LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Lord Byron and Some of his Contemporaries
The Examiner—the Author’s Imprisonment.

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.


At the beginning of the year 1808, my brother John and myself set up the weekly paper of the Examiner, in joint partnership. The spirit of the theatrical criticism continued the same as in the News, for several years; by which time reflection, and the society of better critics, had made me wiser. In politics I soon got interested, as a man; though I never could bear them, as a writer. It was against the grain that I was encouraged to begin them; and against the grain I ever afterwards sat down to write, except when the subject was of a very general description and I could introduce philosophy and the belles lettres. People accused me of conspiring with Cobbett and my gallant namesake, Henry Hunt; when the fact is, I never beheld either of them: so private a public man have I been. I went criminally late to my political article; gave a great deal of trouble to printers and newsmen, for which I am heartily sorry; and hastened back as fast as I could to my verses and books, among which I had scarcely a work upon politics. The progress of society has since deeply interested me, and I should do better now, because I have better learnt the value of time, and politics have taken with me a wider and kindlier aspect: but owing to a dispute of a very painful nature, in which every body thought himself in the right,
and was perhaps more or less in the wrong, I have long ceased to have any hand in the Examiner, and latterly to have any property in it. I shall therefore say nothing more of the paper, except that I was very much in earnest in all I wrote; that I was in a perpetual fluctuation, during the time, of gay spirits and wretched health, which conspired to make me a sensitive observer, and a very bad man of business; and that I think precisely as I did on all subjects when I last wrote in it:—with this difference,—that I am inclined to object to the circumstances that make the present state of society what it is, still more; and to individuals who are the creatures of those circumstances, not at all.

I proceed to the story of my imprisonment; which concerns others as well as myself, and contains some delineations of character; but as it has been told before in the same words, I shall print it with marks of quotation. I need not add, after what has been said at the close of the last paragraph, that the exordium would have been a little different now had it been newly written: but I let it stand, because it was written as conscientiously and with as free a spirit, as it would be written still. I no longer think I have a right to quarrel with individuals or their characters, any more than they have with one’s own; and besides objecting to the right or utility of the thing, I have observed that those are loudest against others, who can the least bear to have any thing said of themselves; which is a fault I am willing to value myself upon not being charged with. Enough remains, in all conscience, to oppose and object to, if we prefer our utility to our spleen; and quite enough to show we are independent, and not likely to be bribed.

“Some of my readers may remember that my brother and myself were sentenced to a two years’ imprisonment for a libel on the Prince Regent; I say, without hesitation, a libel; since the word means no more, now-a-
days, either for a man or against him, than its original signification of ‘a little book.’ Let those thank themselves that such is the case, who by their own confusion of terms and penalties, and their application of one and the same word to the lowest private scandal and the highest impulses of public spirit, have rendered honest men not ashamed of it. It is remarkable, that the same Whig Judge (
Lord Ellenborough) who had directed the Jury to find us innocent on a prior occasion, when we were indicted for saying that ‘of all Monarchs since the Revolution, the successor of George the Third (then reigning) would have the finest opportunity of becoming nobly popular,’ had now the task of giving them a very different intimation, because we thought that the Regent had not acted up to his opportunities. I was provoked to write the libel by the interest I took in the disappointments of the Irish nation, which had very particular claims on the promises of his Royal Highness; but what, perhaps, embittered it most in the palate of that illustrious Personage, was its contradiction of an awkward panegyric which had just appeared on him from the pen of some foolish person in the ‘Morning Post,’ calling him, at his time of life, a charmer of all hearts and an Adonis of loveliness. At another time, I should have laughed at this in a rhyme or two, and remained free; the courts of law having a judicious instinct against the reading of merry rhymes; but the two things coming together, and the Irish venting their spleen pretty stoutly over their wine at the dinner on St. Patrick’s Day, (indeed they could not well be more explicit, for they groaned and hissed when his name was mentioned,) I wrote an attack equally grave and vehement, and such as every body said would be prosecuted. Little did I foresee, that, in the course of a few years, this same people, the Irish, would burst into an enthusiasm of joy and confidence, merely because the illustrious Personage
paid them a visit! I will not say they were rightly served, in finding that nothing came of it, for I do not think so; especially as we are not bound to take the inhabitants of a metropolis as representatives of the wretched millions in other parts of the country, who have since been in worse state than before. But this I may be allowed to say, that if ever I regretted having gone to prison in their behalf, it was then and then only.

“Between the verdict and the passing of sentence, a circumstance occurred, not of so singular a nature, perhaps, as it may seem. We were given to understand, through the medium of a third person, but in a manner emphatically serious and potential, that if we would abstain in future from commenting upon the actions of the royal Personage, means would be found to prevent our going to prison. The same offer was afterwards repeated, as far as the payment of a fine was concerned, upon our going thither. I need not add, that we declined both. We do not mean to affirm, that these offers came directly or indirectly from the quarter in which they might be supposed to originate; but we know the immediate quarter from which they did come; and this we may affirm, that of all the ‘two hundred and fifty particular friends,’ who dined on one occasion at Carlton House, and delighted the public with that amazing record of attachment, his Royal Highness had not one more zealous or liberal in his behalf.

“The expectation of a prison was in one respect very formidable to me; for I had been a long time in a bad state of health; and when notice was given that we were to be brought up for judgment, I had just been advised by the physician to take exercise every day on horseback, and go down to the sea-side. I was resolved, however, to do no disgrace either to the courage which I really possessed, or
to an example which I can better speak of in any other place than this.
I accordingly put my countenance in its best trim: I made a point of wearing my best apparel; put on my new hat and gloves, and descended into the legal arena to be sentenced gallantly. As an instance of the imagination which I am accustomed to mingle with every thing, I was at that time reading a little work, to which Milton is indebted, the Comus of Erycius Puteanus; and this, which is a satire on ‘Bacchuses and their revellers,’ I pleased myself with having in my pocket. It is necessary, on passing sentence for a libel, to read over again the words that composed it. This was the business of Lord Ellenborough, who baffled the attentive audience in a very ingenious manner by affecting every instant to hear a noise, and calling upon the Officers of the Court to prevent it. Mr. Garrow, the Attorney-General, (who had succeeded Sir Vicary Gibbs at a very cruel moment, for the indictment had been brought by that irritable person, and was the first against us which took effect,) behaved to us with a politeness that was considered extraordinary. Not so Mr. Justice Grose, who delivered the sentence. To be didactic and old womanish belonged to his office; but to lecture us on pandering to the public appetite for scandal, was what we could not so easily bear. My brother, as I had been the writer, expected me, perhaps, to be the spokesman; and speak I certainly should have done, had not I been prevented by the dread of a hesitation in my speech, to which I had been subject when a boy, and the fear of which (perhaps idly, for I hesitate least among strangers, and very rarely at all) has been the main cause, I believe, that I have appeared and acted in public less than any other public man. There is reason to think, that Lord Ellenborough was still less easy than ourselves. He knew that we were acquainted with his visits to Carlton-house and Brighton, (sympathies not eminently decent in a Judge,) and
the good things he had obtained for his kinsmen, and we could not help preferring our feelings at the moment to those which induced him to keep his eyes fixed on his papers, which he did almost the whole time of our being in Court, never turning them once to the place on which we stood. There were divers points besides those, on which he had some reason to fear that we might choose to return the lecture of the Bench. He did not even look at us, when he asked, in the course of his duty, whether it was our wish to make any remarks. I answered, that we did not wish to make any there, and Sir Nash proceeded to pass sentence. At the sound of two years’ imprisonment in separate jails, my brother and myself instinctively pressed each other’s arm. It was a heavy blow: but the pressure that acknowledged it, encouraged the resolution to bear it; and I do not believe either of us interchanged a word afterwards on the subject.

“We parted in hackney-coaches for our respective abodes, accompanied by two tipstaves apiece. I cannot help smiling to think of a third person whom I had with me, when I contrast his then situation with his present: but he need not be alarmed. I will not do him the injustice either of hurting or recommending him by the mention of his name. He was one of the best-natured fellows in the world, and I dare say he is so still; but, as Strap says, ‘Non omnia possumus omnes.’

The tipstaves prepared me for a singular character in my jailer. His name was Ives. I was told he was a very self-willed personage, not the more accommodating for being in a bad state of health, and that he called every body Mister. ‘In short,’ said one of the tipstaves, ‘he is one as may be led, but he’ll never be druv.

The sight of the prison-gate and the high wall was a dreary business. I thought of my horseback and the downs of Brighton; but congratulated myself, at all events, that I had come thither with a good consci-
ence. After waiting in the prison-yard as long as if it had been the antiroom of a minister, I was at length ushered into the presence of the great man. He was in his parlour, which was decently furnished, and had a basin of broth before him, which he quitted on my appearance, and rose with much solemnity to meet me. He seemed about fifty years of age; had a white night-cap on, as if he was going to be hung; and a great red face, which looked ready to burst with blood. Indeed, he was not allowed by his physician to speak in a tone above a whisper. The first thing he said was, ‘Mister, I’d ha’ given a matter of a hundred pounds, that you had not come to this place—a hundred pounds!’ The emphasis which he laid on the word ‘hundred’ was enormous. I forget what I answered. I endeavoured, as usual, to make the best of things; but he recurred over and over again to the hundred pounds; and said he wondered, for his part, what the Government meant by sending me there, for the prison was not a prison fit for a gentleman, He often repeated this opinion afterwards, adding, with a peculiar nod of his head, ‘and Mister, they knows it.’ I said, that if a gentleman deserved to be sent to prison, he ought not to be treated with a greater nicety than any one else: upon which he corrected me, observing very properly, (though, as the phrase is, it was one word for the gentleman and two for his own apartments,) that a person who had been used to a better mode of lodging and living than ‘low people,’ was not treated with the same justice, if forced to live exactly as they did. I told him his observation was very true; which gave him a favourable opinion of my understanding: for I had many occasions of remarking, that, abstractedly considered, he looked upon nobody whomsoever as his superior, speaking even of the members of the Royal Family as persons whom he knew very well, and estimated no more than became him.
One Royal Duke had lunched in his parlour, and another he had laid under some polite obligation. ‘They knows me,’ said he, ‘very well, Mister; and, Mister, I knows them.’ This concluding sentence he uttered with great particularity and precision. He was not proof, however, against a Greek Pindar, which he happened to light upon one day among my books. Its unintelligible character gave him a notion that he had got somebody to deal with, who might really know something which he did not. Perhaps the gilt leaves and red morocco binding had their share in the magic. The upshot was, that he always showed himself anxious to appear well with me, as a clever fellow, treating me with great civility on all occasions but one, when I made him very angry by disappointing him in a money amount. The Pindar was a mystery that staggered him. I remember very well, that giving me a long account one day of something connected with his business, he happened to catch with his eye the shelf that contained it, and whether he saw it or not, abruptly finished by observing, ‘But, Mister, you knows all these things as well as I do.’ Upon the whole, my new acquaintance was as strange a person as I ever met with. A total want of education, together with a certain vulgar acuteness, conspired to render him insolent and pedantic. Disease sharpened his tendency to violent fits of passion, which threatened to suffocate him; and then in his intervals of better health, he would issue forth, with his cock-up-nose and his hat on one side, as great a fop as a jockey. I remember his coming to my rooms, about the middle of my imprisonment, as if on purpose to insult over my ill health with the contrast of his own convalescence, putting his arms in a gay manner a-kimbo, and telling me I should never live to go out, whereas he was riding about as stout as ever, and had just been in the country. He died before I left prison. The word jail, in deference to the way in
which it is sometimes spelt, he called gole; and
Mr. Brougham he always spoke of as Mr. Bruffam. He one day apologized for this mode of pronunciation, or rather gave a specimen of his vanity and self-will, which will show the reader at once the high notions a jailer may entertain of himself: ‘I find,’ said he, ‘that they calls him Broom; but, Mister,’ (assuming a look from which there was to be no appeal,) ‘I calls him Bruffam!

“Finding that my host did not think the prison fit for me, I asked if he would let me have an apartment in his house. He pronounced it impossible; which was a trick to enhance the price. I could not make an offer to please him; and he stood out so long, and, as he thought, so cunningly, that he subsequently overreached himself by his trickery; as the readers will see. His object was to keep me among the prisoners, till he could at once sicken me of the place, and get the permission of the magistrates to receive me into his house; which was a thing he reckoned upon as a certainty. He thus hoped to secure himself in all quarters; for his vanity was almost as strong as his avarice; he was equally fond of getting money in private, and of the approbation of the great men he had to deal with in public; and it so happened, that there had been no prisoner, above the poorest condition, before my arrival, with the exception of Colonel Despard. From abusing the prison, he then suddenly fell to speaking well of it, or rather of the room occupied by the Colonel; and said that another corresponding with it would make me a capital apartment. ‘To be sure,’ said he, ‘there is nothing but bare walls, and I have no bed to put in it.’ I replied, that of course I should not be hindered from having my own bed from home. He said, ‘No; and if it rains,’ observed he, ‘you have only to put up with want of light for a time.’ ‘What!’
exclaimed I, ‘are there no windows?’ ‘Windows, Mister!’ cried he; ‘no windows in a prison of this sort; no glass, Mister; but excellent shutters.

“It was finally agreed, that I should sleep for a night or two in a garret of the jailer’s house, till my bed could be got ready in the prison and the windows glazed. A dreary evening followed, which, however, let me completely into the man’s character, and showed him in a variety of lights, some ludicrous and others as melancholy. There was a full-length portrait, in the room, of a little girl, dizened out in her best. This, he told me, was his daughter, whom he had disinherited for disobedience. I tried to suggest a few reflections to him, capable of doing her service; but disobedience, I found, was an offence doubly irritating to his nature, on account of his sovereign habits as a jailer; and seeing his irritability likely to inflame the plethora of his countenance, I desisted. Though not allowed to speak above a whisper, he was extremely willing to talk; but at an early hour I pleaded my own state of health, and retired to bed.

“On taking possession of my garret, I was treated with a piece of delicacy, which I never should have thought of finding in a prison. When I first entered its walls, I had been received by the under-jailer, a man who appeared an epitome of all that was forbidding in his office. He was short and very thick, had a hook nose, a great severe countenance, and a bunch of keys hanging on his arm. A friend once stopped short at sight of him, and said, in a melancholy tone, ‘And this is the jailer!’ Honest old Cave! thine outside would have been unworthy of thee, if upon farther acquaintance I had not found it a very hearty outside,—ay, and, in my eyes, a very good-looking one, and as fit to contain the milk of human kindness that was in thee, as the husk of a
cocoa. Was, did I say? I hope it is in thee still; I hope thou art alive to read this paper, and to perform, as usual, a hundred kind offices, as exquisite in their way as they are desirable and unlooked for. To finish at once the character of this man,—I could never prevail on him to accept any acknowledgment of his kindness, greater than a set of tea-things, and a piece or two of old furniture which I could not well carry away. I had indeed the pleasure of leaving him in possession of a room I had papered; but this was a thing unexpected, and which neither of us had supposed could be done. Had I been a Prince, I would have forced on him a pension. Being a journalist, I made him accept an
Examiner weekly, which, I trust, he still lives to relish his Sunday pipe with.

“This man, in the interval between my arrival and introduction to the head jailer, had found means to give me farther information respecting my new condition, and to express the interest he took in it. I thought little of his offers at the time. He behaved with the greatest air of deference to his principal; moving as fast as his body would allow him, to execute his least intimation; and holding the candle to him while he read, with an obsequious zeal. But he had spoken to his wife about me, and his wife I found to be as great a curiosity as himself. Both were more like the romantic jailers drawn in some of our modern plays, than real Horsemonger-lane palpabilities. The wife, in her person, was as light and fragile as the husband was sturdy. She had the nerves of a fine lady, and yet went through the most unpleasant duties with the patience of a martyr. Her voice and look seemed to plead for a softness like their own, as if a loud reply would have shattered her. Ill health had made her a Methodist, but this did not hinder her sympathy with an invalid who was none, or her love for her husband, who was as little
of a saint as need be. Upon the whole, such an extraordinary couple, so apparently unsuitable, and yet so fitted for one another; so apparently vulgar on one side, and yet so naturally delicate on both; so misplaced in their situation, and yet for the good of others so admirably put there, I have never met with, before or since.

It was the business of this woman to lock me up in my garret; but she did it so softly the first night, that I knew nothing of the matter. The night following, I thought I heard a gentle tampering with the lock. I tried it, and found it fastened. She heard me as she was going downstairs, and said the next day, “Ah, Sir, I thought I should have turned the key, so as for you not to hear it; but I found you did.” The whole conduct of this couple towards us, from first to last, was of a piece with this singular delicacy.

“My bed was shortly put up, and I slept in my new room. It was on an upper story, and stood in a corner of the quadrangle, on the right hand as you enter the prison-gate. The windows (which had now been accommodated with glass, in addition to their “excellent shutters”) were high up, and barred; but the room was large and airy, and there was a fireplace. It was designed for a common room for the prisoners on that story; but the cells were then empty. The cells were ranged on either side of the arcade, of which the story is formed, and the room opened at the end of it. At night-time the door was locked; then another on the top of the staircase, then another on the middle of the staircase, then a fourth at the bottom, a fifth that shut up the little yard belonging to that quarter, and how many more, before you got out of the gates, I forget: but I do not exaggerate when I say there were at least ten or eleven. The first night I slept there, I listened to them, one after the other, till the weaker part of my
heart died within me. Every fresh turning of the key seemed a malignant insult to my love of liberty. I was alone, and away from my family; I, who have never slept from home above a dozen times in my life, and then only from necessity. Furthermore, the reader will bear in mind that I was ill. With a great flow of natural spirits, I was subject to fits of nervousness, which had latterly taken a more continued shape. I felt one of them coming on, and having learned to anticipate and break the force of it by sudden exercise, I took a stout walk of I dare say fourteen or fifteen miles, by pacing backwards and forwards for the space of three hours. This threw me into a state in which rest, for rest’s sake, became pleasant. I got hastily into bed, and slept without a dream till morning. By the way, I never dreamt of prison but twice all the time I was there, and my dream was the same on both occasions.

“It was on the second day of my imprisonment that I saw my wife, who could not come to me before. To say that she never reproached me for these and the like taxes upon our family prospects, is to say little. A world of comfort for me was in her face. There is a note in the fifth volume of my Spenser, which I was then reading, in these words:—February 4th, 1813.’ The line to which it refers is this:—
‘Much dearer be the things, which come through hard distresse.’

“I now applied to the magistrates for permission to have my wife and children with me, which was granted. Not so my request to move into the jailer’s house. Mr. Holme Sumner, on occasion of a petition from a subsequent prisoner, told the House of Commons, that my room had a view over the Surrey hills, and that I was very well content with it. I could not feel obliged to him for this postliminious piece of enjoy-
ment, especially when I remembered that Mr. Holme Sumner had done all in his power to prevent my removal out of the room, precisely (as it appeared to us) because it looked upon nothing but the felons, and because I was not contented. In fact, you could not see out of the windows at all, without getting on a chair; and then, all that you saw was the miserable men, whose chains had been clanking from daylight. The perpetual sound of these chains wore upon my spirits, in a manner to which my state of health allowed me reasonably to object. The yard also in which I exercised was very small. The jailer proposed that I should be allowed to occupy apartments in his house, and walk occasionally in the prison garden; adding, that I should certainly die if I had not; and his opinion was seconded by that of the medical man. Mine host was sincere in this, if in nothing else. Telling us, one day, how warmly he had put it to the magistrates, and insisted that I should not survive, he turned round upon me, and, to the Doctor’s astonishment, added, ‘nor, Mister, will you.’ I believe it was the opinion of many; but Mr. Holme Sumner argued, perhaps, from his own sensations, which were sufficiently iron. Perhaps he concluded also, like a proper ministerialist, that if I did not think fit to flatter the magistrates a little, and play the courtier, my wants could not be very great. At all events, he came up one day with the rest of them, and after bowing as well as he could to my wife, and piteously pinching the cheek of an infant in her arms, went down and did all he could to prevent our being comfortably situated.

The Doctor then proposed that I should be removed into the prison infirmary; and this proposal was granted. Infirmary had, I confess, an awkward sound even to my ears. I fancied a room shared with other sick persons, not the best fitted for companions; but the good-natured
doctor (his name was Dixon) undeceived me.* The infirmary was divided into four wards, with as many small rooms attached to them. The two upper wards were occupied, but the two on the ground floor had never been used: and one of these, not very providently (for I had not yet learned to think of money) I turned into a noble room.
I papered the walls with a trellis of roses; I had the ceiling coloured with clouds and sky; the barred windows were screened with Venetian blinds; and when my bookcases were set up with their busts, and flowers and a pianoforte made their appearance, perhaps there was not a handsomer room on that side the water. I took a pleasure, when a stranger knocked at the door, to see him come in and stare about him. The surprise on issuing from the Borough, and passing through the avenues of a jail, was dramatic. Charles Lamb declared there was no other such room except in a fairy tale.

“But I had another surprise; which was a garden. There was a little yard outside, the room, railed off from another belonging to the neighbouring ward. This yard I shut in with green palings, adorned it with a trellis, bordered it with a thick bed of earth from a nursery, and even contrived to have a grass-plot. The earth I filled with flowers and young trees. There was an apple-tree, from which we managed to get a pudding the second year. As to my flowers, they were allowed to be perfect. A poet from Derbyshire† told me he had seen no such heart’s-ease. I bought the ‘Parnaso Italiano’ while in prison, and used often to think of a passage in it, while looking at this miniature piece of horticulture:—

* I may venture to speak of him with this grateful epithet, for I verily believe he thought me dying, and he never interchanged a word with me except on the matter in question.

Thomas Moore; with whom and Lord Byron I was too angry, when I wrote this article, to mention them as visitors of me by name.

————————Mio picciol orto,
A me sei vigna, e campo, e selva, e prato.—Baldi.
————————My little garden,
To me thou ’rt vineyard, field, and meadow, and wood.
Here I wrote and read in fine weather, sometimes under an awning. In autumn, my trellises were hung with scarlet runners, which added to the flowery investment. I used to shut my eyes in my arm-chair, and affect to think myself hundreds of miles off. But my triumph was in issuing forth of a morning. A wicket out of the garden led into the large one belonging to the prison. The latter was only for vegetables; but it contained a cherry-tree, which I saw twice in blossom.   ***

* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *

“I entered prison the third of February, and removed to my new apartments the 16th of March, happy to get out of the noise of the chains. When I sat amidst my books, and saw the imaginary sky overhead and my paper roses about me, I drank in the quiet at my ears, as if they were thirsty. The little room was my bed-room. I afterwards made the two rooms change characters, when my wife lay in. Permission for her continuance with me at that period was easily obtained of the Magistrates, among whom a new-comer made his appearance. This was another good-natured man—the late Earl of Rothes, then Lord Leslie. He heard me with kindness; and his actions did not belie his countenance. The only girl I have among seven children was born in prison.* I cannot help blessing her when I speak of it. Never shall I forget my sensations: for I was obliged to play the physician

* The reader will be good enough to bear in mind, that this account of my imprisonment is quoted from another publication. I have now eight children, three of whom are girls.

myself, the hour having taken us by surprise. But her mother found many unexpected comforts; and during the whole time she was in bed, which happened to be in very fine weather, the garden door was set open, and she looked upon the trees and flowers. A thousand recollections rise within me at every fresh period of my imprisonment, such as I cannot trust myself with dwelling upon.

“These rooms, and the visits of my friends, were the bright side of my captivity. I read verses without end, and wrote almost as many. I had also the pleasure of hearing that my brother had found comfortable rooms in Coldbath-fields, and a host who really deserved that name as much as a jailer could. The first year of my imprisonment was a long pull up-hill; but never was metaphor so literally verified, as by the sensation at the turning of the second. In the first year, all the prospect was that of the one coming: in the second, the days began to be scored off, like those of children at school preparing for a holiday. When I was fairly settled in my new apartments, the jailer (I beg pardon of his injured spirit—I ought to have called him Governor) could hardly express his spleen at my having escaped his clutches, his astonishment was so great. Besides, though I treated him handsomely, he had a little lurking fear of the Examiner upon him; so he contented himself with getting as much out of me as he could, and boasting of the grand room which he would very willingly have prevented my enjoying. My friends were allowed to be with me till ten o’clock at night, when the under-turnkey, a young man, with his lantern, and much ambitious gentility of deportment, came to see them out. I believe we scattered an urbanity about the prison, till then unknown. Even W. H. (Mr. Hazlitt, who there first did me the pleasure of a visit) would stand interchanging amenities at the threshold, which I had great difficulty in
making him pass. I know not which kept his hat off with the greater pertinacity of deference, I to the diffident cutter-up of Dukes and Kings, or he to the amazing prisoner and invalid who issued out of a bower of roses. There came T. B. (my old friend and schoolfellow,
Barnes,) who always reminds me of Fielding. It was he that introduced me to A. (Alsager) the kindest of neighbours, a man of business, who contrived to be a scholar and a musician. He loved his leisure, and yet would start up at a moment’s notice to do the least of a prisoner’s biddings. Other friends are dead since that time, and others gone. I have tears for the kindest of them; and the mistaken shall not be reproached, if I can help it. But what return can I make to the L’s (Lambs), who came to comfort me in all weathers, hail or sunshine, in daylight or in darkness, even in the dreadful frost and snow of the beginning of 1814? I am always afraid of talking about them, lest my tropical temperament should seem to render me too florid. What shall I say to Dr. G. one of the most liberal of a generous profession, who used to come so many times into that out-of-the-way world to do me good? Great disappointment, and exceeding viciousness, may talk as they please of the badness of human nature; for my part, I am on the verge of forty, and I have seen a good deal of the world, the dark side as well as the light, and I say that human nature is a very good and kindly thing, and capable of all sorts of excellence. Art thou not a refutation of all that can be said against it, excellent Sir John Swinburne? another friend whom I made in prison, and whose image, now before my imagination, fills my whole frame with emotion. I could kneel before him and bring his hand upon my head, like a son asking his father’s blessing. It was during my imprisonment that another S. (Mr. Shelley) afterwards my friend of friends, now no more, made me a princely offer, which at
that time I stood in no need of. I will take this opportunity of mentioning, that some other persons, not at all known to us, offered to raise money enough to pay the fine of £1000. We declined it, with proper thanks; and it became us to do so. But, as far as my own feelings were concerned, I have no merit; for I was destitute, at that time, of even a proper instinct with regard to money. It was not long afterwards that I was forced to call upon friendship for its assistance; and nobly was it afforded me! Why must I not say every thing upon this subject, showing my improvidence for a lesson, and their generosity for a comfort to mankind?*—To some other friends, near and dear, I may not even return thanks in this place for a thousand nameless attentions, which they make it a business of their existence to bestow on those they love. I might as soon thank my own heart. Their names are trembling on my pen, as that is beating at the recollection. But one or two others, whom I have not seen for years, and who by some possibility (if indeed they ever think it worth their while to fancy any thing on the subject) might suppose themselves forgotten, I may be suffered to remind of the pleasure they gave me. A third S. (M. S. who afterwards saw us so often near London) is now, I hope, enjoying the tranquillity he so richly deserves; and so, I trust, is a fourth, C. S. whose face, or rather something like it (for it was not easy to match her own), I am continually meeting with in the country of her ancestors. Her veil, and her baskets of flowers, used to come through the portal, like light.

“I must not omit the honour of a visit from the venerable Mr. Bentham, who is justly said to unite the wisdom of a sage with the simplicity of a child. He found me playing at battledore, in which he took a part, and with his usual eye towards improvement, suggested an amendment in the constitution of shuttle-cocks. I remember the surprise of

* I have since said it, in this book.

the Governor at his local knowledge and vivacity. ‘Why, Mister,’ said he, ‘his eye is everywhere at once.’

“It was intimated to me that Mr. Southey intended to pay me a visit. I showed a proper curiosity to see the writer who had helped to influence my opinions in favour of liberty; but, in the mean time, there was a report that he was to be Poet Laureat. I contradicted this report in the Examiner with some warmth. Unluckily, Mr. Southey had accepted the office the day before; and the consequence was, he never made his appearance. At this period he did me the honour to compare me with Camille Desmoulins. He has since favoured me with sundry lectures and cuttings-up for adhering to his own doctrine. They say he is not sorry. I am sure I am not; and there is an end of the matter. (Little T. L. H. is his humble servant, but cannot conceive how he has incurred his commiseration).

“All these comforts were embittered by unceasing ill health, and by certain melancholy reveries, which the nature of the place did not help to diminish. During the first six weeks, the sound of the felons’ chains, mixed with what I always took for horrid execrations or despairing laughter, was never out of my ears. When I went into the Infirmary, which stood by itself between the inner jail and the prison walls, gallowses were occasionally put in order by the side of my windows, and afterwards set up over the prison gates, where they were still visible. The keeper one day, with an air of mystery, took me into the upper ward, for the purpose, he said, of gratifying me with a view of the country from the roof. Something prevented his showing me this; but the spectacle he did show me I shall never forget. It was a stout country girl, sitting in an absorbed manner, her eyes fixed on the fire. She was handsome, and had a little hectic spot in either cheek, the effect of some gnawing emotion. He told me, in a whisper, that she was there
for the murder of her bastard child. I could have knocked the fellow down for his unfeelingness in making a show of her: but, after all, she did not see us. She heeded us not. There was no object before her, but what produced the spot in her cheek. The gallows, on which she was executed, must have been brought out within her hearing;—but perhaps she heard that as little. To relieve the reader, I will give him another instance of the delicacy of my friend the under-jailer. He always used to carry up her food to the poor girl himself; because, as he said, he did not think it a fit task for younger men. This was a melancholy case. In general, the crimes were not of such a staggering description, nor did the criminals appear to take their situation to heart. I found by degrees, that fortune showed fairer play than I had supposed to all classes of men, and that those who seemed to have most reason to be miserable, were not always so. Their criminality was generally proportioned to their want of thought. My friend Cave, who had become a philosopher by the force of his situation, said to me one day, when a new batch of criminals came in, ‘Poor ignorant wretches, Sir!’ At evening, when they went to bed, I used to stand in the prison garden, listening to the cheerful songs with which the felons entertained one another. The beaters of hemp were a still merrier race. Doubtless the good hours and simple fare of the prison contributed to make the blood of its inmates run better, particularly those who were forced to take exercise. At last, I used to pity the debtors more than the criminals; yet even the debtors had their gay parties and jolly songs. Many a time (for they were my neighbours) have I heard them roar out the old ballad in
Beaumont and Fletcher:—
‘He that drinks and goes to bed sober,
Falls, as the leaves do, and dies in October.’
To say the truth, there was an obstreperousness in their mirth, that
looked more melancholy than the thoughtlessness of the lighter-feeding felons.

On the 3d of February, 1815, I was free. When my family, the preceding summer, had been obliged to go down to Brighton for their health, I felt ready to dash my head against the wall, at not being able to follow them. I would sometimes sit in my chair, with this thought upon me, till the agony of my impatience burst out at every pore. I would not speak of it, if it did not enable me to show how this kind of suffering may be borne, and in what sort of way it terminates. All fits of nervousness ought to be anticipated as much as possible with exercise. Indeed, a proper healthy mode of life would save most people from these effeminate ills, and most likely restore even those who inherit them.—It was now thought that I should dart out of my cage like a bird, and feel no end in the delight of ranging. Bat partly from ill-health, and partly from habit, the day of my liberation brought a good deal of pain with it. An illness of a long standing, which required very different treatment, had by this time been burnt in upon me by the iron that enters into the soul of the captive, wrap it in flowers as he may; and I am ashamed to say, that after stopping a little at the house of my friend A., I had not the courage to continue looking at the shoals of people passing to and fro, as the coach drove up the Strand. The whole business of life appeared to me a hideous impertinence. The first pleasant sensation I experienced was when the coach turned into the New-road, and I beheld the old hills of my affection standing where they used to do, and breathing me a welcome.

“It was very slowly that I recovered any thing like a sensation of health. The bitterest evil I suffered was in consequence of having been confined so long in one spot. The habit stuck to me, on my return home, in a very extraordinary manner, and made, I fear, some of my
friends think me ungrateful. They did me an injustice; but it was not their fault; nor could I wish them the bitter experience which alone makes us acquainted with the existence of strange things. This weakness I outlived; but I have never properly recovered the general shock given my constitution. My natural spirits, however, have always struggled hard to see me reasonably treated. Many things give me exquisite pleasure, which seem to affect other men but in a very minor degree; and I enjoyed, after all, such happy moments with my friends, even in prison, that in the midst of the beautiful climate in which I am now writing,* I am sometimes in doubt whether I would not rather be there than here.”

On leaving prison, I published the Story of Rimini, and became a worse newspaper man than before. Ill health prevented my attending the theatres and writing the theatrical articles; and at length, instead of throwing into the Examiner what forces remained to me, in some new shape, (as I ought to have enabled myself to do,) I was impelled by necessity to publish a small weekly paper, on the plan of the periodical essayists. From this (though it sold very well for a publication which no pains were taken to circulate) I reaped more honour than profit; and the Indicator (I fear) is the best of my works:—so hard is it for one who has grown up in the hope of being a poet, to confess that the best things he has done have been in prose. The popularity of that work, however, evinced by the use made of it in others, and, above all, the good opinion expressed of it by such men as Mr. Lamb and Mr. Hazlitt, have long served to reconcile me to this discovery. I have more than consoled myself by thinking that it is not impossible it may be found some day or other in the train of a body of writers, among whom I am “proud to be less:” and it has enabled me perhaps to come

* This account was written in Italy.

to a true estimate of my station as an author, which I take to be somewhere between the prose of those town-writers and the enthusiasm of the old poets; not, indeed, with any thing like an approach to the latter, except in my love of them; nor with any pretence to know half as much of wit and the town as the former did; but not altogether unoriginal in a combination of the love of both, nor in the mixed colours of fancy and familiarity which it has enabled me to throw over some of the commonplaces of life. But enough of this attempt at a self-estimate, always perhaps difficult, and, at any rate, sure to be disputed. There are things I care more for in the world than myself, let me be thought of as I may. So I proceed to new adventures.