LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to Mrs. Byron, 12 November 1809

Life of Byron: to 1806
Life of Byron: 1806
Life of Byron: 1807
Life of Byron: 1808
Life of Byron: 1809
Life of Byron: 1810
Life of Byron: 1811
Life of Byron: 1812
Life of Byron: 1813
Life of Byron: 1814
Life of Byron: 1815
Life of Byron: 1816 (I)
Life of Byron: 1816 (II)
Life of Byron: 1817
Life of Byron: 1818
Life of Byron: 1819
Life of Byron: 1820
Life of Byron: 1821
Life of Byron: 1822
Life of Byron: 1823
Life of Byron: 1824
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“Prevesa, November 12, 1809.

“I have now been some time in Turkey: this place is on the coast, but I have traversed the interior of the province of Albania o a visit to the Pacha. I left Malta in the Spider, a brig of war, on the 21st of September, and arrived in eight days at Prevesa. I thence have been about 150 miles, as far as Tepaleen, his highness’s country palace, where I stayed three days. The name of the Pacha is Ali, and he is considered a man of the first abilities: he governs the whole of Albania (the ancient Illyricum), Epirus, and part of Macedonia. His son, Vely Pacha, to whom he has given me letters, governs the Morea, and has great influence in Egypt; in short he is one of the most powerful wen in the Ottoman empire. When I reached Yanina, the capital, after a journey of three days over the mountains, through a country of the most picturesque beauty, I found that Ali Pacha was with his army in Illyricum, besieging Ibrahim Pacha in the castle of Peret. He had heard that an Englishman of rank was in his dominions, and had left orders in Yanina with the commandant to provide a house, and supply me with every kind of necessary gratis: and, though I have been allowed to make presents to the slaves, &c. I have rot beer permitted to pay for a single article of household consumption.

“I rode out on the vizier’s horses, and saw the palaces of himself
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and grandsons: they are splendid, but too much ornamented with silk and gold. I then went over the mountains through Zitza, a village with a Greek monastery (where I slept on my return), in the most beautiful situation (always excepting Cintra, in Portugal) I ever beheld. In nine days I reached Tepaleen. Our journey was much prolonged by the torrents that had fallen from the mountains, and intersected the roads. I shall never forget the singular scene* on entering Tepaleen at five in

* The following is Mr. Hobhouse’s less embellished description of this scene:—“The court at Tepellene, which was enclosed on two sides by the palace, and on the other two sides by a high wall, presented us, at our first entrance, with a sight something like what we might have, perhaps, beheld some hundred years ago in the castle-yard of a great feudal lord. Soldiers, with their arms piled against the wall near them) were assembled in different parts of the square: some of them pacing slowly backwards and forwards, and others sitting on the ground in groups. Several horses, completely caparisoned, were leading about, whilst others were neighing under the hands of the grooms. In the Dart farthest from the dwelling, preparations were making for the feast of the night; and several kids and sheep were being dressed by cooks who were themselves half armed. Every thing wore a most martial look, though not exactly in the style of the head-quarters of a christian general; for many of the soldiers were in the most common dress, without shoes, and having more wildness in their air and manner than the Albanians we had before seen.”

On comparing this description, which is itself sufficiently striking, with those which Lord Byron has given of the same scene, both in the letter to his mother, and in the Second Canto of Childe Harold, we gain some insight into the process by which imagination elevates, without falsifying, reality, and facts become brightened and refined into poetry. Ascending from the representation drawn faithfully on the spot by the traveller, to the more fanciful arrangement of the same materials in the letter of the poet, we at length, by one step more, arrive at that consummate, idealized picture, the result of both memory and invention combined, which in the following splendid stanzas it presented to us;

“Amidst no common pomp the despot sate,
While busy preparation shook the court,
Slaves, eunuchs, soldiers, guests, and santons wait;
Within, a palace, and without, a fort:
Here men of every clime appear to make resort.
“Richly caparison’d a ready row
Of armed horse, and many a warlike store,
Circled the wide extending court below;
Above, strange groups adorn’d the corridore;
And oft-times through the area’s echoing door
Some high-capp’d Tartar spurr’d his steed sway:
The Turk, the Greek, the Albanian, and the Moor,
Here mingled in their many-hued array,
While the deep war-drum’s sound announced the close of day.

A. D. 1809. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 205
the afternoon, as the sun was going down. It brought to my mind (with some change of dress, however)
Scott’s description of Branksome Castle in his Lay, and the feudal system. The Albanians, in their dresses (the most magnificent in the world, consisting of a long white kilt, gold-worked cloak, crimson velvet gold-laced jacket and waistcoat, silver-mounted pistols and daggers), the Tartars with their high caps, the Turks in their vast pelisses and turbans, the soldiers and black slaves with the horses, the former in groups in an immense large open gallery in front of the palace, the latter placed in a kind of cloister below it, two hundred steeds ready caparisoned to move in a moment, couriers entering or passing out with despatches, the kettle-drums beating, boys calling the hour from the minaret of the mosque, altogether, with the singular appearance of the building itself, formed a new and delightful spectacle to a stranger. I was conducted to a very handsome apartment, and my health inquired after by the vizier’s secretary, à-la-mode Turque!’

“The next day I was introduced to Ali Pacha. I was dressed in a full suit of staff uniform, with a very magnificent sabre, &c. The vizier received me in a large room paved, with marble; a fountain was playing in the centre; the apartment was surrounded by scarlet ottomans. He received me standing, a wonderful compliment from a Mussulman, and

“The wild Albanian kirtled so his knee,
With shawl-girt head and ornamented gun,
And gold-embroider’d garments, fair to see;
The crimson-scarfed men of Macedon;
The Delhi with his cap of terror on,
And crooked glaive; the lively, supple Greek;
And swarthy Nubia’s mutilated son;
The bearded Turk that rarely deigns to speak,
Master of all around, too potent to be meek,
“Are mix’d conspicuous; some reclining in groups,
Scanning the motley scene that varies round;
There some grave Moslem to devotion stoops,
And some that smoke, end some the. play, are found;
Here the Albanian proudly treads the ground;
Half whispering there the Greek is heard to prate;
Hark! from the mosque the nightly solemn sound,
The Muezin’s rati doth shake the minaret,
There is no god but God!—to prayer—lo! God is great!’”

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made me sit down on his right hard. I have a Greek interpreter for general use, but a physician of Ali’s, named Femlario, who understands Latin, acted for me on this occasion. His first question was, why, at so early an age, I left my country?—(the Turks have no idea of travelling for amusement). He then said, the English minister,
Captain Leake, had told him I was of a great family, and desired his respects to my mother; which I now, in the name of All Pacha, present to you. He said he was certain I was a man of birth, because I had small ears, curling hair, and little white hands*, and expressed himself pleased with my appearance and garb. He told me to consider him as a father whilst I was in Turkey, and said he looked on me as his son. Indeed, he treated me like a child, sending me almonds and sugared sherbet, fruit and sweetmeats, twenty times a day. He begged me to visit him often, and at night, when he was at leisure. I then, after coffee and pipes, retired for the first time. I saw him thrice afterwards. It is singular, that the Turks, who have no hereditary dignities, and few great families, except the Sultans, pay so much respect to birth; for I found my pedigree more regarded them my title†.

* * * *

“To-day I saw the remains of the town of Actium, near which Antony lost the world, in a small bay, where two frigates could hardly manœeuvre: a broken wall is the sole remnant. On another part of the gulf stand the ruins of Nicopolis, built by Augustus in honour of his victory. Last night I was a Greek marriage; but this and a thousand things more I have neither time nor space to describe.

“I am going to-morrow, with a guard of fifty men, to Patras in the Morea, and thence to Athens, where I shall Winter. Two days ago I was

* In the shape of the hands, as a mark of high birth, Lord Byron himself had as implicit faith as the Pacha; see his note on the line, “Though on more thorough-bred or fairer fingers,” in Don Juan.

† A few sentences are here and elsewhere omitted, as having no reference to Lord Byron himself, but merely containing some particulars relating to Ali and his grandsons, which may be found in various books of travels.

Ali had not forgotten his noble guest when Dr. Holland, a few years after, visited Albania:—“I mentioned to him, generally (says this intelligent traveller), Lord Byron’s poetical description of Albania, the interest it had excited in England, and Mr. Hobhouse’s intended publication of his travels in the same country. He seemed pleased with these circumstances, and stated his recollections of Lord Byron.”

A. D. 1809. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 207
nearly lost in a Turkish ship of war, owing to the ignorance of the captain and crew, though the storm was not violent.
Fletcher yelled after his wife, the Greeks called on all the saints, the Mussulmans on Alla; the captain burst into tears and ran below deck, telling us to call on God; the sails were split, the main-yard shivered, the wind blowing fresh, the night setting in, and all our chance was to make Corfu, which is in possession of the French, or (as Fletcher pathetically termed it) ‘a watery grave.’ I did what I could to console Fletcher, but finding him incorrigible, wrapped myself up in my Albanian capote (an immense cloak), and lay down on deck to wait the worst*. I have learnt to philosophize in my travels, and if I had not, complaint was useless. Luckily the wind abated, and only drove us on the coast of Suli, on the main land, where we landed, and proceeded, by the help of the natives, to Prevesa again; but I shall not trust Turkish sailors in future, though the Pacha had ordered one of his own galliots to take me to Patras. I am therefore going as far as Missolonghi by land, and there have only to cross a small gulf to get to Patras.

Fletcher’s next epistle will be full of marvels: we were one night lost for nine hours in the mountains in a thunder-storm†, and since nearly wrecked. In both cases, Fletcher was sorely bewildered, from appre-

* I have heard the poet’s fellow traveller describe this remarkable instance of his coolness and courage even still more strikingly than it is here stated by himself. Finding that, from his lameness, he was unable to be of any service in the exertions which their very serious danger called for, after a laugh or two at the panic of his valet, he not only wrapped himself up and lay down, in the manner he mentioned, but, when their difficulties were surmounted, was found fast asleep.

† In the route from Ioannina to Zitza, Mr. Hobhouse and the Secretary of Ali, accompanied by one of the servants, had rode on before the rest of the party, and arrived at the village just as the evening set in. After describing the sort of hovel in which they were to take up their quarters for the night, Mr. Hobhouse thus continues:—“Vasilly was despatched into the village to procure eggs and fowls, that would be ready, as we thought, by the arrival of the second party. But an hour passed away and no one appeared. It was seven o’clock, and the storm had increased to a fury I had never before, and, indeed, have never since, seen equalled. The roof of our hovel shook under the clattering torrents and gusts of wind. The thunder roared, as it seemed, without any intermission; for the echoes of one peal had not ceased to roll in the mountains, before another tremendous crush burst over our heads; whilst the plains and the distant hills (visible through the cracks of the cabin) appeared in a perpetual blaze. The tempest was altogether terrific and worthy of the Grecian Jove; and the peasants, no less

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hensions of famine and banditti in the first, and drowning in the second instance. His eyes were a little hurt by the lightning, or crying (I don’t know which), but are now recovered. When you write, address to me at
Mr. Strané’s, English consul, Patras, Morea.

“I could tell you I know not how many incidents that I think would amuse you, but they crowd on my mind as much as they would swell my paper, and I can neither arrange them in the one, nor put them down on the other, except in the greatest confusion. I like the Albanians much; they are not all Turks; some tribes are Christians. But their religion makes little difference in their manner or conduct. They are esteemed the best troops in the Turkish service. I lived on my route

religious than their Ancestors, confessed their alarm. The women wept, and the men, calling on the name of God, crossed themselves at every repeated peal.

“We were very uneasy that the party did not arrive; but the Secretary assured me that the guides knew every part of the country, as did also his own servant, who was with them, and that they had certainly taken shelter in a village at an hour’s distance. Not being satisfied with the conjecture, I ordered fires to be lighted on the hill above the village, and some musquets to be discharged: this was at eleven o’clock, and the storm had not abated. I lay down in my greet coat; but all sleeping was out of the question, as any pauses in the tempest were filled up by the barking of the dogs, end the shouting of the shepherds in the neighbouring mountains.

“A little after midnight, a man, panting and pale, and drenched with rain, rushed into the room, and, between crying and roaring, with a profusion of action, communicated something to the Secretary, of which I understood only—that they had all fallen down. I learnt, however, that no accident had happened, except the falling of the luggage horses, and losing their way, and that they were now waiting for fresh horses and guides. Ten were immediately sent to them, together with several men with pine torches; but it was not till two o’clock in the morning that we heard they were approaching, and my Friend, with the priest and the servants, did not enter our hut before three.

“I now learnt from him that they had lost their way from the commencement of the storm, when not above three miles from the village; and that, after wandering up and down in total ignorance of their position, they had, at last, stopped near some Turkish tombstones and a torrent which they saw by the flashes of lightning. They had been thus exposed for nine hours; and the guides, so far from assisting them, only augmented the confusion, by running away, after being threatened with death by George the Dragoman, who, in an agony of rage and fear, and without giving any warning, fired off both his pistols, and drew from the English servant an involuntary scream of horror; for he fancied they were beset by robbers.

“I had not, as you have seen, witnessed the distressing part of this adventure myself; but from the lively picture drawn of it by my Friend, and from the exaggerated descriptions of George, I fancied myself a good judge of the whole situation, and should consider this to have been one of the most considerable of the few adventures that befel either of us during our tour in Turkey. It was long before we ceased to talk of the thunder-storm in the plain of Zitza.”

A. D. 1809. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 209
two days at once, and three days again, in a barrack at Salora, and never found soldiers so tolerable, though I have been in the garrisons of Gibraltar and Malta, and seen Spanish, French, Sicilian, and British troops in abundance. I have had nothing stolen, and was always welcome to their provision and milk. Not a week ago an Albanian chief (every village has its chief, who is called Primate), after helping us out of the Turkish galley in her distress, feeding us, and lodging my suite, consisting of
Fletcher, a Greek, two Athenians, a Greek priest, and my companion, Mr. Hobhouse, refused any compensation but a written paper stating that I was well received; and when I pressed urn to accept a few sequins, ‘No,’ he replied; ‘I wish you to love me, not to pay me.’ These are his words.

“It is astonishing how far money goes in this country. While I was in the capital, I had nothing to pay, by the vizier’s order; but since, though I have generally had sixteen horses, and generally six or seven men, the expense has not been half as much as staying only three weeks in Malta, though Sir A. Ball, the governor, gave me a house for nothing, and I had only one servant. By the by, I expect H * * to remit regularly; for I am not about to stay in this province for ever. Let him write to me at Mr. Strané’s, English consul, Patras. The fact is, the fertility of the plains is wonderful, and specie is scarce, which makes this remarkable cheapness. I am going to Athens to study modern Greek, which differs much from the ancient, though radically similar. I have no desire to return to England, nor shall I unless compelled by absolute want, and H * *’s neglect; but I shall not enter into Asia for a year or two, as I have much to see in Greece, and I may perhaps cross into Africa, at least the Egyptian part. Fletcher, like all Englishmen, is very much dissatisfied, though a little reconciled to the Turks by a present of eighty piastres from the vizier, which, if you consider every thing, and the value of specie here, is nearly worth ten guineas English. He has suffered nothing but from cold, heat, and vermin, which those who lie in cottages and cross mountains in a cold country must undergo, and of which I have equally partaken with himself, but he is not valiant, and is afraid of robbers and tempests. I have no one to be remembered
210 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1809.
to in England, and wish to hear nothing from it, but that you are well, and a letter or two on business from H * *, whom you may tell to write. I will write when I can, and beg you to believe me

“Your affectionate son,