LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron
Chapter XXII.

Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Chapter XI.
Chapter XII.
Chapter XIII.
Chapter XIV.
Chapter XV.
Chapter XVI.
Chapter XVII.
Chapter XVIII.
Chapter XIX.
Chapter XX.
Chapter XXI.
‣ Chapter XXII.
Chapter XXIII.
Chapter XXIV.
Chapter XXV.
Chapter XXVI.
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When a man hath no freedom to fight for at home,
Let him combat for that of his neighbours;
Let him think of the glories of Greece and of Rome,
And get knock’d on the head for his labours.

Early in the morning Gamba and I looked over Byron’s papers; there were several journals and note-books; they contained memorandums of his thoughts, not of his actions—violent invectives on the Zuliotes and others.—Italian and English letters, fifteen stanzas of the seventeenth canto of ‘Don Juan,’ dated 8th May, several songs finished, and sundry beginnings of poems, his opinions of Napoleon’s banishment, continuations of ‘Childe Harold,’ and the ‘Deformed Transformed,’ and other fragments. Mavrocordato came in; finally we sealed up everything. The 30 or 40,000 dollars which Byron had brought with him to Missolonghi were reduced to
5000 or 6000. Mavrocordato urged that this sum should be left with him as a loan, and that he would be responsible for its repayment. I objected to this as illegal, and insisted on the money being shipped to the Ionian Islands. The prince was exceedingly put out at this; he evidently thought my scruples arose from no other motive than personal enmity to him. The congress at Salona he considered a scheme of mine to get Byron out of his hands, and to deliver him, Mavrocordato, into the clutches of
Odysseus, and he was in great terror of that chief. These things I could see engendered in his mind a deadly hatred of me. After the consummate art which this prince of Phanariotes had displayed in inveigling Byron and his dollars into Missolonghi, he looked upon him as a lawful prize, and on my efforts to rescue his victim as the height of audacity. I had no enmity to the prince, but I had a strong feeling of good will towards Byron; and never lost sight of his interest. To be brief, my plan had been simply this, to get Byron to Athens; Odysseus, whose confidence I had won, engaged to deliver up the Acropolis of that city, to put the said fortress into my hands the instant Byron promised to come there,
and to allow me to garrison it with my own people and hold it; with no other condition than that of not giving it up to the Greek government as at the time constituted. There the poet would have been in his glory; he loved Athens. In that fortress with a Frank garrison he would have been thoroughly independent; he would have been safe from fevers, for it is the healthiest site in the world, as well as the most beautiful. If the Greeks succeeded in raising a loan, and he was appointed to control its expenditure, at Athens he would have been in a commanding position: aloof from the sordid civil and military factions, he might have controlled them—Byron was no soldier:
“Nor the division of a battle knew more than a spinster.”

To carry on the war a disciplined army and an able general were indispensable. Sir C. J. Napier was the man exactly fitted for such an emergency; skilful, fearless, prompt, and decided as fate. The deep interest that great soldier felt in the cause of the Greeks was such, that he would have undertaken the war, although it would have cost him his commission in the British service, if solicited by the proper autho-
rities, and furnished with sufficient means and power. When
Byron was on his death-bed, and wandering in his mind, Napier was uppermost in his thoughts; he cursed the mercenary and turbulent Zuliotes, exclaiming: “When Napier comes, I will have them all flayed alive.”

In one of my visits to Cephalonia, expressly to inform Napier of the state of anarchy in Greece, I told him the first duty he would have to perform would be that of shooting and imprisoning half-a-dozen of the most refractory of the leaders of factions, as well as of the Captanria.

“No,” he said, “you shall do that; you shall be Provost Marshal. If I go there, we will raise the price of hemp; and I won’t go without two European regiments, money in hand to pay them, and a portable gallows.”

“I will accept the office, and do my duty,” I answered.

To resume my story. After I had seen Byron’s effects dispatched to Zanté, I left Missolonghi to return to Salona. Many of the foreign soldiers who had been in Byron’s pay, now that pay was stopped, volunteered to join me. I engaged as many as I
could afford to keep. I had, likewise, five brass guns, with ammunition, and some other things sent out by the English committee, which I was authorised to take to Eastern Greece.
Mavrocordato opposed this order,—but I enforced it; so that I had now a cavalcade of fifty or sixty horses and mules, and about a hundred men, including the Roumeliotes whom I had brought with me. In all my motley squad there was only one who spoke English, and he was a Scot. It would have been better had I omitted that one. When I arrived at Salona, I found Stanhope and a host of others who had come to meet Byron. Stanhope had received a letter from the Horse Guards ordering him home.

I had now no motive for remaining in Greece. The Greeks were jealous of foreigners; those who had not money wandered about in rags and wretchedness, although many of them were very able soldiers, and had greatly distinguished themselves. But I did not like deserting Odysseus; he was very anxious I should stay. He said: “The Greeks were naturally treacherous, artful, sordid, and fickle; and that history and tradition proved they had always been so.”


The congress dispersed. I returned with Odysseus into Livadia, and we re-visited Athens and Eubœa,—carrying on the war in the same inefficient and desultory way as before, unaided by the government and abandoned to our own resources. Hitherto the military chiefs held all the real power in Greece; the territory they wrested from the Turks they considered as lawful prize: in short, they acted on
“The good old rule, the simple plan,
That they should take who have the power,
And they should keep who can.”

As to the government it was a mere farce, but its members knew it might one day become a reality. Their chief occupation consisted in raising money from those few spots not previously ravaged by the ruthless soldiers. The insignificant revenue thus raised they appropriated to their own uses.

They were now assembled at Nauplia. An English vessel arrived in that port with 40,000l. assigned to them,—this being the first instalment of the Greek loan. The rush to the diggings in California and Australia, on the first discovery of gold in those
regions, was partial, if not orderly, as compared with the wild and universal rush of the Greeks on Nauplia. That town was beleaguered by armed legions of robbers, frantically clamouring for their share of the spoil. Their military leaders soon found, not only that they should get no money, but that they were in imminent peril of losing their heads.

The government determined to rule with a strong hand, and to crush their military rivals. They commenced organising a force and inveigling the men from their chiefs; they attempted to assassinate Odysseus, and were plotting to seize the great Moreote chieftain, Colocotroni,—so the great captains fled to their mountain strongholds. The government ultimately arrested Colocotroni and many others.

I remained with a hundred men between Livadia and Mount Parnes. Odysseus joined me there, and gave me an account of the state of things at Nauplia.

He said: “By stratagem and force, with my own small means, I have kept the Turks out of the Morea for three years without aid from the govern-
ment. The territory we captains have dispossessed the Sultan of, our self-elected government have sold to the Russians; and with the money they are to get rid of us, to make way for a foreign king and foreign soldiers.”

I asked, “What king?”

He said, they were “divided on that subject, but the Russian party was the strongest, for they had the priests, the Phanariotes and Moreotes, with them; but,” he added, “what puzzles me is, that England should advance money to make Greece a hospodariot of Russia. I never met any Greek who could understand the reason why so shrewd a nation of traffickers as the English should lend them such large sums of money, since every one must know, they said, that they neither could nor would repay any portion of it.”

I urged Odysseus to resign his command, and with a few followers to retire to the mountains—adding that “borrowed money in the hands of a knavish government would soon vanish.”

Odysseus said, “This part of the country, Livadia, my father inherited from his father, who won it by his valour, and when it was lost through
the treachery of the Venetians, who sold my father to the Sultan, I regained it by my wits, and have kept it with my sword.”

“And so you may again, if you are dispossessed now,” I answered, “if you bide your time.”

How can a soldier, with nothing but his sword, defend himself against infernal machinations devised by a Prince of Hell, armed with a chest of gold? Phanariotes, like devils, work in the dark!

In one of the precipices of Mount Parnassus, in Livadia, the highest mountain in Greece, there is a cavern, at an elevation of a thousand feet above the plain. This cavern Odysseus had, with great ingenuity, managed to ascend, and convert into a place of safety for his family and effects during the war. The only access to it was by ladders, bolted to the rock. The first ladder, forty-five or fifty feet in length, was placed against the face of the rock, and steadied by braces; a second, resting on a projecting crag, crossed the first; and a third, lighter and shorter, stood on its heel on a natural shelf in the fractured stone. This third ladder led to a trap-door; the bolts and bars of which being removed, you entered a vaulted guard-room, pierced with
lancet-holes for musketry. This opened on a broad terrace, sixty feet in length, screened by a substantial parapet-wall, breast-high, with embrasures mounted with cannon. The height of the natural arch spanning the cave is thirty feet above this lower terrace, so that it is particularly light, airy, and cheerful, commanding extensive and magnificent views. Ascending by steps to a yet higher terrace of solid rock, the breadth and height of the cave diminishes, until the end is reached. On the right of the great cave there is a smaller one; besides which there are many small grottoes, the size of chambers, connected by galleries. They are perfectly dry, and were used for store-rooms and magazines. One of them I converted into a chapel for an old priest, covering the rugged walls with gaudy hangings, flaming paintings, and holy relics of saints, saved from the desecrated churches in the neighbourhood.

The interior of this magnificent cavern often reminded me, with its grottoes, galleries, and vaulted roof, of a cathedral, particularly when the softened light of the evening obscured its ruggedness, or by moonlight. The towering mass of rock above the cave projected boldly over its base. To
make it perfect, there was a never-failing supply of the purest water, which found its way through subterranean channels from the regions of perpetual snow, filtering through fractures in the rock above into a capacious cistern built on the upper terrace.

This cavern was our citadel, and by removing the upper ladder became impregnable without the aid of a garrison. We built boarded houses within it, and stored it with all the necessaries and many of the luxuries of life, besides immense supplies of arms and ammunition.

I urged Odysseus to abide in this stronghold, saying that the borrowed money was sure to be embezzled by a government composed of arrant sharpers; and that but a small part of it would be applied to the purpose it was contracted for. Besides, Ibrahim Pasha was on his way to Greece with an immense force. Civil wars were already rife in the Morea. “The Greeks,” I continued, “and their country are so admirably adapted for guerilla warfare, that those chiefs who had carried on the insurrection successfully, and had shown that they alone had capacity to continue it, must be recalled from
banishment to defend their country. Then you can retaliate on the government by demanding an account of their stewardship.”

“I did expose their frauds to their faces,” exclaimed the chief, “in the National Assembly at Nauplia, and on the same night two shots were fired at me from a window opposite to the one I was sitting at. My guards seized the miscreants, and I gave them up to the police, but they were not punished. If I stay here, we shall be beleaguered by assassins, and prevented from communicating with my lieutenants and followers. Ghouras still holds the Acropolis of Athens. I cannot stay here; a stag at bay is more to be feared than a lion blockaded in his den.”

It was decided that I should remain, and he go forth. I had shared in his prosperity, and would not leave him in his adversity. As a garrison was superfluous, I reduced mine to half-a-dozen. To guard against treachery, I chose men of different countries, who were not likely to conspire together: a Greek, Turk, Hungarian, and Italian, a venerable priest, and two Greek boys as servants.


Our other inmates were the chief’s son, an infant, his wife, mother, and two or three other women. I entrusted the keys of the entrance to the Albanian Turk, a resolute determined fellow.

In the mountains of Pindus and Agrafa, in Thessalia, they have the noblest breed of dogs in the world. In size and strength they are not much inferior to the king of beasts, and in courage and sagacity they are superior. When thorough-bred and well trained they are held in such estimation by their owners, that money will not buy them. We had one of these. He did the duty of a guard of soldiers, patrolling the lower terrace at night, and keeping watch at the guard-room door by day. He would not enter a room. He was best pleased in the winter snow-storms, when the icicles hung on his long brindled hair and shaggy mane. It was impossible to elude his vigilance or corrupt his fidelity; he would not take food from any other hands than mine or the Albanian’s, and could not be bribed. This is more than I could say of any Greek that I had dealings with, during the three years I lived amongst them.


In addition to the small number within the cave, I had a much larger force at the foot of the ladders. They were hutted within a stone breast-work. I gave the command of them to the Scotchman whom I had brought from Missolonghi. Their duty was to patrol the passes of the mountain, to collect the tithes or tribute from the neighbouring villages (these were paid in kind), to learn the news, and to keep up my correspondence with the chief and others.

The name of the Scotchman was Fenton. Thomas was, I think, his Christian name. He introduced himself to me, as I have before narrated, on my visit to Western Greece, saying he had come out expressly to join Lord Byron’s regiment; that he had served in the civil wars in Spain, was skilled in guerilla warfare, that his funds were exhausted, and, as I was proceeding to the war, he begged me to take him with me.

I pointed out the deplorable condition of foreigners in Greece generally, and the peculiar state of things in that part of the country I was going to in particular, and offered to advance him money to return home. As he persisted in his wish to go with me, I reluctantly yielded to his importunity.


He was a tall, bony man, with prominent eyes and features, dark hair, and long face, in the prime of life, thirty-one or thirty-two years of age. His dress, accoutrements, and arms were all well chosen. He was restless, energetic, enterprising, and a famous walker. During the time he was with me I sent him on many missions to the Ionian Islands for money, to the seat of government to see what they were doing, and with letters to friendly chiefs, so that he was not much at the cave; and when he was, he lived in a hut below it. I supplied him with all he wanted—my purse was his. He was not squeamish on these points, but sensual, and denied himself nothing within his reach. When in my neighbourhood, he passed most of his time with me. No querulous word or angry glance ever ruffled our friendly intercourse. I thought him honest, and his staying with me a proof of his good-will, if not personal friendship, and never omitted an occasion of doing him a service.

When Odysseus had been absent three or four months, rumours reached me in January, 1825, that the government were resolved to deprive the chief of his command in Eastern Greece. To do this
effectually, they were endeavouring to detach his lieutenant,
Ghouras, who held Attica, from him. I despatched Fenton to Athens and Nauplia, to ascertain the truth of these reports.