페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

THEKLA'S SONG, OR THE VOICE OF A SPIRIT.
From the German of Schiller.

This song is said to have been composed by Schiller in answer to the inquiries of his friends respecting the fate of Thekla, whose beautiful character is withdrawn from the tragedy of " Wallenstein's Death," after her resolution to visit the grave of her lover is made known.

Ask'st thou my home?-my pathway wouldst thou know,
When from thine eye my floating shadow past?
Was not my work fulfill'd and closed below?
Had I not lived and loved?-my lot was cast.

[blocks in formation]

LORD BYRON.†

Ir is well known that a series of letters were preserved, written by Lord Byron in the fulness of affection, to his mother, replete with traits of feeling and of action, and well calculated to free the writer from some portion of the thousand-and-one calumnies which have been heaped upon his head; and that these letters, by the operation of an injunction sued from the Court of Chancery, his friends-suppressed! Another friend, adinitted into his palace at Pisa, took advantage of the opportunity to journalize his daily conversations, to give permanence to every idle word, the product of fun, fancy, or spleen, and to fix for ever those transient vapours of the mind, from which the best are not exempt, and which the wisest cannot always control; and this assemblage of the "dicenda tacenduque" the gentleman in question has published as an offering of friendship to the manes of the poet! But last and not least, Lord Byron gave the profits of some of his most popular works to another friend; and this friend publishes a book to insinuate that, if his

* Wallenstein.

+ "Correspondance inédite de Lord," Paris.

noble patron attained to literary eminence, "it was he taught the boy to read," it was he who pruned and petted him into excellence; while the son of this friend, (we have often heard of the odium theologicum, but never, till now, knew what was the mens grata theologica, in remembrance of the benefits conferred on the father, adds a supplement to declare that Lord Byron was a child of perdition; and cooly consigns him, body and soul for ever, in fee-simple to the!!!

"

That many publications of an equivocal, not to say injurious, tendency to Lord Byron's reputation should come forth, is a natural consequence of the burning of the MS. memoir. The public were well acquainted with its existence; and by its mysterious destruction, that curiosity, which, under the circumstances of Lord Byron's life and death, must have been in itself so intense, was stimulated to a morbid excess. "What," it must a thousand times have been asked-" what could have been the nature of that communication, of which not one word was fit to meet the public eye, of which not an iota was pure from scandal, from ribaldry, or from irreligion?" "What must have been the individual man or devil,' who could have written such a memoir? Can nobody tell? will nobody speak ?"-It is, then, not very astonishing that a multitude of pens should have started from their inkhorns to answer this interrogatory. It was no unnatural desire for those who did, and those who did not, possess materials for replying to such questions, to aim at fame and remuneration by attempting to supply the loss of the MS. and to appease the public disappointment. It was no very unnatural error for Lord Byron's acquaintance, to presume, that any account, no matter what, that could be given of the "life, character, and behaviour" of the noble poet, would be more beneficial to his fair fame than the "horrible imaginings" floating on the public apprehension from this deplorable hiatus. We must repeat, likewise, what we have observed on another occasion, that Lord Byron himself would probably have been of somewhat the same opinion; and though there may be many things in Mr. Dallas's Recollections at which he would have smiled, and many in Capt. Medwin's which he would have corrected, he would in all likelihood have borne the additional twaddle and scandal, of which these publications have been the occasion, with much more philosophy than those to whom his memory is dear, and who are vexed at seeing such a concatenation of circumstances tending to prolong those angry passions of his enemies, which should have been buried in his grave, and not " recorded on his monument."

To the authors in question the public, however, have reason to be thankful. The public have strong appetites for anecdote. However ill-judged some things contained in these volumes may be, in respect to prudence and propriety, yet they contain matter from which the judicious may collect some tolerably correct notions respecting his Lordship's character, and satisfy that curiosity which every thinking and feeling person must indulge, respecting the personage who has occupied so prominent a place in the literature of his age. After all, therefore, the greatest mischief has been done by suppression;—and why, in the name of common sense, has any thing been suppressed?.

With respect to the injunction regarding the present letters, the case is clearly mischievous. If any confidence be due to the narrative of

Mr. Dallas, (and it has the authority of a death-bed repentance,)* the whole affair resolves itself into a matter of pounds shillings and pence; so that while declamation was loudest against Lord Byron's reputation, a document has been withheld, which would place his character in one amiable point of view, for the valuable consideration of a disputed copyright!! The injunction, however, seems to have proved unsuccessful. Mr. Dallas had, it should seem, already put the letters out of his own control, before the matter came under the cognizance of the Lord Chancellor; and the subject of another state, over which the presssuppressing dogmas of our Courts of Equity have no influence, has caused them to be translated into French, and given to the press. Thus, by a bizarre combination of circumstances, the French nation are in possession of a document of which the English have been deprived and we are indebted to the freedom of the French press for information on a truly material point, which our own boasted liberties did not suffice to procure us.

In noticing this highly interesting publication, we shall chiefly confine ourselves to his Lordship's correspondence with Mrs. Byron. His letters to Mr. Dallas, which constitute the other moiety of the volume, relate chiefly to the variations and corrections made during the progress of printing his English Bards, and Childe Harold; and will be a valuable present to the critic, to the inquirer concerning the phenomena of mind, and the literary gossip: but Lord Byron's correspondence with his mother possesses, we confess, a high place in our estimation. These letters were written during his Lordship's absence on his tour to the East, and contain numerous brief but sprightly sketches of those sites and scenes which he afterwards embodied in more lofty poetry. They are, in point of style, as far as that particular may be judged by a translation, eminently remarkable for the ease and simplicity which usually mark the epistolary effusions of men of genius. There is nothing in them affected, nothing strained; no laboured effort at wit, no pompous display of reflection, or of sentiment upon stilts. He writes merely because he has facts to relate, or feelings to communicate; and he is brief or extended, just as his matter happens to require. He is always, therefore, graceful and elegant; and though his letters will appear to be just such as any body would write, they are in reality such as very few persons could produce. Somebody has said, "if I had more time, I should have written more briefly.” Lord Byron required no time for this species of correction; for his letters, flowing from a full heart and a clear head, are totally exempt from that pedantic research, which is the occasion of tediousness and diffusion. At the period wheu this correspondence was committed to paper, Lord Byron had not arrived at his unenviable preeminence. It is a singular coincidence, that the youthful portraits of Voltaire exhibit the same playfulness, and have nothing of the sarcastic diablerie of expression, which, in the later representations of that wonderful man, imply at least as much malice as wit. To his mother, Lord Byron is tender, affectionate, and respectful. His anxiety for those immediately dependent upon him is evinced in frequent traits of sympathy, such as are little to be expected from the school of

* Mr. Dallas died at Havre a few weeks since.

aristocratic hauteur and cold reserve in which he was reared. His references to his servants are frequent. Speaking of one of his suite whom he had sent home, he says, "Pray shew the boy any kindness, as he is my favourite"-"Say this to his father, who may else imagine he has behaved ill." In another letter he returns to the same subject: "Pray take care of my boy Robert, and the old man Murray; neither the youth of the one, nor the age of the other, would have sustained the fatigues of travelling. It is well they returned." Again he writes, "Tell Rushton his son is well, and doing well; so is Murray." He speaks of Murray's leaving him, with regret, as his age would in all probability prevent their ever meeting again. Of Robert also he says, he likes him, "because, like himself, he seemed a friendless animai." With respect to his behaviour to his mother, let the Correspondence speak. From this it appears, that he fitted up Newstead on the eve of his voyage, exclusively for her convenience; and that he had made arrangements, in the event of his death, to assure her a life-interest in the manor, and a sufficient income. In a letter from Constantinople, when his property was in great disorder, he begs of her, if she has occasion for a pecuniary supply, to use his funds as far as they go, without reserve; leaving it to her discretion, how much, in the then state of his affairs, she may think proper to require. In doing this, we are well aware that Lord Byron did no more than most men, placed in his circumstances, and at his time of life, would have done: for if age be the epoch of wisdom, youth is the season of generosity and of warm affections. We should, indeed, be ashamed for ourselves, and for human nature, in dragging such a trait before the public as illustrative of character, if party-spirit had not taken some share in degrading it. Lord Byron had his faults: he must have had great faults; for his place in society, his defective education, and the neglect to which he was abandoned in the trying hour of adolescence, favoured the developement of every weed; but these letters bespeak an affectionate and respectful son, a kind master, and a liberal friend, and such he was in his pecuniary relations with his companions.

As evidences of Lord Byron's state of mind, and of that morbid feeling which formed the basis of his poetical character, these letters are highly valuable. They exhibit frequent traces of that deep impression which his lonely destiny and narrowed fortunes had early made on his susceptible disposition. Disappointment and mortification had already done their work, a work which no after-flattery and success could undo. When Mr. Hobhouse left him, he describes himself as glad to be once more alone. He was sick of his companion,-not that he was a bad one, but because his nature led him to solitude. He returns, he says, in another letter, to England with the same feelings which prevailed at his departure, indifference and apathy.

It had been circulated in private society, at the time of the injunction, that these letters (addressed to his mother!) contained a farrago of blasphemy and impiety in this assertion there is not the shadow of truth. They are almost entirely narrative, and refer to the scenes through which the writer was passing at the time, interspersed with allusions to his domestic and economical interests, such as a son would naturally write to his mother. In a letter from Constan

tinople, he gives a sort of summary of his travels. He describes himself as neither disappointed nor disgusted. He had lived with the highest and the lowest; had passed days in a Pacha's palace, and many a night in a cow-house. He found the people inoffensive and kind. He remained some time with the Greeks in the Morea and Livadia; and, though inferior to the Turks, he found them better than the Spaniards, who, in their turn, excelled the Portuguese. Of St. Sophia he speaks as of a building of great interest, but not to be mentioned in the same page with St. Paul's. What he states of his servant Fletcher is pretty nearly what most persons might repeat, who have taken English servants to travel. Besides his lamentations after beef and beer, and his contempt of every thing foreign, his incapacity for acquiring even a few words of a foreign language rendered him a heavy incumbrance. The plague of speaking for him, the comforts he wanted, the pilaws he could not eat, and the wines he could not drink, his endless calamities of stumbling horses, want of tea, &c. &c. were an endless source of laughter and of inconvenience. Of travel Lord Byron remarks, that he saw all countries with reference to his own. When he finds England superior, he is pleased; when otherwise, he is at least enlightened; no very strong proof, by the by of that inveterate dislike of his native country with which he has been so often reproached. If his pleasures in this particular were less frequent than his instruction, there are many of us who will not be inclined to think it altogether his Lordship's own fault. Lord Byron kept no journal; he had no intention of scribbling his travels, and had done with authorship! Speaking of a Bavarian artist, whom he had employed to take views for him,-This, he says, will be better than scribbling, a disease he hopes himself cured of.

As early as the year 1811, Lord Byron seems to have made up his mind to his future course of life. He says that if by circumstances he should be obliged to sell Newstead, he will at all events pass his life abroad. Newstead was his only tie to England; and that once gone, neither interest nor inclination would lead him northward. Competence in England, he observes, is ample wealth in the East; and the spot where he can enjoy a delicious climate and every luxury at a less expense than a college life at home, will always be a country to him. This then, he says, is the alternative. If he preserves Newstead, he returns; if he sells it, he will stay away: words remarkable for their prophetic import, and for their evidence of the deep fixedness of the notions of the writer.

With his return to England, which soon follows, his correspondence with his mother ceases. If we may judge from this specimen of his powers, we may assert, that Lord Byron's epistolary writings will, at some future day, take a prominent place among his other literary productions; unless an irreparable injunction against their future appearance in an English dress should be obtained.

The remainder of the volume contains a further correspondence with Mr. Dallas. These pages comprise some remarks upon the encouragement afforded by the great to mechanic and illiterate pretenders to poetry. Were a regular-bred author to write such verses, they would not be tolerated. But every one is in a stare of admiration, that a cobler or a tinker should be able to rhyme at all. Some applaud out of sheer bad taste; others out of pure humanity. This is injustice to men

« 이전계속 »