Sidor som bilder



GEORGE GORDON, sixth Lord Byron, of whom became wife of her cousin, son was descended from Richard, second of the fifth lord; another of Admiral Lord Byron, who succeeded his brother, Parker; the third of Colonel Leigh, by John, first lord, in 1652. Richard's whom she was mother of another Colonel son, William (d. 1695), became third Leigh, who married his cousin, Augusta, lord, and wrote some bad verses. By daughter of John Byron, the admiral's his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Vis- eldest son. This John Byron (born count Chaworth, he was father of 1756) was educated at Westminster, William, fourth lord (1669–1736), gen- entered the guards, was known as “mad teman of the bedchamber to Prince Jack," and was a handsome profligate. George of Denmark. The fourth lord He seduced the Marchioness of Carwas father, by his wife, Frances, marthen, who became Baroness Conyers daughter of Lord Berkeley of Stratton, on the death of her father, fourth earl of of William, fifth Lord, John, afterwards Holderness. He married her (June Admiral Byron, and Isabella, wife of 1779) after her divorce, and had by her the fourth and mother of the fifth earl in 1782 a daughter, Augusta, married to of Carlisle. The fifth lord (1722–1798) Colonel Leigh 1807. Lady Conyers's quarrelled with his cousin Mr. Chaworth death in France, 26 Jan. 1784, deprived (great grandson of Viscount Chaworth) her husband of an income of £4000 a at a club dinner of Nottinghamshire year. He soon afterwards met, at Bath,

gentlemen, 26 Jan. 1765, and killed him a Miss Catherine Gordon of Gicht, with í after a confused scuffle in a room to a fortune of £23,000, doubled by

which they had retired by themselves rumour. · The pair were married at after dinner. Byron was convicted of St. Michael's Church, Bath, 13 May manslaughter before the House of 1785. John Byron took his second Lords, 16 April 1765, and, though ex- wife to France, squandered most of her empted from punishment by his privi- property, and returned to England, lege as a peer, became a marked man. where their only child, George Gordon, He lived in seclusion at Newstead Abbey, was born in Holles Street, London, ill-treated his wife, was known as the 22 Jan. 1788. John Hunter saw the "Wicked lord," encumbered his estates, boy when he was bors, and prescribed and made a sale of his property at Roch- for the infant's feet.? ' A malformation dale, the disputed legality of which led was caused, as Byron afterwards said, to a prolonged lawsuit. His children by his mother's “false delicacy.” and his only grandson (son of his son by Trelawny says that the tendo Achillis the daughter of his brother, the admiral) of each foot was so contracted that died before him.

he could only walk on the balls of the Admiral Byron had two sons, John toes, the right foot being most distorted and George Anson (ancestor of the

: Parish register. present peer), and three daughters, one • Mrs. Byron's letters in Add. MS. 31037.


and bent inwards. Injudicious treatment increased the mischief, and through life the poet could only hobble a few paces on foot, though he could at times succeed in concealing his infirmity.

John Byron's creditors became pressing. The daughter, Augusta, was sent to her grandmother, the Dowager Countess Holderness. Mrs. Byron retired to Aberdeen, and lived upon £150 a year, the interest of £3000 in the hands of trustees, the sole remnant of her fortune. She took lodgings in Queen Street, Aberdeen, and was followed by her husband, who occupied separate lodgings and sometimes petted the child, who professed in later years to remember him perfectly. With money got from his wife or his sister, Mrs. Leigh, he escaped to France in January 1791, and died at Valenciennes, 2 Aug. 1791, possibly by his own hand.1 Mrs. Byron's income, reduced to £135 by debts for furniture and by helping her husband, was raised to £190 on the death of her grandmother, and she lived within her means. Capricious and passionate by nature, she treated her child with alternate excesses of violence and tenderness. Scott says that in 1784 she was seized with an hysterical fit during Mrs. Siddons's performance in Southern's "Fatal Marriage," and was carried out screaming, "Oh, my Biron, my Biron!" (the name of a character in the play). She was short and fat, and would chase her mocking child round the room in impotent fury. To the frank remark of a schoolfellow, "Your mother is a fool," he replied, "I know it." Another phrase is said to have been the germ of the "Deformed Transformed." His mother reviling him as a "lame beast," he replied, "I was born so, mother." The child was passionately fond of his nurse, May Gray, to whom at the final parting he gave a watch and his miniature afterwards in the possession of Dr. Ewing of Aber

Jeaffreson, i. 48: Harness, p. 33:. Letter No. 460 in Moore's Life of Byron implicitly denies suicide.


deen - and by whose teaching he acquired a familiarity with the Bible preserved through life by a very reten tive memory.

At first he went to school to one "Bodsy Bowers," and afterwards to a clergyman named Ross. The son o his shoemaker, Paterson, taught him some Latin, and he was at the gramma school from 1794 to 1798. He wa regarded as warm-hearted, pugnacious and idle. Visits to his mother's relation and an excursion to Ballater for change of air in 1796 varied his schooldays. In a note to the "Island" (1813) he date his love of mountainous scenery from this period; and in a note to "Dot Juan" (canto x. stanza 18) he recall the delicious horror with which h leaned over the bridge of Balgounie destined in an old rhyme to fall with "; wife's ae son and a mare's ae foal." AI infantile passion for a cousin, Mar Duff, in his eighth year was so intens that he was nearly thrown into convul sions by hearing, when he was sixteen of her marriage to Mr. Robert Cock burn (a well-known wine merchant brother of Lord Cockburn). She die 10 March 1858.2

In 1794, by the death of the fifth Lor Byron's grandson at the siege of Calv in Corsica, Byron became heir to th peerage. A Mr. Ferguson suggested t Mrs. Byron that an application to th civil list for a pension might be success ful if sanctioned by the actual peer. The grand-uncle would not help in the appeal, but after his death, 1 May 1798, a pension of £300 was give to the new peer's mother (warran dated 2 Oct. 1799). In the autum Mrs. Byron with her boy and May Gra left Aberdeen for Newstead. Th house was ruinous. The Rochdal property was only recoverable by a law suit. The actual income of the New stead estate was estimated at £100

[blocks in formation]


pear, which might be doubled when the always "idle, in mischief, or at play," leases fell in. Byron told Medwin though reading voraciously by fits. He (p. 40) that it was about £1500 a year. shone in declamation, and Drury tells Byron was made a ward in Chancery, how he quite unconsciously interpolated and Lord Carlisle, son of the old lord's a vigorous passage into a prepared sester, was appointed his guardian. composition. Unpopular and

Mrs. Byron settled at Nottingham, happy at first, he hated Harrow till and sent the boy to be prepared for a his last year and a half; but he became public school by Mr. Rogers. He was attached to it on rising to be a leader. tortured by the remedies applied to his Glennie had noticed that his deformity feet by a quack named Lavender. His had increased his desire for athletic talent for satire was already shown in a glory. His strength of arm made him lampoon on an old lady and in an ex- formidable in spite of his lameness. posure of Lavender's illiteracy. In He fought Lord Calthorpe for writing 1999 he was taken to London by his “

dd atheist" under his name. He mother, examined for his lameness by was a cricketer, and the late Lord StratDr. Baillie, and sent to Dr. Glennie's ford de Redcliffe remembered seeing school at Delwich, where the treatment him playing in the match against Eton prescribed by Baillie could be carried with another boy to run for him. out. Glennie found him playful, ami- Byron was one of the ringleaders in a able, and intelligent, ill-grounded in childish revolt against the appointment scholarship, but familiar with scripture of Dr. Butler (March 1805) as Drury's and a devourer of poetry. At Glennie's successor, and in favour of Mark Drury. he read a pamphlet on the shipwreck of Byron said that he saved the Hall from the Juno in 1795, which was afterwards burning by showing to the boys the worked up in “Don Juan”; and here, names of their ancestors on the walls about 1800, he wrote his first love poem, (Medwin, p. 68). He afterwards satiaddressed to his cousin Margaret rised Butler as “Pomposus” in “Hours Parker. Byron speaks of her trans- of Idleness," but had the sense parent and evanescent beauty, and says apologise before his first foreign tour. that his passion had its “usual effects” “My school friendships,” says Byron, of preventing sleep and appetite. She “were with me passions.” Byron redied of consumption a year or two later. monstrates with a boyish correspondent Meanwhile Mrs. Byron's tempers had for calling him “my dear" instead of become insupportable to Glennie, whose “my dearest Byron." His most famous discipline was spoilt by her meddling, contemporary Harrow was Sir and to Lord Carlisle, who ceased to see Robert Peel, for whom he offered to ber. Her importunity prevailed upon take half the thrashing inflicted by a the guardian to send the boy to Harrow, bully. , He protected Harness, his junior wbere (in the summer of 1801) he be- by two years, who survived till 1869. came a pupil of the Rev. Joseph His "closest intimates were apparently Drury.

Lords Clare and Dorset and John Drury obtained the respect and affec- Wingfield. When he met Clare long tion of his pupil. A note to “Childe afterwards in Italy, he was agitated to a Harold" (canto iv.), upon a message

painful degree, and says that he could in which he describes his repugnance to

never hear the name without a beating the "daily drug” of classical lessons, of the heart. He had been called at expresses his enthusiastic regard for Glennie's “the old English baron,” Drury, and proves that he had not and some aristocratic vanity perhaps profited by Drury's teaching. His

appears in his choice of intimates and notes in the books which he gave to

dependents. the school library show that he never His mother was at Bath in 1802 became a tolerable scholar. He was

(where he appeared in Turkish costume


at a masquerade); at Nottingham in 1803; and at Southwell, in a house called Burgage Manor, in 1804. Byron visited Newstead in 1803, then occupied by Lord Grey de Ruthin, who set apart a room for his use. He was often at Annesley Hall, the seat of his distant cousins, the Chaworths. Mary Anne Chaworth was fifth in descent from Viscount Chaworth, and her grandfather was brother to the William Chaworth killed by the fifth Lord Byron. A superstitious fancy (duly turned to account in the "Siege of Corinth," xxi.) that the family portraits would descend from their frames to haunt the duellist's heir, made him refuse to sleep there; till a "bogle" seen on the road to Newstead - or some less fanciful motive induced him to stay for the night. He had fallen desperately in love with Mary Anne Chaworth, two years his senior, who naturally declined to take him seriously. A year later Miss Pigot describes him as a "fat bashful boy." In 1804 he found Miss Chaworth engaged to John Musters. The marriage took place in 1805. Moore gives a report, probably inaccurate, of Byron's agitation on hearing of the wedding. He dined with her and her husband in 1808, and was much affected by seeing her infant daughter. Poems addressed to her appeared in "Hours of Idleness" and Hobhouse's "Miscellany." He told Medwin (p. 65) that he had found in her "all that his youthful fancy could paint of beautiful." Mrs. Musters's marriage was unhappy; she was separated from her husband; her mind became affected, and she died in 1832, from a shock caused by riots at Nottingham. This passion seems to have left the most permanent traces on Byron's life; though it was a year later (if his account is accurate) that the news of Mary Duff's marriage nearly caused convulsions.

In October 1805, Byron entered Trinity College, Cambridge, as a nobleman. A youth of "tumultuous passions," in the phrase of his college tutor, he was exposed to the temptations of his

rank, yet hardly within the sphere of its legitimate ambition. He rode, shot with a pistol, and boxed. He made a friend of the famous pugilist, Jackson, paid for postchaises to bring "dear Jack" to visit him at Brighton, invited him to Newstead, and gave him commissions about dogs and horses. He was greatest at swimming. The pool below the sluice at Grantchester is still called by his name. Leigh Hunt first saw him (Hunt, Byron, &c. p. 1.) swimming a match in the Thames under Jackson's supervision, and in August 1807, he boasts to Miss Pigot of a three-mile swim through Blackfriars and Westminster bridges. He travelled to vari ous resorts with a carriage, a pair of horses, a groom and valet, besides a bulldog and a Newfoundland. In 1806 his mother ended a quarrel by throwing a poker and tongs at his head She followed him to his lodgings ir London, whither he retreated, and there another engagement resulted in the defeat of the enemy his mother. Or

a visit to Harrogate in the same summe with his friend Pigot he was shy, quiet avoided drinking, and was polite t Professor Hailstone, of Trinity. Or some of his rambles he was accompanie by a girl in boy's clothes, whom h introduced as his younger brother. H tells Miss Pigot that he has playe hazard for two nights till four in th morning; and in a later diary (Moore chap. viii.) says that he loved gambling but left off in time, and played little afte he was of age. It is not surprising t find him confessing in 1808 (Letter 25 that he is "cursedly dipped," and wi owe £9000 or £10,000 on coming < The college authorities naturall looked askance at him; and Byro symbolised his opinion of dons b bringing up a bear to college, an declaring that the animal should s for a fellowship.


Byron formed friendships and ha pursuits of a more intellectual kin He seems to have resided at Cambridg for the Michaelmas term 1805, and th Lent and Easter terms 1806; 1



was then absent for nearly a year, and tells Dallas that he was “most

returned to keep (probably) the Easter decided” and outspoken “atheist.” term of 1807, the following October [ Among these friends Byron varied and Lent terms, and perhaps the Easter the pursuit of pleasure by literary

term of 1808, taking his M.A. degree efforts. He boasts in a juvenile letter 500 4 July 1808. In the first period that he has often been compared to "the

of residence, though sulky and solitary, wicked" Lord Lyttelton, and has he became the admiring friend of W.J. already been held up as “the votary of Bankes, was intimate with Edward Noel licentiousness and the disciple of inLong, and protected a chorister, named fidelity.” A list (dated 30 Nov. 1807)

Eddlestone. His friendship with this shows that he had read or looked through El youth, he tells Miss Pigot (July 1807), many historical books and novels “by

is to eclipse all the classical precedents, the thousand." His memory was re: it and Byron means to get a partnership markable. Scott, however, found that - for his friend, or to take him as a per- in 1815 his reading did “not appear *** manent companion. Eddlestone died- to have been extensive, either in history

of consumption in 1811, and Byron or poetry”; and the list does not imply

then reclaimed from Miss Pigot a that he had strayed beyond the highways o cornelian which he had originally of literature.

received from Eddlestone, and handed At Southwell, in September 1806, he - 1. on to her. References to this friend- took the principal part (Penruddock, e ship are in the "Hours of Idleness," and “amiable misanthrope”) in an

probably in the “Cornelian Heart” amateur performance of Cumberland's

dated March 1812). Long entered the “Wheel of Fortune,” and “spun a ! army, and was drowned in a transport prologue” in a postchaise. About the

in 1809, to Byron's profound affliction. same time he confessed to Miss Pigot, od He became intimate with two fellows who had been reading Burns to him,

of King's -- Henry Drury and Francis that he too was a poet, and wrote down e in Hodgson, afterwards provost of Eton. the lines “In thee I fondly hope to

Byron showed his friendship for Hodg- clasp.” In November 1806 Ridge, a soo by a present of £1000 in 1813, when Newark bookseller, had privately Hodgson was in embarrassment and printed for him a small volume of Byron not over-rich. In his later resi- * poems, entitled “Fugitive Pieces.'' denice a closer "coterie " was formed by His friend, Mr. Becher, a Southwell Byron, Hobhouse, Davies, and C.S. Mat- clergyman, remonstrated against the thews. John Cam Hobhouse, afterwards license of one poem. Byron immedi

Lord Broughton, was his friend through ately destroyed the whole impression a life. Scrope Berdmore Davies, a man of (except one copy in Becher's hands

wit and taste, delighted Byron by his and one sent to young Pigot, then study"dashing vivacity," and lent him £4800, ing medicine at Edinburgh). A hunthe

repayment of which was celebrated dred copies, omitting the offensive by a drinking bout at the Cocoa on verses, and with some additions, under

27 March 1814. Hodgson reports that the title “Poems on Various Occaind when Byronexclaimed melodramatically, sions,” were distributed in January “I shall go mad,” Davi

used to sug

1807. Favourable notices came to the 2 ha gest "silly” as a probable emendation. author from Bankes, Henry Mackenzie

Matthews was regarded as the most (“The Man of Feeling"), and Lord

promising of the friends. Byron de- Woodhouselee. In the summer of 1807 hab scribed his audacity, his swimming and Byron published a collection called inct boxing, and conversational powers in a “Hours of Idleness, a series of Poems, idet letter to Murray (20 Nov. 1820), and original and translated, by George im Information kindly given by Cambridge au

Gordon, Lord Byron, a minor," from by thorities

which twenty of the privately printed

[ocr errors]


« FöregåendeFortsätt »