Изображения страниц

more truths of his country and of his “the apothecarv's, inquiring anxiously age than from all the rest put together. whether the cther had been to purchase His ideas were proscribed during his poison, and cautioning the vendor of life; it has been attempted to depre- drugs not to attend to such an applica. ciate his genius since his death. Even tion if made."* When he went to school, at the present day English critics are “his friendships were passions.” Many hardly just to him. He fought all his years after he left Harrow, we never life against the society from which he heard the name of Lord Clare one of was descended; and during his life, as his old school-fellows, pronwunced, after his death, he suffered the penalty without “a beating of the heart.” | A of the resentment which he provoked, score of times he got himself into and the dislike to which he gave rise. trouble for his friends, offering them A foreign critic may be more impartial, his time, his pen, his purse. One day, and freely praise the powerful hand at Harrow, a big boy claimed the right whose blows he has not felt.

to fag his friend, little Peel, and finding If ever there was a violent and inadly him refractory, gave him a beatirg on sensitive soul, but incapable of shaking the inner fleshy side of his arm, which off its bonds; ever agitated, but yet he had twisted round to render the shut in ; predisposed to poetry by its pain more acute. Byron, too small to innate fire, but limited by its natural fight the rascal, came up to him barriers to a single kind of poetry,-it "blushing with rage,” tears in his eyes, was Byron's.

and asked with a trembling voice how This promptitude to extreme emo many stripes he meant to inflict. tions was with him a family legacy, and“ Why," returned the executioner, the result of education. His great-uncle," you little rascal, what is that to you ? " a sort of raving and misanthropical Because, if you please,” said Byron, maniac, had slain in a tavern brawl, by holding out his arm, “I would take candle-light, Mr. Chaworth, his relative, half.” He never met with objects of and had been tried before the House of distress without affording them sucLords. His father, a brutal roysterer, cor. $ In his latter days in Italy, he had eloped with the wife of Lord Car- gave away a thousand pounds out of marthen, ruined and ill-treated Miss every four thousand he spent. The Gordon, his second wife; and, after upwellings of this heart were living like a madman and a scoundrel, copious, and flooded forth good and had gone with the remains of his wife's evil impetuously, and at the least colfamily property, to die abroad. His lision. Like Dante, in his early youth, mother in her moments of fury, would Byron, at the age of eight, fell in love tear her dresses and her bonnets to with a child named Mary Duff. pieces. When her wretched husband

“How very odd that I should have been so died she almost lost her reason, and utterly, devotedly fond of that girl, at an age her cries were heard in the street. It when I could neither feel passion, nor know

I recollect all would take a long story to tell what a the meaning of the word ! childhood Byron passed under the care

: my restlessness, my sleep,

lessness. My misery, my love for that girl of “this lioness ;” in what torrents of

were so violent, that I sometimes doubt if I insults, interspersed with softer moods, have ever been really attached since. When I he himself lived, just as passionate and heard of her being married, . . . it nearly more bitter. His mother ran after him, threw me into convulsions." I alled him a “lame brat,” shouted at At twelve years he fell in love with his sim, and threw fire-shovel and tongs at cousin, Margaret Parker: his head. He held his tongue, bowed, and none the less felt the outrage. One I could not sleep, I could not eat-1 could not

“ My passion had its usual effects upon me. day, when he was “in one of his silent rest; and although I had reason to know that rages,” they had to take out of his she loved me, it was the texture of my life to hand a knife which he had taken from think of the time which must ela ase before wa the table, and which he was already raising to his throat. Another time * Byron's Works, ed. Moore, 17 vols. 1830

Life, i. 102. the quarrel was so terrible, that son

1 Byron's Works, Life, i 63. ind mother, each privately, went to Ibid. 69.

§ Tbid. 37.



our caresses,

could meet again, being asnally about twelve water in one night after going to bed, and beer hours of separation. But I was a fool then, still thirsty, .. striking off the necks of botand am not auch wiser now."

tles from more thirsty impatience." . He never was wiser, read hard at Much less is necessary to ruin mind school; took too much exercise ; later and body wholly. Thus these veheon, at Cambridge, Newstead, and Lon- ment minds live, ever driven and broken don, he changed night into day, rushed by their own energy, like a cannon bal}, into debauchery, kept long fasts, led an which, when fired, turns and spins unwholesome way of living, and en- round quickly, but at the smallest obgaged in the extreme of every taste and stacle leaps up, rebounds, destroys every excess. As he was a dandy, and every thing, and ends by burying itselt one of th: most brilliant, he nearly let in the earth. Beyle, a most shrewd himself die of hunger for fear of be observer, who lived with Byron for coming fat, then drank and ate greedily several weeks, says that on certain days during his nights of recklessness. he was mad; at other times, in presMoore said:

ence of beautiful things, he became

sublime. Though reserved and proud, “ Lord Byron, for the last two days, had music made him weep. The rest of done nothing towards sustenance beyond cat: his time, petty English passions, pride ing a few biscuits and (to appease appetite) chewing mastic. ... He confined himself to of rank, for instance, a vain dandyism, lobsters, and of these finished two or three to unhinged him : he spoke of Brummel his own share, --interposing, sometimes, a small liqueur-glass of strong white brandy, sometimes

with a shudder of jealousy and admia tumbler of very hot water, and then pure ration. But small or great, the passion brandy again, to the amount near half a dozen of the hour swept down upon his mind small glasses of the latter. . . . After this we

like a tempest, roused him, transported had claret, of which having despatched two bottles between us, at about four o'clock in the him either into imprudence or genius. morning we parted."

Byron's own Journal, his familiar let.

ters, all his unstudied prose, is, as it Another day we find in Byron's journal were, trembling with wit, anger, enthu the following words :

siasm ; the smallest words breathe sen Yesterday, dined tetementate at the Cocoa' sitiveness; since Saint Simon we have with Scrope Davies-sat from six till midnight not seen more lifelike confidences. All --drank between us one bottle of champagne styles appear dull, and all souls slug and six of claret, neither of which wines ever affect me." I

gish by the side of his.

In this splendid rush of unbridled Later, at Venice :

and disbanded faculties, which leaped “I have hardly had a wink of sleep this up at random, and seemed to drive him week past. I have had some curious masking without option to the four quarters of adventures this carnival. I will work the the globe, one took the reins, and mine of my youth to the last vein of the org, and then--good night. I have lived, and am

cast him on the wall against which he con en!"

was broken. At this rate the organs wear out, and “ Sir Walter Scott describes Lord Byron as intervals of temperance are not suf being a man of real goodness of heart, and the ficient to repair them. The stomach kindest and best feelings, miserably thrown

away by his foolish contempt of public opinion. does not continue to act, the nerves get Instead of being warned or checked by publie out of order, and the soul undermines opposition, it roused him to go on in a worx the body, and the body the soul.

strain, as if he said, 'Ay, you don't like it;

well, you shall have something worse for you “ I always wake in actual despair and des pains.' "+ pondency, in all respects, even of that which This rebellious instinct is inherent in pleased me over-night. In England, five years ago, I had the same kind of hypochondria, but the race; there was a whole cluster of accompanied with so violent a thirst that I wild passions, born of the climate, I have drank as many as fifteen bottles of soda

* Ibid. v. 96, Feb. 2, 1821.

+ Lockhart's Life of Sir Walter Scott, vij * Byron's Works, Life, i. 53. 1 Ibid. iii. 83

" If I was born, as the nurses say, with a Ibid. iii. 20, March 28, 1814.

silver spoon in my mouth,' it has stuck in my Ibid. iv. 81; Letter to Moore, Feb. 12, throat, and spoiled my palate, so that nothing 1818.

put into it is swallowed with much relish,



which nourished him: a gloomy humor, “you shall not see any signs of it in violent imagination, indoinitable pride, mie.” * Such as he was as a child, he a relish for danger, a craving for strife, continued as a man. In mind and that inner exaltation, only satiated by body he strove, or prepared himself for destruction, and that sombre madness strife. Every day for hours at a time, which urged forward the Scandinavian he boxed, fired pistols, practiced sword. Berserkirs, when, in an open bark, be exercise, ran and leaped, 1 de, over. neath a sky cloven with lightning, came obstacles. These were the ex. they abandoned themselves to the tem- ploits of his hands and muscles; but pest, whose fury, they had breathed. he needed others. For lack of enemies This instinct is in the blood: people he found fault with society, and mide are born so, as they are born lions or war upon it. We know to what ex bull-dogs.* Byron was still a little cesses the dominant opinions then ran. boy in petticoats when his nurse scold- England was at the height of the war ed him roughly for having soiled or with France, and thought it was fighttorn a new frock which he had just ing for morality and liberty. In English put on. He got into one of his silent eyes, at this time, Church and State rages, seized the garment with his were holy things: any one who touched hands, rent it from top to bottom, and them became a public enemy. In this stood erect, motionless, and gloomy be- fit of national passion and Protestan! fore the storming nurse, so as to set severity, whosoever publicly avowed more effectually er wrath at defiance. liberal ideas and manners seemed ar His pride mastered him. When at ten | incendiary, and stirred up against him he inherited the title of lord, and his self the instincts of property, the doc name was first called at school, pre- trines of moralists, the interests of policeded by the title dominus, he could ticians, and the prejudices of the people. not answer the customary adsum, stood Byron chose this moment to praise Vol. silent amidst the general stare of his taire and Rousseau, to admire Naposchool-fellows, and at last burst into leon, to avow himself a skeptic, to plead

Another time, at Harrow, in a for nature and pleasure against cant dispute which was dividing the school, and regularity, to say that high Eng. a boy said, “Byron won't join us, for lish society, debauched and hypocritical, he never likes to be second anywhere." made phrases and killed men, to preHe was offered the command, and then serve its sinecures and rotten boroughs. only would he condescend to take part As though political hatred was not with them. Never to submit to a mas enough, he contracted, in addition, liter. ter; to rise with his whole soul against ary animosities,attacked the whole body every semblance of encroachment or of critics,t ran down the new poetry, derule; to keep his person intact and in- clared that the most celebrated were violate at all cost, and to the end “Claudians,” men of the later empire, against all; to dare every thing rather raged against the Lake school, and in than give any sign of submission, consequence had in Southey a bitter such was his character. This is why and unwearied enemy. Thus piovided he was disposed to undergo any thing with enemies, he laid himself open to rather than give signs of weakness. At attack on all sides. He decried lin. ten he was a stoic from pride. His self through his hatred of cant, his fout was painfully stretched in a wood- bravado, his boasting about his vices za contrivance whilst he was taking He depicted himself in his heroes, bu! his Latin lesson, and his master pitied for the worse ; in such a way that

; him, saying "he must be suffering.” man could fail to recognize him, and

Never mind, Mr. Rogers,” he said, think him much worse than he was. unless it be cayenne. I see no such horror

Walter Scott wrote, immediately after m a dreamless sleep, and I have no conception seeing Childe Harold : of any existence which duration would not make tiresume."

very clever *“I like Junius: he was a good hater.-I

Childe Haroid is, I think

poem, but gives no good symptom of the don't understand yielding sensitiveness. What I feel is an immense rage for forty-eight * Byron's Works, Life, i; gl bown."

1 In English Bards and loatch Rodinners



[ocr errors]

writer's heart or morals. ... a little more modest, and it must require impu- his wife was a kind oi paragon of

Vice ought to be pleted his unsettling. He found that dence aimost equal to the noble Lord's other powers. to claim sympathy gravely for the ennui virtue, known as such, “a creature of arising from his being tired of his wassailers rule,” correct and without feelings, inand his paramours. There is a monstrous deal capable of committing a fault

herself, of conceit in it, too, for it is informing the in, and of forgiving. His servant Fletrher ferior part of the world that their little old. fashioned scruples of limitation are not worthy observed, " It is very odd, but I never of his regard." *

yet knew a lady that could not manage "My noble friend is something like my


my Lord except my Lady." * Lady peacock, who chooses to bivouac apart from Byron thought her husband mad, and his lady, and sit below my bedroom window, to (eep ne awake with his screeching lamenta- had him examined by physicians. Har: çion. Only, I own he is not equal in melody to ing learned that he was in his right Lord Byron.” +

mind, she left him, returned to her Such were the sentiments which he father, and refused ever to see him called forth in all respectable classes. again. Thereupon he passed for a monHe was pleased thereat, and did worse ster. The papers covered him with -giving out that in his adventures in obloquy; his friends induced him not the East he had dared a good many to go to a theatre or to Parliament, things; and he was not indignant when fearing that he would be hooted or inidentified with his heroes. He said he sulted. The rage and pangs which so should like to feel for once the sensa- violent a soul, precociously accustomed tions of a man who had committed a to brilliant glory, felt in this universal murder. Another time he wrote in bis storm of outrage, can only be learned Diary:

from his verses. He grew stubborn, “ Hobhouse told me an odd report, -that I the voluptuous Italian life, even in low

went to Venice, and steeped himself in am the actual Conrad, the veritable Corsair, and that part of my travels are supposed to have debauchery, the better to insult the passed in piracy. Um! people sometimes hit Puritan prudery which had condemned near the truth, but never the whole truth.

He him, and left it only through an offence don't know what I was about the year after he left the Levant; nor does any one-nor- still more blamed, his public intimacy nor-nor-however, it is a lie, but I doubt with the young Countess Guiccioli. the equivocation of the fiend that lies like Meanwhile he showed himself as truth."'"1

bitterly republican in politics as in Tnese dangerous words were turned morality. He wrote in 1813: "I have against him like a dagger ; but he simplified my politics into an utter de. loved danger, mortal danger, and was testation of all existing governments. cnly at ease when he saw the points This time, at Ravenna, his house was of all angers bristling against him. the centre and storehouse of conspiraAlone against all, against an armed tors, and he generously and imprusociety; erect, invincible even against dently prepared to take arms with common sense, even against conscience, them, to strike for the deliverance of

-it was then he felt in all his strained Italy : cerves the great and terrible sensa- “They mean to insurrect here, and are to tion, to which his whole being involun- honour me with a call thereupon. I shall not fall larily inclined.

back ; though I don't think them in force and

heart sufficient to make much of it. But, on A last imprudence brought down the

What signifies self!..

... It is not on? attack. As long as he was an unmar- man nor a million, but the spirit of liberty which ried man, his excesses might be ex- must be spread. ... The mere selfish calculacu sed by the over-strong passions of a and, at present, it shall not be computed by me

tion ought never to be made on such occasions; temperament which often causes youth · I should almost regret that my own affairs in England to revolt against good taste went well, when those of nations are in peril.” 1 and rule ; but marriage settles them, In the mean time he had quarre.s with and it was marriage which in him com- the police : his house was watched, he

was threatened with assassination, and * Lockhart's Life of Sir Walter Scott, iü. yet he rode out daily, and went into the 389.

1 lbid. y. 141. Moore's Life of Byron, iii. 12, March 10, * Ibid. iv. 169, note. Thor's day. The last part of the sentence is a Moore, Byron's Worts; Life, v. 57, Jus quotation from Macbeth, V. S.

9, 1821.


[ocr errors]



neighboring pine-forest to practice self to dreams for want of action. He pistol-shooting. These are the senti- said when embarking for Greece, that ments of a man standing at the muzzle he had taken poetry for lack of better, of a loaded cannon, waiting for it to go and that it was not his fit work.“ What off. The emotion is great, nay, heroic, is a poet? what is he worth? what does but it is not agreeable; and certainly, he do? He is a babbler. He argued even at this season of great emotion, he ill of the poetry of his age, even of his was unhappy. Nothing is more likely own; saying that, if he lived ten years to poison happiness than a combative more, they should see something else spirit. He writes:

from him than verses. In reality, lie “What is the reason that I have been, all my

would have been more at home as a lifet' me, more or less ennuyé? .

... I do not sea-king, or a captain of a band of know how to answer this, but presume that it is troopers during the middle ages. Ex: constitutional, as well as the waking in low cept two or three gleams of Italiar spirits, which I have invariably done for years. Temperance and exercise, which I have sunshine, his poetry and life are those practised at times, and for a long time together of a Scald transplanted into modern life, vigorously and violently, made little or no dif- who in this over-well regulated world

Violent passions did: when under did not find his vocation. their immediate influence-itis odd, but I was in agitated, but not in depressed spirits. Wine and spirits make me sullen and savage to

II. ferocity-silent, however, and retiring, and not quarrelsome, if not spoken to. Swimming Byron was a poet, but in his own also raises my spirits; but in general they are way—a strange way, like that in which low, and get daily lower. That is hopeless; for he lived. There were internal tem I do not think I am so much ennuyé as I was at nineteen. The proof is, that then I must pests within him, avalanches of ideas, game, or drink, or be in motion of some kind, which found issue only in writing. He or I was miserable.” *

wrote: “I have written from the ful “What I feel most growing upon me are laziness, and a disrelish more powerful than in

ness of my mind, from passion, from difference. If I rouse, it is into fury. I pre-impulse, 'from many motives, but not sume that I shall end (if not earlier by accident, for their sweet voices.' To withdraw or some such termination) like Swift

, dying myself from myself has ever been my at top.' | Lega (his servant) came in with a letter about a bili unpaid at Venice which i sole, my entire, my sincere motive in hought paid months ago. I flew into a par: scribbling at all-and publishing also have always had une ame, which not only tor- the action it affords to the mind, whichi exysm of rage, which almost made me faint. I the continuance of the same suject, by mented itself, but everybody else in contact with it, and an esprit violent, which has almost else recoils upon itself.” He wrote left me without any esprit at all.” I

almost always with astonishing rapid. A horrible foreboding which haunted ity, The Corsair in ten days, The Bride him to the end ! On his deathbed, in of Abydos in four days. While it was Greece, he refused, I know not why, to printing he added and corrected, but be bled, and preferred to die at once, that I can never recast any thing. I

without recasting : "I told you before They threatened that the uncontrolled disease might end in madness. He

am like the tiger. If I miss the first sprang up: “Thereyou are, I see, a

spring, I go grumbling back to my and set of butchers! Take away as

jungle again; but if I do it, it is crush. much blood as you like, but have done ing"* Doubtless he sprang, but he with it,” S. and stretched out his arm.

had a chain : never, in the freest flight Amidst such wild outbursts and anxie- of his thoughts, did he liberate himself ties he passed his life. Anguish endur- from himself. He dreams of himself ed, danger braved, resistance overcome,

and sees himself throughout. It is a grief relished, all the greatness and sad? boiling torrent, but hedged in with ness of the black warlike madness, rocks. No such great poet has had so such are the images which he needs must narrow an imagination; he could not let pass before him. In default of action metamorphose himself into another. he had dreams, and he only betook him. They are his own sorre ws, his nwn re.

volts, his own travels, which, hardly • Moore, Byron's Works ; Life, V. 60, Jan. transformed and modified, he intro 4, 1821.


Ibid v. 97, Feb. 2,

{ Ibid. vi. 306. • Ibid. v. 33. Ravenna, Nov. 18, 1&no.


1 lbid. 95.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »