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his property invaded, pirated, and remained immovable.
It was to be supposed that this most singular and most original poem should excite, as it did, a great variety of opinion: made up of the most cutting and searching satires, mixed with dissections of the human heart, and delineations of human passion and frailty, which were drawn both to and with the life, it threw all those who dreaded exposure into the most serious alarm.
The consequence was that a general outcry was raised by the « legion » of Lord Byron's enemies and traducers against his personal character, and the old illiberal method was had recourse to, of identifying the author with his hero whenever it tended to his disadvantage; thus the more sublime or more pathetic inspirations of his muse were taken as vain words, and were not allowed to avail him any thing in the estimation of mankind, while all his ribaldry, all of his lower or more evil nature, were solely taken as part of himself. The following observations on this point may not be considered as inappropriately introducced here.
The great object of attack on Lord Byron was his personal character; it was the constant theme of open vituperation to one set, and the established mark for all the petty but deadly artillery of sneers, shrugs, groans, to another. Two widely different matters, however, are yenerally, it might be said universally, mixed up herethe personal character of the man, as proved by his course of life, and his personal character, as revealed in, or guessed from, his books. Nothing can be more unfair than the style in which this mixture is made use of. Is there a noble sentiment, a lofty thought, a sublime conception, in the book ? Ah! yes, is the answer.
. But what of that? it is only the roué Byron that speaks! Is a kind, a generous action of the man mentioned? « Yes, yes,» comments the sage, « but only remember the atrocities of Don Juan; depend on it, this, if it be true, must have been a mere freak of caprice, or perhaps a bit of vile hypocrisy.» Salvation is thus shut out at either entrance; the poet damns the man, and the man the poet.
It would, undoubtedly, be absurd to suppose that it is possible for people to draw no inferences as to the character of an author from his book, or to shut entirely out of view, in judging a book, that which they may happen to know about the man who writes it. The cant of the day supposes such things to be practicable, but they are not. But the mischief is in the extent to which these matters are carried in the case of this particular individual, as compared wish others; the impudence with which things are at once assumed to be facts, in regard to the man's private history, and the absolute unfairness of never arguing from the writings of the man, but for evil.
Let him, in the first place, be taken as unconnected, in so far as we can thus consider him, with his works ; and ask, what, after all, are the bad things we know of bim? Was he dishonest and dishonourable ? had he ever done any thing to forfeit, or even endanger bis rank as a gentleman? Most assuredly no such accusations have ever been made against Lord Byron, the private nobleman, although something of the sort may have been insinuated against the author. But he was such a profligate in his morals that his name cannot be mentioned with any thing like tolerance. Was he so indeed? We should like extremely to have the catechising of the individual man who says so. That he indulged in sensual vices to some extent is certain, and to be regretted and condemned. But was he worse as to those matters than the enormous majority of those who join in the cry of horror upon this occasion? We most assuredly believe the reverse; and we rest our belief upon very plain and intelligible grounds. First, we hold it impossible that the majority of mankind, or that any thing beyond a very small minority, are, or can be, entitled to talk of sensual profligacy as having formed the principal part of the life and character of a man, who, dying at six-and-thirty, bequeathed a collection of works such as Byron's to the world. Se condly, we hold it impossible that, laying the extent of his intellectual labours out of the question, and looking only to the nature of the intellect which generated, and delighted in generating, such beautifnl and noble conceptions as are to be found in almost all Lord Byron's works,—we hold it impossible that very many men can be at once capable of comprehending these conceptions, and entitled to consider sensual profligacy as having formed the principal, or even a principal trait in Lord Byron's character. Thirdly and lastly, we have never been able to hear any one fact established which could prove Lord Byron to deserve any thing like the degree or even the kind of odium which has, in regard to matters of this class, been heaped upon his name.
We have no story of base unınanly seduction, or false and villainous intrigue against him-none what
It is evident that, if he had been at all what is called in society an unprincipled sensualist, there must have been many such stories—many such authentic and authenticated stories. But there are none such, absolutely none. His name has been coupled with the names of three, four, or more women of some rank; but what kind of women? every one of them, in the first place, about as old as himself in years, and therefore a great deal older in character-every one of them utterly battered in reputation long before he came into contact with them_licentious, unprincipled, characterless women. What father has ever reproached him with the ruin of his daughter? What husband has denounced him as the destroyer of his domestic peace?
We would not be mistaken. We are not defending the offences of which Lord Byron unquestionably was guilty ; neither are we finding fault with those who, after looking honestly within and around themselves, condemn those offences, no matter how severely. But we are speaking of society in general, as it now exists; and we say that there is a vile hypocrisy in the tone in which Lord Byron is talked of there. We say that, although all offences against purity of life are miserable things, and condemnable things; the degrees of guilt attached to different offences of this class are quite as widely different as are the degrees of guilt between an assault and a murder; and we confess our belief that no man of Byron's station and age could have run much risk of gaining a very bad name in society, had a course of life similar (in so far as we know any thing of that) to Lord Byron's been the only thing chargeable against him.