Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 3.djvu/257

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225
THE CORSAIR.

the most popular measure certainly; but as I did not deviate into the other from a wish to flatter what is called public opinion, I shall quit it without further apology, and take my chance once more with that versification, in which I have hitherto published nothing but compositions whose former circulation is part of my present, and will be of my future regret.

With regard to my story, and stories in general, I should have been glad to have rendered my personages more perfect and amiable, if possible, inasmuch as I have been sometimes criticised, and considered no less responsible for their deeds and qualities than if all had been personal. Be it so—if I have deviated into the gloomy vanity of "drawing from self," the pictures are probably like, since they are unfavourable: and if not, those who know me are undeceived, and those who do not, I have little interest in undeceiving. I have no particular desire that any but my acquaintance should think the author better than the beings of his imagining; but I cannot help a little surprise, and perhaps amusement, at some odd critical exceptions in the present instance, when I see several bards (far more deserving, I allow) in very reputable plight, and quite exempted from all participation in the faults of those heroes, who, nevertheless, might be found with little more morality than The Giaour, and perhaps—but no—I must admit Childe Harold to be a very repulsive personage; and as to his identity, those who like it must give him whatever "alias" they please.[1]

  1. ["It is difficult to say whether we are to receive this passage as an admission or a denial of the opinion to which it refers; but Lord Byron certainly did the public injustice, if he supposed it imputed to him the criminal actions with which many of his heroes were stained. Men no more expected to meet in Lord Byron the Corsair, who 'knew himself a villain,' than they looked for the hypocrisy of Kehama on the shores of the Derwent Water; yet even in the features of Conrad, those who had looked on Lord Byron will recognize the likeness—

     " 'To the sight
    No giant frame sets forth his common height;

    · · · · ·

    Sun-burnt his cheek, his forehead high and pale
    The sable curls in wild profusion veil. . . .' "

    Canto I. stanza ix.

    —Sir Walter Scott, Quart. Rev., No, xxxi. October, 1816.]