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The letters and journals of Lord Byron, with the interwoven notes of Mr. Moore, should have superseded the utility of writing any other account of that extraordinary man. The compilation has, however, not proved satisfactory, and the consequence, almost of necessity, is, that many other biographical portraits of the noble poet may yet be expected. But will they materially alter the general effect of Mr. Moore's work? I think not and have accordingly confined myself, as much as practicable, consistent with the end in view, to an outline of his Lordship’s intellectual features a substratum only of the general mass of his character.
If Mr. Moore has evinced too eager an anxiety to set out the best qualities of his friend to the brightest advantage, it ought to be recollected that no less was expected of him. The spirit of the times ran strong against Lord Byron, as a man; and it was natural that Mr. Moore should attempt to stem the tide. I respect the generosity with which he has executed his task. I think that he has made no striking misrepresentation; I even discern but
little exaggeration, although he has amiably chosen to paint only the sunny side: the limning is correct; but the likeness is too radiant and conciliatory.
There is one point with respect to the subsequent pages, on which I think it unnecessary to offer any explanation—the separation of Lord and Lady Byron. I have avoided, as much as I well could, every thing like the expression of an opinion on the subject. Mr. Moore has done all in his power to excuse his Lordship; and Lady Byron has protested against the correctness of his statement, without, however, assigning any reason for her own conduct, calculated to satisfy the public, who have been too indecorously, I conceive, made parties to the question.
But I should explain, that in omitting to notice the rancour with which Lord Byron was pursued by Dr. Southey, I have always considered his Lordship as the first aggressor. The affair is therefore properly comprehended in the general observations respecting the enemies whom the satire of English Bards and Scotch Reviewers provoked. I may add farther, in explanation, that I did not conceive any particular examination was required of his Lordship's minor poems, nor of his part in the controversy concerning the poetical genius of Pope.
Considering how much the conduct of Lord Byron has been in question, perhaps I ought to state, that I never stood on such a footing with his
Lordship, as to inspire me with any sentiment likely to bias my judgment. I am indebted to him for no other favours than those which a well-bred person of rank bestows in the interchange of civility. on a man who is of none; and that I do not undervalue the courtesy with which he ever treated me, will probably be apparent. I am gratificd with the recollection of having known a person so cele brated, and I believe myself incapable of intentional injustice. I can only regret the impression he made upon me, if it shall be thought I have spoken of him with prejudice.
It will be seen by a note, relative to a circumstance which took place in Lord Byron's conduct towards the Countess Guiccioli, that Mr. Hobhouse has enabled me to give two versions of an aflair not regarded by some of that lady's relations as having been marked by generosity ; but I could not expunge from the text what I had stated, having no reason to doubt the authenticity of my information. The reader is enabled to form his own opinion on the subject.
I cannot conclude without offering my best ac knowledgments to the learned and ingenious Mr. Nicolas, for the curious genealogical fact of a baton sinister being in the escutcheon of the Byrons of Newstead. Lord Byron, in his pride of birth, does not appear to have been aware of this stain.
N.B. Since this work was completed, a small
pamphlet, judiciously suppressed, has been placed in my hands, dated from the Chateau de Blonai, 20th August, 1825, in which Mr. Medwin vindicates the correctness of those statements in his conversations with Lord Byron, which Mr. Hobhouse had impugned in The Westminster Review. Had I seen it before expressing my opinion of Mr. Medwin's publication, I am not sure it would have in any degree affected that opinion, which was formed without reference to the errors imputed by Mr. Hobhouse.
London, 12th August, 1830.