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THE LIFE AND WRITINGS

OF

LORD BYRON.

INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER.

THE premature and lamented death of Lord Byron has deprived England of the brightest genius that has adorned the age in which we live. That he was entitled to the first place among living poets will hardly now be denied by any one. Those persons who, from the most honest feelings, regretted the levity and censured the immorality of some of his latter productions, were never backward in acknowledging the pre-eminence of talents which they wished to have seen otherwise directed it was only by the malignant and the envious that his powers were decried; and even their venom, now that the grave has closed upon Lord Byron, will be spared, because it is equally insignificant and impotent.

To say that he had faults, and that they were many and great, is only to say that he was human: they were the faults of his age, of his education, of unfortunate circumstances-perhaps of a constitutional eccentricity. They were not so enormous but that a small portion of Christian charity may enable us to excuse them: their consequences fell on his own head; and we cannot but believe that the sufferings of his proud and wounded spirit would, if they could be appreciated, be allowed, even by his most severe censurers, to have expiated his offences.

But while those failings by which his character was marked, and which are the lot of humanity, are remembered, let it not be forgotten that he possessed rare and supreme powers, which, if they did not raise him above his species, made him one of its chief ornaments.

As a poet, he stands among the most eminent that England has ever

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produced. Few, indeed, (and, among those who live, we may say, fearless of contradiction, none,) have possessed at the same time an energy and intellectual grasp like his, together with his facility and gracefulness. There is no style of poetry that he has not essayed; there is none in which he has failed; there are some which he has left better than he found them, and which will, perhaps, owe their perfection to the genial influence of his example.

As a British nobleman, his reputation is unsullied: he supported his rank with as much dignity as modesty. He was a gentleman of strict honour; a firm and warm-hearted friend ; a fervent lover of real liberty; and a patron of true merit and sound learning.

These are his claims to the respect of his cotemporaries—these are his titles to the admiration of posterity. That they may be fully understood, and that the honours which his memory deserves may be rendered to it universally, the following concise account of his life and writings has been undertaken. It is a debt which the country owes to itself and to him, that the merits of such a man should be known to the whole community. In the work which follows an attempt has been made to combine with a history of the principal events of Lord Byron's life so full and impartial au account of his works as may convey an accurate idea of their merits.

It was expected that the Memoirs written by the noble deceased, and given by him to the author of Lalla Rookh,' would have been published. Had that hope not been frustrated, this work would probably never have seen the light. From a motive of delicacy towards the feelings of living persons, which, though it may be mistaken, is so amiable and disinterested that it deserves the highest praise, those Memoirs have lately been destroyed, and are lost to the world for ever. This posthumous record of the deceased nobleman had been deposited in the keeping of Mr. Thomas Moore, and designed as a legacy for his benefit. This gentleman, with the consent and at the desire of Lord Byron, had long ago sold the manuscript to Mr. Murray, for the sum of two thousand pounds. Since the death of Lord Byron, it occurred to some of the relatives of his lordship, that, although the noble author himself had given full authority for a disclosure of the document, some of his family might be wounded or shocked by it. Mr. Moore, therefore, appointed a time for meeting a near connexion of the noble lord (we believe his sister, Mrs. Legh); and, after a deliberate perusal of the work, finding that this lady apprehended from it much pain to the minds of many persons still living, though no

sort of imputation on her brother's memory, Mr. Moore, with a spirit and generosity which the better part of mankind will be at no loss to appreciate, placed the manuscript in the lady's hands, and permitted her to burn it in his presence! This sacrifice of self-interest to lofty feeling was made on the 17th of May, and the next morning the two thousand pounds were repaid to Mr. Murray by Lord Byron's selfdestituted legatee.

To supply the deficiency occasioned by the loss of the Memoirs this history has been written, and it has been thought that no means could be more likely to effect its object than by putting the public in a situation to judge for themselves of the noble bard's merits; and since that appeal, which he had prepared with his own hand, to be offered to those who should survive him, has been buried with him, his works must speak for him; and the history of his poetry must furnish forth the history of his life, accompanied by particulars derived from private and peculiar sources, and which have never yet been laid before the public.

Great as his loss would have been at any time, it is more to be regretted at this period, when he seemed to be about to lay aside for ever the extravagances which had marked his character, and to devote the energies of his exalted mind and his whole fortune to one of the noblest causes that ever called forth the sympathy of freemen.

Such, however, is the uncertainty of mortal events-such the disappointments which lie in wait to check the most honorable enterprises!

'Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise
(That last infirmity of noble miud)

To scorn delights and live laborious days;
But the fair guerdon when we hope to find,

And think to burst out into sudden blaze,

Comes the blind Fury with th' abhorred shears
And slits the thin-spun life.'-

CHAPTER I.

THE late Lord Byron was descended from a family more remarkable for its antiquity, and for the heroism and talent which have at all times distinguished its various branches, than for the extent of the possessions which have been annexed to it. If it were worth

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