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BYRON'S FAREWELL TO HIS WIFE

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farewell, thinking that it might counteract the rumors that were in circulation against him, sent it to a newspaper. But the public regarded it as an attempt to prejudice them against the wife by representing her as harsh and unforgiving, while he on his side was willing to be reconciled; and when it was followed soon after by the scathing sketch of Mrs. Clermont, the maid whom he suspected of poisoning Lady Byron's mind against him, the outcry became loud and indignant, and the poet, burning under a sense of injustice, but roused at . last to return scorn for scorn, went off once more on a pilgrimage from England, vowing never to return.

Once more, after his four years of sunshine, in revolt against society, distempered,

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“Like sweet bells jangled, harsh and out of tune,"

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Byron became the exponent of the restlessness, the discontent, the passionate longings of a time that was, like himself, "out of joint." And the greatest of his works were written during the remaining eight years of his life, before he perished in the Greek war of independence, and the extent of these, quite apart from their quality, is a standing sufficient answer to the exaggerated reports that were circulated about him in the country from which he had withdrawn. I am glad to see that Mrs. Oliphant, in her recent work on the “ English Literature from 1790 to 1825," written with most admirable judgment, breadth of sympathy, and easy mastery of her materials, does not incline to a very prevalent impression that Byron's reputation is on the wane. In purely literary circles no doubt it has been for a generation or more, because it is the tendency now to judge poets mainly by their technical qualities, and it is not in minute finish or exactly interpretative felicity that Byron's strength lies. His feeling was too deep, bis thought too impetuous, to admit of his being a great

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verbal artist, like Tennyson or like Carlyle. We must take his achievement as a whole, if we wish to give him his due rank in literature. His singular sensitiveness to the impressions of his own immediate surroundings is against the permanence of his fame, because living as he did in a time of unrest and conflict, and reflecting these characters in his poetry, he is apt to appear hysterical, affected, and unreal to people who look at him out of a calmer atmosphere. On the other hand, the superficial inconsistencies of his character must always tempt critics who have a liking for difficult problems. He is like Hamlet in this respect, as I have elsewhere said before. In the desolation of his youth, in his moodiness, in his distempered variation between the extremes of laughter and tears, in his yearning for sympathy, his intensity of friendship, his fits of misanthropy, his habit of brooding over the mysteries of life, Byron unconsciously played the part of Hamlet with the world for his stage, and left a kindred problem for the wonder of mankind and the puzzled speculation of the curious in such matters.

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CHAPTER XVIII

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NOVELISTS FROM MRS, RADCLIFFE TO

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STERNE-MISS EDGEWORTH-HANNAH MORE-JANE AUSTEN

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I MENTIONED in a previous lecture on novelists that in the half century or more between Sterne—the last of the great group of novelists in the middle of the eighteenth century—and Scott, between “Tristram Shandy” and “Waverley,” the chief honors of novel-writing were carried off by women-Miss Burney, Mrs. Radcliffe, Miss Edgeworth, and Miss Austen. These four names stand out above the crowd as being not imitators, but writers of sufficient original genius and sufficiently fortunate in the novelty of their subjects to be ranked as leaders, as founders of schools or epochs in a small way. I have already spoken of the first two, whose triumphs lay within the eighteenth century ; I will now say a few words to indicate the historical position of Miss Edgeworth and Miss Austen.

Miss Edgeworth was about four years older than Scott, being born in 1767, but she had fourteen years the start of him in reputation as a novelist. Her first notable production was “ Castle Rackrent," in the first year of the century, 1800, fourteen years before “Waverley.” It broke ground in a new field, afterward worked to excess by craftsmen and craftswomen of all degrees of merit ; it was a story of Irish life, a revelation to the English novel-readers of a new condition of society, a new range of character and emotion. Scott afterward said of Miss Edgeworth's Irish tales that they

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had done more to bind Irishmen and Englishmen together than the Union. She certainly elevated the character of the Irish peasantry in the interest of the world, showing the good and amiable qualities that underlay the too obvious indolence and thriftlessness and squalor—the gayety of heart, the readiness of wit, the tenacious steadfastness of attachment, the helpful generosity in distress. Miss Edgeworth was a realist, and she did not fail to put the unfavorable traits into her picture ; but she treated the failings of the Irish tenderly, as if she loved them on the whole. The Paddy of fiction and the stage is really her creation ; she is the author of his existence in literature, of the sly, ready-witted, fluent, faithful, and generous Paddy. Herself the daughter of an Irish landowner, Edgeworth of Edgeworthstown, she had not seen Ireland till she was sixteen, and was thus all the better fitted to be impressed with the peculiarities that might have escaped her notice if she had lived among them from infancy. She was brought very closely in contact with the poor people of Ireland as well as with the landed families of various ranks, for her father, an enthusiastic man of progress, full of eighteenth-century philanthropic and educational theories, and ever ready to make ingenious experiments of his own, having resolved to reside on his Irish estates, resolved also to get rid of middlemen as the curse of the land system, and employed his daughter practically as his steward and factor. For years of her life she had every day to grant interviews to her father's tenants, hear excuses and grievances, settle disputes, answer petitions; and on rent days more particularly her hands were full. Miss Edgeworth's knowledge of Irish life was thus most intimate, and she had a keen eye for the humorous side of it, while her observations were not permitted to degenerate into aimless caricature or disguised satire by good-sense and real sympathy with the people. “ Castle Rackrent” is the story of

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an Irish landed family, put into the mouth of an old steward who in his time had served several landlords of the stock in succession-Sir Patrick, Sir Murtagh, Sir Kit, and Sir Condey, men of different character, but all agreeing in doing their best, whether by lavish expenditure, gambling, or avaricious litigation, to help on the ruin consummated by the last of the series. The faithful old retainer admires them all with all their faults, and seen through his indulgent eyes their crimes and their follies, their freaks of wild expenditure, and their matter-of-course extortions from their tenantry, their love-making, their hospitality, their family quarrels, and the dealings all the time of the too faithful steward with the artful tenants, excite in the reader an extraor. dinary mixture of laughter and pity.

Miss Edgeworth never surpassed this her first work of note, and in some respects did not again come up to it. She had been engaged before with her father in writing stories for children, stories with a moral and educational purpose.

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age when Hannah More's tales, intended to counteract the influence of the French Revolution and teach the common people to rely upon the virtues of content, sobriety, humility, industry, reverence for the British Constitution, trust in God, and in the kindness of the gentry, were circulating in thousands and hundreds of thousands. It was natural that moralists, in a generation distinguished for its philanthropic endeavor, all the more conspicuous that philanthropy was a new passion among the upper classes—it was natural that in a generation which produced Wilberforce and Clarkson, the agitation for the abolition of the slave-trade, and the impeachment of Warren Hastings for the oppression of the Hindus, moralists should try to press into their service the revived art of story-telling, for the productions of which the reading public were so clamorous. Miss Edgeworth is sometimes called the inventor of the novel with a

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