Sir Walter Scott's eulogy for Lord Byron 1824

Scott first met Byron at Murray's hosue in London. From this first meeting, they formed a great friendship that was to last until Byron's unexpected death in 1824. Scott wrote this eulogy in memory of his friend. In it he recognises that everyone has their faults, but insists that it is Byron's genius that should be remembered.


Copyright National Library of Scotland

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in its glory, and incalculable in its consequences. Certain it is, that
a nation who may well pride herself on so many great sons will place
Byron, all radiant as he is, by the side of those who have done most
honour to her name.’

The following is a letter written by Sir Walter Scott, a few days
after the news of Lord Byron's death reached England :

‘Amidst the general calmness of the political atmosphere, we have
been stunned from another quarter by one of those death-notes which
are pealed at intervals, as from an archangel's trumpet, to awaken
the soul of a whole people at once. Lord Byron, who has so long
and so amply filled the highest place in the public eye, has shared the
lot of humanity. His lordship died at Missolonghi on the 19th of
April. That mighty genius which walked amongst men as something
superior to ordinary mortality, and whose powers were beheld with
wonder, and something approaching to terror, as if we knew not
whether they were of good or of evil, is laid as soundly to rest as the
poor peasant whose ideas never went beyond his daily task. The
voice of just blame and of malignant censure are at once silenced ; and
we feel almost as if the great luminary of heaven had suddenly dis-
appeared from the sky, at the moment when every telescope was
levelled for the examination of the spots which dimmed its brightness.
It is not now the question what were Byron's faults, what his mistakes ;
but how is the blank which he has left in British literature to be filled
up? Not, we fear, in one generation, which, among many highly-
gifted persons, has produced none who approach Byron in originality,
the first attribute of genius. Only thirty-seven years old ;— so much
already done for immortality — so much time remaining, as it seems to
us short-sighted mortals, to maintain and to extend his fame, and to
atone for errors in conduct and levities in composition ;— who will not
grieve that such a race has been shortened, though not always keep-
ing the straight path — such a light extinguished, though sometimes
flaming to dazzle and to bewilder? One word on this ungrateful sub-
ject ere we quit it for ever.

‘The errors of Lord Byron arose neither from depravity of heart —
for Nature had not committed the anomaly of uniting to such extra-
ordinary talents an imperfect moral sense — nor from feelings dead to
the admiration of virtue. No man had ever a kinder heart for sym-
pathy, or a more open hand for the relief of distress ; and no mind
was ever more formed for the enthusiastic admiration of noble actions,
providing he was convinced that the actors had proceeded upon disin-