’Let us not be mistaken. We are not defending the offences of which Lord Byron unquestionably was guilty; neither are we finding fault with those, who, after looking honestly within and around themselves, condemn those offences, no matter how severely: but we are speaking of society in general as it now exists; and we say that there is vile hypocrisy in the tone in which Lord Byron is talked of there. We say, that, although all offences against purity of life are miserable things, and condemnable things, the degrees of guilt attached to different offences of this class are as widely different as are the degrees of guilt between an assault and a murder; and we confess our belief, that no man of Byron’s station or age could have run much risk in gaining a very bad name in society, had a course of life similar (in so far as we know any thing of that) to Lord Byron’s been the only thing chargeable against him.
’The last poem he wrote was produced upon his birthday, not many weeks before he died. We consider it as one of the finest and most touching effusions of his noble genius. We think he who reads it, and can ever after bring himself to regard even the worst transgressions that have been charged against Lord Byron with any feelings but those of humble sorrow and manly pity, is not deserving of the name of man. The deep and passionate struggles with the inferior elements of his nature (and ours) which it records; the lofty thirsting after purity; the heroic devotion of a soul half weary of life, because unable to believe in its own powers to live up to what it so intensely felt to be, and so reverentially honoured as, the right; the whole picture of this mighty spirit, often darkened, but never sunk,—often erring, but never ceasing to see and to worship the beauty of virtue; the repentance of it; the anguish; the aspiration, almost stifled in despair,—the whole of this is such a whole, that we are sure no man can read these solemn verses too often; and we recommend them for repetition, as the best and most conclusive of all possible answers whenever the name of Byron is insulted by those who permit themselves to forget nothing, either in his life or in his writings, but the good.’—[1825.]