chapter  60
19 Pages

Arnold on Byron

1850–88

Percy Bysshe Shelley knew quite well the difference between the achievement of such a poet as Lord Byron and his own. He praises Byron too unreservedly, but he sincerely felt, and he was right in feeling, that Byron was a greater poetical power than himself. To the poetry of Byron the world has ardently paid homage; full justice from his contemporaries, perhaps even more than justice, his torrent of poetry received. The power of Byron's personality lies in 'the splendid and imperishable excellence which covers all his offences and outweighs all his defects: the excellence of sincerity and strength.' With Raphael's character Byron's sins of vulgarity and false criticism would have been impossible, just as with Raphael's art Byron's sins of common and bad workmanship. The praise often given to Byron has been so exaggerated as to provoke, perhaps, a reaction in which he is unduly disparaged.