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The Life of Lord Byron,



noble the blood in his veins, to be destined for the Ir is now nearly fifteen years ago since, on a summer

humbler walks of life. (1) holiday's evening, I used to climb up to Harrow's old His mother, Miss Gordon, was a small heiress, the and venerable church-yard; amidst the humble monu- only daughter of a Mr. Gordon of Gight; and Captain ments of which I would seek one humbler than the Byron, his father, was a spendthrift gentleman, who rest, and amidst the mournful yews of which I would married, as some eloquent Scotch rhymer of the day seek the most mournful-(its trunk was withered, and was obliging enough to prognosticate, for the pursome of its boughs were broken down) - for on that pose of monument the pencil of Byron had traced lines reli

"Squandering the lands of Gight awa.” giously preserved—for under that yew-tree, if there be any truth in school-boy legend, Byron, albeit a stir- This indeed, to do him justice, he did so effectually riog-minded stripling, would oftentimes meditatingly as, in a very short time, to leave his lady with her court a yet-unwilling Muse.

liberty (a boon which he cheerfully restored), and Oh! how well do I, even now, remember the kind but 150l. a-year to enjoy it upon. On such an inof awful melancholy with which, in those twilight come Mrs. Byron, not able to indulge in many of reveries, I would mantle our Poet's youth! how de- the extravagances, was likely even to want some of votedly I looked upon, how fondly I lingered over, the necessaries, of what is called genteel existence: each little knoll and nook sacred to the romantic me- and to this poverty of his earlier years the passion mory of the bard, who, himself a mystery, was then which Lord Byron subsequently testified for fashion parsuing on far-distant shores that mysterious career, and five people is to be traced. which excited almost as much of the marvel as of the Poor Byron's first misfortune, and the one which admiration of his countrymen.

haunted him most bitterly during after-life, was that Little did I deern, at that time, that it would be twist of the foot at his birth, which occasioned a demy fate to share the intimacy of his nearest relatives formity, singularly enough the characteristic of four of and dearest friends-to hear of him from some whom the most remarkable persons of our time-Sir Walhe left, from others whom he never ceased to love; ter Scott, Marshal Soult, Monsieur de Talleyrand, to stand, amidst strange faces and warlike garbs, and the author of Childe Harold! on the very spot where a few weeks before he had Our deepest feelings are generally developed by breathed his last, as I once did—or to write his misfortunes; nor is any misfortune so likely to have life for a foreign people, in a foreign land, as I am a lasting influence upon the character as one the sense pow doing.

of which must always be recurring. To the slight Lord Byron was born in Holles Street, London, deformity he was born with, Lord Byron, even at the Jan. 22, 1788, and appeared at that time, however earliest age, seems to have been moodily sensible.

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(1) He received the name of George Byron Gordon, in consequence of a condition imposed by the will of his + maternal ancestor. The late Duke of Gordon was his god. father.

Oar poet's pedigree was doubly Norman; for the fiordons, though an old Scottisb family, are of French extraction ; and his father was sprung from those Byrons who came over with the Conqueror. In Doomsday Book the name of Rall de Burun ranks high among the tenants of land in Notting. hamshire; and in the succeeding reigns, under the title of rds of Horestan Castle, we find bis descendants holding considerable possessions in Derbyshire, to which afterwards,

in the time of Edward I., were added the lands of Rochdale
in Lancashire.

Lord Byron has boasted in his verses of his ancestors
having led their vassals from Europe to Palestine in the
Holy Wars. The circumstance which his Lordship imagined
a warrant for this glory was the existence of some figures
in the old panel work of the chambers at Newstead. But
these figures seem to establish no distinct proof of the By.
rons ever having fought in the Holy Land. It is certain,
however, that they distinguished themselves at the siege of
Calais under Edward III., and in their respective wars on
the fields of Cressy, Bosworth, and Marston Moor.

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“I have been told by a gentleman of Glasgow," wildness and grandeur of mountain scenery, which he says Mr. Moore, " that a person who used often to afterwards transported to the Alps, the Apennives, join the nurse of Byron, wben they were out with and the revered Parnassus :their respective charges, said one day to her, “What

“ He who first met the Highlands' swelling blue a pretty boy is Byron-what a pity he has such a leg !" Will love each peak that shows a kindred hue; On hearing this allusion to his infirmity, the child's Hail in each crag a friend's familiar face, eyes flashed with anger, and, striking at the woman

And clasp the mountain in his mind's enubrace." (3) with a little whip which be held in his hand, he ex- At this period too, and an early one it was, we claimed impatiently, “ Dinna speak of it!" (1) have to date the commencement of that passion, to

The taunts of a public school, and the unjust and which, as he said a short time before his death, the ungenerous sarcasms of a mother, who in her fits greater part of his life and writings were devoted. of passion would call the boy "the lame brat,”(2) More precocious than Dante, who was nine years old all fostered those sensations which were likely to when he fell in love with Beatrice, Byron says, that create a froward and reckless disposition, and inspire he was ulterly fond of a little girl, Mary Duff, when into any one, thus afflicted, the daring desire to ques- he was but eight, with whom he used to sit gravely tion the mercy and wisdom of a Providence which making love, while her sister Helen played with a doll. had, even at his entry into the world, branded him The death of the grandson of the old Lord Byron, in apparent indignation.

in 1794, had now made little Byron the next claimWhen not quite five years old, young Byron was ant to the title; and the old Lord's death happening sent to a day-school at Aberdeen. The terms of this at Newstead Abbey in 1798, Mrs. Byron and her son school were (as is usual in Scotland) five shillings a- set out from Aberdeen to the old family place, Mrs. quarter, and the scholar seems to have had the money's Byron's furniture being sold for 751. worth of education ; for, having staid about a year, Placed under the hands of a Nottingham quack, of he was just able to decipher his letters. He then the name of Lavender, the young Lord derived no went through the tutorage of a Mr. Ross and a benefit from his attentions. Subsequently, removed Mr. Pattison; the latter, as he says, being the son to London, he was put under the care of Dr. Baillie, of a shoemaker, but a good scholar, and a rigid and also placed at the same time in the school of Dr. Preshyterian : from these gentlemen's hands he was Glennie at Dulwich, where he appears to have been at last transmitted to the Grammar-School at Aber- more addicted to reading history and poetry, as well deen, where, to use his own words, he threaded all the as the Scriptures, than is usual with boys of his age. classes to the fourth, when he was recalled to England

At this time he was more amiable, in the common by the demise of his uncle.

acceptation of the word, than at any other period of At the Grammar-School at Aberdeen, as afterwards his life-a circumstance which may, perhaps, be at Harrow, Byron was more known for his daring ener- owing to the benefit which he was at last deriving gies, and his restless desire to excel in all manly sports

from medical assistance; his foot being now so re--a desire which accompanied him through life---than stored as to enable him to put on a common boot; an by those more sober and studious qualities, which, event which he announced with great pride and gratiin making the good boy, often mark the future inca- fication to his first nurse, whom he had left in Scotpacity of the active man, and led Dr. Johnson to the land, but to whom he seems to have recurred with all question of “What becomes of all the clever children?" the warmth which ever characterised his earlier imIndeed, so little promise did Byron at this time give pressions. of future literary eminence, that when, in conformity In 1801, he accompanied bis mother to Cheltenwith the custom of his school, the order of the class ham, and revived the Highland recollections of his was so inverted as to make the highest and lowest childhood by the sight of the Malvern Hills, which, boys change places, the master used to banter the fu- he says, he used to watch every afternoon at sunset, ture poet, who in this way alone attained the head of with a sensation he could not describe. his class, by saying, “Now, George, man, let me

Here, the affection which he bore through life to the see how soon you will be at the foot again!"

marvellous, and which he seems to have inherited very It was about this period that he first imbibed, in a naturally from his Scotch mother, was encouraged by visit to the Higblands in 1796, that passion for the a fortune-teller's prediction; this sybil telling Mrs.

(1) Mr. Moore gives frequent instances of this sensitiveness on this subject at different periods, and attributes the pique which his Lordship is now known, even during the best days of their friendship, to have entertained privately against Mr. Rogers, to a supposition that that gentleman had alInded to his lameness, when a link-boy, on their coming out of the theatre together, exclaimed, “ Lord Byron, shall i get

your lordship's carriage?"_“You see they know you! “Ay," said Byron; “I am easily distinguisbed!”

(2) Mr. Moore, alluding to this circumstance, connect it with a passage in the Deformed Transformed,

" Bertha, Out! Hunchback i

Arnold. I was born so, mother.(3) “From this time," he says of himself, "I date my love of mountainous cogntries."

byrou, who had come to cousult her as a maiden lady, more rhetorical and martial than poetical. My first that she was not only a married woman, but that she verses, that is, English, as exercises, were received was the mother of a son who was lame, who should be but coolly; no one had the least notion that I should in danger of poison before he was of age, and be twice subside into poesy. At Harrow, I fought my way married, the second time to a foreign lady-a pro- very fairly. I lost but one battle out of seven, and !

phecy which, in spite of the falsity of the poisoning the rascal did not win it, but by the unfair treatment part of it, seems to have had some influence in the of his own boarding-house where we boxed. I never durability of his attachment to Madame Guiccioli. forgave him, and I should be sorry to meet him now,

From Dr. Glennie's, Byron was removed to that as I am sure we should quarrel. My school friendschool where, though many years after him, I found ships were with me passions, for I was always all the recorded recollections of his boyhood. Byrou violent. P. Hunter, Curzon, Long, and Tattersall, at Harrow was a bustling bullying boy, at the bead of were my principal friends. Clare, Dorset, Charles | all rows against the master or the towns-people, and Gordon, de Bath, Claridge, and John Wingfield, rather a leader in the sports than distinguished in the were my juniors and favourites, whom I spoiled by studies of the place.

indulgence. Of all human beings I was perhaps the He read a great deal, but his reading was of a de- most attached to poor Wingfield, who died at Coimsaltory kind, and far from the course of school pursuits. bra, in 1811, before I returned to England.” “Peel But, though idle, there seems to have been that in his (the orator and statesman-that was, or is, or is to conduct and his exercises wbich attracted the attention be) was my form-fellow, and we were both at the of the head master, Dr. Drury, who informed the late top of our remove-a public school phrase. We Lord Carlisle that the young peer had ability which were on good terms, but his brother was my intiwould add lustre to his rank. The talent for which wate friend: there were always great hopes of Peel be principally attracted notice was one, which he amongst us all-masters and scholars—and he has seems at this time to have possessed, for declamation : not disappointed them. As a scholar he was greatly indeed, the common idea then was, that though Byron my superior; as a declaimer and actor I was reckoned would never bave done any thing else, he would most at least his equal; as a schoolboy, out of school, I certainly distinguish himself as a capital orator in was always in scrapes—and he never; and in school the House of Lords. And of his powers in this way he always knew his lesson, and I rarely--but when be gave a remarkable instance.

I knew it, I knew it nearly as well. In general in* The upper part of the school composed decla- formation, history, etc., I think I was his superior, mations," says Dr. Drury, " which, after a revisal by as well as of most boys of my standing." the tutors, were submitted to the master: to him the An interesting anecdote is told of these two lads, authors repeated them, that they might be improved redounding to Byron's credit for heroism and sensiin manner and action before their public delivery. Tbility. A boyish tyrant, some few years older, was certainly was much pleased with Lord Byron's atti- beating Peel-in a manner which I still remember, tude and gesture, as well as with his composition. under the technical phrase of " holding up." While All who spoke adhered as usual to the letter of their the stripes were succeeding each other, and poor composition, as, in the earlier part of the speech, did Peel not very well contented under them, Byron came Lord Byron; but to my surprise he suddenly diverged up to the scene of action, and with a blush of rage, from the written composition, with a boldness and tears in his eyes, and a voice trembling between terror rapidity sufficient to alarm me, lest he should fail in and indignation, asked very humbly if ** would memory as to the conclusion. There was no failure. be pleased to tell him how many stripes be meant to He came round to the close of his composition with- inflict? “Wby," returned the executioner, you out discovering any impediment and irregularity on little rascal, what is that to you?” “Because, if you the wbole. I questioned him why he had altered his please,” said Byron, bolding out his arm, “I will declamation. He declared he had made no alteration, take half.” and did not know, in speaking, that he had deviated Byron, in addition to his passion for Mary Duit, from it ope letter. I believed him; and, from a liad, at the age of twelve, been also, according to his knowledge of his temperament, am convinced that, owu account, enainoured with his young cousin, Miss fully impressed with the sense and the substance of i Parker, who, as he says, inspired his “ first dash into the subject, he was hurried on to expressions and poetry.” “I have long,” he continues, " forgotten colourings more striking than those which his peu the verses; but it would be difficult for me to forget bad expressed."

her dark eyes, her long eye-lashes, her completely Different extracts have been given from the Poet's Greek cast of face and figure. She died about a note-books, that are interesting in respect to this pe- year or two afterwards, in consequence of a fall, riod of his boyhood.

which injured her spine, and induced consump* My qualities,” Lord Byron says,

were much

tion." In 1803, he was doomed to another affec

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tion, more deeply seated than the two former ones, and, scarcely knowing whither he ran, never stopped and which really seems to bave left traces not whoily till he found himself at Newstead. obliterated by any of the passious which furrowed his Twelve months afterwards, on his bidding Miss subsequent career.

Chaworth adieu, with a heart not the less convulsed It is well known that the solitary and eccentric man- from the calm into wbich he had wrought his counner in which the old Lord Byron had passed the latter tenance,—“The next time I see you,” said he, “I part of his life was confounded with, and generally suppose you will be Mrs. Chaworth; "(1) and her believed to be caused by, the unfortunate and fatal answer was,—“I hope so." affray he had had with a neighbour, Mr. Chaworth, In the following year this marriage took place. for whose death, some unfairness having been sus- “Take out your handkerchief, Byron,” said his mother; pected in the duel, he was tried by the House of “I have some news for you—Miss Chaworth is marLords. This Mr. Chaworth had left a daughter and ried!” An expression very peculiar, but impossible to heiress, wlio resided with her family at Annesley, in describe, passed over the youth's pale face, and, hurrythe immediate neighbourhood of Newstead. The ing his handkerchief into his pocket, with that mixture young lady was about eighteen years old, Lord Byron of cold sarcasm which seemed naturally to have alterbeing sixteen, and combined, with much personal nated in his poesy and his passious, he said, “Is that beauty, a singularly fascinating manner and amiable all ? ” with an affected air of careless nonchalance, disposition.

and dropped the conversation. The fate of Mrs. Newstead Abbey being let, Mrs. Byron lived at Chaworth, afterwards Mrs. Musters (taking the name this time in lodgings at Nottingham, where Byron of her husband), is one so melancholy, and Byron's passed his Harrow vacations, and had frequent op- subsequent matrimonial connection proved so unforportunities of being acquainted with Mary Chaworth. tunate, that it is impossible not to linger with some He fell in love with her, and there was nothing this feelings of regret over this episode in the history of time, in his age, to render the romantic sentiment both-an episode which, if it had had a different conhe experienced extraordinary. Of this attachment he clusion, might perchance have given a new direction says, “Our union would have healed feuds in which to the stormy energies of Lord Byron's character, and blood had been shed by our fathers; it would have led him, satisfied with his domestic affections, to have joined lands broad and rich; it would have joined at expended those faculties in a political career at home, Jeast one heart and two persons, not ill-matched in which the disappointments of his youth, the unceryears, and-and--and-what has been the result!»

tainty of his fortunes, and the wandering habits created The deformity to which I have alluded, and of by a restless and unsatisfied ambition, so differently which every event of his life seems predestined to have disposed of. Oh! bad such been the case, at the very made him sensible, mingled itself deeply and bitterly moment at which I am speaking, instead of a tomb with this his first real and most reasonable affection. in Greece, our poet might have had a triumph preWith no fame at that time to atone for eccentricities, paring for him in that impending struggle, where in a and even give an interest to personal defects, poor school-fellow he would have found a competitor, while | Byron was made daily sensible that he wanted the names of Byron and Peel would have been livked many of those ways of pleasing which were likely by other than boyish chronicles together. to win the object of his love. He could not dance, Here ends Lord Byron's boyhood, marked by his and she danced. He was obliged to sit solitary and own acknowledgment, that it was one of the deadliest, sullen, when some stranger pressed that hand and heaviest feelings of his life to know that it was over. guided those steps which his eyes and his hopes too College he seems to have disliked, and to have fondly followed. Even the last mortification of which been principally known always thereat for keeping his lameness rendered him susceptible was not spared a bear, whose manners he was in a certain degree him, and he heard his dear and his doted-on Mary | supposed to study, and for a skill in swimming, Anne say, with womanish and coquettish contempt, which was one of his most favourite boasts.(2) "Do you think I could care any thing for that lame In the summer vacation of 1806, he joined his boy?” This speech, as he himself described it, was mother at Southwell, and his disposition does not like a shot through his heart. Though late at night, , appear to have profited by that lady's society; in his when he heard it, he instantly darted out of the house, disputes with whom, the chief argument seems to have

(1) Miss Chaworth continued her own name for some years after ber marriage.

(2) A dialogue which took place between Lord Byron and Dr. Polidori, during their journey on the Rhine, is amusingly characteristic of both the persons concerued. “ After all, said the physician," what is there you can do that I cannot ?" " Why, since you force me to say," answered the other, hry

think there are three things I can do which you cannot." Polidori defied him to name them, "I can," said Lord Byron, "swim across that river; I can snuff out that candle with a pistol-shot at the distance of twenty paces; and i have written a poem of which fourteen thousand copies were sold in one day!"

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