LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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[William Jerden?]
Life of Lord Byron. By John Galt.
Literary Gazette  No. 710  (28 August 1830)  553-56.
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No. 710. SATURDAY, AUGUST 28, 1830. PRICE 8d.


The Life of Lord Byron. By John Galt. 12mo. pp. 372. London, 1830. Colburn and Bentley.

A more original, profound, or correct view of a character as interesting as it was intricate,—one whose seeming contradictions were at once such materials for theories, and such temptations to erect them,—was never taken than in the volume before us. Mr. Galt's plan is a history of Lord Byron's mind rather than of himself; a condensation of events and effects according as they bore upon works whose attraction was at once derived from, and afterwards reflected on their author. Few persons have been more unfortunate in those circumstances over which they have no control, such as birth, fortune, education, &c. than Byron. No distinctions take a stronger hold on the mind than hereditary ones. We have not time to discuss the justice of the pride of birth; but it is a pride so sanctified by time, as to seem rather innate than acquired,—one administered to by the legends told for the amusement, and the annals read for the information of youth; one to which the respect conceded seems of a higher order than that given to riches, inasmuch as it is more disinterested. Pride of birth is one of the most influential of those feelings which go towards forming a character. It was one of the keys to Byron. Secondly, poverty: it is easy to declaim philosophically on the folly of luxury, the needlessness of many wants and certain appliances; but while wealth commands the consideration no one can deny it does in our present state of society, the absence of that wealth will be keenly felt, not for its luxury, but for its power: the, privations of poverty are nothing to its mortifications. There can be no doubt, that the loss of what his family pride held to be necessary to its dignity, was another great source of that bitterness, and that affectation of reserve, which, under the name of dignity, was some wounded feeling shrinking into its own shadow: we deceive no one so much as we deceive ourselves. Thirdly, temper: and every page of Mr. Galt's work bears us out in our long-established belief of the great influence Lord Byron's bad temper exercised upon his life. Now, we must own, good temper is one of those qualities we like rather than either respect or admire,—a compound usually the result of cowardice and indolence, or, at best, of animal spirits: it is very difficult for a person of warm affections and vivid imagination, which so exaggerates the impressions it receives, to be a good temper, whose grand secret is, after all, indifference. But we draw a wide distinction between one of those worrying, peevish, dissatisfied dispositions, whose miseries are as petty as the mind which makes them, and indulgence in which is a positive enjoyment to the proprietor; and one whose sensibility is too keenly awakened, and whose feverish anxiety for the opinion it covets, keeps up that state of morbid excitement which must have a re-action of gloom. We had better expressed our meaning by calling Byron's an over-susceptible temper. But these three, pride of birth, poverty, and a sensitive temper, were the great influences which made his character. Of the judgments formed of that character, we shall only observe, people are desirous of seeing a man of genius; they are disappointed if he is like themselves, and discontented if he is not. The faults we indulge in ourselves we least easily excuse in others, and vanity is one of those faults too general to be generally pardoned. Personally acquainted with Lord Byron, a man of genius himself, Galt, like Moore, brings much of previous qualification to the task; and it is curious to observe how little they have trenched on each other's ground.* Galt's is a literary and philosophic view: no one can possess this volume without having a just idea of the man and the poet, an analysis of character as accurate as it is original, and a condensation of all the events of a very varied life. It is valuable as in itself a compendium of his history; but it is invaluable as a commentary on all that have gone before—it is a finished cabinet picture. We would not, however, lose one preceding fragment relating to an individual whose history affords such great insight into human nature, and whose intrinsic interest will survive all the little gossipings and small disputes of the hour. The subject is too exciting not to lead to the expression of some sentiments of our own; but we do both the public and Mr. Galt injustice, in delaying to enter on pages so replete with charm and information. The following admirable delineation of genius shews the true feeling with which the author enters on his work.

“Genius of every kind belongs to some innate temperament; it does not necessarily imply a particular bent, because that may possibly be the effect of circumstances; but without question, the peculiar quality is inborn, and particular to the individual. All hear and see much alike; but there is an undefinable though wide difference between the ear of the musician, or the eye of the painter, compared with the hearing and seeing organs of ordinary men; and it is in something like that difference in which genius consists. Genius is, however, an ingredient of mind more easily described by its effects than by its qualities. It is as the fragrance, independent of the freshness and complexion of the rose; as the light on the cloud; as the bloom on the cheek of beauty, of which the possessor is unconscious until the charm has been seen by its influence on others; it is the internal golden flame of the opal; a something which may be abstracted from the thing in which it appears, without changing the quality of its substance, its form, or its affinities.”

How just, again, are the remarks on the influence of scenery!—

“He was, undoubtedly, delicately susceptible of impressions from the beauties of nature, for he retained recollections of the scenes which interested his childish wonder, fresh and glowing, to his latest days; nor have there been wanting plausible theories to ascribe the formation of his poetical character to the contemplation of those romantic scenes. But, whoever has attended to the influential causes of character, will reject such theories as shallow, and betraying great ignorance of human nature. * * *

“The views of the Malvern hills recalled to his memory his enjoyments amidst the wilder scenery of Aberdeenshire. The recollections were reimpressed on his heart and interwoven with his strengthened feelings. But a boy gazing with emotion on the hills at sunset, because they remind him of the mountains where he passed his childhood, is no proof that he is already in heart and imagination a poet. To suppose so, is to mistake the materials for the building. The delight of Byron in contemplating the Malvern hills was not because they resembled the scenery of Lochynagar, but because they awoke trains of thought and fancy, associated with recollections of that scenery. The poesy of the feeling lay not in the beauty of the objects, but in the moral effect of the traditions, to which these objects served as talismans of the memory. The scene at sunset reminded him of the Highlands; but it was those reminiscences which similar scenes recalled that constituted the impulse, which gave life and elevation to his reflections. There is not more poesy in the sight of mountains than of plains; it is the local associations that throw enchantment over all scenes, and resemblance that awakens them, binding them to new connexions: nor does this admit of much controversy; for mountainous regions, however favourable to musical feeling, are but little to poetical. The Welsh have no eminent bard; the Swiss have no renown as poets; nor are the mountainous regions of Greece, or of the Appennines, celebrated for poetry. The Highlands of Scotland, save the equivocal bastardy of Ossian, have produced no poet of any fame, and yet mountainous countries abound in local legends, which would seem to be at variance with this opinion, were it not certain, though I cannot explain the cause, that local poetry, like local language, or local melody, is, in proportion to the interest it awakens among the local inhabitants, weak and ineffectual in its influence on the sentiments of the general world. The ‘Rans de Vaches,’ the most celebrated of all local airs, is tame and commonplace, unmelodious, to all ears but those of the Swiss ‘forlorn in a foreign land.’”

The following observations on Byron's feeling of love are as just as they are original.

“It is singular, and I am not aware it has been before noticed, that, with all his tender and impassioned apostrophes to beauty and love, Byron has in no instance, not even in the freest passages of Don Juan, associated either the one or the other with sensual images. The extravagance of Shakspeare's Juliet, when

* We reserve the preface, in which Mr. Galt delivers his opinion of Mr. Moore's Memoirs, for future discussion; that preface contains also other matter well worthy of our consideration.—Ed. L. G.
she speaks of Romeo being cut after death into stars, that all the world may be in love with night, is flame and ecstasy compared to the icy metaphysical glitter of Byron's amorous allusions. The verses beginning with
‘She walks in beauty like the light
Of eastern climes and starry skies.’
is a perfect example of what I have conceived of his bodiless admiration of beauty and objectless enthusiasm of love. The sentiment itself is unquestionably in the highest mood of the intellectual sense of beauty; the simile is, however, any thing but such an image as the beauty of woman would suggest. It is only the remembrance of some impression or imagination of the loveliness of a twilight applied to an object that awakened the same abstract general idea of beauty. The fancy which could conceive in its passion the charms of a female to be like the glow of the evening, or the general effect of the midnight stars, must have been enamoured of some beautiful abstraction, rather than aught of flesh and blood. Poets and lovers have compared the complexion of their mistresses to the hues of the morning or of the evening, and their eyes to the dew-drops and the stars; but it has no place in the feelings of man to think of female charms in the sense of admiration which the beauties of the morning or the evening awaken. It is to make the simile the principal. Perhaps, however, it may be as well to defer the criticism to which this peculiar characteristic of Byron's amatory effusions give rise, until we shall come to estimate his general powers as a poet. There is upon the subject of love, no doubt, much beautiful composition throughout his works, but not one line in all the thousands which shews a sexual feeling of female attraction—all is vague and passionless, save in the delicious rhythm of the verse.”

We much like the ensuing.

“The supposition that poets must be dreamers, because there is often much dreaminess in poesy, is a mere hypothesis. Of all the professors of metaphysical discernment, poets require the finest tact; and contemplation is with them a sign of inward abstract reflection, more than of any process of mind by which resemblance is traced, and associations wakened. There is no account of any great poet whose genius was of that dreamy cartilaginous kind which hath its being in haze, and draws its nourishment from lights and shadows; which ponders over the mysteries of trees, and interprets the oracles of babbling waters. They have all been men—worldly men, different only from others in reasoning more by feeling than induction. Directed by impulse, in a greater degree than other men, poets are apt to be betrayed into actions which make them singular, as compared by those who are less imaginative; but the effects of earnestness should never be confounded with the qualities of talent.”

We have chosen these more abstract remarks to shew the style and spirit of Mr. Galt's biography. We shall now turn to such incidents as are either new in themselves, or possess some new inference drawn by the writer.

His Childhood.—“His schoolfellows, many of whom are alive, still recollect him as a lively, warm-hearted, and high-spirited boy, passionate and resentful, but withal affectionate and companionable: this, however, is an opinion given of him after he had become celebrated; for a very different impression has unquestionably remained among some, who carry their recollections back to his childhood. By them he has been described as a malignant imp; was often spoken of for his pranks by the worthy housewives of the neighbourhood as “Mrs. Byron's crockit deevil;” and generally disliked for the deep vindictive anger he retained against those with whom he happened to quarrel.”

It is remarkable that, though the faults of our childhood are comparatively slight and unimportant, yet they are always those most deeply remembered and brought against us in after life. The next anecdote we select as one to redeem many darker specks.

“Towards his nurse he evinced uncommon affection, which he cherished as long as she lived. He presented her with his watch, the first he possessed, and also a full-length miniature of himself, when he was only between seven and eight years old, representing him with a profusion of curling locks, and in his hands a bow and arrow. The sister of this woman had been his first nurse; and after he had left Scotland he wrote to her, in a spirit which betokened a gentle and sincere heart, informing her with much joy of a circumstance highly important to himself. It was to tell her that at last he had got his foot so far restored as to be able to put on a common boot, an event which he was sure would give her great pleasure: to himself it is difficult to imagine any incident which could have been more gratifying.”

Much has been said of the weakness of thus dwelling on a personal deformity; but we do think only those who suffer under such a misfortune can tell its bitterness. The wrong and falsehood of such a style of poetical criticism as the Edinburgh Review indulged in, is most justly reprobated. We cannot but observe how completely almost all its predictions of poetical fame have been falsified, and how all our great English poets have made their way in defiance of criticism as flippant as unjust. Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Montgomery, alike had in their onset to contend with the same bitter and frivolous attacks. These are now standard names in our literature: but where there is no feeling, there can be no appreciation.

“He was then just come of age, or about to be so; and one of his objects in this visit to the metropolis was, to take his seat in the House of Lords before going abroad; but, in advancing to this proud distinction, so soothing to the self-importance of youth, he was destined to suffer a mortification which probably wounded him as deeply as the sarcasms of the Edinburgh Review. Before the meeting of parliament he wrote to his relation and guardian, the Earl of Carlisle, to remind him that he should be of age at the commencement of the session, in the natural hope that his lordship would make an offer to introduce him to the house; but he was disappointed. He only received a formal reply, acquainting him with the technical mode of proceeding, and the etiquette to be observed on such occasions. It is therefore not wonderful that he should have resented such treatment; and he avenged it by those lines in his satire, for which he afterwards expressed his regret in the third canto of Childe Harold. Deserted by his guardian at a crisis so interesting, he was prevented for some time from taking his seat in parliament, being obliged to procure affidavits in proof of his grandfather's marriage with Miss Trevannion, which having taken place in a private chapel at Carhais, no regular certificate of the ceremony could be produced. At length, all the necessary evidence having been obtained, on the 13th of March, 1809, he presented himself in the House of Lords alone,—a proceeding consonant to his character, for he was not so friendless nor unknown, but that he might have procured some peer to have gone with him. It however served to make his introduction remarkable. On entering the house, he is described to have appeared abashed and pale. He passed the woolsack without looking round, and advanced to the table where the proper officer was attending to administer the oaths. When he had gone through them, the chancellor quitted his seat, and went towards him with a smile, putting out his hand in a friendly manner to welcome him; but he made a stiff bow, and only touched with the tip of his fingers the chancellor's hand, who immediately returned to his seat. Such is the account given of this important incident by Mr. Dallas, who went with him to the bar; but a characteristic circumstance is wanting. When Lord Eldon advanced with the cordiality described, he expressed with becoming courtesy his regret that the rules of the house had obliged him to call for the evidence of his grandfather's marriage. ‘Your lordship has done your duty, and no more,’ was the cold reply, in the words of Tom Thumb, and which probably was the cause of the marked manner of the chancellor's cool return to his seat. * * * *

“Among other remarkable characters pointed out to us, was a nobleman in the pit, actually under the ban of outlawry for murder. I have often wondered if the incident had any effect on the creation of Lara; for we know not in what small germs the conceptions of genius originate.”

The following is an example (and there are many others) of the great care with which Mr. Galt observed minute facts with reference to their poetical influence on Lord Byron's mind.

“But the most important occurrence of that evening arose from a delicate observance of etiquette on the part of the ambassador. After carrying us to his box, which was close to that of the royal family, in order that we might see the members of it properly, he retired with Lord Byron to another box, an inflection of manners to propriety in the best possible taste—for the ambassador was doubtless aware that his lordship's rank would be known to the audience, and I conceive that this little arrangement was adopted to make his person also known, by shewing him with distinction apart from the other strangers. When the performance was over, Mr. Hill came down with Lord Byron to the gate of the upper town, where his lordship, as we were taking leave, thanked him with more elocution than was precisely requisite. The style and formality of the speech amused Mr. Hobhouse, as well as others; and, when the minister retired, he began to rally his lordship on the subject. But Byron really fancied that he had acquitted himself with grace and dignity, and took, the jocularity of his friend amiss—a little banter ensued—the poet became petulant, and Mr. Hobhouse walked on; while Byron, on account of his lameness, and the roughness of the pavement, took hold of my arm, appealing to me, if he could have said less, after the kind and hospitable treatment we had all received. Of course, though I thought pretty much as Mr. Hobhouse did, I could not do otherwise than civilly assent, especially as his lordship's comfort, at the moment, seemed in some degree dependent on being confirmed in the good opinion he was desirous to entertain of his own courtesy. From that night I evidently rose in
his good graces; and, as he was always most agreeable and interesting when familiar, it was worth my while to advance, but by cautious circumvallations, into his intimacy; for his uncertain temper made his favour precarious. The next morning, either owing to the relaxation of his abstinence, which he could not probably well avoid amidst the good things of the ambassadorial table; or, what was, perhaps, less questionable, some regret for his petulance towards his friend, he was indisposed, and did not make his appearance till late in the evening. I rather suspect, though there was no evidence of the fact, that Hobhouse received any concession which he may have made with indulgence; for he remarked to me, in a tone that implied both forbearance and generosity of regard, that it was necessary to humour him like a child. But, in whatever manner the reconciliation was accomplished, the passengers partook of the blessings of the peace. Byron, during the following day, as we were sailing along the picturesque shores of Sicily, was in the highest spirits; overflowing with glee, and sparkling with quaint sentences. The champagne was uncorked and in the finest condition. Having landed the mail at Girgenti, we stretched over to Malta, where we arrived about noon next day—all the passengers, except Orestes and Pylades, being eager to land, went on shore with the captain. They remained behind for a reason—which an accidental expression of Byron let out—much to my secret amusement; for I was aware they would be disappointed, and the anticipation was relishing. They expected—at least he did—a salute from the batteries, and sent ashore notice to
Sir Alexander Ball, the governor, of his arrival; but the guns were sulky, and evinced no respect of persons; so that late in the afternoon, about the heel of the evening, the two magnates were obliged to come on shore, and slip into the city unnoticed and unknown. At this time Malta was in great prosperity. Her commerce was flourishing; and the goodly clusters of its profits hung ripe and rich at every door. The merchants were truly hospitable, and few more so than Mr. Chabot. As I had letters to him, he invited me to dinner, along with several other friends previously engaged. In the cool of the evening, as we were sitting at our wine, Lord Byron and Mr. Hobhouse were announced. His lordship was in better spirits than I had ever seen him. His appearance shewed, as he entered the room, that they had met with some adventure, and he chuckled with an inward sense of enjoyment, not altogether without spleen—a kind of malicious satisfaction—as his companion recounted, with all becoming gravity, their woes and sufferings, as an apology for begging a bed and morsel for the night. God forgive me! but I partook of Byron's levity at the idea of personages so consequential wandering destitute in the streets, seeking for lodgings as it were from door to door, and rejected at all. Next day, however, they were accommodated by the governor with an agreeable house in the upper part of Valetta; and his lordship, as soon as they were domiciled, began to take lessons in Arabic from a monk—I believe one of the librarians of the public library. His whole time was not, however, devoted to study; for he formed an acquaintance with Mrs. Spencer Smith, the lady of the gentleman of that name, who had been our resident minister at Constantinople: he affected a passion for her; but it was only Platonic. She, however, beguiled him of his valuable yellow diamond-ring. She is the Florence of Childe Harold, and merited the poetical embalmment, or rather the amber immortalization she possesses there—being herself a heroine. There was no exaggeration in saying that many incidents of her life would appear improbable in fiction. Her adventures with the Marquess de Salvo form one of the prettiest romances in the Italian language; every thing in her destiny was touched with adventure: nor was it the least of her claims to sympathy that she had incurred the special enmity of Napoleon.”

There is much probability in the assertion, that Ali Pasha was the model which suggested many of the most remarkable features in his heroes.

Of all Lord Byron's works, Mr. Galt gives the preference to those which treat of Greece: this we think admits of more than a query; but as it is a mere point of taste, taste is too debatable ground for us now to enter on. The whole history of these travels, however, quite supports Mr. Galt's assertion, that the scenes through which Byron past, and the various incidents and individuals he encountered, are the canvass he afterwards coloured, and the figures he introduced, and that his poetry was never so great as when founded on actual occurrence, reality being at once his material and his inspiration. This is true, for it is the part of genius to apply more than to invent, to exhaust this world rather than to imagine new. Our belief of how much he felt the straitness of circumstances is confirmed by the following:—

“I thought he was in that short space something changed, and not with improvement. Towards Mr. Hobhouse he seemed less cordial, and was altogether, I should say, having no better phrase to express what I would describe, more of a captain grand than improved his manners, and more disposed to hold his own opinion than I had ever before observed in him. I was particularly struck with this at dinner, on the day after my arrival. We dined together with a large party at the consul's; and he seemed inclined to exact a deference to his dogmas, that was more lordly than philosophical. One of the naval officers present, I think the captain of the Salsette, felt, as well as others, this overweening, and announced a contrary opinion on some question connected with the politics of the late Mr. Pitt with so much firm good sense, that Lord Byron was perceptibly rebuked by it, and became reserved, as if he deemed that sullenness enhanced dignity. I never in the whole course of my acquaintance saw him kithe so unfavourably as he did on that occasion. In the course of the evening, however, he condescended to thaw, and before the party broke up, his austerity began to leaf, and hide its thorns under the influence of a relenting temperament. It was, however, too evident—at least it was so to me—that without intending wrong, or any offence, the unchecked humour of his temper was, by its caprices, calculated to prevent him from ever gaining that regard to which his talents and freer moods, independently of his rank, ought to have entitled him. Such men become objects of solicitude, but never of esteem. I was also on this occasion struck with another new phase in his character; he seemed to be actuated by no purpose—he spoke no more of passing ‘beyond Aurora and the Ganges,’ but seemed disposed to let the current of chances carry him as it might. If he had any specific object in view, it was something that made him hesitate between going home and returning to Athens when he should have reached Constantinople, now become the ultimate goal of his intended travels. To what cause this sudden and singular change, both in demeanour and design, was owing, I was on the point of saying, it would be fruitless to conjecture; but a letter to his mother, written a few days before my arrival at Smyrna, throws some light on the sources of his unsatisfied state. He appears by it to have been disappointed of letters and remittances from his agent, and says: ‘When I arrive at Constantinople, I shall determine whether to proceed into Persia or return—which latter I do not wish if I can avoid it. But I have no intelligence from Mr. H., and but one letter from yourself. I shall stand in need of remittances, whether I proceed or return. I have written to him repeatedly, that he may not plead ignorance of my situation for neglect.’ Here is sufficient evidence that the cause of the undetermined state of his mind, which struck me so forcibly, was owing to the incertitude of his affairs at home; and it is easy to conceive that the false dignity he assumed, and which seemed so like arrogance, was the natural effect of the anxiety and embarrassment he suffered, and of the apprehension of a person of his rank being, on account of his remittances, exposed to require assistance among strangers.”

We suspect the word kithe will puzzle some of Mr. Galt's southern readers. Another anecdote confirms, if confirmation were needed, how much his genius was struck by a passing circumstance:—

“While the Salsette lay off the Dardanelles, Lord Byron saw the body of a man who had been executed by being cast into the sea, floating on the stream, moving to and fro with the tumbling of the water, which gave to his arms the effect of scaring away several sea-fowl that were hovering to devour. This incident he has strikingly depicted in ‘The Bride of Abydos.’”

Again:—“Both the Fare-thee-well, and the Anathema on Mrs. Charlemont, are splendid corroborations of the metaphysical fact which it is the main object of this work to illustrate, namely, that Byron was only original and truly great when he wrote from the dictates of his own breast, and described from the suggestions of things he had seen. When his imagination found not in his subject uses for the materials of his experience, and opportunities to embody them, it seemed to be no longer the same high and mysterious faculty that so ruled the tides of the feelings of others. He then appeared a more ordinary poet—a skilful verse-maker. The necromancy which held the reader spell-bound became ineffectual; and the charm and the glory which interested so intensely, and shone so radiantly on his configurations from realities, all failed and faded; for his genius dealt not with airy fancies, but had its power and dominion amidst the living and the local of the actual world.”

The inference that in Manfred there was no intention of implying that the hero had a guilty passion for his sister is too ingeniously drawn to be omitted.

“There has always been, from the first publication of Manfred, a strange misapprehension with respect to it in the public mind. The whole poem has been misunderstood, and the odious supposition that ascribes the fearful mystery and remorse of the hero to a foul passion for his sister, is probably one of those coarse imaginations which have grown out of the calumnies and accusations heaped upon the author. How can it have happened that none of the critics have noticed that the story is
derived from the human sacrifices supposed to have been in use among the students of the black art?”

Here is quoted a beautiful fragment, of which we subjoin only the last lines, for connexion:—
“I loved her and—destroy'd her
Witch. With thy hand?
Not with my hand, but heart, which broke her heart.
It gazed on mine, and wither'd. I have shed
Blood, but not here, and yet her blood was shed;—
I saw, and could not stanch it.’
There is in this little scene, perhaps, the deepest pathos ever expressed; but it is not of its beauty that I am treating; my object in noticing it here is, that it may be considered in connexion with that where Manfred appears with his insatiate thirst of knowledge, and manacled with guilt. It indicates that his sister, Astarte, had been self-sacrificed in the pursuit of their magical knowledge. Human sacrifices were supposed to be among the initiate propitiations of the demons that have their purposes in magic—as well as compacts signed with the blood of the self-sold. There was also a dark Egyptian art, of which the knowledge and the efficacy could only be obtained by the novitius procuring a voluntary victim—the dearest object to himself, and to whom he also was the dearest; and the primary spring of
Byron's tragedy lies, I conceive, in a sacrifice of that kind having been performed, without obtaining that happiness which the votary expected would be found in the knowledge and power purchased at such a price. His sister was sacrificed in vain.”

But surely these arguments are overthrown by one line in Manfred's own speech—
“Though it were
The deadliest sin to love as we have loved.”

We must confess, that the Italian confederacy for the Liberal places Mr. Hunt in a meaner point of view, to our judgment, than Mr. Galt seems to consider him—in three pithy sentences the whole is well characterised.

“Vanity was mingled with their golden dreams. Lord Byron mistook Hunt's political notoriety for literary reputation, and Mr. Hunt thought it was a fine thing to be chum and partner with so renowned a lord. After all, however, the worst which can be said of it is, that, formed in weakness it could produce only vexation.”

If any one doubts the justice of the following, they have only to read the pages whose author states such conviction.

“I have never been able to understand why it has been so often supposed that Lord Byron was actuated in the composition of his different works by any other motive than enjoyment: perhaps no poet had ever less of an ulterior purpose in his mind during the fits of inspiration (for the epithet may be applied correctly to him and to the moods in which he was accustomed to write), than this singular and impassioned man. Those who imagine that he had any intention to impair the reverence due to religion, or to weaken the hinges of moral action, give him credit for far more design and prospective purpose than he possessed. They could have known nothing of the man; the main defect of whose character, in relation to every thing, was in having too little of the element or principle of purpose. He was a thing of impulses; and to judge of what he either said or did, as the results of predetermination, was not only to do the harshest injustice, but to shew a total ignorance of his character. His whole fault, the darkest course of those flights and deviations from propriety which have drawn upon him the severest animadversion, lay in the unbridled state of his impulses. He felt, but never reasoned. * * *

“One day, as a friend of mine was conversing with his lordship at the Casa Saluzzi, on the moral impressions of magnificent scenery, he happened to remark, that he thought the view of the Alps in the evening, from Turin, the sublimest scene he had ever beheld. ‘It is impossible,’ said he, ‘at such a time, when all the west is golden and glowing behind them, to contemplate such vast masses of the Deity without being awed into rest, and forgetting such things as man and his follies.’ ‘Hunt,’ said his lordship, smiling, ‘has no perception of the sublimity of alpine scenery; he calls a mountain a great impostor.’”

Mr. Galt enters into less detail of opinion respecting Don Juan than any other work. We think a curious and interesting parallel might be drawn between that and the Pilgrimage: Don Juan is Childe Harold unidealised; he goes over the same ground, but in how different a spirit! What once excited enthusiasm now gives scope for ridicule—sarcasms take the place of illusions; and if ever man felt that “a glory was departed from the earth,” Lord Byron was the man.

We now bid farewell to Mr. Galt, though with the intention of again recurring to his pages; but we cannot defer to another week the expression of our most cordial approbation. Good sense, good feeling, and good taste, go far towards making a good biographer: he possesses them all. We have read his work with great delight—we close it with mingled regret and admiration. It is now only necessary to speak of its mechanical parts: it is handsomely printed, has two beautifully engraved portraits of Byron and the Countess Guiccioli, and is most moderate in price. It forms the first volume of the National Library; and is a foundation on which the highest expectations may be formed of that undertaking.