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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Lord Byron

  • [George Gordon Noel, born 1788; published “Hours of Idleness,” 1807, and, after a tour in Europe, two cantos of “Childe Harold;” left England for the Continent, 1816, and produced in Italy many of his finest poems; engaged in the Greek war of independence, and died of fever at Missolonghi, April 19, 1824.]
  • I awoke one morning, and found myself famous.

  • After the publication of the first two cantos of “Childe Harold:” quoted, from memoranda, by Moore (“Life of Byron”). It was thought that in this poem he described himself; but he said, “I would not for the world be a man like my hero.”
  • He once said to Count Gamba, father of the Countess Guiccioli, “Poetry should only occupy the idle.”
  • Some of his sayings on politics indicate the liberal tendency of his mind. After the battle of Waterloo, he remarked of the English foreign secretary, “I didn’t know but I might live to see Castlereagh’s head on a pole, but I sha’n’t now.” Not relishing the position he occupied as a member of an unpopular opposition, he bitterly exclaimed, “I have simplified my politics into an utter detestation of all existing governments;” but, on the other hand, “Come what may, I will never flatter the millions’ canting in any shape.”
  • The best of prophets of the future is the past.

  • Compare the remark of Frederick von Schlegel: “The historian is a prophet looking backwards” (Der Historiker ist ein rückwärts gekehrter Prophet).—Athenæum, Berlin: I., 2, 20.
  • Friendship may and often does grow into love, but love never subsides into friendship.

    Like the measles, love is most dangerous when it comes late in life.

    The belief in the immortality of the soul is the only true panacea for the ills of life.

    Dead! God, how much there is in that little word!

  • From a letter. The truth of this saying is illustrated by a passage from Wraxall’s “Memoirs,” quoted by Jennings (“Anecdotal History of Parliament”): “Sir Philip Francis said of a regulation in Pitt’s India Bill, abolishing trial by jury in the case of delinquents returning from India: ‘Had the experiment been made when the illustrious statesman, the late Earl of Chatham, enjoyed a seat in this assembly, he would have sprung from the bed of sickness, he would have solicited some friendly hand to lay him on the floor, and thence, with a monarch’s voice, he would have called the whole kingdom to arms to oppose it. But he is dead, and has left nothing in the world that resembles him. He is dead! and the sense, the honor, the character, and the understanding of the nation are dead with him.’ The repetition of the words, ‘he is dead,’” adds Wraxall, “was delivered with the finest effect; and the reflections produced by it involuntarily attracted every eye towards the treasury-bench, where sat his son.”
  • Byron’s last words were, “I must sleep now.”
  • Goethe expressed, in his conversations with Eckermann and others, great admiration for Byron. “There is no padding,” he said, “in his poetry” (Es sind keine Flickwörter im Gedichte). He made Byron an exception to his statement, “Modern poets put too much water in their ink” (Neuere Poeten thun viel Wasser in die Tinte). The mot is, however, not Goethe’s, but is taken directly from Sterne’s “Koran,” II., 142, who directed it against the poets of the early part of the eighteenth century, especially Pope. But, on the other hand, Goethe declared that Byron “was always a self-tormentor,” recalling the English poet’s allusion to “the self-torturing sophist, wild Rousseau.”—Childe Harold, III., 77. Again Goethe said of him, “The moment he reflects, he is a child” (So bald er reflectirt, ist er ein Kind).