1828 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Byron

Walter Savage Landor, in "Landor, English Visitor, and Florentine Visitor" Imaginary Conversations (1828) 3:437-40.



ENGLISH VISITOR.

To be assaulted or undermined by such an enemy as the Scot, is deplorable to those only to whom authorship is a profession, and whose families must waste away with the poison he throws into the fountain-head of their subsistence. I wish you yourself had never cracked the whip over Byron, differently as he was situated.

LANDOR.
I expressed the same wish, the first moment it was right and lawful.

ENGLISH VISITOR.

There was something in his mind not ungraceful nor inelegant, altho from a deficiency of firmness, it wanted dignity. He issued forth against stronger and better men than himself, not so much thro wantonness and malignity, as thro ignorance of their powers and worth, and impatience at their competition. He could comprehend nothing heroic, nothing disinterested. Shelley, at the gates of Pisa, threw himself between him and the dragoon, whose sword in his indignation was lifted and about to strike. Byron told a common friend, some time afterwards, that he could not conceive how any man living should act so. "Do you know, he might have been killed! and there was every appearance that he would be!"

The answer was, "Between you and Shelley there is but little similarity, and perhaps but little sympathy: yet what Shelley did then, he would do again, and always. There is not a human creature, not even the most hostile, that he would hesitate to protect from injury, at the imminent hazard of life. And yet life, which he would throw forward so unguardedly, is somewhat more with him than with others: it is full of hopes and aspirations, it is teeming with warm feelings, it is rich and overrun with its own native simple enjoyments. In him, every thing that ever gave pleasure, gives it still, with the same fresh ness, the same exuberance, the same earnestness to communicate and share it."

"By God! I cannot understand it!" cried Byron. "A man to run upon a naked sword for another!"

LANDOR.

He had drawn largely from his imagination, penuriously from his heart. He distrusted it what wonder then if he had little faith in another's! Had he lived among the best of the ancient Greeks, he would have satirized and reviled them: but their characters caught his eye softened by time and distance; nothing in them of opposition, nothing of rivalry; where they are, there they must, stand they cannot come down nearer us. His hatred of tyranny, his disdain of tyrants his ambition to excell in liberality the richer and the louder in our houses of parliament, urged him on and his name will therefor be redd among the first and most glorious in the tablets of the Parthenon. Two of these, I trust, will be inscribed to Eternity one containing the defenders and benefactors of Greece; the other those who became the hirelings of barbarians; and foremost, the Parisian Mamalukes of Napoleon Bonaparte. On reading the names, the friends of liberty will be consoled at its extinction in France; among a people in which even a dream of it would be unauspicious, and round which, let us hope for the repose of the world, the Bourbon belly will coil daily closer and closer.

ENGLISH VISITOR.

In regard to Byron, those who spoke the most malignantly of him in his lifetime, have panegyrized him since his decease with so little truth, discretion, and precision, that we may suspect it to have been done designedly; and the rather, as the same insincerity hath been displayed toward others, both where there might be, and where there could not be, a jealousy of rivalship.

LANDOR.
This is the easiest and nearest way to knock out a gilt nail-head from the coffin.

ENGLISH VISITOR.
An exploit not very glorious in itself, nor likely in the end to be very satisfactory, not even to the most inquisitive of minute collectors.