LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Recollections of the Life of Lord Byron
Chapter X

Table of Contents
Preliminary Statement
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
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1808 TO THE END OF 1814;




R. C. DALLAS, Esq.








Though flattery had now deeply inoculated him with its poison, he was at first unwilling to own its effects even to himself; and to me he declared that he did not relish society, and was resolved never to mix with it. He made no resistance however to its invitations, and in a very short time he not only willingly obeyed the summons of fashion, but became a votary. One evening, seeing his carriage at the door in St. James’s Street, I knocked, and found him at home. He was engaged to a party, but it was not time to go, and I sat nearly an
hour with him. He had been reading
Childe Harold, and continued to read some passages of it aloud,—he enjoyed it, and I enjoyed it doubly. On putting it down, he talked of the parties he had been at, and of those to which he was invited, and confessed an alteration in his mind; “I own,” said he, “I begin to like them.”

Holland House, on which so much of the point of his satire had been directed, being now one of his most flattering resorts, it was no longer difficult to persuade him to suppress his satirical writings. The fifth edition of “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers” was now ready to issue from the press; the “Hints from Horace” was far advanced; and the “Curse of Minerva” was in preparation. He had not listened to me fully; but he had begun not only to be easy at the delay of the printing of these poems, but to desire that delay, as if he had it already in contemplation to
be guided by the reception of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Yet even after this was clear, he did not immediately decide upon the suppression of them; till some of his new friends requested it. Upon this, the bookseller who was to publish them,
Cawthorn, was apprised of the author’s intention, and was desired to commit the whole of the new edition of “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers,” to the flames; and the carrying this into execution was entrusted entirely to him.

The expenses of the edition being defrayed, as well as those attending the other poems that were also stopped in the press, and the bookseller having reaped all the profits of the four preceding editions, he had literally no right to complain on this subject; but as far as respects the right attached to expectations raised, he had, perhaps, cause to think himself ill used. He had undertaken to publish what had been
refused by other publishers; had risked making enemies, and had not neglected the publication entrusted to him. He ought to have had the advantages attending the circulation of the author’s other works. I wished it, and proposed it.
Lord Byron had been directed to Miller as the publisher in fashion; and from motives I have already stated, Cawthorn was deprived of a patronage, which he reasonably expected. He naturally felt sore, but endeavoured to submit with a good grace. The suppression of the satire was gratifying to Lord Byron’s new friends; but it had the effect of raising the value of the copies that could be obtained. An Irish edition was circulated unadvertized, but it did not appear to renew animosity. He was completely forgiven as the venomous satirist, and embraced as the successful poet of the Pilgrimage. I must not omit to say that he had some occasional doubts, or rather mo-
ments of assumed modesty, as to the merit of his new poem, in spite of its success. “I may place a great deal of it,” said he, “to being a lord.” And again,—“I have made them afraid of me.” There may be something in both these remarks, as they regard the celerity of his fame, and the readiness of the “all hail,” that was given to him; but the impression made by Childe Harold on reiterated perusals, and the nerve of his succeeding works, leave not a moment’s doubt of his success being indeed the just meed of his genius.

Review in Gentleman's Magazine

I was now to see Lord Byron in a new point of view. The town was full of company, as usual in the spring. Besides the speech he had made on the Frame-breaking Bill, he again attracted notice on the Catholic Question, which was agitated warmly by the peers in the beginning of April. His name was in every mouth, and his poem in every hand. He converted criti-
cism to adulation, and admiration to love. His stanzas abounded with passages which impressed on the heart of his readers pity for the miserable feelings of a youth who could express so admirably what he felt; and this pity, uniting with the delight proceeding from his poetry, generated a general affection of which he knew not the value; for while the real fruits of happiness clustered around him, he neglected them, and became absorbed in gratifications that could only tend to injure the reputation he had gained. He professedly despised the society of women, yet female adulation became the most captivating charm to his heart. He had not admitted the ladies of his own family to any degree of intimacy; his aunts, his cousins, were kept at a distance, and even his sister had hitherto shared the like fate. Among the admirers who had paid their tribute in prose or verse to the muse of the Pilgrimage, I
have already mentioned one who asked for an acknowledgment of the receipt of her letter. He had treated that letter lightly, and said he would not answer it. He was not able to keep his resolution; and on finding his correspondent to be a fine young woman, and distinguished for eccentric notions, he became so enraptured, so intoxicated, that his tune and thoughts were almost entirely devoted to reading her letters and answering them. One morning he was so absorbed in the composition of a letter to her, that he barely noticed me as I entered the room. I said, “Pray go on;” and sat down at one side of the table at which he was writing, where I looked over a newspaper for some time. Finding that he did not conclude, I looked at him, and was astonished at the complete abstraction of his mind, and at the emanation of his sentiments on his countenance. He had a peculiar smile on his lips; his eyes beamed
the pleasure he felt from what was passing from his imagination to his paper; he looked at me and then at his writing, but I am persuaded he did not see me, and that the thoughts with which he teemed prevented his discerning any thing about him. I said, “I see you are deeply engaged.” His ear was as little open to sound as his eye to vision. I got up; on which he said, “Pray sit.” I answered that I would return. This roused him a little, and he said, “I wish you would.” I do not think he knew what passed, or observed my quitting him. This scene gave me great pain. I began to fear that his fame would be dearly bought. Previous to the appearance of
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, his mind had gained some important conquests over his senses; and I also thought he had barred his heart against the grosser attacks of the passion of vanity. If these avenues of destruction to the soul were again to be thrown open
by the publication of the poem, it were better that it had never been published. I called upon him the next day, when I found him in his usual good-humour. He told me to whom he had been writing, and said he hoped I never thought him rude. I took my usual liberty with him, and honestly warned him against his new dangers. While I was with him the
lady’s page brought him a new letter. He was a fair-faced delicate boy of thirteen or fourteen years old, whom one might have taken for the lady herself. He was dressed in a scarlet huzzar jacket and pantaloons, trimmed in front in much the same manner with silver buttons, and twisted silver lace, with which the narrow slit cuffs of his jacket were also embroidered. He had light hair curling about his face; and held a feathered fancy hat in his hand, which completed the scenic appearance of this urchin Pandarus. I could not but suspect
at the time that it was a disguise. If so, he never disclosed it to me, and as he had hitherto had no reserve with me, the thought vanished with the object of it, and I do not precisely recollect the mode of his exit. I wished it otherwise, but wishing was in vain.

Lord Byron passed the spring and summer of 1812 intoxicated with success, attentions of every kind, and fame. In the month of April he again promised me the letters to his mother as a pledge that he would not part with Newstead; but early in the autumn he told me that he was urged by his man of business, and that Newstead must be sold. This lawyer appears to have had an undue sway over him. Newstead was brought to the hammer at Garraway’s. I attended the auction. Newstead was not sold, only 90,000l. being offered for it. What I remember that day affected me considerably. The auctioneer was ques-
tioned respecting the title; he answered, that the title was a grant from
Henry VIII. to an ancestor of Lord Byron’s, and that the estate had ever since regularly descended in the family. I rejoiced to think it had escaped that day; but my pleasure did not last long. From Garraway’s I went to St. James’s Street, when he told me that he had made a private agreement for it with Mr. Claughton, for the sum of 140,000l. I saw the agreement—but some time after it turned out that the purchaser could not complete the purchase, and forfeited, I think, 20,000l., the estate remaining Lord Byron’s. It has been since sold, I know not for what sum, as I was abroad at the time; and my correspondence with Lord Byron had ceased. It is a legal maxim that, “the law abhors a perpetuity.” I have nothing to say against opening the landed property of the kingdom to purchasers who may be more worthy of it
than the sellers, but there are two considerations which cannot but affect the mind of a thinking man. It disgraces ancestry, and it robs posterity. A property bestowed, like Newstead, for deeds of valour and loyalty, is a sacred gift; and the inheritor that turns it into money commits a kind of sacrilege. He may have a legal, but he has no moral, no honourable right to divert the transmission of it from the blood that gained it. I cannot but think that the reviewer in the
Edinburgh Review, who speaks of Newstead, has overshot his aim in ornamenting the abbey with the bright reflections of its possessor’s genius; in a poet, imagination requires the alliance of soul; without both, no man can be a whole poet. Lord Byron should have ate his daily biscuit with his cup of tea to preserve Newstead. The reviewer’s remarks arose from a perusal of the account
given of it by
Walpole. I will here insert the account and the critique:

“As I returned,” says Walpole, “I saw Newstead and Althorpe; I like both. The former is the very Abbey. The great east window of the church remains, and connects with the house; the hall entire, the refectory entire, the cloister untouched, with the ancient cistern of the convent, and their arms on: it has a private chapel quite perfect. The park, which is still charming, has not been so much unprofaned. The present lord has lost large sums, and paid part in old oaks; five thousand pounds of which have been cut near the house. In recompense, he has built two baby forts, to pay his country in castles for damage done to the navy; and planted a handful of Scotch firs, that look like plough-boys dressed in old family liveries
for a public day. In the hall is a very good collection of pictures, all animals; the refectory, now the great drawing-room, is full of Byrons; the vaulted roof remaining, but the windows have new dresses making for them by a Venetian tailor.”

On this the reviewer remarks:—

“This is a careless, but happy description, of one of the noblest mansions in England; and it will now be read with a far deeper interest than when it was written. Walpole saw the seat of the Byrons, old, majestic and venerable; but he saw nothing of that magic beauty which Fame sheds over the habitations of genius, and which now mantles every turret of Newstead Abbey. He saw it when Decay was doing its work on the cloister, the refectory, and the chapel; and all its honours seemed mouldering into oblivion. He could not know that a voice was soon to
go forth from those antique cloisters that should be heard through all future ages, and cry, ‘Sleep no more’ to all the house. Whatever may be its future fate, Newstead Abbey must henceforth be a memorable abode. Time may shed its wild flowers on the walls, and let the fox in upon the court-yard and the chambers. It may even pass into the hands of unlettered pride or plebeian opulence—but it has been the mansion of a mighty poet. Its name is associated to glories that cannot perish, and will go down to posterity in one of the proudest pages of our annals*.”

This is rather a poetical effusion than a sober criticism. I have heard that the purchaser means to remove the Abbey as rubbish, and to build a modern villa upon its site. It may be as well for the Poet’s fame;

* Edinburgh Review for December, 1818—No. 61, pages 90, 91.

for though his genius might mantle every stone from the foundations to the pinnacles, it would not cover the sale of it*.

About this time Lord Byron began, I cannot say to be cool,—for cool to me he never was,—but I thought to neglect me; and I began to doubt whether I had most reason to be proud of, or to be mortified by, my connexion and correspondence with him.

The pain arising from the mortification in this change was little, compared to that which I felt in the disappointment of my hope, that his success would elevate his character, as well as raise his fame. I saw that he was gone; and it made me unhappy. With an imagination, learning, and language to exalt him to the highest character of a poet, his mind seemed not sufficiently strong to raise him equally high in the not adventitious character of a great man.

* We are glad to learn that the present proprietor of Newstead has expended a large sum upon its repair, with a good taste worthy its high associations.


In the autumn he took a place in the country, near Lord * * *’s, where he again became absorbed for a few months, and where he wrote his first dedication (a poetical one) of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

In the beginning of the year 1813 he seemed to be a little recovered from his intoxication. He lived in a house in Bennet-street, St. James’s, where I saw him almost every day, by his own desire, and his kindness and attentions seemed uninterrupted. I confess I suspected that the independence of my opinions had had some effect upon his mind. I have the copy of a letter by me, written to him in the Autumn of 1812, (August 19th,) when he was going to the country-house he had taken, as I have just mentioned; and which I will insert here as another proof of that independence:—


“You talked of going out of town in a few days; pray remember to leave St. Simon’s works for me. I will call again, but you may be gone—if so, I shall be glad to hear from you. Wherever you are I most sincerely wish you happy; but let me, with my old sincerity, add, that I am confident you are not at present in the road of happiness. Do not hate me for this, for be assured that no man, nor woman either, more sincerely wishes you the enjoyment of every good, than does.

Your truly obliged, &c.”

He again became satiated with praise and pleasure, and turned his mind to composition. I was highly gratified, allowing it even to be flattery, at his acknowledgment of being pleased with the novels I had written; and I was still more flattered when he proposed to me to write one jointly. I thought the proposal made on a
transient thought; and was rather surprised, when I next saw him, to receive from him two folio sheets of paper, accompanied with these words, “Now, do you go on.” On opening the paper I read, “Letter I. Darrell to G. Y.” and found it to be the commencement of a novel. I was charmed to find his intention real; but my pleasure, which continued through the perusal, forsook me when I reflected on the impossibility of my adopting either the style or the objects he had in view, as he dwelled upon them. I told him I saw that he meant to laugh at me, but I kept the manuscript, though, at the time, I had no intention of using it; however, in writing another novel, I was tempted to build a very different structure upon it than was originally planned, and it stands the first letter in my novel of
Sir Francis Darrell.


“— J—, 180—.
“—— Darrell to G. Y.
[The first part of this letter is lost.]

“* * * * * * so much for your present pursuits. I will now resume the subject of my last. How I wish you were upon the spot; your taste for the ridiculous would be fully gratified; and if you felt inclined for more serious amusement, there is no ‘lack of argument.’ Within this last week our guests have been doubled in number, some of them my old acquaintance. Our host you already know—absurd as ever, but rather duller, and I should conceive troublesome to such of his very good friends as find his house more agreeable than its owner. I confine myself to observation, and do not find him at all in the way, though Veramore and Asply are of a different opinion. The former, in particular, imparts to me many pathetic complaints on the want of opportunities (nothing else being wanting to the success of the said Veramore,) created by the
fractious and but ill-concealed jealousy of poor Bramblebear, whose Penelope seems to have as many suitors as her namesake, and for aught I can see to the contrary, with as much prospect of carrying their point. In the mean time, I look on and laugh, or rather, I should laugh were you present to share in it: Sackcloth and sorrow are excellent wear for Soliloquy; but for a laugh there should be two, but not many more, except at the first night of a modern tragedy.

“You are very much mistaken in the design you impute to myself; I have none here or elsewhere. I am sick of old intrigues, and too indolent to engage in new ones. Besides, I am, that is, I used to be, apt to find my heart gone at the very time when you fastidious gentlemen begin to recover yours. I agree with you that the world, as well as yourself, are of a different opinion. I shall never be at the trouble to undeceive either; my follies have seldom been of my own seeking. ‘Rebellion came in my way and I found it.’ This may appear as coxcombical a speech as Veramore could make, yet you partly know its truth. You talk to me too of ‘my cha-
racter,’ and yet it is one which you and fifty others have been struggling these seven years to obtain for yourselves. I wish you had it, you would make so much better, that is worse, use of it; relieve me, and gratify an ambition which is unworthy of a man of sense. It has always appeared to me extraordinary that you should value women so highly and yet love them so little. The height of your gratification ceases with its accomplishment; you bow—and you sigh—and you worship—and abandon. For my part I regard them as a very beautiful but inferior animal. I think them as much out of their place at our tables as they would be in our senates. The whole present system, with regard to that sex, is a remnant of the chivalrous barbarism of our ancestors; I look upon them as grown up children, but, like a foolish mamma, am always the slave of some only one. With a contempt for the race, I am ever attached to the individual, in spite of myself. You know, that though not rude, I am inattentive; any thing but a ‘beau garçon.’ I would not hand a woman out of her carriage, but I would leap into a river after her. However, I grant you
that, as they must walk oftener out of chariots than into the Thames, you gentlemen Servitors, Cortejos, and Cicisbei, have a better chance of being agreeable and useful; you might, very probably, do both; but, as you can’t swim, and I can, I recommend you to invite me to your first water-party.

“Bramblebear’s Lady Penelope puzzles me. She is very beautiful, but not one of my beauties. You know I admire a different complexion, but the figure is perfect. She is accomplished, if her mother and music-master may be believed; amiable, if a soft voice and a sweet smile could make her so; young, even by the register of her baptism; pious and chaste, and doting on her husband, according to Bramblebear’s observation; equally loving, not of her husband, though rather less pious, and t’other thing, according to Veramore’s; and, if mine hath any discernment, she detests the one, despises the other, and loves—herself. That she dislikes Bramblebear is evident; poor soul, I can’t blame her; she has found him out to be mighty weak, and little-tempered; she has also discovered that she married
too early to know what she liked, and that there are many likeable people who would have been less discordant and more creditable partners. Still she conducts herself well, and in point of good-humour, to admiration.—A good deal of religion, (not enthusiasm, for that leads the contrary way), a prying husband who never leaves her, and, as I think, a very temperate pulse, will keep her out of scrapes. I am glad of it, first, because, though Bramblebear is bad, I don’t think Veramore much better; and next, because Bramblebear is ridiculous enough already, and it would only be thrown away upon him to make him more so; thirdly, it would be a pity, because no body would pity him; and, fourthly, (as Scrub says) he would then become a melancholy and sentimental harlequin, instead of a merry, fretful, pantaloon, and I like the pantomime better as it is now cast.

“More in my next.

“Yours, truly,
“—— Darrell.”