LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism
[Moore’s Life of Lord Byron].
The Ladies’ Museum  Vol. NS 1  (February 1830)  107-10.
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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The last month has been distinguished by the publication of the first volume of Mr. Moore’sLife of Lord Byron,” and in its presence the inferior lights of literature hide their diminished heads. It is a sufficiently bulky tome, and ample as are its pages, they are filled with matter novel and interesting. Mr. Moore has wisely allowed the noble bard to speak for himself wherever it was possible, and as his lordship not only kept a diary for some part of his life, but a memoranda at others, he has in these papers recorded much curious matter, which has been very properly transferred to these pages. Writing always with the utmost facility, his friends were in the constant habit of receiving letters from him, and as these not only reflect his mind, but contain much of his private history, his biographer has drawn largely upon these sources of information. The greater part of the volume is, therefore, composed of a diary and letters, and the “strings of pearl”with which Mr. Moore has connected them, are neither very long
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nor very numerous. Though he has, however, been brief, he is not uninteresting, and the fame of his noble and illustrious friend comes out of his hands relieved of much of the undeserved odium which attached to it.

Lord Byron, in his youth, was of a very violent temper, and his mother was but ill calculated to cure him of a hereditary habit; for she was a woman of vulgar mind, and great want of sensibility. Owing to her carelessness, an accident, when he was a child, occasioned the deformity of one of his legs, and as his lordship was exceedingly vain of his personal endowments, this detraction from the perfection of manly beauty caused him, through life, the utmost pain and mortification. Mrs. Byron, however, so far from reconciling him to this bodily blemish, never failed to reproach him with it, for her constant exclamation was “you lame brat!”The poet resented this treatment, and in their fits of violence they were wont to throw at each other tea-pots, pokers, and every other available missile. When he entered school, the violence of her ungovernable temper mortified and annoyed him; and though he wept at her death, the moment the corpse was borne from the door he put on the boxing-gloves, and had a set-to with one of his friends, then on a visit at Newstead Abbey.

At school he was more remarkable for his proud and generous spirit, than for his application; but although he neglected the classics, he read other books with avidity. In love he was somewhat precocious, having entertained, at eight years of age, a platonic regard for a country girl. At sixteen he fell in love in earnest, as an Irishman would say, with a young lady, Miss Chaworth, who resided near Newstead; she was older than him by two years, and he did not succeed in inspiring her with any tender sentiments. She soon after married, and the event embittered the remainder of his life. A person who was present when the first intelligence of the event was communicated to him, thus describes the manner in which he received it. “I was present when he first heard of the marriage. His mother said, ‘Byron, I have some news for you.’ ‘Well, what is it?’ ‘Take out your handkerchief first, for you will want it.’ ‘Nonsense!’ ‘Take out your handkerchief, I say.’ He did so to humour her. ‘Miss Chaworth is married.’ An expression very peculiar, impossible to describe, passed over his pale face, and he hurried his handkerchief into his pocket, saying, with an affected air of coldness and nonchalance, ‘Is that all?’ ‘Why, I expected you would have been plunged into grief!’ He made no reply, and soon began to talk about something else.”

About this period he wrote the following poem:—

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“Those flaxen locks, those eyes of blue,
Bright as thy mother’s in their hue;
Those rosy lips, whose dimples play
And smile to steal the heart away,
Recall a scene of former joy,
And touch thy father’s heart, my boy!
And thou canst lisp a father’s name—
Ah, William, were thine own the same,
No self-reproach—but let me cease—
My care for thee shall purchase peace;
Thy mother’s shade shall smile in joy,
And pardon all the past, my boy!
Her lowly grave the turf has prest,
And thou hast known a stranger’s breast.
Derision sneers upon thy birth,
And yields thee scarce a name on earth:
Yet shall not these one hope destroy,—
A father’s heart is thine, my boy!
Why, let the world unfeeling frown,
Must I fond Nature’s claim disown?
Ah, no! though moralists reprove,
I hail thee, dearest child of love.
Fair cherub, pledge of youth and joy—
A father guards thy birth, my boy!
Oh, ’twill be sweet in thee to trace—
Ere age has wrinkled o’er my face—
Ere half my glass of life is run—
At once a brother and a son;
And all my wane of years employ
Injustice done to thee, my boy!
Although so young thy heedless sire,
Youth will not damp parental fire;
And, wert thou still less dear to me,
While Helen’s form revives in thee,
The breast which beat to former joy,
Will ne’er desert its pledge, my boy!”

We have inserted this poem, although it may ere this have found its way into the newspapers. Mr. Moore cannot account for its appearance amongst his papers, as his lordship never alluded to any circumstance that could lead to a supposition of the lines having been addressed to a son of his own.

Lord Byron started at once into popularity, and being regarded in the fashionable world as a “lion,”he fell into dissipations which cast a shadow over his future destiny.

His union with Lady Byron was entirely a matter of convenience, and was, in fact, quite accidental. Another lady having refused him, he wrote to Miss Milbanke, by permission of his solicitor, and was accepted. Of this lady his lordship thus speaks in his private journal, under the date of 30th November, 1813:—

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“Yesterday, a very pretty letter from Annabella, which I answered. What an odd situation and friendship is ours!—without one spark of love on either side, and produced by circumstances which in general lead to coldness on one side, and aversion on the other. She is a very superior woman, and very little spoiled, which is strange in an heiress—a girl of twenty—a peeress that is to be, in her own right—an only child, and a savante, who has always had her own way. She is a poetess,—a mathematician—a metaphysician—and yet, withal, very kind, generous, and gentle, with very little pretension. Any other head would be turned with half her acquisitions, and a tenth of her advantages.”

The present volume terminates where they separate, and the succeeding volume must, we should think, be even more curious than the first.