Among the many gay hours we passed together this spring [of 1813], I remember particularly the wild flow of his spirits one evening, when we had accompanied Mr. Rogers home from some early assembly, and when Lord Byron, who, according to his frequent custom, had not dined for the last two days, found his hunger no longer governable, and called aloud for "something to eat." Our repast,—of his own choosing,—was simple bread and cheese; and seldom have I partaken of so joyous a supper. It happened that our host had just received a presentation copy of a volume of Poems, written professedly in imitation of the old English writers, and containing, like many of these models, a good deal that was striking and beautiful, mixed up with much that was trifling, fantastic, and absurd. In our mood, at the moment, it was only with these latter qualities that either Lord Byron or I felt disposed to indulge ourselves; and, in turning over the pages, we found, it must be owned, abundant matter for mirth. In vain did Mr. Rogers, in justice to the author, endeavour to direct our attention to some of the beauties of the work; it suited better our purpose (as is too often the case with more deliberate critics) to pounce only on such passages as ministered to the laughing humour that possessed us. In this sort of hunt through the volume, we, at length, lighted on the discovery that our host, in addition to his sincere approbation of some of its contents, had also the motive of gratitude for standing by its author, as one of the poems was a warm and, I need not add, well-deserved panegyric on himself. We were, however, too far gone in nonsense for even this eulogy, in which we both so heartily agreed, to stop us. The opening line of the poem was, as well as I can recollect, "When Rogers o'er this labour bent;" and Lord Byron undertook to read it aloud;—but he found it impossible to get beyond the first two words. Our laughter had now increased to such a pitch that nothing could restrain it. Two or three times he began; but no sooner had the words "When Rogers" passed his lips, than our fit burst forth afresh,—till even Mr. Rogers himself, with all his feeling of our injustice, found it impossible not to join us; and we were, at last, all three, in such a state of inextinguishable laughter that, had the author himself been of the party, I question whether be could have resisted the infection.
A day or two after, Lord Byron sent me the following.
"MY DEAR MOORE,
"'When Rogers' must not see the enclosed, which I send for your perusal. I am ready to fix any day you like for our visit. Was not Sheridan good upon the whole? The 'Poulterer' was the first and best*.
"Ever yours, &c."
When T * * this damn'd nonsense sent,
(I hope I am not violent)
Nor men nor gods knew what he meant.
And since not ev'n our Rogers' praise
To common sense his thoughts could raise—
Why would they let him print his lays?
To me, divine Apollo, grant—O!
Hermilda's first and second canto,
I'm fitting up a new portmanteau;
And thus to furnish decent lining,
My own and others' bays I'm twining—
So, gentle T * *, throw me thine in."
On the same day I received from him the following additional scraps. The lines in Italics are from the eulogy that provoked his waggish comments.
"I lay my branch of laurel down."
"Thou 'lay thy branch of laurel down!'
Why, what thou'st stole is not enow;
And, were it lawfully thine own,
Does Rogers want it most, or thou?
Keep to thyself thy wither'd bough,
Or send it back to Doctor Donne—
Were justice done to both, I trow,
He'd have but little, and thou—none.
"Then thus to form Apollo's crown."
"A crown! why, twist it how you will,
Thy chaplet must be foolscap still.
When next you visit Delphi's town,
Inquire amongst your fellow-lodgers,
They'll tell you Phoebus gave his crown,
Some years before your birth, to Rogers.
"Let every other bring his own."
"When coals to Newcastle are carried,
And owls sent to Athens, as wonders,
From his spouse when the * *'s unmarried,
Or Liverpool weeps o'er his blunders;
When Tories and Whigs cease to quarrel,
When C * *'s 's wife has an heir,
Then Rogers shall ask us for laurel,
And thou shalt have plenty to spare."