, then a youth of twenty-one.
In this book occurs the sentence: ‘Byron
's European fame is the best earnest of his immortality, for a foreign nation is a kind of contemporaneous posterity.’1
Few widely quoted phrases have had, I fancy, less foundation.
It is convenient to imagine that an ocean or a mountain barrier, or even a line of custom houses, may furnish a sieve that shall sift all true reputations from the chaff; but in fact, I suspect, whatever whims may vary or unsettle immediate reputations on the spot, these disturbing influences are only redistributed, not abolished, by distance.
Whether we look to popular preference or to the judgment of high authorities, the result is equally baffling.
preferred Ossian, it is said, to Shakespeare
; and Voltaire
placed the latter among the minor poets, viewing him at best as we now view Marlowe
, as the author of an occasional mighty line.
It was after Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu
had been asked to hear Voltaire
at an evening party in Paris
that she made her celebrated answer,