« 이전계속 »
one way, from the European to the Asiatic side. In a long letter to Mr Murray the publisher, under date Ravenna, 21st February 1821, Byron vindicates the adequacy of his experiment to prove the credibility of Leander's feat, in opposition to Mr Turner, a traveller, who had failed in an attempt to cross from the Asiatic side, and who attributed his own failure to an unfavourable current, as he did Byron's success to a favourable one. He mentions that, whereas he had been only one hour and ten minutes in crossing the Hellespont, he had been four hours and twenty minutes in the water, without help or rest, eight years afterwards, at a swimming match in the Grand Canal of Venice.
In the month of July he returned to Athens, whence he made various excursions, particularly to the Morea. The monument of Lysicrates, popularly known as the Lantern of Diogenes, a timeworn building, which Dugald Stewart's monument on the Calton Hill, Edinburgh, greatly resembles in size and plan, is still pointed out by Athenian guides as having been Byron's head-quarters on this occasion. The fact is, that this monument, fortunately for its preservation, then formed part of the wall of a Franciscan convent, where Byron had lodgings. His "Hints from Horace," a satire upon London life, were written here, and bear date, "Athens, Capuchin Convent, March 12, 1811." The preparation of the notes on the state of Modern Greece, appended to the second canto of "Childe Harold," was another labour that engaged him here, and one more congenial to the place.
After an absence of two years Byron returned, via Malta, to England. His mother had been impressed by a notion that she should never see him again, and even when Byron reached London, said to her waiting-woman, "If I should be dead before Byron comes down, what a strange thing it would be!" Her presentiment was fulfilled, for the perusal of certain upholsterers' bills put her, ailing as she was at the time, into such a rage that she died somewhat suddenly in the end of July 1811, and Byron reached Newstead in time, not to see her in life, but to bury her. His conduct on this occasion is an extreme illustration of that perversity by which he delighted to misrepresent himself before the world. Instead of following the remains himself, he stood at the abbey door, looking at the procession as it moved off; and then, putting on his sparring gloves, he commenced his usual pastime with a lad who served him as antagonist. Who could imagine this to be the same son who, a few nights before, had been found by a servant sitting in the dark by his mother's corpse, and sighing heavily over it? and who, when the servant expostulated with him, answered:-" Oh Mrs Pry, I had but one friend in the world, and she is gone!" This continual belying of himself seems to have sprung from a peculiarity of temperament, of which he gives the following account, in a letter written August 21, 1811, consequently about a month after his mother's funeral:"Your letter gives me credit for more acute feelings than I pcssess; for though I feel tolerably miserable, yet I am at the same time subject to a kind of hysterical merriment, or rather laughter without merriment, which I can neither account for nor conquer
Moore's Life of Byron, vol. v., p. 129.
and yet I do not feel relieved by it, but an indifferent person would think me in excellent spirits."
On the 27th February 1812 Byron made his first speech in the House of Lords, on the Nottingham Frame-breaking Bill; and two days afterwards the first two cantos of " Childe Harold " appeared. These were the first fruits of his oriental travels, and their reception was such as to justify Byron's own account: "I awoke one morning, and found myself famous." In the month of April he again spoke in the House, pleading this time for relief to the Irish Roman Catholics; and on the 2d June of the following year he made his third and last appearance as a speaker, on the occasion of presenting a petition. His estimate of Parliament is worth quoting, as a proof that a fund of sound common sense underlay all Byron's eccentricity. He wrote :"The impression of Parliament upon me was that its members are not formidable as speakers, but very much so as an audience; because in so numerous a body there may be little eloquence, but there must be a leaven of thought and good sense sufficient to make them know what is right, though they can't express it nobly."
In May 1813 appeared "The Giaour;" in December of the same year "The Bride of Abydos;" and in 1814 "The Corsair." These productions were not like the golden fruit that falls with ripeness from a prosperous tree growing up amid calm and balmy airs, but rather like the rich amber and bright coral cast upon the wind-beaten shore by a tempestuous sea. There is much truth in Goethe's remark, that Byron was inspired by the Genius of Pain. What a fitful tempest his life was during this period of high literary effort may be understood from the following entry in his journal, dated Dec. 6 of the same year. "This journal is a relief. When I am tired-as I generally am-out comes this, and down goes everything. But I can't read it over; and God knows what contradictions it may contain. If I am severe with myself (but I fear one lies more to one's self than to any one else), every page should confute, refute, and utterly abjure its predecessor." What a spasm ? In a paroxysm, of which the proximate cause is not known, he wrote to his publisher, Mr Murray, requesting that all his writings should be immediately destroyed; but on a simple representation made by Mr Murray he resiled at once from his mad-like purpose.
It was thought by others, and perhaps also by Byron himself, that his unrest might be turned into a happier, more innocent, and not less productive calm, by wedding a lady worthy of his love. With this view he paid his addresses to Miss Milbanke, and was at length accepted, the letter of acceptance reaching him almost at the same moment when the gardener of Newstead Abbey came in with the lost wedding-ring of Byron's mother, which had just then been turned up by the spade under her Ladyship's window. The marriage took place on the 2d January, 1815 in December of the same year Lady Byron bore him a daughter, the Ada of his poems, afterwards Lady Lovelace; and early in 1816 she left his house with her infant, on a visit to her father in Leicestershire; but she never returned, nor did Byron see either wife or child again.
What were the particulars of that incompatibility which led to Lady Byron's separation from her husband, and to her perseverance in it, notwithstanding repeated advances on his Lordship's part towards a reconciliation, the world does not know, Their general nature may be guessed at from her Ladyship's declaration, that if Byron were sane, then she never would return to him. It appears that a list of sixteen symptoms was actually submitted to medical opinion in proof of his insanity; and one can easily understand how a lady, who had all her own impulses under that strict control which is essential to good breeding in England, should have suspected of insanity a man like Byron, who rejoiced not only in uttering whatever came into his head, and in doing whatever the whim of the moment dictated, but in exaggerating both, as if for the purpose of experimenting to what length eccentricity could go. Satisfied at length that Byron was not insane, she was unable, from want of sympathy with an almost hysterical temperament like his, to ascribe his conduct to anything else than disrespect, studied or heedless, towards herself, and withdrew accordingly from the scene of her humiliation. The fault must have been Byron's, for he himself exculpates Lady Byron, writing to Mr Moore, under date March 8, 1816. "I never had, nor can have, any reproach to make her, while with me. Where there is blame, it belongs to myself, and, if I cannot redeem it, I must bear it."
If Lady Byron, who had special opportunities of getting at the rationale of Byron's domestic eccentricities, and whose prepossessions, as well as interests, must have led her to seek the most favourable interpretation of them, yet pronounced against him, it could not be expected that society in general would pass a kindlier verdict. A huge outery was indeed raised against Byron, and, with hardly a dissentient voice, sentence of social excommunication was passed upon him. Add to this, that his pecuniary embarrassments, which were already so great that, in the single year of his married life, his house was nine times in the possession of bailiffs, had now reached a crisis, and it will be seen that now, much more than in 1809, he was shut up to a flight from England. In February 1816 he had published "The Siege of Corinth" and "Parisina," having consented by this time, under the pressure of his pecuniary difficulties, to receive payment for his works; and in the spring of the same year he started for the Continent.
He reached Switzerland by Brussels and the Rhine, and fixed his residence at the Villa Diodati, near Geneva. Here he composed the third canto of "Childe Harold," "The Prisoner of Chillon," and "The Dream." Now, as before, melancholy gnawed at his heart. After descanting on the noble views he had seen during a tour of thirteen days in Switzerland, he concludes his journal by the following melancholy passage:-" But in all this, recollections of bitterness, and more especially of recent and more home desolation, which must accompany one through life, have preyed upon me here; and neither the music of the shepherd, the crashing of the avalanche, nor the torrent, the mountain, the glacier, the forest, nor the cloud, have for one moment lightened the weight upon my heart, nor enabled me to lose my
own wretched identity in the majesty, and the power, and the glory around, above, and beneath me." The society of Mr and Mrs Shelley, whom he met with at Geneva, afforded him an agreeable relief; but hard work and spare diet were the characteristies of his sojourn in Switzerland. It is almost incredible that he should have lived on so slender a bill of fare as Moore gives in a note*: A thin slice of bread, with tea, at breakfast; a light vegetable dinner, with a bottle or two of Seltzer water, tinged with vin de grave; and, in the evening, a cup of green tea, without milk or sugar, formed the whole of his sustenance. The pangs of hunger he appeased by privately chewing tobacco, and smoking cigars."
In October 1816 Byron removed from Switzerland to Venice, where he spent three years,-the most discreditable, certainly, of his whole life: for youth and inexperience can no longer be pled in palliation of his excesses. Nevertheless the noble drama of Manfred belongs to this period. At Venice Byron first met with Madame Guiccioli, to be near whom he removed to Ravenna in the end of 1819. Here he joined the Carbonari; and as Madame Guiceioli and her brother were so far compromised in the unsuccessful rising of 1821 as to be banished by the Pope, Byron removed in that year from Ravenna to Pisa, for the purpose of rejoining them.
To this year belongs, perhaps, the most touching incident in Byron's whole history. On July 31, 1814, a pious young lady in Hastings entered in her diary a solemn prayer in behalf of one who could be no other than Byron; that lady became the wife of Mr Sheppard, Frome, Dorset; and, in 1821, two years after her decease, that gentleman, under whose eye this portion of his late wife's diary had meanwhile fallen, communicated it to Lond Byron, accompanying it with such remarks as piety prompted, and respect for his Lordship allowed. By return of post Byron wrote an answer, which is no less admirable from his point of view, than was the young lady's prayer from hers. He allows the advantage which believers in the gospel have over unbelievers, considers his own scepticism a necessity of his nature, and almost hopes that he, like Maupertuis and Henry Kirke White, having begun with infidelity, may end in a firm belief†
This hope, which he but glances at, was never fulfilled. Byron's pride remained unbroken; he could not surrender, he could only assert himself; and the last act of his life-drama shows us simply a man vindicating his manhood. The Greeks had by this time risen in insurrection, and Philhellenism had become the fashion, or rather the passion, of the day. To play a conspicuous figure at the head of revolted Greeks, was a prospect that presented irresistible attractions to Byron. It promised a dangerous adventure, which would form a piquant contrast to the secure indulgence of former years; an almost scenic position, which would keep him before the eyes of men, and particularly of the English; and an opportunity of serving the cause of liberty and human progress, and of thus gratifying a noble ambition. The lines written at Missolonghit on the 36th and last anniversary of his birth-day, clearly show how this expedition to Greece appealed to his nobler nature. He had led an unworthy life; and the soul now insisted *Moore's Life of Byron, vol. iii, pp. 281. † Ib., vol. v., p. 286. Ib., vol. vi., p. 137
on rising superior to the body, and closing the connection by a worthy exploit.
In the autumn of 1822 Byron left Pisa, because of a quarrel with a sergeant-major of the town, and because the Guiccioli had been ordered out of the Tuscan territory. These, his favourite friends, he rejoined in Genoa, whence, in July 1823, he set sail for Greece. It was not till the beginning of the following year, however, that he reached Missolonghi. First of all, a storm drove back his ship into the port of Genoa; then he touched at Leghorn, where a messenger, direct from Goethe, presented him with complimentary verses by that famous German; and when, on landing at Argostoli, in Cephalonia, he learned the distracted condition of Greek affairs, he prudently kept aloof from all the parties who competed for his special patronage, nor removed to Missolonghi, till his personal presence there seemed likely to further, or, as many represented it, was indispensable to save the national cause. Even those who condemn most unsparingly the extravagance and recklessness of Byron's former life are constrained to admire his moderation and good sense in connection with the Greek rising. In the end of January he was appointed commander of an expedition which was to reduce Lepanto, then in possession of the Turks; and he took measures for the regulation of his finance, and of the commissariat, as well as for the military organization, with all the foresight and skill of an experienced commander.
His course, however, was now nearer a close than his own occasional forebodings contemplated. The weather was bad, and the situation unhealthy; he had got wet through, too, and on the evening of the 15th February was seized with a convulsive fit. His constitution was in fact breaking down, and the means he employed were not apt for building it up. It is well known that debility and plethora have certain symptoms in common: Byron was really suffering from the former, but his measures were directed against the latter. In Greece he subsisted almost entirely on dry toast, vegetables, and cheese; and if, on measuring the girth of his wrist and waist, which he did almost every morning, he found them, as he supposed, enlarged, he immediately took a strong dose of medicine. On the 9th of April he got wet through again; fever and rheumatic pains ensued. On the 18th, Easter day, he got up, and attempted to read, but in a few minutes he became faint, and returned to bed. He quietly expired on the following day. The Greeks were in consternation, and all the more so because a thunder-storm broke over the town at the moment he died. They still reverence his memory. The English traveller now reads "Lord Byron," inscribed among a host of other conspicuous Philhellenes on the walls of the Greek senate; and, should he visit Munychia, he leaves Athens by a street bearing Byron's name.
Byron's remains were taken to England, and interred in the family vault, in the Church of Hucknall, a village between which and Missolonghi some have traced a strong resemblance.