ePub 版



had occupied was, with the exception of the

as he says,

carried him back to Morven;" plate and linen, which Mrs. Byron took and, in his last fatal expedition, the dress with her, sold, and the whole sum that the which he himself chiefly wore at Cephalonia effects of the mother of the Lord of New- was a tartan jacket. stead yielded was 741. 178. 7d.

Cordial, however, and deep as were the From the early age at which Byron was impressions which he retained of Scotland, taken to Scotland, as well as from the cir- he would sometimes in this, as in all his cumstance of his mother being a native of other amiable feelings, endeavour perversely that country, he had every reason to consider to belie his own better nature ; and, when himself — as,

indeed, he boasts in Don Juan under the excitement of anger or ridicule, -“half a Scot by birth, and bred a whole persuade not only others, but even himself, one.” We have already seen how warmly that the whole current of his feelings ran he preserved through life his recollection of directly otherwise. The abuse with which, the mountain scenery in which he was in his anger against the Edinburgh Review, brought up; and in the passage of Don he overwhelmed every thing Scotch, is an Juan, to which I have just referred, his al instance of this temporary triumph of wilfullusion to the romantic bridge of Don, and to ness; and, at any time, the least association other localities of Aberdeen, shows an equal of ridicule with the country or its inhabitants fidelity and fondness of retrospect :

was sufficient, for the moment, to put all his

sentiment to flight. A friend of his once As Auld Lang Syne brings Scotland, one and all,

described to me the half-playful rage into Scotch plaids, Scotch snoods, the blue hills and clear

which she saw him thrown, one day, by a The Dee, the Don, Balgownie's brig's black wall, heedless girl, who remarked that she thought All my boy feelings, all my gentler dreams

he had a little of the Scotch accent. Good Of what I then dreamt, clothed in their own pall, God, I hope not !” he exclaimed. I'm

Like Banquo's offspring ; - floating past me seems sure I have n't. I would rather the whole
My childhood in this childishness of mine ;
I care not -- 'tis a glimpse of “ Auld Lang Syne." I

d-d country was sunk in the sea -I the

Scotch accent !" He adds in a note, “ The Brig of Don,

To such sallies, however, whether in near the ' auld town' of Aberdeen, with its writing or conversation, but little weight is one arch and its black deep salmon stream, to be allowed, — particularly, in comparison is in my memory as yesterday. I still re- with those strong testimonies which he has member, though perhaps I may misquote left on record of his fondness for his early the awful proverb which made me pause to

and while, on his side, this feeling so cross it, and yet lean over it with a childish indelibly existed, there is, on the part of delight, being an only son, at least by the the people of Aberdeen, who consider him as mother's side. The saying, as recollected almost their fellow-townsman, a correspondby me, was this, but I have never heard or ent warmth of affection for his memory and seen it since I was nine years of age :

The various houses where he resided

in his youth are pointed out to the traveller ; « • Brig of Balgownie, black 's your wa',

to have seen him but once is a recollection Wi'a wife's ac son, and a mear's ae foal,

boasted of with pride ; and the Brig of Don,

beautiful in itself, is invested, by his mere To meet with an Aberdonian was, at all mention of it, with an additional charm. times, a delight to him ; and when the late Two or three years since, the sum of five Mr Scotts, who was a native of Aberdeen, pounds was offered to a person in Aberdeen paid him a visit at Venice in the year 1819, for a letter which he had in his possession, in talking of the haunts of his childhood, one written by Captain Byron a few days before of the places he particularly mentioned was his death ; and, among the memorials of the Wallace-nook, a spot where there is a rude young poet, which are treasured up by instatue of the Scottish chief still standing. dividuals of that place, there is one which it From first to last, indeed, these recollections would have not a little amused himself to of the country of his youth never forsook hear of, being no less characteristic a relic him. In his early voyage into Greece, not than an old china saucer, out of which he only the shapes of the mountains, but the had bitten a large piece, in a fit of passion, kilts and hardy forms of the Albanese, - all, when a child.

home ;




ye shall fa'.'" 2


[See Works, p. 707.)
9 The correct reading of this legend is, I understand,
as follows:

Brig o' Balgownie, wight (strong) is thy wa';
Wi' a wife's ae son on a mare's ae foal,
Down shalt thou fa'."

3 (Mr. John Scott, author of "A Visit to Paris, 1814," “Paris Revisited, 1815," &c. He was killed in a duel in 1821.)


[ocr errors]






ing at all her menaces. In a few anecdotes CHAPTER II.

of his early life which he related in his

“Memoranda,” though the name of his 1798-1801.

mother was never mentioned but with respect, it was not difficult to perceive that the recollections she had left behind —at least those that had made the deepest impression — were

of a painful nature. One of the most striking MRS. BYRON'S PENSION.

passages, indeed, in the few pages of that

Memoir which related to his early days, was .“ FIRST DASH

where, in speaking of his own sensitiveness,

on the subject of his deformed foot, he deINTO POETRY."

scribed the feeling of horror and humiliation It was in the summer of 1798, as I have that came over him, when his mother, in one already said, that Lord Byron, then in his of her fits of passion, called him“ a lame eleventh year, left Scotland with his mother brat.” ! As all that he had felt strongly and nurse, to take possession of the ancient through life was, in some shape or other, seat of his ancestors. In one of his latest reproduced in his poetry, it was not likely letters, referring to this journey, he says, “I that an expression such as this should fail recollect Loch Leven as it were but yesterday of being recorded. Accordingly we find, in - I saw it in my way to England in 1798." the opening of his drama, “ The Deformed They had already arrived at the Newstead Transformed," toll-bar, and saw the woods of the Abbey

Bertha. Out, hunchback ! stretching out receive them, when

Arnold. I was born so, mother !? Mrs. Byron, affecting to be ignorant of the It may be questioned, indeed, whether that place, asked the woman of the toll-house to whole drama was not indebted for its origin whom that seat belonged. She was told

to this single recollection. that the owner of it, Lord Byron, had been While such was the character of the person some months dead. “ And who is the next under whose immediate eye his youth was heir ?” asked the proud and happy mother. passed, the counteraction which a kind and " They say,” answered the woman, “it is a watchful guardian might have opposed to little boy who lives at Aberdeen.”—“And such example and influence was almost this is he, bless him!” exclaimed the nurse, wholly lost to him. Connected but remotely no longer able to contain herself, and turning with the family, and never having had any to kiss with delight the young lord, who was

opportunity of knowing the boy, it was with seated on her lap.

much reluctance that Lord Carlisle originally Even under the most favourable circum- | undertook the trust; nor can we wonder stances, such an early elevation to rank | that, when his duties as a guardian brought would be but too likely to have a dangerous him acquainted with Mrs. Byron, he should influence on the character ; and the guidance be deterred from interfering more than was under which young Byron entered upon his absolutely necessary for the child by his fear new station was, of all others, the least likely of coming into collision with the violence and to lead him safely through its perils and caprice of the mother. temptations. His mother, without judgment Had even the character which the last or self-command, alternately spoiled him by lord left behind been sufficiently popular to indulgence, and irritated, or —

- what was

young successor into an emulation worse-amused him by her violence. That of his good name, such a salutary rivalry of strong sense of the ridiculous, for which he the dead would have supplied the place of was afterwards so remarkable, and which living examples ; and there is no mind in showed itself thus early, got the better even which such an ambition would have been of his fear of her; and when Mrs. Byron, more likely to spring up than that of Byron. who was a short and corpulent person, and But unluckily, as we have seen, this was not rolled considerably in her gait, would, in a the case ; and not only was so fair a stimulus

;; rage, endeavour to catch him, for the purpose to good conduct wanting, but a rivalry of a of inflicting punishment, the young urchin, very different nature substituted in its place. proud of being able to outstrip her, notwith- The strange anecdotes told of the last lord standing his lameness, would run round the by the country people, among whom his room, laughing like a little Puck, and mock- fierce and solitary habits had procured for



pique his

1 [" She would pass from passionate caresses to the repulsion of actual disgust; 'then' (we quote from a letter written by one of her relations in Scotland)' devour

him with kisses again, and swear his eyes were as beautiful as his father's.' Quart. Rev. 1831.]

2 (See Works, p. 300.]


him a sort of fearful renown, were of a nature affectionate ' remembrance of his pupil,
livelily to arrest the fancy of the young poet, mentions several instances of the gaiety of
and even to waken in his mind a sort of spirit with which he used to take revenge on
boyish admiration for singularities which he his tormentor, Lavender, by exposing and
found thus elevated into matters of wonder laughing at his pompous ignorance. Among
and record. By some it has been even sup- other tricks, he one day scribbled down on a
posed that in these stories of his eccentric sheet of paper all the letters of the alphabet,
relative his imagination found the first dark put together at random, but in the form of
outlines of that ideal character, which he words and sentences, and, placing them before
afterwards embodied in so many different this all-pretending person, asked him gravely
shapes, and ennobled by his genius. But what language it was. The quack, unwilling
however this may be, it is at least far from to own his ignorance, answered confidently,
improbable that, destitute as he was of other “ Italian,” – to the infinite delight, as it may
and better models, the peculiarities of his be supposed, of the little satirist in embryo,
immediate predecessor should, in a consider- who burst into a loud, triumphant laugh, at
able degree, have influenced his fancy and the success of the trap which he had thus
tastes. One habit, which he seems early to laid for imposture.
have derived from this spirit of imitation, With that mindfulness towards all who
and which he retained through life, was that had been about him in his youth, which was
of constantly having arms of some description so distinguishing a trait in his character, he,
about or near him-it being his practice, many years after, when in the neighbourhood
when quite a boy, to carry, at all times, of Nottingham, sent a message, full of kind-
small loaded pistols in his waistcoat pockets. ness, to his old instructor, and bid the bearer
The affray, indeed, of the late lord with of it tell him, that, beginning from a certain
Mr. Chaworth had, at a very early age, by line in Virgil which he mentioned, he could
connecting duelling in his mind with the recite twenty verses on, which he well re-
name of his race, led him to turn his attention membered having read with this gentleman,
to this mode of arbitrament; and the mortifi- when suffering all the time the most dreadful
cation which he had, for some time, to endure pain.
at school, from insults, as he imagined, It was about this period, according to his
hazarded on the presumption of his physical nurse, May Gray, that the first symptom of
inferiority, found consolation in the thought any tendency towards rhyming showed itself
that a day would yet arrive when the law of in him ; and the occasion which she repre-
the pistol would place him on a level with sented as having given rise to this childish
the strongest.

effort was as follows :- An elderly lady, who On their arrival from Scotland, Mrs. Byron, was in the habit of visiting his mother, had with the hope of having his lameness re- made use of some expression that very much moved, placed her son under the care of a affronted him ; and these slights, his nurse person who professed the cure of such cases, said, he generally resented violently and imat Nottingham. The name of this man, who placably. The old lady had some curious appears to have been a mere empirical pre- notions respecting the soul, which, she ima. tender, was Lavender ; and the manner in gined, took its flight to the moon after death, which he is said to have proceeded was by as a preliminary essay before it proceeded first rubbing the foot over, for a considerable further. One day, after a repetition, it is time, with handsful of oil, and then twisting supposed, of her original insult to the boy, the limb forcibly round, and screwing it up he appeared before his nurse in a violent rage. in a wooden machine. That the boy might Well, my little hero,” she asked, “what's not lose ground in his education during this the matter with you now ?” Upon which the interval, he received lessons in Latin from child answered, that “this old woman had a respectable schoolmaster, Mr. Rogers, put him in a most terrible passion, that he who read parts of Virgil and Cicero with could not bear the sight of her,” &c. &c.him, and represents his proficiency to have and then broke out into the following dogbeen, for his age, considerable. He was often, gerel, which he repeated over and over, as if during his lessons, in violent pain, from the delighted with the vent he had found for torturing position in which his foot was

his rage : kept ; and Mr. Rogers one day said to him, In Nottingham county there lives at Swan Green, “ st makes me uncomfortable, my Lord, to As curst an old lady as ever was seen ; see you sitting there in such pain as I know And when she does die, which I hope will be soon, you must be suffering.”

Never mind,

She firmly believes she will go to the moon. Mr. Rogers,” answered the boy ; " you shall It is possible that these rhymes may have not see any signs of it in me."

been caught up at second-hand; and he This gentleman, who speaks with the most himself, as will presently be seen, dated his

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

“ first dash into poetry,” as he calls it, a year later :- but the anecdote altogether, as containing some early dawnings of character, appeared to me worth preserving.

The small income of Mrs. Byron received at this time the addition-most seasonable, no doubt, though on what grounds accorded I know not-of a pension on the Civil List, of 3001. a year. The following is a copy of the King's warrant for the grant : (Signed) “ GEORGE R.

" WHEREAS we are graciously pleased to grant unto Catharine Gordon Byron, widow, an annuity of 3001., to commence from 5th July, 1799, and to continue during pleasure : our will and pleasure is, that, by virtue of our general letters of Privy Seal, bearing date 5th November, 1760, you do issue and pay out of our treasure, or revenue in the receipt of the exchequer, applicable to the uses of our civil government, unto the said Catharine Gordon Byron, widow, or her assignees, the said annuity, to commence from 5th July, 1799, and to be paid quarterly, or otherwise, as the same shall become due, and to continue during our pleasure ; and for so doing this shall be your warrant. Given at our Court of St. James's, 20 October, 1799, 39th year of our reign. “By His Majesty's command, (Signed) “ W. Pitt.

* S. DOUGLAS. “Edw". Roberts, Dep. Clerus. Pellium.”

Finding but little benefit from the Nottingham practitioner, Mrs. Byron, in the summer of the year 1799, thought it right to remove her boy to London, where, at the suggestion of Lord Carlisle, he was put under the care of Dr. Baillie.2 It being an object, too, to place him at some quiet school, where the means adopted for the cure of his infirmity might be more easily attended to, the establishment of the late Dr. Glennie at Dulwich, was chosen for that purpose ; and as it was thought advisable that he should have a separate apartment to sleep in, Dr. Glennie had a bed put up for him in his own

study. Mrs. Byron, who had remained a short time behind him at Newstead, on her arrival in town took a house upon Sloane Terrace; and, under the direction of Dr. Baillie, one of the Messrs Sheldrakes was employed to construct an instrument for the purpose of straightening the limb of the child. Moderation in all athletic exercises was, of course, prescribed ; but Dr. Glennie found it by no means easy to enforce compliance with this rule, as, though sufficiently quiet when along with him in his study, no sooner was the boy released for play, than he showed as much ambition to excel in all exercises as the most robust youth of the school ;—“ an ambition,” adds Dr. Glennie, in a communication with which he favoured me a short time before his death, " which I have remarked to prevail in general in young persons labouring under similar defects of nature." +

Having been instructed in the elements of Latin grammar according to the mode of teaching adopted at Aberdeen, the young student had now unluckily to retrace his steps, and was, as is too often the case, retarded in his studies and perplexed in his recollections, by the necessity of toiling through the rudiments again in one of the forms prescribed by the English schools. “I found him enter upon his tasks,” says Dr. Glennie, with alacrity and success. He was playful, goodhumoured, and beloved by his companions. His reading in history and poetry was far beyond the usual standard of his age, and in my study he found many books open to him, both to please his taste and gratify his curiosity ; among others a set of our poets from Chaucer to Churchill, which I am almost tempted to say he had more than once perused from beginning to end. He showed at this age an intimate acquaintance with the historical parts of the Holy Scriptures, upon which he seemed delighted to converse with me, especially after our religious exercises of a Sunday evening ; when he would reason upon the facts contained in the Sacred Volume with every appearance of belief in the divine truths which they

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


1 [The right hon. Sylvester Douglas, afterwards Lord Glenbervie. When in his 78th year, his lordship published a translation of the first canto of Forteguerris * Ricciardetto." He died in 1823.)

· [The illustrious physician, Dr. Matthew Baillie -brother to the poetess Joanna Baillie, and brother. inlaw to Lord Chief Justice Denman — died in 1823.]

3 In a letter addressed lately by Mr. Sheldrake to the editor of a Medical Journal, it is stated that the person of the same name who attended Lord Byron at Dulwich owed the honour of being called in to a mistake, and effected nothing towards the remedy of the limb. The

writer of the letter adds, that he was himself consulted by Lord Byron four or five years afterwards, and though unable to undertake the cure of the defect, from the unwillingness of his noble patient to submit to restraint or continement, was successful in constructing a sort of shoe for the foot, which in some degree alleviated the inconvenience under which he laboured.

4 " Quoique," says Alfieri, speaking of his school-days, "je fusse le plus petit de tous les grands qui se trouvaient au second appartement où j'étais descendu, c'était précisément mon infériorité de taille, d'âge, et de force, qui me donnait plus de courage, et m'engageait à me distinguer."

[ocr errors]


unfold. That the impressions,” adds the sessing, an understanding where nature had writer, “ thus imbibed in his boyhood, had, not been more bountiful, a mind almost notwithstanding the irregularities of his after wholly without cultivation, and the peculife, sunk deep into his mind, will appear, Iliarities of northern opinions, northern habits, think, to every impartial reader of his works and northern accent, I trust I do no great in general ; and I never have been able to prejudice to the memory of my countrydivest myself of the persuasion that, in the woman, if I say Mrs. Byron was not a strange aberrations which so unfortunately Madame de Lambert, endowed with powers marked his subsequent career, he must have to retrieve the fortune, and form the found it difficult to violate the better prin- character and manners, of a young nobleman, ciples early instilled into him.”

her son." It should have been mentioned, among The interposition of Lord Carlisle, to the traits which I have recorded of his still whose authority it was found necessary to earlier years, that, according to the character appeal, had more than once given a check given of him by his first nurse's husband, he to these disturbing indulgences. Sanctioned was, when a mere child, “particularly in- by such support, Dr. Glennie even ventured quisitive and puzzling about religion.” to oppose himself to the privilege, so often

It was not long before Dr. Glennie began abused, of the usual visits on a Saturday ; to discover - what instructors of youth must and the scenes which he had to encounter too often experience -- that the parent was on each new case of refusal were such as a much more difficult subject to deal with would have wearied out the patience of any than the child. Though professing entire less zealous and conscientious schoolmaster. acquiescence in the representations of this Mrs. Byron, whose paroxysms of passion gentleman, as to the propriety of leaving her were not, like those of her son, “silent rages.” son to pursue his studies without inter- would, on all these occasions, break out into ruption, Mrs. Byron had neither sense nor such audible fits of temper as it was imposself-denial enough to act up to these pro- sible to keep from reaching the ears of the fessions ; but, in spite of the remonstrances of scholars and the servants; and Dr. Glennie Dr. Glennie, and the injunctions of Lord had, one day, the pain of overhearing a Carlisle, continued to interfere with and school-fellow of his noble pupil say to him, thwart the progress of the boy's education “Byron, your mother is a fool ;” to which in every way that a fond, wrong-headed, and the other answered gloomily, “I know it.” self-willed mother could devise. In vain was In


of all this violence and imit stated to her that, in all the elemental practicability of temper, Lord Carlisle at parts of learning which are requisite for a length ceased to have any intercourse youth destined to a great public school, with the mother of his ward ; and on a young Byron was much behind other youths further application from the instructor, for of his age, and that, to retrieve this deficiency, the exertion of his influence, said " I can the undivided application of his whole time have nothing more to do with Mrs. Byron, would be necessary. Though appearing to - you must now manage her as you can.” 1 be sensible of the truth of these suggestions, Among the books that lay accessible she not the less embarrassed and obstructed to the boys in Dr. Glennie's study was a the teacher in his task. Not content with pamphlet written by the brother of one of the interval between Saturday and Monday, his most intimate friends, entitled, “ Narrative which, contrary to Dr. Glennie's wish, the of the Shipwreck of the Juno on the coast boy generally passed at Sloane Terrace, she of Aracan, in the year 1795.” The writer 2 would frequently keep him at home a week had been the second officer of the ship, and beyond this time, and, still further to add to the account which he had sent home to his the distraction of such interruptions, col friends of the sufferings of himself and his lected around him a numerous circle of fellow-passengers had appeared to them so young acquaintances, without exercising, as touching and strange, that they determined may be supposed, much discrimination in her to publish it. The pamphlet attracted but choice. " How, indeed, could she?” asks little, it seems, of public attention, but Dr. Glennie — “ Mrs. Byron was a total among

students of Dulwich Grove stranger to English society and English it was a favourite study; and the impression manners ; with an exterior far from prepos- which it left on the retentive mind of Byron



1 [" This was a most unfortunate occurrence, and yet we do not see that it is possible to attach any serious blame to Lord Carlisle's conduct -- at least until we reach a later stage of the story. The immediate consequence, however, was, that Lord Byron's mind continued to ex

pand and ripen under the same unhappy influences which had withered the bloom of his infancy."- Quart. Res. 1831.)

? (William Mackery, son of the Rev. Thomas Mackery, minister of Lairg, in Sutherlandshire.)

« 上一頁繼續 »