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A COMPARISON BY CONTRASTS
“Abbot” of Newstead Abbey. But Byron and his friends, it need hardly be said, were never Thelemites in the sense understood and realised by the “Franciscans."]——to Kean the actor [by Mrs Piozzi, possibly, who in a letter written to D' Gray, September 1st, 1820, says of Kean and of Byron,
They seem to be kindred souls, delighting in distortion, and mistaking it for pathos”]—to Alfieri, etc., etc., etc. The likeness to Alfieri was asserted very seriously by an Italian, who had known him in his younger days: it of course related merely to our apparent personal dispositions. He did not assert it to me (for we were not then good friends), but in society.
The Object of so many contradictory comparisons must probably be like something different from them ali; but what that is, is more than I know, or any body else. My Mother, before I was twenty, would have it that I was like Rousseau, and Madame de Staël used to say so too, in 1813, and the Edin“. Review has something of the sort in its critique on the 4th Canto of Ch" Had. I can't see any point of resemblance : he wrote prose, I verse: he was of the people, I of the Aristocracy: he was a philosopher, I am none : he published his first work at forty, I mine at eighteen: his first essay brought him universal applause, mine the contrary : he married his housekeeper, I could not keep house with my wife : he thought all the world in a plot against him, my little world seems to think me in a plot against it, if I may judge by their abuse in print and coterie : he liked Botany, I like flowers, and herbs, and trees, but know nothing of their pedigrees : he wrote Music,
I limit my knowledge of it to what I catch by EarI never could learn any thing by study, not even a language, it was all by rote and ear and memory : he had a bad memory, I had at least an excellent one (ask Hodgson the poet, a good judge, for he has an astonishing one): he wrote with hesitation and care, I with rapidity and rarely with pains : he could never ride nor swim“ nor was cunning of fence,” I am an excellent swimmer, a decent though not at all a dashing rider (having staved in a rib at eighteen in the course of scampering), and was sufficient of fenceparticularly of the Highland broad-sword; not a bad boxer when I could keep my temper, which was difficult, but which I strove to do ever since I knocked down M* Purling and put his knee-pan out (with the gloves on) in Angelo's and Jackson's rooms in 1806 during the sparring; and I was besides a very fair cricketer-one of the Harrow Eleven when we play[ed] against Eton in 1805. Besides, Rousseau's way of life, his country, his manners, his whole character, were so very different, that I am at a loss to conceive how such a comparison could have arisen, as it has done three several times, and all in rather a remarkable manner. I forgot to say, that he was also short-sighted, and that hitherto my eyes have been the contrary to such a degree, that, in the largest theatre of Bologna, I distinguished and read some busts and inscriptions painted near the stage, from a box so distant, and so darkly lighted, that none of the company (composed of young and very bright-eyed people--some of them in the same box) could make out a letter, and thought it was a trick, though I had never been in the theatre before.
MRS BYRON'S “ DIABOLICAL DISPOSITION"
Altogether, I think myself justified in thinking the comparison not well-founded. I don't say this out of pique, for Rousseau was a great man, and the thing if true were flattering enough; but I have no idea of being pleased with a chimera.
(1821, October 15. Commencement of
“Detached Thoughts,” Vol. V., p. 407.)
(2) His Disposition as warped by his Mother's
ciolent temper I seize this interval of my amiable mother's absence this afternoon, again to inform you, or rather to desire to be informed by you, of what is going on. For my own part I can send nothing to amuse you, excepting a repetition of my complaints against my tormentor, whose diabolical disposition (pardon me for staining my paper with so harsh a word) seems to increase with age, and to acquire new force with Time. The more I see of her the more my dislike augments; nor can I so entirely conquer the appearance of it, as to prevent her from perceiving my opinion ; this, so far from calming the Gale, blows it into a hurricane, which threatens to destroy everything, till exhausted by its own violence, it is lulled into a sullen torpor, which, after a short period, is again roused into fresh and revived phrenzy, to me most terrible, and to every other Spectator astonishing. She then declares that she plainly sees I hate her, that I am leagued with her bitter enemies, viz., Yourself, La C[arlisle] and M' H[anson), and, as I never Dissemble or contradict her, we honoured with a multiplicity of epithets, too numerous,
and some of them too gross, to be repeated. In this society, and in this amusing and instructive manner, have I dragged out a weary fortnight, and am condemned to pass another or three weeks as happily as the former. No captive Negro, or Prisoner of war, ever looked forward to their emancipation, and return to Liberty with more Joy, and with more lingering expectation, than I do to my escape from this maternal bondage, and this accursed place, which is the region of dullness itself, and more stupid than the banks of Lethe, though it possesses contrary qualities to the river of oblivion, as the detested scenes I now witness, make me regret the happier ones already passed, and wish their restoration.
Such, Augusta, is the happy life I now lead, such my amusements. I wander about hating everything I behold, and if I remained here a few months longer, I should become, what with ency, spleen, and all uncharitableness, a complete misanthrope.
(1804, August 18, Burgage Manor. Letter
11, to the Hon. Augusta Byron, Vol. I., p. 30.)
I left my mother at Southwell, some time since, in a monstrous pet with you for not writing. I am sorry to say the old lady and myself don't agree like lambs in a meadow, but I believe it is all my own fault, I am rather too fidgety, which my precise mama objects to, we differ, then argue, and to my shame be it spoken, fall out a little, however, after a storm comes a calm.
(1804, October 25. Letter 13, to the Hon.
Augusta Byron, Vol. I., p. 40.)
BYRON AND LORD GREY DE RUTHYN
You say that you shall write to the Dowager Soon; her address is at Southwell, that I need hardly inform you. Now, Augusta, I am going to tell you a secret, perhaps I shall appear undutiful to you, but, believe me, my affection for you is founded on a more firm basis. My mother has lately behaved to me in such an eccentric manner, that so far from feeling the affection of a Son, it is with difficulty I can restrain my dislike. Not that I can complain of want of liberality; no, She always supplies me with as much money as I can spend, and more than most boys hope for or desire. But with all this she is so hasty, so impatient, that I dread the approach of the holidays, more than most boys do their return from them. In former days she spoilt me; now she is altered to the contrary; for the most trifling thing, she upbraids me in a most outrageous manner, and all our disputes have been lately heightened by my one with that object of my cordial, deliberate, detestation, Lord Grey de Ruthyn. She wishes me to explain my reasons for disliking him, which I will never do; would I do it to any one, be assured you, my dear Augusta, would be the first who would know them. She also insists on my being reconciled to him, and once she let drop such an odd expression that I was half inclined to believe that the dowager was in love with him. But I hope not, for he is the most disagreeable person in my opinion) that exists. Ile called once during my last vacation; she threatened, stormed, begged me to make it up
'he himself loved me, and wished it;” but my reason was so excellent—that neither had effect, nor would I speak or stay in the same room, till he took his