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John Lord
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 300 pages of information about Beacon Lights of History, Volume 13.
own day; and more than that, so human was it that it attracted the sympathies of all civilized nations, and, as Lamartine said, “made English literature known throughout Europe.”  Byron’s poetry was politically influential also, by reason of its liberty-loving spirit,—­arousing Italy, inspiring the young revolutionists of Germany, and awaking a generous sympathy for Greece.  Without the consciousness of any “mission” beyond the expression of his own ebullient nature, this poet contributed no mean impulse to the general emancipation of spirit which has signalized the nineteenth century.

Two generations have passed away since Byron’s mortal remains were committed to the dust, and the verdict of his country has not since materially changed,—­admiration for his genius alone.  The light of lesser stars than he shines with brighter radiance.  What the enlightened verdict of mankind may be two generations hence, no living mortal can tell.  The worshippers of intellect may attempt to reverse or modify the judgment already passed, but the impressive truth remains that no man, however great his genius, will be permanently judged aside from character.  When Lord Bacon left his name and memory to men’s charitable judgments and the next age, he probably had in view his invaluable legacy to mankind of earnest searchings after truth, which made him one of the greatest of human benefactors.  How far the poetry of Byron has proved a blessing to the world must be left to an abler critic than I lay claim to be.  In him the good and evil went hand in hand in the eternal warfare which ancient Persian sages saw between the powers of light and darkness in every human soul,—­a consciousness of which warfare made Byron himself in his saddest hours wish he had never lived at all.

If we could, in his life and in his works, separate the evil from the good, and let only the good remain,—­then his services to literature could hardly be exaggerated, and he would be honored as the greatest English poet, so far as native genius goes, after Shakespeare and Milton.

THOMAS CARLYLE.

1795-1881.

CRITICISM AND BIOGRAPHY.

The now famous biography of Thomas Carlyle, by Mr. Froude, shed a new light on the eccentric Scotch essayist, and in some respects changed the impressions produced by his own “Reminiscences” and the Letters of his wife.  It is with the aid of those two brilliant and interesting volumes on Carlyle’s “Earlier Life” and “Life in London,” issued about two years after the death of their distinguished subject, that I have rewritten my own view of one of the most remarkable men of the nineteenth century.

Of the men of genius who have produced a great effect on their own time, there is no one concerning whom such fluctuating opinions have prevailed within forty years as in regard to Carlyle.  His old admirers became his detractors, and those who first disliked him became his friends.  When his earlier works appeared they attracted but little general notice, though there were many who saw in him a new light, or a new power to brush away cobwebs and shams, and to exalt the spiritual and eternal in man over all materialistic theories and worldly conventionalities.

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