Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Er. 21.

DEATH OF LORD FALKLAND.

after-thoughts with which his poem was adorned; nor can we doubt that both this, and the equally merited eulogy on Mr. Rogers, were the disinterested and deliberate result of the young poet's judgment, as he had never at that period seen either of these distinguished persons, and the opinion he then expressed of their genius remained unchanged through life. With the author of the Pleasures of Memory he afterwards became intimate; but with him, whom he had so well designated as "Nature's sternest painter, yet the best," he was never lucky enough to form any acquaintance; though, as my venerated friend and neighbour, Mr. Crabbe himself, tells me, they were once, without being aware of it, in the same inn together for a day or two, and must have frequently met, as they went in and out of the house, during the time.

Almost every second day, while the Satire was printing, Mr. Dallas, who had undertaken to superintend it through the press, received fresh matter, for the enrichment of its pages, from the author, whose mind, once excited on any subject, knew no end to the outpourings of its wealth. In one of his short notes to Mr. Dallas, he says, "Print soon, or I shall overflow with rhyme ;" and it was, in the same manner, in all his subsequent publications, as long, at least, as he remained within reach of the printer,that he continued thus to feed the press, to the very last moment, with new and “thickcoming fancies," which the re-perusal of what he had already written suggested to him. It would almost seem, indeed, from the extreme facility and rapidity with which he produced some of his brightest passages during the progress of his works through the press, that there was in the very act of printing an excitement to his fancy, and that the rush of his thoughts towards this outlet gave increased life and freshness to their flow.

-a

Among the passing events from which he now caught illustrations for his poem was the melancholy death of Lord Falkland',gallant, but dissipated naval officer, with whom the habits of his town life had brought him acquainted, and who, about the beginning of March, was killed in a duel by Mr. Powell. That this event affected Lord Byron very deeply, the few touching sentences devoted to it in his Satire prove. "On Sunday night (he says) I beheld Lord Falkland presiding

[Charles-John Cary, eighth viscount Falkland. He married, in 1802, Miss Christiana Auton, by whom he had three sons.]

2 [Shortly after Lord Falkland's death, Lord Byron reminded the unfortunate widow, that he was to be god

77

at his own table in all the honest pride of hospitality; on Wednesday morning at three o'clock I saw stretched before me all that remained of courage, feeling, and a host of passions." But it was not by words only that he gave proof of sympathy on this occasion. The family of the unfortunate nobleman were left behind in circumstances which needed something more than the mere expression of compassion to alleviate them; and Lord Byron, notwithstanding the pressure of his own difficulties at the time, found means, seasonably and delicately, to assist the widow and children of his friend. In the following letter to Mrs. Byron, he mentions this among other matters of interest,— and in a tone of unostentatious sensibility highly honourable to him.

LETTER 32. TO MRS. BYRON.

"8. St. James's Street, March 6. 1809.

"Dear Mother,

“My last letter was written under great depression of spirits from poor Falkland's death, who has left without a shilling four children and his wife. I have been endeavouring to assist them, which, God knows, I cannot do as I could wish, from my own embarrassments and the many claims upon me from other quarters.

"What you say is all very true: come what may, Newstead and I stand or fall together. I have now lived on the spot, I have fixed my heart upon it, and no pressure, present or future, shall induce me to barter the last vestige of our inheritance. I have that pride within me which will enable me to support difficulties. I can endure privations; but could I obtain in exchange for Newstead Abbey the first fortune in the country, I would reject the proposition. Set your mind at ease on that score; Mr. H [Hanson] talks like a man of business on the subject, I feel like a man of honour, and I will not sell Newstead.

"I shall get my seat on the return of the affidavits from Carhais, in Cornwall, and will do something in the House soon: I must dash, or it is all over. My Satire must be kept secret for a month; after that you may say what you please on the subject. Lord Carlisle has used me infamously, and refused to state any particulars of my family to the Chancellor. I have lashed him in my rhymes, and perhaps his lordship may regret not being more conciliatory. They tell me it will

father to her infant: the child was christened ByronCharles-Ferdinand-Plantagenet Cary, and after the ceremony the poet inserted a five-hundred pound note in a breakfast cup; but in so cautious a manner, that it was not discovered until he had left the house. See BY

RONIANA.]

goes.

have a sale; I hope so, for the bookseller has behaved well, as far as publishing well "Believe me, &c. "P. S.-You shall have a mortgage on one of the farms."

The affidavits which he here mentions, as expected from Cornwall, were those required in proof of the marriage of Admiral Byron with Miss Trevanion, the solemnisation of which having taken place, as it appears, in a private chapel at Carhais, no regular certificate of the ceremony could be produced. The delay in procuring other evidence, coupled with the refusal of Lord Carlisle to afford any explanations respecting his family, interposed those difficulties which he alludes to in the way of his taking his seat. At length, all the necessary proofs having been obtained, he, on the 13th of March, presented himself in the House of Lords, in a state more lone and unfriended, perhaps, than any youth of his high station had ever before been reduced to on such an occasion, — not having a single individual of his own class either to take him by the hand as friend or acknowledge him as acquaintance. To chance alone was he even indebted for being accompanied as far as the bar of the House by a very distant relative, who had been, little more than a year before, an utter stranger to him. This relative was Mr. Dallas; and the account which he has given of the whole scene is too striking in all its details to be related in any other words than his own:—

|

"The Satire was published about the middle of March, previous to which he took his seat in the House of Lords, on the 13th of the same month. On that day, passing down St. James's Street, but with no intention of calling, I saw his chariot at his door, and went in. His countenance, paler than usual, showed that his mind was agitated, and that he was thinking of the nobleman to whom he had once looked for a hand and countenance in his introduction to the House. He said to me - I am glad you happened to come in; I am going to take my seat, perhaps you will go with me.' I expressed my readiness to attend him; while, at the same time, I concealed the shock I felt on thinking that this young man, who by birth, fortune, and talent, stood high in life, should have lived so unconnected and neglected by persons of his own rank, that there was not a single member of the senate to which he belonged to whom he could or would apply to introduce him in a manner becoming his birth. I saw that he felt the situation, and I fully partook his indignation.

"After some talk about the Satire, the last sheets of which were in the press, I accompanied Lord Byron to the House. He was received in one of the ante-chambers by some of the officers in attendance, with whom he settled respecting the fees he had to pay. One of them went to apprise the Lord Chancellor of his being there, and soon returned for him. There were very few persons in the House. Lord Eldon was going through some ordinary business. When Lord Byron entered, I thought he looked still paler than before; and he certainly wore a countenance in which mortification was mingled with, but subdued by, indignation. He passed the woolsack without looking round, and advanced to the table where the proper officer was attending to administer the oaths. When he had gone through them, the Chancellor quitted his seat, and went towards him with a smile, putting out his hand warmly to welcome him; and, though I did not catch his words, I saw that he paid him some compliment. This was all thrown away upon Lord Byron, who made a stiff bow, and put the tips of his fingers into the Chancellor's hand. The Chancellor did not press a welcome so received, but resumed his seat; while Lord Byron carelessly seated himself for a few minutes on one of the empty benches to the left of the throne, usually occupied by the lords in opposition. When, on his joining me, I expressed what I had felt, he said — If I had shaken hands heartily, he would have set me down for one of his party-but I will have nothing to do with any of them, on either side; I have taken my seat, and now I will go abroad.' We returned to St. James's Street, but he did not recover his spirits."

To this account of a ceremonial so trying to the proud spirit engaged in it, and so little likely to abate the bitter feeling of misanthropy now growing upon him, I am enabled to add, from his own report in one of his note-books, the particulars of the short conversation which he held with the Lord Chancellor on the occasion:

:

"When I came of age, some delays, on account of some birth and marriage certificates from Cornwall, occasioned me not to take my seat for several weeks. When these were over, and I had taken the oaths, the Chancellor apologised to me for the delay, observing that these forms were a part of his duty.' I begged him to make no apology, and added (as he certainly had shown no violent hurry), Your Lordship was exactly like Tom Thumb' (which was then being acted) -you did your duty, and you did no more. In a few days after, the Satire made its appearance; and one of the first copies was

39

Er. 21.

ENGLISH BARDS AND SCOTCH REVIEWERS.

sent, with the following letter, to his friend will be a tax on your patience for a week; Mr. Harness.

but pray excuse it, as it is possible the resemblance may be the sole trace I shall be able to preserve of our past friendship and acquaintance. Just now it seems foolish enough; but in a few years, when some of us are dead, and others are separated by inevitable circumstances, it will be a kind of satisfaction to retain in these images of the living the idea of our former selves, and to contemplate, in the resemblances of the dead, all that remains of judgment, feeling, and a host of passions. But all this will be dull enough for you, and so good night; and to end my chapter, or rather my homily, believe me, my dear H., yours most affectionately."

LETTER 33. TO MR. HARNESS.

"8. St. James's Street, March 18. 1809. "There was no necessity for your excuses: if you have time and inclination to write, for what we receive, the Lord make us thankful,' -if I do not hear from you, I console myself with the idea that you are much more agreeably employed.

ness. I

"I send down to you by this post a certain Satire lately published, and in return for the three and sixpence expenditure upon it, only beg that if you should guess the author, you will keep his name secret; at least for the present. London is full of the Duke's busiThe Commons have been at it these last three nights, and are not yet come to a decision. I do not know if the affair will be brought before our House, unless in the shape of an impeachment. If it makes its appearance in a debatable form, I believe I shall be tempted to say something on the subject.—I am glad to hear you like Cambridge: firstly, because, to know that you are happy is pleasant to one who wishes you all possible sublunary enjoyment; and, secondly, I admire the morality of the sentiment. Alma Mater was to me injusta noverca; and the old beldam only gave me my M. A. degree because she could not avoid it. 2-You know what a farce a noble Cantab. must perform.

79

[The investigation, then going on, in the House of Commons, of the charges brought against the Duke of York by Colonel Wardle.]

* In another letter to Mr. Harness, dated February, 1909, he says, "I do not know how you and Alma Mater agree. I was but an untoward child myself, and I believe the good lady and her brat were equally rejoiced when I was weaned, and if I obtained her benediction at parting, it was, at best, equivocal."

"I found him bursting with indignation.

"I am going abroad, if possible, in the spring, and before I depart I am collecting the pictures of my most intimate schoolfellows; I have already a few, and shall want yours, or my cabinet will be incomplete. I have employed one of the first miniature painters of the day to take them, of course, at my own expense, as I never allow my ac-Will you believe it?' said he, 'I have just quaintance to incur the least expenditure to met ***, and asked him to come and sit an gratify a whim of mine. To mention this hour with me: he excused himself; and may seem indelicate; but when I tell you a what do you think was his excuse? He was friend of ours first refused to sit, under the engaged with his mother and some ladies to idea that he was to disburse on the occasion, go shopping! And he knows I set out toyou will see that it is necessary to state morrow, to be absent for years, perhaps these preliminaries to prevent the recurrence never to return!-Friendship! I do not of any similar mistake. I shall see you in believe I shall leave behind me, yourself and time, and will carry you to the limner. It family excepted, and perhaps my mother, a

|

3 [" When I remember," says Lord Byron, in a note to the second canto of Childe Harold, "that, a short time

In this romantic design of collecting together the portraits of his school friends, we see the natural working of an ardent and disappointed heart, which, as the future began to darken upon it, clung with fondness to the recollections of the past; and, in despair of finding new and true friends, saw no happiness but in preserving all it could of the old. But even here, his sensibility had to encounter one of those freezing checks, to which feelings, so much above the ordinary temperature of the world, are but too constantly exposed ;-it being from one of the very friends thus fondly valued by him, that he experienced, on leaving England, that mark of neglect of which he so indignantly complains in a note on the second canto of Childe Harold,-contrasting with this conduct the fidelity and devotedness he had just found in his Turkish servant, Dervish. Mr. Dallas, who witnessed the immediate effect of this slight upon him, thus describes his emotion:

before my departure from England, a noble and most intimate associate had excused himself from taking leave of me because he had to attend a relation to a milliner's,' I felt no less surprised than humiliated by the present occurrence and the past recollection. That Dervish would leave me with some regret was to be expected: when master and man have been scrambling over the mountains of a dozen provinces together, they are unwilling to separate; but his present feelings, contrasted with his native ferocity, improved my opinion of the human heart."- See Works, p. 763.]

single being who will care what becomes of

999

me.'

From his expressions in a letter to Mrs. Byron, already cited, that he must "do something in the House soon," as well as from a more definite intimation of the same intention to Mr. Harness, it would appear that he had, at this time, serious thoughts of at once entering on the high political path which his station as an hereditary legislator opened to him. But, whatever may have been the first movements of his ambition in this direction, they were soon relinquished. Had he been connected with any distinguished political families, his love of eminence, seconded by such example and sympathy, would have impelled him, no doubt, to seck renown in the fields of party warfare, where it might have been his fate to afford a single instance of that transmuting process by which, as Pope says, the corruption of a poet sometimes leads to the generation of a statesman. Luckily, however, for the world (though whether luckily for himself may be questioned), the brighter empire of poesy was destined to claim him all its own. The loneliness, indeed, of his position in society at this period, left destitute, as he was, of all those sanctions and sympathies, by which youth at its first start is usually surrounded, was, of itself, enough to discourage him from embarking in a pursuit, where it is chiefly on such extrinsic advantages that any chance of success must depend. So far from taking an active part in the proceedings of his noble brethren, he appears to have regarded even the ceremony of his attendance among them as irksome and mortifying; and in a few days after his admission to his seat, he withdrew himself in disgust to the seclusion of his own Abbey, there to brood over the bitterness of premature experience, or meditate, in the scenes and adventures of other lands, a freer outlet for his impatient spirit than it could command at home.

|

It was not long, however, before he was summoned back to town by the success of his Satire, the quick sale of which already rendered the preparation of a new edition necessary. His zealous agent, Mr. Dallas, had taken care to transmit to him, in his retirement, all the favourable opinions of the work he could collect; and it is not unamusing, as showing the sort of steps by which | Fame at first mounts, to find the approbation of such authorities as Pratt and the magazine writers put forward among the first rewards and encouragements of a Byron.

1 [Sir Richard Phillips, the bookseller and publisher. He was knighted in 1807.]

"You are already (he says) pretty generally known to be the author. So Cawthorn tells me, and a proof occurred to myself at Hatchard's, the Queen's bookseller. On inquiring for the Satire, he told me that he had sold a great many, and had none left, and was going to send for more, which I afterwards found he did. I asked who was the author? He said it was believed to be Lord Byron's. Did he believe it? Yes he did. On asking the ground of his belief, he told me that a lady of distinction had, without hesitation, asked for it as Lord Byron's Satire. He likewise informed me that he had inquired of Mr. Gifford, who frequents his shop, if it was yours. Mr. Gifford denied any knowledge of the author, but spoke very highly of it, and said a copy had been sent to him. Hatchard assured me that all who came to his reading-room admired it. Cawthorn tells me it is universally well spoken of, not only among his own customers, but generally at all the booksellers'. I heard it highly praised at my own publisher's, where I have lately called several times. At Phillips's it was read aloud by Pratt to a circle of literary guests, who were unanimous in their applause :- The Anti-jacobin, as well as the Gentlemen's Magazine, has already blown the trump of fame for you. We shall see it in the other Reviews next month, and probably in some severely handled, according to the connection of the proprietors and editors with those whom it lashes."

On his arrival in London, towards the end of April, he found the first edition of his poem nearly exhausted; and set immediately about preparing another, to which he determined to prefix his name. The additions he now made to the work were considerable,— near a hundred new lines being introduced at the very opening, and it was not till about the middle of the ensuing month that the new edition was ready to go to press. He had, during his absence from town, fixed definitely with his friend, Mr. Hobhouse, that they should leave England together on the following June, and it was his wish to see the last proofs of the volume corrected before his departure.

Among the new features of this edition was a Postscript to the Satire, in prose, which Mr. Dallas, much to the credit of his discretion and taste, most earnestly entreated the poet to suppress. It is to be regretted that the adviser did not succeed in his efforts, as there runs a tone of bravado through this ill-judged effusion, which it is, at all times,

2 The poem, in the first edition, began at the line,

46

Time was ere yet, in these degenerate days."

Er. 21.

ENGLISH BARDS AND SCOTCH REVIEWERS.

For

66

painful to see a brave man assume. 1 instance: -" It may be said," he observes, "that I quit England because I have censured these persons of honour and wit about town;' but I am coming back again, and their vengeance will keep hot till my return. Those who know me can testify that my motives for leaving England are very different from fears, literary or personal; those who do not may be one day convinced. Since the publication of this thing, my name has not been concealed; I have been mostly in London, ready to answer for my transgressions, and in daily expectation of sundry cartels; but, alas, the age of chivalry is over,' or, in the vulgar tongue, there is no spirit now-a-days."

But, whatever may have been the faults or indiscretions of this Satire, there are few who would now sit in judgment upon it so severely as did the author himself, on reading it over nine years after, when he had quitted England, never to return. The copy which he then perused is now in the possession of Mr. Murray, and the remarks which he has scribbled over its pages are well worth| transcribing. On the first leaf we find — The binding of this volume is considerably too valuable for its contents.

64

Nothing but the consideration of its being the property of another prevents me from consigning this miserable record of misplaced anger and indiscriminate acrimony to the flames. "B."

Opposite the passage,

"to be misled

By Jeffrey's heart, or Lamb's Boeotian head,"

is written, "This was not just. Neither the heart nor the head of these gentlemen are at all what they are here represented." Along the whole of the severe verses against Mr. Wordsworth he has scrawled "Unjust,"

and the same verdict is affixed to those against Mr. Coleridge. On his unmeasured attack upon Mr. Bowles, the comment is,"Too savage all this on Bowles ;" and down the margin of the page containing the lines, "Health to immortal Jeffrey," &c. he writes, —“ Too ferocious — this is mere insanity;" — adding, on the verses that follow (“Can none remember that eventful day ?"&c.), All this is bad, because personal."

39

["Having himself been grossly insulted by one set of men, Byron somewhat illogically conceived that he might insult not only them, but every body else: anger and scorn are bad reasoners; but their bursts of triumph, especially after humiliation, are not bravadoes. Byron was no bravo - he was deficient in coolness; and the Postscript that offended the discretion and taste' of dall Dallas, and is so lugubriously lamented by merry

66

Sometimes, however, he shows a disposition to stand by his original decisions. Thus, on the passage relating to a writer of certain obscure Epics2 (v. 793.), he says,All right;" adding, of the same person, “I saw some letters of this fellow to an unfortunate poetess, whose productions (which the poor woman by no means thought vainly of) he attacked so roughly and bitterly, that I could hardly regret assailing him ; — even were it unjust, which it is not; for, verily, he is an ass." On the strong lines, too (v. 953.), upon Clarke (a writer in a magazine called the Satirist), he remarks, enough, this was well deserved, and well "Right laid on."

To the whole paragraph, beginning" Illustrious Holland," are affixed the words "Bad enough ;-and on mistaken grounds besides.” The bitter verses against Lord Carlisle he pronounces "Wrong also: - the provocation was not sufficient to justify such acerbity;"

-and of a subsequent note respecting the same nobleman, he says, “Much too savage, whatever the foundation may be." Of Rosa Matilda (v. 738.) he tells us, "She has since married the Morning Post, good match." To the verses, " When some an exceeding brisk youth, the tenant of a stall," &c., he has appended the following interesting note: This was meant at poor Blackett, who was then patronised by A. I. B. 3: - but that I did not know, or this would not have been written; at least I think not."

14

-:

[ocr errors]

Farther on, where Mr. Campbell and other poets are mentioned, the following gingle on the names of their respective poems is scribbled:

81

Pretty Miss Jacqueline Had a nose aquiline; And would assert rude

Things of Miss Gertrude ; While Mr. Marmion

[ocr errors]

Led a great army on,

Making Kehama look Like a fierce Mamaluke."

Opposite the paragraph in praise of Mr. Crabbe he has written, "I consider Crabbe and Coleridge as the first of these times in point of power and genius." On his own line, in a subsequent paragraph, "And glory like the phoenix mid her fires," he says, comically, “The devil take that phoenix — how

Moore, is a very proper pendant to such a poem as English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.""-WILSON, 1830.]

2 [Joseph Cottle, a bookseller of Bristol, author of Alfred, an Epic in twenty-four Books," the "Fall of Cambria,"" Early Recollections of Coleridge," &c.]

3 Lady Byron, then Miss Milbanke.

G

« AnteriorContinuar »