LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Last Days of Lord Byron.
The Gentleman’s Magazine  Vol. 95  (June 1825)  517-21.
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JUNE, 1825.


89. The Last Days of Lord Byron, with his Lordship’s opinion on various subjects, particularly on the state and prospects of Greece. By William Parry, Major of Lord Byron’s Brigade, &c. &c. 8vo, pp. 360.

WE have read this work with melancholy feelings. Lord Byron was a Phaeton; he has soared and has fallen. He was a favourite son of Apollo, who crowned him with the laurel, and the Muses sung the Inauguration Hymn. He was not satisfied. He saw that Fame was only younger sister to Glory. To be the Epaminondas of Greece was his last grand object. Reason was made subject to Volition. He neglected proper precautionary measures, and fell a victim to Disease and Vexation. The immorality and the licentiousness of Don Juan have been reprehended; but Lord Byron was a young man of fashion; and lecture how we will, the morals of all men will be those of the class of society to which they belong. The age is that of teachers and preachers, without knowledge of the world, talents, or learning, tormenting mankind, for the sake of their own popularity and success, with eternal importunities on subjects which are as much dependent upon circumstances as the conduct of Lord Byron. If it costs a man a hundred pounds to prosecute a thief to conviction, and such may be the case, it is vain to talk of diminishing crime*; and iniquitous to ascribe the cause to negligence in a powerless Parish Priest, who does all he can by promoting education. If too, Adam Smith says, that men of rank and wealth may be made men of honour, but never men of austere morals; then it is down with Eton—down with all public Schools—down with the Universities—down with men of glory—down with heroes—give us Monks, the oracles of Grandmamas; but what becomes of Old England? Spain, Portugal, and Italy will show us. The nation becomes a preaching theatre, and the clergy, players. Faction about nothings, quarrels about merits of no value, and unphilosophical trash, become the sole occupation of the public mind. Every petty orator is a pope, and every parish clerk is a cardinal.

Rational piety, correct morals, and active philanthrophy, are duties due to fathers, mothers, wives, children, neighbours, friends, dependents, and every body; and pity it is, that circumstances should occur, which impede their complete operation in any rank of life. But every philosopher knows that matrimony, paternity, and mature age are the grand corrective remedies. Now, sad as were the deviations of Byron, he was an honour to his country, and that he was not a public good also, was the fault of those among whom he lived. If a man has a warm heart, kindness with wisdom may reform him. But what was Byron’s lot? We shall give it in an extract from the speech of Lord Stowell, upon the trial of Augusta Evans versus T. Evans, Esq. sometime about the year 1795, and the best account of connubial disagreement which was ever written.

“Two persons marry together with something of warmth and sensibility in each of their tempers. The husband is occasionally inattentive; the wife has a vivacity, which sometimes displeases, sometimes offends, and sometimes is offended. Something like unkindness is produced, and is then easily inflamed. The lady broods over petty resentments, which are anxiously fed by the busy whispers of humble confidants. Her complaints, aggravated by their reports, are carried to her relations, and meet with something like facility of reception from their honest but well-intentioned minds—a state of mutual irritation encreases—somewhat like incivility is continually practising, and where it is practised, it is continually suspected—every word, every act, every look has a meaning attached to it—it becomes a contest of spirit in form between two persons eager to take, and not absolutely backward to give, mutual offence. At last the husband breaks up the family connection, and breaks it up with circumstances sufficiently expressive of disgust; treaties are attempted, and they miscarry, as they might be expected to do in the funds of persons

* It is a fact, that the poor miller who prosecuted the notorious Probert for stealing his horse, at the cost of 100l., was obliged to sell the horse and a large part of his stock to pay some of the expences, and is now soliciting a remuneration for the rest, by subscription. From the County he received only 301. Thus it is, that rogues escape. Proh Pudor!
518Review.—Parry’s Last Days of Lord Byron.
strongly disaffected to each other. A libel is given in, black with criminating matter. Recrimination comes from the other side. Accusations rain heavy on all sides, till all is involved in doom, and the parties lose sight of each other’s real characters, and the truth of every one fact which is involved in the cause.”

“What God has joined together, let no man put asunder,” and in our judgments, there is radical badness of heart in dividing husbands and wives. But furies are not mere mythological beings. At first Lord Byron might despise the littleness of mind conspicuous in his backbiters, but he soon found that there are reptiles which can sting dangerously, and human beings who think like fools, and act like devils.

A planet these busy calumniators had no idea of, but a wooden clock they comprehended; and because he was not mechanically precise in striking the hours, and pointing the minute hand, they thought it fit to have him banished for ever from home, wife, and child. In a paroxysm of agony, in the misery of neglect, and the prospect of premature dissolution, he ejaculates, “My wife—my child.”

Fauntleroy was not destitute of these comforts, and he was only a corroding mischievous worm. Byron, a noble being, was destitute of them, and obliged, though a Peer, to resort to Radicals for common civility—men, whom to judge by his opinion of their Solomon, Mr. Bentham he saw through and inwardly abhorred.

But this was a man who was immoral and licentious. We vindicate neither propensity. We only regret that a fine ship in the British Navy should be spoiled by barnacles; that a palace should be ruined by the dry rot. We think that Byron might have been saved, because he was not a cold-hearted egotist; and we feel with the excellent Sherlock, that men ought not to take more credit for abusing an erring man, than for trying to save him. Envy wanted to destroy him because he was a lion, and not a lap-dog; but men of intellectual pursuits ought to say concerning the agents of his ruin, in the words of Queen Elizabeth, “god may forgive you, but we never can.”

The Author before us appears to be a man of strong natural sense, with an honest old soldier’s heart, and all that John Bullism about him, which evinces a sturdy determination to speak his mind, in utter disregard of person or party. Now as we like to see good rather than evil, we are glad to find that though Byron was often politically tipsy, and talked nonsense about his country, the King, America, &c.; yet in his conduct on the Greek subject, the usual wisdom of the hereditary Senator was conspicuous. There was not a fault in his advice concerning the Greek cause. He stands, as a Statesman, as superior to the rest, as the Trajan column does to a milestone. He avowed an intention to study the art of war, probably to become another Napoleon; at all events to be a Washington. All this was in his nature. He was a charger of high blood, and men rail at him because he was unfit for a cart-horse. It is to men of such a character that the world is to look for the enthusiasm and perseverance requisite to effect great objects; and whatever may be the results of their ambition, it is certain that Providence only works grand changes by single men, not by bodies of men, and ultimately merges all in monarchy. Republics have only short lives, and seldom merry ones.

The subject, however, is interesting, and we are confident that our readers will not be displeased with a copious notice of the volume before us.

The work opens with a long account of clumsy mis-management in transmission of the stores; and the introduction to Lord Byron. His behaviour to the Author was kind and condescending. The room was hung round with weapons like an armoury, abore which were shelves furnished with books, an hieroglyphic of his Lordship’s politics, which were to furnish Greece with arms and independence, and then to leaven it with learning. His politics were very simple, but truly wise. Let one single object, (he said,) the expulsion of the Turks, be first regarded. Newspapers and the press would now only create faction, and do mischief. They are only to be considered as secondary things. Col. Stanhope’s opposite sentiments created the coolness between them. Bloodshed and anarchy, said the wise Member of the Upper House, will be the consequence of discussing theories of government, before independence is obtained. His Lordship was perfectly correct, for in a short time the wiseacres published a Tirade against Kings,
Review.—Parry’s Last Days of Lord Byron.519
which, said the Peer, was the very way to bring the Holy Alliance down upon them. Add to this, that the German Officers who came to assist, were men of punctilious etiquette, and always quarrelling about rank; and mechanics sent out at an expence of three hundred and forty pounds, did only fourteen days work, at the cost of something more than four pounds one shilling a day. Pp. 66, 67.

For every object, public or private, his Lordship was expected to be paymaster; a mutiny might cost him his life; what he received from England were a Wesleyan preacher, bugle-horns, printing presses, and religious tracts. Arms, powder, and shot, were inferior considerations*. With all his noble-minded sacrifices, he was harassed with crazy counsels; worried out of his patience and sleep; and doomed to eat nothing for several days but cheese, fish, vegetables, and bread. In short, at his outset in life, he was all but murdered by calumniators; and now he had to encounter the insanity of his countrymen, who employed the funds collected for the liberation of Greece, in propagating their own political and religious tenets, instead of furnishing the indispensable materials of war.

This will be enough to explain the harassing situation which soon effected his dissolution. The private habits of the man shall now be the sole subject of consideration.

Upon our Author’s first introduction,

Lord Byron was sitting upon a kind of mattress, but elevated by a cushion, that occupied only a part of it, and made his seat higher than the rest. He was dressed in a blue surtout-coat and loose trowsers, and pore a foraging cap. He was attended by an Italian servant, Tita, and a young Greek of the name of Luca, of a most prepossessing appearance. Count Gamba, too, came in and out of the room, and Fletcher his servant was also occasionally in attendance. His Lordship desired me to sit down beside him: his conversation very soon became animated, and then his countenance appeared even more prepossessing than at first.” Pp. 16, 17.

When Mr. Parry felt himself obliged to ask his Lordship for money,

“He rose, twirled himself round on his heel (which I afterwards found was a common, though not a graceful practice of his) and said, ‘Is that all? I was afraid it was something else.’ When his Lordship rote, I observed that he was somewhat lame, but bis bust appeared perfectly and beautifully formed.” Pp. 17, 18.

The following is an account of his Lordship’s mode of living:

“He always rose at nine o’clock, or a little later, and breakfasted about ten. This meal consisted of tea without either milk or sugar, dry toast and water cresses. During his breakfast, he received persons on business, and gave orders for the day. About eleven he inspected the accounts, and in conjunction with his secretary, checked and audited every item in a business-like manner.”

“If the weather permitted, he afterwards rode out; if it did not, he used to amuse himself by shooting at a mark with pistols. Though his hand trembled much, his aim was sure, and he could hit an egg four times out of five at the distance of ten or twelve yards. One of his practical jokes, connected with this pistol shooting, was the following:—Opposite to bis quarters was a house built in the Turkish fashion, having little turrets, on the top of which were a number of small ornaments. The house was inhabited chiefly by women. One of Lord Byron’s most frequent amusements was to shoot at these ornaments with his pistols; and he was so expert, that he seldom missed. Before his death the house was entirely stripped of all its honours. Every time he fired, however, the report brought fourth some of the women, who scolded most vehemently in the Greek language, proving, as he said, that it had not lost any of its Billingsgate since the time of Homer’s heroes. The women seemed glad of the opportunity of giving free license to their tongues, and Byron said he liked so much to hear and see them, that he would not be without the sport for a considerable sum.” P. 155.

It was at this period of the day also, if he did not ride out, that he was generally visited by Prince Mavrocordato and the Primates. If he rode out, the latter visited him towards three or four o’clock, and the former came later in the evening, like one of his private friends. His rides were seldom extended beyond two hours, as, he then returned and dined.

He ate very sparingly, and what he did eat was neither nourishing, nor blood-making food. He very rarely touched flesh, ate very little fish, used neither spices, nor sauces, and dined principally off dried toast, vegetables, and cheese. He drank a very small quantity of wine or cider, but indulged in the use of no spirituous liquors. He

* Only sixty-one barrels were ever sent from England. P. 85.
520Review.—Parry’s Last Days of Lord Byron.
took nothing of any consequence during the remainder of the day.

After his dinner he attended the drilling of the officers of his corps in an outer apartment of his own dwelling. Here again he set an admirable example. He submitted to be drilled with them, and went through all those exercises it was proper for them to learn. When these were finished, he very often played a game of single-stick, or indulged in some other severe muscular exertion. He then retired for the evening, and conversed with friends, or employed himself, using the little assistance I was able to give him, studying military tactics. “At eleven o’clock (says Mr. Parry) I left him, and I was generally the last person he saw, except his servants, and then he retired not to sleep, but to study.” Till nearly four o’clock he was continually engaged in reading or writing, and rarely slept more than five hours; getting up again at nine o’clock.

Lord Byron (says our Author,) was more a mental being, if I may use the phrase, than any man I ever saw. He lived on thought more than on food. He thought that the Greek Committee, or its Agents, acted treacherously by him.

“By the cant of religious pretenders,” he said, “I have already deeply suffered, and now I know what the cant of pretended reformers and of philanthropists amounts to. As his hopes of the cause of Greece failed, he lost enthusiasm, and became gloomily sensible to his situation. There was no mental stimulus left to make him bear up against his increasing perplexities, and nerve his body to resist the noxious effects of a bad climate.” Pp. 106, 107.

His last hopes were of returning to England.

“A few exclamations shewed what occupied Lord Byron’s mind in silence and solitude. ‘My wife! my Ada! my country! the situation of this place, my removal impossible, and perhaps death, all combine to make me sad. I am convinced of the happiness of domestic life. No man on earth respects a virtuous woman more than I do, and the prospect of retirement in England with my wife and Ada, gives me an idea of happiness I have never experienced before. Retirement will be every thing to me, for heretofore my life has been like the ocean in a storm.” pp. 121, 122.

“Christianity is the purest and most liberal religion in the world, but the numerous teachers who are continually worrying mankind with their denunciations and their doctrines, are the greatest enemies of religion. I have read with more attention than half of them the book of Christianity, and I admire the liberal and truly charitable principles which Christ has laid down. There are questions connected with the subject which none but Almighty God can solve. Time and space who can conceive—none but God, on Him I rely.” P. 123.

“I have been both annoyed and amused by numerous attacks on my religious opinions, and with the conversations about them. It it really astonishing how these Religionists persecute. No situation in life secures a man from their importunities. Under a pretence of being greatly apprehensive for our eternal welfare, if we do not follow their dictum, they persecute us in every way possible. True religion teaches man humility, charity, kindness, and every good act. Professing religion is now become quite a trade. Thousands sally forth to escape from labour, without the least claim either by education, character, or station in society, and assume the characters of teachers. They embrace different opinions, and are continually bellowing damnation against each other. The liberal principles of Christianity, what Christ taught,—mind, I say, what Christ taught—I have no doubt would be conducive to the happiness of the world; but the system of ramming opinions down our throats does harm to the cause which the fanatical preachers endeavour to support.” P. 203.

Such were the religious opinions of Lord Byron; and as we do not think that the affairs of the Almighty can be better managed by others, than by himself, to him, in humility, we leave them. We have nothing to do with dead people; and, as the creeds of adults are commonly those which their parents have taught them, every man, where none has been taught, goes his own way.

Here, therefore, we shall leave Lord Byron. We are sorry for his fate, and sorry for his failings; for many things there were unbecoming him. He forgot the Gentleman in his mean vindictive reproaches; he forgot the Peer, in the insults offered to the Sovereign; and he forgot the Father and the Husband in disseminating profligacy. Still he had all the seeds of greatness implanted in him; and they who ought not to approve, may yet lament him.

We consign this interesting book to the lovers of entertainment, for they will derive from it much pleasure. This is not a little augmented by the dry humour of Major Parry, with a
Review.—Parry’s Last Days of Lord Byron.521
specimen of which we shall conclude.

Mr. Jeremy Bentham, it seems, breakfasts at half-past three P. M. and dines at half-past ten P. M. Our author was introduced to him, and gives the following droll account of the “Long-Trot,” which Mr. Bentham practises in traversing the streets of London.

“I understood he was seventy-three years of age, and therefore I concluded we should have a quiet comfortable walk. Very much to my surprise, however, we had scarcely got into the Park, when he let go my arm, and set off trotting like a Highland messenger. The Park was crowded, and the people, one and all, seemed to stare at the old man; but heedless of all this he trotted on, as if he were not seen by a single human being.

“As soon as I could recover from my surprise, I asked the young man, ‘Is Mr. Bentham flighty?’ pointing to my head. ‘Oh no, its his way,’ was the hurried answer; he thinks it good for his health, but I must run after him,’ and off set the youth in chase of the Philosopher. I must not lose my companions, thought I, and off I set also. Of course the eyes of every human being in the Park were fixed on the running veteran and his pursuers. There was Jerry a-head, then came his clerk and his portfolio, and I being a heavier sailer than either, was bringing up the rear.”

“What the people might think I don’t know, but I was heartily ashamed of participating in this scene, and supposed that every body would take me for a mad doctor, the young man for my assistant, and Mr. Bentham for my patient, just broke adrift from his keepers.” Pp. 199—201.

We would recommend our worthy countrymen, who, like Lord Byron, would wish to show their chivalry in Greece, to recollect the fate of Byron, and the following lines of Ovid:
...... “Quod vero nomine pœna
Non honor est. Pœnam, Phæton, pro munere poscis.”

Before they even talk of such a thing, we earnestly implore them to read this book, more particularly pages 133, 134. Send ammunition and arms; that will best serve the cause.