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IN presenting this volume to the public I should have felt, I own, considerable diffidence, from a sincere distrust in my own powers of doing justice to such a task, were I not well convinced that there is in the subject itself, and in the rich variety of materials here brought to illustrate it, a degree of attraction and interest which it would be difficult, even for hands the most unskilful, to extinguish. However lamentable were the circumstances under which Lord Byron became estranged from his country, to his long absence from England, during the most brilliant period of his powers, we are indebled for all those interesting letters which compose the greater part of this work, and which will be found equal, if not superior, in point of vigour, variety, and liveliness, to any that have yet adorned this branch of our literature.
What has been said of Petrarch, that “his correspondence and verses together afford the progressive interest of a narrative in which the poet is always identified with the man," will be found applicable, in a far greater degree, to Lord Byron, in whom the literary and the personal character were so closely interwoven, that to have left his works without the instructive commentary which his Life and Correspondence afford, would have been equally an injustice both to himself and to the world.
It has been said of Lord Byron, that "he was figure evidently represents a Saracen or Moor, with prouder of being a descendant of those Byrons of an European female on one side of him, and a Normandy, who accompanied William the Conqueror Christian soldier on the other. In a second group, into England, than of having been the author of which is in one of the bedrooms, the female occupies Chlde Harold and Manfred." This remark is not the centre, while on each side is the head of a Saraallogether unfounded in truth. In the character of cen, with the eyes fixed earnestly upon her. Of the the noble poet the pride of ancestry was undoubtedly exact meaning of these figures there is nothing certain one of the most decided features; and, as far as an- known; but the tradition is, I understand, that they tquity alone gives lustre to descent, he had every refer to some love-adventure, in which one of those reason to boast of the claims of his race. In Dooms- crusaders, of whom the young poet speaks, was enday-book, the name of Ralph de Burun ranks high gaged. among the tenants of land in Nottinghamshire; and Of the more certain, or, at least, better known in the succeeding reigns, under the title of Lords of exploits of the family, it is sufficient, perhaps, to say, Horestan Castle, * we find his descendants holding that, at the siege of Calais under Edward III, and considerable possessions in Derbyshire, to which on the fields, memorable in their respective eras, of afterwards, in the time of Edward I, were added the Cressy, Bosworth, and Marston Moor, the name of | Lands of Rochdale in Lancashire. So extensive, in the Byrons reaped honours, both of rank and fame, deed, in those early times, was the landed wealth of of which their young descendant has, in the verses tbe family, that the partition of their property, in just cited, shown himself proudly conscious. Nottinghamshire alone, has been sufficient to esta- It was in the reign of Henry VIII, on the dissolublish some of the first families of the county. tion of the monasteries, that, by a royal grant, the
lts antiquity, however, was not the only distinction church and priory of Newstead, with the lands adby which the name of Byron came recommended to joining, were added to the other possessions of the its inheritor; those personal merits and accomplish- Byron family.* The favourite, upon whom these ments, which form the best ornament of a genealogy, spoils of the ancient religion were conferred, was seem to have been displayed in no ordinary degree the grand-nephew of the gallant soldier who fought by some of his ancestors. In one of his own early by the side of Richmond at Bosworth, and is dispoems, alluding to the achievements of his race, he commemorales, with much satisfaction, those “mail- * The priory of Newstead had been founded and dedicated cover'd barons” among them,
to God and the Virgin by Henry II :-and its monks, who
were canons regular of the Order of St. Augustine, appear who proudly to battle
to have been peculiarly the objects of royal favour, no less led their vassals from Europe to Palestine's plain. in spiritual than in temporal concerns. During the life
time of the fifth Lord Byron, there was found in the Lake Adding,
at Newstead, where it is supposed to have been thrown Near Askalon's towers John of Horiston slumbers,
for concealment by the monks, a large brass eagle, in the L'anerved is the hand of his minstrel by death.
body of which, on its being sent to be cleaned, was dis
covered a secret aperture, concealing within it a number As there is no record, however, as far as I can dis- of old legal papers connected with the rights and privileges cover, of any of his ancestors having been engaged in
of the foundation. At the sale of the old lord's effects, in
1776-7, this eagle, together with three candelabra, found at the Holy Wars, it is possible that he may have had
the same time, was purchased by a watchmaker of Nottingno other authority for this notion than the tradition ham (by whom the concealed manuscripts were discovered). which he found connected with certain strange groups and having from his hands passed into those of Sir Richard of heads, which are represented on the old panel
Kaye, a prebendary of Southwell, forms at present a very
remarkable ornament of the cathedral of that place. A work in some of the chambers at Newstead. In one
curious document, said to have been among those found in of these groups, consisting of three heads, strongly the eagle, is now in the possession of Colonel Wildman, carved, and projecting from the panel, the centre containing a grant of full pardon from Henry V, of every
possible crime (and there is a tolerably long catalogue "In the park of Horseley (says Thoroton) there was a
enumerated) which the monks might have committed precastle, some of the ruins whereof are yet visible, called
vious to the 8th of December preceding :-"murdris per Horestan Castle, which was the chief mansion of his ipsos post decimum nonum diem Novembris ultimo præ(Ralph de Burun's) successors."
teritum perpetratis, si quæ fuerint, exceptis.”
tinguished from the other knights of the same christian brothers of that family on the field at Edgehill—the name, in the family, by the title of “Sir John Byron celebrity of the name appears to have died away for the Little with the great beard.” A portrait of this near a century. It was about the year 1750, that personage was one of the few family pictures with the shipwreck and sufferings of Mr Byron * (the which the walls of the abbey, while in the possession grandfather of the illustrious subject of these pages), of the noble poet, were decorated.
awakened in no small degree the attention and symAt the coronation of James I, we find another re- | pathy of the public. Not long after, a less innocent presentative of the family selected as an object of sort of notoriety attached itself to two other members royal favour,-the grandson of Sir John Byron the of the family ,-one, the grand-uncle of the poet, and Little, being, on this occasion, made a Knight of the the other, his father. The former, in the year 1765, Bath. There is a letter to this personage, preserved stood his trial before the House of Peers for killing, in Lodge's Illustrations, from which it appears that, in a duel, or rather scuffle, his relation and neighbour notwithstanding all these apparent indications of Mr Chaworth; and the latter, having carried off to prosperity, the inroads of pecuniary embarrassment the continent the wife of Lord Carmarthen, on the had already began to be experienced by this ancient noble marquis obtaining a divorce from the lady, house. After counselling the new heir as to the best married her. Of this short union one daughter only mode of getting free of his debts, “I do therefore was the issue, the honourable Augusta Byron, now advise you,” continues the writer, * " that so soon the wife of Colonel Leigh. as you have, in such sort as shall be fit, finished your In reviewing thus cursorily the ancestors, both father's funerals, to dispose and disperse that great near and remote, of Lord Byron, it cannot fail to be household, reducing them to the number of forty or remarked how strikingly be combined in his own fifty, at the most, of all sorts; and, in my opinion, nature some of the best and, perhaps, worst qualities it will be far better for you to live for a time in that lie scattered through the various characters of Lancashire rather than in Notts for many good rea- his predecessors,--the generosity, the love of entersons that I can tell you when we meet, fitter for prise, the high-mindedness of some of the better words than writing.”
spirits of his race, with the irregular passions, the From the following reign (Charles I) the nobility eccentricity, and daring recklessness of the world's of the family dates its origin. In the year 1643, Sir opinion, that so much characterized others. John Byron, great grandson of him who succeeded The first wife of the father of the poet having died to the rich domains of Newstead, was created Baron in 1784, he, in the following year, married Miss Byron of Rochdale in the county of Lancaster; and Catherine Gordon, only child and heiress of George seldom has a title been bestowed for such high and Gordon, Esq. of Gight. In addition to the estate of honourable services as those by which this noble Gight, which had, however, in former times, been man deserved the gratitude of his royal master. much more extensive, this lady possessed, in ready Through almost every page of the History of the money, Bank shares, &c. no inconsiderable property; Civil Wars, we trace his name in connexion with the and it was known to be solely with a view of relieving varying fortunes of the king, and find him faithful, himself from his debts that Mr Byron paid his addresses persevering, and disinterested to the last. “Sir John to her. A circumstance related, as having taken place Biron (says the writer of Colonel Hutchinson's Me before the marriage of this lady, not only shows the moirs), afterwards Lord Biron, and all his brothers, extreme quickness and vehemence of her feelings, bred up in arms and valiant men in their own per but, if it be true that she had never at the time seen Bons, were all passionately the king's.” There is Captain Byron, is not a little striking. Being at the also, in the answer which Colonel Hutchinson, when Edinburgh Theatre one night when the character governor of Nottingham, returned, on one occasion, of Isabella was performed by Mrs Siddons, so affected to his cousin-german, Sir Richard Biron, a noble was she by the powers of this great actress, that, tribute to the valour and fidelity of the family. Sir towards the conclusion of the play, she fell into violent Richard, having sent to prevail on his relative to fits, and was carried out of the theatre, screaming surrender the castle, received for answer, that,“ ex- loudly, “ Oh my Biron, my Biron.” cept he found his own heart prone to such treachery, On the occasion of her marriage there appeared a he might consider there was, if nothing else, so much ballad by some Scotch rhymer, which has been lately of a Biron's blood in him, that he should very much reprinted in a collection of the “ Ancient Ballads and scorn to betray or quit a trust he had undertaken.”
Songs of the North of Scotland ;” and as it bears Such are a few of the gallant and distinguished testimony both to the reputation of the lady for personages, through whom the name and honours of wealth, and that of her husband for rakery and extrathis noble house have been transmitted. By the
it may be worth extracting :maternal side also, Lord Byron had to pride himself on a line of ancestry as illustrious as any that Scot
MISS GORDON OF GIGHT. land can boast,--his mother, who was one of the O whare are ye gaen', bonny Miss Gordon ? Gordons of Gight, having been a descendant of that O wbare are ye gaen, sae bony an' braw? Sir William Gordon, who was the third son of the
Ye 've married, ye 've married wi' Johnny Byron,
To squander the lands o' Gight awa'.
This youth is a rake, frae England he 's come ;
The Scots dinna ken bis extraction ava: many individuals of the house of Byron distinguished He keeps up his misses, his landlord he duns, themselves—there having been no less than seven That 's fast drawen' the lands o' Gight awa'.
O whare are ye gaen', &c. * The Earl of Shrewsbury
* Afterwards Admiral.