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life when present scenes and events stant residence in his right foot ; which, make but feeble impressions, in compa- accordingly, was swathed in many rolls rison with those of yore ; so that I must of flannel
, and deposited upon a cushion. reconcile myself to be more and more The other foot was hidden in the dra pery the prisoner of memory, who merely of his chair. Do you recollect whether lets me hop about a little, with her chain Byron's right or left foot was the dearound my leg:
formed one? My letters of introduction have been The noble poet's reconciliation with of the utmost service, enabling me to Lady Byron is now, as you are aware, make the acquaintance of several dis- of ten years' standing ; nor does it extinguished characters, who, until now, hibit, I am assured, any symptom of have seemed as remote from the sphere breach or fracture. They are said to of my personal intercourse as the wits be, if not a happy, at least a contented, of Queen Anne's time, or Ben Jonson's or, at all events, a quiet couple, descendcompetitors at the Mermaid. One of ing the slope of life with that tolerable the first of which I availed myself, was degree of mutual support, which will the letter to Lord Byron. I found his enable them to come easily and comforlordship looking much older than I had tably to the bottom. It is pleasant to anticipated; although-considering his reflect how entirely the poet has reformer irregularities of life, and the va- deemed his youthful errors, in this parrious wear and tear of his constitution ticular. Her ladyship’s influence, it -not older than a man on the verge of rejoices me to add, has been productive sixty reasonably may look. But I had of the happiest results upon Lord Byron invested his earthly frame, in my imagi- in a religious point of view. He now nation, with the poet's spiritual immor- combines the most rigid tenets of metality. He wears a brown wig, very thodism with the ultra-doctrines of the luxuriantly curled, and extending down Puseyites: the former being perhaps over his forehead. The expression of due to the convictions wrought upon his eyes is concealed by spectacles. his mind by his noble consort; while His early tendency to obesity having in- the latter are the embroidery and pictucreased, Lord Byron is now enormously resque illumination, demanded by his fat; so fat as to give the impression of own imaginative character. Much of a person quite overladen with his own whatever expenditure his increasing flesh, and without sufficient vigor to dif- habits of thrift continue to allow him, is fuse his personal life through the great bestowed in the reparation or beautifymass of corporeal substance, which ing of places of worship; and this noweighs upon him so cruelly. You gaze bleman, whose name was once considat the mortal heap; and, while it fills ered a synonym of the foul fiend, is now your eye with what purports to be all but canonized as a saint, in many Byron, you murmur within yourself, pulpits of the metropolis and elsewhere. “ For Heaven's sake, where is he?” În politics, Lord Byron is an uncomWere I disposed to be caustic, I might promising conservative, and loses no consider this mass of earthly matter as opportunity, whether in the House of the symbol, in a material shape, of those Lords or in private circles, of denouncevil habits and carnal vices which un- ing and repudiating the mischievous spiritualize man’s nature, and clog up and anarchical notions of his earlier his avenues of communication with the day. Nor does he fail to visit similar better life. But this would be too sins, in other people, with the severest harsh; and besides, Lord Byron's mo- vengeance which his somewhat blunted rals have been improving, while his out- pen is capable of inflicting. Southey ward man has swollen to such uncon- and he are on the most intimate terms. scionable circumference. Would that You are aware that some little time behe were leaner; for, though he did me fore the death of Moore, Byron caused the honor to present his hand, yet it was that brilliant but reprehensible man to 80 puffed out with alien substance, that be ejected from his house. Moore took I could not feel as if I had touched the the insult so much to heart, that it is hand that wrote Childe Harold. said to have been one great cause of the
On my entrance, his lordship had fit of illness which brought him to the apologised for not rising to receive me, grave. Others pretend that the Lyrist on the sufficient plea that the gout, for died in a very happy state of mind, several years past, Lad taken up its con- singing one of his own sacred melodies, and expressing his belief that it wou'd erto published. The result is not so be heard within the gate of paradise, good as might be wished; in plain and gain him instant and honorable ad- terms, it is a very sad affair indeed; for mittance. I wish he may have found it so. though the torches kindled in Tophet
I failed not, as you may suppose, in have been extinguished, they leave an the course of conversation with Lord abominably ill odor, and are succeeded Byron, to pay the meed of homage due by no glimpses of hallowed fire. It is to a mighty poet, by allusions to pas- to be hoped, nevertheless, that this atsages in Childe Harold, and Manfred, tempt, on Lord Byron's part, to atone and Don Juan, which have made so for his youthful errors, will at length large a portion of the music of my life. induce the Dean of Westminster, or My words, whether apt or otherwise, whatever churchman is concerned, to were at least warm with the enthusiasm allow Thorwaldsen's statue of the poet of one worthy to discourse of immortal its due niche in the grand old Abbey. poesy. It was evident, however, that His bones, you know, when brought they did not go precisely to the right from Greece, were denied sepulture spot. I could perceive that there was among those of his tuneful brethren there. some mistake or other, and was not a What a vile slip of the pen was that ! little angry with myself, and ashamed How absurd in me to talk about burying of my abortive attempt to throw back, the bones of Byron, whom I have just from my own heart to the gifted author's seen alive, and encased in a big, round ear, the echo of those strains that have bulk of flesh! But, to say the truth, a resounded throughout the world. But, prodigiously fat man always impresses by and by, the secret peeped quietly out. me as a kind of hobgoblin: in the very Byron—I have the information from his extravagance of his mortal system, I own lips, so that you need not hesitate find something akin to the immateriality to repeat it in literary circles-Byron is of a ghost. And then that ridiculous preparing a new edition of his com- old story darted into my mind, how that plete works, carefully corrected, expur- Byron died of fever at Missolonghi, gated and amended, in accordance with above twenty years ago. More and his present creed of taste, morals, poli- more I recognize that we dwell in a tics and religion. It so happened, that world of shadows; and, for my part, I the very passages of highest inspira- hold it hardly worth the trouble to attion, to which I had alluded, were tempt a distinction between shadows in among the condemned and rejected rub- the mind, and shadows out of it. If bish, which it is his purpose to cast into there be any difference, the former are the gulf of oblivion. To whisper you rather the more substantial. the truth, it appears to me that his pas- Only think of my good fortune! The sions having burnt out, the extinction venerable Robert Burns-now, if I misof their vivid and riotous flame has de- take not, in his eighty-seventh year prived Lord Byron of the illumination happens to be making a visit to London, by which he not merely wrote, but was as if on purpose to afford me an opporenabled to feel and comprehend what he tunity of grasping him by the hand. has written. Positively, he no longer For upwards of twenty years past he understands his own poetry.
has hardly left his quiet cottage in AyrThis became very apparent on his shire for a single night, and has only favoring me so far as to read a few been drawn hither now by the irresistispecimens of Don Juan in the moral. ble persuasions of all the distinguished ized version. Whatever is licentious— men in England. They wish to celewhatever disrespectful to the sacred brate the patriarch's birthday by a fesmysteries of our faith-whatever mor- tival., It will be the greatest literary bidly melancholic, or splenetically spor- triumph on record. Pray Heaven the tive-whatever assails settled constitu- little spark of life within the aged bard's tions of government, or systems of so- bosom may not be extinguished in the ciety-whatever could wound the sen- lustre of that hour! I have already had sibility of any mortal, except a pagan, the honor of an introduction to him, at a republican, or a dissenter-has been the British Museum, where he was exunrelentingly blotted out, and its place amining a collection of his own unpubsupplied by unexceptionable verses, in lished letters, interspersed with songs, his lordship’s later style. You may judge which have escaped the notice of all his how much of the poem remains as hith- biographers.
Poh! Nonsense! What am I think- Scotsman should be, he is now considing of! How should Burns have been ered to be quite well off
, as to pecuniary embalmed in biography, while he is still circumstances. This, I suppose, is a hearty old man !
worth having lived so long for. The figure of the bard is tall, and in I took occasion to inquire of some of the highest degree reverent; nor the the countrymen of Burns in regard to less so, that it is much bent by the bur- the health of Sir Walter Scott. His then of time. His white hair floats condition, I am sorry to say, remains like a snow-drift around his face, in the same as for ten years past; it is which are seen the furrows of intellect that of a hopeless paralytic, palsied not and passion, like the channels of head- more in body than in those nobler attrilong torrents that have foamed them- butes of which the body is the instruselves away. The old gentleman is in ment. And thus he vegetates from day excellent preservation, considering his to day, and from year to year, at that time of life. He has that cricketty splendid fantasy of Abbotsford, which sort of liveliness I mean the cricket's grew out of his brain, and became a humor of chirping for any cause or symbol of the great romancer's tastes, none—which is perhaps the most fa- feelings, studies, prejudices, and modes vorable mood that can befall extreme of intellect. Whether in verse, prose, old age. Our pride forbids us to desire or architecture, he could achieve but it for ourselves, although we perceive it one thing, although that one in infinite to be a beneficence of nature in the variety. There he reclines, on a couch case of others. I was surprised to find in his library, and is said to spend whole it in Burns. It seems as if his ardent hours of every day in dictating tales heart and brilliant imagination had both to an amanuensis. To an imaginary burnt down to the last embers, leaving amanuensis ; for it is not deemed worth only a little flickering flame in one cor any one's trouble now to take down ner, which keeps dancing upward and what flows from that once brilliant laughing all by itself. He is no longer fancy, every image of which was forcapable of pathos. At the request of merly worth gold, and capable of being Allan Cunningham, he attempted to coined. Yet, Cunningham, who has sing his own song to Mary in Heaven; lately seen him, assures me that there but it was evident that the feeling of is now and then a touch of the genius ; those verses, so profoundly true, and so a striking combination of incident, or a simply expressed, was entirely beyond picturesque trait of character, such as the scope of his present sensibilities; no other man alive could have hit off; and when a touch of it did partially a glimmer from that ruined mind, as if awaken him, the tears immediately the sun had suddenly flashed on a halfgushed into his eyes, and his voice rusted helmet in the gloom of an anbroke into a tremulous cackle. And cient hall. But the plots of these royet he but indistinctly knew wherefore mances become inextricably confused ; he was weeping. Ah! he must not the characters melt into one another; think again of Mary in Heaven, until and the tale loses itself like the course he shake off the dull impediment of of a stream flowing through muddy and time, and ascend to meet her there. marshy ground.
Burns then began to repeat Tam For my part, I can hardly regret that O'Shanter, but was so tickled with its Sir Walter Scott had lost his consciouswit and humor-of which, however, I ness of outward things, before his works did suspect he had but a traditionary went out of vogue. It was good that sense—that he soon burst into a fit of he should forget his fame, rather than chirruping laughter, succeeded by a that fame should first have forgotten him. cough, which brought this not very Were he still a writer, and as brilliant agreeable exhibition to a close. On the a one as ever, he could no longer mainwhole, I would rather not have witness- tain anything like the same position in ed it. It is a satisfactory idea, however, literature. The world, now-a-days, rethat the last forty years of the peasant- quires a more earnest purpose, a deeper poet's life have been passed in compe- moral, and a closer and homelier truth, tence and perfect comfort. Having than he was qualified to supply it with. been cured of his bardic improvidence Yet who can be, to the present generafor many a day past, and grown as atten- tion, even what Scott has been to the tive to the main chance as a canny past ?
Bulwer nauseates me; he is the very pimple of the age's humbug. battle smoke, and tracked it round with There is no hope of the public, so long bloody footsteps-was seized with a neras he retains an admirer, a reader, or a vous trembling, and claimed the protecpublisher. I had expectations from a tion of the two policemen by a cracked young man-one Dickens—who pub- and dolorous cry. The fellows winked lished a few magazine articles, very rich at one another, laughed aside, and patin humor, and not without symptoms of ting Napoleon on the back, took each an genuine pathos ; but the poor fellow arm and led him away, died, shortly after commencing an odd Death and fury! Ha, villain, how series of sketches, entitled, I think, the came you hither ? Avaunt!-or I fing Pickwick Papers. Not impossibly, the my inkstand at your head. Tush, tush; world has lost more than it dreams of, it is all a mistake. Pray, my dear by the untimely death of this Mr. Dickens. friend, pardon this little outbreak. The
Whom do you think I met in Pall fact is, the mention of those two policeMall, the other day? You would not hit men, and their custody of Bonaparte, it in ten guesses. Why, no less a man had called up the idea of that odious than Napoleon Bonaparte !-or all that wretch-you remember him well—who is now left of him—that is to say, the was pleased to take such gratuitous and skin, bones, and corporeal substance, impertinent care of my person, before I little cocked hat, green coat, white quitted New England. Forthwith, upbreeches and small sword, which are still rose before my mind's eye that same known by his redoubtable name. He was little white-washed room, with the ironattended only by two policemen, who grated window-strange, that it should walked quietly behind the phantasm of have been iron-grated—where, in too the old ex-Emperor, appearing to have no easy compliance with the absurd wishes duty in regard to him, except to see that of my relatives, I have wasted several none of the light-fingered gentry should good years of my life. Positively, it possess themselves of his star of the Le- seemed to me that I was still sitting gion of Honor. Nobody, save myself, there, and that the keeper-not that he so much as turned to look after him; ever was my keeper neither, but only a nor, it grieves me to confess, could even kind of intrusive devil of a body-servant I contrive to muster up any tolerable in- —had just peeped in at the door. The terest, even by reminiscences of all that rascal! I owe him an old grudge, and the warlike spirit, formerly manifested will find a time to pay it yet! Fie, fie ! within that now decrepit shape, had The mere thought of him has exceedwronght upon our globe. There is no ingly discomposed me. Even now, that surer method of annihilating the magic hateful chamber-that iron-grated wininfluence of a great renown, than by dow, which blasted the blessed sunshine exhibiting the possessor of it in the de- as it fell through the dusty panes, and cline, the overthrow, the utter degra- made it poison to my soul-looks more dation of his powers--buried beneath distinct to my view than does this, my his own mortality—and lacking even comfortable apartment in the heart of the qualities of sense, that enable the London. The reality-that which I most ordinary men to bear themselves know to be such-hangs like remnants decently in the eye of the world. This of tattered scenery over the intolerably is the state to which disease, aggravated prominent illusion. Let us think of it by long endurance of a tropical climate, no more. and assisted by old age—for he is now You will be anxious to hear of Shelabove seventy-has reduced Bona- ley. I need not say, what is known to parte. The British government has all the world, that this celebrated poet acted shrewdly, in re-transporting him has, for many years past, been reconfrom St. Helena to England. They ciled to the Church of England. In his should now restore him to Paris, and more recent works, he has applied his there let him once again review the fine powers to the vindication of the relics of his armies. His eye is dull and Christian faith, with an especial view to rhenmy; his nether lip hung down upon that particular development. Latterly his chin. While I was observing him, as you may not have heard--he has there chanced to be a little extra taken orders, and been inducted to a bustle in the street; and he, the brother small country living, in the gift of the of Cæsar and Hannibal—the Great Lord Chancellor. Just now, luckily for Captain, who had veiled the world in me, he has come to the metropolis to and say,
superintend the publication of a volume am I babbling about? I was thinking of discourses, treating of the poetico- of that old figment of his being lost in philosophical proofs of Christianity, on the Bay of Spezia, and washed ashore the basis of the Thirty-nine Articles. near Via Reggio, and burned to ashes On my first introduction, I felt no little on a funeral pyre, with wine and spices embarrassment as to the mode of com- and frankincense ; while Byron stood bining what I had to say to the author on the beach, and beheld a flame of of Queen Mab, the Revolt of Islam, and marvellous beauty rise heavenward Prometheus Unbound, with such ac- from the dead poet's heart; and that his knowledgments as might be acceptable fire-purified relics were finally buried to a Christian minister, and zealous up- near his child, in Roman earth. If holder of the Established Church. But all this happened three-and-twenty Shelley soon placed me at my ease. years ago, how could I have met the Standing where he now does, and view- drowned, and burned, and buried man, ing all his successive productions from here in London, only yesterday? a higher point, he assures me that there Before quitting the subject, I may is a harmony, an order, a regular pro- mention that Dr. Reginald Heber, cession, which enables him to lay his heretofore Bishop of Calcutta, but rehand upon any one of the earlier poems, cently translated to a see in England,
" This is my work !" with pre- called on Shelley while I was with him. cisely the same complacency of con. They appeared to be on terms of very science, wherewithal he contemplates cordial intimacy, and are said to have a the volume of discourses above-men- joint poem in contemplation. What a tioned. They are like the successive strange, incongruous dream is the life steps of a staircase, the lowest of which, of man ! in the depth of chaos, is as essential to Coleridge has at last finished his pothe support of the whole, as the highest em of Christabel; it will be issued and final one, resting upon the thresh- entire, by old John Murray, in the old of the heavens. I felt half inclined course of the present publishing season. to ask him, what would have been his The poet, I hear, is visited with a fate, had he perished on the lower steps troublesome affection of the tongue, of his staircase, instead of building his which has put a period, or some lesser way aloft into the celestial brightness. stop, to the life-long discourse that has
How all this may be, I neither pre- hitherto been flowing from his lips. tend to understand nor greatly care, so He will not survive it above a month, long as Shelley has really climbed, as unless his accumulation of ideas bé it seems he has, from a lower region to sluiced off in some other way. Wordsa loftier one. Without touching upon worth died only a week or two ago. their religious merits, I consider the Heaven rest his soul, and grant that productions of his maturity superior, as he may not have completed the Excurpoems, to those of his youth. They are sion! Methinks I am sick of everywarmer with human love, which has thing he wrote, except his Laodaserved as an interpreter between his mia. It is very sad this inconstancy mind and the multitude. The author of the mind to the poets whom it once has learned to dip his pen oftener into worshipped. Southey is as hale as his hearts and has thereby avoided the ever, and writes with his usual dilifaults into which a too exclusive use of gence. Old Gifford is still alive, in the fancy and intellect was wont to betray extremity of age, and with most pitiable him. Formerly, his page was often decay of what little sharp and narrow little other than a concrete arrangement intellect the devil had gifted him withal. of crystallizations, or even of icicles, as One hates to allow such a man the cold as they were brilliant. Now, you privilege of growing old and infirm. It take it to your heart, and are conscious iakes away your speculative license of of a heart-warmth responsive to your kicking him. own. In his private character, Shelley Keats ? No; I have not seen him, can hardly have grown more gentle, except across a crowded street, with kind and affectionate, than his friends coaches, drays, horsemen, cabs, omnialways represented him to be, up to buses, foot-passengers, and divers other that disastrous night when he was sensual obstructions, intervening bee drowned in the Mediterranean. Non- twixt his small and slender figure and sense, again !-sheer nonsense! What my eager glance. I would fain have