Page images
PDF
EPUB

But what I have told is not to be gainsaid. Perhaps had I felt Lord Byron's conduct less than I did, I should have experienced less of it. Flattery might have done much with him; and I felt enough admiration of his talents, and sympathy with his common nature, to have given him all the delight of flattery without the insincerity of it, had it been possible. But nobody, who has not tried it, knows how hard it is to wish to love a man, and to find the enthusiasm of this longing worse than repelled. It was the death of my friend Shelley, and my own want of resources, that made me add this bitter discovery to the sum of my experience. The first time Lord Byron found I was in want, was the first time he treated me with disrespect. I am not captious: I have often been remonstrated with for not showing a stronger sense of enmity and ill-usage: but to be obliged, in the common sense of the word, and disobliged at the same time, not only in my, reasonablest expectations, but in the tenderest point of my nature, was what I could not help feeling, whether I had told the world of it or not. Besides, Lord Byron was not candid with me.

He suffered himself to take measures, and be open to representations, in which I was concerned, without letting me know : and I know of no safety of intercourse on these terms, especially where it should be all sincerity or nothing.

Nevertheless, I subscribe so heartily to a doctrine eloquently set forth* by Mr. Hazlitt, —that whatever is good and true in the works of a man of genius, eminently belongs to and is a part of him, let him partake as he will of common infirmities, that I cannot without regret think of the picture I have drawn of the infirmities of Lord Byron, common or uncommon, nor omit to set down this con

* “In the “ Plain Speaker," vol. ii. p. 418.

.

fession of an unwilling hand. Fecit mærens. Let it be turned against myself, if it ought. The same may be said of my remarks on Mr. Hazlitt. * If no man reduces himself to a greater necessity for it than he, by the waywardness and cruelty of his temper, no man deserves it more for the cuts and furrows

which his temper ploughs in his own face, and the worship which he pays to truth and beauty when it is not upon him. When we see great men capable of being inhuman in some things, while they are all over humanity in others, and add to the precious stock of human emotion, one is frightened to think what mistakes we may commit in our own self-knowledge. I, for one, willingly concede that the reader may know me better than myself, and punish me in his thought accordingly. Let me have only the benefit of the concession. I have been forced to give up, in my time, too many dreams of self-love, to deny myself the consolation of candour.

* Since writing this Preface, the article here alluded to has been omitted, though not on Mr. Hazlitt's account, or my own; for however I might regret speaking disagreeable truths of any man, much more of one whose unquestionable love of truth would have reconciled him to the hearing them, the article had quite enough of what was panegyrical in it to do him justice. But more readers might have mistaken the object of it, than was desirable; and Mr. Hazlitt is ready enough, at all times, to save others the necessity of exhibiting his defects. Twenty such articles would not have put an end to the good understanding between us; so genuine indeed is his love of truth, violently as his passions may sometimes lead him to mistake it.

The account of Lord Byron was not intended to stand first in the book. I should have kept it for a climax. My own reminiscences, I fear, coming after it, will be like bringing back the Moselle, after devils and Burgundy. Time also, as well as place, is violated; and the omission of a good part of the autobiography, and substitution of detached portraits for inserted ones, have given altogether a different look to the publication from what was contemplated at first. But my publisher thought it best; perhaps it is so : and I have only to hope, that in adding to the attractions of the title-page, it will not make the greater part of the work seem unworthy of it.

1

« PreviousContinue »