« AnteriorContinuar »
under Edward III., and on the fields, me- From the following reign (Charles I.) the morable in their respective eras, of Cressy, nobility of the family date its origin. In the Bosworth, and Marston Moor', the naine of year 1643, Sir John Byron, great grandson the Byrons reaped honours both of rank and of him who succeeded to the rich domains fame, of which their young descendant has, of Newstead, was created Baron Byron of in the verses just cited, shown himself proudly Rochdale in the county of Lancaster ; and conscious.
seldom has a title been bestowed for such It was in the reign of Henry VIII., on high and honourable services as those by the dissolution of the monasteries, that, by a / which this nobleman deserved the gratitude royal grant, the church and priory of New- of his royal master. Through almost every stead, with the lands adjoining, were added ' page of the History of the Civil Wars, we to the other possessions of the Byron family:? | trace his name in connection with the rarving The favourite upon whom these spoils of the fortunes of the king, and find him faithful, ancient religion were conferred, was the persevering, and disinterested to the last. grand nephew of the gallant soldier who Sir John Biron,” says the writer of Colonel fought by the side of Richmond at Bosworth, Hutchinson's Memoirs, “afterwards Lord and is distinguished from the other knights Biron, and all his brothers, bred up in arms, of the same Christian name in the family, by and valiant men in their own persons, were the title of “ Sir John Byron the Little, with all passionately the king's." There is also the great beard.” A portrait of this per- in the answer which Colonel Hutchinson, sonage was one of the few family pictures when governor of Nottingham, returned, on with which the walls of the abbey, while one occasion, to his cousin-german, Sir in the possession of the noble poet, were Richard Byron, a noble tribute to the valour decorated.
and fidelity of the family: Sir Richard At the coronation of James I. we find having sent to prevail on his relative to suranother representative of the family selected render the castle, received for answer, that as an object of royal favour, - the grandson except he found his own heart prone to of Sir John Byron the Little, being, on this such treachery, he might consider there was, occasion, made a knight of the Bath. There ' if nothing else, so much of a Biron's blood is a letter to this personage, preserved in in him, that he should very much scorn to Lodge's Illustrations, from which it appears, , betray or quit a trust he had undertaken.” that notwithstanding all these apparent in- Such are a few of the gallant and distindications of prosperity, the inroads of pe- guished personages, through whom the name cuniary embarrassment had already begun to and honours of this noble house have been be experienced by this ancient house. After transmitted. By the maternal side also counselling the new heir as to the best mode Lord Byron had to pride himself on a line of getting free of his debts, “ I do therefore of ancestry as illustrious as any that Scotland advise you,” continues the writer, “ that so can boast, - his mother, who was one of the soon as you have, in such sort as shall be fit, Gordons of Gight, having been a descendant finished your father's funerals, to dispose and of that Sir William Gordon who was the disperse that great household, reducing them third son of the Earl of Huntley, by the to the number of forty or fifty, at the most, daughter of James I. of all sorts ; and, in my opinion, it will be After the eventful period of the Civil Wars, far better for you to live for a time in Lan- when so many individuals of the house of cashire rather than in Notts, for many good Byron distinguished themselves, – there reasons that I can tell you when we meet, having been no less than seven brothers of fitter for words than writing.”
that family on the field at Edgehill, - the
1 [See BYRONIANA.]
? The priory of Newstead had been founded and dedicated to God and the Virgin, by Henry II. ; and its monks, who were canons regular of the order of St. Augustine, appear to have been peculiarly the objects of royal favour, no less in spiritual than in temporal concerns. During the lifetime of the fifth Lord Byron, there was found in the lake at Newstead, — where it is supposed to have been thrown for concealment by the monks, - a large brass eagle, in the body of which, on its being sent to be cleaned, was discovered a secret aperture, conceal. ing within it a number of old legal papers connected with the rights and privileges of the foundation. At the sale of the old lord's effects in 1776-7, this eagle, together with three candelabra, found at the same time, was purchased by a watchmaker of Nottingham (by whom the concealed
manuscripts were discovered), and having from his hands passed into those of Sir Richard Kaye, a prebendary of Southwell, forms at present a very remarkable ornament of the cathedral of that place. A curious document, said to have been among those found in the eagle, is now in the possession of Colonel Wildman, containing a grant of full pardon from Henry V. of every possible crime (and there is a tolerably long catalogue enumerated) which the monks might have conimitted previous to the sth of December preceding :-“Murdris, per ipsos past decimus nonum diem Novembris ultimo præteritum perpetratis, si quæ fuerint, exceptis."
3 Gilbert, seventh Earl of Shrewsbury.
* (For a copious memoir of the first Lord Byrum, see BYRONIANA.)
celebrity of the name appears to have died that she had never at the time seen Captain away for near a century. It was about the Byron, is not a little striking. Being at the year 1750, that the shipwreck and sufferings Edinburgh theatre one night when the chaof Mr. Byron' (the grandfather of the illus- racter of Isabella was performed by Mrs. trious subject of these pages) awakened, in Siddons, so affected was she by the powers no small degree, the attention and sympathy of this great actress, that, towards the conof the public. Not long after, a less innocent clusion of the play, she fell into violent fits sort of notoriety attached itself to two other and was carried out of the theatre, screammembers of the family, -one, the grand ing loudly, “ Oh, my Biron, my Biron !”+ uncle of the Poet, and the other, his father. On the occasion of her marriage there The former, in the year 1765, stood his appeared a ballad by some Scotch rhymer, trial before the House of Peers? for killing, which has been lately reprinted in a colin a duel, or rather scuffle, his relation and lection of the “ Ancient Ballads and Songs neighbour Mr. Chaworth ; and the latter, of the North of Scotland » ;” and as it bears having carried off' to the Continent the wifes testimony both to the reputation of the lady of Lord Carmarthen, on the noble marquis for wealth, and that of her husband for obtaining a divorce from the lady, married rakery and extravagance, it may be worth her. Of this short union one daughter only extracting : was the issue, the Honourable Augusta Byron, now the wife of Colonel Leigh.
MISS GORDON OF GIGHT. In reviewing thus cursorily the ancestors,
O whare are ye gaen, bonny Miss Gordon ? both near and remote, of Lord Byron, it
O whare are ye gaen, sae bonny an' braw? cannot fail to be remarked how strikingly Ye've married, ye've married wi' Johnny Byron, he combined in his own nature some of the To squander the lands o' Gight awa'. best and, perhaps, worst qualities that lie
This youth is a rake, frae England he's come ; scattered through the various characters of his predecessors,--the generosity, the love He keeps up his misses, his landlord he duns, of enterprise, the high-mindedness of some That's fast drawen' the lands o' Gight awa'. of the better spirits of his race, with the ir
O whare are ye gaen, &c. regular passions, the eccentricity, and daring
The shooten'o'guns, an' rattlin'o' drums, recklessness of the world's opinion, that so
The bugle in woods, the pipes i' the ha', much characterised others.
The beagles a howlin', the hounds a growlin'; The first wife of the father of the poet These soundings will soon gar Gight gang awa'. having died in 1784, he, in the following
O whare are ye gaen, &c. year, married Miss Catherine Gordon, only child and heiress of George Gordon, Esq. of
Soon after the marriage, which took place, Gight. In addition to the estate of Gight, I believe, at Bath, Mr. Byron and his lady which had, however, in former times, been removed to their estate in Scotland ; and it much more extensive, this lady possessed, was not long before the prognostics of this in ready money, bank shares, &c. no inícon- ballad-maker began to be realised. The siderable property ; and it was known to be extent of that chasm of debt, in which her solely with a view of relieving himself from fortune was to be swallowed up, now opened his debts, that Mr. Byron paid his addresses upon the eyes of the ill-fated heiress.' The to her. A circumstance related, as having creditors of Mr. Byron lost no time in pressing taken place before the marriage of this lady, their demands ; and not only was the whole not only shows the extreme quickness and of her ready money, bank shares, fisheries, vehemence of her feelings, but, if it be true &c., sacrificed to satisfy them, but a large
The Scots dinna ken his extraction ava;
| Afterwards Admiral. -[ See Byroniana.) * (In Westminster-hall, the 16th and 17th of April. For an authentic report of this interesting trial, see BYRONIANA.)
* (Amelia D'Arcy, baroness Congers, daughter of Robert, fourth earl of Holderness. By her death, JaDuary 26th, 1784, the ancient barony of Conyers descended to ber eldest son by her first husband, Marquis of Carmarthen, afterwards Duke of Leeds.)
• (Mrs. Siddons's first appearance at the Edinburgh theatre, in the part of Isabella, in Southern's tragedy of the Fatal Marriage, was on the 3d of June, 1784. "At one time,” says a critic, "she melts the audience with pity ; at another, she harrows up the soul with
From all sides the house, hark the cry how it swells !
Scot's Mag. 1784.
sum raised by mortgage on the estate for the father had only me, an only child, by his same purpose. In the summer of 1786, she second marriage with my mother, an only and her husband left Scotland to proceed to child too. Such a complication of only France; and in the following year the estate children, all tending to one family, is singular of Gight itself was sold, and the whole of the enough, and looks like fatality almost.” purchase money applied to the further pay- He then adds, characteristically, “ But the ment of debts, — with the exception of a fiercest animals have the fewest numbers in small sum vested in trustees for the use of their litters, as lions, tigers, and even eleMrs. Byron, who thus found herself, within phants, which are mild in comparison.”
the short space of two years, reduced from From London, Mrs. Byron proceeded | competence to a pittance of 1501. per with her infant to Scotland ; and, in the
year 1790, took up her residence in Aberdeen, From France Mrs. Byron returned to where she was soon after joined by Captain England at the close of the year 1787; and Byron. Here for a short time they lived on the 22d of January, 1788, gave birth, in together in lodgings at the house of a person Holles Street, London, to her first and only named Anderson, in Queen Street. But child, George Gordon Byron. The name of their union being by no means happy, a seGordon was added in compliance with a paration took place between them, and Mrs. condition imposed by will on whoever should Byron removed to lodgings at the other end become husband of the heiress of Gight; of the street. Notwithstanding this schism, and at the baptism of the child, the Duke of they for some time continued to visit, and Gordon, and Colonel Duff of Fetteresso, stood even to drink tea with each other ; but the godfathers.
elements of discord were strong on both In reference to the circumstance of his sides, and their separation was, at last, being an only child, Lord Byron, in one of complete and final. He would frequently, his journals, mentions some curious coin- however, accost the nurse and his son in cidences in his family, which, to a mind their walks, and expressed a strong wish to disposed as his was to regard every thing have the child for a day or two, on a visit connected with himself as out of the ordinary with him. To this request Mrs. Byron was, course of events, would naturally appear at first, not very willing to accede; but, on even more strange and singular than they the representation of the nurse, that “ if he
“I have been thinking,” he says, “ of kept the boy one night, he would not do so an odd circumstance. My daughter (1), my another,” she consented. The event proved wife (2), my half-sister (3), my mother (4), as the nurse had predicted ; on inquiring my sister's mother (5), my natural daughter next morning after the child, she was told (6), and myself (7), are, or were, all only by Captain Byron that he had had quite children. My sister's mother (Lady Conyers) enough of his young visiter, and she might had only my half-sister by that second mar- take him home again. riage, (herself, too, an only child,) and my It should be observed, however, that Mrs.
1 The following particulars respecting the amount of Mrs. Byron's fortune before marriage, and its rapid disappearance afterwards, are, I have every reason to think, from the authentic source to which I am indebted for them, strictly correct:
* At the time of the marriage, Miss Gordon was possessed of about 30001, in money, two shares of the Aberdeen Banking Company, the estates of Gight and Monkshill, and the superiority of two salmon fishings on Dee. Soon after the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Byron Gordon in Scotland, it appeared that Mr. Byron had involved himself very deeply in debt, and his creditors commenced legal proceedings for the recovery of their money. The cash in hand was soon paid away, -- the bank shares were disposed of at 6001., (now worth 30001.)
tirnber on the estate was cut down and sold to the amount of 15001. — the farm of Monkshill and superiority of the fishings, affording a freehold qualification, were disposed of at 4NO2. ; and, in addition to these sales, within a year after the marriage, 80001. was borrowed upon a mortgage on the estate, granted by Mrs. Byron Gordon to the person who lent the money.
* In March, 176, a contract of marriage in the Scotch form was drawn up and signed by the parties. In the course of the summer of that year, Mr. and Mrs. Byron
left Gight, and never returned to it ; the estate being, in the following year, sold to Lord Haddo for the sum of 17,8.301., the whole of which was applied to the payment of Mr. Byron's debts, with the exception of 11221., which remained as a burden on the estate, (the interest to be applied to paying a jointure of 551. 118. Id. to Mrs. Byron's grandmother, the principal reverting, at her death, to Mrs. Byron,) and 30001. vested in trustees for Mrs. Byron's separate use, which was lent to Mr. Carsewell of Ratharllet, in Fifeshire."
"A strange occurrence," says another of my informants, “ took place previous to the sale of the lands. All the doves left the house of Gight and came to Lord Haddo's, and so did a number of herons, which had built their nests for many years in a wood on the banks of a large loch, called the Hagberry Pot. When this was told to Lord Haddo, he pertinently replied, • Let the birds come, and do them no harm, for the land will soon follow ;' which it actually did."
? It appears, that she several times changed her residence during her stay at Aberdeen, as there are two oiber houses pointed out, where she lodged for some time ; one situated in Virginia Street, and the other, the house of a Mr. Leslie, I think, in Broad Street.
Byron, at this period, was unable to keep whom fell the task of putting on these mamore than one servant, and that, sent as the chines or bandages, at bedtime, would often, boy was on this occasion to encounter the as she herself told my informant, sing him trial of a visit, without the accustomed super- to sleep, or tell him stories and legends, intendence of his nurse, it is not so wonderful in which, like most other children, he took that he should have been found, under such great delight. She also taught him, while circumstances, rather an unmanageable guest. yet an infant, to repeat a great number of That as a child, his temper was violent, or the Psalms ; and the first and twenty-third rather sullenly passionate, is certain. Even Psalms were among the earliest that he comwhen in petticoats, he showed the same un- mitted to memory. It is a remarkable fact, controllable spirit with his nurse, which he indeed, that through the care of this reafterwards exhibited when an author, with spectable woman, who was herself of a very his critics. Being angrily reprimanded by religious disposition, he attained a far earlier her, one day, for having soiled or torn a new and more intimate acquaintance with the frock in which he had been just dressed, he Sacred Writings than falls to the lot of most got into one of his “ silent rages” (as he young people. In a letter which he wrote to himself has described them), seized the Mr. Murray, from Italy, in 1821, after refrock with both his hands, rent it from top questing of that gentleman to send him, by to bottom, and stood in sullen stillness, the first opportunity, a Bible, he adds — setting his censurer and her wrath at defi- “Don't forget this, for I am a great reader ance.
and admirer of those books, and had read Butnotwithstanding this, and other them through and through before I was eight such unruly outbreaks, – in which he was years old, — that is to say, the Old Tesbut too much encouraged by the example of tament, for the New struck me as a task, his mother, who frequently, it is said, pro- but the other as a pleasure. I speak as a boy, ceeded to the same extremities with her from the recollected impression of that caps, gowns, &c., there was in his dis- period at Aberdeen, in 1796." position, as appears from the concurrent The malformation of his foot was, even at testimony of nurses, tutors, and all who were this childish age, a subject on which he employed about him, a mixture of affectionate showed peculiar sensitiveness. I have been sweetness and playfulness, by which it was told by a gentleman of Glasgow, that the impossible not to be attached ; and which person who nursed his wife, and who still rendered him then, as in his riper years, lives in his family, used often to join the easily manageable by those who loved and nurse of Byron when they were out with understood him sufficiently to be at once their respective charges, and one day said to gentle and firm enough for the task. The her, as they walked together, “What a pretty female attendant of whom we have spoken, boy Byron is ! what a pity he has such a as well as her sister, May Gray, who suc- leg!” On hearing this allusion to his inceeded her, gained an influence over his firmity, the child's eyes flashed with anger, mind against which he very rarely rebelled ; and striking at her with a little whip which while his mother, whose capricious excesses, he held in his hand, he exclaimed impatiently, both of anger and of fondness, left her little Dinna speak of it!" Sometimes, howhold on either his respect or affection, was ever, as in after life, he could talk indifindebted solely to his sense of filial duty for ferently and even jestingly of this lameness ; any small portion of authority she was ever and there being another little boy in the able to acquire over him.
neighbourhood, who had a similar defect in By an accident which, it is said, occurred one of his feet, Byron would say, laughat the time of his birth, one of his feet was ingly, “Come and see the twa laddies with twisted out of its natural position, and this the twa club feet going up the Broad Street.” defect (chiefly from the contrivances em- Among many instances of his quickness ployed to remedy it) was a source of much and energy at this age, his nurse mentioned pain and inconvenience to him during his a little incident that one night occurred, on early years. The expedients used at this her taking him to the theatre to see the period to restore the limb to shape, were “ Taming of the Shrew.” He had attended | adopted by the advice, and under the di- to the performance, for some time, with rection, of the celebrated John Hunter, with silent interest ; but, in the scene between whom Dr. Livingstone of Aberdeen cor- Catherine and Petruchio, where the followresponded on the subject; and his nurse, to ing dialogue takes place,
* (** As they have been to many millions of other children. Out of those lessons arose, long afterwards, the Hebrew Melodies ;' but for them never would they
have been written, though Byron had studied Lowth on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews all his life." - ProFESSOR Wilson.)
Cath. I know it is the moon.
him quiet that his mother had sent him to Pet. Nay, then, you lie, - it is the blessed sun,
it. Of the progress of his infantine studies little Geordie (as they called the child), start- at Aberdeen, as well under Mr. Bowers as ing from his seat, cried out boldly, “But I under the various other persons that insay it is the moon, sir.”
structed him, we have the following interestThe short visit of Captain Byron to ing particulars communicated by himself, in Aberdeen has already been mentioned, and a sort of journal which he once began, under he again passed two or three months in that the title of "My Dictionary,” and which is city, before his last departure for France. preserved in one of his manuscript books. On both occasions, his chief object was to For severa! years of my earliest childextract still more money, if possible, from hood, I was in that city, but have never rethe unfortunate woman whom he had beg- visited it since I was ten years old. I was gared ; and so far was he successful, that, sent, at five years old, or earlier, to a school during his last visit, narrow as were her kept by a Mr. Bowers, who was called means, she contrived to furnish him with the Bodsy Bowers, by reason of his dappermoney necessary for his journey to Valen
It was a school for both sexes, I ciennes', where, in the following year, 1791, learned little except to repeat by rote the he died. Though latterly Mrs. Byron would first lesson of monosyllables (“God made not see her husband, she entertained, it is man’ – “Let us love him'), by hearing it said, a strong affection for him to the last ; often repeated, without acquiring a letter. and on those occasions, when the nurse used Whenever proof was made of my progress, to meet him in her walks, would inquire of at home, I repeated these words with the her with the tenderest anxiety as to his most rapid fluency ; but on turning over a health and looks. When the intelligence of new leaf, I continued to repeat them, so that his death, too, arrived, her grief, according the narrow boundaries of my first year's to the account of this same attendant, bor- accomplishments were detected, my ears dered on distraction, and her shrieks were boxed, (which they did not deserve, seeing so loud as to be heard in the street.? She it was by ear only that I had acquired my was, indeed, a woman full of the most pas- letters,) and my intellects consigned to a sionate extremes, and her grief and affection new preceptor. He was a very devout, were bursts as much of temper as of feeling. clever, little clergyman, named Ross, afterTo mourn at all, however, for such a husband wards minister of one of the kirks (East, I was, it must be allowed. a most gratuitous think). Under him I made astonishing prostretch of generosity. Having married her, gress; and I recollect to this day his mild as he openly avowed, for her fortune alone, manners and good-natured pains-taking. The he soon dissipated this, the solitary charm moment I could read, my grand passion was she possessed for him, and was then un history; and, why I know not, but I was parinantul enough to taunt her with the incon- ticularly taken with the battle near the Lake veniences of that penury which his own
Regillus in the Roman History, put into my extravagance had occasioned.
hands the first. Four years ago, when When not quite five years old, young standing on the heights of Tusculum, and Byron was sent to a day-school at Aber- looking down upon the little round lake that deen, taught by Mr. Bowers 3, and remained was once Regillus, and which dots the imihere, with some interruptions, during a mense expanse below, I remembered my twelvemonth, as appears by the following young enthusiasm and my old instructor. extract from the day-book of the school :- Afterwards I had a very serious, saturnine,
but kind young man, named Paterson, for a George Gordon Byron.
tutor. He was the son of my shoemaker, 19th November, 1793 — paid one guinea. but a good scholar, as is common with the
Scotch. He was a rigid Presbyterian also. The terms of this school for reading were With him I began Latin in Ruddiman's only five shillings a quarter, and it was evi- Grammar, and continued till I went to the dently less with a view to the boy's advance | Grammar School, (Scotice', 'Scuhle ;' Aberin learning than as a cheap mode of keeping donice, Squeel,') where I threaded all the
J9th November, 1792.
1 By her advances of money to Mr. Byron (says an authority I have already cited) on the two occasions when he visited Aberdeen, as well as by the expenses incurred in furnishing the foor occupied by her, after his death, in Broad Street, she got in debt to the amount of 3004., by paying the interest on which her income was reduced to 1351. On this, however, she contrived to live without increasing her debt; and on the death of her grandmo.
ther, when she received the 1122. set apart for that lady's annuity, discharged the whole.
. [For an interesting letter,written by Mrs. Byron, on hearing of the death of her husband, see BYRONIANA.)
3 In Long Acre. The present master of this school is Mr. David Grant, the ingenious editor of a collection of " Battles and War Pieces," and of a work of much utility, entitled “ Class Book of Modern Poetry."