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Lord Byron
by [?]

And yet as we review the life of this man, “the lame brat” of his mother, as this mother called him, and behold the whirlwind of passion that swept him on, the fulsome praise, the shrill outcry of hypocritical prudes and pedants, the torrent of abuse, and the piling up of sins that he never committed (and God knows he committed enough!); and yet behold his craving for tenderness, the reaching out for truth, and hear his earnest and unquenchable prayer to be understood and loved, we blot out the record of his sins with our tears. To know the life of Byron and not be moved to profoundest pity marks one as alien to his kind.

“God is on the side of the most sensitive,” said Thoreau. And did there ever tread the earth a man more sensitive than Byron?–such capacity for suffering, such exaltation, such heights, such depths! Music made him tremble and weep, and in the presence of kindness he was powerless. He lived life to its fullest, and paid the penalty with shortened years. He expressed himself without reserve–being emancipated from superstition and precedent. And the man who is not dominated by the fetish of custom is marked for contumely by the many. Custom makes law, and the one who violates custom is “bad.” Yet all respectable people are not good; and all good people are not respectable. If you do not know this you are ignorant of life.

So imagine this handsome, headstrong, restless young man, in whose lexicon there was no such word as prudence, with time and money at his command, defying the state, society and religion, and listen to the anathemas that fill the air at mention of his name.

That a world full of such men would not be at all desirable is stern truth; but that one such man lived is a cause for congratulation. His life holds for us both warning and example.

Beneath the strain of the stuff and the onward swirl of his verse we see that this man stood for truth and justice as against hypocrisy and oppression. Folly and freedom are better far than smugness and persecution. Byron stood for the rights of the individual, for the right of free speech and free thought: and he stood for political and physical freedom, long before abolition societies became popular. He sided with the people; his heart went out to the oppressed; and all of his fruitless gropings and stumblings were a reaching out for tenderness and truth, for life and love–for the Ideal.

* * * * *

The father of Byron, the poet, was a captain in the army–a man of small mental ability, whose recklessness won him the sobriquet of “Mad Jack Byron.” When twenty-three years of age he eloped to France with the Baroness Conyers, wife of the Marquis of Carmarthen. Happiness, in a foreign country, for a woman who has exchanged one love for another is outside the pale of possibilities. Love is much–but love is not all. Life is too short to break family-ties and adjust one’s self to a new language and a new country. The change means death.

Two years and the woman died, leaving a daughter, Augusta by name, afterward Mrs. Augusta Leigh.

Back to England went Mad Jack Byron, broken-hearted, bearing in his arms the baby girl. Kind kinsmen, ready to forgive, cared for the child. Mad Jack didn’t remain broken-hearted long–what would you expect from a man? He sought sympathy among several discreet dames, and in two years we find him safely and legally married to Catherine Gordon. Scotch, and heiress to twenty-five thousand pounds. On the occasion of the wedding, Jack informed a friend that the fact of the lady’s being Scotch was forgiven in view of the dowry. Most of this fortune went into a rat-hole to help pay the debts of the Mad Jack.