LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Editor of the Courier
Byron and Medwin's Conversations.
The Courier  No. 10,287  (3 November 1824)
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No. 10,287. WEDNESDAY EVENING, NOVEMBER 3, 1824. Price 7D.

The extracts which we have given from Capt. Medwin's  Conversations of Lord Byron, have enabled our readers to estimate the value of that work. It has a value; but it is of a peculiar kind. It has considerable interest too; but it is that description of interest which we feel, in spite of ourselves, for the career of misguided talent. Captain Medwin, we dare say, has performed his task faithfully; and as we are to presume that Lord Byron sanctioned this posthumous exhibition, his friends can have no right to complain that it is now made. They saved him, indeed, from the brand of his own pen: and if we may judge what the picture would have been, filled up in all its details, by this outline, they acted as friends should act.

On every occasion, when we have had to speak of the deceased poet, we have done ample justice to his genius; but we have never shrunk from expressing our opinions of its deplorable prostitution. We own, however, we had but a faint idea, till we had perused Capt. Medwin's volume, of the intimate connection that existed between the man and the poet. Rousseau's Confessions were an eloquent apology for that intense selfishness which goads a man on to seek every gratification he can obtain, at the expense of all feelings but his own. Every action he performed, emanated from this impulse. His preposterous vanity—his irritability——his amours—his whims—his prejudices—were all so many offerings to the shrine of selfishness. The whole world was to receive its impressions from him; but as this was impossible, whenever he could not mould it to his wish, he maligned it. Lord Byron was, in many respects, a disciple of the Rousseau school. His affected seclusion from, and contempt of, society, was the balm he applied to a deeply wounded vanity. It was not till society had, in some degree, shaken him off, that he scornfully turned his back upon society; and he then sought relief in reviling what he had lost. Like the Coriolanus of Shakespeare, who, when the citizens of Rome banished him, turned disdainfully upon his pursuers, and exclaimed, “I banish you.”

Byron was what every man must be who surrenders himself wholly to the impulse of his passions. This impulse he sought neither to regulate nor control; and their consequences whatever pain, or degradation, or misery, they might carry to the bosoms of others, became for him the material of a sarcasm or a jest. Dismissing, altogether, for a moment, the immorality of his amours, can any thing be more disgusting, than the heartless and libertine manner in which he spoke of them? It would seem, almost, as if he sought an affair of gallantry, only for the pitiful and profligate triumph of boasting of it. Love he evidently never felt, though he could describe it with such impassioned eloquence: perhaps upon the same principle that Rousseau declared, if he wished to write a powerful apostrophe to liberty, he could do it best in one of the dungeons of the Bastille.

With respect to his intellectual character, that must be gathered from his writings, not from his conversation. We should hardly have thought it possible, that a man of genius could talk so baldly. The opinions he pronounced upon men, upon books, and upon events, were scarcely upon a level with those which are delivered in any company where half a dozen well-educated persons are present. They have a little poignancy, but it is derived wholly from the individuals and the circumstances to which they relate. They have nothing of the raciness of thought about them. Yet, it will, perhaps, be replied—the book is interesting, and it is read with avidity. Granted: and the conversations of Thurtell were interesting, and read with avidity. There is a coarse, and there is an epicurean, appetite for these things. Dish up a mess of scandal, of sarcastic tittle-tattle, of sneering small-talk, about persons and things which are the buzz of the moment, season it with significant blanks, or easily supplied asterisms—and you have at once a work which is to be found upon every table for a month, and upon every book-stall in the metropolis afterwards.