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LIFE OF LORD BYRON.
The circumstances under which Lord Byron now took leave of England were such as, in the case of any ordinary person, could not be considered otherwise than disastrous and humiliating. He had, in the course of one short year, gone through every variety of domestic misery ;-had seen his hearth eight or nine times profaned by the visitations of the law, and been only saved from a prison by the privileges of bis rank. He bad alienated, as far as they had ever been his, the affections of his wife; and now, rejected by her, and condemned by the world, was betaking himself to an exile which had not even the dignity of appearing voluntary, as the excommunicating voice of society seemed to leave him no other resource. Had he been of that class of unfeeling and self-satisfied natures from wbose bard surface the reproaches of others fall pointless, he might have found in insensibility a sure refuge against reproach; but on the contrary, the same sensitiveness that kept bim so awake to the applauses of mankind rendered him, in a still more intense degree, alive to their censure. Even the strange, perverse pleasure which he felt in painting himself unamiably to the world did not prevent him from being both startled and pained when the world took him at his word; and, like a child in a mask before a looking-glass, the dark semblance which he had half in sport, put on, when reflected back upon from the mirror of public opinion, shocked even himself.
Thus surrounded by vexations, and thus deeply feeling them, it is not too much to say, that any other spirit but his own would have sunk under the struggle, and lost, perhaps irrecoverably, that level of self-esteem which alone affords a stand against the shocks of fortune. But in bim,- furnished as was bis mind with reserves of strength, waiting to be called out,- the very intensity ‘of the pressure brought relief by the proportionate reaction which it produced. Had his trangressions and frailties been visited with no more than their due portion of punishment, there can be little doubt that a very different result would have ensued. Not only would such an excitement bave been insufficient to waken up the new energies still dormant in him, but that consciousness of his own errors, which was for ever livelily present in his mind, would, under such circumstances, have been left, undisturbed by any unjust provocation, to work its usual softening and, perhaps, humbling influences on his spirit. But,-luckily, as it proved, for the further triumphs of his genius,-no such moderation was exercised. The storm of invective raised around him, so utterly out of proportion with his offences, and the base calumnies that were every where beaped upon his name, left to his wounded pride no other resource than in the same summoning up of strength, the same instinct of resistance to injustice, which had first forced out the energies of his youthful genius, and was now destined to give a still bolder and loftier range to its powers.
It was, indeed, not without truth, said of him by Goëthe, that he was inspired by the Genius of Pain,-for, from the first to the last of his agitated career, every fresh recruitment of his faculties was imbibed from that bitter source. His chief incentive, wben a boy, to distinction was, as we have seen, that mark of deformity on his person, by an acute sense of which he was first stung into the ambition of being great." As, with an evident reference to his own fate, he bimself describes the feeling,
• Deformity is daring.
• In one of bis letters to Mr. Hunt, he declares it to be his own opinion that an “ addiction to poetry is very generally the result of an uneasy mind in an uneasy body; disease or deformity," he adds, “ have been the attendants of many of our best. Collins mad--Chatterton, I think, mad-Cowper mad--Pope crooked-Milton blind,” &c. &c.
† The Deformed Transformed.
Then came the disappointment of his youthsul passion,--the lassitude and remorse of premature excess,- the lone friendlessness of his entrance into life, and the ruthless assault upon his first literary efforts,--all links in that chain of triuls, errors, and sufferings, by which his great mind was gradually and painfully drawn out ;-all bearing their respective shares in accomplishing that destiny which seems to have decreed that the triumphal march of bis genius should be over the waste and ruins of his heart. He appeared, inderd, himself to have had an instinctive consciousness that it was out of such ordeals his strength and glory were to arise, as his whole life was pussed in courting agitation and difficulties; and whenever the scenes around bim were too tame to furnish such excitement, he flew to fancy or memory for “ thorns” whereon to “ leun his breast." But the greatest of his trials, as well as triumphs, was yet to
The last stage of this painful, though glorious, course, in wbich fresh power was, at every step, wrung from out bis soul, was that at which we are now arrived, bis marriage and its results,--without wbich, dear as was the price paid by him in peace and character, bis career would have been incomplete, and the world still left in ignorance of the full compass of his genius. It is indeed worthy of remark, that it was not till his domestic circumstances began to darken around bin that his fancy, wbich had long been idle, again rose upon the wing, both the Siege of Corinth and Purisina having been produced but a short time before the separation. How conscious he wus, too, that the turmoil wbich followed was the true element of bis restless spirit may be collected from several passages of his letters at that period, in one of which be even mentions that bis health bath become all the better for the conflict :-" It is odd,” he says, “ but agitation or contest of any kind gives a rebound to my spirits, and sets me up for the time."
This buoyancy it was,-this irrepressible spring of mind, that now enabled him to bear up not only against the assaults of others, but wbat was still more difficult, against his own thoughts and feelings. The muster of all his mental resources to which, in self-defence, he had been driven, but opened to him the yet undreamed extent and capacity of his powers, and inspired bim with a proud confidence that he should yet sbine down these calumnious mists, convert censure to wonder, and compel even those who could not approve, to admire.
The route which he now took, through Flanders and by the Rbine, is best traced in his own matchless verses, which leave a portion of their glory on all that they touch, and lead to
scenes, already clothed with immortality by nature and by history, the no less durable associations of undying song. On his leaving Brussels, an incident occurred which would be hardly wortb relating, were it not for the proof it affords of the malicious assiduity with which every thing to his disadvantage was now caugbt up and circulated in England. Mr. Pryce Gordon, a gentleman, who appears to have seen a good deal of bim during his short stay at Brussels, thus relates the anecdote.
“ Lord Byron travelled in a huge coach, copied from the celebrated one of Napoleon, taken at Genappe, with additions. Besides a lit de repos, it contained a library, a plate-chest, and every apparatus for dining in it. It was not, however, found sufficiently capacious for his baggage and suite ; and be parchused a caleche at Brussels for his servants. It broke down going to Waterloo, and I advised him to return it, as it seemed to be a crazy machine; but as he had made a deposit of forty Napoleons (certainly double its value), the honest Fleming would not consent to restore the cash, or take back his packingcase, except under a forfeiture of thirty Napoleons. As bis lordship was to set out the following day, he begged me to make the best arrangement I could in the affair. He had no sooner taken bis departure, than the worthy sellier inserted a paragraph in' The Brussels Oracle,' stating that the noble milor Anglais bad absconded with his caleche, value 1800 francs!'"
In the Courier of May 13, the Brussels account of this transaction is thus copied.
“The following is an extract from the Dutch Mall, dated Brussels, May 8th.- In the Journal de Belgique, of this date, is a petition from a coachmaker at Brussels to the president of the Tribunal de Premier Instance, stating that he has sold to Lord Byron a carriage, &c. for 1882 francs, of wbich he has received 847 francs, but that his lordship, who is going away the same day, refuses to pay him the remaining 1035 francs ; he begs permission to seize the carriage, &c.
This being granted, he put it into the bands of a proper officer, who went to signify the above to Lord Byron, and was informed by the landlord of the hotel, that his lordship was gone without having given him any thing to pay the debt, on wbich the officer seized a cbalse belonging to his lordship as security for the amount."
It was not till the beginning of the following month that a contradiction of this falsehood, stating the real circumstances of thecase, as above related, was communicated to the Morning Chronicle, in a letter from Brussels, signed “ Pryce L. Gordon,"