George Gordon, Lord Byron
In 1798, he prepared to quit Scotland for Newstead, in consequence of his accession to his family title, of which, perhaps, he was not a little proud; for his mother having said to him, some time in the previous year, whilst perusing a newspaper, that she hoped to have the pleasure of some time or other reading his speeches in the house of commons; he replied, I hope not; if you read any speeches of mine, it will be in the house Of lords.' On his arrival at Newstead, he continued his studies under Mr. Rogers, a schoolmaster in the neighborhood, and was also attended by a quack of the name of Lavender, who had undertaken to cure the defect in his foot. Of this man he had a great abhorrence, and took every opportunity of ridiculing him; and, about the same time, the first symptom of his predilection for rhyming showed itself in four lines of doggerel, respecting an old woman who had given him some offense. In 1799, he was removed to London; and at the suggestion of his guardian, the Earl of Carlisle, placed under the care of Dr. Baillie, who also attended him on his subsequent removal to the school of Dr. Glennie, at Dulwich, where he appears to have gained the esteem both of his master and 'schoolfellows. His reading in history and poetry, says Dr. Glennie, was far beyond the usual standard of his age; and he showed an intimate accquaintance with the historical parts of Holy Scriptures ' an assertion which serves to confirm the subsequent declaration of Byron himself, that he was a great reader and admirer of the Old Testament, and had read it through and through before he was eight years old. ' The progress he was rapidly making under Dr. Glennie was, unfortunately, interrupted by the foolish indulgence of his mother, who took him home so frequently, and behaved with so much violence when remonstrated with on the subject, that lord Carlisle determined upon removing his ward to Harrow, whither he was sent in his fourteenth year.
In 1800, he had, as he expresses himself, made his first dash into poetry; the ebullition,' lie adds of a passion for my first cousin, Margaret Parker, one of the most beautiful of evanescent beings.' This was succeeded by his attachment for Miss Mary Chaworth, whom he used to meet during the Harrow vacations; she was two years older than himself, and does not appear to have given sufficient encouragement to his addresses, to warrant his declaration that she jilted him:' especially as she was, at the time of their first acquaintance, engaged to Mr. Musters, whom she subsequently married. There is no doubt, however, that his affection for the lady (who is now dead) was sincere, and that the loss of her had an embittering influence upon his future life. A person, who was present when Miss Chaworth's marriage was first announced to him, has thus described the scene that occurred Byron, I have some news for you,' said his mother. Well, what is it?" Take out our handkerchief first, you will want. it.' Nonsense!' '" Take out your handkerchief, I say.' He did so, to humor her. Miss Chaworth is married.' An expression very peculiar, impossible to describe, passed over his pale face, and he hurried his handkerchief into his pocket; saying with an affected air of coldness and nonchalance, Is that all?' Why, I expected,' said his mother, you would have been plunged into grief.' He made no reply, and soon began to talk about something else.
This took place in 1805, the year of his leaving Harrow, which he quitted with the character of a plain-spoken, clever and undaunted, but idle boy. His master, Dr. Drury, for whom he always entertained respect and affection, spoke of him as one who might be led by a silken string to a point, rather than by a cable;' and being asked his opinion of his pupil, after some continuance at Harrow, by lord Carlisle, he replied, that he had talents which would add lustre to his rank.' Though generally, however, reputed to be too indolent to excel in school, it seems that he collected a vast fund of information, which was little suspected by those who saw him only when idle, in mischief, or at play. The truth is,' he says, that I read eating, read in bed, read when no one else read, and had read all sorts of reading since I was five years old, though I never met with a review till I was in my nineteenth year.' He was not, at first, liked by his schoolfellows; but with some of them he ultimately formed friendships, to which he always reverted with a melancholy delight, broken, as most of them were, by his own waywardness, or the peculiar circumstances which attended his subsequent career.
His intrepidity was shown in several pugilistic combats, many of which he undertook in the defense and protection of other boys. One of his schoolfellows says, that he has seen him fight by the hour like a Trojan, and stand up, against the disadvantages of his lameness, with all the spirit of an ancient combatant. On the same person's reminding him of his battle with Pitt, he replied, You are mistaken, I think; it must have been with Rice-pudding Morgan, or Lord Jocelyn, or one of the Douglases, or George Raynsford, or Pryce (with whom I had two conflicts), or with Moses Moore (the clod), or with somebody else, and not with Pitt; for with all the above-named, and other worthies of the fist, had I an interchange of black eyes and bloody noses, at various and sundry periods. However, it may have happened, for all that.' He also told Captain Medwin, in allusion to two of his actions at Harrow, that he fought Lord Calthorpe for writing D - d atheist' under his name; and prevented the school-room from being burnt, during a rebellion, by pointing out to the boys the names of their fathers and grandfathers on the walls.