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Title: The Life of Lord Byron

Author: John Galt

Release date: December 1, 2003 [eBook #10421]
Most recently updated: December 19, 2020

Language: English

Credits: Transcribed by David Price


Transcribed by David Price, email



My present task is one of considerable difficulty; but I have long had a notion that some time or another it would fall to my lot to perform it.  I approach it, therefore, without apprehension, entirely in consequence of having determined, to my own satisfaction, the manner in which the biography of so singular and so richly endowed a character as that of the late Lord Byron should be treated, but still with no small degree of diffidence; for there is a wide difference between determining a rule for one’s self, and producing, according to that rule, a work which shall please the public.

It has happened, both with regard to the man and the poet, that from the first time his name came before the public, there has been a vehement and continual controversy concerning him; and the chief difficulties of the task arise out of the heat with which the adverse parties have maintained their respective opinions.  The circumstances in which he was placed, until his accession to the title and estates of his ancestors, were not such as to prepare a boy that would be father to a prudent or judicious man.  Nor, according to the history of his family, was his blood without a taint of sullenness, which disqualified him from conciliating the good opinion of those whom his innate superiority must have often prompted him to desire for friends.  He was branded, moreover, with a personal deformity; and the grudge against Nature for inflicting this defect not only deeply disturbed his happiness, but so generally affected his feelings as to embitter them with a vindictive sentiment, so strong as, at times, to exhibit the disagreeable energy of misanthropy.  This was not all.  He enjoyed high rank, and was conscious of possessing great talents; but his fortune was inadequate to his desires, and his talents were not of an order to redeem the deficiencies of fortune.  It likewise so happened that while indulged by his only friend, his mother, to an excess that impaired the manliness of his character, her conduct was such as in no degree to merit the affection which her wayward fondness inspired.

It is impossible to reflect on the boyhood of Byron without regret.  There is not one point in it all which could, otherwise than with pain, have affected a young mind of sensibility.  His works bear testimony, that, while his memory retained the impressions of early youth, fresh and unfaded, there was a gloom and shadow upon them, which proved how little they had been really joyous.

The riper years of one so truly the nursling of pride, poverty, and pain, could only be inconsistent, wild, and impassioned, even had his temperament been moderate and well disciplined.  But when it is considered that in addition to all the awful influences of these fatalities, for they can receive no lighter name, he possessed an imagination of unbounded capacity—was inflamed with those indescribable feelings which constitute, in the opinion of many, the very elements of genius—fearfully quick in the discernment of the darker qualities of character—and surrounded by temptation—his career ceases to surprise.  It would have been more wonderful had he proved an amiable and well-conducted man, than the questionable and extraordinary being who has alike provoked the malice and interested the admiration of the world.

Posterity, while acknowledging the eminence of his endowments, and lamenting the habits which his unhappy circumstances induced, will regard it as a curious phenomenon in the fortunes of the individual, that the progress of his fame as a poet should have been so similar to his history as a man.

His first attempts, though displaying both originality and power, were received with a contemptuous disdain, as cold and repulsive as the penury and neglect which blighted the budding of his youth.  The unjust ridicule in the review of his first poems, excited in his spirit a discontent as inveterate as the feeling which sprung from his deformity: it affected, more or less, all his conceptions to such a degree that he may be said to have hated the age which had joined in the derision, as he cherished an antipathy against those persons who looked curiously at his foot.  Childe Harold, the most triumphant of his works, was produced when the world was kindliest disposed to set a just value on his talents; and his latter productions, in which the faults of his taste appear the broadest, were written when his errors as a man were harshest in the public voice.

These allusions to the incidents of a life full of contrarieties, and a character so strange as to be almost mysterious, sufficiently show the difficulties of the task I have undertaken.  But the course I intend to pursue will relieve me from the necessity of entering, in any particular manner, upon those debatable points of his personal conduct which have been so much discussed.  I shall consider him, if I can, as his character will be estimated when contemporary surmises are forgotten, and when the monument he has raised to himself is contemplated for its beauty and magnificence, without suggesting recollections of the eccentricities of the builder.



Ancient DescentPedigreeBirthTroubles of his MotherEarly EducationAccession to the Title

The English branch of the family of Byron came in with William the Conqueror; and from that era they have continued to be reckoned among the eminent families of the kingdom, under the names of Buron and Biron.  It was not until the reign of Henry II. that they began to call themselves Byron, or de Byron.

Although for upwards of seven hundred years distinguished for the extent of their possessions, it does not appear, that, before the time of Charles I., they ranked very highly among the heroic families of the kingdom.

Erneis and Ralph were the companions of the Conqueror; but antiquaries and genealogists have not determined in what relation they stood to each other.  Erneis, who appears to have been the more considerable personage of the two, held numerous manors in the counties of York and Lincoln.  In the Domesday Book, Ralph, the direct ancestor of the poet, ranks high among the tenants of the Crown, in Notts and Derbyshire; in the latter county he resided at Horestan Castle, from which he took his title.  One of the lords of Horestan was a hostage for the payment of the ransom of Richard Cœur de Lion; and in the time of Edward I., the possessions of his descendants were augmented by the addition of the Manor of Rochdale, in Lancashire.  On what account this new grant was given has not been ascertained; nor is it of importance that it should be.

In the wars of the three Edwards, the de Byrons appeared with some distinction; and they were also of note in the time of Henry V.  Sir John Byron joined Henry VII. on his landing at Milford, and fought gallantly at the battle of Bosworth, against Richard III., for which he was afterwards appointed Constable of Nottingham Castle and Warden of Sherwood Forest.  At his death, in 1488, he was succeeded by Sir Nicholas, his brother, who, at the marriage of Arthur, Prince of Wales, in 1501, was made one of the Knights of the Bath.

Sir Nicholas died in 1540, leaving an only son, Sir John Byron, whom Henry VIII. made Steward of Manchester and Rochdale, and Lieutenant of the Forest of Sherwood.  It was to him that, on the dissolution of the monasteries, the church and priory of Newstead, in the county of Nottingham, together with the manor and rectory of Papelwick, were granted.  The abbey from that period became the family seat, and continued so until it was sold by the poet.

Sir John Byron left Newstead and his other possessions to John Byron, whom Collins and other writers have called his fourth, but who was in fact his illegitimate son.  He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1579, and his eldest son, Sir Nicholas, served with distinction in the wars of the Netherlands.  When the great rebellion broke out against Charles I., he was one of the earliest who armed in his defence.  After the battle of Edgehill, where he courageously distinguished himself, he was made Governor of Chester, and gallantly defended that city against the Parliamentary army.  Sir John Byron, the brother and heir of Sir Nicholas, was, at the coronation of James I., made a Knight of the Bath.  By his marriage with Anne, the eldest daughter of Sir Richard Molyneux, he had eleven sons and a daughter.  The eldest served under his uncle in the Netherlands; and in the year 1641 was appointed by King Charles I., Governor of the Tower of London.  In this situation he became obnoxious to the refractory spirits in the Parliament, and was in consequence ordered by the Commons to answer at the bar of their House certain charges which the sectaries alleged against him.  But he refused to leave his post without the king’s command; and upon’ this the Commons applied to the Lords to join them in a petition to the king to remove him.  The Peers rejected the proposition.

On the 24th October, 1643, Sir John Byron was created Lord Byron of Rochdale, in the county of Lancaster, with remainder of the title to his brothers, and their male issue, respectively.  He was also made Field-Marshal-General of all his Majesty’s forces in Worcestershire, Cheshire, Shropshire and North Wales: nor were these trusts and honours unwon, for the Byrons, during the Civil War, were eminently distinguished.  At the battle of Newbury, seven of the brothers were in the field, and all actively engaged.

Sir Richard, the second brother of the first lord, was knighted by Charles I. for his conduct at the battle of Edgehill, and appointed Governor of Appleby Castle, in Westmorland, and afterwards of Newark, which he defended with great honour.  Sir Richard, on the death of his brother, in 1652, succeeded to the peerage, and died in 1679.

His eldest son, William, the third lord, married Elizabeth, the daughter of Viscount Chaworth, of Ireland, by whom he had five sons, four of whom died young.  William, the fourth lord, his son, was Gentleman of the Bedchamber to Prince George of Denmark, and married, for his first wife, a daughter of the Earl of Bridgewater, who died eleven weeks after their nuptials.  His second wife was the daughter of the Earl of Portland, by whom he had three sons, who all died before their father.  His third wife was Frances, daughter of Lord Berkley, of Stratton, from whom the poet was descended.  Her eldest son, William, born in 1722, succeeded to the family honours on the death of his father in 1736.  He entered the naval service, and became a lieutenant under Admiral Balchen.  In the year 1763 he was made Master of the Staghounds; and in 1765, he was sent to the Tower, and tried before the House of Peers, for killing his relation and neighbour, Mr Chaworth, in a duel fought at the Star and Garter Tavern, in Pall-mall.

This Lord William was naturally boisterous and vindictive.  It appeared in evidence that he insisted on fighting with Mr Chaworth in the room where the quarrel commenced.  They accordingly fought without seconds by the dim light of a single candle; and, although Mr Chaworth was the more skilful swordsman of the two, he received a mortal wound; but he lived long enough to disclose some particulars of the rencounter, which induced the coroner’s jury to return a verdict of wilful murder, and Lord Byron was tried for the crime.

The trial took place in Westminster Hall, and the public curiosity was so great that the Peers’ tickets of admission were publicly sold for six guineas each.  It lasted two days, and at the conclusion he was unanimously pronounced guilty of manslaughter.  On being brought up for judgment he pleaded his privilege and was discharged.  It was to this lord that the poet succeeded, for he died without leaving issue.

His brother, the grandfather of the poet, was the celebrated “Hardy Byron”; or, as the sailors called him, “Foulweather Jack,” whose adventures and services are too well known to require any notice here.  He married the daughter of John Trevannion, Esq., of Carhais, in the county of Cornwall, by whom he had two sons and three daughters.  John, the eldest, and the father of the poet, was born in 1751, educated at Westminster School, and afterwards placed in the Guards, where his conduct became so irregular and profligate that his father, the admiral, though a good-natured man, discarded him long before his death.  In 1778 he acquired extraordinary éclat by the seduction of the Marchioness of Caermarthen, under circumstances which have few parallels in the licentiousness of fashionable life.  The meanness with which he obliged his wretched victim to supply him with money would have been disgraceful to the basest adulteries of the cellar or garret.  A divorce ensued, the guilty parties married; but, within two years after, such was the brutal and vicious conduct of Captain Byron, that the ill-fated lady died literally of a broken heart, after having given birth to two daughters, one of whom still survives.

Captain Byron then married Miss Catharine Gordon, of Gight, a lady of honourable descent, and of a respectable fortune for a Scottish heiress, the only motive which this Don Juan had for forming the connection.  She was the mother of the poet.

Although the Byrons have for so many ages been among the eminent families of the realm, they have no claim to the distinction which the poet has set up for them as warriors in Palestine, even though he says—

Near Ascalon’s tow’rs John of Horestan slumbers;

for unless this refers to the Lord of Horestan, who was one of the hostages for the ransom of Richard I., it will not be easy to determine to whom he alludes; and it is possible that the poet has no other authority for this legend than the tradition which he found connected with two groups of heads on the old panels of Newstead.  Yet the account of them is vague and conjectural, for it was not until ages after the Crusades that the abbey came into the possession of the family; and it is not probable that the figures referred to any transactions in Palestine, in which the Byrons were engaged, if they were put up by the Byrons at all.  They were probably placed in their present situation while the building was in possession of the Churchmen.

One of the groups, consisting of a female and two Saracens, with eyes earnestly fixed upon her, may have been the old favourite ecclesiastical story of Susannah and the elders; the other, which represents a Saracen with a European female between him and a Christian soldier, is, perhaps, an ecclesiastical allegory, descriptive of the Saracen and the Christian warrior contending for the liberation of the Church.  These sort of allegorical stories were common among monastic ornaments, and the famous legend of St George and the Dragon is one of them.

Into the domestic circumstances of Captain and Mrs Byron it would be impertinent to institute any particular investigation.  They were exactly such as might be expected from the sins and follies of the most profligate libertine of the age.

The fortune of Mrs Byron, consisting of various property, and amounting to about £23,500, was all wasted in the space of two years; at the end of which the unfortunate lady found herself in possession of only £150 per annum.

Their means being thus exhausted she accompanied her husband in the summer of 1786 to France, whence she returned to England at the close of the year 1787, and on the 22nd of January, 1788, gave birth, in Holles Street, London, to her first and only child, the poet.  The name of Gordon was added to that of his family in compliance with a condition imposed by will on whomever should become the husband of the heiress of Gight.  The late Duke of Gordon and Colonel Duff, of Fetteresso, were godfathers to the child.

In the year 1790 Mrs Byron took up her residence in Aberdeen, where she was soon after joined by Captain Byron, with whom she lived in lodgings in Queen Street; but their reunion was comfortless, and a separation soon took place.  Still their rupture was not final, for they occasionally visited and drank tea with each other.  The Captain also paid some attention to the boy, and had him, on one occasion, to stay with him for a night, when he proved so troublesome that he was sent home next day.

Byron himself has said that he passed his boyhood at Marlodge, near Aberdeen; but the statement is not correct; he visited, with his mother, occasionally among their friends, and among other places passed some time at Fetteresso, the seat of his godfather, Colonel Duff.  In 1796, after an attack of the scarlet fever, he passed some time at Ballater, a summer resort for health and gaiety, about forty miles up the Dee from Aberdeen.  Although the circumstances of Mrs Byron were at this period exceedingly straitened, she received a visit from her husband, the object of which was to extort more money; and he was so far successful, that she contrived to borrow a sum, which enabled him to proceed to Valenciennes, where in the following year he died, greatly to her relief and the gratification of all who were connected with him.

By her advances to Captain Byron, and the expenses she incurred in furnishing the flat of the house she occupied after his death, Mrs Byron fell into debt to the amount of £300, the interest on which reduced her income to £135; but, much to her credit, she contrived to live without increasing her embarrassments until the death of her grandmother, when she received £1122, a sum which had been set apart for the old gentlewoman’s jointure, and which enabled her to discharge her pecuniary obligations.

Notwithstanding the manner in which this unfortunate lady was treated by her husband, she always entertained for him a strong affection insomuch that, when the intelligence of his death arrived, her grief was loud and vehement.  She was indeed a woman of quick feelings and strong passions; and probably it was by the strength and sincerity of her sensibility that she retained so long the affection of her son, towards whom it cannot be doubted that her love was unaffected.  In the midst of the neglect and penury to which she was herself subjected, she bestowed upon him all the care, the love and watchfulness of the tenderest mother.

In his fifth year, on the 19th of November, 1792, she sent him to a day-school, where she paid about five shillings a quarter, the common rate of the respectable day-schools at that time in Scotland.  It was kept by a Mr Bowers, whom Byron has described as a dapper, spruce person, with whom he made no progress.  How long he remained with Mr Bowers is not mentioned, but by the day-book of the school it was at least twelve months; for on the 19th of November of the following year there is an entry of a guinea having been paid for him.

From this school he was removed and placed with a Mr Ross, one of the ministers of the city churches, and to whom he formed some attachment, as he speaks of him with kindness, and describes him as a devout, clever little man of mild manners, good-natured, and painstaking.  His third instructor was a serious, saturnine, kind young man, named Paterson, the son of a shoemaker, but a good scholar and a rigid Presbyterian.  It is somewhat curious in the record which Byron has made of his early years to observe the constant endeavour with which he, the descendant of such a limitless pedigree and great ancestors, attempts to magnify the condition of his mother’s circumstances.

Paterson attended him until he went to the grammar-school, where his character first began to be developed; and his schoolfellows, many of whom are alive, still recollect him as a lively, warm-hearted, and high-spirited boy, passionate and resentful, but withal affectionate and companionable; this, however, is an opinion given of him after he had become celebrated; for a very different impression has unquestionably remained among some who carry their recollections back to his childhood.  By them he has been described as a malignant imp: was often spoken of for his pranks by the worthy housewives of the neighbourhood, as “Mrs Byron’s crockit deevil,” and generally disliked for the deep vindictive anger he retained against those with whom he happened to quarrel.

By the death of William, the fifth lord, he succeeded to the estates and titles in the year 1798; and in the autumn of that year, Mrs Byron, with her son and a faithful servant of the name of Mary Gray, left Aberdeen for Newstead.  Previously to their departure, Mrs Byron sold the furniture of her humble lodging, with the exception of her little plate and scanty linen, which she took with her, and the whole amount of the sale did not yield SEVENTY-FIVE POUNDS.


Moral Effects of local Scenery; a Peculiarity in TasteEarly LoveImpressions and Traditions

Before I proceed to the regular narrative of the character and adventures of Lord Byron, it seems necessary to consider the probable effects of his residence, during his boyhood, in Scotland.  It is generally agreed, that while a schoolboy in Aberdeen, he evinced a lively spirit, and sharpness enough to have equalled any of his schoolfellows, had he given sufficient application.  In the few reminiscences preserved of his childhood, it is remarkable that he appears in this period, commonly of innocence and playfulness, rarely to have evinced any symptom of generous feeling.  Silent rages, moody sullenness, and revenge are the general characteristics of his conduct as a boy.

He was, undoubtedly, delicately susceptible of impressions from the beauties of nature, for he retained recollections of the scenes which interested his childish wonder, fresh and glowing, to his latest days; nor have there been wanting plausible theories to ascribe the formation of his poetical character to the contemplation of those romantic scenes.  But, whoever has attended to the influential causes of character will reject such theories as shallow, and betraying great ignorance of human nature.  Genius of every kind belongs to some innate temperament; it does not necessarily imply a particular bent, because that may possibly be the effect of circumstances: but, without question, the peculiar quality is inborn, and particular to the individual.  All hear and see much alike; but there is an undefinable though wide difference between the ear of the musician, or the eye of the painter, compared with the hearing and seeing organs of ordinary men; and it is in something like that difference in which genius consists.  Genius is, however, an ingredient of mind more easily described by its effects than by its qualities.  It is as the fragrance, independent of the freshness and complexion of the rose; as the light on the cloud; as the bloom on the cheek of beauty, of which the possessor is unconscious until the charm has been seen by its influence on others; it is the internal golden flame of the opal; a something which may be abstracted from the thing in which it appears, without changing the quality of its substance, its form, or its affinities.  I am not, therefore, disposed to consider the idle and reckless childhood of Byron as unfavourable to the development of his genius; but, on the contrary, inclined to think, that the indulgence of his mother, leaving him so much to the accidents of undisciplined impression, was calculated to cherish associations which rendered them, in the maturity of his powers, ingredients of spell that ruled his memory.

It is singular, and I am not aware it has been before noticed, that with all his tender and impassioned apostrophes to beauty and love, Byron has in no instance, not even in the freest passages of Don Juan, associated either the one or the other with sensual images.  The extravagance of Shakespeare’s Juliet, when she speaks of Romeo being cut after his death into stars, that all the world may be in love with night, is flame and ecstasy compared to the icy metaphysical glitter of Byron’s amorous allusions.  The verses beginning with

She walks in beauty like the light
Of eastern climes and starry skies,

are a perfect example of what I have conceived of his bodiless admiration of beauty, and objectless enthusiasm of love.  The sentiment itself is unquestionably in the highest mood of the intellectual sense of beauty; the simile is, however, anything but such an image as the beauty of woman would suggest.  It is only the remembrance of some impression or imagination of the loveliness of a twilight applied to an object that awakened the same abstract general idea of beauty.  The fancy which could conceive in its passion the charms of a female to be like the glow of the evening, or the general effect of the midnight stars, must have been enamoured of some beautiful abstraction, rather than aught of flesh and blood.  Poets and lovers have compared the complexion of their mistresses to the hues of the morning or of the evening, and their eyes to the dewdrops and the stars; but it has no place in the feelings of man to think of female charms in the sense of admiration which the beauties of the morning or the evening awaken.  It is to make the simile the principal.  Perhaps, however, it may be as well to defer the criticism to which this peculiar characteristic of Byron’s amatory effusions gives rise, until we shall come to estimate his general powers as a poet.  There is upon the subject of love, no doubt, much beautiful composition. throughout his works; but not one line in all the thousands which shows a sexual feeling of female attraction—all is vague and passionless, save in the delicious rhythm of the verse.

But these remarks, though premature as criticisms, are not uncalled for here, even while we are speaking of a child not more than ten years old.  Before Byron had attained that age, he describes himself as having felt the passion.  Dante is said as early as nine years old to have fallen in love with Beatrice; Alfieri, who was himself precocious in the passion, considered such early sensibility to be an unerring sign of a soul formed for the fine arts; and Canova used to say that he was in love when but five years old.  But these instances, however, prove nothing.  Calf-love, as it is called in the country, is common; and in Italy it may arise earlier than in the bleak and barren regions of Lochynagar.  This movement of juvenile sentiment is not, however, love—that strong masculine avidity, which, in its highest excitement, is unrestrained, by the laws alike of God and man.  In truth, the feeling of this kind of love is the very reverse of the irrepressible passion it is a mean shrinking, stealthy awe, and in no one of its symptoms, at least in none of those which Byron describes, has it the slightest resemblance to that bold energy which has prompted men to undertake the most improbable adventures.

He was not quite eight years old, when, according to his own account, he formed an impassioned attachment to Mary Duff; and he gives the following account of his recollection of her, nineteen years afterwards.

“I have been thinking lately a good deal of Mary Duff.  How very odd that I should have been so devotedly fond of that girl, at an age when I could neither feel passion, nor know the meaning of the word and the effect!  My mother used always to rally me about this childish amour, and at last, many years after, when I was sixteen, she told me one day, ‘O Byron, I have had a letter from Edinburgh, and your old sweetheart, Mary Duff, is married to Mr C***.’  And what was my answer?  I really cannot explain or account for my feelings at that moment, but they nearly threw me into convulsions, and alarmed my mother so much, that after I grew better she generally avoided the subject—to me—and contented herself with telling it to all her acquaintance.”  But was this agitation the effect of natural feeling, or of something in the manner in which his mother may have told the news?  He proceeds to inquire.  “Now what could this be?  I had never seen her since her mother’s faux pas at Aberdeen had been the cause of her removal to her grandmother’s at Banff.  We were both the merest children.  I had, and have been, attached fifty times since that period; yet I recollect all we said to each other, all our caresses, her features, my restlessness, sleeplessness, my tormenting my mother’s maid to write for me to her, which she at last did to quiet me.  Poor Nancy thought I was wild, and, as I could not write for myself, became my secretary.  I remember too our walks, and the happiness of sitting by Mary, in the children’s apartment, at their house, not far from the Plainstones, at Aberdeen, while her lesser sister, Helen, played with the doll, and we sat gravely making love in our own way.

“How the deuce did all this occur so early?  Where could it originate?  I certainly had no sexual ideas for years afterward, and yet my misery, my love for that girl, were so violent, that I sometimes doubt if I have ever been really attached since.  Be that as it may, hearing of her marriage, several years afterward, was as a thunderstroke.  It nearly choked me, to the horror of my mother, and the astonishment and almost incredulity of everybody; and it is a phenomenon in my existence, for I was not eight years old, which has puzzled and will puzzle me to the latest hour of it.  And, lately, I know not why, the recollection (not the attachment) has recurred as forcibly as ever: I wonder if she can have the least remembrance of it or me, or remember pitying her sister Helen, for not having an admirer too.  How very pretty is the perfect image of her in my memory.  Her dark brown hair and hazel eyes, her very dress—I should be quite grieved to see her now.  The reality, however beautiful, would destroy, or at least confuse, the features of the lovely Peri, which then existed in her, and still lives in my imagination, at the distance of more than sixteen years.”

Such precocious and sympathetic affections are, as I have already mentioned, common among children, and is something very different from the love of riper years; but the extract is curious, and shows how truly little and vague Byron’s experience of the passion must have been.  In his recollection of the girl, be it observed, there is no circumstance noticed which shows, however strong the mutual sympathy, the slightest influence of particular attraction.  He recollects the colour of her hair, the hue of her eyes, her very dress, and he remembers her as a Peri, a spirit; nor does it appear that his sleepless restlessness, in which the thought of her was ever uppermost, was produced by jealousy, or doubt, or fear, or any other concomitant of the passion.

There is another most important circumstance in what may be called the Aberdonian epoch of Lord Byron’s life.

That Byron, in his boyhood, was possessed of lively sensibilities, is sufficiently clear; that he enjoyed the advantage of indulging his humour and temper without restraint, is not disputable; and that his natural temperament made him sensible, in no ordinary degree, to the beauties of nature, is also abundantly manifest in all his productions; but it is surprising that this admiration of the beauties of Nature is but an ingredient in Byron’s poetry, and not its most remarkable characteristic.  Deep feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment are far more obvious; they constitute, indeed, the very spirit of his works, and a spirit of such qualities is the least of all likely to have arisen from the contemplation of magnificent Nature, or to have been inspired by studying her storms or serenity; for dissatisfaction and disappointment are the offspring of moral experience, and have no natural association with the forms of external things.  The habit of associating morose sentiments with any particular kind of scenery only shows that the sources of the sullenness arose in similar visible circumstances.  It is from these premises I would infer, that the seeds of Byron’s misanthropic tendencies were implanted during the “silent rages” of his childhood, and that the effect of mountain scenery, which continued so strong upon him after he left Scotland, producing the sentiments with which he has imbued his heroes in the wild circumstances in which he places them, was mere reminiscence and association.  For although the sullen tone of his mind was not fully brought out until he wrote Childe Harold, it is yet evident from his Hours of Idleness that he was tuned to that key before he went abroad.  The dark colouring of his mind was plainly imbibed in a mountainous region, from sombre heaths, and in the midst of rudeness and grandeur.  He had no taste for more cheerful images, and there are neither rural objects nor villagery in the scenes he describes, but only loneness and the solemnity of mountains.

To those who are acquainted with the Scottish character, it is unnecessary to suggest how very probable it is that Mrs Byron and her associates were addicted to the oral legends of the district and of her ancestors, and that the early fancy of the poet was nourished with the shadowy descriptions in the tales o’ the olden time;—at last this is manifest, that although Byron shows little of the melancholy and mourning of Ossian, he was yet evidently influenced by some strong bias and congeniality of taste to brood and cogitate on topics of the same character as those of that bard.  Moreover, besides the probability of his imagination having been early tinged with the sullen hue of the local traditions, it is remarkable, that the longest of his juvenile poems is an imitation of the manner of the Homer of Morven.

In addition to a natural temperament, kept in a state of continual excitement, by unhappy domestic incidents, and the lurid legends of the past, there were other causes in operation around the young poet that could not but greatly affect the formation of his character.

Descended of a distinguished family, counting among its ancestors the fated line of the Scottish kings, and reduced almost to extreme poverty, it is highly probable, both from the violence of her temper, and the pride of blood, that Mrs Byron would complain of the almost mendicant condition to which she was reduced, especially so long as there was reason to fear that her son was not likely to succeed to the family estates and dignity.  Of his father’s lineage few traditions were perhaps preserved, compared with those of his mother’s family; but still enough was known to impress the imagination.  Mr Moore, struck with this circumstance, has remarked, that “in reviewing the ancestors, both near and remote, of Lord Byron, it cannot fail to be remarked how strikingly he combined in his own nature some of the best, and perhaps worst qualities that lie scattered through the various characters of his predecessors.”  But still it is to his mother’s traditions of her ancestors that I would ascribe the conception of the dark and guilty beings which he delighted to describe.  And though it may be contended that there was little in her conduct to exalt poetical sentiment, still there was a great deal in her condition calculated to affect and impel an impassioned disposition.  I can imagine few situations more likely to produce lasting recollections of interest and affection, than that in which Mrs Byron, with her only child, was placed in Aberdeen.  Whatever might have been the violence of her temper, or the improprieties of her after-life, the fond and mournful caresses with which she used to hang over her lame and helpless orphan, must have greatly contributed to the formation of that morbid sensibility which became the chief characteristic of his life.  At the same time, if it did contribute to fill his days with anguish and anxieties, it also undoubtedly assisted the development of his powers; and I am therefore disposed to conclude, that although, with respect to the character of the man, the time he spent in Aberdeen can only be contemplated with pity, mingled with sorrow, still it must have been richly fraught with incidents of inconceivable value to the genius of the poet.


Arrival at NewsteadFind it in RuinsThe old Lord and his BeetlesThe Earl of Carlisle becomes the Guardian of ByronThe Poet’s acute Sense of his own deformed FootHis Mother consults a Fortune-teller

Mrs Byron, on her arrival at Newstead Abbey with her son, found it almost in a state of ruin.  After the equivocal affair of the duel, the old lord lived in absolute seclusion, detested by his tenantry, at war with his neighbours, and deserted by all his family.  He not only suffered the abbey to fall into decay, but, as far as lay in his power, alienated the land which should have kept it in repair, and denuded the estate of the timber.  Byron has described the conduct of the morose peer in very strong terms:—“After his trial he shut himself up at Newstead, and was in the habit of feeding crickets, which were his only companions.  He made them so tame that they used to crawl over him, and, when they were too familiar, he whipped them with a wisp of straw: at his death, it is said, they left the house in a body.”

However this may have been, it is certain that Byron came to an embarrassed inheritance, both as respected his property and the character of his race; and, perhaps, though his genius suffered nothing by the circumstance, it is to be regretted that he was still left under the charge of his mother: a woman without judgment or self-command; alternately spoiling her child by indulgence, irritating him by her self-willed obstinacy, and, what was still worse, amusing him by her violence, and disgusting him by fits of inebriety.  Sympathy for her misfortunes would be no sufficient apology for concealing her defects; they undoubtedly had a material influence on her son, and her appearance was often the subject of his childish ridicule.  She was a short and corpulent person.  She rolled in her gait, and would, in her rage, sometimes endeavour to catch him for the purpose of inflicting punishment, while he would run round the room, mocking her menaces and mimicking her motion.

The greatest weakness in Lord Byron’s character was a morbid sensibility to his lameness.  He felt it with as much vexation as if it had been inflicted ignominy.  One of the most striking passages in some memoranda which he has left of his early days, is where, in speaking of his own sensitiveness on the subject of his deformed foot, he described the feeling of horror and humiliation that came over him when his mother, in one of her fits of passion, called him a “lame brat.”

The sense which Byron always retained of the innocent fault in his foot was unmanly and excessive; for it was not greatly conspicuous, and he had a mode of walking across a room by which it was scarcely at all perceptible.  I was several days on board the same ship with him before I happened to discover the defect; it was indeed so well concealed, that I was in doubt whether his lameness was the effect of a temporary accident, or a malformation, until I asked Mr Hobhouse.

On their arrival from Scotland, Byron was placed by his mother under the care of an empirical pretender of the name of Lavender, at Nottingham, who professed the cure of such cases; and that he might not lose ground in his education, he was attended by a respectable schoolmaster, Mr Rodgers, who read parts of Virgil and Cicero with him.  Of this gentleman he always entertained a kind remembrance.  Nor was his regard in this instance peculiar; for it may be said to have been a distinguishing trait in his character, to recollect with affection all who had been about him in his youth.  The quack, however, was an exception; whom (from having caused him to suffer much pain, and whose pretensions, even young as he then was, he detected) he delighted to expose.  On one occasion, he scribbled down on a sheet of paper, the letters of the alphabet at random, but in the form of words and sentences, and placing them before Lavender, asked him gravely, what language it was.  “Italian,” was the reply, to the infinite amusement of the little satirist, who burst into a triumphant laugh at the success of his stratagem.

It is said that about this time the first symptom of his predilection for rhyming showed itself.  An elderly lady, a visitor to his mother, had been indiscreet enough to give him some offence, and slights he generally resented with more energy than they often deserved.  This venerable personage entertained a singular notion respecting the soul, which she believed took its flight at death to the moon.  One day, after a repetition of her original contumely, he appeared before his nurse in a violent rage, and complained vehemently of the old lady, declaring that he could not bear the sight of her, and then he broke out into the following doggerel, which he repeated over and over, crowing with delight.

In Nottingham county, there lives at Swan-green,
As curs’d an old lady as ever was seen;
And when she does die, which I hope will be soon,
She firmly believes she will go to the moon.

Mrs Byron, by the accession of her son to the family honours and estate, received no addition to her small income; and he, being a minor, was unable to make any settlement upon her.  A representation of her case was made to Government, and in consequence she was placed on the pension-list for £300 a-year.

Byron not having received any benefit from the Nottingham quack, was removed to London, put under the care of Dr Bailey, and placed in the school of Dr Glennie, at Dulwich; Mrs Byron herself took a house on Sloan Terrace.  Moderation in all athletic exercises was prescribed to the boy, but Dr Glennie had some difficulty in restraining his activity.  He was quiet enough while in the house with the Doctor, but no sooner was he released to play, than he showed as much ambition to excel in violent exercises as the most robust youth of the school; an ambition common to young persons who have the misfortune to labour under bodily defects.

While under the charge of Dr Glennie, he was playful, good-humoured, and beloved by his companions; and addicted to reading history and poetry far beyond the usual scope of his age.  In these studies he showed a predilection for the Scriptures; and certainly there are many traces in his works which show that, whatever the laxity of his religious principles may have been in after-life, he was not unacquainted with the records and history of our religion.

During this period, Mrs Byron often indiscreetly interfered with the course of his education; and if his classical studies were in consequence not so effectually conducted as they might have been, his mind derived some of its best nutriment from the loose desultory course of his reading.

Among the books to which the boys at Dr Glennie’s school had access was a pamphlet containing the narrative of a shipwreck on the coast of Arracan, filled with impressive descriptions.  It had not attracted much public attention, but it was a favourite with the pupils, particularly with Byron, and furnished him afterwards with the leading circumstances in the striking description of the shipwreck in Don Juan.

Although the rhymes upon the lunar lady of Notts are supposed to have been the first twitter of his muse, he has said himself, “My first dash into poetry was as early as 1800.  It was the ebullition of a passion for my first cousin, Margaret Parker.  I was then about twelve, she rather older, perhaps a year.”  And it is curious to remark, that in his description of this beautiful girl there is the same lack of animal admiration which we have noticed in all his loves; he says of her:—

“I do not recollect scarcely anything equal to the transparent beauty of my cousin, or to the sweetness of her temper, during the short period of our intimacy: she looked as if she had been made out of a rainbow, all beauty and peace.”  This is certainly poetically expressed; but there was more true love in Pygmalion’s passion for his statue, and in the Parisian maiden’s adoration of the Apollo.

When he had been nearly two years under the tuition of Dr Glennie, he was removed to Harrow, chiefly in consequence of his mother’s interference with his studies, and especially by withdrawing him often from school.

During the time he was under the care of Dr Glennie, he was more amiable than at any other period of his life, a circumstance which justifies the supposition, that, had he been left more to the discipline of that respectable person, he would have proved a better man; for, however much his heart afterwards became incrusted with the leprosy of selfishness, at this period his feelings were warm and kind.  Towards his nurse he evinced uncommon affection, which he cherished as long as she lived.  He presented her with his watch, the first he possessed, and also a full-length miniature of himself, when he was only between seven and eight years old, representing him with a profusion of curling locks, and in his hands a bow and arrow.  The sister of this woman had been his first nurse, and after he had left Scotland he wrote to her, in a spirit which betokened a gentle and sincere heart, informing her with much joy of a circumstance highly important to himself.  It was to tell her that at last he had got his foot so far restored as to be able to put on a common boot, an event which he was sure would give her great pleasure; to himself it is difficult to imagine any incident which could have been more gratifying.

I dwell with satisfaction on these descriptions of his early dispositions; for, although there are not wanting instances of similar warm-heartedness in his later years, still he never formed any attachments so pure and amiable after he went to Harrow.  The change of life came over him, and when the vegetable period of boyhood was past, the animal passions mastered all the softer affections of his character.

In the summer of 1801 he accompanied his mother to Cheltenham, and while he resided there the views of the Malvern hills recalled to his memory his enjoyments amid the wilder scenery of Aberdeenshire.  The recollections were reimpressed on his heart and interwoven with his strengthened feelings.  But a boy gazing with emotion on the hills at sunset, because they remind him of the mountains where he passed his childhood, is no proof that he is already in heart and imagination a poet.  To suppose so is to mistake the materials for the building.

The delight of Byron in contemplating the Malvern hills, was not because they resembled the scenery of Lochynagar, but because they awoke trains of thought and fancy, associated with recollections of that scenery.  The poesy of the feeling lay not in the beauty of the objects, but in the moral effect of the traditions, to which these objects served as talismans of the memory.  The scene at sunset reminded him of the Highlands, but it was those reminiscences which similar scenes recalled, that constituted the impulse which gave life and elevation to his reflections.  There is not more poesy in the sight of mountains than of plains; it is the local associations that throw enchantment over all scenes, and resemblance that awakens them, binding them to new connections: nor does this admit of much controversy; for mountainous regions, however favourable to musical feeling, are but little to poetical.

The Welsh have no eminent bard; the Swiss have no renown as poets; nor are the mountainous regions of Greece, nor of the Apennines, celebrated for poetry.  The Highlands of Scotland, save the equivocal bastardy of Ossian, have produced no poet of any fame, and yet mountainous countries abound in local legends, which would seem to be at variance with this opinion, were it not certain, though I cannot explain the cause, that local poetry, like local language or local melody, is in proportion to the interest it awakens among the local inhabitants, weak and ineffectual in its influence on the sentiments of the general world.  The “Rans de Vaches,” the most celebrated of all local airs, is tame and commonplace,—unmelodious, to all ears but those of the Swiss “forlorn in a foreign land.”

While in Cheltenham, Mrs Byron consulted a fortune-teller respecting the destinies of her son, and according to her feminine notions, she was very cunning and guarded with the sybil, never suspecting that she might have been previously known, and, unconscious to herself, an object of interest to the spaewife.  She endeavoured to pass herself off as a maiden lady, and regarded it as no small testimony of the wisdom of the oracle, that she declared her to be not only a married woman, but the mother of a son who was lame.  After such a marvellous proof of second-sightedness, it may easily be conceived with what awe and faith she listened to the prediction, that his life should be in danger from poison before he was of age, and that he should be twice married; the second time to a foreign lady.  Whether it was this same fortune-teller who foretold that he would, in his twenty-seventh year, incur some great misfortune, is not certain; but, considering his unhappy English marriage, and his subsequent Italian liaison with the Countess Guiccioli, the marital prediction was not far from receiving its accomplishment.  The fact of his marriage taking place in his twenty-seventh year, is at least a curious circumstance, and has been noticed by himself with a sentiment of superstition.


Placed at HarrowProgress thereLove for Miss ChaworthHis ReadingOratorical Powers

In passing from the quiet academy of Dulwich Grove to the public school of Harrow, the change must have been great to any boy—to Byron it was punishment; and for the first year and a half he hated the place.  In the end, however, he rose to be a leader in all the sports and mischiefs of his schoolfellows; but it never could be said that he was a popular boy, however much he was distinguished for spirit and bravery; for if he was not quarrelsome, he was sometimes vindictive.  Still it could not have been to any inveterate degree; for, undoubtedly, in his younger years, he was susceptible of warm impressions from gentle treatment, and his obstinacy and arbitrary humour were perhaps more the effects of unrepressed habit than of natural bias; they were the prickles which surrounded his genius in the bud.

At Harrow he acquired no distinction as a student; indeed, at no period was he remarkable for steady application.  Under Dr Glennie he had made but little progress; and it was chiefly in consequence of his backwardness that he was removed from his academy.  When placed with Dr Drury, it was with an intimation that he had a cleverness about him, but that his education had been neglected.

The early dislike which Byron felt towards the Earl of Carlisle is abundantly well known, and he had the magnanimity to acknowledge that it was in some respects unjust.  But the antipathy was not all on one side; nor will it be easy to parallel the conduct of the Earl with that of any guardian.  It is but justice, therefore, to Byron, to make the public aware that the dislike began on the part of Lord Carlisle, and originated in some distaste which he took to Mrs Byron’s manners, and at the trouble she sometimes gave him on account of her son.

Dr Drury, in his communication to Mr Moore respecting the early history of Byron, mentions a singular circumstance as to this subject, which we record with the more pleasure, because Byron has been blamed, and has blamed himself, for his irreverence towards Lord Carlisle, while it appears that the fault lay with the Earl.

“After some continuance at Harrow,” says Dr Drury, “and when the powers of his mind had begun to expand, the late Lord Carlisle, his relation, desired to see me in town.  I waited on his Lordship.  His object was to inform me of Lord Byron’s expectations of property when he came of age, which he represented as contracted, and to inquire respecting his abilities.  On the former circumstance I made no remark; as to the latter, I replied, ‘He has talents, my Lord, which will add lustre to his rank.’  ‘Indeed,’ said his Lordship, with a degree of surprise, that, according to my feelings, did not express in it all the satisfaction I expected.”

Lord Carlisle had, indeed, much of the Byron humour in him.  His mother was a sister of the homicidal lord, and possessed some of the family peculiarity: she was endowed with great talent, and in her latter days she exhibited great singularity.  She wrote beautiful verses and piquant epigrams among others, there is a poetical effusion of her pen addressed to Mrs Greville, on her Ode to Indifference, which, at the time, was much admired, and has been, with other poems of her Ladyship’s, published in Pearch’s collection.  After moving, for a long time, as one of the most brilliant orbs in the sphere of fashion, she suddenly retired, and like her morose brother, shut herself up from the world.  While she lived in this seclusion, she became an object of the sportive satire of the late Mr Fox, who characterized her as

Carlisle, recluse in pride and rags.

I have heard a still coarser apostrophe by the same gentleman.  It seems they had quarrelled, and on his leaving her in the drawing-room, she called after him, that he might go about his business, for she did not care two skips of a louse for him.  On coming to the hall, finding paper and ink on the table, he wrote two lines in answer, and sent it up to her Ladyship, to the effect that she always spoke of what was running in her head.

Byron has borne testimony to the merits of his guardian, her son, as a tragic poet, by characterizing his publications as paper books.  It is, however, said that they nevertheless showed some talent, and that The Father’s Revenge, one of the tragedies, was submitted to the judgment of Dr Johnson, who did not despise it.

But to return to the progress of Byron at Harrow; it is certain that notwithstanding the affectionate solicitude of Dr Drury to encourage him, he never became an eminent scholar; at least, we have his own testimony to that effect, in the fourth canto of Childe Harold; the lines, however, in which that testimony stands recorded, are among the weakest he ever penned.

   May he who will his recollections rake
   And quote in classic raptures, and awake
   The hills with Latin echoes: I abhorr’d
   Too much to conquer, for the poet’s sake,
   The drill’d, dull lesson forced down word by word,
In my repugnant youth with pleasure to record.

And, as an apology for the defect, he makes the following remarks in a note subjoined:—

“I wish to express that we become tired of the task before we can comprehend the beauty; that we learn by rote before we can get by heart; that the freshness is worn away, and the future pleasure and advantage deadened and destroyed by the didactic anticipation, at an age when we can neither feel nor understand the power of compositions, which it requires an acquaintance with life, as well as Latin and Greek, to relish or to reason upon.  For the same reason, we never can be aware of the fulness of some of the finest passages of Shakspeare (‘To be, or not to be,’ for instance), from the habit of having them hammered into us at eight years old, as an exercise not of mind but of memory; so that when we are old enough to enjoy them, the taste is gone, and the appetite palled.  In some parts of the Continent, young persons are taught from mere common authors, and do not read the best classics until their maturity.  I certainly do not speak on this point from any pique or aversion towards the place of my education.  I was not a slow or an idle boy; and I believe no one could be more attached to Harrow than I have always been, and with reason: a part of the time passed there was the happiest of my life; and my preceptor, the Rev. Dr Joseph Drury, was the best and worthiest friend I ever possessed; whose warnings I have remembered but too well, though too late, when I have erred; and whose counsels I have but followed when I have done well and wisely.  If ever this imperfect record of my feelings towards him should reach his eyes, let it remind him of one who never thinks of him but with gratitude and veneration; of one who would more gladly boast of having been his pupil if, by more closely following his injunctions, he could reflect any honour upon his instructor.”

Lord Byron, however, is not singular in his opinion of the inutility of premature classical studies; and notwithstanding the able manner in which the late Dean Vincent defended public education, we have some notion that his reasoning upon this point will not be deemed conclusive.  Milton, says Dr Vincent, complained of the years that were wasted in teaching the dead languages.  Cowley also complained that classical education taught words only and not things; and Addison deemed it an inexpiable error, that boys with genius or without were all to be bred poets indiscriminately.  As far, then, as respects the education of a poet, we should think that the names of Milton, Cowley, Addison, and Byron would go well to settle the question; especially when it is recollected how little Shakspeare was indebted to the study of the classics, and that Burns knew nothing of them at all.  I do not, however, adopt the opinion as correct; neither do I think that Dean Vincent took a right view of the subject; for, as discipline, the study of the classics may be highly useful, at the same time, the mere hammering of Greek and Latin into English cannot be very conducive to the refinement of taste or the exaltation of sentiment.  Nor is there either common sense or correct logic in the following observations made on the passage and note, quoted by the anonymous author of Childe Harold’s Monitor.

“This doctrine of antipathies, contracted by the impatience of youth against the noblest authors of antiquity, from the circumstance of having been made the vehicle of early instruction, is a most dangerous doctrine indeed; since it strikes at the root, not only of all pure taste, but of all praiseworthy industry.  It would, if acted upon (as Harold by the mention of the Continental practice of using inferior writers in the business of tuition would seem to recommend), destroy the great source of the intellectual vigour of our countrymen.”

This is, undoubtedly, assuming too much; for those who have objected to the years “wasted” in teaching the dead languages, do not admit that the labour of acquiring them either improves the taste or adds to the vigour of the understanding; and, therefore, before the soundness of the opinion of Milton, of Cowley, of Addison, and of many other great men can be rejected, it falls on those who are of Dean Vincent’s opinion, and that of Childe Harold’s Monitor, to prove that the study of the learned languages is of so much primary importance as they claim for it.

But it appears that Byron’s mind, during the early period of his residence at Harrow, was occupied with another object than his studies, and which may partly account for his inattention to them.  He fell in love with Mary Chaworth.  “She was,” he is represented to have said, “several years older than myself, but at my age boys like something older than themselves, as they do younger later in life.  Our estates adjoined, but owing to the unhappy circumstances of the feud (the affair of the fatal duel), our families, as is generally the case with neighbours, who happen to be near relations, were never on terms of more than common civility, scarcely those.  She was the beau ideal of all that my youthful fancy could paint of the beautiful! and I have taken all my fables about the celestial nature of women from the perfection my imagination created in her.  I say created, for I found her, like the rest of the sex, anything but angelic.  I returned to Harrow, after my trip to Cheltenham, more deeply enamoured than ever, and passed the next holidays at Newstead.  I now began to fancy myself a man, and to make love in earnest.  Our meetings were stolen ones, and my letters passed through the medium of a confidant.  A gate leading from Mr Chaworth’s grounds to those of my mother, was the place of our interviews, but the ardour was all on my side; I was serious, she was volatile.  She liked me as a younger brother, and treated and laughed at me as a boy; she, however, gave me her picture, and that was something to make verses upon.  Had I married Miss Chaworth, perhaps the whole tenor of my life would have been different; she jilted me, however, but her marriage proved anything but a happy one.”  It is to this attachment that we are indebted for the beautiful poem of The Dream, and the stanzas beginning

Oh, had my fate been joined to thine!

Although this love affair a little interfered with his Greek and Latin, his time was not passed without some attention to reading.  Until he was eighteen years old, he had never seen a review; but his general information was so extensive on modern topics, as to induce a suspicion that he could only have collected so much information from reviews, as he was never seen reading, but always idle, and in mischief, or at play.  He was, however, a devourer of books; he read eating, read in bed, read when no one else read, and had perused all sorts of books from the time he first could spell, but had never read a review, and knew not what the name implied.

It should be here noticed, that while he was at Harrow, his qualities were rather oratorical than poetical; and if an opinion had then been formed of the likely result of his character, the prognostication would have led to the expectation of an orator.  Altogether, his conduct at Harrow indicated a clever, but not an extraordinary boy.  He formed a few friendships there, in which his attachment appears to have been, in some instances, remarkable.  The late Duke of Dorset was his fag, and he was not considered a very hard taskmaster.  He certainly did not carry with him from Harrow any anticipation of that splendid career he was destined to run as a poet.


Character at HarrowPoetical PredilectionsByron at CambridgeHisHours of Idleness

In reconsidering the four years which Byron spent at Harrow, while we can clearly trace the development of the sensibilities of his character, and an increased tension of his susceptibility, by which impressions became more acute and delicate, it seems impossible not to perceive by the records which he has himself left of his feelings, that something morbid was induced upon them.  Had he not afterwards so magnificently distinguished himself as a poet, it is not probable that he would have been recollected by his schoolfellows as having been in any respect different from the common herd.  His activity and spirit, in their controversies and quarrels, were but the outbreakings of that temperament which the discipline of riper years, and the natural awe of the world, afterward reduced into his hereditary cast of character, in which so much of sullenness and misanthropy was exhibited.  I cannot, however, think that there was anything either in the nature of his pastimes, or his studies, unfavourable to the formation of the poetical character.  His amusements were active; his reading, though without method, was yet congenial to his impassioned imagination; and the phantom of an enthusiastic attachment, of which Miss Chaworth was not the only object (for it was altogether intellectual, and shared with others), were circumstances calculated to open various sources of reflection, and to concentrate the elements of an energetic and original mind.

But it is no easy matter to sketch what may have been the outline of a young poet’s education.  The supposition that poets must be dreamers, because there is often much dreaminess in poesy, is a mere hypothesis.  Of all the professors of metaphysical discernment, poets require the finest tact; and contemplation is with them a sign of inward abstract reflection, more than of any process of mind by which resemblance is traced, and associations awakened.  There is no account of any great poet, whose genius was of that dreamy cartilaginous kind, which hath its being in haze, and draws its nourishment from lights and shadows; which ponders over the mysteries of trees, and interprets the oracles of babbling waters.  They have all been men—worldly men, different only from others in reasoning more by feeling than induction.  Directed by impulse, in a greater degree than other men, poets are apt to be betrayed into actions which make them singular, as compared by those who are less imaginative; but the effects of earnestness should never be confounded with the qualities of talent.

No greater misconception has ever been obtruded upon the world as philosophic criticism, than the theory of poets being the offspring of “capering lambkins and cooing doves”; for they differ in no respect from other men of high endowment, but in the single circumstance of the objects to which their taste is attracted.  The most vigorous poets, those who have influenced longest and are most quoted, have indeed been all men of great shrewdness of remark, and anything but your chin-on-hand contemplators.  To adduce many instances is unnecessary.  Are there any symptoms of the gelatinous character of the effusions of the Lakers in the compositions of Homer?  The London Gazette does not tell us things more like facts than the narratives of Homer, and it often states facts that are much more like fictions than his most poetical inventions.  So much is this the case with the works of all the higher poets, that as they recede from that worldly standard which is found in the Epics of Homer, they sink in the scale of poets.  In what does the inferiority of Virgil, for example, consist, but in his having hatched fancies in his contemplations which the calm mind rejects as absurdities.  Then Tasso, with his enchanted forests and his other improbabilities; are they more than childish tales? tales, too, not in fancy to be compared with those of that venerable dry-nurse, Mother Bunch.  Compare the poets that babble of green fields with those who deal in the actions and passions of men, such as Shakspeare, and it must be confessed that it is not those who have looked at external nature who are the true poets, but those who have seen and considered most about the business and bosom of man.  It may be an advantage that a poet should have the benefit of landscapes and storms, as children are the better for country air and cow’s milk; but the true scene of their manly work and business is in the populous city.  Inasmuch as Byron was a lover of solitude, he was deficient as an observer of men.

The barrenest portion, as to materials for biography, in the life of this interesting man, is the period he spent at the University of Cambridge.  Like that of most young men, it is probable the major part of his time was passed between the metropolis and the university.  Still it was in that period he composed the different poems which make up the little volume of The Hours of Idleness; a work which will ever be regarded, more by its consequences than its importance, as of great influence on the character and career of the poet.

It has been supposed, I see not how justly, that there was affectation in the title.  It is probable that Byron intended no more by it than to imply that its contents were sketches of leisure.  This is the less doubtful, as he was at that period particularly sensitive concerning the opinion that might be entertained of his works.  Before he made the collection, many of the pieces had been circulated, and he had gathered opinions as to their merits with a degree of solicitude that can only be conceived by those who were acquainted with the constantly excited sensibility of his mind.  When he did publish the collection, nothing appeared in the style and form of the publication that indicated any arrogance of merit.  On the contrary, it was brought forward with a degree of diffidence, which, if it did not deserve the epithet of modesty, could incur nothing harsher than that of bashfulness.  It was printed at the obscure market-town press of Newark, was altogether a very homely, rustic work, and no attempt was made to bespeak for it a good name from the critics.  It was truly an innocent affair and an unpretending performance.  But notwithstanding these, at least seeming, qualities of young doubtfulness and timidity, they did not soften the austere nature of the bleak and blighting criticism which was then characteristic of Edinburgh.

A copy was somehow communicated to one of the critics in that city, and was reviewed by him in the Edinburgh Review in an article replete with satire and insinuations calculated to prey upon the author’s feelings, while the injustice of the estimate which was made of his talent and originality, could not but be as iron in his heart.  Owing to the deep and severe impression which it left, it ought to be preserved in every memoir which treats of the development of his genius and character; and for this reason I insert it entire, as one of the most influential documents perhaps in the whole extent of biography.


Criticism of theEdinburgh Review

“The poesy of this young lord belongs to the class which neither God nor man are said to permit.  Indeed we do not recollect to have seen a quantity of verse with so few deviations in either direction from that exact standard.  His effusions are spread over a dead flat, and can no more get above or below the level than if they were so much stagnant water.  As an extenuation of this offence, the noble author is peculiarly forward in pleading minority.  We have it in the title-page, and on the very back of the volume; it follows his name like a favourite part of his style.  Much stress is laid upon it in the preface; and the poems are connected with this general statement of his case by particular dates, substantiating the age at which each was written.  Now, the law upon the point of minority we hold to be perfectly clear.  It is a plea available only to the defendant; no plaintiff can offer it as a supplementary ground of action.  Thus, if any suit could be brought against Lord Byron, for the purpose of compelling him to put into court a certain quantity of poetry, and if judgment were given against him, it is highly probable that an exception would be taken, were he to deliver for poetry the contents of this volume.  To this he might plead minority; but as he now makes voluntary tender of the article, he hath no right to sue on that ground for the price in good current praise, should the goods be unmarketable.  This is our view of the law on the point; and we dare to say, so will it be ruled.  Perhaps, however, in reality, all that he tells us about his youth is rather with a view to increase our wonder, than to soften our censures.  He possibly means to say, ‘See how a minor can write!  This poem was actually composed by a young man of eighteen! and this by one of only sixteen!’  But, alas, we all remember the poetry of Cowley at ten, and Pope at twelve; and, so far from hearing with any degree of surprise that very poor verses were written by a youth from his leaving school to his leaving college inclusive, we really believe this to be the most common of all occurrences;—that it happens in the life of nine men in ten who are educated in England, and that the tenth man writes better verse than Lord Byron.

“His other plea of privilege our author brings forward to waive it.  He certainly, however, does allude frequently to his family and ancestors, sometimes in poetry, sometimes in notes; and while giving up his claim on the score of rank, he takes care to remind us of Dr Johnson’s saying, that when a nobleman appears as an author, his merit should be handsomely acknowledged.  In truth, it is this consideration only that induces us to give Lord Byron’s poems a place in our Review, besides our desire to counsel him, that he do forthwith abandon poetry, and turn his talents, which are considerable, and his opportunities, which are great, to better account.

“With this view we must beg leave seriously to assure him, that the mere rhyming of the final syllable, even when accompanied by the presence of a certain number of feet; nay, although (which does not always happen) these feet should scan regularly, and have been all counted upon the fingers, is not the whole art of poetry.  We would entreat him to believe that a certain portion of liveliness, somewhat of fancy, is necessary to constitute a poem; and that a poem in the present day, to be read, must contain at least one thought, even in a little degree different from the ideas of former writers, or differently expressed.  We put it to his candour, whether there is anything so deserving the name of poetry, in verses like the following, written in 1806, and whether, if a youth of eighteen could say anything so uninteresting to his ancestors, a youth of nineteen should publish it:

Shades of heroes, farewell! your descendant, departing
   From the seat of his ancestors, bids you adieu;
Abroad or at home, your remembrance imparting
   New courage, he’ll think upon glory and you.

Though a tear dim his eye at this sad separation,
   ’Tis nature, not fear, that excites his regret;
Far distant he goes with the same emulation,
   The fame of his fathers he ne’er can forget.

That fame and that memory still will he cherish,
   He vows that he ne’er will disgrace your renown;
Like you will he live, or like you will he perish,
   When decay’d, may he mingle his dust with your own.

“Now, we positively do assert, that there is nothing better than these stanzas in the whole compass of the noble minor’s volume.

“Lord Byron should also have a care of attempting what the greatest poets have done before him, for comparisons (as he must have had occasion to see at his writing-master’s) are odious.  Gray’s Ode to Eton College should really have kept out the ten hobbling stanzas on a distant view of the village and school at Harrow.

Where fancy yet joys to trace the resemblance
   Of comrades in friendship or mischief allied,
How welcome to me your ne’er-fading remembrance,
   Which rests in the bosom, though hope is denied.

“In like manner, the exquisite lines of Mr Rogers, On a Tear, might have warned the noble author of these premises, and spared us a whole dozen such stanzas as the following:

   Mild charity’s glow,
   To us mortals below,
Shows the soul from barbarity clear;
   Compassion will melt
   Where the virtue is felt.
And its dew is diffused in a tear.

   The man doom’d to sail
   With the blast of the gale,
Through billows Atlantic to steer,
   As he bends o’er the wave,
   Which may soon be his grave,
The green sparkles bright with a tear.

“And so of instances in which former poets had failed.  Thus, we do not think Lord Byron was made for translating, during his nonage, Adrian’s Address to his Soul, when Pope succeeded indifferently in the attempt.  If our readers, however, are of another opinion, they may look at it.

Ah! gentle, fleeting, wav’ring sprite,
   Friend and associate of this clay,
   To what unknown region borne
Wilt thou now wing thy distant flight?
   No more with wonted humour gay,
   But pallid, cheerless, and forlorn.

“However, be this as it may, we fear his translations and imitations are great favourities with Lord Byron.  We have them of all kinds, from Anacreon to Ossian; and, viewing them as school-exercises, they may pass.  Only, why print them after they have had their day and served their turn?  And why call the thing in p. 79 a translation, where two words (θελο λεyειν) of the original are expanded into four lines, and the other thing in p. 81, where μεσονυκτικις ποθ’ οραις is rendered by means of six hobbling verses.  As to his Ossian poesy, we are not very good judges; being, in truth, so moderately skilled in that species of composition, that we should, in all probability, be criticising some bit of genuine Macpherson itself, were we to express our opinion of Lord Byron’s rhapsodies.  If, then, the following beginning of a Song of Bards is by his Lordship, we venture to object to it, as far as we can comprehend it; ‘What form rises on the roar of clouds, whose dark ghost gleams on the red stream of tempests?  His voice rolls on the thunder; ’tis Oila, the brown chief of Otchona.  He was,’ etc.  After detaining this ‘brown chief’ some time, the bards conclude by giving him their advice to ‘raise his fair locks’; then to ‘spread them on the arch of the rainbow’; and to ‘smile through the tears of the storm.’  Of this kind of thing there are no less than nine pages: and we can so far venture an opinion in their favour, that they look very like Macpherson; and we are positive they are pretty nearly as stupid and tiresome.

“It is some sort of privilege of poets to be egotists; but they should ‘use it as not abusing it’; and particularly one who piques himself (though, indeed, at the ripe age of nineteen) on being an infant bard—

The artless Helicon I boast is youth—

should either not know, or should seem not to know, so much about his own ancestry.  Besides a poem, above cited, on the family-seat of the Byrons, we have another of eleven pages on the selfsame subject, introduced with an apology, ‘he certainly had no intention of inserting it,’ but really ‘the particular request of some friends,’ etc. etc.  It concludes with five stanzas on himself, ‘the last and youngest of the noble line.’  There is also a good deal about his maternal ancestors, in a poem on Lachion-y-Gair, a mountain, where he spent part of his youth, and might have learned that pibroach is not a bagpipe, any more than a duet means a fiddle.

“As the author has dedicated so large a part of his volume to immortalize his employments at school and college, we cannot possibly dismiss it without presenting the reader with a specimen of these ingenious effusions.

“In an ode, with a Greek motto, called Granta, we have the following magnificent stanzas:—

There, in apartments small and damp,
   The candidate for college prizes
Sits poring by the midnight lamp,
   Goes late to bed, yet early rises:

Who reads false quantities in Seale,
   Or puzzles o’er the deep triangle,
Depriv’d of many a wholesome meal,
   In barbarous Latin doomed to wrangle.

Renouncing every pleasing page
   From authors of historic use;
Preferring to the letter’d sage
   The square of the hypotenuse.
Still harmless are these occupations,
   That hurt none but the hapless student,
Compared with other recreations
   Which bring together the imprudent.

“We are sorry to hear so bad an account of the college-psalmody, as is contained in the following attic stanzas

Our choir could scarcely be excused,
   Even as a band of raw beginners;
All mercy now must be refused
   To such a set of croaking sinners.

If David, when his toils were ended,
   Had heard these blockheads sing before him,
To us his psalms had ne’er descended—
   In furious mood he would have tore ’em.

“But whatever judgment may be passed on the poems of this noble minor, it seems we must take them as we find them, and be content for they are the last we shall ever have from him.  He is at best, he says, but an intruder into the groves of Parnassus; he never lived in a garret, like thoroughbred poets, and though he once roved a careless mountaineer in the Highlands of Scotland, he has not of late enjoyed this advantage.  Moreover, he expects no profit from his publication; and whether it succeeds or not, it is highly improbable, from his situation and pursuits, that he should again condescend to become an author.  Therefore, let us take what we get and be thankful.  What right have we poor devils to be nice?  We are well off to have got so much from a man of this lord’s station, who does not live in a garret, but has got the sway of Newstead Abbey.  Again we say, let us be thankful; and, with honest Sancho, bid God bless the giver, nor look the gift-horse in the mouth.”

The criticism is ascribed to Mr Francis Jeffrey, an eloquent member of the Scottish bar, and who was at that time supposed to be the editor of the Edinburgh Review.  That it was neither just nor fair is sufficiently evident, by the degree of care and artificial point with which it has been drawn up.  Had the poetry been as insignificant as the critic affected to consider it, it would have argued little for the judgment of Mr Jeffrey, to take so much pains on a work which he considered worthless.  But the world has no cause to repine at the severity of his strictures, for they unquestionably had the effect of kindling the indignation of Byron, and of instigating him to that retaliation which he so spiritedly inflicted in his satire of English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.

It is amusing to compare the respective literary reputation of the poet and the critic, as they are estimated by the public, now that the one is dead, and the other dormant.  The voice of all the age acknowledges Byron to have been the greatest poetical genius of his time.  Mr Jeffrey, though still enjoying the renown of being a shrewd and intelligent critic of the productions of others, has established no right to the honour of being an original or eminent author.

At the time when Byron published the satire alluded to, he had obtained no other distinction than the college reputation of being a clever, careless, dissipated student.  But his dissipation was not intense, nor did it ever become habitual.  He affected to be much more so than he was: his pretensions were moderated by constitutional incapacity.  His health was not vigorous; and his delicacy defeated his endeavours to show that he inherited the recklessness of his father.  He affected extravagance and eccentricity of conduct, without yielding much to the one, or practising a great deal of the other.  He was seeking notoriety; and his attempts to obtain it gave more method to his pranks and follies than belonged to the results of natural impulse and passion.  He evinced occasional instances of the generous spirit of youth; but there was in them more of ostentation than of that discrimination which dignifies kindness, and makes prodigality munificence.  Nor were his attachments towards those with whom he preferred to associate, characterised by any nobler sentiment than self-indulgence; he was attached, more from the pleasure he himself received in their society, than from any reciprocal enjoyment they had with him.  As he became a man of the world, his early friends dropped from him; although it is evident, by all the contemporary records of his feelings, that he cherished for them a kind, and even brotherly, affection.  This secession, the common effect of the new cares, hopes, interests, and wishes, which young men feel on entering the world, Byron regarded as something analogous to desertion; and the notion tainted his mind, and irritated that hereditary sullenness of humour, which constituted an ingredient so remarkable in the composition of his more mature character.

An anecdote of this period, characteristic of his eccentricity, and the means which he scrupled not to employ in indulging it, deserves to be mentioned.

In repairing Newstead Abbey, a skull was found in a secret niche of the walls.  It might have been that of the monk who haunted the house, or of one of his own ancestors, or of some victim of the morose race.  It was converted into a goblet, and used at Odin-like orgies.  Though the affair was but a whim of youth, more odious than poetical, it caused some talk, and raised around the extravagant host the haze of a mystery, suggesting fantasies of irreligion and horror.  The inscription on the cup is not remarkable either for point or poetry.

Start not, nor deem my spot fled;
   In me behold the only skull
From which, unlike a living head,
   Whatever flows is never dull.

I liv’d, I lov’d, I quaff’d like thee;
   I died, but earth my bones resign:
Fill up—thou canst not injure me,
   The worm hath fouler lips than thine.

Better to hold the sparkling grape
   Than nurse the earth-worm’s slimy brood,
And circle in the goblet’s shape
   The drink of gods than reptile’s food.

Where once my wit perchance hath shone,
   In aid of others let me shine;
And when, alas, our brains are gone,
   What nobler substitute than wine?

Quaff while thou canst—another race,
   When thou and thine like me are sped,
May rescue thee from earth’s embrace,
   And rhyme and revel with the dead.

Why not? since through life’s little day,
   Our heads such sad effects produce;
Redeem’d from worms and wasting clay,
   This chance is theirs, to be use.


Effect of the Criticism in theEdinburgh Review”—“English Bards and Scotch Reviewers”—His SatietyIntention to TravelPublishes his SatireTakes his Seat in the House of LordsDeparts for Lisbon; thence to Gibraltar

The impression which the criticism of the Edinburgh Review produced upon the juvenile poet was deep and envenomed.  It stung his heart, and prompted him to excess.  But the paroxysms did not endure long; strong volitions of revenge succeeded, and the grasps of his mind were filled, as it were, with writhing adders.  All the world knows, that this unquenchable indignation found relief in the composition of English Bards and Scotch Reviewers; a satire which, in many passages, equals, in fervour and force, the most vigorous in the language.

It was during the summer of 1808, while the poet was residing at Newstead, that English Bards and Scotch Reviewers was principally written.  He bestowed more pains upon it than perhaps on any other of his works; and, though different from them all, it still exhibits strong indications of the misanthropy with which, after quitting Cambridge, he became more and more possessed.  It is painful to reflect, in considering the splendid energy displayed in the poem, that the unprovoked malice which directed him to make the satire so general, was, perhaps, the main cause of that disposition to wither his reputation, which was afterwards so fervently roused.  He could not but expect, that, in stigmatising with contempt and ridicule so many persons by name, some of them would retaliate.  Nor could he complain of injustice if they did; for his attack was so wilful, that the rage of it can only be explained by supposing he was instigated to “the one fell swoop,” by a resentful conviction, that his impillory in the Edinburgh Review had amused them all.

I do not conceive, that the generality of the satire can be well extenuated; but I am not inclined to regard it as having been a very heinous offence.  The ability displayed in it is a sufficient compensation.  The beauty of the serpent’s skin appeases the aversion to its nature.  Moreover, a toothless satire is verse without poetry—the most odious of all respectable things.

But, without regard to the merits or delinquency of the poem, to the acumen of its animadversions, or to the polish of the lines, it possesses, in the biography of the author, a value of the most interesting kind.  It was the first burst of that dark, diseased ichor, which afterwards coloured his effusions; the overflowing suppuration of that satiety and loathing, which rendered Childe Harold, in particular, so original, incomprehensible, and antisocial; and bears testimony to the state of his feelings at that important epoch, while he was yet upon the threshold of the world, and was entering it with a sense of failure and humiliation, and premature disgust.  For, notwithstanding his unnecessary expositions concerning his dissipation, it is beyond controversy, that at no time could it be said he was a dissipated young man.  That he indulged in occasional excesses is true; but his habits were never libertine, nor did his health or stamina permit him to be distinguished in licentiousness.  The declaration in which he first discloses his sobriety, contains more truth than all his pretensions to his father’s qualities.  “I took my gradations in the vices,” says he, in that remarkable confession, “with great promptitude, but they were not to my taste; for my early passions, though violent in the extreme, were concentrated, and hated division or spreading abroad.  I could have left or lost the whole world with or for that which I loved; but, though my temperament was naturally burning, I could not share in the common libertinism of the place and time without disgust; and yet this very disgust, and my heart thrown back upon itself, threw me into excesses perhaps more fatal than those from which I shrunk, as fixing upon one at a time the passions, which, spread among many, would have hurt only myself.”  This is vague and metaphysical enough; but it bears corroborative intimations, that the impression which he early made upon me was not incorrect.  He was vain of his experiments in profligacy, but they never grew to habitude.

While he was engaged in the composition of his satire, he formed a plan of travelling; but there was a great shortcoming between the intention and the performance.  He first thought of Persia; he afterwards resolved to sail for India; and had so far matured this project, as to write for information to the Arabic professor at Cambridge; and to his mother, who was not then with him at Newstead, to inquire of a friend, who had resided in India, what things would be necessary for the voyage.  He formed his plan of travelling upon different reasons from those which he afterward gave out, and which have been imputed to him.  He then thought that all men should in some period of their lives travel; he had at that time no tie to prevent him; he conceived that when he returned home he might be induced to enter into political life, to which his having travelled would be an advantage; and he wished to know the world by sight, and to judge of men by experience.

When his satire was ready for the press, he carried it with him to London.  He was then just come of age, or about to be so; and one of his objects in this visit to the metropolis was, to take his seat in the House of Lords before going abroad; but, in advancing to this proud distinction, so soothing to the self-importance of youth, he was destined to suffer a mortification which probably wounded him as deeply as the sarcasms of the Edinburgh Review.  Before the meeting of Parliament, he wrote to his relation and guardian, the Earl of Carlisle, to remind him that he should be of age at the commencement of the Session, in the natural hope that his Lordship would make an offer to introduce him to the House: but he was disappointed.  He only received a formal reply, acquainting him with the technical mode of proceeding, and the etiquette to be observed on such occasions.  It is therefore not wonderful that he should have resented such treatment; and he avenged it by those lines in his satire, for which he afterwards expressed his regret in the third canto of Childe Harold.

Deserted by his guardian at a crisis so interesting, he was prevented for some time from taking his seat in Parliament; being obliged to procure affidavits in proof of his grandfather’s marriage with Miss Trevannion, which having taken place in a private chapel at Carhais, no regular certificate of the ceremony could be produced.  At length, all the necessary evidence having been obtained, on the 13th of March, 1809, he presented himself in the House of Lords alone—a proceeding consonant to his character, for he was not so friendless nor unknown, but that he might have procured some peer to have gone with him.  It, however, served to make his introduction remarkable.

On entering the House, he is described to have appeared abashed and pale: he passed the woolsack without looking round, and advanced to the table where the proper officer was attending to administer the oaths.  When he had gone through them, the chancellor quitted his seat, and went towards him with a smile, putting out his hand in a friendly manner to welcome him, but he made a stiff bow, and only touched with the tip of his fingers the chancellor’s hand, who immediately returned to his seat.  Such is the account given of this important incident by Mr Dallas, who went with him to the bar; but a characteristic circumstance is wanting.  When Lord Eldon advanced with the cordiality described, he expressed with becoming courtesy his regret that the rules of the House had obliged him to call for the evidence of his grandfather’s marriage.—“Your Lordship has done your duty, and no more,” was the cold reply, in the words of Tom Thumb, and which probably was the cause of the marked manner of the chancellor’s cool return to his seat.

The satire was published anonymously, and immediately attracted attention; the sale was rapid, and a new edition being called for, Byron revised it.  The preparations for his travels being completed, he then embarked in July of the same year, with Mr Hobhouse, for Lisbon, and thence proceeded by the southern provinces of Spain to Gibraltar.

In the account of his adventures during this journey, he seems to have felt, to an exaggerated degree, the hazards to which he was exposed.  But many of his descriptions are given with a bright pen.  That of Lisbon has always been admired for its justness, and the mixture of force and familiarity.

   What beauties doth Lisboa’s port unfold!
   Her image floating on that noble tide,
   Which poets vainly pave with sands of gold,
   But now whereon a thousand keels did ride,
   Of mighty strength since Albion was allied,
   And to the Lusians did her aid afford.
   A nation swoln with ignorance and pride,
   Who lick, yet loathe, the hand that waves the sword
To save them from the wrath of Gaul’s unsparing lord.

   But whoso entereth within this town,
   That sheening for celestial seems to be,
   Disconsolate will wander up and down,
   ’Mid many things unsightly strange to see,
   For hut and palace show like filthily;
   The dingy denizens are reared in dirt;
   No personage of high or mean degree
   Doth care for cleanness of surtout and shirt,
Though shent with Egypt’s plague, unkempt, unwash’d, unhurt.

Considering the interest which he afterwards took in the affairs of Greece, it is remarkable that he should have passed through Spain, at the period he has described, without feeling any sympathy with the spirit which then animated that nation.  Intent, however, on his travels, pressing onward to an unknown goal, he paused not to inquire as to the earnestness of the patriotic zeal of the Spaniards, nor once dreamed, even for adventure, of taking a part in their heroic cause.


First Acquaintance with ByronEmbark togetherThe Voyage

It was at Gibraltar that I first fell in with Lord Byron.  I had arrived there in the packet from England, in indifferent health, on my way to Sicily.  I had then no intention of travelling.  I only went a trip, intending to return home after spending a few weeks in Malta, Sicily, and Sardinia; having, before my departure, entered into the Society of Lincoln’s Inn, with the design of studying the law.

At this time, my friend, the late Colonel Wright, of the artillery, was secretary to the Governor; and during the short stay of the packet at the Rock, he invited me to the hospitalities of his house, and among other civilities gave me admission to the garrison library.

The day, I well remember, was exceedingly sultry.  The air was sickly; and if the wind was not a sirocco, it was a withering levanter—oppressive to the functions of life, and to an invalid denying all exercise.  Instead of rambling over the fortifications, I was, in consequence, constrained to spend the hottest part of the day in the library; and, while sitting there, a young man came in and seated himself opposite to me at the table where I was reading.  Something in his appearance attracted my attention.  His dress indicated a Londoner of some fashion, partly by its neatness and simplicity, with just so much of a peculiarity of style as served to show, that although he belonged to the order of metropolitan beaux, he was not altogether a common one.

I thought his face not unknown to me; I began to conjecture where I could have seen him; and, after an unobserved scrutiny, to speculate both as to his character and vocation.  His physiognomy was prepossessing and intelligent, but ever and anon his brows lowered and gathered; a habit, as I then thought, with a degree of affectation in it, probably first assumed for picturesque effect and energetic expression; but which I afterwards discovered was undoubtedly the occasional scowl of some unpleasant reminiscence: it was certainly disagreeable—forbidding—but still the general cast of his features was impressed with elegance and character.

At dinner, a large party assembled at Colonel Wright’s; among others the Countess of Westmorland, with Tom Sheridan and his beautiful wife; and it happened that Sheridan, in relating the local news of the morning, mentioned that Lord Byron and Mr Hobhouse had come in from Spain, and were to proceed up the Mediterranean in the packet.  He was not acquainted with either.

Hobhouse had, a short time before I left London,, published certain translations and poems rather respectable in their way, and I had seen the work, so that his name was not altogether strange to me.  Byron’s was familiar—the Edinburgh Review had made it so, and still more the satire of English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, but I was not conscious of having seen the persons of either.

On the following evening I embarked early, and soon after the two travellers came on board; in one of whom I recognised the visitor to the library, and he proved to be Lord Byron.  In the little bustle and process of embarking their luggage, his Lordship affected, as it seemed to me, more aristocracy than befitted his years, or the occasion; and I then thought of his singular scowl, and suspected him of pride and irascibility.  The impression that evening was not agreeable, but it was interesting; and that forehead mark, the frown, was calculated to awaken curiosity, and beget conjectures.

Hobhouse, with more of the commoner, made himself one of the passengers at once; but Byron held himself aloof, and sat on the rail, leaning on the mizzen shrouds, inhaling, as it were, poetical sympathy, from the gloomy Rock, then dark and stern in the twilight.  There was in all about him that evening much waywardness; he spoke petulantly to Fletcher, his valet; and was evidently ill at ease with himself, and fretful towards others.  I thought he would turn out an unsatisfactory shipmate; yet there was something redeeming in the tones of his voice, when, some time after he had indulged his sullen meditation, he again addressed Fletcher; so that, instead of finding him ill-natured, I was soon convinced he was only capricious.

Our passage to Sardinia was tardy, owing to calms; but, in other respects, pleasant.  About the third day Byron relented from his rapt mood, as if he felt it was out of place, and became playful, and disposed to contribute his fair proportion to the general endeavour to wile away the tediousness of the dull voyage.  Among other expedients for that purpose, we had recourse to shooting at bottles.  Byron, I think, supplied the pistols, and was the best shot, but not very pre-eminently so.  In the calms, the jolly-boat was several times lowered; and, on one of those occasions, his Lordship, with the captain, caught a turtle—I rather think two—we likewise hooked a shark, part of which was dressed for breakfast, and tasted, without relish; your shark is but a cannibal dainty.

As we approached the gulf, or bay, of Cagliari, in Sardinia, a strong north wind came from the shore, and we had a whole disagreeable day of tacking, but next morning, it was Sunday, we found ourselves at anchor near the mole, where we landed.  Byron, with the captain, rode out some distance into the country, while I walked with Mr Hobhouse about the town: we left our cards for the consul, and Mr Hill, the ambassador, who invited us to dinner.  In the evening we landed again, to avail ourselves of the invitation; and, on this occasion, Byron and his Pylades dressed themselves as aides-de-camp—a circumstance which, at the time, did not tend to improve my estimation of the solidity of the character of either.  But such is the force of habit: it appeared a less exceptionable affectation in the young peer than in the commoner.

Had we parted at Cagliari, it is probable that I should have retained a much more favourable recollection of Mr Hobhouse than of Lord Byron; for he was a cheerful companion, full of odd and droll stories, which he told extremely well; he was also good-humoured and intelligent—altogether an advantageous specimen of a well-educated English gentleman.  Moreover, I was at the time afflicted with a nervous dejection, which the occasional exhilaration produced by his anecdotes and college tales often materially dissipated, though, for the most part, they were more after the manner and matter of Swift than of Addison.

Byron was, during the passage, in delicate health, and upon an abstemious regimen.  He rarely tasted wine, nor more than half a glass, mingled with water, when he did.  He ate little; no animal food, but only bread and vegetables.  He reminded me of the ghoul that picked rice with a needle; for it was manifest, that he had not acquired his knowledge of the world by always dining so sparely.  If my remembrance is not treacherous, he only spent one evening in the cabin with us—the evening before we came to anchor at Cagliari; for, when the lights were placed, he made himself a man forbid, took his station on the railing between the pegs on which the sheets are belayed and the shrouds, and there, for hours, sat in silence, enamoured, it may be, of the moon.  All these peculiarities, with his caprices, and something inexplicable in the cast of his metaphysics, while they served to awaken interest, contributed little to conciliate esteem.  He was often strangely rapt—it may have been from his genius; and, had its grandeur and darkness been then divulged, susceptible of explanation; but, at the time, it threw, as it were, around him the sackcloth of penitence.  Sitting amid the shrouds and rattlins, in the tranquillity of the moonlight, churming an inarticulate melody, he seemed almost apparitional, suggesting dim reminiscences of him who shot the albatross.  He was as a mystery in a winding-sheet, crowned with a halo.

The influence of the incomprehensible phantasma which hovered about Lord Byron has been more or less felt by all who ever approached him.  That he sometimes came out of the cloud, and was familiar and earthly, is true; but his dwelling was amid the murk and the mist, and the home of his spirit in the abysm of the storm, and the hiding-places of guilt.  He was, at the time of which I am speaking, scarcely two-and-twenty, and could claim no higher praise than having written a clever worldly-minded satire; and yet it was impossible, even then, to reflect on the bias of his mind, as it was revealed by the casualties of conversation, without experiencing a presentiment, that he was destined to execute some singular and ominous purpose.  The description he has given of Manfred in his youth was of himself.

My spirit walk’d not with the souls of men,
Nor look’d upon the earth with human eyes;
The thirst of their ambition was not mine;
The aim of their existence was not mine.
My joys, my griefs, my passions, and my powers,
Made me a stranger.  Though I wore the form,
I had no sympathy with breathing flesh.
My joy was in the wilderness—to breathe
The difficult air of the iced mountain’s top.
Where the birds dare not build, nor insect’s wing
Flit o’er the herbless granite; or to plunge
Into the torrent, and to roll along
On the swift whirl of the new-breaking wave
Of river, stream, or ocean, in their flow—
In these my early strength exulted; or
To follow through the night the moving moon,
The stars, and their development; or catch
The dazzling lightnings till my eyes grew dim;
Or to look listening on the scatter’d leaves,
While autumn winds were at their evening song;—
These were my pastimes—and to be alone.
For if the beings, of whom I was one—
Hating to be so—cross’d me in my path,
I felt myself degraded back to them,
And was all clay again.


Dinner at the Ambassador’sOperaDisaster of Byron at MaltaMrs Spencer Smith

I shall always remember Cagliari with particular pleasure; for it so happened that I formed there three of the most agreeable acquaintances of my life, and one of them was with Lord Byron; for although we had been eight days together, I yet could not previously have accounted myself acquainted with his Lordship.

After dinner, we all went to the theatre, which was that evening, on account of some Court festival, brilliantly illuminated.  The Royal Family were present, and the opera was performed with more taste and execution than I had expected to meet with in so remote a place, and under the restrictions which rendered the intercourse with the Continent then so difficult.  Among other remarkable characters pointed out to us was a nobleman in the pit, actually under the ban of outlawry for murder.  I have often wondered if the incident had any effect on the creation of Lara; for we know not in what small germs the conceptions of genius originate.

But the most important occurrence of that evening arose from a delicate observance of etiquette on the part of the ambassador.  After carrying us to his box, which was close to that of the Royal Family, in order that we might see the members of it properly, he retired with Lord Byron to another box, an inflection of manners to propriety in the best possible taste—for the ambassador was doubtless aware that his Lordship’s rank would be known to the audience, and I conceive that this little arrangement was adopted to make his person also known, by showing him with distinction apart from the other strangers.

When the performance was over, Mr Hill came down with Lord Byron to the gate of the upper town, where his Lordship, as we were taking leave, thanked him with more elocution than was precisely requisite.  The style and formality of the speech amused Mr Hobhouse, as well as others; and, when the minister retired, he began to rally his Lordship on the subject.  But Byron really fancied that he had acquitted himself with grace and dignity, and took the jocularity of his friend amiss—a little banter ensued—the poet became petulant, and Mr Hobhouse walked on; while Byron, on account of his lameness, and the roughness of the pavement, took hold of my arm, appealing to me, if he could have said less, after the kind and hospitable treatment we had all received.  Of course, though I thought pretty much as Mr Hobhouse did, I could not do otherwise than civilly assent, especially as his Lordship’s comfort, at the moment, seemed in some degree dependent on being confirmed in the good opinion he was desirous to entertain of his own courtesy.  From that night I evidently rose in his good graces; and, as he was always most agreeable and interesting when familiar, it was worth my while to advance, but by cautious circumvallations, into his intimacy; for his uncertain temper made his favour precarious.

The next morning, either owing to the relaxation of his abstinence, which he could not probably well avoid amid the good things of the ambassadorial table; or, what was, perhaps, less questionable, some regret for his petulance towards his friend, he was indisposed, and did not make his appearance till late in the evening.  I rather suspect, though there was no evidence of the fact, that Hobhouse received any concession which he may have made with indulgence; for he remarked to me, in a tone that implied both forbearance and generosity of regard, that it was necessary to humour him like a child.  But, in whatever manner the reconciliation was accomplished, the passengers partook of the blessings of the peace.  Byron, during the following day, as we were sailing along the picturesque shores of Sicily, was in the highest spirits overflowing with glee, and sparkling with quaint sentences.  The champagne was uncorked and in the finest condition.

Having landed the mail at Girgenti, we stretched over to Malta, where we arrived about noon next day—all the passengers, except Orestes and Pylades, being eager to land, went on shore with the captain.  They remained behind for a reason—which an accidental expression of Byron let out—much to my secret amusement; for I was aware they would be disappointed, and the anticipation was relishing.  They expected—at least he did—a salute from the batteries, and sent ashore notice to Sir Alexander Ball, the Governor, of his arrival; but the guns were sulky, and evinced no respect of persons; so that late in the afternoon, about the heel of the evening, the two magnates were obliged to come on shore, and slip into the city unnoticed and unknown.

At this time Malta was in great prosperity.  Her commerce was flourishing; and the goodly clusters of its profits hung ripe and rich at every door.  The merchants were truly hospitable, and few more so than Mr Chabot.  As I had letters to him, he invited me to dinner, along with several other friends previously engaged.  In the cool of the evening, as we were sitting at our wine, Lord Byron and Mr Hobhouse were announced.  His Lordship was in better spirits than I had ever seen him.  His appearance showed, as he entered the room, that they had met with some adventure, and he chuckled with an inward sense of enjoyment, not altogether without spleen—a kind of malicious satisfaction—as his companion recounted with all becoming gravity their woes and sufferings, as an apology for begging a bed and morsel for the night.  God forgive me! but I partook of Byron’s levity at the idea of personages so consequential wandering destitute in the streets, seeking for lodgings, as it were, from door to door, and rejected at all.

Next day, however, they were accommodated by the Governor with an agreeable house in the upper part of Valetta; and his Lordship, as soon as they were domiciled, began to take lessons in Arabic from a monk—I believe one of the librarians of the public library.  His whole time was not, however, devoted to study; for he formed an acquaintance with Mrs Spencer Smith, the lady of the gentleman of that name, who had been our resident minister at Constantinople: he affected a passion for her; but it was only Platonic.  She, however, beguiled him of his valuable yellow diamond ring.  She is the Florence of Childe Harold, and merited the poetical embalmment, or rather the amber immortalisation, she possesses there—being herself a heroine.  There was no exaggeration in saying that many incidents of her life would appear improbable in fiction.  Her adventures with the Marquis de Salvo form one of the prettiest romances in the Italian language; everything in her destiny was touched with adventure: nor was it the least of her claims to sympathy that she had incurred the special enmity of Napoleon.

After remaining about three weeks at Malta, Byron embarked with his friend in a brig of war, appointed to convoy a fleet of small merchantmen to Prevesa.  I had, about a fortnight before, passed over with the packet on her return from Messina to Girgenti, and did not fall in with them again till the following spring, when we met at Athens.  In the meantime, besides his Platonic dalliance with Mrs Spencer Smith, Byron had involved himself in a quarrel with an officer; but it was satisfactorily settled.

His residence at Malta did not greatly interest him.  The story of its chivalrous masters made no impression on his imagination—none that appears in his works—but it is not the less probable that the remembrance of the place itself occupied a deep niche in his bosom: for I have remarked, that he had a voluntary power of forgetfulness, which, on more than one occasion, struck me as singular: and I am led in consequence to think, that something unpleasant, connected with this quarrel, may have been the cause of his suppression of all direct allusion to the island.  It was impossible that his imagination could avoid the impulses of the spirit which haunts the walls and ramparts of Malta; and the silence of his muse on a topic so rich in romance, and so well calculated to awaken associations concerning the knights, in unison with the ruminations of Childe Harold, persuades me that there must have been some specific cause for the omission.  If it were nothing in the duel, I should be inclined to say, notwithstanding the seeming improbability of the notion, that it was owing to some curious modification of vindictive spite.  It might not be that Malta should receive no celebrity from his pen; but assuredly he had met with something there which made him resolute to forget the place.  The question as to what it was, he never answered the result would throw light into the labyrinths of his character.


Sails from Malta to PrevesaLands at PatrasSails againPasses IthacaArrival at Prevesa

It was on the 19th of September, 1809, that Byron sailed in the Spider brig from Malta for Prevesa, and on the morning of the fourth day after, he first saw the mountains of Greece; next day he landed at Patras, and walked for some time among the currant grounds between the town and the shore.  Around him lay one of the noblest landscapes in the world, and afar in the north-east rose the purple summits of the Grecian mountains.

Having re-embarked, the Spider proceeded towards her destination; the poet not receiving much augmentation to his ideas of the grandeur of the ancients, from the magnitude of their realms and states.  Ithaca, which he doubtless regarded with wonder and disappointment, as he passed its cliffy shores, was then in the possession of the French.  In the course of a month after, the kingdom of Ulysses surrendered to a British serjeant and seven men.

   Childe Harold sail’d, and pass’d the barren spot,
   Where sad Penelope o’erlook’d the wave;
   And onward view’d the mount, not yet forgot.
   The lover’s refuge, and the Lesbian’s grave.
   But when he saw the evening star above
   Leucadia’s far-projecting rock of woe,
   And hail’d the last resort of fruitless love,
   He felt, or deem’d he felt, no common glow;
   And as the stately vessel glided slow
   Beneath the shadow of that ancient mount,
   He watch’d the billows’ melancholy flow,
   And, sunk albeit in thought as he was wont—
More placid seem’d his eye, and smooth his pallid front.

At seven in the evening, of the same day on which he passed Leucadia, the vessel came to anchor off Prevesa.  The day was wet and gloomy, and the appearance of the town was little calculated to bespeak cheerfulness.  But the novelty in the costume and appearance of the inhabitants and their dwellings, produced an immediate effect on the imagination of Byron, and we can trace the vivid impression animating and adorning his descriptions.

   The wild Albanian, kirtled to his knee,
   With shawl-girt head and ornamented gun,
   And gold-embroider’d garments, fair to see;
   The crimson-scarfed men of Macedon;
   The Delhi with his cap of terror on,
   And crooked glaive; the lively, supple Greek,
   And swarthy Nubia’s mutilated son;
   The bearded Turk, that rarely deigns to speak,
Master of all around, too potent to be meek.

Having partaken of a consecutive dinner, dish after dish, with the brother of the English consul, the travellers proceeded to visit the Governor of the town: he resided within the enclosure of a fort, and they were conducted towards him by a long gallery, open on one side, and through several large unfurnished rooms.  In the last of this series, the Governor received them with the wonted solemn civility of the Turks, and entertained them with pipes and coffee.  Neither his appearance, nor the style of the entertainment, were distinguished by any display of Ottoman grandeur; he was seated on a sofa in the midst of a group of shabby Albanian guards, who had but little reverence for the greatness of the guests, as they sat down beside them, and stared and laughed at their conversation with the Governor.

But if the circumstances and aspect of the place derived no importance from visible splendour, every object around was enriched with stories and classical recollections.  The battle of Actium was fought within the gulf.

   Ambracia’s gulf behold, where once was lost
   A world for woman—lovely, harmless thing!
   In yonder rippling bay, their naval host
   Did many a Roman chief and Asian king
   To doubtful conflict, certain slaughter bring.
   Look where the second Cæsar’s trophies rose!
   Now, like the lands that rear’d them, withering;
   Imperial monarchs doubling human woes!
God! was Thy globe ordained for such to win and lose?

Having inspected the ruins of Nicopolis, which are more remarkable for their desultory extent and scattered remnants, than for any remains of magnificence or of beauty,

   Childe Harold pass’d o’er many a mount sublime,
   Through lands scarce noticed in historic tales.
   Yet in famed Attica such lovely dales
   Are rarely seen; nor can fair Tempe boast
   A charm they know not; loved Parnassus fails,
   Though classic ground and consecrated most,
To match some spots that lurk within this lowering coast.

In this journey he was still accompanied by Mr Hobhouse.  They had provided themselves with a Greek to serve as a dragoman.  With this person they soon became dissatisfied, in consequence of their general suspicion of Greek integrity, and because of the necessary influence which such an appendage acquires in the exercise of his office.  He is the tongue and purse-bearer of his master; he procures him lodging, food, horses, and all conveniences; must support his dignity with the Turks—a difficult task in those days for a Greek—and his manifold trusts demand that he should be not only active and ingenious, but prompt and resolute.  In the qualifications of this essential servant, the travellers were not fortunate—he never lost an opportunity of pilfering;—he was, however, zealous, bustling, and talkative, and withal good-humoured; and, having his mind intent on one object—making money—was never lazy nor drunken, negligent nor unprepared.

On the 1st of October they embarked, and sailed up the Gulf of Salona, where they were shown into an empty barrack for lodgings.  In this habitation twelve Albanian soldiers and an officer were quartered, who behaved towards them with civility.  On their entrance, the officer gave them pipes and coffee, and after they had dined in their own apartment, he invited them to spend the evening with him, and they condescended to partake of his hospitality.

Such instances as these in ordinary biography would be without interest; but when it is considered how firmly the impression of them was retained in the mind of the poet, and how intimately they entered into the substance of his reminiscences of Greece, they acquire dignity, and become epochal in the history of the development of his intellectual powers.

“All the Albanians,” says Mr Hobhouse, “strut very much when they walk, projecting their chests, throwing back their heads, and moving very slowly from side to side.  Elmas (as the officer was called) had this strut more than any man perhaps we saw afterwards; and as the sight was then quite new to us, we could not help staring at the magisterial and superlatively dignified air of a man with great holes in his elbows, and looking altogether, as to his garment, like what we call a bull-beggar.”  Mr Hobhouse describes him as a captain, but by the number of men under him, he could have been of no higher rank than serjeant.  Captains are centurions.

After supper, the officer washed his hands with soap, inviting the travellers to do the same, for they had eaten a little with him; he did not, however, give the soap, but put it on the floor with an air so remarkable, as to induce Mr Hobhouse to inquire the meaning of it, and he was informed that there is a superstition in Turkey against giving soap: it is thought it will wash away love.

Next day it rained, and the travellers were obliged to remain under shelter.  The evening was again spent with the soldiers, who did their utmost to amuse them with Greek and Albanian songs and freaks of jocularity.

In the morning of the 3rd of October they set out for Arta, with ten horses; four for themselves and servants, four for their luggage, and two for two soldiers whom they were induced to take with them as guards.  Byron takes no notice of his visit to Arta in Childe Harold; but Mr Hobhouse has given a minute account of the town.  They met there with nothing remarkable.

The remainder of the journey to Joannina, the capital then of the famous Ali Pasha, was rendered unpleasant by the wetness of the weather; still it was impossible to pass through a country so picturesque in its features, and rendered romantic by the traditions of robberies and conflicts, without receiving impressions of that kind of imagery which constitutes the embroidery on the vestment of poetry.

The first view of Joannina seen in the morning light, or glittering in the setting sun, is lively and alluring.  The houses, domes, and minarets, shining through gardens of orange and lemon trees and groves of cypresses; the lake, spreading its broad mirror at the foot of the town, and the mountains rising abrupt around, all combined to present a landscape new and beautiful.  Indeed, where may be its parallel? the lake was the Acherusian, Mount Pindus was in sight, and the Elysian fields of mythology spread in the lovely plains over which they passed in approaching the town.

On entering Joannina, they were appalled by a spectacle characteristic of the country.  Opposite a butcher’s shop, they beheld hanging from the boughs of a tree a man’s arm, with part of the side torn from the body.  How long is it since Temple Bar, in the very heart of London, was adorned with the skulls of the Scottish noblemen who were beheaded for their loyalty to the son and representative of their ancient kings!

The object of the visit to Joannina was to see Ali Pasha, in those days the most celebrated Vizier in all the western provinces of the Ottoman empire; but he was then at Tepellené.  The luxury of resting, however, in a capital, was not to be resisted, and they accordingly suspended their journey until they had satisfied their curiosity with an inspection of every object which merited attention.  Of Joannina, it may be said, they were almost the discoverers, so little was known of it in England—I may say in Western Europe—previous to their visit.

The palace and establishment of Ali Pasha were of regal splendour, combining with Oriental pomp the elegance of the Occident, and the travellers were treated by the Vizier’s officers with all the courtesy due to the rank of Lord Byron, and every facility was afforded them to prosecute their journey.  The weather, however—the season being far advanced—was wet and unsettled, and they suffered more fatigue and annoyance than travellers for information or pleasure should have had to encounter.

The journey from Joannina to Zitza is among the happiest sketches in the Pilgrimage of Childe Harold.

   He pass’d bleak Pindus, Acherusia’s lake,
   And left the primal city of the land,
   And onwards did his farther journey take
   To greet Albania’s chief, whose dread command
   Is lawless law; for with a bloody hand
   He sways a nation, turbulent and bold:
   Yet here and there some daring mountain-band
   Disdain his power, and from their rocky hold
Hurl their defiance far, nor yield unless to gold.

   Monastic Zitza! from thy shady brow,
   Thou small, but favour’d spot of holy ground!
   Where’er we gaze, above, around, below,
   What rainbow tints, what magic charms are found;
   Rock, river, forest, mountain, all abound;
   And bluest skies that harmonize the whole.
   Beneath, the distant torrent’s rushing sound
   Tells where the volumed cataract doth roll
Between those hanging rocks that shock yet please the soul.

In the course of this journey the poet happened to be alone with his guides, when they lost their way during a tremendous thunderstorm, and he has commemorated the circumstance in the spirited stanzas beginning—

Chill and mink is the nightly blast.


Halt at ZitzaThe River AcheronGreek WineA Greek ChariotArrival at TepellenéThe Vizier’s Palace

The travellers, on their arrival at Zitza, went to the monastery to solicit accommodation; and after some parley with one of the monks, through a small grating in a door plated with iron, on which marks of violence were visible, and which, before the country had been tranquillised under the vigorous dominion of Ali Pasha, had been frequently battered in vain by the robbers who then infested the neighbourhood.  The prior, a meek and lowly man, entertained them in a warm chamber with grapes and a pleasant white wine, not trodden out by the feet, as he informed them, but expressed by the hand.  To this gentle and kind host Byron alludes in his description of “Monastic Zitza.”

   Amid the grove that crowns yon tufted hill,
   Which, were it not for many a mountain nigh
   Rising in lofty ranks, and loftier still,
   Might well itself be deem’d of dignity;
   The convent’s white walls glisten fair on high:
   Here dwells the caloyer, nor rude is he,
   Nor niggard of his cheer; the passer-by
   Is welcome still; nor heedless will he flee
From hence, if he delight kind Nature’s sheen to see.

Having halted a night at Zitza, the travellers proceeded on their journey next morning, by a road which led through the vineyards around the villages, and the view from a barren hill, which they were obliged to cross, is described with some of the most forcible touches of the poet’s pencil.

   Dusky and huge, enlarging on the sight,
   Nature’s volcanic amphitheatre,
   Chimera’s Alps, extend from left to right;
   Beneath, a living valley seems to stir.
   Flocks play, trees wave, streams flow, the mountain fir
   Nodding above; behold Black Acheron!
   Once consecrated to the sepulchre.
   Pluto! if this be hell I look upon,
Close shamed Elysium’s gates; my shade shall seek for none!

The Acheron, which they crossed in this route, is now called the Kalamas, a considerable stream, as large as the Avon at Bath but towards the evening they had some cause to think the Acheron had not lost all its original horror; for a dreadful thunderstorm came on, accompanied with deluges of rain, which more than once nearly carried away their luggage and horses.  Byron himself does not notice this incident in Childe Harold, nor even the adventure more terrific which he met with alone in similar circumstances on the night before their arrival at Zitza, when his guides lost their way in the defiles of the mountains—adventures sufficiently disagreeable in the advent, but full of poesy in the remembrance.

The first halt, after leaving Zitza, was at the little village of Mosure, where they were lodged in a miserable cabin, the residence of a poor priest, who treated them with all the kindness his humble means afforded.  From this place they proceeded next morning through a wild and savage country, interspersed with vineyards, to Delvinaki, where it would seem they first met with genuine Greek wine, that is, wine mixed with resin and lime—a more odious draught at the first taste than any drug the apothecary mixes.  Considering how much of allegory entered into the composition of the Greek mythology, it is probable that in representing the infant Bacchus holding a pine, the ancient sculptors intended an impersonation of the circumstance of resin being employed to preserve new wine.

The travellers were now in Albania, the native region of Ali Pasha, whom they expected to find at Libokavo; but on entering the town, they were informed that he was further up the country at Tepellené, or Tepalen, his native place.  In their route from Libokavo to Tepalen they met with no adventure, nor did they visit Argyro-castro, which they saw some nine or ten miles off—a large city, supposed to contain about twenty thousand inhabitants, chiefly Turks.  When they reached Cezarades, a distance of not more than nine miles, which had taken them five hours to travel, they were agreeably accommodated for the night in a neat cottage; and the Albanian landlord, in whose demeanour they could discern none of that cringing, downcast, sinister look which marked the degraded Greek, received them with a hearty welcome.

Next morning they resumed their journey, and halted one night more before they reached Tepellené, in approaching which they met a carriage, not inelegantly constructed after the German fashion, with a man on the box driving four-in-hand, and two Albanian soldiers standing on the footboard behind.  They were floundering on at a trot through mud and mire, boldly regardless of danger; but it seemed to the English eyes of the travellers impossible that such a vehicle should ever be able to reach Libokavo, to which it was bound.  In due time they crossed the river Laos, or Voioutza, which was then full, and appeared both to Byron and his friend as broad as the Thames at Westminster; after crossing it on a stone bridge, they came in sight of Tepellené, when

   The sun had sunk behind vast Tomerit,
   And Laos, wide and fierce, came roaring by;
   The shades of wonted night were gathering yet,
   When down the steep banks, winding warily,
   Childe Harold saw, like meteors in the sky,
   The glittering minarets of Tepalen,
   Whose walls o’erlook the stream; and drawing nigh,
   He heard the busy hum of warrior-men
Swelling the breeze that sigh’d along the lengthening glen.

On their arrival, they proceeded at once to the residence of Ali Pasha, an extensive rude pile, where they witnessed a scene, not dissimilar to that which they might, perhaps, have beheld some hundred years ago, in the castle-yard of a great feudal baron.  Soldiers, with their arms piled against the wall, were assembled in different parts of the court, several horses, completely caparisoned, were led about, others were neighing under the hands of the grooms; and for the feast of the night, armed cooks were busy dressing kids and sheep.  The scene is described with the poet’s liveliest pencil.

   Richly caparison’d a ready row
   Of armed horse, and many a warlike store,
   Circled the wide extending court below;
   Above, strange groups adorn’d the corridor,
   And ofttimes through the area’s echoing door,
   Some high-capp’d Tartar spurr’d his steed away.
   The Turk, the Greek, the Albanian, and the Moor
   Here mingled in their many-hued array,
While the deep war-drum’s sound announced the close of day.

         Some recline in groups,
   Scanning the motley scene that varies round.
   There some grave Moslem to devotion stoops,
   And some that smoke, and some that play, are found.
   Here the Albanian proudly treads the ground
   Half-whispering, there the Greek is heard to prate.
   Hark! from the mosque the nightly solemn sound;
   The Muezzin’s call doth shake the minaret.
“There is no god but God!—to prayer—lo, God is great!”

The peculiar quietness and ease with which the Mahommedans say their prayers, struck the travellers as one of the most peculiar characteristics which they had yet witnessed of that people.  Some of the graver sort began their devotions in the places where they were sitting, undisturbed and unnoticed by those around them who were otherwise engaged.  The prayers last about ten minutes they are not uttered aloud, but generally in a low voice, sometimes with only a motion of the lips; and, whether performed in the public street or in a room, attract no attention from the bystanders.  Of more than a hundred of the guards in the gallery of the Vizier’s mansion at Tepellené, not more than five or six were seen at prayers.  The Albanians are not reckoned strict Mahommedans; but no Turk, however irreligious himself, ever disturbs the devotion of others.

It was then the fast of Ramazan, and the travellers, during the night, were annoyed with the perpetual noise of the carousal kept up in the gallery, and by the drum, and the occasional voice of the Muezzin.

   Just at this season, Ramazani’s fast
   Through the long day its penance did maintain:
   But when the lingering twilight hour was past,
   Revel and feast assumed the rule again.
   Now all was bustle, and the menial train
   Prepared and spread the plenteous board within;
   The vacant gallery now seem’d made in vain,
   But from the chambers came the mingling din,
And page and slave, anon, were passing out and in.


Audience appointed with Ali PashaDescription of the Vizier’s PersonAn Audience of the Vizier of the Morea

The progress of no other poet’s mind can be to clearly traced to personal experience as that of Byron’s.  The minute details in the Pilgrimage of Childe Harold are the observations of an actual traveller.  Had they been given in prose, they could not have been less imbued with fiction.  From this fidelity they possess a value equal to the excellence of the poetry, and ensure for themselves an interest as lasting as it is intense.  When the manners and customs of the inhabitants shall have been changed by time and the vicissitudes of society, the scenery and the mountains will bear testimony to the accuracy of Lord Byron’s descriptions.

The day after the travellers’ arrival at Tepellené was fixed by the Vizier for their first audience; and about noon, the time appointed, an officer of the palace with a white wand announced to them that his highness was ready to receive them, and accordingly they proceeded from their own apartment, accompanied by the secretary of the Vizier, and attended by their own dragoman.  The usher of the white rod led the way, and conducted them through a suite of meanly-furnished apartments to the presence chamber.  Ali when they entered was standing, a courtesy of marked distinction from a Turk.  As they advanced towards him, he seated himself, and requested them to sit near him.  The room was spacious and handsomely fitted up, surrounded by that species of continued sofa which the upholsterers call a divan, covered with richly-embroidered velvet; in the middle of the floor was a large marble basin, in which a fountain was playing.

   In marble-paved pavilion, where a spring
   Of living water from the centre rose,
   Whose bubbling did a genial freshness fling,
   And soft voluptuous couches breathed repose,
   ALI reclined; a man of war and woes.
   Yet in his lineaments ye cannot trace,
   While Gentleness her milder radiance throws
   Along that aged, venerable face,
The deeds that lurk beneath and stain him with disgrace.

   It is not that yon hoary, lengthening beard,
   Ill suits the passions that belong to youth;
   Love conquers age—so Hafiz hath averr’d:
   So sings the Teian, and he sings in sooth—
   But crimes that scorn the tender voice of Ruth,
   Beseeming all men ill, but most the man
   In years, have mark’d him with a tiger’s tooth;
   Blood follows blood, and through their mortal span,
In bloodier acts conclude those who with blood began.

When this was written Ali Pasha was still living; but the prediction which it implies was soon after verified, and he closed his stern and energetic life with a catastrophe worthy of its guilt and bravery.  He voluntarily perished by firing a powder-magazine, when surrounded, beyond all chance of escape, by the troops of the Sultan his master, whose authority he had long contemned.

Mr Hobhouse describes him at this audience as a short fat man, about five feet five inches in height; with a very pleasing face, fair and round; and blue fair eyes, not settled into a Turkish gravity.  His beard was long and hoary, and such a one as any other Turk would have been proud of; nevertheless, he, who was more occupied in attending to his guests than himself, neither gazed at it, smelt it, nor stroked it, according to the custom of his countrymen, when they seek to fill up the pauses in conversation.  He was not dressed with the usual magnificence of dignitaries of his degree, except that his high turban, composed of many small rolls, was of golden muslin, and his yataghan studded with diamonds.

He was civil and urbane in the entertainment of his guests, and requested them to consider themselves as his children.  It was on this occasion he told Lord Byron, that he discovered his noble blood by the smallness of his hands and ears: a remark which has become proverbial, and is acknowledged not to be without truth in the evidence of pedigree.

The ceremonies on such visits are similar all over Turkey, among personages of the same rank; and as Lord Byron has not described in verse the details of what took place with him, it will not be altogether obtrusive here to recapitulate what happened to myself during a visit to Velhi Pasha, the son of Ali: he was then Vizier of the Morea, and residing at Tripolizza.

In the afternoon, about four o’clock, I set out for the seraglio with Dr Teriano, the Vizier’s physician, and the Vizier’s Italian secretary.  The gate of the palace was not unlike the entrance to some of the closes in Edinburgh, and the court within reminded me of Smithfield, in London; but it was not surrounded by such lofty buildings, nor in any degree of comparison so well constructed.  We ascended a ruinous staircase, which led to an open gallery, where three or four hundred of the Vizier’s Albanian guards were lounging.  In an antechamber, which opened from the gallery, a number of officers were smoking, and in the middle, on the floor, two old Turks were seriously engaged at chess.

My name being sent in to the Vizier, a guard of ceremony was called, and after they had arranged themselves in the presence chamber, I was admitted.  The doctor and the secretary having, in the meantime, taken off their shoes, accompanied me in to act as interpreters.

The presence chamber was about forty feet square, showy and handsome: round the walls were placed sofas, which, from being covered with scarlet, reminded me of the woolsacks in the House of Lords.  In the farthest corner of the room, elevated on a crimson velvet cushion, sat the Vizier, wrapped in a superb pelisse: on his head was a vast turban, in his belt a dagger, incrusted with jewels, and on the little finger of his right hand he wore a solitaire as large as the knob on the stopper of a vinegar-cruet, and which was said to have cost two thousand five hundred pounds sterling.  In his left hand he held a string of small coral beads, a comboloio which he twisted backwards and forwards during the greater part of the visit.  On the sofa beside him lay a pair of richly-ornamented London-made pistols.  At some distance, on the same sofa, but not on a cushion, sat Memet, the Pasha of Napoli Romania, whose son was contracted in marriage to the Vizier’s daughter.  On the floor, at the foot of this pasha, and opposite to the Vizier, a secretary was writing despatches.  These were the only persons in the room who had the honour of being seated; for, according to the etiquette of this viceregal court, those who received the Vizier’s pay were not allowed to sit down in his presence.

On my entrance, his highness motioned to me to sit beside him, and through the medium of the interpreters began with some commonplace courtly insignificancies, as a prelude to more interesting conversation.  In his manners I found him free and affable, with a considerable tincture of humour and drollery.  Among other questions, he inquired if I had a wife: and being answered in the negative, he replied to me himself in Italian, that I was a happy man, for he found his very troublesome: considering their probable number, this was not unlikely.  Pipes and coffee were in the mean-time served.  The pipe presented to the Vizier was at least twelve feet long; the mouth-piece was formed of a single block of amber, about the size of an ordinary cucumber, and fastened to the shaft by a broad hoop of gold, decorated with jewels.  While the pipes and coffee were distributing, a musical clock, which stood in a niche, began to play, and continued doing so until this ceremony was over.  The coffee was literally a drop of dregs in a very small china cup, placed in a golden socket.  His highness was served with his coffee by Pasha Bey, his generalissimo, a giant, with the tall crown of a dun-coloured beaver-hat on his head.  In returning the cup to him, the Vizier elegantly eructed in his face.  After the regale of the pipes and coffee, the attendants withdrew, and his highness began a kind of political discussion, in which, though making use of an interpreter, he managed to convey his questions with delicacy and address.

On my rising to retire, his highness informed me, with more polite condescension than a Christian of a thousandth part of his authority would have done, that during my stay at Tripolizza horses were at my command, and guards who would accompany me to any part of the country I might choose to visit.

Next morning, he sent a complimentary message, importing, that he had ordered dinner to be prepared at the doctor’s for me and two of his officers.  The two officers were lively fellows; one of them in particular seemed to have acquired, by instinct, a large share of the ease and politeness of Christendom.  The dinner surpassed all count and reckoning, dish followed dish, till I began to fancy that the cook either expected I would honour his highness’s entertainment as Cæsar did the supper of Cicero, or supposed that the party were not finite beings.  During the course of this amazing service, the principal singers and musicians of the seraglio arrived, and sung and played several pieces of very sweet Turkish music.  Among others was a song composed by the late unfortunate Sultan Selim, the air of which was pleasingly simple and pathetic.  I had heard of the Sultan’s poetry before, a small collection of which has been printed.  It is said to be interesting and tender, consisting chiefly of little sonnets, written after he was deposed; in which he contrasts the tranquillity of his retirement with the perils and anxieties of his former grandeur.  After the songs, the servants of the officers, who were Albanians, danced a Macedonian reel, in which they exhibited several furious specimens of Highland agility.  The officers then took their leave, and I went to bed, equally gratified by the hospitality of the Vizier and the incidents of the entertainment.


The Effect of Ali Pasha’s Character on Lord ByronSketch of the Career of Ali, and the Perseverance with which he pursued the Objects of his Ambition

Although many traits and lineaments of Lord Byron’s own character may be traced in the portraits of his heroes, I have yet often thought that Ali Pasha was the model from which he drew several of their most remarkable features; and on this account it may be expedient to give a sketch of that bold and stern personage—if I am correct in my conjecture—and the reader can judge for himself when the picture is before him—it would be a great defect, according to the plan of this work, not to do so.

Ali Pasha was born at Tepellené, about the year 1750.  His father was a pasha of two tails, but possessed of little influence.  At his death Ali succeeded to no inheritance but the house in which he was born; and it was his boast, in the plenitude of his power, that he began his fortune with sixty paras, about eighteen pence sterling, and a musket.  At that time the country was much infested with cattle-stealers, and the flocks and herds of the neighbouring villages were often plundered.

Ali collected a few followers from among the retainers of his father, made himself master, first of one village, then of another, amassed money, increased his power, and at last found himself at the head of a considerable body of Albanians, whom he paid by plunder; for he was then only a great robber—the Rob Roy of Albania: in a word, one of those independent freebooters who divide among themselves so much of the riches and revenues of the Ottoman dominions.

In following up this career, he met with many adventures and reverses, but his course was still onwards, and uniformly distinguished by enterprise and cruelty.  His enemies expected no mercy when vanquished in the field; and when accidentally seized in private, they were treated with equal rigour.  It is reported that he even roasted alive on spits some of his most distinguished adversaries.

When he had collected money enough, he bought a pashalic; and being invested with that dignity, he became still more eager to enlarge his possessions.  He continued in constant war with the neighbouring pashas; and cultivating, by adroit agents, the most influential interest at Constantinople, he finally obtained possession of Joannina, and was confirmed pasha of the territory attached to it, by an imperial firman.  He then went to war with the pashas of Arta, of Delvino, and of Ocrida, whom he subdued, together with that of Triccala, and established a predominant influence over the agas of Thessaly.  The pasha of Vallona he poisoned in a bath at Sophia; and strengthened his power by marrying his two sons, Mouctar and Velhi, to the daughters of the successor and brother of the man whom he had murdered.  In The Bride of Abydos, Lord Byron describes the assassination, but applies it to another party.

Reclined and feverish in the bath,
He, when the hunter’s sport was up,
But little deem’d a brother’s wrath
To quench his thirst had such a cup:
The bowl a bribed attendant bore—
He drank one draught, nor needed more.

During this progression of his fortunes, he had been more than once called upon to furnish his quota of troops to the imperial armies, and had served at their head with distinction against the Russians.  He knew his countrymen, however, too well ever to trust himself at Constantinople.  It was reported that he had frequently been offered some of the highest offices in the empire, but he always declined them and sought for power only among the fastnesses of his native region.  Stories of the skill and courage with which he counteracted several machinations to procure his head were current and popular throughout the country, and among the Greeks in general he was certainly regarded as inferior only to the Grand Vizier himself.  But though distrusting and distrusted, he always in the field fought for the Sultan with great bravery, particularly against the famous rebel Paswan Oglou.  On his return from that war in 1798, he was, in consequence, made a pasha of three tails, or vizier, and was more than once offered the ultimate dignity of Grand Vizier, but he still declined all the honours of the metropolis.  The object of his ambition was not temporary power, but to found a kingdom.

He procured, however, pashalics for his two sons, the younger of whom, Velhi, saved sufficient money in his first government to buy the pashalic of the Morea, with the dignity of vizier, for which he paid seventy-five thousand pounds sterling.  His eldest son, Mouctar, was of a more warlike turn, with less ambition than his brother.  At the epoch of which I am speaking, he supplied his father’s place at the head of the Albanians in the armies of the Sultan, in which he greatly distinguished himself in the campaign of 1809 against the Russians.

The difficulties which Ali Pasha had to encounter in establishing his ascendancy, did not arise so much from the opposition he met with from the neighbouring pashas as from the nature of the people, and of the country of which he was determined to make himself master.  Many of the plains and valleys which composed his dominions were occupied by inhabitants who had been always in rebellion, and were never entirely conquered by the Turks, such as the Chimeriotes, the Sulliotes, and the nations living among the mountains adjacent to the coast of the Ionian Sea.  Besides this, the woods and hills of every part of his dominions were in a great degree possessed by formidable bands of robbers, who, recruited and protected by the villages, and commanded by chiefs as brave and as enterprising as himself, laid extensive tracts under contribution, burning and plundering regardless of his jurisdiction.  Against these he proceeded with the most iron severity; they were burned, hanged, beheaded, and impaled, in all parts of the country, until they were either exterminated or expelled.

A short time before the arrival of Lord Byron at Joannina, a large body of insurgents who infested the mountains between that city and Triccala, were defeated and dispersed by Mouctar Pasha, who cut to pieces a hundred of them on the spot.  These robbers had been headed by a Greek priest, who, after the defeat, went to Constantinople and procured a firman of protection, with which he ventured to return to Joannina, where the Vizier invited him to a conference, and made him a prisoner.  In deference to the firman, Ali confined him in prison, but used him well until a messenger could bring from Constantinople a permission from the Porte to authorise him to do what he pleased with the rebel.  It was the arm of this man which Byron beheld suspended from the bough on entering Joannina.

By these vigorous measures, Ali Pasha rendered the greater part of Albania and the contiguous districts safely accessible, which were before overrun by bandits and freebooters; and consequently, by opening the country to merchants, and securing their persons and goods, not only increased his own revenues, but improved the condition of his subjects.  He built bridges over the rivers, raised causeways over the marshes, opened roads, adorned the country and the towns with new buildings, and by many salutary regulations, acted the part of a just, though a merciless, prince.

In private life he was no less distinguished for the same unmitigated cruelty, but he afforded many examples of strong affection.  The wife of his son Mouctar was a great favourite with the old man.  Upon paying her a visit one morning, he found her in tears.  He questioned her several times as to the cause of her grief; she at last reluctantly acknowledged that it arose from the diminution of her husband’s regard.  He inquired if she thought he paid attention to other women; the reply was in the affirmative; and she related that a lady of the name of Phrosynè, the wife of a rich Jew, had beguiled her of her husband’s love; for she had seen at the bath, upon the finger of Phrosynè, a rich ring, which had belonged to Mouctar, and which she had often in vain entreated him to give to her.  Ali immediately ordered the lady to be seized, and to be tied up in a sack, and cast into the lake.  Various versions of this tragical tale are met with in all parts of the country, and the fate of Phrosynè is embodied in a ballad of touching pathos and melody.

That the character of this intrepid and ruthless warrior made a deep impression on the mind of Byron cannot be questioned.  The scenes in which he acted were, as the poet traversed the country, everywhere around him; and his achievements, bloody, dark, and brave, had become themes of song and admiration.


Leave Joannina for PrevesaLand at FanariAlbaniaByron’s Character of the Inhabitants

Having gratified their curiosity with an inspection of every object of interest at Tepellené, the travellers returned Joannina, where they again resided several days, partaking of the hospitality of the principal inhabitants.  On the 3rd of November they bade it adieu, and returned to Salona, on the Golf of Arta; where, in consequence of hearing that the inhabitants of Carnia were up in arms, that numerous bands of robbers had descended from the mountains of Ziccola and Agrapha, and had made their appearance on the other side of the gulf, they resolved to proceed by water to Prevesa, and having presented an order which they had received from Ali Pasha, for the use of his galliot, she was immediately fitted out to convey them.  In the course of the voyage they suffered a great deal of alarm, ran some risk, and were obliged to land on the mainland of Albania, in a bay called Fanari, contiguous to the mountainous district of Sulli.  There they procured horses, and rode to Volondorako, a town belonging to the Vizier, by the primate of which and his highness’s garrison they were received with all imaginable civility.  Having passed the night there, they departed in the morning, which, proving bright and beautiful, afforded them interesting views of the steep romantic environs of Sulli.

   Land of Albania, where Iskander rose,
   Theme of the young, and beacon of the wise,
   And he his namesake whose oft-baffled foes
   Shrunk from his deeds of chivalrous emprise;
   Land of Albania! let me bend mine eyes
   On thee, thou rugged nurse of savage men!
   The Cross descends, thy minarets arise,
   And the pale crescent sparkles in the glen,
Through many a cypress grove within each city’s ken.

Of the inhabitants of Albania—the Arnaouts or Albanese—Lord Byron says they reminded him strongly of the Highlanders of Scotland, whom they undoubtedly resemble in dress, figure, and manner of living.  “The very mountains seemed Caledonian with a kinder climate.  The kilt, though white, the spare active form, their dialect, Celtic in its sound, and their hardy habits, all carried me back to Morven.  No nation are so detested and dreaded by their neighbours as the Albanese; the Greeks hardly regard them as Christians, or the Turks as Moslems, and in fact they are a mixture of both, and sometimes neither.  Their habits are predatory: all are armed, and the red-shawled Arnaouts, the Montenegrins, Chimeriotes, and Gedges, are treacherous; the others differ somewhat in garb, and essentially in character.  As far as my own experience goes, I can speak favourably.  I was attended by two, an infidel and a Mussulman, to Constantinople and every other part of Turkey which came within my observations, and men more faithful in peril and indefatigable in service are nowhere to be found.  The infidel was named Basilius, the Moslem Dervish Tahiri; the former a man of middle age, and the latter about my own.  Basili was strictly charged by Ali Pasha in person to attend us, and Dervish was one of fifty who accompanied us through the forests of Acarnania, to the banks of the Achelous, and onward to Missolonghi.  There I took him into my own service, and never had occasion to repent it until the moment of my departure.

“When in 1810, after my friend, Mr Hobhouse, left me for England, I was seized with a severe fever in the Morea, these men saved my life by frightening away my physician, whose throat they threatened to cut if I was not cured within a given time.  To this consolatory assurance of posthumous retribution, and a resolute refusal of Dr Romanelli’s prescriptions, I attributed my recovery.  I had left my last remaining English servant at Athens; my dragoman was as ill as myself; and my poor Arnaouts nursed me with an attention which would have done honour to civilization.

“They had a variety of adventures, for the Moslem, Dervish, being a remarkably handsome man, was always squabbling with the husbands of Athens; insomuch that four of the principal Turks paid me a visit of remonstrance at the convent, on the subject of his having taken a woman to the bath—whom he had lawfully bought, however—a thing quite contrary to etiquette.

“Basili also was extremely gallant among his own persuasion, and had the greatest veneration for the Church, mixed with the highest contempt of Churchmen, whom he cuffed upon occasion in a most heterodox manner.  Yet he never passed a church without crossing himself; and I remember the risk he ran on entering St Sophia, in Stamboul, because it had once been a place of his worship.  On remonstrating with him on his inconsistent proceedings, he invariably answered, ‘Our church is holy, our priests are thieves’; and then he crossed himself as usual, and boxed the ears of the first papas who refused to assist in any required operation, as was always found to be necessary where a priest had any influence with the Cogia Bashi of his village.  Indeed, a more abandoned race of miscreants cannot exist than the lower orders of the Greek clergy.

“When preparations were made for my return, my Albanians were summoned to receive their pay.  Basili took his with an awkward show of regret at my intended departure, and marched away to his quarters with his bag of piastres.  I sent for Dervish, but for some time he was not to be found; at last he entered just as Signor Logotheti, father to the ci-devant Anglo-consul of Athens, and some other of my Greek acquaintances, paid me a visit.  Dervish took the money, but on a sudden dashed it on the ground; and clasping his hands, which he raised to his forehead, rushed out of the room weeping bitterly.  From that moment to the hour of my embarkation, he continued his lamentations, and all our efforts to console him only produced this answer, ‘He leaves me.’  Signor Logotheti, who never wept before for anything less than the loss of a paras, melted; the padre of the convent, my attendants, my visitors, and I verily believe that even Sterne’s foolish fat scullion would have left her fish-kettle to sympathise with the unaffected and unexpected sorrow of this barbarian.

“For my part, when I remembered that a short time before my departure from England, a noble and most intimate associate had excused himself from taking leave of me, because he had to attend a relation ‘to a milliner’s,’ I felt no less surprised than humiliated by the present occurrence and the past recollection.

“The Albanians in general (I do not mean the cultivators of the earth in the provinces, who have also that appellation, but the mountaineers) have a fine cast of countenance; and the most beautiful women I have ever beheld, in stature and in features, we saw levelling the road broken down by the torrents between Delvinaki and Libokavo.  Their manner of walking is truly theatrical, but this strut is probably the effect of the capote or cloak depending from one shoulder.  Their long hair reminds you of the Spartans, and their courage in desultory warfare is unquestionable.  Though they have some cavalry among the Gedges, I never saw a good Arnaout horseman, but on foot they are never to be subdued.”

The travellers having left Volondorako proceeded southward until they came near to the seaside, and passing along the shore, under a castle belonging to Ali Pasha, on the lofty summit of a steep rock, they at last reached Nicopolis again, the ruins of which they revisited.

On their arrival at Prevesa, they had no choice left but that of crossing Carnia, and the country being, as already mentioned, overrun with robbers, they provided themselves with a guard of thirty-seven soldiers, and procured another galliot to take them down the Gulf of Arta, to the place whence they were to commence their land journey.

Having embarked, they continued sailing with very little wind until they reached the fortress of Vonitza, where they waited all night for the freshening of the morning breeze, with which they again set sail, and about four o’clock in the afternoon arrived at Utraikee.

At this place there was only a custom house and a barrack for troops close to each other, and surrounded, except towards the water, by a high wall.  In the evening the gates were secured, and preparations made for feeding their Albanian guards; a goat was killed and roasted whole, and four fires were kindled in the yard, around which the soldiers seated themselves in parties.  After eating and drinking, the greater part of them assembled at the largest of the fires, and, while the travellers were themselves with the elders of the party seated on the ground, danced round the blaze to their own songs, with astonishing Highland energy.

   Childe Harold at a little distance stood,
   And view’d, but not displeased, the revelry,
   Nor hated harmless mirth, however rude;
   In sooth, it was no vulgar sight to see
   Their barbarous, yet their not indecent glee;
   And as the flames along their faces gleam’d,
   Their gestures nimble, dark eyes flashing free,
   The long wild locks that to their girdles stream’d,
While thus in concert they this lay half sang, half scream’d.

   “I talk not of mercy, I talk not of fear;
   He neither must know who would serve the vizier;
   Since the days of our prophet, the crescent ne’er saw
   A chief ever glorious like Ali Pashaw.


Leave UtraikeeDangerous Pass in the WoodsCatoonaQuarrel between the Guard and Primate of the VillageMakalaGouriMissolonghiParnassus

Having spent the night at Utraikee, Byron and his friend continued their journey southward.  The reports of the state of the country induced them to take ten additional soldiers with them, as their road for the first two hours lay through dangerous passes in the forest.  On approaching these places fifteen or twenty of the party walked briskly on before, and when they had gone through the pass halted until the travellers came up.  In the woods two or three green spots were discovered on the road-side, and on them Turkish tombstones, generally under a clump of trees, and near a well or fountain.

When they had passed the forest they reached an open country, whence they sent back the ten men whom they had brought from Utraikee.  They then passed on to a village called Catoona, where they arrived by noon.  It was their intention to have proceeded farther that day, but their progress was interrupted by an affair between their Albanian guard and the primate of the village.  As they were looking about, while horses were collecting to carry their luggage, one of the soldiers drew his sword at the primate, the Greek head magistrate; guns were cocked, and in an instant, before either Lord Byron or Mr Hobhouse could stop the affray, the primate, throwing off his shoes and cloak, fled so precipitately that he rolled down the hill and dislocated his shoulder.  It was a long time before they could persuade him to return to his house, where they lodged, and when he did return he remarked that he cared comparatively little about his shoulder to the loss of a purse with fifteen sequins, which had dropped out of his pocket during the tumble.  The hint was understood.

Catoona is inhabited by Greeks only, and is a rural, well-built village.  The primate’s house was neatly fitted up with sofas.  Upon a knoll, in the middle of the village, stood a schoolhouse, and from that spot the view was very extensive.  To the west are lofty mountains, ranging from north to south, near the coast; to the east a grand romantic prospect in the distance, and in the foreground a green valley, with a considerable river winding through a long line of country.

They had some difficulty in procuring horses at Catoona, and in consequence were detained until past eleven o’clock the next morning, and only travelled four hours that day to Makala, a well-built stone village, containing about forty houses distinct from each other, and inhabited by Greeks, who were a little above the condition of peasants, being engaged in pasturage and a small wool-trade.

The travellers were now in Carnia, where they found the inhabitants much better lodged than in the Albanian villages.  The house in which they slept at this place resembled those old mansions which are to be met with in the bottoms of the Wiltshire Downs.  Two green courts, one before and the other behind, were attached to it, and the whole was surrounded by a high and thick wall, which shut out the prospect, but was necessary in a country so frequently overrun by strong bands of freebooters.

From Makala they proceeded through the woods, and in the course of their journey passed three new-made graves, which the Albanians pointing at as they rode by, said they were “robbers.”  In the course of the journey they had a distant view of the large town of Vraikore, on the left bank of the Aspro, but they did not approach it, crossing the river by a ferry to the village of Gouria, where they passed the night.

Leaving that place in the morning, they took an easterly direction, and continued to ride across a plain of cornfields, near the banks of the river, in a rich country; sometimes over stone causeways, and between the hedges of gardens and olive-groves, until they were stopped by the sea.  This was that fruitful region formerly called Paracheloïtis, which, according to classic allegory, was drained or torn from the river Achelous, by the perseverance of Hercules and presented by him for a nuptial present to the daughter of Oëneus.

The water at which they had now arrived was rather a salt marsh than the sea, a shallow bay stretching from the mouth of the Gulf of Lepanto into the land for several miles.  Having dismissed their horses, they passed over in boats to Natolico, a town which stood in the water.  Here they fell in with a hospitable Jew, who made himself remembered by saying that he was honoured in their having partaken of his little misery.

Natolico, where they stayed for the night, was a well-built town; the houses of timber, chiefly of two stories, and about six hundred in number.  Having sent on their baggage in boats, they themselves proceeded to the town of Missolonghi, so celebrated since as having suffered greatly during the recent rebellion of the Greeks, but more particularly as the place where Lord Byron died.

Missolonghi is situated on the south side of the salt marsh or shallow, along the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth, nearly opposite to Patras.  It is a dull, and I should think an unwholesome place.  The marsh, for miles on each side, has only from a foot to two feet of water on it, but there is a channel for boats marked out by perches.  When I was there the weather was extremely wet, and I had no other opportunity of seeing the character of the adjacent country than during the intervals of the showers.  It was green and pastoral, with a short skirt of cultivation along the bottom of the hills.

Abrupt and rapid as the foregoing sketch of the journey through Albania has been, it is evident from the novelty of its circumstances that it could not be performed without leaving deep impressions on the susceptible mind of the poet.  It is impossible, I think, not to allow that far more of the wildness and romantic gloom of his imagination was derived from the incidents of this tour, than from all the previous experience of his life.  The scenes he visited, the characters with whom he became familiar, and above all, the chartered feelings, passions, and principles of the inhabitants, were greatly calculated to supply his mind with rare and valuable poetical materials.  It is only in this respect that the details of his travels are interesting.—Considered as constituting a portion of the education of his genius, they are highly curious, and serve to show how little, after all, of great invention is requisite to make interesting and magnificent poetry.

From Missolonghi the travellers passed over the Gulf of Corinth to Patras, then a rude, half-ruined, open town with a fortress on the top of a hill; and on the 4th of December, in the afternoon, they proceeded towards Corinth, but halted at Vostizza, the ancient Ægium, where they obtained their first view of Parnassus, on the opposite side of the gulf; rising high above the other peaks of that hilly region, and capped with snow.  It probably was during this first visit to Vostizza that the Address to Parnassus was suggested.

   Oh, thou Parnassus! whom I now survey
   Not in the frensy of a dreamer’s eye,
   Not in the fabled landscape of a lay,
   But soaring snow-clad through thy native sky,
   In the wild pomp of mountain majesty!
   What marvel if I thus essay to sing?
   The humblest of thy pilgrims passing by
   Would gladly woo thine echoes with his string,
Though from thy heights no more one muse will wave her wing.

   Oft have I dream’d of thee! whose glorious name
   Who knows not, knows not man’s divinest lore;
   And now I view thee, ’tis, alas! with shame
   That I in feeblest accents must adore.
   When I recount thy worshippers of yore
   I tremble, and can only bend the knee;
   Nor raise my voice, nor vainly dare to soar,
   But gaze beneath thy cloudy canopy
In silent joy, to think at last I look on thee.


VostizzaBattle of LepantoParnassusLivadiaCave at TrophoniusThe Fountains of Oblivion and Memory—ChæronéaThebesAthens

Vostizza was then a considerable town, containing between three and four thousand inhabitants, chiefly Greeks.  It stands on a rising ground on the Peloponnesian side of the Gulf of Corinth.  I say stands, but I know not if it has survived the war.  The scenery around it will always make it delightful, while the associations connected with the Achaian League, and the important events which have happened in the vicinity, will ever render the site interesting.  The battle of Lepanto, in which Cervantes lost his hand, was fought within sight of it.

What a strange thing is glory!  Three hundred years ago all Christendom rang with the battle of Lepanto, and yet it is already probable that it will only be interesting to posterity as an incident in the life of one of the private soldiers engaged in it.  This is certainly no very mournful reflection to one who is of opinion that there is no permanent fame, but that which is obtained by adding to the comforts and pleasures of mankind.  Military transactions, after their immediate effects cease to be felt, are little productive of such a result.  Not that I value military virtues the less by being of this opinion; on the contrary, I am the more convinced of their excellence.  Burke has unguardedly said, ‘that vice loses half its malignity by losing its grossness’; but public virtue ceases to be useful when it sickens at the calamities of necessary war.  The moment that nations become confident of security, they give way to corruption.  The evils and dangers of war seem as requisite for the preservation of public morals as the laws themselves; at least it is the melancholy moral of history, that when nations resolve to be peaceful with respect to their neighbours, they begin to be vicious with respect to themselves.  But to return to the travellers.

On the 14th of December they hired a boat with fourteen men and ten oars, and sailed to Salona; thence they proceeded to Crisso, and rode on to Delphi, ascending the mountain on horseback, by a steep, craggy path towards the north-east.  After scaling the side of Parnassus for about an hour, they saw vast masses of rock, and fragments of stone, piled in a perilous manner above them, with niches and sepulchres, and relics, and remains on all sides.

They visited and drank of Castalia, and the prophetic font, Cassotis; but still, like every other traveller, they were disappointed.  Parnassus is an emblem of the fortune that attends the votaries of the Muses, harsh, rugged, and barren.  The woods that once waved on Delphi’s steep have all passed away, and may now be sought in vain.

A few traces of terraces may yet be discovered—here and there the stump of a column, while niches for receiving votive offerings are numerous among the cliffs, but it is a lone and dismal place; Desolation sits with Silence, and Ruin there is so decayed as to be almost Oblivion.

Parnassus is not so much a single mountain as the loftiest of a range; the cloven summit appears most conspicuous when seen from the south.  The northern view is, however, more remarkable, for the cleft is less distinguishable, and seven lower peaks suggest, in contemplation with the summits, the fancy of so many seats of the Muses.  These peaks, nine in all, are the first of the hills which receive the rising sun, and the last that in the evening part with his light.

From Delphi the travellers proceeded towards Livadia, passing in the course of the journey the confluence of the three roads where Œdipus slew his father, an event with its hideous train of fatalities which could not be recollected by Byron on the spot, even after the tales of guilt he had gathered in his Albanian journeys, without agitating associations.

At Livadia they remained the greater part of three days, during which they examined with more than ordinary minuteness the cave of Trophonius, and the streams of the Hercyna, composed of the mingled waters of the two fountains of Oblivion and Memory.

From Livadia, after visiting the battlefield of Chæronéa (the birthplace of Plutarch), and also many of the almost innumerable storied and consecrated spots in the neighbourhood, the travellers proceeded to Thebes—a poor town, containing about five hundred wooden houses, with two shabby mosques and four humble churches.  The only thing worthy of notice in it is a public clock, to which the inhabitants direct the attention of strangers as proudly as if it were indeed one of the wonders of the world.  There they still affect to show the fountain of Dirce and the ruins of the house of Pindar.  But it is unnecessary to describe the numberless relics of the famous things of Greece, which every hour, as they approached towards Athens, lay more and more in their way.  Not that many remarkable objects met their view; yet fragments of antiquity were often seen, though many of them were probably brought far from the edifices to which they had originally belonged; not for their beauty, or on account of the veneration which the sight of them inspired, but because they would burn into better lime than the coarser rock of the hills.  Nevertheless, abased and returned into rudeness as all things were, the presence of Greece was felt, and Byron could not resist the inspirations of her genius.

   Fair Greece! sad relic of departed worth!
   Immortal! though no more; though fallen, great;
   Who now shall lead thy scatter’d children forth
   And long-accustom’d bondage uncreate?
   Not such thy Sons who whilom did await,
   The hopeless warriors of a willing doom,
   In bleak Thermopylæ’s sepulchral strait:
   Oh! who that gallant spirit shall resume,
Leap from Eurotas’ banks, and call thee from the tomb!

In the course of the afternoon of the day after they had left Thebes, in attaining the summit of a mountain over which their road lay, the travellers beheld Athens at a distance, rising loftily, crowned with the Acropolis in the midst of the plain, the sea beyond, and the misty hills of Egina blue in the distance.

On a rugged rock rising abruptly on the right, near to the spot where this interesting vista first opened, they beheld the remains of the ancient walls of Phyle, a fortress which commanded one of the passes from Bæotia into Attica, and famous as the retreat of the chief patriots concerned in destroying the thirty tyrants of Athens.

   Spirit of freedom! when on Phyle’s brow
   Thou sat’st with Thrasybulus and his train,
   Couldst thou forebode the dismal hour which now
   Dims the green beauties of thine Attic plain?
   Not thirty tyrants now enforce the chain,
   But every carle can lord it o’er thy land;
   Nor rise thy sons, but idly rail in vain,
   Trembling beneath the scourge of Turkish hand,
From birth till death enslaved; in word, in deed unmann’d.

Such was the condition in which the poet found the country as he approached Athens; and although the spirit he invoked has reanimated the dejected race he then beheld around him, the traveller who even now revisits the country will still look in vain for that lofty mien which characterises the children of liberty.  The fetters of the Greeks have been struck off, but the blains and excoriated marks of slavery are still conspicuous upon them; the sinister eye, the fawning voice, the skulking, crouching, base demeanour, time and many conflicts only can efface.

The first view of the city was fleeting and unsatisfactory; as the travellers descended from the mountains the windings of the road among the hills shut it out.  Having passed the village of Casha, they at last entered upon the slope, and thence into the plain of Attica but the intervening heights and the trees kept the town concealed, till a turn of the path brought it full again before them; the Acropolis crowned with the ruins of the Parthenon—the Museum hill—and the Monument of Philopappus—

   Ancient of Days—august Athena! where,
   Where are thy men of might? thy grand in soul?
   Gone—glimmering through the dreams of things that were:
   First in the race that led to glory’s goal,
   They won, and pass’d away:—is this the whole?
   A schoolboy’s tale, the wonder of an hour!
   The warrior’s weapon, and the sophist’s stole
   Are sought in vain, and o’er each mouldering tower,
Dim with the mist of years, gray flits the shade of power.


AthensByron’s Character of the modern AtheniansVisit to EleusisVisit to the Caverns at Vary and KeratéaLost in the Labyrinths of the latter

It has been justly remarked, that were there no other vestiges of the ancient world in existence than those to be seen at Athens, they are still sufficient of themselves to justify the admiration entertained for the genius of Greece.  It is not, however, so much on account of their magnificence as of their exquisite beauty, that the fragments obtain such idolatrous homage from the pilgrims to the shattered shrines of antiquity.  But Lord Byron had no feeling for art, perhaps it would be more correct to say he affected none: still, Athens was to him a text, a theme; and when the first rush of curiosity has been satisfied, where else can the palled fancy find such a topic.

To the mere antiquary, this celebrated city cannot but long continue interesting, and to the classic enthusiast, just liberated from the cloisters of his college, the scenery and the ruins may for a season inspire delight.  Philosophy may there point her moral apophthegms with stronger emphasis, virtue receive new incitements to perseverance, by reflecting on the honour which still attends the memory of the ancient great, and patriotism there more pathetically deplore the inevitable effects of individual corruption on public glory; but to the man who seeks a solace from misfortune, or is “a-weary of the sun”; how wretched, how solitary, how empty is Athens!

   Yet to the remnants of thy splendour past
   Shall pilgrims, pensive, but unwearied throng;
   Long shall the voyager, with th’ Ionian blast,
   Hail the bright clime of battle and of song;
   Long shall thy annals and immortal tongue
   Fill with thy fame the youth of many a shore;
   Boast of the aged! lesson of the young!
   Which sages venerate and bards adore,
As Pallas and the Muse unveil their awful lore!

Of the existing race of Athenians Byron has observed, that they are remarkable for their cunning: “Among the various foreigners resident in Athens there was never a difference of opinion in their estimate of the Greek character, though on all other topics they disputed with great acrimony.  M. Fauvel, the French consul, who has passed thirty years at Athens, frequently declared in my hearing, that the Greeks do not deserve to be emancipated, reasoning on the ground of their national and individual depravity—while he forgot that such depravity is to be attributed to causes which can only be removed by the measures he reprobates.

“M. Roque, a French merchant of respectability long settled in Athens, asserted with the most amusing gravity, ‘Sir, they are the same canaille that existed in the days of Themistocles.’  The ancients banished Themistocles; the moderns cheat Monsieur Roque: thus great men have ever been treated.

“In short, all the Franks who are fixtures, and most of the Englishmen, Germans, Danes, etc., of passage, came over by degrees to their opinion, on much the same grounds that a Turk in England would condemn the nation by wholesale, because he was wronged by his lackey and overcharged by his washerwoman.  Certainly, it was not a little staggering when the Sieurs Fauvel and Lusieri, the two greatest demagogues of the day, who divide between them the power of Pericles and the popularity of Cleon, and puzzle the poor Waywode with perpetual differences, agreed in the utter condemnation of the Greeks in general, and of the Athenians in particular.”

I have quoted his Lordship thus particularly because after his arrival at Athens he laid down his pen.  Childe Harold there disappears.  Whether he had written the pilgrimage up to that point at Athens I have not been able to ascertain; while I am inclined to think it was so, as I recollect he told me there that he had then described or was describing the reception he had met with at Tepellené from Ali Pasha.

After having halted some time at Athens, where they established their headquarters, the travellers, when they had inspected the principal antiquities of the city (those things which all travellers must visit), made several excursions into the environs, and among other places went to Eleusis.

On the 13th of January they mounted earlier than usual, and set out on that road which has the site of the Academy and the Colonos, the retreat of Œdipus during his banishment, a little to the right; they then entered the Olive Groves, crossed the Cephessus, and came to an open, well-cultivated plain, extending on the left to the Piræus and the sea.  Having ascended by a gentle acclivity through a pass, at the distance of eight or ten miles from Athens, the ancient Corydallus, now called Daphnérouni, they came, at the bottom of a piney mountain, to the little monastery of Daphné, the appearance and situation of which are in agreeable unison.  The monastery was then fast verging into that state of the uninhabitable picturesque so much admired by young damsels and artists of a romantic vein.  The pines on the adjacent mountains hiss as they ever wave their boughs, and somehow, such is the lonely aspect of the place, that their hissing may be imagined to breathe satire against the pretensions of human vanity.

After passing through the hollow valley in which this monastic habitation is situated, the road sharply turns round an elbow of the mountain, and the Eleusinian plain opens immediately in front.  It is, however, for a plain, but of small dimensions.  On the left is the Island of Salamis, and the straits where the battle was fought; but neither of it nor of the mysteries for which the Temple of Ceres was for so many ages celebrated, has the poet given us description or suggestion; and yet few topics among all his wild and wonderful subjects were so likely to have furnished such “ample room, and verge enough” to his fancy.

The next excursion in any degree interesting, if a qualification of that kind can be applied to excursions, in Attica, was to Cape Colonna.  Crossing the bed of the Ilissus and keeping nearer to Mount Hymettus, the travellers arrived at Vary, a farm belonging to the monastery of Agios Asomatos, and under the charge of a caloyer.  Here they stopped for the night, and being furnished with lights, and attended by the caloyer’s servant as a guide, they proceeded to inspect the Paneum, or sculptured cavern in that neighbourhood, into which they descended.  Having satisfied their curiosity there, they proceeded, in the morning, to Keratéa, a small town containing about two hundred and fifty houses, chiefly inhabited by rural Albanians.

The wetness of the weather obliged them to remain several days at Keratéa, during which they took the opportunity of a few hours of sunshine to ascend the mountain of Parné in quest of a cave of which many wonderful things were reported in the country.  Having found the entrance, kindled their pine torches, and taken a supply of strips of the same wood, they let themselves down through a narrow aperture; creeping still farther down, they came into what seemed a large subterranean hall, arched as it were with high cupolas of crystal, and divided into long aisles by columns of glittering spar, in some parts spread into wide horizontal chambers, in others terminated by the dark mouths of deep and steep abysses receding into the interior of the mountain.

The travellers wandered from one grotto to another until they came to a fountain of pure water, by the side of which they lingered some time, till, observing that their torches were wasting, they resolved to return; but after exploring the labyrinth for a few minutes, they found themselves again close beside this mysterious spring.  It was not without reason they then became alarmed, for the guide confessed with trepidation that he had forgotten the intricacies of the cave, and knew not how to recover the outlet.

Byron often described this adventure with spirit and humour, magnifying both his own and his friend’s terrors; and though, of course, there was caricature in both, yet the distinction was characteristic.  Mr Hobhouse, being of a more solid disposition naturally, could discern nothing but a grave cause for dread in being thus lost in the bowels of the earth; Byron, however, described his own anxiety as a species of excitement and titillation which moved him to laughter.  Their escape from starvation and being buried alive was truly providential.

While roaming in a state of despair from cave to cell; climbing up narrow apertures; their last pine-torch fast consuming; totally ignorant of their position, and all around darkness, they discovered, as it were by accident, a ray of light gleaming towards them; they hastened towards it, and arrived at the mouth of the cave.

Although the poet has not made any use of this incident in description, the actual experience which it gave him of what despair is, could not but enrich his metaphysical store, and increase his knowledge of terrible feelings; of the workings of the darkest and dreadest anticipations—slow famishing death—cannibalism and the rage of self-devouring hunger.


Proceed from Keratéa to Cape ColonnaAssociations connected with the SpotSecond-hearing of the AlbaniansJourney to MarathonEffect of his Adventures on the Mind of the PoetReturn to AthensI join the Travellers thereMaid of Athens

From Keratéa the travellers proceeded to Cape Colonna, by the way of Katapheke.  The road was wild and rude, but the distant view of the ruins of the temple of Minerva, standing on the loneliness of the promontory, would have repaid them for the trouble, had the road been even rougher.

This once elegant edifice was of the Doric order, a hexastyle, the columns twenty-seven feet in height.  It was built entirely of white marble, and esteemed one of the finest specimens of architecture.  The rocks on which the remains stand are celebrated alike by the English and the Grecian muses; for it was amid them that Falconer laid the scene of his Shipwreck; and the unequalled description of the climate of Greece, in The Giaour, was probably inspired there, although the poem was written in London.  It was also here, but not on this occasion, that the poet first became acquainted with the Albanian belief in second-hearing, to which he alludes in the same poem:

   Deep in whose darkly-boding ear
   The death-shot peal’d of murder near.

“This superstition of a second-hearing,” says Lord Byron, “fell once under my own observation.  On my third journey to Cape Colonna, as we passed through the defile that leads from the hamlet between Keratéa and Colonna, I observed Dervish Tahiri (one of his Albanian servants) riding rather out of the path, and leaning his head upon his hand as if in pain.  I rode up and inquired.  ‘We are in peril!’ he answered.  ‘What peril? we are not now in Albania, nor in the passes to Ephesus, Missolonghi, or Lepanto; there are plenty of us well armed, and the Choriotes have not courage to be thieves.’—‘True, Affendi; but, nevertheless, the shot is ringing in my ears.’—‘The shot! not a tophaike has been fired this morning.’—‘I hear it, notwithstanding—bom—bom—as plainly as I hear your voice.’—‘Bah.’—‘As you please, Affendi; if it is written, so will it be.’

“I left this quick-eared predestinarian, and rode up to Basili, his Christian compatriot, whose ears, though not at all prophetic, by no means relished the intelligence.  We all arrived at Colonna, remained some hours, and returned leisurely, saying a variety of brilliant things, in more languages than spoiled the building of Babel, upon the mistaken seer; Romaic, Arnaout, Turkish, Italian, and English were all exercised, in various conceits, upon the unfortunate Mussulman.  While we were contemplating the beautiful prospect, Dervish was occupied about the columns.  I thought he was deranged into an antiquarian, and asked him if he had become a palaocastro man.  ‘No,’ said he, ‘but these pillars will be useful in making a stand’ and added some remarks, which at least evinced his own belief in his troublesome faculty of fore-hearing.

“On our return to Athens we heard from Leoné (a prisoner set on shore some days after) of the intended attack of the Mainotes, with the cause of its not taking place.  I was at some pains to question the man, and he described the dresses, arms, and marks of the horses of our party so accurately, that, with other circumstances, we could not doubt of his having been in ‘villainous company,’ and ourselves in a bad neighbourhood.  Dervish became a soothsayer for life, and I dare say is now hearing more musketry than ever will be fired, to the great refreshment of the Arnaouts of Berat and his native mountains.

“In all Attica, if we except Athens itself, and Marathon,” Byron remarks, “there is no scene more interesting than Cape Colonna.  To the antiquary and artist, sixteen columns are an inexhaustible source of observation and design; to the philosopher the supposed scene of some of Plato’s conversations will not be unwelcome; and the traveller will be struck with the prospect over ‘Isles that crown the Ægean deep.’  But, for an Englishman, Colonna has yet an additional interest in being the actual spot of Falconer’s Shipwreck.  Pallas and Plato are forgotten in the recollection of Falconer and Campbell.

“There, in the dead of night, by Donna’s steep,
The seamen’s cry was heard along the deep.”

From the ruins of the temple the travellers returned to Keratéa, by the eastern coast of Attica, passing through that district of country where the silver mines are situated; which, according to Sir George Wheler, were worked with some success about a hundred and fifty years ago.  They then set out for Marathon, taking Rapthi in their way; where, in the lesser port, on a steep rocky island, they beheld, from a distance, the remains of a colossal statue.  They did not, however, actually inspect it, but it has been visited by other travellers, who have described it to be of white marble, sedent on a pedestal.  The head and arms are broken off; but when entire, it is conjectured to have been twelve feet in height.  As they were passing round the shore they heard the barking of dogs, and a shout from a shepherd, and on looking round saw a large dun-coloured wolf, galloping slowly through the bushes.

Such incidents and circumstances, in the midst of the most romantic scenery of the world, with wild and lawless companions, and a constant sense of danger, were full of poetry, and undoubtedly contributed to the formation of the peculiar taste of Byron’s genius.  As it has been said of Salvator Rosa, the painter, that he derived the characteristic savage force of his pencil from his youthful adventures with banditti; it may be added of Byron, that much of his most distinguished power was the result of his adventures as a traveller in Greece.  His mind and memory were filled with stores of the fittest imagery, to supply becoming backgrounds and appendages, to the characters and enterprises which he afterward depicted with such truth of nature and poetical effect.

After leaving Rapthi, keeping Mount Pentilicus on the left, the travellers came in sight of the ever-celebrated Plain of Marathon.  The evening being advanced, they passed the barrow of the Athenian slain unnoticed, but next morning they examined minutely the field of battle, and fancied they had made antiquarian discoveries.  In their return to Athens they inspected the different objects of research and fragments of antiquity, which still attract travellers, and with the help of Chandler and Pausanias, endeavoured to determine the local habitation and the name of many things, of which the traditions have perished and the forms have relapsed into rock.

Soon after their arrival at Athens, Mr Hobhouse left Lord Byron to visit the Negropont, where he was absent some few days.  I think he had only been back three or four when I arrived from Zante.  My visit to Athens at that period was accidental.  I had left Malta with the intention of proceeding to Candia, by Specia, and Idra; but a dreadful storm drove us up the Adriatic, as far as Valona; and in returning, being becalmed off the Island of Zante, I landed there, and allowed the ship, with my luggage, to proceed to her destination, having been advised to go on by the Gulf of Corinth to Athens; from which place, I was informed, there would be no difficulty in recovering my trunks.

In carrying this arrangement into effect, I was induced to go aside from the direct route, and to visit Velhi Pasha, at Tripolizza, to whom I had letters.  Returning by Argos and Corinth, I crossed the isthmus, and taking the road by Megara, reached Athens on the 20th of February.  In the course of this journey, I heard of two English travellers being in the city; and on reaching the convent of the Propaganda, where I had been advised to take up my lodgings, the friar in charge of the house informed me of their names.  Next morning, Mr Hobhouse, having heard of my arrival, kindly called on me, and I accompanied him to Lord Byron, who then lodged with the widow of a Greek, who had been British Consul.  She was, I believe, a respectable person, with several daughters; one of whom has been rendered more famous by his Lordship’s verses than her degree of beauty deserved.  She was a pale and pensive-looking girl, with regular Grecian features.  Whether he really cherished any sincere attachment to her I much doubt.  I believe his passion was equally innocent and poetical, though he spoke of buying her from her mother.  It was to this damsel that he addressed the stanzas beginning,

   Maid of Athens, ere we part,
   Give, oh! give me back my heart.


Occupation at AthensMount PentilicusWe descend into the CavernsReturn to AthensA Greek Contract of MarriageVarious Athenian and Albanian SuperstitionsEffect of their Impression on the Genius of the Poet

During his residence at Athens, Lord Byron made almost daily excursions on horseback, chiefly for exercise and to see the localities of celebrated spots.  He affected to have no taste for the arts, and he certainly took but little pleasure in the examination of the ruins.

The marble quarry of Mount Pentilicus, from which the materials for the temples and principal edifices of Athens are supposed to have been brought, was, in those days, one of the regular staple curiosities of Greece.  This quarry is a vast excavation in the side of the hill; a drapery of woodbine hangs like the festoons of a curtain over the entrance; the effect of which, seen from the outside, is really worth looking at, but not worth the trouble of riding three hours over a road of rude and rough fragments to see: the interior is like that of any other cavern.  To this place I one day was induced to accompany the two travellers.

We halted at a monastery close by the foot of the mountain, where we procured a guide, and ate a repast of olives and fried eggs.  Dr Chandler says that the monks, or caloyers, of this convent are summoned to prayers by a tune which is played on a piece of an iron hoop; and, on the outside of the church, we certainly saw a piece of crooked iron suspended.  When struck, it uttered a bell-like sound, by which the hour of prayer was announced.  What sort of tune could be played on such an instrument the doctor has judiciously left his readers to imagine.

When we reached the mouth of the grotto, by that “very bad track” which the learned personage above mentioned clambered up, we saw the ruins of the building which the doctor at first thought had been possibly a hermit’s cell; but which, upon more deliberate reflection, he became of opinion “was designed, perhaps, for a sentinel to look out, and regulate, by signals, the approach of the men and teams employed in carrying marble to the city.”  This, we agreed, was a very sagacious conjecture.  It was, indeed, highly probable that sentinels were appointed to regulate, by signals, the manoeuvres of carts coming to fetch away stones.

Having looked at the outside of the quarry, and the guide having lighted candles, we entered into the interior, and beheld on all sides what Dr Chandler saw, “chippings of marble.”  We then descended, consecutively, into a hole, just wide enough to let a man pass; and when we had descended far enough, we found ourselves in a cell, or cave; it might be some ten or twelve feet square.  Here we stopped, and, like many others who had been there before us, attempted to engrave our names.  Mine was without success; Lord Byron’s was not much better; but Mr Hobhouse was making some progress to immortality, when the blade of his knife snapped, or shutting suddenly, cut his finger.  These attempts having failed, we inscribed our initials on the ceiling with the smoke of our candles.  After accomplishing this notable feat, we got as well out of the scrape as we could, and returned to Athens by the village of Callandris.  In the evening, after dinner, as there happened to be a contract of marriage performing in the neighbourhood, we went to see the ceremony.

Between the contract and espousal two years are generally permitted to elapse among the Greeks in the course of which the bride, according to the circumstances of her relations, prepares domestic chattels for her future family.  The affections are rarely consulted on either side, for the mother of the bridegroom commonly arranges the match for her son.  In this case, the choice had been evidently made according to the principle on which Mrs Primrose chose her wedding gown; viz. for the qualities that would wear well.  For the bride was a stout household quean; her face painted with vermilion, and her person arrayed in uncouth embroidered garments.  Unfortunately, we were disappointed of seeing the ceremony, as it was over before we arrived.

This incident led me to inquire particularly into the existing usages and customs of the Athenians; and I find in the notes of my journal of the evening of that day’s adventures, a memorandum of a curious practice among the Athenian maidens when they become anxious to get husbands.  On the first evening of the new moon, they put a little honey, a little salt, and a piece of bread on a plate, which they leave at a particular spot on the east bank of the Ilissus, near the Stadium, and muttering some ancient words, to the effect that Fate may send them a handsome young man, return home, and long for the fulfilment of the charm.  On mentioning this circumstance to the travellers, one of them informed me, that above the spot where these offerings are made, a statue of Venus, according to Pausanias, formerly stood.  It is, therefore, highly probable that what is now a superstitious, was anciently a religious rite.

At this period my fellow-passengers were full of their adventures in Albania.  The country was new, and the inhabitants had appeared to them a bold and singular race.  In addition to the characteristic descriptions which I have extracted from Lord Byron’s notes, as well as Mr Hobhouse’s travels, I am indebted to them, as well as to others, for a number of memoranda obtained in conversation, which they have themselves neglected to record, but which probably became unconsciously mingled with the recollections of both; at least, I can discern traces of them in different parts of the poet’s works.

The Albanians are a race of mountaineers, and it has been often remarked that mountaineers, more than any other people, are attached to their native land, while no other have so strong a thirst of adventure.  The affection which they cherish for the scenes of their youth tends, perhaps, to excite their migratory spirit.  For the motive of their adventures is to procure the means of subsisting in ease at home.

This migratory humour is not, however, universal to the Albanians, but applies only to those who go in quest of rural employment, and who are found in a state of servitude among even the Greeks.  It deserves, however, to be noticed, that with the Greeks they rarely ever mix or intermarry, and that they retain both their own national dress and manners unchanged among them.  Several of their customs are singular.  It is, for example, in vain to ask a light or any fire from the houses of the Albanians after sunset, if the husband or head of the family be still afield; a custom in which there is more of police regulation than of superstition, as it interdicts a plausible pretext for entering the cottages in the obscurity of twilight, when the women are defenceless by the absence of the men.

Some of their usages, with respect to births, baptisms, and burials, are also curious.  When the mother feels the fulness of time at hand, the priestess of Lucina, the midwife, is duly summoned, and she comes bearing in her hand a tripod, better known as a three-legged stool, the uses of which are only revealed to the initiated.  She is received by the matronly friends of the mother, and begins the mysteries by opening every lock and lid in the house.  During this ceremony the maiden females are excluded.

The rites which succeed the baptism of a child are still more recondite.  Four or five days after the christening, the midwife prepares, with her own mystical hands, certain savoury messes, spreads a table, and places them on it.  She then departs, and all the family, leaving the door open, in silence retire to sleep.  This table is covered for the Miri of the child, an occult being, that is supposed to have the care of its destiny.  In the course of the night, if the child is to be fortunate, the Miri comes and partakes of the feast, generally in the shape of a cat; but if the Miri do not come, nor taste of the food, the child is considered to have been doomed to misfortune and misery; and no doubt the treatment it afterwards receives is consonant to its evil predestination.

The Albanians have, like the vulgar of all countries, a species of hearth or household superstitions, distinct from their wild and imperfect religion.  They imagine that mankind, after death, become voorthoolakases, and often pay visits to their friends and foes for the same reasons, and in the same way, that our own country ghosts walk abroad; and their visiting hour is, also, midnight.  But the collyvillory is another sort of personage.  He delights in mischief and pranks, and is, besides, a lewd and foul spirit; and, therefore, very properly detested.  He is let loose on the night of the nativity, with licence for twelve nights to plague men’s wives; at which time some one of the family must keep wakeful vigil all the livelong night, beside a clear and cheerful fire, otherwise this naughty imp would pour such an aqueous stream on the hearth, that fire could never be kindled there again.

The Albanians are also pestered with another species of malignant creatures; men and women whose gifts are followed by misfortunes, whose eyes glimpse evil, and by whose touch the most prosperous affairs are blasted.  They work their malicious sorceries in the dark, collect herbs of baleful influence; by the help of which, they strike their enemies with palsy, and cattle with distemper.  The males are called maissi, and the females maissa—witches and warlocks.

Besides these curious superstitious peculiarities, they have among them persons who pretend to know the character of approaching events by hearing sounds which resemble those that shall accompany the actual occurrence.  Having, however, given Lord Byron’s account of the adventure of his servant Dervish, at Cape Colonna, it is unnecessary to be more particular with the subject here.  Indeed, but for the great impression which everything about the Albanians made on the mind of the poet, the insertion of these memoranda would be irrelevant.  They will, however, serve to elucidate several allusions, not otherwise very clear, in those poems of which the scenes are laid in Greece; and tend, in some measure, to confirm the correctness of the opinion, that his genius is much more indebted to facts and actual adventures, than to the force of his imagination.  Many things regarded in his most original productions, as fancies and invention, may be traced to transactions in which he was himself a spectator or an actor.  The impress of experience is vivid upon them all.


Local PleasuresByron’s Grecian PoemsHis Departure from AthensDescription of Evening inThe Corsair”—The Opening ofThe Giaour”—State of Patriotic Feeling then in GreeceSmyrnaChange in Lord Byron’s Manners

The genii that preside over famous places have less influence on the imagination than on the memory.  The pleasures enjoyed on the spot spring from the reminiscences of reading; and the subsequent enjoyment derived from having visited celebrated scenes, comes again from the remembrance of objects seen there, and the associations connected with them.

A residence at Athens, day after day, is but little more interesting than in a common country town: but afterwards, in reading either of the ancient or of the modern inhabitants, it is surprising to find how much local knowledge the memory had unconsciously acquired on the spot, arising from the variety of objects to which the attention had been directed.

The best of all Byron’s works, the most racy and original, are undoubtedly those which relate to Greece; but it is only travellers who have visited the scenes that can appreciate them properly.  In them his peculiar style and faculty are most eminent; in all his other productions, imitation, even mere translation may be often traced, and though, without question, everything he touched became transmuted into something more beautiful and precious, yet he was never so masterly as in describing the scenery of Greece, and Albanian manners.  In a general estimate of his works, it may be found that he has produced as fine or finer passages than any in his Grecian poems; but their excellence, either as respects his own, or the productions of others, is comparative.  In the Grecian poems he is only truly original; in them the excellence is all his own, and they possess the rare and distinguished quality of being as true to fact and nature, as they are brilliant in poetical expression.  Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage is the most faithful descriptive poem which has been written since the Odyssey; and the occasional scenes introduced into the other poems, when the action is laid in Greece, are equally vivid and glowing.

When I saw him at Athens, the spring was still shrinking in the bud.  It was not until he returned from Constantinople in the following autumn, that he saw the climate and country with those delightful aspects which he has delineated with so much felicity in The Giaour and The Corsair.  It may, however, be mentioned, that the fine description of a calm sunset, with which the third canto of The Corsair opens, has always reminded me of the evening before his departure from Athens, owing to the circumstance of my having, in the course of the day, visited the spot which probably suggested the scene described.

It was the 4th of March, 1810; the Pylades sloop of war came that morning into the Piræus, and landed Dr Darwin, a son of the poet, with his friend, Mr Galton, who had come out in her for a cruise.  Captain Ferguson, her commander, was so kind as to offer the English then in Athens, viz., Lord Byron, Mr Hobhouse, and myself, a passage to Smyrna.  As I had not received my luggage from Specia, I could not avail myself of the offer, but the other two did: I accompanied Captain Ferguson, however, and Dr Darwin, in a walk to the Straits of Salamis; the ship, in the meantime, after landing them, having been moored there.

It was one of those serene and cloudless days of the early spring, when the first indications of leaf and blossom may just be discerned.  The islands slept, as it were, on their glassy couch, and a slight dun haze hung upon the mountains, as if they too were drowsy.  After an easy walk of about two hours, passing through the olive groves, and along the bottom of the hill on which Xerxes sat to view the battle, we came opposite to a little cove near the ferry, and made a signal to the ship for a boat.  Having gone on board and partaken of some refreshment, the boat then carried us back to the Piræus, where we landed, about an hour before sundown—all the wide landscape presenting at the time the calm and genial tranquillity which is almost experienced anew in reading these delicious lines:

Slow sinks more lovely e’er his race be run,
Along Morea’s hills, the setting sun
Not, as in northern climes, obscurely bright,
But one unclouded blaze of living light.
O’er the hush’d deep the yellow beam he throws,
Gilds the green wave that trembles as it flows.
On old Egina’s rock, and Idra’s isle,
The god of gladness sheds his parting smile;
O’er his own regions lingering, loves to shine,
Though there his altars are no more divine;—
Descending fast, the mountain shadows kiss
Thy glorious gulf, unconquer’d Salamis!

Their azure arches, through the long expanse,
More deeply purpled meet his mellowing glance,
And tenderest tints, along their summits driven,
Mark his gay course, and own the hues of heaven;
Till darkly shaded from the land and deep,
Behind his Delphian cliff he sinks to sleep.

The opening of The Giaour is a more general description, but the locality is distinctly marked by reference to the tomb above the rocks of the promontory, commonly said to be that of Themistocles; and yet the scene included in it certainly is rather the view from Cape Colonna, than from the heights of Munychia.

No breath of air to break the wave
That rolls below the Athenian’s grave,
That tomb, which, gleaming o’er the cliff,
First greets the homeward-veering skiff,
High o’er the land he saved in vain—
When shall such hero live again!

The environs of the Piræus were indeed, at that time, well calculated to inspire those mournful reflections with which the poet introduces the Infidel’s impassioned tale.  The solitude, the relics, the decay, and sad uses to which the pirate and the slave-dealer had put the shores and waters so honoured by freedom, rendered a visit to the Piræus something near in feeling to a pilgrimage.

   Such is the aspect of this shore,
   ’Tis Greece, but living Greece no more!
   So coldly sweet, so deadly fair,
   We start, for soul is wanting there.
   Hers is the loveliness in death,
   That parts not quite with parting breath;
   But beauty with that fearful bloom,
   That hue which haunts it to the tomb,
   Expression’s last receding ray,
   A gilded halo hov’ring round decay,
   The farewell beam of feeling past away.
Spark of that flame, perchance of heavenly birth,
Which gleams, but warms no more its cherish’d earth.

At that time Lord Byron, if he did pity the condition of the Greeks, evinced very little confidence in the resurrection of the nation, even although symptoms of change and reanimation were here and there perceptible, and could not have escaped his observation.  Greece had indeed been so long ruined, that even her desolation was then in a state of decay.  The new cycle in her fortunes had certainly not commenced, but it was manifest, by many a sign, that the course of the old was concluding, and that the whole country felt the assuring auguries of undivulged renovation.  The influence of that period did not, however, penetrate the bosom of the poet; and when he first quitted Athens, assuredly he cared as little about the destinies of the Greeks, as he did for those of the Portuguese and Spaniards, when he arrived at Gibraltar.

About three weeks or a month after he had left Athens, I went by a circuitous route to Smyrna, where I found him waiting with Mr Hobhouse, to proceed with the Salsette frigate, then ordered to Constantinople, to bring away Mr Adair, the ambassador.  He had, in the meantime, visited Ephesus, and acquired some knowledge of the environs of Smyrna; but he appeared to have been less interested by what he had seen there than by the adventures of his Albanian tour.  Perhaps I did him injustice, but I thought he was also, in that short space, something changed, and not with improvement.  Towards Mr Hobhouse, he seemed less cordial, and was altogether, I should say, having no better phrase to express what I would describe, more of a Captain Grand than improved in his manners, and more disposed to hold his own opinion than I had ever before observed in him.  I was particularly struck with this at dinner, on the day after my arrival.  We dined together with a large party at the consul’s, and he seemed inclined to exact a deference to his dogmas, that was more lordly than philosophical.  One of the naval officers present, I think the captain of the Salsette, felt, as well as others, this overweening, and announced a contrary opinion on some question connected with the politics of the late Mr Pitt with so much firm good sense, that Lord Byron was perceptibly rebuked by it, and became reserved, as if he deemed that sullenness enhanced dignity.  I never in the whole course of my acquaintance saw him kithe so unfavourably as he did on that occasion.  In the course of the evening, however, he condescended to thaw, and before the party broke up, his austerity began to leaf, and hide its thorns under the influence of a relenting temperament.  It was, however, too evident—at least it was so to me—that without intending wrong, or any offence, the unchecked humour of his temper was, by its caprices, calculated to prevent him from ever gaining that regard to which his talents and freer moods, independently of his rank, ought to have entitled him.  Such men become objects of solicitude, but never of esteem.

I was also on this occasion struck with another new phase in his character; he seemed to be actuated by no purpose—he spoke no more of passing “beyond Aurora and the Ganges,” but seemed disposed to let the current of chances carry him as it might.  If he had any specific object in view, it was something that made him hesitate between going home and returning to Athens when he should have reached Constantinople, now become the ultimate goal of his intended travels.  To what cause this sudden and singular change, both in demeanour and design, was owing, I was on the point of saying, it would be fruitless to conjecture; but a letter to his mother, written a few days before my arrival at Smyrna, throws some light on the sources of his unsatisfied state.  He appears by it to have been disappointed of letters and remittances from his agent, and says:

“When I arrive at Constantinople, I shall determine whether to proceed into Persia, or return—which latter I do not wish if I can avoid it.  But I have no intelligence from Mr H., and but one letter from yourself.  I shall stand in need of remittances, whether I proceed or return.  I have written to him repeatedly, that he may not plead ignorance of my situation for neglect.”

Here is sufficient evidence that the cause of the undetermined state of his mind, which struck me so forcibly, was owing to the incertitude of his affairs at home; and it is easy to conceive that the false dignity he assumed, and which seemed so like arrogance, was the natural effect of the anxiety and embarrassment he suffered, and of the apprehension of a person of his rank being, on account of his remittances, exposed to require assistance among strangers.  But as the scope of my task relates more to the history of his mind, than of his private affairs, I shall resume the narrative of his travels, in which the curiosity of the reader ought to be more legitimately interested.


SmyrnaThe Sport of the DjeridJourney to EphesusThe dead CityThe desolate CountryThe Ruins and Obliteration of the TempleThe slight Impression of all on Byron

The passage in the Pylades from Athens to Smyrna was performed without accident or adventure.

At Smyrna Lord Byron remained several days, and saw for the first time the Turkish pastime of the Djerid, a species of tournament to which he more than once alludes.  I shall therefore describe the amusement.

The Musselim or Governor, with the chief agas of the city, mounted on horses superbly caparisoned, and attended by slaves, meet, commonly on Sunday morning, on their playground.  Each of the riders is furnished with one or two djerids, straight white sticks, a little thinner than an umbrella-stick, less at one end than at the other and about an ell in length, together with a thin cane crooked at the head.  The horsemen, perhaps a hundred in number, gallop about in as narrow a space as possible, throwing the djerids at each other and shouting.  Each man then selects an opponent who has darted his djerid or is for the moment without a weapon, and rushes furiously towards him, screaming “Olloh!  Olloh!”  The other flies, looking behind him, and the instant the dart is launched stoops downwards as low as possible, or wields his horse with inconceivable rapidity, and picking up a djerid with his cane, or taking one from a running slave, pursues in his turn the enemy, who wheels on the instant he darts his weapon.  The greatest dexterity is requisite in these mimic battles to avoid the concurrence of the “javelin-darting crowd,” and to escape the random blows of the flying djerids.

Byron, having satisfied his curiosity with Smyrna, which is so like every other Turkish town as to excite but little interest, set out with Mr Hobhouse on the 13th of March, for Ephesus.  As I soon after passed along the same road, I shall here describe what I met with myself in the course of the journey, it being probable that the incidents were in few respects different from those which they encountered.

On ascending the heights after leaving Smyrna, the road was remarkable in being formed of the broken relics of ancient edifices partly macadamised.  On the brow of the hill I met a numerous caravan of camels coming from the interior of Asia.  These ships of the desert, variously loaded, were moving slowly to their port, and it seemed to me as I rode past them, that the composed docile look of the animals possessed a sort of domesticated grace which lessened the effect of their deformity.

A caravan, owing to the oriental dresses of the passengers and attendants, with the numerous grotesque circumstances which it presents to the stranger, affords an amusing spectacle.  On the back of one camel three or four children were squabbling in a basket; in another cooking utensils were clattering; and from a crib on a third a young camel looked forth inquiringly on the world: a long desultory train of foot-passengers and cattle brought up the rear.

On reaching the summit of the hills behind Smyrna the road lies through fields and cotton-grounds, well cultivated and interspersed with country houses.  After an easy ride of three or four hours I passed through the ruins of a considerable Turkish town, containing four or five mosques, one of them, a handsome building, still entire; about twenty houses or so might be described as tenantable, but only a place of sepulchres could be more awful: it had been depopulated by the plague—all was silent, and the streets were matted with thick grass.  In passing through an open space, which reminded me of a market-place, I heard the cuckoo with an indescribable sensation of pleasure mingled with solemnity.  The sudden presence of a raven at a bridal banquet could scarcely have been a greater phantasma.

Proceeding briskly from this forsaken and dead city, I arrived in the course of about half an hour at a coffee-house on the banks of a small stream, where I partook of some refreshment in the shade of three or four trees, on which several storks were conjugally building their nests.  While resting there, I became interested in their work, and observed, that when any of their acquaintances happened to fly past with a stick, they chattered a sort of How-d’ye-do to one another.  This civility was so uniformly and reciprocally performed, that the politeness of the stork may be regarded as even less disputable than its piety.

The road from that coffee-house lies for a mile or two along the side of a marshy lake, the environs of which are equally dreary and barren; an extensive plain succeeds, on which I noticed several broken columns of marble, and the evident traces of an ancient causeway, which apparently led through the water.  Near the extremity of the lake was another small coffee-house, with a burial-ground and a mosque near it; and about four or five miles beyond I passed a spot, to which several Turks brought a coffinless corpse, and laid it on the grass while they silently dug a grave to receive it.

The road then ascended the hills on the south side of the plain, of which the marshy lake was the centre, and passed through a tract of country calculated to inspire only apprehension and melancholy.  Not a habitation nor vestige of living man was in sight, but several cemeteries, with their dull funereal cypresses and tombstones served to show that the country had once been inhabited.

Just as the earliest stars began to twinkle I arrived at a third coffee-house on the roadside, with a little mosque before it, a spreading beech tree for travellers to recline under in the spring, and a rude shed for them in showers or the more intense sunshine of summer.  Here I rested for the night, and in the morning at daybreak resumed my journey.

After a short ride I reached the borders of the plain of Ephesus, across which I passed along a road rudely constructed, and raised above the marsh, consisting of broken pillars, entablatures, and inscriptions, at the end of which two other paths diverge; one strikes off to the left, and leads over the Cayster by a bridge above the castle of Aiasaluk—the other, leading to the right, or west, goes directly to Scala Nuova, the ancient Neapolis.  By the latter Byron and his friend proceeded towards the ferry, which they crossed, and where they found the river about the size of the Cam at Cambridge, but more rapid and deeper.  They then rode up the south bank, and about three o’clock in the afternoon arrived at Aiasaluk, the miserable village which now represents the city of Ephesus.

Having put up their beds in a mean khan, the only one in the town, they partook of some cold provisions which they had brought with them on a stone seat by the side of a fountain, on an open green near to a mosque, shaded with tall cypresses.  During their repast a young Turk approached the fountain, and after washing his feet and hands, mounted a flat stone, placed evidently for the purpose on the top of the wall surrounding the mosque, and devoutly said his prayers, totally regardless of their appearance and operations.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent in exploring the ruins of Aiasaluk, and next morning they proceeded to examine those of the castle, and the mouldering magnificence of Ephesus.  The remains of the celebrated temple of Diana, one of the wonders of the ancient world, could not be satisfactorily traced; fragments of walls and arches, which had been plated with marble, were all they could discover, with many broken columns that had once been mighty in their altitude and strength: several fragments were fifteen feet long, and of enormous circumference.  Such is the condition of that superb edifice, which was, in its glory, four hundred and twenty feet long by two hundred and twenty feet broad, and adorned with more than a hundred and twenty columns sixty feet high.

When the travellers had satisfied their curiosity, if that can be called satisfaction which found no entire form, but saw only the rubbish of desolation and the fragments of destruction, they returned to Smyrna.

The investigation of the ruins of Ephesus was doubtless interesting at the time, but the visit produced no such impression on the mind of Byron as might have been expected.  He never directly refers to it in his works: indeed, after Athens, the relics of Ephesus are things but of small import, especially to an imagination which, like that of the poet, required the action of living characters to awaken its dormant sympathies.


Embarks for ConstantinopleTouches at TenedosVisits AlexandriaTreesThe Trojan PlainSwims the HellespontArrival at Constantinople

On the 11th of April Lord Byron embarked at Smyrna, in the Salsette frigate for Constantinople.  The wind was fair during the night, and at half past six next morning, the ship was off the Sygean promontory, the north end of the ancient Lesbos or Mitylene.  Having passed the headland, north of the little town of Baba, she came in sight of Tenedos, where she anchored, and the poet went on shore to view the island.

The port was full of small craft, which in their voyage to the Archipelago had put in to wait for a change of wind, and a crowd of Turks belonging to these vessels were lounging about on the shore.  The town was then in ruins, having been burned to the ground by a Russian squadron in the year 1807.

Next morning, Byron, with a party of officers, left the ship to visit the ruins of Alexandria Troas, and landed at an open port, about six or seven miles to the south of where the Salsette was at anchor.  The spot near to where they disembarked was marked by several large cannon-balls of granite; for the ruins of Alexandria have long supplied the fortresses of the Dardanelles with these gigantic missiles.

They rambled some time through the shaggy woods, with which the country is covered, and the first vestiges of antiquity which attracted their attention were two large granite sarcophagi; a little beyond they found two or three fragments of granite pillars, one of them about twenty-five feet in length, and at least five in diameter.  Near these they saw arches of brick-work, and on the east of them those magnificent remains, to which early travellers have given the name of the palace of Priam, but which are, in fact, the ruins of ancient baths.  An earthquake in the course of the preceding winter had thrown down large portions of them, and the internal divisions of the edifice were, in consequence, choked with huge masses of mural wrecks and marbles.

The visitors entered the interior through a gap, and found themselves in the midst of enormous ruins, enclosed on two sides by walls, raised on arches, and by piles of ponderous fragments.  The fallen blocks were of vast dimensions, and showed that no cement had been used in the construction—an evidence of their great antiquity.  In the midst of this crushed magnificence stood several lofty portals and arches, pedestals of gigantic columns and broken steps and marble cornices, heaped in desolate confusion.

From these baths the distance to the sea is between two and three miles—a gentle declivity covered with low woods, and partially interspersed with spots of cultivated ground.  On this slope the ancient city of Alexandria Troas was built.  On the north-west, part of the walls, to the extent of a mile, may yet be traced; the remains of a theatre are also still to be seen on the side of the hill fronting the sea, commanding a view of Tenedos, Lemnos, and the whole expanse of the Ægean.

Having been conducted by the guide, whom they had brought with them from Tenedos, to the principal antiquities of Alexandria Troas, the visitors returned to the frigate, which immediately after got under way.  On the 14th of April she came to anchor about a mile and a half from Cape Janissary, the Sygean promontory, where she remained about a fortnight; during which ample opportunity was afforded to inspect the plain of Troy, that scene of heroism, which, for three thousand years, has attracted the attention and interested the feelings and fancy of the civilized world.

Whether Lord Byron entertained any doubt of Homer’s Troy ever having existed, is not very clear.  It is probable, from the little he says on the subject, that he took no interest in the question.  For although no traveller could enter with more sensibility into the local associations of celebrated places, he yet never seemed to care much about the visible features of antiquity, and was always more inclined to indulge in reflections than to puzzle his learning with dates or dimensions.  His ruminations on the Troad, in Don Juan, afford an instance of this, and are conceived in the very spirit of Childe Harold.

And so great names are nothing more than nominal,
   And love of glory’s but an airy lust,
Too often in its fury overcoming all
   Who would, as ’twere, identify their dust
From out the wide destruction which, entombing all,
   Leaves nothing till the coming of the just,
Save change.  I’ve stood upon Achilles’ tomb,
And heard Troy doubted—time will doubt of Rome.

The very generations of the dead
   Are swept away, and tomb inherits tomb,
Until the memory of an age is fled,
   And buried, sinks beneath its offspring’s doom.
Where are the epitaphs our fathers read,
   Save a few glean’d from the sepulchral gloom,
Which once named myriads, nameless, lie beneath,
And lose their own in universal death?

No task of curiosity can indeed be less satisfactory that the examination of the sites of ancient cities; for the guides, not content with leading the traveller to the spot, often attempt to mislead his imagination, by directing his attention to circumstances which they suppose to be evidence that verifies their traditions.  Thus, on the Trojan plain, several objects are still shown which are described as the self-same mentioned in the Iliad.  The wild fig-trees, and the tomb of Ilus, are yet there—if the guides may be credited.  But they were seen with incredulous eyes by the poet; even the tomb of Achilles appears to have been regarded by him with equal scepticism; still his description of the scene around is striking, and tinted with some of his happiest touches.

There on the green and village-cotted hill is
   Flanked by the Hellespont, and by the sea,
Entomb’d the bravest of the brave, Achilles—
   They say so.  Bryant says the contrary.
And farther downward tall and towering still is
   The tumulus, of whom Heaven knows it may be,
Patroclus, Ajax, or Protesilaus,—
All heroes, who, if living still, would slay us.

High barrows without marble or a name,
   A vast untill’d and mountain-skirted plain,
And Ida in the distance still the same,
   And old Scamander, if ’tis he, remain;
The situation seems still form’d for fame,
   A hundred thousand men might fight again
With ease.  But where I sought for Ilion’s walls
The quiet sheep feeds, and the tortoise crawls.

Troops of untended horses; here and there
   Some little hamlets, with new names uncouth,
Some shepherds unlike Paris, led to stare
   A moment at the European youth,
Whom to the spot their schoolboy feelings bear;
   A Turk with beads in hand and pipe in mouth,
Extremely taken with his own religion,
Are what I found there, but the devil a Phrygian.

It was during the time that the Salsette lay off Cape Janissary that Lord Byron first undertook to swim across the Hellespont.  Having crossed from the castle of Chanak-Kalessi, in a boat manned by four Turks, he landed at five o’clock in the evening half a mile above the castle of Chelit-Bauri, where, with an officer of the frigate who accompanied him, they began their enterprise, emulous of the renown of Leander.  At first they swam obliquely upwards, rather towards Nagara Point than the Dardanelles, but notwithstanding their skill and efforts they made little progress.  Finding it useless to struggle with {156} the current, they then turned and went with the stream, still however endeavouring to cross.  It was not until they had been half an hour in the water, and found themselves in the middle of the strait, about a mile and a half below the castles, that they consented to be taken into the boat, which had followed them.  By that time the coldness of the water had so benumbed their limbs that they were unable to stand, and were otherwise much exhausted.  The second attempt was made on the 3rd of May, when the weather was warmer.  They entered the water at the distance of a mile and a-half above Chelit-Bauri, near a point of land on the western bank of the Bay of Maito, and swam against the stream as before, but not for so long a time.  In less than half an hour they came floating down the current close to the ship, which was then anchored at the Dardanelles, and in passing her steered for the bay behind the castle, which they soon succeeded in reaching, and landed about a mile and a-half below the ship.  Lord Byron has recorded that he found the current very strong and the water cold; that some large fish passed him in the middle of the channel, and though a little chilled he was not fatigued, and performed the feat without much difficulty, but not with impunity, for by the verses in which he commemorated the exploit it appears he incurred the ague.


If in the month of dark December
   Leander who was nightly wont
(What maid will not the tale remember)
   To cross thy stream, broad Hellespont,

If when the wintry tempest roar’d
   He sped to Hero nothing loath,
And thus of old thy current pour’d,
   Fair Venus! how I pity both.

For me, degenerate modern wretch,
   Though in the genial month of May,
My dripping limbs I faintly stretch,
   And think I’ve done a feat to-day.

But since he crossed the rapid tide,
   According to the doubtful story,
To woo, and—Lord knows what beside,
   And swam for love as I for glory,

’Twere hard to say who fared the best;
   Sad mortals thus the gods still plague you;
He lost his labour, I my jest—
   For he was drown’d, and I’ve the ague.

“The whole distance,” says his Lordship, “from the place whence we started to our landing on the other side, including the length we were carried by the current, was computed by those on board the frigate at upwards of four English miles, though the actual breadth is barely one.  The rapidity of the current is such that no boat can row directly across, and it may in some measure be estimated from the circumstance of the whole distance being accomplished by one of the parties in an hour and five, and by the other (Byron) in an hour and ten minutes.  The water was extremely cold from the melting of the mountain snows.  About three weeks before, in April, we had made an attempt; but having ridden all the way from the Troad the same morning, and the water being of an icy chilliness, we found it necessary to postpone the completion till the frigate anchored below the castles, when we swam the straits as just stated, entering a considerable way above the European, and landing below the Asiatic fort.  Chevallier says that a young Jew swam the same distance for his mistress; and Oliver mentions it having been done by a Neapolitan; but our consul (at the Dardanelles), Tarragona, remembered neither of these circumstances, and tried to dissuade us from the attempt.  A number of the Salsette’s crew were known to have accomplished a greater distance and the only thing that surprised me was, that as doubts had been entertained of the truth of Leander’s story, no traveller had ever endeavoured to ascertain its practicability.”

While the Salsette lay off the Dardanelles, Lord Byron saw the body of a man who had been executed by being cast into the sea, floating on the stream, moving to and fro with the tumbling of the water, which gave to his arms the effect of scaring away several sea-fowl that were hovering to devour.  This incident he has strikingly depicted in The Bride of Abydos.

The sea-birds shriek above the prey
O’er which their hungry beaks delay,
As shaken on his restless pillow,
His head heaves with the heaving billow;
That hand whose motion is not life,
Yet feebly seems to menace strife,
Flung by the tossing tide on high,
   Then levell’d with the wave—
What reeks it tho’ that corse shall lie
   Within a living grave.
The bird that tears that prostrate form
Hath only robb’d the meaner worm.
The only heart, the only eye,
That bled or wept to see him die,
Had seen those scatter’d limbs composed,
   And mourned above his turban stone;
That heart hath burst—that eye was closed—
   Yea—closed before his own.

Between the Dardanelles and Constantinople no other adventure was undertaken or befel the poet.  On the 13th of May, the frigate came to anchor at sunset, near the headland to the west of the Seraglio Point; and when the night closed in, the silence and the darkness were so complete “that we might have believed ourselves,” says Mr Hobhouse, “moored in the lonely cove of some desert island, and not at the foot of a city which, from its vast extent and countless population, is fondly imagined by its present masters to be worthy to be called ‘The Refuge of the World.’”


ConstantinopleDescriptionThe Dogs and the DeadLanded at TophanaThe Masterless DogsThe Slave MarketThe SeraglioThe Defects in the Description

The spot where the frigate came to anchor affords but an imperfect view of the Ottoman capital.  A few tall white minarets, and the domes of the great mosques only are in sight, interspersed with trees and mean masses of domestic buildings.  In the distance, inland on the left, the redoubted Castle of the Seven Towers is seen rising above the gloomy walls; and, unlike every other European city, a profound silence prevails over all.  This remarkable characteristic of Constantinople is owing to the very few wheel-carriages employed in the city.  In other respects the view around is lively, and in fine weather quickened with innumerable objects in motion.  In the calmest days the rippling in the flow of the Bosphorus is like the running of a river.  In the fifth canto of Don Juan, Lord Byron has seized the principal features, and delineated them with sparkling effect.

   The European with the Asian shore,
   Sprinkled with palaces, the ocean stream
   Here and there studded with a seventy-four,
   Sophia’s cupola with golden gleam;
   The cypress groves; Olympus high and hoar;
   The twelve isles, and the more than I could dream,
Far less describe, present the very view
Which charm’d the charming Mary Montague.

In the morning, when his Lordship left the ship, the wind blew strongly from the north-east, and the rushing current of the Bosphorus dashed with great violence against the rocky projections of the shore, as the captain’s boat was rowed against the stream.

The wind swept down the Euxine, and the wave
Broke foaming o’er the blue Symplegades.
’Tis a grand sight, from off the giant’s grave,
To watch the progress of those rolling seas
Between the Bosphorus, as they lash and lave
Europe and Asia, you being quite at ease.

“The sensations produced by the state of the weather, and leaving a comfortable cabin, were,” says Mr Hobhouse, “in unison with the impressions which we felt, when, passing under the palace of the sultans, and gazing at the gloomy cypresses, which rise above the walls, we saw two dogs gnawing a dead body.”  The description in The Siege of Corinth of the dogs devouring the dead, owes its origin to this incident of the dogs and the body under the walls of the seraglio.

And he saw the lean dogs beneath the wall,
Hold o’er the dead their carnival.
Gorging and growling o’er carcase and limb,
They were too busy to bark at him.
From a Tartar’s scull they had stripp’d the flesh,
As ye peel the fig when its fruit is fresh,
And their white tusks crunched on the whiter scull,
As it slipp’d through their jaws when their edge grew dull.
As they lazily mumbled the bones of the dead,
When they scarce could rise from the spot where they fed.
So well had they broken a lingering fast,
With those who had fallen for that night’s repast.
And Alp knew by the turbans that rolled on the sand,
The foremost of these were the best of his band.
Crimson and green were the shawls of their wear,
And each scalp had a single long tuft of hair,
All the rest was shaven and bare.
The scalps were in the wild dogs’ maw,
The hair was tangled round his jaw.
But close by the shore on the edge of the gulf,
There sat a vulture flapping a wolf,
Who had stolen from the hills but kept away,
Scared by the dogs from the human prey;
But he seized on his share of a steed that lay,
Pick’d by the birds on the sands of the bay.

This hideous picture is a striking instance of the uses to which imaginative power may turn the slightest hint, and of horror augmented till it reach that extreme point at which the ridiculous commences.  The whole compass of English poetry affords no parallel to this passage.  It even exceeds the celebrated catalogue of dreadful things on the sacramental table in Tam O’ Shanter.  It is true, that the revolting circumstances described by Byron are less sublime in their associations than those of Burns, being mere visible images, unconnected with ideas of guilt, and unlike

The knife a father’s throat had mangled,
Which his ain son of life bereft:
The gray hairs yet stuck to the heft.

Nor is there in the vivid group of the vulture flapping the wolf, any accessory to rouse stronger emotions, than those which are associated with the sight of energy and courage, while the covert insinuation, that the bird is actuated by some instigation of retribution in pursuing the wolf for having run away with the bone, approaches the very point and line where the horrible merges in the ludicrous.  The whole passage is fearfully distinct, and though in its circumstances, as the poet himself says, “sickening,” is yet an amazing display of poetical power and high invention.

The frigate sent the travellers on shore at Tophana, from which the road ascends to Pera.  Near this landing-place is a large fountain, and around it a public stand of horses ready saddled, attended by boys.  On some of these Lord Byron and his friend, with the officers who had accompanied them, mounted and rode up the steep hill, to the principal Frank Hotel, in Pera, where they intended to lodge.  In the course of the ride their attention was attracted to the prodigious number of masterless dogs which lounge and lurk about the corners of the streets; a nuisance both dangerous and disagreeable, but which the Turks not only tolerate but protect.  It is no uncommon thing to see a litter of puppies with their mother nestled in a mat placed on purpose for them in a nook by some charitable Mussulman of the neighbourhood; for notwithstanding their merciless military practices, the Turks are pitiful-hearted Titans to dumb animals and slaves.  Constantinople has, however, been so often and so well described, that it is unnecessary to notice its different objects of curiosity here, except in so far as they have been contributory to the stores of the poet.

The slave market was of course not unvisited, but the description in Don Juan is more indebted to the author’s fancy, than any of those other bright reflections of realities to which I have hitherto directed the attention of the reader.  The market now-a-days is in truth very uninteresting; few slaves are ever to be seen in it, and the place itself has an odious resemblance to Smithfield.  I imagine, therefore, that the trade in slaves is chiefly managed by private bargaining.  When there, I saw only two men for sale, whites, who appeared very little concerned about their destination, certainly not more than English rustics offering themselves for hire to the farmers at a fair or market.  Doubtless, there was a time when the slave market of Constantinople presented a different spectacle, but the trade itself has undergone a change—the Christians are now interdicted from purchasing slaves.  The luxury of the guilt is reserved for the exclusive enjoyment of the Turks.  Still, as a description of things which may have been, Byron’s market is probable and curious.

   A crowd of shivering slaves of every nation
   And age and sex were in the market ranged,
   Each busy with the merchant in his station.
   Poor creatures, their good looks were sadly changed.

   All save the blacks seem’d jaded with vexation,
   From friends, and home, and freedom far estranged.
The negroes more philosophy displayed,
Used to it no doubt, as eels are to be flayed.

   Like a backgammon board, the place was dotted
   With whites and blacks in groups, on show for sale,
   Though rather more irregularly spotted;
   Some bought the jet, while others chose the pale.

   No lady e’er is ogled by a lover,
   Horse by a black-leg, broadcloth by a tailor,
   Fee by a counsel, felon by a jailer,

   As is a slave by his intended bidder.
   ’Tis pleasant purchasing our fellow-creatures,
   And all are to be sold, if you consider
   Their passions, and are dext’rous, some by features
   Are bought up, others by a warlike leader;
   Some by a place, as tend their years or natures;
The most by ready cash, but all have prices,
From crowns to kicks, according to their vices.

The account of the interior of the seraglio in Don Juan is also only probably correct, and may have been drawn in several particulars from an inspection of some of the palaces, but the descriptions of the imperial harem are entirely fanciful.  I am persuaded, by different circumstances, that Byron could not have been in those sacred chambers of any of the seraglios.  At the time I was in Constantinople, only one of the imperial residences was accessible to strangers, and it was unfurnished.  The great seraglio was not accessible beyond the courts, except in those apartments where the Sultan receives his officers and visitors of state.  Indeed, the whole account of the customs and usages of the interior of the seraglio, as described in Don Juan, can only be regarded as inventions; and though the descriptions abound in picturesque beauty, they have not that air of truth and fact about them which render the pictures of Byron so generally valuable, independent of their poetical excellence.  In those he has given of the apartments of the men, the liveliness and fidelity of his pencil cannot be denied; but the Arabian tales and Vathek seem to have had more influence on his fancy in describing the imperial harem, than a knowledge of actual things and appearances.  Not that the latter are inferior to the former in beauty, or are without images and lineaments of graphic distinctness, but they want that air of reality which constitutes the singular excellence of his scenes drawn from nature; and there is a vagueness in them which has the effect of making them obscure, and even fantastical.  Indeed, except when he paints from actual models, from living persons and existing things, his superiority, at least his originality, is not so obvious; and thus it happens, that his gorgeous description of the sultan’s seraglio is like a versified passage of an Arabian tale, while the imagery of Childe Harold’s visit to Ali Pasha has all the freshness and life of an actual scene.  The following is, indeed, more like an imitation of Vathek, than anything that has been seen, or is in existence.  I quote it for the contrast it affords to the visit referred to, and in illustration of the distinction which should be made between beauties derived from actual scenes and adventures, and compilations from memory and imagination, which are supposed to display so much more of creative invention.

   And thus they parted, each by separate doors,
   Raba led Juan onward, room by room,
   Through glittering galleries and o’er marble floors,
   Till a gigantic portal through the gloom
   Haughty and huge along the distance towers,
   And wafted far arose a rich perfume,
It seem’d as though they came upon a shrine,
For all was vast, still, fragrant, and divine.

   The giant door was broad and bright and high,
   Of gilded bronze, and carved in curious guise;
   Warriors thereon were battling furiously;
   Here stalks the victor, there the vanquish’d lies;
   There captives led in triumph droop the eye,
   And in perspective many a squadron flies.
It seems the work of times before the line
Of Rome transplanted fell with Constantine.

   This massy portal stood at the wide close
   Of a huge hall, and on its either side
   Two little dwarfs, the least you could suppose,
   Were sate, like ugly imps, as if allied
   In mockery to the enormous gate which rose
   O’er them in almost pyramidic pride.


Dispute with the AmbassadorReflections on Byron’s Pride of RankAbandons his Oriental TravelsRe-embarks in the “Salsette”The Dagger SceneZeaReturns to AthensTour in the MoreaDangerous IllnessReturn to AthensThe Adventure on whichThe Giaouris founded

Although Lord Byron remained two months in Constantinople, and visited every object of interest and curiosity within and around it, he yet brought away with him fewer poetical impressions than from any other part of the Ottoman dominions; at least he has made less use in his works of what he saw and learned there, than of the materials he collected in other places.

From whatever cause it arose, the self-abstraction which I had noticed at Smyrna, was remarked about him while he was in the capital, and the same jealousy of his rank was so nervously awake, that it led him to attempt an obtrusion on the ambassadorial etiquettes—which he probably regretted.

It has grown into a custom, at Constantinople, when the foreign ministers are admitted to audiences of ceremony with the Sultan, to allow the subjects and travellers of their respective nations to accompany them, both to swell the pomp of the spectacle, and to gratify their curiosity.  Mr Adair, our ambassador, for whom the Salsette had been sent, had his audience of leave appointed soon after Lord Byron’s arrival, and his Lordship was particularly anxious to occupy a station of distinction in the procession.  The pretension was ridiculous in itself, and showed less acquaintance with courtly ceremonies than might have been expected in a person of his rank and intelligence.  Mr Adair assured him that he could obtain no particular place; that in the arrangements for the ceremonial, only the persons connected with the embassy could be considered, and that the Turks neither acknowledged the precedence, nor could be requested to consider the distinctions of our nobility.  Byron, however, still persisted, and the minister was obliged to refer him on the subject to the Austrian Internuncio, a high authority in questions of etiquette, whose opinion was decidedly against the pretension.

The pride of rank was indeed one of the greatest weaknesses of Lord Byron, and everything, even of the most accidental kind, which seemed to come between the wind and his nobility, was repelled on the spot.  I recollect having some debate with him once respecting a pique of etiquette, which happened between him and Sir William Drummond, somewhere in Portugal or Spain.  Sir William was at the time an ambassador (not, however, I believe, in the country where the incident occurred), and was on the point of taking precedence in passing from one room to another, when Byron stepped in before him.  The action was undoubtedly rude on the part of his Lordship, even though Sir William had presumed too far on his riband: to me it seemed also wrong; for, by the custom of all nations from time immemorial, ambassadors have been allowed their official rank in passing through foreign countries, while peers in the same circumstances claim no rank at all; even in our own colonies it has been doubted if they may take precedence of the legislative counsellors.  But the rights of rank are best determined by the heralds, and I have only to remark, that it is almost inconceivable that such things should have so morbidly affected the sensibility of Lord Byron; yet they certainly did so, and even to a ridiculous degree.  On one occasion, when he lodged in St James’s Street, I recollect him rating the footman for using a double knock in accidental thoughtlessness.

These little infirmities are, however, at most only calculated to excite a smile; there is no turpitude in them, and they merit notice but as indications of the humour of character.  It was his Lordship’s foible to overrate his rank, to grudge his deformity beyond reason, and to exaggerate the condition of his family and circumstances.  But the alloy of such small vanities, his caprice and feline temper, were as vapour compared with the mass of rich and rare ore which constituted the orb and nucleus of his brilliancy.

He had not been long in Constantinople, when a change came over his intentions; the journey to Persia was abandoned, and the dreams of India were dissolved.  The particular causes which produced this change are not very apparent—but Mr Hobhouse was at the same time directed to return home, and perhaps that circumstance had some influence on his decision, which he communicated to his mother, informing her, that he should probably return to Greece.  As in that letter he alludes to his embarrassment on account of remittances, it is probable that the neglect of his agent, with respect to them, was the main cause which induced him to determine on going no farther.

Accordingly, on the 14th of July, he embarked with Mr Hobhouse and the ambassador on board the Salsette.  It was in the course of the passage to the island of Zea, where he was put on shore, that one of the most emphatic incidents of his life occurred; an incident which throws a remarkable gleam into the springs and intricacies of his character—more, perhaps, than anything which has yet been mentioned.

One day, as he was walking the quarter-deck, he lifted an ataghan (it might be one of the midshipmen’s weapons), and unsheathing it, said, contemplating the blade, “I should like to know how a person feels after committing murder.”  By those who have inquiringly noticed the extraordinary cast of his metaphysical associations, this dagger-scene must be regarded as both impressive and solemn; although the wish to know how a man felt after committing murder does not imply any desire to perpetrate the crime.  The feeling might be appreciated by experiencing any actual degree of guilt; for it is not the deed—the sentiment which follows it makes the horror.  But it is doing injustice to suppose the expression of such a wish dictated by desire.  Lord Byron has been heard to express, in the eccentricity of conversation, wishes for a more intense knowledge of remorse than murder itself could give.  There is, however, a wide and wild difference between the curiosity that prompts the wish to know the exactitude of any feeling or idea, and the direful passions that instigate to guilty gratifications.

Being landed, according to his request, with his valet, two Albanians, and a Tartar, on the shore of Zea, it may be easily conceived that he saw the ship depart with a feeling before unfelt.  It was the first time he was left companionless, and the scene around was calculated to nourish stern fancies, even though there was not much of suffering to be withstood.

The landing-place in the port of Zea, I recollect distinctly.  The port itself is a small land-locked gulf, or, as the Scottish Highlander would call it, a loch.  The banks are rocky and forbidding; the hills, which rise to the altitude of mountains, have, in a long course of ages, been always inhabited by a civilized people.  Their precipitous sides are formed into innumerable artificial terraces, the aspect of which, austere, ruinous, and ancient, produces on the mind of the stranger a sense of the presence of a greater antiquity than the sight of monuments of mere labour and art.  The town stands high upon the mountain, I counted on the lower side of the road which leads to it forty-nine of those terraces at one place under me, and on the opposite hills, in several places, upwards of sixty.  Whether Lord Byron ascended to the town is doubtful.  I have never heard him mention that he had; and I am inclined to think that he proceeded at once to Athens by one of the boats which frequent the harbour.

At Athens he met an old fellow-collegian, the Marquis of Sligo, with whom he soon after travelled as far as Corinth; the Marquis turning off there for Tripolizza, while Byron went forward to Patras, where he had some needful business to transact with the consul.  He then made the tour of the Morea, in the course of which he visited the Vizier Velhi Pasha, by whom he was treated, as every other English traveller of the time was, with great distinction and hospitality.

Having occasion to go back to Patras, he was seized by the local fever there, and reduced to death’s door.  On his recovery he returned to Athens, where he found the Marquis, with Lady Hester Stanhope, and Mr Bruce, afterward so celebrated for his adventures in assisting the escape of the French General Lavalette.  He took possession of the apartments which I had occupied in the monastery, and made them his home during the remainder of his residence in Greece; but when I returned to Athens, in October, he was not there himself.  I found, however, his valet, Fletcher, in possession.

There is no very clear account of the manner in which Lord Byron employed himself after his return to Athens; but various intimations in his correspondence show that during the winter his pen was not idle.  It would, however, be to neglect an important occurrence, not to notice that during the time when he was at Athens alone, the incident which he afterwards embodied in the impassioned fragments of The Giaour came to pass; and to apprise the reader that the story is founded on an adventure which happened to himself—he was, in fact, the cause of the girl being condemned, and ordered to be sewn up in a sack and thrown into the sea.

One day, as he was returning from bathing in the Piræus, he met the procession going down to the shore to execute the sentence which the Waywode had pronounced on the girl; and learning the object of the ceremony, and who was the victim, he immediately interfered with great resolution; for, on observing some hesitation on the part of the leader of the escort to return with him to the Governor’s house, he drew a pistol and threatened to shoot him on the spot.  The man then turned about, and accompanied him back, when, partly by bribery and entreaty, he succeeded in obtaining a pardon for her, on condition that she was sent immediately out of the city.  Byron conveyed her to the monastery, and on the same night sent her off to Thebes, where she found a safe asylum.

With this affair, I may close his adventures in Greece; for, although he remained several months subsequent at Athens, he was in a great measure stationary.  His health, which was never robust, was impaired by the effects of the fever, which lingered about him; perhaps, too, by the humiliating anxiety he suffered on account of the uncertainty in his remittances.  But however this may have been, it was fortunate for his fame that he returned to England at the period he did, for the climate of the Mediterranean was detrimental to his constitution.  The heat oppressed him so much as to be positive suffering, and scarcely had he reached Malta on his way home, when he was visited again with a tertian ague.


Arrival in LondonMr Dallas’s PatronageArranges for the Publication of “Childe Harold”The Death of Mrs ByronHis SorrowHis Affair with Mr MooreTheir Meeting at Mr Rogers’s House, and Friendship

Lord Byron arrived in London about the middle of July, 1811, having been absent a few days more than two years.  The embarrassed condition in which he found his affairs sufficiently explains the dejection and uneasiness with which he was afflicted during the latter part of his residence in Greece; and yet it was not such as ought to have affected him so deeply, nor have I ever been able to comprehend wherefore so much stress has been laid on his supposed friendlessness.  In respect both to it and to his ravelled fortune, a great deal too much has been too often said; and the manliness of his character has suffered by the puling.

His correspondence shows that he had several friends to whom he was much attached, and his disposition justifies the belief that, had he not been well persuaded the attachment was reciprocal, he would not have remained on terms of intimacy with them.  And though for his rank not rich, he was still able to maintain all its suitable exhibition.  The world could never regard as an object of compassion or of sympathy an English noble, whose income was enough to support his dignity among his peers, and whose poverty, however grievous to his pride, caused only the privation of extravagance.  But it cannot be controverted, that there was an innate predilection in the mind of Lord Byron to mystify everything about himself: he was actuated by a passion to excite attention, and, like every other passion, it was often indulged at the expense of propriety.  He had the infirmity of speaking, though vaguely, and in obscure hints and allusions, more of his personal concerns than is commonly deemed consistent with a correct estimate of the interest which mankind take in the cares of one another.  But he lived to feel and to rue the consequences: to repent he could not, for the cause was in the very element of his nature.  It was a blemish as incurable as the deformity of his foot.

On his arrival in London, his relation, Mr Dallas, called on him, and in the course of their first brief conversation his Lordship mentioned that he had written a paraphrase of Horace’s Art of Poetry, but said nothing then of Childe Harold, a circumstance which leads me to suspect that he offered him the slighter work first, to enjoy his surprise afterward at the greater.  If so, the result answered the intent.  Mr Dallas carried home with him the paraphrase of Horace, with which he was grievously disappointed; so much so, that on meeting his Lordship again in the morning, and being reluctant to speak of it as he really thought, he only expressed some surprise that his noble friend should have produced nothing else during his long absence.

I can easily conceive the emphatic indifference, if my conjecture be well founded, with which Lord Byron must have said to him, “I have occasionally written short poems, besides a great many stanzas in Spenser’s measure, relative to the countries I have visited: they are not worth troubling you with, but you shall have them all with you, if you like.”

Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage was accordingly placed in his hands; Mr Dallas took it home, and was not slow in discovering its beauties, for in the course of the same evening he despatched a note to his Lordship, as fair a specimen of the style of an elderly patronising gentleman as can well be imagined: “You have written,” said he, “one of the most delightful poems I ever read.  If I wrote this in flattery, I should deserve your contempt rather than your friendship.  I have been so fascinated with Childe Harold, that I have not been able to lay it down; I would almost pledge my life on its advancing the reputation of your poetical powers, and on its gaining you great honour and regard, if you will do me the credit and favour of attending to my suggestions.”

For some reason or another, Lord Byron, however, felt or feigned great reluctance to publish Childe Harold.  Possibly his repugnance was dictated by diffidence, not with respect to its merits, but from a consciousness that the hero of the poem exhibited traits and resemblances of himself.  It would indeed be injustice to his judgment and taste, to suppose he was not sensible of the superiority of the terse and energetic poetry which brightens and burns in every stanza of the Pilgrimage, compared with the loose and sprawling lines, and dull rhythm, of the paraphrase.  It is true that he alleged it had been condemned by a good critic—the only one who had previously seen it—probably Mr Hobhouse, who was with him during the time he was writing it; but still I cannot conceive he was so blind to excellence, as to prefer in sincerity the other composition, which was only an imitation.  But the arguments of Mr Dallas prevailed and in due season Childe Harold was prepared for the press.

In the meantime, while busily engaged in his literary projects with Mr Dallas, and in law affairs with his agent, he was suddenly summoned to Newstead by the state of his mother’s health: before he had reached the Abbey she had breathed her last.  The event deeply affected him; he had not seen her since his return, and a presentiment possessed her when they parted, that she was never to see him again.

Notwithstanding her violent temper and other unseemly conduct, her affection for him had been so fond and dear, that he undoubtedly returned it with unaffected sincerity; and from many casual and incidental expressions which I have heard him employ concerning her, I am persuaded that his filial love was not at any time even of an ordinary kind.  During her life he might feel uneasy respecting her, apprehensive on account of her ungovernable passions and indiscretions, but the manner in which he lamented her death, clearly proves that the integrity of his affection had never been impaired.

On the night after his arrival at the Abbey, the waiting-woman of Mrs Byron, in passing the door of the room where the corpse lay, heard the sound of some one sighing heavily within, and on entering found his Lordship sitting in the dark beside the bed.  She remonstrated with him for so giving way to grief, when he burst into tears, and exclaimed, “I had but one friend in the world, and she is gone.”  Of the fervency of his sorrow I do therefore think there can be no doubt; the very endeavour which he made to conceal it by indifference, was a proof of its depth and anguish, though he hazarded the strictures of the world by the indecorum of his conduct on the occasion of the funeral.  Having declined to follow the remains himself, he stood looking from the hall door at the procession, till the whole had moved away; and then, turning to one of the servants, the only person left, he desired him to fetch the sparring-gloves, and proceeded with him to his usual exercise.  But the scene was impressive, and spoke eloquently of a grieved heart; he sparred in silence all the time, and the servant thought that he hit harder than was his habit: at last he suddenly flung away the gloves and retired to his own room.

As soon as the funeral was over the publication of Childe Harold was resumed, but it went slowly through the press.  In the meantime, an incident occurred to him which deserves to be noted—because it is one of the most remarkable in his life, and has given rise to consequences affecting his fame—with advantage.

In English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, he had alluded, with provoking pleasantry, to a meeting which had taken place at Chalk Farm some years before, between Mr Jeffrey, the Edinburgh reviewer, and Mr Moore, without recollecting, indeed without having heard, that Mr Moore had explained, through the newspapers, what was alleged to have been ridiculous in the affair.  This revival of the subject, especially as it called in question the truth of Mr Moore’s statement, obliged that gentleman to demand an explanation; but Lord Byron, being abroad, did not receive this letter, and of course knew not of its contents, so that, on his return, Mr Moore was induced to address his Lordship again.  The correspondence which ensued is honourable to the spirit and feelings of both.

Mr Moore, after referring to his first letter, restated the nature of the insult which the passage in the note to the poem was calculated to convey, adding, “It is now useless to speak of the steps with which it was my intention to follow up that letter, the time which has elapsed since then, though it has done away neither the injury nor the feeling of it, has, in many respects, materially altered my situation, and the only object I have now in writing to your Lordship, is to preserve some consistency with that former letter, and to prove to you that the injured feeling still exists, however circumstances may compel me to be deaf to its dictates at present.  When I say ‘injured feeling,’ let me assure your Lordship that there is not a single vindictive sentiment in my mind towards you; I mean but to express that uneasiness under what I consider to be a charge of falsehood, which must haunt a man of any feeling to his grave, unless the insult be retracted, or atoned for, and which, if I did not feel, I should indeed deserve far worse than your Lordship’s satire could inflict upon me.”  And he concluded by saying, that so far from being influenced by any angry or resentful feeling, it would give him sincere pleasure if, by any satisfactory explanation, his Lordship would enable him to seek the honour of being ranked among his acquaintance.

The answer of Lord Byron was diplomatic but manly.  He declared that he never received Mr Moore’s letter, and assured him that in whatever part of the world it had reached him, he would have deemed it his duty to return and answer it in person; that he knew nothing of the advertisement to which Mr Moore had alluded, and consequently could not have had the slightest idea of “giving the lie” to an address which he had never seen.  “When I put my name to the production,” said his Lordship, “which has occasioned this correspondence, I became responsible to all whom it might concern, to explain where it requires explanation, and where insufficiently or too sufficiently explicit, at all events to satisfy; my situation leaves me no choice; it rests with the injured and the angry to obtain reparation in their own way.  With regard to the passage in question, you were certainly not the person towards whom I felt personally hostile: on the contrary, my whole thoughts were engrossed by one whom I had reason to consider as my worst literary enemy, nor could I foresee that his former antagonist was about to become his champion.  You do not specify what you would wish to have done.  I can neither retract nor apologize for a charge of falsehood which I never advanced.”

In reply, Mr Moore commenced by acknowledging that his Lordship’s letter was upon the whole as satisfactory as he could expect; and after alluding to specific circumstances in the case, concluded thus: “As your Lordship does not show any wish to proceed beyond the rigid formulary of explanation, it is not for me to make any farther advances.  We Irishmen, in business of this kind, seldom know any medium between decided hostility and decided friendship.  But as any approaches towards the latter alternative must now depend entirely on your Lordship, I have only to repeat that I am satisfied with your letter.”  Here the correspondence would probably, with most people, have been closed, but Lord Byron’s sensibility was interested, and would not let it rest.  Accordingly, on the following day, he rejoined: “Soon after my return to England, my friend Mr Hodgson apprised me that a letter for me was in his possession; but a domestic event hurrying me from London immediately after, the letter, which may most probably be your own, is still unopened in his keeping.  If, on examination of the address, the similarity of the handwriting should lead to such a conclusion, it shall be opened in your presence, for the satisfaction of all parties.  Mr H. is at present out of town; on Friday I shall see him, and request him to forward it to my address.  With regard to the latter part of both your letters, until the principal point was discussed between us, I felt myself at a loss in what manner to reply.  Was I to anticipate friendship from one who conceived me to have charged him with falsehood? were not advances under such circumstances to be misconstrued, not perhaps by the person to whom they were addressed, but by others?  In my case such a step was impracticable.  If you, who conceived yourself to be the offended person, are satisfied that you had no cause for offence, it will not be difficult to convince me of it.  My situation, as I have before stated, leaves me no choice.  I should have felt proud of your acquaintance had it commenced under other circumstances, but it must rest with you to determine how far it may proceed after so auspicious a beginning.”

Mr Moore acknowledges that he was somewhat piqued at the manner in which his efforts towards a more friendly understanding were received, and hastened to close the correspondence by a short note, saying that his Lordship had made him feel the imprudence he was guilty of in wandering from the point immediately in discussion between them.  This drew immediately from Lord Byron the following frank and openhearted reply:

“You must excuse my troubling you once more upon this very unpleasant subject.  It would be a satisfaction to me, and I should think to yourself, that the unopened letter in Mr Hodgson’s possession (supposing it to prove your own) should be returned in statu quo to the writer, particularly as you expressed yourself ‘not quite easy under the manner in which I had dwelt on its miscarriage.’

“A few words more and I shall not trouble you further.  I felt, and still feel, very much flattered by those parts of your correspondence which held out the prospect of our becoming acquainted.  If I did not meet them, in the first instance, as perhaps I ought, let the situation in which I was placed be my defence.  You have now declared yourself satisfied, and on that point we are no longer at issue.  If, therefore, you still retain any wish to do me the honour you hinted at, I shall be most happy to meet you when, where, and how you please, and I presume you will not attribute my saying thus much to any unworthy motive.”

The result was a dinner at the house of Mr Rogers, the amiable and celebrated author of The Pleasures of Memory, and the only guest besides the two adversaries was Mr Campbell, author of The Pleasures of Hope: a poetical group of four not easily to be matched, among contemporaries in any age or country.

The meeting could not but be interesting, and Mr Moore has described the effect it had on himself with a felicitous warmth, which showed how much he enjoyed the party, and was pleased with the friendship that ensued.

“Among the impressions,” says he, “which this meeting left on me, what I chiefly remember to have remarked was, the nobleness of his air, his beauty, the gentleness of his voice and manners, and—what was naturally not the least attraction—his marked kindness for myself.  Being in mourning for his mother, the colour as well of his dress as of his glossy, curling, and picturesque hair, gave more effect to the pure spiritual paleness of his features, in the expression of which, when he spoke, there was a perpetual play of lively thought, though melancholy was their habitual character when in repose.”


The Libel in “The Scourge”The general Impression of his CharacterImprovement in his Manners, as his Merit was acknowledgement by the PublicHis Address in ManagementHis first Speech in ParliamentThe Publication of “Childe Harold”Its Reception and Effect

During the first winter after Lord Byron had returned to England, I was frequently with him.  Childe Harold was not then published; and although the impression of his satire, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, was still strong upon the public, he could not well be said to have been then a celebrated character.  At that time the strongest feeling by which he appeared to be actuated was indignation against a writer in a scurrilous publication, called The Scourge; in which he was not only treated with unjustifiable malignity, but charged with being, as he told me himself, the illegitimate son of a murderer.  I had not read the work; but the writer who could make such an absurd accusation, must have been strangely ignorant of the very circumstances from which he derived the materials of his own libel.  When Lord Byron mentioned the subject to me, and that he was consulting Sir Vickery Gibbs, with the intention of prosecuting the publisher and the author, I advised him, as well as I could, to desist, simply because the allegation referred to well-known occurrences.  His grand-uncle’s duel with Mr. Chaworth, and the order of the House of Peers to produce evidence of his grandfather’s marriage with Miss Trevannion; the facts of which being matter of history and public record, superseded the necessity of any proceeding.

Knowing how deeply this affair agitated him at that time, I was not surprised at the sequestration in which he held himself—and which made those who were not acquainted with his shy and mystical nature, apply to him the description of his own Lara:

The chief of Lara is return’d again,

And why had Lara cross’d the bounding main?—
Left by his sire too young such loss to know,
Lord of himself; that heritage of woe.
In him, inexplicably mix’d, appear’d
Much to be loved and hated, sought and fear’d,
Opinion varying o’er his hidden lot,
In praise or railing ne’er his name forgot.
His silence form’d a theme for others’ prate;
They guess’d, they gazed, they fain would know his fate,
What had he been? what was he, thus unknown,
Who walk’d their world, his lineage only known?
A hater of his kind? yet some would say,
With them he could seem gay amid the gay;
But own’d that smile, if oft observed and near
Waned in its mirth and wither’d to a sneer;
That smile might reach his lip, but pass’d not by;
None e’er could trace its laughter to his eye:
Yet there was softness, too, in his regard,
At times a heart is not by nature hard.
But once perceived, his spirit seem’d to hide
Such weakness as unworthy of its pride,
And stretch’d itself as scorning to redeem
One doubt from others’ half-withheld esteem;
In self-inflicted penance of a breast
Which tenderness might once have wrung from rest,
In vigilance of grief that would compel
The soul to hate for having loved too well.
There was in him a vital scorn of all,
As if the worst had fall’n which could befall.
He stood a stranger in this breathing world,
An erring spirit from another hurl’d;
A thing of dark imaginings, that shaped
By choice the perils he by chance escaped.

Such was Byron to common observance on his return.  I recollect one night meeting him at the Opera.  Seeing me with a gentleman whom he did not know, and to whom he was unknown, he addressed me in Italian, and we continued to converse for some time in that language.  My friend, who in the meanwhile had been observing him with curiosity, conceiving him to be a foreigner, inquired in the course of the evening who he was, remarking that he had never seen a man with such a Cain-like mark on the forehead before, alluding to that singular scowl which struck me so forcibly when I first saw him, and which appears to have made a stronger impression upon me than it did upon many others.  I never, in fact, could overcome entirely the prejudice of the first impression, although I ought to have been gratified by the friendship and confidence with which he always appeared disposed to treat me.  When Childe Harold was printed, he sent me a quarto copy before the publication; a favour and distinction I have always prized; and the copy which he gave me of The Bride of Abydos was one he had prepared for a new edition, and which contains, in his own writing, these six lines in no other copy:

Bless’d—as the Muezzin’s strain from Mecca’s wall
To pilgrims pure and prostrate at his call,
Soft—as the melody of youthful days
That steals the trembling tear of speechless praise,
Sweet—as his native song to exile’s ears
Shall sound each tone thy long-loved voice endears.

He had not, it is true, at the period of which I am speaking, gathered much of his fame; but the gale was rising—and though the vessel was evidently yielding to the breeze, she was neither crank nor unsteady.  On the contrary, the more he became an object of public interest, the less did he indulge his capricious humour.  About the time when The Bride of Abydos was published, he appeared disposed to settle into a consistent character—especially after the first sale of Newstead.  Before that particular event, he was often so disturbed in his mind, that he could not conceal his unhappiness, and frequently spoke of leaving England for ever.

Although few men were more under the impulses of passion than Lord Byron, there was yet a curious kind of management about him which showed that he was well aware how much of the world’s favour was to be won by it.  Long before Childe Harold appeared, it was generally known that he had a poem in the press, and various surmises to stimulate curiosity were circulated concerning it: I do not say that these were by his orders, or under his directions, but on one occasion I did fancy that I could discern a touch of his own hand in a paragraph in the Morning Post, in which he was mentioned as having returned from an excursion into the interior of Africa; and when I alluded to it, my suspicion was confirmed by his embarrassment.

I mention this incident not in the spirit of detraction; for in the paragraph there was nothing of puff, though certainly something of oddity—but as a tint of character, indicative of the appetite for distinction by which, about this period, he became so powerfully incited, that at last it grew into a diseased crave, and to such a degree, that were the figure allowable, it might be said, the mouth being incapable of supplying adequate means to appease it—every pore became another mouth greedy of nourishment.  I am, however, hastening on too fast.  Lord Byron was, at that time, far indeed from being ruled by any such inordinate passion; the fears, the timidity, and bashfulness of young desire still clung to him, and he was throbbing with doubt if he should be found worthy of the high prize for which he was about to offer himself a candidate.  The course he adopted on the occasion, whether dictated by management, or the effect of accident, was, however, well calculated to attract attention to his début as a public man.

When Childe Harold was ready for publication, he determined to make his first appearance as an orator in the House of Lords: the occasion was judiciously chosen, being a debate on the Nottingham frame-breaking bill; a subject on which it was natural to suppose he possessed some local knowledge that might bear upon a question directed so exclusively against transactions in his own county.  He prepared himself as the best orators do in their first essays, not only by composing, but writing down, the whole of his speech beforehand.  The reception he met with was flattering; he was complimented warmly by some of the speakers on his own side; but it must be confessed that his début was more showy than promising.  It lacked weight in metal, as was observed at the time, and the mode of delivery was more like a schoolboy’s recital than a masculine grapple with an argument.  It was, moreover, full of rhetorical exaggerations, and disfigured with conceits.  Still it scintillated with talent, and justified the opinion that he was an extraordinary young man, probably destined to distinction, though he might not be a statesman.

Mr Dallas gives a lively account of his elation on the occasion.  “When he left the great chamber,” says that gentleman, “I went and met him in the passage; he was glowing with success, and much agitated.  I had an umbrella in my right hand, not expecting that he would put out his hand to me; in my haste to take it when offered, I had advanced my left hand: ‘What!’ said he, ‘give your friend your left hand upon such an occasion?’  I showed the cause, and immediately changing the umbrella to the other, I gave him my right hand, which he shook and pressed warmly.  He was greatly elated, and repeated some of the compliments which had been paid him, and mentioned one or two of the peers who had desired to be introduced to him.  He concluded by saying, that he had, by his speech, given me the best advertisement for Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.”

It is upon this latter circumstance, that I have ventured to state my suspicion, that there was a degree of worldly management in making his first appearance in the House of Lords, so immediately preceding the publication of his poem.  The speech was, indeed, a splendid advertisement, but the greater and brighter merits of the poem soon proved that it was not requisite, for the speech made no impression, but the poem was at once hailed with delight and admiration.  It filled a vacancy in the public mind, which the excitement and inflation arising from the mighty events of the age, had created.  The world, in its condition and circumstances, was prepared to receive a work, so original, vigorous, and beautiful; and the reception was such that there was no undue extravagance in the noble author saying in his memorandum, “I awoke one morning and found myself famous.”

But he was not to be allowed to revel in such triumphant success with impunity.  If the great spirits of the time were smitten with astonishment at the splendour of the rising fire, the imps and elves of malignity and malice fluttered their bat-wings in all directions.  Those whom the poet had afflicted in his satire, and who had remained quietly crouching with lacerated shoulders in the hope that their flagellation would be forgotten, and that the avenging demon who had so punished their imbecility would pass away, were terrified from their obscurity.  They came like moths to the candle, and sarcasms in the satire which had long been unheeded, in the belief that they would soon be forgotten, were felt to have been barbed with irremediable venom, when they beheld the avenger

Towering in his pride of place.


Sketches of CharacterHis Friendly DispositionsIntroduce Prince Kto himOur last InterviewHis continued Kindness towards meInstance of it to one of my Friends.

For some time after the publication of Childe Harold, the noble author appeared to more advantage than I ever afterwards saw him.  He was soothed by success; and the universal applause which attended his poem seemed to make him think more kindly of the world, of which he has too often complained, while it would be difficult to discover, in his career and fortunes, that he had ever received any cause from it to justify his complaint.

At no time, I imagine, could it be said that Lord Byron was one of those men who interest themselves in the concerns of others.  He had always too much to do with his own thoughts about himself, to afford time for the consideration of aught that was lower in his affections.  But still he had many amiable fits, and at the particular period to which I allude, he evinced a constancy in the disposition to oblige, which proved how little self-control was wanting to have made him as pleasant as he was uniformly interesting.  I felt this towards myself in a matter which had certainly the grace of condescension in it, at the expense of some trouble to him.  I then lived at the corner of Bridge Street, Westminster, and in going to the House of Lords he frequently stopped to inquire if I wanted a frank.  His conversation, at the same time, was of a milder vein, and with the single exception of one day, while dining together at the St Alban’s, it was light and playful, as if gaiety had become its habitude.

Perhaps I regarded him too curiously, and more than once it struck me that he thought so.  For at times, when he was in his comfortless moods, he has talked of his affairs and perplexities as if I had been much more acquainted with them than I had any opportunity of being.  But he was a subject for study, such as is rarely met with—at least, he was so to me; for his weaknesses were as interesting as his talents, and he often indulged in expressions which would have been blemishes in the reflections of other men, but which in him often proved the germs of philosophical imaginings.  He was the least qualified for any sort of business of all men I have ever known; so skinless in sensibility as respected himself, and so distrustful in his universal apprehensions of human nature, as respected others.  It was, indeed, a wild, though a beautiful, error of nature, to endow a spirit with such discerning faculties, and yet render it unfit to deal with mankind.  But these reflections belong more properly to a general estimate of his character, than to the immediate purpose before me, which was principally to describe the happy effects which the splendid reception of Childe Harold had on his feelings; effects which, however, did not last long.  He was gratified to the fullness of his hopes; but the adulation was enjoyed to excess, and his infirmities were aggravated by the surfeit.  I did not, however, see the progress of the change, as in the course of the summer I went to Scotland, and soon after again abroad.  But on my return, in the following spring, it was very obvious.

I found him, in one respect, greatly improved; there was more of a formed character about him; he was evidently, at the first glance, more mannered, or endeavouring to be so, and easier with the proprieties of his rank; but he had risen in his own estimation above the honours so willingly paid to his genius, and was again longing for additional renown.  Not content with being acknowledged as the first poet of the age, and a respectable orator in the House of Lords, he was aspiring to the éclat of a man of gallantry; so that many of the most ungracious peculiarities of his temper, though brought under better discipline, were again in full activity.

Considering how much he was then caressed, I ought to have been proud of the warmth with which he received me.  I did not, however, so often see him as in the previous year; for I was then on the eve of my marriage, and I should not so soon, after my return to London, have probably renewed my visits, but a foreign nobleman of the highest rank, who had done me the honour to treat me as a friend, came at that juncture to this country, and knowing I had been acquainted with Lord Byron, he requested me to introduce him to his Lordship.  This rendered a visit preliminary to the introduction necessary; and so long as my distinguished friend remained in town, we again often met.  But after he left the country my visits became few and far between; owing to nothing but that change in a man’s pursuits and associates which is one among some of the evils of matrimony.  It is somewhat remarkable, that of the last visit I ever paid him, he has made rather a particular memorandum.  I remember well, that it was in many respects an occasion not to be at once forgotten; for, among other things, after lighter topics, he explained to me a variety of tribulations in his affairs, and I urged him, in consequence, to marry, with the frankness which his confidence encouraged; subjoining certain items of other good advice concerning a liaison which he was supposed to have formed, and which Mr Moore does not appear to have known, though it was much talked of at the time.

During that visit the youthful peculiarities of his temper and character showed all their original blemish.  But, as usual, when such was the case, he was often more interesting than when in his discreeter moods.  He gave me the copy of The Bride of Abydos, with a very kind inscription on it, which I have already mentioned; but still there was an impression on my mind that led me to believe he could not have been very well pleased with some parts of my counselling.  This, however, appears not to have been the case; on the contrary, the tone of his record breathes something of kindness; and long after I received different reasons to believe his recollection of me was warm and friendly.

When he had retired to Genoa, I gave a gentleman a letter to him, partly that I might hear something of his real way of life, and partly in the hope of gratifying my friend by the sight of one of whom he had heard so much.  The reception from his Lordship was flattering to me; and, as the account of it contains what I think a characteristic picture, the reader will, I doubt not, be pleased to see so much of it as may be made public without violating the decorum which should always be observed in describing the incidents of private intercourse, when the consent of all parties cannot be obtained to the publication.

Edinburgh, June 3, 1830.

“DEAR GALT,—Though I shall always retain a lively general recollection of my agreeable interview with Lord Byron, at Genoa, in May, 1823, so long a time has since elapsed that much of the aroma of the pleasure has evaporated, and I can but recall generalities.  At that time there was an impression in Genoa that he was averse to receive visits from Englishmen, and I was indeed advised not to think of calling on him, as I might run the risk of meeting with a savage reception.  However, I resolved to send your note, and to the surprise of every one the messenger brought a most polite answer, in which, after expressing the satisfaction of hearing of his old friend and fellow-traveller, he added that he would do himself the honour of calling on me the next day, which he accordingly did; but owing to the officious blundering of an Italian waiter, who mentioned I was at dinner, his Lordship sent up his card with his compliments that he would not deranger the party.  I was determined, however, that he should not escape me in this way, and drove out to his residence next morning, when, upon his English valet taking up my name, I was immediately admitted.

“As every one forms a picture to himself of remarkable characters, I had depicted his Lordship in my mind as a tall, sombre, Childe Harold personage, tinctured somewhat with aristocratic hauteur.  You may therefore guess my surprise when the door opened, and I saw leaning upon the lock, a light animated figure, rather petite than otherwise, dressed in a nankeen hussar-braided jacket, trousers of the same material, with a white waistcoat; his countenance pale but the complexion clear and healthful, with the hair coming down in little curls on each side of his fine forehead.

“He came towards me with an easy cheerfulness of manner, and after some preliminary inquiries concerning yourself, we entered into a conversation which lasted two hours, in the course of which I felt myself perfectly at ease, from his Lordship’s natural and simple manners; indeed, so much so, that, forgetting all my anticipations, I found myself conversing with him with as fluent an intercourse of mind as I ever experienced, even with yourself.

“It is impossible for me at present to overtake a detail of what passed, but as it produced a kind of scene, I may mention one incident.

“Having remarked that in a long course of desultory reading, I had read most of what had been said by English travellers concerning Italy; yet, on coming to it I found there was no country of which I had less accurate notions: that among other things I was much struck with the harshness of the language.  He seemed to jerk at this, and immediately observed, that perhaps in going rapidly through the country, I might not have had many opportunities of hearing it politely spoken.  ‘Now,’ said he, ‘there are supposed to be nineteen dialects of the Italian language, and I shall let you hear a lady speak the principal of them, who is considered to do it very well.’  I pricked up my ears at hearing this, as I considered it would afford me an opportunity of seeing the far-famed Countess Guiccioli.  His Lordship immediately rose and left the apartment, returning in the course of a minute or two leading in the lady, and while arranging chairs for the trio, he said to me, ‘I shall make her speak each of the principal dialects, but you are not to mind how I pronounce, for I do not speak Italian well.’  After the scene had been performed he resumed to me, ‘Now what do you think?’  To which I answered, that my opinion still remained unaltered.  He seemed at this to fall into a little revery, and then said, abruptly, ‘Why ’tis very odd, Moore thought the same.’  ‘Does your Lordship mean Tom Moore?’  ‘Yes.’  ‘Ah, then, my Lord, I shall adhere with more pertinacity to my opinion, when I hear that a man of his exquisite taste in poetry and harmony was also of that opinion.’

“You will be asking what I thought of the lady; I had certainly heard much of her high personal attractions, but all I can say is, that in my eyes her graces did not rank above mediocrity.  They were youth, plumpness, and good-nature.”


A Miff with Lord ByronRemarkable CoincidencesPlagiarisms of his Lordship

There is a curious note in the memoranda which Lord Byron kept in the year 1813, that I should not pass unnoticed, because it refers to myself, and moreover is characteristic of the excoriated sensibility with which his Lordship felt everything that touched or affected him or his.

When I had read The Bride of Abydos, I wrote to him my opinion of it, and mentioned that there was a remarkable coincidence in the story, with a matter in which I had been interested.  I have no copy of the letter, and I forget the expressions employed, but Lord Byron seemed to think they implied that he had taken the story from something of mine.

The note is:

“Galt says there is a coincidence between the first part of The Bride and some story of his, whether published or not, I know not, never having seen it.  He is almost the last person on whom any one would commit literary larceny, and I am not conscious of any witting thefts on any of the genus.  As to originality, all pretensions are ludicrous; there is nothing new under the sun.”

It is sufficiently clear that he was offended with what I had said, and was somewhat excited.  I have not been able at present to find his answer to my letter, but it would appear by the subjoined that he had written to me something which led me to imagine he was offended at my observations, and that I had in consequence deprecated his wrath.

Dec. 11, 1813.

“MY DEAR GALT,—There was no offence—there could be none.  I thought it by no means impossible that we might have hit on something similar, particularly as you are a dramatist, and was anxious to assure you of the truth, viz. that I had not wittingly seized upon plot, sentiment, or incident; and I am very glad that I have not in any respect trenched upon your subjects.  Something still more singular is, that the first part, where you have found a coincidence in some events within your observations on life, was drawn from observation of mine also, and I meant to have gone on with the story, but on second thoughts, I thought myself two centuries at least too late for the subject; which, though admitting of very powerful feeling and description, yet is not adapted for this age, at least this country.  Though the finest works of the Greeks, one of Schiller’s and Alfieri’s, in modern times, besides several of our old (and best) dramatists, have been grounded on incidents of a similar cast, I therefore altered it as you perceive, and in so doing have weakened the whole, by interrupting the train of thought; and in composition I do not think second thoughts are the best, though second expressions may improve the first ideas.

“I do not know how other men feel towards those they have met abroad, but to me there seems a kind of tie established between all who have met together in a foreign country, as if we had met in a state of pre-existence, and were talking over a life that has ceased; but I always look forward to renewing my travels; and though you, I think, are now stationary, if I can at all forward your pursuits there as well as here, I shall be truly glad in the opportunity.  Ever yours very sincerely,


“P.S.  I believe I leave town for a day or two on Monday, but after that I am always at home, and happy to see you till half-past two.”

This letter was dated on Saturday, the 11th of December, 1813.  On Sunday, the 12th, he made the following other note in his memorandum book:

“By Galt’s answer, I find it is some story in real life, and not any work with which my late composition coincides.  It is still more singular, for mine is drawn from existence also.”

The most amusing part of this little fracas is the denial of his Lordship, as to pilfering the thoughts and fancies of others; for it so happens, that the first passage of The Bride of Abydos, the poem in question, is almost a literal and unacknowledged translation from Goethe, which was pointed out in some of the periodicals soon after the work was published.

Then, as to his not thieving from me or mine, I believe the fact to be as he has stated; but there are singular circumstances connected with some of his other productions, of which the account is at least curious.

On leaving England I began to write a poem in the Spenserian measure.  It was called The Unknown, and was intended to describe, in narrating the voyages and adventures of a pilgrim, who had embarked for the Holy Land, the scenes I expected to visit.  I was occasionally engaged in this composition during the passage with Lord Byron from Gibraltar to Malta, and he knew what I was about.  In stating this, I beg to be distinctly understood, as in no way whatever intending to insinuate that this work had any influence on the composition of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, which Lord Byron began to write in Albania; but it must be considered as something extraordinary, that the two works should have been so similar in plan, and in the structure of the verse.  His Lordship never saw my attempt that I know of, nor did I his poem until it was printed.  It is needless to add, that beyond the plan and verse there was no other similarity between the two works; I wish there had been.

His Lordship has published a poem, called The Curse of Minerva, the subject of which is the vengeance of the goddess on Lord Elgin for the rape of the Parthenon.  It has so happened that I wrote at Athens a burlesque poem on nearly the same subject (mine relates to the vengeance of all the gods) which I called The Atheniad; the manuscript was sent to his Lordship in Asia Minor, and returned to me through Mr Hobhouse.  His Curse of Minerva, I saw for the first time in 1828, in Galignani’s edition of his works.

In The Giaour, which he published a short time before The Bride of Abydos, he has this passage, descriptive of the anxiety with which the mother of Hassan looks out for the arrival of her son:

The browsing camels’ bells are tinkling—
   His mother look’d from her lattice high;
She saw the dews of eve besprinkling
   The parterre green beneath her eye:
She saw the planets faintly twinkling—
   ’Tis twilight—sure his train is nigh.
She could not rest in the garden bower,
But gazed through the grate of his steepest tower:
Why comes he not—and his steeds are fleet—
Nor shrink they from the summer heat?
Why sends not the bridegroom his promised gift;
Is his heart more cold or his barb less swift?

His Lordship was well read in the Bible, and the book of Judges, chap. 5, and verse 28, has the following passage:—

“The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming; why tarry the wheels of his chariot?”

It was, indeed, an early trick of his Lordship to filch good things.  In the lamentation for Kirke White, in which he compares him to an eagle wounded by an arrow feathered from his own wing, he says,

So the struck eagle, stretch’d upon the plain,
No more through rolling clouds to soar again,
View’d his own feather on the fatal dart
And winged the shaft that quivered in his heart.

The ancients have certainly stolen the best ideas of the moderns; this very thought may be found in the works of that ancient-modern, Waller:

That eagle’s fate and mine are one,
   Which on the shaft that made him die,
Espied a feather of his own
   Wherewith he wont to soar on high.

His Lordship disdained to commit any larceny on me; and no doubt the following passage from The Giaour is perfectly original:

It is as if the dead could feel
The icy worm around them steal;
And shudder as the reptiles creep
To revel o’er their rotting sleep,
Without the power to scare away
The cold consumers of their clay.

I do not claim any paternity in these lines: but not the most judicious action of all my youth was to publish certain dramatic sketches, and his Lordship had the printed book in his possession long before The Giaour was published, and may have read the following passage in a dream, which was intended to be very hideous:

   Then did I hear around
The churme and chirruping of busy reptiles
At hideous banquet on the royal dead:—
Full soon methought the loathsome epicures
Came thick on me, and underneath my shroud
I felt the many-foot and beetle creep,
And on my breast the cold worm coil and crawl.

However, I have said quite enough on this subject, both as respects myself and his seeming plagiarisms, which might be multiplied to legions.  Such occasional accidental imitations are not things of much importance.  All poets, and authors in general, avail themselves of their reading and knowledge to enhance the interest of their works.  It can only be considered as one of Lord Byron’s spurts of spleen, that he felt so much about a “coincidence,” which ought not to have disturbed him; but it may be thought by the notice taken of it, that it disturbs myself more than it really does; and that it would have been enough to have merely said—Perhaps, when some friend is hereafter doing as indulgently for me, the same kind of task that I have undertaken for Byron, there may be found among my memoranda notes as little flattering to his Lordship, as those in his concerning me.  I hope, however, that friend will have more respect for my memory than to imitate the taste of Mr Moore.


Lord Byron in 1813The Lady’s TragedyMiss MilbankeGrowing Uneasiness of Lord Byron’s MindThe Friar’s GhostThe MarriageA Member of the Drury Lane CommitteeEmbarrassed AffairsThe Separation

The year 1813 was perhaps the period of all Lord Byron’s life in which he was seen to most advantage.  The fame of Childe Harold was then in its brightest noon; and in that year he produced The Giaour and The Bride of Abydos—compositions not only of equal power, but even tinted with superior beauties.  He was himself soothed by the full enjoyment of his political rank and station; and though his manners and character had not exactly answered to the stern and stately imaginations which had been formed of his dispositions and appearance, still he was acknowledged to be no common man, and his company in consequence was eagerly courted.

It forms no part of the plan of this work to repeat the gossip and tattle of private society, but occurrences happened to Lord Byron which engaged both, and some of them cannot well be passed over unnoticed.  One of these took place during the spring of this year, and having been a subject of newspaper remark, it may with less impropriety be mentioned than others which were more indecorously made the topics of general discussion.  The incident alluded to was an extravagant scene enacted by a lady of high rank, at a rout given by Lady Heathcote; in which, in revenge, as it was reported, for having been rejected by Lord Byron, she made a suicidal attempt with an instrument, which scarcely penetrated, if it could even inflict any permanent mark on, the skin.

The insane attachment of this eccentric lady to his Lordship was well known; insane is the only epithet that can be applied to the actions of a married woman, who, in the disguise of her page, flung herself to a man, who, as she told a friend of mine, was ashamed to be in love with her because she was not beautiful—an expression at once curious and just, evincing a shrewd perception of the springs of his Lordship’s conduct, and the acuteness blended with frenzy and talent which distinguished herself.  Lord Byron unquestionably at that time cared little for her.  In showing me her picture, some two or three days after the affair, and laughing at the absurdity of it, he bestowed on her the endearing diminutive of vixen, with a hard-hearted adjective that I judiciously omit.

The immediate cause of this tragical flourish was never very well understood; but in the course of the evening she had made several attempts to fasten on his Lordship, and was shunned: certain it is, she had not, like Burke in the House of Commons, premeditatedly brought a dagger in her reticule, on purpose for the scene; but, seeing herself an object of scorn, she seized the first weapon she could find—some said a pair of scissors—others, more scandalously, broken jelly-glass, and attempted an incision of the jugular, to the consternation of all the dowagers, and the pathetic admiration of every Miss who witnessed or heard of the rapture.

Lord Byron at the time was in another room, talking with Prince K—, when Lord P— came, with a face full of consternation, and told them what had happened.  The cruel poet, instead of being agitated by the tidings, or standing in the smallest degree in need of a smelling-bottle, knitted his scowl, and said, with a contemptuous indifference, “It is only a trick.”  All things considered, he was perhaps not uncharitable; and a man of less vanity would have felt pretty much as his Lordship appeared to do on the occasion.  The whole affair was eminently ridiculous; and what increased the absurdity was a letter she addressed to a friend of mine on the subject, and which he thought too good to be reserved only for his own particular study.

It was in this year that Lord Byron first proposed for Miss Milbanke; having been urged by several of his friends to marry, that lady was specially recommended to him for a wife.  It has been alleged, that he deeply resented her rejection of his proposal; and I doubt not, in the first instance, his vanity may have been a little piqued; but as he cherished no very animated attachment to her, and moreover, as she enjoyed no celebrity in public opinion to make the rejection important, the resentment was not, I am persuaded, either of an intense or vindictive kind.  On the contrary, he has borne testimony to the respect in which he held her character and accomplishments; and an incidental remark in his journal, “I shall be in love with her again, if I don’t take care,” is proof enough that his anger was not of a very fierce or long-lived kind.

The account ascribed to him of his introduction to Miss Milbanke, and the history of their attachment, ought not to be omitted, because it serves to illustrate, in some degree, the state of his feelings towards her, and is so probable, that I doubt not it is in the main correct:—

“The first time of my seeing Miss Milbanke was at Lady ***’s.  It was a fatal day; and I remember, that in going upstairs I stumbled, and remarked to Moore, who accompanied me, that it was a bad omen.  I ought to have taken the warning.  On entering the room, I observed a young lady more simply dressed than the rest of the assembly sitting alone upon a sofa.  I took her for a female companion, and asked if I was right in my conjecture.  ‘She is a great heiress,’ said he, in a whisper, that became lower as he proceeded, ‘you had better marry her, and repair the old place, Newstead.’

“There was something piquant, and what we term pretty, in Miss Milbanke.  Her features were small and feminine, though not regular.  She had the fairest skin imaginable.  Her figure was perfect for her height, and there was a simplicity, a retired modesty about her, which was very characteristic, and formed a happy contrast to the cold artificial formality and studied stiffness which is called fashion.  She interested me exceedingly.  I became daily more attached to her, and it ended in my making her a proposal, that was rejected.  Her refusal was couched in terms which could not offend me.  I was, besides, persuaded, that in declining my offer, she was governed by the influence of her mother; and was the more confirmed in my opinion, by her reviving our correspondence herself twelve months after.  The tenour of her letter was, that, although she could not love me, she desired my friendship.  Friendship is a dangerous word for young ladies; it is love full-fledged, and waiting for a fine day to fly.”

But Lord Byron possessed this sort of irrepressible predilections—was so much the agent of impulses, that he could not keep long in unison with the world, or in harmony with his friends.  Without malice, or the instigation of any ill spirit, he was continually provoking malignity and revenge.  His verses on the Princess Charlotte weeping, and his other merciless satire on her father, begot him no friends, and armed the hatred of his enemies.  There was, indeed, something like ingratitude in the attack on the Regent, for his Royal Highness had been particularly civil; had intimated a wish to have him introduced to him; and Byron, fond of the distinction, spoke of it with a sense of gratification.  These instances, as well as others, of gratuitous spleen, only justified the misrepresentations which had been insinuated against himself, and what was humour in his nature, was ascribed to vice in his principles.

Before the year was at an end, his popularity was evidently beginning to wane: of this he was conscious himself, and braved the frequent attacks on his character and genius with an affectation of indifference, under which those who had at all observed the singular associations of his recollections and ideas, must have discerned the symptoms of a strange disease.  He was tainted with a Herodian malady of the mind: his thoughts were often hateful to himself; but there was an ecstasy in the conception, as if delight could be mingled with horror.  I think, however, he struggled to master the fatality, and that his resolution to marry was dictated by an honourable desire to give hostages to society, against the wild wilfulness of his imagination.

It is a curious and a mystical fact, that at the period to which I am alluding, and a very short time, only a little month, before he successfully solicited the hand of Miss Milbanke, being at Newstead, he fancied that he saw the ghost of the monk which is supposed to haunt the abbey, and to make its ominous appearance when misfortune or death impends over the master of the mansion.—The story of the apparition in the sixteenth canto of Don Juan is derived from this family legend, and Norman Abbey, in the thirteenth of the same poem, is a rich and elaborate description of Newstead.

After his proposal to Miss Milbanke had been accepted, a considerable time, nearly three months, elapsed before the marriage was completed, in consequence of the embarrassed condition in which, when the necessary settlements were to be made, he found his affairs.  This state of things, with the previous unhappy controversy with himself, and anger at the world, was ill-calculated to gladden his nuptials: but, besides these real evils, his mind was awed with gloomy presentiments, a shadow of some advancing misfortune darkened his spirit, and the ceremony was performed with sacrificial feelings, and those dark and chilling circumstances, which he has so touchingly described in The Dream:—

      I saw him stand
Before an altar with a gentle bride;
Her face was fair, but was not that which made
The starlight of his boyhood:—as he stood
Even at the altar, o’er his brow there came
The self-same aspect, and the quivering shock
That in the antique oratory shook
His bosom in its solitude; and then—
As in that hour—a moment o’er his face
The tablet of unutterable thoughts
Was traced—and then it faded as it came,
And he stood calm and quiet, and he spoke
The faltering vows, but heard not his own words,
And all things reeled around him: he could see
Not that which was, nor that which should have been—
But the old mansion and the accustom’d hall,
And the remembered chambers, and the place,
The day, the hour, the sunshine and the shade,
All things pertaining to that place and hour.
And her, who was his destiny, came back,
And thrust themselves between him and the light.

This is very affectingly described; and his prose description bears testimony to its correctness.  “It had been predicted by Mrs Williams that twenty-seven was to be a dangerous age for me.  The fortune-telling witch was right; it was destined to prove so.  I shall never forget the 2nd of January, 1815, Lady Byron was the only unconcerned person present; Lady Noel, her mother, cried; I trembled like a leaf, made the wrong responses, and after the ceremony called her Miss Milbanke.

“There is a singular history attached to the ring.  The very day the match was concluded a ring of my mother’s, that had been lost, was dug up by the gardener at Newstead.  I thought it was sent on purpose for the wedding; but my mother’s marriage had not been a fortunate one, and this ring was doomed to be the seal of an unhappier union still.

“After the ordeal was over, we set off for a country-scat of Sir Ralph’s (Lady B.’s father), and I was surprised at the arrangements for the journey, and somewhat out of humour, to find the lady’s maid stuck between me and my bride.  It was rather too early to assume the husband; so I was forced to submit, but it was not with a very good grace.  I have been accused of saying, on getting into the carriage, that I had married Lady Byron out of spite, and because she had refused me twice.  Though I was for a moment vexed at her prudery, or whatever you may choose to call it, if I had made so uncavalier, not to say brutal, a speech, I am convinced Lady Byron would instantly have left the carriage to me and the maid.  She had spirit enough to have done so, and would properly have resented the affront.  Our honeymoon was not all sunshine; it had its clouds.

“I was not so young when my father died, but that I perfectly remember him, and had a very early horror of matrimony from the sight of domestic broils: this feeling came over me very strongly at my wedding.  Something whispered me that I was sealing my own death-warrant.  I am a great believer in presentiments: Socrates’s demon was not a fiction; Monk Lewis had his monitor, and Napoleon many warnings.  At the last moment I would have retreated, could I have done so; I called to mind a friend of mine, who had married a young, beautiful, and rich girl, and yet was miserable; he had strongly urged me against putting my neck in the same yoke.”

For some time after the marriage things went on in the usual matrimonial routine, until he was chosen into the managing committee of Drury Lane; an office in which, had he possessed the slightest degree of talent for business, he might have done much good.  It was justly expected that the illiterate presumption which had so long deterred poetical genius from approaching the stage, would have shrunk abashed from before him; but he either felt not the importance of the duty he had been called to perform, or, what is more probable, yielding to the allurements of the moment, forgot that duty, in the amusement which he derived from the talents and peculiarities of the players.  No situation could be more unfit for a man of his temperament, than one which exposed him to form intimacies with persons whose profession, almost necessarily, leads them to undervalue the domestic virtues.

It is said, that the course of life into which he was drawn after he joined the managing committee of Drury Lane was not in unison with the methodical habits of Lady Byron.  But independently of outdoor causes of connubial discontent and incompatibility of temper, their domestic affairs were falling into confusion.

“My income at this period,” says Lord Byron, “was small, and somewhat bespoken.  We had a house in town, gave dinner-parties, had separate carriages, and launched into every sort of extravagance.  This could not last long; my wife’s ten thousand pounds soon melted away.  I was beset by duns, and at length an execution was levied, and the bailiffs put in possession of the very beds we had to sleep on.  This was no very agreeable state of affairs, no very pleasant scene for Lady Byron to witness; and it was agreed she should pay her father a visit till the storm had blown over, and some arrangement had been made with my creditors.”  From this visit her Ladyship never returned; a separation took place; but too much has been said to the world respecting it, and I have no taste for the subject.  Whatever was the immediate cause, the event itself was not of so rare a kind as to deserve that the attention of the public should be indelicately courted to it.

Beyond all question, however, Lord Byron’s notions of connubial obligations were rather philosophical.  “There are,” said he to Captain Parry, “so many undefinable and nameless, and not to be named, causes of dislike, aversion, and disgust in the matrimonial state, that it is always impossible for the public, or the friends of the parties, to judge between man and wife.  Theirs is a relation about which nobody but themselves can form a correct idea, or have any right to speak.  As long as neither party commits gross injustice towards the other; as long as neither the woman nor the man is guilty of any offence which is injurious to the community; as long as the husband provides for his offspring, and secures the public against the dangers arising from their neglected education, or from the charge of supporting them; by what right does it censure him for ceasing to dwell under the same roof with a woman, who is to him, because he knows her, while others do not, an object of loathing?  Can anything be more monstrous, than for the public voice to compel individuals who dislike each other to continue their cohabitation?  This is at least the effect of its interfering with a relationship, of which it has no possible means of judging.  It does not indeed drag a man to a woman’s bed by physical force, but it does exert a moral force continually and effectively to accomplish the same purpose.  Nobody can escape this force, but those who are too high or those who are too low for public opinion to reach; or those hypocrites who are, before others, the loudest in their approbation of the empty and unmeaning forms of society, that they may securely indulge all their propensities in secret.”

In the course of the conversation, in which he is represented to have stated these opinions, he added what I have pleasure in quoting, because the sentiments are generous in respect to his wife, and strikingly characteristic of himself:—

“Lady Byron has a liberal mind, particularly as to religious opinions: and I wish when I married her that I had possessed the same command over myself that I now do.  Had I possessed a little more wisdom and more forbearance, we might have been happy.  I wished, when I was just married to have remained in the country, particularly till my pecuniary embarrassments were over.  I knew the society of London; I knew the characters of many who are called ladies, with whom Lady Byron would necessarily have to associate, and I dreaded her contact with them.  But I have too much of my mother about me to be dictated to; I like freedom from constraint; I hate artificial regulations: my conduct has always been dictated by my own feelings, and Lady Byron was quite the creature of rules.  She was not permitted either to ride, or run, or walk, but as the physician prescribed.  She was not suffered to go out when I wished to go: and then the old house was a mere ghost-house, I dreamed of ghosts and thought of them waking.  It was an existence I could not support.”  Here Lord Byron broke off abruptly, saying, “I hate to speak of my family affairs, though I have been compelled to talk nonsense concerning them to some of my butterfly visitors, glad on any terms to get rid of their importunities.  I long to be again on the mountains.  I am fond of solitude, and should never talk nonsense, if I always found plain men to talk to.”


Reflections on his domestic VersesConsideration of his Works“The Corsair”Probabilities of the Character and Incidents of the StoryOn the Difference between poetical Invention and moral Experience: illustrated by the Difference between the Genius of Shakespeare and that of Byron

The task just concluded may disappoint the expectations of some of my readers, but I would rather have said less than so much, could so little have been allowed; for I have never been able to reconcile to my notions of propriety, the exposure of domestic concerns which the world has no right claim to know, and can only urge the plea of curiosity for desiring to see explained.  The scope of my undertaking comprehends only the public and intellectual character of Lord Byron; every word that I have found it necessary to say respecting his private affairs has been set down with reluctance; nor should I have touched so freely on his failings, but that the consequences have deeply influenced his poetical conceptions.

There is, however, one point connected with his conjugal differences which cannot be overlooked, nor noticed without animadversion.  He was too active himself in bespeaking the public sympathy against his lady.  It is true that but for that error the world might never have seen the verses written by him on the occasion; and perhaps it was the friends who were about him at the time who ought chiefly to be blamed for having given them circulation: but in saying this, I am departing from the rule I had prescribed to myself, while I ought only to have remarked that the compositions alluded to, both the Fare-thee-well and the Anathema on Mrs Charlemont, are splendid corroborations of the metaphysical fact which it is the main object of this work to illustrate, namely, that Byron was only original and truly great when he wrote from the dictates of his own breast, and described from the suggestions of things he had seen.  When his imagination found not in his subject uses for the materials of his experience, and opportunities to embody them, it seemed to be no longer the same high and mysterious faculty that so ruled the tides of the feelings of others.  He then appeared a more ordinary poet——a skilful verse-maker.  The necromancy which held the reader spellbound became ineffectual; and the charm and the glory which interested so intensely, and shone so radiantly on his configurations from realities, all failed and faded; for his genius dealt not with airy fancies, but had its power and dominion amid the living and the local of the actual world.

I shall now return to the consideration of his works, and the first in order is The Corsair, published in 1814.  He seems to have been perfectly sensible that this beautiful composition was in his best peculiar manner.  It is indeed a pirate’s isle, peopled with his own creatures.

It has been alleged that Lord Byron was indebted to Sir Walter Scott’s poem of Rokeby for the leading incidents of The Corsair, but the resemblance is not to me very obvious: besides, the whole style of the poem is so strikingly in his own manner, that even had he borrowed the plan, it was only as a thread to string his own original conceptions upon; the beauty and brilliancy of them could not be borrowed, and are not imitations.

There were two islands in the Archipelago, when Lord Byron was in Greece, considered as the chief haunts of the pirates, Stampalia, and a long narrow island between Cape Colonna and Zea.  Jura also was a little tainted in its reputation.  I think, however, from the description, that the pirate’s isle of The Corsair is the island off Cape Colonna.  It is a rude, rocky mass.  I know not to what particular Coron, if there be more than one, the poet alludes; for the Coron of the Morea is neighbour to, if not in, the Mainote territory, a tract of country which never submitted to the Turks, and was exempted from the jurisdiction of Mussulman officers by the payment of an annual tribute.  The Mainotes themselves are all pirates and robbers.  If it be in that Coron that Byron has placed Seyd the pasha, it must be attributed to inadvertency.  His Lordship was never there, nor in any part of Maina; nor does he describe the place, a circumstance which of itself goes far to prove the inadvertency.  It is, however, only in making it the seat of a Turkish pasha that any error has been committed.  In working out the incidents of the poem where descriptions of scenery are given, they relate chiefly to Athens and its neighbourhood.  In themselves these descriptions are executed with an exquisite felicity; but they are brought in without any obvious reason wherefore.  In fact, they appear to have been written independently of the poem, and are patched on “shreds of purple” which could have been spared.

The character of Conrad the Corsair may be described as a combination of the warrior of Albania and a naval officer—Childe Harold mingled with the hero of The Giaour.

   A man of loneliness and mystery,
Scarce seen to smile, and seldom heard to sigh;
Robust, but not Herculean, to the sight,
No giant frame sets forth his common height;
Yet in the whole, who paused to look again
Saw more than marks the crowd of vulgar men:
They gaze and marvel how, and still confess
That thus it is, but why they cannot guess.
Sun-burnt his cheek, his forehead high and pale,
The sable curls in wild profusion veil.
And oft perforce his rising lip reveals
The haughtier thought it curbs, but scarce conceals:
Though smooth his voice, and calm his general mien,
Still seems there something he would not have seen.
His features’ deepening lines and varying hue
At times attracted, yet perplex’d the view,
As if within that murkiness of mind
Work’d feelings fearful, and yet undefined:
Such might he be that none could truly tell,
Too close inquiry his stern glance could quell.
There breathed but few whose aspect could defy
The full encounter of his searching eye;
He had the skill, when cunning gaze to seek
To probe his heart and watch his changing cheek,
At once the observer’s purpose to espy,
And on himself roll back his scrutiny,
Lest he to Conrad rather should betray
Some secret thought, than drag that chief’s to day.

There was a laughing devil in his sneer
That raised emotions both of rage and fear;
And where his frown of hatred darkly fell
Hope withering fled, and mercy sigh’d, farewell.

It will be allowed that, in this portrait, some of the darker features and harsher lineaments of Byron himself are very evident, but with a more fixed sternness than belonged to him; for it was only by fits that he could put on such severity.  Conrad is, however, a higher creation than any which he had previously described.  Instead of the listlessness of Childe Harold, he is active and enterprising; such as the noble pilgrim would have been, but for the satiety which had relaxed his energies.  There is also about him a solemnity different from the animation of the Giaour—a penitential despair arising from a cause undisclosed.  The Giaour, though wounded and fettered, and laid in a dungeon, would not have felt as Conrad is supposed to feel in that situation.  The following bold and terrific verses, descriptive of the maelstrom agitations of remorse, could not have been appropriately applied to the despair of grief, the predominant source of emotion in The Giaour.

There is a war, a chaos of the mind
When all its elements convulsed combined,
Lie dark and jarring with perturbed force,
And gnashing with impenitent remorse.
That juggling fiend who never spake before,
But cries, “I warn’d thee,” when the deed is o’er;
Vain voice, the spirit burning, but unbent,
May writhe, rebel—the weak alone repent.

The character of Conrad is undoubtedly finely imagined; as the painters would say, it is in the highest style of art, and brought out with sublime effect; but still it is only another phase of the same portentous meteor, that was nebulous in Childe Harold, and fiery in The Giaour.  To the safe and shop-resorting inhabitants of Christendom, The Corsair seems to present many improbabilities; nevertheless, it is true to nature, and in every part of the Levant the traveller meets with individuals whose air and physiognomy remind him of Conrad.  The incidents of the story, also, so wild and extravagant to the snug and legal notions of England, are not more in keeping with the character, than they are in accordance with fact and reality.  The poet suffers immeasurable injustice, when it is attempted to determine the probability of the wild scenes and wilder adventurers of his tales, by the circumstances and characters of the law-regulated system of our diurnal affairs.  Probability is a standard formed by experience, and it is not surprising that the anchorets of libraries should object to the improbability of The Corsair, and yet acknowledge the poetical power displayed in the composition; for it is a work which could only have been written by one who had himself seen or heard on the spot of transactions similar to those he has described.  No course of reading could have supplied materials for a narration so faithfully descriptive of the accidents to which an Ægean pirate is exposed as The Corsair.  Had Lord Byron never been out of England, the production of a work so appropriate in reflection, so wild in spirit, and so bold in invention, as in that case it would have been, would have entitled him to the highest honours of original conception, or been rejected as extravagant; considered as the result of things seen, and of probabilities suggested, by transactions not uncommon in the region where his genius gathered the ingredients of its sorceries, more than the half of its merits disappear, while the other half brighten with the lustre of truth.

The manners, the actions, and the incidents were new to the English mind; but to the inhabitant of the Levant they have long been familiar, and the traveller who visits that region will hesitate to admit that Lord Byron possessed those creative powers, and that discernment of dark bosoms for which he is so much celebrated; because he will see there how little of invention was necessary to form such heroes as Conrad, and how much the actual traffic of life and trade is constantly stimulating enterprise and bravery.  But let it not, therefore, be supposed, that I would undervalue either the genius of the poet, or the merits of the poem, in saying so, for I do think a higher faculty has been exerted in The Corsair than in Childe Harold.  In the latter, only actual things are described, freshly and vigorously as they were seen, and feelings expressed eloquently as they were felt; but in the former, the talent of combination has been splendidly employed.  The one is a view from nature, the other is a composition both from nature and from history.

Lara, which appeared soon after The Corsair, is an evident supplement to it; the description of the hero corresponds in person and character with Conrad; so that the remarks made on The Corsair apply, in all respects, to Lara.  The poem itself is perhaps, in elegance, superior; but the descriptions are not so vivid, simply because they are more indebted to imagination.  There is one of them, however, in which the lake and abbey of Newstead are dimly shadowed, equal in sweetness and solemnity to anything the poet has ever written.

It was the night, and Lara’s glassy stream
The stars are studding each with imaged beam:
So calm, the waters scarcely seem to stray,
And yet they glide, like happiness, away;
Reflecting far and fairy-like from high
The immortal lights that live along the sky;
Its banks are fringed with many a goodly tree,
And flowers the fairest that may feast the bee:
Such in her chaplet infant Dian wove,
And innocence would offer to her love;
These deck the shore, the waves their channel make
In windings bright and mazy, like the snake.
All was so still, so soft in earth and air,
You scarce would start to meet a spirit there,
Secure that naught of evil could delight
To walk in such a scene, in such a night!
It was a moment only for the good:
So Lara deemed: nor longer there he stood;
But turn’d in silence to his castle-gate:
Such scene his soul no more could contemplate:
Such scene reminded him of other days,
Of skies more cloudless, moons of purer blaze;
Of nights more soft and frequent, hearts that now—
No, no! the storm may beat upon his brow
Unfelt, unsparing; but a night like this,
A night of beauty, mock’d such breast as his.

He turn’d within his solitary hall,
And his high shadow shot along the wall:
There were the painted forms of other times—
’Twas all they left of virtues or of crimes,
Save vague tradition; and the gloomy vaults
That hid their dust, their foibles, and their faults,
And half a column of the pompous page,
That speeds the spacious tale from age to age;
Where history’s pen its praise or blame supplies
And lies like truth, and still most truly lies;
He wand’ring mused, and as the moonbeam shone
Through the dim lattice o’er the floor of stone,
And the high-fretted roof and saints that there
O’er Gothic windows knelt in pictured prayer;
Reflected in fantastic figures grew
Like life, but not like mortal life to view;
His bristling locks of sable, brow of gloom,
And the wide waving of his shaken plume
Glanced like a spectre’s attributes, and gave
His aspect all that terror gives the grave.

That Byron wrote best when he wrote of himself and of his own, has probably been already made sufficiently apparent.  In this respect he stands alone and apart from all other poets, and there will be occasion to show, that this peculiarity extended much farther over all his works, than merely to those which may be said to have required him to be thus personal.  The great distinction, indeed, of his merit consists in that singularity.  Shakspeare, in drawing the materials of his dramas from tales and history has, with wonderful art, given from his own invention and imagination the fittest and most appropriate sentiments and language; and admiration at the perfection with which he has accomplished this, can never be exhausted.  The difference between Byron and Shakspeare consists in the curious accident, if it may be so called, by which the former was placed in circumstances which taught him to feel in himself the very sentiments that he has ascribed to his characters.  Shakspeare created the feelings of his, and with such excellence, that they are not only probable to the situations, but give to the personifications the individuality of living persons.  Byron’s are scarcely less so; but with him there was no invention, only experience, and when he attempts to express more than he has himself known, he is always comparatively feeble.


Byron determines to reside abroadVisits the Plain of WaterlooState of his Feelings

From different incidental expressions in his correspondence it is sufficiently evident that Byron, before his marriage, intended to reside abroad.  In his letter to me of the 11th December, 1813, he distinctly states this intention, and intimates that he then thought of establishing his home in Greece.  It is not therefore surprising that, after his separation from Lady Byron, he should have determined to carry this intention into effect; for at that period, besides the calumny heaped upon him from all quarters, the embarrassment of his affairs, and the retaliatory satire, all tended to force him into exile; he had no longer any particular tie to bind him to England.

On the 25th of April, 1816, he sailed for Ostend, and resumed the composition of Childe Harold, it may be said, from the moment of his embarkation.  In it, however, there is no longer the fiction of an imaginary character stalking like a shadow amid his descriptions and reflections——he comes more decidedly forwards as the hero in his own person.

In passing to Brussels he visited the field of Waterloo, and the slight sketch which he has given in the poem of that eventful conflict is still the finest which has yet been written on the subject.

But the note of his visit to the field is of more importance to my present purpose, inasmuch as it tends to illustrate the querulous state of his own mind at the time.

“I went on horseback twice over the field, comparing it with my recollection of similar scenes.  As a plain, Waterloo seems marked out for the scene of some great action, though this may be mere imagination.  I have viewed with attention those of Platea, Troy, Mantinea, Leuctra, Chævronæ, and Marathon, and the field round Mont St Jean and Hugoumont appears to want little but a better cause and that indefinable but impressive halo which the lapse of ages throws around a celebrated spot, to vie in interest with any or all of these, except perhaps the last-mentioned.”

The expression “a better cause,” could only have been engendered in mere waywardness; but throughout his reflections at this period a peevish ill-will towards England is often manifested, as if he sought to attract attention by exasperating the national pride; that pride which he secretly flattered himself was to be augmented by his own fame.

I cannot, in tracing his travels through the third canto, test the accuracy of his descriptions as in the former two; but as they are all drawn from actual views they have the same vivid individuality impressed upon them.  Nothing can be more simple and affecting than the following picture, nor less likely to be an imaginary scene:

   By Coblentz, on a rise of gentle ground,
   There is a small and simple pyramid,
   Crowning the summit of the verdant mound;
   Beneath its base are heroes’ ashes hid,
   Our enemies.  And let not that forbid
   Honour to Marceau, o’er whose early tomb
   Tears, big tears, rush’d from the rough soldier’s lid,
   Lamenting and yet envying such a doom,
Falling for France, whose rights he battled to resume.

Perhaps few passages of descriptive poetry excel that in which reference is made to the column of Avenches, the ancient Aventicum.  It combines with an image distinct and picturesque, poetical associations full of the grave and moral breathings of olden forms and hoary antiquity.

   By a lone wall, a lonelier column rears
   A gray and grief-worn aspect of old days:
   ’Tis the last remnant of the wreck of years,
   And looks as with the wild-bewilder’d gaze
   Of one to stone converted by amaze,
   Yet still with consciousness; and there it stands,
   Making a marvel that it not decays,
   When the coeval pride of human hands,
Levell’d Aventicum, hath strew’d her subject lands.

But the most remarkable quality in the third canto is the deep, low bass of thought which runs through several passages, and which gives to it, when considered with reference to the circumstances under which it was written, the serious character of documentary evidence as to the remorseful condition of the poet’s mind.  It would be, after what has already been pointed out in brighter incidents, affectation not to say, that these sad bursts of feeling and wild paroxysms, bear strong indications of having been suggested by the wreck of his domestic happiness, and dictated by contrition for the part he had himself taken in the ruin.  The following reflections on the unguarded hour, are full of pathos and solemnity, amounting almost to the deep and dreadful harmony of Manfred:

   To fly from, need not be to hate, mankind;
   All are not fit with them to stir and toil,
   Nor is it discontent to keep the mind
   Deep in its fountain, lest it overboil
   In the hot throng, where we become the spoil
   Of our infection, till too late and long
   We may deplore and struggle with the coil,
   In wretched interchange of wrong for wrong
’Midst a contentious world, striving where none are strong.

   There, in a moment, we may plunge our years
   In fatal penitence, and in the blight
   Of our own soul, turn all our blood to tears,
   And colour things to come with hues of night;
   The race of life becomes a hopeless flight
   To those who walk in darkness: on the sea,
   The boldest steer but where their ports invite;
   But there are wanderers o’er eternity,
Whose bark drives on and on, and anchor’d ne’er shall be.

These sentiments are conceived in the mood of an awed spirit; they breathe of sorrow and penitence.  Of the weariness of satiety the pilgrim no more complains; he is no longer despondent from exhaustion, and the lost appetite of passion, but from the weight of a burden which he cannot lay down; and he clings to visible objects, as if from their nature he could extract a moral strength.

   I live not in myself, but I become
   Portion of that around me; and to me,
   High mountains are a feeling, but the hum
   Of human cities tortures: I can see
   Nothing to loathe in nature, save to be
   A link reluctant in a fleshly chain,
   Class’d among creatures, where the soul can flee,
   And with the sky, the peak, the heaving plain
Of ocean, or the stars, mingle, and not in vain.

These dim revelations of black and lowering thought are overshadowed with a darker hue than sorrow alone could have cast.  A consciousness of sinful blame is evident amid them; and though the fantasies that loom through the mystery, are not so hideous as the guilty reveries in the weird caldron of Manfred’s conscience, still they have an awful resemblance to them.  They are phantoms of the same murky element, and, being more akin to fortitude than despair, prophesy not of hereafter, but oracularly confess suffering.

Manfred himself hath given vent to no finer horror than the oracle that speaks in this magnificent stanza:

   I have not loved the world, nor the world me;
   I have not flatter’d its rank breath, nor bow’d
   To its idolatries a patient knee—
   Nor coin’d my cheek to smiles—nor cried aloud
   In worship of an echo;—in the crowd
   They could not deem me one of such; I stood
   Among them, but not of them; in a shroud
   Of thoughts which were not of their thoughts, and still could,
Had I not filed my mind, which thus itself subdued.

There are times in life when all men feel their sympathies extinct, and Lord Byron was evidently in that condition, when he penned these remarkable lines; but independently of their striking beauty, the scenery in which they were conceived deserves to be considered with reference to the sentiment that pervades them.  For it was amid the same obscure ravines, pine-tufted precipices and falling waters of the Alps, that he afterward placed the outcast Manfred—an additional corroboration of the justness of the remarks which I ventured to offer, in adverting to his ruminations in contemplating, while yet a boy, the Malvern hills, as if they were the scenes of his impassioned childhood.  In “the palaces of nature,” he first felt the consciousness of having done some wrong, and when he would infuse into another, albeit in a wilder degree, the feelings he had himself felt, he recalled the images which had ministered to the cogitations of his own contrition.  But I shall have occasion to speak more of this, when I come to consider the nature of the guilt and misery of Manfred.

That Manfred is the greatest of Byron’s works will probably not be disputed.  It has more than the fatal mysticism of Macbeth, with the satanic grandeur of the Paradise Lost, and the hero is placed in circumstances, and amid scenes, which accord with the stupendous features of his preternatural character.  How then, it may be asked, does this moral phantom, that has never been, bear any resemblance to the poet himself?  Must not, in this instance, the hypothesis which assigns to Byron’s heroes his own sentiments and feelings be abandoned?  I think not.  In noticing the deep and solemn reflections with which he was affected in ascending the Rhine, and which he has embodied in the third canto of Childe Harold, I have already pointed out a similarity in the tenour of the thoughts to those of Manfred, as well as the striking acknowledgment of the “filed” mind.  There is, moreover, in the drama, the same distaste of the world which Byron himself expressed when cogitating on the desolation of his hearth, and the same contempt of the insufficiency of his genius and renown to mitigate contrition—all in strange harmony with the same magnificent objects of sight.  Is not the opening soliloquy of Manfred the very echo of the reflections on the Rhine?

My slumbers—if I slumber—are not sleep,
But a continuance of enduring thought,
Which then I can resist not; in my heart
There is a vigil, and these eyes but close
To look within—and yet I live and bear
The aspect and the form of breathing man.

But the following is more impressive: it is the very phrase he would himself have employed to have spoken of the consequences of his fatal marriage:

My in juries came down on those who lov’d me,
On those whom I best lov’d; I never quell’d
An enemy, save in my just defence—
But my embrace was fatal.

He had not, indeed, been engaged in any duel of which the issue was mortal; but he had been so far engaged with more than one, that he could easily conceive what it would have been to have quelled an enemy in just defence.  But unless the reader can himself discern, by his sympathies, that there is the resemblance I contend for, it is of no use to multiply instances.  I shall, therefore, give but one other extract, which breathes the predominant spirit of all Byron ‘s works—that sad translation of the preacher’s “vanity of vanities; all is vanity!”

   Look on me! there is an order
Of mortals on the earth, who do become
Old in their youth and die ere middle age,
Without the violence of warlike death;
Some perishing of pleasure—some of study—
Some worn with toil—some of mere weariness—
Some of disease—and some insanity—
And some of wither’d or of broken hearts;
For this last is a malady which slays
More than are number’d in the lists of Fate;
Taking all shapes, and bearing many names.
Look upon me! for even of all these things
Have I partaken—and of all these things
One were enough; then wonder not that I
Am what I am, but that I ever was,
Or, having been, that I am still on earth.


Byron’s Residence in SwitzerlandExcursion to the Glaciers“Manfred” founded on a magical Sacrifice, not on GuiltSimilarity between Sentiments given to Manfred and those expressed by Lord Byron in his own Person

The account given by Captain Medwin of the manner in which Lord Byron spent his time in Switzerland, has the raciness of his Lordship’s own quaintness, somewhat diluted.  The reality of the conversations I have heard questioned, but they relate in some instances to matters not generally known, to the truth of several of which I can myself bear witness; moreover they have much of the poet’s peculiar modes of thinking about them, though weakened in effect by the reporter.  No man can give a just representation of another who is not capable of putting himself into the character of his original, and of thinking with his power and intelligence.  Still there are occasional touches of merit in the feeble outlines of Captain Medwin, and with this conviction it would be negligence not to avail myself of them.

“Switzerland,” said his Lordship, “is a country I have been satisfied with seeing once; Turkey I could live in for ever.  I never forget my predilections: I was in a wretched state of health and worse spirits when I was at Geneva; but quiet and the lake, better physicians than Polidori, soon set me up.  I never led so moral a life as during my residence in that country; but I gained no credit by it.  Where there is mortification there ought to be reward.  On the contrary, there is no story so absurd that they did not invent at my cost.  I was watched by glasses on the opposite side of the lake, and by glasses, too, that must have had very distorted optics; I was waylaid in my evening drives.  I believe they looked upon me as a man-monster.

“I knew very few of the Genevese.  Hentsh was very civil to me, and I have a great respect for Sismondi.  I was forced to return the civilities of one of their professors by asking him and an old gentleman, a friend of Gray’s, to dine with me I had gone out to sail early in the morning, and the wind prevented me from returning in time for dinner.  I understand that I offended them mortally.

“Among our countrymen I made no new acquaintances; Shelley, Monk Lewis, and Hobhouse were almost the only English people I saw.  No wonder; I showed a distaste for society at that time, and went little among the Genevese; besides, I could not speak French.  When I went the tour of the lake with Shelley and Hobhouse, the boat was nearly wrecked near the very spot where St Preux and Julia were in danger of being drowned.  It would have been classical to have been lost there, but not agreeable.”

The third canto of Childe Harold, Manfred, and The Prisoner of Chillon are the fruits of his travels up the Rhine and of his sojourn in Switzerland.  Of the first it is unnecessary to say more; but the following extract from the poet’s travelling memorandum-book, has been supposed to contain the germ of the tragedy

September 22, 18 16.—Left Thun in a boat, which carried us the length of the lake in three hours.  The lake small, but the banks fine; rocks down to the water’s edge: landed at Newhouse; passed Interlachen; entered upon a range of scenes beyond all description or previous conception; passed a rock bearing an inscription; two brothers, one murdered the other; just the place for it.  After a variety of windings, came to an enormous rock; arrived at the foot of the mountain (the Jungfrau) glaciers; torrents, one of these nine hundred feet, visible descent; lodge at the curate’s; set out to see the valley; heard an avalanche fall like thunder; glaciers; enormous storm comes on thunder and lightning and hail, all in perfection and beautiful.  The torrent is in shape, curving over the rock, like the tail of the white horse streaming in the wind, just as might be conceived would be that of the pale horse on which Death is mounted in the Apocalypse: it is neither mist nor water, but a something between both; its immense height gives a wave, a curve, a spreading here, a condensation there, wonderful, indescribable

September 23.—Ascent of the Wingren, the dent d’argent shining like truth on one side, on the other the clouds rose from the opposite valley, curling up perpendicular precipices like the foam of the ocean of hell during a spring-tide.  It was white and sulphury, and immeasurably deep in appearance; the side we ascended was of course not of so precipitous a nature; but on arriving at the summit, we looked down on the other side upon a boiling sea of cloud dashing against the crag on which we stood.  Arrived at the Greenderwold, mounted and rode to the higher glacier, twilight, but distinct, very fine; glacier like a frozen hurricane; starlight beautiful; the whole of the day was fine, and, in point of weather, as the day in which Paradise was made.  Passed whole woods of withered pines, all withered, trunks stripped and lifeless, done by a single winter.”

Undoubtedly in these brief and abrupt but masterly touches, hints for the scenery of Manfred may be discerned, but I can perceive nothing in them which bears the least likelihood to their having influenced the conception of that sublime work.

There has always been from the first publication of Manfred, a strange misapprehension with respect to it in the public mind.  The whole poem has been misunderstood, and the odious supposition that ascribes the fearful mystery and remorse of a hero to a foul passion for his sister, is probably one of those coarse imaginations which have grown out of the calumnies and accusations heaped upon the author.  How can it have happened that none of the critics have noticed that the story is derived from the human sacrifices supposed to have been in use among the students of the black art?

Manfred is represented as being actuated by an insatiable curiosity—a passion to know the forbidden secrets of the world.  The scene opens with him at his midnight studies—his lamp is almost burned out—and he has been searching for knowledge and has not found it, but only that

Sorrow is knowledge: they who know the most
Must mourn the deepest o’er the fatal truth,
The tree of knowledge is not that of life.
Philosophy and science and the springs
Of wonder, and the wisdom of the world
I have essayed, and in my mind there is,
A power to make these subject to itself.

He is engaged in calling spirits; and, as the incantation proceeds, they obey his bidding, and ask him what he wants; he replies, “forgetfulness.”


Of what—of whom—and why?


Of that which is within me; read it there——
Ye know it, and I cannot utter it.


We can but give thee that which we possess;—
Ask of us subjects, sovereignty, the power
O’er earth, the whole or portion, or a sign
Which shall control the elements, whereof
We are the dominators.  Each and all—
These shall be thine.


   Oblivion, self oblivion—
Can ye not wring from out the hidden realms
Ye offer so profusely, what I ask?


It is not in our essence, in our skill,
But—thou may’st die.


   Will death bestow it on me?


We are immortal, and do not forget;
We are eternal, and to us the past
Is as the future, present.  Art thou answer’d?


Ye mock me, but the power which brought ye here
Hath made you mine.  Slaves! scoff not at my will;
The mind, the spirit, the Promethean spark,
The lightning of my being is as bright,
Pervading and far darting as your own,
And shall not yield to yours though coop’d in clay.
Answer, or I will teach you what I am.


We answer as we answer’d.  Our reply
Is even in thine own words.


Why say ye so?


If, as thou say’st, thine essence be as ours,
We have replied in telling thee the thing
Mortals call death hath naught to do with us.


I then have call’d you from your realms in vain.

This impressive and original scene prepares the reader to wonder why it is that Manfred is so desirous to drink of Lethe.  He has acquired dominion over spirits, and he finds, in the possession of the power, that knowledge has only brought him sorrow.  They tell him he is immortal, and what he suffers is as inextinguishable as his own being: why should he desire forgetfulness?—Has he not committed a great secret sin?  What is it?—He alludes to his sister, and in his subsequent interview with the witch we gather a dreadful meaning concerning her fate.  Her blood has been shed, not by his hand nor in punishment, but in the shadow and occultations of some unutterable crime and mystery.

She was like me in lineaments; her eyes,
Her hair, her features, all to the very tone
Even of her voice, they said were like to mine,
But soften’d all and temper’d into beauty.
She had the same lone thoughts and wanderings,
The quest of hidden knowledge, and a mind
To comprehend the universe; nor these
Alone, but with them gentler powers than mine,
Pity, and smiles, and tears, which I had not;
And tenderness—but that I had for her;
Humility, and that I never had:
Her faults were mine—her virtues were her own;
I lov’d her and—destroy’d her—


With thy hand?


Not with my hand, but heart, which broke her heart.
It gaz’d on mine, and withered.  I have shed
Blood, but not hers, and yet her blood was shed;—
I saw, and could not stanch it.

There is in this little scene, perhaps, the deepest pathos ever expressed; but it is not of its beauty that I am treating; my object in noticing it here is, that it may be considered in connection with that where Manfred appears with his insatiate thirst of knowledge, and manacled with guilt.  It indicates that his sister, Astarte, had been self-sacrificed in the pursuit of their magical knowledge.  Human sacrifices were supposed to be among the initiate propitiations of the demons that have their purposes in magic—as well as compacts signed with the blood of the self-sold.  There was also a dark Egyptian art, of which the knowledge and the efficacy could only be obtained by the novitiate’s procuring a voluntary victim—the dearest object to himself and to whom he also was the dearest; {241} and the primary spring of Byron’s tragedy lies, I conceive, in a sacrifice of that kind having been performed, without obtaining that happiness which the votary expected would be found in the knowledge and power purchased at such a price.  His sister was sacrificed in vain.  The manner of the sacrifice is not divulged, but it is darkly intimated to have been done amid the perturbations of something horrible.

   Night after night for years
He hath pursued long vigils in this tower
Without a witness.—I have been within it—
So have we all been ofttimes; but from it,
Or its contents, it were impossible
To draw conclusions absolute of aught
His studies tend to.—To be sure there is
One chamber where none enter—. . .
Count Manfred was, as now, within his tower:
How occupied—we know not—but with him,
The sole companion of his wanderings
And watchings—her—whom of all earthly things
That liv’d, the only thing he seem’d to love.

With admirable taste, and its thrilling augmentation of the horror, the poet leaves the deed which was done in that unapproachable chamber undivulged, while we are darkly taught, that within it lie the relics or the ashes of the “one without a tomb.”


State of Byron in SwitzerlandHe goes to VeniceThe fourth Canto of “Childe Harold”Rumination on his own ConditionBeppoLament of TassoCurious Example of Byron’s metaphysical Love

The situation of Lord Byron in Switzerland was comfortless.  He found that “the montain palaces of Nature” afforded no asylum to a haunted heart; he was ill at ease with himself, even dissatisfied that the world had not done him enough of wrong to justify his misanthropy.

Some expectation that his lady would repent of her part in the separation probably induced him to linger in the vicinity of Geneva, the thoroughfare of the travelling English, whom he affected to shun.  If it were so, he was disappointed, and, his hopes being frustrated, he broke up the establishment he had formed there and crossed the Alps.  After visiting some of the celebrated scenes and places in the north of Italy he passed on to Venice, where he domiciled himself for a time.

During his residence at Venice Lord Byron avoided as much as possible any intercourse with his countrymen.  This was perhaps in some degree necessary, and it was natural in the state of his mind.  He had become an object of great public interest by his talents; the stories connected with his domestic troubles had also increased his notoriety, and in such circumstances he could not but shrink from the inquisition of mere curiosity.  But there was an insolence in the tone with which he declares his “utter abhorrence of any contact with the travelling English,” that can neither be commended for its spirit, nor palliated by any treatment he had suffered.  Like Coriolanus he may have banished his country, but he had not, like the Roman, received provocation: on the contrary, he had been the aggressor in the feuds with his literary adversaries; and there was a serious accusation against his morals, or at least his manners, in the circumstances under which Lady Byron withdrew from his house.  It was, however, his misfortune throughout life to form a wrong estimate of himself in everything save in his poetical powers.

A life in Venice is more monotonous than in any other great city; but a man of genius carries with him everywhere a charm, which secures to him both variety and enjoyment.  Lord Byron had scarcely taken up his abode in Venice, when he began the fourth canto of Childe Harold, which he published early in the following year, and dedicated to his indefatigable friend Mr Hobhouse by an epistle dated on the anniversary of his marriage, “the most unfortunate day,” as he says, “of his past existence.”

In this canto he has indulged his excursive moralizing beyond even the wide licence he took in the three preceding parts; but it bears the impression of more reading and observation.  Though not superior in poetical energy, it is yet a higher work than any of them, and something of a more resolved and masculine spirit pervades the reflections, and endows, as it were, with thought and enthusiasm the aspect of the things described.  Of the merits of the descriptions, as of real things, I am not qualified to judge: the transcripts from the tablets of the author’s bosom he has himself assured us are faithful.

“With regard to the conduct of the last canto, there will be found less of the pilgrim than in any of the preceding, and that little slightly, if at all, separated from the author speaking in his own person.  The fact is, that I had become weary of drawing a line, which every one seemed determined not to perceive: like the Chinese, in Goldsmith’s Citizen of the World, whom nobody would believe to be a Chinese, it was in vain that I asserted and imagined that I had drawn a distinction between the author and the pilgrim; and the very anxiety to preserve this difference, and the disappointment at finding it unavailing, so far crushed my efforts in the composition, that I determined to abandon it altogether—and have done so.”

This confession, though it may not have been wanted, gives a pathetic emphasis to those passages in which the poet speaks of his own feelings.  That his mind was jarred, and out of joint, there is too much reason to believe; but he had in some measure overcome the misery that clung to him during the dismal time of his sojourn in Switzerland, and the following passage, though breathing the sweet and melancholy spirit of dejection, possesses a more generous vein of nationality than is often met with in his works, even when the same proud sentiment might have been more fitly expressed:

   I’ve taught me other tongues—and in strange eyes
   Have made me not a stranger; to the mind
   Which is itself, no changes bring surprise,
   Nor is it harsh to make or hard to find
   A country with—aye, or without mankind.
   Yet was I born where men are proud to be,
   Not without cause; and should I leave behind
   Th’ inviolate island of the sage and free,
And seek me out a home by a remoter sea?

   Perhaps I lov’d it well, and should I lay
   My ashes in a soil which is not mine,
   My spirit shall resume it—if we may,
   Unbodied, choose a sanctuary.  I twine
   My hopes of being remember’d in my line,
   With my land’s language; if too fond and far
   These aspirations in their hope incline—
   If my fame should be as my fortunes are,
Of hasty growth and blight, and dull oblivion bar

   My name from out the temple where the dead
   Are honour’d by the nations—let it be,
   And light the laurels on a loftier head,
   And be the Spartan’s epitaph on me:
   “Sparta had many a worthier son than he”;
   Meantime I seek no sympathies, nor need;
   The thorns which I have reap’d are of the tree
   I planted—they have torn me—and I bleed:
I should have known what fruit would spring from such a seed.

It will strike the reader as remarkable, that although the poet, in the course of this canto, takes occasion to allude to Dante and Tasso, in whose destinies there was a shadowy likeness of his own, the rumination is mingled with less of himself than might have been expected, especially when it is considered how much it was a habit with him, to make his own feelings the basis and substratum of the sentiments he ascribed to others.  It has also more than once surprised me that he has so seldom alluded to Alfieri, whom of all poets, both in character and conduct, he most resembled; with this difference, however, that Alfieri was possessed of affections equally intense and durable, whereas the caprice of Byron made him uncertain in his partialities, or what was the same in effect, made his friends set less value on them than perhaps they were entitled to.

Before Childe Harold was finished, an incident occurred which suggested to Byron a poem of a very different kind to any he had yet attempted:—without vouching for the exact truth of the anecdote, I have been told, that he one day received by the mail a copy of Whistlecraft’s prospectus and specimen of an intended national work; and, moved by its playfulness, immediately after reading it, began Beppo, which he finished at a sitting.  The facility with which he composed renders the story not improbable; but, singular as it may seem, the poem itself has the facetious flavour in it of his gaiety, stronger than even his grave works have of his frowardness, commonly believed to have been—I think, unjustly—the predominant mood of his character.

The Ode to Venice is also to be numbered among his compositions in that city; a spirited and indignant effusion, full of his peculiar lurid fire, and rich in a variety of impressive and original images.  But there is a still finer poem which belongs to this period of his history, though written, I believe, before he reached Venice—The Lament of Tasso: and I am led to notice it the more particularly, as one of its noblest passages affords an illustration of the opinion which I have early maintained—that Lord Byron’s extraordinary pretensions to the influence of love was but a metaphysical conception of the passion.

It is no marvel—from my very birth
My soul was drunk with love, which did pervade
And mingle with whate’er I saw on earth;
Of objects all inanimate I made
Idols, and out of wild and lovely flowers,
And rocks whereby they grew, a paradise,
Where I did lay me down within the shade
Of waving trees, and dream’d uncounted hours.

It has been remarked by an anonymous author of Memoirs of Lord Byron, a work written with considerable talent and acumen, that “this is so far from being in character, that it is the very reverse; for whether Tasso was in his senses or not, if his love was sincere, he would have made the object of his affection the sole theme of his meditation, instead of generalising his passion, and talking about the original sympathies of his nature.”  In truth, no poet has better described love than Byron has his own peculiar passion.

   His love was passion’s essence—as a tree
   On fire by lightning; with ethereal flame
   Kindled he was, and blasted; for to be
   Thus enamour’d were in him the same.
   But his was not the love of living dame,
   Nor of the dead who rise upon our dreams,
   But of ideal beauty, which became
   In him existence, and o’erflowing teems
Along his burning page, distemper’d though it seems.

In tracing the course of Lord Byron’s career, I have not deemed it at all necessary to advert to the instances of his generosity, or to conduct less pleasant to record.  Enough has appeared to show that he was neither deficient in warmth of heart nor in less amiable feelings; but, upon the whole, it is not probable that either in his charities or his pleasures he was greatly different from other young men, though he undoubtedly had a wayward delight in magnifying his excesses, not in what was to his credit, like most men, but in what was calculated to do him no honour.  More notoriety has been given to an instance of lavish liberality at Venice, than the case deserved, though it was unquestionably prompted by a charitable impulse.  The house of a shoemaker, near his Lordship’s residence, in St Samuel, was burned to the ground, with all it contained, by which the proprietor was reduced to indigence.  Byron not only caused a new but a superior house to be erected, and also presented the sufferer with a sum of money equal in value to the whole of his stock in trade and furniture.  I should endanger my reputation for impartiality if I did not, as a fair set-off to this, also mention that it is said he bought for five hundred crowns a baker’s wife.  There might be charity in this, too.


Removes to RavennaThe Countess Guiccioli

Although Lord Byron resided between two and three years at Venice, he was never much attached to it.  “To see a city die daily, as she does,” said he, “is a sad contemplation.  I sought to distract my mind from a sense of her desolation and my own solitude, by plunging into a vortex that was anything but pleasure.  When one gets into a mill-stream, it is difficult to swim against it, and keep out of the wheels.”  He became tired and disgusted with the life he led at Venice, and was glad to turn his back on it.  About the close of the year 1819 he accordingly removed to Ravenna; but before I proceed to speak of the works which he composed at Ravenna, it is necessary to explain some particulars respecting a personal affair, the influence of which on at least one of his productions is as striking as any of the many instances already described upon others.  I allude to the intimacy which he formed with the young Countess Guiccioli.

This lady, at the age of sixteen, was married to the Count, one of the richest noblemen in Romagna, but far advanced in life.  “From the first,” said Lord Byron, in his account of her, “they had separate apartments, and she always called him, Sir!  What could be expected from such a preposterous connection.  For some time she was an Angiolina and he a Marino Faliero, a good old man; but young Italian women are not satisfied with good old men, and the venerable Count did not object to her availing herself of the privileges of her country in selecting a cicisbeo; an Italian would have made it quite agreeable: indeed, for some time he winked at our intimacy, but at length made an exception against me, as a foreigner, a heretic, an Englishman, and, what was worse than all, a Liberal.

“He insisted—Teresa was as obstinate—her family took her part.  Catholics cannot get divorces; but to the scandal of all Romagna, the matter was at last referred to the Pope, who ordered her a separate maintenance on condition that she should reside under her father’s roof.  All this was not agreeable, and at length I was forced to smuggle her out of Ravenna, having discovered a plot laid with the sanction of the legate, for shutting her up in a convent for life.”

The Countess Guiccioli was at this time about twenty, but she appeared younger; her complexion was fair, with large, dark, languishing eyes; and her auburn hair fell in great profusion of natural ringlets over her shapely shoulders.  Her features were not so regular as in their expression pleasing, and there was an amiable gentleness in her voice which was peculiarly interesting.  Leigh Hunt’s account of her is not essentially dissimilar from any other that I have either heard of or met with.  He differs, however, in one respect, from every other, in saying that her hair was yellow; but considering the curiosity which this young lady has excited, perhaps it may be as well to transcribe his description at length, especially as he appears to have taken some pains on it, and more particularly as her destiny seems at present to promise that the interest for her is likely to be revived by another unhappy English connection.

“Her appearance,” says Mr Hunt, “might have reminded an English spectator of Chaucer’s heroine:

Yclothed was she, fresh for to devise,
Her yellow hair was braided in a tress
Behind her back, a yardé long I guess,
And in the garden (as the same uprist)
She walketh up and down, where as her list.

And then, as Dryden has it:

At every turn she made a little stand,
And thrust among the thorns her lily hand.

Madame Guiccioli, who was at that time about twenty, was handsome and lady-like, with an agreeable manner, and a voice not partaking too much of the Italian fervour to be gentle.  She had just enough of it to give her speaking a grace—none of her graces appeared entirely free from art; nor, on the other hand, did they betray enough of it to give you an ill opinion of her sincerity and good-humour . . . Her hair was what the poet has described, or rather blond, with an inclination to yellow; a very fair and delicate yellow, at all events, and within the limits of the poetical.  She had regular features of the order properly called handsome, in distinction to prettiness or piquancy; being well proportioned to one another, large, rather than otherwise, but without coarseness, and more harmonious than interesting.  Her nose was the handsomest of the kind I ever saw; and I have known her both smile very sweetly, and look intelligently, when Lord Byron has said something kind to her.  I should not say, however, that she was a very intelligent person.  Both her wisdom and her want of wisdom were on the side of her feelings, in which there was doubtless mingled a good deal of the self-love natural to a flattered beauty. . . .  In a word, Madame Guiccioli was a kind of buxom parlour-boarder, compressing herself artificially into dignity and elegance, and fancying she walked, in the eyes of the whole world, a heroine by the side of a poet.  When I saw her at Monte Nero, near Leghorn, she was in a state of excitement and exultation, and had really something of this look.  At that time, also, she looked no older than she was; in which respect, a rapid and very singular change took place, to the surprise of everybody.  In the course of a few months she seemed to have lived as many years.”

This is not very perspicuous portraiture, nor does it show that Mr Hunt was a very discerning observer of character.  Lord Byron himself is represented to have said, that extraordinary pains were taken with her education: “Her conversation is lively without being frivolous; without being learned, she has read all the best authors of her own and the French language.  She often conceals what she knows, from the fear of being thought to know too much; possibly because she knows I am not fond of blues.  To use an expression of Jeffrey’s, ‘If she has blue stockings, she contrives that her petticoats shall hide them.’”

Lord Byron was at one time much attached to her; nor could it be doubted that their affection was reciprocal; but in both, their union outlived their affection, for before his departure to Greece his attachment had perished, and he left her, as it is said, notwithstanding the rank and opulence she had forsaken on his account, without any provision.  He had promised, it was reported, to settle two thousand pounds on her, but he forgot the intention, or died before it was carried into effect. {255}  On her part, the estrangement was of a different and curious kind—she had not come to hate him, but she told a lady, the friend of a mutual acquaintance of Lord Byron and mine, that she feared more than loved him.


Residence in RavennaThe CarbonariByron’s Part in their PlotThe Murder of the military CommandantThe poetical Use of the Incident“Marino Faliero”Reflections“The Prophecy of Dante”

Lord Byron has said himself, that except Greece, he was never so attached to any place in his life as to Ravenna.  The peasantry he thought the best people in the world, and their women the most beautiful.  “Those at Tivoli and Frescati,” said he, “are mere Sabines, coarse creatures, compared to the Romagnese.  You may talk of your English women; and it is true, that out of one hundred Italian and English you will find thirty of the latter handsome; but then there will be one Italian on the other side of the scale, who will more than balance the deficit in numbers—one who, like the Florence Venus, has no rival, and can have none in the North.  I found also at Ravenna much education and liberality of thinking among the higher classes.  The climate is delightful.  I was not broken in upon by society.  Ravenna lies out of the way of travellers.  I was never tired of my rides in the pine forest: it breathes of the Decameron; it is poetical ground.  Francesca lived and Dante was exiled and died at Ravenna.  There is something inspiring in such an air.

“The people liked me as much as they hated the government.  It is not a little to say, I was popular with all the leaders of the constitutional party.  They knew that I came from a land of liberty, and wished well to their cause.  I would have espoused it, too, and assisted them to shake off their fetters.  They knew my character, for I had been living two years at Venice, where many of the Ravennese have houses.  I did not, however, take part in their intrigues, nor join in their political coteries; but I had a magazine of one hundred stand of arms in the house, when everything was ripe for revolt——a curse on Carignan’s imbecility!  I could have pardoned him that, too, if he had not impeached his partisans.

“The proscription was immense in Romagna, and embraced many of the first nobles: almost all my friends, among the rest the Gambas (the father and brother of the Countess Guiccioli), who took no part in the affair, were included in it.  They were exiled, and their possessions confiscated.  They knew that this must eventually drive me out of the country.  I did not follow them immediately: I was not to be bullied—I had myself fallen under the eye of the government.  If they could have got sufficient proof they would have arrested me.”

The latter part of this declaration bears, in my opinion, indubitable marks of being genuine.  It has that magnifying mysticism about it which more than any other quality characterized Lord Byron’s intimations concerning himself and his own affairs; but it is a little clearer than I should have expected in the acknowledgment of the part he was preparing to take in the insurrection.  He does not seem here to be sensible, that in confessing so much, he has justified the jealousy with which he was regarded.

“Shortly after the plot was discovered,” he proceeds to say, “I received several anonymous letters, advising me to discontinue my forest rides; but I entertained no apprehensions of treachery, and was more on horseback than ever.  I never stir out without being well armed, nor sleep without pistols.  They knew that I never missed my aim; perhaps this saved me.”

An event occurred at this time at Ravenna that made a deep impression on Lord Byron.  The commandant of the place, who, though suspected of being secretly a Carbonaro, was too powerful a man to be arrested, was assassinated opposite to his residence.  The measures adopted to screen the murderer proved, in the opinion of his Lordship, that the assassination had taken place by order of the police, and that the spot where it was perpetrated had been selected by choice.  Byron at the moment had his foot in the stirrup, and his horse started at the report of the shot.  On looking round he saw a man throw down a carbine and run away, and another stretched on the pavement near him.  On hastening to the spot, he found it was the commandant; a crowd collected, but no one offered any assistance.  His Lordship directed his servant to lift the bleeding body into the palace—he assisted himself in the act, though it was represented to him that he might incur the displeasure of the government—and the gentleman was already dead.  His adjutant followed the body into the house.  “I remember,” says his Lordship, “his lamentation over him—‘Poor devil he would not have harmed a dog.’”

It was from the murder of this commandant that the poet sketched the scene of the assassination in the fifth canto of Don Juan.

   The other evening (’twas on Friday last),
      This is a fact, and no poetic fable—
   Just as my great coat was about me cast,
      My hat and gloves still lying on the table,
   I heard a shot—’twas eight o’clock scarce past,
      And running out as fast as I was able,
I found the military commandant
Stretch’d in the street, and able scarce to pant.

   Poor fellow! for some reason, surely bad,
      They had him slain with five slugs, and left him there
   To perish on the pavement: so I had
      Him borne into the house, and up the stair;
The man was gone: in some Italian quarrel
Kill’d by five bullets from an old gun-barrel.

   The scars of his old wounds were near his new,
      Those honourable scars which bought him fame,
   And horrid was the contrast to the view—
      But let me quit the theme, as such things claim
   Perhaps ev’n more attention than is due
      From me: I gazed (as oft I’ve gazed the same)
To try if I could wrench aught out of death
Which should confirm, or shake, or make a faith.

Whether Marino Faliero was written at Ravenna or completed there, I have not ascertained, but it was planned at Venice, and as far back as 1817.  I believe this is considered about the most ordinary performance of all Lord Byron’s works; but if it is considered with reference to the time in which it was written, it will probably be found to contain many great and impressive passages.  Has not the latter part of the second scene in the first act reference to the condition of Venice when his Lordship was there?  And is not the description which Israel Bertuccio gives of the conspirators applicable to, as it was probably derived from, the Carbonari, with whom there is reason to say Byron was himself disposed to take a part?

Know, then, that there are met and sworn in secret
A band of brethren, valiant hearts and true;
Men who have proved all fortunes, and have long
Grieved over that of Venice, and have right
To do so; having served her in all climes,
And having rescued her from foreign foes,
Would do the same for those within her walls.
They are not numerous, nor yet too few
For their great purpose; they have arms, and means,
And hearts, and hopes, and faith, and patient courage.

This drama, to be properly appreciated, both in its taste and feeling should be considered as addressed to the Italians of the epoch at which it was written.  Had it been written in the Italian instead of the English language, and could have come out in any city of Italy, the effect would have been prodigious.  It is, indeed, a work not to be estimated by the delineations of character nor the force of passion expressed in it, but altogether by the apt and searching sarcasm of the political allusions.  Viewed with reference to the time and place in which it was composed, it would probably deserve to be ranked as a high and bold effort: simply as a drama, it may not be entitled to rank above tragedies of the second or third class.  But I mean not to set my opinion of this work against that of the public, the English public; all I contend for is, that it possesses many passages of uncommon beauty, and that its chief tragic merit consists in its political indignation; but above all, that is another and a strong proof too, of what I have been endeavouring to show, that the power of the poet consisted in giving vent to his own feelings, and not, like his great brethren, or even his less, in the invention of situations or of appropriate sentiments.  It is, perhaps, as it stands, not fit to succeed in representation; but it is so rich in matter that it would not be a difficult task to make out of little more than the third part a tragedy which would not dishonour the English stage.

I have never been able to understand why it has been so often supposed that Lord Byron was actuated in the composition of his different works by any other motive than enjoyment: perhaps no poet had ever less of an ulterior purpose in his mind during the fits of inspiration (for the epithet may be applied correctly to him and to the moods in which he was accustomed to write) than this singular and impassioned man.  Those who imagine that he had any intention to impair the reverence due to religion, or to weaken the hinges of moral action, give him credit for far more design and prospective purpose than he possessed.  They could have known nothing of the man, the main defect of whose character, in relation to everything, was in having too little of the element or principle of purpose.  He was a thing of impulses, and to judge of what he either said or did, as the results of predetermination, was not only to do the harshest injustice, but to show a total ignorance of his character.  His whole fault, the darkest course of those flights and deviations from propriety which have drawn upon him the severest animadversion, lay in the unbridled state of his impulses.  He felt, but never reasoned.  I am led to make these observations by noticing the ungracious, or, more justly, the illiberal spirit in which The Prophecy of Dante, which was published with the Marino Faliero, has been treated by the anonymous author of Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Lord Byron.

Of The Prophecy of Dante I am no particular admirer.  It contains, unquestionably, stanzas of resounding energy, but the general verse of the poem is as harsh and abrupt as the clink and clang of the cymbal; moreover, even for a prophecy, it is too obscure, and though it possesses abstractedly too many fine thoughts, and too much of the combustion of heroic passion to be regarded as a failure, yet it will never be popular.  It is a quarry, however, of very precious poetical expression.

It was written at Ravenna, and at the suggestion of the Guiccioli, to whom it is dedicated in a sonnet, prettily but inharmoniously turned.  Like all his other best performances, this rugged but masterly composition draws its highest interest from himself and his own feelings, and can only be rightly appreciated by observing how fitly many of the bitter breathings of Dante apply to his own exiled and outcast condition.  For, however much he was himself the author of his own banishment, he felt when he wrote these haughty verses that he had been sometimes shunned.


The Tragedy of “Sardanapalus” considered, with Reference to Lord Byron’s own Circumstances“Cain”

Among the mental enjoyments which endeared Ravenna to Lord Byron, the composition of Sardanapalus may be reckoned the chief.  It seems to have been conceived in a happier mood than any of all his other works; for, even while it inculcates the dangers of voluptuous indulgence, it breathes the very essence of benevolence and philosophy.  Pleasure takes so much of the character of virtue in it, that but for the moral taught by the consequences, enjoyment might be mistaken for duty.  I have never been able to satisfy myself in what the resemblance consists, but from the first reading it has always appeared to me that there was some elegant similarity between the characters of Sardanapalus and Hamlet, and my inclination has sometimes led me to imagine that the former was the nobler conception of the two.

The Assyrian monarch, like the Prince of Denmark, is highly endowed, capable of the greatest undertakings; he is yet softened by a philosophic indolence of nature that makes him undervalue the enterprises of ambition, and all those objects in the attainment of which so much of glory is supposed to consist.  They are both alike incapable of rousing themselves from the fond reveries of moral theory, even when the strongest motives are presented to them.  Hamlet hesitates to act, though his father’s spirit hath come from death to incite him; and Sardanapalus derides the achievements that had raised his ancestors to an equality with the gods.

   Thou wouldst have me go
Forth as a conqueror.—By all the stars
Which the Chaldeans read! the restless slaves
Deserve that I should curse them with their wishes
And lead them forth to glory.


The ungrateful and ungracious slaves! they murmur
Because I have not shed their blood, nor led them
To dry into the deserts’ dust by myriads,
Or whiten with their bones the banks of Ganges,
Nor decimated them with savage laws,
Nor sweated them to build up pyramids
Or Babylonian walls.

The nothingness of kingly greatness and national pride were never before so finely contemned as by the voluptuous Assyrian, and were the scorn not mitigated by the skilful intermixture of mercifulness and philanthropy, the character would not be endurable.  But when the same voice which pronounced contempt on the toils of honour says,

For me if I can make my subjects feel
The weight of human misery less,

it is impossible to repress the liking which the humane spirit of that thought is calculated to inspire.  Nor is there any want of dignity in Sardanapalus, even when lolling softest in his luxury.

Must I consume my life—this little life—
In guarding against all may make it less!
It is not worth so much—It were to die
Before my hour to live in dread of death. . . .
Till now no drop of an Assyrian vein
Hath flow’d for me, nor hath the smallest coin
Of Nineveh’s vast treasure e’er been lavish’d
On objects which could cost her sons a tear.
If then they hate me ’tis because I hate not,
If they rebel ’tis because I oppress not.

This is imagined in the true tone of Epicurean virtue, and it rises to magnanimity when he adds in compassionate scorn,

Oh, men! ye must be ruled with scythes, not sceptres,
And mow’d down like the grass, else all we reap
Is rank abundance and a rotten harvest
Of discontents infecting the fair soil,
Making a desert of fertility.

But the graciousness in the conception of the character of Sardanapalus, is not to be found only in these sentiments of his meditations, but in all and every situation in which the character is placed.  When Salamenes bids him not sheath his sword—

’Tis the sole sceptre left you now with safety,

the king replies—

“A heavy one;” and subjoins, as if to conceal his distaste for war, by ascribing a dislike to the sword itself,

The hilt, too, hurts my hand.

It may be asked why I dwell so particularly on the character of Sardanapalus.  It is admitted that he is the most heroic of voluptuaries, the most philosophical of the licentious.  The first he is undoubtedly, but he is not licentious; and in omitting to make him so, the poet has prevented his readers from disliking his character upon principle.  It was a skilful stroke of art to do this; had it been otherwise, and had there been no affection shown for the Ionian slave, Sardanapalus would have engaged no sympathy.  It is not, however, with respect to the ability with which the character has been imagined, nor to the poetry with which it is invested, that I have so particularly made it a subject of criticism; it was to point out how much in it Lord Byron has interwoven of his own best nature.

At the time when he was occupied with this great work, he was confessedly in the enjoyment of the happiest portion of his life.  The Guiccioli was to him a Myrrha, but the Carbonari were around, and in the controversy, in which Sardanapalus is engaged, between the obligations of his royalty and his inclinations for pleasure, we have a vivid insight of the cogitation of the poet, whether to take a part in the hazardous activity which they were preparing, or to remain in the seclusion and festal repose of which he was then in possession.  The Assyrian is as much Lord Byron as Childe Harold was, and bears his lineaments in as clear a likeness, as a voluptuary unsated could do those of the emaciated victim of satiety.  Over the whole drama, and especially in some of the speeches of Sardanapalus, a great deal of fine but irrelevant poetry and moral reflection has been profusely spread; but were the piece adapted to the stage, these portions would of course be omitted, and the character denuded of them would then more fully justify the idea which I have formed of it, than it may perhaps to many readers do at present, hidden as it is, both in shape and contour, under an excess of ornament.

That the character of Myrrha was also drawn from life, and that the Guiccioli was the model, I have no doubt.  She had, when most enchanted by her passion for Byron—at the very time when the drama was written—many sources of regret; and he was too keen an observer, and of too jealous a nature, not to have marked every shade of change in her appearance, and her every moment of melancholy reminiscence; so that, even though she might never have given expression to her sentiments, still such was her situation, that it could not but furnish him with fit suggestions from which to fill up the moral being of the Ionian slave.  Were the character of Myrrha scanned with this reference, while nothing could be discovered to detract from the value of the composition, a great deal would be found to lessen the merit of the poet’s invention.  He had with him the very being in person whom he has depicted in the drama, of dispositions and endowments greatly similar, and in circumstances in which she could not but feel as Myrrha is supposed to have felt—and it must be admitted, that he has applied the good fortune of that incident to a beautiful purpose.

This, however, is not all that the tragedy possesses of the author.  The character of Zarina is, perhaps, even still more strikingly drawn from life.  There are many touches in the scene with her which he could not have imagined, without thinking of his own domestic disasters.  The first sentiment she utters is truly conceived in the very frame and temper in which Byron must have wished his lady to think of himself, and he could not embody it without feeling that

   How many a year has pass’d,
Though we are still so young, since we have met
Which I have borne in widowhood of heart.

The following delicate expression has reference to his having left his daughter with her mother, and unfolds more of his secret feelings on the subject than anything he has expressed more ostentatiously elsewhere:

I wish’d to thank you, that you have not divided
My heart from all that’s left it now to love.

And what Sardanapalus says of his children is not less applicable to Byron, and is true:

      Deem not
I have not done you justice: rather make them
Resemble your own line, than their own sire;
I trust them with you—to you.

And when Zarina says,

      They ne’er
Shall know from me aught but what may honour
Their father’s memory,

he puts in her mouth only a sentiment which he knew, if his wife never expressed to him, she profoundly acknowledged in resolution to herself.  The whole of this scene is full of the most penetrating pathos; and did the drama not contain, in every page, indubitable evidence to me, that he has shadowed out in it himself his wife, and his mistress, this little interview would prove a vast deal in confirmation of the opinion so often expressed, that where his genius was most in its element, it was when it dealt with his own sensibilities and circumstances.  It is impossible to read the following speech, without a conviction that it was written at Lady Byron:

   My gentle, wrong’d Zarina!
I am the very slave of circumstance
And impulse—borne away with every breath!
Misplaced upon the throne—misplaced in life.
I know not what I could have been, but feel
I am not what I should be—let it end.
But take this with thee: if I was not form’d
To prize a love like thine—a mind like thine—
Nor dote even on thy beauty—as I’ve doted
On lesser charms, for no cause save that such
Devotion was a duty, and I hated
All that look’d like a chain for me or others
(This even rebellion must avouch); yet hear
These words, perhaps among my last—that none
E’er valued more thy virtues, though he knew not
To profit by them.

At Ravenna Cain was also written; a dramatic poem, in some degree, chiefly in its boldness, resembling the ancient mysteries of the monasteries before the secular stage was established.  This performance, in point of conception, is of a sublime order.  The object of the poem is to illustrate the energy and the art of Lucifer in accomplishing the ruin of the first-born.  By an unfair misconception, the arguments of Lucifer have been represented as the sentiments of the author upon some imaginary warranty derived from the exaggerated freedom of his life; and yet the moral tendency of the reflections are framed in a mood of reverence as awful towards Omnipotence as the austere divinity of Milton.  It would be presumption in me, however, to undertake the defence of any question in theology; but I have not been sensible to the imputed impiety, while I have felt in many passages influences that have their being amid the shadows and twilights of “old religion”;

   “Stupendous spirits
That mock the pride of man, and people space
With life and mystical predominance.”

The morning hymns and worship with which the mystery opens are grave, solemn, and scriptural, and the dialogue which follows with Cain is no less so: his opinion of the tree of life is, I believe, orthodox; but it is daringly expressed: indeed, all the sentiments ascribed to Cain are but the questions of the sceptics.  His description of the approach of Lucifer would have shone in the Paradise Lost.

   A shape like to the angels,
Yet of a sterner and a sadder aspect,
Of spiritual essence.  Why do I quake?
Why should I fear him more than other spirits
Whom I see daily wave their fiery swords
Before the gates round which I linger oft
In twilight’s hour, to catch a glimpse of those
Gardens which are my just inheritance,
Ere the night closes o’er the inhibited walls,
And the immortal trees which overtop
The cherubim-defended battlements?
I shrink not from these, the fire-arm’d angels;
Why should I quail from him who now approaches?
Yet he seems mightier far than them, nor less
Beauteous; and yet not all as beautiful
As he hath been, or might be: sorrow seems
Half of his immortality.

There is something spiritually fine in this conception of the terror or presentiment of coming evil.  The poet rises to the sublime in making Lucifer first inspire Cain with the knowledge of his immortality—a portion of truth which hath the efficacy of falsehood upon the victim; for Cain, feeling himself already unhappy, knowing that his being cannot be abridged, has the less scruple to desire to be as Lucifer, “mighty.”  The whole speech of Lucifer, beginning,

Souls who dare use their immortality,

is truly satanic; a daring and dreadful description given by everlasting despair of the Deity.

But, notwithstanding its manifold immeasurable imaginations, Cain is only a polemical controversy, the doctrines of which might have been better discussed in the pulpit of a college chapel.  As a poem it is greatly unequal; many passages consist of mere metaphysical disquisition, but there are others of wonderful scope and energy.  It is a thing of doubts and dreams and reveries—dim and beautiful, yet withal full of terrors.  The understanding finds nothing tangible; but amid dread and solemnity, sees only a shapen darkness with eloquent gestures.  It is an argument invested with the language of oracles and omens, conceived in some religious trance, and addressed to spirits.


Removal to PisaThe Lanfranchi PalaceAffair with the Guard at PisaRemoval to Monte NeroJunction with Mr HuntMr Shelley’s Letter

The unhappy distrusts and political jealousies of the times obliged Lord Byron, with the Gambas, the family of the Guiccioli, to remove from Ravenna to Pisa.  In this compulsion he had no cause to complain; a foreigner meddling with the politics of the country in which he was only accidentally resident, could expect no deferential consideration from the government.  It has nothing to do with the question whether his Lordship was right or wrong in his principles.  The government was in the possession of the power, and in self-defence he could expect no other course towards him than what he did experience.  He was admonished to retreat: he did so.  Could he have done otherwise, he would not.  He would have used the Austrian authority as ill as he was made to feel it did him.

In the autumn of 1821, Lord Byron removed from Ravenna to Pisa, where he hired the Lanfranchi palace for a year—one of those massy marble piles which appear

“So old, as if they had for ever stood—
So strong, as if they would for ever stand!”

Both in aspect and character it was interesting to the boding fancies of the noble tenant.  It is said to have been constructed from a design of Michael Angelo; and in the grandeur of its features exhibits a bold and colossal style not unworthy of his genius.

The Lanfranchi family, in the time of Dante, were distinguished in the factions of those days, and one of them has received his meed of immortality from the poet, as the persecutor of Ugolino.  They are now extinct, and their traditionary reputation is illustrated by the popular belief in the neighbourhood, that their ghosts are restless, and still haunt their former gloomy and gigantic habitation.

The building was too vast for the establishment of Lord Byron, and he occupied only the first floor.

The life he led at this period was dull and unvaried.  Billiards, conversations, reading, and occasionally writing, constituted the regular business of the day.  In the cool of the afternoon, he sometimes went out in his carriage, oftener on horseback, and generally amused himself with pistol practice at a five-paul piece.  He dined at half an hour after sunset, and then drove to Count Gamba’s, where he passed several hours with the Countess Guiccioli, who at that time still resided with her father.  On his return he read or wrote till the night was far spent, or rather till the morning was come again, sipping at intervals spirits diluted with water, as medicine to counteract some nephritic disorder to which he considered himself liable.

Notwithstanding the tranquillity of this course of life, he was accidentally engaged in a transaction which threatened unpleasant consequences, and had a material effect on his comfort.  On the 21st of March, 1822, as he was returning from his usual ride, in company with several of his friends, a hussar officer, at full speed, dashed through the party, and violently jostled one of them.  Lord Byron, with his characteristic impetuosity, instantly pushed forwards, and the rest followed, and overtook the hussar.  His Lordship inquired what he meant by the insult; but for answer, received the grossest abuse: on which he and one of his companions gave their cards, and passed on.  The officer followed, hallooing, and threatening with his hand on his sabre.  They were now near the Paggia gate.  During this altercation, a common artilleryman interfered, and called out to the hussar, “Why don’t you arrest them?—command us to arrest them.”  Upon which the officer gave the word to the guard at the gate.  His Lordship, hearing the order, spurred his horse, and one of his party doing the same, they succeeded in forcing their way through the soldiers, while the gate was closed on the rest of the party, with whom an outrageous scuffle ensued.

Lord Byron, on reaching his palace, gave directions to inform the police, and, not seeing his companions coming up, rode back towards the gate.  On his way the hussar met him, and said, “Are you satisfied?”—“No: tell me your name!”—“Serjeant-major Masi.”  One of his Lordship’s servants, who at this moment joined them, seized the hussar’s horse by the bridle, but his master commanded him to let it go.  The hussar then spurred his horse through the crowd, which by this time had collected in front of the Lanfranchi palace, and in the attempt was wounded by a pitchfork.  Several of the servants were arrested, and imprisoned: and, during the investigation of the affair before the police, Lord Byron’s house was surrounded by the dragoons belonging to Serjeant-major Masi’s troop, who threatened to force the doors.  The result upon these particulars was not just; all Lord Byron’s Italian servants were banished from Pisa; and with them the father and brother of the Guiccioli, who had no concern whatever in the affair.  Lord Byron himself was also advised to quit the town, and, as the Countess accompanied her father, he soon after joined them at Leghorn, and passed six weeks at Monte Nero, a country house in the vicinity of that city.

It was during his Lordship’s residence at Monte Nero, that an event took place—his junction with Mr Leigh Hunt—which had some effect both on his literary and his moral reputation.  Previous to his departure from England, there had been some intercourse between them—Byron had been introduced by Moore to Hunt, when the latter was suffering imprisonment for the indiscretion of his pen, and by his civility had encouraged him, perhaps, into some degree of forgetfulness as to their respective situations in society.—Mr Hunt at no period of their acquaintance appears to have been sufficiently sensible that a man of positive rank has it always in his power, without giving anything like such a degree of offence as may be resented otherwise than by estrangement, to inflict mortification, and, in consequence, presumed too much to an equality with his Lordship—at least this is the impression his conduct made upon me, from the familiarity of his dedicatory epistle prefixed to Rimini to their riding out at Pisa together dressed alike—“We had blue frock-coats, white waistcoats and trousers, and velvet caps, à la Raphael, and cut a gallant figure.”  I do not discover on the part of Lord Byron, that his Lordship ever forgot his rank; nor was he a personage likely to do so; in saying, therefore, that Mr Hunt presumed upon his condescension, I judge entirely by his own statement of facts.  I am not undertaking a defence of his lordship, for the manner in which he acted towards Mr Hunt, because it appears to me to have been, in many respects, mean; but I do think there was an original error, a misconception of himself on the part of Mr Hunt, that drew down about him a degree of humiliation that he might, by more self-respect, have avoided.  However, I shall endeavour to give as correct a summary of the whole affair as the materials before me will justify.

The occasion of Hunt’s removal to Italy will be best explained by quoting the letter from his friend Shelley, by which he was induced to take that obviously imprudent step.

Pisa, Aug. 26, 1821.

“MY DEAREST FRIEND,—Since I last wrote to you, I have been on a visit to Lord Byron at Ravenna.  The result of this visit was a determination on his part to come and live at Pisa, and I have taken the finest palace on the Lung’ Arno for him.  But the material part of my visit consists in a message which he desires me to give you, and which I think ought to add to your determination—for such a one I hope you have formed—of restoring your shattered health and spirits by a migration to these ‘regions mild, of calm and serene air.’

“He proposes that you should come, and go shares with him and me in a periodical work to be conducted here, in which each of the contracting parties should publish all their original compositions, and share the profits.  He proposed it to Moore, but for some reason it was never brought to bear.  There can be no doubt that the profits of any scheme in which you and Lord Byron engage must, for various yet co-operating reasons, be very great.  As to myself, I am, for the present, only a sort of link between you and him, until you can know each other, and effectuate the arrangement; since (to intrust you with a secret, which for your sake I withhold from Lord Byron) nothing would induce me to share in the profits, and still less in the borrowed splendour of such a partnership.  You and he, in different manners, would be equal, and would bring in a different manner, but in the same proportion, equal stocks of reputation and success.  Do not let my frankness with you, nor my belief that you deserve it more than Lord Byron, have the effect of deterring you from assuming a station in modern literature, which the universal voice of my contemporaries forbids me either to stoop or aspire to.  I am, and I desire to be, nothing.

“I did not ask Lord Byron to assist me in sending a remittance for your journey; because there are men, however excellent, from whom we would never receive an obligation in the worldly sense of the word; and I am as jealous for my friend as for myself.  I, as you know, have it not; but I suppose that at last I shall make up an impudent face, and ask Horace Smith to add to the many obligations he has conferred on me.  I know I need only ask.” . . .

Now, before proceeding farther, it seems from this epistle, and there is no reason to question Shelley’s veracity, that Lord Byron was the projector of The Liberal; that Hunt’s political notoriety was mistaken for literary reputation, and that there was a sad lack of common sense in the whole scheme.


Mr Hunt arrives in ItalyMeeting with Lord ByronTumults in the HouseArrangements for Mr Hunt’s Family-Extent of his Obligations to Lord ByronTheir CopartneryMeanness of the whole Business

On receiving Mr Shelley’s letter, Mr Hunt prepared to avail himself of the invitation which he was the more easily enabled to do, as his friend, notwithstanding what he had intimated, borrowed two hundred pounds from Lord Byron, and remitted to him.  He reached Leghorn soon after his Lordship had taken up his temporary residence at Monte Nero.

The meeting with his Lordship was in so many respects remarkable, that the details of it cannot well be omitted.  The day was very hot; and when Hunt reached the house he found the hottest-looking habitation he had ever seen.  Not content with having a red wash over it, the red was the most unseasonable of all reds—a salmon-colour; but the greatest of all heats was within.

Lord Byron was grown so fat that he scarcely knew him; and was dressed in a loose nankeen jacket and white trousers, his neckcloth open, and his hair in thin ringlets about his throat; altogether presenting a very different aspect from the compact, energetic, and curly-headed person whom Hunt had known in England.

His Lordship took the stranger into an inner room, and introduced him to a young lady who was in a state of great agitation.  This was the Guiccioli; presently her brother also, in great agitation, entered, having his arm in a sling.  This scene and confusion had arisen from a quarrel among the servants, in which the young Count, having interfered, had been stabbed.  He was very angry, the Countess was more so, and would not listen to the comments of Lord Byron, who was for making light of the matter.  Indeed, it looked somewhat serious, for though the stab was not much, the inflicter threatened more, and was at that time revengefully keeping watch, with knotted brows, under the portico, with the avowed intention of assaulting the first person who issued forth.  He was a sinister-looking, meager caitiff, with a red cap—gaunt, ugly, and unshaven; his appearance altogether more squalid and miserable than Englishmen would conceive it possible to find in such an establishment.  An end, however, was put to the tragedy by the fellow throwing himself on a bench, and bursting into tears—wailing and asking pardon for his offence, and perfecting his penitence by requesting Lord Byron to kiss him in token of forgiveness.  In the end, however, he was dismissed; and it being arranged that Mr Hunt should move his family to apartments in the Lanfranchi palace at Pisa, that gentleman returned to Leghorn.

The account which Mr Hunt has given, in his memoir of Lord Byron, is evidently written under offended feeling; and, in consequence, though he does not appear to have been much indebted to the munificence of his Lordship, the tendency is to make his readers sensible that he was, if not ill used, disappointed.  The Casa Lanfranchi was a huge and gaunt building, capable, without inconvenience or intermixture, of accommodating several families.  It was, therefore, not a great favour in his Lordship, considering that he had invited Mr Hunt from England, to become a partner with him in a speculation purely commercial, to permit him to occupy the ground-floor or flat, as it would be called in Scotland.  The apartments being empty, furniture was necessary, and the plainest was provided; good of its kind and respectable, it yet could not have cost a great deal.  It was chosen by Mr Shelley, who intended to make a present of it to Mr Hunt; but when the apartments were fitted up, Lord Byron insisted upon paying the account, and to that extent Mr Hunt incurred a pecuniary obligation to his Lordship.  The two hundred pounds already mentioned was a debt to Mr Shelley, who borrowed the money from Lord Byron.

Soon after Mr Hunt’s family were settled in their new lodgings, Shelley returned to Leghorn, with the intention of taking a sea excursion—in the course of which he was lost: Lord Byron knowing how much Hunt was dependent on that gentleman, immediately offered him the command of his purse, and requested to be considered as standing in the place of Shelley, his particular friend.  This was both gentlemanly and generous, and the offer was accepted, but with feelings neither just nor gracious: “Stern necessity and a large family compelled me,” says Mr Hunt, “and during our residence at Pisa I had from him, or rather from his steward, to whom he always sent me for the money, and who doled it out to me as if my disgraces were being counted, the sum of seventy pounds.”

“This sum,” he adds, “together with the payment of our expenses when we accompanied him from Pisa to Genoa, and thirty pounds with which he enabled us subsequently to go from Genoa to Florence, was all the money I ever received from Lord Byron, exclusive of the two hundred pounds, which, in the first instance, he made a debt of Mr Shelley, by taking his bond.”—The whole extent of the pecuniary obligation appears certainly not to have exceeded five hundred pounds; no great sum—but little or great, the manner in which it was recollected reflects no credit either on the head or heart of the debtor.

Mr Hunt, in extenuation of the bitterness with which he has spoken on the subject, says, that “Lord Byron made no scruple of talking very freely of me and mine.”  It may, therefore, be possible, that Mr Hunt had cause for his resentment, and to feel the humiliation of being under obligations to a mean man; at the same time Lord Byron, on his side, may upon experience have found equal reason to repent of his connection with Mr Hunt.  And it is certain that each has sought to justify, both to himself and to the world, the rupture of a copartnery which ought never to have been formed.  But his Lordship’s conduct is the least justifiable.  He had allured Hunt to Italy with flattering hopes; he had a perfect knowledge of his hampered circumstances, and he was thoroughly aware that, until their speculation became productive, he must support him.  To the extent of about five hundred pounds he did so: a trifle, considering the glittering anticipations of their scheme.

Viewing their copartnery, however, as a mere commercial speculation, his Lordship’s advance could not be regarded as liberal, and no modification of the term munificence or patronage could be applied to it.  But, unless he had harassed Hunt for the repayment of the money, which does not appear to have been the case, nor could he morally, perhaps even legally, have done so, that gentleman had no cause to complain.  The joint adventure was a failure, and except a little repining on the part of the one for the loss of his advance, and of grudging on that of the other for the waste of his time, no sharper feeling ought to have arisen between them.  But vanity was mingled with their golden dreams.  Lord Byron mistook Hunt’s political notoriety for literary reputation, and Mr Hunt thought it was a fine thing to be chum and partner with so renowned a lord.  After all, however, the worst which can be said of it is, that formed in weakness it could produce only vexation.

But the dissolution of the vapour with which both parties were so intoxicated, and which led to their quarrel, might have occasioned only amusement to the world, had it not left an ignoble stigma on the character of Lord Byron, and given cause to every admirer of his genius to deplore, that he should have so forgotten his dignity and fame.

There is no disputing the fact, that his Lordship, in conceiving the plan of The Liberal, was actuated by sordid motives, and of the basest kind, inasmuch as it was intended that the popularity of the work should rest upon satire; or, in other words, on the ability to be displayed by it in the art of detraction.  Being disappointed in his hopes of profit, he shuffled out of the concern as meanly as any higgler could have done who had found himself in a profitless business with a disreputable partner.  There is no disguising this unvarnished truth; and though his friends did well in getting the connection ended as quickly as possible, they could not eradicate the original sin of the transaction, nor extinguish the consequences which it of necessity entailed.  Let me not, however, be misunderstood: my objection to the conduct of Byron does not lie against the wish to turn his extraordinary talents to profitable account, but to the mode in which he proposed to, and did, employ them.  Whether Mr Hunt was or was not a fit copartner for one of his Lordship’s rank and celebrity, I do not undertake to judge; but any individual was good enough for that vile prostitution of his genius, to which, in an unguarded hour, he submitted for money.  Indeed, it would be doing injustice to compare the motives of Mr Hunt in the business with those by which Lord Byron was infatuated.  He put nothing to hazard; happen what might, he could not be otherwise than a gainer; for if profit failed, it could not be denied that the “foremost” poet of all the age had discerned in him either the promise or the existence of merit, which he was desirous of associating with his own.  This advantage Mr Hunt did gain by the connection; and it is his own fault that he cannot be recollected as the associate of Byron, but only as having attempted to deface his monument.


Mr ShelleySketch of his LifeHis DeathThe Burning of his Body, and the Return of the Mourners

It has been my study in writing these sketches to introduce as few names as the nature of the work would admit of; but Lord Byron connected himself with persons who had claims to public consideration on account of their talents; and, without affectation, it is not easy to avoid taking notice of his intimacy with some of them, especially, if in the course of it any circumstance came to pass which was in itself remarkable, or likely to have produced an impression on his Lordship’s mind.  His friendship with Mr Shelley, mentioned in the preceding chapter, was an instance of this kind.

That unfortunate gentleman was undoubtedly a man of genius—full of ideal beauty and enthusiasm.  And yet there was some defect in his understanding by which he subjected himself to the accusation of atheism.  In his dispositions he is represented to have been ever calm and amiable; and but for his metaphysical errors and reveries, and a singular incapability of conceiving the existing state of things as it practically affects the nature and condition of man, to have possessed many of the gentlest qualities of humanity.  He highly admired the endowments of Lord Byron, and in return was esteemed by his Lordship; but even had there been neither sympathy nor friendship between them, his premature fate could not but have saddened Byron with no common sorrow.

Mr Shelley was some years younger than his noble friend; he was the eldest son of Sir Timothy Shelley, Bart., of Castle Goring, Sussex.  At the age of thirteen he was sent to Eton, where he rarely mixed in the common amusements of the other boys; but was of a shy, reserved disposition, fond of solitude, and made few friends.  He was not distinguished for his proficiency in the regular studies of the school; on the contrary, he neglected them for German and chemistry.  His abilities were superior, but deteriorated by eccentricity.  At the age of sixteen he was sent to the University of Oxford, where he soon distinguished himself by publishing a pamphlet, under the absurd and world-defying title of The Necessity of Atheism; for which he was expelled from the University.

The event proved fatal to his prospects in life; and the treatment he received from his family was too harsh to win him from error.  His father, however, in a short time relented, and he was received home; but he took so little trouble to conciliate the esteem of his friends, that he found the house uncomfortable, and left it.  He then went to London; where he eloped with a young lady to Gretna Green.  Their united ages amounted to thirty-two; and the match being deemed unsuitable to his rank and prospects, it so exasperated his father, that he broke off all communication with him.

After their marriage the young couple resided some time in Edinburgh.  They then passed over to Ireland, which being in a state of disturbance, Shelley took a part in politics, more reasonable than might have been expected.  He inculcated moderation.

About this tune he became devoted to the cultivation of his poetical talents; but his works were sullied with the erroneous inductions of an understanding which, inasmuch as he regarded all the existing world in the wrong, must be considered as having been either shattered or defective.

His rash marriage proved, of course, an unhappy one.  After the birth of two children, a separation, by mutual consent, took place, and Mrs Shelley committed suicide.

He then married a daughter of Mr Godwin, the author of Caleb Williams, and they resided for some time at Great Marlow, in Buckinghamshire, much respected for their charity.  In the meantime, his irreligious opinions had attracted public notice, and, in consequence of his unsatisfactory notions of the Deity, his children, probably at the instance of his father, were taken from him by a decree of the Lord Chancellor: an event which, with increasing pecuniary embarrassments, induced him to quit England, with the intention of never returning.

Being in Switzerland when Lord Byron, after his domestic tribulations, arrived at Geneva, they became acquainted.  He then crossed the Alps, and again at Venice renewed his friendship with his Lordship; he thence passed to Rome, where he resided some time; and after visiting Naples, fixed his permanent residence in Tuscany.  His acquirements were constantly augmenting, and he was without question an accomplished person.  He was, however, more of a metaphysician than a poet, though there are splendid specimens of poetical thought in his works.  As a man, he was objected to only on account of his speculative opinions; for he possessed many amiable qualities, was just in his intentions, and generous to excess.

When he had seen Mr Hunt established in the Casa Lanfranchi with Lord Byron at Pisa, Mr Shelley returned to Leghorn, for the purpose of taking a sea excursion; an amusement to which he was much attached.  During a violent storm the boat was swamped, and the party on board were all drowned.  Their bodies were, however, afterwards cast on shore; Mr Shelley’s was found near Via Reggio, and, being greatly decomposed, and unfit to be removed, it was determined to reduce the remains to ashes, that they might be carried to a place of sepulture.  Accordingly preparations were made for the burning.

Wood in abundance was found on the shore, consisting of old trees and the wreck of vessels: the spot itself was well suited for the ceremony.  The magnificent bay of Spezzia was on the right, and Leghorn on the left, at equal distances of about two-and-twenty miles.  The headlands project boldly far into the sea; in front lie several islands, and behind dark forests and the cliffy Apennines.  Nothing was omitted that could exalt and dignify the mournful rites with the associations of classic antiquity; frankincense and wine were not forgotten.  The weather was serene and beautiful, and the pacified ocean was silent, as the flame rose with extraordinary brightness.  Lord Byron was present; but he should himself have described the scene and what he felt.

These antique obsequies were undoubtedly affecting; but the return of the mourners from the burning is the most appalling orgia, without the horror of crime, of which I have ever heard.  When the duty was done, and the ashes collected, they dined and drank much together, and bursting from the calm mastery with which they had repressed their feelings during the solemnity, gave way to frantic exultation.  They were all drunk; they sang, they shouted, and their barouche was driven like a whirlwind through the forest.  I can conceive nothing descriptive of the demoniac revelry of that flight, but scraps of the dead man’s own song of Faust, Mephistophiles, and Ignis Fatuus, in alternate chorus.

The limits of the sphere of dream,
   The bounds of true and false are past;
Lead us on, thou wand’ring Gleam;
   Lead us onwards, far and fast,
To the wide, the desert waste.

But see how swift, advance and shift,
   Trees behind trees—row by row,
Now clift by clift, rocks bend and lift,
   Their frowning foreheads as we go;
The giant-snouted crags, ho! ho!
   How they snort, and how they blow.
Honour her to whom honour is due,
Old mother Baubo, honour to you.
An able sow with old Baubo upon her
Is worthy of glory and worthy of honour.

The way is wide, the way is long,
But what is that for a Bedlam throng?
Some on a ram, and some on a prong,
On poles and on broomsticks we flutter along.

Every trough will be boat enough,
With a rag for a sail, we can sweep through the sky.
Who flies not to-night, when means he to fly?


“The Two Foscari”“Werner”“The Deformed Transformed”“Don Juan”“The Liberal”Removes from Pisa to Genoa

I have never heard exactly where the tragedy of The Two Foscari was written: that it was imagined in Venice is probable.  The subject is, perhaps, not very fit for a drama, for it has no action; but it is rich in tragic materials, revenge and affection, and the composition is full of the peculiar stuff of the poet’s own mind.  The exulting sadness with which Jacopo Foscari looks in the first scene from the window, on the Adriatic, is Byron himself recalling his enjoyment of the sea.

      How many a time have I
Cloven with arm still lustier, heart more daring,
The wave all roughen’d: with a swimmer’s stroke
Flinging the billows back from my drench’d hair,
And laughing from my lip th’ audacious brine
Which kiss’d it like a wine-cup.

The whole passage, both prelude and remainder, glows with the delicious recollections of laying and revelling in the summer waves.  But the exile’s feeling is no less beautifully given and appropriate to the author’s condition, far more so, indeed, than to that of Jacopo Foscari.

      Had I gone forth
From my own land, like the old patriarchs, seeking
Another region with their flocks and herds;
Had I been cast out like the Jews from Zion,
Or like our fathers driven by Attila
From fertile Italy to barren islets,
I would have given some tears to my late country,
And many thoughts; but afterward address’d
Myself to those about me, to create
A new home and first state.

What follows is still more pathetic:

   Ay—we but hear
Of the survivors’ toil in their new lands,
Their numbers and success; but who can number
The hearts which broke in silence of that parting,
Or after their departure; of that malady {291a}
Which calls up green and native fields to view
From the rough deep with such identity
To the poor exile’s fever’d eye, that he
Can scarcely be restrained from treading them?
That melody {291b} which out of tones and tunes
Collects such pastime for the ling’ring sorrow
Of the sad mountaineer, when far away
From his snow-canopy of cliffs and clouds,
That he feeds on the sweet but poisonous thought
And dies.—You call this weakness!  It is strength,
I say—the parent of all honest feeling:
He who loves not his country can love nothing.


Obey her then, ’tis she that puts thee forth.


Ay, there it is.  ’Tis like a mother’s curse
Upon my soul—the mark is set upon me.
The exiles you speak of went forth by nations;
Their hands upheld each other by the way;
Their tents were pitch’d together—I’m alone—
         Ah, you never yet
Were far away from Venice—never saw
Her beautiful towers in the receding distance,
While every furrow of the vessel’s track
Seem’d ploughing deep into your heart; you never
Saw day go down upon your native spires
So calmly with its gold and crimson glory,
And after dreaming a disturbed vision
Of them and theirs, awoke and found them not.

All this speaks of the voluntary exile’s own regrets, and awakens sympathy for the anguish which pride concealed, but unable to repress, gave vent to in the imagined sufferings of one that was to him as Hecuba.

It was at Pisa that Werner, or The Inheritance, a tragedy, was written, or at least completed.  It is taken entirely from the German’s tale, Kruitzner, published many years before, by one of the Miss Lees, in their Canterbury Tales.  So far back as 1815, Byron began a drama upon the same subject, and nearly completed an act when he was interrupted.  “I have adopted,” he says himself, “the characters, plan, and even the language of many parts of this story”; an acknowledgment which exempts it from that kind of criticism to which his principal works are herein subjected.

But The Deformed Transformed, which was also written at Pisa, is, though confessedly an imitation of Goethe’s Faust, substantially an original work.  In the opinion of Mr Moore, it probably owes something to the author’s painful sensibility to the defect in his own foot; an accident which must, from the acuteness with which he felt it, have essentially contributed to enable him to comprehend and to express the envy of those afflicted with irremediable exceptions to the ordinary course of fortune, or who have been amerced by nature of their fair proportions.  But save only a part of the first scene, the sketch will not rank among the felicitous works of the poet.  It was intended to be a satire—probably, at least—but it is only a fragment—a failure.

Hitherto I have not noticed Don Juan otherwise than incidentally.  It was commenced in Venice, and afterward continued at intervals to the end of the sixteenth canto, until the author left Pisa, when it was not resumed, at least no more has been published.  Strong objections have been made to its moral tendency; but, in the opinion of many, it is the poet’s masterpiece, and undoubtedly it displays all the variety of his powers, combined with a quaint playfulness not found to an equal degree in any other of his works.  The serious and pathetic portions are exquisitely beautiful; the descriptive have all the distinctness of the best pictures in Childe Harold, and are, moreover, generally drawn from nature, while the satire is for the most part curiously associated and sparklingly witty.  The characters are sketched with amazing firmness and freedom, and though sometimes grotesque, are yet not often overcharged.  It is professedly an epic poem, but it may be more properly described as a poetical novel.  Nor can it be said to inculcate any particular moral, or to do more than unmantle the decorum of society.  Bold and buoyant throughout, it exhibits a free irreverent knowledge of the world, laughing or mocking as the thought serves, in the most unexpected antitheses to the proprieties of time, place, and circumstance.

The object of the poem is to describe the progress of a libertine through life, not an unprincipled prodigal, whose profligacy, growing with his growth, and strengthening with his strength, passes from voluptuous indulgence into the sordid sensuality of systematic debauchery, but a young gentleman, who, whirled by the vigour and vivacity of his animal spirits into a world of adventures, in which his stars are chiefly in fault for his liaisons, settles at last into an honourable lawgiver, a moral speaker on divorce bills, and possibly a subscriber to the Society for the Suppression of Vice.  The author has not completed his design, but such appears to have been the drift of it, affording ample opportunities to unveil the foibles and follies of all sorts of men—and women too.  It is generally supposed to contain much of the author’s own experience, but still, with all its riant knowledge of bowers and boudoirs, it is deficient as a true limning of the world, by showing man as if he were always ruled by one predominant appetite.

In the character of Donna Inez and Don José, it has been imagined that Lord Byron has sketched himself and his lady.  It may be so; and if it were, he had by that time got pretty well over the lachrymation of their parting.  It is no longer doubtful that the twenty-seventh stanza records a biographical fact, and the thirty-sixth his own feelings, when,

Poor fellow! he had many things to wound him,
Let’s own, since it can do no good on earth;
It was a trying moment that which found him
Standing alone beside his desolate hearth,
Where all his household gods lay shiver’d round him:
No choice was left his feelings or his pride,
Save death or Doctors’ Commons.

It has been already mentioned, that while the poet was at Dr Glennie’s academy at Dulwich, he read an account of a shipwreck, which has been supposed to have furnished some of the most striking incidents in the description of the disastrous voyage in the second canto in Don Juan.  I have not seen that work; but whatever Lord Byron may have found in it suitable to his purpose, he has undoubtedly made good use of his grandfather’s adventures.  The incident of the spaniel is related by the admiral.

In the licence of Don Juan, the author seems to have considered that his wonted accuracy might be dispensed with.

The description of Haidee applies to an Albanian, not a Greek girl.  The splendour of her father’s house is altogether preposterous; and the island has no resemblance to those of the Cyclades.  With the exception of Zea, his Lordship, however, did not visit them.  Some degree of error and unlike description, runs indeed through the whole of the still life around the portrait of Haidee.  The fête which Lambro discovers on his return, is, however, prettily described; and the dance is as perfect as true.

And farther on a group of Grecian girls,
The first and tallest her white kerchief waving,
Were strung together like a row of pearls,
Link’d hand in hand and dancing; each too having
Down her white neck long floating auburn curls.
Their leader sang, and bounded to her song,
With choral step and voice, the virgin throng.

The account of Lambro proceeding to the house is poetically imagined; and, in his character, may be traced a vivid likeness of Ali Pasha, and happy illustrative allusions to the adventures of that chief.

The fourth canto was written at Ravenna; it is so said within itself; and the description of Dante’s sepulchre there may be quoted for its truth, and the sweet modulation of the moral reflection interwoven with it.

I pass each day where Dante’s bones are laid;
A little cupola, more neat than solemn,
Protects his dust; but reverence here is paid
To the bard’s tomb and not the warrior’s column.
The time must come when both alike decay’d,
The chieftain’s trophy and the poet’s volume
Will sink where lie the songs and wars of earth,
Before Pelides’ death or Homer’s birth.

The fifth canto was also written in Ravenna.  But it is not my intention to analyze this eccentric and meandering poem; a composition which cannot be well estimated by extracts.  Without, therefore, dwelling at greater length on its variety and merits.  I would only observe that the general accuracy of the poet’s descriptions is verified by that of the scenes in which Juan is placed in England, a point the reader may determine for himself; while the vagueness of the parts derived from books, or sketched from fancy, as contrasted with them, justifies the opinion, that invention was not the most eminent faculty of Byron, either in scenes or in characters.  Of the demerits of the poem it is only necessary to remark, that it has been proscribed on account of its immorality; perhaps, however, there was more of prudery than of equity in the decision, at least it is liable to be so considered, so long as reprints are permitted of the older dramatists, with all their unpruned licentiousness.

But the wheels of Byron’s destiny were now hurrying.  Both in the conception and composition of Don Juan he evinced an increasing disregard of the world’s opinion; and the project of The Liberal was still more fatal to his reputation.  Not only were the invidious eyes of bigotry now eagerly fixed upon his conduct, but those of admiration were saddened and turned away from him.  His principles, which would have been more correctly designated as paradoxes, were objects of jealousy to the Tuscan Government; and it has been already seen that there was a disorderliness about the Casa Lanfranchi which attracted the attention of the police.  His situation in Pisa became, in consequence, irksome; and he resolved to remove to Genoa, an intention which he carried into effect about the end of September, 1822, at which period his thoughts began to gravitate towards Greece.  Having attained to the summit of his literary eminence, he grew ambitious of trying fortune in another field of adventure.

In all the migrations of Lord Byron there was ever something grotesque and desultory.  In moving from Ravenna to Pisa, his caravan consisted of seven servants, five carriages, nine horses, a monkey, a bulldog, and a mastiff, two cats, three peafowl, a harem of hens, books, saddles, and firearms, with a chaos of furniture nor was the exodus less fantastical; for in addition to all his own clanjamphry, he had Mr Hunt’s miscellaneous assemblage of chattels and chattery and little ones.


GenoaChange in the Manners of Lord ByronResidence at the Casa Saluzzi“The Liberal”Remarks on the Poet’s Works in general and on Hunt’s Strictures on his Character

Previously to their arrival at Genoa, a house had been taken for Lord Byron and the Guiccioli in Albaro, a pleasant village on a hill, in the vicinity of the city; it was the Casa Saluzzi, and I have been told, that during the time he resided there, he seemed to enjoy a more uniform and temperate gaiety than in any former period of his life.  There might have been less of sentiment in his felicity, than when he lived at Ravenna, as he seldom wrote poetry, but he appeared to some of his occasional visitors, who knew him in London, to have become more agreeable and manly.  I may add, at the risk of sarcasm for the vanity, that in proof of his mellowed temper towards me, besides the kind frankness with which he received my friend, as already mentioned, he sent me word, by the Earl of Blesinton, that he had read my novel of The Entail three times, and thought the old Leddy Grippy one of the most living-like heroines he had ever met with.  This was the more agreeable, as I had heard within the same week, that Sir Walter Scott had done and said nearly the same thing.  Half the compliment from two such men would be something to be proud of.

Lord Byron’s residence at Albaro was separate from that of Mr Hunt, and, in consequence, they were more rarely together than when domiciled under the same roof as at Pisa.  Indeed, by this time, if one may take Mr Hunt’s own account of the matter, they appear to have become pretty well tired of each other.  He had found out that a peer is, as a friend, but as a plebeian, and a great poet not always a high-minded man.  His Lordship had, on his part, discovered that something more than smartness or ingenuity is necessary to protect patronage from familiarity.  Perhaps intimate acquaintance had also tended to enable him to appreciate, with greater accuracy, the meretricious genius and artificial tastes of his copartner in The Liberal.  It is certain that he laughed at his affected admiration of landscapes, and considered his descriptions of scenery as drawn from pictures.

One day, as a friend of mine was conversing with his Lordship at the Casa Saluzzi, on the moral impressions of magnificent scenery, he happened to remark that he thought the view of the Alps in the evening, from Turin, the sublimest scene he had ever beheld.  “It is impossible,” said he, “at such a time, when all the west is golden and glowing behind them, to contemplate such vast masses of the Deity without being awed into rest, and forgetting such things as man and his follies.”—“Hunt,” said his Lordship, smiling, “has no perception of the sublimity of Alpine scenery; he calls a mountain a great impostor.”

In the mean time the materials for the first number of The Liberal had been transmitted to London, where the manuscript of The Vision of Judgment was already, and something of its quality known.  All his Lordship’s friends were disturbed at the idea of the publication.  They did not like the connection he had formed with Mr Shelley—they liked still less the copartnery with Mr Hunt.  With the justice or injustice of these dislikes I have nothing to do.  It is an historical fact that they existed, and became motives with those who deemed themselves the custodiers of his Lordship’s fame, to seek a dissolution of the association.

The first number of The Liberal, containing The Vision of Judgment, was received soon after the copartnery had established themselves at Genoa, accompanied with hopes and fears.  Much good could not be anticipated from a work which outraged the loyal and decorous sentiments of the nation towards the memory of George III.  To the second number Lord Byron contributed the Heaven and Earth, a sacred drama, which has been much misrepresented in consequence of its fraternity with Don Juan and The Vision of Judgment; for it contains no expression to which religion can object, nor breathes a thought at variance with the Genesis.  The history of literature affords no instance of a condemnation less justifiable, on the plea of profanity, than that of this Mystery.  That it abounds in literary blemishes, both of plan and language, and that there are harsh jangles and discords in the verse, is not disputed; but still it abounds in a grave patriarchal spirit, and is echo to the oracles of Adam and Melchisedek.  It may not be worthy of Lord Byron’s genius, but it does him no dishonour, and contains passages which accord with the solemn diapasons of ancient devotion.  The disgust which The Vision of Judgment had produced, rendered it easy to persuade the world that there was impiety in the Heaven and Earth, although, in point of fact, it may be described as hallowed with the Scriptural theology of Milton.  The objections to its literary defects were magnified into sins against worship and religion.

The Liberal stopped with the fourth number, I believe.  It disappointed not merely literary men in general, but even the most special admirers of the talents of the contributors.  The main defect of the work was a lack of knowledge.  Neither in style nor genius, nor even in general ability, was it wanting; but where it showed learning it was not of a kind in which the age took much interest.  Moreover, the manner and cast of thinking of all the writers in it were familiar to the public, and they were too few in number to variegate their pages with sufficient novelty.  But the main cause of the failure was the antipathy formed and fostered against it before it appeared.  It was cried down, and it must be acknowledged that it did not much deserve a better fate.

With The Liberal I shall close my observations on the works of Lord Byron.  They are too voluminous to be examined even in the brief and sketchy manner in which I have considered those which are deemed the principal.  Besides, they are not, like them, all characteristic of the author, though possessing great similarity in style and thought to one another.  Nor would such general criticism accord with the plan of this work.  Lord Byron was not always thinking of himself; like other authors, he sometimes wrote from imaginary circumstances; and often fancied both situations and feelings which had no reference to his own, nor to his experience.  But were the matter deserving of the research, I am persuaded, that with Mr Moore’s work, and the poet’s original journals, notes, and letters, innumerable additions might be made to the list of passages which the incidents of his own life dictated.

The abandonment of The Liberal closed his Lordship’s connection with Mr Hunt; their friendship, if such ever really existed, was ended long before.  It is to be regretted that Byron has not given some account of it himself; for the manner in which he is represented to have acted towards his unfortunate partner, renders another version of the tale desirable.  At the same time—and I am not one of those who are disposed to magnify the faults and infirmities of Byron—I fear there is no excess of truth in Hunt’s opinion of him.  I judge by an account which Lord Byron gave himself to a mutual friend, who did not, however, see the treatment in exactly the same light as that in which it appeared to me.  But, while I cannot regard his Lordship’s conduct as otherwise than unworthy, still the pains which Mr Hunt has taken to elaborate his character and dispositions into every modification of weakness, almost justifies us in thinking that he was treated according to his deserts.  Byron had at least the manners of a gentleman, and though not a judicious knowledge of the world, he yet possessed prudence enough not to be always unguarded.  Mr Hunt informs us, that when he joined his Lordship at Leghorn, his own health was impaired, and that his disease rather increased than diminished during his residence at Pisa and Genoa; to say nothing of the effect which the loss of his friend had on him, and the disappointment he suffered in The Liberal; some excuse may, therefore, be made for him.  In such a condition, misapprehensions were natural; jocularity might be mistaken for sarcasm, and caprice felt as insolence.


Lord Byron resolves to join the GreeksArrives at CephaloniaGreek FactionsSends Emissaries to the Grecian ChiefsWrites to London about the LoanTo Mavrocordato on the DissensionsEmbarks at lest for Missolonghi

While The Liberal was halting onward to its natural doom, the attention of Lord Byron was attracted towards the struggles of Greece.

In that country his genius was first effectually developed; his name was associated with many of its most romantic scenes, and the cause was popular with all the educated and refined of Europe.  He had formed besides a personal attachment to the land, and perhaps many of his most agreeable local associations were fixed amid the ruins of Greece, and in her desolated valleys.  The name is indeed alone calculated to awaken the noblest feelings of humanity.  The spirit of her poets, the wisdom and the heroism of her worthies; whatever is splendid in genius, unparalleled in art, glorious in arms, and wise in philosophy, is associated in their highest excellence with that beautiful region.

Had Lord Byron never been in Greece, he was, undoubtedly, one of those men whom the resurrection of her spirit was likeliest to interest; but he was not also one fitted to do her cause much service.  His innate indolence, his sedentary habits, and that all-engrossing consideration for himself, which, in every situation, marred his best impulses, were shackles upon the practice of the stern bravery in himself which he has so well expressed in his works.

It was expected when he sailed for Greece, nor was the expectation unreasonable with those who believe imagination and passion to be of the same element, that the enthusiasm which flamed so highly in his verse was the spirit of action, and would prompt him to undertake some great enterprise.  But he was only an artist; he could describe bold adventures and represent high feeling, as other gifted individuals give eloquence to canvas and activity to marble; but he did not possess the wisdom necessary for the instruction of councils.  I do, therefore, venture to say, that in embarking for Greece, he was not entirely influenced by such exoterical motives as the love of glory or the aspirations of heroism.  His laurels had for some time ceased to flourish, the sear and yellow, the mildew and decay, had fallen upon them, and he was aware that the bright round of his fame was ovalling from the full and showing the dim rough edge of waning.

He was, moreover, tired of the Guiccioli, and again afflicted with a desire for some new object with which to be in earnest.  The Greek cause seemed to offer this, and a better chance for distinction than any other pursuit in which he could then engage.  In the spring of 1823 he accordingly made preparations for transferring himself from Genoa to Greece, and opened a correspondence with the leaders of the insurrection, that the importance of his adhesion might be duly appreciated.

Greece, with a fair prospect of ultimate success, was at that time as distracted in her councils as ever.  Her arms had been victorious, but the ancient jealousy of the Greek mind was unmitigated.  The third campaign had commenced, and yet no regular government had been organized; the fiscal resources of the country were neglected: a wild energy against the Ottomans was all that the Greeks could depend on for continuing the war.

Lord Byron arrived in Cephalonia about the middle of August, 1823, where he fixed his residence for some time.  This was prudent, but it said nothing for that spirit of enterprise with which a man engaging in such a cause, in such a country, and with such a people, ought to have been actuated—especially after Marco Botzaris, one of the best and most distinguished of the chiefs, had earnestly urged him to join him at Missolonghi.  I fear that I may not be able to do justice to Byron’s part in the affairs of Greece; but I shall try.  He did not disappoint me, for he only acted as might have been expected, from his unsteady energies.  Many, however, of his other friends longed in vain to hear of that blaze of heroism, by which they anticipated that his appearance in the field would be distinguished.

Among his earliest proceedings was the equipment of forty Suliotes, or Albanians, whom he sent to Marco Botzaris to assist in the defence of Missolonghi.  An adventurer of more daring would have gone with them; and when the battle was over, in which Botzaris fell, he transmitted bandages and medicines, of which he had brought a large supply from Italy, and pecuniary succour, to the wounded.

This was considerate, but there was too much consideration in all that he did at this time, neither in unison with the impulses of his natural character, nor consistent with the heroic enthusiasm with which the admirers of his poetry imagined he was kindled.

In the mean time he had offered to advance one thousand dollars a month for the succour of Missolonghi and the troops with Marco Botzaris; but the government, instead of accepting the offer, intimated that they wished previously to confer with him, which he interpreted into a desire to direct the expenditure of the money to other purposes.  In his opinion his Lordship was probably not mistaken; but his own account of his feeling in the business does not tend to exalt the magnanimity of his attachment to the cause: “I will take care,” says he, “that it is for the public cause, otherwise I will not advance a para.  The opposition say they want to cajole me, and the party in power say the others wish to seduce me; so, between the two, I have a difficult part to play; however, I will have nothing to do with the factions, unless to reconcile them, if possible.”

It is difficult to conceive that Lord Byron, “the searcher of dark bosoms,” could have expressed himself so weakly and with such vanity; but the shadow of coming fate had already reached him, and his judgment was suffering in the blight that had fallen on his reputation.  To think of the possibility of reconciling two Greek factions, or any factions, implies a degree of ignorance of mankind, which, unless it had been given in his Lordship’s own writing, would not have been credible; and as to having nothing to do with the factions, for what purpose went he to Greece, unless it was to take a part with one of them?  I abstain from saying what I think of his hesitation in going to the government instead of sending two of his associated adventurers, Mr Trelawney and Mr Hamilton Brown, whom he despatched to collect intelligence as to the real state of things, substituting their judgment for his own.  When the Hercules, the ship he chartered to carry him to Greece, weighed anchor, he was committed with the Greeks, and everything short of unequivocal folly he was bound to have done with and for them.

His two emissaries or envoys proceeded to Tripolizza, where they found Colocotroni seated in the palace of the late vizier, Velhi Pasha, in great power; the court-yard and galleries filled with armed men in garrison, while there was no enemy at that time in the Morea able to come against them!  The Greek chieftains, like their classic predecessors, though embarked in the same adventure, were personal adversaries to each other.  Colocotroni spoke of his compeer Mavrocordato in the very language of Agamemnon, when he said that he had declared to him, unless he desisted from his intrigues, he would mount him on an ass and whip him out of the Morea; and that he had only been restrained from doing so by the representation of his friends, who thought it would injure their common cause.  Such was the spirit of the chiefs of the factions which Lord Byron thought it not impossible to reconcile!

At this time Missolonghi was in a critical state, being blockaded both by land and sea; and the report of Trelawney to Lord Byron concerning it, was calculated to rouse his Lordship to activity.  “There have been,” says he, “thirty battles fought and won by the late Marco Botzaris, and his gallant tribe of Suliotes, who are shut up in Missolonghi.  If it fall, Athens will be in danger, and thousands of throats cut: a few thousand dollars would provide ships to relieve it; a portion of this sum is raised, and I would coin my heart to save this key of Greece.”  Bravely said! but deserving of little attention.  The fate of Missolonghi could have had no visible effect on that of Athens.

The distance between these two places is more than a hundred miles, and Lord Byron was well acquainted with the local difficulties of the intervening country; still it was a point to which the eyes of the Greeks were all at that time directed; and Mavrocordato, then in correspondence with Lord Byron, and who was endeavouring to collect a fleet for the relief of the place, induced his Lordship to undertake to provide the money necessary for the equipment of the fleet, to the extent of twelve thousand pounds.  It was on this occasion his Lordship addressed a letter to the Greek chiefs, that deserves to be quoted, for the sagacity with which it suggests what may be the conduct of the great powers of Christendom.

“I must frankly confess,” says he, “that unless union and order are confirmed, all hopes of a loan will be in vain, and all the assistance which the Greeks could expect from abroad, an assistance which might be neither trifling nor worthless, will be suspended or destroyed; and what is worse, the great powers of Europe, of whom no one was an enemy to Greece, but seemed inclined to favour her in consenting to the establishment of an independent power, will be persuaded that the Greeks are unable to govern themselves, and will, perhaps, undertake to arrange your disorders in such a way, as to blast the brightest hopes you indulge, and that are indulged by your friends.”

In the meantime, Lord Byron was still at the villa he had hired in Cephalonia, where his conduct was rather that of a spectator than an ally.  Colonel Stanhope, in a letter of the 26th of November, describes him as having been there about three months, and spending his time exactly as every one acquainted with his habits must have expected.  “The first six weeks he spent on board a merchant-vessel, and seldom went on shore, except on business.  Since that period he has lived in a little villa in the country, in absolute retirement, Count Gamba (brother to the Guiccioli) being his only companion.”—Such, surely, was not exactly playing that part in the Greek cause which he had taught the world to look for.  It is true, that the accounts received there of the Greek affairs were not then favourable.  Everybody concurred in representing the executive government as devoid of public virtue, and actuated by avarice or personal ambition.  This intelligence was certainly not calculated to increase Lord Byron’s ardour, and may partly excuse the causes of his personal inactivity.  I say personal, because he had written to London to accelerate the attempt to raise a loan, and, at the suggestion of Colonel Stanhope, he addressed a letter to Mavrocordato respecting the inevitable consequences of their calamitous dissensions.  The object of this letter was to induce a reconciliation between the rival factions, or to throw the odium, of having thwarted the loan, upon the Executive, and thereby to degrade the members of it in the opinion of the people.  “I am very uneasy,” said his Lordship to the prince, “at hearing that the dissensions of Greece still continue; and at a moment when she might triumph over everything in general, as she has triumphed in part.  Greece is at present placed between three measures; either to reconquer her liberty, or to become a dependence of the sovereigns of Europe, or to return to a Turkish province; she has already the choice only of these three alternatives.  Civil war is but a road which leads to the two latter.  If she is desirous of the fate of Wallachia and the Crimea, she may obtain it to-morrow; if that of Italy, the day after.  But if she wishes to become truly Greece, free and independent, she must resolve to-day, or she will never again have the opportunity,” etc., etc.

Meanwhile, the Greek people became impatient for Lord Byron to come among them.  They looked forward to his arrival as to the coming of a Messiah.  Three boats were successively despatched for him and two of them returned, one after the other, without him.  On the 29th of December, 1823, however, his Lordship did at last embark.


Lord Byron’s Conversations on Religion with Dr Kennedy

While Lord Byron was hesitating, in the Island of Cephalonia, about proceeding to Greece, an occurrence took place, of which much has been made.  I allude to the acquaintance he formed with a Dr Kennedy, the publication of whose conversations with him on religion has attracted some degree of public attention.

This gentleman was originally destined for the Scottish bar, but afterwards became a student of medicine, and entering the medical department of the army, happened to be stationed in Cephalonia when Lord Byron arrived.  He appears to have been a man of kind dispositions, possessed of a better heart than judgment; in all places wherever his duty bore him he took a lively interest in the condition of the inhabitants, and was active, both in his official and private capacity, to improve it.  He had a taste for circulating pious tracts, and zealously co-operated in distributing copies of the Scriptures.

Firmly settled, himself, in a conviction of the truth of Christianity, he was eager to make converts to his views of the doctrines; but whether he was exactly the kind of apostle to achieve the conversion of Lord Byron may, perhaps, be doubted.  His sincerity and the disinterestedness of his endeavours would secure to him from his Lordship an indulgent and even patient hearing.  But I fear that without some more effectual calling, the arguments he appears to have employed were not likely to have made Lord Byron a proselyte.  His Lordship was so constituted in his mind, and by his temperament, that nothing short of regeneration could have made him a Christian, according to the gospel of Dr Kennedy.

Lord Byron had but loose feelings in religion—scarcely any.  His sensibility and a slight constitutional leaning towards superstition and omens showed that the sense of devotion was, however, alive and awake within him; but with him religion was a sentiment, and the convictions of the understanding had nothing whatever to do with his creed.  That he was deeply imbued with the essence of natural piety; that he often felt the power and being of a God thrilling in all his frame, and glowing in his bosom, I declare my thorough persuasion; and that he believed in some of the tenets and in the philosophy of Christianity, as they influence the spirit and conduct of men, I am as little disposed to doubt; especially if those portions of his works which only trend towards the subject, and which bear the impression of fervour and earnestness, may be admitted as evidence.  But he was not a member of any particular church, and, without a reconstruction of his mind and temperament, I venture to say, he could not have become such; not in consequence, as too many have represented, of any predilection, either of feeling or principle, against Christianity, but entirely owing to an organic peculiarity of mind.  He reasoned on every topic by instinct, rather than by induction or any process of logic; and could never be so convinced of the truth or falsehood of an abstract proposition, as to feel it affect the current of his actions.  He may have assented to arguments, without being sensible of their truth; merely because they were not objectionable to his feelings at the time.  And, in the same manner, he may have disputed even fair inferences, from admitted premises, if the state of his feelings happened to be indisposed to the subject.  I am persuaded, nevertheless, that to class him among absolute infidels were to do injustice to his memory, and that he has suffered uncharitably in the opinion of “the rigidly righteous,” who, because he had not attached himself to any particular sect or congregation, assumed that he was an adversary to religion.  To claim for him any credit, as a pious man, would be absurd; but to suppose he had not as deep an interest as other men “in his soul’s health” and welfare, was to impute to him a nature which cannot exist.  Being, altogether, a creature of impulses, he certainly could not be ever employed in doxologies, or engaged in the logomachy of churchmen; but he had the sentiment which at a tamer age might have made him more ecclesiastical.  There was as much truth as joke in the expression, when he wrote,

I am myself a moderate Presbyterian.

A mind constituted like that of Lord Byron, was little susceptible of impressions from the arguments of ordinary men.  It was necessary that Truth, in visiting him, should come arrayed in her solemnities, and with Awe and Reverence for her precursors.  Acknowledged superiority, yea, celebrated wisdom, were indispensable, to bespeak his sincere attention; and, without disparagement, it may be fairly said, these were not the attributes of Dr Kennedy.  On the contrary, there was a taint of cant about him—perhaps he only acted like those who have it—but still he was not exactly the dignitary to command unaffected deference from the shrewd and irreverent author of Don Juan.  The result verified what ought to have been the anticipation.  The doctor’s attempt to quicken Byron to a sense of grace failed; but his Lordship treated him with politeness.  The history of the affair will, however, be more interesting than any reflections which it is in my humble power to offer.

Some of Dr Kennedy’s acquaintances wished to hear him explain, in “a logical and demonstrative manner, the evidences and doctrines of Christianity”; and Lord Byron, hearing of the intended meeting, desired to be present, and was accordingly invited.  He attended; but was not present at several others which followed; he however intimated to the doctor, that he would be glad to converse with him, and the invitation was accepted.  “On religion,” says the doctor, “his Lordship was in general a hearer, proposing his difficulties and objections with more fairness than could have been expected from one under similar circumstances; and with so much candour, that they often seemed to be proposed more for the purpose of procuring information, or satisfactory answers, than from any other motive.”

At the first meeting, Dr Kennedy explained, becomingly, his views of the subject, and that he had read every work against Christianity which fell in his way.  It was this consideration which had induced him with such confidence to enter upon the discussion, knowing, on the one hand, the strength of Christianity, and, on the other, the weakness of its assailants.  “To show you, therefore,” said the doctor, “the grounds on which I demand your attention to what I may say on the nature and evidence of Christianity, I shall mention the names of some of the authors whose works I have read or consulted.”  When he had mentioned all these names, Lord Byron asked if he had read Barrow’s and Stillingfleet’s works?  The doctor replied, “I have seen them, but I have not read them.”

After a disquisition, chiefly relative to the history of Christianity, Dr Kennedy observed, “We must, on all occasions, but more particularly in fair and logical discussions with sceptics, or Deists, make a distinction between Christianity, as it is found in the Scriptures, and the errors, abuses, and imperfections of Christians themselves.”  To this his Lordship remarked, that he always had taken care to make that distinction, as he knew enough of Christianity to feel that it was both necessary and just.  The doctor remarked that the contrary was almost universally the case with those who doubted or denied the truth of Christianity, and proceeded to illustrate the statement.  He then read a summary of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity; but he had not proceeded far, when he observed signs of impatience in Lord Byron, who inquired if these sentiments accorded with the doctor’s? and being answered they did, and with those of all sound Christians, except in one or two minor things, his Lordship rejoined, that he did not wish to hear the opinions of others, whose writings he could read at any time, but only his own.  The doctor then read on till coming to the expression “grace of God.”  His Lordship inquired, “What do you mean by grace?”  “The primary and fundamental meaning of the word,” replied the doctor, somewhat surprised at his ignorance (I quote his own language), “is favour; though it varies according to the context to express that disposition of God which leads Him to grant a favour, the action of doing so, or the favour itself, or its effects on those who receive it.”  The arrogance of the use of the term ignorance here, requires no animadversion; but to suppose the greatest master, then in existence, of the English language, not acquainted with the meaning of the word, when he asked to be informed of the meaning attached to it by the individual making use of it, gives us some insight into the true character of the teacher.  The doctor closed the book, as he perceived that Lord Byron, as he says, had no distinct conception of many of the words used; and his Lordship subjoined, “What we want is, to be convinced that the Bible is true; because if we can believe that, it will follow as a matter of course, that we must believe all the doctrines it contains.”

The reply to this was to the effect, that the observation was partly just; but though the strongest evidence were produced of the Scriptures being the revealed will of God, they (his Lordship and others present) would still remain unbelievers, unless they knew and comprehended the doctrines contained in the Scriptures.  This was not conclusive, and Lord Byron replied, that they wished him to prove that the Scriptures were the Word of God, which the doctor, with more than apostolic simplicity, said that such was his object, but he should like to know what they deemed the clearest course to follow with that object in view.  After some farther conversation—“No other plan was proposed by them,” says the doctor; and he adds, “they had violated their engagement to hear me for twelve hours, for which I had stipulated.”  This may, perhaps, satisfy the reader as to the quality of the doctor’s understanding; but as the subject, in its bearing, touches Lord Byron’s character, I shall proceed a little farther into the marrow of the matter.

The inculcation being finished for that evening, Lord Byron said, that when he was young his mother brought him up strictly; and that he had access to a great many theological works, and remembered that he was particularly pleased with Barrow’s writings, and that he also went regularly to church.  He declared that he was not an infidel, who denied the Scriptures and wished to remain in unbelief; on the contrary, he was desirous to believe, as he experienced no happiness in having his religious opinions so unsteady and unfixed.  But he could not, he added, understand the Scriptures.  “Those people who conscientiously believe, I always have respected, and was always disposed to trust in them more than in others.”  A desultory conversation then ensued, respecting the language and translations of the Scriptures; in the course of which his Lordship remarked, that Scott, in his Commentary on the Bible, did not say that it was the devil who tempted Eve, nor does the Bible say a word about the devil.  It is only said that the serpent spoke, and that it was the subtlest of all the beasts of the field.—Will it be said that truth and reason were served by Dr Kennedy’s {319} answer?  “As beasts have not the faculty of speech, the just inference is, that the beast was only an instrument made use of by some invisible and superior being.  The Scriptures accordingly tell us, that the devil is the father of lies—the lie made by the serpent to Eve being the first we have on record; they call him also a murderer from the beginning, as he was the cause of the sentence of death which was pronounced against Adam and all his posterity; and still farther, to remove all doubt, and to identify him as the agent who used the serpent as an instrument, he is called the serpent—the devil.”

Lord Byron inquired what the doctor thought of the theory of Warburton, that the Jews had no distinct idea of a future state?  The doctor acknowledged that he had often seen, but had never read The Divine Legation.  And yet, he added, had Warburton read his Bible with more simplicity and attention, he would have enjoyed a more solid and honourable fame.

His Lordship then said, that one of the greatest difficulties he had met with was the existence of so much pure and unmixed evil in the world, and which he could not reconcile to the idea of a benevolent Creator.  The doctor set aside the question as to the origin of evil; but granted the extensive existence of evil in the universe; to remedy which, he said, the Gospel was proclaimed; and after some of the customary commonplaces, he ascribed much of the existing evil to the slackness of Christians in spreading the Gospel.

“Is there not,” said his Lordship, “some part of the New Testament where it appears that the disciples were struck with the state of physical evil, and made inquiries into the cause?”—“There are two passages,” was the reply.  The disciples inquired, when they saw a man who had been born blind, whether it was owing to his own or his parents’ sin?—and, after quoting the other instance, he concludes, that moral and physical evil in individuals are not always a judgment or punishment, but are intended to answer certain ends in the government of the world.

“Is there not,” said his Lordship, “a prophecy in the New Testament which it is alleged has not been fulfilled, although it was declared that the end of the world would come before the generation then existing should pass away?”—“The prediction,” said Dr Kennedy, “related to the destruction of Jerusalem, which certainly took place within the time assigned; though some of the expressions descriptive of the signs of that remarkable event are of such a nature as to appear to apply to Christ’s coming to judge the world at the end of time.”

His Lordship then asked, if the doctor thought that there had been fewer wars and persecutions, and less slaughter and misery, in the world since the introduction of Christianity than before?  The doctor answered this by observing, that since Christianity inculcates peace and good-will to all men, we must always separate pure religion from the abuses of which its professors are guilty.

Two other opinions were expressed by his Lordship in the conversation.  The doctor, in speaking of the sovereignty of God, had alluded to the similitude of the potter and his clay; for his Lordship said, if he were broken in pieces, he would say to the potter, “Why do you treat me thus?”  The other was an absurdity.  It was—if the whole world were going to hell, he would prefer going with them than go alone to heaven.

Such was the result of the first council of Cephalonia, if one may venture the allusion.  It is manifest, without saying much for Lord Byron’s ingenuity, that he was fully a match for the doctor, and that he was not unacquainted with the subject under discussion.

In the next conversation Lord Byron repeated, “I have no wish to reject Christianity without investigation; on the contrary, I am very desirous of believing.  But I do not see very much the need of a Saviour, nor the utility of prayer.  Devotion is the affection of the heart, and this I feel.  When I view the wonders of creation, I bow to the Majesty of Heaven; and when I feel the enjoyments of life, I feel grateful to God for having bestowed them upon me.”  Upon this some discussion arose, turning chiefly on the passage in the third chapter of John, “Unless a man is converted, he cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven”; which naturally led to an explanatory interlocutor, concerning new birth, regeneration, etc.; and thence diverged into the topics which had been the subject of the former conversation.

Among other things, Lord Byron inquired, “if the doctor really thought that the devil appeared before God, as is mentioned in the Book of Job, or is it only an allegorical or poetical mode of speaking?”—The reply was, “I believe it in the strict and literal meaning.”

“If it be received in a literal sense,” said his Lordship, “it gives me a much higher idea of the majesty, power, and wisdom of God, to believe that the devils themselves are at His nod, and are subject to His control, with as much ease as the elements of nature follow the respective laws which His will has assigned them.”

This notion was characteristic, and the poetical feeling in which it originated, when the doctor attempted to explain the doctrine of the Manicheans, was still more distinctly developed; for his Lordship again expressed how much the belief of the real appearance of Satan, to hear and obey the commands of God, added to his views of the grandeur and majesty of the Creator.

This second conversation was more desultory than the first; religion was brought in only incidentally, until his Lordship said, “I do not reject the doctrines of Christianity; I want only sufficient proofs of it, to take up the profession in earnest; and I do not believe myself to be so bad a Christian as many of them who preach against me with the greatest fury—many of whom I have never seen nor injured.”

“You have only to examine the causes which prevent you” (from being a true believer), said the doctor, “and you will find they are futile, and only tend to withhold you from the enjoyment of real happiness; which at present it is impossible you can find.”

“What, then, you think me in a very bad way?”

“I certainly think you are,” was the reply; “and this I say, not on my own authority, but on that of the Scriptures.—Your Lordship must be converted, and must be reformed, before anything can be said of you, except that you are bad, and in a bad way.”

“But,” replied his Lordship, “I already believe in predestination, which I know you believe, and in the depravity of the human heart in general, and of my own in particular; thus you see there are two points in which we agree.  I shall get at the others by-and-by.  You cannot expect me to become a perfect Christian at once.”

And farther his Lordship subjoined:

“Predestination appears to me just; from my own reflection and experience, I am influenced in a way which is incomprehensible, and am led to do things which I never intended; and if there is, as we all admit, a Supreme Ruler of the universe; and if, as you say, he has the actions of the devils, as well as of his own angels, completely at his command, then those influences, or those arrangements of circumstances, which lead us to do things against our will, or with ill-will, must be also under his directions.  But I have never entered into the depths of the subject; I have contented myself with believing that there is a predestination of events, and that predestination depends on the will of God.”

Dr Kennedy, in speaking of this second conversation, bears testimony to the respectfulness of his Lordship’s attention.  “There was nothing in his manner which approached to levity, or anything that indicated a wish to mock at religion; though, on the other hand, an able dissembler would have done and said all that he did, with such feelings and intentions.”

Subsequent to the second conversation, Dr Kennedy asked a gentleman who was intimate with Lord Byron, if he really thought his Lordship serious in his desire to hear religion explained.  “Has he exhibited any contempt or ridicule at what I have said?”  This gentleman assured him that he had never heard Byron allude to the subject in any way which could induce him to suspect that he was merely amusing himself.  “But, on the contrary, he always names you with respect.  I do not, however, think you have made much impression on him: he is just the same fellow as before.  He says, he does not know what religion you are of, for you neither adhere to creeds nor councils.”

It ought here to be noticed, as showing the general opinion entertained of his Lordship with respect to these polemical conversations, that the wits of the garrison made themselves merry with what was going on.  Some of them affected to believe, or did so, that Lord Byron’s wish to hear Dr Kennedy proceeded from a desire to have an accurate idea of the opinions and manners of the Methodists, in order that he might make Don Juan become one for a time, and so be enabled to paint their conduct with greater accuracy.

The third conversation took place soon after this comment had been made on Lord Byron’s conduct.  The doctor inquired if his Lordship had read any of the religious books he had sent.  “I have looked,” replied Byron, “into Boston’s Fourfold State, but I have not had time to read it far: I am afraid it is too deep for me.”

Although there was no systematic design, on the part of Lord Byron, to make Dr Kennedy subservient to any scheme of ridicule; yet it is evident that he was not so serious as the doctor so meritoriously desired.

“I have begun,” said his Lordship, “very fairly; I have given some of your tracts to Fletcher (his valet), who is a good sort of man, but still wants, like myself, some reformation; and I hope he will spread them among the other servants, who require it still more.  Bruno, the physician, and Gamba, are busy, reading some of the Italian tracts; and I hope it will have a good effect on them.  The former is rather too decided against it at present; and too much engaged with a spirit of enthusiasm for his own profession, to attend to other subjects; but we must have patience, and we shall see what has been the result.  I do not fail to read, from time to time, my Bible, though not, perhaps, so much as I should.”

“Have you begun to pray that you may understand it?”

“Not yet.  I have not arrived at that pitch of faith yet; but it may come by-and-by.  You are in too great a hurry.”

His Lordship then went to a side-table, on which a great number of books were ranged; and, taking hold of an octavo, gave it to the doctor.  It was Illustrations of the Moral Government of God, by E. Smith, M.D., London.  “The author,” said he, “proves that the punishment of hell is not eternal; it will have a termination.”

“The author,” replied the doctor, “is, I suppose, one of the Socinians; who, in a short time, will try to get rid of every doctrine in the Bible.  How did your Lordship get hold of this book?”

“They sent it out to me from England, to make a convert of me, I suppose.  The arguments are strong, drawn from the Bible itself; and by showing that a time will come when every intelligent creature shall be supremely happy, and eternally so, it expunges that shocking doctrine, that sin and misery will for ever exist under the government of God, Whose highest attribute is love and goodness.  To my present apprehension, it would be a most desirable thing, could it be proved that, alternately, all created beings were to be happy.  This would appear to be most consistent with the nature of God.—I cannot yield to your doctrine of the eternal duration of punishment.—This author’s opinion is more humane; and, I think, he supports it very strongly from Scripture.”

The fourth conversation was still more desultory, being carried on at table amid company; in the course of it Lord Byron, however, declared “that he was so much of a believer as to be of opinion that there is no contradiction in the Scriptures which cannot be reconciled by an attentive consideration and comparison of passages.”

It is needless to remark that Lord Byron, in the course of these conversations, was incapable of preserving a consistent seriousness.  The volatility of his humour was constantly leading him into playfulness, and he never lost an opportunity of making a pun or saying a quaint thing.  “Do you know,” said he to the doctor, “I am nearly reconciled to St Paul; for he says there is no difference between the Jews and the Greeks, and I am exactly of the same opinion, for the character of both is equally vile.”

Upon the whole it must be conceded, that whatever was the degree of Lord Byron’s dubiety as to points of faith and doctrine, he could not be accused of gross ignorance, nor described as animated by any hostile feeling against religion.

In this sketch of these conversations, I have restricted myself chiefly to those points which related to his Lordship’s own sentiments and belief.  It would have been inconsistent with the concise limits of this work to have detailed the controversies.  A fair summary of what Byron did not believe, what he was disposed to believe but had not satisfied himself with the evidence, and what he did believe, seemed to be the task I ought to undertake.  The result confirmed the statement of his Lordship’s religious condition, given in the preliminary remarks which, I ought to mention, were written before I looked into Dr Kennedy’s book; and the statement is not different from the estimate which the conversations warrant.  It is true that Lord Byron’s part in the conversations is not very characteristic; but the integrity of Dr Kennedy is a sufficient assurance that they are substantially correct.


Voyage to CephaloniaLetterCount Gamba’s AddressGrateful Feelings of the TurksEndeavours of Lord Byron to mitigate the Horrors of the War

Lord Byron, after leaving Argostoli, on the 29th December, 1823, the port of Cephalonia, sailed for Zante, where he took on board a quantity of specie.  Although the distance from Zante to Missolonghi is but a few hours’ sail, the voyage was yet not without adventures.  Missolonghi, as I have already mentioned, was then blockaded by the Turks, and some address was necessary, on that account, to effect an entrance, independent of the difficulties, at all times, of navigating the canals which intersect the shallows.  In the following letter to Colonel Stanhope, his Lordship gives an account of what took place.  It is very characteristic; I shall therefore quote it.

“Scrofer, or some such name, on board a
Cephaloniate Mistice
, Dec. 31, 1823.

“MY DEAR STANHOPE,—We are just arrived here—that is, part of my people and I, with some things, etc., and which it may be as well not to specify in a letter (which has a risk of being intercepted, perhaps); but Gamba and my horses, negro, steward, and the press, and all the committee things, also some eight thousand dollars of mine (but never mind, we have more left—do you understand?) are taken by the Turkish frigates; and my party and myself in another boat, have had a narrow escape, last night (being close under their stern, and hailed, but we would not answer, and bore away) as well as this morning.  Here we are, with sun and charming weather, within a pretty little port enough; but whether our Turkish friends may not send in their boats, and take us out (for we have no arms, except two carbines and some pistols, and, I suspect, not more than four fighting people on board), is another question; especially if we remain long here, since we are blocked out of Missolonghi by the direct entrance.  You had better send my friend George Drake, and a body of Suliotes, to escort us by land or by the canals, with all convenient speed.  Gamba and our Bombard are taken into Patras, I suppose, and we must take a turn at the Turks to get them out.  But where the devil is the fleet gone? the Greek, I mean—leaving us to get in without the least intimation to take heed that the Moslems were out again.  Make my respects to Mavrocordato, and say that I am here at his disposal.  I am uneasy at being here.  We are very well.—Yours, etc.

“N. B.

“P.S.  The Bombard was twelve miles out when taken; at least, so it appeared to us (if taken she actually be, for it is not certain), and we had to escape from another vessel that stood right in between us and the port.”

Colonel Stanhope on receiving this despatch, which was carried to him by two of Lord Byron’s servants, sent two armed boats, and a company of Suliotes, to escort his Lordship to Missolonghi, where he arrived on the 5th of January, and was received with military honours, and the most enthusiastic demonstrations of popular joy.  No mark of respect which the Greeks could think of was omitted.  The ships fired a salute as he passed.  Prince Mavrocordato, and all the authorities, with the troops and the population, met him on his landing, and accompanied him to the house which had been prepared for him, amid the shouts of the multitude and the discharge of cannon.

In the meantime, Count Gamba and his companions being taken before Yusuff Pasha at Patras, expected to share the fate of certain unfortunate prisoners whom that stern chief had sacrificed the preceding year at Prevesa; and their fears would probably have been realised but for the intrepid presence of mind displayed by the Count, who, assuming a haughty style, accused the Ottoman captain of the frigate of a breach of neutrality, in detaining a vessel under English colours, and concluded by telling the Pasha that he might expect the vengeance of the British Government in thus interrupting a nobleman who was merely on his travels, and bound to Calamata.  Perhaps, however, another circumstance had quite as much influence with the Pasha as this bravery.  In the master of the vessel he recognised a person who had saved his life in the Black Sea fifteen years before, and in consequence not only consented to the vessel’s release, but treated the whole of the passengers with the utmost attention, and even urged them to take a day’s shooting in the neighbourhood.

The first measure which his Lordship attempted after his arrival, was to mitigate the ferocity with which the war was carried on; one of the objects, as he explained to my friend who visited him at Genoa, which induced him to embark in the cause.  And it happened that the very day he reached the town was signalised by his rescuing a Turk who had fallen into the hands of some Greek sailors.  This man was clothed by his Lordship’s orders, and sent over to Patras; and soon after Count Gamba’s release, hearing that four other Turks were prisoners in Missolonghi, he requested that they might be placed in his hands, which was immediately granted.  These he also sent to Patras, with a letter addressed to Yusuff, expressing his hope that the prisoners thence-forward taken on both sides would be treated with humanity.  This act was followed by another equally praiseworthy.  A Greek cruiser having captured a Turkish boat, in which there was a number of passengers, chiefly women and children, they were also placed at the disposal of his Lordship, at his particular request.  Captain Parry has given a description of the scene between Lord Byron, and that multitude of mothers and children, too interesting to be omitted here.  “I was summoned to attend him, and receive his orders that everything should be done which might contribute to their comfort.  He was seated on a cushion at the upper end of the room, the women and children were standing before him with their eyes fixed steadily on him; and on his right hand was his interpreter, who was extracting from the women a narrative of their sufferings.  One of them, apparently about thirty years of age, possessing great vivacity, and whose manners and dress, though she was then dirty and disfigured, indicated that she was superior in rank and condition to her companions, was spokeswoman for the whole.  I admired the good order the others preserved, never interfering with the explanation, or interrupting the single speaker.  I also admired the rapid manner in which the interpreter explained everything they said, so as to make it almost appear that there was but one speaker.  After a short time it was evident that what Lord Byron was hearing affected his feelings; his countenance changed, his colour went and came, and I thought he was ready to weep.  But he had, on all occasions, a ready and peculiar knack in turning conversation from any disagreeable or unpleasant subject; and he had recourse to this expedient.  He rose up suddenly, and, turning round on his heel as was his wont, he said something to his interpreter, who immediately repeated it to the women.  All eyes were immediately fixed on me; and one of the party, a young and beautiful woman, spoke very warmly.  Lord Byron seemed satisfied, and said they might retire.  The women all slipped off their shoes in an instant, and, going up to his Lordship, each in succession, accompanied by their children, kissed his hand fervently, invoked, in the Turkish manner, a blessing, both on his hand and heart, and then quitted the room.  This was too much for Lord Byron, and he turned his face away to conceal his emotion”

A vessel was then hired, and the whole of them, to the number of twenty-four, were sent to Prevesa, provided with every requisite for their comfort during the passage.  These instances of humanity excited a sympathy among the Turks.  The Governor of Prevesa thanked his Lordship, and assured him that he would take care that equal attention should be in future paid to the Greeks, who might fall into his hands.


Proceedings at MissolonghiByron’s Suliote BrigadeTheir InsubordinationDifference with Colonel StanhopeImbecility of the Plans for the Independence of Greece

The arrival of Lord Byron at Missolonghi was not only hailed as a new era in the history of Greece, but as the beginning of a new cycle in his own extraordinary life.  His natural indolence disappeared; the Sardanapalian sloth was thrown off, and he took a station in the van of her efforts that bespoke heroic achievement.

After paying the fleet, which indeed had only come out in the expectation of receiving the arrears from the loan he had promised to Mavrocordato, he resolved to form a brigade of Suliotes.  Five hundred of the remains of Marco Botzaris’s gallant followers were accordingly taken into his pay.  “He burns with military ardour and chivalry,” says Colonel Stanhope, “and will proceed with the expedition to Lepanto.”  But the expedition was delayed by causes which ought to have been foreseen.

The Suliotes, conceiving that in his Lordship they had found a patron whose wealth and generosity were equally boundless, refused to quit Missolonghi till their arrears were paid.  Savage in the field, and untamable in the city, they became insubordinate and mercenary; nor was their conduct without excuse.  They had long defended the town with untired bravery; their families had been driven into it in the most destitute condition; and all the hopes that had led them to take up arms were still distant and prospective.  Besides, Mavrocordato, unlike the other Grecian captains, having no troops of his own, affected to regard these mercenaries as allies, and was indulgent to their excesses.  The town was overawed by their turbulence, conflicts took place in the street; riot and controversy everywhere prevailed, and blood was shed.

Lord Byron’s undisciplined spirit could ill brook delay; he partook of the general vehemence, and lost the power of discerning the comparative importance both of measures and things.  He was out of his element; confusion thickened around him; his irritability grew into passion; and there was the rush and haste, the oblivion and alarm of fatality in all he undertook and suggested.

One day, a party of German adventurers reached the fortress so demoralized by hardships, that few of them were fit for service.  It was intended to form a corps of artillery, and these men were destined for that branch of the service; but their condition was such, that Stanhope doubted the practicability of carrying the measure into effect at that time.  He had promised to contribute a hundred pounds to their equipment.  Byron attributed the Colonel’s objections to reluctance to pay the money; and threatened him if it were refused, with a punishment, new in Grecian war——to libel him in the Greek Chronicle! a newspaper which Stanhope had recently established.

It is, however, not easy to give a correct view of the state of affairs at that epoch in Missolonghi.  All parties seem to have been deplorably incompetent to understand the circumstances in which they were placed;—the condition of the Greeks, and that their exigencies required only physical and military means.  They talked of newspapers and types, and libels, as if the moral instruments of civil exhortation were adequate to wrench the independence of Greece from the bloody grasp of the Ottoman.  No wonder that Byron, accustomed to the management only of his own fancies, was fluttered amid the conflicts of such riot and controversy.

His situation at this period was indeed calculated to inspire pity.  Had he survived, it might, instead of awakening the derision of history, have supplied to himself materials for another canto of Don Juan.  I shall select one instance of his afflictions.

The captain of a British gun-brig came to Missolonghi to demand an equivalent for an Ionian boat, which had been taken in the act of going out of the Gulf of Lepanto, with provisions and arms.  The Greek fleet at that time blockading the port consisted of five brigs, and the Turks had fourteen vessels of war in the gulf.  The captain maintained that the British Government recognised no blockade which was not efficient, and that the efficiency depended on the numerical superiority of cannon.  On this principle he demanded restitution of the property.  Mavrocordato offered to submit the case to the decision of the British Government, but the captain would only give him four hours to consider.  The indemnification was granted.

Lord Byron conducted the business in behalf of the captain.  In the evening, conversing with Stanhope on the subject, the colonel said the affair was conducted in a bullying manner.  His Lordship started into a passion and contended that law, justice, and equity had nothing to do with politics.  “That may be,” replied Stanhope, “but I will never lend myself to injustice.”

His Lordship then began to attack Jeremy Bentham.  The colonel complained of such illiberality, as to make personal attacks on that gentleman before a friend who held him in high estimation.

“I only attack his public principles,” replied Byron, “which are mere theories, but dangerous,—injurious to Spain, and calculated to do great mischief in Greece.”

Stanhope vindicated Bentham, and said, “He possesses a truly British heart; but your Lordship, after professing liberal principles from boyhood, have, when called upon to act, proved yourself a Turk.”

“What proofs have you of this?

“Your conduct in endeavouring to crush the press by declaiming against it to Mavrocordato, and your general abuse of liberal principles.”

“If I had held up my finger,” retorted his Lordship, “I could have crushed the press.”

“With all this power,” said Stanhope, “which by the way you never possessed, you went to the prince, and poisoned his ear.”

Lord Byron then disclaimed against the liberals.  “What liberals?” cried Stanhope.  “Did you borrow your notions of freemen from the Italians?”

“No: from the Hunts, Cartwrights, and such.”

“And yet your Lordship presented Cartwright’s Reform Bill, and aided Hunt by praising his poetry and giving him the sale of your works.”

“You are worse than Wilson,” exclaimed Byron, “and should quit the army.”

“I am a mere soldier,” replied Stanhope, “but never will I abandon my principles.  Our principles are diametrically opposite, so let us avoid the subject.  If Lord Byron acts up to his professions, he will be the greatest, if not, the meanest of mankind.”

“My character,” said his Lordship, “I hope, does not depend on your assertions.”

“No: your genius has immortalized you.  The worst will not deprive you of fame.”

Lord Byron then rejoined, “Well; you shall see: judge of me by my acts.”  And, bidding the colonel good night, who took up the light to conduct him to the passage, he added, “What! hold up a light to a Turk!”

Such were the Franklins, the Washingtons, and the Hamiltons who undertook the regeneration of Greece.


Lord Byron appointed to the command of three thousand Men to besiege LepantoThe Siege abandoned for a BlockadeAdvanced Guard ordered to proceedLord Byron’s first IllnessA RiotHe is urged to leave GreeceThe Expedition against Lepanto abandonedByron dejectedA wild diplomatic Scheme

Three days after the conversation related in the preceding chapter, Byron was officially placed in the command of about three thousand men, destined for the attack on Lepanto; but the Suliotes remained refractory, and refused to quit their quarters; his Lordship, however, employed an argument which proved effectual.  He told them that if they did not obey his commands, he would discharge them from his service.

But the impediments were not to be surmounted; in less than a week it was formally reported to Byron that Missolonghi could not furnish the means of undertaking the siege of Lepanto, upon which his Lordship proposed that Lepanto should be only blockaded by two thousand men.  Before any actual step was, however, taken, two spies came in with a report that the Albanians in garrison at Lepanto had seized the citadel, and were determined to surrender it to his Lordship.  Still the expedition lingered; at last, on the 14th of February, six weeks after Byron’s arrival at Missolonghi, it was determined that an advanced guard of three hundred soldiers, under the command of Count Gamba, should march for Lepanto, and that Lord Byron, with the main body, should follow.  The Suliotes were, however, still exorbitant, calling for fresh contributions for themselves and their families.  His troubles were increasing, and every new rush of the angry tide rose nearer and nearer his heart; still his fortitude enabled him to preserve an outward show of equanimity.  But, on the very day after the determination had been adopted, to send forward the advanced guard, his constitution gave way.

He was sitting in Colonel Stanhope’s room, talking jestingly, according to his wonted manner, with Captain Parry, when his eyes and forehead occasionally discovered that he was agitated by strong feelings.  On a sudden he complained of a weakness in one of his legs; he rose, but finding himself unable to walk, called for assistance; he then fell into a violent nervous convulsion, and was placed upon a bed: while the fit lasted, his face was hideously distorted; but in the course of a few minutes the convulsion ceased, and he began to recover his senses: his speech returned, and he soon rose, apparently well.  During the struggle his strength was preternaturally augmented, and when it was over, he behaved with his usual firmness.  “I conceive,” says Colonel Stanhope, “that this fit was occasioned by over-excitement.  The mind of Byron is like a volcano; it is full of fire, wrath, and combustibles, and when this matter comes to be strongly agitated, the explosion is dreadful.  With respect to the causes which produced the excess of feeling, they are beyond my reach, except one great cause, the provoking conduct of the Suliotes.”

A few days after this distressing incident, a new occurrence arose, which materially disturbed the tranquillity of Byron.  A Suliote, accompanied by the son, a little boy, of Marco Botzaris, with another man, walked into the Seraglio, a kind of citadel, which had been used as a barrack for the Suliotes, and out of which they had been ejected with difficulty, when it was required for the reception of stores and the establishment of a laboratory.  The sentinel ordered them back, but the Suliote advanced.  The sergeant of the guard, a German, pushed him back.  The Suliote struck the sergeant; they closed and struggled.  The Suliote drew his pistol; the German wrenched it from him, and emptied the pan.  At this moment a Swedish adventurer, Captain Sass, seeing the quarrel, ordered the Suliote to be taken to the guard-room.  The Suliote would have departed, but the German still held him.  The Swede drew his sabre; the Suliote his other pistol.  The Swede struck him with the flat of his sword; the Suliote unsheathed his ataghan, and nearly cut off the left arm of his antagonist, and then shot him through the head.  The other Suliotes would not deliver up their comrade, for he was celebrated among them for distinguished bravery.  The workmen in the laboratory refused to work: they required to be sent home to England, declaring, they had come out to labour peaceably, and not to be exposed to assassination.  These untoward occurrences deeply vexed Byron, and there was no mind of sufficient energy with him to control the increasing disorders.  But, though convinced, as indeed he had been persuaded from the beginning in his own mind, that he could not render any assistance to the cause beyond mitigating the ferocious spirit in which the war was conducted, his pride and honour would not allow him to quit Greece.

In a letter written soon after his first attack, he says, “I am a good deal better, though of course weakly.  The leeches took too much blood from my temples the day after, and there was some difficulty in stopping it; but I have been up daily, and out in boats or on horseback.  To-day I have taken a warm bath, and live as temperately as can well be, without any liquid but water, and without any animal food”; then adverting to the turbulences of the Suliotes, he adds, “but I still hope better things, and will stand by the cause as long as my health and circumstances will permit me to be supposed useful.”  Subsequently, when pressed to leave the marshy and deleterious air of Missolonghi, he replied, still more forcibly, “I cannot quit Greece while there is a chance of my being of (even supposed) utility.  There is a stake worth millions such as I am, and while I can stand at all I must stand by the cause.  While I say this, I am aware of the difficulties, and dissensions, and defects of the Greeks themselves; but allowance must be made for them by all reasonable people.”

After this attack of epilepsy Lord Byron because disinclined to pursue his scheme against Lepanto.  Indeed, it may be said that in his circumstances it was impracticable; for although the Suliotes repented of their insubordination, they yet had an objection to the service, and said “they would not fight against stone walls.”  All thought of the expedition was in consequence abandoned, and the destinies of poor Byron were hastening to their consummation.  He began to complain!

In speaking to Parry one day of the Greek Committee in London, he said, “I have been grossly ill-treated by the Committee.  In Italy Mr Blaquiere, their agent, informed me that every requisite supply would be forwarded with all despatch.  I was disposed to come to Greece, but I hastened my departure in consequence of earnest solicitations.  No time was to be lost, I was told, and Mr Blaquiere, instead of waiting on me at his return from Greece, left a paltry note, which gave me no information whatever.  If ever I meet with him, I shall not fail to mention my surprise at his conduct; but it has been all of a piece.  I wish the acting Committee had had some of the trouble which has fallen on me since my arrival here: they would have been more prompt in their proceedings, and would have known better what the country stood in need of.  They would not have delayed the supplies a day nor have sent out German officers, poor fellows, to starve at Missolonghi, but for my assistance.  I am a plain man, and cannot comprehend the use of printing-presses to a people who do not read.  Here the Committee have sent supplies of maps.  I suppose that I may teach the young mountaineers geography.  Here are bugle-horns without bugle-men, and it is a chance if we can find anybody in Greece to blow them.  Books are sent to people who want guns; they ask for swords, and the Committee give them the lever of a printing-press.

“My future intentions,” continued his Lordship, “as to Greece, may be explained in a few words.  I will remain here until she is secure against the Turks, or till she has fallen under their power.  All my income shall be spent in her service; but, unless driven by some great necessity, I will not touch a farthing of the sum intended for my sister’s children.  Whatever I can accomplish with my income, and my personal exertions, shall be cheerfully done.  When Greece is secure against external enemies, I will leave the Greeks to settle their government as they like.  One service more, and an eminent service it will be, I think I may perform for them.  You, Parry, shall have a schooner built for me, or I will buy a vessel; the Greeks shall invest me with the character of their ambassador, or agent: I will go to the United States, and procure that free and enlightened government to set the example of recognising the federation of Greece as an independent state.  This done, England must follow the example, and then the fate of Greece will be permanently fixed, and she will enter into all her rights as a member of the great commonwealth of Christian Europe.”

This intention will, to all who have ever looked at the effects of fortune on individuals, sufficiently show that Byron’s part in the world was nearly done.  Had he lived, and recovered health, it might have proved that he was then only in another lunation: his first was when he passed from poesy to heroism.  But as it was, it has only served to show that his mind had suffered by the decadency of his circumstances, and how much the idea of self-exaltation weakly entered into all his plans.  The business was secondary to the style in which it should be performed.  Building a vessel! why think of the conveyance at all? as if the means of going to America were so scarce that there might be difficulty in finding them.  But his mind was passing from him.  The intention was unsound—a fantasy—a dream of bravery in old age—begotten of the erroneous supposition that the cabinets of Christendom would remain unconcerned spectators of the triumph of the Greeks, or even of any very long procrastination of their struggle.


The last Illness and Death of Lord ByronHis last Poem

Although in common parlance it may be said, that after the attack of epilepsy Lord Byron’s general health did not appear to have been essentially impaired, the appearance was fallacious; his constitution had received a vital shock, and the exciting causes, vexation and confusion, continued to exasperate his irritation.

On the 1st of March he complained of frequent vertigoes, which made him feel as though he were intoxicated; but no effectual means were taken to remove these portentous symptoms; and he regularly enjoyed his daily exercise, sometimes in boats, but oftener on horseback.  His physician thought him convalescent; his mind, however, was in constant excitement; it rested not even during sleep.

On the 9th of April, while sailing, he was overtaken by the rain, and got very wet: on his return home, he changed the whole of his dress; but he had been too long in his wet clothes, and the stamina of his constitution being shaken could not withstand the effects.  In little more than two hours he was seized with rigors, fever, and rheumatic pains.  During the night, however, he slept in his accustomed manner, but in the morning he complained of pains and headache; still this did not prevent him from going out on horseback in the afternoon—it was for the last time.

On returning home, he observed to one of the servants that the saddle was not perfectly dry, from having been so wet the day before, and that he thought it had made him worse.  He soon after became affected with almost constant shivering; sudorific medicines were administered, and blood-letting proposed; but though he took the drugs, he objected to the bleeding.  Another physician was in consequence called in to see if the rheumatic fever could be appeased without the loss of blood.  This doctor approved of the medicines prescribed, and was not opposed to the opinion that bleeding was necessary, but said it might be deferred till the next day.

On the 11th he seemed rather better, but the medicines had produced no effect.

On the 12th he was confined to bed with fever, and his illness appeared to be increasing; he was very low, and complained of not having had any sleep during the night; but the medical gentlemen saw no cause for alarm.  Dr Bruno, his own physician, again proposed bleeding; the stranger still, however, thought it might be deferred, and Byron himself was opposed to it.  “You will die,” said Dr Bruno, “if you do not allow yourself to be bled.”  “You wish to get the reputation of curing my disease,” replied his Lordship, “that is why you tell me it is so serious; but I will not permit you to bleed me.”

On the 13th he sat up for some time, after a sleepless night, and still complained of pain in his bones and head.

On the 14th he also left his bed.  The fever was less, but the debility greater, and the pain in his head was undiminished.  His valet became alarmed, and, doubtful of the skill of the doctors around him, entreated permission to send to Zante for an English physician of greater reputation.  His Lordship desired him to consult the others, which he did, and they told him there was no occasion to call in any person, as they hoped all would be well in a few days.

His Lordship now began to doubt if his disease was understood, and remarked repeatedly in the course of this day, that he was sure the doctors did not understand it.  “Then, my Lord,” said Fletcher, his valet, “have other advice.”  “They tell me,” rejoined his Lordship, “that it is only a common cold, which you know I have had a thousand times.”

“I am sure you never had one of so serious a nature.”

“I think I never had.”

Fletcher then went again to the physicians, and repeated his solicitations that the doctor in Zante might be sent for; but was again assured that his master would be better in two or three days.

At length, the doctor who had too easily consented to the postponement of the bleeding, seeing the prognostications of Dr Bruno more and more confirmed, urged the necessity of bleeding, and of no longer delay.  This convinced Byron, who was himself greatly averse to the operation, that they did not understand his case.

On the 15th his Lordship felt the pains abated, insomuch that he was able to transact some business.

On the 16th he wrote a letter, but towards the evening he became worse, and a pound of blood was taken from him.  Still the disease was making progress, but Dr Bruno did not yet seem much alarmed; on the contrary, he thought were more blood removed his recovery was certain.  Fletcher immediately told his master, urging him to comply with the doctor’s wishes.  “I fear,” said his Lordship, “they know nothing about my disorder, but”—and he stretched out his arm—“here, take my arm and do whatever you like.”

On the 17th his countenance was changed; during the night he had become weaker, and a slight degree of delirium, in which he raved of fighting, had come on.  In the course of the day he was bled twice; in the morning, and at two in the afternoon.  The bleeding, on both occasions, was followed by fainting fits.  On this day he said to Fletcher, “I cannot sleep, and you well know I have not been able to sleep for more than a week.  I know that a man can only be a certain time without sleep, and then he must go mad, without anyone being able to save him; and I would ten times sooner shoot myself than be mad, for I am not afraid of dying—I am more fit to die than people think.”

On the 18th his Lordship first began to dread that his fate was inevitable.  “I fear,” said he to Fletcher, “you and Tita will be ill by sitting up constantly, night and day”; and he appeared much dissatisfied with his medical treatment.  Fletcher again entreated permission to send for Dr Thomas, at Zante: “Do so, but be quick,” said his Lordship, “I am sorry I did not let you do so before, as I am sure they have mistaken my disease; write yourself, for I know they would not like to see other doctors here.”

Not a moment was lost in executing the order, and on Fletcher informing the doctors what he had done, they said it was right, as they now began to be afraid themselves.  “Have you sent?” said his Lordship, when Fletcher returned to him.—“I have, my Lord.”

“You have done well, for I should like to know what is the matter with me.”

From that time his Lordship grew every hour weaker and weaker; and he had occasional flights of delirium.  In the intervals he was, however, quite self-possessed, and said to Fletcher, “I now begin to think I am seriously ill; and in case I should be taken off suddenly, I wish to give you several directions, which I hope you will be particular in seeing executed.”  Fletcher in reply expressed his hope that he would live many years, and execute them himself.  “No, it is now nearly over; I must tell you all without losing a moment.”

“Shall I go, my Lord, and fetch pen, ink, and paper.

“Oh, my God! no, you will lose too much time, and I have it not to spare, for my time is now short.  Now pay attention—you will be provided for.”

“I beseech you, my Lord, to proceed with things of more consequence.”

His Lordship then added,

“Oh, my poor dear child!—my dear Ada!—My God! could I have but seen her—give her my blessing—and my dear sister Augusta, and her children—and you will go to Lady Byron and say—tell her everything—you are friends with her.”

He appeared to be greatly affected at this moment.  His voice failed, and only words could be caught at intervals; but he kept muttering something very seriously for some time, and after raising his voice, said,

“Fletcher, now if you do not execute every order which I have given you, I will torment you hereafter, if possible.”

This little speech is the last characteristic expression which escaped from the dying man.  He knew Fletcher’s superstitious tendency, and it cannot be questioned that the threat was the last feeble flash of his prankfulness.  The faithful valet replied in consternation that he had not understood one word of what his Lordship had been saying.

“Oh! my God!” was the reply, “then all is lost, for it is now too late!  Can it be possible you have not understood me!”

“No, my Lord; but I pray you to try and inform me once more.”

“How can I? it is now too late, and all is over.”

“Not our will, but God’s be done,” said Fletcher, and his Lordship made another effort, saying,

“Yes, not mine be done—but I will try”—and he made several attempts to speak, but could only repeat two or three words at a time; such as,

“My wife! my child—my sister—you know all—you must say all—you know my wishes”——The rest was unintelligible.

A consultation with three other doctors, in addition to the two physicians in regular attendance, was now held; and they appeared to think the disease was changing from inflammatory diathesis to languid, and ordered stimulants to be administered.  Dr Bruno opposed this with the greatest warmth; and pointed out that the symptoms were those, not of an alteration in the disease, but of a fever flying to the brain, which was violently attacked by it; and, that the stimulants they proposed would kill more speedily than the disease itself.  While, on the other hand, by copious bleeding, and the medicines that had been taken before, he might still be saved.  The other physicians, however, were of a different opinion; and then Dr Bruno declared he would risk no farther responsibility.  Peruvian bark and wine were then administered.  After taking these stimulants, his Lordship expressed a wish to sleep.  His last words were, “I must sleep now”; and he composed himself accordingly, but never awoke again.

For four-and-twenty hours he continued in a state of lethargy, with the rattles occasionally in his throat.  At six o’clock in the morning of the 19th, Fletcher, who was watching by his bed-side, saw him open his eyes and then shut them, apparently without pain or moving hand or foot.  “My God!” exclaimed the faithful valet, “I fear his Lordship is gone.”  The doctors felt his pulse—it was so.

After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well.

But the fittest dirge is his own last lay, written on the day he completed his thirty-sixth year, soon after his arrival at Missolonghi, when his hopes of obtaining distinction in the Greek cause were, perhaps, brightest; and yet it breathes of dejection almost to boding.

’Tis time this heart should be unmoved
   Since others it has ceased to move,
Yet though I cannot be beloved
      Still let me love.

My days are in the yellow leaf,
   The flowers and fruits of love are gone,
The worm, the canker, and the grief
      Are mine alone.

The fire that in my bosom preys
   Is like to some volcanic isle,
No torch is kindled at its blaze—
      A funeral pile.

The hope, the fears, the jealous care,
   Th’ exalted portion of the pain,
And power of love I cannot share,
      But wear the chain.

But ’tis not here—it is not here—
   Such thoughts should shake my soul; nor now
Where glory seals the hero’s bier,
      Or binds his brow.

The sword, the banner, and the field,
   Glory and Greece around us see;
The Spartan borne upon his shield
      Was not more free.

Awake! not Greece—she is awake—
   Awake my spirit! think through whom
My life-blood tastes its parent lake,
      And then strike home!

I tread reviving passions down,
   Unworthy manhood!  Unto thee
Indifferent should the smile or frown
      Of beauty be.

If thou regrett’st thy youth, why live?
   The land of honourable death
Is here, up to the field and give
      Away thy breath.

Seek out—less often sought than found—
   A soldier’s grave—for thee the best
Then look around, and choose thy ground,
      And take thy rest.


The funeral Preparations and final Obsequies

The death of Lord Byron was felt by all Greece as a national misfortune.  From the moment it was known that fears were entertained for his life, the progress of the disease was watched with the deepest anxiety and sorrow.  On Easter Sunday, the day on which he expired, thousands of the inhabitants of Missolonghi had assembled on the spacious plain on the outside of the city, according to an ancient custom, to exchange the salutations of the morning; but on this occasion it was remarked, that instead of the wonted congratulations, “Christ is risen,” they inquired first, “How is Lord Byron?”

On the event being made known, the Provisional Government assembled, and a proclamation, of which the following is a translation, was issued

Provisional Government of Western Greece.

“The day of festivity and rejoicing is turned into one of sorrow and morning.

“The Lord Noel Byron departed this life at eleven {354} o’clock last night, after an illness of ten days.  His death was caused by an inflammatory fever.  Such was the effect of his Lordship’s illness on the public mind, that all classes had forgotten their usual recreations of Easter, even before the afflicting event was apprehended.

“The loss of this illustrious individual is undoubtedly to be deplored by all Greece; but it must be more especially a subject of lamentation at Missolonghi, where his generosity has been so conspicuously displayed, and of which he had become a citizen, with the ulterior determination of participating in all the dangers of the war.

“Everybody is acquainted with the beneficent acts of his Lordship, and none can cease to hail his name as that of a real benefactor.

“Until, therefore, the final determination of the national Government be known, and by virtue of the powers with which it has been pleased to invest me, I hereby decree:

“1st.  To-morrow morning, at daylight, thirty-seven minute-guns shall be fired from the grand battery, being the number which corresponds with the age of the illustrious deceased.

“2nd.  All the public offices, even to the tribunals, are to remain closed for three successive days.

“3rd.  All the shops, except those in which provisions or medicines are sold, will also be shut; and it is strictly enjoined that every species of public amusement and other demonstrations of festivity at Easter may be suspended.

“4th.  A general mourning will be observed for twenty-one days.

“5th.  Prayers and a funeral service are to be offered up in all the churches.


“Given at Missolonghi, this 19th of April, 1824.”

The funeral oration was written and delivered on the occasion, by Spiridion Tricoupi, and ordered by the government to be published.  No token of respect that reverence could suggest, or custom and religion sanction, was omitted by the public authorities, nor by the people.

Lord Byron having omitted to give directions for the disposal of his body, some difficulty arose about fixing the place of interment.  But after being embalmed it was sent, on the 2nd of May, to Zante, where it was met by Lord Sidney Osborne, a relation of Lord Byron, by marriage—the secretary of the senate at Corfu.

It was the wish of Lord Sidney Osborne, and others, that the interment should be in Zante; but the English opposed the proposition in the most decided manner.  It was then suggested that it should be conveyed to Athens, and deposited in the temple of Theseus, or in the Parthenon—Ulysses Odysseus, the Governor of Athens, having sent an express to Missolonghi, to solicit the remains for that city; but, before it arrived, they were already in Zante, and a vessel engaged to carry them to London, in the expectation that they would be deposited in Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s.

On the 25th of May, the Florida left Zante with the body, which Colonel Stanhope accompanied; and on the 29th of June it reached the Downs.  After the ship was cleared from quarantine, Mr Hobhouse, with his Lordship’s solicitor, received it from Colonel Stanhope, and, by their directions it was removed to the house of Sir E. Knatchbull, in Westminster, where it lay in state several days.

The dignitaries of the Abbey and of St Paul’s having, as it was said, refused permission to deposit the remains in either of these great national receptacles of the illustrious dead, it was determined that they should be laid in the ancestral vault of the Byrons.  The funeral, instead of being public, was in consequence private, and attended by only a few select friends to Hucknell, a small village about two miles from Newstead Abbey, in the church of which the vault is situated; there the coffin was deposited, in conformity to a wish early expressed by the poet, that his dust might be mingled with his mother’s.  Yet, unmeet and plain as the solemnity was in its circumstances, a remarkable incident gave it interest and distinction: as it passed along the streets of London, a sailor was observed walking uncovered near the hearse, and on being asked what he was doing there, replied that he had served Lord Byron in the Levant, and had come to pay his last respects to his remains; a simple but emphatic testimony to the sincerity of that regard which his Lordship often inspired, and which with more steadiness might always have commanded.

The coffin bears the following inscription:

APRIL 19, 1824.

Beside the coffin the urn is placed, the inscription on which is,

Within this urn are deposited the heart, brains, etc. of the deceased Lord Byron.


The Character of Lord Byron

My endeavour, in the foregoing pages, has been to give a general view of the intellectual character of Lord Byron.  It did not accord with the plan to enter minutely into the details of his private life, which I suspect was not greatly different from that of any other person of his rank, not distinguished for particular severity of manners.  In some respects his Lordship was, no doubt, peculiar.  He possessed a vivacity of sensibility not common, and talents of a very extraordinary kind.  He was also distinguished for superior personal elegance, particularly in his bust.  The style and character of his head were universally admired; but perhaps the beauty of his physiognomy has been more highly spoken of than it really merited.  Its chief grace consisted, when he was in a gay humour, of a liveliness which gave a joyous meaning to every articulation of the muscles and features: when he was less agreeably disposed, the expression was morose to a very repulsive degree.  It is, however, unnecessary to describe his personal character here.  I have already said enough incidentally, to explain my full opinion of it.  In the mass, I do not think it was calculated to attract much permanent affection or esteem.  In the detail it was the reverse: few men possessed more companionable qualities than Lord Byron did occasionally; and seen at intervals in those felicitous moments, I imagine it would have been difficult to have said, that a more interesting companion had been previously met with.  But he was not always in that fascinating state of pleasantry: he was as often otherwise; and no two individuals could be more distinct from each other than Byron in his gaiety and in his misanthropy.  This antithesis was the great cause of that diversity of opinion concerning him, which has so much divided his friends and adversaries.  Of his character as a poet there can be no difference of opinion, but only a difference in the degree of admiration.

Excellence in talent, as in every other thing, is comparative; but the universal republic of letters will acknowledge, that in energy of expression and liveliness of imagery Byron had no equal in his own time.  Doubts, indeed, may be entertained, if in these high qualities even Shakspeare himself was his superior.

I am not disposed to think with many of those who rank the genius of Byron almost as supreme, that he has shown less skill in the construction of his plots, and the development of his tales, than might have been expected from one so splendidly endowed; for it has ever appeared to me that he has accomplished in them everything he proposed to attain, and that in this consists one of his great merits.  His mind, fervid and impassioned, was in all his compositions, except Don Juan, eagerly fixed on the catastrophe.  He ever held the goal full in view, and drove to it in the most immediate manner.  By this straightforward simplicity all the interest which intricacy excites was of necessity disregarded.  He is therefore not treated justly when it is supposed that he might have done better had he shown more art: the wonder is, that he should have produced such magnificent effects with so little.  He could not have made the satiated and meditative Harold so darkling and excursive, so lone, “aweary,” and misanthropical, had he treated him as the hero of a scholastic epic.  The might of the poet in such creations lay in the riches of his diction and in the felicity with which he described feelings in relation to the aspect of scenes amid the reminiscences with which the scenes themselves were associated.

If in language and plan he be so excellent, it may be asked why should he not be honoured with that pre-eminent niche in the temple which so many in the world have by suffrage assigned to him?  Simply because, with all the life and beauty of his style, the vigour and truth of his descriptions, the boldness of his conceptions, and the reach of his vision in the dark abysses of passion, Lord Byron was but imperfectly acquainted with human nature.  He looked but on the outside of man.  No characteristic action distinguishes one of his heroes from another, nor is there much dissimilarity in their sentiments; they have no individuality; they stalk and pass in mist and gloom, grim, ghastly, and portentous, mysterious shadows, entities of the twilight, weird things like the sceptred effigies of the unborn issue of Banquo.

Combined with vast power, Lord Byron possessed, beyond all question, the greatest degree of originality of any poet of this age.  In this rare quality he has no parallel in any age.  All other poets and inventive authors are measured in their excellence by the accuracy with which they fit sentiments appropriate not only to the characters they create, but to the situations in which they place them: the works of Lord Byron display the opposite to this, and with the most extraordinary splendour.  He endows his creations with his own qualities; he finds in the situations in which he places them only opportunities to express what he has himself felt or suffered; and yet he mixes so much probability in the circumstances, that they are always eloquently proper.  He does everything, as it were, the reverse of other poets; in the air and sea, which have been in all times the emblems of change and the similitudes of inconstancy, he has discovered the very principles of permanency.  The ocean in his view, not by its vastness, its unfathomable depths, and its limitless extent, becomes an image of deity, by its unchangeable character!

The variety of his productions present a prodigious display of power.  In his short career he has entitled himself to be ranked in the first class of the British poets for quantity alone.  By Childe Harold, and his other poems of the same mood, he has extended the scope of feeling, made us acquainted with new trains of association, awakened sympathies which few suspected themselves of possessing; and he has laid open darker recesses in the bosom than were previously supposed to exist.  The deep and dreadful caverns of remorse had long been explored but he was the first to visit the bottomless pit of satiety.

The delineation of that Promethean fortitude which defied conscience, as he has shown it in Manfred, is his greatest achievement.  The terrific fables of Marlowe and of Goethe, in their respective versions of the legend of Faustus, had disclosed the utmost writhings which remorse in the fiercest of its torments can express; but what are those Laocoon agonies to the sublime serenity of Manfred.  In the power, the originality, and the genius combined, of that unexampled performance, Lord Byron has placed himself on an equality with Milton.  The Satan of the Paradise Lost is animated by motives, and dignified by an eternal enterprise.  He hath purposes of infinite prospect to perform, and an immeasurable ambition to satisfy.  Manfred hath neither purpose nor ambition, nor any desire that seeks gratification.  He hath done a deed which severs him from hope, as everlastingly as the apostacy with the angels has done Satan.  He acknowledges no contrition to bespeak commiseration, he complains of no wrong to justify revenge, for he feels none; he despises sympathy, and almost glories in his perdition.

The creation of such a character is in the sublimest degree of originality; to give it appropriate thoughts and feelings required powers worthy of the conception; and to make it susceptible of being contemplated as within the scope and range of human sympathy, places Byron above all his contemporaries and antecedents.  Milton has described in Satan the greatest of human passions, supernatural attributes, directed to immortal intents, and stung with inextinguishable revenge; but Satan is only a dilatation of man.  Manfred is loftier, and worse than Satan; he has conquered punishment, having within himself a greater than hell can inflict.  There is a fearful mystery in this conception; it is only by solemnly questioning the spirits that lurk within the dark metaphors in which Manfred expresses himself, that the hideous secrets of the character can be conjectured.

But although in intellectual power, and in creative originality, Byron is entitled to stand on the highest peak of the mountain, his verse is often so harsh, and his language so obscure, that in the power of delighting he is only a poet of the second class.  He had all the talent and the means requisite to embody his conceptions in a manner worthy of their might and majesty; his treasury was rich in everything rare and beautiful for illustration, but he possessed not the instinct requisite to guide him in the selection of the things necessary to the inspiration of delight:—he could give his statue life and beauty, and warmth, and motion, and eloquence, but not a tuneful voice.

Some curious metaphysicians, in their subtle criticism, have said that Don Juan was but the bright side of Childe Harold, and that all its most brilliant imagery was similar to that of which the dark and the shadows were delineated in his other works.  It may be so.  And, without question, a great similarity runs through everything that has come from the poet’s pen; but it is a family resemblance, the progeny are all like one another; but where are those who are like them?  I know of no author in prose or rhyme, in the English language, with whom Byron can be compared.  Imitators of his manner there will be often and many, but he will ever remain one of the few whom the world acknowledges are alike supreme, and yet unlike each other—epochal characters, who mark extraordinary periods in history.

Raphael is the only man of pre-eminence whose career can be compared with that of Byron; at an age when the genius of most men is but in the dawning, they had both attained their meridian of glory, and they both died so early, that it may be said they were lent to the world only to show the height to which the mind may ascend when time shall be allowed to accomplish the full cultivations of such extraordinary endowments.


{156}  I.e., against.

{241}  The sacrifice of Antinous by the emperor Adrian is supposed to have been a sacrifice of that kind.  Dion Cassius says, that Adrian, who had applied himself to the study of magic, being deceived by the principles of that black Egyptian art into a belief that he would be rendered immortal by a voluntary human sacrifice to the infernal gods, accepted the offer which Antinous made of himself.

I have somewhere met with a commentary on this to the following effect:

The Christian religion, in the time of Adrian, was rapidly spreading throughout the empire, and the doctrine of gaining eternal life by the expiatory offering was openly preached.  The Egyptian priests, who pretended to be in possession of all knowledge, affected to be acquainted with this mystery also.  The emperor was, by his taste and his vices, attached to the old religion; but he trembled at the truths disclosed by the revelation; and in this state of apprehension, his thirst of knowledge and his fears led him to consult the priests of Osiris and Isis; and they impressed him with a notion that the infernal deities would be appeased by the sacrifice of a human being dear to him, and who loved him so entirely as to lay down his life for him.  Antinous, moved by the anxiety of his imperial master, when all others had refused, consented to sacrifice himself; and it was for this devotion that Adrian caused his memory to be hallowed with religious rites.

{255}  Mr Hobhouse has assured me that this information is not correct.  “I happen,” says he, “to know that Lord Byron offered to give the Guiccioli a sum of money outright, or to leave it to her by his will.  I also happen to know that the lady would not hear of any such present or provision; for I have a letter in which Lord Byron extols her disinterestedness, and mentions that he has met with a similar refusal from another female.  As to the being in destitute circumstances, I cannot believe it; for Count Gamba, her brother, whom I knew very well after Lord Byron’s death, never made any complaint or mention of such a fact: add to which, I know a maintenance was provided for her by her husband, in consequence of a law process, before the death of Lord Byron.”

{291a}  The calenture.

{291b}  The Swiss air.

{319}  The doctor evidently makes a mistake in confounding Sir William Hamilton with Sir William Drummond.

{354}  Fletcher’s narrative implies at six that evening, the 19th April, 1824.