LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Life of Byron: 1807

Life of Byron: to 1806
Life of Byron: 1806
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Life of Byron: 1811
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Of a no less amiable character were the feelings that, about this time, dictated the following letter;—a letter which it is impossible to peruse without acknowledging the noble candour and conscientiousness of the writer:—

“Southwell, Notts, February 6th, 1807.

Were I to make all the apologies necessary to atone for my late negligence, you would justly say you had received a petition instead of a letter, as it would be filled with prayers for forgiveness; but instead of this, I will acknowledge my sins at once, and I trust to your friendship and generosity rather than to my own excuses. Though my health is not perfectly re-established, I am out of all danger, and have recovered every thing but my spirits, which are subject to depression. You will be astonished to hear I have lately written to Delawarre, for the purpose of explaining (as far as possible without involving some old friends of mine in the business) the cause of my behaviour to him during my last residence at Harrow (nearly two years ago), which you will recollect was rather ‘en cavalier.’ Since that period I have discovered he was treated with injustice, both by those who misrepresented his conduct, and by me in consequence of their suggestions. I have therefore made all the reparation in my power, by apologizing for my mistake, though with very faint hopes of success; indeed I never expected any answer, but desired one for form’s sake; that has not yet arrived, and most probably
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never will. However, I have eased my own conscience by the atonement, which is humiliating enough to one of my disposition; yet I could not have slept satisfied with the reflection of having, even unintentionally, injured any individual. I have done all that could be done to repair the injury, and there the affair must end. Whether we renew our intimacy or not is of very trivial consequence.

“My time has lately been much occupied with very different pursuits. I have been transporting a servant*, who cheated me,—rather a disagreeable event:—performing in private theatricals;—publishing a volume of poems (at the request of my friends, for their perusal);—making love,—and taking physic. The two last amusements have not had the best effect in the world; for my attentions have been divided amongst so many fair damsels, and the drugs I swallow are of such variety in their composition, that between Venus and Æsculapius I am harassed to death. However, I have still leisure to devote some hours to the recollections of past, regretted friendships, and in the interval to take the advantage of the moment, to assure you how much I am, and ever will be, my dearest Clare,

“Your truly attached and sincere

Considering himself bound to replace the copies of his work which he had withdrawn, as well as to rescue the general character of the volume from the stigma this one offender might bring upon it, he set instantly about preparing a second edition for the press, and, during the ensuing six weeks, continued busily occupied with his task. In the beginning of January we find him forwarding a copy to his friend, Dr. Pigot, in Edinburgh;—

“Southwell, Jan. 13, 1807.

“I ought to begin with sundry apologies, for my own negligence, but the variety of my avocations in prose and verse must plead my excuse.

* His valet, Frank.

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With this epistle you will receive a volume of all my
Juvenilia published since your departure: it is of considerably greater size than the copy in your possession, which I beg you will destroy, as the present is much more complete. That unlucky poem to my poor Mary* has been the cause of some animadversion from ladies in years. I have not printed it in this collection, in consequence of my being pronounced a most profligate sinner, in short, a ‘young Moore,’ by ——, your * * * friend. I believe in general they have been favourably received, and surely the age of their author will preclude severe criticism. The adventures of my life from sixteen to nineteen, and the dissipation into which I have been thrown in London, have given a voluptuous tint to my ideas; but the occasions which called forth my muse could hardly admit any other colouring. This volume is vastly correct and miraculously chaste. Apropos, talking of love, * * * * * * *

“If you can find leisure to answer this farrago of unconnected nonsense, you need not doubt what gratification will accrue from your reply to yours ever, &c”

To his schoolfellow Mr. William Bankes, who had met casually with a copy of the work, and wrote him a letter, conveying his opinion of it, he returned the following answer:

“Southwell, March 6, 1807.

“Your critique is valuable for many reasons: in the first place, it is the only one in which flattery has borne so slight a part; in the next, I am cloyed with insipid compliments. I have a better opinion of your

* Of this “Mary,” who is not to be confounded either with the heiress of Annesley, or “Mary” of Aberdeen, all I can record is, that she was of an humble, if not equivocal, station in life,—that she had long, light golden hair, of which he used to show a lock, as well as her picture, among his friends; and that the verses in his “Hours of Idleness,” entitled “To Mary, on receiving her Picture,” were addressed to her.

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judgment and ability than your feelings. Accept my most sincere thanks for your kind decision, not less welcome, because totally unexpected. With regard to a more exact estimate, I need not remind you how few of the best poems, in our language, will stand the test of minute or verbal criticism: it can therefore hardly be expected the effusions of a boy (and most of these pieces have been produced at an early period) can derive much merit either from the subject or composition. Many of them were written under great depression of spirits, and during severe indisposition;—hence the gloomy turn of the ideas. We coincide in opinion that the ‘poesies érotiques’ are the most exceptionable; they were, however, grateful to the deities, on whose altars they were offered—more I seek not.

“The portrait of Pomposus was drawn at Harrow, after a long sitting; this accounts for the resemblance, or rather the caricatura. He is your friend, he never was mine—for both our sakes I shall be silent on this head. The collegiate rhymes are not personal—one of the notes may appear so, but could not be omitted. I have little doubt they will be deservedly abused—a just punishment for my unfilial treatment of so excellent an Alma Mater. I sent you no copy, lest we should be placed in the situation of Gil Blas and the Archbishop of Grenada: though running some hazard from the experiment, I wished your verdict to be unbiassed. Had my ‘Libellus’ been presented previous to your letter, it would have appeared a species of bribe to purchase compliment. I feel no hesitation in saying, I was more anxious to hear your critique however severe, than the praises of the million. On the same day I was honoured with the encomiums of Mackenzie, the celebrated author of the ‘Man of Feeling.’ Whether his approbation or yours elated me most, I cannot decide.

“You will receive my Juvenilia,—at least all yet published. I have a large volume in manuscript, which may in part appear hereafter; at present I have neither time nor inclination to prepare it for the press. In the spring I shall return to Trinity, to dismantle my rooms, and bid you a final adieu. The Cam will not be much increased by my tears on the occasion. Your further remarks, however caustic or bitter to a palate
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vitiated with the sweets of adulation, will be of service.
Johnson has shown us that no poetry is perfect; but to correct mine would be an Herculean labour. In fact I never looked beyond the moment of composition, and published merely at the request of my friends. Notwithstanding so much has been said concerning the ‘Genus irritabile vatum,’ we shall never quarrel on the subject—poetic fame is by no means the ‘acme’ of my wishes. Adieu.

“Yours ever,

This letter was followed by another, on the same subject, to Mr. Bankes, of which, unluckily, only the annexed fragment remains:

* * * * *

“For my own part, I have suffered severely in the decease of my two greatest friends, the only beings I ever loved (females excepted); I am therefore a solitary animal, miserable enough, and so perfectly a citizen of the world, that whether I pass my days in Great Britain or Kamschatka, is to me a matter of perfect indifference. I cannot evince greater respect for your alteration than by immediately adopting it—this shall be done in the next edition. I am sorry your remarks are not more frequent, as I am certain they would be equally beneficial. Since my last, I have received two critical opinions from Edinburgh, both too flattering for me to detail. One is from Lord Woodhouslee, at the head of the Scotch literati, and a most voluminous writer (his last work is a life of Lord Kaimes); the other from Mackenzie, who sent his decision a second time, more at length. I am not personally acquainted with either of these gentlemen, nor ever requested their sentiments on the subject: their praise is voluntary, and transmitted through the medium of a friend, at whose house they read the productions.

“Contrary to my former intention, I am now preparing a volume for the public at large: my amatory pieces will be exchanged, and others substituted in their place. The whole will be considerably enlarged, and appear the latter end of May. This is a hazardous experiment; but want of better employment, the encouragement I have met with, and
A. D. 1807. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 87
my own vanity, induce me to stand the test, though not without sundry palpitations. The book will circulate fast enough in this country, from mere curiosity, what I prin—*”

* * * * *

The following modest letter accompanied a copy which he presented to Mr. Falkner, his mother’s landlord:—


The volume of little pieces which accompanies this, would have been presented before, had I not been apprehensive that Miss Falkner’s indisposition might render such trifles unwelcome. There are some errors of the printer which I have not had time to correct in the collection: you have it thus, with ‘all its imperfections on its head,’ a heavy weight, when joined with the faults of its author. Such ‘Juvenilia,’ as they can claim no great degree of approbation, I may venture to hope, will also escape the severity of uncalled for, though perhaps not undeserved, criticism.

“They were written on many and various occasions, and are now published merely for the perusal of a friendly circle. Believe me, sir, if they afford the slightest amusement to yourself and the rest of my social readers, I shall have gathered all the bays I ever wish to adorn the head of

“yours, very truly,

“P.S.—I hope Miss F. is in a state of recovery.”

Notwithstanding this unambitious declaration of the young author, he had that within which would not suffer him to rest so easily; and the fame he had now reaped within a limited circle made him but more eager to try his chance on a wider field. The hundred copies of which this edition consisted were hardly out of his hands, when with fresh

* Here the imperfect sheet ends.

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activity he went to press again,—and his first published volume, “
The Hours of Idleness,” made its appearance. Some new pieces which he had written in the interim were added, and no less than twenty of those contained in the former volume omitted;—for what reason does not very clearly appear, as they are, most of them, equal, if not superior, to those retained.

In one of the pieces, reprinted in the “Hours of Idleness,” there are some alterations and additions, which, as far as they may be supposed to spring from the known feelings of the poet respecting birth, are curious. This poem, which is entitled “Epitaph on a Friend,” appears, from the lines I am about to give, to have been, in its original state, intended to commemorate the death of the same lowly-born youth, to whom some affectionate verses, cited in a preceding page, were addressed:—

“Though low thy lot, since in cottage born,
No titles did thy humble name adorn;
To me, far dearer was thy artless love
Than all the joys wealth, fame, and friends could prove.”

But, in the altered form of the epitaph, not only this passage, but every other containing an allusion to the low rank of his young companion, is omitted; while, in the added parts, the introduction of such language as
“What, though thy sire lament his failing line,”
seems calculated to give an idea of the youth’s station in life, wholly different from that which the whole tenor of the original epitaph warrants. The other poem, too, which I have mentioned, addressed evidently to the same boy, and speaking in similar terms, of the “lowness” of his “lot,” is, in the “Hours of Idleness,” altogether omitted. That he grew more conscious of his high station, as he approached to manhood, is not improbable, and this wish to sink his early friendship with the young cottager may have been a result of that feeling.

As his visits to Southwell were, after this period, but few and transient, I shall take the present opportunity of mentioning such miscellaneous particulars respecting his habits and mode of life, while there, as I have been able to collect.

A. D. 1807. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 89

Though so remarkably shy, when he first went to Southwell, this reserve, as he grew more acquainted with the young people of the place, wore off; till, at length, he became a frequenter of their assemblies and dinner-parties, and even felt mortified if he heard of a rout to which he was not invited. His horror, however, at new faces still continued; and if, while at Mrs. Pigot’s, he saw strangers approaching the house, he would instantly jump out of the window to avoid them. This natural shyness concurred with no small degree of pride to keep him aloof from the acquaintance of the gentlemen in the neighbourhood, whose visits, in more than one instance, he left unreturned;—some, under the plea that their ladies had not visited his mother, others, because they had neglected to pay him this compliment sooner. The true reason, however, of the haughty distance, at which, both now and afterwards, he stood apart from his more opulent neighbours, is to be found in his mortifying consciousness of the inadequacy of his own means to his rank, and the proud dread of being made to feel this inferiority by persons to whom, in every other respect, he knew himself superior. His friend Mr. Becher frequently expostulated with him on this unsociableness; and to his remonstrances, on one occasion, Lord Byron returned a poetical answer, so remarkably prefiguring the splendid burst, with which his own volcanic genius opened upon the world, that, as the volume containing the verses is in very few hands, I cannot resist the temptation of giving a few extracts here:—

“Dear Becher, you tell me to mix with mankind,—
I cannot deny such a precept is wise;
But retirement accords with the tone of my mind,
And I will not descend to a world I despise.
“Did the Senate or Camp my exertions require,
Ambition might prompt me at once to go forth;
And, when infancy’s years of probation expire,
Perchance, I may strive to distinguish my birth.
The fire, in the cavern of Ætna concealed,
Still mantles unseen, in its secret recess,—
At length, in a volume terrific revealed,
No torrent can quench it, no bounds can repress.
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Oh thus, the desire in my bosom for fame
Bids me live but to hope for Posterity’s praise;
Could I soar, with the Phœnix, on pinions of flame,
With him I would wish to expire in the blaze.
“For the life of a Fox, of a Chatham the death,
What censure, what danger, what woe would I brave?
Their lives did not end when they yielded their breath,—
Their glory illumines the gloom of the grave!”

In his hours of rising and retiring to rest he was, like his mother, always very late; and this habit he never altered during the remainder of his life. The night, too, was at this period, as it continued afterwards, his favourite time for composition; and his first visit in the morning was generally paid to the fair friend who acted as his amanuensis, and to whom he then gave whatever new products of his brain the preceding night might have inspired. His next visit was usually to his friend Mr. Becher’s, and from thence to one or two other houses on the Green, after which the rest of the day was devoted to his favourite exercises. The evenings he usually passed with the same family among whom he began his morning, either in conversation, or in hearing Miss Pigot play upon the piano-forte, and singing over with her a certain set of songs which he admired*,—among which the “Maid of Lodi” (with the words, “My heart with love is beating”), and, “When Time who steals our years away,” were, it seems, his particular favourites. He appears, indeed, to have, even thus early, shown a decided taste for that sort of regular routine of life,—bringing round the same occupations at the same stated periods,which formed so much the system of his existence during the greater part of his residence abroad.

Those exercises, to which he flew for distraction in less happy days, formed his enjoyment now; and between swimming, sparring, firing at a mark, and riding†, the greater part of his time was passed. In the last

* Though always fond of music, he had very little skill in the performance of it. “It is very odd,” he said, one day, to this lady,—“I sing much better to your playing than to any one else’s.”—“That is,” she answered, “because I play to your singing.”—In which few words, by the way, the whole secret of a skilful accompanier lies.

† Cricketing, too, was one of his most favourite sports, and it was wonderful, considering

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of these accomplishments he was by no means very expert. As an instance of his little knowledge of horses, it is told, that, seeing a pair one day pass his window, he exclaimed, “What beautiful horses! I should like to buy them.”—“Why, they are your own, my lord,” said his servant. Those who knew him, indeed, at that period, were rather surprised, in after-life, to hear so much of his riding;—and the truth is, I am inclined to think, that he was at no time a very adroit horseman.

In swimming and diving, we have already seen by his own accounts he excelled; and a lady in Southwell, among other precious relics of him, possesses a thimble which he borrowed of her one morning, when on his way to bathe in the Greet, and which, as was testified by her brother who accompanied him, he brought up three times successively from the bottom of the river. His practice of firing at a mark was the occasion, once, of some alarm to a very beautiful young person, Miss H.,—one of that numerous list of fair ones, by whom his imagination was dazzled while at Southwell. A poem relating to this occurrence, which may be found in his unpublished volume, is thus introduced:—“As the author was discharging his pistols in a garden, two ladies, passing near the spot, were alarmed by the sound of a bullet hissing near them, to one of whom the following stanzas were addressed the next morning.”

Such a passion, indeed, had he for arms of every description, that there generally lay a small sword by the side of his bed, with which he used to amuse himself, as he lay awake in the morning, by thrusting it through his bed-hangings. The person who purchased this bed at the sale of Mrs. Byron’s furniture, on her removal to Newstead, gave out—with the view of attaching a stronger interest to the holes in the curtains—that they were pierced by the same sword with which the old lord had killed Mr. Chaworth, and which his descendant always kept an a memorial by his bedside. Such is the ready process by which fiction is often engrafted upon fact;—the sword in question being a most innocent and bloodless

his lameness, with what speed he could run. “Lord Byron (says Miss ——, in a letter, to her brother, from Southwell) is just gone past the window with his bat on his shoulder to cricket, which he is as fond of as ever.”

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weapon, which Lord Byron, during his visits at Southwell, used to borrow of one of his neighbours.

His fondness for dogs—another fancy which accompanied him through life—may be judged from the anecdotes already given, in the account of his expedition to Harrowgate. Of his favourite dog, Boatswain, whom he has immortalized in verse, and by whose side it was once his solemn purpose to be buried, some traits are told indicative, not only of intelligence, but of a generosity of spirit, which might well win for him the affections of such a master as Byron. One of these I shall endeavour to relate as nearly as possible as it was told to me. Mrs. Byron had a fox-terrier, called Gilpin, with whom her son’s dog, Boatswain, was perpetually at war*, taking every opportunity of attacking and worrying him so violently, that it was very much apprehended he would kill the animal. Mrs. Byron, therefore, sent off her terrier to a tenant at Newstead, and on the departure of Lord Byron for Cambridge, his “friend,” Boatswain, with two other dogs, was intrusted to the care of a servant till his return. One morning the servant was much alarmed by the disappearance of Boatswain, and throughout the whole of the day be could hear no tidings of him. At last, towards evening, the stray dog arrived, accompanied by Gilpin, whom he led immediately to the kitchen fire, licking him and lavishing upon him every possible demonstration of joy. The fact was, he had been all the way to Newstead to fetch him, and having now established his former foe under the roof once more, agreed so perfectly well with him ever after, that he even protected him against the insults of other dogs (a task which the quarrelsomeness of the little terrier rendered no sinecure), and, if he but heard Gilpin’s voice in distress, would fly instantly to his rescue.

In addition to the natural tendency to superstition, which is usually found connected with the poetical temperament, Lord Byron had also the example and influence of his mother, acting upon him from infancy,

* In one of Miss ——’s letters, the following notice of these canine feuds occurs:—“Boatswain has had another battle with Tippoo at the House of Correction, and came off conqueror. Lord B. brought Bo’sen to our window this morning, when Gilpin, who is almost always here, got into an amazing fury with him.”

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to give his mind this tinge. Her implicit belief in the wonders of second sight, and the strange tales she told of this mysterious faculty, used to astonish not a little her sober English friends; and it will be seen, that, at so late a period as the death of his friend
Shelley, the idea of fetches and forewarnings, impressed upon him by his mother, had not wholly lost possession of the poet’s mind. As an instance of a more playful sort of superstition, I may be allowed to mention a slight circumstance told me of him by one of his Southwell friends. This lady had a large agate bead, with a wire through it, which had been taken out of a barrow, and lay always in her work-box. Lord Byron asking, one day, what it was, she told him that it had been given her as an amulet, and the charm was, that, as long as she had this bead in her possession, she should never be in love. “Then give it to me,” he cried, eagerly, “for that’s just the thing I want.” The young lady refused;—but it was not long before the bead disappeared. She taxed him with the theft, and he owned it; but said, she never should see her amulet again.

Of his charity and kind-heartedness he left behind him at Southwell—as, indeed, at every place, throughout life, where he resided any time—the most cordial recollections. “He never,” says a person, who knew him intimately at this period, “met with objects of distress, without affording them succour.” Among many little traits of this nature which his friends delight to tell, I select the following,—less as a proof of his generosity, than from the interest which the simple incident itself, as connected with the name of Byron, presents. While yet a schoolboy he happened to be in a bookseller’s shop at Southwell, when a poor woman came in to purchase a Bible. The price, she was told, by the shopman, was eight shillings. “Ah, dear sir,” she exclaimed, “I cannot pay such a price;—I did not think it would cost half the money.” The woman was then, with a look of disappointment, going away,—when young Byron called her back and made her a present of the Bible.

In his attention to his person and dress, to the becoming arrangement of his hair, and to whatever might best show off the beauty with which nature had gifted him, he manifested, even thus early, his anxiety to make himself pleasing to that sex, who were from first to last, the ruling stars of his destiny. The fear of becoming, what he was naturally
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inclined to be, enormously fat, had induced him, from his first entrance at Cambridge, to adopt, for the purpose of reducing himself, a system of violent exercise and abstinence, together with the frequent use of warm-baths. But the embittering circumstance of his life,—that, which haunted him, like a curse, amidst the buoyancy of youth, and the anticipations of fame and pleasure, was, strange to say, the trifling deformity of his foot. By that one slight blemish (as in his moments of melancholy he persuaded himself) all the blessings that nature had showered upon him were counterbalanced. His reverend friend,
Mr. Becher, finding him one day unusually dejected, endeavoured to cheer and rouse him by representing, in their brightest colours, all the various advantages with which Providence had endowed him,—and, among the greatest, that of “a mind which placed him above the rest of mankind.” “Ah, my dear friend,” said Byron, mournfully,—“if this (laying his hand on his forehead) places me above the rest of mankind, that (pointing to his foot) places me far, far below them.”

It sometimes, indeed, seemed as if his sensitiveness on this point led him to fancy that he was the only person in the world afflicted with such an infirmity. When that accomplished scholar and traveller, Mr. D. Bailey, who was at the same school with him at Aberdeen, met him afterwards at Cambridge, the young peer had then grown so fat that, though accosted by him familiarly as his schoolfellow, it was not till he mentioned his name that Mr. Bailey could recognize him. “It is odd enough, too, that you shouldn’t know me,” said Byron—“I thought nature had set such a mark upon me, that I could never be forgot.”

But, while this defect was such a source of mortification to his spirit, it was also, and in an equal degree, perhaps, a stimulus:—and more especially in whatever depended upon personal prowess or attractiveness, he seemed to feel himself piqued by this stigma, which nature, as he thought, had set upon him, to distinguish himself above those whom she had endowed with her more “fair proportion.” In pursuits of gallantry he was, I have no doubt, a good deal actuated by this incentive; and the hope of astonishing the world, at some future period, as a chieftain and hero, mingled little less with his young dreams than the prospect of a poet’s glory. “I will, some day or other,” he used to say, when a boy,
A. D. 1807. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 95
“raise a troop,—the men of which shall be dressed in black, and ride on black horses. They shall be called ‘Byron’s Blacks,’ and you will hear of their performing prodigies of valour.”

I have already adverted to the exceeding eagerness with which, while at Harrow, he devoured all sorts of learning,—excepting only that which, by the regimen of the school, was prescribed for him. The same rapid and multifarious course of study he pursued during the holidays; and, in order to deduct as little as possible from his hours of exercise, he had given himself the habit, while at home, of reading all dinner-time*. In a mind so versatile as his, every novelty, whether serious or light, whether lofty or ludicrous, found a welcome and an echo; and I can easily conceive the glee—as a friend of his once described it to me—with which he brought to her, one evening, a copy of Mother Goose’s Tales, which he had bought from a hawker that morning and read, for the first time, while he dined.

I shall now give, from a memorandum-book begun by him this year, the account, as I find it hastily and promiscuously scribbled out, of all the books in various departments of knowledge, which he had already perused at a period of life, when few of his schoolfellows had yet travelled beyond their longs and shorts. The list is, unquestionably, a remarkable one;—and when we recollect that the reader of all these volumes was, at the same time, the possessor of a most retentive memory, it may be doubted whether, among what are called the regularly educated, the contenders for scholastic honours and prizes, there could be found a single one who, at the same age, has possessed any thing like the same stock of useful knowledge.


History of England.Hume, Rapin, Henry, Smollet, Tindal, Belsham, Bisset, Adolphus, Holinshed, Froissart’s Chronicles (belonging properly to France).

Scotland.Buchanan, Hector Boethius, both in the Latin.

* “It was the custom of Burns,” says Mr. Lockhart, in his Life of that poet, “to read at table.”

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Rome.Hooke, Decline and Fall by Gibbon, Ancient History by Rollin (including an account of the Carthaginians, &c.), besides Livy, Tacitus, Eutropius, Cornelius Nepos, Julius Cæsar, Arrian, Sallust.

Greece.Mitford’s Greece, Leland’s Philip, Plutarch, Potter’s Antiquities, Xenophon, Thucydides, Herodotus.

France.Mezeray, Voltaire.

Spain.—I chiefly derived my knowledge of old Spanish History from a book, called the Atlas, now obsolete. The modern history, from the intrigues of Alberoni down to the Prince of Peace, I learned from its connexion with European politics.

Portugal.—From Vertot; as also his account of the Siege of Rhodes,—though the last is his own invention, the real facts being totally different.—So much for his Knights of Malta.

Turkey.—I have read Knolles, Sir Paul Rycaut, and Prince Cantemir, besides a more modern history, anonymous. Of the Ottoman History I know every event, from Tangralopi, and afterwards Othman I. to the peace of Passarowitz, in 1718,—the battle of Cutzka, in 1789, and the treaty between Russia and Turkey in 1790.

Russia.Tooke’s Life of Catherine II., Voltaire’s Czar Peter.

Sweden.Voltaire’s Charles XII., also Norberg’s Charles XII.—in my opinion the best of the two.—A translation or Schiller’s Thirty Years’ War, which contains the exploits of Gustavus Adolphus, besides Harte’s Life of the same Prince. I have somewhere, too, read an account of Gustavus Vasa, the deliverer of Sweden, but do not remember the author’s name.

Prussia.—I have seen, at least, twenty Lives of Frederick II., the only prince worth recording in Prussian annals. Gillies, His own Works, and Thiebault—none very amusing. The last is paltry, but circumstantial.

Denmark I know little of. Of Norway I understand the natural history, but not the chronological.

Germany.—I have read long histories of ‘the house of Suabia, Wenceslaus, and, at length, Rodolph of Hapsburgh and his thick-lipped Austrian descendants.

A. D. 1807. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 97

Switzerland.—Ah! William Tell, and the battle of Morgarten, where Burgundy was slain.

Italy.Davila, Guicciardini, the Guelphs and Ghibellines, the battle of Pavia, Massaniello, the revolutions of Naples, &c. &c.

Hindostan.Orme and Cambridge.

America.Robertson, Andrews’ American War.

Africa.—Merely from travels, as Mungo Park, Bruce.


Robertson’s Charles V.Cæsar, Sallust (Catiline and Jugurtha), Lives of Marlborough and Eugene, Tekeli, Bonnard, Buonaparte, all the British Poets, both by Johnson and Anderson, Rousseau’s Confessions, Life of Cromwell, British Plutarch, British Nepos, Campbell’s Lives of the Admirals, Charles XII., Czar Peter, Catherine II., Henry Lord Kaimes, Marmontel, Teignmouth’s Sir William Jones, Life of Newton, Belisaire, with thousands not to be detailed.


Blackstone, Montesquieu.


Paley, Locke, Bacon, Hume, Berkeley, Drummond, Beattie, and Bolingbroke. Hobbes I detest.


Strabo, Cellarius, Adams, Pinkerton, and Guthrie.


All the British Classics, as before detailed, with most of the living poets, Scott, Southey, &c.—Some French, in the original, of which the Cid is my favourite.—Little Italian.—Greek and Latin without number;—these last I shall give up in future.—I have translated a good deal from both languages, verse as well as prose.


Demosthenes, Cicero, Quintilian, Sheridan, Austin’s Chironomia, and Parliamentary Debates, from the Revolution to the year 1742.

98 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1807.

Blair, Porteus, Tillotson, Hooker,—all very tiresome. I abhor books of religion, though I reverence and love my God, without the blasphemous notions of sectaries, or belief in their absurd and damnable heresies, mysteries, and Thirty-nine Articles.


Spectator, Rambler, World, &c. &c.—Novels by the thousand.

“All the books here enumerated I have taken down from memory. I recollect reading them, and can quote passages from any mentioned. I have, of course, omitted several in my catalogue; but the greater part of the above I perused before the age of fifteen. Since I left Harrow I have become idle and conceited, from scribbling rhyme and making love to women. “B.—Nov. 30, 1807.

“I have also read (to my regret at present) above four thousand novels, including the works of Cervantes, Fielding, Smollet, Richardson, Mackenzie, Sterne, Rabelais, and Rousseau, &c. &c. The book, in my opinion, most useful to a man who wishes to acquire the reputation of being well read, with the least trouble, is ‘Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy,’ the most amusing and instructive medley of quotations and classical anecdotes I ever perused. But a superficial reader must take care, or his intricacies will bewilder him. If, however, he has patience to go through his volumes, he will be more improved for literary conversation than by the perusal of any twenty other works with which I am acquainted,—at least, in the English language.”

To this early and extensive study of English writers may be attributed that mastery over the resources of his own language, with which Lord Byron came furnished into the field of literature, and which enabled him, as fast as his youthful fancies sprung up, to clothe them with a diction worthy of their beauty. In general, the difficulty of young writers, at their commencement, lies far less in any lack of thoughts or images, than in that want of a fitting organ to give these conceptions
A. D. 1807. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 99
vent, to which their unacquaintance with the great instrument of the man of genius, his native language, dooms them. It will be found, indeed, that the three most remarkable examples of early authorship, which, in their respective lines, the history of literature affords—
Pope, Congreve, and Chatterton—were all of them persons self-educated*, according to their own intellectual wants and tastes, and left, undistracted by the worse than useless pedantries of the schools, to seek, in the pure “well of English undefiled,” those treasures of which they accordingly so very early and intimately possessed themselves†. To these three instances may now be added, virtually, that of Lord Byron, who, though a disciple of the schools, was, intellectually speaking, in them, not of them, and who, while his comrades were prying curiously into the graves of dead languages, betook himself to the fresh, living sources of his own‡, and from thence drew those rich, varied stores of diction, which have placed his works, from the age of two-and-twenty upwards, among the most precious depositories of the strength and sweetness of the English language that our whole literature supplies.

In the same book that contains the above record of his studies, he has written out, also from memory, a “List of the different poets, dramatic or otherwise, who have distinguished their respective languages by their productions.” After enumerating the various poets, both ancient

* “I took to reading by myself,” says Pope, “for which I had a very great eagerness and enthusiasm; . . . . . . I followed every where, as my fancy led me, and was like a boy gathering flowers in the fields and woods, just as they fell in his way. These five or six years I still look upon as the happiest part of my life.” It appears, too, that he was himself aware of the advantages which this free course of study brought with it:—“Mr. Pope,” says Spence, “thought himself the better, in some respects, for not having had a regular education. He (as he observed in particular) read originally for the sense, whereas we are taught, for so many years, to read only for words.”

† Before Chatterton was twelve years old, he wrote a catalogue, in the same manner as Lord Byron, of the books he had already read, to the number of seventy. Of these the chief subjects were history and divinity.

‡ The perfect purity with which the Greeks wrote their own language was, with justice perhaps, attributed by themselves to their entire abstinence from the study of any other. “If they became learned,” says Ferguson, “it was only by studying what they themselves had produced.”

100 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1807.
and modern, of Europe, he thus proceeds with his catalogue through other quarters of the world:—

Arabia.Mahomet, whose Koran contains most sublime poetical passages, far surpassing European poetry.

Persia.Ferdousi, author of the Shah Nameh, the Persian Iliad,—Sadi, and Hafiz, the immortal Hafiz, the oriental Anacreon. The last is reverenced beyond any bard of ancient or modern times by the Persians, who resort to his tomb near Shiraz, to celebrate his memory. A splendid copy of his works is chained to his monument.

America.—An epic poet has already appeared in that hemisphere, Barlow, author of the Columbiad,—not to be compared with the works of more polished nations.

Iceland, Denmark, Norway, were famous for their Skalds. Among these Lodburg was one of the most distinguished. His Death-Song breathes ferocious sentiments, but a glorious and impassioned strain of poetry.

Hindostan is undistinguished by any great bard,—at least, the Sanscrit is so imperfectly known to Europeans, we know not what poetical relics may exist.

The Birman Empire.—Here the natives are passionately fond of poetry, but their bards are unknown.

China.—I never heard of any Chinese poet but the Emperor Kien Long, and his ode to Tea. What a pity their philosopher Confucius did not write poetry, with his precepts of morality!

Africa.—In Africa some of the native melodies are plaintive, and the words simple and affecting; but whether their rude strains of nature can be classed with poetry, as the songs of the bards, the Skalds of Europe, &c. &c. I know not.

“This brief list of poets I have written down from memory, without any book of reference; consequently some errors may occur, but I think, if any, very trivial. The works of the European, and some of the Asiatic, I have perused, either in the original or translations. In my list of En-
A. D. 1807. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 101
glish, I have merely mentioned the greatest;—to enumerate the minor poets would be useless, as well as tedious. Perhaps
Gray, Goldsmith, and Collins, might have been added, as worthy of mention, in a cosmopolite account. But as for the others, from Chaucer down to Churchill, they are ‘voces et præterea nihil;’—sometimes spoken of, rarely read, and never with advantage. Chaucer, notwithstanding the praises bestowed on him, I think obscene and contemptible:—he owes his celebrity merely to his antiquity, which he does not deserve so well as Pierce Plowman, or Thomas of Ercildoune. English living poets I have avoided mentioning;—we have none who will not survive their productions. Taste is over with us; and another century will sweep our empire, our literature, and our name, from all but a place in the annals of mankind.

November 30, 1807. Byron.”

Among the papers of his in my possession are several detached Poems (in all nearly six hundred lines), which he wrote about this period, but never printed—having produced most of them after the publication of his “Hours of Idleness.” The greater number of these have little, besides his name, to recommend them; but there are a few that, from the feelings and circumstances that gave rise to them, will, I have no doubt, be interesting to the reader.

When he first went to Newstead, on his arrival from Aberdeen, he planted, it seems, a young oak in some part of the grounds, and had an idea that as it flourished so should he. Some six or seven years after, on revisiting the spot, he found his oak choked up by weeds, and almost destroyed. In this circumstance, which happened soon after Lord Grey de Ruthen left Newstead, originated one of these poems, which consists of five stanzas, but of which the few opening lines will be a sufficient specimen:—

“Young Oak, when I planted thee deep in the ground,
I hoped that thy days would be longer than mine;
That thy dark-waving branches would flourish around,
And ivy thy trunk with its mantle entwine.
Such, such was my hope, when, in infancy’s years,
On the land of my fathers I rear’d thee with pride;
102 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1807.
They are past, and I water thy stem with my tears,—
Thy decay not the weeds, that surround thee, can hide.
“I left thee, my Oak, and, since that fatal hour,
A stranger has dwelt in the Hall of my Sire,” &c. &c.

The subject of the verses that follow is sufficiently explained by the notice which he has prefixed to them; and, as illustrative of the romantic and almost love-like feeling which he threw into his school friendships, they appeared to me, though rather quaint and elaborate, to be worth preserving.

“Some years ago, when at H——, a friend of the author engraved on a particular spot the names of both, with a few additional words as a memorial. Afterwards, on receiving some real or imagined injury, the author destroyed the frail record, before he left H——. On revisiting the place in 1807, he wrote under it the following stanzas:—

“Here once engaged the stranger’s view
Young Friendship’s record simply traced;
Few were her words,—but yet though few,
Resentment’s hand the line defaced.
“Deeply she cut—but, not erased,
The characters were still so plain,
That Friendship once return’d, and gazed,—
Till Memory hail’d the words again.
“Repentance placed them as before;
Forgiveness join’d her gentle name;
So fair the inscription seem’d once more,
That Friendship thought it still the same.
“Thus might the Record now have been;
But, ah, in spite of Hope’s endeavour,
Or Friendship’s tears, Pride rush’d between,
And blotted out the line for ever!”
A. D. 1807. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 103

The same romantic feeling of friendship breathes throughout another of these poems, in which he has taken for his subject the ingenious thought “l’Amitié est l’Amour sans ailes,” and concludes every stanza with the words “Friendship is Love without his wings.” Of the nine stanzas of which this poem consists, the three following appear the most worthy of selection.—

“Why should my anxious breast repine,
Because my youth is fled?
Days of delight may still be mine,
Affection is not dead.
In tracing back the years of youth,
One firm record, one lasting truth
Celestial consolation brings;
Bear it, ye breezes, to the seat,
Where first my heart responsive beat,—
‘Friendship is Love without his wings!’

* * * * * *
“Seat of my youth! thy distant spire
Recalls each scene of joy;
My bosom glows with former fire,—
In mind again a boy.
Thy grove of elms, thy verdant hill,
Thy every path delights me still,
Each flower a double fragrance flings;
Again, as once, in converse gay,
Each dear associate seems to say
‘Friendship is Love without his wings”
“My Lycus! wherefore dost thou weep?
Thy falling tears restrain;
Affection for a time may sleep,
But, oh, ’twill wake again.
Think, think, my friend, when next we meet,
Our long-wish’d intercourse, how sweet!
From this my hope of rapture springs,
While youthful hearts thus fondly swell,
Absence, my friend, can only tell,
‘Friendship is Love without his wings!’”
104 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1807.

Whether the verses I am now about to give are, in any degree, founded on fact, I have no accurate means of determining. Fond as he was of recording every particular of his youth, such an event, or rather era, as is here commemorated, would have been, of all others, the least likely to pass unmentioned by him;—and yet neither in conversation nor in any of his writings do I remember even an allusion to it*. On the other hand, so entirely was all that he wrote,—making allowance for the embellishments of fancy,—the transcript of his actual life and feelings, that it is not easy to suppose a poem, so full of natural tenderness, to have been indebted for its origin to imagination alone.

“Those flaxen locks, those eyes of blue,
Bright as thy mother’s in their hue;
Those rosy lips, whose dimples play
And smile to steal the heart away,
Recall a scene of former joy,
And touch thy father’s heart, my Boy!
“And thou canst lisp a father’s name—
Ah, William, were thine own the same,
No self-reproach—but, let me cease
My care for thee shall purchase peace;

* The only circumstance I know, that bears even remotely on the subject of this poem, is the following. About a year or two before the date affixed to it, he wrote to his mother, from Harrow (as I have been told by a person, to whom Mrs. Byron herself communicated the circumstance), to say, that he had lately had a good deal of uneasiness on account of a young woman, whom he knew to have been a favourite of his late friend, Curzon, and who, finding herself after his death in a state of progress towards maternity, had declared Lord Byron was the father of her child. This, he positively assured his mother, was not the case; but, believing, as he did firmly, that the child belonged to Curson, it was his wish that it should be brought up with all possible care, and he therefore entreated that his mother would have the kindness to take charge of it. Though such a request might well (as my informant expresses it) have discomposed a temper more mild than Mrs. Byron’s, she notwithstanding answered her son in the kindest terms, saying that she would willingly receive the child as soon as it was born, and bring it up in whatever manner he desired. Happily, however, the infant died almost immediately, and was thus spared the being a tax on the good-nature of any body.

A. D. 1807. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 105
Thy mother’s shade shall smile in joy,
And pardon all the past, my Boy!
“Her lowly grave the turf has prest,
And thou best known a stranger’s breast.
Derision sneers upon thy birth,
And yields thee scarce a name on earth;
Yet shall not these one hope destroy,—
A Fathers heart is thine, my Boy!
“Why, let the world unfeeling frown,
Must I fond Nature’s claim disown?
Ah, no—though moralists reprove,
I hail thee, dearest child of love,
Fair cherub, pledge of youth and joy—
A Father guards thy birth, my Boy!
“Oh, ’twill be sweet in thee to trace,
Ere age has wrinkled o’er my face,
Ere half my glass of life is run,
At once a brother and a son;
And all my wane of years employ
In justice done to thee, my Boy!
“Although so young thy heedless sire,
Youth will not damp parental fire;
And, wert thou still less dear to me,
While Helen’s form revives in thee,
The breast, which beat to former joy,
Will ne’er desert its pledge, my Boy!
“B——, 1807*.”

But the most remarkable of these poems is one of a date prior to any I have given, being written in December, 1806, when he was not yet nineteen years old. It contains, as will be seen, his religious creed at that

* In this practice of dating his juvenile poems he followed the example of Milton, who (says Johnson), “by affixing the dates to his first compositions, a boast of which the learned

106 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1807.
period, and shows how early the struggle between natural piety and doubt began in his mind.

“Father of Light! great God of Heaven!
Hear’st thou the accents of despair?
Can guilt like man’s be e’er forgiven?
Can vice atone for crimes by prayer?
Father of Light, on thee I call!
Thou see’st my soul is dark within;
Thou who must mark the sparrow’s fall,
Avert from me the death of sin.
No shrine I seek, to sects unknown,
Oh point to me the path of truth!
Thy dread omnipotence I own,
Spare, yet amend, the faults of youth.
Let bigots rear a gloomy fane,
Let superstition hail the pile,
Let priests, to spread their sable reign,
With tales of mystic rites beguile.
Shall man confine his Maker’s sway
To Gothic domes of mouldering stone?
Thy temple is the face of day;
Earth, ocean, heaven, thy boundless throne.
Shall man condemn his race to hell
Unless they bend in pompous form;
Tell us that all, for one who fell,
Must perish in the mingling storm?

Politian had given him an example, seems to commend the earliness of his own compositions to the notice of posterity.”

The following trifle, written also by him in 1807, has never as far as I know, appeared in print:—

“John Adams lies here, of the parish of Southwell,
A Carrier, who carried his can to his mouth well;
He carried so much, and he carried so fast,
He could carry no more—so was carried at last;
For, the liquor he drank, being too much for one,
He could not carry off,—so he’s now carri-on.
“B——, Sept. 1807.”

A. D. 1807. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 107
Shall each pretend to reach the skies,
Yet doom his brother to expire,
Whose soul a different hope supplies,
Or doctrines less severe inspire?
Shall these, by creeds they can’t expound,
Prepare a fancied bliss or woe?
Shall reptiles, groveling on the ground,
Their great Creator’s purpose know?
Shall those, who live for self alone,
Whose years float on in daily crime—
Shall they by Faith for guilt atone,
And live beyond the bounds of Time?
Father! no prophet’s laws I seek,—
Thy laws in Nature’s works appear;—
I own myself corrupt and weak,
Yet will I pray, for thou wilt hear!
Then, who canst guide the wandering star
Through trackless realms of Æther’s space;
Who calm’st the elemental war,
Whose hand from pole to pole I trace:—
Thou, who in wisdom placed me here,
Who, when thou wilt, can take me hence,
Ah! whilst I tread this earthly sphere,
Extend to me thy wide defence.
To Thee, my God, to Thee I call!
Whatever weal or woe betide,
By thy command I rise or fall,
In thy protection I confide.
If, when this dust to dust restored,
My soul shall float on airy wing,
How shall thy glorious name adored
Inspire her feeble voice to sing!
But, if this fleeting spirit share
With clay the grave’s eternal bed,
While life yet throbs I raise my prayer,
Though doom’d no more to quit the dead.
To Thee I breathe my humble strain,
Grateful for all thy mercies past,
And hope, my God, to thee again
This erring life may fly at last.
“29th Dec. 1800. Byron.”
108 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1807.

In another of these poems, which extends to about a hundred lines, and which he wrote under the melancholy impression that he should soon die, we find him concluding with a prayer in somewhat the same spirit. After bidding adieu to all the favourite scenes of his youth*, he thus continues,—

“Forget this world, my restless sprite,
Turn, turn thy thoughts to Heav’n:
There must thou soon direct thy flight,
If errors are forgiven.
To bigots and to sects unknown,
Bow down beneath th’ Almighty’s Throne;—
To him address thy trembling prayer;
He, who is merciful and just,
Will not reject a child of dust,
Although his meanest care.
Father of Light! to thee I call,
My soul is dark within;
Thou, who canst mark the sparrow fall,
Avert the death of sin.
Thou, who canst guide the wandering star,
Who calm’st the elemental war,
Whose mantle is yon boundless sky,
My thoughts, my words, my crimes forgive;
And, since I soon must cease to live,
Instruct me how to die. 1807.”

We have seen, by a former letter, that the law proceedings for the recovery of his Rochdale property had been attended with success in some trial of the case at Lancaster. The following note to one of his Southwell friends, announcing a second triumph of the cause, shows how sanguinely and, as it turned out, erroneously, he calculated on the results.

* Annesley is, of course, not forgotten among the number:—

“And shall I here forget the scene,
Still nearest to my breast?
Rocks rise and rivers roll between
The rural spot which passion blest;
Yet, Mary, all thy beauties seem
Fresh as in Love’s bewitching dream,” &c. &c.

A. D. 1807. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 109
“Feb. 9th, 1807.
“DEAR ——,

I have the pleasure to inform you we have gained the Rochdale cause a 2d time, by which I am £60,000 plus.

“Yours ever,

In the month of April we find him still at Southwell, and addressing to his friend Dr. Pigot, who was at Edinburgh, the following note*:—

“Allow me to congratulate you on the success of your first examination—‘Courage, mon ami.’ The title of Dr. will do wonders with the damsels. I shall most probably be in Essex or London when you arrive at this d—d place, where I am detained by the publication of my rhymes.

“Adieu—Believe me yours very truly,

“P.S. Since we met I have reduced myself by violent exercise, much physic, and hot bathing, from 14 stone 6 lb. to 12 stone 7 lb. In all I have lost 27 pounds. Bravo!—what say you?”

His movements and occupations for the remainder of this year will be best collected from a series of his own letters, which I am enabled, by the kindness of the lady to whom they were addressed, to give. Though these letters are boyishly† written, and a good deal of their pleasantry is

* It appears from a passage in one of Miss ——’s letters to her brother, that Lord Byron sent, through this gentleman, a copy of his Poems to Mr. Mackenzie, the author of the Man of Feeling:—“I am glad you mentioned Mr. Mackenzie’s having got a copy of Lord B.’s Poems, and what he thought of them—Lord B. was so much pleased!”

In another letter, the fair writer says:—“Lord Byron desired me to tell you that the reason you did not hear from him was because his publication was not so forward as he had flattered himself it would have been. I told him, ‘he was no more to be depended on than a woman,’ which instantly brought the softness of that sex into his countenance, for he blushed exceedingly.”

† He was, indeed, a thorough boy, at this period, in every respect:—“Next Monday” (says

110 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1807.
of that conventional kind which depends more upon phrase than thought, they will yet, I think, be found curious and interesting, not only as enabling is to track him through this period of his life, but as throwing light upon various little traits of character, and laying open to us the first working of his hopes and fears while waiting, in suspense, the opinions that were to decide, as he thought, his future fame. The first of the series, which is without date, appears to have been written before he had left Southwell. The other letters, it will be seen, are dated from Cambridge and from London.

June 11th, 1807.

Savage ought to be immortal:—though not a thorough-bred bull-dog, he is the finest puppy I ever saw, and will answer much better; in his great and manifold kindness be has already bitten my fingers, and disturbed the gravity of old Boatswain, who is grievously discomposed. I wish to be informed what he costs, his expenses, &c. &c., that I may indemnify Mr. G——. My thanks are all I can give for the trouble he has taken, make a long speech, and conclude it with 1 2 3 4 5 6 7*. I am out of practice, so deputize you as Legate,—ambassador would not do in a matter concerning the Pope, which I presume this must, as the whole turns upon a Bull.


“P.S. I write in bed.”

Miss ——) “is our great fair. Lord Byron talks of it with as much pleasure as little Henry, and declares he will ride in the Round-about,—but I think he will change his mind.”

* He here alludes to in odd fancy or trick of his own;—whenever he was at a loss for something to say, he used always to gabble over “1 2 3 4 5 6 7.”

A. D. 1807. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 111
“Cambridge, June 30th, 1807.

“‘Better late than never, Pal,’ is a saying of which you know the origin, and as it is applicable on the present occasion, you will excuse its conspicuous place in the front of my epistle. I am almost superannuated here. My old friends (with the exception of a very few) all departed, and I am preparing to follow them, but remain till Monday to be present at 3 Oratorios, 2 Concerts, a Fair, and a Ball. I find I am not only thinner but taller by an inch since my last visit. I was obliged to tell every body my name, nobody having the least recollection of my visage, or person. Even the hero of my Cornelian (who is now sitting vis-à-vis, reading a volume of my Poetics) passed me in Trinity walks without recognising me in the least, and was thunderstruck at the alteration which had taken place in my countenance, &c &c. Some say I look better, others worse, but all agree I am thinner—more I do not require. I have lost 2 lb. in my weight since I left your cursed, detestable, and abhorred abode of scandal*, where, excepting yourself and John Becher, I care not if the whole race were consigned to the Pit of Acheron, which I would visit in person rather than contaminate my sandals with the polluted dust of Southwell. Seriously, unless obliged by the emptiness of my purse to revisit Mrs. B., you will see me no more.

On Monday I depart for London. I quit Cambridge with little regret, because our set are vanished, and my musical protegé before mentioned has left the choir, and is stationed a mercantile house of con-

* Notwithstanding the abuse which, evidently more in sport than seriousness, he lavishes, in the course of these letters, upon Southwell, he was, in after days, taught to feel that the hours which he had passed in this place were far more happy than any he had known afterwards. In a letter written not long since to his servant, Fletcher, by a lady who had been intimate with him, in his young days, at Southwell, there are the following words:—“Your poor, good master always called me ‘Old Piety,’ when I preached to him. When he paid me his last visit, he said. ‘Well, good friend. I shall never be so happy again as I was in old Southwell.” His real opinion of the advantages of this town, as a place of residence, will be seen in a subsequent letter, where he most strenuously recommends it, in that point of view, to Mr. Dallas.

112 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1807.
siderable eminence in the metropolis. You may have heard me observe he is exactly to an hour, 2 years younger than myself. I found him grown considerably, and, as you will suppose, very glad to see his former Patron. He is nearly my height, very thin, very fair complexion, dark eyes, and light locks. My opinion of his mind you already know;—I hope I shall never have occasion to change it. Every body here conceives me to be an invalid. The University at present is very gay, from the fêtes of divers kinds. I supped out last night, but eat (or ate) nothing, sipped a bottle of claret, went to bed at 2 and rose at 8. I have commenced early rising, and find it agrees with me. The Masters and the Fellows all very polite, but look a little askance—don’t much admire lampoons—truth always disagreeable.

“Write, and tell me how the inhabitants of your Menagerie go on, and if my publication goes off well: do the quadrupeds growl? Apropos, my bull-dog is deceased—‘Flesh both of cur and man is grass.’ Address your answer to Cambridge. If I am gone, it will be forwarded. Sad news just arrived—Russians beat—a bad set, eat nothing but oil, consequently must melt before a hard fire. I get awkward in my academic habiliments for want of practice. Got up in a window to hear the oratorio at St. Mary’s, popped down in the middle of the Messiah, tore a woeful rent in the back of my best black silk gown, and damaged an egregious pair of breeches. Mem.—never tumble from a church window during service. Adieu, dear * * * *! do not remember me to any body:—to forget and be forgotten by the people of Southwell is all I aspire to.”

“Trin. Coll. Camb. July 5th, 1807.

“Since my last letter I have determined to reside another year at Granta, as my rooms, &c. &c. are finished in great style, several old friends come up again, and many new acquaintances made; consequently my inclination leads me forward, and I shall return to college in October, if still alive. My life here has been one continued routine of dissipation—out at different places every day, engaged to more dinners, &c. &c. than
A. D. 1807. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 113
my stay would permit me to fulfil. At this moment I write with a bottle of claret in my head and tears in my eyes; for I have just parted with my ‘
Cornelian,’ who spent the evening with me. As it was our last interview, I postponed my engagement to devote the hours of the Sabbath to friendship:—Edleston and I have separated for the present, and my mind is a chaos of hope and sorrow. To-morrow I set out for London; you will address your answer to ‘Gordon’s Hotel, Albemarle-street’ where I sojourn during my visit to the metropolis.

“I rejoice to hear you are interested in my protegé: he has been my almost constant associate since October, 1805, when I entered Trinity College. His voice first attracted my attention, his countenance fixed it, and his manners attached me to him for ever. He departs for a mercantile house in town in October, and we shall probably not meet till the expiration of my minority, when I shall leave to his decision either entering as a partner through my interest, or residing with me altogether. Of course he would in his present frame of mind prefer the latter, but he may alter his opinion previous to that period;—however, he shall have his choice. I certainly love him more than any human being, and neither time or distance have had the least effect on my (in general) changeable disposition. In short, we shall put Lady E. Butler and Miss Ponsonby to the blush, Pylades and Orestes out of countenance, and want nothing but a catastrophe like Nisus and Euryalus, to give Jonathan and David the ‘go by.’ He certainly is perhaps more attached to me than even I am in return. During the whole of my residence at Cambridge we met every day, summer and winter, without passing one tiresome moment, and separated each time with increasing reluctance. I hope you will one day see us together, he in the only being I esteem, though I like many*.

* It may be as well to mention hare the sequel of this enthusiastic attachment. In the year 1811 young Edleston died of a consumption, and the following letter, addressed by Lord Byron to the mother of his fair Southwell correspondent, will show with what melancholy faithfulness, among the many his heart had then to mourn for, he still dwelt on the memory of his young college friend.

114 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1807.

“The Marquis of Tavistock was down the other day; I supped with him at his tutor’s—entirely a whig party. The opposition muster strong here now, and Lord Huntingdon, the Duke of Leinster, &c. &c. are to join us in October, so every thing will be splendid. The music is all over at present. Met with another ‘accidency’—upset a butter-boat in the lap of a lady—look’d very bluespectators grinned—‘curse ’em!’ Apropos, sorry to say, been drunk every day, and not quite sober yet—however, touch no meat, nothing but fish, soup, and vegetables, consequently it does me no harm—sad dogs all the Cantabs. Mem.—we mean to reform next January. This place is a monotony of endless variety—like it—hate Southwell. Has Ridge sold well? or do the ancients demur? What ladies have bought? * * * * *

“Saw a girl at St. Mary’s the image of Anne * * *, thought it was her—all in the wrong—the lady stared, so did I—I blushed, so did not the lady—sad thing—wish women had more modesty. Talking of women. puts me in mind of my terrier Fanny—how is she? Got a headache, must go to bed, up early in the morning to travel. My protegé breakfasts with me; parting spoils my appetite—excepting from Southwell. Mem. I hate Southwell. Yours, &c.”

her, and now I am going to make the most selfish and rude of requests. The person who gave it to me, when I was very young, is dead, and though a long time has elapsed since we met, as it was the only memorial I possessed of that person (in whom I was very much interested), it has acquired a value by this event I could have wished it never to have borne in my eyes. If, therefore, Miss * * * * should have preserved it, I must, under these circumstances, beg her to excuse my requesting it to be transmitted to me at No. 8, St. James’s-street, London, and I will replace it by something she may remember me by equally well. As she was always so kind us to feel interested in the fate of him that formed the subject of our conversation, you may tell her that the giver of that cornelian died in May last of a consumption, at the age of twenty-one, making the sixth, within four months, of friends and relatives that I have lost between May and the end of August.

“Believe me, dear madam, yours very sincerely,

“P.S. I go to London to-morrow.”

The cornelian heart was, of course, returned, and Lord Byron, at the same time, reminded that he had left it with Miss * * * * as a deposit, not a gift.

A. D. 1807. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 115
“Gordon’s Hotel, July 13th, 1807.

“You write most excellent epistles—a fig for other correspondents, with their nonsensical apologies for ‘knowing nought about it,’—you send me a delightful budget. I am here in a perpetual vortex of dissipation (very pleasant for all that), and, strange to tell) I get thinner, being now below 11 stone considerably. Stay in town a month, perhaps 6 weeks, trip into Essex, and then, as a favour, irradiate Southwell for 3 days with the light of my countenance; but nothing shall ever make me reside there again. I positively return to Cambridge in October; we are to be uncommonly gay, or in truth I should cut the University. An extraordinary circumstance occurred to me at Cambridge, a girl so very like ** made her appearance, that nothing but the most minute inspection could have undeceived me. I wish I had asked if she had ever been at H * * *.

“What the devil would Ridge have? is not 50 in a fortnight, before the advertisements, a sufficient sale? I hear many of the London booksellers have them, and Crosby, has sent copies to the principal watering-places. Are they liked or not in Southwell? * * * * * I wish Boatswain had swallowed Damon! How is Bran? by the immortal gods, Bran ought to be a Count of the Holy Roman Empire. * * *

“The intelligence of London cannot be interesting to you, who have rusticated all your life—the annals of routs, riots, balls and boxing-matches, cards and crim. cons, parliamentary discussion, political details, masquerades, mechanics, Argyle-street Institution and aquatic races, love and lotteries, Brooks’s and Buonaparte, opera-singers and oratorios, wine, women, wax-work, and weathercocks, can’t accord with your insulated ideas of decorum and other silly expressions not inserted in our vocabulary.

“Oh! Southwell, Southwell, how I rejoice to have left thee, and how I curse the heavy hours I dragged along, for so many months, amongst the Mohawks who inhabit your kraals!—However, one thing I do not regret, which is having pared off a sufficient quantity of flesh to
116 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1807.
enable me to slip into ‘an eel skin,’ and vie with the slim beaux of modern times; though, I am sorry to say, it seems to be the mode amongst gentlemen to grow fat, and I am told I am at least 14 lb. below the fashion. However, I decrease instead of enlarging, which is extraordinary, as violent exercise in London is impracticable; but I attribute the phenomenon to our evening squeezes at public and private parties. I heard from
Ridge this morning (the 14th, my letter was begun yesterday): he says the Poems go on as well as can be wished, the 75 sent to town are circulated, and a demand for 50 more complied with, the day he dated his epistle, though the advertisements are not yet half published. Adieu.

“P.S. Lord Carlisle, on receiving my Poems, sent, before he opened the book, a tolerably handsome letter:—I have not heard from him since. His opinions I neither know nor care about; if he is the least insolent, I shall enroll him with Butler* and the other worthies. He is in Yorkshire, poor man! and very ill! He said he had not had time to read the contents, but thought it necessary to acknowledge the receipt of the volume immediately. Perhaps the earl ‘bears no brother near the throne,’—if so, I will make his sceptre totter in his hands.—Adieu!”

“August 2d, 1807.

“London begins to disgorge its contents—town is empty—consequently I can scribble at leisure, as occupations are less numerous. In a fortnight I shall depart to fulfil a country engagement; but expect epistles from you previous to that period. Ridge does not proceed rapidly in Notts—very possible. In town things wear a more promising aspect, and a man whose works are praised by reviewers, admired by duchesses, and sold by every bookseller of the metropolis, does not dedicate much consideration to rustic readers. I have now a review before me, entitled

* In the Collection of his Poems printed for private circulation, he had inserted some severe verges on Doctor Butler, which he omitted in the subsequent publication,—at the same time explaining why he did so in a note little less severe than the verses.

A. D. 1807. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 117
Literary Recreations,’ where my bardship is applauded far beyond my deserts. I know nothing of the critic, but think him a very discerning gentleman, and myself a devilish clever fellow. His critique pleases me particularly, because it is of great length, and a proper quantum of censure is administered, just to give an agreeable relish to the praise. You know I hate insipid, unqualified, common-place compliment. If you would wish to see it, order the 13th Number of ‘Literary Recreations’ for the last month. I assure you I have not the most distant idea of the writer of the article—it is printed in a periodical publication—and though I have written a paper (a review of Wordsworth*), which appears in the same work, I am ignorant of every other person concerned in it—even the editor, whose name I have not heard. My cousin, Lord Alexander Gordon, who resided in the same hotel, told me his mother, her Grace of Gordon, requested he would introduce my Poetical Lordship to her Highness, as she had bought my volume, admired it exceedingly in common with the rest of the fashionable world, and wished to claim her relationship with the author. I was unluckily engaged on an excursion for some days afterwards, and as the duchess was on the eve of departing for Scotland, I have postponed my introduction till the winter, when I shall favour the lady, whose taste I shall not dispute, with my most sublime and edifying conversation. She is now in the Highlands, and Alexander took his departure a few days ago, for the same blessed seat of ‘dark rolling winds.

Crosby, my London publisher, has disposed of his second importation, and has sent to Ridge for a third—at least so he says. In every bookseller’s window I see my own name and say nothing, but enjoy my

* This first attempt of Lord Byron at reviewing (for it will be seen that he, once or twice afterwards, tried his hand at this least poetical of employments) is remarkable only as showing how plausibly he could assume the established tone and phraseology of these minor judgment-seats of criticism. For instance:—“The volumes before us are by the Author of Lyrical Ballads, a collection which has not undeservedly met with a considerable share of public applause. The characteristics of Mr. Wordsworth’s muse are simple and flowing, though occasionally inharmonious, verse,—strong and sometimes irresistible appeals to the feelings, with unexceptionable sentiments. Though the present work may not equal his former efforts, many of the poems possess a native elegance,” &c. &c. &c. If Mr. Wordsworth ever chanced to cast his eye over this article, how little could he have suspected that under that dull prosaic mask lurked one who, in five short years from thence, would rival even him in poetry.

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fame in secret. My last reviewer kindly requests me to alter my determination of writing no more, and ‘a Friend to the Cause of Literature’ begs I will gratify the public with some new work ‘at no very distant period.’ Who would not be a bard?—that is to say, if all critics would be so polite. However, the others will pay me off, I doubt not, for this gentle encouragement. If so, have at ’em! By the by, I have written at my intervals of leisure, after in the morning, 380 lines in blank verse, of Bosworth Field. I have luckily got
Hutton’s account. I shall extend the Poem to 8 or 10 books, and shall have finished it in a year. Whether it will be published or not must depend on circumstances. So much for egotism! My laurels have turned my brain, but the cooling acids of forthcoming criticisms will probably restore me to modesty.

“Southwell is a damned place—I have done with it—at least in all probability: excepting yourself, I esteem no one within its precincts. You were my only rational companion; and in plain truth, I had more respect for you than the whole bevy, with whose foibles I amused myself in compliance with their prevailing propensities. You gave yourself more trouble with me and my manuscripts than a thousand dolls would have done. Believe me, I have not forgotten your good-nature in this circle of sin, and one day I trust I shall be able to evince my gratitude. Adieu, yours, &c.

“P.S. Remember me to Dr. P.

“London, August 11th, 1807.

“On Sunday next I set off for the Highlands*. A friend of mine accompanies me in my carriage to Edinburgh. There we shall leave it, and proceed in a tandem (a species of open carriage) through the

* This plan (which he never put in practice) had been talked of by him before he left Southwell, and is thus noticed in a letter of his fair correspondent to her brother:—“How can you ask if Lord B. Is going to visit the Highlands In the summer? Why, don’t you know that he never knows his own mind for ten minutes together? I tell him he is as fickle as the winds, and as uncertain as the waves.”

A. D. 1807. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 119
western passes to Inverary, where we shall purchase shelties, to enable us to view places inaccessible to vehicular conveyances. On the coast we shall hire a vessel and visit the most remarkable of the Hebrides, and, if we have time and favourable weather, mean to sail as far as Iceland, only 800 miles from the northern extremity of Caledonia, to peep at Hecla. This last intention you will keep a secret, as my nice mamma would imagine I was on a Voyage of Discovery, and raise the accustomed maternal warwhoop.

“Last week I swam in the Thames from Lambeth through the bridges, Westminster and Blackfriars, a distance, including the different turns and tacks made on the way, of 3 miles! You see I am in excellent training in case of a squall at sea. I mean to collect all the Erse traditions, poems, &c. &c., and translate, or expand the subject to fill a volume, which may appear next spring under the denomination of ‘The Highland Harp,’ or some title equally picturesque. Of Bosworth Field, one book is finished, another just began. It will be a work of 3 or 4 years, and most probably never conclude. What would you say to some stanzas on Mount Hecla? they would be written at least with fire. How is the immortal Bran? and the Phœnix of canine quadrupeds, Boatswain? I have lately purchased a thorough-bred bull-dog, worthy to be the coadjutor of the aforesaid celestials—his name is Smut!—‘bear it, ye breezes, on your balmy wings.’

“Write to me before I set off, I conjure you by the 5th rib of your grandfather. Ridge goes on well with the books—I thought that worthy had not done much in the country. In town they have been very successful; Carpenter (Moore’s publisher) told me a few days ago they sold all theirs immediately, and had several inquiries made since, which, from the books being gone, they could not supply. The Duke of York, the Marchioness of Headfort, the Duchess of Gordon, &c. &c. were among the purchasers, and Crosby says the circulation will be still more extensive in the winter; the summer season being very bad for a sale, as most people are absent from London. However, they have gone off extremely well altogether. I shall pass very near you on my journey through Newark, but cannot approach. Don’t tell this to Mrs. B., who supposes I travel a different road. If you have a letter, order it to be
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left at
Ridge’s shop, where I shall call, or the post-office, Newark, about 6 or 8 in the evening. If your brother would ride over, I should be devilish glad to see him—he can return the same night, or sup with us and go home the next morning—the Kingston Arms is my inn.

“Adieu, yours ever,
“Trinity College, Cambridge, October 26th, 1807.

“Fatigued with sitting up till four in the morning for the last two days at hazard*, I take up my pen to inquire how your highness and the rest of my female acquaintance at the seat of archiepiscopal grandeur go on. I know I deserve a scolding for my negligence in not writing more frequently; but racing up and down the country for these last three months, how was it possible to fulfil the duties of a correspondent? Fixed at last for six weeks, I write, as thin as ever (not having gained an ounce since my reduction), and rather in better humour;—but, after all, Southwell was a detestable residence. Thank St. Dominica, I have done with it: I have been twice within eight miles of it, but could not prevail on myself to suffocate in its heavy atmosphere. This place is wretched enough—a villanous chaos of din and drunkenness, nothing but hazard and burgundy, hunting, mathematics and Newmarket, riot and racing. Yet it is a paradise compared with the eternal dullness of Southwell. Oh! the misery of doing nothing but make love, enemies, and verses.

“Next January (but this is entre nous only, and pray let it be so, or

* We observe here, as in other parts of his early letters, that sort of display and boast of rakishness which is but too common a folly at this period of life, when the young aspirant to manhood persuades himself that to be profligate is to be manly. Unluckily, this boyish desire of being thought worse than he really was remained with Lord Byron, as did some other feelings and foibles of his boyhood, long after the period when, with others, they are past and forgotten: and his mind, indeed, was but beginning to outgrow them, when he was snatched away.

A. D. 1807. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 121
my maternal persecutor will be throwing her tomahawk at any of my curious projects) I am going to sea, for four or five months, with my cousin
Capt. Bettesworth, who commands the Tartar, the finest frigate in the navy. I have seen most scenes, and wish to look at a naval life. We are going probably to the Mediterranean, or to the West Indies, or—to the d—l; and if there is a possibility of taking me to the latter, Bettesworth will do it; for he has received four and twenty wounds in different places, and at this moment possesses a letter from the late Lord Nelson, stating Bettesworth as the only officer in the navy who had more wounds than himself.

“I have got a new friend, the finest in the world, a tame bear. When I brought him here, they asked me what I meant to do with him, and my reply was, ‘he should sit for a fellowship.’ Sherard will explain the meaning of the sentence, if it is ambiguous. This answer delighted them not. We have several parties here, and this evening a large assortment of jockies, gamblers, boxers, authors, parsons, and poets, sup with me,—a precious mixture, but they go on well together; and for me, I am a spice of every thing, except a jockey; by the by, I was dismounted again the other day.

“Thank your brother in my name for his treatise. I have written 214 pages of a novel,—one poem of 380 lines*, to be published (without my name) in a few weeks, with notes,—560 lines of Bosworth Field, and 250 lines of another poem in rhyme, besides half a dozen smaller pieces. The poem to be published is a Satire. Apropos, I have been praised to the skies in the Critical Review†, and abused greatly in another publication‡. So much the better, they tell me, for the sale of the book; it

* The Poem afterwards enlarged and published under the title of “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.” It appears from this that the ground-work of that satire had been laid some time before the appearance of the article in the Edinburgh Review.

† Sept. 1807. This Review, in pronouncing upon the young author’s future career, showed itself somewhat more “prophet-like” than the great oracle of the north. In noticing the Elegy on Newstead Abbey, the writer says, “We could not but had with something of prophetic rapture, the hope conveyed in the closing stanza:
“Haply thy sun, emerging, yet may shine,
Thee to irradiate with meridian ray,” &c. &c.

‡ The first number of a monthly publication called “the Satirist,” in which there appeared afterwards some low and personal attacks upon him.

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keeps up controversy, and prevents it being forgotten. Besides, the first men of all ages have had their share, nor do the humblest escape,—so I bear it like a philosopher. It is odd two opposite critiques came out on the same day, and out of five pages of abuse my censor only quotes two lines from different poems, in support of his opinion. Now the proper way to cut up is to quote long passages, and make them appear absurd, because simple allegation is no proof. On the other hand, there are seven pages of praise, and more than my modesty will allow said on the subject. Adieu.

“P.S. Write, write, write!!!”