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1 4 MAY 1931

NOTICES

OF THE

LIFE OF LORD BYRON.

THE circumstances under which Lord Byron now took leave of England were such as, in the case of any ordinary person, could not be considered otherwise than disastrous and humiliating. He had, in the course of one short year, gone through every variety of domestic misery ;-had seen his hearth eight or nine times profaned by the visitations of the law, and been only saved from a prison by the privileges of his rank. He had alienated, as far as they had ever been his, the affections of his wife; and now, rejected by her, and condemned by the world, was betaking himself to an exile which had not even the dignity of appearing voluntary, as the excommunicating voice of society seemed to leave him no other resource. Had he been of that class of unfeeling and self-satisfied natures from whose hard surface the reproaches of others fall pointless, he might have found in insensibility a sure refuge against reproach; but, on the contrary, the same sensitiveness that kept him so awake to the applauses of mankind rendered him, in a still more intense degree, alive to their cen

Even the strange, perverse pleasure which he

sure.

I

VOL. III.

felt in painting himself unamiably to the world did not prevent him from being both startled and pained when the world took him at his word; and, like a child in a mask before a looking-glass, the dark semblance which he had, half in sport, put on, when reflected back upon him from the mirror of public opinion, shocked even himself.

Thus surrounded by vexations, and thus deeply feeling them, it is not too much to say, that any other spirit but his own would have sunk under the struggle, and lost, perhaps irrecoverably, that level of self-esteem which alone affords a stand against the shocks of fortune. But in him,-furnished as was his mind with reserves of strength, waiting to be called out,--the very intensity of the pressure brought relief by the proportionate reaction which it produced. Had his transgressions and frailties been visited with no more than their due portion of punishment, there can be little doubt that a very different result would have ensued. Not only would such an excitement have been insufficient to waken up the new energies still dormant in him, but that consciousness of his own errors, which was for ever, livelily present in his mind, would, under such circumstances, have been left, undisturbed by any unjust provocation, to work its usual softening and, perhaps, humbling influences on his spirit. But,-luckily, as it proved, for the further triumphs of his genius,-no such moderation was exercised. The storm of invective raised around him, so utterly out of proportion with his offences, and the base calumnies that were every where heaped upon his name, left to his wounded pride no other resource than in the same summoning up of strength, the same instinct of resistance to injustice, which had first forced out the energies of his youthful

genius, and was now destined to give a still bolder and loftier range to its powers.

It was, indeed, not without truth, said of him by Goëthe, that he was inspired by the Genius of Pain,for, from the first to the last of his agitated career, every fresh recruitment of his faculties was imbibed from that bitter source. His chief incentive, when a boy, to distinction was, as we have seen, that mark of deformity on his person, by an acute sense of which he was first stunginto the ambition of being great.As, with an evident reference to his own fate, he himself describes the feeling,

Deformity is daring
It is its essence to o'ertake mankind
By heart and soul, and make itself the equal,
Ay, the superior of the rest. There is
A

spur in its halt movements, to become
All that the others cannot, in such things
As still are free to both, to compensate

For stepdame Nature's avarice at first."
Then came the disappointment of his youthful

passion,—the lassitude and remorse of premature excess, the lone friendlessness of his entrance into life, and the ruthless'assault upon his first literary efforts,-all links in that chain of trials, errors, and sufferings, by which his great mind was gradually and painfully drawn out;

all bearing their respective shares in accomplishing that destiny which seems to have decreed that the triumphal march of his genius should be over the waste

• In one of his letters to Mr Hunt, he declares it to be his own opinion that . an addiction to poetry is very generally the result of an uneasy mind in an uneasy hody;'-disease or deformity,» he adds, « have been the attendants of many of our best. Collins mad-Chatterton, I think, mad-Cowper mad — Pope crooked-Milton blind,» etc. etc.

2 The Deformed Transformed.

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and ruins of his heart. He appeared, indeed, himself to have had an instinctive consciousness that it was out of such ordeals his strength and glory were to arise, as his whole life was passed in courting agitation and difficulties; and whenever the scenes around him were too tame to furnish such excitement, he flew to fancy or memory

for « thorns » whereon to « lean his breast.» But the greatest of his trials, as well as triumphs, was yet to come. The last stage of this painful, though glorious, course, in which fresh power was, at every step, wrung from out his soul, was that at which we are now arrived, his marriage and its results,-without which, dear as was the price paid by him in peace

and character, his career would have been incomplete, and the world still left in ignorance of the full compass of his genius. It is indeed worthy of remark, that it was not till his domestic circumstances began to darken around him that his fancy, which had long been idle, again rose upon the wing-both the Siege of Corinth and Parisina having been produced but a short time before the separation. How conscious he was, too, that the turmoil which followed was the true element of his restless spirit, may be collected from several passages of hi etters at that period, in one of which he even mentions that his health had become all the better for the conflict : « It is odd,» he says, « but agitation or contest of any kind gives a rebound to my spirits, and sets me up for the time.»

This buoyancy it was,-this irrepressible spring of mind,- that now enabled him to bear up not only against the assaults of others, but what was still more difficult, against his own thoughts and feelings. The muster of all his mental resources to which, in selfdefence, he had been driven, but opened to him the yet

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