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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to Thomas Moore, 4 June 1821

Life of Byron: to 1806
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Life of Byron: 1816 (I)
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“Ravenna, June 4th, 1821.

You have not written lately, as is the usual custom with literary gentlemen, to console their friends with their observations in cases of magnitude. I do not know whether I sent you my ‘Elegy on the recovery of Lady * *:’—
“Behold the blessings of a lucky lot—
My play is damn’d, and Lady * * not.

“The papers (and perhaps your letters) will have put you in possession of Muster Elliston’s dramatic behaviour. It is to be presumed that the play was fitted for the stage by Mr. Dibdin, who is the tailor upon such occasions, and will have taken measure with his usual accuracy. I hear that it is still continued to be performed—a piece of obstinacy for which it is some consolation to think that the discourteous histrio will be out of pocket.

“You will be surprised to hear that I have finished another tragedy in five acts, observing all the unities strictly. It is called ‘Sardanapalus,’ and was sent by last post to England. It is not for the stage, any more
492 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1821.
than the other was intended for it,—and I shall take better care this time that they don’t get hold on ’t.

“I have also sent, two months ago, a further letter on Bowles, &c.; but he seems to be so taken up with my ‘respect’ (as he calls it) towards him in the former case, that I am not sure that it will be published, being somewhat too full of ‘pastime and prodigality.’ I learn from some private letters of Bowles’s, that you were ‘the gentleman in asterisks.’ Who would have dreamed it? you see what mischief that clergyman has done by printing notes without names. How the deuce was I to suppose that the first four asterisks meant ‘Campbell’ and notPope,’ and that the blank signature meant Thomas Moore. You see

* In their eagerness, like true controversialists, to avail themselves of every passing advantage, and convert even straws into weapons on an emergency, my two friends, during their short warfare, contrived to place me in that sort of embarrassing position, the most provoking feature of which is, that it excites more amusement than sympathy. On the one side, Mr. Bowles chose to cite, as a support to his argument, a short fragment of a note, addressed to him, as he stated, by “a gentleman of the highest literary, &c. &c.,’ and saying, in reference to Mr. Bowles’s former pamphlet, “You have hit the right nail on the head, and * * * * too.” This short scrap was signed with four asterisks; and when, on the appearance of Mr. Bowles’s Letter, I met with it in his pages, not the slightest suspicion ever crossed my mind that I had been myself the writer of it;—my communications with my reverend friend and neighbour having been (for years, I am proud to say) sufficiently frequent to allow of such a hasty compliment to his disputative powers passing from my memory. When Lord Byron took the field against Mr. Bowles’s Letter, this unlucky scrap, so authoritatively brought forward, was, of course, too tempting a mark for his facetiousness to be resisted; more especially as the person mentioned in it, as having suffered from the reverend critic’s vigour, appeared, from the number of asterisks employed in designating him, to have been Pope himself, though, in reality, the name was that of Mr. Bowles’s former antagonist, Mr. Campbell. The noble assailant, it is needless to say, made the most of this vulnerable point; and few readers could have been more diverted than I was with his happy ridicule of “the gentleman in asterisks,” little thinking that I was myself, all the while, this veiled victim,—nor was it till about the time of the receipt of the above letter, that, by some communication on the subject from a friend in England, I was startled into the recollection of my own share in the transaction.

While by one friend I was thus unconsciously, if not innocently, drawn into the scrape, the other was not slow in rendering me the same friendly service;—for, on the appearance of Lord Byron’s answer to Mr. Bowles, I had the mortification of finding that, with a far less pardonable want of reserve, he had all but named me as his authority for an anecdote of his reverend opponent’s early days, which I had, in the course of an after-dinner conversation, told him at Venice, and which,—pleasant in itself, and, whether true or false, harmless,—derived its sole sting from the manner in which the noble disputant triumphantly applied it. Such are the consequences of one’s near and dear friends taking to controversy.

A. D. 1821. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 493
what comes of being familiar with parsons. His answers have not yet reached me, but I understand from
Hobhouse, that he (H.) is attacked in them. If that be the case, Bowles has broken the truce (which he himself proclaimed, by the way), and I must have at him again.

“Did you receive my letters with the two or three concluding sheets of Memoranda?

“There are no news here to interest much. A German spy (boasting himself such) was stabbed last week, but not mortally. The moment I heard that he went about bullying and boasting, it was easy for me, or any one else, to foretel what would occur to him, which I did, and it came to pass in two days after. He has got off; however, for a slight incision.

“A row the other night, about a lady of the place, between her various lovers, occasioned a midnight discharge of pistols, but nobody wounded. Great scandal, however—planted by her lover—to be thrashed by her husband, for inconstancy to her regular Servente, who is coming home post about it, and she herself retired in confusion into the country, although it is the acme of the opera season. All the women furious against her (she herself having been censorious) for being found out. She is a pretty woman—a Countess * * * *—a fine old Visigoth name, or Ostrogoth.

“The Greeks! what think you? They are my old acquaintances—but what to think I know not. Let us hope, howsomever.