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INTRODUCTION TO POEMS OF THE

SEPARATION.

THE two poems, Fare Thee Well (March 17) and A Sketch (March 29, 1816), which have hitherto been entitled Domestic Pieces, or Poems on His Own Circumstances, I have ventured to rename Poems of the Separation. Of secondary importance as poems or works of art, they stand out by themselves as marking and helping to make the critical epoch in the life and reputation of the poet. It is to be observed that there was an interval of twelve days between the date of Fare Thee Well and A Sketch; that the composition of the latter belongs to a later episode in the separation drama ; and that for some reasons connected with the proceedings between the parties, a pathetic if not uncritical resignation had given place to the extremity of exasperation—to hatred and fury and revenge. It follows that either poem, in respect of composition and of publication, must be judged on its own merits. Contemporary critics, while they were all but unanimous in holding up A Sketch to unqualified reprobation, were divided with regard to the good taste and good faith of Fare Thee Well. Moore intimates that at first, and, indeed, for some years after the separation, he was strongly inclined to condemn the Fare Thee Well as a histrionic performance—“a showy effusion of sentiment ;” but that on reading the account of all the circumstances in Byron's Memoranda, he was impressed by the reality of the “swell of tender recollections, under the influence of which, as he sat one night musing in his study, these stanzas were produced—the tears, as he said, falling fast over the paper as he wrote them” (Life, p. 302). VOL. III.

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With whatever purpose, or under whatever emotion the lines were written, Byron did not keep them to himself. They were shown to Murray, and copies were sent to "the initiated.” “I have just received," writes Murray, “the enclosed letter from Mrs. Maria Graham (1785-1842, nie Dundas, authoress and traveller, afterwards Lady Callcott), to whom I had sent the verses. It will show you that you are thought of in the remotest corners, and furnishes me with an excuse for repeating that I shall not forget you. God bless your Lordship. Fare Thee Well" (MSS. M.].

But it does not appear that they were printed in their final shape (the proof of a first drast, consisting of thirteen stanzas, is dated March 18, 1816) till the second copy of verses were set up in type with a view to private distribution (see Letters, 1899, iïi. 279). Even then there was no thought of publication on the part of Byron or of Murray, and, as a matter of fact, though Fare Thee Well was included in the “Poems” of 1816, it was not till both poems had appeared in over twenty pirated editions that A Sketch was allowed to appear in vol. iii. of the Collected Works of 1819. Unquestionably Byron intended that the “initiated,” whether foes or sympathizers, should know that he had not taken his dismissal in silence; but it is far from certain that he connived at the appearance of either copy of verses in the public press. It is impossible to acquit him of the charge of appealing to a limited circle of specially chosen witnesses and advocates in a matter which lay between himself and his wife, but the aggravated offence of rushing into print may well be attributed to "the injudicious zeal of a friend," or the “malice prepense” of an enemy. If he had hoped that the verses would slip into a newspaper, as it were, malgré lui, he would surely have taken care that the seed fell on good ground under the favouring influence of Perry of the Morning Chronicle, or Leigh Hunt of the Examiner. As it turned out, the first paper which possessed or ventured to publish a copy of the “domestic pieces " was the Champion, a Tory paper, then under the editorship of John Scott (1783-1821), a man of talent and of probity, but, as Mr. Lang puts it (Life and Letters of John Gibson Lockhart, 1897, i. 256), "Scotch, and a professed moralist.” "The date of publication

was Sunday, April 14, and it is to be noted that the Ode from the French (“We do not curse thee, Waterloo ”) had been published in the Morning Chronicle on March 15, and that on the preceding Sunday, April 7, the brilliant but unpatriotic apostrophe to the Star of the Legion of Honour had appeared in the Examiner. “We notice it (this strain of his Lordship's harp)," writes the editor, “because we think it would not be doing justice to the merits of such political tenets, if they were not coupled with their corresponding practice in regard to moral and domestic obligations. There is generally a due proportion kept in 'the music of men's lives.' ... Of many of the facts of this distressing case we are not ignorant; but God knows they are not for a newspaper. Fortunately they fall within very general knowledge, in London at least; if they had not they would never have found their way to us. But there is a respect due to certain wrongs and sufferings that would be outraged by uncovering them.” It was all very mysterious, very terrible ; but what wonder that the laureate of the ex-emperor, the contemner of the Bourbons, the pæanist of the “star of the brave," "the rainbow of the free," should make good his political heresy by personal depravity-by unmanly vice, unmanly whining, unmanly vituperation ?

Wordsworth, to whom Scott forwarded the Champion of April 14, “outdid” the journalist in virtuous fury : “Let me say only one word of Lord B. The man is insane. The verses on his private affairs excite in me less indignation than pity. The latter copy is the Billingsgate of Bedlam. ... You yourself seem to labour under some delusion as to the merits of Lord B.'s poetry, and treat the wretched verses, the Fare Well, with far too much respect. They are disgusting in sentiment, and in execution contemptible. 'Though my many faults deface me,' etc. Can worse doggerel than such a stanza be written? One verse is commendable : 'All my madness none can know.” The criticism, as criticism, confutes itself, and is worth quoting solely because it displays the feeling of a sane and honourable man towards a member of the “opposition," who had tripped and fallen, and now lay within reach of his lash (see Life of William Wordsworth, 1889, ii. 267, etc.).

It was not only, as Macaulay put it, that Byron was "singled out as an expiatory sacrifice” by the British public in a periodical fit of morality, but, as the extent and the limitations of the attack reveal, occasion was taken by political adversaries to inflict punishment for an outrage on popular sentiment.

The Champion had been the first to give tongue, and the other journals, on the plea that the mischief was out, one after the other took up the cry. On Monday, April 15, the Sun printed Fare Thee Well, and on Tuesday, April 16, followed with A Sketch. On the same day the Morning Chronicle, protesting that “the poems were not written for the public eye, but as having been inserted in a Sunday paper,” printed both sets of verses ; the Morning Post, with an ugly hint that “the noble Lord gives us verses, when he dare not give us circumstances,” restricted itself to Fare Thee Well; while the Times, in a leading paragraph, feigned to regard "the two extraordinary copies of verses ... the whining stanzas of Fare Thee Well, and the low malignity and miserable doggerel of the companion Sketch," as "an injurious fabrication." On Thursday, the 18th, the Courier, though declining to insert A Sketch, deals temperately and sympathetically with the Fare Thee Well, and quotes the testimony of a "fair correspondent” (? Madame de Staël), that if "her husband had bade her such a farewell she could not have avoided running into his arms, and being reconciled immediately—Je n'aurois pu m'y tenir un instant';" and on the same day the Times, having learnt to its “extreme astonishment and regret,” that both poems were indeed Lord Byron's, maintained that the noble author had “ degraded literature, and abused the privileges of rank, by converting them into weapons of vengeance against an inferior and a female." On Friday, the 19th, the Star printed both poems, and the Morning Post inserted a criticism, which had already appeared in the Courier of the preceding day. On Saturday, the 20th, the Courier found itself compelled, in the interests of its readers, to print both poems. On Sunday, the 21st, the octave of the original issue, the Examiner devoted a long article to an apology for Byron, and a fierce rejoinder to the Champion; and on the same day the Independent

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