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LIFE OF LORD BYRON.
“ He is now at rest!
Is the time yet come for a just and reliable life of Byron to be written? May the veil be lifted from the brow of truth without making revealments that would annoy, if not injure, still living actors in his short but eventful drama? Not yet. The principal heroine of that drama still exists, and, amidst contumely, harsh interpretations, and doubts, contending with a nation's partiality for ono of its greatest geniuses, she has borne her faculties so meekly, and her wrongs so unobtrusively, that the respect of silence is due to the repose of the sunset of a life whose meridian was so disturbed by storms.
The first thing that strikes a writer who would produce a life of Byron, luwever short, is his universally-acknowledged genius– genius so exalted, so various, and, in every view, so extraordinary, that we say with his friend, the poet whose lines I have adopted as my motto, it is dazzling, perplexing! Genius is that aptitude for a particular object of the human mind which, like the rays concentrated in the focus of the burning glass, produces intense effect where it is directed. Mankind vary in this faculty as wonderfully as they do in their features, and wisely has Providence so ordered it, for thus this divine emanation becomes universally beneficial. But as, whilst acknowledging gratefully the common and least showy blessings that surround us on the earth, our love and admiration are principally given to its sublime sunsets, its mildly beautiful moonlights, its glittering stars, its more near and doar sweet flowers, so have the efforts of genius, which have been
principally direuted to the enjoyments of lifo, ever engrossed the warnest of our sympathies. Among those, as if by general accord, Poetry stands highest; it is considered to contain more divine inspiration than any other faculty of the mind, and the great Poets of the world are more glorified by it than its warriors, its statesmen, or its philosophers : it is not my business either to question or admit the justice of this, but so it is.
Byron was, then, a man of extraordinary gerius, and was a Poet; this was the talent intrusted to him ; let us sco how, in a short but fitful career, he employed it. As it never, for a moment, was absent from his own thoughts, and as he never allows his millions of readers to forget it, he was not only of God's nobility, but man's; his family, both by father and mother, was of high rank. Ho is said to be descended from one of tho Norman ad. venturers who came over with William; some ancestors distinguished themselves in the Crusades, others in the Wars of the Roses. Sir John Byron had the good fortune to be a favourite of that capricious tyrant, Henry VIII., at a time when the dissolution of the monasteries placed rich gifts in the hands of the monarch, and to him the family owed the possession of Newstead Abbey, which the poet's fame has converted into a shrine sacred to genius. In the troubles of the reign of Charles I., the Byrons were conspicuous for their loyalty, there having been no less than eight brothers of the family in the field at once. The monarch's gratitude raised them from a knightly to a noble house, and they became Barons Byron, of Rochdale. They were moderately wealthy, but Charles could bestow honours more easily than estates, and the extravagances and eccentricities of several of the poet's ancestors did not leave him a very rich inheritance. His descent was no less noble on the mother's side ; indeed, she said more so, as she boasted she was of the old stock of the Gordons, which claimed priority even over the branch now holding the ducal title in that family. His mother was an heiress, which appears to have been her only attraction in the eyes of the gay Captain Byron, for theirs proved a most unhappy marriage, embittered and embroiled by the debts and extravagance of the husband, and tho violent, passionate disposition of the wife. It was one of those strange circumstances upon which Lord Byron delighted to dwell, as denoting him of a peculiar race, that his fathor, his great-urcio whom he succeeded, and himself, were all separated from their wives : all, indeed, were eccentric, and under the dominion of their passions. Sometimes living together, sometimes apart, Byron's parents never afforded him the remembrance of a happy, peaceful home; and the death of his father, when he was only in the third year of his age, left him under the control of a mother as little
qurahified to bring up a boy of a wayward and spirited disposition as she possibly could be. It is so completely an established fact, that all superior men have had superior mothers, that even to romark upon it is trite; but it is no less true, that mothers who are not remarkable for capacities or virtues, have a great influence upon their sons, particularly when circumstances make the son an object of more than common interest. Now, George Byron was an only child, and there was, moreover, only one life between him and a baronial title and estates, and this, with a proud woman like: Mrs. Byron, led to injudicious indulgences and vauntings which the furies of her violent temper could not counteract. Amidst quarrels, beatings, the flight of all sorts of missiles, and the most coarse intemperate language, he was never allowed to forget he: was of the old stock of the Gordons of Gight, and of that of the Barons of Newstead. There can be no doubt that the disposition which was the foundation of most of his aberrations was due to the misfortune of his having a mother whose conduct made her the object of his ridicule, and who never commanded his respect.
George Gordon Byron was born in Holles Street, London, on the 22nd of January, 1788. In 1790, his mother took him to Aberdeen, where he was brought up as injudiciously as was to be expected from such a mother in straitened circumstances. Owing, as boafterwards used to declare, to the temper of his motber, he received an injury at his birth, by which one of his feet became deformed, and rendered him lame for life. We have no space for any account of the little anecdotes related of his early boyhood, nor, indeed, do we attach much consequence to such; for, although there may be some foundation for them, whenever the man proves remarkable, all related of the boy is so highly coloured, that we have no regret in consigning his verses to the Old Woman and the Moon, to the same apochryphal chapter as Johnson's Epitaph to the Duck. All that is told makes him appear exactly what he afterwards proved to bo-passionate, self-willed, spirited, shrewd, with occasional but rare glimpses of feeling-indeed, he had nothing to bestow feeling or affection upon. He became quite a Scotch boy, in manners and language, receiving no notice or encouragement from his greatuncle, even when the death of the relation who stood between him and the title, had made him the presumptive heir: the old baron only spoke of him as “the little boy at Aberdeen." In 1798, when he was in his eleventh year, his great-uncle died, and he succeeded to the family titles and estates, upon which he was made a ward of Chancery, and removed from Aberdeen to Newstead Abbey. His accession of rank made his lameness a matter of increased consequence, and he was placed in the hands on an empiric at Notting. bam, who orig iaflicted pain. syon him, without any benefits