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are found in a union the most unnatural and contradictory the false philosophy of the continental schools, with all its antisocial and disorganising principles, a creed, if creed it can be called, subversive of all established discipline, and consisting in the dogmatic denial of what has never been examined; a contempt of all rules of social or civil obligation; a conceited and coarse disregard of authorities civil and religious; and a spirit out of harmony with the peace and order of the moral world. With the man we are describing, the prisoner at St. Helena is the eternal theme of lamentation; Venice, Genoa, and all those states, where lust and murder, and state oppression, have prevailed in their most odious and cowardly forms, and which have justly forfeited their power and independent existence, provoke his tenderest commiseration and sympathy; and why? Is it because the interests of civil liberty have been injured by the downfall of Bonaparte, or by the annexation of Venice and Genoa to the greater states ? or, on the other hand, can it be because he is friendly to despotism? These considerations have truly nothing to do with the feeling: can it be then that Britain and its prosperity are, abstractedly speaking, objects from which he turns with aversion ? Not so in an absolute and independent sense; this is not at the bottom of his repinings at the victory of Waterloo ; but it is because that victory, and the ruin of the tyrant, and the new political arrangements of power over the surface of the western world, have bridled the fury of revolutionary storms, fenced out the return of democratic despotism, fastened the foundations of legitimate authority by the revival of its ancient and necessary securities, and, to sum up the whole, have saved us from the hands of enlightened men. This is not an exaggerated picture of the new English character, which has been formed from the slime and settlings of the French revolution, mixed perhaps with some native clay, and the purer basis of our indigenous qualities. This sort of man may be more easily known than described. There are certain infallible marks by which he may be distinguished;—by his great tenderness for the suffering poor; under which description he includes all the various orders of interesting outcasts,—vagrant, mendicant, and predatory ;-by his denunciation of their oppressors; a term applied to the rich universally, and especially to those in place and power ;-by his anxious promotion of liberty of conscience; by which is implied the right of assaulting with contempt and ridicule the conscientious belief of others, and generally all creeds and religious establishments ;-by his gallantry towards the female sex; by which is indicated that general principle of admiration which claims an exemption from ties, and borrows the colours of an exaggerated description to hide its true complexion ;—by a liberality which is intolerant towards whatever is tried, approved, and ordained, but full of courtesy towards every tenet, proposition, and theory that tends to loosen the secret holds of opinion, and the foundations of necessary authority ;lastly, by a charity which pardons every crime, except that of holding preferment, exercising office, maintaining order, practising devotion, advocating decorum, and suppressing tumult.
Who would not laugh if such a man there be?
Who would not weep if Atticus were he ? As we have before intimated, the whole of this dedication we consider as addressed to us the public, and as designed for our information and instruction; just as an introductory dialogue on the stage lets the audience into the story, by a formal narration of transactions to one who, unless he had performed them in his sleep, must have known them better than the narrator. Thus Lord Byron tells Mr. Hobhouse, “ for the whole of the notes, I am indebted to yourself; and these were necessarily limited to the elucidation of the text.” But, as Mr. Hobhouse could not need this information, perhaps, if he values himself upon these notes, he might have been better pleased if the communication to the public had been more direct; since dedications or prefaces to poems have but few readers. But we do not think it of the smallest importance to Mr. Hobhouse's literary reputation to be known to the world as the author of these notes. Nor do we think that Mr. Hobhouse has been correctly informed that his own notes have been limited to the elucidation of the text. The note on the nature of Petrarch's passion for Laura could not be wanted to illustrate the stanzas of Lord Byron, wherein a general notice is taken of those celebrated persons; of the spirit and tendency of which note, indeed, we greatly complain.
Another piece of information which this epistle dedicatory gives to Mr. Hobhouse, as to what he, Mr. Hobhouse, had been doing, appears to us to be equally incorrect.“ By men,” says his Lordship, “whose conduct you yourself have exposed in a work worthy of the better days of our history.”. Now we believe that it would greatly puzzle Lord Byron, were he to be required to say, upon his own principles of estimating public happiness, to what period he assigns these “ better days of our history.” Are we to look to our Plantagenets, our Tudors, or our Stuarts, for theşe halcyon times ? Would he wish the Norman era revived? or is he one of those sharp-sighted explorers of our records that have discovered in the Saxon institutions the perfect forms of liberty and law? In truth the phrase is picked up from among the dross and refuse of Jacobin patriotism, and deserves no better appellation than the cant of discontentedness. The best days of our history will be those in which the sentiments breathed by the pilgriin of our poet are least like the sentiments of English men and women; in which the infection of French revolutionary principles shall have given way to the healing influences of manly liberty, and Christian principles of respect for authority and law;--in which, in short, the “Letters on the last reign of Napoleon," the work of Mr. Hobhouse to which we presume Lord Byron adverts as worthy of our “better days,” shall tend only to inspire a more decided detestation of the name which it honours, and a more grateful remembrance of the victory which it calumniates, by the very specimen which the work exhibits in its own character of the deteriorating effects of what is called political illumination.
We have now done with this drivelling epistle dedicatory; and shall proceed to the poem itself, in which we find the author throughout in the same sour state of dissatisfaction with life and its civil and social arrangements, overcharged as usual with egotism, and an angry sense of personal ill-treatment, not indecd without occasional glances of elegant ill-humour at himself, for which last peculiarity we are disposed to give him full credit. When we are angry with the world, it is but fair to consider whether the world has not cause to be angry with us ; or at least it is but modest and reasonable to compare our own case with that large and interesting number of holy, wise, and self-devoted benefactors of their species whose labours have been requited with neglect and ingratitude. We pretend not to know what secret vexations may disturb this young nobleman's quiet; but as far as all appearances indicate, of this world's gratifications he seems to have had a plenary share; all beyond this, so it is ordained, must depend upon ourselves through Him, and by Him, from whom is every good and perfect gift
. With respect to the plan and the moral, if we can talk of the moral of this poem (we are speaking of the whole poem), we find many and great inconsistences. Phe author and the hero, or to use apter terms, the master and man, are perpetually jostling and crossing one another; so that we can scarcely tell which is foremost, or from whose mouth any of the misanthropical, or sensual, or desponding aphorisms proceed with which the poem abounds, or what credit is meant to be attached to them, or whether they are proposed as rhapsodies or reasonings; as the dreams of a disordered imagination, or as the oracles of inspired intelligence. In the 175th stanza we are informed that 56 the pilgrim's shrine is won.” And here for the first time we learn that the Childe had a holy purpose in view, but we are left to conjecture what might be tảe sublime consummation into which
his wavering faith thus ultimately settled; whether Jupiter or Jehovah, the crescent or the cross, was finally to decide his dubious belief, and arrest his vagrant devotion. It is here also that we find it clearly ascertained that the poet and the pilgrim are distinct persons; for in this same stanza the pious pilgrim is dismissed to his shrine, whither Lord Byron does not care to follow, and therefore just at this point of his journey he says,
" And he and I must part—so let it be
His task and mine alike are nearly done.”. Before the parting is complete, however, the pilgrim is detained a moment from his orisons to look again with the poet at the sea, which calls back the recollections of youth; and then, after adverting to certain " sufferings and tears” by which the past scenes have been accompanied, their great consolation and reward is most morally and edifyingly noticed in the following lines:
“ That we can yet feel gladden’d by the sun,
reap from earth, sea, joy almost as dear
As if there were no man to trouble what is dear." These pure delights of Lord Byron and his pilgrim, so pure that man and his corruption must stand aloof, naturally put us upon the inquiry who these gentle beings may be that thus forbid the profane approach of man to disturb the sanctity of their solitude. Doubtless they must be persons deriving a large portion of this delight from an awful sense of that ineffable greatness which sits invisibly enthroned in the midst of these testimonies of its omnipotence; doubtless their minds must be, beyond those of other mortals, pious, humble, adoring, and innocent, with tastes exalted by the highest contemplations, faculties enlarged by the most invigorating exercises, and sensibilities refined by the purest pleasures; but, alas ! if we look back at the account which the best authority gives us of the pilgrim, nothing can be less descriptive than these surmises of his real character. He is by the poet described as a joyless being, “ excluded,” to use the words of Dr. Jeremy Taylor, “ from the participation of those beauties of society which enamel and adarn the wise and the virtuous;" to whom the things around him present no interest; whose spirits droop under a heartless lassitude, which no scenery can enliven, no variety refresh, beyond cure and beyond comfort; to whom “hope never comes--that comes to all;" a man of tired sensuality, disappointed ambition, and irritated passions; not sad, as noble natures are sometimes made by defeated expectations of correspondent benevolence in others, but only sad because forbidden pleasure has been found short and illusory, because vice has failed to keep her promises, because the dregs of exhausted passion have been found to be barren of delight,
and lastly, and principally, because the soul, diverted from God, . turns in vain to itself for resource; nor finds, in the compass of creation, companionship or joy. If vice does truly dig, as we think she does, and Lord Byron says she does, “ her own voluptuous tomb,” it was not for the Childe, at least, to stand upon the edge of that dark receptacle, amidst the ghosts of his departed pleasures, and contemplate the glories of the blessed sun, as he rises from “ his chambers of the east,” and glistens in the green valley or the glassy lake; or when, from his dwellings in the south, he lights up the distant hills with blue etherial lustre, and fills the landscape with life, and beauty, and discourse. From minds sickening under this sense of satiety, no sentiments would naturally spring in unison with the surrounding magnificence; there could be no echo in such a bosom to the song of Nature: and how it occurred to the poet under the notion or name of pilgrim, with his “ Sandal shoon and scallop shell,” (Cant. iv. last stanza,) or of a candidate for the office and renown of chivalry (for such was the sense in old times of the term Childe) to present us with a coarse libertine attached to the person of the poet, as a shade to the substance, angry with nature and life and man and woman, because not permitted without interruption to monopolise, abuse, betray, and enjoy ;-how, we say, it occurred to him to make such a person the recipient and medium of the imagery, sentiments, and impressions, offering themselves in a tour through the most interesting and affecting parts of the creation, we have great difficulty in comprehending. What we have said above is the continuation of our old
quarrel with the Childe, with whose fretful profligacy we are out of all patience. And as far as Lord Byron has identified his own principles and tastes with those of his imaginary companion, so far has he declared his own unfitness to promote or participate in human happiness. In a strain of poetic fervour he exclaims,
“Oh! that the desert was my dwelling place." (Stanza 177.) And if all the sentiments promulged in this poem were deliberately his own, one would be apt to wish for the speedy gratification of this his anxious desire of solitude. As we pass along, we cannot help recollecting the different feelings with which we read the beautiful passage in Cowper's Task, beginning with a line too similar to that which is above quoted from this last canto of the Childe Harold, not to have been the model of Lord Byron's verse:
“Oh! for a lodge in some vast wilderness." And again how differently affected were our minds in perusing, some few years ago, that touching and tender and edifying epistle of poor Kirke White, where, after describing a scene of profligacy