chapter  57
26 Pages

John Morley on Byron and the Revolution

[1870] 1871

John Morley, historian, politician, and man of letters. His essay on Lord Byron appeared in the Fortnightly Review in December 1870, and was reprinted, with some amplification, in his Critical Miscellanies, 1871. An estimate of Byron would be in some sort a measure of the distance that we have travelled within the last half century in our appreciation of the conditions of social change. The modern rebel is at least half acquiescence. More attention is paid to the mysteries of Byron's life than to the merits of his work, and criticism and morality are equally injured by the confusion between the worth of the verse he wrote, and the virtue or wickedness of the life he lived. Byron elaborated the common emotion, as the earliest modern poets elaborated the common speech. The Revolution was the battle of Will against the social forces of a dozen centuries. Everlasting protest, impetuous energy of will, melancholy and despondent reaction;—this is the revolutionary course.