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“MY DEAREST MoTHER,--I have not had an answer from Dalby yet, but am in the same mind about retiring somewhere, and I should prefer Donington, both from the society and the library. . . . .
“I don't know whether I told you before (and if I did not, it was my uncertainty about it for some time which prevented me), that the Powers give me between them five hundred a year for my music; the agreement is for seven years, and as much longer as I choose to Say. . . . . So you see, darling motherl my prospect is by no means an unpromising one, and the only sacrifice I must make is, the giving up London society, which involves me in great expenses, and leaves me no time for the industry that alone would enable me to support them; this I shall do without the least regret.” (Memoirs, vol. i. p. 274.)
The long-promised work, after prodigious brainspinning and careful polishing, made its appearance in 1817, fully realizing the expectations entertained of it by the public, for a more complete success has rarely attended an author. Lalla Rookh was universally read, admired, and praised. It was dramatized at Berlin, and acted there by the Court itself; was translated into more than one European language, as well as into Persian, and, in short, enjoyed a reign of more than average duration in the realms of literature. The “Letters” teem with testimonies to its extraordinary attraction, and these, too, from superior judges of literary merit. This must appear surprising to the readers of fiction of the present day, for whom the adventures, sorrows, and even loves, of such fanciful and poetical beings would probably yield but slight interest: certainly less than those of the greengrocer or factory-spinner. But thirty-five years necessarily bring altered tastes upon their wing.
In one short year after this imaginative tale came out, Moore writes (under date of March, 1818) to his mother, “They will soon go to press with a seventh edition of Lalla Rookh.” Messrs Longman paid the author no less than three thousand guineas for the copyright. It was dedicated to Mr. Rogers, to whom, indeed, it was in great measure indebted for its origin. “The subject,” writes Moore to his friend Dalton, in 1814, “is one of Rogers's suggesting, and so far I am lucky, for it quite enchants me; and, if what old Dionysius the critic says be true, that it is impossible to write disagreeably upon agreeable subjects, I am not without hopes that I shall do something which will not disgrace me.” The sum Moore received for Lalla Rookh, though large, did not conduce so much as might have been supposed to his independence. Writing to Mrs. Moore (his mother) in 1817, he says, “I am to draw a thousand pounds for the discharge of my debts, and to leave the other two thousand in their hands (receiving a bond for it) . . . . The annual interest upon this (which is a hundred pounds) my father is to draw upon them for quarterly, and this, I hope, with his half-pay, will make you tolerably comfortable. By this arrangement, you see I do not touch a sixpence of the money for my own present use . . .” Ashbourne was now abandoned, and Moore took a cottage at Hornsey. “Living in London is what I do not now like at all,” he says to his mother (May, 1817). About this same date he writes to her of a “dinner” he had been at; and adds, “It will amuse you to find that Croker was the person that gave my health. I could not have a better proof of the station which I hold in the public eye than that Croker should claim friendship with me before such men as Peel, the Duke of Cumberland, &c. I was received with very flattering enthusiasm by the meeting . . .” Having, as he conceived, earned a claim to enjoy a holiday, by the achievement of his task, Moore set off, in company with his friend Mr. Rogers, on a trip to Paris. During the first few years which followed upon the peace of 1815, there was a positive dislocation of English society going on, caused by the eager rush of our countrymen across the Channel. A long privation of the delights of continental travel had whetted the appetite for such enjoyments, and the English moved off in masses, resembling, it might be said, nothing so much as the break up of the “Polar Pack.” Moore, like the rest, becomes enchanted with Paris, and writes home, “If I can persuade Bessy to the measure, it is my intention to come and live here for two or three years.” However, on his return, which took place a few weeks later, the loss of a child (being the second blow of the kind) checked all projects of a foreign residence. A cottage within a walk of Bowood, shortly after offering an eligible “perch,” the mourners removed to that humble yet pleasant home, in which the poet was fated to end his days; the happiest of which, probably, after all, may be said to have been passed whilst master of Sloperton Cottage. An unlooked-for calamity, which occurred in the following year, clouded over his prospects just as Moore was beginning to see his way to independence and honourable ease.* There was, indeed, one consoling circumstance which lessened the general gloom of his position, namely, the cordial and numerous offers of assistance tendered by generous friends. But although he was, as might be supposed, wholly unequal to deal with the embarrassments he saw thickening around him, he resolutely declined pecuniary aid, and determined to work out his own redemption by the industrious application of his individual talents. (Vol. ii. p. 85.) The history of this long, though fortunately effectual, struggle, it were superfluous to recapitulate here; but the issue may be stated as having been creditable to Moore's sense of self-respect and integrity of character. The only friend who, as we believe, eventually enjoyed the privilege of contributing to his enfranchisement, was the noble editor of these volumes; the poet permitting him to apply towards the extinction of his Bermuda obligations a sum of 200l., the produce of his lordship's own literary labours. The Diary commences with the month of August, 1818, a few months after the Bermuda misfortune had happened; and gives indications of Moore's being already engaged upon his Life of Sheridan. Notwithstanding the uneasy state of mind in which he lived at this time, from apprehensions of a prison hanging over him, such was the indomitable cheerfulness of the man, that he writes to Lady Donegal from his new home (in May, 1818) —“For nothing but to gratify my poor mother, would I leave just now my sweet, quiet cottage, where, in spite of proctors, deputies, and all other grievances, I am as happy as, I believe, this world will allow anyone to be; and if I could but give the blessing of health to the dear cottager by my side, I would defy the devil and all his works, and Sir William Scott to boot.” (Vol. ii. p. 137.) An inexhaustible flow of spirits, coupled with a boundless elasticity of character and a sanguine temper, proved through life Moore's master-key to happiness. And we shall see as his diary proceeds that few mortals have ever been so largely blest with this “sunshine of the breast.” When it is considered how indissolubly men usually connect the possession of wealth with the enjoyment of existence—how we Britons “toil and moil” to acquire it, and what sacrifices we make to escape from comparative poverty— the spectacle of a man “without a shilling to call his own,” flourishing in all the pride of aristocratical friendships and culling the choicest pleasures life affords, really becomes almost too much for one's patience. It may be doubted whether, at any one period of his life, Moore knew what it was to be solvent; yet he slept tranquilly, in the persuasion that he carried in his nightcap a talisman, an Aladdin's lamp, which he had only to rub to become rich; at least rich enough for his and “Bessy’s” moderate wants. Nay, more, as he mounts to his garret in Bury-street, farthing candle in hand, he can dwell on the recollection of having, half-an-hour before, shone a “star of the first water” in the bright firmament of Almack's, and formed the subject of rivalry between ladies of rank, beauty, and fashion, to obtain the privilege of possessing him as their guest. We turn now to the reverse of the picture—hard literary labour. . The Life of Sheridan consumed the greater portion of the author's working time from 1822 to 1825,
* The Bermuda deputy absconded with the proceeds of a ship and cargo deposited in his hands, for which Moore was held answerable.