Зображення сторінки

of us.

very bad health, and as little conscious of delight and grandeur as possible. I had been used to write under trying circumstances; but latterly I had been scarcely able to write at all; and at the time I never felt more oppressed in my life with a sense of what was to be done. Then the publisher was a much better patriot

. than man of business: he was also new to his work as a bookseller; and the trade (who can do more in these matters than people are aware of) set their faces against him; particularly Lord Byron's old publisher, who was jealous and in a frenzy. To crown all, an article (the “ Vision of Judgment”) was sent my brother for insertion, which would have frightened any other publisher, or at least set him upon garbling and making stars. My brother saw nothing in it but Lord Byron, and a prodigious hit at the Tories; and he prepared his machine accordingly for sending forward the blow unmitigated. Unfortunately it recoiled, and played the devil with all

I confess, for my part, having been let a little more into the interior in these matters, that had I seen the article, before it was published, I should have advised against the appearance of certain passages; but Lord Byron had no copy in Italy. It was sent, by his direction, strait from Mr. Murray to the publisher's; and the first time I beheld it, was in the work that in edited.

That first number of “The Liberal” got us a great number of enemies, some of a nature which we would rather have had on our side; a great many because they felt their self-love wounded as authors, and more out of a national prejudice. The prejudice is not so strong as it was upon the particular subject alluded to; but it is the least likely to wear out, because the national vanity is concerned in it, and it can only be conquered by an admission of defects. What renders the case more inveterate is, that none partake of it more strongly than the most violent of its opponents. In addition to the scandal excited by the < Vision of Judgment,” there was the untimely seasonableness of the epigrams upon poor Lord Castlereagh. Lord Byron wrote them. They arose from the impulse of the moment; were intended for a newspaper, and in that more fugitive medium, would have made a comparatively fugitive impression,


[ocr errors]

Arrested in a magazine, they were kept longer before the eyes of the public, and what might have been pardoned as an impulse, was regarded with horror as a thing deliberate. Politicians in earnest, and politicians not in earnest, were mortified by the preface; all the real or pretended orthodox, who can admire a startling poem from a state-minister (Goethe,) were vexed to see that Mr. Shelley could translate it; and all the pretenders in literature were vexed by the attack upon Hoole, and the article headed “Rhyme and Reason;" in which latter, I fear, even å wit, whom I could name, was capable of finding an ill intention. I began to think so when I heard of his criticisms, and saw his next poem. But the “Vision of Judgment," with which none of the articles were to be compared, and which, in truth, is the best piece of satire Lord Byron ever put forth, was grudged us the more, and roused greater hostility on that account. Envy of the silliest kind, and from the silliest people, such as it is really degrading to be the object of, pursued us at every turn; and when Mr. Hazlitt joined us, alarm as well as envy was at its height. After all, perhaps, there

, was nothing that vexed these people, more than their inability to discover which were Lord Byron's articles,

and which not. It betrayed a secret in the shallows of criticism, even to themselves, and was not to be forgi

The work struggled on for a time, and then, owing partly to private circumstances, which I had explained in my first writing of these pages, but which it has become unnecessary to record,

was quietly dropped. I shall only mention, that Lord Byron, after the failure of the great profits,'' had declared his intention of receiving nothing from the work till it produced a certain sum; and that I unexpectedly turned out to be in the receipt of the whole profits of the proprietorship, which I regarded, but too truly, as one of a very ominous description. All which publickly concerns the origin and downfall of the Magazine the readers are acquainted with, excepting perhaps the political pique which Mr. Hobhouse may have felt against us, and the critical one which has been attributed to Mr. Moore. Mr. Hazlitt is supposed to have had his share in the offence; and certainly, as far as writing in the work was concerned, he gave stronger reasons for it than I could do. But he shall speak for


himself in a note, at the hazard of blowing up my less gunpowder text. *

Mr. Hobhouse was once called upon by the electors of Westminster for an explicit statement

* « At the time,” says Mr. Hazlitt, “that Lord Byron thought proper to join with Mr. Leigh Hunt and Mr. Shelley in the publication called The Liberal, Blackwood's Magazine overflowed, as might be expected, with tenfold gall and bitterness; the John Bull was outrageous, and Mr.

black in the face, at this unheard-of and disgraceful union. But who would have supposed that Mr. Thomas Moore and Mr. Hobhouse, those staunch friends and partisans of the people, should also be thrown into almost hysterical agonies of wellbred horror at the coalition between their noble and ignoble acquaintance-between the patrician and the newspaper man?' Mr. Moore darted backwards and forwards from Cold-Bath-Fields Prison to the Examiner office, from Mr. Longman's to Mr. Murray's shop in a state of ridiculous trepidation, to see what was to be done to prevent this degradation of the aristocracy of letters, this indecent encroachment of plebeian pretensions, this undue extension of patronage and conpromise of privilege. The Tories were shocked that Lord Byron should grace the popular side by his direct countenance and assist. ance; the Whigs were shocked that he should share his confidence and counsels with any one who did not unite the double recommendations of birth and genius—but themselves! Mr. Moore had lived so long among the great, that he fancied himself one of them, and regarded the indignity as done to himself. Mr. Hobhouse had lately been black-balled by the Clubs, and must feel particularly sore and tenacious on the score of public opinion. Mr. Shelley's father, however, was an elder baronet than Mr. Hobhouse's; Mr. Leigh Hunt was 'to the full as genteel a man' as Mr. Moore, in birth, appearance, and education; the

pursuits of all four were the same—the Muse, the public favour, and the public good. Mr. Moore was himself invited to assist in the undertaking, but he professed an utter aversion to, and warned Lord Byron against, having any concern with joint publications, as of a very neutralizing and levelling description. He might speak from experience. He had tried his hand in that Ulysses' bow of critics and politicians, the Edinburgh Review, though his secret had never transpired. Mr. Hobhouse, too, had written Illustrations of a Childe Harold (a sort of partnership concern)-yet, to quash the publication of The Liberal, he seriously proposed that his noble friend should write once a-week, in his own name, in the Examiner. The Li. beral scheme, he was afraid, might succeed; the newspaper one he knew could not. I have been whispered, that the member for Westminster (for whom I once gave an ineffectual vote) has also conceived some distaste for me I do not know why, except that I was at one time named as the writer of the famous Trecenti Juravimus Let. ter to Mr. Canning, which appeared in the Examiner, and was afterwards suppressed. He might feel the disgrace of such a supposition : I confess I did not feel the honour. The cabal, the bustle, the significant hints, the confidential rumours were at the beight, when, after Mr. Shelley's death, I was invited to take a part in this obnoxious publication (obnoxious alike to friend and foe;) and when the Essay on the Spirit of Monarchy appeared, (which must indeed have operated like a bomb-shell thrown into the coteries that Mr. Moore frequented, as well as those that he had left,) this gentleman wrote off to Lord


[ocr errors]

of his opinions on the subject of reform. He gave a statement which was thought not to be explicit, or even intelligible; and I had the misfortune, in 66 The Examiner," to be compelled to say that I was among the number

Byron, to say that, there was a taint in The Liberal, and that he should lose no time in getting out of it.' And this, from Mr. Moore to Lord Byron--the last of whom had just involved the publication, against which he was cautioned as having a taint in it, in a prosecu. tion for libel by his Vision of Judgment, and the first of whom had scarcely written any thing all his life that had not a taint in it. It is true, the Holland-house party might be somewhat staggered by a jeu. d'esprit that set their Blackstone and De Lolme theories at defiance, and that they could as little write as answer. But it was not that. Mr. Moore also complained that I had spoken against Lalla Rookh,' though he had just before sent me his · Fudge Family' Still it was not that. But at the time he sent me that very delightful and spirited publication, my little bark was seen "hulling on the flood,' in a kind of dubious twilight, and it was not known whether I might not prove a vessel of gallant trim. Mr. Blackwood had not then directed his Grub-street battery against me; but as soon as this was the case, Mr. Moore was willing to “whistle me down the wind and let me prey at fortune;" not that I “ proved haggard,” but the contrary. It is sheer cowardice and want of heart. The sole object of the rest is not to stem the tide of prejudice and falsehood, but to get out of the way themselves. The instant another is assailed (however unjustly,) instead of standing manfully by him, they cut the connexion as fast as possible, and sanction by their silence and reserve the accusations they ought to repel. Sauve qui peut-every one has enough to do to look after his own reputation or safety without rescuing a friend or prop. ping up a falling cause. It is only by keeping in the background on such occasions (like Gil Blas, when his friend Ambrose Lamela was led by in triumph to the auto-da fe) that they can escape the like honours and a summary punishment. A shower of mud, a flight of nicknames (glancing a little out of their original direction) might obscure the last glimpse of royal favour, or stop the last gasp of popu. larity. Nor could they answer it to their noble friends and more ele. gant pursuits, to be received in such company, or to have their names coupled with similar outrages. Their sleek, glossy, aspiring preten. sions should not be exposed to vulgar contamination, or to be trodden under foot of a swinish multitude. Their birth-day suits (unused) should not be dragged through the kennel, nor their “ tricksy” laurel wreaths stuck in the pillory. This would make them equally unfit to be taken into the palaces or the carriages of peers. If excluded from both, what would become of them? The only way, therefore, to avoid being implicated in the abuse poured upon others, is to pretend that is just the way not to be made the object of the hue and cry raised against a friend, is to aid it by underhand whispers. It is plea. sant neither to participate in disgrace nor to have honours divided. The more Lord Byron confined his intimacy and friendship to a few persons of middling rank, but of extraordinary merit, the more it must redound to his and their credit. The lines of Pope,

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

“ To view with scornful, yet with jealous eyes,

And haste for arts which caused himself to rise,”

of the dull perceptions. A few days afterwards, meeting him in St. James's-street, he said he wondered at my coming to that conclusion, and asked me how it could happen. I did not enter into the origin of the phenomenon, but said that I could not help it, and that the statement did appear to me singularly obscure. Since that time, I believe, I never saw him till we met in the Casa Lanfranchi. As to Mr. Moore, he did not relish, I know, the objection which I had made to the style of “Lalla Rookh;" but then he had told me so; he encouraged me to speak freely; he had spoken freely himself; and I felt all the admiration of him, if not of his poem, which candour, in addition to wit, can excite. I never suspected that he would make this a ground of quarrel with me in aftertimes; nor do I now wish to give more strength to Lord Byron's way of representing things on this point than



be as little foundation for his reporting that Mr. Moore would never forgive Hazlett for saying that he “ought not to have written Lalla Rookh,' even for three thousand guineas;" a condem-n nation which, especially with the context that follows it, involves a compliment in its very excess. * But Mr.

on any other.

[ocr errors]

might still find a copy in the breast of more than one scribbler of politics and fashion. Mr. Moore might not think without a pang of the author of " Rimini," sitting at his ease with the author of Childe Harold;" Mr. Hobhouse might be averse to see my dogged prose bound up in the same volume with his Lordship's splendid verse; and assuredly it would not facilitate his admission to the Clubs, that his friend Lord Byron had taken the Editor of “The Examiner” by the hand, and that their common friend, Mr. Moore, bad taken no active steps to prevent it!"-Plain Speaker', vol. ïi. p. 437.

* “ Mr. Moore ought not to have written · Lalla Rookh,' even for three thousand guineas. His fame is worth more than that. He should have minded the advice of Fadladeen. It is not, however, a failure, so much as an evasion and a consequent disappointment of public expectation. He should have left it to others to break conventions with nations, and faith with the world. He should, at any rate, have kept his with the public. “Lalla Rookh” is not what people wanted to see whether Mr. Moore could do; namely, whether he could write a long epic poem. It is four short tales. The interest, however, is often high-wrought and tragic, but the execution still turns to the effeminate and voluptuous side. Fortitude of mind is the first requisite of a tragic or epic writer. Happiness of nature and fem licity of genius are the pre-eminent characteristics of the bard of Erin. If he is not perfectly contented with what he is, all the world beside is. He had no temptation to risk any thing in adding to the love and admiration of his age, and more an one country." Lectures on the English Poets, p. 301.

« НазадПродовжити »