LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to Thomas Moore, 17 November 1816

Life of Byron: to 1806
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Life of Byron: 1816 (I)
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“Venice, November 17th, 1816.

“I wrote to you from Verona the other day in my progress hither, which letter I hope you will receive. Some three years ago, or it may be more, I recollect your telling me that you had received a letter from our friend Sam, dated ‘On board his gondola.’ My gondola is, at this present, waiting for me on the canal; but I prefer writing to you in the house, it being autumn—and rather an English autumn than otherwise. It is my intention to remain at Venice during the winter, probably, as it has always been (next to the East) the greenest island of my imagination. It has not disappointed me; though its evident decay would, perhaps,
A. D. 1816. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 53
have that effect upon others. But I have been familiar with ruins too long to dislike desolation. Besides, I have fallen in love, which, next to falling into the canal (which would be of no use, as I can swim), is the best or the worst thing I could do. I have got some extremely good apartments in the house of a ‘Merchant of Venice,’ who is a good deal occupied with business, and has a wife in her twenty-second year.
Marianna (that is her name) is in her appearance altogether like an antelope. She has the large, black, oriental eyes, with that peculiar expression in them which is seen rarely among Europeans—even the Italians—and which many of the Turkish women give themselves by tinging the eyelid,—an art not known out of that country, I believe. This expression she has naturally,—and something more than this. In short, I cannot describe the effect of this kind of eye,—at least upon me. Her features are regular, and rather aquiline—mouth small—skin clear and soft, with a kind of hectic colour—forehead remarkably good: her hair is of the dark gloss, curl, and colour of Lady J * *’s: her figure is light and pretty, and she is a famous songstress—scientifically so: her natural voice (in conversation, I mean,) is very sweet; and the naïveté of the Venetian dialect is always pleasing in the mouth of a woman.

“November 23.

“You will perceive that my description, which was proceeding with the minuteness of a passport, has been interrupted for several days. In the mean time * * * * * * *

* * * * * *
* * * * * *
“December 5.

“Since my former dates, I do not know that I have much to add on the subject, and, luckily, nothing to take away; for I am more pleased than ever with my Venetian, and begin to feel very serious on that point—so much so, that I shall be silent.

* * * * * *

“By way of divertisement, I am studying daily, at an Armenian monastery, the Armenian language. I found that my mind wanted
54 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1816.
something craggy to break upon; and this—as the most difficult thing I could discover here for an amusement—I have chosen, to torture me into attention. It is a rich language, however, and would amply repay any one the trouble of learning it. I try, and shall go on;—but I answer for nothing, least of all for my intentions or my success. There are some very curious MSS. in the monastery, as well as books; translations also from Greek originals, now lost, and from Persian and Syriac, &c.; besides works of their own people. Four years ago the French instituted an Armenian professorship. Twenty pupils presented themselves on Monday morning, full of noble ardour, ingenuous youth, and impregnable industry. They persevered, with a courage worthy of the nation and of universal conquest, till Thursday; when fifteen of the twenty succumbed to the six-and-twentieth letter of the alphabet. It is, to be sure, a Waterloo of an Alphabet—that must be said for them. But it is so like these fellows, to do by it as they did by their sovereigns—abandon both; to parody the old rhymes, ‘Take a thing and give a thing’—‘Take a King and give a King.’ They are the worst of animals, except their conquerors.

“I hear that H—n is your neighbour, having a living in Derbyshire. You will find him an excellent-hearted fellow, as well as one of the cleverest; a little, perhaps, too much japanned by preferment in the church and the tuition of youth, as well as inoculated with the disease of domestic felicity, besides being overrun with fine feelings about woman and constancy (that small change of Love, which people exact so rigidly, receive in such counterfeit coin, and repay in baser metal); but, otherwise, a very worthy man, who has lately got a pretty wife, and (I suppose) a child by this time. Pray remember me to him, and say that I know not which to envy most—his neighbourhood, him, or you.

“Of Venice I shall say little. You must have seen many descriptions; and they are most of them like. It is a poetical place; and classical, to us, from Shakspeare and Otway. I have not yet sinned against it in verse, nor do I know that I shall do so, having been tuneless since I crossed the Alps, and feeling, as yet, no renewal of the ‘estro.’ By the way, I suppose you have seen ‘Glenarvon.’ Madame de Staël lent it me to read from Copet last autumn. It seems to me that, if the authoress had written the truth, and nothing but the truth—the whole truth—the
A. D. 1816. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 55
romance would not only have been more romantic, but more entertaining. As for the likeness, the picture can’t be good—I did not sit long enough. When you have leisure, let me hear from and of you, believing me ever and truly yours most affectionately,


“P.S. Oh! your Poem—is it out? I hope Longman has paid his thousands: but don’t you do as H * * T * *’s father did, who, having made money by a quarto tour, became a vinegar merchant; when, lo! his vinegar turned sweet (and be d—d to it) and ruined him. My last letter to you (from Verona) was enclosed to Murray—have you got it? Direct to me here, poste restante. There are no English here at present. There were several in Switzerland—some women; but, except Lady Dalrymple Hamilton, most of them as ugly as virtue—at least, those that I saw.”