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so and so ;” but violently tears off the mask and exhibits the man, disguised only by his native ugliness; thence the reciprocation of personalities. It was to be feared that Byron would have brought Don Juan on the stage, at the age when Moliere has taken possession of the character. The hero would then have been a battered rake : and in three cantos the piece would have, concluded. If Don Juan were the same hero, whom he had first in his eye, he has retained nothing of him but his name; his frame-work is of vast extent, and in order to fill it, it was requisite to lead Don Juan through all the incidents of different periods of life. He has taken him upon his emerging from childhood, in order to analyze his first sensations, and depict his first ideas in all their native simplicity. Accessible to all impressions, Juan is calculated to become all that circumstances and the lessons of society will make him ; he alternately adopts all kinds of opinions and all kinds of errors; in love, deluded by his too easy heart, he is sincere even in his inconstancy. It is probable that Lord Byron imparts to the character much of what he himself experienced: but identifying himself less with Don Juan than Childe Harold, he in his own person, anticipates the period when, like himself, Juan will find nothing in life but disenchantment and regret. His digressions are generally entirely personal; but if he is prompted to discolor the future, he makes amends by occasional retrospects on the past, which restore him, through there-action memory, to all the freshness of his early imagination. Byron is also often under the immediate influence of the localities wherein he writes: Italy appears in many of his stanzas invested with all the warmth and purity of its atmosphere, the beauty of its scenery, and the tender melancholy of its ruins. Witness the apostrophe to the forest of Ravenna.” While thus abandoning himself to the caprice and impression of the moment, the poet naturally places himself in collision with himself. He is the first to admit it. After having been perhaps unjust towards the glory of the chivalrous Gaston De Foix, in his aversion to every thing connected with knight errantry, he is detected in the act of pitying Don Quixotte, and quarrels with Cervantes for having killed with ridicule the ancient honour of Spain. All these caprices of generous susceptibility, all these vagaries of humour, gaiety, and buffoonery, admirably promote the effect of the picturesque style, which resembles in reference to the poet's thoughts, that of a transparent veil carelessly arranged. The style of Don Juan is entirely Lord Byron's, and belongs to him alone. This style did not previously exist in the English tongue. Don Juan often deals in expressions and phrases which would be otherwise incorrect; in those natural epithets after the manner of our Fontaine, which are true conquests made from the regions of prose, but also true poetry,because they depictfreely.
It has been said of Byron's style, generally, that it is a kind of improvisation. In Childe Harold it is the improvisation of enthusiasm; in Don Juan, it is that of the witty and familiar conversationist; of a man, who has seen and observed much, and felt and reflected much on the subject of himself and others. This anatomy of the human heart, and of its secret springs, produces no discoloured analyses in the hands of a truly great poet. The portraits which Byron traces are all living, and poetical in the midst of their fidelity. His females, especially, are the offspring of an enchanting poetical inspiration; such is his Haydee, such his young Aurora. I must confess that one only circumstance would console me were Byron in Greece to omit the conclusion of his Don Juan. I could never forgive him for losing sight of the divine Aurora, as he has lost sight of Haydee. Lord Byron has been reproached, as we have said, with being confined to the variation of one character by simple shades of difference. What an effectual reply to this reproach does the gallery of portraits in Don Juan offer I repeat, that this biographical Odyssey only stands in need of the authority of some critic in order to be generally admired. Alas! the thought awakens a melancholy reflection on my hair, which, as Byron says of his own, is already turning grey ! “But now at thirty years my hair is grey.
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Sad disenchantment of the illusions of youth. Eight years ago I still preferred the Nouvelle Heloise to Gil Blas ; and I should not then have ranked Don Juan above the solemn and impassioned poetry of Childe Harold, the pathetic accents imparted to the Lament of Tasso, the tender melancholy of Parisina, and the terrific and af.
P. S. It is principally the alleged irreligion of Lord Byron, which has afflicted the true friends of his glory. I have endeavoured to analyze with impartiality the scepticism of the noble poet in the Essai sur son charactere et son genie. From all that has been revealed to us since his death on the subject of his moral opinions, I infer that there was in Byron at least a great desire of belief. As often as he beheld man between heaven and him, he sheltered himself in doubt, and by a singular caprice of pride affected an audacious disdain or a cold indifference of the belief in astrology; but in private with his friends, he did not fear confessing what he called his superstitious weakness, while he hastened to justify it by the example of the great men, who had been superstitious on that point, like himself. That vague and indecisive revelation of something written there, was, it is
* I interrupt here the course of my letter, in which I had embodied some details of the private life of Lord Byron. His death has given occasion to publications which have anticipated me; but I do not renounce the design of adverting to him again.
to be hoped, perfectly cleared up during the last moments of an individual dying for a sacred cause. It is known that Lord Byron always carried some precious memento concealed in his bosom, and suspended by a ribband. Captain Medwin supposes that it was the portrait of the lady who had been the first object of his love. A German Gazette has just been sent me, in which the learned M. Hammer pretends that it was an oriental amulet.” Subjoined is an anecdote which would lead me to believe, that if Lord Byron had provided himself with an amulet, it might have been a scapulary, or some relic of the christian faith. During his residence at Athens, in the Franciscan convent, Lord Byron had ingratiated himself with a monk, named Father Bernard. When Grecian liberty, replying to his magnanimous appeal, called on him to detach himself from the enjoyments of Italy, Byron, on making up his determination to depart, said one day to his friends— “It is nevertheless very extraordinary; Father Bernard, in giving me the crucifix which he carried about him, told me with a prophetic air, “You will become the defender of the christians; you will return into Greece for the sake of the
* “This amulet,” says Mr. Hammer, “is a cypher on paper furnished by a dervise: it is the copy of an agreement between king Solomon and the devil, by which Satan undertakes to do no injury to whomsoever bears the writing, which contains five prayers of Adam, Noah, Job, Jonas, and Abraham.”