LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Recollections of the Life of Lord Byron
Chapter IV

Table of Contents
Preliminary Statement
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
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1808 TO THE END OF 1814;




R. C. DALLAS, Esq.







LORD BYRON’S TRAVELS IN 1809, 1810, And 1811.

The Letters which Lord Byron had thus given to me were twenty in number. They consisted of two short ones written from Newstead, at the end of 1808; one written from London, in March, 1809; fifteen written during his travels from Falmouth, Gibraltar, Malta, Previsa, Smyrna, Constantinople, Athens, and Patras, in 1810 and 1811; one written on board the Volage frigate, on his approach to England when returning; and a short note from London, to announce his intention of going down to Newstead.

These letters were the only ones Lord
Byron wrote during his travels, with the single exception of letters of business to his agent. Letter-writing was a matter of irksome duty to him, but one which he felt himself bound to perform to his mother. The letters are sometimes long and full of detail, and sometimes short, and mere intimations of his good health and progress, according as the humour of the moment overcame or not his habitual reluctance to the task. I cannot but lament that any circumstances should deprive the British public of such lively and faithful delineations of the mind and character of Lord Byron as are to be found in these letters. They do not, it is true, contain the information which is usually expected from a talented traveller through an interesting country; but they do contain the index and guide which enables the reader to travel into that more interesting region—the mind and heart of such a man as Lord
Byron; and though it might be desirable that he should have given a fuller description of his travels, it is highly satisfactory that he should unconsciously have left the means of penetrating into the natural character of so singular a being.

Lord Byron’s letters to his mother are more likely to furnish these means than any thing else that he has left us; because they contain the only natural expression of his feelings, freely poured forth in the very circumstances that excited them, with no view at the time to obtain or keep up a particular character, and therefore with no restraint upon his own character. This was never afterwards the case.

From the moment that the publication of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage placed him, as it were, by the wand of an enchanter, upon an elevated pedestal in the Temple of Fame, he could not write any thing even in familiar correspondence, which was not
in some degree influenced by the idea of supporting a character; especially as, after the death of his mother, he had no correspondent to whom he made it a duty, at certain intervals, to communicate his thoughts.

It is, therefore, in the natural turn of thought, not shewn forth by any expression of decided opinions, but rather permitted to be seen in the light touches and unpremeditated indications of feeling, with which these letters abound, that the original character of Lord Byron is more surely to be traced. I say his original character, because so great an alteration took place at least in the degree, if not in the nature of it, after the publication of his first great poem, that the traits which might give us an insight into his mind at the one period, will scarcely afford us ground to form any judgment of it at the other. I deeply regret that being prevented from making any thing like quo-
tations from these letters, it is impossible for me to convey in any adequate degree the spirit of the character which they display.

At Newstead, just before his coming of age, he planned his future travels; and his original intention included a much larger portion of the world than that which he afterwards visited. He first thought of Persia, to which idea indeed he for a long time adhered. He afterwards meant to sail for India; and had so far contemplated this project as to write for information from the Arabic Professor at Cambridge, and to ask his mother to inquire of a friend who had lived in India, what things would be necessary for his voyage. He formed his plan of travelling upon very different grounds from those which he afterwards advanced. All men should travel at one time or another, he thought, and he had then no connexions to prevent him; when he returned he might
enter into political life, for which travelling would not incapacitate him, and he wished to judge of men by experience. He had been compared by some one to
Rousseau, but he disclaimed any desire to resemble so illustrious a lunatic; though he wished to live as much by himself and in his own way as possible.

While at Newstead at this time, and in contemplation of his intended departure, he made a will which he meant to have formally executed as soon as he came of age. In it he made a proper provision for his mother, bequeathing her the manor of Newstead for her life. How different a will from that which, with so different a mind and heart, he really executed seven years afterwards!

A short time after this a proposal was made to him by his man of business to sell Newstead Abbey, which made his mother uneasy upon the subject. To set her mind
at ease he declared, in the strongest terms, that his own fate and Newstead were inseparable; stating, at the same time, the fittest and noblest reasons why he should never part with Newstead, and affirming that the finest fortune in the country should not purchase it from him. The letter in which he had written his sentiments on this subject, was that which he gave to me to keep as a pledge that he never would dispose of Newstead. Nor was it, indeed, until he had abandoned himself to the evil influence which afterwards beset him, that he forgot his solemn promise to his mother, and the pledge of honour which he voluntarily put into my hands, and then bartered the last vestige of the inheritance of his family.

He left London in June, 1809; and his acute sensibility being deeply wounded at his relation’s conduct when taking his seat in the House of Lords, and by the disappointment he had experienced on parting
with the friend whom he had believed to be so affectionately attached to him, he talked of a regretless departure from the shores of England, and said he had no wish to revisit any thing in it, except his mother and Newstead Abbey. The state of his affairs annoyed him also much. He had consented to the sale of his estate in Lancashire, and if it did not produce what he expected, or what would be sufficient for his emergencies, he thought of entering into some foreign service; the Austrian, the Russian, or even the Turkish, if he liked their manners. Amongst his suite was a German servant, who had been already in Persia with
Mr. Wilbraham, and a lad whom he took with him, because he thought him, like himself, a friendless creature; and to the few regrets that he had felt on leaving his native country, his heart made him add that of parting with an old servant, whose age prevented his master from hoping to see him again.


The objects that he met with in his journey as far as Gibraltar, seemed to have occupied his mind, to the exclusion of his gloomy and misanthropic thoughts; for the letter which he wrote to his mother from thence contains no indication of them, but, on the contrary, much playful description of the scenes through which he had passed. The beautiful Stanzas, from the 16th to the 30th of the first Canto of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, are the exact echoes of the thoughts which occurred to his mind at the time, as he went over the spot described. In going into the library of the convent of Mafra the monks conversed with him in Latin, and asked him whether the English had any books in their country. From Mafra he went to Seville, and was not a little surprised at the excellence of the horses and roads in Spain, by which he was enabled to travel nearly four hundred miles in four days, without fatigue or annoyance.


At Seville Lord Byron lodged in the house of two unmarried ladies, one of whom, however, was going to be married soon; and though he remained there only three days she did not scruple to pay him the most particular attentions, which, as they were women of character, and mixing in society, rather astonished him. His Sevillean hostess embraced him at parting with great tenderness, cutting off a lock of his hair and presenting him with a very long one of her own, which he forwarded to his mother in his next letter. With this specimen of Spanish female manners, he proceeded to Cadiz, where various incidents occurred to him calculated to confirm the opinion he had formed at Seville of the Andalusian belles, and which made him leave Cadiz with regret, and determine to return to it.

Lord Byron kept no journal; while his companion, Mr. Hobhouse, was occupied
without ceasing in making notes. His aversion to letter-writing also occasions great chasms in the only account that can be obtained of his movements from himself. He wrote, however, to his mother from Malta, merely to announce his safety; and forwarded the letter by
Mrs. Spencer Smith, whose eccentric character and extraordinary situation very much attracted his attention. He did not write again until November, 1809, from Previsa.

Upon arriving at Yanina, Lord Byron found that Ali Pacha was with his troops in Illyricum besieging Ibrahim Pacha in Berat; but the Vizier, having heard that an English nobleman was in his country, had given orders at Yanina to supply him with every kind of accommodation free of all expense. Thus he was not allowed to pay for any thing whatever, and was forced to content himself with making presents to the slaves. From Yanina he went to Te-
paleen, a journey of nine days, owing to the autumnal torrents which retarded his progress. The scene which struck him upon entering Tepaleen, at the time of the sun’s setting, recalled to his mind the description of Branksome Castle, in
Scott’s Lay of the Last Minstrel. The different objects which presented themselves to his view when arriving at the Pacha’s palace,—the Albanians in their superb costume—the Tartars and the Turks with their separate peculiarities of dress—the row of two hundred horses, ready caparisoned, waiting in a large open gallery—the couriers which the stirring interest of the neighbouring siege made to pass in and out constantly—the military music—the boys repeating the hour from the Minaret of the Mosque,—are all faithfully and exactly described as he saw them, in the 55th and following stanzas, to the 60th of the second Canto of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.


He was lodged in the palace, and the next day introduced to Ali Pacha.—Ali said, that the English minister had told him that Lord Byron’s family was a great one; and he desired him to give his respects to his mother, which his Lordship faithfully delivered immediately. The Pacha declared that he knew him to be a man of rank from the smallness of his ears, his curling hair, and his little white hands; and told him to consider himself under his protection as that of a father while he remained in Turkey, as he looked on him as his son; and, indeed, he showed how much he considered him as a child, by sending him sweetmeats, and fruit, and nice things repeatedly during the day.

In going in a Turkish ship of war, provided for him by Ali Pacha, from Previsa, intending to sail for Patras, Lord Byron was very nearly lost in but a moderate gale of wind, from the ignorance of the Turkish
officers and sailors—the wind, however, abated, and they were driven on the coast of Suli. The confusion appears to have been very great on board the galliot, and somewhat added to by the distress of Lord Byron’s valet,
Fletcher, whose natural alarms upon this, and other occasions; and his untravelled requirements of English comforts, such as tea, &c., not a little amused his master, and were frequently the subject of good-humoured jokes with him. An instance of disinterested hospitality, in the chief of a Suliote village, occurred to Lord Byron in consequence of his disasters in the Turkish galliot. The honest Albanian, after assisting him in the distress in which he found himself, supplying his wants, and lodging him and his suite, consisting of Fletcher, a Greek, two Athenians, a Greek priest, and his companion, Mr. Hobhouse, refused to receive any remuneration; and only asked him for a written acknow-
ledgment that he had been well-treated. When Lord Byron pressed him to take money, he said, “I wish you to love me, not to pay me.”

At Yanina, on his return, he was introduced to Hussian Bey and Mahmout Pacha, two young grandchildren of Ali Pacha, very unlike lads, having painted faces, large black eyes, and regular features. They were nevertheless very pretty, and already instructed in all the court ceremonies. Mahmout, the younger, and he were friends without understanding each other, like a great many other people, though for a different reason.

Lord Byron wrote several times to his mother from Smyrna, from whence he went in the Salsette frigate to Constantinople. It was while this frigate was lying at anchor in the Dardanelles, that he swam from Sestos to Abydos,—an exploit which he seemed to have remembered ever after
with very great pleasure, repeating it and referring to it in no less than five of his letters to his mother, and in the only two letters he wrote to me while he was away.

It was not until after Lord Byron arrived at Constantinople that he decided not to go on to Persia, but to pass the following summer in the Morea. At Constantinople, Mr. Hobhouse left him to return to England, and by him he wrote to me and to his mother. He meant also to have sent back his man, Fletcher, with Mr. Hobhouse; as, however good a servant in England, he found him an incumbrance in his progress. Lord Byron had now tasted the delights of travelling; he had seen much, both of country and of mankind; he had neither been disappointed nor disgusted with what he had met with; and though he had passed many a fatiguing, he had never spent a tedious hour. This led him to
fear that these feelings might excite in him a gipsy-like wandering disposition, which would make him uncomfortable at home, knowing such to be frequently the case with men in the habit of travelling. He had mixed with persons in all stations in life had lived amongst the most splendid, and sojourned with the poorest, and found the people harmless and hospitable. He had passed some time with the principal Greeks in the Morea and Livadia, and he classed them as inferior to the Turks, but superior to the Spaniards, whom he placed before the Portuguese. At Constantinople, his judgment of
Lady Mary Wortley was, that she had not overstepped the truth near so much as would have been done by any other woman under similar circumstances; but he differed from her when she said “St. Paul’s would cut a strange figure by St. Sophia’s.” He felt the great interest which St. Sophia’s possesses from various
considerations, but he thought it by no means equal to some of the Mosques, and not to be written on the same leaf with St. Paul’s. According to his idea, the Cathedral at Seville was superior to both, or to any religious edifice he knew. He was enchanted with the magnificence of the walls of the city, and the beauty of the Turkish burying grounds; and he looked with enthusiasm at the prospect on each side from the Seven Towers, to the end of the Golden Horn.

When Lord Byron had lost his companion at Constantinople, he felt great satisfaction at being once more alone; for his nature led him to solitude, and his disposition towards it encreased daily. There were many men there and in the Morea who wished to join him; one to go to Asia, another to Egypt. But he preferred going alone over his old track, and to look upon his old objects, the seas and the
mountains, the only acquaintances that improved upon him. He was a good deal annoyed at this juncture by the persevering silence of
his man of business, from whom he had never once heard since his departure from England, in spite of the critical situation of his affairs; and yet, it is remarkable with how much patience he bore with circumstances, which certainly were calculated to excite the anger of one of less irritable disposition than his own.

Whether it were owing to his having been left alone to his own reflections, or whether it be merely attributable to the uneven fluctuations of an unsettled mind, it appears that Lord Byron’s thoughts at this time had some tendency towards a recovery from the morbid state of moral apathy which upon some important points he had evinced. He felt the advantage of looking at mankind in the original, and not in the picture—of reading them-
selves, instead of the account of them in books; he saw the disadvantageous results of remaining at home with the narrow prejudices of an islander, and wished that the youth of our country were forced by law to visit our allied neighbours. He had conversed with French, Italians, Germans, Danes, Greeks, Turks, Armenians, &c. &c., and without losing sight of his own nation, could form an estimate of the countries and manners of others; but, at the same time, he felt gratified when he found that England was superior in any thing. This shows the latent spark of patriotism in his heart.

He wished when he returned to England to lead a quiet and retired life; in thinking of which, his mind involuntarily acknowledged that God knew, but arranged the best for us all. This acknowledgment seemed to call forth the remembrance of his acquired infidelity; and, for the sake of
consistency, he qualified it by giving it as the general belief, and he had nothing to oppose to such a doctrine, as upon the whole he could not complain of his own lot. He was convinced that mankind did more harm to themselves than Satan could do to them. These are singular assertions for
Lord Byron, and shew that, at that time at least, his mind was in a state which might have admitted of a different result than that which unhappily followed.

I have already said, that Lord Byron took no notes of his travels, and he did not intend to publish any thing concerning them; but it is curious that, while he was in Greece, he made a determination that he would publish no more on any subject—he would appear no more as an author—he was quite satisfied, if by his Satire he had shown to the critics and the world that he was something above what they supposed him to be, nor would he hazard the
reputation that work might have procured him by publishing again. He had, indeed, other things by him, as the event proved; but he resolved, that if they were worth giving to the public, it should be posthumously, that the remembrance of him might be continued when he could no longer remember.

Previous to his return to England, the proposal to sell Newstead was renewed. His mother again showed her feeling upon the subject. His own feelings and determinations were unchanged. If it was necessary that money should be procured by the sale of land, he was willing to part with Rochdale. He sent Fletcher to England with papers to that effect. He, besides, had no reliance on the funds; but the main point of his objection to the proposal was, that the only thing that bound him to England was Newstead—if by any extraordinary event he should be induced to part
with it, he was resolved to pass his life abroad. The expenses of living in the East, with all the advantages of climate and abundance of luxury, were trifling in comparison with what was necessary for competence in England. He was resolved that Newstead should not be sold: he had fixed upon the alternative—if Newstead remained with him, he would come back—if not, he never would.

Lord Byron returned to England in the Volage frigate, on the 2d July, 1811, after having been absent two years exactly to a day. He experienced very similar feelings of indifference in approaching its shores, to those with which he had left them. His health had not suffered, though it had been interrupted by two sharp fevers; he had, however, put himself entirely upon a vegetable diet, never taking either fish or flesh, and drinking no wine.