LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Lady Blessington's Conversations of Byron.
Monthly Review  Vol. NS 1  (January 1834)  97-109.
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JANUARY, 1834.

Art. XI.—Conversations of Lord Byron with the Countess of Blessington. 1 vol. London: Colburn. 1834.

The subject of this volume, and the quarter from which it emanates, renders it only an act of sound discretion on our part to take some notice of this volume, whatever be the objections in other respects which may arise against such a course. Such a durable interest does Lord Byron maintain in the minds of his cotemporaries, that every record, however trifling, which adds a new shade even to our knowledge of him, is hailed with satisfaction by the public.

With all respect for the noble author of these Conversations, we may be permitted to inquire in what school of erudition it was that the Countess acquired the extraordinary faculty which she possesses of remembering. We have here some four hundred solid pages of choice conversation, in which a vast proportion is represented as having been spoken by Lord Byron: here and there we have whole pages which are stated to have been exactly delivered by his Lordship, and there is nothing suggested throughout the volume to make us suppose but that we are listening to the precise words which, at various periods, dropped from the lips of the illustrious poet. If
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the account of these speeches anrl conversations be strictly correct, then we can only admire
Lady Blessington as the very pattern of a reporter, and we are sure that it is only the exalted circumstances in which she is placed that prevent her from being employed at this moment, on the invitation of some spirited proprietor of a morning paper, at an allowance of her own choice.

It was at Genoa that Lady Blessington first met with Lord Byron; she saw him frequently afterwards, and carefully notes every interview which took place during the early period of the acquaintance. Taking the result of what she says of him at this era of her knowledge of his character, it appears to us to be very unfavourable. She describes his person and manners, the expression of his countenance and the gaucherie of his gait, together with the awkwardness which characterises him, and which is to be attributed to a vain effort to conceal his deformed leg. Then she finds him a great talker, his flippancy, she says, ceases a tête-à-tête, and he becomes sententious, abandoning himself to the subject, and seeming to think aloud, though his language has the appearance of stiffness, and is quite opposed to the trifling chit-chat that he enters into when in general society. I attribute this to his having lived so much alone, as also to the desire he now professes of applying himself to prose writing. He affects a sort of Johnsonian tone, likes very much to be listened to, and seems to observe the effect he produces on his hearer. In mixed society, his ambition is to appear the man of fashion; he adopts a light tone of bandinage and persiflage that does not sit gracefully on him, but is always anxious to turn the subject to his own personal affairs, or feelings, which are either lamented with an air of melancholy, or dwelt on with playful ridicule, according to the humour he happens to be in. She takes it for granted that Byron is right in making himself out an avaricious man, and that he talks of his faults as one would of an acquaintance, in a deprecating tone, as much as to say, “I know all my faults better than you do;” and she adds, that Byron often brought forward his defects as if in expectation of some one else exposing them, a liberty which he never liked; he is jealous of being found fault with, and shows that he is so in a thousand ways. This is not all: Byron affects to dislike hearing his poetry praised; but Lady Blessington seems to understand matters much better, for the dislike, she says, is not real. He prided himself on his horsemanship, shot, swimming, &c.; and was particularly delighted if any body bore testimony to his success in fashionable life. As a sort of relief to this process of flaying poor Byron, Lady Blessington just pauses, to soothe the victim, and she gives him the great credit of being charitable to the poor, and that what he bestowed was given with gentleness and kindness; these feelings, she takes care to remark, being more particularly observable in his conduct when the object of his benevolence had some deformity.

In the next place, Byron was fond of gossip, and he delighted in
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scandal: he was a person to be extremely bored by the constraint imposed on him by any change of system, and with respect to his philosophy, it is disposed of by this Lady with this scornful apostrophe:—“Poor Byron! he is still far from arriving at the philosophy that he aims at and thinks he has acquired, when the absence or presence of a person who is indifferent to him, whatever his station in life may be, can occupy his thoughts for a moment.”

Another of his faults was, that he habitually attached importance to trifles, and, on the other hand, turning serious events into ridicule; superstition, too, is thrown in his face, for it is held by the author that Byron was sincere in his belief of supernatural appearances, and carried his notions to such an extreme, as to put credit in the certainty of lucky and unlucky days, in the criminality of doing business of a Friday, in the horrors of spilling salt, or helping it! But we must allow the Lady to speak for herself.

“I should say that Byron was not either skilled in, or an admirer of, works of art; he confessed to me that very few had excited his attention, and that to admire these he had been forced to draw on his imagination. Of objects of taste or virtu he was equally regardless, and antiquities had interest for him, nay, he carried this so far, that he disbelieved the possibility of their exciting interest in any one, and said that they merely served as excuses for indulging the vanity and ostentation of those who had no other means of exciting attention.

Byron is of a very suspicious nature; he dreads imposition on all points, declares that he foregoes many things, for the fear of being cheated in the purchase, and is afraid to give way to the natural impulses of his character, lest he should be duped or mocked.

“Byron seems to take a peculiar pleasure in ridiculing sentiment and romantic feelings; and yet the day after will betray both, to an extent that appears impossible to be sincere, to those who had heard his previous sarcasms: that he is sincere, is evident, as his eyes fill with tears, his voice becomes tremulous, and his whole manner evinces that he feels what he says.

“He never appeared to so little advantage as when he talked sentiment, this did not at all strike me at first; on the contrary, it excited a powerful interest for him; but when he had vented his spleen, in sarcasms, and pointed ridicule on sentiment, reducing all that is noblest in our natures to the level of common every-day life, the charm was broken, and it was impossible to sympathise with him again. He observed something of this, and seemed dissatisfied and restless when he perceived that he could no longer excite either strong sympathy or astonishment.”—pp. 43—47.

In talking of literary productions, it was Lord Byron’s uncharitable practice to speak more of the faults than the beauties of authors: he never failed to remember some quotation that told against the composer, and this he would recite with a mock-heroic air, which made it quite ludicrous. Lady Blessington found it difficult to determine often whether Lord Byron was serious or not; for he had a habit of mystifying which could not impose upon her,
100Lady Blessington's Conversations of Byron.
however it might on others. But his decided taste for aristocracy, is particularly noted by the Countess, and this disposition she declares he showed in a thousand different forms. Upon the subject of his intimacy with the
Countess Guiccioli, his lordship was very candid, and he did not hesitate to disclose the history of his intimacy with this lady to the author. He stated that she and her family lived beneath his roof, because his rank as a British peer, afforded her father and brother protection, they having been banished from Ravenna, their native place, on account of their politics. He spoke in high terms of the Counts Gamba, father and son; he said that he had given the family a wing of his house, but that their establishments were totally separate, their repasts never taken together, and that such was their scrupulous delicacy, that they never would accept a pecuniary obligation from him in all the difficulties entailed on them by their exile. He represented La Contessa Guiccioli as a most amiable and lady-like person, perfectly disinterested and noble-minded, devotedly attached to him, and possessing so many high and estimable qualities, as to offer an excuse for any man’s attachment to her. He said that he had been passionately in love with her, and that she had sacrificed everything for him; that the whole of her conduct towards him had been admirable, and that not only did he feel the strongest personal attachment to her, but the highest sentiments of esteem. He dwelt with evident complacency on her noble birth and distinguished connexions,—advantages to which he attaches great importance.

A strange melange, concludes Lady Blessington, good and evil is Lord Byron. The improbability of his keeping a secret, is dwelt on in this volume at some length. The author says, that he is incapable of being trusted with a confidential communication, and this, she admits, not from malice but shear indiscretion, and want of delicacy. As a set off against the character of Byron, in his treatment of authors, it is related by the Countess, that he praised many performances of the day. Hope’sAnastasius” received the highest applause; and Mr. Galt’s novels, he said, reminded him of Wilkie’s pictures, by the identity which characterizes them. Mrs. Heman’s came in for his marked eulogy. With respect to the Lake School, he continued to abhor it, and had a quarrel with Lady Blessington because she defended Keat’s. Shelly was next mentioned; “you should have known Shelley,” observed Byron to her, “to feel how much I regret him. He was the most gentle, most amiable, and least worldly-minded person I ever met; full of delicacy, disinterested beyond all other men, and possessing a degree of genius, joined to a simplicity, as rare as it is admirable. He had formed to himself a beau ideal of all that is fine, high-minded, and noble, and he acted up to this ideal even to the very letter. He had a most brilliant imagination, but a total want of worldly-wisdom. I have seen nothing like him, and never shall again, I am certain. I never can forget the night that his poor wife rushed into
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my room at Pisa, with a face as pale as marble, and terror impressed on her brow, demanding, with all the tragic impetuosity of grief and alarm, where was her husband! Vain were all our efforts to calm her; a desperate sort of courage seemed to give her energy to confront the horrible truth that awaited her; it was the courage of despair. I have seen nothing in tragedy on the stage so powerful, or so affecting, as her appearance, and it often presents itself to my memory. I knew nothing then of the catastrophe, but the vividness of her terror communicated itself to me, and I feared the worst, which fears were, alas! too soon fearfully realized.”

In reference to Leigh Hunt, Lord Byron expressed regret that he had ever embarked in the “Liberal.” Our author says, we believe truly, that the noble lord was a person who would readily form without reflection, engagements which, when he repented of them, he would gladly exonerate himself from, without being very particular about the means. He gave to her the idea of a man who, feeling himself in a dilemma, would become cold and ungracious to the parties with whom he so stood, merely wanting the mental courage to break with them at once. She confesses that this was the impression which she derived from all he said about Hunt. Of Hobhouse, Byron talked in high commendation, particularly in reference to his talents and acquirements; but it is Lady Blessington’s opinion that he was piqued with Hobhouse, whose frankness and unbending honesty he always admitted.

The Countess frequently alludes to the manifestations which Lord Byron occasionally afforded of recollections of his wife: he took great pains to convince her ladyship, that no fault was attributable to him, and from the earnestness with which he sought to free himself from any imputation was carried to a considerable length. The author is convinced that his lady occupied much of his thoughts, for he frequently spoke of her. She informs us, that the noble poet once gave her a copy of a poem which was written by him during the emotions he felt after reading a paragraph in a newspaper, stating that Lady Byron was ill. It certainly possesses the genuine character of the author, and is replete with deep feeling. We shall extract a portion of it for the gratification of the reader.

“Mercy is for the merciful!—if thou
Hast been of such, ’twill be accorded now.
Thy nights are banish’d from the realms of sleep!—
Yes! they may flatter thee, but thou shalt feel
A hollow agony which will not heal,
For thou art pillow’d on a curse too deep;
Thou hast sown in my sorrow, and must reap
The bitter harvest in a woe as real!
I have had many foes, but none like thee;
“For ’gainst the rest myself I could defend,
And be aveng’d, or turn them into friend;
But thou in sale implacability
102 Lady Blessington's Conversations of Byron.
Hadst nought to dread—in thy own weakness shielded.
And in my love, which hath but too much yielded,
And spared, for thy sake, some I should not spare—
And thus upon the world—trust in thy truth—
And the wild fame of my ungovern’d youth—
On things that were not, and on things that are—
Even upon such a basis hast thou built
A monument, whose cement hath been guilt!
The moral Clytemnestra of thy lord.
And hew’d down, with an unsuspected sword.
Fame, peace, and hope—and all the better life
Which, but for this cold treason of thy heart,
Might still have risen from out the grave of strife,
And found a nobler duty than to part.
But of thy virtues didst thou make a vice,
Trafficking with them in a purpose cold.
For present anger, and for future gold—
And buying other’s grief at any price.
And thus once enter’d into crooked ways.
The early Truth, which was thy proper praise,
Did not still walk beside thee; but at times.
And with a breast unknowing its own crimes.
Deceit, averments incompatible,
Equivocations, and the thoughts which dwell
In Janus-spirits—the significant eye
Which learns to lie with silence—the pretext
Of Prudence, with advantages annex’d—
The acquiescence in all things which tend,
No matter how, to the desired end—
All found a place in thy philosophy.
The means were worthy, and the end is won—
I would not do by thee as thou hast done!”—pp. 81—83.

It is a subject of great surprize to the Countess, that, as Byron has shown in his works so much knowledge of the female character, he should miscalculate so much upon their dispositions, for she thinks that Byron showed great misapprehension of the sex when he complains that Lady Byron never relented his absence. She properly observes, that his lordship forgot how that absence was filled up, and Lady Blessington took the liberty once of telling him as much. Upon her own part, she makes use of her competency as a judge of her sex, and thus breaks out into the following pathetic strain.

“How few men understand the feelings of women! Sensitive, and easily wounded as we are, obliged to call up pride to support us in trials that always leave fearful marks behind, how often are we compelled to assume the semblance of coldness and indifference when the heart inly bleeds: and the decent composure, put on with our visiting garments to appear in public, and, like them, worn for a few hours, are with them laid aside; and all the dreariness, the heart-consuming cares, that woman alone can know, return to make us feel, that though we may disguise our
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sufferings from others, and deck our countenance with smiles, we cannot deceive ourselves, and are but the more miserable from the constraint we submit to! A woman only can understand a woman’s heart—we cannot, dare not, complain—sympathy is denied us, because we must not lay open the wounds that excite it; and even the most legitimate feelings are too sacred in female estimation to be exposed—thus, while we nurse the grief “that lies too deep for tears,” and consumes alike health and peace, a man may with impunity express all, nay, more than he feels—court and meet sympathy, while his leisure hours are cheered by occupations and pleasures, the latter too often such as ought to prove how little he stood in need of compassion, except for his vices.”—pp. 85, 86.

Lord Byron told Lady Blessington, that the number of anonymous letters received by him from English ladies would fill a large volume; but he never noticed one of them. As to the religion of the noble poet, she says, that he was by no means an unbeliever: she admits him, however, to have been a sceptic: she is certain of his firm faith in the immortality of the soul, and that he was a sworn foe to materialism, tracing every defect to which we are subject to the infirmities entailed on us by the prison of clay in which the heavenly spark is confined. But as nothing in the way of praise by Lady Blessington is ever uttered without its accompanying antidote, so the favourable view given of Byron’s religious principles, only ushers in a fresh accusation. She says, that the consciousness of his defects rendered him less tolerant to those of others, and that in fine, a close intimacy with Lord Byron left on the mind a heterogeneous mass of conflicting impressions, which puzzled the observer to form any conclusion out of them. His susceptibility to censorious observations was a remarkable weakness of his character, but it was not more annoying to those around him, as his impatience of contradiction. A great cause of the formation of Byron’s character, Lady Blessington thinks is the morbid feeling on the subject of his deformity: she represents him as manifesting great emotion when his attention is turned to it, and she exhibits him on one occasion as speaking to the following effect:—

“I often look back on the days of my childhood, and am astonished at the recollection of the intensity of my feelings at that period;—first impressions are indelible. My poor mother, and after her my school-fellows, by their taunts, led me to consider my lameness as the greatest misfortune, and I have never been able to conquer this feeling. It requires great natural goodness of disposition, as well as reflection, to conquer the corroding bitterness that deformity engenders in the mind, and which, while preying on itself, sours one towards all the world. I have read, that where personal deformity exists, it may be always traced in the face, however handsome the face may be. I am sure that what is meant by this is, that the consciousness of it gives to the countenance an habitual expression of discontent, which I believe is the case: yet it is too bad (added Byron with bitterness) that, because one had a defective foot, one cannot have a perfect face.”—pp. 129, 130.

104 Lady Blessington's Conversations of Byron.

Two points of ambition are attributed by the Countess to Byron, the one to be thought the greatest poet of the day, the other a nobleman of fashion, two characters which produced such anomalies of conduct and sentiments, as led absolutely to the institution of a sort of jealousy between Byron in one character, and Byron in the other. When the combat began between the rivals, Lady Blessington tells us, that it gave rise to a most amusing scene.

Numerous translations into foreign languages were made of portions of his works. The great bulk of them completely destroyed the sense, and when the noble author lighted on a passage which was particularly execrable, he was excited almost to fury. The author states, that he always spoke of his works with derision, saying he could write better, but that he choose to write down to the public taste. There is certainly no sincerity in this statement, and the last canto’s of Childe Harold, present the evidence of being wrought with a vast extent of labour. Byron never wished to be old it is said, and he is represented as making declarations such as, “Let me not live to be old, give me youth, which is the fever of reason, and not age, which is the palsy.” But, mayhap, this was the repetition of the fable of the Old Man and Death. Had Byron’s sentiments been known before his dissolution, would he have surrendered his life so easily, if the messenger of death had given him his option?

At a more advanced period of her acquaintance with Byron, Lady Blessington seems to have ascertained the justice of criticizing, with lenity, his sayings and doings, inasmuch as they proceed from the impulse of the moment, and scarcely ever from premeditated malice. He cannot resist, according to her understanding of his character, expressing whatever comes into his mind; and the least shade of the ridiculous is seized by him at a glance, and portrayed with a facility and felicity that must encourage the propensity to ridicule, which is inherent in him. All the malice of his nature has lodged itself on his lips and the fingers of his right hand—for there is none I am persuaded to be found in his heart, which has more of good than most people give him credit for, except those who have lived with him on habits of intimacy. He enters into society as children do their play-ground, for relaxation and amusement, alter his mind has been strained to its utmost stretch, and that he feels the necessity of unbending it. Ridicule is his play; it amuses him perhaps the more that he sees it amuses others, and much of its severity is mitigated by the boyish glee, and laughing sportiveness, with which his sallies are uttered. All this is felt when he is conversing, but unfortunately it cannot be conveyed to the reader.

Curiously enough, the Countess of Guiccioli took an exception to the poem of Don Juan as its immorality shocked her! Byron, to please her, gave up writing it for some time, and got permission at last to resume it, only on the pledge that he would mend Don Juan’s manners as well as his morality; and he told Lady Bles
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sington, that not only would he comply with that promise, but that it was his intention to make Juan a Methodist! Whilst on the subject, he mentioned further, that he once received an anonymous letter on the subject of Don Juan, with a beautiful illustrative drawing, under which was the following inscription: “When
Byron wrote the first canto of Don Juan, love, that had often guided his pen, resigned it to sensuality—and modesty, covering her face with her veil to hide her blushes and dry her tears, fled from him for ever.” This drawing represented love and modesty turning their backs on wicked Byron, and sensuality, a fat, flushed, wingless cupid, presented him with a pen.

Infirmity of purpose was a marked fault of Byron’s; and the Countess adds, that his treatment of women may be traced to this cause, for as she told him, he was too selfish and indolent not to have given cause to those who had more than a common interest in him to be dissatisfied. She adds, that it is such men as Byron who complain of women; they touch not the chords that give sweet music in woman’s breast, but strike—with a bold and careless hand—those that jar and send forth discord. Byron has a false notion on the subject of women; he fancies that they are all disposed to be tyrants, and that the moment they know their power they abuse it.

There is a striking specimen of good sense in the following observations, attributed by the author to Byron, on the subject of hypochondriasm. Experience must have taught him the true nature of this malady, and we are induced, not more on this account, than on the intrinsic evidence of the remarks themselves, to place confidence in them.

“‘Real ailments may be cured, (said he,) but imaginary ones, either moral or physical, admit of no remedy. People analyze the supposed causes of maladies of the mind; and if the sufferer be rich, well-born, well-looking, and clever in any way, they conclude he, or she, can have no cause for unhappiness; nay, assign the cleverness, which is often the source of unhappiness, as among the adventitious gifts that increase, or ought to increase, felicity, and pity not the unhappiness they cannot understand. They take the same view of imaginary physical ailments, never reflecting that “happiness (or health) is often but in opinion;” and that he who believes himself wretched or ill, suffers perhaps more than he who has real cause for wretchedness, or who is labouring under disease with less acute sensibility to feel his troubles, and nerves subdued by ill health, which prevents his suffering from bodily ills as severely as does the hypochondriac from imaginary ones. The irritability of genius (continued Byron) is nothing more or less than a delicacy of organization, which gives a susceptibility to impressions to which coarser minds are never subject, and cultivation and refinement but increase it, until the unhappy victim becomes a prey to hypochondriasm.’“—pp. 217, 218.

Remarks are recorded which have been made by Byron on several distinguished political and literary characters of the day. He uni-
106Lady Blessington's Conversations of Byron.
formly leans to the eulogistic side, and seems to confine himself altogether to the good qualities of the individuals. In the manner he speaks of
Mackintosh, Moore, Lord Erskine, &c. He characterized Canning’s moral qualities well, when he said that fortune would have saved him from tergiversation, the bare suspicion of which is destructive to the confidence which a statesman always should inspire. Byron frequently reverted to the inventions of Sir Walter Scott, varying only the terms on every occasion of sincere praise. He has been heard to say that he never rose from the perusal of any of his works that he did not find himself in a better disposition than when he began. He used to estimate, with great precision, the qualifications of Sir Walter as a writer, and considered him to be the only successful genius who could be cited, as being generally beloved as a man, as he was admired as an author. Byron’s friendship for Scott showed him off in the best attire in which his character could be presented, for here he could not apply those suspicions of which he was so profuse to others, being apt to attribute every mark of respect or good will paid him as springing from a selfish motive. In the case of Scott, a suggestion of this kind would be absurd, and hence the uninterrupted course of his admiration for the great Waverley master.

But a strange anomaly in Byron is particularly noticed by the Countess. An exquisite taste was displayed by him in descriptive poetry, whilst his modes of life was utterly destitute of such a feeling. Fine scenery, she says, produced little effect on his mind, and he had no adequate comprehension of the elegancies or comforts of life. She declares, that a bad and vulgar taste predominated in all his equipments, whether in dress or furniture, and, having seen his bed in Genoa, she does not hesitate to say, that it was the most gaudily vulgar thing she ever beheld. His carriages and liveries were all in the same bad taste, being a display of affectation, and a regard to tawdry ornaments. One of the few persons in London, whose society served to correct Byron’s predisposition to misanthropy, was Lord Holland, whose benignity he eulogizes beyond all bounds. He never heard of a second opinion being entertained of that nobleman, such are the charm of his manners, the cultivation of his mind, his agreeable conversation, his bland temper, and his hospitality. This compliment contrasts very strongly with the expression of his hostility to Southey, in respect of whom he said, “It is difficult for me, who detests an author, not to detest his works, and there are some I dislike so cordially, that I am aware of my incompetency to give an impartial opinion of their writings, Southey, for example, is one of these.”

The Countess listened with impatience always to Byron, when he reflected upon fashionable society in England, and particularly when his sarcasm was directed against women. Her observations on the source of these attacks are not without their value.

Byron has not lived sufficiently long in England, and has left it at too
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young an age, to be able to form an impartial and just estimate of his compatriots. He was a busy actor, more than a spectator, in the circles which have given him an unfavourable impression; and his own passions were, at that period, too much excited to permit his reason to be unbiassed in the opinions he formed. In his hatred of what he calls cant and hypocrisy, he is apt to denounce as such all that has the air of severity; and which, though often painful in individual cases, is, on the whole, salutary for the general good of society. This error of Byron’s proceeds from a want of actual personal observation, for which opportunity has not been afforded him, as the brief period of his residence in England, after he had arrived at an age to judge, and the active part he took in the scenes around him, allowed him not to acquire that perfect knowledge of society, manners, and customs, which is necessary to correct the prejudices that a superficial acquaintance with it is so apt to engender, even in the most acute observer, but to which a powerful imagination, prompt to jump at conclusions, without pausing to trace cause and effect, is still more likely to fall into. Byron sees not that much of what he calls the usages of cant and hypocrisy are the fences that protect propriety, and that they cannot be invaded without exposing what is the interest of all to preserve. Had he been a calm looker on, instead of an impassioned actor in the drama of English fashionable life, he would probably have taken a less harsh view of ail that has so much excited his ire, and felt the necessity of many of the restraints which fettered him.”—pp. 301—303.

It is evident from many passages in this volume, that Byron set a high value on education as a general principle. He acknowledged his conviction, that it had more effect in quelling the passions than is generally allowed: by expanding the mind, and giving to it sources of tasteful occupations, he thought that it filled up the time, that no leisure was left for the passions to obtain that umpire over the reason, to which ignorance and idleness exposes it. He referred to the lower classes, and particularly those of Italy, for a proof of the influence of passions over uneducated minds. Well-educated women, he observed, rarely, if ever, give way to any ebullitions of passion. Of mankind in general, he uniformly expressed an unfavourable opinion; but the Countess suspects that it was not genuine, but the result of a cynical habit, to which he too often descended; she has heard him oppose, one day, opinions which he warmly sustained the next, so that the impulse of the moment was always the guide of his conversation. There is no question but that he studied and deeply admired Shakespeare, yet on an occasion when his mind was obliquely directed, he did not hesitate to put forth the following criticism on the immortal bard:—

“All his vulgarism, are attributed to the circumstances of his birth and breeding deprived him of a good education; hence they are to be excused, and the obscurities with which his works abound are all easily explained away by the simple statement, that he wrote above 200 years ago, and that the terms then in familiar use are now become obsolete. With two such good excuses, as want of education, and having written above 200 years
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before our time, any writer may pass muster; and when to these is added the being a sturdy hind of low degree, which to three parts of the community in England has a peculiar attraction, one ceases to wonder at his supposed popularity; I say supposed, for who goes to see his plays, and who, except country parsons, or mouthing, stage-struck theatrical amateurs, read them?”—p. 356.

Byron, it appears, took a peculiar pleasure in opposing popular opinions, no matter what the subject was. Here he showed great weakness, because his determined hostility was mere pride that led him to despise the multitude. He often declared, that nothing would give him a worse opinion of a book than to hear it was admired by the people of England; and he admitted that his dislike of the Duke of Wellington arose because they made him their idol. The notions of Byron on the professions of divinity and physic are common to many persons, who, like himself, are very careless about premises when they go about forming their conclusions. Medical men he thought little about, and one of his reasons appears to be that they do not sufficiently attend to idiosyncracy, on which so much depends, and often hurry to the grave one patient by a treatment that has succeeded with another. The moment they ascertain a disease to be the same as one they have known, they conclude the same remedies that cured the first must remove the second, not making allowance for the peculiarities of temperament, habits, and disposition; which last has a great influence in maladies.

In the course of the volume, we meet with many passages put into the mouth of Byron, which deserve more the name of sermons than conversation; we mean to say that they are too moral, too demure, a great deal, for such a man; and we should not be surprised if some of the elegant and pointed terms, by which piety is made interesting, and religion clothed with beauty, represented as being used by Byron, were really no more than unconscious intercalations of the fair author herself. Her pity is called forth in very touching expressions, when she contemplates Byron turning his thoughts upon his daughter, She says,—

“There is something tender and beautiful in the deep love with which poor Byron turns to his daughter. This is his last resting-place, and on her heart has he cast his last anchor of hope. When one reflects that he looks not to consolation from her during his life, as he believes her mother implacable, and only hopes that, when the grave has closed over him, his child will cherish his memory, and weep over his misfortunes, it is impossible not to sympathize with his feelings. Poor Byron! why is he not always true to himself? Who can, like him excite sympathy, even when knows him to be erring? But he shames one out of one’s natural and better feelings by his mockery of self. Alas!—
His is a lofty spirit, tnrn’d aside
From its bright path by woes, and wrongs, and pride;
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And onward in its new, tumultuous course,
Borne with too rapid and intense a force
To pause one moment in the dread career,
And ask—if such could be its native sphere?

How unsatisfactory is it to find one’s feelings with regard to Byron, varying every day! This is because he is never two days the same. The day after he has awakened the deepest interest, his manner of scoffing at himself and others destroys it, and one feels as if one had been duped into a sympathy, only to be laughed at.”—pp. 387, 388.

Still recurring to her accusatory habit, the Countess holds out to our notice the unquenchable thirst for celebrity of Byron: no avenue to it was left untried, and the means by which it could be reached he never trifled about. Thus his weakness was manifested, by the frequent occasions on which he associated himself with those beneath him in rank, thinking he honoured them by his condescension, and expecting that they would make a due return in the submission which they observed. Another bad habit was, that of disclaiming friendships, which again arose from his aristocratic pride. Before setting out on his expedition to Greece, it appears that Byron was exceedingly anxious to proceed first to England, and she suspects that his main object was a reconciliation with his lady.

But, here we must close the book, feeling that we have gained quite enough of information to induce us to entertain a very poor opinion of the noble poet, in his capacity of a member of society. It would be easy to show that the debtor and creditor account which is given here between Lord Byron the good with Lord Byron the bad, goes nigh to make a bankrupt of his Lordship’s character. The whole effect of the details may be summed up in a very brief way, and we give the recapitulation, which is exceedingly well done to our hand, by the accomplished author herself.

“With such various forms of pleasing as rarely fall to the lot of man. Byron possessed the counterbalance to an extraordinary degree; as he could disenchant his admirers almost as quickly as he had won their admiration. He was too observant not to discover, at a glance, the falling off in the admiration of those around him, and resented as an injury the decrease in their esteem, which a little consideration for their feelings, and some restraint in the expression of his own, would have prevented. Sensitive, jealous, and exigent himself, he had no sympathy or forbearance for those weaknesses in others. He claimed admiration not only for his genius, but for his defects, as a sort of right that appertained solely to him. He was conscious of this foiblesse, but wanted either power or inclination to correct it, and was deeply offended if others appeared to have made the discovery.”—p. 403.

The volume really affords many interesting materials for useful meditation; and those who wish to see the results on the moral nature of one who has judgment, joined with good sense, and more than all, a thorough knowledge of busy life, will not fail to peruse these Conversations.