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Ravenna, March 15. 1820. “ The life of a writer” has been said, by Pope, I believe, to be 5
a warfare upon
As far as my own experience has gone, I have nothing to say against the proposition ; and, like the rest, having once plunged into this state of hostility, must, however reluctantly, carry it on. An article has appeared in a periodical work, entitled “ Remarks on Don Juan,” which has been so full of this spirit, on the part of the writer, as to require some observations on mine.
In the first place, I am not aware by what right the writer assumes this work, which is anonymous, to be my production. He will answer, that there is internal evidence; that is to say, that there are passages which appear to be written in my name, or in my manner. But might not this have been done on purpose by another? He will say, why not then deny it? To this I could answer, that of all the things attributed to me within the last five years, — Pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Deaths upon Pale Horses, Odes to the Land of the Gaul, Adieus to England, Songs to Madame La Valette, Odes to St. Helena, Vampires, and what not, - of which, God knows, I never composed nor read a syllable beyond their titles in advertisements -I never thought it worth while to disavow any, except one which came linked with an account of my “residence in the Isle of Mitylene," where I never resided, and appeared to be carrying the amusement of those persons, who think my name can be of any use to them, a little too far.
I should hardly, therefore, if I did not take the trouble to disavow these things published in my name, and yet not mine, go out of my way to deny an anonymous work; which might appear an act of supererogation. With regard to Don Juan, I neither deny nor admit it to be mine every body may form their own opinion ; but, if there be any who now, or in the progress of that poem, if it is to be continued, feel, or should feel themselves so aggrieved as to require a more explicit answer, privately and personally, they shall have it.
I have never shrunk from the responsibility of what I have written, and have more than once incurred obloquy by neglecting to disavow what was attributed to my pen without foundation.
The greater part, however, of the “ Remarks on Don Juan" contain but little on the work itself, which receives an extraordinary portion of praise as a composition. With the exception of some quotations, and a few incidental remarks, the rest of the article is neither more nor less than a personal attack upon the imputed author. It is not the first in the same publication: for I recollect to have read, some time ago, similar remarks upon “ Beppo” (said to have been written by a celebrated northern preacher); in which the conclusion drawn was, that “ Childe Harold, Byron, and the Count in Beppo, were one and the same person;" thereby making me turn out to be, as Mrs. Malaprop (1) says, “ like Cerberus, three gentlemen at once.” That article was signed “ Presbyter Anglicanus;" which, I presume, being interpreted, means Scotch Presbyterian.() I must here observe, and it is at once ludicrous and vexatious to be compelled so frequently to repeat the same thing, - that my case, as an author, is peculiarly hard, in being everlastingly taken, or mistaken, for my own protagonist. It is unjust and particular. I never heard that my friend Moore was set down for a fire-worshipper on account of his Guebre; that Scott was identified with Roderick Dhu, or with Balfour of Burley; or that, notwithstanding all the magicians in Thalaba, any body has ever taken Mr. Southey for a conjuror; whereas I have had some difficulty in extricating me even from Manfred, who, as Mr. Southey slily observes in one of his articles in the Quarterly, “ met the devil on the Jungfrau, and bullied him (3):" and I answer
(1) [In Sheridan's comedy of “ The Rivals.”] (2) [See Blackwood, vol. iii. p. 329. Lord B., as it appears from one of his letters, ascribed this paper to the Rev. Dr. Chalmers !- E.]
(3) [“ As the passage was curtailed in the press, I take this opportunity of restoring it. In the Quarterly Review (vol. xxi. p. 366.), speaking inci dentally of the Jungfrau, I said, “ It was the scene where Lord Byron's Manfred met the devil, and bullied him though the devil must have won his cause before any tribunal in this world, or the next, if he had not pleaded more feebly for himself than his advocate, in a cause of canonisation, ever pleaded for him.'” - SOUTHEY.]
Mr. Southey, who has apparently, in his poetical life, not been so successful against the great enemy, that, in this, Manfred exactly followed the sacred precept, “ Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”—I shall have more to say on the subject of this person—not the devil, but his most humble servant Mr. Southey — before I conclude; but, for the present, I must return to the article in the Edinburgh Magazine.
In the course of this article, amidst some extraordinary observations, there occur the following words:
in short, as if this miserable man, having exhausted every species of sensual gratification, - having drained the cup of sin even to its bitterest dregs, were resolved to show us that he is no longer a human being even in his frailties, - but a cool, unconcerned fiend, laughing with a detestable glee over the whole of the better and worse elements of which human life is composed.” In another place there appears, "the lurking-place of his selfish and polluted exile.”—“ By my troth, these be bitter words!” — With regard to the first sentence, I shall content myself with observing, that it appears to have been composed for Sardanapalus, Tiberius, the Regent Duke of Orleans, or Louis XV.; and that I have copied it with as much indifference as I would a passage from Suetonius, or from any of the private memoirs of the regency, conceiving it to be amply refuted by the terms in which it is expressed, and to be utterly inapplicable to any private individual. On the words, “lurking-place,” and “selfish and polluted exile,” I have something more to say.—How far the capital city of a government, which survived the vicissitudes of thirteen hundred years, and might still have existed but for the treachery of Buonaparte, and the iniquity of his imitators,-a city, which was the emporium of Europe when London and Edinburgh were dens of barbarians, — may be termed a “lurking-place,” I leave to those who have seen or heard of Venice to decide. How far
have been “ polluted,” it is not for me to say, because the word is a wide one, and, with some of its branches, may chance to overshadow the actions of most men; but that it has been “selfish" I deny. If, to the extent of my means and my power, and my information of their calamities, to have assisted many miserable beings, reduced by the decay of the place of their birth, and their consequent loss of substance - if to have never rejected an application which appeared founded on truth—if to have expended in this manner sums far out of proportion to my fortune, there and elsewhere, be selfish, then have I been selfish. To have done such things I do not deem much; but it is hard indeed to be compelled to recapitulate them in my own defence, by such accusations as that before me, like a panel before a jury calling testimonies to his character, or a soldier recording his services to obtain his discharge. If the person who has made the charge of " selfishness” wishes to inform himself further on the subject, he may acquire, not what he would wish to find, but what will silence and shame him, by applying to the Consul-General of our nation, resident