English Literature, Considered as an Interpreter of English History eBook

Henry Coppée
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 540 pages of information about English Literature, Considered as an Interpreter of English History.

CHAPTER XXXV.

THE NEW ROMANTIC POETRY:  BYRON AND MOORE.

   Early Life of Byron.  Childe Harold and Eastern Tales.  Unhappy Marriage. 
   Philhellenism and Death.  Estimate of his Poetry.  Thomas Moore. 
   Anacreon.  Later Fortunes.  Lalla Rookh.  His Diary.  His Rank as Poet.

In immediate succession after Scott comes the name of Byron.  They were both great lights of their age; but the former may be compared to a planet revolving in regulated and beneficent beauty through an unclouded sky; while the latter is more like a comet whose lurid light came flashing upon the sight in wild and threatening career.

Like Scott, Byron was a prolific poet; and he owes to Scott the general suggestion and much of the success of his tales in verse.  His powers of description were original and great:  he adopted the new romantic tone, while in his more studied works he was an imitator and a champion of a former age, and a contemner of his own.

EARLY LIFE OF BYRON.—­The Honorable George Gordon Byron, afterwards Lord Byron, was born in London on the 22d of January, 1788.  While he was yet an infant, his father—­Captain Byron—­a dissipated man, deserted his mother; and she went with her child to live upon a slender pittance at Aberdeen.  She was a woman of peculiar disposition, and was unfortunate in the training of her son.  She alternately petted and quarrelled with him, and taught him to emulate her irregularities of temper.  On account of an accident at his birth, he had a malformation in one of his feet, which, producing a slight limp in his gait through life, rendered his sensitive nature quite unhappy, the signs of which are to be discerned in his drama, The Deformed Transformed.  From the age of five years he went to school at Aberdeen, and very early began to exhibit traits of generosity, manliness, and an imperious nature:  he also displayed great quickness in those studies which pleased his fancy.

In 1798, when he was eleven years old, his grand-uncle, William, the fifth Lord Byron, died, and was succeeded in the title and estates by the young Gordon Byron, who was at once removed with his mother to Newstead Abbey.  In 1801 he was sent to Harrow, where he was well esteemed by his comrades, but was not considered forward in his studies.

He seems to have been of a susceptible nature, for, while still a boy, he fell in love several times.  His third experience in this way was undoubtedly the strongest of his whole life.  The lady was Miss Mary Chaworth, who did not return his affection.  His last interview with her he has powerfully described in his poem called The Dream.  From Harrow he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he lived an idle and self-indulgent life, reading discursively, but not studying the prescribed course.  As early as November, 1806, before he was nineteen, he published his first volume, Poems on Various Occasions,

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