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Of this ill-starred marriage the poet Byron was the fruit, in 1788, as has been said. He was therefore two years old when his parents removed to Aberdeen, and in that city the next eight years of his boyhood were spent. He was put to a day-school at the age of five, and even then betrayed an unusual fondness for historical reading. But neither here, nor afterwards at the Grammar School of Aberdeen, did he distinguish himself in school-work; he was usually far down in the class; and when Aberdonians in after years raked up their reminiscences of their noble school-fellow, it was as a leader in frolic and fight, not as a maker of Latin versions, that Byron stood forth.
Instances of generosity, boldness, and impotent rage, are cited out of Byron's boyhood: but anecdotes of this kind belong to the childhood of thousands who turn out most ordinary men. One only circumstance is characteristic enough to merit specification, and that is the profound impression made upon his heart, at eight years of age, by a Scotch lassie named Mary Duff. So long afterwards as 1813, when twenty-five years of age, he made this first attachment the theme of lengthened remark in his diary. He avers that the news of Mary Duff's marriage was "like a thunder-stroke, it nearly choked me, to the horror of my mother, and the astonishment and almost incredulity of everybody." By. ron's precocity, therefore, was not intellectual, but emotional.
In 1796, which is also the date of this boyish attachment, Byron, on recovering from scarlet-fever, was removed, for the benefit of the country air, from Aberdeen to a farm-house near Ballater. The bed in which Byron slept is still shown in the farm-house, and a short walk brings the worshipper of genius to "Dark Lochnagar." The mountain scenery of other lands always recalled to him that of Scotland; and the recollected innocence and peace amid which he had viewed the latter, formed a chief element of his delight in contemplating the former. In "The Island," a poem written only a year or two before his death, he thus expounds his love of the most stupendous or most classic mountain scenes:
"But 'twas not all long ages' lore, nor all
Their nature, held me in their thrilling thrall
He sometimes disdains Scotland; but this was affectation. fond remembrance was the genuine tribute of his heart to the scenes and companions of his boyhood.
In 1798, by the death of his grand-uncle, the fifth Lord Byron, Mary Duff's sweetheart became all at once an English peer, and the delighted mother removed with her noble boy to Newstead Abbey, the family seat in Nottinghamshire. This was not only the turning-point in the fortunes of the future poet, but a circumstance of mighty influence on the development of his character. During the spring-time of life there is unrest and waywardness enough in most individuals of a race so vigorous as the British, and the necessity of daily labour, to win or to maintain one's position in society, is the fly-wheel graciously attached to the machinery of our powers, regulating all their movements, and turning to profitable account that energy which might otherwise have proved destructive. By his sudden elevation to wealth and rank, Byron
was deprived of this restraining and regulating influence, and thus had one chance less of acquitting himself worthily as a man. Another circumstance which influenced his character, and especially his temper, not a little, was a slight deformity of the right foot, the result of an accident at birth. In after life he became morbidly anxious to conceal the defect, that he might escape the observation of vulgar curiosity, and he almost entirely succeeded; but it begat in him'a lasting grudge towards his mother, whom he held responsible, if not for the accident itself, at least for the neglect of immediate remedies; and the stimulus which it gave to his desire of excelling was not unaccompanied with bitterness. Sometimes he made a jest of his lame foot, and obtruded it on the attention of his friends; for he was consistent in nothing; but the following lines from the "The Deformed Transformed, ' may be accepted as fairly representing his general view :— "Deformity is daring.
It is its essence to o'ertake mankind
By heart and soul, and make itself the equal
Aye, the superior of the rest. There is
A spur in its halt movements, to become
During the year 1799, spent in Dr Glennie's school at Dulwich, Byron was tortured by mechanical appliances for the rectification of his foot; but to no purpose. Neither was the other object of placing him with this gentleman,-that, namely, of preparing him for a great public school,-attained in any satisfactory degree; for the capricious fondness of his mother continually interfered with the discipline of the school, and, not content with the interval between Saturday and Monday, she would often keep him at home a whole week. It appears that he was known amongst his Dulwich schoolfellows as "The Old English Baron," a sobriquet suggested by his boastful allusions to his paternal ancestry. The Byrons came over from France at the Conquest, and one Ralph de Burun is mentioned in Domesday Book as a proprietor in Nottinghamshire. Newstead Abbey was a gift from Henry VIII., and the title, conferred by Charles I. in 1643, was the reward of loyalty. His mother's lineage was not unworthy of his father's, for she could trace up her descent to James I. of Scotland: but Byron was of course most interested in the name which he himself bore. A favourite book among Dr Glennie's boys was a narrative of the shipwreck of the Juno, on the coast of Arracan, in 1795; and the awful scene in Canto II. of Don Juan is due to the impression which the perusal of this volume made upon Byron's young mind. In one particular, indeed, the horror of Byron's picture falls short of the actual narrative, for, from the lines"When he himself sank down all dumb and shivering, And gave no sign of life, save his limbs quivering," one would suppose that the agony of the father was almost immediately over, whereas the prose-narrative represents it as lasting several days:-" then, wrapping himself in a piece of canvass (he), sank down and rose no more; though he must have lived two days longer, as we judged from the quivering of his limbs when a wave broke over him."
While still at Dr Glennie's, Byron dashed off into poetry, the goddess of his inspiration being his own cousin, Margaret Parker. He himself considered the verses made on this occasion as his first; but his nurse, Amy Gray, whose memory is more to be trusted, represents him as having already, in 1798, when living at Newstead, fired off a rhymed satire at an old lady for whom he had conceived an aversion.
In 1800 Byron was removed to Harrow, which is still visited by his admirers for the sake of a stone in the churchyard, called Byron's tomb, because he used to sit upon it musing for hours. Here, as at Aberdeen Grammar School, he was more distinguished in the playground than in the classroom, and the only notable reminiscence of Byron's school appearances which Dr Drury, then head-master at Harrow, has been able to recal, relates to an English declamation. All the other orators delivered precisely what they had written: but Byron, after repeating from his manuscript for a while, diverged from it, breaking out into more brilliant and not less fluent language, and so continued to the end. However slight the attention paid by Byron to strictly scholastic work, his time was not wasted at Harrow. His reading, though miscellaneous, was extensive; and scholarship was not at all neces sary to the poetic reproduction of his materials.
To the Harrow period belongs that one of all Byron's attachments in which he has ever had most of the world's sympathy. The vacation of 1803 was spent with his mother at Nottingham, near Newstead, and here he fell in love with Miss Chaworth, heiress of Annesley, a property contiguous to his own. He was in his sixteenth year, and she was unfortunately two years older, so that, instead of regarding him as even a possible candidate for her hand, she thought of him only as a school-boy. "Do you think I would care anything for that lame boy?" is an expression of her's that was reported to Byron, and which cut deeper into his soul than anything she could have said to himself, in declining his addresses. This unfortunate attachment is celebrated in "The Dream," and has been considered by Byron's biographers, as it also was by himself, as having exerted a fatal influence on his whole subsequent career. No doubt a virtuous attachment is the best safeguard of youth, and a happy domestic circle is the sphere most favourable to the development of all that is good in man; but unsuccessful love is often more lasting than love requited, and, considering Byron's peculiar temperament, it is exceedingly doubtful whether, even with Miss Chaworth, he would have been able to fulfil his dream, and would have always remained content with the sober happiness of English domestic life. At all events as Byron would have shown himself more a man by reconciling himself to the disappointment, instead of evermore idly regretting it, and too often wickedly avenging it upon others, so it is better for us, instead of speculating on what might have been had Miss Chaworth returned his affection, to note the fact that he sank under the trial. Religion, which inculcates the unworthiness of the individual, and begets the habit of resignation by the constant reference of events to an All-wise Disposer; or Philosophy, which teaches the littleness of the individual, and the necessity, if not the duty, of submitting to inevitable avils, would have sustained
publication of his " English Bards and Scotch Reviewers," a satire as fierce, indiscriminate, and unprincipled as he afterwards himself declared it to be. On the first leaf of a copy, which he perused nine years afterwards abroad, the following has been found in his handwriting :-" The binding of this volume is considerably too valuable for its contents. Nothing but the consideration of its being the property of another prevents me from consigning this miserable record of misplaced anger and indiscriminate acrimony to the flames."
Some of Byron's eccentricities belonging to this period deserve to be mentioned. Thus, after reading the Edinburgh Review on the "Hours of Idleness," he is said to have drunk three bottles of claret at dinner; and he celebrated his coming of age in 1809 by dining on eggs and bacon, and a bottle of ale. This latter fact he himself records thirteen years afterwards, when writing from Geneva, and adds,-" but as neither of them agrees with me, I never use them but on great jubilees, once in four or five years or so." This recurrence after so long a date, to so trivial a circumstance, and the annotation of it, clearly betray an affectation of peculiarity, and a desire to be noticed and wondered at, tc which no other name than vanity can be given. There is every reason to believe that Byron said and did many things, and these not always innocent, for the express purpose of making people especially his own countrymen, stare. Did not vanity combine with incipient misanthropy in dictating the inscription over the tomb of his favourite dog Boatswain in the grounds of Newstead.
Byron was just twenty when this monument was erected; and the misanthropy of an English nobleman at that early age is on the first view surprising. In Byron's case, however, the explanation is at hand. Let a man be out of harmony with the social system into which he has been born, let him be prevented from expending on any object in heaven or on earth that power of love which nature gives in greater or less measure to us all, and let him lose even his own self-respect, then the most natural issue is misanthropy. These fatal data were already present in Byron. His scepticism brought him into discord with the institutions of his country, and deprived him, in his solitary musings, of man's "last appeal from fortune and from fate:" the Edinburgh Review had stung him into insurrection against the whole literary world, where, if anywhere, he might have expected to meet with kindred spirits his love had gone out to a worthy object, and had returned to his bosom with the poison of rejection and disdain: filial piety offered him no refuge, for his mother had forfeited his respect by the vulgar extremes to which she went in her fits of passion, throw. ing even the poker at his head; nor could he dwell peacefully with his own thoughts,-for there he was encountered by the fresh memory of his youthful excesses. Had Byron's spirit broken, one of two issues was before him,-either the paralysis of despair, or complete regeneration; but, as it resisted the pressure, nothing remained but to go out of himself in hate, and wage war with mankind. It is much to be regretted that Byron was taken by his peers just for what he was, or rather for what he gave himself out to be, which, by a strange perversity, was even worse than the reality. They all stood aloof, even his guardian Lord Carlisle; and when,