LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to John Murray, 12 August 1819

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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“Bologna, August 12th, 1819.

“I do not know how far I may be able to reply to your letter, for I am not very well to-day. Last night I went to the representation of Alfieri’s Mirra, the two last acts of which threw me into convulsions. I do not mean by that word a lady’s hysterics, but the agony of reluctant tears, and the choking shudder, which I do not often undergo for fiction. This is but the second time for any thing under reality: the first was on seeing Kean’s Sir Giles Overreach. The worst was, that the ‘Dama’ in whose box I was went off in the same way, I really believe more from fright than any other sympathy—at least with the players: but she has been ill, and I have been ill, and we are all languid and pathetic this morning, with great expenditure of sal volatile*. But, to return to your letter of the 23d of July.

* The “Dama,” in whose company he witnessed this representation, thus describes its effect upon him:—“The play was that of Mirra; the actors, and particularly the actress who performed the part of Mirra, seconded with much success the intentions of our great

232 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1819.

“You are right, Gifford is right. Crabbe is right, Hobhouse is right—you are all right, and I am all wrong; but do, pray, let me have that pleasure. Cut me up root and branch; quarter me in the Quarterly; send round my ‘disjecti membra poetæ,’ like those of the Levite’s concubine; make me, if you will, a spectacle to men and angels; but don’t ask me to alter, for I won’t:—I am obstinate and lazy—and there’s the truth.

“But, nevertheless, I will answer your friend P * *, who objects to the quick succession of fun and gravity, as if in that case the gravity did not (in intention, at least,) heighten the fun. His metaphor is, that ‘we are never scorched and drenched at the same time.’ Blessings on his experience! Ask him these questions about ‘scorching and drenching.’ Did he never play at cricket, or walk a mile in hot weather? Did he never spill a dish of tea over himself in handing the cup to his charmer, to the great shame of his nankeen breeches? Did he never swim in the sea at noonday with the sun in his eyes and on his head, which all the foam of ocean could not cool? Did he never draw his foot out of too hot water, d—ning his eyes and his valet’s? * * * * * * * Did he never tumble into a river or lake, fishing, and sit in his wet clothes in the boat, or on the bank, afterwards, ‘scorched and drenched,’ like a true sportsman? ‘Oh for breath to utter!’—but make him my compliments; he is a clever fellow for all that—a very clever fellow.

“You ask me for the plan of Donny Johnny: I have no plan; I

dramatist. Lord Byron took a strong interest in the representation, and it was evident that he was deeply affected. At length there came a point of the performance at which he could no longer restrain his emotions;—he burst into a flood of tears, and, his sobs preventing him from remaining any longer in the box, he rose and left the theatre.—I saw him similarly affected another time during a representation of Alfieri’sPhilip,’ at Ravenna.”—“Gli attori, e specialmente l’ attrice che rappresentava Mirra secondava assai bene la mente del nostro grande Tragico. L. B. prese molto interesse alla rappresentazione, e si conosceva che era molto commosso. Venne un punto poi della Tragedia in cui non potè più frenare in sun emozione,—diede in un diretto pianto e i singhiozzi gi’ impedirono di più restare nel palco; onde si levò, e parti dal teatro. In uno stato simile lo viddi un altra volta a Ravenna ad una rappresentazione del Filippo d’Alfieri.”

A. D. 1819. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 233
had no plan; but I had or have materials; though if, like Tony Lumpkin, ‘I am to be snubbed so when I am in spirits,’ the poem will be naught, and the poet turn serious again. If it don’t take, I will leave it off where it is, with all due respect to the public; but if continued, it must be in my own way. You might as well make Hamlet (or Diggory) ‘act mad’ in a strait waistcoat as trammel my buffoonery, if I am to be a buffoon; their gestures and my thoughts would only be pitiably absurd and ludicrously constrained. Why, man, the soul of such writing is its licence; at least the liberty of that licence, if one likes—not that one should abuse it. It is like Trial by Jury and Peerage and the Habeas Corpus—a very fine thing, but chiefly in the reversion; because no one wishes to be tried for the mere pleasure of proving his possession of the privilege.

“But a truce with these reflections. You are too earnest and eager about a work never intended to be serious. Do you suppose that I could have any intention but to giggle and make giggle?—a playful satire, with as little poetry as could be helped, was what I meant. And as to the indecency, do, pray, read in Boswell what Johnson, the sullen moralist, says of Prior and Paulo Purgante.

“Will you get a favour done for me? You can, by your government friends, Croker, Canning, or my old schoolfellow Peel, and I can’t. Here it is. Will you ask them to appoint (without salary or emolument) a noble Italian (whom I will name afterwards) consul or vice-consul for Ravenna? He is a man of very large property—noble, too; but he wishes to have a British protection, in case of changes. Ravenna is near the sea. He wants no emolument whatever. That his office might be useful, I know; as I lately sent off from Ravenna to Trieste a poor devil of an English sailor, who had remained there sick, sorry, and pennyless (having been set ashore in 1814), from the want of any accredited agent able or willing to help him homewards. Will you get this done? If you do, I will then send his name and condition, subject, of course, to rejection, if not approved when known.

“I know that in the Levant you make consuls and vice-consuls, perpetually, of foreigners. This man is a patrician, and has twelve
234 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1819.
thousand a year. His motive is a British protection in case of new invasions. Don’t you think
Croker would do it for us? To be sure, my interest is rare!! but perhaps a brother wit in the Tory line might do a good turn at the request of so harmless and long absent a Whig, particularly as there is no salary or burthen of any sort to be annexed to the office.

“I can assure you, I should look upon it as a great obligation; but, alas! that very circumstance may, very probably, operate to the contrary—indeed, it ought; but I have, at least, been an honest and an open enemy. Amongst your many splendid government connexions, could not you, think you, get our Bibulus made a Consul? or make me one, that I may make him my Vice. You may be assured that, in case of accidents in Italy, he would be no feeble adjunct,—as you would think, if you knew his patrimony.

“What is all this about Tom Moore? but why do I ask? since the state of my own affairs would not permit me to be of use to him, though they are greatly improved since 1816, and may, with some more luck and a little prudence, become quite clear. It seems his claimants are American merchants? There goes Nemesis! Moore abused America. It is always thus in the long run:—Time, the Avenger. You have seen every trampler down, in turn, from Buonaparte to the simplest individuals. You saw how some were avenged even upon my insignificance, and how in turn * * * paid for his atrocity. It is an odd world; but the watch has its mainspring, after all.

“So the Prince has been repealing Lord Edward Fitzgerald’s forfeiture? Ecco unsonetto!

“To be the father of the fatherless,
To stretch the hand from the throne’s height, and raise
His offspring, who expired in other days
To make thy sire’s sway by a kingdom less,—
This is to be a monarch, and repress
Envy into unutterable praise.
Dismiss thy guard, and trust thee to such traits,
For who would lift a hand, except to bless?
A. D. 1819. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 235
Were it not easy, Sir, and is ’t not sweet
To make thyself beloved? and to be
Omnipotent by Mercy’s means? for thus
Thy sovereignty would grow but more complete,
A despot thou, and yet thy people free,
And by the heart, not hand, enslaving us.

“There, you dogs! there’s a sonnet for you: you won’t have such as that in a hurry from Mr. Fitzgerald. You may publish it with my name, an’ ye wool. He deserves all praise, bad and good; it was a very noble piece of principality. Would you like an epigram—a translation?

“If for silver, or for gold,
You could melt ten thousand pimples
Into half a dozen dimples,
Then your face we might behold,
Looking, doubtless, much more snugly,
Yet ev’n then ’twould be d—d ugly.

“This was written on some Frenchwoman, by Rulhieres, I believe.