LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Affairs of Greece
Chapter XV

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
Chapter XXVII
Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX
Chapter XXX
Chapter XXXI
Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXIII
Chapter XXXIV
Chapter XXXV
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Anecdotes of Lord Byron during his last illness—Post mortem appearances.

During the last days of Lord Byron’s illness, he was remarkably taciturn; but his mind was occupied by anxious thoughts. He had made his will before his departure from Genoa; the only legacy, which he made during his illness, was to Lucca, to whom he gave the receipt by which the Mesolonghiots engaged themselves, to pay, on the arrival of the loan, the two thousand dollars, which had been lent them by Lord Byron to enable them to pay the arrears of the discontented Suliots. He recommended Lucca to send this sum to his mother; a paralytic widow, who had fled from Patras to Ithaca with her daughters and son. Lord Byron, hearing of their miseries, had, on his visit to that island, taken the whole family under his protection. In respect to his servants, he informed them, that he had recommended them all to his executors.

I was not a little surprised to hear him ask me on the 15th, whether I could not do him the favour of inquiring in the town for any very old and ugly witch? As I turned his question in derision, he repeated to me with a serious air; “Never mind whether I am superstitious or not; but I again entreat of you to bring me the most celebrated one there is, in order that she may examine whether this sudden
loss of my health does not depend on the evil eye. She may devise some means to dissolve the spell.”

Knowing the necessity of indulging a patient in his harmless caprices, I soon procured one, who answered exactly to his description. But the following day, seeing that he did not mention the subject, I avoided recalling it to his memory. It is in the Levant an almost universal practice, as soon as a person falls ill, to have recourse, in the first instance, to one of these professed exorcisers. If their art does not succeed in restoring the patient to health by destroying the power of fascination, then the medical man is called in. But without this previous preparation, none of his medicines are supposed to be capable of curing the complaint.

Two thoughts constantly occupied his mind. Ada and Greece were the names, he hourly repeated. The broken complaints he uttered, lamenting to die a stranger to the sole daughter of his affection, not only far from her embrace, but perhaps the object of the hatred, which he thought had been carefully instilled into her from her tenderest infancy, showed how exquisitely his parental feelings were excited by these sad considerations. The glory of dying in Greece, and for Greece, was the only theme he could fly to for relief, and which would dry up the tears, he abundantly shed, when pronouncing Ada’s name. In the agony of death,—that dreadful hour when, leaving the confines of life, the soul is launched into eternity—his parting look, his last adieu, was to Greece and Ada. I was present when, after taking the first antispasmodic mixture, he spoke to Fletcher for the last time, recommending him to call on his sister, on Lady Byron and his daughter, and deliver to each the messages, which he had repeated to him before.
His feelings, and the clouds of death, which were fast obscuring his intellect, did not allow him to continue: “You know what you must say to Ada;—I have already told it you; you know it, do you not?” On hearing Fletcher’s affirmative, he replied, “that’s right.”

On the 18th he addressed me, saying: “Your efforts to preserve my life will be vain. Die I must: I feel it. Its loss I do not lament; for to terminate my wearisome existence I came to Greece.—My wealth, my abilities, I devoted to her cause.—Well: there is my life to her. One request let me make to you. Let not my body be hacked, or be sent to England. Here let my bones moulder.—Lay me in the first corner without pomp or nonsense.”

After his death I informed Count Gamba of Lord Byron’s dying request; and at the same time urged the imperious obligation, he was under, of executing it with religious punctuality. The count replied, that a great man belonged to his country; and that it would be a sacrilege to leave his remains in a place, where they might, one day, become the sport of insulting barbarians. He desired us to embalm the body carefully; his last duty to his friend would be performed when he had deposited his body in the same vault, that contained his illustrious ancestors.

It is with infinite regret I must state, that, although I seldom left Lord Byron’s pillow during the latter part of his illness, I did not hear him make any, even the smallest, mention of religion. At one moment I heard him say: “Shall I sue for mercy?” After a long pause he added: “Come, come, no weakness! let’s be a man to the last.”

Before concluding this melancholy portion of what I have known of this celebrated man, during the last six months of his life, I beg that inexactitude may
not be laid to my charge, if I have passed over in silence many of the particulars, which belonged to the character of this strange compound of opposite passions. I have cursorily mentioned the excellent qualities of his heart; but I am incapable of enumerating the faults of one, from whom I received so many marks of kindness, merely to gratify the curiosity of the idle or the malice of his enemies. To all future inquirers, I prefer saying with the
“No further seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode.
There they alike in trembling hope repose,
The bosom of his Father and his God.”

Before we proceeded to embalm the body, we could not refrain from pausing, in silent contemplation, on the lifeless clay of one, who, but a few days before, was the hope of a whole nation and the admiration of the civilized world. After consecrating a few moments to the feelings, such a spectacle naturally inspired, we could not but admire the perfect symmetry of his body. Nothing could surpass the beauty of the forehead; its height was extraordinary, and the protuberances, under which the nobler intellectual faculties are supposed to reside, were strongly pronounced. His hair, which curled naturally, was quite grey; the mustachios light coloured. His physiognomy had suffered little alteration; and still preserved the sarcastic haughty expression, which habitually characterized it. The chest was broad, high vaulted, the waist very small, the pelvis rather narrow; the muscular system well pronounced; especially that of the superior extremities; the skin delicate and white; and the habit of the body plump. The adipose tissue was every where predominant, a proof of his natural predisposition to embonpoint;
which his severe abstemiousness could hardly counteract. The only blemish of his body, which might otherwise have vied with that of Apollo himself, was the congenital malconformation of his left foot and leg. The foot was deformed, and turned inwards; and the leg was smaller and shorter than the sound one. Although
Lord Byron preferred attributing his lameness to the unskilful treatment of a sprained ankle, there can be little or no doubt, that he was born club-footed.

The following are the principal phenomena, which the autopsy presented. The cranium resembled completely that of a man much advanced in age; its sutures were obliterated; its two tables were united into one; no traces of the diploe remained, and the texture of it was as hard as ivory. The adhesion of the dura mater to the interior of the skull-cap was extraordinarily strong. Its vessels were large, highly injected, and it had acquired at least twice its usual thickness. Each of its surfaces was covered with strong organized bands, uniting them powerfully to the adjacent parts. Its prolongation, the falciform process, was perhaps even more inflamed, and adhered firmly to the hemispheres; and the tentorium cerebelli, though in a less degree, was also strongly injected. The pia mater presented the appearance of the conjunctiva on an inflamed eye. The whole system of sanguiferous vessels, of the cerebrum and cerebellum, was gorged with blood, and their substance was surprisingly hard. The ventricles contained several ounces of serous fluid.

The lungs were perfectly healthy and crepitant; and what is seldom observed in natives of cold climates, had not contracted the slightest adhesion to the pleura. The appearance, presented by the heart, was singular. Its parietes were as collapsed, and of
a consistence, as flabby as those of persons, who have died of old age. Its muscular fibres were pale, and hardly pronounced; and the ventricles had no thickness whatever.

The liver was beginning to undergo the alterations, observed in persons, who have indulged in the abuse of alcoholic liquors. Its bulk was smaller, its texture harder, its colour much lighter than in its healthy condition. The stomach and intestines presented no remarkable phenomena.