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is the hero so repulsively immoral as Childe Harold, or the Giaour; but, with equal laxity of sentiment, there is much more of voluptuous description, unattended, in the present case, by the retributive suffering and penal remorse which cast the veil of their dark shadows over the gross sensuality of Lord Byron's other heroes.”
The fourth on our list is “ The New Times,” conducted in those days by a worthy and learned man, Sir John Stoddart, LL.D., now Chief Justice of Malta.
IV. NEW TIMES.
“ The popularity of the opera of 'Il Don Giovanni,' in all probability, suggested this poem. The hero is the same, and there is no obvious im. provement in his morality. He has the same spirit of intrigue, and the same unrestricted success. The work is clever and pungent, sometimes reminding us of the earlier and more inspired day of the writer, but chiefly characterised by his latter style of scattered versification and acci. dental poetry. It begins with a few easy prefatory stanzas relative to the choice of a hero; and then details the learned and circumspect education of Don Juan, under his lady mother's eye. Lord Byron knows the addi. tional vigour to be found in drawing from the life; and his portraiture of the literary matron, who is, like Michael Cassio, a great arithmetician, some touches on the folly of female studies, and a lament over the henpecked husbands who are linked to ladies intellectual,' are obviously the results of domestic recollections."
Lord Burleigh himself never shook his head more sagely than
V. THE STATESMAN,
“This is a very large book, affecting many mysteries, but possessing very few; assuming much originality, though it hath it not. The author is wrong to pursue so eccentric a flight. It is too artificial; it is too much like the enterprise of Icarus; and his declination, or, at any rate, that of his book, will be as rapid, if not as disastrous, as the fabled tumble of that ill-starred youth."
We pass to “ The Literary Gazette,” edited then, as now, by William Jerdan, Esq. of Grove House, Brompton; who is sure of being remembered hereafter for his gallant seizure of Bellingham, the assassin of Perceval, in the lobby of the House of Commons, on the 11th of May, 1812; and the establishment of the first Weekly Journal of Criticism and Belles Letters in England.
VI. LITERARY GAZETTE
“ There is neither author's nor publisher's name to this book; and the large quarto titlepage looks quite pure, with only seventeen words scat. tered over its surface : perhaps we cannot say that there is equal purity throughout; but there is not much of an opposite kind, to offend even fastidious criticism, or sour morality. That Lord Byron is the author there is internal proof. The public mind, so agitated by the strange announcement of this stranger, in the newspaper advertisements, may repose in quiet; since we can assure our readers that the avatar so dreaded, neither refers to the return of Buonaparte, nor to the coming of any other great national calamity, but simply to the publication of an exceedingly clever and entertaining poem. Even when we blame the too great laxity of the poet, we cannot but feel a high admiration of his talent. Far superior to the libertine he paints, fancifulness and gaiety gild his worst errors, and no brute force is employed to overthrow innocence. Never was En. glish festooned into more luxuriant stanzas than in Don Juan. Like the dolphin sporting in its native waves, at every turn, however grotesque, displaying a new hue and a new beauty, the noble author has shown an absolute control over his means; and at every cadence, rhyme, or con. struction, however whimsical, delighted us with novel and magical asso. ciations. The style and nature of this poem appear to us to be a singular mixture of burlesque and pathos, of humorous observation and the higher elements of poetical composition. Almost every stanza yields a proof of this; as they are so constructed, that the first six lines and the last two usually alternate with tenderness or whim. In ribaldry and drollery, the author is surpassed by many writers who have had their day and sunk into oblivion; but in highly wrought interest, and overwhelming passion, he is himself alone. Here is the basis of his fame; and we could wish that the structure stood uncontaminated with that levity and pruriency which the less scrupulous may laugh at to-day, but which has no claim to the applause of judicious or moral contemporaries, or of impartial posterity.”
As the Editor of the Journal above quoted thought fit to insert, soon after, certain extracts from a work then -(and probably still)— in MS., entitled “ Lord Byron's Plagiarisms," he (the Editor) will not think it indecorous in us here to append a specimen of the said work — which is known to have proceeded from no less a pen than that of
VII. ALARIC A. WATTS, ESQ. “ A great deal has been said, at various times, about the originality of Lord Byron's conception, as it respects the characters of the heroes and heroines of his poetry. We are, however, disposed to believe, that his dramatis personæ are mostly the property of other exhibitors, although he may sometimes furnish them with new dresses and decorations, - with sable hair,'' unearthly scowls,'' a vital scorn' of all beside themselves, and such additional improvements as he may consider necessary, in order to enable them to make their appearance with satisfaction to himself, and profit, or at least amusement, to the public. Sooth to say, there are few people better adapted to play the part of a Corsair than his lordship; for he is positively unequalled by any marauder we ever met with or heard of, in the extent and variety of his literary piracies, and unacknowledged obligations to various great men- aye, and women too - living as well as deceased.”
The next Weekly Journalist whom we hold it proper to quote is “ The Champion" - in other words, Thomas Hill, Esq., the generous original patron of Kirke White and Robert Bloomfield, so eloquently lauded by Southey in his Life of the former of these poets then proprietor of
VIII. THE CHAMPION.
• Don Juan is undoubtedly from the pen 'of Lord Byron; and the mystery in the publication seems to be nothing but a bookseller's trick to excite curiosity and enhance the sale: for although the book is infinitely more immoral than the publications against which the prosecutions of the Society for the Suppression of Vice are directed, we find nothing in it that could be likely to be regarded as actionable. At the bar of moral cri. ticism, indeed, it may and must be arraigned; and against the process and decrees of that court, the subterfuges appealed to will be no protection. Other writers, in their attacks upon whatever mankind may or ought to reverence, make their advances in partial detail; Lord Byron proceeds by general assault. Some, while they war against religion, pay homage to inorality; and others, while they subvert all morals, cant about religion ; Lord Byron displays at once all the force and energy of his faculties, all the powers of poetry, and the missiles of wit and ridicule, against whatever is respectable in either. There is, of course, a good deal of miscellaneous matter dispersed through the two cantos: and though, in those parts which affect to be critical, the wantonness of wit is sometimes more apparent than the sedateness of impartial judgment; and though the politics occasionally savour more of caustic misanthropy, than of that ardent patriotic enthu. siasm which constitutes the charm of that subject. topics, on the whole, we find much more to commend than to censure."
upon both these
Among the Monthly critics, the first place is due to the venerable Sylvanus Urban.
IX. GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE,
“ Don Juan is obviously intended as a satire upon some of the con. spicuous characters of the day. The best friends of the poet must, with ourselves, lament to observe abilities of so high an order rendered sub. servient to the spirit of infidelity and libertinism. The noble bard, by employing his genius on a worthy subject, might delight and instruct mankind; but the present work, though written with ease and spirit, and containing many truly poetical passages, cannot be read by persons of moral and religious feelings without the most decided reprobation.” [Aug. 1819.]
We next have the
X. MONTHLY REVIEW.
“Don Juan is a poem, which, if originality and variety be the surest test of genius, has certainly the highest title to it; and which, we think, would have puzzled Aristotle, with all his strength of poetics, to explain, have animated Longinus with some of its passages, have delighted Aristophanes, and have choked Anacreon with joy instead of 'with a grape. We might almost imagine that the ambition had seized the author to please and to displease the world at the same time; but we can scarcely think that he deserves the fate of the old man and his son and the ass, in the fable, -or that he will please nobody,-how strongly soever we may condemn the more than poetic licence of his muse. He has here exhibited that wonderful versatility of style and thought, which appears almost incompatible within the scope of a single subject; and the familiar and the sentimental, the witty and the sublime, the sarcastic and the pathetic, the gloomy and the droll, are all touched with so happy an art, and mingled together with such a power of union, yet such a discrimination of style, that a perusal of the poem appears more like a pleasing and ludicrous dream, than the sober feeling of reality. It is certainly one of the strangest, though not the best, of dreams; and it is much to be wished that the author, before he lay down to sleep, had invoked, like Shakspeare's Lysander, some good angel to protect him against the wicked spirit of slumbers. We hope, however, that his readers have learned to admire his genius without being in danger from its influence; and we must not be surprised if a poet will not always write to instruct as well as to please us. Still we must explicitly condemn and 'reprobate various passages and expressions in the poem, which we shall not insult the understanding, the taste, or the feeling of our readers by pointing out; endeavouring rather, like artful chemists, to extract an essence from the mass, which, resembling the honey from poisonous flowers, may yet be sweet and pure.” [Aug. 1819.]
To which add a miscellany which, in spite of great occasional merit, is now defunct — the
XI. LONDON MAGAZINE
“ Lord Byron's poem of Don Juan, though a wonderful proof of the versatility of his powers, is avowedly licentious. It is a satire on decency, on fine feeling, on the rules of conduct necessary to the conservation of society, and on some of his own near connections. Vivacious allusions to certain practical irregularities are things which it is to be supposed innocence is strong enough to resist : but the quick alternation of pathos and profaneness,- of serious and moving sentiment and indecent ribaldry, of afflicting, soul-rending pictures of human distress, rendered keen by the most pure and hallowed sympathies of the human breast, and absolute jeering of human nature, and general mockery of creation, destiny, and heaven itself - this is a sort of violence, the effect of which is either to sear or to disgust the mind of the reader, and which cannot be fairly character. ised but as an insult and outrage.”
The journal next to be cited is also now defunct; but the title has been revived.
XII. BRITISH MAGAZINE,
Byron, after having achieved a rapid and glorious fame, has, by the publication of this poem, not only disgusted every well-regulated mind, and afflicted all who respected him for his extraordinary talents, but has degraded his personal character lower than even his enemies (of whom he has many) could have wished to see it reduced. So gratuituous, so melancholy, so despicable a prostitution of genius was never, perhaps, before wit. nessed. Much as we despise cant, we should despise ourselves still more, if we did not express contempt and indignation for the heartless profligacy which marks the volume before us. We wish we were the poet's next of kin: it should go hard but that a writ de lunatico inquirendo should issue. In the mean time we leave him, praying for him, with the clown in Twelfth Night :- 'Thy wits the heavens restore! endeavour thyself to sleep, and leave thy vain bibble-babble !'"
Another sage, long since dead and forgotten, was entitled the
XIII. EDINBURGH MONTHLY MAGAZINE
“ Don Juan presents to us the melancholy spectacle of the greatest poet of the age lending the enchantment of his genius to themes upon