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Experience had taught her the thanklessness | special recognition in the glittering throng, of those who delight in another's unguarded candour. She used to say that few men were to be trusted with their neighbours' secrets, and hardly any woman with her own. But she found Byron better worth gossiping with than other young men of his years. He asked her questions which it really interested her to answer; and, notwithstanding her habitual wariness and reserve, a remarkable degree of confidence sprang up between them.
chafed at devotion to the pastime in which he could not participate. He preferred sentimental talk with a clever and wayward woman, whose self-idolatry, already too mature, ripened into fruit as bitter as his own. One who knew her long and well, and who was more than others lenient to her errors, has said of her that her conversation had all the charm of intellect, fancy, culture, and a low, musical voice: it had but one fault, that it was all about herself. There was an affinity in this respect between them which in itself became gradually the cause of disappointment and vexation. Craving on the one side encountered exaction on the other; and as neither knew how to stifle ill-humour or chagrin, he would grow moody and she fretful when their rival egotisms jarred.
With Lady Caroline it was hero-worship. The fascination wrought upon her susceptible and credulous fancy by his account of his youth and foreign adventures; his dark hints at the hidden griefs, the sorrows of his loneliness, the pain of early disappointments, and his real or pretended indifference to passing success; the ever-changing beauty of his features, and the glittering splendour of his verse; and all these laid with a look and tone of ineffable gallantry at her feet by one whose nobility dated from the Conquest, fairly bewildered her. It is all very well for those who have never been brought within the perilous circle of such a spell to talk pharisaically of the ease with which it might have been resisted. But to be just, one must estimate antecedents and surroundings; the enervating atmosphere of dissipation, and the furore about a picturesque poet of high degree. If these things are not taken into account, what really is left but the mingled echo of two names of whose brief association and subsequent severance the world has heard too much and understands too little. It was impossible that such intimacy should not be remarked, but this was exactly what his vanity wanted. With all his profession of democratic enthusiasm, he was habitually swayed by aristocratic feeling; with all his romance in rhyme about devotion to nameless and secluded beauty, he was vain as any coxcomb of being greeted by smiles of quality, and to be known as the favourite of supreme fashion. In the best set Lady Caroline was just then one of the fair and fickle rulers. Melbourne House was the centre of gaiety and revel.
For the sensitive plant which could yield small fruit
She brought him fresh verses on which she had spent half the sleepless night in an agony of hope that his eye would kindle and his lips respond to emotions she had thus endeavoured to express. But though he failed not to praise the well-chosen epithet and flowing rhythm, he was far too full of his own greater thoughts to be able, had he tried, to affect enthusiasm at the tinkling of her lyric bells. In her mortification she would inwardly upbraid him with being, like the rest of his sex, too self-engrossed; and the time was to come when she would tell him so in no measured terms. But with Childe Harold she could not thus make free.
At a reception one evening Lord Holland took an antique censer from a cabinet to show it to some learned guest; as he passed Byron and Lady Caroline he turned and said gallantly to her, "You see I bear you incense." "Offer it to Lord Byron," she replied; "he is accustomed to it." How soon the poet began to tire of the confidential iteration of morbid fancies, which were not redeemed by grandeur of outline or depth of colouring that marked those drawn from the dark chamber of his imagery-who can tell? But he loved being conspicuous in everything; and above the admiration of women he coveted the envy of men, and liked being spoken of as a favoured intimate at Melbourne House.
"My cousin Hartington wanted to have waltzes and quadrilles; and at Devonshire House it would not be allowed, so we had them in the great drawing-room at Whitehall. All the bon ton assembled there continually. There was nothing so fashionable. But after a time Byron contrived to sweep them all away."
Throughout the year 1813 Byron continued
For his overweening egotism, gratified by to visit constantly at Whitehall and Kensing
ton. The Giaour and Bride of Abydos kept his name before the public, and, in the estimation of his female critics, maintained his reputation. Lord Holland was too goodnatured, and too loyal in everything to the taste of his wife, to be niggardly in his praise. Other men more fastidious and outspoken in their criticisms tried to induce the poet to take more serious interest in politics, but without effect; his letters and journals evince hardly a trace of sympathy or regard for the great events which were stirring the heart of Christendom; and it seems to have been for him too great a sacrifice of pleasure to attend frequently even as a listener any long debate in the House of Lords. His second speech did not attract much notice; and with all his pretentious vows of zeal for liberty, he was a soldier that, without encouragement of fife and drum, could not be got to march. His time was spent for the most part in flattering pretty women, or being flattered by them; and by his own account he was not sure with which of them he was most in love. Lamb grew tired of his airs of self-importance, and laughed at his wife's exaggerated estimate of his perfections. If sometimes provoked at her misplaced friendship, he anticipated that it would soon wear out; and sighed only at the illusion he was unable to dispel. He knew better what Byron was than she could ever know, and felt secure that ere very long he would declare himself bored, and betake himself to other company. There was another circumstance which no doubt influenced him, but of which few were aware. Byron had in confidence told Lady Melbourne his intention and desire to form a matrimonial alliance, in order that he might settle down at Newstead and take the part that became him in public life. Would she advise him? Did she not know every one worth knowing in the sphere out of which he did not care to wed? Would she not save him from the daughters of Heth? To the mind of the old lady thus consulted no connection seemed more suitable than one with her young relative, the daughter of Sir Noel Milbanke, who, besides many other attractions, possessed a considerable fortune, and was heiress to the barony of Wentworth in her own right. Without professing to fall in love the poet offered her his hand. It was refused, but with so much kindness, and even compliment, that he readily agreed that they should continue friends, and upon indifferent subjects correspond.
At Cheltenham, then in highest vogue, many of those with whom he was most intimate-the Hollands, Cowpers, Jerseys, Oxfords, and Melbournes - passed September pleasantly. Lady Melbourne had more leisure there; she listened to his wandering talk and gave him good advice. Whatever it was, he believed it sound and wise. On receipt of a letter from her not long afterwards he wrote,
"I have had a letter from Lady Melbourne, the best friend I ever had in my life, and the cleverest of women. I write with most pleasure to her, and her answers are so sensible, so tactique. I never met with half her talent. If she had been a few years younger what a fool she would have made of me, had she thought it worth her while, and I should have lost a valuable and most agreeable friend.”1
The Corsair was followed by Lara. The hero of the latter, writes Ward, “is just the same sort of gloomy, haughty, mysterious villain as Childe Harold, the Giaour, the Corsair, and all the rest. There is a strange mixture of fertility and barrenness. One would think it was easier to invent a new character than to describe the old one over and over again.”2
On the 20th of April, 1814, the King of France entered London accompanied by the prince regent, who went to meet him at Stanmore. The Duke of Montrose, master of the horse, and Viscount Melbourne, were in attendance. A vast concourse of all classes awaited their arrival in town, and the populace, they scarce knew why (except that they had a certain notion that the end of the weary war was near), vociferously bade the Bourbon god-speed on his way back to Paris. Later on, the allied sovereigns came to thank in person the royal representative of England's constancy and courage, which had stood fast for them and theirs when all else in Europe quailed. For weeks London was in carnival. Rejoicings and festivities never ceased; and those who, through evil report and good report, had helped to sustain the policy thus crowned at last with triumph, could not but feel, as Lamb confessed he did, historic exultation. He was very proud of his country, and not a little proud of having never despaired of its success. When all their other visits were paid the czar and the King of Prussia went with the regent to inspect the great naval arsenals, and were entertained by the officers of the fleet.
'Byron's diary, Nov. 13th and 17th, 1813. Letter to Bishop of Llandaff, July 7th, 1814.
On leaving Portsmouth for Goodwood, early | tery to address to his peevish and hypochonon the 25th of June, their majesties were driacal friend the lines beginning—
received at breakfast by the Duke of Richmond. In the afternoon they visited Lord Egremont at Petworth, where a brilliant company, including Lord and Lady Melbourne and William Lamb, awaited them. Thence they proceeded to Dover, and embarked next day.
"And sayest thou, Cara," &c., in which, to excuse the discontinuance of his visits, he tells her that in fact he is thinking of nobody else, and apologizes for conjugal perfidy by the assurance that "falsehood to all else is truth to thee." The only palliation that can be suggested for all the inconsistent, By letters patent of the 11th of August, exaggerated, and indefensible freaks in rhyme 1815, Lord Melbourne was created a peer of of which poor Lady Caroline was the theme, the United Kingdom, as Baron Melbourne of is the poetic license Byron gave himself of Melbourne in the county of Derby. He took treating esthetically the impulse of the hour the oaths and his seat on the 5th of February, without the least regard to what had gone 1816. Early in this year Lord Byron had mar- before or was to follow after, and with entire ried Miss Milbanke with the advice and ap- indifference to the obligations of delicacy and proval of Lady Melbourne, and in spite of of truth. The world has already heard too many petulant warnings of evil to come from much of his ill-starred union, and how, during Lady Caroline. Her cousin might be learned, its brief continuance, he was willing to have and pious, and philosophical, but she was quite it believed that he still valued the society of unsuited for a soul that was all sensibility Lady Caroline more than that of his wife. and romance. It would never do; she was During Lady Caroline's temporary stay in Irequite sure of that. A woman that went to land a correspondence was kept up between church punctually, understood statistics, and them in prose and verse. At length, on learnhad a bad figure; how could Conrad find any ing that she was about returning to England, real community of sentiment with such a Byron resolved to put an end to all future combeing? But the real grievance was that munication; and did so in a letter which bore Byron could no longer be a lord-in-waiting to on its seal the coronet and initials of Lady Oxher majesty expectant of Whitehall. Ere ford, whom he knew she disliked. Before she long he heard of her complainings at his ab-recovered from the illness that ensued he had sence and alienation; and he had the effron- quitted England, and they met no more.
LADY WILDE (SPERANZA).
received at the Nation office a copy of verses which were signed by the nom de plume "Speranza," but which gave no indication of the real name of the author. From time to time other verses came from the same hand in the same mysterious manner. These poems by a new writer attracted a vast amount of attention even in the pages which were then made bright by so many brilliant poets, and the verses of "Speranza" became more welcome than those of any other writer of the time. "Speranza,” moreover, was not only a maker of poems, but there also came from her hand some of the most daring, effective, and vehement prose articles of the Nation. One of the articles, attributed to "Speranza's" pen, was the well-known one, headed Jacta alea est,
[In the course of the year 1847 Gavan Duffy | which created more sensation than anything that had previously appeared in the Nation, and was one of those produced on the trial of Gavan Duffy. After some months of mystification Mr. Duffy was invited by Speranza to pay a visit to a house in Leeson Street, and there the editor of the Nation, brought face to face with the contributor, found to his surprise that "Speranza" was not a man but a lady in her early youth.
Jane Francesca Elgee-such was "Speranza's" name-had been brought up amid surroundings of intense Conservatism, and indeed, when the immense funeral procession that marked the admiration in which Thomas Davis was held, passed by her window, she did not know who that great poet was. Some time after this she got hold of The Spirit of the Nation,
containing poems by Dalton Williams; her imagination was fired; her patriotic feelings aroused, and thus she became a national poetess.
Miss Elgee comes of a family which is well known, and had already obtained high distinction in several paths of Irish life. The Elgees were originally an Italian race, descended, it is said, from the Algiati of Florence. The first of the family that came to Ireland was the great-grandfather of the poetess, and the name, which had undergone many mutations up to that period, finally settled into its present form. Her grandfather, Archdeacon Elgee, rector of Wexford, played a remarkable part in the days of the rebellion, and on account of his popularity was left scatheless by the rebels of his time. Her mother, Sara Kingsbury, was the daughter of Dr. Thomas Kingsbury, Commissioner of Bankrupts, who in his day was the owner of the well-known mansion Lisle House, Dublin. Her uncle Sir Charles Ormsby, Baronet, was a member of the last Irish parliament; Sir Robert M'Clure, the discoverer of the North-west passage, of whose exploits an account has been given in another part of this work, was a first cousin; and she is also a relative of Maturin, the author of Bertram. Her only brother, Judge Elgee, was one of the most distinguished members of the American bar. In 1851 Miss Elgee became the wife of Dr. Wilde, afterwards Sir William Wilde, who died a few years ago in Dublin, after he had held for many years an eminent position in his profession.
Lady Wilde has been a contributor to literature constantly throughout her life, and her later as well as her earlier poems have been almost exclusively devoted to the noble theme of national regeneration. A volume of her poetry has been published by Duffy, and in addition to her original verses, the book contains translations from nearly every European language. Unfortunately up to the present there has been no collection of her essays, which are scattered in rich abundance over periodical literature; but this neglect is about to be remedied, for a volume of her prose writings is in preparation. By Irishmen at home and abroad she is acknowledged as the national poetess of her time, and the specimens of her verses that we give below will easily explain the strong influence they wielded in days of political excitement, and which they still retain wherever the Irish people are to be found.
Lady Wilde recently published a pamphlet on the Irish in America, which has attracted great attention on both sides of the Atlantic. She has also published several translations of French and German works, amongst others, Sidonia the Sorceress, from the German, which has been reprinted in America; and a very remarkable philosophical novel from the German, entitled The First Temptation, or Eritis sicut Deus, in three volumes.]
My country, wounded to the heart,
The thunder-clouds that round thee roll,
She flung her triumphs to the stars
In glorious chants for freedom won, While over Pharaoh's gilded cars
The fierce, death-bearing waves rolled on; I can but look in God's great face, And pray him for our fated race, To come in Sinai thunders down, And, with his mystic radiance, crown Some prophet-leader, with command To break the strength of Egypt's band, And set thee free, Loved Ireland!
New energies, from higher source,
Must make the strong life-currents flow, As Alpine glaciers in their course
Stir the deep torrents 'neath the snow. The woman's voice dies in the strife Of Liberty's awakening life; We wait the hero heart to lead, The hero, who can guide at need, And strike with bolder, stronger hand, Though towering hosts his path withstand, Thy golden harp, Loved Ireland!
For I can breathe no trumpet call,
To make the slumb'ring soul arise;
I only lift the funeral-pall,
That so God's light might touch thine eyes,
1 This and the following extracts are made by permission of the authoress.
And ring the silver prayer-bell clear,
THE YEAR OF REVOLUTIONS.
Lift up your pale faces, ye children of sorrow,
These words shall they burn-shall they waken in vain?
No! soul answers soul, steel flashes on steel,
When France reads her rights by the flames of a
And the crashing of thrones 'neath their fierce The palm for each martyr that dies for us now; exultations,
Spite the flash of their muskets, the roar of their cannon,
And the cry of humanity cleaving the ether,
With hymns of the conquering rising togetherGod, Liberty, Truth! How they burn heart and brain
God's angels will smile on their death-hour of pain.
Who strikes with the bravest and leads with the
Who brings the proud light of a name great in story,
To guide us through danger unconquered to glory.
Shall we fear and falter to join the grand chorus,
With faith like the Hebrew's we'll stem the Red
God! smite down the Pharaohs-our trust is in
Be it blood of the tyrant or blood of the slave,
The assassins of Freedom shall lower their pennon;
THE FAMINE YEAR.
Weary men, what reap ye?-Golden corn for the
Fainting forms, hunger-stricken, what see you in the offing?
Stately ships to bear our food away, amid the stranger's scoffing.
There's a proud array of soldiers-what do they round your door?
hands of the poor.
At the voice of the people the weak symbols fall, They guard our masters' granaries from the thin
Pale mothers, wherefore weeping?-Would to God that we were dead
Little children, tears are strange upon your infant faces,
All, all who oppose the stern will of a nation;
Oh! we know not what is smiling, and we know not what is dying;
We'll conquer! we'll conquer! No tears for the But we're hungry, very hungry, and we cannot dying, stop our crying.
The portal to Heaven be the field where they're And some of us grow cold and white—we know lying. not what it means; We'll conquer! we'll conquer! No tears for the But, as they lie beside us, dreams.
tremble in our
slain, VOL. IV