Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

He wanted faith in the interior of poetry, to relish it, unpruned and unpopular. Besides, he himself was to be mixed up somehow with every thing, whether to approve it or disapprove. When he found Sandys's Ovid” among my books, he said, “God! what an unpleasant recollection I have of this book! I met with it on my wedding-day; I read it while I was waiting to go to church.” Sandys, who is any thing but an anti-bridal poet, was thenceforward to be nobody but an old fellow who had given him an unpleasant sensation. The only great writer of pastimes, whom he read with avowed satisfaction, was Montaigne, as the reader may see by an article in the “ New Monthly Magazine." In the same article may be seen the reasons why, and the passages that he marked in that author. Franklin he liked. He respected him for his acquisition of wealth and pow. er; and would have stood in awe, had he known him, of the refined worldliness of his character, and the influence it gave him. Franklin's Works, and Walter Scott's, were among his favourite reading.

His liking for such of the modern authors as he preferred in general, was not founded in a compliment to them; but Walter Scott, with his novels, his fashionable repute, and his ill opinion of the world whom he fell in with, enabled him to enter heartily into his merits; and he read him over and over again with unaffected delight. Sir Walter was his correspondent, and appears to have returned the regard; though, if I remember, the dedication of “ The Mystery” frightened him. They did not hold each other in the less estimation, the one for being a lord, and the other a lover of lords: neither did Sir Walter's connexion with the calumniating press of Edinburgh at all shock his noble friend. It added rather “ a fearful joy” to his esteem; carrying with it a look of something “ bloody, bold, and resolute;" at the same time, more resolute than bold, and more deathdealing than either;-a sort of available other-man's weapon, which increased the sum of his

power, and a set-off against his character for virtue.

The first number of the Liberal was now on the anvil, and Mr. Shelley's death had given me a new uneasiness. The reader will see in Mr. Shelley's Letters, that Lord Byron had originally proposed a work of

was

the kind to Mr. Moore; at least, a periodical work of some sort, which they were jointly to write. Mr. Moore doubted the beatitude of such divided light, and declined it. His Lordship then proposed it through Mr. Shelley to me. I wrote to both of them to say, that I should be happy to take such an opportunity of restoring the fortunes of a battered race of patriots: and as soon as we met in Pisa, it was agreed that the work should be political, and assist in carrying on the good cause. The title of Liberal was given it by Lord Byron. We were to share equally the profits, the work being printed and published by my brother; and it was confidently anticipated that money would pour in upon all of us.

Enemies however, had been already at work. Lord Byron was alarmed for his credit with his fashionable friends, among whom, although on the liberal side, patriotism was less in favour, than the talk about it. This man wrote to him, and that wrote, and another came. Mr. Hobhouse rushed over the Alps, not knowing which was the more awful, the mountains, or the Magazine. Mr. Murray wondered, Mr. Gifford smiled, (a lofty symptom!) and Mr. Moore (tu quoque, Horati!) said that the Liberal had "a taint” in it! This however was afterwards. But Lord Byron, who was as fond as a footman of communicating unpleasant intelligence, told us from the first, that his friends” had all been at him; friends, whom he afterwards told me he had “libelled all round" and whom (to judge of what he did by some of them) he continued to treat in the same impartial manner. He surprised my friend, Mr. Brown, at Pisa, by volunteering a gossip on this matter, in the course of which he drew a comparison between me and one of his friends,” to whom, he said, he had been accused of preferring me; "and," added he, with an air of warmth, “ so I do.” The meaning of this was, that the person in question was out of favour at the moment, and I was in. Next day the tables may have been turned. I met Mr. Hobhouse soon after in the Casa Lanfranchi. He was very polite and complimentary; and then, if his noble friend was to be believed, did all he could to destroy the connexion between us. One of the arguments used by the remonstrants with his Lordship was, that the connexion was not “gentlemanly;" a representation which he professed to treat with great scorn, whether birth or manners were concerned; and I will add, that he had reason to do so. It was a ridiculous assumption, which, like all things of that sort, was to tell upon the mere strength of its being one.

The manners of such of his Lordship's friends as I ever happened to meet with, were, in fact, with one exception, nothing superior to their birth, if two such unequal things may be put on a level. It is remarkable (and, indeed, may account for the cry about gentility, which none are so given to as the vulgar,) that they were almost all persons of humble origin; one of a race of booksellers; another the son of a grocer; another, of a glazier; and a fourth, though the son of a baronet, the grandson of a linen-draper. Readers who know any thing of me, or such as I care to be known by, will not suspect me of undervaluing tradesmen or the sons of tradesmen, who may be, and very often are, both as gentlemanly and accomplished as any men in England. It did not require the Frenchman's discovery, (that, at a certain remove, every body is related to every body else,) to make a man think sensibly on this point now-a-days. Pope was a linen-draper's son, and Cowley a grocer's. Who would be coxcomb enough to venture to think the worse on that account of either of those illustrious men, whether for wit or gentility; and both were gentlemen as well as wits. But when persons bring a charge upon things indifferent, which, if it attaches at all, attaches to none but themselves who make it, the thing indifferent becomes a thing ridiculous. Mr. Shelley, a baronet's son, was also of an old family: and, as to his manners, though they were in general those of a recluse, and of an invalid occupied with his thoughts, they were any thing but vulgar. They could be, if he pleased, in the most received style of his rank. He was not incapable, when pestered with moral vulgarity, of assuming even an air of aristocratic pride and remoteness. Some of Lord Byron's friends would have given him occasion for this twenty times in a day. They did wisely to keep out of his

way. As to my birth, the reader may see what it was in another part of the volume; and my manners I leave him to construe kindly or otherwise, according to his own.

There is nothing on the part of others, from which I have suffered so much in the course of my life, as reserve and disingenuousness. Had Lord Byron, incontinent in every thing else, told me at once, that in case it did not bring him an influx of wealth, he could not find it in his heart to persist in what was objected to by a côterie on the town,-or had his friends, whom he libelled all round,” and some of whom returned him the compliment, been capable of paying me or themselves the compliment of being a little sincere with me, and showing me any reasons for supposing that the work would be injurious to Lord Byron (for I will imagine, for the sake of argument, that such might have been the case,) I should have put an end to the design at once. As it was, though his Lordship gave in before long, and had undoubtedly made up his mind to do so long before he announced it, yet not only did the immediate influence prevail at first over the remoter one, but it is a mistake to suppose that he was not mainly influenced by the expectation of profit. He expected very large returns from "The Liberal.Readers in these days need not be told that periodical works, which have a large sale, are a mine of wealth. Lord Byron had calculated that matter well; and when it is added, that he loved money, adored notoriety, and naturally entertained a high opinion of the effect of any new kind of writing which he should take in hand, nobody will believe it probable (nobody who knew him will believe it possible) that he should voluntarily contemplate the rejection of profits which he had agreed to receive. He would have beheld in them the most delightful of all proofs, that his reputation was not on the wane. For here, after all, lay the great secret, both of what he did and what he did not do. He was subject, it is true, to a number of weak impulses; would agree to this thing and propose another, purely out of incontinence of will; and offer to do one day what he would bite his fingers off to get rid of the next. But this plan of a periodical publication was no sudden business; he had proposed it more than once, and to different persons; and his reasons for it were, that he thought he should get both money and fame. A pique with “ The Quarterly Review," and his Tory admirers, roused his regard for the opposite side of the

1 question. He thought to do himself good, and chagrin his

critics, by assisting an enemy. The natural Toryism of some pretended lovers of liberty first alarmed him by a hint, that he might possibly not succeed. He supported his resolution by the hopes I have just mentioned, and even tried to encourage himself into a pique with his friends; but the failure of the large profits-the non-appearance of the golden visions he had looked for,-of the Edinburgh and Quarterly returns,-of the solid and splendid proofs of this new country which he should conquer in the regions of notoriety, to the dazzling of all men's eyes and his own,—this it was, this was the bitter disappointment which made him determine to give way, and which ultimately assisted in carrying him as far as Greece, in the hope of another redemption of his honours. From the moment he saw the moderate profits of “ The Liberal,” (quite enough to encourage perseverance, if he had had it, but not in the midst of a hundred wounded vanities and inordinate hopes,) he resolved to have nothing farther to do with it in the way of real assistance. He made use of it only for the publication of some things which his Tory bookseller was afraid to put forth. Indeed, he began with a contribution of that sort; but then he thought it would carry every thing before it. It also enabled him to make a pretence, with his friends, of doing as little as possible; while he secretly indulged himself in opposition both to them and his enemies. It failed; and he then made an instrument of the magazine, in such a manner as to indulge his own spleen, and maintain an appearance of co-operation, while in reality he did nothing for it but hasten its downfal.

There were undoubtedly other causes which conspired to this end; but they were of minor importance, and would gradually have been done away, had he possessed spirit and independence enough to persevere. It was thought that Mr. Shelley's co-operation would have hurt the magazine; and so it might in a degree; till the public became too much interested to object to it; but Mr. Shelley was dead, and people were already beginning to hear good of him and to like him. Extinctus amabitur. I myself, however, who was expected to write a good deal, and probably to be inspired beyond myself by the delight and grandeur of my position, was in

« НазадПродовжити »