LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism
Byron’s Memoirs.
Monthly Magazine  Vol. NS XI  No. 62  (February 1831)  145-59.
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Vol. XI.] FEBRUARY, 1831. [No. 62.


Of course, no one will suppose that we are now going to anatomize Byron in either his character or his verses. The topics are already antediluvian, and are worthy only of the conversaziones of a country town of the tenth magnitude. The discussions on his uneasy wedlock and mysterious separation are equally obsolete; and we shall leave the universe of old women to settle the never-dying gossip of—whether the Lord or the Lady was more to blame—whether the Lord did not behave like a roué, and the Lady like a fashionable spouse? We have now nothing to look to but the reliques of his tours, the gatherings of his journals, and those letters on all rambling subjects which, in all his contempt for England, he seems to have spent his best hours in writing, and to correspondents whom, in nine cases out of ten, he was in the habit of turning to ridicule on all occasions.

The world can be mistaken in no man’s character; and it has been so saturated and superfluxed with illustrations and documents of every transaction of Lord Byron’s life, that there is not a scribbler or dilettantè within the bills of mortality, who could not furnish a regular memoir of the poet and peer at an hour’s notice. But the whole result of the matter is this that his lordship was a spoiled boy, who grew up into a spoiled man; gifted naturally with great poetic powers, but either ignorant or wilfully contemptuous of the higher principles that regulate life, and either tasteless enough to discover no beauty in the decencies of human morals, or blind enough to imagine that himself and the set about him were to be the guides of society. But those things are past and gone. He is now where he can do no harm; and as we suppose that the idea of defending his vices enters into no man’s head, we proceed, without further controversy, to the selection, or rather accumulation, of letters which Mr. Moore has gathered for the amusement of the public.

The volume commences without preface or remark accounting for its separation from its elder brother, but plunges headlong into the correspondence and journalizing in which Byron evidently delighted. After he had thrown off the chains of matrimony, his lordship’s first resource was a journey through Switzerland. There he revelled in torrents, glaciers, jungfraus, and the civilities of that queen of talkers and plague of readers Madame de Staël.

Byron, with all his contempt of all vulgar things and people, loved his own indulgences; and he commenced his journey with preparations that by no means argued excessive misery of mind. “He travelled,” as Pryse Gordon’s amusing narrative tells us, “in a huge coach, copied from the celebrated one of Napoleon, taken at Genappe, and with additions. Besides a lit de repos, it contained a library, a plate-chest, and every apparatus for dining in it. It was not, however, found sufficiently capacious for his luggage and suite; and he purchased a calèche at Brussels for his servants.” His first letter is from Lausanne, in June, 1816:

“My route through Flanders, and by the Rhine, to Switzerland, was all that I expected, and more.

“I have traversed all Rousseau’s ground, with the ‘Heloise’ before me, and am struck to a degree that I cannot express, with the force and accu-
146Byron’s Memoirs.
racy of his descriptions, and the beauty of their reality. Meillerie, Clarens, and Vevay, with the Château de Chillon, are places of which I shall say little, because all that I could say must fall short of the impressions that they stamp.

“Three days ago we were most nearly wrecked, in a squall off Meillerie, and driven to shore. I ran no risk, being so near the rocks, and a good swimmer; but our party were wet, and incommoded a good deal.”

The letter concludes with a hint on his authorship:—

“I have finished a third canto of ‘Childe Harold,’ 117 stanzas longer than either of the two former, and in some parts it may be better. But, of course, on that I cannot determine.”

But his journals are much more amusing than his letters; and of journalizing he appears to have been fond. It evidently served to produce a set of common-place-books for his poetry:—

“Yesterday, Sept. 17, I set out with Mr. Hobhouse on an excursion of some days to the mountains. Rose at five. Weather fine. Lake calm and clear. Mont Blanc, and the Aiguille d’Argentieres, both very distinct. Reached Lausanne before sunset.”

He then gives some account of the old English republican monuments:—

“Stopped at Vevay two hours. View from the church-yard superb; within it General Ludlow (the regicide’s) monument; black marble; long inscription; he was an exile two-and-thirty years; one of King Charles’s judges. Near him, Broughton, who read King Charles’s sentence, is buried, with a queer, but rather canting inscription. Ludlow’s house is still shewn: it retains still its inscription—‘Omne solum forti patria.

“On our return, met an English party in a carriage—a lady in it fast asleep—fast asleep in the most anti-narcotic spot in the world! Excellent! I remember, at Chamouni, in the very eyes of Mont Blanc, hearing another woman, English also, exclaim to her party, ‘Did you ever see any thing more rural?’ As if it was Highgate or Hampstead, or Brompton or Hayes! Rural, quotha! Rocks, pines, torrents, glaciers, clouds, and summits of eternal snow far above them—and rural!

He continued his roamings through the finest part of the Swiss scenery, laying up images for new cantos of “Childe Harold:”—

“The music of the cows’-bells—for their wealth is cattle—in the pastures, which reach to a height far above any mountain in Britain, and the shepherds shouting to us from crag to crag, and playing on their reeds where the steeps appeared almost inaccessible, with the surrounding scenery, realized all that I have ever heard or imagined of a pastoral existence, much more so than Greece or Asia-Minor; for there we are a little too much of the sabre and musket order, and if there is a crook in one hand, you are sure to see a gun in the other. But this was pure and unmixed—solitary, savage, and patriarchal.”

Within a day or two after this mountain ramble, he became intimate with Shelley and his wife, and “a female relative” of Mrs. Shelley. Here his lordship found the kind of associates that suited all his tastes; but the rest of this lucky intercourse we leave to the gossips, who love scandal better than we do. Yet, whatever were the other results of this association, Shelley was made madder than ever by it; and he disputed, scribbled, talked nonsense, and boated with increased vigour for the rest of his worthless life. Mr. Moore hopelessly attempts to gloss over the wretched career of this man. With the biographer, all Shelley’s
Byron’s Memoirs.147
crimes were the result of the “persecution he met with on the threshhold of his boyish enterprise to teach and reform the world.” For which purpose of reform, “he with a courage, admirable if it had been wisely directed, made war upon authority and experience.” Such is the softened tone of the fashionable circles. But the truth is perfectly well known, and it is that Shelley was any thing but an abstract philosopher; that he was as practical a person, in the matter of his own pleasures, and in his scorn of the obligations of society, as any gentleman who never wrote verses, nor talked sentimental foolery on lakes and glaciers. In short, he was a
Lord Byron rasé‚his lordship, in all his loves and libels, but on a lower scale. Shelley’s true history ought to be written for the benefit of all young gentlemen who profess genius, and think that the habit of writing verses is to be a full and fair quittance of every kind of moral obligation. The history of his first wife—that unhappy woman whom he abandoned, and whose suicide made so melancholy an impression on the public; the nature of his subsequent life; his open atheism; the palpable and atrocious blasphemy of his writings; his favourite tenets (which even the biographer is forced to acknowledge) of the community of property and the community of wives, are sufficient to stamp his character. The vulgar bravado of writing in the Album at Mont Blanc, “Bysshe Shelley, Atheist!” shews that a miserable vanity prompted him to outrage society, and that crime lost half its charms to him unless he called the world to wonder at him as a criminal. But he perished. His coxcomb impiety met a sudden fate; and, heathen as he lived and died, his noble friend gave him a heathen burial—burned him—and, as Mr. Galt’s narrative tells us, got drunk over his bones!

But Lord Byron, through his whole career, had an extraordinary fondness for associates whom every one else would have rejected. Another of his intimates was a wretched being, whose fate by his own hand a few years ago was the natural consequence of his principles. This was Dr. Polidori, who, after scribbling, gaming, and trying the world in all kinds of ways, was reduced to extremity in London, and, in the true philosophic and march-of-intellect style, either cut his throat or poisoned himself. Mr. Hobhouse must be excepted from the black list of those travelling friends. He has striven for fame by none of the sublimities of those personages who are too refined to follow the common decencies of life. But he seems to have kept aloof from the “midnight conversations” and other deeper mysteries of his lordship’s enjoyments; and, in fact, to have at no time sanctioned the orgies of the set. Yet it is from him that Lord Byron’s personal character has found the most vigilant and manly defence; and while some of those bosom friends and compotators have been trying to make money of the unfortunate peer’s vices, and publishing all that could sink him in the public estimation, he has kept guard over his remains, and by vigorously punishing some of his assailants, has deterred the general mob whom Lord Byron admitted to his intercourse, from heaping additional disgrace on his memory.

His lordship at last got rid of Shelley and his prosing, and began a new course of intrigue. Of this disgraceful affair, which was no other than a regular business of adultery, he makes Mr. Moore the confidant;—an insult, at which we must presume the biographer was indignant—though, unfortunately, we can discover nothing of his indignation in these pages.

148Byron’s Memoirs.
The letter is a specimen of that comic mixture of melancholy in phrase, and practical indulgence in matters of pleasure, which so happily contrives to make the sentimental reader grieve over the sorrows of a voluptuary, revelling at the moment in the grossest excesses:—

“It is my intention to remain at Venice during the winter, probably as it has always been, next to the East, the greenest island of my imagination. It has not disappointed me, though its evident decay would perhaps have that effect upon others. But I have been familiar with ruins too long to dislike desolation.”

He then drops into the practical portion of the tale:—

“I have got some extremely good apartments in the house of a ‘Merchant of Venice,’ who is a good deal occupied with business, and has a wife in her twenty-second year. Marianna is, in her appearance, altogether like an antelope. She has the large, black, oriental eye; her features are regular, and rather aquiline; mouth, small; skin, clear and soft” &c.

“Nov. 23. You will perceive that my description, which was proceeding with the minuteness of a passport, has been interrupted for several days. In the mean time * * * “

Then follows a break in the letter, which Mr. Moore has filled up with stars, and which every one else may fill up as it pleases his fancy. These breaks are continually occurring, and argue that the general correspondence must have been of a very extraordinary and of a prodigiously confidential nature.

In one of these letters, he breaks off the subject of the Venetian’s wife, whom he had now taken as his acknowledged mistress, and in her husband’s house too—such are the easy manners of foreign life!—to give a little sketch of the world around him:—

“Oh! by the way, I forgot, when I wrote to you from Verona, to tell you that at Milan I met with a countrymen of your’s, a Colonel ——, a very excellent, good-natured fellow who knows and shews all about Milan, and is, as it were, a native here. This is his history, at least an episode of it:—

“Six-and-twenty years ago, the Colonel—then an Ensign—being in Italy, fell in love with the Marchesa * * *, and she with him. The lady must be at least twenty years his senior. The war broke out; he returned to England, to serve, not his country—for that is Ireland—but England, which is a different thing; and she—Heaven knows what she did! In the year 1814, the first annunciation of the definitive treaty of peace (and tyranny) was developed to the astonished Milanese, by the arrival of Colonel * * *, who, flinging himself at full length at the feet of Madame, murmured forth, in half-forgotten Irish-Italian, eternal vows of indelible constancy. The lady screamed, and exclaimed, ‘Who are you?’ The Colonel cried, ‘Why, don’t you know me? I am so and so,’ &c.; till at length the Marchesa, mounting from reminiscence to reminiscence, through the lovers of the intermediate twenty-five years, arrived at last at the recollection of her povero sub-lieutenant. She then said, ‘Was there ever such virtue!ᰱ (that was the very word); and, being now a widow, gave him apartments in her palace, reinstated him in all the rights of wrong, and held him up to the admiring world as a miracle of incontinent fidelity, and the unshaken Abdiel of absence.”

All this is followed by a ballad on King Lud, lively and clever enough:—
“As the Liberty-lads o’er the sea
Bought their freedom, and cheaply, with blood,
So we, boys, we
Will die fighting, or live free,
And down with all kings but King Lud.
Byron’s Memoirs.149
When the web that we weave is complete,
And the shuttle exchanged for the sword,
We will fling the winding-sheet
O’er the despot at our feet,
And dye it deep in the gore he has poured.
Though black as his heart is its hue,
Since his veins are corrupted to mud,
Yet this is the dew
Which the tree shall renew
Of Liberty, planted by Lud.”

This he winds up in the dégâgé style in which it was written:—

“There’s an amiable chanson for you all impromptu! I have written it principally to shock your neighbour * * *, who is all clergy and loyalty mirth and innocence—milk and water.
“But the Carnival’s coming,
Oh, Thomas Moore;
The Carnival’s coming,
Oh, Thomas Moore;
Masking and humming,
Fifing and drumming,
Guitarring and strumming
Oh, Thomas Moore.”

He frequently made these light verses; and among the prettiest are some lines on a statue by Canova:—

“The Helen of Canova (a bust which is in the collection of the Countess D’Albrizzi) is, without exception, to my mind, the most perfectly beautiful of human conceptions, and far beyond my ideas of human execution.
“In this beloved marble, view,
Above the works and thoughts of man,
What Nature could, but would not do,
And Beauty and Canova can.
Beyond imagination’s power,
Beyond the bard’s defective art,
With immortality her dower,
Behold the Helen of the heart!”

We then have the Carnival again:

“I am on the invalid regimen. The Carnival that is, the latter part of it had knocked me up a little. But it is over, and it is now Lent, with all its abstinence and its sacred music—
“So we’ll go no more a roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright;
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul outwears the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest;
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a roving
By the light of the moon.”

Byron was now in his felicity rambling, gondoliering, chatting in opera-boxes, making love (such as it was), and writing poetry. He
150Byron’s Memoirs.
had thrown off the black mantle under which he had made his retreat, en grande costume, from the English newspapers, and was now following pleasure in all ways and forms. He had begun his travels with some of the sentimentality which does such wonders with the boarding-schools; and talked in his early letters the conversazione-tongue of “I am a lover of nature, and an admirer of beauty. I have seen some of the noblest views in the world. Yet 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,” and so forth, “have one moment lightened the weight upon my heart, nor enabled me to lose my more wretched identity in the majesty and the power,” &c. &c.

All which was the very strain for a speech in “Manfred,” and was actually transferred there. But the whole story of Byron’s incurable agonies would have been laughed at by Byron himself, first of the first, though they did very well to mystify the infinite race of twaddledom that inhabiteth the western parts of London. The whole might be inscribed with Burchell’s expressive word—“Fudge!” What were the facts? Here was a man in the vigour of life, with nothing on earth to restrain him from following his whims from pole to pole, and following them with all his might; galloping through the finest regions of Europe; living where he liked; running a round of operas, carnivals, and conversaziones; indulging himself in all that bears the name of pleasure, good and bad; living among complying counts and tender countesses; and, with all this, enjoying an income of four or five thousand pounds a year—four times as much as three-fourths of his titled associates possessed, and equivalent to fifteen or twenty thousand pounds a year in England. All the exclamations that we hear on this side of the water, about the “weight on his mind,” &c. are nonsense; and as to his own sorrowings, we may be perfectly consoled, by knowing that they never went farther than the fingers that held his pen.

In fact, what kind of life would be the very one chosen by a young rake of fashion and fortune but this?—and we have no doubt that the most self-indulgent roué that ever decorated Bond-street, or waltzed at Almack’s, could go through the whole range, without shedding a tear or heaving a sigh. A journey through Flanders, with all his comforts ensured, even to a service of plate in his carriage; a tour through the Swiss Lakes; a residence at Venice, in the house of a convenient scoundrel of a husband, who had a wife of twenty-two, with “oriental eyes;” the establishment of a promiscuous circle of the same species of persons, with oriental eyes; a houseful of those indescribable inmates at his beck, with a general licensed system of expeditions on the same pursuit among the Signoras of his noble friends; the whole terminating in the tranquil arrangement which secured a Countess Guiccioli for his exclusive share;—all this, we suspect, would be exactly in the line of happiness which the most unsentimental pursuer of the grossest objects of passion would chalk out for his career, and think it quite unnecessary to call the world to witness his agonies at the cruel necessity of doing everything that he liked. The truth is, that Lord Byron ran the full career of his passions, and must rest on his success in that career for the sympathy of mankind.

He had evidently began to feel that the “sorrowing system” must have its termination:

Byron’s Memoirs. 151

“I suppose now,” says he, in a letter to Murray, “I shall never be able to shake off my sables in the public imagination, particularly since my moral * * * * clove down my fame. However, not that nor more than that has yet extinguished my spirit, which always rises with the rebound.

“At Venice we are in Lent, and I have not lately moved out of doors, my feverishness remaining quiet; and, by way of being more quiet, here is the Signora Marianna just come in, and seated at my elbow.”

In some reference to Jeffrey the reviewer, he bids Murray tell him—

“that he (Byron) was not and indeed is not even now the misanthropical and gloomy gentleman he took him for; but a facetious companion, well to do with those with whom he is intimate, and as loquacious and laughing as if he were a much cleverer fellow.”

As an illustration of his sorrowful temperament, we find a series of critiques brief, we will allow, but pithy on the works of some of his acquaintance:—
“I read the ‘Christabel
Very well.
I read the ‘Missionary
Pretty, very.
I tried ‘Ildezim
I read a page of ‘Margaret of Anjou
Can you?
I turned a page of ——’sWaterloo’-
Pooh! pooh!

His English feelings are thus described:—

“I have not the least idea where I am going, nor what I am going to do. I wished to have gone to Rome, but at present it is pestilent with English. A man is a fool who travels now in France or Italy, till this tribe of wretches is swept home again. I staid at Venice, chiefly because it is not one of their dens of thieves; and here they but pause and pass. In Switzerland it was really noxious. Luckily I was early, and had got the prettiest place on the lakes before they were quickened into motion with the rest of the reptiles. Venice is not a place where the English are gregarious: their pigeon-houses are Florence, Naples, Rome, &c., &c., and to tell you the truth, this was one reason why I staid here until the season of the purgation of Rome from those people, which is infected with them at this time, should arrive. Besides I abhor the nation, and the nation me. It is impossible for me to describe my own sensation on this point, but it may suffice to say, that if I meet with any of the race in the beautiful parts of Switzerland, the most distant glimpse, or aspect, of them poisoned the whole scene.”

An anecdote follows, worth a whole quarto of sentimentality:—

“An Austrian officer, the other day, being in love with a Venetian, was ordered with his regiment into Hungary. Distracted between love and duty, he purchased a deadly drug, which, dividing with his mistress, both swallowed. The ensuing pains were terrific; but the pills were purgative, and not poisonous, by the contrivance of the apothecary: so that so much suicide was all thrown away. You may conceive the previous confusion, and the final laughter: but the intention was good on all sides.”

Some of the best letters are to Murray, whom he treats alternately as a correspondent and a bookseller:—

152 Byron’s Memoirs.
Strahan, Tonson, Lintot of the times!
Patron and publisher of rhymes!
For thee the bard up Piridus climbs
My Murray!
To thee, with hope and terror dumb,
The unfledged MS. authors come;
Thou printest all, and sellest some
My Murray!
Upon thy table’s baize so green,
The last new ‘Quarterly’ is seen;
But where is thy new Magazine?
My Murray!
Along thy sprucest book-shelves shine
The works thou deemest most divine,
The Art of Cookery and Wine’
My Murray!
Tours, Travels, Essays too, I wist,
And Sermons to thy mill bring grist;
And then thou hast the ‘Navy List’
My Murray!
And Heaven forbid I should conclude
Without the ‘Board of Longitude!’
Although this narrow paper would
My Murray!”

Mr. Moore then inserts a bitter letter upon the author of “Rimini,” which he says he had originally suppressed—

“but the tone of that gentleman’s books having, as far as himself is concerned, released me from all the scruples which prompted the suppression, I have considered myself at liberty to restore the passage.”

Byron then proceeds:—

Hunt’s letter is probably the exact piece of vulgar coxcombry you might expect from his situation. He believes his trash of vulgar phrases tortured into compound barbarisms to be old English. And we may say of it as Aimwell says of Captain Gibbett’s regiment, when the captain calls it an ‘old corps.’ ‘The oldest in Europe, if I may judge by your uniform.’ He sent out his ‘Foliage’ by Percy Shelley, and of all the ineffable Centaurs that were ever begotten by Self-love upon a night-mare, I think this monstrous Sagittary the most prodigious. Did you read his skimble-skamble about —— being at the head of his own profession, in the eyes of those who followed it? I thought that poetry was an art, or an attribute, and not a profession but be it one, is that —— —— at the head of your profession in your eyes. I’ll be curst if he is of mine, or ever shall be. But Leigh Hunt is a good man and a good father, see his Odes to all the Masters Hunt; a good husband, see his sonnet to Mrs. Hunt; a good friend, see his epistles to different people; and a great coxcomb, and a very vulgar person in every thing about him. But that’s not his fault, but of circumstances.”

Some hints follow on the “Life of Sheridan,” on which Mr. Moore was then engaged, and which he might have advantageously adopted—

“I do not know any good model for a life of Sheridan, but that of Savage. The whigs abuse him; however, he never left them; and such blunderers deserve neither credit nor compassion. As to his creditors, remember Sheridan never had a shilling, and was thrown, with great powers and passions, into the
Byron’s Memoirs.153
thick of the world, and placed upon the pinnacle of success, with no external means to support him in his elevation. Did
Fox ———— pay his debts? or did Sheridan take a subscription? Was the Duke of Norfolk’s drunkenness more excusable than his? Were his intrigues more notorious than those of all his contemporaries? And is his memory to be blasted, and theirs respected? Don’t let yourself be led away by clamour, but compare him with the coalitioner Fox and the pensioner Burke, as a man of principle, and with ten hundred thousand others in personal views, and with none in talent, for he beat them all out and out. Without means, without connection, without character, (which might be false at first, and afterwards make him mad from desperation,) he beat them all, in all he ever attempted. But alas, poor human nature!”

The biographer proceeds to give a glimpse of the kind of life which his lordship led at this period in Venice. He had dismissed the linen-draper’s wife—for such was the rank of the “Merchant of Venice”—and now ranged the realm on a larger scale. “Highly censurable, in point of morality and decorum, as was his course of life while under the roof of Madame ——, it was (with pain I am forced to confess) venial in comparison with the strange, headlong career of licence, to which, when weaned from that connection, he so unrestrainedly, and, it may be added, defyingly abandoned himself.”

For this license, the same excuse is found which served to palliate all his former exhibitions.—“He had found no cessation of the slanderous warfare; against his character; the same busy and misrepresenting spirit which had tracked his every step at home, having, with no less malicious watchfulness, dogged him into exile.” And, therefore, and for this reason, of a wounded spirit, his lordship (“assuming the desperation of an outlaw, with the condition, as it seemed to him), resolved, as his countrymen would not do justice to the better parts of his nature, to have at least the perverse satisfaction of braving and shocking them with the worst.”

Now, against this language we altogether protest, as lending an easy excuse to the most profound profligacy, in whatever rank it may occur. The libertine who sinks into the most debasing vilenesses, has nothing more to say than that he was driven to them by the world’s bad opinion of him, or by his own superior delicacy of feeling, and starts forth a hero; he unites all the gratifications of the libertine with all the honours of the anchorite, makes his reputation by the loss of character, and is the more virtuous the more he replenishes his seraglio. We greatly fear, for the prudery of gentlemen of a certain age, that a Venetian life will not be always received by the world as an evidence of immaculate virtue; nor that the thick understandings of the British empire will allow any man to have at once all the advantages, such as they may be deemed, of a life of unbridled licence, with all the feelings due to the sufferer under an injured sensibility. In common English, if a man gets drunk, he does it for love of wine; if he games, it is for love of the die; if he follows other excesses, it is for love of the vice in question. And of Lord Byron and his Marianna, and his half hundred Mariannas, the world will come to the same conclusion. It can comprehend nothing of this Mulatto mixture of good and evil this vicious virtue, and sublime debasement this plunging into the most vulgar profligacy, for the sake of indulging a too exquisite sense of refinement and this utter and impudent defiance of public decency, from a superabundant value for public opinion.

The story of Margarita Cogni, one of the tribe whom Lord Byron
154Byron’s Memoirs.
collected in his house, is curious as a specimen of national manners. In a letter to somebody or other, who had seen this handsome virago’s portrait, and who asked some account of her, he gives the following sketch:—

“Since you desire the story of Margarita Cogni, you shall be told it, though it may be lengthy.

“Her face is of the fine Venetian cast of the old time; her figure, though perhaps too tall, is not less fine, taken altogether in the national dress.

“In the summer of 1817, —— and myself were sauntering on horseback along the Brenta one evening, when, among a group of peasants, we remarked two girls as the prettiest we had seen for some time. About this period, there had been great distress in the country, and I had a little relieved some of the people. Generosity makes a great figure at very little cost in Venetian livres, and mine had probably been exaggerated, as an Englishman’s. Whether they remarked us looking at them or not, I know not; but one of them called out to me in Venetian, ‘Why don’t you, who think of others, think of us also?’ I turned round and said, ‘Caza tu sei troppo bellae giovane per aver bisogna del’ soccorso mio.’* She answered, ‘If you saw my hut and my food, you would not say so.’ All this passed half jestingly, and I saw no more of her for some days.

“A few evenings after, we met with those two girls again, and they addressed us more seriously, assuring us of the truth of their statement. They were cousins. Margarita was married, the other single. As I doubted still of the circumstances, I took the business in a different light. * * * * *

“For a long space of time, she was the only one who preserved over me an ascendancy, which was often disputed, and never impaired.

“The reasons of this were firstly, her person very dark, tall; the Venetian face, very fine, black eyes. She was two and twenty years old. * * * * * *. She was, besides, a thorough Venetian in her dialect, in her thoughts, in her countenance, in every thing, with all their naïveté and pantaloon humour. Besides, she could neither read nor write, and could not plague me with letters; except twice that she paid sixpence to a public scribe under the piazza, to make a letter for her, on some occasion when I was ill, and could not see her. In other respects she was somewhat fierce and ‘prepotente,’ that is, overbearing, and used to walk in whenever it suited her, with no very great regard to time, place, or person; and if she found any women in her way, she knocked them down.

“When I came to Venice for the winter, she followed. But she had inordinate self-love, and was not tolerant of other women. At the ‘Cavalchina,’ the masqued ball on the last night of the Carnival, to which all the world goes, she snatched off the mask of Madame Contarini, a lady noble by birth and decent in conduct, for no other reason, but because she happened to be leaning on my arm. You may suppose what a cursed noise this made; but this is only one of her pranks.

“At last she quarrelled with her husband, and one evening ran away to my house. I told her this would not do: she said she would lie in the street, but not go back to him; that he beat her (the gentle tigress), spent her money, and scandalously neglected her. As it was midnight, I let her stay; and next day, there was no moving her at all. Her husband came roaring and crying, and entreating her to come back: not she. He then applied to the police, and they applied to me. I told them and her husband to take her—I did not want her. She had come, and I could not fling her out of the window; but they might conduct her through that, or the door, if they chose it. She went before the commissary, but was obliged to return with her ‘becco ettico,’ as she called the poor man, who had a phthisic. In a few days, she ran away again. After a precious piece of work, she fixed herself in my house, really and truly without my consent; but owing to my indolence, and not being able to keep

* “My dear, you are too pretty and young to want any help of mine.”
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my countenance, for if I began in a rage, she always finished by making me laugh with some Venetian pantaloonery or other,—and the gipsy knew this well enough, as well as her other powers of persuasion, and exerted them with the usual tact and success of all she—things high and low; they are all alike for that.

Madame Benzoni also took her under her protection, and then her head turned. She was always in extremes, either crying or laughing, and so fierce when angered, that she was the terror of men, women, and children for she had the strength of an Amazon, with the temper of Medea. She was a fine animal, but quite untameable. I was the only person that could at all keep her in any order; and when she saw me really angry (which they tell me is a savage sight,) she subsided. But she had a thousand fooleries. In her fazziolo, the dress of the lower orders, she looked beautiful; but alas, she longed for a hat and feathers; and all I could say or do, (and I said much,) could not prevent this travestie. I put the first in the fire; but I got tired of burning them before she did of buying them, so that she made herself a figure, for they did not at all become her.

“In the mean time, she beat the women, and stopped my letters. I found her one day pondering over one. She used to try to find out by their shape, whether they were feminine or no; and she used to lament her ignorance, and actually studied her alphabet, on purpose, as she declared, to open all letters addressed to me, and read their contents.

“That she had a sufficient regard for me in her wild way, I had many reasons to believe. I will mention one:—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, night coming, and wind unceasing. On our return, after a tight struggle, I found her on the open steps of the Mocenigo palace, on the Grand Canal, with her great black eyes flashing through her tears, and her long, dark hair streaming, drenched with rain, over her brows and breast. She was perfectly exposed to the storm; and the wind blowing her hair and dress about her thin tall figure, and the lightning flashing round her, and the waves rolling at her feet, made her look like Medea, alighted from her chariot; or the sybil 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 to me, ‘Ah! can’ della Madonna cosa vus tu? Esto non e tempo per andar’ al Lido.’ (Ah! dog of the Virgin! what are you about, this is no time to go to Lido?) ran into her house, and solaced herself with scolding the boatmen for not foreseeing the ‘temporale.’

“I was told by the servants, that she had only been prevented from coming in a boat to look after me, by the refusal of all the gondoliers of the canal to put out into the harbour in such a moment; that then she sat down on the steps in all the thickest of the squall, and would neither be removed nor comforted. Her joy at seeing me again was moderately mixed with ferocity, and gave me the idea of a tigress over her recovered cubs.

“But her reign drew near a close. She became quite ungovernable some months after; and a concurrence of complaints, some true and many false—‘a favourite has no friends’—determined me to part with her. I told her quietly she must return home. She had acquired a sufficient provision for herself and her mother in my service. She refused to quit the house. I was firm; and she went, threatening knives and revenge. I told her that I had seen knives drawn before her time, and that if she chose to begin, there was a knife, and fork also, at her service on the table: and that intimidation would not do. The next day. while I was at dinner, she walked in (having broken open a glass door that led from the hall to the staircase, by way of prologue), and advancing straight up to the table, snatched the knife from my hand, cutting me slightly in the thumb in the operation. Whether she meant to use this against herself or me, I know not; probably against neither; but Fletcher seized her by the arms, and disarmed her. I then called my boat-
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men, and bid them get the gondola ready, and conduct her to her own house again, seeing carefully that she did herself no mischief by the way. She seemed quite quiet, and walked down stairs. I resumed my dinner.

“We heard a great noise, and went out, and met them on the staircase carrying her up stairs. She had thrown herself into the canal. That she intended to destroy herself I do not believe; but when we consider the fear women and men, who cannot swim, have of deep or even of shallow water (and the Venetians in particular, though they live on the waves), and that it was also night, and dark and very cold, it shows that she had a devilish spirit of some sort within her. They had got her out without much difficulty or damage, except the salt water she had drank, and the wetting she had undergone.

“I foresaw her intention to refix herself, and sent for a surgeon; inquiring how many hours it would require to restore her from her agitation, he named the time. I then said, ‘I give you that time, and more if you require it; but at the expiration of this prescribed period, if she does not leave the house I will.’

“All my people were consternated. They had always been frightened at her, and now were paralysed. They wanted me to apply to the police, to guard myself, &c. &c. like a pack of snivelling, servile boobies as they were. I did nothing of the kind, thinking that I might end that way as well as another; besides I had been used to deal with savage women, and knew their ways.

“I had her sent home quietly after her recovery; and never saw her since, except twice at the Opera, at a distance among the audience. She made many attempts to return, but no more violent ones. And this is the story of Margarita Cogni, as relates to me.

“I forgot to mention that she was very devout, and would cross herself, if she heard the prayer-time strike. * * * *

“She was quick in reply, as for no instance; one day, when she had made me very angry with beating somebody or other, I called her a cow. (Cow in Italian, is a sad affront). She turned round, curtseyed, and answered, ‘Vacca tua, excellenza.’ (Your cow, please your excellency.) In short, she was, as I said before, a very fine animal, of considerable beauty and energy, with many good and several amusing qualities, but wild as a witch, and fierce as a demon.”

This style of life, cheap as such living may be in the land of blue skies and Margaritas, appears to have involved his lordship in pecuniary difficulties, and he duns with great vigour. He writes to Murray:—

“I must trouble you to pay into my banker’s immediately whatever sum, or sums, you can make it convenient to do on our agreement, otherwise I shall be put to the severest and most immediate inconvenience; and this at a time when, by every rational prospect, I ought to be in the receipt of considerable sums. Pray do not neglect this. You have no idea to what inconvenience you will otherwise put me.”

Another of his embarrassments was his quarrel with Southey, whom he seems to have determined to exterminate, not only by the pen, but by the pistol. Douglas Kinnaird was to be his second—

“I have written to request Mr. Kinnaird, when the foam of his politics is wiped away, to extract a positive answer from that ——, and not to keep me in a state of suspense upon the subject. I hope that Kinnaird, who has my power of attorney, keeps a look-out upon the gentleman, which is the more necessary, as I have a great dislike to the idea of coming over to look after him myself.”

In this passage the name is not mentioned, we allow; but the same request had been made before, openly relating to the doctor, and with Kinnaird appointed for the second, as “knowing in matters of the duello.” Poor Kinnaird’s own fate was a melancholy illustration of that
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knowledge. Yet it was rather an awkward circumstance that this man-slaying determination should have been thus blazoned to
Murray, whose intercourse with the doctor was notoriously so constant, and who would, we must suppose, be not disinclined to prevent the collision of his principal poet and his principal reviewer. However, the menace came to nothing; and Missolonghi, not Hyde Park, was to be the scene of his lordship’s castrametation. We here mean no impeachment of his courage; for, so far as pistoling goes, he would have probably stood to be shot at, with as much sang froid as the multitude of militia ensigns, St. James’s blacklegs, and Cheapside heroes, who love to flourish in the “tented field” of Chalk-farm. His lordship’s brains were of another calibre; but he was, as his biographer observed, strangely fond of talking and threatening in those matters; and even his eternal pistol-practice had something in it which a man of nice honour could not have easily reconciled to his feelings. The regular pistol-practiser the “candle-snuffer at a dozen paces,” &c. &c. is merely a gentleman who does his best to make that shot sure, which, by the laws of honour, should be uncertain; and to take advantage of the unskilfulness of others, in a contest where the laws of honour require the most perfect equality. The man who has practised till he can hit the ace of spades, and who yet calls out, to stand his shot, an antagonist who may never have fired a pistol in his life, is not a duellist, but an assassin.

His lordship had another trouble, too:—

“I have here my natural daughter, by name Allegra a pretty little girl enough, and reckoned like papa. Her mamma is English; but it is a long story and there’s an end.”

This unfortunate infant had been sent to him by the mamma—a female philosopher of the “community-of-property” school who had too much superiority to the age to restrain herself from being his lordship’s mistress for the time, or to keep the miserable infant which was the fruit of their vices. This child died when about five years old.

From time to time, his letters give us sketches of the figures which he subsequently embodied into his poems:—

“I wish you good night, with a Venetian benediction. Benedetto te, e la tierra che ti fara. (May you be blessed, and the earth which you will make!) Is it not pretty? You would think it still prettier, if you had heard it, as I did two hours ago, from the lips of a Venetian girl, with large, black eyes, a face like Faustina’s, and the figure of a Juno—tall and energetic as a Pythoness, with eyes flashing, and her dark hair streaming in the moonlight, one of those women who may be made any thing. I am sure, if I put a poignard into the hand of this one, she would plunge it where I told her; and into me, if I offended her. I like this kind of animal, and am sure that I should have preferred Medea to any woman that ever breathed. * * * * I could have forgiven the dagger, the bowl, any thing; but the deliberate desolation piled upon me, when I stood alone upon my hearth, with my household gods shivered around me.”

This image he afterwards transferred to one of his tragedies:—
“I had one only fount of quiet left,
And that they poisoned. My pure household gods
Were shivered on my hearth.” Marino Faliero.

It is not very easy to comprehend the sort of admiration that can be felt for a woman ready to dip her hands in blood—a quality which we
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should conceive must tarnish, or rather extinguish, all human attractions in disgust and horror. Nor can we altogether agree in his lordship’s rapture about Medea, who, to the murder of her brother, added that of her children. But he seems always to have made the idle mistake that the more hideous the crime, the more the energy and loftiness of character required for its commission. The fact is almost the direct contrary—the basest and most grovelling committing these horrors, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. There are more cut-throats and poisoners in the hovels of an Italian city at this hour, than could be mustered among all the recorded heroes and heroines of the ancient or modern world. A Roman fish-woman, disputing with her comrade about sixpence-worth of sprats, has all this energy; for she, without ceremony, draws her knife, and plunges it into the bowels of the rival dealer. A Lombard bravo, who stabs for half-a-crown, has the same exact degree of energy; he drives his stiletto to the hilt, and then magnanimously cuts with it the loaf which he has purchased by his labours. But the whole sentiment is monstrous, and founded on a total misconception of the “great in human nature.”

We have now some observations of Mr. Moore’s, touching the Guiccioli affair:—

“It was about this time (1819), when, as we perceive, like the first return of reason after intoxication, a full consciousness of some of the evils of his late libertine course of life, had broken in upon him, that an attachment differing altogether, both in duration and devotion, from any of those that since the dream of his boyhood, had inspired him, gained an influence over his mind, which lasted through his few remaining years; and undeniably wrong and immoral, (even allowing for the Italian estimate of such frailties,) as was the nature of the connexion to which this attachment led, we can hardly perhaps,—taking into account the far worse wrong from which it rescued and preserved him,—consider it otherwise than as an event fortunate both for his reputation and his happiness.”

We are sorry to find those sentiments proceeding from the pen of Mr. Moore. Tenderly as he touches the ground, he here virtually tells us, that a base connection an open adultery was a fortunate event. On this principle, the grossest vice might find its palliation.—If Lord Byron did not commit adultery, he would have committed something worse—is the plea for an intercourse against which the laws of God and man equally protest; and which, instead of being less offensive to morals, is actually the darkest and most pernicious shape which libertinism can take. As to any palliative to be looked for in the profligacy of Italian life, the ground breaks down at once. All the world knows that Italy is a hot-bed of profligacy; that every honorable tie of life is there utterly derided; and that adultery is the matrimonial habit of the land. Italy, we also know, is incureable; and while it submits to that almost incredible corruption of all religion, which acquits men of the basest crimes for money, Italy will always be a sink of abomination and of slavery together. But we must not suffer such maxims to come so recommended to our country. The whole romance of the Countess Guiccioli is, in every sense of the word, vicious; and ought to be called so. In this career Lord Byron hastened on to his life’s close. At last ennui of the Countess, mingled with, as his biographer says, a painful consciousness of his declining fame as a writer, urged him to try another course. Greece attracted him, her unhappy cause had fixed the eyes of
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Europe on her, and with, probably, a sincere zeal for her freedom, he sailed. But he was either too late or too early in the struggle. He also chose his position badly. By fixing himself in an obscure corner of northern Greece, he lost all power of serving the public interests; fell into the hands of a knot of intriguers and beggars; and between rash exposure to the climate, and vexation at the discovery that he was doing nothing, and could do nothing, was seized with a fatal illness, of which he died on the 19th of April, 1824. He was born in London, on the 22nd of January, 1788.

We have now had, we must suppose, the last account which Byron will supply to the gossiping world. The disclosures of these volumes are unfortunate. It would have been better for his fame, if he had been left to the impression naturally made by his poetry. His powers there are unquestionable. He had great poetic talents, and by inventing a style, all whose peculiarities belonged to his own character; and by works, every line of which was a commentary upon his personal career, he had earned for himself a distinguished place among the poets of England. Like the efforts of many celebrated writers, his first works were his best. Of course we speak only of those written after his first residence in Greece. In his later years he was either too idle, or too self-willed, to take the trouble essential to eminence: and the longer he wrote, the more his style degenerated. His Italian life was equally injurious to his literary and his moral fame. But, attaining a high place in authorship, he was unequal to obtain the highest prize. In tragedy he failed altogether; and from an evident and acknowledged consciousness of failure, he at once laboured at dramatic writing, and reviled it. His tragedies, heavy in the closet, are altogether intractable on the stage, and Shakspeare still stands unapproached, if not unapproachable.