LONDON, SATURDAY, AUGUST 23, 1891.
CONTENTS. —No 295.
(See 7th S. xi. 177, 461.)
Macaulay's compliments to Moore at the opening of his essay (where he dismisses him from further notice) can no more be taken without a certain grain of salt than his censures of Croker in the next essay. Bat take them as they stand. They are guarded by a significant saving clause; on the dilute sentimentalizing, the pretentious but empty generalities about genius and its ways, and the criticisms that discern nothing or blurr what is clear—Moore's attempts at depicting a genius of which he had no real appreciation and criticizing a poetry genuine sympathy with or true insight into which he had none—Macaulay is kindly silent; while his remark that Moore had not been more egotistic than his subject made necessary reads like flat satire. The 'Life' makes it plain that, for Moore, self-display was part of his subject; therefore every trivial incident, if only Moore figured in it—every half badinage or whole chaffing of Byron's, if only the sound was of praise of Moore—became necessary materials for his work. Hence we learn that "some of Moore's last Erin sparks......are worth all the epics ever composed" (ii. 276); that Byron doubted whether he could allow "the Miss Byrons" to read 'Lalla Rookh,' lest they might "discover that there was a better poet than papa" (v. 194); that Moore had "a strange diffidence of his own powers strangely underrated himself," and "did not know his own value" (ii. 242, 250); and so on with a multitude of such items. Or look at the trivial notes (ii. 151, 152, and iii. 78, 82), the lines at ii. 206, the extract "relating to literary matters" (ii. 114), the umbrella incident (ii. 124), the letters (ii. 235–8,248–52), the gondola scene (iv. 209–10), &c.—all Moore, and still Moore, and Moore, and Moore again.
His own consciousness that the introduction of such matter had only one meaning is shown by the apologies he finds himself reduced to from time to time, the insincerity of them being palpable. In one of them he suggests that his motive for the publication of "eulogies, so warm and so little merited, on himself" was that "his noble friend" should "receive credit for the good nature and warm heartedness which dictated them" (ii. 236, note). "Credat Judæeus Apella." Whether Moore put such matter under contribution to assist us in "contemplating a great mind in its undress," or out of anxiety to put himself in evidence, it is no more worth while to ask than to ask why he copied into his 'Diary' (ii. 357) the extract from 'Peter's Letters' about Jeffrey's dress. And as we look at the record of omnivorous vanity which that 'Diary' presents, the wonder would have been had Moore not used the opportunity for self-display which editing the 'Letters and Journals' offered
I regret that I altogether overlooked at the time your correspondent's note (7th S. xi. 461). I am bound, however, to answer only for what I said myself, not for his account of it. He speaks of "the cocksureness with which I jumped to the conclusion that," &c. I merely expressed "a strong suspicion that," &c. He represents me as speaking of the 'Life' as "meant as much for" editing Moore as for editing Byron. What I said was that it "showed as much anxiety" for that a different thing, although M. M. may not see it. What Moore meant by the 'Life' was to win his consolation stakes for the failure of his efforts to get hold again of the MS. of the Byron 'Memoirs (on which he had already raised 2, 000l.) and resell them at an enhanced price
But your correspondent assumes that Moore had some claim to edit the 'Poetical Works,' and holds that Mr. Murray "was most anxious" Moore should do so. Moore's anxiety to do so we know: "He had made up his mind to be editor at all events" ('Diary,' October 14, 1831). But on November 13 a letter from Mr. Murray, whose mind was not made up, "threw me into no little consternation." In my note (xi. 177) I had ventured to suggest that the prolix and cumbrous comments in the 'Life' and the amount of egotism found "necessary" would have disinclined Mr. Murray