LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism
[Hugh Swinton Legaré]
Byron’s Letters and Journals.
The Southern Review  Vol. 7  No. 13  (May 1831)  1-42.
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MAY, 1831

Art. I.—Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, with Notices of his Life. By Thomas Moore. In 2 Vols. Vol. ii. New York. J. & J. Harper, 1831.

THE second volume of Mr. Moore’s work is one of the most interesting books in the language. The success of the author is exactly in the inverse ratio of the space which he occupies in his own pages—of which he has, for this time, yielded the almost exclusive possession to the hero of his story. He has, indeed, presented us with the “Confessions” of Lord Byron, made up of the most authentic and least suspicious of all possible materials—his letters, journals and the like relics, thrown off with the impression of every varying mood upon them, and apparently without any intention, or even the remotest idea of giving them to the public. They exhibit, accordingly, without disguise or palliation, a view of his whole course of life during his last residence on the continent. We need not say that the life of which the secret post-scenia and deepest recesses are thus unexpectedly laid bare to the gaze of the world, is that of a man of pleasure—dashed, it is true, with the gloom of a complexional melancholy, or more brilliantly diversified by the mingled glories of genius and literature, and abruptly and prematurely terminating in a high tragic catastrophe—an atoning self-sacrifice, and a hero’s grave. A book of this character, it may very well be conceived, will, in spite of its attractions, or rather in consequence of them, find a place in the Index Expurgatorius of the sterner sort of censors—along with the “Memoires de Grammont,” and the “Amours des Gaules” of the Count de Bussy-
2Byron’s Letters and Journals.
Rabutin. Yet, it is fit and desirable that such truths should he told. They are passages in the book of life which all would and some should read, and although the example of such a man as Lord Byron is, no doubt, calculated to do much harm to minds of a certain stamp, we must only take care to deny it to such people, as edged tools and dangerous drugs are kept out of the way of children, and adults who are no better than children. In this naive confession, besides, of all the infirmities and irregularities of the grandest genius, burning and bewildered with the most ungovernable passions, there is, we conceive, no artificial stimulant for the morbid appetite of sensuality. It is not addressed to the imagination, to deprave by exciting it. It is a picture of life and manners, with far more of history and philosophy in it, than of a voluptuous poetry. Every thing depends, as to the effects of certain exposures, upon the associations which they have a tendency to call up. The nudities of the surgeon’s cabinet or the painter’s study, are not those of the bagnio. They are “the simplicity and spotless innocence,” of Milton’s Paradise, to men who survey such objects with the eye of the artist or the philosopher.

We repeat, that we have read this book with intense interest. We do not know where the letters are to be found in any language, which better repay a perusal. Perhaps as mere models of the epistolary style, they are not so exquisite as some that might be cited. Even of this, however, we are far from being sure. If they do not equal, for instance, in grace and elegance, those of Gray, or Lady Mary—if they are not specimens of that inimitable, ineffable bavardage, which makes those of Madame de Sévigné so entirely unique—they fully rival the best of them in spirit, piquancy, and, we venture to add, wit, while, like the epistles of Cicero, they not unfrequently rise from the most familiar colloquial ease and freedom into far loftier regions of thought and eloquence. We were particularly struck with this last peculiarity. We scarcely read one of them without being surprised into a smile—occasionally into a broad laugh—by some felicitous waggery, some sudden descent from the sublime to the ridiculous, while there is many a passage in which the least critical reader will not fail to recognize the hand that drew Childe Harold.

Two other general observations have been suggested to us by the perusal of this volume: the first is, that, although, as we have already remarked, it exhibits a view of Lord Byron’s life when he had abjured the realm and put himself out of the pale of English society, denying its authority, defying its power, setting at nought, with foul scorn, all its conventional
Byron’s Letters and Journals.3
decencies and established opinions, he appears to us in a much more amiable and estimable light as a man, than he did in the first part of the work. We are not troubled here with any sham pleas—any laboured and abortive apologies of
Mr. Moore, for what he must have known to be indefensible, if he had any moral sense at all. There is none of that whining and mawkish hypocrisy which we found so peculiarly disgusting in the history of the earlier part of Byron’s life. He does not tell a tale of horror, and affect to palm it off upon his reader as a candid avowal of a peccadillo—he does not charge his hero with what amounts to parricide, and then lament the unfortunate peculiarities of a parent, which he more than insinuates, were a justification of such a monstrous perversion of nature—in short, he does not confess Byron to have been utterly heartless, by his very attempt (and a most awkward attempt) to find an excuse for him, in the tendency of genius to “mount me up into the brain,” as honest Falstaff would say, but as Mr. Moore most daintily expresses it “to transfer the seat of sensibility from the heart to the fancy.” He tells, or rather he suffers Byron to tell, his story here without any grimace or dissimulation. The whole truth comes out in a round unvarnished tale, and yet it is scarcely possible to read these letters and not feel disposed rather to deplore the fate, than reprobate the conduct of the writer—the gifted and miserable possessor of so much that might be envied, admired and loved—“a fallen cherub,” not only majestic, but touchingly beautiful and attractive, “though in ruins,” with enough of his original goodness as well as brightness about him, to make us feel, what transcendent and glorious excellence he has forfeited, by those accidental circumstances or complexional peculiarities, or whatever else it were, by which, like one of his own heroes, “he was betrayed too early and beguiled too long.”

The gloomy and fierce passions which inspire the muse of Byron seldom break forth in these letters; and as it has been said of Garrick, that it was only when he was off the stage that he was acting, so, if the epistolary correspondence of the poet is (as we take it to be) a fair specimen of his ordinary conversation, we should be inclined to look rather to the effusions of his imagination, than to those which are supposed to flow more immediately from the heart, for the true image of his character. It is not so with common men—it is not so even with those who, possessing extraordinary talents, are in the habit, from policy or propriety or other motives, of exercising a strong self-control when they appear before the public. But Byron knew no such restraints—and then, all his poetry, as we re-
4Byron’s Letters and Journals.
marked on a former occasion, was the language of feelings which he had brooded over until they were exalted into madness, and his brain burned as in a feverish delirium. We are glad to have what we then advanced confirmed by the poet himself. From an unpublished
pamphlet, of which Mr. Moore has furnished some passages, we extract the following, (p. 255.) His lordship is accounting for his having deviated in his own compositions from the standard of excellence which he maintains in theory. “Those who know me best,” says he “know this, and that I have been considerably astonished at the temporary success of my works, &c. Could I have anticipated the degree of attention which has been awarded, assuredly I would have studied more to deserve it. But I have lived in far countries abroad, or in the agitating world at home, which was not favourable to study or reflection: so that almost all I have written has been mere passion—passion, it is true, of different kinds, but always passion; for, in me (if it be not an Irishism to say so) my indifference was a kind of passion, the result of experience and not the philosophy of nature.”* Nor is what he says in another place, (p. 50) at all inconsistent with this avowal—but rather a confirmation of it:—“As for poesy, mine is the dream of the sleeping passions; when they are awake, I cannot speak their language, only in their somnambulism; and just now they are not dormant.” That is to say, the first paroxysms of his wild emotions were overpowering, and he was silent under them—Curæ—ingentes stupent. The eloquence of the passions does not begin until their sharpest fury is spent—until the conflict within, the agony of the tormented spirit, has been assuaged and subdued by time and reflection—but never was that eloquence uttered by one who had not felt what it expresses, and felt it to the very bottom of a thrilling and agitated heart. This is true of every art which professes to hold the mirror up to human nature, in the scenes of its intensest excitement.—The unbounded control which a first-rate orator or actor exercises over a popular assembly—the magic of the flashing eye, the expressive countenance, the melting or piercing tones of a well modulated voice—are these mere feats of rhetorical artifice—the tricks of a crafty juggler coldly practising upon the credulity of the vulgar? By no means. The self-control which generally accompanies them, and which makes them so surely and uniformly effective, is, indeed, the fruit of discipline—but the potent charm, the breathed spell is from the soul—it is nature and nature alone, which asserts this dominion over the hearts of men—and cool and concentrated as the successful performer
* See note, infra, p. 10.
Byron’s Letters and Journals.5
may appear to be, he owes his triumphs over the feelings of others, to still keener sensibilities of his own—to the “pulse which riots and the blood which burns” within him. But if this is true of all men of genius, as it certainly is, it is more applicable to poets than to other artists, and more applicable to Lord Byron than to any other poet. It is impossible to cast the most superficial glance over bis works, without perceiving that they are the effusions of a morbid and maddened sensibility—a faithful record of the poet’s own experience in every variety of wild, tumultuous excitement. Dreams, they may be, of sleeping passions—but they are passions which have been awake, and they are dreams which do but fashion into more poetical shapes, and array in more gloomy or glowing colours, the images of woe or of bliss, of love or of wrath, of beauty or of horror and deformity, which have peopled the waking fancies of the poet.

He, therefore, that sees Lord Byron only through the medium of these letters, will form, at once, a very inadequate, and a very erroneous conception of that extraordinary character. He is looking upon Vesuvius, when his “grim fires” are covered over with vernal luxuriance and beauty—he is looking upon the ocean, when the zephyr is scarcely breathing upon its glassy surface: how should he be able to picture to himself the sublime terrors of the volcano, vomiting forth its smouldering flames and molten lava, or of the foaming surge, when the lowest depths of the sea have been torn up by the tempest? Pope excelled all men in point, terseness and condensation, and he was a very great master of prose, as all true poets are—yet whenever he wished to be particularly terse, condensed and pointed, he preferred writing in verse. Byron’s poetry was, in-like manner, the natural vehicle of his deepest feelings. Masterly as was his prose style, it was no fit channel for such a burning flood of passion and impassioned thought as he poured out when the estro (to use his favourite phrase) was upon him—when he had drunk of love and beauty until he was frenzied with their deliciousness, or some dark fancy, or unfortunate event had occurred to wrap his thoughts in gloom, and “from the bottom stir the hell within him.” His dæmon, like him of the Delphic shrine, delivered his inspiration only in numbers. Compare Manfred with some of these playful epistles and such lines as these.
“My boat is on the shore
And my bark is on the sea;
But before I go, Tom Moore,
Here’s a double health to thee.
6Byron’s Letters and Journals.
Here’s a sigh to those who love me
And a smile to those who hate;
And whatever sky’s above me,
Here’s a heart for every fate,” &c.

Or these,
“My dear Mr. Murray,
Your’e in a damned hurry
To set up this ultimate canto:
But if they don’t rob us,
You’ll see Mr. Hobhouse
Will bring it safe in his portmanteau,” &c.
The gulph between them is immeasurable: it separates worlds; yet they are but the two extremes of Lord Byron’s moral idiosyncracy: the fitful and strange varieties of an hysterical nervousness. That gay creature, with such redundant animal spirits, so full of glee and wantonness, apparently so docile and placable, and prepared to encounter all the vicissitudes of life with irrepressible buoyancy of spirit—what is become of him? In the twinkling of an eye, he has undergone an entire metamorphosis—
“For even in his maddest mirthful mood,
Strange pangs would flash across Childe Harold’s brow,
As if the memory of some deadly feud,
Or disappointed passion, lurked below”—
a cloud is upon his forehead, and woe is in his heart, and his spirit is agitated and convulsed, as with the agony of a dæmoniacal possession. So we have a right to infer, from what it is impossible to separate from the man, the poetry of his passions—which is, at the same time, in perfect analogy with his conduct in certain important particulars, and with his habits of life in his more unsocial and gloomy moods. We, of course, speak rather of the capacities of Lord Byron’s sensibility, than of any permanent, actual state of it. It is very plain from these letters, as well as from other sources of information, and indeed, from the common experience of men, that “time and the hour ran” with him as they do with the rest of the world “thro’ the roughest day.” But it also appears, that he had his moments of severe anguish, of mortal disgust, of withering ennui, dejection and despair—that he felt when he was scarcely turned of thirty, the blight of a long antedated old age, the weariness, the want of interest, the palled appetite and exhausted sensibility—and that the figments of romance do not often exhibit a combination of per-
Byron’s Letters and Journals.7
sonal attributes or a mode of existence, more strange and peculiar, than those of the poetical exile at Venice or Ravenna.

Smooth and smiling, however, as the surface of these letters generally is, there occur occasionally in the course of them, some passages, fraught with all the wrath and acerbity of Byron’s ‘inner man.’ Witness, for instance, the fiendlike joy with which he laughs at the affecting suicide of one of the best and ablest men of whom England has ever had to boast, Sir Samuel Romilly. Be it remembered, that the inexpiable offence which drew down upon him this fierce and implacable hostility was, that he had been professionally engaged by Lady Byron’s friends. To be sure, his Lordship charges him with having previously received his retainer—but then, Sir Samuel offered him, we should think, a satisfactory excuse, when he declared (what Lord Byron alleges no reason to disbelieve) that in the multiplicity of his business, his clerk had not informed him of the fact. It appears to us altogether unreasonable to presume a man of honor guilty of such unhandsome conduct, in the first place, and of a base falsehood, afterwards, to excuse it. Lord Byron may have had better grounds than he has chosen to state for his opinion on the subject—at all events, it is difficult to imagine a sterner or fiercer vindictiveness than is expressed in the following passages:

“I have never heard any thing of Ada, the little Electra of my Mycenæ. ********. But there will come a day of reckoning, even if I should not live to see it. I have at least seen *** shivered, who was one of my assassins. When that man was doing his worst to uproot my whole family, tree, branch and blossoms—when, after taking my retainer, he went over to them—when he was bringing desolation upon my hearth, and destruction on my household gods—did he think that in less than three years, a natural event—a severe domestic, but an expected and common calamity—would lay his carcass in a cross-road or stamp his name in a verdict of lunacy! Did he (who in his sexagenary ***,) reflect or consider what my feelings must have been, when wife and child and sister and name and fame and country, were to be my sacrifice on his legal altar—and this at a moment when my health was declining, my fortune embarrassed, and my mind had been shaken by many kinds of disappointment—while I was yet young and might have reformed what might be wrong in my conduct and retrieved what was perplexing in my affairs! But he is in his grave and ******.” p. 153.

The asterisks in the above passage, no doubt, supply the place of some very dreadful words, since Mr. Moore has thought fit to suppress them. Murray, to whom the letter, from which the passage is extracted, was addressed, seems to have expostulated with Byron on the injustice of his censure, or the excessive ferocity of his resentment. The poet replies—

8 Byron’s Letters and Journals.

“You ask me to spare ****. Ask the worms. His dust can suffer nothing from the truth being spoken: and if it could, how did he behave to me? You may talk to the wind, which will carry the sound—and to the caves which will echo you—but not to me, on the subject of a **** who wrongs me, whether dead or alive.” p. 106.

We feel in duty bound to quote his remarks, in quite a different strain, upon another instance of suicide. The subject of them, it seems, had been an enemy of Byron, and had assailed him, as we are informed by Mr. Moore, “with peculiar bitterness and insolence, at a crisis when both his heart and fame were most vulnerable.” Considering this circumstance, they are certainly very amiable and generous.

“Poor Scott is now no more. In the exercise of his vocation, he contrived at last to make himself the subject of a coroner’s inquest. But he died like a brave man, and he lived an able one. I knew him personally, though slightly. Although several years my senior, we had been schoolfellows together at the ‘grammar-schule’ (or, as the Aberdonians pronounce it, ‘squeel’) of New Aberdeen. He did not behave to me quite handsomely in his capacity of editor a few years ago, but he was under no obligation to behave otherwise. The moment was too tempting for many friends and for all enemies. At a time when all my relations (save one) fell from me like leaves from the tree in autumn winds, and my few friends became still fewer,—when the whole periodical press (I mean the daily and weekly, not the literary press) was let loose against me in every shape of reproach, with the two strange exceptions (from their usual opposition) of ‘the Courier’ and ‘the Examiner,’—the paper of which Scott had the direction was neither the last, nor the least vituperative. Two years ago I met him at Venice, when he was bowed in griefs by the loss of his son, and had known, by experience, the bitterness of domestic privation. He was then earnest with me to return to England; and on my telling him, with a smile, that he was once of a different opinion, he replied to me, ‘that he and others had been greatly misled; and that some pains, and rather extraordinary means, had been taken to excite them.’ Scott is no more, but there are more than one living who were present at this dialogue. He was a man of very considerable talents, and of great acquirements. He had made his way, as a literary character, with high success, and in a few years. Poor fellow! I recollect his joy at some appointment which he had obtained, or was to obtain, through Sir James Mackintosh, and which prevented the further extension (unless by a rapid run to Rome) of his travels in Italy. I little thought to what it would conduct him. Peace be with him!—and may all such other faults as are inevitable to humanity be as readily forgiven him, as the little injury which he had done to one who respected his talents and regrets his loss.”—p. 253.

The other general remark suggested to us by the perusal of these letters is, that they shew Lord Byron to have been quite as much distinguished by his knowledge of the world, and his
Byron’s Letters and Journals.9
acute, practical cleverness, as by the highest attributes of genius. That he should write good, or even admirable prose, is not, in itself, wonderful. Many other poets have excelled in the same way. But Byron’s style is distinguished by an ease, simplicity, and abandon rarely equalled even by those most practised in composition, and every thing he utters is marked with the most accurate and judicious thinking. It is as good a specimen as we have ever seen of strong healthy English sense—that common sense which is of all things most uncommon—in pure, idiomatic, expressive and vigorous English. It is, in short, very prose—and although, as we have said, he occasionally rises into a strain of far loftier mood than is common even in the epistles of the greatest men, his style never ceases to be perfectly free from affectation of every kind, and with no more of poetical colouring about it than is inseparable from the expression of a glowing thought or a, deep feeling. Take the following animated and striking passage as a specimen. It is just one of those occasions, be it remarked, where, as
Pope has it,
“if a poet,
Shone in description, he might show it,”
and where he would be most sorely tempted to show it. Yet nothing could be thrown off more carelessly. To be sure it is the dash of a master’s pencil, and we are not to wonder that the sketch is so spirited and fine.

“In reading, I have just chanced upon an expression of Tom Campbell’s;—speaking of Collins, he says that ‘no reader cares any more about the characteristic manners of his Eclogues than about the authenticity of the tale of Troy.’ ’Tis false—we do care about ‘the authenticity of the tale of Troy.’ I have stood upon that plain daily, for more than a month, in 1810; and, if any thing diminished my pleasure, it was that the blackguard Bryant had impugned its veracity. It is true I read ‘Homer Travestied’ (the first twelve books), because Hobhouse and others bored me with their learned localities, and I love quizzing. But I still venerated the grand original as the truth of history (in the material facts) and of place. Otherwise, it would have given me no delight. Who will persuade me, when I reclined upon a mighty tomb, that it did not contain a hero?—its very magnitude proved this. Men do not labour over the ignoble and petty dead—and why should not the dead be Homer’s dead? The secret of Tom Campbell’s defence of inaccuracy in costume and description is, that his Gertrude, &c. has no more locality in common with Pennsylvania than with Penmanmaur. It is notoriously full of grossly false scenery, as all Americans declare, though they praise parts of the Poem. It is thus that self-love for ever creeps out, like a snake, to sting any thing which happens, even accidentally, to stumble upon it.” p. 279.

10 Byron’s Letters and Journals.

We were greatly struck, the first time we read this passage, with the very few lines in it which relate to Homer and Troy. The style, both of thought and expression, seems to us remarkable for a noble, and even grand simplicity, while that “reclining upon a mighty tomb,” presents, in itself, to the fancy of the reader a complete picture, and brings thronging about it all the great associations of that holy ground of poetry and arms. It reminded us strongly of some imagery in the letter to Murray upon the Pope and Bowles controversy. There is no merit of composition more rare and exquisite, than that of thus exhibiting a perfect image of the object described, suggesting, at the same time, and calling up, as if by enchantment, the whole scene to which it belongs, without any laboured pomp of description. Every scholar knows what high encomiums have been deservedly passed by the critics upon a noted instance of the kind in an oration of Cicero, in which he paints Verres in an effeminate foreign costume, reclining upon the shoulder of a courtezan, and looking out upon a fleet at sea from the shore at Syracuse.* These letters and journals abound with such beauties.

But descriptive talent is not to our present purpose—nor is Byron’s merit as a prose-writer by any means confined to his style. He is a sound and most ingenious thinker. It is scarcely possible to open this volume—unequal as familiar epistles generally are—without being struck with this truth, and wondering how so sensible a man, could have yielded himself up, in the conduct of life, so unresistingly, to the besetting sins of his temper and temperament. We might easily adduce instances without number—but we shall confine ourselves to one. We mean his defence of Pope—a favourite subject, to which he recurs again and again, with unabated enthusiasm. We venture to back him in this—his chosen vocation of critic and champion of injured genius—against any Aristarchus of the schools from the first downward. We would willingly reprint all that he has said upon this subject,—bating the extravagance to which the zeal of the advocate has, in a single instance, carried him—to aid in the circulation of so much excellent sense and good writing—especially as this volume may be considered, in some sort, as an interdicted book. But we will content ourselves with two extracts—one of them containing some curious remarks upon Pope’s amour with Miss Blount.

“And here I wish to say a few words on the present state of English poetry. That this is the age of the decline of English poetry will be doubted by few who have calmly considered the subject. That there
* “In Verrem, act ii. 1. 5. c. 33.
Byron’s Letters and Journals.11
are men of genius among the present poets makes little against the fact, because it has been well said, that ‘next to him who forms the taste of his country, the greatest genius is he who corrupts it.’ No one has ever denied genius to
Marino, who corrupted not merely the taste of Italy, but that of all Europe for nearly a century. The great cause of the present deplorable state of English poetry is to be attributed to that absurd and systematic depreciation of Pope, in which, for the last few years, there has been a kind of epidemical concurrence. Men of the most opposite opinions have united upon this topic. Warton and Churchill began it, having borrowed the hint probably from the heroes of the Dunciad, and their own internal conviction that their proper reputation can be as nothing till the most perfect and harmonious of poets—he who, having no fault, has had reason made his reproach—was reduced to what they conceived to be his level; but even they dared not degrade him below Dryden. Goldsmith, and Rogers, and Campbell, his most successful disciples; and Hayley, who, however feeble, has left one poem ‘that will not be willingly let die,’ (the Triumphs of Temper,) kept up the reputation of that pure and perfect style; and Crabbe, the first of living poets, has almost equalled the master. Then came Darwin, who was put down by a single poem in the Antijacobin; and the Cruscans, from Merry to Jerningham, who were annihilated (if Nothing can be said to be annihilated) by Gifford, the last of the wholesome English satirists.

* * * * *

“These three personages, S * *, W * *, and C * *, had all of them a very natural antipathy to Pope, and I respect them for it, as the only original feeling or principle which they have contrived to preserve. But they have been joined in it by those who have joined them in nothing else: by the Edinburgh Reviewers, by the whole heterogeneous mass of living English poets, excepting Crabbe, Rogers, Gifford, and Campbell, who, both by precept and practice, have proved their adherence; and by me, who have shamefully deviated in practice, but have ever loved and honoured Pope’s poetry with my whole soul, and hope to do so till my dying day. I would rather see all I have ever written lining the same trunk in which I actually read the eleventh book of a modern Epic poem at Malta in 1811, (I opened it to take out a change after the paroxysm of a tertian, in the absence of my servant and found it lined with the name of the maker, Eyre, Cockspur-street, and with the Epic poetry alluded to,) than sacrifice what I firmly believe in as the Christianity of English poetry, the poetry of Pope.

* * * * *

“Nevertheless, I will not go so far as * * in his postscript, who pretends that no great poet ever had immediate fame, which, being interpreted, means that * * is not quite so much read by his cotemporaries as might be desirable. This assertion is as false as it is foolish. Homer’s glory depended upon his present popularity:—he recited,—and, without the strongest impression of the moment, who would have gotten the Iliad by heart, and. given it to tradition? Ennius, Terence, Plautus, Lucretius, Horace, Virgil, Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Sappho, Anacreon, Theocritus, all the great poets of antiquity, were the delight
12Byron’s Letters and Journals.
of their cotemporaries†. The very existence of a poet, previous to the invention of printing, depended upon his present popularity; and how often has it impaired his future fame? Hardly ever. History informs us, that the best have come down to us. The reason is evident; the most popular found the greatest number of transcribers for their MSS., and that the taste of their cotemporaries was corrupt can hardly be avouched by the moderns, the mightiest of whom have but barely approached them.
Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto, and Tasso, were all the darlings of the cotemporary reader. Dante’s Poem was celebrated long before his death; and, not long after it, States negotiated for his ashes, and disputed for the sites of the composition of the Divina Commedia. Petrarch was crowned in the Capitol. Ariosto was permitted to pass free by the public robber who had read the Orlando Furioso. I would not recommend Mr. * * to try the same experiment with his Smugglers. Tasso, notwithstanding the criticisms of the Cruscanti, would have been crowned in the Capitol, but for his death.

“It is easy to prove the immediate popularity of the chief poets of the only modern nation in Europe that has a poetical language, the Italian. In our own, Shakspeare, Spenser, Jonson, Waller, Dryden, Congreve, Pope, Young, Shenstone, Thomson, Johnson, Goldsmith, Gray, were all as popular in their lives as since. Gray’s Elegy pleased instantly, and eternally. His Odes did not, nor yet do they please like his Elegy. Milton’s politics kept him down; but the Epigram of Dryden, and the very sale of his work, in proportion to the less reading time of its publication, prove him to have been honoured by his cotemporaries. I will venture to assert, that the sale of the Paradise Lost was greater in the first four years after its publication than that of ‘the Excursion’ in the same number, with the difference of nearly a century and a half between them of time, and of thousands in point of general readers.” pp. 253, 254.

* * *

Pope himself ‘sleeps well-nothing can touch him further;’ but those who love the honour of their country, the perfection of her literature, the glory of her language, are not to be expected to permit an atom of his dust to be stirred in his tomb, or a leaf to be stripped from the laurel which grows over it.

* * *

“To me it appears of no very great consequence whether Martha Blount was or was not Pope’s mistress, though I could have wished him a better. She appears to have been a cold-hearted, interested, ignorant, disagreeable woman, upon whom the tenderness of Pope’s heart in the desolation of his latter days was cast away, not knowing whither to turn, as he drew towards his premature old age, childless and lonely,—like the needle which, approaching within a certain distance of the pole, becomes helpless and useless, and, ceasing to tremble, rusts. She seems to have been so totally unworthy of tenderness, that it is an additional proof of the kindness of Pope’s heart to have been able to love such a being. But we must love something. I agree with Mr. B. that she ‘could at no time have regarded Pope personally, with attachment,’ because she was incapable of attachment; but I
Byron’s Letters and Journals.13
deny that Pope could not be regarded with personal attachment by a worthier woman. It is not probable, indeed, that a woman would have fallen in love with him as he walked along the Mall, or in a box at the opera, nor from a balcony, nor in a ball-room; but in society he seems to have been as amiable as unassuming, and, with the greatest disadvantages of figure, his head and face were remarkably handsome, especially his eyes. He was adored by his friends—friends of the most opposite dispositions, ages, and talents—by the old and wayward
Wycherley, by the cynical Swift, the rough Atterbury, the gentle Spence, the stern attorney-bishop Warburton, the virtuous Berkeley, and the ‘cankered Bolingbroke.’ Bolingbroke wept over him like a child; and Spence’s description of his last moments is at least as edifying as the more ostentatious account of the deathbed of Addison. The soldier Peterborough and the poet Gay, the witty Congreve and the laughing Rowe, the eccentric Cromwell and the steady Bathurst, were all his intimates. The man who could conciliate so many men of the most opposite description, not one of whom but was a remarkable or a celebrated character, might well have pretended to all the attachment which a reasonable man would desire of an amiable woman.

Pope, in fact, wherever he got it, appears to have understood the sex well. Bolingbroke, ‘a judge of the subject,’ says Warton, thought his ‘Epistle on the Characters of Women’ his ‘masterpiece.’ And even with respect to the grosser passion, which takes occasionally the name of ‘romantic,’ accordingly as the degree of sentiment elevates it above the definition of love by Buffon, it may be remarked, that it does not always depend upon personal appearance, even in a woman. Madame Cottin was a plain woman, and might have been virtuous, it may be presumed, without much interruption. Virtuous she was, and the consequences of this inveterate virtue were that two different admirers (one an elderly gentleman) killed themselves in despair (see Lady Morgan’sFrance’). I would not, however, recommend this rigour to plain women in general, in the hope of securing the glory of two suicides apiece. I believe that there are few men who, in the course of their observations on life, may not have perceived that it is not the greatest female beauty who forms the longest and the strongest passions.

“But, apropos of Pope.—Voltaire tells us that the Marechal Luxembourg (who had precisely Pope’s figure) was not only somewhat too amatory for a great man, but fortunate in his attachments. La Valière, the passion of Louis XIV., had an unsightly defect. The Princess of Eboli, the mistress of Philip the Second of Spain, and Maugiron, the minion of Henry the Third of France, had each of them lost an eye; and the famous Latin epigram was written upon them, which has, I believe, been either translated or imitated by Goldsmith;—
‘Lumine Acon dextro, capta est Leonilla sinistro,
Et potis est forma vincere uterque Deos;
Blande puer, lumen quod habes concede sorori,
Sic tu cæcus Amor, sic erit illa Venus.’

Wilkes, with his ugliness, used to say that ‘he was but a quarter of an hour behind the handsomest man in England;’ and this vaunt of his is said not to have been disproved by circumstances. Swift, when
14Byron’s Letters and Journals.
neither young, nor handsome, nor rich, nor even amiable, inspired the two most extraordinary passions upon record,
Vanessa’s and Stella’s.
Vanessa, aged scarce a score.
Sighs for a gown of forty-four.’

“He requited them bitterly; for he seems to have broken the heart of the one, and worn out that of the other; and he had his reward, for he died a solitary idiot in the hands of servants.

“For my own part, I am of the opinion of Pausanias, that success in love depends upon Fortune. ‘They particularly renounce Celestial Venus, into whose temple, &c. &c. &c. I remember, too, to have seen a building in Ægina in which there is a statue of Fortune, holding a horn of Amalthea; and near her there is a winged Love. The meaning of this is, that the success of men in love-affairs depends more on the assistance of Fortune than the charms of beauty. I am persuaded, too, with Pindar (to whose opinion I submit in other particulars), that Fortune is one of the Fates, and that in a certain respect she is more powerful than her sisters.’—See Pausanias, Achaics, book vii. chap. 26, page 246, ‘Taylor’s Translation.’

Grimm has a remark of the same kind on the different destinies of the younger Crebillon and Rousseau. The former writes a licentious novel, and a young English girl of some fortune and family (a Miss Strafford) runs away, and crosses the sea to marry him; while Rousseau, the most tender and passionate of lovers, is obliged to espouse his chambermaid. If I recollect rightly, this remark was also repeated in the Edinburgh Review of Grimm’s Correspondence, seven or eight years ago.

“In regard ‘to the strange mixture of indecent, and sometimes profane levity, which his conduct and language often exhibited,’ and which so much shocks Mr. Bowles, I object to the indefinite word ‘often;’ and in extenuation of the occasional occurrence of such language it is to be recollected, that it was less the tone of Pope, than the tone of the time. With the exception of the correspondence of Pope and his friends, not many private letters of the period have come down to us: but those, such as they are—a few scattered scraps from Farquhar and others—are more indecent and coarse than any thing in Pope’s letters. The comedies of Congreve, Vanbrugh, Farquhar, Cibber, &c., which naturally attempted to represent the manners and conversation of private life, are decisive upon this point; as are also some of Steele’s papers, and even Addison’s. We all know what the conversation of Sir R. Walpole, for seventeen years the prime-minister of the country, was at his own table, and his excuse for his licentious language, viz., ‘that every body understood that, but few could talk rationally upon less common topics.’ The refinement of latter days,—which is perhaps the consequence of vice, which wishes to mask and soften itself, as much as of virtuous civilization,—had not yet made sufficient progress. Even Johnson, in his ‘London,’ has two or three passages which cannot be read aloud, and Addison’s ‘Drummer’ some indelicate allusions.” pp. 321-323.

Byron’s Letters and Journals. 15

There are two short paragraphs in this volume, that let us fully into Lord Byron’s theory of the sublime and beautiful in composition.

“I thought Anastasius excellent: did I not say so? Matthews’s Diary most excellent; it, and Forsyth, and parts of Hobhouse, are all we have of truth or sense upon Italy. The Letter to Julia very good indeed. I do not despise * * * * *; but if she knit blue-stockings instead of wearing them, it would be better. You are taken in by that false stilted trashy style, which is a mixture of all the styles of the day, which are all bombastic (I don’t except my own—no one has done more through negligence to corrupt the language); but it is neither English nor poetry. Time will show.” p. 240.

“I perceive that in Germany, as well as in Italy, there is a great struggle about what they call ‘classical’ and ‘romantic,’—terms which were not subjects of classification in England, at least when I left it four or five years ago. Some of the English scribblers, it is true, abused Pope and Swift, but the reason was that they themselves did not know how to write either prose or verse; but nobody thought them worth making a sect of. Perhaps there may be something of the kind sprung up lately, but I have not heard much about it, and it would be such bad taste that I shall be very sorry to believe it.” p. 248.

It is plain from these passages that he had formed his taste, or nature had formed it for him, upon the models of Attic, not of Asiatic eloquence—of classical, not of romantic poetry. His observations upon the styles of the day (his own included) is perfectly just. They are all bombastic—even Wordsworth’s, who loves such infantine simplicity—for even his simplicity is often affected, and always visibly elaborate—as different, as it is possible to imagine any thing, from the naked, unsophisticated nature of the best Greek writers.* As to Lord Byron himself, he has pleaded guilty, in anticipation, to a charge which may undoubtedly be alleged against him with perfect justice. He has done more than any body else to make a vicious style, popular. The two last Cantos of Childe Harold have, we believe, generally been considered as his master-pieces. They have been abundantly extolled, and Mr. Moore mentions that one distinguished writer, especially, and he an enemy of Byron, at least, an active adversary of his principles, has pronounced the fourth Canto the most sublime production of human genius. Without subscribing to this extravagant encomium, we flatter ourselves that we feel all the grandeur and pathos of that powerful production. Yet we undertake to say it would be difficult to point out any work of genius of the present age, which is more
* “Voltaire’s prose style is more Attic than that of any writer, we remember, within the last century—except, perhaps, Goldsmith.
16Byron’s Letters and Journals.
obnoxious to the sweeping censure pronounced by the author upon himself and all his contemporaries. In a former article, we adduced several instances to exemplify this criticism, but we then remarked, that it was not a frigid conceit, or an extravagant hyperbole, here and there, which we have to find fault with, so much as the general tone of emphasis and exaggeration—a too visible effort apparent throughout the whole work, to be very original and striking, or very powerful,grand and impressive. This straining after effect—which produces what is well described in French as the style gigantesque—seems to us more or less visible in every part of the poems alluded to, and, no doubt, greatly impairs their general effect, not to mention the positive faults which it engenders.* Let us cite an example. The description of the Belvidere Apollo, contains some of the finest lines in the poem. The whole picture is a magnificent one and worthy of the subject. It is the idea of the statuary bodied forth in poetical language, or rather a competition between the single visible form and the whole power of words, which shall convey the most perfect image of beauty to the mind—such a contest as
Roscius and Cicero are said to have instituted, to try the relative compass of gesture, (or more strictly, mute acting) and oratorical diction. Yet successful as the poet must be admitted to have been in this lofty enterprize, his verse has faults in it from which the statue is free. This comparison is the more important, because as Schlegel says, after Winkelmann, they who wish to conceive a just idea of the standard of excellence which Greek genius proposed to itself, must study the antique in sculpture. The remark is perfectly sound, and we can only say, that Sophocles always occurs to us when we think of the Apollo and vice versa. And so we conceive, that no modern artist (including the poets) has ever approached so nearly to the severe graces, and the simple grandeur of the antique, as Raphael,† But to proceed with the matter in hand. The description is contained in two stanzas—
* Lord Byron speaks in one of his letters, of the Childe Harold as his favourite work. We cite the passage more willingly, because it throws still further light upon the manner in which he identifies himself with his work—the égoisme, in short, which is their pervading principle and spirit. “I rejoice to hear of your forthcoming in February, though I tremble for the magnificence which you attribute to the new Childe Harold. I am glad you like it: it is a fine indistinct piece of poetical desolation, and my favourite. I was half mad during the time of its composition, between metaphysics, mountains, lakes, love unextinguishable, thoughts unutterable, and the night-mare of my own delinquencies. I should, many a good day, have blown my brains out, but for the recollection that it would have given pleasure to my mother-in-law; and even then, if I could have been certain to haunt her, and fling the shattered scalp of my sinciput and occiput in her frightful face.”—p. 51.
Byron’s Letters and Journals.17
it appears to us that both begin most beautifully and end faultily; a perfect Apollo sinking (if we may be pardoned a pun, intelligible only to a foreigner) into a phébus.
“Or view the Lord of the unerring bow,
The god of life and poesy and light—
The sun in human limbs arrayed and brow
All radiant from his triumph in the fight.
The shaft hath just been shot—the arrow bright
With an immortal vengeance; in his eye
And nostril beautiful disdain* and might
And majesty, flash their full lightnings by
Developing in that one glance, the deity.”

The words in italics do not appear to us either in keeping with the image of the Apollo, or appropriate in themselves. “Majesty flashing its lightnings,” might be of questionable propriety, i. e. sobriety, any where—most especially, however, is it so, when applied to this statue. So the epithet “full” seems to be quite out of place—and the “by” at the end of the line is clearly there only for the rhyme. We may be wrong, but the pleasure we have uniformly derived from this beautiful stanza, has always been in some degree marred by these imperfections, as they seem to us. But the second is more objectionable.
“But in his delicate form—a dream of love
Shaped by some solitary nymph, whose breast
Longed for a deathless lover from above
And maddened in that vision—are exprest
All that ideal beauty ever bless’d
The mind within its most unearthly mood,
When each conception was a heavenly guest
A ray of immortality—and stood,
Star-like around, until they gathered to a god.

These last three lines may be fine: there may be some secret meaning in them which we do not seize: we own, however, that they have always appeared to us vague, mystical and extravagant. Of one thing we are very sure, they contribute nothing either to the distinctness or vividness of that image of beauty, which it was the object of the poet to bring out as strongly as possible, and are not like any thing that is to be found in Greek poetry—not excepting the odes of Pindar, or the choruses of the tragedians. Is it good as “romantic” writing?

* This fine line is a reminiscence—in part.
“Oh what a deal of scorn looks beautiful
In the contempt and anger of that lip.”—Shakspeare.
18 Byron’s Letters and Journals.

This last allusion leads us to remark upon that distinction between the “classical” and “romantic” styles, which Byron, in one of the passages quoted above, alludes to as a novel, and condemns as an absurd, one. We are glad to hear an opinion which we ventured to advance in our first number,* confirmed by so high an authority—for if any writer has a claim to a high place in the new school, it is undoubtedly Byron. The distinction now alluded to, originated in Germany. It was seized by Madame de Staël with avidity, as well adapted to her purposes of metaphysical, mystical and ambitious declamation, and it has since been entertained with more respect than we conceive it deserves, in the literary circles of Europe. A. W. Schlegel in his valuable Lectures upon Dramatic Poetry, makes it the basis of all his comparisons between the ancients and the moderns in that art. His main object is to account for the simplicity of the Greek drama, and its close adherence to the three unities, as well as the rigid exclusion from it of every thing comic and incongruous, on principles which shall explain the difference between that style and the complicated and irregular plots and tragi-comic mixtures of Calderon and Shakspeare, without supposing any inferiority in the latter. It was not enough for him to say, that ancient taste was too fastidious; or that ancient criticism was more severe, as the modern is more indulgent—that the former exacted of genius more than it can perform, at least without a sacrifice of much of its power and enthusiasm—while the latter unshackles “the muse of fire” and gives it full scope and boundless regions to soar in—and that this is the reason, in short, why Macbeth and Othello are so much better (as we say they are) than the Orestiad or the Œdipus. This did not suit with Schlegel’s way of thinking, first, because he was a good scholar, and knew better; and next and principally, because he was a German philosopher, and therefore bound to explain the phenomenon by some subtile process of reasoning of his own invention. This he has attempted to do, and the result (as we understand it) is, that in all the arts of taste, the genius of modern times is essentially different from that of the Greeks, and requires, for its gratification, works of a structure totally distinct from those which he admits to have been the best imaginable models of the classic style.

The principle, by which it is attempted to account for this mighty revolution in art and criticism, is religion. That of the Greeks we are told was “the deification of the powers of nature and of earthly life.” Under a southern sky, amidst the
* Article I.—Classical Learning.
Byron’s Letters and Journals.19
sweets of a genial and radiant climate, genius naturally dreams of joy and beauty, and the forms with which a poetical fancy peopled heaven, were fashioned upon those with which it was familiar on earth. A gay, sensual, and elegant mythology, grew up under its plastic hands—its visions of ideal perfection were embodied in the idols of superstitious worship,—and Venus, Apollo, Minerva, Hercules, &c. have been individualized as images of certain attributes, and identified with the conceptions of all mankind, by the master-pieces which they may be said to have patronized, since they were created to adorn their temples or to grace their festivals. But this system of religious adoration was confined to the present life, addressed itself exclusively to the senses, exacted of the worshipper only forms and oblations, and confirmed him in the tranquil self-complacency or the joyous spirit which the face of nature and the circumstances of his own condition inspired. Christianity was, in all these particulars, the very opposite of Paganism. It added to the material world, a mysterious world of spirits—it substituted the infinite for the finite, an endless future for the transitory present—at the end of every vista in life, it presents the grave, and it has shrouded the grave itself in a deeper gloom, and made death emphatically the King of Terrors. But
Schlegel has expressed himself so well upon this subject, that we are tempted to quote a long passage from him:

“Among the Greeks, human nature was in itself all sufficient; they were conscious of no wants, and aspired at no higher perfection than that which they could actually attain by the exercise of their own faculties. We, however, are taught by superior wisdom, that man, through a high offence, forfeited the place for which he was originally destined: and that the whole object of his earthly existence is to strive to regain that situation which if left to his own strength, he could never accomplish. The religion of the senses had only in view the possession of outward and perishable blessings; and immortality, in so far;as it was believed, appeared in an obscure distance like a shadow, a faint dream of this bright and vivid futurity. The very reverse of all this is the case with the Christian: every thing finite and mortal is lost in the contemplation of infinity; life has become shadow and darkness, and the first dawning of our real existence is beyond the grave. Such a religion must awaken the foreboding, which slumbers in every feeling heart, to the most thorough consciousness, that the happiness after which we strive, we can never here obtain: that no external object can ever entirely fill our souls, and that every mortal enjoyment is but a fleeting and momentary deception. When
20Byron’s Letters and Journals.
the soul resting, as it were, under the willows of exile, breathes out its longing for its distant home, the prevailing character of its song must be melancholy. Hence the poetry of the ancients was the poetry of enjoyment, and ours is that of desire; the former has its foundation in the scene which is present, while the latter hovers between recollection and hope. Let us not be understood to affirm that every thing flows in one strain of wailing and complaint, and that the voice of melancholy must always be loudly heard. As the austerity of tragedy was not incompatible with the joyous views of the Greeks, so the romantic poetry can assume every tone, even that of the most lively gladness; but still it will always in some shape or other, bear traces of the source from which it originated. The feeling of the moderns is, upon the whole, more intense, their fancy more incorporeal, and their thoughts more contemplative.”*

Now, we are disposed to assent, in general, to the justness of these observations. We think that modern literature does differ from that of the Greeks in its complexion and spirit—that it is more pensive, sombre and melancholy, perhaps we may add, more abstract and metaphysical—and it has, no doubt, been “sicklied o’er” with this sad hue, by the influence of a religious faith which connects morality with worship, and teaches men to consider every thought, word and action of their lives as involving, in some degree, the tremendous issues of eternity. Macchiavelli has a similar theory of his own. He refers the existence of democratic government among the ancients, and the almost total absence of it in his time, to the same cause. The spirit of polytheism he conceives to have been bold, hardy and masculine, that of Christianity to be so meek, lowly, and self-abasing as to fit its professors for any sort of imposition or contumely.† This notion has been signally refuted by the history of the last three centuries—especially by the exploits of our Puritan and Huguenot ancestors—but the theory of the Florentine secretary is, in practical matters, very much what Schlegel’s is in literature. Certainly we are more given to spiritualizing than the Greeks were—sensible objects suggest moral reflections more readily—the external world is treated as if it were the symbol of the invisible, and the superiority of mind to matter, of the soul to the body, is almost as much admitted by the figures of rhetoric and poetry, as in the dogmas of philosophy. There were no Herveys and Dr. Youngs at Athens. The spirit, we repeat it is changed—the
* Dramatic Lit.—Lect. ix. p. 348. Discorsi.
Byron’s Letters and Journals.21
associations which natural objects suggest, are different, of course—but does this alter, in any essential degree, the forms of beauty? Does it affect the proportions which the parts of a work of art ought to bear to each other and to the whole? Does it so far modify the relations of things that what would be fit and proper in a poem, an oration, a colonnade, a picture, if it were ancient, is misplaced and incongruous now? In short, has the philosophy of literature and the arts, the reason, the logic—which controls their execution and results as much as it does the conclusions of science, though in a less palpable manner—undergone any serious revolution? Schlegel and the rest of the same school affirm that such a revolution has taken place. Their favourite illustration of it is, as we have already remarked, the drama and the unities;
Shakspeare and Sophocles are the great representatives of the “romantic” and the “classical”—and they compare the former to painting which is various, the latter, to sculpture, which is of course characterized by singleness and simplicity. “Why,” say they “are the Greek and romantic poets so different in their practice, with respect to place and time.” The question is an interesting one. Many solutions may be offered; and the very last we should adopt would be the following: which, indeed, so far as it is intelligible, is only a different way of asserting the same thing; in other words, a very palpable petitio principii. “The principal cause of the difference is the plastic spirit of the antique and the picturesque spirit of the romantic poetry. Sculpture directs our attention exclusively to the groupe exhibited to us, it disentangles it as far as possible from all external accompaniments, and where they can be altogether dispensed with, they are indicated as lightly us possible. Painting, on the other hand, delights in exhibiting in a minute manner, along with the principal figures, the surrounding locality and all the secondary objects, and to open to us in the background, a prospect into a boundless distance; light and perspective are its peculiar charms. Hence the dramatic, and especially, the tragic art of the ancients annihilates in some measure, the external circumstances of space and time; while the romantic drama adorns by their changes its more diversified pictures. Or to express myself in other terms, the principles of antique poetry is ideal, that of the romantic mystical; the former subjects, space and time, to the internal free activity of the mind; the latter adores these inconceivable essences as supernatural powers, in whom something of the divinity has its abode.”*

* Dramatic Lit.—Lect. ix.
22 Byron’s Letters and Journals.

We are willing to impute the transcendent, or if the epithet be preferred, the truly romantic nonsense of the last sentence, to the translator; but we may conjecture from the context, and from the other parts of his work, what was the drift of the author. M. Schlegel means to say (as he does affirm elsewhere) that this difference between ancient and modern genius, which is thus illustrated by sculpture and painting, or the plastic and the picturesque, pervades all the departments of literature and art, without exception. In music, for instance, the ancients are said to have preferred melody, the moderns, harmony—in architecture, compare the Parthenon or the Pantheon with Westminster Abbey, or the Church of St. Stephen at Vienna—even the sculpture of the moderns, according to the opinion of Hemsterhusius, is too much like painting, as the painting of the ancients was probably too much like sculpture. Now, in the first place, we deny the fact that the taste of the moderns is different from that of the Greeks in these particulars. As for the drama, we have no tragedies but Shakspeare’s and if we had, his incomparable genius has settled that part of the controversy irreversibly, so far as popular opinion is concerned. But do not all scholars, without exception, admire and delight in the Greek tragedy? As for music, we suspect that melody is as much preferred now to harmony, as it ever was at Athens; but if it were not, it would be for time to decide, whether the taste of the day were not a transitory and false one. We know too little of the state of that art among the Greeks, to enable us to draw any sure inferences from it. Besides, the proper comparison would be not between melody and harmony, but between romantic melody or harmony, and classical melody or harmony, since both existed at each of the two great periods, and there can be no fair comparison but between things of the same kind. So with architecture. A Gothic cathedral has its beauties—it has its own peculiar proportions—it has fitness to the solemn purpose for which it was designed—it has gorgeous ornament, imposing massiveness, striking altitude,immense extent—its long-drawn aisle and fretted vault—its storied windows—the choir, the altar, the crucifixes, the confessional of the penitent, the stones of the pavement worn by the knees of pilgrims and crusaders, the air of venerable antiquity and religious gloom pervading the whole interior—a thousand interesting associations of the past and of the future, of history and the church, conspire to make it one of the most impressive objects that can be presented to the imagination of man. The origin of the style was in a dark age; but it has taken root, nor is it at all probable
Byron’s Letters and Journals.23
that, so long as Christianity shall endure, the modern world will ever be brought to think as meanly of these huge piles, as a Greek architect (if one were suddenly revived) possibly might. Still, there are very few builders of the present age who do not prefer the orders of Greece—and even if they did not, how would that prove that future ages would not? “Time will show,” as
Byron says, which taste is the more natural and reasonable: and time only, and the voice of the majority, can shew it conclusively.

Meanwhile, let us descend to details: suppose a particular object proposed to be painted or described in the strict sense of those words? Are there two ways of doing that perfectly, and yet as different from each other as the styles in question are supposed to be? A portrait, for instance,—is a classical likeness, a different thing from a romantic, and yet both good likenesses of the same thing? Suppose the object described to be twilight. If the pictures were confined to the sensible phenomena, it is obvious there could not be any variety in them, as any one who doubts what is so obvious to reason, may convince himself by comparing parallel passages in the ancient and modern classics—e.g. Milton’s lines, “now came still evening on, and twilight gray”—Virgil’s beautiful verses on midnight, in the fourth Æneid, Homer’s on moon-light in the eighth Iliad. The exquisite sketches of these objects executed by the great masters just mentioned, are all in precisely the same style, and if they were in the same language, might easily be ascribed to the same age of poetry. To be sure, if without, or besides describing the object, some striking association of ideas be suggested, that may make a very material difference, because such things are essentially accidental and mutable. For instance, Dante’s famous lines on the evening, describe it, not as the period of the day when nature exhibits such or such phenomena, which must always be the same while her everlasting order shall be maintained, but by certain casual circumstances which may or may not accompany that hour—the vesper bell, tolling the knell of the dying day, the lonely traveller looking back with a heart oppressed with fond regrets, to the home which he has just left—very touching circumstances no doubt, to those who have a home or have lived in Catholic countries, but still extraneous, and it may be, transitory circumstances.

The same thing may be affirmed of any other particular object, either in the moral or the material world. A picture of conjugal love, for instance, as in Hector and Andromache—of maternal despair, as in Shakspeare’s Blanche—of filial devotedness, as in the Antigone. We do not comprehend how it is
24Byron’s Letters and Journals.
possible to exhibit such objects in more than one style that shall be perfect—and that the natural, the universal, the unchangeable—quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus. And what is clearly true of the details, we take to be equally true of the combinations. The spirit may vary, the associations, the colouring or complexion; but substantially,there can be but one form of ideal beauty, with which human nature, that never changes, will rest forever satisfied.

We will borrow an illustration, on this subject, from the learned Michaelis. If any two systems of religion and poetry differ in their spirit, in the associations with which they surround the objects of their adoration and praise, and the effect they produce upon the mind of the votary, it is the Jewish and the Pagan—the one dwelling forever in its prophetic raptures, upon the sublime unity of the Godhead, filling immensity, whose invisible glory it was the guiltiest audacity to degrade by attempting to represent it in any sensible image; the other crowding all space with a mob of thirty thousand deities of every rank and shape. The sacred poetry of the Hebrews, besides, is the great fountain of modern inspiration, strictly so called. Yet differing as widely as it is possible in the very element of thought and character from which Schlegel deduces such important results, there is no essential difference in the forms of Hebrew and Classical poetry. The illustration we shall borrow from the learned author referred to, is the following. He remarks that as the Heathen assigned to Jupiter a chariot and horses of thunder, so the Hebrews have a similar fable, and the Cherubim are expressly the horses of Jehovah’s chariot. He is frequently described as sitting upon the Cherubim. He thunders so that the earth shakes—or as Horace might have expressed it,
“Jehovah per cælum tonantes
Egit equos, volucremque currum;
Quo truta tellus, et vaga flumina
Quo Styxet invisi horrida Tœnari
Sedes, Atlanteusque finis
The same observation holds, in the strictest manner true, of
Milton and Dante, the two most sublime poets of modern times, the most Christian in spirit, and the most classical and severe in style.

After all, this classification of styles may be only a more artificial and scholastic way of confessing, that those irregular works of modern genius which are designated as romantic, par
Byron’s Letters and Journals.25
excellence, in fact, deviate very materially from the Greek standard. Of this no one who has studied criticism in the works of the ancients, can have any doubt at all. Three things were considered as essential to all excellence in a composition of genius, perfect unity of purpose, simplicity of style, and ease of execution—and it is in these things that the literature and art of Greece, exhibit their matchless perfection. Other nations have produced works indicating as rare and fertile invention, as much depth of thought, as much vigour of conception, as much intensity of feeling—but no body of literature or of art can be compared to the antique for the severe reason, the close, unsparing logic of its criticism. Unity of design, especially, which is more immediately connected with the subject in hand, they rigorously exacted. They considered a work of art always, as a whole—a sort of organized body—to the very structure of which certain parts and proportions, and none others, were essential, and in which the least violation of this fitness and harmony, was a deformity, more or less uncouth and monstrous.* The details were sacrificed without mercy to the general effect. In an oration, for instance, they looked to the end which the speaker had in view, and whatever was not calculated to further that, however brilliant and impressive in itself, was rejected without reserve. The notion of
Pythagoras, that the sublime order of the universe was maintained by the secret power of proportion, by the magic of mathematical relations, probably sprung out of this truly Greek idea of the perfection of art, applied by analogy to the works of creation.† This unity of thought, this harmony in composition, this ανάγχη λόγογραφιχη, as Plato calls it, a sort of necessary connexion, like that of cause and effect, between the parts, every thing being in its right place, following logically from what goes before it, leading inevitably to what comes after it, pervades all
* Plato, Phæd. p. 264. c. Socrates says, οίμαι &c. πάντα λόγον ωσπερ ζωον συεςάναι. σωμά τι εχοντα αυτον αυτουωςε μητε υχέφαλον, &c. “I think you ought to say that every composition is, as it were, an animal having a body of its own: so that it should be neither without a head or feet, but should have its various parts, suitable to one another, and composing one perfect whole.” μέσα τε εχειν αχρα, πρέποντα άλλήλοις τω ολω γεγραμμένα.
† There is a remarkable passage in Cicero, (de Finib. l. 3. c. 22) in which this idea is brought out very vividly and precisely—Quid, enim, aut in rerum natura, quâ nihil est aptius, nihil descriptius, aut in operibus manu factis, tam compositum tamque compactum et coagmentatum inveniri potest. Quid posterius priori non convenit? Quid sequitur quod non respondeat superiori? Quid non sic aliud exalis nectitur, ut non, di unam literam moveris, labent omnia? &c. We should have translated this, if we could have ventured to take that liberty with what is so perfect in itself, and so strikingly illustrates our text. (3) Ubi. sup.
26Byron’s Letters and Journals.
the monuments of genius which that wonderful race has left behind it. Their superiority in this exquisite logic of literature and the arts—a logic not a jot less exact and elegant than the demonstrations of their own unrivalled geometry—is, we fear, a lamentable truth, nor will it help us much to call our deformities, peculiarities, and to dignify what is only not art with the specious title of the ‘romantic.’

This severe study of unity naturally led, it seems to us, to the two other prominent excellencies of Greek style, simplicity and ease or grace. Their genius was most enthusiastic—their sensibilities were acute and even lively to excess. Let any one read those passages of their best authors wherein they treat of poetry, and he will not fail to be struck with the force of their expressions. They speak of it as a heavenly inspiration, a divine fury, the revelry and intoxication of the soul—they compare it to the madness of the Pythoness, the rage of the bachanal, the convulsive improvisations of the Corybantes awakened by the peculiar μελος their God.* But their taste was as refined as their temperament was ardent, and hence the severity of the restraints which they laid upon their own genius. They seem to have been conscious of their tendency to exceed, rather than be wanting, in energy and warmth, and to overstep the modesty of nature by indulging her impulses too freely. They studied perpetually how to speak the language of soberness and truth. The smallest appearance of effort or exaggeration was particularly disagreeable to them, as leading to the vice they most avoided. The intense love of beauty which possessed them, the influence of a happy climate and still happier organization, the native inspiration of genius, were common advantages, and those were enough, they thought, to insure all the power necessary, (with sufficient discipline) to attain to a high degree of excellence. The artist was supposed to possess this qualification as of course. His aim, therefore, was not to shew that he possessed it, by an affected or ostentatious and unseasonable display of it, but to manage it with a wise economy, to turn it to the greatest account in creating, in whatever might be his province, some perfect form of beauty. His study of the ideal led him to think, as we have shown, of the composition of a whole; for details, however brilliant, were still mere fragments, and as such were unworthy of his ambition. Any body could accomplish them, and abundance always creates fastidiousness. But to do all that can be done by the greatest effort of genius, yet to be free from all the faults into which genius, when it exerts
Byron’s Letters and Journals.27
itself most, is so apt to be betrayed—to put forth his whole power, yet never to transcend the limits of reason, and to embody the visions of an excited imagination in a form so perfect as to defy the most fastidious criticism of his country, and to challenge a place among the imperishable monuments of his art—this was indeed to be a “maker” ποιητης—this was to be truly Attic and classical. Accordingly, what is most admirable in that matchless literature, is this simplicity and ease, produced by the study of unity and the severe reasoning on which we have been dwelling. It is, we conceive, impossible not to be struck with the difference, in this respect, between its masterpieces, and those of any other language—for
Shakspeare himself frequently falls into bombast and conceit. In short, the strength of Greek genius is never discovered in monstrous contortions or laborious struggles—it wields the mightiest subjects, apparently, without an effort, and with all the grace of conscious superiority. Its beauty is not confined to a single feature, “to a lip or eye,” but is emphatically “the joint force and full result of all”—it is not the hectic glow of disease, or the meretricious lustre of a painted cheek, but the lumen juventæ purpureum, the bloom of youth, the proper hue, as the natural effect of a vigorous and robust constitution.

Lord Byron’s speculative opinions in literature, were, as we have seen, all in favour of the classical models. His preference of Pope is owing to this; though it must be admitted that in spite of his extraordinary merits, Pope is, in some degree, a mannerist, and, so far, fulls short of absolute perfection. But theory and practice are unfortunately not more inseparable in literature than in other matters, and of this truth, there is no more striking example than the author of Childe Harold. We stated in our notice of Mr. Moore’s first volume, that Manfred struck us as decidedly the master-piece of Lord Byron. The long analysis which we have just gone through of the principles of the ideal, will, as we flatter ourselves, have done much towards accounting for this preference. The merit of Manfred has been acknowledged by Göethe, who thinks he recognizes in it a copy, or an imitation rather, of his Faustus. His remarks are furnished by Mr. Moore, and are as follows:

“The following is the article from Goëthe’sKunst und Alterthum,’ enclosed in this letter. The grave confidence with which the venerable critic traces the fancies of his brother poet to real persons and events, making no difficulty even of a double murder at Florence to furnish grounds for his theory, affords an amusing instance of the disposition so prevalent throughout Europe, to picture Byron as a man of marvels and mysteries, as well in his life as his poetry. To these ex-
28Byron’s Letters and Journals.
aggerated, or wholly false notions of him, the numerous fictions palmed upon the world of his romantic tours and wonderful adventures, in places he never saw, and with persons that never existed, have, no doubt, considerably contributed; and the consequence is, so utterly out of truth and nature are the representations of his life and character long current upon the continent, that it may be questioned whether the real ‘flesh and blood’ hero of these pages,—the social, practical-minded and, with all his faults and eccentricities, English Lord Byron,—may not, to the over-exalted imaginations of most of his foreign admirers, appear but an ordinary, unromantic, and prosaic personage.

“Byron’s tragedy, Manfred, was to me a wonderful phenomenon, and one that closely touched me. This singular intellectual poet has taken my Faustus to himself, and extracted from it the strongest nourishment for his hypochondriac humour. He has made use of the impelling principles in his own way, for his own purposes, so that no one of them remains the same; and it is particularly on this account that I cannot enough admire his genius. The whole is in this way so completely formed anew, that it would be an interesting task for the critic to point out not only the alterations he has made, but their degree of resemblance with, or dissimilarity to, the original: in the course of which I cannot deny that the gloomy heat of an unbounded and exuberant despair becomes at last oppressive to us. Yet is the dissatisfaction we feel always connected with esteem and admiration..

“We find thus in this tragedy the quintessence of the most astonishing talent born to be its own tormenter. The character of Lord Byron’s life and poetry hardly permits a just and equitable appreciation. He has often enough confessed what it is that torments him. He has repeatedly portrayed it; and scarcely any one feels compassion for this intolerable suffering, over which he is ever laboriously ruminating. There are, properly speaking, two females whose phantoms forever haunt him, and which, in this piece also perform principal parts—one under the name of Astarte, the other without form or actual presence, and merely a voice. Of the horrid occurrence which took place with the former, the following is related. When a bold and enterprizing young man, he won the affections of a Florentine lady. Her husband discovered the amour, and murdered his wife; but the murderer was the same night found dead in the street, and there was no one on whom any suspicion could be attached. Lord Byron removed from Florence, and these spirits haunted him all his life after.

“This romantic incident is rendered highly probable by innumerable allusions to it in his poems. As, for instance, when turning his sad contemplations inwards, he applies to himself the fatal history of the king of Sparta. It is as follows:—Pausanias, a Lacedemonian general, acquires glory by the important victory at Platæa, but afterwards forfeits the confidence of his countrymen through his arrogance, obstinacy, and secret intrigues with the enemies of his country. This man draws upon himself the heavy guilt of innocent blood, which attends him to his end; for, while commanding the fleet of the allied Greeks, in the Black Sea, he is inflamed with a violent passion for a
Byron’s Letters and Journals.29
Byzantine maiden. After long resistance, he at length obtains her from her parents, and she is to be delivered up to him at night. She modestly desires the servant to put out the lamp, and, while groping her way in the dark, she overturns it. Pausanias is awakened from his sleep, apprehensive of an attack from murderers—he seizes his sword, and destroys his mistress. The horrid sight never leaves him. Her shade pursues him unceasingly, and be implores for aid in vain from the gods and the exorcising priests.

“That poet must have a lacerated heart who selects such a scene from antiquity, appropriates it to himself, and burthens his tragic image with it. The following soliloquy, which is overladen with gloom and a weariness of life, is, by this remark, rendered intelligible. We recommend it as an exercise to all friends of declamation. Hamlet’s soliloquy appears improved upon here.” pp. 229, 230.

As to the imputed imitation, Byron (rather implicitly than expressly) disavows it in a letter to Murray:

“Enclosed is something which will interest you, to wit, the opinion of the greatest man of Germany—perhaps of Europe—upon one of the great men of your advertisements (all ‘famous hands,’ as Jacob Tonson used to say of his ragamuffins)—in short, a critique of Goëthe’s upon Manfred. There is the original, an English translation, and an Italian one; keep them all in your archives, for the opinions of such a man as Goëthe, whether favourable or not, are always interesting—and this is more so, as favourable. His Faust I never read, for I don’t know German; but Matthew Monk Lewis, in 1816, at Coligny, translated most of it to me vivâ voce, and I was naturally much struck with it; but it was the Steinbach and the Jungfrau, and something else, much more than Faustus, that made me write Manfred. The first scene, however, and that of Faustus, are very similar.” p. 228.

When we speak of Manfred as the master-piece of Lord Byron, we speak of it as a whole. There are to be found in most of his other compositions, especially in Childe Harold, many passages of unsurpassed beauty and power. But in the first place, these passages in the poem just mentioned, are short, isolated, uncombined. The wandering bard describes the remarkable objects which present themselves to him in his progress, in a sort of poetical itineracy. He lavishes upon them, it is true, the wealth of an exuberant imagination—and whether it be Waterloo, or the romantic Rhine, or Lake Leman and its magic shores, or the Alps, or an Italian sun-set, or the tombs of the famous dead, or the monuments of Roman magnificence, or the master-pieces of antique art, he is still equal to his subjects, and crowns them anew with glory and immortality. But such effusions are not, cæteris paribus, comparable to works, in which the beauty of design and composition is added to all
30Byron’s Letters and Journals.
other beauties. A lyrical rhapsody is an easier, and much easier thins than a sage and solemn drama, exhibiting a rare portraiture of character, combining many incidents, introducing the difficult and even perilous machinery of magic, incantations, and the spirits of the air or the deep, and withal unfolding an impressive moral truth. There is a great deal more both of invention and of art, more creative genius, in short, required in the latter than in the former. The very necessity of preserving a uniform tone of colouring, the harmony, the keeping, of such a work, is a most important addition to the task of the artist. We have seen what immense emphasis the Greeks laid upon this circumstance. In the next place, the style of Manfred is more sober and subdued than that of Childe Harold—and so is, comparatively, exempt from the faults which we impute to that poem. It is indeed, remarkable for a degree of austere and rugged force, which reminds us as strongly of
Dante, as the spirit and character of the poem itself does of the Inferno. When the Italian poet says of the souls in his limbo, who shut out from the beatitude of heaven, still endure no other punishment, than the total want of all interest or enjoyment, a consuming ennui, a dismal desolation of the heart—non hanno speranza di morte—” they may not hope for death”—he pronounces the terrible doom of Manfred, in almost his very words:
“Accursed! what have I to do with length of days,
They are too long already.”

As in the Inferno, too, so also in Manfred, the darkness and the desolation that seem to cast a gloom over the whole work, are relieved by gleams of beauty and freshness, ever and anon breaking forth, the more striking as they are unexpected, the more touching because softened by melancholy associations, and escaping, as if in spite of it, from a mind in which neither sorrow nor pain, nor even despair itself, has been able to quench the deep love of nature. There is an unspeakable charm of the kind in the soliloquy with which the second scene of the first act opens. Manfred is standing alone upon the cliffs of the Jungfrau, as the day dawns and reveals to him the magnificent scenery of that Alpine region, upon which his desolate soul must no more gaze with rapture. He is doomed, henceforth, to see “undelighted all delight”—to know that what he looks upon is beauty, to feel it even, but just enough to make him conscious of the curse that is upon his soul, the blight that has seared his heart, and deadened and destroyed all its capacities of enjoyment.
Byron’s Letters and Journals.31
“******** My mother earth!
And thou fresh breaking day, and you, ye mountains,
Why are ye beautiful! I cannot love ye.
And thou, the bright eye of the universe,
That openest over all, and unto all
Art a delight—thou shin’st not on my heart *****:
* * * Beautiful!
How beautiful is all this visible world!
How glorious in its action and itself;
But we, who name ourselves its sovereigns, we,
Half dust, half deity, alike unfit
To sink or soar, with our mix’d essence make
A conflict of its elements, &c.
* * * Hark! the note,
The natural music of the mountain reed—
For here the patriarchal days are not
A pastoral fable—pipes in the liberal air,
Mixed with the sweet bells of the sauntering herd;
My soul would drink those echoes.—Oh! that I were
The viewless spirit of a lovely sound,
A living voice, a breathing harmony,
A bodiless enjoyment—born and dying
With the blest tone which made me!”
So in the second scene of the second act.
“It is not noon—the sun-bow’s rays still arch
The torrent with the many hues of heaven,
And rolls the sheeted silver’s waving column >
O’er the crag’s headlong perpendicular,
And flings its lines of foaming light along,
And to and fro, like the pale courser’s tail
The giant steed, to be bestrode by death,
As told in the Apocalypse. No eyes but mine
Now drink this sight of loveliness;
I should be sole in this sweet solitude,
And with the spirit of the place divide
The homage of these waters,—I will call her.
* * * *
Beautiful spirit! with thy hair of light
And dazzling eyes of glory, in whose form
The charms of earth’s least mortal daughters grow
To an unearthly stature, in an essence
Of purer elements; while the hues of youth,
Carnationed like a sleeping infant’s cheek,
Rocked by the beating of her mother’s heart,
Or the rose tints, which summer’s twilight leaves
Upon the loftier glacier’s virgin snow,
The blush of earth embracing with her heaven,—[a conceit.]
32Byron’s Letters and Journals.
Tinge thy celestial aspects, and make tame
The beauties of the sun^bow which bends o’er thee.
Beautiful spirit! in thy calm, clear brow,
Wherein is glass’d serenity of soul,” &c. &c.

But what struck Goëthe in this fine poem, and what entitles it more, perhaps, than its other merits, to the rank which we assign to it among the productions of its author, is the conception of Manfred’s character and situation. To judge from our own experience, nothing can be more profoundly interesting. Often as we have read it, it has lost none of its effect. We never take it up but with some such feeling as we conceive to have possessed of old the pilgrims of Delphi and Dodona, or those anxious mortals, who, like Count Manfred himself, have sought to learn the secrets of their own destiny, by dealing with evil spirits. The book contains a spell for us, and we lay our hands upon it with awe. It brings us into actual contact with the beings that wait upon the hero’s bidding. We are transported, by an ideal presence, to that Alpine solitude in which this second Cain—this child of an accursed destiny—is alternately agitated by the furies of remorse, or “wrapt as with a shroud” in the darkness and desolation of a sullen despair.
“Daughter of air! I tell thee since that hour—
But words are breath—look on me in my sleep,
Or watch my watchings—come and sit by me!
My solitude is solitude no more,
But peopled with the furies;—I have gnash’d
My teeth in darkness till returning morn,
Then cursed myself till sunset;—I have prayed
For madness as a blessing—’tis denied me.
I have affronted death—but in the war
Of elements the waters shrunk from me,
And fatal things pass’d harmless—the cold hand
Of an all-pitiless demon held me back,
Back by a single hair, which would not break.
In phantasy, imagination, all
The affluence of my soul—which one day was
A Crœsus in creation—I plunged deep,
But, like an ebbing wave, it dash’d me back
Into the gulf of my unfathomed thought.
I plunged amidst mankind—Forgetfulness
I sought in all, save, where ’tis to be found.”

It would be worth while to compare Manfred in detail with the Orestes of the Greek tragedy. We regret that it is not in our power to do so at present; but we should be glad if some
Byron’s Letters and Journals.33
one, who has more leisure to trace the contrasts and coincidences of literature, would take our hint.

We will venture a few remarks of our own, having a bearing upon a topic already discussed. Manfred, like the Eumenides of Æschylus, is a picture of remorse, but there can be no better illustration of the difference which we admit to exist between ancient and modern dramatic literature, than is afforded by the manner in which this affection is exhibited, respectively, in the Greek tragedy and the English drama.* In the former it is made a sensible object—it is personified—its office is performed by the Furies. They have pursued the wretched parricide with wild rage, until he takes refuge in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Here the tragedy opens. The fugitive stained with the blood of his guilty mother, is seen supplicating the protection of the god. The vindictive goddesses, attired in their robes of black, add with serpents entwined in their horrid tresses, are sleeping? around him—having apparently sunk under the effort of their long and unremitted pursuit. When the young man, has by the contrivance of Apollo, stolen out of the Temple, to make his way to Athens, where Minerva is to decide finally upon his innocence or guilt, the shade of Clytemnestra gashed with the fatal wounds, appears, and calling aloud to the Furies in reproachful language, vanishes again. The Furies, aroused by her voice, discover that Orestes has made his escape. Their rage is greatly excited—they dance about the stage in frantic disorder—they renew the pursuit with fresh keenness, and are next seen at Athens, near the overtaken fugitive, who has embraced the statue of Minerva. They claim his head as justly forfeited to the laws—the goddess listens to both parties, and agrees to become their umpire—the cause is regularly discussed, and the unfortunate young man is at last acquitted by an equality of suffrages.

* This is worthy of further observation. The spirit of Manfred is strictly modern or romantic The air of abstract reflection, the moral musing, the pensive wo, which pervade it, are a contrast to the sensible imagery and the lively personifications of the Greek play. Yet its frame and structure, are strictly ‘classical.’ Byron, in all his dramatic compositions, professed to copy after the Greek models,—as much so as Milton in the Samson Agonistes. But besides discarding the chorus, he has not in other respects approached those models so closely as Milton. From what he has done, however, and from the character of his genius, we think, as we remarked in a former number, that had he been born an Athenian, he would have excelled peculiarly in that walk. Manfred proves it—and here we will add, that his aerial chorus of sprites and fiends, is quite equal in that kind, to any thing in the grandest conceptions of Æschylus, and nothing can be more felicitous, in the way of choral ode, than some of their hymns—witness, especially, the grand anthem in honor of Arimanes.
34 Byron’s Letters and Journals.

It is evident that the moral lesson conveyed by such an exhibition as this, is rather the secondary, than the principal object; nor will those who are versed in the dramatic history of the Greeks, be at all at a loss to account for the apparent dimness of the allegory in which the truth is veiled. Yet to one who looks attentively into the hidden sense, the picture of remorse thus presented, as it were, by types and sensible images, is equally remarkable for scenic effect and profound philosophical analysis. But Byron in Manfred derives no help from such external symbols—nor does he darkly shadow his purpose in allegory. It is spread out over the whole surface. His hero is alone. He flies from the commerce of his own species, and communes only with those aerial shapes, whose office it is to “tend on mortal thoughts”—to do the behests, to consult the wishes, to echo the voice of their master—in short, to be hi9 slave and his shadow, so long as they are under his spells. This, indeed, is the purpose, and a very important one, which the spirits of the drama answer. Manfred, really tells his own story—his attendants are no better than the chorus of a Greek tragedy—good listeners. He might have done substantially what he has done in a long monologue; or he might have addressed himself in a voice of lamentation, to the mountains and the desert caves. But a perpetual soliloquy of three acts would have been equally tiresome and irregular, and yet, to have introduced such a being into a common drama—to have represented him as moving in the dull round of life, and interchanging sentiments with vulgar interlocutors, would not have been in keeping with the unearthly grandeur of his character, and would have defeated what we take to have been the great purpose of the poet. Like Faustus, therefore, Manfred, by his aspiring genius, must compass such a knowledge of the visible world, as shall enable him to control the invisible—that he may summon a disembodied auditory from the depths of the sea, or the remotest star in the firmament, and proclaim his remediless woes and his irreversible doom, by this same preternatural agency, to the most distant parts of the universe, and all orders of created being. The machinery of the poem then answers two great purposes—it relieves its monotony, without violating its plan, and it exalts the dignity of the hero without disturbing the characteristic solitude—the essential loneliness of his being. This needs a few more words of explanation.

We have said that this drama is a picture of remorse; and so it is, but of a peculiar kind of remorse. It is not self-condemnation for a mere crime or sin committed. Manfred’s conscience was made of sterner stuff than that. Above all, it was not, as
Byron’s Letters and Journals.35
a late writer supposes,* because his sister Astarte, had fallen a sacrifice to some diabolical piece of magic, in which she was at once an accomplice and a victim. Byron was not a man to make a book of sentimental raving à la
Kotzebue, upon such a fantastical and ludicrous subject. He aimed at exhibiting what may be called his ruling idea, in the strongest of all possible forms. That idea is that without a deep and engrossing passion, without love, in short, intense, devoted love; no power, nor influence in the world, nor genius, nor knowledge, nor Epicurean bliss, can “bestead or fill the fixed mind with all their toys;” and that a man may be completely miserable for want of such a passion, though blessed, to all appearances, with whatever can make life desirable. This idea is, in reference to very excitable natures, certainly just—and is thus expressed in the soliloquy with which that drama opens.
“I have no dread,
And feel the curse to have no natural fear
Nor fluttering throb, that beats with hopes or wishes,
Or lurking love of something on the earth.”—
Here is evidently “the leafless desert of the soul,” “the vacant bosom’s wilderness,” the dreary vacuity, the mortal apathy upon which so many changes are rung in all his other poems.

But this is not all; for if it were, Manfred would be no better than the Giaour. The merit that raises him to his bad eminence, among these heroes of “disappointed passion,” is twofold—in the first place, it is darkly hinted that his love was unnatural or, at least, unlawful, and so dishonorable to her whom he adored; and, secondly, that he was either the wilful or involuntary instrument of her destruction—her blood was upon his hands, and her curse upon his soul.
“And a magic voice and verse
Hath baptized thee with a curse;
And a spirit of the air
Hath begirt thee with a snare;
In the wind there is a voice
Shall forbid thee to rejoice;
And to thee shall night deny
All the quiet of her sky;
And the day shall have a sun,
Which shall make thee wish it done.
From thy false tears I did distil
An essence which hath strength to kill;
* Galt.—We happened to look for the first time into his work a few hours ago, and have been quite shocked at a coincidence or two in the previous pages, which were in type before we saw his book.
36Byron’s Letters and Journals.
From thy own heart I then did wring
The black blood in its blackest spring;
From thy own smile I snatch’d the snake,
For there it coiled as in a brake;
From thy own lip I drew the charm
Which gave all this their chiefest harm;
In proving every poison known,
I found the strongest was thine own.
By thy cold breast and serpent smile,
By thy unfathomed gulfs of guile,
By that most seeming virtuous eye,
By thy shut soul’s hypocrisy;
By the perfection of thine art
Which passed for human, thine own heart;
By thy delight in other’s pain,
And by thy brotherhood of Cain,
I call upon thee! and compel
Thyself to be thy proper hell! “

Whatever had been the conduct alluded to in these terrible lines, he clearly regards himself as the murderer of Astarte. He had murdered—by what means, is not material—
“———her whom of all earthly things
That lived the only thing he seemed to love.”
The only tie of existence had been severed—the single feeling that made the world bearable, and without which it was no better than a vast Bastile, had been extinguished—the being that loved him with the devotedness of woman’s love, while all mankind besides, were cold or hostile to him, and who was to him, amidst the weariness of life or its severest wo, real or imaginary, an interest, a passion and an unfailing resource and a sweet consolation, had been destroyed—and by him. This catastrophe was, it is evident, a moral suicide, and he became afterwards, as he expresses it, “his soul’s sepulchre.” His hope, his love, his dream of bliss, made more ravishing by the contrasted gloom of his ordinary life, was gone—he is condemned to that dreariest of all solitudes, the utter loneliness of the blighted heart—he now, at last, perceives all the guilt of the coldness, or perversness, or cruelty, or whatever else it was, that led to the event which he has such bitter cause to lament—the worth, the loveliness of his victim is felt in the sufferings which the loss of her has inflicted—and he repents what he has done and curses the destiny which ordered or permitted it, and addicts himself more exclusively than ever, to the society of evil spirits, and devotes himself to the tortures of hell as a relief from the
Byron’s Letters and Journals.37
more intolerable agony of a wounded spirit! This is his remorse!
La Rochefoucault says, that men repent of their offences only when they feel, or are likely to feel some inconvenience from their consequences. Certainly, penitence is made more lively by a little suffering, and the whole force of this selfish theory is exhibited in the remorse of Manfred. But in what heart-rending language is this late awakening of lost love expressed!
“Hear me, hear me!
Astarte! my beloved! speak to me;
I have so much endured—so much endure—
Look on me! the grave hath not changed thee more,
Than I am changed for thee. Thou lovest me
Too much, as I loved thee: we were not made
To torture thus each other, tho’ it were
The deadliest sin to love as we have loved.
Say that thou loath’st me not—that I do bear
This punishment for both—that thou wilt be
One of the blessed—and that I shall die;
For hitherto all hateful things conspire
To bind me in existence—in a life,
Which makes me shrink from immortality—
A future like the past. I cannot rest;
I know not what I asked, nor what I seek:
I feel but what thou art—and what I am;
And I would hear yet once before I perish
The voice which was my music—speak to me!
For I have called on thee in the still night,
Startled the slumbering birds from the hush’d boughs,
And woke the mountain wolves, and made the caves
Acquainted with thy vainly echoed name,
Which answered me—many things answered me—
Spirits and men—but thou wert silent all.
Yet speak to me! I have out watch’d the stars,
And gazed o’er heav’n in vain in search of thee.
Speak to me! I have wandered o’er the earth
And never found thy likeness—speak to me!
Look on the fiends around—they feel for me;
I fear them not, and feel for thee alone—
Speak to me!—tho’ it be in wrath;—but say—
I reck not what—but let me hear thee once—
This once—once more!

We must now bring these remarks, which have unexpectedly run out to an unconscionable length under our pen, to an abrupt close. But we cannot consent to end this article without doing Lord Byron the justice to quote the whole of a most animated and eloquent defence of his conduct, which Mr.
38Byron’s Letters and Journals.
Moore has furnished from an unpublished MS. Let him be heard, and let the reader judge for himself.

“My learned brother proceeds to observe, that ‘it is in vain for Lord B. to attempt in any way to justify his own behaviour in that affair; and now that he has so openly and audaciously invited inquiry and reproach, we do not see any good reason why he should not be plainly told so by the voice of his countrymen.’ How far the ‘openness’ of an anonymous poem, and the ‘audacity’ of an imaginary character, which the writer supposes to be meant for Lady B., may be deemed to merit this formidable denunciation from their ‘most sweet voices,’ I neither know nor care; but when he tells me that I cannot ‘in any way justify my own behaviour in that affair,’ I acquiesce, because no man can ‘justify’ himself until he knows of what he is accused; and I have never had—and, God knows, my whole desire has ever been to obtain it—any specific charge, in a tangible shape, submitted to me by the adversary, nor by others, unless the atrocities of public rumour and the mysterious silence of the lady’s legal advisers may be deemed such. But is not the writer content with what has been already said and done? Has not ‘the general voice of his countrymen’ long ago pronounced upon the subject—sentence without trial, and condemnation without a charge? Have I not been exiled by ostracism, except that the shells which proscribed me were anonymous? Is the writer ignorant of the public opinion and the public conduct upon that occasion? If he is, I am not: the public will forget both long before I shall cease to remember either.

“The man who is exiled by a faction has the consolation of thinking that he is a martyr; he is upheld by hope and the dignity of his cause, real or imaginary: he who withdraws from the pressure of debt may indulge in the thought that time and prudence will retrieve his circumstance: he who is condemned by the law has a term to his banishment, or a dream of its abbreviation; or, it may be, the knowledge or the belief of some injustice of the law, or of its administration in his own particular: but he who is outlawed by general opinion, without the intervention of hostile politics, illegal judgement, or embarrassed circumstances, whether he be innocent or guilty, must undergo all the bitterness of exile, without hope, without pride, without alleviation. This case was mine. Upon what grounds the public founded their opinion, I am not aware; but it was general, and it was decisive. Of me or of mine they knew little, except that I had written what is called poetry, was a nobleman, had married, became a father, and was involved in differences with my wife and her relatives, no one knew why, because the persons complaining refused to state their grievances. The fashionable world was divided into parties, mine consisting of a very small minority: the reasonable world was naturally on the stronger side, which happened to be the lady’s, as was most proper and polite. The press was active and scurrilous; and such was the rage of the day, that the unfortunate publication of two copies of verses, rather complimentary than otherwise to the subjects of both, was tortured into a species of crime, or constructive
Byron’s Letters and Journals.39
petty treason. I was accused of every monstrous vice, by public rumour and private rancour: my name, which had been a knightly or a noble one since my fathers helped to conquer the kingdom for
William the Norman, was tainted. I felt that, if what was whispered, and muttered, and murmured was true, I was unfit for England; if false, England was unfit for me. I withdrew: but this was not enough. In other countries, in Switzerland, in the shadow of the Alps, and by the blue depth of the lakes, I was pursued and breathed upon by the same blight. I crossed the mountains, but was the same; so I went a little farther, and settled myself by the waves of the Adriatic, like the stag at bay, who betakes him to the waters.

“If I may judge by the statements of the few friends who gathered round me, the outcry of the period to which I allude was beyond all precedent, all parallel, even in those cases where political motives have sharpened slander and doubled enmity. I was advised not to go to the theatres, lest I should be hissed, nor to my duty in Parliament, lest I should be insulted by the way; even on the day of my departure, my most intimate friend told me afterwards that he was under apprehensions of violence from the people who might be assembled at the door of the carriage. However, I was not deterred by these counsels from seeing Kean in his best characters, nor from voting according to my principles; and, with regard to the third and last apprehensions of my friends, I could not share in them, not being made acquainted with their extent till some time after I had crossed the channel. Even if I had been so, I am not of a nature to be much affected by men’s anger, though I may feel hurt by their aversion. Against all individual outrage, I could protect or redress myself; and against that of a crowd, I should probably have been enabled to defend myself, with the assistance of others, as has been done on similar occasions.

“I retired from the country, perceiving that I was the object of general obloquy; I did not indeed imagine, like Jean Jacques Rousseau, that all mankind was in a conspiracy against me, though I had perhaps as good grounds for such a chimera as ever he had: but I perceived that I had to a great extent become personally obnoxious in England, perhaps through my own fault, but the fact was indisputable; the public in general would hardly have been so much excited against a more popular character, without at least an accusation or a charge of some kind actually expressed or substantiated, for I can hardly conceive that the common and every-day occurrence of a separation between man and wife could in itself produce so great a ferment. I shall say nothing of the usual complaints of ‘being prejudged,’ ‘condemned unheard,’ ‘unfairness,’ ‘partiality,’ and so forth, the usual changes rung by parties who have had, or are to have, a trial; but I was a little surprised to find myself condemned without being favoured with the act of accusation, and to perceive in the absence of this portentous charge or charges, whatever it or they were to be, that every possible or impossible crime was rumoured to supply its place, and taken for granted. This could only occur in the case of a person very much disliked, and I knew no remedy, having already used to their extent whatever little powers I might possess of pleasing in
40Byron’s Letters and Journals.
society. I had no party in fashion, though I was afterwards told that there was one—but it was not of my formation, nor did I then know of its existence—none in literature; and in politics I had voted with the Whigs, with precisely that importance which a Whig vote possesses in these Tory days, and with such personal acquaintance with the leaders in both houses as the society in which I lived sanctioned, but without claim or expectation of any thing like friendship from any one, except a few young men of my own age and standing, and a few others more advanced in life, which last it had been my fortune to serve in circumstances of difficulty. This was, in fact, to stand alone: and I recollect, some time after,
Madame de Staël said to me in Switzerland, ‘You should not have warred with the world—it will not do—it is too strong always for any individual: I myself once tried it in early life, but it will not do.’ I perfectly acquiesce in the truth of this remark; but the world had done me the honour to begin the war; and, assuredly, if peace is only to be obtained by courting and paying tribute to it, I am not qualified to obtain its countenance. I thought, in the words of Campbell,
‘Then wed thee to an exiled lot,
And if the world bath loved thee not,
Its absence may be borne.’

“I recollect, however, that having been much hurt by Romilly’s conduct (he, having a general retainer for me, had acted as adviser to the adversary, alleging, on being reminded of his retainer, that he had forgotten it, as his clerk had so many), I observed that some of those who were now eagerly laying the axe to my roof-tree, might see their own shaken, and feel a portion of what they had inflicted. His fell, and crushed him.

“I have heard of, and believe, that there are human beings so constituted as to be insensible to injuries; but I believe that the best mode to avoid taking vengeance is to get out of the way of temptation. I hope that I may never have the opportunity, for I am not quite sure that I could resist it, having derived from my mother something of the ‘perfervidum ingenium Scotorurm.’ I have not sought, and shall not seek it, and perhaps it may never come in my path. I do not in this allude to the party, who might be right or wrong; but to many who made her cause the pretext of their own bitterness. She, indeed, must have long avenged me in her own feelings, for whatever her reasons may have been (and she never adduced them to me, at least) she probably neither contemplated nor conceived to what she became the means of conducting the father of her child, and the husband of her choice.

“So much for ‘the general voice of his countrymen:’ I will now speak of some in particular.

“In the beginning of the year 1817, an article appeared in the Quarterly Review, written, I believe, by Walter Scott, doing great honour to him, and no disgrace to me, though both poetically and personally more than sufficiently favourable to the work and the author of whom it treated. It was written at a time when a selfish man
Byron’s Letters and Journals.41
would not, and a timid one dared not, have said a word in favour of either; it was written by one to whom temporary public opinion had elevated me to the rank of a rival—a proud distinction, and unmerited; but which has not prevented me from feeling as a friend, nor him from more than corresponding to that sentiment. The article in question was written upon the Third Canto of
Childe Harold, and after many observations, which it would as ill become me to repeat as to forget, concluded with ‘a hope that I might yet return to England.’ How this expression was received in England itself I am not acquainted, but it gave great offence at Rome to the respectable ten or twenty thousand English travellers then and there assembled. I did not visit Rome till some time after, so that I had no opportunity of knowing the fact; but I was informed, long afterwards, that the greatest indignation had been manifested in the enlightened Anglo-circle of that year, which happened to comprise within it—amidst a considerable leaven of Welbeck-street and Devonshire-place, broken loose upon their travels several really well-born and well-bred families, who did not the less participate in the feeling of the hour. ‘Why should he return to England?’ was the general exclamation—I answer why? It is a question I have occasionally asked myself, and I never yet could give it a satisfactory reply. I had then no thoughts of returning, and if I have any now, they are of business, and not of pleasure. Amidst the ties that have been dashed to pieces, there are links yet entire, though the chain itself be broken. There are duties, and connexions, which may one day require my presence—and I am a father. I have still some friends whom I wish to meet again, and, it may be, an enemy. These things, and those minuter details of business, which time accumulates during absence, in every man’s affairs and property, may, and probably will, recall me to England; but I shall return with the same feelings with which I left it, in respect to itself, though altered with regard to individuals, as I have been more or less informed of their conduct since my departure; for it was only a considerable time after it that I was made acquainted with the real facts and full extent of some of their proceedings and language. My friends, like other friends, from conciliatory motives, withheld from me much that they could, and some things which they should have unfolded; however, that which is deferred is not lost—but it has been no fault of mine that it has been deferred at all.

“I have alluded to what is said to have passed at Rome merely to show that the sentiment which I have described was not confined to the English in England, and as forming part of my answer to the reproach cast upon what has been called my ‘selfish exile,’ and my ‘voluntary exile.’ ‘Voluntary’ it has been; for who would dwell among a people entertaining strong hostility against him? How far it has been ‘selfish’ has been already explained.” pp. 249-253.

For our own part, we must say, that our opinion have undergone no material change in relation to the essential points of Lord Byron’s character and conduct. No one ever denied that
42Byron’s Letters and Journals.
he was formed for better things—or that he had with all his peculiarities, what the world calls amiable manners—nay, that his natural impulses were good, and that he had a heart full of kindness to those who did not, and especially who could not provoke his resentment or mortify his sensitive, selfish and gloomy pride. But winning as he is in his moments of good nature—interesting and amiable, for instance, as he appears throughout almost the whole of this voluminous compilation of letters and confessions, we see nothing to make us think differently of his principles or his ruling passion—the things by which a man’s conduct in life, will, in the long run, be determined. We apply to him without changing a syllable, his own lines in relation to Manfred.
“This should have been a noble creature; he
Hath all the energy which would have made
A goodly frame of glorious elements,
Had they been wisely mingled; as it is,
It is an awful chaos—light and darkness—
And mind and dust—and passions and pure thoughts,
Mixed, and contending without end or order.”