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Love Alone Is Lord 183

gentleman of the age. Before Childe Harold's
Pilgrimage had been published more than a week,
Society became overcrowded with Childe Harolds
young men affecting an air of dignified gloom,
talking vaguely of remorse, and hinting at secret
crime, and the hollowness of pleasure. They
wore cloaks. They were an intolerable nuisance
to their friends.

At the interval between the first and second
acts, all lorgnettes were turned in the direction
of the box where Byron and Moore sat. Moore
kept well to the front and waved his hand to his
many friends in the house. He saw no reason
why he should rest in the shade simply because
he happened to be on terms of pleasant famil-
iarity with a poet who was also a peer. He made
a good-humoured foil for his friend. Moore was
full in the light and greatly conspicuous, but
Byron sat remote. Only now and again there
was a gleam of the candle-light upon his features ;
they stood out momentarily from the gloom, and
lapsed into the gloom again. This was just the
effect that was in keeping with the impression
which his poem had made. An atmosphere a
twilight of mystery surrounded him. There he
was, a thing of shadows, seen one moment and
vanishing the next silent reserved living in
another world.

He never posed for an instant. He sat in the
half-light because he liked half-lights, and he sat
remote, because he had never quite got rid of his

1 84 Love Alone Is Lord

early shyness. He made no attempt to heighten
the effect of his own personality. He knew that
there was no need for him to do so ; everyone in
the theatre was looking in his direction, and when
there was a gleam on his face, he could hear the
whispers of startled delight that came from the
lips of young women.

It was only when Lord Holland came to the
box that he shifted his position, and began to talk
with some degree of animation.

Mr. Sheridan, who was in a box with his friend
Rogers, laughed pleasantly when the latter said:

" I do not think that I ever before saw so many
young women in the theatre. Can you account
for it?"

' 'T is the simplest thing in the world, sir," said
Sheridan. "Virgo, the Maiden, follows Leo, the
Lion, in society as well as in the Zodiac."

"You think that they came in expectation of
seeing Byron?" said Rogers.

" Colman took good care to advertise his coming
to see Kean to-night," said Sheridan. " 'T is such
enterprise as this fills the house. Who is it that
will traduce the taste of the English people and say
that there is no genuine appreciation of Shake-
speare in this country, when Kean plays Richard
to such a packed house ? Ah ! Shakespeare is very
dear to the English people. All you have to do is
to get the most popular man of the hour to accept
a box and let the thing be properly announced,
and Shakespeare will attract his thousands."

Love Alone Is Lord 185

" You will have to invite Lord Byron to Drury
Lane when the theatre is rebuilt," said Rogers.

"What, in eighteen months' time? My dear
sir, this comet called Byron will have been swal-
lowed up by the sun, long before I have been paid
the last instalment of my fire insurance," said
Sheridan. " We shall have to look out for some-
thing less meteoric."

" They say that Mr. Southey means to write you
a play," said Rogers.

" Let him. I '11 promise to produce it on what-
ever day Bonaparte agrees to take a box. Nothing
less than the presence of Bonaparte in a box would
draw the public to see a play of Mr. Southey 's,"
said Sheridan.

Rogers laughed. " I am afraid, then, that Mr.
Southey will remain unacted," he said.

"There's no need," said Sheridan. "If you
only exert yourself, Mr. Rogers, I am confident
that you will succeed in bringing about a recon-
ciliation between Bonaparte and Great Britain.
Look at what you have already accomplished.
Some of us got hold of Moore a year ago and tried
to persuade him that he had been grossly affronted
by Byron in his Satire, and that it was necessary
for him to send a challenge to his lordship. It
was you, with your infernal good nature, who
asked them to breakfast with you, and so spoiled
our laugh, and now Tommy and his lordship are
inseparable. I 'faith, sir, I believe that it was your
cursed interference that reconciled Lord Holland

1 86 Love Alone Is Lord

and the satirist. By my soul, Rogers, if Byron were
to write of me as he did of the Hollands, I would
have put a bullet through him, after I had bor-
rowed from you as much as would pay for the
lead. Your peace-making is becoming a scandal,
Rogers. If you go on much longer you will be as-
sassinated by the gun-makers. Give us a new edi-
tion of Pleasures of Memory, and tell us in proper
order of the triumphs of your breakfast table."

Then the curtain rose upon the second act and
Kean, hunch-backed and bow-kneed, limped upon
the stage, the malignancy in his eyes being intensi-
fied when he found that the audience had not yet
settled down after their interval of staring at Byron.

"You are not going away?" said Rogers, as
Sheridan gave signs of departing.

"Kean makes a good Gloster, but I have seen
Garrick in the part," said Sheridan.

Rogers watched him leave with great serious-
ness. He shook his head after he had disappeared.
He knew that it was not a matter of sentiment that
took Sheridan away, but a matter of claret.

Before Kean had come to the end of the solilo-
quy, he had his audience within the hollow of his
hand; and he knew it. This was his triumph.
The management had told him that he was sure
of a good house because they had advertised that
Lord Byron would attend the performance of
Richard III., and he knew quite well that the poet
would attract more attention than the stage-
yes, for some time. But Kean also knew that he

Love Alone Is Lord 187

had nothing to fear from the rivalry of Byron.
He had a greater poet than Byron on his side
though he had no great confidence in the discrim-
ination of the public on this point, and he had
the power of the greatest actor alive on his side
there never was any doubt in Mr. Kean's mind
on this point. Of course he triumphed. A rival!
In every part of the theatre the people were hang-
ing on his words, and the poet Byron was the
most attentive of them all. He had come to the
front of the box, and was leaning over the ledge,
his head resting on his hand, drinking in every
word spoken by that malignantly frank fiend who
shuffled about the stage, uttering his thoughts
aloud. Kean did not speak the soliloquy as if he
were making a speech to his audience. He spoke
it disjointedly musingly. He was frank only
with himself; the triumph of his art was to con-
vey to his audience the impression that they had
been accidentally let into the secrets of the mind
of the man before them. They felt this, and they
also felt that it would never do for them to miss
a single word that was spoken on the stage. No
one looked in the direction of Byron, and he never
turned his eyes away from the stage. Mr. Moore
was beginning to fear that, after all, Mr. Kean
might have the best of it. If the playgoers in-
sisted on giving all their attention to the stage,
his friend the poet would have reason to complain
of their neglect, and worst of all the poet's
friend would remain unobserved.


AT the next interval Lord Holland visited Byron
in his box, but as there were half a dozen
other persons of distinction there, he only re-
mained for a few minutes to mention that Madame
de Stael had promised to attend Lady Holland's
reception that night, solely to have an opportun-
ity of making his Byron's acquaintance. Of
course Byron affirmed that he had never before
been so greatly flattered.

" I feel as if I had just engaged myself to meet
Homer's Iliad in the original," said he. "Some-
how I cannot think of Madame de Stael except as
an abstraction, like the Meridian of Greenwich or
the Equator. I cannot think of her as existing in
the flesh."

"When you see her, you will not be in any
doubt as to the flesh," said Sheridan, who had
just entered the box, and found it convenient to
lean against one of the columns.

"That is comforting," said Byron. "One is
never quite at one's ease with abstractions."

"Except of virtue," said Moore.

"And bigotry," said young Mr. Dallas, nodding
toward Sheridan.

But Sheridan had passed the moment when he


Love Alone Is Lord 189

could recall his Mrs. Malaprop. He had slid down
his pillar into a chair and had fallen asleep in a

"The maker of 'Corinne' cannot be thought of
as an abstraction of bigotry so much is sure,"
said Byron; "and as regards the other abstrac-
tion "

"Ah! you will see her and form your own con-
clusions," said Lord Holland.

"The most satisfactory way of judging," said

" What ! ' ' cried Byron. " The most satisfactory
way of finding out if the contents of a phial are
poison swallowing them ? Oh, my dear Moore ! "

"There's something in that," said Lord Hol-
land. " But we were talking of a lady writer,
not of poison."

"Your lordship draws a very nice distinction,"
said Sheridan, who seemed to awake only to utter
the phrase: he was asleep before the others had
ceased laughing.

" I would rather hear what Sheridan says when
in his sleep than what the next witty man living
says when at his best," whispered Lord Holland.

"Alas!" said Dallas, "that such a man should
fritter his life away in politics!"

"And that Whig politics into the bargain.
Alas! alas!" said Byron, smiling at Lord Holland.

' ' The unsuccessful side. Alas ! Alas ! Alas ! ' '
said Lord Holland.

"If Lord Byron continues making speeches

1 90 Love Alone Is Lord

equal in eloquence to his first, we may look for a
change in this respect," said Moore, with great

"There's an Irish brogue in Moore's smile,"
said Byron. "You never know when the rascal
is talking bam ; and like others of his nation, he
is never so flippant as when he is most serious."

"He spoke good sense just now, whether or
not it was his intention to do so," said Lord

"Oh, fie, my lord!" cried Moore. "Do you
suggest that I sometimes talk sense as Sheridan
talks wit, unwittingly?"

"His lordship drew attention to the fact that
you spoke sense once," said Byron. "And per-
haps he was right, though for myself I cannot
agree with him."

"Now you know very well that you made a
fine speech, Byron," said Dallas. "Did you not
tell me that you had made the Chancellor angry? "

" So much at least must be placed to my credit,"
laughed Byron. " After all, that seems to be the
be all and the end all of political parties : to make
your opponents angry."

"And to keep his Royal Highness in a good
humour," whispered Lord Holland, with the sug-
gestion of a nod in the direction of the royal box.
The Regent was laughing heartily at something
which had been said to him by a prominent mem-
ber of the Government who was standing beside
his chair.

Love Alone Is Lord

"I hear it is becoming a more difficult task
every day," said Moore.

" And yet his laureate is said to submit an ode
to him every week," remarked Dallas.

" If that is the truth, we can quite understand
why his Royal Highness should feel glum," said
Lord Holland.

"What is the good of being in the place of a
king if one is compelled to submit to a course of
odes?" said Byron. "I am convinced that his
Royal Highness has made a point of seeing the
play to-night in order to learn something of the
methods of his illustrious ancestor in ridding him-
self of superfluous wives and poets and hangers-on
of that sort."

"Whatever Gloster may have done, it is not
on record that he ever murdered a poet," said

" My sense of fair play would cause me to place
such an act to his credit if I could but remember
it," said Byron. "Never mind; our Prince may
perceive that it devolves on him to go beyond
Richard if he have not done so already."

"For heaven's sake!" whispered Lord Holland,
holding up his hand. " No scandal about Queen
Elizabeth eh, Sherry?"

Mr. Sheridan had suddenly awakened. There
was on his face a puzzled look: he seemed trying
to recollect where he had heard the quotation.

"Garrick told me that before playing the part
of Gloster he invariably ate an underdone beef-

192 Love Alone Is Lord

steak and drank a pint of port," he muttered.
" When he heard that Barry thought of following
his example, he said, 'Quite right; only he had
better begin on an ox roasted whole.' '

" I have felt quite equal to murder after a single
pork chop," said Byron.

"Some natures need only so small a spur in
that direction, whereas there are others so lethar-
gic that they might eat a whole ox and drink a
hogshead of brandy, and yet allow a Quarterly
Reviewer to live," said Dallas.

Mr. Rogers, sitting in his box opposite, tried to
give all his attention to Mr. Coleridge's criticism of
Kean's acting. He had no particular wish to
know where Kean was wrong and where he was
right; when Kean was on the stage he ceased to
criticise; he felt; and feeling turns criticism out
of doors. He knew, however, that Mr. Coleridge
was anxious to unburden himself, and so he sub-
mitted. But he had his eye on the other box.
He knew that they were not standing on tiptoe
with a tape to take the measure of Kean.

Coleridge would have gone on for half the night
flourishing his critical tape measure and yet never
getting it higher than Kean's knees, but happily
he was stopped, not by the rising of the curtain,
but by Mr. Rogers 's protest when the new act
began. Coleridge, the true critic, believed that
what he had to say about the performance was
greater than the performance itself. It certainly
would have been longer.

Love Alone Is Lord 193

It was not to see the Prince Regent escorted to
his chariot with all ceremony by the manager and
his men, that the crowd blocked the way. It was
not even to see the lovely Countess of Jersey glit-
tering in diamonds as she tripped out between the
lamps; it was to catch a glimpse of the young
lord whose name was on every tongue.

The old Duke of Bedford, who recollected the
impression produced by the beautiful Misses Gun-
ning when they first came to town, affirmed that
their triumph was not greater than that achieved
by the new poet. His Grace cursed the degen-
eracy of the moderns who made all this fuss about
a poet a mere poet. In the case of the Misses
Gunning there was some reason for the excite-
ment ; they were beautiful women, though for his
own part he preferred girls with more flesh on
their bones that, his Grace admitted, was only
a matter of taste ; but for men and women to run
after a fellow simply because he had written a
poem could anything be more preposterous?
Could anything show more plainly that the coun-
try was going to the deuce?

"It's marvellous to what excesses people will
go in the first flush of the discovery that it is
possible for a peer to have brains," was the ex-
planation of the phenomenon offered with great
respect by Colonel Clifford ; and a few people who
heard it admitted that there might be something
in it.

But whether Clifford's theory, or the Duke's

i94 Love Alone Is Lord

contention that the moderns were hopelessly de-
generate, was right, the fact remained indisput-
able: until Lord Byron's chariot had driven off,
the streets continued blocked by people, young
and old, straining to catch a glimpse of the new
poet about whom so many strange stories were
told. Even when the carriage had driven away it
carried with it quite a long train of young men and
women peering round the panels as they tried to
keep up with the horses, in hopes of catching sight
of his face with the light of the street lamps on it.

"This is fame, indeed," said Moore.

" No doubt of it," said Byron. " How is it that
people have only begun to run after you within
the month? Surely the Post Bag was to their
taste ; or have they only now discovered that the
Irish Melodies are the most melodious verses ever
written by an Irishman? Ah, Thomas Little or
Thomas Moore, or whatever you have a mind to
call yourself, could you but know the effect that the
singing of your Minstrel Boy had upon me on one
night of my life the most memorable night of my
life! That impression has not been quite rubbed
off in spite of the years that have jostled past me,
and the hobgoblins which have rubbed against
me in my way through the Slough of Despond
which you call the world."

" And by heaven," cried the Irishman, " I would
rather hear that from you than be run after by all
the crowds in Christendom that is the truth, by

Love Alone Is Lord 195

"And, by heaven, you are right, my friend!"
said Byron. " I would sooner hear one man say
to me, 'You have taught me to feel,' than all the
cheers of the mob. Do you think that I am car-
ried away by all the signs which I have had of
the curiosity of these poor fools who are running
after us? You will not do me the injustice of
thinking that I look on this as fame. Don't you
suppose that I can estimate it at its proper value?
Poetry? What do these people know about
poetry or care for poetry? I am in their eyes the
murderer of the moment. They are just as
anxious to catch a glimpse of a wretch on the way
to Newgate as they are to see me, and the same
crowd that cheers me to-day may hiss me to-
morrow. God do so to me and more also if I ever
so far forget myself as to take this mob into
account when I sit me down to do my work in the
world. May the worst happen to me if I ever set
about writing to gain the applause of the crowd! "

" No one except a fool would accuse you of
having written a single line hitherto with that
intent," said Moore. "And no man living would
remain so little moved one way or another by the
triumph which you have achieved."

" I know exactly how much I have done," said
Byron. " I know that if I am a poet it is because
I cannot help it. I heard the voice you have
heard, calling to me out of the deep, even as it
called to you; and I was compelled to answer to
its call so were you. I have sung a song and I

196 Love Alone Is Lord

only I know how true it is how false it is
how much it reveals how much it conceals of
the truth. But when I see those people running
after me I think of that marvellous sight which
I saw on the night before I found out what that
voice was which had called to me it was the
night of the great display of meteors, and my
Scotch superstition has had weight to make me
believe that my course is to be that of a meteor
a wild flare lasting a short time, and then a
burst and silence. Well, my ambition does not
ask for anything different from this. The flare-up
has come look at that boy with the link at Lord
Holland's it makes a brave show now ; but wait
ah ! he has thrust it into the extinguisher pah !
the fastidious folk in the Square hold their noses
aloof from the smell. My dear Moore, you will
live to see people turn away their heads when my
name is mentioned."

"Not I," said Moore. "You a meteor a
torch! Take my word for it, Childe Harold is a
fixed star in the galaxy of the new century it is
a second Sirius. If you go on for another year
or two, you will have a complete constellation to

"Ay, the unstable constellation of a shower of
meteors I know it."

The carriage crawled into the place vacated by
Lady Jersey's there was still a line of carriages
reaching from St. James's Square half-way down
Pall Mall and even here Byron was recognised

Love Alone Is Lord 197

by the stragglers who were peering through the
lines of lamps and links at the distinguished guests
at Lady Holland's reception.

When the name of the Right Honourable Lord
Byron was passed from lackey to lackey up to the
doors of the great salon, there was a hush in the
conversation that had buzzed from staircase to
reception room, so that he entered between the
pillars of a stately silence, so to speak. That was
how Lord Melbourne put it somewhat fantas-
tically, no doubt, but making an honest attempt
to find an equivalent for the impression of which
he was conscious. Byron walked down a long
colonnade of silence to bow over the hand of the

Then the name of the next one to arrive was
heard in the distance, and, before it had swelled
into distinctness, the rooms were humming once
more. Only to Byron had the acclamation of
silence been granted by that splendid assemblage,
and that spontaneously, too. His name had been
on all lips up to the moment of his entering. It
is impossible to continue talking of a man when
he has appeared among those who have made him
a topic.

He had his circle in a moment. Men with
ribands and stars made up the circumference;
they could not with dignity crush in upon their
wives and daughters who were hovering around
the centre. The young wives were the most en-
terprising; when a lion has the reputation of

198 Love Alone Is Lord

being very wild the animal is doubly attractive.
When it is understood that he may take a fancy
to devour those who are fondling him, their cour-
age in persisting must be appreciated. A new
species had been discovered : a poet who was dan-
gerous. Such a thing had never before been
heard of. It had always been assumed that the
poet was not to be classed among Carnivora that
he was incapable of being otherwise than frugivor-
ous. Fruit products subjected to the process of
fermentation had sometimes made a variation in
his diet ; but still, fruit. He was tame : he would
eat out of the hand. But here was the new speci-
men. Beautiful as the best of them most of
them had been beautiful and yet dangerous
not to be approached without risk, and therefore
approached with intense interest. Every woman
feels within her the ability to be the tamer of the
wild man ; survivors of the experiment have been

They crowded round him a little fluttering, a
trifle of awe, a readiness to show their captivating
femininity by flight (a charming paradox), a word
or two of almost breathless admiration, a timid
enquiry about the beauties of the Bosphorus
inanimate beauties, of course not a breath about
the Seraglio, though it was whispered that the
wild poet had had his experiences there that was
all, and not very lively for a wild poet who had
never been petted in the open, so to speak. And
yet every few minutes some one of the household

Love Alone Is Lord 199

brought up a fresh addition to the circle, and he
had to respond to a shrinking courtesy and the
inane attempts at conversation of the blushing
matrons and maidens. It was the age when mod-
esty was accounted a virtue, though how they
contrived to associate it with the costume of the
Empire is difficult to understand. It was also the
age of blushing: that one can understand with
less trouble.

It was when Byron was being bored to extinc-
tion by one of the Blues an isosceles triangle of
a woman who wished to write a romance of the
Bosphorus, gaining all her knowledge of the region
from what he was pleased to tell her that there
was distinct movement on the outer edge of his
circle such a movement as ruffled it to the very
centre as the surface of a round pond of orna-
mental water is ruffled when some capacious body
drops into it from the bank.

It was plain that some foreign body capable of
effecting a large displacement of the element that
eddied round the poet had been projected from
without. The ripples rolled to right and left as
if Pharaoh and his host the horse and his rider
were coming on ; there was the sound of a for-
eign accent rippling along and refusing to be im-
peded by any pebbles of pronunciation rippling
rushing bubbling babbling on it went,
sweeping everything before it; and when a pas-
sage had been made, Byron looked down the vista
and saw coming toward him a quivering figure,

200 Love Alone Is Lord

indifferently protected by a flimsy robe against
the scrutiny of the crowd a plump creature, that
somehow suggested the approach of a war-horse
that is a mare.

She clapped her hands together when she saw
Byron at his end of the river bed that she had
dried up as doth Behemoth she clapped her
hands, and the action made her vibratory and
pendulous all over, so that the lustres in the can-
delabra jingled.

" Ach yez yez 't is 'e. Allah-illa-Allah ! and
Byron is Byron der ist no oder!"

She had flung herself on him, and he was swal-
lowed up before Lord Holland had said :

" My Lord Byron, I have the honour to present
to you Madame de Stael."

"My lord, I am overwhelmed," gasped Byron,

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