LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Anastasius—Lord Byron.
The Examiner  No. 724  (18 November 1821)  730-31.
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No. 724. SUNDAY, Nov. 18, 1821.


A writer in a Northern Magazine has written a long article to prove that Lord Byron is the author of Anastasius. Without meaning to question his Lordship's powers, I shall say, that if he be the author, I shall never again believe in style of thought or language. But let me first say a word or two of some other points adduced by the Reviewer, as proving decidedly that if the work be not Lord Byron's it at least cannot be Mr. Hope's; and first as to the localities, the intimate acquaintance with which immediately, in his opinion, betrays Lord Byron. But this divides the work among the whole host of English travellers who have visited the East, and in fact it militates rather against the supposition, for the Reviewer acknowledges that his Lordship has not visited Rhodes. Yet surely if ever a description was penned from actual knowledge, it was that of the view from the castle to which the attention of Anastasius is directed by his companion. Another point on which considerable stress is laid, is the author having made his hero a runaway from home; and he says that no one, who ever enjoyed the sweets of a domestic circle, could have sneered at and mocked them as Anastasius does. It is true that Anastasius draws no very favourable picture of his family group; but this is very different from sneering at the enjoyments of home; and surely his sensations at hearing of his mother's death, at visiting his birth-place after his apostasy, and seeing his father, his alienated brother and friends, can proceed only from the recollected affections of his childhood. And even granting that he does despise those joys of a home, which Lord Byron has not known, does it follow that the author of Anastasius should be in the like predicament? It was not necessary that he should stab his friend, to enable him to paint his hero's remorse on the death of Anagosti, or have done any other of the foolish or vicious things he makes his hero do. The old friend with a new face, seems confirmed in his opinion by the similarity of style. I shall not occupy your columns by quoting as he has done; but the following considerations justify me, at least, in doubting, though in the present instance all proof drawn from style (in language) is peculiarly fallacious, as we have no prose work of Lord Byron's to compare with Anastasius. The style of Anastasius is uniformly epigrammatic; it is perhaps not too much to say that his pathos is so; it at any rate is evident that epigram is, if I may say so, the habit of the author's thought. His language, however elegant and beautiful, never rises into that eloquence that springs from the heart; his feelings not being deep enough to make him forget his artificial mode of thinking. This makes him or enables him to be always witty and sarcastic; but how different from that stinging of the heart, the world hath stung, which startles and often shocks us in Lord Byron! There is no buffoonery in Anastasius—no rich heartfelt joyous humour—no sudden transitions from one state of feeling to its very opposite—there are no hearty laughs, and but few sighs in its powerful pages. He is merely descriptive; there are no bursting of the heart, which Byron cannot controul, and on which his readers pause with feelings that make full atonement for the sarcasm and scoff,
and for the immorality, if such there be, that in the language of this moral age stain his pages! But above all, in Anastasius there is no passion; there is not a single touch throughout the three long volumes, that shows what has been called the distinctive character of Lord Byron's poetry—an overwhelming sense of female beauty. Anastasius passes Helena, Esmé, and Euphrosyné, as unceremoniously as he does Theophania or the Grocer's Wife. Now if Lord Byron can write in this unimpassioned strain, he at least has not done so as yet, for even in
Beppo the fire betrayed him; and is it to be supposed that a feeling that burst out almost uncalled for, and certainly incidentally, in the compass of so few pages as Beppo contains, could be subdued during three long volumes, where so many opportunities arise for its most luxurious indulgence?