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willingly, and with constant self-reproach and of the noble writer's theory may indeed often be shame. All his tastes and inclinations led him traced in his practice. But his disposition led to take part with the school of poetry which was him to accommodate himself to the literary taste going out against the school which was coming of the age in which he lived; and his talents in. Of Pope himself he spoke with extravagant would have enabled him to accommodate himself admiration. He did not venture directly to say to the taste of any age. Though he said much that the little man of Twickenham was a greater of his contempt for men, and though he boasted poet than Shakespeare or Milton; but he hinted that amidst the inconstancy of fortune and of pretty clearly that he thought so. Of his con- || fame he was all-sufficient to himself, his literary temporaries, scarcely any had so much of his career indicated nothing of that lonely and an. admiration as Mr Gifford, who, considered as a social pride which he affected. We cannot conpoet, was merely Pope, without Pope's wit and ceive him, like Milton or Wordsworth, defying fancy, and whose satires are decidedly inferior the criticism of his contemporaries, retorting in vigour and poignancy to the very imperfect their scorn, and labouring on a poem in the full juvenile performance of Lord Byron himself. assurance that it would be unpopular, and in the He now and then praised Mr Wordsworth and full assurance that it would be immortal. He Mr Coleridge, but ungraciously and without has said, by the mouth of one of his heroes, in cordiality. When he attacked them, he brought speaking of political greatness, that “he must his whole soul to the work. Of the most ela- | serve who fain would sway;" and this he assigns borate of Mr Wordsworth's poems he could find as a reason for not entering into political life. nothing to say, but that it was “ clumsy, and He did not consider that the sway which he frowsy, and his aversion.” “Peter Bell" excited had exercised in literature had been purchased his spleen to such a degree that he apostrophised by servitude-by the sacrifice of his own taste to the shades of Pope and Dryden, and demanded the taste of the public. of them whether it were possible that such trash He was the creature of his age; and whenever could evade contempt? In his heart he thought he had lived he would have been the creature of his own Pilgrimage of Harold" inferior to his his age. Under Charles I. he would have been “ Imitation of Horace's Art of Poetry," a feeble more quaint than Donne. Under Charles II. the echo of Pope and Johnson. This insipid per- rants of his rhyming plays would have pitted it, formance he repeatedly designed to publish, and boxed it, and galleried it, with those of any was withheld only by the solicitations of his Bayes or Bilboa. Under George I. the monotonfriends. He has distinctly declared his appro. ous smoothness of his versification and the tersebation of the unities, the most absurd laws byness of his expression would have made Pope which genius was ever held in servitude. In himself envious. one of his works, we think in his letter to Mr As it was, he was the man of the last thirteen Bowles, he compares the poetry of the eighteenth | years of the eighteenth century, and of the first century to the Parthenon, and that of the nine- twenty-three years of the nineteenth century. teenth to a Turkish mosque, and boasts that, | He belonged half to the old, and he
He belonged half to the old, and half to the new though he had assisted his contemporaries in school of poetry. His personal taste led him to building their grotesque and barbarous edifice, the former; his thirst of praise to the latter; he had never joined them in defacing the remains his talents were equally suited to both. His of a chaster and more graceful architecture. In fame was a common ground on which the zealots another letter he compares the change which on both sides—Gifford, for example, and Shelley had recently passed on English poetry to the -might meet. He was the representative, not decay of Latin poetry after the Augustan age. of either literary party, but of both at once, and In the time of Pope, he tells his friend, it was of their conflict, and of the victory by which all Horace with us. It is all Claudian now. that conflict was terminated. His poetry fills
For the great old masters of the art he had no and measures the whole of the vast interval very enthusiastic veneration. In his letter to through which our literature has moved since Mr Bowles he uses expressions which clearly the time of Johnson. It touches the “ Essay on indicate that he preferred Pope's Niad to the Man" at the one extremity, and the "Excur. original. Mr Moore confesses that his friend was sion" at the other. no very fervent admirer of Shakespeare, Of all There are several parallel instances in literary the poets of the first class, Lord Byron seems to history. Voltaire, for example, was the connecthave admired Dante and Milton most. Yet in ing link between the France of Louis XIV, and the fourth canto of “Childe Harold” he places the France of Louis XVI.- between Racine and Tasso—a writer not merely inferior to them, but Boileau on the one side, and Condorcet and of quite a different order of mind-on at least a Beaumarchais on the other. He, like Lord footing of equality with them. Mr Hunt is, we Byron, put himself at the head of an intellecsuspect, quite correct in saying that Lord Byron tual revolution-dreading it all the time-mur. could see little or no merit in Spenser.
muring at it-sneering at it-yet choosing rather But Lord Byron the critic and Lord Byron the to move before his age in any direction than to poet were two very different men. The effects be left behind and forgotten. Dryden was the connecting link between the literature of the age Sardanapalus is more coarsely drawn than any of James I. and the literature of the age of Anne. | dramatic personage that we can remember. His Oromasdes and Arimanes fought for him. Ari. heroism and his effeminacy-his contempt of manes carried him off. But his heart was to the death and his dread of a weighty helmet-his last with Oromasdes. Lord Byron was, in the kingly resolution to be seen in the foremost same manner, the mediator between two gene- ranks, and the anxiety with which he calls for a rations — between two hostile poetical sects. looking-glass that he may be seen to advantage, Though always sneering at Mr Wordsworth, he are contrasted, it is true, with all the point of was yet, though perhaps unconsciously, the in- | Juvenal. Indeed, the hint of the character terpreter between Mr Wordsworth and the mul seems to have been taken from what Juvena titude. In the “Lyrical Ballads" and the “Ex says of Otho: cursion,” Mr Wordsworth appeared as the high priest of a worship of which nature was the idol.
“Speculum civilis saroina belli.
Nimirum summi ducis est occidere Galbam, No poems have ever indicated a more exquisite
Et curare cutem summi constantia civis, perception of the beauty of the outer world, or
Bedriaci in campo spolium affectare Palati, a more passionate love and reverence for that Et pressum in faciem digitis extendere panem." beauty. Yet they were not popular; and it is not likely that they ever will be popular as the
These are excellent lines in a satire. But it is poetry of Sir Walter Scott is popular. The feel. | not the business of the dramatist to exhibit ing which pervaded them was too deep for gene.
characters in this sharp, antithetical way. It is ral sympathy. Their style was often too mys- | not thus that Shakespeare makes Prince Hal terious for general comprehension. They made | rise from the rake of Eastcheap into the hero of a few esoteric disciples and many scoffers. Lord Shrewsbury and sink again into the rake of Byron founded what may be termed an exoteric | Eastcheap. It is not thus that Shakespeare has Lake school of poetry, and all the readers of exhibited the union of effeminacy and valour in poetry in England, we might say in Europe, | Antony. A dramatist cannot commit a greater hastened to sit at his feet. What Mr Words- | error than that of following those pointed deworth had said like a recluse, Lord Byron said
scriptions of character in which satirists and his. like a man of the world, with less profound feel. torians indulge so much. It is by rejecting ing, but with more perspicuity, energy, and
what is natural that satirists and historians pro. conciseness. We would refer our readers to the
duce these striking characters. Their great ob. last two cantos of “ Childe Harold” and to ject generally is to ascribe to every man as many “Manfred” in proof of these observations.
contradictory qualities as possible, and this is Lord Byron, like Mr Wordsworth, had nothing
an object easily attained. By judicious selection dramatic in his genius. He was indeed the re
and judicious exaggeration, the intellect and the verse of a great dramatist, the very antithesis to disposition of any human being might be dea great dramatist. All his characters—Harold scribed as being made up of nothing but start. looking back on the western sky, from which his ling contrasts. If the dramatist attempts to country and the sun are disappearing together
create a being answering to one of these descripthe Giaour, standing apart in the gloom of the
tions, he fails, because he reverses an imperfect side aisle, and casting a haggard scowl from analytical process. He produces not a man but under his long hood at the crucifix and the cen
a personified epigram. Very eminent writers ser-Conrad leaning on his sword by the watch: have fallen into this snare. Ben Jonson has tower-Lara smiling on the dancers-Alp gazing given us a Hermogenes, taken from the lively steadily on the fatal cloud as it passes before the lines of Horace; but the inconsistency which is moon-- Manfred wandering among the precipices | so amusing in the satire appears unnatural and of Berne-Azzo on the judginent-seat-Ugo at disgusts us in the play. Sir Walter Scott has the bar-Lambro frowning on the siesta of his committed a far more glaring error of the same daughter and Juan-Cain presenting his unac kind in the novel of “ Peveril.” Admiring, as ceptable offering—are essentially the same. The every judicious reader must admire, the keen varieties are varieties merely of age, situation,
| and vigorous lines in which Dryden satirised the and outward show. If ever Lord Byron at. Duke of Buckingham, he attempted to make a tempted to exhibit men of a different kind, he Duke of Buckingham to suit them—a real living always made them either insipid or unnatural. Zimri; and he made, not a man, but the most Selim is nothing. Bonnivart is nothing. Don grotesque of all monsters. A writer who should Juan, in the first and best cantos, is a feeble attempt to introduce into a play or a novel such copy of the page in the marriage of Figaro. a Wharton as the Wharton of Pope, or a Lord Johnson, the man whom Juan meets in the Hervey answering to Sporus, would fail in the slave-market, is a most striking failure. How same manner. differently would Sir Walter Scott have drawn But to return to Lord Byron. His women, a bluff, fearless Englishman in such a situation ! | like his men, are all of one breed. Haidee is & The portrait would have seemed to walk out of half-savage and girlish Julia ; Julia is a civilised the canvas.
and matronly Haidee. Leila is a wedded Zuleika, Zuleika a virgin Leila. Gulnare and Medora Extracts,” or to hear any single passage, "To appeer to have been intentionally opposed to be or not to be," for example, quoted as a sample each other. Yet the difference is a difference of of the great poet. “To be or not to be" has situation only. A slight change of circum- / merit undoubtedly as a composition. It would stances would, it should seem, have sent Gulnare have merit if put into the mouth of a chorus. to the lute of Medora, and armed Medora with But its merit as a composition vanishes when the dagger of Gulnare.
compared with its merit as belonging to HamIt is hardly too much to say that Lord Byron let. It is not too much to say that the great could exhibit only one man and only one woman plays of Shakespeare would lose less by being a man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his deprived of all the passages which are cominonly brow and misery in his heart, a scorner of his called the fine passages than those passages lose kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep by being read separately from the play. This and strong affection-a woman all softness and is, perhaps, the highest praise which can be gentleness, loving to caress and to be caressed, given to a dramatist. but capable of being transformed by love into a On the other hand, it may be doubted whether tigress.
there is, in all Lord Byron's plays, a single re Even these two characters, his only two char- | markable passage which owes any portion of its acters, he could not exhibit dramatically. He interest or effect to its connection with the char. exhibited them in the manner, not of Shake acters or the action. He has written only one speare, but of Clarendon. He analysed them, he scene, as far as we can recollect, which is drama. made them analyse themselves, but he did not tic even in manner-the scene between Lucifer make them show themselves. He tells us, for and Cain. The conference in that scene is example, in many lines of great force and spirit, animated, and each of the interlocutors has a that the speech of Lara was bitterly sarcastic fair share of it. But this scene, when examined, that he talked little of his travels that if he will be found to be a confirmation of our rewas much questioned about them, his answers marks. It is a dialogue only in form. It is a became short and his brow gloomy. But we soliloquy in essence. It is in reality a debate have none of Lara's sarcastic speeches or short carried on within one single unquiet and scepti. answers. It is not thus that the great masters cal mind. The questions and the answers, the of human nature have portrayed human beings. objections and the solutions, all · belong to the Homer never tells us that Nestor loved to relate same character. long stories about his youth. Shakespeare never A writer who showed so little dramatic skill tells us that in the mind of Iago everything that in works professedly dramatic was not likely to is beautiful and endearing was associated with write narrative with dramatic effect. Nothing some filthy and debasing idea.
could indeed be more rude and careless than It is curious to observe the tendency which the structure of his narrative poems. He seems the dialogue of Lord Byron always has to lose to have thought, with the hero of the “Reits character of a dialogue, and to become hearsal,” that the plot was good for nothing but soliloquy. The scenes between Manfred and to bring in fine things. His two longest works, the Chamois-hunter-between Manfred and the “ Childe Harold” and “Don Juan," have no Witch of the Alps-between Manfred and the plan whatever. Either of them might have been Abbot, are instances of this tendency. Manfred, extended to any length, or cut short at any after a few unimportant speeches, has all the point. The state in which the “Giaour" apo talk to himself. The other interlocutors are no. | pears illustrates the manner in which all his thing more than good listeners. They drop an | poems were constructed. They are all, like the occasional question of ejaculation which sets “Giaour," collections of fragments; and, though Manfred off again on the inexhaustible topic of there may be no empty spaces marked by aster. his personal feelings. If we examine the fine isks, it is still easy to perceive, by the clumsipassages in Lord Byron's dramas--the descrip ness of the joining, where the parts for the sake tion of Rome, for example, in “Manfred"—the of which the whole was composed end and begin. description of a Venetian revel in “Marino Fal. It was in description and meditation that he iero"—the invective which the old doge pro excelled. “Description," as he said in “Don nounces against Venice, we shall find that there | Juan,” “was his forte." His manner is indeed is nothing dramatic in them, that they derive peculiar, and is almost unequalled; rapid, none of their effect from the character or situa-sketchy, full of vigour; the selection happy; tion of the speaker, and that they would have the strokes few and bold. In spite of the reverbeen as fine, or finer, if they had been published ence which we feel for the genius of Mr Wordsas fragments of blank verse by Lord Byron. worth, we cannot but think that the minuteness There is scarcely a speech in Shakespeare of of his descriptions often diminishes their effect. which the same could be said. No skilful He has accustomed himself to gaze on nature reader of the plays of Shakespeare can endure with the eye of a lover, to dwell on every festo see what are called the fine things taken out, ture, and to mark every change of aspect. Those under the name of “ Beauties," or of “Elegant | beauties which strike the most negligent obser. ver, and those which only a close attention dis- was gone and could not be restored, but whose covers, are equally familiar to him and are invincible spirit dared the worst that could beequally prominent in his poetry. The proverb fall him here or hereafter. of old Hesiod, that half is often more than the How much of this morbid feeling sprang from whole, is eminently applicable to description. an original disease of the mind - how much The policy of the Dutch, who cut down most of from real misfortune-how much from the nerthe precious trees in the Spice Islands, in order vousness of dissipation-how much was fanci. to raise the value of what remained, was a policy ful-how much of it was merely affected-it which poets would do well to imitate. It was a is impossible for us, and would probably have policy which no poet understood better than been impossible for the most intimate friends of Lord Byron. Whatever his faults might be, he Lord Byron, to decide. Whether there ever was never, while his mind retained its vigour, existed, or can ever exist, a person answering accused of prolixity.
to the description which he gave of himself, His descriptions, great as was their intrinsic may be doubted: but that he was not such a merit, derived their principal interest from the person is beyond all doubt. It is ridiculous to feeling which always mingled with them. He imagine that a man whose mind was really im. was himself the beginning, the middle, and the bued with scorn of his fellow-creatures would end of all his own poetry-the hero of every tale have published three or four books every year --the chief object in every landscape. Harold, in order to tell them so; or that a man who Lara, Manfred, and a crowd of other characters, could say with truth that he neither sought were universally considered merely as loose in- sympathy nor needed it would have admitted cognitos of Byron; and there is every reason to all Europe to hear his farewell to his wife, and believe that he meant them to be so considered. his blessings on his child. In the second canto The wonders of the outer world—the Tagus, of “Childe Harold,” he tells us that he is in. with the mighty fleets of England riding on its sensible to fame and obloquy: bosom-the towers of Cintra overhanging the
“Ill may such contest now the spirit move, shaggy forests of cork-trees and willows-the
Which heeds nor keen reproof nor partial praise." glaring marble of Pentelicus-the banks of the Rhine-the glaciers of Clarens—the sweet lake Yet we know on the best evidence that, a day of Leman-the dell of Egeria, with its summer or two before he published these lines, he wag birds and rustling lizards--the shapeless ruins greatly, indeed childishly, elated by the comof Rome overgrown with ivy and wall-flowers-- | pliments paid to his maiden speech in the House the stars, the sea, the mountains-all were mere of Lords. accessories—the background to one dark and We are far, however, from thinking that his melancholy figure.
sadness was altogether feigned. He was natu. Never had any writer so vast a command of rally a man of great sensibility; he had been the whole eloquence of scorn, misanthropy, and ill-educated; his feelings had been early exposed despair. The Marah was never dry. No art to sharp trials; he had been crossed in his boycould sweeten, no draughts could exþaust, its | ish love; he had been mortified by the failure perennial waters of bitterness. Never was there of his first literary efforts; he was straitened in such variety in monotony as that of Byron. | pecuniary circumstances; he was unfortunate in From maniac laughter to piercing lamentation, his domestic relations; the public treated him there was not a single note of human anguish of with cruel injustice; his health and spirits which he was not master. Year after year, and suffered from his dissipated habits of life; he month after month, he continued to repeat that was, on the whole, an unhappy man. He early to be wretched is the destiny of all; that to be discovered that, by parading his unhappiness eminently wretched is the destiny of the emin- / before the multitude, he excited an unrivalled ent; that all the desires by which we are cursed interest. The world gave him every encouragelead alike to misery--if they are not gratified, to ment to talk about his mental sufferings. The the misery of disappointment; if they are grati-effect which his first confessions produced infied, to the misery of satiety His principal duced him to affect much that he did not feel; heroes are men who have arrived by different and the affectation probably reacted on his feel. roads at the same goal of despair, who are sick | ings. How far the character in which he exof life, who are at war with society, who are hibited himself was genuine, and how far supported in their anguish only by an uncon- theatrical, it would probably have puzzled himquerable pride resembling that of Prometheus self to say. on the rock, or of Satan in the burning marl ; | There can be no doubt that this remarkable who can master their agonies by the force of man owed the vast influence which he exercised their will, and who, to the last, defy the whole over his contemporaries at least as much to his power of earth and heaven. He always describ- gloomy egotism as to the real power of his ed himself as a man of the same kind with his poetry. We never could very clearly understand favourite creations, as a man whose heart had how it is that egotism, so unpopular in converbeen withered, whose capacity for happiness sation, should be so popular in writing ; or how
ton of Lor
it is that men who affect in their compositions were, to hate your neighbour, and to love your qualities and feelings which they have not, im- neighbour's wife. pose so much more easily on their contempor. The affectation has passed away; and a few aries than on posterity. The interest which the more years will destroy whatever yet remains of loves of Petrarch excited in his own time, and that magical potency which once belonged to the pitying fondness with which half Europe the name of Byron. To us he is still a man, looked upon Rousseau, are well known. To young, noble, and unhappy. To our children readers of our age, the love of Petrarch seems to he will be merely a writer; and their impartial have been love of that kind which breaks no judgment will appoint his place among writers, hearts, and the sufierings of Rousseau to have without regard to his rank or to his private deserved laughter rather than pity-to have been history. That his poetry will undergo a severe partly counterfeited, and partly the conse- sifting, that much of what has been admired by quences of his own perverseness and vanity. his contemporaries will be rejected as worthless,
What our grandchildren may think of the we have little doubt. But we have as little charact
doubt tha ter the closest
ere will poetry, we will not pretend to guess. It is still remain much that can only perish with the certain that the interest which he excited during | English language. his life is without a parallel in literary history. The feeling with which young readers of poetry regarded him can be conceived only by those
SAMUEL JOHNSON.* who have experienced it. To people who are The life of Johnson is assuredly a greatunacquainted with real calamity, “nothing is very great work. Homer is not more decidedly so dainty sweet as lovely melancholy." This the first of heroic poets, Shakespeare is not more faint image of sorrow has in all ages been con- decidedly the first of dramatists, Demosthenes sidered by young gentlemen as an agreeable is not more decidedly the first of orators, than excitement. old gentlemen and middle-aged Boswell is the first of biographers. He has no gentlemen have so many real causes of sadness second. He has distanced all his competitors so that they are rarely inclined “to be as sad as decidedly that it is not worth while to place night only for wantonness.” Indeed, they want them. Eclipse is first, and the rest nowhere. the power almost as much as the inclination. 1 We are not sure that there is in the whole We know very few persons engaged in active history of the human intellect so strange a life who, even if they were to procure stools to phenomenon as this book. Many of the greatest be melancholy upon, and were to sit down with men that ever lived have written biography. all the premeditation of Master Stephen, would Boswell was one of the smallest men that ever be able to enjoy much of what somebody calls | lived, and he has beaten them all. He was, if the “ecstasy of woe.”
we are to give any credit to his own account or Among that large class of young persons whose to the united testimony of all who knew him, reading is almost entirely confined to works of a man of the meanest and feeblest intellect. imagination the popularity of Lord Byron was Johnson described him as a fellow who had unbounded. They bought pictures of him; missed his only chance of immortality by not they treasured up the smallest relics of him ; having been alive when the Dunciad was written. they learned his poems by heart, and did their Beauclerk used his name as a proverbial expresbest to write like him, and to look like him. sion for a bore. He was the laughing-stock of Many of them practised at the glass in the hope the whole of that brilliant society which has of catching the curl of the upper lip, and the owed to him the greater part of its fame. He scowl of the brow, which appear in some of his was always laying himself at the feet of some portraits. A few discarded their neckcloths in eminent man, and begging to be spit upon and imitation of their great leader. For some years trampled upon. He was always earning some the Minerva press sent forth no novel without a ridiculous nickname, and then “ binding it as a mysterious, unhappy, Lara-like peer. The crown unto him"- not merely in metaphor, but number of hopeful undergraduates and medical literally. He exhibited himself, at the Shake. students who became things of dark imaginings, speare Jubilee, to all the crowd which filled on whom the fresliness of the heart ceased to Stratford-on-Avon, with a placard round his hat fall like dew, whose passions had consumed bearing the inscription of Corsica Boswell. In themselves to dust, and to whom the relief of his “ Tour," he proclaimed to all the world that tears was denied, passes all calculation. This was not the worst. There was created in the minds of many of these enthusiasts a pernicious * The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. Including and absurd association between intellectual
a Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, by James Bospower and moral depravity. From the poetry
well, Esq. A new Edition, with numerous Additions of Lord Byron they drew a system of ethics, | 5 vols. 8vo. London, 1831.
and Notes. By John Wilson Croker, LL.D., F.R.S. compounded of misanthropy and voluptuousness, The introductory portion of this essay dealing 1 system in which the two great commandments critically with Croker's work, has been omitted.