George Gordon, Lord Byron
The death of lord Byron created a mournful sensation in all parts of the civilized world; his failings were forgotten in his recent struggles for the delivery of Greece, and one universal sound of admiration and regret was echoed throughout Europe. The authorities of Missolonghi paid every token of respect to his memory that reverence could suggest, and before his remains were deposited in their final resting place, some of the most celebrated men of the present century had, in, glowing terms, expressed their sense of his merits. His body after having been brought to England, and refused interment in Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's, was conveyed to Hucknell church, near Newstead, in conformity to a wish of the poet, that his dust might be mingled with his mother's. As the procession passed through the streets of London, a sailor was observed walking, uncovered, near the hearse, and on being asked what he was doing there, replied, that he had served lord Byron in the Levant, and had come to pay his last respects to his remains; a simple but emphatic testimony,' observes Mr. Galt, to the sincerity of that regard which his lordship often inspired, and which, with more steadiness, he might always have commanded.'
The character of lord Byron has, of late years, been so frequently and elaborately discussed, that a lengthened dissertation upon it, in this place would be equally tedious and superfluous. Its best development is furnished by his memoirs, and having read these, we may, without fear of controversy, come to the conclusion, that in regard to his relation to society he was neither a great nor a good man. Had he been desirous of becoming so, it was not impossible for him to have succeeded; the path of rectitude was not a greater mystery to him than to other men; and the metaphysical subtlety that has been employed to prove him the possessor of high and virtuous principles, only shows how far he has diverged from the track to which his panegyrists would wish to restore him. It has been said, that he was not driven to profligacy by inclination, but was goaded into it by the world's attributing to him vices of which he was not guilty, but which he in consequence, out of scorn and defiance, chose to commit. I took,' he himself says, my gradation in the vices with great promptitude, but they were not to my taste; I could not be a libertine without disgust; and yet this very disgust, and my heart thrown back upon itself, threw me into excesses, perhaps, more fatal than those from which I shrank.' This is a metaphysical apology, calculated, perhaps, to mystify the judgment, and cajole the sympathies, of a portion of mankind, towards him by whom it is put forth; but, surely, it is nothing more than the reckless avowal of a perverted and a depraved mind, too indolent, too weak, or too proud, to adopt any other mode of blunting the sting of one vice, than by plunging into another still more odious. We confess we are not among those who see in the circumstances of his lordship's life sufficient reason for that waywardness of mind and conduct, of which his poetical and moral character form so singular a combination; and from which, after all, he only averts our contempt, by investing it with an aspect that disdains our pity. Lord Byron is not the only sensitive young man who has entered upon life with blighted hopes, but it is doubtful whether the remembrance .of them would be accepted as an apology for a similar career to that of his lordship, even though the sufferer possessed not the faculty of venting his anguish in verse, the opportunity of drowning it in dissipation, or the means and leisure of softening it by travel and amusement.