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INTRODUCTORY OBSERVATIONS

ON THE

CHARACTER AND GENIUS

OF

LORD BYRON.

IF WE OWE REGARD TO THE MEMORY OF THE DEAD, THERE IS YET
MORE RESPECT TO BE PAID TO KNOWLEDGE, TO VIRTUE,

AND TO TRUTH."— JOHNSON.

It has ever been a difficult task to those who inquire into the motives of human actions, to account satisfactorily for the errors and follies of BYRON,--that mighty Genius which, to use the words of Sir Walter Scott,“ walked among us as something superior to ordinary mortality.” Nature, indeed, seems to have thrown a veil over the varied manifestations of his actual character, and, to have hidden in mystery, the sources whence that character was derived, lest she might be taxed with an anomaly in the dispensation of her favours. We know—unhappily but too well—that before he engaged in the cause of Greece, he had conferred no lasting moral benefit on mankind; he had done nothing to advance their immortal interests; nor had he ever subdued his own soul to an unswerving adherence to virtue and duty. Effectually he could not resist temptation, and he was a stranger to the magnanimity of self-devotedness to established principles. We know, however, equally well, that he had an expanded moral sense ; a heart not depraved, although untutored, and feelings

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err 12e 12 e a crise! His benevolence ever pidu ani mbetu es. Es was erer attracted by the cries of 1 true. Rasedus discharge of justice 2. viis circterize'is ce taching honour ennobled even his , ni le persereed is being consistent in whaterer un men's he ecurised As to the springs of action that uced his reer, it is ech: as far as unspiritualized huTI:is concerned they were 2 ct the highest order.— The bove cť prus, wie seems to al but in the chosen breast, virised the derrit surks et les geniis, and a confident relisze co the powers with which be was gifted, ensured him that during independence of mind, which is requisite for the performute of rury schievements is fine was the God of his gry, ke wis jeslous of the world's opinion ; and an emulation to erol, and amxiety to be thought worthy of excellence seemed inseriile kua kis niture. His every feeling, moreover, was strong and the force of his passions was fully equal to his desires : ant if the sources of his intellect seemed unbounded, he kad an imagiuda that could easily work up all the materials ther cutanat, and a funcy to explore undiscovered regions. Such were the primitive energies that would have made

"Agoily frame of glorious elements

Had they letu wisely mingled"-and ret, notwithstanding so rare a combination of natural endowments, Loni Prron fill into errors so great, and a course of action at one time se extravagant, that in any other individual trould have obscured the brillianer of such transcendent genius. To reconeile this apparent consisteney, and to show that the workings of mind and passion are unalterably the same at all times and in all individuals (if outward circumstances be the same) has been the object of many. It would ill become me to say that they have hitherto failed, but I may express myself unsatisfied with the result of their labours. The springs of action.

I See Sir Walter Scott's Tribute.

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in Lord Byron proceeded from a closer union with natural disposition than has been imagined, and many circumstances which have invariably been named as causing or giving rise to numerous peculiarities, were simply influential in directing his idiosyncracy, or the fire as it were, applied to his minute guns, which were ever charged with ample amunition 2.

amunition 2. Of all who have attempted the biography of Byron, Mr. Moore alone has traced back effects to causes happily; and it is greatly to be lamented, that the work with which he has lately adorned our literature (owing to its price and bulk), cannot be “read, marked, and learned,” by all who take an interest in the memory of men of genius. Were an analysis of the “ Notices” (with notices equally philosophical annexed) presented to the public, it might, indeed, injure the printer of the work, but it would benefit society; and I assume the right of stating this my opinion, because, whatever concerns man should concern us all, and because I hold the public advantage more sacred than individual emolument.

It is not to be expected that the limits of an introduction to a small poem will allow of entering fully into the modifications of character, manifested in so Proteus-like an individual as Byron. Waiving then, the questions, what are his faults ?—what are his mistakes ? let us hastily glance over the causes from which, perchance, they originated. The principal ones appear to me to have been the over-impetuous and too violent strength of passions, implanted in him by nature the additional impulse given to his propensities by the waywardness and hasty temper of his mother—the innate principles of the mind not being regarded in his education, and moral poisons being administered to counteract the effect of moral disease—the natural deformity of his foot, which still more increased his 'ever sensitive sensi, bility—the injuries of fortune, as to pecuniary matters, and his

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? It is a fact, though not generally known, that the ground-work of Byron's celebrated Satire was laid before the appearance of the venemous article in the Edinburgh Review.

ill-fated marriage.—These causes, unquestionably, produced bad effects : but I cannot conceive in what way much evil could originate from “the unjust censure of reviewers,” his “luckless loves," his “unrequited friendships,” etc. and a variety of other lively excuses, which have so frequently been made to account for his extravagances. Such contingences certainly might affect a man of ordinary capacity or prosaic character; but over the temperament and genius of Byron, they must have been attended but with passing consequences, as little permanent as is the fly-sting on the skin of a race-horse. As the ocean, when roused, can arise and shake from its bosom whatever wrecks may discompose its loveliness—so Byron, if ever he wished' to free himself from the effects of transitory misfortune, could as easily summon the waves of his overpowering spirit, to 'dash away all petty hindrances to the wonderous workings of his passions. Not so playfully, however, could he deal with the circumstances first mentioned as causing disquietude and mischief." They were immingled with his nature ; they went down to the very root of feeling, they poisoned its sources, they embittered its overflowings. These prevented him from using his powers as he' might have done. By their influence, the perfection at which he aspired was rendered a pleasing fallacy; the illusions of which, when detected, but exasperated him the more. The heart of Byron was not bad; but his conduct was unregulated : and hence it is, that the deficiency in his moral character arose. He had formed no determination to resist all tendency to moral ends, but he was unconscious of the unalterable obligations, mutually enjoined upon mankind. Hence followed the abuse of his splendid talents ; and from an over-sensitiveness on the subject of self, many unenviable traits of character proceeded. From an absurd vanity, to which, unfortunately, he was but too prone, he pretended often to wear the garb of vice, and to glory in its deformity ; but, if we narrowly watch his conduct when thus falsely masked, we shall perceive that it was assumed merely as a looser garment of relaxation, when the sublimer passions of his nature had fatigued him into a forgetfulness of his dignity. Among his

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