Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 3.djvu/251

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219
THE CORSAIR.

amatory and piratical, prefigured and inspired the "gestes" of Conrad. The tale must be taken for what it is worth; but it is to be remarked that it affords a clue to Byron's mysterious entries in a journal which did not see the light till 1830, five years after the "English Gentleman" published his volumes of gossiping anecdote. It may, too, be noted that, although, in his correspondence of 1810, 1811, there is no mention of any tour among the "Isles of Greece," in a letter to Moore dated February 2, 1815 (Letters, 1899, iii. 176), Byron recalls "the interesting white squalls and short seas of Archipelago memory."

How far Byron may have drawn on personal experience for his picture of a pirate chez lui, it is impossible to say; but during the year 1809-11, when he was travelling in Greece, the exploits of Lambros Katzones and other Greek pirates sailing under the Russian flag must have been within the remembrance and on the lips of the islanders and the "patriots" of the mainland. The "Pirate's Island," from which "Ariadne's isle" (line 444) was visible, may be intended for Paros or Anti-Paros.

For the inception of Conrad (see Canto I. stanza ii.), the paradoxical hero, an assortment rather than an amalgam of incongruous characteristics, Byron may, perhaps, have been in some measure indebted to the description of Malefort, junior, in Massinger's Unnatural Combat, act i. sc. 2, line 20, sq.

"I have sat with him in his cabin a day together,

· · · · · · ·

Sigh he did often, as if inward grief
And melancholy at that instant would
Choke up his vital spirits. . . .
 When from the maintop
A sail's descried, all thoughts that do concern
Himself laid by, no lion pinched with hunger
Rouses himself more fiercely from his den,
Then he comes on the deck; and then how wisely
He gives directions," etc.

The Corsair, together with the Bride of Abydos, was reviewed by Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review of April, 1814, vol. xxiii. p. 198; and together with Lara, by George Agar Ellis in the Quarterly Review of July, 1814, vol. ii. p. 428.