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nor despair. I grant that those are not amiable feelings, but, in this world of bustle and broil, and especially in the career of writing, a man should calculate upon his powers
of resistance before he goes into the arena.
"Expect not life from pain nor danger free,
Nor deem the doom of man reversed for thee." (8)
In revenge, Byron wrote the "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers," in which he tore to shreds the matured fame of his country's writers.
His satire has all the verve of rage, he strikes friend and foe; you might compare him to a baited bull which plunges amidst the crowd, trampling and goring without distinction both his tormentors and the unoffending spectators. England applauded the new Juvenal; Byron triumphed. In after years he repented what he had written, as is always the case with the writer of a libel (4).
LORD BYRON'S DISSIPATION.
But, before launching himself into the career of letters, Byron had yet to go through a course of sensual enjoyment and of dissipation-riotous orgies where reason became lost, duels for a trifle, a torn garment or a misquoted verse. Newstead Abbey was converted into a scene of voluptuous delights. There were the clearest heads, the most renowned bons vivans of London; there, the first poets (?) of the day, the most courted actresses, were assembled. Exquisite wines, delicious perfumes, splendid illuminations, garlands of flowers, intertwined, you might say, with dishevelled locks, convert the holy cells of the monks into boudoirs most profane. And oh! refectory, where still silentium remains inscribed, with what toasts did thy walls resound! the
"But if the place appear rather strange to you, ways of the inhabitants will not appear much less so. (2) Letter to Shelley, Ravenna, April 26, 1821. Moore's Life, 1847,
Ascend then with me, the hall steps, that I may introduce you to my Lord and his visitants. But have care
how you proceed; be mindful to go there in broad daylight, and with your eyes about you. For should you make any blunder, should you go to the right of the hall steps, you are laid hold of by a bear; and should you go the left, your case is still worse, for you run against a wolf-nor, when you have attained the door, is your danger over, for the hall being decayed, and therefore standing in need of repair, a bevy of inmates are probably hanging at one end of it with their pistols, so that if you enter without giving loud notice of your approach, you have only escaped the wolf and the bear, to expire by the pistol shots of the merry monks of Newstead (1). . . . . &c."
I must not omit the custom of handing round after dinner, on the removal of the cloth, a human skull filled with Burgundy. Then, turning into mockery the tradition of the dead, who, wrapped in funereal shroud, arose as ghosts at midnight from their graves, these jovial companions traversed the long corridors, disguised as monks, and descending to the vaults, burst open the sepulchres of the dead. Nor then did they rise from their unholy banquet until the sparkling Burgundy had first gone round in a cup formed from a disentombed skull. On that skull the lines composed by Byron-who adorned even his own studio with crania and skeletons, a fantasy which some practice, as if fond not of being, but of appearing, melancholy-were written:
Start not, nor deem my spirit fled!
In me behold the only skull,
From which, unlike a living head, (2)
Such were the orgies with which the poet prepared himself for his appearance in Parliament, and his travels in Grecee and Italy.
APPEARS IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS.
In the House of Lords ho presented himself alone, without a friend to introduce or welcome him, without a kinsman to motion him to a seat by his side. There, the interests of all Europe were then in discussion in connection with Napoleon, whose mind, gigantic as it ever was, had again turned to the overthrow of the factitious power of England. Most ardently desirous of instruction in the affairs of the country, Lord Byron there gave utterance to ideas too strange to that House, or that were then premature; there, he at once with vehemence expressed the most liberal sentiments. How was he first received as a poet? With virulent censure. How in Parliament? With indifference, which is even worse (1). Discouraged, then, or unable in dissipation to stifle his chagrin, which arose from the collision betwixt the desire of action and impotence to act; sated with the life of a wanderer at home, with an isolation amidst friends, mortified in his ambition at finding his wealth inadequate to his position, deceived in his first affections, he abandons his country, "a voluntary exile, fleeing his own heart."
DEPARTURE FROM ENGLAND.
Scarcely on the ocean, the mighty ocean, whereon more especially than elsewhere the Deity has stamped the type of his power and of eternity, and again the poet revives.
Adieu! adieu! my native shore (1)
The night winds sigh, the breakers roar,
Yon sun that sets upon the sea,
My native land-good night! &o.
(1) Childe Harold, Canto 1.
PORTRAIT OF LORD BYRON. (1.)
Whilst on his travels let us contemplate and sketch the poet. He is handsome, and on his brow is read the impress of an extraordinary mind. The predominating characteristic of his countenance is an expression of deep pensive meditation, which, in conversation, changes to a rapid animation, on which follow in succession flashes of joy, indignation, or satirical mirth. Rich curls of luxuriant brown hair surround a spacious brow; eyes of light blue sparkle with a brilliant fire; his cheek is pale, but subsequently sunburned to a deeper hue; the finest teeth-in fine, the whitest neck, shaped so perfectly as to form a real model for the sculptor ('). Of his good looks he was most careful, even indeed to vanity. He never left his house but with hair and person most carefully dressed, the finest linen, white as snow, and clothes of the choicest materials; he used the most exquisite perfumes, and took the most particular care of his teeth. The death of Waite," (2) he writes, "is a shock to the teeth, as well as to the feelings of all who knew him. Good God! he and Blake both (3) gone. I left them both in the most robust health, and little thought of the national loss in so short a time as five years. Where is tooth powder, mild and yet efficacious-where is tincture-where are cleaning roots and brushes now to be obtained?" Elsewhere he writes for tooth powder, magnesia, tincture of myrrh, brushes, &c. In fact, in his dressing case might have been found all the minute appurtenances of a lady's toilet.
He took a singular pride in the extreme whiteness of his hands; when he swam he wore gloves. He wrote to his mother that the Pasha of Janina had told him that he recognised him as a person of quality by the smallness of his ears, his curling hair, and his little white. hands (2). And elsewhere he says (), "There is
(1) "His neck seemed to have been formed in a mould.”—Madame T, A., Moore's Life.
(3 and 3) Note to Stanza, 106. Don Juan, Canto 5.
nothing perhaps more distinctive of birth than the hand. It is almost the only sign of blood which aristocracy can generate."
It will be easy to surmise how dreadful to his mind must have been the defect of lameness in his feet, to which from his birth he was subject; and this was the greatest annoyance-one might almost say the deepest remorse-of his life. On that account was it that his clothes were always made long-that he generally rode on horseback, and went into society but little-while it may be affirmed that during the whole time he remained in Venice he scarcely went forth on foot, and never crossed the piazza of St. Mark (4), or entered its church. A deformity of this kind was ever before his eyes, so that in fact it appeared to him that this, rather than his good looks or his fame, drew upon him the public gaze. One day his friend Beecher, with the view of driving away the dejection which more than usually oppressed him, was setting forth in bright colours the various advantages wherewith Providence had endowed him. "Ah! ny friend," mournfully responded Byron," if that (laying his hand on his forehead) places me above the rest of mankind, that (pointing to his foot) places me far below them" (4).
Another day he was on the course at Newmarket, and a little boy, addressing him by his title, offered him a standing chair. "You see," said Shelley to him, you are so famous that even the boys on the course know you.' "Yes," replied Byron, "because I am
A tendency to flesh also displeased him greatly, and he tried every means to reduce himself (5). But the embonpoint to which he was inclined in no way interfered with his bodily activity, so that in every athletic exercise he was among the very first. "I am able," he afterwards wrote from Ravenna, in 1820, " to back a horse and fire a pistol without thinking or blinking like Major Sturgeon; I have fed at times for two months together on sheer biscuit and water (without metaphor); I can get over seventy or eighty miles a day riding post, and Moore's Life, 1847.
Moore tells nearly the same anecdote, p. 357, Vol. I, 1830, of Byron and Rogers.