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LETTERS TO MISS PIGOT.
shall leave it, and proceed in a tandem (a species of open carriage) through the 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 300 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 two bridges, Westminster and Blackfriars, a distance, including the different turns and tacks made on the way, of three miles! You see I am in excellent training in case of a squall at sea. 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 three or four 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 Phoenix 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 fifth 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 enquiries 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
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,
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 left at Ridge's shop, where I shall call, or the post-office, Newark, about six or eight 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,
LETTER 18. TO MISS PIGOT.
"Trinity College, Cambridge, October 26. 1807.
My dear Elizabeth,
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 dulness 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 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 Captain Bettesworth, who commands the Tartar, the finest frigate in the navy. 1 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-1; and if there is a possibility of taking me to the latter, Bettesworth will
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.
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. 1
"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 jockeys, 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 bye, 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 Reviews, and abused greatly in another publication. So much the better, they tell mc, for the sale of the book: it 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!!!"
[Captain George-Edward-Byron Bettesworth, born in 1781, was the son of a clergyman in the north of England. In the short space of eight years from his first entering the service as a boy, he had risen by his merit to the post of Commander. When the above letter was written, he had just been appointed to the Tartar frigate, in which he was killed in the May following, while engaging with some Danish gun-boats off Bergen. He had recently married Lady Hannah-Althea Grey, sister to Earl Grey; who afterwards married the right hon. Edward Ellice.]
2 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.
IT was at the beginning of the following year that an acquaintance commenced between Lord Byron and a gentleman, related to his family by marriage, Mr. Dallas 5
the author of some novels, popular, I believe, in their day, and also of a sort of Memoir of the noble Poet, published soon after his death, which, from being founded chiefly on original correspondence, is the most authentic and trustworthy of any that have yet appeared. In the letters addressed by Lord Byron to this gentleman, among many details, curious in a literary point of view, we find, what is much more important for our present purpose, some particulars illustrative of the opinions which he had formed, at this time of his life, on the two subjects most connected with the early formation of character-morals and religion.
It is but rarely that infidelity or scepticism finds an entrance into youthful minds. That readiness to take the future upon trust, which is the charm of this period of life, would naturally, indeed, make it the season of belief as well as of hope. There are also then, still fresh in the mind, the impressions of early religious culture, which even in those who begin soonest to question their faith, give way but slowly to the encroachments of doubt, and, in the mean time, extend the benefit of their moral restraint over a portion of life when it is acknowledged such restraints are most necessary. If exemption from the
checks of religion be, as infidels themselves allow', a state of freedom from responsibility dangerous at all times, it must be peculiarly so in that season of temptation, youth, when the passions are sufficiently disposed to usurp a latitude for themselves, without taking a licence also from infidelity to enlarge their range. It is, therefore, fortunate that, for the causes just stated, the inroads of scepticism and disbelief should be seldom felt in the mind till a period of life when the character, already formed, is out of the reach of their disturbing influence, — when, being the result, however erroneous, of thought and reasoning, they are likely to partake of the sobriety of the process by which they were acquired, and being considered but as matters of pure speculation, to have as little share in determining the mind towards evil as, too often, the most orthodox creed has, at the same age, in influencing it towards good.
While, in this manner, the moral qualities of the unbeliever himself are guarded from some of the mischiefs that might, at an earlier age, attend such doctrines, the danger also of his communicating the infection to others is, for reasons of a similar nature, considerably diminished. The same vanity or daring which may have prompted the youthful sceptic's opinions, will lead him likewise, it is probable, rashly and irreverently to avow them, without regard either to the effect of his example on those around him, or to the odium which, by such an avowal, he entails irreparably on himself. But, at a riper age, these consequences are, in general, more cautiously weighed. The infidel, if at all considerate of the happiness of others, will naturally pause before he chases from their hearts a hope of which his own feels the want so desolately. If regardful only of himself, he will no less naturally shrink from the promulgation of opinions which, in no age, have men uttered with impunity. In either case there is a tolerably good security for his silence; -for, should benevolence not restrain him from making converts of others, prudence may, at least, prevent him from making a martyr of himself.
Unfortunately, Lord Byron was an exception to the usual course of such lapses. With him, the canker showed itself "in the morn and dew of youth," when the effect of such "blastments" is, for every reason, most fatal, — and, in addition to the real mis
1 "Look out for a people entirely destitute of religion : if you find them at all, be assured that they are but few degrees removed from brutes."- HUME.
The reader will find this avowal of Hume turned elo
fortune of being an unbeliever at any age, he exhibited the rare and melancholy spectacle of an unbelieving schoolboy. The same prematurity of developement which brought his passions and genius so early into action, enabled also to anticipate this worst, dreariest result of reason; and at the very time of life when a spirit and temperament like his most required control, those checks, which religious prepossessions best supply, were almost wholly wanting.
We have seen, in those two Addresses to the Deity which I have selected from among his unpublished poems, and still more strongly in a passage of the Catalogue of his Studies, at what a boyish age the authority of all systems and sects was avowedly shaken off by his inquiring spirit. Yet, even in these, there is a fervour of adoration mingled with his defiance of creeds, through which the piety implanted in his nature (as it is deeply in all poetic natures) unequivocally shows itself; and had he then fallen within the reach of such guidance and example as would have seconded and fostered these natural dispositions, the licence of opinion into which he afterwards broke loose might have been averted. His scepticism, if not wholly removed, might have been softened down into that humble doubt, which, so far from being inconsistent with a religious spirit, is, perhaps, its best guard against presumption and uncharitableness; and, at all events, even if his own views of religion had not been brightened or elevated, he would have learned not wantonly to cloud or disturb those of others. But there was no such monitor near him. After his departure from Southwell, he had not a single friend or relative to whom he could look up with respect; but was thrown alone on the world, with his passions and his pride, to revel in the fatal discovery which he imagined himself to have made of the nothingness of the future, and the all-paramount claims of the present. By singular ill fortune, too, the individual who, among all his college friends, had taken the strongest hold on his admiration and affection, and whose loss he afterwards lamented with brotherly tenderness, was, to the same extent as himself, if not more strongly, a sceptic. Of this remarkable young man, Matthews, who was so early snatched away, and whose career in after-life, had it been at all answerable to the extraordinary promise of his youth, must have
quently to the advantage of religion in a Collection of Sermons, entitled, "The Connexion of Christianity with Human Happiness," written by one of Lord Byron's earliest and most valued friends, the Rev. William Harness.
placed him upon a level with the first men of his day, a memoir was, at one time, intended to be published by his relatives; and to Lord Byron, among others of his college friends, application for assistance in the task was addressed. The letter which this circumstance drew forth from the noble poet, besides containing many amusing traits of his friend, affords such an insight into his own habits of life at this period, that, though infringing upon the chronological order of his correspondence, I shall insert it here.
LETTER 19. TO MR. MURRAY. "Ravenna, 9bre 12. 1820. "What you said of the late Charles Skinner Matthews has set me to my recollections; but I have not been able to turn up any thing which would do for the purposed Memoir of his brother, even if he had previously done enough during his life to sanction the introduction of anecdotes so merely personal. He was, however, a very extraordinary man, and would have been a great one. No one ever succeeded in a more surpassing degree than he did as far as he went. He was indolent, too; but whenever he stripped, he overthrew all antagonists. His conquests will be found registered at Cambridge, particularly his Downing one, which was hotly and highly contested, and yet easily won. Hobhouse was his most intimate friend, and can tell you more of him than any man. William Bankes also a great deal. I myself recollect more of his oddities than of his academical qualities, for we lived most together at a very idle period of my life. When I went up to Trinity, in 1805, at the age of seventeen and a half, I was miserable and untoward to a degree. I was wretched at leaving Harrow, to which I had become attached during the two last years of my stay there; wretched at going to Cambridge instead of Oxford (there were no rooms vacant at Christ-church); wretched from some private domestic circumstances of different kinds, and consequently about as unsocial as a wolf taken from the troop. So that, although I knew Matthews, and met him often then at Bankes's, (who was my collegiate pastor, and master, and patron,) and at Rhode's, Milnes's, Price's, Dick's, Macnamara's, Farrell's, Galley Knight's, and others of that set of contemporaries, yet I was neither intimate with him nor with any one else, except my old schoolfellow Edward Long (with whom I used to pass the day in riding and swimming), and William Bankes, who was good-naturedly tolerant of my ferocities.
'It was not till 1807, after I had been
upwards of a year away from Cambridge, to which I had returned again to reside for my degree, that I became one of Matthews's familiars, by means of Hobhouse, who, after hating me for two years, because I wore a white hat, and a grey coat, and rode a grey horse (as he says himself), took me into his good graces because I had written some poetry. I had always lived a good deal, and got drunk occasionally, in their company but now we became really friends in a morning. Matthews, however, was not at this period resident in College. I met him chiefly in London, and at uncertain periods at Cambridge. Hobhouse, in the mean time, did great things he founded the Cambridge Whig Club' (which he seems to have forgotten), and the‘Amicable Society,' which was dissolved in consequence of the members constantly quarrelling, and made himself very popular with us youth,' and no less formidable to all tutors, professors, and heads of Colleges. William Bankes was gone; while he stayed, he ruled the oast- or rather the roasting-and was father of all mischiefs.
Matthews and I, meeting in London, and elsewhere, became great cronies. He was not good tempered nor am I- but with a little tact his temper was manageable, and I thought him so superior a man, that I was willing to sacrifice something to his humours, which were often, at the same time, amusing and provoking. What became of his papers (and he certainly had many), at the time of his death, was never known. I mention this by the way, fearing to skip it over, and as he wrote remarkably well, both in Latin and English. We went down to Newstead together, where I had got a famous cellar, and Monks' dresses from a masquerade warehouse. We were a company of some seven or eight, with an occasional neighbour or so for visiters, and used to sit up late in our friars' dresses, drinking burgundy, claret, champagne, and what not, out of the skull-cup, and all sorts of glasses, and buffooning all round the house, in our conventual garments. Matthews always denominated me the Abbot,' and never called me by any other name in his good humours, to the day of his death. The harmony of these our symposia was somewhat interrupted, a few days after our assembling, by Matthews's threatening to throw Hobhouse out of a window, in consequence of I know not what commerce of jokes ending in this epigram. Hobhouse came to me and said, that his respect and regard for me as host would not permit him to call out any of my guests, and that he should go to town next morning.' He did. It was in vain that I represented to him that
CHARLES SKINNER MATTHEWS.
the window was not high, and that the turf under it was particularly soft. Away he
Matthews and myself had travelled down from London together, talking all the way incessantly upon one single topic. When we got to Loughborough, I know not what chasm had made us diverge for a moment to some other subject, at which he was indignant. Come,' said he, don't let us break through let us go on as we began, to our journey's end;' and so he continued, and was as entertaining as ever to the very end. He had previously occupied, during my year's absence from Cambridge, my rooms in Trinity, with the furniture; and Jones, the tutor, in his odd way, had said, on putting him in, Mr. Matthews, I recommend to your attention not to damage any of the moveables, for Lord Byron, Sir, is a young man of tumultuous passions.' Matthews was delighted with this; and whenever anybody came to visit him, begged them to handle the very door with caution; and used to repeat Jones's admonition in his tone and manner. There was a large mirror in the room, on which he remarked, that he thought his friends were grown uncommonly assiduous in coming to see him, but he soon discovered that they only came to see themselves. Jones's phrase of tumultuous passions,' and the whole scene, had put him into such good humour, that I verily believe that I owed to it a portion of his good graces.
"His head was uncommonly handsome, very like what Pope's was in his youth.
"When at Newstead, somebody by accident rubbed against one of his white silk stockings, one day before dinner; of course the gentleman apologised. Sir,' answered Matthews, it may be all very well for you, who have a great many silk stockings, to dirty other people's; but to me, who have only this one pair, which I have put on in honour of the Abbot here, no apology can compensate for such carelessness; besides, the expense of washing.' He had the same sort of droll sardonic way about every thing. A wild Irishman, named Farrell, one evening beginning to say something at a large sup-ed me to match him with Dogherty (whom I per at Cambridge, Matthews roared out had backed and made the match for against Silence!' and then, pointing to Farrell, Tom Belcher), and I saw them spar together cried out, in the words of the oracle, Orson at my own lodgings with the gloves on. is endowed with reason. You may easily he was bent upon it, I would have backed
His voice, and laugh, and features, are strongly resembled by his brother Henry's, if Henry be he of King's College. His passion for boxing was so great, that he actually want
suppose that Orson lost what reason he had acquired, on hearing this compliment. When Hobhouse published his volume of poems, the Miscellany (which Matthews would call the Miss-sell-any'), all that could be drawn from him was, that the preface was extremely like Walsh.' Hobhouse thought this at first a compliment; but we never could make out what it was, for all we know of Walsh is his Ode to King William, and Pope's epithet of knowing Walsh, 3 When the Newstead party broke up for London, Hobhouse and Matthews, who were the greatest friends possible, agreed, for a whim, to walk together to town. They quarrelled by the way, and actually walked the latter half of their journey, occasionally passing and repassing, without speaking. When Matthews had got to Highgate, he had spent all his money but three-pence halfpenny, and determined to spend that also in a pint of beer, which I believe he was drinking before a public-house, as Hobhouse passed him (still without speaking) for the last time on their route. They were reconciled in London again.
"One of Matthews's passions was the Fancy;' and he sparred uncommonly well. But he always got beaten in rows, or combats with the bare fist. In swimming, too, he swam well; but with effort and labour, and too high out of the water; so that Scrope Davies and myself, of whom he was therein somewhat emulous, always told him that he would be drowned if ever he came to a difficult pass in the water. He was so; but surely Scrope and myself would have been most heartily glad that
1 The only thing remarkable about Walsh's preface is, that Dr. Johnson praises it as "very judicious," but is, at the same time, silent respecting the poems to which it is prefixed.
2 [No" Ode" under this title is to be found in Walsh's Poems. Lord Byron had, no doubt, in mind "The Golden Age Restored;" a composition in which, says Dr. Johnson, "there was something of humour, while the facts were recent; but it now strikes no longer."]
"the Dean had lived,
Granville the polite,
[" And knowing Walsh, would tell me I could write." "About fifteen," says Pope, "I got acquainted with Mr. Walsh. He used to encourage me much, and tell me, that there was one way left of excelling: for though we had several great poets, we never had any one great poet that was correct; and he desired me to make that my study and aim."- - SPENCE.]