Her work seems to be well regarded s I 'll give her a whirl. Tried a tv show with Helen Mirren and didn't like it. I'm trying a nonfiction first.. This book was ok. This is a small volume on the life of George Gordon, Lord Byron.
It was to be war between them, was it? Those who played at bowls must look out for rubbers. Carlisle should see what kind of an antagonist he had provoked. He had threatened to make his sceptre totter in his hands. Now he would show that he could do it.
So he struck out the lines of eulogy, and substituted:.
With your spirits fled, No future laurels deck a noble head; No Muse will cheer with renovating smile The paralytic puling of Carlisle. Such was the Parthian shaft; and Byron, having discharged it, shook the dust of England from off his feet, and departed on the grand tour. The glory has long since departed from the grand tour.
We all take it nowadays, with less and less sense of adventure, and more and more expectation of home comforts. Sir Henry Lunn has pegged out the course, and stationed lecturers along it at intervals, to prevent us from confounding Scylla and Charybdis with Sodom and Gomorrah. They stir appropriate emotions in our breasts like stokers making up a fire. It is a shadowy, unreal, unsatisfactory business—a poor imitation of the grand tour as our forefathers knew it. Some of them, no doubt, travelled frivolously and superficially.
The old moorings were impossible; the old lights gave no guidance. I prefer to be adrift on a strange sea, seeking I know not what. Travel is my escape from life. Chateaubriand sought the Orient in that spirit. Disgust and disillusion, as he tells us, drove him forth. Pauline de Beaumont was dead, and Madame de Chateaubriand was a woman hard to live with.
He needed the consolations of religion; he needed to meditate at the tomb of Christ. Above all he needed, when his meditations had fortified his mind, to meet Natalie de Noailles-Mouchy in the Court of the Lions at the Alhambra.
He met her there, and travelled with her for three months in Spain, and presently found that he had only plucked yet another Dead Sea apple. It was a fixed article of faith with Chateaubriand that Byron had plagiarised his personality without acknowledgment. It was an act of envious vengeance, he said, for his own neglect to reply to a letter which Byron had written him while a schoolboy. That accusation, of course, is [Pg 65] incredible and may be dismissed; but the resemblance between the two men was nevertheless as close as the differences of race allowed.
Byron was as distinctly British, at intervals, as Chateaubriand was, at all times, distinctly French; and their points of view were to diverge widely as they grew older. Chateaubriand, an artistic Catholic, was to become one of the pillars of the Holy Alliance. Byron was to do more than any other man except Canning to pull the pillars of that temple down. But, in the meantime, the likeness was striking. There was about them both an equal air of cultivated gloom, an equal tendency to introspection, an equally intense interest in their personalities—that sense of the significance of the ego which was to be of the essence of the Romantic Movement—an equal readiness, as has been re-marked, to exclaim: Behold me!
The likeness is specially striking in the case of their journeys to the Orient. They sailed the same seas in the same spirit—with the one difference that Byron, who had a deadly hatred of certain kinds of hypocrisy, made no pretence in his quest for peace, of looking to and fro between love and religion. In both cases alike, disgust for life was understood to have given the impulsion to the journey. That is the picture; that, as perhaps it would be better to put it, is the pose. It was to become a sincere and natural posture before the end; but it is impossible, at this early stage, to take it very seriously.
Moreover, he was only twenty-one—an age at which a young man is eager to see the world and needs no excuse for setting out to do so. An affectation, no doubt, for which certain realities had furnished a hint. The fear of impending pecuniary embarrassment may sometimes have given the sound of revelry a hollow ring.
The sarcasm of the Edinburgh , though repaid in kind, had certainly left a thin skin sore. The icy politeness of Carlisle had chilled an expansive heart, and given Byron the impression that he was regarded as an intruder in his own domain. He had also found himself more sentimental than he ought to be about Mary Chaworth. Here, at any rate, was something to exaggerate—a foundation of bad temper on which a superstructure of pessimism might be raised.
Byron duly raised it, for literary purposes. But he had his high spirits as well as his low spirits; and the farewell lines which he sent from Falmouth to Hodgson suggest anything rather than a heart bowed down with woe. Breezes foul and tempests murky May unship us in a crack. But since life at most a jest is, As philosophers allow, Still to laugh by far the best is, [Pg 68] Then laugh on—as I do now. He was travelling with all the paraphernalia of the grand tourist—with more servants than he could afford, and with the hearty, matter-of-fact John Cam Hobhouse for his companion to keep him out of mischief.
Whatever he fled from, adventure was what he was looking for—not only the adventures which belong to the exploration of barbarous countries, but also those which are to be encountered in the boudoirs of garrison towns.
He landed at Lisbon and went to Cintra. He rode across Spain to Seville and Cadiz. He returned to Athens, and spent some time in exploring the interior of Greece. That, in outline, was the itinerary; and there were two adventures of which the letters to Hodgson show him to have been particularly proud.
Nor was that his only passion. If it was the only passion which he felt—which is doubtful—it certainly was not the only passion which he inspired. It is preceded by a story of which the hint is in the lines beginning:. The eldest honoured your unworthy son with very particular attention, embracing him with great tenderness at parting She offered me a share of her apartment, which my virtue induced me to decline.
That is all, and it is of no importance. The next stage was Gibraltar, and it is there, and on the voyage thence to Malta, that we get our first glimpse of Byron from the pen of an observer who observed, not as a matter of course, but as a matter of curiosity, and had a turn for picturesque description. He had been sent to the Levant by a firm of traders to ascertain how far British goods could be exploited in defiance of the Berlin and Milan Decrees.
He was to try hard, though in vain, to introduce such goods into the Greek archipelago, and to smuggle them into Spain. Half man of action and half dreamer, he went about denouncing priests and kings, and exhorting the British Government to seize all the islands everywhere for the supposed advantage of British commerce. This means, of course, that Galt, though he perceived the pose, did not abase himself in ecstasy before it. Seeing that he was a man of thirty, whereas Byron was only just of age, it was hardly to be expected that he would.
Moreover, as a Scotsman, he would naturally take the side of the Edinburgh and maintain that Byron had done nothing to be conceited about.
So he observed Byron—and we may be grateful to him for doing so—in a spirit of criticism and detachment. The impression that evening was not agreeable, but it was interesting; and that forehead mark, the frown, was calculated to awaken curiosity and beget conjectures. The scene is the ship which conveys them both from Gibraltar to Malta:. All these peculiarities, with his caprices, and something inexplicable in the cast of his metaphysics, while they served to awaken interest, contributed little to conciliate esteem. He was often strangely rapt—it may have been from his genius; and, had its grandeur and darkness been then divulged, susceptible of explanation; but, at the time, it threw, as it were, round him the sackcloth of penitence.
Sitting amidst the shrouds and rattlings, churming an inarticulate melody, he seemed almost apparitional, suggesting dim reminiscences of him who shot the albatross. He was as a mystery in a winding sheet, crowned with a halo. One quotes the passage in full because it is the earliest coloured picture of the theatrical Byron—the fatal man of gloom and splendour on whom so much limelight was presently to be thrown. Whether Byron was posing for Galt—or whether [Pg 74] Galt magnified the pose in the light of subsequent events—it is, of course, at this date, impossible to say.
Perhaps both things happened, and the picture owes a little to each of them. At all events the beginning of Byronism—of the outward, visible Byronism, that is to say—is there. That passion awaited him as soon as he landed at Malta. The woman who inspired it was Mrs. There are no details forthcoming about that, however.