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view) of that little
Keats, I shall observe, as Johnson did when Sheridan, the actor, got a pension—“ What! has he got a pension ? then it is time that I should give up mine!” Nobody could be prouder of the praise of the Edinburgh than I was, or more alive to their censure, as I showed in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. At present ALL the men they have ever praised are degraded by that insane article. Why don't they review and praise “ Solomon's Guide to Health ?" it is better sense, and as much poetry as Johnny Keats.'
· Ravenna, gbre 21, 1820.-No more Keats, I entreat, flay him alive ; if some of you don't, I must skin him myself. There is no bearing the drivelling idiotism of the maukin.'
We are very sorry that a fragment only of the Review of Mr. Keats, which Lord Byron thus proffered, has been preserved. It is as follows:
“The hearty grasp that sends a pleasant sonnet
Into the brain, ere one can think upon
Scarce can I scribble on,” &c. &c. · Now what does this mean? Again,
" And with these airs come forms of elegance
Stooping their shoulders o'er a horse's prance.” • Where did these forms of elegance learn to ride with stooping shoulder's ? Again,
66 Thus I remember all the pleasant flow
Of words at opening a portfolio." · Again,
" Yet I must not forget
I partly owe to him,” &c. This obligation is likely to be mutual.-It may appear harsh (continues Lord Byron) to accumulate passages from the work of a young man in the outset of his career, but, if he will set out with assailing the poet whom, of all others, the young aspirant ought to respect, and honour and study; if he will hold forth in such lines his notions on poetry, and endeavour to recommend them, by terming such men as Pope, Dryden, Swift, Congreve, Addison, Young, Gray, Goldsmith, Johnson, &c. &c., a school of dolts,” he must abide by the consequences of his unfortunate distortion of intellect. But, like Milbourne, he is the fairest of critics, by enabling us to compare his own compositions with those of Pope, at the same age, and on a similar subject, viz. poetry. As Mr. Keats does not want imagination or industry, let those who have led him astray look to what they have done. 2 E 2
Surely they must feel no little remorse in having so perverted the taste and feelings of this young man, and will be satisfied with one such victim to the Moloch of their absurdity. Pope little expected that the art of sinking in poetry would become an object of serious study, and supersede, not only his own, but all that Horace, Vida, Boileau, and Aristotle had left to posterity of precept, and the greatest poets of all nations, of example.'-— Byron's MSS.
Our readers have, no doubt, observed one curious circumstance that peeps out in these extracts—the fact, namely, that Lord Byron and Mr. Shelley were in the habit of laughing when they met in private, at things which look grave in the suburbs.' Among other notices to the same effect, which we might easily introduce from Lord Byron's MSS., we confess we were particularly entertained with a passage in a letter dated Ravenna, July 30th, 1821, from which it appears, that, on the occasion of Mr. Keats's death, Mr. Shelley composed an elegy, in the shape of a parody on the nursery song about Cock Robin, beginning thus with ourselves :
• Who killed Jack Keats ?
'Twas one of my feats,' &c., &c. and so running on through the various claimants of the critical crime in a vein of merriment and derision which certainly would have astounded the Paddingtonians.-- We beg leave to adopt as well as transcribe Lord Byron's own reflections in verse and in prose on the same event:
• Strange that the soul, that very fiery particle,
Should let itself be snuffed out by an article.' • I am very sorry for it, though I think he took the wrong line as a poet, and was spoiled by Cockneyfying, and Suburbing, and versifying Tooke's Pantheon and Lempriere's Dictionary.'—Byron's MSS.
The truth is, that, on literary subjects of all sorts and descriptions, Lord Byron's opinions were wide as the poles asunder' from those of Mr. Hunt and his little coterie ; and it is, we must own, by this radical diversity of feeling as to the matters which Mr. Hunt thought and thinks of the highest moment, that we are inclined to account for, in the main, the tone of bitter spleen in which the surviving Grub-street authorling comments on every part of the character of the great English poet who is no more. Looking to the supreme scorn with which Lord Byron, in his letters, uniformly treats all the dogmas and performances of the class of writers who acknowledged Mr. Hunt as their chief, we are really quite unable to believe that Lord Byron ever dreamt of a journal in which these writers were to be the principal labourers, as a source of large profits' to himself. He knew that the
world had utterly condemned the school of poetry and criticism in question, and he thought the world quite right in this decision.
Jpon what principle, then, are we to account for his taking any part in their magazine project? We really do not see how it is possible to doubt that he did so purely and entirely from the charitable feelings to which he himself distinctly ascribes his unhappy acquiescence in an impracticable scheme. He thought, no doubt, that his own compositions would be easily distinguished from those of Messrs. Hunt and Co.; and that, therefore, he might benefit these needy people without materially injuring his own reputation. Humble as was his estimate of the talents of all his coadjutors, except Mr. Shelley, he had not foreseen that, instead of his genius floating their dulness, an exactly opposite consequence would attend that unnatural coalition. In spite of some of the ablest pieces that ever came from Lord Byron's pen,—in spite of the magnificent poetry of Heaven and Earth,—the eternal laws of gravitation held their course: Messrs. Hunt, Hazlitt, and Co. furnished the principal part of the cargo; and the · Liberal sunk to the bottom of the waters of oblivion almost as rapidly as the Table-Talk, or the Foliage, or the Endymion.
It may be worth while to illustrate a little more copiously what we have said of Lord Byron's critical tenets : by doing so, we certainly think we shall throw much light on the nature of Mr. Leigh Hunt's quarrel with him, and the consequent outrage on his
memory, perpetrated in the elaborate volume now before us. * Ravenna, Jan. 4, 1821.-I see by the papers of Galignani, that there is a new tragedy of great expectation, by Barry Cornwall. Of what I have read of his works, I liked the Dramatic Sketches, but thought his Sicilian Story and Marcian Colonna, in rhyme, quite spoilt by I know not what affectation of Wordsworth, and Hunt, and Moore, and myself, all mixed up into a kind of chaos. I think him very likely to produce a good tragedy if he keep to a natural style, and not play tricks to form harlequinades for an audience. As he (Barry Cornwall is not his true name) was a schoolfellow of mine, I take more than common interest in his success,' &c., &c.-Byron's MSS.
• Ravenna, Sept. 12, 1821.-Barry Cornwall will do better by and by, I dare say, if he don't get spoiled by green tea and the praises of Pentonville and Paradise-row. The pity of these men is, that they never lived in high life nor in solitude ; there is no medium for the knowledge of the busy or the still world. If admitted into high life for a season, it is merely as spectators--they form no part of the mechanism thereof. Now, Moore and I, the one by circumstances, the other by birth, happened to be free of the corporation, and to have entered into its pulses and passions, “ quarum partes fuimus.”— Both of us have learned by this much that nothing else could have taught us.'- Ibid.
The following is from a letter to Lord Byron's bookseller, dated Ravenna, Sept. 24th, 1821:
• You shall not send me any modern or (as they are called) new publications whatsoever, save and excepting any writing, prose or verse, of (or reasonably presumed to be of) Walter Scott, Crabbe, Moore, Campbell, Rogers, Gifford, Joanna Baillie, Irving (the American), Hogg, Wilson (Isle of Palms man), or any especial single work of fancy which is thought to be of considerable merit. Voyages and travels, provided they are neither in Greece, Spain, Asia Minor, Albania, nor Italy, will be welcome. No other English works whatsoever.'
The following are incidental notices which we have taken almost at hazard, from the same correspondence :
• Ravenna, Sept. 11th, 1820.—Oh, if ever I do come amongst you again, I will give you such a Baviad and Mæviad, not as good as the last, but even better merited. There never was such a set as your ragamuffins, (I mean not yours only, but everybody's.) What with the Cockneys, and the Lakers, and the followers of Scott, and Moore, and Byron, you are on the very uttermost decline and degradation of literature. I can't think of it without all the remorse of a murderer. I wish Johnson were alive again to crush them.'....
Sept. 15th, 1817.--I have read Lallah Rookh, but not with sufficient attention yet. ... I am very glad to hear of its popularity; for Moore is a very noble fellow in all respects, and will enjoy it without
any of the bad feelings which success, good or evil, sometimes engenders in the men of rhyme. Of the poem itself, I will tell you my opinion when I have mastered it: I say of the poem, for I don't like the prose at all at all; and in the meantime, the “ Fireworshippers” is the best, and the “ Veiled Prophet” the worst of the volume.
* With regard to poetry in general, I am convinced, the more I think of it, that he and all others-Scott, Southey, Wordsworth, Moore, Campbell, I, are all in the wrong, one as much as another; that we are upon a wrong, revolutionary, poetical system (or systems), not worth a d-n in itself, and from which none but Rogers and Crabbe are free, and that the present and next generation will finally be of this opinion. I am the more confirmed in this, by having lately gone over some of our classics, particularly Pope, whom I tried in this way : I took Moore's poems, and my own, and some others, and went over them side by side with Pope's, and I was really astonished (I ought not to have been so) and mortified at the ineffable distance, in point of sense, learning, effect, and even imagination, passion, and invention, between the little Queen Anne's man, and us of the lower empire. Depend upon it, it is all Horace then, and Claudian now, among us; and if I had to begin again, I would mould myself accordingly. Crabbe's the man, but he has got a coarse and impracticable subject; and Rogers, the grandfather of living poetry, is retired upon half-pay, since pretty Miss Jacqueline, with her nose acquiline, and has done enough, unless he were to do as he had done formerly.'
Non noster hic sermo-such were the opinions of Lord Byron on English literature, perhaps the only subject on which it was essential that he should have agreed with Mr. Leigh Hunt before he entered on the joint speculation of a literary journal with that gentleman—with Mr. Leigh Hunt, author of Rimini, who, throughout all his works, treats the great names of our time with contempt,—who, even in this quarto, talks of Lord Byron himself as a mere imitator in poetry,--and who considers Mr. Leigh Hunt, Mr. John Keats, and so forth, as the only true and permanent lights of the age. Such were their literary differences; and we venture to add that the points of discrepancy between the two men, as to literature, were less numerous and of less importance than in regard to almost any other subject whatever-except only (and with sorrow do we mark the exception) the highest subject of all, namely, religion.
As to politics, the haughty heir of all the Byrons, and the Jupiter Tonans of the round window in the Examiner office had not, and never could have had, anything in common beyond a few words, to which the man of genius and the paragraph-monger attached totally opposite meanings. Even as to the more solemn subject of religion, we ought to take shame to ourselves for even for a moment considering Lord Byron and Mr. Leigh Hunt as brother infidels. The dark doubts which disturbed to its depths the noble intellect of the one had little, indeed, in common with the coxcombical phantasies which floated and float on the surface of the other's shallowness. Humility,--a most absurd delusion of humility, be it allowed, made the one majestic creature unhappy: the most ludicrous conceit, grafted on the most deplorable incapacity, has filled the paltry mind of the gentleman-of the-press now before us, with a chaos of crude, pert dogmas, which defy all analysis, and which it is just possible to pity more than despise.
I am no bigot to infidelity,' said Byron in a letter to the late Mr. Gifford, and did not expect that, because I doubted the immortality of man, I should be charged with denying the existence of a God. It was the comparative insignificance of ourselves and our world, when placed in comparison with the mighty whole, of which it is an atom, that first led me to imagine that our pretensions to immortality might be overrated.'
Let us hear his lordship's contemporary.
'He (Lord Byron) was a Christian by education; he was an infidel by reading. He was a Christian by habit; he was no Christian upon reflection. I use the word here in its ordinary acceptation, and not in its really Christian and philosophical sense, as a believer in The Endeavour and The Universality, which are the consummation of Christianity. ... Bigoted christians, of all sects, take liberties enough, God knows !