1. The Life of Lord Byron, including his Correspondence with his Friends, and Journals of his own Life and Opinions. By Thomas Moore, Esq. 2 Vols. 4to. London,1830.
2. Memoirs of the Affairs of Greece, with Anecdotes of Lord Byron, and an Account of his last Illness and Death. By Julius Millingen. 8vo. London, 1831.
The "Life of Sheridan" did not, as our readers may remember, inspire us with any very high notions of an exquisite poet's talent for biography. We have, however, been agreeably disappointed with the volumes now before us. We must at once admit that in them we have found a subject of immeasurably superior importance and attractiveness, treated on the whole with modesty, candour, and manliness; and that, although it is impossible not to condemn certain prevailing features in the narrator's style, these are but trivial defects when compared to those which almost characterised the former specimen of his prose. "Rem verba sequuntur;" the nature of his theme has exerted a salutary and sobering influence on his mind: a man of genius is in earnest; and there is nothing, either of bombast or of glitter, to disturb the interest of his mournful tale.
The tale, however, is not wholly, nor even chiefly, told by Mr. Moore; his extracts from Lord Byron's own correspondence and journals occupying, in fact, a greater space in these pages than the "notices" by which they are connected. These extracts cannot be perused without producing an enlarged estimation of the deceased poet's talents and accomplishments. They render it hardly doubtful that, had his life been prolonged, he would have taken his place in the very first rank of our prose literature also. We speak of the better parts — there is much of a far inferior, not a little of a positively low, stamp. Here certainly are numberless brief and rapid specimens of narrative, serious and comic, distinguished by a masterly combination of simplicity, energy, and grace, — of critical disquisition, at once ingenious and profound,of satire, both stern and playful, not surpassed in modern days; and, above all, here are transcripts of mental emotion, in all possible varieties, worthy of him who was equally at home in the darkest passion of Harold, and the airiest levity of Beppo. When we add that these diaries and note-books contain in abundance Lord Byron's remarks on the most distinguished of his contemporaries, whether in letters, in politics, or in fashion, it will be easily believed that they would have formed of themselves a very interesting publication; but the editor's familiarity with the author, and with most of the topics alluded to in his MS. remains, has enabled him to heighten the value of his materials by arrangement and commentary; and, whoever may be tempted to handle the subject after him, Mr. Moore's volumes must descend to posterity as the authoritative history of this great poet.
But the book is by no means one to be read running;—
C'est un poids bien pesant qu'un nom trop tot fameux;
and Lord Byron, after he had made himself a name in literature, appears to have found it hard to divest himself, even for a moment, of the professional feelings of an artist. In writing, and we fear in talking, the lion's skin stuck close to him; and we must never forget, even when he seems most frank and simple, that his confidences are those of a man with whom the passion for producing what is called an effect had come to be a second nature, fatally capable, not only of disguising, but of controlling and perverting the first.
If, however, any man qualified to understand and enjoy the higher productions of Lord Byron could ever have doubted that that first and real nature was a noble one, this book will put an end to his scepticism. Mr. Moore has accumulated a mass of anecdotes concerning his infancy and boyhood, which prove that his young heart overflowed with kindness and generosity, and all the warm and lovely emotions which so rarely survive, in all their graces, what we may call the virgin bloom of a masculine character; and this, too, in the midst of circumstances than which it would be difficult to imagine any more likely to have anticipated the hardening lessons of the world. "The boy is father of the man;" and these little stories will vindicate for ever the sincerity with which, though capable of wasting his talents on debasing exhibitions of human nature, of ministering to its ignobler passions, and of deriving a pestilent species of gratification from disturbing, both by word and deed, the serious influence of his own genius, — Lord Byron nevertheless appealed, in the works for which posterity will honour his name, to the purest and loftiest feelings of his kind. He who should prove to us that one really great poet was radically a cold, selfish, bad man — a mere player upon our sympathies — would, indeed, do more to poison the sources of kindliness and charity, and every nobler sentiment, than all the satirists that ever denied or derided virtue from the beginning of the world. No attempt of this kind will ever again be hazarded as to the character of Lord Byron. There remains enough to condemn, both in his life and his works; but both will at least be studied in the absence of sweeping and relentless prejudice; and throughout both it will be impossible not to trace one prevailing vein of self-reproach, of repentance — we had almost said, of remorse. This frets out in his lightest productions — it is the key-note of his highest, and the torturing burden of his last. The struggle between the evil principle and the good is for ever before us. Perhaps it is this that makes the chief distinguishing characteristic of his poetical melancholy, as well as its most efficacious charm; and a not less sustained contrast of opposite elements runs through his personal career and fortunes, even from the beginning.
The scene opens darkly enough. The name of Byron had sunk into a sort of discreditable obscurity, in consequence of a long train of domestic tragedies, which charitable persons had accustomed themselves to account for by imputing a vein of hereditary insanity to the blood of this race. His great-uncle, the eighth lord, neither knew nor cared anything about "the little boy that lived at Aberdeen;" he had buried a fantastic imagination, fierce, gloomy passions, and hands stained with kindred blood, among the quaint cloisters of Newstead, where all his habits confirmed the belief which had perhaps, in part, saved him from the last punishment of the law. The father of the poet appears to have been a handsome sensualist, unredeemed by any good quality of understanding, of heart, or even of temper. He concluded a youth of the grossest debauchery by marrying for her fortune a very plain woman, not his inferior in point of pedigree, but provincially bred, destitute of education, with all the pride of birth, but nothing of its manners; with apparently little or no sense of religion, combining a plentiful stock of weak, vulgar superstition; whose rude and violent passions her husband's almost incredible ill-usage seems to have so worked upon, as to shatter her reason, and, indeed, distort even her maternal feelings. As soon as the dastardly spendthrift had robbed her of a fair inheritance, and dissipated it to the winds, he abandoned her, leaving her to bring up an only child on a pittance which hardly afforded a paltry lodging in a country town and a single maidservant. Society, which winks at so much even of mean vice, has no toleration for such consummate profligacy; but though just contempt and the physical consequences of his own vices hunted the offender to an early grave, this (such, even in the midst of coarseness and imbecility, is the generosity of woman) appears only to have lent new bitterness to her cup of sorrow.
The character of this unhappy woman — to whose unaided care a child, precocious in all his feelings, was abandoned during those years in which the education of the heart makes such rapid and irrevocable strides, even where the mental faculties are dull — must be deeply weighed by every one who desires to judge with candour the personal history of her son. We have already alluded to the notion, which had long been prevalent, that there was a taint of madness in the blood of the Byrons; and the star of their line, in one of his letters, now printed, intimates that a similar suspicion had attached to the other side of his house. He enumerates three of his maternal ancestors who died by their own hands! These are things which he never forgot, and which it is our duty most seriously to consider.
He had been born with a painful bodily deformity, and his mother, when in ill-humour with him, used to make this misfortune the subject of taunts and reproaches.
I could have borne
It all, but that my mother spurned me from her.
The she-bear licks her cubs into a sort
Of shape; — my dam beheld my shape was hopeless.
She would pass from passionate caresses to the repulsion of actual disgust — then "devour him with kisses again, and swear his eyes were as beautiful as his father's." She nursed him with haughty stories of ancestry, chivalry, and feudal devotion, amidst the mean miseries of poverty and desertedness. And such was the domestic education of a child whose clay was of that dangerous fineness, that, like Dante before him, he was a passionate lover at nine years of age — of one who, in spite of Mr. Moore's scepticism as to this point (for he not only admits, but, however inconsistently, expatiates on the precocity of his love), was then incapable of looking at a mountain landscape without drinking in wild dreams of melancholy enthusiasm — in short, of a spirit instinct with sensibilities of such quickness and delicacy, that perhaps those of ordinary mortals ought no more to be compared to them than a skein of whipcord to "the tangles of Neaera's hair."
The boy was in his eleventh year when the moody homicide of Newstead died, and he thus suddenly and unexpectedly became entitled to the honours and estates of his father's family. This worked a total revolution in his and his mother's affairs; their poor chattels at Aberdeen were sold by auction for some £70, and they took possession of a venerable residence, surrounded by an ample domain, in the centre of England. The child was observed to blush deep as scarlet, he trembled, and the tear started in his eye, when his name was first called over in the little school-room at Aberdeen with the prefix of dominus; and when, after a week's journey, the hoary abbey lay before him, its long range of windows gleaming against an autumnal sky, his emotion was not less visible. It would be difficult to imagine a transition more fitted in all its circumstances to stamp lasting traces on such a mind. He passed, as at the changing of a theatrical scene, from very nearly the one extreme of outward shows to the other — from a shabby Scotch "flat" to a palace — and one that, with all its accompaniments of landscape and tradition, could not but stimulate to the highest pitch a spirit naturally solemn, already not lightly tinged with superstition, and in which the pride of ancestry had been planted from the cradle, striking the deeper root because of the forlornness and squalor of everything hitherto about him — anger, and resentment, and jealousy, the sense of injustice and indignity, and a haughty, sullen shame, all combining with, and moulding its earliest growth.
Mr. Moore, among other judicious observations on the consequences of this abrupt transition, says,
"The strange anecdotes told of the last lord by the country people, among whom his fierce and solitary habits had procured for him a sort of fearful renown, were of a nature livelily to arrest the fancy of the young poet, and even to waken in his mind a sort of boyish admiration for singularities which he found thus elevated into matters of wonder and record. By some it has been even supposed that in these stories of his eccentric relative his imagination found the first dark outlines of that ideal character which he afterwards embodied in so many different shapes, and ennobled by his genius." — vol. i., pp. 26, 27.
The late Earl of Carlisle had accepted the office of guardian to the minor peer, but the manners and habits of Mrs. Byron disgusted his Lordship, and he soon abandoned his young relative to her sole guidance, rather than encounter the annoyances of personal communication with her. This was a most unfortunate occurrence, and yet we do not see that it is possible to attach any serious blame to Lord Carlisle's conduct — at least until we reach a later stage of the story. The immediate consequence, however, was, that Lord Byron's mind continued to expand and ripen under the same unhappy influences which had withered the bloom of his infancy. When he left home, it was either for some petty school, where his associates were much below his condition, or for the residence of some provincial practitioner, who had won his mother's confidence, and tortured him with unavailing experiments on his lameness. His self-love was alternately pampered and bruised; and it may be doubted whether the mother or the foot was more frequently felt as
the vile crooked clog
That made him lonely.
The latter had been originally embittered to his imagination by her own unwomanly spleen; and now the reckless glee of his schoolfellows found almost equal gratification in taunting hint with Nature's unkindness to himself, and the grotesque absurdities of his only parent. Yet, in the midst of all these adverse circumstances, the native affectionateness of his disposition continued to shine out perpetually; his temper had already been corroded, but his heart was still warm, generous,
And tender even as is a little maid's.
In his fourteenth year, he was removed to Harrow. The irregularity of his previous education prevented him from taking rank with the youths of his own standing, and his vanity being thus wounded "in limine," he appears never to have conquered his disrelish for the proper studies of the place; but to be distinguished was the craving of his nature, and in him, as almost always happens with high spirits similarly circumstanced, the bodily infirmity which haunted his imagination acted as an additional spur to the pursuit of distinction in exercises of bodily vigour. In these his proud ardour of heart sustained him gallantly; and so well was his temper appreciated among his schoolfellows, that they calculated implicitly on having his assistance in any rebellious exploit, provided he might be permitted to play thee part of leader. This species of eminence, however, could not satisfy one born with the acute feelings and the intellectual appetites of a poet; and Byron soon began to attract notice as a devourer of all manner of books save those which it was the duty of his preceptors to place in his hands. Mr. Moore takes occasion to expatiate, at this point, on the absurdity of the English system of classical education, the folly of devoting the most precious years of adolescence to the study of mere words, the disgust which this system has inspired in the noblest minds subjected to its influence, and the superior services rendered to our art, our science, and even our literature, by persons who have never gone through anything like what is usually called "a regular education." In a word, Mr. Moore repeats all that has been promulgated "ad nauseam" on this subject, and refuted "ad misericordiam." No system of national education ever was, or will be, planned with reference to minds such as he seems not merely chiefly, but exclusively, to be thinking of in this diatribe. The grand object is to prepare men for the discharge of those duties which society has a right to demand from its members; and, original genius being so rare as hitherto it always has been, the functions which cannot be discharged in the absence of that extraordinary gift are not entitled to be mainly, or even directly, considered. We are very far from maintaining that the established system ought not to be considerably modified: the classical literature of antiquity is no longer entitled to hold the exclusive place which belonged to it in the age of our scholastic and academical foundations; but it is not by such unguarded attacks as this, that the course of rational improvement is at all likely to be forwarded. They can serve no better purpose than to irritate or discourage the existing race of teachers, (than whom a more meritorious or worse paid class of men cannot be named,) and to pamper self-complacency, petulance, and the silly ambition of knowing a little of everything, in a rising generation, already more than enough tinged with such phantasies. But perhaps it ought not to surprise us, that, while so many of our haughtiest aristocracy are stooping to flatter, "ore tenus," the envious jealousy of social distinctions among their inferiors, the equally hollow and unworthy cant of liberalism as to the business of education should have found a mouthpiece among the Moores.
The biographer, among other results of "the English system of education," expresses his opinion, that "in no other country, perhaps, are the feelings towards the parental home so early estranged, or, at the best, feebly cherished." We must dissent from this opinion, and, in doing so, we believe we may safely appeal to the personal experience of our readers of all classes. But Mr. Moore's observation, even had it been just, might as well have been omitted in a life of Lord Byron, who certainly had no parental home from which his feelings could have been estranged by any possible system of education. The sweet sources of veneration had never flowed for him — he had never loved his mother — and the charities of fraternal intercourse, nature's earliest and best antidotes to selfishness, he had never known. Mr. Moore proceeds to enlarge upon the friendships which he formed at Harrow, and comments, with just warmth, on the evidence of a yet uncorrupted heart which their history exhibits. He mentions, however, that they were, with rare exceptions, formed with boys "from a rank below his own," which, he adds, is the case "with most very proud persons." It does not strike its as a symptom of anything like the highest kind of pride, to find delight in the obsquiences which equals are not apt to yield. The [Greek characters] of the ancients had a character of another stamp. The sort of pride, however, which Mr. Moore traces in this early choice of intimates, continued undoubtedly to form a part of Lord Byron's character down to the end of his life. His associates were, with rare exceptions, separated widely enough from himself, not merely as to external rank, but as to accomplishments and manners. But Mr. Moore says nothing of one most unhappy consequence of his choice at Harrow — namely, that it debarred him from an advantage which otherwise, according to our manners, he must have enjoyed — that of spending part, at least, of his school holidays, under roofs happier than his own, among families where he would have imbibed juster notions than, in fact, he ever did possess, of what life and society are in the interior circles of all but one small polluted section of the nobility and upper gentry of this country. His vacations were spent with Mrs. Byron at watering-places, where, whatever society they might afford, hers was pretty sure to be the worst; and he was thus left, at the season of the opening passions, to draw his ideas of female character and manners, almost exclusively, from the little Phyllises of Harrow and the slang of schoolboys. It is impossible to read Mr. Moore's account of some domestic scenes of this period without being compelled to arrive at the conclusion that Mrs. Byron had become either actually insane or an habitual drunkard. The manner in which her son afterwards wrote to her, on one subject in particular, opens reflections almost too painful to be dwelt upon. His confidences to his mother are shocking, even more so than an incident which Mr. Moore thus relates:—
"It is told, as a curious proof of their opinion of each other's violence, that, after parting one evening, they were known each to go privately to the apothecary's, inquiring anxiously whether the other had been to purchase poison, and cautioning the vender of drugs not to attend to such an application, if made." — vol. i., p. 68.
He had scarcely seen anything of the quiet graces of domestic life, when, in the course of a short residence at Newstead, in the summer of 1804, he became known to the family of Chaworth of Annesley, the descendants of the gentleman who was killed by his great-uncle. The heiress of Annesley was then a beautiful girl, some two years older than Lord Byron. There was something to touch a colder fancy in the situation, and he soon became intoxicated with the deepest and purest passion his bosom was ever to know. A young lady of eighteen is as old, all the world over, as a man of five and twenty; and she amused herself with the awkward attentions of a lover whom she considered as a mere schoolboy. Little did she guess with what passions, and with what a mind, her fortune had brought her into contact.
"In the dances of the evening, Miss Chaworth, of course, joined, while her lover sate looking on, solitary and mortified. It is not impossible, indeed, that the dislike which he always expressed for this amusement may have originated in some bitter pang, felt in his youth, on seeing 'the lady of his love' led out by others to the gay dance from which he was himself excluded. During all this time he had the pain of knowing that the heart of her he loved was occupied by another; — that, as he himself expresses it, 'Her sighs were not for him; to her he was | Even as a brother — but no more.'
"If, at any moment, however, he had flattered himself with the hope of being loved by her — a circumstance mentioned in his 'Memoranda' as one of the most painful of those humiliations to which the defect in his foot had exposed him — must have let the truth in, with dreadful certainty, upon his heart. He either was told of, or overheard, Miss Chaworth saying to her maid, 'Do you think I could care anything for that lame boy?' This speech, as he himself described it, was like a shot through his heart. Though late at night when he heard it, he instantly darted out of the house, and, scarcely knowing whither he ran, never stopped till he found himself at Newstead.
"The picture which he has drawn of this youthful love, in one of the most interesting of his poems, 'The Dream,' shows how genius and feeling can elevate the realities of this life, and give to the commonest events and objects an undying lustre. The old hall at Annesley, under the name of 'the antique oratory,' will long call up to fancy the 'maiden and the youth' who once stood in it; while the image of the 'lover's steed,' though suggested by the unromantic race-ground of Nottingham, will not the less conduce to the general charm of the scene, and share a portion of that light which only genius could shed over it. With the summer holidays ended this dream of his youth." — vol. i., p. 55-57.
This episode is to the story of Byron, though in a different way, what that of "Highland Mary" is to Robert Burns's. This was his one "true love," — perhaps no truly imaginative mind ever had room for two. But instead of ending, like Burns's early dream of love and innocence, in pure humanizing sorrow, this blossom was cut off rudely, and left an angry wound upon the stem. His profoundest pathos is embodied in the various poems which his maturer genius consecrated to the recollections of Annesley; and it is all interwoven with a thread of almost demoniacal bitterness.
"A disposition, on his own side, to form strong attachments, and a yearning desire after affection in return, were the feeling and the want" (says Mr. Moore) "that formed the dream and torment of his existence. We have seen with what passionate enthusiasm he threw himself into his boyish friendships. The all-absorbing and unsuccessful love that followed was, if I may so say, the agony, without being the death, of this unsated desire, which lived on through his life, filled his poetry with the very soul of tenderness, lent the colouring of its light to even those unworthy ties which vanity or passion led him afterwards to form, and was the last aspiration of his fervid spirit in those stanzas written but a few months before his death:—
'Tis time this heart should be unmoved,
Since others it has ceased to move;
Yet, though I cannot be beloved,
Still let me love! — vol. i., p. 177.
Having laid in, while at Harrow, a prodigious stock of multifarious reading, including almost the whole body of English poetry, and written many copies of verses, such as nothing but the fact that they are his can entitle to attention, Lord Byron removed, in his seventeenth year, to Cambridge, where he seems to have pursued much the same line of study (if such it can he called), to the neglect of all academical rules, and attracted notice by nothing save the fantastic character of some of his personal habits — such as keeping a pet bear in college, and the like juvenile vagaries. Before he left school — before he saw Miss Chaworth — we are afraid he had tasted deeply of indulgences, from grovelling in which so young a mind, and cast in so fine a mould, might, under happier circumstances of domestic discipline, have been likely to shrink with abhorrence. Well might another of their victims say—
Alas! they harden all within,
And petrify the feeling.
In these the disappointed stripling now wallowed; indeed, the whole picture of his college life is distressing. He had some young men of high talents among his associates; and one of these, apparently a very extraordinary person in all respects, but remarkable for nothing more than the precocious audacity of his libertinism and infidelity, seems to have soon acquired a fatally predominating influence over a mind which, with all its mighty endowments of energy, was, from the beginning to the end, more easily and more deeply worked upon by external circumstances, and especially the opinions of others, than perhaps one out of fifty among the minds which, in common parlance, are called weak. But the debauchery of this knot of Cantabrigians appears to have been unredeemed by a single feature of elegance: we hear of nothing but what, even in the estimation of the undergraduate world, must have been reckoned low — cock-fighting, boxing-matches, and crapulence.
"The sort of life which he led at this period, between the dissipations of London and of Cambridge, without a home to welcome, or even the roof of a single relative to receive him, was but little calculated to render him satisfied either with himself or the world. Unrestricted as he was by deference to any will but his own, even the pleasures to which he was naturally most inclined prematurely palled upon him, for want of those best zests of all enjoyment — rarity and restraint. In one of his note-books there occurs a passage descriptive of his feelings on first going to Cambridge, in which he says that 'one of the deadliest and heaviest feelings of his life was to feel that he was no longer a boy.' 'From that moment (he adds) 'I began to grow old in my own esteem, and in my esteem age is not estimable. I took my gradations in the vices with great promptitude, but they were not to my taste; for my early passions, though violent in the extreme, were concentrated, and hated division or spreading abroad. I could have left or lost the whole world with, or for, that which I loved; but, though my temperament was naturally burning, I could not share in the common-place libertinism of the place and time without disgust. And yet this very disgust, and my heart thrown back upon itself, threw me into excesses perhaps more fatal than those from which I shrunk, as fixing upon one (at a time) the passions which spread amongst many would have hurt only myself.'" — vol. i., p. 146.
It is but rarely that infidelity or scepticism finds an entrance into youthful minds. That readiness to take the future upon trust, which is the charm of this period of life, would naturally, indeed, make it the season of belief as well as of hope. There are also then, still fresh in the mind, the impressions of early religious culture, which, even in those who begin soonest to question their faith, give way but slowly to the encroachments of doubt, and, in the mean time, extend the benefit of their moral restraint over a portion of life when it is acknowledged such restraints are most necessary. Unfortunately, Lord Byron was an exception to the usual course of such lapses. With him, the canker showed itself "in the morn and dew of youth," when the effect of such "blastments" is, for every reason, most fatal; and, in addition to the real misfortune of being an unbeliever at any age, he exhibited the rare and melancholy spectacle of an unbelieving schoolboy.
"We have seen, in two Addresses to the Deity which I have selected from among his unpublished poems, and still more strongly in a passage of the catalogue of his studies, at what a boyish age the authority of all systems and sects was avowedly shaken off by his inquiring spirit. Yet, even in these, there is a fervour of adoration mingled with his defiance of creeds, through which the piety implanted in his nature (as it is deeply in all poetic natures) unequivocally shows itself; and had he then fallen within the reach of such guidance and example as would have seconded and fostered these natural dispositions, the licence of opinion, into which he afterwards broke loose, might have been averted. But he had not a single friend or relative to whom he could look up with respect; but was thrown alone on the world, with his passions and his pride, to revel in the fatal discovery which he imagined himself to have made of the nothingness of the future, and the all-paramount claims of the present." — vol. i., p. 122-24.
The Addresses to the Deity mentioned in the preceding extract appear, if Lord Byron's dates may be relied on, to have been written before the publication of his "Hours of Idleness," which occurred in the second year of his residence at Cambridge, 1807. Why, if then written, they were not included in that collection, Mr. Moore offers no conjecture: they are certainly very far superior to any pieces which it does contain. We need not dwell on the character of that unfortunate volume; its sole value, as Mr. Moore confesses, consists in the light which it throws on Lord Byron's early character, — on the history "of a youth, which had been, from childhood, a series of the most passionate attachments, — of those overflowings of the soul, both in love and friendship, which are still more rarely responded to than felt, and which, when checked, or sent back upon the heart, are sure to turn into bitterness." Mr. Moore "walks delicately," like Agag, when the course of his narrative brings him to the truculent critique on these boyish essays which appeared in the Edinburgh Review. Himself a distinguished victim and prop of that journal, he writes elegantly and eloquently on the subject, and contrives to drop no hint of what every human being felt at the time to be the simple truth of the whole matter — to wit, that out of the thousand and one volumes of indifferent verse which happened to be printed in the year of grace, 1807, only one bore a noble name on the title-page; and the opportunity of insulting a lord, under pretext of admonishing a poetaster, was too tempting to be resisted in a particular quarter at that particular time.
"The eminence which talent builds for itself might, one day, he proudly felt, be his own; nor was it too sanguine to hope that, under the favour accorded usually to youth, he might with impunity venture on his first steps to fame. But here, as in every other object of his heart, disappointment and mortification awaited him.... A friend, who found him in the first moments of excitement after reading the article, inquired anxiously whether he had just received a challenge? — not knowing how else to account for the fierce defiance of his looks. It would indeed be difficult for sculptor or painter to imagine a subject of more fearful beauty, than the fine countenance of the young poet must have exhibited in the collected energy of that crisis. His pride had been wounded to the quick, and his ambition humbled: — but this feeling of humiliation lasted but for a moment. The very reaction of his spirit against aggression roused him to a full consciousness of his own powers; and the pain and the shame of the injury were forgotten in the proud certainty of revenge." — vol. i., pp. 182, 183.
From this point, the literary history of Lord Byron, in all its larger and nobler features, must be abundantly familiar to every reader in Europe. He was now occupied with his "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers" — a clever piece, certainly, and which effectually rebuked those who had endeavoured to fix on his name the brand of dulness, but scarcely meriting the popular success which attended its appearance, for it exhibits, even in its ablest passages, more of passionate malice than of intellectual strength. Its diction is often pointed and energetic enough — but shows few, if any, traces of refined art, and, we venture to say, none of the "curiosa felicitas" of genius. We should rather characterize it as a smart lampoon than as a vigorous satire, and Mr. Moore expresses much the same opinion. "There was here (he says) but little foretaste of the wonders which followed."
"His spirit" (he proceeds) "was stirred, but he had not yet looked down into its depths, nor does even his bitterness taste of the bottom of the heart, like those sarcasms which he afterwards flung in the face of mankind. Still less had the other countless feelings and passions, with which his soul had been long labouring, found an organ worthy of them; the gloom, the grandeur, the tenderness of his nature, all were left without a voice, till his mighty genius at last awakened in its strength." — vol. i., p. 175.
We need not dwell on the numberless gratuitous outrages on respectable contemporaries which this petulant satire embodied; and of most of which the author lived to express his repentance. Among the victims of his spleen, his guardian, Lord Carlisle, found a conspicuous place; but Mr. Moore shows, that in the first draught that nobleman had been treated in a totally opposite manner, and accounts for the change of tone, by the narrative of certain circumstances which attended Lord Byron's taking his place in the House of Lords some few weeks before the production issued from the press. It appears certainly that the young poet had, in his own opinion, every right to expect the aid and countenance of his relative on that occasion, and that, possessing not one personal friend or acquaintance among the members of the peerage then in London (if indeed he had any such acquaintance at all), his entree was embarrassed with many awkward and humiliating difficulties, which the slightest interference on the part of a nobleman of Lord Carlisle's rank and character would have rendered impossible.
It would be unfair, however, not to add, that from all we have heard and read, very little was at this time known about Lord Byron that could have been expected to conciliate those prejudices with which his mother's rude passions and conduct seem originally to have inspired the Earl of Carlisle — a weak poet, no doubt, but a nobleman distinguished for personal virtues, whose tastes were all elegant and praiseworthy, and his habits and manners, of course, of the highest standard of refinement. Such rumours concerning the young author's character, pursuits, and associates as were most likely to reach the atmosphere of Castle-Howard, could have moved, at best, a cold and shrinking compassion in its aged and fastidious lord. What, we must ask, was the sort of impression which Lord Byron's whole career at Cambridge had left among the dignitaries of his University — the persons from whom it was inevitable that Lord Carlisle should have received his chief information on the subject? He had disdained to exert his talents in any shape that could enable them to appreciate their vigour; he had outraged their discipline in every possible way; and his reputation was little more than that of a brisk, petulant youth, who had written some squibs on the college-tutors, published one duodecimo of indifferent verses, and contributed considerably to another volume, a sort of under-graduates' pic-nic (soon suppressed), of which boyish obscenity was the most remarkable feature; who lived in a perpetual round of debauchery among companions unsuitable to his rank, gamblers, boxers, horse-jockies, and so forth; and had — to speak plainly, imbibed at this time not a little of their swagger and slang in his habitual manners and conversation. We are afraid that this picture cannot be considered as an overcharged one: who was to anticipate that, amidst such scenes and occupations, the genius which was to give so many of its proudest laurels to the literature of our age, had been gradually maturing itself for such a career of triumphs? These things it would be quite unjust to exclude from our view; but the very ductility of disposition, which had rendered the influence of unworthy companionship so perilous, could hardly have failed, at this early period, to develope itself in a contrary direction, under better guidance: and everything contributes to heighten the sadness of our recollection that Lord Byron remained almost a stranger to the upper society of his country, until, the bias of his character being irretrievably determined, it was too late for him to appreciate justly either the examples of quiet worth which it affords so abundantly, or the eager adulations of its gaudiest and most heartless circle.
The success of his "Satire" was beyond his expectations — but such successes could bring but momentary gratification to one whose inward aspirations were under the throbbing pulse of a genius which had as yet found no outlet for its nobler energies. He wrote thus to a young friend:
The fire, in the cavern of Aetna conceal'd,
Still mantles unseen, in its secret recess;—
At length, in a volume terrific reveal'd,
No torrent can quench it, no bounds can repress.
Oh thus, the desire in my bosom for fame
Bids me live but to hope for Posterity's praise;
Could I soar, with the Phoenix, on pinions of flame,
With him I would wish to expire in the blaze.
Such shallow applauses as a clever satire could evoke were nothing to this burning thirst. He was sick at heart; and a casual meeting with the lady of Annesley and her child seems to have concentrated all his wounded feelings into a paroxysm of anguish, under which to escape from England was the grand impulse — and the guiding one. How little the "English Bards" reflected of what his poetical powers already were, will be sufficiently proved by these touching stanzas, written shortly before he set out on his memorable pilgrimage.
'Tis done — and shivering in the gale
The bark unfurls her snowy sail;
And whistling o'er the bending mast,
Loud sings on high the fresh'ning blast;
And I must from this land be gone,
Because I cannot love but one.
As some lone bird, without a mate,
My weary heart is desolate
I look around, and cannot trace
One friendly smile or welcome face,
And ev'n in crowds am still alone,
Because I cannot love but one.
And I will cross the whitening foam,
And I will seek a foreign home:
Till I forget a false fair face,
I ne'er shall find a resting-place;
My own dark thoughts I cannot shun,
But ever love, and love but one.
I go — but wheresoe'er I flee
There's not an eye will weep for me
There's not a kind, congenial heart,
Where I can claim the meanest part;
Nor thou, who hast my hopes undone,
Wilt sigh, although I love but one.
'Twould soothe to take one lingering view,
And bless thee in my last adieu;
Yet wish I not those eyes to weep
For him that wanders o'er the deep;
His home, his hope, his youth are gone,
Yet still he loves, and loves but one. — vol. i., pp. 180, 181.
Mr. Moore pauses at this point, and reviews in detail the history which we have been endeavouring to follow. We have not space for all his observations. He sums them up, however, in language which could not be mutilated without injustice to our readers.
"To have, at once, anticipated the worst experience both of the voluptuary and the reasoner, — to have reached, as he supposed, the boundary of this world's pleasures, and see nothing but 'clouds and darkness' beyond, was the doom, the anomalous doom, which a nature, premature in all its passions and powers, inflicted on Lord Byron.
"Never was there a change wrought in disposition and character to which Shakspeare's fancy of 'sweet bells jangled out of tune' more truly applied. Baffled, as he had been, in his own ardent pursuit of affection and friendship, his sole revenge and consolation lay in doubting that any such feelings really existed. The various crosses he had met with, in themselves sufficiently irritating and wounding, were rendered still more so by the high, impatient temper with which he encountered them. What others would have bowed to as misfortunes, his proud spirit rose against as wrongs; and the vehemence of this reaction produced, at once, a revolution throughout his whole character, in which, as in revolutions of the political world, all that was bad and irregular in his nature burst forth with all that was most energetic and grand. The very virtues and excellences of his disposition ministered to the violence of this change. The same ardour that had burned through his friendships and loves now fed the fierce explosions of his indignation and scorn. His natural vivacity and humour but lent a fresher flow to his bitterness, till he, at last, revelled in it as an indulgence; and that hatred of hypocrisy, which had hitherto only shown itself in a too shadowy colouring of his own youthful frailties, now hurried him, from his horror of all false pretensions to virtue, into the still more dangerous boast and ostentation of vice." — vol. i., p. 186.
The details of Lord Byron's travels in Portugal, Spain, and the Levant, occupy a very considerable space in Mr. Moore's work, and bring out necessarily numberless most interesting traits of the poet's personal character and manners; but we are compelled to hasten over all this part of the book. The gaiety and levity of most of the noble wanderer's letters to his friends at home will, no doubt, whether we consider the state of mind in which he had taken leave of England, or the prevailing tone of his poetical record, appear sufficiently strange and startling but Mr. Moore reminds us, that Cowper produced "John Gilpin" in the midst of one of his blackest fits of dejection; that that poet himself tells us, "The most ludicrous lines I ever wrote, were written in the saddest mood, and but for that saddest mood, perhaps, had never been written at all;" and well and truly says, "Such bursts of vivacity on the surface are by no means incompatible with a wounded spirit underneath — the light laughing tone that pervades these letters but makes the feeling of solitariness that breaks out in them the more striking and afflicting." The impression which the traveller's demeanour left on the minds of those persons who saw most of him, was that of "a person labouring under deep dejection" (p. 256); and much as he had always been attached to his affectionate and accomplished fellow-traveller, Mr. Hobhouse, we have him confessing that "it was not till he stood companionless on the shore of a little island in the Aegean that he found his spirit breathe freely." From earliest youth, indeed, he had exhibited that unfailing characteristic of the imaginative order of minds — the love of solitude, and of those habits of self-study and introspection "by which alone the diamond quarries of genius are brought to light." He now revelled in such indulgences, amidst natural scenery and personal adventures, — how admirably calculated to kindle and idealize his powers and his feelings, and to excite and invigorate all the energies of his character, we need not remind the readers of Childe Harold.
"In the solitude of his nights at sea, in his lone wanderings through Greece, he had sufficient leisure and seclusion to look within himself, and there catch the first 'glimpses of his glorious mind.' One of his chief delights, as he mentioned in his 'Memoranda,' was, when bathing in some retired spot, to seat himself on a high rock above the sea, and there remain for hours, gazing upon the sky and the waters, and lost in that sort of vague reverie which, however formless and indistinct at the moment, settled afterwards, on his pages, into those clear, bright pictures which will endure for ever. This melancholy, habitually as it still clung to him, must, under the stirring and healthful influences of his roving life, have become a far more elevated and abstract feeling than it ever could have expanded to within reach of those annoyances whose tendency was to keep it wholly concentrated round self. Had he remained idly at home, he would have sunk, perhaps, into a querulous satirist; but, as his views opened on a freer and wider horizon, every feeling of his nature kept pace with their enlargement; and this inborn sadness, mingling itself with the effusions of his genius, became one of the chief constituent charms not only of their pathos, but their grandeur; for when did ever a sublime thought spring up in the soul, that melancholy was not to be found, however latent, in its neighbourhood?" — vol. i., p. 254-257.
The following anecdotes are communicated by Lord Sligo, who saw him at Athens in 1810, soon after an illness which had considerably thinned and weakened him:—
"Standing one day before a looking-glass, he said, 'How pale I look! I should like, I think, to die of a consumption.' 'Why of a consumption?' asked his friend. 'Because then (he answered) the women would all say, 'See that poor Byron — how interesting he looks in dying!' In this anecdote, — which, slight as it is, the relater remembered, as a proof of the poet's consciousness of his own beauty, — may be traced also the habitual reference of his imagination to that sex, which, however he affected to despise it, influenced, more or less, the flow and colour of all his thoughts.
"He spoke often of his mother to Lord Sligo, and with a feeling that seemed little short of aversion. 'Some time or other,' he said, 'I will tell you why I feel thus towards her.' A few days after, when they were bathing together in the Gulf of Lepanto, he referred to this promise, and, pointing to his naked leg and foot, exclaimed, 'Look there! — it is to her false delicacy at my birth I owe that deformity; and yet, as long as I can remember, she has never ceased to taunt and reproach me with it. Even a few days before we parted for the last time, on my leaving England, she, in one of her fits of passion, uttered an imprecation upon me, praying that I might prove as ill-formed in mind as I am in body!' His look and manner, in relating this frightful circumstance, can be conceived only by those who have ever seen him in a similar state of excitement." — vol. i., p. 42.
We shall say nothing of the cutting himself with a dagger, in hopes to move the "Maid of Athens" of his well-known song, nor even of the swimming across the Hellespont, which feat occupies many more of these pages than most readers will have patience for. The passages of sterling interest in this early correspondence are those which throw light on the occasions and moods in which various immortal pictures in the two first cantos of Childe Harold were conceived; and we must pass on to Lord Byron's return to England in the summer of 1811, soon after which, those cantos were printed in London; and Lord Byron, as he himself phrases it, "woke one morning, and found himself famous."
The closing stanzas of the second canto, in which the poet alludes to the many blanks which death had recently made in his list of friends, must be in every one's recollection. Ere those touching verses saw the light, while he was busy in preparing them for publication, he was informed of the sudden and alarming illness of his mother at Newstead; and the following part of Mr. Moore's narrative is too striking to be omitted in this place:—
"On his going abroad, she had conceived a sort of superstitious fancy that she should never see him again; and when he returned, safe and well, and wrote to inform her that he should soon see her at Newstead, she said to her waiting-woman, 'If I should be dead before Byron comes down, what a strange thing it would be!' — and so, in fact, it happened. At the end of July, her illness took a new and fatal turn; and, so sadly characteristic was the close of the poor lady's life, that a fit of rage, brought on, it is said, by reading over the upholsterer's bills, was the ultimate cause of her death. Lord Byron had, of course, prompt intelligence of the attack; but though he started instantly from town, he was too late — she had breathed her last.... However estranged from her his feelings must be allowed to have been while she lived, her death seems to have restored them into their natural channel. Whether from a return of early fondness and the all-atoning power of the grave, or from the prospect of that void in his future life which this loss of his only link with the past would leave, it is certain that he felt the death of his mother acutely, if not deeply. On the night after his arrival at Newstead, the waiting-woman of Mrs. Byron, in passing the door of the room where the deceased lady lay, heard a sound, as of some one sighing heavily from within; and, on entering the chamber, found, to her surprise, Lord Byron sitting, in the dark, beside the bed. On her representing to him the weakness of thus giving way to grief, he burst into tears, and exclaimed, 'Oh, Mrs. By, I had but one friend in the world, and she is gone!'
"While his real thoughts were thus confided to silence and darkness, there was, in other parts of his conduct more open to observation, a degree of eccentricity and indecorum which, with superficial observers, might well bring the sensibility of his nature into question. On the morning of the funeral, having declined following the remains himself, he stood looking, from the abbey door, at the procession, till the whole had moved off; then turning to young Rushton, who was the only person left besides himself, he desired him to fetch the sparring-gloves, and proceeded to his usual exercise with the boy. He was silent and abstracted all the time, and, as if from an effort to get the better of his feelings, threw more violence, Rushton thought, into his blows than was his habit; but, at last, — the struggle seeming too much for him, — he flung away the gloves, and retired to his room." — vol. i., p. 272-274.
If ever there was one anecdote from which it would be safe to form our notion of a man's whole character, we venture to say this is that one. Excellent natural feelings, — the curse of reality to check, and the blessing of fancy to heighten, their flow, — the misery of conscious solitariness of heart and mind, and the proud, rebellious scorn of the very sympathies which that heart inly bled for, — we have all before us. It is a picture in which
Whate'er Lorraine light touch'd with softening hue,
Or savage Rosa dash'd,
are beautifully and fearfully combined. Not Shakspeare could have conceived such a scene.
Before the poem was ushered into the world, Lord Byron had excited some attention by a maiden speech in Parliament; but all other views of ambition were instantly merged in the unexampled success of Childe Harold. From that moment his place was with the first — all the blandishments of flattery were lavished on him. Every one identified him, to a large extent, with his own forlorn hero; and, considering his extreme youth, and the immeasurable distance at which the Pilgrimage left his preceding efforts, even the good and the wise saw in the darkest features of his delineation — even in his contemptuous derision of national feelings — even in his dreary glimpses of infidelity — everything to move a compassionate interest, rather than to check hope. Forced at once into the most brilliant society which his country afforded, "the observed of all observers," the singular beauty of his countenance, stamped habitually with a pale dejection, but reflecting, in rapid interchanges, every possible variety of thought and sentiment, the darkest and the lightest, — a certain indefinable blending of haughtiness and modesty, — manners simple and unembarrassed, yet tinged with a not ungraceful shyness—
A blush that comes as ready as a girl's;—
everything combined to fix and deepen the general curiosity; and, among women at least, when that feeling is once effectually roused, it needs no seer to calculate the consequences.
And what art thou, who dwellest
So haughtily in spirit, and canst range
Nature and Immortality, and yet
Such was the language of many an eye that had hitherto been contented to waste its brightness on objects of a far humbler order. Lord Byron, old as he was already in so many of his feelings, was new to this species of fascination. His vanity was easily engaged — and he soon became involved in a series of enervating intrigues, not one of which, in so far as we can gather, could have offered much attraction to any person more familiar with the sphere in which he was now the star of all star-gazers.
The most brilliant circle of what calls itself the world in London, was then, as some of us may remember, a profligate one; and the liberal politics of Childe Harold would of themselves have cured for a young member of the House of Lords; an eager welcome in those gorgeous haunts of voluptuousness which had long formed its head-quarters. But a young peer, who was also the most popular poet of his time, was a prize indeed — and the policy of greybeards found its allies and instruments in the headlong Cynthias of the month or the week — whose unbridled passions were for once, in their own soft idea, redeemed and ennobled, by the dreamy luxuries of sentiment and the blaze and magic of fame. It needs not to be said, that Lord Byron mingled largely in society of a far different description during the bright morning of his reputation; but even Mr. Moore's cautious and reluctant admissions sufficiently intimate that, during all the remainder of his career, the influence of this particular circle of refined and insolent immorality was felt, and fatal. His connexion with Drury-lane Theatre was another fertile source of temptation of a more vulgar sort, on which we may spare ourselves the pain of dwelling. It brought many occasions for the exercise of his generous qualities, and must have afforded him curious insights into human character; but it drew him perpetually into an atmosphere from which Dr. Johnson himself, in the plenitude of his gravity, found it prudent to keep at a distance.
He withdrew from these giddy rounds, ever and anon, in weariness and sickness of spirit, and enjoyed his own better being in solitude and his art. How rapidly the Giaour, the Bride of Abydos, the Corsair, Lara — to say nothing of minor pieces, — followed each other from the press — how, with each new effort, the public enthusiasm of admiration grew and spread — and how each strengthened, instead of weakening, as in less masterly hands must have been the case, the mysterious, romantic interest with which Childe Harold had invested the personal character of the poet; these are things which must be as fresh in our readers' recollection as they ever will be in our own. The literature of the country has received, since then, many contributions of at least equal intrinsic value; but when have we witnessed, or who ever hopes to witness again, anything like the intensity of wonder, and of solemn rapture, with which the world in those days watched the unwearying wing of this proud, solitary genius, in the morning of his strength? To separate the man from the poet, was what none tried to do, or could have done; in the best of these astonishing performances, there was much to regret and condemn — but none of them wanted such flashes of noble sentiment, such gleams of passionate gentleness, as were more than sufficient to redeem the darkest of his creations within sympathy; and the best and the purest, even of his countrywomen, still regarded
this immortal thing
Which stood before them,
with, at worst, such feelings as he had put into the lips of his Adah,—
I cannot abhor him,
I look upon him with a pleasing fear,—
Beats quick — he awes me, and yet draws me near.
Until the period of his fame, he had seen almost nothing of his only sister (the daughter of his father by a preceding marriage) and the deep tenderness of affection with which he soon learned to regard her, seems to have, in a considerable measure, paved the way for the matrimonial connexion which he formed in January, 1814, and in which, that devoted sister, still more fondly and fervently than his other friends, hoped that all his personal irregularities would find a happy repose. There was, indeed, one exception — Mr. Moore himself. He tells us, that he had by this time studied Lord Byron too closely to anticipate happy results from any marriage he could form; and, moreover, intimates his strong suspicion, that poets of the highest order are essentially unfit for the most precious relations and duties of domestic life. We, for once, question Mr. Moore's sincerity here; but perhaps, if he had limited his rule to poets of the highest order, whose genius finds full development in the season of youthful passions, there would have been less room for dissent and such, indeed, seems to be the opinion of the oldest and perhaps greatest of living poets, Goethe, when he says, "there is no earthly happiness for him who seeks immortality through imagination, unless he is wise enough to keep the artist apart from the man;" — which he, whose success in his art has been achieved in very early manhood, will unquestionably find much more difficult than any other. But it s not necessary to go into the general question. Some curious enough traits of Lord Byron's temper and disposition are, however, elicited in the course of the disquisition which Mr. Moore introduces upon this occasion. He frankly confesses, for example, that even Lord Byron's friendships were little calculated to stand the test of long continued familiar intercourse — that those, with hardly an exception, for whom he preserved a warmly affectionate regard, were persons of whom circumstances had prevented him from seeing much — and that his fancy invoked the aid of the grand idealizer, death, before even the enchantress of his young dreams could be sublimed into the Thyrza of his poetry.
"It is, indeed, (says Mr. Moore) in the very nature and essence of genius, to be for ever occupied intensely with Self, as the great centre and source of its strength. Like the sister Rachel, in Dante, sitting all day before her mirror; 'Mai non si smaga | Del suo ammiraglio, e siede tutto giorno.' To this power of self-concentration, there is, of course, no such disturbing and fatal enemy as those sympathies and affections that draw the mind out actively towards others."
Now all this, in our humble opinion, may be true and just, as said of Lord Byron — but we do not, as yet, think so sadly of nature and of genius, as to adopt the broader application of his biographer. It appears to us, that Mr. Moore is forgetting that neither Byron nor Petrarch (to whom he more particular refers in the preceding page) belonged after all to the very highest order of genius. The exclusive occupation with Self, of which he speaks, is not the main centre or source of the strength of that order of genius, which inspires the great models of dramatic or of epic art. "The sympathies and affections that draw the mind out actively towards others," are, we venture to suspect, even more essential to the formation of a Homer or a Shakspeare, than the "power of self-concentration." But, in truth, this obiter dictum of our biographer is at variance with the whole scope and tenor of his own narrative — the main purpose of which, obviously and properly, is to shew that the peculiar circumstances of Lord Byron's early history are such as to furnish a certain measure of apology for many great admitted errors in the conduct both of the man and the poet, (which, had they been the necessary consequences of his genius, that is to say, of his nature, could have required no apology,) — not, surely, to enforce any doctrine so detestable as that the highest gift of heaven carries inevitably along with it the greatest curse that can befal a human being, — a heart and mind repulsive of human sympathies and affections, and therefore unfitted for those human relations, in whose duties and charities the main discipline for immortality is appointed. He who accepts such a dogma must be equally ignorant of the intellectual history of man, and impious in his conceptions as to the moral government of God; and the unaffected vein of right feeling which runs through Mr. Moore's melancholy pages, satisfies us, that his understanding rejects the sophistry with which, for a moment, he permits his fancy to sport itself.
We fear it must be admitted, that before Lord Byron's friends urged marriage on him, Self had become, to a miserable extent, not only "the centre and source" of his poetry, but the centre of his feelings, and the source of his actions as a man. It appears, for example, impossible to account otherwise for his virtual abandonment, from the moment he set foot on the threshold of Fame, of all the high duties which, in the capacities of a landlord and all hereditary magistrate and legislator, his country had an indefeasible right to demand at his hands — duties which the greater his talents, and consequent personal influence, it was the more deeply and sacredly incumbent on him to keep steadily before him. Laying the obligations of religion altogether aside, we think the time is come, that those whose fortune it is to possess land and rank in this country cannot be too often, or too earnestly reminded of the fact, that the possession of such advantages constitutes, in every case whatever, a retaining fee on the part of the nation. Neither God, nor nature, nor society, contemplates the existence of an idler as that which ought to be. The country gentleman, the peer, and the prince, have their professions fixed on them — let them surrender the fee, if they mean to shrink from the work — let the sinecure be a sine-salary. The mighty majority must, in all times and places, earn their living literally by the sweat of their brow; and the only principle on which any are exempted from the literal application of the great primary condition of our human existence is, that there are services essential to the intellectual, moral, political, and religious well-being and advancement of the whole, as a whole, which could not be effectually secured for them, were not some so exempted. There are two or three anecdotes in this book, which will satisfy every one that, at an early period of his life, Lord Byron possessed, and felt a generous delight in acting upon, right notions as to the tenure by which his property and station were meant to be held; but the proof is most complete, that what Mr. Moore calls the spirit of self-concentration soon left scanty room for the consideration of such duties, or the exercise of such virtues. It is no justification to say, that he found his estates in an embarrassed condition — in other words, that he could not afford to live at Newstead in the style adopted by some of his order, whom he mixed with in the voluptuous circles of the metropolis. The question is not whether Lord Byron could afford services of plate and regiments of footmen, but whether any man is entitled to consume the produce of the English soil, without discharging the duties which his station imposes on him to the English people. Nor will it deceive any one, to say that Lord Byron's poetry was an equivalent for all that he neglected. Poetry never occupied the whole, or the greater part, of any man's time: his poetry did not occupy more of his time than Lord A.'s merino sheep do of Lord A.'s; or Lord D.'s larch plantations of Lord D.'s. He had plenty of time for other things than poetry; if he had not, his poetry would never have been worth the cost of printing. When a man neglects that which he ought to do, we may be sure it is because he prefers doing that which he ought not. Lord Byron found little time for the yeomanry of Nottinghamshire or the weavers of Rochdale, or even the high functions of an English senator; but he found abundance for the green-room of Drur-lane, the "hells" of St. James's-street, and, above all, for the ballrooms and boudoirs of Mayfair and Whitehall, in which he at last found a wife, who, happily for herself, was in them, not of them. Well, then, might a man of Mr. Moore's sagacity, so well acquainted as he was with the lazy and licentious little world which had become all in all to Lord Byron, consider the chances of his happiness in marriage, determined as his character now seemed to be, as extremely scanty. That he had formed such an opinion long before his friend really made the experiment, is evident from the following passage, relative to a projected alliance with one whose name he does not mention — a passage in which, we must be allowed to suspect, "more is meant than meets the ear:"—
"In his correspondence he represents me as having entertained an anxious wish that he should so far cultivate my fair friend's favour as to give a chance, at least, of matrimony being the result. That I, more than once, expressed some such feeling, is undoubtedly true. Fully concurring with the opinion, not only of himself but of others of his friends, that in marriage lay his only chance of salvation from the sort of perplexing attachments into which he was now constantly tempted, I saw in none of those whom he admired with more legitimate views so many requisites for the difficult task of winning him into fidelity and happiness, as in the lady in question. Combining beauty of the highest order with a mind intelligent and ingenuous, — having just learning enough to give refinement to her taste, and far too much taste to make pretensions to learning, — with a patrician spirit proud as his own, but showing it only in a delicate generosity of spirit, a feminine high-mindedness, which would have led her to tolerate his defects in consideration of his noble qualities and his glory, and even to sacrifice silently some of her own happiness rather than violate the responsibility in which she stood pledged to the world for his; — such was, from long experience, my impression of the character of this lady; and perceiving Lord Byron to be attracted by her more obvious claims to admiration, I felt a pleasure no less in rendering justice to the still rarer qualities which she possessed, than in endeavouring to raise my noble friend's mind to the contemplation of a higher model of female character than he had, unluckily for himself, been much in the habit of studying.
"To this extent do I confess myself to have been influenced by the sort of feeling which he attributes to me. But in taking for granted (as it will appear he did) that I entertained any very decided or definite wishes on the subject, he gave me more credit for seriousness in my suggestions than I deserved. If even the lady herself, the unconscious object of these speculations, by whom he was regarded in no other light than that of a distinguished acquaintances could have consented to undertake the perilous, — but still possible and glorious, — achievement of attaching Byron to virtue, I own that, sanguinely as in theory I might have looked to the result, I should have seen, not without trembling, the happiness of one whom I had known and valued from her childhood risked in the experiment." — vol. i., pp. 496, 497.
The biographer approaches, of course, with pain and reluctance, the history of the ill-fated union with Miss Milbanke. From the noticeable passage just quoted, it might be safely inferred that Mr. Moore did hot consider his hero's ultimate choice as a felicitous one; but, indeed, he is candid enough to quote from one of his own letters, written long after, to Lord B., a confession that he "had never liked her." We are therefore sufficiently warned to weigh all this part of the author's narrative well, and to exercise our own judgment on the very few facts which he is therein enabled to place before us. It appears that, about the opening of 1813, Lord Byron began to listen seriously to the advice of some of his friends, as to "the prudence of his taking timely refuge in matrimony from those perplexities which form the sequel of all less regular ties;" and, on a very slight acquaintance, hazarded a proposal to Miss Milbanke, whose personal attractions, virtues, and extraordinary accomplishments, are lavishly extolled in his journals and letters of the period. The young lady did not accept his proposal, but every assurance of friendship and regard accompanied her refusal — she even requested that they should continue to write to each other — in short, the refusal was anything but a very decisive one; nor, if it had been such, do we see any reason to suppose the circumstance would have severely wounded Lord Byron's feelings; in fact, he expressly says, in his Diary, "What an odd situation and friendship is ours! — without one spark of love on either side," &c.
"Meantime," says Mr. Moore, "new entanglements, in which his heart was the willing dupe of his fancy and vanity, came to engross the young poet; and still, as the usual penalties of such pursuits followed, he again found himself sighing for the sober yoke of wedlock, as some security against their recurrence." — p. 496.
He offered his hand to at least one other young lady, who did not think fit to smile on his proposals, before he at length, after the interval of a year, renewed his suit to Miss Milbanke; and how lightly and carelessly he then did renew it, these pages furnish abundant evidence.
He thus announced what had happened to Mr. Moore:—
"Newstead Abbey, Sept. 20th.
"Here's to her who long | Hath waked the poet's sigh! | The girl who gave to song | What gold could never buy."
"My dear Moore, — I am going to be married — that is, I am accepted, and one usually hopes the rest will follow. My mother of the Gracchi (that are to be) you think too strait-laced for me, although the paragon of only children, and invested with 'golden opinions of all sorts of men,' and full of 'most blest conditions' as Desdemona herself. Miss Milbanke is the lady, and I have her father's invitation to proceed there in my elect capacity, which, however, I cannot do till I have settled some business in London, and got a blue coat.'" — vol. i., p. 582.
The same levity runs through all his correspondence between this time and the epoch of his marriage.
"Oct. 5th. — All our relatives are congratulating away to right and left in the most fatiguing manner. You, perhaps, know the lady. She is niece, &c. I wish it was well over, for I do hate bustle, and there is no marrying without some; and then, I must not marry in a black coat, they tell me, and I can't bear a blue one....
"P.S. — If this union is productive, you shall name the first fruits....
"Oct. 18th — Next week, or the week after, I shall go down to Seaham in the new character of a regular suitor for a wife of mine own. I hope Hodgson is in a fair way on the same voyage: I saw him and his idol at Hastings. I wish he would be married at the same time. I should like to make a party, like people electrified in a row, by (or rather through) the same chain, holding one another's hands, and all feeling the shock at once. I have not yet apprized him of this. He makes such a serious matter of all these things, and is so 'melancholy and gentlemanlike,' that it is quite overcoming to us choice spirits. They say one shouldn't be married in a black coat. I won't have a blue one — that's flat. I hate it." — vol. i., p. 584-587.
Mr. Moore thus brings the romance to a conclusion:—
"On his arrival in town, he had, upon inquiring into the state of his affairs, found them in so utterly embarrassed a condition as to fill him with some alarm, and even to suggest to his mind the prudence of deferring his marriage. The die was, however, cast; and he had now no alternative but to proceed. Accordingly, at the end of December, accompanied by his friend Mr. Hobhouse, he set out for Seaham, the seat of Sir Ralph Milbanke, the lady's father, in the county of Durham, and on the 2d of January, 1815, was married.
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; — as he stood
Even at the altar, o'er his brow there came
The self-same aspect, and the quivering shock,
That in the antique Oratory shook
His bosom in its solitude; and then—
As in that hour — a moment o'er his face
The tablet of unutterable thoughts
Was traced, — and then it faded as it came,
And he stood calm and quiet, and he spoke
The fitting vows, but heard not his own words,
And all things reel'd around him; he could see
Not that which was, nor that which should have been—
But the old mansion, and the accustom'd hall,
And the remember'd chambers, and the place,
The day, the hour, the sunshine, and the shade,
All things pertaining to that place and hour,
And her, who was his destiny, came back,
And thrust themselves between him and the light:—
What business had they there at such a time?
"This touching picture agrees so closely, in many of its circumstances, with his own prose account of the wedding in his Memoranda, that I feel justified in introducing it, historically, here. In that Memoir, he described himself as waking, on the morning of his marriage, with the most melancholy reflections, on seeing his wedding-suit spread out before him. In the same mood, he wandered about the grounds alone, till he was summoned for the ceremony, and joined, for the first time on that day, his bride and her family. He knelt down, — he repeated the words after the clergyman; but a mist was before his eyes, — his thoughts were elsewhere; and he was but awakened by the congratulations of the bystanders, to find that he was — married." — vol. i., p. 599, 600.
It is hard to say, whether the cynical prose of the letters, or the bitter sadness of the poetry we have been quoting, augured the worst for the results of this rash union. We shall not pain ourselves with transcribing from Lord Byron's correspondence, during the period immediately following, more than one specimen.
"So you want to know about milady and me? But let me not, as Roderick Random says, 'profane the chaste mysteries of Hymen' — damn the word, I had nearly spelt it with a small h. I like Bell as well as you do (or did, you villain!) Bessy — and that is (or was) saying a great deal.... The treaclemoon is over, and I am awake, and find myself married.... Pray tell me what is going on in the way of intriguery, and how the w—s and rogues of the upper Beggar's Opera go on — or rather go off — in or after marriage; or who are going to break any particular commandment.... I must go to tea — damn tea. I wish it was Kinnaird's brandy, and with you to lecture me about it.... I am in such a state of sameness and stagnation, and so totally occupied in consuming the fruits — and sauntering — and playing dull games at cards — and yawning — and trying to read old Annual Registers and the daily papers — and gathering shells on the shore — and watching the growth of stunted gooseberry bushes in the garden — that I have neither time nor sense to say more than, Yours ever, B.
"P.S. I open my letter again to put a question to you. What would Lady C—k, or any other fashionable Pidcock, give to collect you and Jeffrey and me to one party?"
It is sufficiently obvious that Lord Byron did not solicit Miss Milbanke's hand under the influence of anything which could deserve the name of love; and we fear it must also be admitted that he entered on matrimonial life, not only without any serious consideration of the solemn and sacred obligations he was taking upon him, but in a mood and temper of mind very slightly tinged with those feelings and reflections which, even where it is too late for the high and delicate romance of an unwasted heart, spring up naturally on such occasions, and afford at least the prospect of a tender watchfulness and a generous protection to the woman who, in the freshness of youth and innocence, surrenders her all to a manly bosom.
Lord Byron, however, was at least no hypocrite. That his passions were naturally violent, and had been most riotously indulged — that he had great personal vanity also, and would continue to be surrounded with voluptuous temptations more constantly than perhaps any other man in the island — that his temper, however originally open and generous, had been early dashed with a black and bitter vein of impatience, suspiciousness, and savage gloom — there were things of which few who had lived in England and read "Childe Harold" could have had any doubt in the year 1814. That such a person was likely to pass through the many years of youth which yet lay before him, amidst such society as his future wife had first found him in, without ever deviating from the straight path — or that he should continue to give his genius the rein in the career where such triumphs had already crowned it, and let his fervid imagination exult and revel in such trains of thought and sentiment as had stamped their stern and mournful traces on every stanza of his poetry, without at times bringing into the relations and intercourse of domestic life both irritability of spirit and harshness of language — would have been considered, certainly, by any calm calculator, as improbable. What wise and charitable men, and women too, looking at the case from a distance, were willing to hope, was not that the devotion of a bride, however engaging, should at once and for ever arrest and purify such passions, and charm the "lurking devil" out of such a temper, never again to agitate even its surface with a transient gust of the old whirlwind; but that the value of a true wife's love would by degrees force itself into till possession of a masculine understanding; that the womanly weapons of forbearance, and gentleness — and nature's own appointed means for sustaining and quickening the conjugal affections, namely, the unutterable endearments and precious sympathies of a common progeny, "the dowry of blessed children" — would be permitted to have free course; and that, if the moral being were thus restored to the precincts of healthfulness, a great intellect might at last open itself to the reception of that faith which connects whatever tends to the happiness of our neighbour here, with the humble hope of our own happiness in another world.
Even these moderate expectations were destined to sore disappointment; but we willingly spare ourselves a minute examination of the gradually darkening hints and glimpses (for they are no more) which these pages afford, as to the domestic history of Lord Byron's last year in England. He had espoused a lady of large expectations, but she brought him no immediate increase of income; and yet the mere fact that he had formed such a connexion with a wealthy family was enough to impress his own creditors (more of whom, as he says, were Jews than Samaritans) with a keen sense of the wisdom and prudence of forthwith urging their claims with new vigour. Eight or nine times this proud man saw executions in his house within twelve mouths! Meantime; there were abundant sources of irritation out of doors. The scandalous insults which Lord Byron offered to the late king were, of course, mainly designed, and excellently well calculated, to please certain liberal circles in those days, condemned as such circles then were to the blackest rancour of hopelessness. They excited, however, proportional disgust, not only in the many that knew and appreciated the amiable qualities of George IV., but among the thousands and millions of right-hearted British subjects, of all orders and persuasions, whose notions of what was due to the constitutional dignity of the son of George III., happened to be independent of the accidents of in or out. Lord Byron had, in their view, degraded himself as a man, by lending his poetical talents to the purposes of a small exclusive knot of magnates who, occasionally professing levelling principles on a wider scale, — and perhaps well enough disposed to please the mob, if they could do so safely, at the expense of the people, — have certainly shown unimpeachable consistency in their practical efforts to level that monarchy, which, among its other claims to our respect, is of such efficacy to hold aristocratic haughtiness in check. To act thus was not, in those days, the way to popular favour, any more than to political power. The Conservative principle, still triumphantly predominant in the government, had the sure respect of parliament, and, in general, the firm support of society; it had not yet been deprived of that salutary influence, of which, indeed, nothing but blind mismanagement and vindictive spleen could ever have deprived it, and which unbridled insolence and unmasked selfishness may not, perhaps, be among the slowest means of restoring. The public mind, in short, was still, comparatively speaking, in a healthy state; and Lord Byron, conscious that he had done much to alienate the feelings of the great body of his nation, began, as Mr. Moore intimates, to be visited with a gnawing suspicion that he had already seen out the bloom of his literary success. We need not dwell on a multifarious array of minor entanglements and annoyances. It was obvious to Mr. Moore, when he, after some months' absence, came to town early in 1816, that his noble friend's state of mind was by turns dejected and irritable in the extreme; it was equally clear that in the midst of his distresses he had no solid buttresses of domestic comfort and sympathy to lean back upon; and, in a word, the shrewd man of the world, who "had never liked her," was well prepared for some violent explosion — though not surely for any irremediable catastrophe.
It was never a secret that the formal deed of separation of 1816 was the result of the wife's fixed determination to live no longer with her husband; but since the first volume of Mr. Moore's work was published, the unfortunate lady has put forth a printed statement which throws new light on the subject. From this we learn, that at the time when she left him in London, the impression was strong on her mind, and the minds of her advisers, that Lord Byron was actually insane; that, according to the counsel she had received, she, after arriving at her father's seat in the north of England, addressed, at least, one letter written in affectionate and even playfully affectionate terms, to Lord Byron — the object being to soothe and quiet his feelings: that presently the persons honoured with her confidence were satisfied by Dr. Baillie that the man who had just written the "Siege of Corinth" and "Parasina" could not well be denounced to the world as insane; that, upon this, her ladyship communicated to Dr. Lushington and Sir Samuel Romilly a full and particular account of Lord Byron's recent conduct, and received from these learned jurisconsults a professional opinion that — such having been the conduct of a man not insane — no reconciliation was possible; and, if such an idea were entertained, they could not, "either professionally or otherwise, take any part towards effecting it:" and, finally, that on this opinion her ladyship forthwith acted, declaring formally her resolution never again to live with Lord Byron. Such is Lady Byron's statement to the public, of February 19th, 1830 — what her statement to Sir S. Romilly and Dr. Lushington in the spring of 1816 was — on what grounds these gentlemen conceived it to be their duty to put or keep asunder whom God had joined — remains, we believe, to this moment an entire mystery. The public have indeed for some time given over guessing on the subject; if it is mentioned, the veriest gossippers shake their heads, and express a faint hope that there may be more light for another generation. Even in Mr. Moore's second volume we at least can discover no clue to the great black hoarded secret; nay, we can discover nothing new on the subject whatever, except abundant and decisive proof that, unless Lord Byron was, "intus et in cute," the most consummate and consistent of hypocrites, he himself, down to the last hour of his life, remained in total ignorance of the specific cause of that part of Lady Byron's conduct which he always professed to consider as the death-warrant of his own peace and character.
This much we believe one extract will sufficiently establish. It is from a letter to the editor of Blackwood's Magazine, drawn up in consequence of certain "Remarks on Don Juan," published in that journal in 1819, in the course of which some severe strictures on the poet's matrimonial conduct had been, neither necessarily nor handsomely, introduced. His reply was printed as a pamphlet at the time, but, on further consideration, suppressed.
"My learned brother" (says Lord Byron) "observes, that 'it is in vain for Lord B. to attempt in any way to justify his own behaviour in that affair; and now that he has so openly and audaciously invited inquiry and reproach, we do not see any good reason why he should not be plainly told so by the voice of his countrymen.' How far the 'openness' of an anonymous poem, and the 'audacity' of an imaginary character, which the writer supposes to be meant for Lady B., may be deemed to merit this formidable denunciation from their 'most sweet voices,' I neither know nor care; but when he tells me that I cannot 'in any way justify my own behaviour in that affair,' I acquiesce, because no man can 'justify' himself until he knows of what he is accused; and I have never had — and, God knows, my whole desire has ever been to obtain it — any specific charge, in a tangible shape, submitted to me by the adversary, nor by others, unless the atrocities of public rumour and the mysterious silence of the lady's legal advisers may be deemed such." — vol. ii., pp. 360, 361.
It may also be well that we should transcribe the following passage from Mr. Moore's own narrative:—
"Byron had the pain of fancying, whether rightly or wrongly, that the eyes of enemies and spies were upon him, even under his own roof, and that his every hasty word and look were interpreted in the most perverting light. As, from the state of their means, his lady and he saw but little society, his only relief from the thoughts which a life of such embarrassment brought with it, was in those avocations which his duty, as a member of the Drury-lane Committee, imposed upon him. And here — in this most unlucky connexion with the theatre — one of the fatalities of his short year of trial, as husband, lay. From the reputation which he had previously acquired for gallantries, and the sort of reckless and boyish levity to which — often in very 'bitterness of soul' — he gave way, it was not difficult to bring suspicion upon some of those acquaintances which his frequent intercourse with the green-room induced him to form, or even (as, in one instance, was the case) to connect with his name injuriously that of a person to whom he had scarcely ever addressed a single word."
We now return to Lord Byron's suppressed pamphlet — of which, indeed, we wish we had room for the whole, since we certainly consider it as one of the finest specimens of English prose produced in this or in any preceding time. The Exile of Ravenna thus sums up his own case:—
"The man who is exiled by a faction has the consolation of thinking that he is a martyr; he is upheld by hope and the dignity of his cause, real or imaginary: he who withdraws from the pressure of debt may indulge in the thought that time and prudence will retrieve his circumstances: he who is condemned by the law has a term to his banishment, or a dream of its abbreviation; or, it may be, the knowledge or the belief of some injustice of the law, or of its administration in his own particular: but he who is outlawed by general opinion, without the intervention of hostile politics, illegal judgment, or embarrassed circumstances, whether he be innocent or guilty, must undergo all the bitterness of exile, without hope, without pride, without alleviation. This case was mine. Upon what grounds the public founded their opinion, I am not aware; but it was general, and it was decisive. Of me or of mine they knew little, except that I had written what is called poetry, was a nobleman, had married, become 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 fashionable world was divided into parties, mine consisting of a very small minority: the reasonable world was naturally on the stronger side, which happened to be the lady's, as was most proper and polite. The press was active and scurrilous; and such was the rage of the day, that the unfortunate publication of two copies of verses, rather complimentary than otherwise to the subjects of both, was tortured into a species of crime, or constructive petty treason. I was accused of every monstrous vice by public rumour and private rancour: 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 him to the waters. I thought, in the words of Campbell, 'Then wed thee to an exiled lot, | And if the world hath loved thee not, | Its absence may be borne.' I recollect, however, that having been much hurt by Romilly's conduct (he, having a general retainer for me, had acted as adviser to the adversary, alleging, on being reminded of his retainer, that he had forgotten it, as his clerk had so many), I observed that some of those who were now eagerly laying the axe to my roof-tree, might see their own shaken, and feel a portion of what they had inflicted. — His fell and crushed him.
"I have heard of, and believe, that there are human beings so constituted as to be insensible to injuries; but I believe that the best mode to avoid taking vengeance is to get out of the way of temptation. I do not in this allude to the party, who might be right or wrong; but to many who made her cause the pretext of their own bitterness. She, indeed, must have long avenged me in her own feelings, for whatever her reasons may have been (and she never adduced them, to me at least), she probably neither contemplated nor conceived to what she became the means of conducting the father of her child, and the husband of her choice." — vol. ii., p. 361-364.
Too great a portion of Mr. Moore's second volume consists of one melancholy commentary on the closing words of the above extract. During one year, at least, Lord Byron continued to think a reconciliation not impossible; but certain advances which he made with that view from Switzerland were, at once it would seem, and peremptorily, rejected; and thence, according to Mr. Moore, dates whatever serious bitterness ever mingled in his thoughts concerning his lady's conduct towards him. He immediately crossed the Alps — the die was cast — he was for ever lost to the society of England; nor, in the whole body of his poetry, is there anything more mournfully and desolately beautiful than certain "Stanzas to Augusta," now first printed, which bear the date of this miserable epoch of his story.
My sister! my sweet sister! if a name
Dearer and purer were, it should be thine.
Mountains and seas divide us, but I claim
No tears, but tenderness to answer mine:
Go where I will, to me thou art the same—
A loved regret which I would not resign.
There yet are two things in my destiny,—
A world to roam through, and a home with thee.
The first were nothing — had I still the last,
It were the haven of my happiness;
But other claims and other ties thou hast,
And mine is not the wish to make them less.
A strange doom is thy father's son's, and past
Recalling; as it lies beyond redress;
Reversed for him our grandsire's fate of yore,—
He had no rest at sea, nor I on shore.
If my inheritance of storms hath been
In other elements, and on the rocks
Of perils, overlook'd or unforeseen,
I have sustain'd my share of worldly shocks,
The fault was mine; nor do I seek to screen
My errors with defensive paradox;
I have been cunning in mine overthrow,
The careful pilot of my proper woe.
Mine were my faults, and mine be their reward.
My whole life was a contest since the day
That gave me being, gave me that which marr'd
The gift, — a fate, or will, that walk'd astray;
And I at times have found the struggle hard,
And thought of shaking off my bonds of clay:
But now I fain would for a time survive,
If but to see what next can well arrive.
Kingdoms and empires in my little day
I have outlived, and yet I am not old;
And when I look on this, the petty spray
Of my own years of trouble, which have roll'd
Like a wild bay of breakers, melts away:
Something — I know not what — does still uphold
A spirit of slight patience; not in vain,
Even for its own sake, do we purchase pain.
I feel almost at times as I have felt
In happy childhood; trees and flowers, and brooks,
Which do remember me of where I dwelt
Ere my young mind was sacrificed to books,
Come as of yore upon me, and can melt
My heart with recognition of their looks;
And even at moments I could think I see
Some living thing to love — but none like thee.
Here are the Alpine landscapes which create
A fund for contemplation; — to admire
Is a brief feeling of a trivial date—
But — something worthier do such scenes inspire:
Here to be lonely is not desolate,
For much I view which I could most desire,
And, above all, a lake I can behold
Lovelier, not dearer, than our own of old....
I did remind thee of our own dear lake,
By the old hall which may be mine no more.
Leman's is fair; but think not I forsake
The sweet remembrance of a dearer shore:
Sad havoc Time must with my memory make
Ere that or thou can fade these eyes before;
Though, like all things which I have loved, they are
Resign'd for ever, or divided far.
The world is all before me; I but ask
Of nature that with which she will comply—
It is but in her summer's sun to bask,
To mingle with the quiet of her sky,
To see her gentle face without a mask,
And never gaze on it with apathy.
She was my early friend, and now shall be
My sister — till I look again on thee.
With false ambition what had I to do?
Little with love, and least of all with fame;
And yet they came unsought, and with me grew,
And made me all which they can make — a name.
Yet this was not the end I did pursue;
Surely I once beheld a nobler aim.
But all is over — I am one the more
To baffled millions which have gone before.
Miserable as were the consequences of his exile, as to his moral being and happiness, and cruel as are the sarcasms in which, amidst conscious degradation, he revenged himself on her whose unrelenting severity he considered as the final determining cause that had made that degradation all but hopeless — on her whom he then scoffed at as his "mathematical Medea?" and still more savagely as "his moral Clytemnestra, who, being moral, could accomplish her purpose without the aid of an Aegisthus;" miserable as is the whole picture, of which even things like these do not make the darkest shadows, it is Mr. Moore's opinion that the effect of all his sufferings was favourable to the development of his poetical powers. That his great genius might, under other circumstances, have embodied itself in far nobler productions than he ever completed, we, however, should be very sorry to doubt. But it is needless to speculate on what might have been. There is no question that, for several years, the basely profligate course of sensual indulgence, too faithfully portrayed in these pages, did not prevent the genius of Byron from expanding in vigour; that the Third Canto of Childe Harold revealed a mine of poetical wealth, of which even Parasina could hardly have afforded a presage — that the Fourth Canto, written chiefly at Venice, when his debaucheries had reached the very climax, surpassed not less astonishingly the Third; and that through his dramatic pieces, considered merely as poems, the same fervid, onward career will ever be traced. It was not until to all his other evil habits, he had added that of constant nightly inebriety, that the poison of vice was able to sap his intellect also, and condemn the poet of Manfred and Sardanapalus to exercise himself in nothing worthier of his original powers and tastes, than such flimsy lucubrations as occupy fifteen stanzas out of every twenty in the later cantos of Don Juan.
Mr. Moore has thought it his duty to the memory of his friend to print, "with but little suppression," his own letters relative to his Italian amours. The biographer states in the first place, that, "to throw a veil altogether over these irregularities would be to afford but a partial portraiture of his character;" to which we answer, that Mr. Moore was not reduced to the necessity of either veiling them altogether, or exhibiting Lord Byron's letters concerning them "with but little suppression." Would it not have answered every purpose which Mr. Moore avows, to confess, with the brevity of sorrow, that during several years of his prime in manhood and in intellect, this great poet, as he conceived, unjustifiably deserted by his wife, and dragooned out of his natural sphere of society by the persecutions of envious hypocrisy, rebelled against the world, and the world's laws, and in the fierce glee of desperation flung himself into as heartless and loathsome a career of sensuality as it ever entered into the head of a Crebillon, or a Louvet, or, we might almost say, of a Cleland, to depict? Would not this have satisfied abundantly all whose only object it was to understand Lord Byron's history'? And can any one doubt that a man holding such a place in English literature, and in English society also, as Mr. Moore has long held, incurs very serious responsibility indeed when he, on any pretext short of necessity, becomes the instrument of placing before the public, in a work than which none was ever more sure to be devoured by readers of all ages, and either sex, with equal eagerness, full length pictures of this particular species of profligacy, drawn and coloured with all the masterly power of a Byron? He says, indeed, that to have suppressed the details would have been "to deprive him of whatever softening light can be thrown around such transgressions by the vivacity and fancy, the passionate love of beauty, and the strong yearning after affection, which more or less mingled with the least refined of his attachments." We confess that this appears to us very shallow sophistry; nay, we confess that, — vivacity and fancy, and love of beauty, and strong yearning after the affection of bakers' wives, &c. notwithstanding — miserable as Lord Byron's career at this period was — the very fact that he thus constantly and deliberately made its details the subject of his correspondence to his friends, appears to us something still more deplorable. There are, we fear, but few men who have not in their time given sinful indulgence, more or less, to the passions which made havoc and ruin of Lord Byron; but let us ask Mr. Thomas Moore how many English gentlemen he seriously believes would have been capable, even in their wildest days, of addressing whole reams of letters, filled with minute, graphic, exulting records of their licentious adventures, to distant friends known to be in their own persons discharging contentedly and gracefully all the duties of quiet domestic life, — to virtuous men, husbands, and fathers, and past the "mezzo cammin"?
It also occurs to us — but we have no wish to read a lecture on this head to Mr. Moore — that some consideration was due, after all, to the feelings of persons still more nearly connected with the deceased poet than his biographer. Was it a light thing to fling this mass of pollution before the eyes of a tender-hearted sister? could it serve any good purpose to harrow thus cruelly every feeling of a most unfortunate widow? might it not have been expected that the chosen friend of Lord Byron should have remembered the
Sole daughter of his house and heart?
There are many other things in this correspondence which might as well have been omitted; — petty trivial details — and repetitions upon repetitions — and jeers and sarcasms on living persons, of which Mr. Moore's asterisks will hardly, in most cases, conceal the point. The better part required none of these last condiments to give it universal attraction. We shall extract, almost at random, a few specimens.
The following is part of a letter to Mr. Moore, dated Venice, June 1, 1818.
"Hunt's letter is probably the exact piece of vulgar coxcombry you might expect from his situation. He is a good man, with some poetical elements in his chaos: but spoilt by the Christ-Church Hospital and a Sunday newspaper, — to say nothing of the Surrey Jail, which conceited him into a martyr. But he is a good man. When I saw 'Rimini' in MSS., I told him that I deemed it good poetry at bottom, disfigured only by a strange style. His answer was, that his style was a system, or upon system, or some such cant; and, when a man talks of system, his case is hopeless: so I said no more to him, and very little to any one else. He believes his trash of vulgar phrases, tortured into compound barbarisms, to be old English; and we may say of it as Aimwell says of Captain Gibbet's regiment, when the Captain calls it an 'old corps,' — 'the oldest in Europe, if I may judge by your uniform.' He sent out his 'Foliage,' by Percy Shelley * * *, and, of all the ineffable Centaurs that were ever begotten by Self-love upon a Night-mare, I think this monstrous Sagittary the most prodigious. He (Leigh H.) is an honest Charlatan, who has persuaded himself into a belief of his own impostures, and talks Punch in pure simplicity of heart, taking himself (as poor Fitzgerald said of himself in the Morning Post) for "Vates" in both senses, or nonsenses, of the word. Did you look at the translations of his own, which he prefers to Pope and Cowper, and says so? — Did you read his skimble-skamble about being at the head of his own profession, in the eyes of those who followed it? I thought that Poetry was an art, or an attribute, and not a profession. But Leigh Hunt is a good man, and a good father — see his Odes to all the Masters Hunt: — a good husband — see his Sonnet to Mrs. Hunt; a good friend — see his Epistles to different people; — a great coxcomb, and a very vulgar person in every thing about him. But that's not his fault, but of circumstances...."
When Mr. Moore asks his advice as to the life of Sheridan, he thus replies:—
"I do not know any good model for a life of Sheridan but that of Savage. Recollect however, that the life of such a man may be made far more amusing than if he had been a Wilberforce; and this, without offending the living, or insulting the dead. The whigs abuse him; however, he never left them, and such blunderers deserve neither credit nor compassion. As for his creditors, — remember Sheridan never had a shilling, and was thrown, with great powers and passions, into the thick of the world, and placed upon the pinnacle of success, with no other external means to support him in his elevation. Did Fox pay his debts? — or did Sheridan take a subscription? Was the Duke of Norfolk's drunkenness more excusable than his? Were his intrigues more notorious than those of all his contemporaries? and is his memory to be blasted, and theirs respected? Don't let yourself be led away by clamour, but compare him with the coalitioner Fox, and the pensioner Burke, as a man of principle, and with ten hundred thousand in personal views, and with none in talent, for he beat them all out and out. Without means, without connexion, without character, (which might be false at first, and make him mad afterwards from desperation,) he beat them all, in all he ever attempted.... Never mind the angry lies of the humbug whigs. Recollect he was an Irishman and a clever fellow, and that we have had some very pleasant days with him. Don't forget that he was at school at Harrow, where, in my time, we used to show his name — R. B. Sheridan, 1765 — as an honour to the walls. Depend upon it, that there were worse folks going, of that gang, than ever Sheridan was.
"I wish you good night, with a Venetian benediction, 'Benedetto te, e la terra che ti fara!' — 'May you be blessed, and the earth which you will make' — is it not pretty...."
The following — is also from a letter to Mr. Moore:—
"I remember to have seen Porson at Cambridge, in the hall of our college, and in private parties, but not frequently; and I never can recollect him, except as drunk or brutal, and generally both: I mean in an evening, for in the hall, he dined at the Dean's table, and I at the Vice-master's, so that I was not near him; and he then and there appeared sober in his demeanour, nor did I ever hear of excess or outrage on his part in public, — commons, college, or chapel; but I have seen him in a private party of under-graduates, many of them freshmen and strangers, take up a poker to one of them, and heard him use language as blackguard as his action. I have seen Sheridan drunk, too, with all the world; but his intoxication was that of Bacchus, and Porson's that of Silenus. Of all the disgusting brutes, sulky, abusive, and intolerable, Porson was the most bestial, as far as the few times that I saw him went, which were only at William Bankes's (the Nubian discoverer's) rooms. I saw him once go away in a rage, because nobody knew the name of the 'Cobbler of Messina,' insulting their ignorance with the most vulgar terms of reprobation. He was tolerated in this state amongst the young men for his talents, as the Turks think a madman inspired, and bear with him. He used to recite, or rather vomit pages of all languages, and could hiccup Greek like a Helot; and certainly Sparta never shocked her children with a grosser exhibition than this man's intoxication. — vol. ii., p. 163.
At a later period Lord Byron thus writes to Mr. Murray—
"Send me no periodical works whatsoever — no Edinburgh, Quarterly, Monthly, nor any review, magazine, or newspaper, English or foreign, of any description. Send me no opinions whatsoever, either good, bad, or indifferent, of yourself, or your friends, or others, concerning any work, or works, of mine, past, present, or to come. The quantity of trash I have received as books is incalculable, and neither amused nor instructed. Reviews and magazines are at the best but ephemeral and superficial reading: — who thinks of the grand article of last year in any given Review? In the next place, if they regard myself, they tend to increase egotism. If favourable, I do not deny that the praise elates, and if unfavourable, that the abuse irritates. The latter may conduct me to inflict a species of satire, which would neither do good to you, nor to your friends: they may smile now, and so may you; but if I took you all in hand, it would not be difficult to cut you up like gourds. I did as much by as powerful people at nineteen years old, and I know little as yet in three-and-thirty, which should prevent me from making all your ribs gridirons for your hearts, if such were my propensity: but it is not; therefore let me hear none of your provocations. If any thing occurs so very gross as to require my notice, I shall hear of it from my legal friends. For the rest, I merely request to be left in ignorance.
"The same applies to opinions, good, bad, or indifferent, of persons in conversation or correspondence. These do not interrupt, but they soil, the current of my mind. I am sensitive enough, but not till I am troubled; and here I am beyond the touch of the short arms of literary England, except the few feelers of the polypus that crawl over the channels in the way of extract.
"All these precautions in England would be useless; the libeller or the flatterer would there reach me in spite of all; but in Italy we know little of literary England, and think less, except what reaches us through some garbled and brief extract in some miserable gazette. For two years (excepting two or three articles cut out and sent to you by the post) I never read a newspaper which was riot forced upon me by some accident, and know, upon the whole, as little of England as you do of Italy, and God knows that is little enough, with all your travels, &c. &c. &c. The English travellers know Italy as you know Guernsey: how much is that?
"You will say, 'to what tends all this?' I will answer THAT; — to keep my mind free and unbiassed by all paltry and personal irritabilities of praise or censure — to let my genius take its natural direction, while my feelings are like the dead, who know nothing and feel nothing of all or aught that is said or done in their regard."
On this last passage Mr. Moore happily observes,—
"It would be difficult to describe more strongly or more convincingly than Lord Byron has done in this letter the sort of petty, but thwarting, obstructions and distractions which are at present thrown across the path of men of real talent by that swarm of minor critics and pretenders, with whom the want of a vent in other professions has crowded all the walks of literature. Nor is it only the writers of the day that suffer from this multifarious rush into the mart; — the readers also, from having (as Lord Byron expresses it in another letter) 'the superficies of too many things presented to them at once,' come to lose by degrees their powers of discrimination; and, in the same manner as the palate becomes confused in trying various wines, so the public taste declines in proportion as the impressions to which it is exposed multiply." — vol. ii., p. 535.
We have no room for copious extracts from a work of this popular description; but it is our decided opinion that Lord Byron will henceforth hold a place in the very first ranks of English letter-writers. In this capacity he reminds us more frequently of Horace Walpole than of any other of his predecessors; but his vein is thoroughly original; the rapid felicity of the transitions unique; and quite as much so the interfusion of pure and beautiful pathos, not with humour only, as in Cowper, but with highly-polished wit and energetic bursts of declamation. It is obvious to remark, that by far the best letters are those addressed to Mr. Moore and Mr. Murray; the last-named of whom, at least, had a general permission "to show these things to the initiated." "These things" were, in fact, the noble exile's bulletins and manifestoes, by means of which he found it convenient to keep himself before certain circles of English society; and probably many of our readers may remember as well as ourselves how well they answered his purpose — the sensation which, some ten or twelve years ago, used to be occasioned by the arrival of one of these missives extraordinary from Venice, Pisa, or Ravenna. Lord Byron wrote in a far inferior tone to others of his habitual correspondents; he could play the most fantastic of fribbles in addressing a fine lady; and in his communications with his banker, the late Mr. Douglas Kinnaird, he usually sustains, with perfect gravity, the air of "canny Aberdeen," — with such success, indeed, as to have apparently imposed on certain readers of "The Keepsake" (in which those letters were originally printed) the serious impression that avarice became in his later days a part of Lord Byron's character. This, taking the words "avarice" and "character" in their usual senses, we can never believe. High-spirited and at the summit of fame, he had run the gauntlet of all the bailiffs in London during twelve months; and, doubtless, he had felt such humiliating miseries in a way likely enough to deepen in his mind, beyond the usual mark, the lessons which they infallibly leave on any sound understanding. But if any one point be made out clearly in these volumes, it is, that he was all along generous and openhanded in the distribution of his pecuniary resources. Mr. Shelley says, that even at Venice, where his mode of life in other respects was so unworthy of him, he devoted £1000 per annum (a fourth of his income) to charitable purposes; and the instances of munificent liberality, scattered over Mr. Moore's pages, are in perfect harmony with this statement. But, rejecting with scorn the imputation of what is vulgarly called avarice, we are sorry to be obliged to confess, that there is one circumstance connected with Lord Byron's money matters during his residence in Italy, which we must contemplate with feelings of pain and reprobation. Whether the chief blame of the separation lay really with him or with others, there can be no doubt that, after a certain lapse of time, Lord Byron indulged himself in bitterly contemptuous satire and sarcasms at his wife's expense; and we suppose most men will agree with us in thinking that, such being the state of things between them, he did not act as became a high-spirited gentleman in retaining, for his personal purposes, one half of the yearly revenue of the estates which the letter of the law made his on the death of Lady Byron's mother. Indeed, it appears from Mr. Moore's narrative, that he at first avowed his resolution never to let a shilling, derived from that source, touch his hand; but he wanted the manhood to persist in what it is thus clear he knew and felt to be the proper course of conduct. But perhaps we have already been wandering too widely from the main thread of Mr. Moore's story — the next important feature in which is, Lord Byron's connexion with the Countess Guiccioli.
It may, perhaps, be truly said of Mr. Leigh Hunt, that "nihil quod tetigit non de-ornavit;" indeed, it appears to us, that no one has ever sufficiently dwelt on the undeniable fact, that it is possible to possess, in almost the total absence of every other talent, a potent one for producing deep and permanent impressions of disgust. This is Mr. Hunt's forte. Perhaps no writer, by half so feeble, ever succeeded in turning so many beautiful things into objects of aversion and loathing: his gift was so great in this way that at the period when he possessed a species of vogue, he, by dint of his fulsome manipulations, had actually well nigh succeeded in vulgarizing to the public fancy such names as Raphael, Tasso, Chaucer, and Wordsworth. No wonder, then, that, of the very few things which adhered to our memory, from a hasty perusal, some three or four years ago, of his coxcombical libel, entitled "Lord Byron and his Contemporaries," one should have been a sickening notion of something like sleek and "jaunty" meretriciousness, reviving at any casual mention of this unfortunate lady's name. One verminous expression, in short, had found means to stick itself in our fancy — "a sort of buxom parlour-boarder;" and we certainly approached this part of Mr. Moore's narrative, expecting to find the mere taste of Lord Byron exhibited in a point of view only less melancholy than his morality.
How different, in as far as the poor lady's personal appearance and manners are concerned, is the impression conveyed by the following little sketch from a letter of Mr. West, an American artist, to whom Lord Byron sat for his picture, in the summer of 1822, after his connexion with her had lasted more than three years!
"The next day I returned, and had another sitting of an hour, during which he seemed anxious to know what I should make of my undertaking. Whilst I was painting, the window from which I received my light became suddenly darkened, and I heard a voice exclaim 'E troppo bello!' I turned, and discovered a beautiful female stooping down to look in, the ground on the outside being on a level with the bottom of the window. Her long golden hair hung down about her face and shoulders, her complexion was exquisite, and her smile completed one of the most romantic-looking heads, set off as it was by the bright sun behind it, which I had ever beheld. Lord Byron invited her to come in, and introduced her to me as the Countess Guiccioli. He seemed very fond of her, and I was glad of her presence, for the playful manner which he assumed towards her made him a much better sitter." — vol. ii. pp. 602, 603.
This is in keeping with all that Mr. Moore records of his own observation; and the impression is not only sustained, but heightened, by every syllable of the lady's own narrative of the circumstances which have connected her fortunes with an immortal name. This narrative occupies a considerable space in these pages: it is written, if we may presume to have an opinion on such a subject, in as pure, simple, elegant Italian, as ever flowed from the pen of Botta or Foscolo; the deep passionate tenderness with which she broods over the recollection of the least word and look of her buried lover, must go home to the coldest heart; nor will it tend to lighten the desolate effect of the whole sad picture, to find that, from the beginning to the end of her story, there occurs not one expression to intimate even the slightest suspicion that her love was guilt. Such is the power of education; for such things are the basely-perverted manners of modern Italy responsible — manners, the whole spirit of which is concentrated in the single exclamation of a distinguished leader of fashion in Venice, when she first heard that Lord Byron contemplated removing altogether from under her husband's roof the young and beautiful woman with whom that leader well knew he had long carried on an adulterous intrigue — "Shocking! — hitherto he had behaved so well!" — manners, according to which it seems to have been heard of without exciting either wonder or disgust, that the father of Countess Guiccioli (who had sold her hand at eighteen, fresh from a convent, to a miserly poltroon, old enough to have been her grandfather) — that this father, Count Gamba, and her brother, when exiled for their Carbonaro politics from Ravenna, were but too happy to take up their abode along with her, under her then avowed paramour's roof at Genoa. Such is the tone of that Italian society in which, if anywhere in the world, all that is usually talked of as grace, and refinement, and taste, and accomplishment, may find the most exquisite of models; and in the midst of which so many of our countrymen hold it consistent with their duties, as parents and as Englishmen, to allow their daughters to ripen into womanhood.
Mr. Moore, Mr. Shelley, and indeed all those English friends who, having watched Lord Byron's career at Venice, were afterwards brought into contact with him, as living with Countess Guiccioli, concur in viewing this last connexion as having checked an otherwise hopeless course of intellectual, as well as moral and physical deterioration.
"Lord Byron (writes Mr. Shelley, in Aug. 1821) had almost destroyed himself; his state of debility was such, that he was unable to digest any food — he was consumed by hectic fever, and would speedily have perished, but for this attachment, which reclaimed him from the excesses into which he threw himself, from carelessness and pride, rather than taste. He is now greatly improved in every respect — in genius, in temper, in moral habits, in health, and happiness. He has had mischievous passions, but these he seems to have subdued, and is becoming, what he should be, a virtuous man!"
Mr. Moore says—
"That spring of natural tenderness within his soul, which neither the world's efforts nor his own had been able to chill or choke up, was now, with something of its first freshness, set flowing once more. He again knew what it was to love and be loved — too late, it is true, for happiness, and too wrongly for peace, but with devotion enough, on the part of the woman, to satisfy even his thirst for affection, and with a sad earnestness, on his own, a foreboding fidelity, which made him cling but the more passionately to this attachment, from feeling that it would be his last.
"A circumstance which he himself used to mention as having occurred at this period will show how overpowering, at times, was the rush of melancholy over his heart. It was his fancy, during Madame Guiccioli's absence from Bologna, to go daily to her house at his usual hour of visiting her, and there, causing her apartments to be opened, to sit turning over her books, and writing in them. He would then descend into her garden, where he passed hours in musing; and it was on an occasion of this kind, as he stood looking, in a state of unconscious reverie, into one of those fountains so common in the gardens of Italy, that there came suddenly into his mind such desolate fancies, such boding of the misery he might bring on her he loved, by that doom which (as he has himself written) 'makes it fatal to be loved,' that, overwhelmed with his own thoughts, he burst into an agony of tears.
"During the same few days it was that he wrote in the last page of Madame Guiccioli's copy of 'Corinne' the following remarkable note:—
"'My dearest Teresa, — I have read this book in your garden; — my love, you were absent, or else I could not have read it. It is a favourite book of yours, and the writer was a friend of mine. You will not understand these English words, and others will not understand them, — which is the reason I have not scrawled them in Italian. But you will recognise the handwriting of him who passionately loved you, and you will divine that, over a book which was yours, he could only think of love. In that word, beautiful in all languages, but most so in yours — "Amor mio' — is comprised my existence here and hereafter. I feel I exist here, and I fear that I shall exist hereafter, — to what purpose you will decide; my destiny rests with you, and you are a woman, eighteen years of age, and two out of a convent. I wish that you had staid there, with all my heart, — or, at least, that I had never met you in your married state.
"But all this is too late. I love you, and you love me, — at least you say so, and act as if you did so, which last is a great consolation in all events. But I more than love you, and cannot cease to love you. Think of me, sometimes, when the Alps and the ocean divide us, — but they never will, unless you wish it.
Bologna, August 25, 1819.'
"What tended, even more fatally than anything else, to sully and bring down, for a time, to earth the romance of his character, was the course of life to which, outrunning even the licence of his youth, he abandoned himself at Venice. From this, as from his earlier excesses, the timely warning of disgust soon rescued him; and the connexion which followed, and which, however much to be reprehended, had in it all of marriage that his real marriage wanted, seemed to place, at length, within reach of his affectionate spirit that union and sympathy for which, through life, it had thirsted. But the treasure came too late; — the pure poetry of the feeling had vanished, and those tears he shed so passionately in the garden at Bologna flowed less, perhaps, from the love which he felt at that moment, than from the saddening consciousness, how differently he could have felt formerly. It was, indeed, wholly beyond the power, even of an imagination like his, to go on investing with his own ideal glories a sentiment which — more from daring and vanity than any other impulse — he had taken such pains to tarnish and debase in his own eyes." — vol. ii., p. 393.
Not the least interesting page in Madame Guiccioli's own narrative, is that which records Lord Byron's affliction on receiving the news of the death of his natural daughter, Allegra; — who that reads it can suppress the reflection that had Lord Byron's paternal feelings been allowed to develope themselves in the proper manner, in them, almost in them alone, the means of redemption might have been found!
"Nell occasione pure della morire della sua figlia naturale io ho veduto nel suo dolore tuttocio che vi e di piu profondo nella tenerezza paterna. La sua condotta verso di codesta fanciulia era stata sempre quella del padre il piu amoroso; ma dalle di lui parole non si sarebbe giudicato che avesse tanta affezione per lei. Alla prima notizia della di lei malattia egli fu sommamente agitato; giunse poi la notizia della morte, ed io dovessi esercitare il tristo uficio di participarla a Lord Byron. Quel sensibile momento sara indelebile nella mia memoria. Egli non usciva da varii giorni la sera: — io andai dunque da lui. La prima domanda che egli mi fece fu relativa al Corriere che egli aveva spedito per avere notizie della sua flglia, e di cui il retardo lo inquietava. Dopo qualche momento di sospensione con tutta l'arte che sapeva suggerirmi il mio proprio dolore gli tolsi ogni speranza della guarizione della fanciulla, 'Ho inteso,' disse egli — 'basta cosi — non dite di piu' — e un pailore mortale si sparse sul suo volto; le forze gli mancarono, e cadde sopra una sedia d'appoggio. Ii suo sguardo era fisso e tale che mi fece temere per la sua ragione. Egh rimase in quello stato d'immobilita un' ora; e nessuna parola di consolazione che io potessi indirezzargli pareva penetrare le sue orecchie non che il suo core. Ma basta cosi di questa trista detenzione nella quale non posso fermarmi dopo tanti anni senza risvegliare di nuovo nel mio animo le terribile sofferenze di quel giorno. La mattina lo trovai tranquillo, e con una espressione di religiosa rassegnazione nel suo volto. 'Ella e piu felice di noi,' diss' egli — 'd'altronde la sua situazione nel mondo non le avrebbe data forse felicita. Dio ha voluto cosi — non ne parliamo piu.' E da quel giorno in poi non ha piu voluto proferire il nome di quella fanciulla. Ma e divenuto piu pensieroso parlando di Ada, al punto di tormentarsi quando gli ritardavano di qualche ordinario le di lei notizie." — vol. ii., p. 616.
One consequence of Lord Byron's connexion with the Gambas is dwelt upon with unmingled satisfaction by Mr. Moore: — it led to his becoming mixed up, to a much greater extent than we were till now aware of, in the Carbonaro politics. He contributed large sums of money to the conspiring patriots of the Austrian States, of the Romish legations, even of Naples; his house became a regular rendezvous for insurrectionary consultations, and even, such was his imprudence, a complete magazine of arms and ammunition; and there can be no doubt that, but for the ludicrous failure at Naples, he would have been in the field in Lombardy. His biographer seems to consider this "devotion to the sacred cause of human freedom" as almost enough to cover more sins than could ever be laid to his charge; and perhaps, at a time when English ministers of state applaud even an imaginary tricolor flag at the gates of St. James's, such views may find ready acceptance. We, however, are of the old school in many respects, and in none more decidedly than in the firm belief, that the man who on any pretext takes a part, voluntarily, in a war with which the service of his own country has nothing to do, incurs moral guilt of a deep and heinous dye. No cant "about the sacred cause of human freedom" will deceive any man who has considered what war is — and who HE is that has set his canon against the shedding of man's blood. If Italians consider the governments under which they live as so oppressive that they ought to be rebelled against, we have neither title nor wish to question their proceedings; but what can give an English subject a right to take up arms in a cause which is not his — or even open his purse to the assailants of a government in alliance with that which protects his property — we confess we have never been able to comprehend. No man can have any claim to hold, at one and the same time, the privileges of an English citizen, and the right of making war for purposes not sanctioned by the English government. He who acts on the opposite principle; who, under the influence of theories, at best doubtful, or, as is more commonly the case, of personal spleen and vanity, makes bold to be the instrument of terminating one human life, does that which we believe no Christian moralist will find it possible to take out of the category of murder. Such were the views adopted, and through life acted upon, by one whom it is no longer the fashion to call illiberal; but, in spite even of the authority of Mr. Canning, Mr. Moore will probably smile at all this, as the very dotage of toryism; he will appeal to the Spanish exploits of Sir Robert Wilson and Lord Nugent, and those British loyalists whose hands are yet red with the blood of Paris and Brussels; and console himself with the proud reflection, that though the "holy cause" of insurrection all over the world has no longer its Lord Byron, it may still boast of its Buckingham and Bowring.
The failure of these conjurations led to the banishment of the Gambas from Ravenna — and Lord Byron, after various changes of residence, fixed himself at last at Genoa, where he and his mistress had soon the honour of receiving Mr. and Mrs. Leigh Hunt beneath their roof; a visitation, the purposes and results of which are already familiar to our readers. For the history of the unfortunate "Liberal," we refer to our review of Mr. Hunt's libel, before mentioned; and beg to take leave of the subject for ever, by transcribing a short passage from one of Lord Byron's letters.
"The grand distinction of the under forms of the new school of poets is their vulgarity. By this I do not mean that they are coarse, but 'shabby-genteel,' as it is termed. A man may be coarse and yet not vulgar, and the reverse. Burns is often coarse, but never vulgar. Chatterton is never vulgar, nor Wordsworth, nor the higher of the Lake school, though they treat of low life in all its branches. It is in their finery that the new under school are most vulgar, and they may be known by this at once; as what we call at Harrow 'a Sunday blood' might be easily distinguished from a gentleman, although his clothes might be the better cut, and his boots the best blackened of the two; — probably because he made the one or cleaned the other with his own hands.
"In the present case, I speak of writing, not of persons.... They may be honourable and gentlemanly men, for what I know, but the latter quality is studiously excluded from their publications. They remind me of Mr. Smith and the Miss Broughtons at the Hampstead Assembly, in 'Evelina.' In these things, (in private life at least,) I pretend to some small experience; because, in the course of my youth, I have seen a little of all sorts of society, from the Christian prince and the Mussulman sultan and pacha, and the higher ranks of their countries, down to the London boxer, the 'flash and the swell,' the Spanish muleteer, the wandering Turkish dervise, the Scotch highlander, and the Albanian robber; — to say nothing of the curious varieties of Italian social life. Far be it from me to presume that there are now, or can be, such a thing as an aristocracy of poets; but there is a nobility of thought and of style, open to all stations, and derived partly from talent, and partly from education — which is to be found in Shakspeare, and Pope, and Burns, no less than in Dante and Alfieri, but which is no where to be found in the mock birds and bards of Mr. Hunt's little chorus. If I were asked to define what this gentlemanliness is, I should say, that it is only to be defined by examples — of those who have it, and those who have it not. In life, I should say that most military men have it, and few naval; that several men of rank have it, and few lawyers; that it is more frequent among authors than divines (when they are not pedants); that fencing-masters have more of it than dancing-masters, and singers than players; and that (if it be not an Irishism to say so) it is far more generally diffused among women than among men. In poetry, as well as writing in general, it will never make entirely a poet or a poem; but neither poet nor poem will ever be good for anything without it. It is the salt of society, and the seasoning of composition. Vulgarity is far worse than downright blackguardism; for the latter comprehends wit, humour, and strong sense at times; while the former is a sad abortive attempt at all things, 'signifying nothing.' It does not depend upon low themes, or even low language, for Fielding revels in both but is he ever vulgar? No. You see the man of education, the gentleman, and the scholar, sporting with his subject, — its master, not its slave. Your vulgar writer is always most vulgar the higher his subject; as the man who showed the menagerie at Pidcock's was wont to say, 'This, gentlemen, is the Eagle of the Sun, from Archangel in Russia: the otterer it is, the igherer he flies.'" — vol. ii., p. 477-479.
Mr. Moore's next chapter details the departure of Lord Byron from Italy, on that Greek expedition from which he was never to return, and presents us with a lively account of his voyage to Cephalonia, and the melancholy incidents which ensued. The history of this expedition has not, however, been told for the first time in these pages — and, indeed, we hardly find anything actually new in them, as far as matters of fact are concerned. We must, therefore, leave this part of Mr. Moore's narrative untouched — observing merely, that every statement it contains confirms the opinion we had all along expressed — namely, that, after he had once engaged in the Greek cause, Lord Byron's conduct was, in the highest degree, honourable to his sagacity, prudence, and resolution — and that in him that cause lost not only the one man of genius, but also the one man of common sense, that ever espoused it.
The book named beside Mr. Moore's, at the head of our paper, has but just been published, and may furnish an extract or two not unworthy the reader's attention. The author, Dr. Millingen, was surgeon to time brigade of Suliotes, taken into Lord Byron's pay on his arrival in the Morea, and had thus many opportunities of observing his conduct, personal and political, during the last months of his life. He writes simply and well, and effectually vindicates himself from certain charges hazarded in the Journals of the Greek Committee of London; but we can afford room only for a few passages immediately bearing on our present subject. The young doctor was not a little surprised to hear Lord Byron's contemptuous language, in his own circle, concerning the Greek character, so little in unison with the notions which he himself had brought with him from the congresses of the Philhellenes, in Queen-Square, Westminster.
"'This should not surprise you, (said Lord B.) for I know this nation by long and attentive experience, while in Europe they judge it by inspiration. The Greeks are, perhaps, the most depraved and degraded people under the sun; uniting to their original vices both those of their oppressors, and those inherent in slaves. Breaking asunder the frail shackles which checked their immorality, the late revolution has given the amplest scope to the exhibition of their real character; and it stands to reason, that it must have placed in a more glaring light the melancholy picture of their utter worthlessness. Even under the wisest government, the regeneration of a nation can only be the difficult work of time; and certainly none can be less easily improvable than this.'" — Millingen, p. 6.
The doctor might well ask, how then Lord Byron should have determined on devoting himself to the Greek cause? — and this was the answer, after a long pause:—
"Heartily weary of the monotonous life I had led in Italy for several years; sickened with pleasure; more tired of scribbling than the public, perhaps, is of reading my lucubrations; I felt the urgent necessity of giving a completely new direction to the course of my ideas; and the active, dangerous, yet glorious scenes of the military career struck my fancy, and became congenial to my taste. I came to Genoa; but far from meditating to join the Greeks, I was on the eve of sailing for Spain, when, informed of the overthrow of the Liberals, and the desperate state of things in that country, I perceived it was too late to join Sir R. Wilson; — and then it was, in the unmanageable delirium of my military fever, that I altered my intention, and resolved on steering for Greece. After all, should this new mode of existence fail to afford me the satisfaction I anticipate, it will at least present me with the means of making A DASHING EXIT from the scene of this world, where the part I was acting had grown excessively dull.'" — Millingen, pp. 6, 7.
The reader needs not to be told, that Lord Byron's "new mode of existence" did fail to afford him the satisfaction he had anticipated. How he was tormented by the meanness, the treachery, the ferocity, and the incurable falseness of the Greeks, and by the obstinate follies and absurdities of his Philhellenic associates — is well known to all; but we must confess, that even Mr. Moore's detailed account of his Italian life had not given us so complete a notion of the lassitude and weariness of spirit, under which he threw himself into this new sea of troubles, as the following brief passage in Dr. Millingen:—
"I frequently heard him say, 'I especially dread, in this world, two things, to which I have reason to believe I am equally predisposed — growing fat and growing mad; and it would be difficult for me to decide, were I forced to make a choice, which of these conditions I would choose in preference.' To avoid corpulence, not satisfied with renouncing the use of every kind of food that he deemed nourishing, he had recourse almost daily to strong drastic pills, of which extract of colocynth, gamboge, scammony, &c. were the chief ingredients; and if he observed the slightest increase in the size of his wrists or waist, which he measured with scrupulous exactness every morning, he immediately sought to reduce it by taking a large dose of Epsom salts, besides the usual pills.
"Besides the medicines I have mentioned, he had daily recourse to soda powders or calcined magnesia, in order to neutralize the troublesome acidities which the immoderate use of Rhenish wines and ardent spirits continually generated in his debilitated stomach. Nothing could be more strange, and at the same time more injurious to health, than the regimen which he had been induced to adopt, and to which, during several years, he unalterably adhered. He rose at half-past ten o'clock, when, by way of breakfast, he took a large basinful of a strong infusion of green tea, without either sugar or milk; a drink that could not but prove exceedingly prejudicial to a constitution so essentially nervous. At half-past eleven he would set out on a two hours' ride; and on his return his singular and only meal was served tip. Having dined, he immediately withdrew to his study, where he remained till dark; when, more willingly than at any other time, he would indulge in conversation: and afterwards he would play at draughts for a while, or take up some volume on light subjects — such as novels, memoirs, or travels. He had unfortunately contracted the habit of drinking immoderately every evening; and almost at every page he would take a glass of wine, and often of undiluted Hollands, till he felt himself under the full influence of liquor. He would then pace up and down the room till three or four o'clock in the morning; and these hours, he often confessed, were the most propitious to the inspirations of his muse.' (That is to say, we presume, of Don Juan!)
"This mode of life could not but prove ruinous to his constitution, which, however robust it might originally have been, must necessarily sink under shocks so powerful and so often repeated. The disagreeable symptoms of dyspepsia obliged him to have recourse to the daily use of pharmacy, which, instead of annoying him, seemed to be a business of pleasure, persuaded as he was, that there was no other way of obviating the misfortune of corpulency: but after the evanescent stimulation of alcohol had subsided, hypochondriasis, the inseparable companion of intemperance, plunged him in a condition often bordering on despair." — p. 8-10.
In one of his diaries Lord Byron concludes a brief character of Robert Burns with these words: "what a strange compound of dirt and deity!" Mr. Moore had better have drawn his pen through them, unless he wished to provoke a "mutato nomine." But we shall not dismiss this matter quite so abruptly. Inebriety is not certainly a common or prominent vice, elsewhere than among the lowest vulgar, of these times; yet, perhaps it may have attracted the notice of some of our readers, that not a few who, under the older system of manners, would have been likely to bear the reputation of jolly companions, have, mainly in consequence of the change, fallen into habits infinitely more injurious, both to body and mind — those of the solitary drinker. Such habits are miserable in any case; but in the case of a man constitutionally disposed to melancholy, and more given to exert his imagination than any other of his faculties, we may be assured they can rarely fail to be fatal. The poet, above all, who accustoms himself to labour in his not more surely exciting than exhausting vocation, with a bottle at his elbow, is a lost man. His case is a thousand times worse than that of any mere tavern merrymaker, like Robert Burns, can ever be; he mixes his vice inextricably with his genius — and, the finer the genius, the more unconquerable will the vice become. We are not told during how many years these wretched habits had been gaining on Lord Byron; but, when his body was opened after death, in the absence of all other features of physical decay, the usual symptoms of a constitution grievously shattered by excessive indulgence in strong liquors were at once recognized; the brain "resembled completely that of a man much advanced in life;" the heart was "of a consistence as flabby as in persons who have died of old age;" the liver hard, colourless, and much wasted in bulk. — Millingen, p. 144.
A deep debauch, followed by needless exposure to a storm of rain, brought on a fit of epilepsy, for which his private physician, Dr. Bruno, bled him by leeches on the temple so copiously as almost to induce syncope; and for such a shock his nervous system was little prepared.
"Like a cord at its full stretch, it required but the slightest force to break it. He felt assured that his constitution had been irretrievably ruined by intemperance; that he was a worn-out man; and that his muscular power was gone. Flashes before the eyes, palpitations, and anxieties, hourly afflicted him. 'Do you suppose,' he said, with impatience, 'that I wish for life? I have grown heartily sick of it, and shall welcome the hour I depart from it. Why should I regret it? can it afford me any pleasure? have I not enjoyed it to a surfeit? Few men can live faster than I did. I am, literally speaking, a young old man. Hardly arrived at manhood, I had attained the zenith of fame. Pleasure I have known under every form in which it can present itself to mortals. I have travelled, satisfied my curiosity, lost every illusion; I have exhausted all the nectar contained in the cup of life; it is time to throw the dregs away. But the apprehension of two things now haunts my mind. I picture myself slowly expiring on a bed of torture, or terminating my days like Swift, a grinning idiot! Would to heaven the day were arrived in which, rushing, sword in hand, on a body of Turks, and fighting like one weary of existence, I shall meet immediate, painless death, — the object of my wishes!'" — Millingen, pp. 119, 120.
We shall not linger over the rest of this most painful picture. When the symptoms of immediate danger began to show themselves, Lord Byron requested Dr. Millingen to inquire in the town "for any very old and ugly witch." The doctor laughed — and he proceeded thus, "with a serious air:"—
"Never mind whether I am superstitious or not; but I again entreat of you to bring me the most celebrated one there is, in order that she may examine whether this sudden loss of my health does not depend on the evil eye. She may devise some means to dissolve the spell." — Millingen, pp. 140, 141.
It appears that his mind was constantly haunted with the recollection that his Greek expedition had begun on a Friday, and a warning that he should "beware of the 37th year," which his mother had received when he was an infant from an old gypsy at Aberdeen. His obstinate refusal to be bled soon made the case hopeless, and, in the agony of death, "his last adieu was to Greece and Ada." Alas! there is one sentence more in Dr. Millingen's narrative, which we must quote:—
"It is with infinite regret I must state, that, although I seldom left Lord Byron's pillow during the latter part of his illness, I did not hear him make any, even the smallest, mention of religion. At one moment I heard him say: 'Shall I sue for mercy?' After a long pause he added, 'Come, come, no weakness! let's be a man to the last.'" — Millingen, p. 141.
We quote this as we find it: but certainly with every disposition to hope that the fatal delirium had begun before Dr. Millingent heard what he has repeated. Even on that supposition, the case is bad enough.
It is the old rule to wind up a piece of biography with a description of personal appearance, and a summary analysis of personal character; and Mr. Moore adheres to it; nor, considering the circumstances under which he writes, and especially his well-understood opinions on many subjects, with respect to which we are not ashamed to differ from him, have we much reason to disapprove of the manner in which he has acquitted himself even of the latter part of his task. The countenance of Lord Byron is perhaps preserved to posterity as completely as such a countenance, one of which versatility of expression makes the main characteristic, has in general had much chance to be; but it is impossible not to regret that, being the contemporary of Lawrence and Chantrey, he never sat to either of those unrivalled artists, whose canvass and marble have fixed, with such magical felicity, the very air and gestures of the other illustrious men of this age — our Wellingtons, our Cannings, our Scotts, and Southeys.
"'Many pictures have been painted of him (says a fair critic of his features) with various success; but the excessive beauty of his lips escaped every painter and sculptor. In their ceaseless play they represented every emotion, whether pale with anger, curled in disdain, smiling in triumph, or dimpled with archness and love.' It would be injustice to the reader not to borrow from the same pencil a few more touches of portraiture. 'This extreme facility of expression was sometimes painful, for I have seen him look absolutely ugly — I have seen him look so hard and cold, that you must hate him, and then, in a moment, brighter than the sun, with such playful softness in his look, such affectionate eagerness kindling in his eyes, and dimpling his lips into something more sweet than a smile, that you forgot the man, the Lord Byron, in the picture of beauty presented to you, and gazed with intense curiosity — I had almost said — as if to satisfy yourself, that thus looked the god of poetry, the god of the Vatican, when he conversed with the sons and daughters of man."
"His head," says Mr. Moore, "was remarkably small, — so much so as to be rather out of proportion with his face. The forehead, though a little too narrow, was high, and appeared more so from his having his hair (to preserve it, as he said) shaved over the temples (!); while the glossy, dark-brown curls, clustering over his head, gave the finish to its beauty. When to this is added, that his nose, though handsomely, was rather thickly shaped, that his teeth were white and regular, and his complexion colourless, as good an idea perhaps as it is in the power of mere words to convey may be conceived of his features."
The following passage from Dr. Millingen's Memoir may also be acceptable to our readers:—
"Before we proceeded to embalm the body," says the young surgeon, "we could not refrain from pausing, in silent contemplation, on the lifeless clay of one, who, but a few days before, was the hope of a whole nation, and the admiration of the civilized world. After consecrating a few moments to the feelings such a spectacle naturally inspired, we could not but admire the perfect symmetry of his body. Nothing could surpass the beauty of the forehead; its height was extraordinary, and the protuberances, under which the nobler intellectual faculties are supposed to reside, were strongly pronounced. His hair, which curled naturally, was quite grey; the mustachios light coloured. His physiognomy had suffered little alteration; and still preserved the sarcastic, haughty expression which habitually characterized it. The chest was broad, and high vaulted; the waist very small, the pelvis narrow.... The only blemish of his body, which might otherwise have vied with that of Apollo himself, was the congenital malconformation of his left foot and leg." — Millingen, pp. 142, 143.
Mr. Moore's summary of Lord Byron's personal character is a very elegant, ingenious, and elaborate piece of writing; of which, however, the substance may, as it seems to us, be compressed into few words. It is easy, he says, to draw the characters of most men, — because, however anomalous at first sight many of their sayings and doings may appear, certain leading principles of action, if not some one determining "pivot," will not fail to be detected on a close and deliberate inspection. No such leading principles — no such pivot, can, he confesses, be discovered in the case of Lord Byron; and here he proceeds — in the very fact that there are neither principles nor pivots — here, he tells us, he has discovered the principles and the pivot of which he had been in quest. In a word, according to Mr. Moore, the distinguishing characteristic of Lord Byron is neither more nor less than that he had no fixed principles or motives of action of any kind, but with sensibilities, passions, and talents excessively keen, lively, and powerful, surrendered habitually his whole being, physical, moral, and intellectual, to whatever external influence happened to be nearest at the moment. But for Lord Byron's genius, then, we presume, Mr. Moore would have had little difficulty about bringing him, sans phrase, within the category of "no character at all;" and, as it is, we must acknowledge that, in the eloquent detail by which his preliminary statement is followed, the friendly biographer sets to work much as if Pope's recipe had been on his desk—
Dip in the rainbow, paint him in the air.
When he condenses into brief and rapid analysis the unbroken series of contrasts — of circumstance, of feeling, of conduct — over which he had before led us more leisurely and deliberately — we can compare the effect produced to nothing except that of Mr. Mathews's gallery at Highgate, where original portraits of the greatest of actors in all his multifarious parts are grouped together by the dozen, and the visitor is lost and bewildered in the effort to bring it thoroughly home to his conviction, that under such endless variety of garb, attitude, and physiognomy, the same individual is every where before him — Romeo, Richard, Mercutio, and Timon, all and each David Garrick.
Such versatility presents, even in an intellectual point of view, something more likely to move admiration than respect; but the moral side of the picture is fatal to anything like a high impression of dignity. That demands either sustained energy or majestic repose. Vanity cannot jostle pride without sullying it; the sardonic sneer poisons the charm of melancholy; and it is extremely difficult, even with every disposition to keep in view the unfavourable circumstances of Lord Byron's opening position in life, to compare what that life as a whole was, with what it might have been, and yet entirely suppress indignation in the depth and anguish of sorrow.
Mr. Moore, towards the conclusion of his apologetic summary, introduces a disquisition of some length on Lord Byron's feelings and principles as to religion. That so great a genius must have had many gleams of devotional sentiment, we could never have doubted; and the remorseful tone of his poetry was of itself sufficient evidence, that his understanding had never reconciled itself to the cold conclusions of the infidel. But we confess it affords its little consolation, on this head, to be told such things, as that the author of Don Juan felt piously disposed whenever he entered a Gothic cathedral, or listened to solemn music, or surveyed the stars through a telescope; they are of a piece with poor Burns's falling on his knees when he first found himself within a Druidical circle, and the mystic raptures which he says never failed to visit him when the sky was dim and hoary, and the autumnal wind sighed over head in a pine forest; these things are little more than the results of exquisite nervous organization. Still less, in our view, does Mr. Moore serve his unfortunate friend's character, by showing, as he does, that the scriptures were often in his hands, and that in his conversations with Dr. Kennedy at Cephalonia, he displayed perfect familiarity with the works of many of our own theological classics. The young officers who were invited to be present at these conversations were indeed amazed to find that a scoffing poet had dipped so largely in such studies; but if they were ignorant, no one knows better than Mr. Moore, that a man might as well aspire to the character of a Greek scholar without giving his days and his nights to the Athenian drama, as hope for a place among the masters of the English tongue, without having familiarised himself with the great divines of his country. Lord Byron possessed the temperament of a poet and the accomplishments of a scholar; but religion, as a principle or action, had no place in his bosom. Self-will was his guide through life; and if the terrible anecdote quoted from his surgeon's narrative is to be accepted as he gives it, it seems to force on us the conviction, that his haughty spirit, writhing under the sting of conscience, concentrated almost its last energies in an agony of blasphemous rebellion.
There are, however, not a few palliative considerations which the man that wishes to judge this great poet's life in the spirit of candour and charity, must never allow to slip entirely out of his mind. He inherited a vein of morbid sensibility, which, in many of his ancestors, had won public compassion for crimes. He was himself haunted through life by the fear of madness; and if he never was actually what the world calls insane, it may be doubted whether any man was more frequently on the verge of that consummation of all human miseries. Such is the impression left on us by Mr. Moore's elaborate narrative, and by the whole body of Lord Byron's own writings. There was disease in the mind from the beginning; and one so deficient as Lord Byron unquestionably was in fixed principles of belief and of action, was little likely to struggle the inborn enemy down. It required all the high moral energy, and all the solemn piety too, of Dr. Johnson, to sustain him in this awful strife. The character of his unhappy parent, and her early treatment of him, must in like manner be meditated deeply and continually. By her rude and unaided hand were the seeds planted of a sadly mingled crop, in which that the tares at last overtopped the wheat, should move perhaps any other feelings rather than surprise. Let no man who in his day sat on a happy mother's lap, and was taught to lisp his first prayer by a peaceful fireside, refuse compassion to the circumstances under which this miserable woman's gifted child imbibed that nervous suspiciousness which afterwards ripened into a quarrel with human nature, and was remarked among his earliest companions at once for solitary pride, and passionate fervours of affection, for sitting in a churchyard to watch the sunset, and for "silent rages."
We presume no one can doubt what was in Lord Byron's mind when he put the following words into the mouth of his Manfred.
There is an order
Of mortals on the earth, who do become
Old in their youth, and die ere middle age
Without the violence of warlike death:
Some perishing of pleasure — some of study—
Some worn with toil — some of mere weariness—
Some of disease — and some INSANITY;
And some of wither'd or of broken hearts.
For this last is a malady which slays
More than are number'd in the lists of fate;
Taking all shapes, and bearing many names.
Look upon me! for even of all these things
Have I partaken; and of all these things
One were enough.
These lines form a prophetic epitome of this tragic story — a story of which no good man will ever think without mingled emotions of awe, pity, and reprobation. We do not forget what he wished to be the only inscription on his tombstone, "IMPLORA PACE;" but all the respect that is justly claimed for buried genius must not make us shrink from our duty to the living; and we feel assured that few who have read Mr. Moore's work, with the attention which its theme and its execution deserve, will think we dismiss the subject unappropriately, by recalling the solemn words in which a man of genius, at least equal to any of our age, was accustomed to humble himself before his Maker. Jeremy Taylor's nightly prayer for himself and his friends was for Gods merciful deliverance and preservation—
"From the violence and rule of passion; from a servile will and a commanding lust; from pride and vanity; from false opinion and ignorant confidence;
"From improvidence and prodigality; from envy and the spirit of slander; from sensuality; from presumption, and from despair;
"From a state of temptation and hardened spirits; from delaying of repentance and persevering in sin; from unthankfulness and irreligion, and from seducing others;
"From all infatuation of soul, folly, and madness; from wilfulness, self-love, and vain ambition; from a vicious life and an unprovided death."