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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 3.djvu/182

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THE BRIDE OF ABYDOS.

and dishonouring — " To withdraw myself from myself^ he confides to his Diary (November 27), "has ever been my sole, my entire, my sincere motive for scribbling at all."

It is more than probable that in his twenty-sixth year Byron had not attained to perfect self-knowledge, but there is no reason to question his sincerity. That Byron loved to surround himself with mystery, and to dissociate himself from " the general," is true enough ; but it does not follow that at all times and under all circumstances he was insincere. " Once a posetir always a poseur^ is a rough-and- ready formula not invariably applicable even to a poet.

But the Bride of Abydos was a tonic as well as a styptic. Like the Giaour^ it embodied a personal experience, and recalled " a country replete with the darkest and brightest^ but always the most lively colours of my memory " {Diary ^ December 5, 1813).

In a letter to Gait (December 11, 1813, Letters, 1898, ii. 304, reprinted from Life of Byron, pp. 181, 182) Byron maintains that the first part of the Bride was drawn from " observations " of his own, " from existence." He had, it would appear, intended to make the story turn on the guilty love of a brother for a sister, a tragic incident of hfe in a Harem, which had come under his notice during his travels in the East, but "on second thoughts" had reflected that he lived "two centuries at least too late for the subject," and that not even the authority of the " finest works of the' Greeks," or of Schiller (in the Bride of Messina), or of Alfieri ' (in Mirra), " in modern times," would sanction the intrusion ' of the fiKT-nrhv into English literature. The early drafts and variants of the MS. do not afford any evidence of this alteration of the plot which, as Byron thought, was detrimental to the poem as a work of art, but the undoubted fact that the Bride of Abydos, as well as the Giaour, embody recollections of actual scenes and incidents which had burnt themselves into the memory of an eye-witness, accounts not only for the fervent heat at which these Turkish tales were written, but for the extraordinary glamour which they threw over contemporary readers, to whom the local colouring was new and attractive, and who were not out of conceit with good Monsieur Melancholy."