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rodoxy they had objected to; nor is it too much, perhaps, to conclude, that had a more extended force of such influence then acted upon him, he would have consented to omit the sceptical parts of his poem altogether. Certain it is that, during the remainder of his stay in England, no such doctrines were ever again obtruded on his readers; and in all those beautiful creations of his fancy, with which he brightened that whole period, keeping the public eye in one prolonged gaze of admiration, both the bitterness and the licence of his impetuous spirit were kept effectually under control. The world, indeed, had yet to witness what he was capable of when emancipated from this restraint. For, graceful and powerful as were his flights while society had still a hold of him, it was not till let loose from the leash that he rose into the true region of his strength; and though almost in proportion to that strength was, too frequently, his abuse of it, yet so magnificent are the very excesses of such energy, that it is impossible, even while we condemn, not to admire.
To exemplify what I have said of his extreme sensibility to the passing sunshine or clouds of the society in which he lived, I need but cite the following notes, addressed by him to his friend Mr. William Bankes, under the apprehension that this gentleman
was, for some reason or other, displeased with him.
LETTER 92. TO MR. WILLIAM BANKES.
The occasion by which I have been led into these remarks, namely, his sensi-"My dear Bankes, tiveness on the subject of his Satire, - is one of those instances that show how easily his gigantic spirit could be, if not held down, at least entangled, by the small ties of society. The aggression of which he had been guilty was not only past, but, by many of those most injured, forgiven; and yet, highly, it must be allowed, to the credit of his social feelings, the idea of living familiarly and friendlily with persons, respecting whose character or talents there were such opinions of his on record, became, at length, insupportable to him; and, though far advanced in a fifth edition of " English Bards," &c., he came to the resolution of suppressing the Satire altogether; and orders were sent to Cawthorn, the publisher, to commit the whole impression to the flames. At the same time, and from similar motives, — aided, I rather think, by a friendly remonstrance from Lord Elgin, or some of his connections, the Curse of Minerva," a poem levelled against that nobleman, and already in progress towards publication, was also sacrificed: while the "Hints from Horace," though containing far less personal satire than either of the others, shared their fate.
"My dear Bankes,
'I feel rather hurt (not savagely) at the speech you made to me last night, and my hope is, that it was only one of your profane jests. I should be very sorry that any part of my behaviour should give you cause to suppose that I think higher of myself, or otherwise of you than I have always done. I can assure you that I am as much the humblest of your servants as at Trin. Coll. ; and if I have not been at home when you favoured me with a call, the loss was more mine than yours. In the bustle of buzzing parties, there is, there can be, no rational conversation; but when I can enjoy it, there is nobody's I can prefer to your own. Believe me ever faithfully and most affectionately yours,
LETTER 93. TO MR. WILLIAM BANKES.
"My eagerness to come to an explanation has, I trust, convinced you that whatever my unlucky manner might inadvertently be, the change was as unintentional as (if intended) it would have been ungrateful. I really was not aware that, while we were together, I had evinced such caprices; that we were not so much in each other's company as I could have wished, I well know, but I think so acute an observer as yourself must have perceived enough to explain this, without supposing any slight to one in whose society I have pride and pleasure. Recollect that I do not allude here to extended' or 'extending' acquaintances, but to circumstances you will understand, I think, on a little reflection.
"And now, my dear Bankes, do not distress me by supposing that I can think of you, or you of me, otherwise than I trust we have long thought. You told me not long ago that my temper was improved, and I should be sorry that opinion should be revoked. Believe me, your friendship is of more account to me than all those absurd vanities in which, I fear, you conceive me to take too much interest. I have never disputed your superiority, or doubted (seriously) your good will, and no one shall ever make mischief between us' without the sincere regret on the part of your ever affectionate, &c.
"P.S.-I shall see you, I hope, at Lady Jersey's. Hobhouse goes also."
In the month of April he was again tempted to try his success in the House of Lords; and, on the motion of Lord Donoughmore for taking into consideration the claims of the Irish Catholics, delivered his sentiments strongly in favour of the proposition. His display, on this occasion, seems to have been less promising than in his first essay. His delivery was thought mouthing and theatrical, being infected, I take for granted (having never heard him speak in Parliament), with the same chanting tone that disfigured his recitation of poetry, a tone contracted at most of the public schools, but more particularly, perhaps, at Harrow, and encroaching just enough on the boundaries of song to offend those ears most by which song is best enjoyed and understood.
On the subject of the negotiations for a change of ministry which took place during this session, I find the following anecdotes recorded in his note-book :
At the opposition meeting of the peers in 1812, at Lord Grenville's, when Lord Grey and he read to us the correspondence upon Moira's negotiation, I sate next to the present Duke of Grafton, and said, 'What is to be done next?'—'Wake the Duke of Norfolk' (who was snoring away near us), replied he: 'I don't think the negotiators have left any thing else for us to do this turn.' "In the debate, or rather discussion, afterwards in the House of Lords upon that very question, I sate immediately behind Lord Moira, who was extremely annoyed at Grey's speech upon the subject; and, while Grey was speaking, turned round to me repeatedly, and asked me whether I agreed with him. It was an awkward question to me who had not heard both sides. Moira kept repeating to me, 'It was not so, it was so and so,' &c. I did not know very well what to think, but I sympathised with the acuteness of his feelings upon the subject."
The subject of the Catholic claims was, it is well known, brought forward a second time this session by Lord Wellesley, whose motion for a future consideration of the question was carried by a majority of one. In reference to this division, another rather amusing anecdote is thus related.
"Lord Eldon affects an imitation of two very different Chancellors, Thurlow and Loughborough, and can indulge in an oath now and then. On one of the debates on the Catholic question, when we were either equal or within one (I forget which), I had been sent for in great haste to a ball, which I quitted, I confess, somewhat reluctantly, to emancipate five millions of people. I
came in late, and did not go immediately into the body of the House, but stood just behind the woolsack. Eldon turned round, and, catching my eye, immediately said to a peer, (who had come to him for a few minutes on the woolsack, as is the custom of his friends,) Damn them! they'll have it now,-by G-d! the vote that is just come in will give it them.""
During all this time, the impression which he had produced in society, both as a poet and a man, went on daily increasing; and the facility with which he gave himself up to the current of fashionable life, and mingled in all the gay scenes through which it led, showed that the novelty, at least, of this mode of existence had charms for him, however he might estimate its pleasures. That sort of vanity which is almost inseparable from genius, and which consists in an extreme sensitiveness on the subject of self, Lord Byron, I need not say, possessed in no ordinary degree; and never was there a career in which this sensibility to the opinions of others was exposed to more constant and various excitement than that on which he was now entered. I find in a note of my own to him, written at this period, some jesting allusions to the "circle of star-gazers” whom I had left around him at some party on the preceding night ;- and such, in fact, was the flattering ordeal he had to undergo wherever he went. On these occasions, particularly before the range of his acquaintance had become sufficiently extended to set him wholly at his ease, his air and port were those of one whose better thoughts were elsewhere, and who looked with melancholy abstraction on the gay crowd around him. This deportment, so rare in such scenes, and so accordant with the romantic notions entertained of him, was the result partly of shyness, and partly, perhaps, of that love of effect and impression to which the poetical character of his mind naturally led. Nothing, indeed, could be more amusing and delightful than the contrast which his manners afterwards, when we were alone, presented to his proud reserve in the brilliant circle we had just left. It was like the bursting gaiety of a boy let loose from school, and seemed as if there was no extent of fun or tricks of which he was not capable. Finding him invariably thus lively when we were together, I often rallied him on the gloomy tone of his poetry, as assumed; but his constant answer was (and I soon ceased to doubt of its truth,) that, though thus merry and full of laughter with those he liked, he was, at heart, one of the most melancholy wretches in existence.
"I should have answered your note yesterday, but I hoped to have seen you this morning. I must consult with you about the day we dine with Sir Francis. I suppose we shall meet at Lady Spencer's to-night. I did not know that you were at Miss Berry's the other night, or I should have certainly gone there.
"As usual, I am in all sorts of scrapes, though none, at present, of a martial description. 'Believe me," &c. "May 8. 1812.
"I am too proud of being your friend, to care with whom I am linked in your estimation, and, God knows, I want friends more at this time than at any other. I am 'taking care of myself' to no great purpose. If you knew my situation in every point of view, you would excuse apparent and unintentional neglect. I shall leave town, I think; but do not you leave it without seeing me. I wish you, from my soul, every happiness you can wish yourself; and I think you have taken the road to secure it. Peace be with you! I fear she has abandoned me. Ever," &c.
1 He had taken a window opposite for the purpose, and was accompanied on the occasion by his old schoolfellows, Mr. Bailey and Mr. John Madocks. They went together from some assembly, and, on their arriving at the spot, about three o'clock in the morning, not finding the house that was to receive them open, Mr. Madocks undertook to rouse the inmates, while Lord Byron and Mr. Bailey sauntered, arm in arm, up the street. During this interval, rather a painful scene occurred. Seeing an unfortunate woman lying on the steps of a door, Lord Byron, with some expression of compassion, offered her a few shillings; but, instead of accepting them, she violently pushed away his hand, and, starting up with a yell
Among the tributes to his fame, this spring, it should have been mentioned that, at some evening party, he had the honour of being presented, at that royal personage's own desire, to the Prince Regent.
The Regent," says Mr. Dallas, "expressed his admiration of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, and continued a conversation, which so fascinated the poet, that had it not been for an accidental deferring of the next levee, he bade fair to become a visiter at Carlton House, if not a complete courtier."
After this wise prognostic, the writer adds, "I called on him on the morning for which the levee had been appointed, and found him in a full-dress court suit of clothes, with his fine black hair in powder, which by no means suited his countenance. I was surprised, as he had not told me that he should go to court; and it seemed to me as if he thought it necessary to apologise for his intention, by his observing that he could not in decency but do it, as the Regent had done him the honour to say that he hoped to see him soon at Carlton House."
In the two letters that follow we find his own account of the introduction.
of laughter, began to mimic the lameness of his gait. He did not utter a word; but "I could feel," said Mr. Bailey, "his arm trembling within mine, as we left her."
I may take this opportunity of mentioning another anecdote connected with his lameness. In coming out, one night, from a ball, with Mr. Rogers, as they were on their way to their carriage, one of the link-boys ran on before Lord Byron, crying, "This way, my Lord.". "He seems to know you," said Mr. Rogers." Know me!" answered Lord Byron, with some degree of bitterness in his tone-" every one knows me, I am deformed."
LETTER 94. TO LORD HOLLAND.
"June 25. 1812.
My dear Lord,
I must appear very ungrateful, and have, indeed, been very negligent, but till last night I was not apprised of Lady Holland's restoration, and I shall call to-morrow to have the satisfaction, I trust, of hearing that she is well. I hope that neither politics nor gout have assailed your Lordship since I last saw you, and that you also are well as could be expected."
The other night, at a ball, I was presented by order to our gracious Regent, who honoured me with some conversation, and professed a predilection for poetry. — I confess it was a most unexpected honour, and I thought of poor Brummell's adventure, with some apprehension of a similar blunder. I have now great hope, in the event of Mr. Pye's decease, of warbling truth at court,' like Mr. Mallet of indifferent memory. Consider, one hundred marks a year! besides the wine and the disgrace; but then remorse would make me drown myself in my own butt before the year's end, or the finishing of my first dithyrambic. So that, after all, I shall not meditate our laureate's death by pen or poison.
"Will you present my best respects to Lady Holland? and believe me hers and yours very sincerely."
The second letter, entering much more fully into the particulars of this interview with Royalty, was in answer, it will be perceived, to some inquiries which Sir Walter Scott (then Mr. Scott) had addressed to him on the subject; and the whole account reflects even still more honour on the Sovereign himself than on the two poets.
LETTER 95. TO SIR WALTER SCOTT, BART.
"St. James's Street, July 6. 1812.
I have just been honoured with your letter. I feel sorry that you should have thought it worth while to notice the 'evil works of my nonage,' as the thing is suppressed voluntarily, and your explanation is too kind not to give me pain. The Satire was written when I was very young and very angry, and fully bent on displaying my wrath and my wit, and now I am haunted by the
["There, too, he saw (whate'er he may be now)
A Prince, the prince of princes at the time, With fascination in his very bow,
And full of promise, as the spring of prime.
ghosts of my wholesale assertions. I cannot sufficiently thank you for your praise; and now, waving myself, let me talk to you of the Prince Regent. He ordered me to be presented to him at a ball; and after some sayings peculiarly pleasing from royal lips, as to my own attempts, he talked to me of you and your immortalities: he preferred you to every bard past and present, and asked which of your works pleased me most. was a difficult question. I answered, I thought the "Lay." He said his own opinion was nearly similar. In speaking of the others, I told him that I thought you more particularly the poet of Princes, as they never appeared more fascinating than in Marmion' and the Lady of the Lake.' He was pleased to coincide, and to dwell on the description of your Jameses as no less royal than poetical. He spoke alternately of Homer and yourself, and seemed well acquainted with both; so that (with the exception of the Turks and your humble servant) you were in very good company. I defy Murray to have exaggerated his Royal Highness's opinion of your powers, nor can I pretend to enumerate all he said on the subject; but it may give you pleasure to hear that it was conveyed in language which would only suffer by my attempting to transcribe it, and with a tone and taste which gave me a very high idea of his abilities and accomplishments, which I had hitherto considered as confined to manners, certainly superior to those of any living gentleman.1
"This interview was accidental. I never went to the levee; for having seen the courts of Mussulman and Catholic sovereigns, my curiosity was sufficiently allayed; and my politics being as perverse as my rhymes, I had, in fact, no business there.' To be thus praised by your Sovereign must be gratifying to you; and if that gratification is not alloyed by the communication being made through me, the bearer of it will consider himself very fortunately and sincerely,
"Your obliged and obedient servant,
"P. S.-Excuse this scrawl, scratched in a great hurry, and just after a journey.
During the summer of this year, he paid visits to some of his noble friends, and, among others, to the Earl of Jersey and the Marquis of Lansdowne. "In 1812," he says,
Though royalty was written on his brow,
Don Juan, c. xii. st. 84. Works, p. 726.]
at Middleton (Lord Jersey's), amongst a goodly company of lords, ladies, and wits, &c., there was **
Erskine, too! Erskine was there; good, but intolerable. He jested, he talked, he did every thing admirably, but then he would be applauded for the same thing twice He would read his own verses, his own paragraph, and tell his own story again and again; and then the Trial by Jury!!!' I almost wished it abolished, for I sat next him at dinner. As I had read his published speeches, there was no occasion to repeat them to me.
"C** (the fox-hunter), nicknamed * Cheek C * * [Chester], and I sweated the claret, being the only two who did so. C**, who loves his bottle, and had no notion of meeting with a 'bon-vivant' in a scribbler3, in making my eulogy to somebody one evening, summed it up in- By G-d he drinks like a man.'
"Nobody drank, however, but C** and I. To be sure, there was little occasion, for we swept off what was on the table most splendid board, as may be supposed, at Jersey's) very sufficiently. However, we 'carried our liquor discreetly,' like the Baron of Bradwardine."
In the month of August this year, on the completion of the new Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, the Committee of Management, desirous of procuring an Address for the opening of the theatre, took the rather novel mode of inviting, by an advertisement in the newspapers, the competition of all the poets of the day towards this object. Though the contributions that ensued were sufficiently numerous, it did not appear to the Committee that there was any one among the number worthy of selection. In this difficulty it occurred to Lord Holland, that they could not do better than have recourse to Lord Byron, whose popularity would give additional vogue to the solemnity of their opening, and to whose transcendent claims, as a poet, it was taken for granted, (though without sufficient allowance, as it
'My dear Lord,
"The lines which I sketched off on your hint are still, or rather were, in an unfinished state, for I have just committed them to a flame more decisive than that of
Drury. Under all the circumstances, I should hardly wish a contest with Philodrama-Philo-Drury-Asbestos, H**, and all the anonymes and synonymes of Committee candidates. Seriously, I think you have a chance of something much better; for prologuising is not my forte, and, at all events, either my pride or my modesty won't let me incur the hazard of having my rhymes buried in next month's Magazine, under (aEssays on the Murder of Mr. Perceval,' and Cures for the Bite of a Mad Dog,' as poor Goldsmith complained of the fate of far superior performances.+
"I am still sufficiently interested to wish to know the successful candidate; and, amongst so many, I have no doubt some will be excellent, particularly in an age when writing verse is the easiest of all attainments.
1 A review, somewhat too critical, of some of the guests is here omitted.
2 ["There also were two wits by acclamation,
Don Juan, c. xiii. st. 92.]
3 For the first day or two, at Middleton, he did not join his noble host's party till after dinner, but took his scanty repast of biscuits and soda-water in his own room. Being told by somebody that the gentleman above men
proved, for the irritability of the brotherhood,) even the rejected candidates themselves would bow without a murmur. The first result of this application to the noble poet will be learned from what follows.
LETTER 96. TO LORD HOLLAND.
"Cheltenham, September 10. 1812.
"I cannot answer your intelligence with the 'like comfort,' unless, as you are deeply theatrical, you may wish to hear of Mr. ** [Betty], whose acting is, I fear, utterly inadequate to the London engagement into which the managers of Covent Garden have lately entered. His figure is fat, his features flat, his voice unmanageable, his action ungraceful, and, as Diggory says, 'I defy him to extort that d-d muffin face of his into madness.' I was very sorry to see him in the character of the Elephant on the slack rope;' for, when I last saw him, I was in raptures with his performance. But then I was sixteen -an age to which all London condescended to subside. After all, much
tioned had pronounced such habits to be "effeminate," he resolved to show the "foxhunter" that he could be, on occasion, as good a bon-vivant as himself, and, by his prowess at the claret next day, after dinner, drew forth from Mr. C✶✶ the eulogium here recorded.
4 ["The public were more importantly employed, than to observe the easy simplicity of my style, or the harmony of my periods. Sheet after sheet was thrown off to oblivion. My essays were buried among the essays upon liberty, eastern tales, and cures for the bite of a mad dog."- Goldsmith's Misc. Works, vol. ii. p. 105. ed. 1837.]
5 [In the farce of " All the World's a Stage."]