the world, and differ too plainly with what is in it, to pretend to be either one or the other. But Mr. Moore, in his serious as well as gayer verses, talked a great deal of independence and openness, and the contempt of commonplaces; and on this account he owed it to his admirers not to disappoint them. He was bound to them the more especially, when they put hearty faith in him, and when they thought they paid him a compliment in being independent themselves. The reader has seen to what I allude. At the time I am speaking of, my acquaintance, perhaps, was of some little service to Mr. Moore; at least, he thought so. I am sure I never valued myself on any service which a very hearty admiration of his wit and independence could render him. It was, involuntary on my part; I could not have helped it; and at all times, the advantage of personal intercourse would have been on my side.

Mr. Moore was lively, polite, bustling, full of amenities and acquiescences, into which he contrived to throw a sort of roughening of cordiality, like the crust of old port. It seemed a happiness to him to say “Yes.” There was just enough of the Irishman in him to flavour his speech and manner. He was a little particular, perhaps, in his orthöepy, but not more so than became a poet; and he appeared to me the last man in the world to cut his country, even for the sake of high life. As to his person, all the world knows that he is as little of stature, as he is great in wit. It is said, that an illustrious personage, in a fit of playfulness, once threatened to put him into the wine-cooler; a proposition, which Mr. Moore took to be more royal than polite. A Spanish gentleman, whom I met on the Continent, and who knew him well, said, in his energetic English, which he spoke none the worse for a wrong vowel or so: “Now, there’s Mooerr, Thomas Mooerr; I look
upon Mooerr as an active little men.” This is true. He reminds us of those active little great men who abound so remarkably in
Clarendon’s history. Like them, he would have made an excellent practical partisan, and it would have done him good. Horseback, and a little Irish fighting, would have seen fair play with his good living, and kept his look as juvenile as his spirit. His forehead is bony and full of character, with “bumps” of wit, large and radiant, enough to transport a phrenologist. His eyes are as dark and fine, as you would wish to se under a set of vine-leaves; his mouth generous and good-humoured, with dimples; his nose sensual, prominent, and at the same time the reverse of aquiline. There is a very peculiar character in it, as if it were looking forward, and scenting a feast or an orchard. The face, upon the whole, is Irish, not unruffled with care and passion; but festivity is the predominant expression. When Mr. Moore was a child, he is said to have been eminently handsome, a cupid for a picture; and notwithstanding the tricks which both joy and sorrow have played with his face, you can fancy as much. It was a recollection, perhaps, to this effect, that induced his friend, Mr. Atkinson, to say, one afternoon, in defending him from the charge of libertinism, “Sir, they may talk of Moore as they please; but I tell you what; I always consider him,” (and this argument he thought conclusive,) “I always consider my friend, Thomas Moore, as an infant, sporting on the bosom of Venus.” There was no contesting this; and, in truth, the hearers were very little disposed to contest it, Mr. Atkinson having hit upon a defence which was more logical in spirit than chronological in the image. When conscience comes, a man’s impulses must take thought; but till then, poetry is only the eloquent and irresistible developement of the individual’s nature; and Mr. Moore’s wildest verses were a great deal more innocent than could enter into
the imaginations of the old libertines who thought they had a right to use them. I must not, in this portrait, leave out his music. He plays and sings with great taste on the piano-forte, and is known as a graceful composer. His voice, which is a little hoarse in speaking, (at least, I used to think so,) softens into a breath, like that of the flute, when singing. In speaking, he is emphatic in rolling the letter r, perhaps out of a despair of being able to get rid of the national peculiarity. The structure of his versification, when I knew him, was more artificial than it has been since; and in his serious compositions suited him better. He has hardly faith enough in what he does, to give way to his impulses, except when they are lively; and artificial thoughts demand a similar embodiment. But he contemplated the fine, easy-playing, muscular style of
Dryden, with a sort of perilous pleasure. I remember his quoting with delight a couplet of Dryden’s, which came with a particular grace out of his mouth:
Let honour and preferment go for gold:
But glorious beauty isn’t to be sold.

Beside the pleasure I took in Mr. Moore’s society as a man of wit, I had a great esteem for him as a man of candour and independence. His letters were full of all that was pleasant in him. As I was a critic at that time, and in the habit of giving my opinion of his works in the Examiner, he would write me his opinion of the opinion, with a mixture of good-humour, admission, and deprecation, so truly delightful, and a sincerity of criticism on my own writings so extraordinary for so courteous a man, though with abundance of balm and eulogy, that never any subtlety of compliment could surpass it; and with all my self-
confidence, I never ceased to think that the honour was on my side, and that I could only deserve such candour of intercourse by being as ingenuous as himself. This admiring regard for him he completed by his behaviour to an old patron of his, who, not thinking it polite to retain him openly by his side, proposed to facilitate his acceptance of a place under the Tories; an accommodation which Mr. Moore rejected as an indignity. If any body at that time had told me, that our new and cordial
Anacreon, who counted a lofty spirit among his luxuries, could do a disingenuous thing, or sacrifice a cause or a free sentiment on the fat altars of aristocracy,—a sweet-smelling savour unto a lord,—I should have answered, that all that might be in the common course of the prose of this life; but that nobody knew what superiority there was to conventional deductions in the very weaknesses of a poet.*

I remember our astonishment in Italy (Lord Byron’s included) at the flaming panegyric passed by Mr. Moore upon England, and all things English, at a dinner in Paris. It was his farewell dinner, if I recollect, when leaving Paris for London. Either the English panegyric or the Irish Melodies were certainly much in the wrong; nor is it easy to decide what Captain Rock would have said to it. But the invective against Rousseau and poor Madame de Warens, in Mr. Moore’s Rhymes on the Road, was still more startling. Madame de Warens is not a person to be approved of in all respects, perhaps in very few. She had a kind heart, but a dangerous, ill-regulated will, and might at least have abstained from loving the sour-faced gardener, and sacrificing her natural love of truth to degrading secrecies. But

* For the circumstance which more immediately occasioned these remarks, see p. 58.

nobody thinks otherwise of her than she was; and Mr. Moore’s denouncement was, to say the least of it, superfluous. These things may be safely left to the heart of the community. The evil mixed with them may even suggest a better good, if discussed handsomely and sincerely. Madame de Warens was a means of setting one of the most extraordinary minds that have appeared in the world, upon speculations not the less interesting to humanity, because coteries, not so good as herself, choose to cant about them.
Mr. Granger, the biographical painter of portraits, who was a clergyman, and did not think it necessary to show a “zeal beyond knowledge,” would have been charitable enough to call her “open-hearted,” which is an epithet he does not scruple to give even to the meretricious Duchess of Cleveland. Mr. Moore, on the other hand, instead of taking her along with him as he ought to do, and trying how kindly he can unite his own moral improvement with that of “exquisite mothers” in general, thinks fit to shake his Anacreon laurels at her, and call her a naughty woman. I would have done, if I were he, with this two-o’clock-in-the-morning penitence, with maudlin tears in its eyes; and set myself to the task of reformation in a more masculine and social style. It is not handsome of him; it is not grateful; it is not gallant. Human beings are all worth being mentioned with common humanity; and we make poor amends for offences we may have committed ourselves, by reproaching those who have sinned with us. The great thing in this world, is to learn what to do, and how to carry humanity forward; not to reproach any one; no, not even ourselves. We should reproach ourselves only for petty and useless feelings, and the want of a real sympathy. If Mr. Moore, as he once told me he did, thinks it useless to attempt improvement in this world, he is at least not very reasonable in thinking
it necessary to repeat maudlin commonplaces, for the sake of their eternal reproduction; for they do nothing else. The world will continue to laugh with his gaieties, and think nothing of his gravities; let him give as many premiums for pleasure and penitence, as he may.

A word respecting the suppression of Lord Byron’s autobiography. The public have seen a letter of Mr. Moore’s, stating how it was that the manuscript of his friend’s Life came to be destroyed, and how his Lordship’s family would have reimbursed him for the loss of the profits; an offer which, from feelings and considerations “unnecessary” then “to explain,” he “respectfully but peremptorily declined.” The meaning of this is, that Lord Byron presented Mr. Moore with the Life for the purpose of turning it into money; that Mr. Moore did so, and got two thousand guineas for it, (a poor sum, by the by, if it was all he was to have): and that although he had no objection to receive money in this way, he had in any other. I do not insinuate that he might as well have accepted the money then offered; but Mr. Moore, on this and other occasions, has been willing to give the commercial British public to understand, that he has a horror of pecuniary obligations, though it seems he has no objection to pecuniary’s worth. This, I confess, is a splitting of hairs, which I do not understand. If a friend is worth being obliged to, I do not see how a man is less obliged, or has less reason to be so, by accepting his manuscripts than his money. It is an escape, not from the thing, but the name; and if I were the obliger, I confess I should draw a different conclusion from what Lord Byron may have done, respecting the real regard or spirit of the man, who thought so ingeniously of my Life, and so awfully of my guineas. That the tenure of the noble Bard’s respect in this matter was indeed very precarious, is evident from the bill he brought in
Mr. Dallas; a leaf from the ledger of his Lordship’s memory, which, I think, must have startled Mr. Moore.

Mr. Dallas having made a preposterous statement of the value of his zeal and advice, in encouraging Lord Byron to be a poet, and observed that it far outweighed, in his opinion, the six or seven hundred pounds obtained by the copyright of “Childe Harold,” which the noble Bard had given him, his Lordship makes a per contra statement, as creditor, in the following

Two hundred pounds before I was twenty years old.
Copyright of Childe Harold, 600l.
Copyright of Corsair, 500l.
And 50l. for his nephew on entering the army; in all 1350l. and not 6 or 700l. as the worthy accountant reckons.”

Here the noble Lord is clearly of opinion, that money and money’s worth are one and the same thing. He was therefore prepared, could occasion have possibly arisen, to bring in a similar account to Mr. Moore, for the sum of 2000l. The truth is, Mr. Moore’s notion in this matter is a commonplace; and I used to think him higher above commonplaces than he is. I should look upon myself as more tied, and rendered more dependent, by living as he does among the great, and flattering the mistakes of the vulgar, than by accepting thousands from individuals whom I loved. When I came to know Lord Byron as I did, I could no more have accepted his manuscripts than his money, unless I could prove to myself that I had a right to them in the way of business. Till then, I would as soon have
taken the one as the other, if I took any. The reader shall see what I have done in that way, and I am not ashamed of it, though I confess I would willingly have to make the acknowledgment to a different state of society. One does not like to be thought ill of by any body; but if I am to choose, I would rather have the good construction of half a dozen individuals really generous, than the good word of all the multitudes, who are agreed only to flatter, to feed on, and to fight shy of one another.

As it is not pleasant to leave off speaking of such a man with an ill taste in one’s mouth, (the champagne indeed in the thought of him hardly allows it to be possible,) I will conclude this notice with a memorandum of him fourteen years ago. It is one of my prison recollections. I remember when I was showing him and Lord Byron the prison-garden, a smart shower came on, which induced Moore to button up his coat, and push on for the interior. He returned instantly, blushing up to the eyes. He had forgotten the lameness of his noble friend. “How much better you behaved,” said he to me afterwards, “in not hastening to get out of the rain! I quite forgot, at the moment, whom I was walking with.” I told him, that the virtue was involuntary on my part, having been occupied in conversation with his Lordship, which he was not; and that to forget a man’s lameness involved a compliment in it, which the sufferer could not dislike.” “True,” says he; “but the devil of it was, that I was forced to remember it, by his not coming up. I could not in decency go on; and to return was very awkward.” This anxiety appeared to me very amiable.