S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.
[George Gordon Noel, born 1788; published Hours of Idleness, 1807, and, after a tour in Europe, two cantos of Childe Harold; left England for the Continent, 1816, and produced in Italy many of his finest poems; engaged in the Greek war of independence, and died of fever at Missolonghi, April 19, 1824.]
After the publication of the first two cantos of Childe Harold: quoted, from memoranda, by Moore (Life of Byron). It was thought that in this poem he described himself; but he said, I would not for the world be a man like my hero.
He once said to Count Gamba, father of the Countess Guiccioli, Poetry should only occupy the idle.
Some of his sayings on politics indicate the liberal tendency of his mind. After the battle of Waterloo, he remarked of the English foreign secretary, I didnt know but I might live to see Castlereaghs head on a pole, but I shant now. Not relishing the position he occupied as a member of an unpopular opposition, he bitterly exclaimed, I have simplified my politics into an utter detestation of all existing governments; but, on the other hand, Come what may, I will never flatter the millions canting in any shape.
From a letter. The truth of this saying is illustrated by a passage from Wraxalls Memoirs, quoted by Jennings (Anecdotal History of Parliament): Sir Philip Francis said of a regulation in Pitts India Bill, abolishing trial by jury in the case of delinquents returning from India: Had the experiment been made when the illustrious statesman, the late Earl of Chatham, enjoyed a seat in this assembly, he would have sprung from the bed of sickness, he would have solicited some friendly hand to lay him on the floor, and thence, with a monarchs voice, he would have called the whole kingdom to arms to oppose it. But he is dead, and has left nothing in the world that resembles him. He is dead! and the sense, the honor, the character, and the understanding of the nation are dead with him. The repetition of the words, he is dead, adds Wraxall, was delivered with the finest effect; and the reflections produced by it involuntarily attracted every eye towards the treasury-bench, where sat his son.
Byrons last words were, I must sleep now.
Goethe expressed, in his conversations with Eckermann and others, great admiration for Byron. There is no padding, he said, in his poetry (Es sind keine Flickwörter im Gedichte). He made Byron an exception to his statement, Modern poets put too much water in their ink (Neuere Poeten thun viel Wasser in die Tinte). The mot is, however, not Goethes, but is taken directly from Sternes Koran, II., 142, who directed it against the poets of the early part of the eighteenth century, especially Pope. But, on the other hand, Goethe declared that Byron was always a self-tormentor, recalling the English poets allusion to the self-torturing sophist, wild Rousseau.Childe Harold, III., 77. Again Goethe said of him, The moment he reflects, he is a child (So bald er reflectirt, ist er ein Kind).