My dear Hodgson,
I will have nothing to do with your immortality; we are miserable enough in this life, without the absurdity of speculating upon another. If men are to live, why die at all? and if they die, why disturb the sweet and sound sleep that ‘knows no waking’? ‘Post Mortem nihil est, ipasque Mors nihil… quaeris quo jaceas post obitum loco? Quo non Nata jacent.’
As to revealed religion, Christ came to save men; but a good Pagan will go to heaven, and a bad Nazarene to hell; ‘Argal’ (I argue like the gravedigger) why are not all men Christians? or why are any? If mankind may be saved who never heard or dreamt, at Timbuctoo, Otaheite, Terra Incognita, etc., of Galilee and its Prophet, Christianity is of no avail: if they cannot be saved without, why are not all orthodox? It is a little hard to send a man preaching to Judaea, and leave the rest of the world – Negers and what not – dark as their complexions, without a ray of light for so many years to lead them on high; and who will believe that God will damn men for not knowing what they were never taught? I hope I am sincere; I was so at least on a bed of sickness in a far-distant country, when I had neither friend, nor comforter, nor hope, to sustain me. I looked to death as a relief from pain, without a wish for an after-life, but a confidence that the God who punishes in this existence had left that last asylum for the weary.
I am no Platonist, I am nothing at all; but I would sooner be a Paulician, Manichean, Spinozist, Gentile, Pyrrhonian, Zoroastrian, than one of the seventy-two villainous sects who are tearing each other to pieces for the love of the Lord and hatred of each other. Talk of Galileeism? Show me the effects – are you better, wiser, kinder by your precepts? I will bring you ten Mussulmans shall shame you in all goodwill towards men, prayer to God, and duty to their superiors. And is there a Talapoin, or a Bonze, who is not superior to a fox-hunting curate? But I will say no more on this endless theme; let me live, well if possible, and die without pain. The rest is with God, who assuredly, had He come or sent, would have made Himself manifest to nations, and intelligible to all. I shall rejoice to see you. My present intention is to accept Scrope Davies’s invitation; and then, if you accept mine, we shall meet here and there. Did you know poor Matthews? I shall miss him much at Cambridge.
Charles Matthews, referred to in the last paragraph, was a Cambridge friend of Byron’s who drowned in 1811. This letter was written in reference to Hodgson’s shock at Childe Harold’s ‘immorality.’
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "Lord Byron Letter To Francis Hodgson , Newstead Abbey, Sept. 3, 1811" https://englishhistory.net/byron/selected-letters/francis-hodgson-newstead-abbey-sept-3-1811/, March 6, 2015