George Gordon, Lord Byron
The subject of our memoir, however, was not without redeeming qualities: he was brave, generous and benevolent; but he was also passionate, disingenuous, and resentful; and more ready to inflict a wound, than to submit to one himself. He was sensitive to a painful degree, both in his sentiments, and his feelings; but, though he writhed under an attack upon either, his pride hindered him from showing what he suffered, even when such emotions proceeded from impulses the most honorable to human nature. He certainly took pleasure in showing the dark side of his character to the world; for those who were admitted to an unreserved intimacy with him, give indubitable testimony of his possessing, in a very eminent degree, all the social and companionable qualities, a heart exquisitely alive to the kindness of others towards himself, and a hand unhesitatingly prompt in complying with the supplications of distress. There is, indeed, no reason to doubt his own allegation (for falsehood was not one of his characteristics) when he says, If salvation is to be bought by charity, I have given more to my fellow-creatures in this life, than I now possess. I never in my life, gave a mistress so much as I have some times given a poor honest man in distress.' Captain Medwin describes him as the best of masters, and as being perfectly adored by his servants, to whose families and children he also extended an affectionate kindness. His habits, in the latter part of his life, were regular and temperate, even to ascetic abstinence he seldom ate meat or drank wine, living chiefly upon biscuits, coffee, eggs, fish, vegetables, and soda water, of which he has been known to drink fifteen bottles in a night. Riding, swimming, and pistol-shooting, were his favorite amusements; and one of three things which he used to pride himself upon, was his ability to snuff out a candle with a bullet, at twenty yards distance , - the other two were, his feat of swimming across the Hellespont, and being the author of a poem (The Corsair), of which fourteen thousand copies were sold in one day. He had a great partiality for children; and, besides the affection he always manifested for his child Ada, he is said to have felt severely the loss of a natural daughter, born in 1817, and who died at five years of age. Prejudice, affectation, and 'vanity, displayed themselves in many parts of his conduct; he would talk of avoiding Shakespeare, lest he should be thought to owe him any thing; and delighted in the addition of Noel to his name, because, as he said, Bonaparte and he were the only public persons whose initials were the same; peculiarities which induced Mr. Hazlitt to call him a sublime coxcomb.' His pride of birth we have before alluded to: it would probably have been somewhat diminished, had he been aware of the singular fact of a baton sinister being in the escutcheon of his family. Though he professed to despise the opinion of the world, no man was a greater slave to it, in some respects, than himself. Speaking of duelling, he would say, we must act according to usages; any man will, and must fight, when necessary - even without a motive.' He was himself concerned in many duels, as second, but only in two as principal; one was with Mr. Hobhouse, before he became intimate with him. Of his person he was particularly vain, and it was certainly of superior order; he was about five feet eight and a half inches in height, with a high forehead, adorned with fine, curling chesnut hair; teeth, says an Italian authoress, which resemble pearls; hands as beautiful as if they had been the works of art eyes of the azure color of the heavens; cheeks delicately tinged with the hue of the pale rose; and withal, a countenance, in which the expression of an extraordinary mind was fascinatingly conspicuous.
The religious sentiments of Lord Byron appear to have been much misrepresented: I am no bigot to infidelity,' he says, in one of his letters, and did not expect that, because I doubted the immortality of man, I should be charged with denying the existence of a God.' Mr. Moore having suspected that Mr. Shelley swayed his lordship's opinions, the latter writes, pray, assure Mr. Moore that I have not the smallest influence over lori Byron in this particular; if I had, I certainly should employ it to eradicate from his great mind the delusions of Christianity, which, in spite of his reason, seem perpetually to recur, and to lay in ambush for the hours of sickness and distress.' It is doubtful, however, though he educated his natural daughter in the Catholic faith, and he himself observed some of its ceremonies, whether he was a believer in the tenets of Christianity. He perceived and needed the consolation to be derived from a sincere adoption of its creed, but his intellectual pride would not suffer him to prostrate his reason at the humiliating shrine of faith.