“...it was agreed that my endeavors should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.
Mr. Wordsworth, on the other hand, was to propose to himself as his object, to give the charm of novelty to things of every day, and to excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural by awakening the mind’s attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and wonders of the world before us."
Coleridge does not hold Wordsworth’s belief that the language of common speech and of poetry should be identical. He shows that Wordsworth does better than follow his own theories. Yet, when he considers both the excellencies and the defects of Wordsworth’s verse, Coleridge’s verdict of praise is substantially that of the twentieth century. This is an unusual triumph for a contemporary critic, sitting in judgment on an author of an entirely new school and rendering a decision in opposition to that of the majority, who, he says, “have made it a business to attack and ridicule Mr. Wordsworth... His fame belongs to another age and can neither be accelerated nor retarded."
[Illustration: GEORGE NOEL GORDON, LORD BYRON. From a portrait by Kramer.]
Life.—Byron was born in London in 1788. His father was a reckless, dissipated spendthrift, who deserted his wife and child. Mrs. Byron convulsively clasped her son to her one moment and threw the scissors and tongs at him the next, calling him “the lame brat,” in reference to his club foot. Such treatment drew neither respect nor obedience from Byron, who inherited the proud, defiant spirit of his race. His accession to the peerage in 1798 did not tend to tame his haughty nature, and he grew up passionately imperious and combative.
Being ambitious, he made excellent progress in his studies at Harrow, but when he entered Cambridge he devoted much of his time to shooting, swimming, and other sports, for which he was always famous. In 1809 he started on a two years’ trip through Spain, Greece, and the far East. Upon his return, he published two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, which describe his journey.
This poem made him immediately popular. London society neglected its old favorite, Scott, and eagerly sought out the handsome young peer who had burst suddenly upon it. Poem after poem was produced by this lion of society, and each one was received with enthusiasm and delight. Probably no other English poet knew such instant widespread fame as Byron.
Suddenly and unexpectedly this adulation turned to hatred. In 1815 Byron married Miss Milbanke, an heiress, but she left him a year later. Although no reason for the separation was given, the public fastened all the blame upon Byron. The feeling against him grew so strong that he was warned by his friends to prepare for open violence, and finally, in 1816, he left England forever.