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The Life of Lord Byron.
BY J. W. LAKE.
N'er the harp, from earliest vears beloved,
It was reserved for the present age to produce We think that many points of resemblance one distinguished example of the Muse having may be traced between Byron and Rousseau. descended opou a bard of a wounded spirit, and Both are distinguished by the most ardent and lent her lyre to tell afflictions of no ordinary de- vivid delineation of intense conception, and by scription-afflictions originating probably in that a deep sensibility of passion rather than of atsingular combination of feeling with imagination fection. Both, too, by this double power, have which has been called the poetical temperament, held a dominion over the sympathy of their and which has so often saddened the days of those readers, far beyond the range of those ordinary on whom it has been conferred. If ever a man was feelings which are excited by the mere efforts of entitled to lay claim to that character in all its genius. The impression of this interest still strength and all its weakness, with its unbounded accompanies the perusal of their writings; but range of enjoyment, and its exquisite sensibility there is another interest, of more lasting and far of pleasure and of pain, that man was Lord Byron. stronger power, which each of them possessed, Nor does it require much time or a deep acquaint- the continual embodying of the individual chaance with human nature to discover why these racter, it might almost be said of the very person, extraordinary powers should in so many cases of the writer. When we speak or think of Roushave contributed more to the wretchedness than seau or Byron, we are not conscious of speaking to the happiness of their possessor.
or thinking of an author : we have a vague but The imagination all compact, which the impassioned remembrance of men of surpassing greatest poet who ever lived has assigned as the genius, eloquence, and power, -of prodigious distinguishing badge of his brethren, is in every capacity both of misery and bappiness : we feel case a dangerous gift. It exaggerates, indeed, as if we had transiently met such beings in real our expectations, and can often bid its possessor life, or had known them in the obscure commuhope, where hope is lost to reason ; but the delu- nion of a dream. Each of their works presents, sive pleasure arising from these visions of ima- in succession, a fresh idea of themselves; and, gination resembles that of a child whose gaze is while the productions of other great men stand attracted by a fragment of glass to which a out from them, like something they have created, sunbeam has given momentary splendour : he theirs, on the contrary, are images, pictures, busts hastens to the spot with breathless impatience, of their living selves, --clothed, no doubt, at ditand finds the object of his wonder and expec- ferent times in different drapery, and prominent tation equally vulgar and worthless. Such is from a different back-ground, --- but still impressed the man of quick and exalted powers of imagi- with the same forin, and mien, and lineaments, nation : his fancy over-estimates the object of his and not to be mistaken for the representations of wishes; and pleasure, fame, distinction, are alter- any other of the children of men. nately pursued, attained, and despised when in But this view of the subject, though universally
Like the enchanted fruit in the felt to be a true one, requires perhaps a little er. palace of a sorcerer, the objects of his admiration planation. The personal character to which we lose their attraction and value as soon as they are allude, is not altogether that on which the seal of grasped by the adventurer's hand; and all that life has been set, and to which, therefore, moral remains is regret for the time lost in the pursuit, approval or condemnation is necessarily annexed, and wonder at the hallucination under the as to the language or conduct of actual existence: influence of which it was undertaken. The dis- it is the character, so to speak, which is prior to proportion between hope and possession which is conduct, and yet open to good and to ill-- the confelt by all men, is thus doubled to those whom stitution of the being in body and in soul. Each nature has endowed with the power of gilding a of these illustrious writers has, in this light, filled distant prospect with the rays of imagination. his works with expressions of his own character,
He is not
-has unveiled to the world the secrets of his own public mind only pity, sorrow, or repugnance. being. They have gone down into those depths But in the case of men of real genius, like Byron, which every man may sound for himself, though it is otherwise : they are not felt, while we read, not for another; and they have made disclosures as declarations published to the world, but to the world of what they beheld and knew there almost as secrets whispered to chosen ears. Who
- disclosures that have excited a profound and is there that feels for a moment, th the voice universal sympathy, by proving that all mankind, which reaches the inmost recesses of his heart the troubled and the untroubled, the lofty and is speaking to the careless multitudes around! the low, the strongest and the weakest, are linked him? Or if we do so remember, the words seem together by the bonds of a common butinscrutable to pass by others like air, and to find their way
to the hearts for whom they were intended Thus, each of these wayward and richly-gifted kindred and sympathetic spirits, who discern spirits made himself the object of profound in- and own that secret language, of which the terest to the world, and that too during periods privacy is not violated, though spoken in the of society when ample food was every where hearing of the uninitiated, because it is not uuspread abroad for the meditation and passions of derstood. A great poet may address the whole
world in the language of intensest passion, conAlthough of widely dissimilar fortunes and cerning objects of which, rather than speak face birth, a close resemblance in their passions and to face with any one human being, he would their genius may be traced too between Byron perish jo his misery. For it is in solitude that and Robert Burns. Their careers were short and he utters what is to be wafted by all the winds of glorious, and they both perished in the rich heaven : there are present with him during his summer of their life and song,” and in all the inspiration only the shadows of men. splendour of a reputation more likely to increase daunted, or perplexed, or disturbed, or repelled thau diminish. One was a peasant, and the other by real, living, breathing features. He can draw a peer; but nature is a great leveller, and makes just as much of the curtain as he chuses that haugs amends for the injuries of fortune by the richness between his own solitude and the world of life. of her benefactions : the genius of Burns raised He there pours his soul out parily to himself alone, him to a level with the nobles of the land; by partly to the ideal abstractions and impersonated nature, if not by birth, he was the peer of Byron. images that float around him at his own conjuraThey both distinguished themselves by the force tion; and partly to human beings like himself, of their genius, and fell by the strength of their moving in the every-day world. He confesses passions; one wrote from a love, and the other himself, not before men, but before the spirit of from a scorn of mankind; and both sung of the humanity; and he thus fearlessly lays open his emotions of their own hearts with a vehemence heart, assured that nature never prompted to and an originality which few have equalled, and genius what will not triumphantly force its way none have surpassed.
into the human heart. The versatility of authors who have been able It is admitted that Byron has depicted much of to draw and support characters as different from himself in all his heroes; but when we seem to each other as from their own, has given to their see the poet shadowed out in all those states of productions the inexpressible charm of variety, disordered being which his Childe Haroles, and has often secured them from that neglect | Giaours, Conrads, Laras, and Alps exhibit, we which in general attends what is technically called merely conceive that his mind felt within itself mannerisin. But it was reserved for Lord Byrop the capacity of such disorders, not that it bad (previous to his Don Juan) to present the same endured them, and exhibits itself before us only character ou the public stage again and again, in possibility. This is not common, it is rare in varied only by the exertions of that powerful great poets : Homer, Shakspeare, and Milton genius which, searching the springs of passion and never so exhibit themselves in the characters they of feeling in their innermost recesses, knew how portray: their poetical personages have no reto combine their operations, so that the interest terence to themselves, but are distinct, indepenwas eternally varying, and never abated, although dent creatures of their minds, produced in the the most important person of the drama retained full freedom of intellectual power.
In Byron the same lineaments.
there does not seein this freedom of power--there It might, at first, seem that his undisguised is little appropriation of character tv events. lis revelation of feelings and passions, which the poems, excepting Don Juan, are not full and becoming pride of human nature, jealous of its complete narrations of any one definite story, own dignity, would in general desire to hold in containing within itself a picture of human life. unviolated silence, could have produced in the They are merely bold and turbulent exemplifi
cations of certain sweeping energies and irre- the Low Countries, was appointed governor of sistible passions; they are fragments of a poet's Chelsea, in 1642. He had two sons, who both dark dream of life. The very personages, vi- died without issue ; and his younger brother, sir vidly as they are pictured, are yet felt to be Johu, became heir. This person was made a fictitious, and derive their chief power over us knight of the bath at the coronation of James from their supposed connexion with the poet the first. He had eleven sons, most of whom himself, and, it may be, with each other. The distinguished themselves by their loyalty and law of bis miod was to embody his peculiar gallantry on the side of Charles the first. Seven feelings under the forms of other men. im all of these brothers were engaged at the batle of his heroes we recognise, though with infinite Marston-moor, and four tell in defence of the modifications, the same great characteristics : a royal cause. Sir Johu Byron), one of the survilofty conception of the power of mind,-an vors, was appointed to several important comintense sensibility of passion,- -an almost bound- mands, and on the 26th of October, 1643, was less capacity of tumultuous emotion, -a boast- created Lord Byron, with a collateral remainder ing admiration of the grandeur of disordered to his brothers, On the decline of the king's power, and, above all, a soul-felt delight in affairs, he was appointed governor to the Duke of beauty.
York, and, while holding this office, died without These reflections naturally precede a sketch of issue, in France, in 1652 ; upon which bis broLord Byron's literary and private life : they are ther Richard, a celebrated cavalier, became the ! in a manner forced upon us by Iris poetry, and by second Lord Byron. He was governor of Appleby the sentiments of weariness of existence and en- Castle, and distinguished himself at Newark. He mity with the world which it so frequently ex- died in 1697, aged seveuty-four, and was succeeded presses.
by his eldest son William, who married Elizabeths, Lord Byron was descended from an illustrious the daughter of John Viscount Chaworth, of the live of ancestry. From the period of the Con- kingdom of Ireland, by whom he had five sons, quest, his family were not more distinguished for all of whom died young excepe William, whose their extensive manors in Lancashire and other eldest son, William, was born in 1722, and came parts of the kingdom, than for their prowess in to the title in 1736. arms. John de Byron attended Edward the first William, Lord Byron, passed the early part of in several warlike expeditions. Two of the his life in the navy. In 1963 he was inade masByrons fell at the battle of Cressy. Another ter of the stag-hounds; and in 1765 was sent to member of the family, Sir John de Byron, ren- the Tower, and tried before the House of Peers dered good service in Bosworth field, to the Earl for killing his relation and neighbour, Mr Chaof Richmond, and contributed by his valour to worth, in a duel. – The following details of this transfer the crown from the head of Richard the fatal event are peculiarly interesting from subsethird to that of Henry the seveoth. Sir John quent circumstances connected with the subject of was a man of honour, as well as a brave warrior. our sketch. He was very intimate with his neighbour sir William Lord Byron belonged to a club of Gervase Clifton ; and, although Byron fought which Mr Chaworth was also a member. It under Henry, and Clifton under Richard, it did met at the Star and Garter tavern, Pall Mall, not diminish their friendship, though it put it to and was called the Nottinghamshire Club. On the a severe test. Previous to the battle, they had 29th January, 1765, they assembled, at four mutually promised that whichever should be van-o'clock, to dinner as usual, and every thing went quished, the oiher should endeavour to prevent the on agreeably, until about seven o'clock, when an forfeiture of his friend's estate. While Clition was angry dispute arising betwixt Lord Byron and bravely fighting at the head of his troop, he was Mr Chaworth concerning the quantity of game struck off his horse: Byron perceiving the acci- on their estates, the latter gentleman paid his dent, quitted the ranks and rau to the relief of share of the bill, and retired. Lord Byron folhis friend, who died in his arms. Sir John de lowed him out of the room, and, stopping him Byron kept his word; he interceded with the on the landing of the stairs, called to the waiter king; and the estate, preserved to the Clifton to show them into an empty room. They were family, is now in the possession of a descendaut shown into one, and a single candle placed on of Sir Cervase.
the table : in a few minutes the bell was rung, In the wars between Charles the first and the and Mr Chaworth found mortally wounded. He parliament, the Byrons adhered to the royal cause said that Lord Byron and he entered the room Sir Nicholas Byron, the eldest brother and repre- together ; that his lordship, in walking forward, sentative of the family, was an eminent loyalist, said something relative to the former dispute, on who, having distinguished himself in the wars of which he proposed fastening the door ; that on