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· CHAPTER III. Lord Byron engages in another literary Controversy with Mr.
Southey, the Poet Laureat.-Mr. Southey attacks Lord B. in his preface to a poem, “ The Vision of Judgment.”—Lord B. replies in an appendix to “ Marino Faliero.”—Mr. Southey rejoins in the newspapers, and Lord Byron sur-rejoins in a periodical publication, « The Liberal.”—Mr. Southey's poem, “ The Vision of Judgment,” and Lord Byron's Parody on it, also called “ The Vision of Judgment.”—The publisher of the latter indicted for a Libel, and found guilty.Sentence on him.-A word to the wise, to Mr. Southey, if he will take it.
Lord Byron had now to enter again the controversial arena against a new antagonist, who įmnpugned not only his own moral character, and that of his writings, but included also in the charge some of his most intimate friends and dearest connexions. Mr. Southey had always felt considerably sore at his Lordship's irreverent mention of him in his “ Scotch Reviewers and English Bards," and this feeling was further irritated when Lord Byron (in his dispute with Mr. Bowles respecting Pope) had another fling at Mr. Southey's “ invariable principles," alluding to his change of sentiments, now that he was become Poet-Laureat, from what he entertained previously, when he wrote WAT TYLER AND MR. SOUTHEY.
“Wat Tyler,” &c. &c. Mr. Southey at length thought it incumbent upon himn to repel these aggressions, and in the preface to his work, entitled “ The Vision of Judgment,” he inveighs most bitterly against literary prostitution, and its demoralizing effects, to the following purport : “ For more than half a century English literature has been distinguished by its moral purity; the effect, and in its turn, the cause of an improvement in national manners. A father might, without apprehension of evil, have put into the hands of his children any book which issued from the press, if it did not bear either in its title-page or frontispiece manifest signs that it was intended as furniture for the brothel. There was no danger in any work which bore the name of a respectable publisher, or was to be procured at any respectable bookseller's. This was particularly the case with regard to our poetry. It was now no longer so ; and woe to those by whom the offence cometh !!!
Having thus laid his charge generally, Mr. Southey makes it fall obliquely, but so that the allusion should be sure not to be mistaken, on the head of Lord Byron, whom he designates as the .“ Coryphæus of the Satanic school,” all the mem-bers of which he resembles to the infidel writers of France, who occasioned all the horrors of the late Revolution. This was evidently a new edition of the old Anti-Jacobin hue and cry, and an attempt to make his own private dispute a public affair, by
luggingin all religious and moral men, and all lovers of order, to join in an outcry in defence of Church, King, and State, and (which was of infinitely more importance than all these put together) of—Mr. SOUTHEY himself!! “ Ego et Rex meus,” &c. In the appendix to the tragedy of the “ Two Foscari,” Lord Byron replies, and repels these charges (together with some others of a different nature) in the following terms:
“ In Lady Morgan's fearless and excellent work upon “ Italy," I perceive the expression of • Rome of the Ocean' applied to Venice. The same phrase occurs in the “ Two Foscari.” My publisher can vouch for me that the tragedy was written and sent to England some time before I had seen Lady Morgan's work, which I only received on the 16th of August. I hasten, however, to notice the coincidence, and to yield the originality of the phrase to her who first placed it be. fore the public. I am the more anxious to do this, as I am informed (for I have seen but few of the specimens, and those accidentally) that there have been lately brought against me charges of plagiarism. I have also had an anonymous sort of threatening intimation of the same kind, apparently with the intent of extorting money. To such charges I have no answer to make. One of them is ludicrous enough. I am reproached for having formed the description of a shipwreck in verse from the narratives of many actual shipwrecks LOWER ORDERS OF GRUB-STREET.
in prose, selecting such materials as were most striking Gibbon makes it a merit in Tasso
to have copied the minutest details of the Siege of Jerusalem from the Chronicles.' In me it may be a demerit, I presume; let it remain so. Whilst I have been occupied in defending Pope's character, the lower orders of Grub-street appear to have been assailing mine : this is as it should be, both in them and in me. One of the accusations in the nameless epistle alluded to is still more laughable: it states seriously that I received five hundred pounds for writing advertisements for Day and Martin's patent blacking!' This is the highest compliment to my literary powers which I ever received. It also states that a person has been trying to make acquaintance with Mr. Townsend, a gentleman of the law, who was with me in Venice on business, three years ago, for the purpose of obtaining any defamatory particulars of my life from this occasional visitor.' Mr. Townsend is welcome to say what he knows. I mention these particulars merely to show the world in general what the literary lower world contains, and their way of setting to work. Another charge made, I am told, in the “ Literary Gazette,” is, that I wrote the notes to “ Queen Mab;" a work which I never saw till some time after its publication, and which I recollect showing to Mr. Sotheby, as a work of great power and imagination. I never wrote a line of the notes, nor ever saw them ex78
MR. SOUTHEY'S PIOUS PREFACE,
cept in their published form. No one knows better than their real author, that his opinions and mine differ materially upon the metaphysical portion of that work; though in common with all wlio are not blinded by baseness and bigotry, I highly admire the poetry of that and his other publications.
“ Mr. Southey, too, in his pious preface to a poem, whose blasphemy is as harmless as the sedition of “ Wat Tyler,” because it is equally absurd with that sincere production, calls upon the “ legis· lature to look to it,' as the toleration of such writings led to the French Revolution : not such writings as “Wat Tyler,' but as those of the “Satanic school.' This is not true, and Mr. Southey knows it to be not true. Every French writer of any freedom was persecuted ; Voltaire and Rousseau were exiles, Marmontel and Diderot were sent to the Bastile, and a perpetual war was waged with the whole class by the existing despotism. In the next place, the French Revolution was not occasioned by any writings whatsoever, but must have occurred had no such writers ever existed. It is the fashion to attribute every thing to the French Revolution, and the French Revolution to every thing but its real cause. That cause is obvious—the Government exacted too much, and the people could neither give nor bear more. Without this, the Encyclopedists might have written their fingers off without