LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

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

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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Where Athens, Rome, and Sparta stood,
There is a moral desert now;
The mean and miserable huts,
Contrasted with those ancient fanes,
The long and lonely colonnades,
Through which the ghost of Freedom stalks.

I well knew that once on shore Byron would fall back on his old routine of dawdling habits, plotting—planning—shilly-shallying—and doing nothing. It was a maxim of his, “If I am stopped for six days at any place, I cannot be made to move for six months.”

Hamilton Browne agreed to go with me; he was a most valuable ally. In my hasty preparations for going, I was tearing up and throwing overboard papers and letters. Byron stopped me, saying, “Some day you will be sorry for this; they are parts of your life. I have every scrap of paper
that was ever written to me,—letters, notes,—even cards of invitation to parties. There are chests-full at
Hansom’s, Douglas Kinnaird’s, and Barry’s, at Genoa. They will edify my executors.”

“Is this quite fair to your correspondents?” I asked.

“Yes; for they have mine and might use them against me. Whilst I live they dare not,—I can keep them all in order; when I die and my memoirs are published,—my executors can verify them by my letters if their truth is questioned.”

I told Byron that two Frenchmen, just landed, wished to see him; I thought they were officers. He said, “Ask Hamilton Browne to see what they want. I can’t express myself like a gentleman in French. I never could learn it,—or anything else according to rule.” He even read translations of French books in preference to the originals. His ignorance of the language was the reason that he avoided Frenchmen and was never in France.

In our voyage from Italy, Byron persuaded me to let him have my black servant, as, in the East, it is a mark of dignity to have a negro in your establishment. He likewise coveted a green em-
broidered military jacket of mine; which, as it was too small for me, I gave him; so I added considerably to his dignity. I engaged one of the refugee Zuliotes (or Zodiacs, as old
Scott, our captain, called them) to go with me. He was a vain, lazy, swaggering braggart,—sullen and stupid as are most of his tribe.

Byron gave us letters addressed to the Greek government, if we could find any such constituted authorities,—expressing his readiness to serve them when they had satisfied him how he could do so, &c., &c., &c. As I took leave of him, his last words were, “Let me hear from you often,—come back soon? If things are farcical, they will do for Don Juan; if heroical, you shall have another canto of Childe Harold.”

Hamilton Browne and I went on board a light boat of the country, called a caique, crossed over with a fair wind in the night, and landed early the next morning on a sandy beach, at a solitary ruined tower near Pyrgos. A dirty squad of Moorish mercenaries, quartered at the tower, received us; some of them accompanied us to the village of Pyrgos; where, as we could not procure horses or mules, we slept.


In the morning we commenced our journey to Tripolitza, the capital of the Peloponnesus, visiting the military stations on our way. We slept at the ruined villages, and were generally well received when our mission was known. The country is so poor and barren, that but for its genial climate it would be barely habitable. In the best of times there would not be plenty; but now that war had passed over the land with fire and slaughter there was scarcely a vestige of habitation or cultivation.

The only people we met besides soldiers, looked like tribes of half-starved gipsies; over our heads, on some towering rock, occasionally we saw a shepherd with his long gun, watching us, and keeping guard over small flocks of goats and sheep, whilst they fed off the scanty shrubs that grew in the crevices under them; they were attended, too, by packs of the most savage dogs I ever saw. Except in considerable force, the Greek soldiers dared not meddle with these warlike shepherds and their flocks. Many of the most distinguished leaders in the war, and the bravest of their followers, had been shepherds.


To compensate for the hard fare and bodily privations to be endured, there was ample food for the minds of any who love the haunts of genius. Every object we saw was associated with some great name, or deed of arts or arms, that still live in the memory of all mankind. We stopped two or three days at Tripolitza, and then passed on to Argos and Napoli di Romania; every step of our way was marked by the ravages of the war. On our way to Corinth, we passed through the defiles of Dervenakia; our road was a mere mule-path for about two leagues, winding along in the bed of a brook, flanked by rugged precipices. In this gorge, and a more rugged path above it, a large Ottoman force, principally cavalry, had been stopped, in the previous autumn, by barricades of rocks and trees, and slaughtered like droves of cattle by the wild and exasperated Greeks. It was a perfect picture of the war, and told its own story; the sagacity of the nimble-footed Greeks, and the hopeless stupidity of the Turkish commanders, were palpable: detached from the heaps of dead, we saw the skeletons of some bold riders who had attempted to scale the acclivities,
still astride the skeletons of their horses, and in the rear, as if in the attempt to back out of the fray, the bleached bones of the negroes’ hands still holding the hair ropes attached to the skulls of their camels—death like sleep is a strange posture master. There were grouped in a narrow space five thousand or more skeletons of men, horses, camels, and mules; vultures had eaten their flesh, and the sun had bleached their bones. In this picture the Turks looked like a herd of bisons trapped and butchered in the gorges of the rocky mountains. The rest of their battles, amidst scenery generally of the same rugged character, only differed in their magnitude. The Asiatic Turks are lazy, brave, and stupid. The Greeks, too crafty to fight if they could run, were only formidable in their fastnesses. It is a marvel that Greece and Greeks should be again resuscitated after so many ages of death-like slavery. No people, if they retain their name and language, need despair; “There is nothing constant but mutability!”

We arrived at Corinth a short time after the Acrocorinthus had, for the second time, fallen into the hands of the insurgents; and there saw Colocotroni
and other predatory chiefs. Thence we crossed to the Isle of Salamis, and found the legislative and executive bodies of the provisional government accusing each other of embezzling the public money. Here, too, we saw the most potent leaders of the chief Greek military factions,—Primates, Hydriotes, Mainotes, Mareotes, Ipsareotes, Caudeotes, and many others, each and all intent on their own immediate interests. There, too, I saw the first specimens of the super-subtle Phanariotes, pre-eminent in all evil, reared at Constantinople, and trained in the arts of deception by the most adroit professors in the world. These pliant and dexterous intriguers glided stealthily from tent to tent and from chief to chief, impregnating their brains with wily suggestions, thus envenoming their feuds and causing universal anarchy. Confounded at this exhibition of rank selfishness, we backed out of these civil broils, and sailed for Hydra; one of our commissions being to send deputies from that island to England to negotiate a loan. We speedily accomplished this, and
Hamilton Browne went to London with the deputies. I re-landed in Greece and went to Athens. Odysseus held undisputed sway there
and in Eastern Greece, the frontiers of the war, and had played an important part in the insurrection. Descended from the most renowned race of Klephtes, he was a master of the art of mountain warfare, and a thorough Greek in cunning; strong-bodied, nimble-footed, and nimble-witted. I bought horses, hired soldiers, and accompanied him on an expedition to Eubœa, then in the hands of the Turks; and under his auspices became familiar with many of the most interesting localities,—Attica, Marathon, Thebes, Thermopylæ, Cheronea, Livadia, Talanta, Mount Parnes, Pindus and Cythæron. Our head-quarters were on Parnassus. Our ambuscades, onslaughts, rock-fighting, forays, stalking Turkish cavalry, successes and failures, intermingled with conferences, treaties, squabbles, intrigues, and constant change, were exciting at the time: so is deer-stalking; so was the Caffre war to those engaged in it; but as they are neither edifying nor amusing to write nor to read about, I shall not record them. In January, 1824, I heard that
Byron was at Missolonghi; that a loan was about being negotiated in London, and that Colonel Stanhope and other
English had arrived in Athens. I pressed upon Odysseus the necessity of our instantly returning thither, which we did. Shortly after, Stanhope proposed, and Odysseus agreed, to hold a congress at Salona, and that I should go to Missolonghi to invite Byron and the chiefs of Western Greece to attend it. I started on my mission with a band of followers; and we had been two days winding through the mountain passes,—for nothing can induce the Greeks to cross level ground, if there are Turks or the rumour of enemies near,—when a messenger from Missolonghi on his way to Salona, conveying the startling news of Byron’s death, crossed our path, as we were fording the river Evvenus. Thus, by a stroke of fate, my hopes of being of use in Greece were extinguished: Byron and Stanhope, as commissioners of the loan, would have expended it on the war; and the sordid and selfish primates, Machiavellian Phanariotes, and lawless Captanria would have been held in check. Byron thought all men rogues, and put no trust in any. As applied to Greeks, his scepticism was perfect wisdom. Stanhope was of a frank and hopeful nature; he had carefully examined the
state of things, and would have been an able coadjutor, for he possessed those inestimable qualities,—energy, temper, and order—which Byron lacked. The first thing Stanhope did, was to establish a free press: many opposed this as premature, if not dangerous, but it was of eminent service, and the only institution founded at that time which struck root deep into the soil.

Colonel Stanhope gave me the following note to Byron, but the Colonel’s prophetic warning was too late:—

Salona, 17 April, 1824.
My dear Lord Byron,

We are all assembled here with the exception of your Lordship and Monsieur Mavrocordato. I hope you will both join us; indeed, after the strong pledges given, the President ought to attend. As for you, you are a sort of Wilberforce, a saint whom all parties are endeavouring to seduce; it’s a pity that you are not divisible, that every prefecture might have a fraction of your person. For my own part, I wish to see you fairly out of Missolonghi, because your health will not stand the climate
and the constant anxiety to which you are there subjected.

I shall remain here till we receive your and the President’s answer; I mean then to go to Egina, Zante, and England. If I can be of any service, you may command my zealous services.

Once more, I implore you to quit Missolonghi, and not to sacrifice your health and, perhaps, your life in that Bog.

I am ever your most devoted,
Leicester Stanhope.