The late Lord Byron, whose death we noticed in our last, p. 479, was the eldest son of the Hon. Capt. John Byron (grandson of Wm. 4th Lord Byron) by his second wife Catharine Gordon (lineally descended from the Earl of Huntley, and the Princess Jane, dau. of James II. of Scotland), and was born about 30 miles from Aberdeen, Jan. 22, 1788. His father died at Valenciennes soon after the birth of the late Peer, Aug. 2, 1791, leaving his widow in no very flourishing circumstances. Her conduct, however, was most exemplary, and if his Lordship intended to depict his mother as Donna Inez, in his Don Juan, as has been said by one of our contemporaries, and, indeed, generally understood, it appears to us that he has dealt with undue severity with his parent. In Aberdeen his mother lived in almost perfect seclusion, on account of the great deterioration of her property by the extravagance of her deceased husband, for her high spirit would not suffer her to apply to his family for the slightest allowance, although her own was scanty indeed. She kept no company, but was regarded and esteemed by all who knew her, and her amiable disposition and manners were particularly shown towards all those whom she thought fit to associate in reading or in sports with her son. He was, indeed, her darling child, for when he only went out for an ordinary walk, she would entreat him, with the tear glistening in her eye, to take care of himself, as "she had nothing on earth but him to live for;" a circumstance not at all pleasing to his adventurous spirit; the more especially as some of his companions, who witnessed the affectionate scene, would, at school, or at their sports, make light of it, and ridicule him about it.
George Byron Gordon was the appellation by which he was known to his schoolfellows in Aberdeen, and if any of them by accident or design reversed the latter words, he was very indignant at it, on account of the neglect with which his father's family had all along treated his mother.
At the age of seven years his Lordship, whose previous instruction in the English language had been his mother's sole task, was sent to the Grammar School at Aberdeen, where he continued till his removal to Harrow, with the exception of some intervals of absence, which were deemed necessary for the establishment of his health, by a temporary removal to the Highlands of Aberdeenshire, his constitution being always (while a boy) uncommonly delicate, his mind painfully sensitive, but his heart transcendently warm and kind. Here it was he delighted in "the mountain and the flood," and here it was that he imbibed that spirit of freedom, and that love for "the land of his Scottish sires," which nothing could tear from his heart. Here it was that he felt himself without restraint, even in dress; and on his return to school, which, by the bye, he always did with the utmost willingness, it was with much difficulty that his mother could induce him to quit the kilt and the plaid, in compliance with the manners of the town; but the bonnet he would never leave off, until it could be no longer worn.
At school his progress never was so distinguished above that of the general run of his class-fellows, as after occasional intervals of absence, when he would, in a few days, run through (and well too) exercises, which, according to school routine, had taken weeks to accomplish. But when he had overtaken the rest of the class, he contented himself with being considered a tolerable scholar, without making any violent exertion to be placed at the head of the first form. It was out of school that be aspired to be the leader of every thing. In all the boyish sports and amusements he would be first, if possible. For this he was eminently calculated. Candid, sincere; a lover of stern and inflexible truth; quick, enterprising, and daring, his mind was capable of overcoming those impediments which Nature had thrown in his way, by making his constitution and body weak, and by a mal-formation of one of his feet. Nevertheless, no boy could outstrip him in the race, or in swimming. Even at that early period (from eight to ten years of age) all his sports were of a manly character; fishing, shooting, swimming, and managing a horse, or steering and trimming the sails of a boat, constituted his chief delights; and to the superficial observer seemed his sole occupation.
On the death of his great uncle William, 5th Lord Byron, May 19, 1798, he succeeded to the title; being then only ten years of age. Towards the close of this year he was removed to Harrow. Speaking of his studies there, his Lordship says, in a note to the fourth Canto of Childe Harold, "In some parts of the Continent, young persons are taught from mere common authors, and do not read the best Classics till their maturity. I certainly do not speak on this point front any pique or aversion towards the plan of any education. I was not a slow though an idle boy; and I believe no one could be more attached to Harrow than I have always been, and with reason: — a part of the time passed there was the happiest of any life; and my preceptor (the Rev. Dr. Joseph Drury) was the best and worthiest friend I ever possessed, whose warnings I have remembered but too well, but too late when I have erred," &c.
At the age of little more than sixteen, he removed to the University of Cambridge, where he became a student of Trinity College.
At the age of nineteen he left the University for Newstead Abbey, and the same year gave to the world his "Hours of Idleness," 1807. (See vol. LXXVII. p. 1217).
In his aquatic exercises near Newstead Abbey, he had seldom any other companion than a large Newfoundland dog, to try whose sagacity and fidelity he would sometimes fall out of the boat, as if by accident, when the dog would seize him and drag him ashore. On losing this dog, in the autumn of 1808, his Lordship caused a monument to be erected, commemorative of its attachment, with an inscription, from which we extract the following lines:
Ye who, perchance, behold this simple urn,
Pass on — it honours none you wish to mourn!
To mark a friend's remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one, and here he lies.
On arriving at the age of manhood, Lord Byron embarked at Falmouth for Lisbon, and from thence proceeded across the Peninsula to the Mediterranean, in company with, J. C. Hobhouse, esq. M.P. In 1809 Mr. Hobbouse published Imitations and Translations, &c. several beautiful pieces of which were written by Lord Byron. The same year Lord Byron produced his English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, a satirical poem. This production was occasioned by the rough treatment he met from the Criticks on the publication of his Hours of Idleness. It evinced a spirit not to be repressed, and talents that excited greater expectations. The travels of his Lordship are described in the notes to his Childe Harold. It is somewhat singular that his Lordship should have then had a narrow escape from a fever in the vicinity of the place where he has just ended his life:
"When, in 1810," he says, "after the departure of my friend, Mr. Hobhouse, for England, I was seized with a severe fever in the Morea; these men (Albanians) saved my life, by frightening away my physician, whose throat they threatened to cut, if I was not cured within a given time. To this consolatory assurance of posthumous retribution, and a resolute refusal of Dr. Romanelli's prescriptions, I attribute my recovery. I had left my last remaining English servant at Athens; my dragoman or interpreter was as ill as myself, and my poor Arnaouts nursed me with an attention which would have done honour to civilization."
While the Salsette frigate, in which Lord Byron was a passenger to Constantinople, lay in the Dardanelles, a discourse arose among some of the officers respecting the practicability of swimming across the Hellespont. Lord Byron and Lieut. Ekenhead agreed to make the trial — they accordingly attempted this enterprise on the 3d of May, 1810. The following is the account given of it by his Lordship:
"The whole distance from Abydos, the place whence we started, to our landing at Sestos on the other side, including the length we were carried by the current, was computed by those on board the frigate at upwards of four English miles; though the actual breadth is barely one. The rapidity of the current is such, that no boat can row directly across; and it may in some measure be estimated, from the circumstance of the whole distance being accomplished by one of the parties in an hour and five, and by the other, in an hour and ten minutes. The water was extremely cold, from the melting of the mountain snows. About three weeks before, we had made an attempt; but having ridden all the way from the Troad the same morning, and the water being of an icy chillness, we found it necessary to postpone the completion till the frigate anchored below the castles, when we swam the Straits, as just stated, entering a considerable way above the European, and landing below the Asiatic fort. Chevalier says that a young Jew swam the same distance for his mistress; and Olivier mentions its having been done by a Neapolitan; but our Consul at Tarragona remembered neither of those circumstances, and tried to dissuade us from the attempt. A number of the Salsette's crew were known to have accomplished a greater distance; and the only thing that surprised me was, that doubts had been entertained of the truth of Leanders' story, no traveller had ever endeavoured to ascertain its practicability."
This notable adventure was, however, followed by a fit of the ague.
He returned to England in 1811, after an absence of nearly three years, and the two first Cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, (see vol. LXXXII. i. p. 448) made their appearance in February 1812. To this poem in succession, followed The Giaour, and The Bride of Abydos, (see vol. LXXXIV. i. 51) two Turkish stories, and while the world was yet divided in opinion as to which of these three pieces the palm was due, he produced his beautiful poems of The Corsair and Lara.
In 1812 his Lordship disposed of Newstead Abbey, which he has commemorated in one of his early compositions, for about £150,000; and in 1814 he took possession of it again through a condition not being fulfilled.
On the 2d of January, 1815, his Lordship married, at Seaham, in the county of Durham, Anne-Isabella, only daughter of Sir Ralph Millbank Noel, Baronet, and on the 10th of Dec. of the same year, his Lady brought him a daughter. Within a few weeks, however, after that event a separation took place, for which various causes have been stated. This difference excited a strong sensation at the time. His Lordship, while the public anxiety as to the course he would adopt was at its height, suddenly left the kingdom with the resolution never to return.
He crossed over to France, through which he passed rapidly to Brussels, taking in his way a survey of the field of Waterloo. He proceeded to Coblentz, and thence up the Rhine as far as Basle. After visiting some of the most remarkable scenes in Switzerland, he proceeded to the North of Italy. He took up his abode for some time at Venice, where he was joined by Mr. Hobhouse, who accompanied him in an excursion to Rome, where he completed his Childe Harold.
At Venice, Lord Byron avoided as much as possible all intercourse with his countrymen. He quitted that city and took up his residence in other parts of the Austrian dominions in Italy, which he quitted for Tuscany. He was joined by the late Mr. Shelley (see vol. XCII. ii. 383.) and afterwards by Mr. Leigh Hunt; and they jointly produced a periodical entitled The Liberal, a work now defunct. (See vol. XCII. ii. p. 348).
In 1815 he published 24 Hebrew Melodies, "written at the request of the author's friend, the Hon. D. Kinnaird, for a selection of Hebrew Melodies;" and they were also published, with the Musick arranged by Mr. Braham and Mr. Nathan. (See vol. LXXXV. i. p. 539. ii. p. 141). The following year produced his Siege of Corinth, the third Canto of Childe Harold, and a little Collection of Poems, amongst which is The Farewell, inserted in vol. LXXXVI. i. p. 357. By an affidavit made in the Court of Chancery, it appears that Mr. Murray had paid Lord Byron £5,000 for the copyright if various Poems, of which £2,000 were for the 3d Canto of Childe Harold, and for The Prisoner of Chillon, — A Dream — and Other Poems (see vol. LXXXVII. i. p. 41). The Childe Harold consists of 118 stanzas, which were paid for at more than £10 a stanza, and more than a guinea a line!! In the European Magazine for 1814 is a letter from Mr. R. C. Dallas, in answer to an assertion contained in an evening paper, that Lord Byron received and pocketed large sums for his book, who states "that Lord Byron never received a shilling for any of his works. To my certain knowledge, the profits of the Satire were left entirely to the publisher of it. The gift of the copyright of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage I have already publicly acknowledged, and I now add my acknowledgment for that of The Corsair. With respect to his two other Poems, The Giaour and The Bride of Abydos, Mr. Murray can truly attest that no part of the sale of those have ever touched his Lordship's hands, or been disposed of for his own use." By the affidavit noticed above, it appears that Lord Byron has received sums of money, and those very considerable, from Mr. Murray for his productions; but "neither rank nor fortune," says Mr. Dallas, "seems to me to place any man above this; for what difference does it make in honour and noble feelings, whether a copyright be bestowed, or its value employed in beneficent purposes?"
The publication of his Siege of Corinth, &c. was inferior to all his former productions, and gave rise to the following critique. "Having once gained the tide of fortune, he may have exclaimed, 'Inveni portam — spes et fortuna, valete,' — but let him 'take heed lest he fall;' his laurels, like those of the soldier, or the actor, may not for ever bloom. A well-fought and successful enterprize may to-day entwine them luxuriantly on their brows, but the less fortunate attempt of to-morrow soil them with disgrace. We look with regret on those scenes of our childhood which nature and art had united in embellishing, if the hand of assiduity has in latter days neglected their culture; and though some of the well-known haunts, and many of their flowers may still mark the spot, they are the less valued, if among them are found the tares of bad culture, and the weeds of carelessness." The justice of applying this remark to Lord Byron's later productions, will be acknowledged by even every devoted friend to his muse.
In 1817 he published Manfred, a Dramatic Poem, and The Lament of Tasso. The former of these pieces exhibit "palpable indications of faded faculty," and is decidedly one of the wildest and worst of its author's; while the latter is highly creditable to his talents. (See vol. LXXXVII. ii. pp. 45, 350).
About 1818 Lord Byron resided at Abydos for some time; from whence he went to Tenedos; where it is probable he wrote The Bride of Abydos. His house stood facing the Hellespont, and had a full view of the entrance to the sea of Marmora, and the castles and shores of the Dardanelles. He embarked in his felucca from Tenedos to the Island of Scio, where his landing was hailed with joy by the natives: he had before been there, and was well known. He took up his residence in a small cottage on the top of the high mountain of Sopriano; and during the three months which he resided upon this island, never once entered the capital, but visited every classical scene, frequently sleeping at the peasant's cottages, where he was sure to be well received on account of his liberality; many instances of which might be produced. Lord Byron's departure from Scio was marked by much regret on the part of the Greeks, to whom he had been a sincere friend. His felucca arrived at Point Sombro, where he was received by a salute of four guns, which he returned by eight as he left the harbour of Scio, and made to Mitylene. Lord Byron never visited any island upon which he did not leave some marks of his goodness. To the Greek Church at Mitylene he gave £40; to the Hospital £60; and in private charity considerably more. From Mitylene he went to Cos, where he was attacked with a painful disorder, from which he gradually recovered, and departed to Athens, where, no doubt, he traced out many of the scenes of Childe Harold.
In 1818 was published Beppo, a Venetian Story. It wanders on from digression to digression; occasionally pointed or even sour and satiric, but chiefly in the listless style in which verse is allowed to fashion sentiment, when the writer has thrown the reins on the neck of imagination. (See vol. LXXXVIII. ii. p. 144.)
In 1819 he published Mazeppa a Poem, and Don Juan; the latter announced and published in a very mysterious manner, no bookseller's name being affixed. (See vol. LXXXIX. ii. p. 43, 152). This work was attacked in a pamphlet intituled, "Remarks Critical and Moral on the talents of Lord Byron, and the tendencies of Don Juan. By the Author of Hypocrisy, a Satire," (see vol. XC. i. p. 344). In 1820 was published his Doge of Venice, at the end of which is The Prophecies of Dante.
In 1821 Lord Byron entered the field with the Rev. Wm. Lisle Bowles, by publishing a letter on Strictures on the Life and Writings of Pope, which was answered by the Rev. Author (see vol. XCI. i. p. 291, 534).
In this year he published Sardanapalus, a Tragedy; the Three Foscari, a Tragedy; Cain, a Mystery. (See vol. XCI. ii. 537, 613, and vol. XCII. i. p. 60.) The subsequent productions of Lord Byron have all consisted of immoral and infidel sentiments. His Vision of Judgment, a parody on that of Southey, is justly censured in our vol. XCII. ii. 348. In 1822 he published Werner, a Tragedy, founded on a German tale. His Heaven and Earth, a Mystery, was published in 1823 (see vol XCIII. i. p. 43). In this year he also added six Cantos to his Don Juan, which have since received an increase of three more.
His patrimonial estate received lately a large increase by the death of Lady Byron's mother; and a valuable coal mine, said to be worth £50,000 had been discovered on his Rochdale estate before he left England; so that at his death he must have been in the possession of a large income.
On the 9th of April, Lord Byron, who had been living very low, exposed himself in a violent rain; the consequence of which was a severe cold, and he was immediately confined to his bed. The low state to which he had been reduced by his abstinence, and probably by some of the remaining effects of previous illness, from which he had recently recovered, made him unwilling — at least he refused — to be bled. It is to be lamented that no one was near his Lordship who had sufficient influence over his mind, or who was himself sufficiently aware of the necessity of the case, to induce him to submit to that remedy, which, in all human probability, would have saved a life so valuable to Greece. The inflammatory action, unchecked, terminated fatally on the 19th of April. The friends who were near him at the time of his decease, in addition to Prince Mavrocordato, were Mr. Parry, who had organized the artillery and engineer corps for the Greeks at Missolonghi, Mr. Bourke, and Count Gamba. The letters from the last-named gentleman first communicated the intelligence to Lord Sidney Osborne, who forwarded it with the kindest attention to the friends of Lord Byron in England, and proceeded from Corfu to Zante, to make whatever arrangements might be necessary respecting his remains.
Lord Byron had succeeded, his friends are informed, in stirring up among the people of the part of Greece in which he had resided, an almost inconceivable enthusiasm. His exertions were incessant in their cause, and the gratitude of the people was proportioned to them. His influence was not lessened by being employed often to procure humane, even kind treatment towards the Turkish captives. On the day of Lord Byron's death, and when he appeared in imminent danger, the Prince Mavrocordato wrote to his Lordship's friend and companion, Count Gamba, requesting that a Committee might be immediately appointed to take the necessary measures for the security of his property; in consequence of which, four Gentlemen have been nominated to act until other arrangements can be made.
On the 20th of April, 1824, Prince Mavrocordato addressed a letter to J. Bowring, esq. Secretary to the Greek Committee, informing him of the awful event.
He says, "Our loss is irreparable, and it is with justice that we abandon ourselves to inconsolable sorrow. Notwithstanding the difficult circumstances in which I am placed, I shall attempt to perform my duty towards this great man: the eternal gratitude of my country will perhaps be the only true tribute to his memory. The Deputies will communicate to you the details of this melancholy event, on which the grief which I feel will not allow me to dwell longer. You will excuse — you will justify, my being overwhelmed with sorrow."
The following is a translation of the Proclamation which was issued by the Greek Authorities at Missolonghi, to the grief of its inhabitants, who were thus arrested in the celebration of their Easter festivities:
PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT OF GREECE.
"The present days of festivity are converted into days of bitter lamentation for all — Lord Byron departed this life to-day, about eleven o'clock in the evening, in consequence of a rheumatic inflammatory fever, which had lasted for ten days. During the time of his illness your general anxiety evinced the profound sorrow that pervaded your hearts. All classes, without distinction of sex or age, oppressed by grief, entirely forgot the days of Easter. The death of this illustrious personage is certainly a most calamitous event for all Greece, and still more lamentable for this city, to which he was eminently partial, of which he became a citizen, and of the dangers of which be was determined personally to partake when circumstances should require it. His munificent donations to this community are before the eyes of every one, and no one amongst us ever ceased, or ever will cease, to consider him, with the purest and most grateful sentiments, our benefactor. Until the dispositions of the National Government regarding this most calamitous event he known, by virtue of the Decree of the Legislature, No. 314, of date the 13th of October,
It is ordained, — 1. To-morrow, by sun-rise, thirty-seven minute guns shall be fired from the batteries of this town, equal to the number of years of the deceased personage.
2. All public offices, including all Courts of Justice, shall be shut for three following days.
3. All shops, except those for provisions and medicines, shall also be kept shut; and all sorts of musical instruments, all dances customary in these days, all sorts of festivities and merriment in the public taverns, and every other tort of public amusement, shall cease during the above-named period.
4. A general mourning shall take place for twenty-one days.
5. Funeral ceremonies shall be performed in all the churches.
GIORGIO PRAIDI, Secretary.
Missolonghi, 13th April, 1824."
We understand that at Missolonghi the grief that pervaded the inhabitants did not require this notification from the Government: mourning was deep and universal.
Thus has perished, in the flower of his age, in the noblest of causes, one of the greatest Poets England ever produced. His death, at this moment, is, no doubt, a severe misfortune to the struggling people for whom he has so generously devoted himself. He had virtues and he had failings; the latter were in a great measure the result of the means of indulgence which were placed within his reach at so early a period of his life. "Give me neither poverty nor riches," said an inspired writer, and certainly it may be said that the gift of riches is an unfortunate one for the possessor. The aim which men, who are not born to wealth, have constantly before them, gives a relish to existence to which the hereditary opulent must ever be strangers. Gratifications of every kind soon lose their attraction; the game of life is played without interest; for that which can be obtained without effort is never highly prized.
It is fortunate for the great when they can escape from themselves into some pursuit, which, by firing their ambition, gives a stimulus to their active powers. — We rejoiced to see Lord Byron engaged in a cause which afforded such motives for exertions, and we anticipated from him many days of glory; but it has been otherwise decreed.
In every publication of this noble Bard, the same delight in the terrible pervades; the same dark shades of character are constantly delineated. Bold imagery and beautiful description are to be found in every page; yet the whole convey but a transient pleasure, and very little morality. He supplied the corrupt with excuses for corruption, and the infidel with sneers against religion. Whether Lord Byron was guilty of plagiarism has been a matter of controversy. Some remarks on this point may be seen in vol. LXXXVIII. i. pp. 121, 389, 390. In the subsequent volumes of our Magazine will be found many notices of Lord Byron and his productions.
The following tribute to the memory of the Noble Bard is said to be written by Sir Walter Scott.
"Amidst the general calmness of the political atmosphere, we have been stunned, from another quarter, by one of those death-notes, which are peeled at intervals, as from an Archangel's trumpet, to awaken the soul of a whole people at once. Lord Byron, who has so long and so amply filled the highest place in the public eye, has shared the lot of humanity. That mighty genius, which walked amongst men as something superior to ordinary mortality, and whose powers were beheld with wonder, and something approaching to terror, as if we knew not whether they were of good or of evil, is laid as soundly to rest as the poor peasant whose ideas never went beyond his daily task. The voice of just blame, and of malignant censure, are at once silenced; and we feel almost as if the great Luminary of heaven had suddenly disappeared from the sky, at the moment when every telescope was levelled for the examination of the spots which dimmed its brightness. It is not now the question, what were Byron's faults, what big mistakes; but, how is the blank which he has left in British Literature to be. filled up? Not, we fear, in one generation, which, among many highly gifted persons, has produced none who approached Lord, Byron in ORIGINALITY, the first attribute of genius. Only thirty-seven years old — so much already done for immortality — so much time remaining, as it seemed to us short-sighted mortals, to maintain and to extend his fame, and to atone for errors in conduct, and levities in composition, — who will not grieve that such a race has been shortened, though not always keeping the straight path; such a light extinguished, though sometimes flaming to dazzle and to bewilder? One word on this ungrateful subject ere we quit it for ever.
"The errors of Lord Byron arose neither from depravity of heart, — for Nature had not committed the anomaly of uniting to such extraordinary talents an imperfect moral sense, — nor from feelings dead to the admiration of virtue. No man had ever a kinder heart for sympathy, or a more open hand for the relief of distress; and no mind was ever more formed for the enthusiastic admiration of noble actions, providing he was convinced that the actors had proceeded on disinterested principles. Lord Byron was totally free from the curse and degradation of literature, its jealousies we mean, and its envy. But his wonderful genius was of a nature which disdained restraint, even when restraint was most wholesome. When at school, the tasks in which he excelled were those only which he undertook voluntarily; and his situation as a young man of rank, with strong passions, and in the uncontrolled enjoyment of a considerable fortune, added to that impatience of strictures or coercion which was natural to him. As an author he refused to plead at the bar of Criticism; as a man, he would not submit to be morally amenable to the tribunal of public opinion. Remonstrances from a friend, of whose intentions and kindness he was secure, had often great weight with him, but there were few who could venture on a task so difficult. Reproof he endured with impatience, and reproach hardened him in his error; so that he often resembled the gallant war-steed, who rushes forward on the steel that wounds him. In the most painful crisis of his private life, he evinced this irritability and impatience of censure in such a degree as almost to resemble the noble victim of the bull-fight, which is more maddened by the squibs, darts, and petty annoyances, of the unworthy crowds beyond the lists, than by the lance of his nobler and, so to speak, his more legitimate antagonist. In a word, much of that in which he erred, was in bravado and scorn of his censors, and was done with the motive of Dryden's despot, 'to shew his arbitrary power.' It is needless to say, that his was a false and prejudiced view of such a contest; and that if the noble Bard gained a sort of triumph, by compelling the world to read poetry, though mixed with baser matter, because it was his, he gave in return, an unworthy triumph to the unworthy, besides deep sorrow to those whose applause in his cooler moments he most valued.
"It was the same with his politics, which on several occasions assumed a tone menacing and contemptuous to the Constitution of his country: while, in fact, Lord Byron was in his own heart sufficiently sensible, not only of his privileges as a Briton, but of the distinction attending his high birth and rank, and was peculiarly sensitive of those shades which constitute what is termed the manners of a gentleman. Indeed, notwithstanding his having employed epigrams, and all the petty war of wit, when such would have been much better abstained from, he would have been found, had a collision taken place between the aristocratic and democratic parties in the state, exerting all his energies in defence of that to which he naturally belonged. His own feeling on these subjects he has explained in the very last canto of Don Juan; and they are in entire harmony with the opinions which we have seen expressed in his correspondence, at a moment when matters appeared to approach to a serious struggle in his native country:
He was independent — ay, much more,
Than those who were not paid for independence;
As common soldiers, or a common — Shore,
Have in their several arts or parts ascendance
O'er the irregulars in lust or gore,
Who do not give professional attendance.
Thus on the mob all statesmen are as eager
To prove their pride, as footmen to a beggar.
"We are not, however, Byron's apologists, for now, alas! he needs none. His excellencies will now be universally acknowledged, and his faults (let us hope and believe) not remembered in his epitaph. It will be recollected what part he has sustained in British Literature since the first appearance of Childe Harold, a space of nearly sixteen years. There has been no reposing under the shade of his laurels, no living upon the resource of past reputation, none of that coddling and petty precaution, which little authors call 'taking care of their fame.' Byron let his fame take care of itself. His foot was always in the arena, his shield hung always in the lists; and although his own gigantic renown increased the difficulty of the struggle, since he could produce nothing, however great, which exceeded the public estimate of his genius, yet he advanced to the honourable contest again and again, and came always off with distinction, almost always with complete triumph. As various in composition as Shakspeare himself (this will be admitted by all who are acquainted with his Don Juan), he has embraced every topic of human life, and sounded every string on the divine harp, from its slightest to its most powerful and heart-astounding tones. There is scarce a passion, or a situation, which has escaped his pen; and he might be drawn, like Garrick, between the weeping and the laughing Muse, although his most powerful efforts have certainly been dedicated to Melpomene. His genius seemed as prolific as various. The most prodigal use did not exhaust his powers, nay, seemed rather to increase their vigour. Neither Childe Harold, nor any of the most beautiful of Byron's earlier tales, contain more exquisite morsels of poetry than are to be found scattered through the cantos of Don Juan, amidst verses which the author appears to have thrown off with an effort as spontaneous as that of a tree resigning its leaves to the wind. — But that noble tree will never more bear fruit or blossom! It has been cut down in its strength, and the past is all that remains to us of Byron. We can scarce reconcile ourselves to the idea — scarce think that the voice is silent for ever, which, bursting so often on our ear, was often beard with rapturous admiration, sometimes with regret, but always with the deepest interest,
All that's bright must fade,
The brightest still the fleetest!
"With a strong feeling of awful sorrow, we take leave of the subject. Death creeps upon our most serious as well as upon our most idle employments; and it is a reflection solemn and gratifying, that he found our Byron in no moment of levity, but contributing his fortune, and hazarding his life, in behalf of a people only endeared to him by their past glories, and as fellow creatures suffering under the yoke of a heathen oppressor. To have fallen in a crusade for freedom and humanity, as in olden times it would have been an atonement for the blackest crimes, may in the present he allowed to expiate greater follies than even exaggerating calumny has propagated against Byron."
It is well known that the Memoirs of Lord Byron, written by himself, had been deposited in the keeping of Mr. Thomas Moore, and designed as a legacy for his benefit. This gentleman, with the consent and at the desire of Lord Byron, had long ago sold the manuscript to Mr. Murray for the large sum of 2,000 guineas. These Memoirs are however lost to the world; the leading facts relating to which are related as follows by Mr. Moore.
"Without entering into the respective claims of Mr. Murray and myself to the property in these Memoirs (a question which, now that they are destroyed, can be but of little moment to any one), it is sufficient to say that, believing the manuscript still to he mine, I placed it at the disposal of Lord Byron's sister, Mrs. Leigh, with the sole reservation of a protest against its total destruction — at least without previous perusal and consultation among the parties. The majority of the persons present disagreed with this opinion, and it was the only point upon which there did exist any difference between us. The manuscript was accordingly torn and burnt before our eyes; and I immediately paid to Mr. Murray, in the presence of the Gentlemen assembled, 2,000 guineas, with interest, &c. being the amount of what I owed him upon the security of my bond, and for which I now stand indebted to my publishers, Messrs. Longman and Co.
"Since then the family of Lord Byron have, In a manner highly honourable to themselves, proposed an arrangement, by which the sum thus paid to Mr. Murray might be reimbursed me; but, from feelings and considerations, which it is unnecessary here to explain, I have respectfully, but peremptorily, declined their offer."