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erty and dismantled Newstead. John Murray, who visited the abbey in 1814, sixteen years after his death,
"Lord Byron's immediate predecessor stripped the whole place of all that was splendid and interesting, and you may judge of what he must have done to the mansion when I inform you that he converted the ground which used to be covered with the finest trees, like a forest, into an absolute desert. Not a tree is left standing, and the wood thus shamefully cut down was sold in one day for £60,000 [£6,000?]. The hall of entrance has about eighteen large niches, which had been filled with statues, and the side walls covered with family portraits and armor. All these have been mercilessly torn down, as well as the magnificent fireplace, and sold. All the beautiful paintings which filled the galleries-valued at that day at £80,000 have disappeared, and the whole place is crumbling into dust."
Admiral Byron, known as "Foul-weather Jack," married his cousin, Sophia Trevanion, also of the mad, impetuous race of the Berkeleys. He died in 1786, a disappointed man, leaving two sons and three daughters. One of his daughters married her cousin, the only son of the "wicked Lord Byron." It was by the death of this only son followed by that of his only son that the barony descended to the poet. From the poet in turn it went to his cousin's son; and thus the present Lord Byron is a descendant of the Admiral.
If heredity explains vagaries of character, it is plain that these crossed and intermingled strains of wild and impetuous blood were a terrible legacy rather than a matter of pride. But the poet was to be even more pitied for his immediate birth and training.
His father, John Byron, known as "Mad Jack," was the Admiral's oldest son. He was sent first to West
minster school, then to a French military academy; entering the army, he served in America. Returning to London, he seduced the Marchioness of Carmarthen, Lady Conyers, whom after her divorce he married, and treated brutally, though, by her death, he lost her income of £4,000 a year. She died in 1784, leaving a daughter, Augusta, who was an important factor in the poet's life. Two years later he married Catherine Gordon of Gight, near Aberdeen, who had about £23,000 in her own right. She is described as "a dumpy young woman, with a large waist, florid complexion, and homely features," lacking even a common education, and subject to "frequent fits of uncontrollable fury." Her father had committed suicide. Captain Byron quickly ran through all but £3,000 of her small property, and three years after his son's birth he begged a guinea from her and fled to France, where he died, possibly by suicide, at Valenciennes, August, 1791. Though Mrs. Byron had found it impossible to live with him, it is said that when she heard of his death she disturbed the neighborhood with her shrieks. Byron claimed to have remembered his father, who, when living apart from his wife, used to waylay the child and play with him, and once took him home to his lodgings for the night. He idealized the memory of "his sire" in a few pathetic lines in Lara.
Byron's childhood was spent in Aberdeen. Perhaps fortunate in being out of the influence of "Mad Jack," he was doubly unfortunate in his mother's management. Caresses of passionate violence often alternated with fierce blows.
He was lame from birth
not club-footed, but unable
to put his right foot flat upon the ground, owing to a painful malformation of the tendon of the heel. He had "to hop about like a bird." His mother used to chase him, trying to hit him with the poker. Once when she poured out her abuse upon him, she ended by calling him "a lame brat." His lips quivered, his face turned pale, his eyes flashed: then he replied: "I was born so,
Curiously enough this unnatural mother, who boasted of the superior birth of her branch of the Gordons, vaunted herself a "democrat "" and sympathized with the French people in their struggle with royalty. If the poet owed anything to her it was his abhorrence of tyranny, his generosity toward the poor and the oppressed.
To his nurse, Mary Gray, of whom he was fond, Byron owed his familiarity with the Bible and his strong bent toward Calvinism which survived all his doubts.
His secular education was not neglected. recollections of Scotland (written when he was twentysix) he commemorates three pedagogues who, with more or less success, prepared him for the Aberdeen Grammar School. This he entered in 1794, and distinguished himself by being constantly at the foot of the class. His lameness prevented him from taking part in boyish games. He, therefore, instead of studying his lessons, amused himself by reading, and the list of works, particularly travels and descriptions of the East, which he had devoured before he was ten years old is remarkable. He remembered them, too, and the influence of some of them is directly traceable in his poetical works.
He was not able to take long walks, - his references to climbing the hills are apocryphal, - but he had a Shetland pony and thus "roamed the dusky wild."
While in Aberdeen he fell in love with his cousin, Mary Duff, a charming hazel-eyed, brown-haired little girl. This was a serious matter to the impressionable boy. The memory of it, eight years later, when he was sixteen, was so intense that the report of her unromantic marriage to an Edinburgh wine-merchant almost threw him into convulsions.
He dated his love for the mountains from a visit to Ballater in the Highlands, where his mother took him when he was a boy of ten recovering from the scarlet fever. The lesson of her frenzies was not lost upon him. In his recollections he declares that he did not specially differ from other children, being neither tall nor short, dull nor witty, but rather lively, except in his sullen moods, and then he was always a devil. Once at table he even threatened to kill himself with a knife which he snatched up in his fury.
In May, 1798, the family title devolved upon him from his great-uncle, "the wicked lord," who, though he knew that "the little boy at Aberdeen" was to be his successor, had never done anything to relieve his necessities. It is said that when the schoolmaster in calling the roll prefixed the Latin for lord before Byron's name, he was so affected that he was unable to respond, but burst into tears.
Mrs. Byron's income after her husband's death had not been sufficient to keep her out of debt. Even at its utmost it was only £190 a year. She sold her furniture
for a little less than £75, and went with the young lord and his nurse to the ruined domain which, though valued at £90,000, yielded less than two per cent, and was in chancery. Surely a title given by the Stuarts, and thus stripped of its material accessories, was little to awaken pride.
Byron, in the thirteenth canto of Don Juan, thus described the Norman Abbey:
An old, old monastery once, and now Still older mansion, - of a rich and rare
Mixed Gothic, such as artists all allow Few specimens yet left us can compare
Withal: it lies perhaps a little low, Because the monks preferred a hill behind, To shelter their devotions from the wind.
It stood embosomed in a happy valley,
Crowned by high woodlands, where the Druid oak Stood like Caractacus in act to rally
His host, with broad arms 'gainst the thunder-stroke; And from beneath his boughs were seen to sally The dappled foresters -as day awoke,
The branching stag swept down with all his herd,
Before the mansion lay a lucid lake,
Broad as transparent, deep, and freshly fed