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principally directed to the enjoyments of life, ever engrossed the warmest of our sympathies. Among these, as if by general accord, Poetry stands highest; it is considered to contain more divine inspiration than any other faculty of the mind, and the great Poets of the world are more glorified by it than its warriors, its statesmen, or its philosophers: it is not my business either to question or admit the justice of this, but so it is.
Byron was, then, a man of extraordinary genius, and was a Poet; this was the talent intrusted to him; let us see how, in a short but fitful career, he employed it. As it never, for a moment, was absent from his own thoughts, and as he never allows his millions of readers to forget it, he was not only of God's nobility, but man's; his family, both by father and mother, was of high rank. He is said to be descended from one of the Norman adventurers who came over with William; some ancestors distinguished themselves in the Crusades, others in the Wars of the Roses. Sir John Byron had the good fortune to be a favourite of that capricious tyrant, Henry VIII., at a time when the dissolution of the monasteries placed rich gifts in the hands of the monarch, and to him the family owed the possession of Newstead Abbey, which the poet's fame has converted into a shrine sacred to genius. In the troubles of the reign of Charles I., the Byrons were conspicuous for their loyalty, there having been no less than eight brothers of the family in the field at once. The monarch's gratitude raised them from a knightly to a noble house, and they became Barons Byron, of Rochdale. They were moderately wealthy, but Charles could bestow honours more easily than estates, and the extravagances and eccentricities of several of the poet's ancestors did not leave him a very rich inheritance. His descent was no less noble on the mother's side; indeed, she said more so, as she boasted she was of the old stock of the Gordons, which claimed priority even over the branch now holding the ducal title in that family. His mother was an heiress, which appears to have been her only attraction in the eyes of the gay Captain Byron, for theirs proved a most unhappy marriage, embittered and embroiled by the debts and extravagance of the husband, and the violent, passionate disposition of the wife. It was one of those strange circumstances upon which Lord Byron delighted to dwell, as denoting him of a peculiar race, that his father, his great-uncle whom he succeeded, and himself, were all separated from their wives all, indeed, were eccentric, and under the dominion of their passions. Sometimes living together, sometimes apart, Byron's parents never afforded him the remembrance of a happy, peaceful home; and the death of his father, when he was only in the third year of his age, left him under the control of a mother as little
qualified to bring up a boy of a wayward and spirited disposition as she possibly could be. It is so completely an established fact, that all superior men have had superior mothers, that even to remark upon it is trite; but it is no less true, that mothers who are not remarkable for capacities or virtues, have a great influence upon their sons, particularly when circumstances make the son an object of more than common interest. Now, George Byron was an only child, and there was, moreover, only one life between him and a baronial title and estates, and this, with a proud woman like Mrs. Byron, led to injudicious indulgences and vauntings which the furies of her violent temper could not counteract. Amidst quarrels, beatings, the flight of all sorts of missiles, and the most coarse intemperate language, he was never allowed to forget he was of the old stock of the Gordons of Gight, and of that of the Barons of Newstead. There can be no doubt that the disposition which was the foundation of most of his aberrations was due to the misfortune of his having a mother whose conduct made her the object of his ridicule, and who never commanded his respect.
George Gordon Byron was born in Holles Street, London, on the 22nd of January, 1788. In 1790, his mother took him to Aberdeen, where he was brought up as injudiciously as was to be expected from such a mother in straitened circumstances. Owing, as he afterwards used to declare, to the temper of his mother, he received an injury at his birth, by which one of his feet became deformed, and rendered him lame for life. We have no space for any account of the little anecdotes related of his early boyhood, nor, indeed, do we attach much consequence to such; for, although there may be some foundation for them, whenever the man proves remarkable, all related of the boy is so highly coloured, that we have no regret in consigning his verses to the Old Woman and the Moon, to the same apochryphal chapter as Johnson's Epitaph to the Duck. All that is told makes him appear exactly what he afterwards proved to be passionate, self-willed, spirited, shrewd, with occasional but rare glimpses of feeling-indeed, he had nothing to bestow feeling or affection upon. He became quite a Scotch boy, in manners and language, receiving no notice or encouragement from his greatuncle, even when the death of the relation who stood between him and the title, had made him the presumptive heir: the old baron only spoke of him as "the little boy at Aberdeen." In 1798, when he was in his eleventh year, his great-uncle died, and he succeeded to the family titles and estates, upon which he was made a ward of Chancery, and removed from Aberdeen to Newstead Abbey. His accession of rank made his lameness a matter of increased consequence, and he was placed in the hands of an empiric at Nottingham, who only inflicted pain upon him, without any benefit.
Finding no good result from this, he was taken to London, for the advice of Dr. Baillie; but all proved in vain.
His education, which had amounted to nothing at Aberdeen, now became a serious subject, and he was placed under Dr. Glennie, of Dulwich ; but all the worthy doctor's efforts were rendered abortive by the misconduct of his mother; no regularity in his attendance, no persistency in his studies required, he found, if he made an object of the boy's continuance with him, that he should be the slave of both son and mother. There are some little pleasing anecdotes of this period related by the doctor, but I really can only consign them to the apochryphal chapter before mentioned. Here, however, his guardian, Lord Carlisle, interfered, and he was sent to Harrow.
Some account for his character in one way, some in another: one says it was created by becoming a lord at so early an age; another, more weakly, attributes it to a disappointed passion-but, it is my opinion, it was stamped by his being sent to Harrow. Had he been placed with one of the many worthy and learned men who, with a limited number of pupils, undertake the education of the morals and the heart, as well as of the intellect, at a distance from London, and out of the reach of his mother's influence, he might have become a good, useful member of society, as well as an ornament to it. He was plunged into the vortex of a great public school, without a single home affection to counteract the pernicious effects of associating with boys becoming men, proud of their initiatory steps in vice, and of their sphere in life, which rendered them, in their young opinions, above control. It is true his mind was cultivated, and his genius here imped its wings, but it was at the expense of his moral character. Nothing can be worse than educating boys in large masses, where there is great disparity in ages; and where the youngest, on entering, become the slaves of the elders, and the spectators and auditors of all they do and say. The fag treasures all the lessons burnt into his memory, to practise them when his turn comes. At Harrow, however, he was better off than he would have been at Westminster; there was a gentlemanly tone preserved in his errors. He was not only under an able master, but he was contemporary with several boys who have turned out eminent men. He made up for lost time by rapid improvement, but, like all great poets, he was rather a desultory reader than an ardent votary of any particular branch of knowledge. The quantity he read, after he had acquired a love of reading, is astonishing, particularly when we see how, according to his own account, he passed his school leisure, "in rowing, rebelling, breaking bounds, and mischief of every kind." One
great advantage was gained-the great public school was above the control of his mother.
In the third year after going to Harrow, he passed his vacation at Nottingham, about ten miles from Newstead, and, in a visit to Annesley, the residence of a neighbouring gentleman, formed a boyish attachment, which he was afterwards accustomed to assert, had a great influence on his life. Miss Mary Chaworth's family name was associated with that of Byron in a way to create a romantic feeling in a mind like his. The great-uncle whom he succeeded, seems to have been a violent man, completely the slave of his passions and caprices; and he had, in consequence of a foolish quarrel about the quantity of game on their relative estates, killed the grandfather of that young lady in a duel. It is strange that so many accounts have said that the gentleman who fell in this fatal affair was Miss Chaworth's father; even so respectable a work as "Chambers's Cyclopædia of English Literature" has it so. The duel took place at least twenty years before Miss Chaworth was born. Upon this episode I must beg to say a few words. When these young persons met at this period, Byron was a fat, somewhat uncouth boy of sixteen, brusque in his manners and hot in disposition. Miss Chaworth was a handsome young lady of eighteen, formed for the world, moving in it, with her hand and affections engaged to a gentleman of the name of Musters. From his infancy, Byron had given way to the impulses of his wishes, and continued to do so through the whole of his life, without any reference to the feelings of others. Although aware of Miss Chaworth's position, he seems rather to have cherished than checked the passion he conceived for her, and which she, with characteristic mildness, received as a transient boyish fancy, and' while candidly revealing the state of her own affections, offered him her friendship. There is nothing in the tenor of his life and actions to lead us to place faith in the depth of this juvenile attachment; it was poetical to recur to it occasionally, but it was likewise inconsiderate towards the object of it, and no proof of its truth: he who truly loves, places her happiness above the gratification of showing he can write affecting verses. Miss Chaworth's marriage proved to be anything but a happy one: and the unenviable notoriety which Byron's attachment procured her, I am assured, made a bad husband worse. From the first, she had treated him with single-hearted candour, and he had nothing to complain of but his own weakness or selfishness. As to his disappointment having any effect upon his after-career, it is preposterous to imagine; there is not a single trait of character to show that he could ever have settled down into happy domestic life; if he had
married Miss Chaworth, she would have experienced the same fate as Lady Byron's, without, perhaps, that lady's means and firmness to free herself from a life of misery. The "Dream" is a beautiful poem, but that is all; and the reader must not be led by it to suppose that the lady's sorrows proceeded from her having refused the love of one who had rendered himself famous. She, with a family, had too many real griefs to be affected by anything so factitious as his persistent poetical whining, more the effects of wounded vanity than of disappointed love. We can only account for the importance Moore attaches to this affair, by the circumstance of his being himself a poet.
As regarded his education, his residence at Harrow of five years produced as much benefit as could be expected; he acquired quite scholarship enough for an original poet, or to qualify him for the position his rank entitled him to take. The pride of birth, so carefully instilled by his mother, acted here as strongly as it did in his after-life; he had his pets among the untitled and the weak, but his principal associates were the noble by descent and daring in action; he could patronize poor little Peel, but he formed no connection with him to last beyond school-fellowship. From Harrow he went to Cambridge, where he managed, in the easy way known to the noble, to take a degree, but certainly benefited but little otherwise. He distinguished himself, however, by many eccentricities, among which may be reckoned his strange animal partialities. He kept a bear; and his canine favourites were of the bull-dog breed, or others of a large and formidable strength and size. Considering his lameness, he was a pretty good cricketer, and was expert in boxing, single-stick, and other athletic exercises. But his physical deficiency did not extend to the water; he was an excellent swimmer, and could handle an oar manfully. He speaks frequently of his riding, but he never was a good horseman; and that cannot be attributed to his deformed foot, for the Lord Barrymore, surnamed Cripplegate, was much more lame, in the same way, than Lord Byron, and he was a first-rate rider, though a heavy man. The Marquis of Anglesea, though he left a leg beneath a monument at Waterloo, continued, as he had been, one of the best gentlemen riders in Europe.
His position was a dangerous one for a young man of his temperament. Endowed by nature with an exceedingly handsome face and person, a warm constitution, and a boundless imagination, instead of laying down for himself a plan of honourable exertion and self-government, that might have enabled him to relieve his estates from their encumbrances, and support the peerage with dignity, he gave himself up to the unchecked control of his passions. Unfortunately, he had no family check; his mother he despised,