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tending that remarkable publication : with a descriptive View of the Poem.”
XXXIII. ANON. (Third.) “ In Don Juan, his lordship's muse displays all his characteristic beauties and blemishes - soaring to the vastest heights, or creeping to the lowest depths- glancing with an eye of fantasy at things past, at things present, and at things to come. The poem is constructed, like the image of Nebuchadnezzar's dream of fine gold, silver, and clay. It abounds in sublime thought and low humour, in dignified feeling and malignant passion, in elegant wit and obsolete conceit. It alternately presents us with the gaiety of the ball-room, and the gloom of the scaffold - leading us among the airy pleasantries of fashionable assemblages, and suddenly conducting us to haunts of depraved and disgusting sensuality. We have scarcely time to be refreshed and soothed by the odours of flowers and bursting blossoms, the pensive silence of still waters, and the contem. plation of beautiful forms, before we are terrified and horror-stricken by the ferocious clamours of tumultuous crowds, and the agonies of innocent and expiring victims. This poem turns decorum into jest, and bids defiance to the established decencies of life. It wars with virtue as resolutely as with vice.”
Our next author is a pseudonomous one- the writer of a “ Letter to Lord Byron, by John Bull,” London, 8vo. 1821. This production much excited Lord Byron's curiosity. In one of his letters to Mr. Murray he asks, " Who the devil can have done this diabolically well-written letter ?” and subsequently he is found resting his suspicion (unfoundedly, no doubt) on one of his own most intimate personal friends. We extract a few paragraphs.
XXXIV. JOHN BULL,
“ Stick to Don Juan; it is the only sincere thing you have'ever written and it will live many years after all your Harolds have ceased to be, in your own words,
A school-girl's tale - the wonder of an hour.' I consider Don Juan as out of all sight the best of your works: it is by far the most spirited, the most straightforward, the most interesting, and the most poetical; and every body thinks as I do of it, although they have not the heart to say so. Old Gifford's brow relaxed as he gloated over it; Mr. Croker chuckled ; Dr. Whitaker smirked; Mr. Milman_sighed ; Mr. Coleridge took it to his bed with him,
"I think the great charm of its style is, that it is not much like the style of any other poem in the world. It is utter humbug to say, that it is bor. rowed from the style of the Italian weavers of merry ottava rima : their merriment is nothing, because they have nothing but their merriment; yours is every thing, because it is delightfully intermingled with, and contrasted by, all manner of serious things — murder and lust included. It is also mere humbug to accuse you of having plagiarised it from Mr. Frere's pretty and graceful little Whistlecrafts. The measure, to be sure, is the same; but then the measure is as old as the hills. But the spirit of the two poets is as different as can be. Mr. Frere writes elegantly, playfully, very like a gentleman, and a scholar, and a respectable man; and his poems never sold, nor ever will sell. Your Don Juan, again, is written strongly, lasciviously, fiercely, laughingly, - every body sees in a moment that nobody could have written it but a man of the first order, both in genius and in dissipation – a real master of all his tools — a profligate, pernicious, irresistible, charming devil; - and accordingly the Don sells, and will sell, to the end of time, whether our good friend, Mr. John Murray, honour it with his imprimatur, or doth not so honour it. I will mention a book, however, from which I do think you have taken a great many hints; nay, a great many pretty full sketches, for your Juan. It is one which (with a few more) one never sees mentioned in reviews, because it is a book written on the anti-humbug principle. It is - you know it exceedingly well - it is no other than ‘Faublas,' a book which contains as much good fun as Gil Blas, or Molière; as much good luscious description as the Héloïse; as much fancy and imagination as all the comedies in the English language put together, and less humbug than any one given romance that has been written since Don Quixote a book which is to be found on the tables of roués, and in the desks of divines, and under the pillows of spinsters book, in a word, which is read universally – I wish I could add - in the original.
“But all this has nothing to do with the charming style of Don Juan, which is entirely and inimitably your own the sweet, fiery, rapid, easybeautifully easy, - anti-humbug style of Don Juan. Ten stanzas of it are worth all your Manfred - and yet your Manfred is a noble poem, too, in its way. I had really no idea what a very clever fellow you were till I read Don Juan. In my humble opinion, there is very little in the literature of the present day that will stand the test of half a century, except the Scotch novels of Sir Walter Scott, and Don Juan. They will do so because they are written with perfect facility and nature — because their materials are all drawn from life.”
Coming once more to men with names, we present this extract from a Life of Byron, by the well-known author of “ The Annals of the Parish,” “ The Provost," “ The Entail,” Andrew Wylie,” “ Lawrie Todd,” and “ The Member,"
“ Strong objections have been made to the moral tendency of Don Juan; but, in the opinion of many, it is Lord Byron's master-piece; and undoubtedly it displays all the varieties of his powers, combined with a quaint playfulness not found to an equal degree in any other of his works. The serious and pathetic portions are exquisitely beautiful; the descriptions have all the distinctness of the best pictures in Childe Harold, and are, moreover, generally drawn from nature; while the satire is for the most part curiously associated and sparklingly witty. The characters are sketched with amazing firmness and freedom; and, though sometimes grotesque, are yet not often overcharged. It is professedly an epic poem, but it may be more properly described as a poetical novel. Nor can it be said to inculcate any particular moral, or to do more than unmantle the decorum of society. Bold and buoyant throughout, it exhibits a free irreverent knowledge of the world, laughing or mocking as the thought serves, in the most unexpected antitheses to the proprieties of time, place, and circumstance.
“ The object of the poem is to describe the progress of a libertine through life; not an unprincipled prodigal, whose profligacy, growing with his growth and strengthening with his strength, passes from voluptuous indulgence into the morbid sensuality of systematic debauchery; but a young gentleman who, whirled by the vigour and vivacity of his animal spirits into a world of adventures, in which his stars are chiefly in fault for his liaisons, settles at last into an honourable lawgiver, a moral speaker on divorce bills, and possibly a subscriber to the Society for the Suppression of Vice."
Next to Mr. Galt we place the amiable and humane Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges, Baronet, of Denton and Lee Priory, Kent, author of “ Mary Clifford,” the “ Censura Literaria,” the “ Autobiography of Clavering,” &c. &c. &c.
“ If I could not have the poetry of Lord Byron without the cost of his countervailing objections, I would still desire to have it in spite of the price. I am afraid that it was intertwined so deeply, that the separation was scarcely possible. I do not think that more modified energies would have produced it. Habits of modification tend to caution and to timidity. There is a responsibility which enchains vigour, and sits heavy upon hope. No being loves liberty like the Muse: but it may be said, that she ought not to love licentiousness! She must, however, be left to exercise the one or the other at her peril. Unfortunately, in Lord Byron's case, she some. times passed the bounds; less often, however, than is supposed.
“Don Juan is, no doubt, very licentious in parts, which renders' it dangerous to praise it very much; and makes it improper for those who have not a cool and correct judgment, and cannot separate the objection. able parts from the numerous beautiful passages intermixed. But nowhere is the poet's mind more elastic, free, and vigorous, and his knowledge of human nature more surprising.
“ It has all sorts of faults, many of which cannot be defended, and some of which are disgusting; but it has, also, almost every sort of poetical merit: there are in it some of the finest passages which Lord Byron ever wrote; there is amazing knowledge of human nature in it; there is exquisite humour; there is freedom, and bound, and vigour of narrative, imagery, sentiment, and style, which are admirable; there is a vast fertility of deep, extensive, and original thought, and, at the same time, there is the profusion of a prompt and most richly-stored memory. The invention is lively and poetical; the descriptions are brilliant and glowing, yet not over-wrought, but fresh from nature, and faithful to her colours; and the prevalent character of the whole (bating too many dark spots) not dispiriting, though gloomy; not misanthropic, though bitter; and not repulsive to the visions of poetical enthusiasm, though in. dignant and resentful. I know not how to wish he had never written this poem, in spite of all its faults and intermingled mischief! There are parts of it which are among the most brilliant proofs of his genius; and, what is even better, there are parts which throw a blaze of light upon the know. ledge of human life.”
After depicting the mode of life pursued by Lord Byron at Venice, in 1817–18, his biographer thus notices Don Juan :
" It was at this time, as the features of the progeny itself would but too plainly indicate, that Lord Byron conceived and wrote part of his poem of Don Juan; and never did pages more faithfully, and in many respects lamentably, reflect every variety of feeling, and whim, and passion that, like the rack of autumn, swept across the author's mind in writing them. Nothing less, indeed, than that singular combination of attributes, which existed and were in full activity in his mind at this moment, could have suggested, or been capable of, the execution of such a work. The cool shrewdness of age, with the vivacity and glowing temperament of youth,the wit of a Voltaire, with the sensibility of a Rousseau, the minute practical knowledge of the man of society, with the abstract and selfcontemplative spirit of the poet,-a susceptibility of all that is grandest and most affecting in human virtue, with a deep, withering experience of all that is most fatal to it, -the two extremes, in short, of man's mixed and inconsistent nature, now rankly smelling of earth, now breathing of heaven, - such was the strange assemblage of contrary elements, all meeting together in the same mind, and all brought to bear, in turn, upon the same task, from which alone could have sprung this extraordinary poem - the most powerful and, in many respects, painful display of the versatility of genius that has ever been left for succeeding ages to wonder and deplore.”
Immediately on receiving the news of Lord Byron's death, Sir Walter Scott, as is known to all, sent to one of the Edinburgh newspapers a touching tribute to his memory. Perhaps a more fitting place might have been found in this collection for parts of the following extract;—but we cannot prevail on ourselves to present it here in a mutilated form.
XXXVIII. SCOTT. " Amidst the general calmness of the political atmosphere, we have been stunned, from another quarter, by one of those death notes, which are pealed at intervals, as from an archangel's trumpet, to awaken the soul of a whole people at once. Lord Byron, who has so long and so amply filled the highest place in the public eye, has shared the lot of humanity. That mighty genius, which walked amongst men as something superior to ordinary mortality, and whose powers were beheld with wonder, and something approaching to terror, as if we knew not whether they were of good or of evil, is laid as soundly to rest as the poor peasant whose ideas went not beyond his daily task. The voice of just blame and of malignant censure are at once silenced; and we feel almost as if the great luminary of heaven had suddenly disappeared from the sky, at the moment when every telescope was levelled for the examination of the spots which dimmed its brightness. It is not now the question, what were Byron's faults, what his mistakes; but, how is the blank which he has left in British literature to be filled up? Not, we fear, in one generation, which, among many highly gifted persons, has produced none which approached Lord Byron, in ORIGINALITY, the first attribute of genius. Only thirty-six years old so much already done for immortality--so much time remaining, as it seemed to us short-sighted mortals, to maintain and to extend his fame, and to atone for errors in conduct and levities in composition, - who will not grieve that such a race has been shortened, though not always keeping the straight path ; such a light extinguished, though sometimes flaming to dazzle and to bewilder ? One word on this ungrateful subject, ere we quit it for ever.
“ The errors of Lord Byron arose neither from depravity of heart, - for Nature had not committed the anomaly of uniting to such extraordinary talents an imperfect moral sense, - nor from feelings dead to the admiration of virtue. No man had ever a kinder heart for sympathy, or a more open hand for the relief of distress; and no mind was ever more formed for the enthusiastic admiration of noble actions, providing he was convinced that the actors had proceeded on disinterested principles. Remonstrances from a friend, of whose intentions and kindness he was secure, had often great weight with him; but there were few who would venture on a