North. No; not one of them. They are all eloquent, diffusive, rich, lavish, generous, prodigal of their words. But so are they all deficient in sense, muscle, sinew, thews, ribs, spine. Pope, as an artist, beats them hollow. Catch him twaddling.
Tickler. It is a bad sign of the intellect of an age to depreciate the genius of a country’s classics. But the attempt covers such critics with shame, and undying ridicule pursues them and their abettors. The Lake Poets began this senseless clamour against the genius of Pope.
[From Noctes Ambrosianae, October, 1825]
North. People say, James, that Byron’s tragedies are failures. Fools! Is Cain, the dark, dim, disturbed, insane, hell-haunted Cain, a failure? Is Sardanapalus, the passionate, princely, philosophical, joy-cheated, throne-wearied voluptuary, a failure? Is Heaven and Earth, that magnificent confusion of two worlds, in which mortal beings mingle in love and hate, joy and despair, with immortal—the children of the dust claiming alliance with the radiant progeny of the skies, till man and angel seem to partake of one divine being, and to be essences eternal in bliss or bale—is Heaven and Earth, I ask you, James, a failure? If so, then Appollo has stopt payment—promising a dividend of one shilling in the pound—and all concerned in that house are bankrupts.
Tickler. You have nobly—gloriously vindicated Byron, North, and in doing so, have vindicated the moral and intellectual character of our country. Miserable and pernicious creed, that holds possible the lasting and intimate union of the first, purest, highest, noblest, and most celestial powers of soul and spirit, with confirmed appetencies, foul and degrading lust, cowardice, cruelty, meanness, hypocrisy, avarice, and impiety! You,—in a strong attempt made to hold up to execration the nature of Byron as deformed by all these hideous vices,—you, my friend, reverently unveiled the countenance of the mighty dead, and the lineaments struck remorse into the heart of every asperser.
ON DR. JOHNSON
[From Noctes Ambrosianae, April, 1829]
North. I forgot old Sam—a jewel rough set, yet shining like a star, and though sand-blind by nature, and bigoted by Education, one of the truly great men of England, and “her men are of men the chief,” alike in the dominions of the understanding, the reason, the passions, and the imagination. No prig shall ever persuade me that Rasselas is not a noble performance—in design and execution. Never were the expenses of a mother’s funeral more gloriously defrayed by son, than the funeral of Samuel Johnson’s mother by the price of Rasselas, written for the pious purpose of laying her head decently and honourably in the dust.