John Nichol

Part 2 out of 4

him to Corinth. They then separated, and Byron went on to Patras in the
Morea, where he had business with the Consul. He dates from there at the
close of July. It is impossible to give a consecutive account of his life
during the next ten months, a period consequently filled up with the
contradictory and absurd mass of legends before referred to. A few facts
only of any interest are extricable. During at least half of the time his
head-quarters were at Athens, where he again met his friend the Marquis,
associated with the English Consul and Lady Hester Stanhope, studied
Romaic in a Franciscan monastery--where he saw and conversed with a motley
crew of French, Italians, Danes, Greeks, Turks, and Americans,--wrote to
his mother and others, saying he had swum from Sestos to Abydos, was sick
of Fletcher bawling for beef and beer, had done with authorship, and hoped
on his return to lead a quiet recluse life. He nevertheless made notes to
_Harold_, composed the _Hints from Horace_ and the _Curse of Minerva_, and
presumably brooded over, and outlined in his mind, many of his verse
romances. We hear no more of the, _Maid of Athens_, but there is no fair
ground to doubt that the _Giaour_ was suggested by his rescue of a young
woman whom, for the fault of an amour with some Frank, a party of
Janissaries were about to throw, sewn up in a sack, into the sea. Mr. Galt
gives no authority for his statement, that the girl's deliverer was the
original cause of her sentence. We may rest assured that if it had been
so, Byron himself would have told us of it.

A note to the _Siege of Corinth_ is suggestive of his unequalled
restlessness. "I visited all three--Tripolitza, Napoli, and Argos--in
1810-11; and in the course of journeying through the country, from my
first arrival in 1809, crossed the Isthmus eight times on my way from
Attica to the Morea." In the latter locality we find him during the autumn
the honoured guest of the Vizier Valhi (a son of Ali Pasha), who presented
him with a fine horse. During a second visit to Patras, in September, he
was attacked by the same sort of marsh fever from which, fourteen years
afterwards, in the near neighbourhood, he died. On his recovery, in
October, he complains of having been nearly killed by the heroic measures
of the native doctors: "One of them trusts to his genius, never having
studied; the other, to a campaign of eighteen months against the sick of
Otranto, which he made in his youth with great effect. When I was seized
with my disorder, I protested against both these assassins, but in vain."
He was saved by the zeal of his servants, who asseverated that if his
lordship died they would take good care the doctors should also; on which
the learned men discontinued their visits, and the patient revived. On his
final return to Athens, the restoration of his health was retarded by one
of his long courses of reducing diet; he lived mainly on rice, and vinegar
and water. From that city he writes in the early spring, intimating his
intention of proceeding to Egypt; but Mr. Hanson, his man of business,
ceasing to send him remittances, the scheme was abandoned. Beset by
letters about his debts, he again declares his determination to hold fast
by Newstead, adding that if the place which is his only tie to England is
sold, he won't come back at all. Life on the shores of the Archipelago is
far cheaper and happier, and "Ubi bene ibi patria," for such a citizen of
the world as he has become. Later he went to Malta, and was detained
there by another bad attack of tertian fever. The next record of
consequence is from the "Volage" frigate, at sea, June 29, 1811, when he
writes in a despondent strain to Hodgson, that he is returning home
"without a hope, and almost without a desire," to wrangle with creditors
and lawyers about executions and coal pits. "In short, I am sick and
sorry; and when I have a little repaired my irreparable affairs, away I
shall march, either to campaign in Spain, or back again to the East, where
I can at least have cloudless skies and a cessation from impertinence. I
am sick of fops, and poesy, and prate, and shall leave the whole Castalian
state to Bufo, or anybody else. Howbeit, I have written some 4000 lines,
of one kind or another, on my travels." With these, and a collection of
marbles, and skulls, and hemlock, and tortoises, and servants, he reached
London about the middle of July, and remained there, making some
arrangements about business and publication. On the 23rd we have a short
but kind letter to his mother, promising to pay her a visit on his way to
Rochdale. "You know you are a vixen, but keep some champagne for me," he
had written from abroad. On receipt of the letter she remarked, "If I
should be dead before he comes down, what a strange thing it, would be."
Towards the close of the month she had an attack so alarming that he was
summoned; but before, he had time to arrive she had expired, on the 1st of
August, in a fit of rage brought on by reading an upholsterer's bill. On
the way Byron heard the intelligence, and wrote to Dr. Pigot: "I now feel
the truth of Gray's observation, that we can only have _one_ mother. Peace
be with her!" On arriving at Newstead, all their storms forgotten, the son
was so affected that he did not trust himself to go to the funeral, but
stood dreamily gazing at the cortege from the gate of the Abbey. Five days
later, Charles S. Matthews was drowned.



The deaths of Long, Wingfield, Eddlestone, Matthews, and of his mother,
had narrowed the circle of the poet's early companions; and, though he
talks of each loss in succession as if it had been that of an only friend,
we can credit a degree of loneliness, and excuse a certain amount of
bitterness in the feelings with which he returned to London. He had at
this time seen very little of the only relative whom he over deeply loved.
He and his half-sister met casually in 1804, and again in the following
year. After her marriage (1807), Byron writes from abroad (1810),
regretting having distressed her by his quarrel with Lord Carlisle. In
1811 she is mentioned as reversionary heiress of his estate. Towards the
close of 1813, there are two allusions which testify to their mutual
affection. Next wo come to the interesting series of letters of 1815-16,
published with the Memoir of Mr. Hodgson, to whom, along with Hobhouse and
Scrope Davies, his lordship in a will and codicil leaves the management of
his property. Harness appears frequently at this period among his
surviving intimates: to this list there was shortly added another. In
speaking of his _Bards and Reviewers_, the author makes occasional
reference to the possibility of his being called to account for some of
his attacks. His expectation was realized by a letter from the poet Moore,
dated Dublin, Jan. 1, 1810, couched in peremptory terms, demanding to know
if his lordship avowed the authorship of the insults contained in the
poem. This letter, being entrusted to Mr. Hodgson, was not forwarded to
Byron abroad; but shortly after his return, he received another in more
conciliatory terms, renewing the complaint. To this he replied, in a stiff
but manly letter, that he had never meant to insult Mr. Moore; but that he
was, if necessary, ready to give him satisfaction. Moore accepting the
explanation, somewhat querulously complained of his advances to friendship
not being received. Byron again replied that much as he would feel
honoured by Mr. Moore's acquaintance, he being practically threatened by
the irate Irishman could hardly make the first advances. This called forth
a sort of apology; the correspondents met at the house of Mr. Rogers, and
out of the somewhat awkward circumstances, owing to the frankness of the
"noble author," as the other ever after delights to call him, arose the
life-long intimacy which had such various and lasting results. Moore has
been called a false friend to Byron, and a traitor to his memory. The
judgment is somewhat harsh, but the association between them was
unfortunate. Thomas Moore had some sterling qualities. His best satirical
pieces are inspired by a real indignation, and lit up by a genuine humour.
He was also an exquisite musician in words, and must have been
occasionally a fascinating companion. But he was essentially a worldling,
and, as such, a superficial critic. He encouraged the shallow affectations
of his great friend's weaker work, and recoiled in alarm before the daring
defiance of his stronger. His criticisms on all Byron wrote and felt
seriously on religion are almost worthy of a conventicle. His letters to
others on _Manfred_, and _Cain_, and _Don Juan_, are the expression of
sentiments which he had never the courage to state explicitly to the
author. On the other hand, Byron was attracted beyond reasonable measure
by his gracefully deferential manners, paid too much regard to his
opinions, and overestimated his genius. For the subsequent destruction of
the memoirs, urged by Mr. Hobhouse and Mrs. Leigh, he was not wholly
responsible; though a braver man, having accepted the position of his
lordship's literary legatee, with the express understanding that he would
seue to the fulfilment of the wishes of his dead friend, would have to the
utmost resisted their total frustration.

Meanwhile, on landing in England, the poet had placed in the hands of Mr.
Dallas the _Hints from Horace_, which he intended to have brought out by
the publisher Cawthorne. Of this performance--an inferior edition,
relieved by a few strong touches, of the _Bards and Reviewers_--Dallas
ventured to express his disapproval. "Have you no other result of your
travels?" he asked; and got for answer, "A few short pieces; and a lot of
Spenserian stanzas; not worth troubling you with, but you are welcome to
them." Dallas took the remark literally, saw they were a safe success, and
assumed to himself the merit of the discovery, the risks, and the profits.
It is the converse of the story of Gabriel Harvey and the _Faery Queene_.
Tho first two cantos of _Childe Harold_ bear no comparison with the legend
of _Una and the Red Cross Knight_; but there was no mistake about their
proof of power, their novelty, and adaptation to a public taste as yet
unjaded by eloquent and imaginative descriptions of foreign scenery,
manners, and climates.

The poem--after being submitted to Gifford, in defiance of the
protestations of the author, who feared that the reference might seem to
seek the favour of the august _Quarterly_--was accepted by Mr. Murray, and
proceeded through the press, subject to change and additions, during the
next five months. The _Hints from Horace_, fortunately postponed and then
suspended, appeared posthumously in 1831. Byron remained at Newstead till
the close of October, negotiating with creditors and lawyers, and engaged
in a correspondence about his publications, in the course of which he
deprecates any identification of himself and his hero, though he had at
first called him Childe Byron. "Instruct Mr. Murray," he entreats, "not to
allow his shopman to call the work 'Child of Harrow's Pilgrimage,' as he
has done to some of my astonished friends, who wrote to inquire after my
_sanity_ on the occasion, as well they might." At the end of the month we
find him in London, again indulging in a voyage in "the ship of fools," in
which Moore claims to have accompanied him; but at the same time
exhibiting remarkable shrewdness in reference to the affairs of his
household. In February, 1812, he again declares to Hodgson his resolve to
leave England for ever, and fix himself in "one of the fairest islands of
the East." On the 27th he made in the House of Lords his speech on a Bill
to introduce special penalties against the frame-breakers of Nottingham.
This effort, on which he received many compliments, led among other
results to a friendly correspondence with Lord Holland. On April 21st of
the same year, he again addressed the House on behalf of Roman Catholic
Emancipation; and in June, 1813, in favour of Major Cartwright's petition.
On all these occasions, as afterwards on the continent, Byron espoused the
Liberal side of politics. But his role was that of Manlius or Caesar, and
he never fails to remind us that he himself was _for_ the people, not _of_
them. His latter speeches, owing partly to his delivery, blamed as too
Asiatic, were less successful. To a reader the three seem much on the same
level. They are clever, but evidently set performances, and leave us no
ground to suppose that the poet's abandonment of a parliamentary career
was a serious loss to the nation.

On the 29th of February the first and second cantos of _Childe Harold_
appeared. An early copy was sent to Mrs. Leigh, with the inscription: "To
Augusta, my dearest sister and my best friend, who has ever loved me much
better than I deserved, this volume is presented by her father's son and
most affectionate brother, B." The book ran through seven editions in four
weeks. The effect of the first edition of Burns, and the sale of Scott's
_Lays_, are the only parallels in modern poetic literature to this
success. All eyes were suddenly fastened on the author, who let his satire
sleep, and threw politics aside, to be the romancer of his day and for two
years the darling of society. Previous to the publition, Mr. Moore
confesses to have gratified his lordship with the expression of the fear
that _Childe Harold_ was too good for the age. Its success was due to the
reverse being the truth. It was just on the level of its age. Its flowing
verse, defaced by rhymical faults perceptible only to finer ears, its
prevailing sentiment, occasional boldness relieved by pleasing platitudes,
its half affected rakishness, here and there elevated by a rush as of
morning air, and its frequent richness--not yet, as afterwards,
splendour--of description, were all appreciated by the fashionable London
of the Regency; while the comparatively mild satire, not keen enough to
scarify, only gave a more piquant flavour to the whole. Byron's genius,
yet in the green leaf, was not too far above the clever masses of
pleasure-loving manhood by which it was surrounded. It was natural that
the address on the reopening of Drury Lane theatre should be written by
"the world's new joy"--the first great English poet-peer; as natural as
that in his only published satire of the period he should inveigh against
almost the only amusement in which he could not share. The address was
written at the request of Lord Holland, when of some hundred competitive
pieces none had been found exactly suitable--a circumstance which gave
rise to the famous parodies entitled _The Rejected Addresses_--and it was
thought that the ultimate choice would conciliate all rivalry. The care
which Byron bestowed on the correction of the first draft of this piece,
is characteristic of his habit of writing off his poems at a gush, and
afterwards carefully elaborating them.

_The Waltz_ was published anonymously in April, 1813. It was followed in
May by the _Giaour_, the first of the flood of verse romances which,
during the three succeeding years, he poured forth with impetuous fluency,
and which were received with almost unrestrained applause. The plots and
sentiments and imagery are similar in them all. The Giaour steals the
mistress of Hassan, who revenges his honour by drowning her. The Giaour
escapes; returns, kills Hassan, and then goes to a monastery. In the
_Bride of Abydos_, published in the December of the same year, Giaffir
wants to marry his daughter Zuleika to Carasman Pasha. She runs off with
Selim, her reputed brother--in reality her cousin, and so at last her
legitimate lover. They are caught; he is slain in fight; she dies, to slow
music. In the _Corsair_, published January, 1814, Conrad, a pirate,
"linked with one virtue and a thousand crimes!" is beloved by Medora, who
on his predatory expeditions, sits waiting for him (like Hassan's and
Sisera's mother) in a tower. On one of these he attacks Seyd Pasha, and is
overborne by superior force; but Gulnare, a female slave of Seyd, kills
her master, and runs off with Conrad, who finds Medora dead and vanishes.
In _Lara_, the sequel to this--written in May and June, published in
August--a man of mystery appears in the Morea, with a page, Kaled. After
adventures worthy of Mrs. Radcliffe--from whose Schledoni the Giaour is
said to have been drawn--Lara falls in battle with his deadly foe,
Ezzelin, and turns out to be Conrad, while Kaled is of course Gulnare. The
_Hebrew Melodies_, written in December, 1814, are interesting, in
connexion with the author's early familiarity with the Old Testament, and
from the force and music that mark the best of them; but they can hardly
be considered an important contribution to the devotional verse of
England. The _Siege of Corinth_ and _Parisina_, composed after his
marriage in the summer and autumn of 1815, appeared in the following year.
The former is founded on the siege of the city, when the Turks took it
from Menotti; but our attention is concentrated on Alp the renegade,
another sketch from the same protoplastic ruffian, who leads on the Turks,
is in love with the daughter of the governor of the city, tries to save
her, but dies. The poem is frequently vigorous, but it ends badly.
_Parisina_, though unequal, is on the whole a poem of a higher order than
the others of the period. The trial scene exhibits some dramatic power,
and the shriek of the lady mingling with Ugo's funeral dirge lingers in
our ears, along with the convent bells--

In the grey square turret swinging,
With a deep sound, to and fro,
Heavily to the heart they go.

These romances belong to the same period of the author's poetic career as
the first two cantos of _Childe Harold_. They followed one another like
brilliant fireworks. They all exhibit a command of words, a sense of
melody, and a flow of rhythm and rhyme, which mastered Moore and even
Scott on their own ground. None of them are wanting in passages, as "He
who hath bent him o'er the dead," and the description of Alp leaning
against a column, which strike deeper than any verse of either of those
writers. But there is an air of melodrama in them all. Harmonious delights
of novel readers, they will not stand against the winnowing wind of
deliberate criticism. They harp on the same string, without the variations
of a Paganini. They are potentially endless reproductions of one phase of
an ill-regulated mind--the picture of the same quasi-melancholy vengeful
man, who knows no friend but a dog, and reads on the tombs of the great
only "the glory and the nothing of a name," the exile who cannot flee from
himself, "the wandering outlaw of his own dark mind," who has not loved
the world nor the world him,--

Whose heart was form'd for softness, warp'd by wrong,
Betray'd too early, and beguiled too long--

all this, _decies repetita_, grows into a weariness and vexation. Mr.
Carlyle harshly compares it to the screaming of a meat-jack. The reviewers
and the public of the time thought differently. Jeffrey, penitent for the
early _faux pas_ of his _Review_, as Byron remained penitent for his
answering assault, writes of _Lara_, "Passages of it may be put into
competition with anything that poetry has produced in point either of
pathos or energy." Moore--who afterwards wrote, not to Byron, that seven
devils had entered into _Manfred_--professes himself "enraptured with it."
Fourteen thousand copies of the _Corsair_ wore sold in a day. But hear the
author's own half-boast, half-apology: "_Lara_ I wrote while undressing
after coming home from balls and masquerades, in the year of revelry 1814.
The _Bride_ was written in four, the _Corsair_ in ten days. This I take to
he a humiliating confession, as it proves my own want of judgment in
publishing, and the public's in reading, things which cannot have stamina
for permanence."

The pecuniary profits accruing to Byron from his works began with _Lara_,
for which he received 700_l_. He had made over to Mr. Dallas, besides
other gifts to the same ungrateful recipient, the profits of _Harold_,
amounting to 600_l_, and of the _Corsair_, which brought 525_l_. The
proceeds of the _Giaour_ and the _Bride_ were also surrendered.

During this period, 1813-1816, he had become familiar with all the phases
of London society, "tasted their pleasures," and, towards the close, "felt
their decay." His associates in those years were of two classes--men of
the world, and authors. Feted and courted in all quarters, he patronized
the theatres, became in 1815 a member of the Drury Lane Committee, "liked
the dandies," including Beau Brummell, and was introduced to the Regent.
Their interview, in June 1812, in the course of which the latter paid
unrestrained compliments to _Harold_ and the poetry of Scott, is naively
referred to by Mr. Moore "as reflecting even still more honour on the
Sovereign himself than on the two poets." Byron, in a different spirit,
writes to Lord Holland: "I have now great hope, in the event of Mr. Pye's
decease, of warbling truth at Court, like Mr. Mallet of indifferent
memory. Consider, one hundred marks a year! besides the wine and the
disgrace." We can hardly conceive the future author of the _Vision of
Judgment_ writing odes to dictation. He does not seem to have been much
fascinated with the first gentleman of Europe, whom at no distant date he
assailed in the terrible "Avatar," and left the laureateship to Mr.

Among leaders in art and letters he was brought into more or less intimate
contact with Sir Humphry Davy, the Edgeworths, Sir James Mackintosh,
Colman the dramatic author, the older Kean, Monk Lewis, Grattan, Curran,
and Madame de Stael. Of a meeting of the last two he remarks, "It was like
the confluence of the Rhone and the Saone, and they were both so ugly that
I could not help wondering how the best intellects of France and Ireland
could have taken up respectively such residences."

About this time a communication from Mr Murray in reference to the meeting
with the Regent led to a letter from Sir Walter Scott to Lord Byron, the
beginning of a life-long friendship, and one of the most pleasing pages of
biography. These two great men were for a season perpetually pitted
against one another, as the foremost competitors for literary favour. When
_Rokeby_ came out, contemporaneously with the _Giaour_, the undergraduates
of Oxford and Cambridge ran races to catch the first copies, and laid bets
as to which of the rivals would win. During the anti-Byronic fever of
1840-1860 they were perpetually contrasted as the representatives of the
manly and the morbid schools. A later sentimentalism has affected to
despise the work of both. The fact therefore that from an early period the
men themselves knew each other as they were, is worth illustrating.

Scott's letter, in which a generous recognition of the pleasure he had
derived from tho work of the English poet, was followed by a manly
remonstrance on the subject of the attack in the _Bards and Reviewers_,
drew from Byron in the following month (July 1812) an answer in the same
strain, descanting on the Prince's praises of the _Lay_ and _Marmion_, and
candidly apologizing for the "evil works of his nonage." "The satire," he
remarks, "was written when I was very young and very angry, and fully bent
on displaying my wrath and my wit; and now I am haunted by the ghosts of
my wholesale assertions." This, in turn, called forth another letter to
Byron eager for more of his verses, with a cordial invitation to
Abbotsford on the ground of Scotland's maternal claim on him, and asking
for information about Pegasus and Parnassus. After this the correspondence
continues with greater freedom, and the same display on either side of
mutual respect. When Scott says "the _Giaour_ is praised among our
mountains," and Byron returns "_Waverley_ is the best novel I have read,"
there is no suspicion of flattery--it is the interchange of compliments
between men,

Et cantare pares et respondere parati.

They talk in just the same manner to third parties. "I gave over writing
romances," says the elder, in the spirit of a great-hearted gentleman,"
because Byron beat me. He hits the mark, where I don't even pretend to
fledge my arrow. He has access to a stream of sentiment unknown to me."
The younger, on the other hand, deprecates the comparisons that were being
invidiously drawn between them. He presents his copy of the _Giaour_ to
Scott, with the phrase "To the monarch of Parnassus," and compares the
feeling of those who cavilled at his fame to that of the Athenians towards
Aristides. From those sentiments, he never swerves, recognizing to the
last the breadth of character of the most generous of his critics, and
referring to him, during his later years in Italy, as the Wizard and the
Ariosto of the North. A meeting was at length arranged between them. Scott
looked forward to it with anxious interest, humorously remarking that
Byron should say,--

Art thou the man whom men famed Grissell call?

And he reply--

Art thou the still more famed Tom Thumb the small?

They met in London during the spring of 1815. The following sentences are
from Sir Walter's account of it:--"Report had prepared me to meet a man
of peculiar habits and quick temper, and I had some doubts whether we were
likely to suit each other in society. I was most agreeably disappointed in
this respect. I found Lord Byron in the highest degree courteous, and even
kind. We met for an hour or two almost daily in Mr. Murray's drawing-room,
and found a great deal to say to each other. Our sentiments agreed a good
deal, except upon the subjects of religion and politics, upon neither of
which I was inclined to believe that Lord Byron entertained very fixed
opinions. On politics he used sometimes to express a high strain of what
is now called Liberalism; but it appeared to me that the pleasure it
afforded him as a vehicle of displaying his wit and satire against
individuals in office was at the bottom of this habit of thinking. At
heart, I would have termed Byron a patrician on principle. His reading did
not seem to me to have been very extensive. I remember repeating to him
the fine poem of Hardyknute, and some one asked me what I could possibly
have been telling Byron by which he was so much agitated. I saw him for
the last time in (September) 1815, after I returned from France; he dined
or lunched with me at Long's in Bond Street. I never saw him so full of
gaiety and good humour. The day of this interview was the most interesting
I ever spent. Several letters passed between us--one perhaps every half
year. Like the old heroes in Homer we exchanged gifts; I gave Byron a
beautiful dagger mounted with gold, which had been the property of the
redoubted Elfi Bey. But I was to play the part of Diomed in the _Iliad_,
for Byron sent me, some time after, a large sepulchral vase of silver,
full of dead men's bones, found within the land walls of Athens. He was
often melancholy, almost gloomy. When I observed him in this humour I used
either to wait till it went off of its own accord, or till some natural
and easy mode occurred of leading him into conversation, when the shadows
almost always left his countenance, like the mist arising from a
landscape. I think I also remarked in his temper starts of suspicion, when
he seemed to pause and consider whether there had not been a secret and
perhaps offensive meaning in something that was said to him. In this case
I also judged it best to let his mind, like a troubled spring, work itself
clear, which it did in a minute or two. A downright steadiness of manner
was the way to his good opinion. Will Rose, looking by accident at his
feet, saw him scowling furiously; but on his showing no consciousness, his
lordship resumed his easy manner. What I liked about him, besides his
boundless genius, was his generosity of spirit as well as of purse, and
his utter contempt of all the affectations of literature. He liked Moore
and me because, with all our other differences, we were both good-natured
fellows, not caring to maintain our dignity, enjoying the _mot-pour-rire_.
He wrote from impulse never from effort, and therefore I have always
reckoned Burns and Byron the most genuine poetic geniuses of my time, and
of half a century before me. We have many men of high poetic talents, but
none of that ever-gushing and perennial fountain of natural waters."

Scott, like all hale men of sound sense, regretted the almost fatal
incontinence which, in the year of his greatest private troubles, led his
friend to make a parade of them before the public. He speaks more than
once of his unhappy tendency to exhibit himself as the dying gladiator,
and even compares him to his peacock, screeching before his window because
he chooses to bivouack apart from his mate; but he read a copy of the
Ravenna diary without altering his view that his lordship was his own
worst maligner. Scott, says Lockhart, considered Byron the only poet of
transcendent talents we had had since Dryden. There is preserved a curious
record of his meeting with a greater poet than Dryden, but one whose
greatness neither he nor Scott suspected. Mr. Crabb Robinson reports
Wordsworth to have said, in Charles Lamb's chambers, about the year 1808,
"These reviewers put me out of patience. Here is a young man who has
written a volume of poetry; and these fellows, just because he is a lord,
set upon him. The young man will do something, if he goes on as he has
begun. But these reviewers seem to think that nobody may write poetry
unless he lives in a garret." Years after, Lady Byron, on being told this,
exclaimed, "Ah, if Byron had known that, he would never have attacked
Wordsworth. He went one day to meet him at dinner, and I said, 'Well, how
did the young poet get on with the old one?' 'Why, to tell the truth,'
said he, 'I had but one feeling from the beginning of the visit to the
end, and that was _reverence_.'" Similarly, he began by being on good
terms with Southey, and after a meeting at Holland House, wrote
enthusiastically of his prepossessing appearance.

Byron and the leaders of the so-called Lake School were, at starting,
common heirs of the revolutionary spirit; they were, either in their
social views or personal feelings, to a large extent influenced by the
most morbid, though in some respects the most magnetic, genius of modern
France, J.J. Rousseau; but their temperaments were in many respects
fundamentally diverse; and the pre-established discord between them ere
long began to make itself manifest in their following out widely divergent
paths. Wordsworth's return to nature had been preluded by Cowper; that of
Byron by Burns. The revival of the one ripened into a restoration of
simpler manners and old beliefs; the other was the spirit of the storm.
When they had both become recognized powers, neither appreciated the work
of the other. A few years after this date Byron wrote of Wordsworth, to a
common admirer of both: "I take leave to differ from you as freely as I
once agreed with you. His performances, since the _Lyrical Ballads_, are
miserably inadequate to the ability that lurks within him. There is,
undoubtedly, much natural talent spilt over the _Excursion_; but it is
rain upon rocks, where it stands and stagnates; or rain upon sand, where
it falls without fertilizing." This criticism with others in like strain,
was addressed to Mr. Leigh Hunt, to whom, in 1812, when enduring for
radicalism's sake a very comfortable incarceration, Byron had, in company
with Moore, paid a courteous visit.

Of the correspondence of this period--flippant, trenchant, or
sparkling--few portions are more calculated to excite a smile than the
record of his frequent resolutions made, reasseverated, and broken, to
have done with literature; even going the length on some occasions of
threatening to suppress his works, and, if possible, recall the existing
copies. He affected being a man of the world unmercifully, and had a real
delight in clever companions who assumed the same role. Frequent allusion
is made to his intercourse with Erskine and Sheridan: the latter he is
never tired of praising, as "the author of the best modern comedy (_School
for Scandal_), the best farce (_The Critic_), and the best oration (the
famous Begum speech) ever heard in this country." They spent many an
evening together, and probably cracked many a bottle. It is Byron who
tells the story of Sheridan being found in a gutter in a sadly incapable
state; and, on some one asking "Who is this?" stammering out
"Wilberforce." On one occasion he speaks of coming out of a tavern with
the dramatist, when they both found the staircase in a very cork-screw
condition: and elsewhere, of encountering a Mr. C----, who "had no notion
of meeting with a bon-vivant in a scribbler," and summed the poet's eulogy
with the phrase, "he drinks like a man." Hunt, the tattler, who observed
his lordship's habits in Italy, with the microscope of malice ensconced
within the same walls, makes it a charge against his host that he would
not drink like a man. Once for all it may be noted, that although there
was no kind of excess in which Byron, whether from bravado or inclination,
failed occasionally to indulge, he was never for any stretch of time given
over, like Burns, to what is technically termed intemperance. His head
does not seem to have been strong, and under the influence of stimulants
he may have been led to talk a great deal of his dangerous nonsense. But
though he could not say, with Wordsworth, that only once, at Cambridge,
had his brain been "excited by the fumes of wine," his prevailing sins
were in other directions.



"As for poets," says Scott, "I have seen all the best of my time and
country, and, though Burns had the most glorious eye imaginable, I never
thought any of them would come up to an artist's notion of the character,
except Byron. His countenance is a thing to dream of." Coleridge writes to
the same effect, in language even stronger. We have from all sides similar
testimony to the personal beauty which led the unhappiest of his devotees
to exclaim, "That pale face is my fate!"

Southern critics, as Chasles, Castelar, even Mazzini, have dealt leniently
with the poet's relations to the other sex; and Elze extends to him in
this regard the same excessive stretch of charity. "Dear Childe Harold,"
exclaims the German professor, "was positively besieged by women. They
have, in truth, no right to complain of him: from his childhood he had
seen them on their worst side." It is the casuistry of hero-worship to
deny that Byron was unjust to women, not merely in isolated instances, but
in his prevailing views of their character and claims. "I regard them," he
says, in a passage only distinguished from others by more extravagant
petulance, "as very pretty but inferior creatures, who are as little in
their place at our tables as they would be in our council chambers. The
whole of the present system with regard to the female sex is a remnant of
the barbarism of the chivalry of our forefathers. I look on them as
grown-up children; but, like a foolish mamma, I am constantly the slave of
one of them. The Turks shut up their women, and are much happier; give a
woman a looking-glass and burnt almonds, and she will be content."

In contrast with this, we have the moods in which he drew his pictures of
Angiolina, and Haidee, and Aurora Raby, and wrote the invocations to the
shade of Astarte, and his letters in prose and verse to Augusta; but the
above passage could never have been written by Chaucer, or Spenser, or
Shakespeare, or Shelley. The class whom he was reviling seemed, however,
during "the day of his destiny," bent on confirming his judgment by the
blindness of their worship. His rank and fame, the glittering splendour of
his verse, the romance of his travels, his picturesque melancholy and
affectation of mysterious secrets, combined with the magic of his presence
to bewitch and bewilder them. The dissenting malcontents, condemned as
prudes and blues, had their revenge. Generally, we may say that women who
had not written books adored Byron; women who had written or were writing
books distrusted, disliked, and made him a moral to adorn their tales,
often to point their fables with. He was by the one set caressed and
spoilt, and "beguiled too long;" by the other, "betrayed too late." The
recent memoirs of Frances Ann Kemble present a curious record of the
process of passing from one extreme to the other. She dwells on the
fascination exerted over her mind by the first reading of his poetry, and
tells how she "fastened on the book with a grip like steel," and carried
it off and hid it under her pillow; how it affected her "like an evil
potion," and stirred her whole being with a tempest of excitement, till
finally she, with equal weakness, flung it aside, "resolved to read that
grand poetry no more, and broke through the thraldom of that powerful
spell." The confession brings before us a type of the transitions of the
century, on its way from the Byronic to the anti-Byronic fever, of which
later state Mrs. Norton and Miss Martineau are among the most pronounced

Byron's garrulity with regard to those delicate matters on which men of
more prudence or chivalry are wont to set the seal of silence, has often
the same practical effect as reticence; for he talks so much at
large--every page of his Journal being, by his own admission, apt to
"confute and abjure its predecessor"--that we are often none the wiser.
Amid a mass of conjecture, it is manifest that during the years between
his return from Greece and final expatriation (1811-1816), including the
whole period of his social glory--though not yet of his solid fame--he was
lured into liaisons of all sorts and shades. Some, now acknowledged as
innocent, were blared abroad by tongues less skilled in pure invention
than in distorting truth. On others, as commonplaces of a temperament "all
meridian," it were waste of time to dwell. Byron rarely put aside a
pleasure in his path; but his passions were seldom unaccompanied by
affectionate emotions, genuine while they lasted. The verses to the memory
of a lost love veiled as "Thyrza," of moderate artistic merit, were not,
as Moore alleges, mere plays of imagination, but records of a sincere
grief.[1] Another intimacy exerted so much influence on this phase of the
poet's career, that to pass it over would be like omitting Vanessa's name
from the record of Swift. Lady Caroline Lamb, granddaughter of the first
Earl Spencer, was one of those few women of our climate who, by their
romantic impetuosity, recall the "children of the sun." She read Burns in
her ninth year, and in her thirteenth idealized William Lamb (afterwards
Lord Melbourne) as a statue of Liberty. In her nineteenth (1805) she
married him, and lived for some years, during which she was a reigning
belle and toast, a domestic life only marred by occasional eccentricities.
Rogers, whom in a letter to Lady Morgan she numbers among her lovers, said
she ought to know the new poet, who was three years her junior, and the
introduction took place in March, 1812. After the meeting, she wrote in
her journal, "Mad--bad--and dangerous to know;" but, when the fashionable
Apollo called at Melbourne House, she "flew to beautify herself." Flushed
by his conquest, he spent a great part of the following year in her
company, during which time the apathy or self-confidence of the husband
laughed at the worship of the hero. "Conrad" detailed his travels and
adventures, interested her, by his woes, dictated her amusements, invited
her guests, and seems to have set rules to the establishment. "Medora," on
the other hand, made no secret of her devotion, declared that they were
affinities, and offered him her jewels. But after the first excitement, he
began to grow weary of her talk about herself, and could not praise her
indifferent verses: "he grew moody, and she fretful, when their mutual
egotisms jarred." Byron at length concurred in her being removed for a
season to her father's house in Ireland, on which occasion he wrote one of
his glowing farewell letters. When she came back, matters were little
better. The would-be Juliet beset the poet with renewed advances, on one
occasion penetrating to his rooms in the disguise of a page, on another
threatening to stab herself with a pair of scissors, and again, developing
into a Medea, offering her gratitude to any one who would kill him. "The
'Agnus' is furious," he writes to Hodgson, in February, 1813, in one of
the somewhat ungenerous bursts to which he was too easily provoked. "You
can have no idea of the horrible and absurd things she has said and done
since (really from the best motives) I withdrew my homage.... The
business of last summer I broke off, and now the amusement of the gentle
fair is writing letters literally threatening my life." With one member of
the family, Lady Melbourne, Mr. Lamb's mother, and sister of Sir Ralph
Milbanke, he remained throughout on terms of pleasant intimacy. He
appreciated the talent and sense, and was ready to profit by the
experience and tact of "the cleverest of women." But her well-meant advice
had unfortunate results, for it was on her suggestion that he became a
suitor for the hand of her niece, Miss Milbanke. Byron first proposed to
this lady in 1813; his offer was refused, but so graciously that they
continued to correspond on friendly, which gradually grew into intimate
terms, and his second offer, towards the close of the following year, was

[Footnote 1: Mr. Trelawny says that Thyrza was a cousin, but that on
this subject Byron was always reticent. Mr. Minto, as we have seen,
associates her with the disguised girl of 1807-8.]

After a series of vain protests, and petulant warnings against her cousin
by marriage, who she said was punctual at church, and learned, and knew
statistics, but was "not for Conrad, no, no, no!" Lady Caroline lapsed
into an attitude of fixed hostility; and shortly after the crash came, and
her predictions were realized, vented her wrath in the now almost
forgotten novel of _Glenarvon_, in which some of Byron's real features
were represented in conjunction with many fantastic additions. Madame de
Stael was kind enough to bring a copy of the book before his notice when
they met on the Lake of Geneva, but he seems to have been less moved by it
than by most attacks. We must however, bear in mind his own admission in a
parallel case. "I say I am perfectly calm; I am, nevertheless, in a fury."
Over the sad vista of the remaining years of the unhappy lady's life we
need not linger. During a considerable part of it she appears hovering
about the thin line that separates some kinds of wit and passion from
madness; writing more novels, burning her hero's effigy and letters, and
then clamouring for a lock of his hair, or a sight of his portrait;
separated from, and again reconciled to, a husband to whose magnanimous
forbearance and compassion she bears testimony to the last, comparing
herself to Jane Shore; attempting Byronic verses, loudly denouncing and
yet never ceasing inwardly to idolize, the man whom she regarded as her
betrayer, perhaps only with justice in that he had unwittingly helped to
overthrow her mental balance. After eight years of this life, lit up here
and there by gleams of social brilliancy, we find her carriage, on the
12th of July, 1824, suddenly confronted by a funeral. On hearing that the
remains of Byron were being carried to the tomb, she shrieked, and
fainted. Her health finally sank, and her mind gave way under this shock;
but she lingered till January, 1828, when she died, after writing a calm
letter to her husband, and bequeathing the poet's miniature to her friend,
Lady Morgan.

"I have paid some of my debts, and contracted others," Byron writes to
Moore, on September 15th, 1814; "but I have a few thousand pounds which I
can't spend after my heart in this climate, and so I shall go back to the
south. I want to see Venice and the Alps, and Parmesan cheeses, and look
at the coast of Greece from Italy. All this however depends upon an event
which may or may not happen. Whether it will I shall probably know
tomorrow, and if it does I can't well go abroad at present." "A wife," he
had written, in the January of the same year, "would be my salvation;" but
a marriage entered upon in such a flippant frame of mind could, scarcely
have been other than disastrous. In the autumn of the year we are told
that a friend,[2] observing how cheerless was the state both of his mind
and prospects, advised him to marry, and after much discussion he
consented, naming to his correspondent Miss Milbanke. To this his adviser
objected, remarking that she had, at present, no fortune, and that his
embarrassed affairs would not allow him to marry without one, etc.
Accordingly, he agreed that his friend should write a proposal to another
lady, which was done. A refusal arrived as they were one morning sitting
together. "'You see,' said Lord Byron, 'that after all Miss Milbanke is to
be the person,' and wrote on the moment. His friend, still remonstrating
against his choice, took up the letter; but, on reading it, observed,
'Well, really, this is a very pretty letter; it is a pity it should not
go.' 'Then it _shall_ go,' said Lord Byron, and, in so saying, sealed and
sent off this fiat of his fate." The incident seems cut from a French
novel; but so does the whole strange story--one apparently insoluble
enigma in an otherwise only too transparent life. On the arrival of the
lady's answer he was seated at dinner, when his gardener came in, and
presented him with his mother's wedding-ring, lost many years before, and
which had just been found, buried in the mould beneath her window. Almost
at the same moment the letter arrived; and Byron exclaimed, "If it
contains a consent (which it did), I will be married with this very ring."
He had the highest anticipations of his bride, appreciating her "talents,
and excellent qualities;" and saying, "she is so good a person that I wish
I was a better." About the same date he writes to various friends in the
good spirits raised by his enthusiastic reception from the Cambridge
undergraduates, when in the course of the same month he went to the Senate
House to give his vote for a Professor of Anatomy.

[Footnote 2: Doubtless Moore himself, who tells the story.]

The most constant and best of those friends was his sister, Augusta Leigh,
whom, from the death of Miss Chaworth to his own, Byron, in the highest
and purest sense of the word, loved more than any other human being.
Tolerant of errors, which she lamented, and violences in which she had no
share, she had a touch of their common family pride, most conspicuous in
an almost cat-like clinging to their ancestral home. Her early published
letters are full of regrets about the threatened sale of Newstead, on the
adjournment of which, when the first purchaser had to pay 25,000_l_. for
breaking his bargain, she rejoices, and over the consummation of which she
mourns, in the manner of Milton's Eve--

Must I then leave thee, Paradise?

In all her references to the approaching marriage there are blended notes
of hope and fear. In thanking Hodgson for his kind congratulations, she
trusts it will secure her brother's happiness. Later she adds her
testimony to that of all outsiders at this time, as to the graces and
genuine worth of the object of his choice. After the usual preliminaries,
the ill-fated pair were united, at Seaham House, on the 2nd of January,
1815. Byron was married like one walking in his sleep. He trembled like a
leaf, made the wrong responses, and almost from the first seems to have
been conscious of his irrevocable mistake.

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. He could see
Not that which was--but that which should have been--
But the old mansion, the accustom'd hall.
And she who was his destiny came back,
And thrust herself between him and the light.

Here we have faint visions of Miss Chaworth, mingling with later memories.
In handing the bride into the carriage he said, "Miss Milbanke, are you
ready?"--a mistake said to be of evil omen. Byron never really loved his
wife; and though he has been absurdly accused of marrying for revenge, we
must suspect that he married in part for a settlement. On the other hand,
it is not unfair to say that she was fascinated by a name, and inspired by
the philanthropic zeal of reforming a literary Corsair. Both were
disappointed. Miss Milbanke's fortune was mainly settled on herself; and
Byron, in spite of plentiful resolutions gave little sign of reformation.
For a considerable time their life, which, after the "treacle moon," as
the bridegroom called it, spent at Halnaby, near Darlington, was divided
between residence at Seaham and visits to London, seemed to move smoothly.
In a letter, evidently mis-dated the 15th December, Mrs. Leigh writes to
Hodgson: "I have every reason to think that my beloved B. is very happy
and comfortable. I hear constantly from him and _his rib_. It appears to
me that Lady B. sets about making him happy in the right way. I had many
fears. Thank God that they do not appear likely to be realized. In short,
there seems to me to be but one drawback to all our felicity, and that,
alas, is the disposal of dear Newstead. I never shall feel reconciled to
the loss of that sacred revered Abbey. The thought makes me more
melancholy than perhaps the loss of an inanimate object ought to do. Did
you ever hear that _landed property_, the GIFT OF THE CROWN, could not be
sold? Lady B. writes me word that she never saw her father and mother so
happy; that she believes the latter would go to the bottom of the sea
herself to find fish for B.'s dinner, &c." Augusta Ada was born in London
on the 10th of December, 1815. During the next months a few cynical
mutterings are the only interruptions to an ominous silence; but these
could be easily explained by the increasing embarrassment of the poet's
affairs, and the importunity of creditors, who in the course of the last
half-year had served seven or eight executions on his house and furniture.
Their expectations were raised by exaggerated reports of his having
married money; and by a curious pertinacity of pride he still declined,
even when he had to sell his books, to accept advances from his publisher.
In January the storm which had been secretly gathering suddenly broke. On
the 15th, i.e. five weeks after her daughter's birth, Lady Byron left home
with the infant to pay a visit, as had been agreed, to her own family at
Kirkby Mallory in Leicestershire. On the way she despatched to her husband
a tenderly playful letter, which has been often quoted. Shortly afterwards
he was informed--first by her father, and then by herself--that she did
not intend ever to return to him. The accounts of their last interview, as
in the whole evidence bearing on the affair, not only differ but flatly
contradict one another. On behalf of Lord Byron it is asserted, that his
wife, infuriated by his offering some innocent hospitality on occasion of
bad weather to a respectable actress, Mrs. Mardyn, who had called on him
about Drury Lane business, rushed into the room exclaiming, "I leave you
for ever"--and did so. According to another story, Lady Byron, finding him
with a friend, and observing him to be annoyed at her entrance, said, "Am
I in your way, Byron?" whereupon he answered, "Damnably." Mrs. Leigh,
Hodgson, Moore, and others, did everything that mutual friends could do to
bring about the reconciliation for which Byron himself professed to be
eager, but in vain; and in vain the effort was renewed in later years. The
wife was inveterately bent on a separation, of the causes of which the
husband alleged he was never informed, and with regard to which as long as
he lived she preserved a rigid silence.

For some time after the event Byron spoke of his wife with at least
apparent generosity. Rightly or wrongly, he blamed her parents, and her
maid--Mrs. Clermont, the theme of his scathing but not always dignified
"Sketch;" but of herself he wrote (March 8, 1816), "I do not believe that
there ever was a brighter, and a kinder, or a more amiable or agreeable
being than Lady Byron. I never had nor can have any reproach to make to
her, when with me." Elsewhere he adds, that he would willingly, if he had
the chance, "renew his marriage on a lease of twenty years." But as time
passed and his overtures were rejected, his patience gave way, and in some
of his later satires he even broke the bounds of courtesy. Lady Byron's
letters at the time of the separation, especially those first published in
the _Academy_ of July 19, 1879, are to Mrs. Leigh always affectionate and
confidential, often pathetic, asking her advice "in this critical moment,"
and protesting that, "independent of malady, she does not think of the
past with any spirit of resentment, and scarcely with the sense of
injury." In her communications to Mr. Hodgson, on the other hand--the
first of almost the same date, the second a few weeks later--she writes
with intense bitterness, stating that her action was due to offences which
she could only condone on the supposition of her husband's insanity, and
distinctly implying that she was in danger of her life. This supposition
having been by her medical advisers pronounced erroneous, she felt, in the
words only too pungently recalled in _Don Juan_, that her duty both to man
and God prescribed her course of action. Her playful letter on leaving she
seems to defend on the ground of the fear of personal violence. Till Lord
Byron's death the intimacy between his wife and sister remained unbroken;
through the latter he continued to send numerous messages to the former,
and to his child, who became a ward in Chancery; but at a later date it
began to cool. On the appearance of Lady Byron's letter, in answer to
Moore's first volume, Augusta speaks of it as "a despicable tirade," feels
"disgusted at such unfeeling conduct," and thinks "nothing can justify any
one in defaming the dead." Soon after 1830 they had an open rupture on a
matter of business, which was never really healed, though the then
Puritanic precisian sent a message of relenting to Mrs. Leigh on her
death-bed (1851).

The charge or charges which, during her husband's life, Lady Byron from
magnanimity or other motive reserved, she is ascertained after his death
to have delivered with important modifications to various persons, with
little regard to their capacity for reading evidence or to their
discretion. On one occasion her choice of a confidante was singularly
unfortunate. "These," wrote Lord Byron in his youth, "these are the first
tidings that have ever sounded like fame in my ears--to be redde on the
banks of the Ohio." Strangely enough, it is from the country of
Washington, whom the poet was wont to reverence as the purest patriot of
the modern world, that in 1869 there emanated the hideous story which
scandalized both continents, and ultimately recoiled on the retailer of
the scandal. The grounds of the reckless charge have been weighed by those
who have wished it to prove false, and by those who have wished it to
prove true, and found wanting. The chaff has been beaten in every way and
on all sides, without yielding an ounce of grain; and it were ill-advised
to rake up the noxious dust that alone remains. From nothing left on
record by either of the two persons most intimately concerned can we
derive any reliable information. It is plain that Lady Byron was during
the later years of her life the victim of hallucinations, and that if
Byron knew the secret, which he denies, he did not choose to tell it,
putting off Captain Medwin and others with absurdities, as that "He did
not like to see women eat," or with commonplaces, as "The causes, my dear
sir, were too simple to be found out."

Thomas Moore, who had the Memoirs[3] supposed to have thrown light on the
mystery, in the full knowledge of Dr. Lushington's judgment and all the
gossip of the day, professes to believe that "the causes of disunion did
not differ from those that loosen the links of most such marriages," and
writes several pages on the trite theme that great genius is incompatible
with domestic happiness. Negative instances abound to modify this sweeping
generalization; but there is a kind of genius, closely associated with
intense irritability, which it is difficult to subject to the most
reasonable yoke; and of this sort was Byron's. His valet, Fletcher, is
reported to have said that "Any woman could manage my lord, except my
lady;" and Madame De Stael, on reading the _Farewell_, that "She would
have been glad to have been in Lady Byron's place." But it may be doubted
if Byron would have made a good husband to any woman; his wife and he were
even more than usually ill-assorted. A model of the proprieties, and a
pattern of the learned philanthropy of which in her sex he was wont to
make a constant butt, she was no fit consort for that "mens insana in
corpore insano." What could her stolid temperament conjecture of a man
whom she saw, in one of his fits of passion, throwing a favourite watch
under the fire, and grinding it to pieces with a poker? Or how could her
conscious virtue tolerate the recurring irregularities which he was
accustomed, not only to permit himself, but to parade? The harassment of
his affairs stimulated his violence, till she was inclined to suspect him
to be mad. Some of her recently printed letters--as that to Lady Anne
Barnard, and the reports of later observers of her character--as William
Howitt, tend to detract from the earlier tributes to her consistent
amiability, and confirm our ideas of the incompatibility of the pair. It
must have been trying to a poet to be asked by his wife, impatient of his
late hours, when he was going to leave off writing verses; to be told he
had no real enthusiasm; or to have his desk broken open, and its
compromising contents sent to the persons for whom they were least
intended. The smouldering elements of discontent may have been fanned by
the gossip of dependants, or the officious zeal of relatives, and kindled
into a jealous flame by the ostentation of regard for others beyond the
circle of his home. Lady Byron doubtless believed some story which, when
communicated to her legal advisers, led them to the conclusion that the
mere fact of her believing it made reconciliation impossible; and the
inveterate obstinacy which lurked beneath her gracious exterior, made her
cling through life to the substance--not always to the form, whatever that
may have been--of her first impressions. Her later letters to Mrs. Leigh,
as that called forth by Moore's _Life_, are certainly as open to the
charge of self-righteousness, as those of her husband's are to

[Footnote 3: Captain Trelawney, however, doubts if he ever read them.]

Byron himself somewhere says, "Strength of endurance is worth all the
talent in the world." "I love the virtues that I cannot share." His own
courage was all active; he had no power of sustained endurance. At a time
when his proper refuge was silence, and his prevailing sentiment--for he
admits he was somehow to blame--should have been remorse, he foolishly
vented his anger and his grief in verses, most of them either peevish or
vindictive, and some of which he certainly permitted to be published. "Woe
to him," exclaims Voltaire, "who says all he could on any subject!" Woe to
him, he might have added, who says anything at all on the subject of his
domestic troubles! The poet's want of reticence at this crisis started a
host of conjectures, accusations, and calumnies, the outcome, in some
degree at least, of the rancorous jealousy of men of whose adulation he
was weary. Then began that burst of British virtue on which Macaulay has
expatiated, and at which the social critics of the continent have laughed.
Cottle, Cato, Oxoniensis, Delia, and Styles, were let loose, and they
anticipated the _Saturday_ and the _Spectator_ of 1869, so that the latter
might well have exclaimed, "Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt." Byron
was accused of every possible and impossible vice, he was compared to
Sardanapalus, Nero, Tiberius, the Duke of Orleans, Heliogabalus, and
Satan--all the most disreputable persons mentioned in sacred and profane
history; his benevolences were maligned, his most disinterested actions
perverted. Mrs. Mardyn, the actress, was on his account, on one occasion,
driven off the public stage. He was advised not to go to the theatres,
lest he should be hissed; nor to Parliament, lest he should be insulted.
On the very day of his departure a friend told him that he feared violence
from mobs assembling at the door of his carriage. "Upon what grounds," the
poet writes, in a trenchant survey of the circumstances, in August, 1819,
"the public formed their opinion, I am not aware; but it was general, and
it was decisive. Of me and of mine they knew little, except that I had
written poetry, was a nobleman, bad married, became a father, and was
involved in differences with my wife and her relatives--no one knew why,
because the persons complaining refused to state their grievances.

"The press was active and scurrilous;.. my name--which had been a
knightly or a noble one since my fathers helped to conquer the kingdom for
William the Norman--was tainted. I felt that, if what was whispered and
muttered and murmured was true, I was unfit for England; if false, England
was unfit for me. I withdrew; but this was not enough. In other
countries--in Switzerland, in the shadow of the Alps, and by the blue
depth of the lakes--I was pursued and breathed upon by the same blight. I
crossed the mountains, but it was the same; so I went a little farther,
and settled myself by the waves of the Adriatic, like the stag at bay, who
betakes himself to the waters."

On the 16th of April, 1816, shortly before his departure, he wrote to Mr.
Rogers: "My sister is now with me, and leaves town to-morrow. We shall not
meet again for some time, at all events, if ever (it was their final
meeting), and under these circumstances I trust to stand excused to you
and Mr. Sheridan for being unable to wait upon him this evening." In all
this storm and stress, Byron's one refuge was in the affection which rises
like a well of purity amid the passions of his turbid life.

In the desert a fountain is springing,
In the wild waste there still is a tree;
And a bird in the solitude singing,
That speaks to my spirit of thee.

The fashionable world was tired of its spoilt child, and he of it. Hunted
out of the country, bankrupt in purse and heart, he left it, never to
return; but he left it to find fresh inspiration by the "rushing of the
arrowy Rhone," and under Italian skies to write the works which have
immortalized his name.


Earl Spencer. Sir Ralph Milbanke. Viscount Wentworth
| _________________|_______________ |
| | | |
Henrietta Elizabeth (Lady Melbourne) Sir Ralph + Judith Noel
Frances. | m. Viscount Melbourne. |
+ | |
F. Ponsonby | Lord Byron + Anna Isabella.
(Earl of | |
Bessborough). | Augusta Ada.
| |
| |
Lady Caroline + William Lamb.


William Godwin.
Married 1st + Mary Woolstonecraft. 2nd Mrs. Clairmont.
| She had by previous |
| alliance |
| | Claire Claremont + Byron.
P. B. Shelley + Mary Godwin Fanny Imlay. |



On the 25th of April, 1816, Byron embarked for Ostend. From the "burning
marl" of the staring streets he planted his foot again on the dock with a
genuine exultation.

Once more upon the waters, yet once more,
And the waves bound beneath me as a steed
That knows her rider. Welcome to the roar!

But he brought with him a relic of English extravagance, sotting out on
his land travels in a huge coach, copied from that of Napoleon taken at
Genappe, and being accompanied by Fletcher, Rushton, Berger, a Swiss, and
Polidori, a physician of Italian descent, son of Alfieri's secretary, a
man of some talent but indiscreet. A question arises as to the source from
which he obtained the means for these and subsequent luxuries, in striking
contrast with Goldsmith's walking-stick, knapsack, and flute. Byron's
financial affairs are almost inextricably confused. We can, for instance,
nowhere find a clear statement of the result of the suit regarding the
Rochdale Estates, save that he lost it before the Court of Exchequer, and
that his appeal to the House of Lords was still unsettled in 1822. The
sale of Newstead to Colonel Wildman in 1818, for 90,000 _l_., went mostly
to pay off mortgages and debts. In April, 1819, Mrs. Leigh writes, after a
last sigh over this event:--"Sixty thousand pounds was secured by his
(Byron's) marriage settlement, the interest of which he receives for life,
and which ought to make him very comfortable." This is unfortunately
decisive of the fact that he did not in spirit adhere to the resolution
expressed to Moore never to touch a farthing of his wife's money, though
we may accept his statement to Medwin, that he twice repaid the dowry of
10,000 _l_. brought to him at the marriage, as in so far diminishing the
obligation. None of the capital of Lady Byron's family came under his
control till 1822, when, on the death of her mother, Lady Noel, Byron
arranged the appointment of referees, Sir Francis Burdett on his behalf,
Lord Dacre on his wife's. The result was an equal division of a property
worth about 7000 _l_ a year. While in Italy the poet received besides
about 10,000 _l_ for his writings--4000 _l_. being given for _Childe
Harold_ (iii., iv.), and _Manfred_. "Ne pas etre dupe" was one of his
determinations, and, though he began by caring little for making money, he
was always fond of spending it. "I tell you it is too much," he said to
Murray, in returning a thousand guineas for the _Corinth_ and _Partsina_.
Hodgson, Moore, Bland, Thomas Ashe, the family of Lord Falkland, the
British Consul at Venice, and a host of others, were ready to testify to
his superb munificence. On the other hand, he would stint his pleasures,
or his benevolences, which were among them, for no one; and when he found
that to spend money he had to make it, he saw neither rhyme nor reason in
accepting less than his due. In 1817 he begins to dun Murray, declaring,
with a frankness in which we can find no fault, "You offer 1500 guineas
for the new canto (_C. H_., iv.). I won't take it. I ask 2500 guineas for
it, which you will either give or not, as you think proper." During the
remaining years of his life he grew more and more exact, driving hard
bargains for his houses, horses, and boats, and fitting himself, had he
lived, to be Chancellor of the Exchequer in the newly-liberated State,
from which he took a bond securing a fair interest for his loan. He made
out an account in _L. s. d_. against the ungrateful Dallas, and when Leigh
Hunt threatened to sponge upon him he got a harsh reception; but there is
nothing to countenance the view that Byron was ever really possessed by
the "good old gentlemanly vice" of which lie wrote. The Skimpoles and
Chadbands of the world are always inclined to talk of filthy lucre: it is
equally a fashion of really lavish people to boast that they are good men
of business.

We have only a few glimpses of Byron's progress. At Brussels the
Napoleonic coach was set aside for a more serviceable caleche. During his
stay in the Belgian capital lie paid a visit to the scene of Waterloo,
wrote the famous stanzas beginning, "Stop, for thy tread is on an empire's
dust!" and in unpatriotic prose, recorded his impressions of a plain which
appeared to him to "want little but a better cause" to make it vie in
interest with those of Platea and Marathon.

The rest of his journey lay up the Rhine to Basle, thence to Berne,
Lausanne, and Geneva, where he settled for a time at the Hotel Secheron,
on the western shore of the lake. Here began the most interesting literary
relationship of his life, for here he first came in contact with the
impassioned Ariel of English verse, Percy Bysshe Shelley. They lived in
proximity after they left the hotel, Shelley's headquarters being at Mont
Alegre, and Byron's for the remainder of the summer at the Villa Diodati;
and their acquaintance rapidly ripened into an intimacy which, with some
interruptions, extended over the six remaining years of their joint lives.
The place for an estimate of their mutual influence belongs to the time of
their Italian partnership. Meanwhile, we hear of them mainly as
fellow-excursionists about the lake, which on one occasion departing from
its placid poetical character, all but swallowed them both, along with
Hobhouse, off Meillerie. "The boat," says Byron, "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. I
ran no risk, being so near the rocks and a good swimmer; but our party
wore wet and incommoded." The only anxiety of Shelley, who could not swim,
was, that no one else should risk a life for his. Two such revolutionary
or such brave poets were, in all probability, never before nor since in a
storm in a boat together. During this period Byron complains of being
still persecuted. "I was in a wretched state of health and worse spirits
when I was in 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. 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." Shortly after his
arrival in Switzerland he contracted an intimacy with Miss Clairmont, a
daughter of Godwin's second wife, and consequently a connexion by marriage
of the Shelleys, with whom she was living, which resulted in the birth of
a daughter, Allegra, at Great Marlow, in February, 1817. The noticeable
events of the following two months are a joint excursion to Chamouni, and
a visit in July to Madame de Stael at Coppet, in the course of which he
met Frederick Schlegel. During a wet week, when the families were reading
together some German ghost stories, an idea occurred of imitating them,
the main result of which was Mrs. Shelley's _Frankenstein_. Byron
contributed to the scheme a fragment of _The Vampire_, afterwards
completed and published in the name of his patron by Polidori. The
eccentricities of this otherwise amiable physician now began to give
serious annoyance; his jealousy of Shelley grew to such a pitch that it
resulted in the doctor's giving a challenge to the poet, at which the
latter only laughed; but Byron, to stop further outbreaks of the kind,
remarked, "Recollect that, though Shelley has scruples about duelling, I
have none, and shall be at all times ready to take his place." Polidori
had ultimately to be dismissed, and, after some years of vicissitude,
committed suicide.

The Shelleys left for England in September, and Byron made an excursion
with Hobhouse through the Bernese Oberland. They went by the Col de Jaman
and the Simmenthal to Thun; then up the valley to the Staubbach, which he
compares to the tail of the pale horse in the Apocalypse--not a very
happy, though a striking comparison. Thence they proceeded over the
Wengern to Grindelwald and the Rosenlau glacier; then back by Berne,
Friburg, and Yverdun to Diodati. The following passage in reference to
this tour may be selected as a specimen of his prose description, and of
the ideas of mountaineering before the days of the Alpine Club:--

"Before ascending the mountain, went to the torrent again, the sun upon it
forming a rainbow of the lower part, of all colours but principally purple
and gold, the bow moving as you move. I never saw anything like this; it
is only in the sunshine.... Left the horses, took off my coat, and went to
the summit, 7000 English feet above the level of the sea, and 5000 feet
above the valley we left in the morning. On one side our view comprised
the Jungfrau, with all her glaciers; then the Dent d'Argent, shining like
truth; then the Eighers and the Wetterhorn. Heard the avalanches falling
every five minutes. From where we stood on the Wengern Alp we had all
these in view on one side; on the other, the clouds rose up 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.... Arrived at the Grindelwald; dined;
mounted again, and rode to the higher glacier--like a frozen hurricane;
starlight beautiful, but a devil of a path. Passed whole woods of withered
pines, all withered; trunks stripped and barkless, branches lifeless; done
by a single winter. Their appearance reminded me of me and my family."

Students of _Manfred_ will recognize whole sentences, only slightly
modified in its verse. Though Byron talks with contempt of authorship,
there is scarce a fine phrase in his letters or journal which is not
pressed into the author's service. He turns his deepest griefs to artistic
gain, and uses five or six times for literary purposes the expression
which seems to have dropped from him naturally about his household gods
being shivered on his hearth. His account of this excursion concludes with
a passage equally characteristic of his melancholy and incessant

"In the weather for this tour, I have been very fortunate.... I was
disposed to be pleased. I am a lover of nature, &c.... But in all this the
recollection of bitterness, and more especially of recent and more home
desolation, which must accompany me through life, have preyed upon me
here; and neither the music of the shepherd, the crashing of the
avalanche, the torrent, the mountain, the glacier, the forest, nor the
cloud, have for one moment lightened the weight upon my heart, nor enabled
me to lose my own wretched identity in the majesty, and the power, and the
glory around, above, and beneath me."

Such egotism in an idle man would only provoke impatience; but Byron was,
during the whole of this period, almost preternaturally active. Detained
by bad weather at Ouchy for two days (Juno 26, 27), he wrote the _Prisoner
of Chillon_, which, with its noble introductory sonnet on Bonnivard, in
some respects surpasses any of his early romances. The opening lines,--

Lake Leman lies by Chillon's walls;
A thousand feet in depth below,
Its massy waters meet and flow,--

bring before us in a few words the conditions of a hopeless bondage. The
account of the prisoner himself, and of the lingering deaths of the
brothers; the first frenzy of the survivor, and the desolation which
succeeds it--

I only loved: I only drew
The accursed breath of dungeon dew,--

the bird's song breaking on the night of his solitude; his growing
enamoured of despair, and regaining his freedom with a sigh, are all
strokes from a master hand. From the same place, at the same date, he
announces to Murray the completion of the third canto of _Childe Harold_.
The productiveness of July is portentous. During that month he wrote the
_Monody on Sheridan, The Dream, Churchill's Grave_, the _Sonnet to Lake
Leman, Could I remount the River of my Years_, part of _Manfred,
Prometheus_, the _Stanzas to Augusta_, beginning,

My sister! My sweet sister! If a name
Dearer and purer were, it should be thine;

and the terrible dream of _Darkness_, which at least in the ghastly power
of the close, where the survivors meet by the lurid light of a dim altar
fire, and die of each other's hideousness, surpasses Campbell's _Last
Man_[1]. At Lausanne the poet made a pilgrimage to the haunts of Gibbon,
broke a sprig from his acacia-tree, and carried off some rose leaves from
his garden. Though entertaining friends, among them Mr. M.G. Lewis and
Scrope Davies, he systematically shunned "the locust swarm of English
tourists," remarking on their obtrusive platitudes; as when he heard one
of them at Chamouni inquire, "Did you ever see anything more truly rural?"
Ultimately he got tired of the Calvinistic Genevese--one of whom is said
to have swooned as he entered the room--and early in October set out with
Hobhouse for Italy. They crossed the Simplon, and proceeded by the Lago
Maggiore to Milan, admiring the pass, but slighting the somewhat hothouse
beauties of the Borromean Islands. From Milan he writes, pronouncing its
cathedral to be only a little inferior to that of Seville, and delighted
with "a correspondence, all original and amatory, between Lucretia Borgia
and Cardinal Bembo." He secured a lock of the golden hair of the Pope's
daughter, and wished himself a cardinal.

[Footnote 1: This only appeared in 1831, but Campbell claims to have
given Byron in conversation the suggestion of the subject.]

At Verona, Byron dilates on the amphitheatre, as surpassing anything he
had seen even in Greece, and on the faith of the people in the story of
Juliet, from whose reputed tomb he sent some pieces of granite to Ada and
his nieces. In November we find him settled in Venice, "the greenest isle
of his imagination." There he began to form those questionable alliances
which are so marked a feature of his life, and so frequent a theme in his
letters, that it is impossible to pass them without notice. The first of
his temporary idols was Mariana Segati, "the wife of a merchant of
Venice," for some time his landlord. With this woman, whom he describes as
an antelope with oriental eyes, wavy hair, voice like the cooing of a
dove, and the spirit of a Bacchante, he remained on terms of intimacy
for about eighteen months, during which their mutual devotion was only
disturbed by some outbursts of jealousy. In December the poet took lessons
in Armenian, glad to find in the study something craggy to break his mind
upon. Ho translated into that language a portion of St. Paul's Epistle to
the Corinthians. Notes on the carnival, praises of _Christabel_,
instructions about the printing of _Childe Harold_ (iii.), protests
against the publication under his name of some spurious "domestic poems,"
and constant references, doubtfully domestic, to his Adriatic lady, fill
up the records of 1816. On February 15, 1817, he announces to Murray the
completion of the first sketch of _Manfred_, and alludes to it in a
bantering manner as "a kind of poem in dialogue, of a wild metaphysical
and inexplicable kind;" concluding, "I have at least rendered it _quite
impossible_ for the stage, for which my intercourse with Drury Lane has
given me the greatest contempt."

About this time Byron seems to have entertained the idea of returning to
England in the spring, i.e. after a year's absence. This design, however,
was soon set aside, partly in consequence of a slow malarian fever, by
which he was prostrated for several weeks. On his partial recovery,
attributed to his having had neither medicine nor doctor, and a
determination to live till he had "put one or two people out of the
world," he started on an expedition to Rome.

His first stage was Arqua; then Ferrara, where he was inspired, by a sight
of the Italian poet's prison, with the _Lament of Tasso_; the next,
Florence, where he describes himself as drunk with the beauty of the
galleries. Among the pictures, he was most impressed with the mistresses
of Raphael and Titian, to whom, along with Giorgione, he is always
reverential; and he recognized in Santa Croce the Westminster Abbey of
Italy. Passing through Foligno, he reached his destination early in May,
and met his old friends, Lord Lansdowne and Hobhouse. The poet employed
his short time at Rome in visiting on horseback the most famous sites in
the city and neighbourhood--as the Alban Mount, Tivoli, Frascati, the
Falls of Terni, and the Clitumnus--re-casting the crude first draft of the
third act of _Manfred_, and sitting for his bust to Thorwaldsen. Of this
sitting the sculptor afterwards gave some account to his compatriot, Hans
Andersen: "Byron placed himself opposite to me, but at once began to put
on a quite different expression from that usual to him. 'Will you not sit
still?' said I. 'You need not assume that look.' 'That is my expression,'
said Byron. 'Indeed,' said I; and I then represented him as I wished. When
the bust was finished he said, 'It is not at all like me; my expression is
more unhappy.'" West, the American, who five years later painted his
lordship at Leghorn, substantiates the above half-satirical anecdote, by
the remark, "He was a bad sitter; he assumed a countenance that did not
belong to him, as though he were thinking of a frontispiece for _Chlde
Harold_." Thorwaldsen's bust, the first cast of which was sent to
Hobhouse, and pronounced by Mrs. Leigh to be the best of the numerous
likenesses of her brother, was often repeated. Professor Brandes, of
Copenhagen, introduces his striking sketch of the poet by a reference to
the model, that has its natural place in the museum named from the great
sculptor whose genius had flung into the clay the features of a character
so unlike his own. The bust, says the Danish critic, at first sight
impresses one with an undefinable classic grace; on closer examination the
restlessness of a life is reflected in a brow over which clouds seem to
hover, but clouds from which we look for lightnings. The dominant
impression of the whole is that of some irresistible power
(Unwiderstehlichkeit). Thorwaldsen, at a much later date (1829-1833)
executed the marble statue, first intended for the Abbey, which is now to
be seen in the library of Trinity College, in evidence that Cambridge is
still proud of her most brilliant son.

Towards the close of the month--after almost fainting at the execution by
guillotine of three bandits--he professes impatience to get back to
Mariana, and early in the next we find him established with her near
Venice, at the villa of La Mira, where for some time he continued to
reside. His letters of June refer to the sale of Newstead, the mistake of
Mrs. Leigh and others in attributing to him the _Tales of a Landlord_, the
appearance of _Lalla Rookh_, preparations for _Marino Faliero_, and the
progress of _Childe Harold_ iv. This poem, completed in September, and
published early in 1818 (with a dedication to Hobhouse, who had supplied
most of the illustrative notes), first made manifest the range of the
poet's power. Only another slope of ascent lay between him and the
pinnacle, over which shines the red star of _Cain_. Had Lord Byron's
public career closed when he left England, he would have been remembered
for a generation as the author of some musical minor verses, a clever
satire, a journal in verse exhibiting flashes of genius, and a series of
fascinating romances--also giving promise of higher power--which had
enjoyed a marvellous popularity. The third and fourth cantos of _Childe
Harold_ placed him on another platform, that of the _Dii Majores_ of
English verse. These cantos are separated from their predecessors, not by
a stage, but by a gulf. Previous to their publication he had only shown
how far the force of rhapsody could go; now he struck with his right hand,
and from the shoulder. Knowledge of life and study of Nature were the
mainsprings of a growth which the indirect influence of Wordsworth, and
the happy companionship of Shelley, played their part in fostering.
Faultlessness is seldom a characteristic of impetuous verse, never of
Byron's; and even in the later parts of the _Childe_ there are careless
lines, and doubtful images. "Self-exiled Harold wanders forth again,"
looking "pale and interesting;" but we are soon refreshed by a higher
note. No familiarity can distract from "Waterloo," which holds its own by
Barbour's "Bannockburn," and Scott's "Flodden." Sir Walter, referring to
the climax of the opening, and the pathetic lament of the closing lines,
generously doubts whether any verses in English surpass them in vigour.
There follows "The Broken Mirror," extolled by Jeffrey with an
appreciation of its exuberance of fancy, and negligence of diction; and
then the masterly sketch of Napoleon, with the implied reference to the
writer at the end.

The descriptions in both cantos perpetually rise from a basis of rhetoric
to a real height of poetry. Byron's "Rhine" flows, like the river itself,
in a stream of "exulting and abounding" stanzas. His "Venice" may be set
beside the masterpieces of Ruskin's prose. They are together the joint
pride of Italy and England. The tempest in the third canto is in verse a
splendid microcosm of the favourites, if not the prevailing mood, of the
writer's mind. In spite of manifest flaws, the nine stanzas beginning "It
is the hush of night," have enough in them to feed a high reputation. The
poet's dying day, his sun and moon contending over the Rhaetian hill, his
Thrasymene, Clitumnus, and Velino, show that his eye has grown keener, and
his imagery at least more terse, and that he can occasionally forgot
himself in his surroundings. The Drachenfels, Ehrenbreitstein, the Alps,
Lake Leman, pass before us like a series of dissolving views. But the
stability of the book depends on its being a Temple of Fame, as well as a
Diorama of Scenery. It is no mere versified Guide, because every
resting-place in the pilgrimage is made interesting by association with
illustrious memories. Coblontz introduces the tribute to Marceau; Clarens
an almost complete review, in five verses, of Rousseau; Lausanne and
Ferney the quintessence of criticism on Gibbon and Voltaire. A tomb in
Arqua suggests Petrarch; the grass-grown streets of Ferrara lead in the
lines on Tasso; the white walls of the Etrurian Athens bring back
Alfieri and Michael Angelo, and the prose bard of the hundred tales, and
Dante, "buried by the upbraiding shore," and--

The starry Galileo and his woes.

Byron has made himself so master of the glories and the wrecks of Rome,
that almost everything else that has been said of them seems superfluous.
Hawthorne, in his _Marble Fawn_, comes nearest to him; but Byron's
Gladiator and Apollo, if not his Laocoon, are unequalled. "The voice of
Marius," says Scott, "could not sound more deep and solemn among the ruins
of Carthage, than the strains of the pilgrim among the broken shrines and
fallen statues of her subduer." As the third canto has a fitting close
with the poet's pathetic remembrance of his daughter, so the fourth is
wound up with consummate art,--the memorable dirge on the Princess
Charlotte being followed by the address to the sea, which, enduring
unwrinkled through all its ebbs and flows, seems to mock at the mutability
of human life.

_Manfred_, his witch drama, as the author called it, has had a special
attraction for inquisitive biographers, because it has been supposed in
some dark manner to reveal the secrets of his prison house. Its lines have
been tortured, like the witches of the seventeenth century, to extort from
them the meaning of the "all nameless hour," and every conceivable horror
has been alleged as its _motif_. On this subject Goethe writes with a
humorous simplicity: "This singularly intellectual poet has extracted from
my _Faust_ the strongest nourishment for his hypochondria; but he has made
use of the impelling principles for his own purposes.... When a bold and
enterprising young man, he won the affections of a Florentine lady. Her
husband discovered the amour, and murdered his wife; but the murderer was
the same night found dead in the street, and there was no one to whom any
suspicion could be attached. Lord Byron removed from Florence, but these
spirits have haunted him all his life. This romantic incident explains
innumerable allusions," e.g.,--

I have shed
Blood, but not hers,--and yet her blood was shed.

Were it not for the fact that the poet had never seen the city in question
when he wrote the poem, this explanation would be more plausible than most
others, for the allusions are all to some lady who has been done to death.
Galt asserts that the plot turns on a tradition of unhallowed
necromancy--a human sacrifice, like that of Antinous attributed to
Hadrian. Byron himself says it has no plot, but he kept teasing his
questioners with mysterious hints, e.g. "It was the Staubbach and the
Jungfrau, and something else more than Faustus, which made me write
_Manfred_;" and of one of his critics he says to Murray, "It had a better
origin than he can devise or divine, for the soul of him." In any case
most methods of reading between its lines would, if similarly applied,
convict Sophocles, Schiller, and Shelley of incest, Shakespeare of murder,
Milton of blasphemy, Scott of forgery, Marlowe and Goethe of compacts with
the devil. Byron was no dramatist, but he had wit enough to vary at least
the circumstances of his projected personality. The memories of both
Fausts--the Elizabethan and the German--mingle, in the pages of this
piece, with shadows of the author's life; but to these it never gives, nor
could be intended to give, any substantial form.

_Manfred_ is a chaos of pictures, suggested by the scenery of
Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald, half animated by vague personifications and
sensational narrative. Like _Harold_, and Scott's _Marmion_, it just
misses being a great poem. The Coliseum is its masterpiece of description,
the appeal, "Astarte, my beloved, speak to me," its nearest approach to
pathos. The lonely death of the hero makes an effective close to the moral
tumult of the preceding scenes. But the reflections, often striking, are
seldom absolutely fresh: that beginning,

The mind, which is immortal, makes itself
Requital for its good or evil thoughts,
Is its own origin of ill and end,
And its own place and time,

is transplanted from Milton with as little change as Milton made in
transplanting it from Marlowe. The author's own favourite passage, the
invocation to the sun (act iii., sc. 2), has some sublimity, marred by
lapses. The lyrics scattered through the poem sometimes open well,

Mont Blanc is the monarch of mountains;
They crowned him long ago,
On a throne of rocks, in a robe of clouds,
With a null of snow;

but they cannot sustain themselves like true song-birds, and fall to the
ground like spent rockets. This applies to Byron's lyrics generally; turn
to the incantation in the _Deformed Transformed_: the first line and a
half are in tune,--

Beautiful shadow of Thetis's boy,
Who sleeps in the meadow whose grass grows o'er Troy.

Nor Sternhold nor Hopkins has more ruthlessly outraged our ears than the
next two--

From the red earth, like Adam, thy likeness I shape,
As the Being who made him, whose actions I ape(!)

Of his songs: "There be none of Beauty's daughters," "She walks in
beauty," "Maid of Athens," "I enter thy garden of roses," the translation
"Sons of the Greeks," and others, have a flow and verve that it is
pedantry to ignore; but in general Byron was too much of the earth earthy
to be a great lyrist. Some of the greatest have lived wild lives, but
their wings were not weighted with the lead of the love of the world.

The summer and early months of the autumn of 1817 were spent at La Mira,
and much of the poet's time was occupied in riding along the banks of the
Brenta, often in the company of the few congenial Englishmen who came in
his way; others, whom he avoided, avenged themselves by retailing stories,
none of which wore "too improbable for the craving appetites of their
slander-loving countrymen." In August he received a visit from Mr.
Hobhouse, and on this occasion drew up the remarkable document afterwards
given to Mr. M. G. Lewis for circulation in England, which appeared in the
_Academy_ of October 9th, 1869. In this document he says, "It has been
intimated to me that the persons understood to be the legal advisers of
Lady Byron have declared their lips to be sealed up on the cause of the
separation between her and myself. If their lips are sealed up they are
not sealed up by me, and the greatest favour they can confer upon me will
be to open them." He goes on to state, that he repents having consented to
the separation--will be glad to cancel the deed, or to go before any
tribunal, to discuss the matter in the most public manner; adding, that
Mr. Hobhouse (in whose presence he was writing) proposed, on his part, to
go into court, and ending with a renewed asseveration of his ignorance of
the allegations against him, and his inability to understand for what
purpose they had been kept back, "unless it was to sanction the most
infamous calumnies by silence." Hobhouse, and others, during the four
succeeding years, ineffectually endeavoured to persuade the poet to return
to England. Moore and others insist that Byron's heart was at home when
his presence was abroad, and that, with all her faults, he loved his
country still. Leigh Hunt, on the contrary, asserts that he cared nothing
for England or its affairs. Like many men of genius, Byron was never
satisfied with what he had at the time. "Romae Tibur amem ventosus Tibure
Romam." At Seaham he is bored to death, and pants for the excitement of
the clubs; in London society he longs for a desert or island in the
Cyclades; after their separation, he begins to regret his wife; after his
exile, his country. "Where," he exclaimed to Hobhouse, "is real comfort to
be found out of England?" He frequently fell into the mood in which he
wrote the verse,--

Yet I was born where men are proud to be,
Not without cause: and should I leave behind
Th'immortal island of the sage and free,
And seek me out a home by a remoter sea?

But the following, to Murray (June 7, 1819), is equally sincere. "Some of
the epitaphs at Ferrara pleased me more than the more splendid monuments
of Bologna; for instance--

'Martini Luigi
Implora pace.'

'Lucrezia Picini
Implora eterna quiete.'"

Can anything be more full of pathos? These few words say all that can be
said or sought; the dead had had enough of life; all they wanted was rest,
and this they implore. There is all the helplessness, and humble hope, and
death-like prayer that can arise from the grave--'implora pace.' "I hope,
whoever may survive me, and shall see me put in the foreigner's
burying-ground at the Lido, within the fortress by the Adriatic, will see
these two words, and no more, put over me. I trust they won't think of
pickling and bringing me home to Clod, or Blunderbuss Hall. I am sure my
bones would not rest in an English grave, or my clay mix with the earth of
that country." Hunt's view is, in this as in other subtle respects, nearer
the truth than Moore's; for with all Byron's insight into Italian vice, he
hated more the master vice of England--hypocrisy; and much of his
greatest, and in a sense latest, because unfinished work, is the severest,
as it might be the wholesomest, satire ever directed against a great
nation since the days of Juvenal and Tacitus.

In September (1817) Byron entered into negotiations, afterwards completed,
for renting a country house among the Euganean hills near Este, from Mr.
Hoppner, the English Consul at Venice, who bears frequent testimony to his
kindness and courtesy. In October we find him settled for the winter in
Venice, where he first occupied his old quarters, in the Spezieria, and
afterwards hired one of the palaces of the Countess Mocenigo on the Grand
Canal. Between this mansion, the cottage at Este, and the villa of La
Mira, he divided his time for the next two years. During the earlier part
of his Venetian career he had continued to frequent the salon of the
Countess Albrizzi, where he met with people of both sexes of some rank and
standing who appreciated his genius, though some among them fell into
absurd mistakes. A gentleman of the company informing the hostess, in
answer to some inquiry regarding Canova's busts, that Washington, the
American President, was shot in a duel by Burke, "What, in the name of
folly, are you thinking of?" said Byron, perceiving that the speaker was
confounding Washington with Hamilton, and Burke with Burr. He afterwards
transferred himself to the rival coterie of the Countess Benzoni, and gave
himself up with little reserve to the intrigues which cast discredit on
this portion of his life. Nothing is so conducive to dissipation as
despair, and Byron had begun to regard the Sea-Cybele as a Sea-Sodom--when
he wrote, "To watch a city die daily, as she does, 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." In
any case, he forsook the "Dame," and, by what his biographer calls a
"descent in the scale of refinement, for which nothing but the wayward
state of his mind can account," sought the companions of his leisure hours
among the wearers of the "fazzioli." The carnivals of the years 1818,
1819, mark the height of his excesses. Early in the former, Mariana Segati
fell out of favour, owing to Byron's having detected her in selling the
jewels he had given as presents, and so being led to suspect a large
mercenary element in her devotion. To her succeeded Margarita Cogni, the
wife of a baker who proved as accommodating as his predecessor, the
linen-draper. This woman was decidedly a character, and Senor Castelar has
almost elevated her into a heroine. A handsome virago, with brown
shoulders, and black hair, endowed with the strength of an Amazon, "a face
like Faustina's, and the figure of a Juno--tall and energetic as a
pythoness," she quartered herself for twelve months in the palace as
"Donna di governo," and drove the servants about without let or hindrance.
Unable to read or write she intercepted his lordship's letters to little
purpose; but she had great natural business talents, reduced by one half
the expenses of his household, kept everything in good order, and, when
her violences roused his wrath, turned it off with some ready retort or
witticism. She was very devout, and would cross herself three times at the
Angelus. One instance, of a different kind of devotion, from Byron's own
account, is sufficiently graphic:--"In the autumn one day, going to the
Lido with my gondoliers, we were overtaken by a heavy squall, and the
gondola put in peril, hats blown away, boat filling, oar lost, tumbling
sea, thunder, rain in torrents, and wind unceasing. On our return, after a
tight struggle, I found her on the open stops of the Mocenigo Palace on
the Grand Canal, with her great black eyes flashing through her tears, and
the long dark hair which was streaming, drenched with rain, over her
brows. She was perfectly exposed to the storm; and the wind blowing her
dress about her thin figure, and the lightning flashing round her, made
her look like Medea alighted from her chariot, or the Sibyl of the tempest
that was rolling around her, the only living thing within hail at that
moment, except ourselves. On seeing me safe she did not wait to greet me,
as might have been expected; but, calling out to me, 'Ah! can' della
Madonna, xe esto il tempo per andar' al' Lido,' ran into the house, and
solaced herself with scolding the boatmen for not foreseeing the
'temporale.' Her joy at seeing me again was moderately mixed with
ferocity, and gave me the idea of a tigress over her recovered cubs."

Some months after she became ungovernable--threw plates about, and
snatched caps from the heads of other women who looked at her lord in
public places. Byron told her she must go home; whereupon she proceeded to
break glass, and threaten "knives, poison, fire;" and on his calling his
boatmen to get ready the gondola, threw herself in the dark night into the
canal. She was rescued, and in a few days finally dismissed; after which
he saw her only twice, at the theatre. Her whole picture is more like that
of Theroigne de Mericourt than that of Raphael's Fornarina, whose name she

Other stories, of course, gathered round this strange life--personal
encounters, aquatic feats, and all manner of romantic and impossible
episodes; their basis being, that Byron on one occasion thrashed, on
another challenged, a man who tried to cheat him, was a frequent rider,
and a constant swimmer, so that he came to be called "the English fish,"
"water-spaniel," "sea-devil," &c. One of the boatmen is reported to have
said, "He is a good gondolier, spoilt by being a poet and a lord;" and in
answer to a traveller's inquiry, "Where does he get his poetry?" "He dives
for it." His habits, as regards eating, seem to have been generally
abstemious; but he drank a pint of gin and water over his verses at night,
and then took claret and soda in the morning.

Riotous living may have helped to curtail Byron's life, but it does not
seem to have seriously impaired his powers. Among these adverse
surroundings of the "court of Circe," he threw off _Beppo_, _Mazeppa_, and
the early books of _Don Juan_. The first canto of the last was written in
November, 1818, the second in January, 1819, the third and fourth towards
the close of the same year. _Beppo_, its brilliant prelude, sparkles like
a draught of champagne. This "Venetian story," or sketch, in which the
author broke ground on his true satiric field--the satire of social
life--and first adopted the measure avowedly suggested by _Whistlecraft_
(Frere), was drafted in October, 1817, and appeared in May, 1818. It aims
at comparatively little, but is perfectly successful in its aim, and
unsurpassed for the incisiveness of its side strokes, and the courtly ease
of a manner that never degenerates into mannerism. In _Mazeppa_ the poet
reverts to his earlier style, and that of Scott; the description of the
headlong ride hurries us along with a breathless expectancy that gives it
a conspicuous place among his minor efforts. The passage about the howling
of the wolves, and the fever faint of the victim, is as graphic as
anything in Burns--

The skies spun like a mighty wheel,
I saw the trees like drunkards reel.

In the May or June of 1818 Byron's little daughter, Allegra, had been sent
from England, under the care of a Swiss nurse too young to undertake her
management in such trying circumstances, and after four months of anxiety
he placed her in charge of Mrs. Hoppner. In the course of this and the
next year there are frequent allusions to the child, all, save one which
records a mere affectation of indifference, full of affectionate
solicitude. In June, 1819, he writes, "Her temper and her ways, Mr.
Hoppner says, are like mine, as well as her features; she will make, in
that case, a manageable young lady." Later he talks of her as "flourishing
like a pomegranate blossom." In March, 1820, we have another reference.
"Allegra is prettier, I think, but as obstinate as a mule, and as ravenous
as a vulture; health good, to judge by the complexion, temper tolerable,
but for vanity and pertinacity. She thinks herself handsome, and will do
as she pleases." In May he refers to having received a letter from her
mother, but gives no details. In the following year, with the approval of
the Shelleys then at Pisa, he placed her for education in the convent of
Cavalli Bagni in the Romagna. "I have," he writes to Hoppner, who had
thought of having her boarded in Switzerland, "neither spared care,
kindness, nor expense, since the child was sent to me. The people may say
what they please. I must content myself with not deserving, in this
instance, that they should speak ill. The place is a _country_ town, in a
good air, and less liable to objections of every kind. It has always
appeared to me that the moral defect in Italy does _not_ proceed from a
_conventual_ education; because, to my certain knowledge, they come out of
their convents innocent, even to ignorance of moral evil; but to the state
of society into which they are directly plunged on coming out of it. It is
like educating an infant on a mountain top, and then taking him to the
sea, and throwing him into it, and desiring him to swim." Elsewhere he
says, "I by no means intend to give a natural child an English education,
because, with the disadvantages of her birth, her after settlement would
be doubly difficult. Abroad, with a fair foreign education, and a portion
of 5000_l_. or 6000_l_. (his will leaving her 5000_l_., on condition that
she should not marry an Englishman, is here explained and justified), she
might, and may, marry very respectably. In England such a dowry would be a
pittance, while elsewhere it is a fortune. It is, besides, my wish that
she should be a Roman Catholic, which I look upon as the best religion, as
it is assuredly the oldest of the various branches of Christianity." It
only remains to add that, when he heard that the child had fallen ill of
fever in 1822, Byron was almost speechless with agitation, and, on the
news of her death, which took place April 22nd, he seemed at first utterly
prostrated. Next day he said, "Allegra is dead; she is more fortunate than
we. It is God's will, let us mention it no more." Her remains rest beneath
the elm-tree at Harrow which her father used to haunt in boyhood, with the
date of birth and death, and the scripture--

I shall go to her, but she shall not return to me.

The most interesting of the visits paid to Byron during the period of his
life at Venice was that of Shelley, who, leaving his wife and children at
Bagni di Lucca, came to see him in August, 1818. He arrived late, in the
midst of a thunderstorm; and next day they sailed to the Lido, and rode
together along the sands. The attitude of the two poets towards each other
is curious; the comparatively shrewd man of the world often relied on the
idealist for guidance and help in practical matters, admired his courage
and independence, spoke of him invariably as the best of men, but never
paid a sufficiently warm tribute in public to his work. Shelley, on the
other hand, certainly the most modest of great poets, contemplates Byron
in the fixed attitude of a literary worshipper.

The introduction to _Julian and Maddalo_, directly suggested by this
visit, under the slight veil of a change in the name, gives a summary of
the view of his friend's character which he continued to entertain. "He is
a person of the most consummate genius, and capable if he would direct his
energies to such an end, of becoming the redeemer of his degraded country.
But it is his weakness to be proud; he derives, from a comparison of his
own extraordinary mind with the dwarfish intellects that surround him, an
intense apprehension of the nothingness of human life. His passions and
his powers are incomparably greater than those of other men; and instead
of the latter having been employed in curbing the former, they have
mutually lent each other strength;" but "in social life no human being can
be more gentle, patient, and unassuming. He is cheerful, frank, and witty.
His more serious conversation is a sort of intoxication; men are held by
it as by a spell."

Subsequently to this visit Byron lent the villa at Este to his friend, and
during the autumn weeks of their residence there were written the lines
among the Euganean hills, where, in the same strain of reverence, Shelley
refers to the "tempest-cleaving swan of Albion," to the "music flung o'er
a mighty thunder-fit," and to the sunlike soul destined to immortalize his
ocean refuge,--

As the ghost of Homer clings
Round Seamander's wasting springs,
As divinest Shakespeare's might
Fills Avon and the world with light.

"The sun," he says, at a later date, "has extinguished the glowworm;" and
again, "I despair of rivalling Lord Byron, as well I may; and there is no
other with whom it is worth contending."

Shelley was, in the main, not only an exquisite but a trustworthy critic;
and no man was more absolutely above being influenced by the fanfaronade
of rank or the din of popularity. These criticisms are therefore not to be
lightly set aside, nor are they unintelligible. Perhaps those admirers of
the clearer and more consistent nature, who exalt him to the rank of a
greater poet, are misled by the amiable love of one of the purest
characters in the history of our literature. There is at least no
difficulty in understanding why he should have been, as it were, concussed
by Byron's greater massiveness and energy into a sense--easy to an
impassioned devotee--of inferiority. Similarly, most of the estimates--
many already reversed, others reversible--by the men of that age, of each
other, can be explained. We can see how it was that Shelley overestimated
both the character and the powers of Hunt; and Byron depreciated Keats,
and was ultimately repelled by Wordsworth, and held out his hand to meet
the manly grasp of Scott. The one enigma of their criticism is the respect
that they joined in paying to the witty, genial, shallow, worldly, musical
Tom Moore.

This favourite of fortune and the minor muses, in the course of a short
tour through the north of Italy in the autumn of 1819, found his noble
friend on the 8th of October at La Mira, went with him on a sight-seeing
expedition to Venice, and passed five or six days in his company. Of this
visit he has recorded his impressions, some of which relate to his host's
personal appearance, others to his habits and leading incidents of his
life. Byron "had grown fatter, both in person and face, and the latter had
suffered most by the change, having lost by the enlargement of the
features some of that refined and spiritualized look that had in other
times distinguished it, but although less romantic he appeared more
humorous." They renewed their recollections of the old days and nights in
London, and compared them with later experiences of Bores and Blues, in a
manner which threatened to put to flight the historical and poetical
associations naturally awakened by the City of the Sea. Byron had a rooted
dislike to any approach to fine talk in the ordinary intercourse of life;
and when his companion began to rhapsodize on the rosy hue of the Italian
sunsets, he interrupted him with, "Come, d--n it, Tom, _don't_ be
poetical." He insisted on Moore, who sighed after what he imagined would
be the greater comforts of an hotel, taking up his quarters in his palace;
and as they were groping their way through the somewhat dingy entrance,
cried out, "Keep clear of the dog!" and a few paces farther, "Take care,
or the monkey will fly at you!" an incident recalling the old vagaries of
the menagerie at Newstead. The biographer's reminiscences mainly dwell on
his lordship's changing moods and tempers and gymnastic exercises, his
terror of interviewing strangers, his imperfect appreciation of art, his
preference of fish to flesh, his almost parsimonious economy in small
matters, mingled with allusions to his domestic calamities, and frequent
expressions of a growing distaste to Venetian society. On leaving the
city, Moore passed a second afternoon at La Mira, had a glimpse of
Allegra, and the first intimation of the existence of the notorious
Memoirs. "A short time after dinner Byron left the room, and returned
carrying in his hand a white leather bag. 'Look here,' he said, holding it
up; 'this would be worth something to Murray, though _you_, I dare say,
would not give sixpence for it.' 'What is it?' I asked. 'My life and
adventures,' he answered. 'It is not a thing,' he answered, 'that can be
published during my lifetime, but you may have it if you like. There, do
whatever you please with it.' In taking the bag, and thanking him most
warmly, I added, 'This will make a nice legacy for my little Tom, who
shall astonish the latter days of the nineteenth century with it.'"[2]
Shortly after, Moore for the last time bade his friend farewell, taking
with him from Madame Guiccioli, who did the honours of the house, an
introduction to her brother, Count Gamba, at Rome. "Theresa Guiccioli,"
says Castelar, "appears like a star on the stormy horizon of the poet's
life." A young Romagnese, the daughter of a nobleman of Ravenna, of good
descent but limited means, she had been educated in a convent, and married
in her nineteenth year to a rich widower of sixty, in early life a friend
of Alfieri, and noted as the patron of the National Theatre. This
beautiful blonde, of pleasing manners, graceful presence, and a strong
vein of sentiment, fostered by the reading of Chateaubriand, met Byron for
the first time casually when she came in her bridal dress to one of the
Albrizzi reunions; but she was only introduced to him early in the April
of the following year, at the house of the Countess Benzoni. "Suddenly the
young Italian found herself inspired with a passion of which till that
moment her mind could not have formed the least idea; she had thought of
love but as an amusement, and now became its slave." Byron, on the other
hand, gave what remained of a heart, never alienated from her by any other
mistress. Till the middle of the month they met every day; and when the
husband took her back to Ravenna she despatched to her idol a series of
impassioned letters, declaring her resolution to mould her life in
accordance with his wishes. Towards the end of May she had prepared her
relatives to receive Byron as a visitor. He started in answer to the
summons, writing on his way the beautiful stanzas to the Po, beginning--

River that rollest by the ancient walls
Where dwells the lady of my love.

[Footnote 2: In December, 1820, Byron sent several more sheets of
memoranda from Ravenna, and in the following year suggested an
arrangement by which Murray paid over to Moore, who was then in
difficulties, 2000_l_. for the right of publishing the whole, under
the condition, among others, that Lady Byron should see them, and have
the right of reply to anything that might seem to her objectionable.
She on her part declined to have anything to do with them. When the
Memoirs were destroyed, Moore paid back the 2000_l_., but obtained
four thousand guineas for editing the _Life and Correspondence_.]

Again passing through Ferrara, and visiting Bologna, he left the latter on
the 8th, and on his arrival at his destination found the Countess
dangerously ill; but his presence, and the attentions of the famous
Venetian doctor, Aglietti, who was sent for by his advice, restored her.
The Count seems to have been proud of his guest. "I can't make him out at
all," Byron writes; "he visits me frequently, and takes me out (like
Whittington the Lord Mayor) in a coach and six horses. The fact appears to
be, that he is completely governed by her--and, for that matter, so am I."
Later he speaks of having got his horses from Venice, and riding or
driving daily in the scenery reproduced in the third canto of _Don

Sweet hour of twilight! in the solitude
Of the pine forest, and the silent shore
Which bounds Ravenna's immemorial wood.

On Theresa's recovery, in dread of a possible separation he proposed to
fly with her to America, to the Alps, to "some unsuspected isle in the far
seas;" and she suggested the idea of feigning death, like Juliet, and
rising from the tomb. Neither expedient was called for. When the Count
went to Bologna, in August, with his wife, Lord Byron was allowed to
follow; and--after consoling himself during an excursion which the married
pair made to their estate, by hovering about her empty rooms and writing
in her books--he established himself, on the Count's return to his
headquarters, with her and Allegra at Bologna. Meanwhile, Byron had
written _The Prophecy of Dante_, and in August the prose letter, _To the
Editor of the British Review_, on the charge of bribery in _Don Juan_.
Than this inimitable epistle no more laughter-compelling composition
exists. About the same time, we hear of his leaving the theatre in a
convulsion of tears, occasioned by the representation of Alfieri's

He left Bologna with the Countess on the 15th of September, when they
visited the Euganean hills and Arqua, and wrote their names together in
the Pilgrim's Book. On arriving at Venice, the physicians recommending
Madame Guiccioli to country air, they settled, still by her husband's
consent, for the autumn at La Mira, where Moore and others found them
domesticated. At the beginning of November the poet was prostrated by an
attack of tertian fever. In some of his hours of delirium he dictated to
his careful nurses, Fletcher and the Countess, a number of verses, which
she assures us were correct and sensible. He attributes his restoration to
cold water and the absence of doctors; but, ere his complete recovery,
Count Guiccioli had suddenly appeared on the scene, and run away with his
own wife. The lovers had for a time not only to acquiesce in the
separation, but to agree to cease their correspondence. In December, Byron
in a fit of spleen had packed up his belongings, with a view to return to
England. "He was," we are told, "ready dressed for the journey, his boxes
on board the gondola, his gloves and cap on, and even his little cane in
his hand, when my lord declares that if it should strike one--which it
did--before everything was in order, he would not go that day. It is
evident he had not the heart to go." Next day he heard that Madame
Guiccioli was again seriously ill, received and accepted the renewed
invitation which bound him to her and to the south. He left Venice for the
last time almost by stealth, rushed along the familiar roads, and was
welcomed at Ravenna.




Byrons's life at Ravenna was during the first months comparatively calm;
nevertheless, he mingled in society, took part in the Carnival, and was
received at the parties of the Legate. "I may stay," he writes in January,
1820, "a day--a week--a year--all my life." Meanwhile, he imported his
movables from Venice, hired a suite of rooms in the Guiccioli palace,
executed his marvellously close translation of Pulci's _Morgante
Maggiore_, wrote his version of the story of _Francesca of Rimini_, and
received visits from his old friend Bankes and from Sir Humphrey Davy. At
this time he was accustomed to ride about armed to the teeth, apprehending
a possible attack from assassins on the part of Count Guiccioli. In April
his letters refer to the insurrectionary movements then beginning against
the Holy Alliance. "We are on the verge of a row here. Last night they
have over-written all the city walls with 'Up with the Republic!' and
'Death to the Pope!' The police have been searching for the subscribers,
but have caught none as yet. The other day they confiscated the whole
translation of the fourth canto of _Childe Harold_, and have prosecuted
the translator." In July a Papal decree of separation between the Countess
and her husband was obtained, on condition of the latter paying from his
large income a pittance to the lady of 200 _l_. a year, and her
undertaking to live in her father's house--an engagement which was, first
in the spirit, and subsequently in the letter, violated. For a time,
however, she retired to a villa about fifteen miles from Ravenna, where
she was visited by Byron at comparatively rare intervals. By the end of
July he had finished _Marino Faliero_, and ere the close of the year the
fifth canto of _Don Juan_. in September he says to Murray, "I am in a
fierce humour, at not having Scott's _Monastery_. No more Keats,[1] I
entreat. There is no bearing the drivelling idiotism of the manikin. I
don't feel inclined to care further about _Don Juan_. What do you think a
very pretty Italian lady said to me the other day, when I remarked that
'it would live longer than _Childe Harold_'? 'Ah! but I would rather have
the fame of _Childe Harold_ for three years than an immortality of _D.
J._'" This is to-day the common female judgment; it is known to have been
La Guiccioli's, as well as Mrs. Leigh's, and by their joint persuasion
Byron was for a season induced to lay aside "that horrid, wearisome Don."
About this time he wrote the memorable reply to the remarks on that poem
in _Blackwood's Magazine_', where he enters on a defence of his life,
attacks the Lakers, and champions Pope against the new school of poetry,
lamenting that his own practice did not square with his precept; and
adding, "We are all wrong, except Rogers, Crabbe, and Campbell."

[Footnote 1: In a note on a similar passage, bearing the date November
12, 1821, he, however, confesses:--"My indignation at Mr. Keats'
depreciation of Pope has hardly permitted me to do justice to his own
genius, which malgre all the fantastic fopperies of his style was
undoubtedly of great promise. His fragment of Hyperion seems actually
inspired by the Titans, and is as sublime as AEschylus. He is a loss
to our literature."]

In November he refers to reports of his letters being opened by the
Austrian officials, and the unpleasant things the Huns, as he calls them,
are likely to find therein. Early in the next month he tells Moore that
the commandant of their troops, a brave officer, but obnoxious to the
people, had been found lying at his door, with five slugs in him, and,
bleeding inwardly, had died in the palace, where he had been brought to be

This incident is versified in _Don Juan_, v. 33-39, with anatomical
minuteness of detail. After trying in vain to wrench an answer out of
death, the poet ends in his accustomed strain--

But it was all a mystery. Here we are,
And there we go:--but _where_? Five bits of lead--
Or three, or two, or one--send very far!

Assassination has sometimes been the prelude to revolution, but it may be
questioned if it has over promoted the cause of liberty. Most frequently
it has served as a pretext for reaction, or a red signal. In this
instance--as afterwards in 1848--overt acts of violence made the powers of
despotism more alert, and conduced with the half-hearted action of their
adversaries to the suppression of the rising of 1820-21. Byron's sympathy
with the movement seems to have been stimulated by his new associations.
Theresa's brother, Count Pietro, an enthusiastic young soldier, having
returned from Rome and Naples, surmounting a prejudice not wholly
unnatural, became attached to him, and they entered into a partnership in
behalf of what--adopting a phrase often flaunted in opposite camps--they
called constitutional principles. Finally the poet so committed himself to
the party of insurrection that, though his nationality secured him from
direct attack, his movements were necessarily affected by the fiasco. In
July the Gambas were banished from the Romagna, Pietro being actually
carried by force over the frontier; and, according to the articles of her
separation, the Countess had to follow them to Florence. Byron lingered
for some mouths, partly from a spirit of defiance, and partly from his
affection towards a place where he had enlisted the regards of numerous
beneficiaries. The Gambas were for some time bent on migrating to
Switzerland; but the poet, after first acquiescing, subsequently conceived
a violent repugnance to the idea, and early in August wrote to Shelley,
earnestly requesting his presence, aid, and counsel. Shelley at once
complied, and, entering into a correspondence with Madame Guiccioli,
succeeded in inducing her relatives to abandon their transmontane plans,
and agree to take up their headquarters at Pisa. This incident gave rise
to a series of interesting letters, in which the younger poet gives a
vivid and generous account of the surroundings and condition of his
friend. On the 2nd of August he writes from Ravenna:--"I arrived last
night at ten o'clock, and sat up talking with Lord B. till five this
morning. He was delighted to see me. He has, in fact, completely recovered
his health, and lives a life totally the reverse of that which he led at
Venice.... Poor fellow! he is now quite well, and immersed in politics and
literature. We talked a great deal of poetry and such matters last night,
and, as usual, differed, I think, more than ever. He affects to patronize
a system of criticism fit only for the production of mediocrity; and,
although all his finer poems and passages have been produced in defiance
of this system, yet I recognize the pernicious effects of it in the _Doge
of Venice_." Again, on the 15th: "Lord B. is greatly improved in every
respect--in genius, in temper, in moral views, in health, and happiness.
His connexion with La Guiccioli has been an inestimable benefit to him. He
lives in considerable splendour, but within his income, which is now about
4000_l_. a year, 1000_l_. of which he devotes to purposes of charity.
Switzerland is little fitted for him; the gossip and the cabals of those
Anglicised coteries would torment him, as they did before. Ravenna is a
miserable place. He would in every respect be better among the Tuscans. He
has read to me one of the unpublished cantos of _Don Juan_. It sets him
not only above, but far above, all the poets of the day. Every word has
the stamp of immortality.... I have spoken to him of Hunt, but not with a
direct view of demanding a contribution. I am sure, if I asked, it would
not be refused; yet there is something in me that makes it impossible.
Lord B. and I are excellent friends; and were I reduced to poverty, or
were I a writer who had no claim to a higher position than I possess, I
would freely ask him any favour. Such is not now the case." Later, after
stating that Byron had decided upon Tuscany, he says, in reference to La
Guiccioli, "At the conclusion of a letter, full of all the fine things she
says she has heard of me, is this request, which I transcribe:--'Signore,
la vostra bonta mi fa ardita di chiedervi un favore, me lo accordarete
voi? _Non partite da Ravenna senza milord_.' Of course, being now by all
the laws of knighthood captive to a lady's request, I shall only be at
liberty on my parole until Lord Byron is settled at Pisa."

Shelley took his leave, after a visit of ten days' duration, about the
17th or 18th of April. In a letter, dated August 26, he mentions having
secured for his lordship the Palazzo Lanfranchi, an old spacious building


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