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lancholy truths ; though I believe that it is too triste a work ever to have been popular. The first time I ever read it (not the edition I send you, —for I got it since), was at the desire of Madame de Staël, who was supposed by the good-natured world to be the heroine ;—which she was not, however, and was furious at the - supposition. This occurred in Switzerland, in the summer of 1816, and the last season in which I ever saw that celebrated person.
“ I have a request to make to my friend Alfred (since he has not disdained the title), viz. that he would condescend to add a cap to the gentleman in the jacket,-it would complete his costume,_and smooth his brow, which is somewhat too inveterate a likeness of the original, God help me!
“ I did well to avoid the water-party,---why, is a mystery, which is not less to be wondered at than all my other mysteries. Tell Milor that I am deep in his MS., and will do him justice by a diligent perusal.
". The letter which I enclose I was prevented from sending by my despair of its doing any good. I was perfectly sincere when I wrote it, and am so still. But it is difficult for me to withstand the thousand provocations on that subject, which both friends and foes have for seven years been throwing in the way of a man whose feelings were once quick, and whose temper was never patient. But · returning were as tedious as go o'er.' I feel this as much as ever Macbeth did ; and it is a dreary sensation, which at least avenges the real or imaginary wrongs of one of the two unfortunate persons whom it concerns.
“ But I am going to be gloomy ;-so ' to bed, to bed.' Good night, —or rather morning. One of the reasons why I wish to avoid society is, that I can never sleep after it, and the pleasanter it has been the less I rest.
Ever most truly,” &c. &c.
I shall now produce the enclosure contained in the above; and there are few, I should think, of my readers who will not agree with me in pronouncing, that if the author of the following letter had not right on his side, he had at least most of those good feelings which are found in general to accompany it.
TO LADY BYRON.
(TO THE CARE OF THE HON. MRS. LEIGH, LONDON).
Pisa, November 17, 1821. “ I have to acknowledge the receipt of 'Ada's hair,' which is very soft and pretty, and nearly as dark already as mine was at twelve years old, if I may judge from what I recollect of some in Augustaʼs possession, taken at that age. But it don't curl, -perhaps from its being let grow.
I also thank you for the inscription of the date and name, and I will tell you why ;-I believe that they are the only two or three words of your hand-writing in my possession. For your letters I returned, and except the two words, or rather the one word, Household,' written
twice in an old account book, I have no other. I burnt your last note, for two reasons :-firstly, it was written in a style not very agreeable ; and, secondly, I wished to take your word without documents, which are the worldly resources of suspicious people.“
“ | suppose that this note will reach you somewhere about Ada's birthday—the 10th of December, I believe. She will then be six, so that in about twelve more I shall have some chance of meeting her ;perhaps sooner, if I am obliged to go to England by business or otherwise. Recollect, however, one thing, either in distance or nearness ;every day which keeps us asunder should, after so long a period, rather soften our mutual feelings, which must always have one rallying-point as long as our child exists, which I presume we both hope will be long after either of her parents.
“ The time which has elapsed since the separation has been considerably more than the whole brief period of our union, and the not much longer one of our prior acquaintance. We both made a bitter mistake ; but now it is over, and irrevocably so. For, at thirty-three on my part, and a few years less on yours, though it is extended period of life, still it is one when the habits and thought are generally so formed as to admit of no modification ; and as we could not agree when younger, we should with difficulty do só now.
“ I say all this, because I own to you, that, notwithstanding every thing, I considered our re-union as not impossible for more than a year after the separation ;-but then I gave up the hope entirely and for ever. But this very impossibility of re-union seems to me at least a reason why, on all the few points of discussion which cán arise between us, we should preserve the courtesies of life, and as much of its kindness as people who are never to meet may preserve perhaps more easily than nearer connexions. For my own part, I am violent, but not malignant ; for only fresh provocations can awaken my resentments.
who are colder and more concentrated, I would just hint, that you may sometimes mistake the depth of a cold anger for dignity, and a worse feeling for duty. I assure you that I bear you now (whatever I may have done) no resentment whatever. Remember, that if you have in-, jured me in aught, this forgiveness is something ; and that, if I have injured you, it is something more still, if it be true, as the moralists say, that the most offending are the least forgiving.
" Whether the offence has been solely on my side, or reciprocal, or on yours chiefly, I have ceased to reflect upon any but two things, viz. that you are the mother of my child, and that we shall never meet again. I think if you also consider the two corresponding points with reference to myself, it will be better for all three.
- NOEL BYRON.”
It has been my plan, as must have been observed, wherever my materials have furnished me with the means, to leave the subject of my Memoir to relate his own story; and this object, during the two or three years of his life just elapsed, I have been enabled by the rich re
sources in my hands, with but few interruptions, to attain. Having now, however, reached that point of his career from which a new start was about to be taken by his excursive spirit, and a course, glorious as it was brief and fatal, entered upon,-a moment of pause may be permitted while we look back through the last few years, and for a while dwell upon the spectacle, at once grand and painful, which his life during that most unbridled period of his powers exhibited.
In a state of unceasing excitement, both of heart and brain,-for ever warring with the world's will, yet living but in the world's breath, with a genius taking upon itself all shapes, from Jove down to Scapin, and a disposition veering with equal facility to all points of the moral compass,-not even the ancient fancy of the existence of two souls within one bosom would seem at all adequately to account for the varieties, both of power and character, which the course of his conduct and writings during these few feverish years displayed. Without going back so far as the Fourth Canto of Childe Harold, which one of his bitterest and ablest assailants has pronounced to be, " in point of execution; the sublimest poetical achievement of mortal pen, we have, in a similar strain of strength and splendour, the Prophecy of Dante, Cain, the Mystery of Heaven and Earth, Sardanapalus, -all produced during this wonderful period of his genius. To these also are to be added four otlier dramatic pieces, which, though the least successful of his compositions, have yet, as Poems, few equals in our literature; while, in a more especial degree, they illustrate the versatility of taste and power so remarkable in him, as being founded, and to this very circumstance, perhaps; owing their failure, on a severe classic model, the most uncongenial to his own habits and temperament, and the most remote from that bold, unshackled licence which it had been the great mission of his genius, throughout the whole realms of Mind, to assert.
In contrast to all these high-toned strains, and struck off during the same fertile period, we find his Don Juan—in itself an epitome of all the marvellous contrarieties of his character-thë Vision of Judgment, the Translation from Pulci, the Pamphlets on Pope, on the British Review, on Blackwood, -together with a swarm of other light, humorous trifles, all flashing forth carelessly from the same mind that was, almost same moment, personating, with a port worthy of such a presence, the mighty spirit of Dante, or following the dark footsteps of Scepticism over the ruins of past worlds, with Cain.
All this time, too, while occupied with these ideal creations, the demands upon his active sympathies, in real life, were such as almost
mind but his own would have found sufficient to engross its every thought and feeling. An amour, not of that light, transient kind which“
goes without a burden," but, on the contrary, deep-rooted enough to endure to the close of his days, employed as restlessly wath its first hopes and fears à portion of this period as with the entanglements to which it led, political and domestic, it embarrassed the remainder. Scarcely, indeed, had this disturbing passion began to calm, when a new source of excitement presented itself in that conspiracy into which he flung himself so fearlessly, and which ended, as we have seen, but in multiplying the objects of his sympathy and protection, and driving him to a new change of home and scene.
When we consider all these distractions that beset him, taking into account also the frequent derangement of his health, and the time and temper he must have thrown away on the minute drudgery of watching over every item of his household expenditure, the mind is lost in almost incredulous astonishment at the wonders he was able to achieve under such circumstances—at the variety and prodigality of power with which, in the midst of such interruptions and hinderances, his so bright soul broke out on every side,” and not only held on its course, unclogged, through all these difficulties, but even extracted out of the very struggles and annoyances it encountered new nerve for its strength, and new fuel for its fire.
While thus at this period, more remarkably than at any other during his life, the unparalleled versatility of his genius was unfolding itself, those quick, cameleon-like changes of which his character, too, was capable were, during the same time, most vividly, and in strongest contrast, drawn out. To the world, and more especially to England, -the scene at once of his glories and his wrongs,—he presented himself in no other aspect than that of a stern, haughty misanthrope, self-banished from the fellowship of men, and, most of all, from that of Englishmen. The more genial and beautiful inspirations of his muse were, in this point of view, looked upon but as lucid intervals between the paroxysms of an inherent malignancy of nature; and even the laughing effusions of his wit and humour got credit for no other aim than that which Swift boasted of, as the end of all his own labours, “ to vex the world rather than divert it."
How totally all this differed from the Byron of the social hour, they who lived in familiar intercourse with him may be safely left to tell. The sort of ferine reputation which he had acquired for himself abroad prevented numbers, of course, of his countrymen, whom he would have most cordially welcomed, from seeking his acquaintance. But, as it was, no English gentleman ever approached him, with the common forms of introduction, that did not come away at once surprised and charmed by the kind courtesy and facility of his manners, the unpretending play of his conversation, and, on a nearer intercourse, the frank, youthful spirits, to the flow of which he gave way with such a zest, as even to deceive some of those who best knew him into the impression, that gaiety was after all the true bent of his disposition.
To these contrasts which he presented, as viewed publicly and privately, is to be added also the fact, that, while braving the world's ban so boldly, and asserting man's right to think for himself with a freedom and even daringness unequalled, the original shyness of his nature never ceased to hang about him ; and while at a distance he was regarded as a sort of autocrat in intellect, revelling in all the confidence of his own great powers, a somewhat nearer observation enabled a common acquaintance at Venice* to detect, under all this, traces of that self-distrust and bashfulness which had marked him as a boy, and which never entirely forsook him through the whole of his career.
Still more singular, however, than this contradiction between the public and private man,-a contradiction not unfrequent, and, in some cases, more apparent than real, as depending upon the relative position of the observer,—were those contrarieties and changes not less startling, which his character so often exhibited, as compared with itself. He who, at one moment, was seen intrenched in the most absolute self-will, would, at the very next, be found all that was docile and amenable. To-day, storming the world in its strong-holds, as a misanthrope and satirist--to'morrow, learning, with implicit obedience, to fold a shawl as a Cavaliere -the same man who had so obstinately refused to surrender, either to friendly remonstrance or public outcry, a single line of Don Juan, at the mere request of a gentle Donna agreed to cease it altogether; nor would venture to resume this task (though the chief darling of his muse) till, with some difficulty, he had obtained leave from the same ascendant quarter. Who, indeed, is there that, without some previous clue to his transformations, could have been at all prepared to recognise the coarse libertine of Venice in that romantic and passionate lover who, but a few months after, stood weeping before the fountain in the garden at Bologna ? vor, who could have expected to find in the close calculator of sequins and baiocchi, that generous champion of Liberty whose whole fortune, whose very life itself were considered by him but as trifling sacrifices for the advancement, but by a day, of her cause ?
And here naturally our attention is drawn to the consideration of another feature of his character, connected more intimately with the bright epoch of his life now before us. Notwithstanding his strongly marked prejudices in favour of rank and high birth, we have seen with what ardour,—not only in fancy and theory, but .practically, as in the case of the Italian Carbonari,-he embarked his sympathies unreservedly on the current of every popular movement towards freedom. Though of the sincerity of this zeal for liberty the seal set upon it so solemnly by his death leaves us no room to doubt, a question may fairly arise whether that general love of excitement, let it flow from whatever source it might, by which, more or less, every pursuit of his whole life was actuated, was not predominant among the impulses that governed him in this; and, again, whether it is not probable that, like Alfieri and other aristocratic lovers of freedom, he would not ultimately have shrunk from the result of his own equalising doctrines ;" *and, though zealous enough in lowering those above his own level, rather recoil from the task of raising up those who were below it.
With regard to the first point, it may be conceded, without deducting much from bis sincere zeal in the cause, that the gratification of his thirst of fame, and, above all, perhaps, that supply of excitement so necessary
* The Countess Albrizzi-see her Sketch of his Character.