chapter  63
3 Pages

Saintsbury on Byron’s second-rateness

1896

George E. B. Saintsbury, man of letters, Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature at Edinburgh University from 1895 to 1915. The rapidity of Lord Byron's success everywhere, the extent of it abroad, and the decline at home, are all easily connected with certain peculiarities of his work. The vogue of Byron in England, though overpowering for the moment, was even at its height resisted by some good judges and more strait-laced moralists; and it ebbed, if not as rapidly as it flowed, with a much more enduring movement. Indeed Sir W. Scott, with all his indifference to a strictly academic correctness, never permitted himself the bad rhymes, the bad grammar, the slip-shod phrase in which Byron unblushingly indulges. The Byronic hero has an ostentatious indifference to moral laws, for the most part a mysterious past which inspires him with deep melancholy, great personal beauty, strength, and bravery, and he is an all-conquering lover.