« PreviousContinue »
“ I understand you, my love. Start when you like; your father shall be ready to accompany you.”
They set out the following morning for the Continent, and, arriving in the little village I have already spoken of, inquired for the English lady. They were told she was too ill to see any one. Helen wrote a billet containing these words :-“ Caroline, I have traced you. I am come to remain by your side till death separates us." She lingered in the passage leading to Caroline's room, after sending in the little note by the servant. The woman, issuing hastily from the chamber, a moment after, ran against her, excusing her inadvertence by saying that she was hurrying for water for the lady, who had fainted. Caroline awoke in her cousin's arms. She groaned; she shuddered, in the agony of self-abasement. Helen folded her to her bosom, wept over her, caressed her, smiled upon her, called her by all the old terms of endearment. Caroline would have freed herself of her close embrace. “ No, no, no, Helen- leave me-leave me, Helen, in mercy! I am a degraded wretch, fit only for your contempt. I wish for nothing else. I neglected your warnings, Helen-disregarded you, dared to insult you. Leave me-I am no company for you, Helen-let me die alone."
Helen answered each broken sentence by an additional caress; and, as she kissed her worn and haggard features, wondered was it indeed Caroline whom she looked upon ! Caroline became calmer, and spoke of her end as near, and as desired. But she spoke of death as a relief from shame and suffering, merely. She neither hoped nor feared anything from the change. Helen knew this was not the mood in which man should meet his Maker. She tried to awaken other feelings. The poor sufferer had never had reli. gious impressions. The subject was now irksome, and she disliked and avoided it. Helen, at times, was tempted to despair, and say—“ Prayer is unavailing !" but she persevered, and found that it was not. “ The heart of stone" was taken away, and the softened heart given in its stead. Morning after morning the rising sun found Helen, after a night of watching, still sitting with the book of God in her hand, or kneeling in fervent prayer, by the deathbed; and they were not unmixed tears of grief which blinded her eyes as, at length, she gazed upon the inanimate wreck of her cousin, after the sinner's last breath had exhaled in a prayer for pardon.
A few days before Caroline died, she wrote to her former husband, beseeching him to give their only girl, and only child, to Helen's care. “ 'Tis the last request, my lord, of a guilty and a dying woman; except for my child's sake, I would not dare to intrude upon you." The petition was acceded to, and my Helen loves the child as she loved the mother. Poor Caroline also wrote a long and affecting letter to her seducer, to be delivered after her death. The count thrust it, half read through, into his pocket, as he hastened out to keep an evening engagement; and that night he was never more redoubtable, or more followed; and before the party broke up, he recollected the letter, and finished the perusal of it aloud, to some ad. mired and admiring woman of fashion, who joined him in smiling at the piety of the Divorcée Dévote.
JOURNAL OF CONVERSATIONS WITH LORD BYRON,
BY LADY BLESSINGTON. NO, x.*
Byron's bad opinion of mankind is not, I am convinced, genuine; and it certainly does not operate on his actions, as his first impulses are always good, and his heart is kind and charitable. His good deeds are never the result of reflection, as the heart acts before the head has had time to reason. This cynical habit of decrying human nature is one of the many little affectations to which he often descends, and this impression has become so fixed in my mind, that I have been vexed with my, self for attempting to refute opinions of his that, on reflection, I was convinced were not his real sentiments, but uttered either from a foolish wish of display, or from a spirit of contradiction which much influences his conversation. I have heard him assert opinions one day, and maintain the most opposite, with equal warmth, the day after; this arises not so much from insincerity, as from being wholly governed by the feeling of the moment;' he has no fixed principle of conduct or of thought, and the want of it leads him into errors and inconsistencies from which he is only rescued by a natural goodness of heart that redeems, in some degree, what it cannot prevent. Violence of temper tempts him into expressions that might induce people to believe him vindictive and rancorous; he exaggerates all his feelings when he gives utterance to them, and here the imagination, that has led to his triumph in poetry, operates less happily, by giving a darker shade to his sentiments and expressions. When he writes or speaks at such moments, the force of his language imposes a belief that the feeling that gives birth to it must be fixed in his mind; but see him in a few hours after, and not only no trace of this angry excitement remains, but, if recurred to by another, he smiles at his own exaggerated warmth of expression, and proves, in a thousand ways, that the temper only is responsible for his defects, and not the heart.
"I think it is Diderot (said Byron) who says that, to describe woman, one ought to dip one's pen in the rainbow; and, instead of sand, use the dust from the wings of butterflies to dry the paper. This is a concetto worthy of a Frenchman; and, though meant as complimentary, is really by no means so to your sex. To describe woman, the pen should be dipped, not in the rainbow, but in the heart of man, ere more than eighteen summers have passed over his head; and, to dry the paper, I would allow only the sighs of adolescence. Women are best understood by men whose feelings have not been hardened by a contact with the world, and who believe in virtue because they are unacquainted with
* Continued from No. CLI. p. 315. Sept.-VOL. XXXIX. NO, CLIII,
vice. A knowledge of vice will, as far as I can judge by experience, invariably produce disgust, as I believe, with my favourite poet, that
• Vice is a monster of such hideous mien,
That, to be hated, needs but to be seen. But he who has known it can never truly describe woman as she ought to be described; and, therefore, a perfect knowledge of the world unfits a man for the task. When I attempted to describe Haïdee and Zuleika, I endeavoured to forget all that friction with the world had taught me; and if I at all succeeded, it was because I was, and am, penetrated with the conviction that women only know evil from having experienced it through men; whereas men have no criterion to judge of purity or goodness but woman. Some portion of this purity and goodness always adheres to woman, (continued Byron,) even though she may lapse from virtue; she makes a willing sacrifice of herself on the altar of affection, and thinks only of him for whom it is made: while men think of themselves alone, and regard the woman but as an object that administers to their selfish gratification, and who, when she ceases to have this power, is thought of no more, save as an obstruction in their path. You look incredulous, (said Byron ;) but I have said what I think, though not all that I think, as I have a much higher opinion of your sex than I have even now expressed.”
This would be most gratifying could I be sure that, to-morrow or next day, some sweeping sarcasm against my sex may not escape from the lips that have now praised them, and that my credulity, in believing the praise, may not be quoted as an additional proof of their weakness, This instability of opinion, or expression of opinion of Byron, destroys all confidence in him, and precludes the possibility of those who live much in his society feeling that sentiment of confiding security in him, without which a real regard cannot subsist. It has always appeared a strange anomaly to me, that Byron, who possesses such acuteness in discerning the foibles and defects of others, should have so little power either in conquering or concealing his own, that they are evident even to a superficial observer; it is also extraordinary that the knowledge of human nature that enables him to discover, at a glance, such defects, should not dictate the wisdom of concealing his discoveries, at least from those in whom he has made them; but in this he betrays a total want of tact, and must often send away his associates dissatisfied with themselves, and still more so with him, if they happen to possess discrimination or susceptibility.
“ To let a person see that you have discovered his faults, is to make him an enemy for life," (says Byrou), and yet this he does continually: he says, “ that the only truths a friend will tell you, are your faults; and the only thing he will give you, is advice." Byron's affected display of knowledge of the world deprives him of commiseration for being its
dupe, while his practical inexperience renders him so perpetually. He is at war with the actual state of things, yet admits that all that he now complains of has existed for centuries; and that those who have taken up arms against the world have found few applauders, and still fewer followers. His philosophy is more theoretical than practical, and must so continue, as long as passion and feeling have more influence over him than reflection and reason. Byron affects to be unfeeling, while he is a victim to sensibility, and to be reasonable, while he is governed by imagination only; and so meets with no sympathy from either the advocates of sensibility or reason, and consequently condemns both. “It is fortunate for those (said Byron) whose near connexions are good and estimable ; independently of various other advantages that are derived from it, perhaps the greatest of all are the impressions made on our minds in early youth by witnessing goodness, impressions which have such weight in deciding our future opinions. If we witness evil qualities in common acquaintances, the effect is slight, in comparison with that made by discovering them in those united to us by the ties of consanguinity; this last disgusts us with human nature, and renders us doubtful of goodness, a progressive step made in misanthropy, the most fearful disease that can attack the mind. My first and earliest impressions were melancholy,-my poor mother gave them; but to my sister, who, incapable of wrong herself, suspected no wrong in others, I owe the little good of which I can boast; and had I earlier known her, it might have influenced my destiny. Augusta has great strength of mind, which is displayed not only in her own conduct, but to support the weak and infirm of purpose. To me she was, in the hour of need, as a tower of strength. Her affection was my last rallying point, and is now the only bright spot that the horizon of England offers to my view. Augusta knew all my weaknesses, but she had love enough to bear with them. I value not the false sentiment of affection that adheres to one while we believe him faultless : not to love him would then be difficult; but give me the love that, with perception to view the errors, has sufficient force to pardon them,-who can love the offender, yet detest the offence,' and this my sister had. She has given me such good advice, and yet, finding me incapable of following it, loved and pitied me but the more, because I was erring. This is true affection, and above all, true Christian feeling; bút how rarely is it to be met with in England, where amour propre prompts people to show their superiority by giving advice; and a mélange of selfishness and wounded vanity engages them to resent its not being followed, which they do by not only leaving off the advised, but by injuring him by every means in their power. Depend on it (continued Byron) the English are the most perfidious friends and unkind relations that the civilized world can produce; and if you have had the misfortune to lay them under weighty obligations, you may look for all the injuries that they can inflict, as they are anxious to avenge themselves for the humiliations they suffer when they accept favours. They are proud, but have not sufficient pride to refuse services that are necessary to their comfort, and have too much false pride to be grateful. They may pardon a refusal to assist them, but they never can forgive a generosity which, as they are seldom capable of practising or appreciating, overpowers and humiliates them. With this opinion of the English (continued Byron), which has not been lightly formed, you may imagine how truly I must value my sister, who is so totally opposed to them. She is tenacious of accepting obligations, even from the nearest relations; but having accepted, is incapable of aught approaching to ingratitude. Poor Lady — had just such a sister as mine, who, faultless herself, could pardon and weep over the errors of one less pure, and almost redeem them, by her own excellence. Had Lady 's sister or mine (continued Byron) been less good and irreproachable, they could not have afforded to be so forbearing; but being unsullied, they could show mercy without fear of drawing attention to their own misdemeanours.”
Byron talked to-day of Campbell the poet: said that he was a warmhearted and honest man; praised his works, and quoted some passages from the “ Pleasures of Hope,” which he said was a poem full of beauties. “I differ, however, (said Byron,) with my friend Campbell on some points. Do you remember the passage " But mark the wretch whose wanderings never knew
; The world's regard, that soothes though half untrue; ! ? His erring heart the lash of sorrow bore, : .... .
But found not pity when it érred no more." . .. n This, he said, was so far a true picture, those who oncé erred being supposed to err always, a charitable, but false, supposition, that the English are prone to act upon. “But (added Byron) I am not prepared to admit, that a man, under such circumstances as those so poetically described by Campbell, could feel hope; and, judging by my own feelings, I should think that there would be more of envy than of hope in the poor man's mind, when he leaned on the gate, and looked at
the blossomed bean-field and the sloping green. Campbell was, however, right in representing it otherwise (continued Byron.)We have all, God knows, occasion for hope to enable us to support the thousand vexations of this dreary existence; and he who leads us to believe in this universal panacea, in which, par parenthese, I have little faith, renders a service to humanity. Campbell's' Lochiel' and ' Mariners' are ad mirable spirit-stirring productions (said Byron); his r Gertrude of Wyoming' is beautiful ; and some of the episodes in his Pleasures of Hope' pleased me so much, that I know them by heart. By-the-by (continued he) we must be indebted to Ireland for this mode of expressing the knowing anything by rote, and it is at once so true and poetical, that I always use it. We certainly remember best those passages, as well as events; that interest ús most, or touch the heart, which must have