Page images
PDF
EPUB

back, or, if she wished, to provide separate maintenance. But she must give up Byron. Every argument of worldly interest enforced the proposal. The Countess reluctantly consented. Byron was free. She and her father had gone, when Byron went on board the collier-brig · Hercules' (July 13, 1823) bound for Leghorn on his way to Greece. A contrary wind detained the ship in harbour. Byron came ashore and wandered through the deserted house and empty rooms-alone with his thoughts.

The next day he sailed. To him and his friends the cause of Greece was the cause of liberty and of hun anity. He had an ideal and lived up to it in action. He shouldered responsibility, showed sound sense, firmness, perseverance, and courage. When he died at Messalongbi, his last messages, which might have explained much and modified many judgments, were unintelligible.

The theme is well-worn. It is impossible to write on it with freshness, still more with authority. Each individual will form his own picture of the man. Inevitably, the opinions of contemporaries, however brief and partial their acquaintance, influence our judgments. Impressions formed a century later are comparatively valueless. Knowing this, I hesitate to state any personal experiences. I only do so in the hope that, here and there, others will give Byron a fairer hearing. For several years my leisure was spent in the society of Byron and his friends. I started with a strong aversion, which was again and again deepened by some display of the baser qualities of his nature. But, in the end, the conviction grew that he was not only a greater but a better and more lovable man than he allowed himself to appear. That impression is confirmed by the letters from Shelley, the one man who was his intellectual equal, the one man with whom, in spite of his habitual incontinence of speech, he talked without restraint, the man who was, as he himself said, “the best and least selfish man I ever knew; I never knew one who was not a beast in comparison.'

ERNLE.

THE

QUARTERLY

REVIEW

VOL. 238.

COMPRISING Nos. 472, 473,

PUBLISHED IN

JULY & OCTOBER, 1922.

LONDON:

JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, W. 1.

NEW YORK:

LEONARD SCOTT PUBLICATION COMPANY

« PreviousContinue »