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every one of them, in the first place, about as old as himself in years, and therefore a great deal older in character — every one of them utterly battered in reputation long before he came into contact with them – licentious, unprincipled, characterless women. What father has ever reproached him with the ruin of his daughter 2 What husband has denounced him as the destroyer of his peace?
“Let us not be mistaken. We are not o the offences of which Lord Byron unquestionably was guilty: neither are we finding fault with those who, after looking honestly within and around themselves, condemn those offences — no matter how severely. But we are speaking of society in general, as it now exists; and we say that there is vile logo in the tone in which Lord Byron is talked of there. 'e say that, although all offences against purity of life are miserable things and condemnable things, the degrees of guilt attached to different offences of this class are as widely different as arc the degrees of guilt between an assault and a murder; and we contess our belief, that no man of Byron's station and age could have run much risk of gaining a very bad name in society, had a course of life similar (in so far as we know any thing of that) to Lord Byron's been the only thing chargeable against him.
“ The last poem he wrote (see ante, p. 577.) was produced upon his birth-day, not many weeks before he died. We consider it as one of the finest and most touching effusions of his noble genius. We think he who reads it, and can ever after bring himself to regard even the worst transgressions that have been charged against Lord Byron with any feelings but those of humble sorrow and mainly pity, is not deserving of the name of man. The deep and passionate struggles with the inferior elements of his nature (and ours) which it records — the lofty thirsting after purity—the heroic devotion of a soul half weary of life, because unable to believe in its own powers to live up to what it so intensely felt to be, and so reverentially honoured as... the right—the whole picture of this mighty spirit, often darkened, but never sunk., often erring, but never ceasing to see and to worship the beauty of virtue — the repentance of it, the anguish, the aspiration, almost stilled in despair — the whole of this is such a whole, that we are sure that no man can read these solemn verses too often, and we recommend them for repetition, as the best and most conclusive of all possible answers, whencver the name of Byron is insulted # those who permit themselves to forget nothing, either in his life or his writings, but the good.”
The present Lord Advocate of Scotland thus gratefully admonished the yet living author of Don Juan, in the LXXIId Number of the Edinburgh Review.
“ Lord Byron complains bitterly of the detraction by which he has been assailed—and intimates that his works have been received by the public with far less cordiality and savour than he was entitled to expect. We are constrained to say that this appears to us a very extraordinary mistake. In the whole course of our experience, we cannot recollect a single author who has had so little reason to complain of his reception — to whose genius the public has been so o and so constantly just – to whose faults they have been so long and so signally indulgent. From the very first he must have been aware that he offended the principles and shocked the prejudices of the majority, by his sentiments, as much as he delighted them by his talents. Yet there never was an author so o, and warmly applauded, so gently admonished — so kindly entreated to look more heedfully to his opinions. He took the praise, as usual, and rejected the advice. As he grew in fame and authority, he aggravated all his offences — clung more fondly to all he had been reproached with — and only took leave of Childe Harold to ally himself to Don Juan That he has since been talked of, in public and in private, with less unmingled admiration — that his name is now mentioned as often for censure as for praise — and that the exultation with which his countrymen once hailed the greatest of our living poets, is now alloyed by the recollection of the tendency of his writings — is matter of notoriety to all the world; but matter of surprise, we should imagine, to nobody but Lord Byron himself.
“That the base and the bigoted – those whom he has darkened by his glory, spited by his talent, or mortified by his neglect – have taken advantage of the prevailing disaffection, to vent their puny malice in ..". nicknames and vulgar scurrility, is natural and true. . But Lord Byron may depend upon it, that the dissatistaction is not confined to them, —and, indeed, that they would never have had the courage to assail one so immeasurably their superior, if he had not at once made himself vulnerable by his errors, and alienated his natural defenders by his obstinate adherence to them. We are not bigots, nor rival poets. We have not been detractors from Lord Byron's fame, nor the friends of his detractors : and we tell him – far more in sorrow than in anger — that we verily believe the great body of the English nation – the religious, the moral, and the candid part of it—consider the
tendency of his writings to be immoral and pernicious – and look upon his perseverance in that strain of composition with regret and reprehension. We ourselves are not easily startled, either by levity of temper, or boldness, or even rashness of remark; we are, moreover, most sincere admirers of Lord Byron's genius, and have always felt a pride and an interest in his fame: but we cannot dissent from the censure to which we have alluded; and shall endeavour to explain, in as few and as temperate words as possible, the grounds upon which we rest our concurrence. “He has no priestlike cant or priestlike reviling to apprehend from us. We do not charge him with being either a disciple or an apostle of Satan ; nor do we describe his poetry as a mere compound of blasphemy and obscenity. On the contrary, we are inclined to believe that he wishes well to the happiness of mankind — and are glad to testify, that his poems abound with sentiments of great dignity and tenderness, as well as passages of infinite sublimity and beauty. 15ut their general tendency we believe to be in the highest degree pernicious; and we even think that it is chiefly by means of the fine and lofty sentiments they contain, that they acquire their most fatal power of corruption. This may sound at first, perhaps, like a paradox; but we are mistaken if we shall not make it intelligible enough in the end. “We think there are indecencies and indelicacies, scductive descriptions and prosligate representations, which are extremely reprehensible ; and also audacious speculations, and erroneous and uncharitable assertions, equally indefensible. But if these had stood alone, and if the whole body of his works had been made up of gaudy ribaldry and slashy scepticism, the mischief, we think, would have been much less than it is. He is not more obscene, perhaps. than Dryden or Prior, and other classical and pardoned writers; nor is there any passage in the history even of Don Juan so degrading as Tom Jones's affair with Lady Bellaston. It is no doubt a wretched apology for the indecencies of a man of genius, that equal. indecencies have been forgiven to his predecessors: but the precedent of lenity might have been followed; and we might have passed both the levity and the voluptuousness – the dangerous warmth of his romantic situations, and the scandal of his cold-blooded dissipation. It might not have been so easy to get over his dogmatic scepticism — his hardhearted maxims of misanthropy — his cold-blooded and eager cxpositions of the non-existence of virtue and honour. Even this, however, might have been comparatively harmless, if it had not been accompanied by that which may look, at first sight, as a palliation—the frequent presentment of the most touching pictures of tenderness, generosity, and faith. “The charge we bring against Lord Byron in short is, that his writings have a tendency to destroy all belief in the reality of virtue—and to make all enthusiasm and constancy of affection ridiculous ; and that this is effected, not merely by direct maxims and examples, of an imposing or seducing kind, but by the constant exhibition of the most prosligate heartlessness in the persons of those who had been transiensly represented as actuated by the purest and most exalted emotions—and in the lessons of that very teacher who had been, but a moment before, so beautifully pathetic in the expression of the loftiest conceptions. “This is the charge which tee bring against Lord Byron. We say that, under some strange misapprehension as to the truth, and the duty of proclaiming it, he has exerted all the powers of his powerful mind to convince his readers, both directly and indirectly, that all ennobling pursuits, and disinterested virtues, are mere deceits or illusions — hollow and despicable mockeries for the most part, and, at best, but laborious follies. Love, patriotism, valour, devotion, constancy, ambition — all are to be laughed at, disbelieved in, and despised 1– and nothing is really good, so far as we can gather, but a succession of dangers to stir the blood, and of banquets and intrigues to soothe it again ' If this doctrine stood alone, with its examples, it would revolt, we believe, more than it would seduce : — but the author of it has the unlucky gift of personating all those sweet and lofty illusions, and that with such grace and force and truth to nature, that it is impossible not to suppose, for the time, that he is among the most devoted of their votaries – till he casts off the character with a jerk—and, the moment after he has moved and exalted us to the very height of our conception, resumes his mockery at all things serious or sublime — and lets us down at once on some coarse joke, hard-hearted sarcasm, or fierce and relentless personality, as if on purpose to show – ' Whoe'er was edified, himself was not ' - or to demonstrate practically as it were, and by example, how possible it is to have all fine and noble feelings, or their appearance, for a moment, and yet retain no particle of respect for them — or of belief in their intrinsic worth or permanent reality.”
The next Author we must cite, is the late industrious Dr. John Watkins, well known for his “Biographical Dictionary,” his “Life of the Right Honourable Richard Brinsiey Sheridan,” &c. — styled ignominiously by Lord Byron “Old Grobius.”
“Of this Odyssey of immorality, there cannot be two opinions : for, let the religious sentiments of the reader be as lax as possible, he must be shocked at the barefaced licentiousness of the poem. Marriage is of course reprobated, and all the laws of social life are set at open defiance as violations of natural liberty. Lord Byron is the very Comus of poetry, who, by the bewitching airiness of his numbers, aims to turn the whole moral world into a herd of monsters. It must, however, be allowed that in this tale, he has not acted the wily part, of concealing the poison under the appearance of virtue: on the contrary, he makes a frank confession of his principles, and glories in vice with the unblushing temerity of a rampant satyr who acknowledoes no rule but appetite. The mischief of the work is rendered doubly so by the attractive gaiety of the language, the luxuriance of the imagery, and the humorous digressions with which the story is embellished and chequered.”
Another great moralist—practically, we believe, a most eminent one—is the next on our catalogue; namely, the late Rer. Caleb Colton, the author of “Lacon; or, Many Things in Few Words" (or, as Lord Byron, somewhere, was wicked enough to misquote it—“Few Things in Many Words") in his “Remarks on the Tendencies of Don Juan,” published in 1822.
“The impurity of Rochester is too disgusting to do harm : the morality of Pope is too neutralised to do good: but the muse of Byron has mixed her poison with the hand of an adept ; it is proffered in a goblet of crystal and of gold ; it will please the palate, remain on the stomach, and circulate through the veins. There are persons who think that some of the objectionable parts of Don Juan are reclaimed by others that are both beautiful and faultless. But, alas ! the poison is general, the antidote particular ; the ribaldry and obscenity will be understood by the many; the profundity and the sublimity only by the few. We live in an age when orators are trying how much treason they may talk without being hanged, poets how much nonsense they may write without being neglected, and libertines how much licentiousness they may venture upon without being execrated and despised. We consider Don Juan to be a bold experiment, made by a daring and determined hand, on the moral patience of the public. i. is most melancholy to reflect that a man of Lord Byron's stupendous powers should lend himself to such unworthy purposes as these : led thereto by the grovelling gratification of dazzling the fool, or encouraging the knave; of supporting the weakest sophistry by the strongest genius. and the darkest wickedness by the brightest wit. He applies, alas, the beams of his mighty mind, not to comfort, but to censure us, and, like Nero, gives us nothing but a little harmony to console us for the conflagration he has caused. I shall sum up my opinion of Don Juan in the words of Scaliger on a poem of Cardinal Bembus : —“ Hoc poema tocare possis aut obsc - eleg aut eleg obscornstaten.’ ”
“Speaking of Don Juan, I will here observe, that Lord Byron had no plan with regard to that poem. His hero in this work was a picture of the better part of his own nature. When the author speaks in his own person, he is endeavouring to buily himself into a satisfaction with the worse, and courting the eulogies of the knowing." His jealousy of Wordsworth and others who were not town ots was not more creditable to him. He pretended to think worse of them than he did, . He had the modesty one day to bring me a stanza, intended for Don Juan, in which he had sneered at them all, adding, that nobody but myself thought highly of them. He rancied I should put up with this, for the sake of being mentioned in the poem ; an absurdity which nothing but his own vanity had suggested. I told him I should consider the introduction of such a stanza an affront, and that he had better not put it in. I am sorry I did not let it go; for it would have done me honour with posterity.”
Another historical evidence is that of Mr. – or Captain —
“People are always advising me,” said Byron (at Pisa. in October, 1821), “to write an epic. If you must have an epic, there's “ Don Juan' for you. I call that an epic ; it is an epic as much in the spirit of our day as the Iliad was in that of Homer. Love, religion, and politics form the argument, and are as much the cause of quarrels now as they were then. There is no want of Parises and Menelauses, nor of crim. cons. into the bargain. In the very first canto you have a Helen. Then, I shall make my hero a perfect Achilles for fighting, — a man who can snuff a candle three successive times with a pistol-ball: and, depend upon it. Iny moral will be a good one: not even Dr. Johnson should be able to find a flaw in it. I will make him neither a dandy in town, nor a fox-hunter in the country. He shall get into au sorts of scrapes, and at length end his career in France. Poor Juan shall be guillotined in the French Revolution : What do you think of my plot 2 It shall have twenty-four books too, the legitimate number. Episodes it has, and will have, out cf number ; and my spirits good or bad, must serve for the machinery. If that be not an epic — if it be not strictly according to Aristotle — I don't know what an epic poem means.”
Returning to mere criticism, we light upon the late ingenious but eccentric author of “Spirits of the Age"—
XXVI. M.R. WiLLIAM HAzlitt.
“Don Juan has, indeed, great power; but its power is owine to the force of the serious writing, and to the oddity of the contrast between that and the flashy passages with which it is interlarded. From the sublime to the ridiculous there is but 9ne step. , You laugh and are surprised that any one should turn round and travestie himself; the drollery is in the utter discontinuity of ideas and feelings. He makes virtue serve as a foil to v.ce; dandyism is (for want of any other) a variety of genius: A classical intoxication is followed by the splashing of soda water, by frothy effusions of ordinary bile. After the lightning and the hurricane, we are introduced to the interior of the cabin, and the contents of wash-hand basins. The solemn hero of tragedy plays Scrub in the farce. This is ‘very tolerable and not to be endured.” The noble lord is almost the only writer who has prostituted his talents in this way. He hallows in order to desecrate ; takes a pleasure in defacing the images of beauty his hands have wrought; and raises our hopes and our belief in goodness to heaven, only to dash them to the earth again, and break them in pieces the more effectually from the very height they have iallen. Our enthusiasm for genius or virtue is thus turned in to a jest. by the very person who has kindled it, and who thus fatally quenches the sparks of both. It is not that Lord Byron is sometimes serious and sometimes trifling, sometimes profiigate and sometimes moral – but when he is most serious and most moral, he is only preparing to mortify the unsuspecting reader by putting a pitiful hoax upon him. This is a most unaccountable anomaly. Don Juan has been called a Tristram Shandy in rhyme: it is rather a poem about itself.”
We find no “Sir Cosmo Gordon " in any baronetage of this age, or even in any list of K.B.'s or K.H.'s; but it stands on the titlepage of a book published in 1825, and entitled “ The Life and Genius of Lord Byron." Take, then,
XXVII. Sir COSMO GORD ON.
“At Venice, Lord Byron planned that which, had he lived to complete it, must have been considered as the most daring and the most wonderful of all his works, 1) on Juan. This work was general in its satire, and warm and glowing in its colouring ; and though it had an obvious and important moral, - the absurdity of giving to a young man a secluded and monkish education, in the hope that that would preserve him from temptations, – it excited a great deal of clamour, especially among those upon whom, in the execution of it. the hand of the poet had been heavy. The Don was the most singular and the most original poem that had perhaps ever appeared. It was made up of the most cutting and searching satires, mixed with dissections of the human heart, and deineations of human passion and frailty, which were drawn both to and with the life, and therefore threw all those who dreaded exposure into the most serious alarm. There was much more both of politics and of personality in this poem than in any of his former ones, and upon this account, the outcry against it was more loud and general. The stuff of immortality was, however, in the poem, and not a few of those who were offended at its at pearance will probably find (if indeed they shall live as long) their only memorials in it, after all which, good or bad, they have done for themselves shall be forgotten.”
The “West" that follows is not Benjamin, the President, but a young American brother of the brush, who visited Lord Byron in Italy, anno Domini 1822.
“He showed me two of the Cantos of Don Juan in manuscript. They were written on large sheets of paper, put together like a schoolboy's copybook. Here and there I observed alterations of words, but seldom of whole lines; and just so, he told me, it was written down at once. It was all gin, he said, meaning thereby that he drank nothing but gin when he wrote it. The Guiccioli was present, and said, she wished my lord would leave off writing that ugly Don Juan.” “I cannot give up my Don Juan,’ he replied ; “I do not know what I should do without my Don Juan.’”
From “Lord Byron's Works, viewed in connection with Christianity and the Obligations of Social Life,” — a sermon preached in Holland Chapel, Kennington, by the Rev. John Styles, D.D. — and sold by the Doctor's pew-openers, we now submit a brief extract. We believe Dr. Styles has been familiarised to every reader, by one of the Rev. Sidney Smith's articles in the Edinburgh Review.
XXIX. Styles. “Be assured, my Brethren, it is with sorrowful reluctance I feel myself called upon to denounce the greatest genius of the age as the greatest enemy of his species. The poem is one in which the author has put forth all the energy of his wonderful faculties; nor has he written any thing more decisively and triumphantly expressive of the greatness of his genius. It is at once the glory and disgrace of our literature; and will remain to all ages a perpetual monument of the exalted genius and depraved heart of the writer. It is devoted to the worst of purposes and passions; and flows on in one continued stream of pollution. Its great design, seems to be, to shame the good out of their virtues, and to inspire the wicked with the pride of depravity. If, for a moment, the author appears to forget himself, and to suffer his muse to breathe of purity and tenderness— if a touch of humanity, a faint gleam of goodness, awaken our sympathy, he turns upon us with a sneer of contempt, or laughs our sensibility to scorn. Indeed, throughout, we discover the heartless despiser of human nature;—a denaturalised being, who, having exhausted every species of sensual gratification, and drained the cup of sin to its bitterest dregs, is resolved to show that he is no longer human, even in his frailties, but a cool, unconcerned fiend, treating, well-nigh with equal derision, the most pure of virtues and the most odious of vices, dead alike to the beauty of the one and the deformity of the other ; yet possessing a restless spirit of seduction, — debasing the nobler part of man, that he may more surely bring into action his baser appetites and passions. To accomplish this, he has lavished all the wiles of his wit, all the enchantments of his genius. In every page the poet is a libertine ; and the most unexceptionable passages are mildewed with impurity. The cloven foot of the libidinous satyr is monstrously associated with the angel-wing of genius. – * I'd rather be the wretch that scrawls His idiot nonsense on the walls; Not quite a man, not quite a brute, Than I would basely prostitute My powers to serve the cause of vice, To build some jewell'd edifice So fair, so foul, -framed with such art To please the eye and soil the heart, That he who has not power to shun, Comes, looks, and feels himself undone.”
O my Brethren how I wish that the style of this discourse could be less accusatory and severe !” The “Letter of Cato to Lord Byron,” next to be quoted, attracted considerable notice; and was, we know not whether justly or unjustly, ascribed to the pen of the Rev. George Croly, D.D., Rector of Romford, in Essex – author of “Paris in 1815,” a poem — “Pride shall have a Fall, a Comedy,” — “Catiline, a Tragedy,”—“Salathiel, a Romance,” —“Life of George the Fourth,” – “Comment on the Apocalypse,” &c. &c. &c. XXX. CATO.
“Whatever your principles, no page of any of your writings has contributed to the security or the adornment of virtue.
Have you not offended against decency 2 and repudiated shame? Have you not represented almost every woman as a harlot? How your fame will stand with posterity, it would be idle to ol. upon. It is not improbable that something like the doubt which crossed the mind of the senate, whether they should pronounce their deceased emperor a tyrant or a god, will perplex the judgment of succeeding o as to the credit, and character of your poetry.
hey will hardly know if they shall deify or desecrate a genius so majestic, degrading itself by subjects and sentiments so repulsive. With an insane partiality, we are undervaluing our standard writers, and placing licentious drivellers in their room. The Shakspeares and Miltons of better days are superseded by the Byrons and Shelleys, the Hunts and Moores of our own: but let us hope that the garbage which the present generation luxuriates upon, posterity will nauseate and cast upon the dunghill. With such a teacher as you have shown yourself, how is it possible for the disciples of your school to be any other than most vicious beings He who brutalizes every feeling that gives dignity to social, every principle that imparts comfort to domestic, life — he who represents all chastity as visionary, and all virtue as vile, is not entitled to be considered as a man—he is a living literary monster.”
“It is to Don Juan, the last of Lord Byron's productions, that he will owe his immortality. It is his only work which excels by its allurement and delight ; by its power of attracting and detaining attention. It keeps the mind in pleasing captivity; it is perused with eagerness, and, in hopes of new pleasure, is perused again. The wild and daring sallies of sentiment with which it abounds, the irregular and eccentric violence of wit which pervades every canto, excite at once astonishment and enthusiasm. The original humour, the peculiarity of expression, the incidents, the circumstances, the surprises, the jests of action and of thought, the shades of light and darkness so exquisitely intermingled, impart a peculiarity of character to the work, which places it above all modern, above all ancient fame. Indeed, it we except the sixteen satires of Juvenal, there is nothing in antiquity so bitter or so decisive as the sixteen cantos of Don Juan. The Roman satirist exhibits a mixture of diguity and aversion, of hatred and invective ; the English censor displays a contempt of the various relations of society, of the hypocrisies, the tumults, and the agitations of life. Juvenal disdains to wield the feeble weapon of ridicule — Byron delights to mix seriousness with merriment, and thoughts purely jocular with sentiments of exasperation and revenge. Juvenal is never pathetic – Byron, when he arrives at this species of excellence, destroys its effect by effusions of ridicule or insensibility. Both poets, however, exhibit the same ebullitions of resentment against the miserable victims which they sacrifice to their fury — the same scorn for mankind – and the same vehemence in de
icting their crimes, passions, and follies. Both attack existing villany, strike at corruption "|5". and trample upon the turpitude and baseness of high life. Both are grave, intrepid, and implacable. If at any time they relax the sternness of their manner, they never forget themselves. They sometimes smile, indeed, but their smile is more terrible than their frown : it is never excited but when their indignation is mingled with contempt. — Don Juan will be read as long as satire, wit, mirth, and supreme excellence shall be esteemed among men: , it will continue to enchain every affection and emotion of the mind: and every reader, when he arrives at its conclusion, will view it with an eye of sorrow, such as the traveller casts on departing day.”
Another (or the same) Mr. ANoN., in a work, in three volunies 8vo, London, 1825, entitled “ The Life, Writings, Opinions, and Times of Lord Byron,” thus observes —
XXXII. AN ON. (Second.)
“All at once the accumulated torrent of obloquy is poured forth upon the devoted head of Lord Dyron . Well – he despised it, and justly he might do so : it will never tarnish a leaf of his laurels. Every man who has once read Don Juan, if he ingenuously confesses the truth, will feel inclined to peruse it again and again. If Byron's works be proscribed on the score of want of decency, it will be uccessary to sweep off one half of English literature at once, as libri cirpurgati. But Byron was a proscribed poet with the puritanical moralists, or exclusively good men : ”
A third “ANoN.” meets us in the Author of “Don John ; or, Don Juan unmasked ; being a Key
to the mystery attending that remarkable publication.” XXXIIL ANON. (Third.)
“In Don Juan, his lordship's muse displays all his characteristic beautics and blemishes—soaring to the vastest heights, or creeping to the lowest depths — glancing with an eye of fantasy at things past, at things, present, and at things to come. The poem is constructed, like the image of Nebuchadnezzar's dream — of fine gold, silver, and clay. It abounds in sublime thought and low humour, in dignified feeling and malignant passion, in elegant wit and obsolete conceit. It alternately presents us with the gaiety of the ball-room, and the gloom of the scaffold—leading us among the airy pleasantries of fashionable assemblages, and suddenly conducting us to haunts of depraved and disgusting sensuality. We have scarcely time to be refreshed and soothed . the odours of flowers and bursting blossoms, the pensive silence of still waters, and the contemplation of beautiful forms, before we are terrified and horror-stricken by the ferocious clamours of tumultuous crowds, and the agonies of innocent and expiring victims. This poem turns decorum into jest, and bids defiance to the established decencies of life. It wars with virtue as resolutely as with vice.”
Our next author is a pseudonomous one —the writer of a “Letter to Lord Byron, by John Bull," London, Svo, 1821. This production much excited Lord Byron's curiosity. In one of his letters to Mr. Murray he asks, “Who the devil can have done this diabolically well-written letter 2" and subsequently he is found resting his suspicion (unfoundedly, no doubt,) on one of his own most intimate personal friends. We extract a few paragraphs.
xxxiv. JOHN BULL. “ Stick to Don Juan ; it is the only sincere thing you have ever written ; and it will live many years after all your Harolds have ceased to be, in your own words, * A school-girl's tale—the wonder of an hour."
I consider Don Juan as out of all sight the best of your works: it is by far the most spirited, the most straightforward, the most interesting, and the most poetical ; and every body thinks as I do of it, although they have not the heart to say so. Old Gifford's brow relaxed as he gloated over it : Mr. Croker chuckled ; Dr. Whitaker smirked ; Mr. Milman sighed; Mr. Coleridge took it to his bed with him. “I think the great charm of its style is, that it is not much like the style of any other poem in the world. It is utter humbug to say, that it is borrowed from the style of the Italian weavers of merry ottawa rima : their merriment is nothing, because they have nothing, but their merriment; yours is everything, because it is delightfully intermingled with, and contrasted by, all manner of serious things – murder and lust included. It is also mere humbug to accuse you of having plagiarised it from Mr. Frere's pretty and graceful little Whistlecrafts. The measure, to be sure, is the same : but then the measure is as old as the hills. But the spirit of the two poets is as different as can be. Mr. Frere writes elegantly, playfully, very like a gentleman, and a scholar, and a respectable man ; and his poems never sold, nor ever will sell. Your Don Juan, again, is written strongly, lasciviously, fiercely, laughingly, o body sees in a moment that nobody could have written it but a man of the first order, both in genius and in dissipation – a real master of all his tools — a profligate, pernicious, irresistible, charming devil : — and accordingly the Don sells, and will sell, to the end of time, whether our good friend, Mr. John Murray, honour it with his imprimatur, or doth not so honour it. I will mention a book, however, from which I do think you have taken a great many hints; nay, a great many pretty full sketches, for your Juan. It is one which (with a few more) one never sees mentioned in reviews, because it is a book written on the anti-humbug principle. It is —you know it exceedingly well —it is no other than ‘Faublas,' a book which contains as much good fun as Gil Blas, or Molière ; as much good luscious description as the Héloise ; as much fancy and imagination as all the comedies in the English language put together, and less humbug than any one given romance that has been written since Don Quixote—a book which is to be found on the tables of roués, and in the desks of divines, and under the pillows of spinsters — a book, in a word, which is read universally — I wish I could add – in the original. “But all this has nothing to do with the charming style of Don Juan, which is entirely and inimitably your own — the sweet, fiery, rapid, easy — beautifully easy, -anti-humbug style of Don Juan. Ten stanzas of it are worth all your Manfred – and yet your Manfred is a noble poem, too, in its way. I had really no idea what a very clever fellow you were till I read Don Juan. In my humble opinion, there is very
little in the literature of the Fo: day that will stand the test of half a century, except the Scotch novels of Sir Walter Scott, and Don Juan. . They will do so because they are written with perfect facility and nature – because their materials are all drawn from life.”
Coming once more to men with names, we present this extract from a Life of Byron, by the well-known author of “ The Annals of the Parish,” “ The Provost,” “The Entail,” “ Sir Andrew wylie," “Laurie Todd,” and “The Member.”
* Strong objections have been made to the moral tend of Don Juan ; but, in the opinion of many, it is Lord Byron's masterpiece ; and undoubtedly it displays all the varieties of his powers, combined with a quaint playfulness not found to an equal degree in any other of his works. The serious and |. portions are exquisitely beautiful : the descriptions
ave all the distinctness of the best pictures in Childe Harold, and are, moreover, generally drawn from nature ; while the satire is for the most part curiously associated and sparklingly witty. The characters are sketched with amazing firmness and freedom ; and, though sometimes grotesque, are yet not often overcharged. It is professedly an epic m. but it may be more properly described as a poetical ...]"; can it be said to inculcate any particular moral, or to do more than unmantle the decorum of society. Bold and buoyant throughout, it exhibits a free irreverent knowledge of the world. laughing or mocking as the thought serves, in the most unexpected antitheses to the proprieties of time, place, and circumstance. The object of the poem is to describe the progress of a libertine through life; not an unprincipled prodigal, whose prodigacy, growing with his growth and strengthening with his strength, passes from voluptuous indulgence into the morbid sensuality of systematic debauchery; but a young gentleman who, whirled by the vigour and vivacity of his animal spirits into a world of adventures, in which his stars are chiefly in fault for his liaisons, settles at last into an honourable lawgiver, a moral speaker on divorce bills, and possibly a subscriber to the Society for the Suppression of Vice.”
Next to Mr. Galt we place the amiable and humane Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges, Baronet, of Denton and Lee Priory, Kent, author of “Mary Clifford,” the “Censura Literaria,” the “Autobiography of Clavering,” &c. &c. &c.
Xxxvi. Ibn Yidces.
“Don Juan is, no doubt, very licentious in parts, which renders it dangerous to praise it very much ; and makes it improper for those who have not a cool and correct judgment, and cannot separate the objectionable parts from the numerous beautiful passages intermixed. But nowhere is the poet's mind more elastic, free, and vigorous, and his knowledge of human nature more surprising. It has all sorts of faults. many of which cannot be defended, and some of which are disgusting ; but it has, also, almost every sort of poetical merit ; there are in it some of the finest passages which Lord Byron ever wrote ; there is amazing knowledge of human nature in it; there is *:::: humour; there is freedom, and bound, and vigour of narrative, imagery, sentiment, and style, which are admirable; there is a vast fertility of deep, extensive, and original thought, and, at the same time. there is the profusion of a prompt and most richly-stored memory. The invention is lively and poetical ; the descriptions are brilliant and glowing, yet not over-wrought, but fresh from nature, and faithful to her colours; and the prevalent character of the whole (bating too many dark spots) not o though gloomy; not misanthropic, though bitter; and not repulsive to the visions of poetical enthusiasm. though indignant and resentful. I know not how to wish he had never written this poem, in spite of all its faults and intermingled mischief There are parts of it which are among the most brilliant proofs of his genius ; and, what is even better, there are parts which throw a blaze of light upon the knowledge of human life.”
After depicting the mode of life pursued by Lord Byron at Venice, in 1817-18, his biographer thus notices Don Juan : —
“It was at this time, as the features of the progeny itself would but too plainly indicate, that Lord Byron conceived and wrote part of his poem of Don Juan ; – and never did pages more faithfully, and in many respects lamentably, reflect every variety of feeling, and whim, and passion that, like the rack of ultumn, swept across the author's mind in writing them. Nothing less, indeed, than that singular com
capable of, the exccution of such a work. The cool shrewdness of age, with the vivacity and glowing temperament of south, – the wit of a Voltaire, with the sensibility of a Rousseau, - the minute practical knowledge of the unan of society, with the abstract and self-contemplative spirit of the t, —a susceptibility of all that is grandest and most affect#. human virtue, with a deep, withering experience of all that is most fatal to it, — the two extremes, in short, of man's mixed and inconsistent nature, now rankly smelling of earth, now breathing of heaven, – such was the strange assemblage of contrary elements, all meeting together in the same mind, and all brought to bear, in turn, upon the same task, from which alone could have sprung this extraordinary poem — the most powerful and, in many respects, painful display of the versatility of genius that has ever been left for succeeding ages to wonder at and deplore.”
Immediately on receiving the news of Lord Byron's death, Sir Walter Scott, as is known to all, sent to one of the Edinburgh newspapers a touching tribute to his memory. Perhaps a more fitting place might have been found in this collection for parts of the following extract; —but we cannot prevail on ourselves to present it here in a mutilated form.
“Amidst the general calmness of the political atmosphere, we have been stunned, from another quarter, by one of those death notes, which are pealed at intervals, as from an archangel's trumpet, to awaken the soul of a whole people at once. Lord Byron, who has so long and so amply filled the highest place in the public eye, has shared the lot of humanity. That mighty genius, which walked amongst men as something superior to ordinary mortality, and whose powers were beheld with wonder, and something approaching to terror, as if we knew not whether they were of good or of evil, is laid as soundly to rest as the poor peasant whose ideas went not beyond his daily task. he voice of just blame and of malignant censure are at once silenced ; and we feel almost as if the great luminary of heaven had suddenly disappeared from the sky, at the moment when every telescope was levelled for the examination of the spots which dimmed its brightness. It is not now the question, what were Byron's faults, what his mistakes ; but, how is the blank which he has lest in British literature to be filled up 2 . Not, we fear, in one generation, which, among many highly gifted persons, has produced none which approached Lord Byron, in onigiNAlity, the first attribute of genius. Only thirty-six years old – so much already done for immortality—so much time remaining, as it seemed to us short-sighted mortals, to maintain and to extend his fame, and to atone for errors in conduct and levities in composition, — who will not grieve that such a race has been shortened, though not always keeping the straight path ; such a light extinguished, though sometimes flaming to dazzle and to bewilder * One word on this ungrateful subject, ere we quit it for ever.
“The errors of Lord Byron arose neither from depravity of heart, — for Nature had not committed the anomaly of uniting to such extraordinary talents an imperfect moral sense, – nor from feelings dead to the admiration of virtue. No man had ever a kinder heart for sympathy, or a more open hand for the relief of distress; and no mind was ever more formed for the enthusiastic admiration of noble actions, providing he was convinced that the actors had proceeded on disinterested principles. Remonstrances from a friend, of whose intentions and kindness he was secure, had often great weight with him ; but there were few who would venture on a task so difficult. Reproof he endured with impatience, and reproach hardened him in his error; so that he often resembled the gallant war-steed, who rushes forward on the steel that wounds him. In the most painful crisis of his private life, he evinced this irritability and impatience of censure in such a degree, as almost to resemble the noble victim of the bull-fight, which is more maddened by the squibs, darts, and petty annoyances of the unworthy crowds beyond the lists, than by the lance of his nobler, and, so to speak, his more legitimate antagonist. In a word, much of that in which he erred was in bravado and scorn of his censors, and was done with the motive of Dryden's despot, “to show his arbitrary power.”
“As various in composition as Shakspeare himself (this will be admitted by all who are acquainted with his “ Don Juan'), he has cmbraced every topic of human life, and sounded every string on the divine harp, from its slightest to its most powerful and heart-astounding tones. There is scarce a passion or a situation which has escaped his pen ; and he might be drawn, like Garrick, between the weeping and the laughing Muse, although his most powerful cfforts have certainly been devoted to Melpomene. His genius seeined as prolitic as various. The most prodigal use did
not exhaust his powers, nay, seemed rather to increase their vigour. Neither Childe Harold, nor any of the most beautiful of Byron's earlier tales, contain more exquisite morsels of poetry than are to be sound scattered through the cantos of Don Juan, amidst verses which the author appears to have thrown off with an effort as spontaneous as that of a tree resigning its leaves to the wind. But that noble tree will never more bear fruit or blossom . It has been cut down in its strength, and the past is all that remains to us of Byron. We can scarce reconcile ourselves to the idea— scarce think that the voice is silent for ever, which, bursting so often on our ear, was often heard with rapturous admiration, sometimes with regret, but always with the deepest
"All that's bright must fade,
The brightest still the fleetest :" With a strong feeling of awful sorrow, we take leave of the subject. Death creeps upon our most serious as well as upon our most idle employments; and it is a reflection solemn and gratifying, that he found our Byron in no moment of levity, but contributing his fortune, and hazarding his life, in behalf of a people only endeared to him by their own past Fo and as fellow-creatures suffering under the yoke of a heathen oppressor. To have fallen in a crusade for Freedom and Humanity, as in olden times it would have been an atonement for the blackest crimes, may in the present be allowed to expiate greater follies than even exaggerating calumny has propagated against Byron.”
In a little journal conducted by the great poet of Germany, Goethe, and entitled “Kunst und Altherthum," i. e. “Art and Antiquity,” (Part III. 1S21,) there appeared a translation into German of part of the first canto of Don Juan, with some remarks on the poem by the venerable Editor, of which we next submit a specimen : —
“Don Juan is a thoroughly genial work – misanthropical to the bitterest savageness, tender to the most exquisite delicacy of sweet feelings: and when we once understand and appreciate the author, and make up our minds not fretfully and *} to wish him other than he is, it is impossible not to enjoy what he chooses to pour out before us with such unbounded audacity — with such utter recklessness. The technical execution of the verse is in every respect answer. able to the strange, wild simplicity of the conception and
lan : the poet no more thinks of polishing his phrase, than
e does of flattering his kind ; and yet, when we examine the piece more narrowly, we feel that English poetry is in possession of what the German has never attained, a classically elegant comic style. . . . .
“If I am blamed for recommending this work for translation — for throwing out hints which may serve to introduce so immoral a performance among a quiet and uncorrupted nation — I answer, that I really do not perceive any likelio hood of our virtue's sustaining serious damage in this way: Poets and Romancers, bad as they may bel, have not yet learned to be more pernicious than the daily newspapers which lie on every table.”
After Scott and Goethe we should be sorry to quote anybody but Lord Byron himself. In Mr. Kennedy's account of his “Conversations” with the noble poet at Cephalonia, a few weeks before his death, we find the following passage, with which let these prolegomena conclude.
XL. BYRON ipse (apud Kennedy), “I cannot,” said Lord Byron, “ conceive why people will always mix up my own character and opinions o those of the imaginary beings which, as a poet, I'. the right and liberty to draw.” “. They certainly,” said, I, do not spare your Lordship in that respect, and in Childe Harold, Lara, the Giaour, and Don Juan, they are too much disposed to think that you paint, in many costumes, yourself, and that these characters are only the vehicles for the expression of your own sentiments and feelings.” “They do me great injustice,” he replied “ and what was never before done to any poet. Even in 1) on Juan I have been equally misunderstood. I take a vicious and unprincipled character, and lead him through those ranks of society, whose high external accomplishments cover and cloak internal and secret vices, and I paint the natural elects of such characters; and certainly they are not so highly coloured as we find them in real life.” “This may be true; but the question is, what are your motives and object for painting nothing but scenes of vice and folly *"—" To remove the cloak, wi.ich the manners and