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Title: Lord Byron jugé par les témoins de sa vie. English - My Recollections of Lord Byron
Author: Guiccioli, Teresa, contessa di, 1800-1873
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_Lord Byron jugé par les témoins de sa Vie._



MY RECOLLECTIONS

OF

LORD BYRON;

AND

THOSE OF EYE-WITNESSES OF HIS LIFE.


"The long promised work of the
COUNTESS GUICCIOLI."--

_Athenæum._


_NEW YORK_:

HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS, FRANKLIN SQUARE.

1869.



ADVERTISEMENT BY THE ENGLISH PUBLISHER.

The Publisher of this Translation feels authorized to state, that it is
the production of the celebrated COUNTESS GUICCIOLI.

RICHARD BENTLEY.



TO

THE AUTHOR OF THIS WORK,

THE

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

IS

Respectfully Dedicated

BY

HUBERT E.H. JERNINGHAM.



CONTENTS.


INTRODUCTORY SKETCH OF LORD BYRON            Page 9

CHAPTER I.
LORD BYRON AND M. DE LAMARTINE                   43

CHAPTER II.
PORTRAIT OF LORD BYRON                           58

CHAPTER III.
FRENCH PORTRAIT OF LORD BYRON                    70

CHAPTER IV.
HIS RELIGIOUS OPINIONS                          106

CHAPTER V.
HIS CHILDHOOD AND HIS YOUTH                     174

CHAPTER VI.
HIS FRIENDSHIPS                                 201

CHAPTER VII.
LORD BYRON CONSIDERED AS A FATHER, AS A
  BROTHER, AND AS A SON--HIS GOODNESS SHOWN BY
  THE STRENGTH OF HIS INSTINCTIVE AFFECTIONS    232

CHAPTER VIII.
QUALITIES OF LORD BYRON'S HEART                 245

CHAPTER IX.
HIS BENEVOLENCE AND KINDNESS                    284

CHAPTER X.
LORD BYRON'S QUALITIES AND VIRTUES OF SOUL      305

CHAPTER XI.
LORD BYRON'S CONSTANCY                          347

CHAPTER XII.
HIS COURAGE AND FORTITUDE                       361

CHAPTER XIII.
HIS MODESTY                                     372

CHAPTER XIV.
VIRTUES OF HIS SOUL                             381

CHAPTER XV.
HIS GENEROSITY ELEVATED INTO HEROISM            396

CHAPTER XVI.
HIS FAULTS                                      414

CHAPTER XVII.
HIS IRRITABILITY                                427

CHAPTER XVIII.
HIS MOBILITY                                    450

CHAPTER XIX.
HIS MISANTHROPY AND SOCIABILITY                 457

CHAPTER XX.
HIS PRIDE                                       484

CHAPTER XXI.
HIS VANITY                                      488

CHAPTER XXII.
LORD BYRON'S MARRIAGE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES      504

CHAPTER XXIII.
HIS GAYETY AND MELANCHOLY                       545

CHAPTER XXIV.
HIS MELANCHOLY                                  563

CHAPTER XXV.
ATTRACTION OF TRUTH FOR; OR, CONSCIENCE THE
   CHIEF QUALITY OF HIS SOUL                    631

SEMI-BIOGRAPHY OF BYRON IN MR. DISRAELI'S
  "VENETIA"                                     656



MY RECOLLECTIONS, ETC.

INTRODUCTION.

     "To know another man well, especially if he be a noted and
     illustrious character, is a great thing not to be
     despised."--SAINTE-BEUVE.


Many years ago a celebrated writer, in speaking of Lord Byron, who had
then been dead some years, said that so much had already been written
upon him that the subject had almost become commonplace, but was far
from being exhausted. This truth, indisputable when applied to Byron's
genius, his works, and to his intellect, was then and still is equally
positive when referring to his moral qualities. A subject as well as an
object may become commonplace by the quantity, but nevertheless remain
new and rare, owing to its quality. A subject can not be exhausted
before it has been seen under every one of its various aspects, and
appreciated in all its points. If much has been said of Lord Byron, has
his truly noble character been fairly brought to light? Has he not, on
the contrary, been judged rather as the author than the man, and have
not the imaginary creations of his powerful mind been too much
identified with reality? In the best biographies of his life do we not
meet with many gaps which have to be filled up--nay, worse, gaps filled
up with errors which have to be eradicated to make room for the truth?
The object of this work is precisely to do away with these errors and to
replace them by facts, and to dispel the shadows which fancy has raised
around his name. For the old opinions we wish to substitute new
appreciations, by weighing exactly the measure of truth which exists in
the former; and by the logic of facts we wish to judge fairly so as to
prevent posterity from being deceived. In doing this we do not pretend
to give England any new information. For a long time, no doubt, error
sprang from that country; but years and events have passed since that
state of things existed. The liberal and tolerant spirit, enlightened by
philosophy, which has spread all over liberal England, has also been
reflected in the opinions formed of men, and has modified many pages of
biography and history and made Englishmen feel how numerous were the
wrongs of which they were guilty toward their illustrious countryman.

It is useless to speak of the national selfishness of England, and
pretend that she only appreciates or rewards with her love and esteem
such writers as flatter her pride or hide her defects from the eyes of
foreigners. This may be true, generally speaking; but Lord Byron's
patriotic feelings were of a very different cast. He thought it best to
expose to the world at large the faults of his countrymen, in order to
correct them. His patriotism was influenced by the superiority of the
noble sentiments which actuated his life. Feeling as he did, that he
was, above all, a member of the great human community, and declaring it
openly; despising popularity, if it cost him the sacrifice of a truth
which he deemed it useful and right to proclaim, and thus going against
many of the passions, prejudices, and opinions of his countrymen, Byron
certainly wounded many susceptibilities; and could we forget all he had
to suffer at the hands of the English, we might almost say he was too
severe in his judgments upon them. Notwithstanding, however, it is
almost impossible to travel in England without meeting everywhere some
token of homage paid to the memory of Byron. Scotland, who looks upon
him almost as a son, is proud to show the several houses wherein he
lived when a child, and preserves his name and memory with love and
respect. To have seen him once, is a recollection of which one is proud.
A particular charm encircles the places, mountains, rivers, and bridge
of Don, of which he speaks, simply because he has mentioned them in his
poems. A letter or any thing which has belonged to him is looked upon as
a treasure.

At Harrow, the beloved residence of his youth, the growing generation
bow with affectionate respect before the pyramid which has been erected
to his memory by the love of a former youthful generation. At
Cambridge, among all the monuments which recall the glories of the past,
Lord Byron's statue commands the rest, and occupies the place of honor.
The rooms which he had there are shown and reverenced as places which
have harbored genius. In Parliament the same man who formerly, by unjust
and unmerited criticisms of the youthful poet, decried his growing
genius, and who was guilty of other wrongs against him, has made an act
of reparation and of justice by expressing publicly his regret that a
grudge of the dean in Byron's time had prevailed to prevent a monument
being erected in Westminster Abbey to the memory of the poet. The
pilgrimage to Newstead is looked upon as an intellectual feast, if not
as a duty, by young Englishmen, and his genius is so much revered by
them that they do not admit that he is equalled by any contemporary poet
or likely to be surpassed by those who follow. No doubt, therefore,
England now-a-days only prefers what formerly she used to exact from her
poets. Moore's culpable timidities and Macaulay's declamatory
exaggerations must, at least, be looked upon as weaknesses of character,
which would have been disowned by themselves, had they lived long enough
to witness the change in public opinion.

Although full justice has not yet been done to the noble character of
the man, still partial justice has been rendered to Byron's memory by
the summary dismissal of the numerous false writings which appeared and
which tended to replace the truth by the creations of fancy, and to put
into the mouth of the poet the thoughts of their authors and not his
own, or to insult him by a magnanimous defense, the honor and glory of
which was to redound entirely to the writers. It is necessary to
observe, that if Byron was openly calumniated during his lifetime, he
was not less so after his death by disguised slander, especially by that
kind of absolution which in reality is one of the most odious forms of
calumny, since it is the most hypocritical and most difficult to deal
with, and least likely to be touched. But England has at last understood
the truth and settled all such opinions.

To England, therefore, these pages, which contain the rectification of
certain old opinions, will be useless. But can the same be said of other
countries, and of France especially? Even now-a-days, we read such
fanciful appreciation of Byron's character that we could almost believe
that the rumors and calumnies which came from England had never been
refuted; and that extraordinary views expressed by Lamartine in
beautiful verse are still entertained, and the question still asked,
whether Byron was "a devil or an angel?" On reading such appreciations,
it seems opportune to present those who admire genius and truth with a
very humble but conscientious study of Byron's great mind.

Can it be objected, that the fact of the defense of a foreigner detracts
from the interest of the reader? Can a genius be a stranger to man, and
does not the earth seem too small to contain such exceptional beings?

Our civilization, which has almost suppressed every physical barrier
that exists between the nations of the earth, has still further
annihilated those of the intellect: so much so, that Shakspeare, Dante,
Goethe, are as much revered in France as in their respective countries,
notwithstanding the difference of the idioms in which they have written.
The same will occur in respect to Lord Byron, whose name alone opposes
every barrier, and against whom the difference of nationality can not
form any obstacle. The language of genius is not of one country only,
but appertains to humanity in general: and God Himself has implanted its
rules in every heart.

This book is not a regular nor a methodical biography. Nor is it an
apology; but rather a study, an analysis, the portrait of a great mind
seen under all its aspects, with no other decided intention on the part
of the writer than to tell the truth, and to rest upon indisputable
facts and rely upon unimpeachable testimony.

The public now, it is said, can not bear eulogy, and cares only to know
the weak points of great men. We do not believe this to be the case. It
would be too severe a criticism of human nature in general, and of our
times in particular. In any case, we can not accept the statement as
correct, when applied to noble characters to whom we especially dedicate
this work. It may be, the reader will find in our essay beauties which
he had not yet observed, which have hitherto been disputed in the
original, and which less sympathetic natures than ours might term
complacent eulogies; but the fear of being blamed and of being
unpopular shall not deter us from our intention of bringing them forth.
No criticism can prevent our praising, when he deserves it, the man who
never knew the weaknesses of jealousy, and who never failed to bestow
eulogy upon every kind of talent without ever claiming any in return. In
publishing the book we are, moreover, certain that what to-day may
appear praise, to-morrow will be termed justice.

Lord Byron shone at a period when a school called Romantic was in
progress of formation. That school wanted a type by which to mould its
heroes, as a planet requires a sun to give it light. It took Byron as
that type, and adorned him with all the qualities which pleased its
fancy, but the time has more than arrived when it is necessary that
truth should reveal him in his true light. My book is not likely to
dispel every cloud, but a few shades only add to the lustre and
brilliancy of a landscape.


LORD BYRON.

     "Others form the man: I tell of him."--MONTAIGNE.


At all times the world has been very unjust; and (who does not know it?)
in the history of nations many an Aristides has paid with exile the
price of his virtues and his popularity. Great men, great countries,
whole nations, whole centuries, have had to bear up against injustice;
and the truth is, that vice has so often taken the place of virtue, evil
of good, and error of truth, some have been judged so severely and
others so leniently, that, could the book of redress be written, not
only would it be too voluminous, but it would also be too painful to
peruse. Honest people would feel shame to see the judgments before which
many a great mind has had to bend; and how often party spirit, either
religious or political, moved by the basest passions--such as hatred,
envy, rivalry, vengeance, fanaticism, intolerance, self-love--has been a
pretext for disfiguring in the eyes of the public the greatest and
noblest characters. It would then be seen how some censor (profiting by
the breach which circumstances, or even a slight fault on the part of
these great minds, may have made, and joining issue with other inferior
judges of character) has often succeeded in throwing a shade on their
glorious actions and in casting a slur upon their reputation, like those
little insects which from their number actually succeed, notwithstanding
their smallness, in darkening the rays of the sun. What is worse,
however, is, that when history has once been erroneously written, and a
hero has been put forward in colors which are not real, the public
actually becomes accessory to the deception practiced upon it: for it
becomes so enamored of the false type which has been held out to its
admiration that it will not loosen its hold on it. Public opinion, once
fixed, becomes a perfect despotism.

Never, perhaps, has this phenomenon shown itself more visibly and more
remarkably than in the case of Lord Byron. Not only was he a victim of
these obstinate prejudices, but in his case the annihilation of truth
and the creation of an imaginary type have been possible only at the
cost of common sense, and notwithstanding the most palpable
contradictions. So that he has really proved to be one of the most
curious instances of the levity with which human judgments are formed.

We have elsewhere described the various phases of this phenomenon, one
of the principal causes of which has been the resolution to identify the
poet with the first heroes of his poems. Such a mode of proceeding was
as disloyal as it was contrary to all the received rules of literature.
It was inspired by hatred and vengeance, adopted by an idle and
frivolous public, and the result has proved to be something entirely
opposed to the truth.

As long as such a whimsical creation was harmless, it amused Byron
himself and his friends; but the day came when it ceased to be harmless
without ceasing to be eccentric, and became to Byron a true robe of
Nessus.

At his death the truth was demanded of his biographers; but the puppet
which had been erected stood there, and amazed the good, while it served
the malice of the wicked. His genius was analyzed, but no conscientious
study of his character was made, and Byron, as man, remained an unknown
personage.

Yet among his biographers there were men of upright and enlightened
minds: they did not all seek to raise themselves at the cost of
depreciating him, nor to gain popularity by sparing individuals at the
expense of Lord Byron.

If among them many proved to be black sheep, there were several, on the
other hand, who were sincere, and even kindly disposed. Yet not one did
full justice to Byron, not one defended him as he deserved, not one
explained his true character with the conscientious energy which in
itself constitutes authority. We shall speak elsewhere of the causes
which gave rise to this phenomenon. We shall mention the part which
public opinion played in England when suddenly displeased with a poet
who dared sound the deepest recesses of the human heart; and who as an
artist and a psychologist was interested in watching the growth of every
passion, and especially that of love, regardless of the conjugal
felicity which that public wished him to respect. It began to fear that
its enthusiasm for Lord Byron was a national crime, and by degrees
became accessory to the calumnies which were heaped upon his noble
character, on account of his supposed want of patriotism, and his
refusal to be blind to the defects of the mother-country. We shall see
how his biographers, preferring invention to strict adherence to the
truth, compounded a Lord Byron such as not to be any longer
recognizable, and to become even--especially in France--a caricature. Of
all this we shall speak hereafter. We shall now rather point to the
curious than to the unjust character of this fact, and notice the
contradictions to which Byron's biographers have lent themselves.

All, or nearly all, have granted to him an infinity of virtues, and
naturally fine qualities--such as sensitiveness, generosity, frankness,
humility, charity, soberness, greatness of soul, force of wit, manly
pride, and nobility of sentiment; but, at the same time, they do not
sufficiently clear him of the faults which directly exclude the
above-mentioned qualities. The moral man does not sufficiently appear in
their writings: they do not sufficiently proclaim his character--one of
the finest that was ever allied to a great intellect. Why? Are these
virtues such that, like excellent and salutary substances, they become
poisoned when placed in contact within the same crucible?

In this refusal to do justice there is contradiction; and as error
exists where contradiction lies, it is precisely in that contradiction
that we must seek the means of refuting error and assert the power of
truth.

Nature always proceeds logically, and the effect is always in direct
analogy with its cause. Even in the moral world the precise character of
exact sciences must be found. If in a problem we meet with a
contradiction, are we not certain that its solution has been badly
worked out, and that we must begin it over again to find a true result?
The same reasoning holds good for the moral spheres. When a judgment has
been wrongly formed, that is, when there appears to be contradiction
between various opinions, that judgment must be remodelled, the cause of
the error must be looked for, truth must be separated from falsehood,
and regard must be had to the law which obliges us to weigh impartially
every assertion, and to discuss equally the ayes and noes. Let this be
done for Lord Byron. Let us analyze facts, question the eye-witnesses of
his life, and peruse his admirable and simply-written letters, wherein
his soul has, so to say, photographed itself. Acts are unquestionably
more significative than words; yet if we wish to inquire into his
poetry, not by way of appreciating his genius (with which at present we
have nothing to do), but the nature of the man, let us do so loyally.
Let us not attribute to him the character which he lends to his heroes,
nor the customs which he attributes to them, simply because here and
there he has given to the one something of his manner, to the other some
of his sentiments; or because he has harbored them, in the belief that
hospitality can be extended to the wicked without the good suffering
from it.

Let us first examine "Childe Harold,"--the poem which principally
contributed to mystify the public, and commenced that despotic type of
which we have already spoken.

Childe Harold does not tell his own story. His life is told by a poet.
There are, therefore, two well-marked personages on the scene, perfectly
distinct and different from one another. The first is the young nobleman
in whom Byron intended to personify the precocious perversion of mind
and soul of the age, and in general the blaséd existence of the young
men of the day, of whom he had met many types at Cambridge, and on his
first launch into society. The second is the minstrel who tells his
story.

The heart of the former is closed to all joy and to all the finest
impulses of the soul; whereas that of the other beats with delight at
the prospect of all that is noble, great, good, and just in the world.
Why identify the author rather with the one than with the other--with
the former rather than with the latter? Why take from him his own
sentiments, to give him those of his hero? That hero can not be called
mysterious, since in his preface Byron tells us himself the moral object
for which he has selected him. If Childe Harold personifies Lord Byron,
who will personify the poet? That poet (and he is no other than Lord
Byron) plays a far greater part than the hero. He is much oftener on the
scene. In the greater part of the poem the minstrel alone speaks. In the
ninety-three stanzas of which the first canto is composed, Harold is on
the scene during nineteen stanzas only, while the poet speaks in his own
name during the seventy-four other stanzas, displaying a beautiful soul
under various aspects, and exhibiting no melancholy other than that
inherent to all elevated poetry.

As for the second canto, it opens with a monologue of the minstrel, and
Harold is forgotten until the sixteenth stanza. Then only does the
melancholy hero appear, to disappear and reappear again for a few
moments. But he rather seems to annoy the minstrel, who finishes at the
seventy-third stanza by dismissing him altogether; and from that moment
to the end of the canto the wretched and unamiable personage does not
reappear. To whom, then, belong all the admirable sentiments and all the
virtuous aspirations which we read of toward the end of the canto?--to
whom, if not to the minstrel himself? that is, to Lord Byron. What poet
has paid so noble a tribute to every virtue? Could that vigor and
freshness of mind which breathe upon the lips of the poet, and which
well belonged to him, suit the corrupted nature of Harold? If Byron
dismisses his hero so often, it is because he experiences toward him the
feelings of a logical moralist.

Why then identify Lord Byron with a personage he himself disowns as his
prototype, both in his notes, in his preface, in his conversations; and
who is proved by facts, by the poem itself, and by the poet's logical
and moral reasoning, to be entirely different from his creation? It is
true that Byron conceived the unfortunate idea of surrounding his hero
by several incidents in his own existence, to place him in the social
circle to which he himself belonged, and to give him a mother and a
sister, a disappointed love, a Newstead Abbey like his own, and to make
him travel where he had travelled and experience the same adventures.

That is true, and such an act of imprudence can only be explained, by
the confidence on which he relied that the identification could never
have been thought of. At twenty-one conscience speaks louder than
experience. But if we can justify the accusation of his having been
imprudent, can we justify his having been calumniated?

Eight years after the publication of the second canto, Byron wrote the
third; and here the pilgrim occasionally appears, but so changed that he
seems to have been merged into the poet, and to form with him one person
only. Childe Harold's sorrows are those of Lord Byron, but there no
longer exists any trace of misanthropy or of satiety. His heart already
beats with that of the poet for chaste and devoted affections, for all
the most amiable, the most noble, and the most sublime of sentiments. He
loves the flowers, the smiling and glorious, the charming and sublime
aspect of nature.

    "Yet not insensible to all which here
    Awoke the jocund birds to early song
    In glens which might have made even exile dear;
    Though on his brow were graven lines austere,
    And tranquil sternness, which had ta'en the place
    Of feelings fiercer far but less severe,
    Joy was not always absent from his face,
  But o'er it in such scenes would steal with transient trace."

No longer, then, is satiety depicted upon the pilgrim's brow, but "lines
austere;" and the poet seems so desirous of proving to us that Harold is
metamorphosed, that when he expresses sentiments full of sympathy,
humanity, and goodness, his horror for war and his dislike for the
beauties of the Rhine, because--

    "A thousand battles have assail'd thy banks,"

he takes care to add--

    "Thus Harold inly said"....

Harold, then, has ceased to be the weary _blasé_ pilgrim of twenty-one,
who in the first canto remains unmoved in presence of the attractions of
Florence the beautiful, who inspired the poet with such different
sentiments that in the midst even of a storm which threatens to swallow
him up he actually finds strength enough to express his sentiments of
real love for the lovely absent one--of a love, indeed, which is
evidently returned. His heart, like the poet's, now beats with a pure
love, and causes him to chant the absence of his friend in the most
beautiful strain. Where is the old Harold? It would seem as if the poet,
tired of a companion so disagreeable and so opposed to his tastes, and
wishing to get rid of him but not knowing how, had first changed and
moulded him to his own likeness by giving him his own sentiments, his
own great heart, his own pains, his own affections, and, not finding the
change natural, had dismissed him altogether. And so it appears, for
after the fifty-fifth stanza of the third canto, Childe Harold
disappears forever. Thus at the beginning of the fourth canto, which was
published a year after, under the auspices of an Italian sky, the reader
finds himself in the presence of the poet only. He meets in him a great
and generous soul, but the victim of the most odious and unmerited
persecution, who takes his revenge in forgiving the wrongs which are
done to him, and who reserves all his energies to consecrate them to the
love of that which is lovable, to the admiration of that which calls for
it, and who at twenty-nine years of age is imbued with Christian and
philosophical qualities, which his wearied hero could never have
possessed.

Why then again have identified Byron with Childe Harold? For what
reason? It strikes us, that the simplest notions of fairness require us
at least to take into account the words of the author himself, and to
listen to the protestations of a man who despised unmerited praise more
than unjust reproof.

"A fictitious character," says Byron, "is introduced for the sake of
giving some connection to the piece....

"It had been easy to varnish over his faults, to make him do more and
express less, but he never was intended as an example, further than to
show that early perversion of mind and morals leads to satiety of past
pleasures and disappointment in new ones, and that even the beauties of
nature and the stimulus of travel are lost on a soul so constituted, or
rather misdirected.

"It has been suggested to me by friends, on whose opinions I set a high
value, that in this fictitious character, 'Childe Harold,' I may incur
the suspicion of having intended some real personage: this I beg leave
once for all to disclaim--Harold is the child of imagination, for the
purpose I have stated. In some very trivial particulars, and those
merely local, there might be grounds for such a notion: but in the main
points, I should hope, none whatever."

Warned by his friends of the danger which there was for him being
identified with his hero, he paused before publishing the poem. He had
written it rather by way of recreation than for any other motive; and
when Dallas expressed to him his great desire to see the works
published, Byron told him how unwilling he was that it should appear in
print, and thus wrote to him, after having given way to Dallas's wishes
in the matter:--

"I must wish to avoid identifying Childe Harold's character with mine.
If in certain passages it is believed that I wished to identify my hero
with myself, believe that is only in certain parts, and even then I
shall not allow it. As for the manor of Childe Harold being an old
monastic residence, I thought I might better describe what I have seen
than what I invent. I would not for worlds be a man like my hero."

A year after, in writing to Moore on the occasion of dedicating his
"Corsair" to him, after saying that not only had his heroes been
criticised, but that he had almost been made responsible for their acts
as if they were personal to himself, he adds:

"Those who know me are undeceived, and those who do not I have little
interest in undeceiving. I have no particular desire that any but my
acquaintance should think the author better than the beings of his
imagining; but I can not help a little surprise, and perhaps amusement,
at some odd critical exceptions in the present instance, when I see
several bards in very reputable plight, and quite exempted from all
participation in the faults of their heroes, who nevertheless might be
found with little more morality than the Giaour; and perhaps--but no--I
must admit Childe Harold to be a very repulsive personage, and as to his
identity, those who like it must give him whatever _alias_ they please."

And in order to embrace the whole of his life in these quotations, we
will add what he said at Cephalonia, to Dr. Kennedy, shortly before his
death:--

"I can not conceive why people will always mix up my own character and
opinions, with those of the imaginary beings which, as a poet, I have
the right and liberty to draw."

"They certainly do not spare your lordship in that respect," replied
Kennedy; "and in 'Childe Harold,' 'Lara,' the 'Giaour,' and 'Don Juan,'
they are too much disposed to think that you paint in many instances
yourself, and that these characters are only the vehicles for the
expression of your own sentiments and feelings."

"They do me great injustice," he replied, "and what was never before
done to any poet.... But even in 'Don Juan' I have been misunderstood. I
take a vicious and unprincipled character, and lead him through those
ranks of society whose high external accomplishments cover and cloak
internal and secret vices, and I paint the natural effects of such
characters, and certainly they are not so highly colored as we find them
in real life."

"This may be true," said Kennedy, "but the question is, what are your
motives and object for painting nothing but scenes of vice and folly?"

"To remove the cloak which the manners and maxims of society," said his
lordship, "throw over their secret sins, and show them to the world as
they really are. You have not," added he, "been so much in high and
noble life as I have been; but if you had fully entered into it, and
seen what was going on, you would have felt convinced that it was time
to unmask the specious hypocrisy, and show it in its native colors!"

Kennedy having then remarked that the lower and middling classes of
society never entertained the opinion that the highest classes exhibited
models of piety and virtue, and were, indeed, disposed to believe them
worse than they really were, Byron replied:--

"It is impossible you can believe the higher classes of society worse
than they are in England, France, and Italy, for no language can
sufficiently paint them."

"But still, my lord, granting this, how is your book calculated to
improve them, and by what right, and under what title do you too come
forward in this undertaking?"

"By the right," he replied, "which every one has who abhors vice united
with hypocrisy. My plan is to lead Don Juan through various ranks of
society and show that wherever you go vice is to be found."

The doctor then observed, that satire had never done any good, or
converted one man from vice to virtue, and that while his satires were
useless, they would call upon his head the disapproval both of the
virtuous and the wicked.

"But it is strange," answered Byron, "that I should be attacked on all
sides, not only from magazines and reviews, but also from the pulpit.
They preach against me as an advocate of infidelity and immorality, and
I have missed my mark sadly in having succeeded in pleasing nobody. That
those whose vices I depicted and unmasked should cry out is natural, but
that the friends of religion should do so is surprising: for you know,"
said he, smiling, "that I am assisting you in my own way as a poet, by
endeavoring to convince people of their depravity; for it is a doctrine
of yours--is it not?--that the human heart is corrupted; and therefore
if I show that it is so in those ranks which assume the external marks
of politeness and benevolence,--having had the best opportunities, and
better than most poets, of observing it,--am I not doing an essential
service to your cause, by first convincing them of their sins, and thus
enabling you to throw in your doctrine with more effect?"

"All this is true," said Kennedy; "but you have not shown them what to
do, however much you may have shown them what they are. You are like the
surgeon who tears the bandages from the numerous wounds of his ulcerated
patients, and, instead of giving fresh remedies, you expose them to the
air and disgust of every bystander, who, laughing, exclaims, 'How filthy
these fellows are!'"

"But I shall not be so bad as that," said Lord Byron; "_you shall see
what a winding up I shall give to the story._"

The end was to justify and give a moral to every thing. While reproving,
however, this system of identification, which not only leads to error
but also to calumny, can it, however, be denied that there was not some
reason, if not to justify it, at least to explain it? To deny that there
is, would, we think, be to commit another error. The nature of Lord
Byron's genius, the circumstances of his life, the innate qualities of
his heart and soul, were unquestionably aids to his detractors.

Upon the measure of the relations which existed between reality and
fiction in his poems, and especially as applied to his own history, here
are the words of Moore:--

"As the mathematician of old required but a spot to stand upon, to be
able, as he boasted, to move the world, so a certain degree of
foundation in fact seemed necessary to Byron, before that lever which he
knew how to apply to the world of the passions could be wielded by him.
So small, however, was, in many instances, the connection with reality
which satisfied him, that to aim at tracing through his stories these
links with his own fate and fortunes, which were after all, perhaps,
visible but to his own fancy, would be a task as uncertain as unsafe;
and this remark applies not only to the 'Bride of Abydos,' but to the
'Corsair,' 'Lara,' and all the other beautiful fictions that followed,
in which, though the emotions expressed by the poet may be in general
regarded as vivid recollections of what had at different times agitated
his own bosom, there are but little grounds, however he might himself
occasionally encourage such a supposition, for connecting him personally
with the groundwork or incidents of the stories."

To analyze the analogies and differences which existed between the
personal character of Byron and that of the poet would form a very
curious psychological study. It would be even an act of justice toward
his memory, but one which would prove too long, and would ill suit these
pages. Let us merely declare, that both analogies and differences have
existed, and that if the same can not be said of him as has been said of
men of less renown, "the poet is different from the man," it must be
allowed that in Byron the two characters were associated without being
coupled. This association did not exist between himself and the
creatures of his fancy, but merely with the principal features of his
poetry, their energy and sensitiveness. As to certain analogies between
his heroes, or between them and himself, when they really exist, they
should be pointed out; the duty of criticism being to discern and to
point to the nature and limits of these analogies.

When Byron began his travels, his genius ever sought an outlet. Too
young to have as yet much experience, he had only made known what were
his tendencies.

The education of his genius began in his childhood, on the romantic
banks of the Dee and on the shores of the ocean; in the midst of the
Scottish firs, in the house of his mother, which was peopled with
relics of the past; and at Newstead Abbey, situated in the heart of the
romantic forest of Sherwood, which is surrounded by the ruins of the
great Norman abbeys, and teems with traditional recollections of Robin
Hood. The character of that sympathetic chief of the outlaws, who was a
nobleman by birth, and who was always followed by the lovely Marian,
dressed up as a page; his generosity, his courage, his cleverness, his
mixture of virtue and vice, his pride, his buoyant and chivalrous
nature, his death even, which was so touching, must, to our mind, have
produced a powerful impression upon one who, like Byron, was gifted with
as much heart as imagination. At least the poet's fancy, if not the acts
of the man himself, must have been influenced by these early
impressions; and, no doubt, Conrad, and other heroes of his early poems,
must have sprung from the poet's recollections of the legendary stories
in the midst of which he had been nursed. In any case, however, the
impressions which he had received did not affect his nature.

He had, notwithstanding his youthful years, been able to show the
measure, not the tendency of his genius, as well as his aversion for all
that is artificial, superficial, insipid, and effeminate; and he had
proved that the two great characteristics of his nature were energy and
sensitiveness.

An education thus begun was to be continued and matured during his first
voyage among scenes the most poetical and romantic in the world; in the
glorious East, where there exists a perpetual contrast between the
passionate nature of man and the soft hue of the heavens under the
canopy of which he lives.

The manners, character, ideas, and singular passions of those races,
which civilization has not yet tamed down; their energy, which often
betrays itself in the perpetration of the greatest crimes, and as
frequently in the practice of the finest qualities; and the life which
Byron was forced to lead among them, all produced a great impression
upon his mind, and became precious materials to help the development of
his intellect. In the same way that, as it has been said, Salvator
Rosa's encounters with bandits contributed to the development of his
talent, so did the adventures of Lord Byron during this first journey
contribute to form his particular taste. Had he always remained in the
midst of extremely civilized nations, in which poetry and the great
passions are lost, and the heart too often becomes cold, his mind might
have developed itself in a less brilliant and original manner.

It was this extraordinary union of energy and sensitiveness in Byron
which was to determine the choice of subjects. No doubt the desire to
produce an effect had a part in the selection, especially at the dawn of
his genius; and this would seem evident in the picture of satiated
pleasure as represented by Childe Harold, and in the strange nature of
Manfred. But this is only a portion of the reality. His principal
qualities were the real arbiters in the selection of subjects which he
made. God has not given to us all the same voice. The largest trees--the
oaks--require the help of storms to make their voices heard, while the
reed only needs the help of the summer breeze.

Byron's attention was ever directed to what was uncommon, either in
nature or in the human heart; either in good or in evil, either in the
ordinary course of things or beyond its limits. To the study of placid
nature he preferred that of that soul which, though less well regulated,
yet rises superior to fortune by its energy and will.

The spark which lit up his genius could not live in that goodness which
constituted the groundwork of his nature, but in passion, called forth
by the sight of great misfortunes, great faults, great crimes, in fact,
by the sight of all which attracted or repelled him, which was most in
harmony with his energetic character, or at greatest variance with his
sensitive nature. One of the motives which actuated his mind was
sympathy--the other, antipathy; which exercised over him the same kind
of fascination which the bird feels whom the serpent's glance has
fascinated, or like the unaccountable impulse which causes a man to
throw himself down the precipice on the verge of which he stands.

The various aspects of nature exercised a similar influence over him.
With his exquisite sense of their beauties, Byron no doubt often
described the enchanting climates in the midst of which he placed the
action of his poems; but his pen had always a manly action, with a
mixture of grace and vigor in it quite inimitable. His descriptions,
however, always appeared to be secondary objects in his mind, and rather
constituted the frames which encircled the man whom he wished to depict.

One would say that the soft beauties of a landscape and the playful
zephyrs which caress the crests of little waves were too effeminate
subjects for him to dwell upon. His preferences evidently point to the
savage side of nature, to the struggles between physical forces, to the
sublimities of the tempest, and almost, I would say, to a certain
disorganization of nature; provided, of course, all is restored to order
the moment such a disorganization threatens the existence of beauty in
art or in the moral world.

At that time, what Byron could not find in his real and historical
subject, he took from another reality, which was himself,--that is, his
own qualities, the circumstances of his life, his tastes; without ever
inquiring whether Conrad's fear at the sight of the mysterious drop of
blood on Gulnare's forehead was that of Byron, whether the Venetian
renegade Alp could really experience the horror which Byron did at
Constantinople at the sight of dogs feasting upon human carcasses; or
whether the association of the qualities with which he idealized his
heroes would not induce psychologists to accuse him of sinning against
truth, of destroying the unity of a Corsair's nature.

In this Lord Byron confided in his powers. He felt that the love of
truth, and of what is beautiful, was too strong in him ever to depart
from or cause him to violate the essential rules of art; but he wished
to remain a poet while trusting in reality.

When he went to the East, and found himself there in contact with
outward circumstances so in harmony with the natural bent of his views,
and in presence of men like Ali Pasha, of whose victims he could almost
hear the moans and the screams "in the clime"

    "Where all save the spirit of man is divine;
    Where wild as the accents of lovers' farewell
  Are the hearts which they bear and the tales which they tell,"

he felt that he was at last in the land most likely to fire his natural
genius, and to permit of his satisfying the imperious want which his
observing mind constantly experienced of resting upon reality and upon
truth. The terrible Ali Pasha of Yanina was especially the type which
attracted his notice. "Ali Pasha," says Galt, "is at the bottom of all
his Oriental heroes. His 'Corsair' is almost the history of Ali Pasha."

In the "Bride of Abydos" the old Giaffir is again Ali. As for "Lara," it
is thought that Byron conceived him on being very strongly impressed by
the sight of a nobleman who was accused of murder, and who was pointed
out to him at the Cagliari theatre. "I always thought," says Galt, who
was present on the occasion, "that this incident had a share in the
conception of 'Lara,' so small are the germs which fructify genius." The
"Giaour" is due to a personal adventure of Byron's, in which he played,
as was his wont, a most energetic and generous part. The origin of
"Manfred" lies in the midst of sublime Alpine scenery, where, on a rock,
Byron discovered an inscription bearing the names of two brothers, one
of whom had murdered the other at that spot. The history of Venice
inspired him with Alp the renegade, who, disgusted with the unjust
severities of his countrymen, turned Mohammedan and swore vengeance
against the land of his birth.

It is, however, indispensable to remark, that in each of these
characters there are two distinct realities. The one tries, by a display
of too much energy, to overstep the limits of the natural; the other
brings the subject back to its true proportions by idealizing it. The
first is the result of the poet's observations of men and their customs,
or of his study of history; the other, by the impossibility which he
knows to exist in him of departing from the rules of art by pushing
reality to the point of making of it a positive suffering. In the first
case his heroes are like one another by their analogy in the use and
abuse of strength; in the other they are like Byron, because he has
almost instilled a portion of his own life into them, in order to
idealize them.

Conrad is the real pirate of the Ægean Sea: independent, haughty,
terrible in battle, full of energy and daring such as becomes the chief
of corsairs, and such as Byron's study of the country where the action
lies pointed out to him that such a man should be placed. But the poet
describes himself when he makes Conrad, at the risk of his own life,
save women from a harem, or shudder at the sight of a drop of blood on
the brow of a lovely maiden. The spot on Gulnare's forehead, while
causing him to suspect some crime, banishes all her charms in his eyes,
and inspires him with the greater horror from the fact that the love
which she had sworn him probably inspired her with the foul act, to save
his life and restore him to liberty. He accuses himself with having been
the involuntary cause of it, and feels that his gratitude will be a
torture; his former love for Gulnare an impossibility. We find Byron's
own nature again in the ascetic rule of life to which Conrad has
subjected himself, and in his passionate and ideal tenderness for
Medora, whose love, in his eyes, surpasses all the happiness of this
world, and whose death plunges him into irretrievable despair.

In the "Siege of Corinth," Alp is the real type of the historical
Venetian renegade, who is incapable of forgiveness, and who makes use of
all his energies to gratify his revenge. But he represents Byron when he
speaks of the impressions which he felt under the starry canopy of
heaven the night before the battle, when his imagination, taking him
back to the happy, innocent days of his childhood, he contrasts them
with the present, which for him is one of remorse, and when there
glimmer still in his soul faint lights of humanity which make him turn
away from the horrible sight of dogs devouring the dead bodies of men.

Byron speaks in his own person in the introduction of the "Giaour,"
which is replete with most exquisite beauty. In it he opens to the
reader unexplored fields of delight, leads him through delicious
countries where all is joy for the senses, where all recollections are a
feast for the soul, and where his love of moral beauty is as strongly
marked in his praise of olden Greece, as is his condemnation of modern
degraded Greece. Byron speaks again in his own name when he puts
invectives in the mouth of the Mussulman fisherman, and makes him curse
so strongly the crime of the Giaour and the criminal himself, whose
despair is the expiation of his crimes and the beautiful triumph of
morality.

In the "Bride of Abydos" (where the terrible Ali again comes forward in
the shape of the old Giaffir) the amiable and unfortunate Selim and the
poet share the real sentiments of Byron. Byron is also himself when he
adorns his heroine with every grace and perfection of body and soul, and
also whenever it is necessary to idealize in order that a too rigorous
imitation of reality may not offend either the laws of art or the
feelings of the reader. As for "Don Juan," it is only fair to say that
he in a measure deserved the persecution which it brought upon him. Yet,
if we judge the poem with no preconceived severity, we shall find that,
with the exception of certain passages where he went beyond the limits
prescribed to satire, from his hatred of hypocrisy, and also at times as
a revenge against his persecutors, the poem is charming. These passages
he intended to suppress,[1] but death prevented him. This is greatly to
be regretted, for otherwise "Don Juan" would have been the most charming
satirical poem in existence, and especially had not the last four
cantos, written in Greece, been destroyed. The scene lay in England, and
the views expressed in them explained many things which can never now be
known. In allowing such an act to be committed for the sake of sparing
the feelings of some influential persons and national susceptibilities,
Byron's friends failed in their duty to his memory, for the last four
cantos gave the key to the previous ones, and justified them. From the
moment Byron conceived "Don Juan" he steeled his heart against feeling;
and he kept to his resolution not to give way to his natural goodness of
disposition, wishing the poem to be a satire as well as an act of
revenge. Here and there, however, his great soul pierces through, and
shows itself in such a true light that Byron's portrait could be better
drawn from passages of "Don Juan," than from any other of his poems.[2]
We have sufficiently proved, we think, that the uniform character of
Byron's heroes, which has been blamed by the poet's enemies, was merely
the reflection of the moral beauty which he drew from himself. It might
almost be said that the qualities with which he had been gifted by
Heaven conspired against him.

We have been led to dwell upon this phase of his literary career, at the
risk even of tiring the patience of the reader, from the necessity which
we believe exists to destroy the phantom of identification which has
been invoked, and to explain the moral nature of Byron in its true light
before analyzing the poet under other aspects. It is not in "Harold" or
in "Conrad," nor in any of his Oriental poems, that we are likely to
trace the moral character of Byron, for, although it would be easy to
detach the author's sentiments from those of the personages of these
poems, yet they might offer a pretext of blame to those who hate to look
into a subject to discover the truth which does not appear at first
sight. Nor is it in "Manfred"--the only one of his poems wherein,
perhaps, reason may be said to be at fault, owing to the sickness under
which his soul labored at the time when it was written, and to his
diseased imagination, produced by solitude and unmerited grief. In his
lyrical poems Byron's soul must be sought. There he speaks and sings in
his own name, expresses his own sentiments, breathes his own thoughts;
or, again, in his elegies and in his miscellaneous poems, in his dramas,
in his mysteries, nay, even in his satires--the noble and courageous
independence of which has never been surpassed by any satirist, ancient
or modern--and generally in all the poems which he wrote in Italy, and
which might almost be called his second form. In these poems no medium
is any longer required between his soul and that of the reader. It is
not possible any longer to make any mistake about him in these. The
melancholy and the energy displayed in them can not serve any more to
give him the mask of a Conrad, or of a Harold, or of a misanthrope, or
of a haughty individual, but they place in relief what there is of
tender, amiable, affectionate sublime in those chosen beings whom God
occasionally sends upon earth to testify here below of the things
above:--

    "Per far di colassu fede fra noi."--PETRARCH.

Thus, in his elegy upon the death of Thyrza, "far too beautiful," says
Moore, "and too pure to have been inspired by a mortal being," what
pathos, what sensitiveness! What charm in his sonnets to Guinevre! What
soft melancholy, what profound and intimate knowledge of the immortality
and spirituality of our soul, in his Hebrew melodies! "They seem as
though they had been inspired by Isaiah and written by Shakspeare," says
the Very Rev. Dr. Stanley, Dean of Westminster. What touching family
affection in his domestic poems, and what generosity in the avowal of
certain wrongs! What great and moral feeling pervade the two last cantos
of "Childe Harold," melancholy though they be, like all things which are
beautiful! How one feels that the pain they tell of has its origin in
unmerited persecution, and how his intellect came to his aid, and
enabled him to bear with calmness the uncertainties incident to our
nature! What greatness of soul in the forgiveness of what to others
would seem unpardonable! What love of humanity and of its rights! What
hatred of injustice, tyranny, and oppression in the "Ode to Venice," in
"The Lament of Tasso," in "The Prophecy of Dante," and in general in all
his latter poems, even in the "Isle," a poem little known, which was
written a short time before he left Genoa for Greece. Here, more than in
any other of his poems, we see the admirable peace of mind which he had
created for himself, and how far too high his great intellect soared to
be any longer moved by the world's injustice.

Quotations from his poems would be impossible. How choose without
regretting what has been discarded? They must be read; and those must be
pitied who do not feel morally better after having read them.

This is precisely what has been least done up to the present time:
people have been content with reading his early poems, and with seeking
Byron in "Childe Harold" or in the heroes of his Oriental poems; which
is about as just as to look for Shakspeare in Iago, Milton in Satan,
Goethe in Mephistopheles, or Lamartine in the blasphemies of his ninth
Meditation.

Thus French critics,--disposed to identify the man with the imaginary
beings of his poems, and neglecting to seek him where they could have
found him, relying upon judgments formed in England, and too often by
people prejudiced against Byron,--have themselves adopted false views
with respect to the author and his works. Thus, again, poetry--which
without any preconceived teaching or any particular doctrine of its own,
without transgressing the rules laid down by art, moved the soul,
purified and elevated it, and taught it to despise the base and cowardly
desires of nature, and excited in it the admiration of all that is noble
and heroic,--was declared to be suspicious even in France, because too
often it had proclaimed openly the truth where one would have wished
truth to have been disguised. Many would fain have thought otherwise,
but they preferred remaining silent, and to draw from that poetry the
poetical riches of which they might be in want.

Our intention being to consecrate a chapter to the examination of the
moral tendency of Byron's poetry, we will not now say more. We must add,
however, that these views which had been so easily adopted in France
were not those of the majority of right-thinking persons in England,
although they dared not proclaim their opinions then as they can now.

I shall only quote the opinion of two Englishmen of great merit (Moore
and Sir Egerton Brydges), who can neither one nor the other be suspected
of partiality; the first, on account of his great fear of ever wounding
the susceptibilities of his countrymen, the other by the independence
and nobility of his character.

"How few are the pages in his poems," says Moore, "even if perused
rapidly, which by their natural tendency toward virtue, or some splendid
tribute to the greatness of God's works, or by an explosion of natural
piety more touching than any homily, do not entitle him to be admitted
in the purest temple of which Christianity may have the keep!"--_Moore_,
vol. ii.

Sir Egerton Brydges, after having fully appreciated the poems of Lord
Byron, says:----

"They give to the reader's best instincts an impulse which elevates,
purifies, instructs, charms, and affords us the noblest and purest of
joys."--_Sir E. Brydges_, vol. x. p. 141.

These quotations perhaps will be found too many, but are they not
necessary? Is truth which can be so easily changed equally easy to
re-establish? Are not a thousand words wanted to restore a reputation
which a light word or, may be, slight malice has tarnished? If the
author of these pages only expressed individual opinions without
adducing any proof, that is to say, without accompanying them with the
disinterested and enlightened testimonies of people who have known Byron
personally, these volumes might gain in interest by being condensed in a
shorter space.

But in shortening the road would the author attain the desired end?
would the self-imposed task be fulfilled? would his or her own
convictions become those of others? Should not authors sacrifice
themselves to their subject in all works inspired by a devoted spirit?
Shall it be said that oftentimes one has wished to prove what had
already been conceded by every body? that the value of the proofs
adduced is lessened by the fact that they are nearly all already known?
In answer, and without noticing the words "nearly all," he might say
that, as truth has several aspects, one may almost, without mentioning
new facts, arrive at being what might be called the guide in the tour
round the soul, and fathom its depth in search of the reality; just as
when we have looked at all the sides of a picture, we return to it, in
order to find in it fresh beauties which may have escaped our notice on
a first inspection. There are certain souls, to fathom which it is
absolutely necessary to employ a retrospective method; in the same way
that the pictures, for instance, of Salvator Rosa enchant on close
inspection of the great beauties which in some lights seem hid by a mass
of clouds.

"One can hardly employ too many means," says Ste. Beuve, "to know a man;
that is, to understand him to be something more than an intellectual
being. As long as we have not asked ourselves a certain number of
questions about such and such an author, and as long as they have not
been satisfactorily answered, we are not sure of having completely made
him out, even were such questions to be wholly irrelevant to the
subjects upon which he has written.

"What did he think upon religious matters?

"How did the aspect of nature affect him?

"How did he behave in regard to women?

"How about money?

"What rules did he follow?

"What was his daily life? etc., etc.

"Finally, what was his peculiar vice and foible? Every man has one.

"Not one of these questions is unimportant in order to appreciate an
author or his book, provided the book does not treat of pure
mathematics; and especially if it is a literary work, that is to say, a
book wherein there is something about every thing."[3]

Be this opinion of an eminent critic our rule and an encouragement to
our efforts.

We are well aware that in France, now-a-days, writers do not like to use
the same materials in describing a character as are used by other
nations, and especially by England. A study of this kind in France must
not be a judgment pronounced upon the individual who is the object of
it, and still less an inquiry. The qualities and defects of a man of
genius do not constitute the principal business of the artist. Man is
now rather examined as a work of art or as an object of science. When
reason has made him out, and intellectual curiosity has been satisfied,
the wish to understand him is not carried out further. The subject is
abandoned, lest the reader may be tired.

This may be good reasoning in many cases; but in the present perhaps the
best rule is "in medio tutissimus." When a good painting is spoilt by
overpolish, to wash the polish off is not to restore it to its former
appearance. To arrive at this last result, however, no pains should be
spared; and upon this principle we must act with regard to Byron. In
psychological studies the whole depends upon all the parts, and what may
at first seem unimportant may prove to be the best confirmation of the
thesis. To be stopped by details (I might almost say repetitions) would
therefore be to exhibit a fear in adducing proof.

Can it be said that we have not sufficiently condemned? To add this
interest to the volume would not have been a difficult task.

To attack is easier than to defend; but we should then have had to
invent our facts, and, at the same time, to add romance to history.

The world, says a great moralist of our times, prefers a vice which
amuses it rather than a virtue which bores it; but our respect for the
reader convinces us that the adoption of such a means of arriving at
success would forfeit their respect for us and be as repugnant to their
sense of justice as to our own. As regards Byron, the means have more
than once been employed, and with the more success by those who have
united to their skill the charms of style.

But in claiming no talent, no power to interest, and in refusing to
appear as an author from motives of pusillanimity, idleness, or
self-love, is one less excusable for hiding the truth when one is
acquainted with it?

If it is the duty of a man of honor and a Christian to come to the
rescue of a victim to violence when it is in one's power, is it not
incumbent upon one to raise a voice in the defense of those who can no
longer resent an insult, when we know that they are wrongly accused? To
be silent under such circumstances would be productive of remorse; and
the remorse is greater when felt on the score of those whose genius
constitutes the monopoly of the whole world, and forms part of the
common treasure of humanity, which enjoins that it should be respected.

Is not their reputation a part of the inherited treasure? To allow such
reputation to be outraged would, in our minds, be as culpable as to hide
a portion of a treasure which is not our own.

"Truth," says Lamartine, "does not require style. Its light shines of
itself; its appearance is its proof."

In publishing these pages, written conscientiously and scrupulously, we
confide in the opinion expressed above in the magic language of the man
who can create any prestige. If the reader finds these guarantees of
truth sufficient, and deigns to accept our conscientious remarks with
indulgence and kindness; if, after examining Byron's character under all
its aspects, after repeating his words, recalling his acts, and speaking
of his life--especially of that which he led in Italy--and mentioning
the various impressions which he produced upon those who knew him
personally, we are justified in the reader's opinion in having
endeavored to clear the reality from all the clouds which imagination
has gathered round the person of Byron, and in trying to earn for his
memory a little sympathy by proclaiming the truth, in place of the
antipathy which falsehood has hitherto obtained for him, our object will
have been obtained.

To endeavor to restore Byron's reputation is the more necessary, since
Moore himself, who is his best biographer, failed not only in his duty
as a friend, but as the historian of the poet's life: for he knew the
truth, and dared not proclaim it. Who, for instance, could better inform
us of the cause which led to Byron's separation from his wife? And yet
Moore chose to keep the matter secret.

Who was better acquainted with the conduct of Byron's colleagues at the
time of his conjugal differences--with the curious proposals which were
made to him by them to recover their good graces--with his refusal to
regain them at such a cost--with the persecution to which he was, after
that, subjected--with the names of the people who instigated a popular
demonstration against him--with all the bad treatment which obliged him
to quit England? And yet has Moore spoken of it?[4]

Who, better than Moore, could tell of the friends on whom Byron relied,
and who at the time of his divorce sided with Lady Byron, and even went
so far as to aggravate the case by falsely publishing reports of his
having ill-treated Lady Byron and discharged loaded guns in order to
frighten her?

Who was better acquainted with the fact that the last cantos of "Don
Juan," written in Greece, had been destroyed in England, and that the
journal which he kept after his departure from Genoa had been destroyed
in Greece? Moore knew it very well, and did not reveal these facts, lest
he should create enemies for himself. He actually went so far as to
pretend that Byron never wrote any thing in Greece.[5]

Who better than Moore knew that Byron was not irreligious?--And yet he
pretended that he was. And finally, Who was better aware that Byron's
greatest aim was to be useful to humanity, and yet encouraged the belief
that Byron's expedition to Greece was purely to satisfy the desire that
people should speak of him as a superior man? In a few words, Moore has
not made the best of Byron's qualities, has kept silence over many
things which might have enhanced his character in public opinion; and
wished, above all, to show the greatness of his poetical genius, which
was never questioned. One would almost say that Moore did not like Byron
to be too well spoken of: for whenever he praises, he ever accompanies
the praise with a blame, a "but" or an "if;" and instead of openly
contradicting accusations which he knew to be false, and honestly
proclaiming the truth, he, too, preferred to excuse the poet's supposed
shortcomings. Moore was wanting in courage. He was good, amiable, and
clever; but weak, poor, and a lover of rank--where, naturally, he met
with many political enemies of Byron. He, therefore, dared not then tell
the truth, having too many interests to consider. Hence his concessions
and his sluggishness in leaving the facts as they were; and in many
cases, when it was a question between the departed Byron and one of his
high detractors, the one sacrificed was the dead friend who could no
longer defend himself. All such considerations for the living were
wrongs toward the memory of Byron.

The gravest accusation, however, to which Moore is open is, that he did
not preserve the Memoirs which Byron gave him on the sworn condition
that nothing should prevent their publication. The promise thus given
had restored peace to Byron's mind, so confident was he that it would be
fulfilled. To have broken his word is a crime for which posterity will
never forgive Moore. Can it be alleged, by way of excuse, that he gave
extracts from it? But besides the authenticity of the extracts, which
might be questioned, of what value can be a composition like Moore's in
presence of Byron's very words? No one can pretend to be identified with
such a mind as Byron's in the expression of his own feelings; and, least
of all, a character like Moore's.

The "Memoirs," then, which were the justification of Byron's life; the
last cantos, which were the justification of the poet and of the man;
the journal, which showed his prudence and sagacity beyond his age,
which by the simple relation of facts proved how he had got rid of all
the imperfections of youth, and at last become the follower of wisdom,
so much so that he would have been one of the most virtuous men in
England--all have been lost to the world: they have descended with him
into the tomb, and thus made room for the malice of his detractors.
Hence the duty of not remaining silent on the subject of this
highly-gifted man.

In restoring, however, facts to their true light, we do not pretend to
make Byron appear always superior to humanity in his conduct as a man
and a poet. Could he, with so sensitive and passionate a nature as his
was, and living only that period when passions are strongest, have
always acted as those who from age no longer are affected by them? If it
is easy not to give way to our passions at seventy, is it equally so at
twenty or at thirty?

Persecuted as he was, could Byron be expected to remain unmoved? If his
passion for truth made him inexorable in some of his poems; if his
passion for justice allowed his pen at times to go beyond the limits
which it should have respected; if even at times he was unjust, because
he had been too much injured and irritated,--he undoubtedly would have
compensated for his involuntary and slight offenses, had he not been
carried off so early.

As for the imperfection of these pages,--once we have dissipated error,
and caused truth to be definitely received as regards Byron,--an abler
pen can easily correct it, and do away with the numberless repetitions
with which we are aware we shall be reproached. We could not do
otherwise, as we wished to multiply proofs. Others, some day, will
achieve what we have been unable to perform.

Our work is like the stream which falls from the mountain and is filled
with ooze: its only merit is to swell the river into which it runs. But,
sooner or later, a stronger current will purify it, and give clearness
and brilliancy to it, without taking from it the merit of having
increased the bulk of the waters.

Such as it is, we dedicate this humble work to the noble souls who
worship truth. They will feel that we have been able to place them in a
more intimate connection with another great mind, and thus we shall have
gained our reward.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: He often told and promised his friends at Genoa that he
would alter the passages which are unjust and reprehensible, and that,
before it was finished, "Don Juan" would become a chaste and
irreproachable satire.]

[Footnote 2:

  "His manner was perhaps the more seductive,
    Because he ne'er seemed anxious to seduce;
  Nothing affected, studied, or constructive
    Of coxcombry or conquest: no abuse
  Of his attractions marr'd the fair perspective,
    To indicate a Cupidon broke loose,
  And seem to say, 'Resist us if you can'--
  Which makes a dandy while it spoils a man.

  XIII.

                  "Don Juan was without it;
  In fact, his manner was his own alone:
  Sincere he was----

  XIV.

  "By nature soft, his whole address held off
    Suspicion: though not timid, his regard
  Was such as rather seem'd to keep aloof,
    To shield himself than put you on your guard.

  XV.

  "Serene, accomplish'd, cheerful, but not loud,
    Insinuating without insinuation;
  Observant of the foibles of the crowd,
    Yet ne'er betraying this in conversation;
  Proud with the proud, yet courteously proud,
   So as to make them feel he knew his station
  And theirs:--without a struggle for priority
  He neither brook'd nor claim'd superiority.

  XVI.

  "That is with men: with women he was what
   They pleased to make or take him for."--_Canto_ xv.

  LIV.

  "There was the purest Platonism at bottom
    Of all his feelings."--_Canto_ x.]

[Footnote 3: Ste. Beuve, "Nouveaux Lundis," vol. iii. p. 28.]

[Footnote 4: When the persecution to which Lord Byron was exposed by his
separation had attained its greatest height, an influential person--not
belonging to the peerage--came to visit him, and told him that, if he
wished to see how far the folly of men went, he had only to give orders
for having it shown that nothing said against him was true, but that
then he must change politics and come over to the Tory party. Lord Byron
replied that he would prefer death and all kinds of tortures to such
meanness. Hereupon the person in question said that he must suffer the
consequences, which would be heavy, since his colleagues were determined
on his ruin, out of party spirit and political hatred. It was at this
time that, going one day to the House, he was insulted by the populace,
and even treated in it like an outlaw. No one spoke to him, nor
approached to give any explanation of such a proceeding, except Lord
Holland, who was always kind to him, and indeed to every one else.
Others--such as the Duke of Sussex, Lord Minto, Lord Lansdowne and Lord
Grey--would fain have acted in a like manner; but they suffered
themselves to be influenced by his enemies, among whom more than one was
animated by personal rancor because the young lord had laughed at them
and shown up their incapacity.

Lord Byron, finding himself received in this way by his colleagues,
pretended not to see it, and after a few moments quitted the House,
never more to set foot within it.]

[Footnote 5: Lord Byron's mind, incapable of idleness, was constantly at
work, even despite himself and amid pressing active occupations. During
his stay in the Ionian Islands, Missolonghi, he wrote five cantos of Don
Juan. The scene of the cantos that followed was laid first in England
and then in Greece. The places chosen for the action naturally rendered
these last cantos the most interesting, and, besides, they explained a
host of things quite justifying them. They were taken to England with
Lord Byron's other papers; but there they were probably considered not
sufficiently respectful toward England, on which they formed a sort of
satire too outspoken with regard to living personages, and doubtless it
was deemed an act of patriotism to destroy them. And so the world was
deprived of them.

Lord Byron had also kept a journal since the day of his departure from
Genoa up to the time when illness made the pen drop from his hand. To it
he had consigned his most intimate thoughts; and we may well imagine how
full of interest it must have been, written amid all the emotions
agitating his soul at that time. This journal was found among his papers
by a personage of high standing in Greece, who was the first to inspect
them, and who, seeing his own name and conduct mentioned in no
flattering terms, destroyed them in order to hide from England the
unvarnished truth told of himself. Count Gamba often speaks of this
journal in the letters addressed at this period to his sister.

We leave the reader to make his own comments on these too regrettable
facts.]



CHAPTER I.

LORD BYRON AND M. DE LAMARTINE.

_To Count de_ ----.

Paris, 17th June, 1860.


MY DEAR COUNT,--Confiding in your willingness to oblige, I beg to ask a
favor and your advice. I received, a short time ago, a prospectus of a
subscription to be raised for a general addition of the works of M. de
Lamartine. You are aware that when it is a question of showing my
sympathy for M. de Lamartine I would never miss the opportunity of doing
so; but on this occasion I see on the programme the promise of a Life of
Lord Byron. Such an announcement must alarm the friends of that great
man; for they remember too vividly the sixteenth number of the "Cours
Littéraire" to subscribe hastily to a work when they have not more
information than is therein given. You, who forget nothing, must
probably remember the strange judgment of Byron formed by M. de
Lamartine in that article. Identifying the man with the poet, and
associating his great name with that of Heine on account of some rather
hazardous lines in "Don Juan," and forgetting the license allowed to
such poetry--an imitation of the Italian poets Berni, Ariosto, Pulci,
Buratti--M. de Lamartine did not forget a few personal attacks upon
himself, and called Byron the founder of the school for promoting
satanic laughter, while he heaped upon him the most monstrous
accusations. M. de Lamartine ventured to say of Byron things which even
his greatest enemies never dared to utter at that time when in England
it was the custom to revile him. Although the time has not yet come when
Lord Byron's life should be written, since the true sources of
collecting information respecting him are unattainable so long as the
people live to whom his letters were addressed, still it is easy to
perceive that the time has at length arrived when in England the desire
to do him justice and fairly to examine his merits is felt by the nation
generally. Moore, Parry, Medwin, etc., have already attempted to make
known the character of the man as distinct from that of the poet. They
no longer sought to find in him a resemblance with Childe Harold, or the
Corsair, or Manfred, or Don Juan, nor to judge of him by the
conversations in which he sought to mystify those with whom he
conversed; but they judged him by his acts and by his correspondence.

If so happy a reaction, however, is visible in England the same can not
be said of France, where there being no time to read what is published
elsewhere, an error is too soon embraced and ingrafted on the mind of
the public as a consequence of a certain method which dispenses with all
research. Hence the imaginary creation which has been called Byron, and
which has been maintained in France notwithstanding its being wholly
unacceptable as a portrait of the man, and totally different from the
Byron known personally to some happy few who had the pleasure of
beholding in him the handsomest, the most amiable of men, and the
greatest genius whom God has created.

But M. de Lamartine, who wishes particularly to show the character of
the man, instead of adding to the numerous proofs of courage and
grandeur of mind which he has personally shown to the world--that of
confessing that he has erred in his judgment of Byron--endeavors to
study him only in his works. But in doing this, and even though a moral
object may be found in each of Byron's works, it strikes us that M. de
Lamartine would have done better to pursue this line in the analysis of
the intellectual part of the man, and not the moral side.

"You err" (wrote Byron to Moore on the occasion of the latter saying
that such a poem as the "Vision of Judgment" could not have been written
in a desponding mood): "a man's poetry is a distinct faculty or soul,
and has no more to do with the every-day individual than the inspiration
of the Pythoness when removed from her tripod." To which Moore observes:
"My remark has been hasty and inconsiderate, and Lord Byron's is the
view borne out by all experience. Almost all the tragic and gloomy
writers have been, in social life, mirthful persons. The author of the
'Night Thoughts' was a fellow of infinite jest; and of the pathetic
Otway, Pope says, 'He! why, he would laugh all the day long; he would do
nothing but laugh!'"

It is known that many licentious writers have led very regular and
chaste lives; that many who have sung their success with women have not
dared to declare their love to one woman; that all Sterne's sentiment
was perfectly ideal, and proceeded always from the head and never from
the heart; that Seneca's morality was no barrier to his practicing
usury; and that, according to Plutarch, Demosthenes was a very
questionable moralist in practice. Why, then, necessarily conclude that
a moralist is a moral man, or a sarcastic satirist a deceitful one, or
the man who describes scenes of blood and carnage a monster of cruelty?
Does not Montaigne say of authors that they must be judged by their
merits, and not by their morals, nor by that show of works which they
exhibit to the world? Why, then, does M. Lamartine appreciate Byron
according to his satirical works, when all those who knew him assert
that his real character was very different to his literary one? He did
not personify, but create his heroes; which are two very different
things.

Like Salvator Rosa, who, the meekest of men in private life, could only
find a vent to his talent by painting scenes of brigandage and horror,
so did Byron's genius require to go down into the darkest recesses of
the passions which generate remorse, crime, and heroism, to find that
spark which fired his genius. But it must be owned, that even his great
qualities were causes of the false judgment of the world upon him. Thus,
in describing Childe Harold, he no doubt wished to paint a side of
nature which had not yet been seen. At the scenes of despair, at the
scenes of doubt which assail him, the poet assists rather as the
historian than as the actor. And the same holds good for other poems,
where he describes those peculiar diseases of the mind which great
geniuses alone can comprehend, though they need not have experienced
them. But it was the very life which he infused into his heroes that
made it appear as if they could not personify any one but himself. And
as to their faults, because he was wont to give them his qualities, it
was argued, that since the latter were observable to be common to the
author and the creations of his fancy, the faults of these must likewise
be his. If only the faults, why not also the crimes? Thus it came that,
caring little for their want of argument, Byron's enemies erected
themselves into avengers of too much talent bestowed upon one single
man.

Byron might have taken up his own defense, but did not care to do so, or
did it carelessly in some letters written to intimate friends. To Moore
he wrote:--"Like all imaginative men, I, of course, embody myself with
the character while I draw it; but not a moment after the pen is from
the paper." He always, however, begged that he might be judged by his
acts; and a short time before he died at Missolonghi, after recommending
Colonel Stanhope to desist from then pressing the necessity of giving
liberty to the press, and from recommending the works of Bentham to a
people who could not even read, Byron replied to the colonel's rather
hasty remarks, "Judge me by my acts." This request he had often
repeated, as his life was not one of those which fear the light of day.
All in vain. His enemies were not satisfied with this means of putting
an end to their calumnies.

Where does M. de Lamartine find the truth which he proposes to tell the
world about Byron? Not surely among the writers whose biographies of
Byron were either works of revenge or of speculation, and sometimes
both. Not in the conversations which Byron had with several people, and
on the credulity of whom he loved to speculate. It can not, therefore,
be in the biographies of men who have written erroneously, and have not
understood their subject; but in Moore, in Parry, in Count Gamba's
works, and, may be, in a few others. I am, however, far from saying,
that Moore has acted toward Lord Byron with all that friendly feeling
which Byron recommended to him on asking him to write the Life of
Sheridan, "without offending the living or insulting the dead." Quite
the contrary. I take it that Moore has wholly disregarded his duties as
a true friend, by publishing essentially private letters, by introducing
into his books certain anecdotes which he might, if even they were true,
have advantageously left out; and in failing, from fear of wounding
living susceptibilities, to assert with energy that which he knew to be
the real case with Byron. More than any one, Moore experienced the fatal
influence which injures independence in aristocratic England. An
Irishman by birth, and a commoner, Moore was flattered to find himself
elevated by his talents to a position in aristocratic circles which he
owed to his talents, but which he was loath to resign. The English
aristocracy then formed a kind of clique whose wish it was to govern
England on the condition that its secret of governing should not be
revealed, and was furious with Byron, who was one of them, for revealing
their weaknesses and upbraiding their pretensions. Moore wished to live
among the statesmen and noblemen whose despotic views and bad policy
Byron had openly condemned, and among those lovely islanders in whose
number there might be found more Adelinas than Auroras, and to whom
Byron had preferred foreign beauties. Moore, in short, wished to live
with the literary men whom Byron had ridiculed in his satires, and among
the high clergy, then as intolerant as they were hypocritical, and who,
as Byron said, forgot Christ alone in their Christianity. Moore, whose
necessity it had become to live among these open revilers and enemies of
Byron, after allowing the memoirs of Byron to be burnt, because in them
some of the above-named personages were unmasked, this Moore was weak
enough not to proclaim energetically that Byron's character was as great
as his genius, but to do so only timidly. By way of obtaining pardon
even for this mite of justice to the friend who was gone, Moore actually
condescended to associate himself with those who pleaded extenuating
circumstances for Byron's temper, like Walter Scott and other poets. But
truth comes out, nevertheless, in Moore; and in the perusal of Byron's
truthful and simple letters we find him there displayed in all his
admirable and unique worth as an intellectual and a moral man. We find
him adorned with all the virtues which Heaven gave him at his birth; his
real goodness, which neither injustice nor misfortune could alter; his
generosity, which not only made him disbelieve in ingratitude, but
actually incited him to render good for evil and obliged him to own that
"he could not keep his resentments;" his gratitude for the little that
is done for him; his sincerity; his openness of character; his greatness
and disinterestedness. "His very failings were those of a sincere, a
generous, and a noble mind," says a biographer who knew him well. His
contempt for base actions; his love of equity; his passion for truth,
which was carried almost to a hatred of cant and hypocrisy, were the
immediate causes of his want of fairness in his opinion of himself and
of his self-accusation of things most contrary to his nature.

So singular a trait in his character was by no means the result of
eccentricity, but the result of an exceptional assembly of rare
qualities which met for the first time in one man, and which, shining in
the midst of a most corrupt society, constituted almost more an anomaly
which became a real defect, hurtful, however, to himself only. His ideal
of the beautiful magnified weaknesses into crimes, and physical failings
into deformities. Thus it is that with the saints the slightest
transgression of the laws appears at once in the light of mortal sin.
St. Augustin calls the greediness of his youth a crime. The result of
all this was that his very virtues mystified the world and caused it to
believe that the faults which he attributed to himself were nothing in
comparison of those which he really had.

Byron, however, was indignant at being so unfairly treated. He treated
with contempt the men who calumniated him, and as if they were idiots.
He can safely, therefore, be blamed for not urging enough his own
defense. This, to my mind, constitutes his capital fault, unless one
considers defects of character those changes of humor which rapidly
passed from gayety to melancholy, or his pretended irritability, which
was merely a slight disposition to be impatient. These were all the
result of his poetical nature, added to the effects of early education
and to those of certain family circumstances. It would be too hard and
too unfair to attribute these slight weaknesses of character proper to
great genius to a bad nature or to misanthropy.

Had Lord Byron not been impatient he must have been satisfied with his
own condition and indifferent to that of others. In other words, he must
have been an egotist, which he was not. He was gay by nature, and
repeatedly showed it; but he had been sorely wounded by the injustice of
men, and his marriage with Miss Milbank had undermined his peace and
happiness. How, then, could he escape the occasional pangs of grief, and
not betray outwardly the pain which devoured him inwardly. In such
moments it was a relief to him to heave a sigh, or take up a pen to vent
his grief in rhyme. His misanthropy was quite foreign to his nature. All
those who knew him can bear testimony to the falseness of the
accusation.

Moore, who knew him so well, and who always speaks the truth when no
longer under the influences which at times overpower him, after speaking
of the charm of Byron's manner when he saw him for the first time, ends
by saying: "It may be asserted that never did there exist before, and it
is most probable never will exist again, a combination of such vast
mental power and surpassing genius, with so many others of those
advantages and attractions by which the world is in general dazzled and
captivated."

When, therefore, M. de Lamartine seeks the truth in Moore, Parry, and
some other biographers respecting Byron, he will find that this
eminently beautiful form was in harmony with the splendid intellect and
moral qualities of the man. M. de Lamartine will see that Byron was a
good and devoted son, a tender father and brother, a faithful friend,
and indulgent master, beloved by all who ever knew him, and who was
never accused, even by his enemies, of having tried to seduce an
innocent young girl, or having disturbed the peace of conjugal bliss. He
will behold his charity, which was universal and unbounded; a pride
which never stooped to be subservient of those in power; a firm
political faith; a contempt of public dignities, so far as they
reflected glory upon himself; and such a spirit of humility that he was
ever ready to blame himself and follow the advice of those whom he
deemed to be animated by no hostile spirit against himself.

When M. de Lamartine sees all this, not merely written down as in these
pages, but actually proved by facts and irrefutable testimonies, his
loyal soul must revolt and wish to do justice to himself by rejecting
his former opinions. He will understand that if he himself has been
called a drinker of blood by the party whom he styles bigoted and
composed of old men, Byron, too, may have been calumniated. Looking,
then, at the great poet in his proper light, that is, in the plenitude
of his rare qualities, and considering him under each of the
circumstances of his life, M. de Lamartine will own that he had
misunderstood that most admirable of characters, and grant that the
"satanic laughter" of which he spoke was, on the contrary, the smile
which was so beautiful that it might have lighted up by its magic soft
rays the dark regions of Satan. His doubts being cleared away, M. de
Lamartine will end by saying that Byron was an "angel, not a demon."

Byron's misfortune was to have been born in the England of those days.
Do you remember his beautiful lines in the "Due Foscari?"--

                "He might have lived,
  So formed for gentle privacy of life,
  So loving, so beloved; the native of
  Another land, and who so bless'd and blessing
  As my poor Foscari? Nothing was wanting
  Unto his happiness and mine save not
  To be Venetian."

In writing these lines Byron must have thought of his own fate. He was
scarcely British by origin, and very little so by his turn of mind, or
by his tastes or by the nature of his genius. "My ancestors are not
Saxon, they are Norman," he said; "and my blood is all meridian."

If, instead of being born in England then, he had come before the world
when his star would have been hailed with the same love and regard that
was granted to Dante in Italy, to Chateaubriand and Lamartine in France,
or to Goethe in Germany, who would ever have blamed him for the slight
errors which fell from his pen in "Don Juan,"--a poem written hastily
and with carelessness, but of which it can be said, as Montesquieu said
of the prettiest women, "their part has more gravity and importance than
is generally thought." If the sense of the ridiculous is ever stronger
among people whose appreciation of the beautiful is keenest, who more
than Byron could have possessed it to a higher degree? Is it therefore
to be marvelled at that, in order to make the truth he revealed
accessible to all, and such whose minds had rusted in egotism and
routine, he should have given to them a new and sarcastic form?

Had he been born anywhere but in the England of those days, he never
would have been accused of mocking virtue because he claimed for it
reality of character, and not that superficial form which he saw existed
then in society. He believed it right to scorn the appearances of virtue
put on only for the purpose of reaping its advantages. No one respected
more than he did all that was really holy, virtuous, and respectable;
but who could blame him for wishing to denounce hypocrisy? As for his
supposed skepticism, and his expressions of despair, they may be classed
with the misgivings of Job, of Pascal, of Lamartine, of Chateaubriand,
and of other great minds, for whom the unknown world is a source of
constant anxiety of thought, and whose cry of despair is rather a
supplication to the Almighty that He would reveal himself more to their
eyes. It must be borne in mind that the skepticism which some lines in
his poems denounce is one of which the desponding nature calls more for
our sympathy than our denunciations, since "we discover in the midst of
these doubts," says Moore, "an innate piety which might have become
tepid but never quite cold." His own words should be remembered when he
writes, as a note to the two first cantos of "Childe Harold," that the
spirit of the stanzas reflects grief and illness, more than an obstinate
and mocking skepticism; and so they do. They do not embody any
conclusions, but are only the expression of a passionate appeal to the
Almighty to come to the rescue and proclaim the victory of faith.

Could any thing but a very ordinary event be seen in his separation from
a wife who was in no way suited to him, and whose worth can be esteemed
by the remark which she addressed to Byron some three weeks after her
marriage: "When, my lord, do you intend to give up your habit of
versifying?" And, alas! could he possibly be happy, born as he was in a
country where party prejudices ran so high? where his first satire had
created for him so many enemies? where some of his poems had roused
political anger against him, and where his truth, his honesty, could not
patiently bear with the hypocrisy of those who surrounded him, and
where, in fact, he had had the misfortune to marry Miss Milbank?

The great minds whom God designs to be the apostles of truth on earth,
make use for that purpose of the most efficacious means at their
disposal. The universal genius of Byron allowed of his making use of
every means to arrive at his end. He was able to be at once pathetic,
comic, tragical, satirical, vehement, scoffing, bitter, and pleasant.
This universality of talents, directed against Englishmen, was injurious
to his peace of mind.

When Byron went to Italy his heart was broken down with real and not
imaginary sorrows. These were not of that kind which create perfection,
but were the result of an unheard-of persecution on account of a family
difference in which he was much more the victim than the culprit.

He required to live in a milder climate, and a softer atmosphere to
breathe in. He found both at Venice; and under their influence his mind
took a new turn, which had remained undeveloped while in his own clouded
country.

In the study of Italian literature he met with the Bernesque poetry,
which is so lightly and elegantly sarcastic. He made the acquaintance of
Buratti, the clever and charming satirist. He began, himself, to
perceive the baseness of men, and found in an æsthetical mockery of
human failings the most copious of the poetical currents of his mind.
The more his friends and his enemies told him of the calumnies which
were uttered against him, so much the more did Byron's contempt swell
into disdain; and to this circumstance did "Beppo" and "Don Juan" _owe_
their appearance.

The social condition of his country and the prevalent cant opened to him
a field for reflection at Venice, where customs were so different and
manners so tolerant. Seeing new horizons before him, he was more than
ever disgusted at the judgments of those who calumniated him, and ended
by believing it to be best to laugh at their silly efforts to ruin him.
He then wrote "Beppo" and afterward "Don Juan."

He was mistaken, however, in believing that in England this new style of
poetry would be liked. His jests and sarcasms were not understood by the
greater portion of those against whom they were levelled. The nature of
the Bernese poetry being essentially French, England could not, with its
serious tendencies, like a production in which the moral purpose was
artistically veiled. From that day forward a severance took place
between Byron and his countrymen. What had enchanted the French
displeased them, and Byron in vain translated the "Morgante" of Pulci,
to show them what a priest could say in that style of poetry in a
Catholic country. In vain did he write to his friends that "Don Juan"
will be known by-and-by for what it is intended,--a satire on the abuses
of the present state of society, and not a eulogy of vice. It may be now
and then voluptuous: I can't help it. Ariosto is worse; Smollett ten
times worse; Fielding no better. No girl will ever be seduced by reading
"Don Juan," etc.

But he was blamed just because he jested. To his ultramontane tone they
would have preferred him to blaspheme in coarse Saxon.

One of the best of Byron's biographers asserts that he was a French mind
lost on the borders of the Thames. Lord Byron had every kind of mind,
and that is why he was equally French. But in addressing his countrymen,
as such, he heaped a mountain of abuse upon his head.

With the most moral portion of the English public a violent satire would
have had better chance of success. With the higher classes the work was
read with avidity and pleasure. It was not owned, because there were too
many reasons for condemning it; but it found its way under many a
pillow, to prove to the country how virtue and patriotism were
endangered by this production.

Murray made himself the echo of all this wrath, and Lord Byron, not able
at times to contain his, wrote to him much to the following purpose--

"I intend to write my best work in Italian, and I am working at it. As
for the opinion of the English, which you mention, let them know how
much it is worth before they come and insult me by their condescension.

"I have not written for their pleasure; if they find theirs in the
perusal of my works, it is because they wish it. I have never flattered
their opinion or their pride, nor shall I ever do so. I have no
intention either of writing books for women or to '_dilettar le femine e
la plese_.' I have written merely from impulse and from passion, and not
for their sweet voices. I know what their applause is worth; few writers
have had more. They made of me a kind of popular idol without my ever
wishing, and kicked me down from the pedestal upon which their caprice
had raised me. But the idol did not break in the fall, and now they
would raise it again, but they shall not." As soon as they saw that
Byron was perfectly happy in Italy, and that their abuse did him but
very little harm, they gave full vent to their rage.

They had shown how little they knew him when they identified him with
his heroes; they found that they knew even less of him when he appeared
to them in the reality of his character. Calumny followed upon calumny.
Unable to find him at fault, they interpreted his words themselves, and
gave them a different meaning. Every thing was figurative of some
wickedness, and to the simplest expressions some vile intention was
attributed.

They depreciated his works, in which are to be found such admirable and
varied types of women characters, that they even surpass in beauty those
of Shakspeare (Angiolina, Myrrha, Anna): they said that Faliero wanted
interest, that Sardanapalus was a voluptuary; that Satan in "Cain" did
not speak as a theologian (how could he?), that there were irreverent
tendencies in his sacred dramas--and finally that his declaration--

  "My altars are the mountains and the ocean,
  Earth, air, stars,--all that springs from the great Whole,
  Who hath produced, and will receive the soul,"

was hazardous, and almost that of an atheist. Atheist! he! who
considered atheists fools.

On leaving Venice for Ravenna,[6] where he had spent a few months, only
by way of distraction in the midst of his sorrows and serious
occupations, he was accused of dissolute conduct; and the serious
attachment which he had wished to avoid, but which had mastered his
whole heart, and induced him to live an isolated life with the person he
loved in a town of Romagna, far from all that could flatter his vanity
and from all intercourse with his countrymen, was brought against him to
show that he lived the life of an Epicurean, and brought misery into the
heart of families.

All this, no doubt, might have again called for his contempt, but on his
way from Ravenna to Pisa he wrote the outpourings of his mind in a poem,
the last lines of which are:--

  "Oh Fame! if I e'er took delight in thy praises,
  'Twas less for the sake of thy high-sounding phrases,
  Than to see the bright eyes of the dear one discover,
  The thought that I was not unworthy to love her.

  "_There_ chiefly I sought thee, _there_ only I found thee;
  Her glance was the best of the rays that surround thee;
  When it sparkled o'er aught that was bright in my story,
  I knew it was love, and I felt it was glory."

His heart was wounded by the persecutions to which those he loved were
subjected. His thoughts were for his daughter, who was growing up in the
midst of her father's enemies, and for his beloved sister who was
praying for him. He contemplated in the future the time when he could
show the moral and heroic power of his soul. He looked forward to the
great deeds by which he was going to astonish them, and perhaps call for
their admiration, instead of his writings, which had never reaped for
him any thing but pain.

"If I live," he wrote to Moore, "you will see that I shall do something
better than rhyming."

Truth however, when told by such men as Byron, and however ungraciously
received, must guide in the end the steps of those who walk in its wake.

This has been the case with Byron's poetry. Its influence over the minds
of Englishmen has been very salutary and great, and is one of the
principal causes which brought on a reform of the rooted prejudices and
opinions of the public in England, by the necessity under which it
placed them of looking into the defects of the law and of the
constitution, to which they had hitherto so crouchingly submitted. Since
then the feeling of good-will toward other nations has materially
increased in that great country.

Others have improved the way which Byron opened up for reform, and
thanks to him England at his death began to lose her excessive
susceptibility. She became accustomed to listen to the truth, and those
who now proclaim it are not required to be exiled, or to suffer as Byron
did up to the time of his death. His sufferings, no doubt, paved his way
to everlasting glory, but his heroic death left him at the mercy of the
enemies who survived him.

If ever a premature death was unfortunate, Byron's was; not only for
him, because he was on the point of giving to the world the proof of
those virtues which had been denied him, but also for humanity, by the
loss of various treasures which will probably never be found again.

The epoch, however, of faint words and unbecoming silence has gone by
even in England. Already one of the greatest men of England has claimed
a monument in Westminster Abbey, which had been denied to his memory by
the bigoted rancor of the man who was dean at the time of Byron's death,
denied to that poet whom another great English statesman has called "a
great writer, but a still greater man."

There remains a still more imperious duty to be fulfilled by those who
have been able to appreciate his great qualities. That duty is to
proclaim them and to prevent the further spread of falsehood and error
as to his real character.

This is a very long letter, my dear count, but you know how long all
letters must be which are intended to refute opinions and to rectify
judgments. M. de Lamartine has the excellent habit of listening to your
advice, and that is why I have had at heart to let you know the truth
about Byron. The present work will adduce the proofs of the
appreciations contained in this letter. I know that you do not require
them, but also that the public does.

Pray accept, etc.----.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 6: Galt says, "It was in the course of the passage to the
island of Zea, where he was put on shore, that one of the most emphatic
incidents of his life occurred; an incident which throws a remarkable
gleam into the springs and intricacies of his character, more perhaps
than any thing which has yet been mentioned. One day, as he was walking
the quarter-deck, he lifted an attaghan (it might be one of the
midshipmen's weapons), and unsheathing it, said, contemplating the
blade, '_I should like to know how a person feels after committing
murder_.' By those who have inquiringly noticed the extraordinary cast
of his metaphysical associations, this dagger scene must be regarded as
both impressive and solemn; the wish to know how a man felt after
committing murder does not imply any desire to perpetrate the crime. The
feeling might be appreciated by experiencing any actual degree of guilt;
for it is not the deed,--the sentiment which follows it makes the
horror. But it is doing injustice to suppose the expression of such a
wish dictated by desire. Lord Byron has been heard to express, in the
eccentricity of conversation, wishes for a more intense knowledge of
remorse than murder itself could give. There is, however, a wide and
wild difference between the curiosity that prompts the wish to know the
exactitude of any feeling or idea, and the direful passions that
instigate to guilty gratifications."--Galt, 152.

His curiosity was psychological and philosophical, that of a great
artist wishing to explore the heart of man in its darkest depths.

On the eve of his departure from Rome he assisted at the execution of
three assassins, remaining to the end, although this spectacle threw him
into a perfect fever, causing such thirst and trembling that he could
hardly hold up his opera-glass.

At Venice he preferred Madame Benzoni's conversation to that of Madame
Albrizzi, because she was more thoroughly Venetian, and as such more
fitted for the study he wished to make of national manners. He used to
say that _every thing in the world ought to be seen once_, and it is to
this idea that we must specially attribute some of the oddities so
exaggerated and so much criticised during his short stay at Venice, for
in reality he had none of these tastes.

Parry says, "Lord Byron had an insatiable curiosity, he was forever
making questions and researches. He wished me to relate to him all the
most trifling incidents of my life in America, Virginia, and
Canada."--Parry, 180.]



CHAPTER II.

PORTRAIT OF LORD BYRON.


The following letter was addressed to M. de Lamartine, who had asked the
author of these pages to give him the "portrait physique" of Lord Byron.

MY DEAR MONSIEUR DE LAMARTINE,--

Being on the point of departure, I nevertheless wish to send you a few
explanations which must serve as my apology. You have asked me to draw
the portrait of Lord Byron, and I have promised you that I would do so.
I now see that my promise was presumptuous. Every time I have endeavored
to trace it, I have had to put down my pen, discouraged as I was by the
fact of my always discovering too many obstacles between my
reminiscences and the possibility of expressing them. My attempts
appeared to me at times to be a profanation by the smallness of their
character; at others, they bore the mark of an extreme enthusiasm,
which, however, seemed to me very weak in its results and very
ridiculous in its want of power. Images which are preserved in thought
to a degree which may almost be considered supernatural, are susceptible
of too much change during the short transit of the mind to the pen.

The Almighty has created beings of such harmonious and ideal beauty that
they defy description or analysis. Such a one was Lord Byron. His
wonderful beauty of expression has never been rendered either by the
brush of the painter or the sculptor's chisel. It summed up in one
magnificent type the highest expression of every possible kind of
beauty. If his genius and his great heart could have chosen a human form
by which they could have been well represented, they could not have
chosen another! Genius shone in his very looks. All the effects and
emotions of a great soul were therein reflected as well as those of an
eminently good and generous heart, and indeed contrasts were visible
which are scarcely ever united in one and the same person. His eyes
seized and betrayed the sentiments which animated him, with a rapidity
and transparency such as called forth from Sir Walter Scott the remark,
that the fine head of his young rival "was like unto a beautiful
alabaster vase lightened up by an interior lamp." To see him, was to
understand thoroughly how really false were the calumnies spread about
as to his character. The mass, by their obstinacy in identifying him
with the imaginary types of his poems, and in judging him by a few
eccentricities of early youth, as well as by various bold thoughts and
expressions, had represented to themselves a factitious Byron, totally
at variance with the real man. Calumnies, which unfortunately he passed
over in disdainful silence, have circulated as acknowledged facts. Time
has destroyed many, but it would not be correct to say that they have
all entirely been destroyed. Lord Byron was silent, because he depended
upon time to silence his calumniators. All those who saw him must have
experienced the charm which surrounded him as a kind of sympathetic
atmosphere, gaining all hearts to him. What can be said to those who
never saw him? Tell them to look at the pictures of him which were
painted by Saunders, by Phillips, by Holmes, or by Westall? All these,
although the works of great artists, are full of faults. Saunders's
picture represents him with thick lips, whereas his lips were
harmoniously perfect: Holmes almost gives him a large instead of his
well-proportioned and elegant head! In Phillips's picture the expression
is one of haughtiness and affected dignity, never once visible to those
who ever saw him.[7]

"These portraits," says Dallas, "will certainly present to the stranger
and to posterity that which it is possible for the brush to reproduce
so far as the features are concerned, but the charm of speech and the
grace of movement must be left to the imagination of those who have had
no opportunity to observe them. No brush can paint these."

The picture of Byron by Westall is superior to the others, but does not
come up to the original. As for the copies and engravings which have
been taken from these pictures, and circulated, they are all
exaggerated, and deserve the appellation of caricatures.

Can his portrait be found in the descriptions given by his biographers?
But biographers seek far more to amuse and astonish, in order that their
writings may be read, than to adhere to the simple truth.

It can not be denied, however, that in the portraits which several, such
as Moore, Dallas, Sir Walter Scott, Disraeli in London, the Countess
Albrizzi at Venice, Beyle (Stendhal) at Milan, Lady Blessington and Mrs.
Shelley in Italy, have drawn of Lord Byron there is much truth,
accompanied by certain qualifications which it is well to explain. I
shall therefore give in their own words (preferring them to my own
impressions) the unanimous testimony of those who saw him, be they
friends or beings for whom he was indifferent. Here are Moore's
words:--"Of his face, the beauty may be pronounced to have been of the
highest order, as combining at once regularity of features with the most
varied and interesting expression.

"His eyes, though of a light gray, were capable of all extremes of
expression, from the most joyous hilarity to the deepest sadness, from
the very sunshine of benevolence to the most concentrated scorn or rage.
But it was in the mouth and chin that the great beauty as well as
expression of his fine countenance lay.

"His head was remarkably small, so much so as to be rather out of
proportion with his face. The forehead, though a little too narrow, was
high, and appeared more so from his having his hair (to preserve it, as
he said) shaved over the temples. Still the glossy dark-brown curls,
clustering over his head, gave the finish to its beauty. When to this is
added that his nose, though handsomely was rather thickly shaped, that
his teeth were white and regular, and his complexion colorless, as good
an idea perhaps as it is in the power of mere words to convey may be
conceived of his features.

"In height he was, as he himself has informed us, five feet eight inches
and a half, and to the length of his limbs he attributed his being such
a good swimmer. His hands were very white, and, according to his own
notions of the size of hands as indicating birth, aristocratically
small."

"What I chiefly remember to have remarked," adds Moore, "when I was
first introduced to him, was the gentleness of his voice and manners,
the nobleness of his air, his beauty, and his marked kindness to myself.
Being in mourning for his mother, the color as well of his dress, as of
his glossy, curling and picturesque hair, gave more effect to the pure,
spiritual paleness of his features, in the expression of which, when he
spoke, there was a perpetual play of lively thought, though melancholy
was their habitual character when in repose."

When Moore saw him again at Venice, some eight years after the first
impressions which Byron's beauty had produced upon him in London (1812),
he noted a change in the character of that beauty.

"He had grown fatter both in person and face, and the latter had most
suffered by the change--having lost by the enlargement of the features
some of that refined and spiritualized look that had in other times
distinguished it.... He was still, however, eminently handsome, and in
exchange for whatever his features might have lost of their high
romantic character, they had become more fitted for the expression of
that arch, waggish wisdom, that epicurean play of humor, which he had
shown to be equally inherent in his various and prodigally gifted
nature; while by the somewhat increased roundness of the contours the
resemblance of his finely-formed mouth and chin to those of the
Belvedere Apollo had become still more striking."[8]

Here are now the words of Lady B----, who saw him a few weeks only
before his last departure for Greece. This lady had conceived a totally
different idea of Byron. According to her, Byron would have appeared
affected, _triste_, in accordance with certain portraits and certain
types in his poems. But, if in order not to cause any jealousy among
the living, she dared not reveal all her admiration, she at least
suffered it to appear from time to time.

"There are moments," she says, "when Lord Byron's face is shadowed over
with the pale cast of thought, and then his head might serve as a model
for a sculptor or a painter to represent the ideal of poesy. His head is
particularly well formed: his forehead is high, and powerfully
indicative of his intellect: his eyes are full of expression: his nose
is beautiful in profile, though a little thickly shaped. His eyebrows
are perfectly drawn, but his mouth is perfection. Many pictures have
been painted of him, but the excessive beauty of his lips escaped every
painter and sculptor. In their ceaseless play they represented every
motion, whether pale with anger, curled in disdain, smiling in triumph,
or dimpled with archness and love."

This portrait can not be suspected of partiality; for, whether justly or
not, she did not enjoy Lord Byron's sympathy, and knew it; she had also
to forgive him various little circumstances which had wounded her "amour
propre," and was obliged to measure her praise in order not to create
any jealousy with certain people who surrounded him and who had some
pretension to beauty.

Here is the portrait of him which another lady (the Comtesse Albrizzi of
Venice) has drawn, notwithstanding her wounded pride at the refusal of
Lord Byron to allow her to write a portrait of him and to continue her
visits to him at Venice:--

"What serenity on his forehead! What beautiful auburn, silken,
brilliant, and naturally curled hair! What variety of expression in his
sky-blue eyes! His teeth were like pearls, his cheeks had the delicate
tint of a pale rose; his neck, which was always bare, was of the purest
white. His hands were real works of art. His whole frame was faultless,
and many found rather a particular grace of manner than a fault in the
slight undulation of his person on entering a room. This bending of the
body was, however, so slight that the cause of it was hardly ever
inquired into."

As I have mentioned the deformity of his foot, even before quoting other
testimonies to his beauty, I shall tarry a while and speak of this
defect, the only one in so pre-eminently favored a being. What was this
defect, since all becomes illustrious in an illustrious man? Was it
visible? Was it true that Lord Byron felt this imperfection so keenly?
Here is the truth.

No defect existed in the formation of his limbs; his slight infirmity
was nothing but the result of weakness of one of his ankles.

His habit of ever being on horseback had brought on the emaciation of
his legs, as evinced by the post-mortem examination; besides which, the
best proof of this has been lately given in an English newspaper much to
the following effect:--

"Mrs. Wildman (the widow of the colonel who had bought Newstead) has
lately given to the Naturalist Society of Nottingham several objects
which had belonged to Lord Byron, and among others his boot and shoe
trees. These trees are about nine inches long, narrow, and generally of
a symmetrical form. They were accompanied by the following statement of
Mr. Swift, bootmaker, who worked for his lordship from 1805 to 1807.
Swift is still alive, and continues to reside at Southwell. His
testimony as to the genuineness of the trees, and to the nature of Lord
Byron's deformity, of which so many contradictory assertions have
circulated, is as follows:--

"'William Swift, bootmaker at Southwell, Nottinghamshire, having had the
honor of working for Lord Byron when residing at Southwell from 1805 to
1807, asserts that these were the trees upon which his lordship's boots
and shoes were made, and that the last pair delivered was on the 10th of
May, 1807. He, moreover, affirms that his lordship had not a club foot,
as has been said, but that both his feet were equally well formed, one,
however, being an inch and a half shorter than the other. The defect was
not in the foot but in the ankle, which, being weak, caused the foot to
turn out too much. To remedy this his lordship wore a very light and
thin boot, which was tightly laced just under the sole, and, when a boy
he was made to wear a piece of iron with a joint at the ankle, which
passed behind the leg and was tied behind the shoe. The calf of this leg
was weaker than the other, and it was the left leg.

(Signed) WILLIAM SWIFT.'"

This, then, is the extent of the defect of which so much has been said,
and which has been called a deformity. As to its being visible, all
those who knew him assert that it was so little evident that it was even
impossible to discover in which of the legs or feet the fault existed.
To the testimonies already quoted I must add another:--

"His defect," says Mr. Galt, "was scarcely visible. He had a way of
walking which made it appear almost imperceptible, and indeed entirely
so. I spent several days on board a ship with him without discovering
this defect; and, in truth, so little perceptible was it that a doubt
always existed in my mind whether it might not be the effect of a
temporary accident rather than a natural defect."

All those who knew him being therefore agreed in this opinion, that of
people who were not acquainted with him is of no value. But if, in the
material appreciation of a defect, they have not been able to err,
several have erred in their moral appreciation of the fact by pretending
that Lord Byron, for imaginary reasons, was exceedingly sensible of this
defect. This excessive sensibility was a pure invention on the part of
his biographers. When he did experience it (which was never but to a
very moderate extent), it was only because, physically speaking, he
suffered from it. Under the sole of the weak foot he at times
experienced a painful sensation, especially after long walks.

"Once, at Genoa," says Mme. G., "he walked down the hill of Albaro to
the seaside with me, by a rugged and rough path. When we had reached the
shore he was very well and lively. But it was an exceedingly hot day,
and the return home fatigued him greatly. When home I told him I thought
he looked ill. 'Yes,' said he,' I suffer greatly from my foot; it can
hardly be conceived how much I suffer at times from that pain,' and he
continued to speak to me about this defect with great simplicity and
indifference."

He used often even to laugh at it, so superior was he to that weakness.
"Beware," said Count Gamba to him on one occasion while riding with him,
and on reaching some dangerous spot, "beware of falling and breaking
your neck." "I should decidedly not like it," said Byron; "but if this
leg of which I don't make much use were to break, it would be the same
to me, and perhaps then I should be able to procure myself a more useful
one."

The sensitiveness, therefore, which he was said to experience, and which
would have been childish in him, was in reality only the occasional
experience of a physical pain which did not, however, affect his
strength, nor the grace of his movements, in all those physical
exercises to which he was so much attached. It in no wise altered his
good looks, and, as a proof of this, I shall again bring testimonies,
giving first that of M.N., who was at Constantinople when Byron arrived
there for the first time, and who thus describes him in a review which
he wrote of him after Byron's death:--

"A stranger then entered the bazar. He wore a scarlet cloak, richly
embroidered with gold in the style of an English aid-de-camp's dress
uniform. He was attended by a janissary attached to the English Embassy
and by a cicerone: he appeared to be about twenty-two. His features were
of so exquisite a delicacy, that one might almost have given him a
feminine appearance, but for the manly expression of his fine blue eyes.
On entering the inner shop he took off his hat, and showed a head of
curly auburn hair, which improved in no small degree the uncommon beauty
of his face. The impression his whole appearance made upon my mind, was
such that it has ever remained most deeply engraven on it; and although
fifteen years have since gone by, the lapse of time has not in the least
impaired the freshness of the recollection." Then, speaking of his
manner, he goes on to say: "There was so irresistible an attraction in
his manner, that only those who have been so fortunate as to be admitted
to his intimacy can have felt its power."

Moore once asked Lady Holland whether she believed that Lady Byron had
ever really loved Lord Byron. "Could it be otherwise?" replied Lady
Holland. "Was it possible not to love so lovable a creature? I see him
there now, surrounded as it were by that great light: oh, how handsome
he was!"

One of the most difficult things to define was the color of his eyes. It
was a mixture of blue, gray, and violet, and these various colors were
each uppermost according to the thought which occupied his mind or his
heart. "Tell me, dear," said the little Eliza to her sister, whose
enthusiasm for Byron she shared, "tell me what is the color of his
eyes?" "I can not say; I believe them to be dark," answered Miss Eliza,
"but all I know is that they have quite a supernatural splendor." And
one day, having looked at them with greater attention in order to
ascertain their color, she said, "They are the finest eyes in the world,
but not dark, as I had at first believed. Their hue is that of the eyes
of Mary Stuart, and his long, black eye-lashes make them appear dark.
Never did I before, nor ever again shall I, see such eyes! As for his
hands, they are the most beautiful hands, for a man, I ever saw. His
voice is a sweet melody."[9]

Sir Walter Scott was enchanted when he could dilate on the extraordinary
beauty of Byron. One day, at Mr. Home Drummond's, he exclaimed:--"As for
poets, I have seen the best that this country has produced, and although
Burns had the finest eyes that can be imagined, I never thought that any
man except Byron could give an artist the exact idea of a poet. His
portraits do not do him the least justice; the varnish is there, but the
ray of sunshine is wanting to light them up. The beauty of Byron," he
added "is one which makes one dream."

Colonel Wildman, his colleague at Harrow, and his friend, was always
wont to say, "Lord Byron is the only man among all those I have seen,
who may be called, without restriction, a really handsome man."

Disraeli, in his novel entitled "Venetia," speaks thus of the beauty of
Hubert (who is Lord Byron) when Venetia finds his portrait:--

"That being of supernatural beauty is her father. Young as he was,
command and genius, the pride of noble passions, all the glory of a
creative mind, seemed stamped upon his brow. With all his marvellous
beauty he seemed a being born for greatness.... Its reality exceeded the
wildest dreams of her romance, her brightest visions of grace and
loveliness and genius seemed personified in this form. He was a man in
the very spring of sunny youth and of radiant beauty. He was above the
middle height, yet with a form that displayed exquisite grace.... It
was a countenance of singular loveliness and power. The lips and the
moulding of the chin resembled the eager and impassioned tenderness of
the shape of Antinous; but instead of the effeminate sullenness of the
eye and the narrow smoothness of the forehead, shone an expression of
profound and piercing thought. On each side of the clear and open brow
descended, even to the shoulders, the clustering locks of golden hair;
while the eyes large and yet deep, beamed with a spiritual energy, and
shone like two wells of crystalline water that reflect the all-beholding
heavens."

M. Beyle (Stendhal) writes to Mr. Swanton Belloc:--"It was in the autumn
of the year 1816 that I met Lord Byron at the theatre of the Scala, at
Milan, in the box of the Bremen Minister. I was struck with Lord Byron's
eyes at the time when he was listening to a sestetto in Mayer's opera of
"Elena." I never in my life saw any thing more beautiful or more
expressive. Even now, when I think of the expression which a great
painter should give to genius, I always have before me that magnificent
head. I had a moment of enthusiasm." And further, he adds that one day
he saw him listening to Monti while the latter was singing his first
couplet in the "Mascheroniana." "I shall never forget," said he, "the
divine expression of his look; it was the serene look of genius and
power."

I might multiply these testimonies of people who have seen him, and fill
many pages; their particular character is their uniform resemblance.
This proves the soundness of the ground on which their truth is based. I
will add one more testimony to the others, that of Mrs. Shelley, which
is even nearer the truth, and condenses all the others:--"Lord Byron,"
said this distinguished woman, "was the first genius of his age and the
handsomest of men."

In all these portraits there is much truth, but they are not
sufficiently complete to give those who never saw him any but a faint
idea of his smile, or of his mouth, which seemed to be not suited to
material purposes, and to be purely intellectual and divine; of his
eyes, which changed from one color to another according to the various
emotions of his soul, but the habitual expression of which was that of
an infinite and intense softness; of his sublime and noble brow; of his
melodious voice, which attracted and captivated; and of that kind of
supernatural light which seemed to surround him like a halo.

This inability on the part of artists and biographers to render exactly
Byron's features and looks, is not to be wondered at, for although
perfectly regular, his features derived their principal beauty from the
life which his soul instilled into them. The emotions of his heart, the
changes of his thoughts, appeared so variously upon his countenance, and
gave the latter so changeable a cast, that it sufficed not for the
artist who had to portray him, to gaze at and study him, as one
generally does less gifted or elevated organizations. The reality was
more likely to be well interpreted when it stood a prey to the various
emotions of the soul; in his leisure hours, in the full enjoyment of
life and love, he was satisfied with the knowledge that he was young,
handsome, beloved, and admired. Then it was that his beauty became, as
it were, radiant and brilliant like a ray of sunshine.

The time to see him was when, under the influence of genius, his soul
was tormented with the desire of pouring out the numberless ideas and
thoughts which flooded his mind: at such moments one scarcely dared
approach him, awed, as it were, by the feeling of one's own nothingness
in comparison with his greatness. Again, the time to see him was when,
coming down from the high regions to which a moment before he had
soared, he became once more the simple child adorned with goodness and
every grace; taking an interest in all things, as if he were really a
child. It was impossible then to refrain from the contemplation of this
placid beauty, which, without taking away in the least from the
admiration which it inspired, drew one toward him, and made him more
accessible to one, and more familiar by lessening a little the distance
which separated one from him. But, above all, he should have been seen
during the last days of his stay in Italy, when his soul had to sustain
the most cruel blows; when heroism got the better of his affections, of
his worldly interests, and even of his love of ease and tranquillity;
when his health, already shaken, appeared to fail him each day more and
more, to the loss of his intellectual powers. Had one seen him then as
we saw him, it would scarcely have been possible to paint him as he
looked. Does not genius require genius to be its interpreter?
Thorwaldsen alone has, in his marble bust of him, been able to blend the
regular beauty of his features with the sublime expression of his
countenance. Had the reader seen him, he would have exclaimed with Sir
Walter Scott, "that no picture is like him."

Not only would he have observed in his handsome face the denial of all
the absurd statements which had been made about him, but he would have
noticed a soul greater even than the mind, and superior to the acts
which he performed on this earth; he would have read in unmistakable
characters, not only what he was,--a good man,--but the promise of a
moral and intellectual perfection ever increasing. If this progressive
march toward perfection was at one time arrested by the trials of his
life, and by the consequences of undeserved sorrow, it was well proved
by his whole conduct toward the end of his life, and in the last poems
which he wrote. His poems from year to year assumed a more perfect
beauty, and increased constantly, not only in the splendor of their
conception, but also in the force of their expressions, and their moral
tendency, visible especially in his dramas. In them will be found types
surpassing in purity, in delicacy, in grandeur, in heroism, without ever
being untrue to nature, all that ever was conceived by the best poets of
England. Shakspeare, in all his master creations, has not conceived a
more noble soul than that of Angiolina, or a more tender one than
Marina's or even one more heroic than Myrrha's. As his genius became
developed, his soul became purified and more perfect. But the Almighty,
who does not allow perfection to be of this world, did not permit him to
remain on earth, when once he had reached that point. He allowed him,
however,--and this perhaps as a compensation for all the injuries which
he had suffered,--to die in the prime of life a death worthy of him; the
death of a virtuous man, of a hero, of a philosopher.

Excuse this long letter, for if I have ventured to speak to you at such
length of the moral, and--may I say the word?--"physical" beauty of the
illustrious Englishman, it is because one genius can appreciate another,
and that, in speaking of so great a man as Lord Byron, there is no fear
of tiring the listeners.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 7: Among the bad portraits of Lord Byron spread over the
world, there is one that surpasses all others in ugliness, which is
often put up for sale, and which a mercantile spirit wishes to pass off
for a good likeness; it was done by an American, Mr. West,--an excellent
man, but a very bad painter. This portrait, which America requested to
have taken, and which Lord Byron consented to sit for, was begun at
Montenero, near Leghorn; but Lord Byron, being obliged to leave
Montenero suddenly, could only give Mr. West two or three sittings. It
was then finished from memory, and far from being at all like Lord
Byron, is a frightful caricature, which his family or friends ought to
destroy.]

[Footnote 8: Moore. vol. ii. p. 248.]

[Footnote 9: Miss E. Smith.]



CHAPTER III.

FRENCH PORTRAIT.

     "I see that the greater part of the men of my time endeavor to
     blemish the glory of the generous and fine actions of olden days by
     giving to them some vile interpretation, or by finding some vain
     cause or occasion which produced them--very clever, indeed! I shall
     use a similar license, and take the same trouble to endeavor to
     raise these great names."--MONTAIGNE, chap. "Glory."


The portrait of Lord Byron, in a moral point of view, is still to be
drawn. Many causes have conspired to make the task difficult, and the
portrait unlike. Physically speaking, on account of his matchless
beauty--mentally, owing to his genius--and morally, owing to the rare
qualities of his soul, Lord Byron was certainly a phenomenon. The world
agrees in this opinion; but is not yet agreed upon the nature and moral
value of the phenomenon. But as all phenomena have, besides a primary
and extraordinary cause, some secondary and accidental causes, which it
is necessary to examine in order that they may be understood; so, to
explain Byron's nature, we must not neglect to observe the causes which
have contributed chiefly to the formation of his individuality.

His biographers have rather considered the results than the causes.

Even Moore, the best among them, if not, indeed, the only one who can
claim the title of biographer, grants that the nature of Lord Byron and
its operations were inexplicable, but does not give himself the trouble
to understand them.

Here are his own words:--"So various indeed, and contradictory were his
attributes, both moral and intellectual, that he may be pronounced to
have been not one, but many: nor would it be any great exaggeration of
the truth to say, that out of the mere partition of the properties of
his single mind, a plurality of characters, all different and all
vigorous, might have been furnished. It was this multiform aspect
exhibited by him that led the world, during his short, wondrous career,
to compare him with the medley host of personages, almost all differing
from each other, which he playfully enumerates in one of his journals.

"The object of so many contradictory comparisons must probably be like
something different from them all; but what _that_ is, is more than I
know, or any body else."

But, while merely explaining the extraordinary richness of this nature
by the analysis of its results, by his changeable character, by the
frankness which ever made his heart speak that which it felt, by his
excessive sensitiveness, which made him the slave of momentary
impressions, by his almost childlike delight and astonishment at things,
Moore does not arrive at the true causes of the phenomenon. He
registers, it is true, certain effects which become causes when they
draw upon the head of Lord Byron certain false judgments, and open the
door to every calumny.

Without adopting the system of the influence of races on mankind--which,
if pushed to its extreme consequences, must lead to the disastrous and
deplorable doctrine of fatalism, and would make of man a mere
machine--it is, however, impossible to deny that races and their
amalgamation do exercise a great influence over our species.

It is to this very influence of race, which was so evident in Lord
Byron, that we attribute, in a measure, the exceptional nature of the
great English poet.

As the reader knows, Lord Byron was descended, by his father, from the
noble race of the Birons of France. His ancestors accompanied William
the Conqueror to England, aided him in the conquest of that country, and
distinguished themselves in the various fields of battle which
ultimately led to the total subjugation of the island.

In his family, the sympathies of the original race always remained
strong.

His father, a youthful and brilliant officer, was never happy except in
France. He was very intimate with the Maréchal de Biron, who looked upon
him as a connection. He even settled in Paris with his first wife, the
Marchioness of Carmarthen. Soon after his second marriage, he brought
his wife over to France, and it was in France that she conceived the
future poet. When obliged to return to England to be confined, she was
so far advanced in pregnancy that she could not reach London in time,
but gave birth to Lord Byron at Dover. It was in France that Byron's
father died at thirty-five years of age. Through his mother--a Scotch
lady connected with the royal house of Stuart--he had Scotch blood in
his veins.

The powerful influence exercised by the Norman Conquest, in the
modification of all the old habits of Great Britain, and in making the
English that which they now are, has descended as an heirloom to some
old aristocratic families of the kingdom, where it discovers itself at
different times in different individuals. Nowhere, perhaps, did this
influence show itself more clearly than in the person of Lord Byron.

His duplicate or triplicate origin was already visible in the cast of
his features. Without any analogy to the type of beauty belonging to the
men of his country (a beauty seldom found apart from a kind of cold
reserve), Lord Byron's beauty appeared to unite the energy of the
western with the splendor and the mildness of the southern climes.

The influence of this mixture of races was equally visible in his moral
and intellectual character.

He belonged to the Gallic race (modified by the Latin and Celtic
elements) by his vivacity and mobility of character, as well as by his
wit and his keen appreciation of the ridiculous, by those smiles and
sarcasms which hide or discover a profound philosophy, by his perception
of humor without malice, by all those amiable qualities which in the
daily intercourse of life made of him a being of such irresistible
attraction. He belonged to that race likewise by his great
sensitiveness, by his expansive good-nature, by his politeness, by his
tractableness, by his universal character which rendered every species
of success easy to him; by his great generosity, by his love of glory,
by his passion for honor, his intuitive perception of great deeds, by a
courage which might have appeared rash, had it not been heroic, and
which, in presence of the greatest perils and even of death, ever
preserved for him that serenity of mind which allowed him to laugh, even
at such times; by his energy, and also by his numerous mental and bodily
requirements; and by his defects,--which were, a slight tendency to
indiscretion, a want of prudence injurious to his interests,
impatience, and a kind of intermittent and apparent fickleness.

He belonged to the western race by his vast intellect, by his practical
common sense, which formed the basis of his intellect, and which never
allowed him to divorce sublime conceptions from sound sense and good
reason,--two qualities, in fact, which so governed his imagination as to
make people say he had not any; by the depth of his feelings, the extent
of his learning, his passion for independence, his contempt of death,
his thirst for the infinite, and by that kind of melancholy which seemed
to follow him into the midst of every pleasure. All these various
elements, which belonged separately to individuals in France, in
England, and in various countries, being united in Lord Byron, produced
a kind of anomaly which startled systematic critics, and even honest
biographers. The apparent contradiction of all these qualities caused
his critics to lose their psychological compass in their estimate of his
charming nature, and justice, together with truth, suffered by the
result. Thus a portrait, drawn over and over again, still remains to be
painted.

The most imaginary portrait, however, of Lord Byron, and certainly the
least like him, is that which has general currency in France: not only
has that portrait not been drawn from nature, not only is it a
caricature, but it is also a calumny. Those who drew it took romance for
history. They charged or exaggerated incidents in his life and
peculiarities of his character; thus the harmony of the _tout ensemble_
was lost. Ugliness and eccentricity, which amuse, succeeded beauty and
truth, which are sometimes wearisome.

Those who knew and loved Lord Byron even more as a man than a genius
(and, after all, these are those who knew him personally) suffer by this
injustice done to him, and feel the absurdity of making so privileged a
being act so whimsical a part, and one so contrary to his nature as well
as to the reality of his life.

If this imaginary portrait, however, were more like those which his best
biographers have drawn of him, justice to his memory would become so
difficult a task as to be almost impossible. Happily it is not so; and
those who would conscientiously consult Moore, Parry, and Gamba, must
at least give up the idea that this admirable genius was the eccentric
and unamiable being he has been represented. To reach this point would,
perhaps, require a greater respect for truth.

Even in France there are many superior persons who, struck by the force
of facts, have at times endeavored to seize certain features which might
lead to the discovery of truth, and have attempted to show that Lord
Byron's noble character and beauty of soul, as well as his genius, did
honor to humanity. But their efforts have been vain in presence of the
absurd and contradictory creation of fancy which has been styled "Lord
Byron," and which with few modifications, continues to be called so to
this day.

How has this occurred? what gave rise to it? ignorance, or carelessness?
Both causes in France, added to revenge in England, which found its
expression in cant,--a species of scourge which is becoming quite the
fashion.

The first of these French biographers (I mean of those who have written
upon and wished to characterize Lord Byron), without knowing the man
they were writing about, set to work with a ready-made Byron. This, no
doubt, they found to be an easier method to follow, and one of which the
results must prove at least original. But where had they found, and from
whose hands did they receive this ready-made poet, whose features they
reproduced and offered to the world? Probably from a few lines, not
without merit, of Lamartine, who by the aid of his rich imagination had
identified Byron with the types which he had conceived for his Oriental
poems, mixing up the whole with a heap of calumnies which had just been
circulated about him.

Perhaps also from certain critics who believed in the statements of
various calumniators, and who themselves had probably not had any better
authority than a few articles in badly informed papers, or in newspapers
politically opposed to Lord Byron. We all know, by what we see daily in
France, how little we can trust the moderation of these, and the justice
they render to their adversaries; what must it not have been in England
at that time, when passions ran so high?--Perhaps also from the jealousy
of dethroned rivals!--the echoes, perhaps, of the revenge of a woman
equally distinguished by her rank and by her talent, but whose passion
approached the boundaries of madness, or of the implacable hatred of a
few fanatics who, substituting in the most shameless manner their
worldly and sectarian interests for the Gospel, denounced him as an
atheist because he himself had proclaimed them hypocrites. Finally,
perhaps, from a host of absurd rumors, equally odious and vague, caused
by his separation from his wife, and by the articles published in
newspapers printed at Venice and at Milan.

For Byron's noble, simple, and sublime person was therefore substituted
an imaginary being, formed out of these prejudices and these
contradictory elements, too outrageous even to be believed, and by dint
of sheer malice.

Thus enveloped in a dense atmosphere, which became an obstacle to the
disclosure of truth as the clouds are to the rays of the sun, his image
only appeared in fantastical outlines borrowed from "Conrad the
Corsair," or "Childe Harold," or "Lara," or "Manfred," or indeed "Don
Juan." Analogies were sought which do not exist, and to the poet were
attributed the sentiments, and even the acts, of these imaginary beings,
albeit without any of the great qualities which constituted his great
and noble soul, and which he has not imparted to any of his poetical
creations.

Upon him were heaped every possible and most contradictory
accusation--of skepticism and pantheism, of deism and atheism, of
superstition and enthusiasm, of irony and passion, of sensuality and
ideality, of generosity and avarice. These went to form his portrait,
presenting every contrast and every antagonism, which God Himself, the
Father and Creator of all things, but also the Author of all harmony,
could not have assembled in one and the same being unless He made of him
a species of new Frankenstein, incapable of treading the ordinary paths
of physical, moral, or intellectual, nay, of the most ordinary
existence.

After thus producing such an eccentric character,--the more
extraordinary that they entirely forgot to consult the true and most
simple history of his life, where if some of the ordinary excusable
faults of youth are to be found, "some remarkable qualities, however,
must be noticed,"--these wonderful biographers exclaim, astonished as it
were at their own conclusions:--"This is indeed a most singular,
extraordinary, and not-to-be-defined being!"

I should think so: it is their own work, not the noble, amiable, and
sublime mind, the work of God, and which he always exhibited in himself,

     "Per far di colassà fede fra noi."--PETRARCH.

Happily, if to paint the portrait of Byron has become impossible, now
that

    "Poca terra è rimasto il suo belviso,"

it is easy to describe his moral character. His invisible form is, it is
true, above, but a conscientious examination of his whole life will give
us an idea of it. He knew this so well himself, that a few days before
his death he begged, as a favor, of his friend Lord Harrington, then
Colonel Stanhope, at Missolonghi, to judge him only by his deeds. "Judge
me by my deeds."

All bombastic expressions, all systematic views should be discarded, and
attention paid only to facts, in order to discover the fine intellectual
figure of Lord Byron so completely lost sight of by his detractors.

Since the imaginary creations of his pen in moments of exalted passion
should not be taken as the real manifestation of his character, the
latter is to be found in his own deeds, and in the testimony of those
who knew him personally. Herein shall we seek truth by which we are to
deal with the fanciful statements which have too long been received as
facts. Let us consider the opinions of those who by their authority have
a right to portray him, while we study the various causes which have
contributed to lead the public into errors which time has nearly
consecrated, but which shall be corrected in France, and indeed in every
country where passion and animosity have no interest in maintaining
them.

"Public opinion," says M. Cousin, "has its errors, but these can not be
of long duration." They lasted a long time, however, as regards Lord
Byron; but, thanks to God, they will not be eternal. He depended upon
this himself, for he once at Ravenna wrote these prophetic words in a
memorandum:--

"Never mind the wicked, who have ever persecuted me with the help of
Lady Byron: triumphant justice will be done to me when the hand which
writes this is as cold as the hearts that have wounded me."

In England, Lord Byron triumphed over many jealous enemies whom his
first satire earned for him, no less than the rapid and wonderful rise
of his genius, which, instead of appearing by degrees, burst forth at
once, as it were, and towering over many established reputations. The
prestige which he acquired was such that every obstacle was surmounted,
and in one day he saw himself raised against his will, and without his
having ever sought the honor, to the highest pinnacle of fashion and
literary fame.

In a country where success is all, his enemies, and those who were
jealous of his name, were obliged to fall back; but they did not give up
their weapons nor their spite. One curious element was introduced in the
national veneration for the poet. It was agreed that never had such an
accumulation of various gifts been heaped upon the head of one man: he
was to be revered and honored, but on one condition. He was to be a
mysterious being whose genius should not transgress the boundaries of
the East; who was to allow himself to be identified with the imaginary
beings of his own fancy, however disagreeable, nay, even criminal they
might be in reality. True, his personal conduct (at twenty-four) was to
be above all human weakness; if not, he was to be treated, as certain
superstitious votaries treat their idols if they do not obtain at once
the miracles they ask for. His secret enemies perfidiously made use of
these stupid demands of the public.

Insinuating and giving out at times one calumny after another, they
always kept behind the scenes, resolved, however, to ruin him in the
public esteem on the first opportunity, which they knew they would not
have long to wait for from one so open, so passionate, so generous as
Lord Byron. The greatest misfortune of his life--his marriage--gave them
their opportunity. Then they came forth, threw down the mask which they
had hitherto worn, to put on one more hideous still; overturned the
statue from the pedestal upon which the public had raised it, and tried
to mutilate its remains. But as the stuff of which it was made was a
marble which could not be broken, they only defiled, insulted, and
outlawed it.

Then it was that France made acquaintance with Lord Byron. She saw him
first mysteriously enveloped in the romantic semblance of a Corsair, of
a skeptical Harold, of a young lord who had despised and wounded his
mother-country, from which he had almost been obliged to exile himself,
in consequence of a series of eccentricities, faults, and--who
knows?--of crimes, perhaps. Thus caught in a perfidious net, Lord Byron
left England for Switzerland.

He found Shelley, whom he only knew by name, at Geneva, where he
stopped. Shelley was another victim of English fanatical and intolerant
opinions; but he, it may be allowed at least, had given cause for this
by some reprehensible writings, in which he had declared himself an
atheist. No allowance had been made for his youth, for he was only
seventeen when he wrote "Queen Mab," and he found himself expelled not
only from the university but also from his home, which was to him a real
cause of sorrow and misfortune.

Between these two great minds there existed a wide gulf--that which
exists between pantheism and spiritualism; but they had one great point
of resemblance, their mutual passionate love for justice and humanity,
their hatred of cant and hypocrisy, in fact, all the elevated sentiments
of the moral and social man. With Lord Byron these noble dispositions of
the heart and mind were naturally the consequence of his tastes and
opinions, which were essentially spiritualistic. With Shelley, though in
contradiction with his metaphysics, they were notwithstanding in harmony
with the beautiful sentiments of his soul, which, when he was only
twenty-three years of age, had already experienced the unkindness of
man. Their respective souls, wounded and hurt by the perfidiousness and
injustice of the world, felt themselves attracted to each other. A real
friendship sprang up between them. They saw one another often, and it
was in the conversations which they held together at this time that the
seed was sown which shortly was to produce the works of genius which
were to see the day at the foot of the Alps and under the blue sky of
Italy.

Although Lord Byron's heart was mortally wounded, still no feeling of
hatred could find its way into it. The sorrow which he felt, the painful
knowledge which he had of cruel and perfidious wrongs done to him, the
pain of finding out the timidity of character of his friends, and the
recollection of the many ungrateful people of whom he was the victim,
all and each of these sentiments found their echo in the "Prisoner of
Chillon," in the third canto of "Childe Harold," in "Manfred," in the
pathetic stanzas addressed to his sister, in the admirable and sublime
monody on the death of Sheridan, and in the "Dream," which according to
Moore, he must have written while shedding many bitter tears. According
to the same authority, the latter poem is the most melancholy and
pathetic history that ever came forth from human pen.

I shall not mention here the persecution to which Byron was subjected
then, nor the ever-manly, dignified, but heartrending words which it
drew forth from the noble poet in the midst of his retired, studious,
regular, and virtuous existence. I shall speak of it elsewhere; but I
will say now that so unexampled, atrocious, and foolish was this
persecution, that his enemies must have feared the awakening of the
public conscience and the effects of a reaction, which might make them
lose all the fruits of their victory, if they tarried in their efforts
to prevent it. The most cruel among them was the poet laureate, in whose
eyes Byron could have had but one defect--that of being superior to him.
True, Byron had mentioned him in the famous satire which was the work of
his youth; but he had most generously expiated his crime by confessing
it, in buying up the fifth edition so as to annihilate it, and by
declaring that he would have willingly suppressed even the memory of it.
This noble action had gained for him the forgiveness and even the
friendship of the most generous among them; but the revengeful poet
laureate was not, as Byron said, "of those who forgive."

This man arrived at Geneva, and at once set about his hateful work of
revenge. This was all the easier on account of the spirit of cant which
reigned in that country, and owing to the intimacy which he found to be
existing between Byron and Shelley, for whom likewise he had conceived a
malignant hatred. It must be said, however, that the laureate having to
account for, among other works, his "Wat Tyler" (which had been
pronounced to be an immoral book, and had been prohibited on that
account), rather trusted to his hypocrisy to regain for him the former
credit he enjoyed.

The intimacy between Byron and the spurned atheist Shelley presented a
capital opportunity for this man to take his revenge. He circulated in
Geneva all the false reports which had been current in London, and
described Byron under the worst colors. Switzerland was at that time
overrun by the English, whom the recently-signed Peace had attracted to
the Continent. The laureate took the lead of those who tried to make the
good but bigoted people of Geneva believe in all the tittle-tattle
against Byron which was passed about in London, and actually attempted
to make a scandal of his very presence in their town. When he passed in
the streets they stopped to stare at him insolently, putting up their
glasses to their eyes. They followed him in his rides; they reported
that he was seducing all the girls in the "Rue Basse," and, in fact,
although his life was perfectly virtuous, one would have said that his
presence was a contagion. Having found in a travellers' register the
name of Shelley, accompanied by the qualification of "atheist!" which
Byron had amiably struck out with his pen, the laureate caught at this
and gave out that the two friends had declared themselves to be
atheists. He attributed their friendship to infamous motives; he spoke
of incest and of other abominations, so odious, that Byron's friends
deemed it prudent not to speak to him a word of all this at the time. He
only learned it at Venice later.[10]

Loaded with this very creditable amount of falsehoods, most of which
were believed in Geneva, the laureate returned to London to spread them
in England, so as to prevent the effects of the beautiful and touching
poems which were poured forth from the great and wounded soul of Byron,
and which might have restored him to the esteem of all the honest and
just minds of his country.

Meanwhile Lady C. L---- having failed to discover any one who would
accept the reward she offered to the person who would take Byron's life,
had recourse to another means of injuring him--to a kind of moral
assassination--which she effected by the publication of her revengeful
sentiments in the three volumes entitled "Glenarvon." Such a work might
justify a biographer in passing it over with contempt without even
mentioning it; but as enemies of Lord Byron have made capital out of
this book,--as it found credence even with some superior minds, such as
Goethe's--as the intimacy which prefaced this revenge caused great
sensation all over England, and was a source of continual vexation and
pain for Byron--it must not be passed over without comment, as Moore did
to spare the susceptibility of living personages.

Lady C. L---- (afterward Lady M----) belonged to the high aristocracy of
England. Young, clever, and fashionable, but a little eccentric, she had
been married some years when she fell so desperately in love with Lord
Byron that she braved every thing for him. It was not Byron who made the
first advances, for his powers of seduction were only the attractions
with which nature had endowed him. His person, his voice, his look,--all
in him was irresistible. In presenting himself anywhere, he could very
well say with Shakspeare, in "Othello,"--

    "This only is the witchcraft I have used."

Lord Byron, who was then only twenty-three years of age, and not
married, was flattered, and more than pleased, by this preference shown
to him. Although Lady C. L----'s beauty was not particularly attractive
to him, and although her character was exactly opposite to the ideal
which he had formed of what woman's character should be, yet she
contrived to interest him, to captivate him by the power of her love,
and in a very short time to persuade him that he loved her.

This sort of love could not last. It was destined to end in a
catastrophe. Lady L----'s jealousy was ridiculous. Dressed sometimes as
a page, sometimes in another costume, she was wont to follow him by
means of these disguises. She quarrelled and played the heroine, etc.
Byron, who disliked quarrels of all kinds (and perhaps even the lady
herself), besides being intimate with all her family, was too much the
sufferer by this conduct not to endeavor to bring her back to a sense of
reason and of her duty. He was indulging in the hope that he had
succeeded in these endeavors when, at a ball given by Lady Heathcote,
Lady L----, after vain efforts to attract Byron's attention, went up to
him and asked him whether she might waltz. Byron replied, half-absently,
that he saw no reason why she should not; upon which her pride and her
passion became so excited that she seized hold of a knife, and feigned
to commit suicide. The ball was at once at an end, and all London was
soon filled with accounts of this incident. Lady L---- had scarcely
recovered from the slight wound she had inflicted on herself, when she
wrote to a young peer, and made him all kinds of extravagant promises,
if he would consent to call out Byron and kill him. This, however, did
not prevent her calling again upon Lord Byron, not, however, says
Medwin, with the intention of blowing his brains out; as he was not at
home, she wrote on one of his books

    "Remember me."

On returning home, Byron read what she had written, and, filled with
disgust and indignation, he wrote the famous lines

    "Remember thee! Ay, doubt it not,"

and sent her back several of her letters sealed up. "Glenarvon" was her
revenge. She painted Byron in fiendish colors, giving herself all the
qualities he possessed, so as to appear an angel, and to him all the
passions of the "Giaour," of the "Corsair," and of "Childe Harold," so
that he might be taken for a demon.

In this novel, the result of revenge, truth asserts its rights,
notwithstanding all the contradictions of which the book is full. Thus
Lady L---- can not help depicting Byron under some of his real
characteristics. She was asked, for instance, what she thought of him,
when she met him for the first time after hearing of his great
reputation, and she answers, while gazing at the soft loveliness of his
smile,--

"What do I think? I think that never did the hand of God imprint upon a
human form so lovely, so glorious an expression."

And further she adds:--

"Never did the Sculptor's hand, in the sublimest product of his talent,
imagine a form and a face so exquisite, so full of animation or so
varied in expression. Can one see him without being moved? Oh! is there
in the nature of woman the possibility of listening to him, without
cherishing every word he utters? and having listened to him once, is it
possible for any human heart ever to forget those accents which awaken
every sentiment and calm every fear?"

Again:--

"Oh better far to have died than to see or listen to Glenarvon. When he
smiled, his smile was like the light of heaven; his voice was more
soothing from its softness than the softest music. In his manner there
was such a charm, that it would have been vain to affect even to be
offended by its sweetness."

But while she was obliged to obey the voice of passion and of truth, she
took on the other hand as a motto to her novel that of the "Corsair,"
which even applied to the "Corsair" is not altogether just, for he was
gifted with more than "one virtue:--"

  "He left a Corsair's name to other times,
  Link'd with one virtue and a thousand crimes."

It is, however, fair to add, that this revenge became the punishment of
the heroine; she never again found any rest, struggled against a
troubled mind, and never succeeded in forgetting her love. It is even
said that, diseased in mind and body, she was one day walking along one
of the alleys of her beautiful place, on the road to Newstead Abbey,
when she saw a funeral procession coming up the road in the direction of
Newstead. Having inquired whose funeral it was, and being told it was
that of the great poet, whose mortal remains were being conveyed to
their last resting-place, she fainted, and died a few days afterward.
His name was the last word she uttered, and this she did with love and
despair. In London, and wherever the authoress was known, the book had
no success, but the case was different abroad and in the provinces.

Attracted as he always was toward all that is good, great, and sincere,
Byron was wont to break the monotony of his retired life in the villa
Diodati by frequent visits to Madame de Staël at her country-seat,
"Coppet." She was the first who mentioned "Glenarvon" to him, and when
Murray wrote to him on the subject, Byron simply replied,--

"Of Glenarvon, Madame de Staël told me (ten days ago at Coppet)
marvellous and grievous things; but I have seen nothing of it but the
motto, which promises amiably 'for us and for our tragedy' ... 'a name
to all succeeding,' etc. The generous moment selected for the
publication is probably its kindest accompaniment, and, truth to say,
the time _was_ well chosen."[11]

"I have not even a guess at its contents," said he, and he really
attached no importance to its publication. But a few days later he had a
proof of the bad effect which its appearance had produced, for all this
venom against him had so poisoned the mind of a poor old woman of
sixty-three, an authoress, that on Lord Byron entering Madame de Staël's
drawing-room one afternoon, she fainted, or feigned to do so. Poor soul!
a writer of novels herself, and probably most partial to such reading,
she had, no doubt, from the perusal of "Glenarvon" gleaned the idea that
she had before her eyes that hideous monster of seduction and
perpetrator of crimes who was therein depicted!

At last Lord Byron read this too famous novel, and wrote to Moore as
follows on the subject:--

"Madame de Staël lent me 'Glenarvon' last autumn. It seems to me that if
the author had written the truth, and nothing but the truth, and the
whole truth, the novel might not only have been more romantic but more
amusing. As for the likeness, it can not be good, I did not sit long
enough for it."

From Venice Byron wrote as follows to Murray, in consequence of a series
of articles which appeared in Germany, where a serious view had been
taken of the novel of "Glenarvon:"--

"An Italian translation of 'Glenarvon' was lately printed at Venice. The
censor (Sgr. Petrolini) refused to sanction the publication till he had
seen me on the subject. I told him that I did not recognize the
slightest relation between that book and myself; but that, whatever
opinions might be held on that subject, I would never prevent or oppose
the publication of any book in any language, on my own private account,
and desired him (against his inclination) to permit the poor translator
to publish his labors. It is going forward in consequence. You may say
this, with my compliments, to the author."[12]

Madame de Staël had a great affection for Lord Byron, but his detractors
had found their way into her house.[13] Among these was a distinguished
lawyer, who had never been injured by any speech or word of Lord Byron,
but who, setting himself up as an amateur enemy of the poet, had, under
an anonymous designation, been one of his bitterest detractors in the
"Edinburgh Review," on the occasion of the publication of his early
poems. This same lawyer endeavored to gain Madame de Staël over to his
opinion of Byron's merit, probably on account of the very knowledge that
he had of the harm he had done him; hatred, like nobility, has its
obligations. But Madame de Staël, who, on reading "Farewell," was wont
to say that she wished almost she had been as unfortunate as Lady Byron,
was too elevated in mind and too noble in character to listen quietly to
the abuse of Byron in which his enemies indulged. She, however, tried to
induce Lord Byron to become reconciled to his wife, on the ground that
one should never struggle against the current of public opinion. Madame
de Staël actually succeeded in obtaining his permission to endeavor to
effect this reconciliation; but the lawyer before mentioned used every
argument to prevent her pursuing this project of mediation.

Lord Byron's biographers have told how Lady Byron received this
proposal; which, after the way in which he had been treated, appears to
have been, on the part of Byron, an act of almost superhuman generosity.
Such an offer should have moved any being gifted with a heart and a
soul. But I will not here speak of her refusal and of its consequences;
all I wish to state is, that the calumnies put forward against him being
too absurd for Byron to condescend to notice, assumed a degree of
consistency which deceived the public, and even made dupes of superior
men, who in their turn contributed to make dupes of others. At this
time, then, when the war and the continental blockade were at an end,
when each and every one came pouring on to the Continent, did the star
of Byron begin to shine on the European horizon; but, instead of
appearing as a sublime and bountiful star, it appeared surrounded by
dark and ominous clouds.

Lamartine, who was then travelling in Switzerland, was able to find in
this sad state of things materials for his fine poem "Meditation," and
for doubts whether Byron was "an angel, or a demon," according to the
manner in which he was viewed, be it as a poet or as a man; and, as if
all this were not enough, a host of bad writings were attributed to his
pen, which brought forth the following expressions in a letter to
Murray, his publisher:--

"I had hoped that some other lie would have replaced and succeeded to
the thousand and one falsehoods amassed during the winter. I can forgive
all that is said of or against me, but not what I am made to say or sing
under my own name. I have quite enough to answer for my own writings. It
would be too much even for Job to bear what he has not said. I believe
that the Arabian patriarch, when he wished his enemies had written a
book, did not go so far as to be willing to sign his name on the first
page."

But the public mind was so disposed to look at Byron in the light of a
demon, as traced by Lamartine, that when some young scattered-brain
youth published out of vanity, or perhaps for speculative motives,
another monstrous invention, in the hope of passing it off as a work of
Byron, he actually succeeded for some time in his object without being
discovered.

"Strange destiny both of books and their authors!" exclaims the writer
of the "Essai sur Lord Byron," published in 1823,--"an evidently
apocryphal production, which was at once seen not to be genuine by all
persons of taste, notwithstanding the forgery of the title, has
contributed as much to make Byron known in France as have his best
poems. A certain P---- had impudence enough to attribute indirectly to
the noble lord himself the absurd and disgusting tale of the 'Vampire,'
which Galignani, in Paris, hastened to publish as an acknowledged work
of Byron. Upon this Lord Byron hastened to remonstrate with Messieurs
Galignani; but unfortunately too late, and after the reputation of the
book was already widespread. Our theatres appropriated the subject, and
the story of Lord Ruthven swelled into two volumes which created some
sensation."[14]

Goethe also believed the novels to be true stories, and was especially
impressed with "Glenarvon."[15] It is reported that he became jealous
of Byron on the appearance of the poem of "Manfred." If he were not, it
is at least certain that the pagan patriarch never could sympathize with
the new generation of Christian geniuses.

On the 7th of June, however, of the year 1820, Byron writes as follows
to Murray, from Ravenna:--

"Inclosed is something which will interest you, to wit, the opinion of
the greatest man of Germany, perhaps of Europe, upon one of the great
men of your advertisements (all 'famous hands,' as Jacob Tonson used to
say of his ragamuffins)--in short, a critique of Goethe's upon
'Manfred.' There is the original, an English translation, and an Italian
one; keep them all in your archives, for the opinions of such a man as
Goethe, whether favorable or not, are always interesting; and this more
so, as being favorable. His 'Faust' I never read, for I don't know
German; but Matthew Monk Lewis, in 1816, at Geneva, translated most of
it to me _vivâ voce_, and I was naturally much struck with it: but it
was the 'Steinbach,' and the 'Yungfrau,' and something else, much more
than 'Faustus,' that made me write 'Manfred.' The first scene, however,
and that of 'Faustus' are very similar."

One can scarcely conceive how so great a mind as that of Goethe could
have been duped by such mystifications. And yet this is what he wrote at
that time in a German paper relative to Byron's "Manfred:"--

"We find in this tragedy the quintessence of the most astonishing talent
borne to be its own tormentor. The character of Lord Byron's life and
poetry hardly permits a just and equitable appreciation. He has often
enough confessed what it is that torments him. He has repeatedly
portrayed it, and scarcely any one feels compassion for this intolerable
suffering over which he is ever laboriously ruminating. There are,
properly speaking, two females whose phantoms forever haunt him, and
which, in this piece also, perform principal parts, one under the name
of Astarte, the other without form or actual presence, and merely a
voice. Of the horrid occurrence which took place with the former the
following is related. When a bold and enterprising young man, he won the
affections of a Florentine lady. Her husband discovered the amour, and
murdered his wife; but the murderer was the same night found dead in
the street, and there was no one to whom any suspicion could be
attached. Lord Byron removed from Florence, and these spirits haunted
him all his life after.

"This romantic incident is rendered highly probable by innumerable
allusions to it in his poems."

And Moore adds:--"The grave confidence with which the venerable critic
traces the fancies of his brother poet to real persons and events,
making no difficulty even of a double murder at Florence, to furnish
grounds for his theory, affords an amusing instance of the disposition,
so prevalent throughout Europe, to picture Byron as a man full of
marvels and mysteries, as well in his life as his poetry. To these
exaggerated or wholly false notions of him, the numerous fictions palmed
upon the world, of his romantic tours and wonderful adventures in places
he never saw, and with persons who never existed, have, no doubt,
considerably contributed, and the consequence is, so utterly out of
truth and nature are the representations of his life and character long
current upon the Continent, that it may be questioned whether the real
'flesh and blood' hero of these pages (the social, practical-minded,
and, with all his faults and eccentricities, English Lord Byron) may
not, to the over-exalted imaginations of most of his foreign admirers,
appear only an ordinary, unromantic, and prosaic personage."

Then, quoting some of the falsehoods which were spread everywhere about
Byron, Moore says:--

"Of this kind are the accounts, filled with all sorts of circumstantial
wonders, of his residence in the island of Mytilene; his voyages to
Sicily, to Ithaca, with the Countess Guiccioli, etc. But the most
absurd, perhaps, of all these fabrications are the stories told by
Pouqueville, of the poet's religious conferences in the cell of Father
Paul, at Athens; and the still more unconscionable fiction in which Rizo
has indulged, in giving the details of a pretended theatrical scene, got
up (according to this poetical historian) between Lord Byron and the
Archbishop of Arta, at the tomb of Botzaris, at Missolonghi."

As the numerous causes which led to the false judgment of Byron's true
character never ceased to exist during his lifetime, one consequence has
been that those who never knew him have never been able to arrive at
the truth of matters concerning him. The contrast which existed between
the real and imaginary personage was such as to cause the greatest
astonishment to all those who, having hitherto adopted the received
notions about him, at last came to know him at Ravenna, at Pisa, at
Genoa, and in Greece, up to the very last days of his life. But, before
quoting some of these fortunate travellers, I must transcribe a few more
passages from Moore:

"On my rejoining him in town this spring, I found the enthusiasm about
his writings and himself, which I had left so prevalent, both in the
world of literature and society, grown, if any thing, still more genuine
and intense. In the immediate circle perhaps around him, familiarity of
intercourse must have begun to produce its usual disenchanting effect."

"His own liveliness and unreserve, on a more intimate acquaintance,
would not be long in dispelling that charm of poetic sadness, which to
the eyes of distant observers hung about him; while the romantic
notions, connected by some of his fair readers with those past and
nameless loves alluded to in his poems, ran some risk of abatement from
too near an acquaintance with the supposed objects of his fancy and
fondness at present."

"But, whatever of its first romantic impression the personal character
of the poet may, from such causes, have lost in the circle he most
frequented, this disappointment of the imagination was far more than
compensated by the frank, social, and engaging qualities, both of
disposition and manner, which, on a nearer intercourse, he disclosed, as
well as by that entire absence of any literary assumption or pedantry,
which entitled him fully to the praise bestowed by Sprat upon
Cowley--that few could ever discover he was a great poet by his
discourse."

While thus by his friends, he was seen in his true colors, in his
weakness and in his strength, to strangers, and such as were out of this
immediate circle, the sternness of his imaginary personages were, by the
greater number of them, supposed to belong, not only as regarded mind,
but manners, to himself. So prevalent and persevering has been this
notion, that, in some disquisitions on his character published since his
death, and containing otherwise many just and striking views, we find,
in the portrait drawn of him, such features as the following:--"Lord
Byron had a stern, direct, severe mind: a sarcastic, disdainful, gloomy
temper. He had no sympathy with a flippant cheerfulness: upon the
surface was sourness, discontent, displeasure, ill-will. Of this sort of
double aspect which he presented, the aspect in which he was viewed by
the world and by his friends, he was himself fully aware; and it not
only amused him, but indeed to a certain extent, flattered his pride."

"And if there was ever any tendency to derangement in his mental
conformation, on this point alone could it be pronounced to have
manifested itself. In the early part of my acquaintance with him, when
he most gave way to this humor, I have known him more than once, as we
have sat together after dinner, to fall seriously into this sort of dark
and self-accusing mood, and throw out hints of his past life with an air
of gloom and mystery designed evidently to awaken curiosity and
interest.... It has sometimes occurred to me that the occult cause of
his lady's separation from him, round which herself and her legal
adviser have thrown such formidable mystery, may have been nothing more,
after all, than some imposture of this kind, intended only to mystify
and surprise, while it was taken in sober seriousness."

I have mentioned elsewhere how Moore, while justly appreciating the
consequences of this youthful eccentricity,--of which later, but too
late, Byron corrected himself,--does not equally appreciate the motives,
or rather the principal motive, which gave rise to it. As, however, he
judges rightly of the results, I shall continue to quote him for the
reader's benefit.

"M. Galignani, having expressed a wish to be furnished with a short
memoir of Lord Byron for the purpose of prefixing it to the French
edition of his works, I had said jestingly, in a preceding letter to his
lordship, that it would but be a fair satire on the disposition of the
world to 'remonster his features' if he would write for the public,
English as well as French, a sort of mock heroic account of himself,
outdoing in horrors and wonders all that had been yet related or
believed of him, and leaving even Goethe's story of the double murder at
Florence far behind."

Lord Byron replied from Pisa, on the 12th of December, 1821:--"What you
say about Galignani's two biographies is very amusing; and, if I were
not lazy, I would certainly do what you desire. But I doubt my present
stock of facetiousness--that is, of good serious humor--so as not to let
the cat out of the bag. I wish you would undertake it. I will forgive
and _indulge_ you (like a pope) beforehand, for any thing ludicrous that
might keep those fools in their own dear belief that a man is a
_loup-garou_.

"I suppose I told you that the 'Giaour' story had actually some
foundation in fact.... I should not like marvels to rest upon any
account of my own, and shall say nothing about it.... The worst of any
real adventures is that they involve living people."

He at last tired of always appearing in the guise of a corsair, or of a
mysterious criminal, or of a hero of melodrama. These various disguises
had afforded him too much pain, and one day he said to Mr. Medwin:--

"When Galignani thought of publishing a fresh edition of my works he
wrote to Moore to ask him to give him some anecdotes respecting me: and
we thought of composing a narrative filled with the most impossible and
incredible adventures, to amuse the Parisians. But I reflected that
there were already too many ready-made stories about me, to puzzle my
brain to invent new ones."

Mr. Medwin adds:--

"The reader will laugh when he hears that one of my friends assured me
that the lines of Thyrza, published with the first canto to 'Childe
Harold,' were addressed by Byron to his bear! There is nothing too
wicked to be invented by hatred, or believed by ignorance."

Moore often refers to the wonderful contrast which existed between the
real and imaginary Byron. Thus, in speaking of his incredibly active and
sublime genius at Venice, he says:--

"While thus at this period, more remarkably than at any other during his
life, the unparalleled versatility of his genius was unfolding itself,
those quick, chameleon-like changes of which his character, too, was
capable, were, during the same time, most vividly and in strongest
contrast, drawn out. To the world, and more especially to England,--the
scene at once of his glories and his wrongs,--he presented himself in
no other aspect than that of a stern, haughty misanthrope, self-banished
from the fellowship of men, and most of all from that of Englishmen...."

How totally all this differed from the Byron of the social hour, they
who lived in familiar intercourse with him may be safely left to tell.
The reputation which he had acquired for himself abroad, prevented
numbers, of course, of his countrymen, whom he would most cordially have
welcomed, from seeking his acquaintance. But as it was, no "English
gentleman ever approached him, with the common forms of introduction,
that did not come away at once surprised and charmed by the kind
courtesy and facility of his manners, the unpretending play of his
conversation, and, on a nearer intercourse, the frank youthful spirits,
to the flow of which he gave way with such a zest as even to deceive
some of those who best knew him into the impression that gayety was,
after all, the true bent of his disposition."

I must confine myself to these quotations, as it is not in my power to
reproduce all that Moore has said on the subject. His statements,
however, prove two things:--

First, that Lord Byron, instead of being a dark and gloomy hero of
romance, was a man full of amiability, goodness, grace, sociability, and
liveliness. Of the impression produced upon all those who knew him in
these combined qualities, I shall have occasion to speak hereafter.

Secondly, that since even after Byron's death the fantastical notions
about him were entertained even by so impartial and so enlightened a
person as Sir Edward Brydges, it is not surprising (nor should they be
blamed for it) that Frenchmen, and all foreigners in general, and even a
great portion of Englishmen, should have believed in this fallacy. There
was no means at that time of clearing up the mystery, nor can one see in
this belief, however exaggerated, especially in France and on the
Continent, any spirit either of direct hostility, or even ill-will
toward him. The error was exported from England, and upon it they
reasoned, logically and oftentimes wittily. But surely those can not be
absolved who still adhere to the old errors, after the true state of
things had been disclosed at the poet's death in the writings of such
biographers as Moore, Parry, Medwin himself, Count Gamba, and others
who knew Byron personally.

That a portion of the British public should maintain certain prejudices,
and preserve a certain animosity against Byron, is not matter of
astonishment to those who have at all studied the English character. The
spirit of tolerance which exists in the laws, is far from pervading the
habits of the people; cant is on the decrease, but not quite gone, and
may still lead one to a very fair social position. There still live a
host of enemies whom Byron had made during his lifetime, and the number
of whom (owing to a bonâ fide treachery, by the indiscreet publication
of a correspondence which was destined to be kept secret and in the
dark), increased greatly after his death from the number of people whose
pride he had therein wounded.

He may be liable to the punishment due to his having trespassed on
certain exclusively English notions of virtue, as intimated in the
condemnation of the _imaginary_ immorality of some of his works. He may
be accused, with some truth, of having been too severe toward several
persons and things. But not one of these reasons has any _locus standi_
in France,--a country which might claim a certain share in the honor of
having been his mother-country. Besides having a French turn of mind in
many respects, Byron, descended directly from a French stock, had been
conceived in France, and had long lived in its neighborhood. If those,
therefore, may be absolved who falsely appreciated Byron's character
both before and immediately after his death, the same indulgence can not
be extended to those who persist in their unjust conclusions. Such men
were greatly to blame; for, in writing about Byron, they were bound in
conscience to consult the biographers who had known him, and having
neglected to do so, either from idleness or from party spirit, they
failed in their duty as just and honorable men.

Before finishing this chapter, we must add to these pages, which were
written many years ago, a few remarks suggested by the perusal of a
recent work which has caused great sensation by the talent which
pervades it, by its boldness, and original writing. I allude to the work
of M. Taine upon English literature; therein he appreciates, in a manly,
fine style, all the loftiness of Lord Byron's poetry, but always under
the influence of a received, and not self-formed, opinion. He likewise
deserves, by his appreciations and conclusions, the reproaches addressed
to the other critics of the illustrious and calumniated poet. In this
work, which is rather magnificent than solid, and which contains a whole
psychological system, one note is ever uppermost,--that of disdain.
Contempt, however, is not his object, but only his means. All must be
sacrificed to the triumph of his opinions.

The glory of nations, great souls, great minds, their works, their
deeds, all must serve to complement his victory. Bossuet, Newton, Dante,
Shakspeare, Corneille, Byron, all have erred. If he despises them, if he
blames them, it is only to show that they have not been able to discover
the logical conclusions which M. Taine at last reveals to
us,--conclusions which are to transform and change the soul as well as
the understanding. This doctrine has hitherto been but a dream, and
society has, up to the present time, walked in darkness.

This philosophical system is so beautifully set forth, that it can only
be compared to a skeleton, upon which a profusion of lovely-scented
flowers and precious jewels have been heaped, so that, notwithstanding
the horror it inspires, one is unable to leave it.

Here, then, we find that M. Taine comes forth resolutely, by the help of
a vigorous understanding and a surpassing talent, to review all that
England has produced in a literary sense,--authors as well as their
works. The type which he has conceived alone escapes his censure. This
type must be the result of three primeval causes, viz., race, centre and
time. History must prove its correctness. History and logic might in
vain claim his indulgence on behalf of other types. He has conceived his
system in his own mind, and, to establish it, facts and characters are
made subservient to it; history's duty is to prove their correctness.
Indulgence can be shown to one type only.

All he says is, however, so well said, that if he offended truth a
little less, if he only spoke for beings in another planet, and above
all, if, under these beautiful surroundings, one failed to notice the
gloom of a heaven without God, the work would enchant one.

It must be allowed that the charms of truth are still to be preferred;
we must therefore be allowed to say a few words about M. Taine's system.
It can only be in one sense; not on account of any philosophical
pretension, nor in the hope of restoring nature to its rights, however
much we may grieve at seeing it reduced to a mere animal, nay, a
vegetable, and alas! may be, a mineral system.

Many able pens will repeat the admirable words of one of the cleverest
men of the day, who, in his criticism upon M. Taine's book, has so
thoroughly examined how far a physiological method could be applied to
the comprehension of moral and intellectual phenomena, and has shown to
what fatal consequences such a method must lead. The analysis of the
moral world, the study of souls and of talent, of doctrines and of
characters, become in M. Taine's mind only a branch of zoology, and
psychology ends by being only a part of natural history.

Many other able writers will echo the noble words of M. Caro, and will
not fail to point out the numerous contradictions which exist between
the work itself and history proper, between it and natural history, and,
finally, between it and the author himself.

Thus, men who have never allowed that a thistle could produce a rose,
will question also whether those young Englishmen, whom M. Taine depicts
in such glowing colors,--"So active," says he, "just like harriers on
the beat flaring the air in the midst of the hunt," can be transformed
in a few years "into beings resembling animals good for slaughter, with
appearances equally anxious, vacant, and stupid; gentlemen six feet
high, with long and stout German bodies, issuing from their forests with
savage-looking whiskers and rolling eyes of pale earthenware-blue
color."

Such critics will question whether the "pale earthenware-blue eyes" of
these ugly sires can possibly be those of the fathers of the candid-eyed
girls, the fairest among the fair treasures of this earth, whom M. Taine
describes in such exquisite terms:--

"Delightful creatures, whose freshness and innocence can not be
conceived by those who have never seen them! full-blown flowers, of
which a morning rose, with its delicious and delicate color, with its
petals dipped in dew, can alone give an idea."

Critics will deny the possibility of the existence of such a phenomenon,
so contrary to the laws of creation does it seem to be. Such airy-like
forms can not be produced by such heavy brutes as he describes. Say what
he likes, nature can not act in the manner indicated by M. Taine. Nature
must ever follow the same track.

We, however, shall confine ourselves to oppose the real Lord Byron to
the fanciful one of M. Taine; and we say that the portrait of the poet
drawn by the latter is drawn systematically, in such a manner as to
contribute to the general harmony of his work. But truth can not be
subservient to systems. As M. Taine views Lord Byron from a false
starting point, it follows that, of course, the whole portrait of him is
equally unreal.

All the colors in his picture are too dark. What he says of the poet is
not so false as it is exaggerated. This is a method peculiar to him. He
decidedly perceives the real person, but exaggerates him, and thus fails
to realize the original.

If the facts are not always entirely false, his conclusions, and the
consequences suggested to him by them, are always eminently so.

When the facts seem ever so little to lend themselves to his reasoning,
when the proportions of his victim allow of their being placed in the
_bed of Procrustes_, the magnificent draperies of which do not hide the
atrocious torture; then, indeed, does M. Taine respect history more or
less; when this is not the case, his imagination supplies the
deficiency. On this principle he gives us his details of Lord Byron's
parents and of the poet's childhood.

He makes use of Lord Byron as an artist makes use of a machine: he
places him in the position which he has chosen himself, gives him the
gesture he pleases, and the expression he wishes. The portrait he shows
us of him may be a little like Lord Byron; but a very distant likeness,
one surrounded by a world of caprice of fancy and eccentricity which
serve to make up a powerful picture. It is the effect of a well-posed
manikin, with its very flexible articulations, all placed at the
disposal of M. Taine's system. The features may be slightly those of
Lord Byron, but the gestures and the general physiognomy are the clever
creations of the artist.

This is how he proceeds, in order to obtain the triumph of his views:--

He selects some quarter of an hour from the life of a man, probably that
during which he obeyed the impulses of nature, and judges his whole
existence and character by this short space of time.

He takes from the author's career one page, perhaps that which he may
have written in a moment of hallucination or of extreme passion; and by
this single page he judges the author of ten volumes.

Take Lord Byron, for instance. With regard to his infancy, M. Taine
takes care to set aside all that he knows to be admirable in the boy,
and only notices one instance of energy, one fit of heroic passion, into
which the unjust reprimand of a maid had driven him. The touching tears
which the little Byron sheds when, in the midst of his playmates, he is
informed that he has been raised to the dignity of a peer of the realm,
are no sign to M. Taine of a character equally timid, sensitive, and
good, but the result of pride. In this trait alone, M. Taine sees almost
sufficient ground to lay thereon the foundations of his work, and to
show us in the boy what the man was to be. A similar process is used in
the examination of Byron as an author. He analyzes "Manfred," which is
most decidedly a work of prodigious power, and all he says of it is
certainly both true and worthy of his own great talent; but is it fair
to say that the poet and the man are entirely revealed in this work, and
to dismiss all the other creations of the poet, wherein milder
qualities, such as feeling, tenderness, and goodness are revealed, and
shine forth most prominently? "Manfred" is the cry of an ulcerated
heart, still struggling, with all the energy of a most powerful soul,
against the brutal decrees of a recent persecution. Lord Byron felt
himself to be the victim of the relentless conduct of Lady Byron, and if
his mind was not deranged, at least his soul was wounded and ill at
ease, and it was this spirit that dictated "Manfred." Did he not clearly
confess it himself? When he sent "Manfred" to Murray, did he not say
that it was a drama as mad as the tragedy of "Lee Bedlam," in
twenty-five acts, and a few comic scenes--his own being only in three
acts?

Did he not write to Moore as follows?--

"I wrote a sort of mad drama for the sake of introducing the Alpine
scenery. Almost all the _dramatis personæ_ are spirits, ghosts, or
magicians; and the scene is in the Alps and the other world, so you may
suppose what a Bedlam tragedy it must be.... The third act, like the
Archbishop of Grenada's homily (which savored of the palsy), has the
dregs of my fever, during which it was written. It must on no account be
published in its present state.... The speech of Manfred to the sun is
the only part of this act I thought good myself; the rest is certainly
as bad as bad can be, and I wonder what the devil possessed me."

But let Byron's ideas take a different turn, as the lovely blue Italian
sky and the refreshing breezes from the Adriatic waters contribute to
quicken his blood, and other tones will be heard, wherein no longer
shall the excesses, but the beauties only of energy be discernible.

What does M. Taine say then? This new aspect does not, evidently,
satisfy him! but what of that? He goes on to say that Byron's genius is
falling off. If the poet takes advantage of a few moments of melancholy
common to all poetical and feeling souls, M. Taine declares that the
melancholy English nature is always associated with the epicurean. What
is it to him, that England thinks differently? that in her opinion Lord
Byron's grandest and noblest conceptions are the poems which he wrote in
Italy, and even on the eve of his death? and that she finds his
liveliness "too real and too ultramontane to suit her national tastes?"
Nothing of this troubles M. Taine.

Is it quite fair to judge so powerful a mind, so great and yet so simple
a being as Lord Byron, only by his "Manfred," or by some other passages
of his works, and especially of "Don Juan?" Can his amiable, docile,
tender, and feeling nature honestly be seen in the child of three years
of age, who tears his clothes because his nurse has punished him
unfairly? No; all that we see is what M. Taine wishes us to see for the
purpose he has in view, that is, admiration of the Lord Byron he has
conceived, and who is necessary to his cause,--a Byron only to be
likened to a furious storm.

Wishing Byron to appear as the type of energy, M. Taine exhibits him to
our eyes in the light of Satan defying all powers on earth and in
heaven. The better to mould him to the form he has chosen, he begins by
disfiguring him in the arms of his mother, whom with his father and his
family he scruples not to calumniate. Storms having their origin in the
rupture of the elements, and a violent character being, according to M.
Taine, the result of several forces acting internally and mechanically;
it follows that its primary cause is to be found in the disturbed moral
condition of those who have given birth to him in the circumstances
under which the child was born, and in the influence under which he has
been brought up. Hence the necessity of supplementing from imagination
the historical and logical facts which otherwise might be at fault.

As for Lord Byron's softness of manner, and as to that tenderness of
character which was the bane of his existence,--as to his real and great
goodness, which made him loved always and everywhere, and which caused
such bitter tears to be shed at the news of his death,--these qualities
are not to be sought in the strange, fanciful being who is styled Byron
by M. Taine. These qualities would be out of place; they would be
opposed to the idea upon which his entire system is founded. They must
be merged in the energy and greatness of intellect of the poetical
giant.

Unfortunately for M. Taine, facts speak too forcibly and too
inopportunely against him. Not one of the causes which he mentions, not
one of the conclusions which he draws in respect to Lord Byron's
character as a poet, and as a mere mortal, are to be relied upon. He,
who contends that he possesses pre-eminently the power of comprehending
the man and the author, insists that Lord Byron was no exception to the
rule, though his best biographer, Moore, most distinctly opposes this
opinion:--

"In Lord Byron, however, this sort of pivot of character was almost
wholly wanting.... So various indeed, and contradictory, were his
attributes, both moral and intellectual, that he may be pronounced to
have been not one, but many; nor would it be any great exaggeration of
the truth to say that out of the mere partition of the properties of his
single mind a plurality of characters, all different and all vigorous,
might have been furnished."

On the other hand, M. Taine, who generally pays little attention to the
opinion of others, gives as Lord Byron's predominant characteristic that
which phrenologists denominate "_combativité_." Which of the two is
likely to be right? If Moore is right, Lord Byron must have been almost
wanting in consistency of character; if Taine is correct, then Byron was
really of a most passionate nature. But as we have proved that Lord
Byron was not inconsistent, as Moore declares, except in cases where
this want of consistency did not interfere with his character as a man,
and, on the other hand, that no one had a less combative disposition, we
are forced to arrive at the conclusion that if Byron had one dominant
passion, it was most decidedly not that of "_combativité_." It is
impossible to deny that if in his early youth signs of resistance may
have appeared in his character, yet these had so completely disappeared
with the development of his intellect and of his moral sentiments that
no one more than himself hated controversies and discussions of all
kinds. In fact, no one was more obedient to the call of reason and of
friendship; and his whole life is an illustration of it.

In order that Lord Byron should represent the English type, even if we
adopt M. Taine's philosophy, he should have had a deal of Saxon blood in
his veins. But this was not the case. It is the Norman blood which
predominates. He may be said to have been almost borne in France, and to
be of French extraction by his father, and of Scotch origin through his
mother. The total absence of the Saxon element, which was so remarkable
in him, was equally noticeable in his tastes, mind, sympathies, and
inclinations.

He loved France very dearly, and Pouqueville tells a story, that when
Ali Pasha had got over the fright caused by the announcement that a
young traveller, named Byron (his name had been pronounced Bairon, which
made the Pasha believe he was a Turk in disguise), wished to see him, he
received the young lord very cordially. As he had just conquered Preveza
from the French, Ali Pasha thought he should be pleasing the Englishman
by announcing the fact to him. Byron replied--"But I am no enemy of
France. Quite the contrary, I love France."

It might almost be said that he was quite the opposite of what a Saxon
should be. Lord Byron could not remain, and, actually, lived a very
short time, in England. His habits were not English, nor his mode of
living. Far from over-eating, as the English, according to M. Taine, are
said to do, Byron did not eat enough. He was as sober as a monk. His
favorite food was vegetables. His abstinence from meat dated from his
youth. His body was little adapted to the material wants of his country.
This remarkable sobriety was the effect of taste and principle, and was
in no ways broken by excesses which might have acted as compensations.
The excesses of which M. Taine speaks must have been at the utmost some
slight deviations from the real Pythagorean abstinence which he had laid
down as the rule of his life. Abroad, where he lived almost all his
life, he had none of the habits of his countrymen. He lived everywhere
as a cosmopolitan. All that his body craved for was cleanliness, and
this only served to improve his health and the marvellous beauty with
which God had gifted him.

Lord Byron was so little partial to the characteristic features and
customs of the country in which he was born--"but where he would not
die"--that the then so susceptible _amour-propre_ of his countrymen
reproached him with it as a most unpardonable fault.

It was not he who would have placed England and the English above all
foreigners, and Frenchmen in particular; nor was it he who would have
declared them to be the princes of the human race. Justice and truth
forbade his committing himself to such statements in the name of
national pride.

Are the animal rather than moral, and moral rather than intellectual
instincts of energy and will, which M. Taine so much admires in the
Saxon race, defects or qualities in his eyes? It is difficult to say,
for one never knows when he is praising or when he is condemning.
Judging by the very material causes from which he derives this
energy,--namely, the constitution of the people, their climate, their
frequent craving for food, their way of cooking the food they eat, their
drinks, and all the consequences of these necessities visible in the
absence of all sense of delicacy, of all appreciation of the fine arts,
and the comprehension of philosophy,--he must evidently intend to
depreciate them.

But as regards Lord Byron in particular, it is equally certain that he
has no intention of depreciating him. For him alone he finds expressions
of great admiration and real sympathy. He allows him to represent the
whole nation, and to be the incarnation of the English character; but on
one condition,--that of ruling it as its sovereign. Thanks to this
supremacy, the poet escapes more or less the exigencies of M. Taine's
theories.

M. Taine, however, is not subject to the weakness of enthusiasm.
Judging, as he does, in the light of a lover of nature, both of the
merits of virtue and of the demerits of vice, which to him are but fatal
results of the constitution, the climate, and the soil--"in a like
manner will sugar and vitriol"--why care about Lord Byron doing this or
the other _rightly_ or _wrongly_ rather than any one else? Nature
follows its necessary track, seeks its equilibrium, and ends by finding
it.

What pleases him in Lord Byron, is the facility which is offered to him
of proving the truth of this fatalist philosophy which appears at every
page of his book.

No one more than Byron could serve the purpose of M. Taine, and become,
as it were, the basis of his philosophical operations.

His powerful genius, his short but eventful existence, which did not
give time for the cooling down of the ardor of youth, to harmonize it
with the tempered dictates of mature age,--the universality of his mind,
which can furnish arguments to every species of critics,--all
contributed wonderfully to the realization of M. Taine's object.

Thus, thanks to the deceptive but generally received portrait which is
said to be that of Lord Byron, and to his identification with the heroes
of his poems, and in particular with "Manfred" and "Childe Harold,"
aided by the impossibility which the human mind finds in estimating
moral subjects as it would a proposition of "Euclid," M. Taine has been
able to make use of a great name, and to make a fine demonstration of
his system, to call Byron the interpreter of the British genius, and his
poetry the expression of the man himself.

In many respects, however, he has not been able to act in this way
without violating historical facts. This is what I hope to point out in
these pages, the object of which is to describe Byron as he was, and to
substitute, without any derogation to his sublimity of character, the
reality for the fiction created by M. Taine. To refute so brilliant and
so powerful a writer, my only means is to proceed in this work with the
help of positive proofs of the statements which I make, and by invoking
unimpeachable testimonies. These alone constitute weighty arguments,
since they all contribute to produce the same impression. In order that
truth may be restored to history, I shall adopt a system diametrically
opposed to that of M. Taine, or rather I shall abstain from all systems,
and from all pretensions to literary merit, and confine myself entirely
to facts and to reason.

The reader will judge whether I shall be able to accomplish this object;
he will see how really unimportant are the causes which cast a shade
upon the memory of Byron, and how careful one should be not to give
credit too implicitly to the sincerity of that hypocritical praise which
several of his biographers have bestowed upon him. They have, as it
were, generally, taken a kind of pleasure in dwelling upon his age, his
rank, and other extenuating circumstances, as a cover to their censure,
just as if Byron ever required their forgiveness. In thus searching into
the secrets of his heart, and analyzing his life, the reader will soon
be obliged to admit, that if Byron, in common with others, had a few of
the faults of youth, he in return had a host of virtues which belonged
only to him. In short, if Byron is received in the light in which he was
esteemed by those who knew him personally, he will still constitute one
of the finest, most amiable, and grandest characters of his century. As
for ourselves, in summing up the merits of this very humble, but very
conscientious work, we can only repeat with delight the beautiful words
in which Moore sums up his own estimate of Lord Byron's worth: "Should
the effect of my humble labors be to clear away some of those mists that
hung round my friend, and show him, in most respects, as worthy of love
as he was, in all, of admiration, then will the chief and sole aim of
this work have been accomplished."[16]

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 10: When political events obliged Count Gamba to quit Romagna,
he thought at first of going with his family to take up his abode at
Geneva.

Lord Byron, on learning this, through a letter from the Countess
Guiccioli, who had rejoined her family at Florence, disapproved of their
design, and begged Shelley--then on a visit to him at Ravenna--to
express for him his disapprobation, and state the reasons of it. Shelley
addressed the following letter in Italian to the countess, and the
project was abandoned:--

"MADAM,--At the request of my friend, Lord Byron, I consider it my duty
to offer you some considerations relative to the proposed journey to
Geneva, so as to give you an idea of the undesirable results likely to
follow. I flatter myself that you will accept this request of his,
together with the motives leading me to acquiesce, as an excuse for the
liberty taken by a total stranger. In acting thus, the sole object I
have in view is my friend's peace of mind, and that of those in whom he
is so deeply interested. I have no other motive, nor can entertain any
other; and let it suffice, in proof of my perfect sincerity, to assure
you that I also have suffered from an intolerant clergy at home, and
from tyranny, and that I like your family, have met with persecution and
calumny as my sole reward for love of country.

"Allow me, madam, to state the reasons for which it seems to me that
Geneva would not be an appropriate residence for your family. Your
circumstances offer some analogy with those existing between my family
and Lord Byron in the summer of 1816. Our dwellings were close together;
our mode of life was quiet and retired; it would be impossible to
imagine an existence simpler than ours, less calculated to draw down the
aspersions cast upon us.

"These calumnies were of the most unheard-of nature,--really too
infamous to permit us to treat them with disdain. Both Genevans and
English established at Geneva affirmed that we were leading a life of
the most unblushing profligacy. They said that we had made a compact
together for outraging all held most sacred in human society. Pardon me,
madam, if I spare you the details. I will only say that _incest_,
_atheism_, and many other things equally ridiculous or horrible, were
imputed to us. The English newspapers were not slow in propagating the
scandal, and the nation lent entire faith.

"Hardly any mode of annoying us was neglected. Persons living on the
borders of the lake opposite Lord Byron's house made use of telescopes
to spy out all his movements. An English lady fainted, or pretended to
faint, with horror on seeing him enter a saloon. The most outrageous
caricatures of him and his friends were circulated; and all this took
place in the short period of three months.

"The effect of this, on Lord Byron's mind, was most unhappy. His natural
gayety abandoned him almost entirely. A man must be more or less than a
stoic to bear such injuries with patience.

"Do not flatter yourself, madam, with the idea, that because Englishmen
acknowledge Lord Byron as the greatest poet of the day, they would
therefore abstain from annoying him, and, as far as it depended on them,
from persecuting him. Their admiration for his works is unwillingly
extorted, and the pleasure they experience in reading them does not
allay prejudice nor stop calumny.

"As to the Genevans, they would not disturb him, if there were not a
colony of English established in the town,--persons who have carried
with them a host of mean prejudices and hatred against all those who
excel or avoid them; and as these causes would continue to exist, the
same effects would doubtless follow.

"The English are about as numerous at Geneva as the natives, and their
riches cause them to be sought after; for the Genevans, compared to
their guests, are like valets, or, at best, like hotel-keepers, having
let their whole town to foreigners.

"A circumstance, personally known to me, may afford proof of what is to
be expected at Geneva. The only inhabitant on whose attachment and honor
Lord Byron thought he had every reason to count, turned out one of those
who invented the most infamous calumnies. A friend of mine, deceived by
him, involuntarily unveiled all his wickedness to me, and I was
therefore obliged to inform my friend of the hypocrisy and perversity we
had discovered in this individual. You can not, madam, conceive the
excessive violence with which Englishmen, of a certain class, detest
those whose conduct and opinions are not exactly framed on the model of
their own. This system of ideas forms a superstition unceasingly
demanding victims, and unceasingly finding them. But, however strong
theological hatred may be among them, it yields in intensity to social
hatred. This system is quite the order of the day at Geneva; and, having
once been brought into play for the disquiet of Lord Byron and his
friends, I much fear that the same causes would soon produce the same
effects, if the intended journey took place. Accustomed as you are,
madam, to the gentler manners of Italy, you will scarcely be able to
conceive to what a pitch this social hatred is carried in less favored
regions. I have been forced to pass through this hard experience, and to
see all dearest to me entangled in inextricable slanders. My position
bore some resemblance to that of your brother, and it is for that reason
I hasten to write you, in order to spare you and your family the evil I
so fatally experienced. I refrain from adding other reasons, and I pray
you to excuse the freedom with which I have written, since it is
dictated by sincerest motives, and justified by my friend's request. To
him I leave the care of assuring you of my devotion to his interests,
and to all those dear to him.

"Deign, madam, to accept the expression of my highest esteem.

"Your sincere and humble servant,

"PERCY B. SHELLEY.

"P.S.--You will forgive a barbarian, madam, for the bad Italian in which
the honest sentiments of his letter are couched."]

[Footnote 11: Moore, vol. ii. p. 8.]

[Footnote 12: When that extravagant book "Glenarvon" appeared, Moore
wrote a comic review on it, and sent the paper to Jeffrey, who thought
it a good caricature, and wanted to publish it in the "Edinburgh
Review." But the friends of the author of "Glenarvon" interfered to such
purpose that Jeffrey gave up the idea of mentioning the novel at all,
which was also approved by Lord Byron's friends as the best means of
proving, by silence, the contempt such a book merited.]

[Footnote 13: Madame de Staël said one day at Coppet, with an air of
mystery, "You are often seen at night, Lord Byron, in your bark upon the
lake, accompanied by a white phantom." "Yes," answered he, "'tis my
dog." Madame de Staël shook her head, not at all convinced that he kept
such innocent company, for her head had been filled with fantastic tales
and lies about him. In this instance, however, she was somewhat right;
for the white phantom was not only his dog, but often Mrs. Shelley, and
even sometimes a young woman intimate with her. This lady, with whom he
had, and would have, nothing to do, was bent on running after him,
although he did all in his power to avoid her. She succeeded sometimes
in getting into the boat with the Shelleys, and thus made inquisitive
people talk. But Lord Byron was very innocent in it all, and even
victimized, for the _ennui_ it caused him made him quit Switzerland and
the Alps, he loved so well, before the season was even over.]

[Footnote 14: "Essai sur Lord Byron," p. 177.]

[Footnote 15: Lord Byron wrote to Moore in November, 1820:--

"Pray, where did you get hold of Goethe's 'Florentine' husband-killing
story? Upon such matters, in general, I may say, with Beau Clinker, in
reply to Erraud's wife:--

"'Oh, the villain, he hath murdered my poor Timothy!'

"_Clinker._--'Damn your Timothy! I tell you, woman, your husband has
murdered me--he has carried away my fine jubilee clothes.'"]

[Footnote 16: Moore, vol. ii. p. 782]



CHAPTER IV.

LORD BYRON'S RELIGIOUS OPINIONS.

     "When the triumph of a cause of such importance to humanity is in
     question, there never can be too many advocates.... But it is not
     enough to count up the votes; their value must, above all, be
     weighed."--SHERER.


The struggles between heart and reason, in religious matters, began
almost with Lord Byron's infancy. His desire of reconciling them was
such, that, if unsuccessful, his mind was perplexed and restless. He was
not, as it were, out of the cradle, when, in the midst of his childish
play, the great problems of life already filled his youthful thoughts;
and his good nurse May, who was wont to sing psalms to him when rocking
him to sleep, had also to answer questions which showed the dangerous
curiosity of his mind.

"Among the traits," says Moore, "which should be recorded of his earlier
years, I should mention, that, according to the character given of him
by his first nurse's husband, he was, when a mere child, 'particularly
inquisitive and puzzling about religion.'"

At ten years of age, he was sent to school, at Dulwich, under the care
of the Rev. Dr. Glennie, who, in the account given by him to Moore, and
after speaking of the amiable qualities of Byron, adds: that "At that
age he already possessed an intimate acquaintance with the historical
facts in the Scriptures, and was particularly delighted when he could
speak of them to him, especially on Sunday evenings after worship." He
was wont then to reason upon all the facts contained in the Bible, with
every appearance of faith in the doctrine which it teaches.

But while his heart was thus drawn toward its Creator, the power of his
reason began imperiously to assert its rights. As long as he remained
sheltered under his father's roof, under the eyes of his mother, and of
young ecclesiastics who were his first teachers, and whose practice
agreed with their teaching,--as long as his reason had not reached a
certain degree of development,--he remained orthodox and pious. But when
he went to college, and particularly when he was received at Cambridge,
a vast field of contradictions opened before his observing and thinking
mind. His reflections, together with the study of the great
psychological questions, soon clouded his mind, and threw a shade over
his orthodoxy. If Lord Byron, therefore, had really the misfortune to
lose at an earlier age than ordinary children, the simple faith of his
childhood, the fact is not to be wondered at. By the universality of his
genius he added to the faculties which form the poet, those of an
eminently logical and practical mind; and being precocious in all
things, he was likewise so in his powers of reflection and reasoning.
"Never," says Moore, "did Lord Byron lose sight of reality and of common
practical sense; his genius, however high it soared, ever preserved upon
earth a support of some kind."

His intellectual inquisitiveness was likewise, with him, a precocious
passion, and circumstances stood so well in the way to serve this
craving, that when fifteen years of age (incredible as it seems), he had
already perused two thousand volumes, among which his powerful and vivid
intellect had been able to weigh the contradictions of all the principal
modern and ancient systems of philosophy. This thirst for knowledge
(anomalous according to the rules of both school and college) was the
more extraordinary that it existed in him together with a passionate
love for boyish play, and the indulgence in all the bodily exercises, in
which he excelled, and on which he prided himself. But as he stored his
mind after the usual college hours, and apart from the influences of
that routine discipline, which, with Milton, Pope, and almost all the
great minds, he so cordially hated, the real progress of his intellect
remained unobserved by his masters, and even by his fellow-students.
This mistake, on the part of men little gifted with quickness of
perception, was not shared by Disraeli, who could so justly appreciate
genius; and of Byron he spoke as of a studious boy, who loved to hide
this quality from his comrades, thinking it more amiable on his part to
appear idle in their eyes.

While the young man thus strengthened his intellect by hard though
irregular study, his meditative and impassioned nature, feeling in the
highest degree the necessity of confirming its impressions, experienced
more imperatively than a youth of fifteen generally does, the want of
examining the traditional teachings which had been transmitted to him.
Byron felt the necessity of inquiring on what irrevocable proofs the
dogmas which he was called upon to believe were based. Holy writ, aided
by the infallibility of the teachings of the Church, etc., were adduced
as the proofs he required.

He was wont, therefore, to read with avidity a number of books treating
on religious matters; and he perused them, both with artless ingenuity
and in the hope of their strengthening his faith. But, could he truly
find faith in their pages? Are not such books rather dangerous than
otherwise for some minds?

"The truth is," says the author of the "Essays," "that a mind which has
never entertained a doubt in revelation, may conceive some doubts by
reading books written in its defense." And he adds elsewhere, in
speaking of the writers of such controversial works, that "impatient of
the least hesitation, they deny with anger the value of their
adversary's arguments, and betray, in their way of getting over
difficulties, a humor which injures the effects of their reasoning, and
of the proofs they make use of to help their arguments." After reading
several of these books, he must have found, as did the great Pitt, "that
such readings provoke many more doubts than they dispel;" and, in fact,
they rather disquieted and shook, than strengthened his faith. At the
same time, he was alive to another striking contradiction. He noticed
that the men who taught the doctrines, too often forgot to make these
and their practice agree; and in losing his respect for his masters, he
still further doubted the sincerity of their teaching. Thus, while
remaining religiously inclined, he must have felt his faith becoming
more and more shaken, and in the memorandum of his early days, after
enumerating the books treating upon religious subjects which he had
read, he says: "All very tedious. I hate books treating of religious
subjects; although I adore and love God, freed from all absurd and
blasphemous notions."

In this state of mind, of which one especially finds a proof in his
earlier poems, the philosophy of Locke, which is that professed at
Cambridge, and which he had already skimmed, as it were, together with
other philosophical systems, became his study. It only added an enormous
weight in the way of contradictions to the already heavy weight of
doubt.

Could it be otherwise? Does not Locke teach that all ideas being the
creation of the senses, the notion of God, unless aided by tradition,
has no other basis but our senses and the sight of the external world?
If this be not the doctrine professed by Locke, it is the reading which
a logical mind may give to it.

He believes in God; yet the notion of God, as it appears from his
philosophical teaching, is not that which is taught by Christian
doctrine. According to him, God is not even proclaimed to be the Creator
of the Universe. But even were He proclaimed such, what would be the
result of this philosophical condescension, unless it be that God is
distinct from the world? Would God possess then all those attributes
which reason, independently of all philosophy, points to in the
Divinity? Would power, goodness, infinite perfection be God's? Certainly
not: as we are unable to know Him except through a world of
imperfections, where good and evil, order and confusion, are mixed
together, and not by the conception of the infinite, which alone can
give us a true and perfect idea of God, it follows that God would be
much superior to the world, but would not be absolute perfection.

After this depreciation of the Omnipotent, what says this philosophy of
our soul? It does away altogether with one of the essential proofs of
its spiritual nature, and thereby compromises the soul itself, declaring
as it does, that "it is not unlikely that matter is capable of thought."
But then of what necessity would the soul be, if the body can think? How
hope for immortality, if that which thinks is subject to dissolution and
to death?

As for our liberty, it would be annihilated as a consequence of such
doctrines; for it is not supposed to derive its essence from the
interior activity of the soul, but would seem to be limited to our power
of moving. Yet we are hourly experiencing what our weakness is in
comparison with the power of the laws of nature, which rule us in every
sense and way. In making, therefore, all things derivable from
sensations, Locke fell from one error into another, and nearly arrived
at that point when duty and all principles of justice and morality might
be altogether denied. Being himself, however, both good, honest,
liberal, and Christian-minded, he could only save himself from the
social wreck to which he exposed others, by stopping on the brink of the
abyss which he had himself created, and by becoming in practice
inconsistent with his speculative notions. His successors, such as
Condillac and Cabanis, fell by following his system and by carrying it
too far.

A doctrine which denies the right of discovering, or of explaining the
religious truths which are the grounds of all moral teaching, and which
allows tradition the privilege only of bestowing faith; a system of
metaphysics, which can not avoid the dangers in which morality must
perish, owing to its contradictions and its inconsistencies, must be
perilous for all but those happily constituted minds for whom simple
faith and submission are a part of their essence, who believe on hearsay
and seek not to understand, but merely glance at the surface of the
difficult and venturesome questions which are discussed before them,
either because they feel their weakness, or because the light of
revelation shines upon them so strongly as to make that of reason pale.
For more logical minds, however, for such who are inquisitive, whose
reason is both anxious and exacting, who want to understand before they
believe, for whom the ties which linked them to tradition have been
loosened, owing to their having reflected on a number of contradictions
(the least of which, in the case of Lord Byron, was decidedly not that
of seeing such a philosophy professed and adopted in a clerical
university); for minds like these such doctrines must necessarily lead
to atheism. Though Lord Byron's mind was one of these, he escaped the
fearful results by a still greater effort of his reason, which made him
reject the precepts of the sensualists, and comprehend their
inconsistencies.

His protest against the doctrines of the sensualists is entered in his
memorandum, where, after naming all the authors of the philosophical
systems which he had read, and, coming to the head of that school, he
exclaims from the bottom of his heart:

     "Hobbes! I detest him!"

And notwithstanding the respect with which the good and great Locke must
individually have inspired him, he evidently must have repudiated his
precepts, inasmuch as they were not strong enough to uproot from his
mind the religious truths which reason proclaims, nor prevent either his
coming out of his philosophical struggle a firm believer in all the
dogmas which are imperiously upheld to the human reason, or his
proclaiming his belief in one God and Creator, in our free will, and in
the immortality of the soul.

This glorious and noble victory of his mind and true religious
tendencies at that time, is evinced in his "Prayer to Nature," written
when he had not yet reached his eighteenth year. In this beautiful
prayer, which his so-called orthodox friends succeeded in having cut out
of the volume containing his earliest poems, we find both great power of
contemplation and humility and confidence in prayer--a soul too near the
Creator to doubt of His Omnipotence, but also too far from Him for his
faith and confidence in the divine mercy not to be mixed up with a
little fear; in fact, all the essential elements of a noble prayer which
is not orthodox. Though written on the threshold of life, he might, with
few modifications, have signed it on the eve of his death; when, still
young, fate had spared him nothing, from the sweetest to the bitterest
feelings, from every deserved pleasure to every undeserved pain.

  THE PRAYER OF NATURE.

  Father of Light! great God of Heaven!
    Hear'st thou the accents of despair?
  Can guilt like man's be e'er forgiven?
    Can vice atone for crimes by prayer?

  Father of Light, on thee I call!
    Thou seest my soul is dark within;
  Thou who canst mark the sparrow's fall,
    Avert from me the death of sin.

  No shrine I seek, to sects unknown;
    Oh, point to me the path of truth!
  Thy dread omnipotence I own;
    Spare, yet amend, the faults of youth.

  Let bigots rear a gloomy fane,
    Let superstition hail the pile,
  Let priests, to spread their sable reign,
    With tales of mystic rites beguile.

  Shall man confine his Maker's sway
    To Gothic domes of mouldering stone?
  Thy temple is the face of day;
    Earth, ocean, heaven, thy boundless throne.

  Shall man condemn his race to hell,
    Unless they bend in pompous form?
  Tell us that all, for one who fell,
    Must perish in the mingling storm?

  Shall each pretend to reach the skies,
    Yet doom his brother to expire,
  Whose soul a different hope supplies,
    Or doctrines less severe inspire?

  Shall these, by creeds they can't expound,
    Prepare a fancied bliss or woe?
  Shall reptiles, grovelling on the ground,
    Their great Creator's purpose know?

  Shall those who live for self alone,
    Whose years float on in daily crime--
  Shall they by faith for guilt atone,
    And live beyond the bounds of Time?

  Father! no prophet's laws I seek,--
    _Thy_ laws in Nature's works appear;--
  I own myself corrupt and weak,
    Yet will I pray, for thou wilt hear!

  Thou, who canst guide the wandering star
    Through trackless realms of æther's space;
  Who calm'st the elemental war,
    Whose hand from pole to pole I trace:

  Thou, who in wisdom placed me here,
    Who, when thou wilt, canst take me hence,
  Ah! while I tread this earthly sphere,
    Extend to me thy wide defence.

  To Thee, my God, to thee I call!
    Whatever weal or woe betide,
  By thy command I rise or fall,
    In thy protection I confide.

  If, when this dust to dust's restored,
    My soul shall float on airy wing,
  How shall thy glorious name adored
    Inspire her feeble voice to sing!

  But, if this fleeting spirit share
    With clay the grave's eternal bed,
  While life yet throbs I raise my prayer,
    Though doom'd no more to quit the dead.

  To Thee I breathe my humble strain,
    Grateful for all thy mercies past,
  And hope, my God, to thee again
    This erring life may fly at last.

    _December 29, 1806._ [First published, 1830.]

As much may be said of another poem which he likewise wrote in his
youth; when, very dangerously ill, and believing his last end to be
near, he turned all his thoughts to the other world, and conceived the
touching poem which ended in the lines:--

  "Forget this world, my restless sprite;
    Turn, turn thy thoughts to Heaven;
  There must thou soon direct thy flight
    If errors are forgiven."

But if Lord Byron did not adopt Locke's philosophy he at least paid the
greatest tribute of regard to his goodness by following ever more
closely his best precept, which is to the effect that to love truth for
the sake of truth is an essential part of human perfection in this
world, and the fertile soil on which is sown the seed of every virtue.

While his mind thus wavered between a thousand contradictory opinions,
and, finding part of the truth only in every philosophical system which
he examined, but not the whole truth--which was what his soul thirsted
for; calling himself at times skeptic, because he hesitated in adhering
to one school, in consequence of the numerous errors and inconsistencies
common to all (the great school which has, to the honor of France,
harmonized them all, was not yet open); but not losing sight of the
great eternal truths of which he felt inwardly the proofs, he made the
acquaintance of a young man who had just completed his university
education with great success. This young man, who exercised a great
influence over all his fellow-students, owing to his superior intellect,
influenced Byron in a similar manner. Bold, logical, inflexible, he was
not swayed by the dangers which the sensualistic teaching presented to
all logical minds; dangers which had frightened the chief of that school
himself, and who, in wishing to oppose them, had not been able to do so
except by contradictions. This young man, by a noble inconsistency, drew
back in presence of the moral conclusions of that metaphysical doctrine,
but not without culling from the master's thoughts conclusions, such
that they leave all that is spiritual and immortal without defense,
together with all the legitimate inferences to be derived from the
principles he taught, however impious or absurd.

Among the Germans he had likewise met with several bold doctrines; but,
merely to speak here of the conclusions to which the school he belonged
necessarily brought him, he arrived at those conclusions by a series of
deductions from the study of those great questions, which experience
always ends by referring either to reason or to revelation. Compelled by
the tenets of that school, to solve all these problems by means of the
sensations only, he was naturally led to the conclusion that no such
thing existed as the spirituality of the soul, and hence, that it had
neither the gift of immortality nor that of liberty, nor any principles
of morality. Finally, obliged to seek in tradition the conviction that a
God existed, and that He can only be perceived through a maze of
imperfections, and not as reason conceives Him clearly and simply with
all His necessary attributes of perfection, he was even led to the
necessity of losing sight of a Creator altogether.

The fatal precipice, which this young student himself avoided by the
practical conclusions by which he abided, Byron likewise escaped both by
his conclusions and his theoretical notions. He even hated the name of
atheist to that degree, that at Harrow he wished to fight his companion
Lord Althorpe, because he had written the word atheist under Byron's
name. This is so true that Sir Robert Dallas, of whose judgment no
interpretation can ever be given without making allowances for the
intolerant spirit and the exaggeration required by his notions of
orthodoxy and by his party prejudices, after regretting that Lord Byron
should not have had a shield during his minority to protect him against
his comrades, "proud, free-thinking, and acute sophists," as he calls
them, adds that, if surprise must be expressed, it is not that Byron
should have erred, but that he should have pierced the clouds which
surrounded him, and have dispersed them by the sole rays of his genius.

So many struggles, however, so many contradictions, so many strains upon
the mind, while leaving his heart untouched, could not but multiply the
doubts which he conceived, and more or less modify his mind, and even
give to it a tinge of skepticism.

When he left England for the first time, his mind was in this
transitory, suffering state. The various countries which he visited, the
various creeds with which he became acquainted the intolerance of the
one, the laxity in others in direct opposition to their superstitious
and irrational practices; the truly touching piety which he found in the
Greek monasteries (at Zytza and at Athens), in the midst of which and in
the silence of whose cloisters, he loved to share the peace and even the
austerities of a monkish life; his transition from the Western
countries, where reason is placed above imagination, to the East, where
the opposite is aimed at--all contributed to prevent what was
vacillating in his mind from becoming settled. Meanwhile endless
disappointments, bitter sorrows, and broken illusions contributed their
share to the pain which his mind experienced at every stage of its
philosophical inquiry, and contributed to give him, in the loneliness of
his life, a tinge of misanthropy opposed to his natural character, which
suggested the rather philosophical and generous than prudent conception
of "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," where he depicts his hero as
intellectually imbued with philosophical doctrines which lead practical
minds to skepticism and materialism! These doctrines resulted in causing
"Childe Harold" to lose that traditional faith which gives peace to the
soul by insuring conviction to the mind. The poet shows the
impossibility of withdrawing himself from their disastrous results when
arrived at the age when passions assert their rule, and when in a
certain social position, they must be carried into practice. Nature not
having gifted him with a sufficiently generous heart to check the
disease of his mind, Childe Harold, _disgusted with the sins of his
youth_, no longer seeks the road to virtue, but begins to experience
with Solomon the vanity of human things, becomes a prey to satiety,
ennui, and to insensibility to both physical and moral worth.

Byron, who made the intellectual education of his day responsible for
Childe Harold's faults, had conceived this character in his earliest
days at Harrow. It was in any case, he said, a characteristic of the
youth of those days, although idealized and drawn from his own
imagination. His enemies and his rivals have endeavored to prove that
he wished to describe in this poem the state of his own mind. They made
capital out of a few historical and local circumstances, to give to
their falsehood some appearance of truth. But only those who did not
know him personally could be ignorant how improbable it was that any
resemblance between the poet and his hero could be maintained.

Let us confine ourselves to the remark that Lord Byron, instead of
personifying his hero, personifies no one but simply the poet. Let us
add, besides, that in no case could Lord Byron be made responsible for
the consequences of the doctrines of the materialists, as held by his
hero. Not only because of his nature, which was totally opposed to them,
but also and especially because of his tendencies, which were eminently
and persistently those of a spiritualist, and which clung to him
throughout his life even at the time when he was accused of skepticism.
This was at the time when he wrote the second canto of "Childe Harold."
Thoughts, little in unison with, if not entirely opposed to his intimate
convictions, sprang from his sick heart to his head: his soul became
dejected, and his copious tears so obscured his eyes as to veil from
them for a time the existence of the Almighty, which he seemed to
question; and he appeared to think that if the Cambridge philosophy was
right in doubting the soul's spirituality, its immortality might be
equally questioned. These doubts having been expressed in his own, and
not in his hero's name, at the outset of the second canto of "Childe
Harold," led to his being also accused of skepticism.

But if pain actually paralyzed for a time the elasticity of his mind,
the latter very soon recovered its natural vigor and showed itself in
all its glowing energy in the eighth and ninth stanzas, which are most
delicate emanations from a beautiful soul. The first stanzas alone,
however, continued to occupy the attention of some orthodox and
over-scrupulous minds: poetry not necessarily being a mode of teaching
philosophy. We must besides remark that the meaning of the lines is
purely hypothetical. In _saying_ that the soul might _not be immortal_,
is it not saying much the same as was said by Locke in the words _the
soul is perhaps spiritual_? Is not that perishable which is capable of
dissolution according to the laws of the world? Lord Byron, though a
stanch spiritualist at heart, derived his doubts from other much less
exalted authorities. Believing implicitly in the omnipotence of the
Creator, could he not modestly fear that God, who had made his soul out
of nothing, might cause it to return to nothing? Might he not imagine
that the contrary belief was rather the result of our wishes, of our
pride, and of the importance which we love to attach to ourselves? Can
the conviction of the existence of immortality, unless founded upon
revelation, be any thing else but a hope or a sentiment? Pantheists
alone find immortality to be the fatal consequence of their presumptuous
doctrine. But what an immortality! One to be laughed at, as a
philosopher of our days so well expresses it.

Accused of skepticism, Byron replied by explaining the meaning of his
lines in a note which, at the instance of Mr. Dallas, he also consented
to suppress with his habitual good-nature, and in which he endeavored to
show that the spirit which pervaded the whole of the poem was rather one
of discouragement and despair, than raillery at religion, and that,
after all, the effect of religion upon the world had been less to make
men love their equals than to excite the various sects to a hatred
against one another, and thus give rise to those fanatical wars which
have caused so much bloodshed and injured so deeply the cause which they
were intended to defend.

In reading this note again, one can with difficulty make out what
Dallas's objections were, and why he tried so hard to have it
suppressed; for it savors much more of a spirit of toleration and
charity than of skepticism. Lord Byron nevertheless withdrew it.

But this was not enough to satisfy the British straight-lacedness. As
the accusations against his skepticism were on the increase daily, Mr.
Gifford, for whose enlightened opinion Byron ever had great respect,
advised him to be more prudent, whereupon Byron replied:--

"I will do as you advise in regard to religious matters. The best would
perhaps be to avoid them altogether. Certainly the passages already
published are rather too rigorously interpreted. I am no bigot of
incredulity, and I did not expect that I should be accused of denying
the existence of God, because I had expressed some doubts as to the
immortality of the soul.... After all, I believe my doubts to be but
the effects of some mental illness."

It is clear from this letter, the tone of which is so honest and
sincere, that if in the stanzas which his rivals blamed there was really
more skepticism than can be gathered from the consideration of man's
littleness and God's greatness, yet it was not his real conviction.
Perhaps it was only a kind of cloud overhanging the mind, produced by
the great grief which weighed on his heart. These sentiments, however,
must have been really his own for some time longer. In his journal of
1813 he expresses himself thus:--

"My restlessness tells me I have something within that 'passeth show.'
It is for him who made it to prolong that spark of celestial fire which
illuminates yet burns this frail tenement.... In the mean time I am
grateful for some good, and tolerably patient under certain evils,
_grace à Dieu et à mon bon tempérament_."

But all this, as we have said, amounted to the opinion that an
omnipotent God is the author of our soul, which is of a totally
different nature to that of our body, and that the soul being spiritual
and not subjected to the laws which rule the body, the soul must be
immortal. That he who made it out of nothing can cause it to return to
nothing. The orthodox doctrine does not teach, as pantheism does, that
our soul can not perish. It gives it only an individual immortality.

Notwithstanding this, and indeed on account of it, he was accused of
being an atheist, in a poem entitled "Anti-Byron." This poem was the
work of a clever rival, who made himself the echo of a party. Murray
hesitated to publish it, but Byron, who was always just, praised the
poem, and advised its publication.

"If the author thinks that I have written poetry with such tendencies,
he is quite right to contradict it."

But having done so much for others, this time, at least, he fulfilled a
duty toward himself by adding:--

"The author is however wrong on one point; I am not in the least an
atheist;" and ends by saying, "It is very odd; eight lines may have
produced eight thousand, if we calculate what has been and may still be
said on the subject."

He speaks of the same work to Moore, in the same tone of pleasantry:--

"Oh, by-the-by, I had nearly forgot. There is a long poem--an
'Anti-Byron'--coming out, to prove that I have formed a conspiracy to
overthrow by rhyme all religion and government, and have already made
great progress! It is not very scurrilous, but serious and ethereal. I
never felt myself important till I saw and heard of my being such a
little Voltaire as to induce such a production."

He therefore laughed at these accusations as too absurd. As for
skepticism, he did not defend himself from a touch of it; for not only
did he feel that the suspicious stanza could partly justify the belief,
but also because there did exist in him a kind of religious skepticism
which proceeded far more from meditation and observation than from a
passion for it. Such a skepticism is in truth a sigh for conviction. A
painful vision which appears to most reflective minds in a more or less
indistinct and vague manner, but which appeared more forcibly to him,
inasmuch as it sought to be expressed in words.

"He," says Montaigne, "who analyzes all the circumstances which have
brought about matters, and all the consequences which have been derived
from them, debars himself from having any choice, and remains
skeptical."

This skepticism of Lord Byron, however, did not overstep the boundaries
of permissible doubt, as prescribed by an intelligence desirous of
improvement. This privilege he exercised; and one might say that he
remained, as it were, suspended between heaven and earth, ever looking
up toward heaven, from whence he felt that light must come in the
end,--a light ever on the increase, which would daily steady him in the
great principles which form the fundamental basis of truth,--one God the
creator, the real immortality of our soul, our liberty and our
responsibility before God.

Tired, however, of ever being the butt of the invectives of his enemies,
and of the clergy, whom he had roughly handled in his writings, Lord
Byron preferred remaining silent; and until his arrival in Switzerland
he ceased making any allusions in his writings to any philosophical
doubts which he may have entertained. The heroes which he selected for
his Oriental poems were, moreover, too passionate to allow the
mysterious voices from heaven to silence the cries from their heart.
These celestial warnings, however, Byron never ceased to hear, although
absorbed himself by various passions of a different kind; he was at that
time almost surrounded by an idolizing public, and rocked in the cradle
of success and popularity. This is but too visible whenever he ceases to
talk the language of his heroes, and expresses merely his own ideas and
his own personal feelings. It was at this time that he wrote those
delicious "Hebrew Melodies," in which a belief in spirituality and
immortality is everywhere manifest, and in which is to be found the
moral indication, if not the metaphysical proof, of the working of his
mind in a religious point of view, as he matured in years. Two of these
Melodies especially, the third and the fifteenth, contain so positive a
profession of faith in the spiritualist doctrines, and carry with them
the mark of so elevated a Christian sentiment, that I can not forbear
quoting them _in extenso_.


  IF THAT HIGH WORLD.

  I.

  If that high world, which lies beyond
    Our own, surviving Love endears;
  If there the cherish'd heart be fond,
    The eye the same, except in tears--
  How welcome those untrodden spheres!
    How sweet this very hour to die!
  To soar from earth and find all fears
    Lost in thy light--Eternity!

  II.

  It must be so: 'tis not for self
    That we so tremble on the brink;
  And striving to o'erleap the gulf,
    Yet cling to Being's severing link.
  Oh! in that future let us think
    To hold each heart the heart that shares;
  With them the immortal waters drink,
    And soul in soul grow deathless theirs!

       *     *     *     *     *

  WHEN COLDNESS WRAPS THIS SUFFERING CLAY.

  I.

  When coldness wraps this suffering clay,
    Ah! whither strays the immortal mind?
  It can not die, it can not stay,
    But leaves its darken'd dust behind.
  Then, unembodied, doth it trace
    By steps each planet's heavenly way?
  Or fill at once the realms of space,
    A thing of eyes, that all survey?

  II.

  Eternal, boundless, undecay'd,
    A thought unseen, but seeing all,
  All, all in earth or skies display'd,
    Shall it survey, shall it recall:
  Each fainter trace that memory holds
    So darkly of departed years,
  In one broad glance the soul beholds,
    And all, that was, at once appears

  III.

  Before Creation peopled earth,
    Its eyes shall roll through chaos back;
  And where the furthest heaven had birth,
    The spirit trace its rising track.
  And where the future mars or makes,
    Its glance dilate o'er all to be,
  While sun is quench'd or system breaks,
    Fix'd in his own eternity.

  IV.

  Above our Love, Hope, Hate, or Fear,
    It lives all passionless and pure:
  An age shall fleet like earthly year;
    Its years as moments shall endure.
  Away, away, without a wing,
    O'er all, through all, its thought shall fly,
  A nameless and eternal thing,
    Forgetting what it was to die.

There is no passage in Plato, or in St. Augustin, or in Pascal, which
can equal the sublimity of these stanzas.

It was in this painful state of mind that he spent the unfortunate year
of his marriage. Having separated from his wife, he came to Geneva.
Here, at the same hotel--Hôtel de Secheron--Shelley had also arrived,
who some years previously had offered Byron a copy of his poem entitled
"Queen Mab." Here they became acquainted. Although only twenty-three
years of age, Shelley had already experienced much sorrow during his
short existence. Born of rich and aristocratic parents, and who
professed very religious and Tory principles, Shelley had been sent to
Eton at thirteen. His character was most peculiar. He had none of the
tastes of the young, could not stand scholastic discipline, despised
every rule and regulation, and spent his time in writing novels. He
published two when fifteen years old only, which appeared to be far
above what could be expected from a boy of his age, but which deserved
censure from their immoral tone. Owing to the nature of his mind, and
especially at a time when reading has much influence, Shelley had
conceived a great taste for the books which were disapproved of at
college. Consequently the doctrines of the materialist school, which
were the most in fashion then both in France and in England, so poisoned
his mind as to cause him to become an atheist, and to argue as such
against several theologians. He even published a pamphlet, so
exaggerated in tone that he entitled it, "On the Necessity of Atheism."
To crown this folly, Shelley sent round to all the bishops a copy of
this work, and signed it with his own name.

Brought before the authorities to answer the charge of this audacious
act, he persisted in his doctrines, and was actually preparing an answer
to the judges in the same sense, when he was expelled from the
university.

For people who know England a little, it is easy to conceive what an
impression such conduct must have produced on the part of the eldest son
of a family like his, of Tory principles, belonging to the aristocracy,
intimate with the prince regent, and stanch, orthodox and severe in
their religious tenets. Expelled from college, he was likewise sent away
from home; and when his indignant father consented to see him again,
Shelley was treated with such coldness that he was enraged at being
received as a stranger in the bosom of a family of which he was the
eldest son. This was not all: even the young lady for whom Shelley had
already conceived an affection, deemed it right to cast him off.
Overwhelmed by all these but too well merited misfortunes, he took
refuge in an inn, where he tried to poison himself.

As he was struggling between life and death, a young girl of fifteen,
Miss Westbrook, took care of him. Believing himself to be past recovery,
and having no other means of rewarding her attention except by marrying
her, he did so, in the hope that after his death his family would
provide for her. But it is not always so easy to die, and he did not
die. His health, however, was completely broken, and all that remained
to him besides was an ill-assorted marriage. After the Gretna Green
ceremony, Shelley went to reside in Edinburgh. His marriage so
exasperated his father, that from that time he ceased to have any
intercourse with him.

From Scotland Shelley went to Ireland, which was then in a very
disturbed state. His metaphysics led him to conceive the most dangerous
social theories. Conquered by a very real love of humanity, which he
hoped to serve by the realization of his chimerical views, he even
believed it to be his duty to make proselytes. While recommending the
observance of peace, and of a spirit of moderation on the one hand, he,
on the other, published pamphlets and spoke at meetings with a degree of
talent which earned for him a certain amount of reputation, if not of
fame. Then he was seized with a violent admiration for the English
school called "Lockists," and devoted himself to poetry by way of giving
a literary expression to his metaphysical reveries, and to his social
theories. Thus he wrote "Queen Mab," a poem full of talent and
imagination, but which is only the frame which encircles his most
deplorable fancies. He sent a copy of it to all the noted literary men
of England, and among them to Lord Byron, whose star had risen since the
publication of "Childe Harold." Lord Byron declared, as may be seen in a
note to the "Due Foscari," that the metaphysical portion of the poem was
quite in opposition with his own opinions; but, with his usual
impartiality and justice, he admired the poetry which is noticeable in
this work, agreeing in this "with all those who are not blinded by
bigotry and baseness of mind."

Shelley's marriage, contracted as it was under such strange auspices,
was, of course, very unfortunate. By his acquaintance with Godwin, one
of the greatest literary characters of his day, Shelley came to know
Mary, his daughter, by his marriage with the celebrated Mrs.
Woolstonecraft. Each fell in love with the other, but Shelley was not
yet free to marry Miss Godwin. He separated from the wife he had chosen
only from grateful motives, although he had two children by her, and he
left England for the first time, where he had become the object of
persecutions of all kinds, and of a hatred which at a later period
culminated in taking away his right to the guardianship of his children.

Such was his position when Lord Byron arrived in Switzerland, and
alighted at the Hôtel Secheron. To make acquaintance, therefore, with
the author of "Queen Mab," and with the daughter of Godwin, for whom he
entertained great regard, was a natural consequence on the part of the
author of "Childe Harold."

Notwithstanding their difference of character, their diversity of taste,
and their different habits, owing to the very opposite mode of living
which they had followed, the two poets felt drawn to one another by that
irresistible sympathy which springs up in the souls of two persecuted
beings, however just that persecution may have been, as regards Shelley,
but which was wholly unjust as regards Byron. Here we must allow Moore
to speak:--

"The conversation of Shelley, from the extent of his poetic reading, and
the strange, mystic speculations into which his systems of philosophy
led him, was of a nature strongly to interest the attention of Lord
Byron, and to turn him away from worldly associations and topics into
more abstract and untrodden ways of thought. As far as contrast indeed
is an enlivening ingredient of such intercourse, it would be difficult
to find two persons more formed to whet each other's faculties by
discussion, as on few points of common interest between them did their
opinions agree: and that this difference had its root deep in the
conformation of their respective minds, needs but a glance through the
rich, glittering labyrinth of Shelley's pages to assure us.

"In Lord Byron, the real was never forgotten in the fanciful. However
Imagination had placed her whole realm at his disposal, he was no less a
man of this world than a ruler of hers: and, accordingly, through the
airiest and most subtle creations of his brain, still the life-blood of
truth and reality circulates. With Shelley it was far otherwise: his
fancy was the medium through which he saw all things, his facts as well
as his theories; and not only the greater part of his poetry, but the
political and philosophical speculations in which he indulged, were all
distilled through the same over-refining and unrealizing alembic. Having
started as a teacher and reformer of the world, at an age when he could
know nothing of the world but from fancy, the persecution he met with on
the threshold of this boyish enterprise only confirmed him in his first
paradoxical views of human ills, and their remedies. Instead of waiting
to take lessons from those of greater experience, he with a courage,
admirable, had it been but wisely directed, made war upon both.... With
a mind, by nature, fervidly pious, he yet refused to acknowledge a
Supreme Providence, and substituted some airy abstraction of 'Universal
Love' in its place. An aristocrat by birth, and, as I understand, also
in appearance and manners, he was yet a leveller in politics, and to
such an utopian extent as to be the serious advocate of a community of
goods. Though benevolent and generous to an extent that seemed to
exclude all idea of selfishness, he yet scrupled not, in the pride of
system, to disturb wantonly the faith of his fellow-men, and, without
substituting any equivalent good in its place, to rob the wretched of a
hope, which, even if false, would be better than all this world's best
truths.

"Upon no point were the opposite tendencies of the two friends more
observable than in their notions on philosophical subjects: Lord Byron
being, with the great bulk of mankind, a believer in the existence of
matter and evil, while Shelley so far refined upon the theory of
Berkeley, as not only to resolve the whole of creation into spirit, but
to add also to this immaterial system, some pervading principle, some
abstract nonentity of love and beauty--of which, as a substitute at
least for Deity--the philosophic bishop had never dreamed."

The difference existing between their philosophical doctrines was that
which existed between the two most opposed systems of spiritualism and
pantheism.

I said that Shelley, notwithstanding his originality of mind, was
destined, through the mobility of his impressions, to be easily
influenced by what he read. The study of Plato and of Spinoza had
already given to his metaphysical views a different bent. But before his
transition from atheism to a mystical pantheism, before finding God in
all things, after having sought him in vain everywhere, before
considering himself to be a fragment of a chosen existence, and before
shutting himself up in a kind of mysticism which did actually absorb him
at a later period, he confined himself to a positive worship of nature,
which appeared to him then in the glorious shape of the mountains and
lakes of Helvetia. Wordsworth was his oracle, and thus cultivating a
poetry which deified nature, Shelley, in reality, remained at heart an
atheist, and doubtless tried to imbue Byron with his enthusiasm and with
his opinions.

Himself greatly delighted with the beauties of the scenery in the midst
of which they lived, and, as he was wont to say in laughter, having
received many large doses of Wordsworth from Shelley, Lord Byron wrote
several stanzas in which the same enthusiasm may be met with, recorded
in terms almost of adoration.

It was only a poetical form, however, a poetical illusion, which was
succeeded by stanzas in which God himself as our creator, was loudly
proclaimed. If in the seventy-second and following stanzas of the third
canto, opinions were expressed which savored of pantheistic tendencies,
they were at once followed by some such as these:--

    "All heaven and earth are still--though not in sleep,
    But breathless, as we grow when feeling most;
    And silent, as we stand in thought too deep:--
    All heaven and earth are still: from the high host
    Of stars to the lull'd lake and mountain-coast,
    All is concentred in a life intense,
    Where not a beam, nor air, nor leaf is lost,
    But hath a part of being, and a sense
  Of that which is of all _Creator_ and _Defense_."

And again, on viewing the Alps, he writes the poem of "Manfred," in
which his belief in a One God, and Creator, is expressed in sublime
lines. His repugnance to atheism and to materialism is testified not
only in his poetry, but also by his own actions.

On reaching Montauvert with his friend Hobhouse, and on the point of
ascending Mont Blanc with him, he found Shelley's name in the register
of the travellers, and under it the qualification of "atheist" written
in Shelley's own hand. Lord Byron at once scratched it out. But on
reading, a little below, a remark by another traveller, who had justly
rebuked Shelley's folly, Byron added the words, "The appellation is well
deserved."

He soon after left the Alps, and came to Italy, without his views,
either philosophical or religious, being in the least altered by the
seductions of "that serpent," as he jokingly denominated Shelley.

We shall now follow him, step by step, until the end of his life, and we
shall see whether he will not show himself stanch in his adherence to
great principles. Lord Byron had enough of systems, and was disgusted
with their absurdity, their proud dogmatical views, and their intolerant
spirit. Whenever the great questions of life and the dictates of the
soul occupy his thoughts, either in the silence of the night or in the
absence of passion, we shall see him set himself resolutely to the
examination of his own conscience, for the purpose of arriving at truth
and justice. The answers which his powerful reasoning suggested to him
served to determine and confirm his faith in God.

On leaving Geneva, Lord Byron proceeded to Milan. "One day," says Mr.
Stendhall, who knew Lord Byron at Milan, in 1817, and saw a great deal
of him there, "some people alluded to a couplet from the 'Aminta' of
Tasso, in which the poet appears to take credit to himself for being an
unbeliever, and expresses it in the lines which may thus be
translated:--

  'Listen, oh my son, to the thunder as it rolls.
  But what is it to us what Jupiter does up there?
  Let us rejoice down here if betroubled above;
  Let the common herd of mortals dread his blows:
  And let the world go to ruin, I will only think
  Of what pleases me; and if I become dust again,
  I shall only be what I have already been.'

Lord Byron says that these lines were written under the influence of
spleen. A belief in the existence of a superior Being was a necessity
for the fiery and tender nature of Tasso. He was, besides, far too
Platonic to try to reconcile such contrary opinions. When he wrote those
lines, he probably was in want of a piece of bread and a mistress."

Lord Byron reached Venice, and there his most agreeable hours and days
were spent with Padre Pasquale, in the convent of the Armenian priests.

He also wrote, at this time, the sublimely moral poem entitled
"Manfred," in which he renders justice to the existence of God, to the
free will of man, the abuse of which has resulted in the loss of
"Manfred," and retraces, in splendid lines, all the duties incumbent
upon man, together with the limits which he is not allowed to pass. The
apparition of his lovely and young victim, the uncertainty of her
happiness, which causes Manfred's greatest grief, and finally his
supplication to her that he may know whether she is enjoying eternal
bliss,

      ... "That I do bear
  This punishment for both--that thou wilt be
  One of the blessed--...."

the whole bears the impress of a truly religious spirit.

He shortly afterward visited Rome, and finding himself in presence of
St. Peter's, he again gave expression to his religious sentiments, in
the admirable fourth canto of "Childe Harold," which Englishmen do not
hesitate to acknowledge as the finest poem which ever came from mortal
hands.

  TO ST. PETER.

  _Stanza_ 153.
    *     *     *     *     *     *     *
   "Christ's mighty shrine above his martyr's tomb!"

  _Stanza_ 154.

   "But thou, of temples old, or altars new,
    Standest alone, with nothing like to thee.
    *     *     *     *     *     *     *
    Power, glory, strength, and beauty all are aisled
  In this eternal ark of worship undefiled."

From Venice he went on to Ravenna. The persecution to which he was
subjected, on the ground of religion and morality, on account of the
publication of the two first cantos of "Don Juan," was then at its
height, and he was tormented in every possible way. It was useless for
him to protest, in verse, in prose, by letter, or by words, against the
accusation of his being an atheist and a skeptic. It was asserted that
"Manfred" was the expression of his doubts upon the dispensation of
Providence, and that his other poems, all more or less imbued with
passion, had tendencies of an irreverent nature in respect to the
Divinity. His two famous stanzas in "Childe Harold" were always held up
to him by the innumerable army of hypocrites and wicked people who
assailed him.

All were not hypocrites, however; some were his enemies in good faith,
but were blinded by sectarian prejudices. Among these was an Irishman of
the name of Mulock, author of a work entitled "Atheism Answered." Lord
Byron one day at Ravenna received a paper from the editor of the
"Bologna Telegraph," with extracts from this work, in which "there is a
long eulogium of" his "poetry, and a great _compatimento_ for" his
"misery" on account of his being a skeptic and an unbeliever in Christ;
"although," says Mr. Mulock, "his bold skepticism is far preferable to
the pharisaical parodists of the religion of the Gospel, who preach and
persecute with an equally intolerant spirit."

Lord Byron, writing that day to Murray, says:--

"I never could understand what they mean by accusing me of irreligion.
They may, however, have it their own way. This gentleman seems to be my
great admirer, so I take what he says in good part, as he evidently
intends kindness, to which I can't accuse myself of being insensible."

In the evening he talked to and laughed a good deal with the Countess
Guiccioli about this great _compatimento_,[17] treating it as a great
oddity. A few months later, Moore having written to him about this same
Mr. Mulock, and told him that that gentleman was giving lectures upon
religion, Lord Byron, while riding with the young Count G---- in the
forest of Ravenna, made his profession of faith, and finding his
youthful companion not quite orthodox, said to him: "The nature of
classical and philosophical studies generally paralyzes all logical
minds, and that is why many young heads leave college unbelievers: you
are even still more so, because you mix up your religious views with
your political antipathies. As for me, in my early youth, when I left
college, where I had to bow to very superior and stronger minds who
themselves were under various evil influences of college and of youth, I
was more than heterodox. Time and reflection have changed my mind upon
these subjects, and I consider Atheism as a folly. As for Catholicism,
so little is it objectionable to me, that I wish my daughter to be
brought up in that religion, and some day to marry a Catholic. If
Catholicism, after all, suggests difficulties of a nature which it is
difficult for reason to get over, are these less great than those which
Protestantism creates? Are not all the mysteries common to both creeds?
Catholicism at least offers the consolation of Purgatory, of the
Sacraments, of absolution and forgiveness; whereas Protestantism is
barren of consolation for the soul."

This open profession of faith, expressed by such a man as Lord Byron, in
a calm and dispassionate tone, produced a great impression upon the
young count. It had been so much the fashion to consider him as
irreligious, that one would say that even his friends were of the same
opinion. Some time had elapsed since Byron had sent a translation from
the Armenian of one of the Epistles of St. Paul, which Murray delayed in
publishing. Rather annoyed by this delay, Byron wrote to him on the 9th
of October, 1821, from Ravenna:--

"The Epistle of St. Paul, which I translated from the Armenian, for what
reason have you kept it back, though you published that stuff which gave
rise to the 'Vampire?' Is it because you are afraid to print any thing
in opposition to the cant of the 'Quarterly' about Manicheism? Let me
have a proof of that Epistle directly. I am a better Christian than
those parsons of yours, though not paid for being so."

If Byron hated fanatical and persecuting clergymen, he, on the other
hand, entertained great regard for priests of every denomination, when
he knew that they exercised their functions without fanaticism and in a
tolerant spirit. Among his dearest and earliest friends he placed two
young clergymen,[18] both distinguished in their profession by their
piety and their attainments. At Ravenna, his alms in favor of churches
and monasteries were very liberal. If the organ were not in order, if
the steeple wanted repairs, Lord Byron's pecuniary assistance was asked
for, and he ever gave liberally though it was for the benefit of the
Catholic community. He was always indignant at his writings, especially
if connected with religion, being sent back to him by Murray with
alterations to which he was no party. On one occasion he reproached him
in the following terms:--

"In referring to the mistake in stanza 132, I take the opportunity to
desire that in future, in all parts of my writings referring to
religion, you will be more careful, and not forget that it is possible
that in addressing the Deity a blunder may become a blasphemy: and I do
not choose to suffer such infamous perversions of my words or of my
intentions. I saw the canto by accident."

His dearest paternal care was the religious education to be given to his
natural daughter, Allegra, who was with him at Ravenna. In writing to
Mr. and Mrs. Hoppner, to give them tidings of his dear Allegra, whom he
had sent to a convent in Romagna to be educated there, he declares that
in presence of the political disquietude which reigned in the Romagna,
he thought he could not do better than send his child to that convent.
Here "she would receive a little instruction, and some notions of
morality and the principles of religion."

Moore adds to this letter a note, which runs thus:--

"With such anxiety did he look to this essential part of his daughter's
education, that notwithstanding the many advantages she was sure to
derive from the kind and feminine superintendence of Mrs. Shelley, his
apprehensions lest her feelings upon religious subjects might be
disturbed by the conversation of Shelley himself prevented him from
allowing her to remain under his friend's roof."

The Bible, as is well known, constituted his favorite reading. Often did
he find in the magnificent poetry of the Bible matter for inspiration.
His "Hebrew Melodies" prove it, and as for the Book of Job, he used to
say that it was far too sublime for him even to attempt to translate it,
as he would have wished. Toward the end of his stay at Ravenna, when his
genius was most fertile and almost superhuman--(he wrote five dramas and
many other admirable poems in fifteen months, that is to say, in less
time than it requires to copy them)--two biblical subjects inspired his
muse: "Cain," and "Heaven and Earth." Both were admirably suited to his
pen. He naturally treated them as a philosopher, but without any
preconceived notion of making any religious converts. His enemies
nevertheless seized hold of these pieces, to incriminate him and impugn
his religious belief. I have spoken elsewhere[19] of that truly
scandalous persecution. I will only add here that Moore, timid as he
usually was when he had to face an unpopularity which came from high
quarters, and alarmed by all the cries proceeding from party spirit,
wrote to approve the beauty of the poem in enthusiastic terms, but
disapproved of the harm which some doubts expressed therein might
produce. Byron replied:--

"There is nothing against the immortality of the soul in 'Cain,' that I
recollect. I hold no such opinions; but in a drama the first rebel and
the first murderer must be made to talk according to his character."

And in another letter he says, with regard to the same subject:--

"With respect to religion, can I never convince you that I have no such
opinions as the characters in that drama, which seem to have frightened
every body? Yet they are nothing to the expressions in Goethe's 'Faust'
(which are ten times hardier), and not a whit more bold than those of
Milton's 'Satan.' My ideas of character may run away with me: like all
imaginative men, I, of course, embody myself with the character while I
draw it, but not a moment after the pen is from off the paper.

"I am no enemy to religion, but the contrary. As a proof, I am educating
my natural daughter a strict Catholic in a convent of Romagna, for I
think people can never have enough of religion, if they are to have any.
I incline myself very much to the Catholic doctrines; but if I am to
write a drama, I must make my characters speak as I conceive them likely
to argue."

The sympathy of persons sincerely religious was extremely agreeable to
him. A short time after he had left Ravenna for Pisa, a Mr. John
Sheppard sent him a prayer he had found among the papers belonging to
his young wife, whom he had lost some two years before. Lord Byron
thanked him in a beautiful letter, in which he consoled the distressed
husband by assuring him of his belief in immortality, and of his
confidence that he would again see the worthy person whom himself he
could not but admire, for her virtues and her pure and simple piety.

"I am obliged to you," he added, "for your good wishes, and more than
obliged by the extract from the papers of the beloved object whose
qualities you have so well described in a few words. I can assure you
that all the fame which ever cheated humanity into higher notions of its
own importance, would never weigh in my mind against the pure and pious
interest which a virtuous being may be pleased to take in my welfare. In
this point of view I would not exchange the prayers of the deceased in
my behalf for the united glory of Homer, Cæsar, and Napoleon, could such
be accumulated upon a living head. Do me at least the justice to suppose
that

    'Video meliora proboque,'

however the _deteriora sequor_ may have been applied to my conduct.

                                                               BYRON."

Not only did Lord Byron prevent his reason being influenced by the
arguments of others, but even by the dictates of his own heart. Both his
mind and his heart were perfectly independent of one another, nay, often
took different directions. It was to him unquestionably painful to see
such a division, but it was the fatal result of the excessive
development of the powers of each. In the same letter to Mr. Sheppard
which we have quoted, and which is full of gratitude for the prayers
which the young wife had addressed to heaven to obtain his conversion,
Byron adds:--

"A man's creed does not depend upon himself: who can say, 'I will
believe this, that, or the other?' and, least of all, that which he
least can comprehend."

Walter Scott once told him in London that he was convinced he would
daily become more and more religious.

"What!" vehemently replied Lord Byron, "do you believe that I could
become bigoted?"

"No," said Walter Scott, "I only think that the influence of some great
mind might modify your religious views."

Galt says the same thing:--

"A mind like Byron's," says he, "was little susceptible of being
impressed by the reasonings of ordinary men. Truth, in visiting him,
must come accompanied by every kind of solemnity, and preceded by
respect and reverence. A marked superiority, a recognized celebrity,
were indispensable to command his sincere attention."

Without taking implicitly for granted the rather exaggerated opinion of
Galt with respect to Lord Byron, we must allow that the great poet's
attention could not be captivated by reasonings of a superficial kind,
but could be influenced only by great learning, and powerful arguments
which had conviction for their basis.

But he might have found at Pisa the great intellectual influence spoken
of, for he found Shelley there. Seeing him every day, in the quiet
intimacy which the delightful sojourn in Tuscany procured for them, it
was easy for both to forget all the troubles of an agitated and
political existence, and only to think about the world of spirits.
Shelley had every opportunity for inculcating his doctrines, having, or
rather being able to exercise, the most exclusive influence upon Byron's
mind. Did he exercise that influence, and if he did not, for what
reason?

We have said that Shelley, notwithstanding his original views, his
extreme readiness to be impressed by every thing he heard and saw, was
often the victim of his reading. He had read a great deal, and though
since he had written the "Apology for Atheism" he had not changed his
mind as to his metaphysical tenets, nevertheless the study of the German
philosophy, and especially of Spinoza's, had produced on him a
revolution of ideas. From a materialistic atheism, which denies the
existence of God in every thing, he had gone over to a kind of mystic
pantheism, which supposes God to be everywhere and in every thing. This
species of pantheism is in reality but a disguised atheism, but which,
in such a man as Shelley, appeared more in the actions of his life as a
pervading devotion than an impious belief. Shelley ever adored all that
is beautiful, true, and holy. From this it followed that his doctrines,
far from appearing to be the result of pride, seemed, on the contrary,
to be founded upon humility, sacrifice, and devotion to humanity. If the
mystic pantheism of Spinoza could have found a living justification of
its silly principles, and an excuse for its want of power, Shelley would
have supplied both. The individuality, always more or less egotistical,
which is prominent in the word _ego_, seemed positively to have ceased
to exist with him: one would have said that he almost already felt
himself absorbed in that universal and divine substance, which is the
God of Spinoza. If in a century like ours such a philosophy as
Eclecticism could return and become again a doctrinal institution,
Shelley might have personified it. He had so sacrificed his
individuality to chimeras of all kinds, that he appeared to consider
himself a mere phenomenon, and to look upon the external world as mere
fiction, in order that the impossible and never-to-be-found divinity of
his dreams might occupy all the space.

He was perhaps the meekest, most generous, and the most modest of the
creatures of the true God, whom he yet persistently refused to recognize
as his Creator.

If, however, there was no impiety in his irreligion, no real pride, in
his pride, there existed that weakness, if I may use the word, peculiar
to a brain which can not grasp at reality, but adheres to a chimera as a
basis for its arguments.

"His works," says Galt, "are soiled by the false judgments proceeding
from a mind which made him look at every thing in a false light, and it
must be allowed that that mind was either troubled or defective by
nature."

If this opinion is too severe, it is, however, certain that Shelley had
so exalted an imagination that his judgment suffered by it. As he is in
his works, so was he in all the commonest actions of his life. A few
anecdotes will serve to make him still better known.

Once, at Pisa, he went to see Count Gamba, who expected him, for some
charitable purpose which they were to agree upon together. A violent
storm burst forth suddenly, and the wind tore a tile from a roof, and
caused it to fall on Shelley's head. The blow was very great, and his
forehead was covered with blood. This, however, did not in the least
prevent his proceeding on his way. When Count Gamba saw him in this
state he was much alarmed, and asked him how it had occurred. Shelley
replied quite calmly, passing his hand over his head, just as if he had
forgotten all about it, that it was true that the wind had blown down a
tile which had fallen on his head, but that he would be taken care of
later upon his return home. Shelley was not rich, but whenever he went
to his banker's it was necessary that no one should require his
assistance, in order that the money which he had gone to fetch should
come home untouched. As, on one occasion, he was returning from a visit
to his banker's, some one at the door of his house asked for assistance.
Shelley hastily got up the stairs, and throwing down his gold and notes
on the floor, rushed suddenly away, crying out to Mrs. Shelley, "There,
pick it all up." This the lady did as well as she could, for she was a
woman of order, and as much attached to the reality of things as her
husband was wanting in that particular.

I shall not multiply these characteristic instances of the man, but will
only add that such incidents were by no means uncommon, nay, that they
were matters of daily occurrence.

There was almost a kind of analogy in his life between him and Spinoza.
Notwithstanding their great qualities and merits, both were hated and
persecuted for sufficiently just motives,--society having the right of
repudiating doctrines which tend to its destruction; but both were
persecuted in undue and unfair proportions. Both had weak and sickly
constitutions. Both had great and generous souls. Both endeavored to
understand the laws which govern the destiny of the world, without ever
being subject to their moral consequences, and both devoted themselves
to be practically useful to their fellow-creatures--a contradiction
which was the effect of their too generous minds.

In Shelley's heart the dominant wish was to see society entirely
reorganized. The sight of human miseries and infirmities distressed him
to the greatest degree; but, too modest himself to believe that he was
called upon to take the initiative, and inaugurate a new era of good
government and fresh laws for the benefit of humanity, he would have
been pleased to see such a genius as Byron take the initiative in this
undertaking. "He can be the regenerator of his country," wrote Shelley,
speaking of Byron, in 1818, at Venice.

Shelley therefore did his best to influence Lord Byron. But the latter
hated discussions: he could not bear entering into philosophical
speculation at times when his soul craved the consolations of friendship
and his mind a little rest. He was quite insensible to reasonings, which
often appear sublime because they are clothed in words incomprehensible
to those who have not sought to understand their meaning. But he made an
exception in favor of Shelley. He knew that he could not shake his faith
in a doctrine founded upon illusions, by his incredulity: but he
listened to him with pleasure, not only on account of Shelley's good
faith and sincerity of meaning, but also because he argued upon false
data with such talent and originality that he was both interested and
amused. But with all his great and noble qualities was it to be
expected that Lord Byron would fall into the doctrines proffered by
pantheists? Doctrines rejected by reason, which wound the heart, are
opposed to the most imperative necessities of our nature, and only bring
desolation to our minds.

Lord Byron had examined every kind and species of philosophy by the
light of common sense, and by the instinct of his genius: the result had
been to make him compassionate toward the vain weaknesses of the human
understanding, and to convince him that all systems which have
hypothesis as groundwork are illusions, and consequently likely to
perish with their authors.

Pantheism in particular was odious to him, and he esteemed it to be the
greatest of absurdities. He made no difference between the Pantheism
"absolute," which mixes up that which is infinite with that which is
finite, and that which struggles in vain to keep clear of Atheism.

In an age like ours, when the common tendency is of a materialistic
character, such as almost to defy the power of man, mysticism has little
or no _locus standi_. Shelley's opinions, on account of their appearance
of spiritualism, were most likely of any to interest Byron; but, founded
as they are upon fancy, could they please him? Could he possibly consent
to lose his individuality, deny his own freedom of will, all
responsibility of action, and hence all his privileges, his future
existence, and all principles of morality? Could he possibly admit that
the doctrine which prescribed these sacrifices was better than any
other? Even with the best intentions, could any of the essential, moral,
and holy principles of nature be introduced into such a system? Byron
could not but condemn it, and he attributed all Shelley's views to the
aberrations of a mind which is happier when it dreams than when it
denies.

Here, then, was the cause of his being inaccessible to Shelley's
arguments. He used sometimes to exclaim, "Why Shelley appears to me to
be mad with his metaphysics." This he one day repeated to Count Gamba at
Pisa, as Shelley walked out and he came in. "We have been discussing
metaphysics," said he: "what trash in all these systems! Say what they
will, mystery for mystery, I still find that of the Creation the most
reasonable of any."

He made no disguise of the difficulties which he found in admitting the
doctrine of a God, Creator of the world, and entirely distinct from it;
but he added, "I prefer even that mystery to the contradictions by which
other systems endeavor to replace it." He certainly found that in the
mystery of Creation there existed the proof of the weakness of our
minds, but he declared that pantheism had to explain absurdities far too
evident for a logical mind to adopt its tenets. "They find," said he,
"that reason is more easily satisfied with a system of unity like
theirs, in which all is derived from one principle only: may be, but
what do we ask of truth? why all our never-ceasing efforts in its
pursuit? Is it merely that we may exercise the mind, and make truth the
toy of our imagination? Impossible. At any rate it would be a secret to
which, as yet, God has not given us any clue. But in doing this, in
constantly placing the phenomena of creation before us without their
causes or without ever explaining them, and at the same time instilling
into our souls an insatiable thirst for truth, the Almighty has placed
within us a voice which at times reminds us that He is preparing some
surprise for us; and we trust that that surprise may be a happy one."

Poor Shelley lost his time with Byron. But, however much Byron objected
to his doctrines, he had no similar objection to Shelley himself, for
whom he professed a great respect and admiration. He grieved to find so
noble an intellect the victim of hallucination which entirely blinded
him to the perception of truth. Shelley, however, did not despair of
succeeding in making Byron some day give up what he termed his
philosophical errors, and his persistency earned for him the appellation
of "serpent" which Byron gave him in jest. This persistency, which at
the same time indicates the merit of Byron's resistance, has often been
mentioned by Shelley himself. Writing from Pisa to a friend in England,
a very few days before his death, and alluding to a letter from Moore
which Byron had shown him, and wherein "Cain" was attributed to the
influence which he (Shelley) had evidently exercised over Byron, he
said, "Pray assure Moore that in a philosophical point of view I have
not the slightest influence over Byron; if I had, be sure I should use
it for the purpose of uprooting his delusions and his errors. He had
conceived 'Cain' many years ago, and he had already commenced writing it
when I saw him last year at Ravenna. How happy I should be could I
attribute to myself, even indirectly, a part in that immortal work!"

Moore wrote to Byron on the same subject a little later, and received
the following reply:--"As for poor Shelley, who also frightens you and
the world, he is, to my knowledge, the least egotistical and kindest of
men. I know no one who has so sacrificed both fortune and sentiments for
the good of others; as for his speculative opinions, we have none in
common, nor do I wish to have any."

All the poems which he wrote at this time, and which admitted of his
introducing the religious element either purposely or accidentally into
them, prove one and all that his mind, as regards religion, was as we
have shown it to be. This is particularly noticeable in his mystery
called "Heaven and Earth;" but the same remark is applicable to others,
such as the "Island," and even to some passages in "Don Juan." "Heaven
and Earth"--a poem which appeared about this time, and which he styled
"A Mystery"--is a biblical poem in which all the thoughts agree with the
Book of Genesis, and "which was inspired," says Galt, "by a mind both
serious and patriarchal, and is an echo of the oracles of Adam and of
Melchisedec." In this work he exhibits as much veneration for scriptural
theology as Milton himself. In the "Island," which he wrote at Genoa,
there are passages which penetrate the soul with so religious a feeling,
that Benjamin Constant, in reading it, and indignant at hearing Byron
called an unbeliever, exclaimed in his work on religion, "I am assured
that there are men who accuse Lord Byron of atheism and impiety. There
is more religion in the twelve lines which I have quoted than in the
past, present, and future writings of all his detractors put together."

Even in "Don Juan," in that admirable satire which, not being rightly
understood, has given rise to so many calumnies, he says, after having
spoken in the fifteenth canto of the moral greatness of various men, and
among others of Socrates:--

                        "And thou, Diviner still,
  Whose lot it is by man to be mistaken,
    And thy pure creed made sanction of all ill?
  Redeeming worlds to be by bigots shaken,
    How was thy toil rewarded?"

At the end of this stanza he wrote the following note:----

"As it is necessary in these times to avoid ambiguity, I say that I mean
by 'Diviner still,' Christ. If ever God was man--or man God--he was
both. I never arraigned his creed, but the use or abuse made of it. Mr.
Canning one day quoted Christianity to sanction negro slavery, and Mr.
Wilberforce had little to say in reply. And was Christ crucified that
black men might be scourged? If so, he had better been born a mulatto,
to give both colors an equal chance of freedom, or at least salvation."

Notwithstanding these beautiful lines, which were equally professions of
faith, England, instead of doing Byron justice, continued more than ever
to persecute him.

Shortly afterward he embarked at Genoa for Greece, and halted at
Cephalonia. He there made the acquaintance of a young Scotchman, named
Kennedy, who was attached as doctor to the Greek army. Before taking to
medicine this young man had studied law, with the intention of going to
the Edinburgh bar. He was so deeply convinced of the truths of
Christianity, and so familiar with its teaching, that he would fain have
imparted his belief to every one he met. From his position he found
himself among a host of young officers, mostly Scotch, and all more or
less lax in their religious practices. Among these, however, he met with
four who consented to listen to his explanation of the doctrines of
Christianity. As their principal challenge was to show proofs that the
Bible was of divine origin, he accepted the challenge in the hope of
making some conversions.

One of these officers informed Lord Byron of this projected meeting, and
Byron, from the interest which he always took in the subject which was
to be their ground of discussion, expressed a wish to be present. "You
know," said he, "that I am looked upon as a black sheep, and yet I am
not as black as the world makes me out, nor worse than others,"--words,
which, from the fact of his rarely doing himself justice, were
noteworthy in his mouth.

Under such auspices, then, was Kennedy fortunate enough to open his
discussion, and Lord Byron was present in company of the young Count
Gamba and Dr. Bruno.

Mr. Kennedy has given a detailed account of this meeting, as also of his
subsequent conversations with Lord Byron. We will mention some of them
here, because they show Lord Byron's religious opinions in the latter
portion of his life. Mr. Kennedy had made a condition that he should be
allowed to speak, without being interrupted, but at various intervals,
for twelve hours. This condition, was soon set aside, and then Lord
Byron joined the conversation. After exciting admiration by his patient
silence, he astounded every one as an interlocutor. If Kennedy was well
versed in the Scriptures, Lord Byron was not less so, and even able to
correct a misquotation from Holy Writ. The direct object of the meeting
was to prove that the Scriptures contained the genuine and direct
revelation of God's will. Mr. Kennedy, however, becoming a little
entangled in a series of quotations, which had not the force that was
required to prove his statements, and, seeing that a little impatience
betrayed itself among the audience, could not resist showing some
temper, and accusing his hearers of ignorance. "Strange accusation, when
applied to Lord Byron," says Galt. Lord Byron, who had come there to be
interested, and to learn, did not notice the taunt of Mr. Kennedy, but
merely remarked, "that all that can be desired is to be convinced of the
truth of the Bible, as containing really the word of God; for if this is
sincerely believed, it must follow, as a necessary consequence, that one
must believe all the doctrines contained in it."

He then added, that in his youth he had been brought up by his mother in
very strict religious principles; had read a large number of theological
works, and that Barrow's writings had most pleased him; that he
regularly went to church, that he was by no means an unbeliever who
denied the Scriptures, and wished to grope in atheism; but, on the
contrary, that all his wish was to increase his belief, as
half-convictions made him wretched. He declared, however, that he could
not thoroughly understand the Scriptures. He also added, that he
entertained the highest respect for, and confidence in, those who
believed conscientiously; but that he had met with many whose conduct
differed from the principles they professed simply from interested
motives, and esteemed the number of those who really believed in the
Scriptures to be very small. He asked him about his opinion as to
various writers against religion, and among others of Sir W. Hamilton,
Bellamy, and Warburton, who pretend that the Jews had no notion of a
future existence. He confessed that the sight of so much evil was a
difficulty to him, which he could not explain, and which made him
question the perfect goodness of the Creator. He dwelt upon this
argument a long time, exhibiting as much tenderness of heart as force of
reasoning. Kennedy's answers were weak, as must be those of one who
denies the measure of evil, in order that he may not be compassionate
toward it, and who promises a reward in after life to escape the
necessity of its being bestowed in the present. In reply Lord Byron
pointed to moral and physical evil which exists among savages, to whom
Scripture is unknown, and who are bereft of all the means of becoming
civilized people. Why are they deprived of these gifts of God? and what
is to be the ultimate fate of Pagans? He quoted several objections made
to our Lord by the apostles; mentioned prophecies which had never been
fulfilled, and spoke of the consequences of religious wars. Kennedy
replied with much ability, and even with a certain degree of eloquence,
and prudently made use of the ordinary theological arguments. But to
influence such a mind as Byron's more was required. In the search after
truth, he looked for hard logic, and eloquence was not required by him.
Fénélon could not have persuaded him; but Descartes might have
influenced him. He preferred, in fact, in such arguments, the method of
the geometrician to that of the artist; the one uses truth to arrive at
truth, the other makes use of the beautiful only, to arrive at the same
end.

The meeting lasted four hours, and created much sensation in the island,
and every one agreed in praising Lord Byron's great knowledge of the
Scriptures, joined to his moderation and modesty. Kennedy, however, a
little irritated by the superiority granted to his adversary, did his
best to dissipate the impression produced by it. He went so far as to
reproach his friends for having allowed themselves to be blinded by the
rank, the celebrity, and the prestige of Lord Byron. "His theological
knowledge being," said he, "in reality quite ordinary and superficial."
This meeting was the only one in which Lord Byron took a part, for he
left Argostoli for Metaxata.

The meetings continued, however, for some time longer, and Kennedy
showed a zeal which deserved to meet with better success. He brought
before his audience with talent every possible reasoning in favor of
orthodoxy; but his audience, composed of young men, were far too
engrossed with worldly occupations to be caught by the ardor of their
master's zeal. Disappointed at not seeing Lord Byron again among them,
they all deserted Kennedy's lectures just at the time when he was going
to speak of miracles and prophecies, the subject of all others upon
which he had built his greatest hopes. Not only did they desert the
hall, but actually overwhelmed the speaker with mockery. Some declared
they would put off their conversion to a more advanced age; others
actually maintained that they had less faith than before.

Meanwhile Kennedy, though disappointed in his religious enthusiasm on
the one hand, received some consolation on the other, at the hands of
Lord Byron, who had not forgotten him, and who often inquired after him
though he had not been convinced by his arguments. Kennedy also had
conceived a great liking for Byron. He admired in the poet all his
graceful qualities and his unequalled talents. He wished, but dared not
yet, visit Lord Byron. Meeting, however, Count Gamba at Argostoli on one
occasion, and hearing from him that Byron was on the point of departure
for Continental Greece, he resolved to pay him a visit, "as much," said
he, "to show the respect which is due to such a man, as to satisfy one's
own curiosity in seeing and hearing so distinguished a person."

Byron received him with his natural cordiality. He made him stay to
dinner with him, and thus gave him the opportunity of entering into a
long conversation. Kennedy, who never lost sight of his mission of
proselytism, brought the conversation round to the object of his wishes,
and prefaced his arguments by saying that he was prepared to talk upon
the matter; but that he had no doubt lost his time, since it was not
likely that his lordship would consider these subjects urgent at that
moment. Byron smiled and replied, "It is true that at the present time I
have not given that important subject all my attention, but I should
nevertheless be curious to know the motives which not only have
convinced you, as a man of sense and reflection, as you undoubtedly are,
of the truth of religion, but also have induced you to profess
Christianity with such zeal."

"If there had been men," said Kennedy, "who had rejected Christianity,
there were greater men still who had accepted it; but to adopt a system
merely because others have adopted it is not to act rationally, unless
it is proved that the great minds which adopted it were mistaken."

"But I have not the slightest desire," answered Byron, "to reject a
doctrine without having investigated it. Quite the contrary; I wish to
believe, because I feel extremely unhappy in a state of uncertainty as
to what I am to believe."

Kennedy having told him then that to obtain the grace of faith, he
should pray humbly for it, Byron replied, that prayer does not consist
in the act of kneeling or of repeating certain words in a solemn manner:
"Devotion is the affection of the heart, and that I possess, for when I
look at the marvels of creation I bow before the Majesty of Heaven, and
when I experience the delights of life, health, and happiness, then my
heart dilates in gratitude toward God for all His blessings."

"That is not sufficient," continued the doctor. "I should wish your
lordship to read the Bible with the greatest attention, having prayed
earnestly before that the Almighty may grant you the grace to understand
it. For, however great your talents, the book will be a sealed letter to
you unless the Holy Spirit inspires you."

"I read the Bible more than you think," said Byron. "I have a Bible
which my sister, who is goodness itself, gave me, and I often peruse
it."

He then went into his bedroom, and brought out a handsomely-bound pocket
Bible which he showed the doctor. The latter advised his continuing to
read it, but expressed his surprise that Byron should not have better
understood it. He looked out several passages in which it is enjoined
that we should pray with humility if we wish to understand the truth of
the Gospel; and where it is expressly said that no human wisdom can
fathom these truths; but that God alone can reveal them to us, and
enlighten our understanding; that we must not scrutinize His acts, but
be submissive as children to His will; and that, as obedience through
the sin of our first parents, and our own evil inclinations, has become
for us a positive difficulty, we must change our hearts before we can
obey or take pleasure in obeying the commandments of our Lord God; and,
finally, that all, whatever the rank of each, are subject to the
necessity of obedience.

Byron's occupations and ideas at that time were not quite in accordance
with the nature of these holy words, but he received them with his usual
kind and modest manner, because they came from one who was sincere. He
only replied, that, as to the wickedness of the world, he was quite of
his opinion, as he had found it in every class of society; but that the
doctrines which he had put forth would oblige him to plunge into all the
problems respecting the Old Testament and original sin, which many
learned persons, as good Christians as Dr. Kennedy, did not hesitate to
reject. He then showed the doctor, in answer to the latter's rather
intolerant assertion of the omnipotence of the Bible, how conversant he
was with the subject by quoting several Christian authors who thought
differently. He quoted Bishop Watson, who, while professing
Christianity, did not attribute such authority to the contents of the
Bible. He also mentioned the Waldenses, who were such good Christians
that they were called "the true Church of Christ," but who,
nevertheless, looked upon the Bible as merely the history of the Jews.
He then showed that the Book of Genesis was considered by many doctors
of divinity as a mere symbol or allegory. He took up the defense of
Gibbon against Kennedy's insinuation that the great historian had
maliciously and intentionally kept back the truth; he quoted Warburton
as a man whose ingenious theories have found much favor with many
learned persons; finally, he proved to the doctor that, in any case, he
could not himself be accused of ignorance of the subject.

This conversation afforded him the opportunity also of refuting the
accusation brought against him by some of his numerous enemies; namely,
that of having a tendency to the doctrines of Manicheism. Kennedy having
said that the spirit of evil, as well as the angels, is subject to the
will of God, Lord Byron replied,----

"If received in a literal sense, I find that it gives one a far higher
notion of God's majesty, power, and wisdom, if we believe that the
spirit of evil is really subject to the will of the Almighty, and is as
easily controlled by Him as the elements follow the respective laws
which He has made for them."

Byron could not bear any thing which took away from the greatness of the
Divinity, and his words all tended to replace the Divinity in that
incomprehensible space where He must be silently acknowledged and
adored. Their conversation extended to other points of religious belief.
While the doctor, taking the Bible to be the salvation of mankind,
indulged in exaggerated and intolerant condemnation of the Catholic
Church, which he called an abominable hierarchy not less to be regretted
than Deism and Socinianism, Byron again displayed a spirit of toleration
and moderation. Though he disapproved of the doctor's language, he did
not contradict him, believing him to be sincere in his recriminations,
but brought back the conversation to that point from which common sense
should never depart. He deplored with him existing hypocrisies and
superstitions, which he looked upon as the cause of the unbelief of many
in the existence of God; but he added, that it was not confined to the
Continent only, but likewise existed in England. Instead of resting his
hopes upon the Bible, he said that he knew the Scriptures well enough
"to be sure that if the spirit of meekness and goodness which the
religion of the Gospel contains were put into practice by men, there
would certainly be a marvellous change in this wicked world;" and he
finished by saying, that as for himself he had, as a rule, ever
respected those who believed conscientiously, whatever that belief might
be; in the same manner as he detested from his heart hypocrites of all
kinds, and especially hypocrites in religion.

He then changed the topic of conversation, and turned it to literature.
All he said on that subject is so interesting that I reserve the record
of it to another chapter. The doctor, however, soon resumed the former
subject of their conversation, and, more in the spirit of a missionary
than a philosopher, he went on to recommend the study of Christianity,
which he said was summed up entirely in the Scriptures.

"But what will you have me do?" said Byron. "I do not reject the
doctrines of Christianity, I only ask a few more proofs to profess them
sincerely. I do not believe myself to be the vile Christian which
many--to whom I have never done any harm, and many of whom do not even
know me--strenuously assert that I am, and attack me violently in
consequence."

The doctor insisted.

"But," said Byron, "you go too fast. There are many points still to be
cleared up, and when these shall have been explained, I shall then
examine what you tell me."

"What are those difficulties?" replied the doctor. "If the subject is
important, why delay its explanation? You have time; reason upon it;
reflect. You have the means of disposing of the difficulty at your
command."

"True," answered Byron, "but I am the slave of circumstances, and the
sphere in which I live is not likely to make me consider the subject."

As the doctor became more urgent, Byron said----

"How will you have me begin?"

"Begin this very night to pray God that he may forgive you your sins,
and may grant you grace to know the truth. If you pray, and read your
Bible with purity of intention, the result must be that which we so
ardently wish for."

"Well, yes," replied Byron, "I will certainly study these matters with
attention."

"But your lordship must bear in mind, that you should not be
discouraged, even were your doubts and difficulties to increase; for
nothing can be understood without sufficient time and pains. You must
weigh conscientiously each argument, and continue to pray to God, in
whom at least you believe, to give you the necessary understanding."

"Why then," asked Byron, "increase the difficulties, when they are
already so great?"

The doctor then took the mystery of the Trinity as an example, and
spoke of it as a man who has faith and accepts the mystery as a revealed
dogma.

"It is not the province of man," said he, "to comprehend or analyze the
nature of an existence which is entirely spiritual, such as that of the
Divinity; but we must accept it, and believe in it, because it has been
revealed to us, being fully convinced that man in his present state will
never be able to fathom such mysteries."

He not only blamed those who wish to explain all things, but likewise
the presumption of certain theologians in mixing up their own arguments
with the revelations of Scripture in order to prove the unity in the
Trinity, and who speculate upon the attributes of the Deity to ascertain
the relative mode of existence of each of the three persons who compose
the Trinity. "They must fall," he added, "or lead others to a similar
end." Hence he concluded that mysteries should be believed in
implicitly, as children believe fully what their parents tell them.

"I therefore advise your lordship," said he, "to put aside all difficult
subjects,--such as the origin of sin, the fall of man, the nature of the
Trinity, the mystery of predestination, etc.,--and to study Christianity
not in books of theology, which, even the best, are all more or less
imperfect, but in the careful examination of the Scriptures. By
comparing each part of it, you will at last find a harmony so great in
all its constituent parts, and so much wisdom in its entire whole, that
you will no longer be able to doubt its divine origin, and hence that it
contains the only means of salvation."

To so firm and enviable a faith, Byron replied as follows:--

"You recommend what is very difficult; for how is it possible for one
who is acquainted with ecclesiastical history, as well as with the
writings of the most renowned theologians, with all the difficult
questions which have agitated the minds of the most learned, and who
sees the divisions and sects which abound in Christianity, and the
bitter language which is often used by the one against the other; how is
it possible, I ask, for such a one not to inquire into the nature of the
doctrines which have given rise to so much discussion? One Council has
pronounced against another; Popes have belied their predecessors, books
have been written against other books, and sects have risen to replace
other sects; the Pope has opposed the Protestants and the Protestants
the Pope. We have heard of Arianism, Socinianism, Methodism, Quakerism,
and numberless other sects. Why have these existed? It is a puzzle for
the brain; and does it not, after all, seem safer to say 'Let us be
neutral; let those fight who will, and when they have settled which is
the best religion, then shall we also begin to study it?'

"I, however, like," he continued, "your way of thinking, in many
respects; you make short work of decrees and councils, you reject all
which is not in harmony with the Scriptures, you do not admit of
theological works filled with Latin and Greek of both high and low
church, you would even suppress many abuses which have crept into the
Church, and you are right; but I question whether the Archbishop of
Canterbury or the Scotch Presbyterians would consider you their ally.

"As for predestination, I do not believe as S---- and M---- do on that
subject, but as you do; for it appears to me that I am influenced in a
manner which I can not understand, and am led to do things which my will
does not direct. If, as we all admit, there is a supreme Ruler of the
universe, and if, as you say, He rules, over both good and bad spirits,
then those actions which we perform against our will are likewise under
His direction. I have never tried to sift this subject, but satisfied
myself by believing that there is, in certain events, a predestination
which depends upon the will of God."

The doctor replied, "that he had founded his belief upon his own
grounds."

The doctor then touched upon the differences which existed in religious
opinions, and expressed his regret at this, while showing, nevertheless,
some indulgence for those Christian sects which do not attack the actual
fundamental doctrines of Christianity. But he was intolerant as regards
other sects, such as Arianism, Socinianism, and Swedenborgianism, of
which he spoke almost with passion.

"You seem to hate the Socinians greatly," remarked Byron, "but is this
charitable? Why exclude a Socinian, who believes honestly, from any hope
of salvation? Does he not also found his belief upon the Bible? It is a
religion which gains ground daily. Lady Byron is much in favor with its
followers. We were wont to discuss religious matters together, and many
of our misunderstandings have arisen from that. Yet, on the whole, I
think her religion and mine were much alike."

Of course the doctor deplored the existence of such bold doctrines.

Lord Byron then spoke of Shelley:--

"I wish," he said, "you had known him, and that I might have got you
both together. You remind me of him, not only in looks, but by your
manner of speaking."

Besides physical appearance, it is easy to understand that there existed
a great likeness between the two minds, different though their moral
tendencies might have been. In both could be traced that degree of
mysticism and expansiveness, which make the poet and the missionary.
Byron praised the virtues of Shelley, and styled them Christian, and
spoke mainly of his great benevolence of character, and of his
generosity above his means.

"Certainly," replied the doctor, "such rare virtues are esteemed among
Christians, but they can not be called Christian virtues, unless they
spring from Christian principles: and in Shelley they were not so. His
virtues might deserve human praise, they were no doubt pagan virtues;
but they were nothing in the eyes of God, since God has declared that
nothing pleases Him but that which springs from a good motive,
especially the love of and belief in Christ, which was wanting in
Shelley."

When Kennedy had characterized Shelley in even stronger terms, Byron
said to him: "I see it is impossible to move your soul to any sympathy,
or even to obtain from you in common justice a little indulgence for an
unfortunate young man, gifted with a lofty mind and a fine imagination."

These remarks reveal the tolerant spirit of Lord Byron, but they also
show how the best natures are spoiled by dogmatism.

The conversation had lasted several hours. Night was coming on, and the
doctor, carried away by his zeal, had forgotten the hour. His host,
however, did nothing to remind him of it, and when Kennedy got up to
take his leave, he said to Byron, after making excuses for remaining so
long, "God having gifted you, my lord, with a mind which can grasp every
subject, I am convinced that if your lordship would devote yourself to
the study of religion, you would become one of its lights, the pride of
your country, and the consolation of every honest person."

Lord Byron replied:--

"I certainly intend to study the matter, but you must give me a little
time. You see that I have begun well: I listen to all you say. Don't you
find that my arguments are more like your own than you would have
thought?"

"Yes," answered the doctor, "and it gives me great pleasure. I have far
better hopes of your lordship's conversion than of that of the young
officers who listened to me without understanding the meaning of my
words. You have shown greater patience and candor than I could have
imagined you to be capable of; whereas they, on the contrary, exhibited
so hardened a spirit that they appeared to look upon the subject as one
which lent itself admirably to ridicule and laughter."

"You must allow," said Byron, "that in the times in which we are now
living it is difficult to bestow attention to any serious religious
matter. I think, however, I can promise to reflect even more on the
subject than I have done hitherto, without, however, promising to adopt
your orthodox views."

The doctor then asked him leave to present him with the work of B----,
which he commended in high terms. Lord Byron said he would have great
pleasure in reading it, and told the doctor that he should always be
happy to see him, and at any time that he liked to come. "Should I be
out when you come," he added, "take my books and read until my return."

On leaving Byron the doctor reflected over all that had taken place, and
feared that his zeal had carried him too far--that his long conversation
might have tired rather than interested Byron; but on the whole, he
concluded by saying to himself, "It appears to me, that Byron never
exhibited the least symptom of fatigue, but, on the contrary,
continually showed great attention from beginning to end."

We have, perhaps, dwelt too much in our report of this conversation, but
we wished to do so for several reasons. First, because it shows, better
than a public debate, the real thoughts and feelings of Byron on
religious matters, next, the real nature of his religious opinions, and
finally we find, in Byron's conversation, virtues such as amiability,
goodness, patience, delicacy, and toleration, which have not been
sufficiently noticed.

The sympathy which Kennedy had conceived for Byron after the public
meeting greatly increased after this first conversation. The candor and
simplicity depicted on his handsome countenance, showed that his lofty
intelligence could, better than any one else, grasp the theories of the
doctor; and the latter felt that if he could not prevail in making Byron
a believer in his own orthodox views, at least he could prepare the way
for the acquirement of every virtue, and he resolved, therefore, to
profit by the permission given him of often visiting Byron.

Meanwhile, the young officers continued their jokes, and pretended that
Byron was laughing at the doctor, and making use of him in order to
study Methodism, which he wished to introduce into his poem of "Don
Juan." There is, however, a community of feeling between two frank
natures, and Byron felt that the doctor's sincerity commanded respect,
while the doctor, on the other hand, knew that Lord Byron was too
earnest to condescend to a mockery of him.

"There was," says Kennedy, "nothing flighty in his manner with me, and
nothing which showed any desire to laugh at religion."

When he returned to see Lord Byron, he found him more than ever
preoccupied with his approaching departure for Continental Greece, and
engrossed with a multitude of various occupations and visits. Byron,
nevertheless, received him most graciously, and maintained that jovial
humor which was one of his characteristics in conversation. Byron had
reflected a good deal since his last interview with the doctor, but the
direction which his thoughts had taken was not precisely that which the
doctor had advised him to pursue. They did not agree with the tenets of
the doctor's religion. The latter had not advised an unlimited use of
one's reason, but, on the contrary, had recommended reliance on the
traditional and orthodox teachings of the Church. To reason, however,
constituted in Byron a positive necessity. He could not admit that God
had given us the power of thought not to make use of it, and obliged us
to believe that which in religion, as in other things, appears
ridiculous to our reason and shocks our sense of justice. "It is useless
to tell me," he said, somewhere in his memoranda, "that I am to believe
and not to reason: you might just as well tell a man, 'Wake not, but
sleep.' Then to be threatened with eternal sufferings and torments!--I
can not help thinking that as many devils are created by the threat of
eternal punishment, as numberless criminals are made by the severity of
the penal laws."

Mysteries and dogmas, however, were not objectionable to Byron. This was
shown in his conversation with Kennedy on the subject of the Trinity and
of predestination. However little disposed he may have been to believe
in mysteries, he nevertheless bowed in submission before their
existence, and respected the faith which they inspire in minds more
happily constituted than his own. His partial skepticism, or rather that
in him which has been so denominated, was humble and modest in
comparison to Montaigne's skepticism. Byron admitted that these were
mysteries because the littleness of man and the greatness of God were
ever present to him. He would have agreed with Newton in saying that "he
was like a child playing on the beach with the waves which bathed the
sands. The water with which he played was what he knew; what he ignored
was the widespread ocean before him." Surrounded as we are by mysteries
on all sides, he would have esteemed it presumption on his part to
reject, in the name of science, all the mysteries of religion, when
science itself has only to deal with phenomena. All is necessarily a
mystery in its origin, and not to understand was no sufficient reason in
the eyes of Byron to deny altogether the existence of matters relating
to the Divinity. Could he reject religious dogmas under the pretext of
not being able to understand them, when he admitted others equally
difficult of comprehension, although supported by logical proofs?

Among the mysteries of religion founded entirely upon revelation, there
was one, however, which not only weighed upon his mind, but actually
gave him positive pain. This was the dogma of eternal punishment, which
he could not reconcile with the idea of an omnipotent Creator, as
omnipotence implies perfect goodness and justice, of which the ideal has
been implanted in our hearts. Here again his objections sprang from
kindness of disposition.

After speaking a while on the subject of prayer, Byron said to
Kennedy:--

"There is a book which I must show you," and, having chosen from a
number of books on the table an octavo volume, entitled "Illustrations
of the Moral Government of God, by E. Smith, M.D., London," he showed it
to Kennedy, and asked him whether he knew of it. On Kennedy replying in
the negative, Byron said that the author of the book proved that hell
was not a place of eternal punishment.

"This is no new doctrine," replied Kennedy, "and I presume the author to
be a Socinian, who, if consistent at all with his opinions, will sooner
or later reject the Bible entirely, and avow himself to be what he
really is already, namely, a Deist. Where did your lordship find the
book?"

"It was sent to me from England," replied Byron, "to convert me, I
suppose. The author's arguments are very powerful. They are taken from
the Bible, and, while proving that the day will come when every
intellectual being will enjoy the bliss of eternal happiness, he shows
how impossible is the doctrine which pretends that sin and misery can
exist eternally under the government of a God whose principle attributes
are goodness and love."

"But," said Kennedy, "how does he then explain the existence of sin in
the world for upward of 6000 years? That is equally inconsistent with
the notion of perfect love and goodness as united in God."

"I can not admit the soundness of your argument," replied Byron; "for
God may allow sin and misery to co-exist for a time, but His goodness
must prevail in the end, and cause their existence to cease. At any rate
it is better to believe that the infinite goodness of God, while
allowing evil to exist as a means of our arriving at perfection, will
show itself still greater some day when every intellectual being shall
be purified and freed from the bondage of sin and misery."

As Kennedy persisted in arguing against the author's opinions, Lord
Byron asked him "Why he was so desirous of proving the eternity of hell,
since such a doctrine was most decidedly against the gentle and kind
character of the teaching of Christ?" To other arguments on the same
subject, Byron replied, that he could not determine as to the justice of
their conclusions, but that he could not help thinking it would be very
desirable to show that in the end all created beings must be happy, and
therefore rather agreed with Mr. Smith than with the doctor.

As Lord Byron, however, had always allowed that man was free in thought
and action, and therefore a responsible being made to justify the ends
of Providence, he believed that Providence did give some sanction to the
laws implanted in our natures. Sinners must be punished, but a merciful
God must proportion punishments to the weakness of our natures, and
Byron therefore inclined toward the Catholic belief in Purgatory, which
agreed better with his own appreciation of the goodness and mercy of
God.

Lord Byron's preference for Catholicism is well known. His first
successes of oratory in the House of Lords were due to the cause of
Catholicism in Ireland, which he defended; and when he wished his little
daughter Allegra to be brought up in the Catholic faith, he wrote to Mr.
Hoppner, British consul at Venice, who had always taken a lively
interest in the child, to say that:--

"In the convent of Bagna-Cavallo she will at least have her education
advanced, and her morals and religion cared for.... It is, besides, my
wish that she should be a Roman Catholic, which I look upon as the best
religion, as it is assuredly the oldest of the various branches of
Christianity."

This predilection for Catholicism was not the result of the poetry of
that religion, or of the effect which its pomps and gorgeous ceremonies
produced upon the imagination. They, no doubt, were not indifferent to a
mind so easily impressed as his, but not sufficient to justify his
preference; for Byron, although a poet, never allowed his reason to be
swayed by his imagination. He reasoned upon every subject. His
objections proceeded as much from his mind as his heart. "Catholicism,"
he was wont say, "is the most ancient of worships; and as for our own
heresy, it unquestionably had its origin in vice. With regard to those
difficulties which baffle our understanding, are they more easily
explained by Protestants than by Catholics?

"Catholicism, at least, is a consoling religion, and its belief in
Purgatory conciliates the justice of the Almighty with His goodness. Why
has Protestantism given up so human a belief? To intercede for and do
good to beings whom we have loved here below, is to be not altogether
separated from them."

"I often regretted," he said on one occasion at Pisa, "that I was not
born a Catholic. Purgatory is a consoling doctrine. I am surprised that
the Reformers gave it up, or that they did not at least substitute for
it something equally consoling." "It is," he remarked to Shelley, "a
refinement of the doctrine of transmigration taught by your stupid
philosophers."

It was, therefore, chiefly this doctrine, and his abhorrence of Calvin,
which attracted Byron toward Catholicism. A comparison was made before
him, on one occasion, between Catholicism and Protestantism. "What
matters," said Byron, "that Protestantism has decreased the number of
its obligations, and reduced its articles of faith? Both religions
proceed from the same origin,--authority and examination. It matters
little that the measures of either be different; but why does the
Protestant deny to the Catholic the privilege, which he claims more than
he uses, of free examination? Catholics also claim the right of proving
the soundness of their belief, and, therefore, admit likewise the right
of discussion and examination. As for authority, if the Catholic obeys
the Church and considers it infallible, does not the Protestant do the
same with the Bible? And while recognizing the authority of the Church
on the one hand, on the other he claims a right to free examination,
does he not incur the liability of being thought inconsistent? And,
after all, is not the authority of the Church the better of the two?
There seems to greater peace for the mind who confides in it, than in
the belief in the authority of a book, where one must ever seek the way
to salvation by becoming a theologian, as it were. And is it not fairer
to have certain books, such, for instance, as the 'Apocalypse,'
explained to us by the Church, than to have them expounded by people
more or less well informed or prejudiced?"

Such were Byron's views, if not his very words. Before Byron left for
Greece, Kennedy had several other conversations with him; but as the
limits of this chapter do not allow of my entering into them, I will
merely add that they all prove the great charm of Byron's mind, and the
gentleness of his nature in dealing with persons of contrary opinions to
his own, but who argued honestly and from conviction. So it came about
that, although the most docile of the doctor's pupils, he refused to
change his views concerning eternal punishment. During one of the last
of Kennedy's visits to him, he found several young men with Lord Byron,
and among these M. S----, and M. F----. The former, seated at one corner
of the table, was explaining to Count Gamba certain views which were any
thing but orthodox. Lord Byron turned to the doctor, and said:--

"Have you heard what S---- said? I assure you, he has not made one step
toward conversion; he is worse than I am."

M. F---- having joined in the conversation, and said that there were
many contradictions in the Scriptures, Byron replied:--

"This is saying too much: I am a sufficiently good believer not to
discover any contradictions in the Scriptures which can not, upon
reflection, be explained; what most troubles me is eternal punishment: I
am not prepared to believe in so terrible a dogma, and this is my only
difference with the doctor's views; but he will not allow that I am an
orthodox Christian, unless I agree with him in that matter."

This was said half-seriously, half-jestingly, but in so amiable a
manner, and in a tone which was so free from mockery, that even the
austere doctor was fain to forgive him for entertaining such erroneous
views.

When Byron left for Missolonghi, he carried away with him a real regard
for Kennedy, notwithstanding their differences of opinion. Kennedy, on
the other hand, had conceived for Byron the greatest liking, and,
indeed, shows it in his book. His portrait of Lord Byron is so good,
that we have thought it right to reproduce it, together with his general
impressions in another chapter.

Byron's death plunged Kennedy into the deepest grief; and it was then
that he gathered all his conversations which he had had with Lord Byron
into one volume, which he published. But his friends, or so-called
friends, showed themselves hostile to the publication. Some feared that
he would exaggerate either Lord Byron's faith or want of it, and others,
less disinterested, apprehended the revelation of some of their own
views, which might fail to meet with the approval of the public at home.
When, therefore, Kennedy applied to several of these who were at
Missolonghi to know in what religious frame of mind Byron died, he met
with rebukes of all kinds, and his credit was attacked by articles in
newspapers, endeavoring to show that Byron had all along been laughing
at the doctor. All these attacks might have influenced Kennedy's picture
of Byron, but it will be seen that, with the exception of a few
puritanical touches, the artist's picture is not unworthy of the
original.

In the preface to his book, the doctor, not knowing whether he should
make use of the conversation he had had with Byron to give a greater
interest to his work, the object of which was to be of use to the
public, answers his own objections in the following words:--

"If my doing so would injure his character or fame, there could not be a
moment's hesitation in deciding on the baseness of the measure. But, as
far as I can judge, a true statement of what occurred will place his
lordship's character in a fairer light than he has himself done in many
of his writings, or than can, perhaps, be done by a friendly biographer.
The brightest parts of his life were those which he spent in Cephalonia
and Missolonghi, and the fact of his wishing to hear Christianity
explained by one, simply because he believed him to be sincere,
confessing that he derived no happiness from his unsettled notions on
religion, expressing a desire to be convinced, and his carrying with
him religious books, and promising to give the subject a more attentive
study than he had ever done, will throw a certain lustre over the darker
side of his fame, ... and deprive deists of the right of quoting him as
a cool, deliberate rejecter of Christianity."

To these very significant declarations, coming as they do from so
conscientious a believer as Kennedy, I shall add the testimony of a few
persons who have been conspicuous by their hostility to Byron. Mr. Galt
is one of these, and yet he says:--

"I am persuaded, nevertheless, that to class him among absolute infidels
were to do injustice to his memory, and that he has suffered
uncharitably in the opinion of the 'rigidly righteous,' who, because he
had not attached himself to any particular sect or congregation, assumed
that he was an adversary to religion. To claim for him any credit as a
pious man would be absurd; but, to suppose he had not as deep an
interest as other men 'in his soul's health and welfare,' was to impute
to him a nature which can not exist."

And elsewhere, after showing, first, what Byron did not believe in;
secondly, what he would have liked to believe, but which had not
sufficient grounds to satisfy his reason; thirdly, what he did actually
believe, Mr. Galt adds:--

"Whatever was the degree of Lord Byron's dubiety as to points of faith
and doctrine, he could not be accused of gross ignorance, nor described
as animated by any hostile feeling against religion."

The same biographer says elsewhere:--

"That Byron was deeply imbued with the essence of natural piety; that he
often felt the power and being of a God thrilling in all his frame, and
glowing in his bosom, I declare my thorough persuasion; and that he
believed in some of the tenets and in the philosophy of Christianity, as
they influence the spirit and conduct of men, I am as little disposed to
doubt; especially if those portions of his works which only trench upon
the subject, and which bear the impression of fervor and earnestness,
may be admitted as evidence. But he was not a member of any particular
church."

Medwin, who might be considered to be an authority, before his vanity
was wounded by the publication of writings wherein his good faith was
questioned, and it was shown that Lord Byron had no great esteem for his
talents, says,--

"It is difficult to judge, from the contradictory nature of his
writings, what the religious opinions of Lord Byron were. But on the
whole, if he were occasionally skeptical, yet his wavering never
amounted to a disbelief in the divine Founder of Christianity. 'I always
took great delight,' observed he, 'in the English Cathedral service. It
can not fail to inspire every man who feels at all, with devotion.
Notwithstanding which, Christianity is not the best source of
inspiration for a poet. No poet should be tied down to a direct
profession of faith. Metaphysics open a vast field. Nature and
heterodoxy present to the poet's imagination fertile sources from which
Christianity forbids him to draw;' and he exemplified his meaning by a
review of the works of Tasso and Milton.

"'Here is a little book somebody has sent me about Christianity," he
said to Shelley and me, 'that has made me very uncomfortable. The
reasoning seems to me very strong, the proofs are very staggering. I
don't think you can answer it, Shelley; at least, I am sure I can't,
and, what is more, I don't wish to do so.'"

Speaking of Gibbon, he says,--"L---- B---- thought the question set at
rest in the 'History of the Decline and Fall,' but I am not so easily
convinced. It is not a matter of volition to unbelieve. Who likes to own
that he has been a fool all his life,--to unlearn all that he has been
taught in his youth? Or can think that some of the best men that ever
lived have been fools?" And again,--

"You believe in Plato's three principles, why not in the Trinity? One is
not more mystical than the other. I don't know why I am considered an
enemy to religion, and an unbeliever. I disowned the other day that I
was of Shelley's school in metaphysics, though I admired his poetry."

"Although," says Lord Harrington, "Byron was no Christian, he was a firm
believer in the existence of a God. It is, therefore, equally remote
from truth to represent him as either an atheist or a Christian. He was,
as he has often told me, a confirmed Deist." Further on, the same
writer adds:--

"Byron always maintained that he was a skeptic, but he was not so at
all. During a ride at Cephalonia, which lasted two or three hours almost
without a pause, he began to talk about 'Cain' and his religious
opinions, and he condemned all atheists, and maintained the principles
of Deism." Mr. Finlay, who used to see Lord Byron in Greece, says, in a
letter to his friend Lord Harrington:--

"Lord Byron liked exceedingly to converse upon religious topics, but I
never once heard him openly profess to be a Deist."

These quotations are sufficiently numerous, and all point to the same
conclusion, but I must quote the words of Gamba before I conclude this
subject. He was, as it is known, the great friend of Byron, and alas!
sacrificed his noble self, at the age of twenty-four, to the cause of
Greece. To Kennedy's inquiries respecting Lord Byron's religious
tendencies at Missolonghi, P. Gamba replied as follows:--

"My belief is that his religious opinions were not fixed. I mean, that
he was not more inclined toward one than toward another of the Christian
sects; but that his feelings were thoroughly religious, and that he
entertained the highest respect for the doctrines of Christ, which he
considered to be the source of virtue and of goodness. As for the
incomprehensible mysteries of religion, his mind floated in doubts which
he wished most earnestly to dispel, as they oppressed him, and that is
why he never avoided a conversation on the subject, as you are well
aware.

"I have often had an opportunity of observing him at times when the soul
involuntarily expresses its most sincere convictions; in the midst of
dangers, both at sea and on land; in the quiet contemplation of a calm
and beautiful night, in the deepest solitude, etc.; and I remarked that
his thoughts always were imbued with a religious sentiment. The first
time I ever had a conversation with him on that subject was at Ravenna,
my native place, a little more than four years ago. We were riding
together in a pine wood, on a beautiful spring day, and all was
conducive to religious meditation. 'How,' said he 'raising our eyes to
heaven, or directing them to the earth, can we doubt of the existence
of God? Or how, turning them inward, can we doubt that there is
something within us more noble and more durable than the clay of which
we are formed? Those who do not hear, or are unwilling to listen to
those feelings, must necessarily be of a vile nature.' I answered him
with all those reasons which the superficial philosophy of Helvetius,
his disciples and his masters, have taught. He replied with very strong
arguments and profound eloquence, and I perceived that obstinate
contradiction on this subject, forcing him to reason upon it, gave him
pain. This discourse made a deep impression on me.

"Many times, and in various circumstances, I have heard him confirm the
same sentiments, and he always seemed to me to be deeply convinced of
their truth. Last year, at Genoa, when we were preparing for our journey
to Greece, he used to converse with me alone for two or three hours
every evening, seated on the terrace of his palace in Albano, in the
fine evenings of spring, whence there opened a magnificent view of that
superb city and the adjoining sea. Our conversation turned almost always
on Greece, for which we were so soon to depart, or on religious
subjects. In various ways I heard him confirm the sentiments which I
have already mentioned to you. 'Why, then,' said I to him, 'have you
earned for yourself the name of impious, and enemy of all religious
belief, from your writings?' He answered, 'They are not understood, and
are wrongly interpreted by the malevolent. My object is only to combat
hypocrisy, which I abhor in every thing, and particularly in religion,
and which now unfortunately appears to me to be prevalent, ... and for
this alone do those to whom you allude wish to render me odious, and
make me out to be an impious person, and a monster of incredulity.'

"For the Bible he had always a particular respect. It was his custom to
have it always on his study table, particularly during these last
months; and you well know how familiar it was to him, since he sometimes
knew how to correct your inaccurate citations.

"Fletcher may have informed you about his happy state of mind in his
last moments. He often repeated subjects from the Testament, and when,
in his last moments, he had in vain attempted to make known his wishes
with respect to his daughter, and others most dear to him in life, and
when, on account of the wanderings of his mind, he could not succeed in
making himself understood, Fletcher answered him, 'Nothing is nearer my
heart than to execute your wishes; but, unfortunately, I have scarcely
been able to comprehend half of them.' 'Is it possible?' he replied.
'Alas! it is too late. How unfortunate! Not my will, but the will of God
be done.' There remained to him only a few intervals of reason and
interruptions of delirium, the effect of determination of blood to the
head.

"He often expressed to me the contempt which he felt for those called
_esprits forts_ (a set of ignorant egotists, incapable of any generous
action, and hypocrites themselves), in their affected contempt of every
faith.

"He professed a complete toleration, and a particular respect for every
sincere conviction. He would have deemed it an unpardonable crime to
detach any one persuaded of the truth from his belief, although it might
be tinctured with absurdity, because he believed it could lead to no
other end than to render him an infidel."

After so many proofs of Byron's religious tendencies, is it not right to
ask, What was that skepticism of which so much has been said that it has
been almost received as a fact by the world generally? Did he not
believe in the necessity of religion? In a God, Creator of all things?
In the spirituality, and therefore immortality, of the soul? In our
liberty of action, and our moral responsibility? We have seen what
others have said on each of these subjects; let us now see what he said
himself upon the subject. But some will object, "Are you going to judge
of his views from his poetry? Can one attach much importance to opinions
expressed in verse? Do not poets often say that which they do not think,
but which genius inspires them to write? Are such dictates to be
considered as their own views?" Such objections may be valid, and we
shall so far respect them, therefore, as to dismiss Lord Byron's poetry,
and treat only of that which he has written in prose: we will not
consider him when under the influence of inspiration and of genius, but
when given up entirely to the silent examination of his conscience. What
did his thorough good sense tell him about religion in general? The
following note, in which he repels the stupid and wicked attacks of
Southey, who called him a skeptic, will prove it:--

"One mode of worship yields to another, but there never will be a
country without a worship of some sort. Some will instance France; but
the Parisians alone, and a fanatical faction of them, maintained for a
short time the absurd dogma of theophilanthropy. If the English Church
is upset, it will be by the hands of its own sectaries, not by those of
skeptics. People are too wise, too well informed, to submit to an
impious unbelief. There may exist a few speculators without faith; but
they are small in numbers, and their opinions, being without enthusiasm
or appeal to the passions, can not make proselytes unless they are
persecuted, that being the only means of augmenting any sects."

"'I am always,' he writes in his memorandum, 'most religious upon a
sunshiny day, as if there were some association, some internal approach
to greater light and purity and the kindler of this dark lantern of our
existence.

"'The night had also a religious influence, and even more so when I
viewed the moon and stars through Herschel's telescope, and saw that
they were worlds.'"

And what thought Byron of the existence of God? "Supposing even," he
says, "that man existed before God, even his higher pre-Adamite
supposititious creation must have had an origin and a creator, for a
creation is a more natural imagination than a fortuitous concourse of
atoms; all things remount to a fountain, though they may flow to an
ocean.

"If, according to some speculations, you could prove the world many
thousand years older than the Mosaic chronology, or if you could get rid
of Adam and Eve, and the apple, and serpent, still what is to be set up
in their stead? or how is the difficulty removed? Things must have had a
beginning, and what matters it when or how?"

If Byron did not question the existence of God, did he doubt the
spirituality and immortality of the soul? Here are some of his
answers:--

"What is poetry?" he asked himself in his memorandum, and he
replied--"The feeling of a former world and future." And further, in the
same memorandum:--

"Of the immortality of the soul, it appears to me that there can be
little doubt, if we attend to the action of the mind for a moment: it is
in perpetual activity. I used to doubt it, but reflection has taught me
better. The stoics Epictetus and Aurelius call the present state 'a soul
which draws a carcass'--a heavy chain, to be sure, but all chains, being
material, may be shaken off. How far our future life will be individual,
or, rather, how far it will at all resemble our present existence, is
another question; but that the mind is eternal, seems as probable as
that the body is not so. Of course, I here venture upon the question
without recurring to revelation, which, however, is at least as rational
a solution of it as any other. A material resurrection seems strange and
even absurd, except for purposes of punishment: and all punishment which
is to revenge, rather than correct, must be morally wrong: and when the
world is at an end, what moral or warning purpose can eternal tortures
answer? Human passions have probably disfigured the Divine doctrines
here; but the whole thing is inscrutable."

And again:--

"I have often been inclined to materialism in philosophy; but could
never bear its introduction into Christianity, which appears to me
essentially founded upon the soul. For this reason, Priestley's
'Christian Materialism' always struck me as deadly. Believe the
resurrection of the body, if you will, but not without a soul. The deuce
is in it, if after having had a soul (as, surely, the mind, or whatever
you call it, is) in this world, we must part with it in the next, even
for an immortal materiality; and I own my partiality for spirit."

It has already been seen that, in his early youth, he was intimately
convinced of the immortality of his soul, by the fact of the existence
of his conscience. But it is equally proved that, as his soul became
more perfect, and rose more and more toward all that is great and
virtuous, his conviction of the immortality of the soul became still
more certain.

The beautiful words which he addressed to Mr. Parry, a few hours before
his agony, confirm our assertions:--

"Eternity and space are before me; but on this subject, thank God, I am
happy and at ease. The thought of living eternally, of again reviving,
is a great pleasure. Christianity is the purest and most liberal
religion in the world; but the numerous teachers who are continually
worrying mankind with their denunciations and their doctrines, are the
greatest enemies of religion. I have read, with more attention than half
of them, the Book of Christianity, and I admire the liberal and truly
charitable principles which Christ has laid down. There are questions
connected with this subject, which none but Almighty God can solve. Time
and space, who can conceive? None but God: on Him I rely."

If he neither questioned the existence of God nor the spirituality and
immortality of the soul, did he question our liberty of thought, and
hence our moral responsibility?

To put such a question, is to misunderstand Byron completely. Who, more
than Byron, ever believed in our right of judgment, and proclaimed that
right more strenuously than he has, in prose and in verse? Let any one
who has read "Manfred," say whether a poet ever developed such Christian
and philosophical views with greater energy and power.

Did Lord Byron really question, in his poems, the infinite goodness of
God, as he has been accused of doing? Did his doubts and perplexities of
mind, caused by the terrible knowledge of the existence of evil, ever go
beyond the limits of the doubts which beset the minds of intellectual
men, when the light of faith fails to aid them in their philosophical
researches after truth?

When he published his drama, "Cain, a Mystery," he was attacked by
enemies in the most violent manner. They selected the arguments put into
the mouth of Lucifer, and their influence upon Cain, to prove that this
biblical poem was a blasphemous composition, and that its author was
consequently deserving of being outlawed, as having attempted to
question the supreme wisdom of God. But most certainly Lucifer speaks in
the poem as Lucifer should speak, unless, indeed, the Evil Spirit ought
to speak as a theologian, and the first assassin as a meek orthodox
Christian? Byron gave them each the language logically most suited to
their respective characters, as Milton did, without, however, incurring
the accusation of impiety. It was argued that Byron ought, at least, to
have introduced some one charged with the defense of the right
doctrines. But was not the drama entitled a Mystery, and was not the
title to be justified, as it were? Could he have done otherwise, even if
he had wished it ever so much? What could Adam, or even God's angel, do
better than remain silent in presence of the mental agony of Cain, and
only advise his bowing to the incomprehensibility of the mystery? Again,
if discussion was fruitful of results with Abel, must it be the same
with Cain? Was Lord Byron to turn both these personages into
theologians, ready to discuss any and every metaphysical question, and
to explain the origin and effects of evil? Had they done so, it is not
very likely they would have succeeded in persuading Cain of the solidity
of their argument, or in dispelling the clouds which obscured his mind,
and both calm his despair and satisfy so inquisitive a nature,
influenced and mastered, as it was, by evil passions. If Lord Byron
thought he could explain the existence of evil, he would not have
entitled his poem "a Mystery." But, above all, Lord Byron did not wish
to outstep the limits of reason to prove still more how powerless is
reason, alone and unaided, in its endeavors to conciliate contradictory
attributes. The drama was called a Mystery, and Byron wished it to
remain such.

Were some of his biographers right in asserting that he had adopted
Cuvier's system? But Cuvier never denied the existence of the Creator,
as Moore seems to believe. On the contrary, he endeavored to show, even
more forcibly, the admirable work of the Creation, in order to bring out
still more in relief the perfection of its Creator.

In the end, however, Byron ceased to think the existence of evil to be
so great an injustice to the infinite goodness of God, and expressed in
his memorandum the opinion "that history and experience show that good
and evil are counterbalanced on earth."

"Were I to begin life again," he said, in the same memorandum, "I don't
think I would change any thing in mine." A proof that, without
understanding why or wherefore, he felt our life on earth to be but the
beginning of one which is to be continued in another sphere, under the
rule of Him whose gentle hand can be traced in all things created. For
the same reason he was reconciled to the injustice of mankind, believing
this life to be a trial, and bearing it with noble courage and
fortitude. This mental resignation, however, did not prevent his
suffering bitterly in a moral sense. All pleasure became a pain to him
at the sight of the sufferings of others. He declared on one occasion,
at Cephalonia, that if every body was to be damned, and he alone to be
saved, he would prefer being damned with the rest. This excess of
generosity may have appeared eccentric, but can scarcely seem too
exaggerated to those who knew him. Certain it is, that to witness the
sufferings of others with resignation, appeared to him to be egotism,
and to evince a coldheartedness, which would have been unpardonable in
his eyes. Sometimes even the energy of his writings, dictated, as they
were, by his great generosity of heart, appeared as the revolt of a
noble nature against the miseries of humanity.

In such a frame of mind was he when he wrote "Cain," at Ravenna, in the
midst of people who were for the most part unjustly proscribed, and in
the midst of sufferings which he always tried to alleviate.

Did he deserve the appellation of skeptic, because he despised that vain
philosophy which believes it can explain all things, even God's nature
itself, by the sole force of reason? or because, while respecting the
dogmas proclaimed by our reason and our conscience, he preferred to
follow the principles of a philosophy that argues with diffidence, and
humbly owns its inability to explain all things, and which caused him to
exclaim in "Don Juan"--

  "For me, I know naught; nothing I deny,
     Admit, reject, contemn: and what know you,
  Except, perhaps, that you were born to die?"

But to whom were these lines addressed? To those metaphysicians, of
course, whom he would also have denominated "men who know nothing, but
who, among the truths which they ignore, ignore their own ignorance
most,"--to those arrogant minds who wish to fathom even the ways which
God has kept back from us, and who, in seeking to know the wherefore of
all things in creation, are forced to give the name of explanation to
mere comparisons.

Byron says, in "Don Juan,"--

    "Explain me your explanation."

He addressed himself finally, to all hypocrites and intolerant men;
Byron has been called a skeptic, notwithstanding.

That a sincere and orthodox Catholic, who holds that the negation of a
dogma constitutes skepticism, should have called Byron a skeptic because
he questioned the doctrine of eternal punishment, is not to be wondered
at; but what is matter of astonishment is, that the reproach was
addressed to him by the writer of "Faust," and by the writer of
"Elvire," and the "Meditations." Yet it is so; and if this psychological
problem is not yet solved, let others do it,--we can not.

To sum up, we may declare, from what we have said, that as regards Lord
Byron there has been a confusion of words, and that his skepticism has
merely been a natural and inevitable situation in which certain minds
who, as it were, are the victims of their own contradictory thoughts,
are placed, notwithstanding their wish to believe. Faith, being a part
of poetical feeling, could not but form a part likewise of Byron's
nature, but there existed also in him a great tendency to weigh the
merits of the opinions of others, and consequently the desire not to
arrive too hastily at conclusions.

This combination of instinctive faith and a philosophical mind could not
produce in him the belief in those things which did not appear to him to
have been first submitted to the test of argument, and proved to be just
by the convictions resulting from the test of reasoning to which they
had been subjected. It produced, on the contrary, a species of expectant
doubt, a state of mind awaiting some decisive explanation, to reject
error and embrace the truth. His skepticism, therefore, may be said to
have been the result of thought, not of passion.

In religion, however, it must be allowed that his skepticism never went
so far as to cause him to deny its fundamental doctrines. These he
proclaimed from heartfelt convictions, and his modest, humble, and manly
skepticism may be said to have been that of great minds, and his
failings, also, theirs. Is a day said to be stormy because a few clouds
have obscured the rays of the sun?

Is it necessary to say any thing about what he doubted? In showing what
he believed, the exception will be found unnecessary. He believed in a
Creator, in a spiritual and consequently immortal soul, but which God
can reduce to nothing, as He created it out of nothing. He believed in
liberty of thought, in our responsibility, our privileges, our duties,
and especially in the obligation of practicing the great precept which
constitutes Christianity; namely, that of charity and devotion toward
our neighbor, even to the sacrifice of our existence for his sake. He
believed in every virtue, but his experience forbade his according faith
to appearances, and trusting in fine phrases. He often found it wise and
prudent to scrutinize the idol he was called upon to worship, but when
once that idol had borne the test of scrutiny no worship was so sincere.

"Was he orthodox?" will again be asked. To such a question it may be
justly answered, that if he did not entertain for all the doctrines
revealed by the Scriptures that faith which he was called upon to
possess, it was not for want of desiring so powerful an auxiliary to his
reason. He felt that, however strong reason might be, it always retains
a little wavering and anxious character; and, though essentially
religious at heart, he could not master that blind faith required in
matters which baffle the efforts of reason to prove their truth
logically and definitively. This is to be accounted for by the conflict
of his conscience and his philosophical turn of mind. Conviction, for
him, was a difficult thing to attain. Hence for him the difficulty of
saying "I believe," and hence the accusation of skepticism to which he
became liable. He wanted proofs of a decisive character, and his doubts
belonged to that school which made Bacon confess that a philosopher who
can doubt, knows more than all the wise men together. Byron would never
have contested absolutely the truth of any mystery, but have merely
stated that, as long as the testimonies of its truth were hidden in
obscurity, such a mystery must be liable to be questioned. He was wont
to add, however, that the mysteries of religion did not appear to him
less comprehensible than those of science and of reason.

As for miracles, how could he think them absurd and impossible, since he
admitted the omnipotence of God? His mind was far too just not to
understand that miracles surround us, even from the first origin of our
race. He often asked himself, whether the first man could ever have been
created a child? "Reason," says a great Christian philosopher, "does not
require the aid of the Book of Genesis to believe in that miracle."

One evening at Pisa, in the drawing-room of the Countess G----, where
Byron was wont to spend all his evenings, a great discussion arose
respecting a certain miracle which was said to have taken place at
Lucca.

The miracle had been accompanied by several rather ludicrous
circumstances, and of course laughter was not spared. Shelley, who never
lost sight of his philosopher, treated miracles as deplorable
superstitions. Lord Byron laughed at the absurdity of the history told,
without any malice however. Madame G---- alone did not laugh. "Do you,
then, believe in that miracle?" asked Byron. "I do not say I exactly
believe in that miracle," she replied; "but I believe in miracles, since
I believe in God and in His omnipotence; nor could I believe that God
can be deprived of His liberty, when I feel that I have mine. Were I no
longer to believe in miracles, it seems to me I should no longer believe
in God, and that I should lose my faith."

Lord Byron stopped joking, and said--

"Well, after all, the philosophy of common sense is the truest and the
best."

The conversation continued, in the jesting tone in which it had begun,
and M. M----, an _esprit fort_, went so far as to condemn the
supernatural in the name of the general and permanent laws which govern
nature, and to look upon miracles as the legends of a by-gone age, and
as errors which affect the ignorant. From what had gone before, he
probably fancied that Byron was going to join issue with him. But there
was often a wide gulf between the intimate thoughts of Byron and his
expressions of them.

"We allow ourselves too often," he said, "to give way to a jocular mood,
and to laugh at everything, probably because God has granted us this
faculty to compensate for the difficulty which we find in believing, in
the same manner as playthings are given to children. But I really do not
see why God should be obliged to preserve in the universe the same
order which He once established. To whom did He promise that He would
never change it, either wholly or in part? Who knows whether some day He
will not give the moon an oval or a square shape instead of a round
one?"

This he said smiling, but added immediately after, in a serious tone:--

"Those who believe in a God, Creator of the universe, can not refuse
their belief in the possibility of miracles, for they behold in God the
first of all miracles."

Finally, Lord Byron determined himself the limits of what he deemed his
necessary belief; and remained throughout life a stanch supporter of
those opinions, but he never ceased to evince a tendency to steer clear
of intolerance, which according to him only brought one back to total
unbelief.

Let us not omit to add that, as he grew older, he saw better the
arrogant weakness of those who screen themselves under the cover of
science, and recognized more clearly each day the hand of the Creator in
the works of nature.

"Did Lord Byron pray?" is another objection which will be made.

We have already seen what he thought of prayer; we have shown that his
poems often took the form of a prayer, and we have read with admiration
various passages containing some most sublime lines which completely
answer those who accused him of want of religion, while they exhibit the
expansion of his soul toward God.

We also know with what feelings of respect he approached places devoted
to a religious life, and what charms he found in the ceremonies of the
Church. All this is proof enough, it would seem; but, in any case, we
must add that if his prayers were not those advised by Kennedy, they
were at least the prayers of a great soul which soars upward to bow
before its Creator. "Outward ceremonies," says Fénélon, "are only tokens
of that essential point, the religion of the soul, and Byron's prayer
was rather a thanksgiving than a request."--"In the eyes of God," says
some one, "a good action is worth more than a prayer."

Such was his mode of communing with God even in his early youth, but
especially in his last moments, which were so sublime. Can one doubt,
that at that solemn moment his greatest desire was to be allowed to
live? He had still to reap all the fruits of his sacrifices. His harvest
was only just beginning to ripen. By dint of heroism, he was at last
becoming known. He was young, scarcely thirty-six years of age,
handsome, rich. Rank and genius were his. He was beloved by many,
notwithstanding a host of jealous rivals; and yet, on the point of
losing all these advantages, what was his prayer? Was it egotistical or
presumptuous? was it to solicit a miracle in his favor? No, his last
words were those of noble resignation. "Let Thy holy will, my God, be
done, and not mine!" and then absorbed, as it were, in the infinity of
God's goodness, and, confiding entirely in God's mercy, he begged that
he might be left alone to sleep quietly and peacefully into eternity. On
the very day which brought to us the hope of our immortality, he would
awake in the bosom of God.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 17: Sympathy.]

[Footnote 18: The Rev. Mr. Hodgson and the Rev. Mr. Harness.]

[Footnote 19: Article on his Life in Italy and at Pisa.]



CHAPTER V.

CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH OF LORD BYRON.


All Byron's biographers (at least all those who knew him) have borne
testimony to his great goodness, but they have not dwelt sufficiently
upon this principal feature in his character. Biographers generally wish
to produce an effect. But goodness is not a sufficiently noticeable
quality to be dilated upon; it would not repay ambition or curiosity. It
is a quality mostly attributed to the saints, and a biographer prefers
dilating upon the defects of his hero, upon some adventure or
scandal--means by which it is easy, with a spark of cleverness, to make
a monster of a saint: for, alas! the most rooted convictions are often
sacrificed for the sake of amusing a reader who is difficult to please,
and of satisfying an editor.

Lord Byron's goodness, however, was so exceptional, and contrasted so
strongly with the qualities attributed to him by those who only knew him
by repute, that, in making an exception of him, astonishment, at the
very least, might have been the result. If we look at him
conscientiously in every act of his life, in his letters, and in his
poetry, we must sympathize particularly with him. We find that his
goodness shines as prominently as does his genius, and we feel that it
can bear any test at any epoch of, alas! his too short existence. As,
however, I do not purpose here to write his biography, I shall confine
myself merely to a few instances, and will give only a few proofs taken
from his early life. To no one can the words of Alfieri be better
applied than to Byron:--"He is the continuation of the child"--an idea
which has been expressed even more elegantly of late by Disraeli, in his
"Literary Characters:"--

"As the sun is seen best at its rising and its setting, so men's native
dispositions are clearly perceived while they are children, and when
they are dying."

LORD BYRON'S CHILDHOOD.

Of those who have written Byron's life, the best disposed among them
have not sufficiently noticed his admirable perfection of character when
a child, as revealed to us by sundry anecdotes and by his own poems,
entitled "Hours of Idleness:"--

"There was in his disposition," says Moore, "as appears from the
concurrent testimony of nurses, tutors, and all who were employed about
him, a mixture of affectionate sweetness and playfulness, by which it
was impossible not to be attached, and which rendered him then, as in
his riper years, easily manageable by those who loved and understood him
sufficiently to be at once gentle and firm enough for the task. The
female attendant whom he had taken the most fancy to was the youngest of
two sisters, named Mary Gray, and she had succeeded in gaining an
influence over his mind against which he very rarely rebelled."

By an accident which occurred at the time of his birth one of his feet
was twisted out of its natural position, and, to restore the limb to
shape, expedients were used under the direction of the celebrated Dr.
Hunter. Mary Gray, to whom fell the task of putting on the bandages at
bed-time, used to sing him to sleep, or tell him Scotch ballads and
legends, in which he delighted, or teach him psalms, and thus lighten
his pain. Mary Gray was a very pious woman, and she unquestionably
inspired Byron with that love of the Scriptures which he preserved to
his last day. She only parted from Byron when he was placed at school at
Dulwich, in 1800. The child loved her as she loved him. He gave her his
watch, and, later, sent her his portrait. Both these treasures were
given to Dr. Ewing (an enthusiast of Byron, who had collected the dying
words of Mary Gray, which were all for the child she had nursed), by her
grateful husband.

The same gratitude was shown by Byron to Mary Gray's sister, who had
been his first nursery governess. He wrote to her after he had left
Scotland, to ask news of her, and to announce with delight that he could
now put on an ordinary shoe--an event, he said, which he had greatly
looked forward to, and which he was sure it would give her pleasure to
hear.

Before going to school at Aberdeen, Byron had two tutors, Ross and
Paterson, both young, intelligent, and amiable ecclesiastics, for whom
he always entertained a pleasing and affectionate remembrance.

At seven years of age he went to the Aberdeen Grammar School, and the
general impression which he left there, as evinced by the testimony of
several of his colleagues who are still living, was, says Moore, "that
he was quick, courageous, passionate, to a remarkable degree venturous
and fearless, but affectionate and companionable.

"He was most anxious to distinguish himself among his school-fellows by
prowess in all sports and exercises, but, though quick when he could be
persuaded to attend, he was in general very low in his class, nor seemed
ambitious of being promoted higher."

The anecdotes told of him at this time all prove his fine nature, and
show the goodness and greatness of soul which characterized him up to
his last day.

All the qualities which are to shine in the man will be found already
marked in the child. On one occasion he was taken to see a piece at the
Edinburgh theatre, in which one of the actors pretends that the moon is
the sun. The child, notwithstanding his timidity, was shocked by this
insult to his understanding, rose from his seat, and cried out, "I
assure you, my dear sir, that it is the moon." Here, again, we can trace
that love of truth which in after life made him so courageous in its
proclamation at any cost.

When, at Aberdeen, he was, on one occasion, styled Dominus Byron in the
school-room, by way of announcing to him his accession to the title, the
child began to cry. Can not these tears be explained by the mixture of
pleasure and pain which he must have felt at that moment--pleasure at
becoming a peer, and distress at not being able to share this pleasure
with his comrades? Are they not a prelude of the sacrifice of himself
which he afterward made by actually placing himself in the wrong, in
order that at the time of his greatest triumph his rivals might not be
too jealous of him?

On one occasion, as he was riding with a friend, they arrived at the
bridge of Balgounie, on the river Dee, and, remembering suddenly the old
ballad which threatens with death the man who passes the bridge first
on a pony, Byron stopped his comrade, and requested to be allowed to
pass first; because if the ballad said true, and that one of them must
die, it was better, said he, that it should be him, rather than his
friend, because he had only a mother to mourn his loss, whereas his
friend had a father and a mother, and the pain of his death would fall
upon two persons instead of upon one. Another illustration of that
heroic generosity of character of which Byron's life offers so many
instances.

On another occasion he saw a poor woman coming out of a bookseller's
shop, distressed and mortified at not having enough to buy herself the
Bible she wanted. The child ran after her, brought her back, made her a
present of the desired book, and, in doing so, obeyed that same craving
of the heart to do good which placed him all his life at the service of
others. These instances will suffice at present.

On his accession to the title, as heir to his great uncle, he left
Scotland, and was taken to see Newstead Abbey, his future residence. He
spent the winter at Nottingham, the most important of the towns round
Newstead. His mother, who was blindly fond of him, could not bear to see
any physical defect in him, however slight. She confided him to a quack
doctor named Lavender, who promised to cure him, while his studies were
continued under the direction of a Mr. Rogers. The treatment which he
had to undergo being both painful and tedious, furnishes us with the
opportunity of admiring his strength of mind. Mr. Rogers, who had
conceived a great liking for the child, noticed on one occasion that he
was suffering. "Pray do not notice it," said Byron, "you will see that I
shall behave in such a way that you will not perceive it."
Notwithstanding his own want of skill, Mr. Lavender might, perhaps, have
cured the child. But Byron, who had no faith in him, always found fault
with every thing he did, and played tricks upon him.

At last his mother agreed with Lord Carlisle, who was his guardian, to
take him to London, to be better educated and taken care of. He was sent
to Mr. Glennie's school at Dulwich, and his foot was to be attended to
by the famous Dr. Baillie. For the first time, then, did Byron leave the
home where he had been rather spoiled than neglected.

Dr. Glennie at once took a great fancy to him, made him sleep in his own
study, and watched with an equal care the progress of his studies and
the cure of his foot. This latter task was no easy one, owing to the
restlessness of the child, who would join in all the gymnastic exercises
suitable to his age, whereas absolute repose was prescribed for him. Dr.
Glennie says, however, that, once back in the study-room, Byron's
docility was equal to his vivacity. He had been instructed according to
the mode of teaching adopted at Aberdeen, and had to retrace his steps,
owing to the difference of teaching prescribed in English schools.

"I found him enter upon his tasks," says Dr. Glennie, "with alacrity and
success. He was playful, good-humored, and beloved by his companions.
His reading in history and poetry was far beyond the usual standard of
his age, and in my study he found, among other works, a set of our
poets--from Chaucer to Churchill--which, I am almost tempted to say, he
had more than once perused from beginning to end. He showed at this age
an intimate acquaintance with the historical parts of the Holy
Scriptures, upon which he seemed delighted to converse with me, and
reasoned upon the facts contained in the sacred volume with every
appearance of belief in the divine truths which they unfold. That the
impressions thus imbibed in his boyhood had, notwithstanding the
irregularities of his after life, sunk deep into his mind, will appear,
I think, to every impartial reader of his works, and I never have been
able to divest myself of the persuasion, that he must have found it
difficult to violate the better principles early instilled into him."

He remained two years with Dr. Glennie, during which time he does not
appear to have made great progress in his studies, owing to the too
frequent amusements procured for him by his over-fond mother. But though
Mr. and Mrs. Glennie saw the child very seldom after he left them, they
always remained much attached to him, and followed his career with much
interest, owing to the fine qualities which they had loved and admired
in him as a child.

At thirteen years old he went to Harrow, the head master of which school
was Dr. Drury, who at once conceived a great fancy for the boy, and
remained attached to him all his life. He thus expresses himself with
regard to Byron:--

"A degree of shyness hung about him for some time. His manner and temper
soon convinced me that he might be led by a silken string, rather than
by a cable. On that principle I acted."

To Lord Carlisle's inquiries about Byron, Drury replied:--"He has
talents, my lord, which will add lustre to his rank."

After having been his master he remained his friend, and shortly before
his death, Byron declared that, of all the masters and friends he ever
had, the best was Dr. Drury, for whom he should entertain as much regard
as he would have done for his own father.

Now that we have passed in review both his tutors and his servants; that
we have seen them all, without exception, beloved by the child as they
loved him, we must take a glance at his college life, and see how he
came to possess such charms of manner and of character. In the youth
will appear those great qualities which began in the child, and will
shine in the man. On one occasion he prevented his comrades from setting
fire to the school, by appealing to their filial love, and pointing to
the names of their parents on the walls which they wished to destroy. He
thus saved the school.

"When Lord Byron and Mr. Peel were at Harrow together," says Moore, "a
tyrant some few years older, whose name was N----, claimed a right to
fag little Peel, which claim Peel resisted. His resistance was vain, and
N---- not only subdued him, but determined also to punish the refractory
slave by inflicting a bastinado on the inner fleshy side of the boy's
right arm. While the stripes were succeeding each other, and poor Peel
was writhing under them, Byron saw and felt for the misery of his
friend; and, although he knew he was not strong enough to fight N----
with any hope of success, and that it was dangerous even to approach
him, he advanced to the scene of action, and, with a flush of rage,
tears in his eyes, and a voice trembling between terror and indignation,
asked very humbly if N---- would be pleased to tell him how many stripes
he meant to inflict? 'Why,' returned the executioner, 'you little
rascal, what is that to you?' 'Because, if you please,' said Byron,
holding out his arm, 'I would take half.' There is a mixture of
simplicity and magnanimity in this little trait which is truly heroic."

At fifteen Byron was still at Harrow. A certain Mr. Peel ordered his
fag, Lord Gort, to make him some toast for tea. The little fag did not
do it well, and as a punishment had a red-hot iron applied to the palm
of his hand. The child cried, and the masters requested that he should
name the author of such cruelty. He did not, however, as the expulsion
of Peel might have resulted from the avowal.

Byron, highly pleased with this courageous act, went up to Lord Gort and
said, "You are a brave fellow, and, if you like it, I shall take you as
my fag, and you will not have to suffer any more ill-treatment."

"I became his fag," says Lord Gort, "and was very fortunate in obtaining
so good a master, and one who constantly gave me presents as he did.

"When he gave dinners he always recommended his fag to partake of all
the delicacies which he had ordered for his guests."

At all times Byron's greatest pleasure was to make people happy, and his
conduct to his fags showed the kind heart with which through life he
acted toward his subordinates.

His favorite fag at Harrow was the Duke of Dorset. How much he loved him
can be seen in the beautiful lines which he addressed to the duke on
leaving Harrow, and which reveal his noble heart:--

  TO THE DUKE OF DORSET.

    Dorset! whose early steps with mine have stray'd,
  Exploring every path of Ida's glade;
  Whom still affection taught me to defend,
  And made me less a tyrant than a friend,
  Though the harsh custom of our youthful band
  Bade _thee_ obey, and gave _me_ to command;
  Thee, on whose head a few short years will shower
  The gift of riches and the pride of power;
  E'en now a name illustrious is thine own,
  Renown'd in rank, nor far beneath the throne.
  Yet, Dorset, let not this seduce thy soul
  To shun fair science, or evade control,
  Though passive tutors, fearful to dispraise
  The titled child, whose future breath may raise,
  View ducal errors with indulgent eyes,
  And wink at faults they tremble to chastise.

    When youthful parasites, who bend the knee
  To wealth, their golden idol, not to thee--
  And even in simple boyhood's opening dawn
  Some slaves are found to flatter and to fawn--
  When those declare, "that pomp alone should wait
  On one by birth predestined to be great;
  That books were only meant for drudging fools,
  That gallant spirits scorn the common rules;"
  Believe them not;--they point the path to shame,
  And seek to blast the honors of thy name.
  Turn to the few in Ida's early throng,
  Whose souls disdain not to condemn the wrong;
  Or if, amid the comrades of thy youth,
  None dare to raise the sterner voice of truth,
  Ask thine own heart; 'twill bid thee, boy, forbear;
  For _well_ I know that virtue lingers there.

    Yes! I have mark'd thee many a passing day,
  But now new scenes invite me far away;
  Yes! I have mark'd within that generous mind
  A soul, if well matured, to bless mankind.
  Ah! though myself by nature haughty, wild,
  Whom Indiscretion hail'd her favorite child;
  Though every error stamps me for her own,
  And dooms my fall, I fain would fall alone;
  Though my proud heart no precept now can tame,
  I love the virtues which I can not claim.

    'Tis not enough, with other sons of power,
  To gleam the lambent meteor of an hour;
  To swell some peerage page in feeble pride,
  With long-drawn names that grace no page beside;
  Then share with titled crowds the common lot--
  In life just gazed at, in the grave forgot;
  While naught divides thee from the vulgar dead,
  Except the dull cold stone that hides thy head,
  The mouldering 'scutcheon, or the herald's roll,
  That well-emblazon'd but neglected scroll,
  Where lords, unhonor'd, in the tomb may find
  One spot, to leave a worthless name behind.
  There sleep, unnoticed as the gloomy vaults
  That veil their dust, their follies, and their faults,
  A race, with old armorial lists o'erspread,
  In records destined never to be read.
  Fain would I view thee, with prophetic eyes,
  Exalted more among the good and wise,
  A glorious and a long career pursue,
  As first in rank, the first in talent too:
  Spurn every vice, each little meanness shun;
  Not Fortune's minion, but her noblest son.

    Turn to the annals of a former day;
  Bright are the deeds thine earlier sires display.
  One, though a courtier, lived a man of worth,
  And call'd, proud boast! the British drama forth.
  Another view, not less renown'd for wit;
  Alike for courts, and camps, or senates fit;
  Bold in the field, and favor'd by the Nine;
  In every splendid part ordain'd to shine;
  Far, far distinguish'd from the glittering throng,
  The pride of princes, and the boast of song.
  Such were thy fathers, thus preserve their name;
  Not heir to titles only, but to fame.
  The hour draws nigh, a few brief days will close,
  To me, this little scene of joys and woes;
  Each knell of Time now warns me to resign
  Shades where Hope, Peace, and Friendship all were mine:
  Hope, that could vary like the rainbow's hue,
  And gild their pinions as the moments flew;
  Peace, that reflection never frown'd away,
  By dreams of ill to cloud some future day;
  Friendship, whose truth let childhood only tell;
  Alas! they love not long, who love so well.
  To these adieu! nor let me linger o'er
  Scenes hail'd, as exiles hail their native shore,
  Receding slowly through the dark-blue deep,
  Beheld by eyes that mourn, yet can not weep.
  Dorset, farewell! I will not ask one part
  Of sad remembrance in so young a heart;
  The coming morrow from thy youthful mind
  Will sweep my name, nor leave a trace behind.
  And yet, perhaps, in some maturer year,
  Since chance has thrown us in the self-same sphere,
  Since the same Senate, nay, the same debate,
  May one day claim our suffrage for the State,
  We hence may meet, and pass each other by,
  With faint regard, or cold and distant eye.

    For me, in future, neither friend nor foe,
  A stranger to thyself, thy weal or woe,
  With thee no more again I hope to trace
  The recollection of our early race;
  No more, as once, in social hours rejoice,
  Or hear, unless in crowds, thy well-known voice:
  Still, if the wishes of a heart untaught
  To veil those feelings which perchance it ought,
  If these--but let me cease the lengthen'd strain,--
  Oh! if these wishes are not breathed in vain,
  The guardian seraph who directs thy fate
  Will leave thee glorious, as he found thee great.

It was especially at Harrow that Byron contracted those friendships
which were like cravings of his heart, and which, although partaking of
a passionate character, had nevertheless none of the instability which
is the characteristic of passion.

The death of some of his friends, and the coldness of others, caused him
the greatest grief, and broke up the illusions of youth, exchanging
them for that misanthropy discernible in some of his poems, though
contrary to his real character.

For those, on the other hand, who were spared, and remained faithful to
him, Byron preserved through life the warmest affection and the
tenderest regard; the principal feature of his nature being the
unchanging character of his sentiments.

Although he showed at an early age his disposition to a poetical turn of
mind, by the force of his feelings and by his meditative wanderings--in
Scotland among the mountains and on the sea-shore at Cheltenham;--by his
rapturous admiration of the setting sun, as well as by the delight which
he took in the legends told him by his nurses, and the emotions which he
experienced to a degree which made him lose all appetite, all rest, and
all peace of mind; yet no one would have believed at that time that a
gigantic poetical genius lay dormant in so active a nature. Soon,
however, did his soul light up his intelligence, and obliged him to have
recourse to his pen to pour out his feelings. From that moment his
genius spread its roots in his heart, and Harrow became his paradise
owing to the affection which he met with there.

It was at Harrow that he wrote, between his fourteenth and eighteenth
year, the "Hours of Idleness, by a Minor," of which he had printed at
the request of his friends, a few copies for private circulation only.
These modest poems did not, however, escape the brutal attacks of
critics. Mackenzie, however, a man of talent himself, soon discovered
that at the bottom of these poems there lay the roots of a great
poetical genius. The "Hours of Idleness" are a treasure of intellectual
and psychological gleanings. They showed man as God created him, and
before his noble soul, depressed by the insolence of his enemies and the
troubles of life, endeavored to escape the eyes of the world, or at
least of those who could not or would not understand him.

The noblest instincts of human nature shine so conspicuously in the
pages of this little volume, that we thank God that he created such a
noble mind, while we feel indignant toward those who could not
appreciate it. But to understand him better he must reveal himself, and
we shall therefore quote a few of his own sayings as a boy. His first
grief brought forth his first poem. A young cousin of his died, and of
her death he spoke to this effect in his memorandum:--

"My first recourse to poetry was due to my passion for my cousin
Margaret Parker. She was, without doubt, one of the most beautiful and
ethereal beings I ever knew. I have forgotten the lines, but never shall
I forget her. I was twelve years of age, and she was older than myself
by nearly a year. I loved her so passionately, that I could neither
sleep, nor get rest, or eat when thinking of her. She died of
consumption, and it was at Harrow that I heard both of her illness and
of her death."

Then it was that Byron wrote his first elegy, which he characterizes as
"very dull;" but it is interesting as his first poetical essay, and as
the first cry of pain uttered by a child who vents his grief in verse,
and reveals in it the goodness of his heart and the power of his great
mind. On a calm and dark night he goes to her tomb and strews it with
flowers; then, speaking of her virtues, exclaims:--

  "But wherefore weep? Her matchless spirit soars
    Beyond where splendid shines the orb of day;
  And weeping angels lead her to those bowers
    Where endless pleasures virtue's deeds repay.

  "And shall presumptuous mortals Heaven arraign,
    And, madly, godlike Providence accuse?
  Ah, no! far fly from me attempts so vain;--
    I'll ne'er submission to my God refuse.

  "Yet is remembrance of those virtues dear,
    Yet fresh the memory of that beauteous face,
  Still they call forth my warm affection's tear,
    Still in my heart retain their wonted place."

1802.

So beautiful a mind, and one so little understood, reveals itself more
and more in each poem of this first collection; and on this account,
rather than because of its poetical merits, are the "Hours of Idleness"
interesting to the psychological biographer of Byron. "Whoever," says
Sainte-Beuve, "has not watched a youthful talent at its outset, will
never form for himself a perfect and really true appreciation of it."

Moore adds: "It is but justice to remark that the early verses of Lord
Byron give but little promise of those dazzling miracles of poesy with
which he afterward astonished and enchanted the world, however
distinguished they are by tenderness and grace.

"There is, indeed, one point of view in which these productions are
deeply and intrinsically interesting; as faithful reflections of his
character at that period of life, they enable us to judge of what he was
before any influences were brought to bear upon him, and so in them we
find him pictured exactly such as each anecdote of his boyish days
exhibits him--proud, daring, and passionate--resentful of slight or
injustice, but still more so in the cause of others than in his own; and
yet, with all this vehemence, docile and placable at the least touch of
a hand authorized by love to guide him. The affectionateness, indeed, of
his disposition, traceable as it is through every page of this volume,
is yet but faintly done justice to even by himself; his whole youth
being from earliest childhood a series of the most passionate
attachments, of those overflowings of the soul, both in friendship and
love, which are still more rarely responded to than felt, and which,
when checked or sent back upon the heart, are sure to turn into
bitterness."

While his soul expanded with the first rays of love which dawned upon
it, friendship too began to assert its influence over him. But in
continuing to observe in him the effects of incipient love, let us
remark that, while such precocious impressions are only with others the
natural development of physical instincts, they were, in Byron, also,
the expression of a soul that expands, of an amiability, of a tenderness
ever on the increase. Though sensible to physical beauty as he always
was through life, his principal attraction, however, was in that beauty
which expresses the beauty of the soul, without which condition no
physical perfection commanded his attention. We have seen what an
ethereal creature Miss Margaret Parker was. Miss Chaworth succeeded her
in Byron's affections, and was his second, if not third love if we
notice his youthful passion at nine years of age for Mary Duff. But his
third love was the occasion of great pain to him. Miss Chaworth was
heiress to the grounds and property of Annesley, which were in the
immediate neighborhood of Newstead. Notwithstanding, however, the enmity
which had existed between the two families for a long time, on account
of a duel which had resulted in the death of Miss Chaworth's
grandfather, Byron was received most cordially at Annesley. Mrs.
Chaworth thought that a marriage between her daughter and Byron might
perhaps some day efface the memory of the feud that had existed between
their respective families. Byron therefore found his school-boy advances
encouraged by both mother and daughter, and his imagination naturally
was kindled. The result was that Byron fell desperately in love with
Miss Chaworth; but he was only fifteen years old, and yet an awkward
schoolboy, with none of that splendid and attractive beauty for which he
was afterward distinguished. Miss Chaworth was three years older, and
unfortunately her heart was already engaged to the man who, to her
misfortune, she married the year after. She therefore looked upon Byron
as a mere child, as a younger brother, and his love almost amused her.
She, however, not only gave him a ring, her portrait, and some of her
hair, but actually carried on a secret correspondence with him. These
were the faults for which she afterward had to suffer so bitterly. Such
a union, however, with so great a difference of age, would not have been
natural. It could only be a dream; but I shall speak elsewhere[20] of
the nature of this attachment, which had its effect upon Byron, in order
to show the beauty of his soul under another aspect. I can only add here
that he had attributed every virtue to this girl whom he afterward
styled frivolous and deceitful.

On his return to Harrow this love and his passionate friendships divided
his heart. But when the following vacation came, his dream vanished.
Miss Chaworth was engaged to another, and on his return to Harrow he
vainly tried to forget her who had deceived and wounded him. Like other
young men, he devoted his time during the Harrow or Cambridge vacations
to paying his respects and offering his regards to numerous belles,
whose names appear variously in his poems as Emma, Caroline, Helen, and
Mary. Moore believes them to have been imaginary loves. A slight
acquaintance with the liberty enjoyed by young men at English
universities would lead one to believe these loves to have been any
thing but unreal. This can be the more readily believed, as Byron always
sought in reality the objects which he afterward idealized. He always
required some earthly support, though the slightest, as Moore observes,
in speaking of the charming lines with which his love for Miss Chaworth
inspired him, at the time when the recollection of it made him compare
his misfortune in marrying Miss Milbank, with the happier lot which
might have been his had he married Miss Chaworth. Whether these loves
were real or not, however, it must be borne in mind that Byron deemed
all physical beauty to be nothing if unaccompanied by moral beauty.
Thus, in speaking of a vain young girl, he exclaims:--

  "One who is thus from nature vain,
  I pity, but I can not love."

And to Miss N. N----, who was exquisitely beautiful, but in whose eyes
earthly passion shone too powerfully, he says:--

  "Oh, did those eyes, instead of fire,
    With bright but mild affection shine,
  Though they might kindle less desire,
    Love, more than mortal, would be thine.
  For thou art form'd so heavenly fair,
    Howe'er those orbs may wildly beam,
  We must admire, but still despair;
    That fatal glance forbids esteem."

In a letter to Miss Pigott, which he wrote from Cambridge, he says:--

"Saw a girl at St. Mary's the image of Ann----; thought it was her--all
in the wrong--the lady stared, so did I--I blushed, so did _not_ the
lady--sad thing--wish women had more modesty."

On awaking from his dream, and on finding that the jewels with which he
had believed Mary's nature to be adorned were of his own creation, he
sought his consolation in friendship. His heart, which was essentially a
loving one, could not be consoled except by love, and Harrow, to use his
own expressions, became a paradise to him. In tracing the picture of
Tasso's infancy he has drawn a picture of himself:--

                      "From my very birth
  My soul was drunk with love, which did pervade
  And mingle with whate'er I saw on earth
  Of objects all inanimate I made
  Idols, and out of wild and lonely flowers,
  And rocks, whereby they grew, a paradise
  Where I did lay me down within the shade
  Of waving trees, and dreamed uncounted hours,
  Though I was chid for wandering...."

This sentiment of friendship, which is always more powerful in England
than on the Continent, owing to the system of education which takes
children away from their parents at an early age, was keenly developed
in Byron, whose affectionate disposition wanted something to make up for
the privation of a father's and a brother's love. In his pure and
passionate heart friendship and love became mixed: his love partook of
the purity of friendship, and his friendships of all the ardor of love.

But to return to his fourteenth year. While expressing in verse his love
for his cousin, he expressed at the same time in poetry the strong
friendship he had conceived, even before going to Harrow, for a boy who
had been his companion.

This boy, who had a most amiable, good, and virtuous disposition, was
the son of one of his tenants at Newstead. Aristocratic prejudices ran
high in England, and this friendship of Byron for a commoner was sure to
call forth the raillery of some of his companions. Notwithstanding this,
Byron, at twelve years and a half old, replied in these terms to the
mockery of others:--

  To E----.

  Let Folly smile to view the names
    Of thee and me in friendship twined;
  Yet Virtue will have greater claims
    To love, than rank with vice combined.

  And though unequal is thy fate,
    Since title deck'd my higher birth!
  Yet envy not this gaudy state;
    Thine is the pride of modest worth.

  Our souls at least congenial meet,
    Nor can thy lot my rank disgrace;
  Our intercourse is not less sweet,
    Since worth of rank supplies the place.

What noble views in a child of twelve! How well one feels that, whatever
may be his fate, such a nature will never lose its independence, nor
allow prejudice to carry it beyond the limits of honor and of justice,
and that its device will always be, "_Fais ce que dois, advienne que
pourra._" "I do what I ought, come what may."

At thirteen he wrote some lines in which he seemed to have a kind of
presentiment of the glory that awaited him, and, at any rate, in which
he displayed his resolve to deserve it:--

  A FRAGMENT.

  When to their airy hall, my fathers' voice
  Shall call my spirit, joyful in their choice;
  When, poised upon the gale, my form shall ride,
  Or, dark in mist, descend the mountain's side;
  Oh! may my shade behold no sculptured urns
  To mark the spot where earth to earth returns!
  No lengthen'd scroll, no praise-encumber'd stone;
  My epitaph shall be my name alone:
  If _that_ with honor fail to crown my clay,
  Oh! may no other fame my deeds repay!
  _That_, only _that_, shall single out the spot;
  By that remember'd, or with that forgot.

Again, at thirteen, a visit to Newstead inspired him with the following
beautiful lines:--

ON LEAVING NEWSTEAD ABBEY.

     "Why dost thou build the hall, son of the winged days? Thou lookest
     from thy tower to-day; yet a few years, and the blast of the desert
     comes, it howls in thy empty court."--OSSIAN.

  Through thy battlements, Newstead, the hollow winds whistle;
    Thou, the hall of my fathers, art gone to decay:
  In thy once smiling garden, the hemlock and thistle
    Have choked up the rose which late bloom'd in the way.

  Of the mail-cover'd Barons, who proudly to battle
    Led their vassals from Europe to Palestine's plain,
  The escutcheon and shield, which with every blast rattle,
    Are the only sad vestiges now that remain.

  No more doth old Robert, with harp-stringing numbers,
    Raise a flame in the breast for the war-laurell'd wreath;
  Near Askalon's towers John of Horistan slumbers,
    Unnerved is the hand of his minstrel by death.

  Paul and Hubert, too, sleep in the valley of Cressy;
    For the safety of Edward and England they fell:
  My fathers! the tears of your country redress ye;
    How you fought, how you died, still her annals can tell.

  On Marston, with Rupert, 'gainst traitors contending,[21]
    Four brothers enrich'd with their blood the bleak field;
  For the rights of a monarch their country defending,
    Till death their attachment to royalty seal'd.

  Shades of heroes, farewell! your descendant departing
    From the seat of his ancestors, bids you adieu!
  Abroad, or at home, your remembrance imparting
    New courage, he'll think upon glory and you.

  Though a tear dim his eye at this sad separation,
    'Tis nature, not fear, that excites his regret;
  Far distant he goes, with the same emulation,
    The fame of his fathers he ne'er can forget.

  That fame and that memory still will he cherish;
    He vows that he ne'er will disgrace your renown:
  Like you will he live, or like you will he perish:
    When decay'd, may he mingle his dust with your own!

When only fourteen his tenant friend dies, and Byron wrote his epitaph,
in which, even at that early age (thirteen and a half), he particularly
mentions his friend's virtues:--

  EPITAPH ON A FRIEND.

    "[Greek: Astêr prin men elampes eni zôoisin heôos]."--LAERTIUS.

  Oh, Friend! forever loved, forever dear!
  What fruitless tears have bathed thy honor'd bier!
  What sighs re-echo'd to thy parting breath,
  While thou wast struggling in the pangs of death!
  Could tears retard the tyrant in his course;
  Could sighs avert his dart's relentless force;
  Could youth and virtue claim a short delay,
  Or beauty charm the spectre from his prey;
  Thou still hadst lived to bless my aching sight,
  Thy comrade's honor and thy friend's delight.
  If yet thy gentle spirit hover nigh
  The spot where now thy mouldering ashes lie,
  Here wilt thou read, recorded on my heart,
  A grief too deep to trust the sculptor's art.
  No marble marks thy couch of lowly sleep,
  But living statues there are seen to weep;
  Affliction's semblance bends not o'er thy tomb,
  Affliction's self deplores thy youthful doom.
  What though thy sire lament his failing line,
  A father's sorrows can not equal mine!
  Though none, like thee, his dying hour will cheer,
  Yet other offspring soothe his anguish here:
  But who with me shall hold thy former place?
  Thine image, what new friendship can efface?
  Ah, none!--a father's tears will cease to flow,
  Time will assuage an infant brother's woe;
  To all, save one, is consolation known,
  While solitary friendship sighs alone.

Other friends succeeded his earliest one and consoled him for his loss.
At Harrow, those he loved best were Wingfield, Tattersall, Clare,
Delaware, and Long.

His great heart sought to express in verse what it felt for each of
them. But it is observable that what touched him most was the excellence
of the qualities both of the mind and soul of those he loved. To prove
this I shall quote in part a poem which he wrote shortly after leaving
Harrow for Cambridge, entitled "Childish Recollections." After giving a
picture of his life at Harrow in the midst of his companions, and after
describing very freshly and vividly the scene when he was chosen Captain
of the School, he exclaims:--

  "Dear honest race! though now we meet no more,
  One last long look on what we were before--
  Our first kind greetings, and our last adieu--
  Drew tears from eyes unused to weep with you.
  Through splendid circles, fashion's gaudy world,
  Where folly's glaring standard waves unfurl'd,
  I plunged to drown in noise my fond regret,
  And all I sought or hoped was to forget.
  Vain wish! if chance some well-remember'd face,
  Some old companion of my early race,
  Advanced to claim his friend with honest joy,
  My eyes, my heart, proclaim'd me still a boy;
  The glittering scene, the fluttering groups around,
  Were quite forgotten when my friend was found;
  The smiles of beauty--(for, alas! I've known
  What 'tis to bend before Love's mighty throne)--
  The smiles of beauty, though those smiles were dear,
  Could hardly charm me, when that friend was near;
  My thoughts bewilder'd in the fond surprise,
  The woods of Ida danced before my eyes;
  I saw the sprightly wand'rers pour along,
  I saw and join'd again the joyous throng;
  Panting, again I traced her lofty grove,
  And friendship's feelings triumph'd over love."

After deploring his fate:--

  "Stern Death forbade my orphan youth to share
  The tender guidance of a father's care.
   *     *     *     *     *     *     *
  "What brother springs a brother's love to seek?
  What sister's gentle kiss has prest my cheek?
   *     *     *     *     *     *     *
  "Thus must I cling to some endearing hand,
  And none more dear than Ida's social band:"--

he goes on to name his dearest comrades, giving them each a fictitious
name. Alonzo is Wingfield; Davus, Tattersall; Lycus, Lord Clare:
Euryalus, Lord Delaware; and Cleon, Long:--

    "Alonzo! best and dearest of my friends,
  Thy name ennobles him who thus commends:
  From this fond tribute thou canst gain no praise:
  The praise is his who now that tribute pays.
  Oh! in the promise of thy early youth,
  If hope anticipate the words of truth,
  Some loftier bard shall sing thy glorious name,
  To build his own upon thy deathless fame.
  Friend of my heart, and foremost of the list
  Of those with whom I lived supremely blest,
  Oft have we drain'd the font of ancient lore;
  Though drinking deeply, thirsting still the more.
  Yet, when confinement's lingering hour was done,
  Our sports, our studies, and our souls were one:
  Together we impell'd the flying ball;
  Together waited in our tutor's hall;
  Together join'd in cricket's manly toil,
  Or shared the produce of the river's spoil;
  Or, plunging from the green declining shore,
  Our pliant limbs the buoyant billows bore;
  In every element, unchanged, the same,
  All, all that brother's should be, but the name.

    Nor yet are you forgot, my jocund boy!
  Davus, the harbinger of childish joy;
  Forever foremost in the ranks of fun,
  The laughing herald of the harmless pun;
  Yet with a breast of such materials made--
  Anxious to please, of pleasing half afraid;
  Candid and liberal, with a heart of steel
  In danger's path, though not untaught to feel.
  Still I remember, in the factious strife,
  The rustic's musket aim'd against my life:
  High poised in air the massy weapon hung,
  A cry of horror burst from every tongue;
  While I, in combat with another foe,
  Fought on, unconscious of th' impending blow;
  Your arm, brave boy, arrested his career--
  Forward you sprung, insensible to fear;
  Disarm'd and baffled by your conquering hand,
  The grovelling savage roll'd upon the sand:
  An act like this, can simple thanks repay?
  Or all the labors of a grateful lay?
  Oh no! whene'er my breast forgets the deed,
  That instant, Davus, it deserves to bleed.

    "Lycus! on me thy claims are justly great:
  Thy milder virtues could my muse relate,
  To thee alone, unrivall'd, would belong
  The feeble efforts of my lengthen'd song.
  Well canst thou boast, to lead in senates fit,
  A Spartan firmness with Athenian wit:
  Though yet in embryo these perfections shine,
  Lycus! thy father's fame will soon be thine.
  Where learning nurtures the superior mind,
  What may we hope from genius thus refin'd!
  When time at length matures thy growing years,
  How wilt thou tower above thy fellow-peers!
  Prudence and sense, a spirit bold and free,
  With honor's soul, united, beam in thee.

    "Shall fair Euryalus pass by unsung?
  From ancient lineage, not unworthy sprung:
  What though one sad dissension bade us part?
  That name is yet embalm'd within my heart;
  Yet at the mention does that heart rebound,
  And palpitate, responsive to the sound.
  Envy dissolved our ties, and not our will:
  We once were friends,--I'll think we are so still,
  A form unmatch'd in nature's partial mould,
  A heart untainted, we in thee behold:
  Yet not the senate's thunder thou shalt wield,
  Nor seek for glory in the tented field;
  To minds of ruder texture these be given--
  Thy soul shall nearer soar its native heaven.
  Haply, in polish'd courts might be thy seat,
  But that thy tongue could never forge deceit:
  The courtier's supple bow and sneering smile,
  The flow of compliment, the slippery wile.
  Would make that breast with indignation burn,
  And all the glittering snares to tempt thee spurn.
  Domestic happiness will stamp thy fate;
  Sacred to love, unclouded e'er by hate;
  The world admire thee, and thy friends adore;
  Ambition's slave alone would toil for more.

    "Now last, but nearest, of the social band,
  See honest, open, generous Cleon stand;
  With scarce one speck to cloud the pleasing scene,
  No vice degrades that purest soul serene.
  On the same day our studious race begun,
  On the same day our studious race was run;
  Thus side by side we pass'd our first career,
  Thus side by side we strove for many a year;
  At last concluded our scholastic life,
  We neither conquer'd in the classic strife:
  As speakers, each supports an equal name,[22]
  And crowds allow to both a partial fame:
  To soothe a youthful rival's early pride,
  Though Cleon's candor would the palm divide,
  Yet candor's self compels me now to own
  Justice awards it to my friend alone.

    "Oh! friends regretted, scenes forever dear,
  Remembrance hails you with her warmest tear!
  Drooping, she bends o'er pensive Fancy's urn,
  To trace the hours which never can return;
  Yet with the retrospection loves to dwell,
  And soothe the sorrows of her last farewell!
  Yet greets the triumph of my boyish mind,
  As infant laurels round my head were twined,
  When Probus' praise repaid my lyric song,
  Or placed me higher in the studious throng;
  Or when my first harangue received applause,
  His sage instruction the primeval cause,
  What gratitude to him my soul possest,
  While hope of dawning honors fill'd my breast!
  For all my humble fame, to him alone
  The praise is due, who made that fame my own.
  Oh! could I soar above these feeble lays,
  These young effusions of my early days,
  To him my muse her noblest strain would give:
  The song might perish, but the theme might live.
  Yet why for him the needless verse essay?
  His honored name requires no vain display:
  By every son of grateful Ida blest,
  It finds an echo in each youthful breast;
  A fame beyond the glories of the proud,
  Or all the plaudits of the venal crowd.

    "Ida! not yet exhausted is the theme,
  Nor closed the progress of my youthful dream.
  How many a friend deserves the grateful strain!
  What scenes of childhood still unsung remain!
  Yet let me hush this echo of the past,
  This parting song, the dearest and the last;
  And brood in secret o'er those hours of joy,
  To me a silent and a sweet employ,
  While, future hope and fear alike unknown,
  I think with pleasure on the past alone;
  Yes, to the past alone my heart confine,
  And chase the phantom of what once was mine.

    "Ida! still o'er thy hills in joy preside,
  And proudly steer through time's eventful tide;
  Still may thy blooming sons thy name revere,
  Smile in thy bower, but quit thee with a tear,--
  That tear, perhaps, the fondest which will flow
  O'er their last scene of happiness below.
  Tell me, ye hoary few, who glide along,
  The feeble veterans of some former throng,
  Whose friends, like autumn leaves by tempests whirl'd,
  Are swept forever from this busy world;
  Revolve the fleeting moments of your youth,
  While Care as yet withheld her venom'd tooth;
  Say if remembrance days like these endears
  Beyond the rapture of succeeding years?
  Say, can ambition's fever'd dream bestow
  So sweet a balm to soothe your hours of woe?
  Can treasures, hoarded for some thankless son,
  Can royal smiles, or wreaths by slaughter won,
  Can stars or ermine, man's maturer toys
  (For glittering bawbles are not left to boys),
  Recall one scene so much beloved to view
  As those where Youth her garland twined for you?
  Ah, no! amid the gloomy calm of age
  You turn with faltering hand life's varied page;
  Peruse the record of your days on earth,
  Unsullied only where it marks your birth;
  Still lingering pause above each checker'd leaf,
  And blot with tears the sable lines of grief;
  When Passion o'er the theme her mantle threw,
  Or weeping Virtue sigh'd a faint adieu;
  But bless the scroll which fairer words adorn,
  Traced by the rosy finger of the morn;
  When Friendship bow'd before the shrine of Truth,
  And Love, without his pinion, smiled on youth."

On leaving Harrow and his best friends, Byron felt that he was saying
adieu to youth and to its pleasures, and he was as yet unable to replace
these by the feasts of the mind. This filled his heart with regret in
addition to the sorrows which he experienced by those reflections upon
existence which are common to all poetical natures. The cold discipline
of Cambridge fell like ice upon his warm nature. He fell ill, and, by
way of seeking a relief to the oppression of his mind, he wrote the
above transcribed poem.

Harrow is called Ida, as his friends are denominated by fictitious
names. To the college itself, and to the recollections which it brought
back to his memory of physical and mental suffering, he addresses
himself:--

  "Ida! blest spot, where Science holds her reign,
  How joyous once I join'd thy youthful train!
  Bright in idea gleams thy lofty spire,
  Again I mingle with thy playful quire.
   *     *     *     *     *     *     *
  My wonted haunts, my scenes of joy and woe,
  Each early boyish friend, or youthful foe;
  Our feuds dissolved, but not my friendship past,
  I bless the former, and forgive the last."

The same kind, affectionate disposition can be traced in all his other
poems, together with those well-inculcated notions of God's justice,
wisdom, and mercy, of toleration and forgiveness, of hatred of falsehood
and contempt of prejudices, which never abandoned him throughout his
life.

I really pity those who could read "The Tear" without being touched by
its simple, plaintive style, written in the tenderest strain, or
"L'Amitié est l'Amour sans Ailes," or the lines to the Duke of Dorset on
leaving Harrow, or the "Prayer of Nature," or his stanzas to Lord Clare,
to Lord Delaware, to Edward Long, or his generous forgiveness of Miss
Chaworth; or, again, his lines on believing that he was going to die,
his answer to a poem called "The Common Lot," his reply to Dr. Beecher,
and, finally, his address to a companion whose conduct obliged him to
withdraw his friendship:--

  "What friend for thee, howe'er inclined,
    Will deign to own a kindred care?
  Who will debase his manly mind,
    For friendship every fool may share?

  "In time forbear; amid the throng
    No more so base a thing be seen;
  No more so idly pass along;
    Be something, any thing but--mean."

Since our object is to show in these effusions of a youthful mind, its
natural beauty, and not that genius which is shortly to be developed by
contact with the troubles and pains of this life, it may not be
irrelevant to our subject to give in parts, if not entirely, some of the
poems which he wrote at this time:--

          THE TEAR.

    "O lachrymarum fons, tenero sacros
      Ducentium ortus ex animo; quater
        Felix! in imo qui scatentem
          Pectore te, pia Nympha, sensit."--GRAY.

  When Friendship or Love our sympathies move,
    When truth in a glance should appear,
  The lips may beguile with a dimple or smile,
    But the test of affection's a Tear.

  Too oft is a smile but the hypocrite's wile,
    To mask detestation or fear;
  Give me the soft sigh, while the soul-telling eye
    Is dimm'd for a time with a Tear.

  Mild Charity's glow, to us mortals below,
    Shows the soul from barbarity clear;
  Compassion will melt where this virtue is felt,
    And its dew is diffused in a Tear.

  The man doom'd to sail with the blast of the gale,
    Through billows Atlantic to steer,
  As he bends o'er the wave which may soon be his grave,
    The green sparkles bright with a Tear.

  The soldier braves death for a fanciful wreath
    In glory's romantic career;
  But he raises the foe when in battle laid low,
    And bathes every wound with a Tear.

  If with high-bounding pride he return to his bride,
    Renouncing the gore-crimson'd spear,
  All his toils are repaid, when, embracing the maid,
    From her eyelid he kisses the Tear.

  Sweet scene of my youth! seat of Friendship and Truth,[23]
    Where love chased each fast-fleeting year,
  Loth to leave thee, I mourn'd, for a last look I turn'd,
    But thy spire was scarce seen through a Tear.

  Though my vows I can pour to my Mary no more,
    My Mary to love once so dear,
  In the shade of her bower I remember the hour
    She rewarded those vows with a Tear.

  By another possest, she may live ever blest!
    Her name still my heart must revere:
  With a sigh I resign what I once thought was mine,
    And forgive her deceit with a Tear.

  Ye friends of my heart, ere from you I depart,
    This hope to my breast is most near:
  If again we shall meet in this rural retreat,
    May we meet as we part, with a Tear.

  When my soul wings her flight to the regions of night,
    And my corse shall recline on its bier,
  As ye pass by the tomb where my ashes consume,
    Oh! moisten their dust with a Tear.

  May no marble bestow the splendor of woe,
    Which the children of vanity rear;
  No fiction of fame shall blazon my name,
    All I ask--all I wish--is a Tear.

       *     *     *     *     *

  L'AMITIÉ EST L'AMOUR SANS AILES.

  Why should my anxious breast repine,
    Because my youth is fled?
  Days of delight may still be mine;
    Affection is not dead.
  In tracing back the years of youth,
  One firm record, one lasting truth,
    Celestial consolation brings;
  Bear it, ye breezes, to the seat,
  Where first my heart responsive beat,
    "Friendship is Love without his wings!"

  Through few, but deeply checker'd years,
    What moments have been mine!
  Now half-obscured by clouds of tears,
    Now bright in rays divine;
  Howe'er my future doom be cast,
  My soul enraptured with the past,
    To one idea fondly clings;
  Friendship! that thought is all thine own,
  Worth worlds of bliss, that thought alone--
    "Friendship is Love without his wings!"

  Where yonder yew-trees lightly wave
    Their branches on the gale,
  Unheeded heaves a simple grave,
    Which tells the common tale;
  Round this unconscious schoolboys stray,
  Till the dull knell of childish play
    From yonder studious mansion rings;
  But here when'er my footsteps move,
  My silent tears too plainly prove
    "Friendship is Love without his wings!"

  Oh, Love! before thy glowing shrine
    My early vows were paid;
  My hopes, my dreams, my heart was thine,
    But these are now decay'd;
  For thine are pinions like the wind,
  No trace of thee remains behind,
    Except, alas! thy jealous stings.
  Away, away! delusive power,
  Thou shalt not haunt my coming hour;
    Unless, indeed, without thy wings.

  Seat of my youth! thy distant spire
    Recalls each scene of joy;
  My bosom glows with former fire,
    In mind again a boy.
  Thy grove of elms, thy verdant hill
  Thy every path delights me still,
    Each flower a double fragrance flings;
  Again, as once, in converse gay,
  Each dear associate seems to say,
    "Friendship is Love without his wings!"

  My Lycus! wherefore dost thou weep?
    Thy falling tears restrain;
  Affection for a time may sleep,
    But, oh! 'twill wake again.
  Think, think, my friend, when next we meet,
  Our long-wish'd interview, how sweet!
    From this my hope of rapture springs;
  While youthful hearts thus fondly swell,
  Absence, my friend, can only tell,
    "Friendship is Love without his wings!"

  In one, and one alone deceived,
    Did I my error mourn?
  No--from oppressive bonds relieved,
    I left the wretch to scorn.
  I turn'd to those my childhood knew,
  With feelings warm, with bosoms true,
    Twined with my heart's according strings;
  And till those vital chords shall break,
  For none but these my breast shall wake
    Friendship, the power deprived of wings!

  Ye few! my soul, my life is yours,
    My memory and my hope;
  Your worth a lasting love insures,
    Unfetter'd in its scope;
  From smooth deceit and terror sprung
  With aspect fair and honey'd tongue,
    Let Adulation wait on kings;
  With joy elate, by snares beset,
  We, we, my friends, can ne'er forget
    "Friendship is Love without his wings!"

  Fictions and dreams inspire the bard
    Who rolls the epic song;
  Friendship and truth be my reward--
    To me no bays belong;
  If laurell'd Fame but dwells with lies,
  Me the enchantress ever flies,
    Whose heart and not whose fancy sings;
  Simple and young, I dare not feign;
  Mine be the rude yet heartfelt strain,
    "Friendship is Love without his wings!"
                                       _December_, 1806.

These early poems are well characterized by the impression which they
produced upon Sir Robert Dallas, a man of taste and talent, who, though
a bigot and a prey to prejudices of all kinds, hastened, nevertheless,
after reading them, to compliment the author in the following
words:--"Your poems are not only beautiful as compositions, but they
also denote an honorable and upright heart, and one prone to virtue."

This eulogium is well deserved, and I pity those who could read the
"Hours of Idleness" without liking their youthful writer. If we had
space enough, we fain would follow the young man from Cambridge to the
mysterious Abbey of Newstead, where he loved to invite his friends and
institute with them a monastery of which he proclaimed himself the
Abbot--an amusement really most innocent in itself, and which bigotry
and folly alone could consider reprehensible. With what pleasure he
would show that in the monastery of Newstead its abbot lived the
simplest and most austere existence,--"a life of study," as Washington
Irving describes it, from what he heard Nanna Smyth say of it some
years after Byron's death. How delighted we should be to follow him in
his first travels in search of experience of life, and when his genius
revealed itself in that light which was shortly to make him the idol of
the public and the hatred of the envious. We could show him to have been
always the same kind-hearted man, by whom severity and injustice were
never had recourse to except against himself, and whose melancholy was
too often the result of broken illusions and disappointments. His simple
and noble character, having always before it an ideal perfection,
perpetually by comparison, thought itself at fault; and the world, who
could not comprehend the exquisite delicacy of his mind, took for
granted the reputation he gave himself, and made him a martyr till
heaven should give him time to become a saint.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 20: See chapter upon Generosity.]

[Footnote 21: Marston Moor, where the adherents of Charles I. were
defeated. Prince Rupert, son of the Elector Palatine, and nephew to
Charles I. He afterward commanded the fleet in the reign of Charles II.]

[Footnote 22: This alludes to the public speeches delivered at the
school where the author was educated.]

[Footnote 23: Harrow.]



CHAPTER VI.

THE FRIENDSHIPS OF LORD BYRON.


The extraordinary part which friendship played in Lord Byron's life is
another proof of his goodness. His friendships may be divided into two
categories: the friendships of his heart, and those of his mind. To the
first class belong those which he made at Harrow and in his early
Cambridge days, while his later acquaintances at the University matured
into friends of the second category. These had great influence over his
mind. The names of those of the first category who were dearest to him,
and who were alive when he left Harrow for Cambridge (for he had lost
some very intimate friends while still at Harrow, and among these
Curzon), were--

WINGFIELD.
DELAWARE.
TATTERSALL.
CLARE.
LONG.
EDDLESTON.
HARNESS.

I will say a word of each, so as to show that Byron in the selection of
his friends was guided instinctively by the qualities of those he loved.


WINGFIELD.

The Hon. John Wingfield, of the Coldstream Guards, was a brother of
Richard, fourth Viscount Powerscourt, and died of fever at Coimbra, on
the 14th of May, 1811, in his 20th year.

"Of all beings on earth," says Byron, "I was perhaps at one time more
attached to poor Wingfield than to any. I knew him during the best part
of his life and the happiest portion of mine."

When he heard of the death of this beloved companion of his youth, he
added the two following stanzas to the first canto of "Childe Harold:"


    XCI.

    "And thou, my friend!--since unavailing woe
    Bursts from my heart, and mingles with the strain--
    Had the sword laid thee with the mighty low,
    Pride might forbid e'en Friendship to complain:
    But thus unlaurell'd to descend in vain,
    By all forgotten, save the lonely breast,
    And mix unbleeding with the boasted slain,
    While Glory crowns so many a meaner crest!
  What hadst thou done, to sink so peacefully to rest?


    XCII.

    "Oh, known the earliest, and esteem'd the most!
    Dear to a heart where naught was left so dear!
    Though to my hopeless days forever lost,
    In dreams deny me not to see thee here!
    And Morn in secret shall renew the tear
    Of Consciousness awaking to her woes,
    And Fancy hover o'er thy bloodless bier,
    Till my frail frame return to whence it rose,
  And mourn'd and mourner lie united in repose."

Writing to Dallas on the 7th of August, 1812, he says, "Wingfield was
among my best and dearest friends; one of the very few I can never
regret to have loved." And on the 7th of September, speaking of the
death of Matthews, in whom he said he had lost a friend and a guide, he
wrote to Dallas to say: "In Wingfield I have lost a friend only; but one
I could have wished to precede in his long journey."


TATTERSALL (DAVUS).

The Rev. John Cecil Tattersall, B.A., of Christ Church, Oxford, died on
the 8th of October, 1812, aged 24.

"His knowledge," says a writer in the "Gentleman's Magazine," "was
extensive and deep; his affections were sincere and great. By his
extreme aversion to hypocrisy, he was so far from assuming the
appearance of virtue, that most of his good qualities remained hidden,
while he was most anxious to reveal the slightest fault into which he
had fallen. He was a stanch friend, and a stranger to all enmity; he
behaved loyally to men when alive, and died full of confidence and trust
in God."


DELAWARE (EURYALUS).

George John, fifth Earl of Delaware, born in October, 1791, succeeded to
his father in July, 1795.

Lord Byron wrote from Harrow on the 25th of October, 1804:--

"I am very comfortable here; my friends are not numerous, but choice.
Among the first of these I place Delaware, who is very amiable, and my
great friend. He is younger than I am, but is gifted with the finest
character. He is the most intelligent creature on earth, and is besides
particularly good-looking, which is a charm in women's eyes."

In consequence of a misunderstanding, or rather of a false
accusation,--of which I shall speak elsewhere, in order to show the
generosity of Lord Byron's character,--a coolness took place in their
friendship. A charming piece in the "Hours of Idleness" alludes to it,
and shows well the nature of his mind. I will only quote the seventh
stanza:--

  "You knew that my soul, that my heart, my existence,
    If danger demanded, were wholly your own;
  You knew me unalter'd by years or by distance,
    Devoted to love and to friendship alone."


CLARE (LYCUS).

John Fitzgibbon, second Earl of Clare, succeeded to his father in 1802;
was twelve years Chancellor of Ireland, and, later, Governor of Bombay.

Lord Byron wrote of him at Ravenna:--

"I never hear the name of Clare without my heart beating even now, and I
am writing in 1821, with all the feelings of 1803, 4, 5, and _ad
infinitum_."

He had kept all the letters of his early friends, and among these is one
of Lord Clare's, in which the energy of his mind appears even through
the language of the child. At the bottom of this letter and in Byron's
hand, is a note written years after, showing his tender and amiable
feelings:--

"This letter was written at Harrow by Lord Clare, then, and I trust
ever, my beloved friend. When we were both students, he sent it to me in
my study, in consequence of a brief childish misunderstanding, the only
one we ever had. I keep this note only to show him, and laugh with him
at the remembrance of the insignificance of our first and last quarrel.

BYRON."

Besides mentioning Lord Clare in "Childish Recollections," his "Hours of
Idleness" contain another poem addressed to him, which begins thus:--

  TO THE EARL OF CLARE.

                          "Tu semper amoris
    Sis memor, et cari comitis ne abscedat imago."--VAL. FLAC.

  Friend of my youth! when young we roved,
  Like striplings, mutually beloved,
    With friendship's purest glow,
  The bliss which winged those rosy hours
  Was such as pleasure seldom showers
  On mortals here below.

  The recollection seems alone
  Dearer than all the joys I've known,
    When distant far from you:
  Though pain, 'tis still a pleasing pain,
  To trace those days and hours again,
    And sigh again, adieu!

       *     *     *     *     *

  Our souls, my friend! which once supplied
  One wish, nor breathed a thought beside,
    Now flow in different channels:
  Disdaining humbler rural sports,
  'Tis yours to mix in polish'd courts,
    And shine in fashion's annals:

       *     *     *     *     *

  I think I said 'twould be your fate
  To add one star to royal state:--
    May regal smiles attend you!
  And should a noble monarch reign,
  You will not seek his smiles in vain,
    If worth can recommend you.

  Yet since in danger courts abound,
  Where specious rivals glitter round,
    From snares may saints preserve you;
  And grant your love or friendship ne'er
  From any claim a kindred care,
    But those who best deserve you!

  Not for a moment may you stray
  From truth's secure, unerring way!
    May no delights decoy!
  O'er roses may your footsteps move,
  Your smiles be ever smiles of love,
    Your tears be tears of joy!

  Oh! if you wish that happiness
  Your coming days and years may bless,
    And virtues crown your brow;
  Be still, as you were wont to be,
  Spotless as you've been known to me,--
    Be still as you are now.

  And though some trifling share of praise,
  To cheer my last declining days,
    To me were doubly dear,
  While blessing your beloved name,
  I'd waive at once a _poet's_ fame,
    To prove a _prophet_ here.

In 1821, as he was going to Pisa, Byron met his old and dear friend
Clare on the route to Bologna, and speaks of their meeting in the
following terms:--

"'There is a strange coincidence sometimes in the little things of this
world, Sancho,' says Sterne, in a letter (if I mistake not), and so I
have often found it. At page 128, article 91, of this collection, I had
alluded to my friend Lord Clare in terms such as my feelings suggested.
About a week or two afterward I met him on the road between Imola and
Bologna, after an interval of seven or eight years. He was abroad in
1814, and came home just as I set out in 1816.

"This meeting annihilated for a moment all the years between the present
time and the days of Harrow. It was a new and inexplicable feeling, like
rising from the grave, to me. Clare, too, was much agitated--more in
appearance than I was myself; for I could feel his heart beat to his
fingers' ends, unless, indeed, it was the pulse of my own which made me
think so. He told me, that I should find a note from him left at
Bologna. I did. We were obliged to part for our different journeys--he
for Rome, I for Pisa--but with the promise to meet again in the spring.
We were but five minutes together, and on the public road; but I hardly
recollect an hour of my existence which could be weighed against those
few minutes.... Of all I have ever known he has always been the least
altered in every thing from the excellent qualities and kind affections
which attached me to him so strongly at school. I should hardly have
thought it possible for society to leave a being with so little of the
leaven of bad passions.

"I do not speak from personal experience only, but from all I have ever
heard of him from others during absence and distance."

"My greatest friend, Lord Clare, is at Rome," he wrote to Moore from
Pisa, in March, 1822: "we met on the road, and our meeting was quite
sentimental--really pathetic on both sides. I have always loved him
better than any male thing in the world."

In June Lord Clare came to visit Byron, and on the 8th of that month
Byron wrote to Moore:--

"A few days ago my earliest and dearest friend, Lord Clare, came over
from Geneva on purpose to see me before he returned to England. As I
have always loved him, since I was thirteen at Harrow, better than any
male thing in the world, I need hardly say what a melancholy pleasure it
was to see him for a day only; for he was obliged to resume his journey
immediately."

On another occasion he told Medwin that there is no pleasure in
existence like that of meeting an early friend.

"Lord Clare's visit," says Madame G----, "gave Byron the greatest joy.
The last day they spent together at Leghorn was most melancholy. Byron
had a kind of presentiment that he should never see his friend again,
and in speaking of him, for a long time after, his eyes always filled
with tears."


LONG (CLEON).

Edward Long was with Lord Byron at Harrow and at Cambridge. He entered
the Guards, and distinguished himself in the expedition to Copenhagen.
As he was on his way to join the army in the Peninsula, in 1809, the
ship in which he sailed was run down by another vessel, and Long was
drowned with several others.

Long's friendship contributed to render Byron's stay at Cambridge
bearable after his beloved Harrow days.

"Long," says Lord Byron, "was one of those good and amiable creatures
who live but a short time. He had talents and qualities far too rare not
to make him very much regretted." He depicts him as a lively companion,
with an occasional strange touch of melancholy. One would have said he
anticipated, as it were, the fate which awaited him.

The letter which he wrote to Byron, on leaving the University to enter
the Guards, was so full of sadness that it contrasted strangely with his
habitual humor.

"His manners," says Lord Byron, "were amiable and gentle, and he had a
great disposition to look at the comical side of things. He was a
musician, and played on several instruments, especially the flute and
the violincello. We spent our evenings with music, but I was only a
listener. Our principal beverage consisted in soda-water. During the day
we rode, swam, walked, and read together; but we only spent one summer
with each other."

On his leaving Cambridge, Byron addressed to him the following lines:--

  TO EDWARD NOEL LONG, ESQ.

    "Nil ego contulerim jocundo sanus amico."--HORACE.

  Dear Long, in this sequester'd scene,
    While all around in slumber lie,
  The joyous days which ours have been
    Come rolling fresh on Fancy's eye;
  Thus if amid the gathering storm,
  While clouds the darken'd noon deform,
  Yon heaven assumes a varied glow,
  I hail the sky's celestial bow,
  Which spreads the sign of future peace,
  And bids the war of tempests cease.
  Ah! though the present brings but pain,
  I think those days may come again;
  Or if, in melancholy mood,
  Some lurking envious fear intrude,
  To check my bosom's fondest thought,
    And interrupt the golden dream,
  I crush the fiend with malice fraught,
    And still indulge my wonted theme.
  Although we ne'er again can trace
    In Granta's vale the pedant's lore;
  Nor through the groves of Ida chase
    Our raptured visions as before,
  Though Youth has flown on rosy pinion,
  And Manhood claims his stern dominion,
  Age will not every hope destroy,
  But yield some hours of sober joy.

    Yes, I will hope that Time's broad wing
  Will shed around some dews of spring:
  But if his scythe must sweep the flowers
  Which bloom among the fairy bowers,
  Where smiling youth delights to dwell,
  And hearts with early rapture swell;
  If frowning age, with cold control,
  Confines the current of the soul,
  Congeals the tear of Pity's eye,
  Or checks the sympathetic sigh,
  Or hears unmoved misfortune's groan,
  And bids me feel for self alone;
  Oh, may my bosom never learn
    To soothe its wonted heedless flow,
  Still, still despise the censor stern,
    But ne'er forget another's woe.
  Yes, as you knew me in the days
  O'er which Remembrance yet delays,
  Still may I rove, untutor'd, wild,
  And even in age at heart a child.

  Though now on airy visions borne,
    To you my soul is still the same.
  Oft has it been my fate to mourn,
    And all my former joys are tame.
  But hence! ye hours of sable hue!
    Your frowns are gone, my sorrows o'er:
  By every bliss my childhood knew,
    I'll think upon your shade no more.
  Thus, when the whirlwind's rage is past,
    And caves their sullen roar inclose,
  We heed no more the wintry blast,
    When lull'd by zephyr to repose.

Long's death was the cause of great grief to Lord Byron.

"Long's father," said he, "has written to ask me to write his son's
epitaph. I promised to do it, but I never had the strength to finish
it."

I will add that Mr. Wathen having gone to visit Lord Byron at Ravenna,
and having told him that he knew Long, Byron henceforth treated him with
the utmost cordiality. He spoke of Long and of his amiable qualities,
until he could no longer hide his tears.

In the month of October, 1805, Lord Byron left Harrow for Trinity
College, Cambridge, and in 1821 he thus described himself, and his own
feelings on leaving his beloved Ida for a new scene of life:--

"When I went to college it was for me a most painful event. I left
Harrow against my wish, and so took it to heart, that before I left I
never slept for counting the days which I had still to spend there. In
the second place, I wished to go to Oxford and not to Cambridge; and, in
the third place, I found myself so isolated in this new world, that my
mind was perfectly depressed by it.

"Not that my companions were not sociable: quite the contrary; they were
particularly lively, hospitable, rich, noble, and much more gay than
myself. I mixed, dined, and supped with them; but, I don't know why, the
most painful and galling sensation of life was that of feeling I was no
longer a child."

His grief was such that he fell ill, and it was during that illness that
he wrote and partly dictated the poem "Recollections of Childhood," in
which he mentions and describes all his dear comrades of Harrow, with
that particular charm of expression and thought which the heart alone
can inspire.

It was again under the same impression that he wrote the most melancholy
lines in the "Hours of Idleness," where the regret of the past
delightful days of his childhood, spent at his dear Ida, ever comes
prominently forward.

    "I would I were a careless child,"

he exclaims in one poem, and finishes the same by the lines,--

  "Oh that to me the wings were given
    Which bear the turtle to her nest!
  Then would I cleave the vault of Heaven
    To flee away, and be at rest."

Life at Harrow appears to have been for him then the ideal of happiness.
At times the distant view of the village and college of Harrow, inspires
his muse, at others a visit to the college itself, and an hour spent
under the shade of an elm in the church-yard. His whole soul is so
revealed in these two poems, that I can not forbear quoting them _in
extenso_:--

  ON A DISTANT VIEW OF THE VILLAGE AND SCHOOL OF HARROW-ON-THE-HILL.

    "Oh! mihi præteritos referat si Jupiter annos."--VIRGIL.

  Ye scenes of my childhood, whose loved recollection
    Embitters the present, compared with the past;
  Where science first dawn'd on the powers of reflection,
    And friendships were form'd, too romantic to last;

  Where fancy yet joys to trace the resemblance
    Of comrades, in friendship and mischief allied,
  How welcome to me your ne'er-fading remembrance,
    Which rests in the bosom, though hope is denied!

  Again I revisit the hills where we sported,
    The streams where we swam, and the fields where we fought;
  The school where, loud warn'd by the bell, we resorted,
    To pore o'er the precepts by pedagogues taught.

  Again I behold where for hours I have ponder'd,
    As reclining, at eve, on yon tombstone I lay;
  Or round the steep brow of the church-yard I wander'd,
    To catch the last gleam of the sun's setting ray.

  I once more view the room, with spectators surrounded,
    Where, as Zanga, I trod on Alonzo o'erthrown;
  While, to swell my young pride, such applauses resounded,
    I fancied that Mossop himself was outshown.[24]

  Or, as Lear, I pour'd forth the deep imprecation,
    By my daughters of kingdom and reason deprived;
  Till, fired by loud plaudits and self-adulation,
    I regarded myself as a Garrick revived.

  Ye dreams of my boyhood, how much I regret you!
    Unfaded your memory dwells in my breast;
  Though sad and deserted, I ne'er can forget you.
    Your pleasures may still be in fancy possest.

  To Ida full oft may remembrance restore me,
    While fate shall the shades of the future unroll!
  Since darkness o'ershadows the prospect before me,
    More dear is the beam of the past to my soul!

  But if, through the course of the years which await me,
    Some new scene of pleasure should open to view,
  I will say, while with rapture the thought shall elate me,
    "Oh! such were the days which my infancy knew!"

       *     *     *     *     *

  LINES WRITTEN BENEATH AN ELM IN THE CHURCH-YARD OF HARROW.

  Spot of my youth! whose hoary branches sigh,
  Swept by the breeze that fans thy cloudless sky;
  Where now alone I muse, who oft have trod,
  With those I loved, thy soft and verdant sod;
  With those who, scatter'd far, perchance deplore,
  Like me, the happy scenes they knew before:
  Oh! as I trace again thy winding hill,
  Mine eyes admire, my heart adores thee still,
  Thou drooping Elm! beneath whose boughs I lay,
  And frequent mused the twilight hours away;
  Where, as they once were wont, my limbs recline,
  But ah! without the thoughts which then were mine:
  How do thy branches, moaning to the blast,
  Invite the bosom to recall the past,
  And seem to whisper, as they gently swell,
  "Take, while thou canst, a lingering, last farewell!"

    When fate shall chill, at length, this fever'd breast,
  And calm its cares and passions into rest,
  Oft have I thought, 'twould soothe my dying hour--
  If aught may soothe when life resigns her power--
  To know some humble grave, some narrow cell,
  Would hide my bosom where it loved to dwell.
  With this fond dream, methinks, 'twere sweet to die--
  And here it linger'd, here my heart might lie;
  Here might I sleep where all my hopes arose;
  Scene of my youth, and couch of my repose;
  Forever stretch'd beneath this mantling shade,
  Press'd by the turf where once my childhood play'd;
  Wrapt by the soil that veils the spot I loved,
  Mix'd with the earth o'er which my footsteps moved;
  Blest by the tongues that charm'd my youthful ear,
  Mourn'd by the few my soul acknowledged here;
  Deplored by those in early days allied,
  And unremember'd by the world beside.

"But although he may for a time," says Moore, "have experienced this
kind of moral atomy, it was not in his nature to be long without
attaching himself to somebody, and the friendship which he conceived for
Eddleston--a man younger than himself, and not at all of his rank in
society--even surpassed in ardor all the other attachments of his
youth."


EDDLESTON

was one of the choristers at Cambridge. His talent for music attracted
Byron's attention. When he lost the society of Long, who had been his
sole comfort at Cambridge, he took very much to the company of young
Eddleston. One feels how much he was attached to him, on reading those
lines in which he thanks Eddleston for a cornelian heart he had sent
him:--

    THE CORNELIAN.

  No specious splendor of this stone
    Endears it to my memory ever;
  With lustre only once it shone,
    And blushes modest as the giver.

  Some, who can sneer at friendship's ties,
    Have for my weakness oft reproved me;
  Yet still the simple gift I prize,
    For I am sure the giver loved me.

  He offer'd it with downcast look,
    As fearful that I might refuse it;
  I told him, when the gift I took,
    My only fear should be to lose it.

When Eddleston left college, Lord Byron wrote to Miss Pigott a letter
full of regret at having lost his youthful friend, and thanking her for
having taken an interest in him.

"During the whole time we were at Cambridge together," says Byron, "we
saw each other every day, summer and winter, and never once found a
moment of _ennui_, but parted each day with greater regret. I trust," he
added, at the end of his letter, "that you will some day see us
together; that is the being I esteem most, though I love several
others."

But in the year 1811 Eddleston died of consumption; and Lord Byron wrote
to Miss Pigott's mother, to beg of her to return the cornelian heart
which he had intrusted to her care, because it had "now acquired a value
which he wished it had never had;" the original donor having died at the
age of twenty-one, a few months before, and being "the sixth in the
space of four months of a series of friends and relations whom he had
lost since May."

The cornelian heart was restored, and Byron was informed that he had
only intrusted it, but not given it to Miss Pigott. It was on learning
of Eddleston's death that Byron added the touching ninth stanza to the
second canto of "Childe Harold."

After speaking of the hope of meeting again in a celestial abode, those
whom he loved on earth, and all those who taught the truth, he
exclaims,--

  "There, thou!--whose love and life together fled,
  Have left me here to love and live in vain--
  Twined with my heart, and can I deem thee dead
  When busy Memory flashes on my brain?
  Well--I will dream that we may meet again,
  And woo the vision to my vacant breast:
  If aught of young Remembrance then remain,
  Be as it may Futurity's behest,
  For me 'twere bliss enough to know thy spirit blest!"

Among the children younger than himself of whom he established himself
the protector, one of those he loved best was his fag William Harness.


HARNESS.

The Rev. William Harness is the author of the work entitled the
"Relations between Christianity and Happiness, by one of the oldest and
most esteemed friends of Lord Byron."

Harness was four years younger than Byron, and one of the earliest
friends he made at Harrow. Lord Byron had not been long at the school,
and had not yet formed any friendship with other boys, when he saw a
boy, "still lame from an accident of his childhood, and but just
recovered from a severe illness, bullied by a boy much older and
stronger than himself." Byron interfered and took his part.

"We both seem perfectly to recollect," says he, "with a mixture of
pleasure and regret, the hours we once passed together; and I assure
you, most sincerely, they are numbered among the happiest of my brief
chronicle of enjoyment. I am now getting into years, that is to say, I
was twenty a month ago, and another year will send me into the world, to
run my career of folly with the rest. I was then just fourteen--you were
almost the first of my Harrow friends, certainly the first in my esteem,
if not in date; but an absence from Harrow for some time shortly after,
and new connections on your side, and the difference in our conduct,
from that turbulent and riotous disposition of mine which impelled me
into every species of mischief, all these circumstances combined to
destroy our intimacy, which affection urged me to continue, and Memory
compels me to regret. But there is not a circumstance attending that
period, hardly a sentence we exchanged, which is not impressed on my
mind at this moment.

"There is another circumstance you do not know:--the first lines I ever
attempted at Harrow were addressed to you; but as on our return from the
holidays we were strangers, the lines were destroyed.

"I have dwelt longer on this theme than I intended, and I shall now
conclude with what I ought to have begun. Will you sometimes write to
me? I do not ask it often, and, if we meet, let us be what we should be,
and what we were."

Young Harness, gifted with a calm and mild temperament, was being
educated for the Church. Besides being always at Harrow, and four years
younger than Byron, the life which the latter led at Newstead and at
Cambridge did not suit one destined to a career which requires greater
severity of demeanor. But the two friends corresponded, and Lord Byron
sent him one of his early copies of "Hours of Idleness." In the letter
which the Rev. W. Harness wrote to Moore, after Byron's death, to tell
him the nature of the quarrel which he and Byron had had together, and
their subsequent reconciliation, he ends by saying:--

"Our conversation was renewed and continued from that time till his
going abroad. Whatever faults Lord Byron may have exhibited toward
others, to myself he was always uniformly affectionate.... I can not
call to mind a single instance of caprice or unkindness in the whole
course of our intimacy to allege against him."

The fault to which Harness alludes, and which he acknowledges, was one
of the kind to which Byron was most sensitive, namely, coldness. Having
lost some of his early and best friends, Edward Long, and all the others
being spread far and near, abroad and in England, following out their
respective careers and destiny, Harness was about the only early friend
he had near him.

The time was approaching when he was going to leave England, to travel
and to learn by study the great book of Nature. His heart was wounded by
the injustice which had been done him, by the many disenchantments which
he had experienced, by the brutal criticism of his "Hours of Idleness"
from the pen of his relation Lord Carlisle, and by his money
difficulties. Unable as yet to foretell the effects of his satire, which
had not yet appeared, and the success of which might have consoled him a
little for past mortifications, he found in friendship his sole relief,
and particularly in the friendship of Harness. At this very critical
time, Harness--(be it either through the influence of his family and
relations, or through a notion that his principles were rather unsuited
to the heterodox opinions of Lord Byron)--behaved coldly toward Byron.
Dallas, however, who from puritanism and family pride, and even from
jealousy, was rather an enemy of Lord Byron's intellectual
friends--(contending that it was they who had instilled into Byron all
the anti-orthodox views which the poet had adopted)--makes an exception
in favor of Harness.

Byron spoke of Harness with an affection which he hoped was repaid to
him. I often met him at Newstead, and both he and Byron had had their
portraits taken, which they were to make a present of to one another. It
was not until some unknown cause sprung up to establish a coldness
between the two friends that their intimacy ceased, and at the same time
Harness's visits to Newstead. Byron felt it very keenly.

In what degree the conduct of Harness hurt Lord Byron and contributed to
those explosions of misanthropy which, slight and passing as they were,
have nevertheless been urged as a reproach against his first and second
cantos of "Childe Harold," I shall examine later.

Here it is only necessary to say that in a soul such as his, where
rancor could never live, such a coldness wounded him without altering
his sentiments in any way. After two years' absence he returned to
England, and so heartily forgave Harness that he actually wished to
dedicate to him the first two cantos of "Childe Harold," and only gave
up this idea from a generous fear that its dedication might injure him
in his clerical profession, on account of certain stanzas in the poem
which were not quite orthodox.

"The letter," says Moore, "in which he expresses these delicate
sentiments is, unfortunately, lost."

Some months after his return to England he resumed his correspondence
with Harness, and both the friends assembled at Newstead. Harness,
however, as a clergyman, was severe in his judgments. Byron wrote to
him:--

"You are censorious, child: when you are a little older, you will learn
to dislike every body, but abuse nobody.... I thank you most truly for
the concluding part of your letter. I have been of late not much
accustomed to kindness from any quarter, and I am not the less pleased
to meet with it again from one to whom I had known it earliest. I have
not changed in all my ramblings; Harrow, and of course yourself, never
left me, and the

    'Dulces reminiscitur Argos.'

attended me to the very spot to which that sentence alludes in the mind
of the fallen Argive. Our intimacy began before we began to date at all,
and it rests with you to continue it till the hour which must number it
and me with the things that were."

Two days afterward, he writes to him again a letter full of endearing
expressions, couched in a friendly tone of interest, of which the
following extracts are instances:--

"And now, child, what art thou doing? Reading, I trust. I want to see
you take a degree. Remember, this is the most important period of your
life; and don't disappoint your papa and your aunt and all your kin,
besides myself.

"You see, _mio carissimo_, what a pestilent correspondent I am likely to
become; but then you shall be as quiet at Newstead as you please, and I
won't disturb your studies as I do now."

On the 11th of December, of the same year, he invites Moore to Newstead
and says, "H---- will be here, and a young friend named Harness, the
earliest and dearest I ever had from the third form at Harrow to this
hour."

And, finally, he wrote to Harness that he had no greater pleasure than
to hear from him; indeed, that it was more than a pleasure.


HIS LATER FRIENDS.

When he had reached his nineteenth year, which was the second of his
stay at Cambridge, Byron (having lost sight of most of his Harrow
friends to whom he dedicated his verses, and having lost both Long and
Eddleston) suddenly found himself launched into the vortex of a
university life, for which he had no liking. Happily, however, he was
thrown among young men of great distinction, whom fate had then gathered
at Cambridge.

"It was so brilliant a constellation," says Moore, "that perhaps such a
one will never be seen again." Among these he selected his friends from
their literary merit. Those he most distinguished were Hobhouse,
Matthews, Banks, and Scroope Davies. They formed a coterie at Cambridge,
and spent most of their holidays at Newstead.


HOBHOUSE.

Sir John Cam Hobhouse, Bart., since created a peer, under the name of
Lord Broughton, is one of the statesmen and writers the memory of whom
England most reveres. It is he whom Byron addresses as Moschus in the
"Hints from Horace." After being Byron's friend at college, he became
his faithful companion likewise in his travels, and throughout his
short-lived but brilliant career. It was he who accompanied Byron in the
fatal journey to Seaham, where Byron wedded Miss Milbank. It was he who
stood best man on that occasion, and it was he whom Byron selected as
his executor.

As soon as Byron became of age in 1809, the two friends left England
together to visit Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey. The results of
these travels were, Byron's first two cantos of "Childe Harold," and
Hobhouse's "Journey across Albania, and other Provinces of Turkey in
Europe and in Asia."

On their return to England, their intimacy did not cease. "Hobhouse,"
Byron was wont to say, "ever gets me out of difficulty;" and in his
journal of 1814 he says, "Hobhouse has returned. He is my best friend,
the most animated and most amusing, and one whose knowledge is very deep
and extensive. Hobhouse told me ten thousand anecdotes of Napoleon,
which must be true. Hobhouse is the most interesting of travelling
companions, and really excellent."

Lord Byron wished him to be his best man when he married Miss Milbank at
Seaham, and after his separation from her Hobhouse joined him in
Switzerland. They travelled together through the Oberland, and visited
all the scenes which inspired that magnificent poem entitled "Manfred."
Thence they left for Italy, and visited it from North to South; from the
Alps to Rome. The result of this journey was the fourth canto of "Childe
Harold" from Byron, and from Hobhouse a volume of notes, which
constitutes a work of very great merit. If such a companion was
agreeable to Byron, Byron was not less so to Hobhouse, who deplores a
journey he had made without the company of that friend, whose
perspicacity of observation and ingenious remarks united in producing
that liveliness and good-humor, which take away half the sting of
fatigue, and soften the aspect of danger and of difficulties.

During his absence from England Byron always insisted that all matters
relating to the settlement of his affairs should pass through the hands
of Hobhouse, his "alter ego" when near or when absent. His highest
testimony of regard and friendship for Hobhouse, however, is to be found
in the dedication of the fourth canto of "Childe Harold," which was
written in Italy in 1815, and which is as follows:--

     CANTO THE FOURTH.

     _To John Hobhouse, Esq., A.M., F.R.S., etc._

     Venice, January 2, 1818.

     MY DEAR HOBHOUSE,--After an interval of eight years between the
     composition of the first and last cantos of Childe Harold, the
     conclusion of the poem is about to be submitted to the public. In
     parting with so old a friend, it is not extraordinary that I should
     recur to one still older and better,--to one who has beheld the
     birth and death of the other, and to whom I am far more indebted
     for the social advantages of an enlightened friendship,
     than--though not ungrateful--I can, or could be, to Childe Harold,
     for any public favor reflected through the poem on the poet,--to
     one whom I have known long and accompanied far, whom I have found
     wakeful over my sickness and kind in my sorrow, glad in my
     prosperity and firm in my adversity, true in counsel and trusty in
     peril,--to a friend often tried and never found wanting;--to
     yourself.

     In so doing, I recur from fiction to truth; and in dedicating to
     you, in its complete or at least concluded state, a poetical work
     which is the longest, the most thoughtful and comprehensive of my
     compositions, I wish to do honor to myself by the record of many
     years' intimacy with a man of learning, of talent, of steadiness,
     and of honor. It is not for minds like ours to give or to receive
     flattery; yet the praises of sincerity have ever been permitted to
     the voice of friendship; and it is not for you, nor even for
     others, but to relieve a heart which has not elsewhere, or lately,
     been so much accustomed to the encounter of good-will as to
     withstand the shock firmly, that I thus attempt to commemorate your
     good qualities, or rather the advantages which I have derived from
     their exertion. Even the recurrence of the date of this letter, the
     anniversary of the most unfortunate day of my past existence,[25]
     but which can not poison my future while I retain the resource of
     your friendship, and of my own faculties, will henceforth have a
     more agreeable recollection for both, inasmuch as it will remind us
     of this my attempt to thank you for an indefatigable regard, such
     as few men have experienced, and no one could experience without
     thinking better of his species and of himself.

     It has been our fortune to traverse together, at various periods,
     the countries of chivalry, history, and fable--Spain, Greece, Asia
     Minor, and Italy; and what Athens and Constantinople were to us a
     few years ago, Venice and Rome have been more recently. The poem
     also, or the pilgrim, or both, have accompanied me from first to
     last; and perhaps it may be a pardonable vanity which induces me to
     reflect with complacency on a composition which in some degree
     connects me with the spot where it was produced, and the objects it
     would fain describe; and however unworthy it may be deemed of those
     magical and memorable abodes, however short it may fall of our
     distant conceptions and immediate impressions, yet as a mark of
     respect for what is venerable, and of feeling for what is glorious,
     it has been to me a source of pleasure in the production, and I
     part with it with a kind of regret, which I hardly suspected that
     events could have left me for imaginary objects.

     With regard to the conduct of the last canto, there will be found
     less of the pilgrim than in any of the preceding, and that little
     slightly, if at all, separated from the author speaking in his own
     person. The fact is, that I had become weary of drawing a line
     which every one seemed determined not to perceive: like the Chinese
     in Goldsmith's "Citizen of the World," whom nobody would believe to
     be a Chinese, it was in vain that I asserted, and imagined that I
     had drawn, a distinction between the author and the pilgrim; and
     the very anxiety to preserve this difference, and disappointment at
     finding it unavailing, so far crushed my efforts in the
     composition, that I determined to abandon it altogether--and have
     done so. The opinions which have been, or may be, formed on that
     subject, are _now_ a matter of indifference: the work is to depend
     on itself and not on the writer; and the author, who has no
     resources in his own mind beyond the reputation, transient or
     permanent, which is to arise from his literary efforts, deserves
     the fate of authors.

     In the course of the following canto it was my intention, either in
     the text or in the notes, to have touched upon the present state of
     Italian literature, and perhaps of manners. But the text, within
     the limits I proposed, I soon found hardly sufficient for the
     labyrinth of external objects, and the consequent reflections; and
     for the whole of the notes, excepting a few of the shortest, I am
     indebted to yourself, and these were necessarily limited to the
     elucidation of the text.

     It is also a delicate, and no very grateful task, to dissert upon
     the literature and manners of a nation so dissimilar; and requires
     an attention and impartiality which would induce us--though perhaps
     no inattentive observers, nor ignorant of the language or customs
     of the people among whom we have recently abode--to distrust, or at
     least defer our judgment, and more narrowly examine our
     information. The state of literary as well as political party
     appears to run, or to _have_ run, so high, that for a stranger to
     steer impartially between them is next to impossible. It may be
     enough then, at least for my purpose, to quote from their own
     beautiful language--"Mi pare che in un paese tutto poetico, che
     vanta la lingua la più nobile ed insieme la più dolce, tutte tutte
     le vie diverse si possouo tentare, e che sinche la patria di
     Alfieri e di Monti non ha perduto l'antico valore, in tutte essa
     dovrebbe essere la prima." Italy has great names still: Canova,
     Monti, Ugo Foscolo, Pindemonte, Visconti, Morelli, Cicognara,
     Albrizzi, Mezzophanti, Mai, Mustoxidi, Aglietti, and Vacca, will
     secure to the present generation an honorable place in most of the
     departments of art, sciences, and belles-lettres; and in some the
     very highest. Europe--the World--has but one Canova.

     It has been somewhere said by Alfieri, that "La pianta uomo nasce
     più robusta in Italia che in qualunque altra terra--e che gli
     stessi atroci delitti che vi si commettono ne sono una prova."
     Without subscribing to the latter part of his proposition--a
     dangerous doctrine, the truth of which may be disputed on better
     grounds, namely, that the Italians are in no respect more ferocious
     than their neighbors--that man must be willfully blind, or
     ignorantly heedless, who is not struck with the extraordinary
     capacity of this people, or, if such a word be admissible, their
     _capabilities_, the facility of their acquisitions, the rapidity of
     their conceptions, the fire of their genius, their sense of beauty,
     and amid all the disadvantages of repeated revolutions, the
     desolation of battles, and the despair of ages, their still
     unquenched "longing after immortality"--the immortality of
     independence. And when we ourselves, in riding round the walls of
     Rome, heard the simple lament of the laborers' chorus, "Roma! Roma!
     Roma! Roma non è più come era prima," it was difficult not to
     contrast this melancholy dirge with the bacchanal roar of the songs
     of exultation still yelled from the London taverns, over the
     carnage of Mont St. Jean, and the betrayal of Genoa, of Italy of
     France, and of the world, by men whose conduct you yourself have
     exposed in a work worthy of the better days of our history. For
     me,--

        "Non movero mai corda
        Ove la turba di sue ciance assorda."


     What Italy has gained by the late transfer of nations, it were
     useless for Englishmen to inquire, till it becomes ascertained that
     England has acquired something more than a permanent array and a
     suspended Habeas Corpus; it is enough for them to look at home. For
     what they have done abroad, and especially in the south "verily
     they _will have_ their reward," and at no very distant period.

     Wishing you, my dear Hobhouse, a safe and agreeable return to that
     country whose real welfare can be dearer to none than to yourself,
     I dedicate to you this poem in its completed state; and repeat once
     more how truly I am ever, your obliged and affectionate friend,

     BYRON.


MATTHEWS.

"Of this remarkable young man, Charles Skinner Matthews," says Moore, "I
have already had occasion to speak; but the high station which he held
in Lord Byron's affection and admiration may justify a somewhat ampler
tribute to his memory.

"There have seldom, perhaps, started together in life so many youths of
high promise and hope as were to be found among the society of which
Lord Byron formed a part at Cambridge. Among all these young men of
learning and talent, the superiority in almost every department of
intellect seems to have been, by the ready consent of all, awarded to
Matthews.... Young Matthews appears--in spite of some little asperities
of temper and manner, which he was already beginning to soften down when
snatched away--to have been one of those rare individuals who, while
they command deference, can at the same time win regard, and who, as it
were, relieve the intense feeling of admiration which they excite by
blending it with love."

Matthews died while bathing in the Cam.

On the 7th of September, 1811, Byron wrote to Dallas as
follows:--"Matthews, Hobhouse, Davies, and myself, formed a coterie of
our own at Cambridge and elsewhere.... Davies, who is not a scribbler,
has always beaten us all in the war of words. H---- and myself always
had the worst of it with the other two, and even M---- yielded to the
dashing vivacity of S. D----."

And in another letter:--"You did not know M----: he was a man of the
most astonishing powers."

And again, speaking of his death to Mr. Hodgson, he writes:--

"You will feel for poor Hobhouse; Matthews was the god of his idolatry:
and if intellect could exalt a man above his fellows, no one would
refuse him pre-eminence."

Matthews died at the time when he was offering himself to compete for a
lucrative and honorable position in the University. As soon as his death
was known, it was said that if the highest talents could be sure of
success, if the strictest principles of honor, and the devotion to him
of a multitude of friends could have assured it, his dream would have
been realized.

Besides a great superiority of intellect, Matthews was gifted with a
very amusing originality of thought, which, joined to a very keen sense
of the ridiculous, exercised a kind of irresistible fascination. Lord
Byron, who loved a joke better than any one, took great pleasure in all
the amusing eccentricities of him who was styled the Dean of Newstead;
while Byron had been christened by him the Abbot of that place.

Shortly before his death, in 1821, Byron wrote a very amusing letter
from Ravenna to Murray, recalling a host of anecdotes relating to
Matthews, and which well set forth the clever eccentricity of the man
for whom Byron professed so much esteem and admiration.


SCROOPE DAVIES.

We have already seen what Byron thought of Davies. His cleverness, his
great vivacity, and his gayety, were great resources to Byron in his
moments of affliction. When, in 1811, Byron experienced the bitterest
loss of his life--that of his mother--he wrote from Newstead to beg that
Davies would come and console him.

Shortly after, he wrote to Hodgson to say, "Davies has been here. His
gayety, which death itself can not change, has been of great service to
me: but it must be allowed that our laughter was very false."

We must not forget to mention, among the friends of Byron, William
Banks, Mr. Pigott, of Southwell, and Mr. Hodgson, a writer of great
merit, who was one of his companions at Newstead, and with whom he
corresponded even during his voyage in the East. For all these he
maintained throughout life the kindest remembrance, as also for Mr.
Beecher, for whom he entertained a regard equal to his affection. Mr.
Beecher having disapproved of the moral tendency of his early poems,
Lord Byron destroyed in one night the whole of the first edition of
those poems, in order to prove his sense of esteem for Mr. Beecher's
opinion. In the same category we should place Lord Byron's friendship
for Dr. Drury, his tutor at Harrow; but this latter friendship is so
marked with feelings of respect, veneration, and gratitude, that I had
rather speak of it later, when I shall treat of the last-named quality,
as one of the most noticeable in Lord Byron's character.


GRIEF WHICH HE EXPERIENCED AT THE LOSS OF HIS FRIENDS.

The grief which the loss of his friends occasioned to him was
proportioned to the degree of affection which he entertained for them.
By a curious fatality he had the misfortune to lose at an early age,
almost all those he loved. This grief reached its climax on his return
from his first travels.

"If," says Moore, "to be able to depict powerfully the painful emotions
it is necessary first to have experienced them, or, in other words, if,
for the poet to be great, the man must suffer, Lord Byron, it must be
owned, paid early this dear price of mastery. In the short space of one
month," he says in a note on Childe Harold, "I have lost her who gave me
being, and most of those who made that being tolerable." Of these young
Wingfield, whom we have seen high on the list of his Harrow favorites,
died of a fever at Coimbra; and Matthews, the idol of his admiration at
Cambridge, was drowned while bathing in the Cam. The following letter,
written shortly after, shows so powerful a feeling of regret, and
displays such real grief, that it is almost painful to peruse it:

"MY DEAREST DAVIES,--Some curse hangs over me and mine. My mother lies a
corpse in this house; one of my best friends is drowned in a ditch. What
can I say, or think, or do? My dear Scroope, if you can spare a moment,
do come down to me; I want a friend. Matthews's last letter was written
on Friday; on Saturday he was not. In ability who was like Matthews?
Come to me; I am almost desolate; left almost alone in the world. I had
but you and H---- and M----, and let me enjoy the survivors while I
can."

Writing to Dallas on the first of August, he says:--

"Besides her who gave me being, I have lost more than one who made that
being tolerable. Matthews, a man of the first talents, has perished
miserably in the muddy waves of the Cam; my poor school-fellow
Wingfield, at Coimbra, within a month: and while I had heard from all
three, but not seen one. But let this pass; we shall all one day pass
along with the rest; the world is too full of such things, and our very
sorrow is selfish."

To Hodgson he writes:--

"Indeed, the blows followed each other so rapidly, that I am yet stupid
from the shock; and though I do eat, and drink, and talk, and even laugh
at times, yet I can hardly persuade myself that I am awake, did not
every morning convince me mournfully to the contrary.

"You will write to me? I am solitary, and I never felt solitude irksome
before."

Some months later he heard of the death of his friend Eddleston, of
which he wrote to Dallas in the following terms:

"I have been again shocked with a death, and have lost one very dear to
me in happier times. But 'I have almost forgot the taste of grief,' and
'supped full of horrors' till I have become callous, nor have I a tear
left for an event which, five years ago, would have bowed down my head
to the earth. It seems as though I were to experience in my youth the
greatest misery of age. My friends fall around me, and I shall be left a
lonely tree before I am withered."

On that same day, 11th of October, when his mind was a prey to such
grief, he received a letter from Hodgson, advising him to banish all
cares and to find in pleasure the distraction he needed. Lord Byron
replied by some lines which Moore has reproduced; but the last of which
he omitted to give, and which were written only to mystify the excellent
Mr. Hodgson, who always looked at every thing and every one in a bright
light, and whom Byron wished to frighten.

Here are the first lines:--

  "Oh! banish care, such ever be
  The motto of _thy_ revelry!
  Perchance of _mine_ when wassail nights
  Renew those riotous delights,
  Wherewith the children of Despair
  Lull the lone heart, and 'banish care,'
  But not in morn's reflecting hour."

Two days after replying in verse, he answered him in prose.

"I am growing nervous--it is really true--really, wretchedly,
ridiculously, fine-ladically, nervous. I can neither read, write, nor
amuse myself, or any one else. My days are listless, and my nights
restless."

The same day, 11th October, 1811, one of the darkest in his life, he
wrote also his first stanza, addressed to Thyrza, of which the pathetic
charm seems to rise to the highest pitch.

"To no other but an imaginary being," says Moore, "could he have
addressed such tender and melancholy poetical lines."


BYRON'S FRIENDSHIP FOR MOORE.

At this time of his life, whether from the numerous injuries inflicted
on him by men and by fate, or from some other circumstance, Byron seemed
to be less given to friendships than formerly. He felt the force of
friendship as deeply as before, but he became less expansive. Death, in
taking so many of his friends away from him, had endeared those who
remained still more to his heart, and caused him to seek among these the
consolation he wanted. It is not true to say that Lord Byron was left
alone entirely, at any time of his life: quite the contrary, he at all
times lived in the midst of friends more or less devoted to him. Dallas
and Moore pretend that there was a time in his early youth when he had
no friends at all; but this time can not be stated, unless one forgets
the names of Hobhouse, Hodgson, Harness, Clare, and many others who
never lost sight of him, and unless one forgets the life of devotion
which he led at Southwell and at Newstead both before and after his
travels in the East.

Dallas and Moore, in speaking of this momentary isolation, in all
probability adopted a common prejudice which causes them to believe that
a lord must ever be lonely unless he is surrounded by a circle of rich
and fashionable companions. The truth is that Byron, having left England
immediately on quitting college, only had college connections, with all
of whom he renewed his friendship on his return to the mother-country.
But it is equally true, and this is to his credit, that he long
hesitated to replace departed friends by new ones.

To conquer this repugnance he required a very high degree of esteem for
the friend he was about to make, a similarity of tastes, and above all
a sympathy based upon real goodness. This was the time of his greatest
mental depression. It preceded that splendid epoch in his life, when his
star shone with such brilliancy in the literary sphere, thanks to
"Childe Harold," and in the world of politics through his parliamentary
successes, which had earned for him the praises of the whole nation.
Then did friends present themselves in scores, but out of these few were
chosen.

Among the great men of the day who surrounded him, he took to several,
and in particular to Lord Holland, a Whig like himself, and a man
equally distinguished for the excellence of his heart as for his rare
intellect. Lord Holland's hospitality was the pride of England. Byron
also conceived a liking for Lord Lansdowne,--the model of every virtue,
social and domestic; for Lord Dudley, whose wit so charmed him; for Mr.
Douglas Kinnaird, brother to Lord Kinnaird, whom Byron called his most
devoted friend in politics and in literature; for all those first
notabilities of the day, Rogers, Sheridan, Curran, Mackintosh, for all
of whom he may be said to have entertained a feeling akin to friendship.
But all these were friends of the moment; friends whom the relations of
every-day life in the world of fashion had brought together, and whose
talents exacted admiration, and hence he formed ties which may be styled
friendship, provided the strict sense of that word is not understood.
Byron felt this more than any one.

One man, however, contrived to get such a hold on his mind and heart,
that he became truly his friend, and exercised a salutary influence over
him. This man, who contributed to dispel the dark clouds which hung over
Byron's mind, and was the first to charm him in his new life of fashion,
was no other than Thomas Moore.

This new intimacy had not, it is true, the freshness of his early
friendships, formed, as these were, in the freshness of a young heart,
and therefore without any worldly calculations. Moore was even ten years
his senior. But his affection for Moore, founded as it was upon a
similarity of tastes, upon mutual reminiscences, esteem and admiration,
soon developed itself into a friendship which never changed. The
circumstances under which Byron and Moore became friends speak too
highly for the credit of both not to be mentioned here, and we must
therefore say a few words on the subject.

Byron, as the reader knows, had in his famous satire of "English Bards,"
etc., attacked the poems of Moore as having an immoral tendency. Instead
of interpreting the beautiful Irish melodies in their figurative sense,
Byron had taken the direct sense conveyed in their love-inspiring words,
and considered them as likely to produce effeminate and unhealthy
impressions.

  "Who in soft guise, surrounded by a choir
  Of virgins melting, not to Vesta's fire,
  With sparkling eyes, and cheek by passion flush'd,
  Strikes his wild lyre, while listening dames are hush'd?
  'Tis Little! young Catullus of his day,
  As sweet, but as immoral, in his lay!
  *    *     *     *     *     *     *
  Yet kind to youth,...
  She bids thee 'mend thy line and sin no more.'"

Lord Byron was always of opinion that literature, when it tends to exalt
the more tender sentiments of our nature, pure as these may be, is ever
injurious to the preservation of those manly and energetic qualities
which are so essential for the accomplishment of a noble mission here
below. This opinion is illustrated by the occasional extreme energy of
his heroes, and by his repugnance to introduce love into his dramas. If
this reproach offended Moore a little, Lord Byron's allusion to his duel
with Jeffrey at Chalk Farm in 1806, where it was said that the pistols
of each were not loaded, must have wounded him still more, and he wrote
a letter to Lord Byron which must, it would seem, have brought on a
duel.

Lord Byron was then travelling in the Levant, and the letter remained
with his agent in London. It was only two years after, on his return
from his travels, that he received it. An exchange of letters with Moore
took place, and such was the "good sense, self-possession and frankness"
of Byron's conduct in the matter, that Moore was quite pacified, and all
chances of a duel disappeared with the reconciliation of both, at the
request of each.

The reconciliation took place under the auspices of Rogers, and at a
dinner given by the latter for that purpose. After speaking of his
extraordinary beauty, and of the delicacy and prudence of his conduct,
Moore, in referring to this dinner, ends by saying, "Such did I find
Lord Byron on my first experience of him, and such, so open and
manly-minded did I find him to the last."

Byron, too, was influenced by the charm of Moore's acquaintance, and so
dear to him became the latter's society through that kind of electric
current which appears to run through some people and forms between them
an unbounded sympathy, that it actually succeeded in dispelling the
sombre ideas which then possessed his soul.

Their similarity of tastes, and at the same time those differences of
character which are so essential to the development of the intellect of
two sympathetic minds, were admirably adapted to form the charm which
existed in their relations with one another.

This sympathy, however, would never have found a place in the mind of
Lord Byron had it not sprung from his heart. Amiability was essential in
his friends before he could love them; and though Moore had not that
quality in its highest degree, still he had it sufficiently for Lord
Byron to say in one of his notes, "I have received the most amiable
letter possible from Moore. I really think him the most kind-hearted man
I ever met. Besides which, his talents are equal to his sentiments."

His sympathy for Moore was such that the mention of his name was enough
to awaken his spirits and give him joy. This is palpable in his letters
to Moore, which are masterpieces of talent.

His cordial friendship for Moore was never once affected by the series
of triumphs which followed its formation, and which made the whole world
bow before his genius. "The new scenes which opened before him with his
successes," says Moore, "far from detaching us from one another,
multiplied, on the contrary, the opportunities of meeting each other,
and thereby strengthening our intimacy."

This excessive liking for Moore was kept up by all the force which
constancy lends to affection. One of Byron's most remarkable qualities
was great constancy in his likes, tastes, and a particular attachment to
the recollections of his childhood. At the age of fifteen, Moore's
"Melodies" already delighted him. "I have just been looking over Little
Moore's Melodies, which I knew by heart at fifteen." In 1803 he wrote
from Ravenna: "Hum! I really believe that all the bad things I ever
wrote or did are attributable to that rascally book."

We have seen that at Southwell he used even to ask Miss Chaworth and
Miss Pigott to sing him songs of Moore. At Cambridge, what reconciled
him to leaving Harrow were the hours which he spent with his beloved
Edward Long, with whom he used to read Moore's poetry after having
listened to Long's music.

He already then had a sympathy for Moore, and a wish to know him. The
latter's place was therefore already marked out in Byron's heart, even
before he was fortunate enough to know him.

Moore's straitened means often obliged him to leave London. Then Byron
was seized with a fit of melancholy.

"I might be sentimental to-day, but I won't," he said. "The truth is
that I have done all I can since I am in this world to harden my heart,
and have not yet succeeded, though there is a good chance of my doing
so.

"I wish your line and mine were a little less parallel, they might
occasionally meet, which they do not now.

"I am sometimes inclined to write that I am ill, so as to see you arrive
in London, where no one was ever so happy to see you as I am, and where
there is no one I would sooner seek consolation from, were I ill."

Then, according to his habitual custom of ever depreciating himself
morally, he writes to Moore, in answer to the latter's compliments about
his goodness: "But they say the devil is amusing when pleased, and I
must have been more venomous than the old serpent, to have hissed or
stung in your company."

His sympathy for Moore went so far as to induce him to believe that he
was capable of every thing that is good.

"Moore," says he, in his memoranda of 1813, "has a reunion of
exceptional talents--poetry, music, voice, he has all--and an expression
of countenance such as no one will ever have.

"What humor in his poet's bag! There is nothing that Moore can not do if
he wishes.

"He has but one fault, which I mourn every day--he is not here."

He even liked to attribute to Moore successes which the latter only owed
to himself. Byron had, as the reader knows, the most musical of voices.
Once heard, it could not be forgotten.[26] He had never learned music,
but his ear was so just, that when he hummed a tune his voice was so
touching as to move one to tears.

"Not a day passes," he wrote to Moore, "that I don't think and speak of
you. You can not doubt my sincere admiration, waiving personal
friendship for the present. I have you by rote and by heart, of which
_ecce signum_."

He then goes on to tell him his adventure when at Lady O----'s:--

"I have a habit of uttering, to what I think tunes, your 'Oh, breathe
not,' and others; they are my matins and vespers. I did not intend them
to be overheard, but one morning in comes not la Donna, but il Marita,
with a very grave face, and said, 'Byron, I must request you not to sing
any more, at least of those songs.'--'Why?'--'They make my wife cry, and
so melancholy that I wish her to hear no more of them.'

"Now, my dear Moore, the effect must have been from your words, and
certainly not my music."

To give Moore the benefit of effecting a great success with an Oriental
poem, Byron gave up his own idea of writing one, and sent him some
Turkish books.

"I have been thinking of a story," says he, "grafted on the amours of a
Peri and a mortal, something like Cayotte's 'Diable Amoureux.'
Tenderness is not my _forte_; for that reason I have given up the idea,
but I think it a subject you might make much of."

Moore actually wished to write a poem on an Oriental subject, but
dreaded such a rival as Byron, and expressed his fears in writing to
him. Byron replied:--

"Your Peri, my dear Moore, is sacred and inviolable. I have no idea of
touching the hem of her petticoat. Your affectation of a dislike to
encounter me is so flattering that I begin to think myself a very fine
fellow. But it really puts me out of humor to hear you talk thus."

Not only did Byron encourage Moore in his task, but effaced himself
completely in order to make room for him.

When he published the "Bride of Abydos," Moore remarked that there
existed some connection in that poem with an incident he had to
introduce in his own poem of "Lalla Rookh." He wrote thereupon to Byron
to say that he would stop his own work, because to aspire after him to
describe the energy of passion would be the work of a Cæsar.

Byron replied:--

"I see in you what I never saw in poet before, a strange diffidence of
your own powers, which I can not account for, and which must be
unaccountable when a Cossack like me can appall a cuirassier.

"Go on--I shall really be very unhappy if I at all interfere with you.
The success of mine is yet problematical ... Come out, screw your
courage to the sticking-place--no man stands higher, whatever you may
think on a rainy day in your provincial retreat."

To Moore he dedicated his "Corsair," and to read the preface is to see
how sincerely attached Byron was to his friend.

When at Venice he heard of some domestic affliction which had befallen
Moore; he wrote to him with that admirable simplicity of style which can
not be imitated, because the true accents of the heart defy imitation.

"Your domestic afflictions distress me sincerely; and, as far as you are
concerned, my feelings will always reach the furthest limits to which I
may still venture. Throughout life your losses shall be mine, your gains
mine also, and, however much I may lose in sensibility, there will
always remain a drop of it for you."

When Moore obtained his greatest success, and arrived at the summit of
popularity, by the publication of "Lalla Rookh," Byron's pleasure was
equal to the encouragements he had given him. But of his noble soul, in
which no feeling of jealousy could enter, we shall speak elsewhere.
Here, in conclusion, I must add that his friendship for Moore remained
stanch through time and circumstances, and even notwithstanding Moore's
wrongs toward him, of which I shall speak in another chapter.

In treating of Byron's friendships, I have endeavored to in set forth
the wrongs which some of his friends, and Moore particular, have
committed against him both before and after his death.

If, as Moore observes, it be true that Byron never lost a friend, was
their friendship a like friendship with his own? Has it ever gone so far
as to make sacrifices for his sake, and has not Lord Byron ever given
more as a friend than he ever received in return? Had he found in his
friendship among men that reciprocity of feeling which he ever found
among women, would so many injuries and calumnies have been heaped upon
his head? Would not his friends, had they shown a little more warmth of
affection, have been able to silence those numerous rivals who rendered
his life a burden to him? Had they been conscientious in their opinions,
they would certainly not have drawn upon them the rather bitter lines in
"Childe Harold:"--

                                   "I do believe,
    Though I have found them not, that there may be
    Words which are things, hopes which will not deceive,
    And virtues which are merciful, nor weave
    Snares for the failing; I would also deem
    O'er others' griefs that some sincerely grieve,
    That two, or one, are almost what they seem,
  That goodness is no name, and happiness no dream."

And later, in "Don Juan," Byron would not have said with a smile, but
also with a pain which sprang from the heart:--

  "O Job! you had two friends: one's quite enough,
    Especially when we are ill at ease;
  They are but bad pilots when the weather's rough,
    Doctors less famous for their cures than fees.

  Let no man grumble when his friends fall off,
    As they will do like leaves at the first breeze;
  When your affairs come round, one way or t'other,
    Go to the coffee-house and take another."

It is, however, also true that he would not have had the opportunity of
showing us so perfectly the beauty of his mind, and his admirable
constancy, notwithstanding the conduct of those on whom he had bestowed
his friendship. This constancy is shown even by his own words, for
immediately after the lines quoted above, he adds:--

  "But this is not my maxim; had it been,
  Some heart-aches had been spared me."

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 24: Mossop, a contemporary of Garrick, famous for his
performance of Zanga.]

[Footnote 25: His marriage.]

[Footnote 26: Lord Holland's youngest son, in speaking of Byron, styled
him "the gentleman with the beautiful voice."]



CHAPTER VII.

LORD BYRON CONSIDERED AS A FATHER, AS A BROTHER, AND AS A SON.

HIS GOODNESS SHOWN BY THE STRENGTH OF HIS INSTINCTIVE AFFECTIONS.


LORD BYRON AS A FATHER.

If, as a great moralist has said, our natural affections have power only
upon sensitive and virtuous natures, but are despised by men of corrupt
and dissipated habits, then must we find a proof again of Lord Byron's
excellence in the influence which his affections exercised over him.

His tenderness for his child, and for his sister, was like a ray of
sunshine which lit up his whole heart, and in the moments of greatest
depression prevented desolation from completely absorbing his nature.

His thoughts were never far from the objects of his affection.

    CXV.

    "My daughter! with thy name this song begun;
    My daughter! with thy name thus much shall end;
    I see thee not, I hear thee not, but none
    Can be so wrapt in thee; thou art the friend
    To whom the shadows of far years extend:
    Albeit my brow thou never shouldst behold,
    My voice shall with thy future visions blend.
    And reach into thy heart, when mine is cold,
  A token and a tone, even from thy father's mould.

    CXVI.

    "To aid thy mind's development, to watch
    Thy dawn of little joys, to sit and see
    Almost thy very growth, to view thee catch
    Knowledge of objects,--wonders yet to thee!
    To hold thee lightly on a gentle knee,
    And print on thy soft cheek a parent's kiss,
    This, it should seem, was not reserved for me,
    Yet this was in my nature: as it is,
  I know not what is there, yet something like to this.

  CXVIII.

    *     *     *     *     *     *     *
    "Sweet be thy cradled slumbers! O'er the sea
    And from the mountains where I now respire,
    Fain would I waft such blessing upon thee,
  As, with a sigh, I deem thou might'st have been to me."

Who ever read "Childe Harold" and was not touched by the delightful
stanzas of the third canto,--a perfect _chef-d'oeuvre_ of tenderness
and kindness, inclosed, as it were, in another master-piece, like, were
it possible, a jewel found in a diamond?

Those only, however, who lived with him in Greece and in Italy are able
to bear witness to his paternal tenderness. This sentiment really
developed itself on his leaving England, and only appears from that time
forward in his poems. Byron loved all children, but his heart beat
really when he met children of Ada's age.

Hearing at Venice that Moore had lost a child, he wrote to him, "I enter
fully into your misery, for I feel myself entirely absorbed in my
children. I have such tenderness for my little Ada."

Both at Ravenna and at Pisa he was miserable if he did not hear from
Ada. Whenever he received any portraits of her or a piece of her hair,
these were solemn days of rejoicing for him, but they usually increased
his melancholy. When in Greece he heard of Ada's illness, he was seized
with such anxiety that he could no longer give his attention to any
thing. "His journal (which, by-the-by, was lost or destroyed after his
death) was interrupted on account of the news of his child's illness,"
says Count Gamba, in his narrative of Byron's last voyage to Greece.

The thought of his child was ever present to him when he wrote, and she
was the centre of all his hopes and his fears.

The persecution to which he was subjected for having written "Don Juan,"
having made him fear one day at Pisa that its effect upon his daughter
might be to diminish her affection for him, he said:--

"I am so jealous of my daughter's entire sympathy, that, were this work,
'Don Juan'--(written to while away hours of pain and sorrow),--to
diminish her affection for me, I would never write a word more; and
would to God I had not written a word of it!"

He likewise said that he was often wont to think of the time when his
daughter would know her father by his works. "Then," said he, "shall I
triumph, and the tears which my daughter will then shed, together with
the knowledge that she will share the feelings with which the various
allusions to herself and me have been written, will console me in my
darkest hours. Ada's mother may have enjoyed the smiles of her youth and
childhood, but the tears of her maturer age will be for me."

He distinctly foresaw that his daughter would be brought up to look
indifferently upon her father; but he never could have believed that
such means would be adopted, as were used, to alienate from him the
heart of his own child. We will give one instance only, mentioned by
Colonel Wildman, the companion and friend of Byron, who had bought
Newstead, of which he took the most religious care. Having in London
made the acquaintance of Ada, then Lady Lovelace, the colonel invited
her to pay a visit to the late residence of her illustrious father, and
she went to see it sixteen months before Byron's death. As Lady Lovelace
was looking over the library one morning, the colonel took a book of
poems and read out a poem with all the force of the soul and heart. Lady
Lovelace, in rapture with this poem, asked the name of its writer.
"There he is," said the colonel, pointing to a portrait of Byron,
painted by Phillips, which hung over the wall, and he accompanied his
gesture by certain remarks which showed what he felt at the ignorance of
the daughter. Lady Lovelace remained stupefied, and, from that moment, a
kind of revolution took place in her feelings toward her father. "Do not
think, colonel," she said, "that it is affectation in me to declare that
I have been brought up in complete ignorance of all that concerned my
father."

Never had Lady Lovelace seen even the writing of her father; and it was
Murray who showed it to her for the first time.

From that moment an enthusiasm for her father filled her whole soul. She
shut herself up for hours in the rooms which he had inhabited, and which
were still filled with the things which he had used. Here she devoted
herself to her favorite studies. She chose to sleep in the apartments
which were most particularly hallowed by the reminiscences of her
father, and appeared never to have been happier than during this stay at
Newstead, absorbed as she had become for the first time in all the glory
of him whose tenderness for her had been so carefully concealed from
her. From that time all appeared insipid and tasteless to her; existence
became a pain. Every thing told her of her father's renown, and nothing
could replace it. All these feelings so possessed her that she fell ill,
and when she was on the point of death she wrote to Colonel Wildman to
beg that she might be buried next to her illustrious father. There, in
the modest village church of Hucknell, lie the father and the daughter,
who, separated from one another during their lifetime, became united in
death, and thus were realized, in a truly prophetic way, the words which
close the admirable third canto of "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage." Words
of consolation for those who loved Byron, and whom religion and
philosophy inspire with hope; for they think that, despite his enemies,
this union of their mortal remains must be the symbol of their union
above, and that the prophetic sense of the words pronounced in the agony
of despair will be realized by an eternal happiness.

    CXVII.

    "Yet, though dull Hate as duty should be taught,
    I know that thou wilt love me; though my name
    Should be shut from thee, as a spell still fraught
    With desolation, and a broken claim:
    Though the grave closed between us,--'twere the same,
    I know that thou wilt love me; though to drain
    _My_ blood from out thy being were an aim
    And an attainment,--all would be in vain,--
  Still thou would'st love me, still that more than life retain."


LORD BYRON AS A BROTHER.

Fraternal love was no less conspicuous in him than his paternal
affection. It may be easily conceived how great must have been the
influence over one who cared so much for friends in general, of that
affection which is the perfection of love, and, at the same time, the
most delicate, peaceful, and charming of sentiments. Such a love has
neither misunderstandings to dread, nor misrepresentations to fear. It
is above the caprices, ennui, and changes which often rule the
friendships of our choice.

From his return from his first travels in the East, to the time of his
publishing the first two cantos of "Childe Harold," Byron may be said
not to have known his sister. The daughter of another mother, and older
by several years than himself,--living as she did with relations of her
mother, brought up as she was by her grandmother, Lady Carmarthen, and
married as she had been at an early age to the Hon. Colonel Leigh, Lord
Byron had had very few opportunities of seeing her. It was only on his
return from the East that he began to have some correspondence with her,
on the occasion of his publication of "Childe Harold." Notwithstanding
all these circumstances, which might tend to lessen in him his love for
his sister, his affection for her on the contrary increased.

The reader has observed that about this time, under the pressure of
repeated sorrows, a shade of misanthropy had spread itself over his
character, notwithstanding that such a failing was totally contrary to
his nature. The acquaintance with his sister helped greatly to dispel
this veil, and, thanks to it, he was able to get rid of the first
sorrowful impressions of youth.

His dear Augusta became the confidant of his heart; and his pen on the
one hand, and his sister on the other, were the means of curing him of
all ills. Her influence over him is shown by the love expressed for her
in his letters and his notes at that time, and her prudent advice often
puts to flight the more unruly dictates of his imagination. Thus, on one
occasion, Mrs. Musters (Miss Chaworth) wrote to ask Byron to come and
see her. She was miserable that she had preferred her husband to the
handsome young man now the celebrated Byron. Byron is tempted to go and
see her; he loved her so dearly when a boy. But Augusta thought it
dangerous that he should go and see her, and Byron does not.

"Augusta wishes that I should be reconciled with Lord Carlisle," he
says. "I have refused this to every body, but I can not to my sister. I
shall, therefore, have to do it, though I had as lief 'Drink up Esil,'
or 'eat a crocodile.'"

"We will see. Ward, the Hollands, the Lambs, Rogers, every one has,
more or less, tried to settle these matters during the past two years,
but unsuccessfully; if Augusta succeeds it will be odd, and I shall
laugh."

To refuse his sister any thing was out of the question. He loved her so
much that the least likeness to her in any woman was enough to attract
his sympathy. If ill, he would not have his sister know it; if she was
unwell, he can not rest until he received better accounts of her health.
Nothing, however, shows better his love for her than the lines with
which she inspired him at the time of his deepest distress; that is, on
leaving England for Switzerland. I can not transcribe them altogether,
but I can not refuse myself the satisfaction of quoting some extracts
from them.

    I.

  "When all around grew drear and dark,
    And reason half withheld her ray--
  And hope but shed a dying spark,
    Which more misled my lonely way,
   *     *     *     *     *     *     *
  Thou wert the solitary star
    Which rose and set not to the last.

    IV.

  "Oh! blest be thine unbroken light!
    That watch'd me as a seraph's eye,
  And stood between me and the night,
    Forever shining sweetly nigh.

    VI.

  "Still may the spirit dwell on mine,
    And teach it what to brave or brook;
  There's more in one soft word of thine
    Than in the world's defied rebuke."

Again,

  "Though human, thou didst not deceive me,
    Though woman, thou didst not forsake,
  Though loved, though forborest to grieve me,
    Though slandered, thou never couldst shake,
  Though trusted, thou didst not disclaim me,
    Though parted, it was not to fly,
  Though watchful, 'twas not to defame me,
    Nor, mute, that the world might belie.
  *     *     *     *     *     *     *
  "From the wreck of the past, which hath perish'd,
    Thus much I at least may recall,
  It hath taught me that what I most cherish'd
    Deserved to be dearest of all."

This deep fraternal affection, assumed at times under the influence of
his powerful genius, and under exceptional circumstances an almost too
passionate expression, which opened a fresh field to his enemies. But it
was to him a consolation and a benefit, which did him good throughout
his short career; and even at the times when troubles came pouring down
upon him, the love of his sister, though not sufficient to give him
courage enough to bear up, still always appeared to him as a hope and an
encouragement to do well.


LORD BYRON AS A SON.

The two sentiments of which we have just spoken were so strong and so
proved in Lord Byron, that it would be almost useless to speak of them,
were it not for the pleasure which there is in recalling them.

But there is another natural affection which, though less manifested,
was not less felt by Byron; I mean his filial love.

Many biographers, and Moore at their head, have not, for reasons to
which I have alluded in another chapter, been fair to his mother.
Besides the motives which seem always to have actuated them in the
exaggeration of his faults, and of the smallest particulars of his life,
they wished, I believe, to give to their narrative a more amusing
character. Moore would seem to say that Byron's childhood was badly
directed; but how so? Does he mean that his mother did not justly
appreciate the peculiarities of her child's character, or promote the
fine dispositions of his nature? But such a discernment in parents is
matter of rare occurrence, and can it be said that many known characters
have been handled according to the scientific rules here laid down?
Those who speak of these fine theories would, we fear, be rather puzzled
by their application, were they called to do so.

It is matter of note that Byron was surrounded as a child with the
tenderest care. At a very early age he was handed over, by his
over-indulgent mother and nurses, to most respectable, intelligent, and
devoted masters; and at no time of his youth was either his physical,
intellectual, or moral education ever neglected. I may add that Byron's
mother was respected, both as a wife and as a mother. She was an heiress
belonging to a most ancient Scotch family, and closely allied to the
royal house of Stuart, and was the second wife of the youngest son of
Admiral Byron,--an unusually handsome man, and father to the poet.

Though this man had been rather spoiled by the world, and had not
rendered her life perfectly happy, she loved him passionately, and was
most devoted to him. When he died, four years after their marriage, her
grief was such that it completely changed her nature.

A widow at twenty-three, she centred in her only child all the depth of
her affection, and though her fortune was considerably reduced, she
still had enough to render her child's life comfortable, so that his
education did not suffer by it. He was scarcely six years of age when he
succeeded to the barony of his great-uncle, and this circumstance in a
young Englishman's life always means increased prosperity. His childhood
was, therefore, most decidedly fortunate in many respects. This is all
the more certain that Byron, throughout his life, always spoke of his
happy childhood, and that his ideal of human happiness never seems to
have been realized except at that time.

But, notwithstanding Moore's exaggerations, and the excessive kindness
of his mother, whose whole life was centred in the one thought of
amusing her child, it is very likely that Byron's passionate nature may
have rendered his relations at home less agreeable than they might have
been. However much this may have been the case, it is still more certain
that such little family dissensions never produced in his mind the
slightest germ of ingratitude toward or want of care for his mother, and
that the recollection of his passionate moments only served to make him
acquire by his own efforts that wonderful self-possession for which he
was afterward remarkable.

His filial sentiments betrayed themselves at every period, and in every
circumstance of his life. The reader has seen how, at Harrow, by showing
the names of their parents written on the wall, he prevented his
comrades from setting fire to the school.

On attaining his majority, his first care was to improve the financial
condition of his mother, notwithstanding the shattered state of his
fortune, and to prepare a suitable apartment for her at Newstead.

When the cruel criticisms of the "Edinburgh Review" condemned his first
steps in the career of literature, his chief care after the first
explosion of his own sorrow, was to allay, as far as he could, the
sensitiveness of his mother, who, not having the same motive or power to
summon up a spirit of resistance, was, of course, more helplessly alive
to this attack upon his fame, and felt it far more than, after the first
burst of indignation, he did himself.

During his first travels to the East his affairs were in a very
embarrassed state. But, nevertheless, here are the terms in which he
wrote to his mother from Constantinople:--

"If you have occasion for any pecuniary supply, pray use my funds as far
as they go, without reserve; and, lest this should not be enough, in my
next to Mr. H---- I will direct him to advance any sum you may want."

There is a degree of melancholy in the letter which he wrote to his
mother on his return to England. He had received most deplorable
accounts of his affairs when at Malta, and he applied the terms apathy
and indifference to the sentiments with which he approached his native
land. He goes on to say, however, that the word apathy is not to be
applied to his mother, as he will show; that he wishes her to be the
mistress of Newstead, and to consider him only as the visitor. He brings
her presents of all kinds, etc. "That notwithstanding this alienation,"
adds Moore, "which her own unfortunate temper produced, he should have
continued to consult her wishes, and minister to her comforts with such
unfailing thoughtfulness (as is evinced not only in the frequency of his
letters, but in the almost exclusive appropriation of Newstead to her
use), redounds in no ordinary degree to his honor."

This want of affection never existed but in the minds of some of Byron's
biographers. Lord Byron knew that his mother doted upon him, and that
she watched his growing fame with feverish anxiety.

His successes were passionately looked forward to by her. She had
collected in one volume all the articles which had appeared upon his
first poems and satires, and had written her own remarks in the margin,
which showed that she was possessed of great good sense and considerable
talent. Could, then, such a heart as Lord Byron's be ungrateful, and not
love such a mother? Mr. Galt, a biographer of Byron's, who is certainly
not to be suspected of partiality, renders him, however, full justice in
regard to his filial devotion during the life of his mother, and to the
deep distress which he felt at her death.

"In the mean time, while busily engaged in his literary projects with
Mr. Dallas, and in law affairs with his agent, he was suddenly summoned
to Newstead by the state of his mother's health. Before he reached the
Abbey she had breathed her last. The event deeply affected him.
Notwithstanding her violent temper, her affection for him had been so
fond and ardent that he undoubtedly returned it with unaffected
sincerity; and, from many casual and incidental expressions which I have
heard him employ concerning her, I am persuaded that this filial love
was not at any time even of an ordinary kind."

On the night after his arrival at the Abbey, the waiting-woman of Mrs.
Byron, in passing the door of the room where the corpse lay, heard the
sound of some one sighing heavily within, and, on entering, found his
lordship sitting in the dark beside the bed. She remonstrated, when he
burst into tears, and exclaimed, "I had but one friend in the world, and
she is gone!" This same filial devotion often inspired him with
beautiful lines, such as those in the third canto of "Childe Harold,"
when standing before the tomb of Julia Alpinula, he exclaims:

    LXVI.

    "And there--oh! sweet and sacred be the name!--
    Julia--the daughter, the devoted--gave
    Her youth to Heaven; her heart, beneath a claim
    Nearest to Heaven's, broke o'er a father's grave.
    Justice is sworn 'gainst tears, and hers would crave
    The life she lived in; but the Judge was just,
    And then she died on him she could not save.
    Their tomb was simple, and without a bust,
  And held within their urn one mind, one heart, one dust.

    LXVII.

    "But these are deeds which should not pass away,
    And names that must not wither, though the earth
    Forgets her empires with a just decay,
    The enslavers and the enslaved, their death and birth;
    The high, the mountain-majesty of worth
    Should be, and shall, survivor of its woe,
    And from its immortality look forth
    In the sun's face, like yonder Alpine snow,
  Imperishably pure beyond all things below."

As a note to the above, Byron writes:

"Julia Alpinula, a young Aventian priestess, died soon after a vain
attempt to save her father, condemned to death as a traitor by Aulus
Coecina. Her epitaph was discovered many years ago; it is thus:

          "JULIA ALPINULA:
            HIC JACEO.
    INFELICIS PATRIS, INFELIX PROLES.
        DEÆ AVENTIÆ SACERDOS.
    EXORARE PATRIS NECEM NON POTUI:
      MALE MORI IN FATIS ILLE ERAT.
          VIXI ANNOS XXIII.

"I know," adds Byron, "of no human composition so affecting as this, nor
a history of deeper interest. These are the names and actions which
ought not to perish, and to which we turn with a true and healthy
tenderness."

His father having died in 1793, when Byron was only four years of age,
he could not know him; but to show how keen were his sentiments toward
his memory, I must transcribe a note of Murray's after the following
lines in "Hours of Idleness:"--

  "Stern Death forbade my orphan youth to share
  The tender guidance of a father's care;
  Can rank, or e'en a guardian's name supply
  The love which glistens in a father's eye?"

"In all the biographies which have yet been published of Byron," remarks
Murray, "undue severity has been the light by which the character of
Byron's father has been judged. Like his son, he was unfortunately
brought up by a mother only. Admiral Byron, his father, being compelled
by his duties to live away from his family, the son was brought up in a
French military academy, which was not likely at that time to do his
morals much good. He passed from school into the Coldstream Guards,
where he was launched into every species of temptation imaginable, and
likely to present themselves to a young man of singular beauty, and heir
to a fine name, in the metropolis of England."

The unfortunate intrigue, of which so much has been said, as if it had
compromised his reputation as a man of honor, took place when he was
just of age, and he died in France at the age of thirty-five. One can
hardly understand why the biographers of Byron have insisted upon
depreciating the personal qualities of his father, apart from the
positively injurious and wicked assertions made against him in memoirs
of Lord Byron's life, and in reviews of such memoirs.

Some severe reflections of this kind having found their way into the
preface to a French translation of Byron's works, which appeared shortly
before the latter's departure for Greece, called for an expostulation by
the son himself on behalf of his father, in a letter addressed to Mr.
Coulmann, who had been charged to offer to the poet the homage of the
French literary men of the day. This letter is interesting in more than
one particular, as it re-establishes in their true light several facts
wrongly stated with regard to Byron's family, and because it is,
perhaps, the last letter which Byron wrote from Italy. It is quoted _in
extenso_ in the chapter entitled "Byron's Life in Italy."[27] I can only
repeat here the words which apply more particularly to his father:--

"The author of the essay (M. Pichot) has cruelly calumniated my father.
Far from being brutal, he was, according to the testimony of all those
who knew him, extremely amiable, and of a lively character, though
careless and dissipated. He had the reputation of being a good officer,
and had proved himself such in America. The facts themselves belie the
assertion. It is not by brutal means that a young officer seduces and
elopes with a marchioness, and then marries two heiresses in succession.
It is true that he was young, and very handsome, which is a great point.

"His first wife, Lady Conyers, Marchioness of Carmarthen, did not die of
a broken heart, but of an illness which she contracted because she
insisted on following my father out hunting before she had completely
recovered from her confinement, immediately after the birth of my sister
Augusta. His second wife, my mother, who claims every respect, had, I
assure you, far too proud a nature ever to stand ill-treatment from any
body, and would have proved it had it been the case. I must add, that my
father lived a long time in Paris, where he saw a great deal of the
Maréchal de Biron, the commander of the French Guards, who, from the
similarity of our names, and of our Norman extraction, believed himself
to be our cousin. My father died at thirty-seven years of age, and
whatever faults he may have had, cruelty was not one of them. If the
essay were to be circulated in England, I am sure that the part relating
to my father would pain my sister Augusta even more than myself, and she
does not deserve it; for there is not a more angelic being on earth.
Both Augusta and I have always cherished the memory of our father as
much as we cherished one another,--a proof, at least, that we had no
recollection of any harsh treatment on his part. If he dissipated his
fortune, that concerns us, since we are his heirs; but until we reproach
him with the fact, I know of no one who has a right to do so.

BYRON."

From all that has been said it will be seen that Byron's sensitive heart
was eminently adapted to family affections. Affection alone made him
happy, and his nature craved for it. He was often rather influenced by
passion than a seeker of its pleasures, and whenever he found relief in
the satisfaction of his passions, it was only because there was real
affection at the bottom,--an affection which tended to give him those
pleasures of intimacy in which he delighted.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 27: This chapter is to be published separately, at no very
distant period, by the author.--_Note of the translator._]



CHAPTER VIII.

QUALITIES OF LORD BYRON'S HEART.


Gratitude,--that honesty of the soul which is even greater than social
honesty, since it is regulated by no express law, and that most uncommon
virtue, since it proscribes selfishness,--was pre-eminently conspicuous
in Lord Byron.

To forget a kindness done, a service rendered, or a good-natured
proceeding, was for him an impossibility. The memories of his heart were
even more astonishing than those of his mind.

His affection for his nurses, for his masters, for all those who had
taken care of him when a boy, is well known; and how great was his
gratitude for all that Doctor Drury had done for him! His early poems
are full of it. His grateful affection for Drury he felt until his last
hour.

This quality was so strong in him, that it not only permitted him to
forget all past offenses, but even rendered him blind to any fresh
wrongs. It sufficed to have been kind to him once, to claim his
indulgence. The reader remembers that Jeffrey had been the most cruel of
the persecutors of his early poems, but that later he had shown more
impartiality. This act of justice appeared to Byron a generous act, and
one sufficient for him in return to forget all the harm done to him in
the past. We accordingly find in his memoranda of 1814:--

"It does honor to the editor (Jeffrey), because he once abused me: many
a man will retract praise; none but a high-spirited mind will revoke its
censure, or _can_ praise the man it has once attacked."

Yet Jeffrey, who was eminently a critic, gave fresh causes of
displeasure to Byron at a later period, and then it was that he forgot
the present on recalling the past.

In speaking of this Scotch critic, he considered himself quite disarmed.
When at Venice, he heard that he had been attacked about Coleridge in
the "Edinburgh Review," he wrote as follows to Murray:--

"The article in the 'Edinburgh Review' on Coleridge, I have not seen;
but whether I am attacked in it or not, or in any other of the same
journal, I shall never think ill of Mr. Jeffrey on that account, nor
forget that his conduct toward me has been certainly most handsome
during the last four or more years."[28]

And instead of complaining of this attack, he laughed at it with
Moore:--

"The 'Edinburgh Review' had attacked me.... Et tu, Jeffrey! 'there is
nothing but roguery in villainous man.' But I absolve him of all
attacks, present and future; for I think he had already pushed his
clemency in my behoof to the utmost, and I shall always think well of
him. I only wonder he did not begin before, as my domestic destruction
was a fine opening for all who wished to avail themselves of the
opportunity."[29]

His great sympathy for Walter Scott became quite enthusiastic, owing
also to a feeling of gratitude for a service rendered to him by Scott.
Shortly after his arrival in Italy, and the publication of the third
canto of "Childe Harold," public opinion in England went completely
against him, and an article appeared in the "Quarterly Review," by an
anonymous pen, in his defense. Byron was so touched by this, that he
endeavored to find out the name of its writer.

"I can not," he said to Murray, "express myself better than in the words
of my sister Augusta, who (speaking of it) says, 'that it is written in
a spirit of the most feeling and kind nature.' It is, however, something
more: it seems to me (as far as the subject of it may be permitted to
judge) to be very well written as a composition, and I think will do the
journal no discredit; because, even those who condemn its partiality,
must praise its generosity. The temptations to take another and a less
favorable view of the question have been so great and numerous, that
what with public opinion, politics, etc., he must be a gallant as well
as a good man, who has ventured in that place, and at this time, to
write such an article even anonymously.

"Perhaps, some day or other, you will know or tell me the writer's name.
Be assured, had the article been a harsh one, I should not have asked
it."

He afterward learnt that the article had been written by Walter Scott,
and his sympathy was so increased by his gratitude for the service
rendered, that he never after seemed happier than when he could extol
Scott's talents and kindness.

Gratitude, which often weighs upon one as a duty, so captivated his
soul, that the remembrance of the kindness done to him was wont to turn
into an affectionate devotion, which time could not change. Long after
the appearance of the article, he wrote as follows to Scott from Pisa:--

"I owe to you far more than the usual obligations for the courtesies of
literature and common friendship, for you went out of your way in 1817
to do me a service, when it required, not merely kindness, but courage
to do so; to have been mentioned by you, in such a manner, would have
been a proud memorial at any time, but at such a time, 'when all the
world and his wife,' as the proverb goes, were trying to trample upon
me, was something still more complimentary to my self-esteem. Had it
been a common criticism, however eloquent or panegyrical, I should have
felt pleased, undoubtedly, and grateful, but not to the extent which the
extraordinary good-heartedness of the whole proceeding must induce in
any mind capable of such sensations. The very tardiness of this
acknowledgment will, at least, show that I have not forgotten the
obligation; and I can assure you, that my sense of it has been out at
compound interest during the delay."

Gratitude, with him, was oftentimes a magnifying-glass which he used
when he had to appreciate certain merits. No doubt Gifford was a
judicious, clear-sighted, and impartial critic, but Byron extolled him
as an oracle of good taste, and submitted like a child to his decisions.

Gratitude levelled every social condition in his eyes, as we may see by
his correspondence with Murray, where the proud aristocrat considers his
publisher on a par with himself. Moore marvelled at this; but Moore
forgets that Murray was no ordinary publisher, and that, generous by
nature, he made to Byron on one occasion, in 1815, when the noble poet
was in great difficulties, the handsomest offers. Lord Byron refused
them; but the act was so noble, that its impression was never effaced
from Byron's mind, and modified the nature of their relations.

When he had recovered his fortune, he wrote to Murray from Ravenna:--"I
only know of three men who would have raised a finger on my behalf; and
one of those is yourself. It was in 1815, when I was not even sure of a
five-pound note. I refused your offer, but have preserved the
recollection of it, though you may have lost it."

To calculate the degree of gratitude due to a service rendered, would
have seemed ingratitude in his eyes. He could create beings who were
capable of doling it out in that way, but to apply it to himself was an
impossibility.

His predilection for the inhabitants of Epirus, of Albania, and for the
Suliotes, is known. This predilection originated in the gratitude which
he felt for the care taken of him by two Albanian servants who doted on
him, during an illness which he had at Patras at the time when he
visited that place for the first time. It was also on the Albanian coast
that he was wrecked on one occasion, and where he received that
hospitality which he has immortalized in Don Juan.

Byron's predilection for this people even overcame the effects which
their ingratitude might have produced, for it is matter of history, how
badly the barbarous Suliotes behaved to him at Missolonghi a short time
before his death; they who had been so benefited by his kindness to
them.

The memory of services done to him was not susceptible of change, and
neither time nor distance could in the least affect it. The moment he
had contracted a debt of gratitude, he believed himself obliged to pay
interest upon it all his life, even had he discharged his debt. One
single anecdote will serve to illustrate the truth of these remarks. On
the eve of his last departure from London in 1816, when the cruelty of
his enemies, powerfully seconded by the spite of Lady Byron, had
succeeded in so perverting facts as to give their calumnies the color of
truth, and to throw upon his conduct as a husband so false a light as to
hold him up to universal execration, it required great courage to
venture on his defense. Lady Jersey did it. She--who was then quite the
mistress of fashion by her beauty, her youth, her rank, her fortune,
and her irreproachable conduct--organized a fête in honor of Byron, and
invited all that was most distinguished in London to come and wish Byron
farewell.

Among those who responded to the noble courage of Lady Jersey was one
equally deserving of praise, Miss Mercer, now Lady K----. This conduct
of Miss Mercer was all the more creditable that there had been a
question of her marriage with Lord Byron, and that Miss Milbank had been
preferred to her.

This party gave Byron a great insight into the human heart, and showed
him all its beauty and all its baseness. The reflections which it caused
him to make, and the frank account he gave of it in his memoirs--(the
loss of which can never be too much regretted)--would not have pleased
his survivors. This was unquestionably a powerful reason why the memoirs
were destroyed. But Byron cared not so much for the painful portion of
this recollection, as he loved to remember the noble conduct of these
two ladies.

"How often he spoke to me of Lady Jersey, of her beauty and her
goodness," says Madame G----. "As to Miss M----," he said, "she was a
woman of elevated ideas, who had shown him more friendship than he
deserved."

One of the noblest tributes of gratitude and admiration which can be
rendered to a woman was paid by Lord Byron to Miss Mercer. As he was
embarking at Dover, Byron turned round to Mr. Scroope Davies, who was
with him, and giving him a little parcel which he had forgotten to give
her when in London, he added: "Tell her that had I been fortunate enough
to marry a woman like her, I should not now be obliged to exile myself
from my country."

"If," pursues Arthur Dudley (evidently a name adopted by a very
distinguished woman biographer), "the rare instances of devotion which
he met in life reconciled him to humanity, with what touching glory used
he not to repay it. The last accents of the illustrious fugitive will
not be forgotten, and history will preserve through centuries the name
of her to whom Byron at such a time could send so flattering a message."

But, as if all this were not enough, he actually consecrated in verse, a
short time before his death, the memory of his gratitude to the noble
women who had done so much honor to their sex:--

  "I've also seen some female _friends_ ('tis odd,
    But true--as, if expedient, I could prove),
  That faithful were through thick and thin abroad,
    At home, far more than ever yet was Love--
  Who did not quit me when Oppression trod
    Upon me; whom no scandal could remove;
  Who fought, and fight, in absence, too, my battles,
    Despite the snake Society's loud rattles."

It was on that occasion that Hobhouse said to Lady Jersey, "Who would
not consent to be attacked in this way, to boast such a defense?" To
which Lady Jersey might have replied, "But who would not be sufficiently
rewarded by such gratitude, preserved in such a heart and immortalized
in such verses?"


IMPULSES OF LORD BYRON.

All those who have studied human nature agree that impulses show the
natural qualities of the soul. "Beware of your first impulses, they are
always true," said a diplomatist, the same who insisted that speech was
given us to conceal our thoughts. If such be the case, Lord Byron's
goodness of heart is palpable, for all who knew him agree in bearing
testimony to the extraordinary goodness of all his impulses. "His
lordship," says Parry, "was keenly sensitive at the recital of any case
of distress, in the first instance; and advantage being taken of this
feeling immediately, he would always relieve it when in his power. If
this passion, however, was allowed to cool, he was no longer to be
excited. This was a fault of Lord Byron's, as he frequently offered,
upon the impulse of a moment, assistance which he would not afterward
give, and therefore occasionally compromise his friends."

To multiply quotations would only be to repeat the same proof. I shall
therefore merely add that it was often the necessity of modifying the
nobility of his first impulses which made him appear inconstant and
changeable.


EFFECTS OF HAPPINESS AND MISFORTUNE UPON BYRON.

"The effect of a great success," writes some one, "is ever bad in bad
natures, but does good only to such as are really good in themselves."

As the rays of the sun soften the honey and harden the mud, so the rays
of happiness soften a good and tender heart, while they harden a base
and egotistical nature. This proof has not been wanting in Byron. His
wonderful successes, which laid at his feet the homage of nations, and
which might easily have made him vain and proud, only rendered him
better, more amiable, and brighter.

"I am happy," said Dallas, on the occasion of the great success which
greeted the publication of the first canto of "Childe Harold," "to think
that his triumph, and the attention which he has attracted, have already
produced upon him the soothing effect I had hoped. He was very lively to
day."

Moore says the same; and Galt is obliged to grant that, as Byron became
the object of public curiosity, his desire to oblige others increased.
After giving a personal proof of Byron's goodness to him, he ends by
saying:--

"His conversation was then so lively, that gayety seemed to have passed
into habit with him." It was also at that time that he wrote in his
memoranda:--"I love Ward, I love A----, I love B----," and then, as if
afraid of those numerous sympathies, he adds: "oh! shall I begin to love
the whole world?" This universal love was only the expression of the
want of his soul which had mollified under the rays of that mild sun
which is called happiness.


EFFECTS OF MISFORTUNE AND INJUSTICE UPON BYRON.

If his natural goodness had so large a field to develop itself in
happiness, it reached a degree of sublimity in misfortune.

That Byron's short life was full of real sorrows, I have shown in
another chapter, when I had to prove their reality against those
imputations of their being imaginary made by some of his biographers. He
required a strength of mind equal to his genius and to his sensibility,
to be able to resist the numerous ills with which he was assailed,
throughout his life:--

  "Have I not had to wrestle with my lot?
  Have I not suffered things to be forgiven?
  Have I not had my brain sear'd, my heart riven,
  Hopes sapp'd, name blighted, Life's life lied away?"

Such beautiful lines speak loudly enough of the intensity of his
sufferings. Great as they were, they did not, however, produce in him
any feeling of hatred. To forgive was his only revenge; and not only did
he forgive, but, the paroxysm of passion over, there was only room in
his soul for those nobler feelings of patience, of toleration, of
resignation, and of abnegation, of which no one in London can have
formed a notion. The storms to which his soul was at times a prey only
purified it, and discovered a host of qualities which are kept back
often by the more powerful passions of youth. If he never attained that
calmness of spirit which is the gift of those who can not feel, or
perhaps of the saints, he at any rate, at the age of thirty-two, began
to feel a contempt of all worldly and frivolous matters, and came to the
resolution of forgiving most generously all offenses against him.

Shelley, who went to see him at Ravenna, wrote to his wife "that if he
had mischievous passions he seemed to have subdued them; and that he was
becoming, what he should be,--a _virtuous man_."

Mme. de Bury, in her excellent essay upon Byron, expresses herself thus:
"Had his natural goodness not been great, the events which compelled him
to leave his country, and which followed upon his departure, must have
exercised over his mind the effect of drying it up; and, in lessening
its power, would have forced him to give full vent to his passions."
Instead of producing such a result, they on the contrary purified it,
and developed in him the germs of a host of virtues. I shall not tarry
any longer, however, on this subject, as in another chapter I intend to
consider Byron's kindness of disposition from a far higher point of
view. I shall only add his own words, which prove his goodness of
character. "I can not," said he, "bear malice to any one, nor can I go
to sleep with an ill thought against any body."


ABSENCE OF ALL JEALOUS FEELINGS IN LORD BYRON.

Among the infirmities of human nature, one of the most general, serious,
and incurable, is certainly that of jealousy. Being the essence of a
disordered self-love, it presents several aspects, according to the
different social positions of those whom it afflicts, and the degree of
goodness of the people. It might, in my mind, almost be called the
thermometer of the heart. But of all the jealousies, that which has done
most harm on earth has been the jealousy of artists and of literary men.

This kind of fever has at times risen to a degree inconceivable. It has
raged so high as to call poison to its aid, to invoke the help of
daggers and create assassins.

But even putting aside these excesses, proper to Southern countries, it
is certain that everywhere and at all times jealousy has caused
numberless cases of ingratitude, and has set brothers against brothers,
friends against friends, and pupils against masters.

Great minds in France have not been altogether free from it. Corneille,
Racine, Voltaire, became a prey to its disastrous influences. In England
Dryden, Addison, Swift, Shaftesbury, were its victims. So it has been
everywhere, and in Italy even Petrarch, the meek and excellent Petrarch,
was not exempted from it.

This moral infirmity is of so subtle a nature, that not only does it
injure those who are devoted to those works of the mind, which can not
be said to establish a solid claim to glory inasmuch as public opinion
is judge, but also those whose influence being confined to a more
limited sphere, should be less anxious about obtaining it. It finds so
easy an access into the souls of men, that it is said that even Plato
was jealous of Socrates, Aristotle of Plato, Leibnitz of Locke, and so
forth.

When we behold so many great minds at all times unable to avoid this
jealousy, and that we see nowadays jealousy animating the pen of some of
the best writers, and completely changing their moral sense, must we not
admire the great goodness of him whom, though living in such a heated
atmosphere of jealous rivalry, contrived wholly to escape its effects?

This right I claim for Lord Byron, that he was the least jealous of any
man, as the proofs which I shall bring forward will abundantly attest.

If Byron was jealous of the living, of whom could he have been so? Of
course of such who may have become his rivals in the sphere of
literature which he had adopted. When Byron appeared in the literary
world, those who were most in repute were Sir Walter Scott, Rogers,
Moore, Campbell, and the lakers Southey, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and,
later, Shelley.

On one occasion, in 1813, Byron amused himself by tracing what he called
a "triangular gradus ad Parnassum," in which the names of the principal
poets then in renown are thus classified:--

      SIR W. SCOTT,
        ROGERS,
     MORRE, CAMPBELL,
  SOUTHEY, WORDSWORTH, COLERIDGE,
        THE MANY

To know best his feelings with respect to his rivals, we must listen to
himself; and to preserve the order given in the triangle, let us begin
by Walter Scott. We read in Byron's memorandum of the 17th of September,
1813:--

"George Ellis and Murray have been talking something about Scott and me,
George _pro_ Scoto--and very right too. If they want to depose him, I
only wish they would not set me up as a competitor. Even if I had my
choice, I would rather be the Earl of Warwick than all the kings he ever
made! Jeffrey and Gifford I take to be the monarch-makers in poetry and
prose. I like Scott--and admire his works to what Mr. Braham calls
Entusymusy. All such stuff can only vex him, and do me no good."

And elsewhere: "I have not answered W. Scott's last letter, but I will.
I regret to hear from others that he has lately been unfortunate in
pecuniary involvements. He is undoubtedly the Monarch of Parnassus, and
the most English of bards."

When these expressions were written, Byron did not know Scott
personally; but notwithstanding his satire, of which he had often made a
generous retractation, he had always felt a great sympathy for Scott,
who, on the other hand, appeared to have forgotten the wound inflicted
by Byron's youthful pen, only to remember the latter's heartfelt
praises.

A few years after the publication of "English Bards" and just after that
of "Childe Harold," Byron and Sir W. Scott manifested a mutual desire to
make each other's acquaintance through the medium of Murray, who was
then travelling in Scotland. An exchange of letters full of mutual
generosity had taken place, when George IV., then regent, expressed the
wish to make Byron's acquaintance.

After speaking to him of "Childe Harold," in terms which Byron was
always proud to recall, the prince went on to speak of Walter Scott in
the most enthusiastic terms. Byron seemed almost as pleased as if the
praise had been addressed to himself, and hastened to make his
illustrious rival acquainted with the flattering words used by royalty
with regard to him.

It was only in the summer of 1815 that they became personally
acquainted. Scott was then passing through London on his way to France.
Their sympathy was mutual. Byron, who had been married seven months,
already foresaw that a storm was brewing in his domestic affairs, which
explains the mysterious melancholy, observed by Scott, upon the
countenance of his young friend. Scott's liveliness, however, always
brought about a return of Byron's spirits, and their meetings were
always very gay, "the gayest even," says Scott, "that I ever spent."

Byron's handsomeness produced a great impression upon Scott. "It is a
beauty," said he, "which causes one to reflect and to dream;" as if he
wished one to understand that he thought Byron's beauty superhuman.

"Report had prepared me to meet a man of peculiar habits and a quick
temper, and I had some doubt whether we were likely to suit each other
in society. I was most agreeably disappointed in this respect. I found
Lord Byron in the highest degree courteous, and even kind.

"Like the old heroes in Homer, we exchanged gifts: I gave Byron a
beautiful dagger mounted with gold, which had been the property of the
redoubted Elfi Bey. But I was to play the part of Diomed in the Iliad,
for Byron sent me, some time after, a large sepulchral vase of silver.
It was full of dead men's bones, and had inscriptions on the sides of
the base. One ran thus:--"The bones contained in this urn were found in
certain ancient sepulchres within the land walls of Athens in the month
of February, 1811. The other face bears the lines of Juvenal--

    'Expende quot libras in duce summo invenies.
    Mors sola fatetur quantula hominum corpuscula.'

"A letter," adds W. Scott, "accompanied this vase, which was more
valuable to me than the gift itself, from the kindness with which the
donor expressed himself toward me. I left it, naturally, in the urn with
the bones, but it is now missing. As the theft was not of a nature to be
practiced by a mere domestic, I am compelled to suspect the
inhospitality of some individual of higher station,--most gratuitously
exercised certainly, since, after what I have here said, no one will
probably choose to boast of possessing this literary curiosity."

Their mutual sympathy increased upon improved acquaintance with one
another. When at Venice Byron was informed that Scott was ill, he said
that he would not for all the world have him ill. "I suppose it is from
sympathy that I have suffered from fever at the same time." At Ravenna a
little later, on the 12th of January, 1821, he wrote down in his
memoranda:--

"Scott is certainly the most wonderful writer of the day. His novels are
a new literature in themselves, and his poetry as good as any, if not
better (only on an erroneous system), and only ceased to be so popular,
because the vulgar learned were tired of hearing Aristides called the
Just, and Scott the Best, and ostracized them.

"I like him, too, for his manliness of character, for the extreme
pleasantness of his conversation, and his good-nature toward myself
personally. May he prosper! for he deserves it.

"I know no reading to which I fall with such alacrity as a work of W.
Scott's. I shall give the seal with his bust on it to Mlle. la Comtesse
Guiccioli this evening, who will be curious to have the effigies of a
man so celebrated."

He did take the seal to the Countess Guiccioli, and she said that
Byron's expressions about Scott were always most affectionate. "How I
wish you knew him!" he often repeated.

He used to say that it was not the poetry of "Child Harold," but Scott's
own superior prose that had done his poetry harm, and that if ever the
public could by chance get tired of his novels, Scott might write in
verse with equal success. He insisted that Scott had a dramatic talent,
"talent," he said, "which people are loth to grant me." He said that the
success of Scott's novels was not in the least due to the anonymous
character he had adopted, and that he could not understand why he would
not sign his name to works of such merit. He likewise asserted that of
all the authors of his period, Scott was the least jealous. "He is too
sure of his fame to fear any rivals, nor does he think of good works as
Tuscans do of fever; that there is only a certain amount of it in the
world, and that in communicating it to others, one gets rid of it."

"I never travel without taking Scott's novels with me," said Byron to
Medwin, at Pisa; "it is a real library, a literary treasure; I can read
them yearly with renewed pleasure."

A few days before his departure for Greece, he learned that M. Stendhall
had published an article upon Racine and Shakspeare, wherein there were
some unfavorable remarks about Walter Scott.

Notwithstanding his occupations preparatory to departure, he found time
to write to Stendhall, and tell him how much he felt the injustice of
these remarks, and to request that they should be rectified.

This letter of Byron's to M. Beyle will no doubt be read with universal
admiration, as it points out most prominently all the goodness of his
character:--

"SIR,--Now that I know to whom I am indebted for a very flattering
mention in the 'Rome, Naples, and Florence, in 1817,' by Monsieur
Stendhall, it is fit that I should return my thanks (however undesired
or undesirable) to Monsieur Beyle, with whom I had the honor of being
acquainted at Milan in 1816.[30] You only did me too much honor in what
you were pleased to say in that work, but it has hardly given
me less pleasure than the praise itself, to become at length aware
(which I have done by mere accident) that I am indebted for it to one of
whose good opinion I was really ambitious. So many changes have taken
place since that period in the Milan circle, that I hardly dare recur to
it--some dead, some banished, and some in the Austrian dungeons. Poor
Pelico! I trust that in his iron solitude his muse is consoling him in
some measure, one day to delight us again, when both she and her poet
are restored to freedom.

"There is one part of your observations in the pamphlet, which I shall
venture to remark upon: it regards Walter Scott. You say that 'his
character is little worthy of enthusiasm,' at the same time that you
mention his productions in the manner they deserve. I have known Walter
Scott long and well, and in occasional situations which call forth the
real character, and I can assure you that his character _is_ worthy of
admiration; that of all men, he is the most open, the most honorable,
the most amiable," etc.

BYRON."

Even at Missolonghi, where certainly literary thoughts were little in
harmony with his occupations, Byron found occasion to speak of his
sentiments as regards Scott, since even the simple and anti-poetic Parry
tells us, in his interesting narrative of "The Last Days of Lord Byron,"
of the admiration and affection with which Byron always spoke of Walter
Scott. "He never wearied of his praise of 'Waverley,' and continually
quoted passages from it."

May we be allowed to observe, in conclusion, that such a generous desire
on the part of Byron constantly to put forward the merits of Scott
deserved from the latter a warmer acknowledgment. The homage paid to his
memory by Scott came late, and is cold. Be it from a Tory or Protestant
spirit, Scott in his eulogy of Lord Byron did not disclaim openly the
calumnies uttered against the great poet's fame, but almost sided with
his hypocritical apologists, by assuming a kind of tone of indulgence in
speaking of him.


ROGERS.

Rogers comes next in the triangular order.

Byron's esteem for Rogers was such, that not only did he spare him in
his famous satire, but even addressed him a real compliment in the
lines:--

  "And thou, melodious Rogers! rise at last,
  Recall the pleasing memory of the past;
  Arise! let blest remembrance still inspire,
  And strike to wonted tones thy hallow'd lyre;
  Restore Apollo to his vacant throne,
  Assert thy country's honor and thine own."

He equally declared that, after the "Essay on Man" of Pope, the
"Pleasures of Memory" constituted the finest English didactic poem. This
opinion he maintained always.

"I have read again the 'Pleasures of Memory,'" he wrote in September,
1813. "The elegance of this poem is quite marvellous. Not a vulgar line
throughout the whole book."

About the same time he read, in the "Edinburgh Review," a eulogy of
Rogers. "He is placed very high," he exclaimed, "but not higher than he
has a right to be. There is a summary review of every body. Moore and I
included: we were both--he justly--praised; but both very justly ranked
under Rogers.

At another time he wrote in his memoranda:

"When he does talk (Rogers), on all subjects of taste, his delicacy of
expression is as pure as his poetry. If you enter his house, his
drawing-room, his library, you involuntarily say, 'This is not the
dwelling of a common mind.' There is not a gem, a coin, a book, thrown
aside on his chimney-piece, his sofa, his table, that does not bespeak
an almost fastidious elegance in the possessor. But this very delicacy
must be the misery of his existence. Oh! the jarrings this disposition
must have encountered through life!"

On one occasion he borrows one of Rogers's ideas, to write upon it the
"Bride of Abydos;" and in confessing that the "Pleasures of Memory" have
suggested his theme, he adds in a note, that "it is useless to say that
the idea is taken from a poem so well known, and to which one has such
pleasurable recourse."

To Rogers he dedicates the "Giaour," a slight but sincere token of
admiration.

When Rogers sent him "Jacqueline," Byron replied that he could not
receive a more acceptable gift. "It is grace, delicacy, poetry itself."
What astonishes him is that Rogers should not be tempted to write
oftener such charming poetry. He sympathized with that kind of soft
affection, though he would say that he lacked the talent to express it.

From Venice he wrote to Moore, "I hope Rogers is flourishing. He is the
Titan of poetry, already immortal. You and I must wait to become so."

At Pisa he took the part of Rogers against his detractors in the warmest
manner. Not only did the "Pleasures of Memory" always enchant him, not
only did he insist that the work was immortal, but added that Rogers was
kind and good to him. And as people persisted in blaming Rogers for
being jealous and susceptible, which Byron knew from experience to be
so, he replied, that "these things are, as Lord Kenyon said of Erskine,
little spots in the sun. Rogers has qualities which outweigh the little
weaknesses of his character."


MOORE.

Moore is third in the order of the triangle. We have seen Byron's
sentiments and conduct with regard to this friend. It remains for us to
note the feelings of the author for another very popular writer, who was
in many respects a worthy rival.

Byron had often recommended Moore to write other poetry than melodies,
and to apply his talent to a work of more serious importance. When he
learned that he was writing an Oriental poem he was charmed.

"It may be, and would appear to a third person," he wrote to him, "an
incredible thing; but I know _you_ will believe me, when I say that I am
as anxious for your success as one human being can be for another's--as
much as if I had never scribbled a line. Surely the field of fame is
wide enough for all; and if it were not, I would not willingly rob my
neighbor of a rood of it."

And he goes on to praise Moore and to depreciate himself, as was his
custom.

After two years' intimacy he dedicated the "Corsair" to Moore, and, in
speaking of it to him, he adds:--

"If I can but testify to you and the world how truly I admire and esteem
you, I shall be quite satisfied."

And, in dedicating his work to him, he expresses himself thus:--

"My praise could add nothing to your well-earned and firmly-established
fame, and with my most hearty admiration of your talents, and delight in
your conversation, you are already acquainted."

I have already said that he almost wished to be eclipsed, that Moore
might shine the more prominently.

"The best way to make the public 'forget' me is to remind them of
yourself. You can not suppose that I would ask you or advise you to
publish, if I thought you would _fail_. I really have no literary envy;
and I do not believe a friend's success ever sat nearer another's heart,
than yours does to the wishes of mine. It is for _elderly gentlemen_ to
'bear no brother near,' and can not become our disease for more years
than we may perhaps number. I wish you to be out before Eastern subjects
are again before the public."

He meanwhile got Murray to use his influence to point out to Moore the
best time for appearing.

"I need not say, that I have his success much at heart; not only because
he is my friend, but something much better--a man of great talent, of
which he is less sensible than, I believe, any even of his enemies. If
you can so far oblige me as to step down, do so," etc.

Lord Byron had never ceased to press Moore to publish his poem. When it
appeared, he wrote to him from Venice:--

"I am glad that we are to have it at last. Really and truly, I want you
to make a great hit, if only out of self-love, because we happen to be
old cronies; and I have no doubt you will--I am sure you _can_. But you
are, I'll be sworn, in a devil of a pucker, and I am not at your elbow,
and Rogers _is_. I envy him; which is not fair, because he does _not
envy any body_.[31] Mind you send to me--that is, make Murray send--the
moment you are forth."

"I feel as anxious for Moore as I could do for myself, for the soul of
me; and I would not have him succeed otherwise than splendidly, which I
trust he will do."

And then, writing again to Murray, from Venice (June, 1817):--

"It gives me great pleasure to hear of Moore's success, and the more so
that I never doubted that it would be complete. Whatever good you can
tell me of him and his poem will be most acceptable; I feel very anxious
indeed to receive it. I hope that he is as happy in his fame and reward
as I wish him to be; for I know no one who deserves both more, if any so
much."

A month later he added:--

"I have got the sketch and extracts from 'Lalla Rookh'--which I humbly
suspect will knock up ..." (he intended himself), "and show young
gentlemen that something more than having been across a camel's hump is
necessary to write a good Oriental tale. The plan, as well as the
extracts I have seen, please me very much indeed, and I feel impatient
for the whole."

And, lastly, after he had received it:--

"I have read 'Lalla Rookh.' ... I am very glad to hear of his
popularity, for Moore is a very noble fellow, in all respects, and will
enjoy it without any of the bad feelings which success, good or evil,
sometimes engenders in the men of rhyme."

He wrote to Moore from Ravenna, in a sort of jest,--"I am not quite sure
that I shall allow the Miss Byrons to read 'Lalla Rookh,'--in the first
place, on account of this sad _passion_, and in the second, that they
mayn't discover that there was a better poet than Papa."[32]

To end these quotations, let us add that, shortly before his death, he
said to Medwin:--"Moore is one of the small number of writers, who will
survive the century which has appreciated his worth. The Irish Melodies
will go to posterity with their music, and the poems and the music will
last as long as Ireland, or music or poetry."


CAMPBELL.

Campbell, the author of "Pleasures of Hope," and who stands fourth in
the triangle, was spared, with Rogers, in the famous satire--

"Come forth, oh! Campbell, give thy talents scope:
Who dare aspire, if thou must cease to hope?"

This homage was strengthened by a note, in which Byron called the
"Pleasures of Hope" one of the finest didactic poems in the English
language.

Byron's relations with Campbell were never as intimate as with other
poets. Not only because circumstances prevented it, but also in
consequence of a fault in Campbell's character, which lessened the
sympathy raised by the admiration of his talent and of his worth. This
fault consisted in an _excessive_ opinion of himself, which prevented
his being just toward his rivals, and bearing patiently with their
successes, or the criticisms of his own work.

Coleridge at this time was giving lectures upon poetry, in which he
taught a new system of poetry.

"He attacks," says Lord Byron, "the 'Pleasures of Hope,' and all other
pleasure whatever.... Campbell will be desperately annoyed. I never saw
a man (and of him I have seen very little) so sensitive. What a happy
temperament! I am sorry for it; what can _he_ fear from criticism?"

Lord Byron had just published the "Bride of Abydos," when he wrote in
his journal, "Campbell last night seemed a little nettled at something
or other--I know not what. We were standing in the ante-saloon, when
Lord H---- brought out of the other room a vessel of some composition
similar to that which is used in Catholic churches for burning incense,
and seeing us, he exclaimed, 'Here is some incense for you.' Campbell
answered, 'Carry it to Lord Byron; he is used to it.'

"Now this comes of 'bearing no brother near the throne.' I who have no
throne am at perfect peace with all the poetical fraternity."

But if this weakness of Campbell lessened Byron's sympathy for him, or
rather interfered with his intimacy, it never altered his just
appreciation of his merits, or made him less generous to him.

"By-the-by," writes Byron to Moore, "Campbell has a printed poem which
is not yet published, the scene of which is laid in Germany. It is
perfectly magnificent, and equal to himself. I wonder why he does not
publish it."

Later on, in Italy, when in his reply to Blackwood, Byron criticises
modern poetry, and gives, without sparing any body, not even himself,
his unbiased opinion about the poets of the day, he says: "We are all on
a false track, except Rogers, Campbell, and Crabbe."

And in his memoranda in 1821, at Ravenna, we find the following
passage:----

"Read Campbell's 'Poets' ... justly celebrated. His defense of Pope is
glorious. To be sure, it is his own cause too--but no matter, it is very
good, and does him great credit.... If any thing could add to my esteem
of this gentleman poet, it would be his classical defense of Pope
against the cant of the present day."

On the fifth line of the triangle come the names of Southey, Wordsworth,
and Coleridge, commonly called the "Lakers," because they had resided
near the Lakes of Cumberland and Westmoreland. He was certainly bitter
against these in his satire; but owing simply to their efforts to upset
the school of Pope, of which he had made a deep study, and to their
endeavors to start an æsthetical school, which he strenuously opposed.
As, however, in blaming, he allowed his passion at times to master his
opinions and judgments of their merits, he generously made amends and
owned his error some years later. He kept to his own notions of poetry
and art, but nobly recognized the talent of the Lakers, knowing,
however, very well that he would never obtain from them a reciprocity of
good feeling.


SOUTHEY.

"Yesterday, at Holland House, I was introduced to Southey,--the
best-looking bard I have seen for some time. To have that poet's head
and shoulders, I would almost have written his 'Sapphics.' He is
certainly a prepossessing person to look on, and a man of talent, and
all that--and--there is his eulogy."

"Southey I have not seen much of. His appearance is epic; and he is the
only existing entire man of letters. His manners are mild, but not those
of a man of the world, and his talents of the first order. His prose is
perfect. Of his poetry there are various opinions: there is, perhaps,
too much of it for the present generation--posterity will probably
select. He has passages equal to any thing. At present he has a party,
but no public--except for his prose writings. The 'Life of Nelson' is
beautiful."


WORDSWORTH.

Underneath some lines of his satire upon Wordsworth, Byron in 1816 wrote
in Switzerland the word "unjust!"

He often praised Wordsworth, even at times when the latter had, for
reasons which I will mention hereafter, lost all claims to Byron's
indulgence. Even in his poem of the "Island," written shortly before his
departure for Greece, where he was to die, Byron found means of
inserting a passage from Wordsworth's poem, which he considered
exquisite.


COLERIDGE.

Among the three Lakers, Coleridge was the one to whom he showed the most
generous feeling. He was poor, and lived by his pen. Lord Byron, putting
this consideration above all others, wished to assist at his readings,
and praised them warmly. Coleridge having asked him on one occasion to
interest himself with the director of Drury-lane Theatre (on the
committee of which Byron then stood) the latter did his best to gratify
the wishes of Coleridge, and wrote him the most flattering letter,
blaming the satire which had been the effect of a youthful ebullition of
feeling:--

"P.S.--You mention my 'satire,' lampoon, or whatever you or others
please to call it. I can only say that it was written when I was very
young and very angry, and has been a thorn in my side ever since; more
particularly as almost all the persons animadverted upon became
subsequently my acquaintances, and some of them my friends, which is
'heaping fire upon an enemy's head,' and forgiving me too readily to
permit me to forgive myself. The part applied to you is pert, and
petulant, and shallow enough; but, although I have long done every thing
in my power to suppress the circulation of the whole thing, I shall
always regret the wantonness or generality of many of its attacks. If
Coleridge writes his promised tragedy, Drury Lane will be set up."
Though harassed with pecuniary difficulties of all kinds, Byron
contrived to help Coleridge, who he had heard was in the greatest
distress.

He wrote to Moore:--"By the way, if poor Coleridge--who is a man of
wonderful talent, and in distress, and about to publish two volumes of
poesy and biography, and who has been worse used by the critics than
ever we were--will you, if he comes out, promise me to review him
favorably in the E.R.? Praise him I think you must; but will you also
praise him well,--of all things the most difficult? It will be the
making of him.

"This must be a secret between you and me, as Jeffrey might not like
such a project: nor, indeed, might he himself like it. But I do think he
only wants a pioneer and a spark or two to explode most gloriously."

He sent Murray a MS. tragedy of Coleridge, begging him to read it and to
publish it:----

"When you have been enabled to form an opinion on Mr. Coleridge's MS.,
you will oblige me by returning it, as, in fact, I have no authority to
let it out of my hands. I think most highly of it, and feel anxious that
you should be the publisher; but if you are not, I do not despair of
finding those who will."

As the reader knows, Byron, while in England, always gave away the
produce of his poems. To Coleridge he destined part of the sum offered
to him by Murray for "Parisina" and the "Siege of Corinth." Some
difficulty, however, having arisen, because Murray refused to pay the
100 guineas to any other than Byron himself, he borrowed it himself to
give it to Coleridge.

At the same time Byron paid so noble a tribute to Coleridge's talent,
and to his poem of "Christabel," by inserting a note on the subject in
his preface to the "Siege of Corinth," that Coleridge's editor took this
note as the epigraph.

"Christabel!--I won't have any one," he said, "sneer at 'Christabel;' it
is a fine wild poem."

In 1816 he wrote from Venice to Moore:--

"I hear that the E.R. has cut up Coleridge's 'Christabel,' and declared
against me for praising it. I praised it, firstly, because I thought
well of it; secondly, because Coleridge was in great distress, and after
doing what little I could for him in essentials, I thought that the
public avowal of my good opinion might help him further, at least with
the booksellers. I am very sorry that J---- has attacked him, because,
poor fellow, it will hurt him in mind and pocket. As for me, he's
welcome--I shall never think less of Jeffrey for any thing he may say
against me or mine in future."

At Genoa he declared, in a memorandum, that Crabbe and Coleridge were
pre-eminent in point of power and talent.

At Pisa he blamed those who refused to see in "Christabel" a work of
rare merit, notwithstanding the knowledge which he had of Coleridge's
ingratitude to him; and refused to believe that W. Scott did not admire
the poem, "for we all owe Coleridge a great deal," said he, "and even
Scott himself."

And Medwin adds: "Lord Byron thinks Coleridge's poem very fine. He
paraphrased and imitated one passage. He considers the idea excellent,
and enters into it."

And speaking of Coleridge's psychological poem, he said: "What perfect
harmony! 'Kubla Khan' delights me."


SHELLEY.

If Shelley did not find a place in the triangle, it is only because he
was not yet known, except by the eccentricities of his conduct as a boy.
But so soon as Byron was able to appreciate his genius, he lavished
praises upon the poet and the man, while he blamed his metaphysics.

In all his letters we find proofs of his affectionate regard for
Shelley; and during his last days in Greece, he said to
Finlay,--"Shelley was really a most extraordinary genius; but those who
know him only from his works, know but half his merits: it was from his
thoughts and his conversation poor Shelley ought to be judged. He was
romance itself in his manners and his style of thinking."

"You were all mistaken," he wrote from Pisa to Murray, "about Shelley,
who was, without exception, the best and least selfish man I ever knew."

And when he learned his death, he wrote to Moore:--"There is thus
another man gone, about whom the world was ill-naturedly, and
ignorantly, and brutally mistaken. It will, perhaps, do him justice now,
when he can be no better for it."

Such were Byron's expressions in behalf of poets of whose school he
disapproved, before the calumnies spread about, and the perfidious
provocations of some, joined to the ingratitude and jealousy of others,
obliged him to turn his generosity into bitter retaliation. We will
speak elsewhere of this epoch in their mutual relations, and we hope to
show, if jealousy caused the change, that it sprang from them and not
from him.

To praise was almost a besetting sin in Lord Byron. So amiable a fault
was not only committed in favor of his rivals, but also by way of
encouragement to young authors. What did he not do to promote the
success of M.N. N----, the author of Bertram's dramas, whom Walter Scott
had recommended to him?

After reading a tragedy which a young man had submitted to him, Byron
wrote in his memoranda:----

"This young man has talent; he has, no doubt, stolen his ideas from
another, but I shall not betray him. His critics will be but too prone
to proclaim it. I hate to discourage a beginner."

Indulgent to mediocrity, compassionate with the weakness and defects of
all, incapable of causing the slightest pain to those who were destitute
of talent, even when art required that he should condemn them, his
goodness was such, that he almost felt remorse whenever he had been led
to criticise a work too severely. He deplored his having dealt too
harshly with poor Blackett, as soon as the latter's position became
known to him; and also with Keats, whose talent, though great, was raw
in many respects, and who had become a follower of the Lakist school,
which Byron abhorred.

To praise the humble, however, in order to humble the great, was an
action incompatible with his noble character. Great minds constituted
his great attractions, and on these he bestowed such praise as could not
be deemed too partial or unjust.

Happy in the unqualified praise of Pope, of the classical poets, of the
great German and Italian poets, he sometimes made exceptions, and
Shakspeare was one. This is not to be wondered at. Lord Byron's mind was
as well regulated as it was powerful. His admiration of Pope proves it.

"As to Pope," he writes to Moore from Ravenna, in 1821, "I have always
regarded him as the greatest name in our Poetry. Depend upon it, the
rest are barbarians. He is a Greek temple, with a Gothic cathedral on
one hand, and a Turkish mosque and all sorts of fantastic pagodas and
conventicles about him. You may call Shakspeare and Milton pyramids, if
you please; but I prefer the Temple of Theseus, or the Parthenon, to a
mountain of burnt brick-work."[33]

Order and proportion were necessities of his nature, so much so that he
condemned his writings whenever they departed from his ideal of the
beautiful, the essential constituents of which were order and power.

His admiration, therefore, was entirely centred in classical works. But
has not Shakspeare a little disregarded the eternal laws of the
beautiful observed by Homer, Pindar, and a host of other poets, ancient
and modern?

If Byron, then, did not see in Shakspeare all that perfection which an
æsthetical school just sprung from the North attributed to him, was he
to be blamed? Has he, on this account, disregarded the great merits of
that glorious mind? Even had Byron seen in Shakspeare the founder of a
dramatic school, rather than a genius more powerful than orderly, who
acted against his will upon certain principles, and who scrutinized the
human heart to an almost supernatural depth, was he interdicted from
finding fault with that school?

Does Shakspeare so economize both time and mind, as to make the action
of his dramas continuous, without fatiguing the mind or weakening the
dramatic effect? Are not the unities and the proportions disregarded in
his plays? What necessity is there at times to put one piece into
another? Are not his discussions and monologues too long? Does not his
own exuberant genius become a fatigue to himself and to his readers? Are
not, perhaps, his characters too real? and do they not often degenerate,
without motive, from the sublime into the ridiculous? Would Hamlet have
appeared less interesting or less mad had he not spoken indelicate and
cruel words to Ophelia? Would Laertes have seemed less grieved on
hearing of the death of his sister had he not made so unnecessary a play
on the words?

Was not Byron, therefore, right when he said, with Pope, that Shakspeare
was "the worst of models?" And could he possibly be called jealous,
because he added that, "notwithstanding his defects, Shakspeare was
still the most extraordinary of men of genius?"

This opinion of Byron was decidedly serious, though his opinions did not
always partake of that character. His humor was rather French: he liked
to laugh, to joke, to mystify, and astonish people who wished to
understand him. He used, then, to employ a particular measure in his
praise and his condemnation.

"On one occasion at Missolonghi, and shortly before his death," says
Colonel Stanhope, "the drama was mentioned in conversation, and Byron at
once attacked Shakspeare by defending the unities. A gentleman present,
on hearing his anti-Shakspearean opinions rushed out of the room, and
afterward entered his protest most earnestly against such doctrines.
Lord Byron was quite delighted with this, and redoubled the severity of
his criticism.

"He said once, when we were alone,--'I like to astonish Englishmen; they
come abroad full of Shakspeare, and contempt for the dramatic literature
of other nations. They think it blasphemy to find a fault in his
writings, which are full of them. People talk of my writings, and yet
read the sonnets to Master Hughes.'

"And yet," continues Finlay, "he continually had the most melodious
lines of Shakspeare in his mouth, as examples of blank verse."

The jealousy of Shakspeare attributed to Byron is, however, nothing when
compared to the ridiculous assertion, that he was jealous of Keats,
simply because he had repeated in joke what the papers and Shelley
himself, a friend of Keats, had said, namely, "that the young poet had
been killed by a criticism of the 'Quarterly.'"

But since a French critic, M. Philarète Chasles, has made the same
accusation, we must pause and consider it.

At the time when Byron was more than ever penetrated with the perfection
of Pope, and opposed to the romantic school,--at the time when he
himself wrote his dramas according to all classical rules,--he received
at Ravenna the poems of a young disciple of the Lakists, who united in
himself all their exaggerated faults. This young man had the
audacity--(which was almost unpardonable in the eyes of Byron)--to
despise Pope, and to constitute himself at nineteen a lawgiver of
poetical rules in England.

Such ridiculous pride, added to the contempt shown to his idol, incensed
Byron and prevented his showing Keats the same indulgence he had shown
Maturin and Blackett. He spoke severely of Keats in his famous reply to
"Blackwood's Magazine," and to his Cambridge friends--followers of the
good old traditions. He quoted some lines of Keats, and remarked that
"they were taken from the book of a young man who was learning how to
write in verse, but who began by teaching others the art of poetry."
Then, after a long quotation, he adds--"What precedes will show the
ideas and principles professed by the regenerators of the English lyre
in regard to the man who most of any contributed to its harmony, and the
progress visible in their innovation."

Let us not forget to add that he styled Keats "the tadpole of the
Lakists."

But the following year, when he heard that Keats had died at Rome, the
victim of his inordinate self-love, and unable to be consoled for the
criticism directed against his poetry, he wrote the following heartfelt,
and, as it were, repentant words to Shelley:--

"I am very sorry to hear what you say of Keats--is it _actually_ true? I
did not think criticism had been so killing. Though I differ from you
essentially in your estimate of his performances, I so much abhor all
unnecessary pain, that I would rather he had been seated on the highest
peak of Parnassus than have perished in such a manner. Poor fellow!
though, with such inordinate self-love, he would probably have not been
very happy.... Had I known that Keats was dead, or that he was 'alive,'
and so 'sensitive,' I should have omitted some remarks upon his poetry,
to which I was provoked by his attack upon Pope, and my disapprobation
of his own style of writing."

To Murray he wrote the same day:--

"Is it true what Shelley writes me, that poor John Keats died at Rome of
the 'Quarterly Review?' I am very sorry for it; though I think he took
the wrong line as a poet, and was spoilt by Cockneyfying and suburbing,
and versifying Tooke's 'Pantheon' and Lemprière's 'Dictionary.' I know
by experience, that a savage review is hemlock to a sucking author; and
the one on me (which produced the 'English Bards,' etc.) knocked me
down; but I got up again. Instead of bursting a bloodvessel, I drank
three bottles of claret, and began an answer, finding that there was
nothing in the article for which I could lawfully knock Jeffrey on the
head, in an honorable way. However, I would not be the person who wrote
the homicidal article for all the honor and glory in the world, though I
by no means approve of that school of scribbling which it treats upon."

Some time after he wrote again to Murray, saying,--"You know very well
that I did not approve of Keats's poetry, nor of his poetical
principles, nor of his abuse of Pope. But he is dead. I beg that you
will therefore omit all I have said of him either in my manuscripts or
in my publications. His 'Hyperion' is a fine monument, and will cause
his name to last. I do not envy the man who wrote the article against
Keats."

Several months later he made complete amends. He added to his severe
article in answer to Blackwood, a note in the following terms:

"I have read the article before and since; and although it is bitter, I
do not think that a man should permit himself to be killed by it. But a
young man little dreams what he must inevitably encounter in the course
of a life ambitious of public notice. My indignation at Mr. Keats's
depreciation of Pope has hardly permitted me do justice to his own
genius, which, _malgré_ all the fantastic fopperies of his style, was
undoubtedly of great promise. His fragment of 'Hyperion' seems actually
inspired by the Titans, and is as sublime as Æschylus. He is a loss to
our literature; and the more so, as he himself, before his death, is
said to have been persuaded that he had not taken the right line, and
was reforming his style upon the more classical models of the language."

Were we wrong in saying that the accusations against Byron, with respect
to Keats, did not deserve a notice? If we have noticed them, it has been
merely to show, that the French critic should have judged matters in
this instance with greater conscientiousness and reflection.

Influenced as Byron always was by his own ideas of beauty, he required
in the authors themselves certain moral qualities which would demand for
their works the bestowal of his praise. It was not only their talent,
but their loyalty, their independence of character, their political
consistency, and their perfect honesty, which endeared Walter Scott,
Moore, and others, to him.

Byron, on the other hand, had never found these qualities in the
Lakists, and especially in the head of their school, whose whole life,
on the contrary, bore the marks of quite opposite characteristics. Since
Southey's dream of a life of intimacy with other poets of his school,
such as Wordsworth and Coleridge, in some blissful remote spot from
which they would publish their works in common, and where they would
live with their wives and children in community of interests, some
change had taken place; for Southey had so far deviated from his purpose
as to become Laureate, to write for himself, and to profess ultra-Tory
principles, the ultimate objects of which could not but be palpable.

All this called for Byron's contempt. To this contempt, however, he gave
no expression, for fear of wounding without reason, until that reason
did arise by the Laureate's unforgiving spirit. "The Laureate," says
Byron, "is not one of those who can forgive." Incapable of forgetting
that Byron's genius had obscured his own reputation, Southey hated Byron
with an intensity, such as to make him look out for opportunities of
doing him an injury. This opportunity Southey found in Byron's departure
for the Continent, subsequently to the unfortunate result of his
marriage; and not only did he join in all the calumnies which were set
forth against him in England, but actually followed him to Switzerland,
there to invent new ones, in the hope of crushing his reputation and
ruining the fame of the poet by the depreciation of the man.

Lord Byron for some time was ignorant of the Laureate's baseness, for
oftentimes friends deem it prudent to hide the truth which it would
perhaps be better to make known. But when he came to know of them, his
whole soul revolted, as naturally must be the case with a man of honor,
and in "Don Juan" he came down upon Southey with a double-edged sword,
throwing ridicule upon the author's writings, and odium upon his conduct
as a calumniator.

This revenge was well deserved. It was not only natural but just, and
even necessary, for it was requisite to show up the man, to judge of the
value to be attached to his calumnies; and later, when he called him
out, he did what honor required of him.

We have seen elsewhere how far the Laureate's conduct justified Byron's
retaliation. It is enough, therefore, that I should have shown here that
Byron's anger was rather the result of Southey's envy than his own, and
that his sarcasms were due entirely to the disgust which he felt for
such dishonorable proceedings.

From that time his language, when speaking of Wordsworth and Coleridge,
always reflected the same disgust. Both had made themselves the echoes
of Southey, and both had been inconstant from interested motives, and
had solicited favors from the party in power, which they had abused in
their writings. "They have each a price," said Byron at Pisa.

On one occasion, as Shelley and Medwin were laughing at some of
Wordsworth's last poems, which disgusted them, not only from the
subservient spirit to Toryism which pervaded them, but also excited
their laughter from their absurdity, Byron, in whose house they were,
said to them, "It is satisfactory to see that a man who becomes
mercenary, and traffics upon the independence of his character, loses at
the same time his talent as a poet."

Byron had such a notion of political consistency, that he ceased having
any regard for those who failed in this respect.

"I was at dinner," says Stendhall, "at the Marquis of Breno's at Milan,
in 1816, with Byron and the celebrated poet Monti, the author of
'Basvilliana.' The conversation fell upon poetry, and the question was
asked which were the twelve most beautiful lines written in a century,
either in English, in Italian, or in French. The Italians present agreed
in declaring that Monti's first twelve lines in the 'Mascheroniana' were
the finest Italian lines written for a century. Monti recited them. I
observed Byron. He was in raptures. That kind of haughty look which a
man often puts on when he has to get rid of an inopportune question, and
which rather took away from the beauty of his magnificent countenance,
suddenly disappeared to make way for an expression of happiness. The
whole of the first canto to the 'Mascheroniana,' which Conti was made to
recite, enchanted all hearers, and caused the liveliest pleasure to the
author of 'Childe Harold.' Never shall I forget the sublime expression
of his countenance: it was the peaceful look of power united with
genius."

He learned, later, that Monti was a man inconsistent in his politics,
and that on the sole impulse of his passions he had passed from one
party to another, and had called from the pen of another poet the remark
that he justified Dante's saying,--

    "Il verso si non l' animo costante."

Byron's sympathy for Monti ceased from that time, and he even called him
the "Giuda del Parnaso," whereas his esteem and sympathy for Silvio
Pellico, for Manzoni, and for many other Italians, remained perfectly
unshaken.

His sense of justice extended to all nationalities. He was a
cosmopolite, and, provided the elements essential to claim his
admiration existed both in the man's work, and in his character, no
personal consideration ever came in the way of his bestowing
praise,--the most pleasing duty that could befall him. The great minds
of antiquity, those of the middle ages--especially the Italians,--all
the modern great men, of whatever nation, were all for him of one
country, the country of great intellects, and the degree of his sympathy
for each was calculated upon the degree of their merit.

We know how ably he defended Dante, the greatest of Italian poets; how
ably he translated "Francesca da Rimini," and how he exposed the error
of those who did not find that Dante was not sufficiently pathetic.

We know his admiration for Goethe, who was not only his contemporary,
but also his rival. Could Goethe see with pleasure another star rise in
the horizon, when his own was at its zenith? Some say that he could.
Without sharing altogether in this opinion, it is impossible, however,
not to find that the first impressions which he gave to the world with
respect to Byron do not justify the accusations of those who said he
was jealous of him.

While at Ravenna, Byron received several numbers of a German paper
edited and written by Goethe. It contained several articles upon English
literature, and, among others, upon "Manfred." Curious to know what the
patriarch of German literature thought of him, and being unable to read
German, Byron sent these articles to Hoppner, at Venice, begging him to
translate them.

" ... If I may judge by two notes of admiration (generally put after
something ridiculous by us), and the word '_hypocondrisch_,' they are
any thing but favorable. I shall regret this; for I should have been
proud of Goethe's good word; but I sha'n't alter my opinion of him, even
though he should be (savage).... Never mind--soften nothing--I am
_literary proof_--as one says of a material object, when he puts it to
the proof of fire and water," etc.

The article was any thing but favorable. After recognizing that the
author of "Manfred" is gifted with wonderful genius, Goethe pretends
that it is an imitation of his "Faust," and thereupon writes a tissue of
fanciful notions which he palms off upon the world.

On learning all this, Byron was by no means put out, but laughed
heartily at the notion of the author of "Werther" accusing him of
inciting others to a disgust of life. He wondered at such a man as
Goethe giving credence to such silly fables, and giving out as authentic
what were merely suppositions. Instead of being angry at this evident
hostility, he declared that the article was intended as favorable to
him, and, as an acknowledgment, wished to dedicate to him the tragedy of
"Marino Faliero," upon which he was engaged. In the dedication, which
was only projected, the reality of his admiration for Goethe soars above
some jesting expressions.

To Goethe also he wished to dedicate "Sardanapalus." "I mean," said he,
at Pisa, "to dedicate 'Werner' to Goethe. I look upon him as the
greatest genius that the age has produced. I desired Murray to inscribe
his name to a former work; but he said my letter containing the order
came too late. It would have been more worthy of him than this. I have a
great curiosity about every thing relating to Goethe, and please myself
with thinking there is some analogy between our characters and writings.
So much interest do I take in him, that I offered to give £100 to any
person who would translate his memoirs for my own reading. Shelley has
sometimes explained part of them to me. He seems to be very
superstitious, and is a believer in astrology, or rather was, for he was
very young when he wrote the first part of his 'Life.' I would give the
world to read 'Faust' in the original. I have been urging Shelley to
translate it." In comparing 'Cain' to 'Faust,' he said, "'Faust' itself
is not so fine a subject as 'Cain,' which is a grand mystery. The mark
that was put upon Cain is a sublime and shadowy act; Goethe would have
made more of it than I have done."

Not being able to dedicate "Sardanapalus" to him, he dedicated "Werner"
"to the illustrious Goethe, by one of his humblest admirers."

All these tokens of sympathy pleased Goethe. Their mutual admiration of
one another brought on an exchange of courtesies, which ended by
creating on both sides quite a warm feeling. In a letter which Goethe
wrote to M. M----, after Byron's death, he speaks of his relation with
the noble poet; after saying how "Sardanapalus" appeared without a
dedication, of which, however, he was happy to possess a lithographed
fac-simile, he adds:--

"It appeared, however, that the noble lord had not renounced his project
of showing his contemporary and companion in letters a striking
testimony of his friendly intentions, of which the tragedy of 'Werner'
contains an extremely precious evidence."

It might naturally be expected that the aged German poet, after
receiving from so celebrated a person such an unhoped-for kindness
(proof of a disposition so thoroughly amiable, and the more to be prized
from its rarity in the world), should also prepare, on his part, to
express most clearly and forcibly a sense of the gratitude and esteem
with which he was affected:--

"But this undertaking was so great, and every day seemed to make it so
much more difficult; for what could be said of an earthly being whose
merit could not be exhausted by thought, or comprehended by words?

"But when, in the spring of 1823, a young man of amiable and engaging
manners, a M. St.----, brought direct from Genoa to Weimar, a few words
under the hand of this estimable friend, by way of recommendation, and
when, shortly after, there was spread a report that the noble lord was
about to consecrate his great powers and varied talents to high and
perilous enterprise, I had no longer a plea for delay, and addressed to
him the stanzas which ends by the lines,--'And he self-known, e'en as to
me he's known!'

"These verses," continued Goethe, "arrived at Genoa, but found him not.
This excellent friend had already sailed; but being driven back by
contrary winds, he landed at Leghorn, where this effusion of my heart
reached him. On the era of his departure, July 23, 1823, he found time
to send me a reply, full of the most beautiful ideas and the divinest
sentiments, which will be treasured as an invaluable testimony of worth
and friendship, among the choicest documents which I possess.

"What emotions of joy and hope did not that paper at once excite! but
now it has become, by the premature death of its noble writer, an
inestimable relic, and a source of unspeakable regret; for it
aggravates, to a peculiar degree in me, the mourning and melancholy that
pervade the whole moral and poetical world,--in me, who looked forward
(after the success of his great efforts) to the prospect of being
blessed with the sight of this master-spirit of the age--this friend so
fortunately acquired: and of having to welcome, on his return, the most
humane of conquerors."

These are, no doubt, most noble words, but they were called forth by the
still nobler conduct of Byron toward him. It can not be said that Goethe
ever appreciated all that there was of worth in his young rival, and a
few words at the end of his letter make one believe that he still
credited some of the absurd stories which he had been told about Byron's
youth, and whom he still believed to be identified in the person of
"Manfred." He entertained a great affection for Byron, no doubt, but he
believed, however, that indulgence and forgiveness were not only
necessary on his part, but actually generous in him.

Lord Byron's sympathetic admiration had this peculiarity,--that it did
not attach to one class of individuals devoted like himself to poetry,
but extended to every class of society. The statesman, the orator, the
philosopher, the prince, the subject, the learned, women, general, or
literary men, all were equally sure of having justice done to them. At
every page of his memoranda, we find instances of this. Thus of
Mackintosh he says: "He is a rare instance of the union of every
transcendent talent and great good-nature."

Of Curran he speaks in the most enthusiastic terms:--

"I have met Curran at Holland House--he beats every body;--his
imagination is beyond conception, and his humor (it is difficult to
define what is wit) perfect. Then he has fifty faces, and twice as many
voices, when he mimics; I never met his equal. Now, were I a woman, and
e'en a virgin, that is the man I should make my Seamander. He is quite
fascinating. Remember, I have met him only once, and I almost fear to
meet him again, lest the impression should be lowered.

"Curran! Curran's the man who struck me most. Such imagination! There
never was any thing like it, that ever I saw or heard of. His
_published_ life--his published speeches--give you no idea of the man,
none at all."

In his memoranda there were equally enthusiastic praises of Curran. "The
riches," said he, "of his Irish imagination were exhaustless. I have
heard that man speak more poetry than I have ever written--though I saw
him seldom, and but occasionally."

In speaking of Colman, he said, "He was most agreeable and sociable. He
can laugh so well, which Sheridan can not. If I could not have them both
together, I should like to begin the evening with Sheridan, and finish
it with Colman."

He praised loudly the eloquence of Grattan:--

"I differ with him in politics, but I agree with all those who admire
his eloquence."

As to Sheridan, he never ceased his eulogies:--

"At Lord Holland's the other night, we were all delivering our
respective and various opinions on him and other _hommes marquants_, and
mine was this:--'Whatever Sheridan has done, or chosen to do, has been,
_par excellence_, always the _best_ of its kind. He has written the
_best_ comedy ("School for Scandal"), the _best_ drama (in my mind, far
before that St. Giles's lampoon, the "Beggars' Opera"), the _best_
farce (the "Critic,"--it is only too good for a farce), and the _best_
address ("Monologue on Garrick"), and, to crown all, delivered the very
best oration (the famous "Begum Speech") ever conceived or heard in this
country.'"

His enthusiasm for Sheridan partook even of a kind of tender compassion
for his great weaknesses and misfortunes. He wrote in his memoranda, on
one occasion, when Sheridan had cried with joy on hearing that Byron had
warmly praised him:--

"Poor Brinsley, if they were tears of pleasure, I would rather have said
those few, but most sincere words, than have written the "Iliad," or
made his own celebrated "Philippic." Nay, his own comedy never gratified
me more, than to hear that he had derived a moment's gratification from
any praise of mine, humble as it must appear to 'my elders, and my
betters.'"

And also:--

"Poor, dear Sherry! I shall never forget the day when he, Rogers, Moore,
and myself, spent the time from six at night till one o'clock in the
morning, without a single yawn; we listening to him, and he talking all
the time."

When he speaks of great men recently dead,--of Burke, Pitt, Burns,
Goldsmith, and others of his distinguished contemporaries,--he is
never-ending in his praise of them. His affectionate admiration for so
many went so far, almost, as to frighten him into the belief that it was
a weakness: after having said--"I like A----, I like B----. By
Mohammed!" he exclaims in his memoranda, "I begin to think I like every
body; a disposition not to be encouraged; a sort of social gluttony,
that swallows every thing set before it."

Not only was it a pleasure to him to praise those who deserved it, but
he would not allow the dead to be blamed, nor the illustrious among the
living; we all know how much he admired the talents of Madame de Staël:
"Il avait pour elle des admirations _obstinées_." "Campbell abused
Corinne," he says in his journal, 1813: "I reverence and admire him; but
I won't give up my opinion. Why should I? I read her again and again,
and there can be no affectation in this. I can not be mistaken (except
in taste) in a book I read and lay down and take up again; and no book
can be totally bad, which finds some, even _one_ reader, who can say as
much sincerely."

And elsewhere:

"H---- laughed, as he does at every thing German, in which, however, I
think he goes a little too far. B----, I hear, contemns it too. But
there are fine passages; and, after all, what is a work--any or every
work--but a desert with fountains, and, perhaps, a grove or two every
day's journey? To be sure, in mademoiselle, what we often mistake and
'pant for' as the 'cooling stream,' turns out to be the 'mirage'
(_criticé_, verbiage); but we do, at last, get to something like the
temple of Jupiter Ammon, and then the waste we have passed is only
remembered to gladden the contrast."

He who was so sparing of answers to his own detractors, could not allow
a criticism against a friend to be left unanswered. We have seen how he
defended Scott, Shelley, Coleridge, and numerous other remarkable
persons, whenever they were unjustly attacked, although they were alive
to defend themselves. The respect and justice which he claimed for the
dead was equally proportioned. "Do not forget," he wrote to Moore on
hearing that he was about to write the "Life of Sheridan;" "do not
forget _to spare the living without insulting the dead_."

On reading, at Ravenna, that Schlegel said, that Dante was not popular
in Italy, and accused him of want of pathos: "'Tis false," said he, with
indignation; "there have been more editors and commentators (and
imitators ultimately) of Dante, than of all their poets put together.
_Not_ a favorite! Why they talk Dante, write Dante, and think and dream
Dante at this moment (1821) to an excess which would be ridiculous, but
that he deserves it.

"In the same style this German talks of gondolas on the Arno--a precious
fellow to dare to speak of Italy!

"He says, also, that Dante's chief defect is a want, in a word, of
gentle feelings. Of gentle feelings! and this in the face of 'Francesca
of Rimini'--and the father's feelings in 'Ugolino'--and 'Beatrice'--and
'La Pia!' Why, there is a gentleness in Dante beyond all gentleness,
when he is tender. It is true, that in treating of the Christian Hades,
or Hell, there is not much scope or room for gentleness; but who _but_
Dante could have introduced any 'softness' at all into Hell? Is there
any in Milton? No--and Dante's heaven is all _love_, and _glory_, and
_majesty_."

We have alluded to his admiration for Pope. It was such as to appear
almost a kind of filial love. He was sorry, mortified, and humbled, not
to find in Westminster Abbey the monument of so great a man:--

"Of all the disgraces that attach to England, the greatest," said he,
"is that there should be no place assigned to Pope in Poets' Corner. I
have often thought of erecting a monument to him at my own expense in
Westminster Abbey; and hope to do so yet."

To add any thing more to show how totally Byron was free from all
sentiments of an envious nature, would be to exhaust the subject, and to
abuse the reader's patience. This absence of envy in him shows itself so
clearly in all his sayings and doings, that it appears to be impossible
to doubt it, and yet he has not been spared even such a calumny! I do
not allude to the French critics, who neither knew the man nor the
author, and whose systematic attacks have no value; but I allude to a
certain article in the "London Magazine," which appeared shortly before
his death, under the title of "Personal Character of Lord Byron," and
which caused some sensation because it appeared to have been written by
some one who had known Byron intimately. It was all the more perfidious
because it gave an appearance of truth to a great many falsehoods,
derived from the truth with which these falsehoods were mixed. It was
the work of one who had gone to Greece, there to play a great part, but
who, having failed in his attempt and exposed himself to the laughter of
his friends, felt a kind of jealousy for Byron's success in that line,
and revenged himself by saying, among other things, "that it was
dangerous for Byron's friends to rise in the world, if they preferred
his friendship to their glory, because, as soon as they arrived at a
certain pre-eminence, he was sure to hate them."

Such a calumny exasperated Byron's real friends, and among these Count
Gamba, who hastened to reply to it, by publishing an interesting book,
precious from its veracity, and which does equal credit to Byron and to
the young man honored with his friendship. After analyzing the
anonymous article, Count Gamba goes on to say: "My own opinion is just
the contrary to that of the writer in the magazine. I think he prided
himself on the successes of his friends, and cited them as a proof of
discernment in the choice of some of his companions. This I know, that
of envy he had not the least spark in his whole disposition: he had
strong antipathies, certainly, to one or two individuals; but I have
always understood, from those most likely to know, that he never broke
with any of the friends of his youth, and that his earliest attachments
were also his last."

It may be remarked that Byron's popularity made it difficult for him to
indulge sentiments of envy. But without referring to the unstable
character of popularity, was not his own attacked by the jealousy of
those who wished to pull him down from the pedestal of fame, to which
they hoped themselves to rise? Did he not think, some years before his
death, that his popularity was wavering, and that his rivals would
profit by it? Was he less pleased at the success of his friends? Does
not all he said, and all he did, prove that where he blamed he did so
unwillingly, from a sense of justice and truth; but that when he
praised, he did so to satisfy a desire of his heart?

We have dwelt at considerable length upon this subject, because we
believe that a total absence of envy is so rare among poets, and so
conspicuous in Lord Byron, that we can take it to be the criterion of
his nobility of soul. We can sum up, therefore, all we have said, by
declaring, that if Byron has been envied by all his enemies, and even
his friends, with, perhaps, the exception of Shelley, and has not
himself envied one, though he suffered personally from the consequences
of their jealousy, it is because the great kindness of his nature made
him the least envious of men.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 28: Moore, Letter 261.]

[Footnote 29: Venice, 1817.]

[Footnote 30: Why has the passage in the first edition of Stendhall's
works, which treats in enthusiastic terms of Byron's genius, been cut
out of the subsequent editions?]

[Footnote 31: Was this a little irony? I think so, for it was believed
that jealousy was the weak point of Rogers.]

[Footnote 32: Moore, Letter 435.]

[Footnote 33: Moore, Letter 422.]



CHAPTER IX.

BENEVOLENCE AND KINDNESS OF LORD BYRON.

BENEVOLENCE.


The benevolence of Byron's character constitutes the principal
characteristic of his nature, and was particularly remarkable from its
power. All the good qualities in Byron do not show the same force in the
same degree. In all the sentiments which we have analyzed and given in
proof of his goodness, though each may be very strong, and even capable
of inspiring him with the greatest sacrifice, yet one might find in each
that personal element, inherent in different degrees to our purest and
most generous affections, since the impulse which dictates them is
evidently based upon a desire to be satisfied with ourselves. The same
thing might be said of his benevolence, had it been only the result of
habit: but if it had been this, if it had been intermittent, and of that
kind which does not exclude occasional harshness and even cruelty, I
would not venture to present it to the reader as a proof of Byron's
goodness.

His benevolence had nothing personal in its elements. It was a kind of
universal and habitual charity, which gives without hope of return,
which is more occupied with the good of others than with its own, and
which is called for only by the instinctive desire to alleviate the
sufferings of others. If such a quality has no right to be called a
virtue, it nevertheless imprints upon the man who possesses it an
ineffaceable character of greatness.

There was not a single moment in his life in which it did not reveal
itself in the most touching actions. We have seen how neither happiness
nor misfortune could alter it.

As a child, he went one day to bathe with a little school-fellow in the
Don, in Scotland, and having but one very small Shetland pony between
them, each one walked and rode alternately. When they reached the
bridge, at a point where the river becomes sombre and romantic, Byron,
who was on foot, recollected a legendary prophecy, which says:--

  "Brig o' Balgounie, black's your wa':
  Wi' a wife's ae son and a mare's ae foal
  Doun ye shall fa'!"

Little Byron stopped his companion, asked him if he remembered the
prediction, and declared that as the pony might very well be "a mare's
ae foal," he intended to cross first, for although both only sons, his
mother alone would mourn him, while the death of his friend, whose
father and mother were both alive, would cause a twofold grief.[34]

As a stripling, he saw at Southwell a poor woman sally mournfully from a
shop, because the Bible she wished to purchase costs more money than she
possesses. Byron hastens to buy it, and, full of joy, runs after the
poor creature to give it to her. As a young man, at an age when the
effervescence and giddiness of youth forget many things, he never forgot
that to seduce a young girl is a crime. Then, as ever, he was less the
seducer than the seduced.

Moore tells us that Byron was so keenly sensitive to the pleasure or
pain of those with whom he lived, that while in his imaginary realms he
defied the universe, in real life a frown or a smile could overcome him.

Proud, energetic, independent, intrepid, benevolence alone rendered Lord
Byron so flexible, patient, and docile to the remonstrances or
reproaches of those who loved him, and to whom he allowed friendly
motives, that he often sacrificed his own talent to this genial and
kindly sentiment. The Rev. Mr. Beecher, disapproving as too free one of
the poems he had just published at the age of seventeen, in his first
edition of the "Hours of Idleness," Lord Byron _withdrew_ and _burnt_
the whole edition. At the solicitation of Dallas and Gifford he
suppresses, in the second canto of "Childe Harold," the very stanzas he
preferred to all the rest. Madame G----, grieved at the persecution
drawn down on him by the first canto of "Don Juan," begs him to
discontinue the poem, and he ceased to write it.

At the request of Madame de Staël, he consented, in spite of his great
disinclination, to attempt a reconciliation with Lady Byron.

The "Curse of Minerva," a poem written in Greece, while he was still
painfully impressed by the artistic piracies of Lord Elgin in the
"Parthenon," was in the press and on the eve of publication; but Lord
Elgin's friends reminded him of the pain it would inflict on him and on
his family, and the poem was sacrificed. No one ever bore more
generously than he with reproaches made with good-will and kindness.
This amiable disposition, observed in Greece by Mr. Finlay, led him to
say that it amazed him. As regards Lord Byron's tenderness toward his
friends, it was always so great and constant, that we have thought it
right to devote a long article to it. We will, however, quote as another
instance of the delicacy of his friendship and his fear of offending his
friends, or of giving them pain, a letter which Moore also cites as a
proof of his extreme sensitiveness in this respect.

This letter was addressed to Mr. Bankes, his friend and college
companion, on one occasion when Byron believed he had offended him
involuntarily:--

"MY DEAR BANKES,--My eagerness to come to an explanation has, I trust,
convinced you that whatever my unlucky manner might inadvertently be,
the change was as unintentional as (if intended) it would have been
ungrateful. I really was not aware that, while we were together, I had
evinced such caprice. That we were not so much in each other's company
as I could have wished, I well know; but I think so astute an observer
as yourself must have perceived enough to explain this, without
supposing any slight to one in whose society I have pride and pleasure.
Recollect that I do not allude here to 'extended' or 'extending'
acquaintances, but to circumstances you will understand, I think, on a
little reflection.

"And now, my dear Bankes, do not distress me by supposing that I can
think of you, or you of me, otherwise than I trust we have long thought.
You told me not long ago, that my temper was improved, and I should be
sorry that opinion should be revoked. Believe me, your friendship is of
more account to me than all those absurd vanities in which, I fear, you
conceive me to take too much interest. I have never disputed your
superiority, or doubted (seriously) your good-will, and no one shall
ever 'make mischief between us' without the sincere regret on the part
of your ever affectionate, etc.

"BYRON."

In the midst of the unexampled enthusiasm of a whole nation, Byron is
neither touched by the adoration which his genius inspires, nor the
endless praises which are bestowed upon him, nor the love declarations
which crowd his table, nor the flattering expressions of Lord Holland,
who ranks him next to Walter Scott as a poet, and to Burke as an orator;
nor indeed by those of Lord Fitzgerald, who, notwithstanding a flogging
at Harrow, can not bear malice against the author of "Childe Harold,"
but desires to forgive. To be the friend of those whom his satire
offended, so penetrates him with disgust for that poem, that his dearest
wish is to lose every trace of it; and, though the fifth edition is
nearly completed, he gives orders to his publisher, Cawthorn, to burn
the whole edition.

It is well known that on the occasion of the opening of the new Drury
Lane Theatre, the committee called upon all England's poetical talent
for an inaugural address. The committee received many, but found none
worthy of adoption. It was then that Lord Holland advised that Lord
Byron should be applied to, whose genius and popularity would enhance,
he said, the solemnity of the occasion. Lord Byron after a refusal, and
much hesitation arising partly from modesty and partly from the
knowledge that the rejected authors would make him pay a heavy price for
his triumph, at last, with much reluctance, accepted the invitation,
merely to oblige Lord Holland. He exchanged with the latter on this
topic a long correspondence, revealing so thoroughly his docility and
modesty, that Moore declares these letters valuable as an illustration
of his character; they show, in truth, the exceeding pliant good-nature
with which he listened to the counsel and criticism of his friends. "It
can not be questioned," says he, "that this docility, which he
invariably showed in matters upon which most authors are generally
tenacious and irritable, was a natural essence of his character, and
which might have been displayed on much more important occasions had he
been so fortunate as to become connected with people capable of
understanding and of guiding him."

Another time Moore wrote to him at Pisa:--"Knowing you as I do, Lady
Byron ought to have discovered, that you are the most docile and most
amiable man that ever existed, for those who live with you."

His hatred of contradiction and petty teasing, his repugnance to annoy
or mortify any one, arose from the same cause. Once, after having
replied with his usual frankness to an inquiry of Madame de Staël,
_that he thought a certain step ill-advised_, he wrote in his
memorandum-book:--"I have since reflected that it would be possible for
Mrs. B---- to be patroness; and I regret having given my opinion, as I
detest getting people into difficulties with themselves or their
favorites."

And again:--

"To-day C---- called, and, while sitting here, in came Merivale. During
our colloquy, C---- (ignorant that M----was the writer) abused the
mawkishness of the 'Quarterly Review,' on Grimm's correspondence. I
(knowing the secret) changed the conversation as soon as I could, and
C---- went away quite convinced of having made the most favorable
impression on his new acquaintance.... I did not look at him while this
was going on, but I felt like a coal; for I like Merivale, as well as
the article in question."


HIS INDULGENCE.

His indulgence, so great toward all, was excessive toward his inferiors.

"Lord Byron," says Medwin, "was the best of masters, and it may be
asserted that he was beloved by his servants; his goodness even extended
to their families. He liked them to have their children with them. I
remember, on one occasion, as we entered the hall, coming back from our
walk, we met the coachman's son, a boy of three or four years of age.
Byron took the child up in his arms and gave him ten pauls."

"His indulgence toward his servants," says Mr. Hoppner, "was almost
reprehensible, for even when they neglected their duty, he appeared
rather to laugh at than to scold them, and he never could make up his
mind to send them away, even after threatening to do so."

Mr. Hoppner quotes several instances of this indulgence, which he
frequently witnessed. I will relate one in which his kindness almost
amounts to virtue. On the point of leaving for Ravenna, whither his
heart passionately summoned him, Tita Falier, his gondolier, is taken
for the conscription. To release him it is not only necessary to pay
money, but also to take certain measures, and to delay his departure.
The money was given, and the much-desired journey postponed.

"The result was," says Hoppner, "that his servants were so attached to
him that they would have borne every thing for his sake. His death
plunged them into the deepest grief. I have in my possession a letter
written to his family by Byron's gondolier, Tita, who followed him from
Venice to Greece, and remained with him until his death. The poor fellow
speaks of his master in touching terms: he declares that in Byron he has
lost rather a father than a master, and he does not cease to dilate upon
the goodness with which Byron looked after the interests of all who
served him."

Fletcher also wrote to Murray after his master's death:--

"Pray forgive this scribbling, for I scarcely know what I do and say. I
have served Lord Byron for twenty years, and his lordship was always to
me rather a father than a master. I am too distressed to be able to give
you any particulars about his death."

Lord Byron's benevolence also shone forth in his tenderness toward
children, in the pleasure he experienced in mingling in their
amusements, and in making them presents. In general, to procure a
moment's enjoyment to any one was real happiness to him.

Quite as humane as he was benevolent, cruelty or ferocity he could not
brook, even in imagination. His genius, although so bold, could not bear
too harrowing a plot. "I wanted to write something upon that subject,"
he told Shelley at Pisa, "as it is extremely tragical, but it was too
heartrending for my nerves to cope with."

His works, moreover, from beginning to end, prove this. An analysis of
the character of all his heroes will prove that, however daring, they
are never ferocious, harsh, nor perverse. Even Conrad the Corsair, whose
type is sketched from a ferocious race, and who is placed in
circumstances that tempt to inhumanity,--Conrad is yet far removed from
cruelty. The drop of blood on Gulnare's fair brow makes him shudder, and
almost forget that it was to save him that she became guilty. The cruel
deeds of a man not only prevented Lord Byron from feeling the least
sympathy for him, but even made gratitude toward him a burden. However
much Ali Pasha, the fierce Viceroy of Janina, may overwhelm him with
kindness, wish to treat him as a son, address him in writing as
"Excellentissime and Carissime," the cruelties of such a friend are too
revolting for Byron to profit by his offer of services. He calls him the
man of war and calamity, and in immortal verse perpetuates the memory of
his crimes, and even _foretells the death he actually died a few years
later_. He can forgive him the weakness of the flesh, but not those
crimes which are deaf to pity's voice, and which, to be condemned in
every man, are still more so in an old man:--

  "Blood follows blood, and through this mortal span
  In bloodier acts conclude those who with blood began."

The recollection of human massacres spoilt in his eyes even a beautiful
spot. In exalting the Rhine, the beautiful river he so much admired, the
remembrance of all the blood spilt on its banks saddened his heart:--

                               "Then to see
    The valley of sweet waters, were to know
    Earth paved like Heaven; and to seem such to me
  Even now what wants thy stream?--that it should Lethe be:
     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
    But o'er the blacken'd memory's blighting dream
  Thy waves would vainly roll, all sweeping as they seem."

As to being himself a witness and spectator of scenes of violence, it
was an effort which exceeded the strength, however great, of his will.
Gifted with much psychological curiosity, and holding the theory that
every thing should be seen, he was present at Rome at the execution of
three murderers, who were to be put to death, on the eve of his
departure. This spectacle agitated him to such a degree that it brought
on a fever.

In Spain he attended a bull-fight. The painful impression produced by
the barbarous sight is immortalized in verse (_vide_ "Childe Harold,"
1st canto).

But his actions, above all, testify to his humane disposition. He never
heard of the misfortune or suffering of a fellow-creature without
endeavoring to relieve it, whether in London, Venice, Ravenna, Pisa, or
Greece; he spared neither gold, time, nor labor to achieve this object.
At Pisa, hearing that a wretched man, guilty of a sacrilegious theft,
was to be condemned to cruel torture, he became ill with dread and
anxiety. He wrote to the English ambassador, and to the consuls, begging
for their interposition; neglected no chance, and did not rest until he
acquired the certainty that the penalty inflicted on the culprit would
be more humane.

In Greece, where traits of generous compassion fill the rest of his
life, Count Gamba relates that Colonel Napier, then residing in the
Island of Cephalonia, one day rode in great haste to Lord Byron, to ask
for his assistance, a number of workmen, employed in making a road,
having been buried under the crumbling side of a mountain in consequence
of an imprudent operation. Lord Byron immediately dispatched his
physician, and, although just sitting down to table, had his horses
saddled, and galloped off to the scene of the disaster, accompanied by
Count Gamba and his suite. Women and children wept and moaned, the crowd
each moment increased, lamentations were heard on all sides, but,
whether from despair or laziness, none came forward. Generous anger
overcame Lord Byron at this scene of woe and shame; he leapt from his
horse, and, grasping the necessary implements, began with his own hands
the work of setting free the poor creatures, who were there buried
alive. His example aroused the courage of the others, and the
catastrophe was thus mitigated by the rescue of several victims. Count
Gamba, after dwelling on the good Lord Byron did everywhere, and on the
admirable life he led in Greece, expresses himself as follows in a
letter to Mr. Kennedy:--

"One of his principal objects in Greece was to awaken the Turks as well
as the Greeks to more humane sentiments. You know how he hastened,
whenever the opportunity arose, to purchase the freedom of woman and
children, and to send them back to their homes. He frequently, and not
without incurring danger to himself, rescued Turks from the sanguinary
grasp of the Greek corsairs. When a Moslem brig drifted ashore near
Missolonghi, the Greeks wanted to capture the whole crew; but Lord Byron
opposed it, and promised a reward of a crown for each sailor, and of two
for each officer rescued."

"Coming to Greece," wrote Lord Byron, "one of my principal objects was
to alleviate, as much as possible, the miseries incident to a warfare so
cruel as the present. When the dictates of humanity are in question, I
know no difference between Turks and Greeks. It is enough that those who
want assistance are men, in order to claim the pity and protection of
the meanest pretender to humane feelings. I have found here twenty-four
Turks, including women and children, who have long pined in distress,
far from the means of support and the consolations of their home. The
Government has consigned them to me: I transmit them to Prevesa, whither
they desire to be sent. I hope you will not object to take care that
they may be restored to a place of safety, and that the governor of your
town may accept of my present. The best recompense I could hope for
would be to find that I had inspired the Ottoman commanders with the
same sentiments toward those unhappy Greeks, who may hereafter fall into
their hands.

"BYRON."

"Lord Byron," pursues Count Gamba, "never could witness a calamity as an
idle spectator. He was so alive to the sufferings of others, that he
sometimes allowed himself to be imposed upon too readily by tales of
woe. The least semblance of injustice excited his indignation, and led
him to intervene without a thought for the consequences to himself of
his interposition; and he entertained this feeling not only for his
fellow-creatures but even toward animals."

His compassion extended to every living creature, to every thing that
could feel. Without alluding to his well-known fondness for dogs, and
for the animals of every kind he liked to have about him, and of which
he took the greatest care, it will be sufficient to point out the motive
which led him to deprive himself of the pleasures of the chase,--a
pastime that would have been, from his keen enjoyment of bodily
exercises, so congenial to his tastes. The reason is found in his
memorandum for 1814:--

"The last bird I ever fired at was an eaglet, on the shore of the Gulf
of Lepanto, near Vostitza. It was only wounded, and I tried to save it,
the eye was so bright: but it pined and died in a few days; and I never
did since, and never will, attempt the death of another bird."

Angling, as well as shooting, he considered cruel.

  "And angling, too, that solitary vice,
  Whatever Izaak Walton sings or says:
  The quaint, old, cruel coxcomb, in his gullet
  Should have a hook, and a small trout to pull it."

And, as if he feared not to have expressed strongly enough his aversion
for the cruelties of angling, he adds in a note:--

"It would have taught him humanity at least. This sentimental savage,
whom it is a mode to quote (among the novelists) to show their sympathy
for innocent sports and old songs, teaches how to sew up frogs, and
break their legs by way of experiment, in addition to the art of
angling,--the cruelest, the coldest, and the stupidest of pretended
sports. They may talk about the beauties of nature, but the angler
merely thinks of his dish of fish; he has no leisure to take his eyes
from off the streams, and a single bite is worth to him more than all
the scenery around. Besides, some fish bite best on a rainy day. The
whale, the shark, and the tunny fishery have somewhat of noble and
perilous in them; even net-fishing, trawling, etc., are more humane and
useful. But angling!--no angler can be a good man."

"One of the best men I ever knew (as humane, delicate-minded, generous,
and excellent a creature as any in the world) was an angler; true, he
angled with painted flies, and would have been incapable of the
extravagances of Izaak Walton."

"The above addition was made by a friend, in reading over the
MS.:--'_Audi alteram partem_'--I leave it to counterbalance my own
observations."

It is well known that Lord Byron would not deride certain superstitions,
and was sometimes tempted to exclaim with Hamlet,--

  "There are more things in Heaven and earth, Horatio,
  Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

He, consequently, also conformed to the English superstition, which
involves, under pain of an unlucky year, the eating of a goose at
Michaelmas. Alas! once only he did not eat one, and that year was his
last; but he eat none because, during the journey from Pisa to Genoa, on
Michaelmas eve, he saw the two white geese in their cage in the wagon
that followed his carriage, and felt so sorry for them that he gave
orders they should be spared. After his arrival at Genoa they became
such pets that he caressed them constantly. When he left for Greece he
recommended them to the care of Mr. Kennedy, who was probably kind to
them for the sake of their illustrious protector.

Not only could Lord Byron never contribute voluntarily to the suffering
of a living being, but his pity, his commiseration for the sufferings of
his fellow-creatures showed itself all his life in such habitual
benevolence, in such boundless generosity, that volumes would be
necessary to record his noble deeds.

Although, in thus analyzing and enumerating the proofs of his innate
goodness, we have declared we did not entertain the pretension of
elevating them to the rank of lofty virtues, we are yet compelled to
state that if his generosity was too instinctive to be termed a virtue,
it was yet too admirable to be considered as an instinct; that while in
remaining a quality of his heart, it elevated and transformed itself
often through the exertion of his will into an absolute virtue, and
through all its phases and in its double nature, it presented in Lord
Byron a remarkably rare blending of all that is most lovable and
estimable in the human soul.

Here we merely speak of the generosity that showed itself in benefits
conferred. As to that which consists rather in self-denial, sacrifice
which forgives injuries, and which is the greatest triumph of mortal
courage, that, in a word, is indeed a sublime virtue. Such generosity,
if he possessed it, we will treat of in another chapter.[35]

As we here wish to establish by facts that only which appears to have
been the impulse of his good heart, the difficulty lies in the choice of
proofs, and in the necessity of limiting our narrative. We will,
therefore, in order not to convert this chapter into a volume, forbear
from quoting more than a few instances; but justice requires us to say,
that misfortune or poverty never had recourse to him in vain; that
neither the pecuniary embarrassments of his youth, nor the slender
merits of the applicants, nor any of the pretexts so convenient to weak
or hypocritical[36] liberality, ever could become a reason with him to
refuse those who stretched out their hand to him. The claim of
adversity, as adversity, was a sufficient and sacred one to him, and to
relieve it an imperious impulse.

An appeal was once made to Lord Byron's generosity by an individual
whose bad repute alone might have justified a harsh rebuff. But Lord
Byron, whose charity was of a higher order, looked upon it otherwise.

"Why," said Murray, "should you give £150 to this bad writer, to whom
nobody would give a penny?" "Precisely because nobody is willing to give
him any thing is he the more in need that I should help him," answered
Lord Byron.

A certain Mr. Ashe superintended the publication of a paper called "The
Book," the readers of which were attracted rather by its ill-nature and
scandal, and the revelations it made in lifting the veil that had so far
concealed the most delicate mysteries, than by the talent of the author.
In a fit of repentance this man wrote to Lord Byron, alleging his great
poverty as an apology for having thus prostituted his pen, and imploring
from Lord Byron a gift to enable him to live more honorably in future.
Lord Byron's answer to this letter is so remarkable for its good sense,
kindness, and high tone of honor, that we can not refrain from
reproducing it.

     "SIR,--I leave town for a few days to-morrow; on my return I will
     answer your letter more at length. Whatever may be your situation,
     I can not but commend your resolution to abjure and abandon the
     publication and composition of works such as those to which you
     have alluded. Depend upon it they amuse few, disgrace both reader
     and writer, and benefit none. It will be my wish to assist you, as
     far as my limited means will admit, to break such a bondage. In
     your answer inform me what sum you think would enable you to
     extricate yourself from the hands of your employers, and to regain,
     at least, temporary independence, and I shall be glad to contribute
     my mite toward it. At present, I must conclude. Your name is not
     unknown to me, and I regret, for my own sake, that you have ever
     lent it to the works you mention. In saying this, I merely repeat
     your own words in your letter to me, and have no wish whatever to
     say a single syllable that may appear to insult your misfortunes.
     If I have, excuse me: it is unintentional.

     BYRON."

Mr. Ashe replied with a request for a sum of about four thousand francs.
Lord Byron having somewhat delayed answering him, Ashe reiterated his
request, complaining of the procrastination; whereupon, "with a kindness
which few," says Moore, "would imitate in a similar case," Byron wrote
to him as follows:--

     "SIR,--When you accuse a stranger of neglect, you forget that it is
     possible business or absence from London may have interfered to
     delay his answer, as has actually occurred in the present instance.
     But to the point. I am willing to do what I can to extricate you
     from your situation.... I will deposit in Mr. Murray's hands (with
     his consent) the sum you mentioned, to be advanced for the time at
     ten pounds per month.

     "P.S.--I write in the greatest hurry, which may make my letter a
     little abrupt; but, as I said before, I have no wish to distress
     your feelings.

     BYRON."

Ashe, a few months later, asked for the whole amount, to defray his
travelling expenses to New South Wales, and Lord Byron again remitted to
him the entire amount.

On another occasion, some unhappy person being discussed in harsh terms,
the remark was made that he deserved his misery. Lord Byron turned on
the accuser, and fired with generous anger, "Well!" exclaimed he, "if it
be true that N---- is unfortunate, and that he be so through his own
fault, he is doubly to be pitied, because his conscience must poison his
grief with remorse. Such are my morals, and that is why I pity error and
respect misfortune."

The produce of his poems, as long as he remained in England, he devoted
to the relief of his poor relations, or to the assistance of authors in
reduced circumstances. I will not speak of certain traits of heroic
generosity which averted the disgrace and ruin of families, which robbed
vice of many youthful victims, and would cast in the shade many deeds of
past and proverbial magnanimity, and deserve the pen of a Plutarch to
transmit them to posterity.

When we are told, with such admiring comments, of Alexander's
magnanimity in respecting and restoring to freedom the mother and the
wife of Darius, we do not learn whether those noble women were beautiful
and in love with the Macedonian hero. But Lord Byron succored, and
restored to the right path, many girls, young and gifted with every
charm, who were so subjugated by the beauty, goodness, and generosity of
their benefactor, that they fall at his feet, not to implore that they
might be sent back to their homes, but ready to become what he bade
them. And yet this young man of six-and-twenty, thinking them fair, was
touched, and tempted perhaps, yet sent them home, rescued, and
enlightened by the counsels of wisdom.

There is more than generosity in such actions, and we therefore hold
back details for another chapter, in which we will examine this quality
under various aspects. Here we will content ourselves with stating that
these noble traits became known, almost in spite of himself; for his
benevolence was also remarkable in this respect, that it was exercised
with a truly Christian spirit, and in obedience to the Divine precept
that "the left hand shall not know what the right doeth." Having
conferred a great favor on one of his friends, Mr. Hodgson, who was
about to take orders, he wrote in the evening in his journal:--

"H---- has been telling that I ... I am sure, at least, I did not
mention it, and I wish he had not. He is a good fellow, and I oblige
myself ten times more by being of use than I did him,--and there's an
end on't."[37]

It was said of Chateaubriand that if he wished to do any thing generous,
he liked to do so on his balcony; the contrary may be said of Byron, who
would have preferred to have his good action hid in the cellars.

"If we wished to dwell," says Count Gamba in a letter to Kennedy, "on
his many acts of charity, a volume would not suffice to tell you of
those alone to which I have been a witness. I have known in different
Italian towns several honorable families, fallen into poverty, with whom
Lord Byron had not the slightest acquaintance, and to whom he
nevertheless _secretly_ sent large sums of money, sometimes 200 dollars
and more; and these persons never knew the name of their benefactor."

Count Gamba also tells us that, to his knowledge, in Florence, a
respectable mother of a family, being reduced to great penury by the
persecution of a malignant and powerful man, from whom she had protected
the honor of one of her _protégées_, Lord Byron, to whom the lady and
her persecutor were equally unknown, sent her assistance, which was
powerful enough to counteract the evil designs of her foes. He adds
that, having learnt at Pisa that a great number of vessels had been
shipwrecked during a violent storm, in the very harbor of Genoa, and
that several respectable families were thereby completely ruined, Lord
Byron _secretly_ sent them money, and to some more than 300 dollars.
Those who received it never knew their benefactor's name. His charity
provided above all for absent ones, for the old, infirm, and retiring.
At Venice, where it was difficult to elude the influence of the climate,
and of the manners of the time, and where he shared for a time the mode
of life of its young men, it was still charity, and not pleasure, that
absorbed the better part of his income. Not satisfied with his casual or
out-of-the-way charities, he granted a large number of small monthly and
weekly pensions. On definitely leaving Venice to reside in Ravenna, he
decided that, in spite of his absence, these pensions should continue
until the expiration of his lease of the Palazzo Mocenigo. Venice
watched him as jealously as a miser watches his treasure, and when he
left it the honest poor were grieved and the dishonest vexed. Listening
to these, one might have been led to believe, that Lord Byron had by a
vow bound himself and his fortune to the service of Venice, and that his
departure was a spoliation of their rights.[38]

In Ravenna his presence had been such a blessing, that his departure was
considered a public calamity, and the poor of the city addressed a
petition to the legate, that he might be entreated to remain.

Not a quarter of his fortune, as Shelley said in extolling his
munificence, but the half of it, did he expend in alms. In Pisa, in
Genoa, in Greece, his purse was ever open to the needy.

"Not a day of his life in Greece," says his physician, Doctor Bruno,
"but was marked by some charitable deed: not an instance is there on
record of a beggar having knocked at Lord Byron's door who did not go on
his way comforted; so prominent among all his noble qualities was the
tenderness of his heart, and its boundless sympathy with suffering and
affliction. His purse was always opened to the poor." After quoting
several traits of benevolence, he goes on to say:--"Whenever it came to
the knowledge of Lord Byron that any poor persons were lying ill,
whatever the maladies or their cause, without even being asked to do it,
my lord immediately sent me to attend to the sufferers. He provided the
medicines, and every other means of alleviation. He founded at his own
expense a hospital in Missolonghi."[39]

This noble quality of his heart had the ring of true generosity; that
generosity which springs from the desire and pleasure to do good, and
which is so admirable, that in his own estimate of benevolence he always
linked it with a sense of order. It never had any thing in common with
the capricious munificence of a spendthrift. His exceeding delicacy, the
loyalty and noble pride of his soul, inspired him with the deepest
aversion for that egotism and vanity which alike ignores its own duties
and the rights of others.

Lord Byron was, therefore, very methodical in his expenditure. Without
stooping to details, he was most careful to maintain equilibrium between
his outlay and his income. He attended scrupulously to his bills, and
said he could not go to sleep without being on good terms with his
friends, and having paid all his debts.[40]

He was often tormented, if his agents were tardy in making remittances,
with the dread of not being able to meet his engagements. Of his own
gold he was liberal, but he respected the coffers of his creditors.

"I have the greatest respect for money," he often said in jest. He cared
for it, indeed, but as a means of obtaining rest for his mind, and
especially of helping the poor. Although so generous, he was sometimes
annoyed and sorry at the thought of having ill-spent his money, because
he had in the same ratio diminished his power of doing good.

We should have given but an unfair idea of the lofty nature of his
generosity, if we did not add that it was not sustained by any illusory
hopes of gratitude. These illusions his confiding heart had entertained
in early manhood, and were those the loss of which he most regretted;
but their flight, though causing bitter disappointment, left his conduct
uninfluenced. He expected ingratitude, and was prepared for it; he
_gave_, he said, and _did not lend_; and preferred to expose himself to
ingratitude rather than to forsake the unhappy.

We fain would have concluded this long chapter, devoted to the proofs of
his goodness in all its manifestations, by gathering the principal
testimonies of that goodness which were received after Byron's death,
and show it in its original character and in its modifications through
life. But we must confine ourselves to the mention of a few testimonies
only, taken from among those borne him at the outset and at the end of
his life, so as to extend throughout its course, and to show what those
who knew him personally, and well, thought of it.

Mr. Pigott, a friend and companion of Byron's, who lived at Southwell,
in the neighborhood of Newstead, who travelled with Byron during his
holidays, told Moore that few people understood Byron; but that he knew
well how naturally sensitive and kind-hearted he was, and that there was
not the slightest particle of malignity in his whole composition. Mr.
Pigott, who thus spoke of Byron, was one of the most revered magistrates
of his county, and the head of that family with whom Byron was wont to
spend his holidays, and who loved him, both before and after his death,
as good people only can love and mourn. "Never," says Moore, "did any
member of that family allow that Byron had a single fault."

Mr. Lake, another biographer of Byron, says, "I have frequently asked
the country people what sort of a man Lord Byron was. The impression of
his eccentric but energetic character was evident in the reply. 'He's
the devil of a fellow for comical fancies--He flogs th' oud laird to
nothing, but he's a hearty good fellow for all that.'"

Here is Dallas's opinion, which can not be suspected of partiality, for
reasons which we have elsewhere given; for he believed himself
aggrieved, and considered as a great culprit the man who, ever so
slightly, could depart from the orthodox religious teachings; who had
not a blind admiration of his country; who could suffer his heart to be
possessed by an affection which marriage had not legitimatized; who
preferred to family pride the satisfaction of paying the debts
bequeathed to him by his ancestors, and who could make use of his right
of selling his lands. Yet, notwithstanding all this, Mr. Dallas
expresses himself to the following effect:--"At this time (1809), when
on the eve of publishing his first satire, and before taking his seat in
the House of Lords, I saw Lord Byron every day. (This was the epoch of
his misanthropy). Nature had gifted him with most amiable sentiments,
which I frequently had occasion to notice, and I have often seen these
imprint upon his fine countenance a really sublime expression. His
features seemed made expressly to depict the conceptions of genius and
the storms of passion. I have often wondered with admiration at these
curious effects. I have seen his face lighted up by the fire of poetical
inspiration, and, under the influence of strong emotions, sometimes
express the highest degree of energy, and at others all the softness and
grace of mild and gentle affection. When his soul was a prey to passion
and revenge, it was painful to observe the powerful effect upon his
features; but when, on the contrary, he was conquered by feelings of
tenderness and benevolence (which was the natural tendency of his
heart), it was delightful to contemplate his looks. I went to see Lord
Byron the day after Lord Falkland's death. He had just seen the
inanimate body of the man with whom, a few days before, he had spent
such an agreeable time. At intervals, I heard him exclaim to himself,
and half aloud, 'Poor Falkland!' His look was even more expressive than
were his words. 'But his wife,' added he, 'she is to be pitied!' One
could see his soul filled with the most benevolent intentions, which
were sterile.[41] If ever pure action was done, it was that which he
then meditated; and the man who conceived it, and who accomplished it,
was then progressing through thorns and thistles, toward that free but
narrow path which leads to heaven."

Several years later, Mr. Hoppner, English Consul at Venice, and who
spent his life with Byron in that city, wrote in a narrative of the
causes which created so much disgust in Byron for English travellers,
that Byron's affected misanthropy, as observable in his first poems, was
by no means natural to him; and he adds, that he is certain that he
never met with a man so kind as Byron.

We might stop here, certain as we are that all loyal and reasonable
readers are not only convinced of Byron's goodness, but experience a
noble pleasure in admiring it. We can not, however, close this chapter,
without calling the attention of our readers to the last and painful
proofs given of this kindness and goodness of Byron's nature: we allude
to the extraordinary grief, caused by his death.

"Never can I forget the stupefaction," says an illustrious writer, "into
which we were plunged by the news of his death, so great a part of
ourselves died with him, that his death appeared to us almost
impossible, and almost not natural. One would have said that a portion
of the mechanism of the universe had been stopped. To have questioned
him, to have blamed him, became a remorse for us, and all our
veneration for his genius was not half so energetically felt as our
tenderness for him.

  "'His last sigh dissolved the charm, the disenchanted earth
  Lost all her lustre. Where her glittering towers?
  Her golden mountains where? All darkened, down
  To naked waste a dreary vale of years!
  The great magician's dead!'"--YOUNG.

Such griefs are certainly reasonable, just, and honorable: for the
deaths which bury such treasures of genius are real public calamities.
On hearing of Byron's death, one might repeat the beautiful and eloquent
words of M. de Saint Victor:

"What a great crime death has committed! It is something like the
disappearance of a star, or the extinction of a planet, with all the
creation it supposed. When great minds have accomplished their task,
like Shakspeare, Dante, Goethe, their departure from the scene of the
world leaves in the soul the sublime melancholy which presides over the
setting of the sun, after it has poured out all its rays. But when we
hear of the death of a Raphael, of a Mozart, and especially of Byron,
struck down in their flight, just at the time when they were extending
their course, we can not refrain from calling these an eternal cause for
mourning, irreparable losses, and inconsolable regrets! A genius who
dies prematurely carries treasures away with him! How many ideal
existences were linked with his own! What sublime thoughts vanish from
his brow! What great and charming characters die with him, even before
they are born! How many truths postponed, at least, for humanity!"

And we will add: to how many great and noble actions his death has put
an end!

Such regrets do honor as much to those who experience them as to those
who give them rise. But it is not to the enthusiasm created by his
genius, nor to the grief evinced by the Greek nation, for whom he died,
that we will turn for a last proof of the goodness of his nature. Such
regrets might almost be called interested,--emanating, as they do, from
the knowledge of the loss of a treasure. Of the tears of the heart,
which were shed for the man without his genius, shall we ask that last
proof.

These are the words by which Count Gamba describes his affliction:--

"In vain should I attempt to describe the deep, the distressing sorrow
that overwhelmed us all. I will not speak of myself, but of those who
loved him less, because they had seen him less. Not only Mavrocordato
and his immediate circle, but the whole city and all its inhabitants
were, as it seemed, stunned by the blow--it had been so sudden, so
unexpected. His illness, indeed, had been known; and for the three last
days, none of us could walk in the streets, without anxious inquiries
from every one who met us, of 'How is my lord?' We did not mourn the
loss of the great genius,--no, nor that of the supporter of Greece--our
first tears were for our father, our patron, our friend. He died in a
strange land, and among strangers: but more loved, more sincerely wept,
he could never have been, wherever he had breathed his last.

"Such was the attachment, mingled with a sort of reverence and
enthusiasm, with which he inspired those around him, that there was not
one of us who would not, for his sake, have willingly encountered any
danger in the world. The Greeks of every class and every age, from
Mavrocordato to the meanest citizen, sympathized with our sorrows. It
was in vain that, when we met, we tried to keep up our spirits--our
attempts at consolation always ended in mutual tears."

None but beautiful souls, and those who are really thoroughly good, can
be thus regretted; and heartfelt tears are only shed for those who have
spent their life in drying those of others.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 34: Galt's Life of Byron, p. 329.]

[Footnote 35: See chapter "Generosity raised to a Virtue."]

[Footnote 36: When travelling in Greece, he often found himself in
straitened circumstances, merely because he had helped a friend.

"It is probable," he wrote to his mother from Athens in 1811, "I may
steer homeward in spring: but, to enable me to do that, I must have
remittances. My own funds would have lasted me very well: but I was
obliged to assist a friend, who I know will pay me, but in the mean time
I am out of pocket."]

[Footnote 37: It may be observed here, that he was not willing, even to
confide to paper, the nature and degree of the act of kindness. Hodgson
wanted thirty-five thousand francs to establish himself. Byron actually
borrowed this amount, to give it to him, as he had not the sum at his
disposal.]

[Footnote 38: See his "Life in Italy."]

[Footnote 39: Vide Kennedy.]

[Footnote 40: "Yesterday I paid him (to Scroope Davies) four thousand
eight hundred pounds, ... and my mind is much relieved by the removal of
that debt," he says in his memorandum of 1813. All his difficulties were
inherited from his father, and not contracted by him personally.]

[Footnote 41: Although not rich, and on the point of undertaking a long
and expensive journey, he devoted a large sum to the alleviation of the
wants of that family.]



CHAPTER X.

QUALITIES AND VIRTUES OF SOUL.

ANTIMATERIALISM.


Among Lord Byron's natural qualities we may rank his antipathy, not only
for any thing like low sensuality or gross vice, but even for those
follies to which youth and human nature are so prone. Whatever may have
been said on this head, and notwithstanding the countenance Lord Byron's
own words may have lent to calumnies too widely believed, it will be
easy to prove the truth of our assertion. Let us examine his actions,
his words (when serious), the testimony of those who knew him through
life, and it will soon appear that this natural antipathy with him often
attained to the height of rare virtue.

Lord Byron had a passionate nature, a feeling heart, a powerful
imagination; and it can not be denied that, after the disappointment he
experienced in his ethereal love entertained at fifteen, he fell into
the usual round of university life. But as he possessed great refinement
of mind, never losing sight of an ideal of moral beauty, such an
existence speedily became odious to him. His companions thought it all
quite natural and pleasant; but he disapproved of it and blamed himself,
feeling ashamed in his own conscience.

It is well known that Lord Byron never spared himself. He invented
faults rather than sought to extenuate them. And so he fully merits
belief, when he happens to do himself justice. Let us attend to the
following:--

"I passed my degrees in vice," he says, "very quickly, _but they were
not after my taste_. For my juvenile passions, though most violent, were
concentrated, and did not willingly tend to divide and expand on several
objects. I could have renounced every thing in the world with those I
loved, or lost it all for them; but fiery though my nature was, _I
could not share without disgust in the dissipation common to the place,
and time._"

This makes Moore say, that even at the period to which we are alluding,
his irregularities were much less sensual, much less gross and varied
than those of his companions.

Nevertheless it was his boyish university life that caused Lord Byron to
be suspected of drawing his own likeness, when two years later, after
his return from the East, he brought out "Childe Harold"--an imaginary
hero, whom he imprudently surrounded with real circumstances personal to
himself.

Moore, with his usual good sense, protests strongly against such
injustice, saying that, however dissipated his college and university
life might have been during the two or three years previous to his first
travels, no foundation exists, except in the imagination of the poet,
and the credulity or malice of the world, for such disgraceful scenes as
were represented to have taken place at Newstead, by way of inferences
drawn from "Childe Harold." "In this poem," adds Moore, "he describes
the habitation of his hero as a monastic dwelling----

                                  'Condemn'd to uses vile!
  Where Superstition once had made her den
  Now Paphian girls were known to sing and smile.'"

These exaggerated, if not imaginary descriptions, were, nevertheless,
taken for serious, and literally believed by the greater part of his
readers.

Moore continues: "Mr. Dallas, giving way to the same exaggerated tone,
says, in speaking of the preparations for departure made by the young
lord, 'He was already satiated with pleasure, and disgusted with those
comrades who possessed no other resource, so he resolved to overcome his
senses, and accordingly dismissed his harem.' The truth is, that Lord
Byron did not then even possess sufficient fortune to allow himself this
Oriental luxury; his manner of living at Newstead was plain and simple.
His companions, without being insensible to the pleasures afforded by
liberal hospitality, were all too intellectual in their tastes and
habits to give themselves up to vulgar debauchery. As to the allusions
regarding his _harem_, it appears certain that one or two women were
suspected _subintroductæ_--to use the style of the old monks of the
Abbey--but that even these belonged to the servants of the house. This
is the utmost that scandal could allege as the groundwork for suspicion
and accusation."

These assertions of Moore have been corroborated by many other
testimonies. I will only relate that mentioned by Washington Irving, in
the account of his visit to Newstead Abbey in 1830. Urged by
philosophical curiosity, Washington Irving managed to get into
conversation with a certain Nanny Smith, who had passed all her life at
Newstead as house-keeper. This old woman, after having chattered a great
deal about Lord Byron and the ghosts that haunted the Abbey, asserting
that though she had not seen them, she had heard them quite well, was
particularly questioned by Mr. Irving as to the mode of life her young
master led. She certified to his sobriety, and positively denied that he
had led a licentious life at Newstead with his friends, or brought
mistresses with him from London.

"Once, it is true," said the old lady, "he had a pretty _youth_ for a
_page_ with him. The maids declared it was a young woman. But as for me,
I never could verify the fact, and all these servant-girls were jealous,
especially one of them called Lucy. For Lord Byron being kind to her,
and a fortune-teller having predicted a high destiny for her, the poor
little thing dreamed of nothing else but becoming a great lady, and
perhaps of rising to be mistress of the Abbey. Ah, well! but her dreams
came to nothing."[42]

"Lord Byron," added the old lady, "passed the greater part of his time
seated on his sofa reading. Sometimes he had young noblemen of his
acquaintance with him. Then, it is true, they amused themselves in
playing all sorts of tricks--youthful frolics, that was all; they did
nothing improper for young gentlemen, nothing that could harm any
body."[43]

"Lord Byron's only amusements at Newstead," says Mr. Irving, "were
boating, boxing, fencing, and his dogs."

"His constant occupation was to write, and for that he had the habit of
sitting up till two and three in the morning. Thus his life at Newstead
was quite one of seclusion, entirely devoted to poetry."

After having passed a year in this way at Newstead, following on his
college and university life, he left England in order to mature his mind
under other skies, to forget the injustice of man and the hardships of
fortune that had already somewhat tinged his nature with gloom.

Instead of going in quest of emotions, his desire was, on the contrary,
to avoid both those of the heart and of the senses. The admiration felt
by the young traveller for charming Spanish women and beautiful Greeks
did not outstep the limits of the purest poetry. Nevertheless the
stoicism of twenty, with a heart, sensibility and imagination like his,
could not be very firm, nor always secure from danger. He did actually
meet with a formidable enemy at Malta; for he there made acquaintance
with Mrs. Spencer Smith, the daughter of one ambassador and the wife of
another, a woman most fascinating from her youth, beauty, mind, and
character, as well as by her singular position and strange adventures.
Did he avoid her so much as the stanzas addressed to the lovely
Florence, in the first canto of "Childe Harold," would fain imply? This
may be doubted, on account of the ring which they exchanged, and also
from several charming pieces of verse that testify to another sentiment.

In any case, he showed strength of mind, and that his senses were under
the dominion of reason; for, unable to secure her happiness or his own,
he sought a remedy in flight.

When writing "Childe Harold," however, about this period, an evil genius
suggested expressions, that if taken seriously and in their literal
sense, might some day furnish the weapons of accusation to his enemies.
For, while acting thus toward Florence, he introduced the episode into
"Childe Harold" in a way that looks calumnious against himself:----

  "Little knew she that seeming marble heart,
    Now mask'd in silence or withheld by pride,
  Was not unskillful in the spoiler's art,
    And spreads its snares licentious far and wide;
  Nor from the base pursuit had turn'd aside,
    As long as aught was worthy to pursue."

"We have here," says Moore, "another instance of his propensity to
self-misrepresentation. However great might have been the irregularities
of his college life, such phrases as the 'art of the spoiler' and
'spreading snares' were in no-wise applicable to them."[44]

Galt expresses the same certainty on this head. "Notwithstanding," says
he, "the unnecessary exposure he makes of his dissipation on his first
entrance into society (in the first two cantos of 'Childe Harold'), it
is proved beyond _all dispute_, that at no period of his existence did
Lord Byron _lead an irregular life_. That on one or two occasions he
fell into some excesses, may be true; _but his habits were never those
of a libertine_."[45]

And after saying that the declaration by which Byron himself
acknowledges his antipathy to vice carries more weight than all the
rest, and that what he says of it is vague and metaphysical, he
adds:--"But that only further corroborates my impression concerning
him,--that is to say, that he took a sort of vanity in setting forth his
experience in dissipation, but _that this dissipation never became a
habit with him_."

His true sentiments at this time are well portrayed in his letters, and
especially in those addressed to his mother from Athens, when she
consulted him on the conduct to be observed toward one of his tenants, a
young farmer, who had behaved ill to a girl. "My opinion is," answered
he, "that Mr. B---- ought to marry Miss K----. _Our first duty is not to
do evil_ (but, alas! that is not possible); our second duty _is to
remedy it, if that be in our power_. The girl is his equal. If she were
inferior to him, a sum of money and an allowance for the child might be
something,--although, after all, a miserable compensation; but, under
the circumstances, he ought to marry her. I will not have _gay seducers_
on my estate, nor grant my farmers a privilege _I would not take myself
of seducing other people's daughters_. I expect, then, this Lothario to
follow my example, and begin by restoring the girl to society, or, by my
father's beard, he shall hear of me."

To this letter Moore justly adds:--"The reader must not pass lightly
over this letter, for there is a _vigor of moral sentiment_ in it,
expressed in such a plain, sincere manner, that it shows how full of
health his heart was at bottom, even though it might have been scorched
by passion."

Lord Byron returned to his own country, after having spent two years
travelling in Spain, Portugal, and the East, in the study and
contemplation requisite for maturing his genius.

His distaste for all material objects of love or passion, and, in
general, for sensual pleasures, was then remarked by all those who knew
him intimately.

"An anchorite," says Moore, "who knew Lord Byron about this time, could
not have desired for himself greater _indifference toward all the
attractions of the senses_, than Lord Byron showed at the age of
twenty-three."

And as on arriving in London he met with a complication of sorrows, he
could, without any great effort, remain on his guard against all
seductions. He did so in reality; and Dallas assures us that, even when
"Childe Harold" appeared, he still professed positive distaste for the
society of women. Whether this disposition arose from regret at the
death of one he had loved, or was caused by the light conduct of other
women, it is certain that he did not seek their society then; nay, even
avoided them.

"I have a favor to ask you," he wrote, during this sad time, to one of
his young friends: "never speak to me in your letters of a woman; make
no allusion to the sex. I do not even wish to read a word about the
feminine gender."

And to this same friend he wrote in verse:----

                         "If thou would'st hold
  Place in a heart that ne'er was cold,
  By all the powers that men revere,
  By all unto thy bosom dear,
  Thy joys below, thy hopes above,
  Speak--speak of any thing but love."
                               _Newstead Abbey, October 11, 1811._

But if he did not seek after women, they came in quest of him. When he
had achieved celebrity--when fame lit up his noble brow--the sex was
dazzled. They did not wait to be sought, but themselves made the first
advances. His table was literally strewn with expressions of feminine
admiration.

Dallas relates that one day he found Lord Byron so absorbed in answering
a letter that he seemed almost to have lost the consciousness of what
was passing around him.

"I went to see him again next day," says he, "and Lord Byron named the
person to whom he had written.

"While we were together, the page of the lady in question brought him a
fresh letter. Apparently it was a young boy of thirteen or fourteen
years of age, with a fresh, delicate face, that might have belonged to
the _lady herself_. He was dressed in a hussar jacket, and trowsers of
scarlet, with silver buttons and embroidery; curls of fair hair
clustered over part of the forehead and cheeks, and he held in his hand
a little cap with feathers, which completed the theatrical appearance of
this childish Pandarus. I could not help suspecting it was a disguise."

The suspicions were well founded, and they caused Dallas's hair to stand
on end, for, added to his Puritanism, was the hope of becoming the young
nobleman's Mentor, and he fancied he saw him already on the road to
perdition. But was it likely that Lord Byron, with all his imagination,
sensibility, and warm heart, should remain unmoved--neither touched nor
flattered by the advances of persons uniting beauty and wit to the
highest rank? The world talked, commented, exaggerated. Whether actuated
by jealousy, rancor, noble or despicable sentiments, all took advantage
of the occasion afforded for censure.

Feminine overtures still continued to be made to Lord Byron, but the
fumes of incense never hid from him the sight of his ideal. And as the
comparison was not favorable to realities, disenchantment took place on
his side, without a corresponding result on the other. THENCE many
heart-breakings. Nevertheless there was no ill-nature, no indelicacy,
none of those proceedings that the world readily forgives, but which his
feelings as a man of honor would have condemned. Calantha, in despair at
being no longer loved, resolved on vengeance. She invented a tale, but
what does she say when the truth escapes her?

"If in his manners he (Glenarvon) had shown any of that freedom or
wounding familiarity so frequent with men, she might, perhaps, have been
alarmed, affrighted. But what was it she would have fled from?
Certainly not gross adulation, nor those light, easy protestations to
which all women, sooner or later, are accustomed; but, on the contrary,
respect at once delicate and flattering; attention that sought to
gratify her smallest desires; grace and gentleness that, not descending
to be humble, were most fascinating, and such as are rarely to be met
with," etc.

Let us now reverse the picture, and pass from shade to light: the
difference is striking.

Passing in review his former life, Lord Byron said one day to Mr.
Medwin:--"You may not compare me to Scipio, but I can assure you that _I
never seduced any woman_."

No, certainly he did not pretend to rival Scipio; his fault was, on the
contrary, that he took pleasure in appearing the reverse. And yet Lord
Byron often performed actions during his short life that Scipio himself
might have envied. And who knows whether in any case Scipio could have
had the same merit?--for, in order to attain that, he would have
required to overcome such sensibility, imagination, and heart, as were
possessed by Lord Byron.

The single fact of being able to say, "I never seduced any woman," is a
very great thing, and we may well doubt whether many of his detractors
could say as much. But let us relate facts.

In London the mother of a beautiful girl, hard pressed for money, had
recourse to Lord Byron for a large sum, making him an unnatural offer at
the same time. The mother's depravity filled him with horror. Many men
in his place would have been satisfied with expressing this sentiment
either in words or by silence. But that was not enough for his noble
heart, and he subtracted from his pleasures or his necessities a sum
sufficient to save the honor of the unfortunate girl. At another time,
shortly before his marriage, a charming young person, full of talent,
requiring help, through some adverse family circumstances, and attracted
to Lord Byron by some presentiment of his generosity, became
passionately _in love_ with him. She could not live without his image
before her. The history of her passion is quite a romance. Utterly
absorbed by it, she was forever seeking pretexts for seeing him. A word,
a sign, was all she required to become any thing he wished. But Lord
Byron, aware he could not make her happy and respectable, never allowed
that word to pass his lips, and his language breathed only counsels of
wisdom and virtue.[46]

Even at Venice, when his heart had no preference, we find him saving a
young girl of noble birth from the danger caused by his involuntary
fascinations.[47] In Romagna, at Pisa, in Greece, he also gave similar
proofs of virtue and of his delicate sense of honor.

Let us now examine his words. In 1813, with regard to "The
Monk," by Lewis, which he had just read, Lord Byron wrote in his
memoranda:--"These descriptions might be written by Tiberius, at
Caprera. They are overdrawn; the essence of vicious voluptuousness. As
to me, I can not conceive how they could come from the pen of a man of
twenty, for Lewis was only that age when he wrote 'The Monk.' These
pages are not natural; they distill cantharides.

"I had never read this work, and have just been looking over it out of
sheer curiosity, from a remembrance of the noise the book made, and the
name it gave Lewis. But really such things can not even be dangerous."

About the same period Mr. Allen, a friend of Lord Holland, very
learned--a perfect Magliabecchi--a devourer of books, and an observer of
mankind, lent Lord Byron a quantity of unpublished letters by the poet
Burns--letters that were very unfit to see the light of day, being full
of oaths and obscene songs. After reading them, Lord Byron wrote in his
memoranda:----

"What an antithetical intelligence! Tenderness and harshness, refinement
and vulgarity, sentiment and sensuality; now soaring up into ether, and
then dragging along in mud. Mire and sublimity; all that is strangely
blended in this admixture of inspired dust. It may seem strange, but to
me it appears that a true voluptuary should never abandon his thought to
the coarseness of reality. It is only by exalting whatever terrestrial,
material, physical element there is in our pleasures, by veiling these
ideas, or forgetting them quite, or, at least, by never boldly naming
them to ourselves, only thus can we avoid disgust."

This is how Lord Byron understood voluptuousness. We might multiply such
quotations without end, taking them from every period of his life; all
would prove the same thing.

As to his poetry written at this time, especially the lyrical pieces
where he expresses his own sentiments, what can there be more chaste,
more ethereal? When a boy, he begins by consigning to the flames a whole
edition of his first poems, on account of a single one, which the Rev.
Dr. Beecher considered as expressing sentiments too warm for a young
man. In his famous satire, written at twenty, he blames Moore's poetry
for its effeminate and Epicurean tendencies, and he stigmatized as evil
the whole poem of "The Ausonian Nun," and all the sensualities contained
in it. In his "Childe Harold," his Eastern tales, his lyric poems above
all, where he displays the sentiments of his own heart, every thing is
chaste and ethereal. The way in which the public appreciated these poems
may be summed up in the words used by the Rev. Mr. Dallas--the living
type of Puritanism in its most exaggerated form--at a date when, through
many causes, Lord Byron no longer even enjoyed his good graces.

"After 1816," says he (the time at which Lord Byron left England), "I
had no more personal intercourse with him, but I continued to read his
new poems with the greatest pleasure until he brought out 'Don Juan.'
That I perused with a real sorrow that no admiration could overcome.
Until then his truly English muse had despised the licentious tone
belonging to poets of low degree. But, in writing 'Don Juan,' he allied
his _chaste and noble genius_ with minds of that stamp."

And then he adds, nevertheless, that into whatsoever error Lord Byron
fell, whatsoever his sin (on account of the beginning of "Don Juan"), he
did not long continue to mix his pure gold with base metal, but ceased
to sully his lyre by degrees as he progressed with the poem.

Whether Dallas be right or not in speaking thus of "Don Juan," we do not
wish here to examine. In quoting his words, my sole desire is to declare
that, until the appearance of this poem, Lord Byron's muse had been,
even for a Dallas, the _chaste muse of Albion_. This avowal from such a
man is worthy of note, and renders unnecessary any other quotation.

We must not, however, pass over in silence Mr. Galt's very remarkable
opinion on this subject:--

"Certainly," says he, "there are some very fine compositions on love in
Lord Byron's works, but there is not a _single line_ among the thousand
he wrote which shows a _sexual_ sentiment. With him, all breathes the
_purest_ voluptuousness. All is vague as regards love, and _without
material passion_, except in the delicious rhythm of his verses."

And elsewhere he says:--

"It is most singular that, with all his tender, passionate apostrophes
to love, Lord Byron _should not once have associated it with sensual
images_. Not even in 'Don Juan,' where he has described voluptuous
beauties with so much elegance."

Then, quoting from "Hebrew Melodies,"----

  SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY.

  She walks in beauty, like the night
    Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
  And all that's best of dark and bright
    Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
  Thus mellow'd to that tender light
    Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

  One shade the more, one ray the less,
    Had half impair'd the nameless grace
  Which waves in every raven tress,
    Or softly lightens o'er her face;
  Where thoughts serenely sweet express
    How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

  And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
    So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
  The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
    But tell of days in goodness spent,
  A mind at peace with all below,
    A heart whose love is innocent!

"Behold in these charming lines," continues Galt, "a perfect sample of
his _ethereal admiration_, his _immaterial_ enthusiasm.

"The sentiment contained in this fine poetry," says he, "beyond all
doubt belongs to the highest order of intellectual beauty;" and it
seemed proved to him that love, in Lord Byron, was rather a metaphysical
conception than a sensual passion. He remarked that even when Lord
Byron recalls the precocious feelings of his childhood toward his little
cousins--feelings so strong as to make him lose sleep, appetite, peace;
when he describes them, still unable to explain them--we feel that they
were passions much more ethereal with him than with children in general.

"It should be duly remarked," says Galt, "that there is not a single
circumstance in his souvenirs which shows, despite the strength of their
natural sympathy, the smallest influence of any particular attraction.
He recollects well the color of her hair, the shade of her eyes, even
the dress she wore, but he remembers his little Mary as if she were a
Peri, a pure spirit; and it does not appear that his torments and his
wakefulness haunted with the thought of his little cousin, were in any
way produced by jealousy, or doubt, or fears, or any other consequence
of passion."

And when Galt speaks of "Tasso's Lament," he expresses the same opinion,
namely, that in his writings Lord Byron treats of love as of a
metaphysical conception, and that the fine verses he has put into the
mouth of Tasso would still better become himself:--

"It is no marvel--from my very birth
My soul was drunk with love, which did pervade
And mingle with whate'er I saw on earth:
Of objects all inanimate I made
Idols, and out of wild and lonely flowers,
And rocks, whereby they grew, a Paradise,
Where I did lay me down within the shade
Of waving trees, and dream'd uncounted hours."

"The truth is," adds Galt, by way of conclusion, "that no poet has ever
described love better than Lord Byron in that particular _ethereal_
shade:----

    "'His love was passion's essence:--as a tree
    On fire by lightning, with ethereal flame
    Kindled he was, and blasted; for to be
    Thus, and enamor'd, were in him the same.
    But his was not the love of living dame,
    Nor of the dead who rise upon our dreams,
    But of ideal beauty, which became
    In him existence, and o'erflowing teems
  Along his burning page, distemper'd though it seems.'"
                             "_Childe Harold_," canto iii. stanza 78.

And even if it should be denied that love, in Lord Byron's writings, as
indeed in himself, was purely metaphysical, it must, at least, be
acknowledged that it was chaste. This would be more easily recognizable
if the letters dictated by his heart, if his _love-letters,_ were known.
But since we can not open these intimate treasures of his heart to the
public, we will speak of those given us in his writings, and we will
thence draw our conclusions: firstly, in regard to the characters he
gives to all his heroines; secondly, as to the pictures he makes of love
in passages where he speaks seriously, and in his own name.


LORD BYRON'S FEMALE CHARACTERS.

What poet of energy has ever painted woman more chaste, more gentle and
sweet, than Lord Byron?

"One of the distinguishing excellences of Lord Byron," says one of his
best critics, "is that which may be found in all his productions,
whether romantic, classical, or fantastical, an intense sentiment of the
loveliness of woman, and the faculty, not only of drawing individual
forms, but likewise of infusing into the very atmosphere surrounding
them, the essence of beauty and love. A soft roseate hue, that seems to
penetrate down to the bottom of the soul, is spread over them."

More than any other genius, Lord Byron had the magic power of conjuring
up before our imagination the ideal image of his subject. He was not at
all perplexed how to clothe his ideas. That quality, so sought after by
other writers, and so necessary for hiding faults, was quite natural to
him. When he describes women, a few rapid strokes suffice to engrave an
indelible image on the mind of the reader. Let us take for examples:----

  Leila, in the "Giaour."
  Zuleika, in the "Bride of Abydos."
  Medora, in the "Corsair."
  Theresa, in "Mazeppa."
  Haidée, in "Don Juan."
  Adah, in "Cain."

The gentle Medora, ensconced within the solitary tower where she awaits
her Conrad, is fully portrayed in the melancholy song stealing on the
strings of her guitar, and in the tender, chaste words with which she
greets her lover.

Zuleika, the lovely, innocent, and pure bride of Selim, has her image
graven in the following fine lines:--

  "Fair, as the first that fell of womankind,
    When on that dread yet lovely serpent smiling,
  Whose image then was stamp'd upon her mind--
    But once beguiled--and evermore beguiling;
  Dazzling, as that, oh! too transcendent vision
    To Sorrow's phantom-peopled slumber given,
  When heart meets heart again in dreams Elysian,
    And paints the lost on Earth revived in Heaven;
  Soft as the memory of buried love;
  Pure, as the prayer which Childhood wafts above,
  Was she--the daughter of that rude old Chief,
  Who met the maid with tears--but not of grief.

  "Who hath not proved how freely words essay
  To fix one spark of Beauty's heavenly ray?
  Who doth not feel, until his failing sight
  Faints into dimness with its own delight,
  His changing cheek, his sinking heart confess
  The might, the majesty of Loveliness?
  Such was Zuleika, such around her shone
  The nameless charms unmark'd by her alone--
  The light of love, the purity of grace,
  The mind, the Music breathing from her face,
  The heart whose softness harmonized the whole,
  And, oh! that eye was in itself a Soul!
      Her graceful arms in meekness bending
        Across her gently-budding breast;
      At one kind word those arms extending
        To clasp the neck of him who blest
        His child, caressing and carest."[48]

         *     *     *     *     *

  THERESA.

                      Theresa's form--
  Methinks it glides before me now,
  Between me and yon chestnut's bough,
    The memory is so quick and warm;
  And yet I find no words to tell
  The shape of her I loved so well;
  She had the Asiatic eye,
    Such as our Turkish neighborhood
    Hath mingled with our Polish blood,
  Dark as above us is the sky;
  But through it stole a tender light,
  Like the first moonrise of midnight;
  Large, dark, and swimming in the stream,
  Which seem'd to melt to its own beam;
  All love, half languor, and half fire,
  Like saints that at the stake expire,
  And lift their raptured looks on high,
  As though it were a joy to die.
  A brow like a midsummer lake,
    Transparent with the sun therein
  When waves no murmur dare to make,
    And heaven beholds her face within.
  A cheek and lip--but why proceed?
    I loved her then, I love her still;
  And such as I am, love indeed
    In fierce extremes--in good and ill.

       *     *     *     *     *

  LEILA.

    Her eye's dark charm 'twere vain to tell,
  But gaze on that of the Gazelle,
  It will assist thy fancy well;
  As large, as languishingly dark,
  But Soul beam'd forth in every spark
  That darted from beneath the lid,
  Bright as the jewel of Giamschid.
  Yea, _Soul_, and should our Prophet say
  That form was naught but breathing clay,
  By Allah! I would answer nay;
  Though on Al-Sirat's arch I stood,
  Which totters o'er the fiery flood,
  With Paradise within my view,
  And all his Houris beckoning through.
  Oh! who young Leila's glance could read
  And keep that portion of his creed
  Which saith that woman is but dust,
  A soulless toy for tyrant's lust?
  On her might Muftis gaze, and own
  That through her eye the Immortal shone;
  On her fair cheek's unfading hue
  The young pomegranate's blossoms strew
  Their bloom in blushes ever new;
  Her hair in hyacinthine flow,
  When left to roll its folds below,
  As midst her handmaids in the hall
  She stood superior to them all,
  Hath swept the marble where her feet
  Gleam'd whiter than the mountain sleet
  Ere from the cloud that gave it birth
  It fell, and caught one stain of earth.
  The cygnet nobly walks the water;
  So moved on earth Circassia's daughter--
  The loveliest bird of Franguestan!
  As rears her crest the ruffled Swan,
    And spurns the waves with wings of pride,
  When pass the steps of stranger man
    Along the banks that bound her tide;
  Thus rose fair Leila's whiter neck:--
  Thus arm'd with beauty would she check
  Intrusion's glance, till Folly's gaze
  Shrunk from the charms it meant to praise.
  Thus high and graceful was her gait;
  Her heart as tender to her mate;
  Her mate--stern Hassan, who was he?
  Alas! that name was not for thee!


ADAH.

Adah is the wife of Cain. It is especially as the drama develops itself
that Lord Byron brings out the full charm of Adah's beautiful nature--a
nature at once primitive, tender, generous, and Biblical.

    CAIN.

    _Lucifer._ Approach the things of earth most beautiful,
    And judge their beauty near.

    _Cain._               I have done this--
    The loveliest thing I know is loveliest nearest.

    _Lucifer._                What is that?
     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
    _Cain._ My sister Adah.--All the stars of heaven,
    The deep blue noon of night, lit by an orb
    Which looks a spirit, or a spirit's world--
    The hues of twilight--the sun's gorgeous coming--
    His setting indescribable, which fills
    My eyes with pleasant tears as I behold
    Him sink, and feel my heart float softly with him
    Along that western paradise of clouds--
    The forest shade--the green bough--the bird's voice--
    The vesper bird's, which seems to sing of love,
    And mingles with the song of cherubim,
    As the day closes over Eden's walls:--
    All these are nothing, to my eyes and heart,
    Like Adah's face: I turn from earth and heaven
    To gaze on it.

Even those charming children of Nature, Haidée and Dudù, in "Don Juan,"
and the Neuha, in "The Island," scarcely meant to represent more than
the visible material part of the ideal woman he could love if he met
with her--even these charming creatures possess not only the pagan
beauty of form, but also Christian beauty, that of the soul: goodness,
gentleness, tenderness. And it is also to be remarked, that by degrees,
as time wore on, Lord Byron's female types rose in the moral scale,
while still preserving their adorable charms, and their harmony with the
state of civilization wherein he placed them. For instance, his Haidée,
in the second canto of "Don Juan," written at Venice in 1818, is not
worth, morally, the Haidée of the fourth canto, written at Ravenna in
1820. Beneath his pen at Ravenna, the adorable maiden evidently becomes
spiritualized. This may be attributed to the poet's state of mind, for
he was quite different at Ravenna to what he had been at Venice. The
portrait of this lovely child is certainly very charming in 1818, but,
while admiring her spotless Grecian brow, her beautiful hair, large
Eastern eyes, and noble mouth, we can not help remarking something vague
and undecided about her. And even in those fine verses where he says
that Haidée's face belongs to a type inconceivable for human thought,
and still more impossible of execution for mortal chisel, it is still
the beauty of form that he shows you; while the Haidée of Ravenna is
quite spiritualized in all her exquisite beauty.

After having described her as she appeared in her delicious Eastern
costume, Lord Byron expresses himself in these terms:--

  "Her hair's long auburn waves down to her heel
    Flow'd like an alpine torrent, which the sun
  Dyes with his morning light,--and would conceal
    Her person if allow'd at large to run;
  And still they seem'd resentfully to feel
    The silken fillet's curb, and sought to shun
  Their bonds, whene'er some Zephyr, caught, began
  To offer his young pinion as her fan.

  "Round her she made an atmosphere of life,
    The very air seem'd lighter from her eyes,
   They were so soft and beautiful, and rife
    With all we can imagine of the skies,
  And pure as Psyche ere she grew a wife--
    Too pure even for the purest human ties;
  Her overpowering presence made you feel
  It would not be idolatry to kneel."

And, describing the whiteness of her skin, he says:--

            "Day ne'er will break
    On mountain-tops more heavenly white than her;
  The eye might doubt of it were well awake,
    She was so like a vision."

In the sixth canto of "Don Juan"--the hero being in the midst of a
harem--all his sympathies are for Dudù, a beautiful Circassian, who
unites to all the charms, all the moral qualities that a slave of the
harem might possess. This is the portrait which Lord Byron draws:--

  XLII.

  "A kind of sleepy Venus seem'd Dudù,
     Yet very fit to 'murder sleep' in those
  Who gazed upon her cheek's transcendent hue,
     Her Attic forehead and her Phidian nose.
      *     *     *     *     *     *     *

  XLIII.

  "She was not violently lively, but
     Stole on your spirit like a May-day breaking.
      *     *     *     *     *     *     *

  LII.

  "Dudù, as has been said, was a sweet creature,
    Not very dashing, but extremely winning,
  With the most regulated charms of feature,
    Which painters can not catch like faces sinning
  Against proportion--the wild strokes of nature
    Which they hit off at once in the beginning,
  Full of expression, right or wrong, that strike,
  And, pleasing or unpleasing, still are like.

  LIII.

  "But she was a soft landscape of mild earth,
    Where all was harmony, and calm, and quiet,
  Luxuriant, budding; cheerful without mirth,
    Which, if not happiness, is much more nigh it
  Than are your mighty passions and so forth,
    Which some call 'the sublime:' I wish they'd try it:
  I've seen your stormy seas and stormy women,
  And pity lovers rather more than seamen.

  LIV.

  "But she was pensive more than melancholy,
    And serious more than pensive, and serene,
  It may be, more than either: not unholy
    Her thoughts, at least till now, appear to have been.
  The strangest thing was, beauteous, she was wholly
    Unconscious, albeit turn'd of quick seventeen,
  That she was fair, or dark, or short, or tall;
  She never thought about herself at all.

  LV.

  "And therefore was she kind and gentle as
    The Age of Gold (when gold was yet unknown)."

As to Neuha, the daughter of Ocean (in "The Island"), his last creation,
she is, indeed, the daughter of Nature also, and no less admirable than
her sister Haidée, but she is still more highly endowed in a moral
sense:--

  "The infant of an infant world, as pure
  From nature--lovely, warm, and premature;
  Dusky like night, but night with all her stars,
  Or cavern sparkling with its native spars;
  With eyes that were a language and a spell,
  A form like Aphrodite's in her shell,
  With all her loves around her on the deep,
  Voluptuous as the first approach of sleep;
  Yet full of life--for through her tropic cheek
  The blush would make its way, and all but speak:
  The sun-born blood suffused her neck, and threw
  O'er her clear nut-brown skin a lucid hue,
  Like coral reddening through the darken'd wave,
  Which draws the diver to the crimson cave.
  Such was this daughter of the southern seas,
  Herself a billow in her energies,
  To bear the bark of others' happiness.
  Nor feel a sorrow till their joy grew less:
  Her wild and warm yet faithful bosom knew
  No joy like what it gave; her hopes ne'er drew
  Aught from experience, that chill touchstone, whose
  Sad proof reduces all things from their hues:
  She fear'd no ill, because she knew it not."

When, after the combat, she arrives in her bark to save Torquil, the
poet exclaims:

  "And who the first that springing on the strand,
  Leap'd like a nereid from her shell to land,
  With dark but brilliant skin, and dewy eye
  Shining with love, and hope, and constancy?
  Neuha--the fond, the faithful, the adored--
  Her heart on Torquil's like a torrent pour'd;
  And smiled, and wept, and near, and nearer clasp'd
  As if to be assured 'twas _him_ she grasp'd;
  Shuddered to see his yet warm wound, and then,
  To find it trivial, smiled and wept again.
  She was a warrior's daughter, and could bear
  Such sights, and feel, and mourn, but not despair.
  Her lover lived,--nor foes nor fears could blight,
  That full-blown moment in its all delight:
  Joy trickled in her tears, joy filled the sob
  That rock'd her heart till almost heard to throb;
  And paradise was breathing in the sigh
  Of nature's child in nature's ecstasy."

"All these sweet creations realize the idea, formed from all time, of
surpassing loveliness, of gentleness with passion," justly observes
Monsieur Nisard--he who, in his very clever sketch of the illustrious
poet, so often forms erroneous judgments of Lord Byron. For he also
accepted him as he was presented--namely, as the victim of calumny and
prejudice; or else he considered him after a system, examining only some
_passages and one single period_ of the man's and the _poet's_ life,
instead of taking the whole career and the general spirit of his
writings,--a method also perceivable in his appreciation of Lord Byron's
female characters.

Indeed Monsieur Nisard evidently only speaks of the Medoras, Zuleikas,
Leilas, and in general of all the types in his Eastern poems, and
appertaining to his first period: most fascinating beings undoubtedly,
true emanations of the purest and most passionate love, but yet as
morally inferior to the Angiolinas, Myrrhas, Josephines, Auroras, as his
poems of the first period are intellectually inferior to those of the
second, beginning with the third canto of "Childe Harold," and as
civilized Christian woman is superior to a woman in the harem. But
Monsieur Nisard, who has a very systematic way of judging
things--wishing to prove that Lord Byron's loves were quite lawless in
their ungovernable strength, filling the whole soul to the absorption of
every other sentiment and interest (which might, indeed, perhaps be said
of the personages in his Eastern poems), and not able, without
contradicting himself, to assert the same as regards the love and
devotion shown by the heroic Myrrhas and virtuous Angiolinas, and other
dramatic types, all so different one from the other--has been obliged to
omit all mention of them, thus sharing an error common to vain, ignorant
critics. Yet these delightful creatures all resemble each other in the
one faculty of _loving passionately and chastely_, for that is a quality
which constitutes the very essence of woman, and Lord Byron's own
qualities must always have drawn it out in her. But there is something
far beyond beauty and passion in these noble and heroic creations of his
second manner.

"Where shall we find," says Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, "a purer, higher
character than that of Angiolina, in the 'Doge of Venice?' Among all
Shakspeare's female characters there is certainly not one more true, and
not only true and natural, which would be slight merit, but true as a
type of the highest, rarest order in human nature. Let us stop here for
a moment, we are on no common ground; the character of Angiolina has not
yet been understood."

Bulwer then quotes the scene between Marian and Angiolina, and after
having pointed out its moral beauty, exclaims:--

"What a deep sentiment of the dignity of virtue! Angiolina does not even
conceive that she can be suspected, or that the insult offered her
required any other justification than the indignation of public
opinion."

And Bulwer goes on to quote the verses where Marian asks Angiolina if,
when she gave her hand to a man of age so disproportioned, and of a
character so opposite to her own, she loved this spouse, this friend of
her family; and whether, before marriage, her heart had not beat for
some noble youth more worthy to be the husband of beauty like hers; or
whether since, she had met with some one who might have aspired to her
lovely self. And after Angiolina's admirable reply, Bulwer says:--

"Is not this conception equal at least to that of Desdemona? Is not her
heart equally pure, serene, tender, and at the same time passionate, yet
with love, not material but _actual_, which, according to Plato, gives a
visible form to virtue, and then admits of no other rival. Yet this
sublime noble woman had no cold stiffness in her nature; she forgives
Steno, but not from the cold height, of her chastity.

"'If,' said she to the indignant page, 'oh! if this false and light
calumniator were to shed his blood on account of this absurd calumny,
never from that moment would my heart experience an hour's happiness,
nor enjoy a tranquil slumber.'"

"Here," says Bulwer, "the reader should remark with what delicate
artifice the tenderness of sex and charity heighten and warm the snowy
coldness of her ethereal superiority. What a union of all woman's finest
qualities! Pride that disdains calumny; gentleness that forgives it!
Nothing can be more simply grand than the whole of this character, and
the story which enhances it. An old man of eighty is the husband of a
young woman, whose heart preserves the calmness of purity; no love
episode comes to disturb her serene course, no impure, dishonorable
jealousy casts a shade on her bright name. She treads her path through
a life of difficulties, like some angelic nature, though quite human by
the form she wears."

Wishing only to call attention to the beauty of the female characters he
created, without reference to the other beauties contained in the work,
we shall continue to quote Bulwer for the second of these admirable
creations of womankind in his dramas, namely, Myrrha. After having
praised that magnificent tragedy "Sardanapalus," he adds:--

"But the principal beauty of this drama is the conception of Myrrha.
This young Greek slave, so tender and courageous, in love with her lord
and master, yet sighing after her liberty; adoring equally her natal
land and the gentle barbarian: what a new and dramatic combination of
sentiments! It is in this conflict of emotions that the master's hand
shows itself with happiest triumph.

"The heroism of this beautiful Ionian never goes beyond nature, yet
stops only at sublimest limits. The proud melancholy that blends with
her character, when she thinks of her fatherland; her ardent, generous,
_unselfish_ love, her passionate desire of elevating the soul of
Sardanapalus, so as to justify her devotion to him, the earnest yet
sweet severity that reigned over her gentlest qualities, showing her
faithful and fearless, capable of sustaining with, a firm hand the torch
that was to consume on the sacred pile (according to her religion) both
Assyrian and Greek; all these combinations are the result of the purest
sentiments, the noblest art. The last words of Myrrha on the funereal
pyre are in good keeping with the grand conception of her character.
With the natural aspirations of a Greek, her thoughts turn at this
moment to her distant clime; but still they come back at the same time
to her lord, who is beside her, and blending almost in one sigh the two
contrary affections of her soul, Myrrha cries:--

                       "Then farewell, thou earth!
  And loveliest spot of earth! farewell, Ionia!
  Be thou still free and beautiful, and far
  Aloof from desolation! My last prayer
  Was for thee, my last thoughts, save _one_, were of thee!
      _Sar._ And that?
      _Myr._             Is yours."

"The principal charm," says Moore, "and the life-giving angel of this
tragedy, is Myrrha, a beautiful, heroic, devoted, ethereal creature,
enamored of the generous, infatuated monarch, yet ashamed of loving a
barbarian, and using all her influence over him to elevate as well as
gild his life, and to arm him against the terror of his end. Her
voluptuousness is that of the heart, her heroism that of the
affections."

Another admirable character, full of Christian beauty, is that of
Josephine in "Werner."

"Josephine," said the "Review," when "Werner" appeared, "is a model of
real spotless virtue. A true woman in her perfection, not only does she
preserve the character of her sex by her general integrity, but she also
possesses a wife's tender, sweet, and constant affection. She cherishes
and consoles her afflicted husband through all the adversities of his
destiny and the consequences of his faults.

"Italian by birth, the contrast between the beauties and circumstances
of her native country compared with the frontiers of Silesia, where a
pretty feudal tyranny exists, displays still more the fine sentiments
that characterize her."

We shall close this long list of admirable conceptions (which one quits
with regret, so great is their charm) by giving some extracts from the
portrait he was engaged on, when death, alas! caused the pencil to drop
from his fingers: we mean Aurora Raby in "Don Juan:"--

  "Aurora Raby, a young star who shone
    O'er life, too sweet an image for such glass;
  A lovely being, scarcely form'd or moulded,
  A rose with all its sweetest leaves yet folded;
  *     *     *     *     *     *     *
  "Early in years, and yet more infantine
    In figure, she had something of sublime
  In eyes which sadly shone, as seraphs' shine.
    All youth--but with an aspect beyond time;
  Radiant and grave as pitying man's decline;
    Mournful--but mournful of another's crime,
  She look'd as if she sat by Eden's door,
  And grieved for those who could return no more."

And then:--

  "She was a Catholic, too, sincere, austere,
    As far as her own gentle heart allow'd."

And again:--

  "She gazed upon a world she scarcely knew,
    As seeking not to know it; silent, lone,
  As grows a flower, thus quietly she grew,
    And kept her heart serene within its zone.
  There was awe in the homage which she drew:
    Her spirit seem'd as seated on a throne
  Apart from the surrounding world, and strong
  In its own strength--most strange in one so young!"
   *     *     *     *     *     *     *
  "High, yet resembling not his lost Haidée;
  Yet each was radiant in her proper sphere."
   *     *     *     *     *     *     *
                     "The difference in them
   Was such as lies between a flower and gem."

                "_Don Juan_," canto xv.

Now that we have seen Lord Byron's ideal of womankind, let us mark with
what sentiments they inspired him, and in what way love always presented
itself to his heart or his imagination. Ever dealing out toward him the
same measure of justice and truth, people have gone on complacently
repeating that his love sometimes became a very frenzy, or anon
degenerated into a sensation rather than a sentiment. And his poetry has
been asserted to contain proof of this in the actions, characters, and
words of the persons there portrayed. I think, then, that the best way
of ascertaining the degree of truth belonging to these asseverations, is
to let him speak himself, on this sentiment, at all the different
periods of his life:--

  "Yes, Love indeed is light from heaven;
     A spark of that immortal fire
  With angels shared, by Allah given
    To lift from earth our low desire.
  Devotion wafts the mind above,
  But Heaven itself descends in love;
  A feeling from the Godhead caught,
  To wean from self each sordid thought;
  A Ray of Him who form'd the whole;
  A Glory circling round the soul!
  I grant _my_ love imperfect, all
  That mortals by the name miscall;
  Then deem it evil, what thou wilt;
  But say, oh say, _hers_ was not guilt!
  She was my life's unerring light:
  That quench'd, what beam shall break my night?"
                                 "_The Giaour._"

In 1817, at Venice, when his heart, at twenty-nine years of age, was
devoid of any real love, and had even arrived at never loving, although
suffering deeply from the void thus created, Lord Byron giving vent to
his feelings wrote thus:--

    "Oh! that the Desert were my dwelling-place,
    With one fair Spirit for my minister,
    That I might all forget the human race,
    And, hating no one, love but only her!
    Ye elements!--in whose ennobling stir
    I feel myself exalted--Can ye not
    Accord me such a being? Do I err
    In deeming such inhabit many a spot?
  Though with them to converse can rarely be our lot."[49]

At the same period, he also unveils his soul, in guessing that of
Tasso:--

  "And with my years my soul began to pant
  With feelings of strange tumult and soft pain;
  And the whole heart exhaled into One Want,
  But undefined and wandering, till the day
  I found the thing I sought--and that was thee;
  And then I lost my being, all to be
  Absorb'd in thine; the world was pass'd away;
  _Thou_ didst annihilate the earth to me!"
                        "_The Lament of Tasso._"

A short time after, having described the charm of the pine forest at
Ravenna, seen by twilight, he begins to paint the happiness of two
loving hearts--of Juan and Haidée, and says:--

  VIII.

  "Young Juan and his lady-love were left
    To their own hearts' most sweet society;
  Even Time the pitiless in sorrow cleft
    With his rude scythe such gentle bosoms.
    *     *     *     *     *     *     *
                             They could not be
  Meant to grow old, but die in happy spring,
  Before one charm or hope had taken wing.

  IX.

  "Their faces were not made for wrinkles, their
    Pure blood to stagnate, their great hearts to fail!
  The blank gray was not made to blast their hair,
    But like the climes that know nor snow nor hail,
  They were all summer; lightning might assail
    And shiver them to ashes, but to trail
  A long and snake-like life of dull decay
  Was not for them--they had too little clay.

  X.

  "They were alone once more; for them to be
    Thus was another Eden; they were never
  Weary, unless when separate: the tree
    Cut from its forest root of years--the river
  Damn'd from its fountain--the child from the knee
    And breast maternal wean'd at once forever,--
  Would wither less than these two torn apart;
  Alas! there is no instinct like the heart.

  XII.

  "'Whom the gods love die young,' was said of yore,
    And many deaths do they escape by this:
  The death of friends, and that which slays even more--
    The death of friendship, love, youth, all that is,
  Except mere breath;
  *     *     *     *     *     *     *
                  Perhaps the early grave
  Which men weep over, may be meant to save.

  XIII.

  "Haidée and Juan thought not of the dead.
    The heavens, and earth, and air, seem'd made for them:
  They found no fault with Time, save that he fled;
    They saw not in themselves aught to condemn;
  Each was the other's mirror.
  *     *     *     *     *     *     *

  XVI.

  "Moons changing had roll'd on, and changeless found
    Those their bright rise had lighted to such joys
  As rarely they beheld throughout their round;
    And these were not of the vain kind which cloys,
  For theirs were buoyant spirits, never bound
    By the mere senses; and that which destroys
  Most love, possession, unto them appear'd
  A thing which each endearment more endear'd.

  XVII.

  "Oh beautiful! and rare as beautiful!
    But theirs was love in which the mind delights
  To lose itself, when the old world grows dull.
    And we are sick of its hack sounds and sights,
  Intrigues, adventures of the common school,
    Its petty passions, marriages, and flights,
  Where Hymen's torch but brands one strumpet more,
  Whose husband only knows her not a wh--re.

  XVIII.

  "Hard words; harsh truth; a truth which many know.
    Enough.--The faithful and the fairy pair,
  Who never found a single hour too slow,
    What was it made them thus exempt from care?
  Young innate feelings all have felt below,
    Which perish in the rest, but in them were
  Inherent; what we mortals call romantic,
  And always envy, though we deem it frantic.

  XIX.

  "This is in others a factitious state,
  *     *     *     *     *     *     *
  But was in them their nature or their fate.
  *     *     *     *     *     *     *

  XX.

  "They gazed upon the sunset: 'tis an hour
    Dear unto all, but dearest to _their_ eyes,
  For it had made them what they were: the power
    Of love had first o'erwhelm'd them from such skies,
  When happiness had been their only dower,
    And twilight saw them link'd in passion's ties;
  Charm'd with each other, all things charm'd that brought
  The past still welcome as the present thought.
  *     *     *     *     *     *     *

  XXVI.

  "Juan and Haidée gazed upon each other
    With swimming looks of speechless tenderness,
  Which mix'd all feelings, friend, child, lover, brother;
    All that the best can mingle and express
  When two pure hearts are pour'd in one another,
    And love too much, and yet can not love less;
  But almost sanctify the sweet excess
  By the immortal wish and power to bless.

  XXVII.

  "Mix'd in each other's arms, and heart in heart,
    Why did they not then die?--they had lived too long
  Should an hour come to bid them breathe apart;
    Years could but bring them cruel things or wrong."
                         "_Don Juan,"_ canto iv.

It was this love which caused Campbell the poet to say:

"If the love of Juan and Haidée is not pure and innocent, and expressed
with delicacy and propriety, then may we at once condemn and blot out
this tender passion of the soul from the list of a poet's themes. Then
must we shut our eyes and harden our hearts against that passion which
sways our whole existence, and quite become mere creatures of hypocrisy
and formality, and accuse Milton himself of madness."

At Ravenna, where Lord Byron composed so many sublime works, he also
wrote "Sardanapalus" and "Heaven and Earth." He was then thirty-two
years of age. The love predominating in these two dramas is that which
swayed his own soul, the same sentiment which, a year later, also
inspired the beautiful poem composed on his way from Ravenna to Pisa.

No quotation could convey an idea of the noble energetic feeling
animating these two dramas, for adequate language is wanting; impervious
to words, the sentiment they contain is like a spirit pervading, or a
ray of light warming and illuminating them.

They require to be read throughout. I prefer to quote his words on love,
in the 16th canto of "Don Juan," and in "The Island," because they are
the last traced by his pen. Written a few days previous to his fatal
departure for Greece, it can not be doubted that the sentiment which
dictated them was the same that accompanied him to his last hour.

  CVII.

  *     *     *     *     *     *     *
  "And certainly Aurora had renew'd
    In him some feelings he had lately lost,
  Or harden'd; feelings which, perhaps ideal,
  Are so divine, that I must deem them real:--

  CVIII.

  "The love of higher things and better days;
    The unbounded hope, and heavenly ignorance
  Of what is call'd the world, and the world's ways;
    The moments when we gather from a glance
  More joy than from all future pride or praise,
    Which kindle manhood, but can ne'er entrance
  The heart in an existence of its own,
  Of which another's bosom is the zone."[50]

And then, in describing the happiness of two lovers, in his poem of "The
Island," a few days before setting out for Greece, he says again:--

  "Like martyrs revel in their funeral pyre,
  With such devotion to their ecstasy,
  That life knows no such rapture as to die;
  And die they do; for earthly life has naught
  Match'd with that burst of nature, even in thought;
  And all our dreams of better life above
  But close in one eternal gush of love."

After speaking of the religious enthusiast, and saying that his soul
preceded his dust to heaven, he adds:--

  "Is love less potent? No--his path is trod,
  Alike uplifted gloriously to God;
  Or link'd to all we know of heaven below,
  The other better self, whose joy or woe
  Is more than ours."

But enough of quotations; and now what poet has ever written or spoken
of love with words and images more chaste, more truly welling from his
own heart? We feel that he has given us the key to that. And if, after
all these demonstrations, there still remain any readers who continue to
accept as true the pleasantries, satires, and mystifications contained
in some of his verses, I do not pretend to write for them. They are to
be pitied, but there is no hope of convincing them. That depends on
their quality of mind. The only thing possible, then, is to recall some
of those anecdotes which, while justifying them in a measure, yet at the
same time illustrate Lord Byron's way of acting. I will select one. When
Lord Byron was at Pisa a friend of Shelley's, whom he sometimes saw, had
formed a close intimacy with Lady B----, a woman of middle-age but of
high birth. The tie between them was evidently the result of vanity on
Mr. M----'s side, and, as she was the mother of a large family, it was
doubly imperative on her to be respectable. But that did not prevent Mr.
M---- from boasting of his success, and even (that he might be believed)
from going into disgusting details in his eagerness for praise.

One day that Mr. M---- was in the same _salon_ (at Mrs. Sh----'s house)
with Lord Byron and the Countess G----, the conversation turned upon
women and love in general, whereupon Mr. M---- lauded to the skies the
devotedness, constancy, and truth of the sex. When he had finished his
sentimental "tirade," Lord Byron took up the opposite side, going on as
Don Juan or Childe Harold might. It was easy to see he was playing a
part, and that his words, partly in jest, partly ironical, did not
express his thoughts. Nevertheless they gave pain to Mme. G----, and, as
soon as they were alone, Lord Byron having asked her why she was sad,
she told him the cause.

"I am very sorry to have grieved you," said he, "but how could you think
that I was talking seriously?"

"I did not think it," she said, "but those who do not know you will
believe all; M---- will not fail to repeat your words as if they were
your real opinions; and the world, knowing neither him nor you, will
remain convinced that he is a man full of noble sentiments, and you a
real Don Juan, not indeed your own charming youth, but Molière's Don
Juan!"

"Very probably," said Lord Byron; "and that will be another true page to
add to M----'s note-book. I can't help it. I couldn't resist the
temptation of punishing M---- for his vanity. All those eulogiums and
sentimentalities about women were to make us believe how charming they
had always been toward him, how they had always appreciated his merits,
and how passionately in love with him Lady B---- is now. My words were
meant to throw water on his imaginary fire."

Alas! it was on such false appearances that they made up, then and
since, the Lord Byron still believed in by the generality of persons.

Lord Byron by his marriage gave another pledge of having renounced the
foibles of the heart and the allurements of the senses; and it is very
certain that he redeemed his word. If, through susceptibility or any
other defect, Lady Byron, going back to the past or trusting to vile,
revengeful, and interested spies, did not know how to understand him,
all Lord Byron's friends did, whether or not they dared to say so. And
he himself, who never could tell a lie, has assured us of his married
fidelity.[51] His life in Switzerland was devoted to study, retreat, and
even austerity. How little this stood him in stead with his enemies is
well known. "I never lived in a more edifying manner than at Geneva," he
said to Mr. Medwin. "My reputation has not gained by it. Nevertheless,
when there is mortification, there ought to be a reward."[52]

When he arrived at Milan many ladies belonging to the great world were
most anxious to know him; these presentations were proposed to him, and
he refused. As to his life at Venice, a wicked sort of romance has been
made of it, by exaggerating most ordinary things, and heaping invention
upon invention; but this has been explained with sufficient detail in
another chapter, where all the different causes of these exaggerations
have been shown in their just measure of truth.[53]

Here, then, I will only say, that if, on arriving at Venice, he relaxed
his austerity to lead the life common to young men without legitimate
ties: if, under the influence of that lovely sky, he did not remain
insensible to the songs of the beautiful Adriatic siren, nor trample
under foot the few flowers fate scattered on his path, to make amends
perhaps for the thorns that had so long beset it; if he sometimes
accepted distractions in the form of light pleasures, as well as in the
form of study,[54] did he not likewise always impose hard laborious
occupation upon his mind, thus chaining it to beautiful immaterial
things? Did his intellectual activity slacken? Was his soul less
energetic, less sublime? The works of genius that issued from his pen at
Venice are a sufficient reply. "Manfred," conceived on the summit of the
Alps, was written at Venice; the fourth canto of "Childe Harold" was
conceived and written at Venice. The "Lament of Tasso," "Mazeppa," the
"Ode to Venice," "Beppo" (from his studies of Berni), the first two
cantos of "Don Juan," were all written at Venice.

Moreover, it was there he collected materials for his dramas; there he
studied the Armenian language, making sufficient progress to translate
St. Paul's Epistles into English. And all that, in less than twenty-six
months, including his journeys to Rome and to Florence. Let moralists
say whether a man steeped in sensual pleasures could have done all that.

"The truth is," says Moore, "that, so far from the strength of his
intellect being impaired or dissipated by these irregularities, it never
was perhaps at any period of his life more than at Venice in full
possession of all its energies."[55]

All the concessions Moore was obliged to make, from a sort of weakness,
not to compromise his position, to certain extreme opinions in politics
or religion, cloaking in reality personal hatred; are they not all
destroyed by this single avowal?

Shelley, who came to Venice to see Lord Byron, said that all he
observed of Lord Byron's state during his visit gave him a much higher
idea of his intellectual grandeur than what he had noticed before. Then
it was, and under this impression, that Shelley sketched almost the
whole poem of "Julian and Maddalo." "It is in this latter character,"
says Moore, "that he has so picturesquely personated his noble friend;
his allusions to the 'Swan of Albion,' in the verses written on the
Engancennes hills, are also the result of this fit of enthusiastic
admiration." At Venice Lord Byron saw few English; but those he did see,
and who have spoken of him, have expressed themselves in the same way as
Shelley; which caused Galt to say, that even at Venice, with regard to
his pleasures, his conduct had been that of most young men! but that the
whole difference must have consisted in the extravagant delight he took
in exaggerating, through his conversation, not what was conducive to
honor, but, on the contrary, what was likely to do him harm. The whole
difference, however, does not lie here, but rather in the indiscretion
shown by some friends.[56] Among the best testimonies borne to his way
of living at Venice we must not forget that of Hoppner, who bore so high
a character, and who was the constant companion of his daily afternoon
walks; nor that of the excellent Father Pascal, who shared his morning
studies at the Armenian convent.[57]

But in this united homage to truth I can not pass over in silence nor
refrain from quoting the words of a very great mind, who, under the veil
of fiction, has written almost a biography of Lord Byron, and who too
independent, _though a Tory_, to _wish_ to conceal his thought, has
declared in the preface to his charming work of "Venetia" that Lord
Byron was really his hero.

This writer, after speaking of all the silly calumnies with which Lord
Byron was overwhelmed at one time, says of the two more especially
calculated to stir up opinion against him, those which accused him of
_libertinism_ and _atheism_:--

"A calm inquirer might, perhaps, have suspected that abandoned
profligacy is not very compatible with severe study, and that an author
is seldom loose in his life, even if he be licentious in his writings.
A calm inquirer might, perhaps, have been of opinion that a solitary
sage may be the antagonist of a priesthood without absolutely denying
the existence of a God; but there never are calm inquirers. The world,
on every subject, however unequally, is divided into parties; and even
in the case of Herbert (Lord Byron) and his writings, those who admired
his genius and the generosity of his soul were not content with
advocating, principally out of pique to his adversaries, his extreme
opinions on every subject--moral, political, and religious. Besides, it
must be confessed, there was another circumstance almost as fatal to
Herbert's character in England as his loose and heretical opinions. The
travelling English, during their visits to Geneva, found out that their
countryman solaced or enlivened his solitude by unhallowed ties. It is a
habit to which very young men, who are separated from or deserted by
their wives, occasionally have recourse. Wrong, no doubt, as most things
are, but, it is to be hoped, venial; at least in the case of any man who
is not also an atheist. This unfortunate mistress of Herbert was
magnified into a _seraglio_; extraordinary tales of the voluptuous life
of one who generally _at his studies outwatched the stars_, were rife in
English society; and

    'Hoary marquises and stripling dukes,'

who were either _protecting opera-dancers_, or, still worse, _making
love to their neighbors' wives_, either looked grave when the name of
Herbert (Lord Byron) was mentioned in female society, or affectedly
confused, as if they could a tale unfold, if they were not convinced,
that the sense of propriety among all present was infinitely superior to
their sense of curiosity."

In addition to all the proofs given by the varied uses Lord Byron made
of his intellect we must not omit those furnished by the state of his
heart. If, too readily yielding at Venice to momentary and fleeting
attractions, Lord Byron had been led to squander the powers of youth, to
wish to extinguish his senses in order to open out a more vast horizon
to his intelligence; if, thus mistaking the means, he had, nevertheless,
weakened, enervated, degraded himself, would not his heart have been the
first victim sacrificed on the altar of light pleasures?

But, on the contrary, this heart which he had never succeeded in lulling
into more than a slumber, when the hour of awakening came, held dominion
by its own natural energy over the proud aspirations of his
intelligence, and found both his youth and faculty of loving unweakened,
and that he had a love capable of every sacrifice, a love as fresh as in
his very spring-tide.

Are such metamorphoses possible to withered souls? Moralists have never
met with a like phenomenon. On the contrary, they certify that in hearts
withered by the enjoyments of sense all generous feelings, all noble
aspirations become extinct.

If Lord Byron's anti-sensuality were not sufficiently proved by his
actions, words, writings, and by the undeniable testimony of those who
knew him, it might still be abundantly proved by his habits of life, and
all his tastes; to begin with his sobriety, which really was wonderful.
So much so, that if the proverb, _Tell me what you eat, and I will tell
you what you are_, be true, and founded on psychological observation,
one must admit that Lord Byron was almost an immaterial being.

His fine health, his strong and vigorous constitution, lead to the
presumption that, at least in childhood and during his boyish days, his
rule of life could not have differed from that of the class to which he
belonged. Nevertheless, his sobriety was remarkable even in early youth;
at eighteen he went with a friend, Mr. Pigott, to Tunbridge Wells, and
this gentleman says, "We retired to our own rooms directly after dinner,
for Byron did not care for drinking any more than myself."

But this natural sobriety became soon after the sobriety of an
anchorite, which lasted more or less all his life, and was a perfect
phenomenon. Not that he was insensible to the pleasures of good living,
and still less did he act from any vanity (as has been said by some
incapable of sacrificing the bodily appetites to the soul); his conduct
proceeded from the desire and resolution of making _matter_ subservient
to the _spirit_.

His rule of life was already in full force when he left England for the
first time. Mr. Galt, whom chance associated with Lord Byron on board
the same vessel bound from Gibraltar to Malta, affirms that Lord Byron,
during the whole voyage, seldom tasted wine; and that, when he did
occasionally take some, it was never more than half a glass mixed with
water. He ate but little; and never any meat; only bread and vegetables.
He made me think of the ghoul taking rice with a needle."

On board "La Salsette," returning from Constantinople, he himself wrote
to his friend and preceptor Drury, that the gnats which devoured the
_delicate body_ of Hobhouse had not much effect on him, because he lived
in a _more sober manner_.

As to his mode of living during his two years' absence from England we
can say nothing, except that he lived in climates where sobriety is the
rule, and that his letters expressed profound disgust at the complaints,
exacting tone, and effeminate tastes of his servants, and his own
preference for a monastic mode of life, and very probably also for
monastic diet. The testimony to his extraordinary sobriety becomes
unanimous as soon as he returns home.

Dallas, who saw him immediately on his landing in 1811, writes:--

"Lord Byron has adopted a mode of diet that any one else would have
called dying of hunger, and to which several persons even attributed his
lowness of spirits. He lived simply on small sea-biscuits, very thin;
only eating two of these, and often but one, a day, with one cup of
_green tea_, which he generally drank at one in the afternoon. He
assured me that was all the nourishment he took during the twenty-four
hours, and that, so far from this régime affecting his spirits, it made
him feel lighter and more lively; and, in short, gave him _greater
command over himself in all respects. This great abstinence is almost
incredible.... He thought great eaters were generally prone to anger,
and stupid._"[58]

It was about this time that he made the personal acquaintance of Moore
at a dinner given by Rogers for the purpose of bringing them together
and of reconciling them.

"As none of us," says Moore, "knew about his singular régime, our host
was not a little embarrassed on discovering, that there was nothing on
the table which his noble guest could eat or drink. Lord Byron did not
touch meat, fish, or wine; and as to the biscuits and soda-water he
asked for, there were, unfortunately, none in the house. He declared he
was equally pleased with potatoes and vinegar, and on this meagre
pittance he succeeded in making an agreeable dinner."[59]

About the same time, being questioned by one of his friends, who liked
good living, as to what sort of table they had at the Alfred Club, to
which he belonged, "It is not worth much," answered Lord Byron. "I speak
from hearsay; for what does cookery signify to a vegetable-eater? But
there are books and quiet; so, for what I care, they may serve up their
dishes as they like."

"Frequently," says Moore again, "during the first part of our
acquaintance we dined together alone, either at St. Alban's, or at his
old asylum, Stevens's. Although occasionally he consented to take a
little Bordeaux, he _always held to his system of abstaining from meat_.
He seemed truly persuaded that animal food must have some particular
influence on character. And I remember one day being seated opposite to
him, engaged in eating a beefsteak with good appetite, that, after
having looked at me attentively for several seconds, he said, gravely,
'Moore, does not this eating beefsteaks make you ferocious?'

"Among the numerous hours we passed together this spring, I remember
particularly his extreme gayety one evening on returning from a soirée,
when, after having accompanied Rogers home, Lord Byron--who, according
to his frequent custom, had not dined the last two days--feeling his
appetite no longer governable, asked for something to eat. Our repast,
at his choice, consisted only of bread and cheese; but I have rarely
made a gayer meal in my life."

In 1814 he relaxed his diet a little, so far as to eat fish now and
then; but he considered this an excessive indulgence. "I have made a
regular dinner for the first time since Sunday," he writes in his
journal. "Every other day tea and six dry biscuits. This dinner makes
me heavy, stupid, gives me horrible dreams (nevertheless, it only
consisted of a pint of Bucellas and fish; I do not touch meat, and take
but little vegetable). I wish I were in the country for exercise,
instead of refreshing myself with abstinence. _I am not afraid of a
slight addition of flesh; my bones can well support that! but the worst
of it is, that the devil arrives with plumpness, and I must drive him
away through hunger!_ I DO NOT WISH TO BE THE SLAVE OF MY APPETITE. If I
fall, my heart at least shall herald the race."[60]

Except the last phrase, which is more worldly or more human, might not
one fancy one's self listening to the confession or soliloquy of some
Christian philosopher of the fourth century: one of those who sought the
Theban deserts to measure their strength of soul and body in desperate
struggles with Nature; the confession of a Hilarion or a Jerome, rather
than that of a young man of twenty-three, brought up amid the
conveniences and luxuries surrounding the aristocracy of the most
aristocratic country in the world, where material comfort is best
appreciated?

Thus it was, nevertheless, that Lord Byron practiced epicureanism with
regard to his food, making very rare exceptions when he consented to
dine out.

If time, change of circumstances, and climate, caused some slight
modifications in his manner of living, his mode of life did not vary. At
Venice, Ravenna, and Genoa, this epicurean would never suffer meat on
his table; and he only made some rare exceptions, to avoid too much
singularity, at Pisa, where he invited some friends to dinner. Count
Gamba, after having spoken of the sobriety of his regimen on board the
vessel that took him to Greece, the Ionian Islands, and finally to
Missolonghi, says, "He ate nothing but vegetables and fish, and drank
only water. Our fear was," says he, "lest this excessive abstinence
should be injurious to his health!"

Alas! we know that it was. It is certain that this debilitating régime,
joined to such strong moral impressions, too strongly felt, undermined
Lord Byron's fine constitution, which had only resisted so long through
its extreme vigor and the rare purity of his blood.

The bodily exercise he took had the same object, and further added to
the injurious effect of his obstinate fasts. "I have not left my room
these four days past," he writes in his memorandum, April, 1814, at a
moment when his heart was agitated by a passion; "but I have been
fencing with Jackson an hour a day by way of exercise, _so as to get
matter under, and give sway to the ethereal part of my nature_. The more
I fatigue myself, the better my mind is for the rest of the day; and
then my evenings acquire that calm, that prostration and languor, that
are such a happiness to me. To-day I fenced for an hour, wrote an ode to
Napoleon Bonaparte, copied it out, ate six biscuits, drank four bottles
of soda-water, read the rest of the time, and then gave a load of advice
to poor H---- about his mistress, who torments him intolerably, enough
to make him consumptive. Ah! to be sure, it suits me well to be giving
lessons to----; it is true they are thrown to the winds."[61]

This desire of giving mind dominion over matter is shown equally in all
his tastes, all his preferences. Beauty in art consisted wholly for him
in the expression of heart and soul. He had a horror of realism in art;
the Flemish school inspired him with a sort of nausea. Certain material
points of beauty in women, that are generally admired, had no beauty for
him. The music he liked, and of which he never grew tired, was not
brilliant or difficult, but simple; that which awakens the most delicate
sentiments of the soul, which brings tears to the eye.

"I have known few persons," says Moore, "more alive than he to the
charms of simple music; and I have often seen tears in his eyes when
listening to the Irish Melodies. Among those that caused him these
emotions was the one beginning--

    "When first I met thee, warm and young."

The words of this melody, besides the moral sentiment they express, also
admit a political meaning. Lord Byron rejected this meaning, and
delivered his soul over, with the liveliest motion, to the more natural
sentiment conveyed in that song."

"Only the fear of seeming to affect sensibility could have restrained
my tears," he said once, on hearing Mrs. D---- sing

    "Could'st thou look."

"Very often," said Mme. G----, "I have seen him with tears in his eyes
when I was playing favorite airs to him on the piano, of which he never
got tired."[62]

Stendhall also speaks of Lord Byron's emotion while listening to a piece
of music by Mayer at Milan, and says that if he lived a hundred years he
could never forget the divine expression of his physiognomy while thus
engaged.

At most, Lord Byron could only admire for a moment material beauty
without expression in women; it might give rise to sensations, but could
never inspire him with the slightest sentiment.

We have said enough of the female characters he created: sweet
incarnations of the most amiable qualities of heart and soul. Let us add
here, that although greatly alive to beauty of form, he could not
believe in a fine woman's delicate feeling, unless her beauty were
accompanied by expression denoting her qualities of heart and mind.
Beauty of form, of feature, and of color were nothing to him, if a woman
had not also beauty of expression; if he could not see, he said, beauty
of soul in her eyes. "Beauty and goodness have always been associated in
my idea," said he, at Genoa, to the Countess B----, "for in my
experience I have generally seen them go together. What constitutes true
beauty for me," added he, "is the soul looking through the eyes.
Sometimes women that were called beautiful have been pointed out to me
that could never in the least have excited my feelings, because they
wanted physiognomy, or expression, which is the same thing; while
others, scarcely noticed, quite struck and attracted me by their
expression of face."

He admired Lady C---- very much, because, he said, her beauty expressed
purity, peace, dreaminess, giving the idea that she had never inspired
or experienced aught but holy emotions. He once thought of marrying
another young lady, because she excited the same feelings. All the women
who more or less interested him in England were remarkable for their
intellect or their education, including her whom he selected for his
companion through life. Only, with regard to her, he trusted too much to
reputation and appearance; he saw what she had, not what was wanting.
She was in great part the cause of his deadly antipathy to regular "blue
stockings;" but that did not change the necessity of intellect for
exciting his interest. It only required, he said, for the _dress to hide
the color of the stockings_. The name he gave to his natural daughter
belonged to a Venetian lady, whose cleverness he admired, and with whom
his acquaintance consisted in a mere exchange of thought. Often he has
been heard to say that he could never have loved a silly woman, however
beautiful; nor yet a vulgar woman, whether the defect were the result of
birth, or education, or tastes. He felt no attraction for that style of
woman since called "fast." Even among the light characters whose
acquaintance he permitted to himself at Venice, he avoided those who
were too bold. There lived then at Venice Mme. V----, a perfect siren.
All Venice was at her feet; Lord Byron would not know her, and at
Bologna he refused to make acquaintance with a person of still higher
rank, Countess M----, who was both charming and estimable, but who had
the fault in his eyes of attracting too much general admiration. Her air
of modesty and reserve was what principally drew him toward Miss
Milbank. At Ferrara, where he met Countess Mosti and thought her most
delightful, he did not feel the same sympathy for her sister, who was,
however, much more brilliant, and whose singing excited the admiration
of every one.

In order to be truly loved by Lord Byron, it was requisite for a woman
to live in a sort of illusive atmosphere for him, to appear somewhat
like an immaterial being, not subject to vulgar corporeal necessities.
Thence arose his antipathy (considered so singular) to see the woman he
loved eat. In short, spiritual and manly in his habits, he was equally
so with his person.

It sufficed to see his face, upon which there reigned such gentleness
allied to so much dignity; and his look, never to be forgotten; and the
unrivalled mouth, which seemed incapable of lending itself to any
material use; a simple glance enabled one to understand that this
privileged being was endowed with all noble passions, joined to an
instinctive horror of all that is low and vulgar in human nature. "His
beauty was quite independent of his dress," said Lady Blessington.

If, then, his nails were roseate as the shells of the ocean (according
to her expression); if his complexion was transparent; his teeth like
pearls; his hair glossy and curling; he had only to thank Providence for
having lavished on him and preserved to him so many free gifts. But it
is not easy to persuade others of such remarkable exceptions to the
general rule. Those who do not possess the same advantages are
incredulous; and, indeed, there were not wanting persons to deny, at
least in part, that he had them.

Soon after his death an account of him was published in the "London
Magazine," containing some truths mixed up with a heap of calumnies.
Among other things, it was said "that Lord Byron constantly wore
gloves." To which Count Pietro Gamba replied, "_That is not true_; Lord
Byron wore them less than any other man of his standing."

Another declared that his fingers were loaded with rings; he only wore
one, which was a token of affection. In his rooms hardly ordinary
comforts could be found. He was not one to carry about with him the
habits of his own country. Indeed, his habits consisted in having none.
During his travels, the most difficult to please were his valet and
other servants. "On his last journey," says Count Gamba, "he passed six
days without undressing."

His sole self-indulgence consisted in frequent bathing; for his only
craving was for extreme cleanliness. But, just as the disciples of
Epicurus would never have adopted his regimen, so would they equally
have refused to imitate this last enjoyment; which was a little too
manly for them, for his baths were mostly taken on Ocean's back;
struggling against the stormy wave, and that in all seasons, up to
mid-December. Such was the fastidious delicacy of this epicurean![63]

But to acknowledge all these things, or even any thing extraordinarily
good in the author of "Don Juan," the "Age of Bronze," the "Vision;" in
a son so _wanting in respect_ for the weaknesses of his mother-country;
in a poet that had dared to chastise powerful enemies, and the limit of
whose audacity was not even yet known, for his death had just condemned,
through revelations and imprudent biographies, many persons and things
to a sorry kind of immortality; to praise him, declare him guiltless, do
him justice,--truly that would have been asking too much from England at
that time. England has since made great strides in the path of generous
toleration and even toward justice to Lord Byron. For vain is calumny
after a time: truth destroys calumny by evoking facts. These form a
clear atmosphere, wherein truth becomes luminous, as the sun in its
atmosphere: for facts give birth to truth, and are mortal to calumny.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 42: The history of the page is, however, true. Lord Byron was
then nineteen years of age. Not to give his mother the grief of seeing
that he had made an acquaintance she would have disapproved, he brought
Miss ---- from Brighton to the Abbey, dressed as a page, that she might
pass for her brother Gordon.]

[Footnote 43: See "Newstead Abbey," by Washington Irving.]

[Footnote 44: Moore, vol. i. p. 346.]

[Footnote 45: See Galt, "Life of Lord Byron."]

[Footnote 46: See chapter on "Generosity."]

[Footnote 47: See "Life in Italy."]

[Footnote 48: The heroism of the young Zuleika, says Mr. G. Ellis in his
criticism, is full of purity and loveliness. Never was a more perfect
character traced with greater delicacy and truth; her piety,
intelligence, her exquisite sentiment of duty and her unalterable love
of truth seem born in her soul rather than acquired by education. She is
ever natural, seductive, affectionate, and we must confess that her
affection for Selim is well placed.]

[Footnote 49: "Childe Harold," canto iv. stanza 177.]

[Footnote 50: See "Don Juan," canto xvi.]

[Footnote 51: See chapter on Marriage.]

[Footnote 52: Medwin, p. 13.]

[Footnote 53: See "Life in Italy."]

[Footnote 54: Ibid.]

[Footnote 55: Moore, vol. ii, p. 182.]

[Footnote 56: See "Life in Italy," at Venice.]

[Footnote 57: See "Life in Italy."]

[Footnote 58: Dallas, 171.]

[Footnote 59: Moore, 315.]

[Footnote 60: Moore, first vol.]

[Footnote 61: Moore, 315.]

[Footnote 62: See "Life in Italy."]

[Footnote 63: "He was more a mental being, if I may use this phrase,"
said Captain Parry, who knew him at Missolonghi, "than any one I ever
saw; he lived on thoughts more than on food."]



CHAPTER XI.

THE CONSTANCY OF LORD BYRON.


Among Lord Byron's moral virtues, may we count that of constancy? Men in
general, not finding this virtue in their own lives, refuse to believe
in its existence among those who, in exception to the common rule, do
possess it. They must be forced to this act of justice as to many
others. This is comprehensible; constancy is so rare!

"I less easily believe constancy in men than any thing else," says
Montaigne, "and nothing more easily than inconstancy."

Besides the difficulties common to every one, Lord Byron had also to
fight against those difficulties peculiar to his sensitive nature and
his vast intelligence.

"The largest minds," says Bacon, "are the least constant, because they
find reasons for deliberating, where others only see occasion for
acting."

But if these difficulties overcame Lord Bacon's constancy, could they
have the same power over Lord Byron, who was indeed his equal in mind,
but his opposite in conduct and strength of soul? There are three sorts
of constancy: that of affection, which has its source in goodness of
heart; that of taste, flowing from beauty of soul; that of idea, derived
from rectitude of intelligence.

Did Lord Byron possess the whole of these, or only a part? As this may
be chiefly proved, not from writings or words, but by conduct, let us
ask the question of those who knew him personally and at all periods of
his life.

Was he constant in his ideas? Moore, speaking of Lord Byron's
intellectual faculties, of his variableness, of which he makes too much,
for the reasons I have mentioned,[64] and of the danger to which it
exposed his consistency and oneness of character, says:--

"The consciousness, indeed, of his own natural tendency to yield thus to
every chance impression, and change with every passing impulse, was not
only forever present to his mind, but, aware as he was of the suspicion
of weakness attached by the world to any retractation or abandonment of
long-professed opinions, had the effect of keeping him in that general
line of consistency, on certain great subjects, which, notwithstanding
occasional fluctuations and contradictions as to the details of these
very subjects, he continued to preserve throughout life. A passage from
one of his manuscripts will show how sagaciously he saw the necessity of
guarding himself against his own instability in this respect:--'The
world,' he says, 'visits change of politics or change of religion with a
more severe censure than a mere difference of opinion would appear to me
to deserve. But there must be some reason for this feeling, and I think
it is that this departure from the earliest instilled ideas of our
childhood, and from the line of conduct chosen by us when we first enter
into public life, have been seen to have more mischievous results for
society, and to prove more weakness of mind than other actions, in
themselves more immoral.'"

"To superficial observers," says the Hon. Col. Stanhope, "his conduct
might appear uncertain; and that was the case sometimes, but only _up to
a certain point_. His genius was limitless and versatile, and in
conversation he passed boldly from grave to gay, from light to serious
topics; but nevertheless, _upon the whole and in reality_, no man was
more constant, I might almost say _more obstinate_, than Lord Byron _in
the pursuit of great objects_. For instance, in religion and in
politics, he seemed as firm as a rock, though, like a rock, he was
sometimes subject to great shocks, to the convulsions of nature in
commotion. What I affirm is, that Lord Byron had very fixed opinions on
important matters. It is not from the opinion he wished to give of
himself, nor from what he allowed to escape his lips, that I could have
drawn this conclusion; for, in conversing with me on politics or
religion, and passing capriciously over this latter subject, sometimes
laughing and making strings of jests, he would say, for instance, '_the
more I think the more I doubt--I am a thorough skeptic_;' but I find
these words contradicted in _all his actions, and in all his sentiments
seriously expressed from childhood to death_. And I opine that although
occasionally he may have appeared changeable, still he always came back
to certain fixed ideas in his mind; that he always entertained a
constant attachment to liberty according to his notions of liberty; and
that, although not orthodox in religion, he _firmly believed_ in the
existence of a God. It is then equally false to represent him as an
atheist or as an orthodox Christian. Lord Byron was, as he often told
me, _a thorough deist_."[65]

It would be easy to prove in a thousand ways that, despite the danger of
inconstancy resulting from his great sensibility, imagination, and
intellect, no one, more than Lord Byron, steadily and firmly adhered
_through life_ in his actions to the principles which _constitute the
man of honor_. Chances, caprices, inequalities of temper, which are to
sensitive natures what bubbles are on a lake, all disappeared when these
great principles required to be acted upon; and the effects even of his
well-nigh inexhaustible benevolence were checked, if he had to struggle
against his principles. We find in his memoranda, 1813:--"I like George
Byron" (his cousin, the present lord); "I like him much more than one
generally does one's heirs. He is a fine fellow. I would do any thing to
see him advance in his career as a sailor; _any thing except
apostatize_!" (Lord Byron was a _Whig_, and his cousin a _Tory_.)

As it is impossible to quote every thing, I will only say that his
passion for firmness and constancy in the principles of honor, went so
far as to inspire him with repugnance for those characters lacking the
firmness and oneness of action which he considered it a sacred duty to
practice. It is even to this sentiment that must be attributed certain
antipathies which he expressed, sometimes by words and sometimes by
silence, and which have been laid to totally different, and quite
impossible motives. For instance, his silence concerning Chateaubriand,
expressive of his little sympathy for the individual (a silence so much
resented by this proud vindictive poet, and for which he revenged
himself in different ways), was not caused solely by the radical
antagonism existing between their two natures. Assuredly, the literary
affectation, the want of sincerity, the theatrical and declamatory
nature of Chateaubriand's soul, who was positively ill with insatiable
pride, innate and incurable ennui, all this could little assimilate with
the simplicity, sincerity, passionate tenderness and devotion of Lord
Byron. But his repugnance was especially directed against the skeptic,
who made himself the champion of Catholicism, and the liberal who upheld
the divine right of kings.[66]

A few days before Lord Byron set out for his last journey to Greece, a
young man (M. Coullmann) arrived at Genoa, bringing him the admiring
homage of many celebrated men in France, who sent him their respective
works. Among the number were Delavigne and Lamartine. Chateaubriand, of
course, was conspicuous by his absence: but an anecdote Coullmann
related, of what had just occurred at Turin, greatly amused Lord Byron.
Chateaubriand had lately been presented in his capacity of ambassador,
whereupon the queen said to him: "Are you any relation to that
Chateaubriand who has written _something_?"

Lord Byron, laughing heartily at the anecdote, hastened to go and repeat
it to the Countess G----.

The same sentiment had disenchanted him with Monti, whom he had so much
admired at Milan, and with several other rival poets.

When Lord Byron heard it said of any one, "he has changed sides, he has
abandoned his party, he has forfeited his word," one might feel sure
that all his natural indulgence, generally so great, was gone: he looked
upon such a fault as forming only a despicable variety of the vice he
never forgave, viz., untruth. At most, he could only make an exception
in favor of women.

"I have received a very pretty note from Madame de Staël," we read in
his memoranda of 1813; "her works are my delight, and she also (for half
an hour). But I do not like her politics, or, at least, _her changes_ in
politics. If she had been, _æqualis ab incepto_, that would be nothing.
But, she is a woman, ... and, intellectually, she has done more than all
the rest of her sex put together."

Nevertheless, constancy in idea being subservient to the consent of the
mind, must undoubtedly have undergone oscillations with Lord Byron. That
was, however, only the case with regard to ideas which could be
discussed, and which required to pass through the ordeal of long
reflection and practice, before being fully adopted by him. But
religious ideas were not of this number; on the contrary, they held the
first place in the order of those to be accepted and raised into
principles by every man of honor and good sense. For, whatever may have
been his fluctuations with regard to certain points of religious
doctrine, sects and modes of worship, it is certain that in great
fundamental matters his mind never seriously doubted, and thus escaped
the influence of friends less sensible,--of Matthews in his early youth,
and of Shelley at a later period.[67] That touching Prayer to the
Divinity, written in boyhood, and which is so full of hope and faith in
the soul's immortality, and in the existence of a personal God, he might
have signed again when he came to act instead of writing, as also on his
death-bed.[68]

Between the commencement of his career at eighteen and its close at the
age of thirty-six, it is easy to see, by his language, correspondence,
and works, that his mind had passed successively through different
phases before arriving at the last result. The religious idea is more or
less clear. Nevertheless, one perceives a golden ray ever present,
connecting the different periods of his life, keeping up heat and light
in his soul, and giving unity to his whole career. Hope, desire, and I
may almost say, a sort of latent faith, always influenced him until they
merged into the conviction whose light never more abandoned him.

At fifteen years of age, while at Harrow, he fought with Lord Calthorpe
for calling him an _atheist_; at eighteen, he wrote his beautiful
profession of faith in the Prayer to the Divinity, and in the touching
"Adieu," which he wrote when he thought he would soon die. At nineteen,
giving the list in his memoranda of books already read (a list hardly
credible), he says: "With regard to books on religion, I have read
Blair, Porteous, Tillotson, Hooker,--all very tiresome. I detest books
about religion, but I adore and love my God, apart from the blasphemous
notions of sectarians, and without believing in their absurd and
damnable heresies, mysteries, etc." At twenty-one, when he had passed
through the double influence exercised by Pagan classical literature and
German philosophies, and was in a transition state, he wrote "Childe
Harold;" but the skeptical tendencies to be found in one stanza appear
like a bravado, the result of spleen, a feeling that made him suffer,
and which he speedily threw aside. For he wrote, at the same time, the
stanza upon the death of a friend, whom he _hopes to see again in the
land of souls_, and afterward, the elegies to Thyrza, which are full of
_faith in immortality_. At thirty, writing some philosophical
reflections in his memorandum-book, he says: "One can not doubt the
immortality of the soul."

And, elsewhere, he also says that Christianity appears to him
essentially founded on the immateriality of the soul, and that, for this
reason, the Christian materialism of Priestley had always struck him as
being a deadly sort of doctrine. "Believe, if you please," added he, "in
the material resurrection of the body, but not without a soul: it would
be cruel indeed, if, after having had a soul in this world (and our
mind, by whatever name you call it, is really a soul), we were to be
separated from it in the other, even for material immortality! I confess
my partiality for mind."

Alluding to the systems of philosophy that do not admit creation
according to Genesis, he says, that "even if we could get rid of Adam
and Eve, of the apple and the serpent, we should not know what to put in
their place; that the difficulty would not be overcome; that things must
have had a beginning, it matters not when and how; that creation must
have had an origin and a Creator. For creation is much more natural and
easy to imagine than a concurrence of atoms; that all things may be
traced to their sources even though they end by emptying themselves into
an ocean."

We have seen what he said to Parry upon religion[69] and its ministers,
upon God Almighty and the hope of enjoying eternal life, only a few
weeks before his glorious death.

And when the hand of death was already upon him, a few moments before
his agony, did he not say that eternity and space were already before
his eyes, but that on this point, thanks to God, _he was happy and
tranquil?_ that the thought of living _eternally_, of living another
life, was a great consolation to him? that Christianity was the purest
and most liberal of all religions (although a little spoiled by the
ministers of Christ, often the worst enemies of its liberal and
charitable doctrines); but that, as to the questions depending on these
doctrines, and which God alone, all powerful, can determine, in Him
alone did he wish to rest?

But if Lord Byron was constant to a certain order of ideas, was he
equally constant in his affections? Moore again shall answer:--

"The same distrust in his own steadiness, thus keeping alive in him a
conscientious self-watchfulness, concurred not a little, I have no
doubt, with the innate, kindness of his nature, to preserve so constant
and unbroken the greater number of his attachments through life--some of
them, as in the instance of his mother, owing evidently more to a sense
of duty than of real affection, the consistency with which, so
creditably to the strength of his character, they were maintained."

But, putting aside family affections, where constancy may appear a duty
and a necessity, let us see what Lord Byron was in affections of his own
choice,--such as friendship and love, where inconstancy is a sin that
the world easily forgives.

We have seen what the friendship of Lord Byron meant. Death destroyed
several of the young existences with which his heart was bound up, and
his first sorrows sprang from these misfortunes. But _never_ by his
will, caprice, or fault, did he lose a single friend! Even the wrongs
they inflicted, while they weighed upon his mind, altered his opinions
sometimes, dispelled some sweet illusions and grieved his heart, yet
could not succeed in changing it. He contented himself with judging the
individual in such cases, sometimes with philosophical indulgence which
he was only too much accustomed to hide under the veil of pleasantry,
and sometimes in showing openly how much his heart was wounded.[70]

This constancy of heart that he showed in friendship, was it equally his
in matters of love? By his energy of soul, unable ever to forget any
thing, Lord Byron possessed the first condition toward constancy in
love. Contrary to those unstable persons who say that they cease to
love, for the simple reason that they have already loved too much, it
might rather be said of Lord Byron that he still loved on only because
he had loved. In all his poems, he has idealized fidelity and constancy
in love. All the heroes of his poems are faithful and constant, from
Conrad, Lara, Selim, all those of the Oriental poems of his youth, up to
those of his latter life, to his Biblical mysteries. Even the angels,
the seraphim, in that beautiful poem, written shortly before his death,
"Heaven and Earth," prefer suffering to inconstancy,--to forfeit heaven
rather than return there without their beloved. In vain the archangel
Raphael presses the two amorous seraphim to come back to the celestial
sphere, to abandon the two sisters, and menaces them. Samiasa replies:--

                    "It may not be:
  We have chosen, and will endure."

The poet gives it to be understood that they will be punished; which
forms the moral of the piece. Don Juan himself refuses the love of a
beautiful sultana, from fidelity to the remembrance of his Haidée; and
when, afterward, he does yield, he seems to bear with, rather than to
have sought success. One feels that this idealization of fidelity and
constancy really has its source in Lord Byron's heart, and not in his
imagination. Still, however, the chief and undeniable proof must be
drawn from his own life.

The first condition for judging any one impartially with regard to
inconstancy in love, is not only to know the facts and real
circumstances connected with an intimacy, but especially to know the
nature of the sentiment to which the name of love has been applied. We
are aware that, at fifteen years of age, Lord Byron's heart was already
under the influence of a young girl of eighteen.[71] The mere
disproportion of age prevents such an affection from offering any
grounds on which to examine his capability of being constant. It is well
known how much suffering this early passion caused him. The object of
it, after denying him no token of reciprocal love that was innocent,
giving him her picture, agreeing to meetings, receiving all the
spontaneous, innocent, confiding tenderness of his young and ardent
heart, left him in the lurch one fine day, on account of his youth, in
order to marry a fashionable, vulgar man. And thus did she destroy the
charm which governed his heart. Precocious reflection, with its
accompaniment of knowledge, agitating, confusing, throwing young souls
on the road to error, succeeded to his enchantment. He then began (at
sixteen) to talk of vanished illusions; and, for want of something
better, allowed himself to be carried away, and to lead the ordinary
university life. He evidently only did what others did; but he was made
of different materials; and while they thought this dissipation very
natural, and, tranquil in their inferiority, believed themselves
innocent, he alone disapproved of his own conduct and blamed it. The
better to escape all this, he went in search of forgetfulness amid the
fresh breezes of ocean, across the Pyrenees, among the ruins of ancient
civilization. Yet, after two years' travelling, on his return to
England, his soul all love, his heart burning with an infinite ardor,
through that intoxication of success which weakens, through that
eagerness for emotion caused by his vivacity of mind, and even by a sort
of psychological curiosity, Lord Byron did fall into new attachments.
And these attachments, not being of a nature that could stand the trial
of reflection, caused him to give up known for unknown objects. But his
soul was ever agitated, in commotion, and, even when he changed, it was
through necessity rather than caprice. In order to escape once more from
himself, from the allurements of the senses, from the effects of the
enthusiasm which his personal beauty and his genius excited among women,
he resolved to take refuge in an indissoluble tie, in a tie formed by
duty, not love. Perhaps he might have found strength for perseverance in
the beauty of the sacrifice. His soul was quite capable of it. But
destiny pursued him in his choice, and rendered it impossible. To his
misfortune, he married Miss Milbank.[72] Again he drifted away from the
right path, but, this time, with the resolution of keeping his heart
independent, his soul free and unfettered by any indissoluble tie.[73]
But in coming to this determination at the age of twenty-eight, he
had not consulted his heart, ever athirst for infinitude. Vainly
he sought to lull it, to keep it earthward, to laugh at his own
aspirations--useless labor! One day it broke loose. Nature is like
water; sooner or later it must find its equilibrium. From that day
forth Psyche's lamp had no more light; reflection had no more power; and
the love which had taken possession of his soul left him not again, but
accompanied him to his last hour, through the modifications inevitable
in earthly affections. This constancy maintained thenceforth without a
struggle, he understood at once; and felt that the unchanging sentiment
belonged equally to his will and to his destiny. "_Coelum, non animam
mutant qui trans mare currunt_," wrote he one day at Ravenna, on the
opening page of "Jacopo Ortis," Foscolo's work, that had just fallen
into his hands; for he knew that no one could read this avowal of his
heart where he had traced it. After having remarked the strange
coincidence by which this volume was brought a second time before him,
just when he was, as once before, in extreme agitation, he continued
thus:--

"Most men bewail not having attained the object of their desires. I had
oftener to deplore the obtaining mine, for I can not love moderately,
nor quiet my heart with mere fruition. The letters of this Italian
Werther are very interesting; at least I think so, but my present
feelings hardly render me a competent judge."

Another time, a volume of "Corinne," translated into Italian, fell under
his notice at Ravenna. In the same language, which no one then about him
could read, he confided to this book the secret of his heart, and, after
having poured out its fullness in words of noble melting tenderness,
concluded thus:--"Think of me when Alps and sea shall separate us; _but
that will never come to pass, unless you so will it_."

It was not willed, and therefore the separation did not take place. But,
alas! the day arrived when he was so entangled in a multiplicity of
complications, and honor spoke so loudly, that both sides were forced to
will it.

Whoever should consider this departure the result of inconstancy, is
incapable to form an estimate of his great soul. His affection, that had
lasted for years, admitted no longer of any uneasiness, for it was
brought into complete harmony with that of her he loved. Naturally his
heart underwent the transformation produced by time. His affection was
gradually acquiring the sweetness of unchanging friendship, without
losing the charm appertaining to ardor of passion. The sacrifice
entailed by this departure was in proportion to these sentiments.
"Often," says M----, "during the passage we saw his eyes filled with
tears." The sadness described by Mr. Barry of his last visit to Albano
has been seen.[74] These tears and this sadness betray the extent of his
sublime sacrifice! And then, when once arrived in Greece, although
determined to brave all the storms gathering above his head, he wrote
unceasingly to Madame G----, with that ease and simplicity which not
only forbade any exaggeration of sentiment, but even made him restrain
its expression; which was also rendered imperative by the circumstances
then surrounding her.

"I shall fulfill the object of my mission from the committee, and then
... return to Italy.... Pray be as cheerful and tranquil as you can, and
be assured that there is nothing here that can excite any thing but a
wish to be with you again, though we are very kindly treated by the
English here of all descriptions."

     "September 11.

"You may be sure that the moment I can join you again will be as
welcome to me as at any period of our acquaintance. There is
nothing very attractive here to occupy my attention; but both honor
and inclination demand that I should serve the Greek cause. I wish
that this cause, as well as the affairs of Spain, were favorably
settled, that I might return to Italy and relate all my adventures
to you."

Thus much for his constancy when he truly loved. It would be worth
inquiry how many men and how many writers have carried their ideal of
constancy into their own life to a higher degree than Lord Byron? My
opinion is that if, the same circumstances given, the number went a
little beyond one, we might consider the result very satisfactory.

After having seen that Lord Byron was unchangeable in great principles
and ideas, as soon as his mind was convinced, and that he was constant
to all the true sentiments of his heart, it still remains to be shown
whether he was equally so in his tastes and habits.

It may be said of most men that they have no character, because they
often vary in taste, and without even perceiving it. That could not be
asserted of Lord Byron, although sometimes, according to his
self-accusing custom, he declared himself to be inconstant.

The truth is that he was, on the contrary, remarkably steadfast in his
tastes. The nature of his preferences, and the conclusions to be drawn
from them, will form the subject of another chapter. We shall only speak
of them here as relating to constancy.

"We shall often have occasion," says Moore, "to remark the fidelity to
early habits and tastes which distinguished Lord Byron." Moore then
observes the extraordinary constancy Lord Byron showed in clinging to
all the impressions of youth; and he adduces as a proof the care with
which he preserved the notes and letters written by his favorite
comrades at school, even when they were younger than himself. These
letters he enriched with dates and notes, after years of long interval,
while very few of his childish effusions have been kept by the opposite
parties. Moore also notes several other features of this constancy,
which he continued to practice throughout life. For instance, his
punctuality in answering letters immediately, despite his distaste for
epistolary effusions; and his love for simple music, such as that of the
ballads that used to attract him at sixteen to Miss Pigott's saloon. It
was partly this same taste that made him enjoy so much, at twenty-six,
the evenings he passed at his friend Kinnaird's house (some months
before his marriage, the last of his London life), when Moore would sing
his favorite songs, bringing tears to Byron's eyes. And it was this same
taste that subsequently drew him to the piano at which Madame G---- sat,
at Ravenna, Pisa, Genoa; and which, when she played or sung Mozart's and
Rossini's favorite motets, made him say that he no longer loved any
other music but hers.

What he had once loved never tired him. Memory was to him like an
enchanter's wand, throwing some charm into objects which in themselves
possessed none. He loved the land where he had loved, however naturally
unattractive it might be: witness Ravenna, and Italy in general.

"Possession of what I truly love," said he, in the very rare moments
when he did himself justice "does not cloy me." He loved the mountains
of Greece, because they recalled those of Scotland; he would have loved
other mountains, because they recalled those of Greece.

A few months before his death, he said in his charming poem "The
Island,"--

  "Long have I roam'd through lands which are not mine,
  Adored the Alp, and loved the Apennine,
  Revered Parnassus, and beheld the steep
  Jove's Ida and Olympus crown the deep:
  But 'twas not all long ages' lore, nor all
  _Their_ nature held me in their thrilling thrall;
  The infant rapture still survived the boy,
  And Loch-na-gar with Ida look'd o'er Troy,
  Mix'd Celtic memories with the Phrygian mount,
  And Highland linns with Castalie's clear fount.
  Forgive me, Homer's universal shade!
  Forgive me, Phoebus! that my fancy stray'd;
  The north and nature taught me to adore
  Your scenes sublime, from those beloved before."[75]

He would love a place of abode because he had loved when in it. The same
with regard to a dwelling, a walk, a melody, a perfume, a form, and even
a dish; he who cared so little for any sort of food. His childish
impressions, his readings at that age, had a great deal to do with his
choice of poetic subjects afterward; and we find them again reproduced
even in his last dramatic work. "Werner," written in such a fine moral
sense, is the result of the "Canterbury Tale" read in childhood. Never
was man more constant in his habits and tastes than he; and, indeed, it
required that indefinable charm of soul he possessed, and which pervaded
his whole being, to prevent monotony from perverting this quality into a
fault.

Why, then, have his biographers talked so much of his mobility, if it
were not to make Lord Byron pass for a creature swayed by every fresh
impulse, and incapable of steady feeling? I have given the first reason
elsewhere.[76] But I will add another, namely, that they have
transferred the qualities of the _poet to the man_ in an erroneous
manner; that to the versatility of his genius (one of his great gifts,
and which ever belong to him) they have added mobility of character such
as often, too often, perhaps, influenced his conversation, and tinctured
his external fictitious nature. But they have done so without examining
his actions, without reflecting that this mobility vanished as it was
written, or in the light play of his witty conversation, or the trivial
acts of his life. Otherwise they would have been forced to confess, that
it never had any influence on his conduct in matters of moment, that he
was persevering and firm to an extremely rare degree in all things
_essential_ and which constitute _man in his moral and social capacity_.

We may then sum up by saying that Lord Byron generally established on an
impregnable rock, guarded by unbending principles, those great virtues
to which principles are essential; but that, after making these
treasures secure--for treasures they are to the man of honor and
worth--once having placed them beyond the reach of sensibility and
sentiment, he may sometimes have allowed the _lesser virtues_ (within
ordinary bonds) such indulgence as flowed from his kindly nature, and
such as his youth rendered natural to a feeling heart and ardent
imagination. Like all men, he was only truly firm under serious
circumstances, when he wished to show energy in fulfilling a duty. Thus
Lord Byron allowed his pen to jest, to mark the follies of men:
sometimes attacking them boldly in front, sometimes aiming light arrows
aslant, ridiculing, chastising, as humor or fancy prompted; and he gave
himself the same liberty of language in private conversation, according
to the character of those with whom he conversed. On all these occasions
his genius undoubtedly gave itself up to versatility. But let us not
forget that all that which changes and becomes effaced in hearts of
inconstant mood, and which ought not to change in men of honor and
worth, never did vary in him. Let us acknowledge, in short, that, if
mobility belonged to the _sensitive_ parts of his nature, constancy no
less characterized his _moral and intellectual_ being.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 64: See chapter on "Mobility."]

[Footnote 65: Stanhope, Parry, 235.]

[Footnote 66: See Sainte-Beuve, vol. i. p. 286.]

[Footnote 67: See chapter on "Religion."]

[Footnote 68: See this prayer in chapter on "Religion."]

[Footnote 69: See chapter on "Religion."]

[Footnote 70: See octaves 48, 49 and 50, canto xiv. "Don Juan;" and
several in "Childe Harold," cantos iii. and iv.]

[Footnote 71: See chapter on "Generosity."]

[Footnote 72: See chapter on "Marriage."]

[Footnote 73: See "Life at Venice, at Milan."]

[Footnote 74: See chapter on "Strength of Soul."]

[Footnote 75: "The Island," canto ii. stanza 12.]

[Footnote 76: See chapter on "Mobility."]



CHAPTER XII.

THE COURAGE AND FORTITUDE OF LORD BYRON.


All the moral qualities that flow from energy--courage, intrepidity,
fortitude; in a word, self-control--shone with too much lustre in Lord
Byron's soul for us to pass them over in silence, or even to call only
superficial attention to them.

But, it may be said, Why speak of his courage? No one ever called it in
question. Besides, is courage a virtue? It is hardly a quality; in
reality it is but a duty. Yes, undoubtedly, that is true, but there are
different kinds of courage, and Lord Byron's was of such a peculiar
nature, and showed itself under such uncommon circumstances as to
justify observation, for it evinces a quality necessary to be noticed by
all who seek to portray his great soul with the wish of arriving at a
close resemblance.

"Whatever virtue may be allowed to belong to personal courage, it is
most assuredly those who are endowed by nature with the liveliest
imaginations, and who have, therefore, most vividly and simultaneously
before their eyes all the remote and possible consequences of danger,
that are most deserving of whatever praise attends the exercise of that
virtue."

Certainly Lord Byron made part of the category, so that Moore adds:--

"The courage of Lord Byron, as all his companions in peril testify, was
of that noblest kind which rises with the greatness of the occasion, and
becomes the more self-collected and resisting the more imminent the
danger."

Thus, far from its being the natural impetuosity that causes rash
natures to rush into danger, Lord Byron's courage was quite as much the
result of reflection as of impulse. _His was courage of the noblest
kind_, a quality mixed up with other fine moral faculties, shining with
light of its own, yet all combining to lend mutual lustre. This is,
indeed, what ought to be called _fortitude_ and _self-control_, and
this is what we remark in Lord Byron. But, in order not to sin against
the scientific classification used by moralists, and which requires
subdivisions, we will isolate it for a moment, and examine it under the
name of courage, presence of mind, and coolness.

Unaffected in his bravery, as in all things else, Lord Byron did not
seek dangers, but when they presented themselves to him he met them with
lofty intrepidity.

To give some examples--and the difficulty is to choose--let us consider
him under different circumstances that occurred during his first travels
in the East.

While at Malta he was on the point of fighting a duel, through some
misunderstanding with an officer on General Oakes's staff. The meeting
had been fixed for an early hour, but Lord Byron slept so soundly that
his companion was obliged to awaken him. On arriving at the spot, which
was near the shore, his adversary was not yet there; and Lord Byron,
although his luggage had already been taken on board the brig that was
to convey him to Albania, wished to give him the chance at least of
another hour. During all this long interval he amused himself very
quietly walking about the beach perfectly unconcerned.

At last an officer, sent by his antagonist, arrived on the ground,
bringing not only an explanation of how the delay had arisen, but
likewise all the excuses and satisfaction Lord Byron could desire for
the supposed offense. Thus the duel did not take place.

The gentleman who was to be his second could not sufficiently praise the
coolness and firm courage shown by Lord Byron throughout this affair.

Some time later Lord Byron was on the mountains of Epirus with his
friend and fellow-traveller, Mr. Hobhouse (now Lord Broughton). These
mountains being then infested with banditti, they were accompanied by a
numerous escort, and even by one of the secretaries, as well as several
retainers belonging to the famous Ali Pasha of Joannina, whom they had
just been visiting. One evening, seeing a storm impending, Mr. Hobhouse
hastened on in front with part of their suite, in order sooner to reach
a neighboring hamlet, and get shelter prepared. Lord Byron followed with
the remainder of the escort. Before he could arrive, however, the storm
burst, and soon became terrific. Mr. Hobhouse, who had long been safe
under cover in the village, could see nothing of his friend.

"It was seven in the evening," says Mr. Hobhouse, in his account of it,
"and the fury of the storm had become quite alarming. Never before or
since have I witnessed one so terrible. The roof of the hovel in which
we had taken shelter trembled beneath violent gusts of rain and wind,
and the thunder kept roaring without intermission, for the echo from one
mountain crest had not ceased ere another frightful crash broke above
our heads. The plain, and distant hills, visible through the chinks of
the hut, seemed on fire. In short, the tempest was terrific; quite
worthy of the Jupiter of ancient Greece. The peasants, no less religious
than their ancestors, confessed their fears; the women were crying
around, and the men, at every new flash of lightning, invoked the name
of God, making the sign of the cross."

Meanwhile hours passed, midnight drew near, the storm was far from
abating, and Lord Byron had not appeared. Mr. Hobhouse, in great alarm,
ordered fires to be lighted on the heights, and guns to be let off in
all directions. At length, toward one in the morning, a man, all pale
and panic-stricken, soaked through to the skin, suddenly entered the
cabin, making loud cries, exclamations, and gestures of despair. He
belonged to the escort, and speedily related the danger to which they
had been exposed, and in which Lord Byron and his followers still were,
and urging the necessity of sending off at once horses, guides, and men
with torches, to extricate them from it.

It appears that at the commencement of the storm, when only three miles
from the village, Lord Byron, through the fault of his escort, lost the
right path. After wandering about as chance directed, in complete
ignorance of their whereabouts, and on the brink of precipices, they had
stopped at last near a Turkish cemetery and close to a torrent, which
they had been enabled to distinguish through the flashes of lightning.
Lord Byron was exposed to _all the fury of the storm for nine
consecutive hours_; his guides, instead of lending him any assistance,
only increased the general confusion, running about on all sides,
because they had been menaced with death by the dragoman George, who, in
a paroxysm of rage and fear, had fired off his pistols without warning
any body, and Lord Byron's English servants, fancying they were attacked
by robbers, set up loud cries.

It was three in the morning before the party could reach the shelter
where their friends awaited them. During these nine consecutive hours of
danger, Lord Byron never once lost his self-possession or serenity, or
even that pleasant vein of humor which made him always see the
ridiculous side of things.

About the same period Lord Byron and his companion, after having visited
Eleusis, were obliged, by stress of weather, to stop some days at
Keratea. Having heard of a wonderful cavern situated on Mount Parné,
they determined to visit it. On arriving at the entrance they lighted
torches of resinous wood, and, preceded by a guide, penetrated through a
small aperture, dragging themselves along the ground until they reached
a sort of subterranean hall, ornamented with arcades and high cupolas of
crystal, supported by columns of shining marcasite; the hall itself
opened out into large horizontal chambers, or else conducted to dark,
deep yawning abysses toward the centre of the mountain. After having
strayed from one grotto to another, the travellers arrived near a
fountain of crystal water. There they stopped, till, seeing their
torches wane low, they thought of retracing their steps. But, after
walking for some minutes in the labyrinth, they again found themselves
beside the mysterious fountain. Then they grew alarmed, for their guide
acknowledged with _terror that he had forgotten the itinerary of the
cavern, and no longer knew where to find the outlet_.

While they were wandering thus from one grotto to another, in a sort of
despair, and occasionally dragging themselves along to get through
narrow openings, their last torch was consumed. They remained a long
time in total darkness, not knowing what to do, when, as if by miracle,
a feeble ray of light made itself visible, and, directing their steps
toward it, they ended by reaching the mouth of the cavern. Certainly, it
would be difficult to meet with a more alarming situation. Mr. Hobhouse,
while confessing that for some moments it had been impossible to look
forward to any thing else but the chance of a horrible death, declared
that, not only Lord Byron's presence of mind and coolness were admirable
in the teeth of such a prospect, but also that his playful humor never
forsook him, and helped to keep up their spirits during minutes that
must have seemed years to all of them.

It was during this same journey that, finding the mountains which
separated them from the Morea were infested with banditti, they embarked
on board a vessel of war, called the "Turk." A tempest broke out, and
its violence, joined to the ignorance betrayed by the captain and
sailors, put the vessel in great danger. Shipwreck seemed inevitable,
and close at hand. Nothing was heard on board but cries, lamentations,
and prayers. Lord Byron alone remained calm, doing every thing in his
power to console and encourage the rest; and then at length, when he saw
that his efforts were useless, he wrapped himself up in his Albanian
cloak, and lay down on the deck, _going tranquilly to sleep until fate
should decide his destiny_.

After having given his mother a simple description of this tempest, he
adds:--"I have learned to philosophize during my travels, and, if I had
not, what use is there in complaining?"

And Moore says:--

"I have heard the poet's fellow-traveller describe this remarkable
instance of his coolness and courage even still more strikingly than it
is here stated by himself. Finding that he was unable to be of any
service in the exertions which their very serious danger called for,
after a laugh or two at the panic of his valet, he not only wrapped
himself up and lay down, in the manner here mentioned, but, when their
difficulties were surmounted, was found fast asleep."

These adventures happened to him when he was only twenty-one years of
age, and within the course of a few weeks. But all his life he gave the
same proofs of courage when circumstances called for them.

And since we have chosen these examples from his first journey into
Greece, at the beginning of his career, let us select some others from
the last, which took place near its close.

Mr. H. Brown having been asked by Lord Harrington what his impressions
were of Lord Byron, replied, "Lord Byron was extremely calm in presence
of danger. Here are two instances that I witnessed myself:--A Greek,
named Costantino Zalichi, to whom his lordship had given his passage,
once took up one of Manton's pistols, belonging to Lord Byron. It went
off by accident, and the ball passed quite close to Lord Byron's temple.
Without the least emotion Lord Byron began explaining to the Greek how
such accidents could be avoided.

"On another occasion, near the Roman coast, we observed a
suspicious-looking little vessel, armed, and apparently full of people.
It was toward the end of the last war with Spain, during which many acts
of piracy had been committed in the Mediterranean. And our captain was
much alarmed. We were followed all day by this vessel, and toward
evening, it seemed so ready for action that we no longer doubted being
attacked. However a breeze arose, and darkness came on soon after,
whereupon we lost sight of it. Lord Byron, while the danger lasted,
remained perfectly calm, giving his orders with the greatest tranquility
and reflection."[77]

And Lord Harrington, then Colonel Stanhope, says himself, in his Essay
on Lord Byron:--

"Lord Byron was the _beau idéal_ of chivalry. It might have lowered him
in the esteem of wise men, if he had not given such extraordinary proofs
of the noblest courage.

"Even at moments of the greatest danger, Lord Byron _contemplated death
with philosophical calm_. For instance, at the moment of returning from
the alarming attack which had surprised him in my room (at Missolonghi),
he immediately asked, with the most perfect self-possession, whether his
life were in danger, as, in that case, he required the doctor to tell
him so, _for he was not afraid of death_.

"Shortly after that frightful convulsion, when, weakened by loss of
blood, he was lying on his bed of suffering, with his nervous system
completely shaken, a band of mutinous Suliotes, in their splendid dirty
costumes, burst suddenly into his room, brandishing their weapons, and
loudly demanding their savage rights. Lord Byron, as if electrified by
the unexpected act, appeared to have recovered his health, and, the more
the Suliotes cried out and threatened, the more _his cool courage
triumphed_. _The scene was really sublime._"[78]

And Count Gamba, in his interesting narrative of "Lord Byron's Last
Journey into Greece," adds:--

"It is impossible to do justice to the coolness and magnanimity Lord
Byron showed on all great occasions. Under ordinary circumstances he was
irritable, but the sight of danger calmed him instantly, restoring the
free exercise of all the faculties of his noble nature. A man _more
indomitable, or firmer in the hour of danger than Lord Byron was, never
existed_."[79]

But enough of these proofs, which, perhaps, say nothing new to the
reader. Nevertheless, as they may call up again the pleasure ever
afforded by the spectacle of great moral beauty, let us further add--the
better to set forth the nature of Lord Byron's wonderful intrepidity in
face of danger--that his energetic soul loved to contemplate those
sublime things in Nature that are usually endured with terror. Tempests,
the thunder's roll, the lightning's flash--any mysterious display of
Nature's forces, so that its violence occasioned neither misfortune nor
suffering to sensitive beings--aroused in him the keenest sense of
enjoyment, which in turn ministered to his genius, incapable of finding
complete satisfaction in the beautiful, and ever yearning passionately
after the sublime.

As to his fortitude, that self-control which makes one bear affliction
with external serenity, Lord Byron possessed it in as high a degree as
he did firmness with regard to material obstacles and dangers.

Endowed with exquisite sensibility, the great poet assuredly went
through cruel trials during his stormy career; but instead of
ostentatiously exhibiting his sorrows, Lord Byron on many occasions
rather exaggerated the delicacy that led him to veil them under an
appearance of stoicism. Only very rarely did his poetry echo back the
sufferings endured within.

Once, nevertheless, he wished, and rightly, to perpetuate in his verses
the memory of the indignities heaped upon him by a guilty world. He
wished that the great struggle he had been obliged to sustain against
his destiny should not be forgotten; he wished to show how much his
heart had been torn, his hopes sapped, his name blighted by the deepest
injuries, the meanest perfidy. He had seen, he said, of what beings
with a human semblance were capable, from the frightful roar of foaming
calumny to the low whisper of vile reptiles, adroitly distilling poison;
double-visaged Januses, who supply the place of words by the language of
the eyes, who lie without saying a syllable, and, by dint of a shrug or
an affected sigh, impose on fools their unspoken calumnies. Yes, he had
to undergo all that, and for once he wished it to be known.

He owed it to himself to make this complaint; his total silence would
have been wrong; it was necessary once for all to defend his _character_
and reputation, and when he ran the risk of losing the esteem of the
world his sensibility could not show itself in too lively a manner.

But if he thus raised his voice to immortalize these indignities, it was
not because he recoiled from suffering.

"Let him come forward," exclaimed he, "whoever has seen me bow the head,
or has remarked my courage wane with suffering."

Already, at the time of the unexampled persecution raised against him in
London, when the separation from his wife took place, he wrote to
Murray:--

     "February 20th, 1816.

"You need not be in any apprehension or grief on my account. Were I
to be beaten down by the world and its inheritors, I should have
succumbed to many things years ago. You must not mistake my not
bullying for dejection; nor imagine that because I feel, I am to
faint."[80]

In all he wrote at this fatal period of his life, one perceives the wide
gaping wound, which is however endured with the strength of a Titan, who
at twenty-nine is to become quite a philosopher, good, gentle, almost
resigned.

   "The camel labors with the heaviest load,
    And the wolf dies in silence,--not bestow'd
    In vain should such example be; if they,
    Things of ignoble or of savage mood,
    Endure and shrink not, we of nobler clay
  May temper it to bear,--it is but for a day."[81]

Like all those who feel deeply the joys and griefs of their fellow-men,
Lord Byron had received from nature all that could render him capable
of moderating the external expression of his sensibility, when injustice
was personal to himself. Moreover, circumstances, alas! had only too
much favored the development of this noble faculty in him. For, very
early, he had received severe lessons from those terrible masters who
nurture great souls to self-control; from reverses, vanished illusions,
perils, wrongs. The storms however it was his destiny to encounter,
though violent, not only did not cause him to be shipwrecked, but even
helped to encircle his brow with the martyr's halo.

But, we may be asked, whether this great control which Lord Byron
exercised over himself, with regard to obstacles, dangers, and human
injustice, existed equally with regard to his own passions. To those who
should doubt it, and who, forgetting that Lord Byron only lived the age
of passions, without taking into consideration all the circumstances
that rendered difficult to him what is easier for others, should pretend
that Lord Byron gave way to his passions oftener than he warred against
them, to such we would say: "What was he doing, then, when, at barely
twenty-two years of age, he adopted an anchorite's _régime_, so as to
render his soul more _independent_ of _matter_? When he shut himself up
at home, with the self-imposed task of writing whole poems before he
came out, in order to _overcome his thoughts, and maintain them in a
line contrary to that which his passions demanded_? When, grieved,
calumniated, outraged, he _preferred exile rather than yield to just
resentment_, and in order to avoid the danger of finding himself in
situations where he _might not have preserved his self-control_?"

Have they forgotten that at Venice he subjected himself to the
ungrateful task of learning languages _more than difficult_, and of
working at other _dry studies_, in order to _fix his thoughts on them,
and divert them from resentment and anger_?

He writes to Murray: "I find the Armenian language, which is double
(_the literary and the vulgar tongue_), difficult, but not insuperably
so (at least I hope not). I shall continue. I have found it necessary to
chain my mind down to very severe studies, and as this is the most
difficult I can find here, it will be a _net for the serpent_."

And have we not seen him overcome himself, just as he was setting out
to go where his heart called him (for, notwithstanding all his efforts,
it had ceased to be independent), and thus defer a journey he sighed
for, only to _exercise acts of generosity, and liberate one of his
gondoliers from the Austrian conscription_?

If a true biography could be written of Lord Byron we should see a
constant struggle going on in this young man against his passions. And
can more be asked of men than to fight against them? Victory is the
proof and the reward of combat. If sometimes, as with every man, victory
failed him, oftener still he did achieve it; and it is certain that his
great desire always was to free himself from the tyranny of his
passions.

His last triumphs were not only great--they were sublime.

The sadness that overwhelmed him during the latter part of his stay at
Genoa is known. The struggles he had to maintain against his own heart
may be conceived.

It is also known how, being driven back into port by a storm, he
resolved on visiting the palace of Albaro; and it may well be imagined
that the hours passed in this dwelling, then silent and deserted, must
have seemed like those that count as years of anguish in the life of
great and feeling souls, among whom visions of the future float before
the over-excited mind. It can not be doubted that he would then
willingly have given up his fatal idea of leaving Italy; indeed he
declared so to Mr. Barry, who was with him; but the sentiment of his own
dignity and of his promise given triumphed over his feelings.

The night which followed this gloomy day again saw Lord Byron struggling
against stormy waves, and not only determined on pursuing his voyage,
but also on appearing calm and serene to his fellow-travellers.

Could peace, however, have dwelt within his soul? To show it outwardly
must he not have struggled?

"I often saw Lord Byron during his last voyage from Genoa to Greece,"
says Mr. H. Browne, in a letter written to Colonel Stanhope; "I often
saw him in the midst of the greatest gayety suddenly become pensive,
_and his eyes fill with tears_, doubtless from some painful remembrance.
On these occasions he generally got up and retired to the solitude of
his cabin."

And Colonel Stanhope, afterward Lord Harrington, who only knew Lord
Byron later at Missolonghi, also says: "I have often observed Lord Byron
in the middle of some gay animated conversation, stop, meditate, and his
eyes to fill with tears."

And all that he did in that fatal Greece, was it not a perpetual triumph
over himself, his tastes, his desires, the wants of his nature and his
heart?

He saw nothing in Greece, he wrote to Mme. G----, that did not make him
wish to return to Italy, and yet he remained in Greece. He would have
preferred waiting in the Ionian Islands, and yet he set out for that
fatal Missolonghi! Liberal by principle, and aristocratic by birth,
taste, and habits, he was condemned to continual intercourse with
vulgar, turbulent, barbarous men, to come into contact with things
repugnant to his nature and his tastes, and to struggle against a
thousand difficulties--a thousand torments, moral and physical; he felt,
and knew, that even life would fail him if he did not leave Missolonghi,
yet he remained. Every thing, in short, throughout this last stage of
the noble pilgrim, proclaims his empire over self. His triumph was
always beautiful, and often sublime, but, alas! he paid for it with his
life.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 77: Parry, 206.]

[Footnote 78: Essay by Colonel Stanhope.]

[Footnote 79: "Last Journey to Greece," p. 174.]

[Footnote 80: Moore, "Letters," p. 241.]

[Footnote 81: "Childe Harold."]



CHAPTER XIII.

THE MODESTY OF LORD BYRON.


Among the qualities that belong to his genius, the one which formed its
chief ornament has been too much forgotten.

Modesty constituted a beautiful quality of his soul. If it has not been
formally denied him; if, even among those whom we term his biographers,
some have conceded modesty as pertaining to Lord Byron's genius, they
have done so timidly; and have at the same time indirectly denied it by
accusing him of pride.

Was Lord Byron proud as a poet and as a man? We shall have occasion to
answer this question in another chapter. Here we shall only examine his
claims to modesty; and we say, without hesitation, that it was as great
in him as it has ever been in others. It shines in every line of his
poetry and his prose, at every age and in all the circumstances of his
life.

"There is no real modesty" (says a great moralist of the present day)
"without diffidence of self, inspired by a deep sense of the beautiful
and by the fear of not being able to reach the perfection we conceive."

As a poet, Lord Byron always undervalued or despised himself. As a man,
he did so still more; he exaggerated this quality so far as to convert
it into a fault, for he calumniated himself.

We have seen how unambitious Lord Byron was as a child, and with what
facility he allowed his comrades to surpass him in intellectual
exercises, reserving for his sole ambition the wish of excelling them in
boyish games and in bodily exercises.

As a youth he did nothing but censure his own conduct, which, was not at
all different from that which his comrades thought allowable in
themselves. We have seen with what modest feelings he published his
first poems; with what docility he accepted criticisms, and yielded to
the advice of friends whom he esteemed.

When cruel criticism showed him neither mercy nor justice,
notwithstanding his youthful age, he lost, it is true, serenity and
moderation of spirit, but never once put aside his modesty.

Instigated by a passion for truth, he exclaims in his first satire,--

  "Truth! rouse some genuine bard, and guide his hand
  To drive this pestilence from out the land."

Certainly, he does not spare censure in this passionate satire; but,
while inflicting it, he questions whether he should be the one to apply
the lash:--

  "E'en I, least thinking of a thoughtless throng,
 Just skill'd to know the right and choose the wrong."

It was during the time of his first travels that Lord Byron wrote his
first _chef-d'oeuvre_,[82] but so little was he aware of possessing
great faculties that, while suffering from the exactions and torments
they created within him, he only asked in return some amusement, an
occupation for long hours of solitude.

Having begun "Childe Harold" as a memorial of his travelling
impressions, he communicated it, on his return to England, to the friend
who had been his companion throughout. But, instead of meeting with
indulgence and encouragement, this friend only blamed the poem, and
called it an extravagant conception.

He was, nevertheless, a competent judge and a poet himself. Why, then,
such severity? Did he wish to sacrifice the poet to the man, fearing for
his friend lest the allusions therein made should lend further weapons
to the malice of his enemies? Did he dread for himself, and for those
among their comrades who, two years before, had donned the preacher's
garb at Newstead Abbey, lest the voice of public opinion should mix them
up in the pretended disorders of which the Abbey had been the theatre,
and which the poem either exaggerated or invented? Whatsoever his
motive, this friend was not certainly then a John of Bologna for Lord
Byron; but the modesty of the poet surpassed the severity of his judge;
for, accepting the blame as if it were merited, he restored the poem to
its portfolio with such humility that when Mr. Dallas afterward heard of
it almost by chance, and, fired with enthusiasm on reading it,
pronounced this extravagant thing to be a sublime _chef-d'oeuvre_, he
had the greatest difficulty in persuading Lord Byron to make it public.

Gifford's criticisms were always received by Lord Byron not only with
docility and modesty but even with gratitude.

He never lost an occasion of blaming himself as a poet and of
depreciating his genius. Living only for affection, more than once when
he feared that the war going on against him might warp feeling, he was
on the point of consigning all he had written to the flames; of
destroying forever every vestige of it; and only the fear of harming his
publisher made him at last withdraw the given order.

He knew only how to praise his rivals, and to assist those requiring
help or encouragement.

Notwithstanding the favor shown him by the public, it always appeared to
him that he would weary it with any new production.

When about to publish the "Bride of Abydos," he said, "I know what I
risk, and with good reason,--losing the small reputation I have gained
by putting the public to this new test; but really I have ceased to
attach any importance to that. I write and publish solely for the sake
of occupation, to draw my thoughts away from reality, and take refuge in
imagination, however dreadful."

In 1814, when Murray (who was thinking of establishing a periodical for
bringing out the works of living authors) consulted Lord Byron on the
subject, he, whose splendid fame had already thrown all his
contemporaries into the shade, answered simply, that supported by such
poets as Scott, Wordsworth, Southey, and many others, the undertaking
would of course succeed; and that for his part, he would unite with
Hobhouse and Moore so as to furnish occasionally--a failure! and at the
same time he made use of the opportunity to praise Campbell and
Canning.

His memorandum-book is one perpetual record of his humility, even at a
time when the public, of all classes and sexes, had made him their idol.

After having expressed in his memoranda for 1813 his sublime aspirations
after glory--that is to say, the happiness he should experience in being
_not a ruler, but a guide and benefactor of humanity, a Washington, a
Franklin, a Penn_; "but no," added he; "no, I shall never be any thing:
or rather, I shall always be nothing. The most I can hope is that some
one may say of me, '_He might_, _perhaps_, if he would.'"

The low estimation in which he held his poetical genius, to which he
preferred action, amounted almost to a fault; for he forgot that grand
and beautiful truths, couched in burning words and lighted up by genius,
are also actions. He really seemed to have difficulty in forgiving
himself for writing at all. Even at the outset of his literary career he
was indignant with his publisher for having taken steps with Gifford
which looked like asking for praise.

"It is bad enough to be a scribbler," said he, "without having recourse
to such subterfuges for extorting praise or warding off criticism."

"I have never contemplated the prospect," wrote he, in 1819, "of
occupying a permanent place in the literature of my country. Those who
know me best are aware of that; and they also know that I have been
considerably astonished at even the transient success of my works, never
having flattered any one person or party, and having expressed opinions
which are not those of readers in general. If I could have guessed the
high degree of attention that has been awarded to them, I should
certainly have made all possible efforts to merit it. But I have lived
abroad, in distant countries, or else in the midst of worldly
dissipation in England: circumstances by no means favorable to study and
reflection. So that almost all I have written is but passion; for in me
(if it is not Irishism to say so) indifference itself was a _sort of
passion_, the result of experience and not the philosophy of nature."

The same contempt, manifested in a thousand ways throughout his life,
was again expressed by Lord Byron, a few days before his death, to Lord
Harrington, on being told by the latter that, notwithstanding the war
he had waged against English prejudices and national susceptibility, he
had nevertheless been the pride and even the idol of his country.

"Oh!" exclaimed he, "it would be a stupid race that should adore such an
idol. It is true, they laid aside their superstition, as to my divinity,
after 'Cain.'"

We find in his memoranda, with regard to a comparison made between
himself and Napoleon, these significant words: "I, an _insect_, compared
to that creature!"[83]

Sometimes he ascribes his poetical success to accidental causes, or else
to some merit not personal to himself but transmitted by inheritance;
that is, to his rank.

The generality of authors, especially poets, love to read their
productions over and over again, just as a fine woman likes to admire
herself in the glass. He, on the contrary, avoided this reflection of
his genius, which seemed to displease him.

"Here are two wretched proof-sheets from the printer. I have looked over
one; but, on my soul, I can not read that 'Giaour' again--at least not
now and at this hour (midnight); yet there is no moonlight."

He never read his compositions to any one. On inviting Moore to Newstead
Abbey, soon after having made his acquaintance, he said, "I can promise
you Balnea Vina, and, if you like shooting, a manor of four thousand
acres, fire, books, full liberty. H----, I fear, will pester you with
verses, but, for my part, I can conclude with Martial, '_nil recitabo
tibi_;' and certainly this last promise ought not to be the least
tempting for you."

Nevertheless, this was a great moment for a young author, as "Childe
Harold" was then going through the press. He never would speak of his
works; and when any translation of them was mentioned to him, they were
sure to cause annoyance to him. Several times in Italy he paid large
sums to prevent his works from being translated, at the same time not to
injure the translator; but while refusing these homages for himself he
desired them for others, and with that view praised and assisted them.
We have already seen all he did to magnify Moore, as well as others,
both friends and rivals. The Gospel says, "Do unto others as ye would
they should do unto you;" but for him the precept should rather have
been reversed thus, "Do for yourself what you would do for others."

In the midst of his matrimonial sufferings, at the most cruel moments of
his existence, he still found time to write and warmly recommend to his
publisher works written by Hunt and Coleridge, who afterward rewarded
all his kindness with the most dire ingratitude. And after praising them
greatly, he adds, speaking of one of his own works, "And now let us come
to the last, my own, of which I am ashamed to speak after the others.
Publish it or not, as you like; I don't care a straw about it. If it
seems to you that it merits a place in the fourth volume, put it there,
or anywhere else; and if not, throw it into the fire." This poem, so
despised, was the "Siege of Corinth!"

About the same time, on learning that Jeffrey had lauded "Hebrew
Melodies"--poems so much above all praise that one might believe them
(said a great mind lately)[84] thought by Isaiah and written by
Shakspeare--Lord Byron considered Jeffrey very kind to have been so
indulgent.

With what simplicity or contempt does he always introduce his
_chefs-d'oeuvre_, either by dedication to his friends, or to his
publisher.

"I have put in press a devil of a story or tale, called the 'Corsair.'
It is of a pirate island, peopled with my own creatures, and you may
easily imagine that they will do a host of wicked things, in the course
of three cantos."

And this _devil of a story or tale_ had numberless editions. Several
thousand copies were sold in one day. We have already seen the modest
terms in which he announced to his friend Moore the termination of his
poem "Manfred." This is how he mentioned it to his publisher:--

"I forgot to mention to you that a kind of poem in dialogue (in blank
verse), or drama, from which the translation is an extract, begun last
summer in Switzerland, is finished; it is in three acts, but of a very
wild, metaphysical, and inexplicable kind.

BYRON."

He describes to Murray the causes, and adds:--

"You may perceive by this outline that I have no great opinion of
this piece of fantasy; but I have at least rendered it _quite
impossible_ for the stage, for which my intercourse with Drury Lane
has given me the greatest contempt.

"I have not even copied it off, and feel too lazy at present to
attempt the whole; but when I have, I will send it to you, and you
may either throw it into the fire or not.

"I have really and truly no notion whether it is good or bad, and
as this was not the case with the principal of my former
publications, I am, therefore, inclined to rank it very humbly. You
will submit it to Mr. Gifford, and to whomsoever you please
besides. With regard to the question of copyright (if it ever comes
to publication), I do not know whether you would think _three
hundred_ guineas an overestimate, if you do you may diminish it. I
do not think it worth more.

BYRON.[85]

     "Venice, March 9, 1817."

Lord Byron never protested against or complained of any criticism as to
the talent displayed in his works. His protests (much too rare, alas!)
never had any other object than to repel some abominable calumny. When
they criticised without good faith and without measure his beautiful
dramas, saying they were not adapted for the stage, what did he reply?

"It appears that I do not possess dramatic genius."

His observations on that wicked and unmerited article in "Blackwood's
Magazine" for 1819, are quite a _chef-d'oeuvre_ of reasoning and
modesty. There again, if he defends the man a little, he condemns the
poet.

His modesty was such that he almost went so far as to see, in the enmity
stirred up against him during his latter years, a symptom of the decay
of his talent. He really seemed to attach value to his genius only when
it could be enlisted in the service of his heart.

In 1821, being at Ravenna, and writing his memoranda, he recalls that
one day in London (1814), just as he was stepping into a carriage with
Moore (whom he calls with all his heart the poet _par excellence_), he
received a Java Gazette, sent by Murray, and that on looking over it, he
found a discussion on his merits and those of Moore. And, after some
modest amusing sentences, he goes on to say:--

"It was a great fame to be named with Moore; greater to be compared with
him; greatest _pleasure_, at least, to be _with_ him; and, surely, an
odd coincidence, that we should be dining together while they were
quarrelling about us beyond the equinoctial line. Well, the same
evening, I met Lawrence the painter, and heard one of Lord Grey's
daughters (a fine, tall, spirited-looking girl, with much of the
patrician thorough-bred look of her father, which I dote upon) play on
the harp, so modestly and ingenuously, that she looked music. Well, I
would rather have had my talk with Lawrence (who talked delightfully)
and heard the girl, than have had all the fame of Moore and me put
together. The only pleasure of fame is that it paves the way to
pleasure; and the more intellectual our pleasure, the better for the
pleasure and for us too."[86]

This modesty sometimes even carried him so far as to lead him into most
extraordinary appreciation of things. For instance, he almost thought it
blamable to have one's own bust done in marble, unless it were for the
sake of a friend. Apropos of a young American who came to see him at
Ravenna, and who told him he was commissioned by Thorwaldsen to have a
copy of his bust made and sent to America, Lord Byron wrote in his
journal:--

"_I_ would not pay the price of a Thorwaldsen bust for any human head
and shoulders, except Napoleon's, or my children's or some _absurd
womankind's_, as Monkbarns calls them, or my sister's. If asked why,
then, I sat for my own? Answer, that it was at the particular request of
J.C. Hobhouse, Esq., and for no one else. A picture is a different
matter; every body sits for their picture; but a bust looks like putting
up _pretensions to permanency_, and smacks something of a _hankering for
public fame rather than private remembrance_."

Let us add to all these proofs of Lord Byron's modesty, that his great
experience of men and things, the doubts inseparable from deep learning,
and his indulgence for human weakness, rendered his reason most tolerant
in its exigencies, and that he never endeavored to impose his opinions
on others. But while remaining essentially a modest genius, Lord Byron
did not, however, ignore his own value. If he had doubted himself, if he
had wanted a just measure of confidence in his genius, could he have
found in his soul the energy necessary for accomplishing in a few years
such a marvellous literary career? His modesty did not proceed from
conscious inferiority with regard to others.

Could the intellect that caused him to appreciate others so well fail to
make him feel his own great superiority? But that _relative superiority_
which he felt in himself left him _perfectly modest_, or he knew it was
subject to other relations that showed it to him in extreme littleness:
that is to say, the relation of the finite with the aspiration toward
the infinite. It was the appreciation of the immense distance existing
between what we know and what we ignore, between what we are and what we
would be; the consciousness, in fact, of the limits imposed by God on
man, and which neither study nor excellence of faculties can ever enable
us to pass beyond.

Those rare beings, whose greatness of soul equals their penetration of
mind, can not themselves feel the fascination they exercise over others;
and while performing miracles of genius, devotion, and heroism, remain
admirably simple, natural, and modest, believing that they do not
outstep the humblest limits.

Such was Lord Byron. We may then sum up by saying that he was not only a
modest genius, but also that, instead of being too proud of his genius,
he may rather be accused of having too little appreciated this great
gift, as well as many others bestowed by Heaven.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 82: The first two cantos of "Childe Harold."]

[Footnote 83: Moore, vol. i. p. 512.]

[Footnote 84: The present Dean of Westminster.]

[Footnote 85: Moore, Letter 265.]

[Footnote 86: Moore, vol. v. p. 76.]



CHAPTER XIV.

THE VIRTUES OF HIS SOUL.

HIS GENEROSITY A VIRTUE.


All that we have hitherto said, proves that Lord Byron's generosity has
never been disputed; but the generosity usually attributed to him was an
innate quality, the impulse of a good heart, naturally inclined to
bestow benefits.

Certainly, to distribute among the poor our superfluities, and very
often more than that, to borrow rather than suffer the unfortunate to
wait for assistance; to subtract from our pleasures, and even to bear
privations, the better to help all the afflicted, without distinction of
opinion, age, or sex; to measure the kindness done rather by their
wants, than our own resources, and to do all that, without ostentation,
habitually, in secret and unknown, with God and our conscience for sole
witnesses: certainly, all that is full of moral beauty; and we know on
what a large scale Lord Byron practiced it all his life. We have seen
him in childhood, of which we should vainly seek one more amiable and
more admirable, wish to take upon himself the punishments destined for
his comrades; rescue their hall from the senseless fury of his
school-fellows, by showing them the dear names of their parents written
on the walls; desire to expose himself to death, to save a comrade, who
had two parents to regret his loss, while he himself had only one; and
send his good nurse the first watch of which he became possessed,--and
we know what a treasure the first watch is to a child. We have followed
him later, a youth at college, at the university, and at Newstead, in
his devoted passionate affections; a young man on his travels, and in
the midst of the great world, and we have seen his compassion for every
kind of misfortune, and his mode of assuaging them.

When we perceive, despite the ardor and mobility of his heart, where so
many contrary elements combined, contradicted, jarred against, or
succeeded each other, that there never was a single instant in his life
when generosity did not reign supreme over every impulse and
consideration, not only are we compelled to pronounce him generous, but
we are likewise forced to acknowledge that generosity, with a passion
for truth, divided the empire of his soul, and formed the two principal
features of his character. But if his generosity had ended in only
satisfying the fine tendencies of his nature, would it have acquired the
right to be called virtuous? We do not think so. For generosity, to
merit that sacred epithet, must express sentiments rarer and more
elevated, arrive at the highest triumph of moral strength, at the
greatest self-abnegation; it must succeed in overcoming appetite, in
forgetting the most just resentments, in returning good for evil. Then,
alone, can generosity attain that sublime degree which entitles it to be
called a virtue.

Did Lord Byron's generosity reach this great moral height? Let us
examine facts; they alone can answer.

If a young man lends assistance to a young and beautiful girl, without
any interested motive, and with exquisite delicacy, he certainly gives
proof that he possesses delicacy of soul. His merit becomes much greater
if he acts thus solely to save her honor. But if the young girl, full of
gratitude, falls deeply in love with her benefactor; if, unable to hide
the impression produced on her heart by his presence and his generosity,
she makes him understand that her gratitude would have no limits; and if
he, at the age when passion is all awake, though touched by the
sentiments this charming person has conceived, nevertheless shuts his
senses against all temptations, does not the greatness of his soul then
become admirable? Well, this was fully realized in Lord Byron. And not
only in a single instance; but often during his life. For, if
temptations were numerous, so were victories also. We will only quote
one example, with sufficient details to make it justly appreciated.

Miss S----, who had been bred in ease, but who, with her family, had
been reduced, through a series of misfortunes, to absolute want, found
herself exposed to the greatest evil that can menace a portionless girl.
Her mother, whose temper had been soured by reverses which had likewise
quite overthrown her sense of morality, had become one of those women
who consider poverty the worst of all evils. Unscrupulous as to the
means of putting an end to it, she did not think it necessary to fortify
her daughter's mind by good counsels. Happily the young girl had lofty
sentiments and natural dignity. Secure from vulgar seduction, and guided
by wholesome steady principles, she desired to depend only on her
talents for gaining a livelihood, and for assisting her parents. Having
written a small volume of poetry, she had already got subscriptions from
persons of high position; but her great desire was to obtain Lord
Byron's name.

An impulse, often recurring, induced her to apply to the young nobleman,
who was then still unmarried. She only knew him through his works, and
by report, which already associated with admiration for his talents a
thousand calumnies concerning his moral character. The skeptical stanzas
of "Childe Harold" still troubled orthodox repose; the lines on the
tears of the Princess Royal irritated the Tories, and his last success
with the "Corsair," added to those he had already gained, further
embittered his jealous rivals. Thus calumnies made up from these
different elements besieged the poet's house, so as to prevent truth
concerning the man from being known. Even in her family, Miss S----
found hostility against him; for her mother, who called herself a Tory,
only discovered moral delicacy when she wished to show her repugnance
for the Whig party, to which Lord Byron belonged. Miss S----, in a
moment of extreme anguish and pressing embarrassment, resolved upon
applying to the young nobleman. He received her with respect and
consideration, and soon perceived how intimidated she was by the rather
bold step she had taken, and also by the cause that prompted it. Lord
Byron reassured her, by treating her with peculiar kindness, as he
questioned her respecting her circumstances. When she had related the
sad reasons that determined her to ask him for a subscription, Lord
Byron rang for his valet, and ordered a desk to be brought to him. Then,
with that delicacy of heart which formed such a remarkable trait in his
character, he wrote down, while still conversing, a few words, which he
wrapped up in an envelope, and gave to the young lady. She soon after
withdrew, thinking she had obtained the coveted subscription.

When fairly out, all she had seen and heard appeared to her like a
dream. The door which had just closed behind her seemed the gate of
Eden, opening on a land of exile. Nevertheless, she was to see him
again. He had consented to receive her volume. Lord Byron was not for
her the angel with the flaming sword, but rather an angel of gentleness,
mercy, and love. Never had she seen or imagined such a combination of
enchantments; never had she seen so much beauty, nor heard such a voice;
never had such a sweet expressive glance met hers. "No;" she repeated to
herself, "he is not a man, but some celestial being. _Oh, mamma, Lord
Byron is an angel!_" were the first words that escaped her on returning
home. The envelope was opened; and a new surprise awaited them. Together
with his subscription, she found, wrapped up, fifty pounds. That sum
was, indeed, a treasure for her. She fell on her knees with all her
family; even her mother forgot for the moment that it was Whig money to
which they owed their deliverance, and seemed almost to agree with her
eldest daughter, whose enthusiasm communicated itself to the younger
one, who never wearied in questioning her sister about Lord Byron's
perfections, until the night was far spent.

But if the family was thus relieved, if the young girl's honor was safe,
her peace of mind was gone. The contempt and dislike she already felt
for several men who were hovering about her with alarming offers of
protection, were now further increased by the comparison she was enabled
to make between their vulgar and low, basely hypocritical or openly
licentious natures, and that of the noble being she had just seen.

Thenceforth Byron's dazzling image never left her mind. It remained
fixed there during the day, to reappear at night in her dreams and
visions. Such a hold had it gained over her entire being, that Miss
S---- seemed from that hour to live heart and soul only in the hope of
seeing him again.

When she returned to take him her book, she found that she had to add to
all the other charms of this superior being that respect which the
wisdom of mature age seems only able to inspire. For he not only spoke
to her of what might best suit her position, and disapproved some of her
mother's projects, as dangerous for her honor, but even refused to go
and see her as she requested; nor would he give her a letter of
introduction to the Duke of Devonshire, simply, because a handsome girl
could not be introduced by a young man without having her reputation
compromised.

The more Miss S---- saw of Lord Byron, the more intense her passion for
him became. It seemed to her that all to which heart could aspire, all
of happiness that heaven could give here below, must be found in the
love of such a pre-eminent being. Lord Byron soon perceived the danger
of these visits. Miss S---- was beautiful, witty, and charming; Lord
Byron was twenty-six years of age. How many young men, in a similar
case, would not without a scruple have thought that he had only to cull
this flower which seemed voluntarily to tempt him? Lord Byron never
entertained such an idea. Innocent of all intentional seduction, unable
to render her happy, even if he could have returned her sentiments,
instead of being proud of having inspired them, he was distressed at
having done so. He did not wish to prove the source of new misfortunes
to this young girl, already so tried by fate, and without guide or
counsellor. So he resolved to use all his efforts toward restoring her
peace. It would be too long to tell the delicate mode he used to attain
this end, the generous stratagems he employed to heal this poor wounded
heart. He went so far as to try to appear less amiable. For the sake of
destroying any hope, he assumed a cold, stern, troubled air; but on
perceiving that he had only aggravated the evil, his kindliness of heart
could resist no longer, and he hit on other expedients. Finally he
succeeded in making her comprehend the necessity of putting an end to
her visits. She left his house, having ever been treated with respect,
the innocence of their mutual intercourse unstained; and the young man's
sacrifice only permitted one kiss imprinted on the lovely brow of her
whose strong feelings for himself he well knew.

What this victory, gained by his will and his sentiment as a man of
honor over his senses and his heart, cost Lord Byron, has remained his
own secret. But those who will imagine themselves in similar
circumstances at the age of twenty-six, may conceive it. As to Miss
S----, the excess of her emotions made her ill; and she long hung
between life and death. Nevertheless, the strength of youth prevailed,
and ended by giving her back physical health. But was her mind equally
cured? The only light that had brightened her path had gone out, and,
plunged in darkness, how did she pursue her course through life? Was her
heart henceforth closed to every affection? Or did she chain it down to
the fulfillment of some austere duty, that stood her in lieu of
happiness? Or, as it sometimes happens to stricken hearts, did a color,
a sound, a breeze, one feature in a face, call up hallucinations, give
her vain longings, make her build fresh hopes and prepare for her new
deceptions? Proof against all meannesses, but young and most unhappy,
was she always able to resist the promptings of a warm, feeling,
grateful heart? We are ignorant of all this. We only know of her, that
never again in her long career did she meet united in one man that
profusion of gifts, physical, intellectual, and moral, that made Lord
Byron seem like a being above humanity. She tells it to us herself, in
letters written at the distance that separates 1814 from 1864, lately
published in French, preceding and accompanying a narrative composed in
her own language, in which she has related her impressions of Lord
Byron, and given the details of all that took place between her and him.
It was a duty, she says, that remained for her to accomplish here below.

Her narrative and these letters are charming from their simplicity and
naïveté; what she says bears the stamp of plain truth, her admiration
has nothing high-flown in it, and her style is never wanting in the
sobriety which ought always to accompany truth, in order to make it
penetrate into other minds.

We would fain transcribe these pages, that evidently flow from an
elevated and sincerely grateful heart. For they reflect great honor on
Lord Byron, since, in showing the strength of the impression made on the
young girl, they bring out more fully all the self-denial he must have
exercised in regard to her; likewise, because, in her letters, this
lady, after so long an experience of life, never ceases proclaiming Lord
Byron the handsomest, the most generous, and the best of men she ever
knew. But though it is impossible for me to reproduce all she says,
still I feel it necessary to quote some passages from her book. In the
first letter addressed to Mrs. B----, she says:--

"At the moment of the separation between Lord Byron and that woman who
caused the misery of his life, I was not in London; and I was so ill,
that I could neither go to see him nor write as I wished. For he had
shown me so much goodness and generosity that my heart was bursting with
gratitude and sorrow; and never have I had any means of expressing
either to him, except through my little offering.[87] Even now my heart
is breaking at the thought of the injustice with which he has been
treated.

"His friend Moore, to whom he had confided his memoirs, written with his
own hand, had not the courage to fulfill faithfully the desire of his
generous friend. Lady Blessington made a book upon him very profitable
_to herself_, but in which she does not always paint Lord Byron _en
beau_, and where she has related a thousand things that Lord Byron only
meant in joke, and which ought not to have been either written or
published. And when it is remembered that this lady (as I am assured)
never saw or conversed with Lord Byron but out of doors, when she
happened to meet him on horseback, and very rarely (two or three times)
when he consented to dine at her house, in both of these cases, in too
numerous a company for the conversation to be of an intimate nature;
when it is known (as I am further assured) that Lord Byron was so much
on his guard with this lady (aware of her being an authoress), that he
never accepted an invitation to dine with her, unless when his friend
Count Gamba did: truly, we may then conclude that these conversations
were materially impossible, and must have been a clever
mystification,--a composition got up on the biographies of Lord Byron
that had already appeared, on Moore's works, Medwin's, Lord Byron's
correspondence, and, above all, on "Don Juan." She must have made her
choice, without any regard to truth or to Lord Byron's honor; rather
selecting such facts, expressions, and observations as allowed her to
assume the part of a moral, sensitive woman, to sermonize, by way of
gaining favor with the strict set of people in high society, and to be
able to bring out her own opinions on a number of things and persons,
without fear of compromising herself, since she put them into Lord
Byron's mouth.

"Verily these conversations can not be explained in any other way. At
any rate, I confess this production of her ladyship so displeased me
that I threw it aside, unable to read it without ill-humor and disgust.
At that time (1814) he was not married; and I beheld in him a young man
of the rarest beauty. Superior intellect shone in his countenance; his
manners were at once full of simplicity and dignity; his voice was
sweet, rich, and melodious. If Lord Byron had defects (and who has not?)
he also possessed very great virtues, with a dignity and sincerity of
character seldom to be found. The more I have known the world, the more
have I rendered homage to Lord Byron's memory."

Miss S---- wrote thus to a person with whom she was not acquainted; but,
encouraged by the answer she received, she dispatched a second letter,
opening her heart still further, and sending some details of her
intercourse with Lord Byron,--what she had seen and known of him.

"Ah! madam," she exclaims, "if you knew the happiness, the consolation I
feel in writing to you, knowing that all I say of him will be well
received, and that you believe all these details so creditable to him!"

In the same letter, she declares "that when he was exposed to the
attacks of jealousy and a thousand calumnies spread against him, he
always said, 'Do not defend me.'

"But, madam, how can we be silent when we hear such infamous things said
against one so incapable of them? I have always said frankly what I
thought of him, and defended him in such a way as to carry conviction
into the minds of those who heard me. But a combat between one person
and many is not equal, and I have several times been ill with vexation.
Never mind; what I can do, I will."

She announced her intention of communicating the whole history of her
acquaintance with Lord Byron.

"I am about to commence, madam, the account of my acquaintance with our
great and noble poet. I shall write all concerning him in English,
because I can thus make use of his own words, which are graven in my
heart, as well as all the circumstances relating to him. I will give you
these details, madam, in all their simplicity; but their value consists
less in the words he made use of, than in the manner accompanying them,
in the sweetness of his voice, his delicacy and politeness at the moment
when he was granting a favor, rendering me such a great service. Oh!
yes, he was really good and generous; never, in all my long years, have
I seen a man _worthy to be compared to him_."

She wrote again on the 10th of November, 1864:--

"Here, madam, are the details I promised you about my first interview
with Lord Byron. I give them to you in all their simplicity. I make no
attempt at style; but simply tell unvarnished truth; for, with regard to
Lord Byron, I consider truth the most important thing,--his name is the
greatest ornament of the page whereon it is inscribed. I will also send
you, madam, if you desire, my second and third interview with this
noble, admirable man, who was so _misjudged_. To write this history is a
great happiness for me; since I know that, in so doing, I render him
that justice so often denied him by the envious and the wicked.

"His conduct toward me was always so beautiful and noble, that I would
fain make it known to the whole world. I think they are beginning to
render him the justice that is his due; everywhere now he is
quoted--_Byron said this, Byron thought that_--that is what I hear
continually, and many persons who formerly spoke against him, now
testify in his favor.

"They say we ought not to speak evil of the dead; that is very well, but
as this maxim was not observed toward Lord Byron, I also will repeat
what I have heard said of his wife--I mean that the blame was hers--that
her temper was so bad, her manners so harsh and disagreeable, that no
one could endure her society; that she was avaricious, wicked, scolding;
that people hated to wait upon her or live near her. How dared this lady
to marry a man so distinguished, and then to treat him ill and
tyrannically? Truly it is inconceivable. If she were charitable for the
poor (as some one has pretended), she certainly wanted Christian
charity. And I also am wanting in it perhaps; but, when I think of her,
I lose all patience."

On announcing to Mrs. B---- the sequel of her narrative, she says:--

"It contains the history of the two days that passed after my first
interview with him whom I ever found the _noblest and most generous_ of
men, whose memory lives in my heart like a brilliant star amid the dark
and gloomy clouds that have often surrounded me in life; it is the
single ray of sunshine illumining my remembrances of the past."

Miss S---- had not forgotten a look, a word, not even the material
external part of things; and when Mrs. B---- expressed her astonishment
at this lively recollection,--

"All that concerned Lord Byron," said she, "has been retained by my
heart. I recall his words, gestures, looks, now, as if it had all taken
place yesterday. I believe this is owing to his great and beautiful
qualities, such a rare assemblage of which I never saw in any other
human being.

"There was so much truth in all he said, so much simplicity in all he
did, that every thing became indelibly engraven on heart and memory."

After having said that Lord Byron gave her the best counsels, and among
others that of living with her mother ("not knowing," she adds, "to what
it would expose me"), she continues:

"You say, madam, there is no cause for astonishment that I so admire and
respect Lord Byron. In all he said, or advised, there was so much right
reason, goodness and judgment far above his age, that one remained
enthralled."

On sending the conclusion of her history to Mrs. B----, she says:--

"You who knew Lord Byron, will not be surprised that I loved him so
much. But a woman does not pass through such a trial with impunity. On
returning home, I threw myself on my knees and tried to pray, imploring
Heaven for strength and patience. But the sound of his voice, his looks,
pierced to my very heart, my soul felt torn asunder; I could not even
weep. For two years and a half I was no longer myself. A man of high
position offered me his hand. He would have placed me in the first
society; but he wished for love, and I could only offer him friendship."

And, finally, when the reception of the concluding part of her narrative
was acknowledged, she further added:--

"I am very glad that the history of my heart appears to you a precious
document for proving the virtues of one whom I have ever looked upon as
the _first of men, as well for his qualities as for his genius_."

Her last letter ends exactly as did her first:--"_Ah! there never was
but one Lord Byron!_" In her narrative, which is quite as natural in
style as her letters, no detail of her interviews with Lord Byron has
escaped her memory.[88]

We have already seen how, in a moment of despair, the young girl, full
of confidence in Lord Byron, whom she considered as one of the noblest
characters that ever existed, thought she might go and ask his
protection. A fashionable young man, and still unmarried, the reports
current about him might well lead to the belief that his house was not
quite the temple of order. She was surprised on knocking timidly at his
door, on explaining to the _valet-de-chambre_ who opened it, her great
desire to speak to Lord Byron, to see Fletcher listen to her with a
civil, compassionate air, that predisposed her in favor of his master.

He conducted her into a small room, where all Lord Byron's servants were
assembled, and there also she was greatly surprised at the order and
simplicity in the establishment of the young lord.

"I never saw servants more polite and respectful," says she. "Fletcher
and the coachman remained standing, only the old house-keeper kept her
seat."

Miss S---- had dried her tears when admitted into Lord Byron's presence.

"Surprise and admiration," says she, "were the first emotions I
experienced on seeing him. He was only twenty-six years of age, but he
looked still younger. I had been told that he was gloomy, severe, and
often out of temper: _I saw, on the contrary, a most attractive
physiognomy, wearing a look of charming sweetness._"

Miss S---- soon found cause to appreciate Lord Byron's delicacy. She
began by excusing herself for having come to him, saying she had taken
this step in consequence of family misfortunes. She remained standing.
After some moments of silence, during which Lord Byron appeared to
interrogate memory, he said:--

"Pray be seated; I will not hear another word until you are. You appear
to have an independent spirit, and this step must have cost you much."

Having already partly seen the results of this interview, we refrain
from giving further details here, although they are full of interest on
account of the goodness, generosity, and delicacy they reveal.

Miss S---- endeavored to draw his portrait, but the pencil dropped from
her hands:--

"I feel that unless I could portray his look, and repeat his words as
pronounced by him, I could not even do justice to his actions."

She does it, however in a few bold touches which, on account of their
truth, we have quoted in the chapter entitled _Portrait_ of Lord Byron.

After having said that it was impossible to see finer eyes, a more
beautiful expression of face, manners more graceful, hands more
exquisite, or to hear such a tone of voice, she adds:--

"All that formed such an assemblage of seductive qualities, that never
before or since have I remarked any man who could be compared to him.
What particularly struck me was the serene, gentle dignity of his
manner. Lady Blessington says, that she did not find in Lord Byron quite
the dignity she had expected; but surely, then, she does not understand
what dignity is? Indeed she did not understand Lord Byron at all. With
me he was unaffected, amiable, and natural. The hours passed in his
society I look upon as the brightest of my life, and even now I think of
them with an effusion of gratitude and admiration, rather increased than
diminished by time."

Lord Byron saw directly that Miss S---- had a noble nature. It must have
been such; it must even have been, so to say, _incorruptible_, since she
had been able to preserve her purity of soul and simplicity in the
position to which she was, despite her surroundings and with such a
mother. Lord Byron, seeing her so unprotected and ill-advised, took an
interest in her, and instead of profiting by her isolation, resolved to
save her. With virtue superior to his years, he opposed the best
counsels to the more than imprudent projects of a mother who thought
only of repairing her fortune by whatever means. Miss S----, attracted
toward him with her whole heart and soul, begged her young and noble
benefactor to come and see her, if it were only once a month. "I should
be so happy, my lord, if you would sometimes grant me the favor of a
visit, and guide my life," said she to him.

But Lord Byron had perceived the excited state of feeling in which the
young girl was. Besides, he was betrothed, and did not wish to expose
her and himself to the consequences. Honor and prudence alike counselled
a refusal, and he refused.

"My dear child," answered he, "I can not. I will tell you my present
position, and you will understand that I ought not: I am going to
marry."

"At these words," said she, "my heart sunk within me, as if a piece of
lead had fallen on my chest. At the same instant I experienced an acute
pain in it. It seemed as if a chilly steel had pierced me. A horrible,
indescribable sensation shook my whole frame. For some moments I could
not possibly articulate a single word. Lord Byron looked at me with an
expression full of interest, for indeed I must have changed
countenance."

Lord Byron, already aware that his image was graven on this young heart,
and might become dangerous to her, then understood still better the
silent ravages that love must be making there. He pitied her more than
ever, he felt the necessity of refusal and sacrifice, and, from that
moment, all struggle between will and desire ceased.

He also refused, after some hesitation, to recommend her to the Duke of
Devonshire.

"You are young and pretty," said he, "and that is sufficient to place
any man, wishing to serve you, in a false position. You know how the
world understands a young man's friendship and interest for a young
woman. No; my name must not appear in a recommendation to the duke.
Don't think me disobliging, therefore. On the contrary, I wish you to
make an appeal to Devonshire, but without naming me; I have told you my
reasons for refusing to be openly your advocate."

"Another time," adds she, "I ventured to express the wish of being
presented to the future Lady Byron. But he again answered by a refusal.
'Though amiable and unsuspicious,' said he, 'persons about Lady Byron
might put jealous suspicions, devoid of foundation, into her head.'"

Thus equally by what he refused her and what he granted her, he proved
his great generosity, the elevation of his character, his virtuous
abnegation and self-control.

Although Miss S---- was then in an humble and humiliating position, she
had received a fine classical and intellectual education from her uncle,
who was a professor at Cambridge. Her natural wit, the _naïveté_ and
sincerity of her ideas, uncontaminated by worldly knowledge, were
appreciated by Lord Byron. He understood her worth, despite the
difficulties that made virtue of greater merit in her, and
notwithstanding appearances that were against her; and he showed
interest in her conversation during the different interviews she
obtained from him. He talked to her of literature, the news of the day;
and even had the goodness to read with indulgence and approbation the
verses she had composed. One day, among others, she had the happiness of
remaining with him till a late hour, and when his carriage was
announced, to take him to a _soirée_, he had her conducted home in the
same carriage.

"Oh! how delightful that evening was to me," says she. "Lord Byron's
abode at the Albany recalled some collegiate dwelling, so perfectly
quiet was it, though situated at the West End, the noisiest quarter of
the metropolis. His conversation so varied and delightful, the purity of
his English, his refined pronunciation, all offered such a contrast even
with the most distinguished men I had had the good fortune to meet, that
I really learned what happiness was."

These conversations afforded her the opportunity of knowing and admiring
him still more. In conversing on literature, she was able to appreciate
his modesty by the praises he lavished on the talents of others, and by
the slight importance he attached to his own; and also his love of truth
when, _à propos_ of some book of travels she was praising, he told her
that he preferred a simple but true tale of voyages to all the pomp of
lies. In speaking about an adventure in high life that was then making a
great noise in England, she was able to appreciate his high sentiments
of delicacy and honor. When the conversation fell on religion, she had
the happiness of hearing him declare he abhorred atheism and unbelief;
and when his childhood was touched upon, of hearing him say that it had
been pleasant and happy. Finally, when she asked his advice with regard
to her future conduct, he displayed, at twenty-six years of age, the
wisdom that seldom comes before the advent of gray hairs. In short, by
word and by action, he manifested that nobleness of soul which always
unveiled itself to pure open natures, but which closed against
artificial ones; and which makes Miss S---- say at the beginning as well
as at the end of her account:--"There has been but one Byron on earth:
how could I not love him?"

But it is especially on account of the great love she felt for him, on
going over it, reflecting, comparing the depth of feelings she had been
unable to hide from him, with the conduct of this young man of
twenty-six, who drew from duty alone a degree of strength superior to
his age and sex, that she expressed herself thus. She can still see his
looks of tenderness; she can judge what the struggle was, the combat
that was going on in him as soft and stern glances chased each other; at
length she sees honor gain the victory, and remain triumphant.

It is this spectacle of such great moral beauty, still before her eyes,
that can be so well appreciated after the lapse of long years, and which
justifies the words that begin and close her recital by divesting it of
all semblance of exaggeration:--"There has been but one Byron!"

When we have known such beings, admiration and love outlive all else.
And while the causes that may have led to transient emotions in a long
career--an error, a fault--pass away and are forgotten like some
beautiful vision, these glorious remembrances, these more than human
images, tower above, living and radiant, in memory, and even come to
visit us in our dreams, sometimes to reproach us with our useless and
imprudent doubts, ever to sustain us amid the sadnesses of life; and if
the love has been reciprocal, then to console us with the prospect of
another life, in that blessed abode where we shall meet again forever.

After this long narrative, it would be useless and perhaps wearisome for
the reader if we quoted many other similar facts in Lord Byron's life.
They might differ in circumstances, but would all wear the same moral
character.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 87: She had dedicated to him a small collection of poems,
which she sent to Pisa, in 1821, with a letter, _to which she received
no answer_.]

[Footnote 88: "All that," says she, "lives in my heart and soul, as if
these things had taken place a few weeks ago, instead of so many years"
(1864).]



CHAPTER XV.

GENEROSITY A HEROISM.

PARDON, MAGNANIMITY.


It remains for us to examine Lord Byron's generosity under another form.
I mean that which, after having passed by different degrees of moral
beauty, may reach the highest summit of virtue, and become the greatest
triumph of moral strength, because it overcomes the most just
resentments, forgives, returns good for evil, and constitutes the very
heroism of Christian charity.

Did Lord Byron's generosity really attain such a high degree? To
convince ourselves of it, we must again examine his life.

Clemency and forgiveness showed themselves in Lord Byron at all periods
of his life. In childhood, in youth, though so passionate, and so
sensitive at school and at college, so soon as the first explosion was
over, he was ever ready to make peace.

In the poems composed during his boyhood and early youth, he was always
the first to forgive. He even forgave his wicked guardian (Lord
Carlisle). Although this latter only evinced indifference, or worse,
with regard to his ward, Lord Byron dedicated his first poems to him.
The noble earl having further aggravated his faults by behaving in an
unjustifiable manner, Lord Byron was of course greatly irritated, since
he hurled some satirical lines at him. But soon after, at the
intercession of friends, and especially at that of his sister, he showed
himself disposed to forget the faults of his bad guardian with all the
clemency inherent to his generous nature. He writes to Rogers, 27th
June, 1814:--"Are there any chances or possibility of ending this, and
making our peace with Carlisle? I am disposed to do all that is
reasonable (or unreasonable) to arrive at it. I would even have done so
sooner; but the 'Courier' newspaper, and a thousand disagreeable
interpretations, have prevented me."

Afterward, he further sealed this generous pardon by those fine verses
in the third canto of "Childe Harold," where he laments the death of
Major Howard, Lord Carlisle's son, killed at Waterloo.[89]

He forgave Miss Chaworth; and in this case also there was great
generosity. The history of this boyish love is well known. Even if the
name of love should be refused to the feeling entertained by a child of
fifteen for a girl of eighteen, who only looked upon him, it is said, as
a boy, and liked him as a brother, not only on account of the difference
of age, but also because she was already attached to the young man whom
she afterward married, still it can not be denied that these first
awakenings of the heart, though full of illusion, cause great suffering.
For if Lord Byron was a child in years, he was already a young man in
intellect, soul, imagination, and sensibility. That Miss Chaworth should
raise emotion in his heart is very comprehensible, for every girl has
good chances of appearing an angel to youths, whose preference
invariably falls on women older than themselves. Besides, Miss Chaworth
was placed in quite exceptional circumstances with regard to Lord Byron,
such as were well calculated to act powerfully on the imagination of a
boy, and render the dispelling of his poetic dream a most painful
reality.

Miss Chaworth was heiress of the noble family whose name she bore, and
her uncle had been killed in a duel by the last Lord Byron, grand-uncle
of the poet. She resided with her family at Annesley, a seat two miles
distant from Newstead Abbey. Their two properties touched each other;
but the slight barrier separating them was marked with blood. The two
children then, despite their near vicinity, only saw each other by
chance, or by secretly getting over the boundary of their respective
grounds. The chief obstacle to the reconciliation of the two families
was the young girl's father. But when Lord Byron reached his fourteenth
year, and, according to custom, came from Harrow to pass his holidays at
Newstead, Mr. Chaworth was dead, and the mother of the young heiress
received him at Annesley with open arms, for she did not partake her
husband's feelings, but, on the contrary, looked forward with pleasure
to the possibility of a union with her daughter, despite the difference
of age between them. The development of their mutual sympathy was
equally encouraged by the professors, governesses, and all surrounding
the young lady, for they liked young Byron extremely.

From that time he had his room at Annesley, and was looked upon as one
of the family. As to the young lady, she made him the companion of her
amusements. In the gardens, parks, on horseback, in all excursions, he
was constantly by her side. For him she played, and sang to the piano.
What was her love for him? Were there not moments in which she did not
look upon him only as a brother, or a child? Did she ever contemplate
the possibility of becoming his wife?

Moore does not think so.

"Neither is it, indeed, probable," says he, "had even her affections
been disengaged, that Lord Byron would, at this time, have been selected
as the object of them. A seniority of two years gives to a girl, 'on the
eve of womanhood,' an advance into life with which the boy keeps no
proportionate pace. Miss Chaworth looked upon Byron as a mere schoolboy.
His manners, too, were not yet formed, and his great beauty was still in
its promise and not developed."

Galt is still more explicit in the same sense. Washington Irving appears
to think the contrary:--

"Was this love returned?" says he. "Byron sometimes speaks as if it had
been; at other times he says, on the contrary, that she never gave him
reason to believe so. It is, however, probable, that at the commencement
her heart experienced at least fluctuations of feeling: she was at a
dangerous age. Though a child in years, Lord Byron was already a man in
intelligence, a poet in imagination, and possessed of great beauty."

This opinion is the most probable. We may add that every thing must have
contributed to keep up his illusion. Miss Chaworth gave him her
portrait, her hair, and a ring. Mrs. Chaworth, the governess, all the
family of the young heiress liked him so much, that after his death,
when Washington Irving visited Annesley, he found proofs of this
affection in the welcome given to, and the emotion caused even by the
presence of a dog that had belonged to Lord Byron. This beautiful waking
dream lasted, however, only the space of a dream in sleep.

At the expiration of his six weeks' holidays, young Byron returned to
Harrow.

While he was cherishing the sacred flame with his purest energies of
soul, what did she? She had forgotten him! The impression made on her
heart by the schoolboy's love could not withstand the test of absence.
She gave her heart to another.

"I thought myself a man," says he; "I was in earnest, she was fickle."

It was natural, however. She had arrived at the age when girls become
women, and leave their childish loves behind them.

While young Byron was pursuing his studies, Miss Chaworth mixed in
society. She met with a young man, named Musters, remarkable for his
handsome person, and whose property lay contiguous to her own.

She had perceived him one day from her terrace, galloping toward the
park followed by his hounds, the horn sounding in front, and he leading
a fox hunt; she had been struck with his manly beauty and graceful
carriage. From that day his image seated itself in her remembrance, and
probably in her heart. It was under these favorable auspices that he
made her acquaintance in society. Soon he gained her love. And when
young Byron at the next vacation saw her again, she was already the
willing betrothed of another.

That was still, however, a secret locked up in her heart. Her parents
would not have wished this union. She had not then declared her
intentions, and Lord Byron could not of course guess them. He was still
welcomed at Annesley, and treated as heretofore. The young lady herself,
instead of repelling him, continued to accept his attentions. This
lasted until one day when Musters was bathing with Byron in a river
that ran through the park he perceived a ring which he recognized as
having belonged to Miss Chaworth. This discovery, and the scenes it gave
rise to, obliged the lady to declare her preference.

The grief this broken illusion caused Lord Byron is shown by some of his
early verses, and by the "Dream," written at Geneva, while musing how
different his fate might have been if he had married Miss Chaworth,
instead of Miss Milbank. It might be objected that sorrows, the proof of
which rests on poetry, are not very authentic, and that it is not quite
certain they really did pass through his heart. One might consider with
Galt that this childish sentiment was less a real feeling of love than
the phantom of an enthusiastic attachment, quite intellectual in its
nature, like others that possessed such power over Lord Byron, since
Miss Chaworth was not the sole object of his attention, but divided it
with study and passionate friendships. One might say, with Moore, that
the poetic description given by Lord Byron of this childish love, ought
to serve especially to show how genius and sentiment may raise the
realities of life, and give an immense lustre to the most ordinary
events and objects. In short, one might think that Lord Byron perceived
all the poetic advantages accruing from the remembrance of a youthful
passion, at once innocent, pure, and unhappy; how it would furnish him
with a magic tint to enrich his palette with an inexhaustible fund of
sweet, graceful, and pathetic fancies, with delicate, lofty, and noble
sentiments, and therefore that he resolved to shut it up in his heart,
so as to preserve its freshness amid the withering atmosphere of the
world; and in order to draw thence those exquisite images that so often
shed ineffable grace and tenderness over his poems. It may, then, be
said that, by maintaining alive in his mind scenes passed at Annesley,
which recall the chaste, unhappy loves of Romeo and Juliet, and Lucy, he
thereby satisfied an intellectual want of the poet that was quite
independent of his heart as a man.

But, nevertheless, all those who can feel the heart's beatings through
the veil of poetic language will understand that Lord Byron's verses on
Mary Chaworth owe their origin to real grief.

Could it be otherwise? The experience resulting from reflection and
comparison, which made him afterward say, that the perfections of the
girl were the creation of his imagination at fifteen, because he found
her in reality quite other than angelic;[90] that she was fickle, and
had deceived him. This experience, I say, was wanting to the child.
Thus, then, Miss Chaworth was for him at that period the beau ideal of
all his young fancy could paint as best and most charming.

At the same time, this love, notwithstanding the difference of age, was
not, on his side, the giddy result of too much ardor. It was composed of
a thousand circumstances and feelings,--of practical, wise, and generous
thoughts. A far-off prospect of happiness heightened all the noble
instincts of the boy, and all the ideas of order that belonged to his
fine moral nature.

To reunite two noble families,--to efface the stain of blood and hatred
through love,--to revive again the ancient splendor of his ancestral
halls,--all these thoughts mingled with the idea of his union with Miss
Chaworth, and made his heart beat with hope. If there were excess in
such hope,--if there were illusion,--the fault lies with the relatives
of the young lady and herself, rather than with him. Generosity was on
his side alone, because he alone had a right to feel rancor.

"She jilted me," says he in prose, and in verse we read,--

  "She knew she was by him beloved,--she knew,
  For quickly comes such knowledge, that his heart
  Was darken'd with her shadow, and she saw
  That he was wretched."

If, then, it was natural for a girl to prefer a young man of more
suitable age, handsome and fashionable, to a boy whose features were yet
undeveloped, and whom she treated as a child and a brother; was it quite
as natural to flatter him,--load him with caresses,--with those gifts
likely to foster illusion and hope,--pledges considered as love tokens?
Was it natural that in order to justify certain coquetries to her
affianced, she should make use of insulting expressions with regard to
young Byron? But, on the other hand, would it not have been very
natural for him, having heard them, to feel a little rancor against her?
Surely she was guilty if she had spoken in jest, and more guilty still
if she were in earnest.

And yet what was his conduct? In his poem called the "Dream," where he
sings this romance of his boyhood, he tells us how he quitted Annesley,
after having learned that Miss Chaworth was engaged to Mr. Musters:--

  "He rose, and with a cold and gentle grasp
  He took her hand; a moment o'er his face
  A tablet of unutterable thoughts
  Was traced, and then it faded, as it came;
  He dropped the hand he held, and with slow steps
  Retired, but not as bidding her adieu,
  For they did part with mutual smiles; he pass'd
  From out the massy gate of that old hall,
  And mounting on his steed he went his way;
  And ne'er repass'd that hoary threshold more."

Then he jumped upon his horse, intending to gallop over the distance
separating Annesley from Newstead. But when he arrived at the last hill
overlooking Annesley, he stopped his horse, and cast a glance of mingled
sorrow and tenderness at what he left behind,--the groves, the old
house, the lovely one inhabiting there. But then the thought that she
could never be his dispelled his reverie, and putting spurs to his horse
he set off anew, as if rapid motion could drown reflection. However,
instead of the reflections he could not succeed in drowning, _he cast
away all rancor_.

When he alludes to her in his early poems it is always with tenderness
and respect.[91] He contents himself with calling her once, _deceitful
girl_, and another time, _a false fair face_.

After an interval of some years, when the boy had become a fine young
man, before setting out for the East, he accepted the proffered
hospitality of Annesley.

He never ceased to welcome Musters at Newstead, and, lest he should
disturb the peace of Mrs. Musters, he had even concealed his agitation
on kissing his rival's child. Heretofore she had only seen the boy or
youth, now she beheld the young man whose genius and personal
attractions lent to each other light and charm.

It was about this time that the bright star of Annesley began to pale.
On her brow, formerly so gay, a veil of sadness was overspread. It
seemed as if the gardens had lost their charm for her; as if the
spreading foliage of Annesley had become dark for her. What caused this
change? On seeing again the companion of her childhood, did she contrast
her now solitary walks with those of earlier days in his beautiful park,
where beside her was the youth who would fain have kissed the ground on
which she trod? The sound of that hunting horn, which anon made her
thrill with joy, when it announced the approach of her handsome
betrothed, and awakened all the illusions of love,--had it now become to
her more discordant and painful by its contrast with the harmonious
voice and sweet smile of him whom she had just seen again so changed to
his advantage?

It was during his travels in the East that Lord Byron heard of this
mysterious melancholy. Given the circumstances, such a report would not
have displeased, even if it had not pleased, vulgar, rancorous souls.
But it produced quite a contrary effect on him. The feeling of his own
worth, doubtless, must and ought to have brought certain ideas to his
mind; but they saddened his generous nature, and he experienced a desire
to drive them away by saying, "Has she not the husband of her choice,
and lovely children to caress her?"

  "What could her grief be?--she had all she loved.
  *     *     *     *     *     *     *
  What could her grief be?--she had loved him not,
  *     *     *     *     *     *     *
  Nor could he be a part of that which prey'd
  Upon her mind--a spectre of the past."

Lord Byron returned from his travels, and by degrees, as he rose in the
admiration of England, the melancholy observable in Mrs. Musters
deepened.

One day she felt such a longing to see again the companion of her
childhood, that she asked for an interview. Could he not desire the
meeting? But ought he to grant it? He had had the courage to meet her
again when he thought her happy, when sorrow for the past belonged to
him alone, when she appeared neither to understand nor to share it. But
would his heart be equally strong--would it not yield on seeing her
unhappy?[92] And yet, what could he then do for her happiness? With the
same generosity that induced him always to sacrifice his pleasure to the
happiness of others, he listened to his reason, his heart, and the
prudent counsels of his sister; he refrained from an interview which
could only augment the troubles of that devastated soul, soon to become
the "_queen of a fantastic kingdom_" in reason's night. But he ever
preserved a tender remembrance of Miss Chaworth, only forgetting the
wrong she had done him.[93]

Lord Byron's conduct had been no less generous toward Mr. Musters, his
triumphant rival in the affections of Miss Chaworth. Mr. Musters, though
several years older than Lord Byron, was, nevertheless, among his early
companions. The parents of this young man resided at their country-seat,
called Colwich, a few miles distant from Newstead, and Lord Byron often
accepted their hospitality. One day the two youths were bathing in the
Trent (a river which runs through the grounds of Colwich), when Mr.
Musters perceived a ring among Lord Byron's clothes, left on the bank.
To see and take possession of it was the affair of a moment. He had
recognized it as having belonged to Miss Chaworth. Lord Byron claimed
it, but Musters would not restore the ring. High words were exchanged.
On returning to the house, Musters jumped on a horse and galloped off
to ask an explanation from Miss Chaworth, who, being forced to confess
that Lord Byron wore the ring with her consent, felt obliged to make
amends to Musters by promising to declare immediately her engagement
with him. Proud of his success, he returned home and acquainted Lord
Byron with Miss Chaworth's determination. Dinner was announced. The
family sat down, and soon perceived there was something amiss between
the two friends, whose gloomy silence spoke more eloquently than words.
Before the end of dinner Lord Byron left the table, unable to endure the
provocations of his rival.

The parents of Musters, though completely ignorant of what had caused
the quarrel, were uneasy for the consequences. After dinner bitter words
were again exchanged between the two young men, and Musters used such
coarse, insolent language that Lord Byron could ill restrain his
indignation. Anger flashing from his eyes expressed itself as warmly in
words. In this frame of mind he retired to his room, and remained long
shut up there, while Musters believed he was preparing to leave Colwich
that very night. But the magnanimous youth, on reflection, understood
that at fifteen he ought not to pretend to carry off the fair prize of
seventeen from a man nine years his senior; and that it was not generous
to grieve his hosts and hurt the reputation of the lady he loved.
Accordingly, he suppressed his sorrow, his pride, his anger. Instead of
returning to Newstead, he made his appearance as usual in the
drawing-room, and to the astonishment of his rival, excused himself for
having shown anger, and thus failed in politeness to his hosts.
Candidly, and with regret, he acknowledged that the excess of his
feelings had caused the outburst. From that day forth he gave up all
pretensions to Miss Chaworth's love, and, forgiving them both with equal
magnanimity, he even continued inviting his rival to Newstead. "But,"
said he, "now my heart would hate him if he loved her not."

On declaring to Moore, in a letter written from Pisa, that he would
still forgive fresh wrongs, Lord Byron made this avowal:--"The truth is,
I can not keep up resentment, however violent may be its explosion."

At all periods of his life, he remained the young man of 1814, saying
that he could not go to rest with anger at his heart. In Greece, a few
weeks before his glorious death, he gave another proof of it by his
conduct toward Colonel Stanhope (afterward Lord Harrington). They had
persuaded Lord Byron that the colonel was very jealous of his influence,
and of the enthusiasm manifested for him. True or not, Lord Byron could
not but believe it. The colonel arrived in Greece (sent by the London
committee), for the purpose, it was said, of uniting with Lord Byron,
and acting jointly in favor of Greek independence; but in reality, it
would have seemed as if he came only to counteract what Byron wished.
Their ideas on matters of administration and on political economy, their
principles with regard to institutions and means of government, were
totally opposed. Bentham was the colonel's idol and model, while Lord
Byron particularly disliked the moral and social consequences flowing
from Bentham's doctrines. Ever straightforward and practical, Lord Byron
thought the Greeks ought to begin by gaining their independence, _and
that they had better be taught to read before they were made to buy
books, and the liberty of the press were given them_. Good and
honorable, but fond of systems, the colonel always wished to begin by
the end. Thence resulted long discussions between them, which produced
hours of ennui for Lord Byron, and many annoyances, most prejudicial to
his health, which was then very delicate. One evening, among others, the
colonel grew so excited, that he told him he believed him to be a friend
of the Turks. Lord Byron only answered: "Judge me by my actions." Both
appeared angry; the colonel got up to leave. Lord Byron, who was the
offended party, instead of bearing rancor, rose also, and, going
straight to the colonel, said: "Give me your honest hand, and
good-night." The night would not have passed tranquilly for Lord Byron
without this reconciliation.

Among numerous proofs of this generous spirit of forgiveness,--so
numerous that choice is difficult--we shall select his behavior toward a
certain Mr. Scott, who, at the time of his separation, had attacked him
in a savage, cruel manner,--not only unjustly, but even without any
provocation.

"I beg to call particular attention," says Moore, "to the extract about
to follow.

"Those who at all remember the peculiar bitterness and violence, with
which Mr. Scott had assailed Lord Byron, at a crisis when both his heart
and fame were most vulnerable, will, if I am not mistaken, feel a thrill
of pleasurable admiration, in reading these sentences, such as they were
penned by Lord Byron, for his own expressions can alone convey any
adequate notion of the proud, generous pleasure that must have been felt
in writing them:--

"'Poor Scott is no more! In the exercise of his vocation, he contrived,
at last, to make himself the subject of a coroner's inquest. But he died
like a brave man, and he lived an able one. I knew him personally,
though slightly; although several years my senior, we had been
school-fellows together, at the grammar-school of Aberdeen. He did not
behave to me quite handsomely, in his capacity of editor, a few years
ago, but he was under no obligation to behave otherwise. _The moment was
too tempting for many friends, and for all enemies._ At a time when all
my relations (save one) fell from me, like leaves from the tree in
autumn winds, and my few friends became still fewer,--when the whole
periodical press (I mean the daily and weekly, not the _literary_,
press) was let loose against me, in every shape of reproach, with the
two strange exceptions (from their usual opposition) of, "The Courier"
and "The Examiner,"--the paper of which Scott had the direction was
neither the last nor the least vituperative. Two years ago, I met him at
Venice, when he was bowed in grief, by the loss of his son, and had
known, by experience, the bitterness of domestic privation. He was then
earnest with me to return to England, and on my telling him, with a
smile, that he was once of a different opinion, he replied to me, "_that
he, and others, had been greatly misled; and that some pains, and rather
extraordinary means, had been taken to excite them_." Scott is no more,
but there are more than one living who were present at this dialogue. He
was a man of very considerable talents and of great acquirements. He had
made his way, as a literary character, with high success, and in a few
years. Poor fellow! I recollect his joy, at some appointment, which he
had obtained, or was to obtain, through Sir James Mackintosh, and which
prevented the further extension (unless by a rapid run to Rome) of his
travels in Italy. I little thought to what it would conduct him. _Peace
be with him! and may all such other faults as are inevitable to humanity
be as readily forgiven him as the little injury which he had done to one
who respected his talents and regrets his loss._

BYRON.'"

Nor did his magnanimity stop here. After Scott's death, a subscription
for his widow was got up, and Lord Byron was requested to contribute ten
pounds.

"You may make my subscription for Mr. Scott's widow thirty pounds,
instead of the proposed ten," answered he; "but do not put down _my
name_. As I mentioned him in the pamphlet, it would look indelicate."

But this refined generosity was only one of the forms which Lord Byron's
kindliness took. To act thus, was a necessity for this privileged
nature, that could not endure to hate, and loved to pardon. Still, his
generosity had not yet entered on the road of great sacrifices. It had
not yet reached the highest degree of power over self. It did attain to
that, when it led him to comprise in one general pardon the so-called
friends who had abandoned him in his hour of sacrifice, and those bitter
enemies who knew no reconciliation, _when he forgave Lady Byron_. Then
his generosity merited the name of virtue.

Pusillanimity, which binds with an invisible chain the hearts and
tongues of vulgar souls, in unreal exacting society, had carried away
some; jealousy of his superiority had rendered others ferocious; and an
absolute moral monstrosity--an anomaly in the history of types of female
hideousness--had succeeded in showing itself in the light of
magnanimity. But false as was this high quality in Lady Byron, so did it
shine out in him true and admirable. The position in which Lady Byron
had placed him, and where she continued to keep him by her harshness,
silence, and strange refusals, was one of those which cause such
suffering, that the highest degree of self-control seldom suffices to
quiet the promptings of human weakness, and to cause persons of even
slight sensibility to preserve moderation. Yet, with his sensibility and
the knowledge of his worth, how did he act?--what did he say? I will not
speak of his "Farewell," of the care he took to shield her from blame by
throwing it on others, by taking much too large a share to himself,
when in reality his sole fault lay in having married her; because it
might be objected that, when he acted thus, he had _not given up the
wish of reunion_.

But at Venice, and more especially at Ravenna and Pisa, this project
certainly had ceased to exist; the measure of insult was filled up to
overflowing. And yet, in one of those days of exasperation which letters
from London never failed to produce, and precisely when he was writing
pages on Lady Byron that could scarcely be complimentary, he learned
that she had been taken ill. His anger and his pen both fell
simultaneously, and he hastened to throw into the fire what he had
written. Another time he was told that Lady Byron lived in constant
dread of having Ada forcibly taken from her.

"Yes," he replied, "I might claim her in Chancery, without having
recourse to any other means; but I would rather be unhappy myself than
make Lady Byron so."

And he said this, well knowing how his name was kept from his daughter,
like a forbidden thing; and that his picture was hidden from her sight
by a curtain.

One day at Rome, while he was walking amid the ruins of the Forum,
treading upon those mighty relics that, to him, breathed language and
well-nigh sentiments, that seemed like some magic temple of the past,
Lord Byron traced back, in thought, his own career. The meannesses of
which he had been, and still was, the victim rose up to view. He allowed
his thoughts to wander amid the saddest memories. All the wounds of his
still bleeding heart opened afresh. The serenity of the starry sky, the
silence of that solemn hour, the ideas of order, peace, and justice,
which such a scene ever awakens, contrasted strangely with the material
devastation around worked by time. The natural effect of a grand
spectacle like this, is to render sadder still those moral ruins
accumulated within by the wickedness of man.

Then did his past, so recent still, rise up before him in all its
bitterness. And, taking earth and heaven to witness, he exclaimed:--

    "Have I not had to wrestle with my lot?
    Have I not suffered things to be forgiven?
    Have I not had my brain sear'd, my heart riven,
    Hopes sapp'd, name blighted, Life's life lied away?
    And only not to desperation driven,
    Because not altogether of such clay
  As rots into the souls of those whom I survey.

    "From mighty wrongs to petty perfidy,
    Have I not seen what human things could do?
    From the loud roar of foaming calumny
    To the small whisper of the as paltry few,
    And subtler venom of the reptile crew,
    The Janus glance of whose significant eye,
    _Learning to lie with silence, would_ SEEM _true,
    And without utterance, save the shrug or sigh,
  Deal round to happy fools its speechless obloquy_."

His spirit stirred with excitement, he invoked the aid of the divinity
whose shrine these Roman remains appeared to be:--

    "O Time! the beautifier of the dead,
    Adorner of the ruin, comforter
    And only healer when the heart hath bled;
    Time! the corrector where our judgments err,
    The test of truth, love--sole philosopher,
    For all beside are sophists--from thy thrift,
    Which never loses though it doth defer--
    Time, the avenger! unto thee I lift
  My hands, and eyes, and heart, and crave of thee a gift."

And what was this gift? Was it vengeance? No! It was the _repentance_ of
those who had done and were still doing him wrong; that was the prayer
he sent up to heaven, so as not to have worn in vain this iron in his
soul, and so that, when his earthly life should cease, his spirit,--

  "_Like the remember'd tone of a mute lyre,
  Shall on their soften'd spirits sink, and move,
  In hearts all rocky now, the late remorse of love._"[94]

Arrived before the temple of Nemesis,--that dread divinity who has never
left unpunished human injustice,--Lord Byron evokes her thus:--

    "Dost thou not hear my heart?--Awake! thou shalt, and must."

He feels that the guilty will not escape the vengeance of the goddess,
since it is _inevitable_; but, as to him, he will not wreak it. Nemesis
shall watch; he will sleep. _He reserves to himself, however, one
revenge. Which? Ever the same:--Forgiveness!_

    "That curse shall be forgiveness."[95]

Now, we have seen that his generosity did not recoil from any sacrifice
of fortune, repose, affection; we have seen it strong against all
privations, all instincts, all interests; in short, we have looked at it
under all the aspects that constitute great beauty of soul. There
remains only one degree more for him to attain--heroism. But the
constant exercise of generosity of soul, in inferior degrees, will give
him power to reach that sublime height, and, summing up all in one,
arrive at _the crowning sacrifice of his life_.

Already more than once, in Italy, and especially in Romagna, when that
peninsula was preparing a grand struggle for independence, Lord Byron
had shown himself ready to make any sacrifice, to aid in throwing off
Austrian chains. But, owing to subsequent events, his extreme
devotedness could not then go beyond the offer made. Two years later it
was accepted; an enslaved nation, eager for redemption, asked Lord
Byron's assistance toward regaining its liberty. In this sacrifice on
his part, no single feature of greatness is wanting. Lord Byron would
have been great, had he sacrificed himself for his country; but how much
greater was he in sacrificing himself for a foreign nation, for the
general cause of humanity? He would still have remained great, had he
been led into this noble sacrifice by his own enthusiasm, by his
illusions, by personal hopes. But no illusion, no enthusiasm, impelled
him toward Greece; naught save the satisfaction caused in a noble mind
by the performance of a great action. He did not even hope to escape
ingratitude or to silence calumny; for, although so young, he had
already acquired the experience of mature years. He knew Greece, and was
well aware what he should find there, in exchange for his repose and for
all dear to him in this world. We know what sadness overwhelmed his soul
during the last period of his sojourn at Genoa. The struggles he had
with his own heart may be imagined, when we reflect, that despite his
self-control, he was more than once surprised with tears in his eyes.

When hardly out of port from Genoa, a tempest cast him back. He landed,
and resolved on visiting the abode he had left with such anguish the day
before. While climbing the hill of Albano, the darkest presentiments
took possession of his soul. "Where shall we be this day next year?"
said he to Count Gamba, who was walking by his side. Alas! we know that
precisely that day next year, his mortal remains were carried through
the streets of London, on their way to repose with his ancestors, near
Newstead. His sorrow only increased on arriving at the palace. His
friends were gone; all within that dwelling was silent, deserted,
solitary. He asked to be left alone; and then shut himself up in his
apartments, remaining there for several hours. What was his occupation?
What were his thoughts? Through what strange agony did he pass? Who
shall tell us (since he concealed it), of that last struggle between the
Man and the Hero?

The sadnesses of great souls are _unspeakable_, almost _superhuman_.
They are beyond the scales where we would weigh them. But we know that
he understood and tasted the bitterness of this chalice,[96] without
drawing back, without failing to drain it to the last.

Night came, and behold him once more on board the vessel. The tempest
roared again, then ceased; but the storm within his soul did not cease.
Only when a tear sometimes threatened betrayal, did he hasten to the
privacy of his cabin.

We will not give here the narrative of this voyage. These pages, we
again repeat, are not a biography, but the picture of a soul.

On arriving at the Ionian Islands, he soon understood that his
sacrifice, though not beyond what circumstances demanded, certainly far
transcended any hope that could exist of regenerating this fallen race,
and constituting a nation worthy to bear the glorious name of Greece.
But it mattered not: he had given his word, and he was resolved to
remain in the country. He even quitted the asylum afforded by the Ionian
Islands, and determined to encounter all dangers, the better to
accomplish his mission.

Then he went to Missolonghi. The privations he underwent there, the
moral and physical fatigue, the effluvia from the adjoining marshes, and
the mode of life he was forced to lead, all combined to affect his
naturally good health. He was entreated to leave this unhealthy place,
and told that his life depended on it. He felt it and knew it. Already
he perceived the spectre of the future, and, at the same time, the image
of his beloved Italy floated before his eyes,--all that he had left, and
would still find there; he represented to himself the existence he might
lead there, quiet and happy, surrounded with love and respect. Still so
young, handsome, rich, and almost adored, for whom could life have more
value? But, if he left, what would become of Greece? His presence was
worth an army to that unhappy country. So, then, he would not desert his
post; _he resolved to remain, come what might_. "_No, Tita; no, we will
not return to Italy_," said he sadly to his faithful Venetian follower a
few days before he fell ill. _He did remain, and he died._

By this action, in which he overcame himself, Lord Byron gave one of
those rare examples of self-immolation, of virtue, and heroism, which,
says a noble mind of our day,[97] "afford real consolation to the soul,
and reflect the greatest honor on the human race."

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 89:

  "Their praise is hymn'd by loftier hearts than mine,
      Yet one I would select from that proud throng,
  Partly because they blend me with his line,
      And partly that I did his sire some wrong."]

[Footnote 90: See Medwin.]

[Footnote 91:

  "In the shade of her bower, I remember the hour
    She rewarded those vows with a Tear.

  By another possest, may she live ever blest!
    Her name still my heart must revere;
  With a sigh I resign what I once thought was mine,
    And forgive her deceit with a Tear."

               "_The Tear_" (October, 1806).]

[Footnote 92: She had been obliged to separate from her husband, who
returned her sacrifices by bad and even brutal treatment.]

[Footnote 93:

                      "Oh! she was changed
  As by the sickness of the soul; her mind
  Had wandered from its dwelling, and her eyes
  They had not their own lustre, but the look
  Which is not of the earth; she was become
  The queen of a fantastic realm; her thoughts
  Were combinations of disjointed things;
  And forms impalpable and unperceived
  Of others' sight familiar were to hers.
  And this the world calls frenzy."]

[Footnote 94: "Childe Harold," canto iv.]

[Footnote 95: Ibid.]

[Footnote 96: See his "Life in Italy."]

[Footnote 97: M. Janet.]



CHAPTER XVI.

FAULTS OF LORD BYRON.


After having shown the virtues Lord Byron possessed, it might seem
useless to inquire whether he had not the faults whose absence they
prove. Still, however, it is well to look at the subject from another
point of view, and to offer, so to say, counter-proof. For, in judging
him, all rules have been disregarded, not only those of justice and
equity, but likewise those of logic. And, as it has been variously
asserted of him, that he was constant and inconstant, firm and fickle,
guided by principle, yet giving way to every impulse; that he was both
chaste and profligate, a sensual man and an anchorite; calumny alone can
not be accused of all these contradictions. We must then seek out
conscientiously whether there were not other causes for this
_inconsistency_, so as to return back within due bounds, and bring
contradiction in accord with truth. It is, of course, beyond dispute
that the first cause of the unjust verdicts passed upon him lay in the
bad passions stirred up by his success, by the independent language he
used, and his contempt for a thousand national prejudices. Nevertheless,
as the degree of injustice dealt out toward him was quite extraordinary,
it may be asked whether some real defects did not lend specious reason
to his enemies, and thus we are forced to confess that he had one great
fault, which did powerfully aid their wickedness; it consisted in a
species of _cruelty_ toward himself, _a positive necessity of
calumniating himself_.

Although the origin of this fault or defect must have been principally
in the greatness of his soul, it certainly had other secondary and
lesser causes, and, in common with many other qualities, it was fatal to
his happiness; for men accustomed to exaggerate their own virtues only
too readily believed him. This mode of doing harm to and _persecuting_
himself, of casting shadows over his brilliant destiny, was so strange
and so real, that it is necessary to show to what extent he did it, by
collecting some of the numerous testimonies given among those who knew
him, before we bring out the real cause of his fault, as well as the
effect it had on his happiness and his reputation.

In no hands could his character have been less safe than his own, nor
any greater wrong offered to his memory than the substitution of what he
affected to be, for what he was.

While yet a student at Cambridge, he wrote a letter to Miss Pigott, full
of gayety and fun, giving as an excuse for his silence the dissipated
life he was leading, and which he calls _a wretched chaos of noise and
drunkenness, doing nothing but hunt, drink Burgundy, play, intrigue,
libertinize_. Then he exclaims:--

"What misery to have nothing else to do but make love and verses, and
create enemies for one's self."

But while avowing this misery, he adds that he has _just written 214
pages of prose and 1200 verses_.

And Moore remarks, in a note annexed to this curious letter:--

"We observe here, as in other parts of his early letters, that sort of
display and boast of _rakishness_ which is but too common a folly at
this period of life, when the young aspirant to manhood persuades
himself that to be profligate is to be manly. Unluckily, this boyish
desire to be thought worse than he really was remained with Lord Byron,
as did some other failings and foibles, long after the period when, with
others, they are past and forgotten; and his mind, indeed, was but
beginning to outgrow them when he was snatched away."

When Moore speaks of the letter in which Lord Byron, replying to the
praise given by Mr. Dallas, says he did not merit it, and depreciates
himself morally in every possible way, Moore adds:--

"Here again, however, we should recollect there must be a considerable
share of allowance for the _usual tendency to make the most and the
worst of his own obliquities_. There occurs, indeed, in his first letter
to Mr. Dallas, an account of this strange ambition, the _very reverse_,
it must be allowed, of hypocrisy--which led him to court rather than
avoid the reputation of profligacy, and to put, at all times, the worst
face on his own character and conduct."

Mr. Dallas, writing for the first time to Lord Byron after having read
his early poems, paid him some compliments on the moral beauties and
charitable sentiments contained in his verses, remarking that they
recalled another noble author, who was not only a poet, an orator, and a
distinguished historian, but one of the most vigorous reasoners in
England on the truths of that religion of which forgiveness forms the
ruling principle, viz., the good and great Lord Lyttelton. Lord Byron
answered, depreciating himself in a literary sense, and calumniating
himself morally, by the assertion that he resembled Lord Lyttelton's
son--a bad, though talented man--rather than the great author.

Dallas had the good sense to take this appreciation for what it was
worth, and asked permission to pay the young nobleman a visit. Lord
Byron answered politely that he should be happy to make his
acquaintance, but continued to paint himself, especially as regarded his
opinions, in the most unfavorable colors. Moore gives the whole of this
letter, and then adds:--

"It must be recollected, before we attach any particular importance to
the details of his creed, that in addition to the temptation--never
easily resisted by him--of displaying his wit, at the expense of his
character, he was here addressing a person who, though, no doubt, well
meaning, was evidently one of those _officious self-satisfied advisers_
whom it was the delight of Lord Byron, at all times, to _astonish_ and
_mystify_.

"The tricks which, when a boy, he played upon the Nottingham quack,
Lavander, were but the first of a long series, with which, through life,
he amused himself, at the expense of all the numerous quacks whom his
celebrity and sociability drew around him."

In the first satire he gave to the world, and which attracted sympathy
for his talent as well as for the justice of his cause, the horror he
entertained of hypocrisy already made him speak against himself:--

  "E'en I--least thinking of a thoughtless throng,
  Just skill'd to know the right and choose the wrong."

After having quoted an early poem of Lord Byron, written in an hour of
great depression, and which would seem, inspired by momentary madness,
Moore makes the following declaration:--

"These concluding lines are of a nature, it must be owned, to awaken
more of horror than of interest, were we not prepared, by so many
instances of his exaggeration in this respect, not to be startled at any
lengths to which the spirit of _self-libelling_ would carry him. It
seemed as if, with the power of painting fierce and gloomy personages,
he had also the ambition to be himself the dark 'sublime he drew,' and
that, in his fondness for the delineation of heroic crime, he endeavored
to fancy, where he could not find in his own character, fit subjects for
his pencil."

Moore, mentioning another article in his memoranda, where Lord Byron
accuses himself of irritability of temperament in his early youth,
follows up with this reflection:--

"In all his portraits of himself, the pencil he uses is so dark that the
picture of his temperament and his self-attempts, covering as they do
with _a dark shadow the shade itself_, must be taken with large
allowance for exaggeration."

In another passage of his work, Moore further says:--

"To the perverse fancy he had for falsifying his own character, and even
imputing to himself faults the most alien to his nature, I have already
frequently adverted. I had another striking instance of it one day at La
Mira."

Moore then relates that, on leaving Venice, he went to La Mira to bid
Lord Byron farewell. Passing through the hall, he saw the little
Allegra, who had just returned from a walk. Moore made some remark on
the beauty of the child, and Byron answered, "Have you any notion--but I
suppose you have--of what they call the parental feeling? For myself, I
have not the least." And yet, when that child died, in a year or two
afterward, he who had uttered this artificial speech was so overwhelmed
by the event, that those who were about him at the time actually
trembled for his reason.[98]

Colonel Stanhope, afterward Lord Harrington, who knew Lord Byron in
Greece, shortly before his death, says:--

"Most men affect a virtuous character; Lord Byron's ambition, on the
contrary, seemed to be to make the world believe that he was a sort of
_Satan_, though impelled by high sentiments to accomplish great actions.
_Happily for his reputation, he possessed another quality that unmasked
him completely: he was the most open and most sincere of men, and his
nature, inclined to good, ever swayed all his actions._"[99]

Mr. Finlay, who knew Lord Byron about the same time, says _that not only
he calumniated himself, but that he hid his best sentiments_.

Speaking of the simplicity of his manners, and his repugnance for all
_emphasis_:--

"I have always observed," continues Mr. Finlay, "that he adopted a very
simple and even monotonous tone, when he had to say any thing not quite
in the ordinary style of conversation. Whenever he had begun a sentence
which showed that the subject interested him, and which contained
sublime thought, he would check himself suddenly, and come to an end
without concluding, either with a smile of indifference or in a careless
tone. I thought he had adopted this mode _to hide his real sentiments
when he feared lest his tongue should be carried away by his heart_; and
often he did so evidently to hide the author or rather the poet. But in
satire or clever conversation his genius took full flight."[100]

And Stanhope further adds:--

"I also have observed that Lord Byron acted in this way. He often liked
to hide the noble sentiments that filled his soul, and even tried to
turn them into ridicule."[101]

This was only too true. The spirit of repartee and fun often made him
display his intellectual faculties at the expense of his moral nature
and his truest sentiments.

Moore says that when Lord Byron went to Ravenna to see Countess G----
again, he wrote to Hoppner, who looked after his affairs, in such a
light vein of pleasantry, that it would have been difficult for any one
not knowing him thoroughly to conceive the possibility of his expressing
himself thus, while under the influence of a passion so sincere:--

"But such is ever the wantonness of the mocking spirit, from which
nothing--not even love--remains sacred; and which at last, for want of
other food, turns upon self. The same horror, too, of hypocrisy that
led Lord Byron to exaggerate his own errors led him also to disguise,
under a seemingly heartless ridicule, all those natural and kindly
qualities by which they were redeemed."

And by way of contrast with the strange lightness of his letter to
Hoppner, as well as to do justice to the reality of his passion, Moore
then quotes the whole of those beautiful stanzas, called "The Po," which
Lord Byron wrote while crossing that river on his way from Venice to
Ravenna.[102]

We might multiply quotations, in order to prove that all those who knew
him have more or less remarked this phenomenon. But no one has well
determined its principal cause; or else it has been too much confounded
with the strange caprices he showed, especially in early youth; for
subsequently, says Moore, "_when he saw that the world gravely believed
the opinion he had given of himself, he refused any longer to echo it_."

There is certainly truth in the judgment passed by Moore and others. It
can not be denied that, when as a boy, he boasted of his dissipated life
at the University, the chief reason of it lay in the folly common to
that period of life, which impels human beings while yet children to
seek to appear like men by aping the vices of riper years. It can not be
denied, either, that the pleasure of mystifying suggested his answer to
Dallas; that an exaggerated horror of hypocrisy taught his pen a
thousand censures of himself beginning with his first satire; that a
sort of over-excitement and reaction of imagination gave him, at times,
the strange ambition of appearing to be one of those dark, proud heroes
he loved to paint for the sake of effect. Moreover, we must not forget
that witty turn of mind which his extraordinary perception of the
ridiculous, and his facility for seeing the two sides of things, often
made him to display at the expense of his better nature, by seeming to
mock his truest sentiments, as when he wrote to Hoppner: a psychological
phenomenon, of which the cause has been more particularly sought
elsewhere. Finally, we may also add that he might have believed he was
disarming envy and malice by speaking against himself; and that he was
to a certain extent escaping from the effects of those evil passions by
throwing them something whereon to feed. Who knows whether he also did
not--a little through goodness of heart, and greatly through the tactics
that make good politicians complain of the unpleasantnesses attached to
their greatness--ascribe to himself imaginary defects, so as to let some
compassion, under the form of blame, mix with the malice that hemmed him
in on all sides; and whether he did not think it well to make use of
this means, as of a shield, to ward off their blows? This sort of
generous artifice, which I more than once suspected in him, may serve as
long as public favor lasts; but when persecution gets the upper
hand,--which is the case sooner or later with all greatness and all
virtues--when Envy triumphs by means of calumny, she converts into
poison, benefits, virtues, gratitude. Thus, if our hypothesis be
correct, Lord Byron would have been cruelly punished for his weakness in
allowing that to be believed of him which was not true. Still, all we
have observed can only furnish, at best, the secondary and evanescent
causes of the moral phenomenon described, and those who would fain
penetrate the recesses of Lord Byron's soul must search deeper for
explanation. Our idea is, the first cause will be found to lie in some
sentiment that reigned all powerful in his breast. I mean that he placed
_his ideal standard too high_, and the influence it exercised over him
was manifest _even to his last moments_.

In the severe judgments which he has pronounced upon himself in the
first place, on mankind in general, and on some particular individuals,
the ideal model of all the intellectual, moral, and physical beauty
which he found in the depth of his own mind, shone with divine lustre
before his imagination, by the union of faculties imbued with
extraordinary energy.

We see, by a thousand traits, that his ideal was formed much earlier
than is common with ordinary children. In his first youthful poems it
already displayed itself much developed. Ever attracted toward truth,
his first desire was to seek after that; and the better to do so, he
searched into himself, analyzed what was passing within and without, and
finally proclaimed it without any consideration for himself or others.

At Harrow we see him leaving off play to go and sit down alone and
meditate on the stone now called _Byron's tomb_.

At Cambridge afterward, despite the dissipation he shared equally with
his comrades, amid games and exercises in which he greatly excelled, we
still find him courting meditation under shady trees. On returning to
his home, the Abbey, when surrounded with the noise and frolic of
boisterous companions, we see him devote himself to study and solitary
reflection; finally, during his travels, and after his return, when all
England was at his feet, we behold him still and ever experiencing that
imperious _want_ of scanning himself, of descending into the depths of
his own heart, interrogating his conscience, and very often of writing
down in his memorandum-books the severe sentences pronounced by that
inflexible judge. And, as he could not put away from sight his divine
model, he came out from these examinations _humbled, dissatisfied,
reproaching and punishing himself for having strayed from it_. For he
discovered too many terrestrial elements in all human virtues. For
instance, in friendships, though so generous on his side, he found the
satisfaction of a personal want, consequently, an egotistical element;
the same, and much more strongly, with regard to love. He found
something personal in the best instincts, in the passion for glory, in
patriotism, even in the sentiment of veneration, since that is an echo
of our tastes and personal sympathies. That the high standard of his
ideal was the first cause of injustice toward himself, a thousand proofs
might be offered. I will choose some only. We read in his memoranda:--

"It has lately been in my power to make two men happy. I am delighted at
it, especially as regards the last, for he is excellent. _But I wish
there had been a little more sacrifice on my part, and less satisfaction
for my self-love in doing that, because then there would have been more
merit._"

Such was this great culprit. He actually felt pleasure in doing good!
Another time he was asked to present a petition to Parliament. "I am not
in a humor for this business," writes he in the evening journal, where
he examined his conscience. He was suffering then from grief, caused by
the absence of a person he loved, and he apostrophizes himself in these
terms:--"Had ---- been here she would have _made_ me do it. _There_ is a
woman who, amid all her fascination, always urged a man to usefulness or
glory. Had she remained, she had been my tutelar genius.

"Baldwin is very unfortunate; but, poor fellow, 'I can't get out; I
can't get out,' said the starling. _Ah! I am as bad as that dog Sterne,
who preferred whining over a dead ass to relieving a living mother.
Villain! hypocrite! slave! sycophant! But I am no better. Here I can not
stimulate myself to a speech for the sake of these unfortunates, and
three words and half a smile of----, had she been here to urge it (and
urge it she infallibly would; at least, she always pressed me on in
senatorial duties, and particularly in the cause of weakness), would
have made me an advocate, if not an orator. Curse on Rochefoucault for
being always right!_"

Another time _he also accused himself of selfishness, because he wrote
only for amusement_! He was then but twenty-three years of age:--

"To withdraw myself from myself (_oh, that cursed selfishness!_) has
ever been my sole, my entire, my sincere motive in scribbling at all;
and publishing is also the continuance of the same object, by the action
it affords to the mind, which else recoils upon itself."

This hard opinion of man's virtue, formed by many moralists, and
especially by those who see virtue only in pure disinterested
benevolence, was an impulse with Lord Byron rather than the result of
reason; and I much doubt whether this craving for equity and truth were
ever practically combined and harmonized with the faculty of benevolence
in any one else as it was with Lord Byron, for this combination
evidently formed the most striking part of his character. Montaigne
himself,--who, if he did not possess as much innate benevolence, had
nevertheless the faculty, and even felt the want of entering into his
conscience, and examining it, so as to draw forth general
notions,--says, "When I examine myself conscientiously, I find that my
best sort of goodness has a _vicious tint_."

And he fears that even Plato, in his _brightest virtue_, had he analyzed
it well, would have found _some human admixture_. And then he sums up by
saying, "Man is made up of bits and oddities."[103]

But these sincere philosophers are few in number, and their maxims can
never be popular. For men in general experience rather the want of
magnifying than of depreciating themselves, and, instead of taking their
best models from an ideal, they choose them from reality, judge
characters, compare themselves to other men, and, living like other
people, see no guilt in themselves; while Lord Byron, living as they
did, discovered in himself weaknesses, reasons for modesty, regret,
repentance. If he could have done as they did, he would have been
satisfied, and he would either have escaped or vanquished calumny. But
he could not and would not, though conscious of the harm thence
resulting to himself.

"You censure my life, Harness. When I compare myself with these men, my
elders and my betters, I really begin to conceive myself a monument of
prudence,--a walking statue, without feeling or failing; and yet the
world in general has given me a proud pre-eminence over them in
profligacy. Yet I like the men, and, God knows, ought not to condemn
their aberrations; but I own I feel provoked when they dignify all this
by the name of love. Romantic attachments for things marketable for a
dollar!"

One of his biographers pretends that he rendered himself justice another
time, and represents him as saying, speaking of M----:

"See how well he has got on in the world! He is just as little inclined
to commit a bad action as incapable of doing a good one; fear keeps him
from the former, and wickedness from the latter. The difference between
him and me is that I attack a great many people, and truly, with one or
two exceptions (and note that they are persons of my own sex), I do not
hate one; while he says no harm of any one, but hates a great many, if
not every body. Fancy, then, how amusing it would be to see him in the
palace of Truth, when he would be thinking he was making the sweetest
compliments, while all the time he would be giving vent to the
accumulated spite and rancor of years, and then to see the person he had
flattered so long listen to his real sentiments for the first time. Oh!
that would truly be a comic sight. As to me, I should appear to great
advantage in the palace of Truth, for while I should be thinking to vex
friends and enemies with harsh speeches, I should be saying pretty
things on the contrary; for at bottom, _I have no malice or
ill-nature,--at least, not of that kind which lasts more than a
moment_."

"Never," adds the biographer, "was a truer observation made. Lord
Byron's nature is _very fine_, despite all the bad weeds that might have
attempted to spring up in it; and I am convinced that it is the
excellence of the poet, or rather the effect of such excellence, which
has caused the faults of the man.

"The severity of censure lavished on the man has increased in proportion
to the admiration excited by the poet, and often with the greatest
injustice. The world offered up incense to the poet, while heaping ashes
on the head of the man. He was indignant at such usage, and wounded
pride avenged itself by painting himself in the darkest colors, as if to
give a deeper hue than even his enemies had done; all the time forcing
them to admiration for his genius, as boundless as was their
disapprobation of his supposed character."[104]

Is this conversation real or imaginary? Doubt is allowable; but, however
it may be, the reflections of the biographer in this case are too
sensible and too true for us not to quote them with pleasure.

In concluding these remarks, which prove how high was the ideal type
that impelled Lord Byron to be unjust to himself, I will further
observe, that it was the exaggeration of his great characteristic
faculties which made him fail in some little virtue (such as prudence,
when it has its source _solely in our personal interest_). For it was
only to this degree, and from this point of view, that Lord Byron lacked
it. And it appears singular that his great mind should not have made him
see, in this very craving after self-examination, caused by his
inclination for truth; and in that extraordinary susceptibility of
conscience which lead to self-reproach for egotism, only because he
_felt pleasure in exercising beneficence and that it did not contain
enough sacrifice_; it is singular, I say, that this same spirit of
equity did not make him see how he shone in the only two faculties that
can have no alloy of egotism, and which were very evidently the most
_striking qualities of his character_. But he was, with regard to
himself, like the torch which, lighting up distant objects, leaves
those near it in obscurity. Lord Byron did not know himself; he had by
no means overcome that difficulty which the oracles of Greece pronounced
_the greatest_. Only he was sometimes conscious of it. In his memoranda,
written at Ravenna, in 1821, after having said that he does not think
the world judges him well, he adds:--

"I have seen myself compared, personally or poetically, in English,
French, German as (interpreted to me), Italian and Portuguese, within
these nine years, to Rousseau, Goethe, Young, Aretin, Timon of Athens,
Dante, Petrarch, an Alabaster Vase lighted up within, Satan, Shakspeare,
Bonaparte, Tiberius, Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Harlequin the
clown, Sternhold and Hopkins, to the Phantasmagoria, to Henry the
Eighth, to Chenier, to Mirabeau, to Young, R. Dallas (the schoolboy), to
Michael Angelo, to Raphael, to a _petit maître_, to Diogenes, to Childe
Harold, to Lara, to the Count in 'Beppo,' to Milton, to Pope, to Dryden,
to Burns, to Savage, to Chatterton, to 'oft have I heard of thee, my
Lord Byron,' in Shakspeare, to Churchill the poet, to Kean the actor, to
Alfieri, etc., etc. The object of so many contradictory comparisons must
probably be like something different from them all; but what _that_ is
is more than I know, or any body else."

But had he known himself, he would have found that he realized one of
the finest types of character that humanity can offer; for his two
characteristic faculties were, his attraction toward truth and
benevolence. And in ceasing to calumniate himself, he would have
snatched from the hands of the envious and the enemies of truth, the
principal weapon they made use of to defame him.

When one reflects on all this, one questions with astonishment how it is
that all his biographers should have remained outside of truth. But it
is useless insisting thereupon, for we have given sufficient
answer.[105]

I will, then, confine myself to remarking here that one characteristic
peculiar to the biographers of great men in general, is the extreme
repugnance they feel toward praising their own subjects. What is the
cause? Do they fear being told they have made a panegyric, passing for
flatterers, appearing to get through a task? Do they believe that, in
order to show cleverness, perspicacity, and deep knowledge of the human
heart, it is necessary to put in place of simple truth a sort of malice,
not very intelligible, and often contradictory? All that may well be,
but I believe that what they especially feel is, that if their books
were only written for noble minds, possessing such qualities as only
belong to the minority of the human race, they might run the risk of
being less sought after and less bought. Thus they search for faults
with ardor, just as miners do for diamonds; and when they think they
have discovered a vice in their hero, they look upon it as the "Mogul"
of their book. They make it shine, polish it up, show it in a thousand
lights, bring it out as the striking part of their work,--the chief
quality of their hero, who, unable to defend himself, is handed down,
disfigured, to posterity. Such are the strange perils incurred, as
regards truth and justice, and the wrong done toward the great departed;
and this is why their surviving friends are called on to protest against
the false assertions of biographers. Those who have written on Lord
Byron, unable to find this great "Mogul" (for Lord Byron had no vices),
have all, more or less, sought at least to draw the attention of their
readers to a thousand little weaknesses, mostly devoid of reality. Upon
what basis, indeed, do they rest?--Almost always on Lord Byron's words.
Now we know what account should be made of his testimony when he speaks
against himself. For instance, he has called himself irritable and prone
to anger, and biographers have found it very convenient to paint him
with his own brush. Men never fail to treat those who depreciate
themselves with equal injustice. Nor is this surprising. If it be true
that we are always judged on our faulty side, even though we endeavor to
show the best, what must be the case if our efforts tend only to display
our worst? And besides, why should others give themselves the trouble of
exonerating a man from blame who depreciated himself? As it requires
great discernment, great generosity, and very rare qualities, not to go
beyond truth in self-esteem, biographers have not hesitated to declare
Lord Byron, on his own testimony, _very irritable_, and even very
passionate; but was he really so? This is a question to be examined.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 98: Moore's "Life," vol. iv. p. 241.]

[Footnote 99: Parry, 273.]

[Footnote 100: Letter from Finlay to Stanhope, Parry, 210.]

[Footnote 101: Parry, 210.]

[Footnote 102: Moore, 214, vol. ii. in 4to.]

[Footnote 103: Montaigne, vol. iii. p. 87.]

[Footnote 104: "Journal of Conversation," p. 195.]

[Footnote 105: See chapter on Lord Byron's biographers.]



CHAPTER XVII.

IRRITABILITY OF LORD BYRON.


Was Lord Byron irritable? With his poetic temperament, his exquisite and
almost morbid sensibility, so grievously tried by circumstances, it
would be equally absurd and untrue to pretend that he was as impassible
as a stoic, or phlegmatic as some good citizen who vegetates rather than
lives. Did such qualities, or rather faults,--for they betoken a cold
nature,--ever belong to Milton, Dante, Alfieri, and those master-spirits
whose strength of passion, combined with force of intellect, have
merited for them the rank of geniuses?

All more or less were, and could not fail to have been, susceptible of
irritation and anger; for such susceptibility was indispensable in the
peculiar constitution of their minds. But he who finds sufficient
strength of will to control himself, when over-excitement is caused by
some wounded feeling, does not that person approach to virtue? Did Lord
Byron possess this power? Every thing, even to the testimony of his
servants, his masters, his comrades, proves that he did. In childhood he
showed that he knew how to conquer himself, and would use his power. He
says, himself, that his anger was of a silent nature, and made him grow
pale. Now, is not pale and silent anger of the kind that is overcome? We
know that Lord Byron's mother, while still young, suffered so cruelly
from the simultaneous loss of her fortune and a husband she adored, that
her temper became changed and embittered. She gave way to violent bursts
of passion, quite at variance with her excellent qualities of heart;
thus she loved her son, but being very jealous of his affection, a
trifle sufficed to make her launch out into reproaches and disagreeable
scenes. This disposition on her part was not calculated to inspire the
tenderness which her passionate fondness for him would otherwise have
merited. But it was his disapprobation of such scenes that taught him to
overcome in himself all outward tokens of anger, and to keep guard over
his temper. Thus he opposed to the violence displayed by his poor mother
a calm and silent demeanor that provoked her still more, it is true, but
which proved great strength of will in him. After a violent scene that
took place with her during one of his Cambridge vacations, he even
determined on leaving home.

"It was very seldom," says Moore, "that he allowed himself to be so far
provoked by her as to come out of his passivity."

And by what he himself declares in his memoranda, written at the age of
twenty-two, we see that he did not permit any external demonstration of
his temper, and that under this discipline it certainly had already
improved. "It is especially when I wish to keep silence, and when I feel
my cheeks and brow grow pale," says he, "that it becomes very difficult
for me to control myself; but the presence of a woman, though not of all
women, suffices to calm me."

To proceed with justice in any psychological study, we should never lose
sight of the particular circumstances of the subject under treatment.
Now, the circumstances amid which Lord Byron's moral and social life
first began to unfold itself were very irritating.

While yet a boy we see his heart expand to love, to tenderness, excited
by the way in which the young lady received his attentions, by the gift
she made him of her portrait, by meetings, by the encouragement her
parents afforded; for, notwithstanding the disproportion of age, they
looked favorably on a union that was equal with regard to fortune and
position. And while he was thus beguiled, this girl--whom he considered
an angel--deemed the timid youth too childish, and entered into a union
with a man of fashion.

On the eve of a long farewell to England, a friend whom he loved with
all the devotedness that belonged to a heart like his, showed the utmost
indifference at his departure. Having attained his majority, he ought to
have taken his seat in the House of Peers; but his noble guardian, Lord
Carlisle, whom he had always treated with respect, and to whom he had
lately shown the attention of dedicating his early poems to him, behaved
toward him in an unjustifiable manner. Not only did he refuse to present
him to the House of Lords, but he even delayed sending the documents
necessary for his admission, because forsooth the noble earl _did not
like his ward's mother_! Lord Byron had published a charming collection
of poems that won for him equal applause and sympathy; but an
all-powerful Review sought to humiliate him and crush his talent in the
bud by bringing out a brutal and stupid article against him. Nor was
this all; he had likewise the annoyance of money embarrassments
inherited from his predecessors in the estate. Leaving England under the
sting of all these insults from men and fate, which a phlegmatic temper
could alone have borne with patience, would it have been astonishing if
his young heart had felt irritation? But could it have existed without
being perceived by those who lived with him? Yet they say nothing about
it. His fellow-traveller was a friend and comrade of old,--Lord
Broughton, then the Hon. Mr. Hobhouse. If Lord Byron had been of an
irritable, violent temper, who more than his daily companion would have
perceived it, and suffered from it in that constant intercourse which
tries the gentlest natures? Mr. Hobhouse had lived with Lord Byron at
Cambridge, was one of his inseparable companions of Newstead, and was a
member of the confraternity of the chapter. Thus he knew him well, and
if Lord Byron's temper had been unamiable, would he have undertaken such
a long journey with him? Lord Byron did not then possess even the
prestige of celerity to render him desirable as a fellow-traveller.
Well, on returning from this journey, Mr. Hobhouse was more attached
than ever to Lord Byron, and, speaking of his qualities, expressed
himself thus:--"To perspicacity of observation and ingenious remarks,
Lord Byron united that gayety and good-humor which keeps attention alive
under the pressure of fatigue, smoothing all difficulties and dangers."

Journeys taken together test tempers so much, that a good understanding
which has withstood the trial of twenty years, is often compromised in a
journey of twenty-four hours. Thus to choose again for our travelling
companions those with whom we have already long journeyed, is the best
testimony that can be rendered to their amiable disposition. Well, this
testimony was given by Mr. Hobhouse; and while proving Lord Byron's
excellent temper, it also proves the high character of Mr. Hobhouse. For
we must not forget that malice and stupidity were inflicting a real
persecution on Lord Byron at the very moment when Mr. Hobhouse hastened
to rejoin him at Geneva, so as to travel again in company with his noble
friend. They accomplished together an excursion into the Alps, and
afterward crossed over them to visit Italy. On arriving at Venice, the
two friends separated for several months; but in the spring they met
again to visit together Rome and Florence. It was beside Mr. Hobhouse,
while scaling the Alps, that the plan of "Manfred" was conceived; and it
was on the road from Venice to Rome that the fourth canto of "Childe
Harold" was written: it is dedicated to Mr. Hobhouse, and he it was who
made the volume of notes, which forms, even independently of the text, a
work so well appreciated in England.

Having gathered from Lord Byron's first journey proofs of his good
natural disposition, and of the control he exercised over himself, I
shall also draw others from his last: that journey from Cephalonia to
Missolonghi which proved so fatal, and which alone, from all Lord Byron
did, said, and wrote during the time it lasted, would suffice to reveal
his fine character, and almost every one of his virtues.

It is well known, that during this journey he underwent still greater
annoyances than in the one from Genoa to Cephalonia, which had already
tried him so much. On seeing both destiny and the elements so
pertinaciously combine against its success, one might really be tempted
to embrace superstitious ideas, and see therein the efforts of his good
genius raising up all sorts of obstacles in order to save him, and keep
him from that fatal shore. I have already given the description of this
journey so full of dramatic incidents; and I have related Lord Byron's
admirable conduct throughout, in the passages where proofs are adduced
of his courage in danger, of his extraordinary coolness and extreme
generosity. But that is not enough; we must also examine him with regard
to amiability of temper and the self-control he was able to exercise.

We have seen him, when pressed on all sides to quit the Ionian Islands
for the continent of Greece, yield to these entreaties, although it was
the most severe season of the year (28th December), and, notwithstanding
a stormy sea, set out for Missolonghi.

He refused the honor of an escort of Greek vessels, hiring instead a
Cephalonian _Mistico_, and a heavy _Bombarda_ that waited for him at St.
Euphemia. But on arriving near the harbor, he was driven back by
contrary winds. Forced to remain on shore and wait, what sort of humor
did he display under these annoyances? Mr. Kennedy, who went to wish him
a pleasant journey, shall tell us.

"I found him," says he, "quietly reading 'Quentin Durward,' and, as
usual, in high spirits."

Meanwhile, the sea grew calm. They set sail, and embarked; Lord Byron on
the little _Mistico_, with his doctor, two or three servants, and his
dogs; Count Gamba on the _Bombarda_, with the arms, horses, followers,
baggage, papers, money, etc. On arriving at Zante, persons came to offer
Lord Byron means of amusement, various comforts, etc. To accept might
have been very pleasant for him; but he knew that he was wanted at
Missolonghi; and not an hour would he lose after having transacted
business with his bankers. He believed (for it had been announced) that
Greek vessels were coming to meet him; nor did he doubt that the Turkish
fleet was still anchored at Lepanto. Sea and wind were favorable, the
sky serene, fortune for once seemed to smile; but it was only the better
to deceive him. The Turks had been informed of his departure; and hoped
to make an easy prey of him and his riches. They left the waters of
Lepanto, and heading their course toward Patras, set off in pursuit of
Lord Byron and his suite.

At the close of a few hours, the _Mistico_, which was a good sailer,
lost sight of the _Bombarda_, of slower motion. They halted opposite the
Scrophes (rocks in Roumelia), to wait for it; and meanwhile Lord Byron
saw a large vessel bearing down upon him. Could it be the Greek vessel
sent to meet him? The _Mistico_ fired a pistol at its approach, but the
vessel did not answer fire. Was it the enemy, then? On hearing the cries
of the sailors on board, the captain could no longer doubt it: it was
an Ottoman frigate, calling on them to surrender. Their sole hope of
safety lay in the swiftness of their sails. Under cover of the darkness,
which left the Turks in fear lest the _Mistico_ should be a fire-ship,
and aided by the almost miraculous silence that reigned,--for even the
dogs, that had been barking all night, now held their peace,--the
_Mistico_ sped onward rapidly. At dawn of day it had arrived opposite
the coast, but, owing to a contrary wind, was unable to get into port.
At the same moment, another Turkish vessel, on the watch, closed the
passage toward the Gulf. An Ionian boat perceived the danger, and made
signals from the shore for the _Mistico_ not to approach. They then
succeeded, all sails set, in throwing themselves between the rocks of
Roumelia, called Scrophes, where the Turkish vessel could not penetrate.
It was amid these rocks, where he hardly remained an hour, that Lord
Byron wrote Colonel Stanhope a letter, truly admirable for its
generosity, patience, courage, coolness, and good temper; a letter which
it would seem impossible to pen under such circumstances, and which
makes Count Gamba say, when he quotes it in his work entitled "Last
Voyage of Lord Byron in Greece:"--

"Such was Lord Byron's style in the midst of great dangers. There was
always immense gayety in him, under circumstances that render other men
serious and full of care. This disposition of mind gave him an air of
frankness and sincerity, quite irresistible, even with persons
previously less well disposed toward him."

Having hardly, and as if by a miracle, escaped from this danger, and
being exposed every instant to assault from the Turks, having seen the
_Bombarda_ captured by the Ottoman frigate, did he complain of any thing
personal to himself? No. His sole anxiety was for Count Gamba; his
uneasiness was the danger to which the Greeks with him were exposed. As
to his money losses--"_Never mind_," said he,"_don't think about it, we
have some left._ But we have no arms, except two carbines and some
pistols; and if our friends, the Turks, took a fancy to send their
vessels to attack us, I greatly fear that we should only be four on
board to defend ourselves."

Not being able to know that the _unexpected apparition_ of the Turkish
fleet had put out all their calculations, and prevented the Greek
government from collecting the vessels sent from Missolonghi to meet
him; not knowing that Missolonghi, in great consternation, on learning
the danger to which he was exposed, was about to send other vessels in
quest of him, other vessels that would no longer find him near the
Scrophes rocks, he necessarily believed that nothing had been done to
keep the promises made him. Under such a persuasion, would not some few
harsh words have been most natural? And yet this is the language Lord
Byron used:--

"But where has it gone to; the fleet that lets us advance without giving
the least sign of any Moslems in these latitudes? Present my respects to
Mavrocordato, and tell him I am here at his disposal. I am ill at ease
here (among the rocks), not so much for myself, as for the Greek child
with me; for you know what his destiny would be! We are all in good
health."

The _Mistico_ had hardly been an hour among these rocks, Lord Byron's
letter to Colonel Stanhope was hardly finished, when the Turkish vessel
on the lookout made toward them to give chase; and they were obliged to
fly without delay. Issuing from the rocks, they directed their course,
full sail, toward a little port of Acarnania, called Dragomestri, where
they arrived before night.

Lord Byron wished to continue his route by land; but it was impossible.
The mountains did not afford him better hospitality than the sea. It was
the 1st of January; his sole resting-place was the damp deck of the
_Mistico_. There he slept, there he eat the coarse sailors' food; and
his fingers were so cramped with cold, that he could scarcely write. If
he had complained a little of his hard fate, could one be much
astonished? Yet these are the terms in which he wrote to his two
correspondents at Cephalonia.--_It was the month of January; he wished
every one a happy new year; apparently forgetting only himself. He then
entered into some details about his "Odyssey" with so much calmness,
that nothing seemed to touch him personally; but his heart protested
meanwhile, and he could not help showing uneasiness about the fate of
his friend Count Gamba, although persuaded that his detention was only
temporary:_--

"I regret the detention of Gamba, etc., but the rest we can make up
again, so tell Hancock to set my bills into cash as soon as possible,
and Corgialegno to prepare the remainder of my credit with Messrs. Webb
to be turned into money. We are here for the _fifth day without taking
our clothes off, and sleeping on deck in all weathers, but are all very
well and in good spirits_. I shall remain here, unless something
extraordinary occurs, till Mavrocordato sends, and then go on, and act
according to circumstances. My respects to the two colonels, and
remembrances to all friends. Tell _Ultima Analise_[106] that his friend
Raids did not make his appearance with the brig, though I think that he
might as well have spoken with us in or off Zante, to give us a gentle
hint of what we had to expect. Excuse my scrawl, on account of the pen
and the frosty morning at daybreak.

BYRON."

He writes at the same time to Hancock:--

"Here we are--the _Bombarda_ taken--or at least missing, with all the
Committee stores, my friend Gamba, the horses, negro, bull-dog, steward,
and domestics, with all our implements of peace and war--also 8000
dollars; but whether she will be a lawful prize or no, is for the
decision of the governor of the Seven Islands. We are in good condition,
considering wind and weather, being hunted by the Turks, and the
difficulty of sleeping on deck; we are in tolerable seasoning for the
country and circumstances. But I foresee that we shall have occasion for
all the cash I can muster at Zante and elsewhere. Tell our friends to
keep up their spirits--and we may yet do well. I hope that Gamba's
detention will only be temporary. As for the effects and money, if we
have them, well; if otherwise, patience! I disembarked the boy and
another Greek, who were in most terrible alarm. As for me and mine, we
must stick to our goods. I wish you a happy new year; and all our
friends the same. Yours,

BYRON."

Would an impatient, irritable temper have acted thus, and preserved
such serenity amid so many annoyances, privations, and sufferings, of
which one alone might suffice to make a stoic bitter?

But this was not yet all. After six days of this life, hopeless of being
able to continue by land, and getting no answer from Missolonghi (from
whence, nevertheless, several gun-boats had been dispatched to meet him,
and also the brig "Leonidas," which he only fell in with near the
Scrophes), he resolved on setting out. But the wind, which had never
ceased being contrary, soon changed into a furious tempest. Then Byron
was truly sublime. His bark was thrown against enormous rocks; the
affrighted sailors, seeing their lives in danger, and excited by fear,
abandoned the vessel to seek refuge on the rocks. But he remained there,
on board the vessel, which every one saw was sinking.[107]

Encouraged by such an example, the sailors let go their hold on the
rocks to try and free the vessel, which they succeeded in setting afloat
again; but it was only for it to be forced back a second time by the
angry waves. Then despair seized on them all; they trembled for the
general safety, and for the illustrious personage on board. He alone
showed no emotion; but calmly said to his doctor, who, in great alarm,
was about to swim for the shore: "Do not leave the vessel while we have
sufficient strength to guide her; only when the water covers us
entirely, then throw yourself into the sea, and I will undertake to save
you."

And in the midst of those dangers he not only appeared calm, but his
gay, playful humor, and his habit of observing the different aspects of
every thing, did not abandon him. After having soothed and consoled
those around him, he likewise found means of amusement in the strong
traits of individuality which fear brought to light among his followers.
The sailors who had remained on board, seeing the danger become so
imminent, were about to betake themselves, like the rest, to the rocks;
but encouraged by Lord Byron's words and example, they remained at their
post, and succeeded in bringing the vessel between two little islands,
where they cast anchor. Thus Lord Byron, by his courage, firmness, and
his great experience in the art of navigation, overcame this great
peril, saving several lives, together with the money and other means of
assistance he was conveying to Greece! The sailors esteemed themselves
happy to be able to cast anchor between these islands, or rather these
rocks, in order to pass the night; but even what appeared fortunate, was
destined to turn out the reverse in this fatal journey.

If Lord Byron did not complain of the privation and ennui he
experienced, he did not, therefore, feel them less. After so many nights
passed on the damp and dirty deck of his _Mistico_, he could not resist
the desire of refreshing himself, and seeking amid the waves that
cleanliness which was an imperative want for his refined nature. And so,
without reflecting on the rigor of the season (it was the month of
January), he plunged into the troubled sea, and swam there for half an
hour. Imprudence no less fatal to him than to Alexander.[108] For it was
then, undoubtedly, that he contracted the seeds of the malady which
showed itself soon after, and under which he succumbed. At last he
arrived at Missolonghi, without having ceased for one instant to be
threatened by the sea. He was expected there as if he had been the
Messiah, says Stanhope; and the consternation caused by the dangers he
had gone through, gave place, on his arrival, to the most lively joy.
Lord Byron met with a reception worthy of himself.[109] But this
enthusiastic joy, which found expression in songs as well as tears,
subjected his patience and good-nature to another sort of trial.

"After eight days of such fatigue," says Count Gamba, "he had scarcely
time to refresh himself, and converse with Mavrocordato, and his friends
and countrymen, before he was assailed by the tumultuous visits of the
primates and chiefs. These latter, not content with coming all together,
each had a suite of twenty or thirty, and not unfrequently, fifty
soldiers! It was difficult to make them understand that he had fixed
certain hours to receive them. Their visits began at seven in the
morning, and the greater part of them were without any object." This is
one of the most insupportable annoyances to which a man of influence and
consideration is exposed in the East.

"_I saw Lord Byron bear all this with the greatest patience._"

Could an irritable temper have done so? For my part, I think that this
journey alone, borne, as we have seen, by his letters and the unanimous
testimony of his companions, with such perfect good-humor, that he could
jest, be quite resigned to unavoidable evils, show indulgence to the
faults of others, however great the sufferings entailed thereby on
himself; and display great self-denial, strength of mind, and
imperturbable serenity, amid frightful dangers; all these qualities, I
say, paint the moral nature of the man better than all analyses and
commentaries.

But alas! while displaying his virtues, this journey also brings out his
faults: since, prudent in behalf of others, he was not at all so for
himself; and his want of prudence planted in him the germs of the
disease which was so soon to be fatally developed in that stifling
atmosphere of Greece, then full of tumult and confusion. If the limits
of this chapter allowed, we could multiply proofs of his naturally
amiable disposition at all periods of his life; and we would show what
he was in Switzerland, at Venice, Ravenna, Pisa, Genoa, and in Greece,
up to his last hour, as he has been described by Shelley, Hoppner, M. de
G----, Medwin, Lady B----, and so many others. But to those who have
said he was irritable because, feeling himself susceptible of irritation
and anger, he declared himself to be so, I will content myself with
answering simply by a few lines borrowed from the truthful conversations
of Mr. Kennedy:--

"Even during his last days on earth, he calumniated himself. For
instance, he told me, that at a certain hour, every evening, he had
intolerable fits of ill-humor. Well, Mr. Finlay and M---- always went to
see him precisely at that fatal hour, and they invariably found him gay,
pleasant, and amiable, as usual."

Mr. Finlay, a young English officer of merit and high intelligence, whom
Lord Byron thought very like Shelley, which, perhaps, increased his
sympathy for him, and who only knew him two months before his death,
says, in a letter written on Lord Byron to Colonel Stanhope:--

"What astonished me most was the indifference with which Lord Byron
spoke to us of all the lying reports his enemies spread against him. He
gave his vindication and explanation with as much calm frankness as if
it had concerned another person."

And he declares his astonishment at seeing him submit to the lessons of
morality, and the censures on his opinions and principles which Kennedy,
in his extreme orthodoxy, made him undergo.[110]

I will also add, that Lord Byron was often heard to say that he had been
in a frightful rage with his servants; but, if they were questioned,
_they knew nothing at all about it_. It is known, moreover, that his
toleration and gentleness with them almost exceeded due bounds, and
that, even when he had serious cause for chiding them, his severest
reprimands were conveyed in jests and pleasantries.

Persons who will not change their convictions, go so far as to
say,--"Well, be it so. We admit that he may have been calumniated in his
private life, and that his strange fancy of speaking against himself may
have contributed toward it. But how do you explain the anger expressed
by his pen? Do you forget his misanthropical invectives, his personal
attacks, his 'Avatar,' his epigrams?"

And I answer them:--"Do you forget that there are different kinds of
anger? some that can never be vicious, and others that can never be
virtuous? The anger expressed by his pen--the sole kind that was real
with him--requires to be explained, not excused or forgotten."

"Let us beware," says a great contemporary philosopher, "of him who is
never irritated, and can not understand the existence of a noble
anger."[111]

Be so good as to examine, without preconceived opinions, and without
prejudice, the nature of every kind of anger he displayed; see if any
were personal, egotistical, or whether they did not rather spring from
some noble cause; whether they were not rather the generous explosions
of a soul burning with indignation at evil and injustice, because it
ever held in view the contrast afforded by an ideal of its own that was
only too perfect?

It is impossible, for instance, not to see that his pen was guided by
one of these generous impulses when he spoke of Lord Castlereagh. He
had no personal, malevolent, interested antipathy toward this gay and
fashionable nobleman. His pen was inspired simply by his conscience,
that revolted at sight of the evils which he attributed to Lord
Castlereagh's policy. It was not the colleague, but the minister, that
he wished to stigmatize together with his policy, which appeared to Lord
Byron inhuman, selfish, and unjust. It was this same policy that caused
Pitt to say:--

"If we were just for one hour, we should not live a day." And
again:--"Perish every principle rather than England!"

What other statesman did Lord Byron attack except Castlereagh? But him
he did detest with a noble hatred.

"By what right do you attack Lord C----?" he was asked.

"By the right," he replied, "that every honest man has to denounce the
minister who ruins his country, and treads under foot every sentiment of
equity and humanity."

A few days before setting out on his last journey to Greece, he said to
an English lady passing through Genoa:--

"With regard to Lord Castlereagh personally, whom you hear that I have
attacked, I can only say that a bad minister's memory is as much an
object of investigation as his conduct while alive. He is a matter of
history; and wherever I find a tyrant or a _villain_, I will mark him. I
attacked him no more than I had the right to do, and than was necessary.

"Do not defend me, you will only make yourself enemies--mine are neither
to be diminished nor softened."

When Lord Byron wrote about Lord Castlereagh, imagination beheld in him
the author of all the evils inflicted on Ireland, the man who through a
selfish feeling of nationality, dangerous even to England, had riveted
the chains of all Europe.

"If he spoke and wrote thus of Lord Castlereagh," says Kennedy himself,
"the reason was that he really thought him an enemy to the true
interests of his country; and this sentiment, carried perhaps to excess,
made him consider it just to condemn him to the execration of
humanity."[112]

What I have said with regard to his attacks on Lord Castlereagh, may
equally apply to all the satire hurled against other individuals,
against governments and nations. His benevolence was so great and
universal, that it rendered the idea of the sufferings endured by
humanity quite intolerable to him. His love of justice likewise was so
great, that he became thoroughly indignant at seeing what he worshiped
trampled under foot by individual or national selfishness, while deceit
and injustice were reigning triumphant. Lord Byron conceived a sort of
hatred and dislike for the wicked, and those who voluntarily prevented
the well-being of men. And when thus indignant at some injustice, if he
snatched up a pen, he could not help expressing himself with a certain
kind of violence, in order to chastise, if he could not change, the
guilty men who martyrized Ireland, crushed and degraded Italy, and
condemned England to the hatred of the whole world. The sparkling, witty
strain, mocking at all human things, which had served as a weapon for
his reason while asserting the interests of truth and injustice in
Italy, and protesting against folly and evil, no longer sufficed him
then. He required to brand with fire the limit where folly stops and
crime begins. Thus it was not mocking, joking satire he would inflict on
these great culprits; but burning words to mark the limits where this
should stop, and stigmatize them by condemning moral deformity. This is
what he did, and wished to do, with regard to Castlereagh, and also with
regard to the Austrians in Italy. Shall it be said that his language was
occasionally too violent; that the punishment went beyond the crime?
But, in the first place, condemnation was pronounced in the language of
poetry; and then, does not appreciation of the measure kept depend
solely on the point of view taken by reason and conscience when they sat
in judgment?

Shall it be said that the moral sense of these invectives was not always
brought forward with all the clearness desirable? But let them be
examined attentively, and then the fine sentiments to which they owe
their origin will be understood.

Let us read "Avatar," for instance,--"Avatar," teeming with noble
anger,--and say if any poetry exists emitting flame and light purer, and
more intense in its moral life, more efficacious for keeping within the
boundaries of that humane just policy from which Lord Byron never
swerved.

If, in the war he waged against evil and its perpetrators, he did not
outstep the limits of merited punishment, nevertheless he often did go
beyond the limits of a quality (he possessed not) which is raised to the
rank of a virtue, but which applied, despite conscience, to our personal
interests, is but selfishness and cowardice. And therein was he truly
sublime; for in attacking thus, not only the great men of the day, but
likewise the prejudices, idolatries, and passions belonging to such a
proud nation, he well knew the harm that would result to himself. But
Lord Byron was a real hero. So soon as his conscience spoke, he heard no
other voice, but kept his glance fixed on the light of justice and truth
beaming at the end of his career. Without looking to the right or to the
left, without taking into account the obstacles and dangers which
personal prudence counselled him to avoid, he held on his course;
exposed his noble breast to British vengeance pursuing him across the
Channel and the Alps, and then also to Genevan and Austrian shafts that
flew back again across the Alps and the Channel on the wings of dark,
fierce calumny.

Still I do not pretend to assert that, on some rare occasions, personal
suffering did not give rise to irritation and anger. He belonged to
humanity; and if, despite the harsh trials to which his sensibility was
exposed, he had escaped entirely from nature's laws, he would have been
not only heroic, but superhuman.

It is then very possible that, in the sad days preceding, accompanying,
and following on his separation from Lady Byron, he may have been
irritable. Such a host of evils overwhelmed him at once! He may have
allowed to escape his lips at that time some drops of the ocean of
bitterness with which his soul was overflowing. It is certain also that
when the Edinburgh critics made such cruel havoc with his heart and
mind, the over-excitement caused by this review had likewise for its
source the wounds inflicted on his self-love. Can we be astonished at
it, when we reflect that this senseless, wicked criticism succeeded to,
and contrasted strangely with, the praises awarded by such judges as
Mackenzie and Lord Woodhouse? They both had expressed their admiration
spontaneously, and without knowing the writer: one of them was the
celebrated author of the "Man of Feeling," and the other had brought out
many esteemed works, and was considered to be at the head of Scottish
literature. Besides, these cutting criticisms followed close on the
strong admiration expressed by his friends, by all the society in which
he was then moving, and by a mother who idolized him! These verses,
though not yet the highest expression of his genius, were certainly full
of charming tenderness, grace, and naïve sensibility; moreover, they had
been given to the public in such a modest way by a man so young that he
might almost be called a child! If he were not conscious of his great
superiority, of which he must nevertheless have felt some prophetic
presentiment--restrained, doubtless, by modesty and timidity,--he must
at least have been conscious that he had not, in any way, merited the
brutality displayed in attacks which violated all the laws of just and
allowable criticism.

Lord Byron's soul revolted at it, and in his indignation repelling
assault by assault, he overstepped his aim; for he certainly went to
extremes. And yet, in the very paroxysm of such irritation, was a
personal sentiment his first incentive? No! it was a good, generous,
affectionate feeling that actuated him: fear lest his mother should be
grieved at what had occurred.

He had scarcely been told how biting the criticism was, and he had not
read it, when he hastened to write to his friend Beecher:--

"Tell Mrs. Byron not to be out of humor with them, and to prepare her
mind for the greatest hostility on their part. It will do no injury
whatever, and I trust her mind will not be ruffled. They defeat their
object by indiscriminate abuse, and they never praise, except the
partisans of Lord Holland and Co. It is nothing to be abused when
Southey and Moore share the same fate."

In assuming this philosophical calm, which he really did arrive at
later, but which he was very far from possessing at this time,--in
forcing this language on his just resentment to console his mother, when
his whole being was agitated, he certainly made one of those efforts
which betoken a soul as vigorous as it was beautiful. He used his pen as
soon as he had satisfied this first want of his heart; but the
intensity of passion destroyed his equilibrium.

When at Ravenna he wrote:--

"I recollect well the effect that criticism produced on me; it was rage,
and resistance, and redress, but not despondency nor despair. A savage
review is hemlock to a sucking author; the one on me knocked me
down--but I got up again. This criticism was a master-piece of low
jests, a tissue of coarse invectives. It contained many commonplace
expressions, lowlived insults; for instance, that one should be grateful
for what one got; that a gift horse ought not to be looked at in the
mouth, and other stable vocabulary; but that did not frighten me. I
resolved on giving the lie to their predictions, and on showing them,
that, however discordant my voice, it was not the last time they were to
hear it."

But when this heat had passed away, his innate passion for that justice
so cruelly violated toward himself, made him quickly recover his
self-possession. He repented having written this satire, which he
designated as insensate, and wished to suppress it. He even judged it
more severely than others.

He wrote to Coleridge in 1815:--

"You mention my satire, lampoon, or whatever you like to call it. I can
only say, that it was written when I was very young and very angry, and
has been _a thorn in my side ever since_: more particularly as almost
all the persons animadverted upon became subsequently my acquaintances,
and some of them my friends, which is heaping fire on an enemy's head,
and forgiving me too readily to permit me to forgive myself. The part
applied to you is pert, and petulant, and shallow enough; but, although
I have long done every thing in my power to suppress the circulation of
the whole thing, I shall always regret the wantonness or generality of
its attempted attacks."[113]

On examining his conscience with regard to this satire, and passing
judgment on himself, he adds, in a note to his own verses, after having
given great praise to Jeffrey for his magnanimity, etc.:--

"_I was really too ferocious--this is mere insanity._--B., 1816."

And farther on:--

"_This is bad; because personal._--B., 1816."

With regard to his verses on his guardian, Lord Carlisle, so culpable
toward himself, he generously remarks:

"_Wrong also_--_the provocation was not sufficient to justify such
acerbity._--B., 1816."

To what he said against Wordsworth he simply adds the word, "_Unjust._"

And again, with reference to Lord Carlisle:--

"_Much too savage, whatever the foundation may be._--B., 1816."

And at Geneva, 14th of July, 1816, he writes:--

"_The greater part of this satire I most sincerely wish had never been
written_: not only on account of the injustice of much of the critical
and some of the personal part of it, but the tone and temper are such as
I can not approve.--BYRON, _Villa Diodati_, 1816."

Lastly, from Venice he wrote to Murray, who wished to make a superior
edition of his works:--

"With regard to a future large edition, you may print all, or any thing,
_except_ '_English Bards_,' to the republication of which at no time
will I consent. I would not reprint them on any consideration. I don't
think them good for much, even in point of poetry; and, as to other
things, you are to recollect that I gave up the publication on account
of the Hollands, and I do not think that any time or circumstances
should cancel the suppression. Add to which, that, after being on terms
with almost all the bards and critics of the day, it would be savage at
any time, but worst of all _now_,[114] to revive this foolish lampoon."

"Whatever may have been the faults or indiscretion of this satire," says
Moore, "there are few who would now sit in judgment upon it so severely
as did the author himself, on reading it over nine years after, when he
had quitted England, never to return. The copy which he then perused is
now in possession of Mr. Murray, and the remarks which he has scribbled
over its pages are well worth transcribing. On the first leaf we
find:--

     "The binding of this volume is considerably too valuable for its
     contents. Nothing but the consideration of its being the property
     of another prevents me from consigning this miserable record of
     misplaced anger and indiscriminate acrimony to the flames.

     BYRON."

To this ample reparation offered on account of his early satire we must
add the following paragraph, from the first letter he addressed to Sir
Walter Scott, in 1812:--

"I feel sorry that you should have thought it worth while to notice the
'_evil works of my nonage_,' as the thing is suppressed voluntarily; and
your explanation is too kind not to give me pain. The satire was written
when I was very young and very angry, and fully bent on displaying my
wrath and my wit, and now I am haunted by the ghosts of my wholesale
assertions. I can not sufficiently thank you for your praise."

Thus scrupulously did this conscientious man judge himself. And not only
do we find him repeating the same fine sentiment a hundred times, but he
caused the whole edition, then still in the hands of the publisher, to
be destroyed, which of course entailed a great sacrifice of money. He
became intimate with the principal personages whom he had attacked; and
even, in order to testify that no resentment continued to exist in his
mind against his guardian, Lord Carlisle, he seized the first
opportunity that presented itself of writing in "Childe Harold" those
pathetic generous lines on the death of his son, Major Howard. He acted
just in the same way every time he thought he had any fault to repair.
But could this same love of justice, that had guided him through life,
have caused him equally to disavow what he said of Lord Castlereagh and
of Ireland in "Avatar?" of Southey and the Austrians at Venice? or the
greater part of the satirical traits contained in "Don Juan" and the
"Age of Bronze?" I do not think so. I believe, even, that if on his
death-bed, he had been asked to retract some of his writings, he would
have answered as Pascal did. And this because the sentiment which under
all circumstances guided his pen did not arise from any personal
interest, but was only, to use the beautiful language of a great
contemporary philosopher, "the indignation and revolt of the generous
faculties of the soul, which, hurt by injustice, rose up proudly, to
protest against human dignity, offended in one's own person or in that
of others."

This sentiment not being capable of change, neither could its
consequences bring any repentance. According to Lord Byron, Castlereagh
was a scourge for mankind. Faithful to this opinion, as to all his great
principles, he wrote to Moore in 1815:--

"I am sick at heart of politics and slaughters; and the luck which
Providence is pleased to lavish on Lord Castlereagh, is only a proof of
the little value the gods set upon prosperity, when they permit such
rogues as he and that drunken corporal, old Bl----, to bully their
betters. From this, however, Wellington should be excepted. He _is_ a
man, and the Scipio of our Hannibal."

Let people read the "Avatar," the eleventh octave and following of the
dedication of "Don Juan," the forty-ninth and fiftieth stanzas of the
ninth canto of "Don Juan," as well as the epigrams; and they will have a
fair idea of the generous sentiments that provoked his indignation
against the inhuman policy of this minister. They will understand why he
wished to denounce him to the execration of posterity. As to his
satirical verses and anger against the poet laureate, it has already
been seen on whose side lay the fault, and how this jealous poet,
through a combination of bad feelings, in which envy and revenge
predominated, spared no means, no occasion, of doing him harm. Thus Lord
Byron saw himself and his friends enveloped in one of those darksome
conspiracies, forming a labyrinth of calumny, whence the purest
innocence has no escape; and he felt that justice violated in the person
of his friends, by a man unworthy of respect, required him, in justice,
to brand the individual. And rightly did he so with his words of fire.
When Ireland, that he would fain have seen heroic under misfortune,
degraded herself by her conduct toward this minister and the king, on
the occasion of their visit, he, touched with noble indignation,
resolved to punish and warn her; and his "Avatar" expressed these fine
sentiments. When the prince regent, after having shown himself a Liberal
and a Whig, denied his part, betrayed his party, and leagued with the
Tories, Lord Byron's noble indignation burst forth in his verses, and,
whenever occasion offered, he stigmatized such unworthy conduct.

And a proof that it was the conduct of the individual, and not personal
animosity, that guided his pen, may be found in the fact that a single
ray of hope of seeing this moral deformity transformed into beauty,
sufficed to make him change his tone immediately. When he learned the
pardon that had just been granted by George the Fourth to the guilty
Lord Edward Fitzgerald, he forgot all past offenses; his soul expanded
to admiration and hope; and he composed that beautiful sonnet, which so
well reveals the aspirations of his great heart:--

  "To be the father of the fatherless,
    To stretch the hand from the throne's height, and raise
    _His_ offspring, who expired in other days
  To make thy sire's sway by a kingdom less,--
  _This_ is to be a monarch, and repress
    Envy into unutterable praise.
    Dismiss thy guard, and trust thee to such traits,
  For who would lift a hand except to bless?
    Were it not easy, sir, and is't not sweet
    To make thyself beloved? and to be
  Omnipotent by mercy's means? for thus
    Thy sovereignty would grow but more complete:
  A despot thou, and yet thy people free,
    And by the heart, not hand, enslaving us."

                    _Bologna, August 12, 1819._

And then, as if poetry did not suffice, he adds these lines in prose:--

"So the prince has annulled Lord E. Fitzgerald's condemnation. He
deserves all praise, bad and good: it was truly a princely act."

All Lord Byron's expressions of indignation that have been attributed to
anger, belong really to his disinterested, heroic, generous nature. We
may convince ourselves of this by following him through life, beginning
from childhood, at college, when he would plant himself in front of
school tyrants, asking to share the punishments inflicted on his friend
Peel, and always taking the part of his weak or oppressed companions;
then, during his first youth, when an accumulation of unmerited griefs
and injustice cast over him a shade of misanthropy, so contrary to his
nature; and, lastly, up to the moment when that noble indignation burst
forth which he experienced in Greece, and which hastened his end.[115]

This is the truth. Nevertheless, if, in early youth, he did sometimes go
beyond the limits of what may be fairly conceded to extreme
sensibility,--to a certain hypochondriacal tendency of race, and more
especially of his intellectual life; if he really was sometimes wearied,
fatigued, discouraged, inclined to irritation, and to view things
darkly, can it, therefore, be said that he weakly gave way to a morbid
disposition? By no means. He always wished to sift his conscience
thoroughly,--never ceased analyzing causes and symptoms, proclaiming his
state morbid, and blaming himself beyond measure, far beyond what
justice warranted, for a single word that had escaped his lips under the
pressure of intense suffering. And even in the few moments of impatience
occasioned by his last illness, he said, "Do not take the language of a
sick man for his real sentiments." Lastly, he never gave over struggling
against himself; seeking to acquire dominion over his faculties and
passions intellectually by hard study, and materially by the strictest
régime. What could he do more? it may be said. But if it be true that he
had been irritable in his youth, that would only show how much he
achieved; for he must have conquered himself immensely, since at Venice,
Ravenna, Pisa, Genoa, and in Greece, he certainly displayed no traces of
temper, and all those causes which usually excite irritation and anger
in others had quite ceased to produce any in him.

"A mild philosophy," says the Countess G----, "every day more and more
took possession of his soul. Adversity and the companionship of great
thoughts strengthened him so much, that he was able to cast off the yoke
of even ordinary passions, only retaining those among the number which
impel to good.[116]

"I have seen him sometimes at Ravenna, Pisa, Genoa, when receiving news
of some stupid, savage attack, from those who, in violating justice,
also did him considerable harm. No emotion of anger any longer mixed
itself up with his generous indignation. He appeared rather to
experience a mixture of contempt, almost of quiet austere pleasure, in
the struggle his great soul sustained against fools."

When Shelley saw him again at Venice, in 1818, and painted him under the
name of Count Maddalo, he said:--

"In social life there is not a human being _gentler, more patient, more
natural, and modest_, than Lord Byron. He is gay, open, and witty; his
graver conversations steep you in a kind of inebriation. He has
travelled a great deal, and possesses ineffable charm when he relates
his adventures in the different countries he has visited."

Mr. Hoppner, English consul at Venice, and Lord Byron's friend, who was
living constantly with him at this time, sums up his own impressions in
these remarkable terms:--

"Of one thing I am certain, that I never met with goodness more real
than Lord Byron's."

And some years later, when Shelley saw Lord Byron again at Ravenna, he
wrote to Mrs. Shelley:--

"Lord Byron has made great progress in all respects; in genius,
_temper_, moral views, health, and happiness. His intimacy with the
Countess G---- has been of inestimable benefit to him. A fourth part of
his revenue is devoted to beneficence. He has conquered his passions,
and become what nature meant him to be, _a virtuous man_."

In concluding these quotations, no longer requisite, I hope, I will only
make one last observation, _that all which infallibly changes in a bad
nature never did change in him_. Friendship, real love, all devoted
feelings, lived on in him _unchanged_ to his last hour. If he had had a
bad disposition, been capricious, irritable, or given to anger, would
this have been the case?

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 106: Count Delladecima, to whom he gives this name in
consequence of a habit which that gentleman had of using the phrase "in
ultima analise" frequently in conversation.]

[Footnote 107: See the account given by Mr. Bruno, his physician.]

[Footnote 108: Alexander the Great imprudently bathed in the Cydnus,
etc.]

[Footnote 109: "Life in Italy." See how he was received at Missolonghi.]

[Footnote 110: Parry, 215.]

[Footnote 111: Jules Simon.]

[Footnote 112: Kennedy, 330.]

[Footnote 113: Moore, vol. iii, p. 159.]

[Footnote 114: _Now_ alludes to the ungenerous treatment received from
many of these persons at the time of his separation.]

[Footnote 115: See his "Life in Italy."]

[Footnote 116: Ibid.]



CHAPTER XVIII.

LORD BYRON'S MOBILITY.


So much has been said of Lord Byron's mobility that it is necessary to
analyze it well, and examine it under different aspects, so as to define
and bring it within due limits. In the first place, we may ask on what
grounds his biographers rested their opinion of this extraordinary
mobility, which, according to them, went beyond the scope of
intellectual qualities rather into the category of faults of temper?
Evidently it was again through accepting a testimony the small value of
which we have already shown; namely, Lord Byron's own words at
twenty-three years of age--that period when passion is hardly ever a
regular wind, simply swelling sails, but rather a gusty tempest,
tearing them to pieces; and then again they grounded their opinion
on verses in "Don Juan," where he explains the meaning of these
expressions,--versatility and mobility. Moore, from motives we shall
examine hereafter, found it expedient to take Lord Byron at his word,
and to make a great fuss about this quality. In summing up his
character, he reasons very cleverly on the unexampled extent, as he
calls it, of this faculty, and the consequences to which it led in Lord
Byron. Following in Moore's wake, other biographers have proclaimed Lord
Byron versatile. Moore exaggerates so far as to pretend that this
faculty made it almost impossible to find a dominant characteristic in
Lord Byron. As if mobility were not, in reality, a universal quality or
defect,--as if men could so govern themselves throughout life as to
resemble the hero of a drama, where the action is confined within
classical rules.

"A man possessing the highest order of mind is, nevertheless, unequal,"
says La Bruyère. "He suffers from increase and diminution; he gets into
a good train of thought, and falls out of it likewise.

"It is different with an automaton. Such a man is like a machine,--a
spring. Weight carries him away, making him move and turn forever in the
same direction, and with equal motion. He is uniform, and never changes.
Once seen, he appears the same at all times and periods of life. At
best, he is but the ox lowing, or the blackbird whistling; he is fixed
and stamped by nature, and I may say by species. What shows least in him
is his soul; that never acts,--is never brought into play,--perpetually
reposes. Such a man will be a gainer by death."

La Bruyère also says, "There is a certain mediocrity that helps to make
a man appear wise."

And what says Montaigne, that great connoisseur of the human heart?--

"Our usual custom is to go right or left, over mountains or valleys,
just as we are drifted by the wind of opportunity. We change like that
animal which assumes the color of the spots where it is placed. All is
vacillation and inconstancy. We do not walk of ourselves; we are carried
away like unto things that float now gently and now impetuously,
according to the uncertain mood of the waters. Every day some new fancy
arises, and our tempers vary with the weather. This fluctuation and
contradiction ever succeeding in us, has caused it to be imagined by
some that we possess two souls; by others, that two faculties are
perpetually at work within us, one inclining us toward good, and the
other toward evil."

Montaigne also says:--"I give my soul sometimes one appearance, and
sometimes another, according to the side on which I look at it; if I
speak variously of myself, it is because I look at myself variously: all
contrarieties, in one degree or other, are found in me, according to the
number of turns given. Thus I am shamefaced, insolent, chaste, sensual,
talkative, taciturn, laborious, delicate, ingenious, stupid, sad,
good-natured, deceitful, true, learned, ignorant, liberal, avaricious,
and prodigal, just according to the way in which I look at myself; and
whoever studies himself attentively, will find this _variety and
discordancy_ even in his judgment.

"We are all _parts of a whole_, and formed of such shapeless, mixed
materials, that every part and every moment does its own work."

If, then, we all experience the varied influences of our passions a
hundred times in a lifetime, not to say in every twenty-four hours; if
we are sensible of a thousand physical and moral causes, perpetually
modifying our dispositions, and our words, making us differ to-day from
what we were yesterday; if even the coldest and most stoical
temperaments do not wholly escape from these influences, how could Moore
be surprised that Lord Byron, who was so sensitive and full of passion,
so hardly used by men and Providence, that he should not prove
invulnerable? Moore was not surprised at it in reality, it is true; he
only made-believe to be so, and that because Lord Byron was wanting in
some of those virtues called peculiarly English. Lord Byron had no
superstitious patriotism; he did not love his country through sentiment
or passion, but on duty and principle. He loved her, but justice also!
and he loved justice best. And in order to do homage to truth, he had
committed the fault of saying a host of irreverential truths concerning
that country, and also many individuals belonging to it; consequently he
had made many enemies for himself. Indeed, his enemies might be found in
every camp: among the orthodox, in the literary world, and the world of
fashion, among the fair sex, and in the political world. Moore, for his
part, wished to live in peace with all these potentates,--the warm,
comfortable, and brilliant atmosphere of their society had become a
necessity for him; and wishing also, perhaps, to obtain pardon for his
friend's boldness, he probably thought to conciliate all things by
sparing the susceptibility of the great. Instead, then, of attributing
Lord Byron's severe appreciations to observation, experience, and
serious reflection, he preferred declaring them the result of capricious
and inconsistent mobility. But more just in the depths of his soul than
he was in words, Moore, it is easy to see, felt painfully conscious of
the wrong done to his illustrious friend, and ardently wished to make
his own weakness tally with truth. What was the result? The brilliant
edifice he had raised was so unstable of basis, that it could not stand
the logic of facts and conclusions. While appearing to consider the
excess of this quality as a defect, and calling it dangerous, he was all
the time showing that Lord Byron had strength to overcome any real
danger it contained; he was giving it to be understood that this
versatility of intellect might exist without the least mobility of
principle; he made out that mobility was the ornament of his
intelligence, just as he had shown constancy to be the ornament of his
soul. Then, after having reasoned cleverly on this quality, yclept
versatility when applied to the intelligence, and mobility when applied
to conduct; after having shown how predominant it must have been in Lord
Byron through his great impressionability; Moore says that Lord Byron
did yield to his versatile humor, without scruple or resistance, in all
things attracting his mind, in all the excursions of reason or fancy
assuming all the forms in which his genius could manifest its power,
transporting himself into all the regions of thought where there were
any new conquests to make; and that thereby he gave to the world a grand
spectacle, displayed a variety of unlimited and almost contradictory
powers, and finally achieved a succession of unexampled triumphs in
every intellectual field. Then, in order to characterize completely this
quality of Lord Byron, Moore further adds:--

"It must be felt, indeed, by all readers of that work, and particularly
by those who, being gifted with but a small portion of such ductility
themselves, are unable to keep pace with his changes, that the
suddenness with which he passes from one strain of sentiment to another,
from the gay to the sad, from the cynical to the tender,--begets a
distrust in the sincerity of one or both moods of mind which interferes
with, if not chills, the sympathy that a more natural transition would
inspire. In general, such a suspicion would do him injustice; as among
the singular combinations which his mind presented, that of uniting at
once versatility and depth of feeling was not the least remarkable."

But, throughout this analysis by Moore, do we see aught save an
intellectual quality? Does it not stand out in relief, a pure, high
attribute of genius? For this to be a defect, it would be necessary
that, leaving the domain of intelligence, it should become mobility, by
entering into the course of his daily life in _extraordinary_
proportions. And how does it, in reality, enter there? Were his
principles in politics, in religion, in all that constitutes the man of
honor in the highest acceptation of the term, at all affected by it? Did
his true affections, or even his simple tastes, suffer from the varied
impresses of his versatile genius? In short, was Lord Byron inconstant?
Moore has sufficiently answered, since all he remarked and said oblige
us to rank _constancy_ among Lord Byron's most shining virtues.[117] And
as a human heart can not at the same time be governed by a virtue and
its opposite vice, what must we say to those who should persist (for
there are some, doubtless, who will), despite all axioms, in considering
Lord Byron as a changeable, capricious, fickle man? I reply, that Lord
Byron proved, once more, the truth of the observation made by that
moralist, who said: "The most beautiful souls are those possessing the
greatest variety and pliancy," and that he realized in himself, after a
splendid fashion, the moral phenomenon remarked in _Cato the Elder_,
who, according to Livy, possessed a mind at once so versatile and so
comprehensive, that whatever he did it might be thought he was born
solely for that.

I will acknowledge, then, the intellectual versatility and the mobility
of Lord Byron, but on condition of their being reduced to their real
proportions; of their being shown as they ever existed in him, that is
to say, under subjection to duty, honor, and feeling. Through his
extreme impressionability, and his power of combining, in the liveliest
manner, the greatest contrasts, through the pleasure he took in
exercising such extraordinary faculties, and in manifesting them to
others, Lord Byron sometimes assumed such an appearance of skeptical
indifference and caprice, that he might almost be said to show a certain
intermission of faculties, and even of ideas. But if his words and
writings are examined, it will be seen that this mobility was only
skin-deep. It might affect his nerves and muscles, but did not penetrate
into his system. It animated his writings occasionally, and oftener his
words, _but never his actions!_ for, if in some rare moments of life, he
abandoned his will to the sway of light breezes, that was only for very
evanescent fancies of youth, in which neither heart nor honor were at
stake. And even then it was rather by word than by deed, as occurred at
Newstead, when he was twenty years of age, and at Venice when he was
twenty-eight. His energetic soul did not, like feebler natures, require
inconstancy to awaken it. As to ideas, they were only changeable in
him, when they were by nature open to discussion or _accessory_; and
they remained floating, until having been elaborated by his great
reason, he could admit them into the small number of such as he
considered chosen and indisputable. Then they found a sort of sanctuary
in his mind, remaining there sacred and unmoved, just like his true
sentiments of heart.

His mobility, thus limited and circumscribed within due bounds by
unswerving principles and the dictates of an excellent heart, _was thus
shorn of all danger_, and had for its first result to contribute toward
producing that amiability and that wonderful fascination which he
exercised over all those who came near him. Moore quotes, on this head,
the words of Cooper, who, speaking of persons with a changeful
intellectual temperament, says, that their society "_ought to be
preferred in this world, for, all scenes in life having two sides, one
dark and the other brilliant, the mind possessing an equal admixture of
melancholy and vivacity, is the one best organised for contemplating
both._" Moore adds:--"It would not be difficult to show that to this
readiness in reflecting all hues, whether of the shadows or the lights
of our variegated existence, Lord Byron owed not only the great range of
his influence as a poet, but those powers of _fascination_ which he
possessed as a man. This susceptibility, indeed, of immediate
impressions, which in him were so active, lent a charm, of all others
the most attractive, to his social intercourse, and brought whatever was
most agreeable in his nature into play."

All those who knew him have said the same thing. This charm was the
immediate consequence of his qualities; but they produced another
result, that justice requires to be mentioned. Mobility being united in
him with constancy and the most heroic firmness, added lustre to his
soul through that great difficulty overcome which amounts to virtue.
Moralists of all ages have generally found the virtue of constancy so
rare, that they have said,--

    "Wait for death to judge a man."

"In all antiquity," says Montaigne, "it would be difficult to find a
dozen men who shaped their lives in a certain steady course which is the
chief end of wisdom."

This is true as regards the generality of minds; but to overcome this
difficulty, when one has a mind eager for emotion, variable, with width
and depth capable of discerning simultaneously the for and against of
every thing, and thus being necessarily exposed to perplexity of choice,
it is surely marvellous if a mind so constituted be also constant. Now,
Lord Byron personified this marvel. In him was seen the realization of
that rare thing in nature, intellectual versatility combined with
unswerving principle; mobility of mind united to a constant heart. In
short, to sum up:--He possessed the amount of versatility requisite to
manifest his genius under all its aspects; a degree of mobility most
charming in social intercourse; and such constancy as is always
estimable, always a virtue, and which, united to a temperament like
his,[118] becomes positively wonderful.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 117: See the chapter on "Constancy."]

[Footnote 118: See the chapter on "Constancy."]



CHAPTER XIX.

LORD BYRON'S MISANTHROPY AND SOCIABILITY.


Lord Byron has also been accused of misanthropy. But what is a
misanthrope? Since Lucian, this name has been bestowed on the man who
owns no friend but himself; who looks upon all others as so many rogues,
for whom relatives, friends, country, are but empty names; who despises
fame, and aims at no distinction except that conferred by his strange
manners, savage anger, and inhumanity.

When those who have known Lord Byron, and studied his life, compare him
to this type, it may well be asked whether such persons be in their
right understanding. The famous tower of Babel, and all the confusion
ensuing, rise up to view.

The excess of absurdity may give way, however, to some little moderation
in judgment. It will be said, for instance, that there are different
kinds of misanthropy. Lucian's "Timon" does not at all resemble
Molière's "Alceste:" Lord Byron's misanthropy was not like either of
theirs; his was only of the kind that mars sociability, good temper, and
other amiable qualities. In short, we shall be given to understand that
Lord Byron is only accused of _having liked solitude too much, of having
shunned his fellow-creatures too much, and thought too ill of humanity_.

But these modifications can not satisfy our conscience. Still too many
reasons of astonishment may be offered to allow us to resist the desire
of adding other facts and indisputable proofs to those already adduced
in the chapter where we examined the nature and limits of his melancholy
at all periods of life, and throughout all its phases.[119] This chapter
might even suffice as a response to the above strange accusation.

A better answer still would be found in all the proofs we have given of
his goodness, generosity, and humanity. Nevertheless, we think it right
rather to appeal to the patience of our readers; so that they may
consider with us, more especially, one of the peculiar aspects of Lord
Byron's character; namely, his sociability.

That Lord Byron loved solitude, and that it was a want of his nature who
can doubt? As a child, we know, his delight was to wander alone on the
sea-shore, on the Scottish strand. At school, he was wont to withdraw
from his beloved companions, and the games he liked so well, in order to
pass whole hours seated on the solitary stone in the church-yard at
Harrow, which has been fitly called _Byron's Tomb_. He himself describes
these inclinations of his childhood in the "Lament of Tasso:"--

  "Of objects all inanimate I made
  Idols, and out of wild and lonely flowers,
  And rocks, whereby they grew, a paradise,
  Where I did lay me down within the shade
  Of waving trees, and dream'd uncounted hours,
  Though I was chid for wandering; and the wise
  Shook their white aged heads o'er me, and said,
  Of such materials wretched men were made."

Arrived at adolescence, he showed so little inclination to mix in
society that his friends reproached him with his over-weening love for
solitude. Amid the gay dissipation of university life, he was often a
prey to vague disquietude. Like the majority of great spirits that had
preceded him at Cambridge,--Milton, Gray, Locke, etc.,--he did not enjoy
his stay there. He even made a satire upon it in his early poems. At a
later period, when he had acquired fame, at the very height of his
triumphs, when he was _the observed of all observers_, he often caught
himself dreaming on the happiness of escaping from fashionable society,
and getting home; for, like Pope, he greatly preferred quiet reading to
the most agreeable conversation.

All his life there were hours and days wherein his mind absolutely
required this repose.

It may, then, truly be said that he loved solitude, and felt a real
attraction for it. But would it be equally just to attribute this taste
to melancholy, and then to call his melancholy _misanthropy_? Those who
have deeply studied the nature of a certain order of genius, and the
phases of its development, will discover something very different in the
impulse that attracted the child Byron to the sea-shore in Scotland, and
to the sepulchral stone shaded over by the tall trees of Harrow? They
will see therein, not the melancholy apparent to vulgar eyes, but the
forecast of genius, to be revealed sooner or later, and with a further
promise, in the antipathy shown for the routine of schools, and
especially of the University of Cambridge,--a suffocating atmosphere for
genius, equally uncongenial to Milton, Dryden, Gray, and Locke, who all,
like Lord Byron, and more bitterly than he, exercised their satiric vein
on it. As for the slight attraction he sometimes showed for the world in
his youth--in his seventeenth year--and which the excellent Mr. Beecher
reproached him with, his feelings are too well defined by the noble boy
himself for us to dare to substitute any words of ours in lieu of those
used by him, in justification to his friend.

  Dear Beecher, you tell me to mix with mankind;
    I can not deny such a precept is wise;
  But retirement accords with the tone of my mind;
    I will not descend to a world I despise.

  Did the senate or camp my exertions require,
    Ambition might prompt me at once to go forth;
  And, when infancy's years of probation expire,
    Perchance, I may strive to distinguish my birth.

  The fire in the cavern of Etna concealed
    Still mantles unseen in its secret recess:
  At length in a volume terrific revealed,
    No torrent can quench it, no bounds can repress.

  Oh! thus the desire in my bosom for fame
    Bids me live but to hope for posterity's praise.
  Could I soar with the phoenix on pinions of flame,
    With him I would wish to expire in the blaze.

  For the life of a Fox, of a Chatham the death,
    What censure, what danger, what woe would I brave!
  Their lives did not end when they yielded their breath;
    Their glory illumines the gloom of their grave.

  Yet why should I mingle in Fashion's full herd?
    Why crouch to her leaders, or cringe to her rules?
  Why bend to the proud, or applaud the absurd,
    Why search for delight in the friendship of fools?

  I have tasted the sweets and the bitters of love;
    In friendship I early was taught to believe;
  My passion the matrons of prudence reprove;
    I have found that a friend may profess, yet deceive.

  To me what is wealth?--it may pass in an hour,
    If tyrant's prevail, or if Fortune should frown:
  To me what is title? the phantom of power;
    To me what is fashion?--I seek but renown.

  Deceit is a stranger as yet to my soul:
    I still am unpracticed to varnish the truth:
  Then why should I live in a hateful control?
    Why waste upon folly the days of my youth?             1806.

Thus it was the desire of fame that then engrossed his whole soul; the
wish of adding some great action to illustrate a name already ennobled
by his ancestors.

Subsequently, this ardent desire may have become weakened. Alas! he had
been made to pay so dearly for satisfying it. But at the outset of his
career this aspiration after glory, that belongs to the noblest souls,
was the strongest impulse he had,--the one that often made him prefer
the solitary exercise of intelligence to even the usual dissipation of
youth, and when he did yield, like others, he punished himself by
self-inflicted blame and contempt, often expressed in an imprudent,
exaggerated manner.

Nevertheless, the paths that lead to glory are various, and trod by
many; which should he choose? Then did he feel the further torment of
uncertainty. His faculties were various, and he was to learn this to his
cost. He was to feel, though vaguely, that he might just as well aspire
to the civic as to the military crown; be an orator in the senate, or a
hero on the field of battle.

Among all the careers presenting themselves before him, the one that
flattered him least was to be an author or a literary man. But he was
living in the midst of young men well versed in letters. Most of them
amused themselves with making verses. To tranquillize his heart, and
exercise his activity of mind, he also made some, but without attaching
any great importance to them. These verses were charming; the first
flower and perfume of a young, pure soul, devoted to friendship and
other generous emotions. Nevertheless, a criticism that was at once
malignant, unjust, and cruel, fell foul of these delightful, clever
inspirations. The injustice committed was great. The modest, gentle, but
no less sensitive mind of the youth was both indignant and overwhelmed
at it. Other sorrows, other illusions dispelled, further increased his
agitation, making a wound that might really have become misanthropy, had
his heart been less excellent by nature. But it could not rankle thus in
him, and his sufferings only resulted in making him quit England with
less regret, and throw into his verses and letters misanthropical
expressions, no sooner written than disavowed by the general tone of
cordiality and good-humor that reigned throughout them; and, lastly, by
suggesting the imprudent idea of choosing a misanthrope as the hero of
the poem in which he was to sing his own pilgrimage.

This necessity of essaying and giving expression to his genius also made
him desire solitude yet more. He found poetic loneliness beneath the
bright skies of the East, where he pitched his tent, slowly to seek the
road to that fame for which his soul thirsted. But when he arrived at
it,--when he became transformed, so to say, into an idol,--did this
necessity for solitude abandon him? By no means.

"_April 10th._--I do not know that I am happiest when alone," he writes
in his memoranda; "but this I am sure of, I never am long in the society
even of her I love--and God knows how I love her--without a yearning for
the company of my lamp and my library. Even in the day, I send away my
carriage oftener than I use or abuse it."

This desire, this craving for his lamp and his library,--this absence of
taste for certain realities of life,--show affinities between Lord Byron
and another great spirit, Montaigne. One might fancy one hears Lord
Byron saying, with the other:--

"The continual intercourse I hold with ancient thought, and the ideas
caught from those wondrous spirits of by-gone times, disgust me with
others and with myself."

He also felt _ennui_ at living in an age that _only produced very
ordinary things_.

But whether he felt happy or sad, it was always in silence, in
retirement, and contemplation of the great visible nature, carrying his
thought away to what does not the less exist though veiled from our
feeble sight and intellect; it was there, I say, that his mind and heart
sought strength, peace, and consolation.

His soul was bursting with mighty griefs when he arrived in
Switzerland, on the borders of Lake Leman. He loved this beautiful spot,
but did not deem himself sufficiently alone to enjoy it fully.

  "There is too much of man here, to look through
  With a fit mind the might which I behold,"

said he; and he promised himself soon to arrive at that beloved
solitude, so necessary to him for enjoying well the grand spectacle
presented by Helvetian nature; but, he added:--

  "To fly from, need not be to hate, mankind:
   *     *     *     *     *     *     *
  Nor is it discontent to keep the mind
  Deep in its fountain, lest it over boil
  In the hot throng."

And then he continues:--

  "I live not in myself, but I become
  Portion of that around me; and to me
  High mountains are a feeling."

Thus, even in the midst of the beloved solitude so necessary to him,
there was no misanthropy in his thoughts or feelings, but simply the
desire of not being disturbed in his studies and reveries. Lord Byron
often said, that solitude made him better. He thought, on that head,
like La Bruyère:--"_All the evil in us_," says that great moralist,
"_springs from the impossibility of our being alone. Thence we fall into
gambling, luxury, dissipation, wine, women, ignorance, slandering, envy,
forgetfulness of self, and of God._" If the satisfaction of this noble
want were to be called _misanthropy_, few of our great spirits, whether
philosophers, poets, or orators, could escape the accusation. For, with
almost all of them, the taste for retirement and solitude has been
likewise a necessity: a condition without which we should have lost
their greatest _chefs-d'oeuvre_. The biography of the noblest minds
leaves no doubt on this head. But if Lord Byron did not use solitude
like a misanthrope, if he loved it solely as a means, and not as an end,
so that we may even say it was with him an antidote to misanthropy, can
we equally give proof of his sociability? To clear up this point, we
have only to glance at his whole life. For the sake of avoiding
repetition, let us pass over his childhood, so full of tenderness, and
ardor for youthful pastimes; his boyhood, all devoted to feelings
affectionate and passionate; his university life, where sociability
seemed to predominate over regular study; the vacations, when it was
such pleasure to act plays, and he was the life of amateur theatres,--a
time that has left behind it such an enthusiastic memory of him, that
when Moore, some years after Lord Byron's death, went to obtain
information about it from the amiable Pigott family, not one member
could be found to admit that Lord Byron _had the smallest defect_. Let
us also pass over his sojourn at Newstead, when his sociability and
gayety appear even to have been too noisy; and let us arrive at that
period of his life when he began to be called a misanthrope, because he
gave himself that appellation, because real sorrows had cast a shade
over his life, and because, wishing to devote himself to graver things,
his object was to withdraw from the society of gay, noisy companions,
and then to mature his mind in distant travel. He left his native land,
but in company with his friend Hobhouse, a man distinguished for his
intelligence, and who, instead of testifying to his fellow-traveller's
misanthropy, bears witness, on the contrary, to his amiable, sociable
disposition.

When this friend was obliged to take leave of him in Greece, and return
to England, Lord Byron frequented the society of pleasant persons like
Lord Sligo, Mr. Bruce, and Lady Hester Stanhope, whom he met at Athens,
alleviating his studious solitude by intercourse with them.

When he also returned to England, after two years of absence, great
misfortunes overwhelmed him. He lost successively his mother, dear
friends, and other loved ones. Not to sink beneath these accumulated
blows, and mistrusting his own strength, he called in to aid him the
society of his friends.

"My dear Scroope," wrote he, "if you have an instant, come and join me,
I entreat you. I want a friend; I am in utter desolation. Come and see
me; let me enjoy as long as I can the company of those friends that yet
remain."

Some time after, having attained the highest popularity, and his mind
being soothed by friendship even more than by fame, he entered into the
fashionable society in which his rank entitled him to move.

He frequented the world very much at this period, cultivating it
assiduously. A moment even came when he seemed to be completely absorbed
by gayety. Sometimes going to as many as fourteen assemblies, balls,
etc., in one evening. "He acknowledged to me," says Dallas, "that it
amused him." Did not his genius suffer then from the new infatuation? So
courted, flattered, and surrounded by temptations, did not this worldly
life prove too seductive, hurtful to his mind, heart, and independence
of character? Did he draw from the world's votaries his rules of
judgment, his ways of thought? Did he yield when brought in contact with
that terrible _English law of opinion_? No; Lord Byron was safe from all
such dangers. Amid the vortex in which he allowed himself to be whirled
along, his mind was never idle. In the drawing-rooms he frequented, his
intellectual curiosity found field for exercise. Though so young, he had
already reflected much on human nature in general; but he still required
to study individuals. It was in society that his extraordinary
penetration could find out true character, discover the reality lurking
under a borrowed mask. The great world formed an excellent school to
discipline his mind. There he found subjects for observation that he
afterward put in order, and brought to maturity in retirement.

"Wherever he went," says Moore, "Lord Byron found field for observation
and study. To a mind with a glance so deep, lively, and varied, every
place, and every occupation, presented some view of interest; and,
whether he were at a ball, in the boxing-school, or the senate, a genius
like his turned every thing to advantage."

And if _salons_ in general were powerless to exercise any bad influence
over him, this impossibility was still greater with regard to London
_salons_. Without adopting as exact the picture drawn of them by a
learned academician,[120] in a book more witty than true, wherein we
read:--"that under pain of passing for eccentric, of giving scandal or
exciting alarm, English people are forbidden to speak of others or
themselves, of politics, religion, or intellectual things or matters of
taste; but only of the environs, the roundabouts, a picnic, a visit to
some ruin, a fashionable preacher, a fox-hunt, and the rain,--that
never-ending theme kindly furnished by the inconstant climate;" without,
I say, adopting this picture as true, for in England it must be
considered a clever caricature, it is nevertheless certain, that the
discipline of fashionable London _salons_ requires independence of mind
to be in a measure sacrificed. The tone reigning in these _salons_,
which are only opened during the season, is quite different from that
produced by the open-hearted hospitality which renders English country
residences so very agreeable. Could Lord Byron long take pleasure in the
salons of the metropolis, where every thing is on the surface and noisy,
where one may say that people are content with simply showing
themselves, intending concealment all the while; or where they show
themselves _what they are not_; where set forms, or a vocabulary of
their own, so far limits allowable subjects of conversation, that fools
may easily have the advantage over clever men (for intellect is looked
upon as suspicious, dangerous, bold, and called an eccentricity). Lord
Byron, so frank, and open-hearted, loving fame, and having a sort of
presentiment that Heaven would not accord him sufficient time to reap
his full harvest of genius, consequently regretting the moments he was
forced to lose; must he not, after seeking amusement in these
assemblies, soon have found that they lasted too long, and were too
fatiguing? Must he not often have well-nigh revolted against himself,
felt something cold and heavy restraining his outburst of soul,
something like a sort of slavery; must he not have understood that it
was requisite for him to escape from such useless pastimes in order to
re-invigorate himself by study, in the society of his own thoughts, and
those of the master-spirits of ages? Yes, Lord Byron did experience all
that. _Ennui_ of the world called him back to solitude. We can not doubt
it, he said so himself:--

"Last night, _party_ at Lansdowne House; to-night, party at Lady
Charlotte Greville's--_deplorable waste of time_, and loss of _temper,
nothing imparted, nothing acquired_--_talking without ideas_--if any
thing like thought were in my mind, it was not on the subjects on which
we were gabbling. Heigho! and in this way half London pass what is
called life. To-morrow, there is Lady Heathcote's--shall I go? Yes; to
punish myself for not having a pursuit."

And, elsewhere:--

"Shall I go to Lansdowne's? to the Berry's? They are all pleasant; but I
don't know, I don't think that _soirées_ improve one."

He will not go into the world:--

"I don't believe this worldly life does any good; how could such a world
ever be made? Of what use are dandies, for instance, and kings, and
fellows at college, and women of a certain age, and many men of my age,
myself foremost?"

Having changed his apartments, he had not yet got all his books; was
reading without order, composing nothing; and he suffered in
consequence. "I must set myself to do something directly; my heart
already begins to feed on itself." He accuses himself of not profiting
enough by time. "Twenty-six years of age! I might and ought to be a
Pasha at that age. '_I 'gin to be weary of the sun._'" But let him be
with a clever friend, like Moore, for instance, and, oh! then the
_ennui_ of salons becomes metamorphosed into pleasure for him, without
taking away his clearsightedness as to the world's worth.

"Are you going this evening," writes he to Moore, "to Lady Cahir's? I
will, if you do; and wherever we can unite in follies, let us embark on
the _same ship of fools_. I went to bed at five, and got up at nine."

And elsewhere, after having expressed his disappointment at seeing Moore
so little during the season, he calls London "a populous desert, where
one should be able to keep one's thirst like the camel. _The streams are
so few, and for the most part so muddy._"

And ten years later, in the fourteenth canto of "Don Juan," he said,
speaking of fashionable London society:--

  "Although it seems both prominent and pleasant,
    There is a sameness in its gems and ermine,
  A dull and family likeness through all ages,
  Of no great promise for poetic pages.

  XVI.

  "With much to excite, there's little to exalt;
    Nothing that speaks to all men and all times;
  A sort of varnish over every fault;
    A kind of commonplace, even in their crimes;
  Factitious passions, wit without much salt,
    A want of that true nature which sublimes
  Whate'er it shows with truth; a smooth monotony
  Of character, in those at least who have got any.

  XVII.

  "Sometimes, indeed, like soldiers off parade,
    They break their ranks and gladly leave the drill;
  But then the roll-call draws them back afraid,
    And they must be or seem what they were: still
  Doubtless it is a brilliant masquerade;
    But when of the first sight you have had your fill,
  It palls--at least it did so upon me,
  This paradise of _pleasure and ennui_."

It was thus that he judged what is called the great world, the
fashionable crowd. Yet never having ceased to frequent it, he also might
have said, with Plutarch:--"My taste leads me to fly the world; but the
gentleness of my nature brings me back to it again."

The best proof, however, of his sociable disposition does not lie in
this fact of his going much to great assemblies, since he submitted to,
rather than sought after that: it consists in the pleasure he always
took in the society of friends, and those whom he loved; in the want of
_intimacy_ which he ever experienced. In such quiet little circles he
was truly himself, quite different to what he appeared in salons. Then
only could he be really known. His wit, gayety, and simplicity were
unveiled solely for friends and intimates. He, so light-hearted, became
serious amid the forced laughter of drawing-rooms; he, so witty, waxed
silent and gloomy amid unmeaning conventional talkativeness. Those who
only saw him in salons, or on fashionable staircases, during the four
years he passed in England, did not really know him; is it surprising
that he should have been wrongly judged? Moore alone has tolerably well
described the agreeable, sociable, gay, kind being Lord Byron was.

When he quitted England, his sociable disposition did not abandon him,
though his soul was filled with bitterness. He had scarcely arrived at
Geneva, when he became intimate with Shelley. He made him the companion
of his walks, passed whole days and evenings in his society, and that of
his amiable wife. Several London friends came to join him in
Switzerland. In his excursions over the Alps, Lord Broughton (then Mr.
Hobhouse) was always his faithful companion. He frequented and
appreciated then, more than he had ever done before in England, the
society of Madame de Staël at Coppet, because it was there and not in
drawing-rooms that this noble-hearted woman showed herself what she was.
Always attracted by high intellect, he became intimate with Count Rossi,
entertaining so great a sympathy for him, that often when the count was
about to leave him and return to Geneva, Lord Byron retained him by his
entreaties. As to the natives of Geneva, as he detested Calvinism, and
knew that they believed the calumnies wickedly spread abroad against him
by some of his country-people, he did not see them often, for he did not
like them. "What are you going to do in that den of honest men," said he
one day to Count Rossi, who was preparing to leave. On arriving at
Milan, he immediately adopted the style of life usual there. Every
evening he went to the theatre, occupying M. de Breme's box, together
with a group of young and clever men; among them I may name Silvio
Pellico, Abbé de Brême, Monti, Porro, and Stendhal (Beyle), who have all
unanimously testified to his amiability, social temper, and fascinating
conversation. At Venice, he allowed himself to be presented in the most
hospitable mansions of the nobility; particularly distinguishing those
where Countess Albruzzi and Countess Benzoni presided, for he always
went to one or other of these ladies after leaving the theatre. Nor did
he disdain, during the early part of his stay at Venice, even the
official salon of the Comtesse de Goetz. But his aversion for Austrian
oppression and the perfidy of the official press soon obliged him to
withdraw; for the oppressors of Venice, knowing him to be a formidable
enemy, sought to discredit him by spreading all sorts of calumnious
reports against him and his private character.[121]

It has been seen in his "Life in Italy" how he divided his time at
Venice, and the impression he made wherever there had not been a
preconceived purpose of judging him unfavorably. In the morning, his
first walk was always directed toward the convent of the Armenian
Fathers, in the island of San Lazzaro. He went there to study their
language; and these good monks conceived an extreme affection for him.
Afterward he would cross the Laguna going to the Lido, where his stables
were. He was accustomed to ride on horseback with the different friends
who chanced to arrive from England: such as Hobhouse, Monk Lewis, Rose,
Kinnaird, Shelley, and more particularly still with Mr. Hoppner,
Consul-general for England at Venice, a man of the noblest stamp, much
beloved by Lord Byron, and who, in the account he has left of this
intercourse, can not find words adequate for expressing all he wished to
say of the charming social qualities Lord Byron displayed at Venice.
"_People have no idea_," says he, "_of Lord Byron's gayety, vivacity,
and_ amiability." He followed Italian customs, went every evening to the
theatre, where his box was always filled with friends and acquaintances;
and after that, generally spent the remainder of the evening or night,
according to the then custom of Venice, in the most distinguished
circles of the town, principally at the houses of Countess Albruzzi and
Countess Benzoni, where he was not only welcome, but so much liked, that
these salons were voted dull when he did not appear. Lastly, his social
qualities and amiability gave so much pleasure at Venice, and the
inhabitants were so desirous of keeping him among them, that his
departure for Ravenna actually stirred up malice, quite foreign to the
usual simplicity characterizing Venetian society.[122]

The friends who came to see him there,--Hobhouse, Lewis, Kinnaird,
Shelley, Rose, etc.,--succeeded each other at short intervals, and their
arrivals were so many fêtes for him. But while he was leading this
sociable life, vulgar tourists, who had not been able to succeed in
getting presented to him, took their revenge, by repeating in every
direction fables they had gleaned from the gondoliers for a few
pence--viz., that Lord Byron was a misanthrope and hated his countrymen.
Mr. Hoppner, who was an ocular witness of the life which Lord Byron led
at Venice, and whose testimony is so worthy of respect, told Moore how
much annoyance Lord Byron endured from English travellers, bent on
following him everywhere, eyeglass in hand, staring at him with
impertinence or affectation during his walks, getting into his palace
under some pretext, and even penetrating into his bedroom.

"Thence," says he, "his bitterness toward them. The sentiments he has
expressed in a note termed cynical, as well as the misanthropical
expressions to be found in his first poems, _are not at all his natural
sentiments_."

And then he adds that he is very certain "_never to have met with in his
lifetime more real goodness than in Lord Byron_."

Moore, also, is indignant at all these perfidious inventions:--

"Among those minor misrepresentations," says he, "of which it was Lord
Byron's fate to be the victim, advantage was at this time taken of his
professed distaste to the English, to accuse him of acts of
inhospitality, and even rudeness, toward some of his fellow-countrymen.
How far different was his treatment of all who ever visited him, many
grateful testimonies might be collected to prove; but I shall here
content myself with selecting a few extracts from an account given to me
by Mr. Joy, of a visit which, in company with another English gentleman,
he paid to the noble poet, during the summer of 1817, at his villa on
the banks of the Brenta. After mentioning the various civilities they
had experienced from Lord Byron; and, among others, his having requested
them to name their own day for dining with him:--'We availed ourselves,'
says Mr. Joy, 'of this considerate _courtesy_ by naming the day fixed
for our return to Padua, when our route would lead us to his door; and
we were welcomed with all the cordiality which was to be expected from
so friendly an invitation. Such traits of kindness in such a man deserve
to be recorded on account of the numerous slanders heaped upon him by
some of the tribes of tourists, who resented, as a personal affront, his
resolution to avoid their impertinent inroads upon his retirement.

"'So far from any appearance of indiscriminate aversion to his
countrymen, his inquiries about his friends in England were most anxious
and particular.

"'After regaling us with an excellent dinner (in which, by-the-by, a
very English joint of roast-beef showed that he did not extend his
antipathies to all John Bullisms), he took us in his carriage some miles
on our route toward Padua, after apologizing to my fellow-traveller for
the separation, on the score of _his anxiety to hear all he could of
his friends in England_: and I quitted him with a confirmed impression
of the strong ardor and sincerity of his attachment to those by whom he
did not fancy himself slighted or ill-treated!'"

It has been seen elsewhere[123] that Mr. Rose, speaking of Lord Byron's
sociable temper at Venice, said _his presence sufficed to diffuse joy
and gayety in the salons he frequented_."

When any worthy persons among his countrymen arrived, his _house_, his
_time_, his _purse_ were at _their service_.

For further proof, let people only read the details Captain Basil Hall
gave Murray of his intercourse with Byron.

"_His witty, clever conversation_," says Shelley, who visited him at
Venice in 1817, "_enlivened our winter nights and taught me to know my
own soul. Day dawned upon us, ere we perceived with surprise that we
were still listening to him._"

When he went from Venice to Romagna, he passed by Ferrara. But though
eager to arrive where his heart summoned him, he did not fail delivering
the letters of introduction given him by friends. At Ferrara he made the
acquaintance of a noble family, and went into society there, speaking of
it afterward in the most flattering manner.[124]

At Ravenna, he frequented all the salons where he was introduced; and at
the request of Count G----, became the _cavaliere servente_ of the young
countess. According to the custom of the country, he accompanied her to
assemblies or theatres, or spent his evenings in her family circle. At
Pisa, he held aloof from the world, because his friends, the Gambas, who
had taken refuge there in consequence of the troubles and political
enmities existing in Romagna, did not wish to mix in society. But he
passed all his evenings regularly with them, either at their house, or
sometimes dispensing hospitality at home with the greatest affability
and kindness.

"I believe I can not give a better proof of the sociability of Lord
Byron's disposition," says Medwin, "than by speaking of the gayety that
prevailed at his Wednesday dinner-parties at Pisa. His table, when
alone, was more than frugal; but on these occasions, every sort of wine,
and all the delicacies of the season, were served up in grand display,
worthy of the best houses. I never knew any one who did the honors of
his house with greater affability and hospitality than Lord Byron.

"The vivacity of his wit, the warmth of his eloquence, are things not to
be expressed. Could we forget the tone of his voice, or his gesture,
adding charm to all he said?"[125]

At Pisa he generally received in the morning all those who wished to see
him, and among others several of his countrymen, mostly acquaintances or
friends of Shelley, who also went to see him every day. In the afternoon
he rode out on horseback, still followed by his countrymen, and by the
young Count Gamba; amusing himself with them till evening came, in
shooting exercises or in long excursions. We have already said how he
employed his evenings. In fact, he was so seldom alone that people could
not understand how he found time for writing. He did find it, however,
and without subtracting from social intercourse. Nor was it solely
because he composed so rapidly, but likewise because he gave to
occupation the hours that young men are wont to pass in idle, not to say
vicious, amusements. When he went from Pisa to a villa situated on the
hills that overlook Leghorn and the Mediterranean, in order to pass the
great heats of summer there, an American painter, Mr. West, who had been
commissioned by an American society, requested him to sit for his
picture. Lord Byron could not give him much time, and the portrait was
not successful. But Mr. West, who, if not a good artist, possessed a
just and cultivated mind, drew a picture of his moral character as true
as it was flattering,--his pen doing him better service than his
brush:--

"I returned to Leghorn," says he, "hardly able to persuade myself that
this was the proud misanthrope whose character had ever appeared
shrouded in gloom and mystery. For I never remember having met with
_gentler, more attractive manners_ in my life. When I told him the idea
I had previously formed, what I had thought about him, he was extremely
amused, laughed a great deal, and said, 'Don't you find that I am like
every body else?'"

But Mr. Rogers thought him better than every body else, for he says:--

"From all I had observed, I left him under the impression that he
possessed an excellent heart, which had been _completely misunderstood_,
perhaps on account of his mobility and apparent likeness of manner.
Indeed he took a capricious pleasure in bringing out this contrast
between himself and others."

On quitting Pisa he went to Genoa, and there produced the same
impression on all who saw him until he left for Greece.

At this last stage of his life, the testimonies as to his amiable,
genial nature are so unanimous, from the time of his arrival to the day
of his death, that we can not refrain from quoting the language used by
some of those who saw him then.

"When I was presented to him," writes Mr. D---- to Colonel Stanhope, "I
was particularly struck with his _extremely graceful and affable
manners_, so opposite to what I had expected from the reputation given
him, and which painted him as _morose, gloomy_, almost _cynical_."[126]

"I took leave of him," writes Mr. Finlay, who was presented to Lord
Byron at Cephalonia, "quite enchanted, charmed to find a great man so
agreeable."[127]

Colonel Stanhope, afterward Lord Harrington, who had been sent to Greece
by the committee, and who only knew Lord Byron a few months before his
death, notwithstanding great discrepancies of idea and character, says
frankly, _that with regard to social relations, no one could ever have
been so agreeable_; that there was no pedantry or affectation about him,
but, on the contrary, that he was like a child for simplicity and
joyousness.

"In the evening all the English, who had not, like Colonel Stanhope,
turned Odyssean, assembled at his house, and till late at night enjoyed
the charm of his conversation. His character _so much differed from what
I had been induced to imagine from the relations of travellers_, that
either their reports must have been inaccurate, or his character must
have totally changed after his departure from Genoa. It would be
difficult, indeed impossible, to convey an idea of the pleasure his
conversation afforded. Among his works that which may perhaps be more
particularly regarded as exhibiting the mirror of his conversation, and
the spirit which animated it, is 'Don Juan.' The following lines from
Shakspeare seem as if prophetically written for him:--

  "'Biron they call him; but a merrier man,
  Within the limits of becoming mirth,
  I never spent an hour's talk withal:
  His eye begets occasion for his wit;
  For every object that the one doth catch,
  The other turns to a mirth-moving jest;
  While his fair tongue (conceit's expositor)
  Delivers in such apt and gracious words,
  That aged ears play truant at his tales,
  And younger, hearing, are quite ravished;
  So sweet and voluble is his discourse.'"

Millingen says:--

"His wonderful mnemonic faculties, the rich and varied store with which
he had furnished his mind, his lively, brilliant, and ever-busy
imagination, his deep acquaintance with the world, owing to his
sagacious penetration, and the advantageous position in which, through
his birth and other circumstances, he had been placed, conjoined to the
highly mercurial powers of his wit, rendered his conversation peculiarly
interesting; enhanced, too, as it was by the