Page images

I see before me the Gladiator lie;

He leans upon his hand-his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony,
And his droop'd head sinks gradually low-
And through his side the last drops, ebbing slow
From the red gash, fall heavy, one by one,
Like the first of a thunder shower; and now
The arena swims around him-he is gone,

Ere ceased the inhuman shout, which hail'd the wretch who


He heard it, but he heeded not-his eyes
Were with his heart, and that was far away;
He reck'd not of the life he lost nor prize,
But where his rude hut by the Danube lay
There were his young barbarians all at play,
There was their Dacian mother-he, their sire
Butchered to make a Roman holiday-

All this rush'd with his blood-shall he expire,

And unavenged?-Arise! ye Goths, and glut your ire.

Such, in a moral point of view, is the strange and inconsistent texture of these poems. Their least injurious operation would be to unsettle the reader's mind, as far as they affected it, and to plunge him into a bewildering chaos of doubts and fears. But as the leaning of Lord Byron is evidently to the worst and most desolating theories that appear in his writings, their general effect must be considered on the whole as decidedly immoral; especially when we take into account that in many of them a philosophy, which tends to degrade human nature and destroy the belief in virtue, is connected with alluring and favorable descriptions of vice. It was one of the rules prescribed by Plato for the government of his imaginary city, that no poet should be tolerated there; and that such as made their appearance within its walls should be crowned with garlands, and covered with public honors, and then conducted into perpetual exile. With all the admiration we feel for the genius of Lord Byron, we should incline very much, if we had the power, to treat his writings, as Plato would have treated his person; and after giving them all the praise they so justly merit as works of art, to remove them forever from the public view. As this is impossible, we can only hope that the passages of pure morality and correct sentiment, that are scattered through this

wilderness of sweets and poisons, may attract most strongly the attention of the young, and serve to counteract the influence of the false principles and dangerous descriptions with which they are surrounded.

The person and social habits of Lord Byron have been often described, but as these are points upon which the public curiosity respecting distinguished individuals is not easily satiated, we have thought that our readers would be gratified by a few new details. We accordingly requested a literary friend residing in this neighborhood, who had the honor of knowing his lordship in Europe, to furnish us with such particulars as he might think proper to communicate. We have been favored in reply with the following letter, with which we are happy to be able to enrich our pages.

"You have requested me to give you an account of my acquaintance with Lord Byron, and of his appearance, manner, and conversation, as I had an opportunity personally to observe them. Though my acquaintance with him is now a subject of pleasing recollection to me, it was too slight and of too short a continuance to furnish much, of which you can make public use. It began in London in the summer of 1815. Mr a gentleman, whom you know there and who is intimate in the best London circles, had promised to introduce me to Lord Byron, whose fame had then perhaps reached the highest point, to which it ever rose, by the recent publication of the Corsair. Finding that the time of my departure for the continent was approaching, and that an introduction in due form was to be a matter of ceremony and delay, I determined to avail myself of a stranger's privilege, and sending his lordship a copy of my little poem, I expressed my wish to wait on him in person. The next day brought me a very kind return, in a note making an appointment for a personal interview, and in a copy of all his poems then published, made more valuable by the correction of some misprints by his own pen. Lord Byron lived in Piccadilly Terrace without ostentation of splendor, but in the common style of persons of rank and fortune in London. His reception of me was extremely kind, and from my entering the room he placed me entirely at ease. His figure, as you are aware from the numerous descriptions of his person, was not above the middling height, and his frame inclining to be broad, his

[ocr errors]

general appearance being indicative of muscular strength. His hair at this time was worn short. When I saw him three years after in Venice, it was longer and curled in his neck behind. It was, if I remember, of a very dark hazel color. His forehead was not uncommonly high, but erect and manly, his face not very finely shaped, being inclined to be broad and flat. In this respect the best prints have flattered him; or at least the profile, which they exhibit, was better than the front face. His eye was a dark grey, mild and soft; his nose somewhat broad; the lips full, the upper lip considerably arched, and his smile singularly winning. The chin was marked with a dimple, but bold and finely turned. The line in his face from the chin to the ear has always been remarked as uncommonly beautiful. His complexion was perfectly white, without the least bloom, and his skin not clear. On the whole, Lord Byron's face and head would probably not strike a person, who should see without knowing him, as those of a man of great power. There was certainly no trace in his expression of that strong peculiar character which reigns in his works.

'He had, it is well known, a considerable personal deformity. Both his feet were affected with a natural malformation. It appeared to consist in a want of a proper organisation of the joints of the ancles, and the feet were smaller than the natural size. With loose pantaloons, worn long, this deformity could not have been discerned, except on close inspection; but it produced a stiffness and effort in his gait, though not to a degree to excite painful emotions. The common accounts of extreme deformity, lameness, &c. are quite groundless; and Lord Byron's exploits in swimming are a sufficient proof, that his limbs were not disabled by the defect in question.

'It is not usual, that the conversation of a very distinguished man affords much of an idea of his character, in an interview of mere politeness. Lord Byron's conversation, in the few interviews I had with him, was certainly rather that of a well educated and well bred man, than of one of extraordinary powers. His usual tone of voice was quite low, and at the close of sentences indistinct. But on expressing some idea, which had just occurred to him, or in which he took more than usual interest, it suddenly rose to a shrill and piercing note. I may observe, that his handwriting was uncommonly

bad; not indeed particularly illegible-a quality sometimes affected by distinguished persons-but wholly destitute of firmness and character.

'The trifles, which are likely to form the subject of conversation on such an occasion as this, scarce admit of subsequent report. Lord Byron spoke to me of the topics likely to interest me as an American; the expedition then fitted out by our government against Algiers; the state of political opinion and of literature in America. He discovered considerable acquaintance with our state of society, and on this topic expressed great surprise at the virulence with which Moore, (of whom he spoke with particular fondness,) had attacked the Americans in his early poems. He called him the best tempered man he had ever known. On some topics of domestic English politics, he spoke with severity and even bitterness, and mentioned the late lord Londonderry in terms, which out of tenderness to the memory of men-both of whom are gone, ought not to be repeated. He said he regarded a seat in the House of Lords, as the most valuable privilege conferred by nobility in England. He added, that he had never spoken himself but twice in the house; once on the Catholic Question, on which "they accused him of saying saucy things." He was at this time twentyseven years and four or five months old; and he observed, that his feelings and opinions on all subjects had undergone great changes since his youth.

He said, that though he had suppressed "the English Bards and Scotch Reviewers," he supposed it would never be really forgiven him, by those who were mentioned in it. He remarked, that he had suppressed it at the instance of Rogers, and on grounds (which he stated) wholly disconnected from the obvious one usually assigned, of conciliating the reviewers and authors censured in it. He particularly repelled the suggestion, that he had suppressed the satire in order to propitiate Mr Jeffrey, adding, that he did it before the favorable notice of Childe Harold had appeared in the Edinburgh Review. He spoke in the highest terms of the magnanimity and independence of Mr Jeffrey, who was not the author of the severe notice of Lord Byron's juvenile poems, that led to the composition of the English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. He said Southey's Vision of Roderick was the best of his

poems, and though he thought the author, on the whole, not a favorite poet in England, his reputation seemed to be rising from year to year. He spoke with great enthusiasm of Greece; took up a modern Greek work and read a passage from it; showed me a specimen of Athenian hemlock, and declared that the happiest days of his life were passed in that country, when he adopted the national dress and mingled like a native in the society. He kindly offered me letters of introduction to those whom he had known in that country, particularly to Ali Pacha, who figures so conspicuously in Childe Harold. This promise he fulfilled, and three years after, his letter to that extraordinary character procured me many marks of favor from the barbarous old chieftain.

'I saw Lord Byron occasionally during my short visit to London. The unfortunate occurrences in his family, which led him to the continent, had not then taken place. I afterwards saw him at Venice, where he lived in a very respectable manner; and to all appearance without affording the least foundation to many of the tales, which have obtained currency with respect to him. He was surrounded with books, and his works published about that time prove that he must have been a hard student. He then spoke of repeating his visit to Greece, but the revolution was not then even anticipated, though destined so shortly to break out.'

ART. II. A Treatise on the Law of Insurance. By WILLARD PHILLIPS. 8vo. pp. 550. Boston.


THE progress of commerce in modern times will appear more surprising the more minutely it is examined. It steadily advanced among the nations of Europe during the whole of the eighteenth century, and in the latter half, notwithstanding occasional interruptions by war, it was probably double in extent and value, what it had ever attained in any other equal period. Holland had indeed lost her maritime superiority by the destruction of her carrying trade. But the Northern powers, and particularly Russia, assumed a highly commercial character. Italy was compelled to mourn the departure of the times, when Venice, and Genoa, and Leghorn, covered

« PreviousContinue »