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so much in society. Much of his talents are (is) frittered away in display, to support the character of a man of wit about town, and Moore was meant for something better. Society and genius are incompatible, and the latter can rarely, if ever, be in close and constant contact with the former, without degenerating. It is otherwise with writ and talent, which are excited and brought into play by the friction of society, which polishes and sharpens both. I judge from personal experience ; and as some portion of genius has been attributed to me, I suppose I may without extraordinary vanity quote my ideas on this subject.” And then my Lord proceeds to say, that he has always found his genius fade away like snow in the sun, when living much in the world; and that his ideas became vague, (we wonder how Shakspeare, and Milton, and Spenser, and Dryden, and Pope preserved their ideas in society ) and that he was another being, and so on.—Then comes a declaration against the truth of which we must raise our voice to its highest compass. “Who would willingly possess genius? None I am persuaded who knew the misery it entails; its temperament producing continual irritation, destructive alike to health and happiness. And what are its advantages: To be envied, hated, and persecuted in
life, and libelled in death 2 Wealth may be pardoned, beauty may be forgiven, talent may meet with toleration, but genius can hope for no mercy.”
This is a new doctrine ! that the highest gifts of Heaven are of necessity the greatest curses; that genius and wealth and beauty and talent are all a source of misery to the possessor. But the question is—Do we set out from an acknowledged truth? are these postulates granted? does experience verify the deduction ? Lord Byron was wretched;—granted. Was he wretched by reason of his poetical genius?, Was his selfishness, his vanity, his sensuality, his ill temper, his moodiness, his worldly-mindedness, part of his poetry 2 Will Lord Byron compare his genius to that of Chaucer, of Spenser, or Shakspeare Who ever heard of their misery on the other hand, were they not examples of joyous and ardent feelings, and happy tempers, and delighted minds? Was not Milton an example of a “wise man patient ;' eating his bread in peace and privacy? But, to come to his own time.—Did Scott's great and acknowledged genius make him moody and irascible, and suspicious and envious, and evil-hearted, and a libertine and voluptuary What say we to him of Rydal Mount, the gentle enthusiast of nature, the quiet contemplative spirit, the Poet of the Mountain and the Lake 3 or to him, who by his beloved shores of Keswick, has so long been linked to all that is lovely and duteous, and honourable and of good report 2 Is such a feeling known to Mr. Rogers, the benevolent, the enlightened, the amiable, the sociable 2 To Mr. Bowles, the pure and virtuous child of Apollo, if any such ever existed. To Mr. Campbell, the frank, the open, the ingenuous son of nature ? These men are the equals of Lord Byron at least in genius, and we find from them no Heaven-directed complaint, that the fires which illumine their hearts are the fires of punishment and woe: that to the ‘radiant angel' of their spirits, is linked a devil that “preys on garbage,’ and that the Poet must of necessity be a self-tormentor, and a pest to the moral society of the world. This is all very romantic of Lord Byron no doubt to assert, and very innocent and engaging of Lady Blessington to believe; but it was never heard of till this new Wertero-Satanic school came into fashion. We often have wondered what one of our old Poets Ben Jonson, for instance, would have thought of such a strange, queer. buckram sort of person, as the hero of modern Poems, so sentimen tal, so sarcastic, and so superb! of a character out of nature, in its conception, and devoid of all those rich varieties of light and shade, of all those
light salient touches, and those graceful bendings and returns that are the delight of the true Poet, and are characteristic of the mind of man. We trust that this gentleman (whether passing by the name of Childe Harold, or Lara, or Manfred, or Cain, or quocunque nomine gaudet) in whatever metamorphosis, he may chuse to assume, has had his day, and is dismissed; for after all it is a grotesque original. ... It is the Satan of Milton grafted on a Bond-street earguisite, and originally came to us from the Woods of Saxonv.
i. often talked of the Authors of the Rejected Addresses, and always in terms of unqualified praise. He says that the imitations, unlike all other imitations, are full of genius, and that the “Cui bono' has some lines that he should have wished to have written. “Parodies,” he said, always gave a bad impression of the original, but in the “Rejected Addresses,” the reverse was the fact; and he quoted the 2d and 3d stanzas in imitation of himself, as admirable and just, and what he could have wished to write on a similar
subject. Byron is a great admirer of the poetry of Barry Cornwall, which he says— is full of imagination and beauty, possessing a refinement and delicacy, that whilst they add all the charms of a woman's mind, take off none of the force of a man's. He expressed his hope that Barry Cornwall would devote himself to tragedy, saying that he was sure he would become one of the first writers of the day.” “The truest picture of the misery unhallowed liaisons produce, said Byron, is in the Adolphe of B. Constant. I told Mad. de Stael that there was more morale in that book, than in all she ever wrote, and that it ought always to be given to every young woman who had read Corinne, as an antidote. Poor de Stael, she came down upon me like an avalanche whenever I told her anyof my amiable truths, sweeping everything before her with that eloquence that always overwhelmed, but never convinced. She however, good soul, believed she had convinced, whenever she silenced an opponent, an effect she generally produced, as she (to use an Irish phrase,) succeeded in bothering, and producing a confusion of ideas that left one hittle able or willing to continue an argument with her. I liked her daughter very much, said Byron, I wonder will she turn out literary 2 At all events, though she may not write, she possesses the power of judging the writings of others, is highly educated and clever, but I thought a little given to systems, which is not in general the fault of young women, and above all gay young Frenchwomen.”
Lord Byron was not by any means a person of finished conversational talents; for which, the reasons may easily be alleged. He said he disliked every-day topics of literature, he thought it a waste of time. But that if he met with a person with whom he could think aloud, and give utterance to his thoughts on abstract subjects, he was sure it would excite the energies of his mind.
“I like,” he said, “to go home with a new idea. It sets my mind to think. I enlarge it; and it often gives birth to many others. This one can only do in a tête-à-téte. I felt the advantage of this in my rides with Hoppner at Venice. He was a good listener, and his remarks were acute and original; he is besides a thorough good man, and I know he was in earnest when he gave me his opinions. But conversation such as we find in society, and above all in English society, is as uninteresting as it is artificial, and few can leave the best, with the consolation of carrying away with him a new thought, or of leaving behind him an old friend.”
Talking of Mr. Ward, Lord Byron said,
“Ward is one of the best-informed men I know, and in a tête-à-téte is one of the most agreeable companions. He has great originality, and being très distrait, it adds to the piquancy of his observations, which are sometimes trop naive, though always amusing. This naïveté of his, is the more piquant from his being really a good natured man, who unconsciously thinks aloud. Interest Ward on a subject, and I know no one who can talk better. His expressions are concise without being poor, GENT. M.A.G. Vol. 1. w 4 E
and terse and epigrammatic without being affected. He can compress as much into as few words as any one I know, and if he gave more of his attention to his associates, and less to himself, he would be one of the few whom one could praise without being compelled to use the conjunctive but. Ward has bad bealth, and like all valetudinarians, it occupies his attention too much, which will probably bring on a worse state, that of confirmed egoism, a malady that, though not to be found in the catalogue of ailments to which man is subject, yet perhaps is more to be dreaded than all that are. He is not properly appreciated in England. The English can better understand and enjoy the bon mots of a bon rirant, who can at all times set the table in a roar, than the neat repliques of Ward, which, exciting reflection, are more likely to silence the rabble riot of intemperance. They like better the person who makes them laugh, than he who forces them to think,+so that poor Ward," finding himself undervalued, sinks into self: and this at the long run is dangerous. There are many men in England (continued Byron), of superior ability, who are lost from the habits and inferiority of their associates. Such men finding that they cannot raise their companions to their level, are but too apt to let themselves down to that of the persons they live with, and hence many a man is condemned to be a wit and man of pleasure, who was born for better things. Poor Sheridan often played this character in society, but he maintained his superiority over the herd, by having established a literary and political reputation: and as I have heard him more than once say, when his jokes have drawn down plaudits from companies, to whom, of an evening at least, sobriety and sadness are alike unknown, “It is some consolation, that if I set the table in a roar, I can at pleasure set the senate in a roar;' and this was remarked while under the influence of wine, and as if for apologizing to his own mind for the profanation he felt he had offered it at the moment:t Lord Alpanley is a delightful companion, brilliant, witty, and playful; he can be irresistibly comic when he pleases, but what would he not be if he pleased ? for he has talents to be anything. I lose patience when I see such a man throw himself away; for there are plenty of men who could be witty, brilliant, and sincere, and who could be nothing else, while he is all these, but could be much more. How many men have made a figure in public life without half of his abilities: but indolence and the love of. pleasure will be the bane of Alvanley, as it has been of many a man of talent before.
Byron was fond of talking of Napoleon—
“When Metternich was depreciating the genius of Napoleon in a circle at Vienna where his word was a Law, and his nod a decree, he appealed to Mr. William Ward if Bonaparte had not been greatly overrated 2, Ward's answer was as courageous as admirable. He replied-' that Napoleon had rendered past glory doubtful, and future fame impossible.' . This was expressed in French, and such pure French, that all present were struck with admiration no less with the thought, than with the mode of expressing it. I told Byron that this reminded me of a reply made by Mr. Ward to a lady at Vienna, who somewhat rudely remarked to him, that it was strange that all the best society at Vienna spoke French as well as German, while the English scarcely spoke French at all, or spoke it ill. Ward answered, “that the English must be ex. cused from their want of practice, as the French army had not been twice to London to teach them, as they had been at Vienna.’ The coolness of Ward's manner (said Byron) must have lent force to such a reply; I have heard him say many thi
- - ngs worth remembering; and the neatness of expression was as remarkable as the justness of : thought.”
* The writer of this article remembers Mr. Ward telling him of his being asked as a lion to a great lioness, the Countess of J ; but his wit did not take, and the invitation was never repeated. Mr. Ward's wit was rather caustic; often a lito learned, and not much to the taste of the Ladies. In Lord Byron's e Lord Dudiey, we cordially join. yron's eulogy on
t Is Gifford's allusion to Sheridan, in the Maeviad, forgotten amidth poetry that has succeeded it 2 y g e mass of
And you too, whole Menander who combine
Lord John Russell comes in for a moderate share of praise. The commendation passed on Mr. Hallam is only the just tribute paid by genius to a person of very superior erudition, and very comprehensive mind:
“Do you know Hallam 2 Of course, I need not ask you if you have read his Middle Ages? It is an admirable work, full of research, and does Hallam honour. I know no one capable of having written it, except him; for admitting that a writer could be found, who could bring to the task his knowledge and talents, it would be difficult to find one who united to these his research, patience, and perspicuity of style. The reflections of Hallam are at once just and profound, his language well chosen and impressive. I remember being struck with a passage, where touching on the Venetians, he says, “Too blind to avert danger, too cowardly to withstand it, the most ancient government of Europe made not an instant's resistance. The peasants of Underwald died upon their mountains; the nobles of Venice clung only to their lives.” This is the style in which history ought to be written, if it is wished to impress it on the memory.”
Of Sir James Mackintosh, Lord Byron says,
“His is a mind of a powerful calibre. Mad. de Stael used to extol him to the skies, and was perfectly sincere in her admiration of him, which was not the case with all whom she praised. Mackintosh also praised her; but his is a mind that, as Moore writes, rather leans to praise than blame; for, with a judgment so comprehensive, a knowledge so general, and a critical acumen rarely to be met with, his sentences are never severe. He is a powerful writer and speaker. There is an earnestness and vigour in his style, and a force and purity in his language, equally free from inflation and loquacity.”
“Lord Erskine is or was, for I suppose age has not improved him more than it generally does people, the most brilliant person imaginable, quick, vivacious, and sparkling; he spoke so well, that I never felt tired of listening to him, even when he abandoned himself to that subject, of which all his other friends and acquaintances expressed themselves so fatigued,—self. His egotism was remarkable, but there was a bonhommie about it, that showed he had a better opinion of mankind than they deserved ; for it implied a belief that his listeners could be interested in what concerned him whom they professed to like. Erskine had been a great man, and he knew it; and in talking so continually of self, imagined that he was but the echo of Fame. All his talents, wit, and brilliancy were insufficient to excuse this weakness in the opinion of his friends ; and I have seen bores, acknowledged bores, turn from this clever man with every symptom of ennui, when he has been reciting an interesting anecdote, merely because he was the principal actor in it.”
From the ex-Chancellor we must pass on to a Poet, whose Parnassus is made up of a kind of papier maché, adorned with silver tissue, whose Helicon glitters with gold and silver fishes, and whose Muses and Graces are dressed after the most approved fashion of Almack's.
“Did you know William Spencer, the poet of society, as they used to call him * His was what really your countrymen call an elegant mind, polished, graceful, and sentimental, with just enough gaiety to prevent his being lachrymose, and enough sentiment to prevent his being too Anacreontic. There was a great deal of genuine fun in Spencer's conversation, as well as a great deal of refined sentiment in his verses. I liked both, for both were perfectly aristocratic in their way; neither the one nor the other was calculated to please the canaille, which made me like them all the better.”
Byron always talks in terms of high admiration of Mr. Canning ; says “he is a man of superior abilities, brilliant fancy, cultivated mind, and most effective eloquence; and adds, that Canning only wanted to be born to a good estate, to have made a great statesman. Fortune would have saved him from tergiversation, the bare suspicion of which is destructive to the confidence a statesman ought to inspire. As it is,” said he, “Canning
is brilliant, but not great, with all the elements in him that constitute 'greatness.”
Byron continually reverts to Sir Walter Scott, and always in terms of admiration for his genius, and affection for his good qualities. He says he never got up from a perusal of one of his works, without finding himself in a better disposition, and that he generally read his novels three times.
“I find such a just mode of thinking, that I could fill volumes with detached thoughts of Scott, all and each full of truth and beauty. Then how good are his definitions. Do you remember in the ‘Peveril of the Peak,’ where he says, “Presence of mind is courage. Real valour consists not in being insensible to danger, but in being prompt to confront and disarm it.' How true is this, and what an admirable distinction between moral and physical courage 1 How applicable to Scott's works is the observation made by Mad. de Deffand on Richardson's Novels, in one of her Hetters to Woltaire, ‘La morale y est en action, et n'a jamais été traité d’une manière plus intéressante.' On meurt d'envie d'être parfait apres cette lecture, et l'on eroit querien n'est si aisé.' I think (continued Byron after a pause) that Scott is the only very successful genius that could be cited as being generally beloved as a man, as he is admired as an author; and I must add he deserves it; for he is so thoroughly good-natured, sincere, and honest, that he disarms the envy and jealousy his extraordinary genius must excite.”
This praise is well and discriminately given. From the Enchanter of
the North, his Lordship passes to the shores of Baiae, and the grottos of Tarento.
“When you go to Naples, you must make acquaintance with Sir W. Drummond, for he is certainly one of the most erudite men and admirable philosophers now living. He has all the wit of Voltaire, with a propriety that seldom appertains to wit, and writes so forcibly, and with such elegance and purity of style, that his works possess a peculiar charm. Have you read his Academical Questions o'
What a question to a Philosopher in petticoats'
“If not, get them directly, and I think you will agree with me, that the preface to that work alone would prove Sir W. Drummond an admirable writer. He concludes it by the following sentence, which I think one of the best in our language; “Prejudice may be trusted to guard our hearts for a short space of time, while reason slumbers in the citadel; but if the latter sink into a lethargy, the former will quickly erect a standard for herself. Philosophy, wisdom, and liberty support each other. He who will not reason is a bigot, he who cannot is a fool, he who does not is a slave." Is not the passage admirable 2 how few could have written it.”
Yet, with all due submission to such high authority, we think that it is a passage more fit for an oration, than a work on metaphysics; that such figurative and declamatory language is ill suited to philosophical treatises, and that we should look in vain for such, in the works of Mackintosh, or Stewart, or D'Alembert : we fear that Lady Blessington is the only person who now employs herself in solving these “Academical Questions,” and that Lord Byron's assertion, “that they are too good to be popular,” will not be received as satisfactory by all. But to return.
“His Odin is really a fine poem, and has some passages that are beautiful, but it is so little read, that it may be said to have dropped still-born from the press, a mortifying proof of the bad taste of the age. . His Translation of Persius is not only very
literal, but preserves much of the spirit of the original; a merit that, let me ten you, is very rare at present.”
We are sorry to differ from the noble Lord so much, as to conclude that this was another instance of his mystifying her Ladyship. Sir Wm. Drummond's Translation is a work of ability; but, so far from being a literal