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can be so noble, as the life of a man fore unjust. How do we know, that of true and lofty genius, regulated if Harold had been criticised merely throughout upon such a principle. as the character of Macbeth or Mare Such, we have every reason to believe, mion is criticised, Lord Byron would was the case with Shakespeare, with have continued to paint little else but Spenser—with Milton--and such we Childe Harold ? How do we know how know has been, and is the case, with a much our obstinate blending of Hafew others of theworld's greatest names. rold with Byron, stimulated the proud But how completely the reverse was and indignant Byron to blend himself the fact in regard to Dryden, to Pope, with Harold ? How do we know, that to Addison-how completely the re- we did not ourselves, by our method of verse is the fact in regard to the esti- criticizing his work, tempt the poet's mable living names of Wordsworth, haughty mind to brood exclusively of Southey-and in regard to almost on those very trains of dark and misall the living names that rank under anthropic thought, which, had we done theirs ! Lord Byron has himself said otherwise, might have given way to many witty things about the absurdi- everything that was happy and genial? ties of “ an author all over"-and, in There are horses, to whom no spur his personal conversation, he was al- equals the stimulus of the bit. most always the mere man of fashion. But more let people consider for a But we know enough of his temper moment what it is that they demand and feelings to be perfectly convinced when they insist upon a poet of Bythat all this was a matter of elaborate ron's class abstaining altogether from art and study with him—that he was expressing in his works anything of playing a part when he figured as the his own feelings in regard to anything dandy Lord—that his mind was more that immediately concerns his own continually, restlessly, and intensely history. We tell him in every possioccupied with literary matters, and, ble form and shape, that the great and above all, his own literary reputation, distinguishing merit of his poetry is than perhaps ever was the case with the intense truth with which that any other man of the same sort of rank poetry expresses his own personal in the world of letters, but Voltaire. In feelings. We encourage him in every fact, the very sarcasms Lord Byron has possible way to dissect his own heart bestowed upon these foibles, are only for our entertainment-we tempt him, so many proofs that they lay very near by every bribe most likely to act powerhis own heart. There is no trick of fully on a young and imaginative man, self-love more common than that of to plunge into the darkest depths of ridiculing in others the fault which self-knowledge, to madden his brain we feel, and which we would fain have, with eternal self-scrutinies, to find his others not detect, in ourselves. How pride and his pleasure in what others often does a sore conscience mask itself shrunk from as torture—we tempt him in a grin!
to indulge in these dangerous exercises, How did the English public conduct until they obviously acquire the power itself in regard to this most sensitive of leading him to the very brink of artist? From the beginning of his phrenzy-we tempt him to find, and true career-it began with Childe to see in this perilous vocation, the Harold-we, in spite of all manner of staple of his existence, the food of his disclamations and protestations, insist- ambition, the very essence of his glory ed upon saddling Byron, himself per- -and the moment that, by habits of sonally, with every attribute, however our own creating, at least of our own dark and repulsive, with which he had encouraging and
confirming, he is carchosen to invent a certain fictitious ried one single step beyond what we personage, the hero of a romance. It happen to approve of, we turn round is true enough, that the thoughts and with all the bitterness of spleen, and . feelings embodied in this fictitious reproach him with the unmanliness of personage's character, as poetized by entertaining the public with his feelLord Byron, must have at some time ings in regard to his separation from or other passed through Lord Byron's wife. This was truly the conduct own mind, and subsequent events of a fair and liberal public! To our decidedly shewed that many of them view of the matter, Lord Byron, treat had been too much at home there. ed as he had been, tempted as he had But the world was hasty, and there been, and tortured and insulted as he.
was at the moment, did no more for. There is nothing here of the feels feit his character by writing what he ings of the disappointed author, though did write upon that unhappy occasion, we think there is much of the feelings than another man, under circum- of the high-born gentleman, who supstances of the same nature, would poses himself, we know not how justa have done, by telling something of his ly, to have met with less success than mind about it to an intimate friend he was entitled to in the present faacross the fire. The public had forced shionable society of England. Perhaps him into the habits of familiarity, and some sympathies as to this last matter they received his confidence with no- may have, however unconscious Sir thing but anger and scorn.
Egerton Brydges might be of it, mainWe had written thus far, when a ly contributed to his undertaking the little volume, entitled “ Letters on work before us. This circumstance the Character and Genius of Lord By- by no means detracts from its value, ron, was put into our hands. The in our eyes, and we certainly appreciauthor is Sir Egerton Brydges, a gen- ate most warmly the zeal with which tleman whose general character must a neglected veteran has come forward be tolerably well known among most to vindicate the fame of one, whom few of our readers. Sir Egerton is now a in the same situation would have lookman advanced in years, and it is not ed upon without feelings much less difficult to trace in this book the feels genial. We shall quote a passage ings of one, who does not think himself which we think our readers will reto have been over well treated in the ceive in good part, in place of someworld. He has unquestionably shewn thing much to the some purpose, something very like genius in several with which we were about to have of his works-especially in the novel pursued our own discussion. We have of Clifford—but his range of mind has marked one paragraph in Italics our always been considered as small, and readers will easily see why. there has undoubtedly been a sad “ It is well known that the points of want of power and breadth, either of attack on Lord Byron have been for some design or execution, in all his works.
years directed, not against his genius, but His name, however, was respectable, against his morals and personal character. and we think, upon the whole, it will An apologist on this head ought to be be considerably raised, when the pro- very explicit, both for Lord Byron's sake duction now before us has attracted and for his own. Were the reprobatiori general notice—which we perceive it and obloquy with which Lord Byron was has not yet done-indeed, even we pursued, from his entrance at Cambridge have only heard of it, and seen it, by till his death, just or unjust? Had he pure accident. Sir Egerton's book is
cause for discontent and bitterness, or altogether deficient in plan and ar
had he not? The common cry is, that rangement. Tautology and repetition
he had not !-that he threw away genius, are most wearisomely abundant in it;
rauk, station, the world's favour,—nay, weak things are said over and over
the world's desire to receive him with again, and strong thoughts are said
open arms, in spite of errors and faults, weakly. Nevertheless, Sir Egerton -by defiance, outrage of all decorum,
avoidance of society, foul satire, misan. appears throughout as a most candid and upright critic of Lord Byron-he thropy, and the indulgence of all violent aims at truth—he writes in the true
“ Such, at least, if not the general cry, spirit of a gentleman--and if in rela
has been the unqualified clamour of more tion to Lord Byron's poetical works,
than half his countrymen! If such charges his own little views and theories are
were true, it would be an odious task to often introduced with no good effect, in relation to the character of the man, dazzling genius. To me this view of him
be his apologist, even aided by all his he_being entirely above the paltry
seems not merely a gross caricature, but feelings of envy, malice, and uncha
a most wicked falsehood.
It is not neritableness,-speaks throughout, we cessary for me to rest my defence on the must say, in a tone of manliness and principle that we ought to limit our conelevation, calculated to do him the sideration to the merits or demerits of an highest honour.
author's writings, and have no concern
· Letters on the Character and Poetical Genius of Lord Byron, by Sir Egerton Brydges, Bart. &c. &c. &c. London-Longman & Co. P. 457. Post 8vo. 10s. 6d.
with his private and personal character, him to a reception there which dwelt except so far as it affects his writings ; upon his haughty and meditative spirit, though a great deal might be urged for soured a temper naturally fierce, and this principle, especially after an author's drove his active feelings into extravadeath. It seems to me that Lord Byron's gances in mere despair. This might be personal character has been frightfully regretted ; but there was nothing unnamisrepresented and misunderstood. tural in it, nothing radically bad, nothing
“ There is in the world, very generally irredeemable, nothing unlike what has prevalent, a strange perversion of mind happened to thousands who have turned and heart, which forgives to young men out virtuous and excellent members of who have no redeeming virtues or talents, society. that, as the venial folly of early life, which “ But mark how much of the noble is branded with infamy in him who has flame of a cultivated, amiable, and splengenius and a thousand brilliant qualities did mind was working in him, in his betof heart, and a thousand brilliant actions, ter and more congenial hours, even now. which ought to efface even great irregu. At this crisis he wrote those poems which larities and faults. It would be well, if were published under the title of Hours genius could always bring with it all vir- of Idleness ! And mark, too, how this eftue, wisdom, prudence, complacency, and fort of a grand spirit emerging from a self-command, if highi sensibility, or cloud was met! It was turned into the susceptibility, was always impressible by most offensive mockery and insult!!good, and never by evil ;--but such is not The author of that mischievous article human nature; such is not the state in has been named to me, but I am not at which Providence has sent us into the liberty to repeat it. I do not think it world! Lord Byron has been tried by exaggeration to say, that much of the corules not applied to others; not appli- lour of the eccentric part of Lord Byron's cable to the qualities of our frail being; future life is to be attributed to that arand, what is worse still, very often upon ticle. Lord Byron, also, is said in his assumed and invented facts !
latter life to have known the author. “ I will run rapidly over such of the “ Lord Byron now went abroad; but generally-mentioned incidents of his life not till he had taken vengeance of his as I have every reason to believe cannot critics, and gained an advantage which be contradicted, or, at least, not dispro- must, in some degree, have consoled him ; ved. I pretend to no personal know- but the wound still rankled :ledge, nor to intelligence peculiar to my
hæret lateri lethalis arundo! self.
“ It is said that at Cambridge Lord « The first two cantos of Childe Harold Byron endeavoured to distinguish bimself show that neither his understanding, his by eccentricities unworthy a man endowed feelings, nor his genius, were allowed to with talents which might command ho- sleep on his travels. Eccentricities, as nourable fame, I admit the choice of a strong as those exhibited at Cambridge, bear as his companion, with all its attend- and produced by the same causes, may, ant history, to have been a boyish act, perhaps, have been indulged during these which showed both bad taste and want of wanderings; but it is clear, that they were judgment. I do not doubt that Lord By- never suffered to overlay his genius, or ron had inherent in him, not only an ex- break down the energies of his mind or cess of pride, but a good deal of vanity, heart. I know not whether, if he did not rewhich is always united with it. The sist to join in the youthful follies by which truth is, that there was implanted in him the more common beings of his age, and that strong love of distinction, which is gi- rank, and sphere of life endeavour to ren-, ven us for the wisest purposes, as a spur der themselves remarkable, the flame to noble exertions and a career of useful which could still burn so brightly in the glory! But this fire does not always find midst of such an enfeebling and extinvent in its proper direction ; accidents guishing atmosphere, did not thus prove sometimes impede it; blights, chills, ob- its vigour and its virtue more decidedly, structions, turn it aside; it is then al- than if carefully cultivated, and kept most sure, if it be strong, to break out in from all perils and counteractions. It is excrescences, funguses, diseases ! Lord a sickly flame which never makes the Byron had been oppressed and disap- cauldron boil over, and cannot live amid pointed at school; he came to college winds and tempests, even at the expense with a wounded pride, and his manners, of sometimes taking a wrong and danand (as I believe, the mortification of a
gerous direction. fortune inadequate to his rank, exposed “ At the age of twenty-four, after three
years of absence, Lord Byron returned the wreck of a spent fortune, and a wi. from his first travels. The publication dow to whose affairs retirement from the of the first part of Childe Harold, (1812) world became necessary, and who brought brought him into immediate fashion. up her son among her own relations in But this sort of fashion, this quick pass Scotland, till the time when he was sent from one extreme to another, is almost to Harrow. as dangerous and oversetting in youth to “There is nothing more illiberal than a a sensitive, fiery, and turbid spirit, as ne- great school on the subject of fortune, glect and obloquy. It is like one used manners, and connexions. When these only to the bracing drink of cold waters operate to furnish mortification to a suddenly overtaken by strong and inebri- proud, sullen spirit, the chances are that ating wine! It must be recollected, that it never recovers from its effects. Every though in the democratic temper which one knows that the great passion of boys prevails in England, Lord Byron's rank assembled in large numbers is to mortify would not by itself procure him proper each other. I learned many years ago, notice ; yet when the whim of fashion from good intelligence, that Lord Byron fixed its eye on him on other accounts, was especially subjected to these effects. it was a great aid, and increased fivefold I think, therefore, that candour ought to the silly distinction which it confers with make some allowance, if, under these such blind adulation on its idols. I will circumstances, the sudden blaze of fashion not degrade my pen by attempting to that fell on Lord Byron had a sort of ungive a picture of the manner in which it due temporary influence over his strong acts, or an examination of the little des mind, which it would not otherwise have picable cabals, artifices, intrigues, pas- had. sions, and insanities, on these puny nar- “ I say temporary ;-I shall presently roir stages of life, where the actors and show that he emancipated himself from actresses have the folly and blindness to it to a degree and in a manner which has call themselves the world, as if these few been made an offensive charge against hundreds of silly people formed the ex- him, but which appears to me a proof of clusively-important part of mankind ! - bis radical magnanimity and rectitude. nay, as if they monopolized title, birth, “ But in the midst of this burst of rank, wealth, polish, talent, and know- fashionable idolatry his enemies and his ledge; and this at a crisis, when the an- traducers never left him. Not only were cient and great nobility keep themselves for every error and indiscretion of his past the most part aloof ; * and when these exclu- life brought forward and made the theme sionalists are principally new titles, East of every tongue, but all were exaggerated; Indians, adventurers, noisy politicians, im- and there were added to them a thousand pudent wits of low origin, vulgar emergers utter inventions of diabolical malignity. from the city suddenly got rich, contractors, I had forgot to mention the old monk's Jews, rhyming orators, and scheming par skull, found at Newstead, which he had sons, who have pushed themselves into notice formed into a drinking-cup, when he by dint of open purse or brazen face; and first quitted Cambridge for the old manwho get a little bad gilding, like the ginger- sion of his ancestors, and the orgies of bread of a rustic fair, by a few cast duchesses, which among his companions he made it countesses, fc. who, having come to the end à part. It must be confessed that it was of their own pockets, credits, and characters, an unfeeling frolic which it would be vain are willing to come wherever the doors of to excuse, and which, I must frankly large houses can be opened to them, and the own, fills me with a painful shudder that costs of expensive entertainments paid ! I cannot overcome. I am willing to
“ Into this new world, besetting to the surrender it to the opprobrium which it young, the vain, and the inexperienced, deserves. But his calumniators were not Lord Byron was now plunged. It is true content with this ; they founded the most that his family was ancient, and had been revolting perversions on it, which have highly allied, and might fairly be said to found their way into the German and belong to the old nobility ;-but I trust other foreign biographies of our poet. It it will not be deemed invidious to say cannot, however, but strike us, that many frankly, that they were now in their wane: a youth of rank has been guilty of a huna his father had lived in high life; but he dred jokes equally objectionable, -yet died when the son was an infant, leaving against whom such acts, if he happened
Our readers will recollect what was said in our Number for last November, about the fact, that Lord Byron never had access to the real first class of London society. Mr Bowles has quoted the passage we allude to in his late “ Final Appeal” upon the Pope Controversy with Roscoe and Byron. VOL. XVII.
to be stupid, and never to have done a “ Lord Byron was of another quality good thing to counterbalance them, were and temperament: if the world would never brought forward as objections to not conform to him, still less would he his amiableness or respectability. conform to them. He had all the manly
“ Four eventful years (1812 to 1815) baronial pride of his ancestors, though he passed in this manner in England. It had not all their wealth, and their means was on the 2d of January,1815, that Lord of generosity, hospitality, and patronage : Byron's marriage took place : a subject he had the will, alas ! without the power. on wbich it is not necessary to my pur- “ With this temper, these feelings, this pose to enter into any details, and which genius, exposed to a combination of such I willingly avoid. All the world knows untoward and trying circuinstances, it that it was not happy, and that, where- would indeed have been inimitably praiseever the fault lay, it embittered the re- worthy if Lord Byron could have been mainder of his days.
always wise, prudent, calm, correct, pure, “ The charge against Lord Byron is - virtuous, and unassailable :-if he could not that he fell a victim to excessive have shown all the force and splendour temptations, and a combination of cir- of his mighty poetical energies, without cumstances which it required a very rare any mixture of their clouds, their baneand extraordinary degree of virtue, wis- ful lightnings, or their storms:--if he dom, prudence, and steadiness, to sur- could have preserved all his sensibility to mount,--but that he abandoned a situa- every kind and noble passion, yet bave tion of uncommon advantages, and fell remained placid and unaffected by the atweakly, pusillanimously, and selfishly, tack of any blameable emotion ;that is, when victory would have been easy, and it would have been admirable if he bad when defeat was ignominious. I have been an angel, and not a man! anticipated much of the answer to this “ Unbappily, the outrages he received, charge : I will dwell a little more on it. the gross calumnies which were heaped I do not deny that Lord Byron inherited upon him, even in the time of his highest some very desirable and even enviable favour with the public, turned the deprivileges in the lot of life which fell to lights of bis very days of triumph to poihis share. I should falsify my known son, and gave him a sort of moody, fierce, sentiments if I treated lightly the gift of and violent despair, which led him to huan ancient English peerage, and a name mours, acts, and words, that mutually of honour and venerable antiquity: but aggravated the ill-will and the offences without a fortune competent to that rank, between him and his assailants. There it is not a bed of roses;'-nay, it is was a daring spirit in his temper and his attended with many and extreme diffi- talents, which was always inflamed rather culties, and the difficulties are exactly than corrected by opposition. such as a genius and temper like Lord “ In this most unpropitious state of Byron's were least calculated to meet ; things, everything that went wrong was at any rate, least calculated to meet un. attributed to Lord Byron; and, when der the peculiar collateral circumstances once attributed, was assumed and argued in which he was placed. His income upon as an undeniable fact.
Yet, to my was very narrow: his Newstead property mind, it is quite clear,-quite unattended left him a very small disposable surplus: by a partiele of doubt, that, in many his Lancashire property was, in its condi- things in which he has been the most tion, &c. unproductive. A profession, blamed, he was the absolute victim af - such as the army,-might have lessen misfortune ; that unpropitious trains of ed, or almost annihilated, the difficulties events (for I do not wish to shift the of his peculiar position--but probably blame on others) led to explosions and bis lameness rendered this impossible. consequent derangements, which no cold He seems to have had a love of inde prudent pretender to extreme propriety pendence, which was noble, and, proba- and correctness could have averted, or bly, even an intractability; but this tem- met in a manner less blameable than that per added to his indisposition to bend in which Lord Byron met it. and adapt himself to his lot. A dull, or “ It is not easy to conceive a character supple, or intriguing man, without a less fitted to conciliate general society by single good quality of head or heart, his manners and balits, than that of Lord might have managed it much better. He Byron. It is probable that he could make might have made himself subservient to his address and conversation pleasing to government, and wormed himself into ladies when he chose to please ; but to some lucrative place; or he might have the young dandies of fashion, noble and lived meanly, conformed himself stupidly ignoble, he must have been very repulor cringingly to all humours, and been sire: as long as he continued to be the borne onward on the wings of society ton—the lion, they may have endured with little personal expense.
him without opening their mouths, be