LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Countess of Blessington
Journal of Conversations with Lord Byron. No. II.
New Monthly Magazine  Vol. NS 35  (August 1832)  129-46.
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AUGUST 1, 1832.


———“Nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice.”

From this period we saw Lord Byron frequently; he met us in our rides nearly every day, and the road to Nervi became our favourite promenade. While riding by the sea-shore, he often recurred to the events of his life, mingling sarcasms on himself with bitter pleasantries against others. He dined often with us, and sometimes came after dinner, as he complained that he suffered from indulging at our repasts, as animal food disagreed with him. He added, that even the excitement of society, though agreeable and exhilarating at the time, left a nervous irritation, that prevented sleep or occupation for many hours afterwards.

I once spoke to him, by the desire of his medical adviser, on the necessity of his accustoming himself to a more nutritious regimen; but he declared, that if he did, he should get fat and stupid, and that it was only by abstinence that he felt he had the power of exercising his mind. He complained of being spoiled for society, by having so long lived out of it; and said, that though naturally of a quick apprehension, he latterly felt himself dull and stupid. The impression left on my mind is, that Byron never could have been a brilliant person in society, and that he was not formed for what generally is understood by that term: he has none of the “small change” that passes current in the mart of society; his gold is in ingots, and cannot be brought into use for trifling expenditures; he, however, talks a good deal, and likes to raconter.

Talking of people who were great talkers, he observed that almost all clever people were such, and gave several examples; amongst others, he cited Voltaire, Horace Walpole, Johnson, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Madame de Staël. “But,” said he, “my friend, Lady ——, would have talked them all out of the field. She, I suppose, has heard that all clever people are great talkers, and so has determined on displaying, at least, one attribute of that genus; but her Ladyship would do well to recollect, that all great talkers are not clever people—a truism that no one can doubt who has been often in her society.”

Lady ——,” continued Byron, “with beaucoup de ridicule, has many essentially fine qualities; she is independent in her principles—though, by the by, like all Independents, she allows that privilege to few others, being the veriest tyrant that ever governed

* Continued from page 23.
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Fashion’s fools, who are compelled to shake their caps and bells is she wills it. Of all that coterie,” said Byron, “
Madame de ——, after Lady ——, was the best; at least I thought so, for these two ladies were the only ones who ventured to protect me when all London was crying out against me on the separation, and they behaved courageously and kindly; indeed Madame de —— defended me when few dared to do so, and I have always remembered it. Poor dear Lady ——! does she still retain her beautiful cream-colored complexion and raven hair? I used to long to tell her that she spoiled her looks by her excessive animation; for eyes, tongue, head, and arms were all in movement at once, and were only relieved from their active service by want of respiration. I shall never forget when she once complained to me of the fatigue of literary occupations; and I, in terror, expected her Ladyship to propose reading to me an epic poem, tragedy, or at least a novel of her composition, when lo! she displayed to me a very richly-bound Album, half filled with printed extracts cut out of newspapers and magazines, which she had selected and pasted in the book; and I (happy at being let off so easily) sincerely agreed with her that literature was very tiresome. I understand that she has now advanced with the “March of Intellect,” and got an Album filled with MS. poetry, to which all of us, of the craft, have contributed. I was the first; Moore wrote something, which was, like all that he writes, very sparkling and terse; but he got dissatisfied with the faint praise it met with from the husband before Miladi saw the verses, and destroyed the effusion; I know not if he ever has supplied their place. Can you fancy Moore paying attention to the opinion of Milor, on Poesy? Had it been on racing or horse flesh he might have been right; but Pegasus is, perhaps, the only horse of whose paces Lord —— could not be a judge.”

Talking of fashionable life in London, Lord Byron said that there was nothing so vapid and ennuyeux. “The English,” said he, “were intended by nature to be good, sober-minded people, and those who live in the country are really admirable. I saw a good deal of English country life, and it is the only favorable impression that remains of our mode of living; but of London, and exclusive society, I retain a fearful recollection. Dissipation has need of wit, talent, and gaiety to prevent reflection, and make the eternal round of frivolous amusements pass; and of these,” continued Byron, “there was a terrible lack in the society in which I mixed. The minds of the English are formed of sterner stuff. You may make an English woman (indeed Nature does this) the best daughter, wife, and mother in the world; nay, you may make her a heroine; but nothing can make her a ge
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nuine woman of fashion! And yet this latter role is the one which, par preference, she always wishes to act. Thorough-bred English gentlewomen,” said Byron, “are the most distinguished and lady-like creatures imaginable. Natural, mild, and dignified, they are formed to be placed at the heads of our patrician establishments; but when they quit their congenial spheres to enact the leaders of fashion, les dames à la mode, they bungle sadly. Their gaiety degenerates into levity—their hauteur into incivility—their fashionable ease and nonchalance into brusquerie—and their attempts at assuming les usages du monde into a positive outrage on all the bienséances. In short, they offer a coarse caricature of the airy flightiness and capricious, but amusing, légèreté of the French, without any of their redeeming espièglerie and politesse. And all this because they will perform parts in the comedy of life for which nature has not formed them, neglecting their own dignified characters.”

Madame de Staël,” continued Lord Byron, “was forcibly struck by the factitious tone of the best society in London, and wished very much to have an opportunity of judging of that of the second class. She, however, had not this opportunity, which I regret, as I think it would have justified her expectations. In England, the raw material is generally good; it is the over-dressing that injures it; and as the class she wished to study are well educated, and have all the refinement of civilization without its corruption, she would have carried away a favourable impression. Lord Grey and his family were the personification of her beau ideal of perfection, as I must say they are of mine,” continued Byron, “and might serve as the finest specimens of the pure English patrician breed, of which so few remain. His uncompromising and uncompromised dignity, founded on self-respect, and accompanied by that certain proof of superiority—simplicity of manner and freedom from affectation, with her mild and matron graces, her whole life offering a model to wives and mothers—really they are people to be proud of, and a few such would reconcile one to one’s species.”

One of our first rides with Lord Byron was to Nervi, a village on the sea-coast, most romantically situated, and each turn of the road presenting various and beautiful prospects. They were all familiar to him, and he failed not to point them out, but in very sober terms, never allowing any thing like enthusiasm in his expressions, though many of the views might have excited it.

His appearance on horseback was not advantageous, and he seemed aware of it, for he made many excuses for his dress and equestrian appointments. His horse was literally covered with various trappings, in the way of cavesons, martingales, and Heaven knows
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how many other (to me) unknown inventions. The saddle was à la Hussarde with holsters, in which he always carried pistols. His dress consisted of a nankeen jacket and trousers, which appeared to have shrunk from washing; the jacket embroidered in the same color, and with three rows of buttons; the waist very short, the back very narrow, and the sleeves set in as they used to be ten or fifteen years before; a black stock, very narrow; a dark-blue velvet cap with a shade, and a very rich gold band and large gold tassel at the crown; nankeen gaiters, and a pair of blue spectacles, completed his costume, which was any thing but becoming. This was his general dress of a morning for riding, but I have seen it changed for a green tartan plaid jacket. He did not ride well, which surprised us, as, from the frequent allusions to horsemanship in his works, we expected to find him almost a Nimrod. It was evident that he had pretensions on this point, though he certainly was what I should call a timid rider. When his horse made a false step, which was not unfrequent, he seemed discomposed; and when we came to any bad part of the road, he immediately checked his course and walked his horse very slowly, though there really was nothing to make even a lady nervous. Finding that I could perfectly manage (or what he called bully) a very highly-dressed horse that I daily rode, he became extremely anxious to buy it; asked me a thousand questions as to how I had acquired such a perfect command of it, &c. &c. and entreated, as the greatest favour, that I would resign it to him as a charger to take to Greece, declaring he never would part with it, &c. As I was by no means a bold rider, we were rather amused at observing Lord Byron’s opinion of my courage; and as he seemed so anxious for the horse, I agreed to let him have it when he was to embark. From this time he paid particular attention to the movements of poor Mameluke, (the name of the horse), and said he should now feel confidence in action with so steady a charger.

During our ride the conversation turned on our mutual friends and acquaintances in England. Talking of two of them, for one of whom he professed a great regard, he declared laughingly that they had saved him from suicide. Seeing me look grave, he added, “It is a fact, I assure you; I should positively have destroyed myself, but I guessed that —— or —— would write my life, and with this fear before my eyes, I have lived on. I know so well the sort of things they would write of me—the excuses, lame as myself, that they would offer for my delinquencies, while they were unnecessarily exposing them, and all this done with the avowed intention of justifying, what, God help me! cannot be justified, my unpoetical repu-
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tation, with which the world can have nothing to do! One of my friends would dip his pen in clarified honey, and the other in vinegar, to describe my manifold transgressions, and as I lived on, and do not wish my poor fame to be either preserved or pickled, I have written my
Memoirs, where facts will speak for themselves, without the editorial candor of excuses, such as ‘we cannot excuse this unhappy error, or defend that impropriety!’—the mode,” continued Byron, “in which friends exalt their own prudence and virtue, by exhibiting the want of those qualities in the dear departed, and by marking their disapproval of his errors. I have written my Memoirs,” said Byron, “to save the necessity of their being written by a friend or friends, and have only to hope they will not add notes.”

I remarked, with a smile, that at all events he anticipated his friends by saying before hand as many ill-natured things of them as they could possibly write of him. He laughed, and said, “Depend on it we are equal. Poets, (and I may, I suppose, without presumption, count myself among that favoured race, as it has pleased the Fates to make me one,) have no friends. On the old principle that ‘union gives force,’ we sometimes agree to have a violent friendship for each other. We dedicate, we bepraise, we write pretty letters, but we do not deceive each other. In short, we resemble you fair ladies, when some half dozen of the fairest of you profess to love each other mightily, correspond so sweetly, call each other by such pretty epithets, and laugh in your hearts at those who are taken in by such appearances.”

I endeavoured to defend my sex, but he adhered to his opinion. I ought to add that during this conversation he was very gay, and that though his words may appear severe, there was no severity in his manner. The natural flippancy of Lord Byron took off all appearance of premeditation or bitterness from his remarks, even when they were acrimonious, and the impression conveyed to, and left on my mind, was, that for the most part they were uttered more in jest than in earnest. They were however sufficiently severe to make me feel that there was no safety with him, and that in five minutes after one’s quitting him on terms of friendship, he could not resist the temptation of showing one up, either in conversation or by letter, though in half an hour after he would put himself to personal inconvenience to render a kindness to the person so shown up.

I remarked that in talking of literary productions, he seemed much more susceptible to their defects, than alive to their beauties. As a proof, he never failed to remember some quotation that told against the unhappy author, which he recited with an emphasis, or a mock-
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heroic air, that made it very ludicrous. The pathetic he always burlesqued in reciting; but this I am sure proceeded from an affectation of not sympathizing with the general taste.

April —. Lord Byron dined with us to-day. During dinner he was as usual gay, spoke in terms of the warmest commendation of Sir Walter Scott, not only as an author, but as a man, and dwelt with apparent delight on his novels, declaring that he had read and re-read them over and over again, and always with increased pleasure. He said that he quite equalled, nay, in his own opinion, surpassed Cervantes. In talking of Sir Walter’s private character, goodness of heart, &c., Lord Byron became more animated than I had ever seen him; his color changed from its general pallid tint to a more lively hue, and his eyes became humid; never had he appeared to such advantage, and it might easily be seen that every expression he uttered proceeded from his heart.* Poor Byron!—for poor he is even with all his genius, rank, and wealth—had he lived more with men like Scott, whose openness of character and steady principle had convinced him that they were in earnest in their goodness, and not making believe, (as he always suspects good people to be,) his life might be different and happier! Byron is so acute an observer that nothing escapes him; all the shades of selfishness and vanity are exposed to his searching glance, and the misfortune is, (and a serious one it is to him,) that when he finds these, and alas! they are to be found on every side, they disgust and prevent his giving credit to the many good qualities that often accompany them. He declares he can sooner pardon crimes, because they proceed from the passions, than these minor vices, that spring from egotism and self-conceit. We had a long argument this evening on this subject, which ended, like most arguments, by leaving both of the same opinion as when it commenced. I endeavoured to prove that crimes were not only injurious to the perpetrators, but often ruinous to the innocent, and productive of misery to friends and relations, whereas selfishness and vanity carried with them their own punishment, the first depriving the person of all sympathy, and the second exposing him to ridicule, which to the vain is a heavy punishment, but that their effects were not destructive to society as are crimes.

He laughed when I told him that having heard him so often declaim against vanity, and detect it so often in his friends, I began to suspect he knew the malady by having had it himself, and that I
* After all, in spite of Byron’s insincere severity to the ordinary herd of absent friends, did he not invariably speak will of those whom he thought really deserved esteem? Scott, Shelley, Mrs. Leigh, of these he is no backbiter! As to the rest, he does not seem (however erroneously) to have felt their merits or believed their friendship.—Ed.
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had observed through life, that those persons who had the most vanity were the most severe against that failing in their friends. He wished to impress upon me that he was not vain, and gave various proofs to establish this; but I produced against him his boasts of swimming, his evident desire of being considered more un homme de société than a poet, and other little examples, when he laughingly pleaded guilty, and promised to be more merciful towards his friends.

We sat on the balcony after tea; it commands a fine view, and we had one of those moonlight nights that are seen only in this country. Every object was tinged with its silvery lustre. In front were crowded an uncountable number of ships from every country, with their various flags waving in the breeze, which bore to us the sounds of the as various languages of the crews. In the distance we enjoyed a more expanded view of the sea, which reminded Byron of his friend Moore’s description, which he quoted:
“The sea is like a silv’ry lake.”
The fanale casting its golden blaze into this silvery lake, and throwing a red lurid reflection on the sails of the vessels that passed near it; the fishermen, with their small boats, each having a fire held in a sort of grate fastened at the end of the boat, which burns brilliantly, and by which they not only see the fish that approach, but attract them; their scarlet caps, which all the Genoese sailors and fishermen wear, adding much to their picturesque appearance, all formed a picture that description falls far short of; and when to this are joined the bland odors of the richest and rarest flowers, with which the balconies are filled, one feels that such nights are never to be forgotten, and while the senses dwell on each, and all, a delicious melancholy steals over the mind, as it reflects that, the destinies of each conducting to far distant regions, a time will arrive when all now before the eye will appear but as a dream.

This was felt by all the party, and after a silence of many minutes, it was broken by Byron, who remarked, “What an evening, and what a view! Should we ever meet in the dense atmosphere of London, shall we not recall this evening, and the scenery now before us: but no! most probably there we should not feel as we do here; we should fall into the same heartless, loveless apathy that distinguish one half of our dear compatriots, or the bustling, impertinent importance to be considered suprème bon ton that marks the other.”

Byron spoke with bitterness, but it was the bitterness of a fine nature soured by having been touched too closely by those who had lost their better feelings through a contact with the world. After a
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few minutes silence, he said, “Look at that forest of masts now before us! from what remote parts of the world do they come! o’er how many waves have they not passed, and how many tempests have they not been, and may again be exposed to! how many hearts and tender thoughts follow them! mothers, wives, sisters, and sweethearts, who perhaps at this hour are offering up prayers for their safety.”

While he was yet speaking sounds of vocal music arose; national hymns and barcaroles were sung in turns by the different crews, and when they had ceased, “God save the King” was sung by the crews of some English merchantmen lying close to the pier. This was a surprise to us all, and its effect on our feelings was magnetic. Byron was no less touched than the rest; each felt at the moment that tie of country which unites all when they meet on a far distant shore. When the song ceased, Byron, with a melancholy smile, observed, “Why, positively, we are all quite sentimental this evening, and I, I who have sworn against sentimentality, find the old leaven still in my nature, and quite ready to make a fool of me. ‘Tell it not in Gath,’ that is to say, breathe it not in London, or to English ears polite, or never again shall I be able to enact the stoic philosopher. Come, come, this will never do, we must forswear moonlight, fine views, and above all, hearing a national air sung. Little does his gracious Majesty Big Ben, as Moore calls him, imagine what loyal subjects he has at Genoa, and least of all that I am among their number.”

Byron attempted to be gay, but the effort was not successful, and he wished us good night with a trepidation of manner that marked his feelings. And this is the man that I have heard considered unfeeling! How often are our best qualities turned against us, and made the instruments for wounding us in the most vulnerable part, until, ashamed of betraying our susceptibility, we affect an insensibility we are far from possessing, and, while we deceive others, nourish in secret the feelings that prey only on our own hearts!

It is difficult to judge when Lord Byron is serious or not. He has a habit of mystifying, that might impose upon many; but that can be detected by examining his physiognomy; for a sort of mock gravity, now and then broken by a malicious smile, betrays when he is speaking for effect, and not giving utterance to his real sentiments. If he sees that he is detected, he appears angry for a moment, and then laughingly admits, that it amuses him to hoax people, as he calls it, and that when each person, at some future day, will give their different statements of him, they will be so contradictory, that all will be doubted,—an idea that gratifies him exceed-
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ingly! The mobility of his nature is extraordinary, and makes him inconsistent in his actions as well as in his conversation. He introduced the subject of
La Contessa Guiccioli and her family, which we, of course, would not have touched on. He stated that they lived beneath his roof because his rank as a British Peer afforded her father and brother protection, they having been banished from Ravenna, their native place, on account of their politics. He spoke in high terms of the Counts Gamba, father and son; he said that he had given the family a wing of his house, but that their establishments were totally separate, their repasts never taken together, and that such was their scrupulous delicacy, that they never would accept a pecuniary obligation from him in all the difficulties entailed on them by their exile. He represented La Contessa Guiccioli as a most amiable and lady-like person, perfectly disinterested and noble-minded, devotedly attached to him, and possessing so many high and estimable qualities, as to offer an excuse for any man’s attachment to her. He said that he had been passionately in love with her, and that she had sacrificed everything for him; that the whole of her conduct towards him had been admirable, and that not only did he feel the strongest personal attachment to her, but the highest sentiments of esteem. He dwelt with evident complacency on her noble birth and distinguished connexions,—advantages to which he attaches great importance. I never met any one with so decided a taste for aristocracy as Lord Byron, and this is shown in a thousand different ways.

He says the Contessa is well-educated, remarkably fond of, and well read in, the poetry of her own country, and a tolerable proficient in that of France and England. In his praises of Madame Guiccioli, it is quite evident that he is sincere, and I am persuaded this is his last attachment. He told me that she had used every effort to get him to discontinue “Don Juan,” or at least to preserve the future Cantos from all impure passages. In short, he has said all that was possible to impress me with a favourable opinion of this lady, and has convinced me that he entertains a very high one of her himself.

Byron is a strange mélange of good and evil, the predominancy of either depending wholly on the humour he may happen to be in. His is a character that nature totally unfitted for domestic habits, or for rendering a woman of refinement or susceptibility happy. He confesses to me that he is not happy, but admits that it is his own fault, as the Contessa Guiccioli, the only object of his love, has all the qualities to render a reasonable being happy. I observed, apropos to some observation he had made, that I feared La Contessa Guiccioli had little reason to be satisfied with her lot. He answer-
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ed, “Perhaps you are right; yet she must know that I am sincerely attached to her; but the truth is, my habits are not those requisite to form the happiness of any woman; I am worn out in feelings, for, though only thirty-six, I feel sixty in mind, and am less capable than ever of those nameless attentions that all women, but, above all, Italian women, require. I like solitude, which has become absolutely necessary to me; am fond of shutting myself up for hours, and when with the person I like, am often distrait and gloomy. There is something I am convinced (continued Byron) in the poetical temperament that precludes happiness, not only to the person who has it, but to those connected with him. Do not accuse me of vanity because I say this, as my belief is, that the worst poet may share this misfortune in common with the best. The way in which I account for it is, that our imaginations being warmer than our hearts, and much more given to wander, the latter have not the power to control the former; hence, soon after our passions are gratified, imagination again takes wing, and finding the insufficiency of actual indulgence beyond the moment, abandons itself to all its wayward fancies, and during this abandonment, becomes cold and insensible to the demands of affection. This is our misfortune but not our fault, and dearly do we expiate it; by it we are rendered incapable of sympathy, and cannot lighten, by sharing, the pain we inflict. Thus we witness, without the power of alleviating, the anxiety and dissatisfaction our conduct occasions. We are not so totally unfeeling, as not to be grieved at the unhappiness we cause, but this same power of imagination, transports our thoughts to other scenes, and we are always so much more occupied by the ideal than the present, that we forget all that is actual. It is as though the creatures of another sphere, not subject to the lot of mortality, formed a factitious alliance (as all alliances must be that are not in all respects equal) with the creatures of this earth, and, being exempt from its sufferings, turned their thoughts to brighter regions, leaving the partners of their earthly existence to suffer alone. But, let the object of affection be snatched away by death, and how is all the pain ever inflicted on them avenged! The same imagination that led us to slight, or overlook their sufferings, now that they are for ever lost to us, magnifies their estimable qualities, and encreases ten-fold the affection we ever felt for them—
‘Oh! what are thousand living loves,
To that which cannot quit the dead?’
How did I feel this when
Allegra, my daughter, died! While she lived, her existence never seemed necessary to my happiness; but no sooner did I lose her, than it appeared to me as if I could not live
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without her. Even now the recollection is most bitter, but how much more severely would the death of Teresa afflict me with the dreadful consciousness, that while I had been soaring into the fields of romance and fancy, I had left her to weep over my coldness or infidelities of imagination. It is a dreadful proof of the weakness of our natures, that we cannot control ourselves sufficiently to form the happiness of those we love, or to bear their loss without agony.”

The whole of this conversation made a deep impression on my mind, and the countenance of the speaker, full of earnestness and feeling, impressed it still more strongly on my memory. Byron is right; a brilliant imagination is rarely, if ever, accompanied by a warm heart; but on this latter depends the happiness of life; the other renders us dissatisfied with its ordinary enjoyments.

He is an extraordinary person, indiscreet to a degree that is surprising, exposing his own feelings, and entering into details of those of others, that ought to be sacred, with a degree of frankness as unnecessary as it is rare. Incontinence of speech is his besetting sin. He is, I am persuaded, incapable of keeping any secret, however it may concern his own honour or that of another; and the first person with whom he found himself tëte-è-tëte, would be made the confidant, without any reference to his worthiness of the confidence or not. This indiscretion proceeds not from malice, but I should say, from want of delicacy of mind. To this was owing the publication of his “Farewell,” addressed to Lady Byron,—a farewell that must have lost all effect as an appeal to her feelings the moment it was exposed to the public—nay, must have offended her delicacy.

Byron spoke to-day in terms of high commendation of Hope’s “Anastasius;” said that he wept bitterly over many pages of it, and for two reasons, first, that he had not written it, and secondly, that Hope had; for that it was necessary to like a man excessively to pardon his writing such a book—a book, as he said, excelling all recent productions, as much in wit and talent, as in true pathos. He added, that he would have given his two most approved poems to have been the author of “Anastasius.”

From “Anastasius” he wandered to the works of Mr. Galt, praised the “Annals of the Parish” very highly, as also “The Entail,” which we had lent him, and some scenes of which he said had affected him very much. “The characters in Mr. Galt’s novels have an identity,” added Byron, “that reminds me of Wilkie’s pictures.”

As a woman, I felt proud of the homage he paid to the genius of Mrs. Hemans, and as a passionate admirer of her poetry, I felt flattered, at finding that Lord Byron fully sympathized with my admira-
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tion. He has, or at least expresses, a strong dislike to the Lake school of poets, never mentions them except in ridicule, and he and I nearly quarrelled to-day because I defended poor
Keats. On looking out from the balcony this morning, I observed Byron’s countenance change, and an expression of deep sadness steal over it. After a few minutes’ silence he pointed out to me a boat anchored to the right, as the one in which his friend Shelley went down, and he said the sight of it made him ill.—“You should have known Shelley (said Byron) to feel how much I must regret him. He was the most gentle, most amiable, and least worldly-minded person I ever met; full of delicacy, disinterested beyond all other men, and possessing a degree of genius, joined to a simplicity, as rare as it is admirable. He had formed to himself a beau ideal of all that is fine, high minded, and noble, and he acted up to this ideal even to the very letter. He had a most brilliant imagination, but a total want of worldly-wisdom. I have seen nothing like him, and never shall again, I am certain. I never can forget the night that his poor wife rushed into my room at Pisa, with a face pale as marble, and terror impressed on her brow, demanding, with all the tragic impetuosity of grief and alarm, where was her husband! Vain were all our efforts to calm her; a desperate sort of courage seemed to give her energy to confront the horrible truth that awaited her; it was the courage of despair; I have seen nothing in tragedy on the stage so powerful, or so affecting, as her appearance, and it often presents itself to my memory. I knew nothing then of the catastrophe, but the vividness of her terror communicated itself to me, and I feared the worst, which fears were, alas! too soon fearfully realized.

Mrs. Shelley is very clever, indeed it would be difficult for her not to be so, the daughter of Mary Wolstoncraft and Godwin, and the wife of Shelley, could be no common person.”

Byron talked to-day of Leigh Hunt, regretted his ever having embarked in the “Liberal,” and said that it had drawn a nest of hornets on him, but expressed a very good opinion of the talents and principle of Mr. Hunt, though, as he said, “our tastes are so opposite, that we are totally unsuited to each other. He admires the Lakers, I abhor them; in short, we are more formed to be friends at a distance, than near.” I can perceive that he wishes Mr. Hunt and his family away. It appears to me that Byron is a person who, without reflection, would form engagements which, when condemned by his friends or advisers, he would gladly get out of without considering the means, or at least, without reflecting on the humiliation such a desertion must inflict on the persons he had associated with him. He gives me the idea of a man, who, feeling himself in such a dilem-
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ma, would become cold and ungracious to the parties with whom he so stood, before he had mental courage sufficient to abandon them. I may be wrong, but the whole of his manner of talking of Mr. Hunt gives me this impression, though he has not said what might be called an unkind word of him.

Much as Byron has braved public opinion, it is evident he has a great deference for those who stand high in it, and that he is shy in attaching himself publicly to persons who have even, however undeservedly, fallen under its censure. His expressed contempt and defiance of the world, reminds me of the bravadoes of children, who, afraid of darkness, make a noise to give themselves courage to support what they dread. It is very evident that he is partial to aristocratic friends, he dwells with complacency on the advantages of rank and station, and has more than once boasted that people of family are always to be recognized by a certain air and the smallness and delicacy of their hands.

He talked in terms of high commendation of the talents and acquirements of Mr. Hobhouse; but a latent sentiment of pique was visible in his manner from the idea he appeared to entertain that Mr. Hobhouse had undervalued him. Byron evidently likes praise; this is a weakness, if weakness it be, that he partakes in common with mankind in general; but he does not seem aware that a great compliment is implied in the very act of telling a man his faults—for the friend who undertakes this disagreeable office must give him whom he censures credit for many good qualities, as well as no ordinary portion of candour and temper, to suppose him capable of hearing the recapitulation of his failings. Byron is, after all, a spoiled child, and the severe lessons he has met with being disproportioned to the errors that called them forth, has made him view the faults of the civilized world through a false medium; a sort of discoloured magnifying-glass, while his own are gazed at through a concave lens. All that Byron has told me of the frankness and unbending honesty of Mr. Hobhouse’s character has given me a most favourable impression of that gentleman.

Byron gave me to-day a MS. copy of verses, addressed to Lady Byron, on reading in a newspaper that she had been ill. How different is the feeling that pervades them from that of the letter addressed to her which he has given me! a lurking tenderness, suppressed by a pride that was doubtful of the reception it might meet, is evident in one, while bitterness, uncompromising bitterness, marks the other. Neither were written but with deep feelings of pain, and should be judged as the outpourings of a wounded spirit, demanding pity more than anger. I subjoin the verses, though not without some
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reluctance. But while to the public they are of that value that any reasons for their suppression ought to be extremely strong, so, on the other hand, I trust, they cannot hurt either her feelings to whom they are addressed, or his memory by whom they are written. To her, because the very bitterness of reproach proves that unconquerable affection which cannot but heal the wound it causes: to him, because who, in the shattered feelings they betray, will not acknowledge the grief that hurries into error, and (may we add in charity!)—atones it.
TO * * * * *
“And thou wert sad—yet I was not with thee;
And thou wert sick, and yet I was not near;
Methought that joy and health alone could be
Where I was not—and pain and sorrow here!
And is it thus?—it is as I foretold,
And shall be more so; for the mind recoils
Upon itself, and the wreck’d heart lies cold,
While heaviness collects the shatter’d spoils.
It is not in the storm nor in the strife
We feel benumb’d, and wish to be no more,
But in the after-silence on the shore,
When all is lost, except a little life.
“I am too well avenged!—but ’twas my right;
Whate’er my sins might be, thou wert not sent
To be the Nemesis who should requite—
Nor did Heaven choose so near an instrument.
“Mercy is for the merciful!—if thou
Hast been of such, ’twill be accorded now.
Thy nights are banish’d from the realms of sleep!—
Yes! they may flatter thee, but thou shalt feel
A hollow agony which will not heal,
For thou art pillow’d on a curse too deep;
Thou hast sown in my sorrow, and must reap
The bitter harvest in a woe as real!
I have had many foes, but none like thee;
For ’gainst the rest myself I could defend,
And be avenged, or turn them into friend;
But thou in safe implacability
Hadst nought to dread—in thy own weakness shielded,
And in my love, which hath but too much yielded,
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And spared, for thy sake, some I should not spare—
And thus upon the world—trust in thy truth—
And the wild fame of my ungovern’d youth—
On things that were not, and on things that are—
Even upon such a basis hast thou built
A monument, whose cement hath been guilt!
The moral Clytemnestra of thy lord,
And hew’d down, with an unsuspected sword,
Fame, peace, and hope—and all the better life
Which, but for this cold treason of thy heart,
Might still have risen from out the grave of strife,
And found a nobler duty than to part.
But of thy virtues didst thou make a vice,
Trafficking with them in a purpose cold,
For present anger, and for future gold—
And buying other’s grief at any price.
And thus once enter’d into crooked ways,
The early Truth, which was thy proper praise,
Did not still walk beside thee—but at times,
And with a breast unknowing its own crimes,
Deceit, averments incompatible,
Equivocations, and the thoughts which dwell
In Janus-spirits—the significant eye
Which learns to lie with silence—the pretext
Of Prudence, with advantages annex’d—
The acquiescence in all things which tend,
No matter how, to the desired end—
All found a place in thy philosophy.
The means were worthy, and the end is won—
I would not do by thee as thou hast done!

It is evident that Lady Byron occupies his attention continually; he introduces her name frequently; is fond of recurring to the brief period of their living together; dwells with complacency on her personal attractions, saying, that though not regularly handsome, he liked her looks. He is very inquisitive about her; was much disappointed that I had never seen her, nor could give any account of her appearance at present. In short, a thousand indescribable circumstances have left the impression on my mind that she occupies much of his thoughts, and that they appear to revert continually to her and his child. He owned to me, that when he reflected on the whole tenour of her conduct—the refusing any explanation—never answering his letters, or holding out even a hope that in future years their child might form a bond of union between them, he felt
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exasperated against her, and vented this feeling in his writings; nay more, he blushed for his own weakness in thinking so often and so kindly of one who certainly showed no symptom of ever bestowing a thought on him. The mystery attached to Lady Byron’s silence has piqued him, and kept alive an interest that, even now, appears as lively as if their separation was recent. There is something so humiliating in the consciousness that some dear object, to whom we thought ourselves necessary, and who occupies much of our thoughts, can forget that we exist, or at least act as if she did so, that I can well excuse the bitterness of poor
Byron’s feelings on this point, though not the published sarcasms caused by this bitterness; and whatever maybe the sufferings of Lady Byron, they are more than avenged by what her husband feels.

It appears to me extraordinary, that a person who has given such interesting sketches of the female character, as Byron has in his works,* should be so little au fait of judging feminine feeling under certain circumstances. He is surprised that Lady Byron has never relented since his absence from England; but he forgets how that absence has been filled up on his part. I ventured to suggest this, and hinted that, perhaps, had his conduct been irreproachable during the first years of their separation, and unstained by any attachment that could have widened the breach between them, it is possible that Lady Byron might have become reconciled to him; but that no woman of delicacy could receive or answer letters written beneath the same roof that sheltered some female favourite, whose presence alone proved that the husband could not have those feelings of propriety or affection towards his absent wife, the want of which constitutes a crime that all women, at least, can understand to be one of those least pardonable. How few men understand the feelings of women! Sensitive, and easily wounded as we are, obliged to call up pride to support us in trials that always leave fearful marks behind, how often are we compelled to assume the semblance of coldness and indifference when the heart inly bleeds; and the decent composure, put on with our visiting garments to appear in public, and, like them, worn for a few hours, are with them laid aside; and all the dreariness, the heart-consuming cares, that woman alone can know, return to make us feel, that though we may disguise our sufferings from others, and deck our countenance with smiles, we cannot deceive ourselves, and are but the more miserable from the constraint we submit to, A woman only can understand a woman’s heart—we
* With due deference to the acute narrator, may we ask if he has really done so? Is the female character itself drawn in the Medoras and the Zuleikas? or are those heroines more and dim personifications of common-place traits in the female character?—Ed.
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cannot, dare not, complain—sympathy is denied us, because we must not lay open the wounds that excite it; and even the most legitimate feelings are too sacred in female estimation to be exposed—and while we nurse the grief “that lies too deep for tears,” and consumes alike health and peace, a man may with impunity express all, nay, more than he feels—court and meet sympathy, while his leisure hours are cheered by occupations and pleasures, the latter too often such as ought to prove how little he stood in need of compassion, except for his vices.

I stated something of this to Lord Byron to-day, apropos to the difference between his position and that of his wife. He tried to prove to me how much more painful was his situation than hers; but I effected some alteration in his opinion when I had fairly placed their relative positions before him—at least such as they appeared to me. I represented Lady Byron to him separating in early youth, whether from just or mistaken motives for such a step, from the husband of her choice, after little more than a brief year’s union, and immediately after that union had been cemented by the endearing, strengthening tie of a new-born infant! carrying with her into solitude this fond and powerful remembrancer of its father, how much must it have cost her to resist the appeals of such a pleader!—wearing away her youth in almost monastic seclusion, her motives questioned by some, and appreciated by few—seeking consolation alone in the discharge of her duties, and avoiding all external demonstrations of a grief that her pale cheek and solitary existence are such powerful vouchers for. Such is the portrait I gave him of Lady Byron—his own I ventured to sketch as follows.

I did not enter into the causes, or motives of the separation, because I know them not, but I dwelt on his subsequent conduct:—the appealing on the separation to public sympathy, by the publication of verses, that ought only to have met the eye of her to whom they were addressed, was in itself an outrage to that delicacy, that shrinks from, and shuns publicity, so inherent in the female heart. He leaves England, the climate, modes, and customs of which had never been congenial to his taste to seek beneath the sunny skies of Italy, and all the soul-exciting objects that classic land can offer, a consolation for domestic disappointment. How soon were the broken ties of conjugal affection replaced by less holy ones! I refer not to his attachment to La Contessa Guiccioli, because at least it is of a different and a more pure nature, but to those degrading liaisons which marked the first year or two of his residence in Italy, and must ever from their revolting coarseness, remain a stain on his fame. It may be urged that disappointment and sorrow drove him into such
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excesses; but admitting this, surely we must respect the grief that is borne in solitude, and with the most irreproachable delicacy of conduct, more than that which flies to gross sensualities for relief.

Such was the substance, and I believe nearly the words I repeated to him to-day; and it is but justice to him to say that they seemed to make a deep impression. He said that if my portrait of Lady Byron’s position was indeed a faithful one, she was much more to be pitied than he; that he felt deeply for her, but that he had never viewed their relative situations in the same light before; he had always considered her as governed wholly by pride.

I urged that my statement was drawn from facts; that, of the extreme privacy and seclusion of her life, ever since the separation, there could be no doubt, and this alone vouched for the feelings that led to it.

He seemed pleased and gratified by the reflections I had made, insensibly fell into a tone of tenderness in speaking of Lady Byron, and pressed my hand with more than usual cordiality. On bidding me good bye, his parting words were “you probe old and half-healed wounds, but though you give pain, you excite a more healthy action, and do good.”

His heart yearns to see his child; all children of the same age remind him of her, and he loves to recur to the subject.

Poor Byron has hitherto been so continually occupied with dwelling on, and analyzing his own feelings, that he has not reflected on those of his wife. He cannot understand her observing such a total silence on their position, because he could not, and cannot resist making it the topic of conversation with even chance associates: this, which an impartial observer of her conduct would attribute to deep feelings, and a sense of delicacy, he concludes to be caused by pride and want of feeling. We are always prone to judge of others by ourselves, which is one of the reasons why our judgments are in general so erroneous. Man may be judged of by his species en masse, but he who would judge of mankind in the aggregate, from one specimen of the genus, must be often in error, and this is Byron’s case.

(To be continued.)