[Lord Byron] chose to be noisily “immoral” not because he was any worse (or any better) than the average aristocrat of his time but as a weapon against the moralism of Wordsworth. I don’t mean “moralism” in a normative sense – God no. I remember sifting through the elderly Wordsworth’s letters looking for any comment at all on the Great Famine which was extirpating the Irish, and finding only one remark, in which the great moralist earnestly prays that England will not weaken, ie provide any aid whatsoever. It’s one of the curiosities of English literary history that you’ll never find the least particle of compassion for the Irish in “moral” poets like Wordsworth.
Only the “mad, bad and dangerous” Byron mentioned the slaughter of 1798, attacking the PM, Castlereagh, for “dabbling [his] sleek young hands in Erin’s gore” and, as Pope would have recommended, delivering an extra kick to his enemy’s corpse in this epitaph: “Posterity will never survey a nobler grave than this: here lie the bones of Castlereagh: stop, traveler, and piss.”
More here. Why is it that those who seemed at the time to most emphasize morality often end up later looking the least moral?
Hat tip to Paul Gowder.
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