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sweetness, genial indulgences, and practical wisdom. In the succeeding age our poets were but too gay; and though we forbear to speak of living authors, we know enough of them to say with confidence, that to be miserable or to be hated is not now, any more than heretofore, the common lot of those who excel.
Byron and his Poetry. NEVER had any writer so vast a command of the whole eloquence of scorn, misafithropy and despair. That Marah was never dry. No art could sweeten, no draughts could exhaust, its perennial waters of bitterness. Never was there such variety of monotony as that of Byron. From maniac laughter to piercing lamentation, there was not a single note of human anguish of which he was not master. Year after year, and month after month, he continued to repeat, that to be wretched is the destiny of all; that to be eminently wretched is the destiny of the eminent; that all the desires by which we are cursed, lead alike to misery; if they are not gratified, to the misery of disappointment; if they are gratified, to the misery of satiety. His principal heroes are men who have arrived by different roads at the same goal of despair, who are sick of life, who are at war with society, who are supported in their anguish, only by an unconquerable pride, resembling that of Prometheus on the rock, or of Satan in the burning marl; who can master their agonies by the force of their will, and who, to the last, defy the whole power of earth and heaven. He always describes himself as a man of the same kind with his favourite creations, as a man whose heart had been withered, whose capacity for happiness was gone, and could not be restored; but whose invincible spirit dared the worst that could befall him here or hereafter.
How much of this morbid feeling sprang from an original disease of mind, how much from real misfortune, how much from the nervousness of dissipation, how much of it was fanciful, how much of it was merely affected, it is impossible for us, and would probably have been impossible for the most intimate friends of Lord Byron, to decide. Whether there ever existed, or can ever exist, a person answering to the description which he gave of himself, may be doubted; but that he was not such a person is beyond all doubt. It is ridiculous to imagine that a man, whose mind was really imbued with scorn of his fellow-creatures, would have published three or four books every year to tell them so; or that a man, who could say with truth that he neither sought sympathy nor needed it, would have admitted all Europe to hear his farewell to his wife, and his blessings on his child. In the second canto of Childe Harold, he tells us that he is insensible to fame and obloquy;
“ Ill may such contest now the spirit move,
Which heeds nor keen reproof nor partial praise."
Yet we know, on the best evidence, that a day or two before he published these lines, he was greatly, nay indeed, childishly elated, by the compliments paid to his maiden speech in the House of Lords.
We are far, however, from thinking that his sadness was altogether feigned. He was naturally a man of great sensibility: he had been ill-educated; his feelings had been early exposed to sharp trials; he had been crossed in his boyish love; he had been mortified by the failure of his first literary efforts; he was straitened in pecuniary circumstances; he was unfortunate in his domestic relations; the public treated him with cruel injustice; his health and spirits suffered from his dissipated habits of life; he was, on the whole, an unhappy man. He early discovered that, , by parading his unhappiness before the multitude, he excited an unrivalled interest. The world gave him encouragement to talk about his mental sufferings. The effect which his first confessions produced, induced him to affect much that he did not feel : and the affectation probably reacted on his feelings. How far the character in which he exhibited himself was genuine, and how far theatrical, would probably have puzzled himself to say.
What our grandchildren may think of the character of Lord Byron, as exhibited in his poetry, we will not pretend to guess. It is certain, that the interest which he excited during 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 who have experienced it. To people who are unacquainted with real calamity,“nothing is so dainty sweet as lovely melancholy." This faint image of sorrow has in all ages been considered by young gen
tlemen, as an agreeable excitement. Old gentlemen, and middle-aged gentlemen have so many real causes of sadness, that they are rarely inclined “ to be as sad as night, only for wantonness.” Indeed, they want the power, almost as much as the inclination. We know very few persons engaged in active life, who, even if they were to procure stools to be melancholy upon, and were to sit down with all the premeditation of Master Stephen, would be able to enjoy much of what somebody calls the “ecstasy of wo."
Among the large class of young persons, whose reading is almost entirely confined to works of imagination, the popularity of Lord Byron was unbounded. They bought pictures of him, they treasured up the smallest relics of him; they learned his poems by heart, and did their best to write like him, and to look like him. Many of them practised at the glass in the hope of catching the curl of the upper lip, and the scowl of the brow, which
in some of his portraits. A few discarded their neckcloths in imitation of their great leader. For some years, the Minerva press sent forth no novel without a mysterious, unhappy, Lara-like peer. The number of hopeful undergraduates, and medical students who became things of dark imaginings, on whom the freshness of the heart ceased to fall like dew, whose passions had consumed themselves to dust, and to whom the relief of tears was denied, passes all calculation. This was not the worst. There was created in the minds of many of these enthusiasts, a pernicious and absurd association between intellectual power and moral depravity. From the poetry of Lord Byron they drew a system of ethics, compounded of misanthropy and voluptuousness.
This affectation has passed away; and a few more years will destroy whatever yet remains of that magical potency which once belonged to the name of Byron. To us he is still a man, young, noble, and unhappy. To our children he will be merely a writer ; and their impartial judgment will appoint his place among writers, without regard to his rank or to his private history. That his poetry will undergo a severé sifting ; that much of what has been admired by his contemporaries, will be rejected as worthless, we have little doubt. But we have as little doubt, that after the closest scrutiny, there will still remain much that can only perish with the English language.
BROUGH A M.
Character of Washington. How grateful the relief which the friend of mankind, the lover of virtue, experiences, when, turning from the contemplation of such a character as Napoleon, his eye rests upon
the greatest man of our own or any age; —the only one upon whom an epithet so thoughtlessly lavished by men, to foster the crimes of their worst enemies, may be innocently and justly bestowed! In Washington we truly behold a marvellous contrast to almost every one of the endowments and the vices which we have been contemplating ; and which are so well fitted to excite a mingled admiration, and sorrow, and abhorrence.