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This acerbity, however, itis to be hoped is in a great measure assumed; and, perhaps, like the sombre tinge of his principal performances, it is nothing more than a colour put on for the sake of singularity. We may reasonably conclude that this is the case, from the report of those who are most intimately acquainted with Lord Byron; for, according to their united representation, no man is possessed of a milder disposition, or distinguished by pleasanter manners.
A similar instance of extensive literary fame acquired within so short a period, the annals of literature do not furnish; but the nearest to it is the history of Pope, though in other respects there are scarcely any points of resemblance between the two characters. The great ethical poet was studiously correct in his compositions, and remarkably musical in the construction of his verse; while the noble author on the contrary evinces a kind of wanton carelessness, and throws out his productions hot from the brain, without being at the pains to give them the slightest polish. Hence his rhymes are often discordant, and his similes indigestible; the sentences ungrammatical, and the sense scarcely intelligible. Lord Byron how
ever, like Pope, has been accused of the grossest plagiarism; and some scribblers, envious of his reputation, have been at the pains of collecting numerous passages from various authors, in prose and verse, to discover parallelisms in the writings of this popular poet. One or two of our literary journals were disgraced with these invidious catalogues, the compilers of which might be compared to the critic in Boccalini's fable,-who, having presented to Apollo an immense volume of the errors of great poets, was directed in return to select the grains from a bushel of wheat, after which he received the chaff for his labour. It deserves to be known that the principal person engaged in this attack upon Lord Byron, was one who had servilely courted his favour, and flattered him in the most fulsome manner; but not meeting with the countenance he expected, he became, as is usually the case, the vengeful calumniator of the man whom he had idolized. The noble lord, in an appendix to his tragedy of the "Two Foscari," has condescended to notice the charge of plagiarism, in which he says, "I have had an anonymous sort of threatening intimation, apparently with the intent of extorting money. To such charges I have no answer to make. One of them is ludicrous
enough. I am reproached for having formed the description of a shipwreck in verse, from the narratives of many actual shipwrecks in prose, selecting such materials as were most striking. Gibbon makes it a merit in Tasso, "to have copied the minutest details of the Siege of Jerusalem from the Chronicles.” In me it may be a demerit, I presume: let it remain so. Whilst I have been occupied in defending Pope's character, the lower orders of Grub-street, appear to have been assailing mine: this is as it should be, both in them and in me. One of the accusations in the nameless epistle alluded to, is still more laughable; it states seriously, that I received five hundred pounds for writing the advertisements for Day and Martin's patent Blacking.' This is the highest compliment to my literary powers, which I ever received." That the reading of Lord Byron has been very multifarious, is obvious upon the most superficial examination of his works; and, therefore, the casual coincidences of allusion and phrase between him and other writers may easily be accounted for, without supposing that a poet of such natural fertility of conception was under the necessity of borrowing from other sources than his own genius. This accusation of literary
larceny is too absurd to require any serious refutation: but there are some things affecting the poetical character of the noble lord, which his most enthusiastic admirers will find it more difficult to excuse. prominent fault in his compositions is a total absence of moral feeling; amounting, apparently, to a studied disregard of the difference between virtue and vice. Representations of sensualists and debauchees, robbers and assassins, are brought forward in every possible situation, and they are made to express themselves so as to excite the reader's interest in their favour; though at the same time there is not one redeeming quality in the character of these heroes of profligacy, to balance their crimes.
What renders this bad taste still more offensive, is the strange and unnatural mixture of the right honourable writer's own private history, with that of his fictitious personages.
Childe Harold, Conrad, Lara, and Don Juan, have all of them a strong portion of this similitude, which, instead of enlivening, only serves to perplex the story, and confuse the mind, by dividing its attention
between what is real, and what is merely imaginary None of Lord Byron's heroes, however, can be said to possess a definite character; for though they appear with powerful effect on the scene, there is no mind in any of them; but all is storm, passion, and instinct. The females are of a description exactly suited to the men with whom they are associated; being beautiful, airy, and enchanting creatures, calculated for pleasure, but void of intellect.
The distinguishing feature of Lord Byron's poetry is eloquence; and that of the most vehement character. His verse rushes on with the rapidity of a cataract, carrying our ideas impetuously along in such a manner as to prevent any thing like repose or steady contemplation. Yet amidst the wild variety of objects and obscure disquisitions which this magical genius contrives to bring together, without any regard to appropriate selection or lucid arrangement, there are descriptions and sentiments of exquisite beauty and tenderness, profusely scattered throughout his poems, all of which show that he is a perfect master of the art, and that he wants nothing but a noble moral motive to render his works imperishable. Attempts