Sunday, 11 March 2012

Thomas Moore: "To Sir Hudson Lowe"

Thomas Moore, Irish Poet (1779-1852)

A friend of Lord Byron and of Lord John Russell, the future Whig Prime Minister who had visited Napoleon on Elba, Thomas Moore published the poem, "To Sir Hudson Lowe" in the Examiner, a radical newspaper, on 4th October 1818.

It reflects the criticism already prevalent in England in Whig and Radical circles about Napoleon's treatment on St Helena, and contrasts the greatness of Napoleon with his captors who are likened to the Lilliputians in Swift's Gulliver's Travels.

Sir Hudson Lowe, Sir Hudson _Low_,
(By name, and ah! by nature so)
As thou art fond of persecutions,
Perhaps thou'st read, or heard repeated,
How Captain Gulliver was treated,
When thrown among the Lilliputians.

They tied him down--these little men did--
And having valiantly ascended
Upon the Mighty Man's protuberance,
They did so strut!--upon my soul,
It must have been extremely droll
To see their pigmy pride's exuberance!

And how the doughty mannikins
Amused themselves with sticking pins
And needles in the great man's breeches:
And how some _very_ little things,
That past for Lords, on scaffoldings
Got up and worried him with speeches,

Alas, alas! that it should happen
To mighty men to be caught napping!--
Tho' different too these persecutions;
For Gulliver, _there_, took the nap,
While, _here_, the _Nap_, oh sad mishap,
Is taken by the Lilliputians!


Hels said...

Why did the future Whig Prime Minister visit Napoleon on Elba? Who else (I don't mean relatives, guards or island officials) visited him?

John Tyrrell said...

What a good question. John Russell was at that time a young member of Parliament shortly to emerge as a leader of the more reform minded Whigs. A Number of other Whigs, particularly those in the Holland circle, visited Napoleon on Elba.

I can't really supply an answer to the why. I can only hazard a guess: a combination of admiration and curiosity about the greatest man of his age whose career they did not see as finished, and some sympathy for an enemy of the Bourbons and of the absolute monarchs of the continent with whom they did not wish the United Kingdom to be in alliance.

I hope some of these links might help, although the last one raises more issues perhaps than it solves. The Administration in England was reportedly considering moving Napoleon to a place further away from France than Elba before he escaped. Lady Holland sent Napoleon some newspapers in which St Helena was mentioned.