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which we trust that, for the benefit of mankind, the charm of its perverted inspiration will for ever be expended in vain. This is by far the most offensive of all Lord Byron's performances. We have here, for the first time in the history of our literature, a great work, of which the very basis is infidelity and licentiousness, and the most ubtrusive ornaments are impure imaginations and blasphemous sneers. The work cannot perish; for it has in it, full and overflowing, the elements of intellectual vigour, and bears upon it the stamp of surpassing power. The poet is, indeed, • damned to everlasting fame.'" Sept. 1819.]
The Monthly organ of criticism possessing most sway among certain strictly religious circles, was, in 1819, as now, the
XIV. ECLECTIC REVIEW. “ We have followed Lord Byron thus far in his career: we care not to enter further into his secret. We have had enough of that with which his poetry is replete himself. The necessary progress of character, as developed in his last reputed production, has conducted him to a point at which it is no longer safe to follow him even in thought, for fear we should be beguiled of any portion of the detestation due to this bold outrage. Poetry which it is impossible not to read without admiration, yet which it is equally impossible to admire without losing some degree of self-respect, can be safely dealt with only in one way,- by passing it over in silence. There are cases in which it is equally impossible to relax into laughter, or to soften into pity, without feeling that an immoral concession is made to vice. The author of the following stanzas might seem to invite our coinpassionate sympathy:
No more - no more-Oh! never more on me
The freshness of the heart can fall like dew,
Extracts emotions beautiful and new,
Think'st thou the honey with those objects grew ?
• No more - no more - Oh! never more, my heart,
Canst thou be my sole world, ny universe!
Thou canst not be my blessing or my curse :
Insensible, I trust, but none the worse,
Though heaven knows how it ever found a lodgement.'
truth which distinguishes Lord Byron's poetry. He writes like a man who has that clear perception of the truth of things, which is the result of the guilty knowledge of good and evil; and who, by the light of that knowledge, has deliberately preferred the evil, with a proud malignity of purpose which would seem to leave little for the last consummating change to accomplish. When he calculates that the reader is on the verge of pitying him, he takes care to throw him back the defiance of laughter, as if to let him know that all the Poet's pathos is but the sentimentalism of the drunkard between his cups, or the relenting softness of the courtesan, who the next moment resumes the bad boldness of her degraded character. With such a man, who would wish to laugh or to weep? And yet, who that reads him can refrain alternately from either ?”
Another now silent oracle was
XV. THE BRITISH CRITIC. “ A satire was announced, in terms so happily mysterious, as to set the town on the very tiptoe of expectation. A thousand low and portentous murmurs preceded its birth. At one time it was declared to be so into. lerably severe, that an alarming increase was to be apprehended in the catalogue of our national suicides; at another, it was stated to be of a complexion so blasphemous, as, even in these days of liberality, to endanger the personal security of the bookseller. The trade, it was whispered, had shrunk back, one by one, from all the splendid temptations which attended the publication. Paternoster-row was paralysed. As the time of its birth drew near, wonders multiplied; and, as at that of old Owen Glendower
• At its nativity
Of burning cressets,' Fearful indeed was the prodigy - a book without a bookseller; an adver. tisement without an advertiser -'a deed without a name.' After all this portentous parturition, out creeps Don Juan, — and, doubtless, much to the general disappointment of the town, as innocent of satire as any other Don in the Spanish dominions. If Don Juan, then, be not a satire - what is it? A more perplexing question could not be put to the critical squad. Of the four hundred and odd stanzas which the two Cantos contain, not a tittle could, even in the utmost latitude of interpret. ation, be dignified by the name of poetry. It has not wit enough to be comic; it has not spirit enough to be lyric; nor is it didactic of any thing but mischief. The versification and morality are about upon a par; as far, therefore, as we are enabled to give it any character at all, we should pronounce it a narrative of degrading debauchery in doggrel rhyme. The style which the noble lord has adopted is tedious and wearisome to a most insufferable degree. Don Juan is no burlesque, nor mock heroic: it consists of the common adventure of a common man, ill conceived,
tediously told, and poorly illustrated. In the present thick and heavy quarto, containing upwards of four hundred doggrel stanzas, there are not a dozen places that, even in the merriest mood, could raise a smile. It is true that we may be VERY DULL DOGS, and as little able to comprehend the wit of his lordship, as to construe his poetry.”
We now arrive at two authorities to which, on this occasion, uncommon attention is due, inasmuch as their castigations of Don Juan were considered worthy of very elaborate com. ment and reclamation on the part of Lord Byron himself. Of these, the first is that famous Article in the no otherwise famous work, since defunct, styled “ The British Review,” or, in the phrase of Don Juan
XVI. “MY GRANDMOTHER'S REVIEW, THE BRITISH.” * Of a poem so flagitious, that no bookseller has been willing to take upon himself the publication, though most of them disgrace themselves by selling it, what can the critic say? His praise or censure ought to found itself on examples produced from the work itself. For praise, as far as regards the poetry, many passages might be exhibited; for condemnation, as far as regards the morality, all : but none for either purpose can be produced, without insult to the ear of decency, and vexation to the heart that feels for domestic or national happiness. This poem is sold in the shops as the work of Lord Byron; but the name of neither author nor bookseller is on the title page: we are, therefore, at liberty to suppose it not to be Lord Byron's composition; and this scepticism has something to justify it, in the instance which has lately occurred of the name of that nobleman having been borrowed for a tale of disgusting horror, published under the title of 'The Vampire.'
“ But the strongest argument against the supposition of its being the performance of Lord Byron is this; - that it can hardly be possible for an English nobleman, even in his mirth, to send forth to the public the direct and palpable falsehood contained in the 209th and 210th stanzas of the First Canto.
For fear some prudish readers should grow skittish,
I sent it in a letter to the editor,
Who thank'd me duly by return of post-
Yet, if my gentle Muse he please to roast,
Denying the receipt of what it cost,
No misdemeanour - not even that of sending into the world obscene and blasphemous poetry, the product of studious lewdness and laboured impiety- appears to us in so detestable a light as the acceptance of a present by an editor of a Review, as the condition of praising an author; and yet the miserable man (for miserable he is, as having a soul of which he cannot get rid), who has given birth to this pestilent poem, has not scrupled to lay this to the charge of " The British Review;' and that, not by insinuation, but has actually stated himself to have sent money in a letter to the Editor of this journal, who acknowledged the receipt of the same by a letter in return, with thanks. No peer of the British realm can surely be capable of so calumnious a falsehood, refuted, we trust, by the very character and spirit of the journal so defamed. We are compelled, therefore, to conclude that this poem cannot be Lord Byron's production; and we, of course, expect that Lord Byron will, with all gentlemanly haste, disclaim a work imputed to him, containing a calumny so wholly the product of malignant invention.
“ If somebody personating the Editor of the British Review has received money from Lord Byron, or from any other person, by way of bribe to praise his compositions, the fraud might be traced by the production of the letter which the author states himself to have received in return. Surely, then, if the author of this poem has any such letter, he will produce it for this purpose. But lest it should be said that we have not in positive terms denied the charge, we do utterly deny that there is one word of truth, or the semblance of truth, as far as regards this Review, or its Editor, in the assertions made in the stanzas above referred to. We really feel a sense of degradation, as the idea of this odious imputation passes through our minds.
“ We have heard, that the author of the poem under consideration designed what he has said in the 35th stanza as a sketch of his own character:
• Yet Jóse was an honourable man;
That I must say, who knew him very well.'
If, then, he is this honourable man, we shall not call in vain for an act of justice at his hands, in declaring that he did not mean his word to be taken, when, for the sake of a jest (our readers will judge how far such a mode of jesting is defensible), he stated, with the particularity which belongs to fact, the forgery of a groundless fiction.” [No. XVIII. 1819.]
The foregoing vindication of the Editor of the British Review (Mr. Roberts) called forth from Lord Byron that “ LETTER TO THE Editor of My GRANDMOTHER's Review,” which the reader will find in the present volume (see p. 41. post). We next solicit attention to the following passages from the redoubted organ of Northern Toryism,
XVII. BLACKWOOD. “ In the composition of this work there is unquestionably a more thorough and intense infusion of genius and vice-power and profligacy -than in any poem which had ever before been written in the English or, indeed, in any other modern language. Had the wickedness been less inextricably mingled with the beauty, and the grace, and the strength of a most inimitable and incomprehensible muse, our task would have been easy. Don Juan is by far the most admirable specimen of the mixture of ease, strength, gaiety, and seriousness extant in the whole body of English poetry: the author has devoted his powers to the worst of purposes and passions; and it increases his guilt and our sorrow, that he has devoted them entire.
“ The moral strain of the whole poem is pitched in the lowest key. Love-honour - patriotism – religion, are mentioned only to be scoffed at, as if their sole resting-place were, or ought to be, in the bosoms of fools. It appears, in short, as if this miserable man, having exhausted every species of sensual gratification-having drained the cup of sin even to its bitterest dregs — were resolved to show us that he is no longer a human being, even in his frailties; but a cool unconcerned fiend, laughing with a detestable glee over the whole of the better and worse elements of which human life is composed - treating well-nigh with equal derision the most pure of virtues, and the most odious of vices - dead alike to the beauty of the one, and the deformity of the other -a mere heartless despiser of that frail but noble humanity, whose type was never exhi. bited in a shape of more deplorable degradation than in his own contemptuously distinct delineation of himself. To confess to his Maker, and weep over in secret agonies, the wildest and most fantastic transgressions of heart and mind, is the part of a conscious sinner, in whom sin has not become the sole principle of life and action. But, to lay bare to the eye of man- and of woman - all the hidden convulsions of a wicked spirit
and to do all this without one symptom of contrition, rernorse, or hesi. tation, with a calm, careless ferociousness of contented and satisfied depravity--this was an insult which no man of genius had ever before dared to put upon his Creator or his species. Impiously railing against his God madly and meanly disloyal to his Sovereign and his country,- and brutally outraging all the best feelings of female honour, affection, and confidence, how small a part of chivalry is that which remains to the descendant of the Byrons - a gloomy vizor, and a deadly weapon!
“ Those who are acquainted (as who is not ?) with the main incidents in the private life of Lord Byron - and who have not seen this production, will scarcely believe that malignity should have carried him so far, as to make him commence a filthy and impious poem, with an elaborate satire on the character and manners of his wife from whom, even by his own confession, he has been separated only in consequence of his own cruel and heartless misconduct. It is in vain for Lord Byron to attempt in any way to justify his own behaviour in that affair; and, now that he has so openly and audaciously invited enquiry and