« PreviousContinue »
saw Byron have borne testimony to Comniittee seemed to think otherthe irresistible sweetness of his smile, wise, he was going thither in obedi. which was generally, however, suc- ence to their commands. He then, ceeded by a sudden pouting of the as we could not avoid discerning lips, such as is practised sometimes both Corsica and Elba from the by a pretty coquette, or by a spoiled deck, changed the conversation to child His hair was partially griz- the subject of the life of Napoleon, zled, but curled naturally. In con. exclaiming that he had been woversation, owing to a habit he had fully deceived in his estimate of the contracted of clenching his teeth character of that wonderful man; close together, it was sometimes repeating the pain and mortification difficult to comprehend him distinct- which he endured wbenever be ly; towards the conclusion of a sen- chanced to glance his eye on either tence, the syllables rolled in his of these islands, as they recalled to mouth, and became a sort of indis- his recollection the humbling continet murmur.
viction of the weakness of human It must have been almost impos. nature. "I at one period,” he said, sible, I apprehend, for any artist to "almost idolized that man, although seize fully the expression of Byron's I could not approve of many of his countenance, which was varying at actions ; regarding other potentates every moment, as different ideas
as mere pigmies when weighed in the suggested themselves to his power. balance against him. When his forful mind. I have never seen any tune deserted him, and all appeared likeness that conveyed to me a per- lost, he ought at once to have rushed fect resemblance of his Lordship, into the thick of the fight at Leipzig with the exception of a marble bust, or Waterloo, and nobly perished, inwhich was in the drawingroom of stead of dying by inches in confinethe late Honourable Douglas Kin- ment, and affording to the world the naird, executed, I think, by Thord. degrading spectacle of his petty biwaldson.
It struck me as being lious contentions with the governors very like him.
to whose custody he was confided Lord Byron was habited in a at St Helena. Even if he had mainround nankeen embroidered jacket, tained a dignified silence amid the white Marseilles vest, buttoned a persecutions to which in his latter very little way up; he wore ex- days he complained of being subtremely fine linen, and his shirt-col. jected, I could almost have forgiven lar was thrown over in such a way him; yet this man's fame will desas almost to uncover his neck ; very cend to, and be revered by posterity, long wide nankeen trowsers, fasten- when that of numbers more desered below, short buff laced boots, ving of immortality shall have ceased and sometimes gaiters, with a chip to be remembered." Tuscan straw hat, completed his Byron's suavity of manner surpripersonal equipment. He invariably sed and delighted me; my own previ. paid the most scrupulous attention ous conceptions, supported by comto cleanliness, and had a certain mon rumour, having, prepared me fastidiousness in his dress, strongly , to expect to find in him a man of savouring of dandyism, of which he
morose temper and gloomy misanwas far from disapproving; at least thropy, instead of which, from his he infinitely preferred it to a slovenly fecundity in anecdote, he was a most disregard for dress. His Lordship, delightful associate. I had recently who had just dined, instantly order lost for ever one who was deserved ed some hock and claret to be ly dear to me, and in consequence brought under the awning where he was clad in deep mourning. I apowas sitting, which he invited me to logized to Lord Byron for the unapartake of. Whilst discussing our voidable depression of my spirits ; wine, he plied me with questions he instantly seemed to sympathize relative to the lonian Islands, and unaffectedly with my grief. I shall my opinion with regard to the pos- ever entertain a grateful recollecture of affairs in Greece; frequently tion of the amiable and soothing atobserving that he did not imagine tentions which he then paid me, that he could render any essential using gentle efforts to draw me into service to the cause, but that as the conversation, and endeavouring at the same time to inspire me with wards a future Canto of Don Juan. self-possession, on perceiving that I He also made it a constant rule to stood somewhat in awe of him. By- peruse every day one or more of the ron had just received communica. Essays of Montaigne. This practions from Moore and Goëthe ; he tice, he said, he had pursued for a read to me the letter of the former, long time; adding his decided conwho, he said, was the most humore viction, that more useful general ous and witty of all his correspon- knowledge and varied information dents. He appeared to estimate, at were to be derived by an intimate its just value, the Aattering and dis- acquaintance with the writings of tinguished homage rendered to his that diverting author, than by a long inimitable poetic talent by the vete- and continuous course of study. ran German Bard, who, with the This was relieved sometimes by dipmost profuse and enthusiastic eulo- ping into Voltaire's “ Essai sur les giums, panegyrized the wonderful Moeurs,” and his “ Dictionnaire Phi. productions of his genius.
losophique”-“De Grimm's Corres. Lord Byron expressed the extreme pondence," and "Les Maximes de la regret which he experienced at not Rochefoucault,” were also frequently being able to return the compliment referred to by his Lordsbip; all, I by a perusal of Goëthe's works in should say, as connected with the their native garb, instead of through composition of Don Juan, in which the cold medium of a translation; he was then deeply engaged. but nothing, he said, would induce A heavy tome on the War of Inhim to learn the language of the dependence in South America, writBarbarians, by which epithet he con- ten by a soi-disant Colonel, named stantly designated the Austrians. Hippisley, I think, who had taken
On my arrival on board, the ma- service with Bolivar, as an officer of jority of Lord Byron's suite were on cavalry, but quickly retired in disshore, but the wind coming fair, they gust, on not finding port wine and returned towards the afternoon, beef-steaks to be always procurable when the anchor was weighed, and in the other hemisphere, (at least we made sail, every one assisting at good fare seemed to him an indisthe capstan and ropes, no one being pensable requisite in campaigning,) more active than Byron himself. I was invariably asked for by Byron had been but a short time on board at dinner, and at length, Fletcher, his until I perceived that the others, valet, brought it regularly with the instead of addressing him with a table-cloth. Its soporific qualities, he prolonged emphasis on the first syl- amusingly remarked, were truly asTable of his name, pronounced it tonishing, surpassing those of any short, as if it had been“ Byrne," that ordinary narcotic; the perusal of a of Byron seeming distasteful to him, few pages sufficed to lull him asleep, so I adopted the same.
and obtained him a comfortable His suite consisted of Count Pietro siesta, even when ill disposed, or Gamba, brother to his chère amie ; in bad humour with himself. Mr Edward Trelawny ; a young Dinner was the only regular meal man who had been engaged as his, which he partook of in the twentymedical attendant, named Bruno, four hours. He usually eat it by himwho was a native of Alessandria selfon deck. His diet was very singuDella Paglia; a Constantinopolitan lar, and, in my opinion, almost nothing Greek, calling himself Prince Schi. could have been devised more prejulizzi, and a Greek Captain, Vitali. dicial to health in the intense heat of He had, besides, five domestics, and summer, under a blazing Italian sun. the same number of horses, together It consisted of a considerable quanwith a Newfoundland and a bull dog; tity of decayed Cheshire cheese, with so that our small vessel, which did pickled cucumbers or red cabbage, not much exceed a hundred tons which he quaffed down by drinking burden, was sufficiently crowded. at the same time either a bottle of On the passage to Cephalonia, Byron cider or Burton ale, of which articles chiefly read the writings of Dean he had procured a supply at Genoa. Swift, taking occasional notes, with He sometimes drank an infusion of the view possibly of gleaning from strong tea, but eat nothing with it that humorous writer something to- but a small piece of biscuit
; and occasionally his fare at dinner was va- the truth could only be rendered evi. ried by a little fish, if we succeeded dent to his understanding. His glowin taking any. When he returned ing and fervent imagination, I feel on deck after the siesta, he joined us inclined to beliere, would sooner or in drinking wines or other liquors, later have impelled him to attach displaying sometimes the most over himself to some particular, and, very flowing spirits; but in the midst of possibly, extreme sect. the greatest hilarity and enjoyment, For the religious tenets or prejuI have observed this jovial mood dices of others, he invariably testito be suddenly checked. A cloud fied the most profound respecta would instantaneously come over professing to entertain much regard him, as if arising from some painful for those who were truly and conand appalling recollection; the tears scientiously devout, believing such would bedew his eyes, when he individuals to enjoy great worldly would arise and quit the company, felicity. On the contrary, no man averting his face, in order to conceal more than Byron ridiculed and debis emotion. This strange conduct tested the cant and hypocrisy which was probably the effect of reaction are so much in vogue in our times. from over-excitement, in a mind so He spoke frequently of the inane exquisitely susceptible; at least I pursuits of mankind, and our limited have heard it thus accounted for. intelligence, dwelling at some length
Byron cherished the strongest su- on a remark once made to him by perstition relative to commencing the late Sir Humphrey Davy, with any enterprise, or attempting any respect to the nothingness of all huthing on a Friday, deeming it most man intellect, when it engages in the unlucky. He also seemed to repose ever endless task of endeavouring credit in the absurd belief, so popu- to explore or solve the hidden and lar among the Greeks and Turks, impenetrable mysteries of nature. about the accidental spilling of oil or To be in company with Lord wine, or the oversetting of salt, con- Byron, and in almost constant intersidering the first and last as indica- course with him for a considerable tive of approaching misfortune, the period, more especially on shipother as possessed of a more cheer- board, where, it is affirmed, you will ful and favourable augury: When in a few days acquire more knowirritated or incensed, he did not fail ledge of an individual than from to make a profuse use of the common years of previous acquaintance, was, Italian oaths, Faccia di Maladetto, through the extreme communicaCorpo di Bacco, Sangue di Dio, &c., tiveness of his disposition, equivacombined sometimes with the usual lent to an introduction to the whole Greek malediction of 'Ava Simeó or, fol. course of his life. Although occasionlowing each other in rapid succession. ally affecting mystery, he yet could He also imitated the inhabitants of the conceal nothing. This sometimes Levant, by spitting on the deck or produced rather painful confidences, ground with great violence, whilst relative to his own family matters, giving way to the impetuosity of his and amatory intrigues, which, if temper. I considered Byron to be they ever actually took place, he strongly imbued with a certain reli- would have shewn more good sense gious feeling, although chary of ac- not to reveal; but I have my doubts knowledging it. No one, he said, about some of them, more especially could be so senseless a brute as in respect to one lady of very high to deny the existence of a First rank, whose family I had the honour Cause, and an omnipotent and in- to be acquainted with, and whose comprehensible Being, whose om- fair fame I had never before heard nipresence all around us sufficient- assailed by the vile breath of slanly evinced. He frequently express- der. I will, however, do Lord Byed considerable anxiety about at- ron the justice to say, that in regard taching himself to some particular to this particular case, he dealt more creed, as any fixed belief would, he in innuendo than any allegation of thought, be preferable to the conti- facts. nued state of uncertainty in which I thence concluded that much of he had hitherto existed. He declared this façon de parler consisted in a his ready openness to conviction, if desire on his part, or rather weakness, if I may be permitted to term His Lordship had the strongest it so, to be considered amongst aversion to walking, and always perothers as a roué, and man of gallant- formed even the most trivial distance ry; although I should be very far on horseback; from a wish, I apprefrom disputing his general success hend, to conceal as much as possible in such matters; no one, from the the slight halt in his gait. The habit insinuating powers of conversation, of not using pedestrian exercise, which he possessed in no small de- without doubt, would contribute in gree, and polished manner, com- no small degree to increase that bined with a strikingly handsome tendency to obesity to which he physiognomy, independently of his was by constitution inclined; and splendid mental qualifications, being to counteract which, he adopted the more calculated to prove irresistibly pernicious system of continually attractive to the female heart. How, drugging himself. This early imever blamable and unpleasant such paired his digestive organs, although revelations may appear to be, yet they could not fail to have been also you might almost call them involun- injured by his mode of living and tary. Lord Byron could keep no- singular diet. thing secret, and occasionally asto- In the use of the pistol, Lord nished me by lavishing the grossestByron was exceedingly dexterous, abuse on those whom I had always and prided himself much on this been led to consider as bis intimate trivial accomplishment, which, by friends, and those to whom he owed constant practice, may easily be atthe greatest obligations, which attained by any person possessed of a other times he perhaps readily ad- calculating eye and steady nerves. mitted: this fit, however, was tran- In this, as every thing else, he sient as a summer shower, arising wished to carry off the palm ; and if from impetuosity of temper, or he made a shot which he thought some momentary personal pique; could not be surpassed, he declined and I am persuaded, had he heard to share farther in the pastime of others assail them, he would have that day; and if a bad one, he did been the foremost in throwing down not attempt to improve it, but inthe gauntlet in their defence. Lord stantly gave up the contest. His Byron entertained, or appeared to nerves were a good deal shattered ; have imbibed, the most violent pre- and from his firing so well even with judice against the late Lady Noel. that disadvantage, it was evident He shewed himself always affec- that, when younger, his aim must tionately anxious about the health have been most unerring. and welfare of his daughter Ada. Trelawny was also an excellent Alluding to her probable large for- shot; and his Lordship and he octune, he expressed a wish that it casionally used to kill the ducks had been in his power to inhibit her for the cabin dinner in this way from marrying a native of Great -a wicker basket was, suspended Britain-deeming his countrymen to from the main-yard of the mast, conhave a greater propensity to fortune- taining a poor duck, with his head hunting than the individuals of other protruding through it. I have known nations—which might, by an ill-as- both of them, from the poop, to kill sorted union, tend to her future un. the bird by hitting its head at the happiness and discomfort.
first fire. 'Lord Byron possessed Lord Byron adverted, on many several cases of excellent pistols; occasions, sometimes in a state of among others, a brace which had the most bitter excitement, to the been the private property of his old unfortunate infirmity of his foot, and friend, Joe Manton; and I was told he the extreme pain and misery it had never grudged any expense in probeen productive of to him. He once curing those of superior workman. uttered a very savage observation on ship. He frequently conversed about his lameness, declaring, that years his former feats of skill at that cele. before he would have caused the brated maker's pistol gallery, in recreant limb to be amputated, had London. He also boasted of having, he not dreaded thereby to spoil an about the time of his marriage, much exercise in which he more especially to the amazement and discomfiture excelled and delighted.
of Lady Noel, split a walking-stick in the garden at Seaham House, at ving been told by a young midshipthe distance of twenty paces. man, named Hay, then at Corfu, in
His lordship was within an ace of a sloop of war, that when he was allosing his life during one of these most in the very act of leaping from firing-matches on board. Schilizzi, the bowsprit of the vessel, which was who was unacquainted with the riding at anchor between that town guard on English hair triggers, inad- and the island of Vido, one of these vertently discharged a pistol, the ravenous monsters of the deep was ball from which whizzed close past descried close alongside, and an Lord Byron's temple. He betrayed alarm given just in time to prevent no tremor, but taking the pistol out him. of Schilizzi's band, pointed out to On our nearing the Island of him the mechanism of the lock, and lonza, in which Neapolitan prisoners at the same time desired Gamba to of state are usually confined, which take care, that in future he should was then crowded with those unhapnot be permitted to use any other py persons who had engaged in the pistols than those of Italian work- unsuccessful attempt at revolution manship.
in 1821, Lord Byron gave vent to We enjoyed the most serene and his ire, uttering the most tremen. beautiful weather during this voy. dous invectives against Austria, and age. In passing, the vessel approxi- the tyranny exercised by that nation mated Porto Ercole and Piombino, over the minor powers of Italy; and the splendid scenery around which recounted to me the history of the was much admired by Lord Byron; once expected rising of the Papal he was always on deck to view the dominions, which should have taken magnificent spectacle of the sun set- effect when he resided at Ravenna, ting over the vast expanse of waters, and in which he might have been on the brilliant horizon peculiar to called upon to act a prominent part; the East of Europe, and we coasted this insurrection was checked by the it along from Leghorn to Reggio, rapid march on Naples of the Impehardly ever being out of sight of rialists, under Baron Frimont. It land in the daytime. When oppo- was not to be regretted that his site the mouth of the Tiber, we ex. Lordship had not found an opportuerted all our power of vision to pity of assisting in any revolt in discern the cupola of St Peter's at Italy, which could only have ended Rome, which, however, was not in defeat and disgrace. In my opivisible through the vapour arising nion, the success of any revolution from the dark and dense forests in that country is exceedingly prowhich fringe the shore of the pesti- blematical, being composed of many Jential Maremma; but we could dis- petty states, with opposite interests, tinctly see through the glass the which are extremely jealous of each town of Albano, situated on the other, or rather, I should say, are brow of the Alban Mount, and the animated by mutual hate, so no magnificent range of mountains be. union can be looked for. A partial bind the isolated Mount Soracte, ebullition of popular feeling may from placed just over Rome, was also time to time take place; but as long descried.
as no grand combination exists, or Lord Byron frequently boxed with the enterprise is not supported by Trelawny as an amusement, and some great and victorious power, practised fencing with Count Gam- the cause is hopeless, and can only ba; he was not particularly dexterous lead to useless bloodshed. at the foils, but excelled in the other, Lord Byron sat up nearly all night but he could not keep up the exer- watching Stromboli : it was, howcise long, which had become too vio- ever, overcast, and emitted no flame. lent for him.
This was considered singular, as the Lord Byron and Trelawny also volcano is supposed to be in constant often bathed from the ship's side in activity, and always ejecting matter. calm weather; neither of them be. He narrated to me the extraordinary trayed any apprehension from sharks, story of the affidavit made by the which, however, are by no means crew of a British ship, who deposed of rare occurrence in the Mediter- that they had witnessed the appariranean, as I remember, in 1817, ha- tion of a man, well known to them,