LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey
Robert Southey “To the Editor of the Courier” 5 January 1822

Vol. I Contents
Early Life: I
Early Life: II
Early Life: III
Early Life: IV
Early Life: V
Early Life: VI
Early Life: VII
Early Life: VIII
Early Life: IX
Early Life: X
Early Life: XI
Early Life: XII
Early Life: XIII
Early Life: XIV
Early Life: XV
Early Life: XVI
Early Life: XVII
Ch. I. 1791-93
Ch. II. 1794
Ch. III. 1794-95
Ch. IV. 1796
Ch. V. 1797
Vol. II Contents
Ch. VI. 1799-1800
Ch. VII. 1800-1801
Ch. VIII. 1801
Ch. IX. 1802-03
Ch. X. 1804
Ch. XI. 1804-1805
Vol. III Contents
Ch. XII. 1806
Ch. XIII. 1807
Ch. XIV. 1808
Ch. XV. 1809
Ch. XVI. 1810-1811
Ch. XVII. 1812
Vol. IV Contents
Ch. XVIII. 1813
Ch. XIX. 1814-1815
Ch. XX. 1815-1816
Ch. XXI. 1816
Ch. XXII. 1817
Ch. XXIII. 1818
Ch. XXIV. 1818-1819
Vol. IV Appendix
Vol. V Contents
Ch. XXV. 1820-1821
Ch. XXVI. 1821
Ch. XXVII. 1822-1823
Ch. XXVIII. 1824-1825
Ch. XXIX. 1825-1826
Ch. XXX. 1826-1827
Ch. XXXI. 1827-1828
Vol. V Appendix
Vol. VI Contents
Ch. XXXII. 1829
Ch. XXXIII. 1830
Ch. XXXIV. 1830-1831
Ch. XXXV. 1832-1834
Ch. XXXVI. 1834-1836
Ch. XXXVII. 1836-1837
Ch. XXXVIII. 1837-1843
Vol. VI Appendix
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“Keswick, Jan. 5. 1822.

“Having seen in the newspapers a note relating to myself, extracted from a recent publication of Lord Byron’s, I request permission to reply through the medium of your journal.

“I come at once to his lordship’s charge against me,
blowing away the abuse with which it is frothed, and evaporating a strong acid in which it is suspended. The residuum, then, appears to be, that ‘
Mr. Southey, on his return from Switzerland (in 1817), scattered abroad calumnies, knowing them to be such, against Lord Byron and others.’ To this I reply with a direct and positive denial.

“If I had been told in that country that Lord Byron had turned Turk, or monk of La Trappe,—that he had furnished a harem, or endowed an hospital, I might have thought the report, whichever it had been, possible, and repeated it accordingly, passing it, as it had been taken, in the small change of conversation, for no more than it was worth. In this manner I might have spoken of him as of Baron Gerambe, the Green Man, the Indian Jugglers, or any other figurante of the time being. There was no reason for any particular delicacy on my part in speaking of his lordship; and, indeed, I should have thought anything which might be reported of him would have injured his character as little as the story which so greatly annoyed Lord Keeper Guilford,—that he had ridden a rhinoceros. He may ride a rhinoceros, and though every one would stare, no one would wonder. But making no inquiry concerning him when I was abroad, because I felt no curiosity, I heard nothing, and had nothing to repeat. When I spoke of wonders to my friends and acquaintances on my return, it was of the flying-tree at Alpnach, and the eleven thousand virgins at Cologne,—not of Lord Byron. I sought for no staler subject than St. Ursula.

“Once, and only once, in connection with Switzerland, I have alluded to his lordship; and as the passage was curtailed in the press, I take this opportunity of restoring it. In the Quarterly Review, speaking incidentally of the ‘Jungfrau,’ I said ‘it was the scene where Lord Byron’s Manfred met the Devil and bullied him, though the Devil
must have won his cause before any tribunal, in this world or the next, if he had not pleaded more feebly for himself than his advocate, in a cause of canonization, ever pleaded for him.’

“With regard to the others, whom his lordship accuses me of calumniating, I suppose he alludes to a party of his friends, whose names I found written in the album at Mont Anvert, with an avowal of atheism annexed, in Greek, and an indignant comment, in the same language, underneath it. Those names, with that avowal and the comment, I transcribed in my note-book, and spoke of the circumstance on my return. If I had published it, the gentleman in question would not have thought himself slandered by having that recorded of him which he has so often recorded of himself.

“The many opprobrious appellations which Lord Byron has bestowed upon me, I leave as I find them, with the praises which he has bestowed upon himself.
“‘How easily is a noble spirit discern’d
From harsh and sulphurous matter that flies out
In contumelies, makes a noise, and stinks.’
But I am accustomed to such things; and, so far from irritating me are the enemies who use such weapons, that when I hear of their attacks, it is some satisfaction to think they have thus employed the malignity which must have been employed somewhere, and could not have been directed against any person whom it could possibly molest or injure less. The viper, however venomous in purpose, is harmless in effect while it is biting at the file. It is seldom, indeed, that I waste a word or a thought upon those who are perpetually assailing me. But abhorring as I do the personalities which disgrace our current literature, and averse from controversy as I am, both by principle and inclination, I make no profession
of non-resistance. When the offence and the offender are such as to call for the whip and the branding-iron, it has been both seen and felt that I can inflict them.

Lord Byron’s present exacerbation is evidently produced by an infliction of this kind, not by hearsay reports of my conversation four years ago, transmitted him from England.

“The cause may be found in certain remarks upon the Satanic School of Poetry, contained in my preface to the Vision of Judgment. Well would it be for Lord Byron if he could look back upon any of his writings with as much satisfaction as I shall always do upon what is there said of that flagitious school. Many persons, and parents especially, have expressed their gratitude to me for having applied the branding-iron where it was so richly deserved. The Edinburgh Reviewer, indeed, with that honourable feeling by which his criticisms are so peculiarly distinguished, suppressing the remarks themselves, has imputed them wholly to envy on my part. I give him, in this instance, full credit for sincerity: I believe he was equally incapable of comprehending a worthier motive, or inventing a worse; and, as I have never condescended to expose, in any instance, his pitiful malevolence, I thank him for having in this stript it bare himself, and exhibited it in its bald, naked, and undisguised deformity.

Lord Byron, like his encomiast, has not ventured to bring the matter of those animadversions into view. He conceals the fact that they are directed against authors of blasphemous and lascivious books; against men who, not content with indulging their own vices, labour to make others the slaves of sensuality like themselves; against public panders, who, mingling impiety with lewdness, seek at once to destroy the cement of social order, and to carry profanation and pollution into private families, and into the hearts of individuals.


“His lordship has thought it not unbecoming in him to call me a scribbler of all work. Let the word scribbler pass; it is an appellation which will not stick like that of the Satanic School. But, if a scribbler, how am I one of all work? I will tell Lord Byron what I have not scribbled, what kind of work I have not done:—

“I have never published libels upon my friends and acquaintances, expressed my sorrow for those libels, and called them in during a mood of better mind, and then reissued them when the evil spirit, which for a time had been cast out, had returned and taken possession, with seven others more wicked than himself. I have never abused the power, of which every author is in some degree possessed, to wound the character of a man or the heart of a woman. I have never sent into the world a book to which I did not dare affix my name, or which I feared to claim in a court of justice, if it were pirated by a knavish bookseller. I have never manufactured furniture for the brothel. None of these things have I done; none of the foul work by which literature is perverted to the injury of mankind. My hands are clean! There is no damned spot upon them!—no taint, which all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten!

“Of the work which I have done it becomes me not here to speak, save only as relates to the Satanic School, and its Coryphæus, the author of Don Juan. I have held up that school to public detestation, as enemies to the religion, the institutions, and the domestic morals of the country. I have given them a designation to which their founder and leader answers. I have sent a stone from my sling which has smitten their Goliath in the forehead. I have fastened his name upon the gibbet for reproach and ignominy, as long as it shall endure. Take it down who can!

“One word of advice to Lord Byron before I conclude.
When he attacks me again let it be in rhyme. For one who has so little command of himself, it will be a great advantage that his temper should be obliged to keep tune.

“And while he may still indulge in the same rankness and violence of insult, the metre will, in some degree, seem to lessen its vulgarity.

Robert Southey.”