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NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE. FEBRUARY 1, 1819.
ORIGINAL COMMUNICATIONS. OBSERVATIONS ON LORD BYRON'S JU- lic has resulted from circumstances altoVENILE POEMS, WITH SPECIMENS. gether distinct from those which have
THERE never was a poet who made procured for Mr. Scott the temporary such rapid and successful advances in his homage he has enjoyed. In fact the one literary career as Lord Byron. In the is the complete antithesis of the other; short period of ten years, he has ac- Lord Byron being all strength, conden. quired more popularity than any author sation, and grandeur, whilst Mr. Scott upon record, in a similar space of time. possesses little energy, and few, if any, That he may be indebted to the ca
of those recondite excellencies so pecupricious dominion of Fashion for some liar to the writings of his noble cotemshare of the extraordinary attention porary: He is, however, remarkable with which his productions have been for a facility of composition- a certain honored is a point upon which it is terseness of expression, adapted to the scarcely worth while to contend: But, meanest comprehensions, and an easy, if even admitting this to be the case, we not an elegant manner, of relating his see no reason to think meanly of his fable, which renders him acceptable to a talents, because he happens to have con- great proportion of his readers, who ciliated the applause of the frivolous, as
like him better, inasmuch as he is sooner well as the more sensible orders of society. understood, than many others, with On the contrary, we conceive it to afford whom, as a poet, he cannot be put in the strongest presumption, if not the competition. His descriptions, also, are most positive proof; of the wonderful of a superior order, when they are not versatility of his genius; since, with the ruined by excessive amplification. Poetry, power of securing to himself the admi- to be really good, should leave some ration of all classes of readers, he must thing to the imagination; for, like a needs possess qualifications of no ordi- well dressed woman, it is always more nary description: and though it is a admirable when its beauties are only notorious fact, that writers of very partially revealed. But Mr. Scott, if he trifling merit do, occasionally,“ through lights upon an ingenious thought, will the idle buzz of the beau monde, the venal not let it go, till it has lost the greater part puff, and the soothing flattery of favor of its effect by being dilated through or friendship,” rise to a reputation as half a dozen quarto pages. He seems sudden as undeserved, yet, we must not fearful of ever meeting with another, therefore infer, that every writer who and determined not to quit that which may chance to attract the immediate floats in his pericranium, so long as a notice of those would be thought wise- line more can be spun from it. In the in common with those who are so-is picturesque part of his art, he is minute alike ephemeral and insignificant. We even to trifling, and may be said scarcely are not to suppose, that, because “the to leave a blade of grass unnoticed*; wild slogans of border feuds,” with which whilst the living objects of his drama Mr. Scott has administered to the ro- are, not unfrequently, sketched in a mancing appetite of the public for so coarse and imperfect manner; and seem many years, have fallen into disrepute; to interest their beholders more by their the manly, dignified, and nervous poetry bodily exertions than any feelings or of Lord Byron will also fall into ob- passions with which they may be suplivion; or that the sterling currency of posed to be inspired. The trath is, that the one will cease to be admitted, be- Mr. Scott knows nothing of the anatomy cause the counterfeits of the other have of the soul; and, therefore, whatever undergone their ordeal, and been de- may be his powers for engaging the tected. It will perhaps be argued, that curiosity of his readers, he seldom inakes the popularity of these two poets has any very deep impression on their hearts. arisen from similar causes,and that, conse
Yet, with all these deficiencies, he has quently, they are both decreed to fall by been honored with a more than common the fiat which lifted them to light. This share of the public approbation. His we deny. The estimation in which style is, as we have before hinted, sufLord Byron's poetry is held by the pub- ficiently clear and obvious to suit the Now MONTHLY MAG.-No.61.
VOL. XI. B
most common capacity; and his Poems and children of the sun;" and whilst have generally enough of incident to their aberrations are those of an exrender them entertaining; to this- panded and lofty intellect, their better combined with the inordinate puffing of qualities gain such a hold upon our the Edinburgh Reviewers -- can we alone attention, that we almost forget to reascribe the unmerited success which he gard the darker shades of their charachas met with. We will now turn to ters with that abhorrence, with which, Lord Byron; and endeavour to shew perhaps, they ought, sometimes, to be from what his popularity has arisen, and contemplates. But this is the fault, not why it is likely to be durable. The cha- of the Poet but of his genius. He racter of his poetry has been so fre- sought to fix upon some theme that quently laid before the public, that a would afford ample scope for the display repetition of it here could not but be of his powers, and he has succeeded to considered as superfluous; we shall, there. a miracle; for it may be aflirmed, with fore, only offer such general observations truth, that there are no heroes, in the as we consider necessary to illustrate our whole compass of poetry, so exclusively meaning, in the comparison we have attractive as his. To tread with thought proper to institute.
safety such slippery ground affords Lord Byron is the reverse of Mr. the strongest evidence of the surprising Scott in all his excellencies and defects. extent of his powers; and that he who In the first place, he is, without doubt, appeared to write only for posterity the most original poet of the day; and should acquire the imncdiate and tuthe most condensed and forcible writer multuous approbation of the world, is of any age.
He does not, like the a fact as honorable to himself as confirBorder Minstrel, wire-draw his beauties, matory of his excellence; more partibecause there is no necessity for it; he cularly when we recollect the despicable has abundance of them at his disposal, attacks which certain critical drudges of and can, consequently, well afford to be the press-froin mere envy of his talents profuse. His conceptions present them- -have, at various times, made upon his selves before us, warm from the mint fame. Notwithstanding the revilings of of his imagination, and if one or two Scotch Reviewerg--the atrocious calumchance sometimes to be stamped awry, nies of English Newspapers-and the we should take into consideration the • low whispers of the as paltry few," number of the impression, and the ex he still continues to enjoy undiminished pedition with which they have been reputation as an author. produced; and not quarrel with him for It is singular enough, that the Critics, not stopping to re-mould such as happen by whom Mr. Scott has been so deified, to be misshapen. That the Bard of Ha were the very individuals who strove to rold is occasionally less perspicuous than blast with their pestilential breath Lord he might be, we are free to allow : pos- Byron's first fruits of promise; and it sessed of the most exquisite perceptive is perhaps partly from this circumstance, faculties himself, be judges of other peo- that we have been induced to make ple's discernment by his own; and seems mention of Mr. Scott at all. to consider a gem not the less valuable In the year 1898, Lord Brron pubfor its want of polish: but he should also lished a Volume of Jurenile Poems, of remember, that it is only a lapidary who the merits of which the subjoined excan estimate the value of the unwrought tracts will bear sufficient testimony. diamond. There are, however, many That they contain errors will readily be excuses to be offered for the sort of supposed. The productions of a youth, negligence to which we allude. Lord from the age of fourteen to eighteen, Byron's attention appears to be princi- could rut be expected to exhibit an equal pally engaged in producing great effects; portion of talent with those of his more and provided he accomplish the end he mature years. That they presented the has in view, he seems to care little or most positive indications of what might nothing about the minor embellishments be expected from him is a point we have of art. His dramatis persone are few, only once seen di-pated; and then, by a and those of the very first consequence; tribunal of whose critical acumen we and they excite our sympathies, not hy had never a very exalted opinion :-we the singularity of their situations, but mean the Edinburgh Review. The by the intensity of their feelings and feelings and genius of the author were passions. They have none of the namby trifies these greybeards never thought pamby negative good qualities of Mr. it worth their while to attend to. It Scott's “ gentle Knights." They are, on was enough for them that he was a Lord, the other hand, "souls made of fire, and the very slight impulse they had to