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highest pinnacle of poetic renown: his name was in everybody's mouth; he became the idol of fashionable society; men of rank and distinguished authors were equally anxious for his acquaint

To us at the present day this estimate of the work appears extravagant, though, when we consider that this poem, with its new and elaborate style fully developed, was the work of a youth of twenty-two years of age, we cannot help regarding it as an extraordinary product of genius. But at the time of its publication there were special reasons for its success. Independently of such adventitious causes as the rank of the writer, his handsome and interesting appearance, and the enterprising character of his journey, at a time when protracted foreign tours were less common than they are at the present day, the places which he celebrated were at that moment prominently in men's thoughts, especially Spain, in connection with the Peninsular War, in which England was then engaged.

The immediate result of this popularity to Byron himself was that he was plunged once more into a vortex of dissipation. It was the time of the Regency, when the life of the fashionable world in London was corrupt to a degree unparalleled since the days of Charles II. During the next three years, in the intervals of gaiety, he composed his Eastern tales—the'Giaour, the ‘Bride of Abydos,' the ‘Corsair,' and others. At the expiration of this period an event occurred, which became the turning-point of his life. On the 2nd of January, 1815, he was married to Miss Isabella Milbanke, an attractive and accomplished lady, of good family. In the case of a person of wayward fancies and strong passions, such as Byron was, marriage was certain, under any circumstances, to be precarious ; and though for the first six months the union to all appearance was a happy one, yet after that time, owing to pecuniary embarrassments and other causes which tried the poet's temper, he treated his wife with great unkindness. At the expiration of a year she bore him a daughter, Ada, and not long afterwards she left him, never to return. What was the immediate cause of this step, was at the time, and still remains, a mystery; but there can be


no question that Byron was greatly in fault. The p:inishment, however, which fell upon him, was out of all proportion to his deserts. His enemies had found their opportunity, and used it to the utmost against him. Though he was justified in saying at a later time that he had never been arrogant in his prosperity (* Childe Harold,' 4. 1175), yet a feeling of ill-will towards him had steadily been growing among various classes of persons, and this now made itself felt. The poets whom he had satirised; those whose envy had been aroused by his success as a writer, and as a man of the world ; the ordinary English gentlemen, who were offended by his eccentricities-for he rarely ate meat, and disliked field sports ; those who disapproved of his politics ---for he had lampooned the Prince Regent-and of the religious scepticism which appeared in his poem ; all with one accord raised their voices to denounce him. The most scandalous charges were preferred and believed without proof against him ; and the votaries of fashion, who had the least right to cast stones at others, were the loudest in their outcry. Within a few weeks he became almost an outcast from society. His former acquaintances avoided and refused to recognise him ; his house was deserted, and those who before had courted him now ceased to invite him ; he was denounced in print by journalists; and at last he was followed by expressions of popular ill-will in the public streets. He himself described his position in the following words :--'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.' Accordingly, on the 25th of April,

, 1816, he quitted his native country for ever.

Agitated by mixed feelings of indignation and self-reproach, Byron once more endeavoured to divert his thoughts by travel, and betook himself first to Brussels, from which place he visited the field of Waterloo, where the battle had been fought less than a year before. Then, leisurely journeying along the banks of the Rhine, he reached Switzerland, and established himself for the summer in a villa not far from Geneva on the shores of the lake, in the immediate neighbourhood of one then occupied by Shelley. At this period the two poets were much in one another's company, and the influence of Shelley's idealism is perceptible here and there in the poetry which Byron now composed. On one occasion they made a boat expedition together round the lake, of which both of them have left descriptions : in the course of this they were nearly lost in a violent storm off Meillerie, on the southern shore, near the head of the lake. By the end of June of this year Byron had completed the third canto of Childe Harold,' which embodies the feelings and impressions of this time. It is a proof of the need of some external stimulus to call out the poet's powers, that, whereas shortly before leaving England he had declared that his genius was exhausted, together with the Eastern subjects on which he had been engaged, a renewal of the same circumstances which had first evoked his highest poetry-solitude, change of scene, and fresh impressions--now caused it to spring forth anew, though in a more tumultuous form. We are told that at the time of its publication many persons thought that this canto did not reach the level of the preceding ones, and this opinion is not difficult to explain. There is no doubt that it is far superior; the political and biographical sketches which it contains deal with subjects of higher interest, and show greater maturity of judgment; the view of external nature is loftier and more comprehensive, in proportion as the Alps are grander than other mountains ; and a force and rush pervades it which are not found in the previous portions of the poem. But it is quite intelligible that those who were accustomed to the stately grace of its predecessors should have felt that there was something lacking in it, and should have been only half satisfied with its more irregular movement and less even rhythm.

In the following autumn, shortly after Shelley's departure for England, Byron was joined by his old fellow-traveller Hobhouse, and in his company made a tour in the Oberland, which furnished him with ideas for his first drama, 'Manfred. In the middle of October they crossed over into Italy and proceeded to Venice, which city the poet made his headquarters for the


next three years ; his life during that period was such as to give countenance to some of the worst imputations of his enemies. During the spring of the year following his arrival he spent six weeks in visiting the principal Italian cities and places renowned from poetic or historical recollections, including Arquà, the burial-place of Petrarch ; Ferrara, with its memories of Tasso ; Florence, and Rome. This journey furnished the inaterial for the fourth Canto of 'Childe Harold,' which he wrote immediately on his return to Venice. This last portion of the poem is far longer than any of the others, and is usually regarded as the finest, since it combines notices of important persons and events in the ancient and mediaeval history of the country, descriptions of famous and beautiful scenes, and of renowned buildings and works of art, all wrought into the web of magnificent poetry. Byron continued to live in Italy until the middle of the year 1823, residing chiefly, after he left Venice, at Ravenna, Pisa, and Genoa. During these years he was mainly occupied in composing his dramas, and in writing ‘Don Juan.'

The political condition of Italy at this period, with its numerous petty states despotically governed, and Lombardy and Venetia in the hands of the Austrians, was such as to rouse the indignation of a lover of freedom, like Byron ; and he longed to see the country one and undivided, in accordance with the aspirations of Italian patriots from the days of Dante and Petrarch onwards. By way of giving a practical direction to these ideas, he associated himself with some of the revolutionary societies which were then secretly conspiring for the overthrow of the existing order of things. But in 1821 an event occurred which turned his thoughts in a different direction. This was the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence, which naturally suggested to the poet the possibility of realising the dreams which had passed through his mind and found expression in his verse at the time of his first visit to that classic land. The progress made by that insurrection during the first two years seemed to give good promise of its ultimate

success; and accordingly, in July 1823, Byron sailed from Genoa for Greece, and after having spent some time in Cephalonia in order to make enquiries as to the state of affairs in the country, and having been joined by other adventurous spirits, he arrived in the middle of January at Mesolonghi in Aetolia, which he had visited in the course of his former journey.

So great was his reputation, that it was felt both throughout Europe and in Greece itself that his presence materially aided the cause which he came to support. But he was not destined to take part in the liberation of the Greeks. At the end of three months from his arrival he was seized with fever, and expired at Mesolonghi on the 18th of April, 1824, at the age of 36 years. His body was transported from that place to England, and was buried in the family vault in the village church of Hucknall near Newstead. In that secluded spot repose the mortal remains of one ' whose dust was once all fire.'



Byron's life is so intimately connected with his works, and especially with 'Childe Harold,' that it has been necessary to give the preceding brief sketch of it. For the same reason an estimate of his character is requisite, though the task of making it is one of great difficulty, owing to the different, and even opposite, elements of which it was composed. One of his companions on his last expedition, George Finlay, the future historian of mediaeval and modern Greece, who had ample opportunities of forming an opinion, since he passed almost every evening in the poet's company during two months that he remained at Mesolonghi, has described him in the following words: 'It seemed as if two different souls occupied his body alternately. One was feminine, and full of sympathy; the other masculine, characterised by clear judgment, and by a rare power of presenting for consideration those facts only which were required for forming a decision. When one arrived

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