1829 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Byron

Anna Brownell Jameson, "Heroines of Modern Poetry" Loves of the Poets (1829; 1857) 507-08.



The life Lord Byron led was not calculated to give him a good opinion of women, or to place before him the best virtues of our sex. Of all modern poets, he has been the most generally popular among female readers; and he owes this enthusiasm not certainly to our obligations to him; for, as far as women are concerned, we may designate his works by a line borrowed from himself, — "With much to excite, there's little to exalt." But who, like him, could administer to that "besoin de sentir," which I am afraid is an ingredient in the feminine character all over the world?

Lord Byron is really the Grand Turk of amatory poetry, — ardent in his love, — mean and, merciless in his resentment: he could trace passion in characters of fire, but his caustic satire burns and blisters where it falls. Lovely as are some of his female portraits, and inimitably beautiful as are some of his lyrical effusions, it must be confessed there is something very Oriental in all his feelings and ideas about women; he seems to require nothing of us but beauty and submission. Please him — and he will crown you with the richest flowers of poetry, and heap the treasures of the universe at your feet, as trophies of his love; but once offend him, and you are lost, — "There yawns the sack — and yonder rolls the sea."