LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to Thomas Moore, 1 June 1818

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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“Palazzo Mocenigo, Canal Grande,
“Venice, June 1st, 1818.

“Your letter is almost the only news, as yet, of Canto 4th, and it has by no means settled its fate,—at least, does not tell me how the ‘Poeshie’ has been received by the public. But I suspect, no great things,—firstly, from Murray’s ‘horrid stillness;’ secondly, from what you say about the stanzas running into each other†, which I take not to be yours, but a notion you have been dinned with among the Blues. The fact is, that the terza rima of the Italians, which always runs on and in, may have led me into experiments, and carelessness into conceit—or conceit into carelessness—in either of which events failure will be probable, and my fair woman, ‘superne,’ end in a fish; so that Childe Harold will be like the mermaid, my family crest, with the Fourth Canto for a tail thereunto. I won’t quarrel with the public, however, for the ‘Bulgars’ are generally right; and if I miss now, I may hit another time:—and so, the ‘gods give us joy.’

“You like Beppo, that’s right. * * * * I have not had the Fudges yet, but live in hopes. I need not say that your successes are mine. By the way, Lydia White is here, and has just borrowed my copy of ‘Lalla Rookh.’

* * * * * * *

Hunt’s letter is probably the exact piece of vulgar coxcombry you might expect from his situation. He is a good man, with some poetical elements in his chaos; but spoilt by the Christ-Church Hospital and a Sunday newspaper,—to say nothing of the Surry Jail, which conceited him into a martyr. But he is a good man. When I saw ‘Rimini’ in MSS., I told him that I deemed it good poetry at bottom, disfigured only by a strange style. His answer was, that his style was a system,

† I had said, I think, in my letter to him, that this practice of carrying one stanza into another was “something like taking on horses another stage without baiting.”

A. D. 1818. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 177
or upon system, or some such cant; and, when a man talks of system, his case is hopeless: I said no more to him, and very little to any one else.

“He believes his trash of vulgar phrases tortured into compound barbarisms to be old English; and we may say of it as Aimwell says of Captain Gibbet’s regiment, when the Captain calls it an ‘old corps,’—‘the oldest in Europe, If I may judge by your uniform.’ He sent out his ‘Foliage’ by Percy Shelley * * *, and, of all the ineffable Centaurs that were ever begotten by Self-love upon a Night-mare, I think this monstrous Sagittary the most prodigious. He (Leigh H.) is an honest Charlatan, who has persuaded himself into a belief of his own impostures, and talks Punch in pure simplicity of heart, taking himself (as poor Fitzgerald said of himself in the Morning Post) for Vates in both senses, or nonsenses, of the word. Did you look at the translations of his own which he prefers to Pope and Cowper, and says so?—Did you read his skimble-skamble about * * being at the head of his own profession, in the eyes of those who followed it? I thought that Poetry was an art or an attribute, and not a profession;—but be it one, is that * * * * * * * at the head of your profession in your eyes? I’ll be curst if he is of mine, or ever shall be. He is the only one of us (but of us he is not) whose coronation I would oppose. Let them take Scott, Campbell, Crabbe, or you, or me, or any of the living, and throne him; —but not this new Jacob Behmen, this * * * * * *
* * * whose pride might have kept him true, even had his principles turned as perverted as his soi-disant poetry.

“But Leigh Hunt is a good man, and a good father—see his Odes to all the Masters Hunt;—a good husband—see his Sonnet to Mrs. Hunt;—a good friend—see his Epistles to different people;—and a great coxcomb, and a very vulgar person in every thing about him. But that’s not his fault, but of circumstances†.

† I had, in first transcribing the above letter for the press, omitted the whole of this caustic and, perhaps, over-severe character of Mr. Hunt; but the tone of that gentleman’s book having, as far as himself is concerned, released me from all those scruples which prompted the suppression, I have considered myself at liberty to restore the passage.

178 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1818.
* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *

“I do not know any good model for a life of Sheridan but that of Savage. Recollect however, that the life of such a man may be made far more amusing than if he had been a Wilberforce;—and this without offending the living, or insulting the dead. The whigs abuse him; however, he never left them, and such blunderers deserve neither credit nor compassion. As for his creditors,—remember, Sheridan never had a shilling, and was thrown, with great powers and passions, into the thick of the world, and placed upon the pinnacle of success, with no other external means to support him in his elevation. Did Fox * * * pay his debts?—or did Sheridan take a subscription? Was the Duke of Norfolk’s drunkenness more excusable than his? Were his intrigues more notorious than those of all his contemporaries? and is his memory to be blasted, and theirs respected? Don’t let yourself be led away by clamour, but compare him with the coalitioner Fox, and the pensioner Burke, as a man of principle, and with ten hundred thousand in personal views, and with none in talent, for he beat them all out and out. Without means, without connexion, without character (which might be false at first, and make him mad afterwards from desperation), he beat them all, in all he ever attempted. But alas poor human nature! Good night—or, rather, morning. It is four, and the dawn gleams over the Grand Canal, and unshadows the Rialto. I must to bed; up all night—but, as George Philpot says, ‘it’s life, though, damme, it’s life!’

“Ever yours,

“Excuse errors—no time for revision. The post goes out at noon, and I shan’t be up then. I will write again soon about your plan for a publication.”