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confirmed as in a principle, which, though it will hardly be challenged when stated as an axiom, is very rarely complied with in practice. It is, that every author should, like Lord Byron, form to himself, and communicate to the reader, a precise, defined and distinct view of the landscape, sentiment, or action which he intends to describe to the reader. This simple proposition has been so often neglected that we feel warranted in giving it a little more consideration and illustration than plain men may at first sight think necessary.
An author occasionally forgets that it is his business rather to excite than to satiate the imagination of his readers; rather to place before him such a distinct and intelligible sketch as his own imagination can fill up, than, by attempting to exhaust all that can be said on the subject, to confuse the apprehension and weary the attention. There should be, even in poetical description, that keeping and perspective which is demanded in the sister art of painting, and which alone can render the scenes presented by either distinct, clear and intelligible. Here the painter has, in some degree, the adyantage of the poet, for perspective is the very foundation of his art. The most stupid bungler that ever took brush in hand is aware that his objects must diminish as they withdraw from the eye,
that he is not entitled to render the rocks of his distance too distinct, and that the knowledge that such things do actually exist will not justify him in painting with minuteness the lichens and shrubs, which grow on their surface and in their crevices, at a distance from which these minute objects cannot be discovered eye.
such a novice a follower of the Muses, and he will not hesitate a moment to transgress this wholesome rule. Every thing which he knows to exist in fact, he will, with the confused minuteness of a Chinese painter, labour to introduce into his description, and, by confounding that which is important to his purpose
with that which is subordinate, he will produce a mass of images more or less splendid, according to the vivacity of his imagination, but perplexing, incongruous and unsatisfactory, in all respects, to the reader, who, in vain, endeavours to reduce them in his own mind into one distinct landscape whose parts shall bear a just proportion to each other. Such a poet has assembled, perhaps, excellent materials for composition, but he does not present them in intelligible arrangement to the reader, and he fails to produce upon the mind of others the desired effect, probably because the picture has never been presented to his own with sufficient accuracy.
This is more particularly the case with such authors as, lacking the erudition of Southey or the personal experience of Lord Byron, attempt to lay their scene in countries or ages with the costume and
plight, and quite exempt from all participation in the faults of those heros, who, nevertheless, might be found with little more morality than “ The Giaour,” and perhaps--but no-I must admit Childe Harold to be a very repulsive personage ; and as to his identity, those who like it must give him whatever “ alias” they please.'
It is difficult to say whether we are to receive this passage as an admission or a denial of the opinion to which it refers: but Lord Byron certainly did the public injustice, if he supposed it imputed to him the criminal actions with which many of his heroes were stained. Men no more expected to meet in Lord Byron the Corsair, who knew himself a villain,' than they looked for the hypocrisy of Kehama on the shores of the Derwent Water, or the profligacy of Marmion on the banks of the Tweed : yet even in the features of Conrad, those who have looked on Lord Byron will recognise some likeness.
to the sight
The Corsair, p. 11, And the ascetic regimen which the noble author himself observed, was no less marked in the description of Conrad's fare.
• Ne'er for his lip the purpling cup they fill,
With all a hermit's board would scarce deny.'-Id. p. 4. The following description of Lara suddenly and unexpectedly returned from distant travels, and reassuming his station in the society of his own country, has in like manner strong points of resemblance to the part which the author himself seemed occasionally to bear amid the scenes where the great mingle with the fair.
'tis quickly seen Whate'er he be, 'twas not what he bad been ;
That brow in furrow'd lines had fix'd at last,
At moments lighten’d o'er his livid face.'— Lara, pp. 6, 7. We are not writing Lord Byron's private history, though from the connection already stated between his poetry and his character, we feel ourselves forced upon considering his literary life, his deportment, and even his personal appearance. But we know enough even of his private story to give our warrant that, though his youth may have shared somewhat too largely in the indiscretions of those left too early masters of their own actions and fortunes, falsehood and malice alone can impute to him any real cause for hopeless remorse or gloomy misanthropy. To what, then, are we to ascribe the singular peculiarity which induced an author of such talent, and so well skilled in tracing the darker impressions which guilt and remorse leave on the human character, so frequently to affix features peculiar to himself to the robbers and and corsairs which he sketched with a pencil as forcible as that of Salvator ?- More than one answer may be returned to this question; nor do we pretend to say which is best warranted by the facts. The practice may arise from a temperament which radical and constitutional melancholy has, as in the case of Hamlet, predisposed to identify its owner with scenes of that deep and arouzing interest which arises from the stings of conscience contending with the stubborn energy of pride, and delighting to be placed in supposed situations of guilt and danger, as some men love instinctively to tread the giddy edge of a precipice, or, holding by some frail twig, to stoop forward over the abyss into which the dark torrent discharges itself. Or it may be that these disguises were assumed capriciously as a man. might chuse the cloak, poniard, and dark-lantern of a bravo, for his disguise at a masquerade. Or feeling his own powers in painting the sombre and the horrible, Lord Byron assumed in his fervour the very semblance of the characters he describes, like an actor who presents on the stage at once his own person and the tragic character with which for the time he is invested. Nor is it altogether incompatible with his character to believe that, in contempt of the criticisms which on this account had attended Childe Harold, he was determined to shew to the public how little he was affected by them, and how effectually it was in his power to compel attention and respect, even when imparting a portion of his own likeness and his own peculiarities to pirates, and outlaws.
But although we do not pretend to ascertain the motive on which Lord Byron acted in bringing the peculiarities of his own sentiments and feeling so frequently before his readers, it is with no little admiration that we regard these extraordinary powers, which, amidst this seeming uniformity, could continue to rivet the public attention, and secure general and continued applause. The versatility of authors who have been able to draw and support characters as different from each other as from their own, has given to their productions the inexpressible charm of variety, and has often secured them against that neglect which in general attends what is technically called mannerism. But it was reserved to Lord Byron to present the same character on the public stage again and again, varied only by the exertions of that powerful genius, which searching the springs of passion and of feeling in their innermost recesses, knew how to combine their operations, so that the interest was eternally varying, and never abated, although the most important personage of the drama retained the same lineaments. It will one day be considered as not the least remarkable literary phenomenon of this age, that during a period of four years, notwithstanding the quantity of distinguished poetical talent of which we may be permitted to boast, a single author, and he managing his pen with the careless and negligent ease of a man of quality, and chusing for his theme subjects so very similar, and personages bearing so close a resemblance to each other, -did, in despite of these circumstances, of the unamiable attributes with which he usually invested his heroes, and of the proverbial fickleness of the public, maintain the ascendency in their favour, which he had acquired by his first matured production. So however it indisputably has been; and those comparatively small circles of admirers excepted, which assemble naturally around individual poets of eminence, Lord Byron has been for that time, and may for some time continue to be, the Champion of the English Par
If his empire over the public mind be in any measure diminished, it arises from no literary failure of his own, and from no triumph of his competitors, but from other circumstances so
frequently alluded to in the publications before us, that they cannot pass without some notice, which we will study to render as brief as it is impartial.
The poet thus gifted, thus honoured, thus admired, no longer entitled to regard himself as one defrauded of his just fame, and expelled with derision from the lists in which he had stood forward a candidate for honour, but crowned with all which the public could bestow, was now in a situation apparently as enviable as could be attained through mere literary celebrity. The sequel may be given in the words in which the author, adopting here more distinctly the character of Childe Harold than in the original poem, has chosen to present it to us, and to assign the cause why Childe Harold has resumed his pilgrim's staff when it's
was hoped he had sat down for life a denizen of his native country. The length of the quotation will be pardoned by those who can feel at once the moral interest and poetical beauty with which it abounds.
Fire from the mind as vigour from the limb;
Which pined although it spoke not, and grew keen,
Fit speculation ! such as in strange land