Imágenes de páginas

erary revolutionists. Coleridge did some-| but in their room a crew of losels who made thing, Scott did much, towards deposing the night hideous with their songs, who teased school of Pope; but the victory destined to a wolf instead of galloping after a fox, and be consummated by Wordsworth was still in who it was thought, in Nottinghamshire, by the distance, for the voice of the Lyrical decorous parents and guardians, were little Ballads and their prefaces had reached only better than the once famous monks of Meda few ears, and though the seed fell on good menham Abbey. We learn from the volground, the harvest was not at hand. umes before us that the lord of Newstead

We will now glance at Byron's position in was a just and kind landlord, going so far in the London world, as it is not fully stated his justice as to insist upon a tenant's (on in these volumes, and perhaps cannot well pain of losing his farm) repairing by marriage be understood by a foreign biographer. A a wrong he had done to a neighbour's daughyoung nobleman, bearing a name not of the ter. But, on the other hand, we do not find best odour, and upon whom the sins of that he was in the commission of the peace his fathers were occasionally visited, pub- - in which case the matter might have been lished two years before attaining his majori- settled differently and we know that he ty, a volume of poems. Now it is very prop-spoke and wrote against “the first gentleer, and not unprecedented, for young noble- man in Europe.” men to print their verses, especially if they Nor did it mend matters that he was for a have distinguished themselves at school or time the idol of the London season; that he college by proficiency in Latin elegiacs or baffled match-making mothers; that, like Greek iambics. But Byron had been an Charles Surface, he gave many worthy idle lad at Harrow, and at Cambridge had men uneasiness," while he did not, like rather bewildered than edified the guard-Joseph Surface, soothe their alarm by his ians of sound learning and religious educa- noble sentiments." Despite lameness and tion. In the poems themselves there was a habit of biting his nails, his were the bust not any remarkable merit, but there was a and the head of an Antinous, and when perpromise of power, if not of excellence, in sonal beauty is married to successful verse, some of them which the Edinburgh Reviewer the ordinary “ curled darlings” of salons failed to detect. How entirely the critic and coteries are most provokingly distanced had mistaken the standard of the debutant in their usual pursuits - the chase of beauty was very speedily made manisest. Since or money. Not content with victory, Byron the Vanity of Human Wishes attracted the appears to have courted animosities with as praise of Pope, or the Rosciad had “ ruffled much zeal as better regulated youth court the Volscians ” of the stage, no satire, not favours. His vices and his virtues were even Mason's, had been comparable for alike peculiar to himself, and, unluckily also melody of verse or force of invective to the for himself, his vices were those which sociEnglish Bards and Scotch Reviewers. Şat-ety most deeply resents, and his virtues were ire was a weapon that Byron seldom those for which society does not greatly care. wielded without signal success. Here was The polite world likes its comets to be rega novice, not wielding his sword like a ular and its Whartons to be plain; whereas dancer, but cutting and thrusting like Shaw Byron seems to have been determined to the Life-guardsman. His “ severity was move in an orbit of his own, and to weigh not conciliating” to either old or young mankind in the scales of Rochefoucault. poets. It embroiled the author, for a time, Could he have condescended to be a little with no few of the most famous wits then in coarser in his ways — a boon companion, a England. Moore and Scott soon forgave political or religious bigot - could he have the attack on them, and became Byron's paid to virtue a little more of the homage fast friends for life. Coleridge and Words- which she is popularly said to demand, not worth were less easily reconciled, and nev-, a tithe of the barbs which struck him, and er really forgave the assault ; while Southey increased his perversity, would perhaps have avenged it, on their and his own behall, been levelled at his name in life or after his after a fashion which, to say the least of it, death. did not greatly redound to his credit.

To the foregoing another cause may be Then Byron, although his verses made him added for the hostility provoked by Byron, famous in all the literary and social circles but this was independent of merit or demerit of the United Kingdom, did not walk in the on his part. His peculiarities, personal and ways of noble youth in Britain. He was a poetical, hatched a brood of imitators. His landowner, but he was not a strict game- misanthropy and his shirt-collars were aped preserver; he did not follow, neither sub- by young versifiers; for, as Master Stephen scribe to, the hounds. He did not entertain thought, to be melancholy was gentlemanthe county magnates at Newstead Abbey, I like under the Regency. It might not be given to all to swim across the Hellespont, | Moore exhibits him as eccentric and selfbut it was possible for many to swim across willed, but not more so than parallels might the Thames; wolves, since the proscription be found for in the lives of other poets and of their race by Edward the Confessor, authors. Is the life of Alfieri, as narrated were difficult to obtain in Britain, but a ' by himself, anything but a tissue of eccendog-fight or a rat-hunt was feasible. It is tricities? Was Cicero a consistent man? curious, if not altogether edifying, to mark Is there any particular satisfaction in followByron's influence in disseminating the af- ing the career of Coleridge? Might it not fectation of despair. For ordinary mortals be possible, with the aid of such distorted devoid of gifts, poetic or prosaic, its mani- and exaggerated media as have been emfestations were curling lips and drooped eye-ployed in representing Byron, to depict any lids, biscuit and soda-water in place of beef one of the three in colours surpassing the and beer, with inversion of the usual hours liberty of fiction ? Again, in these volumes of meals and sleep. These were the mutum the belief is combated with almost wearisome as well as the servum pecus of Byronists. repetition that the poet himself was the origThe versifiers and the novelists, practising inal from which his heroes, from Childe the same arts, added to them proclamations Harold to Don Juan, are drawn. Byron of blighted existence," " weariness of life," always disavowed the imputation, and we "falsehood of women," and other incentives see no reason for doubting his sincerity. to chronic gloom. Their “one friend” is That his Pilgrim, his Corsair, his Renegades dead, faithless, or a dog ; a tent in the desert, have a strong family likeness to one another, or a lone island in the sea, with of course is not to be questioned. But the truth is "one sweet spirit” for a companion, is the that Byron's genius was anything rather than proper habitation for manever the sport dramatic, and that although he had seen, of destiny and the victim of disappointment. like another celebrated wanderer, many men By grave and decorous persons the copies and many cities, his acquaintance with manwere confounded with the supposed original, kind was very restricted. The impression and Pope's complaint, accommodated to that one remarkable man made upon him other times and circumstances, might have gave colour and form to several of his most been repeated by Byron :

popular poems. Ali Pasha of Yanina is the

model of Conrad and Lambro, and espeThere are, who to my person pay their court : cially of Giaffir. This is not the fertility of I cough like Horace, and tho' lean, am short, the dramatic poet, nor that of an epic one, Ammon's great son one shoulder had too high,

like Scott; but the want of it will account Sach Ovid's nose, and “Sir ! you have an eye.”

for Byron's scanty repertoire without assumGo on, obliging creatures, make me see

ing that he sat for the portraiture of his own All that disgraced my betters, met in me. Say for my comfort, languishing in bed,

heroes. Yet even this defect in the art of “ Just so immortal Maro held his head :"

individualizing must be stated with some And when I die, be sure you let me know qualification. It is true that the principal Great Homer dy'd three thousand years ago.

characters of the Byronic poems are cast in

the same mould. They have been wronged These volumes would have possessed a by their fellow-men, and they become wrongfar more vital interest for readers than they doers in requital. Either they are solitary do if the writer, instead of deploring and Timons, like Manfred; or exhausted vocombating the misrepresentations of others, luptuaries, like Sardanapalus ; or they sahad imparted to us her own personal knowl- vour, like Alp and the Giaour, of Karl Moor edge of Lord Byron. We had reason to and Kotzebue. Yet the pencil which expect from such a quarter much that would sketched Marino Faliero and Werner, Israel be new; but we find little that is so, except Bertuccio and Ulric, Angiolina and Josea re-arrangement of existing materials, orphine, was capable, had it been turned sefresh contradictions of lightly made or rash, riously to dramatic composition, of very and perhaps wholly groundless, assertions. distinct and powerful stage portraiture. The authoress is justly indignant at the re-And indeed, if they are compared with coniterated attempts made in Byron's lifetime temporary productions, Byron's dramas are and since, by English and foreign writers, not alone defective in this respect. What by some who knew him a little, and by many dramatic power is displayed by Coleridge, who did not know him at all, to represent Wordsworth, or Southey, each of whom him as an awful and anomalous being, of dis malignis — wrote a play? As for Scott, mystery all compact. But such illusions his dramatic force was expended upon his were dispersed by the admirable narrative verse and prose romances. of Moore, his friend, and by the unworthy Again, it is objected to Byron, by no less and unscrupulous disclosures of Leigh Hunt. I a critic than the late Lord Macaulay, that LIVING AGE. vol. X.


even in descriptive and meditative verse, means a slight one in substance, will set in which he excelled, the descriptions and such curiosity in its proper light. The real the meditations were accessories to one drift of the anxious inquirers is, what was dark and melancholy figure in the back- the creed, or perhaps the Church, of these ground that of the poet himself. We illustrious men? We have read all that the think that this observation will apply to Lu- authoress has to say on this subject, but we cretius and Virgil, and even to Cowper, do not find ourselves much the wiser for her with as much propriety as to Byron. For arguments or her information. what is it that gives such absorbing interest That one so richly endowed as Byron was to many passages in the profound wail of intellectually, so impulsive, so susceptible Lucretius, but the felt though invisible pres- of the beautiful in nature and in art, should ence of its author; one while tossed and have been wbolly devoid of religious feelbewildered upon a shoreless ocean of matter, ings is highly improbable. He is a careless at another resting upon some green islet of and incompetent reader of Shelley's writings content, heedless of the storm which drove who takes from them the impression that him thither, or of the storm that will soon the poet was irreligious, as well as unsweep him from it? What is it affects us Christian; and he is equally in the wrong ' most deeply in the tender and meditative who, after studying Spinosa, fails to see verse of the Georgics, but the presence of that he was a devout, as well as a just, man. Virgil's spirit beside the winding Mincius Byron has been judged in this respect inor amid the white herds of Clitumnus? It considerately, if not harshly. On the eviis because Cowper is " in the background" dence of some grave and many flippant that we derive pleasure from such humble passages in his poetry — some of which are elements of description as “slow-winding assigned to the speakers in his dramas, and, Ouse," the peasant's nest, Olney-bridge, taken out of their context, are bad or misthe maze at Weston Underwood, a garden leading witnesses against him — he has been and a greenhouse. And it is so also with charged with the infidelity of a Diderot or the pictures of Parnassus and Albania, the Holbach. A sounder and fairer inference white marbles of Pentelicus, and with that is that Byron's indifference was confined to most expressive of all symbols of departed creeds and formularies of religion, and that majesty, the Colisseum; the unseen, but not his acquaintance with theology was as unfelt, presence of their poet clothes them slender as is that of many a country squire with a grandeur and a beauty investing their who goes regularly to his parish church. own with fresh radiance. Byron's latest (But he seems never to have relished Sheldefender has dwelt with befitting earnest- | ley's metaphysical speculations, and to have ness on his presence among the scenes he shared in none of his incredulity as to the describes, with a clearer perception of its worth and wisdom of either the Hebrew or influence than the critic of thirty years ago. Christian Scriptures. In this, as in other

Byron's religion, again, was at the time a instances, he was his own enemy; his unsubject of much, though not very profitable, lucky propensity to banter and mystify curiosity. It was said, we believe, by Fon- those he came in contact with confirmed the tenelle, that “ all wise men are of one reli- impression engendered by his irregular and gion, but what that religion is no wise man eccentric life ; and he paid in full the penwill tell another.” The authoress of “By- alty of affectation by being reputed and reron, judged by contemporary testimony," ported to be worse than he was. is naturally eager, being doubtless a good If we had been asked, before Lord Byron, Catholic herself, to show that, if far from jugé par les Témoins de sa vie, came into being what might be wished in respect of our hands, what we regarded as his capital either his faith or his works, he was yet im- error throughout life, we should have rebued with strong religious susceptibility, plied, " affecting to be what he was not" ; and uniformly treated with respect all who, and this opinion is strengthened by the Mar like Mr. Kennedy or Mrs. Shepherd, strove quise de Boissy's account of him. We find to put him in the right path. Such curiosity in him the seed of many virtues, but the displays the strong interest which Byron, harvest of many vices. At school he was and all concerning him, excited in his con- the generous protector of the weak; in early temporaries; nor is such interest altogether manhood and throughout his life he was peculiar to him, for similar inquiries have deeply attached to his friends; bis sympabeen made about Shakspeare's and Bacon's thies with the oppressed of the earth ended religion. We incline to think that in all only with his days, and nothing in his life these cases the question ought to be differ- was so creditable or hopeful as were the ently worded; and a very slight verbal closing scenes of it at Missolonghi. He had change in the form of it, though by no sought and he had found that which, earlier possessed, might have kept him from many | merit of being mostly intelligible; in fact, follies, and rescued him from many vices. it seems to have been constructed by the Even those who differed from him in his author to prove that he has the power when policy for the Greeks acknowledged his he likes of discharging his style from the clear vision, his firm purpose, his devotion rugged affectations and irritating freaks in to the cause, his generosity to the objects which he indulged himself in his essays on of it. But all these gifts, and the promise representative men. The view that he of even greater gifts than these, were takes might at first be thought an encourmarred by his perversity. He had the fatal agement to those whom Coleridge comweakness of preferring singularity to sin-pared to sponges, creatures of low organicerity. In his search of singularity he was zation with a power of absorption, who reunfortunately successful both at home and produce what they take in, discoloured; abroad; but it cooled his friends, it heated but in reality he gives a definite position to his enemies, it stained and enfeebled an ori- the mere spoilers of the dead on the field ginally noble nature, and it made shipwreck, of letters. His great object is to show before youth had entirely departed from that genius is more human than people him, of a gallant vessel. He might have think. He does not say so in terms, for it been added to the list of "mighty poets in would directly contradict statements pretheir misery dead," by the great poet whom viously made by him, but that is his meanhe misunderstood, and who also misappre-ing, plainly enough implied. There is alhended him; and should some future Dante most as much superstition talked of genius portray the assemblage of poets in the as there is of religion. The word seems shades, the group in which the author of provocative of a kind of rhetorical frenzy Childe Harold will be the central light may when it drops from the pen. Shakespeare well be formed by Lucretius, Marlowe, did some mischief when he gave us that picChatterton, and Percy Shelley.

turesque description of the poet's eye rollSo many questions, handled or suggesteding about and taking in the heavens ; Shakein these volumes, still remain for examina- speare, who probably had on his desk at tion, that we must defer our comment upon the time scraps of English folk-lore and them to another time. At present we con- notes of Greek names, and was making a tent ourselves with remarking that, although play out of them and his head, just as Mr. we can understand why this narrative has Boucicault might compose an original sixty been eagerly expected, we cannot see why thousand-pounder from the half-forgotten it has been so long delayed. The work of novel of a defunct Irishman. To be sure, composition may well and properly be tardy, the mental processes which the two men but that of compilation and arrangement whom we have put together could bring to needs not be so. Of composition, in the bear on the stuff in hand differ considerasense of a just ordonnance of parts in their bly; but are they essentially unlike, or is relation to one another or to a whole, there the difference only in degree? That is just is absolutely none. Even the arrangement the point the reader of Mr. Emerson's esof the chapters is very arbitrary and lax; say will find discussed. He appears to many portions of the first volume being think that our greatest men of letters have equally suitable to the second, and many been the boldest adapters, and goes further sections of each volume being, for anything in stating in substance that they could not appearing to the contrary, put where they possibly do anything but work up old forms. stand, either because the manuscript was He makes use of a felicitous phrase which ready for the printer, or because the author- critics will find serviceable. There is, he ess desired that her book should follow the says, an “ assimilating power.” We might course of free conversation rather than the add, - yes, and an assimilating trick; and rules which usually regulate biography or one makes your Shakespeare, and the other even panegyrical discourses.

makes your clever fellow. But in this connection why does Mr. Emerson state

“ we value in Coleridge his excellent knowlFrom the London Review.

edge and quotations perhaps as much, pos

sibly more, than his original suggestions? " MR. EMERSON ON QUOTATION AND Who that has read the "Friend " will agree ORIGINALITY.

with this ? Coleridge, of all English writ

ers, was the greatest seeker for new things. The current number of the North Ameri- When he took an idea into his mind, it can Review contains a remarkable paper by went, so to speak, through a chemical change Mr. Emerson, touching the question of at once, and the precipitate was another originality in literature. It has the special | substance. Burton is the most enjoyable


quoter in our language. Coleridge was “Genius is, in the first instance, sensibility, even affectedly and often wearisomely in the capacity of receiving just impressions dependent; we do not believe he ever kept from the external world, and the power of another man's thought by him in its first co-ordinating these after the laws of thought."

This is a clear and a fine definition, but does In making out his case Mr. Emerson does it not extinguish that word “create"? Mr. not embarrass himself much by studying Emerson knows well that we have nothing the genealogical tree of a notion, although to do with creating, that the phrase is loosehe cannot resist the temptation of bringing ly and absurdly used; he knows it so well Plato and Baron Munchausen together. that he writes this essay in point of fact to This sort of exercise belongs to the or-prove that " assimilation" is all we can der of inquiry which institutes a search justly speak of, and yet he must jar the after things not generally known. But whole tone of a harmonious and symmetrithere is one amazing inconsistency in the cal essay in order to introduce a characterarticle. After we have read of the assimi-istic flourish of grand nonsense. We are, lating power,” and begin to understand that however, glad to see such a paper pubgenius is fed, and requires to be fed - that lished. it cannot intellectually survive on air, and Mr. Emerson does good in casting a that it must necessarily be indebted, as stone at a superstition. Spontaneous geneverything on this earth is indebted, to its eration of ideas is just as impossible a thing surroundings, we come across such a sen- as endeavouring to form live creatures by tence as this a Bulwerian sentence orna- sending electric shocks through water. mented with capital letters, “ The divine Genius is neither more nor less than what resides in the new. The divine never quotes, Mr. Emerson has well expressed in the senbut is, and creates. The profound appre- tence we have quoted above. It is a pity hension of the Present is Genius, which he did not stop there, for we are sorry to makes the Past forgotten.” We don't know find him again in the clouds at the finish, or what the “divine " is here, and as for the rather, knocking about the ceiling of his conundrum hidden between the two large own brown study, like Mr. Home in his P's of Past and Present, it must be given drawing-room on a certain occasion, now up; but, if there is a gleam of sense in the historical; yet the first portion of Mr. passage, it discloses an idea which is alto-Emerson's paper shows that his tendency to gether inconsistent with what follows. defy the laws of gravitation is not chronic.

The sum expended in publishing the fac-simile the Lord Chamberlain and Miss Burdett Coutts, of “ Domesday Book” has been £3,556, and artists will no longer have the privilege of using the receipts from the sale of copies have been that lady's house for the purpose of giving con£1,938. There being, however, 4,947 copies in certs. store, which, when sold, will produce £1,900, and for which there is a steady demand, it is expected that the publication of this work will

It appears that the splendid old organ at St.

| Bartholomew-the-Great, West Smithfield, has more than cover the cost of its production.

been lost. During the rocent extensive restora

tions of that edifice this well-known instrument THE sale of M. Brunet's library, at the Hotel was consigned to the care of an organ-builder, Druột, has produced the sum of 305,825 francs. who for preservation“ warehoused” it, and, A copy of " Gargantua” in two volumes, edi. marvellous to relate, it cannot be found. So the tion 1535, was sold for 8,750 francs; and “Le parish authorities have contented themselves Premier Livre du Discours de l'Estat de Paix et with £40 as compensation, and have put up a de Guerre," a translation of Machiavelli, edition small instrument in its place. of 1544, and which copy had belonged to Francis the First, was run up to 5,000 francs.

It is said that the original scores of most, if

not all, of Handel's Oratorios are or were in the MR. THOMAS WRIGHT is compiling another Queen's Library at Buckingham Palace. collection of Anglo Saxon and early English vocabularies for Mr. Joseph Mayer, of Liver

THOSE who are admitted to intimate personal | intercourse with the Pope say that he is not only

a good singer for a man of his years, but an exIn consequence of a correspondence between cellent violoncello player,


« AnteriorContinuar »