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Preface to Cantos VI, VII, and VIII

The details of the siege of Ismail in two of the following cantos
(_i.e._ the seventh and eighth) are taken from a French Work, entitled
_Histoire de la Nouvelle Russie._[319] Some of the incidents attributed
to Don Juan really occurred, particularly the circumstance of his saving
the infant, which was the actual case of the late Duc de Richelieu, then
a young volunteer in the Russian service, and afterward the founder and
benefactor of Odessa, where his name and memory can never cease to be
regarded with reverence.

In the course of these cantos, a stanza or two will be found relative to
the late Marquis of Londonderry,[320] but written some time before his
decease. Had that person's oligarchy died with him, they would have been
suppressed; as it is, I am aware of nothing in the manner of his death
or of his life to prevent the free expression of the opinions of all
whom his whole existence was consumed in endeavouring to enslave. That
he was an amiable man in _private_ life, may or may not be true: but
with this the public have nothing to do; and as to lamenting his death,
it will be time enough when Ireland has ceased to mourn for his birth.
As a minister, I, for one of millions, looked upon him as the most
despotic in intention, and the weakest in intellect, that ever
tyrannised over a country. It is the first time indeed since the Normans
that England has been insulted by a _minister_ (at least) who could not
speak English, and that Parliament permitted itself to be dictated to in
the language of Mrs. Malaprop.

Of the manner of his death little need be said, except that if a poor
radical, such as Waddington or Watson,[321] had cut his throat, he would
have been buried in a cross-road, with the usual appurtenances of the stake
and mallet. But the minister was an elegant lunatic--a sentimental
suicide--he merely cut the "carotid artery," (blessings on their learning!)
and lo! the pageant, and the Abbey! and "the syllables of dolour yelled
forth"[322] by the newspapers--and the harangue of the Coroner in a eulogy
over the bleeding body of the deceased--(an Anthony worthy of such a
Cæsar)--and the nauseous and atrocious cant of a degraded crew of
conspirators against all that is sincere and honourable. In his death he
was necessarily one of two things by the law[323]--a felon or a madman--and
in either case no great subject for panegyric.[324] In his life he
was--what all the world knows, and half of it will feel for years to come,
unless his death prove a "moral lesson" to the surviving Sejani[325] of
Europe. It may at least serve as some consolation to the nations, that
their oppressors are not happy, and in some instances judge so justly of
their own actions as to anticipate the sentence of mankind. Let us hear no
more of this man; and let Ireland remove the ashes of her Grattan from the
sanctuary of Westminster. Shall the patriot of humanity repose by the
Werther of politics!!!

With regard to the objections which have been made on another score to
the already published cantos of this poem, I shall content myself with
two quotations from Voltaire:--"La pudeur s'est enfuite des coeurs, et
s'est refugiée sur les lèvres." ... "Plus les moeurs sont dépravés, plus
les expressions deviennent mesurées; on croit regagner en langage ce
qu'on a perdu en vertu."

This is the real fact, as applicable to the degraded and hypocritical
mass which leavens the present English generation, and is the only
answer they deserve. The hackneyed and lavished title of
Blasphemer--which, with Radical, Liberal, Jacobin, Reformer, etc., are
the changes which the hirelings are daily ringing in the ears of those
who will listen--should be welcome to all who recollect on _whom_ it was
originally bestowed. Socrates and Jesus Christ were put to death
publicly as _blasphemers_, and so have been and may be many who dare to
oppose the most notorious abuses of the name of God and the mind of man.
But persecution is not refutation, nor even triumph: the "wretched
infidel," as he is called, is probably happier in his prison than the
proudest of his assailants. With his opinions I have nothing to do--they
may be right or wrong--but he has suffered for them, and that very
suffering for conscience' sake will make more proselytes to deism than
the example of heterodox[326] Prelates to Christianity, suicide
statesmen to oppression, or overpensioned homicides to the impious
alliance which insults the world with the name of "Holy!"[327] I have no
wish to trample on the dishonoured or the dead; but it would be well if
the adherents to the classes from whence those persons sprung should
abate a little of the cant which is the crying sin of this
double-dealing and false-speaking time of selfish spoilers, and----but
enough for the present.


{264}[319] [The Marquis Gabriel de Castelnau, author of an _Essai sur
L'Histoire ancienne et moderne de la Nouvelle Russie_ (Sec. Ed. 3 tom.
1827), was, at one time, resident at Odessa, where he met and made the
acquaintance of Armand Emanuel, Duc de Richelieu, who took part in the
siege of Ismail. M. Léon de Crousaz-Crétet describes him as "ancien
surintendant des théâtres sous l'Empereur Paul."--_Le Duc de Richelieu_,
1897, p. 83.]

[320] [For Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, second Marquis of
Londonderry (1769-1822), see _Letters_, 1900, iv. 108, 109, note 1.]

{266}[321] [Samuel Ferrand Waddington, born 1759, hop-grower and radical
politician, first came into notice as the chairman of public meetings in
favour of making peace with the French in 1793. He was the author,
_inter alia_, of _A Key to a Delicate Investigation_, 1812, and _An
Address to the People of the United Kingdom_, 1812. He was alive in
1822. James Watson (1766-1838), a radical agitator of the following of
Thomas Spence, was engaged, in the autumn of 1816, in an abortive
conspiracy to blow up cavalry barracks, barricade the streets, and seize
the Bank and the Tower. He was tried for high treason before Lord
Ellenborough, and acquitted.]

[322] [_Macbeth_, act iv. sc. 3, lines 7, 8.]

[323] I say by the _law_ of the _land_--the laws of humanity judge more
gently; but as the legitimates have always the law in their mouths, let
them here make the most of it.

[324] [Mr. Joseph Carttar, of Deptford, coroner for the County of Kent,
addressed the jury at some length. The following sentences are taken
from the report of the inquest, contained in _The Annual Biography and
Obituary for the year 1823_, vol. vii. p. 57: "As a public man, it is
impossible for me to weigh his character in any scales that I can hold.
In private life I believe the world will admit that a more amiable man
could not be found.... If it should unfortunately appear that there is
not sufficient evidence to prove what is generally considered the
indication of a disordered mind, I trust that the jury will pay some
attention to my humble opinion, which is, that no man can be in his
proper senses at the moment he commits so rash an act as self-murder.
...The Bible declares that a man clings to nothing so strongly as his
own life, I therefore view it as an axiom, and an abstract principle,
that a man must necessarily be out of his mind at the moment of
destroying himself." Byron, probably, read the report of the inquest in
Cobbett's _Weekly Register_ (August 17, 1822, vol. 43, pp. 389-425). The
"eulogy" was in perfectly good taste, but there can be little doubt that
if "Waddington or Watson" had cut _their_ "carotid arteries," the
verdict would have been different.]

[325] From this number must be excepted Canning. Canning is a genius,
almost a universal one, an orator, a wit, a poet, a statesman; and no
man of talent can long pursue the path of his late predecessor, Lord C.
If ever man saved his country, Canning _can_, but _will_ he? I for one,
hope so.

[The phrase, "great moral lesson," was employed by the Duke of
Wellington, _à propos_ of the restoration of pictures and statues to
their "rightful owners," in a despatch addressed to Castlereagh, under
date, Paris, September 19, 1815 (_The Dispatches, etc._ (ed. by Colonel
Gurwood), 1847, viii. 270). The words, "moral lesson," as applied to the
French generally, are to be found in Scott's _Field of Waterloo_
(conclusion, stanza vi. line 3), which was written about the same time
as the despatch. Byron quotes them in his "Ode from the French," stanza
iv. line 8 (see _Poetical Works_, 1900, iii. 434, note 1). There is a
satirical allusion to the Duke's "assumption of the didactic" about
teaching a "great moral lesson" in the Preface to the first number of
the _Liberal_ (1822, p. xi.).]

{267}[326] When Lord Sandwich said "he did not know the difference
between orthodoxy and heterodoxy," Warburton, the bishop, replied,
"Orthodoxy, my lord, is _my doxy_, and heterodoxy is _another man's_
doxy." A prelate of the present day has discovered, it seems, a _third_
kind of doxy, which has not greatly exalted in the eyes of the elect
that which Bentham calls "Church-of-Englandism."

[For the "prelate," see _Letters_, 1902, vi. 101, note 2.]

[327] [For the Duke of Wellington and the Holy Alliance, see the
Introduction to _The Age of Bronze, Poetical Works_, 1901, v. 538, 561.]

Lord George Gordon Byron