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"The precepts here of a divine old man

I could recount."


CALLED on Mr. N——; had, as usual, an interesting conversation. Spoke of some account of Lord Byron in a newspaper, which he thought must be like. "The writer says, he did not wish to be thought merely a great poet. My sister said, 'What then did he wish to be thought? Why, I'll tell you; he wished to be something different from every body else. As to nobility, there were many others before him, so that he could not rely upon that; and then, as to poetry, there are so many wretched creatures that come under the name, that he looked at it with disgust: he thought himself as distinct from them as the stars in the firmament. It comes to what Sir Joshua used to say, that a man who is at the head of his profession is above it. I remember being at Cosway's, where they were recommending some charitable institution for the relief of decayed artists; and I said, I would not be of it, for it was holding out a temptation to idleness, and bringing those into the profession who were not fit for it. Some one who wanted to flatter me said, 'I wonder you should talk in this manner, who are under such obligations to the art!' And I said immediately, 'If I am to take your compliment as I believe it is meant, I might answer that it is the art that is under obligations to me, not I to it. Do you suppose that Rubens, Titian, and others, were under obligations to the art-they who raised it from obscurity and made it all that it is? What would the art be without these?' The world, as Miss Reynolds used to say, with reference to her brother, think no more of a painter than they do of a fiddler, or a dancing-master, or a piano-forte maker. And so of a poet. I have always said of that dispute about burying Lord Byron in

* I differ from my great original and predecessor (James Boswell, Esq. of Auchinleck) in this, that whereas he is supposed to have invented nothing, I have feigned whatever I pleased. I have forgotten, mistaken, mis-stated, altered, transposed a number of things. All that can be relied upon for certain is a striking anecdote or a sterling remark or two in each page. These belong as a matter of right to my principal speaker: the rest I have made for him by interpolating or paraphrasing what he said. My object was to catch the tone and manner, rather than to repeat the exact expressions, or even opinions; just as it is possible to recognise the voice of an acquaintance without distinguishing the particular words he uses. Sometimes I have allowed an acute or a severe remark to stand without the accompanying softenings or explanations, for the sake of effect; and at other times added whole passages without any foundation, to fill up space. For instance, there is a dissertation on heraldry at p. 75-6, the particulars and the Tory turn of which are entirely my own. My friend Mr. N is a determined Whig. I have, however, generally taken him as my lay-figure or model, and worked upon it, selon mon gré, by fancying how he would express himself on any occasion, and making up a conversation according to this preconception in my mind. I have also introduced little incidental details that never happened; thus, by lying, giving a greater air of truth to the scene-an art understood by most historians! In a word, Mr. Nis only answerable for the wit, sense, and spirit there may be in these papers: I take all the dulness, impertinence, and malice upon myself. He has furnished the text-I fear I have often spoiled it by the commentary. Or (to give it a more favourable turn) I have expanded him into a book, as another friend has continued the history of the Honeycombs down to the present period. My Dialogues are done much upon the same principle as the Family Journal: I shall be more than satisfied if they are thought to possess but half the spirit and verisimilitude. J. B. R. August--VOL. XVIII. NO. LXVIII.


Poet's Corner, that he would have resisted it violently if he could have known of it. Not but there were many very eminent names there, with whom he would like to be associated; but then there were others that he would look down upon. If they had laid him there, he would have got up again. No, I'll tell you where they should have laid him--if they had buried him with the Kings in Henry VII.'s Chapel, he would have had no objection to that!-One cannot alter the names of things, or the opinions of the world respecting them, to suit one's convenience. I once went with Hoppner to the hustings to vote for Horne Tooke; and when they asked me what I was, I said, a painter. At this Hoppner was very mad all the way home, and said I should have called myself a portrait-painter. I said, the world had no time to trouble their heads about such distinctions. I afterwards asked Kemble, who said I was right, that he always called himself a player, &c." I then said, I had been to the play with G. and his daughter, from the last of whom I had learnt something about Lord Byron's conversation. "What!" he said, "the beauty-daughter?" I said, "Do you think her a beauty then?" "Why no, she rather thinks herself one, and yet there is something about her that would pass for such. Girls generally find out where to place themselves. She's clever, too; isn't she?" "Oh! yes." "What did she tell you about Lord Byron ? because I'm curious to know all about him." "I asked her if it was true that Lord Byron's conversation was so poor as F represented it? She at first misunderstood me, and said, nothing could be meaner than he was, and gave some instances of it. I said, That was not what I meant; that I could believe any thing of that kind of him; that whatever he took in his head he would carry to extremes, regardless of every thing but the feeling of the moment; but that I could not conceive him to be in conversation, or in any other way, a flat and commonplace person. 'Oh! no,' she said, 'he was not. F was hardly a fair judge. The other had not behaved well to him, and whenever they met, F―― always began some kind of argument, and as Lord Byron could not argue (nor indeed Feither, for that matter,) they made but a bad piece of business of it, and it ended unsatisfactorily for all parties.' I said, I suspected as much: F—was too apt to put people to their trumps, or to force them upon doing not what they could do, but what he thought he could do. But he not only gave his own opinion, but made you and your husband accomplices in it. He said, Mr. S-could just endure Lord Byron's company. This seemed to me odd; for though he might be neither orator nor philosopher, yet any thing he might say, or only stammer out in broken sentences, must be interesting a glance, a gesture would be full of meaning; or he would make one look about one like the tree in Virgil, that expressed itself by groans. To this she assented, and observed, 'At least Sand myself found it so; for we generally sat with him till morning. He was perhaps a little moody and reserved at first; but by touching on certain strings, he began to unbend, and gave the most extraordinary accounts of his own feelings and adventures that could be imagined. Besides, he was very handsome, and it was some satisfaction to look at a head at once so beautiful and expressive!' I repeated what F―― told me, that when he and Byron met in Italy, they did not know one another; he himself from having grown so thin, and Byron from having

grown so fat, like a great chubby school-boy-a circumstance which shocked his lordship so much that he took to drinking vinegar at a great rate, that he might recover the figure of the stripling god. I said, I was sorry I had taken some things that F-- had reported of Lord Byron in good earnest, such as his saying, 'He never cared for any thing above a day,'-which might be merely in a fit of spleen, or from the spirit of contradiction, or to avoid an imputation of sentimentality." “Öh!” said N—, "that will never do, to take things literally that are uttered in a moment of irritation. You do not express your own opinion, but one as opposite as possible to that of the person that has provoked you. You get as far from a coxcomb or a fool as you can, just as you turn off the pavement to get out of the way of a chimneysweeper; but it is not to be supposed you prefer walking in the mud, for all that! I have often been ashamed myself of speeches I have made in that way, which have been repeated to me as good things, when all I ineant was, that I would say any thing sooner than agree to the nonsense or affectation I heard. You then set yourself against what you think a wrong bias in another, and are not like a wall but a buttress-as far from the right line as your antagonist; and the more absurd he is, the more so do you become. Before you believe what any one says, you should ask, Was he talking to a fool or a wise man? No, F would make Lord Byron tributary to him, or would make him out to be nothing. I wonder you can admire such people. You have put him in your book too. I am sure if such as he are to pass for shining characters, you might fill up five hundred volumes at least. That kind of poetry is always to be had in the market. It isn't writing verses, or painting a picture,--that, as Sir Joshua used to say, every body can do: but it is the doing something more than any body else can do that entitles the poet or the artist to distinction, or makes the work live. But these people shut themselves up in a little circle of their own, and fancy all the world are looking at them." I said, F had been a little spoiled by flattery when he was young. “Oh, no,” he said, "it was not that. Sir Joshua was not spoiled by flattery, and yet he had as much of it as any body need have; but he was looking out to see what the world said of him, or thinking what figure he should make by the side of Correggio or Vandyke, not pluming himself on being a better painter than some one in the next street, or being surprised that the people at his own table spoke in praise of his pictures. It is a little mind that is taken up with the nearest object, or puffed up with immediate notice: to do any thing great, we must look out of ourselves and see things upon a broader scale."


I told N—— I had promised F-- I would bring him to see him; and then, said I, you would think as favourably of him as I do, and every body else that knows him. "But you didn't say any thing in my praise to induce him to come ?"-"Oh, yes! I exerted all my eloquence."" That wasn't the way. You should have said I was a poor creature, perhaps amusing for half an hour or so, or curious to see, like a little dried mummy in a museum: but he would not hear of your having two idols! Depend upon it, he'll not come. Such characters only want to be surrounded with satellites or echoes. They reduce all excellence to themselves and their school; hate or despise every thing else, and that is one reason they never improve. True genius, as well

as wisdom, is ever docile, humble, vigilant, and ready to acknowledge the merit it seeks to appropriate from every quarter. That was Fuseli's mistake. Nothing was good enough for him, that was not a repetition of himself. So once when I told him of a very fine Vandyke, he made answer,' And what is it?-A little bit of colour. I wouldn't go across the way to see it.' On my telling this to Sir Joshua, he said,— 'Ay, he'll repent it! he'll repent it!' Wordsworth is another of those who would narrow the universe to their own standard. It is curious to see how hard you labour to prop him up too, and seem to fancy he will live."—" I think he stands a better chance than Lord Byron. He has added one original feature to our poetry, which the other has not; and this, you know, Sir, by your own rule, gives him the best title."-"Yes, but the little bit that he has added is not enough. None but great objects can be seen at a distance. If posterity looked at it with your eyes, they might think his poetry curious and pretty. But consider how many Sir Walter Scotts, how many Lord Byrons, how many Dr. Johnsons there will be in the next hundred years; how many reputations will rise and sink in that time; and do you think, amid these conflicting and important claims, such trifles as descriptions of daisies and ideotboys (however well they may be done) will not be swept away in the tide of time, like straws and weeds by the torrent? No, the world can only keep in view the principal and most perfect productions of human ingenuity; such works as Dryden's, Pope's, and a few others, that from their unity, their completeness, their polish, have the stamp of immortality upon them, and seem indestructible like an element of nature. There are few of these: I fear your friend Wordsworth is not one."

I said, I thought one circumstance against him was the want of popularity in his life-time. Few people made much noise after their deaths who did not do so while they were living. Posterity could not be supposed to rake into the records of past times for the Illustrious Obscure, and only ratified or annulled the lists of great names handed down to them by the voice of common Fame. Few people recovered from the neglect or obloquy of their contemporaries. The public would hardly be at the pains to try the same cause twice over, or did not like to reverse its own sentence, at least when on the unfavourable side. There was Hobbes, for instance: he had a bad name while living, and it was of no use to think at this time of day of doing him justice. While the priests and politicians were tearing him in pieces for his atheism and arbitrary principles, Mr. Locke stole his philosophy from him; and I would fain see any one restore it to the right owner. Quote the passages one by one, show that every principle of the modern metaphysical system was contained in Hobbes, and that all that succeeding writers have done, was to deduce from Mr. Locke's imperfect concessions the very consequences, "armed all in proof," that already existed in an entire and unmutilated state in his predecessor, and you shall the next day hear Mr. Locke spoken of as the father of English philosophy as currently and confidently as if not the shadow of a doubt had ever been started on the subject. Mr. Hobbes, by the boldness and comprehensiveness of his views, had shocked the prejudices, and drawn down upon his head the enmity of his contemporaries: Mr. Locke, by going more cautiously to work, and only admitting as much at a time as the public mind would bear, prepared the way for the rest

of Mr. Hobbes's philosophy, and for a vast reputation for himself, which nothing can impugn. Stat nominis umbra. The world are too far off to distinguish names from things, and call Mr. Locke the first of English philosophers, as they call a star by a particular name, because others call it so. They also dislike to have their confidence in a great name destroyed, and fear that by displacing one of their favoured idols from its niche in the Temple of Fame, they may endanger the whole building.

N." Why I thought Hobbes stood as high as any body. I have always heard him spoken of in that light. It is not his capacity that people dispute, but they object to his character. The world will not encourage vice, for their own sakes, and they give a casting-vote in favour of virtue. Mr. Locke was a modest, conscientious inquirer after truth, and the world had sagacity to see this and to be willing to give him a hearing; the other, I conceive, was a bully, and a bad man into the bargain, and they did not want to be bullied into truth or to sanction licentiousness. This is unavoidable; for the desire of knowledge is but one principle of the mind. It was the same with Tom Paine. Nobody can deny that he was a very fine writer and a very sensible man; but he flew in the face of a whole generation, and no wonder that they were too much for him, and that his name is become a by-word with such multitudes, for no other reason than that he did not care what offence he gave them by contradicting all their most inveterate prejudices. If you insult a room full of people, you will be kicked out of it. So neither will the world at large be insulted with impunity. If you tell a whole country that they are fools and knaves, they will not return the compliment by crying you up as the pink of wisdom and honesty. Nor will those who come after be very apt to take up your quarrel. It was not so much Paine's being a republican or an unbeliever, as the manner in which he brought his opinions forward, which showed self-conceit and want of feeling, that subjected him to obloquy. People did not like the temper of the man: it falls under the article of moral virtue. There are some reputations that are great, merely because they are amiable. There is Dr. Watts: look at the encomiums passed on him by Dr. Johnson; and yet to what, according to his statement, does his merit amount? Why only to this, that he did that best which none can do well, and employed his talents uniformly for the welfare of mankind. He was a good man, and the voice of the public has given him credit for being a great one. world may be forced to do homage to great talents, but they only bow willingly to these when they are joined with benevolence and modesty ; nor will they put weapons into the hands of the bold and unprincipled sophist to be turned against their own interests and wishes." I said, there was a great deal in the manner of bringing truth forward to influence its reception with the reader; for not only did we resent unwelcome novelties advanced with an insolent and dogmatical air, but we were even ready to give up our favourite opinions, when we saw them advocated in a harsh and intolerant manner by those of our own party, sooner than submit to the pretensions of blindfold presumption. If any thing could make me a bigot, it would be the arrogance of the free-thinker; if any thing could make me a slave, it would be the sordid sneering fopperies and sweeping clauses of the liberal party. Renegadoes are generally made so, not by the overtures of their ad


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