LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron
Chapter XIV.

Chapter I.
Chapter II.
Chapter III.
Chapter IV.
Chapter V.
Chapter VI.
Chapter VII.
Chapter VIII.
Chapter IX.
Chapter X.
Chapter XI.
Chapter XII.
Chapter XIII.
‣ Chapter XIV.
Chapter XV.
Chapter XVI.
Chapter XVII.
Chapter XVIII.
Chapter XIX.
Chapter XX.
Chapter XXI.
Chapter XXII.
Chapter XXIII.
Chapter XXIV.
Chapter XXV.
Chapter XXVI.
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It is mentioned in my narrative, that when I left Leghorn, in the ‘Bolivar,’ to burn the bodies, I despatched two large feluccas, with ground-tackling to drag for Shelley’s foundered boat, having previously ascertained the spot in which she had been last seen afloat. This was done for five or six days, and they succeeded in finding her, but failed in getting her up. I then wrote the particulars to my friend Capt. Roberts, who was still at Genoa, asking him to complete the business. He did so, whilst I went on to Rome, and, as will be seen by the following letters, he not only found, but got her up, and brought her into the harbour of Leghorn.

Pisa, Sept. 1822.
Dear T.

We have got fast hold of Shelley’s boat, and she is now safe at anchor off Via Reggio. Every thing
is in her, and clearly proves, that she was not capsized. I think she must have been swamped by a heavy sea; we found in her two trunks, that of Williams, containing money and clothes, and Shelley’s, filled with books and clothes.

Yours, very sincerely,
Dan Roberts.
Sept. 18, 1822.
Dear T.

I consulted Ld. B., on the subject of paying the crews of the felucca employed in getting up the boat. He advised me to sell her by auction, and to give them half the proceeds of the sale. I rode your horse to Via Reggio. On Monday we had the sale, and only realised a trifle more than two hundred dollars.

The two masts were carried away just above board, the bowsprit broken off close to the bows, the gunwale stove in, and the hull half full of blue clay, out of which we fished clothes, books, spyglass, and other articles. A hamper of wine that Shelley bought at Leghorn, a present for the harbour-master of Lerici, was spoilt, the corks forced partly out of the bottles, and the wine mixed
with the salt-water. You know, this is effected by the pressure of the cold sea-water.

We found in the boat two memorandum-books of Shelley’s, quite perfect, and another damaged, a journal of Williams’s, quite perfect, written up to the 4th of July. I washed the printed books, some of them were so glued together by the slimy mud, that the leaves could not be separated, most of these things are now in Ld. B’s custody. The letters, private papers, and Williams’s journal, I left in charge of Hunt, as I saw there were many severe remarks on Ld. B.

Ld. B. has found out that you left at Genoa some of the ballast of the ‘Bolivar,’ and he asked me to sell it for him. What a damned close calculating fellow he is. You are so bigoted in his favour that I will say no more, only God defend me from ever having anything more to do with him.

P. S.—On a close examination of Shelley’s boat, we find many of the timbers on the starboard quarter broken, which makes me think for certain, that she must have been run down by some of the feluccas in the squall.

Dan Roberts.

Byron’s spirit was always on the fret and fume to be doing something new and strange; he exhausted himself in speculating, plotting, and planning; but when it came to the point of execution, the inertness of his body and his halting gait, held him fast, so that few men even amongst the poets did more in imagination and less in reality than he did. One of his pleas for hoarding money was, that he might buy a province in Chili or Peru, to which he once added archly, “of course with a gold or silver mine to pay usance for my monies:” at another time it was Mexico and copper; and when savage with the Britishers, he would threaten to go to the United States and be naturalised; he once asked me to apply to the American consul at Leghorn, and Commodore Jones of the American navy, then in the harbour, offered him a passage. Byron visited the ship, and was well pleased with his reception; there was a beginning but no middle or end to his enterprises. The under-current of his mind was always drifting towards the East; he envied the free and independent manner in which Lady Hester Stanhope lived in Syria, and often reverted to it. He said
he would have gone there if she had not forestalled him.

Then his thoughts veered round to his early love, the Isles of Greece, and the revolution in that country—for before that time he never dreamt of donning the warrior’s plume, though the peace-loving Shelley had suggested and I urged it. He asked me to get him any information I could amongst my friends at Leghorn of the state of Greece; but as it was a common practice of his to make such inquiries without any serious object, I took little heed of his request.

We were then at Pisa in the old palace, which he was about giving up, Mrs. Shelley having gone to Genoa, and taken for him the Casa Saluzzi at Albaro, near Genoa; the Hunts too were about moving to the same destination. I had determined to return to Rome, but stopped to convoy them in the ‘Bolivar.’

When a lazy and passive master who has never learnt, or if he may have learnt has forgotten, how to put on his trousers, shave, or brush his hair, in a sudden ecstasy or impulse resolves to do everything for himself and everybody else, as Byron now
attempted to do, the hubbub, din, and confusion that ensue are frightful. If the Casa Lanfranchi had been on fire at midnight it could not have been worse, nor I more pleased at escaping from it, as I did, under the plea of getting the flotilla ready at Leghorn.

In September we all left Tuscany, Byron by land, the Hunts in one felucca; and Byron’s servants, and what the Yankee would have called a freight of notions, in another; for as Byron never sold or gave away anything he had acquired, there was all the rubbish accumulated in the many years he had lived in Italy, besides his men, women, dogs, and monkeys, and all that was theirs. In the ‘Bolivar’ I had only a few things, such as plate, books, and papers; we put into Lerici, and there all met again. I took Hunt to the Villa Magni where Shelley had lived. Byron came on board the ‘Bolivar,’ we had a sail and a swim, after which he was seized with spasms and remained two days in bed. On my visiting him and questioning him as to his ailments, he said he was always “bedevilled for a week after moving.”

“No wonder,” I answered, “if you always make such a dire commotion before it.”


“Look in that book,” pointing to one on the table, ‘Thomas’s Domestic Medicine,’ “look for a prescription.”

“For what? what is your complaint?” I said, “How do you feel?”

“Feel! why just as that damned obstreperous fellow felt chained to a rock, the vultures gnawing my midriff, and vitals too, for I have no liver.” As the spasms returned, he roared out, “I don’t care for dying, but I cannot bear this! It’s past joking, call Fletcher; give me something that will end it—or me! I can’t stand it much longer.”

His valet brought some ether and laudanum, and we compounded a drench as prescribed in the book, with an outward application of hot towels, and other remedies. Luckily, the medico of Lerici was absent, so in two or three days our patient was well enough to resume his journey, and we all started for Genoa where we arrived without further accident.

All that were now left of our Pisan circle established themselves at Albaro—Byron, Leigh Hunt, and Mrs. Shelley. I took up my quarters in the city of palaces. The fine spirit that had animated and held us together was gone! Left to our own
devices, we degenerated apace.
Shelley’s solidity had checked Byron’s flippancy, and induced him occasionally to act justly, and talk seriously; now he seemed more sordid and selfish than ever. He behaved shabbily to Mrs. Shelley; I might use a harsher epithet. In all the transactions between Shelley and Byron in which expenses had occurred, and they were many, the former, as was his custom, had paid all, the latter promising to repay; but as no one ever repaid Shelley, Byron did not see the necessity of his setting the example; and now that Mrs. Shelley was left destitute by her husband’s death, Byron did nothing for her. He regretted this when too late, for in our voyage to Greece he alluded to Shelley, saying, “Tre, you did what I should have done, let us square accounts tomorrow; I must pay my debts.” I merely observed, “Money is of no use at sea, and when you get on shore you will find you have none to spare;” he probably thought so too, for he said nothing more on the subject.

I was not surprised at Byron’s niggardly ways, he had been taught them in boyhood by his mother. In early manhood he was a good fellow and did
generous things; until bad company, called good society, spoilt and ruined him. To recover his fortune and sustain his pride, he relapsed into the penurious habits drilled into him in his youth.