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was aware that it would pass at his death, all his own children having preceded him to the grave. He died at Newstead, in 1798. John, the next brother to Lord William, and born in the year after him, that is in 1723, was of a very different disposition, although his career in life was almost one succession of misfortunes. The hardships he met with, whileaccompanying Commodore Anson in his expedition to the South Seas, are well known from his own highly popular and affecting narrative; and his grandson, the poet, is supposed to have had the sufferings of the Honourable John, afterwards Commodore and Admiral, Byron in his mind, when he gave some of the most exquisite touches to his highlywrought picture of the storm and shipwreck, in the second canto of Don Juan,
The admiral's only son, and father of our Lord Byron, was born in 1751. After receiving an excellent education, a commission in the guards was procured for him; but being what the courtesy of high life qualifies by the title of ua gay man,» he incurred the displeasure of his father, and his acquaintance was generally shunned, from his notorious habits of dissipation. He was one of the handsomest men of his time, and in his twentyseventh year found means to seduce Amelia, Marchioness of Carmarthen, who was afterwards divorced from her husband and married to her seducer. Their union, however, was dissolved in two years by her sinking prematurely to the grave of a broken heart. In about three years after Captain Byron married Miss Gordon,' of Gight, an Aberdeenshire heiress: he spent her fortune in a few years, and left her and her only child, the subject of this memoir, in a defenceless state. He went to France, to avoid his creditors, and died at Valenciennes in 1791, about three years subsequent to the birth of his son, to whom, in the meantime, was given his mother's name of Gordon.
GEORGE GORDON BYRON was born, on his mother's estate in Aberdeenshire, on the twenty-second day of January, 1788, and upon the death of his granduncle, in 1798, succeeded to the title. His infant years were spent in Scotland, under the tuition of his mother; and, considering the state in which he was left, it is but natural to suppose that she treated the boy with every indulgence in her power. Tenderness and indulgence in his early years were rendered the inore necessary as, besides having one of his feet deformed, his constitution was very weakly. For these reasons he was not quite
· She is said to have been the last of that branch of the family who are descended from the Princess Jane Stuart, daughter of James the Second of Scotland, who married the Earl of Huntley; from the elder branch the Countess of Sutherland is descended.
so early sent to school as is sometimes the case, but allowed to expand his lungs and strengthen his limbs upon the Caledonian mountains, where the solitary grandeur and wild magnificence of nature, and every thing around him were calculated to nurture the poetic feelings inherent in his character.
As soon as the symptoms of constitutional weakness with which George Gordon was born were removed, he was sent to school; and when the title devolved on him he was removed from the immediate care of his mother, and placed as a ward under the guardianship of the Earl of Carlisle, who had married Isabella, the sister of the late Lord Byron. This lady resembled her grand-nephew in one or two points of character; she wrote beautiful verses, and possessed talents of the first order. After living in the fashionable world as one of its first ornaments, she withdrew from it without any apparent cause, and secluded herself almost entirely from society. It has been surmised that the noble bard acquired a turn towards poetry from the example of his grandaunt, and from that of her son, who was also a poet, which is not improbable.
On Byron's coming under the guardianship of his grand-uncle, it was immediately decided upon that he should receive the usual education bestowed upon
young English noblemen.
He was first sent to one of the great public schools, and from that to one of the universities. Harrow was the school chosen ; and within six months after his accession to the title, Lord Byron was placed there under the tuition of the Rev.
At the expiration of six years he left Harrow for Trinity College, Cambridge, where he pursued his studies till arrived at the age of nineteen, when he bade farewell to the classical banks of the Cam, and took up his residence at Newstead Abbey, where he arranged and had printed at Newark a small collection of poems, under the title of «Hours of Idleness. This unpretending volume did not escape the lynx-eyed vigilance of the Edinburgh Review, which was then in the «roseate time» of its existence. It was attacked with almost unprecedented fury, and the poems of the minor Lord were utterly condemned, as destitute of any merit whatsoever,—for which « verily the coterie received their reward, » when the appearance of the « English Bards and Scotch Reviewers v not only covered the critics with ridicule and confusion, but established the claims of the Newstead bard to all those excellencies of which he had been declared utterly destitute.
With all the responsibility of digression on my head,
I must here offer a word or two upon reviews. Perhaps it is difficult to conceive a more obvious insult to the public understanding than the arbitration of literary taste and judgment assumed by some of these dictators of literary opinion. The attempt to direct popular persuasion on religious or political subjects is less to be wondered at; for the mass of mankind is large, general discernment limited, and those who reason for themselves comparatively few; they are topics too of universal interest, and in which we can scarcely expect an unanimity of opinion. But books, in a general sense, do not possess this personal quality; they are matters of taste, not of individual feeling; and those who study them must be supposed to have some discernment of their own; frequently more than the arbiters who pretend to direct it. Is there not then something arrogant in the attempt to dictate, where there exists so little inequality of judgment?—in this exclusive noism, which, under the shelter of anonymous concealment, deals condemnation, with an unsparing hand, among
those who differ in opinion, and heaps panegyric as gross where they happen to agree? If, in this general and abstracted view of the subject, such conclusions appear obvious, who will deny their correctness, when the veil which skreens the chicanery of periodical criticismisremoved ? Personal feeling and party-spirit are the mainsprings which guide the machinery of most reviews;