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more truths of his country and of his age than from all the rest put together. His ideas were proscribed during his life; it has been attempted to depreciate his genius since his death. Even at the present day English critics are hardly just to him. He fought all his life against the society from which he was descended; and during his life, as after his death, he suffered the penalty of the resentment which he provoked, and the dislike to which he gave rise. A foreign critic may be more impartial, and freely praise the powerful hand whose blows he has not felt.
If ever there was a violent and inadly sensitive soul, but incapable of shaking off its bonds; ever agitated, but yet shut in; predisposed to poetry by its innate fire, but limited by its natural barriers to a single kind of poetry,-it was Byron's.
'the apothecary's, inquiring anxiously whether the cther had been to purchase poison, and cautioning the vendor of drugs not to attend to such an application if made."* When he went to school, "his friendships were passions." Many years after he left Harrow, he never heard the name of Lord Clare one of his old school-fellows, pronounced. without "a beating of the heart." ↑ A score of times he got himself into trouble for his friends, offering them his time, his pen, his purse. One day, at Harrow, a big boy claimed the right to fag his friend, little Peel, and finding him refractory, gave him a beating on the inner fleshy side of his arm, which he had twisted round to render the pain more acute. Byron, too small to fight the rascal, came up to him "blushing with rage," tears in his eyes, and asked with a trembling voice how many stripes he meant to inflict. Why," returned the executioner,
Because, if you please," said Byron, holding out his arm, "I would take half." He never met with objects of distress without affording them succor. § In his latter days in Italy, he gave away a thousand pounds out of every four thousand he spent. The upwellings of this heart were copious, and flooded forth good and evil impetuously, and at the least collision. Like Dante, in his early youth, | Byron, at the age of eight, fell in love with a child named Mary Duff.
This promptitude to extreme emotions was with him a family legacy, and the result of education. His great-uncle," you little rascal, what is that to you?" a sort of raving and misanthropical maniac, had slain in a tavern brawl, by candle-light, Mr. Chaworth, his relative, and had been tried before the House of Lords. His father, a brutal roysterer, had eloped with the wife of Lord Carmarthen, ruined and ill-treated Miss Gordon, his second wife; and, after living like a madman and a scoundrel, had gone with the remains of his wife's family property, to die abroad. His mother in her moments of fury, would tear her dresses and her bonnets to pieces. When her wretched husband died she almost lost her reason, and her cries were heard in the street. It would take a long story to tell what a childhood Byron passed under the care of "this lioness;" in what torrents of insults, interspersed with softer moods, he himself lived, just as passionate and more bitter. His mother ran after him, alled him a "lame brat," shouted at aim, and threw fire-shovel and tongs at his head. He held his tongue, bowed, and none the less felt the outrage. One day, when he was "in one of his silent rages," they had to take out of his hand a knife which he had taken from the table, and which he was already raising to his throat. Another time the quarrel was so terrible, that son and mother, each privately, went to
"How very odd that I should have been so utterly, devotedly fond of that girl, at an age when I could neither feel passion, nor know the meaning of the word!... I recollect all our caresses, ... my restlessness, my sleepwere so violent, that I sometimes doubt if I lessness. My misery, my love for that girl have ever been really attached since. When I it nearly heard of her being married, threw me into convulsions." I
At twelve years he fell in love with his cousin, Margaret Parker:
I could not sleep-I could not eat-I could not 'My passion had its usual effects upon me. rest; and although I had reason to know that she loved me, it was the texture of my life to think of the time which must ela se before wa
Byron's Works, ed. Moore, 17 vols. 1830
| Ibid. 16
could meet again, being usually about twelve hours of separation. But I was a fool then, and am not inuch wiser now.”*
water in one night after going to bed, and been still thirsty,. striking off the necks of bottles from mere 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 ball, 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 ob gaged in the extreme of every taste and every excess. As he was a dandy, and one of the most brilliant, he nearly let himself die of hunger for fear of becoming fat, then drank and ate greedily during his nights of recklessness.
"Lord Byron, for the last two days, had done nothing towards sustenance beyond eating a few biscuits and (to appease appetite) chewing mastic.... He confined himself to lobsters, and of these finished two or three to his own share,-interposing, sometimes, a small liqueur-glass of strong white brandy, sometimes a tumbler of very hot water, and then pure brandy again, to the amount of near half a dozen small glasses of the latter.. ..After this we had claret, of which having despatched two bottles between us, at about four o'clock in the morning we parted." ↑
Another day we find in Byron's journal the following words:
"Yesterday, dined tête-a-tête at the Cocoa' with Scrope Davies-sat from six till midnight -drank between us one bottle of champagne
and six of claret, neither of which wines ever affect me." ‡
Ibid. iii. 20, March 28, 1814.
stacle leaps up, rebounds, destroys every thing, and ends by burying itself in the earth. Beyle, a most shrewd observer, who lived with Byron for several weeks, says that on certain days he was mad; at other times, in presence of beautiful things, he became sublime. Though reserved and proud, music made him weep. The rest of his time, petty English passions, pride of rank, for instance, a vain dandyism, unhinged him: he spoke of Brummel with a shudder of jealousy and admiration. But small or great, the passion of the hour swept down upon his mind like a tempest, roused him, transported him either into imprudence or genius. Byron's own Journal, his familiar letwere, trembling with wit, anger, enthu ters, all his unstudied prose, is, as it siasm; the smallest words breathe sen sitiveness; since Saint Simon we have not seen more lifelike confidences. All styles appear dull, and all souls slug. gish by the side of his.
In this splendid rush of unbridled and disbanded faculties, which leaped up at random, and seemed to drive him without option to the four quarters of the globe, one took the reins, and cast him on the wall against which he was broken.
"Sir Walter Scott describes Lord Byron as being a man of real goodness of heart, and the kindest and best feelings, miserably thrown away by his foolish contempt of public opinion. Instead of being warned or checked by publis opposition, it roused him to go on in a wors strain, as if he said, 'Ay, you don't like it: well, you shall have something worse for you pains."" t
This rebellious instinct is inherent in the race; there was a whole cluster of wild passions, born of the climate,
Ibid. v. 96, Feb. 2, 1821.
+ Lockhart's Life of Sir Walter Scott, vii 323.
"If I was born, as the nurses say, with a 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
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, indomitable pride, me." * 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 swordBerserkirs, when, in an open bark, be- exercise, ran and leaped, de, over. neath a sky cloven with lightning, came obstacles. These were the exthey 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 made 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 tears. Another time, at Harrow, in a for nature and pleasure against cant dispute which was dividing the school, and regularity, to say that high Enga 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,† 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 against all; to dare every thing rather than give any sign of submission, such was his character. This is why he was disposed to undergo any thing rather than give signs of weakness. At ten he was a stoic from pride. His foot was painfully stretched in a woodcontrivance whilst he was taking his Latin lesson, and his master pitied him, saying "he must be suffering." "Never mind, Mr. Rogers," he said, unless it be cayenne. I see no such horror
an a dreamless sleep, and I have no conception of any existence which duration would not make tiresome."
"I like Junius: he was a good hater.-I don't understand yielding sensitiveness. What I feel is an immense rage for forty-eight bours."
"Claudians," men of the later empire, raged against the Lake school, and in consequence had in Southey a bitter and unwearied enemy. Thus provided with enemies, he laid himself open to attack on all sides. He decried him self through his hatred of cant, his bravado, his boasting about his vices He depicted himself in his heroes, bu for the worse; in such a way that 6 man could fail to recognize him, and think him much worse than he was. Walter Scott wrote, immediately after seeing Childe Harold:
writer's heart or morals.
Vice ought to be a little more modest, and it must require impudence almost equal to the noble Lord's other powers, to claim sympathy gravely for the ennui arising from his being tired of his wassailers and his paramours. There is a monstrous deal of conceit in it, too, for it is informing the inferior part of the world that their little oldfashioned scruples of limitation are not worthy of his regard."*
My noble friend is something like my old peacock, who chooses to bivouac apart from his lady, and sit below my bedroom window, to keep me awake with his screeching lamentation. Only, I own he is not equal in melody to Lord Byron." t
Such were the sentiments which he called forth in all respectable classes. He was pleased thereat, and did worse -giving out that in his adventures in the East he had dared a good many things; and he was not indignant when identified with his heroes. He said he should like to feel for once the sensations of a man who had committed a murder. Another time he wrote in his Diary:
"Hobhouse told me an odd report,-that I am the actual Conrad, the veritable Corsair, and that part of my travels are supposed to have passed in piracy. Um! people sometimes hit near the truth, but never the whole truth. He don't know what I was about the year after he left the Levant; nor does any one-nornor-nor-however, it is a lie-but I doubt the equivocation of the fiend that lies like truth. $
These dangerous words were turned against him like a dagger; but he loved danger, mortal danger, and was only at ease when he saw the points of all angers bristling against him. Alone against all, against an armed society; erect, invincible even against common sense, even against conscience, -it was then he felt in all his strained Lerves the great and terrible sensation, to which his whole being involuntarily inclined.
A last imprudence brought down the attack. As long as he was an unmarried man, his excesses might be excused by the over-strong passions of a temperament which often causes youth in England to revolt against good taste and rule; but marriage settles them, and it was marriage which in him com
* Lockhart's Life of Sir Walter Scott, iii. 389. t Ibid. v. 141. Moore's Life of Byron, iii. 12, March 10, Thor's day. The last part of the sentence is a quotation from Macbeth, v. 5.
pleted his unsettling. He found tha his wife was a kind of paragon of virtue, known as such, "a creature of rule," correct and without feelings, incapable of committing a fault herself, and of forgiving. His servant Fletcher observed, "It is very odd, but I never yet knew a lady that could not manage my Lord except my Lady." * Lady Byron thought her husband mad, and had him examined by physicians. Hav ing learned that he was in his right mind, she left him, returned to her father, and refused ever to see him again. Thereupon he passed for a monThe papers covered him with obloquy; his friends induced him not to go to a theatre or to Parliament, fearing that he would be hooted or insulted. The rage and pangs which so violent a soul, precociously accustomed to brilliant glory, felt in this universal storm of outrage, can only be learned from his verses.
He grew stubborn, went to Venice, and steeped himself in the voluptuous Italian life, even in low debauchery, the better to insult the Puritan prudery which had condemned him, and left it only through an offence still more blamed, his public intimacy with the young Countess Guicciolí. Meanwhile he showed himself as bitterly republican in politics as in morality. He wrote in 1813: "I have simplified my politics into an utter detestation of all existing governments." This time, at Ravenna, his house was the centre and storehouse of conspirators, and he generously and imprudently prepared to take arms with them, to strike for the deliverance of Italy:
"They mean to insurrect here, and are to honour me with a call thereupon. I shall not fall back; though I don't think them in force and heart sufficient to make much of it. But, on
ward... What signifies self?... It is not on man nor a million, but the spirit of liberty which must be spread. The mere selfish calcula tion ought never to be made on such occasions;
and, at present, it shall not be computed by me.
I should almost regret that my own affairs went well, when those of nations are in peril." ↑ In the mean time he had quarre.s with the police: his house was watched, he was threatened with assassination, and yet he rode out daily, and went into the
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, he would have been more at home as a sea-king, or a captain of a band of troopers during the middle ages. Ex. cept two or three gleams of Italiar sunshine, his poetry and life are those of a Scald transplanted into modern life, who in this over-well regulated world did not find his vocation.
"What is the reason that I have been, all my lifetime, more or less ennuyé?... I do not know how to answer this, but presume that it is constitutional, as well as the waking in low spirits, which I have invariably done for many
years. Temperance and exercise, which I have practised at times, and for a long time together vigorously and violently, made little or no difference. Violent passions did: when under their immediate influence-it is odd, but-I was in agitated, but not in depressed spirits. Wine and spirits make me sullen and savage to ferocity-silent, however, and retiring, and not quarrelsome, if not spoken to. Swimming also raises my spirits; but in general they are low, and get daily lower. That is hopeless; for I do not think I am so much ennuyé as I was at nineteen. The proof is, that then I must game, or drink, or be in motion of some kind, or I was miserable."*
Byron was a poet, but in his own way-a strange way, like that in which he lived. There were internal tem pests within him, avalanches of ideas, which found issue only in writing. He wrote: "I have written from the ful ness of my mind, from passion, from
"What I feel most growing upon me are laziness, and a disrelish more powerful than indifference. If I rouse, it is into fury. I pre-mpulse, from many motives, but not sume that I shall end (if not earlier by accident, or some such termination) like Swift, dying at top.' Lega (his servant) came in with a letter about a bili unpaid at Venice which I hought paid months ago. I flew into a parxysm of rage, which almost made me faint. I have always had une âme, which not only tormented itself, but everybody else in contact with it, and an esprit violent, which has almost left me without any esprit at all." t
A horrible foreboding which haunted him to the end! On his deathbed, in Greece, he refused, I know not why, to be bled, and preferred to die at once. They threatened that the uncontrolled disease might end in madness. He sprang up: "There! you are, I see, a -d set of butchers! Take away as much blood as you like, but have done with it," and stretched out his arm. Amidst such wild outbursts and anxieties he passed his life. Anguish endured, danger braved, resistance overcome, grief relished, all the greatness and sad ness of the black warlike madness, such are the images which he needs must let pass before him. In default of action he had dreams, and he only betook him
*Moore, Byron's Works; Life, v. 60, Jan. 6, 1821. ↑ Ibid v. 97, Feb. 2, 1821. Ibid.vi. a06.
for their sweet voices.' To withdraw myself from myself has ever been my sole, my entire, my sincere motive in scribbling at all-and publishing also the continuance of the same object, by the action it affords to the mind, which else recoils upon itself." He wrote almost always with astonishing rapidity, The Corsair in ten days, The Bride of Abydos in four days. While it was printing he added and corrected, but that I can never recast any thing. I without recasting: "I told you before am like the tiger. If I miss the first spring, I go grumbling back to my jungle again; but if I do it, it is crush. ing."* Doubtless he sprang, but he
had a chain: never, in the freest flight of his thoughts, did he liberate himself from himself. He dreams of himself and sees himself throughout. It is a boiling torrent, but hedged in with rocks. No such great poet has had so narrow an imagination; he could not metamorphose himself into another. They are his own sorrows, his own re volts, his own travels, which, hardly transformed and modified, he intro * Ibid. v. 33, Ravenna, Nov. 18, 1820.