Page images

Without deviating from the resolution I have before expressed of not entering into any of those scandalous stories relative to the unfortunate separation of Lord and Lady Byron, it may here be permitted to introduce some general observations on that subject, and more particularly as the poem of Don Juan abounds with more allusions to his lordship's domestic concerns than any of or all his other works. In almost all disagreements between man and wife there is blame on both sides, and the case in question has no right to be considered as offering an exception to this rule. We believe, in the first place, that Lord and Lady Byron were never well suited to each other as to character and temper. We believe that Lady Byron, with many high and estimable qualities, had a cold and obstinately mathematical sort of understanding, than which nothing could be more unlike, or less likely to agree well with the imaginative enthusiastic temperament of her lord. She, however, was the cooler person of the two, and should not have married a man whose temper she at least might have known to be so diametrically opposite to her own. Having married him, most surely it was her duty to bear with the consequences of that temperament to a much greater extent than we have any proof, aye, or any notion, of her really having borne with them. No woman of sense should, on any grounds but those of absolute necessity, separate herself from her husband

and the father of her child. Now, that there was no l'eason of this kind for the step which her ladyship took, is proved by the well-known facts, that she parted from him in London in a most affectionate manner; that even after she had completed her journey to Kirby-Mallery, she wrote an affectionate, even playfully affectionate letter to him, inviting him to join her there; and that immediately after that letter, Lord Byron received a letter from her father, beginning «My Lord,» and announcing her ladyship’s fixed, final, and unalterable resolution never to live with Lord Byron as his wife again; all this too, be it observed, happened precisely at the moment when Lord Byron's pecuniary affairs were most disagreeably and miserably involved and perplexed—when he was annoyed with executions in his very house; in short, when any flights of mere temper on his

part, nay, any offences of any kind, that could be in reason attributed to a state of mind harassed and tormented, and thereby, to a certain extent, rendered reckless, ought to have been regarded with the highest indulgence; and when any symptom, or any thing taken for a symptom, of a wish to shrink from the partaking of his injured fortunes, must have been regarded, above all by a man of his feelings, as the most cruel and unpardonable want of generosity.

However, be it so that Lady Byron was more to blame than her lord in this separation, what can excuse his publishing then, and continuing to publish writings in which his wife's character and conduct were placarded for the amusement of the whole world? This, indeed, is no trivial question, nor can it be answered in any quite satisfactory manner-at this moment. People, however, will be good enough to recollect that Lord Byron had at least this much to say for himself, that he was not the first to make his domestic differences a topic of popular discussion. On the contrary, from the moment that his separation from Lady Byron was known, he, and he only, was attacked with the most unbounded rancour, not only in almost all circles of society, but in every species of print and pamphlet. He saw himself, ere any fact but the undisputed and tangible one was or could be known, held up every where, and by every art of malice, by the solemn manu facturer of cant, and the light-headed weaver of jeur-d'esprit, by tory and whig, saint and sinner-all alike, as the most infamous of men, because he had parted from his wife. «Peasants bring forth in safety;»

any other gentleman in the country might have been involved in a domestic misfortune of this kind, without the least fear of exposure to the millionth part

of what he suffered for suffer he did. He was the most sensitive man alive, exquisitely sensitive, and he was attacked and wounded at once by a thousand

nay, almost

arrows; and this with the most perfect and most indignant knowledge that of all who were assailing him not one knew any thing about the real facts of the case.

Did he right then in publishing those squibs and tirades? No, certainly; it would have been nobler, better, wiser far, to have utterly scorned the assaults of such enemies, and taken no notice of any kind of them. But because this young hot-blooded, proud patrician poet did not, amidst the exacerbation of feelings which he could not control, act in precisely the most dignified and wisest of all possible manners of action-are we entitled, is the world at large entitled, to issue a broad sentence of vituperative condemnation? Do we know all that he had suffered ? have we imagination enough to comprehend what he suffered under circumstances such as these ? have we been tried in similar circumstances whether we could feel the wound unflinchingly, and keep the weapon quiescent in the hand that trembled with all the excitements of insulted privacy, honour, and faith?

Let us take the fact as it stands.' Lady Byron's friends abused Lord Byron in all societies, and that abuse found its way through a thousand filthy channels to the public. Lord Byron retaliated: but how? Did he attack his wife's character? Did he throw the blame

upon her? No such thing. He at the time merely poured some vials of his wrath on the heads of those whom he believed to have influenced his wife to her own injury, and to the ruin of his peace; and permitted himself, subsequently, to hint, in a way by no means intrusively intelligible, at some of those in themselves quite innocent peculiarities of education and temper, by which, as he thought, (and who shall say unjustly) Lady Byron was prevented from being to him all that he had expected when he made her his wife.

It has been somewhere said by Goethe, that the man of genius who proposes to himself to be happy in this world, must lay down to himself the fixed and unalterable rule, to consider his genius as one thing and his personal life as another--never to suffer the feelings of the author to interfere with the duties of the man—to forget altogether, when his pen is not in his fingers, that it has been, and will again be in their grasp. This is very well said, but we fear the history of literature will furnish but few examples in which the good old poet's theory has been reduced to practice; his own case, we believe, approaches as near to an example as almost any one in recent times. No spectacle, certainly, can be so noble as the life of a man of true and lofty genius, regulated throughout upon such a principle. Such might have been the case with a few of the world's

« PreviousContinue »