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THE LIFE AND WRITINGS
The premature and lamented death of Lord Byron has deprived England of the brightest genins that has adorned the age in which we live. That he was entitled to the first place among living poets will hardlj now be denied by any one. Those persons who, from the most honest feelings, regretted thelevity and censured the immorality of some of his hstter productions, were never backward in acknowledging the pre-eminence of talents which they wished to have seen otherwise directed: it was only by the malignant and the envious that his powers were decried; aud even their venom, now that the grave has closed upon Lord' Byron, will be spared, because it is equally insignificant and impotent .
To say that he had faults, and that they were many and great, is only to cay that be was human: they were the faults of his age, of hii education, of unfortunate circumslauces—perhaps of a Constitutional eccentricity. They were not so enormous but that a small portion of Christian charity may enable us to excuse them: their consequences fell on his own head; and we cannot hut believe that the sufferings of hii proud and wounded spirit would, if they could be appreciated, be allowed, even by hU most severe censurcrs, to have expiated his offences.
Bat while those failings by which his character was marked, and which are the lot of humanity, are remembered, let it not be forgotten that be possessed rare and supreme powers, which, if they did uot raise him above his species, made him one of its chief ornaments.
An a poet, he stands among the most eminent that England haa ever produced. Few, indeed, (and, among those who live, we may bay, fearless of contradiction, none,) have possessed at the same time "an energy and intellectual grasp like his, together with his facility and gncefulness. There is no style of poetry that he has not essayed; there is none in which he has failed; there are some which he has left better than he found them, and which will, perhaps, owe their perfection to the genial influence of his example.
Ae a British nobleman, his reputation is unsullied : he supported his rank with as much dignity as modesty. He was a gentleman of strict honour; a firm and warm-hearted friend ; a fervent lover of reil liberty; ami a patron of true merit and sound learning.
These are his claims to the respect of his cotemporaries—these are his titles to the admiration of posterity. That they may be fully understood, and that the honours which his memory deserves may be rendered lo it universally, the following concise account of his life and writings has been undertaken. It is a debt which the country owes to itself and to him, that the merits of such a man should be known to the whole community. In the work which follows an attempt has been made to comhine with a history of the principal events of Lord Byron's life so full and impartial an account of his works as may convey an accurate idea of their merits.
It was expected that the Memoirs written by the uoble deceased, and given by hiio to the author of' Lalla Rookh,' would have been published. Had that hope not been frustrated, this work would probably never have seen the light. From a motive of delicacy towards the feelings of living persons, which, though it may be mistaken, is so amiable and disinterested that it deserves the highest praise, those Memoirs have lately been destroyed, and are lost to the world for ever. This posthumous record of the deceased nobleman had been deposited in the keeping of Mr. Thomas Moore, and designed as a legacy for his benefit. This gentleman, with the consent and at the desire of Lord Byron, had long ago sold the manuscript to Mr. Murrey, for the sum of two thousand pounds. Since the death of Lord Byron, it occurred to some of the Relatives of his lordship, that, although the noble author himself had given full authority for a disrlosure of the document, some of his family might be wounded or shocked by it. Mr. Moore, therefore, appoint d a time for meeting a mar connexion of the noble lord (we h, lieve his sister, Mrs. Lrgh); and, after • deliberate perusal of the work, finding that this lady apprehended f,o:u it much pain to the minds, of many persons still living, though no sort of imputation on her brother's memory, Mr. Moore, with a spirit ami generosity which the better part of mankind will be at no loss to appreciate, placed the manuscript in the lady's hands, and permitted her to barn it in his presence! This sacrifice of self-interest to lofty feelinc was made on the 17th of May, and the next morning the two thousand pounds were repaid to Mr. Murray by Lord Byron's selfdeilitnted legatee.
To supply the deficiency occasioned by the loss of the Memoirs tins history has been written, and it has been thought that no means could be more likely to effect it s object than by putting the public in a situation to jodsje for themselves of the noble bard's merits; and since that appeal, which be had prepared with his own hand, to be offered to those who should survive him, has been buried with him, his works most speak for him; and the history of his poetry must furnish forth the history of his life, accompanied by particulars derived from private aud peculiar sources, and which have never yet been laid before the public.
Great as his loss would have been at any time, it is more to be regretted at this period, when he seemed to be about to lay aside for ever the extravagances which had marked his character, and to devote the energies of his exalted mind and his whole fortune to one of the noblest causes that ever called forth the sympathy of freemen.
Such, however, is the uncertainty-of mortal events—such the disappointments which lie in wait to check the most honorable enter
'Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise
To scorn delights and live laborious days;
And think to burst out into sudden blaze,
And slits the thin-spun life.'
Thb late Lord Byron was descended from a family more remarkable for its antiquity, and for the heroism and talent which have at all times distinguished its various branches, than for the extent of the possessions which have been annexed to it. If it were worth wl'ilc, it would bo easy to trace the ancestors of the late noble poet to those days of chivalry, when, the darkness of the age precluding men of ardent genins from the intellectual exertions which they now make with so much success, they carved themselves a lasting reputation by their bravery and prowess. It may, however, be sufficient for our present purpose only to remark, that the Byron family is at least as honorable as it is ancient; and that in England its history commences with the period of the Conquest, when we find that there were two nobles bearing the name of Buron, or Byron, in both of which ways it seems to have been commonly written. The consanguinity of these barons is not clearly made out; but that they were important personages, as well from their achievements an from the magnitude of theii respective domains, is satisfactorily known. The more important of these barons, and that one from whom his English pedigree is to be traced, was Ralph de Burun, who, in the reign of William the Conqueror, held Horestan Castle, in the park of Hor&eley, and was besides the lore1 of other very extensive domains in the counties of Derby and Nottingham. He was succeeded by his son Hugh dt Burun in his title and estates. The eldest son of the latter, who was also called Hugh de Burun, almost as soon as he hu;l reached man's estate, devoted himself to a religious life; and, having joined with his father in alienating n considerable portion of the family estate to the use of the Lcnton Priory, in Nottinghamshire, he professed himself a monk of that religious establishment, and assumed the name of De Mcschincs. The diminished patrimony and the honours of his house then descended on his brother, Roger de Burun, who seemed also to be smitten with the family paision for giving to the Church some portion of their property; for, in the reign of Heury II. he appears to have granted lands to the monastery of S»iusU-d. John de Horestan, one of the members of this family, was distinguished among the English Crusaders under Richard I. for his zeal and courage. He fell at the siege of Askalon, and was buried in the church of the Holy Sepulchre.
In the reign of Heury II. we find the family name written Riro.i, or Byron, instead of Burun, and thus it has remained ever since. Robert de Byron, the son of the last-mentioned Roger, added largely to the family possessions by his marriage with the heiress of the wealthy family of the Claytons, of Clayton, in Lancashire, at which place the family seat continued to be until the reign of Heury VI11. From Robert de Byron the glory of the family was transmitted by a sue. cession of warriors, who all bore a prominent part in the domestic and foreign contests in which the nation was engaged. In the reign of Henry VIII. we find Sir John Byron Constable of Nottingham Castle and Master of Sherwood Forest. He seems to have held a high place in the favour of his sovereign, as well by the offices which were intrusted to him as by the share he received of the spoils which the rapacity of the tyrant tore from the Church. On the dissolution of the religious houses, the church and priory of Newstead, the adjacent manor of Papelwick, and the Church patronage annexed to it, with certain other lands, were granted by Henry VIII. in the thirty-second year of bis reign, to this Sir John Byron.
This abbey of Newstead, or De Novo Loco, was founded in the year 1(70, by Henry II. as a Priory of Black Canons, and dedicated to the Holy Virgin. Its revenues had been increased by various benefactions, so that, at the Dissolution, they were estimated at about two hundred pounds. Sir John immediately fitted up part of the edifice; but the church was suffered to go to decay, though the south aisle was actually incorporated into the dwelling-house, and now contains some of the most habitable apartments. It has remained the family seat from the period we have mentioned to the present time; but, owing to some unfortunate family differences between the grandfather and the father of the late Lord Byrou, the elder nobleman was induced to sell every thing belonging to the mansion, and not only to suffer every part, both of the house and grounds, to go to decay, but even to dilapidate great part of it, until he was stopped by an injunction in Chancery. During the minority of the late Lord Byron it remained nearly in this state; and even when he came of age his finances were not adequate to the task of repairing and restoring it thoroughly. Although much has been done to it since, its appearance is not greatly altered from that desci ibed in the following account, which was written in the year 1812. Lord Byron's poetry has rendered every thing relating to Newstead Abbey interesting; and it is impossible to read this description of the halls of his ancestors without feeling that its local peculiarities must have had a considerable share in producing that romantic and melancholy tone which pervades the greater and the better part of his productions :—
The front of the abbey church has a most noble and majestic appearance, being built in the form of the west end of a cathedra!, adorned with rich carvings and lofty pinnacles.
The castellated stables and offices are still to be seen, as the visitor enters into a sombre deserted court-yard, in the midst of which is a