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THE LIFE OF LORD BYRON,
BY THOMAS MOORE, ESQ.
In Doomsday-book, the name of Ralph de Burun Saracen or Moor, with a European female on one ranks high among the tenants of land in Notting- side of him, and a Christian soldier on the other. hamshire ; and in the succeeding reigns, under in a second group, which is in one of the bedthe title of Lords of Horestan Castle, we find his rooms, the female occupies the centre, while on descendants holding considerable possessions in each side is the head of a Saracen, with the eyes Derbyshire, to which afterwards, in the time of fixed earnestly upon her. Of the exact meaning of Edward I., were added the lands of Rochdale in these figures there is nothing certain known; but Lancashire. So extensive, indeed, in those early the tradition is, I understand, that they refer to times, was the landed wealth of the family, that the some love-adventure, in which one of those crusapartition of their property, in Nottinghamshire ders, of whom the young poet speaks, was engaged. alone, has been sufficient to establish some of the Of the more certain, or at least better known, exfirst families of the county.
ploits of the family, it is sufficient perhaps to say, Its antiquity, however, was not the only distinc- that, at the siege of Calais under Edward III., and tion by which the name of Byron came recom- on the fields, memorable in their respective eras, mended to its inheritor ; those personal merits and of Cressy, Bosworth, and Marston Moor, the name accomplishments, which form the best ornament of of the Byrons reaped honours, both of rank and a genealogy, seem to have been displayed in no or-fame, of which their young descendant has, in the dinary degree by some of his ancestors. In one of verses just cited, shown himself proudly conscious. bis own early poems, alluding to the achievements It was in the reign of Henry VIII., on the dissoluof his race, he commemorates with much satisfaction of the monasteries, that, by a royal grant, the tion, those “mail-cover'd barons” among them, church and priory of Newstead, with the lands ad who proudly to batlle
joining, were added to the other possessions of the Led their vassals from Europe to Palestine's plain;
Byron family. The favourite, upon whom these Adding,
spoils of the ancient religion were conferred, was Near Askalon's towers John of Horiston slumbers, the grand-nephew of the gallant soldier who fought Underved is the hand of his minstrel by death.
by the side of Richmond at Bosworth, and is disAs there is no record, however, as far as I can tinguished from the other knights of the same Chrisdiscover, of any of his ancestors having been en- tian name, in the family, by the title of “Sir John gaged in the Holy Wars, it is possible that he may Byron the Little with the great beard.” A portrait have had no other authority for this notion than the of this personage was one of the few family pictradition which he found connected with certain tures with which the walls of the abbey, while in strange groups of heads, which are represented on the possession of the noble poet, were decorated. the old panel-work in some of the chambers at At the coronation of James I., we find another reNewstead. In one of these groups, consisting of presentative of the family selected as an object of three heads, strongly carved and projecting from royal favour, the grandson of Sir John Byron the the panel, the centre figure evidently represents a Little being, on this occasion, made a knight of the
Bath. There is a letter to this personage, preserved land can boast, -his mother, who was one of the in Lodge's Illustrations, from which it appears Gordons of Gight, having been a descendant of that, notwithstanding all these apparent indications that Sir William Gordon who was the third son of of prosperity, the inroads of pecuniary embarrass- the Earl of Huntley by the daughter of James I. ment had already begun to be experienced by this After the eventful period of the Civil Wars, when ancient house. After counselling the new heir as so many individuals of the house of Byron distinto the best mode of getting free of his debts, “ I do guished themselves—there having been no less than therefore advise you,” continues the writer,(1)“ that seven brothers of that family on the field at Edgeso soon as you have, in such sort as shall be fit, hill--the celebrity of the name appears to have died finished your father's funerals, to dispose and dis- away for near a century. It was about the year perse that great household, reducing them to the 1750, that the shipwreck and sufferings of Mr. Bynumber of forty or fifty, at the most, of all sorts ; ron (2) (the grandfather of the illustrious subject of and, in my opinion, it will be far better for you to these pages), awakened in no small degree the atlive for a time in Lancashire rather than in Notts, tention and sympathy of the public. Not long after, for many good reasons that I can tell you when we a less innocent sort of notoriety attached itself meet, fitter for words than writing.
to two other members of the family,-one, the From the following reign (Charles I.) the nobility grand-uncle of the poet, and the other, his father. of the family dates its origin. In the year 1643, Sir The former, in the year 1765, stood his trial before John Byron, great-grandson of him who succeeded the House of Peers for killing, in a duel, or rather to the rich domains of Newstead, was created Ba- scuffle, his relation and neighbour, Mr. Chaworth; ron Byron of Rochdale in the county of Lancaster; and the latter, having carried off to the continent and seldom has a title been bestowed for such high the wife of Lord Carmarthen, on the noble marquis and honourable services as those by which this no- obtaining a divorce from the lady, married her. bleman deserved the gratitude of his royal master. Of this short union one daughter only was the Through almost every page of the History of the issue, the honourable Augusta Byron, now the wife Civil Wars, we trace his name in connexion with of Colonel Leigh. the varying fortunes of the king, and find him In reviewing thus cursorily the ancestors, both faithful, persevering, and disinterested to the last. near and remote, of Lord Byron, it cannot fail to “Sir John Biron (says the writer of Colonel Hutch- be remarked how strikingly he combined in his inson's Memoirs), afterwards Lord Biron, and all own nature some of the best and, perhaps, worst his brothers, bred up in arnis and valiant men in qualities that lie scattered through the various chatheir own persons, were all passionately the king's.” |racters of his predecessors—the generosity, the love There is also, in the answer which Colonel Hutch- of enterprise, the high-mindedness of some of the inson, when governor of Nottingham, returned, on better spirits of his race, with the irregular pasone occasion, to his cousin-german, Sir Richard sions, the eccentricity, and daring recklessness of Biron, a noble tribute to the valour and fidelity of the world's opinion, that so much characterized the family. Sir Richard, having sent to prevail on others. his relative to surrender the castle, received for The first wife of the father of the poet having answer, that, except he found his own heart died in 1784, he, in the following year, married prone to such treachery, he might consider there Miss Catharine Gordon, only child and heiress of was, if nothing else, so much of a Biron's blond in George Gordon, Esq. of Gight. In addition to the him, that he should very much scorn to betray or estate of Gight, which had, however, in former limes, quit a Irust he had undertaken."
been much more extensive, this lady possessed, Such are a few of the gallant and distinguished in ready money, Bank shares, etc., no inconsiderpersonages, through whom the name and honcurs able property; and it was known to be solely with of this noble house have been transmitted. By the a view of relieving himself from his debts that maternal side also Lord Byron had to pride himself Mr. Byron paid his addresses to her. A circumon a line of ancestry as illustrious as any that Scot- stance related, as having taken place before the
(1) The Earl of Shrewsbury.
(2) Afterwards Admiral.