Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

a

classes to the fourth, when I was recalled to by advancement in learning. Though quick, England (where I had been hatched) by when he could be persuaded to attend, or the demise of my uncle. I acquired this had any study that pleased him, he was in handwriting, which I can hardly read myself, general very low in the class, nor seemed under the fair copies of Mr. Duncan of the ambitious of being promoted any higher. same city: I don't think he would plume It is the custom, it seems, in this seminary, himself much upon my progress. However, to invert, now and then, the order of the I wrote much better then than I have ever class, so as to make the highest and lowest done since. Haste and agitation of one boys change places, - with a view, no doubt, kind or another have quite spoilt as pretty a of piquing the ambition of both. On these scrawl as ever scratched over a frank. The occasions, and only these, Byron was somegrammar-school might consist of a hundred times at the head, and the master, to banter and fifty of all ages under age. It was him, would say, “Now, George, man, let divided into five classes, taught by four me see how soon you'll be at the foot masters, the chief teaching the fourth and again." 3 fifth himself. As in England, the fifth, sixth During this period, his mother and he forms, and monitors, are heard by the head made, occasionally, visits among their friends, masters."

passing some time at Fetteresso, the seat of Of his class-fellows at the

grammar-school

his godfather, Colonel Duff, (where the there are many, of course, still alive, by child's delight with a humorous old butler, whom he is well remembered ; and the named Ernest Fidler, is still remembered) general impression they retain of him is, and also at Banff, where some near conthat he was a lively, warm-hearted, and high- nections of Mrs. Byron resided. spirited boy - passionate and resentful, but In the summer of the year 1796, after an affectionate and companionable with his attack of scarlet-fever, he was removed by school-fellows — to a remarkable degree his mother for change of air into the venturous and fearless, and (as one of them Highlands; and it was either at this time, significantly expressed it) “always more ready or in the following year, that they took up to give a blow than take one.” Among many their residence at a farm-bouse in the neighanecdotes illustrative of this spirit, it is re- bourhood of Ballater, a favourite summer lated that once, in returning home from resort for health and gaiety, about forty miles school, he fell in with a boy who had on up the Dee from Aberdeen. Though this some former occasion insulted him, but had house, where they still show with much pride then got off unpunished — little Byron, how- the bed in which young Byron slept, has ever, at the time, promising to “pay him off” become naturally a place of pilgrimage for whenever they should meet again. Accord- the worshippers of genius, neither its own ingly, on this second encounter, though appearance, nor that of the small bleak there were some other boys to take his valley in which it stands, is at all worthy of opponent's part, he succeeded in inflicting being associated with the memory of a poet. upon him a hearty beating. On his return Within a short distance of it, however, home, breathless, the servant inquired what all those features of wildness and beauty, he had been about, and was answered by which mark the course of the Dee through him with a mixture of rage and humour, the Highlands, may be commanded. Here that he had been paying a debt, by beating the dark summit of Lachin-y-gair stood a boy according to promise ; for that he was towering before the eyes of the future bard; a Byron, and would never belie his motto, and the verses in which, not many years Trust Byron."

afterwards, he commemorated this sublime He was, indeed, much more anxious to object, show that, young as he was, at the distinguish himself among his school-fellows time, its “frowning glories” were not unnoby prowess in all sports 2 and exercises, than ticed by him. +

[ocr errors]

a

1 The old porter, too, at the College, "* minds weel' the little boy, with the red jacket and nankeen trowsers, whom he has so often turned out of the College courtyard.

2 " He was," says one of my informants, “ a good hand at marbles, and could drive one farther than most boys. He also excelled at • Bases,' a game which requires considerable swiftness of foot. (“ So ran they all as they had been at base, They being chaced that did others chace.” – SPENSER.]

3 On examining the quarterly lists kept at the grammar-school of Aberdeen, in which the names of the boys

are set down according to the station each holds in his class, it appears that in April of the year 1794, the name of Byron, then in the second class, stands twenty-third in a list of thirty-eight boys. In the April of 1798, however, he had risen to be fifth in the fourth class, consisting of twenty-seven boys, and had got ahead of several of his contemporaries, who had previously always stood before him.

* Notwithstanding the lively recollections expressed in this poem, it is pretty certain, from the testimony of his nurse, that he never was at the mountain itself, which stood some miles distant from his residence, more than twice.

"Ah, there my young footsteps in infancy wandered,

peculiar features of nature, over which My cap was the bonnet, my cloak was the plaid ; On chieftains long perish'd my memory ponder'd

Memory has shed this reflective charm, are As daily I strode through the pine-cover'd glade.

reproduced before the eyes under new and I sought not my home till the day's dying glory

inspiring circumstances, and with all the Gave place to the rays of the bright polar-star ; accessories which an imagination, in its full For Fancy was cheer'd by traditional story,

vigour and wealth, can lend them, then, Disclosed by the natives of dark Loch-na-gar." indeed, do both the past and present combine

to make the enchantment complete ; and To the wildness and grandeur of the

never was there a heart more borne away scenes, among which his childhood was passed, it is not unusual to trace the first by this confluence of feelings than that of awakening of his poetic talent. But it may

Byron. In a

written about a year or

poem,

two before his death?, he traces all his be questioned whether this faculty was ever.

enjoyment of mountain scenery to the imso produced. That the charm of

scenery, which derives its chief power from fancy and pressions received during his residence in the association, should be much felt at an age which he experienced in gazing upon Ida

Highlands; and even attributes the pleasure when fancy is yet hardly awake, and associations but few, can with difficulty, even

and Parnassus, far less to classic rememmaking every allowance for the prematurity brances, than to those fond and deep-felt of genius, be conceived. The light which associations by which they brought back the the poet sees around the forms of nature is memory of his boyhood and Lachin-y-gair.

" He who first met the Highland's swelling blue, not so much in the objects themselves as in

Will love each peak that shows a kindred hue, the eye that contemplates them ; and Imagi- Hail in each crag a friend's familiar face, nation must first be able to lend a glory to And clasp the mountain in his mind's embrace. such scenes, before she can derive inspira- Long have I roam'd through lands which are not mine, tion from them. As materials, indeed, for

Adored the Alp, and loved the Apennine, the poetic faculty, when developed, to work

Revered Parnassus, and beheld the steep

Jove's Ida and Olympus crown the deep : upon, these impressions of the new and

But 'twas not all long ages' lore, nor all wonderful retained from childhood, and

Their nature held me in their thrilling thrall ; retained with all the vividness of recollection The infant rapture still survived the boy, which belongs to genius, may form, it is true, And Loch-na-gar with Ida look'd o'er Troy, the purest and most precious part of that

Mix'd Celtic memories with the Phrygian mount, aliment, with which the memory of the poet

And Highland linns with Castalie's clear fount.” feeds his imagination. But still

, it is the In a note appended to this passage, we newly-awakened power within him that is find him falling into that sort of anachronism the source of the charm ; — it is the force of in the history of his own feelings, which I fancy alone that, acting upon his recollec- have above adverted to as not uncommon, tions, impregnates, as it were, all the past and referring to childhood itself that love of with poesy. In this respect, such impres- mountain prospects, which was but the after sions of natural scenery as Lord Byron result of his imaginative recollections of that received in his childhood must be classed period.s with the various other remembrances which " From this period” (the time of his that period leaves behind - of its innocence, residence in the Highlands) “I date my love its sports, its first hopes and affections — all of mountainous countries. I can never of them reminiscences which the poet forget the effect, a few years afterwards in afterwards converts to his use, but which no England, of the only thing I had long seen, more make the poet than — to apply an even in miniature, of a mountain, in the illustration of Byron's own — the honey can Malvern Hills. After I returned to Chelbe said to make the bee that treasures it. 1 tenham, I used to watch them every afternoon

When it happens -- as was the case with at sunset, with a sensation which I cannot Lord Byron in Greece — that the same describe.” His love of solitary rambles, and

[ocr errors]

"[" No more – no more-Oh! never more on me

The freshness of the heart can fall like dew, Which out of all the lovely things we see

Extracts emotions beautiful and new,
Hived in our bosoms like the bag o' the bee

Think'st thou the honey with those objects grew ?
Alas ! 'twas not in them, but in thy power
To double even the sweetness of a flower."

Don Juan, c. i. st. 214.] 2 The Island.

3 [“ Perhaps he did ; for either in contemplating a present, or meditating on an absent beautiful scene in

nature, we always do, in unconscious confusion, blend, as Wordsworth says of his own delight in the groves, our present feelings with our past'; and thus is constituted one full and entire emotion. But neither Mr. Moore poet as he is of a high, let us say of the highest order – nor any other man, can pretend either to tell or know with what feelings Lord Byron looked on Lachin-y-gair for the first time, and on the sea of mountains rolling away up from Ballater to the Linn of Dee. There must have been awakenings, and risings, and swellings of the divine spirit within him, that owed not --- could not owe - their birth to the power of association."-Wilson.]

to me

me.

his taste for exploring in all directions, led and alarmed my mother so much, that after him not unfrequently so far, as to excite I grew better, she generally avoided the subserious apprehensions for his safety. While ject

- and contented herself with at Aberdeen, he used often to steal from telling it to all her acquaintance. Now, home unperceived ; - sometimes he would what could this be? I had never seen her find his way to the sea-side ; and once, after since her mother's faux pas at Aberdeen had a long and anxious search, they found the been the cause of her removal to her grandadventurous little rover struggling in a sort mother's at Banff; we were both the merest of merass or marsh, from which he was un- children. I had and have been attached able to extricate himself.

fifty times since that period ; yet I recollect In the course of one of his summer all we said to each other, all our caresses, excursions up Dee-side, he had an oppor- her features, my restlessness, sleeplessness, tunity of seeing still more of the wild beauties my tormenting my mother's maid to write of the Highlands than even the neighbour for me to her, which she at last did, to quiet hood of their residence at Ballatrech afforded, Poor Nancy thought I was wild, and, - having been taken by his mother through as I could not write for myself, became my the romantic passes that lead to Invercauld, secretary. I remember, too, our walks, and and as far up as the small water-fall, call the happiness of sitting by Mary, in the the Linn of Dee. Here his love of ad- children's apartment, at their house not far venture had nearly cost him his life. As from the Plain-stones at Aberdeen, while her he was scrambling along a declivity that lesser sister Helen played with the doll, and overhung the fall, some heather caught his we sat gravely making love, in our way. lame foot, and he fell. Already he was “ How the deuce did all this occur so rolling downward, when the attendant early? where could it originate? I cerluckily caught hold of him, and was but just tainly had no sexual ideas for years afterin time to save him from being killed. wards ; and yet my misery, my love for that

It was about this period, when he was not girl were so violent, that I sometimes doubt quite eight years old, that a feeling par- if I have ever been really attached since. taking more of the nature of love than it is Be that as it may, hearing of her marriage easy to believe possible in so young a child, several years after was like a thunder-stroke took, according to his own account, entire - it nearly choked me — to the horror of possession of his thoughts, and showed how my mother and the astonishment and almost early in this passion, as in most others, the incredulity of every body. And it is a sensibilities of his nature were awakened. phenomenon in my existence (for I was not The name of the object of this attachment eight years old) which has puzzled, and will was Mary Duff; and the following passage puzzle me to the latest hour of it; and from a journal, kept by him in 1813, will lately, I know not why, the recollection (not show how freshly, after an interval of seven- the attachment) has recurred as forcibly as teen years, all the circumstances of this ever. I wonder if she can have the least early love still lived in his memory :

remembrance of it or me? or remember her “I have been thinking lately a good deal pitying sister Helen for not having an adof Mary Duff, How very odd that I should mirer too? How very pretty is the perfect have been so utterly, devotedly fond of that image of her in my memory- her brown, girl, at an age when I could neither feel dark hair, and hazel eyes ; her very dress! passion, nor know the meaning of the word. I should be quite grieved to see her now; And the effect! My mother used always the reality, however beautiful, would destroy, to rally me about this childish amour ; and, or at least confuse, the features of the lovely at last, many years after, when I was sixteen, Peri which then existed in her, and still lives she told me one day, 'Oh, Byron, I have in my imagination, at the distance of more had a letter from Edinburgh, from Miss than sixteen years. I am now twenty-five Abercromby, and your old sweetheart Mary and odd months. ... Duff is married to a Mr. Co.?? And what “I think my mother told the circumwas my answer? I really cannot explain or stances (on my hearing of her marriage) to account for my feelings at that moment ; the Parkynses, and certainly to the Pigot but they nearly threw me into convulsions, family, and probably mentioned it in her

a

i Dante, we know, was but nine years old when, at a May-day festival, he saw and fell in love with Beatrice ; and Alfieri, who was bimself a precocious lover, considers such early sensibility to be an unerring sign of a soul formed for the fine arts: "Effetti,” he says, in describing the feelings of his own first love, “che poche persone

intendono, e pochissime provano: ma a quei soli pochissimi è concesso l'uscir dalla folla vulgare in tutte le umane arti." Canova used to say, that he perfectly well remembered having been in love when but five years old.

2 (Robert Cockburn, Esq., an eminent wine-merchant of Edinburgh, now of London.)

a

answer to Miss A., who was well acquainted what a total and talismanic change had been with

my childish penchant, and had sent the wrought in all his future relations with sonews on purpose for me, -and thanks to ciety, by the simple addition of that word her!

before his name. That the event, as a crisis " Next to the beginning, the conclusion in his life, affected him, even at that time, has often occupied my reflections, in the may be collected from the agitation which way of investigation. That the facts are he is said to have manifested on the imthus, others know as well as I, and my portant morning, when his name was first memory yet tells me so, in more than a called out in school with the title of “Dowhisper. But, the more I reflect, the more minus” prefixed to it. Unable to give utI am bewildered to assign any cause for this terance to the usual answer adsum," he precocity of affection.”

stood silent amid the general stare of his Though the chance of his succession to school-fellows, and, at last, burst into tears. the title of his ancestors was for some time The cloud, which, to a certain degree, altogether uncertain — there being, so late undeservedly, his unfortunate affray with as the year 1794, a grandson of the fifth Mr. Chaworth had thrown upon the chalord still alive — his mother had, from his racter of the late Lord Byron, was deepened very birth, cherished a strong persuasion and confirmed by what it, in a great measure, that he was destined not only to be a lord, produced, -the eccentric and unsocial course but “a great man.” One of the circum- of life to which he afterwards betook himself. stances on which she founded this belief Of his cruelty to Lady Byron', before her was, singularly enough, his lameness ;- for separation from him, the most exaggerated what reason it is difficult to conceive, except stories are still current in the neighbourhood; that, possibly (having a mind of the most and it is even believed that, in one of his fits superstitious cast), she had consulted on the of fury, he flung her into the pond at Newsubject some village fortune-teller, who, to stead. On another occasion, it is said, ennoble this infirmity in her eyes, had linked having shot his coachman for some disobethe future destiny of the child with it. dience of orders, he threw the corpse into

By the death of the grandson of the old the carriage to his lady, and mounting the lord at Corsica in 1794, the only claimant, box, drove off. himself. These stories are, that had hitherto stood between little George no doubt, as gross fictions as some of those and the immediate succession to the peerage, of which his illustrious successor was afterwas removed ; and the increased importance wards made the victim ; and a female servant which this event conferred upon them was of the old lord, still alive, in contradicting felt not only by Mrs. Byron, but by the young both tales as scandalous fabrications, supfuture Baron of Newstead himself. In the poses the first to have had its origin in the winter of 1797, his mother having chanced, following circumstance :— A young lady, of one day, to read part of a speech spoken in the name of Booth, who was on a visit at the House of Commons, a friend who was Newstead, being one evening with a party present said to the boy, “ We shall have the who were diverting themselves in front of pleasure, some time or other, of reading your the abbey, Lord Byron by accident pushed speeches in the House of Commons.” — “I her into the basin which receives the cashope not,” was his answer : “ if you read cades ; and out of this little incident, as my any speeches of mine, it will be in the House informant very plausibly conjectures, the of Lords.”

tale of his attempting to drown Lady Byron The title, of which he thus early anti- may have been fabricated. cipated the enjoyment, devolved to him but After his lady had separated from him, too soon. Had he been left to struggle on the entire seclusion in which he lived gave for ten years longer, as plain George Byron, full scope to the inventive faculties of his there can be little doubt that his character neighbours. There was no deed, however would have been, in many respects, the better dark or desperate, that the village gossips for it. In the following year (May 19. 1798.) were not ready to impute to him ; and two his grand-uncle, the fifth Lord Byron, died grim images of satyrs, which stood in his at Newstead Abbey, having passed the latter gloomy garden, were, by the fears of those years of his strange life in a state of austere who had caught a glimpse of them, dignified and almost savage seclusion. It is said, that by the name of “ the old lord's devils." He the day after little Byron's accession to the was known always to go armed ; and it is title, he ran up to his mother and asked her, related that, on some particular occasion, “ whether she perceived any difference in him since he had been made a lord, as he

(This lady was the daughter and heir of Charles perceived none himself :"

a quick and Shaw, Esq. of Besthorpe-hall, Norfolk. She was marnatural thought; but the child little knew ried in March, 1747, and died July 5th, 1788.]

[ocr errors]

1

[ocr errors]

[ocr errors]

when his neighbour, the late Sir John War- rockwork, on which much cost had been ren', was admitted to dine with him, there thrown away, and a few castellated buildings was a case of pistols placed, as if forming on the banks of the lake and in the woods. a customary part of the dinner service, on The forts upon the lake wore designed to the table.

give a naval appearance to its waters; and During his latter years, the only companions frequently, in his more social days, he used of his solitude — besides that colony of to amuse himself with sham fights, — his crickets, which he is said to have amused vessels attacking the forts, and being canhimself with rearing and feeding — were old nonaded by them in return. The largest of Murray, afterwards the favourite servant of these vessels had been built for him at some his successor, and the female domestic, sea-port on the eastern coast, and, being whose authority I have just quoted, and conveyed on wheels over the forest to Newwho, from the station she was suspected of stead, was supposed to have fulfilled one of being promoted to by her noble master, the prophecies of Mother Shipton, which received generally through the neighbour- declared that “when a ship laden with ling hood the appellation of “ Lady Betty."

should cross

over Sherwood Forest, the Though living in this sordid and solitary Newstead estate would pass from the Byron style, he was frequently, as it appears, much family." In Nottinghamshire, “ ling” is the distressed for money; and one of the most term used for heather; and, in order to bear serious of the injuries inflicted by him upon out Mother Shipton and spite the old lord, the property was his sale of the family estate the country people, it is said, ran along by of Rochdale in Lancashire, of which the the side of the vessel, heaping it with heamineral produce was accounted very valuable. ther all the way. He well knew, it is said, at the time of the This eccentric peer, it is evident, cared sale, his inability to make out a legal title ; but little about the fate of his descendants. nor is it supposed that the purchasers them- With his young heir in Scotland he held no selves were unacquainted with the defect of communication whatever ; and if at any time the conveyance. But they contemplated, he happened to mention him, which but and, it seems, actually did realise, an in- rarely occurred, it was never under any demnity from any pecuniary loss, before other designation than that of " the little they could, in the ordinary course of events, boy who lives at Aberdeen.” be dispossessed of the property. During On the death of his grand-uncle, Lord the young lord's minority, proceedings were Byron having become a ward of chancery, instituted for the recovery of this estate, the Earl of Carlisle, who was in some degree and as the reader will learn hereafter with connected with the family, being the son of success.

the deceased lord's sister, was appointed At Newsteads, both the mansion and the his guardian ; and in the autumn of 1798, grounds around it were suffered to fall help- Mrs. Byron and her son, attended by their lessly into decay; and among the few monu- faithful May Gray, left Aberdeen for Newments of either care or expenditure which stead.5 Previously to their departure, the their lord left behind, were some masses of furniture of the humble lodgings which they

1 [Sir John Borlase Warren, G.C.B., admiral of the have new dresses making for them by a Venetian tailor. white, died in February, 1822.)

- Newstead delighted me. There is grace and Gothic ? To this Lord Byron used to add, on the authority of indeed, - good chambers, and a comfortable house. old servants of the family, that on the day of their patron's The monks formerly were the only sensible people that death, these crickets all left the house simultaneously, had reallygood mansions.-Correspondence, vol. ii. p. 31.) and in such numbers, that it was impossible to cross the 4 (Isabella Byron ; married, first, to Henry, fourth earl ball without treading on them.

of Carlisle, and, secondly, to Sir William Musgrave, bart. 3 (Horace Walpole, who visited Newstead in 1760, says, of Heaton Castle, Cumberland. - See BYRONIANA.] * It is the very abbey. The great east window of the 3 ["It would be difficult to imagine a transition more church remains, and connects with the house; the hall fitted, in all its circumstances, to stamp lasting traces on entire, the refectory entire, the cloister untouched, with such a miud as Byron's. He passed, as at the changing of the eastern cistern of the convent, and their arms on it;

a theatrical scene, from very nearly the one extreme of a private chapel quite perfect. The park, which is still outward show to the other -- from a shabby Scotch 'flat" charming, has not been so much unprofaned; the present to a palace; and one that, with all its accompaniments lord has lost large sums, and paid part in old oaks, fivo of landscape and tradition, could not but stimulate to the thousand pounds worth of which have been cut near the highest pitch a spirit naturally solemn, already not lightly house. In recompense he has built two baby forts, to pay tinged with superstition, and in which the pride of anhis country in castles for the damage done to the navy, and cestry had been planted from the cradlo, striking the planted a handful of Scotch firs, that look like plough-deeper root, because of the forlornness and squalor of boys dressed in old family liveries for a public day. In every thing hitherto about him - anger, and resentment, the hall is a very good collection of pictures, all animals ; and jealousy, the sense of injustice and indignity, and a the refectory, now the great drawing-room, is full of haughty, sullen shame, all combining with, and moulding Byrons ; the vaulted roof remaining, but the windows its earliest growth.”. Quart. Rev. 1831.)

« FöregåendeFortsätt »