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Title: Byron
Author: Nichol, John, 1833-1894
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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REVIEWERS. 1808-1809.




--MANFRED. 1816-1820.







1.  The Narrative of the Honourable John Byron, Commodore, in  a late
    Expedition  Round the World, &c. (Baker and Leigh) 1768

2.  Voyage  of H.M.S. _Blonde_ to the Sandwich Islands in the years
    1824-1825, the Right  Hon. Lord  Byron, Commander (John Murray) 1826

3.  Memoirs of the  Life and Writings of the Right Hon. Lord Byron (H.
    Colburn) 1822

4.  The Life, Writings, Opinions, and Times of G.G. Noel Byron,   with
    courtiers of tho present   polished and enlightened age, &c., &c.,
    3 vols. (M. Hey) 1825

5.  Narrative of Lord Byron's last Journey to Greece, from Journal of
    Count Peter Gamba 1825

6.  Medwin's Conversations with Lord Byron at Pisa, 2 vols. (H. Colburn)

7.  Leigh   Hunt's   Byron   and   His   Contemporaries   (H. Colburn)

8.  The  Works   of   Lord   Byron,   with    Life by   Thomas Moore, 17
    vols. (Murray) 1832

9.  Galt's Life of Lord Byron (Colburn and Buntley) 1830

10. Kennedy's Conversations on Religion (Murray) 1830

11. Countess of Blessington's Conversations (Colburn) 1834

12. Lady Morgan's Memoirs, 2 vols.  (W.H. Allen) 1842

13. Recollections of the Countess Guiccioli (Bentley) 1869

14. Castelar's Genius and Character of Byron (Tinsley) 1870

15. Elze's Life of Lord Byron (Murray) 1872

16. Trelawny's Reminiscences of Byron and Shelley 1858

17. Torrens' Memoirs of Viscount Melbourne (Macmillan) 1878

18. Rev. F. Hodgson's Memoirs, 2 vols. (Macimillan) 1879

19. Essays  and  Articles, or Recorded Criticisms, by Macaulay, Scott,
    Shelley, Goethe, G. Brandes, Mazzini, Sainte Beuve, Chasles, H.
    Taine, &c.

20. Burke's Peerage and Baronetage 1879



Ralph de Burun (estates in Nottingham and Derby).
Hugh de Burun (Lord of Horestan).
Hugh de Buron (became a monk).
Sir Roger de Buron (gave lands to monks of Swinstead).
|                  Sir Richard Clayton.
|                  |
Robert de Byron. = Cecelia
Robert de Byron
Sir John Byron (Governor of York under Edward I.).
|                              |
Sir Richard Byron.             Sir John (knighted at siege of Calais)
Sir John (knighted in 3rd year of Henry V.).
|               Sir John Butler.
|               |
Sir Nicholas. = Alice.
|                                 |
Sir Nicholas (made K.B. at        Sir John (knighted by Richmond
  marriage of Prince Arthur,        at Milford; fought at Bosworth;
  died 1503).                       died 1488).
Sir John Byron = 2nd wife, widow of George Halgh.
  (received grant of Newstead from Henry VIII., May 26,1540).
Bar // Sinister
|                        Sir Nicholas Strelleye
|                        |
John Byron, of Clayton = Alice
  (inherited by gift, knighted by Elizabeth, 1579).
|                                   |
|                                   Sir Nicholas
|          Sir Richard Molyneux
|          |
Sir John = Anne
  (K.B. at coronation of James I; Governor of Tower).
|                                    |
RICHARD, 2nd Lord (1605-1679)        Sir JOHN 1st Lord (created
  (Buried at Hucknal Torkard)          Baron Byron of Rochdale,
|                                      Oct. 24, 1643; at Newbury,
|                                      Edgehill, Chester, &c.
|                   Viscount Chaworth  Governor of Duke of York; died
|                   |                  at Paris, 1652).
WILLIAM, 3rd Lord = Elizabeth.
  (died 1695)
|                   Lord Berkeley.
|                   |
WILLIAM, 4th Lord = Frances (3rd wife)
|                         |
Admiral John (1723-1786)  |- WILLIAM, 5th Lord (1722-1798) (killed Mr.
| "Foul-weather Jack").   |    Chaworth; survived his sons
|                         |    and a grandson, who died 1794;
|                         |    called "The wicked Lord").
|                         |
|                         | - Isabella = Lord Carlisle
|                                      |
|                                      Lord Carlisle (the poet's
|                                        guardian).
|                         |
|                         |- A daughter
|                         |  |
|                         |  Colonel Leigh
|                         |
|                         |- George Anson (1758-1793).
|                            |
|                            Admiral GEORGE ANSON, 7th Lord
|                              (1789-1868)
|                            |
|                            ----
|                               |- Frederick
|                               |  |
|                               |  GEORGE F. WILLIAM, 9th and present
|                               |    Lord Byron.
|                               |
|                               |- GEORGE, 8th Lord (1818-1870)
1. Marchioness   = John Byron (1751-1791) = 2. Miss Gordon of Gight
  of Carmarthen  |                        |
                 |                        |
Colonel Leigh =  Augusta                  GEORGE GORDON, 6th Lord
                        |                 | (1788-1824). Married
                        Several daughters | Anna Isabella (1792-1860),
                                          | daughter of Sir Ralph
                                          | Milbanke and Judith,
                                          | daughter of Sir Edward
                                          | Noel (Viscount Wentworth),
                                          | and by her had
  Earl Lovelace = Augusta-Ada (1815-1852).
          |                 |                  |
Mr. Blunt = Lady Anne.      Byron Noel         Ralph Gordon,
                              (died 1862)        now Lord Wentworth



Byron's life was passed under the fierce light that beats upon an
intellectual throne. He succeeded in making himself--what he wished to
be--the most notorious personality in the world of letters of our century.
Almost every one who came in contact with him has left on record various
impressions of intimacy or interview. Those whom he excluded or
patronized, maligned; those to whom he was genial, loved him. Mr. Southey,
in all sincerity, regarded him as the principle of Evil incarnate; an
American writer of tracts in the form of stories is of the same opinion:
to the Countess Guiccioli he is an archangel. Mr. Carlyle considers him to
have been a mere "sulky dandy." Goethe ranks him as the first English
poet after Shakespeare, and is followed by the leading critics of France,
Italy, and Spain. All concur in the admission that Byron was as proud of
his race as of his verse, and that in unexampled measure the good and evil
of his nature were inherited and inborn. His genealogy is, therefore, a
matter of no idle antiquarianism.

There are legends of old Norse Buruns migrating from their home in
Scandinavia, and settling, one branch in Normandy, another in Livonia. To
the latter belonged a distant Marshal de Burun, famous for the almost
absolute power he wielded in the then infant realm of Russia. Two members
of the family came over with the Conqueror, and settled in England. Of
Erneis de Burun, who had lands in York and Lincoln, we hear little more.
Ralph, the poet's ancestor, is mentioned in Doomsday Book--our first
authentic record--as having estates in Nottinghamshire and Derby. His son
Hugh was lord of Horestan Castle in the latter county, and with his son of
the same name, under King Stephen, presented the church of Ossington to
the monks of Lenton. Tim latter Hugh joined their order; but the race was
continued by his son Sir Roger, who gave lands to the monastery of
Swinstead. This brings us to the reign of Henry II. (1155-1189), when
Robert de Byron adopted the spelling of his name afterwards retained, and
by his marriage with Cecilia, heir of Sir Richard Clayton, added to the
family possessions an estate; in Lancashire, where, till the time of Henry
VIII., they fixed their seat. The poet, relying on old wood-carvings at
Newstead, claims for some of his ancestors a part in the crusades, and
mentions a name not apparently belonging to that age--

  Near Ascalon's towers, John of Horestan slumbers--

a romance, like many of his, possibly founded on fact, but incapable of

Two grandsons of Sir Robert have a more substantial fame, having served
with distinction in the wars of Edward I. The elder of these was governor
of the city of York. Some members of his family fought at Cressy, and one
of his sons, Sir John, was knighted by Edward III. at the siege of Calais.
Descending through the other, Sir Richard, we come to another Sir John,
knighted by Richmond, afterwards Henry VII., on his landing at Milford. He
fought, with his kin, on the field of Bosworth, and dying without issue,
left the estates to his brother, Sir Nicholas, knighted in 1502, at the
marriage of Prince Arthur. The son of Sir Nicholas, known as "little Sir
John of the great beard," appears to have been a favourite of Henry VIII.,
who made him Steward of Manchester and Lieutenant of Sherwood, and on the
dissolution of the monasteries presented him with the Priory of Newstead,
the rents of which were equivalent to about 4000l. of our money. Sir John,
who stepped into the Abbey in 1540, married twice, and the premature
appearance of a son by the second wife--widow of Sir George Halgh--brought
the bar sinister of which so much has been made. No indication of this
fact, however, appears in the family arms, and it is doubtful if the poet
was aware of a reproach which in any case does not touch his descent. The
"filius naturalis," John Byron of Clayton, inherited by deed of gift, and
was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1579. His descendants were prominent as
staunch Royalists during the whole period of the Civil Wars. At Edgehill
there were seven Byrons on the field.

  On Marston, with Rupert 'gainst traitors contending,
  Four brothers enrich'd with their blood the bleak field.

Sir Nicholas, one of the seven, is extolled as "a person of great
affability and dexterity, as well as martial knowledge, which gave great
life to the designs of the well affected." He was taken prisoner by the
Parliament while acting as governor of Chester. Under his nephew, Sir
John, Newstead is said to have been besieged and taken; but the knight
escaped, in the words of the poet--never a Radical at heart--a "protecting

  For nobler combats here reserved his life,
  To lead the band where godlike Falkland foil."

Clarendon, indeed, informs us, that on the morning before the battle,
Falkland, "very cheerful, as always upon action, put himself into the
first rank of the Lord Byron's regiment." This slightly antedates his
title. The first battle of Newbury was fought on September, 1643. For his
services there, and at a previous royal victory, over Waller in July, Sir
John was, on October 24th of the same year, created Baron of Rochdale, and
so became the first Peer of the family.

This first lord was succeeded by his brother Richard (1605-1079), famous
in the war for his government and gallant defence of Newark. He rests in
the vault that now contains the dust of the greatest of his race, Hucknall
Torkard Church, where his epitaph records the fact that the family lost
all their present fortunes by their loyalty, adding, "yet it pleased God
so to bless the humble endeavours of the said Richard, Lord Byron, that he
repurchased part of their ancient inheritance, which he left to his
posterity, with a laudable memory for his great piety and charity." His
eldest son, William, the third Lord (died 1695), is worth remembering on
two accounts. He married Elizabeth, the daughter of Viscount Chaworth, and
so wove the first link in a strange association of tragedy and romance: he
was a patron of one of those poets who, approved by neither gods nor
columns, are remembered by the accident of an accident, and was himself a
poetaster, capable of the couplet,--

  My whole ambition only does extend
  To gain the name of Shipman's faithful friend,--

an ambition which, considering its moderate scope, may be granted to have
attained its desire.

His successor, the fourth lord (1669-1736), gentleman of the bedchamber to
Prince George of Denmark, himself living a quiet life, became, by his
third wife, Frances, daughter of Lord Berkeley, the progenitor of a
strange group of eccentric, adventurous, and passionate spirits. The
eldest son, the fifth lord, and immediate predecessor in the peerage of
the poet, was born in 1722, entered the naval service, left his ship, the
"Victory," just before she was lost on the rocks of Alderney, and
subsequently became master of the stag-hounds. In 1765, the year of the
passing of the American Stamp Act, an event occurred which coloured the
whole of his after-life, and is curiously illustrative of the manners of
the time. On January 26th or 29th (accounts vary) ten members of an
aristocratic social club sat down to dinner in Pall-mall. Lord Byron and
Mr. Chaworth, his neighbour and kinsman, were of the party. In the course
of the evening, when the wine was going round, a dispute arose between
them about the management of game, so frivolous that one conjectures the
quarrel to have been picked to cloak some other cause of offence. Bets
were offered, and high words passed, but the company thought the matter
had blown over. On going out, however, the disputants met on the stairs,
and one of the two, it is uncertain which, cried out to the waiter to show
them an empty room. This was done, and a single tallow candle being placed
on the table, the door was shut. A few minutes later a bell was rung, and
the hotel master rushing in, Mr. Chaworth was found mortally wounded.
There had been a struggle in the dim light, and Byron, having received the
first lunge harmlessly in his waistcoat, had shortened his sword and run
his adversary through the body, with the boast, not uncharacteristic of
his grand nephew, "By G-d, I have as much courage as any man in England."
A coroner's inquest was held, and he was committed to the Tower on a
charge of murder. The interest in the trial which subsequently took place
in Westminster Hall, was so great that tickets of admission were sold for
six guineas. The peers, after two days' discussion, unanimously returned a
verdict of manslaughter. Byron, pleading his privileges, and paying his
fees, was set at liberty; but he appears henceforth as a spectre-haunted
man, roaming about under false names, or shut up in the Abbey like a
baited savage, shunned by his fellows high and low, and the centre of the
wildest stories. That he shot a coachman, and flung the body into the
carriage beside his wife, who very sensibly left him; that he tried to
drown her; that he had devils to attend him--were among the many weird
legends of "the wicked lord." The poet himself says that his ancestor's
only companions were the crickets that used to crawl over him, receive
stripes with straws when they misbehaved, and on his death made an exodus
in procession from the house. When at home he spent his time in
pistol-shooting, making sham fights with wooden ships about the rockeries
of the lake, and building ugly turrets on the battlements. He hated his
heir presumptive, sold the estate of Rochdale,--a proceeding afterwards
challenged--and cut down the trees of Newstead, to spite him; but he
survived his three sons, his brother, and his only grandson, who was
killed in Corsica in 1794.

On his own death in 1798, the estates and title passed to George Gordon,
then a child of ten, whom he used to talk of, without a shadow of
interest, as "the little boy who lives at Aberdeen." His sister Isabella
married Lord Carlisle, and became the mother of the fifth Earl, the poet's
nominal guardian. She was a lady distinguished for eccentricity of
manners, and (like her son satirized in the _Bards and Reviewers_) for the
perpetration of indifferent verses. The career of the fourth lord's second
son, John, the poet's grandfather, recalls that of the sea-kings from whom
the family claim to have sprung. Born in 1723, he at an early age entered
the naval service, and till his death in 1786 was tossed from storm to
storm. "He had no rest on sea, nor I on shore," writes his illustrious
descendant. In 1740 a fleet of five ships was sent out under Commodore
Anson to annoy the Spaniards, with whom we were then at war, in the South
Seas. Byron took service as a midshipman in one of those ships--all more
or less unfortunate--called "The Wager." Being a bad sailor, and heavily
laden, she was blown from her company, and wrecked in the Straits of
Magellan. The majority of the crew were cast on a bleak rock, which they
christened Mount Misery. After encountering all the horrors of mutiny and
famine, and being in various ways deserted, five of the survivors, among
them Captain Cheap and Mr. Byron, were taken by some Patagonians to the
Island of Chiloe, and thence, after some months, to Valparaiso. They were
kept for nearly two years as prisoners at St. Iago, the capital of Chili,
and in December, 1744, put on board a French frigate, which reached Brest
in October, 1745. Early in 1746 they arrived at Dover in a Dutch vessel.

This voyage is the subject of a well-known apostrophe in _The Pleasures of
Hope_, beginning--

    And such thy strength-inspiring aid that bore The hardy Byron from his
    native shore. In torrid climes, where Chiloe's tempests sweep
    Tumultuous murmurs o'er the troubled deep, 'Twas his to mourn
    misfortune's rudest shock, Scourged by the winds and cradled by the

Byron's own account of his adventures, published in 1768, is remarkable
for freshness of scenery like that of our first literary traveller, Sir
John Mandeville, and a force of description which recalls Defoe. It
interests us more especially from the use that has been made of it in that
marvellous mosaic of voyages, the shipwreck, in _Don Juan_, the  hardships
of his hero being, according to the poet--

  To those related in my grand-dad's narrative.

In June, 1764, Byron sailed with two ships, the "Dolphin" and the "Tamar,"
on a voyage of discovery arranged by Lord Egmont, to seek a southern
continent, in the course of which he took possession of the largest of the
Falkland Islands, again passed through the Magellanic Straits, and sailing
home by the Pacific, circumnavigated the globe. The planets so conspired
that, though his affable manners and considerate treatment made him always
popular with his men, sailors became afraid to serve under "foul-weather
Jack." In 1748 he married the daughter of a Cornish squire, John
Trevanion. They had two sons and three daughters. One of the latter
married her cousin (the fifth lord's eldest son), who died in 1776,
leaving as his sole heir the youth who fell in the Mediterranean in 1794.

The eldest son of the veteran, John Byron, father of the poet, was born in
1751, educated at Westminster, and, having received a commission, became a
captain in the guards; but his character, fundamentally unprincipled, soon
developed itself in such a manner as to alienate him from his family. In
1778, under circumstances of peculiar effrontery, he seduced Amelia
D'Arcy, the daughter of the Earl of Holdernesse, in her own right Countess
Conyers, then wife of the Marquis of Carmarthen, afterwards Duke of Leeds.
"Mad Jack," as he was called, seems to have boasted of his conquest; but
the marquis, to whom his wife had hitherto been devoted, refused to
believe the rumours that were afloat, till an intercepted letter,
containing a remittance of money, for which Byron, in reverse of the usual
relations, was always clamouring, brought matters to a crisis. The pair
decamped to the continent; and in 1779, after the marquis had obtained a
divorce, they were regularly married. Byron seems to have been not only
profligate but heartless, and he made life wretched to the woman he was
even more than most husbands bound to cherish. She died in 1784, having
given birth to two daughters. One died in infancy; the other was Augusta,
the half sister and good genius of the poet, whose memory remains like a
star on the fringe of a thunder-cloud, only brighter by the passing of the
smoke of calumny. In 1807 she married Colonel Leigh, and had a numerous
family, most of whom died young. Her eldest daughter, Georgiana, married
Mr. Henry Trevanion. The fourth, Medora, had an unfortunate history, the
nucleus of an impertinent and happily ephemeral romance.

The year after the death of his first wife, John Byron, who seems to have
had the fascinations of a Barry Lyndon, succeeded in entrapping a second.
This was Miss Catherine Gordon of Gight, a lady with considerable estates
in Aberdeenshire--which attracted the adventurer--and an overweening
Highland pride in her descent from James I., the greatest of the Stuarts,
through his daughter Annabella, and the second Earl of Huntly. This union
suggested the ballad of an old rhymer, beginning--

  O whare are ye gaen, bonny Miss Gordon,
    O whare are ye gaen, sae bonny and braw?
  Ye've married, ye've married wi' Johnny Byron,
    To squander the lands o' Gight awa'.

The prophecy was soon fulfilled. The property of the Scotch heiress was
squandered with impetuous rapidity by the English rake. In 1780 she left
Scotland for France, and returned to England toward the close of the
following year. On the 22nd of January, 1788, in Holles Street, London,
Mrs. Byron gave birth to her only child, George Gordon, sixth Lord.
Shortly after, being pressed by his creditors, the father abandoned both,
and leaving them with a pittance of 150 _l_ a year, fled to Valenciennes,
where he died, in August, 1791.



Soon after the birth of her son, Mrs. Byron took him to Scotland. After
spending some time with a relation, she, early in 1790, settled in a small
house at Aberdeen. Ere long her husband, who had in the interval
dissipated away his remaining means, rejoined her; and they lived together
in humble lodgings, until their tempers, alike fiery and irritable,
compelled a definite separation. They occupied apartments, for some time,
at the opposite ends of the same street, and interchanged visits. Being
accustomed to meet the boy and his nurse, the father expressed a wish that
the former should be sent to live with him, at least for some days. "To
this request," Moore informs us, "Mrs. Byron was at first not very willing
to accede; but, on the representation of the nurse that if he kept him
over one night he would not do so another, she consented. On inquiring
next morning after the child, she was told by Captain Byron that he had
had quite enough of his young visitor." After a short stay in the north,
the Captain, extorting enough money from his wife to enable him to fly
from his creditors, escaped to France. His absence must have been a
relief; but his death is said to have so affected the unhappy lady, that
her shrieks disturbed the neighbourhood. The circumstance recalls an
anecdote of a similar outburst--attested by Sir W. Scott, who was present
on the  occasion--before her marriage. Being present at a representation,
in Edinburgh, of the _Fatal  Marriage_, when Mrs. Siddons was personating
Isabella, Miss Gordon was seized with a fit, and carried out of the
theatre, screaming out "O my Biron, my Biron." All we know of her
character shows it to have been  not only proud, impulsive, and wayward,
but hysterical. She constantly boasted of her  descent, and clung to the
courtesy title of "honourable," to which she had no claim. Her affection
and anger were alike demonstrative, her temper never for  an hour secure.
She half worshipped, half hated, the blackguard to whom she was married,
and took no steps to protect her property; her son she alternately petted
and abused. "Your mother's a fool!" said a school companion to him years
after. "I know it," was his unique and tragic reply. Never was poet born
to so much illustrious, and to so much bad blood. The records of his
infancy betray the temper which he preserved through life--passionate,
sullen, defiant of authority, but singularly amenable to kindness. On
being scolded by his first nurse for having soiled a dress, without
uttering a word he tore it from top to seam, as he had seen his mother
tear her caps and gowns; but her sister and successor in office, May Gray,
acquired and retained a hold over his affections, to which he has borne
grateful testimony. To her training is attributed the early and remarkable
knowledge of the Scriptures, especially of the Psalms, which he possessed:
he was, according to  her later testimony, peculiarly inquisitive and
puzzling about religion. Of the sense of solitude, induced by his earliest
impressions, he characteristically makes a boast. "My daughter, my wife,
my half-sister, my mother, my sister's mother, my natural daughter, and
myself, are or were all only children. But the fiercest animals have the
fewest numbers in their litters, as lions, tigers, &c."

To this practical orphanhood, and inheritance of feverish passion, there
was added another, and to him a heavy and life-long burden. A physical
defect in a healthy nature may either pass without notice or be turned to
a high purpose. No line of his work reveals the fact that Sir Walter Scott
was lame. The infirmity failed to cast even a passing shade over that
serene power. Milton's blindness is the occasion of the noblest prose and
verse of resignation in the language. But to understand Pope, we must
remember that he was a cripple: and Byron never allows us to forget,
because he himself never forgot it. Accounts differ as to the extent and
origin of his deformity; and the doubts on the matter are not removed by
the inconsistent accounts of the indelicate post-mortem examination made
by Mr. Trelawny at Mesolonghi. It is certain that one of the poet's feet
was, either at birth or at a very early period, so seriously clubbed or
twisted as to affect his gait, and to a considerable extent his habits. It
also appears that the surgical means--boots, bandages, &c.--adopted to
straighten the limb, only aggravated the evil. His sensitiveness on the
subject was early awakened by careless or unfeeling references. "What a
pretty boy Byron is," said a friend of his nurse. "What a pity he has such
a leg." On which the child, with flashing eyes, cutting at her with a
baby's whip, cried out, "Dinna speak of it." His mother herself, in her
violent fits, when the boy ran round the room laughing at her attempts to
catch him, used to say he was a little dog, as bad as his father, and to
call him "a lame brat"--an incident, which, notoriously suggested the
opening scene of the _Deformed Transformed_. In the height of his
popularity he fancied that the beggars and street-sweepers in London were
mocking him. He satirized and discouraged dancing; he preferred riding and
swimming to other exercises, because they concealed his weakness; and on
his death-bed asked to be blistered in such a way that he might not be
called on to expose it. The Countess Guiccioli, Lady Blessington, and
others, assure us that in society few would have observed the defect if he
had not referred to it; but it was never far from the mind, and therefore
never far from the mouth, of the least reticent of men.

In 1792 he was sent to a rudimentary day school of girls and boys, taught
by a Mr. Bowers, where he seems to have learnt nothing save to repeat
monosyllables by rote. He next passed through the hands of a devout and
clever clergyman, named Ross, under whom according to his own account he
made astonishing progress, being initiated into the study of Roman
history, and taking special delight in the battle of Regillus. Long
afterwards, when standing on the heights of Tusculum and looking down on
the little round lake, he remembered his young enthusiasm and his old
instructor. He next came under the charge of a tutor called Paterson, whom
he describes as "a very serious, saturnine, but kind young man. He was the
son of my shoemaker, but a good scholar. With him I began Latin, and
continued till I went to the grammar school, where I threaded all the
classes to the fourth, when I was recalled to England by the demise of my

Of Byron's early school days there is little further record. We learn from
scattered hints that he was backward in technical scholarship, and low in
his class, in which he seems to have had no ambition to stand high; but
that he eagerly took to history and romance, especially luxuriating in the
_Arabian Nights_. He was an indifferent penman, and always disliked
mathematics; but was noted by masters and mates as of quick temper, eager
for adventures, prone to sports, always more ready to give a blow than to
take one, affectionate, though resentful.

When his cousin was killed at Corsica, in 1794, he became the next heir to
the title. In 1797, a friend, meaning to compliment the boy, said, "We
shall have the pleasure some day of reading your speeches in the House of
Commons," he, with precocious consciousness, replied, "I hope not. If you
read any speeches of mine, it will be in the House of Lords." Similarly,
when, in the course of the following year, the fierce old man at Newstead
died, and the young lord's name was called at school with "Dominus"
prefixed to it, his emotion was so great that he was unable to answer, and
burst into tears.

Belonging to this period is the somewhat shadowy record of a childish
passion for a distant cousin slightly his senior, Mary Duff, with whom he
claims to have fallen in love in his ninth year. We have a quaint picture
of the pair sitting on the grass together, the girl's younger sister
beside them playing with a doll. A German critic gravely remarks, "This
strange phenomenon places him beside Dante." Byron himself, dilating on
the strength of his attachment, tells us that he used to coax a maid to
write letters for him, and that when he was sixteen, on being informed, by
his mother, of Mary's marriage, he nearly fell into convulsions. But in
the history of the calf-loves of poets it is difficult to distinguish
between the imaginative afterthought and the reality. This equally applies
to other recollections of later years. Moore remarks--"that the charm of
scenery, which derives its chief power from fancy and association, should
be felt at an age when fancy is yet hardly awake and associations are but
few, can with difficulty he conceived." But between the ages of eight and
ten, an appreciation of external beauty is sufficiently common. No one
doubts the accuracy of Wordsworth's account, in the _Prelude_ of his early
half-sensuous delight in mountain glory. It is impossible to define the
influence of Nature, either on nations or individuals, or to say
beforehand what selection from his varied surroundings a poet will for
artistic purposes elect to make. Shakespeare rests in meadows and glades,
and leaves to Milton "Teneriffe and Atlas." Burns, who lived for a
considerable part of his life in daily view of the hills of Arran, never
alludes to them. But, in this respect like Shelley, Byron was inspired by
a passion for the high-places of the earth. Their shadow is on half his
verse. "The loftiest peaks most wrapt in clouds and snow" perpetually
remind him of one of his constantly recurring refrains,--

  He who surpasses or subdues mankind,
  Must look down on the hate of those below.

In the course of 1790, after an attack of scarlet fever at Aberdeen he was
taken by his mother to Ballater, and on his recovery spent much of his
time in rambling about the country. "From this period," he says, "I date
my love of mountainous countries. I can never forget the effect, years
afterwards, in England, of the only thing I had long seen, even in
miniature, of a mountain, in the Malvern Hills. After I returned to
Cheltenham I used to watch them every afternoon, at sunset, with a
sensation which I cannot describe." Elsewhere, in _The Island_ he returns,
amid allusions to the Alps and Apennines, to the friends of his youth:--

  The infant rapture still survived the boy,
  And Lach-na-gair with Ida look'd o'er Troy,
  Mixed Celtic memories with the Phrygian mount,
  And Highland linns with Castalie's clear fount.

The poet, owing to his physical defect, was not a great climber, and we
are informed, on the authority of his nurse, that he never even scaled the
easily attainable summit of the "steep frowning" hill of which he has made
such effective use. But the impression of it from a distance was none the
less genuine. In the midst of a generous address, in _Don Juan_, to
Jeffrey, he again refers to the same associations with the country of his
early training:--

  But I am half a Scot by birth, and bred
  A whole one; and my heart flies to my head
  As "Auld Lang Syne" brings Scotland, one and all--
  Scotch plaids, Scotch snoods, the blue hills and clear streams,
  The Dee, the Don, Balgounie's brig's black wall--
  All my boy feelings, all my gentler dreams
  Of what I then dreamt, clothed in their own pall,
  Like Banquo's offspring...

Byron's allusions to Scotland are variable and inconsistent. His satire on
her reviewers was sharpened by the show of national as well as personal
antipathy; and when, about the time of its production, a young lady
remarked that he had a little of the northern manner of speech, he burst
out "Good God! I hope not. I would rather the whole d----d country was
sunk in the sea. I the Scotch accent!" But, in the passage from which we
have quoted, the swirl of feeling on the other side continues,--

  I rail'd at Scots to show my wrath and wit,
  Which must be own'd was sensitive and surly.
  Yet 'tis in vain such sallies to permit;
  They cannot quench young feelings, fresh and early.
  I scotch'd, not kill'd, the Scotchman in my blood,
  And love the land of mountain and of flood.

This suggests a few words on a question of more than local interest.
Byron's most careful biographer has said of him: "Although on his first
expedition to Greece he was dressed in the tartan of the Gordon clan, yet
the whole bent of his mind, and the character of his poetry, are anything
but Scottish. Scottish nationality is tainted with narrow and provincial
elements. Byron's poetic character, on the other hand, is universal and
cosmopolitan. He had no attachment to localities, and never devoted
himself to the study of the history of Scotland and its romantic legends."
Somewhat similarly Thomas Campbell remarks of Burns, "he was the most
un-Scotsmanlike of Scotchmen, having no caution." Rough national verdicts
are apt to be superficial. Mr. Leslie Stephen, in a review of Hawthorne,
has commented on the extent to which the nobler qualities and conquering
energy of the English character are hidden, not only from foreigners, but
from ourselves, by the "detestable lay figure" of John Bull. In like
manner, the obtrusive type of the "canny Scot" is apt to make critics
forget the hot heart that has marked the early annals of the country, from
the Hebrides to the Borders, with so much violence, and at the same time
has been the source of so much strong feeling and persistent purpose. Of
late years, the struggle for existence, the temptations of a too ambitious
and over active people in the race for wealth, and the benumbing effect of
the constant profession of beliefs that have ceased to be sincere, have
for the most part stifled the fervid fire in calculating prudence. These
qualities have been adequately combined in Scott alone, the one massive
and complete literary type of his race. Burns, to his ruin, had only the
fire: the same is true of Byron, whose genius, in some respects less
genuine, was indefinitely and inevitably wider. His intensely susceptible
nature took a dye from every scene, city, and society through which he
passed; but to the last he bore with him the marks of a descendant of the
Sea-Kings, and of the mad Gordons in whose domains he had first learned to
listen to the sound of the "two mighty voices" that haunted and inspired
him through life.

In the autumn of 1798 the family, i.e. his mother--who had sold the whole
of her household furniture for 75 _l_--with himself, and a maid, set
south. The poet's only recorded impression of the journey is a gleam of
Loch Leven, to which he refers in one of his latest letters. He never
revisited the land of his childhood. Our next glimpse of him is on his
passing the toll-bar of Newstead. Mrs. Byron asked the old woman who kept
it, "Who is the next heir?" and on her answer "They say it is a little boy
who lives at Aberdeen," "This is he, bless him!" exclaimed the nurse.

Returned to the ancestral Abbey, and finding it half ruined and desolate,
they migrated for a time to the neighbouring Nottingham. Here the child's
first experience was another course of surgical torture. He was placed
under the charge of a quack named Lavender, who rubbed his foot in oil,
and screwed it about in wooden machines. This useless treatment is
associated with two characteristic anecdotes. One relates to the endurance
which Byron, on every occasion of mere physical trial, was capable of
displaying. Mr. Rogers, a private tutor, with whom he was reading passages
of Virgil and Cicero, remarked, "It makes me uncomfortable, my lord, to
see you sitting them in such pain as I know you must be suffering." "Never
mind, Mr. Rogers." said the child, "you shall not see any signs of it in
me." The other illustrates his precocious delight in detecting imposture.
Having scribbled on a piece of paper several lines of mere gibberish, he
brought them to Lavender, and gravely asked what language it was; and on
receiving the answer "It is Italian," he broke into an exultant laugh at
the expense of his tormentor. Another story survives, of his vindictive
spirit giving birth to his first rhymes. A meddling old lady, who used to
visit his mother and was possessed of a curious belief in a future
transmigration to our satellite--the bleakness of whose scenery she had
not realized--having given him some cause of offence, he stormed out to
his nurse that he "could not bear the sight of the witch," and vented his
wrath in the quatrain.--

  In Nottingham county there lives, at Swan Green,
  As curst an old lady as ever was seen;
  And when she does die, which I hope will be soon,
  She firmly believes she will go to the moon.

The poet himself dates his "first dash into poetry" a year later (1800),
from his juvenile passion for his cousin Margaret Parker, whose subsequent
death from an injury caused by a fall he afterwards deplored in a
forgotten elegy. "I do not recollect," he writes through the transfiguring
mists of memory, "anything equal to the _transparent_ beauty of my cousin,
or to the sweetness of her temper, during the short period of our
intimacy. She looked as if she had been made out of a rainbow--all beauty
and peace. My passion had the usual effects upon me--I could not sleep; I
could not eat; I could not rest. It was the texture of my life to think of
the time that must elapse before we could meet again. But I was a fool
then, and not much wiser now." _Sic transit secunda_.

The departure at a somewhat earlier date of May Gray for her native
country, gave rise to evidence of another kind of affection. On her
leaving he presented her with his first watch, and a miniature by Kay of
Edinburgh, representing him with a bow and arrow in his hand and a
profusion of hair over his shoulders. He continued to correspond with her
at intervals. Byron was always beloved by his servants. This nurse
afterwards married well, and during her last illness, in 1827,
communicated to her attendant, Dr. Ewing of Aberdeen, recollections of the
poet, from which his biographers have drawn.

In the summer of 1799 he was sent to London, entrusted to the medical care
of Dr. Baillie (brother of Joanna, the dramatist), and placed in a
boarding school at Dulwich, under the charge of Dr. Glennie. The physician
advised a moderation in athletic sports, which the patient in his hours of
liberty was constantly apt to exceed. The teacher--who continued to
cherish an affectionate remembrance of his pupil, even when he was told,
on a visit to Geneva in 1817, that, he ought to have "made a better boy of
him"--testifies to the alacrity with which he entered on his tasks, his
playful good-humour with his comrades, his reading in history beyond his
age, and his intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures. "In my study," he
states, "he found many books open to him; among others, 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." One of the books referred to was
the _Narrative of the Shipwreck of the "Juno,"_ which contains, almost
word for word, the account of the "two fathers," in _Don Juan_. Meanwhile
Mrs. Byron,--whose reduced income had been opportunely augmented by a
grant of a 300_l_. annuity from the Civil List,--after revisiting Newstead
followed her son to London, and took up her residence in a house in
Sloane-terrace. She was in the habit of having him with her there from
Saturday to Monday, kept him from school for weeks, introduced him to idle
company, and in other ways was continually hampering his progress.

Byron on his accession to the peerage having become a ward in Chancery,
was handed over by the Court to the guardianship of Lord Carlisle, nephew
of the admiral, and son of the grand aunt of the poet. Like his mother
this Earl aspired to be a poet, and his tragedy, _The Father's Revenge_,
received some commendation from Dr. Johnson; but his relations with his
illustrious kinsman were from the first unsatisfactory. In answer to Dr.
Glennie's appeal, he exerted his authority against the interruptions to
his ward's education; but the attempt to mend matters led to such
outrageous exhibitions of temper that he said to the master, "I can have
nothing more to do with Mrs. Byron; you must now manage her as you can."
Finally, after two years of work, which she had done her best to mar, she
herself requested his guardian to have her son removed to a public school,
and accordingly he went to Harrow, where he remained till the autumn of
1805. The first vacation, in the summer of 1801, is marked by his visit to
Cheltenham, where his mother, from whom he inherited a fair amount of
Scotch superstition, consulted a fortune-teller, who said he would be
twice married, the second time to a foreigner.

Harrow was then under the management of Dr. Joseph Drury, one of the most
estimable of its distinguished head-masters. His account of the first
impressions produced by his pupil, and his judicious manner of handling a
sensitive nature, cannot with advantage be condensed. "Mr. Hanson," he
writes, "Lord Byron's solicitor, consigned him to my care at the age of
thirteen and a half, with remarks that his education had been neglected;
that he was ill prepared for a public school; but that he thought there
was a cleverness about him. After his departure I took my young disciple
into my study, and endeavoured to bring him forward by inquiries as to his
former amusements, employments, and associates, but with little or no
effect, and I soon found that a wild mountain colt had been submitted to
my management. But there was mind in his eye. In the first place, it was
necessary to attach him to an elder boy; but the information he received
gave him no pleasure when he heard of the advances of some much younger
than himself. This I discovered, and assured him that he should not be
placed till by diligence he might rank with those of his own age. His
manner and temper soon convinced me that he might be led by a silken
string to a point, rather than a cable: on that principle I acted."

After a time, Dr. Drury tells us that he waited on Lord Carlisle, who
wished to give some information about his ward's property and to inquire
respecting his abilities, and continues: "On the former circumstance I
made no remark; as to the latter I replied, 'He has talents, my lord,
which will add lustre to his rank.' 'Indeed!' said his lordship, with a
degree of surprise that, according to my feeling, did not express in it
all the satisfaction I expected." With, perhaps, unconscious humour on the
part of the writer, we are left in doubt as to whether the indifference
proceeded from the jealousy that clings to poetasters, from incredulity,
or a feeling that no talent could add lustre to rank.

In 1804 Byron refers to the antipathy his mother had to his guardian.
Later he expresses gratitude for some unknown service, in recognition of
which the second edition of the _Hours of Idleness_ was dedicated "by his
obliged ward and affectionate kinsman," to Lord Carlisle. The tribute
being coldly received, led to fresh estrangement, and when Byron, on his
coming of age, wrote to remind the Earl of the fact, in expectation of
being introduced to the House of Peers, he had for answer a mere formal
statement of its rules. This rebuff affected him as Addison's praise of
Tickell affected Pope, and the following lines, were published in the
March of the same year:--

  Lords too are bards! such things at times befall,
  And 'tis some praise in peers to write at all.
  Yet did or taste or reason sway the times,
  Ah! who would take their titles with their rhymes.
  Roscommon! Sheffield! with your spirits fled,
  No future laurels deck a noble head;
  No muse will cheer, with renovating smile
  The paralytic puling of Carlisle.

In prose he adds, "If, before I escaped from my teens, I said anything in
favour of his lordship's paper-books, it was in the way of dutiful
dedication, and more from the advice of others than my own judgment; and I
seize the first opportunity of pronouncing my sincere recantation." As was
frequently the case with him, he recanted again. In a letter of 1814 he
expressed to Rogers his regret for his sarcasms; and in his reference to
the death of the Hon. Frederick Howard, in the third canto of _Childe
Harold_, he tried to make amends in the lines--

  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.

This is all of any interest we know regarding the fitful connection of the
guardian and ward.

Towards Dr. Drury the poet continued through life to cherish sentiments of
gratitude, and always spoke of him with veneration. "He was," he says,
"the best, the kindest (and yet strict too) friend I ever had; and I look
on him still as a father, whose warnings I have remembered but too well,
though too late, when I have erred, and whose counsel I have but followed
when I have done well or wisely."

Great educational institutions must consult the greatest good of the
greatest number of common-place minds, by regulations against which genius
is apt to kick; and Byron, who was by nature and lack of discipline
peculiarly ill fitted to conform to routine, confesses that till the last
year and a half he hated Harrow. He never took kindly to the studies of
the place, and was at no time an accurate scholar. In the _Bards and
Reviewers_, and elsewhere, he evinces considerable familiarity with the
leading authors of antiquity, but it is doubtful whether he was able to
read any of the more difficult of them in the original. His translations
are generally commonplace, and from the marks on his books he must have
often failed to trust his memory for the meanings of the most ordinary
Greek words. To the well-known passage in _Childe Harold_ on Soracte and
the "Latian echoes" he appends a prose comment, which preserves its
interest as hearing on recent educational controversies:--"I wish to
express that we become tired of the task before we can comprehend the
beauty; that we learn by rote, before we get by heart; that the freshness
is worn away, and the future pleasure and advantage deadened and
destroyed, at an age when we can neither feel nor understand the power of
composition, which it requires an acquaintance with life, as well as Latin
and Greek, to relish or to reason upon.... In some parts of the continent
young persons are taught from common authors, and do not read the best
classics till their maturity."

Comparatively slight stress was then laid on modern languages. Byron
learnt to read French with fluency, as he certainly made himself familiar
with the great works of the eighteenth century; but he spoke it with so
little ease or accuracy that the fact was always a stumbling-block to his
meeting Frenchmen abroad. Of German he had a mere smattering. Italian was
the only language, besides his own, of which he was ever a master. But the
extent and variety of his general reading was remarkable. His list of
books, drawn up in 1807, includes more history and biography than most men
of education read during a long life; a fair load of philosophy; the poets
en masse; among orators, Demosthenes, Cicero, and Parliamentary debates
from the Revolution to the year 1742; pretty copious divinity, including
Blair, Tillotson, Hooker, with the characteristic addition--"all very
tiresome. I abhor books of religion, though I reverence and love my God
without the blasphemous notions of sectaries." Lastly, under the head of
"Miscellanies" we have _Spectator, Rambler, World, &c., &c_; among novels,
the works of Cervantes, Fielding, Smollett, Richardson, Mackenzie, Sterne,
Rabelais, and Rousseau. He recommends Burton's _Anatomy of Melancholy_ as
the best storehouse for second-hand quotations, as Sterne and others have
found it, and tells us that the great part of the books named were perused
before the age of fifteen. Making allowance for the fact that most of the
poet's autobiographic sketches are emphatically _"Dichtang und Wahrheit,"_
we can believe that he was an omnivorous reader--"I read eating, read in
bed, read when no one else reads"--and, having a memory only less
retentive than Macaulay's, acquired so much general information as to be
suspected of picking it up from Reviews. He himself declares that he never
read a Review till he was eighteen years old--when, he himself wrote one,
utterly worthless, on Wordsworth.

At Harrow, Byron proved himself capable of violent fits of work, but of
"few continuous drudgeries." He would turn out an unusual number of
hexameters, and again lapse into as much idleness as the teachers would
tolerate. His forte was in declamation: his attitude and delivery, and
power of extemporizing, surprised even critical listeners into unguarded
praise. "My qualities," he says, "were much more oratorical and martial
than poetical; no one had the least notion that I should subside into
poesy." Unpopular at first, he began to like school when he had fought his
way to be a champion, and from his energy in sports more than from the
impression produced by his talents had come to be recognized as a leader
among his fellows. Unfortunately, towards the close of his course, in
1805, the headship of Harrow changed hands. Dr. Drury retired, and was
succeeded by Dr. Butler. This event suggested the lines beginning,--

  Where are those honours, Ida, once your own,
  When Probus fill'd your magisterial throne?

The appointment was generally unpopular among the boys, whose sympathies
were enlisted in favour of Mark Drury, brother of their former master, and
Dr. Butler seems for a time to have had considerable difficulty in
maintaining discipline. Byron, always "famous for rowing," was a
ringleader of the rebellious party, and compared himself to Tyrlaeus. On
one occasion he tore down the window gratings in a room of the
school-house, with the remark that they darkened the hall; on another he
is reported to have refused a dinner invitation from the master, with the
impertinent remark that he would never think of asking him in return to
dine at Newstead. On the other hand, he seems to have set limits to the
mutiny, and prevented some of the boys from setting their desks on fire by
pointing to their fathers' names carved on them. Byron afterwards
expressed regret for his rudeness; but Butler remains in his verse as
Pomposus "of narrow brain, yet of a narrower soul."

Of the poet's free hours, during the last years of his residence which he
refers to as among the happiest of his life, many were spent in solitary
musing by an elm-tree, near a tomb to which his name has been given--a
spot commanding a far view of London, of Windsor "bosomed high in tufted
trees," and of the green fields that stretch between, covered in spring
with the white and red snow of apple blossom. The others were devoted to
the society of his chosen comrades. Byron, if not one of the safest, was
one of the warmest of friends; and he plucked the more eagerly at the
choicest fruit of English public school and college life, from the feeling
he so pathetically expresses,--

  Is there no cause beyond the common claim,
  Endear'd to all in childhood's very name?
  Ah, sure some stronger impulse vibrates here,
  Which whispers Friendship will be doubly dear
  To one who thus for kindred hearts must roam,
  And seek abroad the love denied at home.
  Those hearts, dear Ida, have I found in thee--
  A home, a world, a paradise to me.

Of his Harrow intimates, the most prominent were the Duke of Dorset, the
poet's favoured fag; Lord Clare (the Lycus of the _Childish
Recollections_); Lord Delawarr (the Euryalus); John Wingfield (Alonzo),
who died at Coimbra, 1811; Cecil Tattersall (Davus); Edward Noel Long
(Cleon); Wildman, afterwards proprietor of Newstead; and Sir Robert Peel.
Of the last, his form-fellow and most famous of his mates, the story is
told of his being unmercifully beaten for offering resistance to his fag
master, and Byron rushing up to intercede with an offer to take half the
blows. Peel was an exact contemporary, having been born in the same year,
1788. It has been remarked that most of the poet's associates were his
juniors, and, less fairly, that he liked to regard them as his satellites.
But even at Dulwich his ostentation of rank had provoked for him the
nickname of "the old English baron." To Wildman, who, as a senior, had a
right of inflicting chastisement for offences, he said, "I find you have
got Delawarr on your list; pray don't lick him." "Why not?" was the reply.
"Why, I don't know, except that he is a brother peer." Again, he
interfered with the more effectual arm of physical force to rescue a
junior protégé--lame like himself, and otherwise much weaker--from the
ill-treatment of some hulking tyrant. "Harness," he said, "if any one
bullies you, tell me, and I'll thrash him if I can;" and he kept his word.
Harness became an accomplished clergyman and minor poet, and has left some
pleasing reminiscences of his former patron. The prodigy of the school,
George Sinclair, was in the habit of writing the poet's exercises, and
getting his battles fought for him in return. His bosom friend was Lord
Clare. To him his confidences were most freely given, and his most
affectionate verses addressed. In the characteristic stanzas entitled
"L'amitié est l'amour sans ailes," we feel as if between them the
qualifying phrase might have been omitted: for their letters, carefully
preserved on either side, are a record of the jealous complaints and the
reconciliations of lovers. In 1821 Byron writes, "I never hear the name
Clare without a beating of the heart even now; and I write it with the
feelings of 1803-4-5, ad infinitum." At the same date he says of an
accidental meeting: "It annihilated for a moment all the years between the
present time and the days of Harrow. It was a new and inexplicable
feeling, like a 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. We were but five minutes together on the public
road, but I hardly recollect an hour of my existence that could be weighed
against them." They were "all that brothers should be but the name;" and
it is interesting to trace this relationship between the greatest genius
of the new time and the son of the statesman who, in the preceding age,
stands out serene and strong amid the swarm of turbulent rioters and
ranting orators by whom he was surrounded and reviled.

Before leaving Harrow the poet had passed through the experience of a
passion of another kind, with a result that unhappily coloured his life.
Accounts differ as to his first meeting with Mary Ann Chaworth, the
heiress of the family whose estates adjoined his own, and daughter of the
race that had held with his such varied relations. In one of his letters
ho dates the introduction previous to his trip to Cheltenham, but it seems
not to have ripened into intimacy till a later period. Byron, who had, in
the autumn of 1802, visited his mother at Bath, joined in a masquerade
there and attracted attention by the liveliness of his manners. In the
following year Mrs. Byron again settled at Nottingham, and in the course
of a second and longer visit to her he frequently passed the night at the
Abbey, of which Lord Grey de Ruthyn was then a temporary tenant. This was
the occasion of his renewing his acquaintance with the Chaworths, who
invited him to their seat at Annesley. He used at first to return every
evening to Newstead, giving the excuse that the family pictures would come
down and take revenge on him for his grand-uncle's deed, a fancy repeated
in the _Siege of Corinth_. Latterly he consented to stay at Annesley,
which thus became his headquarters during the remainder of the holidays of
1803. The rest of the six weeks were mainly consumed in an excursion to
Matlock and Castleton, in the same companionship. This short period, with
the exception of prologue and epilogue, embraced the whole story of his
first real love. Byron was on this occasion in earnest; he wished to marry
Miss Chaworth, an event which, he says, would have "joined broad lands,
healed an old feud, and satisfied at least one heart."

The intensity of his passion is suggestively brought before us in an
account of his crossing the Styx of the Peak cavern, alone with the lady
and the Charon of the boat. In the same passage he informs us that he had
never told his love; but that she had discovered--it is obvious that she
never returned--it. We have another vivid picture of his irritation when
she was waltzing in his presence at Matlock; then an account of their
riding together in the country on their return to the family residence;
again, of his bending over the piano as she was playing the Welsh air of
"Mary Anne;" and lastly, of his overhearing her heartless speech to her
maid, which first opened his eyes to the real state of affairs--"Do you
think I could care for that lame boy?"--upon which he rushed out of the
house, and ran, like a hunted creature, to Newstead. Thence he shortly
returned from the rougher school of life to his haunts and tasks at
Harrow. A year later the pair again met to take farewell, on the hill of
Annesley--an incident he has commemorated in two short stanzas, that have
the sound of a wind moaning over a moor. "I suppose," he said, "the next
time I see you, you will be Mrs. Chaworth?" "I hope so," she replied (her
betrothed, Mr. Musters, had agreed to assume her family name). The
announcement of her marriage, which took place in August, 1805, was made
to him by his mother, with the remark, "I have some news for you. Take out
your handkerchief; you will require it." On hearing what she had to say,
with forced calm he turned the conversation to other subjects; but he was
long haunted by a loss which he has made the theme of many of his verses.
In 1807 he sent to the lady herself the lines beginning,--

  O had my fate been join'd with thine.

In the following year he accepted an invitation to dine at Annesley, and
was visibly affected by the sight of the infant daughter of Mrs. Chaworth,
to whom he addressed a touching congratulation. Shortly afterwards, when
about to leave England for the first time, he finally addressed her in the

  'Tis done, and shivering in the gale,
  The bark unfurls her snowy sail.

Some years later, having an opportunity of revisiting the family of his
successful rival, Mrs. Leigh dissuaded him. "Don't go," she said, "for if
you do you will certainly fall in love again, and there will be a scene."
The romance of the story culminates in the famous _Dream_, a poem of
unequal merit, but containing passages of real pathos, written in the year
1816 at Diodati, as we are told, amid a flood of tears.

Miss Chaworth's attractions, beyond those of personal beauty, seem to have
been mainly due--a common occurrence--to the poet's imagination. A young
lady, two years his senior, of a lively and volatile temper, she enjoyed
the stolen interviews at the gate between the grounds, and laughed at the
ardent letters, passed through a confidant, of the still awkward youth
whom she regarded as a boy. She had no intuition to divine the presence,
or appreciate the worship, of one of the future master-minds of England,
nor any ambition to ally herself with the wild race of Newstead, and
preferred her hale, commonplace, fox-hunting squire. "She was the beau
ideal," says Byron, in his first accurate prose account of the affair,
written 1823, a few days before his departure for Greece, "of all that my
youthful fancy could paint of beautiful. And I have taken all my fables
about the celestial nature of women from the perfection my imagination
created in her. I say created; for I found her, like the rest of the sex,
anything but angelic."

Mrs. Musters (her husband re-asserted his right to his own name) had in
the long-run reason to regret her choice. The ill-assorted pair after some
unhappy years resolved on separation; and falling into bad health and
worse spirits, the "bright morning star of Annesley" passed under a cloud
of mental darkness. She died, in 1832, of fright caused by a Nottingham
riot. On the decease of Musters, in 1850, every relic of her ancient
family was sold by auction and scattered to the winds.



In October, 1805, on the advice of Dr. Drury, Byron was removed to Trinity
College, Cambridge, and kept up a connexion with the University for less
than three years of very irregular attendance, during which we hear
nothing of his studies, except the contempt for them expressed in some of
the least effective passages of his early satires. He came into residence
in bad temper and low spirits. His attachment to Harrow characteristically
redoubled as the time drew near to leave it, and his rest was broken "for
the last quarter, with counting the hours that remained." He was about to
start by himself, with the heavy feeling that he was no longer a boy, and
yet, against his choice, for he wished to go to Oxford. The _Hours of
Idleness_, the product of this period, are fairly named. He was so idle as
regards "problems mathematic," and "barbarous Latin," that it is matter of
surprise to learn that he was able to take his degree, as he did in March,

A good German critic, dwelling on the comparatively narrow range of
studies to which the energies of Cambridge were then mainly directed, adds
somewhat rashly, that English national literature stands for the most part
beyond the range of the academic circle, This statement is often
reiterated with persistent inaccuracy; but the most casual reference to
biography informs us that at least four-fifths of the leading statesmen,
reformers, and philosophers of England, have been nurtured within the
walls of her universities, and cherished a portion of their spirit. From
them have sprung the intellectual fires that have, at every crisis of our
history, kindled the nation into a new life; from the age of Wycliffe,
through those of Latimer, Locke, Gibbon, Macaulay, to the present reign of
the Physicists, comparatively few of the motors of their age have been
wholly "without the academic circle." Analysing with the same view the
lives of the British poets of real note from Barbour to Tennyson, we find
the proportion of University men increases. "Poeta nascitur et fit;" and
if the demands of technical routine have sometimes tended to stifle, the
comparative repose of a seclusion "unravaged" by the fierce activities
around it, the habit of dwelling on the old wisdom and harping on the
ancient strings, is calculated to foster the poetic temper and enrich its
resources. The discouraging effect of a sometimes supercilious and
conservative criticism is not an unmixed evil. The verse-writer who can be
snuffed out by the cavils of a tutorial drone, is a poetaster silenced for
his country's good. It is true, however, that to original minds, bubbling
with spontaneity, or arrogant with the consciousness of power, the
discipline is hard, and the restraint excessive; and that the men whom
their colleges are most proud to remember, have handled them severely.
Bacon inveighs against the scholastic trifling of his day; Milton talks of
the waste of time on litigious brawling; Locke mocks at the logic of the
schools; Cowley complains of being taught words, not things; Gibbon
rejoices over his escape from the port and prejudice of Magdalen;
Wordsworth contemns the "trade in classic niceties," and roves "in
magisterial liberty" by the Cam, as afterwards among the hills.

But all those hostile critics owe much to the object of their
animadversion. Any schoolboy can refer the preference of Light to Fruit in
the _Novum Organum_, half of _Comus_ and _Lycidas_, the stately periods of
the _Decline and Fall_, and the severe beauties of _Laodamia_, to the
better influences of academic training on the minds of their authors.
Similarly, the richest pages of Byron's work--from the date of _The Curse
of Minerva_ to that of the "Isles of Greece"--are brightened by lights and
adorned by allusions due to his training, imperfect as it was, on the
slopes of Harrow, and the associations fostered during his truant years by
the sluggish stream of his "Injusta noverca." At her, however, he
continued to rail as late as the publication of _Beppo_, in the 75th and
76th stanzas of which we find another cause of complaint,--

  One hates an author that's all author, fellows
    In foolscap uniforms turn'd up with ink--
  So very anxious, clever, fine, and jealous,
    One don't know what to say to them, or think.

Then, after commending Scott, Bogers, and Moore for being men of the
world, he proceeds:--

  But for the children of the "mighty mother's,"
    The would-be wits and can't-be gentlemen,
  I leave them to the daily "Tea is ready,"
    Snug coterie, and literary lady.

This attack, which called forth a counter invective of unusual ferocity
from some unknown scribbler, is the expression of a sentiment which, sound
enough within limits, Byron pushed to an extreme. He had a rooted dislike,
of professional _littérateurs_, and was always haunted by a dread that
they would claim equality with him on the common ground of authorship. He
aspired through life to the superiority of a double distinction, that of a
"lord among wits, and among wits a lord." In this same spirit lie resented
the comparison frequently made between him and Rousseau, and insisted on
points of contrast. "He had a bad memory, I a good one. He was of the
people; I of the aristocracy." Byron was capable, of unbending, where the
difference of rank was so great that it could not be ignored. On this
principle we may explain his enthusiastic regard for the chorister
Eddlestone, from whom he received the cornelian that is the theme of some
of his verses, and whose untimely death in 1811 he sincerely mourned.

Of his Harrow friends, Harness and Long in due course followed him to
Cambridge, where their common pursuits were renewed. With the latter, who
was drowned in 1809, on a passage to Lisbon with his regiment, he spent a
considerable portion of his time on the Cam, swimming and diving, in which
art they were so expert as to pick up eggs, plates, thimbles, and coins
from a depth of fourteen feet--incidents recalled to the poet's mind by
reading Milton's invocation to Sabrina. During the, same period he
distinguished himself at cricket, as in boxing, riding, and shooting. Of
his skill as a rider there are various accounts. He was an undoubted
marksman, and his habit of carrying about pistols, and use of them
wherever he went, was often a source of annoyance and alarm. He professed
a theoretical objection to duelling, but was as ready to take a challenge
as Scott, and more ready to send one.

Regarding  the  masters and professors of Cambridge, Byron has little to
say. His own tutor, Tavell, appears pleasantly enough in his verse, and he
commends the head of his college, Dr. Lort Mansel, for dignified demeanour
in his office, and a past reputation for convivial wit. His attentions to
Professor Hailstones at Harrowgate were graciously offered and received;
but in a letter to Murray he gives a graphically abusive account of
Porson, "hiccuping Greek like a Helot" in his cups. The poet was first
introduced at Cambridge to a brilliant circle of contemporaries, whose
talents or attainments soon made them more or less conspicuous, and most
of whom are interesting on their own account as well as from their
connection with the subsequent phases of his career. By common consent
Charles Skinner Matthews, son of the member for Herefordshire, 1802-6, was
the most remarkable of the group. Distinguished alike for scholarship,
physical and mental courage, subtlety of thought, humour of fancy, and
fascinations of character, this young man seems to have made an impression
on the undergraduates of his own, similar to that left by Charles Austin
on those of a later generation. The loss of this friend Byron always
regarded as an incalculable calamity. In a note to _Childe Harold_ he
writes, "I should have ventured on a verse to the memory of Matthews, were
he not too much above all praise of mine. His powers of mind shown in the
attainment of greater honours against the ablest candidates, than those of
any graduate on record at Cambridge, have sufficiently established his
fame on the spot where it was acquired; while his softer qualities live in
the recollection of friends, who loved him too well to envy his
superiority." He was drowned when bathing alone among the reeds of the
Cam, in the summer of 1811.

In a letter written from Ravenna in 1820, Byron, in answer to a request
for contributions to a proposed memoir, introduces into his notes much
autobiographical matter. In reference to a joint visit to Newstead, he
writes: "Matthews and myself had travelled down from London together,
talking all the way incessantly upon one single topic. When we got to
Loughborough, I know not what chasm had made us diverge for a moment to
some other subject, at which he was indignant. 'Come,' said he, 'don't let
us break through; let us go on as we began, to our journey's end;' and so
he continued, and was as entertaining as ever to the very end. He had
previously occupied, during my year's absence from Cambridge, my rooms in
Trinity, with the furniture; and Jones (his tutor), in his odd way had
said, in putting him in, 'Mr. Matthews, I recommend to your attention not
to damage any of the movables, for Lord Byron, sir, is a young man of
_tumultuous passions_.' Matthews was delighted with this, and whenever
anybody came, to visit him, begged them to handle the very door with
caution, and used to repeat Jones's admonition in his tone and manner....
He had the same droll sardonic way about everything. A wild Irishman,
named F., one evening beginning to say something at a large supper,
Matthews roared 'Silence!' and then pointing to F., cried out, in the
words of the oracle, 'Orson is endowed with reason.' When Sir Henry Smith
was expelled from Cambridge for a row with a tradesman named 'Hiron,'
Matthews solaced himself with shouting under Hiron's windows every

  Ah me! what perils do environ
  The man who meddles with hot Hiron!

He was also of that band of scoffers who used to rouse Lort Mansel from
his slumbers in the lodge of Trinity; and when he appeared at the window,
foaming with wrath, and crying out, "I know you, gentlemen; I know you!"
were wont to reply, "We beseech thee to hear us, good Lort. Good Lort,
deliver us!"

The whole letter, written in the poet's mature and natural style, gives a
vivid picture of the social life and surroundings of his Cambridge days:
how much of the set and sententious moralizing of some of his formal
biographers might we not have spared, for a report of the conversation on
the road from London to Newstead. Of the others gathered round the same
centre, Scrope Davies enlisted the largest share of Byron's affections. To
him he wrote after the catastrophe:--"Come to me, Scrope; I am almost
desolate--left alone in the world. I had but you, and H., and M., and let
me enjoy the survivors while I can." Later he says, "Matthews, Davies,
Hobhouse, and myself formed a coterie of our own. Davies has always beaten
us all in the war of words, and by colloquial powers at once delighted and
kept us in order; even M. yielded to the dashing vivacity of S.D." The
last is everywhere commended for the brilliancy of his wit and repartee:
he was never afraid to speak the truth. Once when the poet in one of his
fits of petulance exclaimed, intending to produce a terrible impression,
"I shall go mad!" Davies calmly and cuttingly observed, "It is much more
like silliness than madness!" He was the only man who ever laid Byron
under any serious pecuniary obligation, having lent him 4800_l_. in some
time of strait. This was repaid on March 27, 1814, when the pair sat up
over champagne and claret from six till midnight, after which "Scrope
could not be got into the carriage on the way home, but remained tipsy and
pious on his knees." Davies was much disconcerted at the influence which
the sceptical opinions of Matthews threatened to exercise over Byron's
mind. The fourth of this quadrangle of amity was John Cam Hobhouse,
afterwards Lord Broughton, the steadfast friend of the poet's whole life,
the companion of his travels, the witness of his marriage, the executor of
his will, the zealous guardian and vindicator of his fame. His ability is
abundantly attested by the impression he left on his contemporaries, his
published description of the Pilgrimage, and subsequent literary and
political career. Byron bears witness to the warmth of his affections, and
the charms of his conversation, and to the candour which, as he confessed
to Lady Blessington, sometimes tried his patience. There is little doubt
that they had some misunderstanding when travelling together, but it was a
passing cloud. Eighteen months after his return the poet admits that
Hobhouse was his best friend; and when he unexpectedly walked up the
stairs of the Palazzo Lanfranchi, at Pisa, Madame Guiccioli informs us
that Byron was seized with such violent emotion, and so extreme an excess
of joy, that it seemed to take away his strength, and he was forced to sit
down in tears.

On the edge of this inner circle, and in many respects associated with it,
was the Rev. Francis Hodgson, a ripe scholar, good translator, a sound
critic, a fluent writer of graceful verse, and a large-hearted divine,
whoso correspondence, recently edited with a connecting narrative by his
son, has thrown light on disputed passages of Lord Byron's life. The views
entertained by the friends on literary matters were almost identical; they
both fought under the standards of the classic school; they resented the
same criticisms, they applauded the same successes, and were bound
together by the strong tie of mutual admiration. Byron commends Hodgson's
verses, and encourages him to write; Hodgson recognizes in the _Bards and
Reviewers_ and the early cantos of _Childe Harold_ the promise of
_Manfred_ and _Cain_. Among the associates who strove to bring the poet
back to the anchorage of fixed belief, and to wean him from the error of
his thoughts, Francis Hodgson was the most charitable, and therefore the
most judicious. That his cautions and exhortations were never stultified
by pedantry or excessive dogmatism, is apparent from the frank and
unguarded answers which they called forth. In several, which are
preserved, and some for the first time reproduced in the
recently-published Memoir, we are struck by the mixture of audacity and
superficial dogmatism, sometimes amounting to effrontery, that is apt to
characterize the negations of a youthful sceptic. In September, 1811,
Byron writes from Newstead:--"I will have nothing to do with your
immortality; we are miserable enough in this life, without the absurdity
of speculating upon another. Christ came to save men, but a good Pagan
will go to heaven, and a bad Nazarene to hell. I am no Platonist, I am
nothing at all; but I would sooner be a Paulician, Manichean, Spinozist,
Gentile, Pyrrhonian, Zoroastrian, than one of the seventy-two villainous
sects who are tearing each other to pieces for the love of the Lord and
hatred of each other. I will bring ten Mussulman, shall shame you all in
good will towards men and prayer to God." On a similar outburst in verse,
the Rev. F. Hodgson comments with a sweet humanity, "The poor dear soul
meant nothing of this." Elsewhere the poet writes, "I have read Watson to
Gibbon. He proves nothing; so I am where I was, verging towards Spinoza;
and yet it is a gloomy creed; and I want a better; but there is something
pagan in me that I cannot shake off. _In short, I deny nothing, but I
doubt everything_." But his early attitude on matters of religion is best
set forth in a letter to Gilford, of 1813, in which he says, "I am no
bigot to infidelity, and did not expect that because I doubted the
immortality of man I should be charged with denying the existence of a
God. It was the comparative insignificance of ourselves and our world,
when placed in comparison of the mighty whole of which man is an atom,
that first led me to imagine that our pretensions to eternity might be
overrated. This, and being early disgusted with a Calvinistic Scotch
school, where I was cudgelled to church for the first ten years of my
life, afflicted me with this malady; for, after all, it is, I believe, a
disease of the mind, as much as other kinds of hypochondria."

Hodgson was a type of friendly forbearance and loyal attachment,  which
had for their return a perfect open-heartedness in his correspondent. To
no one did the poet more freely abuse himself; to no one did he indulge in
more reckless sallies of humour; to no one did he more readily betray his
little conceits. From him Byron sought and received advice, and he owed to
him the prevention of what might have been a most foolish and disastrous
encounter. On the other hand, the clergyman was the recipient of one of
the poet's many single-hearted acts of munificence--a gift of 1000_l_., to
pay off debts to which he had been left heir. In a letter to his uncle,
the former gratefully alludes to this generosity: "Oh, if you knew the
exultation of heart, aye, and of head to, I feel at being free from those
depressing embarrassments, you would, as I do, bless my dearest friend and
brother, Byron." The whole transaction is a pleasing record of a benefit
that was neither sooner nor later resented by the receiver.

Among other associates of the same group should be mentioned Henry
Drury--long Hodgson's intimate friend, and ultimately his brother-in-law,
to whom many of Byron's first series of letters from abroad are
addressed--and Robert Charles Dallas, a name surrounded with various
associations, who played a not insignificant part in Byron's history, and,
after his death, helped to swell the throng of his annotators. This
gentleman, a connexion by marriage, and author of some now forgotten
novels, first made acquaintance with the poet in London early in 1808,
when we have two letters from Byron, in answer to some compliment on his
early volume, in which, though addressing his correspondent merely as
'Sir,' his flippancy and habit of boasting of excessive badness reach an
absurd climax.

Meanwhile, during the intervals of his attendance at college, Byron had
made other friends. His vacations were divided between London and
Southwell, a small town on the road from Mansfield and Newark, once a
refuge of Charles I., and still adorned by an old Norman Minster. Here
Mrs. Byron for several summer seasons took up her abode, and was
frequently joined by her son. He was introduced to John Pigot, a medical
student of Edinburgh, and his sister Elizabeth, both endowed with talents
above the average, and keenly interested in literary pursuits, to whom a
number of his letters are addressed; also to the Rev. J.T. Becher, author
of a treatise on the state of the poor, to whom he was indebted for
encouragement and counsel. The poet often rails at the place, which he
found dull in comparison with Cambridge and London; writing from the
latter, in 1807: "O Southwell, how I rejoice to have left thee! and how I
curse the heavy hours I dragged along for so many months among the Mohawks
who inhabit your kraals!" and adding, that his sole satisfaction during
his residence there was having pared off some pounds of flush.
Notwithstanding, in the small but select society of this inland
watering-place he passed on the whole a pleasant time--listening to the
music of the simple ballads in which he delighted, taking part in the
performances of the local theatre, making excursions, and writing verses.
This otherwise quiet time was disturbed by exhibitions of violence on the
part of Mrs. Byron, which suggest the idea of insanity. After one more
outrageous than usual, both mother and son are said to have gone to the
neighbouring apothecary, each to request him not to supply the other with
poison. On a later occasion, when he had been meeting her bursts of rage
with stubborn mockery, she flung a poker at his head, and narrowly missed
her aim. Upon this he took flight to London, and his Hydra or Alecto, as
ho calls her, followed: on their meeting a truce was patched, and they
withdrew in opposite directions, she back to Southwell, he to refresh
himself on the Sussex coast, till in the August of the same year (1806) he
again rejoined her. Shortly afterwards we have from Pigot a description of
a trip to Harrogate, when his lordship's favourite Newfoundland,
Boatswain, whose relation to his master recalls that of Bounce to Pope, or
Maida to Scott, sat on the box.

In November Byron printed for private circulation the first issue of his
juvenile poems. Mr. Becher having called his attention to one which he
thought objectionable, the impression was destroyed; and the author set to
work upon another, which, at once weeded and amplified, saw the light in
January, 1807. He sent copies, under the title of _Juvenilia_, to several
of his friends, and among others to Henry Mackenzie (the Man of Feeling),
and to Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee. Encouraged by their favourable
notices, he determined in appeal to a wider audience, and in March, 1807,
the _Hours of Idleness_, still proceeding from the local press at Newark,
were given to the world. In June we find the poet again writing from his
college rooms, dwelling with boyish detail on his growth in height and
reduction in girth, his late hours and heavy potations, his comrades, and
the prospects of his book. From July to September he dates from London,
excited by the praises of some now obscure magazine, and planning a
journey to the Hebrides. In October he is again settled at Cambridge, and
in a letter to Miss Pigot, makes a humorous reference to one of his
fantastic freaks: "I have got a new friend, the finest in the world--a
_tame bear_. When I brought him here, they asked me what I meant to do
with him, and my reply was, 'He should sit for a fellowship.' This answer
delighted them not." The greater part of the spring and summer of 1808 was
spent at Dorant's Hotel, Albemarle Street. Left to himself, he seems
during this period for the first time to have freely indulged in
dissipations, which are in most lives more or less carefully concealed.
But Byron, with almost unparalleled folly, was perpetually taking the
public into his confidence, and all his "sins of blood," with the strange
additions of an imaginative effrontery, have been thrust before us in a
manner in which Rochester or Rousseau might have thought indelicate.
Nature and circumstances conspired the result. With passions which he is
fond of comparing to the fires of Vesuvius and Hecla, he was, on his
entrance into a social life which his rank helped to surround with
temptations, unconscious of any sufficient motive for resisting them; he
had no one to restrain him from the whim of the moment, or with sufficient
authority to give him effective advice. A temperament of general
despondency, relieved by reckless outbursts of animal spirits, is the
least favourable to habitual self-control. The melancholy of Byron was not
of the pensive and innocent kind attributed to Cowley, rather that of the,
[Greek: melancholikoi] of whom Aristotle asserts, with profound
psychological or physiological intuition, that they are [Greek: aei en
sphodra orexei]. The absurdity of Moore's frequent declaration, that all
great poets are inly wrapt in perpetual gloom, is only to be excused by
the modesty which, in the saying so obviously excludes himself from the
list. But it is true that anomalous energies are sources of incessant
irritation to their possessor, until they have found their proper vent in
the free exercise of his highest faculties. Byron had not yet done, this,
when he was rushing about between London, Brighton, Cambridge, and
Newstead--shooting, gambling, swimming, alternately drinking deep and
trying to starve himself into elegance, green-room hunting, travelling
with disguised companions,[1] patronizing D'Egville the dancing-master,
Grimaldi the clown, and taking lessons from Mr. Jackson, the distinguished
professor of pugilism, to whom he afterwards affectionately refers as his
"old friend and corporeal pastor and master." There is no inducement to
dwell on amours devoid of romance, further than to remember that they
never trenched on what the common code of the fashionable world terms
dishonour. We may believe the poet's later assertion, backed by want of
evidence to the contrary, that he had never been the first means of
leading any one astray--a fact perhaps worthy the attention of those moral
worshippers of Goethe and Burns who hiss at Lord Byron's name.

    [Footnote 1: In reference to one of these, see an interesting letter
    from Mr. Minto to the _Athenaeum_ (Sept. 2nd, 1876), in which with
    considerable though not conclusive ingenuity, he endeavours to
    identify the girl with "Thyrza," and with "Astarté," whom he regards
    as the same person.]

Though much of this year of his life was passed unprofitably, from it
dates the impulse that provoked him to put forth his powers. The
_Edinburgh_, with the attack on the _Hours of Idleness_, appeared in
March, 1808. This production, by Lord Brougham, is a specimen of the
tomahawk style of criticism prevalent in the early years of the century,
in which the main motive of the critic was, not to deal fairly with his
author, but to acquire for himself an easy reputation for cleverness, by a
series of smart contemptuous sentences. Taken apart, most of the
strictures of the _Edinburgh_ are sufficiently just, and the passages
quoted for censure are all bad. Byron's genius as a poet was not
remarkably precocious. The _Hours of Idleness_ seldom rise, either in
thought or expression, very far above the average level of juvenile verse;
many of the pieces in the collection are weak imitations, or commonplace
descriptions; others suggested by circumstances of local or temporary
interest, had served their turn before coming into print. Their prevailing
sentiment is an affectation of misanthropy, conveyed in such lines as

  Weary of love, of life, devour'd with spleen,
  I rest, a perfect Timon, not nineteen.

This mawkish element unfortunately survives in much of the author's later
verse. But even in this volume there are indications of force, and
command. The _Prayer of Nature_, indeed, though previously written, was
not included in the edition before the notice of the critic; but the sound
of _Loch-na-Gair_ and some of the stanzas on _Newstead_ ought to have
saved him from the mistake of his impudent advice. The poet, who through
life waited with feverish anxiety for every verdict on his work, is
reported after reading the review to have looked like a man about to send
a challenge. In the midst of a transparent show of indifference, he
confesses to have drunk three bottles of claret on the evening of its
appearance. But the wound did not mortify into torpor; the Sea-Kings'
blood stood him in good stead, and he was not long in collecting his
strength for the panther-like spring, which, gaining strength by its
delay, twelve months later made it impossible for him to be contemned.

The last months of the year he spent at Newstead, vacated by the tenant,
who had left the building in the tumble-down condition in which he found
it. Byron was, by his own acknowledgment, at this time, "heavily dipped,"
generosities having combined with selfish extravagances to the result; he
had no funds to subject the place to anything like a thorough repair, but
he busied himself in arranging a few of the rooms for his own present and
his mother's after use. About this date he writes to her, beginning in his
usual style, "Dear Madam," saying he has as yet no rooms ready for her
reception, but that on his departure she shall be tenant till his return.
During this interval he was studying Pope, and carefully maturing his own
Satire. In November the dog Boatswain died in a fit of madness. The event
called forth the famous burst of misanthropic verse, ending with the

  To mark a friend's remains these stones arise;
  I never knew but _one_, and _here_ he lies;--

and the inscription on the monument that still remains in the gardens of

                Near this spot,
        Are deposited the remains of one
      Who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
          Strength without Insolence,
         Courage without Ferocity,
  And all the virtues of Man without his Vices.
  This Praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
         If inscribed over human ashes,
     Is but a just tribute to the Memory of
               Boatswain, a Dog,
    Who was born at Newfoundland, May, 1803,
  And died at Newstead Abbey, November 18, 1808.

On January 22, 1809, his lordship's coming of age was celebrated with
festivities, curtailed of their proportions by his limited means. Early in
spring he paid a visit to London, bringing the proof of his satire to the
publisher, Cawthorne. From St. James's Street he writes to Mrs. Byron, on
the death of Lord Falkland, who had been killed in a duel, and expresses a
sympathy for his family, left in destitute circumstances, whom he
proceeded to relieve with a generosity only equalled by the delicacy of
the manner in which it was shown. Referring to his own embarrassment, he
proceeds in the expression of a resolve, often repeated, "Come what may,
Newstead and I stand or fall together. I have now lived on the spot--I
have fixed my heart on it; and no pressure, present or future, shall
induce me to barter the last vestige of our inheritance." He was building
false hopes on the result of the suit for the Rochdale property, which,
being dragged from court to court, involved him in heavy expenses, with no
satisfactory result. He took his seat in the House of Lords on the 13th of
March, and Mr. Dallas, who accompanied him to the bar of the House, has
left an account of his somewhat unfortunate demeanour.

"His countenance, paler than usual, showed that his mind was agitated, and
that he was thinking of the nobleman to whom he had once looked for a hand
and countenance in his introduction. There were very few persons in the
House. Lord Eldon was going through some ordinary business. When Lord
Byron had taken the oaths, the Chancellor quitted his seat, and went
towards him with a smile, putting out his hand warmly to welcome him; and,
though I did not catch the words, I saw that he paid him some compliment.
This was all thrown away upon Lord Byron, who made a stiff bow, and put
the tips of his fingers into the Chancellor's hand. The Chancellor did not
press a welcome so received, but resumed his seat; while Lord Byron
carelessly seated himself for a few minutes on one of the empty benches to
the left of the throne, usually occupied by the lords in Opposition. When,
on his joining me, I expressed what I had felt, he said 'If I had shaken
hands heartily, he would have set me down for one of his party; but I will
have nothing to do with them on either side. I have taken my seat, and now
I will go abroad.'"

A few days later the _English Bards and Scotch Reviewers_ appeared before
the public. The first anonymous edition was exhausted in a month; a
second, to which the author gave his name, quickly followed. He was wont
at a later date to disparage this production, and frequently recanted many
of his verdicts in marginal notes. Several, indeed, seem to have been
dictated by feelings so transitory, that in the course of the correction
of proof blame was turned into praise, and praise into blame; i.e. he
wrote in MS. before he met the agreeable author,--

  I leave topography to coxcomb Gell;

we have his second thought in the first edition, before he saw the

  I leave topography to classic Gell;

and his third, half way in censure, in the fifth,--

  I leave topography to rapid Gell.

Of such materials are literary judgments made!

The success of Byron's satire was due to the fact of its being the only
good thing of its kind since Churchill,--for in the _Baviad_ and _Maeviad_
only butterflies were broken upon the wheel--and to its being the first
promise of a now power. The _Bards and Reviewers_ also enlisted sympathy,
from its vigorous attack upon the critics who had hitherto assumed the
prerogative of attack. Jeffrey and Brougham were seethed in their own
milk; and outsiders, whose credentials were still being examined, as Moore
and Campbell, came in for their share of vigorous vituperation. The Lakers
fared worst of all. It was the beginning of the author's life-long war,
only once relaxed, with Southey. Wordsworth--though against this passage
is written "unjust," a concession not much sooner made than withdrawn,--is
dubbed an idiot, who--

  Both by precept and example shows,
  That prose is verse and verse is only prose;

and Coleridge, a baby,--

  To turgid ode and tumid stanza dear.

The lines ridiculing the encounter between Jeffrey and Moore, are a fair
specimen of the accuracy with which the author had caught the ring of
Pope's antithesis:--

  The surly Tolbooth scarcely kept her place.
  The Tolbooth felt--for marble sometimes can,
  On such occasions, feel as much as man--
  The Tolbooth felt defrauded of her charms,
  If Jeffrey died, except within her arms.

Meanwhile Byron had again retired to Newstead, where he invited some
choice spirits to hold a few weeks of farewell revel. Matthews, one of
these, gives an account of the place, and the time they spent
there--entering the mansion between a bear and a wolf, amid a salvo of
pistol-shots; sitting up to all hours, talking politics, philosophy,
poetry; hearing stories of the dead lords, and the ghost of the Black
Brother; drinking their wine out of the skull cup which the owner had made
out of the cranium of some old monk dug up in the garden; breakfasting at
two, then reading, fencing, riding, cricketing, sailing on the lake, and
playing with the bear or teasing the wolf. The party broke up without
having made themselves responsible for any of the orgies of which Childe
Harold raves, and which Dallas in good earnest accepts as veracious, when
the poet and his friend Hobhouse started for Falmouth, on their way
"_outre mer_."



There is no romance of Munchausen or Dumas more marvellous than the
adventures attributed to Lord Byron abroad. Attached to his first
expedition are a series of narratives, by professing eye-witnesses, of his
intrigues, encounters, acts of diablerie and of munificence, in particular
of his roaming about the isles of Greece and taking possession of one of
them, which have all the same relation to reality as the _Arabian Nights_
to the actual reign of Haroun Al Raschid.[1]

    [Footnote 1: Those who wish to read them are referred to the three
    large volumes--published in 1825, by Mr. Iley, Portman Street--of
    anonymous authorship.]

Byron had far more than an average share of the _émigré_ spirit, the
counterpoise in the English race of their otherwise arrogant isolation. He
held with Wilhelm Meister--

  To give space for wandering is it,
  That the earth was made so wide.

and wrote to his mother from Athens: "I am so convinced of the advantages
of looking at mankind, instead of reading about them, and the bitter
effects of staying at home with all the narrow prejudices of an islander,
that I think there should be a law amongst us to send our young men abroad
for a term, among the few allies our wars have left us."

On June 11th, having borrowed money at heavy interest, and stored his mind
with information about Persia and India, the contemplated but unattained
goal of his travels, he left London, accompanied by his friend Hobhouse,
Fletcher his valet, Joe Murray his old butler, and Robert Rushton the son
of one of his tenants, supposed to be represented by the Page in _Childe
Harold_. The two latter, the one on account of his age, the other from his
health breaking down, he sent back to England from Gibraltar.

Becalmed for some days at Falmouth, a town which he describes as "full of
Quakers and salt fish," he despatched letters to his mother, Drury, and
Hodgson, exhibiting the changing moods of his mind. Smarting under a
slight he had received at parting from a school-companion, who had excused
himself from a farewell meeting on the plea that he had to go shopping, he
at one moment talks of his desolation, and says that, "leaving England
without regret," he has thought of entering the Turkish service; in the
next, especially in the stanzas to Hodgson, he runs off into a strain of
boisterous buffoonery. On the 2nd of July, the packet, by which he was
bound, sailed for Lisbon and arrived there about the middle of the month,
when the English fleet was anchored in the Tagus. The poet in some of his
stanzas has described the fine view of the port and the disconsolate
dirtiness of the city itself, the streets of which were at that time
rendered dangerous by the frequency of religious and political
assassinations. Nothing else remains of his sojourn to interest us, save
the statement of Mr. Hobhouse, that his friend made a more perilous,
though less celebrated, achievement by water than his crossing the
Hellespont, in swimming from old Lisbon to Belem Castle, Byron praises the
neighbouring Cintra, as "the most beautiful village in the world," though
he joins with Wordsworth in heaping anathemas on the Convention, and
extols the grandeur of Mafra, the Escurial of Portugal, in the convent of
which a monk, showing the traveller a large library, asked if the English
had any books in their country. Despatching his baggage and servants by
sea to Gibraltar, he and his friend started on horseback through the
south-west of Spain. Their first resting-place, after a ride of 400 miles,
performed at an average rate of seventy in the twenty-four hours, was
Seville, where they lodged for three days in the house of two ladies, to
whose attractions, as well as the fascination he seems to have exerted
over them, the poet somewhat garrulously refers. Here, too, he saw,
parading on the Prado, the famous _Maid of Saragossa_, whom he celebrates
in his equally famous stanzas (_Childe Harold_, I., 54-58). Of Cadiz, the
next stage, he writes with enthusiasm as a modern Cythera, describing the
bull fights in his verse, and the beauties in glowing prose. The belles of
this city, he says, are the Lancashire witches of Spain; and by reason of
them, rather than the sea-shore or the Sierra Morena, "sweet Cadiz is the
first spot in the creation." Hence, by an English frigate, they sailed to
Gibraltar, for which place he has nothing but curses. Byron had no
sympathy with the ordinary forms of British patriotism, and in our great
struggle with the tyranny of the First Empire, he may almost be said to
have sympathized with Napoleon.

The ship stopped at Cagliari in Sardinia, and again at Girgenti on the
Sicilian coast. Arriving at Malta, they halted there for three weeks--time
enough to establish a sentimental, though Platonic, flirtation with Mrs.
Spencer Smith, wife of our minister at Constantinople, sister-in-law of
the famous admiral, and the heroine of some exciting adventures. She is
the "Florence" of _Childe Harold_, and is afterwards addressed in some of
the most graceful verses of his cavalier minstrelsy--

  Do thou, amidst the fair white walls,
    If Cadiz yet be free,
  At times from out her latticed halls
    Look o'er the dark blue sea--
  Then think upon Calypso's isles,
    Endear'd by days gone by,--
  To others give a thousand smiles,
    To me a single sigh.

The only other adventure of the visit is Byron's quarrel with an officer,
on some unrecorded ground, which Hobhouse tells us nearly resulted in a
duel. The friends left Malta on September 29th, in the war-ship "Spider,"
and after anchoring off Patras, and spending a few hours on shore, they
skirted the coast of Acarnania, in view of localities--as Ithaca, the
Leucadian rock, and Actium--whose classic memories filtered through the
poet's mind and found a place in his masterpieces. Landing at Previsa,
they started on a tour through Albania,--

    O'er many a mount sublime,
  Through lands scarce noticed in historic tales.

Byron was deeply impressed by the beauty of the scenery, and the
half-savage independence of the people, described as "always strutting
about with slow dignity, though in rags." In October we find him with his
companions at Janina, hospitably entertained by order of Ali Pasha, the
famous Albanian Turk, bandit, and despot, then besieging Ibrahim at Berat
in Illyria. They proceeded on their way by "bleak Pindus," Acherusia's
lake, and Zitza, with its monastery door battered by robbers. Before
reaching the latter place, they encountered a terrific thunderstorm, in
the midst of which they separated, and Byron's detachment lost its way for
nine hours, during which he composed the verses to Florence, quoted above.

Some days later they together arrived at Tepaleni, and were there received
by Ali Pasha in person. The scene on entering the town is described as
recalling Scott's Branksome Castle and the feudal system; and the
introduction to Ali, who sat for some of the traits of the poet's
corsairs,--is graphically reproduced in a letter to Mrs. Byron. "His first
question was, why at so early an age I left my country, and without a
'lala,' or nurse? He then said the English minister had told him I was of
a great family, and desired his respects to my mother, which I now present
to you (date, November 12th). He said he was certain I was a man of birth,
because I had small ears, curling hair, and little white hands. He told me
to consider him as a father whilst I was in Turkey, and said he looked on
me as his son. Indeed he treated me like a child, sending me almonds,
fruit, and sweetmeats, twenty times a day." Byron shortly afterwards
discovered his host to be, a poisoner and an assassin. "Two days ago," he
proceeds in a passage which illustrates his character and a common
experience, "I was nearly lost in a Turkish ship-of-war, owing to the
ignorance of the captain and crew. Fletcher yelled after his wife; the
Greeks called on all the saints, the Mussulmen on Alla; the captain burst
into tears and ran below deck, telling us to call on God. The sails were
split, the mainyard shivered, the wind blowing fresh, the night setting
in; and all our chance was to make for Corfu--or, as F. pathetically
called it, 'a watery grave.' I did what I could to console him, but
finding him incorrigible, wrapped myself in my Albanian capote, and lay
down on the deck to wait the worst." Unable from his lameness, says
Hobhouse, to be of any assistance, he in a short time was found amid the
trembling sailors, fast asleep. They got back to the coast of Suli, and
shortly afterwards started through Acarnania and AEtolia for the Morea,
again rejoicing in the wild scenery and the apparently kindred spirits of
the wild men among whom they passed. Byron was especially fascinated by
the firelight dance and song of the robber band, which he describes and
reproduces in _Childe Harold_. On the 21st of November he reached
Mesolonghi, whore, fifteen years later, he died. Here he dismissed most of
his escort, proceeded to Patras, and on to Vostizza, caught sight of
Parnassus, and accepted a flight of eagles near Delphi as a favouring sign
of Apollo. "The last bird," he writes, "I ever fired at was an eaglet on
the shore of the Gulf of Lepanto. 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 life of another bird." From
Livadia the travellers proceeded to Thebes, visited the cave of
Trophonius, Diana's fountain, the so-called ruins of Pindar's house, and
the field of Cheronea, crossed Cithaeron, and on Christmas, 1809, arrived
before the defile, near the ruins of Phyle, where, he had his first
glimpse of Athens, which evoked the famous lines:--

  Ancient of days, august Athena! where,
  Where are thy men of might? thy grand in soul?
  Gone, glimmering through the dream of things that were.
  First in the race that led to glory's goal,
  They won, and pass'd away: is this the whole--
  A schoolboy's tale, the wonder of an hour?

After which he reverts to his perpetually recurring moral, "Men come and
go; but the hills, and waves, and skies, and stars, endure"--

  Apollo still thy long, long summer gilds;
  Still in his beam Mendeli's marbles glare;
  Art, glory, freedom fail--but nature still is fair.

The duration of Lord Byron's first visit to Athens was about three months,
and it was varied by excursions to different parts of Attica; Eleusis,
Hymettus, Cape Colonna, (Sunium, the scene of Falconer's shipwreck), the
Colonus of OEdipus, and Marathon, the plain of which is said to have been
placed at his disposal for about the same sum that, thirty years later, an
American offered to give for the bark with the poet's name on the tree at
Newstead. Byron had a poor opinion of the modern Athenians, who seem to
have at this period done their best to justify the Roman satirist. He
found them superficial, cunning, and false; but, with generous historic
insight, he says that no nation in like circumstances would have been much
better; that they had the vices of ages of slavery, from which it would
require ages of freedom to emancipate them.

In the Greek capital he lodged at the house of a respectable lady, widow
of an English vice-consul, who had three daughters, the eldest of whom,
Theresa, acquired an innocent and enviable fame as the Maid of Athens,
without the dangerous glory of having taken any very firm hold of the
heart that she was asked to return. A more solid passion was the poet's
genuine indignation on the "lifting," in Border phrase, of the marbles
from the Parthenon, and their being taken to England by order of Lord
Elgin. Byron never wrote anything more sincere than the _Curse of
Minerva_; and he has recorded few incidents more pathetic than that of the
old Greek who, when the last stone was removed for exportation, shed
tears, and said "[Greek: telos]!" The question is still an open one of
ethics. There are few Englishmen of the higher rank who do not hold London
in the right hand as barely balanced by the rest of the world in the left;
a judgment in which we can hardly expect Romans, Parisians, and Athenians
to concur. On the other hand, the marbles were mouldering at Athens, and
they are preserved, like ginger, in the British Museum.

Among the adventures of this period are an expedition across the Ilissus
to some caves near Kharyati, in which the travellers were by accident
nearly entombed; another to Pentelicus, where they tried to carve their
names on the marble rock; and a third to the environs of the Piraeus in
the evening light. Early in March the convenient departure of an English
sloop-of-war induced them to make an excursion to Smyrna. There, on the
28th of March, the second canto of _Childe Harold_, begun in the previous
autumn at Janina, was completed. They remained in the neighbourhood,
visiting Ephesus, without poetical result further than a reference to the
jackals, in the _Siege of Corinth_; and on April 11th left by the
"Salsette," a frigate on its way to Constantinople. The vessel touched at
the Troad, and Byron spent some time on land, snipe-shooting, and rambling
among the reputed ruins of Ilium. The poet characteristically, in _Don
Juan_ and elsewhere,  attacks the sceptics, and then half ridicules the

    I've stood upon Achilles' tomb,
  And heard Troy doubted! Time will doubt of Rome!
       *       *       *       *       *
  There, on the green and village-cotted hill, is,
  Flank'd by the Hellespont, and by the sea,
  Entomb'd the bravest of the brave Achilles.--
  They say so: Bryant says the contrary.

Being again detained in the Dardanelles, waiting for a fair wind, Byron
landed on the European side, and swam, in company with Lieutenant
Ekenhead, from Sestos to Abydos--a performance of which he boasts some
twenty times. The strength of the current is the main difficulty of a
feat, since so surpassed as to have passed from notice; but it was a
tempting theme for classical allusions. At length, on May 14, he reached
Constantinople, exalted the Golden Horn above all the sights he had seen,
and now first abandoned his design of travelling to Persia. Galt, and
other more or less gossiping travellers, have accumulated a number of
incidents of the poet's life at this period, of his fanciful dress,
blazing in scarlet and gold, and of his sometimes absurd contentions for
the privileges of rank--as when he demanded precedence of the English
ambassador in an interview with the Sultan, and, on its refusal, could
only be pacified by the assurances of the Austrian internuncio. In
converse with indifferent persons he displayed a curious alternation of
frankness and hauteur, and indulged a habit of letting people up and down,
by which he frequently gave offence. More interesting are narratives of
the suggestion of some of his verses, as the slave-market in _Don Juan_,
and the spectacle of the dead criminal tossed on the waves, revived in the
_Bride of Abydos_. One example is, if we except Dante's _Ugolino_, the
most remarkable instance in literature of the expansion, without the
weakening, of the horrible. Take first Mr. Hobhouse's plain prose: "The
sensations produced by the state of the weather"--it was wretched and
stormy when they left the "Salsette" for the city--"and leaving a
comfortable cabin, were in unison with the impressions which we felt when,
passing under the palace of the Sultans, and gazing at the gloomy cypress
which rises above the walls, we saw two dogs gnawing a dead body." After
this we may measure the almost fiendish force of a morbid imagination
brooding over the incident,--

  And he saw the lean dogs beneath the wall
  Hold o'er the dead their carnival:
  Gorging and growling o'er carcass and limb,
  They were too busy to bark at him.
  From a Tartar's skull they had stripp'd the flesh,
  As ye peel the fig when its fruit is fresh;
  And their white tusks crunch'd on the whiter skull,
  As it slipp'd through their jaws when their edge grow dull.

No one ever more persistently converted the incidents of travel into
poetic material; but sometimes in doing so he borrowed more largely from
his imagination than his memory, as in the description of the seraglio, of
which there is reason to doubt his having seen more than the entrance.

Byron and Hobhouse set sail from Constantinople on the 14th July,
1810--the latter to return direct to England, a determination which, from
no apparent fault on either side, the former did not regret. One incident
of the passage derives interest from its possible consequence. Taking up,
and unsheathing, a yataghan which he found on the quarter deck, ho
remarked, "I should like to know how a person feels after committing a
murder." This harmless piece of melodrama--the idea of which is expanded
in Mr. Dobell's _Balder_, and parodied in _Firmilian_--may have been the
basis of a report afterwards circulated, and accepted among others by
Goethe, that his lordship had committed a murder; hence, obviously, the
character of _Lara_, and the mystery of _Manfred!_ The poet parted from
his friend at Zea, (Ceos): after spending some time in solitude on the
little island, he returned to Athens, and there renewed acquaintance with
his school friend, the Marquis of Sligo, who after a few days accompanied
him to Corinth. They then separated, and Byron went on to Patras in the
Morea, where he had business with the Consul. He dates from there at the
close of July. It is impossible to give a consecutive account of his life
during the next ten months, a period consequently filled up with the
contradictory and absurd mass of legends before referred to. A few facts
only of any interest are extricable. During at least half of the time his
head-quarters were at Athens, where he again met his friend the Marquis,
associated with the English Consul and Lady Hester Stanhope, studied
Romaic in a Franciscan monastery--where he saw and conversed with a motley
crew of French, Italians, Danes, Greeks, Turks, and Americans,--wrote to
his mother and others, saying he had swum from Sestos to Abydos, was sick
of Fletcher bawling for beef and beer, had done with authorship, and hoped
on his return to lead a quiet recluse life. He nevertheless made notes to
_Harold_, composed the _Hints from Horace_ and the _Curse of Minerva_, and
presumably brooded over, and outlined in his mind, many of his verse
romances. We hear no more of the, _Maid of Athens_, but there is no fair
ground to doubt that the _Giaour_ was suggested by his rescue of a young
woman whom, for the fault of an amour with some Frank, a party of
Janissaries were about to throw, sewn up in a sack, into the sea. Mr. Galt
gives no authority for his statement, that the girl's deliverer was the
original cause of her sentence. We may rest assured that if it had been
so, Byron himself would have told us of it.

A note to the _Siege of Corinth_ is suggestive of his unequalled
restlessness. "I visited all three--Tripolitza, Napoli, and Argos--in
1810-11; and in the course of journeying through the country, from my
first arrival in 1809, crossed the Isthmus eight times on my way from
Attica to the Morea." In the latter locality we find him during the autumn
the honoured guest of the Vizier Valhi (a son of Ali Pasha), who presented
him with a fine horse. During a second visit to Patras, in September, he
was attacked by the same sort of marsh fever from which, fourteen years
afterwards, in the near neighbourhood, he died. On his recovery, in
October, he complains of having been nearly killed by the heroic measures
of the native doctors: "One of them trusts to his genius, never having
studied; the other, to a campaign of eighteen months against the sick of
Otranto, which he made in his youth with great effect. When I was seized
with my disorder, I protested against both these assassins, but in vain."
He was saved by the zeal of his servants, who asseverated that if his
lordship died they would take good care the doctors should also; on which
the learned men discontinued their visits, and the patient revived. On his
final return to Athens, the restoration of his health was retarded by one
of his long courses of reducing diet; he lived mainly on rice, and vinegar
and water. From that city he writes in the early spring, intimating his
intention of proceeding to Egypt; but Mr. Hanson, his man of business,
ceasing to send him remittances, the scheme was abandoned. Beset by
letters about his debts, he again declares his determination to hold fast
by Newstead, adding that if the place which is his only tie to England is
sold, he won't come back at all. Life on the shores of the Archipelago is
far cheaper and happier, and "Ubi bene ibi patria," for such a citizen of
the world as he has become. Later he went to  Malta, and was detained
there by another bad attack of tertian fever. The next record of
consequence is from the "Volage" frigate, at sea, June 29, 1811, when he
writes in a despondent strain to Hodgson, that he is returning home
"without a hope, and almost without a desire," to wrangle with creditors
and lawyers about executions and coal pits. "In short, I am sick and
sorry; and when I have a little repaired my irreparable affairs, away I
shall march, either to campaign in Spain, or back again to the East, where
I can at least have cloudless skies and a cessation from impertinence. I
am sick of fops, and poesy, and prate, and shall leave the whole Castalian
state to Bufo, or anybody else. Howbeit, I have written some 4000 lines,
of one kind or another, on my travels." With these, and a collection of
marbles, and skulls, and hemlock, and tortoises, and servants, he reached
London about the middle of July, and remained there, making some
arrangements about business and publication. On the 23rd we have a short
but kind letter to his mother, promising to pay her a visit on his way to
Rochdale. "You know you are a vixen, but keep some champagne for me," he
had written from abroad. On receipt of the letter she remarked, "If I
should be dead before he comes down, what a strange thing it, would be."
Towards the close of the month she had an attack so alarming that he was
summoned; but before, he had time to arrive she had expired, on the 1st of
August, in a fit of rage brought on by reading an upholsterer's bill. On
the way Byron heard the intelligence, and wrote to Dr. Pigot: "I now feel
the truth of Gray's observation, that we can only have _one_ mother. Peace
be with her!" On arriving at Newstead, all their storms forgotten, the son
was so affected that he did not trust himself to go to the funeral, but
stood dreamily gazing at the cortège from the gate of the Abbey. Five days
later, Charles S. Matthews was drowned.



The deaths of Long, Wingfield, Eddlestone, Matthews, and of his mother,
had narrowed the circle of the poet's early companions; and, though he
talks of each loss in succession as if it had been that of an only friend,
we can credit a degree of loneliness, and excuse a certain amount of
bitterness in the feelings with which he returned to London. He had at
this time seen very little of the only relative whom he over deeply loved.
He and his half-sister met casually in 1804, and again in the following
year. After her marriage (1807), Byron writes from abroad (1810),
regretting having distressed her by his quarrel with Lord Carlisle. In
1811 she is mentioned as reversionary heiress of his estate. Towards the
close of 1813, there are two allusions which testify to their mutual
affection. Next wo come to the interesting series of letters of 1815-16,
published with the Memoir of Mr. Hodgson, to whom, along with Hobhouse and
Scrope Davies, his lordship in a will and codicil leaves the management of
his property. Harness appears frequently at this period among his
surviving intimates: to this list there was shortly added another. In
speaking of his _Bards and Reviewers_, the author makes occasional
reference to the possibility of his being called to account for some of
his attacks. His expectation was realized by a letter from the poet Moore,
dated Dublin, Jan. 1, 1810, couched in peremptory terms, demanding to know
if his lordship avowed the authorship of the insults contained in the
poem. This letter, being entrusted to Mr. Hodgson, was not forwarded to
Byron abroad; but shortly after his return, he received another in more
conciliatory terms, renewing the complaint. To this he replied, in a stiff
but manly letter, that he had never meant to insult Mr. Moore; but that he
was, if necessary, ready to give him satisfaction. Moore accepting the
explanation, somewhat querulously complained of his advances to friendship
not being received. Byron again replied that much as he would feel
honoured by Mr. Moore's acquaintance, he being practically threatened by
the irate Irishman could hardly make the first advances. This called forth
a sort of apology; the correspondents met at the house of Mr. Rogers, and
out of the somewhat awkward circumstances, owing to the frankness of the
"noble author," as the other ever after delights to call him, arose the
life-long intimacy which had such various and lasting results. Moore has
been called a false friend to Byron, and a traitor to his memory. The
judgment is somewhat harsh, but the association between them was
unfortunate. Thomas Moore had some sterling qualities. His best satirical
pieces are inspired by a real indignation, and lit up by a genuine humour.
He was also an exquisite musician in words, and must have been
occasionally a fascinating companion. But he was essentially a worldling,
and, as such, a superficial critic. He encouraged the shallow affectations
of his great friend's weaker work, and recoiled in alarm before the daring
defiance of his stronger. His criticisms on all Byron wrote and felt
seriously on religion are almost worthy of a conventicle. His letters to
others on _Manfred_, and _Cain_, and _Don Juan_, are the expression of
sentiments which he had never the courage to state explicitly to the
author. On the other hand, Byron was attracted beyond reasonable measure
by his gracefully deferential manners, paid too much regard to his
opinions, and overestimated his genius. For the subsequent destruction of
the memoirs, urged by Mr. Hobhouse and Mrs. Leigh, he was not wholly
responsible; though a braver man, having accepted the position of his
lordship's literary legatee, with the express understanding that he would
seue to the fulfilment of the wishes of his dead friend, would have to the
utmost resisted their total frustration.

Meanwhile, on landing in England, the poet had placed in the hands of Mr.
Dallas the _Hints from Horace_, which he intended to have brought out by
the publisher Cawthorne. Of this performance--an inferior edition,
relieved by a few strong touches, of the _Bards and Reviewers_--Dallas
ventured to express his disapproval. "Have you no other result of your
travels?" he asked; and got for answer, "A few short pieces; and a lot of
Spenserian stanzas; not worth troubling you with, but you are welcome to
them." Dallas took the remark literally, saw they were a safe success, and
assumed to himself the merit of the discovery, the risks, and the profits.
It is the converse of the story of Gabriel Harvey and the _Faery Queene_.
Tho first two cantos of _Childe Harold_ bear no comparison with the legend
of _Una and the Red Cross Knight_; but there was no mistake about their
proof of power, their novelty, and adaptation to a public taste as yet
unjaded by eloquent and imaginative descriptions of foreign scenery,
manners, and climates.

The poem--after being submitted to Gifford, in defiance of the
protestations of the author, who feared that the reference might seem to
seek the favour of the august _Quarterly_--was accepted by Mr. Murray, and
proceeded through the press, subject to change and additions, during the
next five months. The _Hints from Horace_, fortunately postponed and then
suspended, appeared posthumously in 1831. Byron remained at Newstead till
the close of October, negotiating with creditors and lawyers, and engaged
in a correspondence about his publications, in the course of which he
deprecates any identification of himself and his hero, though he had at
first called him Childe Byron. "Instruct Mr. Murray," he entreats, "not to
allow his shopman to call the work 'Child of Harrow's Pilgrimage,' as he
has done to some of my astonished friends, who wrote to inquire after my
_sanity_ on the occasion, as well they might." At the end of the month we
find him in London, again indulging in a voyage in "the ship of fools," in
which Moore claims to have accompanied him; but at the same time
exhibiting remarkable shrewdness in reference to the affairs of his
household. In February, 1812, he again declares to Hodgson his resolve to
leave England for ever, and fix himself in "one of the fairest islands of
the East." On the 27th he made in the House of Lords his speech on a Bill
to introduce special penalties against the frame-breakers of Nottingham.
This effort, on which he received many compliments, led among other
results to a friendly correspondence with Lord Holland. On April 21st of
the same year, he again addressed the House on behalf of Roman Catholic
Emancipation; and in June, 1813, in favour of Major Cartwright's petition.
On all these occasions, as afterwards on the continent, Byron espoused the
Liberal side of politics. But his role was that of Manlius or Caesar, and
he never fails to remind us that he himself was _for_ the people, not _of_
them. His latter speeches, owing partly to his delivery, blamed as too
Asiatic, were less successful. To a reader the three seem much on the same
level. They are clever, but evidently set performances, and leave us no
ground to suppose that the poet's abandonment of a parliamentary career
was a serious loss to the nation.

On the 29th of February the first and second cantos of _Childe Harold_
appeared. An early copy was sent to Mrs. Leigh, with the inscription: "To
Augusta, my dearest sister and my best friend, who has ever loved me much
better than I deserved, this volume is presented by her father's son and
most affectionate brother, B." The book ran through seven editions in four
weeks. The effect of the first edition of Burns, and the sale of Scott's
_Lays_, are the only parallels in modern poetic literature to this
success. All eyes were suddenly fastened on the author, who let his satire
sleep, and threw politics aside, to be the romancer of his day and for two
years the darling of society. Previous to the publition, Mr. Moore
confesses to have gratified his lordship with the expression of the fear
that _Childe Harold_ was too good for the age. Its success was due to the
reverse being the truth. It was just on the level of its age. Its flowing
verse, defaced by rhymical faults perceptible only to finer ears, its
prevailing sentiment, occasional boldness relieved by pleasing platitudes,
its half affected rakishness, here and there elevated by a rush as of
morning air, and its frequent richness--not yet, as afterwards,
splendour--of description, were all appreciated by the fashionable London
of the Regency; while the comparatively mild satire, not keen enough to
scarify, only gave a more piquant flavour to the whole. Byron's genius,
yet in the green leaf, was not too far above the clever masses of
pleasure-loving manhood by which it was surrounded. It was natural that
the address on the reopening of Drury Lane theatre should be written by
"the world's new joy"--the first great English poet-peer; as natural as
that in his only published satire of the period he should inveigh against
almost the only amusement in which he could not share. The address was
written at the request of Lord Holland, when of some hundred competitive
pieces none had been found exactly suitable--a circumstance which gave
rise to the famous parodies entitled _The Rejected Addresses_--and it was
thought that the ultimate choice would conciliate all rivalry. The care
which Byron bestowed on the correction of the first draft of this piece,
is characteristic of his habit of writing off his poems at a gush, and
afterwards carefully elaborating them.

_The Waltz_ was published anonymously in April, 1813. It was followed in
May by the _Giaour_, the first of the flood of verse romances which,
during the three succeeding years, he poured forth with impetuous fluency,
and which were received with almost unrestrained applause. The plots and
sentiments and imagery are similar in them all. The Giaour steals the
mistress of Hassan, who revenges his honour by drowning her. The Giaour
escapes; returns, kills Hassan, and then goes to a monastery. In the
_Bride of Abydos_, published in the December of the same year, Giaffir
wants to marry his daughter Zuleika to Carasman Pasha. She runs off with
Selim, her reputed brother--in reality her cousin, and so at last her
legitimate lover. They are caught; he is slain in fight; she dies, to slow
music. In the _Corsair_, published January, 1814, Conrad, a pirate,
"linked with one virtue and a thousand crimes!" is beloved by Medora, who
on his predatory expeditions, sits waiting for him (like Hassan's and
Sisera's mother) in a tower. On one of these he attacks Seyd Pasha, and is
overborne by superior force; but Gulnare, a female slave of Seyd, kills
her master, and runs off with Conrad, who finds Medora dead and vanishes.
In _Lara_, the sequel to this--written in May and June, published in
August--a man of mystery appears in the Morea, with a page, Kaled. After
adventures worthy of Mrs. Radcliffe--from whose Schledoni the Giaour is
said to have been drawn--Lara falls in battle with his deadly foe,
Ezzelin, and turns out to be Conrad, while Kaled is of course Gulnare. The
_Hebrew Melodies_, written in December, 1814, are interesting, in
connexion with the author's early familiarity with the Old Testament, and
from the force and music that mark the best of them; but they can hardly
be considered an important contribution to the devotional verse of
England. The _Siege of Corinth_ and _Parisina_, composed after his
marriage in the summer and autumn of 1815, appeared in the following year.
The former is founded on the siege of the city, when the Turks took it
from Menotti; but our attention is concentrated on Alp the renegade,
another sketch from the same protoplastic ruffian, who leads on the Turks,
is in love with the daughter of the governor of the city, tries to save
her, but dies. The poem is frequently vigorous, but it ends badly.
_Parisina_, though unequal, is on the whole a poem of a higher order than
the others of the period. The trial scene exhibits some dramatic power,
and the shriek of the lady mingling with Ugo's funeral dirge lingers in
our ears, along with the convent bells--

  In the grey square turret swinging,
  With a deep sound, to and fro,
  Heavily to the heart they go.

These romances belong to the same period of the author's poetic career as
the first two cantos of _Childe Harold_. They followed one another like
brilliant fireworks. They all exhibit a command of words, a sense of
melody, and a flow of rhythm and rhyme, which mastered Moore and even
Scott on their own ground. None of them are wanting in passages, as "He
who hath bent him o'er the dead," and the description of Alp leaning
against a column, which strike deeper than any verse of either of those
writers. But there is an air of melodrama in them all. Harmonious delights
of novel readers, they will not stand against the winnowing wind of
deliberate criticism. They harp on the same string, without the variations
of a Paganini. They are potentially endless reproductions of one phase of
an ill-regulated mind--the picture of the same quasi-melancholy vengeful
man, who knows no friend but a dog, and reads on the tombs of the great
only "the glory and the nothing of a name," the exile who cannot flee from
himself, "the wandering outlaw of his own dark mind," who has not loved
the world nor the world him,--

  Whose heart was form'd for softness, warp'd by wrong,
  Betray'd too early, and beguiled too long--

all this, _decies repetita_, grows into a weariness and vexation. Mr.
Carlyle harshly compares it to the screaming of a meat-jack. The reviewers
and the public of the time thought differently. Jeffrey, penitent for the
early _faux pas_ of his _Review_, as Byron remained penitent for his
answering assault, writes of _Lara_, "Passages of it may be put into
competition with anything that poetry has produced in point either of
pathos or energy." Moore--who afterwards wrote, not to Byron, that seven
devils had entered into _Manfred_--professes himself "enraptured with it."
Fourteen thousand copies of the _Corsair_ wore sold in a day. But hear the
author's own half-boast, half-apology: "_Lara_ I wrote while undressing
after coming home from balls and masquerades, in the year of revelry 1814.
The _Bride_ was written in four, the _Corsair_ in ten days. This I take to
he a humiliating confession, as it proves my own want of judgment in
publishing, and the public's in reading, things which cannot have stamina
for permanence."

The pecuniary profits accruing to Byron from his works began with _Lara_,
for which he received 700_l_. He had made over to Mr. Dallas, besides
other gifts to the same ungrateful recipient, the profits of _Harold_,
amounting to 600_l_, and of the _Corsair_, which brought 525_l_. The
proceeds of the _Giaour_ and the _Bride_ were also surrendered.

During this period, 1813-1816, he had become familiar with all the phases
of London society, "tasted their pleasures," and, towards the close, "felt
their decay." His associates in those years were of two classes--men of
the world, and authors. Fêted and courted in all quarters, he patronized
the theatres, became in 1815 a member of the Drury Lane Committee, "liked
the dandies," including Beau Brummell, and was introduced to the Regent.
Their interview, in June 1812, in the course of which the latter paid
unrestrained compliments to _Harold_ and the poetry of Scott, is naively
referred to by Mr. Moore "as reflecting even still more honour on the
Sovereign himself than on the two poets." Byron, in a different spirit,
writes to Lord Holland: "I have now great hope, in the event of Mr. Pye's
decease, of warbling truth at Court, like Mr. Mallet of indifferent
memory. Consider, one hundred marks a year! besides the wine and the
disgrace." We can hardly conceive the future author of the _Vision of
Judgment_ writing odes to dictation. He does not seem to have been much
fascinated with the first gentleman of Europe, whom at no distant date he
assailed in the terrible "Avatar," and left the laureateship to Mr.

Among leaders in art and letters he was brought into more or less intimate
contact with Sir Humphry Davy, the Edgeworths, Sir James Mackintosh,
Colman the dramatic author, the older Kean, Monk Lewis, Grattan, Curran,
and Madame de Staël. Of a meeting of the last two he remarks, "It was like
the confluence of the Rhone and the Sâone, and they were both so ugly that
I could not help wondering how the best intellects of France and Ireland
could have taken up respectively such residences."

About this time a communication from Mr Murray in reference to the meeting
with the Regent led to a letter from Sir Walter Scott to Lord Byron, the
beginning of a life-long friendship, and one of the most pleasing pages of
biography. These two great men were for a season perpetually pitted
against one another, as the foremost competitors for literary favour. When
_Rokeby_ came out, contemporaneously with the _Giaour_, the undergraduates
of Oxford and Cambridge ran races to catch the first copies, and laid bets
as to which of the rivals would win. During the anti-Byronic fever of
1840-1860 they were perpetually contrasted as the representatives of the
manly and the morbid schools. A later sentimentalism has affected to
despise the work of both. The fact therefore that from an early period the
men themselves knew each other as they were, is worth illustrating.

Scott's letter, in which a generous recognition of the pleasure he had
derived from tho work of the English poet, was followed by a manly
remonstrance on the subject of the attack in the _Bards and Reviewers_,
drew from Byron in the following month (July 1812) an answer in the same
strain, descanting on the Prince's praises of the _Lay_ and _Marmion_, and
candidly apologizing for the "evil works of his nonage." "The satire," he
remarks, "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." This, in turn, called forth another letter to
Byron eager for more of his verses, with a cordial invitation to
Abbotsford on the ground of Scotland's maternal claim on him, and asking
for information about Pegasus and Parnassus. After this the correspondence
continues with greater freedom, and the same display on either side of
mutual respect. When Scott says "the _Giaour_ is praised among our
mountains," and Byron returns "_Waverley_ is the best novel I have read,"
there is no suspicion of flattery--it is the interchange of compliments
between men,

  Et cantare pares et respondere parati.

They talk in just the same manner to third parties. "I gave over writing
romances," says the elder, in the spirit of a great-hearted gentleman,"
because Byron beat me. He hits the mark, where I don't even pretend to
fledge my arrow. He has access to a stream of sentiment unknown to me."
The younger, on the other hand, deprecates the comparisons that were being
invidiously drawn between them. He presents his copy of the _Giaour_ to
Scott, with the phrase "To the monarch of Parnassus," and compares the
feeling of those who cavilled at his fame to that of the Athenians towards
Aristides. From those sentiments, he never swerves, recognizing to the
last the breadth of character of the most generous of his critics, and
referring to him, during his later years in Italy, as the Wizard and the
Ariosto of the North. A meeting was at length arranged between them. Scott
looked forward to it with anxious interest, humorously remarking that
Byron should say,--

  Art thou the man whom men famed Grissell call?

And he reply--

  Art thou the still more famed Tom Thumb the small?

They met in London during the spring of 1815. The following sentences are
from Sir Walter's account of it:--"Report had prepared me to meet a man
of peculiar habits and quick temper, and I had some doubts 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. We met for an hour or two almost daily in Mr. Murray's drawing-room,
and found a great deal to say to each other. Our sentiments agreed a good
deal, except upon the subjects of religion and politics, upon neither of
which I was inclined to believe that Lord Byron entertained very fixed
opinions. On politics he used sometimes to express a high strain of what
is now called Liberalism; but it appeared to me that the pleasure it
afforded him as a vehicle of displaying his wit and satire against
individuals in office was at the bottom of this habit of thinking. At
heart, I would have termed Byron a patrician on principle. His reading did
not seem to me to have been very extensive. I remember repeating to him
the fine poem of Hardyknute, and some one asked me what I could possibly
have been telling Byron by which he was so much agitated. I saw him for
the last time in (September) 1815, after I returned from France; he dined
or lunched with me at Long's in Bond Street. I never saw him so full of
gaiety and good humour. The day of this interview was the most interesting
I ever spent. Several letters passed between us--one perhaps every half
year. 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,
full of dead men's bones, found within the land walls of Athens. He was
often melancholy, almost gloomy. When I observed him in this humour I used
either to wait till it went off of its own accord, or till some natural
and easy mode occurred of leading him into conversation, when the shadows
almost always left his countenance, like the mist arising from a
landscape. I think I also remarked in his temper starts of suspicion, when
he seemed to pause and consider whether there had not been a secret and
perhaps offensive meaning in something that was said to him. In this case
I also judged it best to let his mind, like a troubled spring, work itself
clear, which it did in a minute or two. A downright steadiness of manner
was the way to his good opinion. Will Rose, looking by accident at his
feet, saw him scowling furiously; but on his showing no consciousness, his
lordship resumed his easy manner. What I liked about him, besides his
boundless genius, was his generosity of spirit as well as of purse, and
his utter contempt of all the affectations of literature. He liked Moore
and me because, with all our other differences, we were both good-natured
fellows, not caring to maintain our dignity, enjoying the _mot-pour-rire_.
He wrote from impulse never from effort, and therefore I have always
reckoned Burns and Byron the most genuine poetic geniuses of my time, and
of half a century before me. We have many men of high poetic talents, but
none of that ever-gushing and perennial fountain of natural waters."

Scott, like all hale men of sound sense, regretted the almost fatal
incontinence which, in the year of his greatest private troubles, led his
friend to make a parade of them before the public. He speaks more than
once of his unhappy tendency to exhibit himself as the dying gladiator,
and even compares him to his peacock, screeching before his window because
he chooses to bivouack apart from his mate; but he read a copy of the
Ravenna diary without altering his view that his lordship was his own
worst maligner. Scott, says Lockhart, considered Byron the only poet of
transcendent talents we had had since Dryden. There is preserved a curious
record of his meeting with a greater poet than Dryden, but one whose
greatness neither he nor Scott suspected. Mr. Crabb Robinson reports
Wordsworth to have said, in Charles Lamb's chambers, about the year 1808,
"These reviewers put me out of patience. Here is a young man who has
written a volume of poetry; and these fellows, just because he is a lord,
set upon him. The young man will do something, if he goes on as he has
begun. But these reviewers seem to think that nobody may write poetry
unless he lives in a garret." Years after, Lady Byron, on being told this,
exclaimed, "Ah, if Byron had known that, he would never have attacked
Wordsworth. He went one day to meet him at dinner, and I said, 'Well, how
did the young poet get on with the old one?' 'Why, to tell the truth,'
said he, 'I had but one feeling from the beginning of the visit to the
end, and that was _reverence_.'" Similarly, he began by being on good
terms with Southey, and after a meeting at Holland House, wrote
enthusiastically of his prepossessing appearance.

Byron and the leaders of the so-called Lake School were, at starting,
common heirs of the revolutionary spirit; they were, either in their
social views or personal feelings, to a large extent influenced by the
most morbid, though in some respects the most magnetic, genius of modern
France, J.J. Rousseau; but their temperaments were in many respects
fundamentally diverse; and the pre-established discord between them ere
long began to make itself manifest in their following out widely divergent
paths. Wordsworth's return to nature had been preluded by Cowper; that of
Byron by Burns. The revival of the one ripened into a restoration of
simpler manners and old beliefs; the other was the spirit of the storm.
When they had both become recognized powers, neither appreciated the work
of the other. A few years after this date Byron wrote of Wordsworth, to a
common admirer of both: "I take leave to differ from you as freely as I
once agreed with you. His performances, since the _Lyrical Ballads_, are
miserably inadequate to the ability that lurks within him. There is,
undoubtedly, much natural talent spilt over the _Excursion_; but it is
rain upon rocks, where it stands and stagnates; or rain upon sand, where
it falls without fertilizing." This criticism with others in like strain,
was addressed to Mr. Leigh Hunt, to whom, in 1812, when enduring for
radicalism's sake a very comfortable incarceration, Byron had, in company
with Moore, paid a courteous visit.

Of the correspondence of this period--flippant, trenchant, or
sparkling--few portions are more calculated to excite a smile than the
record of his frequent resolutions made, reasseverated, and broken, to
have done with literature; even going the length on some occasions of
threatening to suppress his works, and, if possible, recall the existing
copies. He affected being a man of the world unmercifully, and had a real
delight in clever companions who assumed the same rôle. Frequent allusion
is made to his intercourse with Erskine and Sheridan: the latter he is
never tired of praising, as "the author of the best modern comedy (_School
for Scandal_), the best farce (_The Critic_), and the best oration (the
famous Begum speech) ever heard in this country." They spent many an
evening together, and probably cracked many a bottle. It is Byron who
tells the story of Sheridan being found in a gutter in a sadly incapable
state; and, on some one asking "Who is this?" stammering out
"Wilberforce." On one occasion he speaks of coming out of a tavern with
the dramatist, when they both found the staircase in a very cork-screw
condition: and elsewhere, of encountering a Mr. C----, who "had no notion
of meeting with a bon-vivant in a scribbler," and summed the poet's eulogy
with the phrase, "he drinks like a man." Hunt, the tattler, who observed
his lordship's habits in Italy, with the microscope of malice ensconced
within the same walls, makes it a charge against his host that he would
not drink like a man. Once for all it may be noted, that although there
was no kind of excess in which Byron, whether from bravado or inclination,
failed occasionally to indulge, he was never for any stretch of time given
over, like Burns, to what is technically termed intemperance. His head
does not seem to have been strong, and under the influence of stimulants
he may have been led to talk a great deal of his dangerous nonsense. But
though he could not say, with Wordsworth, that only once, at Cambridge,
had his brain been "excited by the fumes of wine," his prevailing sins
were in other directions.



"As for poets," says Scott, "I have seen all the best of my time and
country, and, though Burns had the most glorious eye imaginable, I never
thought any of them would come up to an artist's notion of the character,
except Byron. His countenance is a thing to dream of." Coleridge writes to
the same effect, in language even stronger. We have from all sides similar
testimony to the personal beauty which led the unhappiest of his devotees
to exclaim, "That pale face is my fate!"

Southern critics, as Chasles, Castelar, even Mazzini, have dealt leniently
with the poet's relations to the other sex; and Elze extends to him in
this regard the same excessive stretch of charity. "Dear Childe Harold,"
exclaims the German professor, "was positively besieged by women. They
have, in truth, no right to complain of him: from his childhood he had
seen them on their worst side." It is the casuistry of hero-worship to
deny that Byron was unjust to women, not merely in isolated instances, but
in his prevailing views of their character and claims. "I regard them," he
says, in a passage only distinguished from others by more extravagant
petulance, "as very pretty but inferior creatures, who are as little in
their place at our tables as they would be in our council chambers. The
whole of the present system with regard to the female sex is a remnant of
the barbarism of the chivalry of our forefathers. I look on them as
grown-up children; but, like a foolish mamma, I am constantly the slave of
one of them. The Turks shut up their women, and are much happier; give a
woman a looking-glass and burnt almonds, and she will be content."

In contrast with this, we have the moods in which he drew his pictures of
Angiolina, and Haidee, and Aurora Raby, and wrote the invocations to the
shade of Astarte, and his letters in prose and verse to Augusta; but the
above passage could never have been written by Chaucer, or Spenser, or
Shakespeare, or Shelley. The class whom he was reviling seemed, however,
during "the day of his destiny," bent on confirming his judgment by the
blindness of their worship. His rank and fame, the glittering splendour of
his verse, the romance of his travels, his picturesque melancholy and
affectation of mysterious secrets, combined with the magic of his presence
to bewitch and bewilder them. The dissenting malcontents, condemned as
prudes and blues, had their revenge. Generally, we may say that women who
had not written books adored Byron; women who had written or were writing
books distrusted, disliked, and made him a moral to adorn their tales,
often to point their fables with. He was by the one set caressed and
spoilt, and "beguiled too long;" by the other, "betrayed too late." The
recent memoirs of Frances Ann Kemble present a curious record of the
process of passing from one extreme to the other. She dwells on the
fascination exerted over her mind by the first reading of his poetry, and
tells how she "fastened on the book with a grip like steel," and carried
it off and hid it under her pillow; how it affected her "like an evil
potion," and stirred her whole being with a tempest of excitement, till
finally she, with equal weakness, flung it aside, "resolved to read that
grand poetry no more, and broke through the thraldom of that powerful
spell." The confession brings before us a type of the transitions of the
century, on its way from the Byronic to the anti-Byronic fever, of which
later state Mrs. Norton and Miss Martineau are among the most pronounced

Byron's garrulity with regard to those delicate matters on which men of
more prudence or chivalry are wont to set the seal of silence, has often
the same practical effect as reticence; for he talks so much at
large--every page of his Journal being, by his own admission, apt to
"confute and abjure its predecessor"--that we are often none the wiser.
Amid a mass of conjecture, it is manifest that during the years between
his return from Greece and final expatriation (1811-1816), including the
whole period of his social glory--though not yet of his solid fame--he was
lured into liaisons of all sorts and shades. Some, now acknowledged as
innocent, were blared abroad by tongues less skilled in pure invention
than in distorting truth. On others, as commonplaces of a temperament "all
meridian," it were waste of time to dwell. Byron rarely put aside a
pleasure in his path; but his passions were seldom unaccompanied by
affectionate emotions, genuine while they lasted. The verses to the memory
of a lost love veiled as "Thyrza," of moderate artistic merit, were not,
as Moore alleges, mere plays of imagination, but records of a sincere
grief.[1] Another intimacy exerted so much influence on this phase of the
poet's career, that to pass it over would be like omitting Vanessa's name
from the record of Swift. Lady Caroline Lamb, granddaughter of the first
Earl Spencer, was one of those few women of our climate who, by their
romantic impetuosity, recall the "children of the sun." She read Burns in
her ninth year, and in her thirteenth idealized William Lamb (afterwards
Lord Melbourne) as a statue of Liberty. In her nineteenth (1805) she
married him, and lived for some years, during which she was a reigning
belle and toast, a domestic life only marred by occasional eccentricities.
Rogers, whom in a letter to Lady Morgan she numbers among her lovers, said
she ought to know the new poet, who was three years her junior, and the
introduction took place in March, 1812. After the meeting, she wrote in
her journal, "Mad--bad--and dangerous to know;" but, when the fashionable
Apollo called at Melbourne House, she "flew to beautify herself." Flushed
by his conquest, he spent a great part of the following year in her
company, during which time the apathy or self-confidence of the husband
laughed at the worship of the hero. "Conrad" detailed his travels and
adventures, interested her, by his woes, dictated her amusements, invited
her guests, and seems to have set rules to the establishment. "Medora," on
the other hand, made no secret of her devotion, declared that they were
affinities, and offered him her jewels. But after the first excitement, he
began to grow weary of her talk about herself, and could not praise her
indifferent verses: "he grew moody, and she fretful, when their mutual
egotisms jarred." Byron at length concurred in her being removed for a
season to her father's house in Ireland, on which occasion he wrote one of
his glowing farewell letters. When she came back, matters were little
better. The would-be Juliet beset the poet with renewed advances, on one
occasion penetrating to his rooms in the disguise of a page, on another
threatening to stab herself with a pair of scissors, and again, developing
into a Medea, offering her gratitude to any one who would kill him. "The
'Agnus' is furious," he writes to Hodgson, in February, 1813, in one of
the somewhat ungenerous bursts to which he was too easily provoked. "You
can have no idea of the horrible and absurd things she has said and done
since (really from the best motives) I withdrew  my homage.... The
business of last summer I broke off, and now the amusement of the gentle
fair is writing letters literally threatening my life." With one member of
the family, Lady Melbourne, Mr. Lamb's mother, and sister of Sir Ralph
Milbanke, he remained throughout on terms of pleasant intimacy. He
appreciated the talent and sense, and was ready to profit by the
experience and tact of "the cleverest of women." But her well-meant advice
had unfortunate results, for it was on her suggestion that he became a
suitor for the hand of her niece, Miss Milbanke. Byron first proposed to
this lady in 1813; his offer was refused, but so graciously that they
continued to correspond on friendly, which gradually grew into intimate
terms, and his second offer, towards the close of the following year, was

    [Footnote 1: Mr. Trelawny says that Thyrza was a cousin, but that on
    this subject Byron was always reticent. Mr. Minto, as we have seen,
    associates her with the disguised girl of 1807-8.]

After a series of vain protests, and petulant warnings against her cousin
by marriage, who she said was punctual at church, and learned, and knew
statistics, but was "not for Conrad, no, no, no!" Lady Caroline lapsed
into an attitude of fixed hostility; and shortly after the crash came, and
her predictions were realized, vented her wrath in the now almost
forgotten novel of _Glenarvon_, in which some of Byron's real features
were represented in conjunction with many fantastic additions. Madame de
Staël was kind enough to bring a copy of the book before his notice when
they met on the Lake of Geneva, but he seems to have been less moved by it
than by most attacks. We must however, bear in mind his own admission in a
parallel case. "I say I am perfectly calm; I am, nevertheless, in a fury."
Over the sad vista of the remaining years of the unhappy lady's life we
need not linger. During a considerable part of it she appears hovering
about the thin line that separates some kinds of wit and passion from
madness; writing more novels, burning her hero's effigy and letters, and
then clamouring for a lock of his hair, or a sight of his portrait;
separated from, and again reconciled to, a husband to whose magnanimous
forbearance and compassion she bears testimony to the last, comparing
herself to Jane Shore; attempting Byronic verses, loudly denouncing and
yet never ceasing inwardly to idolize, the man whom she regarded as her
betrayer, perhaps only with justice in that he had unwittingly helped to
overthrow her mental balance. After eight years of this life, lit up here
and there by gleams of social brilliancy, we find her carriage, on the
12th of July, 1824, suddenly confronted by a funeral. On hearing that the
remains of Byron were being carried to the tomb, she shrieked, and
fainted. Her health finally sank, and her mind gave way under this shock;
but she lingered till January, 1828, when she died, after writing a calm
letter to her husband, and bequeathing the poet's miniature to her friend,
Lady Morgan.

"I have paid some of my debts, and contracted others," Byron writes to
Moore, on September 15th, 1814; "but I have a few thousand pounds which I
can't spend after my heart in this climate, and so I shall go back to the
south. I want to see Venice and the Alps, and Parmesan cheeses, and look
at the coast of Greece from Italy. All this however depends upon an event
which may or may not happen. Whether it will I shall probably know
tomorrow, and if it does I can't well go abroad at present." "A wife," he
had written, in the January of the same year, "would be my salvation;" but
a marriage entered upon in such a flippant frame of mind could, scarcely
have been other than disastrous. In the autumn of the year we are told
that a friend,[2] observing how cheerless was the state both of his mind
and prospects, advised him to marry, and after much discussion he
consented, naming to his correspondent Miss Milbanke. To this his adviser
objected, remarking that she had, at present, no fortune, and that his
embarrassed affairs would not allow him to marry without one, etc.
Accordingly, he agreed that his friend should write a proposal to another
lady, which was done. A refusal arrived as they were one morning sitting
together. "'You see,' said Lord Byron, 'that after all Miss Milbanke is to
be the person,' and wrote on the moment. His friend, still remonstrating
against his choice, took up the letter; but, on reading it, observed,
'Well, really, this is a very pretty letter; it is a pity it should not
go.' 'Then it _shall_ go,' said Lord Byron, and, in so saying, sealed and
sent off this fiat of his fate." The incident seems cut from a French
novel; but so does the whole strange story--one apparently insoluble
enigma in an otherwise only too transparent life. On the arrival of the
lady's answer he was seated at dinner, when his gardener came in, and
presented him with his mother's wedding-ring, lost many years before, and
which had just been found, buried in the mould beneath her window. Almost
at the same moment the letter arrived; and Byron exclaimed, "If it
contains a consent (which it did), I will be married with this very ring."
He had the highest anticipations of his bride, appreciating her "talents,
and excellent qualities;" and saying, "she is so good a person that I wish
I was a better." About the same date he writes to various friends in the
good spirits raised by his enthusiastic reception from the Cambridge
undergraduates, when in the course of the same month he went to the Senate
House to give his vote for a Professor of Anatomy.

    [Footnote 2: Doubtless Moore himself, who tells the story.]

The most constant and best of those friends was his sister, Augusta Leigh,
whom, from the death of Miss Chaworth to his own, Byron, in the highest
and purest sense of the word, loved more than any other human being.
Tolerant of errors, which she lamented, and violences in which she had no
share, she had a touch of their common family pride, most conspicuous in
an almost cat-like clinging to their ancestral home. Her early published
letters are full of regrets about the threatened sale of Newstead, on the
adjournment of which, when the first purchaser had to pay 25,000_l_. for
breaking his bargain, she rejoices, and over the consummation of which she
mourns, in the manner of Milton's Eve--

  Must I then leave thee, Paradise?

In all her references to the approaching marriage there are blended notes
of hope and fear. In thanking Hodgson for his kind congratulations, she
trusts it will secure her brother's happiness. Later she adds her
testimony to that of all outsiders at this time, as to the graces and
genuine worth of the object of his choice. After the usual preliminaries,
the ill-fated pair were united, at Seaham House, on the 2nd of January,
1815. Byron was married like one walking in his sleep. He trembled like a
leaf, made the wrong responses, and almost from the first seems to have
been conscious of his irrevocable mistake.

                  I saw him stand
  Before an altar with a gentle bride:
  Her face was fair, but was not that which made
  The starlight of his boyhood. He could see
  Not that which was--but that which should have been--
  But the old mansion, the accustom'd hall.
  And she who was his destiny came back,
  And thrust herself between him and the light.

Here we have faint visions of Miss Chaworth, mingling with later memories.
In handing the bride into the carriage he said, "Miss Milbanke, are you
ready?"--a mistake said to be of evil omen. Byron never really loved his
wife; and though he has been absurdly accused of marrying for revenge, we
must suspect that he married in part for a settlement. On the other hand,
it is not unfair to say that she was fascinated by a name, and inspired by
the philanthropic zeal of reforming a literary Corsair. Both were
disappointed. Miss Milbanke's fortune was mainly settled on herself; and
Byron, in spite of plentiful resolutions gave little sign of reformation.
For a considerable time their life, which, after the "treacle moon," as
the bridegroom called it, spent at Halnaby, near Darlington, was divided
between residence at Seaham and visits to London, seemed to move smoothly.
In a letter, evidently mis-dated the 15th December, Mrs. Leigh writes to
Hodgson: "I have every reason to think that my beloved B. is very happy
and comfortable. I hear constantly from him and _his rib_. It appears to
me that Lady B. sets about making him happy in the right way. I had many
fears. Thank God that they do not appear likely to be realized. In short,
there seems to me to be but one drawback to all our felicity, and that,
alas, is the disposal of dear Newstead. I never shall feel reconciled to
the loss of that sacred revered Abbey. The thought makes me more
melancholy than perhaps the loss of an inanimate object ought to do. Did
you ever hear that _landed property_, the GIFT OF THE CROWN, could not be
sold? Lady B. writes me word that she never saw her father and mother so
happy; that she believes the latter would go to the bottom of the sea
herself to find fish for B.'s dinner, &c." Augusta Ada was born in London
on the 10th of December, 1815. During the next months a few cynical
mutterings are the only interruptions to an ominous silence; but these
could be easily explained by the increasing embarrassment of the poet's
affairs, and the importunity of creditors, who in the course of the last
half-year had served seven or eight executions on his house and furniture.
Their expectations were raised by exaggerated reports of his having
married money; and by a curious pertinacity of pride he still declined,
even when he had to sell his books, to accept advances from his publisher.
In January the storm which had been secretly gathering suddenly broke. On
the 15th, i.e. five weeks after her daughter's birth, Lady Byron left home
with the infant to pay a visit, as had been agreed, to her own family at
Kirkby Mallory in Leicestershire. On the way she despatched to her husband
a tenderly playful letter, which has been often quoted. Shortly afterwards
he was informed--first by her father, and then by herself--that she did
not intend ever to return to him. The accounts of their last interview, as
in the whole evidence bearing on the affair, not only differ but flatly
contradict one another. On behalf of Lord Byron it is asserted, that his
wife, infuriated by his offering some innocent hospitality on occasion of
bad weather to a respectable actress, Mrs. Mardyn, who had called on him
about Drury Lane business, rushed into the room exclaiming, "I leave you
for ever"--and did so. According to another story, Lady Byron, finding him
with a friend, and observing him to be annoyed at her entrance, said, "Am
I in your way, Byron?" whereupon he answered, "Damnably." Mrs. Leigh,
Hodgson, Moore, and others, did everything that mutual friends could do to
bring about the reconciliation for which Byron himself professed to be
eager, but in vain; and in vain the effort was renewed in later years. The
wife was inveterately bent on a separation, of the causes of which the
husband alleged he was never informed, and with regard to which as long as
he lived she preserved a rigid silence.

For some time after the event Byron spoke of his wife with at least
apparent generosity. Rightly or wrongly, he blamed her parents, and her
maid--Mrs. Clermont, the theme of his scathing but not always dignified
"Sketch;" but of herself he wrote (March 8, 1816), "I do not believe that
there ever was a brighter, and a kinder, or a more amiable or agreeable
being than Lady Byron. I never had nor can have any reproach to make to
her, when with me." Elsewhere he adds, that he would willingly, if he had
the chance, "renew his marriage on a lease of twenty years." But as time
passed and his overtures were rejected, his patience gave way, and in some
of his later satires he even broke the bounds of courtesy. Lady Byron's
letters at the time of the separation, especially those first published in
the _Academy_ of July 19, 1879, are to Mrs. Leigh always affectionate and
confidential, often pathetic, asking her advice "in this critical moment,"
and protesting that, "independent of malady, she does not think of the
past with any spirit of resentment, and scarcely with the sense of
injury." In her communications to Mr. Hodgson, on the other hand--the
first of almost the same date, the second a few weeks later--she writes
with intense bitterness, stating that her action was due to offences which
she could only condone on the supposition of her husband's insanity, and
distinctly implying that she was in danger of her life. This supposition
having been by her medical advisers pronounced erroneous, she felt, in the
words only too pungently recalled in _Don Juan_, that her duty both to man
and God prescribed her course of action. Her playful letter on leaving she
seems to defend on the ground of the fear of personal violence. Till Lord
Byron's death the intimacy between his wife and sister remained unbroken;
through the latter he continued to send numerous messages to the former,
and to his child, who became a ward in Chancery; but at a later date it
began to cool. On the appearance of Lady Byron's letter, in answer to
Moore's first volume, Augusta speaks of it as "a despicable tirade," feels
"disgusted at such unfeeling conduct," and thinks "nothing can justify any
one in defaming the dead." Soon after 1830 they had an open rupture on a
matter of business, which was never really healed, though the then
Puritanic precisian sent a message of relenting to Mrs. Leigh on her
death-bed (1851).

The charge or charges which, during her husband's life, Lady Byron from
magnanimity or other motive reserved, she is ascertained after his death
to have delivered with important modifications to various persons, with
little regard to their capacity for reading evidence or to their
discretion. On one occasion her choice of a confidante was singularly
unfortunate. "These," wrote Lord Byron in his youth, "these are the first
tidings that have ever sounded like fame in my ears--to be redde on the
banks of the Ohio." Strangely enough, it is from the country of
Washington, whom the poet was wont to reverence as the purest patriot of
the modern world, that in 1869 there emanated the hideous story which
scandalized both continents, and ultimately recoiled on the retailer of
the scandal. The grounds of the reckless charge have been weighed by those
who have wished it to prove false, and by those who have wished it to
prove true, and found wanting. The chaff has been beaten in every way and
on all sides, without yielding an ounce of grain; and it were ill-advised
to rake up the noxious dust that alone remains. From nothing left on
record by either of the two persons most intimately concerned can we
derive any reliable information. It is plain that Lady Byron was during
the later years of her life the victim of hallucinations, and that if
Byron knew the secret, which he denies, he did not choose to tell it,
putting off Captain Medwin and others with absurdities, as that "He did
not like to see women eat," or with commonplaces, as "The causes, my dear
sir, were too simple to be found out."

Thomas Moore, who had the Memoirs[3] supposed to have thrown light on the
mystery, in the full knowledge of Dr. Lushington's judgment and all the
gossip of the day, professes to believe that "the causes of disunion did
not differ from those that loosen the links of most such marriages," and
writes several pages on the trite theme that great genius is incompatible
with domestic happiness. Negative instances abound to modify this sweeping
generalization; but there is a kind of genius, closely associated with
intense irritability, which it is difficult to subject to the most
reasonable yoke; and of this sort was Byron's. His valet, Fletcher, is
reported to have said that "Any woman could manage my lord, except my
lady;" and Madame De Staël, on reading the _Farewell_, that "She would
have been glad to have been in Lady Byron's place." But it may be doubted
if Byron would have made a good husband to any woman; his wife and he were
even more than usually ill-assorted. A model of the proprieties, and a
pattern of the learned philanthropy of which in her sex he was wont to
make a constant butt, she was no fit consort for that "mens insana in
corpore insano." What could her stolid temperament conjecture of a man
whom she saw, in one of his fits of passion, throwing a favourite watch
under the fire, and grinding it to pieces with a poker? Or how could her
conscious virtue tolerate the recurring irregularities which he was
accustomed, not only to permit himself, but to parade? The harassment of
his affairs stimulated his violence, till she was inclined to suspect him
to be mad. Some of her recently printed letters--as that to Lady Anne
Barnard, and the reports of later observers of her character--as William
Howitt, tend to detract from the earlier tributes to her consistent
amiability, and confirm our ideas of the incompatibility of the pair. It
must have been trying to a poet to be asked by his wife, impatient of his
late hours, when he was going to leave off writing verses; to be told he
had no real enthusiasm; or to have his desk broken open, and its
compromising contents sent to the persons for whom they were least
intended. The smouldering elements of discontent may have been fanned by
the gossip of dependants, or the officious zeal of relatives, and kindled
into a jealous flame by the ostentation of regard for others beyond the
circle of his home. Lady Byron doubtless believed some story which, when
communicated to her legal advisers, led them to the conclusion that the
mere fact of her believing it made reconciliation impossible; and the
inveterate obstinacy which lurked beneath her gracious exterior, made her
cling through life to the substance--not always to the form, whatever that
may have been--of her first impressions. Her later letters to Mrs. Leigh,
as that called forth by Moore's _Life_, are certainly as open to the
charge of self-righteousness, as those of her husband's are to

    [Footnote 3: Captain Trelawney, however, doubts if he ever read them.]

Byron himself somewhere says, "Strength of endurance is worth all the
talent in the world." "I love the virtues that I cannot share." His own
courage was all active; he had no power of sustained endurance. At a time
when his proper refuge was silence, and his prevailing sentiment--for he
admits he was somehow to blame--should have been remorse, he foolishly
vented his anger and his grief in verses, most of them either peevish or
vindictive, and some of which he certainly permitted to be published. "Woe
to him," exclaims Voltaire, "who says all he could on any subject!" Woe to
him, he might have added, who says anything at all on the subject of his
domestic troubles! The poet's want of reticence at this crisis started a
host of conjectures, accusations, and calumnies, the outcome, in some
degree at least, of the rancorous jealousy of men of whose adulation he
was weary. Then began that burst of British virtue on which Macaulay has
expatiated, and at which the social critics of the continent have laughed.
Cottle, Cato, Oxoniensis, Delia, and Styles, were let loose, and they
anticipated the _Saturday_ and the _Spectator_ of 1869, so that the latter
might well have exclaimed, "Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt." Byron
was accused of every possible and impossible vice, he was compared to
Sardanapalus, Nero, Tiberius, the Duke of Orleans, Heliogabalus, and
Satan--all the most disreputable persons mentioned in sacred and profane
history; his benevolences were maligned, his most disinterested actions
perverted. Mrs. Mardyn, the actress, was on his account, on one occasion,
driven off the public stage. He was advised not to go to the theatres,
lest he should be hissed; nor to Parliament, lest he should be insulted.
On the very day of his departure a friend told him that he feared violence
from mobs assembling at the door of his carriage. "Upon what grounds," the
poet writes, in a trenchant survey of the circumstances, in August, 1819,
"the public formed their opinion, I am not aware; but it was general, and
it was decisive. Of me and of mine they knew little, except that I had
written poetry, was a nobleman, bad married, became a father, and was
involved in differences with my wife and her relatives--no one knew why,
because the persons complaining refused to state their grievances.

"The press was active and scurrilous;.. my name--which had been a
knightly or a noble one since my fathers helped to conquer the kingdom for
William the Norman--was tainted. I felt that, if what was whispered and
muttered and murmured was true, I was unfit for England; if false, England
was unfit for me. I withdrew; but this was not enough. In other
countries--in Switzerland, in the shadow of the Alps, and by the blue
depth of the lakes--I was pursued and breathed upon by the same blight. I
crossed the mountains, but it was the same; so I went a little farther,
and settled myself by the waves of the Adriatic, like the stag at bay, who
betakes himself to the waters."

On the 16th of April, 1816, shortly before his departure, he wrote to Mr.
Rogers: "My sister is now with me, and leaves town to-morrow. We shall not
meet again for some time, at all events, if ever (it was their final
meeting), and under these circumstances I trust to stand excused to you
and Mr. Sheridan for being unable to wait upon him this evening." In all
this storm and stress, Byron's one refuge was in the affection which rises
like a well of purity amid the passions of his turbid life.

  In the desert a fountain is springing,
    In the wild waste there still is a tree;
  And a bird in the solitude singing,
    That speaks to my spirit of thee.

The fashionable world was tired of its spoilt child, and he of it. Hunted
out of the country, bankrupt in purse and heart, he left it, never to
return; but he left it to find fresh inspiration by the "rushing of the
arrowy Rhone," and under Italian skies to write the works which have
immortalized his name.


Earl Spencer.               Sir Ralph Milbanke.        Viscount Wentworth
  |                 _________________|_______________           |
  |                 |                                |          |
Henrietta         Elizabeth (Lady Melbourne)   Sir Ralph + Judith Noel
Frances.            | m. Viscount Melbourne.             |
  +                 |                                    |
F. Ponsonby         |                   Lord Byron + Anna Isabella.
(Earl of            |                              |
Bessborough).       |                          Augusta Ada.
  |                 |
  |                 |
Lady Caroline + William Lamb.

                          DESCENT OF ALLEGRA

   William Godwin.
       Married 1st + Mary Woolstonecraft.           2nd Mrs. Clairmont.
                   |      She had by previous             |
                   |           alliance                   |
                   |               |            Claire Claremont + Byron.
P. B. Shelley + Mary Godwin    Fanny Imlay.                      |



On the 25th of April, 1816, Byron embarked for Ostend. From the "burning
marl" of the staring streets he planted his foot again on the dock with a
genuine exultation.

  Once more upon the waters, yet once more,
  And the waves bound beneath me as a steed
  That knows her rider. Welcome to the roar!

But he brought with him a relic of English extravagance, sotting out on
his land travels in a huge coach, copied from that of Napoleon taken at
Genappe, and being accompanied by Fletcher, Rushton, Berger, a Swiss, and
Polidori, a physician of Italian descent, son of Alfieri's secretary, a
man of some talent but indiscreet. A question arises as to the source from
which he obtained the means for these and subsequent luxuries, in striking
contrast with Goldsmith's walking-stick, knapsack, and flute. Byron's
financial affairs are almost inextricably confused. We can, for instance,
nowhere find a clear statement of the result of the suit regarding the
Rochdale Estates, save that he lost it before the Court of Exchequer, and
that his appeal to the House of Lords was still unsettled in 1822. The
sale of Newstead to Colonel Wildman in 1818, for 90,000 _l_., went mostly
to pay off mortgages and debts. In April, 1819, Mrs. Leigh writes, after a
last sigh over this event:--"Sixty thousand pounds was secured by his
(Byron's) marriage settlement, the interest of which he receives for life,
and which ought to make him very comfortable." This is unfortunately
decisive of the fact that he did not in spirit adhere to the resolution
expressed to Moore never to touch a farthing of his wife's money, though
we may accept his statement to Medwin, that he twice repaid the dowry of
10,000 _l_. brought to him at the marriage, as in so far diminishing the
obligation. None of the capital of Lady Byron's family came under his
control till 1822, when, on the death of her mother, Lady Noel, Byron
arranged the appointment of referees, Sir Francis Burdett on his behalf,
Lord Dacre on his wife's. The result was an equal division of a property
worth about 7000 _l_ a year. While in Italy the poet received besides
about 10,000 _l_ for his writings--4000 _l_. being given for _Childe
Harold_ (iii., iv.), and _Manfred_. "Ne pas être dupe" was one of his
determinations, and, though he began by caring little for making money, he
was always fond of spending it. "I tell you it is too much," he said to
Murray, in returning a thousand guineas for the _Corinth_ and _Partsina_.
Hodgson, Moore, Bland, Thomas Ashe, the family of Lord Falkland, the
British Consul at Venice, and a host of others, were ready to testify to
his superb munificence. On the other hand, he would stint his pleasures,
or his benevolences, which were among them, for no one; and when he found
that to spend money he had to make it, he saw neither rhyme nor reason in
accepting less than his due. In 1817 he begins to dun Murray, declaring,
with a frankness in which we can find no fault, "You offer 1500 guineas
for the new canto (_C. H_., iv.). I won't take it. I ask 2500 guineas for
it, which you will either give or not, as you think proper." During the
remaining years of his life he grew more and more exact, driving hard
bargains for his houses, horses, and boats, and fitting himself, had he
lived, to be Chancellor of the Exchequer in the newly-liberated State,
from which he took a bond securing a fair interest for his loan. He made
out an account in _£. s. d_. against the ungrateful Dallas, and when Leigh
Hunt threatened to sponge upon him he got a harsh reception; but there is
nothing to countenance the view that Byron was ever really possessed by
the "good old gentlemanly vice" of which lie wrote. The Skimpoles and
Chadbands of the world are always inclined to talk of filthy lucre: it is
equally a fashion of really lavish people to boast that they are good men
of business.

We have only a few glimpses of Byron's progress. At Brussels the
Napoleonic coach was set aside for a more serviceable caleche. During his
stay in the Belgian capital lie paid a visit to the scene of Waterloo,
wrote the famous stanzas beginning, "Stop, for thy tread is on an empire's
dust!" and in unpatriotic prose, recorded his impressions of a plain which
appeared to him to "want little but a better cause" to make it vie in
interest with those of Platea and Marathon.

The rest of his journey lay up the Rhine to Basle, thence to Berne,
Lausanne, and Geneva, where he settled for a time at the Hôtel Secheron,
on the western shore of the lake. Here began the most interesting literary
relationship of his life, for here he first came in contact with the
impassioned Ariel of English verse, Percy Bysshe Shelley. They lived in
proximity after they left the hotel, Shelley's headquarters being at Mont
Alégre, and Byron's for the remainder of the summer at the Villa Diodati;
and their acquaintance rapidly ripened into an intimacy which, with some
interruptions, extended over the six remaining years of their joint lives.
The place for an estimate of their mutual influence belongs to the time of
their Italian partnership. Meanwhile, we hear of them mainly as
fellow-excursionists about the lake, which on one occasion departing from
its placid poetical character, all but swallowed them both, along with
Hobhouse, off Meillerie. "The boat," says Byron, "was nearly wrecked near
the very spot where St. Preux and Julia were in danger of being drowned.
It would have been classical to have been lost there, but not agreeable. I
ran no risk, being so near the rocks and a good swimmer; but our party
wore wet and incommoded." The only anxiety of Shelley, who could not swim,
was, that no one else should risk a life for his. Two such revolutionary
or such brave poets were, in all probability, never before nor since in a
storm in a boat together. During this period Byron complains of being
still persecuted. "I was in a wretched state of health and worse spirits
when I was in Geneva; but quiet and the lake--better physicians than
Polidori--soon set me up. I never led so moral a life as during my
residence in that country, but I gained no credit by it. On the contrary,
there is no story so absurd that they did not invent at my cost. I was
watched by glasses on the opposite side of the lake, and by glasses, too,
that must have had very distorted optics. I was waylaid in my evening
drives. I believe they looked upon me as a man-monster." Shortly after his
arrival in Switzerland he contracted an intimacy with Miss Clairmont, a
daughter of Godwin's second wife, and consequently a connexion by marriage
of the Shelleys, with whom she was living, which resulted in the birth of
a daughter, Allegra, at Great Marlow, in February, 1817. The noticeable
events of the following two months are a joint excursion to Chamouni, and
a visit in July to Madame de Staël at Coppet, in the course of which he
met Frederick Schlegel. During a wet week, when the families were reading
together some German ghost stories, an idea occurred of imitating them,
the main result of which was Mrs. Shelley's _Frankenstein_. Byron
contributed to the scheme a fragment of _The Vampire_, afterwards
completed and published in the name of his patron by Polidori. The
eccentricities of this otherwise amiable physician now began to give
serious annoyance; his jealousy of Shelley grew to such a pitch that it
resulted in the doctor's giving a challenge to the poet, at which the
latter only laughed; but Byron, to stop further outbreaks of the kind,
remarked, "Recollect that, though Shelley has scruples about duelling, I
have none, and shall be at all times ready to take his place." Polidori
had ultimately to be dismissed, and, after some years of vicissitude,
committed suicide.

The Shelleys left for England in September, and Byron made an excursion
with Hobhouse through the Bernese Oberland. They went by the Col de Jaman
and the Simmenthal to Thun; then up the valley to the Staubbach, which he
compares to the tail of the pale horse in the Apocalypse--not a very
happy, though a striking comparison. Thence they proceeded over the
Wengern to Grindelwald and the Rosenlau glacier; then back by Berne,
Friburg, and Yverdun to Diodati. The following passage in reference to
this tour may be selected as a specimen of his prose description, and of
the ideas of mountaineering before the days of the Alpine Club:--

"Before ascending the mountain, went to the torrent again, the sun upon it
forming a rainbow of the lower part, of all colours but principally purple
and gold, the bow moving as you move. I never saw anything like this; it
is only in the sunshine.... Left the horses, took off my coat, and went to
the summit, 7000 English feet above the level of the sea, and 5000 feet
above the valley we left in the morning. On one side our view comprised
the Jungfrau, with all her glaciers; then the Dent d'Argent, shining like
truth; then the Eighers and the Wetterhorn. Heard the avalanches falling
every five minutes. From where we stood on the Wengern Alp we had all
these in view on one side; on the other, the clouds rose up from the
opposite valley, curling up perpendicular precipices, like the foam of the
ocean of hell during a spring tide; it was white and sulphury, and
immeasurably deep in appearance.... Arrived at the Grindelwald; dined;
mounted again, and rode to the higher glacier--like a frozen hurricane;
starlight beautiful, but a devil of a path. Passed whole woods of withered
pines, all withered; trunks stripped and barkless, branches lifeless; done
by a single winter. Their appearance reminded me of me and my family."

Students of _Manfred_ will recognize whole sentences, only slightly
modified in its verse. Though Byron talks with contempt of authorship,
there is scarce a fine phrase in his letters or journal which is not
pressed into the author's service. He turns his deepest griefs to artistic
gain, and uses five or six times for literary purposes the expression
which seems to have dropped from him naturally about his household gods
being shivered on his hearth. His account of this excursion concludes with
a passage equally characteristic of his melancholy and incessant

"In the weather for this tour, I have been very fortunate.... I was
disposed to be pleased. I am a lover of nature, &c.... But in all this the
recollection of bitterness, and more especially of recent and more home
desolation, which must accompany me through life, have preyed upon me
here; and neither the music of the shepherd, the crashing of the
avalanche, the torrent, the mountain, the glacier, the forest, nor the
cloud, have for one moment lightened the weight upon my heart, nor enabled
me to lose my own wretched identity in the majesty, and the power, and the
glory around, above, and beneath me."

Such egotism in an idle man would only provoke impatience; but Byron was,
during the whole of this period, almost preternaturally active. Detained
by bad weather at Ouchy for two days (Juno 26, 27), he wrote the _Prisoner
of Chillon_, which, with its noble introductory sonnet on Bonnivard, in
some respects surpasses any of his early romances. The opening lines,--

  Lake Leman lies by Chillon's walls;
  A thousand feet in depth below,
  Its massy waters meet and flow,--

bring before us in a few words the conditions of a hopeless bondage. The
account of the prisoner himself, and of the lingering deaths of the
brothers; the first frenzy of the survivor, and the desolation which
succeeds it--

  I only loved: I only drew
  The accursed breath of dungeon dew,--

the bird's song breaking on the night of his solitude; his growing
enamoured of despair, and regaining his freedom with a sigh, are all
strokes from a master hand. From the same place, at the same date, he
announces to Murray the completion of the third canto of _Childe Harold_.
The productiveness of July is portentous. During that month he wrote the
_Monody on Sheridan, The Dream, Churchill's Grave_, the _Sonnet to Lake
Leman, Could I remount the River of my Years_, part of _Manfred,
Prometheus_, the _Stanzas to Augusta_, beginning,

  My sister! My sweet sister! If a name
  Dearer and purer were, it should be thine;

and the terrible dream of _Darkness_, which at least in the ghastly power
of the close, where the survivors meet by the lurid light of a dim altar
fire, and die of each other's hideousness, surpasses Campbell's _Last
Man_[1]. At Lausanne the poet made a pilgrimage to the haunts of Gibbon,
broke a sprig from his acacia-tree, and carried off some rose leaves from
his garden. Though entertaining friends, among them Mr. M.G. Lewis and
Scrope Davies, he systematically shunned "the locust swarm of English
tourists," remarking on their obtrusive platitudes; as when he heard one
of them at Chamouni inquire, "Did you ever see anything more truly rural?"
Ultimately he got tired of the Calvinistic Genevese--one of whom is said
to have swooned as he entered the room--and early in October set out with
Hobhouse for Italy. They crossed the Simplon, and proceeded by the Lago
Maggiore to Milan, admiring the pass, but slighting the somewhat hothouse
beauties of the Borromean Islands. From Milan he writes, pronouncing its
cathedral to be only a little inferior to that of Seville, and delighted
with "a correspondence, all original and amatory, between Lucretia Borgia
and Cardinal Bembo." He secured a lock of the golden hair of the Pope's
daughter, and wished himself a cardinal.

    [Footnote 1: This only appeared in 1831, but Campbell claims to have
    given Byron in conversation the suggestion of the subject.]

At Verona, Byron dilates on the amphitheatre, as surpassing anything he
had seen even in Greece, and on the faith of the people in the story of
Juliet, from whose reputed tomb he sent some pieces of granite to Ada and
his nieces. In November we find him settled in Venice, "the greenest isle
of his imagination." There he began to form those questionable alliances
which are so marked a feature of his life, and so frequent a theme in his
letters, that it is impossible to pass them without notice. The first of
his temporary idols was Mariana Segati, "the wife of a merchant of
Venice," for some time his landlord. With this woman, whom he describes as
an antelope with oriental eyes, wavy hair, voice like the cooing of a
dove, and the spirit of a Bacchante, he remained  on  terms of intimacy
for about eighteen months, during which their mutual devotion was only
disturbed by some outbursts of jealousy. In December the poet took lessons
in Armenian, glad to find in the study something craggy to break his mind
upon. Ho translated into that language a portion of St. Paul's Epistle to
the Corinthians. Notes on the carnival, praises of _Christabel_,
instructions about the printing of _Childe Harold_ (iii.), protests
against the publication under his name of some spurious "domestic poems,"
and constant references, doubtfully domestic, to his Adriatic lady, fill
up the records of 1816. On February 15, 1817, he announces to Murray the
completion of the first sketch of _Manfred_, and alludes to it in a
bantering manner as "a kind of poem in dialogue, of a wild metaphysical
and inexplicable kind;" concluding, "I have at least rendered it _quite
impossible_ for the stage, for which  my intercourse with Drury Lane has
given me the greatest contempt."

About this time Byron seems to have entertained the idea of returning to
England in the spring, i.e. after a year's absence. This design, however,
was soon set aside, partly in consequence of a slow malarian fever, by
which he was prostrated for several weeks. On his partial recovery,
attributed to his having had neither medicine nor doctor, and a
determination to live till he had "put one or two people out of the
world," he started on an expedition to Rome.

His first stage was Arqua; then Ferrara, where he was inspired, by a sight
of the Italian poet's prison, with the _Lament of Tasso_; the next,
Florence, where he describes himself as drunk with the beauty of the
galleries. Among the pictures, he was most impressed with the mistresses
of Raphael and Titian, to whom, along with Giorgione, he is always
reverential; and he recognized in Santa Croce the Westminster Abbey of
Italy. Passing through Foligno, he reached his destination early in May,
and met his old friends, Lord Lansdowne and Hobhouse. The poet employed
his short time at Rome in visiting on horseback the most famous sites in
the city and neighbourhood--as the Alban Mount, Tivoli, Frascati, the
Falls of Terni, and the Clitumnus--re-casting the crude first draft of the
third act of _Manfred_, and sitting for his bust to Thorwaldsen. Of this
sitting the sculptor afterwards gave some account to his compatriot, Hans
Andersen: "Byron placed himself opposite to me, but at once began to put
on a quite different expression from that usual to him. 'Will you not sit
still?' said I. 'You need not assume that look.' 'That is my expression,'
said Byron. 'Indeed,' said I; and I then represented him as I wished. When
the bust was finished he said, 'It is not at all like me; my expression is
more unhappy.'" West, the American, who five years later painted his
lordship at Leghorn, substantiates the above half-satirical anecdote, by
the remark, "He was a bad sitter; he assumed a countenance that did not
belong to him, as though he were thinking of a frontispiece for _Chlde
Harold_." Thorwaldsen's bust, the first cast of which was sent to
Hobhouse, and pronounced by Mrs. Leigh to be the best of the numerous
likenesses of her brother, was often repeated. Professor Brandes, of
Copenhagen, introduces his striking sketch of the poet by a reference to
the model, that has its natural place in the museum named from the great
sculptor whose genius had flung into the clay the features of a character
so unlike his own. The bust, says the Danish critic, at first sight
impresses one with an undefinable classic grace; on closer examination the
restlessness of a life is reflected in a brow over which clouds seem to
hover, but clouds from which we look for lightnings. The dominant
impression of the whole is that of some irresistible power
(Unwiderstehlichkeit). Thorwaldsen, at a much later date (1829-1833)
executed the marble statue, first intended for the Abbey, which is now to
be seen in the library of Trinity College, in evidence that Cambridge is
still proud of her most brilliant son.

Towards the close of the month--after almost fainting at the execution by
guillotine of three bandits--he professes impatience to get back to
Mariana, and early in the next we find him established with her near
Venice, at the villa of La Mira, where for some time he continued to
reside. His letters of June refer to the sale of Newstead, the mistake of
Mrs. Leigh and others in attributing to him the _Tales of a Landlord_, the
appearance of _Lalla Rookh_, preparations for _Marino Faliero_, and the
progress of _Childe Harold_ iv. This poem, completed in September, and
published early in 1818 (with a dedication to Hobhouse, who had supplied
most of the illustrative notes), first made manifest the range of the
poet's power. Only another slope of ascent lay between him and the
pinnacle, over which shines the red star of _Cain_. Had Lord Byron's
public career closed when he left England, he would have been remembered
for a generation as the author of some musical minor verses, a clever
satire, a journal in verse exhibiting flashes of genius, and a series of
fascinating romances--also giving promise of higher power--which had
enjoyed a marvellous popularity. The third and fourth cantos of _Childe
Harold_ placed him on another platform, that of the _Dii Majores_ of
English verse. These cantos are separated from their predecessors, not by
a stage, but by a gulf. Previous to their publication he had only shown
how far the force of rhapsody could go; now he struck with his right hand,
and from the shoulder. Knowledge of life and study of Nature were the
mainsprings of a growth which the indirect influence of Wordsworth, and
the happy companionship of Shelley, played their part in fostering.
Faultlessness is seldom a characteristic of impetuous verse, never of
Byron's; and even in the later parts of the _Childe_ there are careless
lines, and doubtful images. "Self-exiled Harold wanders forth again,"
looking "pale and interesting;" but we are soon refreshed by a higher
note. No familiarity can distract from "Waterloo," which holds its own by
Barbour's "Bannockburn," and Scott's "Flodden." Sir Walter, referring to
the climax of the opening, and the pathetic lament of the closing lines,
generously doubts whether any verses in English surpass them in vigour.
There follows "The Broken Mirror," extolled by Jeffrey with an
appreciation of its exuberance of fancy, and negligence of diction; and
then the masterly sketch of Napoleon, with the implied reference to the
writer at the end.

The descriptions in both cantos perpetually rise from a basis of rhetoric
to a real height of poetry. Byron's "Rhine" flows, like the river itself,
in a stream of "exulting and abounding" stanzas. His "Venice" may be set
beside the masterpieces of Ruskin's prose. They are together the joint
pride of Italy and England. The tempest in the third canto is in verse a
splendid microcosm of the favourites, if not the prevailing mood, of the
writer's mind. In spite of manifest flaws, the nine stanzas beginning "It
is the hush of night," have enough in them to feed a high reputation. The
poet's dying day, his sun and moon contending over the Rhaetian hill, his
Thrasymene, Clitumnus, and Velino, show that his eye has grown keener, and
his imagery at least more terse, and that he can occasionally forgot
himself in his surroundings. The Drachenfels, Ehrenbreitstein, the Alps,
Lake Leman, pass before us like a series of dissolving views. But the
stability of the book depends on its being a Temple of Fame, as well as a
Diorama of Scenery. It is no mere versified Guide, because every
resting-place in the pilgrimage is made interesting by association with
illustrious memories. Coblontz introduces the tribute to Marceau; Clarens
an almost complete review, in five verses, of Rousseau; Lausanne and
Ferney the quintessence of criticism on Gibbon and Voltaire. A tomb in
Arqua suggests Petrarch; the grass-grown streets of Ferrara lead in the
lines on Tasso; the white walls  of the  Etrurian  Athens  bring back
Alfieri and Michael Angelo, and the prose bard of the hundred tales, and
Dante, "buried by the upbraiding shore," and--

  The starry Galileo and his woes.

Byron has made himself so master of the glories and the wrecks of Rome,
that almost everything else that has been said of them seems superfluous.
Hawthorne, in his _Marble Fawn_, comes nearest to him; but Byron's
Gladiator and Apollo, if not his Laocoon, are unequalled. "The voice of
Marius," says Scott, "could not sound more deep and solemn among the ruins
of Carthage, than the strains of the pilgrim among the broken shrines and
fallen statues of her subduer." As the third canto has a fitting close
with the poet's pathetic remembrance of his daughter, so the fourth is
wound up with consummate art,--the memorable dirge on the Princess
Charlotte being followed by the address to the sea, which, enduring
unwrinkled through all its ebbs and flows, seems to mock at the mutability
of human life.

_Manfred_, his witch drama, as the author called it, has had a special
attraction for inquisitive biographers, because it has been supposed in
some dark manner to reveal the secrets of his prison house. Its lines have
been tortured, like the witches of the seventeenth century, to extort from
them the meaning of the "all nameless hour," and every conceivable horror
has been alleged as its _motif_. On this subject Goethe writes with a
humorous simplicity: "This singularly intellectual poet has extracted from
my _Faust_ the strongest nourishment for his hypochondria; but he has made
use of the impelling principles for his own purposes.... 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, but these
spirits have haunted him all his life. This romantic incident explains
innumerable allusions," e.g.,--

                            I have shed
  Blood, but not hers,--and yet her blood was shed.

Were it not for the fact that the poet had never seen the city in question
when he wrote the poem, this explanation would be more plausible than most
others, for the allusions are all to some lady who has been done to death.
Galt asserts that the plot turns on a tradition of unhallowed
necromancy--a human sacrifice, like that of Antinous attributed to
Hadrian. Byron himself says it has no plot, but he kept teasing his
questioners with mysterious hints, e.g. "It was the Staubbach and the
Jungfrau, and something else more than Faustus, which made me write
_Manfred_;" and of one of his critics he says to Murray, "It had a better
origin than he can devise or divine, for the soul of him." In any case
most methods of reading between its lines would, if similarly applied,
convict Sophocles, Schiller, and Shelley of incest, Shakespeare of murder,
Milton of blasphemy, Scott of forgery, Marlowe and Goethe of compacts with
the devil. Byron was no dramatist, but he had wit enough to vary at least
the circumstances of his projected personality. The memories of both
Fausts--the Elizabethan and the German--mingle, in the pages of this
piece, with shadows of the author's life; but to these it never gives, nor
could be intended to give, any substantial form.

_Manfred_ is a chaos of pictures, suggested by the scenery of
Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald, half animated by vague personifications and
sensational narrative. Like _Harold_, and Scott's _Marmion_, it just
misses being a great poem. The Coliseum is its masterpiece of description,
the appeal, "Astarte, my beloved, speak to me," its nearest approach to
pathos. The lonely death of the hero makes an effective close to the moral
tumult of the preceding scenes. But the reflections, often striking, are
seldom absolutely fresh: that beginning,

  The mind, which is immortal, makes itself
  Requital for its good or evil thoughts,
  Is its own origin of ill and end,
  And its own place and time,

is transplanted from Milton with as little change as Milton made in
transplanting it from Marlowe. The author's own favourite passage, the
invocation to the sun (act iii., sc. 2), has some sublimity, marred by
lapses. The lyrics scattered through the poem sometimes open well,

  Mont Blanc is the monarch of mountains;
    They crowned him long ago,
  On a throne of rocks, in a robe of clouds,
    With a null of snow;

but they cannot sustain themselves like true song-birds, and fall to the
ground like spent rockets. This applies to Byron's lyrics generally; turn
to the incantation in the _Deformed Transformed_: the first line and a
half are in tune,--

  Beautiful shadow of Thetis's boy,
  Who sleeps in the meadow whose grass grows o'er Troy.

Nor Sternhold nor Hopkins has more ruthlessly outraged our ears than the
next two--

  From the red earth, like Adam, thy likeness I shape,
  As the Being who made him, whose actions I ape(!)

Of his songs: "There be none of Beauty's daughters," "She walks in
beauty," "Maid of Athens," "I enter thy garden of roses," the translation
"Sons of the Greeks," and others, have a flow and verve that it is
pedantry to ignore; but in general Byron was too much of the earth earthy
to be a great lyrist. Some of the greatest have lived wild lives, but
their wings were not weighted with the lead of the love of the world.

The summer and early months of the autumn of 1817 were spent at La Mira,
and much of the poet's time was occupied in riding along the banks of the
Brenta, often in the company of the few congenial Englishmen who came in
his way; others, whom he avoided, avenged themselves by retailing stories,
none of which wore "too improbable for the craving appetites of their
slander-loving countrymen." In August he received a visit from Mr.
Hobhouse, and on this occasion drew up the remarkable document afterwards
given to Mr. M. G. Lewis for circulation in England, which appeared in the
_Academy_ of October 9th, 1869. In this document he says, "It has been
intimated to me that the persons understood to be the legal advisers of
Lady Byron have declared their lips to be sealed up on the cause of the
separation between her and myself. If their lips are sealed up they are
not sealed up by me, and the greatest favour they can confer upon me will
be to open them." He goes on to state, that he repents having consented to
the separation--will be glad to cancel the deed, or to go before any
tribunal, to discuss the matter in the most public manner; adding, that
Mr. Hobhouse (in whose presence he was writing) proposed, on his part, to
go into court, and ending with a renewed asseveration of his ignorance of
the allegations against him, and his inability to understand for what
purpose they had been kept back, "unless it was to sanction the most
infamous calumnies by silence." Hobhouse, and others, during the four
succeeding years, ineffectually endeavoured to persuade the poet to return
to England. Moore and others insist that Byron's heart was at home when
his presence was abroad, and that, with all her faults, he loved his
country still. Leigh Hunt, on the contrary, asserts that he cared nothing
for England or its affairs. Like many men of genius, Byron was never
satisfied with what he had at the time. "Romae Tibur amem ventosus Tibure
Romam." At Seaham he is bored to death, and pants for the excitement of
the clubs; in London society he longs for a desert or island in the
Cyclades; after their separation, he begins to regret his wife; after his
exile, his country. "Where," he exclaimed to Hobhouse, "is real comfort to
be found out of England?" He frequently fell into the mood in which he
wrote the verse,--

  Yet I was born where men are proud to be,
  Not without cause: and should I leave behind
  Th'immortal island of the sage and free,
  And seek me out a home by a remoter sea?

But the following, to Murray (June 7, 1819), is equally sincere. "Some of
the epitaphs at Ferrara pleased me more than the more splendid monuments
of Bologna; for instance--

  'Martini Luigi
  Implora pace.'

  'Lucrezia Picini
  Implora eterna quiete.'"

Can anything be more full of pathos? These few words say all that can be
said or sought; the dead had had enough of life; all they wanted was rest,
and this they implore. There is all the helplessness, and humble hope, and
death-like prayer that can arise from the grave--'implora pace.' "I hope,
whoever may survive me, and shall see me put in the foreigner's
burying-ground at the Lido, within the fortress by the Adriatic, will see
these two words, and no more, put over me. I trust they won't think of
pickling and bringing me home to Clod, or Blunderbuss Hall. I am sure my
bones would not rest in an English grave, or my clay mix with the earth of
that country." Hunt's view is, in this as in other subtle respects, nearer
the truth than Moore's; for with all Byron's insight into Italian vice, he
hated more the master vice of England--hypocrisy; and much of his
greatest, and in a sense latest, because unfinished work, is the severest,
as it might be the wholesomest, satire ever directed against a great
nation since the days of Juvenal and Tacitus.

In September (1817) Byron entered into negotiations, afterwards completed,
for renting a country house among the Euganean hills near Este, from Mr.
Hoppner, the English Consul at Venice, who bears frequent testimony to his
kindness and courtesy. In October we find him settled for the winter in
Venice, where he first occupied his old quarters, in the Spezieria, and
afterwards hired one of the palaces of the Countess Mocenigo on the Grand
Canal. Between this mansion, the cottage at Este, and the villa of La
Mira, he divided his time for the next two years. During the earlier part
of his Venetian career he had continued to frequent the salon of the
Countess Albrizzi, where he met with people of both sexes of some rank and
standing who appreciated his genius, though some among them fell into
absurd mistakes. A gentleman of the company informing the hostess, in
answer to some inquiry regarding Canova's busts, that Washington, the
American President, was shot in a duel by Burke, "What, in the name of
folly, are you thinking of?" said Byron, perceiving that the speaker was
confounding Washington with Hamilton, and Burke with Burr. He afterwards
transferred himself to the rival coterie of the Countess Benzoni, and gave
himself up with little reserve to the intrigues which cast discredit on
this portion of his life. Nothing is so conducive to dissipation as
despair, and Byron had begun to regard the Sea-Cybele as a Sea-Sodom--when
he wrote, "To watch a city die daily, as she does, is a sad contemplation.
I sought to distract my mind from a sense of her desolation and my own
solitude, by plunging into a vortex that was anything but pleasure." In
any case, he forsook the "Dame," and, by what his biographer calls a
"descent in the scale of refinement, for which nothing but the wayward
state of his mind can account," sought the companions of his leisure hours
among the wearers of the "fazzioli." The carnivals of the years 1818,
1819, mark the height of his excesses. Early in the former, Mariana Segati
fell out of favour, owing to Byron's having detected her in selling the
jewels he had given as presents, and so being led to suspect a large
mercenary element in her devotion. To her succeeded Margarita Cogni, the
wife of a baker who proved as accommodating as his predecessor, the
linen-draper. This woman was decidedly a character, and Señor Castelar has
almost elevated her into a heroine. A handsome virago, with brown
shoulders, and black hair, endowed with the strength of an Amazon, "a face
like Faustina's, and the figure of a Juno--tall and energetic as a
pythoness," she quartered herself for twelve months in the palace as
"Donna di governo," and drove the servants about without let or hindrance.
Unable to read or write she intercepted his lordship's letters to little
purpose; but she had great natural business talents, reduced by one half
the expenses of his household, kept everything in good order, and, when
her violences roused his wrath, turned it off with some ready retort or
witticism. She was very devout, and would cross herself three times at the
Angelus. One instance, of a different kind of devotion, from Byron's own
account, is sufficiently graphic:--"In the autumn one day, going to the
Lido with my gondoliers, we were overtaken by a heavy squall, and the
gondola put in peril, hats blown away, boat filling, oar lost, tumbling
sea, thunder, rain in torrents, and wind unceasing. On our return, after a
tight struggle, I found her on the open stops of the Mocenigo Palace on
the Grand Canal, with her great black eyes flashing through her tears, and
the long dark hair which was streaming, drenched with rain, over her
brows. She was perfectly exposed to the storm; and the wind blowing her
dress about her thin figure, and the lightning flashing round her, made
her look like Medea alighted from her chariot, or the Sibyl of the tempest
that was rolling around her, the only living thing within hail at that
moment, except ourselves. On seeing me safe she did not wait to greet me,
as might have been expected; but, calling out to me, 'Ah! can' della
Madonna, xe esto il tempo per andar' al' Lido,' ran into the house, and
solaced herself with scolding the boatmen for not foreseeing the
'temporale.' Her joy at seeing me again was moderately mixed with
ferocity, and gave me the idea of a tigress over her recovered cubs."

Some months after she became ungovernable--threw plates about, and
snatched caps from the heads of other women who looked at her lord in
public places. Byron told her she must go home; whereupon she proceeded to
break glass, and threaten "knives, poison, fire;" and on his calling his
boatmen to get ready the gondola, threw herself in the dark night into the
canal. She was rescued, and in a few days finally dismissed; after which
he saw her only twice, at the theatre. Her whole picture is more like that
of Théroigne de Méricourt than that of Raphael's Fornarina, whose name she

Other stories, of course, gathered round this strange life--personal
encounters, aquatic feats, and all manner of romantic and impossible
episodes; their basis being, that Byron on one occasion thrashed, on
another challenged, a man who tried to cheat him, was a frequent rider,
and a constant swimmer, so that he came to be called "the English fish,"
"water-spaniel," "sea-devil," &c. One of the boatmen is reported to have
said, "He is a good gondolier, spoilt by being a poet and a lord;" and in
answer to a traveller's inquiry, "Where does he get his poetry?" "He dives
for it." His habits, as regards eating, seem to have been generally
abstemious; but he drank a pint of gin and water over his verses at night,
and then took claret and soda in the morning.

Riotous living may have helped to curtail Byron's life, but it does not
seem to have seriously impaired his powers. Among these adverse
surroundings of the "court of Circe," he threw off _Beppo_, _Mazeppa_, and
the early books of _Don Juan_. The first canto of the last was written in
November, 1818, the second in January, 1819, the third and fourth towards
the close of the same year. _Beppo_, its brilliant prelude, sparkles like
a draught of champagne. This "Venetian story," or sketch, in which the
author broke ground on his true satiric field--the satire of social
life--and first adopted the measure avowedly suggested by _Whistlecraft_
(Frere), was drafted in October, 1817, and appeared in May, 1818. It aims
at comparatively little, but is perfectly successful in its aim, and
unsurpassed for the incisiveness of its side strokes, and the courtly ease
of a manner that never degenerates into mannerism. In _Mazeppa_ the poet
reverts to his earlier style, and that of Scott; the description of the
headlong ride hurries us along with a breathless expectancy that gives it
a conspicuous place among his minor efforts. The passage about the howling
of the wolves, and the fever faint of the victim, is as graphic as
anything in Burns--

  The skies spun like a mighty wheel,
  I saw the trees like drunkards reel.

In the May or June of 1818 Byron's little daughter, Allegra, had been sent
from England, under the care of a Swiss nurse too young to undertake her
management in such trying circumstances, and after four months of anxiety
he placed her in charge of Mrs. Hoppner. In the course of this and the
next year there are frequent allusions to the child, all, save one which
records a mere affectation of indifference, full of affectionate
solicitude. In June, 1819, he writes, "Her temper and her ways, Mr.
Hoppner says, are like mine, as well as her features; she will make, in
that case, a manageable young lady." Later he talks of her as "flourishing
like a pomegranate blossom." In March, 1820, we have another reference.
"Allegra is prettier, I think, but as obstinate as a mule, and as ravenous
as a vulture; health good, to judge by the complexion, temper tolerable,
but for vanity and pertinacity. She thinks herself handsome, and will do
as she pleases." In May he refers to having received a letter from her
mother, but gives no details. In the following year, with the approval of
the Shelleys then at Pisa, he placed her for education in the convent of
Cavalli Bagni in the Romagna. "I have," he writes to Hoppner, who had
thought of having her boarded in Switzerland, "neither spared care,
kindness, nor expense, since the child was sent to me. The people may say
what they please. I must content myself with not deserving, in this
instance, that they should speak ill. The place is a _country_ town, in a
good air, and less liable to objections of every kind. It has always
appeared to me that the moral defect in Italy does _not_ proceed from a
_conventual_ education; because, to my certain knowledge, they come out of
their convents innocent, even to ignorance of moral evil; but to the state
of society into which they are directly plunged on coming out of it. It is
like educating an infant on a mountain top, and then taking him to the
sea, and throwing him into it, and desiring him to swim." Elsewhere he
says, "I by no means intend to give a natural child an English education,
because, with the disadvantages of her birth, her after settlement would
be doubly difficult. Abroad, with a fair foreign education, and a portion
of 5000_l_. or 6000_l_. (his will leaving her 5000_l_., on condition that
she should not marry an Englishman, is here explained and justified), she
might, and may, marry very respectably. In England such a dowry would be a
pittance, while elsewhere it is a fortune. 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." It
only remains to add that, when he heard that the child had fallen ill of
fever in 1822, Byron was almost speechless with agitation, and, on the
news of her death, which took place April 22nd, he seemed at first utterly
prostrated. Next day he said, "Allegra is dead; she is more fortunate than
we. It is God's will, let us mention it no more." Her remains rest beneath
the elm-tree at Harrow which her father used to haunt in boyhood, with the
date of birth and death, and the scripture--

  I shall go to her, but she shall not return to me.

The most interesting of the visits paid to Byron during the period of his
life at Venice was that of Shelley, who, leaving his wife and children at
Bagni di Lucca, came to see him in August, 1818. He arrived late, in the
midst of a thunderstorm; and next day they sailed to the Lido, and rode
together along the sands. The attitude of the two poets towards each other
is curious; the comparatively shrewd man of the world often relied on the
idealist for guidance and help in practical matters, admired his courage
and independence, spoke of him invariably as the best of men, but never
paid a sufficiently warm tribute in public to his work. Shelley, on the
other hand, certainly the most modest of great poets, contemplates Byron
in the fixed attitude of a literary worshipper.

The introduction to _Julian and Maddalo_, directly suggested by this
visit, under the slight veil of a change in the name, gives a summary of
the view of his friend's character which he continued to entertain. "He is
a person of the most consummate genius, and capable if he would direct his
energies to such an end, of becoming the redeemer of his degraded country.
But it is his weakness to be proud; he derives, from a comparison of his
own extraordinary mind with the dwarfish intellects that surround him, an
intense apprehension of the nothingness of human life. His passions and
his powers are incomparably greater than those of other men; and instead
of the latter having been employed in curbing the former, they have
mutually lent each other strength;" but "in social life no human being can
be more gentle, patient, and unassuming. He is cheerful, frank, and witty.
His more serious conversation is a sort of intoxication; men are held by
it as by a spell."

Subsequently to this visit Byron lent the villa at Este to his friend, and
during the autumn weeks of their residence there were written the lines
among the Euganean hills, where, in the same strain of reverence, Shelley
refers to the "tempest-cleaving swan of Albion," to the "music flung o'er
a mighty thunder-fit," and to the sunlike soul destined to immortalize his
ocean refuge,--

  As the ghost of Homer clings
  Round Seamander's wasting springs,
  As divinest Shakespeare's might
  Fills Avon and the world with light.

"The sun," he says, at a later date, "has extinguished the glowworm;" and
again, "I despair of rivalling Lord Byron, as well I may; and there is no
other with whom it is worth contending."

Shelley was, in the main, not only an exquisite but a trustworthy critic;
and no man was more absolutely above being influenced by the fanfaronade
of rank or the din of popularity. These criticisms are therefore not to be
lightly set aside, nor are they unintelligible. Perhaps those admirers of
the clearer and more consistent nature, who exalt him to the rank of a
greater poet, are misled by the amiable love of one of the purest
characters in the history of our literature. There is at least no
difficulty in understanding why he should have been, as it were, concussed
by Byron's greater massiveness and energy into a sense--easy to an
impassioned devotee--of inferiority. Similarly, most of the estimates--
many already reversed, others reversible--by the men of that age, of each
other, can be explained. We can see how it was that Shelley overestimated
both the character and the powers of Hunt; and Byron depreciated Keats,
and was ultimately repelled by Wordsworth, and held out his hand to meet
the manly grasp of Scott. The one enigma of their criticism is the respect
that they joined in paying to the witty, genial, shallow, worldly, musical
Tom Moore.

This favourite of fortune and the minor muses, in the course of a short
tour through the north of Italy in the autumn of 1819, found his noble
friend on the 8th of October at La Mira, went with him on a sight-seeing
expedition to Venice, and passed five or six days in his company. Of this
visit he has recorded his impressions, some of which relate to his host's
personal appearance, others to his habits and leading incidents of his
life. Byron "had grown fatter, both in person and face, and the latter had
suffered most 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, but although less romantic he appeared more
humorous." They renewed their recollections of the old days and nights in
London, and compared them with later experiences of Bores and Blues, in a
manner which threatened to put to flight the historical and poetical
associations naturally awakened by the City of the Sea. Byron had a rooted
dislike to any approach to fine talk in the ordinary intercourse of life;
and when his companion began to rhapsodize on the rosy hue of the Italian
sunsets, he interrupted him with, "Come, d--n it, Tom, _don't_ be
poetical." He insisted on Moore, who sighed after what he imagined would
be the greater comforts of an hotel, taking up his quarters in his palace;
and as they were groping their way through the somewhat dingy entrance,
cried out, "Keep clear of the dog!" and a few paces farther, "Take care,
or the monkey will fly at you!" an incident recalling the old vagaries of
the menagerie at Newstead. The biographer's reminiscences mainly dwell on
his lordship's changing moods and tempers and gymnastic exercises, his
terror of interviewing strangers, his imperfect appreciation of art, his
preference of fish to flesh, his almost parsimonious economy in small
matters, mingled with allusions to his domestic calamities, and frequent
expressions of a growing distaste to Venetian society. On leaving the
city, Moore passed a second afternoon at La Mira, had a glimpse of
Allegra, and the first intimation of the existence of the notorious
Memoirs. "A short time after dinner Byron left the room, and returned
carrying in his hand a white leather bag. 'Look here,' he said, holding it
up; 'this would be worth something to Murray, though _you_, I dare say,
would not give sixpence for it.' 'What is it?' I asked. 'My life and
adventures,' he answered. 'It is not a thing,' he answered, 'that can be
published during my lifetime, but you may have it if you like. There, do
whatever you please with it.' In taking the bag, and thanking him most
warmly, I added, 'This will make a nice legacy for my little Tom, who
shall astonish the latter days of the nineteenth century with it.'"[2]
Shortly after, Moore for the last time bade his friend farewell, taking
with him from Madame Guiccioli, who did the honours of the house, an
introduction to her brother, Count Gamba, at Rome. "Theresa Guiccioli,"
says Castelar, "appears like a star on the stormy horizon of the poet's
life." A young Romagnese, the daughter of a nobleman of Ravenna, of good
descent but limited means, she had been educated in a convent, and married
in her nineteenth year to a rich widower of sixty, in early life a friend
of Alfieri, and noted as the patron of the National Theatre. This
beautiful blonde, of pleasing manners, graceful presence, and a strong
vein of sentiment, fostered by the reading of Chateaubriand, met Byron for
the first time casually when she came in her bridal dress to one of the
Albrizzi reunions; but she was only introduced to him early in the April
of the following year, at the house of the Countess Benzoni. "Suddenly the
young Italian found herself inspired with a passion of which till that
moment her mind could not have formed the least idea; she had thought of
love but as an amusement, and now became its slave." Byron, on the other
hand, gave what remained of a heart, never alienated from her by any other
mistress. Till the middle of the month they met every day; and when the
husband took her back to Ravenna she despatched to her idol a series of
impassioned letters, declaring her resolution to mould her life in
accordance with his wishes. Towards the end of May she had prepared her
relatives to receive Byron as a visitor. He started in answer to the
summons, writing on his way the beautiful stanzas to the Po, beginning--

  River that rollest by the ancient walls
    Where dwells the lady of my love.

    [Footnote 2: In December, 1820, Byron sent several more sheets of
    memoranda from Ravenna, and in the following year suggested an
    arrangement by which Murray paid over to Moore, who was then in
    difficulties, 2000_l_. for the right of publishing the whole, under
    the condition, among others, that Lady Byron should see them, and have
    the right of reply to anything that might seem to her objectionable.
    She on her part declined to have anything to do with them. When the
    Memoirs were destroyed, Moore paid back the 2000_l_., but obtained
    four thousand guineas for editing the _Life and Correspondence_.]

Again passing through Ferrara, and visiting Bologna, he left the latter on
the 8th, and on his arrival at his destination found the Countess
dangerously ill; but his presence, and the attentions of the famous
Venetian doctor, Aglietti, who was sent for by his advice, restored her.
The Count seems to have been proud of his guest. "I can't make him out at
all," Byron writes; "he visits me frequently, and takes me out (like
Whittington the Lord Mayor) in a coach and six horses. The fact appears to
be, that he is completely governed by her--and, for that matter, so am I."
Later he speaks of having got his horses from Venice, and riding or
driving daily in the scenery reproduced in the third canto of _Don

  Sweet hour of twilight! in the solitude
    Of the pine forest, and the silent shore
  Which bounds Ravenna's immemorial wood.

On Theresa's recovery, in dread of a possible separation he proposed to
fly with her to America, to the Alps, to "some unsuspected isle in the far
seas;" and she suggested the idea of feigning death, like Juliet, and
rising from the tomb. Neither expedient was called for. When the Count
went to Bologna, in August, with his wife, Lord Byron was allowed to
follow; and--after consoling himself during an excursion which the married
pair made to their estate, by hovering about her empty rooms and writing
in her books--he established himself, on the Count's return to his
headquarters, with her and Allegra at Bologna. Meanwhile, Byron had
written _The Prophecy of Dante_, and in August the prose letter, _To the
Editor of the British Review_, on the charge of bribery in _Don Juan_.
Than this inimitable epistle no more laughter-compelling composition
exists. About the same time, we hear of his leaving the theatre in a
convulsion of tears, occasioned by the representation of Alfieri's

He left Bologna with the Countess on the 15th of September, when they
visited the Euganean hills and Arqua, and wrote their names together in
the Pilgrim's Book. On arriving at Venice, the physicians recommending
Madame Guiccioli to country air, they settled, still by her husband's
consent, for the autumn at La Mira, where Moore and others found them
domesticated. At the beginning of November the poet was prostrated by an
attack of tertian fever. In some of his hours of delirium he dictated to
his careful nurses, Fletcher and the Countess, a number of verses, which
she assures us were correct and sensible. He attributes his restoration to
cold water and the absence of doctors; but, ere his complete recovery,
Count Guiccioli had suddenly appeared on the scene, and run away with his
own wife. The lovers had for a time not only to acquiesce in the
separation, but to agree to cease their correspondence. In December, Byron
in a fit of spleen had packed up his belongings, with a view to return to
England. "He was," we are told, "ready dressed for the journey, his boxes
on board the gondola, his gloves and cap on, and even his little cane in
his hand, when my lord declares that if it should strike one--which it
did--before everything was in order, he would not go that day. It is
evident he had not the heart to go." Next day he heard that Madame
Guiccioli was again seriously ill, received and accepted the renewed
invitation which bound him to her and to the south. He left Venice for the
last time almost by stealth, rushed along the familiar roads, and was
welcomed at Ravenna.




Byrons's life at Ravenna was during the first months comparatively calm;
nevertheless, he mingled in society, took part in the Carnival, and was
received at the parties of the Legate. "I may stay," he writes in January,
1820, "a day--a week--a year--all my life." Meanwhile, he imported his
movables from Venice, hired a suite of rooms in the Guiccioli palace,
executed his marvellously close translation of Pulci's _Morgante
Maggiore_, wrote his version of the story of _Francesca of Rimini_, and
received visits from his old friend Bankes and from Sir Humphrey Davy. At
this time he was accustomed to ride about armed to the teeth, apprehending
a possible attack from assassins on the part of Count Guiccioli. In April
his letters refer to the insurrectionary movements then beginning against
the Holy Alliance. "We are on the verge of a row here. Last night they
have over-written all the city walls with 'Up with the Republic!' and
'Death to the Pope!' The police have been searching for the subscribers,
but have caught none as yet. The other day they confiscated the whole
translation of the fourth canto of _Childe Harold_, and have prosecuted
the translator." In July a Papal decree of separation between the Countess
and her husband was obtained, on condition of the latter paying from his
large income a pittance to the lady of 200 _l_. a year, and her
undertaking to live in her father's house--an engagement which was, first
in the spirit, and subsequently in the letter, violated. For a time,
however, she retired to a villa about fifteen miles from Ravenna, where
she was visited by Byron at comparatively rare intervals. By the end of
July he had finished _Marino Faliero_, and ere the close of the year the
fifth canto of _Don Juan_. in September he says to Murray, "I am in a
fierce humour, at not having Scott's _Monastery_. No more Keats,[1] I
entreat. There is no bearing the drivelling idiotism of the manikin. I
don't feel inclined to care further about _Don Juan_. What do you think a
very pretty Italian lady said to me the other day, when I remarked that
'it would live longer than _Childe Harold_'? 'Ah! but I would rather have
the fame of _Childe Harold_ for three years than an immortality of _D.
J._'" This is to-day the common female judgment; it is known to have been
La Guiccioli's, as well as Mrs. Leigh's, and by their joint persuasion
Byron was for a season induced to lay aside "that horrid, wearisome Don."
About this time he wrote the memorable reply to the remarks on that poem
in _Blackwood's Magazine_', where he enters on a defence of his life,
attacks the Lakers, and champions Pope against the new school of poetry,
lamenting that his own practice did not square with his precept; and
adding, "We are all wrong, except Rogers, Crabbe, and Campbell."

    [Footnote 1: In a note on a similar passage, bearing the date November
    12, 1821, he, however, confesses:--"My indignation at Mr. Keats'
    depreciation of Pope has hardly permitted me to 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 AEschylus. He is a loss
    to our literature."]

In November he refers to reports of his letters being opened by the
Austrian officials, and the unpleasant things the Huns, as he calls them,
are likely to find therein. Early in the next month he tells Moore that
the commandant of their troops, a brave officer, but obnoxious to the
people, had been found lying at his door, with five slugs in him, and,
bleeding inwardly, had died in the palace, where he had been brought to be

This incident is versified in _Don Juan_, v. 33-39, with anatomical
minuteness of detail. After trying in vain to wrench an answer out of
death, the poet ends in his accustomed strain--

  But it was all a mystery. Here we are,
  And there we go:--but _where_? Five bits of lead--
  Or three, or two, or one--send very far!

Assassination has sometimes been the prelude to revolution, but it may be
questioned if it has over promoted the cause of liberty. Most frequently
it has served as a pretext for reaction, or a red signal. In this
instance--as afterwards in 1848--overt acts of violence made the powers of
despotism more alert, and conduced with the half-hearted action of their
adversaries to the suppression of the rising of 1820-21. Byron's sympathy
with the movement seems to have been stimulated by his new associations.
Theresa's brother, Count Pietro, an enthusiastic young soldier, having
returned from Rome and Naples, surmounting a prejudice not wholly
unnatural, became attached to him, and they entered into a partnership in
behalf of what--adopting a phrase often flaunted in opposite camps--they
called constitutional principles. Finally the poet so committed himself to
the party of insurrection that, though his nationality secured him from
direct attack, his movements were necessarily affected by the fiasco. In
July the Gambas were banished from the Romagna, Pietro being actually
carried by force over the frontier; and, according to the articles of her
separation, the Countess had to follow them to Florence. Byron lingered
for some mouths, partly from a spirit of defiance, and partly from his
affection towards a place where he had enlisted the regards of numerous
beneficiaries. The Gambas were for some time bent on migrating to
Switzerland; but the poet, after first acquiescing, subsequently conceived
a violent repugnance to the idea, and early in August wrote to Shelley,
earnestly requesting his presence, aid, and counsel. Shelley at once
complied, and, entering into a correspondence with Madame Guiccioli,
succeeded in inducing her relatives to abandon their transmontane plans,
and agree to take up their headquarters at Pisa. This incident gave rise
to a series of interesting letters, in which the younger poet gives a
vivid and generous account of the surroundings and condition of his
friend. On the 2nd of August he writes from Ravenna:--"I arrived last
night at ten o'clock, and sat up talking with Lord B. till five this
morning. He was delighted to see me. He has, in fact, completely recovered
his health, and lives a life totally the reverse of that which he led at
Venice.... Poor fellow! he is now quite well, and immersed in politics and
literature. We talked a great deal of poetry and such matters last night,
and, as usual, differed, I think, more than ever. He affects to patronize
a system of criticism fit only for the production of mediocrity; and,
although all his finer poems and passages have been produced in defiance
of this system, yet I recognize the pernicious effects of it in the _Doge
of Venice_." Again, on the 15th: "Lord B. is greatly improved in every
respect--in genius, in temper, in moral views, in health, and happiness.
His connexion with La Guiccioli has been an inestimable benefit to him. He
lives in considerable splendour, but within his income, which is now about
4000_l_. a year, 1000_l_. of which he devotes to purposes of charity.
Switzerland is little fitted for him; the gossip and the cabals of those
Anglicised coteries would torment him, as they did before. Ravenna is a
miserable place. He would in every respect be better among the Tuscans. He
has read to me one of the unpublished cantos of _Don Juan_. It sets him
not only above, but far above, all the poets of the day. Every word has
the stamp of immortality.... I have spoken to him of Hunt, but not with a
direct view of demanding a contribution. I am sure, if I asked, it would
not be refused; yet there is something in me that makes it impossible.
Lord B. and I are excellent friends; and were I reduced to poverty, or
were I a writer who had no claim to a higher position than I possess, I
would freely ask him any favour. Such is not now the case." Later, after
stating that Byron had decided upon Tuscany, he says, in reference to La
Guiccioli, "At the conclusion of a letter, full of all the fine things she
says she has heard of me, is this request, which I transcribe:--'Signore,
la vostra bontà mi fa ardita di chiedervi un favore, me lo accordarete
voi? _Non partite da Ravenna senza milord_.' Of course, being now by all
the laws of knighthood captive to a lady's request, I shall only be at
liberty on my parole until Lord Byron is settled at Pisa."

Shelley took his leave, after a visit of ten days' duration, about the
17th or 18th of April. In a letter, dated August 26, he mentions having
secured for his lordship the Palazzo Lanfranchi, an old spacious building
on the Lung' Arno, once the family residence of the destroyers of Ugolino,
and still said to be haunted by their ghosts. Towards the close of
October, he says they have been expecting him any day those six weeks.
Byron, however, did not leave till the morning of the 29th. On his road,
there occurred at Imola the accidental meeting with Lord Clare. Clare--who
on this occasion merely crossed his friend's path on his way to Rome--at a
later date came on purpose from Geneva before returning to England to
visit the poet, who, then at Leghorn, recorded in a letter to Moore his
sense of this proof of old affection undecayed. At Bologna--his next
stage--he met Rogers by appointment, and the latter has preserved his
memory of the event in well-known lines. Together they revisited Florence
and its galleries, where they were distracted by the crowds of
sight-seeing visitors. Byron must have reached Pisa not later than the 2nd
of November (1821), for his first letter from there bears the date of the

The later months of the poet's life at Ravenna were marked by intense
literary activity. Over a great part of the year was spread the
controversy with Bowles about Pope, i.e. between the extremes of Art
against Nature, and Nature against Art. It was a controversy for the most
part free from personal animus, and on Byron's part the genuine expression
of a reaction against a reaction. To this year belong the greater number
of the poet's Historical Dramas. What was said of these, at the time by
Jeffrey, Heber, and others, was said with justice; it is seldom that the
criticism of our day finds so little to reverse in that of sixty years

The author,  having shown  himself  capable of being pathetic, sarcastic,
sentimental, comical, and sublime, we would be tempted to think that he
had written these plays to show, what no one before suspected, that he
could also be dull, were it not for his own exorbitant estimation of them.
Lord Byron had few of the powers of a great dramatist; he had little
architectural imagination, or capacity to conceive and build up a whole.
His works are mainly masses of fine, splendid, or humorous writing, heaped
together; the parts are seldom forged into one, or connected by any
indissoluble link. His so-called Dramas are only poems divided into
chapters. Further, he had little of what Mr. Ruskin calls penetrative
imagination. So it has been plausibly said that he made his men after his
own image, his women after his own heart. The former are, indeed, rather
types of what he wished to be than what he was. They are better, and
worse, than himself. They have stronger wills, more definite purposes, but
less genial and less versatile natures. But it remains true, that when he
tried to represent a character totally different from himself, the result
is either unreal or uninteresting. _Marino Faliero_, begun April, finished
July, 1820, and prefixed by a humorous dedication to Goethe--which was,
however, suppressed--was brought on the stage of Drury Lane Theatre early
in 1821, badly mangled, appointed, and acted--and damned.

Byron seems to have been sincere in saying he did not intend any of his
plays to be represented. We are more inclined to accuse him of
self-deception when he asserts that he did not mean them to be popular;
but he took sure means to prevent them from being so. _Marino Faliero_, in
particular, was pronounced by Dr. John Watkins--old Grobius himself--"to
be the dullest of dull plays;" and even the warmest admirers of the poet
had to confess that the style was cumbrous. The story may be true, but it
is none the less unnatural. The characters are comparatively commonplace,
the women especially being mere shadows; the motion is slow; and the
inevitable passages of fine writing are, as the extolled soliloquy of
Lioni, rather rhetorical than imaginative. The speeches of the Doge are
solemn, but prolix, if not ostentatious, and--perhaps the vital
defect--his cause fails to enlist our sympathies. Artistically, this play
was Byron's most elaborate attempt to revive the unities and other
restrictions of the severe style, which, when he wrote, had been
"vanquished in literature." "I am persuaded," he writes in the preface,
"that a great tragedy is not to be produced by following the old
dramatists, who are full of faults, but by producing regular dramas like
the Greeks." He forgets that the statement in the mouth of a Greek
dramatist that his play was not intended for the stage, would have been a
confession of failure; and that Aristotle had admitted that even the Deity
could not make the Past present. The ethical motives of Faliero are,
first, the cry for vengeance--the feeling of affronted or unsatiated
pride,--that runs through so much of the author's writing, and second, the
enthusiasm for public ends, which was beginning to possess him. The
following lines have been pointed out as embodying some of Byron's spirit
of protest against the more selfish "greasy domesticity" of the Georgian

  I. BER.                      Such ties are not
  For those who are called to the high destinies
  Which purify corrupted commonwealths:
  We must forget all feelings save the one,
  We must resign all passions save our purpose,
  We must behold no object save our country,
  And only look on death as beautiful
  So that the sacrifice ascend to heaven,
  And draw down freedom on her evermore.

  CAL. But if we fail--?

  I. BER.             They never fail who die
  In a great cause: the block may soak their gore;
  Their heads may sodden in the sun; their limbs
  Be strung to city gates and castle walls,
  But still their spirit walks abroad.

--a passage which, after his wont, he spoils by platitudes about the
precisian Brutus, who certainly did not give Rome liberty.

Byron's other Venetian Drama, the _Two Foscari_, composed at Ravenna,
between the 11th of June and the 10th of July, 1821, and published in the
following December, is another record of the same failure and the same
mortification, due to the same causes. In this play, as Jeffrey points
out, the preservation of the unities had a still more disastrous effect.
The author's determination to avoid rant did not hinder his frequently
adopting an inflated style; while professing to follow the ancient rules,
he forgets the warning of Horace so far as to permit the groans of the
tortured Foscari to be heard on the stage. The declamations of Marina
produce no effect on the action, and the vindictiveness of Loridano,
though effectively pointed in the closing words, "He has paid me," is not
rendered interesting, either by a well established injury, or by any trace
of Iago's subtle genius.

In the same volume appeared _Sardanapalus_, written in the previous May,
and dedicated to Goethe. In this play, which marks the author's last
reversion to the East, we are more arrested by the majesty of the theme--

                   Thirteen hundred years
  Of empire ending like a shepherd's tale,

by the grandeur of some of the passages, and by the development of the
chief character, made more vivid by its being distinctly autobiographical.
Sardanapalus himself is Harold, raised "high on a throne," and rousing
himself at the close from a life of effeminate lethargy. Myrrha has been
often identified with La Guiccioli, and the hero's relation to his Queen
Zarina compared with that of the poet to his wife; but in his portrait of
the former the author's defective capacity to represent national character
is manifest: Myrrha is only another Gulnare, Medora, or Zuleika. In the
domestic play of _Werner_--completed at Pisa in January, 1822, and
published in November, there is no merit either of plan or execution; for
the plot is taken, with little change, from "The German's Tale," written
by Harriet Lee, and the treatment is throughout prosaic. Byron was never a
master of blank verse; but _Werner_, his solo success on the modern
British stage, is written in a style fairly parodied by Campbell, when he
cut part of the author's preface into lines, and pronounced them as good
as any in the play.

The _Deformed Transformed_, another adaptation, suggested by a forgotten
novel called _The Three Brothers_, with reminiscences of _Faust_, and
possibly of Scott's _Black Dwarf_, was begun at Pisa in 1821, but not
published till January, 1824. This fragment owes its interest to the
bitter infusion of personal feeling in the first scene, and its occasional
charm to the march of some of the lines, especially those describing the
Bourbon's advance on Rome; but the effect of the magical element is killed
by previous parallels, while the story is chaotic and absurd. The
_Deformed Transformed_ bears somewhat the same relation to _Manfred as
Heaven and Earth_--an occasionally graphic dream of the world before the
Deluge, written October, 1821, and issued about the same time as Moore's
_Loves of the Angels_, on a similar theme--does to _Cain_. The last named,
begun in July, and finished at Ravenna in September, is the author's
highest contribution to the metaphysical poetry of the century. In _Cain_
Byron grapples with the perplexities of a belief which he never either
accepted or rejected, and with the yet deeper problems of life and death,
of good and ill. In dealing with these his position is not that of one
justifying the ways of God to man--though he somewhat disingenuously
appeals to Milton in his defence--nor that of the definite antagonism of
_Queen Mab_. The distinction in this respect between Byron and Shelley
cannot be over-emphasized. The latter had a firm faith other than that
commonly called Christian. The former was, in the proper sense of the
word, a sceptic, beset with doubts, and seeking for a solution which he
never found, shifting in his expression of them with every change of a
fickle and inconsistent temperament. The atmosphere of _Cain_ is almost
wholly negative; for under the guise of a drama, which is mainly a
dialogue between two halves of his mind, the author appears to sweep aside
with something approaching to disdain the answers of a blindly accepted
tradition, or of a superficial optimism, e.g.--

  CAIN. Then my father's God did well
        When he prohibited the fatal tree.

  LUCIFER. But had done better in not planting it.

Again, a kid, after suffering agonies from the sting of a reptile, is
restored by antidotes--

        Behold, my son! said Adam, how from evil
        Springs good!

  LUCIFER.      What didst thou answer?

  CAIN.                     Nothing; for
        He is my father; but I thought, that 'twere
        A better portion for the animal
        Never to have been stung at all.

This rebellious nature naturally yields to the arguments of Lucifer, a
spirit in which much of the grandeur of Milton's Satan is added to the
subtlety of Mephistopheles. In the first scene Cain is introduced,
rebelling against toils imposed on him by an offence committed before he
was born,--"I sought not to be born"--the answer, that toil is a good,
being precluded by its authoritative representation as a punishment; in
which mood he is confirmed by the entrance and reasonings of the Tempter,
who identifies the Deity with Seva the Destroyer, hints at the dreadful
visitation of the yet untasted death; when Adah, entering, takes him at
first for an angel, and then recognizes him as a fiend. Her invocation to
Eve, and comparison of the "heedless, harmless, wantonness of bliss" in
Eden, to the later lot of those girt about with demons from whose
fascination they cannot fly, is one of the most striking in the drama; as
is the line put into the mouth of the poet's most beautiful female
character, to show that God cannot be alone,--

  What else can joy be, but diffusing joy?

Her subsequent contrast of Lucifer with the other angels is more after the
style of Shelley than anything else in Byron--

    As the silent sunny moon,
  All light, they look upon us. But thou seemst
  Like an ethereal night, where long white clouds
  Streak the deep purple, and unnumber'd stars
  Spangle the wonderful mysterious vault
  With things that look as if they would be suns--
  So beautiful, unnumber'd and endearing;
  Not dazzling, and yet drawing us to them,
  They fill my eyes with tears, and so dost thou.

The flight with Lucifer, in the second act, in the abyss of space and
through the Hades of "uncreated night," with the vision of long-wrecked
worlds, and the interminable gloomy realms

  Of swimming shadows and enormous shapes,

--suggested, as the author tells us, by the reading of Cuvier--leaves us
with impressions of grandeur and desolation which no other passages of
English poetry can convey. Lord Byron has elsewhere exhibited more
versatility of fancy and richness of illustration, but nowhere else has he
so nearly "struck the stars." From constellation to constellation the pair
speed on, cleaving the blue with mighty wings, but finding in all a blank,
like that in Richter's wonderful dream. The result on the mind of Cain is
summed in the lines on the fatal tree,--

  It was a lying tree--for we _know_ nothing;
  At least, it _promised knowledge_ at the price
  Of death--but _knowledge_ still; but, what _knows_ man?

A more modern poet answers, after beating at the same iron gates, "Behold,
we know not anything." The most beautiful remaining passage is Cain's
reply to the question--what is more beautiful to him than all that he has
seen in the "unimaginable ether"?--

  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 flow 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.

Lucifer's speech, at the close of the act is perhaps too Miltonic to be
absolutely original. Returning to earth, we have a pastoral, of which Sir
Egerton Brydges justly and sufficiently remarks, "The censorious may say
what they will, but there are speeches in the mouth of Cain and Adah,
especially regarding their child, which nothing in English poetry but the
'wood-notes wild' of Shakespeare, ever equalled." Her cry, as Cain seems
to threaten the infant, followed by the picture of his bloom and joy, is a
touch of perfect pathos. Then comes the interview with the pious Abel, who
is amazed at the lurid light in the eyes of his brother, with the spheres
"singing in thunder round" him--the two sacrifices, the murder, the shriek
of Zillah--

    Father! Eve!
  Adah! Come hither! Death is in the world;

Cain's rallying from stupor--

    I am awake at last--a dreary dream
  Had madden'd me,--but he shall never wake:

the curse of Eve; and the close--[Greek: meizon ae kata dakrua]

  CAIN. Leave me.

  ADAH. Why all have left thee.

  CAIN. And wherefore lingerest thou? Dost thou not fear?

  ADAH.                    I fear
        Nothing, except to leave thee.

       *       *       *       *       *

  CAIN. Eastward from Eden will we take our way.

  ADAH. Leave! thou shalt be my guide; and may our God
        Be thine! Now let us carry forth our children.

  CAIN. And _he_ who lieth there was childless. I
        Have dried the fountain of a gentle race.
        O Abel!

  ADAH.       Peace be with him.

  CAIN.                        But with _me_!

_Cain_, between which and the _Cenci_ lies the award of the greatest
single performance in dramatic shape of our century, raised a storm. It
was published, with _Sardanapalus_ and _The Two Foscari_ in December,
1821, and the critics soon gave evidence of the truth of Elze's remark--
"In England freedom of action is cramped by the want of freedom of
thought. The converse is the case with us Germans; freedom of thought is
restricted by the want of freedom in action. To us this scepticism
presents nothing in the least fearful." But with us it appeared as if a
literary Guy Fawkes had been detected in the act of blowing up half the
cathedrals and all the chapels of the country. The rage of insular
orthodoxy was in proportion to its impotence. Every scribbler with a
cassock denounced the book and its author, though few attempted to answer
him. The hubbub was such that Byron wrote to Murray, authorizing him to
disclaim all responsibility, and offering to refund the payment he had
received. "Say that both you and Mr. Gilford remonstrated. I will come to
England to stand trial. 'Me, me, adsum qui feci,'"--and much to the same
effect. The book was pirated; and on the publisher's application to have
an injunction, Lord Eldon refused to grant it. The majority of the minor
reviewers became hysterical, and Dr. Watkins, amid much almost
inarticulate raving, said that Sir Walter Scott, who had gratefully
accepted the dedication, would go down to posterity with the brand of
_Cain_ upon his brow. Several even of the higher critics took fright.
Jeffrey, while protesting his appreciation of the literary merits of the
work, lamented its tendency to unsettle faith. Mr. Campbell talked of its
"frightful audacity." Bishop Heber wrote at great length to prove that its
spirit was more dangerous than that of _Paradise Lost_--and succeeded. The
_Quarterly_ began to cool towards the author. Moore wrote to him, that
Cain was "wonderful, terrible, never to be forgotten," but "dreaded and
deprecated" the influence of Shelley. Byron showed the letter to Shelley,
who wrote to a common friend to assure Mr. Moore that he had not the
smallest influence over his lordship in matters of religion, and only
wished he had, as he would "employ it to eradicate from his great mind the
delusions of Christianity, which seem perpetually to recur, and to lie in
ambush for the hours of sickness and distress." Shelley elsewhere writes:
"What think you of Lord B.'s last volume? In my opinion it contains finer
poetry than has appeared in England since _Paradise Lost_. Cain is
apocalyptic; it is a revelation not before communicated to man." In the
same strain, Scott says of the author of the "grand and tremendous drama:"
"He has certainly matched Milton on his own ground." The worst effect of
those attacks appears in the shifts to which Byron resorted to explain
himself,--to be imputed, however, not to cowardice, but to his wavering
habit of mind. Great writers in our country have frequently stirred
difficult questions in religion and life, and then seemed to be half
scared, like Rouget de Lisle, by the reverberation of their own voices.
Shelley almost alone was always ready to declare, "I meant what I said,
and stand to it."

Byron having, with or without design, arraigned some of the Thirty-Nine
Articles of his countrymen, proceeded in the following month (October
1821) to commit an outrage, yet more keenly resented, on the memory of
their sainted king, the pattern of private virtue and public vice, George
III. The perpetration of this occurred in the course of the last of his
numerous literary duels, of which it was the close. That Mr. Southey was a
well-meaning and independent man of letters, there can be no doubt. It
does not require the conclusive testimony of the esteem of Savage Landor
to compel our respect for the author of the _Life of Nelson_, and the
open-handed friend of Coleridge; nor is it any disparagement that, with
the last-named and with Wordsworth, he in middle life changed his
political and other opinions. But in his dealings with Lord Byron, Southey
had "eaten of the insane root." He attacked a man of incomparably superior
powers, for whom his utter want of humour--save in its comparatively
childish forms--made him a ludicrously unequal match, and paid the penalty
in being gibbeted in satires that will endure with the language. The
strife, which seems to have begun on Byron's leaving England, rose to its
height when his lordship, in the humorous observations and serious defence
of his character against "the Remarks" in Blackwood, 1819 (August),
accused the Laureate of apostasy, treason, and slander.

In 1821, when the latter published his _Vision of Judgment_--the most
quaintly preposterous panegyric ever penned--he prefixed to it a long
explanatory note, in the course of which he characterizes _Don Juan_ as a
"monstrous combination of horror and mockery, lewdness and impiety,"
regrets that it has not been brought under the lash of the law, salutes
the writer as chief of the Satanic school, inspired by the spirits of
Moloch and Belial, and refers to the remorse that will overtake him on his
death-bed. To which Byron, _inter alia_: "Mr. Southey, with a cowardly
ferocity, exults over the anticipated death-bed repentance of the objects
of his dislike, and indulges himself in a pleasant 'Vision of Judgment,'
in prose, as well as verse, full of impious impudence. What Mr. Southey's
sensations or ours may be in the awful moment of leaving this state of
existence, neither he nor we can pretend to decide. In common, I presume,
with most men of any reflection, _I_ have not waited for a death-bed to
repent of many of my actions, notwithstanding the 'diabolical pride' which
this pitiful renegade in his rancour would impute to those who scorn him."
This dignified, though trenchant, rejoinder would have been unanswerable;
but the writer goes on to charge the Laureate with spreading calumnies. To
this charge Southey, in January, 1822, replies with "a direct and positive
denial," and then proceeds to talk at large of the "whip and branding
iron," "slaves of sensuality," "stones from slings," "Goliahs," "public
panders," and what not, in the manner of the brave days of old.

In February Byron, having seen this assault in the _Courier_, writes off
in needless heat, "I have got Southey's pretended reply; what remains to
be done is to call him out,"--and despatches a cartel of mortal defiance.
Mr. Douglas Kinnaird, through whom this was sent, judiciously suppressed
it, and the author's thirst for literary blood was destined to remain
unquenched. Meanwhile he had written his own _Vision of Judgment_. This
extraordinary work, having been refused by both Murray and Longman,
appeared in 1822 in the pages of the _Liberal_. It passed the bounds of
British endurance; and the publisher, Mr. John Hunt, was prosecuted and
fined for the publication.

Readers of our day will generally admit that the "gouty hexameters" of the
original poem, which celebrates the apotheosis of King George in heaven,
are much more blasphemous than the _ottava rima_ of the travesty, which
professes to narrate the difficulties of his getting there. Byron's
_Vision of Judgment_ is as unmistakably the first of parodies as the
_Iliad_ is the first of epics, or the _Pilgrim's Progress_ the first of
allegories. In execution it is almost perfect. _Don Juan_ is in scope and
magnitude a far wider work; but no considerable series of stanzas in _Don
Juan_ are so free from serious artistic flaw. From first to last, every
epithet hits the white; every line that does not convulse with laughter
stings or lashes. It rises to greatness by the fact that, underneath all
its lambent buffoonery, it is aflame with righteous wrath. Nowhere in such
space, save in some of the prose of Swift, is there in English so much
scathing satire.




Byron, having arrived at Pisa with his troop of carriages, horses, dogs,
fowls, servants, and a monkey, settled himself quietly in the Palazzo
Lanfranchi for ten months, interrupted only by a sojourn of six weeks in
the neighbourhood of Leghorn. His life in the old feudal building followed
in the main the tenour of his life at Ravenna. He rose late, received
visitors in the afternoons, played billiards, rode or practised with his
pistols, in concert with Shelley, whom he refers to at this time as "the
most companionable man under thirty" he had ever met. Both poets were good
shots, but Byron the safest; for, though his hand often shook, he made
allowance for the vibration, and never missed his mark. On one occasion he
set up a slender cane, and at twenty paces divided it with his bullet. The
early part of the evening he gave to a frugal meal and the society of La
Guiccioli--now apparently, in defiance of the statute of limitations,
established under the same roof--and then sat late over his verses. He was
disposed to be more sociable than at Venice or Ravenna, and occasionally
entertained strangers; but his intimate acquaintanceship was confined to
Captain Williams and his wife, and Shelley's cousin, Captain Medwin. The
latter used frequently to dine and sit with his host till the morning,
collecting materials for the _Conversations_ which he afterwards gave to
the world. The value of these reminiscences is impaired by the fact of
their recording, as serious revelations, the absurd confidences in which
the poet's humour for mystification was wont to indulge. Another of the
group, an Irishman, called Taafe, is made, in his Lordship's
correspondence of the period, to cut a somewhat comical figure. The
master-passion of this worthy and genial fellow was to get a publisher for
a fair commentary on Dante, to which he had firmly linked a very bad
translation, and for about six months Byron pesters Murray with constant
appeals to satisfy him; e.g. November l6, "He must be gratified, though
the reviewers will make him suffer more tortures than there are in his
original." March 6, "He will die if he is not published; he will be damned
if he is; but that he don't mind." March 8, "I make it a point that he
shall be in print; it will make the man so exuberantly happy. He is such a
good-natured Christian that we must give him a shove through the press.
Besides, he has had another fall from his horse into a ditch." Taafe,
whose horsemanship was on a par with his poetry, can hardly have been
consulted as to the form assumed by these apparently fruitless
recommendations, so characteristic of the writer's frequent kindliness and
constant love of mischief. About this time Byron received a letter from
Mr. Shepherd, a gentleman in Somersetshire, referring to the death of his
wife, among whose papers he had found the record of a touching, because
evidently heart-felt, prayer for the poet's reformation, conversion, and
restored peace of mind. To this letter he at once returned an answer.
marked by much of the fine feeling of his best moods. Pisa, December 8:
"Sir, I have received your letter. I need not say that the extract which
it contains has affected me, because it would imply a want of all feeling
to have read it with indifference.... Your brief and simple picture of the
excellent person, whom I trust you will again meet, cannot be contemplated
without the admiration due to her virtues and her pure and unpretending
piety. I do not know that I ever met with anything so unostentatiously
beautiful. Indisputably, the firm believers in the Gospel have a great
advantage over all others--for this simple reason, that if true they will
have their reward hereafter; and if there be no hereafter, they can but be
with the infidel in his eternal sleep.... But 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.... I can
assure you that not all the fame which ever cheated humanity into higher
notions of its own importance, would ever weigh in my mind against the
pure and pious interest which a virtuous being may be pleased to take in
my behalf. In this point of view I would not exchange the prayer of the
deceased in my behalf for the united glory of Homer, Caesar, and

The letter to Lady Byron, which he afterwards showed to Lady Blessington,
must have borne about the same date; and we have a further indication of
his thoughts reverting homeward in an urgent request to Murray--written on
December 10th, Ada's sixth birthday--to send his daughter's miniature.
After its arrival nothing gave him greater pleasure than to be told of its
strong likeness to himself. In the course of the same month an event
occurred which strangely illustrates the manners of the place, and the
character of the two poets. An unfortunate fanatic having taken it into
his head to steal the wafer-box out of a church at Lucca, and being
detected, was, in accordance with the ecclesiastical law till lately
maintained against sacrilege, condemned to be burnt alive. Shelley, who
believed that the sentence would really be carried into effect, proposed
to Byron that they should gallop off together, and by aid of their
servants rescue by force the intended victim. Byron, however, preferred in
the first place, to rely on diplomacy; some vigorous letters passed;
ultimately a representation, convoyed by Taafe to the English Ambassador,
led to a commutation of the sentence, and the man was sent to the galleys.

The January of 1822 was marked by the addition to the small circle of
Captain E.J. Trelawny, the famous rover and bold free-lance (long sole
survivor of the remarkable group), who accompanied Lord Byron to Greece,
and has recorded a variety of incidents of the last months of his life.
Trelawny, who appreciated Shelley with an intensity that is often apt to
be exclusive, saw, or has reported, for the most part the weaker side of
Byron. We are constrained to accept as correct the conjecture that his
judgment was biassed by their rivalry in physical prowess, and the
political differences which afterwards developed between them. Letters to
his old correspondents--to Scott about the _Waverleys_, to Murray about
the Dramas, and the _Vision of Judgment_, and _Cain_--make up almost the
sole record of the poet's pursuits during the five following months. In
February 6th he sent, through Mr. Kinnaird, the challenge to Southey, of
the suppression of which he was not aware till May 17. The same letter
contains a sheaf of the random cynicisms, as--"Cash is virtue," "Money is
power; and when Socrates said he knew nothing, he meant he had not a
drachma"--by which he sharpened the shafts of his assailants. A little
later, on occasion of the death of Lady Noel, he expresses himself with
natural bitterness on hearing that she had in her will recorded a wish
against his daughter Ada seeing his portrait. In March he sat, along with
La Guiccioli, to the sculptor Bartolini. On the 24th, when the company
were on one of their riding excursions outside the town, a half-drunken
dragoon on horseback broke through them, and by accident or design knocked
Shelley from his seat. Byron, pursuing him along the Lung' Arno, called
for his name, and, taking him for an officer, flung his glove. The sound
of the fray brought the servants of the Lanfranchi to the door; and one of
them, it was presumed--though in the scuffle everything remained
uncertain--seriously wounded the dragoon in the side. An investigation
ensued, as the result of which the Gambas were ultimately exiled from
Tuscany, and the party of friends was practically broken up. Shelley and
his wife, with the Williamses and Trelawny, soon after settled at the
Villa Magni at Lerici in the Gulf of Spezia. Byron, with the Countess and
her brother, established themselves in the Villa Rossa at Monte Nero, a
suburb of Leghorn, from which port at this date the remains of Allegra
were conveyed to England.

Among the incidents of this residence were, the homage paid to the poet by
a party of Americans; the painting of his portrait (and that of La
Guiccioli) by the artist West, who has left a pleasing account of his
visits; Byron's letter making inquiry about the country of Bolivar (where
it was his fancy to settle); and another of those disturbances by which he
seemed destined to be harassed. One of his servants--among whom were
unruly spirits, apparently selected with a kind of _Corsair_ bravado,--had
made an assault on Count Pietro, wounding him in the face. This outburst,
though followed by tears and penitence, confirmed the impression of the
Tuscan police that the whole company were dangerous, and made the
Government press for their departure. In the midst of the uproar, there
suddenly appeared at the villa Mr. Leigh Hunt, with his wife and six
children. They had taken passage to Genoa, where they were received by
Trelawny, in command of the "Bolivar"--a yacht constructed in that port
for Lord Byron, simultaneously with the "Don Juan" for Shelley. The
latter, on hearing of the arrival of his friends, came to meet them at
Leghorn, and went with them to Pisa. Early in July they were all
established on the Lung' Arno, having assigned to them the ground floor of
the palazzo.

We have now to deal briefly--amid conflicting asseverations it is hard to
deal fairly--with the last of the vexatiously controverted episodes which
need perplex our narrative. Byron, in wishing Moore from Ravenna a merry
Christmas for 1820, proposes that they shall embark together in a
newspaper, "with some improvement on the plan of the present scoundrels,"
"to give the age some new lights on policy, poesy, biography, criticism,
morality, theology," &c. Moore absolutely refusing to entertain the idea,
Hunt's name was brought forward in connexion with it, during tho visit of
Shelley. Shortly after the return of the latter to Pisa, he writes (August
26) to Hunt, stating that Byron was anxious to start a periodical work, to
be conducted in Italy, and had proposed that they should both go shares in
the concern, on which follow some suggestions of difficulties about money.
Nevertheless, in August, 1821, he presses Hunt to come. Moore, on the
other hand, strongly remonstrates against the project. "I heard some days
ago that Leigh Hunt was on his way to you with all his family; and the
idea seems to be that you and he and Shelley are to conspire together in
the _Examiner_. I deprecate such a plan with all my might. Partnerships in
fame, like those in trade, make the strongest party answer for the rest. I
tremble even for you with such a bankrupt Co.! You must stand alone."
Shelley--who had, in the meantime, given his bond to Byron for an advance
of 200_l_. towards the expenses of his friends, besides assisting them
himself to the utmost of his power--began, shortly before their arrival,
to express grave doubts as to the success of the alliance. His last
published letter--written July 5th, 1822--after they had settled at Pisa,
is full of forebodings. On the 8th he set sail in the "Don Juan"--

                   That fatal and perfidious bark,
  Built in th'eclipse, and rigg'd with curses dark,

and was overtaken by the storm in which he perished. Three days after,
Trelawny rode to Pisa, and told Byron of his fears, when the poet's lips
quivered, and his voice faltered. On the 22nd of July the bodies of
Shelley, Williams, and Vivian, were cast ashore. On the 16th August, Hunt,
Byron, and Trelawny were present at the terribly weird cremation, which
they have all described. At a later date, the two former were seized with
a fit of delirium which is one of the phases of the tension of grief.
Byron's references to the event are expressions less of the loss which he
indubitably felt, than of his indignation at the "world's wrong." "Thus,"
he writes, "there is 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." Towards the end of the
same letter the spirit of his dead friend seems to inspire the sentence
--"With these things and these fellows it is necessary, in the present
clash of philosophy and tyranny, to throw away the scabbard. I know it is
against fearful odds, but the battle must be fought."

Meanwhile, shortly after the new settlement at the Lanfranchi, the
preparations for issuing the _Liberal_, edited by Leigh Hunt in Italy, and
published by John Hunt in London, progressed. The first number, which
appeared in September, was introduced, after a few words of preface, by
the _Vision of Judgment_, with the signature Quevedo Redivivus, and
adorned by Shelley's translation of the "May-Day Night," in _Faust_. It
contained besides, the _Letter to the Editor of my Grandmother's Review_,
an indifferent Florentine story, a German apologue, and a gossiping
account of Pisa, presumably by Hunt. Three others followed, containing
Byron's _Heaven and Earth_, his translation of the _Morgante Maggiore_,
and _The Blues_--a very slight, if not silly, satire on literary ladies;
some of Shelley's posthumous minor poems, among them "I arise from dreams
of thee," and a few of Hazlitt's essays, including, however, none of his
best. Leigh Hunt himself wrote most of the rest, one of his contributions
being a palpable imitation of _Don Juan_, entitled the _Book of
Beginnings_, but he confesses that owing to his weak health and low
spirits at the time, none of these did justice to his ability; and the
general manner of the magazine being insufficiently vigorous to carry off
the frequent eccentricity of its matter, the prejudices against it
prevailed, and the enterprise came to an end. Partners in failing concerns
are apt to dispute; in this instance the unpleasantness which arose at the
time rankled in the mind of the survivor, and gave rise to his singularly
tasteless and injudicious book--a performance which can be only in part
condoned by the fact of Hunt's afterwards expressing regret, and
practically withdrawing it. He represents himself throughout as a
much-injured man, lured to Italy by misrepresentations, that he might give
the aid of his journalistic experience and undeniable talents to the
advancement of a mercenary enterprise, and that when it failed he was
despised, insulted, and rejected. Byron, on the other hand, declares, "The
Hunts pressed me to engage in this work, and in an evil hour I consented;"
and his subsequent action in the matter, if not always gentle never
unjust, goes to verify his statements in the letters of the period. "I am
afraid," he writes from Genoa, Oct. 9, 1822, "the journal is a bad
business. I have done all I can for Leigh Hunt since he came here; but it
is almost useless. His wife is ill, his six children not very tractable,
and in the affairs of this world he himself is a child." Later he says to
Murray, "You and your friends, by your injudicious rudeness, cement a
connexion which you strove to prevent, and which, had the Hunts prospered,
would not in all probability have continued. As it is ... I can't leave
them among the breakers." On February 20th we have, his last word on the
subject, to the same effect.

In the following sentences, Moore seems to give a fair statement of the
motives which led to the establishment of the unfortunate journal--"The
chief inducements on the part of Lord Byron to this unworthy alliance
were, in the first place, a wish to second the kind views of his friend
Shelley in inviting Mr. Hunt to Italy; and in the next, a desire to avail
himself of the aid of one so experienced as an editor in the favourite
object he has so long contemplated of a periodical work in which all the
offspring of his genius might be received as they sprung to light." For
the accomplishment of this purpose Mr. Leigh Hunt was a singularly
ill-chosen associate. A man of Radical opinions on all matters, not only
of religion but of society--opinions which he acquired and held easily but
firmly--could never recognize the propriety of the claim to deference
which "the noble poet" was always too eager to assert, and was inclined to
take liberties which his patron perhaps superciliously repelled. Mrs. Hunt
does not seem to have been a very judicious person. "Trelawny here," said
Byron jocularly, "has been speaking against my morals." "It is the first
time I ever heard of them," she replied. Mr. Hunt, by his own admission,
had "peculiar notions on the subject of money." Byron, on his part, was
determined not to be "put upon," and doled out through his steward stated
allowances to Hunt, who says that only "stern necessity and a large
family" induced him to accept them. Hunt's expression that the 200_l_.
was, _in the first instance_, a debt to Shelley, points to the conclusion
that it was remitted on that poet's death. Besides this, Byron maintained
the family till they left Genoa for Florence in 1823, and defrayed up to
that date all their expenses. He gave his contributions to the _Liberal_
gratis; and, again by Hunt's own confession, left to him and his brother
the profits of the proprietorship. According to Mr. Galt "The whole extent
of the pecuniary obligation appears not to have exceeded 500 _l_.; but,
little or great, the manner in which it was recollected reflects no credit
either on the head or heart of the debtor."

Of the weaknesses on which the writer--bent on verifying Pope's lines on
Atossa--from his vantage in the ground-floor, was enabled to dilate, many
are but slightly magnified. We are told for instance, in very many words,
that Byron clung to the privileges of his rank while wishing to seem above
them; that he had a small library, and was a one-sided critic; that Bayle
and Gibbon supplied him with the learning he had left at school; that,
being a good rider with a graceful seat, he liked to be told of it; that
he showed letters he ought not to have shown; that he pretended to think
worse of Wordsworth than he did; that he knew little of art or music,
adored Rossini, and called Rubens a dauber; that, though he wrote _Don
Juan_ under gin and water, he had not a strong head, &c., &c. It is true,
but not new. But when Hunt proceeds to say that Byron had no sentiment;
that La Guiccioli did not really care much about him; that he admired
Gifford because he was a sycophant, and Scott because he loved a lord;
that he had no heart for anything except a feverish notoriety; that he was
a miser from his birth, and had "as little regard for liberty as
Allieri,"--it is new enough, but it is manifestly not true. Hunt's book,
which begins with a caricature on the frontispiece, and is inspired in the
main by uncharitableness, yet contains here and there gleams of a deeper
insight than we find in all the volumes of Moore--an insight, which, in
spite of his irritated egotism, is the mark of a man with the instincts of
a poet, with some cosmopolitan sympathies, and a courage on occasion to
avow them at any risk. "Lord Byron," he says truly, "has been too much
admired by the English because he was sulky and wilful, and reflected in
his own person their love of dictation and excitement. They owe his memory
a greater regard, and would do it much greater honour if they admired him
for letting them know they were not so perfect a nation as they supposed
themselves, and that they might take as well as give lessons of humanity,
by a candid comparison of notes with civilization at large."

In July, when at Leghorn, the Gambas received orders to leave Tuscany; and
on his return to Pisa, Byron, being persecuted by the police, began to
prepare for another change. After entertaining projects about Greece,
America, and Switzerland--Trelawny undertaking to have the "Bolivar"
conveyed over the Alps to the Lake of Geneva--he decided on following his
friends to Genoa. He left in September with La Guiccioli, passed by Lerici
and Sestri, and then for the ten remaining mouths of his Italian life took
up his quarters at Albaro, about a mile to the east of the city, in the
Villa Saluzzo, which Mrs. Shelley had procured for him and his party. She
herself settled with the Hunts--who travelled about the same time, at
Byron's expense, but in their own company--in the neighbouring Casa
Negroto. Not far off, Mr. Savage Landor was in possession of the Casa
Pallavicini, but there was little intercourse between the three. Landor
and Byron, in many respects more akin than any other two Englishmen of
their age, were always separated by an unhappy bar or intervening mist.
The only family with whom the poet maintained any degree of intimacy was
that of the Earl of Blessington, consisting of the Earl himself--a gouty
old gentleman, with stories about him of the past--the Countess, and her
sister, Miss Power, and the "cupidon déchaîné," the Anglo-French Count
Alfred d'Orsay--who were to take part in stories of the future. In the
spring of 1823, Byron persuaded them to occupy the Villa Paradiso, and was
accustomed to accompany them frequently on horseback excursions along the
coast to their favourite Nervi. It has been said that Lady Blessington's
_Conversations with Lord Byron_ are, as regards trustworthiness, on a par
with Landor's _Imaginary Conversations_. Let this be so, they are still of
interest on points of fact which it must have been easier to record than
to imagine. However adorned, or the reverse, by the fancies of a habitual
novelist, they convey the impressions of a goodhumoured, lively, and
fascinating woman, derived from a more or less intimate association with
the most brilliant man of the age. Of his personal appearance--a matter of
which she was a good judge--we have the following: "One of Byron's eyes
was larger than the other; his nose was rather thick, so he was best seen
in profile; his mouth was splendid, and his scornful expression was real,
not affected; but a sweet smile often broke through his melancholy. He was
at this time very pale and thin (which indicates the success of his
regimen of reduction since leaving Venice). His hair was dark brown, here
and there turning grey. His voice was harmonious, clear and low. There is
some gaucherie in his walk, from his attempts to conceal his lameness.
Ada's portrait is like him, and he is pleased at the likeness, but hoped
she would not turn out to be clever--at any events not poetical. He is
fond of gossip, and apt to speak slightingly of some of his friends, but
is loyal to others. His great defect is flippancy, and a total want of
self-possession." The narrator also dwells on his horror of interviewers,
by whom at this time he was even more than usually beset. One visitor of
the period ingenuously observes--"Certain persons will be chagrined to
hear that Byron's mode of life does not furnish the smallest food for
calumny." Another says, "I never saw a countenance more composed and
still--I might even add, more sweet and prepossessing. But his temper was
easily ruffled and for a whole day; he could not endure the ringing of
bells, bribed his neighbours to repress their noises, and failing,
retaliated by surpassing them; he never forgave Colonel Carr for breaking
one of his dog's ribs, though he generally forgave injuries without
forgetting them. He had a bad opinion of the inertness of the Genoese; for
whatever he himself did he did with a will--'toto se corpore miscuit,' and
was wont to assume a sort of dictatorial tone--as if 'I have said it, and
it must be so' were enough."

From these waifs and strays of gossip we return to a subject of deeper
interest. The Countess of Blessington, with natural curiosity, was anxious
to elicit from Byron some light on the mystery of his domestic affairs,
and renewed the attempt previously made by Madame de Staël, to induce him
to some movement towards a reconciliation with his wife. His reply to this
overture was to show her a letter which he had written to Lady Byron from
Pisa, but never forwarded, of the tone of which the following extracts
must be a sufficient indication:--"I have to acknowledge the receipt of
Ada's hair.... I also thank you for the inscription of the date and name;
and I will tell you why. I believe they are the only two or three words of
your hand-writing in my possession, for your letters I returned, and
except the two words--or rather the one word 'household' written twice--in
an old account book, I have no other. Every day which keeps us asunder
should, after so long a period, rather soften our mutual feelings, which
must always have one rallying-point as long as our child exists. We both
made a bitter mistake, but now it is over, I considered our re-union as
not impossible for more than a year after the separation, but then I gave
up the hope. I am violent, but not malignant; for only fresh provocations
can awaken my resentment. Remember that if you have injured me in aught,
this forgiveness is something, and that if I have injured you, it is
something more still, if it be true, as moralists assert, that the most
offending are the least forgiving." "It is a strange business," says the
Countess, about Lady Byron. "When he was praising her mental and personal
qualifications, I asked him how all that he now said agreed with certain
sarcasms supposed to be a reference to her in his works. He smiled, shook
his head, and said, they were meant to spite and vex her, when he was
wounded and irritated at her refusing to receive or answer his letters;
that he was sorry he had written them, but might on similar provocations
recur to the same vengeance." On another occasion he said, "Lady B.'s
first idea is what is due to herself. I wish she thought a little more of
what is due to others. My besetting sin is a want of that self-respect
which she has in excess. When I have broken out, on slight provocation,
into one of my ungovernable fits of rage, her calmness piqued and seemed
to reproach me; it gave her an air of superiority that vexed and increased
my _mauvaise humeur_." To Lady Blessington as to every one, he always
spoke of Mrs. Leigh with the same unwavering admiration, love, and

"My first impressions were melancholy--my poor mother gave them: but to my
sister, who, incapable of wrong herself, suspected no wrong in others, I
owe the little good of which I can boast: and had I earlier known her it
might have influenced my destiny. Augusta was to me in the hour of need a
tower of strength. Her affection was my last rallying-point, and is now
the only bright spot that the horizon of England offers to my view. She
has given me such good advice--and yet finding me incapable of following
it, loved and pitied me but the more because I was erring." Similarly, in
the height of his spleen, writes Leigh Hunt--"I believe there did exist
one person to whom he would have been generous, if she pleased: perhaps
was so. At all events, he left her the bulk of his property, and always
spoke of her with the greatest esteem. This was his sister, Mrs. Leigh. He
told me she used to call him 'Baby Byron.' It was easy to see that of the
two persons she had by far the greater judgment."

Byron having laid aside _Don Juan_ for more than a year, in deference to
La Guiccioli, was permitted to resume it again, in July, 1822, on a
promise to observe the proprieties. Cantos vi.-xi. were written at Pisa.
Cantos xii.-xvi. at Genoa, in 1823. These latter portions of the poem were
published by John Hunt. His other works of the period are of minor
consequence. The _Age of Bronze_ is a declamation, rather than a satire,
directed against the Convention of Cintra and the Congress of Verona,
especially Lord Londonderry's part in the latter, only remarkable, from
its advice to the Greeks, to dread--

  The false friend worse than the infuriate foe;

i.e. to prefer the claw of the Tartar savage to the paternal hug of the
great Bear--

  Better still toil for masters, than await,
  The slave of slaves, before a Russian gate.

In the _Island_--a tale of the mutiny of the "Bounty"--he reverts to the
manner and theme of his old romances, finding a new scene in the Pacific
for the exercise of his fancy. In this piece his love of nautical
adventure reappears, and his idealization of primitive life, caught from
Rousseau and Chateaubriand. There is more repose about this poem than in
any of the author's other compositions. In its pages the sea seems to
plash about rocks and caves that bask under a southern sun. "'Byron, the
sorcerer,' he can do with me what he will," said old Dr. Parr, on reading
it. As the swan-song of the poet's sentimental verse, it has a pleasing if
not pathetic calm. During the last years in Italy he planned an epic on
the Conquest, and a play on the subject of Hannibal, neither of which was

In the criticism of a famous work there is often little left to do but to
criticise the critics--to bring to a focus the most salient things that
have been said about it, to eliminate the absurd from the sensible, the
discriminating from the commonplace. _Don Juan_, more than any of its
precursors, _is_ Byron, and it has been similarly handled. The early
cantos were ushered into the world amid a chorus of mingled applause and
execration. The minor Reviews, representing middle-class respectability,
were generally vituperative, and the higher authorities divided in their
judgments. The _British Magazine_ said that "his lordship had degraded his
personal character by the composition;" the _London_, that the poem was "a
satire on decency;" the _Edinburgh Monthly_, that it was "a melancholy
spectacle;" the _Eclectic_, that it was "an outrage worthy of
detestation." _Blackwood_ declared that the author was "brutally outraging
all the best feelings of humanity." Moore characterizes it as "the most
painful display of the versatility of genius that has ever been left for
succeeding ages to wonder at or deplore." Jeffrey found in the whole
composition "a tendency to destroy all belief in the reality of virtue;"
and Dr. John Watkins classically named it "the Odyssey of Immorality."
"_Don Juan_ will be read," wrote one critic, "as long as satire, wit,
mirth, and supreme excellence shall be esteemed among men." "Stick to _Don
Juan_," exhorted another; "it is the only sincere thing you have written,
and it will live after all your _Harolds_ have ceased to be 'a
schoolgirl's tale, the wonder of an hour.' It is the best of all your
works--the most spirited, the most straightforward, the most interesting,
the most poetical." "It is a work," said Goethe, "full of soul, bitterly
savage in its misanthropy, exquisitely delicate in its tenderness."
Shelley confessed, "It fulfils in a certain degree what I have long
preached, the task of producing something wholly new and relative to the
age, and yet surpassingly beautiful." And Sir Walter Scott, in the midst
of a hearty panegyric: "It has the variety of Shakespeare himself. Neither
_Childe Harold_, nor the most beautiful of Byron's earlier tales, contain
more exquisite poetry than is to be found scattered through the cantos of
_Don Juan_, amidst verses which the author seems to have thrown from him
with an effort as spontaneous as that of a tree resigning its leaves."

One noticeable feature about these comments is their sincerity: reviewing,
however occasionally one-sided, had not then sunk to be the mere register
of adverse or friendly cliques; and, with all his anxiety for its verdict,
Byron never solicited the favour of any portion of the press. Another is,
the fact that the adverse critics missed their mark. They had not learnt
to say of a book of which they disapproved, that it was weak or dull: in
pronouncing it to be vicious, they helped to promote its sale; and the
most decried has been the most widely read of the author's works. Many of
the readers of _Don Juan_ have, it must be confessed, been found among
those least likely to admire in it what is most admirable--who have been
attracted by the very excesses of buffoonery, violations of good taste,
and occasionally almost vulgar slang, which disfigure its pages. Their
patronage is, at the best, of no more value than that of a mob gathered by
a showy Shakespearian revival, and it has laid the volume open to the
charge of being adapted "laudari ab illaudatis." But the welcome of the
work in other quarters is as indubitably duo to higher qualities. In
writing _Don Juan_, Byron attempted something that had never been done
before, and his genius so chimed with his enterprise that it need never be
done again. "Down," cries M. Chasles, "with the imitators who did their
host to make his name ridiculous." In commenting on their failure, an
Athenaeum critic has explained the pre-established fitness of the ottava
rima--the first six lines of which are a dance, and the concluding couplet
a "breakdown"--for the mock-heroic. Byron's choice of this measure may
have been suggested by Whistlecraft; but, he had studied its cadence in
Pulci, and the _Novelle Galanti_ of Casti, to whom he is indebted for
other features of his satire; and he added to what has been well termed
its characteristic jauntiness, by his almost constant use of the double
rhyme. That the ottava rima is out of place in consistently pathetic
poetry, may be seen from its obvious misuse in Keats's _Pot of Basil_.
Many writers, from Tennant and Frere to Moultrie, have employed it in
burlesque or more society verse; but Byron alone has employed it
triumphantly, for he has made it the vehicle of thoughts grave as well as
gay, of "black spirits and white, red spirits and grey," of sparkling
fancy, bitter sarcasm, and tender memories. He has swept into the pages of
his poem the experience of thirty years of a life so crowded with vitality
that our sense of the plethora of power which it exhibits makes us ready
to condone its lapses. Byron, it has been said, balances himself on a
ladder like other acrobats; but alone, like the Japanese master of the
art, he all the while bears on his shoulders the weight of a man. Much of
_Don Juan_ is as obnoxious to criticism in detail as his earlier work; it
has every mark of being written in hot haste. In the midst of the most
serious passages (e.g. the "Ave Maria") we are checked in our course by
bathos or commonplace and thrown where the writer did not mean to throw
us: but the mocking spirit is so prevailingly present that we are often
left in doubt as to his design, and what is in _Harold_ an outrage is in
this case only a flaw. His command over the verse itself is almost
miraculous: he glides from extreme to extreme, from punning to pathos,
from melancholy to mad merriment, sighing or laughing by the way at his
readers or at himself or at the stanzas. Into them he can fling anything
under the sun, from a doctor's prescription to a metaphysical theory.

  When Bishop Berkeley said there was no matter,
  And proved it, 'twas no matter what he said,

is as cogent a refutation of idealism as the cumbrous wit of Scotch

The popularity of the work is due not mainly to the verbal skill which
makes it rank as the _cleverest_ of English verse compositions, to its
shoals of witticisms, its winged words, telling phrases, and incomparable
transitions; but to the fact that it continues to address a large class
who are not in the ordinary sense of the word lovers of poetry. _Don Juan_
is emphatically the poem of intelligent men of middle age, who have grown
weary of mere sentiment, and yet retain enough of sympathetic feeling to
desire at times to recall it. Such minds, crusted like Plato's Glaucus
with the world, are yet pervious to appeals to the spirit that survives
beneath the dry dust amid which they move; but only at rare intervals can
they accompany the pure lyrist "singing as if he would never be old," and
they are apt to turn with some impatience even from _Romeo and Juliet_ to
_Hamlet_ and _Macbeth_. To them, on the other hand, the hard wit of
_Hudibras_ is equally tiresome, and more distasteful; their chosen friend
is the humourist who, inspired by a subtle perception of the
contradictions of life, sees matter for smiles in sorrow, and tears in
laughter. Byron was not, in the highest sense, a great humourist; he does
not blend together the two phases, as they are blended in single sentences
or whole chapters of Sterne, in the April-sunshine of Richter, or in
_Sartor Resartus_; but he comes near to produce the same effect by his
unequalled power of alternating them. His wit is seldom hard, never dry,
for it is moistened by the constant juxtaposition of sentiment. His
tenderness is none the less genuine that he is perpetually jerking it
away--an equally favourite fashion with Carlyle,--as if he could not trust
himself to be serious for fear of becoming sentimental; and, in
recollection of his frequent exhibitions of unaffected hysteria, we accept
his own confession--

               If I laugh at any mortal thing,
               'Tis that I may not weep,

as a perfectly sincere comment on the most sincere, and therefore in many
respects the most effective, of his works. He has, after his way,
endeavoured in grave prose and light verse to defend it against its
assailants; saying, "In _Don Juan_ I take a vicious and unprincipled
character, and lead him through those ranks of society whose
accomplishments cover and cloak their vices, and paint the natural
effects;" and elsewhere, that he means to make his scamp "end as a member
of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, or by the guillotine, or in an
unhappy marriage." It were easy to dilate on the fact that in interpreting
the phrases of the satirist into the language of the moralist we often
require to read them backwards: Byron's own statement, "I hate a motive,"
is, however, more to the point:

  But the fact is that I have nothing plann'd,
  Unless it were to be a moment merry--
  A novel word in my vocabulary.

_Don Juan_ can only be credited with a text in the sense in which every
large experience, of its own accord, conveys its lesson. It was to the
author a picture of the world as he saw it; and it is to us a mirror in
which every attribute of his genius, every peculiarity of his nature, is
reflected without distortion. After the audacious though brilliant
opening, and the unfortunately pungent reference to the poet's domestic
affairs, we find in the famous storm (c. ii.) a bewildering epitome of his
prevailing manner. Home-sickness, sea-sickness, the terror of the tempest,
"wailing, blasphemy, devotion," the crash of the wreck, the wild farewell,
"the bubbling cry of some strong swimmer in his agony," the horrors of
famine, the tale of the two fathers, the beautiful apparitions of the
rainbow and the bird, the feast on Juan's spaniel, his reluctance to dine
on "his pastor and his master," the consequences of eating Pedrillo,--all
follow each other like visions in the phantasmagoria of a nightmare, till
at last the remnant of the crew are drowned by a ridiculous rhyme--

  Finding no place for their landing better,
  They ran the boat ashore,--and overset her.

Then comes the episode of Haidee, "a long low island song of ancient
days," the character of the girl herself being like a thread of pure gold
running through the fabric of its surroundings, motley in every page;
e.g., after the impassioned close of the "Isles of Greece," we have the

  Thus sang, or would, or could, or should, have sung,
    The modern Greek, in tolerable verse;
  If not like Orpheus quite, when Greece was young,
    Yet in those days he might have done much worse--

with which the author dashes away the romance of the song, and then
launches into a tirade against Bob Southey's epic and Wordsworth's pedlar
poems. This vein exhausted, we come to the "Ave Maria," one of the most
musical, and seemingly heartfelt, hymns in the language. The close of the
ocean pastoral (in c. iv.) is the last of pathetic narrative in the book;
but the same feeling that "mourns o'er the beauty of the Cyclades," often
re-emerges in shorter passages. The fifth and sixth cantos, in spite of
the glittering sketch of Gulbeyaz, and tho fawn-like image of Dudù, are
open to the charge of diffuseness, and the character of Johnson is a
failure. From the seventh to the tenth, the poem decidedly dips, partly
because the writer had never been in Russia; then it again rises, and
shows no sign of falling off to the end.

No part of the work has more suggestive interest or varied power than some
of the later cantos, in which Juan is whirled through the vortex of the
fashionable life which Byron knew so well, loved so much, and at last
esteemed so little. There is no richer piece of descriptive writing in his
works than that of Newstead (in c. xiii.); nor is there any analysis of
female character so subtle as that of the Lady Adeline. Conjectures as to
the originals of imaginary portraits, are generally futile; but Miss
Millpond--not Donna Inez--is obviously Lady Byron; in Adeline we may
suspect that at Genoa he was drawing from the life in the Villa Paradiso;
while Aurora Raby seems to be an idealization of La Guiccioli:--

  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--us 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.

  She was a Catholic, too, sincere, austere,
    As far as her own gentle heart allow'd,
  And deem'd that fallen worship far more dear,
    Perhaps, because 'twas fallen:  her sires were proud
  Of deeds and days, when they had fill'd the ear
    Of nations, and had never bent or bow'd
  To novel power; and, as she was the last,
  She held her old faith and old feelings fast.

  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.

Constantly, towards the close of the work, there is an echo of home and
country, a half involuntary cry after--

  The love of higher things and better days;
    Th'unbounded hope, and heavenly ignorance
  Of what is call'd the world and the world's ways.

In the concluding stanza of the last completed canto, beginning--

  Between two worlds life hovers like a star,
    'Twixt night and morn, on the horizon's verge--

we have a condensation of the refrain of the poet's philosophy; but the
main drift of the later books is a satire on London society. There are
elements in a great city which may be wrought into something nobler than
satire, for all the energies of the age are concentrated where passion is
fiercest and thought intensest, amid the myriad sights and sounds of its
glare and gloom. But those scenes, and the actors in them, are apt also to
induce the frame of mind in which a prose satirist describes himself as
reclining under an arcade of the Pantheon: "Not the Pantheon by the Piazza
Navona, where the immortal gods were worshipped--the immortal gods now
dead; but the Pantheon in Oxford Street. Have not Selwyn, and Walpole, and
March, and Carlisle figured there? Has not Prince Florizel flounced
through the hall in his rustling domino, and danced there in powdered
splendour? O my companions, I have drunk many a bout with you, and always
found 'Vanitas Vanitatum' written on the bottom of the pot." This is the
mind in which _Don Juan_ interprets the universe, and paints the still
living court of Florizel and his buffoons. A "nondescript and ever varying
rhyme"--"a versified aurora borealis," half cynical, half Epicurean, it
takes a partial though a subtle view of that microcosm on stilts called
the great world. It complains that in the days of old "men made the
manners--manners now make men." It concludes--

  Good company's a chess-board, there are kings,
  Queens, bishops, knights, rooks, pawns; the world's a game.

It passes from a reflection on "the dreary _fuimus_ of all things here" to
the advice--

  But "carpe diem," Juan, "carpe, carpe!"
    To-morrow sees another race as gay
  And transient, and devour'd by the same harpy.
    "Life's a poor player,"--then play out the play.

It was the natural conclusion of the foregone stage of Byron's career.
Years had given him power, but they were years in which his energies were
largely wasted. Self-indulgence had not petrified his feeling, but it had
thrown wormwood into its springs. He had learnt to look on existence as a
walking shadow, and was strong only with the strength of a sincere

  Through life's road, so dim and dirty,
  I have dragg'd to three and thirty.
  What have those years left to me?
  Nothing, except thirty-three.

These lines are the summary of one who had drained the draught of pleasure
to the dregs of bitterness.




In leaving Venice for Ravenna, Byron passed from the society of gondoliers
and successive sultanas to a comparatively domestic life, with a mistress
who at least endeavoured to stimulate some of his higher aspirations, and
smiled upon his wearing the sword along with the lyre. In the last episode
of his constantly chequered and too voluptuous career, we have the waking
of Sardanapalus realized in the transmutation of the fantastical Harold
into a practical strategist, financier, and soldier. No one ever lived
who, in the same space, more thoroughly ran the gauntlet of existence.
Having exhausted all other sources of vitality and intoxication--travel,
gallantry, and verse--it remained for the despairing poet to become a
hero. But he was also moved by a public passion, the genuineness of which
there is no reasonable ground to doubt. Like Alfieri and Rousseau, he had
taken for his motto, "I am of the opposition;" and, as Dante under a
republic called for a monarchy, Byron, under monarchies at home and
abroad, called for a commonwealth. Amid the inconsistencies of his
political sentiment, he had been consistent in so much love of liberty as
led him to denounce oppression, even when he had no great faith in the
oppressed--whether English, or Italians, or Greeks.

Byron regarded the established dynasties of the continent with a sincere
hatred. He talks of the "more than infernal tyranny" of the House of
Austria. To his fancy, as to Shelley's, New England is the star of the
future. Attracted by a strength or rather force of character akin to his
own, he worshipped Napoleon, even when driven to confess that "the hero
had sunk into a king." He lamented his overthrow; but, above all, that he
was beaten by "three stupid, legitimate old dynasty boobies of regular
sovereigns." "I write in ipecacuanha that the Bourbons are restored."
"What right have we to prescribe laws to France? Here we are retrograding
to the dull, stupid old system, balance of Europe--poising straws on
kings' noses, instead of wringing them off." "The king-times are fast
finishing. There will be blood shed like water, and tears like mist; but
the peoples will conquer in the end. I shall not live to see it, but I
foresee it." "Give me a republic. Look in the history of the earth--Rome,
Greece, Venice, Holland, France, America, our too short Commonwealth--and
compare it with what they did under masters."

His serious political verses are all in the strain of the lines on

  Never had mortal man such opportunity--
    Except Napoleon--or abused it more;
  You might have freed fallen Europe from the unity
    Of tyrants, and been blessed from shore to shore.

An enthusiasm for Italy, which survived many disappointments, dictated
some of the most impressive passages of his _Harold_, and inspired the
_Lament of Tasso_ and the _Ode on Venice_. The _Prophecy of Dante_
contains much that has since proved prophetic--

  What is there wanting, then, to set thee free,
  And show thy beauty in its fullest light?
  To make the Alps impassable; and we,
  Her sons, may do this with one deed--_Unite_!

His letters reiterate the same idea, in language even more emphatic. "It
is no great matter, supposing that Italy could be liberated, who or what
is sacrificed. It is a grand object--the very poetry of politics; only
think--a free Italy!" Byron acted on his assertion that a man ought to do
more for society than write verses. Mistrusting its leaders, and detesting
the wretched lazzaroni, who "would have betrayed themselves and all the
world," he yet threw himself heart and soul into the insurrection of 1820,
saying, "Whatever I can do by money, means, or person, I will venture
freely for their freedom." He joined the secret society of the Carbonari,
wrote an address to the Liberal government set up in Naples, supplied arms
and a refuge in his house, which he was prepared to convert into a
fortress. In February, 1821, on the rout of the Neapolitans by the
Austrians, the conspiracy was crushed. Byron, who "had always an idea that
it would be bungled," expressed his fear that the country would be thrown
back for 500 years into barbarism, and the Countess Guiccioli confessed
with tears that the Italians must return to composing and strumming
operatic airs. Carbonarism having collapsed, it of course made way for a
reaction; but the encouragement and countenance of the English poet and
peer helped to keep alive the smouldering fire that Mazzini fanned into a
flame, till Cavour turned it to a practical purpose, and the dreams of the
idealists of 1820 were finally realized.

On the failure of the luckless conspiracy, Byron naturally betook himself
to history, speculation, satire, and ideas of a journalistic propaganda;
but all through, his mind was turning to the renewal of the action which
was his destiny. "If I live ten years longer," he writes in 1822, "you
will see that it is not all over with me. I don't mean in literature, for
that is nothing--and I do not think it was my vocation; but I shall do
something." The Greek war of liberation opened a new field for the
exercise of his indomitable energy. This romantic struggle, begun in
April, 1821, was carried on for two years with such remarkable success,
that at the close of 1822 Greece was beginning to be recognized as an
independent state; but in the following months the tide seemed to turn;
dissensions broke out among the leaders, the spirit of intrigue seemed to
stifle patriotism, and the energies of the insurgents were hampered for
want of the sinews of war. There was a danger of the movement being
starved out, and the committee of London sympathizers--of which the poet's
intimate friend and frequent correspondent, Mr. Douglas Kinnaird, and
Captain Blaquière, were leading promoters--was impressed with the
necessity of procuring funds in support of the cause. With a view to this
it seemed of consequence to attach to it some shining name, and men's
thoughts almost inevitably turned to Byron. No other Englishman seemed so
fit to be associated with the enterprise as the warlike poet, who had
twelve years before linked his fame to that of "grey Marathon" and
"Athena's tower," and, more recently immortalized the isles on which he
cast so many a longing glance. Hobhouse broke the subject to him early in
the spring of 1823: the committee opened communications in April. After
hesitating through May, in June Byron consented to meet Blaquière at
Zante, and, on hearing the results of the captain's expedition to the
Morea, to decide on future steps. His share in this enterprise has been
assigned to purely personal and comparatively mean motives. He was, it is
said, disgusted with his periodical, sick of his editor, tired of his
mistress, and bent on any change, from China to Peru, that would give him
a new theatre for display. One grows weary of the perpetual half-truths of
inveterate detraction. It is granted that Byron was restless, vain,
imperious, never did anything without a desire to shine in the doing of
it, and was to a great degree the slave of circumstances. Had the
_Liberal_ proved a lamp to the nations, instead of a mere "red flag
flaunted in the face of John Bull," he might have cast anchor at Genoa;
but the whole drift of his work and life demonstrates that he was capable
on occasion of merging himself in what he conceived to be great causes,
especially in their evil days. Of the Hunts he may have had enough; but
the invidious statement about La Guiccioli has no foundation, other than a
somewhat random remark of Shelley, and the fact that he left her nothing
in his will. It is distinctly ascertained that she expressly prohibited
him from doing so; they continued to correspond to the last, and her
affectionate, though unreadable, reminiscences, are sufficient proof that
she at no time considered herself to be neglected, injured, or aggrieved.

Byron indeed left Italy in an unsettled state of mind: he spoke of
returning in a few months, and as the period for his departure approached,
became more and more irresolute. A presentiment of his death seemed to
brood over a mind always superstitious, though never fanatical. Shortly
before his own departure, the Blessingtons were preparing to leave Genoa
for England. On the evening of his farewell call he began to speak of his
voyage with despondency, saying, "Here we are all now together; but when
and where shall we meet again? I have a sort of boding that we see each
other for the last time, as something tells me I shall never again return
from Greece:" after which remark he leant his head on the sofa, and burst
into one of his hysterical fits of tears. The next week was given to
preparations for an expedition, which, entered on with mingled
motives--sentimental, personal, public--became more real and earnest to
Byron at every step he took. He knew all the vices of the "hereditary
bondsmen" among whom he was going, and went among them, with yet
unquenched aspirations, but with the bridle of discipline in his hand,
resolved to pave the way towards the nation becoming better, by devoting
himself to making it free.

On the morning of July 14th (1823) he embarked in the brig "Hercules,"
with Trelawny, Count Pietro Gamba, who remained with him to the last,
Bruno a young Italian doctor, Scott the captain of the vessel, and eight
servants, including Fletcher, besides the crew. They had on board two
guns, with other arms and ammunition, five horses, an ample supply of
medicines, with 50,000 Spanish dollars in coin and bills. The start was
inauspicious. A violent squall drove them back to port, and in the course
of a last ride with Gamba to Albaro, Byron asked, "Where shall we be in a
year?" On the same day of the same month of 1824 he was carried to the
tomb of his ancestors. They again set sail on the following evening, and
in five days reached Leghorn, where the poet received a salutation in
verse, addressed to him by Goethe, and replied to it. Here Mr. Hamilton
Brown, a Scotch gentleman with considerable knowledge of Greek affairs,
joined the party, and induced them to change their course to Cephalonia,
for the purpose of obtaining the advice and assistance of the English
resident, Colonel Napier. The poet occupied himself during the voyage
mainly in reading--among other books, Scott's _Life of Swift_, Grimm's
_Correspondence_, La Rochefoucauld, and Las Casas--and watching the
classic or historic shores which they skirted, especially noting Elba,
Soracte, the Straits of Messina, and Etna. In passing Stromboli he said to
Trelawny, "You will see this scene in a fifth canto of _Childe Harold_."
On his companions suggesting that he should write some verses on the spot,
he tried to do so, but threw them away, with the remark, "I cannot write
poetry at will, as you smoke tobacco." Trelawny confesses that he was
never on shipboard with a better companion, and that a severer test of
good fellowship it is impossible to apply. Together they shot at gulls or
empty bottles, and swam every morning in the sea. Early in August they
reached their destination. Coming in sight of the Morea, the poet said to
Trelawny, "I feel as if the eleven long years of bitterness I have passed
through, since I was here, were taken from my shoulders, and I was
scudding through the Greek Archipelago with old Bathurst in his frigate."
Byron remained at or about Cephalonia till the close of the year. Not long
after his arrival he made an excursion to Ithaca, and, visiting the
monastery at Vathi, was received by the abbot with great ceremony, which,
in a fit of irritation, brought on by a tiresome ride on a mule, he
returned with unusual discourtesy; but next morning, on his giving a
donation to their alms-box, he was dismissed with the blessing of the
monks. "If this isle were mine," he declared on his way back, "I would
break my staff and bury my book." A little later, Brown and Trelawny being
sent off with letters to the provisional government, the former returned
with some Greek emissaries to London, to negotiate a loan; the latter
attached himself to Odysseus, the chief of the republican party at Athens,
and never again saw Byron alive. The poet, after spending a month on board
the "Hercules," dismissed the vessel, and hired a house for Gamba and
himself at Metaxata, a healthy village about four miles from the capital
of the island. Meanwhile, Blaquière, neglecting his appointment at Zante,
had gone to Corfu, and thence to England. Colonel Napier being absent from
Cephalonia, Byron had some pleasant social intercourse with his deputy,
but, unable to get from him any authoritative information, was left
without advice, to be besieged by letters and messages from the factions.
Among these there were brought to him hints that the Greeks wanted a king,
and he is reported to have said, "If they make me the offer, I will
perhaps not reject it."

The position would doubtless have been acceptable to a man who never--amid
his many self-deceptions--affected to deny that he was ambitious: and who
can say what might not have resulted for Greece, had the poet lived to add
lustre to her crown? In the meantime, while faring more frugally than a
day-labourer, he yet surrounded himself with a show of royal state, had
his servants armed with gilt helmets, and gathered around him a body-guard
of Suliotes. These wild mercenaries becoming turbulent, he was obliged to
despatch them to Mesolonghi, then threatened with siege by the Turks and
anxiously waiting relief. During his residence at Cephalonia, Byron was
gratified by the interest evinced in him by the English residents. Among
these the physician, Dr. Kennedy, a worthy Scotchman, who imagined himself
to be a theologian with a genius for conversion, was conducting a series
of religious meetings at Argostoli, when the poet expressed a wish to be
present at one of them. After listening, it is said, to a set of
discourses that occupied the greater part of twelve hours, he seems, for
one reason or another, to have felt called on to enter the lists, and
found himself involved in the series of controversial dialogues afterwards
published in a substantial book. This volume, interesting in several
respects, is one of the most charming examples of unconscious irony in the
language, and it is matter of regret that our space does not admit of the
abridgment of several of its pages. They bear testimony, on the one hand,
to Byron's capability of patience, and frequent sweetness of temper under
trial; on the other, to Kennedy's utter want of humour, and to his
courageous honesty. The curiously confronted interlocutors, in the course
of the missionary and subsequent private meetings, ran over most of the
ground debated between opponents and apologists of the Calvinistic faith,
which Kennedy upheld without stint. The _Conversations_ add little to what
we already know of Byron's religious opinions; nor is it easy to say where
he ceases to be serious and begins to banter, or vice versa. He evidently
wished to show that in argument he was good at fence, and could handle a
theologian as skilfully as a foil. At the same time he wished if possible,
though, as appears, in vain, to get some light on a subject with regard to
which in his graver moods he was often exercised. On some points he is
explicit. He makes an unequivocal protest against the doctrines of eternal
punishment and infant damnation, saying that if the rest of mankind were
to be damned, he "would rather keep them company than creep into heaven
alone." On questions of inspiration, and the deeper problems of human
life, he is less distinct, being naturally inclined to a speculative
necessitarianism, and disposed to admit original depravity; but he did not
see his way out of the maze through the Atonement, and held that prayer
had only significance as a devotional affection of the heart. Byron showed
a remarkable familiarity with the Scriptures, and with parts of Barrow,
Chillingworth, and Stillingfleet; but on Kennedy's lending for his
edification Boston's _Fourfold State_, he returned it with the remark that
it was too deep for him. On another occasion he said, "Do you know I am
nearly reconciled to St. Paul, for he says there is no difference between
the Jews and the Greeks? and I am exactly of the same opinion, for the
character of both is equally vile." The good Scotchman's religious
self-confidence is throughout free from intellectual pride; and his own
confession, "This time I suspect his lordship had the best of it," might
perhaps be applied to the whole discussion.

Critics who have little history and less war have been accustomed to
attribute Byron's lingering at Cephalonia to indolence and indecision;
they write as if he ought on landing on Greek soil to have put himself at
the head of an army and stormed Constantinople. Those who know more,
confess that the delay was deliberate, and that it was judicious. The
Hellenic uprising was animated by the spirit of a "lion after slumber,"
but it had the heads of a Hydra hissing and tearing at one another. The
chiefs who defended the country by their arms, compromised her by their
arguments, and some of her best fighters were little better than pirates
and bandits. Greece was a prey to factions--republican, monarchic,
aristocratic--representing naval, military, and territorial interests, and
each beset by the adventurers who flock round every movement, only
representing their own. During the first two years of success they were
held in embryo; during the later years of disaster, terminated by the
allies at Navarino, they were buried; during the interlude of Byron's
residence, when the foes were like hounds in the leash, waiting for a
renewal of the struggle, they were rampant. Had he joined any one of them
he would have degraded himself to the level of a mere condottiere, and
helped to betray the common cause. Beset by solicitations to go to Athens,
to the Morea, to Acarnania, he resolutely held apart, biding his time,
collecting information, making himself known as a man of affairs,
endeavouring to conciliate rival clamants for pension or place, and
carefully watching the tide of war. Numerous anecdotes of the period
relate to acts of public or private benevolence, which endeared him to the
population of the island; but he was on the alert against being fleeced or
robbed. "The bulk of the English," writes Colonel Napier, "came expecting
to find the Peloponnesus filled with Plutarch's men, and returned thinking
the inhabitants of Newgate more moral. Lord Byron judged the Greeks
fairly, and knew that allowance must be made for emancipated slaves."
Among other incidents we hear of his passing a group, who were "shrieking
and howling as in Ireland" over some men buried in the fall of a bank; he
snatched a spade, began to dig, and threatened to horsewhip the peasants
unless they followed his example. On November 30th he despatched to the
central government a remarkable state paper, in which he dwells on the
fatal calamity of a civil war, and says that unless union and order are
established all hopes of a loan--which being every day more urgent, he was
in letters to England constantly pressing--are at an end. "I desire," he
concluded, "the well being of Greece, and nothing else. I will do all I
can to secure it; but I will never consent that the English public be
deceived as to the real state of affairs. You have fought gloriously; act
honourably towards your fellow-citizens and the world, and it will then no
more be said, as has been repeated for two thousand years, with the Roman
historians, that Philopoemen was the last of the Grecians."

Prince Alexander Mavrocordatos--the most prominent of the practical
patriotic leaders--having been deposed from the presidency, was sent to
regulate the affairs of Western Greece, and was now on his way with a
fleet to relieve Mesolonghi, in attempting which the brave Marco Bozzaris
had previously fallen. In a letter, opening communication with a man for
whom he always entertained a high esteem, Byron writes, "Colonel Stanhope
has arrived from London, charged by our committee to act in concert with
me.... Greece is at present placed between three measures--either to
reconquer her liberty, to become a dependence of the sovereigns of Europe,
or to return to a Turkish province. She has the choice only of these three
alternatives. Civil war is but a road that leads to the two latter."

At length the long looked-for fleet arrived, and the Turkish squadron,
with the loss of a treasure-ship, retired up the Gulf of Lepanto.
Mavrocordatos on entering Mesolonghi lost no time in inviting the poet to
join him, and placed a brig at his disposal, adding, "I need not tell you
to what a pitch your presence is desired by everybody, or what a
prosperous direction it will give to all our affairs. Your counsels will
be listened to like oracles."

At the same date Stanhope writes, "The people in the streets are looking
forward to his lordship's arrival as they would to the coming of the
Messiah." Byron was unable to start in the ship sent for him; but in spite
of medical warnings, a few days later, i.e. December 28th, he embarked in
a small fast-sailing sloop called a mistico, while the servants and
baggage were stowed in another and larger vessel under the charge of Count
Gamba. From Gamba's graphic account of the voyage we may take the
following:--"We sailed together till after ten at night; the wind
favourable, a clear sky, the air fresh, but not sharp. Our sailors sang
alternately patriotic songs, monotonous indeed, but to persons in our
situation extremely touching, and we took part in them. We were all, but
Lord Byron particularly, in excellent spirits. The mistico sailed the
fastest. When the waves divided us, and our voices could no longer reach
each other, we made signals by firing pistols and carbines. To-morrow we
meet at Mesolonghi--to morrow. Thus, full of confidence and spirits, we
sailed along. At twelve we were out of sight of each other."

Byron's vessel, separated from her consort, came into the close proximity
of a Turkish frigate, and had to take refuge among the Scrofes' rocks.
Emerging thence, he attained a small seaport of Acarnania, called
Dragomestri, whence sallying forth on the 2nd of January under the convoy
of some Greek gunboats, he was nearly wrecked. On the 4th Byron made, when
violently heated, an imprudent plunge in the sea, and was never afterwards
free from a pain in his bones. On the 5th he arrived at Mesolonghi, and
was received with salvoes of musketry and music. Gamba was waiting him.
His vessel, the "Bombarda," had been taken by the Ottoman frigate, but the
captain of the latter, recognizing the Count as having formerly saved his
life in the Black Sea, made interest in his behalf with Yussuf Pasha at
Patras, and obtained his discharge. In recompense, the poet subsequently
sent to the Pasha some Turkish prisoners, with a letter requesting him to
endeavour to mitigate the inhumanities of the war. Byron brought to the
Greeks at Mesolonghi the 4000_l_. of his personal loan (applied, in the
first place, to defraying the expenses of the fleet), with the spell of
his name and presence. He was shortly afterwards appointed to the command
of the intended expedition against Lepanto, and, with this view, again
took into his pay five hundred Suliotes. An approaching general assembly
to organize the forces of the west, had brought together a motley crew,
destitute, discontented, and more likely to wage war upon each other than
on their enemies. Byron's closest associates during the ensuing months,
were the engineer Parry, an energetic artilleryman, "extremely active, and
of strong practical talents," who had travelled in America, and Colonel
Stanhope (afterwards Lord Harrington) equally with himself devoted to the
emancipation of Greece, but at variance about the means of achieving it.
Stanhope, a moral enthusiast of the stamp of Kennedy, beset by the fallacy
of religious missions, wished to cover the Morea with Wesleyan tracts, and
liberate the country by the agency of the Press. He had imported a
converted blacksmith, with a cargo of Bibles, types, and paper, who on
20_l_. a year, undertook to accomplish the reform. Byron, backed by the
good sense of Mavrocordatos, proposed to make cartridges of the tracts,
and small shot of the type; he did not think that the turbulent tribes
were ripe for freedom of the press, and had begun to regard Republicanism
itself as a matter of secondary moment. The disputant allies in the common
cause occupied each a flat of the same small house, the soldier by
profession was bent on writing the Turks down, the poet on fighting them
down, holding that "the work of the sword must precede that of the pen,
and that camps must be the training schools of freedom." Their
altercations were sometimes fierce--"Despot!" cried Stanhope, "after
professing liberal principles from boyhood, you when called to act prove
yourself a Turk." "Radical!" retorted Byron, "if I had held up my finger I
could have crushed your press,"--but this did not prevent the recognition
by each of them of the excellent qualities of the other.

Ultimately Stanhope went to Athens, and allied himself with Trelawny and
Odysseus and the party of the Left. Nothing can be more statesmanlike than
some of Byron's papers of this and the immediately preceding period;
nothing more admirable than the spirit which inspires them. He had come
into the heart of a revolution, exposed to the same perils as those which
had wrecked the similar movement in Italy. Neither trusting too much nor
distrusting too much, with a clear head and a good will he set about
enforcing a series of excellent measures. From first to last he was
engaged in denouncing dissension, in advocating unity, in doing everything
that man could do to concentrate and utilize the disorderly elements with
which he had to work. He occupied himself in repairing fortifications,
managing ships, restraining licence, promoting courtesy between the foes,
and regulating the disposal of the sinews of war.

On the morning of the 22nd of January, his last birthday, he came from his
room to Stanhope's, and said, smiling, "You were complaining that I never
write any poetry now," and read the familiar stanzas beginning--

  'Tis time this heart should be unmoved,

and ending--

  Seek out--less often sought than found--
    A soldier's grave, for thee the best;
  Then look around, and choose thy ground,
        And take thy rest.

High thoughts, high resolves; but the brain that was over-tasked, and the
frame that was outworn, would be tasked and worn little longer. The lamp
of a life that had burnt too fiercely was flickering to its close. "If we
are not taken off with the sword," he writes on February 5th, "we are like
to march off with an ague in this mud basket; and, to conclude with a very
bad pun, better _martially_ than _marsh-ally_. The dykes of Holland when
broken down are the deserts of Arabia, in comparison with Mesolonghi." In
April, when it was too late, Stanhope wrote from Salona, in Phocis,
imploring him not to sacrifice health, and perhaps life, "in that bog."

Byron's house stood in the midst of the exhalations of a muddy creek, and
his natural irritability was increased by a more than usually long ascetic
regimen. From the day of his arrival in Greece he discarded animal food
and lived mainly on toast, vegetables, and cheese, olives and light wine,
at the rate of forty paras a day. In spite of his strength of purpose, his
temper was not always proof against the rapacity and turbulence by which
he was surrounded. About the middle of February, when the artillery had
been got into readiness for the attack on Lepanto--the northern, as
Patras was the southern, gate of the gulf, still in the hands of the
Turks--the expedition was thrown back by the unexpected rising of the
Suliotes. These peculiarly Irish Greeks, chronically seditious by nature,
were on this occasion, as afterwards appeared, stirred up by emissaries of
Colocatroni, who, though assuming the position of the rival of
Mavrocordatos, was simply a brigand on a large scale in the Morca.
Exasperation at this mutiny, and the vexation of having to abandon a
cherished scheme, seem to have been the immediately provoking causes of a
violent convulsive fit which, on the evening of the 15th, attacked the
poet, and endangered his life. Next day he was better, but complained of
weight in the head; and the doctors applying leeches too close to the
temporal artery, he was bled till he fainted. And now occurred the last of
those striking incidents so frequent in his life, in reference to which we
may quote the joint testimony of two witnesses. Colonel Stanhope writes,
"Soon after his dreadful paroxysm, when he was lying on his sick-bed, with
his whole nervous system completely shaken, the mutinous Suliotes, covered
with dirt and splendid attires, broke into his apartment, brandishing
their costly arms and loudly demanding their rights. Lord Byron,
electrified by this unexpected act, seemed to recover from his sickness;
and the more the Suliotes raged, the more his calm courage triumphed. The
scene was truly sublime." "It is impossible," says Count Gamba, "to do
justice to the coolness and magnanimity which he displayed upon every
trying occasion. Upon trifling occasions he was certainly irritable; but
the aspect of danger calmed him in an instant, and restored him the free
exercise of all the powers of his noble nature. A more undaunted man in
the hour of peril never breathed." A few days later, the riot being
renewed, the disorderly crew were, on payment of their arrears, finally
dismissed; but several of the English artificers under Parry left about
the same time, in fear of their lives.

On the 4th, the last of the long list of Byron's letters to Moore resents,
with some bitterness, the hasty acceptance of a rumour that he had been
quietly writing _Don Juan_ in some Ionian island. At the same date he
writes to Kennedy, "I am not unaware of the precarious state of my health.
But it is proper I should remain in Greece, and it were better to die
doing something than nothing." Visions of enlisting Europe and America on
behalf of the establishment of a new state, that might in course of time
develope itself over the realm of Alexander, floated and gleamed in his
fancy; but in his practical daily procedure the poet took as his text the
motto "festina lente," insisted on solid ground under his feet, and had no
notion of sailing balloons over the sea. With this view he discouraged
Stanhope's philanthropic and propagandist paper, the _Telegrapho_, and
disparaged Dr. Mayor, its Swiss editor, saying, "Of all petty tyrants he
is one of the pettiest, as are most demagogues." Byron had none of the
Sclavonic leanings, and almost personal hatred of Ottoman rule, of some of
our statesmen; but he saw on what side lay the forces and the hopes of the
future. "I cannot calculate," he said to Gamba, during one of their latest
rides together, "to what a height Greece may rise. Hitherto it has been a
subject for the hymns and elegies of fanatics and enthusiasts; but now it
will draw the attention of the politician.... At present there is little
difference, in many respects, between Greeks and Turks, nor could there
be; but the latter must, in the common course of events, decline in power;
and the former must as inevitably become better.... The English Government
deceived itself at first in thinking it possible to maintain the Turkish
Empire in its integrity; but it cannot be done, that unwieldy mass is
already putrified, and must dissolve. If anything like an equilibrium is
to be upheld, Greece must be supported." These words have been well
characterized as prophetic. During this time Byron rallied in health, and
displayed much of his old spirit, vivacity, and humour, took part in such
of his favourite amusements as circumstances admitted, fencing, shooting,
riding, and playing with his pet dog Lion. The last of his recorded
practical jokes is his rolling about cannon balls, and shaking the
rafters, to frighten Parry in the room below with the dread of an

Towards the close of the month, after being solicited to accompany
Mavrocordatos, to share the governorship of the Morea, he made an
appointment to meet Colonel Stanhope and Odysseus at Salona, but was
prevented from keeping it by violent floods which blocked up the
communication. On the 30th he was presented with the freedom of the city
of Mesolonghi. On the 3rd of April he intervened to prevent an Italian
private, guilty of theft, from being flogged by order of some German
officers. On the 9th, exhilarated by a letter from Mrs. Leigh with good
accounts of her own and Ada's health, he took a long ride with Gamba and a
few of the remaining Suliotes, and after being violently heated, and then
drenched in a heavy shower, persisted in returning home in a boat,
remarking with a laugh, in answer to a remonstrance, "I should make a
pretty soldier if I were to care for such a trifle." It soon became
apparent that he had caught his death. Almost immediately on his return,
he was seized with shiverings and violent pain. The next day he rose as
usual, and had his last ride in the olive woods. On the 11th a rheumatic
fever set in. On the 14th, Bruno's skill being exhausted, it was proposed
to call Dr. Thomas from Zante, but a hurricane prevented any ship being
sent. On the 15th, another physician, Mr. Milligen, suggested bleeding to
allay the fever, but Byron held out against it, quoting Dr. Reid to the
effect that "less slaughter is effected by the lance than the lancet--that
minute instrument of mighty mischief;" and saying to Bruno, "If my hour is
come I shall die, whether I lose my blood or keep it." Next morning
Milligen induced him to yield, by a suggestion of the possible loss of his
reason. Throwing out his arm, he cried, "There! you are, I see, a d----d
set of butchers. Take away as much blood as you like, and have done with
it." The remedy, repeated on the following day with blistering, was either
too late or ill-advised. On the 18th he saw more doctors, but was
manifestly sinking, amid the tears and lamentations of attendants who
could not understand each other's language. In his last hours his delirium
bore him to the field of arms. He fancied he was leading the attack on
Lepanto, and was heard exclaiming, "Forwards! forwards! follow me!" Who is
not reminded of another death-bed, not remote in time from his, and the
_Tête d'armée_ of the great Emperor who with the great Poet divided the
wonder of Europe? The stormy vision passed, and his thoughts reverted
home. "Go to my sister," he faltered out to Fletcher; "tell her--go to
Lady Byron--you will see her, and say"--nothing more could be heard but
broken ejaculations: "Augusta--Ada--my sister, my child. Io lascio qualche
cosa di caro nel mondo. For the rest, I am content to die." At six on the
evening of the 18th he uttered his last words, "[Greek: _Dei me nun
katheudein_];" and on the 19th he passed away.

Never perhaps was there such a national lamentation. By order of
Mavrocordatos, thirty-seven guns--one for each year of the poet's life--
were fired from the battery, and answered by the Turks from Patras with an
exultant volley. All offices, tribunals, and shops were shut, and a
general mourning for twenty-one days proclaimed. Stanhope wrote, on
hearing the news, "England has lost her brightest genius--Greece her
noblest friend;" and Trelawny, on coming to Mesolonghi, heard nothing in
the streets but "Byron is dead!" like a bell tolling through the silence
and the gloom. Intending contributors to the cause of Greece turned back
when they heard the tidings, that seemed to them to mean she was headless.
Her cities contended for the body, as of old for the birth of a poet.
Athens wished him to rest in the Temple of Theseus. The funeral service
was performed at Mesolonghi. But on the 2nd of May the embalmed remains
left Zante, and on the 29th arrived in the Downs. His relatives applied
for permission to have them interred in Westminster Abbey, but it was
refused; and on the 16th July they were conveyed to the village church of



Lord Jeffrey at the close of a once-famous review quaintly laments: "The
tuneful quartos of Southey are already little better than lumber, and the
rich melodies of Keats and Shelley, and the fantastical emphasis of
Wordsworth, and the plebeian pathos of Crabbe, are melting fast from the
field of our vision. The novels of Scott have put out his poetry, and the
blazing star of Byron himself is receding from its place of pride." Of the
poets of the early part of this century, Lord John Russell thought Byron
the greatest, then Scott, then Moore. "Such an opinion," wrote a
_National_ reviewer, in 1860, "is not worth a refutation; we only smile at
it." Nothing in the history of literature is more curious than the
shifting of the standard of excellence, which so perplexes criticism. But
the most remarkable feature of the matter is the frequent return to power
of the once discarded potentates. Byron is resuming his place: his spirit
has come again to our atmosphere; and every budding critic, as in 1820, is
impelled to pronounce a verdict on his genius and character. The present
times are, in many respects, an aftermath of the first quarter of the
century, which was an era of revolt, of doubt, of storm. There succeeded
an era of exhaustion, of quiescence, of reflection. The first years of the
third quarter saw a revival of turbulence and agitation; and, more than
our fathers, we are inclined to sympathize with our grandfathers. Macaulay
has popularized the story of the change of literary dynasty which in our
island marked the close of the last, and the first two decades of the
present, hundred years.

The corresponding artistic revolt on the continent was closely connected
with changes in the political world. The originators of the romantic
literature in Italy, for the most part, died in Spielberg or in exile. The
same revolution which levelled the Bastille, and converted Versailles and
the Trianon--the classic school in stone and terrace--into a moral
Herculaneum and Pompeii, drove the models of the so-called Augustan ages
into a museum of antiquarians. In our own country, the movement initiated
by Chatterton, Cowper, and Burns, was carried out by two classes of great
writers. They agreed in opposing freedom to formality; in substituting for
the old, new aims and methods; in preferring a grain of mother wit to a
peck of clerisy. They broke with the old school, as Protestantism broke
with the old Church; but, like the sects, they separated again.
Wordsworth, Southey, and Coleridge, while refusing to acknowledge the
literary precedents of the past, submitted themselves to a self-imposed
law. The partialities of their maturity were towards things settled and
regulated; their favourite virtues, endurance and humility; their
conformity to established institutions was the basis of a new
Conservatism. The others were the Radicals of the movement: they
practically acknowledged no law but their own inspiration. Dissatisfied
with the existing order, their sympathies were with strong will and
passion and defiant independence. These found their master-types in
Shelley and in Byron.

A reaction is always an extreme. Lollards, Puritans, Covenanters, were in
some respects nauseous antidotes to ecclesiastical corruption. The ruins
of the Scotch cathedrals and of the French nobility are warnings at once
against the excess that provokes and the excess that avenges. The revolt
against the _ancien régime_ in letters made possible the Ode that is the
high-tide mark of modern English inspiration, but it was parodied in page
on page of maundering rusticity. Byron saw the danger, but was borne
headlong by the rapids. Hence the anomalous contrast between his theories
and his performance. Both Wordsworth and Byron were bitten by Rousseau;
but the former is, at furthest, a Girondin. The latter, acting like Danton
on the motto "L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace," sighs after _Henri
Quatre et Gabrièlle_. There is more of the spirit of the French Revolution
in _Don Juan_ than in all the works of the author's contemporaries; but
his criticism is that of Boileau, and when deliberate is generally absurd.
He never recognized the meaning of the artistic movement of his age, and
overvalued those of his works which the Unities helped to destroy. He
hailed Gifford as his Magnus Apollo, and put Rogers next to Scott in his
comical pyramid. "Chaucer," he writes, "I think obscene and contemptible."
He could see no merit in Spenser, preferred Tasso to Milton, and called
the old English dramatists "mad and turbid mountebanks." In the same
spirit he writes: "In the time of Pope it was all Horace, now it is all
Claudian." He saw--what fanatics had begun to deny--that Pope was a great
writer, and the "angel of reasonableness," the strong common sense of both
was a link between them; but the expressions he uses during his
controversy with Bowles look like jests, till we are convinced of his
earnestness by his anger. "Neither time, nor distance, nor grief, nor age
can ever diminish my veneration for him who is the great moral poet of all
times, of all climes, of all feelings, and of all stages of existence....
Your whole generation are not worth a canto of the _Dunciad_, or anything
that is his." All the while he was himself writing prose and verse, in
grasp if not in vigour as far beyond the stretch of Pope, as Pope is in
"worth and wit and sense" removed above his mimics. The point of the
paradox is not merely that he deserted, but that he sometimes imitated his
model, and when he did so, failed. Macaulay's judgment, that "personal
taste led him to the eighteenth century, thirst for praise to the
nineteenth," is quite at fault. There can be no doubt that Byron loved
praise as much as he affected to despise it. His note, on reading the
_Quarterly_ on his dramas, "I am the most unpopular man in England," is
like the cry of a child under chastisement; but he had little affinity,
moral or artistic, with the spirit of our so-called Augustans, and his
determination to admire them was itself rebellious. Again we are reminded
of his phrase, "I am of the opposition." His vanity and pride were
perpetually struggling for the mastery, and though he thirsted for
popularity he was bent on compelling it; so he warred with the literary
impulse of which he was the child.

Byron has no relation to the master-minds whose works reflect a nation or
an era, and who keep their own secrets. His verse and prose is alike
biographical, and the inequalities of his style are those of his career.
He lived in a glass case, and could not hide himself by his habit of
burning blue lights. He was too great to do violence to his nature, which
was not great enough to be really consistent. It was thus natural for him
to pose as the spokesman of two ages--as a critic and as an author; and of
two orders of society--as a peer, and as a poet of revolt. Sincere in
both, he could never forget the one character in the other. To the last,
he was an aristocrat in sentiment, a democrat in opinion. "Vulgarity," he
writes with a pithy half-truth, "is far worse than downright black
guardism; for the latter comprehends wit, humour, and strong sense at
times, while the former is a sad abortive attempt at all things,
signifying nothing." He could never reconcile himself to the English
radicals; and it has been acutely remarked, that part of his final
interest in Greece lay in the fact that he found it a country of classic
memories, "where a man might be the champion of liberty without soiling
himself in the arena." He owed much of his early influence to the fact of
his moving in the circles of rank and fashion; but though himself steeped
in the prejudices of caste, he struck at them at times with fatal force.
Aristocracy is the individual asserting a vital distinction between itself
and "the muck o' the world." Byron's heroes all rebel against the
associative tendency of the nineteenth century; they are self-worshippers
at war with society; but most of them come to bad ends. He maligned
himself in those caricatures, and has given more of himself in describing
one whom with special significance we call a brother poet. "Allen," he
writes in 1813, "has lent me a quantity of Burns's unpublished letters....
What an antithetical mind!--tenderness, roughness--delicacy, coarseness--
sentiment, sensuality--soaring and grovelling--dirt and deity--all mixed
up in that one compound of inspired clay!" We have only to add to these
antitheses, in applying them with slight modification to the writer. Byron
had, on occasion, more self-control than Burns, who yielded to every
thirst or gust, and could never have lived the life of the soldier at
Mesolonghi; but partly owing to meanness, partly to a sound instinct, his
memory has been more severely dealt with. The fact of his being a nobleman
helped to make him famous, but it also helped to make him hated. No doubt
it half spoiled him in making him a show; and the circumstance has
suggested the remark of a humourist, that it is as hard for a lord to be a
perfect gentleman as for a camel to pass through the needle's eye. But it
also exposed to the rancours of jealousy a man who had nearly everything
but domestic happiness to excite that most corroding of literary passions;
and when he got out of gear he became the quarry of Spenser's "blatant
beast." On the other hand, Burns was, beneath his disgust at Holy Fairs
and Willies, sincerely reverential; much of _Don Juan_ would have seemed
to him "an atheist's laugh," and--a more certain superiority--he was
absolutely frank.

Byron, like Pope, was given to playing monkey-like tricks, mostly
harmless, but offensive to their victims. His peace of mind was dependent
on what people would say of him, to a degree unusual even in the irritable
race; and when they spoke ill he was, again like Pope, essentially
vindictive. The _Bards and Reviewers_ beats about, where the lines to
Atticus transfix with Philoctetes' arrows; but they are due to a like
impulse. Byron affected to contemn the world; but, say what he would, he
cared too much for it. He had a genuine love of solitude as an alterative;
but he could not subsist without society, and, Shelley tells us, wherever
he went, became the nucleus of it. He sprang up again when flung to the
earth, but he never attained to the disdain he desired.

We find him at once munificent and careful about money; calmly asleep amid
a crowd of trembling sailors, yet never going to ride without a nervous
caution; defying augury, yet seriously disturbed by a gipsy's prattle. He
could be the most genial of comrades, the most considerate of masters, and
he secured the devotion of his servants, as of his friends; but he was too
overbearing to form many equal friendships, and apt to be ungenerous to
his real rivals. His shifting attitude towards Lady Byron, his wavering
purposes, his impulsive acts, are a part of the character we trace through
all his life and work,--a strange mixture of magnanimity and brutality, of
laughter and tears, consistent in nothing but his passion and his pride,
yet redeeming all his defects by his graces, and wearing a greatness that
his errors can only half obscure.

Alternately the idol and the horror of his contemporaries, Byron was,
during his life, feared and respected as "the grand Napoleon of the realms
of rhyme." His works were the events of the literary world. The chief
among them were translated into French, German, Italian, Danish, Polish,
Russian, Spanish. On the publication of Moore's _Life_, Lord Macaulay had
no hesitation in referring to Byron as "the most celebrated Englishman of
the nineteenth century." Nor have we now; but in the interval between
1840-1870, it was the fashion to talk of him as a sentimentalist, a
romancer, a shallow wit, a nine days' wonder, a poet for "green unknowing
youth." It was a reaction, such as leads us to disestablish the heroes of
our crude imaginations till we learn that to admire nothing is as sure a
sign of immaturity as to admire everything.

The weariness, if not disgust, induced by a throng of more than usually
absurd imitators, enabled Carlyle, the poet's successor in literary
influence (followed with even greater unfairness by Thackeray), more
effectively to lead the counter-revolt. "In my mind," writes the former,
in 1839, "Byron has been sinking at an accelerated rate for the last ten
years, and has now reached a very low level.... His fame has been very
great, but I do not see how it is to endure; neither does that make him
great. No genuine productive thought was ever revealed by him to mankind.
He taught me nothing that I had not again to forgot." The refrain of
Carlyle's advice during the most active years of his criticism was, "Close
thy Byron, open thy Goethe." We do so, and find that the refrain of
Goethe's advice in reference to Byron is--"nocturnâ versate manu, versate
diurnâ." He urged Eckermann to study English that he might read him;
remarking, "A character of such eminence has never existed before, and
probably will never come again. The beauty of _Cain_ is such as we shall
not see a second time in the world.... Byron issues from the sea-waves
ever fresh. In _Helena_, I could not make use of any man as the
representative of the modern poetic era except him, who is undoubtedly the
greatest genius[1] of our century." Again: "Tasso's epic has maintained
its fame, but Byron is the burning bush, which reduces the cedar of
Lebanon to ashes.... The English may think of him as they please; this is
certain, they can show no (living) poet who is comparable to him.... But
he is too worldly. Contrast _Macbeth_, and _Beppo_, where you are in a
nefarious empirical world." On Eckermann's doubting "whether there is a
gain for pure culture in Byron's work," Goethe conclusively replies,
"There I must contradict you. The audacity and grandeur of Byron must
certainly tend towards culture. We should take care not to be always
looking for it in the decidedly pure and moral. Everything that is great
promotes cultivation, as soon as we are aware of it."

    [Footnote 1: Mr. Arnold wrongly objects to this translation of the
    German "talent."]

This verdict of the Olympian as against the verdict of the Titan is
interesting in itself, and as being the verdict of the whole continental
world of letters. "What," exclaims Castelar, "does Spain not owe to Byron?
From his mouth come our hopes and fears. He has baptized us with his
blood. There is no one with whose being some song of his is not woven. His
life is like a funeral torch over our graves." Mazzini takes up the same
tune for Italy. Stendhal speaks of Byron's "Apollonic power;" and Sainte
Beuve writes to the same intent, with some judicious caveats. M. Taine
concludes his survey of the romantic movement with the remark: "In this
splendid effort, the greatest are exhausted. One alone--Byron--attains the
summit. He is so great and so English, that from him alone we shall learn
more truths of his country and his age than from all the rest together."
Dr. Elze, ranks the author of _Harold_ and _Juan_ among the four greatest
English poets, and claims for him the intellectual parentage of Lamartine
and Musset in France, of Espronceda in Spain, of Puschkin in Russia, with
some modifications, of Heine in Germany, of Berchet and others in Italy.
So many voices of so various countries cannot be simply set aside: unless
we wrap ourselves in an insolent insularism, we are bound at least to ask
what is the meaning of their concurrent testimony. Foreign judgments can
manifestly have little weight on matters of form, and not one of the
above-mentioned critics is sufficiently alive to the egregious
shortcomings which Byron himself recognized. That he loses almost nothing
by translation is a compliment to the man, a disparagement to tho artist.
Very few pages of his verse even aspire to perfection; hardly a stanza
will bear the minute word-by-word dissection which only brings into
clearer view the delicate touches of Keats or Tennyson; his pictures with
a big brush were never meant for the microscope. Here the contrast between
his theoretic worship of his idol and his own practice reaches a climax.
If, as he professed to believe, "the best poet is he who best executes his
work," then he is hardly a poet at all. He is habitually rapid and
slovenly; an improvisatore on the spot whore his fancy is kindled, writing
_currente calamo_, and disdaining the "art to blot." "I can never recast
anything. I am like the tiger; if I miss the first spring, I go grumbling
back to my jungle." He said to Medwin, "Blank verse is the most difficult,
because every line must be good." Consequently, his own blank verse is
always defective--sometimes execrable. No one else--except, perhaps,
Wordsworth--who could write so well, could also write so ill. This fact in
Byron's case seems due not to mere carelessness, but to incapacity.
Something seems to stand behind him, like the slave in the chariot, to
check the current of his highest thought. The glow of his fancy fades with
the suddenness of a southern sunset. His best inspirations are spoilt by
the interruption of incongruous commonplace. He had none of the guardian
delicacy of taste, or the thirst after completeness, which mark the
consummate artist. He is more nearly a dwarf Shakespeare than a giant
Popo. This defect was most mischievous where he was weakest, in his dramas
and his lyrics, least so where he was strongest, in his mature satires. It
is almost transmuted into an excellence in the greatest of these, which
is by design and in detail a temple of incongruity.

If we turn from his manner to his matter, we cannot claim for Byron any
absolute originality. His sources have been found in Rousseau, Voltaire,
Chateaubriand, Beaumarchais, Lauzun, Gibbon, Bayle, St. Pierre, Alfieri,
Casti, Cuvier, La Bruyore, Wieland, Swift, Sterne, Le Sage, Goethe, scraps
of the classics, and the Book of Job. Absolute originality in a late age
is only possible to the hermit, the lunatic, or the sensation novelist.
Byron, like the rovers before Minos, was not ashamed of his piracy. He
transferred the random prose of his own letters and journals to his
dramas, and with the same complacency made use of the notes jotted down
from other writers as he sailed on the Lake of Geneva. But he made them
his own by smelting the rough ore into bell metal. He brewed a cauldron
like that of Macbeth's witches, and from it arose the images of crowned
kings. If he did not bring a new idea into the world, he quadrupled the
force of existing ideas and scattered them far and wide. Southern critics
have maintained that he had a southern nature and was in his true element
on the Lido or under an Andalusian night. Others dwell on the English
pride that went along with his Italian habits and Greek sympathies. The
truth is, he had the power of making himself poetically everywhere at
home; and this, along with the fact of all his writings being perfectly
intelligible, is the secret of his European influence. He was a citizen of
the world; because he not only painted the environs, but reflected the
passions and aspirations of every scene amid which he dwelt.

A disparaging critic has said, "Byron is nothing without his
descriptions." The remark only emphasizes the fact that his genius was not
dramatic. All non-dramatic art is concerned with bringing before us
pictures of the world, the value of which lies half in their truth, half
in the amount of human interest with which they are invested. To
scientific accuracy few poets can lay claim, and Byron less than most; but
the general truth of his descriptions is acknowledged by all who have
travelled in the same countries. The Greek verses of his first
pilgrimage,--e.g. the night scene on the Gulf of Arta, many of the
Albanian sketches, with much of the _Siege of Corinth_ and the _Giaour_
--have been invariably commended for their vivid realism. Attention has
been especially directed to the lines in the _Corsair_ beginning--

  But, lo! from high Hymettus to the plain,

as being the veritable voice of one

  Spell-bound, within the clustering Cyclades.

The opening lines of the same canto, transplanted from the _Curse of
Minerva_, are even more suggestive:--

  Slow sinks, more lovely ere his race be run,
  Along Morea's hill the setting sun,
  Not, as in northern climes, obscurely bright,
  But one unclouded blaze of living light, &c.

In the same way, the later cantos of _Harold_ are steeped in Switzerland
and in Italy. Byron's genius, it is true, required a stimulus; it could
not have revelled among the daisies of Chaucer, or pastured by the banks
of the Doon or the Ouse, or thriven among the Lincolnshire fens. He had a
sincere, if somewhat exclusive, delight in the storms and crags that
seemed to respond to his nature and to his age. There is no affectation in
the expression of the wish, "O that the desert were my dwelling-place!"
though we know that the writer on the shores of the Mediterranean still
craved for the gossip of the clubs. It only shows that--

      Two desires toss about
    The poet's feverish blood;
  One drives him to the world without,
    And one to solitude.

Of Byron's two contemporary rivals, Wordsworth had no feverish blood;
nothing drove him to the world without; consequently his "eyes avert their
ken from half of human fate," and his influence, though perennial, will
always be limited. He conquered England from his hills and lakes; but his
spirit has never crossed the Straits which he thought too narrow. The
other, with a fever in his veins, calmed it in the sea and in the cloud,
and, in some degree because of his very excellencies, has failed as yet to
mark the world at large. The poets' poet, the cynosure of enthusiasts, he
bore the banner of the forlorn hope; but Byron, with his feet of clay, led
the ranks. Shelley, as pure a philanthropist as St. Francis or Howard,
could forget mankind, and, like his Adonaïs, become one with nature.
Byron, who professed to hate his fellows, was of them even more than for
them, and so appealed to them through a broader sympathy, and held them
with a firmer hand. By virtue of his passion, as well as his power, he was
enabled to represent the human tragedy in which he played so many parts,
and to which his external universe of cloudless moons, and vales of
evergreen, and lightning-riven peaks, are but the various background. He
set the "anguish, doubt, desire," the whole chaos of his age, to a music
whose thunder-roll seems to have inspired the opera of _Lohengrin_--a
music not designed to teach or to satisfy "the budge doctors of the Stoic
fur," but which will continue to arouse and delight the sons and daughters
of men.

Madame de Staël said to Byron, at Ouchy, "It does not do to war with the
world: the world is too strong for the individual." Goethe only gives a
more philosophic form to this counsel when he remarks of the poet, "He put
himself into a false position by his assaults on Church and State. His
discontent ends in negation.... If I call _bad_ bad, what do I gain? But
if I call _good_ bad, I do mischief." The answer is obvious: as long as
men call _bad_ good, there is a call for iconoclasts: half the reforms of
the world have begun in negation. Such comments also point to the common
error of trying to make men other than they are by lecturing them. This
scion of a long line of lawless bloods--a Scandinavian Berserker, if there
ever was one--the literary heir of the Eddas--was specially created to
wage that war--to smite the conventionality which is the tyrant of England
with the hammer of Thor, and to sear with the sarcasm of Mephistopheles
the hollow hypocrisy--sham taste, sham morals, sham religion--of the
society by which he was surrounded and infected, and which all but
succeeded in seducing him. But for the ethereal essence,--

    The fount of fiery life
  Which served for that Titanic strife,

Byron would have been merely a more melodious Moore and a more
accomplished Brummell. But the caged lion was only half tamed, and his
continual growls were his redemption. His restlessness was the sign of a
yet unbroken will. He fell and rose, and fell again; but never gave up the
struggle that keeps alive, if it does not save, the soul. His greatness as
well as his weakness lay, in the fact that from boyhood battle was the
breath of his being. To tell him not to fight, was like telling Wordsworth
not to reflect, or Shelley not to sing. His instrument is a trumpet of
challenge; and he lived, as he appropriately died, in the progress of an
unaccomplished campaign. His work is neither perfect architecture nor fine
mosaic; but, like that of his intellectual ancestors, the elder
Elizabethans whom he perversely maligned, it is all animated by the spirit
of action and of enterprise.

In good portraits his head has a lurid look, as if it had been at a higher
temperature than that of other men. That high temperature was the source
of his inspiration, and the secret of a spell which, during his life,
commanded homage and drew forth love. Mere artists are often mannikins.
Byron's brilliant though unequal genius was subordinate to the power of
his personality; he

    Had the elements
  So mix'd in him, that Nature might stand up
  And say to all the world--"This was a man."

We may learn much from him still, when we have ceased to disparage, as our
fathers ceased to idolize, a name in which there is so much warning and so
much example.


_Abydos, Bride of_
Adeline (Lady), analysis of female character
Albrizzi (Countess), salon of
Ali Pasha, his reception of Byron
Allegra, Byron's daughter
Athenians, character of
Aurora Raby, La Guiccioli idealised

Becher's, Rev. J.T., influence on Byron
_Blackwood's Magazine_
Blessington,  Lady
_Blues, The_
Boatswain (Byron's dog)
Boston's _Fourfold State_
Bowers, Byron's tutor
Bowles, controversy about Pope
Bozzaris, Marco, death of
Brandes, Prof., criticism of Byron's bust
_British Review, To the Editor of the_
_Bronze, The Age of_
Brougham's, Lord, criticism of _Hours of Idleness_
Brown, Hamilton
Bruno, Dr.
Brydges, Sir Egerton, criticism of _Cain_
Burun, an ancestor of Byron
Butler, Dr., master of Harrow
Byron, Augusta Ada (the poet's daughter)
Byron, George Gordon, 6th Lord
  residence at Ballater;
  early loves;
  "first dash into poetry";
  accession to peerage;
  Baillie, Dr., medical adviser;
  at Harrow;
  coming of age;
  writes review on Wordsworth;
  Annesley, residence at;
  at Cambridge;
  takes seat in House of Lords;
  studies Romaic;
  attacks of fever;
  speeches in House of Lords;
  writes address on re-opening of Drury Lane Theatre;
  publishes the _Giaour_;
  friendship with Sir Walter Scott;
  separation from wife;
  departure from England;
  friendship with Shelley;
  in Switzerland;
  in Italy;
  life in Venice
  completes _Childe Harold_
  life at Ravenna
  at Pisa
  relations with Leigh Hunt
  life in Albaro
  joins conspiracy in Italy
  joins movement for liberation of Greece
  leaves Italy
  life in Greece
  last illness and death
  last words
  funeral honours
Byron, Lord
  allusions in his poetry to his training
  appreciation of
  aristocratic sentiments
  Austria, hatred of, characteristics
  characteristics of literature in Byron's age
  comparison with Shelley and Wordsworth
  contemporary admiration
  defects of character
  defects of his poetry
  descriptive power
  dislike of professional _littérateurs_
  early friends
  financial affairs
  follower of Pope
  knowledge of languages
  knowledge of Scripture
  in London society
  love of mountains
  pecuniary profits
  personal appearance
  physical endurance
  poetic character
  relations to female sex
  Scotch superstition
  social views
  sources of Byron's work
  swimming, feats of
  tame bear
  theological views
  estimate of
  works translated
Byron, John, Admiral
Byron, John, of Clayton
Byron, John (father)
Byron, Lady (wife)
Byron, Mrs. (mother)
Byron, Richard (2nd Lord)
Byron, Robert de
Byron, Sir John (1st Lord)
Byron, Sir Nicholas
Byron, William (3rd Lord)
Byron, William (4th Lord)
Byron, William (5th Lord)

Cadiz, estimate of
Campbell, Thomas
Carbonari, a secret society
Carlisle, Lord
Charlotte, Princess
Chasles, criticism by
Chaworth, Mary Ann
Chaworth, Mr.
Chaworth, Viscount
_Childe Harold_
  criticism of
_Chillon, Prisoner of_
_Churchill's Grave_
Civil Wars
Clairmont, Miss, intimacy with
Clare, Lord, friendship with
Clermont, Mrs., Lady Byron's maid
Cogni, Margarita, intimacy with
Colocatroni, the brigand
_Corinth, Siege of_
_Could I remount the River of my Years_
_Curse of Minerva_

Dallas, R.C.
D'Arcy, Amelia  (Countess  Conyers)
Davies, Scrope
Davy, Sir H.
_Deformed Transformed_
_Don Juan_
  criticism of
Doomsday Book
Dramas (Byron's)
_Dream, The_
Drury, Dr. Joseph
Drury, Henry
Drury Lane Theatre
Drury, Mark
Duff, Mary, intimacy with

Eddlestone, the chorister
_Edinburgh Review_
Ekenhead, Lieutenant
Eldon, Lord
Elgin, Lord
England's vice of hypocrisy
_English Bards and Scotch Reviewers_
English character
English literature

_Faery Queene_ (Spenser's)
Falkland, Lord
_Faust_, influence of, on Byron
Fletcher (valet)
_Foscari, The Two_
_Francesca of Rimini_

George, Prince of Denmark
George III.
_Glenarvon_ (Lady Caroline Lamb's novel)
Glennie, Dr.
Gray, May, her influence over Byron
Gray (poet)

Hailstone, Prof.
Hanson, Mr., solicitor
Harness, a school-fellow
Harrogate, trip to
_Heaven and Earth_
Heber, Bishop
_Hebrew Melodies_
_Hints from Horace_
Hiron, a Cambridge tradesman
Hodgson, Rev. F.
Holderness, Earl of
Holland, Lord
_Hours of Idleness_
Howard, Hon. F.
Howitt, William
Hucknall Torkard, church
Hunt, John
Hunt, Leigh

_Island, The_

Jackson, Mr., a pugilist
Jones (tutor)
Journal (Byron's)
Juliet, story of

Kemble, Frances Ann, memoirs of
Kennedy, Dr.
Kinnaird, Douglas
Kirkby Mallory

_Lalla Rookh_
Lamb, Lady Caroline
La Mira
_Landlord, Tales of a_
Lavender, a quack
Lee, Harriet
Leeds, Duke of
Leigh, Colonel
Leigh, Mrs. (poet's sister Augusta)
Loman, Lake
_Liberal_, the
Lion (pet dog)
Lisle, Rouget de
Loch Leven
Londonderry, Lord
Long, Edward Noel
Lushington, Dr.

Mackenzie (the Man of Feeling)
Magellan, Straits of
Mandeville, Sir John
  criticism of
Mansel, Dr. Lort
Marilyn, Mrs.
_Marina Faliero_
  criticism of
Martineau, Miss
Matthews, C.S.
Mavrocordatos, Prince Alexander
Mayor, Dr.
Medora (daughter of Mrs. Leigh)
Medwin, Captain
Meister, Wilhelm
Memoirs (Byron's)
Milbanke, Sir Ralph
Milligen (a physician)
Morgan, Lady
_Morgantc Maggiore_
Murray, Joe (butler)
Murray, John

Napier, Colonel
Newbury, battle of
Noel, Lady
Norton, Mrs.


Parker, Margaret, intimacy with
Parr, Dr.
Parry (engineer)
Paterson (a tutor)
Peel, Sir Robert
Plato's Glaucus
_Pleasures of Hope_
Po (river)
Porson, 39
Power, Miss

_Quarterly Review_

Regent, the
Reid, Dr.
_Rejected Addresses_
Revolution, the French
Rhoetian hill
Robinson, Crabb
Rogers, Samuel, (poet)
Rogers (tutor)
Roman Catholic Emancipation, speech on behalf of
Roman Catholic religion
Ross (a tutor)
Rushton, Robert
Russell, Lord John
Ruthyn, Lord Grey de

Sainte Beuve
Santa Croce
_Saragassa, Maid of_
_Saturday Review_
Schlegel, F.
Scotland, allusions to
Scott, Sir Walter
Segati, Mariana, intimacy with
Shelley, Mrs.
Shepherd, Mrs., letter of
Siddons, Mrs.
Sinclair, George, friend of Byron
Sligo, Marquis of
Smith, Mrs. Spencer ("Florence")
Smith, Sir Henry
Spencer, Earl
Stael, Madame de
Stanhope, Colonel
Stanhope, Lady Hester
Stephen, Leslie

Tavell (a tutor)
Theresa (Maid of Athens)

University training

_Vampire, The_
"Victory," the
_Vision of Judgment_

"Wager," the
_Waltz, The,_
Watkins, Dr. John
West (artist)
Westminster Abbey
Williams, Captain
Wingfield, John
Woodhouselee, Lord

Yussuf Pasha



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