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ualism? How far is it justified in its dogma ? On that point, it is evident that, physiologically considered, the extent of response of nerve-force to external conditions is limited by its own nature. The body can adjust nervously only to conditions to which nerve-force is sensitive. Perception, the criterion of the material is therefore also limited to perception. That far, it is an incomplete criterion, and metaphysically an insufficient criterion. That which is perceived is the perceptible, not the imperceptible. The cause, the origin, the life-principle of this nerve-force—that which precedes it and conditions it-being necessarily different from it, can certainly have no part in it other than its cause. There is no more fundamental axiom in materialism than that every effect has a cause. It may be true that nerve-force is nothing else than the play of electrons and protons which constitutes also electrical force; but if so, nervous impulses are limited to the range of this play, are dependent upon the cause of it, and can not function except as such. You can no more expect to find a nervous impulse existing under conditions other than those of its own physical laws, than you can expect to produce an electrical current with a single element of your storage battery.
Nor are physiologically defined limits any less evident in the empirical phenomenon of knowledge. Confucius is credited long ago with having discovered that "there are things above the power of human comprehension, beyond the grasp of human intelligence." Similarly, we find that faithful historian of materialism, Lange, reaching the conclusion that "the whole cause of materialism is forever lost by the admission of the inexplicableness of all natural occurrences."
BYRON-AFTER ONE HUNDRED YEARS
BY J. V. NASH
HE opening years of the nineteenth century in England were
illumined by the work of five poets of rare genius—all apostles of the Romantic revival. They were, in the order of their age, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats. By a strange coincidence-if it be philosophical to speak of coincidences—these five men were destined to die in the reverse order of their birth. Keats was to go first, in 1821, followed by Shelley in 1822, Byron in 1824, Coleridge in 1834, and Wordsworth—full of years and honors-last of all, in 1850, a date within the lifetime of many now living, though at the time of his birth Voltaire still had eight years to live.
While all five of these poets were heralds of the new age ushered in by the French Revolution, Byron alone was a man of action as well as of song. Writing impassioned poems about Freedom and hymning the praise of Nature were in the end unsatisfying; he longed for some taste of the heroic life—to be in the thick of the fray where Liberty waged warfare with Autocracy and sword clashed upon sword. And yet, exalted ideals were in Byron strangely mixed with egotism, vanity, love of excitement, and an inherently theatrical attitude toward life, which exposed both himself and his work to suspicions of insincerity.
It is safe to say that there is no other poet in the whole history of English literature whose life affords such a fascinating study to the psychologist as that of Byron. His was the tragedy of a dissociated personality, a soul torn by conflicting emotions and impulses. The cause of the inharmonious mental states which were a source of constant torture to the poet and cast a pall of futility over all that he undertook, will be made clear by an examination of the abnormal and in many ways deplorable heredity and environment by which his personality was molded.
To most people today the name Byron calls up vague images of a voluptuous poet and fiery radical of the early nineteenth century. But this tumultuous incendiary of popular imagination was a Peer of England by right of blood, who claimed and actually occupied a seat in the House of Lords, at that time the very citadel of aristocracy and privilege.
The Byrons were an ancient noble family of England, the founder of the line having been a Norman by the name of de Burun who came over with William the Conqueror. In the reign of Henry II (1155-1189) the name was modified to Byron, the form which it has since retained.
It was the fourth Lord Byron (1669-1736) who seems to have started the strain of eccentricity and passionate violence for which the family during the next one hundred years acquired an unenviable reputation.
As his third wife, he married Frances, daughter of Lord Berkeley and it was from this union that the wild and erratic race which culminated in the poet sprang.
The fifth lord, who was born in 1722, entered the Navy, narrowly escaped death by shipwreck when his vessel, the Victory, was lost on the rocks of Alderney; subsequently he took to a life of foxhunting and gambling. In a sordid quarrel following a card game he ran through with his sword and killed his neighbor and kinsman, a Mr. Chaworth. This was in 1765, the year famous for the passage of the American stamp act. Byron was committed to the Tower and tried on a charge of murder. The trial, which was held in Westminster Hall, was one of the causes celebres of the day. It is said that the interest which it aroused was so great that tickets of admission sold for six guineas apiece. A verdict of manslaughter was returned, but Byron, by pleading his privileges as a Peer and paying costs, regained his liberty.
The slayer was, however, thenceforth shunned by his former friends. He became haunted as if by spectres, and shut himself up in his ancestral home, Newstead Abbey, going abroad from time to time by stealth and under assumed names, and at other times being locked up like a wild beast behind the thick walls of the ancient pile. Many sinister stories began to circulate regarding him. It was said that he shot a coachman and Aung his body into the carriage beside his wife, whom on another occasion it was alleged that he tried to drown. Finally his wife was forced to flee, in mortal dread for her life.
It was rumored that "the wicked lord,” as he became known, was in league with Satan himself, and was waited upon in his castle by imps of his Sooty Majesty. The poet himself tells how, after his wife left him, "the wicked lord's” only companions were a troop of tame crickets, which he had trained to crawl over his body and which he used to punish with blows of a tiny straw when they misbehaved. After their master's death, the story was told how these insects solemnly marched out of the castle, in military procession, and disappeared from view.
"The wicked lord" survived his three sons, his brother, and his only grandson, killed in Corsica in 1794. Consequently, on his death in 1798, his estates and title passed to George Gordon Byron, then a boy of ten, who was the grandson of the fourth lord's second son, John. The latter had led an adventurous life in the British Navy, in the course of which he was shipwrecked in the straits of Magellan, and reached England again only after two years of the most extraordinary adventures in the wilds of South America, including a period of captivity in the hands of the Spaniards in Chile. Several years later he circumnavigated the globe, taking possession of the Falkland Islands in the name of England, which has held them to this day.
The eldest son of this sailor adventurer, born in 1751, was the father of the poet. He was educated at Westminster School and became a captain in the guards. Fundamentally unprincipled, he developed a degree of blackguardism that alienated him from his family. "Mad Jack" he was known in the circles which he frequented.
In the year 1778, in circumstances of peculiar shamelessness, "Mad Jack” seduced the wife of the Marquis of Carmarthen, afterwards Duke of Leeds. The affair was discovered by the marquis through Byron's financial demands upon the lady. In reverse of the usual relations in such cases, he was constantly clamoring for money from his innamorata.
The pair then eloped to the continent of Europe, and when the marquis obtained a divorce in 1779 they were regularly married. The life of one who had sacrificed her honor at his behest he proceeded to make so miserable that in five years she died. Two daughters had been born to the pair, of which one survived. This was Augusta, half-sister to the poet and destined to become a constructive influence in his checkered life.
John Byron was not long a widower. He succeeded in bagging a second wife in the person of Miss Catherine Gordon of Gight,
whose extensive estates in Aberdeenshire attracted the needy and greedy adventurer. “The property of the Scotch heiress," says Nicol, "was squandered with impetuous rapidity by the English rake."
It was on January 22, 1788, in Holles Street, London, that Mrs. Byron No. 2 gave birth to her only child, George Gordon, the sixth lord and the stormy petrel of literary England in the days when the nineteenth century was young.
Soon after the birth of his son, the father, being pressed by importunate creditors, abandoned wife and child and fled again to France. The mother took her young son to Scotland, where she found shelter at Aberdeen. The father, meanwhile, having spent his last shilling in dissipation, decided to return to his wife. They lived together in humble lodgings until their incompatible tempers compelled a separation. For a time, they occupied separate apartments at opposite ends of the same street, within visiting distance. But even this arrangement was destined not to last. His creditors found him out. He extracted sufficient money from his wife to pay his passage once more to France, and left the country, never to return. The curtain fell on his wretched career at Valenciennes, in August, 1791, just as the French Revolution was breaking.
One would suppose that to the wife who had found it impossible to live with him, and whose fortune he had dissipated, his demise would have been in the nature of a relief. Yet when news of Byron's death reached the lady, it is said that her piercing shrieks disturbed the repose of the quiet neighborhood.
As to the character of the poet's mother, we are told that she was not only proud, impulsive, and wayward, but hysterical, that her affection and anger were alike demonstrative, her temper never for an hour secure. “She half worshipped, half hated," says Nicol, "the blackguard to whom she was married, and took no steps to protect her property. Her son she alternately petted and abused."
Such were the jarring, neurotic and tainted psychical streams which united in the poet. Though a handsome lad, he was afflicted with a deformity of one foot which, while it did not seriously interfere with walking, was a source of extraordinary mental suffering"a lame brat,” his mother in her brutal moods used to dub him.
But our limited space bids us hurry on. We cannot linger over Byron's school life, except to note that he was deficient in technical scholarship, low in his class, and apparently without ambition to rank high, but that he eagerly devoured history and romance and reveled in the Arabian nights. Like many another poet, he is reported as