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To Thee, my God, to Thee I call;
Whatever weal or woe betide,
With clay the grave's eternal bed,
This erring life may fly at last.
"29th Dec. 1806.
In another of these poems, which extends to about a hundred lines, and which he wrote under the melancholy impression that he should soon die, we find him concluding with a prayer in somewhat the same spirit. After bidding adieu to all the favourite scenes of his youth, he thus continues,
'Forget this world, my restless sprite, Turn, turn thy thoughts to Heav'n: There must thou soon direct thy flight,
If errors are forgiven.
To bigots and to sects unknown,
Bow down beneath the Almighty's throne; -
He, who is merciful and just,
Although his meanest care.
Father of Light, to thee I call,
My soul is dark within;
Thou, who canst mark the sparrow fall,
Avert the death of sin.
Thou, who canst guide the wandering star, Who calm'st the elemental war,
Whose mantle is yon boundless sky, My thoughts, my words, my crimes forgive; And, since I soon must cease to live, Instruct me how to die.
"P. S. Since we met, I have reduced myself by violent exercise, much physic, and hot bathing, from 14 stone 6 lb. to 12 stone 7 lb. In all I have lost 27 pounds. Bravo! what say you?"
His movements and occupations for the remainder of this year will be best collected from a series of his own letters, which I am enabled, by the kindness of the lady to whom they were addressed, to give. Though these letters are boyishly written, and a good deal of their pleasantry is of that conventional kind which depends more upon phrase than thought, they will yet, I think, be found curious and interesting, not only as enabling us to track him through this period of his life, but as throwing light upon various little traits of character, and laying open to us the first working of his hopes and fears while waiting, in suspense, the opinions that were to decide, as he thought, his future fame.
poems, and what he thought of them- Lord B. was so much pleased!”
In another letter, the fair writer says, " -"Lord Byron desired me to tell you that the reason you did not hear from him was because his publication was not so forward as he had flattered himself it would have been. I told him, he was no more to be depended on than a woman,' which instantly brought the softness of that sex into his countenance, for he blushed exceedingly."
3 He was, indeed, a thorough boy, at this period, in every respect:-"Next Monday" (says Miss Pigot) "is our great fair. Lord Byron talks of it with as much pleasure as little Henry, and declares he will ride in the round-about, but I think he will change his mind."
LETTERS TO MISS PIGOT.
The first of the series, which is without date, appears to have been written before he had left Southwell. The other letters, it will be seen, are dated from Cambridge and from London.
LETTER 12. TO MISS PIGOT.
"Dear Queen Bess,
"June 11. 1807.
Savage ought to be immortal:- though not a thorough-bred bull-dog, he is the finest puppy I ever saw, and will answer much better; in his great and manifold kindness he has already bitten my fingers, and disturbed the gravity of old Boatswain, who is grievously discomposed. I wish to be informed what he costs, his expenses, &c. &c., that I may indemnify Mr. G- My thanks are all I can give for the trouble he has taken, make a long speech, and conclude it with 1 2 3 4 5 6 7.1 I am out of practice, so deputize you as a legate,― ambassador would not do in a matter concerning the Pope, which I presume this must, as the whole turns upon a Bull. Yours,
"P. S. I write in bed."
LETTER 13. TO MISS PIGOT.
Cambridge, June 30. 1807. "Better late than never, Pal,'" is a saying of which you know the origin, and as it is applicable on the present occasion, you will excuse its conspicuous place in the front of my epistle. I am almost superannuated here. My old friends (with the exception of a very few) all departed, and I am preparing to follow them, but remain till Monday to be present at three Oratorios, two Concerts, a Fair, and a Ball. I find I am not only thinner but taller by an inch since my last visit. I was obliged to tell every body my name, nobody having the least recollection of my visage, or person. Even the hero of my Cornelian (who is now sitting vis-à-vis, reading a volume of my Poetics) passed me in Trinity walks without recognising me in the least, and was thunderstruck at the alteration which had taken place in my countenance, &c. &c. Some say I look better,
1 He here alludes to an odd fancy or trick of his own; -whenever he was at a loss for something to say, he used always to gabble over “1 2 3 4 5 6 7."
2 Notwithstanding the abuse which, evidently more in sport than seriousness, he lavishes, in the course of these letters, upon Southwell, he was, in after days, taught to feel that the hours which he had passed in this place were far more happy than any he had known afterwards. In a letter written not long since to his servant, Fletcher,
others worse, but all agree I am thinner,— more I do not require. I have lost two pounds in my weight since I left your cursed, detestable, and abhorred abode of scandal ?, where, excepting yourself and John Becher, I care not if the whole race were consigned to the Pit of Acheron, which I would visit in person rather than contaminate my sandals with the polluted dust of Southwell. Seriously, unless obliged by the emptiness of my purse to revisit Mrs. B., you will see me
On Monday I depart for London. I quit Cambridge with little regret, because before mentioned has left the choir, and is our set are vanished, and my musical protégé stationed in a mercantile house of considerable eminence in the metropolis. You may have heard me observe he is exactly to an hour two years younger than myself. I found him grown considerably, and as you will suppose, very glad to see his former Patron. He is nearly my height, very thin, locks. My opinion of his mind you already very fair complexion, dark eyes, and light know; -I hope I shall never have occasion to change it. Every body here conceives me to be an invalid. The University at present is very gay from the fêtes of divers kinds. I supped out last night, but eat (or ate) nothing, sipped a bottle of claret, went to bed at two, and rose at eight. I have commenced early rising, and find it agrees with me. The Masters and the Fellows all very polite, but look a little askance — don't much admire lampoons-truth always disagreeable.
'Write, and tell me how the inhabitants of your Menagerie go on, and if my publication goes off well do the quadrupeds growl? Apropos, my bull-dog is deceased-Flesh both of cur and man is grass.' Address your answer to Cambridge. If I am gone, it will be forwarded. Sad news just arrivedRussians beat a bad set, eat nothing but oil, consequently must melt before a hard fire. I get awkward in my academic habiliments for want of practice. Got up in a window to hear the oratorio at St. Mary's, popped down in the middle of the Messiah, tore a woeful rent in the back of my best black silk gown, and damaged an egregious pair of
by a lady who had been intimate with him, in his young days, at Southwell, there are the following words: -Your poor, good master always called me Old Piety,' when I preached to him. When he paid me his last visit, he said, 'Well, good friend, I shall never be so happy again as I was in old Southwell.' His real opinion of the advantages of this town, as a place of residence, will be seen in a subsequent letter, where he most strenuously recommends it, in that point of view, to Mr. Dallas.
breeches. Mem. never tumbled from a church window during service. Adieu, dear ****! do not remember me to any body: -to forget and be forgotten by the people of Southwell is all I aspire to."
LETTER 14. TO MISS PIGOT.
"Trin. Coll. Camb. July 5. 1807.
"Since my last letter I have determined to reside another year at Granta, as my rooms, &c. &c. are finished in great style, several old friends come up again, and many new acquaintances made; consequently my inclination leads me forward, and I shall return to college in October if still alive. My life here has been one continued routine of dissipation out at different places every day, engaged to more dinners, &c. &c. than my stay would permit me to fulfil. At this moment I write with a bottle of claret in my head and tears in my eyes; for I have just parted with my 'Cornelian,' who spent the evening with me. As it was our last interview, I postponed my engagement to devote the hours of the Sabbath to friendship: - Edleston and I have separated for the present, and my mind is a chaos of hope and sorrow. To-morrow I set out for London: you will address your answer to Gordon's Hotel, Albemarle Street,' where I sojourn during my visit to the metropolis.
"I rejoice to hear you are interested in❘ my protégé; he has been my almost constant associate since October, 1805, when I entered Trinity College. His voice first attracted my
[It was about the year 1779, that Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Ponsonby first associated themselves to live in retirement. It was thought desirable to separate two individuals who appeared to encourage each other's eccentricities, and after their first departure together, they were brought back to their respective relations, but soon effected a second elopement. The place of their retreat in the Vale of Llangollen, was only confided to a female servant, and they lived for years unknown to their neighbours by any other appellation, except "the Ladies of the Vale." Lady Eleanor Butler died at Llangollen, in June, 1829.]
2 It may be as well to mention here the sequel of this enthusiastic attachment. In the year 1811 young Edleston died of a consumption; and the following letter, addressed by Lord Byron to the mother of his fair Southwell correspondent, will show with what melancholy faithfulness, among the many his heart had then to mourn for, he still dwelt on the memory of his young college friend:
"Cambridge, Oct. 28. 1811.
"I am about to write to you on a silly subject, and yet I cannot well do otherwise. You may remember a cornelian, which some years ago I consigned to Miss Pigot, indeed gave to her, and now I am going to make the most selfish and rude of requests. The person who gave it to me, when I was very young, is dead, and though
attention, his countenance fixed it, and his manners attached me to him for ever. He departs for a mercantile house in town in October, and we shall probably not meet till the expiration of my minority, when I shall leave to his decision either entering as a partner through my interest, or residing with me altogether. Of course he would in his present frame of mind prefer the latter, but he may alter his opinion previous to that period; —however, he shall have his choice. I certainly love him more than any human being, and neither time nor distance have had the least effect on my (in general) changeable disposition. In short, we shall put Lady E. Butler and Miss Ponsonby to the blush, Pylades and Orestes out of countenance, and want nothing but a catastrophe like Nisus and Euryalus, to give Jonathan and David the 'go by.' He certainly is perhaps more attached to me than even I am in return. During the whole of my residence at Cambridge we met every day, summer and winter, without passing one tiresome moment, and separated each time with increasing reluctance. I hope you will one day see us together. He is the only being I esteem, though I like many.?
The Marquis of Tavistock was down the other day; I supped with him at his tutor's-entirely a Whig party. The opposition muster strong here now, and Lord Hartington, the Duke of Leinster3, &c. &c. are to join us in October, so every thing will be splendid. The music is all over at present. Met with another accidency'-upset a
a long time has elapsed since we met, as it was the only memorial I possessed of that person (in whom I was very much interested), it has acquired a value by this event I could have wished it never to have borne in my eyes. If, therefore, Miss Pigot should have preserved it, I must, under these circumstances, beg her to excuse my requesting it to be transmitted to me at No. 8. St. James's Street, London, and I will replace it by something she may remember me by equally well. As she was always so kind as to feel interested in the fate of him that formed the subject of our conversation, you may tell her that the giver of that cornelian died in May last of a consumption, at the age of twenty-one, making the sixth, within four months, of friends and relatives that I have lost between May and the end of August.
"Believe me, dear Madam, yours very sincerely,
"P. S. I go to London to-morrow."
The cornelian heart was, of course, returned, and Lord Byron, at the same time, reminded that he had left it with Miss Pigot as a deposit, not a gift.
3 [Francis, Marquis of Tavistock, born 13th May, 1788; married in 1808, Anna Maria, daughter of Charles, third earl of Harrington.]
4 [William-Spencer Cavendish, born May, 1790, now Duke of Devonshire.]
5 [Augustus-Frederick Fitzgerald, Duke of Leinster; born August, 1791.]
LETTERS TO MISS PIGOT.
butter-boat in the lap of a lady-look'd very blue-spectators grinned-' curse 'em!' Apropos, sorry to say, been drunk every day, and not quite sober yet-however, touch no meat, nothing but fish, soup, and vegetables, consequently it does me no harm-sad dogs all the Cantabs. Mem.- —we mean to reform next January. This place is a monotony of endless variety-like it-hate Southwell. Has Ridge sold well? or do the ancients demur? What ladies have bought?
"Saw a girl at St. Mary's the image of Anne ***, thought it was her-all in the wrong-the lady stared, so did I-I blushed, so did not the lady,-sad thing-wish women had more modesty. Talking of women, puts me in mind of my terrier Fanny-how is she? Got a headach, must go to bed, up early in the morning to travel. My protégé breakfasts with me; parting spoils my appetite-excepting from Southwell. Mem. I hate Southwell. Yours, &c.
LETTER 15. TO MISS PIGOT.
"Gordon's Hotel, July 13. 1807. You write most excellent epistles - -a fig for other correspondents, with their nonsensical apologies for knowing nought about it,'-you send me a delightful budget. I am here in a perpetual vortex of dissipation (very pleasant for all that), and, strange to tell, I get thinner, being now below eleven stone considerably. Stay in town a month, perhaps six weeks, trip into Essex, and then, as a favour, irradiate Southwell for three days with the light of my countenance; but nothing shall ever make me reside there again. I positively return to Cambridge in October; we are to be uncommonly gay, or in truth I should cut the University. An extraordinary circumstance occurred to me at Cambridge; a girl so very like ** made her appearance, that nothing but the most minute inspection could have undeceived me. I wish I had asked if she had ever been at H ***
"What the devil would Ridge have? is not fifty in a fortnight, before the advertisements, a sufficient sale? I hear many of the London booksellers have them, and Crosby has sent copies to the principal watering places. Are they liked or not in Southwell? * I wish Boatswain had swallowed Damon! How is Bran? by the immortal gods, Bran ought to be a Count of the Holy Roman Empire.
The intelligence of London cannot be interesting to you, who have rusticated all
In the collection of his Poems printed for private circulation, he had inserted some severe verses on Dr. Butler, which he omitted in the subsequent publication,
your life-the annals of routs, riots, balls and boxing-matches, cards and crim. cons., parliamentary discussion, political details, masquerades, mechanics, Argyle Street Institution and aquatic races, love and lotteries, Brookes's and Buonaparte, opera-singers and oratorios, wine, women, wax-work, and weathercocks, can't accord with your insulated ideas of decorum and other silly expressions not inserted in our vocabulary.
"Oh! Southwell, Southwell, how I rejoice to have left thee, and how I curse the heavy hours I dragged along, for so many months, among the Mohawks who inhabit your kraals! However, one thing I do not regret, which is having pared off a sufficient quantity of flesh to enable me to slip into an eel-skin,' and vie with the slim beaux of modern times; though I am sorry to say, it seems to be the mode amongst gentlemen to grow fat, and I am told I am at least fourteen pound below the fashion. However, I decrease instead of enlarging, which is extraordinary, as violent exercise in London is impracticable; but I attribute the phenomenon to our evening squeezes at public and private parties. I heard from Ridge this morning (the 14th, my letter was begun yesterday): he says the poems go on as well as can be wished; the seventy-five sent to town are circulated, and a demand for fifty more complied with, the day he dated his epistle, though the advertisements are not yet half published. Adieu.
"P. S. Lord Carlisle, on receiving my poems, sent, before he opened the book, a tolerably handsome letter:- I have not heard from him since. His opinions I neither know nor care about: if he is the least insolent, I shall enrol him with Butler and the other worthies. He is in Yorkshire, poor man! and very ill! He said he had not had time to read the contents, but thought it necessary to acknowledge the receipt of the volume immediately. Perhaps the Earl bears no brother near the throne,' if so, I will make his sceptre totter in his hands. - Adieu!"
LETTER 16. TO MISS PIGOT.
"August 2. 1807.
"London begins to disgorge its contentstown is empty-consequently I can scribble at leisure, as occupations are less numerous. In a fortnight I shall depart to fulfil a country engagement; but expect two epistles from you previous to that period. Ridge does not proceed rapidly in Notts-very possible.
-at the same time explaining why he did so, in a note little less severe than the verses.
In town things wear a more promising aspect, and a man whose works are praised by reviewers, admired by duchesses, and sold by every bookseller of the metropolis, does not dedicate much consideration to rustic readers. I have now a review before me, entitled 'Literary Recreations,' where my bardship is applauded far beyond my deserts. I know nothing of the critic, but think him a very discerning gentleman, and myself a devilish clever fellow. His critique pleases me particularly, because it is of great length, and a proper quantum of censure is administered, just to give an agreeable relish to the praise. You know I hate insipid, unqualified, common-place compliment. If you would wish to see it, order the 13th Number of Literary Recreations' for the last month. I assure you I have not the most distant idea of the writer of the article - it is printed in a periodical publication—and though I have written a paper (a review of Wordsworth1), | which appears in the same work, I am ignorant of every other person concerned in it even the editor, whose name I have not heard. My cousin, Lord Alexander Gordon, who resided in the same hotel, told me his mother, her Grace of Gordon 2, requested he would introduce my Poetical Lordship to her Highness, as she had bought my volume, admired it exceedingly, in common with the rest of the fashionable world, and wished to claim her relationship with the author. I was unluckily engaged on an excursion for some days afterwards; and, as the Duchess was on the eve of departing for Scotland, I have postponed my introduction till the winter, when I shall favour the lady, whose taste I shall not dispute, with my most sublime and edifying conversation. She is now in the Highlands, and Alexander took his departure, a few days ago, for the same blessed seat of dark rolling winds.'
1 This first attempt of Lord Byron at reviewing (for it will be seen that he, once or twice afterwards, tried his hand at this least poetical of employments) is remarkable only as showing how plausibly he could assume the established tone and phraseology of these minor judgmentseats of criticism. For instance: -"The volumes before us are by the author of Lyrical Ballads, a collection which has not undeservedly met with a considerable share of public applause. The characteristics of Mr. Wordsworth's muse are simple and flowing, though occasionally inharmonious, verse, strong and sometimes irresistible appeals to the feelings, with unexceptionable sentiments. Though the present work may not equal his former efforts, many of the poems possess a native elegance," &c. &c. &c. If Mr. Wordsworth ever chanced to cast his eye over this article, how little could he have suspected that under that dull prosaic mask lurked one who, in five short years from thenee, would rival even
sent to Ridge for a third- at least so he says. In every bookseller's window I see my own name, and say nothing, but enjoy my fame in secret. My last reviewer kindly requests me to alter my determination of writing no more; and A Friend to the Cause of Literature' begs I will gratify the public with some new work at no very distant period.' Who would not be a bard? - that is to say, if all critics would be so polite. However, the others will pay me off, I doubt not, for this gentle encouragement. If so, have at 'em? By the by, I have written at my intervals of leisure, after two in the morning, 380 lines in blank verse, of Bosworth Field. I have luckily got Hutton's account. I shall extend the poem to eight or ten books, and shall have finished it in a year. Whether it will be published or not must depend on circumstances. So much for egotism! My laurels have turned my brain, but the cooling acids of forthcoming criticisms will probably restore me to modesty.
"Southwell is a damned place- I have done with it. at least in all probability; excepting yourself, I esteem no one within its precincts. You were my only rational companion; and in plain truth, I had more respect for you than the whole bevy, with whose foibles I amused myself in compliance with their prevailing propensities. You gave yourself more trouble with me and my manuscripts than a thousand dolls would have done. Believe me, I have not forgotten your good nature in this circle of sin, and one day I trust I shall be able to evince my gratitude. Adieu, yours, &c. "P. S. Remember me to Dr. P."
him in poetry. [The Review in question will be found among the Miscellaneous Prose Pieces appended to the Life.]
2 [The witty Duchess of Gordon, born Miss Maxwell of Monteith, died in April, 1812.]
3 ["The Battle of Bosworth Field; to which is prefixed a History of Richard III.'s Life till he assumed the regal power." A new edition of this work, with additions by the indefatigable John Nichols, appeared in 1813.]
^ This plan (which he never put in practice) had been talked of by him before he left Southwell, and is thus noticed in a letter of his fair correspondent to her brother:-"How can you ask if Lord B. is going to visit the Highlands in the summer? Why, don't you know that he never knows his own mind for ten minutes together? I tell him he is as fickle as the winds, and as uncertain as the waves."