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Byron & politics: ‘born for opposition’
Home|Special Collections Exhibitions|Byron & politics: ‘born for opposition’|Britannia: Parliament, party & the Prince|9. Byron’s manuscript of ‘Note to the annexed stanzas on Brougham’, 7 December 1818 

9. Byron’s manuscript of ‘Note to the annexed stanzas on Brougham’, 7 December 1818

NLS Ms.43354, f.24r

Although they were fellow Whigs, Byron despised and detested Henry Brougham (later first Baron Brougham and Vaux): both for the personal and legal advice Brougham gave to Lady Byron during the marital separation, and for the rumours and gossip spread by him during and after the separation.

Byron was unaware that Brougham was also the author of the highly critical review of Hours of Idleness in the Edinburgh Review, which he wrongly believed was by Francis Jeffrey. Byron’s stanzas on Brougham were originally intended to be included in Don Juan Canto I, to follow stanza 189 and stand in place of Donna Julia’s letter. The ‘Note’ was suppressed, and remained unpublished until 1957.

Doubted Distrusted by the democracy – disliked by the Whigs – and detested by the Tories – too much of a lawyer for the people – and too much of a demagogue for Parliament – a contestor of counties – and a Candidate for cities – the refuse of half the Electors of England – and representative at last upon sufferance of the proprietor of some rotten borough, which it would have been more independent to have purchased – a speaker upon all questions – and the outcast of all parties – his support has become alike formidable to all his enemies – (for he has no friends – ) and his vote can be only valuable when accompanied by his silence. – A disappointed man with a bad temper – he is endowed with considerable but not first-rate abilities – and has blundered on through life – remarkable only for a fluency, in which he has many rivals at the bar and in the Senate and an eloquence in which he has several Superiors. – ‘Willing to wound and not afraid to strike’ – till he receives a blow in return – he has not yet betrayed any illegal ardour, or Irish alacrity, in accepting the [defiances?] and resenting the disgraceful terms – which his proneness to evil-speaking have brought upon him. – In the cases of [Mackinnon?] and Manners he sheltered himself behind those parliamentary privileges which – Fox – Pitt – Castlereagh – Canning – Tierney – Adam – Shelburne – Grattan [Cary?] – Curran – and Clare – disdained to adopt as their buckler. –– In Italy after provoking Parliament The House of Commons became the Asylum of his Slander – as the Churches of Rome were once the
Sanctuary of Assassins.

The note ends with a thinly-veiled threat to take their dispute to a duel: ‘In the case the prose or verse of the above should be actionable, I put my name, that the man may rather proceed against me than the publisher – – not without some faint hope that the brand with which I blast him may induce him, however reluctantly, to a manlier revenge.’

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