LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Conversations with Lord Byron.
Monthly Review  Vol. NS 14  No. 60  (August 1830)  475-89.
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AUGUST, 1830.

Art. I.—Conversations on Religion, with Lord Byron and others, held in Cephalonia, a short time previous to his Lordship’s death. By the late James Kennedy, M.D. of H. M. Medical Staff. 8vo. pp. 461. London: Murray. 1830.

The interest that has been long felt by the public in every authentic work connected with the personal story of Lord Byron, has not yet, so far as we are able to judge, begun to decline. There are few of the sentiments of that gifted and unfortunate nobleman, with which the world is supposed to be better acquainted, than those sometimes expressed, and too often implied in his poetry, concerning the vital subject of religion. The general impression seems to be that he was an atheist, or at least a deist; that he yielded no belief to the Scriptures, and that like many others, he formed a system of government, if such it may be called, for the guidance of his morality, from which every restraint unpleasant to the passions was carefully excluded. This impression, we regret to say, is completely and unequivocally justified by the volume now before us. We had entertained a hope, a slight one it must be confessed, that Mr. Moore might have had in reserve for his second volume, a page or two of evidence to shew that Lord Byron had not died in the ranks of utter infidelity. But Dr. Kennedy’s testimony has put an extinguisher upon that slender ray of expectation.

That Lord Byron, with his mind unenlightened upon the subject, and his heart hardened by the course of dissipation, which, from his youth upwards, he incessantly pursued,—surrounded as he was during the greater part of his career, and particularly towards the close of it, by companions, if possible, more thoroughly corrupted in the ways of infidelity than himself, could nevertheless be induced to listen to instructions, and even long lectures, from a layman, upon the doctrines of Christianity, is of itself a fact of considerable importance in the history of religion. It is a species of homage
476Conversations with Lord Byron.
paid by ignorance and depravity to wisdom and truth;—an involuntary acknowledgment that there is something worth knowing, in the Christian dispensation, and that the system of unbelief has nothing in it capable of appeasing the thirst of the human mind for the fountains of a nobler world, or of soothing that restlessness which keeps the thinking man of no settled religion in a state of perpetual fever. For who is the man that can compare two ideas together, who does not feel that his existence upon this planet is but a brief part of the life which is given to him? And who, with the experience of this feeling growing with his years, but must advance one step farther, and perceive that he has not been thrown upon this earth as in a boat upon a shoreless sea, without a star to guide him in the path which he is to take? Some have the good fortune to be placed within the influence of that sacred and unerring light which shall direct their bark to the haven where storms never blow. But incalculable is the number of those who, like Lord Byron, continue during their whole lives to be tossed about by the contending opinions of persons who would be their pilots—of men who assume to themselves the gift of extraordinary knowledge, and for sordid gain, the gratification of their vanity, or from the mere impulse of wicked ambition, set themselves up as guides to the human race in the most essential of all human concerns.

No blame should attach to the motives by which Dr. Kennedy was actuated in his efforts to convert Lord Byron to Christianity. Those motives were no doubt pure and laudable; and we admit, considering the state in which the noble poet’s mind was placed by his notions of religion, any step which he might have been prevailed upon to take out of his usual course, would have been something gained towards the attainment of the great end of truth. But it certainly was unfortunate that Dr. Kennedy, though apparently well acquainted with the Scriptures, and a firm believer in the principal tenets of Christianity, had nevertheless no regular system of his own. He seems to have leaned towards Methodism, yet he was not a Methodist. The churches of Rome and England and Scotland, he deemed full of errors. We cannot divine whether he belonged to any known sect, or whether he meant to found a new sect of his own. He received the Scriptures as the rule of his conduct, but he appears only to have fixed his particular attention upon what may be called the ethical portion of the New Testament. He was, if we may so say without irreverence, a Scriptural Platonist. He admired the precepts of the Gospel, and, so far as morals were concerned, we have no reason to doubt that his life was in conformity to those precepts: but religion he had none. This feature in his character, whilst it did not prevent him from attempting to make converts to what he called Christianity, exposed him to considerable difficulties in his efforts to reclaim such a mind as Lord Byron’s. It brought upon him, moreover, no small share of ridicule among persons who, equally despising all forms of
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faith, laughed, not without reason, at a lecturer who, though he taught Christianity, was the adherent of no Christian church.

It is not our intention to go through Dr. Kennedy’s peculiar doctrines with the view of controverting them. That is the duty of the divines, to whom we cheerfully leave it, if it be one which they may think it worth while to perform. Our purpose is merely to exhibit a few of the subjects which were placed under Lord Byron’s notice, and the manner in which they were treated, as well by his lordship as by the person with whom he conversed. Doctor Kennedy was undoubtedly a man of a very acute mind; but we should no more desire to be responsible for all his doctrines than for those of the unbeliever, whom he undertook to instruct.

It appears that having been stationed in the Ionian islands in the latter part of the year 1822, Dr. Kennedy was still a resident of Cephalonia, when Lord Byron landed at that island on his way to Greece, in August, 1823, accompanied by Count Gamba, Dr. Bruno, Mr. Hamilton Brown, and Mr. Trelawney. Here Lord Byron deemed it prudent to remain for more than four months, waiting for authentic intelligence from the scene of war as to the state of parties. It was no doubt his ambition to witness the resuscitation of the Greek name and nation. Nothing transpires in the volume before us, which indicates that he had any object of personal aggrandisement in view; at the same time, little doubt can be entertained that he aimed at the sovereignty of that country, and hence it was, that instead of proceeding at once to Missolonghi, he preferred sojourning in Cephalonia, in order to ascertain how matters were likely to go. It was not long before he learned that his project was a very chimerical one; and he gave himself up for a while to indolent repose at Metaxala, a pleasant village about four miles from Argostoli, the capital of the island. The account of his arrival at this place, connected as it is with our principal subject, will not be read without interest.

‘His arrival at Argostoli excited a great sensation among the Greeks and the English. The former were eager to behold a wealthy English nobleman, and a celebrated poet, (of whose fame most of them had heard much, while many were acquainted with part of his writings,) on his way to join their countrymen, to add the whole weight of his name, influence, talents and fortune to the cause of freedom. The latter felt a still greater curiosity to behold a countryman not less interesting by his unrivalled talents, than by that mystery and awe thrown over his character by his faults and misfortunes; but, above all, by the daily rumours of his misanthropy, profligacy, and infidelity, and by the warfare which he had so long carried on against many of the most distinguished literary characters, as well as against the government and religion of his native country. He was viewed by all as an object of wonder and astonishment; and as one whose talents, character, and sentiments separated him, as it were, from the rest of mankind. All were alike anxious to view his person and watch his proceedings, and none but a spectator of the scene could conceive the vague and unrestrained wonder which he occasioned. It was generally
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supposed, that his lordship would shun his countrymen, as he had done in Italy; and he,—as was afterwards ascertained,—apprehended that they would, in like manner, shun him; not only because of the censures, reproaches, and calumnies against him, with which, about this time, most of the papers and periodical publications were filled, rendering him, as he often felt, an object of detestation and abhorrence; but also, because of the delicacy which they might feel as subjects of a neutral government, in showing any attention to one who was going to take an active part in what was legally considered a rebellion.

‘Instructions having arrived from the superior authorities, to receive his lordship with the respect and courtesy due to his rank, Colonel D., who commanded in the absence of the governor, went on board, and was received with that affability and politeness, which so much distinguished his lordship.

‘The first invitation which his lordship accepted, was to an evening party at the Honourable Colonel D.’s. A friend of mine, S., who was present, was delighted with the affability and refinement of his lordship’s manners; and with the ease, simplicity, and cheerfulness with which he conversed on common topics; so different from the idea which he had formed of his lordship’s character.

‘The officers of the garrison, having invited him to dine, did everything they could to mark their respect and admiration for his rank and talents. On his health being drunk, he expressed his great satisfaction at being in the society of his countrymen, and of seeing so many of them together. He added, that he felt so much the honour they had done him, that he was afraid he could not express his sense of the obligation as be ought, having been so long in the practice of speaking a foreign language that he could not convey his sentiments in adequate terms in his native tongue. He was much pleased when he had made his short speech, and repeatedly asked Colonel D. if he had done well, and if he had acquitted himself properly, as he was so little, he said, in the practice of public speaking.

‘Hitherto I had seen his lordship only on horseback, as he took his evening ride with his friends; and while I often listened to the details of his sayings and actions, which formed the subject of general conversation, and which, for the most part, were only interesting because they were said or done by Lord Byron, I had no anticipation that circumstances were preparing the way for affording me a near and an intimate intercourse with him.’—pp. 3—6.

The circumstances to which Dr. Kennedy alludes were these: He had one evening three or four friends to dine with him, all Scotchmen like himself, and—with one exception—of the liberal professions. The conversation happening to turn on the subject of religion, the host was surprised to learn that, although from a country famed for its religious character, they were all deists. They in their turn appeared equally surprised that he should believe in Christianity, and the discussion ended for the evening in an argument that the Doctor should explain the grounds of his faith, after doing which, he promised ‘to refute any objection, and solve any difficulty which they might bring forward.’ It is but justice to the Doctor to observe that he modestly and very properly states
Conversations with Lord Byron.479
his own persuasion, that ‘no reasoning nor argument could convince an unbeliever, unless the grace of God accompanied the means used.’ All he hoped to accomplish was to impart to his friends some information on the subject which might turn their attention to the Scriptures, and, at least, remove the deplorable ignorance under which they then laboured. A day was appointed for this purpose, and the circumstance coming to the knowledge of
Lord Byron, his lordship signified a wish to be of the party, and said that ‘he also would willingly be converted, if he could, as he felt no happiness in his present unsettled notions on religion.’ “You know,” added his lordship to the gentleman whom he addressed, “I am reckoned a black sheep;” and, after a pause, he continued, “yet not so black as the world believes me, nor worse than others.” Lord Byron’s wishes were of course cheerfully acceded to, and the party originally consisting of only five, having been increased to ten, the argument was entered upon by Doctor Kennedy.

In a long preliminary discourse, which we fear must have exercised the patience of some of his hearers, the Doctor attempted to draw a clear distinction between what he called ‘the Christianity of the Bible and the Christianity of men.’ He would not endeavour, he said, to prove that ‘any particular creed, confession, or form of church discipline, was divine!’ This he thought ‘impossible!’—for, he adds, ‘although these are all founded on the Scriptures, or at least said to be so, yet, as they are expressed in uninspired language on the one hand, or mixed with human devices and inventions on the other, so they must partake more or less of a mixture of error, or of what cannot be clearly or unequivocally proved to be the truth.’ Thus our learned physician very easily gets rid of every description of church erected on the basis of Christianity—rather an inauspicious commencement of his missionary labours. He then confined his inquiry to the question, whether the Scriptures contain ‘the genuine revelation of the will of God?’ but as he was proceeding to read from Newton a summary of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, his auditors interrupted him and contended that the first object should be to prove that the Scriptures were true.

Had we been present at this lecture, we should have very humbly asked the Doctor what were the Scriptures? In what record were they contained? Whence did he get his Bible? How and where was it preserved? How was it handed down to him? To a man who acknowledged no Christian church, these would have been puzzling questions, for without such a church, and a true church into the bargain, having existed since the time of the Redeemer, how could it be proved that the sacred writings were preserved in a pure and authentic form? But we abstain from further comment.

The conversation next turned on Grace and Miracles, upon both
480Conversations with Lord Byron.
of which subjects the lecturer was rather unsatisfactory. In the course of it,
Lord Byron made a confession of his own principles.

‘His lordship said, that when he was young, his mother brought him up strictly; that he had access to a great many theological works, and remembered that, among others, he was particularly pleased with Barrow’s writings, and that he also went regularly to church. He said that he was not an infidel who denied the Scriptures, and wished to remain in unbelief,—on the contrary, he was very desirous to believe, as he experienced no happiness in having his religious opinions so unsteady and unfixed. “But he could not,” he added, “understand the Scriptures.” He said, “that those people who conscientiously believe, he should always respect, and was always disposed to trust in them more than in others; but he had met with so many, whose conduct differed from the principles which they professed, and who seemed to profess these principles, either because they were paid to do it, or from some other motive, which an intimate acquaintance with their character would enable one to detect; that he had seen few, if any, whom he could rely upon as truly and conscientiously believing the Scriptures.” I said, “it was to be regretted that there were so many who professed their conviction of the truth of Christianity, whose conduct afforded reason to suspect the reality of their belief; but that we must not judge too harshly, since we do not know how sincerely these people have repented, and how much they have struggled to preserve themselves from those errors and infirmities, which cause at once a scandal to their profession and expose them to reprehension. As an exception proves the rule, so the existence of hypocrites,—even were the people, his lordship had met with, such—proved the existence of sincere believers: it would be unjust to entertain a general suspicion against all Christians, because one has been so unfortunate as to meet only with those whose sincerity might fairly be distrusted.’”—pp. 46, 47.

After making several objections to the Bible, which to say the least of them were extremely unworthy of Lord Byron’s mind, such as that the Apostles were accused of not writing good Greek, and that the serpent of Paradise was not the devil, but only the subtlest of all the beasts of the field, he came to that common place of the existence of so much evil in the world. For the answer to these and other objections made on this occasion, we must refer to the volume itself. There is, however, one passage of a frightful nature, which we cannot altogether pass over.

‘There were two remarks made by his lordship during the conversation, which deserve to be recorded, though no effort of memory has enabled me to recall the circumstances of the conversation which led to them. I suppose I must have said something about the sovereignty of God, and alluded to the similitude used in Scripture of the potter and his clay; for I distinctly remember his lordship having said, that he would certainly say to the potter, if he were broken in pieces, “Why do you treat me thus?” The other observation was, that, “If the whole world were going to hell, he would prefer going with them, than go alone to heaven.” These remarks were heard by the others with apparent approbation and applause. I remember, after his departure, conversing with M. and S., and remarking on this topic, that it was easy to talk thus, when he was not
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put to the test; but that if he were tried, his decision would be different, or human nature must be changed: the observation indicating equally the selfishness of man, and an ignorance of the true nature of the Christian religion.’—pp. 66, 67.

Thus terminated the first conversation. The subject was subsequently resumed at successive meetings, at which Lord Byron was not present, and we must do Dr. Kennedy’s memory the justice to say, that his arguments and illustrations on many points of doctrine and evidence connected with the sacred writings, are clearly and forcibly put. We regret to learn, however, that they produced but little effect, for—with the exception of one gentleman, of whom he had some hope,—he candidly informs us that the members of his little congregation separated as much Christians as when they first assembled to hear him.

The Doctor, meanwhile, did not altogether despair of converting the noble wanderer. He called occasionally upon him at his country residence, and it is due to Lord Byron to say that he never appeared adverse to the introduction of the Doctor’s favourite topic. On the contrary, his lordship uniformly either led to it, or cheerfully went on with it when the ice was once broken. The Doctor at one of these interviews charged the poet with yielding too much to fancy, and with rejecting the Christian system without due inquiry.

‘I “have no wish,” said Lord Byron, “to reject it without investigation; on the contrary, I am very desirous of believing, for I have no happiness in my present unsettled notions on religion.”

‘“If that be the case,” I replied, “then you have no time to lose. It is your positive duty, as well as your highest interest, to begin immediately, and if you do so with a proper spirit, and persevere a sufficient time, you will arrive at a firm conviction of its truth. You must pray humbly to God to grant you, by his holy Spirit, a sense of your own iniquity, and a proper view of the necessity of a Saviour; and when you have seen this, the propriety and harmony of the doctrines of the Gospel will unfold themselves before you.”

‘“But I do not see,” he said, “very much the need of a Saviour, nor the utility of prayer. Prayer does not consist in the act of kneeling, nor in repeating certain words in a solemn manner. Devotion is the affection of the heart, and this I feel; for when I view the wonders of creation, I bow to the Majesty of Heaven; and when I feel the enjoyments of life, health, and happiness, I feel grateful to God for having bestowed these upon me.”

‘“All this, is well,” I said, “so far as it goes, but to be a Christian, you must go farther. Such feelings of devotion as these, I believe, every one experiences, even the most wicked, for they are forced upon him by the wonders of the Creator, and by the nature of his own constitution. If Christianity did not exist, such feelings might be excited; but as Christianity is revealed to man, and is the only means, hitherto known, by which a sinner can be reconciled to a holy God, and made for everlasting happiness, it imperiously demands the attention of every one: for, if true, it follows inevitably, that transitory moments of devotion and gratitude will
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not be considered as sufficient for qualifying a man for heaven, if he reject that Saviour, the Son of God, who came to die in his stead, that his sins might be forgiven, and that, by believing in him, his heart and affections might be changed, and his conduct and conversation altered. I would entreat your lordship to read your bible most attentively, with humble prayer, that light may be given you to understand it; for, great as your talents are, without the teaching of the holy Spirit, the whole book will be to you sealed, or at most an entertaining history, or a curious fable.”

‘“I read more of the bible than you are aware,” said Lord B.; “I have a bible which my sister gave me, who is an excellent woman, and I read it very often.” He went into his bed-room on saying this, and brought out a pocket bible, finely bound, and shewed it to me.

‘I said, “You cannot do better than read this; but if you have read it so much, it is singular that you have not arrived at the understanding of it.’—pp. 134—137.

Although Lord Byron was possessed of a Bible, it is painful to think how little he must have read or reflected upon its contents. The idea that Satan, of whose existence however he doubted, must be as much under the controul of the Omnipotent as any of the elements of nature, seemed to be quite novel to his mind. In one description of heresy, it appears, both the physician and the poet agreed—both felt indifferent towards Milton and Shakespeare. The conversation arose out of the subject of witches.

‘“But since we have spoken of witches,” said Lord Byron, “what think you of the witch of Endor? I have always thought this the finest and most finished witch-scene that ever was written or conceived, and you will be of my opinion, if you consider all the circumstances and the actors in the case, together with the gravity, simplicity, and dignity of the language. It beats all the ghost-scenes I ever read. The finest conception on a similar subject is that of Goethe’s Devil, Mephistopheles; and though of course you will give the priority to the former, as being inspired, yet the latter, if you know it, will appear to you—at least it does to me—one of the finest and most sublime specimens of human conception.”

‘I smiled at the singular associations which brought such subjects together in Lord B.’s mind. I said, I agreed with him as to the first, though I had not before considered it in a poetical point of view; but the grandeur of the circumstances readily struck me, when he pointed them out to me, but I was not able to judge of the latter, as it was some time since I had looked at Madame de Stael’s work on Germany, where an abstract is given, and copious extracts are made from the work. “The authoress praises it in very high terms; but,” I said, “whether owing to want of taste or something else, I had never met with any conception of angels, whether good or bad, or devils, or witches, which conveyed an idea sufficiently high of the goodness of the one class, or of the wickedness of the other. Milton,” I said, “appears to me completely to fail in his angels. His good angels are very good, but they are a little insipid, and the bad angels excite more sympathy and less terror than perhaps he intended. The only fine conception of its kind is the Diable boiteaux, at least, it seems to me to be more original than any other sketch of a devil which I have seen.”

Conversations with Lord Byron. 483

‘“Do you very much admire Milton?” asked Lord B. “It would be heresy,” I replied, “to say that I do not admire Milton, and in sober earnestness I admire his talents as a poet, but I have no pleasure in the greater part of his Paradise Lost. The weakness of fiction is strikingly manifest to him who knows the simple majesty of divine truth, and he who is so much impressed with the latter can have no enjoyment in seeing it rendered subservient to fiction.” “I do not so greatly admire Milton, myself,” said Lord B.; “nor do I admire Cowper, whom so many people praise.” Cowper happens to be my favourite among the poets,” I said, “and he is so with a large class of people, and will continue to be so, in proportion as real Christianity spreads, for he has more of moral and divine truth in his poems than any other poet of his rank and poetical abilities. My habits and studies do not lead me to read much poetry, and I am probably a very incompetent judge; but, like many others, I have read Cowper twice or thrice, and may read him oftener, but though I have more than once resolved to read Milton, I have never fairly read him twice, but tired after reading different passages.”

‘“Do you admire Shakspeare?” enquired Lord B. “By no means to that extent which is generally done.” “Neither do I,” said his lordship.’—pp. 154—156.

Lord Byron more than once acknowledged that he had failed in his tragedies. He evinced great anxiety in defending his character from the attacks that were made upon it in the reviews of “Cain.” He conceived that he had done enough, if he drew that personage with fidelity, truth, and consistency, and that he was not answerable for his rebellion against God, the murder of his brother, and his blasphemous sentiments. To this it was properly answered, why bring forward such a character at all? Or if brought upon the stage, why do his impious reasonings remain unreproved and uncontradicted by the virtuous beings who figure in the same drama? The poet was seriously affected, however, upon being told ‘of a man in distressed circumstances, who one evening brought Cain in his hand to a friend, and read some passages of it to him, in which, doubts of immortality, and of justice on earth, are expressed—and who, after desiring attention to what was there said, shot himself on the following morning.‘“In what work,” asked Lord B., “did this fact appear?” “It was in the newspaper; whether true or false, I cannot say.” “I am very sorry for it,” he replied, “whether it be true or false. Had I known that such an event was likely to happen, I should never have written the book.” This was the repentance of an ingenuous mind. We trust it was recorded elsewhere. Lord Byron’s defence of Don Juan could hardly have satisfied even his own mind.

‘“Even in this work,” said Lord B., “I have been equally misunderstood. I take a vicious and unprincipled character, and lead him through those ranks of society, whose high external accomplishments cover and cloke internal and secret vices, and I paint the natural effects of such characters; and certainly they are not so highly coloured as we find them in real life.”

484 Conversations with Lord Byron.

‘“This may be true; but the question is, what are your motives and object for painting nothing but scenes of vice and folly?” “To remove the cloke, which the manners and maxims of society,” said his lordship, “throw over their secret sins, and shew them to the world as they really are. You have not,” added he, “been so much in high and noble life as I have been; but if you had fully entered into it, and seen what was going on, you would have felt convinced that it was time to unmask the specious hypocrisy, and show it in its native colours.”

‘“My situation,” I replied, “did not naturally lead me into society, yet, I believed, before the publication of your book, that the world, especially the lower and middling classes of society, never entertained the opinion, that the highest classes exhibited models of piety and virtue; nay, from circumstances, we are naturally disposed to believe them worse than they really are.”

‘“It is impossible you can believe the higher classes of society worse than they are in England, France, and Italy, for no language can sufficiently paint them.” “But still, my lord, granting this, how is your book calculated to improve them, and by what right, and under what title, do you come forward in this undertaking?” “By the right,” he replied, “which every one has who abhors vice united with hypocrisy.’”—pp. 163, 4.

His Lordship concluded the conversation with promising a moral winding up to the whole!!—a promise which, if it had been fulfilled, in the spirit of his defence, would have compensated but very scantily for a tithe of the mischief with which that poem is fraught. Recurring again to the subject of religion, we think that Doctor Kennedy pressed his noble pupil very forcibly, with respect to the difficulties which he alleged to be in the way of his conversion. The advice given to his lordship on this occasion is sound, and may be read even by the best of Christians with advantage. Upon being asked why he did not at once apply to the Great Mediator, he observed,

‘“This is going too fast. There are many points and difficulties to clear up; when that is done, I will consider what you say.” “What are your difficulties?” I asked. “If the subject is of importance, why not have them cleared and removed? You do not want time; you can reason and reflect. The means of clearing up these difficulties are at hand. If it were a question of poetry, or of poetic literature, you would search and examine, and soon form your own judgment: on a point of far greater consequence, why do you linger and delay?”

‘“This is true,” he said; “but here I am, the slave of circumstances, surrounded by things, and people which distract my attention, with nothing to lead me to the consideration of such subjects.” “Your own judgment, and the consciousness of your own happiness, and that you are not fulfilling the ends of your creation, should lead you to the examination of the subject; and besides, there are no circumstances which bind you with such irresistible power, that you cannot easily surmount and conquer them. Religion must be sought after; your habits and studies must be subdued and laid aside in part, till you have obtained this, and then we may expect to see fruits worthy the high talents which God, whose revela-
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tion you neglect, has given you. I wish more earnestly than before, that your lordship would study the subject night and day, till you ascertain its truth, and your difficulties vanish. Every one would help you in your research: small as my abilities and experience are,—they are at your service. And I give you my testimony in the most solemn manner, that if you allow any worldly circumstance to interfere with you, till you have succeeded in the search to which I encourage you, you will have deeply to repent of your neglect.”

‘“Well, what would you have me to do? How shall I set about it?” “Begin,” I said, “this very night to pray that God would pardon your sins, and grant you understanding to find out the truth, and continue praying on the one hand, and reading your bible on the other, and do it with an earnest desire and an unbiassed mind, and the result will be what we so earnestly wish. I do not mean that you are to take the subject on trust; examine it with the strictest scrutiny; weigh every objection, and hear every answer, and give on each side the fairest play: if you do this with justice and candour, you must believe.”’—pp. 173—175.

Nothing could be more wholesome than this counsel. On this and indeed upon all other occasions, Doctor Kennedy spoke out with frankness and simplicity, and perfect coolness. The “difficulties” of Lord Byron were such as every man feels who has not the resolution to conquer them. To begin the contest in a proper manner, is to put an end to them. They fly with inconceivable rapidity before the mind which once firmly and sincerely determines to seek and adopt the truth.

As far as we can judge, Doctor Kennedy’s notions upon the mystery of the Trinity, and upon the subject of Predestination, are equally just and intelligible. We have already said that he belonged to no church. Yet is he as exclusive in his doctrine of salvation, as if he were the founder of an unerring system of his own. We can hardly understand the tendency of his ideas for uniting together in one bond Christians of every denomination, and yet leaving them all perfect liberty of conscience, while he condemns altogether the Catholics, the Arians, the Socinians, and others. His language upon this subject, and that from a non-churchman too, would lead us to the supposition that the good Doctor looked upon himself as the only infallible interpreter of the Scriptures that has yet appeared. He says:—

‘From such an union, however, I would exclude Arians, Socinians, Swedenborgians, and fanatics of all descriptions; leaving to them, not only toleration, but perfect liberty of conscience. These people have no right to the name of Christians. The Arians deny that the Son is equal to the Father; although he himself expressly declares that he is. The Socinians say, he is not a divine character; yet these sects call themselves Christians, while they reject the testimony of Christ. The other fanatics are too absurd in their fancies and imaginations to be reasoned with.

‘“You seem to hate the Socinians,” said Lord Byron. “Not the individuals,” I replied, “but their principles. I believe their system a terrible delusion, and that there is more hope of a deist, than of a Socinian, becoming a real Christian.”

486 Conversations with Lord Byron.

‘“But is this charitable?” he asked; “why would you exclude a sincere Socinian from the hope of salvation?”

‘“I do not exclude him, and certainly I am no judge; nor ought we to judge of the ultimate state of any one; but comparing the Socinian doctrines with those in the Bible, the one or other must be wrong.”

‘“But they draw their doctrine from the Bible,” said Lord B. “Yes, so do all the fools, enthusiasts, and fanatics; so the Church of Rome founds a system of idolatry, as absurd as ancient or modern paganism, on the Bible. The Socinians reject such parts of the Scripture, as interpolations, or corruptions, which do not suit their scheme; they turn literal things into metaphorical, and metaphorical into literal, until they succeed in representing original sin, the depravity of our nature, the necessity of atonement, and consequently the whole necessity of a revelation, as perfectly useless. Setting aside the evidence on which these doctrines stand, it is obvious, according to their scheme, that there was very little need of a Saviour. The truth is, the Socinians are all unregenerated men; their hearts require to be renewed and their heads enlightened; and their danger is, that they have formed a false system of religion, and cling to it in the hope of safety. If any of them are sincerely seeking the truth, God will in due time teach them, and bring them out of their Socinian delusion; but those who die believing it, die, as far as I can judge, unregenerated, and consequently, according to the Scriptures, die in a most dangerous state.”

‘“Their religion,” said his lordship, seems to be spreading very much. Lady B. is a great one among them, and much looked up to. She and I used to have a great many discussions on religion, and some of our differences arose from this point; but on comparing all the points together, I found that her religion was very similar to mine.”

‘I said I was exceedingly sorry to hear that her ladyship was among such a set, and I hoped that ere long she would see her error and danger. “But,” I added, “were thousands more of the great, and the noble, and the learned among them, Christianity will stand and raise its head with ultimate success from amidst the ruins of superstition, ignorance, idolatry, and damnable heresies.”’—pp. 195—197.

Here is an expounder of the Scriptures for you! Here is an amiable example of the invaluable advantage which we all possess in this happy country, of making a religion for ourselves out of the Scriptures, and of sending to the regions below every man, woman, and child, who will not subscribe to the creed which we may have thought fit to manufacture!

During these conversations, Lord Byron appears to have been usually highly animated, indeed so much so, that it was difficult to keep him long together fixed upon any one point. He seemed to his instructor generally to express his real sentiments, though there never was any great degree of seriousness mixed with them. ‘Nor did he ever allow any opportunity of uttering a pun, or saying a smart thing, to escape him.’ The Doctor could not have been much surprised to hear from one of Lord Byron’s intimate associates, that his lectures had hitherto produced no great effect. “I do not think,” said he, “that you have made much impression on
Conversations with Lord Byron.487
him; he is just the same fellow as before. He says he does not know what religion you are of, for you neither adhered to creeds nor councils—that you were very frank and liberal, and confined yourself to the Scriptures alone, without caring any thing about the speculations of Divines.” But the unkindest act of all came from the wits of the garrison, who circulated a report, whether true or false the deponent saith not, that Lord Byron’s real object in listening to the Doctor was, to obtain an accurate idea ‘of the opinions and manners of the Methodists, in order that he might make Don Juan become one for a time!!’ This story did not prevent the Doctor from renewing his laudable exertions, although he ended just as he had begun, “wasting his sweetness on the desert air.” The noble adventurer left Cephalonia for Greece, as little imbued as ever with the spirit of Christianity. The sequel of his career need not be told.

Some remarks casually made by Lord Byron concerning his daughter, and his separation from his lady, shall conclude our extracts from this volume.

‘“I have had letters from England,” said Lord B., “which mention that Ada has been unwell,—she is now better. Her complaint was a determination of blood to the head: what is the cause of it at her age?” “This depends on various causes, and I could not pretend to judge what the cause is in her case, unless I saw her.” “Do you,” asked he, “think that such a complaint is habitual?” “No, it is not necessarily so,” I replied. “It is curious,” he answered, “that it is a complaint to which I myself am subject.”

‘“I could easily suppose so,” I said, “from your mode of life, and habits of study,—irregular, but intense; and I think I could have inferred so from the state of your eyes. Your right eye appears inflamed.” “That is from having read a good deal of late; but it will easily be removed, when I remove the cause. Ada,” he continued, “is, I understand, very fond of reading. She lies on the sofa great part of the day reading, and displays, perhaps, a premature strength of mind, and quickness of understanding.” “I hope,” I rejoined, “that her inclination for acquiring knowledge will not be pushed too far, to the injury of her health, or even to the exhaustion of her intellectual powers, as is too often done by foolish and fond parents.”

‘“I hope not,” said Lord B.; “and I am sure that I can rely on Lady B.’s judgment and discretion.”

‘“Do you know, my Lord,” I said, “that I hope ere long to see the day when your lordship will again be united to Lady B., and enjoy all the happiness of domestic life, instead of following your present wandering and unsettled state, so unsuitable to one of your rank and station.”

‘“What makes you think so? Have you had any private information?” asked Lord B. “ No,” I replied; “I judge from circumstances, which I will mention, if they are not likely to offend your lordship.”

‘“By all means, tell me what they are.” “I judge from the style in which you spoke of Lady B.,—when we were talking of whom we would save, at a former conversation,—that your affection for her is not extinguished by absence, nor by all that has happened; that, in fact, she is not indifferent to you.”

488 Conversations with Lord Byron.

‘“If I said any thing disrespectful of Lady B., I am very much to blame. Lady B. deserves every respect from me, and certainly nothing could give me greater pleasure than a reconciliation.”

‘“With such sentiments, how is it possible that a separation has taken place, or how is it that a reunion cannot be effected? Under such circumstances, neither you nor she can be happy; and the cause must be singular, which two persons of such rank and understanding cannot find out and remove.”

‘“I do not, indeed, know the cause of separation,” said Lord B. “I know that many falsehoods have been spread abroad,—such as my bringing actresses to my house,—but they were all false. Lady B. left me without explaining the cause. I sent Hobhouse to her, who almost went on his knees,—but in vain: and at length I wished to institute an action against her, that it might be seen what were her motives.”

‘“Perhaps,” I said, “Lady B. is to be commended. No wife, from motives of delicacy, would like the public to be acquainted with the causes of her sorrow and grief, in circumstances where her husband was concerned; and if she acted under misapprehension, or bad influence, it was your lordship’s duty to have acted in such a way as in time to remove this.”

‘“What could I have done? I did everything at the time that could be done, and I am, and have always been, ready for a reconciliation.” “I think your lordship could have done many things, and some of them better than you did. In the first place, it was wrong to give such publicity to a domestic misunderstanding, by poems, however beautiful and pathetic; but before I tell you what you might have done, let me ask you what would you not have done, when you were paying your addresses to Lady B.? Would any task have appeared too severe for you? Would you not have compassed sea and land, and gone to the uttermost parts of the earth, in order to obtain her hand?” “I would,” said his lordship. “Well, and how is it that you cannot do the same to regain the suspended affections of one who is dearer, as she is nearer, than she ever was when you were her lover,—of your wife, and the mother of your child? Instead of leaving your country in a pet, and living retiredly in a country so grossly immoral as Italy, and thus affording just grounds to Lady B. and others, for suspecting the purity of your manners, and at least furnishing strong grounds for the tales (calumnies they may be) which were spread against you,—could you not have remained in England, where your conduct would have been open to her inspection? Could you not have taken up your abode near her, in whatever place she moved to, and so lived as to satisfy her in time, and compel her to acknowledge that she had wronged you, and that she had acted from misapprehension?” His lordship smiled, and said, “All this is very fine,—but it would have had no effect. Everything was done that could be reasonably done, and it was unsuccessful; and I have remained, and I shall always remain, ready for a reconciliation with Lady B., whenever circumstances open and point out the way to it.”’—pp. 263—267.

From all that we have heard and read upon the subject of Lord Byron’s separation from his wife, we have no doubt that this conversation has been very accurately reported. We confess that we have not been at all satisfied with the vindications which have been
Conversations with Lord Byron.489
lately put forth by her ladyship and her friend
Mr. Campbell, on this subject. The poet put on the airs of a schoolmaster, in reproving his friend Moore. It appears to us that there must have been some sad mistake in this business, from the beginning to the end, and that it is much to be lamented that Lady Byron’s family did not afford some opportunity for a personal explanation from his lordship, that would perhaps have removed the impressions under which her ladyship acted.

It is with unfeigned concern we add, that the ingenious and well-disposed man from whose notes this volume has been prepared, died in Jamaica of the yellow fever, in the autumn of 1827, a year remarkably fatal to our troops on the West India station. Although we differ widely from some of the views which he has taken of Christianity, we cannot deny that he in general supported those views with distinguished energy and eloquence. The book though necessarily imperfect is interesting, and well calculated to turn the attention of the indifferent to the most important subject that can occupy the thoughts of a human being. We should take the liberty of recommending those who begin their studies in religion with this work, by no means to end with it. It contains and enforces many serious errors, which it is not within the province of a literary journal to point out or refute.