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Conversations of Lord Byron noted during a Residence with his Lord

ship at Pisa, in the Years 1821 and 1822. By THOMAS MEDWIN, Esq. of the 24th Light Dragoons. Syo. Pp. 542. London,

Colburn. 1824. Recollections of the Life of Lord Byron, from the Year 1808 to the end of

1814; exhibiting his early Character, fc. Taken from authentic
Documents in the Possession of the Author. By the late R. C. DALLAS,

Esq. 8vo. Pp. 344. London. Knight. 1824.
Notes on Captain Medwin's Conversations of Lord Byron. 1824.

ARBUTINOT called Curl “ a new terror of death,” for he wrote a memoir of every notable person who died during his time. But the sable king comes on us now with augmented terrors ; for the generation of Curls has multiplied, and no man can be sure of his character an hour after the physician has received his final fee. Formerly the last office of friendship was to see the man quietly inurned; but the friendship of our days is of a more enduring cast, it adjourns from the cemetery, only to renew its sorrows in the counting-house, and smit with the love of the departed, and of pounds, shillings, and pence, weeps a testimonial quarto, compiled of all the frivolities, offences, and meannesses of the dead, in honour of his memory.

For the last half dozen years, the world had grown sick of Lord Byron. His endless, cureless, and monotonous distresses, his reckless resignation to the torrent of calamity that was perpétually drenching him, his heart regularly broken afresh for the publishing season, had fatigued even the young sympathies of the boarding-schools, and general sempstresship of the land. With the more mature class of cognoscenti, all mention of his



Lordship had long dropped away, he was an exhausted subject. Several years had elapsed since he had rung the last endurable changes upon metaphysics and blasphemy. The polite ear was tired of "Goddess Nature” and the loveliness of Atheism, the agonies of the noble writer himself, and the injured virtues of the devil. A newer licentiousness too had succeeded. In short, the “ Letters to Julia" extinguished him.

With the public mind of England, his Lordship was sunk still deeper. It might have laughed at his sorrows, and despised his unbelief, the one as a paltry affectation, and the other as a vulgar absurdity; but its more incurable disdain was founded on the bitterness, meanness, and duplicity of the individual; the low malevolence with which he made it the business of his life to insult the woman whom he was bound to protect and honour, and on whose property he was actually living; the heartless and silly acrimony with which he libelled his country, and the demoralized and contemptible career of his domestic life, always discoverable in his writings, but of later years proclaimed with a barefaced and ostentatious defiance, that could have had no other object than public insult and public corruption.

But the offender died; it was his interest to be forgotten, and that common process was rapidly passing upon him, when it lucklessly occurred to some of his associates to revive his memory, and they have done it, as effectually as a surgeon or an executioner would do it, by digging up the body and gibbeting the skeleton.

We protest against this practice, as unfair even to Lord Byron. If it be desirable that the absurd and empty interest which might still exalt him and his vices into a model, should be convinced of its folly; that the varnish and charlatanry with which no man was more studious of investing his character, should be stripped off; and that this clever and contemptible peer should be seen, no longer in his own theatrical costume, the man of mysterious misery, looking all sublime scorn, trampling on the honours and emoluments of a thing so mean as human society, and contemptuous of its little love and hate, censure or praise; but, in the truth of his nature, as pursuing praise and profit with a feverish and ridiculous anxiety, fawning on criticism, surrounding himself with a circle of sycophants, nervously alive to every breath of English popularity, and painfully toiling to sustain his decaying reputation by a multitude of petty contrivances, until he played his last grand card for fame, and established a junto for the regular periodical propagation of treason and blasphemy.


Still we must think it unfair, that this should be told piecemeal, that Lord Byron, or any other man, should be dragged before the public, and put on his trial on his own words; or that, whatever might have been his lordship's debt to public decency, it should be exacted from his own casual and unprepared confessions. For Captain Medwin, Mr. Dallas, and the other cloud of biographers with whom we are threatened, there can be but one plea; that lord Byron was acquainted with their intentions to journalize him. Yet, if they can offer this, it follows, that the “ Conversations” lose even their trivial use as discoveries of his mind, and are as artificial and as much made up for sale

any other work of the author. Boswell did this, and transmitted to the world a collection of Ramblers and Idlers in embryo, as much intended for the mart and as little implying personal sincerity, as the “Life of Savage," or the

History of Rasselas, prince of Abyssinia." He was not eminently honoured, we will allow, for this meek and assiduous clerkship. He sits in a niche of ridicule, which he will probably tenant for a long while. “Sedet æternumque sedebit infelix.” But he trespassed on no careless hour. The speaker and the scribbler both knew perfectly well what they were about, and Boswell only took the pen from Johnson's hand. In all other points of view we must deprecate in the strongest manner the prevailing habit of doing honour, to a man's memory.

Captain Medwin's book is a desultory journal of fragments of conversations with lord Byron; compiled with all the apparatus of dates and localities generally indicative of a determination to publish; a determination, however, which the captain disowns ; stating that his reason for having recourse to print was the burning of the memoirs. We cannot join him in his lament for the loss of a work which its author described as containing the detail of the most licentious part of his life. That such memoirs should never have been written, or that once written, the best thing to do with them was to burn them, will be the general opinion. The world has, we will acknowledge, thus lost much bitter reflection on individuals, his lordship's bosom friends; much frivolous and peevish declamation against England and human nature, and, more precious than all, much gross narrative of personal profligacy. Over so calamitous a loss we cannot prevail upon our sensibilities to join with those of the captain; the ashes of this holocaust will, we fear, be refreshed with no sorrows from our eyes. Yet the history of the loves of my lord and “ the Guiccioli” may kandsomely compensate for the orgies of Bond-street and

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Newstead abbey. Captain Medwin seems even to have some presentiment of these matters, and presumes that “ he shall

. have to contend with much obloquy from some parts of his (lord Byron's) family, and incur the animosity of many of his friends.' He further concludes that there will be authors who will not be pleased to find themselves in print, or hear his real opinion of themselves or their works. And all this is no doubt perfectly the case. Why then does not the writer suppress this gratuitous offence? The reason is curious.“ He meant neither to throw a veil over lord Byron's errors, nor a gloss over his virtues.” Thus his only way to do justice to the dead, is to assist him in publishing insults on the living.

Captain Medwin went to Italy in the latter part of 1821. He found lord Byron, who had been hitherto attended by Rogers, (the indefatigable, inalienable, and much-ridiculed Rogers!) at Pisa. There one Fidus Achates' was succeeded by another, not less ridiculed, and his lordship's immediate hangeron was atheist Shelley, accompanied by the philosophical daughter of the philosophical Mary Wolstoncroft

, and her not less philosophical sister, altogether forming a very poetical, philosophical, pleasurable, and, of course, perfectly moral association. Into this happy coterie the captain was introduced by Shelley; and his lordship received the stranger with lordly condescension. The reception speech seems to have been amusingly modelled on the imperial brevity of his favourite and “counterpart,” Napoleon! “ You are a relation and schoolfellow of Shelley's ? — We do not meet as strangers !

· You must allow me to continue my letter, on account of the post ! Here his speech to Medwin closed. He then turned to business, and Shelley. “ Here's something for you to read, Shelley, (giving him a part of his MSS. of Heaven and Earth,') tell me what you think of it." Shelley, thus dismissed, retired to do his duty; and his master thenceforth occupied himself in his despatches, leaving the individual who had thus the honour of being introduced, leisure to examine his physiognomy, which the captain does with solemn delight, ending with an investigation into his lordship's "cloven foot,” as he entitles it; which, however, as his lordship wore shoes, the investigator was left to discover in other ways.

In the evening his lordship led the way to the extraordinary, but as it appears habitual, "study,” as the captain calls it, of firing at a mark, as a preparative, of course, for killing his man, on an emergency, and the discourse naturally turned on duel ling, of which his lordship was an advocate, and talked of having fought twice, "once with Hobhouse." That he either

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