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Keats, under a beautiful ruined tower in the English burial-ground at Rome. It was remarkable, that Shelley always said that no presentiment of evil ever came to him, except as an unusual elevation of spirits. When he was last seen, just before embarking for his return, he was said to be in most brilliant spirits. On the contrary, Mrs. Shelley says,-" If ever shadow of evil darkened the present hour, such was over my mind when they went. During the whole of our stay at Lerici an intense presentiment of coming evil brooded over my mind, and covered this beautiful place and genial summer with the shadow of coming misery. * A vague expectation of evil shook me to agony, and I could scarcely bring myself to let them go." The very beauty of the place, she says, seemed unearthly in its excess; the distance they were from all signs of civilisation, the sea at their feet, its murmurings or its roarings for ever in their ears, led the mind to brood over strange thoughts, and lifting it from every-day life, caused it to be familiar with the unreal. "Shelley," she adds, "had now, as it seemed, almost anticipated his own destiny; and when the mind figures his skiff wrapped from sight by the thunder-storm, as it was last seen upon the purple sea, and then as the cloud of the tempest passed away, no sign remained of where it had been,--who but will regard as a prophecy the last stanza of the Adonais ?
The breath, whose might I have invoked in song,
Far from the shore, far from the trembling throng,
I am borne darkly, fearfully, afar;
Whilst burning through the inmost veil of heaven,
Beacons from the abode where the eternal are.'
IN The Rural Life of England I have already recorded my visits to two of the most interesting haunts of Lord Byron,-Newstead Abbey and Annesley Hall. In this paper we will take a more chronological and consecutive survey of his haunts and abodes.
Lord Byron was, it appears, born in London, in lodgings in Holles-street, as his mother was on her way from France to Scotland. His mother, whose history and ill-starred marriage are well known through Moore's life of the poet, had accompanied her husband to France soon after their marriage, to avoid the swarm of claimants on her property, the creditors of her dissipated husband, which that marriage had brought upon her. The Byrons, who had inherited the estate of Newstead, in Nottinghamshire, since the reign of Henry VIII, when it was granted to Sir John Byron, generally called The Little Sir John Byron, had distinguished themselves greatly in the civil wars, but had of late years been much more conspicuous for their poverty and eccentricity. His grandfather was Commodore Byron, whose name will always be remembered from the narrative of the sufferings of himself and crew, in consequence of the wreck of the Wager, and who was still better known by the name of "Foul-weather Jack," from the singular fact that he never
put to sea, even when holding the rank of admiral, and in command of the fleet for the protection of the West Indies, without encountering the most tempestuous weather. The father of Lord Byron, Captain Byron, appears to have been one of the most unprincipled and dissipated men of his day. He ran off with the wife of Lord Carmarthen to the continent; and this, of course, leading to a divorce, he married Lady Carmarthen, and had by her one daughter, the present Hon. Augusta Leigh, the wife of Colonel Leigh. Lady Carmarthen did not live long; and covered with debt, and pursued by hungry creditors, Captain Byron looked out for some woman of fortune to victimize to his own comfort. This species of legalized robbery, that is, of selecting a simple and unsuspecting woman to plunder under the sanction of the laws, instead of running the hazard of hanging or transportation by the more vulgar method of highway robbery, house-breaking, or forgery, is one so fashionable, that a man like Captain Byron was not likely to boggle at it. Of all species of theft, it is the most dastardly and despicable, because it is performed under the sacred name of affection. The vampire who means to suck the blood of the selected victim, makes his approach with flatteries and vows of the deepest attachment, of the most eternal tenderness, and protection from the ills of life. He wins the heart of the confiding woman by the basest lies, and then deliberately proceeds to the altar to pronounce before the all-seeing God the same foul falsehood, "to love and comfort," and "cherish till death," the helpless creature that is binding herself for life to ruin and deception. One would think it were enough for a man to feel, as he stands thus before God and man, that he is a mere seeker of creature comforts and worldly honour while he is wedding a rich wife; but knowingly to have picked out his prey under the pretence of loving her above all of her sex, in order to hand over her estate to his creditors, to defray the scores of his gambling and licentiousness, that characterises a monster of so revolting a kind, that nothing but the gradual corruption of society through the medium of conventionalism, could save him from the expatriating execrations of his fellows. There are cases of peculiar aggravation of this kind, those where the property of the victim is almost wholly demanded for the liquidation of the demon-lover's debts, and the wife is left to instantaneous beggary. The marriage of Captain Byron was one very much of this kind. His wife's most convertible property, as bank shares, salmon fisheries, money securities, were hastily disposed of; then went the timber from her estates, then the estates themselves, all amounting to probably £30,000, leaving her a mere annuity of £123! The property gone to this mite, the harpy husband still hung upon her, and upbraided her with the want of further means to contribute to his reckless riot. With cash extorted from her now severe poverty, he at length luckily departed again for the continent, and died at Valenciennes in 1791, when Byron was three years old.
Such were the circumstances in which Lord Byron entered the world. If he were the prey of violent passions; if he, too, had a
tendency to dissipation; if he in future years followed his father's example, though not to so culpable a degree, and married an heiress,
"And spoiled her goodly lands to gild his waste;"
there may be some excuse for him, drawn from hereditary taint. His father was not the solitary instance of irregularity, violent passions, and wastefulness. His great uncle, to whose title and diminished property he succeeded, was of the like stamp. His violence had led to his wife's separation from him; he had killed his next neighbour, Mr. Chaworth, in a duel; he had shot his coachman; he had felled extensive plantations on his estate, with the avowed purpose of preventing his son's enjoyment of their profit, because he had offended him. This son, and also his grandson, died before him, and the wifeless and childless old lord had led a moody and solitary life in the decaying abbey of Newstead, which threatened to drop about his ears, feeding a heap of crickets on the hearth, and feared by the whole peasant population of the country round.
Such was the paternal lineage of Lord Byron; his maternal one, if more moral, was not the less fiery and volcanic. His mother was a little fat woman, of a most excitable temperament,-an evil which no doubt was much aggravated by the outrage on her warm affections and trust in her husband, which the base object of his marriage with her revealed in all its blackness. She appeared all feeling and passion, with very little judgment to control them. She was fond to distraction of her child, and used to spoil him to the utmost extreme; at the same time that her passions occasionally broke out so impetuously against his freaks, that she would fling the tongs or poker at his head, when a mere child.
At the age of eleven brought to England, and, with all this ancestral fire in him, introduced to the ruinous and gloomy abode of his forefathers, with the stories of their recent doings rife all around him, no wonder that on his peculiarly sensitive mind the impression became deep. He grew up a Byron in the eccentricity and other characteristics of his life; like his father, his morals were not very nice, his habits were not very temperate; he, too, married to repair the waste of his lands, and quitted his wife to live abroad, and die there a comparatively early death. Happily there was implanted in him an ethereal principle, which gave a higher object to the exercise of his passions and energies than had of late distinguished his fathers. He was a born poet, and the divine gift of poetry converted, in some degree, his hereditary impetuosity into an ennobling instrument. His very dissipations extended his knowledge of life and human nature; and if they led him too frequently to seek to embellish sensuality, they compelled him to depict, in the strongest terms that language can furnish, the disgust and remorse which inevitably pursue vice. He was a strange mixture of the poet and the man of the world; of the radical and the aristocrat; of the scoffer at creeds, and the worshipper of the Divine Being in the sublimity of his works. Well was it for him and the world, that his early years were cast amidst the beauty and the solitude of nature, where
he could wander wholly abandoned to the influences of heath and mountain, river and forest; and that the prospect of aristocratic splendour did not come in to disturb those influences till they had acquired a life-long power over him. The grandeur of nature cannot make a poet, thousands and millions live during their whole existences amidst its most glorious displays, and are little more sentient than the rocks that tower around them; but where the spark of poetry lies latent, it is sure to call it forth.
They who visit, then, the earliest scenes of Lord Byron's life, will not be surprised at the influence which they exercised upon him, nor at the fondness with which he cherished the memory of them. This is strongly expressed in one of his juvenile poems.
"Away, ye gay landscapes, ye gardens of roses!
Restore me the rocks, where the snow-flake reposes,
Yet, Caledonia, beloved are thy mountains,
Round their white summits though elements war;
"Ah! there my young footsteps in infancy wandered;
The feeling thus ardent in youth was equally vivid to the last. Only about two years before his death, he wrote thus in The Island :
"He who first met the Highlands' swelling blue
Hail in each crag a friend's familiar face,
And clasp the mountain in his mind's embrace.
Long have I roved through lands which are not mine,
Adored the Alp, and loved the Apennine;
Revered Parnassus, and beheld the steep
The city of Aberdeen was the place where the chief part of the earlier boyhood of Byron was spent. He went thither as an unconscious infant, and there, and in the neighbouring Highlands, he continued till in his eleventh year, when the title fell to him, and he was brought by his mother to England. Aberdeen is a city which must have been a very charming abode for a boy of Byron's disposition, ready either to mix in the throng of lads of his own age in all their plays, contentions, and enterprises, to shoot a marble, or box out a quarrel, or to stroll away into the country and enjoy nature and liberty with an equal zest. There are people who are inclined