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readers with a lively article without much respect to the feelings of the author, or even to the indications of merit which the work may exbibit. The review was read and raised mirth; the poems were neglected, the author was irritated, and took his revenge in keen iambics, not only on the offending critic, but on many others, in whose conduct or writings the juvenile bard had found, or imagined he had found, some cause of offence. The satire which has been since suppressed, as containing opinions hastily expressed, contained a spirit at least sufficiently poignant for all the purposes of reprisal; and although the verses might, in many respects, be deemed the offspring of hasty and indiscriminating resentment, they bore a strong testimony to the ripening talents of the author. Having thus vented his indignation against the critics and their readers, and put many, if not all the laughers upon his side, Lord Byron went. abroad, and the controversy was forgotten for some years.
It was in 1812, when Lord Byron returned to England, that Childe Harold's Pilgrimage inade its first appearance, producing an effect upon the public, at least equal to any work which has appeared within this or the last century. Reading is indeed so general among all ranks and classes, that the impulse received by the public mind on such occasions is instantaneous through all but the very lowest classes of society, instead of being slowly communicated from one set of readers to another, as was the case in the days of our fathers. The Pilgrimage,'acting on such an extensive medium, was calculated to rouse and arrest the attention in a peculiar degree. The fictitious personage, whose sentiments, however, no one could help identifying with those of the author himself, presented himself with an avowed disdain of all the attributes which most men would be gladly supposed to possess. Childe Harold is represented as one satiated by indulgence in pleasure, and seeking in change of place and clime a relief from the tedium of a life which glided on without an object. The assuming of such a character as the medium of communicating his poetry and his sentiments indicated a feeling towards the public, which, if it fell short of contemning their favour, disdained, at least, all attempt to propitiate them. Yet the very audacity of this repulsive personification, joined to the energy with which it was supported, and to the indications of a bold, powerful, and original mind which glanced through every line of the poem, electrified the mass of readers, and placed at once upon Lord Byron's head the garland for which other men of genius have toiled long, and which they have gained late. He was placed pre-eminent among the literary men of his country by general acclamation. Those who had so rigorously. censured his juvenile essays, and perhaps dreaded such another field,' were the first to pay warm and, we believe, sincere homage to his matured efforts, while
others, who saw in the sentiments of Childe Harold much to regret and to censure, did not withhold their tribute of applause to the depth of thought, the power and force of expression, the beauty of description, and the energy of sentiment which animated. the • Pilgrimage. If the volume was laid aside for a moment, under the melancholy and unpleasing impression that it seemed calculated to chase hope from the side of man, and to dim his prospects both of this life and of futurity, it was immediately and almost involuntarily assumed again, as our feeling of the author's genius predominated over our dislike to contemplate the gloomy views of buman nature which it was his pleasure to place before us. Something was set down to the angry recollection of his first failure, which might fairly authorize so high a mind to hold the world's opinion in contempt; something was allowed for the recent family losses to which the poem alluded, and under the feeling of which it had been partly written: and it seemed to most readers as if gentler and more kindly features were, at times, seen to glance from under the cloud of misanthropy, which the author had fung around his hero. Thus, as all admired the Pilgrimage of Childe Harold, all were prepared to greet the author with that fame which is the poet's best reward, and which is chiefly and most justly due to one who, in these exhausted days, strikes out a new and original line of composition.
It was amidst such feelings of admiration that Lord Byron entered, we may almost say for the first time, the public stage on which he has, for four years, inade so distinguished a figure. Every thing in his manner, person, and conversation, tended to maintain the charm which his genius had flung around him; and those admittted to his conversation, far from finding that the inspired poet sunk into ordinary mortality, felt themselves attached to him, not only by many noble qualities, but by the interest of a mysterious, undefined, and almost painful curiosity.
It is well known how wide the doors of society are opened in London to literary merit even of a degree far inferior to Lord Byron's, and that it is only necessary to be honourably distinguished by the public voice to move as a denizen in the first: circles. This passport was not necessary to Lord Byron who possessed the hereditary claims of birth and rank. But the interest which his genius attached to his presence, and to his conversation, was of a nature far beyond what these hereditary claims could of themselves have conferred, and his reception was enthusiastic beyond any thing we have ever witnessed, or even heard reported. We have already noticed that Lord Byron is not one of those literary men of whom it may be truly said, Minuit præsentia famam. A countenance, exquisitely modeled to the expression of feeling and
passion, and exhibiting the remarkable contrast of very dark hair and eye-brows, with light and expressive eyes, presented to the physiognomist the most interesting subject for the exercise of his art. The predominating expression was that of deep and habitual thought, which gave way to the most rapid play of features when he engaged in interesting discussion ; so that a brother poet compared them to the sculpture of a beautiful alabaster vase, only seen to perfection when lighted up from within. The flashes of mirthi, gaiety, indignation, or satirical dislike which frequently animated Lord Byron's countenance, might, during an evening's conversation, be mistaken by a stranger, for the habitual expression, so easily and so happily was it formed for them all; but those who had an opportunity of studying his features for a length of time, and upon various occasions, both of rest and emotion, will agree with us that their proper language was that of melancholy. Sometimes shades of this gloom interrupted even his gayest and most happy moments, and the following verses are said to have dropped from his pen to excuse a transient expression of melan, choly which overclouded the general gaiety.
• When from the heart where Sorrow sits,
Her dusky shadow mounts too high,
And clouds the brow, or fills the eye-
My thoughts their dungeon know too well ;
And bleed within their silent cell.' It was impossible to behold this interesting conntenance, expressive of a dejection belonging neither to the rank, the age, nor the success of this young nobleman, without feeling an indefinable curiosity to ascertain whether it had a deeper cause than habit or constitutional temperament. It was obviously of a degree incalculably more serious than that alluded to by Prince Arthur
I remember when I was in France,
Only for wantonness But howsoever derived, this, joined to Lord Byron's air of mingling in amusements and sports as if he contemned them, and felt, that his sphere was far above the frivolous crowd which surrounded him, gave a strong effect of colouring to a character whose tints were otherwise romantic. Noble and far descended, his mind fraught with ancient learning and modern accomplishment, the pilgrim of distant and savage countries, eminent as a poet among the first whom Britain has produced, and having besides VOL. XVI. NO. XXXI.
cast around him a mysterious charm arising from the sombre tone of his poetry, and the occasional melancholy of his deportment, Lord Byron occupied the eyes, and interested the feelings of all. The enthusiastic looked on him to admire, the serious with a wish to admonish, and the soft with a desire to console. Even literary envy, a base sensation, from which, perhaps, this age is more free than any other, forgave the man whose splendour dimmed the fame of his competitors. The generosity of Lord Byron's disposition, his readiness to assist merit in distress, and to bring it forward where unknown, deserved and obtained the general regard of those who partook of such merit, while his poetical effusions, poured forth with equal force and fertility, shewed at once a daring confidence in his own powers, and a determination to maintain, by cons tinued effort, the high place he had attained in British literature. This rapidity of composition and publication we have heard blamed as endangering the fame of the author, while it gave such proofs of talent. We are inclined to dispute the proposition, at least in the present instance.
We are sometimes tempted to blame the timidity of those poets, siho, possessing powers to arrest the admiration of the public, are yet too much afraid of censure to come frequently forward, and thus defraud themselves of their fame, and the public of the delight which they might afford us. Where success has been unexpectedly, and perhaps undeservedly, obtained by the capricious vote of fashion, it may
be well for the adventurer to draw his stake and leave the game, as every succeeding hazard will diminish the chance of his rising a winner. But they cater ill for the public, and give indifferent advice to the poet, supposing him possessed of the highest qualities of his art, who do not advise him to labour while the laurel around his brows yet retains its freshness. Sketches from Lord Byron are more valuable than finished pictures from others; nor are we at all sure that any labour which he might bestow in revisal would not rather efface than refine those outlines of striking and powerful originality which they exbibit, when flung rough from the hand of the master. No one would have wished to condemn Michel Angelo to work upon a single block of marble, until he had satisfied, in every point, the petty criticism of that Pope, who, neglecting the $ublime and magnificent character and attitude of his Moses, descended to blame a wrinkle in the fold of the garment. Should it be urged, that in thus stimulating genius to unsparing exertion, we encourage carelessness and hurry in the youthful candidates for literary distinction, we answer, it is not the learner to whom our remarks apply; they refer to him only, who, gifted by nature with the higher power of poetry, an art as difficult as it is enchanting, has made himself master, by application and study, of the mecha
nical process, and in whom, we believe, frequent exertions upon new works awaken and stimulate that genius, which might be cramped and rendered tame, by long and minute attention to finish to the highest possible degree any one of the number. If we look at our poetical library we shall find, generally speaking, the most distinguished poets have been the most voluminous, and that those who, like Gray, limited their productions to a few poems, anxiously and sedulously corrected and revised, have given them a stiff and artificial character, which, far from disarming criticism, has rather embittered its violence, while the Aristarch, like Achilles assailing Hector, meditates dealing the mortal wound through some unguarded crevice of the supposed impenetrable armour, with which the cautious bard has vainly invested himself. Our opinion must be necessarily qualified by the caution, that as no human invention can be infinitely fertile, as even the richest genius may be, in agricultural phrase, cropped out, and rendered sterile; and as each author must necessarily have a particular style in which he is supposed to excel, and must therefore be more or less a mannerist; no one can with prudence persevere in forcing himself before the public when from failure in invention, or froin having rendered the peculiarities of his style over trite and familiar, the veteran ‘lags superfluous on the stage,' a slighted mute in those dramas where he was once the principal personage. To this humiliation vanity frequently exposes genius, and it is no doubt true that a copious power of diction joined to habitual carelessness in composition, has frequently conduced to it. We would therefore be understood to recommend to authors, while a consciousness of the possession of vigorous powers, carefully cultivated, unites with the favour of the public, to descend into the arena, and continue their efforts vigorously while their hopes are high, their spirits active, and the public propitious, in order that, on the slightest failure of nervés or breath, they may be able to withdraw themselves honourably from the contest gracefully, giving way to other candidates for fame, and cultivating studies more suitable to a flagging imagination than the fervid art of poetry. This, however, is the affair of the authors themselves : should they neglect this prudential course, the public will no doubt have more indifferent books on their table than wouli otherwise have loaded it; and as the world always seizes the first opportunity of recalling the applause it has bestowed, the former wreaths of the writers will for a time be blighted by their immediate failure. But these evils, so far as the public is concerned, are greatly overbalanced by such as arise from the timid caution, which bids genius suppress its efforts, until they shall be refined into unattainable perfection--and we cannot but repeat our conviction that poetry being, in its higher classes, an art which has for its ele