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however, gave me her picture, and that was something to make verses upon. +
66 During the last year that I was at Harrow, all my thoughts were occupied on this love-affair. I had, besides, a spirit that ill brooked the restraints of school discipline; for I had been encouraged by servants in all my violence of temper, and was used to command. Every thing like a task was repugnant to my nature; and I came away a very indifferent classic, and read in nothing that was useful. That subordination, which is the soul of all discipline, I submitted to with great difficulty; yet I did submit to it: and I have always retained a sense of Drury's kindness, which enabled me to bear it and fagging too. The Duke of Dorset was my fag. I was not a very hard task-master. There were times in which, if I had not considered it as a school, I should have been happy at Harrow. There is one spot I should like to see again: I was particularly delighted with the view from the Church-yard, and used to sit for hours on the stile leading into the fields; even then I formed a wish to be buried there. Of all my schoolfellows, I know no one for whom I have retained so much friendship as for Lord Clare. I have been constantly corresponding with him ever since I knew he was in Italy; and look forward to seeing him, and talking over with him our old Harrow stories, with infinite delight. There is no pleasure in life equal to that of meeting an old friend. You know how glad I was to see Hay. Why did not Scroope Davics come to see me? Some one told me that he was at Florence, but it is impossible.
"There are two things that strike me at this moment, which I did at Harrow: I fought Lord Calthorpe for writing D-d Atheist!' under my name; and prevented the school-room from being burnt during a rebellion, by pointing out to the boys the names of their fathers and grandfathers on the walls.
"Had I married Miss C
the whole tenor of my life would have been different. She jilted me, however, but her marriage proved any thing but a happy one. She was at length separated from Mr. M and proposed an interview with me, but by the advice of my sister I declined it. I remember meeting her after my return from Greece, but pride had conquered my love; and yet it was not with perfect indifference I saw her.
"For a man to become a poet (witness Petrarch and Dante) he must be in love, or
miserable. I was both when I wrote the Hours of Idleness;' some of those poems, in spite of what the reviewers say, are as good as any I ever produced.
"For some years after the event that had so much influence on my fate, I tried to drown the remembrance of it and her in the most depraving dissipation; but the poison was in the cup."
indeed the birth of his poetry, though If the death of his happiness was the world might be a gainer by his sufferings, one could not but lament that so much enjoyment to us had resulted from so much pain to him; but (with Milton and several others in our recollection) we have some doubts whether it be necessary for a man either to be in love or be miserable to make him a poet. We are also but little disposed to agree with the noble advocate of himself, when he asserts that the "whole tenor of his life would have been different had he been linked to a radiant angel herself; his faults were too hereditary, and had been too much confirmed by a loose education. there not an evident inconsistency between the termination of his first paragraph, as given above, and the beginning of his fifth?
His judgment in critical matters was more discriminating than we could have legitimately inferred from his perpetual sneers and tirades, whenever the name of Shakspeare or Milton was mentioned. He passes many opinions on the genius and style of his cotemporaries, which are for the most part judicious, and often leaning much more to the side pected, or can (as critics) approve: of mercy than we could have ex
"Like Gray," said he, "Campbell smells too much of the oil: he is never satisfied with what he does; his finest things have been spoiled by over-polish-the sharpness of the outline is worn off. Like paintings, poems may be too highly finished. The great art is effect, no matter how produced.” ***
Coleridge is like Sosia in
trion; he does not know whether he is himself, or not. If he had never gone to
+He had always a black ribbon round his neck, to which was attached a locket containing hair and a picture. We had been playing at billiards one night till the balls appeared double, when all at once he searched hastily for something under his waistcoat, and said, in great alarm, "Good God! I have lost my !" but before he had finished the sentence, he had discovered the hidden treasure.
Germany, nor spoilt his fine genius by the transcendental philosophy and German metaphysics, nor taken to write lay sermons, he would have made the greatest poet of the day. What poets had we in 1795? Hayley had got a monopoly, such as it was. Coleridge might have been any thing as it is, he is a thing that dreams are made of.""***
"I knew Madame de Staël in England. When she came over she created a great sensation, and was much courted in the literary as well as the political world. On the supposition of her being a Liberal, she was invited to a party, where were present Whitbread, Sheridan, and several of the opposition leaders.
To the great horror of the former, she soon sported her Ultraisms. No one possessed so little tact as Madame de Staël,which is astonishing in one who had seen so much of the world and of society. She used to assemble at her routs politicians of both sides of the House, and was fond of setting two party-men by the ears in argument. I once witnessed a curious scene of this kind. She was battling it very warmly, as she used to do, with Canning, and all at once turned round to (I think he said) Lord Grey, who was at his elbow, for his opinion. It was on some point upon which he could not but most cordially disagree. She did not understand London society, and was always sighing for her coterie at Paris. The dandies took an invincible dislike to the De Staëls, mother and daughter. Brummel was her aversion; -she, his. There was a double marriage talked of in town that season:-Auguste (the present Baron) was to have married Miss Milbank; I, the present Duchess of Broglio. I could not have been worse embroiled.
"Madame de Staël had great talent in conversation, and an overpowering flow of words. It was once said of a large party that were all trying to shine, There is not one who can go home and think.' This was not the case with her. She was often troublesome, some thought rude, in her questions; but she never offended me, because I knew that her inquisitiveness did not proceed from idle curiosity, but from a wish to sound people's characters. She was a continual interrogatory to me, in order to fathom mine, which requires a long plumb line. She once asked me if my real character was well drawn in a favourite novel of the day (Glenarvon'). She was only singular in putting the question in the dry way she did. There are many who pin their faith on that insincere production.
"No woman had so much bonne foi as Madame de Staël: hers was a real kindness of heart. She took the greatest possible interest in my quarrel with Lady
Byron, or rather Lady Byron's with me, and had some influence over my wife, - as much as any person but her mother, which is not saying much. I believe Madame de Staël did her utmost to bring about a reconciliation between us. She was the best creature in the world.
"Women never see consequences— never look at things straight forward, or as they ought. Like figurantes at the Opera, they make a hundred pirouttes and return to where they set out. With Madame de Staël this was sometimes the case. She was very indefinite and vague in her manner of expression. In endeavouring to be new she became often obscure, and sometimes unintelligible. What did she mean by saying that Napoleon was a system, and
not a man?"
I cannot believe that Napoleon was acquainted with all the petty persecutions that she used to be so garrulous about, or that he deemed her of sufficient importance to be dangerous: besides, she admired him so much, that he might have gained her over by a word. But, like me, he had perhaps too great a contempt for wonen; he treated them as puppets, and thought he could make them dance at any time by pulling the wires. That story of Gardez vos enfans' did not tell much in her favour, and proves what I say. I shall be curious to see Las Cases' book, to hear what Napoleon's real conduct to her was.' "***
"She was always aiming to be brilliant -to produce a sensation, no matter how, when, or where. She wanted to make all her ideas, like figures in the modern French school of painting, prominent and showy,-standing out of the canvas, each in a light of its own. She was vain: but who had an excuse for vanity if she had not? I can easily conceive her not wishing to change her name, or acknowledge that of Rocca. I liked Rocca; he was a gentleman and a clever man; no man said better things, or with a better grace. remark about the Meillerie road that I quoted in the Notes of Childe Harold,' La route vaut mieux que les souvenirs, was the observation of a thorough Frenchman." ***
"How could it be otherwise?" said he. "Some of them were called translations, and I spoke in the character of a Frenchman and a soldier. But Napoleon was his own antithesis (if I may say so). He was a glorious tyrant, after all. Look at his public works; compare his face, even on his coins, with those of the other sovereigns of Europe. I blame the manner of his death: he showed that he possessed much of the Italian character in consenting to live. There he lost himself in his dramatic character, in my estimation. He was master of his own destiny; of that, at
Conversations of Lord Byron.
least, his enemies could not deprive him. He should have gone off the stage like a hero: it was expected of him."
Talking of romances, he said: "The Monk' is perhaps one of the best in any language, not excepting the German. It only wanted one thing, as I told Lewis, to have rendered it perfect. He should have made the dæmon really in love with Ambrosio: this would have given it a human interest. The Monk' was written when Lewis was only twenty, and he seems to have exhausted all his genius on it. Perhaps at that age he was in earnest in his belief of magic wonders. That is the secret of Walter Scott's inspiration: he retains and encourages all the superstitions of his youth. Lewis caught his passion for the marvellous, and it amounted to a mania with him, in Germany; but the groundwork of The Monk,' is neither original nor German: it is derived from the tale of Santon Barsisa. The episode of The Bleeding Nun,' which was turned into a melo-drama, is from the German."
"Lewis was not a very successful wri-
"But to return to Lewis. He was even
I asked him if he had known Sheridan?
of peculiar brilliancy and fire; but below
"Lewis had been, or thought he had
Lewis was with me for a considerable period at Geneva; and we went to Coppet several times together; but Lewis was there oftener than I.
"Madame de Staël and he used to have violent arguments about the Slave Trade, which he advocated strongly, for most of his property was in negroes and plantations. Not being satisfied with three thousand a-year, he wanted to make it five; and would go to the West Indies; but he died on the passage of sea-sickness, and obstinacy in taking an emetic."
"The Fudge Family' pleases me as much as any of Moore's works. The letter which he versified at the end was given him by Douglas Kinnaird and myself, and was addressed by the Life-guardsman, after the battle of Waterloo, to Big Ben. Witty as Moore's epistle is, it falls short of the original. 'Doubling up the Mounseers in brass," is not so energetic an expression as was used by our hero,-all the alliteration is lost.
"Moore is one of the few writers who will survive the age in which he so deservedly flourishes. He will live in his
Irish Melodies; they will go down to posterity with the music; both will last as long as Ireland, or as music and poetry."
"Hunt would have made a fine writer, for he has a great deal of fancy and feeling, if he had not been spoiled by circumstances. He was brought up at the Blue-coat foundation, and had never till lately been ten miles from St. Paul's. What poetry is to be expected from such a course of education? He has his school, however, and a host of disciples. A friend of mine calls Rimini," Nimini Pimini; and 'Foliage,' Follyage. Perhaps he had a tumble in climbing trees There never were so in the Hesperides!' But Rimini has a great deal of merit. many fine things spoiled as in Rimini.'"
Superstition is often the weakness of a strong mind. Cæsar and Napoleon are said to have felt its influence. Goethe, it appears (though of we have no intention of classing a poetical old woman with men strong minds) is subject to the same infirmity; and, authorised by his example, Byron seems to have indulged the same unphilosophical propensity to make the spirits, who difect the great wheels of the universe attendants upon his petty concerns,
-to make the grand phenomena of Nature mere prophecies of events, which are to embellish his insignificant history.
During our drive and ride this evening, he declined our usual amusements of pistolfiring, without assigning a cause. He hardly spoke a word during the first halfhour, and it was evident that something weighed heavily on his mind. There was a sacredness in his melancholy that I dared not interrupt. At length he said: "This is Ada's birthday, and might have been the happiest day of my life: as it is - !" He stopped, seemingly ashamed of having betrayed his feelings. He tried in vain to rally his spirits by turning the conversation; but he created a laugh in which he could not join, and soon relapsed into his former reverie. It lasted till we came within a mile of the Argine gate. There our silence was all at once interrupted by shrieks that seemed to proceed from a cottage by the side of the road. We pulled up our horses, to inquire of a contadino standing at the little garden-wicket. He told us that a widow had just lost her only child, and that the sounds proceeded from the wailings of some women over the corpse. Lord Byron was much affected; and his superstition, acted upon by a sadness that seemed to be presentiment, led him to augur some dis
"I shall not be happy," said he, "till I hear that my daughter is well. I have a great horror of anniversaries: people only laugh at, who have never kept a register of them. I always write to my sister on Ada's birthday. I did so last year; and, what was very remarkable, my letter reached her on my wedding-day, and her answer reached me at Ravenna on my birth-day! Several extraordinary things have happened to me on my birth-day; so they did to Napoleon; and a more wonderful circumstance still occurred to Marie Antoinette."
"I told you I was not oppressed in spirits last night without a reason. Who can help being superstitious? Scott believes in second-sight. Rousseau tried whether he was to be d-d or not, by aiming at a tree with a stone: I forget whether he hit or missed. Goethe trusted to the chance of a knife's striking the water, to determine whether he was to prosper in some undertaking. The Italians think the dropping of oil very unlucky. Pietro (Count Gamba) dropped some the same night before his exile, and that of his fa'mily, from Ravenna. Have you ever had your fortune told? Mrs. Williams told She predicted that twenty-seven
and thirty-seven were to be dangerous ages in my life.* One has come true."
"Yes," added I, "and did she: not prophecy that you were to die a monk and a miser? I have been told so."
That the domestic feelings were powerful in Lord Byron's breast is undeniable, notwithstanding their having frequently yielded to the superior violence of his other passions. His love of his child, his ill-concealed anguish on account of his separation from Lady B. and even his attachment to the Countess Guiccioli, are proofs of this. The Note-taker of his conversation says,
Notwithstanding the tone of raillery with which he sometimes speaks in Don Byron, and his saying, as he did to-day, Juan' of his separation from Lady that the only thing he thanks Lady Byron for is, that he cannot marry, &c., it is evident that it is the thorn in his side-the poison in his cup of life! The veil is easily seen through. He endeavours to mask his griefs, and to fill up the void does not belong to it. All the tender and of his heart, by assuming a gaiety that endearing ties of social and domestic life rudely torn asunder, he has been wandering on from place to place without finding any to rest in. Switzerland, Venice, Ravenna, and I might even have added Tuscany, were doomed to be no asylum for him, &c.
His platonic liaison, if that be its adequate title, was more durable than many legitimate connexions.
Even this picture has its charm, though it certainly is not a moral one.
When I called, I found him sitting in the garden under the shade of some orangetrees, with the Countess. They are now always together, and he is now become quite domestic. He calls her Piccinina, and bestows on her all the pretty diminutive epithets that are so sweet in Italian. His kindness and attention to the Guiccioli have been invariable. A three years' constancy proves that he is not altogether so unmanageable by a sensible woman might be supposed. In fact no man is so easily led: but he is not to be driven.
Of the interesting female to whom the latter extract refers there are
frequent notices in the volume before us. Though we will not assist in giving currency to the scandalous parts of these Conversations, we consider this subject as within the proper limits of biography.
* He was married in his twenty-seventh, and died in his thirty-seventh year.
The Countess Guiccioli is twenty-three years of age, though she appears no more than seventeen or eighteen. Unlike most of the Italian women, her complexion is delicately fair. Her eyes, large, dark, and languishing, are shaded by the longest eyelashes in the world; and her hair, which is ungathered on her head, plays over her falling shoulders in a profusion of natural ringlets of the darkest auburn. Her figure is, perhaps, too much embonpoint for her height, but her bust is perfect; her features want little of possessing a Grecian regularity of outline; and she has the most beautiful mouth and teeth imaginable. It is impossible to see without admiring-to hear the Guiccioli speak without being fascinated. Her amiability and gentleness shew themselves in every intonation of her voice, which, and the music of her perfect Italian, give a peculiar charm to every thing she utters. Grace and elegance seem component parts of her nature. Notwithstanding that she adores Lord Byron, it is evident that the exile and poverty of her aged father sometimes affect her spirits, and throw a shade of melancholy on her countenance, which adds to the deep interest this lovely girl creates.
"Extraordinary pains," said Lord Byron one day, 66 were taken with the education of Teresa. Her conversation is lively, without being frivolous; without being learned, she has read all the best authors of her own and the French language. She often conceals what she knows, from the fear of being thought to know too much; possibly because she knows I am not fond of blues. To use an expression of Jeffrey's, If she has blue stockings, she contrives that her petticoat shall hide them." "
Her lover's excuse for her morality, or rather that of her country, is perhaps, the best and only one which can be made.
"The Count Guiccioli, for instance, who is the richest man in Romagna, was sixty when he married Teresa; she sixteen. From the first they had separate apartments, and she always used to call him Sir. What could be expected from such a preposterous connexion? For some time she was an Angiolina, and he a Marino Faliero, a good old man; but young women, and your Italian ones too, are not satisfied with your good old men. Love is not the same dull, cold, calculating feeling here as in the North. It is the business, the serious occupation of their lives; it is a want, a necessity. Somebody properly defines a woman, a creature that loves.' They die of love; particularly the Romans: they begin to love earlier, and feel the passion later than the Northern people. When I was at Venice, two dowagers of sixty made love to me.-But to return to
the Guiccioli. The old Count did not object to her availing herself of the privileges of her country; an Italian would have reconciled him to the thing: indeed for some time he winked at our intimacy, but at length made an exception against me, as a foreigner, a heretic, an Englishman, and, what was worse than all, a liberal.
"He insisted-the Guiccioli was as obstinate; her family took her part. Catholics cannot get divorces. But, to the scandal of all Romagna, the matter was at length referred to the Pope, who ordered her a separate maintenance, on condition that she should reside under her father's roof. All this was not agreeable, and at length L was forced to smuggle her out of Ravenna, having disclosed a plot laid with the sanction of the Legate for shutting her up in a convent for life, which she narrowly escaped."
Yet his opinion of women is degrading to the sex and to him; it plainly evinces that he was not capable of a lasting and sincere attachment, either to wife or mistress:
"Women were there, as they have ever been fated to be, my bane. Like Napo leon, I have always had a great contempt them not hastily, but from my own fatal for women; and formed this opinion of experience. My writings, indeed, tend to exalt the sex; and my imagination has always delighted in giving them a beau idéal likeness, but I only drew them as a painter or statuary would do,-as they should be. Perhaps my prejudices, and keeping them at a distance, contributed to prevent the illusion from altogether being worn out and destroyed as to their celestial qualities.
"They are in an unnatural state of society. The Turks and Eastern people manage these matters better than we do. They lock them up, and they are much happier. Give a woman a looking-glass and a few sugar-plums, and she will be satisfied."
We have always held that Lord Byron's poetry was more the result of feeling than of imagination, and his confession in the next paragraph fully bears us out in our opinion.
"I wrote The Prophecy of Dante' at the suggestion of the Countess. I was at that time paying my court to the Guiccioli, and addressed the dedicatory sonnet to her. She had heard of my having written something about Tasso, and thought Dante's exile and death would furnish as fine a subject. I can never write but on the spot. Before I began 'The Lament,' I went to Ferrara, to visit the Dungeon. Hoppner was with me, and part of it, the