Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 3.djvu/14

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PREFACE TO THE THIRD VOLUME.

characteristically Byronic, preceded maturity and achievement.

No poet of his own or other times, not Walter Scott, not Tennyson, not Mr. Kipling, was ever in his own lifetime so widely, so amazingly popular. Thousands of copies of the "Tales"—of the Bride of Abydos, of the Corsair, of Lara—were sold in a day, and edition followed edition month in and month out. Everywhere men talked about the "noble author"—in the capitals of Europe, in literary circles in the United States, in the East Indies. He was "the glass of fashion ... the observ'd of all observers," the swayer of sentiment, the master and creator of popular emotion. No other English poet before or since has divided men's attention with generals and sea-captains and statesmen, has attracted and fascinated and overcome the world so entirely and potently as Lord Byron.

It was Childe Harold, the unfinished, immature Childe Harold, and the Turkish and other "Tales," which raised this sudden and deafening storm of applause when the century was young, and now, at its close (I refer, of course, to the Tales, not to Byron's poetry as a whole, which, in spite of the critics, has held and still holds its own), are ignored if not forgotten, passed over if not despised—which but few know thoroughly, and "very few" are found to admire or to love. Ubi lapsus, quid feci? might the questioning spirit of the author exclaim with regard to his "Harrys and Larrys, Pilgrims and