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(Blackwood's Edin. Magazine.)
LORD BYRON. IN the early part of last year, I spent I carefully noted down on the day in a few
ays at Genoa, and after which it took place, while every imsince visiting almost every corner of pression was yet fresh upon my mind. Italy, the recollections which I have Lord Byron is not a man of to-day. brought back with me, seem to dwell He belongs as much to the future, as more delightfully upon the “ Superb to the present, and it is no common City," than even upon Rome itself, event in one's life to have it to say, I with its venerable antiquities, or upon have had an opportunity of judging Naples, and its unrivalled amenity of for myself of a person whom some situation.
bless, and hundreds curse ; who is Perhaps this may arise from its the subject of exaggerated calumny having been the place where I first to some, and of extravagant praise to saw manners, scenery, buildings, and others. decorations, which were strictly Ital- The circumstances which led to ian, and above all, where the Medi- this interview, the place where it was terranean first rolled its waters at my held, the crisis at which it occurred, feet; that sea which has borne on its and the topics on which we discoursclassic waves the flags of nations, ed, were not a little out of the ordiwhose names are associated with all nary way. that is great and inspiring. A recol- Lord Byron had been residing lection of a different nature has also some weeks at or near Genoa, when added to the interest which I imagine I arrived in that city; many English I shall never cease to take in Genoa. fàmilies were there at the same time, It was here that I had an introduction and the eccentric bard was the subto the extraordinary man, who at this ject of general conversation. From moment forms the topic of conversa- some of my countrymen I learnt that tion in every circle, and whose re- his lordship was to be seen every cent death will now be sincerely re- night at the opera; from others, that gretted, as having happened at the he frequently rode through the streets early age of 37, when he was exert- on horseback, with a party of his ing himself in the glorious cause of friends, armed with swords by their Greece, and when he was really turn- sides, and pistols at their holsters ; ing his great talents to a noble and and from all, that he avoided an Enguseful purpose. The first and only lishman with contempt and detestatime that I ever had an opportunity tion. Such were the reports, but it of conversing with Lord Byron, was never fell to my lot to converse with at Genoa; and however one may dif- anybody who could speak from perfer in opinion, with such restless sonal observation, to the truth of eispirits as himself who figure in the ther of these accounts; and I afterworld, and occupy an unusual portion wards discovered that they were toof its regards, rather from the abuse tally incorrect. and perversion of their powers of One morning that the arrival of mind, than from a right application the Courier was looked for with of them; yet it would argue a curious more than usual impatience, for it taste, to be indifferent to the accident was at that juncture when the dewhich throws us in their way. For cision of England and the continental my own part, I shall value as one of powers, with regard to Spain, was the most interesting in my life, the daily expected to reach Genoa, I was short interval which I passed with the sitting in the reading-room, in the greatest poet of his age, and I have Strada Novissima, waiting for the debeen turning to my diary, to refer to livery of the foreign journals. A every particular of an interview, which person entered whose face I immediately recognized. It was one of Lord roots without bleeding ?” He immeByron's most intimate friends, who, it diately added, that great as might be was said, felt and expressed the same his errors, his punishment was equal antipathy against every British travel to them, for that they had caused a ler, with his lordship. In former general alienation of friends, a necesdays I was intimately acquainted with sity to exile himself from his country, this gentleman, but many years had and a sacrifice of his natural tastes elapsed since we met ; I therefore and amusements. judged that he had forgotten me, or The next day, my friend called if not, that he would have no inclina- upon me at my hotel, and inquired if tion to renew an acquaintance with I had any wish to be introduced to one who was guilty of being born in Lord Byron. I signified my surprise England, and unable to estimate the at having the option offered to me, as worth of those who have the reputa- I had been informed that Lord Byron tion of wishing to subvert most of carefully avoided his countrymen. her institutions. I was reluctant to “The inquisitive and the impertinent,” accost him, fearful of a repulse, but, said he, “ but not others; and I am after a moment's gaze in my face, he sure you will have no reason to repronounced my name, seized my gret the interview.” hand with all the hearty feeling of A day was appointed, that Lord uninterrupted friendship, and signi- Byron might be apprized of the infied, in terms which I could not mis- tended introduction, and when it take, his delight at this unexpected
Mr. and I set out from meeting.
Genoa together, and walked to AlI soon found that the strong bar- baro, where the noble poet was then rier of opinion which lay between us, residing, acted as no obstacle to an unreserved The walk was such as an enthusicommunication, and that my early ast would envy. My eye ranged over friend, who had shown me many a a thousand objects equally new and kindness when a boy, had lost none interesting to an Englishman, and my of that warm-heartedness and good- imagination was fully occupied in humour for which he was so distin- dwelling either upon the past glories guished before he became a reformer and catastrophes of Genoa, or upon in politics, and a visionary in religion. the singular character of the extraorWe remained together for about an dinary man whom I was going to hour; a thousand questions about old visit. Our path lay near the spot times and old companions were asked where the inquisition stood ; the and answered, and I flattered myself, whole of the once formidable buildthat he had derived more satisfaction ing was not quite removed, and we from thus following the natural cur- turned aside to look into some of the rent of his feelings, than from floun- chambers and dungeons, into which dering in those troubled waters, on my companion would have had a which he had so unhappily embarked, good chance of being consigned, had with the discontented and the scepti- he been found in this city some few cal. The reply to one question years back. After walking over ruins which I ventured to put to him, un- and rubbish, which had been steeped der the mistaken idea that the reports in the tears and blood of many an unto which I before alluded, were true, happy victim, we passed the ducal assured me that the path he had palace, the residence of the governor marked out for himself, was attended or viceroy of Genoa, to which, on by any thing but happiness, and was the evening before, I had been innot exactly voluntary.
vited, and where I witnessed a scene, Are you so much estranged from the very reverse of what the InquisiEngland, that you have left no re- tion had presented to my imagination. grets behindyou?
All the Patrician pride and beauty of “ Do you suppose,” was his an- Genoa had been assembled there, to swer, " that I can be torn up by the enjoy the pleasures of dancing and music, and few are the places in ther in their palaces or in their woodItaly, where nobility is more noble, en walls, we need not be ashamed of or beauty more brilliant. “I am more the designation. Alexander himself, proud of being simply a Patrician, the proud Autocrat of the Russias, than a marquis,” said the Marchese the ambitious Czar, who thinks to di Negro to me ; and well he might reap where the sickle fell from Nabe, for he was descended from a long poleon's hands, even he could not line of heroes, who held a distin- conceal his feelings of admiration guished rank in the annals of the Re- struggling with envy, when he expepublic, long before the monarchs of rienced a reception from the merSpain, or France, or Sardinia, had an chants of London, such as kings would opportunity of conferring titles upon be proud to be able to give in their Ligurian subjects. We descended banquetting halls. the hill that leads down to the east- The nearer we approached to the ern gate, crossed the ramparts, and residence of Lord Byron, the more the torrents of Besagno, which had busy became my anticipations. How lately carried away the stone bridge shall I be received by him ? Shall I that was built over it, and mounted be made to shrink under the superithe acclivity upon which Albaro ority of talent ? Shall I smart under stands. Many a time did I turn back the lash of his sarcasms ? Shall I to gaze upon the magnificent city that be annoyed by sceptical insinuations, I had left behind, as it extended it- or shocked by broad and undisguised self gloriously over rock and glen, attacks upon what I have been in the from the mountains to the shore, and habit of regarding with respect and literally stretched its boughs to the reverence ? In short, my fancy was sea, and its branches to the river. It wound up to the highest pitch, in lay under my eye with its bright sub- conjecturing how he would converse, urbs, and its decorated villas, graceful how he would look, and whether I and becoming even in their gaudiness, should derive more pleasure or pain for the very variety of colouring. The from the interview. fronts of the houses are painted all The approach to that part of Almanner of colours.
The yellow and baro where the noble Poet dwelt, is the red, and the blue, which in most by a narrow lane, and on a steep asplaces would look whimsical and fan- cent. The palace is entered by lofty tastical, do absolutely harmonize with iron gates that conduct into a courtthe brown mountains, and the slate yard, planted with venerable yew roofs, and the azure sea, and form a trees, cut into grotesque shapes. Afpicture which it is delicious to dwell ter announcing our arrival at the upon. How the lordly towers, the portal, we were received by a man of stately edifices, the marble palaces, almost gigantic stature, who wore a and the costly temples of the prince beard hanging down his breast to a ly merchants, carried me back to the formidable length. This, as I was years that are gone, and reminded given to understand, was the eccenme of the little nation of traders, who tric Bard's favourite valet, and the thundered defiance against the strong same who had stabbed the soldier in places of some of the mightiest sove- the fray at Pisa, for which Lord Byreigns of their times! How I thoughtron and the friends of his party were of names--of the Dorias, and the obliged to leave the Tuscan States Durazzi, and the Brignoli, which used an exploit, not the first in its way, by to make the Mahomets and Solymans which he had distinguished his fideliof the east, and the Charles's and the ty to his master. An Italian Count, Philips of the west, tremble upon with whom he lived before he entertheir thrones ! A nation of shop- ed Lord Byron's service, had experikeepers! So Buonaparte styled us in enced similar proofs of his devotedderision. But when we reflect upon ness. From what I have since heard, what the Venetians and Genoese have I am inclined to believe the fellow been, and what the English are, ei- has at length fallen a sacrifice to that
sort of violence, to which he had so It struck me that Lord Byron's little scruple in having recourse him- countenance was handsome and intelself. He was shot by a Suliote cap- lectual, but without being so remarktain ; and it was that circumstance ably such as to attract attention, if it that occasioned the epileptic fits, which were not previously known whom he are said to have seized Lord Byron was. His lips were full and of a good not many weeks before his death, and colour ; the lower one inclined to a to have weakened his constitution. division in the centre : and this, with
By this Goliath of valets we were what are called gap-teeth, (in a very ushered through a spacious hall, ac- slight degree,) gave a peculiar exprescommodated with a billiard-table, and sion to his mouth. I never observed hung round with portraits, into his the play of features, or the characterLordship's receiving room, which was istics of physiognomy, more narrowly fitted up in a complete style of Eng- than I did Lord Byron's, during the lish comfort. It was carpeted and whole period of
animated concurtained ; a blazing log crackled in versation, which lasted nearly two the grate, à hearth-rug spread its soft hours, and I could not but feel all my and ample surface before it, a small Lavaterian principles staggered, by reading-table and lounging-chair,stood discovering so few indications of vionear the fire-place; and not far from lent temper, or of strong tastes and them, an immense oval table groaned distastes. I could scarcely discern under the weight of newly published any of the traits for which I searched, quartos and octavos, among other and should decide either that he had books, which lay arranged in nice or- a powerful command over the muscles der upon it.
of his face, and the expression of his In a few seconds after we entered, eye, or that there was less of that Lord Byron made his appearance fiery temperament than what has been from a room which opened into this ; ascribed to him. In short, I never he walked slowly up to the fire-place, saw a countenance more composed and received me with that unreserved and still, and, I might even add, more air, and good-humoured smile, which sweet and prepossessing, than Lord made me feel at ease at once, not- Byron's appeared upon this occasion. withstanding all my prognostications His hair was beginning to lose the to the contrary.
The first impres- glossiness, of which, it is said, he was sion made upon me was this—that the once so proud, and several grey person who stood before me, bore the gers presented themselves, in spite of least possible resemblance to any bust, his anxiety to have them removed. portrait, or profile, that I had ever His figure too, without being at all seen, professing to be his likeness; corpulent or rotund, was acquiring nor have I since examined any which more fulness than he liked ; so much I could consider a perfect resem- so, that he was abstemiously refusing blance. The portrait in possession wine and meat, and living almost of Mr. Murray, from which most of entirely upon vegetables. the prints seem to be taken, does not The reserve of a first introduction strike me as one in which the features was banished in a moment, by Mr. of the original are to be recognized -_'s starting a subject, which at at first sight, which perhaps may be once rendered Lord Byron as fluent owing to the affected position, and of words as I could have wished to studied air and manner, which Lord find him : He mentioned the maniB. assumed when he sat for it. Nei- festo of the Spanish Cortes, in answer ther is the marble bust by Bartolini to the declaration of the Holy Allia performance, with whose assistance ance, and an animated conversation I should pronounce the lines and line- followed between the two, which, as I aments of the Bard could be distin- was anxious to hear Lord Byron's guished at a glance.
sentiments, I was in no hurry to in3 ATHENEUM VOL. 2. new series. terrupt.
Among other things, Lord Byron the aristocratic poet's observation was observed upon the manifesto, that he too striking to be forgotten_“I should was particularly pleased with the dry not like to see Cobbett presiding at a Cervantez humour that it contained. revolutionary green table, and to be “ It reminds me,” said he, “ of the examined by him; for, if he were to answer of Leonidas to Xerxes, when put ten questions to me, and I should the Persian demanded his arms- answer nine satisfactorily, but were Come and take them.'' He evi- to fail in the tenth—for that tenth, dently calculated more upon Spanish he would send me to the lantern." resistance and courage, than the event Lord Byron then turned to me, and justified; and he proceeded to des- asked, “ Are you not afraid of calling cribe, with a great deal of spirit and
such an excommunicated herecorrectness, the nature of the country tic as myself? If you are an ambiwhich the enemy would have to en- tious man, you will never get on in counter before they could strike a the church after this.” decisive blow.— Spain," he added,
I replied, that he was totally misa “ is not a plain, across which the Rus- taken, if he fancied that there was sians and Austrians can march at any such jealous or illiberal spirit at their pleasure, as if they had nothing home, and he instantly interrupted to do but to draw a mathematical me, by saying, “ Yes, yes, you are straight line from one given point to right--there is a good deal of liberal another."
sentiment among churchmen in EngThere were several other pretty land, and that is why I prefer the conceits, as we should call them, in Established Church of England to the noble poet's discourse ; but when any other in the world. I have been he attempted to enlarge upon any intimate, in my time, with several subject, he was evidently at a loss for
ergymen, and never considered that a good train of reasoning. He did our difference of opinion was a bar to not seem to be able to follow the
our intimacy. They say I am no thread, even of an argument of his Christian, but I am a Christian." I own, when he was both opponent and afterwards asked Mr. what his respondent, and was putting a case in Lordship meant by an assertion so
much in contradiction with his writFrom the cause of the Spaniards, ings, and was told that he often threw the conversation directed itself to that out random declarations of that kind of the Greeks, and the state paper of without any meaning. the Holy Alliance upon this subject Lord Byron took an opportunity of also was brought upon the carpet. complaining, that some of his poems Lord Byron and Mr. — both ridi- had been treated unfairly, and assailculed the idea that was broached in ed with a degree of virulence they did that notable specimen of imperial rea- not deserve. They are not intended, soning, of the insurrectionary move- he remarked, to be theological works, ments in the east, as it was pleased but merely works of imagination, and to style the noblest struggle for liber- as such, ought not to be examined ty, that an oppressed people ever according to the severe rules of pomade,) being connected with the at- lemical criticism. tempts at revolution in Western Eu- I mentioned a late production of a rope, and of a correspondence exist- Harrow man, in which Cain had been ing between the reformers of differ- noticed. “I hope," said Lord B., ent countries. “ If such a formidable “ he did not abuse me personally, for concert as this existed, I
,” that would be too bad, as we were said Lord Byron, smiling, and address- school-fellows, and very good friends."
6 that two such notori- Upon my informing him that the ous Radicals as ourselves, ought to be strictures were only fair and candid affronted for not being permitted to observations, upon what the author take some share in it."
considered his Lordship’s mis-stateCobbett's name was introduced, and ments, he rejoined, “ It is nothing
his own way: