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Letters and Journals of Lord Byron
Lord Byron to Thomas Moore, 28 January 1817

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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“Venice, January 28th, 1817.

Your letter of the 8th is before me. The remedy for your plethora is simple—abstinence. I was obliged to have recourse to the like some years ago, I mean in point of diet, and, with the exception of some convivial weeks and days (it might he months, now and then), have kept to Pythagoras ever since. For all this, let me hear that you are better. You must not indulge in ‘filthy beer,’ nor in porter, nor eat suppers—the last are the devil to those who swallow dinner.

* * * * * *

“I am truly sorry to hear of your father’s misfortune—cruel at any time, but doubly cruel in advanced life. However, you will, at least, have the satisfaction of doing your part by him, and, depend upon it, it will not be in vain. Fortune, to be sure, is a female, but not such a b * * as the rest (always excepting your wife and my sister from such sweeping terms); for she generally has some justice in the long run. I have no spite against her, though, between her and Nemesis, I have had some sore gauntlets to run—but then I have done my best to deserve no better. But to you, she is a good deal in arrear, and she will come round—mind if she don’t: you have the vigour of life, of independence, of talent, spirit, and character all with you. What you can do for yourself, you have done and will do; and surely there are some others in the world who would not be sorry to be of use, if you would allow them to be useful, or at least attempt it.

“I think of being in England in the spring. If there is a row, by the sceptre of King Ludd, but I’ll be one; and if there is none, and only a continuance ‘this meek, piping time of peace,’ I will take a cottage a hundred yards to the south of your abode, and become your neighbour; and we will compose such canticles, and hold such dialogues as shall be the terror of the Times (including the newspaper of that name), and the wonder, and honour, and praise of the Morning Chronicle and posterity.

72 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1817.

“I rejoice to hear of your forthcoming in February—though I tremble for the ‘magnificence’ which you attribute to the new Childe Harold. I am glad you like it; it is a fine indistinct piece of poetical desolation, and my favourite. I was half mad during the time of its composition, between metaphysics, mountains, lakes, love unextinguishable, thoughts unutterable, and the night-mare of my own delinquencies. I should, many a good day, have blown my brains out, but for the recollection that it would have given pleasure to my mother-in-law; and, even then, if I could have been certain to haunt her—but I won’t dwell upon these trifling family matters.

“Venice is in the estro of her carnival, and I have been up these last two nights at the ridotto and the opera, and all that kind of thing. Now for an adventure. A few days ago a gondolier brought me a billet without a subscription, intimating a wish on the part of the writer to meet me either in gondola, or at the island of San Lazaro, or at a third rendezvous, indicated in the note. ‘I know the country’s disposition well,’—in Venice ‘they do let heaven see those tricks they dare not show,’ &c. &c.; so, for all response, I said that neither of the three places suited me; but that I would either be at home at ten at night alone, or be at the ridotto at midnight, where the writer might meet me masked. At ten o’clock I was at home and alone (Marianna was gone with her husband to a conversazione), when the door of my apartment opened, and in walked a well-looking and (for an Italian) bionda girl of about nineteen, who informed me that she was married to the brother of my amorosa, and wished to have some conversation with me. I made a decent reply, and we had some talk in Italian and Romaic (her mother being a Greek of Corfu), when, lo! in a very few minutes in marches, to my very great astonishment, Marianna S * *, in propriâ personâ, and, after making a most polite curtsy to her sister-in-law and to me, without a single word seizes her said sister-in-law by the hair, and bestows upon her some sixteen slaps, which would have made your ear ache only to hear their echo. I need not describe the screaming which ensued. The luckless visitor took flight. I seized Marianna, who, after several vain efforts to get away in pursuit of the enemy, fairly went into fits in my arms; and, in spite of reasoning, eau de Cologne, vinegar, half a pint of water, and God knows what other waters beside, continued so till past midnight.

A. D. 1817. LIFE OF LORD BYRON. 73

“After damning my servants for letting people in without apprizing me, I found that Marianna in the morning had seen her sister-in-law’s gondolier on the stairs; and, suspecting that his apparition boded her no good, had either returned of her own accord, or been followed by her maids or some other spy of her people to the conversazione, from whence she returned to perpetrate this piece of pugilism. I had seen fits before, and also some small scenery of the same genus in and out of our island; but this was not all. After about an hour, in comes—who? why, Signor S * *, her lord and husband, and finds me with his wife fainting upon a sofa, and all the apparatus of confusion, dishevelled hair, hats, handkerchiefs, salts, smelling bottles—and the lady as pale as ashes, without sense or motion. His first question was, ‘What is all this?’ The lady could not reply—so I did. I told him the explanation was the easiest thing in the world; but, in the mean time, it would be as well to recover his wife—at least, her senses. This came about in due time of suspiration and respiration.

“You need not be alarmed—jealousy is not the order of the day in Venice, and daggers are out of fashion, while duels, on love matters, are unknown—at least, with the husbands. But, for all this, it was an awkward affair; and though he must have known that I made love to Marianna, yet I believe he was not, till that evening, aware of the extent to which it had gone. It is very well known that almost all the married women have a lover; but it is usual to keep up the forms, as in other nations. I did not, therefore, know what the devil to say. I could not out with the truth, out of regard to her, and I did not choose to lie for my sake;—besides, the thing told itself. I thought the best way would be to let her explain it as she chose (a woman being never at a loss—the devil always sticks by them)—only determining to protect and carry her off, in case of any ferocity on the part of the Signor. I saw that he was quite calm. She went to bed, and next day—how they settled it I know not, but settled it they did. Well—then I had to explain to Marianna about this never to be sufficiently confounded sister-in-law; which I did by swearing innocence, eternal constancy, &c. &c. * * * * But the sister-in-law, very much discomposed with being treated in such wise, has (not having her own shame before her eyes) told the affair to half Venice, and the servants (who were summoned by the fight and the fainting) to the other half. But,
74 NOTICES OF THE A. D. 1817.
here, nobody minds such trifles, except to be amused by them. I don’t know whether you will be so, but I have scrawled a long letter out of these follies. “Believe me ever, &c.”