chapter  61
4 Pages

W. E. Henley on Byron

[1881] 1890

W. E. Henley, poet, journalist and man of letters, reviewed Matthew Arnold's selection of the Poetry of Lord Byron in the Athenaeum, 25 June 1881. This review was reprinted in revised form as an essay on Byron in Views and Reviews, 1890. Byron is the most romantic figure in the literature of the century, and his romance is of that splendid and daring cast which the people of Britain—'an aristocracy materialised and null, a middle class purblind and hideous, a lower class crude and brutal'—prefers to regard with suspicion and disfavour. Meanwhile, however, the genius and the personality of Byron had come to be vital influences all the world over, and his voice had been recognised as the most human and the least insular raised on English ground since William Shakespeare's. Byron and William Wordsworth are like the Lucifer and the Michael Angelo of The Vision of Judgment.