LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to John Murray, 15 October 1816

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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“Milan, October 15th, 1816.

“I hear that Mr. Davies has arrived in England,—but that of some letters, &c., committed to his care by Mr. H., only half have been delivered. This intelligence naturally makes me feel a little anxious for mine, and amongst them for the MS., which I wished to have compared with the one sent by me through the hands of Mr. Shelley. I trust that it has arrived safely,—and indeed not less so, that some little crystals, &c., from Mont Blanc, for my daughter and my nieces, have reached their address. Pray have the goodness to ascertain from Mr. Davies that no accident (by customhouse or loss) has befallen them, and satisfy me on this point at your earliest convenience.

“If I recollect rightly, you told me that Mr. Gifford had kindly undertaken to correct the press (at my request) during my absence—at least I hope so. It will add to my many obligations to that gentleman.

“I wrote to you, on my way here, a short note, dated Martigny. Mr. Hobhouse and myself arrived here a few days ago, by the Simplon and Lago Maggiore route. Of course we visited the Borromean Islands, which are fine, but too artificial. The Simplon is magnificent in its nature and its art,—both God and man have done wonders,—to say nothing of the devil, who must certainly have had a hand (or a hoof) in some of the rocks and ravines through and over which the works are carried.

“Milan is striking—the cathedral superb. The city altogether reminds me of Seville, but a little inferior. We had heard divers bruits, and took precautions on the road, near the frontier, against some ‘many worthy fellows (i. e. felons) that were out,’ and had ransacked some preceding travellers, a few weeks ago, near Sesto,—or Cesto, I forget which,—of cash and raiment, besides putting them in bodily fear, and lodging about twenty slugs in the retreating part of a courier belonging to Mr. Hope. But we were not molested, and, I do not think, in any danger, except of making mistakes in the way of cocking and priming
A. D. 1816. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 45
whenever we saw an old house, or an ill-looking thicket, and now and then suspecting the ‘true men,’ who have very much the appearance of the thieves of other countries. What the thieves may look like, I know not, nor desire to know, for it seems they come upon you in bodies of thirty (‘in buckram and Kendal green’) at a time, so that voyagers have no great chance. It is something like poor dear Turkey in that respect, but not so good, for there you can have as great a body of rogues to match the regular banditti; but here the gens d’armes are said to be no great things, and as for one’s own people, one can’t carry them about like Robinson Crusoe with a gun on each shoulder.

“I have been to the Ambrosian library—it is a fine collection—full of MSS. edited and unedited. I enclose you a list of the former recently published: these are matters for your literati. For me, in my simple way, I have been most delighted with a correspondence of letters, all original and amatory, between Lucretia Borgia and Cardinal Bembo, preserved there. I have pored over them and a lock of her hair, the prettiest and fairest imaginable—I never saw fairer—and shall go repeatedly to read the epistles over and over; and if I can obtain some of the hair by fair means, I shall try. I have already persuaded the librarian to promise me copies of the letters, and I hope he will not disappoint me. They are short, but very simple, sweet, and to the purpose; there are some copies of verses in Spanish also by her; the tress of her hair is long, and, as I said before, beautiful. The Brera gallery of paintings has some line pictures, but nothing of a collection. Of painting I know nothing; but I like a Guercino—a picture of Abraham putting away Hagar and Ishmael—which seems to me natural and goodly. The Flemish school, such as I saw it in Flanders, I utterly detested, despised, and abhorred; it might be painting, but it was not nature; the Italian is pleasing, and their ideal very noble.

“The Italians I have encountered here are very intelligent and agreeable. In a few days I am to meet Monti. By the way, I have just heard an anecdote of Beccaria, who published such admirable things against the punishment of death. As soon as his book was out, his servant (having read it, I presume,) stole his watch; and his master, while correcting the press of a second edition, did all he could to have him hanged by way of advertisement.

46 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1816.

“I forgot to mention the triumphal arch begun by Napoleon, as a gate to this city. It is unfinished, but the part completed worthy of another age and the same country. The society here is very oddly carried on,—at the theatre, and the theatre only,—which answers to our opera. People meet there as at a rout, but in very small circles. From Milan I shall go to Venice. If you write, write to Geneva, as before—the letter will be forwarded.

“Yours ever.”