It was evident that he was a prey to some cureless disquiet; but whether it arose from ambition, love, remorse, grief from one or all of these, or merely from a morbid temperament akin to disease, I could not discover: there were circumstances alleged which might have justified the application to each of these causes; but, as I have before said, these were so contradictory and contradicted, that none could be fixed upon with accuracy. Where there is mystery, it is generally supposed that there must also be evil: I know not how this may be, but in him there certainly was the one, though I could not ascertain the extent of the other--and felt loth, as far as regarded himself, to believe in its existence.
From a Fragment of a Novel by BYRON
The only hope of treating Byron's life and work with any degree of freshness is to return to the poems, letters, and other personal records. If we then keep our critical attention fixed on the original documents, we may find it possible to ignore most of the commentaries, partial judgments, and subsidiary scandals which for more than a hundred years have obscured the real issues. For these are primarily poetical: Byron intended from his boyhood to be a poet, proceeded to write several substantial volumes of verse, and even during his lifetime was acclaimed a universal genius. At the same time, owing to various incidental features of his life--his social rank, his personal beauty, his numerous love affairs, his private vices and public virtues--the Byronic legend was invented; and ever since Byron the Poet and Byron the Symbolic Figure have existed side by side in the public imagination, the symbol gradually becoming an excuse for neglecting the poetry, and the poetry an excuse for investing the symbol with false sentiment. In Byron's case, even