« PreviousContinue »
1823. Concluding cantos of “Don Juan" (which, however, remains
unfinished). Byron's sympathies and aid enlisted for Greeks in their struggle for independence.—July. Sails for Greece. His politic management there. Declining
health. 1824, April 19. Death at Mesolonghi. Burial in Westminster
Abbey refused. Buried at Hucknall. " Few can ever have gone wearier to the grave; none with less fear. He had done enough to earn his rest. Forgetful now and set free forever from all faults and foes, he passed through the doorway of no ignoble death out of reach of time, out of sight of love, out of hearing of hatred, beyond the blame of England and the praise of Greece. In the full strength of spirit and of body his destiny overtook him, and made an end of all his labors. He had seen and borne and achieved more than most men on record.
He was a great man, good at many things, and now he has attained this also, to be at rest.'” (A. C. Swinburne, “Essays and Studies,” 258.)
THERE are numberless editions of Byron. What promises to be a definitive edition and the
Editions most authoritative is the one now in process of publication, edited, the Poetry by E. H. Coleridge (London, Murray, 1898 f.) and the Letters and Journals by R. E. Prothero. The latter is of firstrate importance for Byron's Life. Previous to this, Moore's edition of the Letters and Journals with the Life (1830, and frequent reprints) has
Lives been the standard. Moore's “Life,” however, has been often attacked for bias and misrepresentation, and must be read critically. Other modern lives are those by Karl Elze (in English translation 1872), which judges Byron's character harshly and with perfect self-assurance; a personal, gossipy, but honest book, exhibiting no great critical penetration. J. C. Jeaffreson’s “ The Real Lord Byron” is full of personal detail and background, and is apparently the result of considerable research; it, however, employs the novelist's method, and from a suggestion of fact imagines motives and mental processes with the utmost freedom; on the whole a gossipmonger, but readable, and to be consulted by the critical student; contains hardly any literary criticism. Shorter lives, combined with criticism, are those by
John Nichol (“ English Men of Letters” series),-a fair view of Byron, and perhaps the best short memoir for general reading, -and by Roden Noel (“Great Writers ” series), accompanied with a very serviceable Bibliography by J. P. Anderson. Important, also, is the Life of Byron, by Leslie Stephen, in the Dictionary of National Biography. Volume I of the (incomplete) edition of Byron's Works by W. E. Henley contains the Letters from 1804 to 1813, and is valuable for the editor's brilliant and interesting Notes. Other memoirs, earlier and partial, are those by John Galt, 1830,—inept and self-satisfied, but with some valuable details; by Geo. Clinton,-a trashy piece of bookmaking, grob in tone (no one has been more unfortunate in his biographers than Byron!); by R. C. Dallas, 1824,-personal recollections, but contains little of value; Medwin's “ Conversations of Byron,” 1824,— highly interesting, but declared untrustworthy by contemporary critics; the Countess of Blessington's“ Conversations of Byron,” 1834,-less interesting and skilful than Medwin's and fuller of the author, but important; Trelawny's “Records of Shelley, Byron, and the Author," 1878,-intensely interesting and indispensable; the author, however, understood Shelley better than Byron; Leigh Hunt's “ Byron and some of his Contemporaries,” 1828 (2d ed.),—prejudiced, but apparently honest; the Countess Guiccioli's “Recollections of Lord Byron,” English translation 1869,-a very foolish book, and surprisingly empty of original matter; many other contemporary memoirs are of value, as, for example, Lady Morgan's, and the Memoir of the Rev. Francis Hodgson by his son, 1878. Castelar's Life of Byron is mainly a rhapsody and of little worth.
For periodical literature on Byron, see Poole's Index and continuations.
For criticism of Byron, by far the most just, adequate, and authoritative estimate is to be ..
Criticism found in Matthew Arnold's essay (published as introduction to his “ Selections from Byron ”; also in his “Essays in Criticism," 2d series); see also
Excellent also is the shorter study by J. A. Symonds, prefixed to the selections from Byron in Ward's “ English Poets,” Vol. IV. Perhaps third in value should be named the admirable summary of Byron's present position by Paul E. More in “The Atlantic Monthly" for December, 1898. The several criticisms upon Byron by A. C. Swinburne are curiously contradictory and unequal. They contain some of the best things that have been written about Byron, with some of the worst. The critic attacks Arnold's judgment and violently denies Byron all purely poetic power. See his “ Essays and Studies,” 214-216, 238–258, 304-307; and his “Miscellanies,” 63–156. The poet's historical position is judiciously weighed in John Morley's essay on Byron (in his “Miscellanies,” I, 203—251). Slighter, but of charming quality, are the essay on Byron in W. E. Henley's “Views and Reviews,” 56–62, and in verse) in Andrew Lang's “ Letters to Dead Authors.”
Macaulay's essay, brilliant but borné, must still be read; as also should the utterances on Byron of distinguished critics and poets of an earlier day, like
William Hazlitt, Jeffrey, Goethe, Mazzini (eloquent yet admirable: see his Essays, in the Camelot Series, London, 1887, pp. 83–108), Scott, Shelley, Ste. -Beuve, Tennyson (“' Memoirs ”'), Ruskin (“' Præterita ''), Lamartine, Washington Irving, and others. A valuable contemporary Continental criticism of Byron is to be found in G. Brandes,“ Der Naturalismus in England” (Leipzig, 1894), chs. 16-21 — especially excellent for the appreciations of “ Cain” and “ Don Juan.” The sections on Byron in the standard histories of English Literature should also be consulted. See especially Taine, Gosse (“' Modern English Literature”), Saintsbury (“ History of Nineteenth-Century Literature”; also a “ Short History of English Literature''), C. H. Herford (“ The Age of Wordsworth ''), Minto (“ Literature of the Georgian Era," ch. xvii), and Courthope (“' Liberal Movement in English Literature,” 131–144).
Numerous special studies on detached aspects or separate works of Byron exist, some of which are mentioned in the Notes to this volume. See also the pages of the periodicals, “ Englische Studien” and “ Anglia.”' Worthy of special mention are Prof. Kölbing's unfinished edition of Byron with elaborate notes; F. H. O. Weddigen, “ Lord Byron's Einfluss auf die europäischen Litteraturen der Neuzeit,” Hannover, 1884; J. O. E. Donner, “ Byron's WeltAnschauung,” 1897; O. Schmidt, “Rousseau und Byron,” Leipzig, 1890. See Varnhagen’s “Terzeichnis,' etc., 1893, pp. 202–3.