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THE MIRROR OF LITERATURE, AMUSEMENT, AND INSTRUCTION.
VOL. XVI. No. 474.] SUPPLEMENTARY NUMBER. [PRICE 2d.
* * * * *
LETTERS AND JOURNALS OF LORD BYRON, WITH NOTICES OF HIS LIFE, BY THOMAS
MOORE, Vol. ii.
[To attempt anything like an analysis of a "great big book," of 823
pages, like the present, and that within a sheet of 16 pages, would
be an effort of condensation indeed. Besides, the very nature of the
volume before us will not admit of such a task being performed with
much regard to accuracy or unique character. The "Letters," of which,
the work is, in great part, composed, are especially ill adapted for
such a purpose; since, many of them become interesting only from
manner rather than importance of matter. Horace Walpole's
Correspondence would make but a dull book cut in "little stars" in
the letter style; and Lord Byron, as a letter writer, resembles
Walpole more closely than any other writer of his time. His gay,
anecdotical style is delightful--his epithets and single words are
always well chosen, and often convey more than one side of the letter
of a common-place mind.
Our sheet of Extracts is from such portions of Mr. Moore's volume as
appear to illustrate the main points of the Noble Poet's character
and habits, as the superscriptions will best explain--_currente
calamo_ from pages 22 to 769--within a few leaves of the Appendix.]
With the following melancholy passage one of his journals concludes:--
"In the weather for this tour (of thirteen days) I have been very
fortunate--fortunate in a companion (Mr. H.)--fortunate in all our
prospects, and exempt from even the little petty accidents and delays
which often render journeys in a less wild country disappointing. I was
disposed to be pleased. I am a lover of nature, and an admirer of beauty;
I can bear fatigue and welcome privation, and have seen some of the
noblest views in the world. But in all this--the recollection of
bitterness, and more especially of recent and more home desolation, which
must accompany me through life, have preyed upon me here; and neither the
music of the shepherd, the crashing of the avalanche, nor the torrent, the
mountain, the glacier, the forest, nor the cloud, have for one moment
lightened the weight upon my heart, nor enabled me to lose my own wretched
identity in the majesty, and the power, and the glory, around, above, and
On his return from an excursion to Diodati, an occasion was afforded for
the gratification of his jesting propensities by the avowal of the young
physician (Polidori) that--he had fallen in love. On the evening of this
tender confession they both appeared at Shelley's cottage--Lord Byron, in
the highest and most boyish spirits, rubbing his hands as he walked about
the room, and in that utter incapacity of retention which was one of his
foibles, making jesting allusions to the secret he had just heard. The
brow of the doctor darkened as this pleasantry went on, and, at last, he
angrily accused Lord Byron of hardness of heart. "I never," said he, "met
with a person so unfeeling." This sally, though the poet had evidently
brought it upon himself, annoyed him most deeply. "Call _me_
cold-hearted--_me_ insensible!" he exclaimed, with manifest emotion--"as
well might you say that glass is not brittle, which has been cast down a
precipice, and lies dashed to pieces at the foot!"
My sister! my sweet sister! if a name
Dearer and purer were, it should be thine,
Mountains and seas divide us, but I claim
No tears, but tenderness to answer mine.
Go where I will, to me thou art the same--
A loved regret which I would not resign.
There yet are two things in my destiny--
A world to roam through, and a home with thee.
The first were nothing--had I still the last,
It were the haven of my happiness;
But other claims and other ties thou hast,
And mine is not the wish to make them less.
A strange doom is thy father's son's, and part
Recalling, as it lies beyond redress;
Reversed for him our grandsire's fate of yore--
He had no rest at sea, nor I on shore.
If my inheritance of storms hath been
In other elements, and on the rocks
Of perils overlook'd or unforeseen,
I have sustain'd my share of worldly shocks,
The fault was mine; nor do I seek to screen
My errors with defensive paradox;
I have been cunning in mine overthrow,
The careful pilot of my proper woe.
Mine were my faults, and mine be their reward.
My whole life was a contest, since the day
That gave me being, gave me that which marr'd
The gift--a fate, or will, that walk'd astray;
And I at times have found the struggle hard,
And thought of shaking off my bonds of clay:
But now I fain would for a time survive,
If but to see what next can well arrive.
Kingdoms and empires in my little day
I have outlived, and yet I am not old;
And when I look on this, the petty spray
Of my own years of trouble, which have roll'd
Like a wild bay of breakers, melts away:
Something--I know not what--does still uphold
A spirit of slight patience--not in vain,
Even for its own sake, do we purchase pain.
Perhaps the workings of defiance stir
Within me--or perhaps a cold despair,
Brought on when ills habitually recur--
Perhaps a kinder clime, or purer air,
(For even to this may change of soul refer,
And with light armour we may learn to bear,)
Have taught me a strange quiet, which was not
The chief companion of a calmer lot.
I feel almost at times as I have felt
In happy childhood; trees, and flowers, and brooks,
Which do remember me of where I dwelt
Ere my young mind was sacrificed to books,
Come as of yore upon me, and can melt
My heart with recognition of their looks:
And even at moments I could think I see
Some living thing to love--but none like thee.
Here are the Alpine landscapes which create
A fund for contemplation.--to admire
Is a brief feeling of a trivial date;
But something worthier do such scenes inspire:
Here to be lonely is not desolate.
For much I view which I could most desire,
And, above all, a lake I can behold
Lovelier, not dearer, than our own of old.
Oh that thou wert but with me!--but I grow
The fool of my own wishes, and forget
The solitude which I have vaunted so
Has lost its praise in this but one regret;
There may be others which I less may show;--
I am not of the plaintive mood, and yet
I feel an ebb in my philosophy
And the tide rising in my alter'd eye.
I did remind thee of our own dear lake,
By the old hall which may be mine no more,
Leman's is fair; but think not I forsake
The sweet remembrance of a dearer shore:
Sad havoc Time must with my memory make
Ere _that_ or _thou_ can fade these eyes before;
Though, like all things which I have loved, they are
Resign'd for ever, or divided far.
The world is all before me; I but ask
Of nature that with which she will comply--
It is but in her summer sun to bask,
To mingle with the quiet of her sky,
To see her gentle fare without a mask,
And never gaze on it with apathy.
She was my early friend, and now shall be
My sister--till I look again on thee.
I can reduce all feelings but this one:
And that I would not;--for at length I see
Such scenes as those wherein my life begun.
The earliest--even the only paths for me--
Had I but sooner learnt the crowd to shun,
I had been better than I now can be:
The passions which have torn me would have slept:
I had not suffered, and _thou_ hadst not wept.
With false ambition what had I to do?
Little with love, and least of all with fame;
And yet they came unsought, and with me grew,
And made me all which they can make--a name.
Yet this was not the end I did pursue;
Surely I once beheld a nobler aim.
But all is over--I am one the more
To baffled millions which have gone before.
And for the future, this world's future may
From me demand but little of my care;
I have outlived myself by many a day;
Having survived so many things that were;
My years have been no slumber, but the prey
Of ceaseless vigils; for I had the share
Of life that might have filled a century,
Before its fourth in time had passed me by.
And for the remnant which may be to come
I am content; and for the past I feel
Not thankless--for within the crowded sum
Of struggles, happiness at times would steal,
And for the present I would not benumb
My feelings farther.--Nor shall I conceal,
That with all this I still can look around,
And worship Nature with a thought profound.
For thee my own sweet sister, in thy heart
I know myself secure, as thou in mine;
We were and are--I am even as thou art--
Beings who ne'er each other can resign;
It is the same, together or apart,
From life's commencement to its slow decline
We are entwined--let death come slow or fast,
The tie which bound the first endures the last!
AMOUR AT VENICE.
Venice, November 17, 1816.
"I wrote to you from Verona the other day in my progress hither, which
letter I hope you will receive. Some three years ago, or it may be more, I
recollect you telling me that you had received a letter from our friend,
Sam, dated "On board his gondola." _My_ gondola is, at this present,
waiting for me on the canal; but I prefer writing to you in the house, it
being autumn--and rather an English autumn than otherwise. It is my
intention to remain at Venice during the winter, probably, as it has
always been (next to the east) the greenest island of my imagination. It
has not disappointed me; though its evident decay would, perhaps, have
that effect upon others. But I have been familiar with ruins too long to
dislike desolation. Besides, I have fallen in love, which, next to falling
into the canal (which would be of no use, as I can swim,) is the best or
the worst thing I could do. I have got some extremely good apartments in
the house of a "Merchant of Venice," who is a good deal occupied with
business, and has a wife in her twenty-second year. Marianna (that is her
name) is in her, appearance altogether like an antelope. She has the large,
black, oriental eyes, with that peculiar expression in them, which is seen
rarely among _Europeans_--even the Italians--and which many of the Turkish
women give themselves by tinging the eyelid--an art not known out of that
country, I believe. This expression she has _naturally_--and something
more than this. In short, I cannot describe the effect of this kind of
eye--at least upon me. Her features are regular, and rather aquiline--mouth
small--skin clear and soft, with a kind of hectic colour--forehead
remarkably good; her hair is of the dark gloss, curl, and colour of Lady
J----'s; her figure is light and pretty, and she is a famous
songstress--scientifically so; her natural voice (in conversation, I mean,)
is very sweet; and the _naivete_ of the Venetian dialect is always
pleasing in the mouth of a woman.
You will perceive that my description, which was proceeding with the
minuteness of a passport, has been interrupted for several days. In the
* * * * *
Since my former dates, I do not know that I have much to add on the
subject, and, luckily, nothing to take away; for I am more pleased than
ever with my Venetian, and begin to feel very serious on that point--so
much so, that I shall be silent.
* * * * *
By way of divertisement, I am studying daily, at an Armenian monastery,
the Armenian language. I found that my mind wanted something craggy to
break upon; and this--as the most difficult thing I could discover here
for an amusement--I have chosen, to torture me into attention. It is a
rich language, however, and would amply repay any one the trouble of
learning it. I try, and shall go on;--but I answer for nothing, least of
all for my intentions or my success. There are some very curious MSS. in
the monastery, as well as books; translations also from Greek originals,
now lost, and from Persian and Syriac, &c.; besides works of their own
people. Four years ago the French instituted an Armenian professorship.
Twenty pupils presented themselves on Monday morning, full of noble ardour,
ingenuous youth, and impregnable industry. They persevered with a courage
worthy of the nation and of universal conquest, till Thursday; when
_fifteen_ of the _twenty_ succumbed to the six and twentieth letter of the
alphabet. It is, to be sure, a Waterloo of an Alphabet--that must be said
for them. But it is so like these fellows, to do by it as they did by
their sovereigns--abandon both; to parody the old rhymes, "Take a thing
and give a thing"--"Take a king and give a king. They are the worst of
animals, except their conquerors.
I hear that that H----n is your neighbour, having a living in Derbyshire.
You will find him an excellent hearted fellow, as well as one of the
cleverest; a little, perhaps, too much japanned by preferment in the
church and the tuition of youth, as well as inoculated with the disease of
domestic felicity, besides being overrun with fine feelings about women
and _constancy_ (that small change of love, which people exact so rigidly,
receive in such counterfeit coin, and repay in baser metal;) but,
otherwise, a very worthy man, who has lately got a pretty wife, and (I
suppose) a child by this time. Pray remember me to him, and say that I
know not which to envy most--his neighbourhood, him, or you.
Of Venice I shall say little. You must have seen many descriptions; and
they and they are most of them like. It is a poetical place; and classical,
to us, from Shakspeare and Otway. I have not yet sinned against it in
verse, nor do I know that I shall do so, having been tuneless since I
crossed the Alps, and feeling, as yet, no renewal of the "estro." By the
way, I suppose you have seen "Glenarvon." Madame de Stael lent it me to
read from Copet last autumn. It seems to me that, if the authoress had
written the _truth_, and nothing but the truth--the whole truth--the
romance would not only have been more _romantic_, but more entertaining.
As for the likeness, the picture can't be good--I did not sit long enough.
When you have leisure, let me hear from and of you, believing me ever and
truly yours most affectionately.
P.S. Oh! _your Poem_--is it out? I hope Longman has paid his thousands;
but don't you do as H---- T----'s father did, who, having, made money by a
quarto tour, became a vinegar merchant; when, lo! his vinegar turned sweet
(and be d----d to it) and ruined him. My last letter to you (from Verona)
was inclosed to Murray--have you got it? Direct to me _here, poste
restante_. There are no English here at present. There were several in
Switzerland--some women; but, except Lady Dalrymple Hamilton, most of them
as ugly as virtue--at least those that I saw."
_To Mr. Moore._
"Venice, December 24th, 1816.
"I have taken a fit of writing to you, which portends postage--once from
Verona--once from Venice, and again from Venice--_thrice_ that is. For
this you may thank yourself, for I heard that you complained of my
silence--so here goes for garrulity.
"I trust that you received my other twain of letters. My 'way of life' (or
'May of life,' which is it, according to the commentators?)--my 'way of
life' is fallen into great regularity. In the mornings I go over in my
gondola to hobble Armenian with the friars of the convent of St. Lazarus,
and to help one of them in correcting the English of an English and
Armenian grammar which he is publishing. In the evenings I do one of many
nothings--either at the theatres, or some of the conversaziones, which are
like our routs, or rather worse, for the women sit in a semicircle by the
lady of the mansion, and the men stand about the room. To be sure, there
is one improvement upon ours--instead of lemonade with their ices, they
hand about stiff _rum-punch--punch_, by my palate; and this they think
_English_. I would not disabuse them of so agreeable an error--'no, not
"Last night I was at the Count Governor's, which, of course, comprises the
best society, and is very much like other gregarious meetings in every
country--as in ours--except that, instead of the Bishop of Winchester, you
have the Patriarch of Venice; and a motley crew of Austrians, Germans,
noble Venetians, foreigners, and, if you see a quiz, you may be sure he is
a consul. Oh, by the way, I forgot, when I wrote from Verona, to tell you
that at Milan I met with a countryman of yours--a Colonel ----, a very
excellent, good-natured fellow, who knows and shows all about Milan, and
is, as it were, a native there. He is particularly civil to strangers, and
this is his history--at least an episode of it.
"Six-and-twenty years ago, Colonel ----, then an ensign, being in Italy,
fell in love with the Marchesa ----, and she with him. The lady must
be, at least, twenty years his senior. The war broke out; he returned to
England, to serve--not his country, for that's Ireland, but England, which
is a different thing; and _she_, heaven knows what she did. In the year
1814, the first annunciation of the definitive treaty of peace (and
tyranny) was developed to the astonished Milanese by the arrival of
Colonel ----, who flinging himself full length at the feet of Madame ----,
murmured forth, in half forgotten Irish Italian, eternal vows of indelible
constancy. The lady screamed, and exclaimed 'Who are you?' The colonel
cried, 'What, don't you know me? I am so and so,' &c. &c. &c.; till at
length, the Marchesa, mounting from reminiscence, to reminiscence, through
the lovers of the intermediate twenty-five years, arrived at last at the
recollection of her _povero_ sub-lieutenant.--She then said, 'Was there
ever such virtue?' (that was her very word) and, being now a widow, gave
him apartments in her palace, reinstated him in all the rights of wrong,
and held him up to the admiring world as a miracle of incontinent fidelity,
and the unshaken Abdiel of absence.
"Methinks this is as pretty a moral tale as any of Marmontel's. Here is
another. The same lady, several years ago, made an escapade with a Swede,
Count Fersen (the same whom the Stockholm mob quartered and lapidated not
very long since), and they arrived at an Osteria, on the road to Rome or
thereabouts. It was a summer evening, and while they were at supper, they
were suddenly regaled by a symphony of fiddles in an adjacent apartment,
so prettily played, that, wishing to hear them more distinctly, the count
rose, and going into the musical society, said--'Gentlemen, I am sure that,
as a company of gallant cavaliers, you will be delighted to show your
skill to a lady, who feels anxious,' &c. &c. The men of harmony were all
acquiescence--every instrument was tuned and toned, and, striking up one
of their most ambrosial airs, the whole band followed the count to the
lady's apartment. At their head was the first fiddler, who, bowing and
fiddling at the same moment, headed his troop, and advanced up the room.
Death and discord!--it was the marquess himself, who was on a serenading
party in the country, while his spouse had run away from town.--The rest
may be imagined; but, first of all, the lady tried to persuade him that
she was there on purpose to meet him, and had chosen this method for an
harmonic surprise. So much for this gossip, which amused me when I heard
it, and I send it to you, in the hope it may have the like effect. Now
we'll return to Venice."
"The day after to-morrow (to-morrow being Christmas-day) the Carnival
begins. I dine with the Countess Albrizzi and a party, and go to the opera.
On that day the Phenix (not the Insurance Office, but) the theatre of that
name opens: I have got me a box there for the season, for two reasons, one
of which is, that the music is remarkably good. The Contessa Albrizzi, of
whom I have made mention, is the De Stael of Venice--not young, but a very
learned, unaffected, good-natured woman, very polite to strangers, and, I
believe, not at all dissolute, as most of the women are. She has written
very well on the works of Canova, and also a volume of Characters, besides
other printed matter. She is of Corfu, but married a dead Venetian--that
is, dead since he married.
"My flame (my 'Donna,' whom I spoke of in my former epistle, my Marianna)
is still my Marianna, and I, her--what she pleases. She is by far the
prettiest woman I have seen here, and the most loveable I have met with
any where--as well as one of the most singular. I believe I told you the
rise and progress of our _liaison_ in my former letter. Lest that should
not have reached you, I will merely repeat that she is a Venetian,
two-and-twenty years old, married to a merchant well to do in the world,
and that she has great black oriental eyes, and all the qualities which
her eyes promise. Whether being in love with her has steeled me or not, I
do not know; but I have not seen many other women who seem pretty. The
nobility, in particular, are a sad-looking race--the gentry rather better.
And now, what art _thou_ doing?
"What are you doing now,
Oh Thomas Moore?
What are you doing now,
Oh Thomas Moore?
Sighing or suing now,
Rhyming or wooing now,
Billing or cooing now,
Which, Thomas Moore?
Are you not near the Luddites? By the Lord! if there's a row, but I'll be
among ye! How go on the weavers--the breakers of frames--the Lutherans of
"As the Liberty lads o'er the sea
Bought their freedom, and cheaply, with blood,
So we, boys, we
Will _die_ fighting, or _live_ free,
And down with all kings but King Ludd!
"When the web that we weave is complete,
And the shuttle exchanged for the sword,
We will fling the winding-sheet
O'er the despot at our feet,
And dye it deep in the gore he has pour'd.
"Though black as his heart its hue,
Since his veins are corrupted to mud,
Yet this is the dew
Which the tree shall renew
Of Liberty, planted by Ludd!
There's an amiable _chanson_ for you--all impromptu. I have written it
principally to shock your neighbour ----, who is all clergy and
loyalty--mirth and innocence--milk and water.
"But the Carnival's coming,
Oh Thomas Moore,
The Carnival's coming,
Oh Thomas Moore,
Masking and humming,
Fifing and drumming,
Guitarring and strumming,
Oh Thomas Moore.
The other night I saw a new play--and the author. The subject was the
sacrifice of Isaac. The play succeeded, and they called for the
author--according to continental custom--and he presented himself: a noble
Venetian, Mali, or Malapiero by name. Mala was his name, and _pessima_ his
production--at least, I thought so, and I ought to know, having read more
or less of five hundred Drury-lane offerings, during my coadjutorship with
the sub-and-super committee.
"When does your Poem of Poems come out? I hear that the E.R. has cut up
Coleridge's Christabel, and declared against me for praising it. I praised
it, firstly, because I thought well of it; secondly, because Coleridge was
in great distress, and, after doing what little I could for him in
essentials, I thought that the public avowal of my good opinion might help
him further, at least with the booksellers. I am very sorry that J---- has
attacked him, because, poor fellow, it will hurt him in mind and pocket.
As for me, he's welcome,--I shall never think less of J---- for any thing
he may say against me or mine in future.
"I suppose Murray has sent you, or will send (for I do not know whether
they are out or no) the poem, or poesies, of mine, of last summer. By the
mass! they're sublime--'Ganion Coheriza'--gainsay who dares! Pray, let me
hear from you, and of you, and, at least, let me know that you have
received these three letters. Direct, right _here, poste restante_.--"Ever
and ever, &c."
_To Mr. Murray_.
"Venice, May 30th, 1817.
"I returned from Rome two days ago, and have received your letter; but no
sign nor tidings of the parcel sent through Sir C. Stuart, which you
mention. After an interval of months, a packet of 'Tales,' &c. found me at
Rome; but this is all, and may be all that ever will find me. The post
seems to be the only sure conveyance, and _that only for letters_. From
Florence I sent you a poem on Tasso, and from Rome the new Third Act of
'Manfred,' and by Dr. Polidori two portraits for my sister. I left Rome
and made a rapid journey home. You will continue to direct here as usual.
Mr. Hobhouse is gone to Naples; I should have run down there too for a
week, but for the quantity of English whom I heard of there. I prefer
hating them at a distance; unless an earthquake, or a good real irruption
of Vesuvius, were ensured to reconcile me to their vicinity.
* * * * *
"The day before I left Rome I saw three robbers guillotined. The
ceremony--including the _masqued_ priests; the half-naked executioners;
the bandaged criminals; the black Christ and his banner; the scaffold; the
soldiery; the slow procession, and the quick rattle and heavy fall of the
axe; the splash of the blood, and the ghastliness of the exposed heads--is
altogether more impressive than the vulgar and ungentlemanly dirty 'new
drop,' and dog-like agony of infliction upon the sufferers of the English
sentence. Two of these men behaved calmly enough, but the first of the
three died with great terror and reluctance. What was very horrible, he
would not lie down; then his neck was too large for the aperture, and the
priest was obliged to drown his exclamations by still louder exhortations.
The head was off before the eye could trace the blow; but from an attempt
to draw back the head, notwithstanding it was held forward by the hair,
the first head was cut off close to the ears: the other two were taken off
more cleanly. It is better than the oriental way, and (I should think)
than the axe of our ancestors. The pain seems little, and yet the effect
to the spectator, and the preparation to the criminal, is very striking
and chilling. The first turned me quite hot and thirsty, and made me shake
so that I could hardly hold the opera-glass, (I was close, but was
determined to see, as one should see every thing, once, with attention;)
the second and third (which shows how dreadfully soon things grow
indifferent,) I am ashamed to say, had no effect on me as a horror, though
I would have saved them if I could.
"I remember to have seen Porson at Cambridge, in the hall of our college,
and in private parties, but not frequently; and I never can recollect him
except as drunk or brutal, and generally both: I mean in an evening, for
in the hall, he dined at the Dean's table, and I at the Vice-master's, so
that I was not near him; and he then and there appeared sober in his
demeanour, nor did I ever hear of excess or outrage on his part in
public,--commons, college, or chapel; but I have seen him in a private
party of under-graduates, many of them freshmen and strangers, take up a
poker to one of them, and heard him use language as blackguard as his
action. I have seen Sheridan drunk, too, with all the world; but his
intoxication was that of Bacchus, and Porson's that of Silenus. Of all the
disgusting brutes, sulky, abusive, and intolerable, Porson was the most
bestial, as far as the few times that I saw him went which were only at
William Bankes's (the Nubian discoverer's) rooms. I saw him once go away
in a rage, because nobody knew the name of the 'Cobbler of Messina,'
insulting their ignorance with the most vulgar terms of reprobation. He
was tolerated in this state amongst the young men for his talents, as the
Turks think a madman inspired, and bear with him. He used to recite, or
rather vomit pages of all languages, and could hiccup Greek like a Helot;
and certainly Sparta never shocked her children with a grosser exhibition
than this man's intoxication.
"I perceive, in the book you sent me, a long account of him, which is very
savage. I cannot judge, as I never saw him sober, except in _hall_ or
combination room; and then I was never near enough to hear, and hardly to
see him. Of his drunken deportment, I can be sure, because I saw it."
THE COUNTESS GUICCIOLI.
It was about the time (1819) when the foregoing letter was written, and
when, like the first return of reason after intoxication, a full
consciousness of some of the evils of his late libertine course of life
had broken upon him, that an attachment differing altogether, both in
duration and devotion, from any of those that, since the dream of his
boyhood, had inspired him, gained an influence over his mind which lasted
through his few remaining years; and, undeniably wrong and immoral (even
allowing for the Italian estimate of such frailties) as was the nature of
the connexion to which this attachment led, we can hardly perhaps,--taking
into account the far worse wrong from which it rescued and preserved
him,--consider it otherwise than an event fortunate both for his
reputation and happiness.
The fair object of this last, and (with one signal exception) only _real_
love of his whole life, was a young Romagnese lady, the daughter of Count
Gamba, of Ravenna, and married, but a short time before Lord Byron first
met with her, to an old and wealthy widower, of the same city, Count
Guiccioli. Her husband had in early life been the friend of Alfieri, and
had distinguished himself by his zeal in promoting the establishment of a
National Theatre, in which the talents of Alfieri and his own wealth were
to be combined. Notwithstanding his age, and a character, as it appears,
by no means reputable, his great opulence rendered him an object of
ambition among the mothers of Ravenna, who, according to the too frequent
maternal practice, were seen vying with each other in attracting so rich a
purchaser for their daughters, and the young Teresa Gamba, then only
eighteen, and just emancipated from a convent, was the selected victim.
The first time Lord Byron had ever seen this lady was in the autumn of
1818, when she made her appearance, soon after her marriage, at the house
of the Countess Albrizzi, in all the gaiety of bridal array, and the first
delight of exchanging a convent for the world. At this time, however, no
acquaintance ensued between them;--it was not till the spring of the
present year that, at an evening party of Madame Benzoni's, they were
introduced to each other. The love that sprung out of this meeting was
instantaneous and mutual,--though with the usual disproportion of
sacrifice between the parties; such an event being, to the man, but one of
the many scenes of life, while, with woman, it generally constitutes the
whole drama. The young Italian found herself suddenly inspired with a
passion, of which, till that moment, her mind could not have formed the
least idea;--she had thought of love but as an amusement, and now became
its slave. If at the outset, too, less slow to be won than an Englishwoman,
no sooner did she begin to understand the full despotism of the passion
than her heart shrunk from it as something terrible, and she would have
escaped, but that the chain was already around her.
No words, however, can describe so simply and feelingly as her own, the
strong impression which their first meeting left upon her mind:--
"I became acquainted," says Madame Guiccioli, "with Lord Byron in the
April of 1819:--he was introduced to me at Venice, by the Countess Benzoni,
at one of that lady's parties. This introduction, which had so much
influence over the lives of us both, took place contrary to our wishes,
and had been permitted by us only from courtesy. For myself, more fatigued
than usual that evening on account of the late hours they keep at Venice,
I went with great repugnance to this party, and purely in obedience to
Count Guiccioli. Lord Byron, too, who was averse to forming new
acquaintances,--alleging that he had entirely renounced all attachments,
and was unwilling any more to expose himself to their consequences,--on
being requested by the Countess Benzoni to allow himself to be presented
to me, refused, and, at last, only assented from a desire to oblige her.
"His noble and exquisitely beautiful countenance, the tone of his voice,
his manners, the thousand enchantments that surrounded him, rendered him
so different and so superior a being to any whom I had hitherto seen, that
it was impossible he should not have left the most profound impression
upon me. From that evening, during the whole of my subsequent stay at
Venice, we met every day."
* * * * *
About the middle of April, Madame Guiccioli had been obliged to quit
Venice with her husband. Having several houses on the road from Venice to
Ravenna, it was his habit to stop at these mansions, one after the other,
in his journeys between the two cities; and from all these places the
enamoured young Countess now wrote to her lover, expressing, in the most
passionate and pathetic terms, her despair at leaving him. So utterly,
indeed, did this feeling overpower her, that three times, in the course of
her first day's journey, she was seized with fainting-fits. In one of her
letters, which I saw when at Venice, dated, if I recollect right, from "Ca
Zen, Cavanella di Po," she tells him that the solitude of this place,
which she had before found irksome, was, now that one sole idea occupied
her mind, become dear and welcome to her, and promises that, as soon as
she arrives at Ravenna, "she will, according to his wish, avoid all
general society, and devote herself to reading, music, domestic
occupations, riding on horseback,--every thing, in short, that she knew he
would most like." What a change for a young and simple girl, who, but a
few weeks before, had thought only of society and the world, but who now
saw no other happiness but in the hope of becoming worthy, by seclusion
and self-instruction, of the illustrious object of her love!
On leaving this place, she was attacked with a dangerous illness on the
road, and arrived half dead at Ravenna; nor was it found possible to
revive or comfort her till an assurance was received from Lord Byron,
expressed with all the fervour of real passion, that, in the course of the
ensuing month, he would pay her a visit. Symptoms of consumption, brought
on by her state of mind, had already shown themselves; and, in addition to
the pain which this separation had caused her, she was also suffering much
grief from the loss of her mother, who, at this time, died in giving birth
to her twentieth child. Towards the latter end of May she wrote to
acquaint Lord Byron that, having prepared all her relatives and friends to
expect him, he might now, she thought, venture to make his appearance at
Ravenna. Though, on the lady's account, hesitating as to the prudence of
such a step, he, in obedience to her wishes, on the 2nd of June, set out
from La Mira (at which place he had again taken a villa for the summer),
and proceeded towards Romagna.
While he was lingering irresolute at Bologna, the Countess Guiccioli had
been attacked with an intermittent fever, the violence of which combining
with the absence of a confidential person to whom she had been in the
habit of intrusting her letters, prevented her from communicating with him.
At length, anxious to spare him the disappointment of finding her so ill
on his arrival, she had begun a letter, requesting that he would remain at
Bologna till the visit to which she looked forward should bring her there
also; and was in the act of writing, when a friend came in to announce the
arrival of an English lord in Ravenna. She could not doubt for an instant
that it was her noble lover; and he had, in fact, notwithstanding his
declaration to Mr. Hoppner that it was his intention to return to Venice
immediately, wholly altered this resolution before the letter announcing
it was despatched,--the following words being written on the outside
cover:--"I am just setting off for Ravenna, June 8, 1819.--I changed my
mind this morning, and decided to go on."
The reader, however, shall have Madame Guiccioli's own account of these
events, which, fortunately for the interest of my narration, I am enabled
On my departure from Venice, he had promised to come and see me at Ravenna.
Dante's tomb, the classical pine wood, the relics of antiquity which are
to be found in that place, afforded a sufficient pretext for me to invite
him to come, and for him to accept my invitation. He came, in fact, in the
month of June, arriving at Ravenna on the day of the festival of the
Corpus Domini; while, I attacked by a consumptive complaint, which had its
origin from the moment of my quitting Venice, appeared on the point of
death. The arrival of a distinguished foreigner at Ravenna, a town so
remote from the routes ordinarily followed by travellers, was an event
which gave rise to a good deal of conversation. His motives for such a
visit became the subject of discussion, and these he himself afterwards
involuntarily divulged; for having made some inquiries with a view to
paying me a visit, and being told that it was unlikely that he would ever
see me again, as I was at the point of death, he replied, if such were the
case, he hoped that he should die also; which circumstance, being repeated
revealed the object of his journey. Count Guiccioli, having been
acquainted with Lord Byron at Venice, went to visit him now, and in the
hope that his presence might amuse, and be of some use to me in the state
in which I then found myself, invited him to call upon me. He came the day
following. It is impossible to describe the anxiety he showed,--the
delicate attentions that he paid me. For a long time he had perpetually
medical books in his hands; and not trusting my physicians, he obtained
permission from Count Guiccioli to send for a very clever physician, a
friend of his, in whom he placed great confidence. The attentions of the
Professor Aglietti (for so this celebrated Italian was called), together
with tranquillity, and the inexpressible happiness which I experienced in
Lord Byron's society, had so good an effect on my health, that only two
months afterwards I was able to accompany my husband in a tour he was
obliged to make to visit his various estates.
* * * * *
In the separation that had now taken place (1820) between Count Guiccioli
and his wife, it was one of the conditions that the lady should, in future,
reside under the paternal roof:--in consequence of which, Madame Guiccioli,
on the 16th of July, left Ravenna and retired to a villa belonging to
Count Gamba, about fifteen miles distant from that city. Here Lord Byron
occasionally visited her--about once or twice, perhaps, in the
month--passing the rest of his time in perfect solitude. To a mind like
his, whose world was within itself, such a mode of life could have been
neither new nor unwelcome; but to the woman, young and admired, whose
acquaintance with the world and its pleasures had but just begun, this
change was, it must be confessed, most sudden and trying. Count Guiccioli
was rich, and, as a young wife, she had gained absolute power over him.
She was proud, and his station placed her among the highest in Ravenna.
They had talked of travelling to Naples, Florence, Paris,--and every
luxury, in short, that wealth could command was at her disposal.
All this she now voluntarily and determinedly sacrificed for Byron. Her
splendid home abandoned--her relations all openly at war with her--her
kind father but tolerating, from fondness, what he could not approve--she
was now, upon a pittance of 200_l_. a year, living apart from the world,
her sole occupation the task of educating herself for her illustrious
lover, and her sole reward the few brief glimpses of him which their now
restricted intercourse allowed. Of the man who could inspire and keep
alive so devoted a feeling, it may be pronounced with confidence that he
could _not_ have been such as, in the freaks of his own wayward humour, he
represented himself; while, on the lady's side, the whole history of her
attachment goes to prove how completely an Italian woman, whether by
nature or from her social position, is led to invert the usual course of
such frailties among ourselves, and, weak in resisting the first impulses
of passion, to reserve the whole strength of her character for a display
of constancy and devotedness afterwards.
* * * * *
MEETING OF LORD BYRON AND MR. MOORE AT VENICE.
It was my good fortune, at this period, (1819) in the course of a short
and hasty tour through the north of Italy, to pass five or six days with
Lord Byron at Venice. I had written to him on my way thither to announce
my coming, and to say how happy it would make me could I tempt him to
accompany me as far as Rome.
Having parted, at Milan, with Lord John Russell, whom I had accompanied
from England, and whom I was to rejoin, after a short visit to Rome, at
Genoa, I made purchase of a small and (as it soon proved) crazy travelling
carriage, and proceeded alone on my way to Venice. My time being limited,
I stopped no longer at the intervening places than was sufficient to hurry
over their respective wonders, and, leaving Padua at noon on the 8th of
October, I found myself, about two o'clock, at the door of my friend's
villa, at La Mira. He was but just up, and in his bath; but the servant
having announced my arrival, he returned a message that, if I would wait
till he was dressed, he would accompany me to Venice. The interval I
employed in conversing with my old acquaintance, Fletcher, and in viewing,
under his guidance, some of the apartments of the villa.
It was not long before Lord Byron himself made his appearance, and the
delight I felt in meeting him once more, after a separation of so many
years, was not a little heightened by observing that his pleasure was, to
the full, as great, while it was rendered doubly touching by the evident
rarity of such meetings to him of late, and the frank outbreak of
cordiality and gaiety with which he gave way to his feelings. It would be
impossible, indeed, to convey to those who have not, at some time or other,
felt the charm of his manner, any idea of what it could be when under the
influence of such pleasurable excitement as it was most flatteringly
evident he experienced at this moment.
I was a good deal struck, however, by the alteration that had taken place
in his personal appearance. He had grown fatter both in person and face,
and the latter had most suffered by the change, having lost, by the
enlargement of the features, some of that refined and spiritualized look
that had, in other times, distinguished it. The addition of whiskers, too,
which he had not long before been induced to adopt, from hearing that some
one had said he had a "faccia di musico," as well as the length to which
his hair grew down on his neck, and the rather foreign air of his coat and
cap,--all combined to produce that dissimilarity to his former self I had
observed in him. He was still, however, eminently handsome; and, in
exchange for whatever his features might have lost of their high, romantic
character, they had become more fitted for the expression of that arch,
waggish wisdom, that Epicurean play of humour, which he had shown to be
equally inherent in his various and prodigally gifted nature; while, by
the somewhat increased roundness of the contours, the resemblance of his
finely formed mouth and chin to those of the Belvedere Apollo had become
still more striking.
His breakfast, which I found he rarely took before three or four o'clock
in the afternoon, was speedily despatched,--his habit being to eat it
standing, and the meal in general consisting of one or two raw eggs, a cup
of tea without either milk or sugar, and a bit of dry biscuit. Before we
took our departure, he presented me to the Countess Guiccioli, who was at
this time living under the same roof with him at La Mira; and who, with a
style of beauty singular in an Italian, as being fair-complexioned and
delicate, left an impression upon my mind, during this our first short
interview, of intelligence and amiableness such as all that I have since
known or heard of her has but served to confirm.
We now started together, Lord Byron and myself, in my little Milanese
vehicle, for Fusina,--his portly gondolier Tita, in a rich livery and most
redundant mustachios, having seated himself on the front of the carriage,
to the no small trial of its strength, which had already once given way,
even under my own weight, between Verona and Vicenza. On our arrival at
Fusina, my noble friend, from his familiarity with all the details of the
place, had it in his power to save me both trouble and expense in the
different arrangements relative to the custom-house, remise, &c. and the
good-natured assiduity with which he bustled about in despatching these
matters gave me an opportunity of observing, in his use of the infirm limb,
a much greater degree of activity than I had ever before, except in
As we proceeded across the Lagoon in his gondola, the sun was just setting,
and it was an evening such as Romance would have chosen for a first sight
of Venice, rising "with her tiara of bright towers" above the wave; while
to complete, as might be imagined, the solemn interest of the scene, I
beheld it in company with him who had lately given a new life to its
glories, and sung of that fair City of the Sea thus grandly:
"I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs;
A palace and a prison on each hand:
I saw from out the wave her structures rise
As from the stroke of the enchanters wand:
A thousand years their cloudy wings expand
Around me, and a dying glory smiles
O'er the far times, when many a subject land
Look'd to the winged lion's marble piles,
Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles."
But whatever emotions the first sight of such a scene might, under other
circumstances, have inspired me with, the mood of mind in which I now
viewed it was altogether the very reverse of what might have been expected.
The exuberant gaiety of my companion, and the recollections,--any thing
but romantic,--into which our conversation wandered, put at once
completely to flight all poetical and historical associations; and our
course was, I am almost ashamed to say, one of uninterrupted merriment and
laughter till we found ourselves at the steps of my friend's palazzo on
the Grand Canal. All that had ever happened, of gay or ridiculous, during
our London life together,--his scrapes and my lecturings,--our joint
adventures with the Bores and Blues, the two great enemies, as he always
called them, of London happiness,--our joyous nights together at Watier's,
Kinnaird's, &c. and "that d--d supper of Rancliffe's which _ought_ to have
been a dinner,"--all was passed rapidly in review between us, and with a
flow of humour and hilarity, on his side, of which it would have been
difficult, even for persons far graver than I can pretend to be, not to
have caught the contagion.
LORD BYRON'S PARSIMONY.
It is, indeed, certain, that he had at this time (1819) taken up the whim
(for it hardly deserves a more serious name) of minute and constant
watchfulness over his expenditure; and, as most usually happens, it was
with the increase of his means that this increased sense of the value of
money came. The first symptom I saw of this new fancy of his was the
exceeding joy which he manifested on my presenting to him a rouleau of
twenty Napoleons, which Lord K----d, to whom he had, on some occasion,
lent that sum, had entrusted me with, at Milan, to deliver into his hands.
With the most joyous and diverting eagerness, he tore open the paper, and,
in counting over the sum, stopped frequently to congratulate himself on
the recovery of it.
Of his household frugalities I speak but on the authority of others; but
it is not difficult to conceive that, with a restless spirit like his,
which delighted always in having something to contend with, and which, but
a short time before, "for want," as he said, "of something craggy to break
upon," had tortured itself with the study of the Armenian language, he
should, in default of all better excitement, find a sort of stir and
amusement in the task of contesting, inch by inch, every encroachment of
expense, and endeavouring to suppress what he himself calls
"That climax of all earthly ills,
The inflammation of our weekly bills."
In truth, his constant recurrence to the praise of avarice in Don Juan,
and the humorous zest with which he delights to dwell on it, shows how
new-fangled, as well as far from serious, was his adoption of this "good
old-gentlemanly vice." In the same spirit he had, a short time before my
arrival at Venice, established a hoarding-box, with a slit in the lid,
into which he occasionally put sequins, and, at stated periods, opened it
to contemplate his treasures. His own ascetic style of living enabled him,
as far as himself was concerned, to gratify this taste for enonomy in no
ordinary degree,--his daily bill of fare, when the Margarita was his
companion, consisting, I have been assured, of but four beccafichi of
which the Fornarina eat three leaving even him hungry.
(1819)--A short time before dinner he left the room, and in a minute or
two returned, carrying in his hand a white leather bag. "Look here," he
said, holding it up,--"this would be worth something to Murray, though
_you_, I dare say, would not give sixpence for it." "What is it?" I
asked.--"My Life and Adventures," he answered. On hearing this, I raised
my hands in a gesture of wonder. "It is not a thing," he continued, "that
can be published during my lifetime, but you may have it if you
like--there, do whatever you please with it." In taking the bag, and
thanking him most warmly, I added, "This will make a nice legacy for my
little Tom, who shall astonish the latter days of the nineteenth century
with it." He then added, "You may show it to any of our friends you may
think worthy of it:"--and this is nearly word for word, the whole of what
passed between us on the subject.
_To Mr. Moore._
"January 2nd, 1820.
"My Dear Moore,
"'To-day it is my wedding-day,
And all the folks would stare
If wife should dine at Edmonton,
And I should dine at Ware.'
"Here's a happy new year! but with reason
I beg you'll permit me to say--
Wish me _many_ returns of the _season_,
But as _few_ as you please of the _day_.
"My this present writing is to direct you that, _if she chooses_, she may
see the MS. Memoir in your possession. I wish her to have fair play, in
all cases, even though it will not be published till after my decease. For
this purpose, it were but just that Lady B. should know what is their said
of her and hers, that she may have full power to remark on or respond to
any part or parts, as may seem fitting to herself. This is fair dealing, I
presume, in all events.
"To change the subject, are you in England? I send you an epitaph for
* * * * *
Another for Pitt--
"With death doom'd to grapple
Beneath this cold slab, he
Who lied in the Chapel
Now lies in the Abbey.
"The gods seem to have made me poetical this day--
"In digging up your bones, Tom Paine,
Will. Cobbett has done well:
You visit him on earth again,
He'll visit you in hell.
"You come to him on earth again,
He'll go with you to hell.
"Pray let not these versiculi go forth with _my_ name, except among the
initiated, because my friend H. has foamed into a reformer, and, I greatly
fear, will subside into Newgate; since the Honourable House, according to
Galignani's Reports of Parliamentary Debates, are menacing a prosecution
to a pamphlet of his. I shall be very sorry to hear of any thing but good
for him, particularly in these miserable squabbles; but these are the
natural effects of taking a part in them."
SIR HUMPHRY DAVY.
"Ravenna, May 8, 1820.
"Sir Humphry Davy was here last fortnight, and I was in his company in the
house of a very pretty Italian lady of rank, who, by way of displaying her
learning in presence of the great chemist, then describing his fourteenth
ascension of Mount Vesuvius, asked 'if there was not a similar volcano in
_Ireland_?' My only notion of an Irish volcano consisted of the lake of
Killarney, which I naturally conceived her to mean; but on second thoughts
I divined that she alluded to _Ice_land and to Hecla--and so it proved,
though she sustained her volcanic topography for some time with all the
amiable pertinacity of 'the feminie.' She soon after turned to me, and
asked me various questions about Sir Humphry's philosophy, and I explained
as well as an oracle his skill in gasen safety lamps, and ungluing the
Pompeian MSS. 'But what do you call him?' said she. 'A great chemist,'
quoth I. 'What can he do?' repeated the lady 'Almost any thing,' said I.
'Oh, then, mio caro, do pray beg him to give me something to dye my
eyebrows black. I have tried a thousand things, and the colours all come
off; and besides, they don't grow. Can't he invent something to make them
grow?' All this with the greatest earnestness; and what you will be
surprised at, she is neither ignorant nor a fool, but really well educated
and clever. But they speak like children, when first out of their convents;
and, after all, this is better than an English bluestocking."
POPE--AND OTHER MATTERS.
_To Mr. Moore._
"Ravenna, July 5th, 1821.
"How could you suppose that I ever would allow any thing that _could_ be
said on your account to weigh with _me_? I only regret that Bowles had not
_said_ that you were the writer of that note until afterwards, when out he
comes with it, in a private letter to Murray, which Murray sends to me.
D--n the controversy!
D--n the bell,
And d--n the fool who rung it--Well!
From all such plagues I'll quickly be deliver'd.
"I have had a curious letter to-day from a girl in England (I never saw
her) who says she is given over of a decline, but could not go out of the
world without thanking me for the delight which my poesy for several years,
&c. &c. &c. It is signed simply N.N.A., and has not a word of 'cant' or
preachment in it upon _any_ opinions. She merely says that she is dying,
and that as I had contributed so highly to her existing pleasure, she
thought that she might say so, begging me to _burn_ her _letter_--which,
by the way, I can _not_ do, as I look upon such a letter, in such
circumstances, as better than a diploma from Gottingen. I once had a
letter from Drontheim, in _Norway_ (but not from a dying woman) in verse,
on the same score of gratulation. These are the things which make one at
times believe oneself a poet. But if I must believe that ----, and
such fellows, are poets, also, it is better to be out of the corps.
"I am now in the fifth act of 'Foscari,' being the third tragedy in twelve
months, besides _proses_; so you perceive that I am not at all idle. And
are you, too, busy? I doubt that your life at Paris draws too much upon
your time, which is a pity. Can't you divide your day, so as to combine
both? I have had plenty of all sorts of worldly business on my hands last
year--and yet it is not so difficult to give a few hours to the _Muses_.
This sentence is so like ---- that--
FROM "DETACHED THOUGHTS."
"What a strange thing is life and man! Were I to present myself at the
door of the house where my daughter now is, the door would be shut in my
face--unless (as is not impossible) I knocked down the porter; and if I
had gone in that year (and perhaps now) to Drontheim (the furthest town in
Norway), or into Holstein, I should have been received with open arms into
the mansion of strangers and foreigners, attached to me by no tie but by
that of mind and rumour.
"As far as _fame_ goes, I have had my share: it has indeed been leavened
by other human contingencies, and this in a greater degree than has
occurred to most literary men of a decent rank of life; but, on the whole,
I take it that such equipoise is the condition of humanity."
"A young American, named Coolidge, called on me not many months ago. He
was intelligent, very handsome, and not more than twenty years old,
according to appearances; a little romantic, but that sits well upon youth,
and mighty fond of poesy, as may be suspected from his approaching me in
my cavern. He brought me a message from an old servant of my family (Joe
Murray), and told me that _he_ (Mr. Coolidge) had obtained a copy of my
bust from Thorwaldsen, at Rome, to send to America. I confess I was more
flattered by this young enthusiasm of a solitary Trans-Atlantic traveller,
than if they had decreed me a statue in the Paris Pantheon (I have seen
emperors and demagogues cast down from their pedestals even in my own time,
and Grattan's name razed from the street called after him in Dublin); I
say that I was more flattered by it, because it was _single, unpolitical_,
and was without motive or ostentation--the pure and warm feeling of a boy
for the poet he admired. It must have been expensive, though;--_I_ would
not pay the price of a Thorwaldsen bust for any human head and shoulders,
except Napoleon's, or my children's, or some '_absurd womankind's_,' as
Monkbarn's calls them--or my sister's. If asked _why_, then, I sate for my
own?--Answer, that it was at the particular request of J.C. Hobhouse, Esq.,
and for no one else. A _picture_ is a different matter;--every body sits
for their picture;--but a bust looks like putting up pretensions to
permanency, and smacks something of a hankering for public fame rather
than private remembrance.
"Whenever an American requests to see me (which is not unfrequently) I
comply, firstly, because I respect a people who acquired their freedom by
their firmness without excess; and, secondly, because these Trans-Atlantic
visits, 'few and-far between' make me feel as if talking with posterity
from the other side of the Styx. In a century or two, the new English and
Spanish Atlantides will be masters of the old countries, in all
probability, as Greece and Europe overcame their mother Asia in the older
or earlier ages, as they are called."
EXTRACT FROM A DIARY OF LORD BYRON, 1821.
"Ravenna, January 12th, 1821.
"I have found out the seal cut on Murray's letter. It is meant for Walter
Scott--or _Sir_ Walter--he is the first poet knighted since Sir Richard
Blackmore. But it does not do him justice. Scott's--particularly when he
recites---is a very intelligent countenance, and this seal says nothing.
"Scott is certainly the most wonderful writer of the day. His novels are a
new literature in themselves, and his poetry as good as any--if not better
(only on an erroneous system)--and only ceased to be so popular, because
the vulgar learned were tired of hearing 'Aristides called the Just,' and
Scott the Best, and ostracised him.
"I like him, too, for his manliness of character, for the extreme
pleasantness of his conversation, and his good-nature towards myself,
personally. May he prosper!--for he deserves it. I know no reading to
which I fall with such alacrity as a work of W. Scott's. I shall give the
seal, with his bust on it, to Madame la Contesse G. this evening, who will
be curious to have the effigies of a man so celebrated.
"January 20th, 1821.
"To-morrow is my birthday--that is to say, at twelve o' the clock,
midnight, i.e. in twelve minutes, I shall have completed thirty and three
years of age!!!--and I go to my bed with a heaviness of heart at having
lived so long, and to so little purpose.
"It is three minutes past twelve.--''Tis the middle of night by the castle
clock, and I am now thirty-three!
'Eheu, fugaces, Posthume, Posthume,
but I don't regret them so much for what I have done, as for what I might
"Through life's road, so dim and dirty,
I have dragg'd to three-and-thirty.
What have these years left to me?
"January 22nd, 1821.
interred in the Eternity
of the Past,
from whence there is no
for the Days--whatever there may be
for the Dust--
the Thirty-Third Year
of an ill-spent Life,
a lingering disease of many months,
sunk into a lethargy,
January 22nd, 1821, A.D.
Leaving a successor
for the very loss which
On the road to Bologna he had met with his early and dearest friend, Lord
Clare, and the following description of their short interview is given in
his "Detached Thoughts."
"Pisa, November 5th, 1821.
"'There is a strange coincidence sometimes in the little things of this
world, Sancho,' says Sterne in a letter (if I mistake not,) and so I have
often found it.
"Page 128, article 91, of this collection, I had alluded to my friend Lord
Clare in terms such as my feelings suggested. About a week or two
afterwards, I met him on the road between Imola and Bologna, after not
having met for seven or eight years. He was abroad in 1814, and came home
just as I set out in 1816.
"This meeting annihilated for a moment all the years between the present
time and the days of _Harrow_. It was a new and inexplicable feeling, like
rising from the grave, to me. Clare too was much agitated--more in
_appearance_ than myself; for I could feel his heart beat to his fingers'
ends, unless, indeed, it was the pulse of my own which made me think so.
He told me that I should find a note from him left at Bologna. I did. We
were obliged to part for our different journeys, he for Rome, I for Pisa,
but with the promise to meet again in spring. We were but five minutes
together, and on the public road; but I hardly recollect an hour of my
existence which could be weighed against them. He had heard that I was
coming on, and had left his letter for me at Bologna, because the people
with whom he was travelling could not wait longer.
"Of all I have ever known, he has always been the least altered in every
thing from the excellent qualities and kind affections which attached me
to him so strongly at school. I should hardly have thought it possible for
society (or the world, as it is called) to leave a being with so little of
the leaven of bad passions.
"I do not speak from personal experience only, but from all I have ever
heard of him from others, during absence and distance."
On the subject of intimacies formed by Lord Byron, not only at the period
of which we are speaking, but throughout his whole life, it would be
difficult to advance any thing more judicious, or more demonstrative of a
true knowledge of his character, than is to be found in the following
remarks of one who had studied him with her whole heart, who had learned
to regard him with the eyes of good sense, as well as of affection, and
whose strong love, in short, was founded upon a basis the most creditable
both to him and herself,--the being able to understand him.
 "My poor Zimmerman, who now will understand thee?"--such was
the touching speech addressed to Zimmerman by his wife, on her
deathbed, and there is implied in these few words all that a
man of morbid sensibility must be dependent for upon the
tender and self-forgetting tolerance of the woman with whom he
"We continued in Pisa even more rigorously to absent ourselves from
society. However, as there were a good many English in Pisa, he could not
avoid becoming acquainted with various friends of Shelley, among which
number was Mr. Medwin. They followed him in his rides, dined with him, and
felt themselves happy, of course, in the apparent intimacy in which they
lived with so renowned a man; but not one of them was admitted to any part
of his friendship, which, indeed, he did not easily accord. He had a great
affection for Shelley, and a great esteem for his character and talents;
but he was not his friend in the most extensive sense of that word.
Sometimes, when speaking of his friends and of friendship, as also of love,
and of every other noble emotion of the soul, his expressions might
inspire doubts concerning his sentiments and the goodness of his heart.
The feeling of the moment regulated his speech, and besides, he liked to
play the part of singularity,--and sometimes worse, more especially with
those whom he suspected of endeavouring to make discoveries as to his real
character; but it was only mean minds and superficial observers that could
be deceived in him. It was necessary to consider his actions to perceive
the contradiction they bore to his words: it was necessary to be witness
of certain moments, during which unforeseen and involuntary emotion forced
him to give himself entirely up to his feelings; and whoever beheld him
then, became aware of the stores of sensibility and goodness of which his
noble heart was full.
"Among the many occasions I had of seeing him thus overpowered, I shall
mention one relative to his feelings of friendship. A few days before
leaving Pisa, we were one evening seated in the garden of the Palazzo
Lanfranchi. A soft melancholy was spread over his countenance;--he
recalled to mind the events of his life; compared them with his present
situation and with that which it might have been if his affection for me
had not caused him to remain in Italy, saying things which would have made
earth a paradise for me, but that even then a presentiment that I should
lose all this happiness tormented me. At this moment a servant announced
Mr. Hobhouse. The slight shade of melancholy diffused over Lord Byron's
face gave instant place to the liveliest joy; but it was so great, that it
almost deprived him of strength. A fearful paleness came over his cheeks,
and his eyes were filled with tears as he embraced his friend. His emotion
was so great that he was forced to sit down.
"Lord Clare's visit also occasioned him extreme delight. He had a great
affection for Lord Clare, and was very happy during the short visit that
he paid him at Leghorn. The day on which they separated was a melancholy
one for Lord Byron. 'I have a presentiment that I shall never see him
more,' he said, and his eyes filled with tears. The same melancholy came
over him during the first weeks that succeeded to Lord Clare's departure,
whenever his conversation happened to fall upon this friend."
Of his feelings on the death of his daughter Allegra, this lady gives the
following account:--"On the occasion also of the death of his natural
daughter, I saw in his grief the excess of paternal tenderness. His
conduct towards this child was always that of a fond father; but no one
would have guessed from his expressions that he felt this affection for
her. He was dreadfully agitated by the first intelligence of her illness;
and when afterwards that of her death arrived, I was obliged to fulfil the
melancholy task of communicating it to him. The memory of that frightful
moment is stamped indelibly on my mind. For several evenings he had not
left his house, I therefore went to him. His first question was relative
to the courier he had despatched for tidings of his daughter, and whose
delay disquieted him. After a short interval of suspense, with every
caution which my own sorrow suggested, I deprived him of all hope of the
child's recovery. 'I understand,' said he,--'it is enough, say no more.' A
mortal paleness spread itself over his face, his strength failed him, and
he sunk into a seat. His look was fixed, and the expression such that I
began to fear for his reason; he did not shed a tear, and his countenance
manifested so hopeless, so profound, so sublime a sorrow, that at the
moment he appeared a being of a nature superior to humanity. He remained
immovable in the same attitude for an hour, and no consolation which I
endeavoured to afford him seemed to reach his ears, far less his heart.
But enough of this sad episode, on which I cannot linger, even after the
lapse of so many years, without renewing in my own heart the awful
wretchedness of that day. He desired to be left alone, and I was obliged
to leave him. I found him on the following morning tranquillized, and with
an expression of religious resignation on his features. 'She is more
fortunate than we are,' he said; 'besides her position in the world would
scarcely have allowed her to be happy. It is God's will--let us mention it
no more.' And from that day he would never pronounce her name; but became
more anxious when he spoke of Ada,--so much so as to disquiet himself when
the usual accounts sent him were for a post or two delayed."
The melancholy death of poor Shelley, which happened, as we have seen,
also during this period, seems to have affected Lord Byron's mind less
with grief for the actual loss of his friend than with bitter indignation
against those who had, through life, so grossly misrepresented him; and
never certainly was there an instance where the supposed absence of all
religion in an individual was assumed so eagerly as an excuse for the
entire absence of truth and charity in judging him. Though never
personally acquainted with Mr. Shelley, I can join freely with those who
most loved him in admiring the various excellencies of his heart and
genius, and lamenting the too early doom that robbed us of the mature
fruits of both. His short life had been, like his poetry, a sort of bright,
erroneous dream,--false in the general principles on which it proceeded,
though beautiful and attaching in most of the details. Had full time been
allowed for the "over-light" of his imagination to have been tempered down
by the judgment which, in him, was still in reserve, the world at large
would have been taught to pay that high homage to his genius which those
only who saw what he was capable of can now be expected to accord to it.
It was about this time that Mr. Cowell, paying a visit to Lord Byron at
Genoa, was told by him that some friends of Mr. Shelley, sitting together
one evening, had seen that gentleman, distinctly, as they thought, walk,
into a little wood at Lerici, when at the same moment, as they afterwards
discovered, he was far away, in quite a different direction. "This," added
Lord Byron, in a low, awe-struck tone of voice, "was but ten days before
poor Shelley died."
HIS SERVICE IN THE GREEK CAUSE.
With that thanklessness which too often waits on disinterested actions, it
has been some times tauntingly remarked, and in quarters from whence a
more generous judgment might be expected, that, after all, Lord Byron
effected but little for Greece: as if much _could_ be effected by a single
individual, and in so short a time, for a cause which, fought as it has
been almost incessantly through the six years since his death, has
required nothing less than the intervention of all the great powers of
Europe to give it a chance of success, and, even so, has not yet succeeded.
That Byron himself was under no delusion, as to the importance of his own
solitary aid--that he knew, in a struggle like this, there must be the
same prodigality of means towards one great end as is observable in the
still grander operations of nature, where individuals are as nothing in
the tide of events--that such was his, at once, philosophic and melancholy
view of his own sacrifices, I have, I trust, clearly shown. But that,
during this short period of action, he did not do well and wisely all that
man could achieve in the time, and under the circumstances, is an
assertion which the noble facts here recorded fully and triumphantly
disprove. He knew that, placed as he was, his measures, to be wise, must
be prospective, and from the nature of the seeds thus sown by him, the
benefits that were to be expected must be judged. To reconcile the rude
chiefs to the government and to each other;--to infuse a spirit of
humanity, by his example, into their warfare;--to prepare the way for the
employment of the expected loan, in a manner most calculated to call forth
the resources of the country--to put the fortifications of Missolonghi in
such a state of repair as might, and eventually _did_, render it proof
against the besieger;--to prevent those infractions of neutrality, so
tempting to the Greeks, which brought their government in collision with
the Ionian authorities, and to restrain all such license of the press as
might indispose the courts of Europe to their cause:--such were the
important objects which he had proposed to himself to accomplish, and
towards which, in this brief interval, and in the midst of such
dissensions and hindrances, he had already made considerable and most
promising progress. But it would be unjust to close even here the bright
catalogue of his services. It is, after all, _not_ with the span of mortal
life that the good achieved by a name immortal ends. The charm acts into
the future--it is an auxiliary through all time; and the inspiring example
of Byron, as a martyr of liberty, is for ever freshly embalmed in his
glory as a poet.
Of his face, the beauty may be pronounced to have been of the highest
order, as combining at once regularity of features with the most varied
and interesting expression.
The same facility, indeed, of change observable in the movements of his
mind was seen also in the free play of his features, as the passing
thoughts within darkened or shone through them. His eyes, though of a
light grey, were capable of all extremes of expression, from the most
joyous hilarity to the deepest sadness--from the very sunshine of
benevolence to the most concentrated scorn or rage. Of this latter passion,
I had once an opportunity of seeing what fiery interpreters they could be,
on my telling him, thoughtlessly enough, that a friend of mine had said to
me--"Beware of Lord Byron, he will, some day or other, do something very
wicked." "Was it man or woman said so?" he exclaimed, suddenly turning
round upon me with a look of such intense anger as, though it lasted not
an instant, could not easily be forgot, and of which no better idea can be
given than in the words of one who, speaking of Chatterton's eyes, says
that "fire rolled at the bottom of them."
But it was in the mouth and chin that the great beauty, as well as
expression of his fine countenance lay. "Many pictures have been painted
of him (says a fair critic of his features) with various success; but the
excessive beauty of his lips escaped every painter and sculptor. In their
ceaseless play they represented every emotion, whether pale with anger,
curled in disdain, smiling in triumph, or dimpled with archness and love."
It would be injustice to the reader not to borrow from the same pencil a
few more touches of portraiture. "This extreme facility of expression was
sometimes painful, for I have seen him look absolutely ugly--I have seen
him look so hard and cold, that you must hate him, and then, in a moment,
brighter than the sun, with such playful softness in his look, such
affectionate eagerness kindling in his eyes, and dimpling his lips into
something more sweet than a smile, that you forget the man, the Lord Byron,
in the picture of beauty presented to you, and gazed with intense
curiosity--I had almost said--as if to satisfy yourself, that thus looked
the god of poetry, the god of the Vatican, when he conversed with the sons
and daughters of man."
His head was remarkably small--so much so as to be rather out of
proportion with his face. The forehead, though a little too narrow, was
high, and appeared more so from his having his hair (to preserve it, as he
said) shaved over the temples; while the glossy, dark-brown curls,
clustering over his head, gave the finish to its beauty. When to this is
added, that his nose, though handsomely, was rather thickly shaped, that
his teeth were white and regular, and his complexion colourless, as good
an idea perhaps as it is in the power of mere words to convey may be
conceived of his features.
In height he was, as he himself has informed us, five feet eight inches
and a half, and to the length of his limbs he attributed his being such a
good swimmer. His hands were very white, and--according to his own notion
of the size of hands as indicating birth--aristocratically small. The
lameness of his right foot, though an obstacle to grace, but little
impeded the activity of his movements; and from this circumstance, as well
as from the skill with which the foot was disguised by means of long
trousers, it would be difficult to conceive a defect of this kind less
obtruding itself as a deformity; while the diffidence which a constant
consciousness of the infirmity gave to his first approach and address made,
in him, even lameness a source of interest.
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