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many others invented for me, and so violently is the defence of Lord Byron taken up by those who have said much worse of him in their time than any thing uttered by me, that I might perhaps, in common justice, be warranted in keeping the rest of my errors to myself, as a compensation for what I have forborne to relate of others.
For reasons, similar though not proportionate to those for which the estimate is withheld, it has been thought better to retain as little as possible of what I have said about myself in the letters ; and in conse quence, the letters themselves are suppressed, such portions only remaining as comprise all the explanations for which I wrote them, and which I here proceed to repeat, as nearly as possible in the same words.
1. With respect to the partial extracts from the book, that were sent to the newspapers before it was published.
- These, I need hardly tell the public, were not made by myself. If they had been, they would not have subjected me to the conclusions which have been pretended by some, and appear to have been really drawn by others, respecting the spirit of my
intercourse with Lord Byron. I have been represented as a man capable of violating the confidence of friendship, and giving an unfavourable portrait of a host who had treated me with nothing but kindness. I will venture to affirm, that nothing, to a person of my turn of mind, could be more impossible. No man holds in greater horror than I do the violation of the sub üsdem
trabibus—the sacred enclosure of private walls. I have not even dared, in my time, to enjoy the delight I should have found at more than one table, purely because I knew that it would be impossible for me afterwards, as a public man, to hold any opinion of my host but a grateful one. It might be expected that I should despise an accusation of this sort : but people do not despise half as much as is pretended; and I confess it has vexed me, with all its absurdity. One does not like to be thought ill of by any body, much less to be subjected to the hazard of it in the whole heart of a community. Unluckily, thousands will have read the extracts who will not see the book.
I will put a case in illustration of my position with Lord Byron, and show the cruelty of it besides, as affected by his character in particular. Suppose a rich merchant invites another merchant out to set up a joint concern with him; and suppose the latter a man with a wife and large family, and at the lowest ebb of his fortunes. The rich merchant advances the other two hundred pounds to bring him out (taking care nevertheless to get a bond for it from a friend); and after he is arrived, the loss of the beloved friend who gave this bond forces the poor man to accept from the rich one farther sums, from time to time, amounting in all to one hundred more.
The joint concern in the meantime goes on, but is trifled with by the invitor-is even injured by him in a variety of ways, is suffered to be calumniated and undermined by him with his friends, and finally is abandoned by him in the course of the year for an experiment in a remote quarter, and apart from any consideration of the person invited out. It is true, the rich
man declines receiving his part of the profits of the concern; but it is only because they turn out to be nothing like what he expected; and when he leaves it, and might still do it service, and so keep his own proposed work alive, he never has another word of communication with the person whom he invited out, and whom he had found destitute, and left so.
This is a literal picture of the state of the case between Lord Byron and myself; but the worst part of the spirit of it remains.
I had scarcely put up under the same roof with his Lordship (and the nature of that occupation of a floor in his house is explained in my book, and was very different from any thing like entertainment by him as his guest) than our “ host," if he is so to be called, commenced his claims upon our delicacy by writing disagreeable letters about us to his friends. When I subsequently remonstrated with hiin on this subject, he answered me that it was his way, and that he had “ libelled his friends all round." It is true I did not know of these letters at the time; but his libels of his friends were very soon manifest: the symptom was not encouraging; and the tempers he thought fit to try on me in my poverty, prepared me farther for what I had to expect. This was almost in the very first days of our intercourse. I had hardly been under the roof with him at Pisa, when a very distressing communication from England forced me to urge him upon the subject of the intended work, and to beg as it were, in charity, the assistance which he ought to have come forward with in pursuance of his own proposal. He thought it sufficient to answer, that his friends had already been “at him”
to persuade him to have nothing to do with the work ; and he was wanting enough to his dignity to taunt me with making him a party to certain distresses which had been communicated to me in the letter from England, though he knew how much they were bound up with my own, and had had my confession that I had assisted to cause them.
This, however, is a matter which it is impossible to enter into, and which does not, of necessity, belong to the question. I only allude to it, that I may show the melancholy of my position with him from the first, and how sure he was to make me feei it. In this manner his first contribution to his own work was made to appear a sort of forced obligation, though he was delighted to have the opportunity of printing it; and though, in the sanguineness of the moment, and the nonexperience hitherto of what confirmed our forebodings, we did our best to entertain a good opinion of him, and to make others partake of it.
Most calamitous was it on every account, that at this early juncture of our intercourse, my beloved friend, Mr. Shelley, was torn from me. I was thrown, per force, on Lord Byron for his assistance; he even offered it; and bitter indeed, for the first time in my life, was the taste I then had of obligation. The specimen I have mentioned in my work will suffice, and may be repeated. My family lived in the most economical Italian manner, and tried hard not to force me to apply to him for much. In fact, I applied to him for little, and he put me under the necessity of asking even for that in driblets, and for those he sent me every time to his steward. My cheek seems to burn against my paper as I write. Yes, I have to confess that I have tasted indeed the
bitterness of that prophecy of the poet's addressed to himself, that he should know “ how hard it was to ascend the steps of another person for bread." Let the exquisite mortification of confessions like these, excuse me with the happier and the more industrious—I may add, with the healthier and the better taught; for the commonest rules of arithmetic were, by a singular chance, omitted in my education. I do not agree with the writer, who spoke the other day of the degrading obligations of private friendship.” God forbid I should be such a traitor to those whose friendship elevated while it assisted me, and whom it is a transport to me, whenever I think of it, to have been indebted to. I see beyond that. But I am bound to say that I have not the less altered my practice in that particular; and not the less do I agree with the eloquent after-saying of the same writer, that it is “comely, and sweet, and exquisite," to be able to earn one's own sufficiency. I only think, especially in behalf of those who can enjoy leisure as well as business, that it should not be made so hard a matter to do so, as it very often is, by the systems of society, and by the consequences they have in reserve for us, even before we are born, and in our very temperaments as well as fortunes: and I think also, that the world would have been losers, in a very large way-far beyond what utilitarians suppose, and yet on their own ground-if certain men of lively and improvident genius, humanists of the most persuasive order, had not sometimes left themselves under the necessity of being assisted. The headlong sympathies that ran in their blood, and that diverted them sometimes from ordinary duties, have helped to carry us all