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THE

MONTHLY REVIEW.

AUGUST, 1830.

8vo. pp.

ART. 1.—Conversations on Religion, with Lord Byron and others,

held in Cephalonia, a short time previous to his Lordship’s death. By the late James Kennedy, M.D. of H. M. Medical Staff.

461. London: Murray. 1830. The interest that has been long felt by the public in every authentic work connected with the personal story of Lord Byron, has not yet, so far as we are able to judge, begun to decline. There are few of the sentiments of that gifted and unfortunate nobleman, with which the world is supposed to be better acquainted, than those sometimes expressed, and too often implied in his poetry, concerning the vital subject of religion. The general impression seems to be that he was an atheist, or at least a deist; that he yielded no belief to the Scriptures, and that like many others, he formed a system of government, if such it may be called, for the guidance of his morality, from which every restraint unpleasant to the passions was carefully excluded. This impression, we regret to say, is completely and unequivocally justified by the volume now before us.

We had entertained a hope, a slight one it must be confessed, that Mr. Moore might have had in reserve for his second volume, a page or two of evidence to shew that Lord Byron had not died in the ranks of utter infidelity. But Dr. Kennedy's testimony has put an extinguisher upon that slender ray of expectation.

That Lord Byron, with his mind unenlightened upon the subject, and his heart hardened by the course of dissipation, which, from his youth upwards, he incessantly pursued,-surrounded as he was during the greater part of his career, and particularly towards the close of it, by companions, if possible, more thoroughly corrupted in the ways of infidelity than himself, could nevertheless be induced to listen to instructions, and even long lectures, from a layman, upon the doctrines of Christianity, is ot' itself a fact of considerable importance in the history of religion. It is a species of homage

VOL. XIV,

NO, LX.

21

paid by ignorance and depravity to wisdom and truth;-an involuntary acknowledgment that there is something worth knowing, in the Christian dispensation, and that the system of unbelief has nothing in it capable of appeasing the thirst of the human mind for the fountains of a nobler world, or of soothing that restlessness which keeps the thinking man of no settled religion in a state of perpetual fever. For who is the man that can compare two ideas together, who does not feel that his existence upon this planet is but a brief part of the life which is given to him? And who, with the experience of this feeling growing with his years, but must advance one step farther, and perceive that he has not been thrown

upon this earth as in a boat upon a shoreless sea, without a star to guide him in the path which he is to take? Some have the good fortune to be placed within the influence of that sacred and unerring light which shall direct their bark to the haven where storms never blow. But incalculable is the number of those who, like Lord Byron, continue during their whole lives to be tossed about by the contending opinions of persons who would be their pilots --of men who assume to themselves the gift of extraordinary knowledge, and for sordid gain, the gratification of their vanity, or from the mere impulse of wicked ambition, set themselves up as guides to the human race in the most essential of all human concerns.

No blame should attach to the motives by which Dr. Kennedy was actuated in his efforts to convert Lord Byron to Christianity. Those motives were no doubt pure and laudable ; and we admit, considering the state in which the noble poet's mind was placed by his notions of religion, any step which he might have been prevailed upon to take out of his usual course, would have been something gained towards the attainment of the great end of truth. But it certainly was unfortunate that Dr. Kennedy, though apparently well acquainted with the Scriptures, and a firm believer in the principal tenets of Christianity, had nevertheless no regular system of his own. He seems to have leaned towards Methodism, yet he was not a Methodist. The churches of Rome and England and Scotland, he deemed full of errors. We cannot divine whether he belonged to any known sect, or whether he meant to found a new sect of his own. He received the Scriptures as the rule of his conduct, but he appears only to have fixed his particular attention upon what may be called the ethical portion of the New Testament. He was, if we may so say without irreverence, a Scriptural Platonist. He admired the precepts of the Gospel, and, so far as morals were concerned, we have no reason to doubt that his life was in conformity to those precepts : but religion he had none. This feature in his character, whilst it did not prevent him from attempting to make converts to what he called Christianity, exposed him to considerable difficulties in his efforts to reclaim such a mind as Lord Byron's. It brought upon him, moreover, no small share of ridicule among persons who, equally despising all forms of

faith, laughed, not without reason, at a lecturer who, though he taught Christianity, was the adherent of no Christian church.

It is not our intention to go through Dr. Kennedy's peculiar doctrines with the view of controverting them. That is the duty of the divines, to whom we cheerfully leave it, if it be one which they may think it worth while to perform. Our purpose is merely to exhibit a few of the subjects which were placed under Lord Byron's notice, and the manner in which they were treated, as well by his lordship as by the person with whom he conversed. Doctor Kennedy was undoubtedly a man of a very acute mind; but we should no more desire to be responsible for all his doctrines than for those of the unbeliever, whom he undertook to instruct.

It appears that having been stationed in the Ionian islands in the latter part of the year 1822, Dr. Kennedy was still a resident of Cephalonia, when Lord Byron landed at that island on his way to Greece, in August, 1823, accompanied by Count Gamba, Dr. Bruno, Mr. Hamilton Brown, and Mr. Trelawney. Here Lord Byron deemed it prudent to remain for more than four months, waiting for authentic intelligence from the scene of war as to the state of parties. It was no doubt his ambition to witness the resuscitation of the Greek name and nation. Nothing transpires in the volume before us, which indicates that he had any object of personal aggrandisement in view ; at the same time, little doubt can be entertained that he aimed at the sovereignty of that country, and hence it was, that instead of proceeding at once to Missolonghi, he preferred sojourning in Cephalonia, in order to ascertain how matters were likely to go. It was not long before he learned that his project was a very chimerical one; and he gave himself up for a while to indolent repose at Metaxala, a pleasant village about four miles from Argostoli, the capital of the island. The account of his arrival at this place, connected as it is with our principal subject, will not be read without interest.

His arrival at Argostoli excited a great sensation among the Greeks and the English. The former were eager to behold a wealthy English nobleman, and a celebrated poet, (of whose fame most of them had heard much, while many were acquainted with part of his writings,) on his way to join their countrymen, to add the whole weight of his name, influence, talents and fortune to the cause of freedom. The latter felt, a still greater curiosity to behold a countryman not less interesting by his unrivalled talents, than by that mystery and awe thrown over his character by his faults and misfortunes; but, above all, by the daily rumours of his misanthropy, profligacy, and infidelity, and by the warfare which he had so long carried on against many of the most distinguished literary characters, as well as against the government and religion of his native country. He was viewed by all as an object of wonder and astonishment; and as one whose talents, character, and sentiments separated him, as it were, from the rest of mankind. All were alike anxious to view his person and watch his proceedings, and none but a spectator of the scene could conceive the vague and unrestrained wonder which he occasioned. It was generally

supposed, that his lordship would shun his countrymen, as he had done in Italy; and he,--as was afterwards ascertained, -apprehended that they would, in like manner, shun bim; not only because of the censures, reproaches, and calumnies against him, with which, about this time, most of the papers and periodical publications were filled, rendering him, as he often felt, an object of detestation and abhorrence; but also, because of the delicacy which they might feel as subjects of a neutral government, in showing any attention to one who was going to take an active part in what was legally considered a rebellion.

'Instructions having arrived from the superior authorities, to receive his lordship with the respect and courtesy due to his rank, Colonel D., who commanded in the absence of the governor, went on board, and was received with that affability and politeness, which so much distinguished his lordship.

. The first invitation which his lordship accepted, was to an evening party at the Honourable Colonel D.'s. A friend of mine, S., who was present, was delighted with the affability and refinement of his lordship's manners; and with the ease, simplicity, and cheerfulness with which he conversed on common topics; so different from the idea which he had formed of his lordship's character.

* The officers of the garrison, having invited him to dine, did everything they could to mark their respect and admiration for his rank and talents. On his health being drunk, he expressed his great satisfaction at being in the society of his countrymen, and of seeing so many of them together. He added, that he felt so much the honour they had done him, that he was afraid he could not express his sense of the obligation as he ought, having been so long in the practice of speaking a foreign language that he could not convey his sentiments in adequate terms in his native tongue. He was much pleased when he had made his short speech, and repeatedly asked Colonel D. if he bad done well, and if he had acquitted himself properly, as he was so little, he said, in the practice of public speaking.

• Hitherto I had seen his lordship only on horseback, as he took his evening ride with his friends; and while I often listened to the details of his sayings and actions, which formed the subject of general conversation, and which, for the most part, were only interesting because they were said or done by Lord Byron, I had no anticipation that circumstances were preparing the

way for affording me a near and an intimate intercourse with him.'-- pp. 3–6.

The circumstances to which Dr. Kennedy alludes were these : He had one evening three or four friends to dine with him, all Scotchmen like himself, and—with one exception-of the liberal professions. The conversation happening to turn on the subject of religion, the host was surprised to learn that, although from a country famed for its religious character, they were all deists. They in their turn appeared equally surprised that he should believe in Christianity, and the discussion ended for the evening in an argument that the Doctor should explain the grounds of his faith, after doing which, he promised to refute any objection, and solve any difficulty which they might bring forward. It is but justice to the Doctor to observe that he modestly and very properly states

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