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DON JUAN.

CANTO THE SIXTH.

VOL. 1.

B

INTRODUCTION TO CANTO THE SIXTH.

“The fifth canto," wrote Lord Byron, in February, 1821, “is so far from being the last of ‘Don Juan,' that it is hardly the beginning.". In July, however, of the same year, the Countess Guiccioli extorted from him a promise to stop short where he was. She had read the two first cantos in French, and when, in reply to her objections, he expressed his conviction that it would last longer than 'Childe Harold,' she replied, “Ah, but I would rather have the fame of Childe Harold' for three years, than an iinmortality of Don Juan.'" With this feeling she never ceased urging him to lay it aside, which sounds a singular sensitiveness of conscience in one who was pleased to live with him in open adultery. “It arises," wrote Lord Byron, “from the wish of all women to exalt the sentiments of the passions, and to keep up the illusion which is their empire. Now Don Juan' strips off this illusion, and laughs at that, and most other things. I never knew a woman who did not protect Rousseau, nor one who did not dislike De Grammont, Gil Blas, and all the comedy of the passions, when brought out naturally." There is profound sagacity in the explanation

Yet a mor

creditable motive may have had a share in the request, since people who are vanquished by their personal passions frequently retain the principles of right, and approve the better road while choosing the worse. It was with great reluctance that he yielded to her solicitations, for he had the plan for several cantos in his head, and had a high opinion of the merits of the work. Before a year had elapsed he had become a petitioner in his turn for a release from his promise, and he informed Mr. Murray in July, 1822, that he had permission from his dictatress to go on with the poem—" provided always that it was more guarded, decorous, and sentimental."

He composed with such vigour after his compulsory abstinence, that by the eighth of August he had completed the sixth and two following cantos, and the three were published together in July, 1823. The Countess cancelled the bond with no less regret than Lord Byron had given it, and Mr. West, an American artist, who painted his picture while these cantos were composing, heard her say that “she wished my lord would leave off writing that ugly 'Don Juan.'”. “I cannot,” he answered, give up my 'Don Juan. I do not know what I should do without my 'Don Juan.” To compensate, he imagined that he had complied with her conditions, and he informed Moore that the poem was immaculately decent. With a better knowledge of himself and his poem, he had said to Mr. Murray when “Don Juan menced, that'"if continued it must be in his own way," for this sixth canto, which was the first fruits of the compromise with the countess, though narrated with uncommon ingenuity and humour, is probably the most exceptionable of the whole. The lax morals and free conversation of the licentious people among whom he lived, had led him to substitute the Italian for the English standard of propriety.

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VIETA.-

PREFACE TO CANTOS VI. VII. AND VIII.

The details of the siege of Ismail in two of the following cantos (i. e. the seventh and eighth) are taken from a French Work, entitled “ Histoire de la Nouvelle Russie.”* Some of the incidents attributed to Don Juan really occurred, particularly the circumstance of his saving the infant, which was the actual case of the late Duc de Richelieu, then a young volunteer in the Russian service, and afterward the founder and benefactor of Odessa, + where his name and memory can never cease to be regarded with reverence.

(* " Essai sur l'Histoire ancienne et moderne de la Nouvelle Russie, par le Marquis Gabriel de Castelnau.” 3 tom. Paris, 1820.)

† ["Au commencement de 1803, le Duc de Richelieu fut nommé gouverneur d'Odessa. Quand le Duc vint en prendre l'administration, aucune rue n'y était formée, aucun établissement n'y était achevé. On y comptait à peine cinq mille habitans : onze ans plus tard, lorsqu'il s'en éloigna, on y en comptait trente-cinq milles. Les rues étaient tirées au cordean, plantées d'un double rang d'arbres ; et l'on y voyait tous les établissemens qu' exigent le culte, l'instruction, la commodité, et même les plaisirs des habitans. Un seul édifice public avait été négligé; le

gouverneur, dans cet oubli de lui-même, et cette simplicité de meurs qui distinguaient son caractère, n'avait rien voulu changer à modeste babitation qu'il avait trouvé en arrivant. Le commerce, débarassé d'entraves, avait pris l'essor le plus rapide à Odessa, tandis que la sécurité et la liberté de conscience y avaient promptement attiré la population.”—Biog. Univ.

Odessa is a very interesting place; and being the seat of government, and the only quarantine allowed except Caffa and Taganrog, is, though of very recent erection, already. wealthy and flourishing. Too much praise cannot be given to the Duke of Richelieu, to whose adminis. tration, not to any natural advantages, this town owes its prosperity BISHOP HEBER.]

B 2

In the course of these cantos, a stanza or two will be found relative to the late Marquis of Londonderry, but written some time before his decease. Had that person's oligarchy died with him, they would have been suppressed ; as it is, I am aware of nothing in the manner of his death * or of his life to prevent the free expression of the opinions of all whom his whole existence was consumed in endeavouring to enslave. That he was an amiable man in private life, may or may not be true: but with this the public have nothing to do; and as to lamenting his death, it will be time enough when Ireland has ceased to mourn for his birth. As a minister, I, for one of millions, looked upon him as the most despotic in intention, and the weakest in intellect, that ever tyrannised over a country. It is the first time indeed since the Normans that England has been insulted by a minister (at least) who could not speak English, and that parliament permitted itself to be dictated to in the language of Mrs. Malaprop.t

Of the manner of his death little need be said, except that if a poor radical, such as Waddington or Watson, had cut his throat, he would have been buried in a cross-road, with the usual appurtenances of the stake and mallet. But the minister was an elegant lunatic—a sentimental suicide-he merely cut the “carotid artery,” (blessings on their learning!) and lo! the pageant, and the Abbey ! and “the syllables of dolour yelled forth ” by the newspapers—and the haranguo of the Coroner # in a eulogy over the bleeding body of the deceased-(an Anthony worthy of such a Cæsar)—and the nauseous and atrocious cant of a degraded crew of conspirators against all that is sincere and honourable. In his

* (Robert, second Marquis of Londonderry, died, by liis own hand, at his seat at North Cray, in Kent, in August, 1822.]

† [See Sheridan's comedy of “The Rivals.”]

# [All that was eulogistic in the address of the Coroner is comprised in a couple of sentences: “As a public man it is impossible for me to weigh his character in any scales that I can hold. In private life I believe the world will admit that a more amiable man could not be found."']

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