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of those whom I regarded. It was on accounts like these, that he talked of Mrs. Hunt as being "no great things.” Myself, because I did not take all his worldly common-places for granted, nor enter into the merit of his bad jokes on women, he represented as a
proser;" and the children, than whom, I will venture to say, it was impossible to have quieter or more respectable in the house, or any that came less in his
pronounced to be “impracticable.” But that was the reason. I very soon found that it was desirable to keep them out of his way; and although this was done in the easiest and most natural manner, and was altogether such a measure as a person of less jealousy might have regarded as a consideration for his quiet, he resented it, and could not help venting his spleen in talking of them. The worst of it was, that when they did come in his way, they were nothing daunted. They had lived in a natural, not an artificial state of intercourse, and were equally sprightly, respectful, and self-possessed. My eldest boy surprised him with his address, never losing his singleness of manner nor exhibiting pretensions of which he was too young to know any thing, yet giving him his title at due intervals, and appearing, in fact, as if he had always lived in the world instead of out of it. This put him out of his reckoning. To the second, who was more struck with his reputation, and had a vivacity of temperament that rendered such lessons dangerous, he said, one day, that he must take care how he got notions in his head about truth and sincerity, for they would hinder his getting on in the world. This, doubtless, was rather intended to vent a spleen of his own, than to modify the opinions of the child: but the peril was not the less, and I had warning given me that he could say worse things when I was not present. Thus the children became “ impracticable;" and, luckily, they remained so.
One thing, among others in which he found myself impracticable, annoyed him exceedingly; so much so, that I would have given it up, and the rest too, if the change would not have done more harm than good. I the more readily speak of it, because it reminds me of something which I have omitted, and which I might reasonably be accused of omitting to my own advantage. While I was writing the “Story of Rimini,” Lord By
ron saw the manuseript from time to time, and made his remarks upon it. He spoke also to Murray respecting the publication. Murray was of an opposite side in politics both to the noble Lord and myself; but he was glad to publish with his Lordship, for considerations which he found not incompatible with his political philosophy; and he said that he was willing to publish for me, out of a sense of liberality and fair dealing. A friend of mine had told me, as an instance of his superiority to mere party views, that he piqued himself upon a “Life of Napoleon" which he was about to publish, and which was to be very impartial. In short, Murray had himself importuned me some years before to write for “ The Quarterly Review.” I will not swear, that in putting the “Story of Rimini” into his hands, I had not something of an instinctive sense that I was securing myself against the more violent hostilities of that review. I will not swear this, because there is always something in the “ last recesses of the mind,” of which spectators may be better judges than ourselves. But Mr. Hazlitt, with his extra-subtleties, was out, when he thought I put Mr. Gifford's epitaph on his servant into “The Examiner," with a view to that end. The coincidence was curious, I admit; but it was nothing more. The epitaph was sent me, as things favourable to others of the opposite party had been sent me before, with a recommendation of it to my attention, and a plain hint, that my credit for impartiality was concerned in the manner in which I should treat it. It is well known, and has been sometimes lamented (by Mr. Hazlitt among others,) that the liberal side of politics piqued itself upon the greater degree of generosity with which it could afford to speak of its enemies, and do justice to what it thought meritorious in them. I may add, that, “The Examiner” was foremost in the display of this piece of knight-errantry; that it always spoke of Napoleon as a great man, though it held him up as a betrayer of the cause of freedom; that it was among the foremost to hail Sir Walter Scott as a novelist, though it thought little of him as a poet, and scornfully as a politician; and that at one time it was almost exclusive as a journal, in its admiration of the poetical genius of Wordsworth, of whom it nevertheless felt ashamed as a renegado. Lord Byron used to accuse
me of making a diversion on the town in favour of Wordsworth; and I have reason to believe, that the poet himself was not without an opinion to the same effect. All I mean to say is, that had the epitaph written by Mr. Gifford come before me at any time, it would have met with the same reception, because I thought well of it. That I was not sorry at the coincidence, (which is possible) I cannot pretend to acknowledge, because I have no recollection of the kind; but I confess, that had I known as much of the impulses of weak men at that time as I do now, I would not have incurred, by publishing the epitaph, a greater portion of malignity, than the review was at all events prepared to assail me with. My opinion of Murray's conduct is, that he was glad of the opportunity of showing his impartiality so far with regard to one of his publications, as to allow his review to cut it up; and I can easily enough imagine, that Gifford, or whoever the poor fellow was that did cut it up; was the more delighted with his task, in proportionh to the sense which he supposed me to entertain of his power. Lord Byron perhaps may have felt piqued at the review on his own account. I forget whether he ever alluded to it. I think not. He condescended, among his other timid deferences to “ the town," to be. afraid of Gifford. There was an interchange of flatteries between them, not the less subtle for Gifford's occasionally affecting a paternal tone of remonstrance; and they were “friends" to the last; though Lord Byron, (to say nothing of that being a reason also) could not help giving him a secret hit now and then, when the church-and-state review became shy of him. Gifford thought him a wonderful young man, but wild, &c.; and he never forgot that he was a lord. He least of all forgot it, when he affected to play the schoolmaster. On the other hand, Lord Byron was happy to regard Mr. Gifford as a wonderful old gentleman, not indeed a born gentleman, but the more honest in his patricianisms on that account, and quite a born critic; it sound," as the saying is; learned and all that; and full of good sense;" in short, one that was very sensible of his Lordship’s merits, both as a poet and a peer, and who had the art of making his homage to a man of rank agreeable, by affecting independence without really feeling it. Mur.
ray he laughed at. He treated him afterwards, as he did most others with strange alternations of spleen and good humour, of open panegyric and secret ridicule; but at the period in question, he at least thought him an honest man-for “the tribe of Barabbas;" who, said his lordship, “was unquestionably a bookseller." Murray affected to patronize him; and with a simplicity worthy of Dominie Sampson, lamented that a young man with such advantages should go counter in opinion to the King and his ministers; otherwise, said he, who knows but what he might have been made a Viscount
or even an Earl!"* Mr. Murray once did me the honour, in a stage coach, to make a similar lamentation with regard to myself, all of course in due proportion to my rank and pretensions; but, said he, “There is Leigh Hunt: what does he mean by writing on the side of reform and that kind of thing? what a pity he did not come to us! he might have made his fortune.” 6. Oh but,” said a person present, who happened to know me, "his principles were against it." < Principles!” exclaimed Mr. Murray, foregoing his character of Dominie Sampson, and with all the airs of a courtier; “Principles!" as if he had never heard of such things.
The courtiers had the advantage of me in one particular. They knew what it was to admire lords heartily, and they could see that I admired them more than I suspected. I dedicated the Story of Rimini” to Lord Byron, and the dedication was a foolish one. I addressed him, as at the beginning of a letter, and as custom allows in private between friends, without his title; and I proceeded to show how much I thought of his rank, by pretending to think nothing about it. My critics were right so far; but they were wrong in thinking that I would have done it to every lord, and that very romantic feelings were not mixed up with this very childish mistake. I had declined, out of a notion of principle, to avail myself of more than one opportunity of being intimate with men of rank; opportunities which, it will easily be conceived, are no very uncommon things in the life of a journalist. I confess I valued myself a little suspiciously upon my self-denial. In one instance I had
* I quote on the authority of a Quarterly Reviewer.
reason to do so, for I missed the company of a man of talents. But talents, poetry, similarity of political opinion, the flattery of early sympathy with my boyish writings, more flattering offers of friendship, and the last climax of flattery, an earnest waiving of his rank, were too much for me in the person of Lord Byron; and I took out, with my new friend as I thought him, hearty payment for my philosophical abstinence. Now was the time, I thought, to show, that friendship, and talents, and poetry, were reckoned superior to rank, even by rank itself; my friend appeared not only to allow me to think so, but to encourage me to do it. I took him at his word; and I believe he was as much astonished at it (though nobody could have expressed himself more kindly to me on the subject,*) as at this present writing I am mortified to record it.
I discovered the absurdity I had committed, long before I went to Italy. On renewing my intercourse with Lord Byron, I made up my mind to put myself on a different footing with him, but in such a manner as he should construe handsomely towards himself, as well as respectfully towards me. Í reckoned upon his approval of it, because it should be done as a matter of course, and as the result of a little more experience of the world, and not out of any particular observation of his own wishes or inconsistencies; and I reckoned upon it the more confidently, because at the time that I formed the resolution, hisown personal character was not so much in my thoughts as that conventional modification of it which he inherited in common with others of his rank, and of which it was not to be expected he should get rid. Men do not easily give up any advantages they possess, real or imaginary; and they have a good deal to say in their favour, -I mean, as far as any real difference is concerned between. what is tangible in substance and tangible in the apprehension. If a man can be made happy with a title, I do not know why we should begrudge it him, or why he should think ill of it, any more than of beauty, or riches, or any thing else that has an influence upon the imagination. The only questions are, whether he will be the better for it in the long run; and whether his pare'
** See the Correspondence.