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autumn. There will be an opening address I
believe some fifty or more poets are working at
it just now think what it would be for you to
come on the stage in the character of Liberty and
repeat an address written by our friend Byron."
He was bending down to her, gradually drawing
her away, with many suggestions of secrecy.
" Byron would write the address if you were to
ask him, and so long as Drury Lane exists it will
be remembered that Lady Caroline Lamb and
Lord Byron spoke the first words ever uttered on
the stage for the public to hear. What is your
feeling on the point, Lady Caroline? Whisper it
to me, I entreat of you. I would not for the
world that it became prematurely known."

Lady Caroline sank gracefully into the nearest
chair, her eyes brilliant, her lips parted, her hands

Love Alone is Lord 311

clasped. Her face was radiant as the face of a

"Mr. Sheridan, trust to me," she whispered.
" Byron will write it for me. Take my word for
it, he would not do it unless for me. But he will
write it for me. And I will speak it for you, dear
Sheridan only for you. A red mob cap Lib-
erty only, of course, adapted to the best class
of playgoers Union Jack Liberty, not a tricolour
one. I see it clearly before me. Of course, the
band will play God Save the King that will let
the people know at once the kind of Liberty that
I am impersonating. I do not mind the short

"Liberty without short petticoats would look
as foolish as King Richard without his hump or
as a white Othello," said Sheridan. "But you
will be mum, till our plans are mature. Not a
word of this must get out or all will be lost. But
you are a woman of understanding. I wonder if
it would be possible to obtain a bottle of his
lordship's '77 claret 'The School for Scandal'
claret we call it. That was the year that The
School was first played. Ah, you are too young
to remember Mrs. Abington at her best. The
most beautiful woman and such talent. May I
be pardoned for saying that in many ways grace
of carriage, brilliancy of style you remind me
very forcibly of Mrs. Abington? I must look
after that claret."

Lady Caroline glanced round. She perceived

312 Love Alone Is Lord

that Byron and Lord Holland had disappeared.
Well, that was only reasonable, she admitted.
It was not to be expected that they should re-
main while she was planning surprises with Mr.
Sheridan. Surely that was an inspiration of hers
that parody of Liberty, she thought. And
equally so only suggested by hers was Mr.
Sheridan's idea respecting the opening scene of
Drury Lane. She knew that already people in
every direction were discussing the possible ad-
dress to be spoken on the stage of the new Old
Drury. The opening of the theatre would be the
most brilliant event of the year, and she would
be the central figure upon that occasion. Old
Mr. Sheridan was a delightful man she had
never before been able to appreciate his clever-
ness. He was so ready at taking a hint. He had
the quick eye of an artist the judgment of a
man of the world, who knew what would be likely
to carry the town.

It was the combination of his many gifts that
enabled him to perceive that she was the only
woman in England who could give true effect to
the speaking of an address written in verse by the
poet whose name was in everyone's mouth.

Meantime Mr. Sheridan had found the claret
for which he had gone in search. Among his
many gifts the one which was least conspicuous
was not his capacity to pronounce a sound judg-
ment on the qualities of claret. As he inhaled
the bouquet of the bottle which had been brought

Love Alone Is Lord 313

to him (in confidence) by Lord Holland's butler,
he chuckled over his successful ruse by which he
had covered the retreat of Byron. His life had
been passed in contriving ruses to cover his own
retreat from the claws of tradesmen, and his
power of appreciating the weaknesses of men and
women, and of playing upon them to his own
advantage, was sufficient to inform him that in
dealing with Lady Caroline he need not be at the
trouble to devise anything elaborately subtle.
He felt that he was only wheedling a tradesman.

"What have you been doing lately, Mr. Sheri-
dan?" Mr. Campbell, the poet, inquired of him,
while he was still smiling over his first bottle of

" I have just been giving a cat a dish of cream,"
he replied.

Mr. Campbell had never quite come to under-
stand Sheridan's methods; he looked puzzled.
He lifted up the edge of the table-cloth and
glanced under the table, he sent his eyes straying
about the corners of the room. Then he looked
at Sheridan's bottle of claret: he had heard of
people seeing black cats invisible to normal sight.

" And why did you give the cat the cream, Mr.
Sheridan?" he asked.

"To get her to take her claws out of a friend
of mine," Sheridan replied. "But now that I
come to think of it, it was only water with chalk
sprinkled over it."

Mr. Campbell smiled indulgently. He thought

3 H Love Alone Is Lord

it better not to add to his questions. It would
be ungenerous to take advantage of the unfortun-
ate gentleman's willingness to betray himself. He
did not leave Mr. Sheridan, however, until the
latter had promised to do his best for him in case
the committee of Drury Lane agreed to offer a
prize for the most suitable address to be spoken
at the opening of the theatre.

Mr. Sheridan spent one half of his days making
promises to his friends and his tradesmen, and
the other half in evading them.


WHEN Byron met Rogers a few days after
the Holland House reception, his friend
expressed his regret at being cut off from the
pleasure of entertaining him at dinner on the
coming Friday.

"Have you written to me?" said Byron. "I
heard nothing about your dinner being put off."

"Nor is it," said Rogers. "But I have seen
Lady Caroline Lamb, and she conveyed to me
your message."

" I sent no message to you or to anyone else
through Lady Caroline Lamb," said Byron.

" What no message to the effect that you were
sorry that you had forgotten your engagement
for the same evening made a month before you
had accepted mine?" said Rogers, raising his

"My dear friend," said Byron, putting his arm
through Rogers 's, "when I accepted your invita-
tion I allow that I had forgotten for the moment
that I had promised to attend Lady Jersey's ball,
but had I remembered I should still have agreed
to dine with you. A ball! Heavens, man,
't would be as ridiculous for me to decline your
dinner on the plea that I was going to a ball, as


316 Love Alone Is Lord

it would be for a blind man to excuse himself on
the plea that he was going to the Royal Academy
Exhibition at Somerset House. I am beginning
to suspect that the hostesses who invite me to
balls are but showing how sarcastic they can be
at my expense."

"I am afraid that Lady Caroline acquired a
wrong idea of your intentions," said Rogers. "I
met her yesterday, and she asked me if I had
received a letter from you excusing yourself for
Friday. When I replied in the negative, she
cried out upon your carelessness, and then said
that, on her reminding you that you were going
to Lady Jersey's, you had promised to write to
me explaining how it was that you had made a
mistake, being under the impression that you
were free for Friday."

Rogers saw Byron's face become white with
anger; he felt somewhat embarrassed though
why he should feel as if he had suddenly discov-
ered a disagreement between a man and his wife,
he never could tell. He hastened, with his usual
tact, to smooth away the wrinkles that had come
on the surface of their friendship, saying:

"Never mind. I have no doubt that Lady
Caroline's intention was to save both of us from
a misunderstanding; but I am glad to meet you
now and to learn that you will not be prevented
from joining my little circle."

"My dear friend," said Byron, still pale, but
recovering his self-possession, " I would go to your

Love Alone Is Lord 317

dinner on Friday even though the consequences
of doing so were that I should never attend a
ball for the rest of my life even though I should
never be seen again in public by the side of Lady
Caroline Lamb. Oh, I shall be present at your
dinner, never fear."

" I am delighted to hear it," said Rogers. " You
may depend on the potatoes being the choicest
that Covent Garden can produce, while the vine-
gar will be of a vintage year that I can promise

Byron laughed, remembering that upon the
occasion of his dining for the first time with
Rogers he was on a regimen that prevented his
being able to partake of any of the delicacies of
the table with the exception of potatoes with

" Like Jeffrey's," said Byron. " The vinegar of
the Edinburgh satirists is ever a vintage vinegar
more wholesome than the sugar and water of
the Post."

Thus they parted, and Rogers was conscious of
that singular impression of having peeped in on a
family difference. He believed that Byron had
told Lady Caroline that he was to dine with him,
Rogers, and that the lady, fearing that she would
be deprived of her privilege of displaying herself
alongside the poet at Lady Jersey's, had endeav-
oured to exact from him a promise to excuse him-
self from the dinner.

Perhaps, too, she had succeeded in getting such

318 Love Alone Is Lord

a promise from him. He thought that it was
considered inevitable in the case of such a friend-
ship as existed between Byron and Lady Caroline
that the poet should promise everything that he
was asked to promise. Still, it was his impression
that the lady had gone a little too far in accepting
the duty of cancelling Byron's engagements with
his other friends.

And that was exactly what Byron thought.
He felt that he had very nearly been made a fool
of in the eyes of his best friends by Lady Caroline ;
and this feeling was linked closely to another a
feeling that it might be that his best friends
thought Lady Caroline had long ago done this.
Lady Melbourne, who was her husband's mother,
had proved to him that this was her belief; he
could not expect that all his other friends should
be as cordially frank as Lady Melbourne; at
any rate they refrained from expressing any
definite opinion within his hearing on this deli-
cate point; but he had noticed the exchange of
glances between Lord Holland and Sheridan at
the supper table, when Lady Caroline was mak-
ing a move to assert herself. The very fact that
Sheridan thought it well to bring his unrivalled
powers of cajolery into play in order that he,
Byron, should have a chance of slipping away
without attracting her attention just as a school-
boy would steal away from the schoolroom when
the master has ordered him to stay to complete
his task this very incident was of itself some-

Love Alone Is Lord 319

thing of a hint to him of how he appeared in the
eyes of his friends. They had assumed that he
was not altogether a free agent that before he
could take a step of even minor importance, Lady
Caroline would consider herself entitled to say a
word or two. He required to be treated as a
schoolboy; an adroit friend had out of his good
will covered his retreat by wheedling the lady.
And, moreover, the fact of his friend's undertaking
to wheedle the lady was rather more than a hint
that he believed her to be a silly creature, easy
to be played upon by a man practised in the art
of cajoling. That meant that he, Byron, had
been fool enough to allow his name to be asso-
ciated with that of a silly woman.

He had no difficulty whatever in imagining
the comments of his friends upon this incident
the laughter of the men lolling in the chairs at the
club another story of Sheridan's cleverness, only
it was not of Sheridan's managing to evade a
pressing creditor by his plausible tongue, but of
Sheridan's adroitness in enabling that poor devil,
Byron, to escape from the silly woman who was
supposed to have him in her clutches.

And now here was Rogers, with his story of
how she had endeavoured to prove to all the
world that he was not his own master even to the
extent of accepting an invitation to dine with his
friends. A hen-pecked husband that was his
position, only that he was not the husband, only
the friend; he was the hen-pecked friend the

320 Love Alone Is Lord

good-natured house-dog who, to while away the
time, had trotted round to the hen-coops and
found that the wire door had closed behind him
so that he could not escape, and so was pecked at
and flapped at until he was forced to squeeze him-
self between the meshes of the wire-netting in
order to escape when the hen was not looking.

He knew that it was the most good-natured of
his friends who looked on him as the useful do-
mestic dog of the family. The others and these
were in the majority hinted at his character for
wildness; he was not to be trusted in a house;
the old wolf had not yet been tamed out of him.
It was understood that Madame de Stael took
this view of his association with the Melbourne
household. She gave a very witty version of La
Fontaine's fable of Le loup et Vagneau to her
circle at the salon of the Misses Berry, the humour
being that the lamb made the wolf her slave and
taught him to eat grass and to be generally
vegetarian in his habits, saying "baa" to every
suggestion he ventured to make, until he felt
humiliated in the eyes both of the sheep and
the wolves. But the lamb, being a silly crea-
ture, trusted too much to the charm of her own
society to keep down the wolf nature, for one day
when she had flung into the lake a savoury bone
which the wolf was about to taste, he turned upon
her and dined off lamb cutlets for several days in

"The moral," said Madame de Stael, "the

Love Alone Is Lord 321

moral is that while a wolf is always a wolf, a lamb
may be cooked in nine different ways, and Pla-
tonic affection is the mayonnaise which makes
cold lamb quite palatable."

He had heard a whisper about this fable. He
had laughed at that time, but now he did not
laugh, recollecting it. He felt humiliated. He
had flared over the town as the author of Childe
Harold's Pilgrimage; thousands of people had
flocked to the Park when it was known that he
was riding there; thousands had gone to the
theatre on the chance of catching a glimpse of
him in a box ; but now even his own friends were
shrugging their shoulders at the mention of his
name. Even Rogers had assumed that he had
no choice but to go with Lady Caroline Lamb to
a ball, although he had accepted his invitation to

He found his friend, Lord Sligo, waiting for him
at his rooms. The two had not met since they
had been for some time together in the East, and
now they were both in high spirits at being in
each other's company in town.

"It makes me feel a man again," cried Byron.
" Heavens ! the breath of the Bosphorus is on my
cheek when I see you beside me. Oh, those
nights aboard the boat moonlight! what moon-
light! The city of the mosque and minaret!
. . . . What would I not give to be able to
look out of that~window and see one of the mina-
rets of that place of palms and mirth to hear

322 Love Alone Is Lord

the muezzins' cry instead of the trundling of
hackney coaches."

"You have saved thousands of our fellow-
countrymen the need of going to the East you
have brought the East to them, my dear Byron,"
said Lord Sligo. "When I used to see you
scribbling on the backs of letters on the blank
pages of books on every scrap of paper you could
get hold of, how little did I think that when
brought together those scraps would become one
of the greatest poems in the language!"

" You knew as much about it as I did," laughed
Byron. " I thought nothing of Childe Harold. It
was to a satire an imitation of Horace's Art of
Poetry that I pinned my faith. I took trouble
with it, but none with the other. I said to
someone the other day that I awoke one morning
and found myself famous. That was the exact
truth. I thought nothing of Childe Harold, and I
thought very little of the judgment of Dallas and
the rest of them who advised its publication.
Never mind, the public took it. Let us talk
about something else."

"Not until I ask you one question: why did
you not tell in the course of the Pilgrimage the
story of the girl at Athens whom you saved from
death?" said Lord Sligo.

"What do you know about that matter you
were not with us?" said Byron.

" No ; but I heard something of it when I went
to Athens a few days later," replied the other.

Love Alone Is Lord 323

" Most likely what you heard was fiction. There
was really not much in the occurrence. The
Turkish governor had the girl sewn up in a sack,
and as I was returning from a swim in the Piraeus,
I met the procession with the sack on their way
to deep water, and did a little braggadocio
flourishing a pistol and so forth and prevented
the rascals from carrying out the sack and their
design that is really all."

"But you bribed the governor, did you not?
and got him to rescind the sentence upon the girl?"

"Yes; that followed as a matter of course.
The girl was sent off in safety to Thebes."

"That I heard, too. I expected to find the
story in full in the Pilgrimage, and was greatly
disappointed when I learned that you had omitted

"Oh, my dear Sligo, I had no mind to set my-
self up as the hero of an Oriental romance."

"You took good care to set out Childe Harold
in anything but an heroic light ; you might have
given him a chance of recovering himself. I can-
not understand why you refrained. The story
would make a fine romantic poem as it is."

Byron mused for some moments.

"Perhaps who knows? I might no, no; I
have made up my mind to write no more in this
strain and yet well, I may see my way to
scribble something after the style of Scott. But
what are your plans ? I heard that you intended
going abroad again soon."

324 Love Alone Is Lord

" In the course of a week or two. I would that
you were to be of our party."

"I would that I had never returned. Within
the past week I have been consumed with a long-
ing to be among the islands once more. If you
had asked me then, I believe that I should have
jumped at your offer."

"What, does the errant Childe feel the fulness
of satiety in the matter of fame? or is it that
there is one particular

"You will dine with me. I have not had a
dinner for four days, and I did not mean to have
one until Friday, when I go to Rogers 's ; but the
sight of you has given me an appetite that is not
to be controlled."

It so happened that Lord Sligo was without an
engagement. Byron was not; he was due at
Melbourne House to accompany Lady Caroline to
some entertainment at night; he ignored his
obligation in this direction, however, he was
only too glad of the opportunity afforded him by
Lord Sligo 's coming to see him, and they set out
together for the quietest club, where they might
dine and have their chat, revolving many memo-
ries of their days in the East.

It was close upon midnight when Byron re-
turned to his rooms. He went to the window of
his sitting-room and opened it to the top. He
was warm and his brain was excited by the recol-
lections which his night with Lord Sligo had
brought back. He looked out upon the silent

Love Alone Is Lord 325

street, with the lamps faintly flickering into the
distance, and he seemed to be looking down the
Piraeus upon one of those still nights which he had
been recalling with his friend.

Lord Sligo had kept harping upon that adven-
ture with the girl who had been saved from
drowning. Byron had not thought much about
it at the time ; but, now, when the lapse of years
had thrown about it a garment of mist through
which its body gleamed, he was thinking of the
girl when she stood forth in her light garments in
the palace of the governor, he was strangely
attracted to it. Why had he not written before
of that incident? How had it been possible for
him to neglect it for so long? His imagination
was now awake as it had not been for years. He
saw the beautiful girl he saw her lover their
meeting their parting their devotion scene
after scene came before him scene crowded out
scene, with the splashing of the blue waters, with
the waving of the palms, with the sunlight among
the clusters of the clambering grapes the goats
among the rocks the convent white on the hill-
side scene after scene.

And then, still standing at the window, he
gasped. Who had told him the story of that
girl and her lover as he had just seen it? When
he had been at the table with Lord Sligo, he knew
no more of her story than he had learned when
he interposed on her behalf; and yet now it
seemed to him that he had known her story all

326 Love Alone Is Lord

his life. And the man but he had never seen
the man the man was there, too on horseback
on the hill with the sunlight laughing around him
gloom only on his face.

His imagination was alight. He flung himself
into a chair, just as he had done on that first
morning at Annesley Hall, and dipped his pen in
the ink. Across the darkness of the night that
the square of his window framed there came a
picture of sunlight and colour transparent
crystalline glowing. He saw it and wrote :

Fair clime where ceaseless summer smiles

Benignant o'er those blessed isles

Which, seen from far Colonna's height,

Make glad the heart that hails the sight,

And give to loneliness delight,

There shine the bright abodes ye seek,

Like dimples upon Ocean's cheek

So smiling round the waters lave

Those Edens of the Eastern wave ;

Or if at times the transient breeze

Break the smooth crystal of the seas,

Or brush one blossom from the trees,

How grateful is the gentle air

That makes and wafts the fragrance there.

He remained writing hour after hour, throwing
sheet after sheet on the carpet. His candles
burnt down to their sockets, the early dawn hung
a curtain of dove-grey across his window, a ray of
sunshine found its way between the houses across

Love Alone Is Lord 327

the street and fell upon his table like the scimitar
of the Giaour of whom he had written ; the early
sounds of the street began, the early sounds of
the house, and still he went on sheet after sheet
of paper was covered with those wild verses in
which he depicted as no poet had done before as
no poet has done since the romance, the pas-
sions of the East, the mystery, the blaze of sun-
shine, the bursts of gloom warm, lurid fragments
a story told by suggestion a nightingale's song
mingling with the ringing of the vesper bell in the
monastery on the hill that Homer had known.
That is The Giaour.

The morning was far advanced before the pen
fell from his fingers, and it was almost noon be-
fore he fell asleep on his bed.


HE did not leave the house all that day, but
he did not add a line to the fragments
which he gathered up from the carpet of his room
and put away in his desk. He laughed as he
thought of that curious frenzy that had taken
possession of him under the influence of the
memories which had been brought back to him
by the night spent with the friend who had trav-
elled with him for some days. He thought of
what Lady Melbourne had said to him that the
decision to which he had come respecting his
writing was a vain one that the decision did not
rest with him that his destiny as a poet was not
in his own hands. Miss Milbanke had said some-
thing also to the same effect. He wondered how
these women knew.

But they did know while he remained in ig-
norance, believing that it was in his power to
write when he pleased, and to abandon writing
when he made a resolution to do so. But he was
conscious of a feeling of satisfaction when he re-
flected that he had at least been able to keep the
promise which he had made to Miss Milbanke.
He knew that he had written no line in the strain
which pervaded Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.


Love Alone Is Lord 329

He continued thinking about Miss Milbanke for
some time, contrasting her pretty earnestness in
talking to him, both at Melbourne House and at
the Hollands' reception, with the habitual arti-
ficiality of her cousin. It was because he had
been impressed by her earnestness in hoping to
bring about his reformation her earnestness with-
out that strident quality of which he had had
experience, for other young women had attempted
to reform him that he had made up his mind
to prevent Caroline from turning upon her at
Holland House. He was glad that he had suc-
ceeded. He had not yet met a girl in London

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Online LibraryFrank Frankfort MooreLove alone is lord → online text (page 18 of 28)