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Finding no good result from this, he was taken to London, for the advice of Dr. Baillie ; but all proved in vain.
His education, which had amounted to nothing at Aberdeen, now became a serious subject, and he was placed under Dr. Glennie, of Dulwich ; but all the worthy doctor's efforts were rendered abortive by the misconduct of his mother; no regularity in his attendance, no persistency in his studies required, he found, if he made an object of the boy's continuance with him, that he should be the slave of both son and mother. There are some little pleasing anecdotes of this period related by the doctor, but I really can only consign them to the apochryphal chapter before mentioned. Here, however, his guardian, Lord Carlisle, interfered, and he was sent to Harrow.
Some account for his character in one way, some in another : one says it was created by becoming a lord at so early an age; another, more weakly, attributes it to a disappointed passion—but, it is my opinion, it was stamped by his being sent to Harrow. Had he been placed with one of the many worthy and learned men who, with a limited number of pupils, undertake the education of the morals and the heart, as well as of the intellect, at a distance from London, and out of the reach of his mother's influence, he might have become a good, useful member of society, as well as an ornament to it. He was plunged into the vortex of a great public school, without a single home affection to counteract the pernicious effects of associating with boys becoming men, proud of their initiatory steps in vice, and of their sphere in life, which rendered them, in their young opinions, above control. It is true his mind was cultivated, and his genius here imped its wings, but it was at the expense of his moral character. Nothing can be worse than educating boys in large masses, where there is great disparity in ages; and where the youngest, on entering, become the slaves of the elders, and the spectators and auditors of all they do and say. The fag treasures all the lessons burnt into his memory, to practise them when his turn comes. At Harrow, however, he was better off than he would have been at Westminster; there was a gentle. manly tone preserved in his errors. He was not only under an able master, but he was contemporary with several boys who havo turned out eminent men. He made up for lost time by rapid improvement, but, like all great poets, he was rather a desultory reader than an ardent votary of any particular branch of knowledge. The quantity he read, after he had acquired a love of reading, is astonishing, particularly when we see how, according to his own account, he passed his school leisure, “in rowing, rebelling, breaking bounds, and mischief of every kind.” Ona
and not without cause ; whilst Lord Carlisle, his only relative who might, from his own position, have interfered with any chance of snccess, did not seem to think him worth notice. He was a peer, though not rich ; when he came of age he would be possessed of estates; and such a young man can generally find usurers bold and calculating enough to furnish him for a time with the mieans of indulgence. From the time he went to Cambridge, he plunged recklessly into dissipations, which gave a tone and colour to all ho afterwards wrote. He had, uufortunately, no home; I say so, although convinced he would never have been a domesticated man; but if he had had any one he loved to direct his energies in a right course, his genius might have been a far greater public blessing than it has proved. But this person must have been some one he held in awe, whom he respected more than he loved; the equal passion of husband and wife would never have effected good. His passions always took their birth from impulses, consequently they were sensual and evanescent. We frequently indulge in historical calculations of what would have happened if such and such things had not taken place—what might Byron have proved if his father had been a Chatham to give an impetus to his genius?
The nature of his early readings, he says, however, made him a poet, and his position gave a colouring to his writings. Before he left Cambridge, he had composed many pieces of various merits. some little more than school-boy rhymes, others denoting the “aro that burned within him," and he became ambitious to see himsell in print; but, at the solicitations of a friend, submitted to the cruel sacrifice of burning his darling offspring, after they were in type. In his twentieth year, he, however, published the collection entitled “ Hours of Idleness," began an epic poem, called “Bosworth Field,” and wrote part of a novel : and this amidst dissipation of the wildest and least refined nature. With scanty means, and uncountenanced by any leaders of rank and fashion, he did not now enjoy the entrée into families of distinction, which his fame after. wards procured him; so that his preasures were of a gross, unsocial nature. But this was part of his poetical education; his wildest excesses furnished materials for his great poems, both as to facts and reflections: “Almost all Don Juan," he said, “is real life, either my own or other people's.”
Had Byron not been a lord, his juvenile poetical effusions would, most likely, have been allowed to glide unnoticed down the stream of ol.livion; but the intrusion of a peer into the republic of letters, was as bold as that of a parvenu savant into the society of peers, and a great Northern critic undertook to whip the rhyming fancy out of the noble young poet. This is not the only mistake of the kind critics have made-Keats they are said to have killed in
the whipping; but they only roused the patrician blood of Byrou; instead of finding an humble victim, they canght a Tartar, When anything offended him, he was a prey to rage of the most appalling nature, but, contrary to the generality of passionate people, his anger was deep-rooted, and sought vent in action. Soon after the appearance of the critique in the Edinburgh Reriero, he took up bis residence at Newstead, and set about the coinposition of “ English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.” One of the most surprising peculiarities of his poetical writings, is that they were produced whilst he was in a state of excitement of the strongest kind, and of a nature apparently opposed to composition. Ilis mode of life at Newstead has, no doubt, been exaggerated, as was almost all he ever did. He entertained an idea that a Byron must be eccentric, and his orgies were marked by peculiarity as much as by excess. The crew of which he was the Comus, were clothed as monks ; they quaffed their wine from a cup made of a skull, and in their conversation, morals, and habits, they took an unboundedly free and unusual latitude. This society, notwithstanding the talents of several of its members, always appeared to me to be a poor copy of the same sort of party over which Jack Wilkes had presided half a century before. The worst result of this was, that it hardened his nature prematurely ; he made the most of his obliquities, and boasted of his profligacy.
On the 22nd of January, 1809, he came of age ; on the 13th of March he took his seat in the House of Lords, and on the 16th of the same month published his celebrated reply to the Edinburgh Review, in “ English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.” This reply Touchstone would, no doubt, have characterized as “a countercheck quarrelsome :" it angered great part of the literary world ; but it, at the same, proved the ability of the young poet, and that he was too good a master of the fence of satire to be again attacked with impunity. His com of age was celebrated at Newstead Abbey in the old English baronial fashion ; a roasted ox, floods of ale, &c., being bestowed upon the tenantry, and offered to all comers. His appearance in the House of Lords, though aa affair of consequence to him, excited but little attention in that angust assembly; they did not dream of the genius that was come among them, and his connection was so limited that his unfriended position affected him deeply. Even his relation, Lord Carlisle, offered him no countenance, and the Chanceilor was so dilatory and indifferent in preparing the necessary papers, that when he apologized for the delay, Byron could not restrain the cynical reply that rose spontaneously to his lips :—“ Your Lord. ship," said he, “is like Tom Thumb you have done your duty, but you have done no more."
With strong and never regulated passions, great pride of birth, a full sense of his abilities, and little but debts and destitution before him, he was so depressed in spirits that a profound cynicism took possession of his mind, and from that hour was the prevailing feature of his character. Mr. Moore, in his Memoirs, talks a great deal of what I think nonsense about a disappointed heart and waste affections ; Lord Byron was not the man to be crushed by such poetical feelings. He was, perhaps, as vain a man as ever lived, he was extravagantly sensitive, deeply alive to negleet, and looking for too much admiration before he had earned it. Witn the pride of a poet, Moore says, “ Luckily he became a poet and pot a legislator.” Had his poetry proved such as to have been a blossing to his fellow-men, instead of only dazzling and astonishing them, I should have agreed with him ; as it is, I cannot but think one good law would weigh very heavily in the balance against it. A man who is a born British peer is born to honourable duties, and the chance, possessor of that elevated rank, has no right to boast of it when he neglects them, He could not say with his favourite Pope :
“ I left no calling for this idle trade,
No duty broke."
With his vast talents, and the position he was placed in, he should have shaken off his annoyances and difficulties “ like dewdrops from the lion's mane,” and have become a great, good man, as well as a splendid genius. It cannot be denied that many circumstances conspired to give the bias to his genius, and the tone to his character; the poetical mind is too apt to let the idiosnycrasy of the man associate itself with the flights of imagination, which is sure to engender vanity, egotism, disappointment, and cynicism. The poet fancies his mission so exalted, that all the world should pay it homage, whereas nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand of his fellow-men care not a straw for him or his verse. While struggling with the difficulties created by high rank, pride of birth, ungovernable passions, and a slender income, the severe criticism of the Edinburgh Reviero seems to have decided his fate : he answered that review, his answer proved his ability and was very much admired ; he had found he possessed a weapon which could wound the world which be falsely thought his enemy, and from that hour to the day of his death, he became a cynic and a satirist; the joyous spirit which had given zest to his debaucheries was changed to gibing mockery, and everybody and everyo thing was viewed through the distorted medium of selfishness, embittered by poverty and cynicism, rendered almost superhumanly keen br extraordinary genius.
Such was the tone of mind in which Lord Byron left Engiand 16 the summer of the year he came of age, to travel, more with the hope of getting ride of home, that is of his country, than with the view of acquiring knowledge. But such a penetrating, observant mind could not avoid accumulating additions to his stores at every ster, and few great writers have enjoyed such extraordinary opportunities. No poetry of a high rank was ever so completely founded upon facts as Byron's; it is true his brilliant fancy threw those facts out in new and striking lights, or covered them with beautiful ornaments, but all were drawn from himself, his friends, the scenes he had actually beheld, or the books he had read. This gives a solidity, if I may be allowed the word, to all he wrote, because it makos it all intelligible. Nothing could be more different than his genius and that of Shelley, in this respect. Shelley was possessed of an inventive, unbounded fancy; if there is a reality in his poetry, it lies too deep for common observers, and whilst idolized by a few, he will never be generally understood or appreciated as he perhaps deserves.
Consistently with this self-painting, the poem with which his mind must have been busy during his first travels, is entirely selfreflective, that is to say, his own actual adventures, wanderings and thoughts. And what an astonishing grasp of faculties does “ Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" display! “To a Poet,” says Johnson, in Rasselas, “nothing can be useless. Whatever is beautiful and whatever is dreadful must be familiar to his imagination : he must be conversant with all that is awfully vast or elegantly little." After this direction is “Childe Harold” written, but with a much wider scope ; the vices, the follies, the fallacies, the eccentricities of mankind are rendered subject to the muse as well as the poetical elements, and all tinged by the cynical spirit of the writer, like the soupçon of vinegar which gave piquancy to many of Soyer's favourite dishes.
If confined to the Old World, Byron's travels were as judiciously directed as possible. In his first wanderings he seems to have been in search of the beautiful and the classic, which was natural for a young man educated, as it is the fashion at our high schools and colleges, upon the writings left us by Greece and Rome. His first place of halt was Lisbon, whose beautiful bay must have been strongly provocative of a love of travel, whilst the degradation of the inhabitants of the country furnished ample matter for the indulgence of his cynical mood. From Lisbon he went to Seville and Cadia, still observing all, and never forgetting to throw woman, tho principal object of his thoughts through life, into the foregrou of overy picture he took. He then visited Malta, Prevessa, Salaro, Arta, Joannini, Zeltza, and Tepaleen, where he was introduced to