LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism
Francesco Bruno
Last Moments of Lord Byron.
The Examiner  No. 864  (22 August 1824)  530.
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No. 864. SUNDAY, AUG. 22, 1824.


Dr. Bruno has sent us the following contradiction of portions of the statement we copied last Sunday from the Westminster Review, respecting the medical treatment of Lord Byron, as the Review itself cannot notice Dr. Bruno's statement for three months—and, as we contributed to the circulation of the particulars which he denies or explains, we think ourselves bound to give it immediate insertion; and we shall be equally open to any further statements on the subject, either from the Editor of the Westminster Review or form his avowed informant, Mr. Fletcher. We translate the Doctor's French:—


Mr. Fletcher has omitted to state, that on the second day of Lord Byron’s illness, his physician, Dr. Bruno, seeing the sudorific medicines had no effect, proposed blood-letting, and that his Lordship refused to allow it, and caused Mr. Millingen to be sent for, in order to consult with his physician, and see if the rheumatic fever could not be cured without the loss of blood.

Mr. Millingen approved of the medicines previously prescribed by Dr. Bruno, and was not opposed to the opinion that bleeding was necessary; but he said to his Lordship that it might be deferred till the next day. He held this language for three successive days, while the other physician (Dr. Bruno) every day threatened Lord Byron that he would die by his obstinacy in not allowing himself to be bled. His Lordship always answered, “You wish to get the reputation of curing my disease,—that is why you tell me it is so serious; but I will not permit you to bleed me.”

After the first consultation with Mr. Millingen, the domestic Fletcher asked Dr. Bruno how his Lordship’s complaint was going on? The physician replied that, if he would allow the bleeding, he would be cured in a few days. But the surgeon, Mr. Millingen, assured Lord Byron, from day to day, that it could wait till to-morrow; and thus four days slipped away, during which the disease, for want of blood-letting, grew much worse. At length Mr. Millingen, seeing that the prognostications which Dr. Bruno had made respecting Lord Byron’s malady were more and more confirmed, urged the necessity of bleeding, and of no longer delaying it a moment. This caused Lord Byron, disgusted at finding that he could not be cured without loss of blood, to say that it seemed to him that the doctors did not understand his malady. He then had a man sent to Zante to fetch Dr. Thomas. Mr. Fletcher having mentioned this to Dr. Bruno, the latter observed, that if his Lordship would consent to lose as much blood as was necessary, he would answer for his cure; but that if he delayed any longer, or did not entirely follow his advice, Dr. Thomas would not arrive in time:—in fact, when Dr. T. was ready to set out from Zante, Lord Byron was dead.

The pistols and stiletto were removed from his Lordship’s bed,—not by Fletcher, but by the servant Tita, who was the only person that constantly waited on Lord Byron in his illness, and who had been advised to take this precaution by Dr. Bruno, the latter having perceived that my Lord had moments of delirium.

Two days before the death, a consultation was held with three other doctors, who appeared to think that his Lordship’s disease was changing from inflammatory diathesis to languid, and they ordered china*, opium, and ammonia.

Dr. Bruno opposed this with the greatest warmth, and pointed out to them that the symptoms were those, not of an alteration in the disease, but of a fever flying to the brain, which was violently attacked by it; and that the wine, the china, and the stimulants would kill Lord Byron more speedily than the complaint itself could; while, on the other hand, by copious bleedings and the medicines that had been taken before, he might yet be saved. The other physicians, however, were of a different opinion; and it was then that Dr. Bruno declared to his colleagues that he would have no further responsibility for the loss of Lord Byron, which he pronounced inevitable if the china were given him. In effect, after my Lord had taken the tincture, with some grains of carbonate of ammonia, he was seized by convulsions. Soon afterwards they gave him a cup of very strong decoction of china, with some drops of laudanum: he instantly fell into a deep lethargic sleep, from which he never rose.

The opening of the body discovered the brain in a state of the highest inflammation; and all the six physicians who were present at that opening were convinced that my Lord would have been saved by the bleeding, which his physician Dr. Bruno had advised from the beginning with the most pressing urgency and the greatest firmness.

F. B.

* This is a French term, sometimes used for the smilax china; but we have no doubt it means here the Jesuit’s bark.