LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Samuel Rogers and his Contemporaries
Uvedale Price to Samuel Rogers, 6 October 1824

Vol. I Contents
Chapter I. 1803-1805.
Chapter II. 1805-1809.
Chapter III. 1810-1812.
Chapter IV. 1813-1814.
Chapter V. 1814-1815.
Chapter VI. 1815-1816.
Chapter VII. 1816-1818.
Chapter VIII. 1818-19.
Chapter IX. 1820-1821.
Chapter X. 1822-24.
Chapter XI. 1825-1827.
Vol. II Contents
Chapter I. 1828-1830.
Chapter II. 1831-34.
Chapter III. 1834-1837.
Chapter IV. 1838-41.
Chapter V. 1842-44.
Chapter VI. 1845-46.
Chapter VII. 1847-50.
Chapter VIII. 1850
Chapter IX. 1851.
Chapter X. 1852-55.
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‘Foxley: Oct. 6, 1824.

‘You are a very pretty fellow indeed to talk of breaking your heart if we do not come to town next year, when you are breaking ours, and your promise into the bargain, by not coming to us this; then, you throw out hopes of your coming another time, and talk of next year to a man of seventy-seven and upwards, and with one foot—but I won’t tell lies; neither of mine is in the grave, nor, I really believe, very near it, and I hope to have many a pleasant walk and talk with you, though not here.’

He then fills several sheets with an elaborate discussion of the Latin and Greek pronunciation, and proceeds—

‘I remember hearing that Queen Caroline, the wife of George II., when she first came to England, being very fond of oysters and having heard the fame of ours, desired to have some; the finest and freshest Colchester were procured; she would hardly touch them. Pyefleet were tried; she kicked at them, and declared that English oysters were good for nothing. One of her attendants guessed how the case stood, and luckily found out some refuse oysters, all but stinking, and brought them to her. “Ay,” she cried, “these are the right sort; these have the true flavour of ours in Germany,” and devoured the whole dish. Such, whether in an oyster or in
higher matters, is the omnipotence of habit, and I am persuaded that if the change I have supposed in the execution of music were to be made, and to be continued (like our change in ancient recitation) for some centuries, and that then a few musicians, convinced of its absurdity, and wishing to bring about a reform, were, after practising in private, to execute a piece of music according to time, they would be hissed out of the orchestra, because their new mode, like the fresh oysters, had not the accustomed flavour; noto contingit odore, is the main point, to whatever sense we may address ourselves. I shall make no further excuses for the length of this discussion, if you happen to take an interest in it, a few pages are nothing, if you do not, a single page is a volume; mais parlous d’autres choses.

‘And so, by your own frank confession, you showed my letter to Lord and Lady Grenville, and to a breach of promise added a breach of confidence. Ah! double traître. As, however, they were pleased with the manner in which I spoke of them, I cannot be angry, and I must say that I have great reliance on your tact, and am sure you would never show anything at all likely to hurt the feelings of either party. I certainly did leave Dropmore with a very strong and most favourable impression of everything there, in every way, and I wrote to you under that impression, just as it had remained in my mind. I regret not having known them earlier in life. I have lost a great deal, and I now feel truly anxious about him. I really believe I should have had the very great pleasure of seeing them both at Foxley this year, if he had not thought it necessary or, at least, prudent,
to keep a stricter regimen than he well could from home, and to be within reach of his medical adviser; next year, I have some hopes, and if they should come who knows who might like to meet them? Whoever they may be, and however ill they may have behaved themselves, they shall be most kindly received.

‘I wish I could have met you and the grand chorus of Bards at Bowood; it would have been a lucky moment, for though I so much like both Lord and Lady Lansdowne, and am so curious to see the place again after a very long interval, that I should have wished for nothing more, yet such a party I must own would have enhanced the pleasure. The only time I ever saw Bowood was with Knight, just forty years ago, for it was just before he published his “Landscape” and I my “Essay.” Lord Lansdowne, I remember, used to look at us with some surprise when we were making very bold remarks on all that we saw. “He does not know,” said Knight to me, “that we are great doctors.” Not long afterwards we laid our respective claims before the public. This visit of ours was at the early part of the French Revolution; we found at Bowood the Duchesse de Levis and her mother; the next day Talleyrand arrived while we were at dinner. I was very much struck with the look he cast round the company, as he slowly walked in—it had the appearance of sullen haughtiness with a sort of suspicious examination. The day after in came the Duc de Levis, with a very different allure; a more ill-looking, mean-looking fellow I never saw, and so his handsome wife seemed to think by her manner of receiving him. So much for old times and the company I did meet at Bowood, now for
those I unluckily did not.
Bowles, as you know, I am well acquainted with, but not as a flute-player, and on that, as well as on every other account, I should have been very glad to have met him, and have heard him perform his water-music and do the honours of his water-party. A Greek poet is very severe on flute-players; he allows that the gods have given them a mind, but that out it flies with the first puff of their breath. . . .

Crabbe, I once saw and that’s all. I might have been acquainted with him, for Sir Joshua invited me to dinner, and told me I should meet Crabbe and Johnson. I had some engagement, probably (for I was then, as Ste. Fox used to say of himself, a young man of wit and pleasure about town) at some fine house to meet fine gentlemen and ladies: whatever it was, I was blockhead enough not to break it, and I have never forgiven myself. The dinner I went to and the company there I have never thought of from that time to this; the dinner I did not go to I never should have forgotten, and if I had gone should now be recollecting every circumstance with pleasure and satisfaction, instead of crying, Oh, fool! fool! fool! I am, as you know, a great admirer of Crabbe; so were Charles Fox and Fitzpatrick. The first poem of his I ever saw (I believe his first work) was “The Library”: Charles brought it to Foxley soon after it came out and read a good deal of it to us, Hare being one of the audience. I particularly remember his reading the part where Crabbe has described “the ancient worthies of romance,” and has given in about twenty lines the essence of knight-errantry. When Fox came to
‘And shadowy forms with staring eyes stalk round,
Hare cried out (you remember his figure and eyes), “That’s meant for me.”

Moore I do not even know by sight. I could wish to be as well acquainted with him as I am with many of his works, for by what I have been told I shall not like him less than I do them; if I should be in town next year you must bring us together. His “Life of Sheridan” I shall send for the moment it is out, both on account of the writer and the subject. At one time I saw a good deal of Sheridan: he and his first wife passed some time here, and he is an instance that a taste for poetry and for scenery are not always united. Had this house been in the midst of Hounslow Heath, he could not have taken less interest in all around it. His delight was in shooting all day, and every day, and my gamekeeper said that of all the gentlemen he had ever been out with he never knew so bad a shot. This sorry performer “dans la guerre aux oiseaux” was, as all can bear witness,
‘Dans les combats d’esprit savant maître d’escrime.
Hare was with us there was some excellent sparring between those doughty knights, and the more amusing from their play being—as you well know who knew them both—very different. You must have known the first Mrs. Sheridan and have often heard her in private, though you have the misfortune—I wish I could share it with you—of not being old enough to have heard much of her in public. Hers was truly “a voice as of the cherub choir,” and she was always ready to sing without any pressing. She sang here a great deal, to my infinite delight. But what had a peculiar charm was that she used to take my daughter, then a child, on her
lap and sing a number of childish songs, with such a playfulness of manner and such a sweetness of look and voice as was quite enchanting. “Tempo passato, perchè non ritorni?” This I may say without meaning any offence to il tempo presente, for in spite of certain drawbacks that time will produce, and “of all that must accompany old age,” I still have from various pursuits, and the interest I continue to take in them, and through the kindness and indulgence of my friends and of those who are most near and dear to me, many enjoyments suited to my time of life, in some degree even belonging to it,
‘And from the dregs of life sometimes receive
What the first sprightly runnings could not give.
One of the pleasures and privileges of old age is garrulity, and in that I have indulged myself to the top of my bent.

‘With all our best regards and wishes rancune tenante, believe me, most truly yours,

U. Price.’