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greatest names, but how completely the reverse is the fact in regard to the great majority, and especially in regard to almost all the living names of literary celebrity. Lord Byron has himself said many witty things about the absurdities of «an author all over»—and in his personal conversation he was almost always the mere man of fashion. But we know enough of his temper and feelings to be perfectly convinced that all this was a matter of elaborate art and study with him—that he was playing a part when he figured as the dandy lord—that his mind was more continually, restlessly, and intensely occupied with literary matters, and, above all, his own literary reputation, than perhaps ever was
with any other man of the same sort of rank in the world of letters, except Voltaire. In fact, the very sarcasms Lord Byron has bestowed upon these foibles are only so many proofs that they lay very near his own heart. There is no trick of self-love more common than that of ridiculing in others the faults which we feel, and which we would fain lave others not detect in ourselves.
In what manner did the English public conduct itself in regard to this most sensitive artist? From the beginning of his true career—it began with Childe Haroldwe, in spite of all manner of disclamations and protestations, insisted upon saddling Byron, himself person
ally, with every attribute, however dark and repulsive, with which he had chosen to invest a certain fictitious personage, the hero of a romance. It is true enough that the thoughts and feelings embodied in this fictitious personage's character, as poetized by Lord Byron, must at some time have passed through Lord Byron's own mind, and subsequent events decidedly shewed that many
of them had been too much at home there. But the world was basty, and therefore unjust. How do we know, that if Harold had been criticised merely as the character of Macbeth or Marmion is criticised, Lord Byron would have continued to paint little else but Childe Harold? How do we know how much of our obstinate blending of Harold with Byron stimulated the proud and indignant bard to blend himself with Harold? How do we know that we did not ourselves, by our method of criticising his work, tempt the poet's haughty mind to brood exclusively on those very trains of dark and misanthropic thought, which, had we done otherwise, might have given way to every thing that was happy and genial? There are horses to whom no spur equals the stimulus of the bit.
Moreover, let people consider for a moment what it is that they demand when they insist upon a poet of Byron's class abstaining altogether from expressing in his works any thing of his own feelings in regard to
any thing that immediately concerns his own history. We tell him, in every possible form and shape, that the great and distinguishing merit of his poetry is the intense truth with which that poetry expresses his own personal feelings. We encourage him in every possible way to dissect his own heart for our entertainment-we tempt him, by every bribe most likely to act powerfully on a young and imaginative man, to plunge into the darkest depths of self-knowledge, to madden his brain with eternal self-scrutinies, to find his pride and his pleasure in what others shrink from as a torture—we tempt him to indulge in these dangerous exercises, until they obviously acquire the power of leading him to the very brink of phrenzy—we tempt him to find and to see in this perilous vocation, the staple of his existence,
the food of his ambition, the very essence of his glory—and the moment that, by habits of our own creating, at least of our own encouraging and confirming, he is carried one single step beyond what we happen to approve of, we turn round, with all the bitterness of spleen, and reproach him with the unmanliness of entertaining the public with his feelings in regard to his separation from his wife. This was truly the conduct of a fair and liberal public! To our view of the matter, Lord Byron, treated as he had been, tempted as he had been, and tortured and insulted as he was at the moment, did no more forfeit his character by writing what
he did write upon that unhappy occasion, than another man, under circumstances of the same nature, would have done, by telling something of his mind about it to an intimate friend across the fire. The public had forced him into habits of familiarity, and received his confidence with nothing but anger and scorn.
But should there be to whom the fatal blight
fault that daring genius owes
In 1820 was published his «Doge of Venice, » and the
'Lord Byron's Monody on the death of Sheridan.
« Prophecy of Dante,» this was followed by a considerable number of dramatic poems and « mysteries,» etc. which alternately appeared with the continuation of Don Juan as far as sixteen cantos, and sundry communications to the « Liberal,» a periodical work, published in London, and begun by Byron and some friends, whom he had formed into a literary society in Italy.'
By the decease of Lady Byron's mother, his lordship’s patrimonial estate received a large increase; and a valuable coal-mine, said to be worth 50,000l., had been discovered on his Rochdale estate; so that at his death he must have been in possession of a large income.
Before I enter into the painfully interesting details of the last and glorious acts of Byron's existence, when, « in the rich summer of his life and song,» he devoted himself and fortune to the noblest of enterprises—the deliverance of Greece, I shall introduce some pieces which, since the death of the noble bard, have been given to the public as effusions of his pen. They evidently bear the stamp and impress of his genius, and there can be little doubt of their authenticity : at the
'These friends were Leigh Hunt, and the late Percy Shelley. The title of «The Liberal» indicates the spirit in which it was written: it did not, however, live long, though backed by the pen and reputation of Byron.