Some time between the year 1866 and that of her death, she is said to have visited Newstead Abbey, which had once been Byron’s home. She was very old, a widow, and alone; but her affection for the poet-lover of her youth was still as strong as ever.
Byron’s life was short, if measured by years only. Measured by achievement, it was filled to the very full. His genius blazes like a meteor in the records of English poetry; and some of that splendor gleams about the lovely woman who turned him away from vice and folly and made him worthy of his historic ancestry, of his country, and of himself.
Each century, or sometimes each generation, is distinguished by some especial interest among those who are given to fancies—not to call them fads. Thus, at the present time, the cultivated few are taken up with what they choose to term the “new thought,” or the “new criticism,” or, on the other hand, with socialistic theories and projects. Thirty years ago, when Oscar Wilde was regarded seriously by some people, there were many who made a cult of estheticism. It was just as interesting when their leader—
Walked down Piccadilly with
a poppy or a lily
In his medieval hand,
or when Sir William Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan guyed him as Bunthorne in “Patience.”
When Charles Kingsley was a great expounder of British common sense, “muscular Christianity” was a phrase which was taken up by many followers. A little earlier, Puseyism and a primitive form of socialism were in vogue with the intellectuals. There are just as many different fashions in thought as in garments, and they come and go without any particular reason. To-day, they are discussed and practised everywhere. To-morrow, they are almost forgotten in the rapid pursuit of something new.
Forty years before the French Revolution burst forth with all its thunderings, France and Germany were affected by what was generally styled “sensibility.” Sensibility was the sister of sentimentality and the half-sister of sentiment. Sentiment is a fine thing in itself. It is consistent with strength and humor and manliness; but sentimentality and sensibility are poor cheeping creatures that run scuttering along the ground, quivering and whimpering and asking for perpetual sympathy, which they do not at all deserve.
No one need be ashamed of sentiment. It simply gives temper to the blade, and mellowness to the intellect. Sensibility, on the other hand, is full of shivers and shakes and falsetto notes and squeaks. It is, in fact, all humbug, just as sentiment is often all truth.