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genius which they are equally incapable of comprehending as imitating. Like the fly criticising the cupola of St Paul's, it is impossible for a contracted mind to understand, far less to appreciate an exalted character. If you allude to his powerful generalisation of thought, to his masterly command over the feelings,—to his unbcunded range of imagination, it is Coptic and Sanscrit to them. It is, indeed, equally lamentable as true that the common mass of mankind look always on mental superiority with a jealous and jaundiced eye; and, as if chagrined at their own inferiority, or determined to make up for it by petulance, seem to feel, and to act from the conviction, that the superior gifts of the Creator ought to subject the possessor to the derision of society, or to the insolent sneers of invidious malignity. By the multitude every thing doubtful in the conduct of a literary man is looked upon in the darkest of its bearings. Every gossip is glad to hear and to promulgate an evil tale against the aspirant after distinction; the report of his foibles, like a ball rolled along a snowy surface, grows larger as it proceeds, and its passage from mouth to mouth is magnified both in extent and malignity. All are rejoiced to discover him tripping, to prove he is not « the faultless monster that the world ne'er saw;» and the owls and the bats of the world, in solemn conclave, deterniine with acclamation that the eagle is blind.
There is, doubtless, another and a juster cause for the prejudices against literary talent,—the errors that too frequently spring up in the constitution of genius. It is curious that the soil most remarkable for fertility, is denoted by nothing more correctly than the luxuriancy of its weeds. No doubt, the alienation of the world, and the appetency for pure delight, so frequently disappointed, and the superior temptations afforded to a literary man, may be brought in as a kind of apology, and, if not as a proper excuse for the error, at least in mitigation of its heinousness. But this is by no means sufficient. That man who walks astray through ignorance and darkness, and frailty of intellect, may
be tolerated and forgiven « seventy and seven times,» but he who walks astray in the clear supshine, and against the remonstrances of the monitor within, richly deserves, and ought to suffer all the odium of his guilt and folly.
Nor florid prose, nor honied lies of rhyme,
But the truth is that justice is not often dealt; this prejudice of the world comes between, and hoodwinks truth. Often has the very accusation of guilt led to the consequences it deprecated; nor is there a surer method of rendering vices general than by giving them publicity. What can be more unwarrantable than method
of determining the character of the unfortunate? The extent of the temptation is wholly put out of view, and the degree of the evil incurred is supposed to be greater or less, according as it falls from him from whom better things might have been expected. It is seldom or never a matter of reflection how the sufferers are formed to bear; what is reckoned a trifle by one may occasion the most heart-rending anguish in another. When Socrates heard the sentence of his banishment, he said that the whole world was his country; but Ovid sighed in his exile for the scenes of his nativity: and while Cardinal de Retz amused himself with writing the life of his gaoler, Tasso, the immortal Tasso, fretted himself to madness in the solitude of his dungeon.
I wish to make some distinction between errors of feeling and errors of principle-between the backslidings of an unguarded moment and the inveterate perversion of moral sensibility, as the stream may be either polluted in its course, or spring sullied and muddy from the fountain-head. We can sympathize with the unfulfilled promises of pleasure, with the rainbow hopes that beckoned and eluded such gifted, and noble, and lofty-spirited beings as Burns and Byron. We can allow.ourselves to participate in their sufferings, though self-inflicted, and to offer something in extenuation of their follies, for they were not destined for the dull routine of society, for «they have not loved the world, nor the world them; » and with all the capabilities of the most exalted, purified, and refined pleasurable emotions, found too often all their magic visions but a dream, and all their expectations of siding in the dull sunless gloom of inisery ; but for the errors of a perverted intellect we have nothing to bestow but contempt and execration.
Self-exiled from home, estranged from all those endearing ties that render human life endurable, at an age too when the passions have unbounded sway, disappointed in domestic joys, defamed in the courtly circle, looked upon by the scandal-seeking crowd as a sort of demon, and denied even the tender endearments of a father to his own and only child, Lord Byron left his native country, and for ever. A lonely wanderer in lands where love and licentiousness are synonymous, if he fell into occasional errors, if he sought female society, if he gave himself up by «fits and starts» to dissipation and misanthropy, if he indulged in undeserved satire of the land of his birth, if he generally rejected the society of his countrymen,
and countrymen first reject him, «the most precious pearl of all their tribe ?» did not the only female society, whose duty it was, if he had erred, to lure him back by gentle means
did not his compeers
to the paths of happiness, cast him off eternally with unforgiving disdain and mistaken dignity?
«Though the world for this commend thee
Though it smile upon the blow,
Founded on another's woe.n
It is far from my intention to gloss over the failings of Lord Byron, or premeditately to wound the feelings of those to whom in his dying moments bis thoughts were given;' but those who knew him best knew that his « many faults » arose neither from a depraved heart nor a gloomy and misanthropic disposition, which it was for a long time the fashion to attribute to him.
I cannot do better than quote here a passage from the eloquent and discriminating tribute paid to his memory by Sir Walter Scott. «The errors of Lord Byron,» says this distinguished writer, «arose neither from depravity of heart,—for nature had not committed the anomaly of uniting to such extraordinary talents an imperfect moral sense,—nor from feelings dead to the admiration of virtue. No man had ever a kinder heart for sympathy, or a more open hand for the relief of distress; and no mind was ever more formed for the enthusiastic
'It is generally known that Lord Byron, dying, told his friends that his last thought was for his wife, his sister, and his daughter.