LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to John Murray, 14 April 1817

Life of Byron: to 1806
Life of Byron: 1806
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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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“Venice, April 14th, 1817.

“By the favour of Dr. Polidori, who is here on his way to England with the present Lord G * * (the late earl having gone to England by another road, accompanied by his bowels in a separate coffer). I remit to you, to deliver to Mrs. Leigh, two miniatures; but previously you will have the goodness to desire Mr. Love (as a peace-offering between him and me) to set them in plain gold, with my arms complete, and ‘Painted by Prepiani.—Venice, 1817,’ on the back. I wish also that you would desire Holmes to make a copy of each—that is, both—for myself, and that you will retain the said copies till my return. One was done while I was very unwell; the other in my health, which may
A. D. 1817. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 103
account for their dissimilitude. I trust that they will reach their destination in safety.

“I recommend the doctor to your good offices with your government friends; and if you can be of any use to him in a literary point of view, pray be so.

“To-day, or rather yesterday, for it is past midnight, I have been up to the battlements of the highest tower in Venice, and seen it and its view, in all the glory of a clear Italian sky. I also went over the Manfrini Palace, famous for its pictures. Amongst them, there is a portrait of Ariosto, by Titian, surpassing all my anticipation of the power of painting or human expression: it is the poetry of portrait, and the portrait of poetry. There was also one of some learned lady, centuries old, whose name I forget, but whose features must always be remembered. I never saw greater beauty, or sweetness, or wisdom:—it is the kind of face to go mad for, because it cannot walk out of its frame. There is also a famous dead Christ and live Apostles, for which Buonaparte offered in vain five thousand louis; and of which, though it is a capo d’opera of Titian, as I am no connoisseur, I say little, and thought less, except of one figure in it. There are ten thousand others, and some very fine Giorgiones amongst them, &c. &c. There is an original Laura and Petrarch, very hideous both. Petrarch has not only the dress, but the features and air of an old woman, and Laura looks by no means like a young one, or a pretty one. What struck me most in the general collection was the extreme resemblance of the style of the female faces in the mass of pictures, so many centuries or generations old, to those you see and meet every day among the existing Italians. The queen of Cyprus and Giorgione’s wife, particularly the latter, are Venetians as it were of yesterday; the same eyes and expression, and, to my mind, there is none finer.

“You must recollect, however, that I know nothing of painting; and that I detest it, unless it reminds me of something I have seen, or think it possible to see, for which reason I spit upon and abhor all the Saints and subjects of one half the impostures I see in the churches and palaces; and when in Flanders, I never was so disgusted in my life,
104 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1817.
as with
Rubens and his eternal wives and infernal glare of colours, as they appeared to me; and in Spain I did not think much of Murillo and Velasquez. Depend upon it, of all the arts, it is the most artificial and unnatural, and that by which the nonsense of mankind is most imposed upon. I never yet saw the picture or the statue which came a league within my conception or expectation; but I have seen many mountains, and seas, and rivers, and views, and two or three women, who went as far beyond it,—besides some horses; and a lion (at Veli Pacha’s) in the Morea; and a tiger at supper in Exeter ’Change.

“When you write, continue to address to me at Venice. Where do you suppose the books you sent to me are? At Turin! This comes of ‘the Foreign Office,’ which is foreign enough, God knows, for any good it can be of to me, or any one else, and be d—d to it, to its last clerk and first charlatan, Castlereagh.

“This makes my hundredth letter at least.

“Yours, &c.”