George Gordon, Lord Byron:
a Bibliography of Reviews, Articles,
Memoirs, and Biographies
George Gordon, Lord Byron was born in London on January 22, 1788. He lived most of his first ten years in Scotland with his mother. His father, who abandoned the family, died when Byron was three. Inheriting the title Lord Byron upon the death of his “wicked” great-uncle, Byron returned to England, whereupon he and his mother lived in the inherited ruins of Newstead Abbey. In nearby Nottingham, Byron was privately tutored, and his clubfoot (a lifelong lament) was doctored with questionable, unsuccessful practices. As a result, John Hanson, Mrs. Byron’s attorney, sent Byron to London, away from his physician and ill-tempered mother. In 1801, Byron attended Harrow; spending the summer of 1803 back at Newstead, he courted his distant cousin Mary Chaworth. When she grew tired of “that lame boy,” Byron began writing melancholy poetry, with Mary the symbol of idealized and unattainable love.
After a term at Cambridge University, Byron published his first book of poems, Hours of Idleness (1807), which was criticized by the Edinburgh Review; Byron retaliated with English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, a scathing verse satire that attacked the noted literati of the day. At Cambridge, Byron formed a close friendship with John Cam Hobhouse, who introduced Byron to liberal Whiggism.
Byron traveled to southern Europe and the Near East from 1809-1811 with his friend Hobhouse. Byron’s journey to Greece made a lasting impression on him; he spoke longingly of returning one day. In 1812, he published the first cantos of Childe Harold; the poem’s instant success caused Byron to remark that he awoke one day to find himself famous. Other writings added to Byron’s infamy and intrigue, as did his ill-fated marriage to Annabella Millbanke, which resulted in a separation after one year, along with a daughter, Ada. Amid rumors of homosexuality and an incestuous relationship with his half-sister, Augusta, Byron left England in 1816, never to return.
Byron spent several months in Switzerland, where he was introduced to Percy Shelley by Mary Shelley’s stepsister Claire Clairmont (the mother of Byron’s illegitimate daughter Allegra). After moving to the Palazzo Mocenigo on Venice’s Grand Canal, Byron entered into affairs with the tempestuous baker’s wife La Fornarina and the last love of his life, the young, married Countess Teresa Guiccioli. Byron continued to write, producing Manfred (1817) and Cain (1821); he also became involved in the secret revolutionary society of the Carbonari (the Italian revolution against Austrian rule) with Teresa’s brother and father. When Teresa’s family was exiled for their parts in an abortive uprising, Byron followed them to Pisa. His daughter, Allegra, who was left in a Ravenna convent to be educated and raised by Catholic nuns, died the next year, 1822.
The poet Leigh Hunt visited in 1821, joining with Shelley and Byron in the editing of the Liberal. Hunt and his family began living on the bottom floor of Byron’s home. The two writers clashed; Hunt’s wife and brood of children placed a great strain on the relationship. Shelley’s death by drowning in July 1822 left Hunt entirely dependent on Byron, who had already loaned Hunt money. In the fall, Byron moved his household to Genoa. Mary Shelley and the Hunts moved into a nearby house.
Byron’s interest in the Liberal soon waned, but he continued to support Hunt and provide manuscripts for the periodical. He also began writing his unfinished epic Don Juan. When the London Greek Committee contacted Byron in April 1823 to act as its agent in aiding the Greeks in their war of independence from the Turks, Byron immediately accepted the offer. Restless in Italy and anxious for some noble action that would restore his reputation in England, Byron directed all of his money and energy towards the cause. He arrived in Missolonghi on December 30, 1823.
In February 1824, in the swampy marshlands of Missolonghi, Byron fell ill, and the usual remedy of bloodletting only served to further weaken him. He was also suffering from the emotional stress of the difficulties facing his army. After contracting a fatal cold on April 9, which worsened daily despite doctors’ insistence upon bloodletting, Byron died on April 19, 1824, a hero to the Greek people.
Byron’s death caused an outpouring of immediate grief, with the years 1824 and 1825 greatly marking this phase. Over one hundred reviews and articles, mostly biographical, were published in the year 1824. Articles dealt with all aspects of Byron’s life: his character, writings, plagiarism, first love, marriage and separation, family, the destruction of his memoirs, comparisons and relations with other authors, physical attractiveness and lameness, and reported atheism and anecdotes dealing with Grecian orphans and unattractive, elderly servants. Byron’s death itself also garnered a great deal of attention in the press: his fatal illness, the reaction of the English and Greek people, his autopsy, the arrival of his body to England, the funeral and oration, and his obituary were of interest to the public.
The year 1825 included approximately fifty-five articles, with topics including Byron’s relationships with other authors, his character, his opinions, and anecdotes of travels. During the years 1826-1833, after the initial grief ended, the number of articles dropped off; however, acquaintances and friends did not hesitate to provide their own versions of Byron’s life. Leigh Hunt, John Galt, James Kennedy, Thomas Moore, Julius Millingen, and Countess Blessington all penned Byronic memoirs. These memoirs, preceded by those of Sir Egerton Brydges, R.C. Dallas, William Fletcher, Thomas Medwin, Pietro Gamba, and William Parry in the years 1824-1825, were written for different reasons and received with different reactions. Two books (Dallas’ and Medwin’s) appeared within weeks of Byron’s death and were therefore accused of attempting to cash in on the poet’s fame. R. C. Dallas, who advised Byron in a few literary endeavors and was given some of the copyrights to the poet’s unpublished works, published Recollections of the Life of Lord Byron, from the Year 1808 to the End of 1814. In order to escape John Cam Hobhouse’s legal injunction forbidding the publication of Byron’s letters to his mother, Dallas was forced to transpose the letters into third person narrative. Over all, the book is considered to contain few inaccuracies, despite Dallas’ hurried publication.
Thomas Medwin’s Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron…at Pisa, in the Years 1821 and 1822 was based on Medwin’s four months with Byron. Medwin’s controversial memoir is infamous for its inaccuracies, which begin with the title page. Once again, Hobhouse’s ire was invoked: he noted at least sixty errors in Medwin’s work. It is debated whether or not Medwin willfully misrepresented Byron or whether Byron purposefully misled Medwin. Despite the inaccuracies, Medwin provided the public with some realistic glimpses of Byron.
Pietro Gamba, Teresa’s younger brother and Byron’s revolutionary companion in Italy and Greece, presented a sympathetic, accurate portrait of Byron that was highly praised by Hobhouse. A Narrative of Lord Byron’s Last Journey to Greece (1825) is considered the most interesting and authentic of the primary accounts. William Parry, another of Byron’s Missolonghi associates, provided a moving, straightforward description of Byron’s deathbed, and on the whole the most convincing eyewitness account of Byron’s final struggles in Greece. Although those he offended in his memoir discounted Parry as an ignorant drunk, Byron’s letters, along with Gamba’s observations. substantiated The Last Days of Lord Byron (1825), and today the memoir is highly acclaimed.
Leigh Hunt’s Lord Byron and Some of His Contemporaries (1828), the most libelous and vindictive of the memoirs, was largely based on Hunt’s injured pride. Aside from attacking Byron, Hunt also lambasted Moore, Hobhouse, and anyone else who cared for Byron. Under the guise of frankness, Hunt portrayed Byron as cowardly, jealous, insincere, stingy, hypocritical, and socially inept.
James Kennedy, a young Scottish army doctor who attempted to convert Byron to Christianity, penned his Conversations on Religion with Lord Byron and Others (1830) with the intention of converting his readers, not for exploitation purposes. The conversations with Byron filled only one-fourth of his book, with the rest designated to the doctrines of Christianity.
Thomas Moore’s Letters and Journals of Lord Byron (1830) joined together dozens of interviews, journals, verses and 561 letters to present a full, balanced portrait of Byron. Considered by many to be the best of the memoirs thus far, Moore’s work marked the beginning of full-scale Byronic biographies.
John Galt’s The Life of Lord Byron (1830) was intended to supplement Moore’s biography; however, the book was based only on a total of six or seven weeks of proximity with Byron. Both Hobhouse and Moore ranked the memoir as poor; Galt underestimated Byron’s motives in going to Greece and accused the poet of plagiarism.
Julius Millingen, one of the physicians who treated Byron’s last illness, later sided with the Turks and used his Memoirs of the Affairs of Greece (1831) to gain popularity with the enemy by attacking the Greeks, along with Byron’s motives.
Lady Blessington serialized her accounts of two months’ conversations with Lord Byron in The New Monthly Magazine (1832 and 1833). Her motive seemed to be money, and she often treated Byron in a condescending manner, referring to him as “poor Byron.” Lady Blessington’s interesting remembrance has the distinction of being the only book-length memoir written by a woman.
Following Byron’s death, there was a genuine outpouring of grief. Regardless of Byron’s reputation as a talented, gifted writer or a socially offensive, plagiarizing bard, most articles openly praised his Greek heroism. Byron’s physical beauty, coupled with his lameness, fascinated the public. Over and over, Byron’s superstitious and eccentric nature was showcased. He feared the number thirteen and beginning trips on a Friday; he owned a pet bear and drank from a skull cup.
Often, the same Byronic story was regarded with totally opposite opinions. For example, despite the fateful decision by Murray and Hobhouse to burn Byron’s memoirs, not everyone agreed with the men’s choice. Byron’s outpouring of grief at Shelley’s cremation was labeled touching by most, and false by a few. Byron’s attitude towards women could be interpreted as anywhere from demeaning and flippant to benevolent and charming. Over the years, many aspects of Byron’s character and life were debated, including his atheism, his vices, his writing ability, the effects of his upbringing, and the cause of Byron’s later difficulties, which stemmed either from his mother’s violent ill temperament or from her spoiling her only son.
Published articles revealed much about the public’s attitude toward Byron, along with Byron’s attitude toward himself. For example, Byron did not consider himself an infidel or an atheist, and neither superlatively good or bad. He attested that he thought much more highly of the female sex than commonly reported. He also admitted to saying whatever popped into his head, thereby purposely provoking those to whom he was speaking. Byron’s fear of becoming obese was equaled only by his fear of going mad. He also predicted that he would be portrayed in one of three ways: as a sublime misanthrope; with moments of kind feelings, as an amiable, ill-used gentleman; or as a modern Don Juan.
Sometimes it seemed as though anyone who ever shared so much as a few words with Byron saw fit to publish an anecdote; however, those flimsy snippets did serve a purpose in providing a curious public with more Byron trivia. Although a great deal of information was disseminated after Byron’s death, unanswered queries were sometimes raised; for example, why was Byron not allowed burial in Westminster Abbey? Hypotheses were also formed regarding Byron’s life: if Byron had controlled his excesses, he would have lived longer; if Byron’s wife had spoiled Byron in order to make good the man and husband, there would have been no separation; if Byron’s friends had not been so atheistic, neither would he. What happy, domestic changes might have occurred in Byron’s life had Mary Chaworth returned his love? In 1830, when Lady Byron finally addressed the public concerning her infamous separation and the rumors of Byron’s lunacy, the following inquiry remained unanswered for years: what awful, unforgivable offense did Byron commit during his marriage? Although Byron had been labeled adulterous by Medwin, none of the memoirists as of yet had mentioned incest or homosexuality. Byron and Lady Byron’s separation was blamed instead upon Lady Byron’s cold nature or Byron’s bad temper.
Through the multitudinous opinions of writers, the different sides of Byron’s character emerged. The same information and anecdotes were often presented in more than one memoir or review. Whether regarded as adulterous cad or generous benefactor, atheist or believer, caring father or moody husband, brilliant writer or shallow plagiarist, Byron was a fascinating figure whose death inspired hundreds of articles, anecdotes, memoirs, and remembrances. In sifting through the writings, one is presented not only with a portrait of Byron but of the reviewers and memoirists themselves. Oftentimes, arguments and corrected inaccuracies (Moore and Hobhouse continually defended Byron’s name while correcting other writers; Byron and Southey carried on a feud), coupled with the outspoken politics of the periodicals, only served to heighten the public’s fascination with the varying depictions of the man who was Lord Byron.
The bold comments found at the beginning and end of many of the articles are summary statements or added information supplied by the bibliography’s author. Although many of the reviews and articles of the early eighteenth century were anonymous, authors’ biographical information, when available, has been provided as well.
1824: The Year of Byron’s Death
“Anecdotes of Lord Byron,” Mirror, IV (Supp. No. XCIX, 1824), 136-138.
Byron is a generous benefactor.
At the Grammar School of Aberdeen, Byron was a precocious youth who remarked that chance had caused his misfortune and fortune. Later in life, Byron generously bestowed money on a destitute widow and a young would-be poet.
“Anecdotes of Lord Byron,” Portfolio (London), III (1824), 92-93.
“Appearances on Opening the Body of Lord Byron,” Mirror, IV (Supp. No. XCIX, 1824), 136.
Byron’s autopsy reveals the condition of his corpse.
This account of Byron’s dead body describes the condition of his corpse, including the bones in his head and his veins, lungs, liver, and brain. From the examination, it is concluded that if Byron had allowed more bloodletting, he would not have died when he did. It is also noted that, due to the state of Byron’s skull and heart, along with his excessive passions, he would not have lived long, anyway.
This article is an excerpt from a report drawn up from the autopsy performed by Dr. Bruno, one of the attending physicians at Byron’s deathbed.
“Arrival of Byron’s Body to England,” New Monthly Magazine, 2nd ser., XII (Aug., 1824), 373.
B., J. G. “Lord Byron,” Minerva, n.s., I (July 3, 1824), 205-206.
B., L. “Pierce Egan and Lord Byron,” European Magazine, LXXXVI (July, 1824), 48-51.
“Biographical Account of Lord Byron,” Literary Gazette, (May 22, 1824), 329-331.
Byron’s death is greatly mourned in Greece.
This account discusses the birth and life of the poet, although the main topic is his death (caused by a cold). He is described as a spoiled child who inherited titles and estates at the age of ten. His writings, schooling, marriage, and travels are discussed. “How deeply his loss is deplored by the Greeks, to whose hopes it is a dreadful blow…” (p. 329). The article concludes with praise of Byron’s endeavors to save the Greeks from the tyranny of the Turks. A Greek copy (and translation) of Byron’s death notice is included. “The death of this illustrious personage is certainly a most calamitous event for all Greece…His munificent donations to this community are before the eyes of everyone, and no one amongst us ever ceased, or ever will cease, to consider him, with the purest and most grateful sentiments, our benefactor” (p.331). Shops and public offices closed, and a general mourning took place for twenty-one days. Funeral ceremonies were performed in all of the churches.
Despite Byron’s dedication to the Greeks’ war of independence from the Turks, Byron lacked the strength to recover from a cold that quickly proved fatal.
“Biographical Particulars of Celebrated Persons Lately Deceased: Lord Byron,” New Monthly Magazine, XII (June, 1824), 278-280. Not seen. Bowring, John and Edward Blaquiere. “Lord Byron in Greece,” Westminster Review, II (July, 1824), 225-262.
Byron’s last days in Greece are remembered.
“The world are (sic) under a grievous mistake if they fancy that Lord Byron embarked for Greece with the ignorant ardour of a schoolboy, or the flighty fanaticism of a crusader. It appeared to him that there was a good chance of his being useful in a country which he loved…and doubtless he expected to derive no mean gratification from witnessing so singular and instructive a spectacle as the emancipation of Greece” (p.226). While in Greece, Byron heard of a mass of earth that buried some persons alive, and he immediately ran to help. “Those who knew Lord Byron’s character know that he rarely resisted the impulse of his feelings, and that fortunately those impulses were generally of the most benevolent kind” (p.231). Upon meeting Dr. Kennedy, a methodistical physician then residing in Cephalonia, Byron began discussing religion with Kennedy. Lord Byron showed a remarkable knowledge of the Bible, and he frequently put Dr. Kenendy’s ideas in disorder. Other Grecian adventures are documented, including his enthusiastic welcome at Missolonghi: “no mark of honour or welcome which the Greeks could devise was omitted” (p.243). At the end of January 1824, Byron was appointed the sole commander of three thousand troops. On February 15, he suffered a fit of epilepsy and weakness in one of his legs. By the sixteenth of April, Byron was on his deathbed. On pages 253-257, William Fletcher, Byron’s faithful companion for twenty years, tells of Byron’s last days. The last five pages of the article include Dr. Bruno’s autopsy report, which state that Byron probably would have recovered from his illness (eventual inflammation of the brain) had he submitted earlier to bloodletting. After Byron’s death, there was considerable difficulty in deciding upon the place of interment. “No man who knows that Lord Byron’s name and fame were more universal than those of any other…can be indifferent to the cause for which he spent his last energies…the cause for which he died” (p.262).
An in-depth, first-hand account of Byron’s last days and autopsy is provided.
(Linguist Sir John Bowring was born in 1792 and died in 1872. Politician Baron Edward Blaquiere was born in 1732 and died in 1812. As a representative of the London Greek Committee, of which John Cam Hobhouse was a member, Blaquiere encouraged Byron to travel to Greece in order to aid the cause.)
Brydges, Sir Egerton. Letters on the Character and Poetical Genius of Lord Byron. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown & Green, 1824. Reviews: Literary Gazette, (July 31, 1824), 481-83. Although Egerton’s work does include some fallacies, overall he is a fair biographer.
Byron is a difficult, foul-tempered writer. “The fiercer passions seem to have prevailed exclusively over the mind of Lord Byron. Tender affection, timidity, sorrow, sympathy, appear to have little influence over him; a love of power and of the exercise of his caprice, and anger and violent resentment at whatever thwarted his purposes, were his habitual temperament” (p.481). The lame poet is also described as vengeful, uncompromising, and foul-tempered. “When he was pleased, he could be generous and kind; but no one was certain of being able to please him, or to continue to please him” (p.481). Byron’s religious beliefs (or lack thereof) are attacked, and the reviewer says that there are fallacies included in this part of the biography. Brydges remarks that “…Lord Byron’s passions were always more violent than those of other people” (p.482). Brydges asserts that Byron was not a plagiarist; he fought against hypocrisy and false pretension. This reviewer states that Brydges’ work is a fair example, as far as memoirs go, and the world will, in years to come, have materials whereupon to form an opinion, “which we anticipate will be somewhat different from its present impressions” (p.482).
In an article that focuses upon Byron’s faults, there are three other main topics of interest: his lameness, lack of religion, and bad temperament.
(Novelist Egerton Brydges, who was born in 1762 and died in 1837, was a researcher of early poetry. Elected to Parliament from 1812-1818, it is reported that he resembled Byron in the way he presented his own woeful visage in his gloomy galleries.) Belle Assemblee, 2nd, XXX (Sept., 1824), 121-122. Not seen. Lockhart, J. G. Blackwood’s, XVII (Feb., 1825), 137-144.
Sir Egerton aims at truth and writes in the spirit of a gentleman.
Byron is a much-maligned poet; his life was not all sunshine and flowers, since mines of pestilence and destruction were often beneath. “We are not defending the offences of which Lord Byron unquestionably was guilty; neither are we finding fault with those who, after looking honestly within and around themselves, condemn those offences—no matter, how severely. But we are speaking of society in general, as it now exists; and we say that there is vile hypocrisy in the tone in which Byron is talked of there” (p.134). Byron’s ill-fated marriage is discussed: “We believe that Lady Byron, with many high and estimable qualities, had a cold and obstinate mathematical sort of understanding, than which nothing could be more unlike, or less likely to agree with, the imaginative, enthusiastic, and capricious temperament of her lord” (p.134). After the separation, Byron was attacked in print and every social circle. His problems often came from an ill-assorted combination of domestic events. The poet was exquisitely sensitive and was attacked and wounded by a thousand arrows. “…NOT ONE knew anything about the real facts and merits of the case” (p.135). Even though Lady Byron’s friends attacked Byron’s character, he never retaliated. Sir Egerton appears throughout as a most candid and upright critic of the poet; he aims at truth. Dallas’s book is called utter trash; Medwin’s book cannot be considered authoritative. Moore’s soon-to-be-released memoirs of Byron will be wonderful if Moore endeavors to recall to memory those parts of the burned autobiography that should never have been destroyed. The reviewer protests against Moore as the complete historian of Byron’s life, when Hobhouse is best suited for the job. Byron has unquestionably taken his place as a British classic of the first order. He was one of those true masters whose successive works attested, almost always, progressive power. (Reviewer J. G. Lockhart, the editor of the Quarterly Review, was born in 1794 and died in 1854. He was the son of a minister and a young Tory writer. Not only was he Sir Walter Scott’s biographer, but Lockhart married Scott’s eldest daughter, as well. He was full of fun, satire, and humor; he was also proud and reserved.) Byron is not blamed for his marriage separation. Instead, his wife’s temperament is criticized. Already, Dallas and Medwin are discounted. The publication of Moore’s books is greatly anticipated. Minerva, n.s., II (Jan. 29, 1825), 267-270.
Not seen. Monthly Magazine, LIX (April, 1825), 210-216. Not seen.
“Byron and Burns; or a Voice from Tartarus,” Edinburgh Magazine, 2nd ser., XV (Dec., 1824), 699-702. Not seen. “Byron and Greece,” Mirror, IV (Supp. No. XCIX, 1824), 143. Eight tribute poems mourning the death of Byron, “the matchless bard and highest star in the poetical constellation,” are sent to the editor. “He’s gone! The glorious spirit’s fled!” (p.143). “That thou liv’dst for liberty—died’st to defend her, The patriot poet and patriot peer!” (p.142). “Byron and Southey,” Blackwood’s, XVI (Dec., 1824), 711-715.
Southey refutes the claim that Byron makes in Medwin’s book accusing Southey of writing a review including “dark and devilish insinuations against me and others” (p.713). Southey replies with his own letter, stating that he did not write the damaging article in question, nor did he write a review that maligned Shelley’s Revolt of Islam.
Byron was too much a man of the world to understand a monk like Southey, and vice versa. What results is “an absurd exaggeration of each other’s faults and errors” (p.711). “Byron was a rattling, reckless fellow, who said many things that he should not have said; but, from all we have been able to ascertain, he had a great deal too much taste and tact to talk low trash…” (p.711). Although Southey defends himself from any attacks, he may rest assured that no one ever believed him to be capable of the dirty deeds attributed to him by “the drunken imagination of Byron—or the base and blundering folly of this Captain Medwin” (p.712). Had Byron and Southey met, there would have been nothing but kind feelings between them, we are sure. The article ends with a rebuttal letter of Southey’s.
It is surmised that, had they met, Byron and Southey would have become friends.
(Robert Southey, born in 1774, was a writer whose family desired that he join the clergy. Abandoning this idea, he gravitated instead toward literature and philosophy. After becoming friends with Samuel Coleridge, he and some other friends came up with the idea of "Pantisocracy," or "equal rule of all" in which the egalitarian principles of the French Revolution could be put to use. An outspoken Tory, Southey became Britain's Poet Laureate in 1813, a position that he held for thirty years. Southey also advocated the censorship of carnal writing, which included what he called "the Satanic school of poetry," led by Byron. Southey remained Poet Laureate of Britain for 30 years, and eventually died in 1843. He was succeeded by William Wordsworth.).
“Byron in Greece,” Mirror, IV (Supp. No. XCIX 1824), 130-134. Byron is a hero in Greece.
“The soul of Byron had ever been in Greece…he felt there was a chance of being useful in the country which he loved” (p.139). The article describes his time in Greece and the ways in which he helped the Greek people. A copy of Fletcher’s account of Byron’s death (printed in the Westminster Review) is included at the end of the article. Cato (pseudonym for George Burgess). Cato to Lord Byron on the Immortality of His Writings. London: Printed for W. Welton, 1824. Reviews: British Review, XXII (Nov., 1824), 345-356. Not seen. Gentleman’s Magazine, XCIV, Part I (Jan., 1824), 49. Not seen. “Character of Lord Byron,” Lady’s Magazine, 2nd ser., V (June, 1824), 331-332. Not seen. “The Characteristics of the Present Age of Poetry,” London Magazine, IX (April, 1824), 424-427. Not seen. Dallas, R. C. Recollections of the Life of Lord Byron, from the Year 1808 to the End of
1814; His Early Character and Opinions, Detailing the Progress of His Literary
Career, and including Various Unpublished Passages of His Works. Taken from Authentic Documents, in the Possession of the Author. To Which is Prefixed an Account of the Circumstances Leading to the Suppression of Lord Byron’s Correspondence with the Author, and His Letters to His Mother Lately Announced for Publication. London: Printed for Charles Knight, 1824.
Reviews: Examiner, (Nov. 28, 1824), 754-756.
Hobhouse, John Cam. Westminster Review, III (Jan., 1825), 1-35. Dallas is a liar and opportunist who defames Byron’s name with his memoir. Hobhouse takes up for his friend Byron by refuting the first formal attack upon the poet’s character. This memoir is anything but what it pretends to be, states Hobhouse. “It does not ‘exhibit the early character and opinions of Lord Byron’; it does not ‘detail the progress of his literary career;’ it does ‘include various unpublished passages of his works,’ but they are passages which Lord Byron had condemned as not worth publishing…” (p.1). This book is meant to defame the character of an extraordinary person. Having made as much money out of Byron as Dallas could when the poet was alive, he now makes a livelihood out of his friend when dead. He announced his memoir for publication the day Byron’s remains were being carried through the streets toward the family vault in Nottinghamshire. Hobhouse corrects Dallas’ misstatements throughout page twenty, then begins correcting Medwin’s book. Hobhouse gives evidence through letters and his own observations that Dallas misrepresents a great many aspects of Byron’s life, including Byron’s relationship with Dallas. Dallas and his son, who helped with the book, are referred to as “unworthy men” (p.18). Hobhouse makes corrections in the memoirs of Dallas and Medwin.
(John Cam Hobhouse, born in 1786 and died in 1869, was a statesman and close intimate friend of Byron. A traveling and political companion, Hobhouse served as best friend at Byron’s ill-fated wedding.) Lady’s Magazine, 2nd ser., V (Dec., 1824), 651-654.
Literary Chronicle, VI (Dec. 4, 1824), 770-772.
Dallas is a trusted and encouraging editor. Byron is a talented writer but a nervous orator.
“Although the work professes to be the Recollections of Lord Byron’s Life, it cannot be concealed, that a great part of it relates to Mr. Dallas, and contains extracts from various letters he wrote to his lordship, in which he was very liberal of his moral advice” (p.770). Lord Byron was anxious that his Childe Harold should appear without his name, but at last consented when Dallas persuaded him otherwise (along with omitting several stanzas of a “skeptical” nature). Byron could write well, but he had a great distrust of his oratorical powers. He even wrote his maiden speech for the House of Lords and gave Dallas a copy. Childe Harold “flew to every part of the kingdom, indeed of the world; his fame hourly increased; and he all at once found himself ‘translated to the spheres,’ and complimented by all, with an elevated character, possessing youthful brilliancy, alas!” (p.772).
Childe Harold elevated Byron to immediate fame.
Literary Chronicle, VI (Nov. 27, 1824), 753-754. Dallas is a trusted friend and confidante who knew his subject. Byron is benevolent yet difficult. This review, like the one by Jonathan Oldworth in the June 12, 1824 Literary Chronicle article, begins by remarking upon the constant lamentations regarding the loss of Byron’s memoirs. “Dallas’ work extends over a period of six years, and represents Lord Byron in a different point of view than Mr. Medwin…(who) pretends to know him better than any other person, and commits a sad breach of confidence and good manners in detailing his lordship’s amours and excesses, one half of which nobody believes” (p. 754). Dallas is considered as adopting a faithful delineation of Lord Byron’s character, since Dallas was one of the poet’s oldest and most confidential of friends. Both Byron’s benevolent and angry temperaments are described. Dallas, who served as a trusted critic for Byron’s manuscripts, includes many of Byron’s works and alterations. This book was intended for publication after both Byron and Dallas’ deaths, according to an agreement made by the aforementioned parties.
Medwin’s work is unfavorably compared to that of Dallas’.
Literary Gazette, (Nov. 20, 1824), 738-741.
Dallas is a memoirist whose work was not allowed to reach true fruition. Byron is an unhappy man.
Dallas had long prepared a sketch of the early life of Lord Byron. Hobhouse and Mr. Hanson, Byron’s executors, obtained an injunction against its publication, based on the ground that letters are the property of those who write them. As a result, Dallas was not allowed to fulfill his intentions. “…If truth is prevented from being told, we must expect the vacuum to be supplied by lies” (p.738). This book was originally projected for release after Byron’s death. Included in the book are stories concerning Byron’s discontent: “resentment, anger, and hatred held full sway over him, and his greatest gratification at that time was in overcharging his pen with gall, which flowed in every direction against individuals, his country, the world, the universe, creation, and the Creator” (p.740).
Byron’s unhappiness manifested itself in his angry writings.
Literary Gazette, (Nov. 27, 1824), 758-760.
Concerned with Byron’s lack of religious beliefs, Dallas notes that Byron would have surely became a Christian but for his atheistic friends.
Byron’s aristocratic pride was the least striking trait in his character. Although Hobhouse did not consider Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage publishable, Dallas did, and set forth in earnest on getting it published. He would have nothing to do with the subject of religion when Dallas brought up the subject; instead, he remarked, “’So, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (p.759). He was struck with the fact that few of his friends had had a quiet death; but a quiet life was more important. After Byron left England in 1816, he and Dallas lost touch, although he continued to read Byron’s poetry with great interest. He says about the poet, “ If his pen were sometimes virulent and impious, his heart was always benevolent, and his sentiments sometimes apparently pious. Nay, he would have been a Christian, had he not fallen into the hands of atheists and scoffers” (p.760).
Although Dallas reported in last week’s edition of the Literary Gazette that Byron’s pen was charged with gall, the author now adds that his heart was always kind, despite his harsh writings.
Monthly Magazine, LVIII (Dec., 1824), 453-456.
New Monthly Magazine, 2nd ser., XII (Dec., 1824), 552-553.
Tudor, W. North American Review, XXI (Oct., 1825), 300-359.
Dallas’ work is considered valuable although his character is not. Byron is a self-possessed, atheistic poet.
In a review which also critiques Medwin’s memoir, it is noted that upon Byron’s return trip from abroad, Dallas endeavored to produce an impression upon Byron’s mind favorable to Christianity, “or to what the former regarded as Christianity” (p.326). It is shown in excerpts that Dallas’ poor execution of his argument only served to strengthen Byron’s skepticism. The acquaintance between Byron and Dallas was strong during the publication of the English Bards and Scotch Reviewers and the first two cantos of Childe Harold. “Byron formed friendships with the worthless, and finding them worthless, in his disappointment and despite, he denied the existence of all disinterested feeling” (p.306) He was desirous of possessing some extraordinary distinction, which should separate him from all other men. As a result, he looked around at others as selfish and low-minded, if they did not view him with any particular interest. Letters to and from Byron are included, along with Byron’s poetry, the latter of which is used to further describe Byron’s character.
Neither Dallas nor Kennedy could convince Byron of the necessity of Christianity due to their poor arguments.
(Reviewer William Tudor was the founder and first editor of the North American Review.)
United States Literary Gazette, I (March 15, 1825), 353-354.
Universal Review, II (Nov., 1824), 241-250. Not seen. (R.C. Dallas, who was born in 1754 and died in 1824, was a writer who introduced himself to Byron in a letter upon Byron’s publishing Hours of Idleness. Dallas later provided literary advice for Byron and communicated with the poet’s publisher. Dallas’ sister was married to Byron’s uncle. The memoir was originally planned, with Byron’s approval, to be published after Byron’s death. Dallas died suddenly; his son then took over the arrangements for publication. Dallas’ memoir is considered distorted because he was forced to transpose Byron’s letters to his mother into third person narrative in order to avoid Hobhouse’s legal injunction.) “Death of Lord Byron,” Bell’s Weekly Messenger, (May 17, 1824), 156. Not seen. “Death of Lord Byron,” Imperial Magazine, VI (June, 1824), cols. 584-586. Not seen. “Death of Lord Byron,” Lady’s Magazine, 2nd ser., V (May, 1824), 275-276. Not seen. ”Death of Lord Byron, and a Sketch of His Character,” Rambler’s Magazine, I (June, 1824), 99-102.
Dupin, Charles M. “On the Death of Lord Byron,” Kaleidoscope, n.s., IV (June 15, 1824), 451-452. Byron is a generous, noble, unequalled Greek hero. “But, amongst all those illustrious characters, who has distinguished himself like Lord Byron? Who has equaled him—I will not say in his poetry, in his prose, or in his oratory, but in his sacrifice?” (p.451). He came to Greece to encourage the timid, to animate the brave, to consecrate his fortune for noble purposes, and to aid the endangered Greek people. “Already have the inhabitants of Greece worthily paid the first sepulchral honours to the generous man who thus espoused their cause” (p.451).
“Family of Byron,” Mirror, IV (Supp. No. XCIX, 1824), 140-41. Byron is a mourned Greek hero. “I had imagined the blessings of our Bishops, the hymns, and laurel crowns, and the dance of the virgins of Greece round the tomb of the benefactor of Greece;--but this tomb will not contain his precious remains; the tomb will remain void…” (p.140). “Missolonghi, his country, will ever watch over and protect with all her strength the urn containing his venerated heart, as a symbol of his love towards us” (p.140). Thousands of Christian voices were heard, praying that his venerated remains might be safely conveyed to his native land, and that his soul might find rest with the righteous. Included is a Byron family tree. Byron is a hero, and although Greece will not have his remains, she will at least retain his heart.
Fletcher, William. “Lord Byron’s Illness and Death as Described in a Letter From William Fletcher to Hon. Augusta Leigh.” Original in the Roe Collection at Newstead Abbey. Rptd in Bell’s Weekly Messenger, (Aug., 1824), 258; Lady’s Magazine, 2nd ser., V (Aug., 1824), 441-443; Mirror, IV (Supp. No XCIX, 1824), 134-136; Portfolio (London), III (1824), 298-300; Polar Star, VI (1830), 156-157. Not seen.
Westminster Review, II (July, 1824), 253-257.
Fletcher describes firsthand Byron’s fatal illness and last days.
William Fletcher, Lord Byron’s trusted valet for twenty years, gives a first-hand account of the last days of Byron’s life. Included at the end of an article entitled “Lord Byron in Greece: The Deformed Transformed,” are Fletcher’s five pages, which are considered to be generally accurate: “we consider ourselves very fortunate in being the means of preserving so affecting and interesting a history of the last days of the greatest and truest poet that England has for some time produced” (p.253). On April 9, Byron caught a cold and became feverish. When Byron did not improve by the third day, Fletcher called for Dr. Bruno and Dr. Millingen, the two medical attendants, who both replied there was no danger. The next day, Fletcher asked that another doctor be called in, but the two medical attendants said there was no need. Byron informed Fletcher, “’They tell me that it is only a common cold, which you know I have had a thousand times’” (p.254). Fletcher answered that he had never seen Byron have a cold of such a serious nature and asked again that another doctor be summoned. Again, he was assured that Byron would be better in two or three days. The strong purgative antidotes given Byron did not help, nor did the constant bloodletting (on the sixteenth, a pound of blood was taken). On the nineteenth of April 1824, Byron, who had consumed barely any food for nine days, became weaker. His last words were, “My wife! My child! My sister! …I must sleep now” (p.257). At six PM he died, much to the Greek people’s dismay.
Neither bloodletting nor purgatives helped Byron’s illness, which began as a cold. Ten days later, he was dead; in his last breaths, he called out for his wife, his child, and his sister.
(William Fletcher, who served as Byron’s valet since 1808, accompanied his master to Greece. Despite his genuine grief at the loss of his master, Fletcher enjoyed his role of chief mourner and the attention paid him as one who was in the company of Byron’s during his last moments.)
Gordon, Sir Cosmo. The Life and Genius of Byron. London: Knight & Lacey, 1824. Repeated in Pamphleteer, XXIV (1824), 176-220. Not seen. Grizzeldina, “Lord Byron, Ladies, and Asmodeus,” Literary Chronicle, (Nov. 20, 1824), 744-745. Byron is a flippant cad. In this brief article addressed to the editor, a twenty-five-year-old woman asserts that the praise afforded Lord Byron’s portrait in a recent Literary Chronicle article was unfounded. She says, “I find many faults in him” (p.744). She goes on to say that the adjectives attributed to Lord Byron, who was described as “’too young, too handsome, and too like an angel’” (p.744) certainly did not apply, at least in the angelic aspect. Especially insulting to her is this comment made by Byron: “’Give a woman,’ says Lord Byron, ‘a looking-glass and a few sugarplums, and she will be satisfied’.” (p. 745). After assuring the editor that this insult does not apply to her, she goes on to inform both Byron and the editor that she and other women are above this degrading remark.
In one of the few articles signed by a woman, Byron’s insulting remarks are rebuffed.
Growler, Geoffrey. “To John Bull on His Sins,” John Bull Magazine, I (Nov., 1824), 162-167. Not seen. Hobhouse, John Cam. Exposure of the Mis-statements contained in Captain Medwin’s Pretended “Conversations of Lord Byron,” London: John Murray, 1824.“Lord Byron,” American Monthly Magazine, (July 1824), 68-71. Not seen. ”Imitation and Plagiarism,” Weekly Literary Magnet, I (1824), 72-73.
“The Late Lord Byron,” Kaleidoscope, n.s., IV (May 25, 1824), 397-398.
Byron’s poetical talents are unmatched.
This memoir from the Irish Times reviews Byron’s ancestry and major life events. “By the decease of Lord Byron, the poetical literature of England has lost one of its brightest ornaments, and the age decidedly its finest genius” (p.398). Though his pernicious works remain objectionable, Byron’s talent still places him near the names of Shakespeare and Milton.
No one could write better than this Goliath of literary fame.
“Layman (pseud. For Thomas Bailey). A Sermon on the Death of Byron. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Ome, Brown & Green, 1824. Not seen. Libra. “Lord Byron and Washington Irving.” Portfolio 5th ser., XVIII (Aug., 1824), 95-96. Not seen. “Life of Lord Byron,” Mirror, III (Supp. No. LXXXV 1824), 337-350. Not seen. “Lord Byron,” American Monthly Magazine, II (July, 1824), 68-71. Byron’s character and writings (often considered intertwined) are presented as reckless, impulsive, and socially offensive. “In short, the good and bad qualities of this great man, were so conspicuous, undisguised, glowing and candid, and at the same time, so nearly balanced, that we scarcely know whether to ensure or applaud him most” (pp.70-71). Byron is described as a man whose productions have been totally disapproved of by many based on their immoral tendencies and bad taste; “everything he did, and everything he wrote, however badly it might have been done or written, seemed the spontaneous result of uncontrolled impulse, without reference to a model, and without regard to consequence” (p.68). He therefore became an object of high admiration to all those who delight in boldness and eccentricity. His impulsive talent could not be denied (and the reviewer does state that it was an honour to be his contemporary), “but his manner of employing them was condemned by thousands…in respect to profit, what work of his has rendered mankind wiser or better?” (pp.68-69). He was too reckless about everything, including his marriage. His peevishness is blamed on the results of circumstances and not “the innate bent of his mind” (p.69). Whereas other writings oftentimes blamed his mother’s violent temperament for his problems, this article attests that Byron was a spoiled child, which would prove to cause his later troubles. His death at an early age is mourned because he had not yet had time to mature in judgment; Greece, too, will mourn the death of its hero. In direct opposition to Jonathan Oldworth’s opinion in the June 12, 1824 Literary Chronicle, the last page of the article praises the decision to burn the memoirs, since “…it is probable that …delicacy would have been wounded, and morality shocked” (p.71). The world has reason to rejoice at the memoirs’ repression.
Whereas many articles claim that Byron’s problems arose from his mother’s violent, abusive temperament, this review states that Byron’s problems instead resulted from his being spoiled as a child.
“Lord Byron,” Bell’s Weekly Messenger, (July 5, 1824), 213.
“Lord Byron,” Bell’s Weekly Messenger, (July 12, 1824), 219.
“Lord Byron,” Bell’s Weekly Messenger, (Oct. 25, 1824), 338.
“Lord Byron,” Blackwood’s, XV (June, 1824), 696-701.
Byron is a celebrated yet normal man whose looks fascinated the author, a man delighted to be in Byron’s presence.
In Genoa, “I had an introduction to the extraordinary man…” (p.697). What follows are the perceptions of the writer regarding Byron. “Lord Byron is not a man of to-day. He belongs as much to the future as to the present” (p.698). Byron attests that any sins he might have committed have not punished in full in the alienation of his friends and self-exile from England. “’Do you suppose,’” was the answer, “’that I can be torn up by the roots without bleeding?’” (p.697). Many passages are devoted to Byron’s appearance: “During the whole interview, my eyes were fixed very earnestly upon the countenance of the extra-ordinary man before me. I was desirous of examining every line in his face, and of judging, from the movements of his lips, eyes, and brow, what might be passing within his bosom” (p.701). After the interview, the writer attested that there was nothing eccentric in his behavior, and certainly nothing to justify the strange things that have been said about him, especially those remarks describing him as half angel and half devil.
Written by a man preoccupied with Byron’s physical appearance, including the shape of his ears, this article is an example of the myriad Byron anecdotes that found their way into the newspapers after the poet’s death.
“Lord Byron,” Examiner, (May 23, 1824), 353-354.
“Lord Byron,” Minerva, n.s., I (July 24, 1824), 250-252.
“Lord Byron,” Nic-Nac, II (May 22, 1824), 200-205.
“Lord Byron,” Universal Magazine, XXI (March, 1814), 207.
“Lord Byron and His Disciples,” American Monthly Magazine, II (Sept., 1824), 177-185.
“Lord Byron’s First Love and Subsequent Marriage,” Lady’s Magazine, 2nd ser., V (Oct., 1824), 543-544.
“Lord Byron’s Grecian Orphan,” Bell’s Weekly Messenger, (July 19, 1824), 232.
“Lord Byron’s Letter,” John Bull Magazine, I (Aug., 1824), 41-42.
“Lord Byron’s Poetical Soul,” American Monthly Magazine, (April, 1824), 289-295.
Byron is accused of bad taste in his writing.
“We are indeed tired of it (Byron’s poetry), and should not, at present, have taken any notice of his Lordship’s muse, which we are glad to find even its most determined eulogizers begin to be convinced is a muse destitute of taste, if it were not that some who candidly avow their conversion on this point…still fondly cling to the worship of their idol…” (p.289). There are occasional beauties in even the worst of Byron’s works. Byron shows immense bad taste in much of his writing; however, he has the faculty of looking most acutely into the human heart, “and he has the boldness to expose without reserve or compassion, to the condemnation or ridicule, nay, often to the detestation and horror of the world” (p.292). He is the literary scourge of the times and miserably deficient in the free, easy flow of beautiful expression needed to be a true poet. Don Juan insulted the world.
After Byron’s death, some articles dealt solely with the author’s writings and lack of couth shown therein. Don Juan is once again criticized for its bawdiness.
M., J. “Lord Byron and Mr. Murray,” Literary Chronicle, VI (Nov. 13, 1824), 730-732.
This review deals mainly with John Murray’s reputation, not Byron’s.
“Our readers are well aware that we attach little faith to Mr. Medwin’s report of the Conversations of Lord Byron…” (p.730), but we want to be given a chance to refute every assertion in which his name is mentioned. What follows are passages that involve Murray, refutations that are derived from Byron’s letters, and a few brief notes of necessary explanation.
John Murray, who published Childe Harold, considered Don Juan outrageously shocking and urged Byron to revise the cantos. Although Byron grew frustrated with Murray’s delays and evasion of commitments, overall, Byron considered Murray a good man. His letters to Murray from Italy are some of Byron’s most honest, friendly, and interesting. After paying Thomas Moore two thousand guineas for Byron’s memoirs, Murray sided with Hobhouse in his determination that the memoirs be burned.
Medwin, Thomas. Journal of the Conversations of Lord Byron, Noted during a
Residence with His Lordship at Pisa, in the Years 1821 and 1822. London:
Printed for Henry Colburn, 1824.
Atlantic Magazine, II (Jan., 1825), 203-215.
Examiner, (Oct. 31, 1824), 689-693.
Edinburgh Magazine, n.s., XV (May, 1824), 607-616.
Gentleman’s Magazine, XCIV, Part II (Nov., 1824), 434-442.
Medwin is most probably an inaccurate author. Byron is an adulterous, miserable man.
Although at first putting implicit faith in Medwin’s writings, the assertions of inaccuracies provided both by Byron’s friend Murray, along with rumors afloat, have caused the reviewer to rethink his first assessment. Instead, he chiefly confines himself to providing parts of the book that illustrate Byron’s personal history, supported by Byron’s own works. Reading like an autobiography, Byron‘s story begins with his ancestors and ends with his visit to Venice. Admitting to his waywardness in youth and the trouble he caused his mother, he also tells of a romantic attachment at age fifteen or sixteen which, upon its end, caused him to devote himself to poetry: “For a man to become a Poet, he must be in love or miserable,” he remarked (p.434). The sarcasms of the Edinburgh Review caused him great pain. He stated that it even made him hate Scotland, his boyhood home. Of Venice, he said, “I detest ever recollection of the place, the people, and my pursuits…Women were there, as they have ever been fated to be, my bane” (p.435). Regarding his own memoirs, Byron said that they would be a good lesson to young men in showing them the consequences of dissipation. “There are very few licentious adventures of my own…that will affect others in this book…There are few parts that may not, and none that will not, be read by women” (p.437).
Byron mentions his own memoirs, which he thinks should be widely read. Medwin’s inaccuracies are remarked upon.
Hobhouse, John Cam. Westminster Review, III (Jan., 1825), 1-35.
Medwin is shown to be an inaccurate memoirist by Hobhouse, who refutes whole passages of the book.
Although the first twenty pages of the article deal with R. C. Dallas’ memoir of Byron, the last fifteen discuss Medwin’s book. Whereas Dallas misrepresented Byron, Medwin misheard the poet. Hobhouse corrects almost sixty of Medwin’s statements, including Byron’s birthplace, Teresa’s age, the number of Byron’s boatmen and guns, the giving of dinner parties, the newspapers’ defense of Byron, Byron’s father’s marriages, Byron’s skull cup and monk parties at Newstead, Byron’s swimming, travels to Greece, and locks of hair received in the mail received from possible amours. “In concluding our comments on the pseudo-biographers of Lord Byron, we must confess that we have been obliged to adopt a mode and style of criticism extremely uncongenial to our inclinations…it is our business to review the words and public conduct of our contemporaries, not to enter into investigations which require a reference to their domestic history” (pp.34-35). Medwin’s book should not be accepted as authentic.
Hobhouse makes almost sixty corrections in Medwin’s book.
Lady’s Magazine, 2nd ser., V (Nov., 1824), 578-585.
Literary Chronicle, VI (Oct. 23, 1824), 673-675.
Byron is superstitious and paternal.
Byron describes the first time he saw his future wife, Annabella Millbanke: “Her features were small and feminine, though not regular. She had the fairest skin imaginable. Her figure was perfect for her height…” (p.673). A fortune-telling witch had predicted that age twenty-seven would be dangerous for Byron, and she was right. He tells a story of the gardener’s finding a lost wedding ring of his mother’s the day of the engagement. Byron considered this to be a sign, although “…this ring was doomed to be the seal of an unhappy union still” (p.673). The honeymoon was not all sunshine; the world assumed that Byron had married Lady Byron for her fortune. Her enemies’ influence prevailed over her affection for Byron, even though the poet, who did not like to be interrupted while writing, was harsh to his wife only once—when she bothered him at his work. He states that he did not want his illegitimate daughter Allegra (of whom he was not as fond of as Ada) to be left in a convent, but he realized that he could not properly raise her. Sadly, he showed Medwin a lock of Ada’s hair, and remarking on the fact that that day was Ada’s birthday, remained gloomy since he could not be with his daughter. Original verses by Lord Byron addressed to the Countess Guiccioli end the article.
Medwin is a gossipy traitor in regards to Byron’s memory. Byron is a man who tells everything he has ever done without compunction.
Incongruities are once again pointed out. Mr. Medwin was an attentive listener and gossip. What passes among friend in confidence and unguarded moments should stay that way: “…although his own memoirs are destroyed, yet we unhesitatingly assert that they could contain nothing half so bad as the stories which Mr. M. makes the noble bard relate of himself” (p.689). This rambling and desultory production no doubt contains some anecdotes that were the genuine transcripts of the lordship’s mind. Medwin describes Byron’s appearance and meals (strong green tea, the yolk of an egg, and wine), and his life of billiards, conversation, reading, pistol-practice, and writing at two or three in the morning. The story of the skull’s being dug up at Newstead Abbey is recounted, along with Byron’s having it made into a drinking cup so he and his friends could dress in black gowns and drink from it. Byron tells Medwin of his uncle who once lived at Newstead. He tamed the crickets and made them pets. When he died, they left the house in droves, never to return. Of Lord Byron’s religious opinions, Medwin stated that “his wavering never amounted to a disbelief in the divine founder of Christianity” (p.691). Percy Shelley’s drowning and subsequent cremation is described. Upon seeing the corpse, Byron remarked, “Why, that old silk handkerchief retains its form better than that human body!” (p.693). In his deep distress, he then swam out to his boat, the Bolivar, which was a few miles out in the sea.
This article reveals some famous Byronic stories: his uncle’s crickets, his odd eating habits, the infamous skull cup, and Shelley’s cremation.
Literary Chronicle, (Nov. 6, 1824), 709-712.
Medwin is a false friend to Byron. Byron is a celebrity who can find no respite from a curious public.
We have already noticed the disgusting details Medwin has related of Byron’s amours—“tales which, were Mr. M. a sincere friend of his lordship, he would have concealed from the public…” (p.709). Byron remarks to Medwin about his life on Lake Geneva, whereupon he was watched from the opposite side of the lake with glasses that must have had “very distorted optics” (p.709). He was never left in peace. There was no story so absurd that was not concocted at his cost. As was quoted in the October 23, 1824 Literary Chronicle, Byron relates that his fortune was told by a woman who predicted that his twenty-seventh and thirty-seventh years were to be dangerous ages in his life.
Literary Chronicle, VI (Nov. 20, 1824) 743-744.
A letter to the editor makes a correction about Byron’s version of the duel between Captain Medwin and Lieutenant Cecil.
Literary Gazette, (October 23, 1824), 673-675.
Medwin provided the public with the information that Byron gave him; there was no betrayal on Medwin’s part. Byron’s love affairs with Countess Teresa Guiccioli and the Fornarina are highlighted.
It does not appear that there has been any breach in confidence in presenting these memoirs to the world. Byron’s entourage of seven servants, five carriages, nine horses, a monkey, a bulldog and a mastiff, two cats, three peafowls and some hens is mentioned. His features are criticized: “It might perhaps be said that his eyes were placed too near his nose, and that one was rather smaller than the other…” (p.673). In order to prevent his teeth-grinding, he placed a napkin between them at night. Once again, the story of his uncle’s tame crickets is relayed to the public. He remembers a time when his ill-tempered mother raged at him, “’Ah, you little dog, you are as bad as your father!’” (p.674). He refers to women as his bane. The Turks and Eastern people, who lock up their women, are much happier than the English. “Give a woman a looking-glass and a few sugar-plums, and she will be satisfied” (p.674). (Refer to Grizzeldina’s article in the November 20, 1824 Literary Chronicle in order to see one woman’s reaction to this remark). Byron also discusses his relationship with twenty-three-year-old Countess Teresa Guiccioli, a woman with a perfect bust and the most beautiful mouth and teeth imaginable. Byron describes his role as “Cavalieri Servante,” or lover (of married Teresa). Byron also carried on an affair with the ill-tempered Fornarina , who threatened to stab herself with a knife if he left her.
Byron was known for traveling with an entourage of servants and animals. His affairs with the married Countess Guiccioli and the ill-tempered, overly dramatic Fornarina were constant topics of interest to the public.
Literary Gazette, (Oct. 30, 1824), 694-696.
Byron is highly superstitious and credits gin-and-water as his writing inspiration.
Byron divulges that gin-and-water is the source of his inspiration; he reveals his horror of anniversaries and his belief that his birthday is a charmed day, since so many good things have happened then. There are lucky and unlucky days, as well as years and numbers, too. The number thirteen and making visits on a Friday also worried Byron.
Literary Gazette, (Nov. 6, 1824), 709-710.
John Murray, Byron’s publisher, refutes Medwin’s statements by using Byron’s own letters as proof.
“We do not think that Lord Byron possessed a steady and commanding mind: no man ever veered more, or yielded to the tone of the parasites and whisperers who happened to be about him; and a literal collection of his talk for a twelvemonth would only be a medley of falsehoods, contradictions, and misrepresentations, without affording so much light as would guide us to his real sentiments on any one subject” (p.709). Murray prepares notes that prove many of Medwin’s statements are unfounded. He produces Lord Byron’s own letters for proof.
Murray and Hobhouse defended Byron’s memory on a regular basis.
Literary Gazette, (Nov. 13, 1824), 725-726.
Although there are some inaccuracies, Medwin’s work is considered a fairly accurate representation of Byron. Byron is presented as a plagiarist; he also ridiculed his enemies in rhyme.
“…Captain Medwin has shown that his memory was somewhat treacherous…we still consider his report to be a tolerably accurate picture of his Lordship’s manner and style in Italy” (p.725). Particularly deserving of notice in Medwin’s book are passages which depreciates Byron’s heroic devotedness to the Greek cause, since Greece came second to Italy, and Byron was ready to begin revolt anywhere. Allegations of plagiarism produced in the Literary Gazette were soon adopted by other writers, and it is now evident that Byron himself allows the fact. The article ends by referring to one of Lord Byron’s amusing peculiarities: “Whoe’er offended, at some unlucky time, had their names hitched into rhyme, and were made sacred to ridicule; witness his lines on ‘Boy Hobby’” (p.726). “However objectionable in principle, we consider this work as throwing a not dubious light on its subject” (p.710).
Although the majority of articles praised Byron’s part in helping Greece, Medwin states that Byron was ready to cause a revolt anywhere, with Greece coming in second behind Italy in Byron’s heart.
London Magazine, X (Nov., 1824), 578-585.
Southey, Robert. Gentleman’s Magazine, Part II (Nov., 1824), 546-547.
Southey denounces Byron for his rude, slanderous writing.
In describing “Byron’s Controversy with Southey,” Southey announces that he accused Lord Byron of committing a high crime against society by sending forth a work “in which mockery was mingled with horrors, filth and impiety, profligacy with sedition and slander” (p.546). Although his friends are compelled to come to his defense, Byron was as regardless of truth as he was incapable of sustaining those feelings suited to his birth, station, and high endowments.
In order to learn more of the Byron-Southey feud, see “Byron and Southey,” Blackwood’s, XVI (Dec., 1824), 711-715.
Minerva, n.s., I (Aug. 14, 1824), 298-300.
Tudor, W., North American Review, XXI, (Oct., 1825), 300-359.
Medwin’s book has been challenged due to possible inaccuracies; however, these attacks have only served to strengthen Medwin’s claims, despite Murray’s Byronic defense. Byron is shallow and immoral.
In a review which also discusses Dallas’ memoir, the authenticity of Medwin’s book has been controverted. Mr. Murray, Lord Byron’s publisher, has proved that much of the conversation is injurious and incorrect. “Still the question arises, whether this want of correctness is to be charged upon Lord Byron or Captain Medwin; and there seems to be so satisfactory ground for deciding against the latter” (p.301). Hobhouse, Byron’s close friend, has also pointed out discrepancies. “…On the whole, this attack against Captain Medwin’s book may serve rather to confirm than to weaken one’s belief in its general credibility” (p.301). The reviewer gives no motive as to why Medwin should have reported the conversations falsely, since the accounts give the same impression that Byron has given of himself in his own writings. Byron appears “as a thorough libertine, devoid of all the proper feelings of a man, toward his wife, his mother, and it may be added…toward the degraded females with whom he has been connected” (p.302). Considering that Medwin’s visits to Byron were usually at 11 PM, he could not, at that hour, be expected to always properly recollect or state facts with great accuracy. Medwin states in his book that Byron ‘was unfortunate in the moral influences which operated upon his character” (p.303). After a year of marriage, the self-named rake and dandy inherited a fortune as the husband of the wife he had abandoned. There is a passage in Medwin’s book which throws a great deal of light upon Byron’s feelings and character: Shelley’s drowning and following cremation (as mentioned in the October 24, 1824 Literary Chronicle.) After having remarked upon the sad state of Shelley’s body, Byron and Trelawney were seen standing over the burning pile, and Leigh Hunt, whose nerves gave out, lay in the carriage. Upset by what he had just witnessed, Byron swam to his yacht, which was a few miles out to sea. “The next morning he was fully recovered. When I called, I found him sitting in the garden under the shade of some orange trees, with the Countess” (p.354), a woman who was the wife of another man.
Medwin’s book is defended on the premise that much of what Medwin writes is not different that what Byron has written about himself; Medwin cannot be expected to remember everything accurately since his visits to Byron were so late at night. Although Shelley’s drowning and cremation are often mentioned in other reviews, Medwin’s version includes Byron’s complete metamorphosis from distraught friend one day to recovered, happy paramour the next.
(Captain Thomas Medwin, who was born in 1788 and died in 1869, also wrote a biography of Percy Shelley. In 1821, while in Italy for his health, Medwin met Byron. Staying until 1822, Medwin took notes of his conversations with Lord Byron and eventually wrote a book. Later, some critics would surmise that Medwin lied in his memoirs, while others thought that Byron misled Medwin on purpose.)
“Missolonghi, May 2,” New Monthly Magazine, 2nd ser., XII (Aug., 1824), 355-356.
“Mistakes Respecting Lord Byron,” Christian Observer, (October, 1824), 619-620.
Lord Byron is vindicated from the charge of being an atheist.
This article clears up a story in which Lord Byron was mistakenly accused of signing his name as “Atheist,” when, in reality, it was Percy Shelley. In July 1816, the poets were signing into a hotel around Mont Blanc. The Bible verse Psalm viv.1 is quoted: “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God” (p.619). The article ends with Shelley’s death by drowning.
Lord Byron’s religious beliefs (or lack thereof) were often speculated upon. In an uncharacteristic view, Byron is not considered an atheist.
N., R. “Personal Character of Lord Byron,” London Magazine, X (Oct., 1824), 337-347.
“Obituary—Lord Byron,” Gentleman’s Magazine, (May 1824), 478.
In a short, concise obituary, the cause of Byron’s death (a cold attended by inflammation) is noted. Although the Greeks were able to keep his heart, the body will be brought back to England.
“Obituary—Memoir of the Late Lord Byron,” Gentleman’s Magazine, (June 1824), 561-568.
This obituary touches upon the main points of Byron’s life: family, schooling, marriage, writings, and travels. Of his character, we are given examples of his deep affection for his Newfoundland dog, his main companion at Newstead. “…He would sometimes fall out of the boat, as if by accident, when the dog would seize him and drag him ashore. On losing the dog “…his Lordship caused a monument to be erected…” (p. 562). Byron possessed the ability to stir up among the Greeks “an almost inconceivable enthusiasm” (p. 565). Before his untimely death, he endeavored to procure human treatment for the Turkish captives. At the end of the obituary, a copy of the Proclamation issued by the Greek authorities (from the May 24, 1824 Literary Gazette) is included. The tribute by Sir Walter Scott is also included (from the May 29, 1824 Literary Chronicle). Byron is described as “one of the greatest Poets England ever produced…he had virtues and he had failings; the latter were in a great measure the result of the means of indulgence which were placed within his reach at so early a period of his life” (p.566). Byron’s mother is described as “…regarded and esteemed by all who knew her, and her amiable disposition and manners were particularly shown towards all those whom she saw fit to associate in reading or in sports with her son” (p.561). When the two of them would go out for a walk, she would entreat Byron, with a tear in her eye, to take care of himself, as “’she had nothing on earth but him to live for’” (p.561).
Byron’s mother is described in glowing, maternal terms. The poet’s love for animals—in this case, his dog Boatswain—is mentioned.
Oldworth, Jonathan. “Lord Byron-Mr. Moore: Byron’s Autobiography,” Literary Chronicle, VI (June 12, 1824), 377-378.
Oldworth assumes that Byron’s memoir would be full of apologies, and the world deserved to read them.
“On the Genius and Writings of Lord Byron,” European Magazine, LXXXVI (July, 1824), 9-14.
“Original Anecdote of Lord Byron,” Belle Assemblee, 2nd. Ser., XXX (Nov., 1824), 198.
“Particulars of the Destruction of Lord Byron’s MSS of His Life,” Bell’s Weekly Messenger, (May 24, 1824), 164.
“The Public and Domestic Life of the Late Right Honorable George Gordon, Lord Byron, with an Authentic Account of His Residence in the Greek Islands,” Portfolio (London), IV (Nov.13, 1824), 145-160.
“Recollections of Lord Byron,” Mirror, III (June 26, 1824), 417-423.
Byron was a kind, sincere, sensitive man whose death is greatly lamented.
Whatever may have been the opinion of the public with respect to Lord Byron, while living, there is not a human that does not lament his fate, “nor an Englishman that does not feel proud to call Byron his countryman” (p.417). In his youth, the poet was “uncommonly delicate, his mind painfully sensitive, but his heart transcendently warm and kind” (p.417). Byron’s days in grammar school and Harrow are described. Even then, Byron was “candid, sincere, a lover of stern and inflexible truth” (p.417). His sports were of a manly nature. “It has somewhat surprised us, that there have been no tributes to the memory of Byron by our eminent poets. They can feel no jealousy now…” (p.419). During his time abroad, Byron avoided society due to their eagerness at catching anything pertaining to his private life. Byron’s swimming prowess is showcased: “I crossed the Hellespont in one hour and ten minutes” (p.429).
The reviewer questions the fact that no eminent poets have written tributes for Byron, even though he is dead and there can be no jealousy now.
“Recollections on Viewing the Funeral of Lord Byron,” Portfolio (London), III (1824), 236-237.
“Remarks on the Death of Lord Byron,” Edinburgh Magazine, n.s., XIV (May, 1824), 611-612.
“Robert Burns and Lord Byron,” London Magazine, X (Aug., 1824), 117-122.
In an article that discusses Burns and Byron, Byron’s genius is to be admired, and his domestic misfortunes are to be pitied.
The first time the reviewer ever saw Byron was while attending Byron’s speech in the House of Lords. He describes Byron’s physical attributes, including the formation of his ear, which “resembled no other ear I ever saw, save that of the Duke of Wellington” (p.117-118). “The news of his death came upon London like an earthquake; and though the common multitude are ignorant of the literature and destitute of feeling for the higher flights of poetry…yet they believed that one of the brightest lights in the firmament of poesy was extinguished for ever” (p.118). Byron’s death and funeral procession are detailed. The writer asks, “And why was not Byron laid among the illustrious men of England, in the Westminster Abbey? Is there a poet in all the Poet’s Corner who has a better right to that distinction? Why was the door closed against him, and opened to the carcasses of thousands without merit, and without name? …Why did the Dean of Westminster refuse admission to such an heir of fame as Byron?” (p.122).
Scott, Sir Walter. “The Death of Lord Byron,” Literary Chronicle, VI, (May 29, 1824), 345-346.
Byron is a literary genius whose sins will be forgiven and his strengths remembered.
Byron is described as a “mighty genius, which walked amongst men as something superior to ordinary mortality, and whose powers were beheld with wonder, is if we knew not whether they were of good or of evil…” (p. 345). Scott remarks that the errors of Byron did not arise from depravity of heart. He is described as having a kind heart for sympathy and a wonderful genius. Byron is likened to an irritable bull, maddened by the squibs and petty annoyances of the unworthy crowds. Scott hopes that after Byron’s death, his excellencies and strengths will be remembered, and not his faults. He praises Byron’s writing abilities and his selfless crusade for freedom in Greece.
The author of the “Recollections of Lord Byron” in the June 26, 1824 Mirror is proven incorrect in his claim that no poet has yet written a tribute to Lord Byron’s greatness.
(Sir Walter Scott, who was born in Edinburgh 1771 and died in 1832, was a popular novelist and poet. He created and popularized the historical novel. He is remembered for, among other writings, Ivanhoe and the Waverly Novels.)
Styles, John. Lord Byron’s Works Viewed in Connexion with Christianity, and the Obligations of Social Life: a Sermon Delivered at Holland Chapel. Kennington, July 4th. 1824. London: Printed for Knight & Lacey, 1824.
Kaleidoscope, n.s., V (Aug. 17, 1824), 49-50.
The preacher regards with sorrow Byron’s death, since he was a bright genius in the intellectual world. “His poetry evinced that he was as far from God as he was from every other kind of religion” (p.50). He was at variance with anything dealing with religion. His principles were demoralizing, yet he could have gone down in history with the names of Milton and Shakespeare. His existence gives a popular form to atheism. His help with the Greek cause showed that he did have kindness in his heart, but overall, he could only be considered “as the corrupter of the public morals and therefore, concluded the preacher, it was his painful duty to denounce his splendid genius as the greatest enemy of mankind” (p.50).
Byron is often compared to Milton and Shakespeare, but in this article, the preacher remarks that he could have gone down in history with those writers; instead, he chose to the role of moral corrupter, a man whose genius was the greatest enemy of mankind.
Tricoupi, Spiridion. “Funeral Oration on Lord Byron, Composed and Delivered by Mr. Spiridion Tricoupi,” Literary Gazette (July 3, 1824), pp. 426-428.
Lord Byron is a saviour and fallen Greek hero.
This review begins with these words: “Unlooked-for event! Deplorable misfortune!” (p. 426). He is described by the Greek orator as a selfless man who “came to share, our sufferings and our hardships; assisting us, not only with his wealth, of which he was profuse; not only with his judgment, of which he has given us so many salutary examples, but with his sword, which he was preparing to unsheathe against our barbarous and tyrannical oppressors (p. 427). Byron’s character is praised throughout the oration.
Blaquiere, Edward. Narrative of a Second Visit to Greece, Including Facts Connected
with the Last Days of Lord Byron, Extracts from Correspondence, Official
Documents, etc. London: Printed for Geo. B. Whitaker, 1825.
Literary Chronicle, VII (April 9, 1825), 225-226.
Blacquiere is a sincere friend to the liberty of Greece. Byron is caring and compassionate.
“The second part of Mr. Blaquiere’s very interesting volume consists of documents and correspondence, including ‘The Last Days of Lord Byron,” a considerable portion of which has already appeared in the Westminster Review” (p.226). Mr. Blacquiere’s volume will throw much valuable light on the present state of Greek affairs; “we recommend the work as a faithful and candid view of the present state and future prospects of one of the most interesting revolutions the world has witnessed” (p.226).
(Blacquiere, a member of the London Greek Committee, invited Byron to travel to Greece in order to aid in the war against the Turks.)
“Byron and Southey,” Literary Chronicle, VII (Jan. 8, 1825), 28-29.
Clinton, George [pseudonym for James Bacon]. Memoirs of the Life and Writings of
Lord Byron. London: James Robins Co., 1825.
Dublin and London Magazine, I (Sept., 1825), 297-300.
Dallas, R. C. Correspondence of Lord Byron with a Friend, including His Letters to His
Mother, Written from Portugal, Spain, Greece, and the Shores of the Mediterranean in 1809, 1810, and 1811. Also Recollections of the Poet by the Late R. C. Dallas, Esq., the Whole Forming an Original Memoir of Lord Byron’s Life, from 1808-1814. And a Continuation and Preliminary Statement of the Proceedings by Which the Letters Were Suppressed in England at the Suit of Lord Byron’s Executors. 3 vols. Paris: A. & W. Galignani, 1825.
Literary Chronicle, XVII (Jan. 8, 1825), 28.
Lockhart, J. G., Blackwood’s, XVII (Feb., 1825), 131-151.
Byron is a much-maligned poet; his life was not all sunshine and flowers, since mines of pestilence and destruction were often beneath.
“We are not defending the offences of which Lord Byron unquestionably was guilty; neither are we finding fault with those who, after looking honestly within and around themselves, condemn those offences—no matter, how severely. But we are speaking of society in general, as it now exists; and we say that there is vile hypocrisy in the tone in which Byron is talked of there” (p.134). Byron’s ill-fated marriage is discussed: “We believe that Lady Byron, with many high and estimable qualities, had a cold and obstinate mathematical sort of understanding, than which nothing could be more unlike, or less likely to agree with, the imaginative, enthusiastic, and capricious temperament of her lord” (p.134). After the separation, Byron was attacked in print and every social circle, even though he was exquisitely sensitive and wounded by a thousand arrows. “…NOT ONE knew anything about the real facts and merits of the case” (p.135). Even though Lady Byron’s friends attacked Byron’s character, he never retaliated. Sir Egerton appears throughout as a most candid and upright critic of the poet; he aims at truth. Dallas’s book is called utter trash. Medwin’s book cannot be considered authoritative. Moore’s soon-to-be-released memoirs of Byron will be wonderful if Moore endeavors to recall to memory those parts of the burned autobiography that should never have been destroyed. The reviewer protests against Moore as the complete historian of Byron’s life, when Hobhouse is best suited for the job. Byron has unquestionably taken his place as a British classic of the first order. He was one of those true masters whose successive works attested, almost always, progressive power.
(Reviewer J. G. Lockhart, the editor of the Quarterly Review, was born in 1794 and died in 1854. The young Tory writer was the son of a minister. Not only was he Sir Walter Scott’s biographer, but Lockhart married Scott’s eldest daughter, as well. He was full of fun, satire, and humor; he was also proud and reserved.)
Tudor, William. “North American Review, XXI (Oct., 1825), 300-359.
Dallas’ work is worthless.
In a review that also critiques Medwin’s memoir, it is noted that Byron gave Dallas twenty letters written to his mother; Byron remarked that “’some day or other they shall be curiosities’” (p.318). According to the reviewer, these letters “form a collection, as intrinsically trifling, and worthless, as was ever given to the world” (p.318). Though the work is that of a vain and weak man, over all, the book is considered to have a certain degree of value since it illustrates the history of Byron’s character.
Byron predicts that one day his letters will be a curiosity. United States Literary Gazette, II (June 1, 1825), 192-193.
“Don Juan and Southey,” Minerva, n.s., III (April 9, 1825), 7.
Evans, John. “Dr. Evans on Byron’s Infidelity,” Monthly Repository, XX (Jan., 1825), 1-7.
Observer, XXV (Feb., 1825), 79-87.
Gamba, Peter. A Narrative of Lord Byron’s Last Journey to Greece. London: John
Belle Assemblee, 3rd ser., I (March, 1825), 124.
Literary Gazette, (Jan. 22, 1825), 49-51.
The author depicts the brightest epoch in Byron’s existence, his campaign in Greece.
Byron’s sins have been pointed out so frequently, the public has become blind to his splendors. “The most striking idea suggested by Count Gamba’s volume is this:--What was Lord Byron’s real and ultimate object in Greece? Did he aspire to sovereign power—to be the regenerator of an ancient people, and the founder of a modern dynasty to rule them?” (p.49). Byron’s everlasting declaration was his desire to unite the whole of Greece; when the government asked Byron if he would be willing to accept the office of governor general of Greece, he answered that he had no difficulty in accepting any office provided that any good would result from it. Although accused of being an enemy to the liberty of the press, Byron replied, ‘”And yet, without my money, where would your Greek newspaper be?’” (p.50). After his first convulsion that marked the first signs of Byron’s fatal illness, Byron states that he is not afraid to die.
Byron desired to unite all of Greece.
Lockhart, J. G., Blackwood’s, XVII (Feb., 1825), 144-149.
New Monthly Magazine, 2nd ser., XV (March, 1825), 125.
(Libertarian Count Pietro Gamba was Countess Teresa Guiccioli’s brother. He first met Byron in Ravenna in 1820, and had become Byron’s constant companion, friend, admirer, and disciple. Elated over the idea of Byron’s aiding the Greek cause, Gamba accompanied the poet on his journey and was devastated upon Byron’s death.)
Lockhart, J. G. “Remarks on the Character of Lord Byron,” Blackwood’s, XVII (Feb., 1825), 131-151.
“Lord Byron,” Christian Monthly Spectator (New Haven), VII (Sept., 1825), 450-452.
“Lord Byron,” United States Literary Gazette, I (Jan. 15, 1825), 300-301.
“Lord Byron at Florence,” Lady’s Magazine, 2nd ser. VI, (Aug., 1825), 451-452.
“Lord Byron’s Poems,” North American Review, New Series, XXL (Jan., 1825), 1-68.
Lord Byron was an enviable, lonely author whose works mirrored his life.
“His short life was a strange fantastic drama, as wild as the Midsummer Night’s Dream” (p.4). Although most of the article deals with Byron’s poetry, some of his character is discussed as well. Nothing seemed to be wanting in his life to complete his life but a good wife; “and as all ladies were in love with him, it was not difficult to supply this deficiency” (p.7). He appeared to the world as one of the most enviable and favored beings in creation. “He led a lonely and isolated life…He was always burning with a feverish thirst for applause and flattery…” (p.8). When he found his writings no longer satisfied the public, he was no longer satisfied himself. Byron’s physical appearance is described, along with his deformation. “Both his feet were affected with a natural malformation…the feet were smaller than the natural size” (p.45).
Byron’s lameness did not deter women’s affections.
“Original Anecdote of Lord Byron,” Literary Chronicle, VII (June 11, 1825).
Byron’s predilection for beauty is witnessed.
While a young boy in Aberdeen, Scotland, Byron’s predilection for beauty evidenced itself. Overhearing Byron’s remark that an aged servant looked “’like an ape, with her shriveled skin and ten thousand scars on her face’” (p.377), a beautiful woman commented upon the fact that the servant had smallpox scars. She added that “’carved work is both costly and handsome’” (p.378), whereupon Byron asked her if she would then like to look like the servant.
“Original Anecdote of Lord Byron,” Belle Assemblee, 3rd ser., I (Jan., 1825), 15-16.
Parry, William. The Last Days of Lord Byron. London: Knight & Lacey, 1825.
Belle Assemblee, 3rd. ser., I (June, 1825), 263.
Blackwood’s, XVIII (Aug., 1825), 137-155.
Circulator, (1825), 390-393.
Examiner, (April 2, 1826), 212.
Gentleman’s Magazine, XCV, Part I (June, 1825), 517-521.
Parry writes an entertaining, interesting book, which depicts Byron as an honor to his country, with wise but simple politics.
“The work opens with a long account of clumsy mismanagement in…the introduction to Lord Byron” (p.518) who treated the author in a kind and condescending way. For every object, public and private, Byron was expected to be paymaster. The funds collected for the liberation of Greece were used instead for propagating their own political and religious tenets. With all of his sacrifices, he was worried out of patience and sleep and ate nothing but fish, vegetables, and bread. After his dinner, he attended the drilling of his troops and joined in their exercises. From 11 PM ‘til 4 AM, he usually read and wrote; after sleeping five hours, he would awake at 9 AM. “Lord Byron (says our author) was more a mental being, if I may use the phrase, than any man I ever saw. He lived on thought more than food” (p.520). Regarding religion, Byron remarked, “’Christianity is the purest and more liberal religion in the world, but the numerous teachers who are constantly worrying mankind with their denunciations and their doctrines, are the greatest enemies of religion’” (p.520). This book is consigned to the lovers of entertainment who will derive much pleasure from Parry’s dry humour.
Byron did not receive enough help from the Greek Committee. Despite all of his shortcomings, he had all the seeds of greatness planted in him.
Literary Chronicle, VII (May 7, 1825), 289-291.
Parry is a faithful eyewitness of Byron’s last days. Byron is zealously dedicated to the Greek cause but surrounded by many inept caretakers.
Lord Byron spent his last days in Missolonghi attended by Parry, his Venetian gondolier Tita, a young Greek named Lucas, and his servant Fletcher. “No person, indeed, had such opportunities of giving an account of the last days of Lord Byron as Mr. Parry, who possessed his full confidence, lived under the same roof with his lordship, was employed to carry his designs into execution, and, for the last two months of his life, had the management of his funds, and was made the depository of his wishes” (p.290). Byron, who was disappointed at the Greek Committee’s procrastination in helping the Greek cause, was constantly attended by his faithful dog, Lyon, who was perhaps his dearest and most affectionate friend. Dining principally on dried toast, vegetables, and cheese, Parry surmises that this lack of sustenance hastened Byron’s illness: “It is really melancholy to reflect on a situation of Lord Byron in his last illness: destitute of the comforts—surrounded by domestics, many of whom neither understood him nor each other, and attended by a physician, who, whatever amiable qualities he might possess, was either ignorant of his profession or at least of the situation of his patient—it is not surprising that Byron died” (p.292).
Byron had a great fondness for collecting curious weapons. He was attended in his last days by his dog Lyon.
Literary Chronicle, (May 14, 1825), 309-311.
Parry is an interesting, honest biographer. Byron acknowledges his reliance on God.
Parry clearly shows us that his lordship suffered from extreme debility, “brought on by his anxiety and the disappointment of his hopes in respect to Greece; and it is beyond all doubt that his medical attendants had no suspicion of the true nature of his disease, until it was too late” (p.309). Byron tells Parry that the fever causes the poet to “fancy myself a Jew, a Mahomedan, and a Christian of every profession of faith. Eternity and space are before me; but on this subject, thank God, I am happy and at ease. The thought of living eternally, of again reviving, is a great pleasure” (p.310). He adds that he relies on God. Parry describes Byron’s feverish last days; despite Parry’s attempts to soothe the poet, on April 18, Byron slipped into a stupor from which he never awoke. At the very time Byron died the next day, ”there was one of the most awful thunder-storms I ever witnessed” (p.310). The Greeks, who are very superstitious, and believe that such an event occurs whenever a much superior man dies, exclaimed, “’The great man is gone!’” (p.310). Parry also recounts incidents in which Byron saved twenty-four women and children from slavery. “The earnest friendship he manifests toward Lord Byron…is honourable to him” (p.311). Parry’s account of Byron’s last days is melancholy but interesting, and there are few errors. Overall, the work is sterling.
The superstitious Greeks knew that Byron had died when a violent storm occurred.
Literary Gazette, (May 7, 1825), 290-292.
Literary Gazette, (May 14, 1825), 311.
In a paragraph summary, Parry “seems to have said nothing beyond what facts warrant: it is for others to contradict him; and we consider his book to be essential to the knowledge of the many interesting points which its subjects embrace” (p.311).
(Employed by the Greek Committee, Firemaster William Parry was Major of Byron’s Brigade and Commanding Officer of the Greeks. A confidante of Byron’s while in Greece, Parry aided the poet by disbursing funds set aside for the Greek cause. Often banned from Byron’s sickroom by the doctors due to his opposition to bloodletting, Parry had a soothing effect on Byron, who would often ask Parry to sit and talk awhile during the last days.)
Tudor, W. “Lord Byron’s Character and Writings,” North American Review, XXI (Oct., 1825), 300-359.
(This review is the same one written by William Tudor addressing Medwin’s Conversations, Dallas’ Recollections of the Life of Lord Byron, and Dallas’ Correspondence.)
“Anecdote of Byron,” Mirror, VII (March 18, 1826), 174-176.
Byron is informed of his popularity in America.
Mr. West, the painter, an artist and native of the United States, obtained permission to paint a portrait of Lord Byron in 1822 while West was in Leghorn (Byron lived four miles away in Monte Nero). States Mr. West, “Lord Byron’s genius made me almost afraid to encounter him’” (p.174). He describes Byron’s appearance and states that Byron felt persecuted by England and did not want to live there anymore. West found Byron a bad sitter; Byron “talked all the time, and asked a multitude of questions” (p.175). When he was silent, he was an even worse sitter since he assumed a countenance that “did not belong to him, as though he were thinking of a frontispiece of Childe Harold” (p.175). Byron asked West who the favorite poet of the Americans was, and seemed skeptical when West told Byron that he himself was. Byron talked at length of traveling to America, and he gave his idea of what an American should be: “straightforward simplicity of manners, incorruptibility, deference for customs and government of other countries, but no affection for them” (pp.175-176). He also added, when asked how he came to write Don Juan, that it was all gin that had produced it.
Byron’s notion of Americans’ traits is transcribed.
Cosmopolite, A., “Lord Byron in the Greek Islands,” Dublin and London Magazine, II (Feb., 1826), 68-70.
“Lecture on Byron,” Metropolitan Quarterly Magazine, I (1826), 457-478.
“Letters and Conversations of Lord Byron,” Literary Chronicle, VIII (April 1, 1826), 200-202.
“Lord Byron and His Writings,” Spirit and Manners of the Age, I (June 24, 1826), 385-390.
“Lord Byron and Percy B. Shelley,” Spirit and Manners of the Age, I (June 24, 1926), 385-390.
“Memoir of Lord Byron,” Dublin and London Magazine, II (May, 1826), 230-231.
Observation on the Literary and General Character of Lord Byron,” Lady’s Magazine, 2nd ed., VI (March, 1826), 167.
“Original Anecdotes of Lord Byron,” Edinburgh Magazine, n.s., XVIII (June, 1826), 704-706.
“Sketches of Biography and Character: The Right Hon. Lord Noel Byron,” Spirit and Manners of the Age, I (Feb. 25, 1826), 113-118.
West, Edward. “Lord Byron’s Last Portrait—with Records of His Conversation, etc., during his Sitting,” New Monthly Magazine, 2nd ser., XVI (1826), 243-248.
Wilson, John. “Byron Papers,” Blackwood’s XIX (Mach, 1826), 335-343.
Byron is a writer who may have formed his prose-style on that of Blackwood’s.
Little has been heard from Byron in some months; a year ago, everyone tried to have his say on his character and genius. “It is pleasant to think, that the ninnies are all dead and buried now—from Dallas to Medwin” (p.335). Byron’s papers are quoted, in which he contends that throughout his life, he has been compared to Rousseau, Goethe, Shakespeare, Euripides, Michelangelo, Milton, Pope, Burns, and Dryden, to name a few. Byron attests that he is an excellent swimmer and former cricketer, and he discusses his time at Harrow and at Drury Lane Theatre.
John Wilson uses this article to extol the virtues of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. He says that Maga (the nickname for his magazine) is including Byronic articles previously published in The Representative, a new daily newspaper. In the preface to the article, Wilson states that no one knows if Byron or Christopher North (aka John Wilson) actually wrote the papers: “The subscriber says to himself, is this Byron or Blackwood?” (p.336). Much of this article includes Wilson’s adulation of his own Tory magazine, while attempting to refute what is being published in a competitor newspaper. Whig and Radical press are also criticized, which provides a good look into the periodical politics of the early 1800’s.
B., J. “Lord Byron’s Poetry,” Monthly Repository, 2nd ser., I (Dec., 1827), 886-870.
“Byron and Other Poets Compared,” Mirror, X (July 7, 1827), 2-3.
Byron is compared to other great writers and valued only after his death.
Let us “compare Lord Byron with the great Shakespeare himself, to whom universal admiration continues to be paid. Had Shakespeare been cut off at the same time early period as Byron, The Tempest, King Lear, Othello, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Corialanus, and several others of an equal, character would never have been written” (p.263). (He is also compared to Milton and Dryden.) Lord Byron was not depraved at heart; “no man possessed a more ready sympathy, a more generous mind to the distressed, or was a more enthusiastic admirer of noble actions” (p.263). His attachment to the Greek cause is mentioned, as well.
“Passages Marked in Montaigne’s Essays by Lord Byron,” New Monthly Magazine, 2nd ser., XIX (Jan., 1827), 26-32; ibid, 2nd., XIX (March, 1827), 240-245.
[Smith, James]. “A Portrait: Lord Byron,” New Monthly Magazine, 2nd ser., XIX (April, 1827), 382-384.
“Byron and Shelley,” Censor, I (Oct. 4, 1828), 38-41; ibid., I (Oct. 18, 1828), 49-51.
“Byroniana No. 1,” Literary Gazette, (May 24, 1828), 332-333.
Byron’s life seemed from the first fated for unhappiness: his warm affections were thrown away upon objects unworthy of them both in friendship and love. “Few of his numerous associates shewed him any of that real kindness of which he was so worthy, or prevented him from falling into those snares and difficulties which so embittered his days—or after his death paid due honor to his memory” (p. 332). His so-called friends are described as “…moths about the taper, they surrounded him for only the splendour cast on themselves—but, unhappily, did not perish in the flame” (p. 332). Byron’s first love, Mary Chaworth, foolishly regarded him with no fond feelings, yet could have changed his life if she had: “His lofty genius might have resolved into the ordinary duties of a domestic man” (p. 332). A great many lines are devoted to the Chaworth family, along with verses written for Mary. Many of Byron’s physical qualities are highlighted, including his height, athleticism, and struggles with weight (including his odd eating habits). Byron’s mother is described as “…a very fine woman, and wrapt up in affection for her son…the feeling was mutual” (p. 333). The summations surrounding the possibility of Byron marrying Mary Chaworth and becoming a domesticated husband make for the following hypothesis: “Happier he might have been,--so great he would not have been” (p. 332).
Hypotheses are explored regarding the changes (domesticity and happiness) that might have occurred in Byron’s life had Mary Chaworth returned his ardor.
“Byroniana No. II,” Literary Gazette, (June 7, 1828), 364-365.
While residing at Newstead Abbey, Byron was a normal, fun-loving poet with many an eccentricity.
This article begins with a description of Byron’s colorful times at Newstead at Newstead Abbey: “He kept monks’ gowns and hoods at the Abbey; and used to delight sometimes in frightening his visitors in the gloomy galleries and chambers, so favorable to superstition and romance” (p. 364). Boxing matches were also held in his Abbey; Byron would wear seven flannel jackets and a Turkish cloak, “till the perspiration ran from him” (p. 364). He slept with loaded pistols beside him, and would allow no one in the room when he was occupied in writing. Although Byron’s poetry oftentimes made allusion to the many riotous times at the Abbey, this article ascertains that “he did not convert the Abbey into a scene of debauchery and sensuality” (p. 364). “Now it is affirmed, on the most undoubted authority, that there never was a woman of the description alluded to, kept at the Abbey” (p.364). Although it was reported that Byron’s temper “was so bad that nobody could long remain with him” (p. 365), and he and Hobhouse did not get along, all of these claims are false. The article ends on a quite favorable note: “for his charitable acts were numerous and …well known” (p. 365). Lord Byron’s tame bear is mentioned. “This animal was perfectly tame, and would stand on his paws and lick the face of Murray, the old servant, like a dog…having roamed one day beyond its due limits, some country folks who found it, put a cord with a running noose round its neck, for the purpose of bringing it home, and having fastened it to a cart, the poor bear was strangled to death” (p. 365).
Byron’s days at Newstead Abbey are chronicled: boxing matches, sleeping with loaded pistols, friends costuming themselves as monks, and a tame bear are all part of the story.
“Byroniana No. III,” Literary Gazette, (June 14, 1828), 380-381.
This article details Byron’s travels to Seville and his mother’s death.
“Byroniana No. IV,” Literary Gazette, (June 21, 1828), 395-396.
The article begins by condemning “absurd and atrocious rumors spread abroad against Byron” (p. 395) concerning the marriage and separation. Lady Byron’s mother is named as one who “entertained towards Byron the most intense hatred” (p.395) and who was a chief agent in poisoning her daughter’s mind against Byron. “Lady Byron, as is too often the case with only children, was a spoilt and wayward child…” (p.395). Lady Byron’s statements regarding her constant terror from Byron’s temper are also refuted. “That he ever exercised any violence towards her has never been shown in any way; and surely it is not to be inferred from the fact of his sleeping with pistols, when it is known that such had long been his usual practice (p.396). In fact, Lady Byron is charged with losing sight of the poet in the man, “forgetting that great spirits cannot stoop to all the trivial punctualities which common minds will endure” (p.396). It is suggested that she should “have spoilt the philosopher and poet to make good the man and husband” (p.396). Augusta Leigh is given praise for helping Byron take care of his household and helping him out like a “kind sister” (p.396).
Augusta is praised for being a kind sister, whereas Lady Byron is blamed for the separation.
“Byroniana,” Literary Gazette, (September 20, 1828), 604-605.
A circumstance is described whereupon a young lady arrived at Byron’s house with some poetry manuscripts. Upon finding out that the lady had “formed the intention of trusting to her pen for her future subsistence, he urged her in the most eloquent and gentle manner to abandon such a thought, and pointed out the wretchedness of a mode of existence at once so laborious and precarious” (p.604). He also presented her with a 50l note and sent her on her way.
D’Israeli, Isaac. “Preface,” The Literary Character, Illustrated by the History of Men of Genius, Drawn from Their Own Feelings and Confessions. 4th ed. London: Henry Colburn, 1828.
Hunt, Leigh. Lord Byron and Some of His Contemporaries; with Recollections of the
Author’s Life and of His Visit to Italy. London: Henry Colburn, 1828.
Blackwood’s, XXIII (March, 1828), 402-26.
Croker, J. W., Quarterly Review, XXXVII (March, 1828), 362-408.
Dublin and London Magazine, IV (Feb., 1828), 23-29.
This review begins by stating that some of the excerpts that have already been published in other magazines have done much harm and no good “…because a man’s book should be judged of by the whole of it; the good balances the bad” (p.23). “If it were to be estimated according to the extracts which have been published—and this, we repeat, would be most unjust—he could appear in no other light than of a most malignant coxcomb—the treacherous exposer and exaggerator of a friend’s most minute defects—the vain trumpeter of his own praise—and the ungrateful caluminator of the fame of a dead man, from whom, when living, he had received many substantial favours and kindnesses” (p.53). It is the reviewer’s opinion that Lord Byron’s name is only added to the book’s title by the publisher in order to make it sell, since the information concerning Byron does not take up one-fourth of the book. The reviewer asserts that Byron and Hunt were two very different sorts of men who inevitably had to annoy each other: “The consequence was mutual dislike, which neither party took any pains to conceal from the other” (p.53). Lord Byron’s human frailties are pointed out with unkind and ungenerous punctuality. He is charged with petty weaknesses and indiscretions. Although some of Hunt’s misrepresentations of Byron are recorded, the reviewer also acknowledges that he does not think Hunt did so intentionally. Hunt has collected materials which cut up “the miserable trash published under the title of ‘The Life, Writings, Opinions, and Times, of Lord Byron,’ by a military gentleman in the Greek service, and shows the folly and ignorance of that publication” (p.24). The review of Byron’s biography ends by stating, “Upon the whole we think that Mr. Hunt has done Lord Byron great injustice and himself great wrong, because he has proved that he has not good sense or good nature enough to forgive slight offences which could only have been slight…which less than the death of their author might have taught him to forget” (p.24). Excerpts from the book, including many dealing with Shelley, are included.
Although the reviewer says that Hunt most likely did not intentionally misrepresent Byron, Hunt did show poor judgment in refusing to forgive Byron’s slight offences. Hunt is credited in maligning Medwin’s “trash.”
Examiner, (Jan. 27, 1828), 51-53.
Lady’s Magazine, 2nd ser., IX (Jan., 1828), 38-42.
Literary Gazette, (Jan. 5, 1828), 6-8.
This review attests that the extracts from the book, “however it may be considered when completely before the world” (p.6), possess unquestionable interest. In an attempt to avoid what has already appeared in other review publications, the Literary Gazette includes excerpts that attest “he married for money” (p.6), and that his horrible moodiness was mortifying to his young wife. “Indeed, I do not believe that he ever had the good fortune of knowing what real love is,--meaning by love the desire that is ennobled by sentiment, and that seeks the good and exaltation of the person beloved” (p.6). Hunt states that Teresa, “…was not unsusceptible of a real attachment” (p.6), but Byron himself could not return the affection. “There was a coarseness in the way in which he would talk to women, even when he was in his best humour with them” (p.6). Byron one day said to Mrs. Hunt, “’What do you think, Mrs. Hunt? Trelawney has been speaking against my morals! What do you think of that?’” “’It is the first time,’ said Mrs. Hunt, ‘I ever heard of them.’ This, which would have set a man of address upon his wit, completely dashed, and reduced him to silence” (p.7).
Byron is accused of being incapable of true love. His coarseness in dealing with women is depicted in an anecdote whereupon Mrs. Hunt glibly reduces Byron to silence.
Literary Gazette, (Jan. 19, 1828), 54-56.
Hunt is an insulting, petty (yet talented) author. Byron is a difficult, vain, spoiled writer.
Leigh Hunt is described as “a person of considerable talent, and of much literary conceit and affectation” (p. 54); however, “…it is recorded, that almost before the Brahmins in the East collect and pass them through a sieve, to find what molten gold may be gathered from these poor relics of mortality; such has been the treatment of Lord Byron’s insulted remains, which have been raked up, sifted, and defiled, to gratify the meanest spirit of cupidity” (p.55). The volume is considered by the reviewer to be disgraceful. Leigh Hunt is discussed in the following terms: “To have gone to enjoy the hospitality of a friend and taste the bounty of a patron, and after his death to have made that visit (for avowedly mercenary ends) the source of a long libel upon his memory—does seem to be very base and unworthy” (p 55). Lord Byron, who imagined Hunt as a political martyr, changed his mind when Mrs. Hunt and her brood of bold brats (along with the accompanying annoyances) came to visit. Byron is described as having a spoiled nature. “If you made everything tell in his favour, as most people did, he was pleased with you for not differing with him, but then nothing was gained…If you contested a claim, or allowed him to be in the right in a concession, he could neither argue the point nor really concede it. He was only mortified and would take his revenge” (p. 55). It is noted that Byron was quite proud of the fact that, upon taking the name of Noel after marrying his wife Annabella, his initials, (N.B.) matched those of Napoleon Bonaparte. The article ends by announcing, “Upon these petty attempts to reduce Lord Byron to a level with himself, in order to get rid of a sense of gratitude, we offer no comments; their littleness and baseness rendering comment supererogatory. We shall, however, should we return to the volume hereafter, freely express our opinions upon its sorry exhibition; and in the mean time copy from The Times newspaper an indignant and bitter reproof, ascribed to the avenging pen of Mr. T. Moore” (p. 56).
Hunt’s disgraceful behavior, in which he refused to show gratitude for Byron’s monetary contributions, is admonished.
Literary Magnet, IV (March, 1828), 18-41.
Hunt is a principled man who defends his relationship with Byron. Byron is a
man incapable of real love.
The suppression of Byron’s biography, along with his failure in the House of Lords and his separation from his wife, is documented. Byron, who never knew what real love was, entered into a marriage of convenience: “He married for money, but of course he wooed with his genius” (p.25). The marriage failed, in due part to “the excess of his moods, which, out of the spleen, and even self-reproach of the moment, he indulged in, perhaps beyond what he really felt, were so terrifying to a young and mortified woman, that she began to doubt whether he was in possession of his senses” (p.25). After the separation, Byron sent two hundred pounds to Hunt (a bond from Percy Shelley), which enabled Hunt’s to trip to Italy. “Stern necessity and a large family” (p.26) compelled Hunt to use Byron’s purse without compunction. While in Italy, Hunt noted that there was no real love on either side of Byron and the young Countess Guiccioli. A letter is included, in which Hunt defends himself against those who accused him of ingratitude towards Lord Byron. Hunt states that he is not a traitor to his benefactor, despite Byron’s having written libelous letters to his friends about Hunt. “It has been said that I undervalue the genius of Lord Byron, and think too highly of myself at the same time…I can only say that I heartily wish his head may have deserved all the laurels that were stuck about it…after all, I had no intention in writing my book but to give a true portrait of Lord Byron” (p.41). He adds that if he were actuated by greedy motives, he would have published the book when he first returned to England; the reviewer doubts Hunt’s principles in the least.
Hunt defends charges of ingratitude towards Byron.
London Magazine, XXI (Feb., 1828), 211-213.
Hunt knows his subject and presents a true-to-life portrayal of the poet.
Byron is a handsome, ill-fated poet whose misfortunate life has provided the public with an amusing book or two.
“We have his portrait here drawn by an acute observer and a shrewd metaphysician, who had the advantage of living with him on terms of intimacy” (p.211). The reviewer attests that “…the character of Lord Byron is perhaps the very first that was ever drawn from him life with fidelity and skill; we have him here as his intimate friends knew him” (p.212). It is important that men be known as they really are; had all the published lives and characters been described in real terms, the world would be a better place. “Lord Byron wrote about himself to all the world, and all the world has a right to know whether his account of himself was true” (p.213). The excerpts included in the review discuss Byron’s affair with the Countess Guiccioli, his poor collection of books, his obesity, love of notoriety, jealousy, superstition, horror of impending madness, beauty, and lameness. Byron is also described as unable to carry on an intelligent conversation. Medwin’s treacherous book is made mention of. Hunt states, “To explain myself very freely, I look upon Lord Byron as an excessive instance of what we see in hundreds of cases every day; namely, of the unhappy consequences of a parentage that ought never to have existed…a happy childhood might have might have corrected his evil tendencies, but he had it not” (p.222). His mother’s violent and abusive nature is remarked upon, as is his lameness: “This defect unquestionably mortified him exceedingly, and helped to put sarcasm and misanthropy into his taste of life” (p.222).
Hunt is considered an accurate biographer. Byron’s misfortune is blamed upon his unhappy childhood, with his lameness only adding to his misery.
Monthly Literary Journal, (Feb., 1828), 46-53.
Monthly Review, 3rd ser., VII (Jan., 1828), 300-312.
Peabody, W. B. O., North American Review, XXVIII (Jan., 1829), 1-18.
Hunt is a critical author who used Byron’s name in the title of his book in order to sell more copies. Byron is a brilliant, generous, yet misguided genius.
“Nothing we had known of Hunt inspired us with any enthusiastic desire to meet him again, though we could not have expected, from his good-natured absurdity, a work like the one before us” (p.1). Byron’s character was sufficiently known; no one worshipped him as a saint or martyr. He was a brilliant but misguided genius, who, with better education and under more auspicious circumstances, might have shone sufficiently. Hunt, who is unqualified as judge, turns his wrath against Byron, despite the latter’s having given Hunt two hundred pounds (Hunt’s friend Shelley, who was jealous of Byron, gave an unnecessary bond for the money) to enable him to visit Italy. Hunt states that Byron aided Greece “as a mere parade of good will” (p.2) and stated that he should not get off for less than 4,000 pounds. The reviewer contends that Byron, in an attempt to redeem his character, was by far the most judicious and practical advisor Greece had, spending at least 20,000 pounds of his own money. Hunt’s Recollections, on the whole, revolves around Hunt himself, with Byron’s name added to the title page in an attempt to sell books. Despite Hunt’s criticism, there are few poets who have braved the front of war as Byron did. “It is vain to deny him the praise of most exalted powers” (p.11), yet it is against nature to suppose that an ill-balanced mind like his could be happy” (p.11). Byron never showed his full strength as a writer until a rude reviewer’s attack made him furious. When in Greece, he poured out his soul in a voice like that of past ages; his good sense, generosity, and decisions amazed even his admirers. The reviewer ends by stating he has no desire to repeat Hunt’s account of his friend, because he believes that Hunt acted out of passion, not duty.
Hunt contends that Byron only helped Greece as a mere show of good will.
(Lawyer and twin Peabody was a Unitarian clergyman who lived a saintly life. He was born in 1799 and died in 1845.)
Hunt is full of ungrateful hot air, jealousy, and the chattering impudence of the magpie. Byron is a cowardly, self-important, stingy man.
“Has, then, nature made Leigh Hunt worthy of being the autobiographer of Lord Byron?—An answer is heard, groaned out loud, long, and deep,--No—No—No!” (p.366). The very first page of the book is considered offensive, and the lies that follow “will be dashed in pieces small; but the pieces small will be picked up by pilferers, and
hawked about town and country, …and the boys and virgins will lay down on Pleasures of Hope, hold up their hands and weep!” (p.368). Hunt is described as a sad and silly coxcomb to begin a book about one of England’s mightiest dead in a derogatory manner. It is noted that “Lord Byron seems to have thought Mr. Hunt a clever person, and to have had some sort of satisfaction in showing him certain kindnesses and condescensions, on which the inferior very senselessly and vulgarly presumed, trying to think himself as great a man as his patron…” (p.372). The relationship of Byron and Hunt in Italy is examined, with Hunt’s ungrateful descriptions of being lodged on the ground floor of the Palazzo Mocenigo called “some of the most whimsical and contemptible social pleading that ever polluted the hired lips of a pettifogging attorney” (p.374). The author finds no problem in Hunt’s having accepted Byron’s gift or loan if Hunt had really esteemed Byron; however, Hunt was not honest or independent in stooping to take money from someone he prided himself in asserting that he did not care for anyway. Throughout the book, Hunt is constantly expressing his opinions about money; in fact, why was this book written at all? “For money” (p.376) is the answer we are given. Hunt’s criticism of Teresa and Byron’s relationship is dismissed as “hypocritical twaddle” (p.377). Included excerpts are the same ones that appear in other reviews. Self-love is the only love that Byron understands. Insults of Mrs. Hunt toward Byron (see the January 5, 1828 Literary Gazette) are included. Hunt is considered jealous of Byron’s rank, his children are referred to as brats, and most of what Hunt has written in his book is dismissed as “a tedious twaddle of tawdry common-places” (p.394). Hunt accuses Byron of behaving shabbily in money matters toward women: “I doubt whether his fair friend, Madame Guiccioli, ever received so much as a ring or a shawl from him” (p.391). The demise of the Liberal and Hunt’s fault in this matter is detailed. Hunt is described thusly: “How insidiously the serpent slides through the folds of these passages, leaving his slime behind him as he wriggles out of sight!” (p.393). Hunt’s writings are also described as “the gobble-bluster of the bubbly-jock” (p.394).
In a lengthy review lavish with rich language, dishonest, greedy Hunt is accused of writing his slanderous memoir only for monetary gain. Although Byron is often regarded as generous, Hunt remarks that he would be surprised if the Countess Guiccioli received even a ring or shawl from the poet.
(Reviewer John Wilson was an author and Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. He was born in 1785 and died in 1854.
Essayist, critic, and poet Leigh Hunt was the editor of the Examiner and the Tatler. He also started a quarterly magazine, The Reflector, which failed after four issues. After being sent to jail for writing an article in the Examiner, he met Byron when the poet accompanied Moore for a visit. Already a friend of Shelley’s, Hunt later introduced Shelley to Keats. Hunt joined Shelley and Byron in plans for a new publication entitled the Liberal, which failed. Destitute, Hunt, his wife, and six children went to live with Byron on the ground floor of Byron’s palazzo. The two men clashed on every level, and despite Byron’s giving Hunt monetary aid, Hunt went on to write his defamatory memoir of the poet.)
“A Letter from Lord Byron Lately Brought to Light,” Lady’s Magazine, 2nd, IX (July, 1828), 384-385.
“Lord Byron and the Bible,” Imperial Magazine, X (Aug., 1828), cols. 699-701.
“Lord Byron at Missolonghi,” Mirror, XII (Oct. 18, 1828), 245-47.
“Envy, which could not reach the poet, attacked the man, and wounded him cruelly; but, too great to defend, and too generous to revenge himself, he only sought for elevated impressions…he quitted these countries, pitying in his verses the misery of the Greeks…” (p.245). Byron inspired the Greeks with his enthusiasm, and he entered into and embraced their culture. He led an agreeable life in the midst of a nation he attempted to save. After refusing to change his clothes after getting wet in the marshes, he became ill. By the fourth day, he was delirious. After much bloodletting, Byron died while calling the names of his daughter and of Greece.
Byron died with the names Ada and Greece on his lips.
“Lord Byron’s First Love,” Mirror, XII (Nov. 1, 1828), 286.
This short article devotes more lines to the description of Byron’s bedroom and Boatswain’s grandson (Byron’s dog) than to Mary Chaworth.
Sir Richard Phillips visits Newstead Abbey after Colonel Wildman’s purchase of the estate and is allowed to spend the night in Byron’s bed. Upon reading Byron’s “Dream,” printed with the “Prisoner of Chillon,” (which Byron wrote for his first love, Mary Chaworth) Phillips looks out the window upon Annesley Hall where Mary lived and empathizes with Byron about “a passion which tinged the whole of his future life” (p.286).
“Lord Byron’s Interview with a Monk,” Mirror, XII (Oct. 11, 1828), 239-240.
Lord Byron is involved in a romanticized dialogue with the Reverend Father Paul who attempts to convince Byron to believe in God. In the preface, the editor states that the following marvelous story is most likely not a pure narrative of fact.
In Greece, “Wearied with everything, oppressed by his familiar demon, Byron came out one day to find Father Paul, and request his hospitality” (p.239). The monk reminded Byron of the last words the poet spoke: “’You cannot convince me, I am still an atheist’” (p.239). Byron replied by squeezing the monk’s hands and requesting sanctuary in the monk’s cell. Pale and dripping with sweat, the poet stated that he would never have a place to call home, especially since he had renounced England due to the injustices he received there. “’As for me, thrown on the earth like a disinherited child, born to feel happiness, and never finding it…if after so many mortal trials thy last hope of salvation is taken from thee—well!” stated Byron. After an hour of gloomy silence, Byron took down a beautiful crucifix. The monk told Byron he could not have it, whereupon Byron remarked, with tears in his eyes, “My hands shall not long profane it, and my mother will soon be the guardian of your precious relic!” (p.240).
“Lord Byron’s Monument,” Atheneum, (Sept 24, 1828), 751-752; ibid., (Oct. 1, 1828), 767-768.
[Maurice, F. D.]. “Sketches of Contemporary Authors. No. XII: Lord Byron,” Atheneum, (April 8, 1828), 351-352.
Sheldrake, T. “Lord Byron,” Lancet, XIV (Sept. 20, 1828), 779-784.
“Singular Anecdote of Lord Byron,” Censor, I (Sept. 6, 1828), 14.
[Byron shot at a schoolfellow for looking at his clubfoot.]
Albrizzi, Isabella Teotochi. “Character of Lord Byron” Extractor, I (Feb. 7, 1829), 516-518.
Lord Byron is a beautiful, perfect Adonis.
“It would be to little purpose to dwell upon the mere beauty of a countenance in which the expression of an extraordinary mind was so conspicuous…What varied expression in his eyes! They were of the azure color of the heavens, from which they seemed to derive their origin. His teeth…resembled pearls…” (p.516). What delighted him greatly one day, annoyed him the next. His heart was highly sensitive, and suffered itself to be governed in an extraordinary degree by sympathy. “…Wherever he presented himself, all eyes were fixed on him, , and all lips, particularly those of the women, were opened to say, ‘There he is, that Lord Byron”’ (p.517). When he entered a room, he undulated into the room with grace, not a defect. Very little food sufficed him. He preferred fish to flesh. He disliked seeing women eat. He swam across the Hellespont the Venetian canals. He disliked his countrymen, but only because his morals were held in contempt by them. He spoke of his wife with affection and respect. His mind was so irritable to censure that he said that wanted to drown a woman who had dared to criticize his poetry. He grew pale whenever anyone dared try to translate his verses since he thought no one up to the task. When he died, he was among those who loved hum. His last words were, ‘My heart! Greece!’ (p.516).
Albrizzi refutes the idea of Byron’s lameness, stating that he gracefully undulated into rooms, without a defect. Byron’s physical attractiveness and charisma is highly praised.
Gordon, Pryse Lockhart. “Sketches from the Portfolio of a Sexagenerian,” New Monthly Magazine, 2nd ser., XXVI (Aug., 1829), 191-200.
“The Greek Revolution,” North American Review, XXIX, (July, 1829), 138-199.
In an article containing just several paragraphs devoted to Byron, the poet is remembered and revered while his too-early death is regretted.
“Lord Byron’s name, fortune, disinterestedness, zeal, would unquestionably have enabled him to do more for the cause of Greece than any of the foreigners who flocked, mostly as needy foreigners, mostly as needy adventurers, to her shores…” (p.168). His premature fate prevented him from making any lasting effects on the condition of the country.
“Remarkable Deliverance of Lord Byron, from an Uninhabited Island in the Adriatic Sea,” Court Journal, I (Sept. 12, 1829), 308.
“Traits of Lord Byron,” Polar Star, I (1829), 126-127.
Byron, Isabella, Lady. Remarks Occasioned by Mr. Moore’s ‘Notices of Lord Byron’s Life.” New Monthly Magazine, XXVIII (April, 1830), 374-376.
“Byron and Shelley on the Character of Hamlet,” New Monthly Magazine, 2nd ser., XXIX (Oct., 1830), 327-336.
Campbell, Thomas. “Notices of the Life of Lord Byron by Mr. Moore, and Remarks on Those Notices by Lady Byron” New Monthly Magazine, 2nd ser., XXVIII (April, 1830), 377-382.
Moore is accused of publishing libelous stories just to attract a sale. Byron is accused of lunacy. After Byron’s being declared mentally competent, Lady Byron states that if Byron’s behavior during their marriage were not the result of insanity, nothing could induce her to return.
Lady Byron, estranged wife of Lord Byron, breaks her silence regarding her marriage in a letter: “Domestic details ought not to be intruded on the public attention; if, however, they are so intruded, the persons affected by them have a right to refute injurious charges. Mr. Moore has promulgated his own impression of private events in which I was most nearly concerned, as if he possessed a competent knowledge of the subject” (pp.356-357). Lady Byron states that she and the poet parted on the best of terms, despite the fact that “previously to my departure, it had been strongly impressed on my mind, that Lord Byron was under the influence of insanity” (p.357), according to his nearest relatives and personal attendant. It was even reported that he was in danger of destroying himself. With the concurrence of Byron’s family, Lady Byron consulted a doctor for his opinion; however, at this point, Lady Byron still believed “whatever might have been the nature of Lord Byron’s conduct towards me from the time of my marriage, yet, supposing him to be in a state of mental alienation, it was not for me…to manifest at that moment, a sense of injury” (p.357). Despite reports of Lady Byron’s parents having influenced her separation, she states that they were unacquainted with the existence of any reasons for her to be unhappy in her marriage. After being assured of Byron’s sanity by advisers, Lady Byron did not hesitate to legally separate from her husband. Dr. Lushington, in whom Lady Byron confided, considered a reconciliation impossible upon receiving additional information “utterly unknown …to Sir Ralph and Lady Noel” (p.358). Campbell, who questions some of Lady Byron’s comments, remarks that her parents “must have been blind and deaf, if they did not hear what was the gossip and prattle of every…hack scribbler, pro or con” (p.359). Lady Byron states that Byron’s acts were of such a nature that when she discovered they had not proceeded from insanity, “nothing could induce her to return to her husband. What, then could they have been?” (p.359). Moore, Byron’s biographer, is blamed for offending Lady Byron and the memory of Lord Byron in his memoirs. “We think the whole system of such biography nauseous and degrading to every body concerned…” (p.359).
The following question is asked repeatedly: what deeds could Lady Byron excuse if caused by lunacy, that she could not forgive when her husband were found sane? This question is also posed: is it true that there are at least a dozen copies of Byron’s own autobiography in existence?
Fraser’s Magazine, I (May, 1830), 484-488.
Moore and Campbell are failures as biographers. Byron committed unnamed atrocious acts which caused his separation from Lady Byron.
Still awaiting an answer to last month’s question as to the cause of the separation between Lord Byron and his wife, the reviewer remarks upon the greedy motives of Moore and Campbell in publishing their works. “We are rejoiced to be able to say that Moore’s Life of Byron is a failure” (p.484); the cause of the quarrel between the two parties remains obscure within the memoir’s pages. Campbell says that the disclosure of Byron’s deeds would be hateful: “we are thus left to imagine the worst” (p.485). If he knows the reason, he ought to dispel the mystery. Moore and Campbell’s motives are “of the same class and the same respectability” (p.484). Both want to excite a sale and make a penny by any means. The editor of the New Monthly Magazine, who reviewed Moore’s Life of Byron in February, lauded the book without having read a word of it. The New Monthly Magazine is “only a machine for puffing the works of the Whig friends of its editors…Tories who do not publish ‘with our house’ may be torn to pieces” (p.484).
The ongoing dissention between Whig and Tory publications is documented.
(Poet and journalist Thomas Campbell, who was born in 1777 and died in 1844, established University College in London. He was a professional writer who write for newspapers, compiled biographies, and contributed articles for encyclopedias.)
Galt, John. The Life of Lord Byron. London: Colburn & Bentley, 1830.
American Monthly Magazine, II (Dec., 1830), 399-402.
Atheneum, (Sept. 4, 1830), pp.552-555.
British Critic. 4th ser., IX (April, 1830), 257-324.
Brougham, H., Edinburgh Review, LII (October, 1830), 228-230.
This review deals not with Lord Byron but with Galt.
“His composition is often a wild mixture of absurd and incongruous images—his language a preposterous medley of old words used in new senses, and new words coined without either the warrant of necessity, etymology, analogy, or harmony” (p.230). The public should be guarded from the circulation of such a production.
(Baron Henry Peter Brougham, who was born in 1778 and died in 1868, was an historian, Lord Chancellor, and consultor of the Prince of Wales. A prolific Whig writer for the Edinburgh Review, his reviews were often slashing and sometimes unjust. In 1811, he successfully defended Leigh Hunt and his brother, who were indicted for publishing an article on military flogging in the Examiner. Brougham was not so successful in 1812 when the brothers were charged again, found guilty, and sent to jail.)
Fraser’s Magazine, II (Oct., 1830), 347-370.
Gentleman’s Magazine, C, Part II (Sept., 1830), 249-251.
Galt’s statements are full and genuine. Byron is a distraught son following the loss of his mother.
“Lord Byron, indeed, is a dangerous subject for a memoir: whoever undertakes to write about him, should gird on his armour, for he has entered on a kind of warfare…” (p.250). The mental character of Byron, shown in his poems, was the result of an unhappy state of mind, followed by remorseful thoughts. Byron’s teary episode following his violent-tempered mother’s death is highlighted: “’I had but one friend in the world, and she is gone’” (p.251). The book may be called a rash book, since it sets forth many new and bold things, not only in opinion, but in fact. He writes his book based on his intimacy with the poet, and the result is “the only complete record extant of the whole life of one of the most remarkable men of any age or country” (p.251).
Galt’s memoir is considered the only complete record of Byron’s life.
Monthly Magazine, 2nd ser., X (Oct., 1830), 399-402.
Galt is a writer who seizes upon the general character of Byron in a picturesque way. Byron is a slightly mad, proud, vain man.
Next to a biography by Byron himself, Galt is someone suited for the job, considering that he is a poet, novelist, and traveler himself. Byron is a little mad, just as his mother and father before him: “There was a floating lunacy in every propensity of his life…” (p.399). “Byron had to struggle with poverty embittered by pride, pride embittered by scorn on his descent, scorn pointed by personal deformity, and personal deformity embittered by an almost female vanity of being distinguished as a beauty; for his ringlets cost him as much trouble as his poetry, and the smallness and whiteness of his hands were his favourite patent of nobility” (p.400). He first shunned, then hated, then insulted, and finally satirized mankind. Although the book is accused of too much minuteness, on the whole, Galt portrays Byron’ character well. The author should have, however, stamped the adulterous affair between Byron and Teresa with scorn. The “miserable” (p.401) poet Shelley’s death, along with the (p.402) ceremony whereupon his friends burned him “like an honest and plain-spoken Pagan he was” (p.401) is included, as well. The friends, including Byron, Hunt, and Trelawney, became drunk and boisterous at the cremation of their “atheistic” (p.401) friend. The frenzied, drunken song that the friends sing should have been Shelley’s epitaph: “The way is wide, the way is long/But what is that for a Bedlam throng?” (p.402). Mr. Galt’s first accidental meeting with Byron is noted, as are some of his ensuing observations of the poet’s countenance and physical features.
Highly-qualified biographer Galt depicts in detail atheistic Shelley’s pagan cremation ceremony.
Monthly Review, 3rd ser., X V, (Dec., 1830), 240-252.
_______. “Pot versus Kettle. Remarks on Mr. Hobhouse and Mr. Galt’s Correspondence Respecting Atrocities in the Life of Lord Byron,” Fraser’s Magazine, II (Dec., 1830), 533-542.
Galt describes Byron as a stingy, tricky man, which Hobhouse refutes adamantly.
John Cam Hobhouse and John Galt write accusatory letters back and forth. These letters begin with a differing in opinion on Lord Byron’s having left Countess Guiccioli destitute, which Hobhouse denies. He also speaks out against Dallas’ and Medwin’s books; Galt disagrees by defending the memoirs. Galt states that in condemning Byron for his conduct to Hunt, he only did so “upon his (Byron’s) own shewing” (p.535). Galt ends the article by stating, “…the Life of Byron being put before the public, the reader is the only judge whether it has been written in a detractive spirit towards his Lordship or others” (p.542).
Hobhouse again defends his friend Byron.
(Novelist John Galt, who was born in 1779 and died in 1839, contributed to the biography of Admiral Byron that Lord Byron was revising. In 1830, his Life of Lord Byron was issued as Number 1 in the National Library. Galt edited the Tory newspaper The Courier for a few months, at the insistence of John Murray and John Lockhart.)
Grant, Harding. Lord Byron’s “Cain, a Mystery”: With Notes, wherein the Religion of the Bible is Considered in Reference to Acknowledge Philosophy and Reason. London: William Crofts, 1830.
Herraud, J.A. Fraser’s Magazine, III (April, 1831), 285-304.
The author has very little perception of the philosophy of religion. Byron’s Cain is a success in regards to the characters of Lucifer and Cain.
Mr. Galt was wrong in his summation that Lord Byron was only “as religious as most men are, who do not make its mysteries objects of study” (p.290). On the contrary, Byron seemed to have been haunted by these mysteries all his life long. Harding is described as having no feeling for poetry…to him the poem is as “veritable a document as the Bible; and he treats the speeches of Cain and Lucifer, not as if they were dramatic accidents, but as if they were historical repetitions” (p.285). God is an eternal and infinite Being, and Mr. Grant’s remarks concerning God’s being a slave are met with these comments by the reviewer: “One would scarcely believe that so much nonsense, in so little a space, could have been perpetuated in a country where Mr. Coleridge had published his ‘Aids to Reflection” (p.291). In “Cain,” Byron was, as a poet, “what Balaam of old was, as a prophet” (p.304). “In conclusion, we recommend the present work to general perusal, in default of a better; only requesting the reader to bear in mind, that Mr. Harding Grant…is not so good a Metaphysician as we” (p.304).
Grant’s work should be perused only because a better one is not available; the reviewer comments that the writers at Fraser’s Magazine are much better than Grant at critiquing Cain.
(Acting critic J. A. Herraud, who was born in 1799 and died in 1887, was a poet and dramatist. He was an acquaintance of Coleridge, Wordsworth, Southey, and Lockhart).
Monthly Magazine, III (April, 1831), 285-304.
Kennedy, James. Conversations on Religion with Lord Byron and Others. Held in
Cephalonia, a Short Time Previous to His Lordship’s Death. London: John
Amateur, (Boston), I (Aug., 1830), 475-489.
Christian Remembrancer, XIV, (May, 1832), 257-264.
Fraser’s Magazine, II (August, 1830), 1-9.
Kennedy is an intelligent, well-meaning man whose attempts at rescuing Byron’s soul perhaps failed due to his poor choice of argument. Byron is an intelligent man who desired to believe but failed.
Edinburgh-educated Dr. Kennedy became acquainted with Byron in 1823 in Cephalonia.
Athough there has been much representation as to Dr. Kennedy (the Examiner calls him a missionary; others depict him as a half-crazy Methodist), the doctrine he preaches is Protestant and Orthodox. “The effect of the conversations on Lord Byron himself, Dr. Kennedy sums up by saying that he has no reason to believe that his lordship was, in the least degree, converted; but that if he had lived, he would have examined the subject. If he had, it is our opinion that he would have acknowledged the truths of Christianity” (p.2). Actual conversations between Byron and Kennedy are included, which give evidence of Kennedy’s attempts at reaching Byron through his feelings, not his understanding, as Kennedy ought to have. Byron’s knowledge of the Scriptures was not critical or exact, but he was well-educated enough that he could not have avoided perceiving some of Kennedy’s slips. Although Kennedy was an honest man in politics as well as religion, and a clever man, too, “he who went to convert Lord Byron…should have come better prepared…than Dr. Kennedy did” (p.5). Kennedy described Byron as having a wide mouth, with grey eyes and light brown hair. He wore a locket with a cameo of Napoleon on the end. He was a perfectly polished man with much affability, cheerfulness, and benevolence. Kennedy reports that Byron “rejected the appellation of infidel; he said it was a cold and chilling word. He confessed he was not happy; he said he wished to be convinced of the truth of religion” (p.7). The reviewer aggress that Byron was not an infidel, and he was very anxious not to be mixed up with persons such as Leigh Hunt; Byron first gave Hunt money, and then gave him loose poems that Hunt could sell.
Kennedy refutes any claims of Byron’s being an infidel. Although Byron acknowledged himself as unhappy and desirous of being convinced of religion’s truth, he never accepted Kennedy’s well-meaning attempts at reformation.
Monthly Repository, 2nd ser., IV (Sept. 1830), 605-613.
Monthly Review, 3rd ser., XIV (Aug., 1830), 475-489.
Peabody, W. B. O., North American Review, XXXVI (Jan., 1833), 152-188.
(James Kennedy, who was born in 1793? and died in 1827, began his career as a hospital assistant to the armed forces in 1814. Wherever stationed, he was zealous in promoting the Bible’s circulation. Kennedy delivered lectures in Christianity during his tenure in Greece. Although Byron only attended one lecture, he and Kennedy had frequent conversations. Kennedy gave an overall favorable impression of Byron in his book. Byron entrusted the little Greek girl that Byron wanted to adopt to Kennedy and his wife’s care.)
“Lord Byron in Italy,” Court Journal (London), (April 10, 1830), 226-28.
Lord Byron Vindicated and Mr. Campbell Answered. London: Marsh and Miller, 1830. [In answer to Thomas Campbell’s defense of Lady Byron in the New Monthly Magazine.]
Moore, Thomas. Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, with Notices of His Life. 2 vols.
London: John Murray, 1830.
Reviews of Volume I:
Asiatic Journal, 2nd ser., I (Feb., 1830), 145-55.
Moore is a biographer who let Byron’s papers tell their own story. Byron is the only real English poet who wrote of Asia and the East from personal experience.
“Of all the poets in this country, Lord Byron is pre-eminently the poet of the East. He is the only real English poet who has painted Asiatic manners from personal observation” (p.145). He fixed the world’s attention towards the degradation towards Greece, and he ended up being a victim of it, as well. Excerpts that deal with Byron’s love of, and travels in, the East are highlighted. “It was a rule with Lord Byron never to describe anything he had not seen, and hence his descriptions are all pictures of distinct realities, and carry with them intrinsic evidence of being so” (p.155). The article ends by stating that, although Byron asserted his preference towards the Turks throughout his journals and letters, he decided to help the Greeks instead. This is a confusing question that may be answered in Volume II.
Atheneum, (Jan. 23, 1830), pp.34-36. ibid., (Jan 30, 1830), 49-50.
Belle Assemblee, 3rd ser., XI (June, 1830), 289-291.
Fraser’s Magazine, I (March, 1830), 129-140.
Lady’s Museum, I (Feb., 1830), 107-110.
Mirror, XV (Supp. No. CDXI, 1830), 49-64.
Monthly Magazine, IX (Feb., 1830), 183-197.
Monthly Repository, 2nd ser., IV (Feb., 1830), 125-128.
Monthly Review, 3rd ser., XIII (Feb., 1830), 217-237.
Moore’s memoir shines an unfavorable light upon Byron. Byron is an atheistic man who often chose to do the wrong thing.
“It is, to say the least of it, doubtful, whether he has not, even yet, used the pruning knife rather too sparingly with regard to the original materials which were subjected to his revision” (p.218). After reading the last page, let every man decide whether or not it exalts the character of Lord Byron. “For ourselves, we must avow that we have risen from it with impressions unfavourable to the memory of that ill-fated nobleman, such as we had never entertained before” (p.218). It is to be regretted that Moore allowed passages to remain in his work that further immortalized scandals which had before only been heard on the tongues of evil-wishers. Moore’s diction is careless. We learn from the book that Byron was prouder of his ancestry than of his writing fame. Byron, ever superstitious, remarks one day upon the coincidence that he, his daughter, his half-sister, his mother, his half-sister’s mother, and his natural daughter were all only children. “This looks like fatality almost,” (p.220) states Byron. A practical atheist, Byron nonetheless retained his early fondness for the Old Testament. Events of Byron’s life are further chronicled up to his departure from England (see John Wilson’s review below). The reviewer fears that the second volume will be in too many respects “like that which we have just closed, the picture of a wayward, and yet powerful mind,--knowing what is right, but unhappily too often adopting what is wrong” (p.237).
Moore’s memoir is considered unfavorable to Byron’s memory.
Southern Review, V (May, 1830), 463-522.
Western Monthly Review, III (June, 1830), 647-663.
Westminster Review, XII (April 1830), 269-304.
Wilson, John. Blackwood’s, XXVII (Feb., 1830), 389-420.
Moore is credited with writing the best biography in the English language. Byron is a superstitious, melancholy man misrepresented by other writers such as Dallas. Byron’s faults are no worse than any other man’s.
“The little that Mr. Moore has been able to collect about Byron’s infancy and first boyhood, is deeply interesting indeed, and most impressively narrated “(p.391). Byron’s days in grammar school, his falling in love with Mary Duff at age eight (“My love for that girl was so violent, that I sometimes doubt if I have ever been really attached since” p.396), his days at Newstead, Harrow, and Cambridge, and his poetic endeavors are chronicled. Byron’s superstitions are mentioned: at Newstead…”he had planted a young oak on some part of the grounds, and had an idea that as it flourished, so should he!” (p.412). Prone to melancholy, Byron knew that “this world and this life never would be to him what it might have been, had he won one heart to his bosom” (p.419). “He was no seducer of female innocence. He was not a gambler. Nobody ever said he was a drunkard. What then were his sins? Ask your own heart, and it will answer, probably the same as your own” (p.420). Dallas’ reaction to Byron’s satire “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers” is included in the last few pages of the review. “The discretion and taste of dull Dallas” (p.414) was offended by Byron’s postscript which reminded readers that he was ready to fight one and all of them, although this was totally in keeping with the character of the composition. Dallas’ presentation of Newstead, with Byron’s harems and debaucheries, are contested. “He could not afford such Oriental pleasures…his companions…were, one and all of them, men of great talents, acquirements, and accomplishments…and too intellectual for more vulgar debauchery” (p.417). Hunt, too, is mentioned: “…to one creature—who afterwards, in malignant idiocy, accused him of avarice—he gave the means of transport from England to Italy, with wife and children, a house to live in rent-free, furniture, and a hundred pounds or two for pocket expenses” (p.418). “Moore’s Life of Byron is the best book of Biography in the English language” (p.420).
Byron’s sins were no worse than anyone else’s.
(Reviewer John Wilson, who was born in 1785 and died in 1854, was a professor of moral philosophy at the University of Edinburgh.)
The reviewer not only praises Moore’s work, he criticizes both Hunt and Dallas.
Moore’s Life of Byron is named the best book of biography in the English language.
Reviews of Volume II:
Atheneum, (Dec. 25, 1830), 800-804; ibid., (Jan. 8, 1831), 22-24.
Belle Assemblee, 3rd ser., XIII (Jan., 1831), 72-79.
British Critic, 4th ser., IX ( April, 1831), 257-324.
Edinburgh Literary Journal, II (Jan.8, 1831), 19-23.
Edinburgh Review, LIII (June, 1831), 544-572.
Lockhart, J. G. Quarterly Review, XLIV (Jan., 1831), 168-226.
Moore’s familiarity with Byron has allowed the biographer to produce the authoritative history of Byron. Byron was noble and unaware of the reasons for his separation.
In an article which also reviews Millingen’s memoir, Moore is attributed with enlarging the estimation of Byron’s talents and accomplishments. The inferior and low parts are not included. “The editor’s familiarity with the author, and with most of the topics alluded in his MS remains, has enabled him to heighten the value of his materials by arrangement and commentary; and, whoever may be tempted to handle the subject after him, Mr. Moore’s volumes must descend to posterity as the authoritative history of this great poet” (p.169). In anyone previously doubted that Byron’s nature was noble, the anecdotes included in this work will put an end to the skepticism. Moore states that Byron never loved his mother. It is impossible to read this memoir without arriving at the conclusion that Mrs. Byron “had become either actually insane or an habitual drunkard” (p.175). It is noted that Byron and his mother, after parting one evening, both privately went to the apothecary to inquire if the other had been to purchase poison. Regardless of Byron’s heretofore feelings regarding his mother, when she died, he burst into tears and exclaimed, “’Oh, Mrs. By, I had but one friend in the world, and she is gone!’” (p.186). Moore states that he had studied the poet too closely to ever anticipate happy results from any marriage, although his friends urged him to marry. It is obvious that Byron did not ask for Annabella’s hand in marriage because of love. After the separation, Lady Byron thought her husband mad. The mystery which remains is the real reason that Lady Byron separated from her husband: “We at least can discover no clue to the great black hoarded secret” (p.199). Unless Byron was the most consummate of hypocrites, he remained in ignorance of the specific cause of separation, as well. Other anecdotes of Byron’s life are included, such as his affair with the Countess Guiccioli. Moore agrees with Kennedy in his assessment that Byron was not an infidel in his religious beliefs. The remorseful tone of his poetry showed sufficient evidence.
Byron and his mother both worried that the other might buy poison and use it on the other.
(J.G. Lockhart was Sir Walter Scott’s biographer. Full of fun, humor, and satire, this young Tory writer married Scott’s eldest daughter. Proud and reserved, the editor of the
Quarterly Review was born in 1794 and died in 1854.)
Monthly Magazine, 2nd ser., XI (Feb., 1831), 145-159.
Monthly Review, 4th ser., I (Feb., 1831), 217-227.
Moore includes too many passages that present Byron’s vices and wickedness. Byron is debaucherous and adulterous.
Moore should have included fewer passages that showed Byron’s wickedness. Byron was a debaucherous man..Moore once again does not use his pruning knife well enough in regards to Byronic materials presented. Included are, “in the most unblushing manner, vices of the most degrading nature; they exhibit a nobleman, yet young in years, bringing upon himself premature imbecility and age, by the variety and extent of the wickedness in which he indulged. He paints himself as frequent adulterer, as keeping open house for the most profligate women of the most profligate town in Italy; and while he narrates his crimes, he openly exults in them as if they were virtues” (p.218). Moore desired to present the world with a true portrait of Byron’s character, but truth is too expensive when purchased at so great a sacrifice. It would be better if everyone were not privy to every feature of the poet’s character. Taking up where the other volume left off, Byron travels with Hobhouse and later arrives at Lake Geneva, whereupon he first meets Percy Shelley. Childe Harold and Manfred are written, the Liberal scheme is aborted, and Byron begins an affair with Countess Guiccioli. Moore has been able to add little to the details of Byron’s death provided by Millingen, Fletcher, Gamba, and others. In regards to the burned memoirs, there was nothing worthy in those papers of being published which has not been found in other journals. “We complain, that it has been given more of the immoral features of Lord Byron’s character to the world, than there was any sort of necessity for” (p.237). In the end, Mr. Moore produced a work as creditable to “his personal independence, as it is to his literary reputation” (p.237).
Southern Review, VII (May, 1831), 1-42.
Tatler, II (Jan. 12, 1831), 445-446.
In a series of related articles, Moore is discussed and denounced more than is Byron.
Moore is considered insincere and patronizing in his writings, especially when recounting Leigh Hunt’s imprisonment and Moore’s attitude toward Hunt.
The daily Tatler was edited by Hunt, and most articles were written by him.
Tatler, II (Jan. 13, 1831), 449-451.
Moore is an insincere author, especially in regards to Leigh Hunt.
“Mr. Moore writes to Lord Byron to warn him of any connection of authorship with Mr. Leigh Hunt and Mr. Shelley on accounts of its being a ‘bankrupt,’ ‘unequal,’ and ‘unholy’ alliance” (p.451). Once again, Moore is accused of insincerity in his writings, especially in regards to Hunt: “All the insincere will of course secretly love Mr. Moore the best for those letters. His double-dealing will help to reconcile them to their own. But what will the sincere say to him? And they are a rising party now in the world! Perhaps he might have found it better for him to stick to them!” (p.450).
Tatler, II (Jan. 14, 1831), 453-455.
Moore is presented as a two-faced writer who encouraged Byron to have nothing to do with Hunt. Byron is presented as insulting and rude.
Duplicitious Thomas Moore writes Byron to tell him of Hunt, “a man whom he should like for a brother” (p.453). “These last words are scarcely out of his mouth, when Mr. Moore writes to Lord Byron to warn him against any connexion with Mr. Leigh Hunt…” (p.453). Hunt had never said anything against Byron; however, Hunt had made the mistake of being poor along with being “guilty of the unpardonable offence of thinking Mr. Wordsworth the first poet of the day…” (p.453). Byron and Moore also insulted Hazlitt, one of the finest writers of the day, by calling him a pimply-faced writer. Byron, “indebted to some Tory magazine,” (p.454), falsely represented Hazlitt in the aforementioned description.
Byron and Moore are criticized.
Moore and Byron are described as duplicitous.
Yorke, Oliver. Fraser’s Magazine, III (March, 1831), 238-252.
Moore is an unqualified, unfit biographer. Byron is full of dark spots and blemishes.
Byron and Moore were not together enough to really develop a friendship. Byron is presented as the Lion of the forest and Moore the Jackal, or his pigmy satellite in waiting (p.238). “…As far as the purposes of true and pure biography are concerned--this volume of ‘Notices’ by Thomas Moore is a complete failure” (p.241). The readers who peruse the pages will feel disgust, especially since Moore was not qualified for the job at hand. “…As the Poet was the bondsman of pride, and the slave of vanity, unskilled in worldly affairs, wanting in common sense, a prey to selfishness, and living in a most circumcised society, and added to all this, of quick temper, violent feelings, swayed by sudden impulses, and fickle as a weathercock in his tastes and pursuits, very little of solid matter was to be expected from his letters. Nine-tenths, indeed, of the whole, are about himself or his mistresses” (p.242). Byron was faithful but to one woman, the Countess Guiccioli. He never upheld the dignity of any other human save himself. Although no one knows the real reason for Byron’s separation from his wife, Moore “twaddles out” some ideas. Byron’s mother is called a savage, and many of the poet’s problems are blamed upon his treatment during childhood. Moore is chastised for his treatment of Leigh Hunt. Hunt is definitely the superior of the two in genius. Since Hunt was smarting from the pain of recent wounds, and although his volume was a pile of trash, he can be forgiven for writing his book. Not so with Moore, who has “sat down to malign the subject of his biography” (p.246). The reviewer is glad of the opportunity to set Leigh Hunt in a more favorable light while “tearing the cloak from the shoulders of Mr. Thomas Moore” (p.252).
Hunt is considered by the reviewer to be superior to Moore in intellect.
(Writer Sir Thomas Moore, who was born in 1779 and died in 1852, met Byron in Venice. After being given Byron’s memoirs, Moore sold them to John Murray. On May 17, 1824, Moore induced Murray to burn the memoirs, giving back the 2000 guinea he had received for them. Poor and in need of funds, Moore later wrote his own books about Byron, thereby earning back his 2000 guinea.)
Hunt, Leigh. “Lord Byron, Mr. Moore, and Mr. Leigh Hunt, with Original Letters not in Mr. Moore’s Work,” Tatler, II (Jan. 11, 1831).
“Lord Byron’s Religious Opinions,” New England Journal, Vol. I, Issue 1 (July, 1831), 63-69.
Byron was a man who believed in God, yet was still assailed by doubts that shipwrecked his inner peace.
Lord Byron was “…at first pronounced destitute of talents” (p.63). He was liberal in politics and detested tyranny of any kind. Every new poem of his was abused, misrepresented, and tortured. The church cried out, “Danger!” “He was represented as little better, or perhaps actually worse, as the vilest demon” (p.63). Despite his reputation, Byron’s poetry and genius were appreciated by the masses. When he died, the first biography that appeared was read voraciously, even though the biographer was attacked. Byron was accused of identifying with his characters and their words, although other great poets like Milton and Shakespeare were not treated in such a way. Byron himself stated that he did not hold the opinions represented in Cain. Byron has been denounced “as an Atheist, a general scoffer at all religion;--as destitute of all moral principle—of every good and noble feeling—of every disinterested virtue” (p.66). These representations are not true. His mother’s violent temper and attitudes toward him did were unfortunate for him. Doubts about religion did continue into his later life. “He fully believed in the existence of a God; he did not positively disbelieve a divine revelation, or the immortality of the soul; but he doubted both” (p.67). Lord Byron attended several lectures given by Dr. Kennedy, and Byron expressed that he was not the infidel that he had been painted. He was desirous to believe and understand the Scriptures. Regardless of his own religious doubts, he was anxious to have his daughter Allegra raised in a Catholic convent in order that she not feel the same religious turmoil he did.
Despite Byron’s doubts concerning religion, he was not an atheist. He desired that his daughter Allegra be raised in a convent so that she not possess the same doubts that he did.
“Lord Byron’s Religious Opinions,” New England Journal, Vol. I, Issue 2, (August, 1831), 112-118.
Byron was misrepresented and misunderstood. He was not an atheist, but a man who desired to understand the mysteries of religion and God.
“He was liberal in politics, and the warm friend of freedom; and he detested and opposed tyranny in all its forms. To think and feel thus was unfashionable in England” (p.63). Every new poem that surfaced was abused and tortured for the purpose of injuring the author and preventing the work from being read. He was represented as a demon. Byron should have been allowed more justice in the reception of his writings. His faults, which would scarcely have been observed in London in an ordinary person of lesser talents, were thrown in the open for everyone to hear about. He has been denounced as an atheist, but this representation is far from true. His mother’s violent temper and her unfitness in educating and managing her son were peculiarly unfortunate for her son. “He fully believed in the existence of a God; he did not positively disbelieve in a divine revelation, or the immortality of the soul; but he doubted both…it is he who never thinks, who never doubts” (p.67). Byron professed himself “desirous to believe, as he experienced no happiness in having his religious opinions so unfixed” (p.67).
Byron’s previously suspected atheism is incorrect.
“Lord Byron’s Venetian Mistress,” Olio, VII (Feb. 12, 1831), 86-88, (A translation of Marquis di Salvo’s Lord Byron en Italie et en Greece).
Byron was the selfless saviour of a poor woman in Venice.
Byron meets two Venetian women of the lower class in the street and is enthralled with one of the women’s beauty and witty repartee. After inviting her back to Palazzo Mocenigo, he sets her up in her own apartment: “he wished to rescue her from the danger she might run in a state of poverty” (p. 87). Wishing “to enjoy the metamorphosis of Celina, a poor girl, into Celina, a great lady,” (p. 87), Byron orders expensive dresses and baubles for her (which she refused). “’But for her,’” said he to one of his friends, ‘”I might have been a lounger in the Florian coffee-house—who knows?’” (p. 88). Byron attributes Celina’s influence as keeping him out of trouble in Venice, yet he parts company with her when he returns home to find her reading his mail. He admitted, “Celina was the only woman he ever knew capable of commanding a man, and of making him tremble.” (p. 88). Byron emerges as a kind, generous saviour. The article lists Celina as the Fornaretta. This is the lady referred to in later biographies as the beautiful but unmanageable Fornarina.
Byron meets the Fornarina, a lover who would later prove quite temperamental and unmanageable.
Military and Political Events which Occurred in 1823 and Following Years. With
Various Anecdotes Relating to Lord Byron, and an Account of His Last Illness
and Death. London: Printed for John Rodwell, 1831.
Lockhart, J. G. , Quarterly Review, XLIV (Jan., 1831), 168-226.
Byron’s autopsy reveals the condition of his organs.
In an article which also reviews Moore’s two-volume set of memoirs, Millingen describes the toll that years of heavy drinking took on Byron: when his body was opened after death, the brain “resembled completely that of a man much advanced in life; and the heart was of a consistency as flabby as in persons who have died of old age; the liver hard, colourless, and much wasted in bulk” (p.220). Before the embalming, Millingen commented upon the beauty of Byron’s forehead. His hair was gray, and the moustache lightly coloured. The chest was broad, the waist small. “The only blemish of his body, which might otherwise have vied with that of Apollo himself, was the congenital malconformation of his left foot and leg” (p.222). Byron’s superstition is once again mentioned: his mind was constantly haunted that he had begun the Greek expedition on a Friday, and he never forgot the fortune-teller’s prediction that he should beware his thirty-seventh year.
Byron’s body could have vied with that of Apollo but for his clubfoot.
Monthly Review, 4th ser., I (Jan., 1831), 92-112.
New Englander, XXXVIII (Sept. 1879), 637-654.
Byron’s last days in Greece depict a generous, superstitious man afraid of obesity and madness.
Dr. Millingen, fresh from his studies in Edinburgh, donated his services to aid the cause of Hellenic freedom. In traveling to Greece, he had many opportunities to talk with Lord Byron; he was one of the physicians who attended Byron at his deathbed. Lord Byron, who would only partake of meat once a month, instead ate soup, vegetables, cheese, fried crusts of bread and fruit. His fear of becoming fat was only equaled by his fear of going mad. On order to avoid obesity, Byron would take daily pills and measure the size of his wrists and waist each morning. If he found himself to have gained weight, he would immediately take a large dose of Epsom salts, along with his pills. Immoderate nightly drinking accompanied his odd eating rituals. While in Greece, he was so completely absorbed with the Greek cause that he rarely wrote poetry. When he did, it was in fits and starts. “Among Lord Byron’s books there were very few poetical works; and, what may appear strange, he did not possess a copy of his own” (p.641). Byron’s memory was amazing; every word he heard and every passage he read could be repeated perfectly. Dr. Kennedy’s attempts at saving Byron’s soul are made note of; Kennedy soon found himself incompetent since Byron always corrected the former in his inaccurateness. Byron’s generosity was not confined to the Greeks. He became struck with the beauty of Hataje, a nine-year-old girl who had lost most of her family to murderous Greeks. Byron’s endeavors to save the child and send to her England to be with his daughter (along with clothing the girl with expensive dresses and holding her on his knee like a father) were met with the Missolonghi people’s threats of killing the child and her mother. As a result, the two left Greece on the same ship that would eventually bear the poet’s body back to England. On April 9, Byron was caught in a shower, and by evening was complaining of shooting pains in his hips and groin. While lying on the sofa complaining of a slight fever and pain in his hips and joints, he reflected upon a prediction a fortune-teller had made while he was in Scotland: “’Beware of your thirty-seventh year, my young lord; beware!’” (p.652). Byron told the people around him, “’You will, I know, ridicule my belief in lucky and unlucky days; but no consideration can now induce me to undertake anything on a Friday or on a Sunday….Every one of my misfortunes, and God knows, I have had my share, have happened to me on one of those days” (p.652). He goes on to add that Shelley too was warned by a fortune-teller of his death by drowning. As Byron became sicker, the doctors insisted upon bleeding the poet. Byron asked his friends to please go into the village and find a witch so that she could come and tell him if he were under the evil eye or not; if he were, he wanted her to dissolve the spell. On the sixteenth and seventeenth of April, the doctors bled him further. He informed them that as long as he lived, he would allow no one to see his lame foot. “Two thoughts constantly occupied his mind, Ada and Greece were the names he hourly repeated “ (p.653). Before his death, Byron asked that his body not be hacked or taken to England. He died at 6 PM on April 19. His body was embalmed and sent to England.
“Remarks on the Unjust Conduct of the Public Toward Lord Byron,” Olio, VII (July 2, 1831), 404-406.
Byron is England’s whipping boy.
Lord Byron’s character is described as “a strange union of opposite extremes” (p. 404). He sprang from noble lineage, possessed a strong (and weak) intellect and a kind and noble heart. His temper was “wayward and irritable” (p. 404), and, as was quoted in the May 22, 1824 Literary Gazette, he is described as a spoiled child--of his parents, nature, fortune, fame, and society. “There is scarcely an instance in history of so sudden a rise to so dizzy an eminence” (p. 405). Lord Byron is described as being “worshipped with an irrational idolatry” (p. 404). It is surmised that there is no evidence that Byron was to blame in his marriage separation more than any other man, since the public had not been afforded the chance to hear both sides (neither is there evidence to blame his wife). The last page of the article describes the injustices Byron withstood at the hands of the English people: lampoons, slanderous attacks, gossip, and exclusion from his social circles caused Byron to leave his homeland forever. After he left, his public, over time, “wished to invite back the criminal whom they had just chased from them” (p. 406). Byron is pronounced a whipping boy for the “British public in one of its fits of morality” (p. 405).
Byron withstood torment and banishment from the English people; ironically, these same slanderers wished him to return to their society.
Gentleman’s Magazine, n.s., I (April, 1834), 347-358.
New Monthly Magazine, XXXV (July, 1832), 5-23; ibid., XXXV (August, 1832), 129-46; ibid., XXXV (Sept., 1832), 228-241; ibid., XXXV (Oct., 1832), 305-319; ibid., XXXV (Dec., 1832), 521-544; ibid., XXXVII (Feb., 1833), 214-222; ibid., XXXVII (March, 1833), 308-318; ibid., XXXVIII (June, 18333), 143-153; ibid., XXXVIII (July, 1833), 305-315.
New Monthly Magazine, (July, 1833), 31-37.
Byron defends his own character by declaring himself neither superlatively good nor bad.
Lord Byron extols the virtues of education, which expands the mind and gives sources of tasteful occupation. He one day hopes that his daughter Ada will be educated; he feels certain that she will be due to her mother’s high cultivation. He talks about his wife: “She is the most decorous woman that ever existed, and must appear…a perfect and refined gentlewoman…” (p.32). Changing the subject, Byron says that he almost wished he had never proposed his expedition to Greece. “This (said Byron) is one of the many scrapes into which my poetical temperament has drawn me” (p.32). Byron states that he could never get on well in conversation with literary men since they always seemed obliged to pay him compliments concerning his writings. He, in turn, would feel obligated to respond in like with some faint praise. He extols Scott as a giant in literature who neither expected nor paid compliments. He describes Moore as a delightful companion. In another turn of the conversation, he says, “We should all do well to reflect on the frailty of men, if it led us more readily to forgive his faults, and cherish his virtues” (p.35). He goes on to remark that it is no wonder that he is considered a demon since people believe that he is the hero of all of his own tales in verse. He praises solitude, since it is the only place he can find paradise on earth. “In the world (said Byron) I am always irritable and violent; the very noise of a populous city affect my nerves” (p.36). He adds that people are like animals, walking around like lions in a den. People, assessed Byron, are all comparative. He knows that he himself is not superlatively good or bad.
In this article, we are able to see into Byron’s self-perception. Describing himself in a cramped London house as a “tiger in too small a cage,” he goes on to remark that it is difficult to form a high opinion of oneself since we are reminded of our faults and supposed defects at every opportunity. Although Byron is often labeled as vain, this article refutes this premise based upon Byron’s own words. Byron’s respect for his estranged wife is highlighted, also.
New Monthly Magazine, (August, 1833), 165-172.
Conversations between Blessington and Byron show that Byron had a violence of temper that tempted him into expressions that might induce people to believe him vindictive and rancorous. He tells Blessington that he has a much higher opinion of the female sex than he has ever before expressed. “’To let a person see that you have discovered his faults is to make him an enemy for life’” (p.166). His first and earliest impressions were melancholy, given to him by his mother. He owes the little good of which he can boast to his sister Augusta: “To me she was, in the hour of need, as a tower of strength. Her affection was my last rallying point, and is now the only bright spot that the horizon of England offers to my view. Augusta knew of my weaknesses, but she had love enough to bear with them” (p.166). Blessington remarks that Byron is prone to talk for effect and to
assert what he does not believe, so one must be careful in giving credence to his opinions. He takes a peculiar pleasure in opposing himself to popular opinion on all points. He states that one seldom meets with clever, sensible men in the professions of physic or divinity. He says that he dreads flattery, since we often end up disliking those we flatter since we have to humiliate ourselves by stooping to flatter someone else. He preferred solitude with a woman he loves and interrupted only by a correspondence with a man he esteems. Women who affect sentiment in conversation sickened Byron, as did the cant of false religion. Blessington ends the article by stating that Byron’s doubts and sarcasm regarding religion are to be attributed only to his enmity against his false worshippers.
Lady Blessington is the first to mention at length the love and admiration Lord Byron felt for his sister Augusta.
New Monthly Magazine, XXXIX (Sept., 1833), 33-46.
New Monthly Magazine, (October, 1833), 388-394.
Byron looks forward to his daughter learning about him by reading his works.
Byron remarks that he looks forward to the time when his daughter will know him by reading his works. Despite the portrait painted of him by the world, Byron knew that even after his death, “the certainty that she will enter into the sentiments which dictated the various allusions to her and myself in my works—consoles me in many a gloomy hour” (p.389). Lady Blessington reminds him that if he feels that way, he should not write another line of Don Juan in order not to offend his daughter’s sensibilities. He answers, “’You are right: I never recollected this. I am jealously tenacious of the undivided sympathy of my daughter…I will write no more if it;--would that I had never written a line!’” (p.389). He goes on to remark that he has been accused of thinking ill of women, but the truth is he always said whatever popped into his head, and he often said things to provoke people to whom he was talking. “People take for gospel all I say, and go away continually with false impressions…It will render the statements of my future biographers more amusing; as I flatter myself I shall have more than one” (p.389). Of all his acquaintances, he named Lord Clare, Moore, and Hobhouse as his true friends. Of Greece, he stated that he believed that he would never return from that country; however, if he did, he would return with something better than the glory of a poet. Blessington ends the article by speculating how different the mind of Byron might have been if, instead of traveling to Greece in his early years, he has instead spent time in the genial climate of Italy. If he had lived longer, we would not have been deprived of all the works never penned.
Byron, aware of his own celebrity, acknowledges his future biographies before they are written. He states that he will be portrayed in one of three ways: as a sublime misanthrope, with moments of kind feelings, as an amiable, ill-used gentleman, or as a modern Don Juan. Blessington’s book, which delves into Byron’s character through his own words, provides us with the poet’s self-observation that he is a mélange of good and evil, and it will indeed be difficult to describe him. It is in this article that Byron’s detestation of cant and strong love of liberty, an oft-quoted line, is first noted.
New Monthly Magazine, XXXIX (Dec., 1833), 414-422.
(Blessington, who was born in 1787 and died in 1848, married at age fifteen. Soon after, she became a widow, and at age thirty-one married the Earl of Blessington. A great beauty, she was admired by Byron. Her book, which was one of the most popular of its day, resulted from two months’ worth of daily intercourse with Byron in the year 1823. Byron wrote one of his last minor poems to her, and sold his yacht the Bolivar to her husband.)
“Lord Byron’s Juvenile Poems,” Fraser’s Magazine, VI (Sept., 1832), 183-204.
P., A. “A Mystery—for the Byron Critics,” Monthly Magazine, 2nd. Ser., XIII (March, 1832), 291-197.
Bulwer-Lytton, Edward George. England and the English. 2 vols. London: R. Bentley, 1833.
Cunningham, Allan. “Byron,” Atheneum,( Nov. 16, 1833), 771.
Halleck, FitzGreene. “Life of Lord Byron,” The Works of Lord Byron, in Verse and Prose, Including His Letters, Journals, etc., with a Sketch of His Life. New York: George Dearborn, 1833. Pp. xv-xxviii.
Madden, Richard Robert. “Byron,” The Infirmities of Genius, illustrated by referring to the Anomalies in the Literary Character, to the Habits and Constitutional Peculiarities of Men of Genius. London: Saunders & Otley, 1833. 2 vols. Vol. II, pp. 105-202.
T., L. “The Effects of Criticism on Authors,” Mirror, XXII (Sept. 14, 1833), 163-164.
Nineteenth Century Periodicals
From as early as the seventeenth century, politics and the press were connected. “No division of the press was entirely free of partisan influence” (Graham, p.228). Whig and Tory views were often aired in magazines and periodicals. Blackwood’s was first among Tory monthlies, the Edinburgh Review was Whiggish, and the Westminster Review was Radical. Journals sometimes rebuked each other’s reviews, correcting mistakes and arguing for a different point of view. As a result, articles often revealed not only information regarding important topics such as Lord Byron, but glimpses into the differing political views of the early nineteenth century, as well.
Blackwood’s Magazine, founded in 1817, was undistinguished in the beginning of its publication, made up of such articles as symbolical uses of salt. After the sixth publication, William Blackwood turned the magazine over to three young assistants: John Wilson, James Hogg, and John Gibson Lockhart. He also changed the name to the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine. The Tory publication, which was in direct opposition with the monopoly of Whig periodical literature up until this point, boasted as its contributors Samuel Coleridge, George Eliot, and Sir Walter Scott. At the end of the nineteenth century, the magazine was a prosperous monthly miscellany, liberal in literature and conservative in politics.
Fraser’s Magazine for Town and Country (1830-1832) was a 128-page periodical started by Scotch printer James Fraser and brought about by bohemians William Maginn and Hugh Fraser (for whom the magazine was named). Maginn finished writing for Blackwood’s in 1830, and was thereby able to devote his time to Fraser’s, which for several years was the best of the English literary monthlies.
Leigh Hunt’s Tatler, a Daily Journal of Literature and the Stage (1830-1832) was one of the most interesting journals of the century. The literature journal, which was impressive in its ambition of being a daily publication, eventually failed. Written almost entirely by Hunt (read his 1831 scathing reviews of Byron and Moore) the four-page folio sold for two pence.
The Literary Chronicle and Literary Review, which began in 1819, included well-written reviews with somewhat erratically directed but lively, interesting criticism. This periodical was the standard form of six-pence Saturday paper.
The Literary Gazette (1817-1862), experimental in nature, was founded by William Jerdan. A great portion of literary history, books, and authors, along with letter-filled columns, were included.
The Westminster Review was begun in 1824 by James Mill, a utilitarian philosopher and disciple of Jeremy Bentham. Its supporters, the Radicals, attempted to provide literary criticism that was in alignment with utilitarian doctrine. Ten long reviews, along with from six to ten critical notices were included in each issue. Good critical evaluations were evident, although they were usually biased by political prejudice. For example, due to Lord Byron’s heroic Greek attempts, he was dealt with kindly. Tory Sir Walter Scott was not treated as well in the Review’s pages. The Westminster Review was the most important imitator of the Edinburgh and Quarterly Review.
The Dublin and London Magazine (1825-1826) was an illustrated miscellany of forty-eight pages which contained a great deal about Thomas Moore and imitated some of Blackwood’s features.
The New Monthly Magazine began as a political document, like most of the other magazines of the age. Each number consisted of 120 pages, which included entertainment, information, memoirs, and columns of provincial occurrences and dramatic register. When Thomas Campbell accepted editorship in 1820, the magazine changed its title to New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, in an attempt to make the journal less political and more literary. Campbell’s employment of well-known writers added to the periodical’s extremely progressive nature.
The Literary Magnet of Belles-Lettres, Science, and the Fine Arts (1824-1826) was a successor of Knights’ Quarterly Magazine (1823-1824). The fifty-six page monthly included an interesting series of articles on the living poets of England.
The Quarterly Review (begun in 1809) was founded by Tories. The publisher John Murray (second in the lineage) and Sir Walter Scott and Southey (who had been treated harshly in the Edinburgh Review) were also involved. The Quarterly praised the Established Church in the first half of the nineteenth century; it was inclined to partiality on matters affecting the Church and Crown. Keats, Hunt, Hazlitt, Lamb, Shelley, Tennyson, Carlyle, Dickens, and Charlotte Bronte were treated poorly due to party or religious prejudice. Some of the reviewers—Lockhart, Walker, Russell, and Gifford--are now known to be champions of Church and State. The Quarterly also had some good reviewers, such as Sir Walter Scott, Robert Southey, and Washington Irving. Much of what is regarded as the commonplace of modern criticism appeared in print first in the Quarterly Review and the Edinburgh, two periodicals that dominated the nineteenth century.
The English periodical literature of the early 1800’s allows a glimpse into the politics, intellect and interests of the English people. Authors such as Southey, Hazlitt, Defoe, Swift, Hunt, Pope, Gay, Hobhouse, and Eliot contributed to the many journals of the day. From these writings, along with those of other anonymous authors, the ideas and views of an age have been preserved.
Allibone, S. Austin (Samuel Austin), 1816-1889. A Critical Dictionary of English Literature and American Authors, Living and Deceased, From the Earliest Account to the Latter Half of the Nineteenth Century. Containing Over Forty-Six Thousand Articles. Philadelphia: J. B. Lipppincott Company, 1882.
Dictionary of American Biography. Scribner: New York, 1946?-58.
Graham, Walter. English Literary Periodicals. New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1930.
Marchand, Leslie A. Byron: a Portrait. London: Pimlico, 1970.
Santuccho, Jose’ Oscar. George Gordon, Lord Byron, a Comprehensive Bibliography of Secondary Materials in English, 1807-1974. New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press, 1977. *
Stephen, Sir Leslie, and Sir Sidney Lee, eds. The Dictionary of National Biography, founded in 1882 by George Smith. London: Oxford University Press, 1921-22.
Vann, J. Donn, and Rosemary T. VanArsdel, eds. Victorian Periodicals and Victorian Society. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994.
*Santuccho’s bibliography proved invaluable in my research.