LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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James Hamilton Browne
Voyage from Leghorn to Cephalonia with Lord Byron.
Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine  Vol. 35  No. 117  (August 1834)  56-67.
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No. CXVII. AUGUST, 1834. Vol. XXXV.



Part I.

I had resided about a year at Pisa, when I was seized with a sudden ardour and enthusiasm in favour of the cause of Greece, then exciting, throughout Europe, the strongest sympathy. Intending to embark for the Ionian Islands, on my way to the Morea, I requested a friend at Leghorn to look out for a vessel bound to Zante, or Cephalonia. He informed me that there was not likely to be any opportunity for some time; but he strongly recommended me to apply for a passage to Lord Byron, who had just chartered an English brig for that destination. As his Lordship and I had some mutual friends, I ventured, but with some reluctance, to write to him on the subject; he returned a very polite answer, stating, that he should feel much pleasure in acceding to my request, and that I might either join his party at Genoa, or he would direct the vessel to touch off Leghorn and take me on board. As I was desirous of purchasing some sea-stock, and had other business at Leghorn, I preferred the latter plan, as I told his Lordship in a letter of thanks for his kindness; the vessel accordingly, at the appointed time, made her appearance, when I immediately joined her in the Roads, and had the honour of becoming personally known to him. My first personal introduction to Lord Byron thus took place at Leghorn, on board of the Hercules, which vessel he had caused to be chartered at Genoa, for the purpose of conveying himself and suite to the Ionian Islands, or perhaps direct to Greece.

He had kindly promised to touch off the port and take me on board, it being understood between us, that if he did not intend to communicate with Leghorn, certain signals should be displayed, when I was to lose no time in joining him.

I was accompanied to the ship, riding at anchor in the Roads, by Messrs Jackson and Lloyd, who departed immediately after seeing me safe on board, as I was apprehensive that Lord Byron might have conceived that they had come for the purpose of catching a glimpse of him. He put to me some interrogatory relative to them, regretting that I had hurried them off. On my informing him that the former gentleman was son to the Rev. Dr Jackson—who, so unfortunately for his family, rashly engaged in the Irish Rebellion, and would have suffered the death of a traitor; only escaping so disgraceful an end, by having anticipated the sentence of the law, in terminating his existence by poison, conveyed to him, it was alleged, by his lady, a very high-spirited woman, who afterwards, with her family, retired to France, where Bonaparte conferred a small pension on her—Lord Byron appeared quite conversant with the particulars of this unhappy affair, and said he should have felt a great interest in conversing with young Jackson.

His Lordship’s mode of address was peculiarly fascinating and insinuating—“au premier abord” it was next to impossible for a stranger to refrain from liking him.

The contour of his countenance was noble and striking; the forehead, particularly so, was nearly white as alabaster. His delicately formed features were cast rather in an effeminate mould, but their soft expression was in some degree relieved by the mustaches of a light chestnut, and small tuft “à la houssard,” which he at that time sported. His eyes were rather prominent and full, of a dark blue, having that melting character which I have frequently observed in females, said to be a proof of extreme sensibility. The texture of his skin was so fine and transparent, that the blue veins, rising like small threads around his temples, were clearly discernible. All who ever
and Visit to the Seat of War in Greece.57
Byron have borne testimony to the irresistible sweetness of his smile, which was generally, however, succeeded by a sudden pouting of the lips, such as is practised sometimes by a pretty coquette, or by a spoiled child. His hair was partially grizzled, but curled naturally. In conversation, owing to a habit he had contracted of clenching his teeth close together, it was sometimes difficult to comprehend him distinctly; towards the conclusion of a sentence, the syllables rolled in his mouth, and became a sort of indistinct murmur.

It must have been almost impossible, I apprehend, for any artist to seize fully the expression of Byron’s countenance, which was varying at every moment, as different ideas suggested themselves to his powerful mind. I have never seen any likeness that conveyed to me a perfect resemblance of his Lordship, with the exception of a marble bust, which was in the drawingroom of the late Honourable Douglas Kinnaird, executed, I think, by Thordwaldson. It struck me as being very like him.

Lord Byron was habited in a round nankeen embroidered jacket, white Marseilles vest, buttoned a very little way up; he wore extremely fine linen, and his shirt-collar was thrown over in such a way as almost to uncover his neck; very long wide nankeen trowsers, fastened below, short buff laced boots, and sometimes gaiters, with a chip Tuscan straw hat, completed his personal equipment. He invariably paid the most scrupulous attention to cleanliness, and had a certain fastidiousness in his dress, strongly savouring of dandyism, of which he was far from disapproving; at least he infinitely preferred it to a slovenly disregard for dress. His Lordship, who had just dined, instantly ordered some hock and claret to be brought under the awning where he was sitting, which he invited me to partake of. Whilst discussing our wine, he plied me with questions relative to the Ionian Islands, and my opinion with regard to the posture of affairs in Greece; frequently observing that he did not imagine that he could render any essential service to the cause, but that as the Committee seemed to think otherwise, he was going thither in obedience to their commands. He then, as we could not avoid discerning both Corsica and Elba from the deck, changed the conversation to the subject of the life of Napoleon, exclaiming that he had been wofully deceived in his estimate of the character of that wonderful man; repeating the pain and mortification which he endured whenever he chanced to glance his eye on either of these islands, as they recalled to his recollection the humbling conviction of the weakness of human nature. “I at one period,” he said, “almost idolized that man, although I could not approve of many of his actions; regarding other potentates as mere pigmies when weighed in the balance against him. When his fortune deserted him, and all appeared lost, he ought at once to have rushed into the thick of the fight at Leipzig or Waterloo, and nobly perished, instead of dying by inches in confinement, and affording to the world the degrading spectacle of his petty bilious contentions with the governors to whose custody he was confided at St Helena. Even if he had maintained a dignified silence amid the persecutions to which in his latter days he complained of being subjected, I could almost have forgiven him; yet this man’s fame will descend to, and be revered by posterity, when that of numbers more deserving of immortality shall have ceased to be remembered.”

Byron’s suavity of manner surprised and delighted me; my own previous conceptions, supported by common rumour, having prepared me to expect to find in him a man of morose temper and gloomy misanthropy, instead of which, from his fecundity in anecdote, he was a most delightful associate. I had recently lost forever one who was deservedly dear to me, and in consequence was clad in deep mourning. I apologized to Lord Byron for the unavoidable depression of my spirits; he instantly seemed to sympathize unaffectedly with my grief. I shall ever entertain a grateful recollection of the amiable and soothing attentions which he then paid me, using gentle efforts to draw me into conversation, and endeavouring at
58Voyage from Leghorn to Cephalonia with Lord Byron,
the same time to inspire me with self-possession, on perceiving that I stood somewhat in awe of him. Byron had just received communications from
Moore and Goethe; he read to me the letter of the former, who, he said, was the most humorous and witty of all his correspondents. He appeared to estimate, at its just value, the flattering and distinguished homage rendered to his inimitable poetic talent by the veteran German Bard, who, with the most profuse and enthusiastic eulogiums, panegyrized the wonderful productions of his genius.

Lord Byron expressed the extreme regret which he experienced at not being able to return the compliment by a perusal of Goethe’s works in their native garb, instead of through the cold medium of a translation; but nothing, he said, would induce him to learn the language of the Barbarians, by which epithet he constantly designated the Austrians.

On my arrival on board, the majority of Lord Byron’s suite were on shore, but the wind coming fair, they returned towards the afternoon, when the anchor was weighed, and we made sail, every one assisting at the capstan and ropes, no one being more active than Byron himself. I had been but a short time on board until I perceived that the others, instead of addressing him with a prolonged emphasis on the first syllable of his name, pronounced it short, as if it had been “Byrne,” that of Byron seeming distasteful to him, so I adopted the same.

His suite consisted of Count Pietro Gamba, brother to his chère amie; Mr Edward Trelawny; a young man who had been engaged as his medical attendant, named Bruno, who was a native of Alessandria Delia Paglia; a Constantinopolitan Greek, calling himself Prince Schilizzi, and a Greek Captain, Vitali. He had, besides, five domestics, and the same number of horses, together with a Newfoundland and a bull dog; so that our small vessel, which did not much exceed a hundred tons burden, was sufficiently crowded. On the passage to Cephalonia, Byron chiefly read the writings of Dean Swift, taking occasional notes, with the view possibly of gleaning from that humorous writer something towards a future Canto of Don Juan. He also made it a constant rule to peruse every day one or more of the Essays of Montaigne. This practice, he said, he had pursued for a long time; adding his decided conviction, that more useful general knowledge and varied information were to be derived by an intimate acquaintance with the writings of that diverting author, than by a long and continuous course of study. This was relieved sometimes by dipping into Voltaire’sEssai sur les Mœurs,” and his “Dictionnaire Philosophique”—“De Grimm’s Correspondence,” and “Les Maximes de la Rochefoucault,” were also frequently referred to by his Lordship; all, I should say, as connected with the composition of Don Juan, in which he was then deeply engaged.

A heavy tome on the War of Independence in South America, written by a soi-disant Colonel, named Hippisley, I think, who had taken service with Bolivar, as an officer of cavalry, but quickly retired in disgust, on not finding port wine and beef-steaks to be always procurable in the other hemisphere, (at least good fare seemed to him an indispensable requisite in campaigning,) was invariably asked for by Byron at dinner, and at length, Fletcher, his valet, brought it regularly with the table-cloth. Its soporific qualities, he amusingly remarked, were truly astonishing, surpassing those of any ordinary narcotic; the perusal of a few pages sufficed to lull him asleep, and obtained him a comfortable siesta, even when ill disposed, or in bad humour with himself.

Dinner was the only regular meal which he partook of in the twenty-four hours. He usually eat it by himself on deck. His diet was very singular, and, in my opinion, almost nothing could have been devised more prejudicial to health in the intense heat of summer, under a blazing Italian sun. It consisted of a considerable quantity of decayed Cheshire cheese, with pickled cucumbers or red cabbage, which he quaffed down by drinking at the same time either a bottle of cider or Burton ale, of which articles he had procured a supply at Genoa. He sometimes drank an infusion of strong tea, but eat nothing with it but a small piece of biscuit; and oc-
and Visit to the Seat of War in Greece.59
casionally his fare at dinner was varied by a little fish, if we succeeded in taking any. When he returned on deck after the siesta, he joined us in drinking wines or other liquors, displaying sometimes the most overflowing spirits; but in the midst of the greatest hilarity and enjoyment, I have observed this jovial mood to be suddenly checked. A cloud would instantaneously come over him, as if arising from some painful and appalling recollection; the tears would bedew his eyes, when he would arise and quit the company, averting his face, in order to conceal his emotion. This strange conduct was probably the effect of reaction from over-excitement, in a mind so exquisitely susceptible; at least I have heard it thus accounted for.

Byron cherished the strongest superstition relative to commencing any enterprise, or attempting any thing on a Friday, deeming it most unlucky. He also seemed to repose credit in the absurd belief, so popular among the Greeks and Turks, about the accidental spilling of oil or wine, or the oversetting of salt, considering the first and last as indicative of approaching misfortune, the other as possessed of a more cheerful and favourable augury. When irritated or incensed, he did not fail to make a profuse use of the common Italian oaths, Faccia di Maladetto, Corpo di Bacco, Sangue di Dio, &c., combined sometimes with the usual Greek malediction of Άναϑιμά συ, following each other in rapid succession. He also imitated the inhabitants of the Levant, by spitting on the deck or ground with great violence, whilst giving way to the impetuosity of his temper. I considered Byron to be strongly imbued with a certain religious feeling, although chary of acknowledging it. No one, he said, could be so senseless a brute as to deny the existence of a First Cause, and an omnipotent and incomprehensible Being, whose omnipresence all around us sufficiently evinced. He frequently expressed considerable anxiety about attaching himself to some particular creed, as any fixed belief would, he thought, be preferable to the continued state of uncertainty in which he had hitherto existed. He declared his ready openness to conviction, if the truth could only be rendered evident to his understanding. His glowing and fervent imagination, I feel inclined to believe, would sooner or later have impelled him to attach himself to some particular, and, very possibly, extreme sect.

For the religious tenets or prejudices of others, he invariably testified the most profound respect—professing to entertain much regard tor those who were truly and conscientiously devout, believing such individuals to enjoy great worldly felicity. On the contrary, no man more than Byron ridiculed and detested the cant and hypocrisy which are so much in vogue in our times. He spoke frequently of the inane pursuits of mankind, and our limited intelligence, dwelling at some length on a remark once made to him by the late Sir Humphrey Davy, with respect to the nothingness of all human intellect, when it engages in the ever endless task of endeavouring to explore or solve the hidden and impenetrable mysteries of nature.

To be in company with Lord Byron, and in almost constant intercourse with him for a considerable period, more especially on shipboard, where, it is affirmed, you will in a few days acquire more knowledge of an individual than from years of previous acquaintance, was, through the extreme communicativeness of his disposition, equivalent to an introduction to the whole course of his life. Although occasionally affecting mystery, he yet could conceal nothing. This sometimes produced rather painful confidences, relative to his own family matters, and amatory intrigues, which, if they ever actually took place, he would have shewn more good sense not to reveal; but I have my doubts about some of them, more especially in respect to one lady of very high rank, whose family I had the honour to be acquainted with, and whose fair fame I had never before heard assailed by the vile breath of slander. I will, however, do Lord Byron the justice to say, that in regard to this particular case, he dealt more in innuendo than any allegation of facts.

I thence concluded that much of this façon de parler consisted in a desire on his part, or rather weak-
60Voyage from Leghorn to Cephalonia with Lord Byron,
ness, if I may be permitted to term it so, to be considered amongst others as a roué, and man of gallantry; although I should be very far from disputing his general success in such matters; no one, from the insinuating powers of conversation, which he possessed in no small degree, and polished manner, combined with a strikingly handsome physiognomy, independently of his splendid mental qualifications, being more calculated to prove irresistibly attractive to the female heart. However blamable and unpleasant such revelations may appear to be, yet you might almost call them involuntary.
Lord Byron could keep nothing secret, and occasionally astonished me by lavishing the grossest abuse on those whom I had always been led to consider as his intimate friends, and those to whom he owed the greatest obligations, which at other times he perhaps readily admitted: this fit, however, was transient as a summer shower, arising from impetuosity of temper, or some momentary personal pique; and I am persuaded, had he heard others assail them, he would have been the foremost in throwing down the gauntlet in their defence. Lord Byron entertained, or appeared to have imbibed, the most violent prejudice against the late Lady Noel. He shewed himself always affectionately anxious about the health and welfare of his daughter Ada. Alluding to her probable large fortune, he expressed a wish that it had been in his power to inhibit her from marrying a native of Great Britain—deeming his countrymen to have a greater propensity to fortune-hunting than the individuals of other nations—which might, by an ill-assorted union, tend to her future unhappiness and discomfort.

Lord Byron adverted, on many occasions, sometimes in a state of the most bitter excitement, to the unfortunate infirmity of his foot, and the extreme pain and misery it had been productive of to him. He once uttered a very savage observation on his lameness, declaring, that years before he would have caused the recreant limb to be amputated, had he not dreaded thereby to spoil an exercise in which he more especially excelled and delighted.

His Lordship had the strongest aversion to walking, and always performed even the most trivial distance on horseback; from a wish, I apprehend, to conceal as much as possible the slight halt in his gait. The habit of not using pedestrian exercise, without doubt, would contribute in no small degree to increase that tendency to obesity to which he was by constitution inclined; and to counteract which, he adopted the pernicious system of continually drugging himself. This early impaired his digestive organs, although they could not fail to have been also injured by his mode of living and singular diet.

In the use of the pistol, Lord Byron was exceedingly dexterous, and prided himself much on this trivial accomplishment, which, by constant practice, may easily be attained by any person possessed of a calculating eye and steady nerves. In this, as every thing else, he wished to carry off the palm; and if he made a shot which he thought could not be surpassed, he declined to share farther in the pastime of that day; and if a bad one, he did not attempt to improve it, but instantly gave up the contest. His nerves were a good deal shattered; and from his firing so well even with that disadvantage, it was evident that, when younger, his aim must have been most unerring.

Trelawny was also an excellent shot; and his Lordship and he occasionally used to kill the ducks for the cabin dinner in this way—a wicker basket was suspended from the main-yard of the mast, containing a poor duck, with his head protruding through it. I have known both of them, from the poop, to kill the bird by hitting its head at the first fire. Lord Byron possessed several cases of excellent pistols; among others, a brace which had been the private property of his old friend, Joe Manton; and I was told he never grudged any expense in procuring those of superior workmanship. He frequently conversed about his former feats of skill at that celebrated maker’s pistol gallery in London. He also boasted of having, about the time of his marriage, much to the amazement and discomfiture of Lady Noel, split a walking-stick
and Visit to the Seat of War in Greece.61
in the garden at Seaham House, at the distance of twenty paces.

His lordship was within an ace of losing his life during one of these firing-matches on board. Schilizzi, who was unacquainted with the guard on English hair triggers, inadvertently discharged a pistol, the ball from which whizzed close past Lord Byron’s temple. He betrayed no tremor, but taking the pistol out of Schilizzi’s hand, pointed out to him the mechanism of the lock, and at the same time desired Gamba to take care, that in future he should not be permitted to use any other pistols than those of Italian workmanship.

We enjoyed the most serene and beautiful weather during this voyage. In passing, the vessel approximated Porto Ercole and Piombino, the splendid scenery around which was much admired by Lord Byron; he was always on deck to view the magnificent spectacle of the sun setting over the vast expanse of waters, on the brilliant horizon peculiar to the East of Europe, and we coasted it along from Leghorn to Reggio, hardly ever being out of sight of land in the daytime. When opposite the mouth of the Tiber, we exerted all our power of vision to discern the cupola of St Peter’s at Rome, which, however, was not visible through the vapour arising from the dark and dense forests which fringe the shore of the pestilential Maremma; but we could distinctly see through the glass the town of Albano, situated on the brow of the Alban Mount, and the magnificent range of mountains behind the isolated Mount Soracte, placed just over Rome, was also descried.

Lord Byron frequently boxed with Trelawny as an amusement, and practised fencing with Count Gamba; he was not particularly dexterous at the foils, but excelled in the other, but he could not keep up the exercise long, which had become too violent for him.

Lord Byron and Trelawny also often bathed from the ship’s side in calm weather; neither of them betrayed any apprehension from sharks, which, however, are by no means of rare occurrence in the Mediterranean, as I remember, in 1817, having been told by a young midshipman, named Hay, then at Corfu, in a sloop of war, that when he was almost in the very act of leaping from the bowsprit of the vessel, which was riding at anchor between that town and the island of Vido, one of these ravenous monsters of the deep was descried close alongside, and an alarm given just in time to prevent him.

On our nearing the Island of Ionza, in which Neapolitan prisoners of state are usually confined, which was then crowded with those unhappy persons who had engaged in the unsuccessful attempt at revolution in 1821, Lord Byron gave vent to his ire, uttering the most tremendous invectives against Austria, and the tyranny exercised by that nation over the minor powers of Italy; and recounted to me the history of the once expected rising of the Papal dominions, which should have taken effect when he resided at Ravenna, and in which he might have been called upon to act a prominent part; this insurrection was checked by the rapid march on Naples of the Imperialists, under Baron Frimont. It was not to be regretted that his Lordship had not found an opportunity of assisting in any revolt in Italy, which could only have ended in defeat and disgrace. In my opinion, the success of any revolution in that country is exceedingly problematical, being composed of many petty states, with opposite interests, which are extremely jealous of each other, or rather, I should say, are animated by mutual hate, so no union can be looked for. A partial ebullition of popular feeling may from time to time take place; but as long as no grand combination exists, or the enterprise is not supported by some great and victorious power, the cause is hopeless, and can only lead to useless bloodshed.

Lord Byron sat up nearly all night watching Stromboli: it was, however, overcast, and emitted no flame. This was considered singular, as the volcano is supposed to be in constant activity, and always ejecting matter. He narrated to me the extraordinary story of the affidavit made by the crew of a British ship, who deposed that they had witnessed the apparition of a man, well known to them,
62Voyage from Leghorn to Cephalonia with Lord Byron,
borne through the air by two other figures, and cast into the crater of Stromboli. This raised a long discussion, with many arguments, in regard to superstition in general, and tales of spectres, to a belief in which Lord Byron either was, or affected to be thought prone.

We found the mighty Charybdis, so much dreaded by the ancients, dwindled to an inconsiderable whirling eddy, caused by the conflicting currents. The furious bellowing of the surge, which continually lashes the precipitous and cavernous promontory of Scylla, is, however, heard to a great distance.

Charybdis is reported to be still formidable in stormy weather. The strait, most probably, is now wider than it was in olden times; but I imagine that poetic license in former days greatly exaggerated its terrors. Lord Byron much regretted its state of almost tranquil repose, and sighed, but, in vain, for a stiff breeze.

Both from attentive observation, and many circumstances which subsequently occurred, I was inclined to consider Lord Byron as a man of extreme sensibility, but decidedly of first impulses; ready at once to assist distress with purse and person; but, if the feeling were permitted to subside, and not instantaneously acted upon, it evaporated. I cannot account for this, except in supposing that his first—I do not say always better feelings, because in the objects which kindled his sympathy he was sometimes too indiscriminate—became withered things, and were deadened by suspicion of the world, or fear of ridicule; but, at all events, his second determination in such cases rarely coincided with the seeming original dictates of his heart and expressed intentions. I assert this with no view to detract from Lord Byron’s charity, or to depreciate his philanthropy; but those around him were occasionally compromised by it, and placed in unpleasant predicaments,—as, when a case of wretchedness was depicted to him, without stopping to institute any enquiry, he would entreat, nay, insist, that specific promises of relief should be made, which not being afterwards fulfilled, I have known one or two instances where friends of his, rather than occasion any misapprehension to his prejudice, have themselves disbursed the money. It had the effect of rendering them more wary and cautious, and caused sometimes a doubt with regard to Lord Byron’s sincerity. This failing, with respect to those who did not perfectly understand his ways, was an unfortunate one, as it became the cause of much misrepresentation.

The extreme apparent candour of his disposition engendered a propensity for divulging every thing. No one who knew him well would have liked to confide any matter of a secret nature to his discretion, or even speak disparagingly about, or turn any one into ridicule in his presence, as he was sure to disclose it, and very likely to the party so assailed. In regard to this inherent infirmity, I do not wish to cast any imputation on Lord Byron, although occasionally it might have been productive of serious mischief, as I sincerely and honestly believe that he could not control this defect, or error in judgment, call it which you please; besides, in some cases, I think that he adopted this course advisedly, as a sort of test to elicit the truth, by listening to both sides.

Lord Byron was exceedingly annoyed at Mr Blaquiere quitting Greece before his arrival, and I am persuaded, that had he been aware of that gentleman contemplating such a step, he would not have left Italy, as great responsibility thereby devolved on him alone, but most probably, from particular reasons, he would have visited England again in the first place, his thoughts appearing to lean much in that direction. As the Committee and Blaquiere had urgently pressed on him the advantage which would result to the Greek cause from his presence, and were the principal instigators to his embarking on this expedition, he thought, and with justice, that Mr Blaquiere ought at least to have waited to receive him, and to communicate his ideas on the posture of affairs in the Peleponnesus, from which he had recently returned. Lord Byron was informed by some one that Mr Blaquiere’s precipitate departure proceeded from a mania for book-making, and he was amusingly sarcastic on him accordingly.

He used frequently to narrate his
and Visit to the Seat of War in Greece.63
adventures in Turkey during his youthful travels. He found himself at Constantinople in company with
Captain Bathurst of the Solsette frigate, a most distinguished officer, who afterwards unfortunately fell at Navarino. As a proof of the extreme ignorance of the Turks, he mentioned that the Capitan Pacha enquired at Bathurst, who was a rough old tar, if he could box the compass. He was highly incensed at the interrogatory, and said to the interpreter,—“Damn the stupid brute! does he ever pretend to be a sailor? Tell him the youngest boy in my ship knows that.” Upon which his Excellency stroked his long beard in amazement, at the astonishing skill of the Ghiaour. In order to see the Sultan’s court, Lord Byron attended the audience of leave granted to Mr Adair; his successor, Sir Stratford Canning, who had a very youthful appearance, also rode in the procession, and his Lordship said that an old Turk, not acquainted with the person of the new Envoy, but seeing him magnificently clad, with a very smooth chin, and rather an effeminate look, very gravely asked if he was not a “Musico,” sent by the British monarch as a present to the Sublime Porte.

Whilst engaged in conversation, one day, with Lord Byron, about Mr Hobhouse, with whom I had not then the honour of being personally acquainted, I remember his remarking, that if I lived, I should at some period see him in office. I ventured to express my dissent; he rejoined, that place would obtrude itself on Mr Hobhouse, as he was convinced the time would arrive when a Ministry, coinciding in the general political tenets of that gentleman, must come into power. Every thing, he maintained, was gradually tending to such a consummation; and as Mr Hobhouse was a man of the highest endowments, and connected with the Radical or Liberal party, that, consequently, he would be obliged to join an Administration which should be constituted on his own principles.

I once used the liberty of asking Lord Byron why he appeared never to have thought of writing an Epic, or some grand and continuous work. He replied, that it was very difficult to find an appropriate subject, and that, admitting he possessed the capacity to do so, he would not engage in such a composition. He remarked, that even Milton was little read at the present day, and how very few in number were those who were familiar with the writings of that sublime author; adding, “I shall adapt my own poesy, please God! to the fashion of the time, and, in as far as I possess the power, to the taste of my readers of the present generation; if it survives me, tanto meglio, if not, I shall have ceased to care about it.” I permitted myself to mention how generally Tasso and Ariosto were known to all Italians of any education; he answered, “Ah! but Italy is not like England, the two countries cannot stand in comparison; besides, I consider that almost every Italian inherits from nature, more or less, some poetical feeling.” It is strange how little value he appeared to put on that fame which was already acquired by his immortal literary performances; he seemed to anticipate more lasting renown from some insignificant achievement in Greece, which could only derive any importance from his being an actor in it, than from any brilliant emanation of his genius.

His vivid and ardent imagination was wont to convert those every day occurrences that related to himself into extraordinary events, which were to exercise an influence on his future destinies; distorted conceptions arose to his morbid fancy, from which he extracted gloomy and desponding inferences, which no ordinary man would ever have contemplated in idea; when in a fitful mood, as he was a most ingenious self-tormentor, they furnished him with materials to vomit forth bitter imprecations against his own supposed unhappy fate, and the villany of mankind. This miserable feeling appeared to be with him quite a second nature, and, I venture to say, no greater calamity could have befallen him than suddenly to find himself without a grievance, real or ideal, of which he could complain.

Lord Byron set great store by his independence in mind and action, but he was, however, if I may use such a term, the slave of that liberty on which he piqued himself so highly,
64Voyage from Leghorn to Cephalonia with Lord Byron,
as in support of it he was almost continually doing or saying something, that, on calm reflection, was the cause of sincere regret, and bitterly lamented, on discovering that he had been in error. He was also easily influenced and led by those who had the tact to use their sway mildly, and allow him to suppose that he governed them, whilst the reverse was the fact; but had any one suggested this to him, or even hinted it, he would have been frantic at the idea, and perhaps never after endured the presence of the party supposed to exercise the obnoxious dominion. He sometimes on the passage expressed his intention, should his services prove of no avail to Greece, of endeavouring to obtain by purchase, or otherwise, some small island in the South Sea, to which, after visiting England, he might retire for the remainder of his life, and very seriously asked
Trelawny if he would accompany him, to which the latter, without hesitation, replied in the affirmative.

He frequently reverted to the extreme dissolute conduct and incontinence which reigned among the higher circles in his younger days, observing, that married ladies of that class of society in England were much more depraved than those of the Continent, but that the strict outward regard paid to the observances of morality in the former, led the fair sinners to be more dexterous and cunning in concealing their delinquencies.

He professed to entertain a very indifferent opinion in respect to habitual virtue and constancy in the fair sex, this unfair and severe judgment may probably be ascribed to the tone of society in which his Lordship had so unfortunately in his younger days, and afterwards at Venice, indulged; and to having early abandoned himself to the mastery of his passions, without any one to act as his Mentor and protector.

The Greek Schilizzi, by way of flattery, used frequently to insinuate that his countrymen might possibly choose Lord Byron for their King, as a considerable party were in favour of a Monarchical Government; this idea did not displease his Lordship, who said he would perhaps not decline the offer, if made, adding, “but we shall retain our own monies; and then if our appetite disagrees with the kingly authority, we shall, like Sancho, have the alternative of abdicating.”

He often contended in favour of the Oriental custom of secluding females, and teaching them only a few pleasing accomplishments, affirming the learned education lavished so frequently in England on the sex, only served to turn their heads with conceit, and look with contempt on domestic duties; that the Greeks were sensible people in not allowing their daughters to be instructed in writing, as it taught them to scribble billets-doux and practise deception. Had he to choose a second wife, he would select one born in the East, young and beautiful, whom he alone had been permitted to visit, and whom he had taught to love him exclusively, but of her he would be jealous as a tiger.

Lord Byron could scarcely be serious in such a strange idea, and perhaps was but mystifying some of our party. He used to indulge in many mirthful sallies about his increasing love of money; when he possessed little, he said that he was extremely profuse, but now that his fortune had been so much augmented, he felt an irresistible inclination to hoard, and contemplated with delight any accumulation. From this propensity he augured that a prediction once made in respect to him would be forthwith fulfilled, viz., that he would die a miser and a methodist, which he said he intended should also be the denouément of Don Juan.

With occasional liberality, Lord Byron certainly united a considerable degree of unnecessary parsimony, and those who had known him much longer than myself, stated that this habit was to be dated from the period of the increase to his fortune, arising from the large property which he had become entitled to at the demise of Lady Noel, his wife’s mother.

Lord Byron sometimes spoke in terms of unqualified praise of the extremely careful and penurious character of old Lega, his Maestro di Casa. This man, he said, guarded his treasure like the Dragon watching the golden fruit in the garden of
and Visit to the Seat of War in Greece.65
the Hesperides, and viewed his monies with the same self-satisfaction as if they were his own property, grumbling and murmuring at making the most trivial disbursement on Lord Byron’s own order, and sleeping on the boxes of specie, yet was strictly honest.

I should not have been able to appreciate so singular a character, and would have feared to encounter in him (I do not mean, however, in saying so, to cast any imputation on Signor Lega) a second Ambrose de Lamela. I hope that I shall be excused mentioning a trait of the most marked kindness and condescension in Lord Byron towards myself. When at Cephalonia, I was engaged to dine either at Colonel Napier’s, or the mess of the 8th regiment. After having dressed in the cabin, I came on deck, and requested the favour of Captain Scott’s directing one of his men to put me ashore. The skipper, however, who occasionally indulged in deep potations, and was at these times very surly and insolent, refused the use of the boat. Lord Byron, who, the skylight being off his cabin, had overheard our conversation, instantly made his appearance, and going over the side into a small punt, which belonged to the yacht he sold to Lord Blessington at Geneva, prepared it, and returning on deck, addressed me, saying, “Now, Browne, allow me to conduct you.”

I remonstrated; the day being excessively hot, and the boat too small for me to assist in rowing it.

“Never mind,” he rejoined; “I insist upon it, you shall accept my offer.”

Scott, who stood by growling like a bear, amazed, then proffered his own boat.

Lord Byron exclaimed, “No! Captain Scott, Mr Browne is my guest, and I wish him and every other gentleman on board to be treated with the same respect as myself. We shall not accept it after your behaviour.”

And the matter ended in his rowing me ashore in his own diminutive skiff; and after having done so, he instantly regained the ship.

Scott was a bluff English seaman, whose countenance showed that he had stood the brunt of many a north-wester, and was not at bottom a bad fellow. Lord Byron’s first question to him, on coming on deck in the morning, was, “Well, Captain, have you taken your meridian?” which meant a stiff tumbler of grog; if he had, he never objected to a second, and Lord Byron almost invariably joined him in it.

We had some diverting scenes with him during the passage. It was discovered that Vitali, one of the Greek passengers, had contrived to bring on board some cloth and other articles of merchandise, which he no doubt intended to smuggle into the Ionian Islands. The discovery arose from a ridiculous circumstance. A most abominable stench was observed by the captain to proceed from a large trunk amongst the luggage, but he did not know the owner of it; at last he ordered it to be brought upon deck, and said, if no one claimed it, he would throw it overboard. Vitali then rushed forward in defence of his property.

The captain insisted on its being opened; Vitali, after many wry faces, produced the key, and behold a most disgusting spectacle presented itself to our astonished optics, in the shape of a roasted pig, in a state of decomposition. The captain was so enraged at the sight, that, with great difficulty, Vitali prevented his cloth from following the pig, which was instantly thrown overboard.

Vitali had perhaps thought that he was to find his own provisions, calculating on a short passage, reserved the poor little grunter for a bonne bouche on landing. This sordid behaviour, so unexpectedly brought to light, alienated Lord Byron, who had become rather partial to the copper captain, as he called him; and Scott was instructed, on our arrival in Cephalonia, to make a declaration to the customhouse regarding the cloth, for which Vitali, much to his annoyance, had to pay duty. The captain after this could not endure Vitali. Lord Byron dearly loved a practical joke, and it was insinuated to Scott that the Greek was addicted to certain horrible propensities, too common in the Levant. The look of horror and aversion with which Scott then regarded the poor man was indescribable, swear-
66Voyage from Leghorn to Cephalonia with Lord Byron,
ing at the same time, and wondering how such a scoundrel could dare to look any honest man in the face. Scott could not speak a word of Italian, and the Greek seeing him in these passions, whenever he beheld him, could not comprehend the reason of it, but went about, addressing first one and then another, with “Mi dica, per amor di Dio, Signore, casa mi vuoli il Senior Capitano, che mi mira sempre cosi fieramenti?” Lord Byron at these scenes was absolutely convulsed with laughter. Scott also attacked his Lordship, expressing his surprise and concern that he could have thought of admitting so infamous a person into the ship; who replied, that it was
Schilizzi who had mentioned the matter, otherwise it would have been unknown to us.

One morning the skylight being off, Vitali was perceived in his drawers, with his mouth wide open, asleep on the cabin table, whilst the boys were employed in washing the decks. Scott, who could not resist the temptation, discharged the contents of a bucket of dirty water over the poor Greek, who, in a state of frenzy, rushed upon deck, and Scott, paying no attention to him, he might have stabbed the captain, or done some mischief in his fury, had not Lord Byron come up and assured him the drenching he had undergone was purely accidental.

Lord Byron’s original intention was to go in the Hercules to Zante, but having represented to him that the Resident of that island was not considered so favourably disposed towards the Greek cause as my friend Colonel Napier, who filled the same office at Cephalonia, his Lordship desired Captain Scott to steer thither. He had no reason to regret having done so, as Colonel Napier welcomed him with the most warmhearted hospitality; and, on farther acquaintance, he admired him as an officer possessing first-rate military talents, gifted with no ordinary acquirements, the quintessence of chivalrous feeling, and imbued with that reasonable and tempered enthusiasm in the Greek cause, which was consequent on a long residence in the Ionian Islands, and a thorough knowledge of the people with whom Lord Byron was about to link his destiny.

Lord Byron, in adverting to his travels in Albania in early life, often spoke of the Arnouts and Suliots, whom he considered as old friends; in shipwreck and illness having been his kind though rough nurses. He said that his Albanian attendants had terrified his doctor, by threatening him with death should he not recover; and to this he ascribed his safety, placing great faith in surgery, but little in the skill of a physician.

He was, therefore, extremely rejoiced at the first sight of the Suliots at Cephalonia. On their coming on board in the harbour of Argostoli, he bounded on deck, evidently very much affected, his expressive countenance radiant with gladness to welcome them, and he immediately engaged a few of them to form a body-guard in Greece, with a promise to employ a great many more. It was, however, a very different affair to have Albanians or other rude warriors assigned to him by Ali Paseia as an escort, to enlisting them in their new character as mercenary soldiers. Ali’s stern rule compelled them to obey and pay every deference to Lord Byron as his guest, and their lives probably would have paid the forfeit of any ill-treatment. In the present instance, his pleasing illusion was speedily dispelled, when he witnessed their attempts to overreach him in the very hard bargain they drove for their services; insisting, too, on being paid in advance.

The Suliots are individually brave; and without complaint endure extreme privations, bearing them with resignation and patience. They are reckoned excellent light soldiers, but will submit to no regular discipline; and, like all the tribes of Epirus, are avaricious, and of predatory habits.

The hope of sharing in Lord Byron’s supposed enormous wealth influenced them far beyond any affection which they pretended to entertain towards him personally, and that he very soon discovered. I do not question their devotion to leaders born amongst themselves, and accustomed to command them; or to the heads of their distinguished families or clans, who exercise a species of patriarchal sway over them. The Albanians and Suliots of the present day resemble much the Scot-
and Visit to the Seat of War in Greece.67
tish Highlanders, as they are represented to have been in the seventeenth century; and what stranger, excepting installed in command by the approving voice of their chiefs, was ever tolerated by them? Lord Byron’s disputes and jarring with this tribe, of which I was an occasional eyewitness, must have proved galling in the extreme to his irritable mind; but they originated from his being, as usual, too lavish in his promises.

They became so troublesome, coming on board at all times, and besetting his Lordship with ambuscades when taking his customary exercise on horseback, that any “argumentum ad verecundiam” being out of the question with such persevering phlebotomists, he was obliged to threaten them finally with the interference of Colonel Napier, in order to intimidate them. Subsequently, at Missolonghi, where their insubordination could not be with equal facility quelled, it was attended with the most fatal results, and proved a source of endless disquietude to his Lordship. After the disastrous death of Lord Byron, these men, confiding in their military prowess, became the terror of the Morea; and on the arrival of every remittance on account of the Loan, besieged the seat of Government, insisting on compliance with their demands, however unjust; and if refused, instantly proceeded “par voie de fait,” quickly compelling their more timid adversaries to yield to them. Their interests were essentially dissimilar to those of the Greeks, for whose cause they cared nothing, (with the exception, perhaps, of one or two enlightened individuals amongst them, such as the Botzaris;) and if the Turks would only have restored to them their beloved Suli, they would gladly have retired from the contest, and very possibly have arrayed themselves against their Greek allies.

The Suliots, in dress, physical structure, and complexion, resemble the Albanians, being compactly built and full-chested, with extremely narrow loins, caused, I presume, by the compression of the tight girdles which they wear from infancy, but I do not think them so stately in their gait, or strut, nor, generally speaking, so tall in stature.

From exposure to the elements, many of them, although still in the prime of life, exhibited an old and weather-beaten appearance. Their features, marked by prominent cheekbones, are easily distinguished from the finely chiselled visage and handsome profile of the true Greek; they have also dark grey or blue eyes, whilst those of the latter are almost invariably black. They are quite a distinct race, and are probably of Sclavonic or Illyrian origin. They carry the same description of arms as the Albanians, viz. a long Venetian gun, with an extremely short stock, ornamented in silver or brass, according to the rank of its bearer; pistols, embellished after a similar fashion, adorn their girdle; a knife or yataghan, with a shagreen or leathern sheath or scabbard, having a copper or silver case for holding pens, and an inkstand at one end, (although few know how to write,) complete their equipment. The barrels and locks of their arms are of very indifferent workmanship; but, fortunately for themselves, they do not use strong powder, and are very economical of it. They do not, as is our custom in firing, carry the but-end of the gun to the shoulder; if they did, they would infallibly suffer from the recoil of their pieces, the stocks of which are shaped like the horns of a crescent; but they discharge them, either holding them sideways, calculating the angle of the object at which their aim is directed, or by resting them on a stone, when they fight in a recumbent posture, their usual method in battle.