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any two things in the world, and have any two good qualities to set off against many defects, it is that I am not vindictive, and that I speak the truth. I have not told all: for I have no right to do so. In the present case it would also be inhumanity, both to the dead and the living. But what I have told, to is not be gainsaid. Perhaps had I felt Lord Byron's conduct less than I did, I should have experienced less of it. Flattery might have done much with him; and I felt enough admiration of his talents, and sympathy with his common nature, to have given him all the delight of flattery without the insincerity of it, had it been possible. But nobody, who has not tried it, knows, how hard it is to wish to love a man, and to find the enthusiasm of this longing worse than repelled. It was the death of my friend Shelley, and my own want of resources, that made me add this bitter discovery to the sum of my experience. The first time Lord Byron found I was in want, was the first time he treated me with disrespect. I am not captious: I have often been remonstrated with for not showing a stronger sense of enmity and ill-usage: but to be obliged, in the common sense of the word, and disobliged at the same time, not only in my reasonablest expectations, but in the tenderest point of my nature, was what I could not help feeling, whether I had told the world of it or not. Besides, Lord Byron was not candid
He suffered himself to take measures,
and be open to representations, in which I was concerned, without letting me know; and I know of no safety of intercourse on these terms, especially where it should be all sincerity or nothing
Nevertheless, I subscribe so heartily to a doctrine eloquently set forth* by Mr. Hazlitt,-that whatever is good and true in the works of a man of genius, eminently belongs to and is a part of him, let him partake as he will of common infirmities,--that I cannot without regret think of the picture I have drawn of the infirmities of Lord Byron, common or uncommon, nor omit to set down this confession of an unwilling hand. Fecit marins. Let it be turned against myself, if it ought. The same may be said of my remarks on Mr. Hazlitt.t If no man reduces himself to a greater necessity for it than he, by the waywardness and cruelty of his temper, no man deserves it more for the cuts and furrows which his temper ploughs in his own face, and the worship which he pays to truth and beauty, when it is
* In the “Plain Speaker," vol. ii. p. 418.
† Since writing this Preface, the article here alluded to has been omitted, though not on Mr. Hazlitt's account, or my own ; for however I might regret speaking disagreeable truths of any man, much more of one whose unquestionable love of truth would have reconciled him to the hearing them, the article had quite enough of what was panegyrical in it to do him justice. But more readers might have mistaken the object of it, than was desirable ; and Mr. Hazlitt is ready enough, at all times, to save others the
necessity of exhibiting his defects. Twenty such articles would not have put an end to the good understanding between us; so genuine indeed is his love of truth, violently as his passions may sometimes lead him to mistake it.
not upon him. When we see great men capable of being inhuman in some things, when they are all over humanity in others, and add to the precious stock of human emotion, one is frightened to think what mistakes we may commit in our own self-knowledge. I, for one, willingly concede that the reader may know me better than myself, and punish me in his thought accordingly. Let me have only the benefit of the concession. I have been forced to give up, in my time, too many dreams of self-love, to deny myself the consolation of candour.
The account of Lord Byron was not intended to stand first in the book. I should have kept it for a climax. My own reminiscences, I fear,
a coming after it, will be like bringing back the Moselle, after devils and Burgundy. Time also, as well as place, is violated; and the omission of a good part of the auto-biography, and substitution of detached portraits for inserted ones, have given altogether a different look to the publication from what was contemplated at first. But my publisher thought it best; perhaps it is so; and I have only to hope, that in adding to the attractions of the title-page, it will not make the greater part of the work seem unworthy of it.
AND SOME OT
The first time I saw Lord Byron, he was rehearsing the part of Leander, under the auspices of Mr. Jackson, the prize-fighter. It was in the river Thames, before he went to Greece. I had been bathing, and was standing on the floating machine adjusting my clothes, when I noticed a respectable-looking manly person, who was eyeing something at a distance. This was Mr. Jackson waiting for his pupil. The latter was swimming with somebody for a wager. I forget what his tutor said of him; but he spoke in terms of praise. I saw nothing in Lord Byron at that time, but a young man, who, like myself, had written a bad volume of poems; and though I had a sympathy with him on this account, and more respect for his rank than I was willing to suppose, my sympathy was not an agreeable one; so, contenting myself with seeing his Lordship’s head bob up and down in the water, like a buoy, I came away.
Lord Byron was afterwards pleased to regret that I had not staid. He told me, that ine sight of my
volume at Harrow had been one of his incentives to write verses, and that he had had the same passion for friendship that
I had displayed in it. To my astonishment, he quoted some of the lines, and would not hear me speak ill of them. This was when I was in prison, where I first became personally acquainted with his Lordship. His harbinger was Moore. Moore told me, that, besides liking my politics, he liked “ The Feasts of the Poets,” and would be glad to make my acquaintance. I said I felt myself highly flattered, and should be proud to entertain his lordship as well as a poor patriot could. He was accordingly invited to dinner. Îis friend only stipulated, that there should be “ plenty of fish and vegetables for the noble bard,” his Lordship at that time being Brahminical in his eating. He came, and we passed a very pleasant afternoon, talking of books, and school, and the Reverend Mr. Bowles; of the pastoral innocence of whose conversation some anecdotes were related, that would have much edified the spirit of Pope, had it been in the room.
I saw nothing at first but single-hearted and agreeable qualities in Lord Byron. My wife, with the quicker eyes
a woman, was inclined to doubt them. Visiting me one day, when I had a friend with me, he seemed umeasy, and asked without ceremony when he should find me alone. My friend, who was a man of taste and spirit, and the last in the world to intrude his acquaintance, was not bound to go away because another person had come in; and besides, he naturally felt anxious to look at so interesting a visiter; which was paying the latter a compliment. But his Lordship’s will was disturbed, and he vented his spleen accordingly. I took it at the time for a piece of simplicity, blinded perhaps by the flattery insinuated towards myself; but my wife was right. Lord Byron's nature, from the first, contained that mixture of disagreeable with pleasanter qualities, which I had afterwards but too much occasion to recognise. He subsequently called on me in the prison several times, and used to bring books for my Story of Rimini, which I was then writing. He would not let the footman bring them in. He would enter with a couple of quartos under his arm; and give you to understand, that he was prodler of being a friend and a man of letters, than a lord. It was thus that by flattering one's vanity, he persuaded us of his own freedom from it; for