’I have never seen anything of Ada, the little Electra of my Mycenae . . . . But there will come a day of reckoning, even if I should not live to see it. I have at least seen —— shivered, who was one of my assassins. When that man was doing his worst to uproot my whole family,—tree, branch, and blossoms; when, after taking my retainer, he went over to them; when he was bringing desolation on my hearth, and destruction on my household gods,—did he think that, in less than three years, a natural event, a severe domestic, but an expected and common calamity, would lay his carcass in a cross-road, or stamp his name in a verdict of lunacy? Did he (who in his sexagenary . . .) reflect or consider what my feelings must have been when wife and child and sister, and name and fame and country, were to be my sacrifice on his legal altar?—and this at a moment when my health was declining, my fortune embarrassed, and my mind had been shaken by many kinds of disappointment? while I was yet young, and might have reformed what might be wrong in my conduct, and retrieved what was perplexing in my affairs? But he is in his grave, and—What a long letter I have scribbled!’ . . .
* * * * *
In order that the reader may measure the change of moral tone with regard to Lord Byron, wrought by the constant efforts of himself and his party, we give the two following extracts from ‘Blackwood:’
The first is ‘Blackwood’ in 1819, just after the publication of ’Don Juan:’ the second is ‘Blackwood’ in 1825.
’In the composition of this work, there is, unquestionably, a more thorough and intense infusion of genius and vice, power and profligacy, than in any poem which had ever before been written in the English, or, indeed, in any other modern language. Had the wickedness been less inextricably mingled with the beauty and the grace and the strength of a most inimitable and incomprehensible Muse, our task would have been easy. ‘Don Juan’ is by far the most admirable specimen of the mixture of ease, strength, gaiety, and seriousness, extant in the whole body of English poetry: the author has devoted his powers to the worst of purposes and passions; and it increases his guilt and our sorrow that he has devoted them entire.
’The moral strain of the whole poem is pitched in the lowest key. Love, honour, patriotism, religion, are mentioned only to be scoffed at, as if their sole resting-place were, or ought to be, in the bosoms of fools. It appears, in short, as if this miserable man, having exhausted every species of sensual gratification, having drained the cup of sin even to its bitterest dregs, were resolved to show us that he is no longer a human being, even in his frailties, but a cool, unconcerned fiend, laughing with a detestable glee over the whole of the better and worse elements of which human life is composed; treating well-nigh with equal derision the most pure of virtues, and the most odious of vices; dead alike