The Late Lord Byron: Posthumous Dramas

By Doris Langley Moore | Go to book overview

APPENDIX 3
Samuel Rogers and the Memoirs

In Rogers Table Talk he is reported by Alexander Dyce as saying: 'If Moore had made me his confidant in the business, I should have protested warmly against the destruction . . . but he chose Luttrell, probably because he thought him the more fashionable man; and Luttrell, who cared nothing about the matter, readily voted that they should be put into the fire.'

There is a touch of malice in this which is thoroughly typical of Rogers, and he had, as usual, got the wrong end of the stick, Luttrell having opposed the burning of the Memoirs without the precaution of reading them. Moreover, Moore's journal shows that he took the news of Byron's death to Rogers on May 14th, and that the latter advised him 'not to stir at all on the subject of the "Memoirs", but to wait and see what Murray would do; and in the meantime ask Brougham's opinion'. So, very clearly, he was consulted, though not when the destruction was imminent.

Dyce also records this assertion: 'There were, I understand, some gross things in that manuscript; but I read only a portion of it, and did not light upon them.' Washington Irving, however, in his Memoranda for May 3rd, 1824, states that Moore never showed the Memoirs to Rogers, a fact which occasioned the remark: 'I suspect I was harshly handled in that volume.' Rogers's claim to have read even part of the work is also somewhat discredited by his saying that he 'remembered' this story from it:

On his marriage-night, Byron suddenly started out of his sleep: a taper, which burned in the room, was casting a ruddy glare through the crimson curtains of the bed; and he could not help exclaiming, in a voice so loud that he wakened Lady B., 'Good God, I am surely in hell!'

This seems to be merely an anecdote dressed up out of something Rogers had been told by Washington Irving, whose recollection was that --

Byron mentioned waking up one morning soon after his marriage and thinking while he looked at his wife and at the red curtains which surrounded him that he was fairly in hell with Proserpine beside him.

Byron's thoughts 'soon after his marriage' amount to something very different from his utterances in the hearing of his wife on the wedding night, and there is strong support from two quarters for Irving's less dramatic version as the correct one. In the first place, Lady Byron never

-55-

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