LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Life of Byron: 1806

Life of Byron: to 1806
‣ Life of Byron: 1806
Life of Byron: 1807
Life of Byron: 1808
Life of Byron: 1809
Life of Byron: 1810
Life of Byron: 1811
Life of Byron: 1812
Life of Byron: 1813
Life of Byron: 1814
Life of Byron: 1815
Life of Byron: 1816 (I)
Life of Byron: 1816 (II)
Life of Byron: 1817
Life of Byron: 1818
Life of Byron: 1819
Life of Byron: 1820
Life of Byron: 1821
Life of Byron: 1822
Life of Byron: 1823
Life of Byron: 1824
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In the summer of this year (1806) he, as usual, joined his mother at Southwell,—among the small, but select, society of which place he had, during his visits, formed some intimacies and friendships, the memory of which is still cherished there fondly and proudly. With the exception, indeed, of the brief and bewildering interval which he passed, as we have seen, in the company of Miss Chaworth, it was at Southwell alone that an opportunity was ever afforded him of profiting by the bland influence of female society, or of seeing what woman is in the true sphere of her virtues, home. The amiable and intelligent family of the Pigots received him within their circle, as one of themselves; and in the Rev. John Becher* the youthful poet found not only an acute and judicious critic, but a sincere friend. There were also one or two other families—as the Leacrofts, the Housons—among whom his talents and vivacity made him always welcome; and the proud shyness with which, through the whole of his minority, he kept aloof from all intercourse with the neighbouring gentlemen seems to have been entirely familiarized away by the small, cheerful society of Southwell. One of the most intimate and valued of his friends, at this period, has given me the following account of her first acquaintance with him:—“The first time I was introduced to him was at a party at his mother’s, when he was so shy that she was forced to send for him three times before she could persuade him to come into the drawing-room, to play with the young people at a round game. He was then a fat bashful boy, with his hair combed straight over his forehead, and extremely like a miniature picture that his mother had painted by M. de Chambruland. The next morning Mrs. Byron brought him to call at our house, when he still continued shy and formal in his manner. The conversation turned upon Chelten-

* A gentleman, who has since honourably distinguished himself by, his philanthropic plans and suggestions for that most important object, the amelioration of the condition of the Poor.

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ham, where we had been staying, the amusements there, the plays, &c.; and I mentioned that I had seen the character of Gabriel Lackbrain very well performed. His mother getting up to go, he accompanied her, making a formal bow, and I, in allusion to the play, said ‘Good by, Gaby.’ His countenance lighted up, his handsome mouth displayed a broad grin, all his shyness vanished, never to return, and, upon his mother’s saying ‘Come, Byron, are you ready?’—no, she might go by herself, he would stay and talk a little longer; and, from that moment, he used to come in and go out at all hours, as it pleased him, and in our house considered himself perfectly at home.”

To this lady was addressed the earliest letter from his pen that has fallen into my hands. He corresponded with many of his Harrow friends,—with Lord Clare, Lord Powerscourt, Mr. William Peel, Mr. William Bankes, and others. But it was then little foreseen what general interest would one day attach to these schoolboy letters, and accordingly, as I have already had occasion to lament, there are but few of them now in existence. The letter, of which I have spoken, to his Southwell friend, though containing nothing remarkable, is perhaps for that very reason worth insertion, as serving to show, on comparing it with most of its successors, how rapidly his mind acquired confidence in its powers. There is, indeed, one charm for the eye of curiosity in his juvenile manuscripts which they necessarily want in their printed form; and that is, the strong evidence of an irregular education which they exhibit, the unformed and childish handwriting and, now and then, even defective spelling of him who, in a very few years after, was to start up one of the giants of English literature.

“Burgage Manor, August 29th, 1804.

“I received the arms, my dear Miss ——, and am very much obliged to you for the trouble you have taken. It is impossible I should have any fault to find with them. The sight of the drawings gives me great pleasure for a double reason,—in the first place, they will ornament
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my books, in the next, they convince me that you have not entirely forgot me. I am, however, sorry you do not return sooner,—you have already been gone an age. I perhaps may have taken my departure for London before you come back; but, however, I will hope not. Do not overlook my watch-ribbon and purse, as I wish to carry them with me. Your note was given me by Harry, at the play, whither I attended Miss
L—— and Doctor S——; and now I have set down to answer it before I go to bed. If I am at Southwell when you return,—and I sincerely hope you will soon, for I very much regret your absence,—I shall be happy to hear you sing my favourite, ‘The Maid of Lodi.’ My mother, together with myself, desires to be affectionately remembered to Mrs. Pigot, and believe me, my dear Miss ——, I remain your affectionate friend,


“P.S. If you think proper to send me any answer to this, I shall be extremely happy to receive it. Adieu.

“P.S. 2d. As you say you are a novice in the art of knitting. I hope it don’t give you too much trouble. Go on slowly, but surely. Once more, adieu.”

We shall often have occasion to remark the fidelity to early habits and tastes by which Lord Byron, though in other respects so versatile, was distinguished. In the juvenile letter, just cited there are two characteristics of this kind which he preserved unaltered during the remainder of his life;—namely, his punctuality in immediately answering letters, and his love of the simplest ballad music. Among the chief favourites to which this latter taste led him at this time were the songs of the Duenna, which he had the good taste to delight in; and some of his Harrow contemporaries still remember the joyousness with which, when dining with his friends at the memorable mother Barnard’s, he used to roar out, “This bottle’s the sun of our table.”

His visit to Southwell this summer was interrupted, about the beginning of August, by one of those explosions of temper on the part of Mrs. Byron, to which, from his earliest childhood, he had been but too well accustomed, and in producing which his own rebel spirit was not
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always, it may be supposed, entirely blameless. In all his portraits of himself, so dark is the pencil which he employs, that the following account of his own temper, from one of his journals, must be taken with a due portion of that allowance for exaggeration, which his style of self-portraiture, “overshadowing even the shade,” requires.

“In all other respects” (he says, after mentioning his infant passion for Mary Duff,) “I differed not at all from other children, being neither tell nor short, dull nor witty, of my age, but rather lively—except in my sullen moods, and then I was always a Devil. They once (in one of my silent rages) wrenched a knife from me, which I had snatched from table at Mrs. B’s dinner (I always dined earlier), and applied to my breast;—but this was three or four years after, just before the late Lord B.’s decease.

“My ostensible temper has certainly improved in later years; but I shudder, and must, to my latest hour, regret the consequence of it and my passions combined. One event—but no matter—there are others not much better to think of also—and to them I give the preference . . . . .

“But I hate dwelling upon incidents. My temper is now under management—rarely loud, and, when loud, never deadly. It is when silent, and I feel my forehead and my cheek paling, that I cannot control it; and then . . . . . but unless there is a woman (and not any or every woman) in the way, I have sunk into tolerable apathy.”

Between a temper, at all resembling this, and the loud hurricane bursts of Mrs. Byron, the collision, it may be supposed, was not a little formidable; and the age at which the young poet was now arrived, when,—as most parents feel,—the impatience of youth begins to champ the bit, would but render the occasions for such shocks more frequent. It is told, as a curious proof of their opinion of each other’s violence, that, after parting one evening in a tempest of this kind, they were known each to go privately that night to the apothecary’s, inquiring anxiously whether the other had been to purchase poison, and cautioning the vender of drugs not to attend to such an application, if made.

It was but rarely, however, that the young lord allowed himself to be provoked into more than a passive share in these scenes. To the boisterousness of his mother he would oppose a civil and, no doubt,
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provoking silence,—bowing to her but the more profoundly the higher her voice rose in the scale. In general, however, when he perceived that a storm was at hand, in flight lay his only safe resource. To this summary expedient he was driven, at the period of which we are speaking; but not till after a scene had taken place between him and
Mrs. Byron, in which the violence of her temper had proceeded to lengths, that, however outrageous they may be deemed, were not, it appears, unusual with her. The poet, Young, in describing a temper of this sort, says—
“The cups and saucers, in a whirlwind sent,
Just intimate the lady’s discontent.”
But poker and tongs were, it seems, the missiles which Mrs. Byron preferred, and which she, more than once, sent resounding after her fugitive son. In the present instance, he was but just in time to avoid a blow aimed at him with the former of these weapons and to make a hasty escape to the house of a friend in the neighbourhood; where, concerting the best means of baffling pursuit, he decided upon an instant flight to London. The letters, which I am about to give, were written, immediately on his arrival in town, to some friends at Southwell, from whose kind interference in his behalf it may fairly be concluded that the blame of the quarrel, whatever it may have been, did not rest with him. The first is to
Mr. Pigot, a young gentleman about the same age as himself, who had just returned, for the vacation, from Edinburgh. where he was, at that time, pursuing his medical studies.

“16, Piccadilly, August 9th, 1806.

“Many thanks for your amusing narrative of the last proceedings of my amiable Alecto, who now begins to feel the effects of her folly. I have just received a penitential epistle, to which, apprehensive of pursuit, I have despatched a moderate answer, with a kind of promise to return in a fortnight;—this, however (entre nous), I never mean to fulfil.
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Her soft warblings must have delighted her auditors, her higher notes being particularly musical, and on a calm moonlight evening would be heard to great advantage. Had I been present as a spectator, nothing would have pleased me more; but to have come forward as one of the ‘dramatis personæ,’—St. Dominic defend me from such a scene! Seriously, your mother has laid me under great obligations, and you, with the rest of your family, merit my warmest thanks for your kind connivance at my escape from ‘
Mrs. Byron furiosa.

“Oh! for the pen of Ariosto to rehearse, in epic, the scolding of that momentous eve,—or rather, let me invoke the shade of Danté to inspire me, for none but the author of the ‘Inferno’ could properly preside over such an attempt. But, perhaps, where the pen might fail, the pencil would succeed. What a group!—Mrs. B. the principal figure; you cramming your ears with cotton, as the only antidote to total deafness; Mrs. —— in vain endeavouring to mitigate the wrath of the lioness robbed of her whelp; and last, though not least, Elizabeth and Wousky,—wonderful to relate!—both deprived of their parts of speech, and bringing up the rear in mute astonishment. How did S. B. receive the intelligence? How many puns did he utter on so facetious an event? In your next inform me on this point, and what excuse you made to A. You are probably by this time tired of deciphering this hieroglyphical letter;—like Tony Lumpkin, you will pronounce mine to be a d—d up and down hand. All Southwell, without doubt, is involved in amazement. Apropos, how does my blue-eyed nun, the fair * *? is she ‘robed in sable garb of woe?

“Here I remain at least a week or ten days; previous to my departure you shall receive my address, but what it will be I have not determined. My lodgings must be kept secret from Mrs. B.; you may present my compliments to her, and say any attempt to pursue me will fail, as I have taken measures to retreat immediately to Portsmouth, on the first intimation of her removal from Southwell. You may add, I have now proceeded to a friend’s house in the country, there to remain a fortnight.

“I have now blotted (I must not say written) a complete double letter, and in return shall expect a monstrous budget. Without doubt,
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the dames of Southwell reprobate the pernicious example I have shown, and tremble lest their babes should disobey their mandates, and quit in dudgeon their mammas on any grievance. Adieu. When you begin your next, drop the ‘lordship,’ and put ‘Byron’ in its place. Believe me yours, &c.


From the succeeding letters, it will be seen that the “lioness” was not behindhand, in energy and decision, with her offspring, but, immediately on discovering his flight, set off after him.

London. August 10th, 1806.

As I have already troubled your brother with more than he will find pleasure in deciphering, you are the next to whom I shall assign the difficult employment of perusing this 2nd epistle. You will perceive from my 1st, that no idea of Mrs. B.’s arrival had disturbed me at the time it was written; not so the present, since the appearance of a note from the illustrious cause of my sudden decampment has driven the ‘natural ruby from my cheeks,’ and completely blanched my woe-begone countenance. This gunpowder intimation of her arrival (confound her activity!) breathes less of terror and dismay than you will probably imagine from the volcanic temperament of her ladyship, and concludes with the comfortable assurance of all present motion being prevented by the fatigue of her journey, for which my blessings are due to the rough roads and restive quadrupeds of his majesty’s highways. As I have not the smallest inclination to be chased round the country, I shall e’en make a merit of necessity, and since, like Macbeth, ‘They’ve tied me to the stake, I cannot fly’ I shall imitate that valorous tyrant, and ‘bear-like fight the course,’ all escape being precluded. I can now engage with less disadvantage, having drawn the enemy from her intrenchments, though, like the prototype to whom I have compared myself, with an excellent
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chance of being knocked on the head. However, ‘lay on, Macduff, and d—d be he who first cries, hold, enough.’

“I shall remain in town for, at least, a week, and expect to hear from you before its expiration. I presume the printer has brought you the offspring of my poetic mania. Remember, in the first line, to read ‘loud the winds whistle,’ instead of ‘round,’ which that blockhead Ridge has inserted by mistake, and makes nonsense of the whole stanza. Addio!—Now to encounter my Hydra. Yours ever.”

“London, Sunday, midnight, August 10th, 1806.

“This astonishing packet will, doubtless, amaze you, but having an idle hour this evening, I wrote the enclosed stanzas, which I request you to deliver to Ridge, to be printed separate from my other compositions, as you will perceive them to be improper for the perusal of ladies; of course, none of the females of your family must see them. I offer 1000 apologies for the trouble I have given you in this and other instances. Yours truly.”

“Piccadilly, August 16th, 1806.

“I cannot exactly say with Cæsar, ‘Veni, vidi, vici:’ however, the most important part of his laconic account of success applies to my present situation; for, though Mrs. Byron took the trouble of ‘coming’ and ‘seeing,’ yet your humble servant proved the victor. After an obstinate engagement of some hours, in which we suffered considerable damage, from the quickness of the enemy’s fire, they at length retired in confusion, leaving behind the artillery, field equipage, and some prisoners:
A. D. 1806. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 73
their defeat is decisive of the present campaign. To speak more intelligibly, Mrs. B. returns immediately, but I proceed, with all my laurels, to Worthing, on the Sussex coast; to which place you will address (to be left at the post-office) your next epistle. By the enclosure of a 2d gingle of rhyme, you will probably conceive my muse to be vastly prolific; her inserted production was brought forth a few years ago, and found by accident on Thursday among some old papers. I have recopied it, and, adding the proper date, request it may be printed with the rest of the family. I thought your sentiments on the last bantling would coincide with mine, but it was impossible to give it any other garb, being founded on facts. My stay at Worthing will not exceed 3 weeks, and you may possibly behold me again at Southwell the middle of September.

* * * *

Will you desire Ridge to suspend the printing of my poems till he hears further from me, as I have determined to give them a new form entirely. This prohibition does not extend to the two last pieces I have sent with my letters to you. You will excuse the dull vanity of this epistle, as my brain is a chaos of absurd images, and full of business, preparations, and projects.

“I shall expect an answer with impatience;—believe me, there is nothing at this moment could give me greater delight than your letter.”

“London, August 18th, 1806.

I am just on the point of setting off for Worthing, and write merely to request you will send that idle scoundrel Charles with my horses immediately; tell him I am excessively provoked he has not made his appearance before, or written to inform me of the cause of his delay, particularly as I supplied him with money for his journey. On no pretext is he to postpone his march one day longer,—and if, in obedience to the caprices of Mrs. B. (who, I presume, in again spreading desolation through her little monarchy), he thinks proper to disregard my positive orders, I shall not, in future, consider him as my servant. He must
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bring the surgeon’s bill with him, which I will discharge immediately on receiving it. Nor can I conceive the reason of his not acquainting Frank with the state of my unfortunate quadrupeds. Dear Pigot, forgive this petulant effusion, and attribute it to the idle conduct of that precious rascal, who, instead of obeying my injunctions, is sauntering through the streets of that political Pandemonium, Nottingham. Present my remembrances to your family and the Leacrofts, and believe me, &c.

“P.S. I delegate to you the unpleasant task of despatching him on his journey—Mrs. B.’s orders to the contrary are not to be attended to; he is to proceed first to London, and then to Worthing, without delay. Every thing I have left must be sent to London. My Poetics you will pack up for the same place, and not even reserve a copy for yourself and sister, as I am about to give them an entire new form: when they are complete, you shall have the 1st fruits. Mrs. B. on no account is to see or touch them. Adieu.”

“Little Hampton, August 26th, 1808.

“I this morning received your epistle, which I was obliged to send for to Worthing, whence I have removed to this place, on the same coast, about 8 miles distant from the former. You will probably not be displeased with this letter, when it informs you that I am £30,000 richer than I was at our parting, having just received intelligence from my lawyer that a cause has been gained at Lancaster assizes*, which will be worth that sum by the time I come of age. Mrs. B. is doubtless acquainted of this acquisition, though not apprized of its exact value, of which she had better be ignorant; for her behaviour on any sudden piece of favourable intelligence is, if possible, more ridiculous than her detestable conduct on the most trifling circumstance of an unpleasant nature. You may give my compliments to her, and say that her detaining my servant’s

* In a suit undertaken for the recovery of the Rochdale property.

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things shall only lengthen my absence; for unless they are immediately despatched to 16, Piccadilly, together with those which have been so long delayed belonging to myself, she shall never again behold my radiant countenance illuminating her gloomy mansion. If they are sent, I may probably appear in less than 2 years from the date of my present epistle.

“Metrical compliment is an ample reward for my strains; you are one of the few votaries of Apollo who unite the sciences over which that deity presides. I wish you to send my poems to my lodgings in London immediately, as I have several alterations and some additions to make; every copy must be sent, as I am about to amend them, and you shall soon behold them in all their glory. I hope you have kept them from that Upas tree, that antidote to the arts, Mrs. B. Entre nous,—you may expect to see me soon. Adieu. Yours ever.”

From these letters it will be perceived that Lord Byron was already engaged in preparing a collection of his Poems for the press. The idea of printing them first occurred to him in the parlour of that cottage, which, during his visits to Southwell, had become his adopted home. Miss Pigot, who was not before aware of his turn for versifying, had been reading aloud the Poems of Burns, when young Byron said that “he, too, was a poet sometimes, and would write down for her some verses of his own which he remembered.” He then, with a pencil, wrote those lines, beginning “In thee I fondly hoped to clasp*,” which were printed in his first unpublished volume, but are not contained in the editions that followed. He also repeated to her the verses I have already referred to, “When in the hall my father’s voice,” so remarkable for the anticipations of his future fame that glimmer through them.

From this moment, the desire of appearing in print took entire possession of him;—though, for the present, his ambition did not extend its views beyond a small volume for private circulation. The person to whom fell the honour of receiving his first manuscripts was Ridge, the bookseller, at Newark; and, while the work was printing, the young author continued to pour fresh materials into his hands, with the same

* This precious pencilling is still, of course, preserved.

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eagerness and rapidity that marked the progress of all his maturer works.

His return to Southwell, which he announced in the last letter we have given, was but for a very short time. In a week or two after he again left that place, and, accompanied by his young friend Mr. Pigot, set out for Harrowgate. The following extracts are from a letter written by the latter gentleman, at the time, to his sister.

“Harrowgate is still extremely full; Wednesday (to-day) is our ball-night, and I meditate going into the room for an hour, although I am by no means fond of strange faces. Lord B., you know, is even more shy than myself; but for an hour this evening I will shake it off. * * * How do our theatricals proceed? Lord Byron can say all his part, and I most of mine. He certainly acts it inimitably. Lord B. is now poetising, and, since he has been here, has written some very pretty verses*. He is very good in trying to amuse me as much as possible, but it is not in my nature to be happy without either female society or study. * * * There are many pleasant rides about here, which I have taken in company with Bo’swain, who, with Brighton†, is universally admired. You must read this to Mrs. B., as it is a little Tony Lumpkinish. Lord B. desires some space left: therefore, with respect to all the comedians elect, believe me to be, &c. &c.”

To this letter the following note from Lord Byron was appended.


“I have only just dismounted from my Pegasus, which has prevented me from descending to plain prose in an epistle of greater length to your fair self. You regretted in a former letter, that my poems were not more extensive; I now for your satisfaction announce that I have nearly doubled them, partly by the discovery of some I conceived to be lost, and partly by some new productions. We shall meet on Wednesday next; till then believe me yours affectionately,


* The verses “To beautiful Quaker,” In his first volume, were written at Harrowgate.

† A horse of Lord Byron’s:—the other horse that he had with him at this time was called Sultan.

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“P.S. Your brother John is seized with a poetic mania, and is now rhyming away at the rate of three lines per hour—so much for inspiration! Adieu!”

By the gentleman, who was thus early the companion and intimate of Lord Byron, and who is now pursuing his profession with the success which his eminent talents deserve, I have been favoured with some further recollections of their visit together to Harrowgate, which I shall take the liberty of giving in his own words—

“You ask me to recall some anecdotes of the time we spent together at Harrowgate in the summer of 1806, on our return from college, he from Cambridge, and I from Edinburgh; but so many years have elapsed since then that I really feel myself as if recalling a distant dream. We, I remember, went in Lord Byron’s own carriage, with post-horses; and he sent his groom with two saddle-horses, and a beautifully formed, very ferocious, bull-mastiff, called Nelson, to meet us there. Boatswain* went, by the side of his valet Frank, on the box, with us.

“The bull-dog, Nelson, always wore a muzzle, and was occasionally sent for into our private room, when the muzzle was taken off, much to my annoyance, and he and his master amused themselves with throwing the room into disorder. There was always a jealous feud between this Nelson and Boatswain; and whenever the latter came into the room while the former was there, they instantly seized each other; and then, Byron, myself, Frank, and all the waiters that could be found, were vigorously engaged in parting them,—which was in general only effected by thrusting poker and tongs into the mouths of each. But, one day, Nelson unfortunately escaped out of the room without his muzzle, and going into the stable-yard fastened upon the throat of a horse, from which he could not be disengaged. The stable-boys ran in alarm to find Frank, who, taking one of his lord’s Wogdon’s pistols, always kept loaded in his room, shot poor Nelson through the head, to the great regret of Byron.

* The favourite dog, on which Lord Byron afterwards wrote the well-known epitaph.

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“We were at the Crown Inn at Low Harrowgate. We always dined in the public room, but retired very soon after dinner to our private one; for Byron was no more a friend to drinking than myself. We lived retired, and made few acquaintance; for he was naturally shy, very shy, which people who did not know him mistook for pride. While at Harrowgate he accidentally met with Professor Hailstone from Cambridge, and appeared much delighted to see him. The professor was at Upper Harrowgate; we called upon him one evening to take him to the theatre, I think,—and Lord Byron sent his carriage for him, another time, to a ball at the Granby. This desire to show attention to one of the professors of his college is a proof that, though he might choose to satirize the mode of education in the university, and to abuse the antiquated regulations and restrictions to which under-graduates are subjected, he had yet a due discrimination in his respect for the individuals who belonged to it. I have always indeed heard him speak in high terms of praise of Hailstone, as well as of his master, Bishop Mansel, of Trinity College, and of others whose names I have now forgotten.

“Few people understood Byron, but I know that he had naturally a kind and feeling heart, and that there was not a single spark of malice in his composition*.”

The private theatricals alluded to in the letters from Harrowgate were, both in prospect and performance, a source of infinite delight to him, and took place soon after his return to Southwell. How anxiously he was expected back by all parties may be judged from the following fragment of a letter which was received by his companion during their absence from home:—

“Tell Lord Byron that, if any accident should retard his return, his mother desires he will write to her, as she shall be miserable if he does not arrive the day he fixes. Mr. W. B. has written a card to Mrs. H. to offer for the character of ‘Henry Woodville,’—Mr. and Mrs. * * * not approving of their son’s taking a part in the play: but I believe he will persist in it. Mr. G. W. says that, sooner than the party should be dis-

* Lord Byron and Dr. Pigot continued to be correspondents for some time, but, after their parting this autumn, they never met again.

A. D. 1806. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 79
appointed, he will take any part,—sing—dance—in short, do any thing to oblige. Till Lord Byron returns, nothing can be done; and positively he must not be later than Tuesday or Wednesday.”

We have already seen that, at Harrow, his talent for declamation was the only one by which Lord Byron was particularly distinguished, and in one of his note-books be adverts, with evident satisfaction, both to his school displays and to the share which he took in these representations at Southwell:—

“When I was a youth, I was reckoned a good actor. Besides ‘Harrow Speeches’ (in which I shone), I enacted Penruddock, in the ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ and Tristram Fickle in Allingham’s farce of the ‘Weathercock,’ for three nights (the duration of our compact), in some private theatricals at Southwell, in 1806, with great applause. The occasional prologue for our volunteer play was also of my composition. The other performers were young ladies and gentlemen of the neighbourhood, and the whole went off with great effect upon our good-natured audience.”

It may, perhaps, not be altogether trifling to observe, that, in thus personating with such success two heroes so different, the young poet displayed both that love and power of versatility by which he was afterwards impelled, on a grander scale, to present himself under such opposite aspects to the world;—the gloom of Penruddock, and the whim of Tristram, being types, as it were, of the two extremes, between which his own character, in after-life, so singularly vibrated.

These representations, which form a memorable era at Southwell, took place, about the latter end of September, in the house of Mr. Leacroft, whose drawing-room was converted into a neat theatre on the occasion, and whose family contributed some of the fair ornaments of its boards. The prologue, which Lord Byron furnished, and which may be seen in his “Hours of Idleness,” was written by him, between stages, on his way from Harrowgate. On getting into the carriage at Chesterfield, he said to his companion, “Now, Pigot, I’ll spin a prologue for our play;” and before they reached Mansfield, he had completed his task,—interrupting, only once, his rhyming reverie, to ask the proper pronunciation
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of the French word “débût,” and, on being told it, exclaiming, in the true spirit of
Byshe, “Ay, that will do for rhyme to ‘new.’”

The epilogue on the occasion was from the pen of Mr. Becher; and for the purpose of affording to Lord Byron, who was to speak it, an opportunity of displaying his powers of mimicry, consisted of good-humoured portraits of all the persona concerned in the representation. Some intimation of this design having got among the actors, an alarm was felt instantly at the ridicule thus in store for them; and to quiet their apprehensions, the author was obliged to assure them that, if after having heard his epilogue at rehearsal, they did not, of themselves, pronounce it harmless, and even request that it should be preserved, he would most willingly withdraw it. In the mean time, it was concerted between this gentleman and Lord Byron that the latter should, on the morning of rehearsal, deliver the verses in a tone as innocent and as free from all point as possible,—reserving his mimicry, in which the whole sting of the pleasantry lay, for the evening of representation. The desired effect was produced;—all the personages of the green-room were satisfied, and even wondered how a suspicion of waggery could have attached itself to so well-bred a production. Their wonder, however, was of a different nature a night or two after, when, on hearing the audience convulsed with laughter at this same composition, they discovered, at last, the trick which the unsuspected mimic had played on them, and had no other resource than that of joining in the laugh which his playful imitation of the whole dramatis personæ excited.

The small volume of Poems, which he had now, for some time, been preparing, was, in the month of November, ready for delivery to the select few among whom it was intended to circulate; and to Mr. Becher the first copy of the work was presented*. The influence which this gentleman had, by his love of poetry, his sociability and good sense, acquired at this period over the mind of Lord Byron, was frequently employed by him in guiding the taste of his young friend, no less in matters of conduct than of literature; and the ductility with which this

* Of this edition, which was in quarto, and consisted but of a few sheets, there are but two, or, at the utmost, three copies in existence.

A. D. 1806. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 81
influence was yielded to, in an instance I shall have to mention, will show how far from untractable was the natural disposition of Byron, had he more frequently been lucky enough to fall into hands, that “knew the stops” of the instrument, and could draw out its sweetness as well as its strength.

In the wild range which his taste was now allowed to take through the light and miscellaneous literature of the day, it was but natural that he should settle with most pleasure on those works, from which the feelings of his age and temperament could extract their most congenial food; and, accordingly, Lord Strangford’s Camoëns and Little’s Poems are said to have been, at this period, his favourite study. To the indulgence of such a taste his reverend friend very laudably opposed himself,—representing with truth (as far, at least, as the latter author is concerned), how much more worthy models, both in style and thought, he might find among the established names of English literature. Instead of wasting his time on the ephemeral productions of his contemporaries, he should devote himself, his adviser said, to the pages of Milton and of Shakspeare, and, above all, seek to elevate his fancy and taste by the contemplation of the sublimer beauties of the Bible. In the latter study, this gentleman acknowledges that his advice had been, to a great extent, anticipated, and that with the poetical parts of the Scripture he found Lord Byron deeply conversant;—a circumstance which corroborates the account given by his early master, Doctor Glennie, of his great proficiency in scriptural knowledge while, yet but a child, under his care.

To Mr. Becher, as I have said, the first copy of his little work was presented; and this gentleman, in looking over its pages, among many things to commend and admire, as well as some almost too boyish to criticise, found one poem in which, as it appeared to him, the imagination of the young bard had indulged itself in a luxuriousness of colouring beyond what even youth could excuse. Immediately, as the most gentle mode of conveying his opinion, he sat down and addressed to Lord Byron some expostulatory verses on the subject, to which an answer, also in verse, was returned by the noble poet as promptly,—with, at the same time, a note, in plain prose, to say, that he felt fully the justice of his reverend friend’s censure, and that, rather than allow the poem in question
82 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1807.
to be circulated, he would instantly recall all the copies that had been sent out, and cancel the whole impression. On the very same evening this prompt sacrifice was carried into effect;—Mr. Becher saw every copy of the edition burned, with the exception of that which he retained in his own possession, and another which had been despatched to Edinburgh, and could not be recalled.

This trait of the young poet speaks sufficiently for itself;—the sensibility, the temper, the ingenuous pliableness which it exhibits, show a disposition capable, by nature, of every thing we most respect and love.