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(In this Edition Objectionable Pieces have been excluded.)
LORD BYRO N.
Eight Engravings on Steel.
LONDON : HOULSTON & WRIGHT.
LIFE OF LORD BYRON.
On the 22d January 1788, in Holles Street, London, the poet Byron was born. His boyhood was spent in Aberdeenshire, his youth in England, and the single decade of his manhood in foreign countries. He died at Missolonghi in Greece on the 19th April 1824.
In this locomotive age, thousands—whose memory survives them no longer than the grief of immediate kinsmen-trace a life-itinerary more varied and more suggestive of adventure and vicissitude than the above. But Byron's course, however simple and ordinary when viewed merely as a traveller's, was signalized by outbursts of genius and character at once sulphureous and splendid, which startled the contemporary world, as they rapidly succeeded each other,-exciting the alarm of the timid, the admiration of the bold, and the wonder of all. Nor has that mingling of brightness and shade, which marks both his genius and his character, less either of attraction or of mystery for us his immediate posterity. In surveying the monument which he has erected to himself in our literature, we are still like visitors to a volcano, only that the volcano is now extinct; and whether we dig into the lava, rich in rarest ores which his burning genius outpoured, or look down into the crater where his soul, alternately gleaming like heaven and smoking like hell, wasted, and at length wore out the man,
osterity is divided, like his contemporaries, between terror and admiration, united only by wonder.
If an ill-assorted marriage be an evil omen for the issue, then was Byron born under unlucky stars. His father, Captain Byron, had outraged, in his previous family life, not only the principles of religion, but also the laws of society ; and when, in 1783, he married Miss Catherine Gordon, the wealthy heiress of Gight, Aberdeenshire, it was chiefly for the purpose of paying off his debts with her fortune. Within two years after the marriage the heiress of Gight was reduced to a pittance of L.150 a year. In 1790, for economy's sake, the unhappy couple removed from London to Aberdeen ; but they soon separated. Even after this Captain Byron was mean-spirited enough to solicit money from his beggared wife, and she had not the heart to refuse him. With a small supply thus obtained he crossed the channel; and in 1791 he died at Valenciennes, in the north of France.
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 nained 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.” Byron'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 à 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
And Lochnagar with Ida looked o'er Troy."
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 racé 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 inovements, and turning to profitable account tbat energy which might otherwise have proved destructive By bis sudden elevation to wealth and ránk, Byron