ページの画像
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

6

deep through his back; that he struggled, and to avoid his creditors, and died at Valencien
being the stronger man, disarmed his lordship, nes, in 1791.
and expressed a concern, as under the appre- In Captain Medwin's “ Conversations of
hension of having mortally wounded him; Lord Byron,” the following expressions aro
that Lord Byron replied by saying something said to have fallen from his lordship, on the
to the like effect, adding at the same time, subject of his unworthy father:-
that he hoped “ he would now allow him to “I lost my father when I was only six years
be as brave a man as any in the kingdom." of age. My mother, when she was in a rage

For this offence he was unanimously con- with me (and I gave her cause enough, used victed of manslaughter, but, on being brought to say, “Ah! you little dog, you are a Byron up for judgment, pleaded his privilege as a all over; you are as bad as your father! It peer, and was, in consequence, rischarged. was very difierent from Mrs. Malaprop's say. After this affair he was abandoned by his rela- ing, 'Ah! good dear Mr. Malaprop! I never tions, and retired to Newstead Abbey; where, loved him till he was dead.' But, in fact, my though he lived in a state of perfect exile from father was, in his youth, anything bui a persons of his own rank, his unhappy temper · Colebs in search of a wife.' He would have found abundant exercise in continual war made a bad hero for Hannah More. He ran with his neighbours and tenants, and sufficient out three fortunes, and married or ran away punishment in their hatred. One of his amuse- with three women; and once wanted a guinea, ments was feeding crickets, which were his that he wrote for: I have the note. He seemonly companions. He had made them so tame ed born for his own ruin, and that of the other as to crawl over him; and used to whip them sex. He began by seducing Lady Carmarwith a wisp of straw, if too familiar. In this then, and spent for her four thousand pounds forlorn condition he lingered out a long lise, a-year; and, not content with one adventure doing all in his power to ruin the paternal of this kind, afterwards eloped with Miss mansion for that other branch of the family Gordon. This marriage was not destined to to which he was aware it must pass at his be a very fortunate one either, and I don't death, all his own children having descended wonder at her differing from Sheridan's widow before him to the grave.

in the play; they certainly could not have John, the next brother to William, and born claimed the flitch.'” in the year after him, that is in 1723, was of a George Byron Gordon (for so he was called very different disposition, although his career on account of the neglect his father's family in life was almost an unbroken scene of mis- had shown to his mother) was born at Dover, fortunes. The hardships he endured while on the 22d of January, 1788. On the unnatuaccompanying Commodore Anson in his ex- ral desertion of his father, the entire care of pedition to the South Seas, are well known, his infant years devolved upon his mother from his own highly popular and affecting who retired to Aberdeen, where she lived in narrative. His only son, born in 1751, who almost perfect seclusion, on the ruins of lier received an excellent education, and whose fortune. Her undivided affection was natufather procured for him a commission in the rally concentred in her son, who was her guards, was so dissipated that he was known darling; and when he only went out for an by the name of “mad Jack Byron." He was ordinary walk, she would entreat him, with one of the handsomest men of his time; but the tear glistening in her eye, to take care of his character was so notorious, that his father himself, as“ she had nothing on earth but him pas obliged to desert him, an his company to live for;" a conduct not at all pleasing to was shunned by the better part of society. his adventurous spirit; the more especially, In his twenty-seventh year, he seduced the as some of his companions, who witnessed the archioness of Carmarthen, who had been affectionate scene, would laugh and ridicule but a few years married to a inusband with him about it. This excessive maternal indulwhom she had lived in the most happy state, gence, and the absence of that salutary disciuntil she formed this unfortunate connexion. pline and control so necessary to childhood, After one fruitless attempt at reclaiming his doubtless contributed to the formation of the lady, the Marquis obtained a divorce; and a less pleasing features of Lord Byron's characmarriage was brought about between her and ter. It must, however, be reinembered, in her seducer; which, after the most brutal Mrs. Byron's extenuation, not only that the conduct on his part, and the greatest misery circumstances in which she had been left with and keenest remorse on hers, was dissolved her son were of a very peculiar nature, but in two years, by her sinking to the grave, the also that a slight malformation of one of his victim of a broken heart. About three years feet, and great weakness of constitution, na subsequently, Captain Byron sought to recruit turally solicited for him in the heart of a mo his fortunes by matrimony, and having made ther a more than ord 'nary portion of tender a conquest of Miss Catherine Gordon, an ness. For these latter reasons, he was not sent Aberdeenshire heiress (lineally descended very early to school, but was allowed to ex from the Earl of Huntley and the Princess pand his lungs, and brace his limbs, upon the Jane, daughter of James II. of Scotland,) he mountains of the neighbourhood. This was united himself to her, ran through her proper-evidently the most judicious method for imty in a few years, and, leaving her and her parting strength to his bodily frame; and the only child, the subject of this memoir, in a sequel showed that it was far from the worst destitute and defenceless state, fled to France for giving tone and vigour to his mind. The

[ocr errors]

Doun ye

[ocr errors]

a

garage grandeur of nature around him; the Brig of Balgounie, black's your wa'; feeling that he was upon hills where

Wi'a wife's ae son and a mear's ae foal,

shall fa'." “ Foreign tyrant never trod, But Freedom with her faulchion bright,

He immediately stopped his companion, who Swept the stranger from her sight;'

was then riding, and asked him if he remem

bered the prophecy, saying, that as they were his intercourse with a people whose chief both only sons, and as the pony might be amusements consisted in the recital of heroic mare's ae foal,” he would rather ride over first; tales of other times, feats of strength, and a because he had only a mother to lament him, display of independence, blended with the should the prophecy be fulfilled by the falling wild supernatural stories peculiar to remote of the bridge, whereas the other had both a and thinly-peopled districts ;-all these were father and a mother to grieve for him. calculated to foster that poetical feeling innate It is the custom of the grammar-school at in his character.

Aberdeen, that the boys of all the five classes When George was seven years of age, his of which it is composed, should be assembled mother sent him to the grammar-school at for prayers in the public school at eight o'clock Aberdeen, where he remained till his removal in the morning; after prayers, a censor calls to Harrow, with the exception of some inter- over the names of all, and those who are abvals of absence, which were deemed requisite sent are punished. The first time that Lord for the establishment of his health. His pro- Byron had come to school after bis accession gress beyond that of the general run of his to his title, the rector had caused his name to class-fellows, was never so remarkable as be inserted the censor's book, Georgius after those occasional intervals, when, in a few Dominus de Byron, instead of Géorgius Byron days, he would master exercises which, in the Gordon, as formerly. The boys, unaccusschool routine, it had required weeks to ac- tomed to this aristocratic sound, set up a loud complish. But when he had overtaken the and involuntary shout, which had such an efrest of the class, he always relaxed his exer- fect on his sensitive mind that he burst into tions, and, contenting himself with being con- tears, and would have fled from the school, sidered a tolerable scholar, never made any had he not been restrained by the master. extraordinary effort to place himself at the An answer wbich Lord Byron made to a head of the highest form. It was out of school fellow scholar, who questioned him as to the that he aspired to be the leader of every thing; cause of the honorary addition of “ Doininus in all boyish games and amusements, he would de Byron" to his name, served at that time, be first if possible. For this he was emi- when he was only ten years of age, to point nently calculated; quick, enterprising, and out that he would be a man who would think, daring, the energy of his mind enabled him speak, and act for himself-who, whatever to overcome the impediments which nature might be his sayings or his doings, his vices had thrown in his way. Even at that early or his virtues, would not condescend to take period (from eight to ten years of age), all his them at second-hand. This happened on the sports were of a manly character; fishing, very day after he had been menaced with being shooting, swimming, and managing a horse, flogged round the school for a fault which lie or steering and trimming the sails of a boat, had not committed; and when the question constituted his chief delights, and, to the super- was put to him, he replied, “it is not my doficial observer, seemed his sole occupations. ing; Fortune was to whip me yesterday for

He was exceedingly brave, and in the ju- what another did, and she has this day made venile wars of the school, he generally gained me a lord for what another has ceased to do. the victory; upon one occasion, a boy pur- I need not thank her in either case,

for I have sued by another took refuge in Mrs. Byron's asked nothing at her hands." house: the latter, who had been much abused On the 17th of May, 1798, William, the fifth by the former, proceeded to take vengeance Lord Byron, departed this life at Newstead, in him even on the landing-place of the draw. As the son of this eccentric nobleman had died ing-room stairs, when George interposed in when George was five years old, and as the his defence, declaring that nobody should be descent both of the titles and estates was to . ill-used while under his roof and protection. heirs male, the latter, of course, succeeded l'pon this the aggressor dared him to fight; his great-uncle. Upon this change of fortune, and, although the former was by much the Lord Byron, now ten years of age, was restronger of the two, the spirit of young Byron moved from the immediate care of his mother was so determined, that after the coinbat had and placed as a ward under the guardianship lasted for nearly two hours, it was suspend of the Earl of Carlisle, whose father had mared because both the boys were entirely ex- ried Isabella, the sister of the preceding Lord hansted.

Byron. In one or two points of character, A school-fellow of Byron had a very small this great-aunt resembled the bard: she also Shetland pony, which his father had bought wrote beautiful poetry, and after adorning the him; and one day they went to the banks of gay and fashionable world for many years, she the Don to bathe; but having only one pony, left it without any apparent cause, and with they were obliged to follow the good old prac- perfect indifference, and in a great measure tice called in Scotland “ride and tie.” When secluded herself from society. they came to the bridge over that dark ro- The young nobleman's guardian decided mantic stream, Byron bethought him of the that he should receive the usual education prophecy which he has quoted in Don Juan : 1given to England's titled sons, and that he

х

6

should, in the first instance, be sent to the the Harrow vacation, saw and became enpublic school at Harrow. He was acrord- amoured of Miss Chaworth: she is the Mary ingly placed there under the tuition of the of his poetry, and his beautiful “ Dream" re. Rev. Dr. Drury, to whom he has testified his lates to their loves. Miss Chaworth was older gratitude in a pote to the fourth canto of than his lordship by a few years, was light Childe Ilarold, in a manner which does equal and volatile, and though, no doubt, highly flat honour to the tutor and the pupil. A change tered by his attachment, yet she treated our of scene and of circumstances so unforeseen poet less as an ardent lover than as a younger and so rapid, would have been hazardous to brother. She was punctual to the assignations any boy, but it was doubly so to one of Byron's which took place at a gate dividing the grounds ardent mind and previous habits. Taken at of the Byrons from the Chaworths, and aconce from the society of boys in humble life, cepted his letters from the confidants; but her and placed among youths of his own newly- answers, it is said, were writter with more of acquired rank, with means of gratification the caution of coquetry than the romance of which to him must have appeared considera- “ love's young dream;" she gave him, how ble, it is by no means surprising that he should ever, her picture, but her hand was reserved have been betrayed into every sort of extray- for another. agance: none of them appear, however, to It was somewhat remarkable that Lord have been of a very culpable nature. Byron and Miss Chaworth should both have

“ Thongh he was lame," says one of his been under the guardianship of Mr. White. school-fellows, "he was a great lover of sports. This gentleman particularly wished that his and preferred hockey to Horace, relinquished wards should be married together; but Miss even Helicon for 'duck-puddle,' and gave up C., as young ladies generally do in such cirthe best post that ever wrote hard Latin for cumstances, differed from him, and was rea game of cricket on the common. He was solved to please herself in the choice of a not remarkable (nor was he ever) for his learn- husband. The celebrated Mr. M., commonly ing, but he was always a clever, plain-spoken, known by the name of Jack M., was at this and undaunted boy. I have seen him fight by time quite the rage, and Miss C. was not subtle the hour like a Trojan, and stand up against enough to conceal the penchant she had for the disadvantage of his lameness with all the this jack-a-danuly; and though Mr. W. took spirit of an ancient combatant. Don't you her from one watering-place to another, still remember your battle with Pitt?' (a brewer's the lover, like an evil spirit, followed, and son) said I to him in a letter (for I had wit- at last, being somehow more persuasive than nessed it), but it seems that he had forgotten the “ child of song,” he carried off the lady it. “You are mistaken, I think,' said he into the great grief of Lord Byron. The mar reply; it must have been with Rice-Pud- riage, however, was not a happy one; the ding Morgan, or Lord Jocelyn, or one of the parties soon separated, and Mrs. M. afterDouglases, or George Raynsford, or Pryce wards proposed an interview with her former (with whom I had two conflicts), or with Moses lover, which, by the advice of his sister, he Moore (the clod), or with somebody else, and declined. not with Pitt; for with all the above-named, From Harrow Lord Byron was removed, and other worthies of the fist, had I an inter-land entered of Trinity College, Cambridge; change of biack eyes and bloody noses, at there, however, he did not mend his manners, various and sundry periods: however it may nor hold the sages of antiquity in higher eshave happened for all that.'”

teem than when under the command of his The annexed anecdotes are characteristic : reverend tutor at IIarrow. He was above

The boys at Harrow had mutinied, and in studying the poetics, and held the rules of the their wisdom had resolved to set fire to the Stagyrite in as little esteem as in after-life he scene of all their ills and troubles—the school- did the “invariable principles" of the Rev. room : Byron, however, was against the mo- Mr. Bowles. Reading after the fashion of the tion; and by pointing out to the young rebels studious men of Cam, was to him a bore, and the names of their fathers on the walls, he he held a senior wrangler in the greatest conprevented the intended conflagration. This tempt. Persons of real genius are seldom early specimen of his power over the passions candidates for college prizes, and Byron left of his school-fellows, his lordship piqued him-“ the silver cup” for those plodding characters self not a little upon.

who, perhaps, deserve them, as the guerdon Byron long retained a friendship for several of the unceasing labour necessary to overof his Harrow school-fellows; Lord Clare was come the all but invincible natural dullness one of his constant correspondents; Scroope of their intellects. Byron, instead of reading Davies was also one of his chief companions, what plersed tutors, read what pleased himhefore his lordship went to the continent. self, and wrote what could not fail to displease This gentleman and Byron once lost all their those political weathercocks. He did not admoney at “chicken hazard,” in one of the mire their system of education; and they, as hells of St. James's, and the next morning is the case with most scholars, could admire Davies sent for Byron's pistols to shoot him- no other. He took to quizzing them, and no self with; Byron sent a note refusing to give one likes to be laughed at; doctors frowned, them, on the ground that they would be for- and fellows fumed, and Byron at the age of feited as a deodand. This comic excuse had nineteen left the university without a degree. the desired effect.

Among other means which he adopted to Byron, whilst living at Newstead during show his contempt for academical honours,

G

te kept a young bear in his room for some rate character, who is never mentioned by the time, which he told all his friends he was train- neighbouring peasants without a significant ing up for a fellowship; but, however much shake of the head, might have returned and the fellows of Trinity may claim acquaintance recognised every thing about him, except with the “ursa major," they were by no means perhaps, an additional crop of weeds. There desirous of associating with his lord ship's élère. still slept that old pond, into which he is said

When about nineteen years of age, Lord to have hurled his lady in one of his fits of Byreg bade anlieu to the university, and took fury, whence she was rescued by the gardener, up his residence at Newstead Abbey. Here a courageous blade, who was ihe lord's masus pursuits were principally those of amuse- ter, and chastised hiin for his barharity. There ment. Among others, he was extremely fond still, at the end of the garden, in a grove of Ci the water. In his aquatic exercises he had oak, two towering satyrs, he with his goat and seldom any other companion than a large club, and Mrs. Satyr with her chubby cloven Newfoundland dog, to try whose sagacity and footed brat, placed on pedestals at ihe inter fidelity, he would sometimes fall out of the sections of the narrow and gloomy pathways, boat, as if by accident, when the dog would struck for a moment with their grim visages, seize bim, and drag him ashore. On losing and silent shaggy forms, the fear into your this dog, in the autumn of 1208, he caused a bosom which is felt by the neighbouring peamonument to be erected, with an inscription santry at th' oud laird's devils. I have frecommemorative of its attachment. (See page quently asked the country people near New53? of this edition.)

stead, what sort of man his lordship (our Lord The following descriptions of Newstead's Byron) was. The impression of his eccentric hallowed pile will be found interesting: büt energetic character was cvident in the

This abbey was founded in the year 1170, reply, “He's the devil of a fellow for comical by Henry 11., as a priory of Black Canons, fancies. He flogs th' oud laird to nothing; but and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It con- he's a hearty good fellow for all that.'" tinued in the family of the Byrons until the Walpole, isho had visited Newsiead. gives, time of the late lord, who sold it first to Mr. in his usual bitter, sarcastic manner, the folClaughton for the sum of 140,0001., and on lowing account of it: that gentleman's not being able to fulfil the “As I returned I saw Newstead and Al. agreement, and thus paving 20,0001. of a for- thorpe; I like both. The former is the very feit, it was afterwards sold to another person, abbey. The great east window of the church and most of the money vested in trustees for remains, and connects with the house: the the jointure of the Hon. Mrs. Byron. The hall entire, the refectory entire, the cloister greater part of the edifice still remains. The untouched, with the ancient cistern of the present possessor, Major Wildman, is, with convent, and their arms on it: it has a private genuine Gothic taste, repairing this beautiful chapel quite perfect. The park, which is still specimen of architecture. The late Lord charming, has not been so much unprofanet. Byron repaired a considerable part of it: The present lord has lost large sums, and paid but, forgetting the roof, he had turned his at- part in old oaks, five thousand pounds' worth tention to the inside, and the consequence of which have been cut near the house. En was, that in a few years, the rain paying a revanche, he has built two baby forts, to pay visit to the apartments, soon destroyed all his country in castles for damage done to the those elegant devices which his lordship had navy, and planted a handful of Scotch firs, contriveil. His lordship's own study was a that look like ploughboys dressed in old family neat little apartment, decorated with some liveries for a public day. In the hall is a very good classic busts, a select collection of books, good collection of pictures, all animals. The an antique cross, a sword in a gilt case, and, refectory, now the great drawing-room, is full at the end of the room, two finely polished of Byrons: the vaulted roof remaining, but skulls on a pair of light fancy stands. In the the windows have new dresses making for garden, likewise, was a great number of these them by a Venetian tailor." skulls, taken from the burial-ground of the This is a careless but happy description of abbey, and piled up together; but afterwards one of the noblest mansions in England, and they were recommitted to the earth. A writer, it will now be read with a far deeper interest who visited it soon after Lord Byron had sold than when it was written. Walpole saw the *. says: “In one corner of the servants' hall seat of the Byrons, old, majestic, and veneralav a stone roffin, in which were fencing ble; but he saw nothing of that magic beauty gloves and foils, and on the walls of the ample which feme sheds over the habitations of ge but cheerless kitchen was painted in large let- nius, and which now mantles every turret of ters, 'Wante not-want not. During the mi-Newstead Abbey. He saw it when decay bority of Lord Byron, the abbey was in the was doing its work on the cloister, the rcfece poszession of Lord G-, his hounds, and tory, and the chapel, and all its honours seemed divers colonies of jackdaws, swallows, and mouldering into oblivion. He could not know starlings. The internal traces of this Goth that a voice was soon to go forth from those were swept away: but without, all appeared antique cloisters, that should be heard through as rude and unreclaimed as he could have left all future ages, and cry, “Sleep no more to all it. With the exception of the dog's tomb, a the house. Whatever may be its future fate, conspicuous and elegant object, I do not re- Newstead Abbey must henceforth be a memocollect the slightest trace of culture or im- rable abode. Time may shed its wild flowers provement. The late lord, a stern and despe-Ion the walls, and let the fox in upon the court.

[ocr errors]

yard and the chambers; it may even pass into travelling would not incapacitate him, and ihe hands of uplettered pride, or plebeian he wished to judge of men by experience. opulence: but it has been the mansion of a At length, in July, 1809, in company with mighty poet. Its name is associated with glo-John Cam Hobhouse, Esq. (with whom his acries that cannot perish, and will go down to quaintance commenced at Cambridge), Lord posterity in one of the proudest pages of our Byron embarked at Falmouth for Lisbon, and annals.

thence proceeded, by the southern provinces Lord Byron showed, even in his earliest of Spain, to the Mediterranean. The objects years, that nature had added to the advan- that he met with as far as Gibraltar seem to iages of high descent the richest gifts of genius have occupied his mind, to the temporary and of fancy. His own tale is partly told in exclusion of his gloomy and misanthropic two lines of Lara:

thoughts; for a letter which he wrote to his “Left by his sire, too young such loss to know,

mother from thence contains no indication of Lord of himself, that he naye of woe.”

them, but, on the contrary, inuch playful de.

scription of the scenes through which he had His first literary adventure, and its fate, are passed. At Seville, Lord Byron lodged in the well remembered. The poems which he pub- house of two single ladies, one of whom, howlished in his minority had, indeed, those faults ever, was about to be married. Though he of conception and diction which are insepara- remained there only three days, she paid him ble from juvenile attempts, and in particular the most particular attentions, and, at their may rather be considered as imitative of what parting, embraced him with great tenderness, had caught the car and fancy of the youthful cutting off a lock of his hair, and presenting him author, than as exhibiting originality of con- with one of her own. With this specimen of ception and expression. It was like the first Spanish female manners, he proceeded to Caessay of the singing-bird, catching at and imi- diz, where various incidents occurred to contating the notes of its parent, ere habit and firin the opinion he had formed at Seville or time have given the fulness of tone, conti- the Andalusian belles, and whici made him dence, and self-possession which render assist-leave Cadiz with regret, and determine to reance unnecessary. Yet though there were turn to it. Lord Byron wrote to his mother many, and those not the worst judges, who from Malta, announcing his safety, and again discerned in his “Hours of Idleness" a depth from Previsa, in November. Upon arriving of thought and felicity of expression which at Yanina, Lord Byron found that Ali Pacha promised much at a more mature age, the was with his troops in Illyrium, besieging work did not escape the critical lash of the Ibrahim Pacha in Berat; but the vizier, har. “Scotch Reviewers," who could not resist the ing heard that an English nobleman was in opportunity of pouncing upon a titled poet, his country, had given orders at Yanina to of showing off their own wit, and of seeking supply him with every kind of accommodato entertain their readers with a flippant ar- tion, free of expense. From Yanina, Lord ticle, without much respect to the feelings of Byron went to Tepaleen. Here he was lodged the author, or even to the indications of merit in the palace, and the next day introduced to which the work displayed. The review was Ali Pacha, who declared that he knew him read, and excited mirth; the poems were to be a man of rank from the smallness of his neglected, the author was irritated, and took ears, his curling hair, and his white hands, his revenge in keen iambics, which, at the and who sent him a variety of sweetmeats, same time, proved the injustice of the offend- fruits, and other luxuries. In going in a ing critic and the ripening talents of the bard. Turkish ship of war, provided for him by Having thus vented his indignation against Ali Pacha, from Previsa, intending to sail for the reviewers and their readers, and put all Patras, Lord Byron was very near being lost the laughter on his side, Lord Byron went in but a moderate gale of wind, from the ignoabroad, and the controversy was for some rance of the Turkish officers and sailors, and years forgotten.

was driven on the coast of Suli. An instance It was at Newstead, just before his coming of disinterested hospitality in the chief of a of age, he had planned his future travels, and Suliote village occurred to Lord Byron, in his original intention included a much larger consequence of his disasters in the Turkish portion of the world than that which he after- galliot. The honest Albanian, after assisting ivards visited. He first thought of Persia, to him in his distress, supplying his wants, and which idea indeed he for a long time adhered. lodging him and his suite, refused to receive le afterwards meant to sail for India, and had any remuneration. When Lord Byron pressed so far contemplated this project as to write him to take money, he said: “I wish you to for information from the Arabic professor at love me, not to pay me.” At Yanina, on his Cambridge, and to ask his mother to inquire return, he was introduced to Hussien Bey of a friend who liad lived in India, what things and Mahomet Pacha, two young children of would be necessary for his voyage. He formed Ali Pacha. Subsequently, be visited Smyrna his plan of travelling upon very different whence he went in the Salsette frigate to grounds from those which he afterwards ad- Constantinople. vanced. All men should travel at one time or On the 3d of May, 1810, while this frigate another, he thought, and he had then no con- was lying at anchor in the Dardanelles, Lord nexions to prevent him; when he returned Byron, accompanied by Lieutenant Ekenhe might enter into political life, for which head, swam the Hellespont from the European

a

a

« 前へ次へ »