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forwards to those great waters of humanity which are now out over the world, and which shall assuredly give it a new level and a new life.
But I did not sit down to these remarks to take up the reader's time with theories. I have written even more than was necessary for the real purpose of them, which was to say that nobody has a right to judge of the spirit of my intercourse with Lord Byron from partial extracts out of the work in question ; and that I protest against any opinion of it whatsoever, unproduced by an acquaintance with the work itself. I may put a case in the mean time, if I please, and ask the reader what he thinks, on the face of it, of my claims on Lord Byron as a partner, invited to set up a work with him under all the circumstances, and of my right to speak as freely to the public of him, as he spoke secretly and underhand of me. But for a complete view of the case I must refer him (if he chooses to judge the matter) to the book itself, and to all the evidences it contains, for me or against : for of one thing he may be certain—that every jot of it is true. I love truth with a passion commensurate to what I think its desirableness, above all other things, for the security of good to the world : and if I did not, I should love it for the trouble it saves me in having but one story and one answer for all men, and being a slave to nobody.
I have a word, however, to add, with regard to those who have hitherto thought fit to make objections to my book, without knowing the whole of it. Some of these, I have been told, are really conscientious men, who are kind enough to entertain an ill opinion of me with pain; and I can believe that partial extracts might possibly have led them into that opinion. All that I complain of in this case is, that they did not sufficiently think of their conscientiousness, when they expressed the opinion without knowing all I had to say. Some of them have already become sensible of their mistake, and have done me justice. As to other anonymous writers, who have attacked me in a different spirit, I concede even to them the possibility of their having come to a similar conclusion, out of the same partial degree of knowledge. I will at present not stop to inquire how far they were led into it by motives of their own. But I warn them how, upon a better acquaintance with the work, they renew the same kind of attacks; as, in that case, I shall be compelled to let the public see, not only the whole amount of what I have to object to them on my own part, but what their pretended hero thought and said of them on his. And this, if they insist upon it, it will only be less easy for me to do, than it is to spare them in the mean time. I have told nothing but the truth, but I am far from having told all the truth and I never will tell it all. Commot humanity would not let me. But I will not have my very forbearance turned against me by those, whose sufferings would be tragic to themselves only, and comic to all the rest of the world.
It has been said that I undervalue the genius of Lord Byron, and think too highly of myself at the same time. I believe, that when I speak seriously, I am in the habit of using a tone of decision and confidence, which may produce mistakes on that point. It is owing to my having some decided opinions, and an exalted view of what may be done for the world, and it was the ab
I have many
sence of such views in Lord Byron, and the presence of an eternal persiflage and affectation, that led me to think of what was petty instead of great in him, and perhaps really made me undervalue his genius. I can only say, that I heartily wish his head may have deserved all the laurels that were stuck about it; to the concealment of his coronet, according to some, who nevertheless can never separate the two ideas. My own talents, unfortunately, (if I may speak of such things), I am not so conscious of, as I am of their having fallen far short of what I once hoped they would turn out. infirmities, and nothing great in me but my sympathy with mankind. It is for this only I desire any honour I pretend to; and this, I allow, I cannot shut up, as I would an opera hat, and convert it into a piece of deference to the circles.
After all, I had no intention in writing my book but to give a true portrait of Lord Byron, as of a human being interesting to the times he lived in, and worth painting at any time. My spleen came across me, I own, as I called him to mind; but if I had been actuated by ordinary motives, I should have done it when I first returned to England, and made, as the phrase is,
money by it:” which is what I cannot be said to have done now. My bookseller had pleased me by advances of money; and it was a series of circumstances connected with that liberal treatment, which finally led me to make the book what it is. But I have stated this in the former preface. I wish in his good nature to others, and exceeding notion of mine, Mr. Colburn had not hazarded doing me a very painful disservice with my readers, by omitting, in its passage through the press, a concluding VOL. II.
line or two in my notice of Mr. Theodore Hook. I had no wish to say any thing at all of Mr. Hook, and could, with pleasure, have omitted the whole notice of him, had Mr. Colburn wished it. But after my pleasanter recollections of him (as they now stand unqualified in the book), it became doubly necessary not to omit the drawbacks I had to make on a writer of his outrageous description; and my account of him, instead of ending with the two or three words now concluding it, should have terminated thus:-“ That I wished he had stuck to his humours and farces for which he had real talent, instead of attempting to cut up a great man for the hounds, and taking a silver fork and a seat at a great table for the refinement that he has missed.”
I have only one opinion more to guard against, which might be caused by something in my book itself; to wit, the face which the engraver in his hurry has been pleased to thrust upon me, and which might lead people to suppose that I am not only capable of calumniating my host, but of walking off with his tankard. I have no pretensions to handsomeness—my face is rescued from insignificance solely by thought; but I must really be allowed to say, that there is nothing in it which ought to take me to Bow-street.*
II. With regard to an alleged charge of cowardice against Lord Byron.-A person for whom I have great
* This engraving has been altered, but I have not seen what has been done to it. I take this opportunity of saying, that I am responsible for none of the other portraits in the book, but those of Lord Byron and Mr. Keats.
respect has sent me a message by a kinsman, informing me, that from one of the passages of the extracts before mentioned, a conclusion has been drawn by some, that I meant to charge Lord Byron with “ cowardice." My informant does not see the passage in the same light himself. He does not suppose that I meant it to be so construed. But such, he tells me, is the impression with some; and he has accordingly recommended me to cancel it in the present edition.
I cannot do that-desirous as I should be of falling in with the least intimations of the person in question. But I can explain myself on the subject; and feel bound to make some observations upon it. The reader, if he chooses, can turn to the passage itself at p. 157. vol. ii. It will there be seen, if I am not mistaken, that whatever may have been my doubts on this matter, they applied only to the latter part of Lord Byron's life, and to what he had made himself by an unwise treatment of his constitution ; for effeminacy is, in itself, no disproof of the existence of courage.
Cæsar himself began with being a dandy, and with scratching the top of his head with the tip of one of his fingers, that he might not displace the curls.* But if Cæsar had been a poet as well as a man of pleasure, and circumstances had led him into a sedentary mode of life, it would not have been easy to say what the crucifier of the pirates would have become, under the united influence of pleasure and pain, of illness and imagination. Indeed, when I call to mind one thing about Lord Byron,
See the picture Cicero gives of him, as he called him to mind at that time of life; adding his astonishment, that such a person should have subverted the Roman empire.