LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism
The Last Days of Lord Byron.
The Literary Magnet  Vol. 4  (June 1825)  131-32.
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More last words of John Baxter!” our readers will exclaim: we have already Medwin’s Conversations; Dallas’s Recollections; Gamba’s Residence; Childe Harolde’s Wanderings; and a host of others, in all shapes and sizes, from the ponderous quarto, to the pigmy “pocket edition.” If we required any further evidence of the extent of the illustrious subject’s talents, or the probability of his immortality, than what his works are capable of bestowing, we should regard the never-dying interest that is attached to every thing concerning him, as the completest evidence of the permanency of his literary fame. Mr. Parry writes in a bold seaman-like style, and his work bears with it a very evident air of identity. In Medwin’s and Dallas’s books, we have too much of the poet; in the volumes before us, the man stands upright in the various lights and shades of his character. Lord Byron neither required the fulsome adulation of the Dragoon Captain, nor the sage apologies of Mr. Dallas, to make us believe, that at the bottom he was a really good, but dreadfully misled, man; and that had his life been spared, there was no doubt but what the finer qualities of his soul would have endeared him to the world which he so eminently adorned. From the intelligence Mr. Parry’s book affords us, we entertain no doubt, that had medical aid been procured at the period of the lamentable catastrophe, the life so dear to Greece, liberty, and song, would have been saved.

Byron has been represented as a misanthrope, as a man utterly deaf to the tenderer feelings of our nature; how far he was indebted to the malice of bis enemies for the attainment of this reputation, the following anecdote will give us a tolerable conception:

“On one occasion, he had saved twenty-four Turkish women and children from slavery, and all its accompanying horrors. I was summoned to attend him, and receive his orders, that every thing should be done which might contribute to their comfort. He was seated on a cushion at the upper end of the room, the women and children were standing before him,

132J. Wilson’s Poems.
with their eyes fixed steadily on him; and on his right hand was his interpreter, who was extracting from the women a narrative of their sufferings. One of them, apparently about thirty years of age, possessing great vivacity, and whose manners and dress, though she was then dirty and disfigured, indicated that she was superior in rank and condition to her companions, was spokeswoman for the whole. I admired the good order the others preserved, never interfering with the explanation, or interrupting the single speaker. I also admired the rapid manner in which the interpreter explained every thing they said, so as to make it almost appear that there was but one speaker.

“After a short time it was evident that what Lord Byron was hearing affected his feelings: his countenance changed, his colour went and came, and I thought he was ready to weep. But he had on all occasions a ready and peculiar knack in turning conversation from any disagreeable or unpleasant subject; and he had recourse to this expedient. He rose up suddenly, and, turning round on his heel, as was his wont, he said something quickly to his interpreter, who immediately repeated it to the women. All eyes were instantly fixed on me, and one of the party; a young and beautiful woman, spoke very warmly. Lord Byron seemed satisfied, and said they might retire. The women all slipped off their shoes in an instant, and going up to his lordship, each in succession, accompanied by their children, kissed his hand fervently, invoked, in the Turkish manner, a blessing both on his head and heart, and then quitted the room. This was too much for Lord Byron, and he turned his face away to conceal his emotion. When he had recovered a little, I reminded him of our conversation, and I told him I had caught him at last. Addressing me in the sort of sea slang I sometimes talked to him, and which he liked to repeat, he replied, ‘You are right, old boy; you have got me in the hunt—I am an Englishman.’”

One anecdote like this in a man’s life, is worth a thousand panegyrics.

The following account of his last moments, will be read with intense interest:

“When he took my hand, I found his hands were deadly cold. With the assistance of Tita, I endeavoured gently to create a little warmth in them; and I also loosened the bandage which was tied round his head. Till this was done, he seemed in great pain, clenched his hands at times, gnashed his teeth, and uttered the Italian exclamation of Ah Christi! He bore the loosening of the hand passively; and, after it was loosened, he shed tears. I encouraged him to weep, and said, ‘My lord, I thank God, I hope you will now be better; shed as many tears as you can, you will sleep and find ease.’ He replied faintly, ‘Yes, the pain is gone, I shall sleep now,’ and he again took my hand, uttered a faint good night, and sank into a slumber; my heart ached, but I thought then his sufferings were over, and that he would wake no more.

“He did wake again, however, and I went to him; Byron knew me, though scarcely. He had then less of alienation about him than I had seen for some time before; there was also the stupor of death. He tried to utter his wishes, but he was incapable; he said something about rewarding his Italian servant, and uttered several incoherent words. There was either no meaning in what he said, or it was such a meaning as we should not expect at that moment. His eyes continued open only a short time, and then, about six o’clock in the evening of the 18th, he sank into a slumber, or rather, I should say, a stupor, and woke and knew no more.

“He continued in a state of complete insensibility for twenty-four hours; giving no other signs of life, but that rattling in his throat, which indicated the approach of death. On Monday, April 19th, at six o’clock in the evening, even this faint indication of existence had ceased—Lord Byron was dead.

“At the very time Lord Byron died, there was one of the most awful thunder-storms I ever witnessed. The lightning was terrific. The Greeks, who are very superstitious, and generally believe that such an event occurs whenever a much superior, or, as they say, a supreme man dies, immediately exclaimed, ‘The great man is gone!’ On the present occasion, it was too true; and the storm was so violent, as to strengthen their superstitious belief. Their friend and benefactor was indeed dead.”

Thus England lost her poet—Greece her saviour—the world its proudest ornament.