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Byron by John Nichol

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REVIEWERS. 1808-1809.




--MANFRED. 1816-1820.







1. The Narrative of the Honourable John Byron, Commodore, in a late
Expedition Round the World, &c. (Baker and Leigh) 1768

2. Voyage of H.M.S. _Blonde_ to the Sandwich Islands in the years
1824-1825, the Right Hon. Lord Byron, Commander (John Murray) 1826

3. Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Right Hon. Lord Byron (H.
Colburn) 1822

4. The Life, Writings, Opinions, and Times of G.G. Noel Byron, with
courtiers of tho present polished and enlightened age, &c., &c.,
3 vols. (M. Hey) 1825

5. Narrative of Lord Byron's last Journey to Greece, from Journal of
Count Peter Gamba 1825

6. Medwin's Conversations with Lord Byron at Pisa, 2 vols. (H. Colburn)

7. Leigh Hunt's Byron and His Contemporaries (H. Colburn)

8. The Works of Lord Byron, with Life by Thomas Moore, 17
vols. (Murray) 1832

9. Galt's Life of Lord Byron (Colburn and Buntley) 1830

10. Kennedy's Conversations on Religion (Murray) 1830

11. Countess of Blessington's Conversations (Colburn) 1834

12. Lady Morgan's Memoirs, 2 vols. (W.H. Allen) 1842

13. Recollections of the Countess Guiccioli (Bentley) 1869

14. Castelar's Genius and Character of Byron (Tinsley) 1870

15. Elze's Life of Lord Byron (Murray) 1872

16. Trelawny's Reminiscences of Byron and Shelley 1858

17. Torrens' Memoirs of Viscount Melbourne (Macmillan) 1878

18. Rev. F. Hodgson's Memoirs, 2 vols. (Macimillan) 1879

19. Essays and Articles, or Recorded Criticisms, by Macaulay, Scott,
Shelley, Goethe, G. Brandes, Mazzini, Sainte Beuve, Chasles, H.
Taine, &c.

20. Burke's Peerage and Baronetage 1879



Ralph de Burun (estates in Nottingham and Derby).
Hugh de Burun (Lord of Horestan).
Hugh de Buron (became a monk).
Sir Roger de Buron (gave lands to monks of Swinstead).
| Sir Richard Clayton.
| |
Robert de Byron. = Cecelia
Robert de Byron
Sir John Byron (Governor of York under Edward I.).
| |
Sir Richard Byron. Sir John (knighted at siege of Calais)
Sir John (knighted in 3rd year of Henry V.).
| Sir John Butler.
| |
Sir Nicholas. = Alice.
| |
Sir Nicholas (made K.B. at Sir John (knighted by Richmond
marriage of Prince Arthur, at Milford; fought at Bosworth;
died 1503). died 1488).
Sir John Byron = 2nd wife, widow of George Halgh.
(received grant of Newstead from Henry VIII., May 26,1540).
Bar // Sinister
| Sir Nicholas Strelleye
| |
John Byron, of Clayton = Alice
(inherited by gift, knighted by Elizabeth, 1579).
| |
| Sir Nicholas
| Sir Richard Molyneux
| |
Sir John = Anne
(K.B. at coronation of James I; Governor of Tower).
| |
RICHARD, 2nd Lord (1605-1679) Sir JOHN 1st Lord (created
(Buried at Hucknal Torkard) Baron Byron of Rochdale,
| Oct. 24, 1643; at Newbury,
| Edgehill, Chester, &c.
| Viscount Chaworth Governor of Duke of York; died
| | at Paris, 1652).
WILLIAM, 3rd Lord = Elizabeth.
(died 1695)
| Lord Berkeley.
| |
WILLIAM, 4th Lord = Frances (3rd wife)
| |
Admiral John (1723-1786) |- WILLIAM, 5th Lord (1722-1798) (killed Mr.
| "Foul-weather Jack"). | Chaworth; survived his sons
| | and a grandson, who died 1794;
| | called "The wicked Lord").
| |
| | - Isabella = Lord Carlisle
| |
| Lord Carlisle (the poet's
| guardian).
| |
| |- A daughter
| | |
| | Colonel Leigh
| |
| |- George Anson (1758-1793).
| |
| Admiral GEORGE ANSON, 7th Lord
| (1789-1868)
| |
| ----
| |- Frederick
| | |
| | GEORGE F. WILLIAM, 9th and present
| | Lord Byron.
| |
| |- GEORGE, 8th Lord (1818-1870)
1. Marchioness = John Byron (1751-1791) = 2. Miss Gordon of Gight
of Carmarthen | |
| |
Colonel Leigh = Augusta GEORGE GORDON, 6th Lord
| | (1788-1824). Married
Several daughters | Anna Isabella (1792-1860),
| daughter of Sir Ralph
| Milbanke and Judith,
| daughter of Sir Edward
| Noel (Viscount Wentworth),
| and by her had
Earl Lovelace = Augusta-Ada (1815-1852).
| | |
Mr. Blunt = Lady Anne. Byron Noel Ralph Gordon,
(died 1862) now Lord Wentworth



Byron's life was passed under the fierce light that beats upon an
intellectual throne. He succeeded in making himself--what he wished to
be--the most notorious personality in the world of letters of our century.
Almost every one who came in contact with him has left on record various
impressions of intimacy or interview. Those whom he excluded or
patronized, maligned; those to whom he was genial, loved him. Mr. Southey,
in all sincerity, regarded him as the principle of Evil incarnate; an
American writer of tracts in the form of stories is of the same opinion:
to the Countess Guiccioli he is an archangel. Mr. Carlyle considers him to
have been a mere "sulky dandy." Goethe ranks him as the first English
poet after Shakespeare, and is followed by the leading critics of France,
Italy, and Spain. All concur in the admission that Byron was as proud of
his race as of his verse, and that in unexampled measure the good and evil
of his nature were inherited and inborn. His genealogy is, therefore, a
matter of no idle antiquarianism.

There are legends of old Norse Buruns migrating from their home in
Scandinavia, and settling, one branch in Normandy, another in Livonia. To
the latter belonged a distant Marshal de Burun, famous for the almost
absolute power he wielded in the then infant realm of Russia. Two members
of the family came over with the Conqueror, and settled in England. Of
Erneis de Burun, who had lands in York and Lincoln, we hear little more.
Ralph, the poet's ancestor, is mentioned in Doomsday Book--our first
authentic record--as having estates in Nottinghamshire and Derby. His son
Hugh was lord of Horestan Castle in the latter county, and with his son of
the same name, under King Stephen, presented the church of Ossington to
the monks of Lenton. Tim latter Hugh joined their order; but the race was
continued by his son Sir Roger, who gave lands to the monastery of
Swinstead. This brings us to the reign of Henry II. (1155-1189), when
Robert de Byron adopted the spelling of his name afterwards retained, and
by his marriage with Cecilia, heir of Sir Richard Clayton, added to the
family possessions an estate; in Lancashire, where, till the time of Henry
VIII., they fixed their seat. The poet, relying on old wood-carvings at
Newstead, claims for some of his ancestors a part in the crusades, and
mentions a name not apparently belonging to that age--

Near Ascalon's towers, John of Horestan slumbers--

a romance, like many of his, possibly founded on fact, but incapable of

Two grandsons of Sir Robert have a more substantial fame, having served
with distinction in the wars of Edward I. The elder of these was governor
of the city of York. Some members of his family fought at Cressy, and one
of his sons, Sir John, was knighted by Edward III. at the siege of Calais.
Descending through the other, Sir Richard, we come to another Sir John,
knighted by Richmond, afterwards Henry VII., on his landing at Milford. He
fought, with his kin, on the field of Bosworth, and dying without issue,
left the estates to his brother, Sir Nicholas, knighted in 1502, at the
marriage of Prince Arthur. The son of Sir Nicholas, known as "little Sir
John of the great beard," appears to have been a favourite of Henry VIII.,
who made him Steward of Manchester and Lieutenant of Sherwood, and on the
dissolution of the monasteries presented him with the Priory of Newstead,
the rents of which were equivalent to about 4000l. of our money. Sir John,
who stepped into the Abbey in 1540, married twice, and the premature
appearance of a son by the second wife--widow of Sir George Halgh--brought
the bar sinister of which so much has been made. No indication of this
fact, however, appears in the family arms, and it is doubtful if the poet
was aware of a reproach which in any case does not touch his descent. The
"filius naturalis," John Byron of Clayton, inherited by deed of gift, and
was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1579. His descendants were prominent as
staunch Royalists during the whole period of the Civil Wars. At Edgehill
there were seven Byrons on the field.

On Marston, with Rupert 'gainst traitors contending,
Four brothers enrich'd with their blood the bleak field.

Sir Nicholas, one of the seven, is extolled as "a person of great
affability and dexterity, as well as martial knowledge, which gave great
life to the designs of the well affected." He was taken prisoner by the
Parliament while acting as governor of Chester. Under his nephew, Sir
John, Newstead is said to have been besieged and taken; but the knight
escaped, in the words of the poet--never a Radical at heart--a "protecting

For nobler combats here reserved his life,
To lead the band where godlike Falkland foil."

Clarendon, indeed, informs us, that on the morning before the battle,
Falkland, "very cheerful, as always upon action, put himself into the
first rank of the Lord Byron's regiment." This slightly antedates his
title. The first battle of Newbury was fought on September, 1643. For his
services there, and at a previous royal victory, over Waller in July, Sir
John was, on October 24th of the same year, created Baron of Rochdale, and
so became the first Peer of the family.

This first lord was succeeded by his brother Richard (1605-1079), famous
in the war for his government and gallant defence of Newark. He rests in
the vault that now contains the dust of the greatest of his race, Hucknall
Torkard Church, where his epitaph records the fact that the family lost
all their present fortunes by their loyalty, adding, "yet it pleased God
so to bless the humble endeavours of the said Richard, Lord Byron, that he
repurchased part of their ancient inheritance, which he left to his
posterity, with a laudable memory for his great piety and charity." His
eldest son, William, the third Lord (died 1695), is worth remembering on
two accounts. He married Elizabeth, the daughter of Viscount Chaworth, and
so wove the first link in a strange association of tragedy and romance: he
was a patron of one of those poets who, approved by neither gods nor
columns, are remembered by the accident of an accident, and was himself a
poetaster, capable of the couplet,--

My whole ambition only does extend
To gain the name of Shipman's faithful friend,--

an ambition which, considering its moderate scope, may be granted to have
attained its desire.

His successor, the fourth lord (1669-1736), gentleman of the bedchamber to
Prince George of Denmark, himself living a quiet life, became, by his
third wife, Frances, daughter of Lord Berkeley, the progenitor of a
strange group of eccentric, adventurous, and passionate spirits. The
eldest son, the fifth lord, and immediate predecessor in the peerage of
the poet, was born in 1722, entered the naval service, left his ship, the
"Victory," just before she was lost on the rocks of Alderney, and
subsequently became master of the stag-hounds. In 1765, the year of the
passing of the American Stamp Act, an event occurred which coloured the
whole of his after-life, and is curiously illustrative of the manners of
the time. On January 26th or 29th (accounts vary) ten members of an
aristocratic social club sat down to dinner in Pall-mall. Lord Byron and
Mr. Chaworth, his neighbour and kinsman, were of the party. In the course
of the evening, when the wine was going round, a dispute arose between
them about the management of game, so frivolous that one conjectures the
quarrel to have been picked to cloak some other cause of offence. Bets
were offered, and high words passed, but the company thought the matter
had blown over. On going out, however, the disputants met on the stairs,
and one of the two, it is uncertain which, cried out to the waiter to show
them an empty room. This was done, and a single tallow candle being placed
on the table, the door was shut. A few minutes later a bell was rung, and
the hotel master rushing in, Mr. Chaworth was found mortally wounded.
There had been a struggle in the dim light, and Byron, having received the
first lunge harmlessly in his waistcoat, had shortened his sword and run
his adversary through the body, with the boast, not uncharacteristic of
his grand nephew, "By G-d, I have as much courage as any man in England."
A coroner's inquest was held, and he was committed to the Tower on a
charge of murder. The interest in the trial which subsequently took place
in Westminster Hall, was so great that tickets of admission were sold for
six guineas. The peers, after two days' discussion, unanimously returned a
verdict of manslaughter. Byron, pleading his privileges, and paying his
fees, was set at liberty; but he appears henceforth as a spectre-haunted
man, roaming about under false names, or shut up in the Abbey like a
baited savage, shunned by his fellows high and low, and the centre of the
wildest stories. That he shot a coachman, and flung the body into the
carriage beside his wife, who very sensibly left him; that he tried to
drown her; that he had devils to attend him--were among the many weird
legends of "the wicked lord." The poet himself says that his ancestor's
only companions were the crickets that used to crawl over him, receive
stripes with straws when they misbehaved, and on his death made an exodus
in procession from the house. When at home he spent his time in
pistol-shooting, making sham fights with wooden ships about the rockeries
of the lake, and building ugly turrets on the battlements. He hated his
heir presumptive, sold the estate of Rochdale,--a proceeding afterwards
challenged--and cut down the trees of Newstead, to spite him; but he
survived his three sons, his brother, and his only grandson, who was
killed in Corsica in 1794.

On his own death in 1798, the estates and title passed to George Gordon,
then a child of ten, whom he used to talk of, without a shadow of
interest, as "the little boy who lives at Aberdeen." His sister Isabella
married Lord Carlisle, and became the mother of the fifth Earl, the poet's
nominal guardian. She was a lady distinguished for eccentricity of
manners, and (like her son satirized in the _Bards and Reviewers_) for the
perpetration of indifferent verses. The career of the fourth lord's second
son, John, the poet's grandfather, recalls that of the sea-kings from whom
the family claim to have sprung. Born in 1723, he at an early age entered
the naval service, and till his death in 1786 was tossed from storm to
storm. "He had no rest on sea, nor I on shore," writes his illustrious
descendant. In 1740 a fleet of five ships was sent out under Commodore
Anson to annoy the Spaniards, with whom we were then at war, in the South
Seas. Byron took service as a midshipman in one of those ships--all more
or less unfortunate--called "The Wager." Being a bad sailor, and heavily
laden, she was blown from her company, and wrecked in the Straits of
Magellan. The majority of the crew were cast on a bleak rock, which they
christened Mount Misery. After encountering all the horrors of mutiny and
famine, and being in various ways deserted, five of the survivors, among
them Captain Cheap and Mr. Byron, were taken by some Patagonians to the
Island of Chiloe, and thence, after some months, to Valparaiso. They were
kept for nearly two years as prisoners at St. Iago, the capital of Chili,
and in December, 1744, put on board a French frigate, which reached Brest
in October, 1745. Early in 1746 they arrived at Dover in a Dutch vessel.

This voyage is the subject of a well-known apostrophe in _The Pleasures of
Hope_, beginning--

And such thy strength-inspiring aid that bore The hardy Byron from his
native shore. In torrid climes, where Chiloe's tempests sweep
Tumultuous murmurs o'er the troubled deep, 'Twas his to mourn
misfortune's rudest shock, Scourged by the winds and cradled by the

Byron's own account of his adventures, published in 1768, is remarkable
for freshness of scenery like that of our first literary traveller, Sir
John Mandeville, and a force of description which recalls Defoe. It
interests us more especially from the use that has been made of it in that
marvellous mosaic of voyages, the shipwreck, in _Don Juan_, the hardships
of his hero being, according to the poet--

To those related in my grand-dad's narrative.

In June, 1764, Byron sailed with two ships, the "Dolphin" and the "Tamar,"
on a voyage of discovery arranged by Lord Egmont, to seek a southern
continent, in the course of which he took possession of the largest of the
Falkland Islands, again passed through the Magellanic Straits, and sailing
home by the Pacific, circumnavigated the globe. The planets so conspired
that, though his affable manners and considerate treatment made him always
popular with his men, sailors became afraid to serve under "foul-weather
Jack." In 1748 he married the daughter of a Cornish squire, John
Trevanion. They had two sons and three daughters. One of the latter
married her cousin (the fifth lord's eldest son), who died in 1776,
leaving as his sole heir the youth who fell in the Mediterranean in 1794.

The eldest son of the veteran, John Byron, father of the poet, was born in
1751, educated at Westminster, and, having received a commission, became a
captain in the guards; but his character, fundamentally unprincipled, soon
developed itself in such a manner as to alienate him from his family. In
1778, under circumstances of peculiar effrontery, he seduced Amelia
D'Arcy, the daughter of the Earl of Holdernesse, in her own right Countess
Conyers, then wife of the Marquis of Carmarthen, afterwards Duke of Leeds.
"Mad Jack," as he was called, seems to have boasted of his conquest; but
the marquis, to whom his wife had hitherto been devoted, refused to
believe the rumours that were afloat, till an intercepted letter,
containing a remittance of money, for which Byron, in reverse of the usual
relations, was always clamouring, brought matters to a crisis. The pair
decamped to the continent; and in 1779, after the marquis had obtained a
divorce, they were regularly married. Byron seems to have been not only
profligate but heartless, and he made life wretched to the woman he was
even more than most husbands bound to cherish. She died in 1784, having
given birth to two daughters. One died in infancy; the other was Augusta,
the half sister and good genius of the poet, whose memory remains like a
star on the fringe of a thunder-cloud, only brighter by the passing of the
smoke of calumny. In 1807 she married Colonel Leigh, and had a numerous
family, most of whom died young. Her eldest daughter, Georgiana, married
Mr. Henry Trevanion. The fourth, Medora, had an unfortunate history, the
nucleus of an impertinent and happily ephemeral romance.

The year after the death of his first wife, John Byron, who seems to have
had the fascinations of a Barry Lyndon, succeeded in entrapping a second.
This was Miss Catherine Gordon of Gight, a lady with considerable estates
in Aberdeenshire--which attracted the adventurer--and an overweening
Highland pride in her descent from James I., the greatest of the Stuarts,
through his daughter Annabella, and the second Earl of Huntly. This union
suggested the ballad of an old rhymer, beginning--

O whare are ye gaen, bonny Miss Gordon,
O whare are ye gaen, sae bonny and braw?
Ye've married, ye've married wi' Johnny Byron,
To squander the lands o' Gight awa'.

The prophecy was soon fulfilled. The property of the Scotch heiress was
squandered with impetuous rapidity by the English rake. In 1780 she left
Scotland for France, and returned to England toward the close of the
following year. On the 22nd of January, 1788, in Holles Street, London,
Mrs. Byron gave birth to her only child, George Gordon, sixth Lord.
Shortly after, being pressed by his creditors, the father abandoned both,
and leaving them with a pittance of 150 _l_ a year, fled to Valenciennes,
where he died, in August, 1791.



Soon after the birth of her son, Mrs. Byron took him to Scotland. After
spending some time with a relation, she, early in 1790, settled in a small
house at Aberdeen. Ere long her husband, who had in the interval
dissipated away his remaining means, rejoined her; and they lived together
in humble lodgings, until their tempers, alike fiery and irritable,
compelled a definite separation. They occupied apartments, for some time,
at the opposite ends of the same street, and interchanged visits. Being
accustomed to meet the boy and his nurse, the father expressed a wish that
the former should be sent to live with him, at least for some days. "To
this request," Moore informs us, "Mrs. Byron was at first not very willing
to accede; but, on the representation of the nurse that if he kept him
over one night he would not do so another, she consented. On inquiring
next morning after the child, she was told by Captain Byron that he had
had quite enough of his young visitor." After a short stay in the north,
the Captain, extorting enough money from his wife to enable him to fly
from his creditors, escaped to France. His absence must have been a
relief; but his death is said to have so affected the unhappy lady, that
her shrieks disturbed the neighbourhood. The circumstance recalls an
anecdote of a similar outburst--attested by Sir W. Scott, who was present
on the occasion--before her marriage. Being present at a representation,
in Edinburgh, of the _Fatal Marriage_, when Mrs. Siddons was personating
Isabella, Miss Gordon was seized with a fit, and carried out of the
theatre, screaming out "O my Biron, my Biron." All we know of her
character shows it to have been not only proud, impulsive, and wayward,
but hysterical. She constantly boasted of her descent, and clung to the
courtesy title of "honourable," to which she had no claim. Her affection
and anger were alike demonstrative, her temper never for an hour secure.
She half worshipped, half hated, the blackguard to whom she was married,
and took no steps to protect her property; her son she alternately petted
and abused. "Your mother's a fool!" said a school companion to him years
after. "I know it," was his unique and tragic reply. Never was poet born
to so much illustrious, and to so much bad blood. The records of his
infancy betray the temper which he preserved through life--passionate,
sullen, defiant of authority, but singularly amenable to kindness. On
being scolded by his first nurse for having soiled a dress, without
uttering a word he tore it from top to seam, as he had seen his mother
tear her caps and gowns; but her sister and successor in office, May Gray,
acquired and retained a hold over his affections, to which he has borne
grateful testimony. To her training is attributed the early and remarkable
knowledge of the Scriptures, especially of the Psalms, which he possessed:
he was, according to her later testimony, peculiarly inquisitive and
puzzling about religion. Of the sense of solitude, induced by his earliest
impressions, he characteristically makes a boast. "My daughter, my wife,
my half-sister, my mother, my sister's mother, my natural daughter, and
myself, are or were all only children. But the fiercest animals have the
fewest numbers in their litters, as lions, tigers, &c."

To this practical orphanhood, and inheritance of feverish passion, there
was added another, and to him a heavy and life-long burden. A physical
defect in a healthy nature may either pass without notice or be turned to
a high purpose. No line of his work reveals the fact that Sir Walter Scott
was lame. The infirmity failed to cast even a passing shade over that
serene power. Milton's blindness is the occasion of the noblest prose and
verse of resignation in the language. But to understand Pope, we must
remember that he was a cripple: and Byron never allows us to forget,
because he himself never forgot it. Accounts differ as to the extent and
origin of his deformity; and the doubts on the matter are not removed by
the inconsistent accounts of the indelicate post-mortem examination made
by Mr. Trelawny at Mesolonghi. It is certain that one of the poet's feet
was, either at birth or at a very early period, so seriously clubbed or
twisted as to affect his gait, and to a considerable extent his habits. It
also appears that the surgical means--boots, bandages, &c.--adopted to
straighten the limb, only aggravated the evil. His sensitiveness on the
subject was early awakened by careless or unfeeling references. "What a
pretty boy Byron is," said a friend of his nurse. "What a pity he has such
a leg." On which the child, with flashing eyes, cutting at her with a
baby's whip, cried out, "Dinna speak of it." His mother herself, in her
violent fits, when the boy ran round the room laughing at her attempts to
catch him, used to say he was a little dog, as bad as his father, and to
call him "a lame brat"--an incident, which, notoriously suggested the
opening scene of the _Deformed Transformed_. In the height of his
popularity he fancied that the beggars and street-sweepers in London were
mocking him. He satirized and discouraged dancing; he preferred riding and
swimming to other exercises, because they concealed his weakness; and on
his death-bed asked to be blistered in such a way that he might not be
called on to expose it. The Countess Guiccioli, Lady Blessington, and
others, assure us that in society few would have observed the defect if he
had not referred to it; but it was never far from the mind, and therefore
never far from the mouth, of the least reticent of men.

In 1792 he was sent to a rudimentary day school of girls and boys, taught
by a Mr. Bowers, where he seems to have learnt nothing save to repeat
monosyllables by rote. He next passed through the hands of a devout and
clever clergyman, named Ross, under whom according to his own account he
made astonishing progress, being initiated into the study of Roman
history, and taking special delight in the battle of Regillus. Long
afterwards, when standing on the heights of Tusculum and looking down on
the little round lake, he remembered his young enthusiasm and his old
instructor. He next came under the charge of a tutor called Paterson, whom
he describes as "a very serious, saturnine, but kind young man. He was the
son of my shoemaker, but a good scholar. With him I began Latin, and
continued till I went to the grammar school, where I threaded all the
classes to the fourth, when I was recalled to England by the demise of my

Of Byron's early school days there is little further record. We learn from
scattered hints that he was backward in technical scholarship, and low in
his class, in which he seems to have had no ambition to stand high; but
that he eagerly took to history and romance, especially luxuriating in the
_Arabian Nights_. He was an indifferent penman, and always disliked
mathematics; but was noted by masters and mates as of quick temper, eager
for adventures, prone to sports, always more ready to give a blow than to
take one, affectionate, though resentful.

When his cousin was killed at Corsica, in 1794, he became the next heir to
the title. In 1797, a friend, meaning to compliment the boy, said, "We
shall have the pleasure some day of reading your speeches in the House of
Commons," he, with precocious consciousness, replied, "I hope not. If you
read any speeches of mine, it will be in the House of Lords." Similarly,
when, in the course of the following year, the fierce old man at Newstead
died, and the young lord's name was called at school with "Dominus"
prefixed to it, his emotion was so great that he was unable to answer, and
burst into tears.

Belonging to this period is the somewhat shadowy record of a childish
passion for a distant cousin slightly his senior, Mary Duff, with whom he
claims to have fallen in love in his ninth year. We have a quaint picture
of the pair sitting on the grass together, the girl's younger sister
beside them playing with a doll. A German critic gravely remarks, "This
strange phenomenon places him beside Dante." Byron himself, dilating on
the strength of his attachment, tells us that he used to coax a maid to
write letters for him, and that when he was sixteen, on being informed, by
his mother, of Mary's marriage, he nearly fell into convulsions. But in
the history of the calf-loves of poets it is difficult to distinguish
between the imaginative afterthought and the reality. This equally applies
to other recollections of later years. Moore remarks--"that the charm of
scenery, which derives its chief power from fancy and association, should
be felt at an age when fancy is yet hardly awake and associations are but
few, can with difficulty he conceived." But between the ages of eight and
ten, an appreciation of external beauty is sufficiently common. No one
doubts the accuracy of Wordsworth's account, in the _Prelude_ of his early
half-sensuous delight in mountain glory. It is impossible to define the
influence of Nature, either on nations or individuals, or to say
beforehand what selection from his varied surroundings a poet will for
artistic purposes elect to make. Shakespeare rests in meadows and glades,
and leaves to Milton "Teneriffe and Atlas." Burns, who lived for a
considerable part of his life in daily view of the hills of Arran, never
alludes to them. But, in this respect like Shelley, Byron was inspired by
a passion for the high-places of the earth. Their shadow is on half his
verse. "The loftiest peaks most wrapt in clouds and snow" perpetually
remind him of one of his constantly recurring refrains,--

He who surpasses or subdues mankind,
Must look down on the hate of those below.

In the course of 1790, after an attack of scarlet fever at Aberdeen he was
taken by his mother to Ballater, and on his recovery spent much of his
time in rambling about the country. "From this period," he says, "I date
my love of mountainous countries. I can never forget the effect, years
afterwards, in England, of the only thing I had long seen, even in
miniature, of a mountain, in the Malvern Hills. After I returned to
Cheltenham I used to watch them every afternoon, at sunset, with a
sensation which I cannot describe." Elsewhere, in _The Island_ he returns,
amid allusions to the Alps and Apennines, to the friends of his youth:--

The infant rapture still survived the boy,
And Lach-na-gair with Ida look'd o'er Troy,
Mixed Celtic memories with the Phrygian mount,
And Highland linns with Castalie's clear fount.

The poet, owing to his physical defect, was not a great climber, and we
are informed, on the authority of his nurse, that he never even scaled the
easily attainable summit of the "steep frowning" hill of which he has made
such effective use. But the impression of it from a distance was none the
less genuine. In the midst of a generous address, in _Don Juan_, to
Jeffrey, he again refers to the same associations with the country of his
early training:--

But I am half a Scot by birth, and bred
A whole one; and my heart flies to my head
As "Auld Lang Syne" brings Scotland, one and all--
Scotch plaids, Scotch snoods, the blue hills and clear streams,
The Dee, the Don, Balgounie's brig's black wall--
All my boy feelings, all my gentler dreams
Of what I then dreamt, clothed in their own pall,
Like Banquo's offspring...

Byron's allusions to Scotland are variable and inconsistent. His satire on
her reviewers was sharpened by the show of national as well as personal
antipathy; and when, about the time of its production, a young lady
remarked that he had a little of the northern manner of speech, he burst
out "Good God! I hope not. I would rather the whole d----d country was
sunk in the sea. I the Scotch accent!" But, in the passage from which we
have quoted, the swirl of feeling on the other side continues,--

I rail'd at Scots to show my wrath and wit,
Which must be own'd was sensitive and surly.
Yet 'tis in vain such sallies to permit;
They cannot quench young feelings, fresh and early.
I scotch'd, not kill'd, the Scotchman in my blood,
And love the land of mountain and of flood.

This suggests a few words on a question of more than local interest.
Byron's most careful biographer has said of him: "Although on his first
expedition to Greece he was dressed in the tartan of the Gordon clan, yet
the whole bent of his mind, and the character of his poetry, are anything
but Scottish. Scottish nationality is tainted with narrow and provincial
elements. Byron's poetic character, on the other hand, is universal and
cosmopolitan. He had no attachment to localities, and never devoted
himself to the study of the history of Scotland and its romantic legends."
Somewhat similarly Thomas Campbell remarks of Burns, "he was the most
un-Scotsmanlike of Scotchmen, having no caution." Rough national verdicts
are apt to be superficial. Mr. Leslie Stephen, in a review of Hawthorne,
has commented on the extent to which the nobler qualities and conquering
energy of the English character are hidden, not only from foreigners, but
from ourselves, by the "detestable lay figure" of John Bull. In like
manner, the obtrusive type of the "canny Scot" is apt to make critics
forget the hot heart that has marked the early annals of the country, from
the Hebrides to the Borders, with so much violence, and at the same time
has been the source of so much strong feeling and persistent purpose. Of
late years, the struggle for existence, the temptations of a too ambitious
and over active people in the race for wealth, and the benumbing effect of
the constant profession of beliefs that have ceased to be sincere, have
for the most part stifled the fervid fire in calculating prudence. These
qualities have been adequately combined in Scott alone, the one massive
and complete literary type of his race. Burns, to his ruin, had only the
fire: the same is true of Byron, whose genius, in some respects less
genuine, was indefinitely and inevitably wider. His intensely susceptible
nature took a dye from every scene, city, and society through which he
passed; but to the last he bore with him the marks of a descendant of the
Sea-Kings, and of the mad Gordons in whose domains he had first learned to
listen to the sound of the "two mighty voices" that haunted and inspired
him through life.

In the autumn of 1798 the family, i.e. his mother--who had sold the whole
of her household furniture for 75 _l_--with himself, and a maid, set
south. The poet's only recorded impression of the journey is a gleam of
Loch Leven, to which he refers in one of his latest letters. He never
revisited the land of his childhood. Our next glimpse of him is on his
passing the toll-bar of Newstead. Mrs. Byron asked the old woman who kept
it, "Who is the next heir?" and on her answer "They say it is a little boy
who lives at Aberdeen," "This is he, bless him!" exclaimed the nurse.

Returned to the ancestral Abbey, and finding it half ruined and desolate,
they migrated for a time to the neighbouring Nottingham. Here the child's
first experience was another course of surgical torture. He was placed
under the charge of a quack named Lavender, who rubbed his foot in oil,
and screwed it about in wooden machines. This useless treatment is
associated with two characteristic anecdotes. One relates to the endurance
which Byron, on every occasion of mere physical trial, was capable of
displaying. Mr. Rogers, a private tutor, with whom he was reading passages
of Virgil and Cicero, remarked, "It makes me uncomfortable, my lord, to
see you sitting them in such pain as I know you must be suffering." "Never
mind, Mr. Rogers." said the child, "you shall not see any signs of it in
me." The other illustrates his precocious delight in detecting imposture.
Having scribbled on a piece of paper several lines of mere gibberish, he
brought them to Lavender, and gravely asked what language it was; and on
receiving the answer "It is Italian," he broke into an exultant laugh at
the expense of his tormentor. Another story survives, of his vindictive
spirit giving birth to his first rhymes. A meddling old lady, who used to
visit his mother and was possessed of a curious belief in a future
transmigration to our satellite--the bleakness of whose scenery she had
not realized--having given him some cause of offence, he stormed out to
his nurse that he "could not bear the sight of the witch," and vented his
wrath in the quatrain.--

In Nottingham county there lives, at Swan Green,
As curst an old lady as ever was seen;
And when she does die, which I hope will be soon,
She firmly believes she will go to the moon.

The poet himself dates his "first dash into poetry" a year later (1800),
from his juvenile passion for his cousin Margaret Parker, whose subsequent
death from an injury caused by a fall he afterwards deplored in a
forgotten elegy. "I do not recollect," he writes through the transfiguring
mists of memory, "anything equal to the _transparent_ beauty of my cousin,
or to the sweetness of her temper, during the short period of our
intimacy. She looked as if she had been made out of a rainbow--all beauty
and peace. My passion had the usual effects upon me--I could not sleep; I
could not eat; I could not rest. It was the texture of my life to think of
the time that must elapse before we could meet again. But I was a fool
then, and not much wiser now." _Sic transit secunda_.

The departure at a somewhat earlier date of May Gray for her native
country, gave rise to evidence of another kind of affection. On her
leaving he presented her with his first watch, and a miniature by Kay of
Edinburgh, representing him with a bow and arrow in his hand and a
profusion of hair over his shoulders. He continued to correspond with her
at intervals. Byron was always beloved by his servants. This nurse
afterwards married well, and during her last illness, in 1827,
communicated to her attendant, Dr. Ewing of Aberdeen, recollections of the
poet, from which his biographers have drawn.

In the summer of 1799 he was sent to London, entrusted to the medical care
of Dr. Baillie (brother of Joanna, the dramatist), and placed in a
boarding school at Dulwich, under the charge of Dr. Glennie. The physician
advised a moderation in athletic sports, which the patient in his hours of
liberty was constantly apt to exceed. The teacher--who continued to
cherish an affectionate remembrance of his pupil, even when he was told,
on a visit to Geneva in 1817, that, he ought to have "made a better boy of
him"--testifies to the alacrity with which he entered on his tasks, his
playful good-humour with his comrades, his reading in history beyond his
age, and his intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures. "In my study," he
states, "he found many books open to him; among others, a set of our poets
from Chaucer to Churchill, which I am almost tempted to say he had more
than once perused from beginning to end." One of the books referred to was
the _Narrative of the Shipwreck of the "Juno,"_ which contains, almost
word for word, the account of the "two fathers," in _Don Juan_. Meanwhile
Mrs. Byron,--whose reduced income had been opportunely augmented by a
grant of a 300_l_. annuity from the Civil List,--after revisiting Newstead
followed her son to London, and took up her residence in a house in
Sloane-terrace. She was in the habit of having him with her there from
Saturday to Monday, kept him from school for weeks, introduced him to idle
company, and in other ways was continually hampering his progress.

Byron on his accession to the peerage having become a ward in Chancery,
was handed over by the Court to the guardianship of Lord Carlisle, nephew
of the admiral, and son of the grand aunt of the poet. Like his mother
this Earl aspired to be a poet, and his tragedy, _The Father's Revenge_,
received some commendation from Dr. Johnson; but his relations with his
illustrious kinsman were from the first unsatisfactory. In answer to Dr.
Glennie's appeal, he exerted his authority against the interruptions to
his ward's education; but the attempt to mend matters led to such
outrageous exhibitions of temper that he said to the master, "I can have
nothing more to do with Mrs. Byron; you must now manage her as you can."
Finally, after two years of work, which she had done her best to mar, she
herself requested his guardian to have her son removed to a public school,
and accordingly he went to Harrow, where he remained till the autumn of
1805. The first vacation, in the summer of 1801, is marked by his visit to
Cheltenham, where his mother, from whom he inherited a fair amount of
Scotch superstition, consulted a fortune-teller, who said he would be
twice married, the second time to a foreigner.

Harrow was then under the management of Dr. Joseph Drury, one of the most
estimable of its distinguished head-masters. His account of the first
impressions produced by his pupil, and his judicious manner of handling a
sensitive nature, cannot with advantage be condensed. "Mr. Hanson," he
writes, "Lord Byron's solicitor, consigned him to my care at the age of
thirteen and a half, with remarks that his education had been neglected;
that he was ill prepared for a public school; but that he thought there
was a cleverness about him. After his departure I took my young disciple
into my study, and endeavoured to bring him forward by inquiries as to his
former amusements, employments, and associates, but with little or no
effect, and I soon found that a wild mountain colt had been submitted to
my management. But there was mind in his eye. In the first place, it was
necessary to attach him to an elder boy; but the information he received
gave him no pleasure when he heard of the advances of some much younger
than himself. This I discovered, and assured him that he should not be
placed till by diligence he might rank with those of his own age. His
manner and temper soon convinced me that he might be led by a silken
string to a point, rather than a cable: on that principle I acted."

After a time, Dr. Drury tells us that he waited on Lord Carlisle, who
wished to give some information about his ward's property and to inquire
respecting his abilities, and continues: "On the former circumstance I
made no remark; as to the latter I replied, 'He has talents, my lord,
which will add lustre to his rank.' 'Indeed!' said his lordship, with a
degree of surprise that, according to my feeling, did not express in it
all the satisfaction I expected." With, perhaps, unconscious humour on the
part of the writer, we are left in doubt as to whether the indifference
proceeded from the jealousy that clings to poetasters, from incredulity,
or a feeling that no talent could add lustre to rank.

In 1804 Byron refers to the antipathy his mother had to his guardian.
Later he expresses gratitude for some unknown service, in recognition of
which the second edition of the _Hours of Idleness_ was dedicated "by his
obliged ward and affectionate kinsman," to Lord Carlisle. The tribute
being coldly received, led to fresh estrangement, and when Byron, on his
coming of age, wrote to remind the Earl of the fact, in expectation of
being introduced to the House of Peers, he had for answer a mere formal
statement of its rules. This rebuff affected him as Addison's praise of
Tickell affected Pope, and the following lines, were published in the
March of the same year:--

Lords too are bards! such things at times befall,
And 'tis some praise in peers to write at all.
Yet did or taste or reason sway the times,
Ah! who would take their titles with their rhymes.
Roscommon! Sheffield! with your spirits fled,
No future laurels deck a noble head;
No muse will cheer, with renovating smile
The paralytic puling of Carlisle.

In prose he adds, "If, before I escaped from my teens, I said anything in
favour of his lordship's paper-books, it was in the way of dutiful
dedication, and more from the advice of others than my own judgment; and I
seize the first opportunity of pronouncing my sincere recantation." As was
frequently the case with him, he recanted again. In a letter of 1814 he
expressed to Rogers his regret for his sarcasms; and in his reference to
the death of the Hon. Frederick Howard, in the third canto of _Childe
Harold_, he tried to make amends in the lines--

Yet one I would select from that proud throng,
Partly because they blend me with his line,
And partly that I did his sire some wrong.

This is all of any interest we know regarding the fitful connection of the
guardian and ward.

Towards Dr. Drury the poet continued through life to cherish sentiments of
gratitude, and always spoke of him with veneration. "He was," he says,
"the best, the kindest (and yet strict too) friend I ever had; and I look
on him still as a father, whose warnings I have remembered but too well,
though too late, when I have erred, and whose counsel I have but followed
when I have done well or wisely."

Great educational institutions must consult the greatest good of the
greatest number of common-place minds, by regulations against which genius
is apt to kick; and Byron, who was by nature and lack of discipline
peculiarly ill fitted to conform to routine, confesses that till the last
year and a half he hated Harrow. He never took kindly to the studies of
the place, and was at no time an accurate scholar. In the _Bards and
Reviewers_, and elsewhere, he evinces considerable familiarity with the
leading authors of antiquity, but it is doubtful whether he was able to
read any of the more difficult of them in the original. His translations
are generally commonplace, and from the marks on his books he must have
often failed to trust his memory for the meanings of the most ordinary
Greek words. To the well-known passage in _Childe Harold_ on Soracte and
the "Latian echoes" he appends a prose comment, which preserves its
interest as hearing on recent educational controversies:--"I wish to
express that we become tired of the task before we can comprehend the
beauty; that we learn by rote, before we get by heart; that the freshness
is worn away, and the future pleasure and advantage deadened and
destroyed, at an age when we can neither feel nor understand the power of
composition, which it requires an acquaintance with life, as well as Latin
and Greek, to relish or to reason upon.... In some parts of the continent
young persons are taught from common authors, and do not read the best
classics till their maturity."

Comparatively slight stress was then laid on modern languages. Byron
learnt to read French with fluency, as he certainly made himself familiar
with the great works of the eighteenth century; but he spoke it with so
little ease or accuracy that the fact was always a stumbling-block to his
meeting Frenchmen abroad. Of German he had a mere smattering. Italian was
the only language, besides his own, of which he was ever a master. But the
extent and variety of his general reading was remarkable. His list of
books, drawn up in 1807, includes more history and biography than most men
of education read during a long life; a fair load of philosophy; the poets
en masse; among orators, Demosthenes, Cicero, and Parliamentary debates
from the Revolution to the year 1742; pretty copious divinity, including
Blair, Tillotson, Hooker, with the characteristic addition--"all very
tiresome. I abhor books of religion, though I reverence and love my God
without the blasphemous notions of sectaries." Lastly, under the head of
"Miscellanies" we have _Spectator, Rambler, World, &c., &c_; among novels,
the works of Cervantes, Fielding, Smollett, Richardson, Mackenzie, Sterne,
Rabelais, and Rousseau. He recommends Burton's _Anatomy of Melancholy_ as
the best storehouse for second-hand quotations, as Sterne and others have
found it, and tells us that the great part of the books named were perused
before the age of fifteen. Making allowance for the fact that most of the
poet's autobiographic sketches are emphatically _"Dichtang und Wahrheit,"_
we can believe that he was an omnivorous reader--"I read eating, read in
bed, read when no one else reads"--and, having a memory only less
retentive than Macaulay's, acquired so much general information as to be
suspected of picking it up from Reviews. He himself declares that he never
read a Review till he was eighteen years old--when, he himself wrote one,
utterly worthless, on Wordsworth.

At Harrow, Byron proved himself capable of violent fits of work, but of
"few continuous drudgeries." He would turn out an unusual number of
hexameters, and again lapse into as much idleness as the teachers would
tolerate. His forte was in declamation: his attitude and delivery, and
power of extemporizing, surprised even critical listeners into unguarded
praise. "My qualities," he says, "were much more oratorical and martial
than poetical; no one had the least notion that I should subside into
poesy." Unpopular at first, he began to like school when he had fought his
way to be a champion, and from his energy in sports more than from the
impression produced by his talents had come to be recognized as a leader
among his fellows. Unfortunately, towards the close of his course, in
1805, the headship of Harrow changed hands. Dr. Drury retired, and was
succeeded by Dr. Butler. This event suggested the lines beginning,--

Where are those honours, Ida, once your own,
When Probus fill'd your magisterial throne?

The appointment was generally unpopular among the boys, whose sympathies
were enlisted in favour of Mark Drury, brother of their former master, and
Dr. Butler seems for a time to have had considerable difficulty in
maintaining discipline. Byron, always "famous for rowing," was a
ringleader of the rebellious party, and compared himself to Tyrlaeus. On
one occasion he tore down the window gratings in a room of the
school-house, with the remark that they darkened the hall; on another he
is reported to have refused a dinner invitation from the master, with the
impertinent remark that he would never think of asking him in return to
dine at Newstead. On the other hand, he seems to have set limits to the
mutiny, and prevented some of the boys from setting their desks on fire by
pointing to their fathers' names carved on them. Byron afterwards
expressed regret for his rudeness; but Butler remains in his verse as
Pomposus "of narrow brain, yet of a narrower soul."

Of the poet's free hours, during the last years of his residence which he
refers to as among the happiest of his life, many were spent in solitary
musing by an elm-tree, near a tomb to which his name has been given--a
spot commanding a far view of London, of Windsor "bosomed high in tufted
trees," and of the green fields that stretch between, covered in spring
with the white and red snow of apple blossom. The others were devoted to
the society of his chosen comrades. Byron, if not one of the safest, was
one of the warmest of friends; and he plucked the more eagerly at the
choicest fruit of English public school and college life, from the feeling
he so pathetically expresses,--

Is there no cause beyond the common claim,
Endear'd to all in childhood's very name?
Ah, sure some stronger impulse vibrates here,
Which whispers Friendship will be doubly dear
To one who thus for kindred hearts must roam,
And seek abroad the love denied at home.
Those hearts, dear Ida, have I found in thee--
A home, a world, a paradise to me.

Of his Harrow intimates, the most prominent were the Duke of Dorset, the
poet's favoured fag; Lord Clare (the Lycus of the _Childish
Recollections_); Lord Delawarr (the Euryalus); John Wingfield (Alonzo),
who died at Coimbra, 1811; Cecil Tattersall (Davus); Edward Noel Long
(Cleon); Wildman, afterwards proprietor of Newstead; and Sir Robert Peel.
Of the last, his form-fellow and most famous of his mates, the story is
told of his being unmercifully beaten for offering resistance to his fag
master, and Byron rushing up to intercede with an offer to take half the
blows. Peel was an exact contemporary, having been born in the same year,
1788. It has been remarked that most of the poet's associates were his
juniors, and, less fairly, that he liked to regard them as his satellites.
But even at Dulwich his ostentation of rank had provoked for him the
nickname of "the old English baron." To Wildman, who, as a senior, had a
right of inflicting chastisement for offences, he said, "I find you have
got Delawarr on your list; pray don't lick him." "Why not?" was the reply.
"Why, I don't know, except that he is a brother peer." Again, he
interfered with the more effectual arm of physical force to rescue a
junior protege--lame like himself, and otherwise much weaker--from the
ill-treatment of some hulking tyrant. "Harness," he said, "if any one
bullies you, tell me, and I'll thrash him if I can;" and he kept his word.
Harness became an accomplished clergyman and minor poet, and has left some
pleasing reminiscences of his former patron. The prodigy of the school,
George Sinclair, was in the habit of writing the poet's exercises, and
getting his battles fought for him in return. His bosom friend was Lord
Clare. To him his confidences were most freely given, and his most
affectionate verses addressed. In the characteristic stanzas entitled
"L'amitie est l'amour sans ailes," we feel as if between them the
qualifying phrase might have been omitted: for their letters, carefully
preserved on either side, are a record of the jealous complaints and the
reconciliations of lovers. In 1821 Byron writes, "I never hear the name
Clare without a beating of the heart even now; and I write it with the
feelings of 1803-4-5, ad infinitum." At the same date he says of an
accidental meeting: "It annihilated for a moment all the years between the
present time and the days of Harrow. It was a new and inexplicable
feeling, like a rising from the grave to me. Clare too was much
agitated--more in appearance than I was myself--for I could feel his heart
beat to his fingers' ends, unless, indeed, it was the pulse of my own
which made me think so. We were but five minutes together on the public
road, but I hardly recollect an hour of my existence that could be weighed
against them." They were "all that brothers should be but the name;" and
it is interesting to trace this relationship between the greatest genius
of the new time and the son of the statesman who, in the preceding age,
stands out serene and strong amid the swarm of turbulent rioters and
ranting orators by whom he was surrounded and reviled.

Before leaving Harrow the poet had passed through the experience of a
passion of another kind, with a result that unhappily coloured his life.
Accounts differ as to his first meeting with Mary Ann Chaworth, the
heiress of the family whose estates adjoined his own, and daughter of the
race that had held with his such varied relations. In one of his letters
ho dates the introduction previous to his trip to Cheltenham, but it seems
not to have ripened into intimacy till a later period. Byron, who had, in
the autumn of 1802, visited his mother at Bath, joined in a masquerade
there and attracted attention by the liveliness of his manners. In the
following year Mrs. Byron again settled at Nottingham, and in the course
of a second and longer visit to her he frequently passed the night at the
Abbey, of which Lord Grey de Ruthyn was then a temporary tenant. This was
the occasion of his renewing his acquaintance with the Chaworths, who
invited him to their seat at Annesley. He used at first to return every
evening to Newstead, giving the excuse that the family pictures would come
down and take revenge on him for his grand-uncle's deed, a fancy repeated
in the _Siege of Corinth_. Latterly he consented to stay at Annesley,
which thus became his headquarters during the remainder of the holidays of
1803. The rest of the six weeks were mainly consumed in an excursion to
Matlock and Castleton, in the same companionship. This short period, with
the exception of prologue and epilogue, embraced the whole story of his
first real love. Byron was on this occasion in earnest; he wished to marry
Miss Chaworth, an event which, he says, would have "joined broad lands,
healed an old feud, and satisfied at least one heart."

The intensity of his passion is suggestively brought before us in an
account of his crossing the Styx of the Peak cavern, alone with the lady
and the Charon of the boat. In the same passage he informs us that he had
never told his love; but that she had discovered--it is obvious that she
never returned--it. We have another vivid picture of his irritation when
she was waltzing in his presence at Matlock; then an account of their
riding together in the country on their return to the family residence;
again, of his bending over the piano as she was playing the Welsh air of
"Mary Anne;" and lastly, of his overhearing her heartless speech to her
maid, which first opened his eyes to the real state of affairs--"Do you
think I could care for that lame boy?"--upon which he rushed out of the
house, and ran, like a hunted creature, to Newstead. Thence he shortly
returned from the rougher school of life to his haunts and tasks at
Harrow. A year later the pair again met to take farewell, on the hill of
Annesley--an incident he has commemorated in two short stanzas, that have
the sound of a wind moaning over a moor. "I suppose," he said, "the next
time I see you, you will be Mrs. Chaworth?" "I hope so," she replied (her
betrothed, Mr. Musters, had agreed to assume her family name). The
announcement of her marriage, which took place in August, 1805, was made
to him by his mother, with the remark, "I have some news for you. Take out
your handkerchief; you will require it." On hearing what she had to say,
with forced calm he turned the conversation to other subjects; but he was
long haunted by a loss which he has made the theme of many of his verses.
In 1807 he sent to the lady herself the lines beginning,--

O had my fate been join'd with thine.

In the following year he accepted an invitation to dine at Annesley, and
was visibly affected by the sight of the infant daughter of Mrs. Chaworth,
to whom he addressed a touching congratulation. Shortly afterwards, when
about to leave England for the first time, he finally addressed her in the

'Tis done, and shivering in the gale,
The bark unfurls her snowy sail.

Some years later, having an opportunity of revisiting the family of his
successful rival, Mrs. Leigh dissuaded him. "Don't go," she said, "for if
you do you will certainly fall in love again, and there will be a scene."
The romance of the story culminates in the famous _Dream_, a poem of
unequal merit, but containing passages of real pathos, written in the year
1816 at Diodati, as we are told, amid a flood of tears.

Miss Chaworth's attractions, beyond those of personal beauty, seem to have
been mainly due--a common occurrence--to the poet's imagination. A young
lady, two years his senior, of a lively and volatile temper, she enjoyed
the stolen interviews at the gate between the grounds, and laughed at the
ardent letters, passed through a confidant, of the still awkward youth
whom she regarded as a boy. She had no intuition to divine the presence,
or appreciate the worship, of one of the future master-minds of England,
nor any ambition to ally herself with the wild race of Newstead, and
preferred her hale, commonplace, fox-hunting squire. "She was the beau
ideal," says Byron, in his first accurate prose account of the affair,
written 1823, a few days before his departure for Greece, "of all that my
youthful fancy could paint of beautiful. And I have taken all my fables
about the celestial nature of women from the perfection my imagination
created in her. I say created; for I found her, like the rest of the sex,
anything but angelic."

Mrs. Musters (her husband re-asserted his right to his own name) had in
the long-run reason to regret her choice. The ill-assorted pair after some
unhappy years resolved on separation; and falling into bad health and
worse spirits, the "bright morning star of Annesley" passed under a cloud
of mental darkness. She died, in 1832, of fright caused by a Nottingham
riot. On the decease of Musters, in 1850, every relic of her ancient
family was sold by auction and scattered to the winds.



In October, 1805, on the advice of Dr. Drury, Byron was removed to Trinity
College, Cambridge, and kept up a connexion with the University for less
than three years of very irregular attendance, during which we hear
nothing of his studies, except the contempt for them expressed in some of
the least effective passages of his early satires. He came into residence
in bad temper and low spirits. His attachment to Harrow characteristically
redoubled as the time drew near to leave it, and his rest was broken "for
the last quarter, with counting the hours that remained." He was about to
start by himself, with the heavy feeling that he was no longer a boy, and
yet, against his choice, for he wished to go to Oxford. The _Hours of
Idleness_, the product of this period, are fairly named. He was so idle as
regards "problems mathematic," and "barbarous Latin," that it is matter of
surprise to learn that he was able to take his degree, as he did in March,

A good German critic, dwelling on the comparatively narrow range of
studies to which the energies of Cambridge were then mainly directed, adds
somewhat rashly, that English national literature stands for the most part
beyond the range of the academic circle, This statement is often
reiterated with persistent inaccuracy; but the most casual reference to
biography informs us that at least four-fifths of the leading statesmen,
reformers, and philosophers of England, have been nurtured within the
walls of her universities, and cherished a portion of their spirit. From
them have sprung the intellectual fires that have, at every crisis of our
history, kindled the nation into a new life; from the age of Wycliffe,
through those of Latimer, Locke, Gibbon, Macaulay, to the present reign of
the Physicists, comparatively few of the motors of their age have been
wholly "without the academic circle." Analysing with the same view the
lives of the British poets of real note from Barbour to Tennyson, we find
the proportion of University men increases. "Poeta nascitur et fit;" and
if the demands of technical routine have sometimes tended to stifle, the
comparative repose of a seclusion "unravaged" by the fierce activities
around it, the habit of dwelling on the old wisdom and harping on the
ancient strings, is calculated to foster the poetic temper and enrich its
resources. The discouraging effect of a sometimes supercilious and
conservative criticism is not an unmixed evil. The verse-writer who can be
snuffed out by the cavils of a tutorial drone, is a poetaster silenced for
his country's good. It is true, however, that to original minds, bubbling
with spontaneity, or arrogant with the consciousness of power, the
discipline is hard, and the restraint excessive; and that the men whom
their colleges are most proud to remember, have handled them severely.
Bacon inveighs against the scholastic trifling of his day; Milton talks of
the waste of time on litigious brawling; Locke mocks at the logic of the
schools; Cowley complains of being taught words, not things; Gibbon
rejoices over his escape from the port and prejudice of Magdalen;
Wordsworth contemns the "trade in classic niceties," and roves "in
magisterial liberty" by the Cam, as afterwards among the hills.

But all those hostile critics owe much to the object of their
animadversion. Any schoolboy can refer the preference of Light to Fruit in
the _Novum Organum_, half of _Comus_ and _Lycidas_, the stately periods of
the _Decline and Fall_, and the severe beauties of _Laodamia_, to the
better influences of academic training on the minds of their authors.
Similarly, the richest pages of Byron's work--from the date of _The Curse
of Minerva_ to that of the "Isles of Greece"--are brightened by lights and
adorned by allusions due to his training, imperfect as it was, on the
slopes of Harrow, and the associations fostered during his truant years by
the sluggish stream of his "Injusta noverca." At her, however, he
continued to rail as late as the publication of _Beppo_, in the 75th and
76th stanzas of which we find another cause of complaint,--

One hates an author that's all author, fellows
In foolscap uniforms turn'd up with ink--
So very anxious, clever, fine, and jealous,
One don't know what to say to them, or think.

Then, after commending Scott, Bogers, and Moore for being men of the
world, he proceeds:--

But for the children of the "mighty mother's,"
The would-be wits and can't-be gentlemen,
I leave them to the daily "Tea is ready,"
Snug coterie, and literary lady.

This attack, which called forth a counter invective of unusual ferocity
from some unknown scribbler, is the expression of a sentiment which, sound
enough within limits, Byron pushed to an extreme. He had a rooted dislike,
of professional _litterateurs_, and was always haunted by a dread that
they would claim equality with him on the common ground of authorship. He
aspired through life to the superiority of a double distinction, that of a
"lord among wits, and among wits a lord." In this same spirit lie resented
the comparison frequently made between him and Rousseau, and insisted on
points of contrast. "He had a bad memory, I a good one. He was of the
people; I of the aristocracy." Byron was capable, of unbending, where the
difference of rank was so great that it could not be ignored. On this
principle we may explain his enthusiastic regard for the chorister
Eddlestone, from whom he received the cornelian that is the theme of some
of his verses, and whose untimely death in 1811 he sincerely mourned.

Of his Harrow friends, Harness and Long in due course followed him to
Cambridge, where their common pursuits were renewed. With the latter, who
was drowned in 1809, on a passage to Lisbon with his regiment, he spent a
considerable portion of his time on the Cam, swimming and diving, in which
art they were so expert as to pick up eggs, plates, thimbles, and coins
from a depth of fourteen feet--incidents recalled to the poet's mind by
reading Milton's invocation to Sabrina. During the, same period he
distinguished himself at cricket, as in boxing, riding, and shooting. Of
his skill as a rider there are various accounts. He was an undoubted
marksman, and his habit of carrying about pistols, and use of them
wherever he went, was often a source of annoyance and alarm. He professed
a theoretical objection to duelling, but was as ready to take a challenge
as Scott, and more ready to send one.

Regarding the masters and professors of Cambridge, Byron has little to
say. His own tutor, Tavell, appears pleasantly enough in his verse, and he
commends the head of his college, Dr. Lort Mansel, for dignified demeanour
in his office, and a past reputation for convivial wit. His attentions to
Professor Hailstones at Harrowgate were graciously offered and received;
but in a letter to Murray he gives a graphically abusive account of
Porson, "hiccuping Greek like a Helot" in his cups. The poet was first
introduced at Cambridge to a brilliant circle of contemporaries, whose
talents or attainments soon made them more or less conspicuous, and most
of whom are interesting on their own account as well as from their
connection with the subsequent phases of his career. By common consent
Charles Skinner Matthews, son of the member for Herefordshire, 1802-6, was
the most remarkable of the group. Distinguished alike for scholarship,
physical and mental courage, subtlety of thought, humour of fancy, and
fascinations of character, this young man seems to have made an impression
on the undergraduates of his own, similar to that left by Charles Austin
on those of a later generation. The loss of this friend Byron always
regarded as an incalculable calamity. In a note to _Childe Harold_ he
writes, "I should have ventured on a verse to the memory of Matthews, were
he not too much above all praise of mine. His powers of mind shown in the
attainment of greater honours against the ablest candidates, than those of
any graduate on record at Cambridge, have sufficiently established his
fame on the spot where it was acquired; while his softer qualities live in
the recollection of friends, who loved him too well to envy his
superiority." He was drowned when bathing alone among the reeds of the
Cam, in the summer of 1811.

In a letter written from Ravenna in 1820, Byron, in answer to a request
for contributions to a proposed memoir, introduces into his notes much
autobiographical matter. In reference to a joint visit to Newstead, he
writes: "Matthews and myself had travelled down from London together,
talking all the way incessantly upon one single topic. When we got to
Loughborough, I know not what chasm had made us diverge for a moment to
some other subject, at which he was indignant. 'Come,' said he, 'don't let
us break through; let us go on as we began, to our journey's end;' and so
he continued, and was as entertaining as ever to the very end. He had
previously occupied, during my year's absence from Cambridge, my rooms in
Trinity, with the furniture; and Jones (his tutor), in his odd way had
said, in putting him in, 'Mr. Matthews, I recommend to your attention not
to damage any of the movables, for Lord Byron, sir, is a young man of
_tumultuous passions_.' Matthews was delighted with this, and whenever
anybody came, to visit him, begged them to handle the very door with
caution, and used to repeat Jones's admonition in his tone and manner....
He had the same droll sardonic way about everything. A wild Irishman,
named F., one evening beginning to say something at a large supper,
Matthews roared 'Silence!' and then pointing to F., cried out, in the
words of the oracle, 'Orson is endowed with reason.' When Sir Henry Smith
was expelled from Cambridge for a row with a tradesman named 'Hiron,'
Matthews solaced himself with shouting under Hiron's windows every

Ah me! what perils do environ
The man who meddles with hot Hiron!

He was also of that band of scoffers who used to rouse Lort Mansel from
his slumbers in the lodge of Trinity; and when he appeared at the window,
foaming with wrath, and crying out, "I know you, gentlemen; I know you!"
were wont to reply, "We beseech thee to hear us, good Lort. Good Lort,
deliver us!"

The whole letter, written in the poet's mature and natural style, gives a
vivid picture of the social life and surroundings of his Cambridge days:
how much of the set and sententious moralizing of some of his formal
biographers might we not have spared, for a report of the conversation on
the road from London to Newstead. Of the others gathered round the same
centre, Scrope Davies enlisted the largest share of Byron's affections. To
him he wrote after the catastrophe:--"Come to me, Scrope; I am almost
desolate--left alone in the world. I had but you, and H., and M., and let
me enjoy the survivors while I can." Later he says, "Matthews, Davies,
Hobhouse, and myself formed a coterie of our own. Davies has always beaten
us all in the war of words, and by colloquial powers at once delighted and
kept us in order; even M. yielded to the dashing vivacity of S.D." The
last is everywhere commended for the brilliancy of his wit and repartee:
he was never afraid to speak the truth. Once when the poet in one of his
fits of petulance exclaimed, intending to produce a terrible impression,
"I shall go mad!" Davies calmly and cuttingly observed, "It is much more
like silliness than madness!" He was the only man who ever laid Byron
under any serious pecuniary obligation, having lent him 4800_l_. in some
time of strait. This was repaid on March 27, 1814, when the pair sat up
over champagne and claret from six till midnight, after which "Scrope
could not be got into the carriage on the way home, but remained tipsy and
pious on his knees." Davies was much disconcerted at the influence which
the sceptical opinions of Matthews threatened to exercise over Byron's
mind. The fourth of this quadrangle of amity was John Cam Hobhouse,
afterwards Lord Broughton, the steadfast friend of the poet's whole life,
the companion of his travels, the witness of his marriage, the executor of
his will, the zealous guardian and vindicator of his fame. His ability is
abundantly attested by the impression he left on his contemporaries, his
published description of the Pilgrimage, and subsequent literary and
political career. Byron bears witness to the warmth of his affections, and
the charms of his conversation, and to the candour which, as he confessed
to Lady Blessington, sometimes tried his patience. There is little doubt
that they had some misunderstanding when travelling together, but it was a
passing cloud. Eighteen months after his return the poet admits that
Hobhouse was his best friend; and when he unexpectedly walked up the
stairs of the Palazzo Lanfranchi, at Pisa, Madame Guiccioli informs us
that Byron was seized with such violent emotion, and so extreme an excess
of joy, that it seemed to take away his strength, and he was forced to sit
down in tears.

On the edge of this inner circle, and in many respects associated with it,
was the Rev. Francis Hodgson, a ripe scholar, good translator, a sound
critic, a fluent writer of graceful verse, and a large-hearted divine,
whoso correspondence, recently edited with a connecting narrative by his
son, has thrown light on disputed passages of Lord Byron's life. The views
entertained by the friends on literary matters were almost identical; they
both fought under the standards of the classic school; they resented the
same criticisms, they applauded the same successes, and were bound
together by the strong tie of mutual admiration. Byron commends Hodgson's
verses, and encourages him to write; Hodgson recognizes in the _Bards and
Reviewers_ and the early cantos of _Childe Harold_ the promise of
_Manfred_ and _Cain_. Among the associates who strove to bring the poet
back to the anchorage of fixed belief, and to wean him from the error of
his thoughts, Francis Hodgson was the most charitable, and therefore the
most judicious. That his cautions and exhortations were never stultified
by pedantry or excessive dogmatism, is apparent from the frank and
unguarded answers which they called forth. In several, which are
preserved, and some for the first time reproduced in the
recently-published Memoir, we are struck by the mixture of audacity and
superficial dogmatism, sometimes amounting to effrontery, that is apt to
characterize the negations of a youthful sceptic. In September, 1811,
Byron writes from Newstead:--"I will have nothing to do with your
immortality; we are miserable enough in this life, without the absurdity
of speculating upon another. Christ came to save men, but a good Pagan
will go to heaven, and a bad Nazarene to hell. I am no Platonist, I am
nothing at all; but I would sooner be a Paulician, Manichean, Spinozist,
Gentile, Pyrrhonian, Zoroastrian, than one of the seventy-two villainous
sects who are tearing each other to pieces for the love of the Lord and
hatred of each other. I will bring ten Mussulman, shall shame you all in
good will towards men and prayer to God." On a similar outburst in verse,
the Rev. F. Hodgson comments with a sweet humanity, "The poor dear soul
meant nothing of this." Elsewhere the poet writes, "I have read Watson to
Gibbon. He proves nothing; so I am where I was, verging towards Spinoza;
and yet it is a gloomy creed; and I want a better; but there is something
pagan in me that I cannot shake off. _In short, I deny nothing, but I
doubt everything_." But his early attitude on matters of religion is best
set forth in a letter to Gilford, of 1813, in which he says, "I am no
bigot to infidelity, and did not expect that because I doubted the
immortality of man I should be charged with denying the existence of a
God. It was the comparative insignificance of ourselves and our world,
when placed in comparison of the mighty whole of which man is an atom,
that first led me to imagine that our pretensions to eternity might be
overrated. This, and being early disgusted with a Calvinistic Scotch
school, where I was cudgelled to church for the first ten years of my
life, afflicted me with this malady; for, after all, it is, I believe, a
disease of the mind, as much as other kinds of hypochondria."

Hodgson was a type of friendly forbearance and loyal attachment, which
had for their return a perfect open-heartedness in his correspondent. To
no one did the poet more freely abuse himself; to no one did he indulge in
more reckless sallies of humour; to no one did he more readily betray his
little conceits. From him Byron sought and received advice, and he owed to
him the prevention of what might have been a most foolish and disastrous
encounter. On the other hand, the clergyman was the recipient of one of
the poet's many single-hearted acts of munificence--a gift of 1000_l_., to
pay off debts to which he had been left heir. In a letter to his uncle,
the former gratefully alludes to this generosity: "Oh, if you knew the
exultation of heart, aye, and of head to, I feel at being free from those
depressing embarrassments, you would, as I do, bless my dearest friend and
brother, Byron." The whole transaction is a pleasing record of a benefit
that was neither sooner nor later resented by the receiver.

Among other associates of the same group should be mentioned Henry
Drury--long Hodgson's intimate friend, and ultimately his brother-in-law,
to whom many of Byron's first series of letters from abroad are
addressed--and Robert Charles Dallas, a name surrounded with various
associations, who played a not insignificant part in Byron's history, and,
after his death, helped to swell the throng of his annotators. This
gentleman, a connexion by marriage, and author of some now forgotten
novels, first made acquaintance with the poet in London early in 1808,
when we have two letters from Byron, in answer to some compliment on his
early volume, in which, though addressing his correspondent merely as
'Sir,' his flippancy and habit of boasting of excessive badness reach an
absurd climax.

Meanwhile, during the intervals of his attendance at college, Byron had
made other friends. His vacations were divided between London and
Southwell, a small town on the road from Mansfield and Newark, once a
refuge of Charles I., and still adorned by an old Norman Minster. Here
Mrs. Byron for several summer seasons took up her abode, and was
frequently joined by her son. He was introduced to John Pigot, a medical
student of Edinburgh, and his sister Elizabeth, both endowed with talents
above the average, and keenly interested in literary pursuits, to whom a
number of his letters are addressed; also to the Rev. J.T. Becher, author
of a treatise on the state of the poor, to whom he was indebted for
encouragement and counsel. The poet often rails at the place, which he
found dull in comparison with Cambridge and London; writing from the
latter, in 1807: "O Southwell, how I rejoice to have left thee! and how I
curse the heavy hours I dragged along for so many months among the Mohawks
who inhabit your kraals!" and adding, that his sole satisfaction during
his residence there was having pared off some pounds of flush.
Notwithstanding, in the small but select society of this inland
watering-place he passed on the whole a pleasant time--listening to the
music of the simple ballads in which he delighted, taking part in the
performances of the local theatre, making excursions, and writing verses.
This otherwise quiet time was disturbed by exhibitions of violence on the
part of Mrs. Byron, which suggest the idea of insanity. After one more
outrageous than usual, both mother and son are said to have gone to the
neighbouring apothecary, each to request him not to supply the other with
poison. On a later occasion, when he had been meeting her bursts of rage
with stubborn mockery, she flung a poker at his head, and narrowly missed
her aim. Upon this he took flight to London, and his Hydra or Alecto, as
ho calls her, followed: on their meeting a truce was patched, and they
withdrew in opposite directions, she back to Southwell, he to refresh
himself on the Sussex coast, till in the August of the same year (1806) he
again rejoined her. Shortly afterwards we have from Pigot a description of
a trip to Harrogate, when his lordship's favourite Newfoundland,
Boatswain, whose relation to his master recalls that of Bounce to Pope, or
Maida to Scott, sat on the box.

In November Byron printed for private circulation the first issue of his
juvenile poems. Mr. Becher having called his attention to one which he
thought objectionable, the impression was destroyed; and the author set to
work upon another, which, at once weeded and amplified, saw the light in
January, 1807. He sent copies, under the title of _Juvenilia_, to several
of his friends, and among others to Henry Mackenzie (the Man of Feeling),
and to Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee. Encouraged by their favourable
notices, he determined in appeal to a wider audience, and in March, 1807,
the _Hours of Idleness_, still proceeding from the local press at Newark,
were given to the world. In June we find the poet again writing from his
college rooms, dwelling with boyish detail on his growth in height and
reduction in girth, his late hours and heavy potations, his comrades, and
the prospects of his book. From July to September he dates from London,
excited by the praises of some now obscure magazine, and planning a
journey to the Hebrides. In October he is again settled at Cambridge, and
in a letter to Miss Pigot, makes a humorous reference to one of his
fantastic freaks: "I have got a new friend, the finest in the world--a
_tame bear_. When I brought him here, they asked me what I meant to do
with him, and my reply was, 'He should sit for a fellowship.' This answer
delighted them not." The greater part of the spring and summer of 1808 was
spent at Dorant's Hotel, Albemarle Street. Left to himself, he seems
during this period for the first time to have freely indulged in
dissipations, which are in most lives more or less carefully concealed.
But Byron, with almost unparalleled folly, was perpetually taking the
public into his confidence, and all his "sins of blood," with the strange
additions of an imaginative effrontery, have been thrust before us in a
manner in which Rochester or Rousseau might have thought indelicate.
Nature and circumstances conspired the result. With passions which he is
fond of comparing to the fires of Vesuvius and Hecla, he was, on his
entrance into a social life which his rank helped to surround with
temptations, unconscious of any sufficient motive for resisting them; he
had no one to restrain him from the whim of the moment, or with sufficient
authority to give him effective advice. A temperament of general
despondency, relieved by reckless outbursts of animal spirits, is the
least favourable to habitual self-control. The melancholy of Byron was not
of the pensive and innocent kind attributed to Cowley, rather that of the,
[Greek: melancholikoi] of whom Aristotle asserts, with profound
psychological or physiological intuition, that they are [Greek: aei en
sphodra orexei]. The absurdity of Moore's frequent declaration, that all
great poets are inly wrapt in perpetual gloom, is only to be excused by
the modesty which, in the saying so obviously excludes himself from the
list. But it is true that anomalous energies are sources of incessant
irritation to their possessor, until they have found their proper vent in
the free exercise of his highest faculties. Byron had not yet done, this,
when he was rushing about between London, Brighton, Cambridge, and
Newstead--shooting, gambling, swimming, alternately drinking deep and
trying to starve himself into elegance, green-room hunting, travelling
with disguised companions,[1] patronizing D'Egville the dancing-master,
Grimaldi the clown, and taking lessons from Mr. Jackson, the distinguished
professor of pugilism, to whom he afterwards affectionately refers as his
"old friend and corporeal pastor and master." There is no inducement to
dwell on amours devoid of romance, further than to remember that they
never trenched on what the common code of the fashionable world terms
dishonour. We may believe the poet's later assertion, backed by want of
evidence to the contrary, that he had never been the first means of
leading any one astray--a fact perhaps worthy the attention of those moral
worshippers of Goethe and Burns who hiss at Lord Byron's name.

[Footnote 1: In reference to one of these, see an interesting letter
from Mr. Minto to the _Athenaeum_ (Sept. 2nd, 1876), in which with
considerable though not conclusive ingenuity, he endeavours to
identify the girl with "Thyrza," and with "Astarte," whom he regards
as the same person.]

Though much of this year of his life was passed unprofitably, from it
dates the impulse that provoked him to put forth his powers. The
_Edinburgh_, with the attack on the _Hours of Idleness_, appeared in
March, 1808. This production, by Lord Brougham, is a specimen of the
tomahawk style of criticism prevalent in the early years of the century,
in which the main motive of the critic was, not to deal fairly with his
author, but to acquire for himself an easy reputation for cleverness, by a
series of smart contemptuous sentences. Taken apart, most of the
strictures of the _Edinburgh_ are sufficiently just, and the passages
quoted for censure are all bad. Byron's genius as a poet was not
remarkably precocious. The _Hours of Idleness_ seldom rise, either in
thought or expression, very far above the average level of juvenile verse;
many of the pieces in the collection are weak imitations, or commonplace
descriptions; others suggested by circumstances of local or temporary
interest, had served their turn before coming into print. Their prevailing
sentiment is an affectation of misanthropy, conveyed in such lines as

Weary of love, of life, devour'd with spleen,
I rest, a perfect Timon, not nineteen.

This mawkish element unfortunately survives in much of the author's later
verse. But even in this volume there are indications of force, and
command. The _Prayer of Nature_, indeed, though previously written, was
not included in the edition before the notice of the critic; but the sound
of _Loch-na-Gair_ and some of the stanzas on _Newstead_ ought to have
saved him from the mistake of his impudent advice. The poet, who through
life waited with feverish anxiety for every verdict on his work, is
reported after reading the review to have looked like a man about to send
a challenge. In the midst of a transparent show of indifference, he
confesses to have drunk three bottles of claret on the evening of its
appearance. But the wound did not mortify into torpor; the Sea-Kings'
blood stood him in good stead, and he was not long in collecting his
strength for the panther-like spring, which, gaining strength by its
delay, twelve months later made it impossible for him to be contemned.

The last months of the year he spent at Newstead, vacated by the tenant,
who had left the building in the tumble-down condition in which he found
it. Byron was, by his own acknowledgment, at this time, "heavily dipped,"
generosities having combined with selfish extravagances to the result; he
had no funds to subject the place to anything like a thorough repair, but
he busied himself in arranging a few of the rooms for his own present and
his mother's after use. About this date he writes to her, beginning in his
usual style, "Dear Madam," saying he has as yet no rooms ready for her
reception, but that on his departure she shall be tenant till his return.
During this interval he was studying Pope, and carefully maturing his own
Satire. In November the dog Boatswain died in a fit of madness. The event
called forth the famous burst of misanthropic verse, ending with the

To mark a friend's remains these stones arise;
I never knew but _one_, and _here_ he lies;--

and the inscription on the monument that still remains in the gardens of

Near this spot,
Are deposited the remains of one
Who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
And all the virtues of Man without his Vices.
This Praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
If inscribed over human ashes,
Is but a just tribute to the Memory of
Boatswain, a Dog,
Who was born at Newfoundland, May, 1803,
And died at Newstead Abbey, November 18, 1808.

On January 22, 1809, his lordship's coming of age was celebrated with
festivities, curtailed of their proportions by his limited means. Early in
spring he paid a visit to London, bringing the proof of his satire to the
publisher, Cawthorne. From St. James's Street he writes to Mrs. Byron, on
the death of Lord Falkland, who had been killed in a duel, and expresses a
sympathy for his family, left in destitute circumstances, whom he
proceeded to relieve with a generosity only equalled by the delicacy of
the manner in which it was shown. Referring to his own embarrassment, he
proceeds in the expression of a resolve, often repeated, "Come what may,
Newstead and I stand or fall together. I have now lived on the spot--I
have fixed my heart on it; and no pressure, present or future, shall
induce me to barter the last vestige of our inheritance." He was building
false hopes on the result of the suit for the Rochdale property, which,
being dragged from court to court, involved him in heavy expenses, with no
satisfactory result. He took his seat in the House of Lords on the 13th of
March, and Mr. Dallas, who accompanied him to the bar of the House, has
left an account of his somewhat unfortunate demeanour.

"His countenance, paler than usual, showed that his mind was agitated, and
that he was thinking of the nobleman to whom he had once looked for a hand
and countenance in his introduction. There were very few persons in the
House. Lord Eldon was going through some ordinary business. When Lord
Byron had taken the oaths, the Chancellor quitted his seat, and went
towards him with a smile, putting out his hand warmly to welcome him; and,
though I did not catch the words, I saw that he paid him some compliment.
This was all thrown away upon Lord Byron, who made a stiff bow, and put
the tips of his fingers into the Chancellor's hand. The Chancellor did not
press a welcome so received, but resumed his seat; while Lord Byron
carelessly seated himself for a few minutes on one of the empty benches to
the left of the throne, usually occupied by the lords in Opposition. When,
on his joining me, I expressed what I had felt, he said 'If I had shaken
hands heartily, he would have set me down for one of his party; but I will
have nothing to do with them on either side. I have taken my seat, and now
I will go abroad.'"

A few days later the _English Bards and Scotch Reviewers_ appeared before
the public. The first anonymous edition was exhausted in a month; a
second, to which the author gave his name, quickly followed. He was wont
at a later date to disparage this production, and frequently recanted many
of his verdicts in marginal notes. Several, indeed, seem to have been
dictated by feelings so transitory, that in the course of the correction
of proof blame was turned into praise, and praise into blame; i.e. he
wrote in MS. before he met the agreeable author,--

I leave topography to coxcomb Gell;

we have his second thought in the first edition, before he saw the

I leave topography to classic Gell;

and his third, half way in censure, in the fifth,--

I leave topography to rapid Gell.

Of such materials are literary judgments made!

The success of Byron's satire was due to the fact of its being the only
good thing of its kind since Churchill,--for in the _Baviad_ and _Maeviad_
only butterflies were broken upon the wheel--and to its being the first
promise of a now power. The _Bards and Reviewers_ also enlisted sympathy,
from its vigorous attack upon the critics who had hitherto assumed the
prerogative of attack. Jeffrey and Brougham were seethed in their own
milk; and outsiders, whose credentials were still being examined, as Moore
and Campbell, came in for their share of vigorous vituperation. The Lakers
fared worst of all. It was the beginning of the author's life-long war,
only once relaxed, with Southey. Wordsworth--though against this passage
is written "unjust," a concession not much sooner made than withdrawn,--is
dubbed an idiot, who--

Both by precept and example shows,
That prose is verse and verse is only prose;

and Coleridge, a baby,--

To turgid ode and tumid stanza dear.

The lines ridiculing the encounter between Jeffrey and Moore, are a fair
specimen of the accuracy with which the author had caught the ring of
Pope's antithesis:--

The surly Tolbooth scarcely kept her place.
The Tolbooth felt--for marble sometimes can,
On such occasions, feel as much as man--
The Tolbooth felt defrauded of her charms,
If Jeffrey died, except within her arms.

Meanwhile Byron had again retired to Newstead, where he invited some
choice spirits to hold a few weeks of farewell revel. Matthews, one of
these, gives an account of the place, and the time they spent
there--entering the mansion between a bear and a wolf, amid a salvo of
pistol-shots; sitting up to all hours, talking politics, philosophy,
poetry; hearing stories of the dead lords, and the ghost of the Black
Brother; drinking their wine out of the skull cup which the owner had made
out of the cranium of some old monk dug up in the garden; breakfasting at
two, then reading, fencing, riding, cricketing, sailing on the lake, and
playing with the bear or teasing the wolf. The party broke up without
having made themselves responsible for any of the orgies of which Childe
Harold raves, and which Dallas in good earnest accepts as veracious, when
the poet and his friend Hobhouse started for Falmouth, on their way
"_outre mer_."



There is no romance of Munchausen or Dumas more marvellous than the
adventures attributed to Lord Byron abroad. Attached to his first
expedition are a series of narratives, by professing eye-witnesses, of his
intrigues, encounters, acts of diablerie and of munificence, in particular
of his roaming about the isles of Greece and taking possession of one of
them, which have all the same relation to reality as the _Arabian Nights_
to the actual reign of Haroun Al Raschid.[1]

[Footnote 1: Those who wish to read them are referred to the three
large volumes--published in 1825, by Mr. Iley, Portman Street--of
anonymous authorship.]

Byron had far more than an average share of the _emigre_ spirit, the
counterpoise in the English race of their otherwise arrogant isolation. He
held with Wilhelm Meister--

To give space for wandering is it,
That the earth was made so wide.

and wrote to his mother from Athens: "I am so convinced of the advantages
of looking at mankind, instead of reading about them, and the bitter
effects of staying at home with all the narrow prejudices of an islander,
that I think there should be a law amongst us to send our young men abroad
for a term, among the few allies our wars have left us."

On June 11th, having borrowed money at heavy interest, and stored his mind
with information about Persia and India, the contemplated but unattained
goal of his travels, he left London, accompanied by his friend Hobhouse,
Fletcher his valet, Joe Murray his old butler, and Robert Rushton the son
of one of his tenants, supposed to be represented by the Page in _Childe
Harold_. The two latter, the one on account of his age, the other from his
health breaking down, he sent back to England from Gibraltar.

Becalmed for some days at Falmouth, a town which he describes as "full of
Quakers and salt fish," he despatched letters to his mother, Drury, and
Hodgson, exhibiting the changing moods of his mind. Smarting under a
slight he had received at parting from a school-companion, who had excused
himself from a farewell meeting on the plea that he had to go shopping, he
at one moment talks of his desolation, and says that, "leaving England
without regret," he has thought of entering the Turkish service; in the
next, especially in the stanzas to Hodgson, he runs off into a strain of
boisterous buffoonery. On the 2nd of July, the packet, by which he was
bound, sailed for Lisbon and arrived there about the middle of the month,
when the English fleet was anchored in the Tagus. The poet in some of his
stanzas has described the fine view of the port and the disconsolate
dirtiness of the city itself, the streets of which were at that time
rendered dangerous by the frequency of religious and political
assassinations. Nothing else remains of his sojourn to interest us, save
the statement of Mr. Hobhouse, that his friend made a more perilous,
though less celebrated, achievement by water than his crossing the
Hellespont, in swimming from old Lisbon to Belem Castle, Byron praises the
neighbouring Cintra, as "the most beautiful village in the world," though
he joins with Wordsworth in heaping anathemas on the Convention, and
extols the grandeur of Mafra, the Escurial of Portugal, in the convent of
which a monk, showing the traveller a large library, asked if the English
had any books in their country. Despatching his baggage and servants by
sea to Gibraltar, he and his friend started on horseback through the
south-west of Spain. Their first resting-place, after a ride of 400 miles,
performed at an average rate of seventy in the twenty-four hours, was
Seville, where they lodged for three days in the house of two ladies, to
whose attractions, as well as the fascination he seems to have exerted
over them, the poet somewhat garrulously refers. Here, too, he saw,
parading on the Prado, the famous _Maid of Saragossa_, whom he celebrates
in his equally famous stanzas (_Childe Harold_, I., 54-58). Of Cadiz, the
next stage, he writes with enthusiasm as a modern Cythera, describing the
bull fights in his verse, and the beauties in glowing prose. The belles of
this city, he says, are the Lancashire witches of Spain; and by reason of
them, rather than the sea-shore or the Sierra Morena, "sweet Cadiz is the
first spot in the creation." Hence, by an English frigate, they sailed to
Gibraltar, for which place he has nothing but curses. Byron had no
sympathy with the ordinary forms of British patriotism, and in our great
struggle with the tyranny of the First Empire, he may almost be said to
have sympathized with Napoleon.

The ship stopped at Cagliari in Sardinia, and again at Girgenti on the
Sicilian coast. Arriving at Malta, they halted there for three weeks--time
enough to establish a sentimental, though Platonic, flirtation with Mrs.
Spencer Smith, wife of our minister at Constantinople, sister-in-law of
the famous admiral, and the heroine of some exciting adventures. She is
the "Florence" of _Childe Harold_, and is afterwards addressed in some of
the most graceful verses of his cavalier minstrelsy--

Do thou, amidst the fair white walls,
If Cadiz yet be free,
At times from out her latticed halls
Look o'er the dark blue sea--
Then think upon Calypso's isles,
Endear'd by days gone by,--
To others give a thousand smiles,
To me a single sigh.

The only other adventure of the visit is Byron's quarrel with an officer,
on some unrecorded ground, which Hobhouse tells us nearly resulted in a
duel. The friends left Malta on September 29th, in the war-ship "Spider,"
and after anchoring off Patras, and spending a few hours on shore, they
skirted the coast of Acarnania, in view of localities--as Ithaca, the
Leucadian rock, and Actium--whose classic memories filtered through the
poet's mind and found a place in his masterpieces. Landing at Previsa,
they started on a tour through Albania,--

O'er many a mount sublime,
Through lands scarce noticed in historic tales.

Byron was deeply impressed by the beauty of the scenery, and the
half-savage independence of the people, described as "always strutting
about with slow dignity, though in rags." In October we find him with his
companions at Janina, hospitably entertained by order of Ali Pasha, the
famous Albanian Turk, bandit, and despot, then besieging Ibrahim at Berat
in Illyria. They proceeded on their way by "bleak Pindus," Acherusia's
lake, and Zitza, with its monastery door battered by robbers. Before
reaching the latter place, they encountered a terrific thunderstorm, in
the midst of which they separated, and Byron's detachment lost its way for
nine hours, during which he composed the verses to Florence, quoted above.

Some days later they together arrived at Tepaleni, and were there received
by Ali Pasha in person. The scene on entering the town is described as
recalling Scott's Branksome Castle and the feudal system; and the
introduction to Ali, who sat for some of the traits of the poet's
corsairs,--is graphically reproduced in a letter to Mrs. Byron. "His first
question was, why at so early an age I left my country, and without a
'lala,' or nurse? He then said the English minister had told him I was of
a great family, and desired his respects to my mother, which I now present
to you (date, November 12th). He said he was certain I was a man of birth,
because I had small ears, curling hair, and little white hands. He told me
to consider him as a father whilst I was in Turkey, and said he looked on
me as his son. Indeed he treated me like a child, sending me almonds,
fruit, and sweetmeats, twenty times a day." Byron shortly afterwards
discovered his host to be, a poisoner and an assassin. "Two days ago," he
proceeds in a passage which illustrates his character and a common
experience, "I was nearly lost in a Turkish ship-of-war, owing to the
ignorance of the captain and crew. Fletcher yelled after his wife; the
Greeks called on all the saints, the Mussulmen on Alla; the captain burst
into tears and ran below deck, telling us to call on God. The sails were
split, the mainyard shivered, the wind blowing fresh, the night setting
in; and all our chance was to make for Corfu--or, as F. pathetically
called it, 'a watery grave.' I did what I could to console him, but
finding him incorrigible, wrapped myself in my Albanian capote, and lay
down on the deck to wait the worst." Unable from his lameness, says
Hobhouse, to be of any assistance, he in a short time was found amid the
trembling sailors, fast asleep. They got back to the coast of Suli, and
shortly afterwards started through Acarnania and AEtolia for the Morea,
again rejoicing in the wild scenery and the apparently kindred spirits of
the wild men among whom they passed. Byron was especially fascinated by
the firelight dance and song of the robber band, which he describes and
reproduces in _Childe Harold_. On the 21st of November he reached
Mesolonghi, whore, fifteen years later, he died. Here he dismissed most of
his escort, proceeded to Patras, and on to Vostizza, caught sight of
Parnassus, and accepted a flight of eagles near Delphi as a favouring sign
of Apollo. "The last bird," he writes, "I ever fired at was an eaglet on
the shore of the Gulf of Lepanto. It was only wounded and I tried to save
it--the eye was so bright. But it pined and died in a few days: and I
never did since, and never will, attempt the life of another bird." From
Livadia the travellers proceeded to Thebes, visited the cave of
Trophonius, Diana's fountain, the so-called ruins of Pindar's house, and
the field of Cheronea, crossed Cithaeron, and on Christmas, 1809, arrived
before the defile, near the ruins of Phyle, where, he had his first
glimpse of Athens, which evoked the famous lines:--

Ancient of days, august Athena! where,
Where are thy men of might? thy grand in soul?
Gone, glimmering through the dream of things that were.
First in the race that led to glory's goal,
They won, and pass'd away: is this the whole--
A schoolboy's tale, the wonder of an hour?

After which he reverts to his perpetually recurring moral, "Men come and
go; but the hills, and waves, and skies, and stars, endure"--

Apollo still thy long, long summer gilds;
Still in his beam Mendeli's marbles glare;
Art, glory, freedom fail--but nature still is fair.

The duration of Lord Byron's first visit to Athens was about three months,
and it was varied by excursions to different parts of Attica; Eleusis,
Hymettus, Cape Colonna, (Sunium, the scene of Falconer's shipwreck), the
Colonus of OEdipus, and Marathon, the plain of which is said to have been
placed at his disposal for about the same sum that, thirty years later, an
American offered to give for the bark with the poet's name on the tree at
Newstead. Byron had a poor opinion of the modern Athenians, who seem to
have at this period done their best to justify the Roman satirist. He
found them superficial, cunning, and false; but, with generous historic
insight, he says that no nation in like circumstances would have been much
better; that they had the vices of ages of slavery, from which it would
require ages of freedom to emancipate them.

In the Greek capital he lodged at the house of a respectable lady, widow
of an English vice-consul, who had three daughters, the eldest of whom,
Theresa, acquired an innocent and enviable fame as the Maid of Athens,
without the dangerous glory of having taken any very firm hold of the
heart that she was asked to return. A more solid passion was the poet's
genuine indignation on the "lifting," in Border phrase, of the marbles
from the Parthenon, and their being taken to England by order of Lord
Elgin. Byron never wrote anything more sincere than the _Curse of
Minerva_; and he has recorded few incidents more pathetic than that of the
old Greek who, when the last stone was removed for exportation, shed
tears, and said "[Greek: telos]!" The question is still an open one of
ethics. There are few Englishmen of the higher rank who do not hold London
in the right hand as barely balanced by the rest of the world in the left;
a judgment in which we can hardly expect Romans, Parisians, and Athenians
to concur. On the other hand, the marbles were mouldering at Athens, and
they are preserved, like ginger, in the British Museum.

Among the adventures of this period are an expedition across the Ilissus
to some caves near Kharyati, in which the travellers were by accident
nearly entombed; another to Pentelicus, where they tried to carve their
names on the marble rock; and a third to the environs of the Piraeus in
the evening light. Early in March the convenient departure of an English
sloop-of-war induced them to make an excursion to Smyrna. There, on the
28th of March, the second canto of _Childe Harold_, begun in the previous
autumn at Janina, was completed. They remained in the neighbourhood,
visiting Ephesus, without poetical result further than a reference to the
jackals, in the _Siege of Corinth_; and on April 11th left by the
"Salsette," a frigate on its way to Constantinople. The vessel touched at
the Troad, and Byron spent some time on land, snipe-shooting, and rambling
among the reputed ruins of Ilium. The poet characteristically, in _Don
Juan_ and elsewhere, attacks the sceptics, and then half ridicules the

I've stood upon Achilles' tomb,
And heard Troy doubted! Time will doubt of Rome!
* * * * *
There, on the green and village-cotted hill, is,
Flank'd by the Hellespont, and by the sea,
Entomb'd the bravest of the brave Achilles.--
They say so: Bryant says the contrary.

Being again detained in the Dardanelles, waiting for a fair wind, Byron
landed on the European side, and swam, in company with Lieutenant
Ekenhead, from Sestos to Abydos--a performance of which he boasts some
twenty times. The strength of the current is the main difficulty of a
feat, since so surpassed as to have passed from notice; but it was a
tempting theme for classical allusions. At length, on May 14, he reached
Constantinople, exalted the Golden Horn above all the sights he had seen,
and now first abandoned his design of travelling to Persia. Galt, and
other more or less gossiping travellers, have accumulated a number of
incidents of the poet's life at this period, of his fanciful dress,
blazing in scarlet and gold, and of his sometimes absurd contentions for
the privileges of rank--as when he demanded precedence of the English
ambassador in an interview with the Sultan, and, on its refusal, could
only be pacified by the assurances of the Austrian internuncio. In
converse with indifferent persons he displayed a curious alternation of
frankness and hauteur, and indulged a habit of letting people up and down,
by which he frequently gave offence. More interesting are narratives of
the suggestion of some of his verses, as the slave-market in _Don Juan_,
and the spectacle of the dead criminal tossed on the waves, revived in the
_Bride of Abydos_. One example is, if we except Dante's _Ugolino_, the
most remarkable instance in literature of the expansion, without the
weakening, of the horrible. Take first Mr. Hobhouse's plain prose: "The
sensations produced by the state of the weather"--it was wretched and
stormy when they left the "Salsette" for the city--"and leaving a
comfortable cabin, were in unison with the impressions which we felt when,
passing under the palace of the Sultans, and gazing at the gloomy cypress
which rises above the walls, we saw two dogs gnawing a dead body." After
this we may measure the almost fiendish force of a morbid imagination
brooding over the incident,--

And he saw the lean dogs beneath the wall
Hold o'er the dead their carnival:
Gorging and growling o'er carcass and limb,
They were too busy to bark at him.
From a Tartar's skull they had stripp'd the flesh,
As ye peel the fig when its fruit is fresh;
And their white tusks crunch'd on the whiter skull,
As it slipp'd through their jaws when their edge grow dull.

No one ever more persistently converted the incidents of travel into
poetic material; but sometimes in doing so he borrowed more largely from
his imagination than his memory, as in the description of the seraglio, of
which there is reason to doubt his having seen more than the entrance.

Byron and Hobhouse set sail from Constantinople on the 14th July,
1810--the latter to return direct to England, a determination which, from
no apparent fault on either side, the former did not regret. One incident
of the passage derives interest from its possible consequence. Taking up,
and unsheathing, a yataghan which he found on the quarter deck, ho
remarked, "I should like to know how a person feels after committing a
murder." This harmless piece of melodrama--the idea of which is expanded
in Mr. Dobell's _Balder_, and parodied in _Firmilian_--may have been the
basis of a report afterwards circulated, and accepted among others by
Goethe, that his lordship had committed a murder; hence, obviously, the
character of _Lara_, and the mystery of _Manfred!_ The poet parted from
his friend at Zea, (Ceos): after spending some time in solitude on the
little island, he returned to Athens, and there renewed acquaintance with
his school friend, the Marquis of Sligo, who after a few days accompanied

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