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Dogherty to please him, but the match went off. It was of course to have been a private fight, in a private room.
"On one occasion, being too late to go home and dress, he was equipped by a friend (Mr. Baillie, I believe,) in a magnificently fashionable and somewhat exaggerated shirt and neckcloth. He proceeded to the Opera, and took his station in Fops' Alley. During the interval between the opera and the ballet, an acquaintance took his station by him and saluted him: 'Come round,' said Matthews, 'come round.'—'Why should I come round?' said the other; 'you have only to turn your head I am close by you.'-'That is exactly what I cannot do,' said Matthews; don't you see the state I am in?' pointing to his buckram shirt collar and inflexible cravat, — and there he stood with his head always in the same perpendicular position during the whole spectacle.
"One evening, after dining together, as we were going to the Opera, I happened to have a spare Opera ticket (as subscriber to a box), and presented it to Matthews. Now, sir,' said he to Hobhouse afterwards, this I
call courteous in the Abbot -- another man
would never have thought that I might do better with half a guinea than throw it to a door-keeper; - but here is a man not only asks me to dinner, but gives me a ticket for the theatre.' These were only his od
dities, for no man was more liberal, or more honourable in all his doings and dealings, than Matthews. He gave Hobhouse and me, before we set out for Constantinople, a most splendid entertainment, to which we did ample justice. One of his fancies was dining at all sorts of out-of-the-way places. Somebody popped upon him in I know not what coffee-house in the Strand-and what do you think was the attraction? Why, that he paid a shilling (I think) to dine with his hat on. This he called his hat house,' and used to boast of the comfort of being
covered at meal-times.
When Sir Henry Smith was expelled from Cambridge for a row with a tradesman named Hiron,' Matthews solaced himself with shouting under Hiron's windows every evening,
"Ah me! what perils do environ
The man who meddles with hot Hiron.'
"He was also of that band of profane scoffers who, under the auspices of * * * used to rouse Lort Mansel (late Bishop of Bristol) from his slumbers in the lodge of Trinity; and when he appeared at the window foaming with wrath, and crying out, 'I know you, gentlemen, I know you!' were wont to reply, We beseech thee to hear us,
good Lort'—'Good Lort deliver us!' (Lort was his christian name.) As he was very free in his speculations upon all kinds of subjects, although by no means either dissolute or intemperate in his conduct, and as I was no less independent, our conversation and correspondence used to alarm our friend Hobhouse to a considerable degree. "You must be almost tired of my packets, which will have cost a mint of postage. "Salute Gifford and all my friends. Yours, &c." Mr. Matthews commenced, Lord Byron had As already, before his acquaintance with begun to bewilder himself in the mazes of scepticism, it would be unjust to impute to this gentleman any further share in the formation of his noble friend's opinions than what arose from the natural influence of example and sympathy; an influence which, as it was felt perhaps equally on both sides, rendered the contagion of their doctrines, in a great measure, reciprocal. In addition, too, to this community of sentiment on such subjects, they were both, in no ordinary degree, possessed by that dangerous spirit of ridicule, whose impulses even the pious cannot always restrain, and which draws the mind on, by a sort of irresistible fascination, to disport itself most wantonly on the brink of all that is most solemn and awful. It is
not wonderful, therefore, that, in such should have been, at least, accelerated in society, the opinions of the noble poet leaned; and though he cannot be said to that direction to which their bias already
have become thus confirmed in these of his life, was he a confirmed unbeliever, doctrines, -as neither now, nor at any time he had undoubtedly learned to feel less uneasy under his scepticism, and even to mingle somewhat of boast and of levity with of his correspondence with Mr. Dallas, we his expression of it. At the very first onset find him proclaiming his sentiments on all far different from the tone in which he had such subjects with a flippancy and confidence first ventured on his doubts,-from that with its illusions, which breathes through fervid sadness, as of a heart loth to part every line of those prayers, that, but a year before, his pen had traced.
Here again, however, we should recollect, there must be a considerable share of allowance for his usual tendency to make the most and the worst of his own obliquities. There occurs, indeed, in his first letter to Mr. Dallas, an instance of this strange ambition,-the very reverse, it must be allowed, of hypocrisy,—which led him to court, rather than avoid, the reputation of profligacy, and
to put, at all times, the worst face on his commonly called honour has, and I trust ever own character and conduct. His new cor-will, prevent me from disgracing my name by respondent having, in introducing himself to a mean or cowardly action, I have been his acquaintance, passed some compliments already held up as the votary of licentiouson the tone of moral and charitable feeling ness, and the disciple of infidelity. How which breathed through one of his poems, far justice may have dictated this accusation, had added, that it " brought to his mind I cannot pretend to say; but, like the genanother noble author, who was not only a tleman to whom my religious friends, in the fine poet, orator, and historian, but one of warmth of their charity, have already devoted the closest reasoners we have on the truth of me, I am made worse than I really am. that religion of which forgiveness is a promi- However, to quit myself (the worst theme nent principle, the great and good Lord I could pitch upon), and return to my Lyttleton, whose fame will never die. His poems, I cannot sufficiently express my son," adds Mr. Dallas, "to whom he had thanks, and I hope I shall some day have an transmitted genius, but not virtue, sparkled opportunity of rendering them in person. A for a moment and went out like a star, second edition is now in the press, with and with him the title became extinct." To some additions and considerable omissions ; this Lord Byron answers in the following you will allow me to present you with a letter:copy. The Critical, Monthly, and AntiJacobin Reviews have been very indulgent; but the Eclectic has pronounced a furious Philippic, not against the book but the author, where you will find all I have mentioned asserted by a reverend divine who wrote the critique.
Your name and connection with our
family have been long known to me, and I
LETTER TO DALLAS.
LETTER 20. TO MR. DALLAS.
"Dorant's Hotel, Albemarle Street, Jan. 20. 1808.
"Your letter was not received till this morning, I presume from being addressed to me in Notts., where I have not resided since last June; and as the date is the 6th, you will excuse the delay of my answer.
"If the little volume you mention has given pleasure to the author of Percival and Aubrey, I am sufficiently repaid by his praise. Though our periodical censors have been uncommonly lenient, I confess a tribute from a man of acknowledged genius is still more flattering. But I am afraid I should forfeit all claim to candour, if I did not decline such praise as I do not deserve; and this is, I am sorry to say, the case in the present instance.
"My compositions speak for themselves, and must stand or fall by their own worth or demerit: thus far I feel highly gratified by your favourable opinion. But my pretensions to virtue are unluckily so few, that though I should be happy to merit, I cannot accept, your applause in that respect. One passage in your letter struck me forcibly you mention the two Lords Lyttleton in the manner they respectively deserve, and will be surprised to hear the person who is now addressing you has been frequently compared to the latter. I know I am injuring myself in your esteem by this avowal, but, the circumstance was so remarkable from your observation, that I cannot help relating the fact. The events of my short life have been of so singular a nature, that, though the pride
1 Characters in the novel called Percival.
* This appeal to the imagination of his correspondent was not altogether without effect."I considered,"
There is here, evidently, a degree of pride in being thought to resemble the wicked Lord Lyttleton; and, lest his known irregularities should not bear him out in the pretension, he refers mysteriously, as was his habit, to certain untold events of his life, to warrant the parallel. Mr. Dallas, who seems to have been but little prepared for such a reception of his compliments, escapes out of the difficulty by transferring to the young lord's "candour" the praise he had so thanklessly bestowed on his morals in general ; adding, that from the design Lord Byron had expressed in his preface of resigning the service of the Muses for a different vocation, he had "conceived him bent on pursuits which lead to the character of a legislator and statesman;- had imagined him at one of the universities, training himself to habits of reasoning and eloquence, and storing up a large fund of history and law." It is in reply
Mr.Dallas, "these letters, though evidently grounded on some occurrences in the still earlier part of his life, rather as jeux d'esprit than as a true portrait."
to this letter that the exposition of the noble poet's opinions, to which I have above alluded, is contained.
LETTER 21. TO MR. DALLAS.
24 Dorant's, January 21. 1808.
"Sir, "Whenever leisure and inclination permit me the pleasure of a visit, I shall feel truly gratified in a personal acquaintance with one whose mind has been long known to me in his writings.
"You are so far correct in your conjecture, that I am a member of the University of Cambridge, where I shall take my degree of A. M. this term; but were reasoning, eloquence, or virtue, the objects of my search, Granta is not their metropolis, nor is the place of her situation an El Dorado,' far less an Utopia. The intellects of her children are as stagnant as her Cam, and their pursuits limited to the church-not of Christ, but of the nearest benefice.
As to my reading, I believe I may aver, without hyperbole, it has been tolerably extensive in the historical department; so that few nations exist, or have existed, with whose records I am not in some degree acquainted, from Herodotus down to Gibbon. Of the classics, I know about as much as most school-boys after a discipline of thirteen years; of the law of the land as much as enables me to keep within the statute'-to use the poacher's vocabulary. I did study the Spirit of Laws' and the Law of Nations; but when I saw the latter violated every month, I gave up my attempts at so useless an accomplishment:-of geography, I have seen more land on maps than I should wish to traverse on foot ;-of mathematics, enough to give me the headach without clearing the part affected;-of philosophy, astronomy, and metaphysics, more than I can comprehend1; and of common sense so little, that I mean to leave a Byronian prize at each of our 'Alma Matres' for the first discovery, though I rather fear that of the longitude will precede it.
"I once thought myself a philosopher, and talked nonsense with great decorum: I defied pain, and preached up equanimity. For some time this did very well, for no one was in pain for me but my friends, and none lost their patience but my hearers. At last, a fall from my horse convinced me bodily suffering was an evil; and the worst of an argument overset my maxims and my temper
1 He appears to have had in his memory "Voltaire's lively account of Zadig's learning: "Il savait de la métaphysique ce qu'on en a su dans tous les âges, — c'est à dire, fort peu de chose," &c.
at the same moment: so I quitted Zeno for Aristippus, and conceive that pleasure constitutes the To Kaλov. [In morality, I prefer Confucius to the Ten Commandments, and Socrates to St. Paul, though the two latter agree in their opinion of marriage. In religion, I favour the Catholic emancipation, but do not acknowledge the Pope; and I have refused to take the sacrament, because I do not think eating bread or drinking wine from the hand of an earthly vicar will make me an inheritor of heaven.] I hold virtue, in general, or the virtues severally, to be only in the disposition, each a feeling, not a principle. I believe truth the prime attribute of the Deity, and death an eternal sleep, at least of the body. You have here a brief compendium of the sentiments of the wicked George Lord Byron; and, till I get a new suit, you will perceive I am badly clothed. I remain," &c.
Though such was, doubtless, the general cast of his opinions at this time, it must be recollected, before we attach any particular importance to the details of his creed, that, in
addition to the temptation, never easily resisted by him, of displaying his wit at the expense of his character, he was here addressing a person who, though, no doubt, well meaning, was evidently one of those officious, self-satisfied advisers, whom it was the delight of Lord Byron at all times to astonish and mystify. The tricks which, when a boy, he played upon the Nottingham quack, Lavender, were but the first of a long series with which, through life, he amused himself, at the expense of all the numerous quacks whom his celebrity and sociability drew around him.
The terms in which he speaks of the university in this letter agree in spirit with many passages both in the " Hours of Idleness," and his early Satire, and prove that, while Harrow was remembered by him with more affection, perhaps, than respect, Cambridge had not been able to inspire him with either. This feeling of distaste to his "nursing mother" he entertained in common with some of the most illustrious names of English literature. So great was Milton's hatred to Cambridge, that he had even conceived, says Warton, a dislike to the face of the country, to the fields in its neighbourhood. The poet Gray thus speaks of the same university :-"Surely, it was of this place, now Cambridge, but formerly known
2 The doctrine of Hume, who resolves all virtue into sentiment. See his "Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals."
by the name of Babylon, that the prophet spoke when he said, The wild beasts of the deserts shall dwell there, and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures, and owls shall build there, and satyrs shall dance there,"" &c. &c. The bitter recollections which Gibbon retained of Oxford, his own pen has recorded; and the cool contempt by which Locke avenged himself on the bigotry of the same seat of learning is even still more memorable.'
In poets such distasteful recollections of their collegiate life may well be thought to have their origin in that antipathy to the trammels of discipline, which is not unusually observable among the characteristics of genius, and which might be regarded, indeed, as a sort of instinct, implanted in it for its own preservation, if there be any truth in the opinion that a course of learned education is hurtful to the freshness and elasticity of the imaginative faculty. A right reverend writer, but little to be suspected of any desire to depreciate academical studies, not only puts the question, "Whether the usual forms of learning be not rather injurious to the true poet, than really assisting to him?" but appears strongly disposed to answer it in the affirmative,-giving, as an instance, in favour of this conclusion, the classic Addison, who, "as appears," he says, " from some original efforts in the sublime, allegorical way, had no want of natural talents for the greater poetry, which yet were so restrained and disabled by his constant and superstitious study of the old classics, that he was, in fact, but a very ordinary poet."
It was, no doubt, under some such impression of the malign influence of a collegiate atmosphere upon genius, that Milton, in speaking of Cambridge, gave vent to the exclamation, that it was a place quite incompatible with the votaries of Phoebus," and that Lord Byron, versifying a thought of his own, in the letter to Mr. Dallas just given, declares,
The poet Dryden, too, who, like Milton, had incurred some mark of disgrace at Cambridge, seems to have entertained but little more veneration for his Alma Mater; and the verses in which he has praised Oxford at the expense of his own university were, it is probable, dictated much less by
1 See his Letter to Anthony Collins, 1703-4, where he speaks of "those sharp heads, which were for damning his book, because of its discouraging the staple commodity of the place, which in his time was called hogs' shearing."
* Hurd, "Discourses on Poetical Imitation."
admiration of the one than by a desire to spite and depreciate the other.
Nor is it genius only that thus rebels against the discipline of the schools. Even the tamer quality of Taste, which it is the professed object of classical studies to cultivate, is sometimes found to turn restive under the pedantic manège to which it is subjected. It was not till released from the duty of reading Virgil as a task, that Gray could feel himself capable of enjoying the beauties of that poet; and Lord Byron was, to the last, unable to vanquish a similar prepossession, with which the same sort of school association had inoculated him, against Horace.
"Though Time hath taught My mind to meditate what then it learn'd, Yet such the fix'd inveteracy wrought By the impatience of my early thought, That, with the freshness wearing out before My mind could relish what it might have sought, If free to choose, I cannot now restore
Its health; but what it then detested, still abhor.
"Then farewell, Horace; whom I hated so,
To the list of eminent poets, who have thus left on record their dislike and disapproval of the English system of education, are to be added the distinguished names of Cowley, Addison, and Cowper; while, among the cases which, like those of Milton and Dryden, practically demonstrate the sort of inverse ratio that may exist between college honours and genius, must not be forgotten those of Swift, Goldsmith, and Churchill, to every one of whom some mark of incompetency was affixed by the respective universities, whose annals they adorn. When, in addition, too, to this rather ample catalogue of poets, whom the universities have sent forth either disloyal or dishonoured, we come to number over such names as those of Shakspeare and of Pope, followed by Gay, Thomson, Burns, Chatterton, &c., all of whom have attained their respective stations of eminence, without instruction or sanction from any college whatever, it forms altogether, it must be owned, a large portion of the poetical world, that must be subducted from the sphere of that nursing influence which
3[" Oxford to him a dearer name shall be
Thebes did his green, unknowing youth engage;
Dryden's Prologue to the University of Oxford.]
My dear Sir,
"Dorant's Hotel, Jan. 13. 1808.
Through the stupidity of my servants, or the porter of the house, in not showing you up stairs (where I should have joined you directly), prevented me the pleasure of seeing you yesterday, I hoped to meet you at some public place in the evening. How ever, my stars decreed otherwise, as they generally do, when I have any favour to request of them. I think you would have been surprised at my figure, for, since our last meeting, I am reduced four stone in weight. I then weighed fourteen stone seven pound, and now only ten stone and a half. I have disposed of my superfluities by
means of hard exercise and abstinence.
"Should your Harrow engagements allow you to visit town between this and February, I shall be most happy to see you in Albemarle Street. If I am not so fortunate, I shall endeavour to join you for an afternoon at Harrow, though, I fear, your cellar will by no means contribute to my cure. As for my worthy preceptor, Dr. B., our encounter would by no means prevent the mutual endearments he and I were wont to lavish on each other. We have only spoken once since my departure from Harrow in 1805, and then he politely told Tatersall I was not a proper associate for his pupils. This was long before my strictures in verse; but, in plain prose, had I been some years older, I should have held my tongue on his perfections. But, being laid on my back, when that schoolboy thing was written-or rather dictated expecting to rise no more, my
1["No system of national education ever was, or will be, planned with reference to minds such as Mr. Moore seems not merely chiefly, but exclusively, to be thinking of in this diatribe. The grand object is to prepare men for the discharge of those duties which society has a right to demand from its members; and, original genius being so rare as hitherto it always has been, the functions which cannot be discharged in the absence of that extraordinary gift are not entitled to be mainly, or even directly, considered. We are very far from maintaining that the established system ought not to be considerably modified: the classical literature of antiquity is no longer entitled to hold the exclusive place which belonged to it in the age of our scholastic and academical foundations; but it is not by such unguarded attacks as this, that the course of rational improvement is at all likely to be forwarded. They can serve no better purpose than to irritate or discourage the existing race of teachers (than
physician having taken his sixteenth fee, and I his prescription, I could not quit this earth without leaving a memento of my constant attachment to Butler in gratitude for his manifold good offices. 2
I meant to have been down in July; but thinking my appearance, immediately after the publication, would be construed into an insult, I directed my steps elsewhere. Besides, I heard that some of the boys had got hold of my Libellus, contrary to my wishes certainly, for I never transmitted a single copy till October, when I gave one to a boy, since gone, after repeated importunities. You will, I trust, pardon this egotism. As you had touched on the subject I thought some explanation necessary. Defence I shall not attempt, Hic murus aheneus esto, nil conscire sibi' and 'so on' (as Lord Baltimore long at Trinity as to forget the conclusion of said on his trial for a rape) — I have been so the line; but though I cannot finish my believe me, gratefully and affectionately, &c. quotation, I will my letter, and entreat you to
"P. S. I will not lay a tax on your time Butler said to Tatersall (when I had written by requiring an answer, lest you say, as his reverence an impudent epistle on the expression before mentioned), viz. that I wanted to draw him into a correspondence.""
LETTER 23. TO MR. HARNESS.
"Dorant's Hotel, Albemarle Street, Feb. 11. 1808. "My dear Harness,
"As I had no opportunity of returning my verbal thanks, I trust you will accept my written acknowledgments for the compliment you were pleased to pay some production of my unlucky muse last November,
I am induced to do this not less from the pleasure I feel in the praise of an old schoolfellow, than from justice to you, for I had heard the story with some slight variations. Indeed, when we met this morning, Wing
whom a more meritorious or worse-paid class of men cannot be named), and to pamper self-complacency, petulance, and the silly ambition of knowing a little of every thing, in a rising generation, already more than enough tinged with such phantasies." - Quarterly Review, 1831.
"The only bald part of this Biography is that which relates to Byron's college life; nor can we approve of its spirit. Mr. Moore is too well acquainted with literary history, to fall into any blunders of commission; but he has fallen, not perhaps unpurposely― into not a few of omission, and strives, most ineffectually, to make us believe, that because Byron did no good at Cambridge, no other young poet of a high order could do any, — and that the Genius Loci is adverse to all inspiration.". Blackwood, 1830.]
2 [See Works, p. 383.]